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Monday Mixtape: Oisin Leech – My Obsession With The Rain

Irish songwriter Oisin Leech has just released his debut solo album entitled ‘Cold Sea’. It was produced by Brooklyn artist Steve Gunn in Donegal. It features luminaries Dónal Lunny, M Ward and Tony Garnier.

The album has garnered global critical acclaim with Le Monde in France calling it “nine tracks of absolute beauty.” Uncut have called it a “stunning album of clear blue reflection” while Other Voices and MOJO have dubbed it one of the albums of 2024 so far. It’s out now on Tremone Records and Outside Music.

Oisin plays his first solo headline Belfast gig at The Deer’s Head today, Tuesday May 7th as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

Here, Oisin shares his passion for some well-weathered songsters who have used the rain as their canvas to express their own meteorological magic.

More info here on Oisin’s upcoming May 7th Belfast show at The Deer’s Head here.

Ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the sound of the wind and rain on the roof or windows. It feels and sounds like music to me. My earliest childhood memory is the sound of rain on a window. My interest with the rain has continued on into my musical listening habits with a healthy (or unhealthy) obsession with all songs “rain”/weather related – here’s some of my rainy-day favourites.

Alternative TV – Cold Rain

I found this track, which is from the album “Alternative TV – The Radio Sessions” by chance when I 16. I loved Mark Perry’s punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue. In my teens I became an aficionado of 70s punk. ATV were one one my favourite groups. There’s a slow version of this song that’s widely available but this version is a little harder to find. It’s a fast disco punk version they recorded as part of a radio show. I had this song on repeat in my discman on cold morning walks to school when I was growing up. I love the harsh weather beaten sound of the vocal and when the disco guitar kicks in it‘a powerful. This song inspired me to start my own punk band called The Vermin when I was a teenager.

Fred Neil – Just A Little bit of Rain

Fred Neil’s voice always feels like it’s staring down from a cliff edge- full of grit and all empowering. For me he’s a towering character in music and this song lifts my soul and breaks my heart at the same time. There’s a mystery to this track that I love- Fred Neil leaves just enough space for the listener to make their own mind up and fill the imaginative void. I’ve read about the basement music club Neil ran in Manhattan in the 1960s and it inspired me to start Joey Procida’s Folk Club in Navan – a music night where all are welcome to come and make music. It was from my folk club that the inspiration came to make my own debut LP Cold Sea.

Irma Thomas – It’s Raining

Irma Thomas’ voice is like a warm soul laden blanket. The production on this track is mind-boggling too with its enveloping atmosphere. I love the sound of the drums and backing vocals. I have a little radio show called Caravan Radio and Irma Thomas features regularly. She’s one of my all-time favourite artists. I have a few of her albums on vinyl and they’re prized possessions- perfect songs to stick on at midnight to soundtrack the rainy wee small hours.

Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall

With Bob Dylan turning 83 this month I feel it’s more important than ever to celebrate his brilliance. This song is like a hundred songs in one. If I had even one of the images in a single line from this song I’d write an entire album about it. Here Dylan packs it all into one magnificent song. This track speaks to our times just as much as it did during the Cold War when it was written. This recording is from Dylan’s 2nd LP The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan– a record that completely changed my life and brought me from punk rock all the way to explore folk, roots and Irish traditional music.

Bob is obviously an astoundingly great lyricist and songwriter but people often overlook Dylan’s skill simply as a musician – his singing and playing on this album is great. Any time Bob Dylan gigs in Ireland I go. His band is always top class too. I was lucky enough to have Dylan’s long-time bass player Tony Garnier play on my new solo album Cold Sea. Tony’s bassline on ‘Colour Of The Rain’ is really quite something.

Séamus Begley – Early Morning Rain

This Gordon Lightfoot penned song is like a full feature film in just four minutes. I sing this song most Sundays in my local pub in Meath whenever I’m home. Tom Waits says a good song needs “a little weather, a street name, maybe a day of the week.” I feel when Gordon Lightfoot wrote this he struck gold – and not for the first time either. I gigged a festival in Kerry years ago and after I played I watched Séamus Begley from the side of the stage. He sang his version of this song and it blew my mind. To hear a stunning Irish traditional singer interpret a song written by a Canadian is very special- like a hand reaching across the Atlantic. Séamus sings this song so gently and sweetly. His voice is like the white foam on the top of a gently breaking summer wave. The narrator in this song has only the early morning rain as his one remaining steadfast friend.

Van Morrison – Snow In San Anselmo

I’m cheating here because on this song the rain has frozen and turned to snow. The melody in this song sends my head into a spin. So too does the theme of the song – the idea of snow falling for the first time in a long time, in a small Californian town is beautiful in itself. The conversation between the narrator and the waitress discussing the rare snowfall is heart-stirring. The string arrangement on the album version is so great but there’s also something brilliant about this live version from the album Too Late To Stop Now from May 1973. Crazy to think that it’s 51 years ago this month. Recently I did the Van Morrison walking tour of Belfast with Al Bodkin and I found it fascinating. It was an eye opener to discover that Van uses the everyday and the ordinary moments in life and turns them into gold. Like Dylan, Van is a treasure of an artist.

Oisin Leech plays his first solo headline Belfast gig The Deer’s Head today, Tuesday May 7th in Belfast as part of Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. 

His debut solo album ‘Cold Sea’ was produced by Steve Gunn. It features Dónal Lunny, M Ward, Roisin McGrory and Tony Garnier. It’s out now on Tremone Records and Outside Music.

More info here on Oisin’s Belfast show here