Dàibhidh Stiùbhard, a talented young man whose name I would undoubtedly butcher if spoken allowed, is one of the most mesmerising and heartfelt acts to have come from the traditional Irish music scene in many a year.
Releasing his debut album An Sionnach Dubh (The Black Fox) this month, Stiùbhard has tapped into a place deep within the caverns of his own heart to bring a series of melodies to life that can tap even deeper into your own. One of the most pure and exultant albums I have ever come across, it has all the natural beauty of a fjord and the grace of the Aurora Borealis. His work feels as soft and natural as the blood running through our veins and yet there is something more pure about it, some intrinsic and unspeakable truth that floods through his work. Comprised partially in English and partially from the Irish Ulster language it is a fascinating journey into the concept of empathy. When Stiùbhard speaks words in our native tongues his words run deep, his meanings absolute and unquestionable. However, when he sings in a tongue we cannot fathom, the meaning stays the same. Our limited or non-existent understanding of what he says is completely removed by the deep and earnest passion with which he sings.
Stiùbhard is a young man who well and truly sings from the heart. He has enveloped his words in a charming and sometimes whimsical collection of inspirational melodies. Stiùbhard has an incredible talent for projecting his work far more than the range would suggest. His work is almost minimal, flecked with beautiful fiddle tunes, creaking accordions and daring guitar melodies but often separated and interspersed with moments of silence and reflection. Yet despite this, his heartening songs are projected for what seems like miles around; his opening track is sparse and yet almost sounds like the return of Sigur Ros. All of this goes towards creating a careful and considerate album that absolutely takes your breath away. Like watching the sun rise over a mountain range, there is an inexorable beauty and grace to Stiùbhard’s work that feels as natural and unquestionable as time – it was here yesterday, it’s here today and it will be here tomorrow.
Stiùbhard is arguably one of the most phenomenal young artists to take the stage in years, his earnest voice ringing out above his charmed music can move the most harden of hearts within just a few minutes. An Sionnach Dubh is an expose on the human heart, allowing humans to communicate their emotions through song and music without ever needing to understand a word. Stiùbhard’s heart is opened in his work and ours are opened in return.
Review by Joe Knipe