Album Review: Janet Devlin’s “Confessional” is a raw portrayal of the last decade of her life

Friday, September 18, 2020


It’s be a little over six years since Janet Devlin released her debut album Running With Scissors, a beautiful affair featuring some uplifting numbers like Wonderful whilst also not being afraid to evoke strong emotions either in tracks like Whiskey Lullabies. Since then she’s been steadily releasing music, even gifting us a Christmas EP that has our personal favourite Christmas song on it in the form of Merry Christmas Mum and Dad. The Irish wonder just hasn’t stopped.

Now today she’s unveiled her dual concept album and autobiography Confessional to the world. The whole piece presents an intimate look into Janet’s life this past decade, from her early beginnings as an artist to the present day and discussing the mental health issues she’s experience and overcome along the way. Each chapter in her book deciphers the meaning behind each song and the story behind them too. It’s a unique concept that, quite frankly, has amazed me from start to finish.

“Writing the songs for Confessional at the same time as my autobiography has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done,” Janet reveals. “There have been many times when I felt I would never be able to finish either of them. So, now that they’re both finished and no longer just ideas that reside in my broken mind, I stare back in wonder. Even I can’t believe what I’ve endured. Whatever compelled me to write the story of the last ten years of my life was also the same power that gave me the confidence to start believing I deserved this second chance. Through everything, I can genuinely say I owe my life to music. And now it’s time to set it free.”

Confessional is a perfect introduction to the album with the Irish flavours being central to its opening as well as the passionate lyrics telling all who listen what this album is going to give to you. The delicate So Cold provides a stark contrast to the opening with a minimal atmospheric production that isolates Devlin’s vocals to the point where the intimacy makes it feel like Janet is confessing her own grievances on how people judge her to you until her anger fully unleashes at the end in an impassioned display.

Saint of the Sinners remains one of my favourite singles with the poetic lyrics of this track still sending shivers down my spine and Devlin’s vocal is filled with such evocative emotion that it makes every word hit you like the final blow in a prize winning fight. After that emotional display it makes sense to go into a more uplifting yet still somber number with Cinema Screen having a classic uplifting Irish folk influence to it which creates a unique dynamic with the more heartbreaking lyrical performance about not having love like we see on the big silver screen.

The emotional crux of this whole album comes from Speak, throughout it you hear a subtle cry in Devlin’s vocals with the lyrics telling a soul-destroying story of exploitation and abuse that is one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve heard, Devlin truly got everything perfect in this track. Honest Men is the perfect follow up with the ominous atmosphere, poetic lyrical performance and the haunting vocal of Devlin reflecting the aftermath of the previous track making the whole story be heard.

We then get a taste of what love can do to us with Love Song, it’s a sweet number that focuses on Devlin discovering love again and getting to the point where she’s finally comfortable to write a love song, like this one. Big Wide World follows this up and it’s happy-go-lucky sing-a-long that’s made for playing out loud, grabbing your hairbrush, and belting it out for the world to hear, genuinely hard not to smile as this track plays on.

Away With The Fairies deals with Devlin’s alcoholism with the free spirited nature of the production representing the freedom of drinking in your youth and the whimsical feeling Devlin experienced, despite her life being the opposite of that, a dark juxtaposing song that handles the issue very well. We then moved onto Sweet Sacred Friend which has a wonderful Irish flavour to it, as I’m sure you’ll be able to tell from the production, that is about a forbidden love that Devlin had to lay to rest who ended up being a blessing in disguise for her.

Holy Water is just a rapturous celebration of Irish music in it’s finest form with it featuring some legends like Eoin Dillon, Brian Fleming, and Peter Browne on the track. It’s a party that we can all get involved in about how the future is uncertain but all that matter is the now and the fun you’re having in that moment. Better Now is the representation of what this album’s journey has been all about. Growing. We all have dark moments throughout our life that we’d like to hide deep down inside ourselves but it’s those moments that lead us into the joys our lives will bring.

“Taking this album, and the book, on tour will be the final piece of this massive puzzle,” Devlin explains. “I’m looking forward to bringing my experiences of hope and survival out to the people who may need to hear it, and hopefully feel empowered and supported. We need to begin having more conversations, start a debate and look these issues straight in the face. That’s what this whole idea of ‘confession’ has been about: to show people that no matter how dark your life can get, there is always a light to aim for.”

Overall this has been a concept album that’s exceeding my expectations and then some. It’s still got Devlin’s old sound from her debut but she’s evolved it to a point where everything fits together seamlessly. A stellar follow up to her debut that really does show that she has something special.


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