Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
‘If only the music I listened to had more mischievous and bizarre German-speaking leprechauns…’ is probably a sentence you haven’t yet to utter. You may now, though. The band is Tir Nan Og and their new record is ‘Jack of Folk.’ The five-piece outfit of four self-described ‘wannabe Irishmen’ and a woman from South Germany have created one of the more peculiar albums so far this year. Let’s check it out.
Tir Nan Og has been a band for quite some time, having spent time touring throughout central Europe since 2001. As a result of nearly three hundred gigs, they’ve mastered their sound quite well. It’s odd, though. The introduction of their album is in German, as is their website. Yet, the lyrics are all in English.
Immediately, you may draw comparisons between Tir Nan Og and some of the more popular bands that have contemporarized Irish folk rock. The group is reminiscent of acts like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys. The music is much more withheld than those groups, however, since it feels much more traditional. Both Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys have incorporated a punk-like element to their acts. Tir Nan Og feels much more traditional and reserved.
The band performs a number of original compositions and traditional folk numbers. You can’t really tell what is what on this record; everything feels like traditional Irish music. Their sound is quite excellent for the most part. Stand-out tracks like ‘House of Cards’ make the experience consistently memorable.
The most important part of ‘Jack of Folk’ is surely the instrumentation. The band has absolutely nailed the sound they’re endeavoring to pay homage to. The entire production is slick and solid; the band never misses a beat and wonderful folksy instrumentation shines on tracks like ‘Raise Your Glass’ and ‘The Storm.’
If I had an immediate concern about this record, it would probably be the predictability of it. When you decide to tackle a genre like Irish folk rock, you have to find a way to remain interesting throughout the album. Some of the tracks on this record some eerily similar to one another and the band may have been best putting out an eight or nine song long EP. With that said, there are exceptions. ‘I’m Yours’ breaks the mold enough to end the record on a particularly high note.
If it isn’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. That’s why I can’t really count that critique against Tir Nan Og. I’d like to see them experiment a bit more in the future – They have the talent to do so and could probably create something dramatically more creative. This record is still excellent, though, it could just be a few songs shorter.
On another note, traditional Irish music has a tendency to become the plight of the common man, the proletariat. The band harnesses that mentality incredibly well, especially on ‘To Hell.’ I think that’s a pivotal part of Irish folk music; it often embodies some sort of political statement or champions the middle and under classes. It’s neat to see Tir Nan Og’s music continue this tradition.
Despite professionally reviewing fifty or sixty independent bands a month, I’ve only encountered Irish folk-rock a handful of times in the past six or seven months. It’s not a style that is commonly available in this community and I suspect that’s because it is really quite difficult to pull off… you don’t want to become an awkward parody of yourself if you can’t embody the Irish sound. Those other acts aren’t even in the same ballpark as ‘Jack of Folk.’ This record is impeccably good for what it is. Check it out at the links below.