Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler: For All Our Days That Tear the Heart - magical and mysterious

The singer-actor and the ex-Suede guitarist have come up with a compelling collaboration that confronts pain and heartbreak

For All Our Days That Tear the Heart
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Artist: Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler
Genre: Rock/folk
Label: Universal

Is pain the most valuable of all feelings? This is a question that underpins Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler’s collaboration. Both artists have come to this record with singular histories — Buckley as an Oscar-nominated actor, and Butler, formerly of Suede, then a solo star — yet there is a cogent sensibility.

Part of this collaboration is down to Butler’s manager, who introduced the pair, feeling that there might be a sympathy. It is perhaps to be found in the Irish connection, but also a shared love of artists from Nina Simone to Pentangle to Talk Talk. They have previously spoken of wanting people to discover the record “as if they have tripped across a box of photographs in the back of their closet”, and there is certainly something mysterious and fundamental at work.

The Eagle and the Dove opens with fierce intention, a work that seems to dance on a kind of musical tension, with Buckley’s impressive vocal sweeping and soaring, interrogating darkly lit corners, and Butler’s playing at once complex and understated. The album folds in so many elements — elevated folk, classical, blues and rock — and there are lovely moments everywhere. From the lonely-sounding trumpet and piano melody in For All Our Days That Tear the Heart that frames Buckley’s assertion that “we want to be things we’re not”, it is all orchestral intimacy. The sea-shanty folk of 20 Years A-Growing (inspired by Maurice O’Sullivan’s 1933 memoir) mirrors the elegant sadness of Shallow the Water, and The beautiful Seven Red Rose Tattoos is built upon a sense of contradiction, where “sunbathing in the rain” is posited as a natural state of affairs.

Contradiction is everywhere, going back to that central question about the value of pain. How do we know if it has been worth it? Babylon Days tries to answer, as Buckley’s supple voice flies optimistically around Butler’s evocative guitar, and the softness of the reedy fiddle on Footnotes on the Map complements its strident male choir. A bluesy sway adorns We’ve Run the Distance and I Cried Your Tears, and Beautiful Regret shows the range of Buckley’s voice, where she is reminiscent of Karen Carpenter, or on We Haven’t Spoken About the Weather, where perhaps Feist fronts Kings of Convenience. But the doleful vocal intelligence is all her own.


Catch the Dust is an affectingly wheezing prayer to “catch the dust of a memory from a photograph”, that dust evocative of a time once-lived, that life is a precious, fleeting gift, and even amid pain, still remains compelling.

Siobhán Kane

Siobhán Kane is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture