3 Dec 2022

Remember Me? | Join | Recover
Click here to sign in via social networking

Arun O'Connor - Album Review: Songs From The Reading Room

17 Jun 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

Arun O’Connor is as good as gold when I speak to him in dark and gloomy Invercargill about his new album, his debut album, Songs From The Reading Room, which came out sneakily in late April. 

You can see my interview with Arun in my interview series, ‘It’s a Wrap with Roger” here, but the dark and gloomy winter afternoon seems appropriate when you play the first song on the album, When the Darkness Comes Around. Here comes the earnest, almost desperate pitch of a Joe Walsh like vocal supported by Eagles power chords on this big breezy ballad and the tone is set. 

Arun O’Connor grew up on 70's music, more rock than country but more country than prog or hard, and more southern than most apart from the Eagles. You only have to go to Top Paddock in Gore during Tussock Country Festival week to understand that way down south they love their country to rock and they love it retro and it’s in their sweet home Southland hearts.

Don’t, therefore Let Go of my Heart which follows with a classic country intro and a plinkety plunk and reflects one of Arun’s first successful efforts of making the jump from covers to original material. Prompted almost out of necessity by winning Gold Guitar in 2018 and Southland Musician of the Year in 2020 and being shipped off to Nashville to record a song with Jay Tooke, one of Nashville’s rising production stars and former drummer with The Steel Woods.

Another Reminder starts off with a piano beat which evokes Bruce Hornsby, but the outcome is the same, southern country rock where the eagles have landed. Arun O’Connor never thought he could write a song but needs must collides with a certain maturity and worldly wisdom and the capacity to observe and reflect on his own experiences and those near to him. Mostly sad, he doesn’t yet know how to write a happy song, just to be happy doing it. Orchestral intros and manoeuvres, another plaintive attempt to play Games I Can’t Win. Big Duane Allman guitar.

Classic country pathos and a voice to match as he tries not to hide from The Truth before the rock beat returns on the first single from the record, Too Far Gone.

And so it goes. There’s no denying the influences here, the familiarity that speaks to the timelessness of country in all its forms. Unashamedly retro. Refreshingly contemporary. The more it changes, the more it stays the same. Arun O’Connor writes timeless tunes about timeless issues of the game we call life. This is a collection of eleven songs which we hear as new but we know already. And they are all strong, all sing along, whether you are in the car or the reading room or on the dance floor, sober or not, vinegar or gravy, there’s a beat or a riff or a melody which will tap your feet and warm your heart and chill your soul. Try hard, you can’t just Walk Away.

Recorded between Invercargill and Nashville in virtual reality (who would have imagined writing those words 20 years ago), Songs From The Reading Room adds yet another dimension to the growing links between Kiwi country and the polished Nashville sound. Which can be whatever you want it to be, Cash or Nelson or Beatles or Floyd or Skynyrd, there’s always someone on hand who can render it just so. 

Arun’s on the road throughout the South Island next month with good mate and fellow Gold Guitar winner Jaydin Shingleton. Maybe the north island is next. Maybe Australia. Maybe a visit to Fame studios in Muscle Shoals for the sophomore.

Who knows? All we know is Arun O’Connor has made a serious statement with Songs From The Reading Room. And that means he’s good as gold. And so are we.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Arun O'Connor

With the release of his infectious, rockin' new single Too Far Gone and his upcoming debut album Songs from the Reading Room, Arun O'Connor offers a powerhouse showcase for 'Kiwi Country' and a primer on just how vibrant, soulful and kickass country music is in his native New Zealand. On a more personal level, the multi-talented singer-songwriter – who's been on the scene in the country's Southland (southernmost) region for 15 years, or about half his life – he's continuing a dynamic family legacy that includes his dad, Southland Rock n Roll Hall of Famer Dave O'Connor and three older brothers who played drums.

In addition to leading the popular cover band Small Feet for the past 11 years, O'Connor has built a stellar rep as a session and touring musician and musical director for internationally renowned New Zealand country greats Jody Direen, Kayla Mahon, The Heartleys and more.

O'Connor is also a three time nominee for Southland Entertainer of the Year (winning the award in 2020) and he won the 2018 Southland Musician of the Year Award.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Arun O'Connor


Songs From The Reading Room
Year: 2022
Type: Album

Other Reviews By Roger Bowie

Anthea de Milo - Album Review: The Vicar's Daughter
27 Nov 2022 // by Roger Bowie
Out of a cavernous ballroom in Kurow comes the soulful mourning of Anthea de Milo with an old classic, just written, Just in Case. Anthea de Milo?
Come Together: The Beatles @ Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Auckland - 12/11/2022
13 Nov 2022 // by Roger Bowie
The Beatles wrote much of their ninth album, their first double, on a Transcendental Meditation course in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in early 1968. They called it simply “The Beatles”, but, in contrast to the previous album cover for Sergeant Pepper, extreme in colour and pageantry, this album was just…….
Adam Hattaway & The Haunters - Gig Review: Adam Hattaway and the Haunters @ Wine Cellar, Auckland - 04/11/2022
07 Nov 2022 // by Roger Bowie
Rick Topp opened for Adam Hattaway and the Haunters on Friday night three hours before pumpkin time. You know Rick Topp, you might not think so, but you do.
Adam Hattaway & The Haunters - Album Review: Bug Eyes
03 Nov 2022 // by Roger Bowie
Have you ever looked a bug in the eye? It’s scary stuff.
Gig Review: Come Together - Tom Petty @ Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Auckland - 30/10/2022
31 Oct 2022 // by Roger Bowie
Tom Petty hit us like a bullet train in 1976. It was London, and prog rock was being challenged by punk.
Thrashing Marlin - Album Review: Wildlife
28 Oct 2022 // by Roger Bowie
I wasn’t sure about anything, let alone a band, called Thrashing Marlin]. Are they beating a marlin with a rod or are they invoking a marlin trying to shake off a hook?
Gig Review: Aldous Harding @ Auckland Town Hall, Auckland - 26/10/2022
28 Oct 2022 // by Roger Bowie
Ah, Aldous, it’s been three years since you filled the PowerStation twice and etched your name and face in our annals. Three long years, only relieved by a cameo at the Flying Nun birthday party last year.
Gig Review: Mel Parsons @ Hollywood Avondale, Auckland - 15/10/2022
16 Oct 2022 // by Roger Bowie
I’m slow on the lesson, I’m slow on the learn, getting into Mel Parsons has been a slow burn. Painting the fence got me started last November before her solo gig at Tuning Fork.
View All Articles By Roger Bowie

NZ Top 10 Singles

    Sam Smith And Kim Petras
    Taylor Swift
    Meghan Trainor
    Drake And 21 Savage
    David Guetta And Bebe Rexha
    Oliver Tree And Robin Schulz
    Chris Brown
  • 685 (REMIX)
    Victor J Sefo, Lisi And Mwayz
    venbee And goddard.
View the Full NZ Top 40...
muzic.net.nz Logo
100% New Zealand Music
All content on this website is copyright to muzic.net.nz and other respective rights holders. Redistribution of any material presented here without permission is prohibited.
Report a ProblemReport A Problem