Cormac Neeson – White Feather (Self Released)

If its innocuous title hints at some kind of meek surrender then this remarkable album’s content, tone and composition is quite the opposite. White Feather is forceful in its tenderness, fierce in its quiet defiance and brave in its bid to lay bare a soul that’s at times troubled and, at times, reassuringly calm.

Cormac Neeson, better known as the stirring voice of blues rock heroes The Answer, deserves praise, respect and critical acclaim for transforming his deepest thoughts – searing self-reflection is a commonly revisited theme – into a body of work that’s as moving as it is magical.

On the life-affirming title track Neeson laments ‘all your love washed straight from your soul’ and the Ulsterman’s emotive delivery is striking. The Hothouse Flowers-esque Don’t Wait Up should liven things up on the road – especially with a full band in tow – but things take a profoundly personal turn on the quite brilliant Broken Wing. Penned as a tribute to his young son, a special song includes the line ‘perfectly beautiful/beautifully perfect’ – words which tug at the heartstrings and bring a tear to the eye.

On this evidence May’s live shows will be a challenge for Neeson – holding it together in front of complete strangers as he charts the ups and downs of a tumultuous period in his life will require discipline and self-belief in equal measure. Having already admitted that ‘everything I am is wrapped up in this record’ expect a rare insight into the hopes and fears of a uniquely talented individual.

Elements of country, blues, soul and gospel elevate White Feather far beyond generic acoustic rock and allow Neeson to fully realise his creative ambition. Look Down On Me and Artefact (the latter is a vocal tour de force) might not emerge until the latter stages of a truly affecting album but both represent a musician at one with his art. Set closer Baby You’re Home To Me provides a consoling sense of optimism but there’s no forgetting what’s gone before. And that’s a good thing.