Brendan O'Loughlin,
Only For the Music
(self-released, 1999)

I tried not to let the homemade look of this CD influence my thoughts about the music on it. I'm much more affected by the look of things than I'd like to admit, and when I saw this one with its ink-jet cover and home-burned CD, I immediately thought I was going to be regaled with someone's home-brewed garage music. In effect, tortured for the hour or so that I'd have to listen to some accountant's sideline hobby.

I was, in fact, pleasantly surprised. Brendan O'Loughlin may not have slick packaging or an army of promotions experts at his disposal, but he does have it where it counts -- in the music.

It's not like anything you hear elsewhere. And really, that's a great compliment. It's not traditional Irish music, and it's not Celt-inspired rip-off-pop, either. It's somewhere in between, in a niche that hasn't really been explored too often. He's really breaking ground of his own design.

Not only does he break ground, he seems to be digging in more than just one place. Only For the Music features songs that are inspired and hybridized from things like pub songs and jigs, but also a few that have country influences and rock 'n' roll beats. Normally, in works that feature this much diversity, there's a patchwork quilt feeling to them -- not so with O'Loughlin's offering. It retains a cohesive feel throughout the work, and maintains that quality the whole way through -- something that's not easy to do when self-publishing.

In several places, you can tell that the work is self-produced, however. The rough spots are invasive -- short and not memorable, but spotlit due to the rest of the album's quality. Listened to via speakers, you can't really tell unless you're listening closely; with headphones (as I listened to the last half), there is a hollowness and a bit of a scratchy production noise. It's the limitations of the media, however, not in the artist's work itself.

This CD is relatively hard to get. Not sold through any of the regular distribution methods, there is a link from the artist's homepage that will take you where you need to go to get one. It seems like a lot of work, but it's worth it. Look forward to seeing more of Brendan O'Loughlin in the future.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]