Album Review | Lisa O’Neill Soars On All Of This Is Chance

If I could wish for anything, perhaps in a genie-type situation, I’d have quite the list. Half a foot of height would be fairly high up there. Enough money to see me and my loved ones comfortable is also a goer. Wisdom and charisma are always a good idea. What I didn’t know I wanted until now is just to see the world with even a fraction of the wonder that Lisa O’Neill sees it with, and to distill said wonder into something as moving as All Of This Is Chance.

All Of This Is Chance is the latest album from Cavan songwriter/storysmith Lisa O’Neill, who’s previous album Heard a Long Gone Song has had an entire pandemic separating its release from today. With appetites for more of her austere, traditional songwriting having long needed to be whet, this latest offering fulfills any hunger you might have – and then some.

It’s clear from the off that some heavy-duty lyricism is about to take place, quoting Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘The Great Hunger’ as an introduction. ‘All Of This Is Chance’ is a top choice for a title track, surely – in a way, this song is the abstract to the album’s thesis. Every trait that the album will continue to cherish is present here; the collision of Irish traditional instrument with grand, cinematic arrangement, druidic reverence for the natural world and the exceptional lyricism and poetry delivered in O’Neill’s distinct brogue.

Calling the meeting of the traditional with the orchestral a “collision” might summon images of smoke and carnage – instead it’s more like the romantic, whirlwind encounter of two powerful forces. In songs like ‘All Of This Is Chance’, ‘Silver Seed’ and ‘If I Were A Painter’, the dense, textured score provides solid ground for individual instruments to sing – a surprise twinkle of piano keys, a soaring whistle, a lonely fiddle motif. Conversely, the dense blend of instrumentation often creates a seamless pillow of sound for O’Neill’s gemstone lyricism to sit on full display, especially in songs like ‘Old Note’ and ‘Goodnight World’.

What really scratches me behind the ear is the enormous and wonder-stained reverence for nature that O’Neill displays throughout. You would have to really search for a stanza where the beauty of a bee, a star, a tree, the sky, a berry, the earth and so on are not lauded with divine poetry. “Feathered friend, dig up and resurrect me, I long to live among the song of birdies, A lawless league of lonesome, lonesome beauty, Skies and skies and skies above duty,” from ‘Old Note’ – surely birds must be a little bit flattered?


As it happens, ‘Old Note’ deserves a special mention. It’s an incredible song featuring a plethora of high notes, namely this standout line from the precious folk-style refrain – “The things that I was thinking I was singing”. Later, dialogue is spoken by O’Neill’s niece, Sadie-Mae in an encapsulating way that feels like the conclusion to a film that moved you to tears. Similarly, ‘Whisht The Wild Workings Of The Mind’ concludes the album with such apt, characteristic beauty and wonder that the song that follows,‘Goodnight World’, feels like it’s been whispered to you while you rest, maybe after a big day out.

The appreciation for beauty that O’Neill shows off in All Of This Is Chance is second-to-none, and songs like ‘If I Were A Painter’ and ‘Silver Seed’ bring so much of the Irish folk tradition that they feel like instant staples, or songs that have been passed down from generation to generation. There’s just so much to celebrate about this album and maybe I could keep writing about it until my hands start to wither, but even still I sincerely doubt I can phrase it with half the appreciation that All Of This Is Chance really, truly deserves.