Ciaran Donnelly- Masks

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Since I've been doing music reviews for Small City, Big Personality I have, for the most part, stuck to covering live music.  I love getting out and about with my girlfriend and friends, having a drink and listening to music both familiar and new.  So this week's review of the single Masks is a little bit of a departure for me.  I get to stay in and do a single review!

I started a music degree at Perth College last year, and although in the end, I concluded I'm more suited to writing about music than performing it, I had a great time and made lots of similarly music-obsessed friends.  This has proved invaluable in keeping abreast of great new music that is emerging in Perthshire and a lot of the smaller gigs I review come off the back of a passionate recommendation from a college friend.  However, Ciaran Donnelly's debut single Masks is the first actual recording I've been urged to check out.  Ciaran, who hails from Birkhill in Angus, is a fingerstyle guitarist who is also studying music at Perth College and though he is only 23, he is already an amazingly accomplished guitarist and songwriter.

Review- Ciaran Donnelly- PortraitHis debut single, Masks, is set to be released on Meraki Records on the 23rd of this month and I was pleased when I was sent a link to it on Bandcamp this morning.  It was really nice to sit down on a Sunday Morning in my dressing gown with a cup of tea, a plate of eggs benedict, connect my laptop to some decent speakers and blast out these two tracks of aural goodness.  Beautiful arpeggiated chords perfectly executed, clear as a bell harmonics and woody percussive slaps fill my sunny living room with their own form of melodic sunshine.  The A-Side (I refuse to move on!), Masks, clearly emphasises Ciaran's influences as he channels the likes of Andy McKee, Michael Hedges, and elements of Jon Gomm into four minutes of instrumental exquisiteness.  I particularly like at the 3-minute mark, just as things seem to be winding down that there was a change of tone and the melody takes off in a new direction.

Second track Autumn (which is available as a free download), starts off more rhythmically with a lively strummed intro before relaxing back into a catchy sliding lead refrain, punctuated with funky chords and quirky little riffs.  I can't help but hear the faintest hint of influential Scottish guitarist Bert Jansch in the laid back fingerstyle passages.  It has the same laid back but confident vibe as some of Bert's playing.  The production, by Craig MacLeod, is also excellent.  Although unshowy, it has a real punch and clarity that complements the material perfectly.  Both Masks and Autumn were written by Ciaran and I think that compositionally speaking he's hit it out of the park with his first release.  The artwork by the visionary Perth artist Frank To (read more about him here) is also amazing and it leaves me hoping that this gets a physical release on Vinyl or Cd soon.

Review-Ciaran Donnelly- landscapeCiaran is always working on new material so with any luck we will be getting a longer release from him soon.  He is also in the middle of booking solo shows as we speak and will be playing all over Scotland, including Perth, in the near future.

Ciaran's debut single Masks is released on the 23rd of February you can find more information at

In the meantime you can check out amazing unplugged performances of Autumn and Masks on YouTube

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