Irish singer-songwriter Ultan Conlon found a haven for his unique sound and sensibility in Los Angeles, CA with Nickel Creek’s Grammy Award-winning Sean Watkins producing Ultan’s fourth record, ‘There’s A Waltz’, which drops on 17 April 2020 in Ireland and the UK and in May throughout the rest of Europe and the US.
Ultan first met Sean in LA in 2016 while playing some shows with him at Largo, the well-known nightclub where Sean and Sara Watkins hosted The Watkins Family Hour. Ultan says: “When I met the musicians that Sean brought on board to record my songs and we played the first few bars, I knew this record was gonna make itself, under the influence of Sean navigating us all ever so gently.”
That formidable group of musicians includes Don Heffington – Drums (Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Ron Sexsmith), Sebastian Steinberg – Bass, Double Bass (Iron and Wine, Neil Diamond, KD Lang), Gabe Witcher – Fiddle (Paul Simon, Beck), Rich Hinman – Pedal Steel (KD Lang, St.Vincent), Sara Watkins – Backing Vocals (Nicklecreek, I’m With Her) and Tyler Chester – B3, Piano (Jackson Browne, Andrew Bird).
Conlon’s poetically-enigmatic songs and “lyrical gems’ (‘No Depression’) often stem from his own personal experiences, whether he is reflecting on the dark days of his struggle with alcohol addiction (‘A Long Way Back’), the isolation of the digital universe (‘World from A Window’), longing for connection (‘A Landslide’) or journeying towards self-acceptance and love (‘There’s a Waltz’).
As for the aforementioned ‘World’, Ultan explains the evolution of his song began with his kitten, ‘Kitty’, was, “staring out the window all day and there I was feeling so sorry for her limited life, looking out at birds and cars, and then I noticed myself, stuck on Twitter and Instagram, scrolling at mind-numbing crap. The song expanded from that moment into a realization that so many of us are not immune to spending so much of our lives on the windows of one’s computers or cell phones.”
If there’s a melancholy within the observations of ‘Window’, ‘Sparks of the Divine’ brings a more joyous optimism into the equation with an ode to love:
“Turn to me quietly and whisper that
you are mine
Break it to me gently like you’re
telling me for the first time
Not looking for much but you give me
Another stand-out on this collection is’In The Blink of an Eye’ which stems back to the death of Ultan’s father when Ultan was only 13 years of age and how this experience with death profoundly changed Ultan’s life forever, and then the song morphs into a couple of other character’s points of view, imagining what their trajectories might be.
“There’s something I just can’t get over it might take a lifetime
or it might be all gone in the blink of an eye“
Conlon’s voice has been likened by some music writers to Roy Orbison and his writers voice brings forth original songs that combine depts of feeling, introspection and modesty, as witnessed in ‘Moments in Time’.
“…out of the dark I arrive
Though I’m not the traveling kind
With mind on fire it’s hardly trailblazing”
But along the trails of the same song, his thoughts are illuminated by the..
“…Windows to stars that shine in the dark from above
Where our love defies
Moments in Time
Where our love resides
Moments in Time”
The title track, ‘There’s a Waltz’ surprisingly starts out in 4/4 time, saving the shift into waltz-time only towards the end. As with all of Ultan’s songs on this new collection, the rewards, be they deferred or right at hand, bittersweet or joyous, are always reaching to connect to the listener’s heart and soul.