Andrew Hozier-Byrne's passionate outpouring on his wonderful single "Take me To Church", promised the next big thing when it lodged near the top of the Irish Republic's singles chart last year. Sceptics might argue that Irish Times immediately dishing awarding a thumping 10 out of 10 for his new debut album might be treated in the same manner as the Latvian European song contest jury dishing out full marks to Estonia. The truth however is that the paper should be applauded for its impeccable taste as it is a very fine debut album from this Wicklow artist which will undoubtedly figure highly on this years Christmas wish lists and could trouble the charts we'll into next year.
Hozier has a soulful and stirring voice, penning songs which are wordy, literate and well executed. The aforementioned single is described by Hozier as "a bit of a losing your religion song" although the accompanying video takes on stronger themes not least the persecution of the gay community in Russia. Also check out the excellent performance on Jools Holland as a taster to his talent. The good news is that Hozier is no one hit wonder. This debut is full of songs of high quality such as the slow blues of the "Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene" where there are echoes of Pat Kane's vocal tones in his voice. He rocks out on songs like "Jackie and Wilson'" to great effect but its the big ballads where he comes into his own. One such is the dramatic "Work Song" full of aching vocals and heartfelt soul, another is "From Eden" a glorious pop song that could easily trouble the top of the charts if released as a single. Any doubts that Hozier can cut it live are dispelled on the gentle acoustic ballad "Cherry Wine" that closes the album. This rustic vibe is repeated on the sterling "Like Real People Do" where his rich baritone is used to great impact. The dark blues of "To be Alone" suggest a future direction for his career that shows a Gary Clark instinctive feel for music. His willingness to stand back and let fellow Irish singer Karen Crowley take the lead on "In a Week" creates a real highlight and a sign of sure confidence.
Hozier has the potential to sell by the bucket load and could be one of those albums which really generate a head of steam particularly if supported by a big TV campaign. He has been described in certain circles as the new Damien Rice. This is wide of the mark since his music ploughs a very different furrow and if the similarity dimly generates from the power of the songs that they both produce. The good news is that this album oozes talent with more to spare and is a really impressive starter for ten. Check it out you won't be disappointed.
Review by Red on Black