Release Date: Jan 28, 2013
Record label: Universal
Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan leaves himself nowhere to hide on his fourth album: it's just him in a room with a microphone and four-track, playing so softly you can practically hear the movement of dust motes unsettled by his guitar. That restraint is deceptive: when he sings of love, in Anchor Black Tattoo, he sings of swollen lips and bitten hands and a light burning within; 67 Blackout sounds bright and lively, yet the lyrics reel with pain and death. When his attention turns to the state of Ireland, in Mizen to Malin and, more obliquely, The Bunkhouse, slates tumble from cottage roofs and fires light themselves along the shore.
Bray-born singer-songwriter Fionn Regan has chosen to eschew the full band of recent releases for his fourth long-player in order, he says, to get "back to the essence of what is it that I do" – an approach that has worked. Recorded to four-track using one microphone, the songs here have a warm, homegrown feel. Regan is a mean guitar picker with a gift for melody and turn of phrase, and tracks such as opener St Anthony's Fire and 67 Blackout fairly buzz with sweet-toned charm; Mizen to Malin is a storm warning from the Irish Sea to a nation in crisis.
Fionn Regan’s debut album The End Of History was nominated for a Mercury Award in 2007. Unfortunately it was up against the likes of Amy Winehouse and the eventual award winners, the Klaxons, so may not have got the full recognition it deserved. However, Regan’s more successful Mercury competition did not fully overshadow his own work. The singer-songwriter first appeared on the folk scene in 2002 and had been building up a loyal fan base ever since.
To the campfire of indie-leaning folk returns Fionn Regan. Armed only with the songwriter’s principle dietary requirements - acoustic guitar and four-track recorder - and a pathological aversion to the major key, The Bunkhouse Tapes Vol. 1 elegantly captures a vast and melancholy warmth. It’s not without charm, and it’s not without earthiness.
Fionn Regan’s fourth record sounds like what people who’ve never actually listened to Bob Dylan imagine Bob Dylan sounds like. The 31-year-old is a guitar-picking Irish folkie who recorded this album himself with just a four-track and a single mic, eagerly reciting his careful poetry while flicking at the strings as if trying to dislodge some chewing gum. There’s none of the fierce passion, wicked wit or withering sarcasm of the real deal.
Sometimes music is best stripped of all decoration, down to its bare bones and presented to us honestly. There comes a time when it’s the understated outliers that become our saviours in the quest to hear something unflashy but artistically pleasing. This is where Fionn Regan resides: The Bunkhouse Vol. I: Anchor Black Tattoo retains an aesthetic with a rawness that is intrinsically natural.
There’s something eminently sad about hearing an instrument alone. The associations are all downbeat ones: the last bugle, the lone piper, even the annoying bastard with the acoustic strumming gently outside his tent at 3am on the final morning of the festival. Sure, the mouth might be singing “and after all”, but the eyes, the eyes are screaming “my life is hell, won’t somebody love me?”.Fionn Regan’s fourth album is just him and his guitar.