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Andrew Hozier-Byrne, a singer-songwriter from Ireland, self-recorded most of the songs from this, his debut album, about two years ago. Columbia Records heard his recordings and releasedHozier in North America in October. His performance on “Saturday Night Live” helped introduce him to the masses, and the track “Take Me to Church” has been nominated for the Song of the Year at this week’s Grammy Awards.

It’s not hard to pick up on Hozier's influences. Growing up listening to American R&B, blues, and gospel, he has mastered the guitar work and voice to convince the audience he’s really from Mississippi. Church and Christian symbolism feature prominently in his lyrics because they have deeply shaped his Irish context.
Having become critical of the church as an institution (the music video for “Take Me to Church” protests political and religious homophobia), he switches the narrative, using spirituality as a metaphor for romantic relationships, not unlike blues lyrics from a century ago. Rather than making religion seem silly, he takes it seriously, mining its depths. Much of pop music uses lyrics as blunt objects, making listeners immune to the spirituality, sexuality, and romance that once guided the lyrics of the blues and early folk. Hozier, in contrast, invites curiosity and questions.

As a friend said on hearing the album, "It's got first-listen quality." The music is captivating, and the unconventional lyrics will pique the interest of attentive listeners. (Columbia)

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