Dublin born Damien Rice is an acoustic singer/songwriter unlike any I've ever heard. There are plenty of other male acoustic singer/songwriter types out there, but never have I encountered one with such passion and raw emotion in his songs. A friend recently lent me his debut album 'O', and after listening to it on loop for a nightshift at work I would describe it as no less than a life changing experience.
Stylistically his music can be likened to that of Badly Drawn Boy with less of the friendly jokey side, and more of an old school blues sensibility to him. His voice sounds a little like Don McLean's quieter moments. In terms of songwriting and singing, Rice totally blows away pretty much every male songwriter I've heard, with the possible exception of Jeff Buckley. For those who haven't heard any of BDB or Damien Rices music, I'm stuck as to how to describe it to you. Suffice to say if you've ever enjoyed hearing a man sing his heart out with an acoustic guitar, I'm pretty certain you'll like this. I've not found anyone who didn't yet.
'At times, as delicate as gossamer and at others like that of a man posessed by demons.' - The Times
Damien used to be part of a group called Juniper, who had a decent amount of success, and released a few albums, but fell apart due to pressure from a record company to write more commercial radio-friendly songs. Like the world needs another bloody Ronan Keating... The leftovers of Juniper turned into Bell X1.
After the demise of Juniper he spent about a year busking around Europe (I can't imagine my reaction if I ever heard a busker like this), ending up back in Dublin, ready to do music his own way.
He recorded a demo with borrowed funds, and sent it to producer/film composer David Arnold. Arnold liked it enough to throw a nice wad of cash at Rice, who spent it on a mobile studio to record an LP.
In late 2001 'The Blower's Daughter' was released as a single to create some interest in the forthcoming album. The single and associated tour were both very successful, setting the stage for...
". Recorded with the aid of Tomo
, Vyvienne Long
, Skane Fitzsimmons
, and vocalist Lisa Hannigan
, O was released in early 2002. Critics and fans alike went crazy for this album. End to end, this album goes straight for the heart and squeezes. A European tour on the back of this debut was even more successful than the first, and the album went platinum in Ireland.
Rice's personality and deft songwriting hoist him above the mass of bedsit mumblers. O is gorgeous and understated. **** - The Guardian
Despite his many successes in the UK (and mainland Europe, to a lesser degree), Rice is (at time of writing) relatively unknown in the rest of the world. It's only a matter of time.
Mesmerising. - Q
From a personal perspective, my favourite thing about his music is the total fearlessness of his singing. Every song makes me feel privileged that he has chosen to share such a serious part of his life with me. The friend who lent me the album pointed out that on occasions where he seems to hit a 'bum' note with his voice, you can feel that it's just because he's so overcome with emotion. There is no doubt that he means every word. I'm not naturally prone to outbursts of emotion, but listening to this album makes me want to cry myself to sleep.
For those of you not from Europe, Q is a popular British magazine.
Update: Damien recently garnered some attention for himself by getting 2 of his songs (The Blower's Daughter and Cold Water) featured in the recent hit film 'Closer'. They are almost the only pieces of music featured in the film.