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Damien Rice

On a par with troubadour royalty DAVID GRAY, NICK DRAKE or even JAMES BLUNT, Irishman DAMIEN RICE has built a reputation around his well-crafted ballads and folk ethos.
Born 7th December 1973 in Celbridge, County Kildare, he spent his childhood growing up near the River Liffey, Damien (or Dodima, as he was then named) formed his first band, indie-rock outfit Juniper in the early 90s with Paul Noonan, David Geraghty, Brian Crosby and Dominic Philips. A tour of Ireland and a debut EP `Manna’ (1995) led to a subsequent deal with Polygram Records, however, after a pair of favourable singles (`Weatherman’ and `Single Of The Fortnight’), artistic and contractual disagreements eventually split the band. RICE duly moved to Tuscany in Italy before travelling across other parts of Europe, busking his own songs before returning to Ireland in 1999.
He’d written a handful of tracks which he sent off to movie composer and uber-producer David Arnold (his cousin), and the man now elected to score James Bond movies. Arnold encouraged Damien to record an album and donated enough money so that he could set up his own studio, releasing `The Blower’s Daughter’, his first hit in Ireland. With the help of vocalist LISA HANNIGAN, drummer Tomo/Tom Osander, bassist Shane Fitzsimmons and cellist Vyvienne Long, RICE released his soon-to-be heralded debut album O {*8} in 2002. Hushed vocals, wind-swept pianos and floating melodies were all present on what was perhaps the most gentle acoustic-folk release of the year. Just missing out on the coveted top spot in Eire, the record was issued in Britain and the States a year later, where it peaked at No.8 and No.114 respectively. Boasting three hit singles including the aforementioned `The Blower’s Daughter’ and `Volcano’, it was the moody bedsit crooner `Cannonball’ that stole the show – in fact it hit the charts twice!
With anticipation and hype for his follow-up in full-flow, RICE catapulted the name of LISA HANNIGAN by giving her a co-billing on a stop-gap Top 30 single `Unplayed Piano’.
The wait was over toward the end of 2006 via 9 {*5}, a massive transatlantic chart success initially, although to many mixed critics including the NME (who branded it “IKEA rock”) it was a flop. Led by melancholy Top 30 track `9 Crimes’, the pace of the record never quite moved into first gear courtesy of the formulaic `The Animals Were Gone’ and `Dogs’.
Like in true Hollywood “A Star Is Born” fashion and without a bye or leave, LISA HANNIGAN (now a solo star in her own right) was not asked to return to the set-up in March 2007; the fact that RICE has since taken a somewhat lower profile suggests nothing until we hear some new material. 2011 saw him working with French actress/singer Melanie Laurent on her forthcoming `En t’Attendant’ album. By the end of the year, Damien was again topping the UK charts, albeit through X-Factor winners, Little Mix, and their pop-fuelled version of `Cannonball’.
Duly overtaken by contemporaries like PASSENGER, TOM ODELL, BEN HOWARD and a plethora of grandiose folkies, the sullen DAMIEN RICE unexpectedly returned late in 2014 with the teardrop-enhanced dream-pop of MY FAVOURITE FADED FANTASY {*8}. Nigh-on a decade castaway on his own desert-island-mindfuck, Damien roped in producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin to work his magic. As close as THOM YORKE or the late JEFF BUCKLEY came to excellence, Damien sculpts his weary way around repressed rhythms and/or monotone monologues such as `It Takes A Lot To Know A Man’ (all 9 minutes of it!), `Long Long Way’ and the opening title track. One could get 2020 vision before the man rises for a fourth time.
© MC Strong 2004-2011/GRF2 // rev-up MCS Mar2013-Nov2014

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