“I’ve fucked it up so many times
I’ve fucked it up so many times
I’ve fucked it up so many times
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” [Maranatha]

These are the facts:

“Pádraig Ó Tuama’s debut album “Hymns To Swear By” blends poetry, spoken word and song in an achingly beautiful way. Many of the poems and songs have been spoken and sung in the context of Ikon in Belfast. They mix prayer and longing and raging in mystical fashion. The album is stripped back with just voice or voice and guitar which somehow makes it all the more potent.”

And here is the truth:

I ache. I yearn. I am comforted. And spellbound.

This is quite unlike any one single thing I have heard before. Perhaps a 21st Century Celtic take on Damien Rice meets Bob Geldof meets John Michael Talbot, half the time sans guitar; but Pádraig Ó Tuama’s deeply incarnational “Irish hide” produces yet another “fruit of emergence”. In English and Gaelic, Hymns is at once a lament, a call to the deep, a protest and a critique.

In its raw, straight from the heart approach, he explores the sense of exile many of us carry around, as only a true poet can. For example, in a spoken piece called “Narrative Theology”, he proclaims

“The answer is in a story and the story is unfolding.”

And in “Readings from the book of exile”,

“There are some days he only moves an inch or two, this is the pace of glory, here in exile.”

This holding and comfort is one expression of the poet’s empathy. But so is protest, as “Intercession For Lesbian And Gay Ugandans” shows. The inverse power demonstrated by the powerless is never more evident. In “Creed”, he sings

“I wanted to be straight but the thing is I’m queer,
I thought I belonged there but I belong here.”

If you are a seeker, if you have been involved and no longer feel a sense of belonging, if you are disillusioned, if you are sick of the ubiquitous “Light”, let Ó Tuama’s shadowy, lilting cadences serenade you. And if you have failed, this collection is your balm. The sacred and profane brew that is “Maranatha” is no doubt a key to the album’s title.

Perhaps these kinds of syntheses between dualities is the very alchemy which produces the authenticity. I have heard few more integrated expressions of Incarnational spirituality than “Hymns To Swear By”.

Perhaps Ó Tuama’s Celtic heritage has allowed him to bypass our hackneyed Greco-Roman myths.

Perhaps his involvement in postmodern community, specifically Ikon (“Deep thanks to Pete the Heretic Rollins for years of encouragement and kindness”) has given him a fresh perspective.

Perhaps his embrace of the apophatic theological tradition has given him an appreciation for a fuller spectrum of consciousness.

Whatever the case, I predict aching, yearning, and comfort. “Hymns” is a gem for the times, mined from the deep.

Listen or buy at Proost.co.uk

“I yearn for home to gather me.” [Yearn]