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Fionn Regan - In the Bunkhouse, back on form,
This review is from: The Bunkhouse, Vol. 1: Anchor Black Tattoo (Audio CD)
This is great news. Fionn Regan is back in cracking form, stripping his music down to simplicity and honesty, proving in turn that "less is more". This Irish artist entered the musical world with a loud fanfare with his wonderful debut "The End of History"; it was sadly followed by a poor second album (The Shadow of Empire) and then a decent recovery on 2011's third album "100 years of Sycamore". To be fair to Regan he seems hell bent on plowing his own furrow and on "The Bunkhouse Volume 1 - Anchor Black Tattoo" he has taken the brave step of recording an album with just a four-track and microphone set-up in his own Bunkhouse Studio. The lack of musical accompaniment actually seems to liberate Regan and play to his strengths not least formidable guitar playing and a growing penchant for storytelling on a grand scale. True the album is a bit on the short side and its more of an EP than a LP. The pricing structure around it also a bit of a mystery, but shop around and do not let that put you off a very fine musical feast.
The 10-song cycle kicks off in fine style with the precise finger picking of "St Anthony's Fire" a soft gentle lament, which is most endearing. Second song in is "67 Blackout" a more upbeat and wistful construction, yet one underpinned by a dark tell expertly narrated by Regan. It is the third song in "Clara to Calvary" that those who loved "End of history" will offer the broadest smile of recognition, not because it harks backwards, but because it demonstrates that the old songwriting muse is back and firing on all cylinders. The same is true of the jaunty title track with its slight echo of "Black Water Child". Much darker is an album standout "Mizen to Malin" which most refers to a journey from Malin Head, Ireland's most northerly point in County Donegal to Mizen Head in County Cork, which allows Regan to ruefully reflect with vivid imagery on the condition of Ireland and its troubled economic woes. The longest song on the album is lovely melancholy of "The Gouldings" which is beautifully sung by Regan, while "Salt & Cloves" again is a pure joy, The final three tracks deviate little from the course set in the first half of the album and all are of solid construct most notably the echoes of Leonard Cohen on "Bunkhouse" which has a slightly dark threatening edge and brilliant lyrics while the penultimate song "Midnight Ferry Crossing" is an almost Paul Simon like chord structure accounting a parting journey in the saddest of tones.
At 25 minutes in length the album could draw criticisms but it is small and perfectly formed, showing Regan taking reflective stock after large supporting concert tours of artists such as Fiest. He himself has described this records song cycle as "Irish punk ...because they're pure, made with just what I had at my disposal." The impressionistic beauties of these compositions hark back to songs like "Noah (Ghost in the sheet)" where Regan really started to carve out his own unique niche. As such "The Bunkhouse Vol. 1: Anchor Black Tattoo" sees Regan enter the hushed arena usually occupied by great American singers like Mark Kozelek, Damien Jurado and J Tillman. It is very fine company to keep and Regan is a very fine songwriter.