Joyce Butler – Review of Wild Place

Joyce Butler has been shortlisted twice for the Atlantis Short Story Contest in 2015 & 2017 respectively. One of these stories was published in their inaugural short story anthology 2018/2019. In 2020, her essay, Walking Through Lockdown was published on along with a follow-up essay Coughing and Covid Tests, also published on the From Whispers to Roars website as part of their Quarantine series.

Her short story, Make Believe was published by The Galway Review in January 2021. Both her articles on Writers and writing, namely – Writers Under the Radar, and Grammatically Challenged were published on the Irish Times website in 2021.

Review of Wild Place

When I look at the album cover of Wild Place, I see two distinct images representing Jack O’Rourke and his music. The first is that of a soaring wave, just about to reach its crescendo and the second is a silent white cliff, unmoving and still through a violent storm.
Jack’s third album is a deep dive, and like the best ones, it begins in calm waters. The sea and water are recurrent themes throughout, which only adds to its beauty.
The first track, The Parting is a quiet introduction to this record and Jack’s music, if you’re a newcomer. His piano and voice are sparse enough, allowing his soul to rise to the surface of each note. His fingers guide you on your journey. His voice calls out at the end like a nightingale, on its very first glimpse of the sea.
Track no. two – Patsy Cline – is a lament for lost love and has some killer lines – ‘L.A. all silver rooftops’ and ‘There you go wrongfooting me every time.’ The strings, and Jack’s piano, are the perfect accompaniment.
The standout tracks for me are Sea Swimming – the title a reminder of REM’s Night Swimming which is mentioned here. The cool piano ripples with Jack’s voice, like waves rushing in to find you in this love song, with aching lines like ‘Waves that hurl us into one’ and ‘Cockles and clams make undertones.’
Strange Bird is lockdown and the pandemic. Jack’s lyrics again are right on the pulse of our feelings – ‘Keep our distance’ – and ‘Boy outstretches his little hand’ – ‘Window-pane like the Berlin Wall.’ Jack’s voice is a sad cry out to all the space and loneliness of social distancing.

Coffee Song is sublime storytelling. About a woman running a café in New Jersey. ‘She’s worked here since the eighties. She’s flunked all of her college dreams….I tell her all my worries, I don’t say my name.’ Jack’s piano here hits painful notes, reminiscent of Kate Bush on 50 Words for Snow.

The final track is instrumental – Timshel where I found myself standing at the waters edge, waiting for it to touch my toes, and invite me in for another dip.


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