J.P. Kallio originally hails from Finland but is now based in Dublin and as a singer/songwriter, he is soaked in the spirit (or spirits, if you’ll excuse the pun) of the Irish troubadour. His songs are often gritty tales of real life that don’t shy away from tackling some of the darker themes of the human conditions and that gives the songs depth and an authentic voice. I can hear influences such as Van Morrison, The Pogues, Tom Waits and Damien Rice among others in these songs.
Sunny Summer’s Day begins the album and is a lovely but deceptively upbeat track in the context of the songs that follow. Kallio’s sound is essentially just his easy-on-the-ear voice and fingerpicked acoustic guitar, aided by mandolins and occasionally flute which adds colour. City Lights, the second track, is more indicative of the rest of the album, a sad tale of a man who has to travel to the city to find work, leaving behind his family: ‘There’s no reason to not drink anymore, now he’s lost his darling wife and his only child to the big City Lights….’.
Songs like the third track Judge (which features a beautiful Irish flute solo) and, later in the album, This Town deal with small town small-mindedness and modern social decline respectively, both poignant, powerful songs. The title track Tell My Darling is a harrowing tale of a man, told in the first person, who faces deep regret after turning to a life of crime.
Perhaps the most poignant track here is the fifth song Daddy’s Girl, a heartbreaking story of fatal disease from smoking, a social issue that needs highlighting. The lyrics paint a sad picture of the effect disease has on loved ones: ‘Daddy’s girl cries a thousand tears tonight, she wonders who’s gonna walk her down the aisle…’. You’d have to be rather hard of heart not to feel moved by it, and it is commendably raw and brave songwriting.
Other songs, such as the brutually honest Pain and the deeply sorrowful Close To The End bring to mind the melancholy of Nick Drake. Whether these songs are simply more tales sung in the first person is hard to tell, but they come across as more personal than some of the earlier tracks.
Overall, this album is a very accomplished set of songs that are about people and their everyday lives told in honest detail, both the good and the bad sides of life. With acts such as Mumford and Sons showing folk can now sell millions and top the mainstream charts, I can see J.P. Kallio building up a big fanbase as he takes this emotive music out on the road.
Verdict 8.4 out of 10