All posts by Niall Gartland

Confessional ‘Carrie and Lowell’ Sufjan Stevens’ most affecting album yet

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

Sufjan Stevens’ career seemed to reach its apex with the critically acclaimed Illinois (2005), a 74-minute concept album based on the American state from which it gets its name. Featuring orchestral arrangements, an array of instrumentation, and lengthy, comical song titles, the overblown but expertly crafted album was included on several best of the decade lists.

Chicago – Illinois

2010’s The Age of Adz received a mixed response from critics, and it seemed that the thirty-nine-year-old Michigan songwriter would never top Illinois. However, by returning to his folk roots and creating a highly impassioned, lyrically centered album, he may have done just that. Named after his deceased mother and stepfather, on Carrie and Lowell Stevens takes a step back from his favoured themes (in particular his fascination with American History), to contemplate issues of loss and redemption. His mother, Carrie, battled mental illness and substance abuse, and died of cancer in 2012, and Stevens’ memories of childhood visits to Oregon to see her and his stepfather form the theme of many of the songs.

On “Fourth of July”, the album’s most darkly affecting moment, he sings of a dialogue between him and his mother (“Well you do enough talk, my little hawk, why do you cry”), concluding on the repetition of the phrase “we’re all gonna die” as the song fades.

 

Stevens examines his Christian beliefs on penultimate track (and the album’s first single), “No Shade in the Shadow of Cross”, in which he struggles to find solace in his faith in the aftermath of the troubles he and his family have experienced.

 

Such weighty themes, and his return to his folk rock origins, may cause some to fear that the actual music is an afterthought, but Stevens’ sense of melody remains untainted: electric guitar on “The Only Thing” and keyboards on “Should Have Known Better” and “All of Me Wants All of You”, subtly complement the album’s emotional crescendos. Nor is Carrie and Lowell a downer; rather than being depressing for its own sake, it is a candid reflection of his life, and a sense of deep, genuine love for his mother and stepfather is evident from the first track to the last.

Tyrone shock Roscommon to take place in All-Ireland Under-21 final

Tyrone 0-17 Roscommon 0-12

Tyrone will face Tipperary in the All-Ireland Under-21 football final after a convincing semi-final win on Saturday over Connacht champions Roscommon in Markievicz Park, Sligo.

The Ulster Champions (pictured celebrating their victory over Donegal in the Ulster Final) defeated Roscommon by 0-17 to 0-12, reaching their first All-Ireland final at this level since 2003. It marks a potential upturn in fortunes for the Red Hand County, who have recently struggled at senior level under Mickey Harte.

Manager Fergal Logan (centre) with selectors Peter Canavan (left) and Peter Canavan (right) ©INPHO/Presseye/Lorcan Doherty.

Under the stewardship of manager Fergal Logan, and Tyrone legends Brian Dooher and Peter Canavan, the Under-21 team are now only 70 minutes away from the All-ireland Title. After the game Logan praised the work undertaken at grassroots level to bring Tyrone to this position.

Roscommon were strong favourites coming into the match, but Tyrone’s excellent score-taking ensured they led from start to finish. In particular, Leo Brennan shone with six points, including five from play.

Despite facing the wind in the first half, Tyrone raced into a four points to nil lead, with Brennan, Michael Cassidy and the impressive Cathal MacShane all getting on the scoresheet. Roscommon took until the tenth minute to get off the mark, with Diarmuid Murtagh pointing from a free.

There was little between the teams for the rest of the half but Daniel McNulty’s free in the 32st minute gave Tyrone a comfortable 0-10 to 0-07 advantage at the break.

Brennan and Murtagh swapped scores at the beginning of the second half, before Roscommon substitute Thomas Corcoran kicked a long-range free to bring them within two points of the lead.

Tyrone’s accuracy in front of goal was a constant feature, however, and Brennan and McNulty added to Tyrone’s tally, leaving Roscommon four points behind at 0-14 to 0-10.

Murtagh’s point in the 54th Minute, his sixth, left Roscommon with only a two-point deficit to overcome, but it transpired to be their final score of the game.

Roscommon desperately tried to breach the Tyrone defence but a towering display at full-back by Padraig Hampsey kept them at bay.

At the other end of the field, Tyrone were dominant with Brennan, McNulty and Frank Burns kicking the last three points to ensure their safe passage to the All-Ireland Final on May 2nd.

 18 April 2015