Ailbhe Reddy - Personal History
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
The plastic paddy in me does love a good Irish band. So, whenever we go to The Great Escape, Mrs JO’B and I always checkout the Irish showcase. The festival is itself a showcase for new and unsigned bands, so it’s a gamble. Could be good, could be shite.
And it’s not a glamorous excursion, the Irish showcase is in a room above The Prince Albert pub in Brighton. Cramped and small (I’d guess 150 people max), so if there’s a buzz around the acts, it’s rammed; if it’s a hot spring then it’s walking into a sauna with beer (not a bad concept in itself, I may need to trademark that…).
Anyway, our inaugural TGE in 2017 was where we first heard Ailbhe Reddy - it was indeed hot, sweaty and the polar opposite of social distancing. Despite the damp and cramped setting, she was astonishing. Her voice, a rich alto, distinctive and warm, her Dublin accent just about noticeable.
The standout track at that first show was Fingertips, introduced that afternoon as she regaled the audience with her embarrassment as she sang this in a church in Ireland, mainly the lyric “And I'm just fucking paralyzed by your touch”. We laugh, it’s funny and then she plays a song that’s mesmerising.
We vow to see her again, and indeed do see her at a church later that year - again, she is wonderful (and again plays Fingertips - always good to swear in a church).
But then we lose track of her - tracks come and go, but it took until October 2020 for her debut album to finally arrive. Its title, Personal History, is bang on the money - this is an extremely autobiographical record, dealing with themes such as independence, relationships, mental health, anxiety and coming out as gay.
Time Difference jangles along, an ode to a partner left at home with their mundane normal life, while she’s off on tour, partying but lonely - the time difference exacerbating the distance between them, the perils of falling in love with an artist. Meanwhile, Looking Happy see her torturing herself, checking out social media to see an ex and their new happy life - “See you got a new life, but are you still lonely? I can make it stop, just turn it off”.
The title track continues this excursion into her most intimate thoughts, as she promises the partner she is wooing “I don't wanna go on dates and hear personal histories; I don't want to share my own unless it's you listening”.
The track that resonates for me is closer Self Improvement as I am dealing with my own depression and anxiety right now. “Off the meds again, for just a few months, ’til I can’t cope again, 'til I'm unravelling”, worrying about her partner and the impact this has on them. She ends the song with a howling, soaring chant to the world “I spent my twenties, trying to accept these vulnerabilities don’t make me weak”. It’s the best song I have heard about the guilt of mental health issues.
And then she’s gone. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for her sophomore album, and see what sort of artist she will develop into and where these brutally honest and personal lyrics will take us next.