Musician Ronan McSorley. Photo Source: Peter Donnelly

Peter Donnelly, Contributor.

A key element which allows for the vibrancy of the young musical talent in Northern Ireland to continue to grow and flourish is the sheer originality, innovation and enthusiasm of the artists themselves.  Ronan McSorley has proven himself to be a musician who has conquered these credentials.  The launch of his much-anticipated EP, ‘I Am Not Free,’ on 26th July, affirmed once again his great artistic ability, as both a creative genius and a live performer.

Having added a further notch to his belt earlier this year, in March, winning the Panarts’ Young Songwriter of the Year Award, he is a local musician who tirelessly exhibits an impassioned energy and enthusiasm for his craft.

The EP launch, hosted in the Ramada by Wyndham hotel in Belfast, was a particularly intimate evening.  Surrounded by a supportive circle of family and friends, the showcase of Ronan’s music most certainly had a strong sentimental attachment for him, which he will undoubtedly cherish in the ensuing years.  What followed was simply put – a typically Irish affair – with an assortment of brilliantly fresh music homebrewed by Ronan and seasoned by a keen wit.

The image of three microphones neatly arranged in the centre of the dimly-lit, showcasing room in Belfast City Centre was unique in both aspect and style and allowed Ronan to take centre-stage throughout his performance.  The ‘in the round’ format, as Ronan termed it, was accessible for the audience to engage with the musical brilliance of the riff’s rays.

An added bonus to the evening’s proceedings was the presence of Belmont University students from Nashville Connor Singleton and Kelsey Abbott who also participated in the Panarts’ Belfast Nashville Songwriters programme.  Immediately identifiable was their great affinity for the writing of original bluegrass and Americana tracks.  The evening’s collaborative flavour enrichened the live experience of Ronan’s music as well as displaying the rich chemistry between all three songwriters.  It was reassuring to see that the daughters of Nashville, Tennessee continue to maintain the flame which was lit in their city by their song-writing antecedents.  Giants such as Johnny Cash are eternally imprinted on the rich musical heritage of Nashville.

The captivation of the audience was immediately evident as the first chord of ‘Are You Coming Out Tonight? ‘the first track on the EP, was sounded – one could hear the proverbial pin drop.  The probing nature of the track manages to take the audience on a journey over profoundly emotional terrains, guiding them all the way, with a selection of sympathetic chords.  Ronan McSorley’s lyrics further expose a youthful carefree attitude – “We’re not getting older…we’re not moving further” – a central theme which underpins the track from start to finish.  The profound intensity of the track’s lyrics would forgive anyone who may contemplate that they were written by a middle-aged man who has experienced life’s trials and tribulations.  However, it is Ronan McSorley who has created this masterpiece and it is him who has successfully honed and engaged the skill of a song-writing genius.

Progressing on to the beautifully introspective track, ‘I am not free,’ Ronan’s emotionally-charged bank of lyrics and his neat phrasing enraptured the listener once again.  The live, crisp acoustic sound enhanced the song’s capacity to penetrate the hearts of its recipients from its first chords, through to the verse, middle eight and its conclusion.  Confessional in its word and timing, this is a proficiently constructed ballad, which exposes the rich timbre of Ronan McSorley’s voice to a tee.  This track could well have been recorded by the late Jeff Buckley with his melancholic focus on heartbreak and triumph.  (“Too young to hold on, too old…to break free and run” – Jeff Buckley – ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.’ Sound familiar?

Contrary to his lyrics, it is crystal clear that Ronan is as free as following rivers to pursue his music on his terms and his terms alone, which is key to the success of independent artists.

Proceedings were appropriately concluded with a rendition of the late, great Leonard Cohen’s monumental “Hallelujah.”  It was here that the magical qualities which allow live musical improvisation to maintain its freshness and spontaneity were laid bare by Ronan McSorley, abetted by the sublime harmonies of both Connor Singleton and Kelsey Abbott.

The evening was a resounding success, not only for Ronan McSorley’s music, but for himself.  He has exhibited the essential attributes of a successful songwriter in a live setting.  Modestly reflecting on the evening, Ronan says, “It was such an honour to perform alongside such talented artists from Nashville, the song-writing capital.”  For Ronan, the only way is up. Note the name well – you heard it here first.

Ronan McSorley’s EP, “I Am Not Free,” is now available for streaming and purchase.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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