Niall Toner Band,
Mood Swing
(Avalon, 2005)

Set the lights, load the CD player, open a bottle and chill with the Niall Toner Band. Pardon the pun, but the opening track sets the mood with "Mood Swing."

They move on into the wonderful philosophy of "Play the Hand You're Dealt" on a track that has a lovely story line and is a joy to listen to. "Climbin'" is from the joint pens of Niall Toner and Allison Mellon and was written in County Wexford with a motif about a mountain that would probably be called a rise in the road in some areas -- but it is a wonderful song.

One of my favourite tracks is a wonderful, country-sounding "The Promise." This has the jaunty rhythm, clear cool backing and simple lyrics that make good music great. The country blues continues on the clever story song "Lonely Souls & Broken Hearts." This comes from Toner but has a very Willie Nelson sound in writing and delivery. It has the potential for a hit if it gets the airplay.

The revelation of this album is the versatility of Niall Toner. He gives us a song that was one of the first he ever composed on "Fallen Angel," and it sounds great. Then, having teased us with some country sounds, the band reverts to blues-tinted folk (or folk-tinted blues?) on the fascinating "Black Coal Mine."

We often think that the best railroad songs can only come from America but listen to "Railroad Dreams" and you will be amazed to hear that the story comes from a little town in rural Ireland. The song "Sadly Grows the Rose" is another joint writing project and the result is magical.

The album closes in style with "Terenure Stomp," proving once again that Ireland can produce world-class music and songs.

This album must get out there into the wide world to make everyone aware that Ireland can still do it in writing, producing and performing in all genres of music.

by Nicky Rossiter
12 November 2005