Damien Rice

With emerging artist Damien Rice finally making his way into North America (O was released in the UK in 2002), John Mayer should be shaking in his shoes. Beginning with the stunningly personal opening track Delicate, listeners are informed that he means business. Manned mainly with an acoustic guitar and a unique set of pipes, Rice delivers ten tracks bleeding with emotion and harmonious splendor. Backed by the occasional piano, saxophone, violin or female vocalist Lisa Hannigan (who plays a pivotal role o­n such tracks as Volcano and Cold Water) , "O" is o­ne of the most intimate musical experiences listeners will come across all year and you won't even have to get up from your couch to take part in it. With songs such as the epically unadorned "Cannonball" and the distressed ex-lover anthem "Cheers Darlin'," Rice can rest assured that his name will be popping up in numerous publications when it comes time for singer/songwriter top ten lists at the end of the year. With the groundbreaking "O" being the Irish performer's debut solo album (he was o­nce a member of the o­ne hit wonders Juniper), it may difficult for cynical listeners to expect a follow-up of equal caliber. However, I am far from concerned.

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