To be likened to Bob Dylan can seem equally cliched and complimentary. But spare a thought for Irish troubadour, Fionn Regan, who had none other than Lucinda Williams describe him as this generation’s answer to the musical poet. The fact that Regan writes lyrically rich folk songs makes it seem like an apt comparison, particularly when you consider the guy pulled a Dylan by going electric on his sophomore effort, The Shadow of an Empire.
Now up to album number three, 100 Acres of Sycamore and it seems that Regan is recapturing his roots in various ways. The music is again from the folk genre like his Mercury nominated debut, The End Of History. But its numerous references to nature make it like a skip through Winnie The Pooh’s forest home where the trees are abundant and contain large roots, full of the rings and markings of history.
Across 12 songs the listener is treated to some James Taylor-like vocals and music that sits in the mid-tempo range i.e. wistful folk brimming with acoustic guitars. It is a tad melancholic, but not so dark that you couldn’t sit back in the sunshine in a flimsy dress and enjoy the proceedings. The fact is it’s pretty and full of introspective moments that can be as gentle and tender as a feathery touch.
The title track sets things up with a call to arms: “Rise Up Brother,” while the music sounds like some water is kissing the sea. It sees layers of strings combined with a folk sound; think like Lior’s Corner Of An Endless Road. Then again, we should note that the aforementioned Melbournite was taking a leaf or two out of a Nick Drake songbook. Once called up and ready, the listener then gets a taste for Regan’s love of dangerous women in”Sow Mare Bitch Vixen”.
“The Horses Are Asleep” is an interesting prospect. We get some delicate and genteel vocals delivering what on paper could seem completely sinister. Consider: “I doused this bull rush with petrol from a can/And into the forest with it I ran”. No, it’s not about petty arson. It’s actually about some wide-eyed wonder and latent approval of alfresco sex. It seems that these wild horses could have taken him (not just away).
Elsewhere we get “Dogwood Blossom,” which bears similarities with the work of Cat Stevens. “1st Day Of May” meanwhile, is as soft as a candle’s flame flickering in the moonlight. With its muted tones you could imagine Boy & Bear executing this one with ease.
Perhaps the biggest pitfall of this record is that it allows the listener to get lost in a sea of velvet richness. The 12 songs – while gorgeous – do have a tendency to blend into one another. Yes, they’re calm and hushed ballads with mature and often witty lyrics but it does get rather repetitive, especially when “Golden Light” contains few words beyond the title. Then throw in the similarities between this work and the music of Dylan, not to mention Damien Rice and Andrew Bird to boot, and you’ll wind up feeling like it’s Ireland’s very own Groundhog Day.
100 Acres Of Sycamore is gorgeous, highly confident and assured. Heck, on the surface it may even have the makings of something rather special. But if you scratch away at this, you’ll find this tree is a far more common one and at times even a tad hollow.
Originally published on 23 January 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/31267/Fionn-Regan–100-Acres-Of-Sycamore
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