Out of the Mailbag, Comes Songs and Stories: Days of Wonder by Andrew McManus.
7 tracks, 31 minutes. ©2020. Review by John O’Brien, Jr.
Andrew McManus is a singer-songwriter from Armagh, Northern Ireland, now residing in Cleveland, Ohio. He released his first album, Acoustics, in 2018, and this, his second, this past December.
Growing up at the tail-end of the Troubles near the ancient Celtic site of Emain Macha, Andrew was heavily influenced by the local myths and legends of Irish literature that were set there; the tales of Cú Chulainn, Queen Macha, and the epic saga of the Táin Bó Cúailnge. These stories deeply inspired his creativity and a love for Irish folk tunes, which led him to producing artwork and music with a distinctly Celtic and ethereal quality.
Andrew has played music throughout his entire life. He was a member of the South Ulster Youth Orchestra, sang in the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Armagh choir, and has performed as a solo acoustic singer-songwriter in pubs and coffee shops around Ireland and England.
I first met him when I walked into Conor Boylan’s 5 Points Coffee & Tea. Andrew was playing and my carryout order, didn’t; I stayed for a while. I invited him to play at Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival. I have been so proud of how the city, its performers and many, many venues have welcomed him. He has established himself in the local music scene, playing a range of venues and music festivals.
You’re in the sunshine
In the shadows and the trees
You’re everywhere I look
You’re in the air I breathe
These are the days of wonder
And in the end when all is done
We’ll be back where we started from
I think that if we see this through
I think that we can make our dreams…
Andy’s new CD, Days of Wonder, comes at the perfect time. COVID has left us searching for something, anything new to fill our restricted time, yet still familiar to the people and the things we love, perhaps even more so, with all these restrictions.
Days of Wonder is filled with all original songs written by McManus, and reflect his humble heart, and gratefulness at being adopted by the Irish community as an Irishman living and working in and around northeast Ohio. Songs of love, sung to someone out of sight, with a little regret, or perhaps just self-awareness, and determination to do better, to run toward the sun, despite doubt, pain, or painful memories.
- One of a Kind -The Ballad has always been my favorite; stories engage me more often than music alone, even though there is almost always a story in there too. I often find a connection or a fascinating phrase or emotion that makes me want to know more. Andrew has a soft voice but this tune rocks. “You might be a one of a kind” and he knows it.
- Higher – A long journey, warmed by memories of you – for I’ve your burning heart inside of me
- Searching for the Sun – a down day, with little light in our heart or the sky. We don’t give up; we search for the sun
- Deirdre of the Sorrows – as Andy says: No sadder story do I know, than the one of Deirdre of the Sorrows
- What You Never Hear Can’t Hurt You – Will she see his pain, his love? Will she walk anyway? I love Tessa’s backup vocals here. She is an underrated fiddle player and vocalist.
- Smooth Forms of Rock – You are everywhere, in the very air, moving everywhere. It is where I want to be, with you.
- The Days of Wonder – The title track, Days of Wonder, seems to my ear to be a song of love for Andy’s wife Katherine – the whole CD may be. What say you?
Do you hear it, interpret, Days of Wonder differently? Share your thoughts with us (email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or on the web under this Out of the Mailbag Comes Songs and Stories column, lodged there).
Days of Wonder features: Andrew McManus on vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboard; Tessa Thistlewaite on fiddle, backing vocals; Mark Whalen, Jr. on percussion; Colm Campbell on flute, backing vocals; Tiffany Schaefer on harp.
Along with his music, Andrew is a full-time architect and talented artist who has developed his own unique style of Celtic knotwork.