Well, no sooner do I get done reviewing Buffy Saint-Marie's newest disc (here) and lamenting the dearth of Native musical components in modern music than Paul Kirwan issues Old Red's Shots in the Dark with the opening cut carrying a righteous Indian-style chorus backgrounding unorthodox rhythm elements not too far removed from signature Native beats and dark primal blues.
Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, arriving shoreside in 2007, Kirwan impressed American musicians so firmly in his brief Brooklyn tenure that he instantly secured an opening spot in a Counting Crows tour, as well as invites to play a few fests and lead the bill for other name ensembles. One listen to this completely solo effort—everything on it is by Kirwan—leaves little doubt why he's enjoyed a rather unprecedented acceptance. Old Red is, of course, Kirwan's nom de plume, and the gent's far from a geriatric—not even middle-aged, f'chissakes!—a young guy with a strong voice, propulsive and earthy bottom-chords playing style, and a hell of a sense of humor, ribaldly genre-literate and Joycean in his grit and smirking honesty. Plying bass, guitar, harmonica, and an often gale force voice, the guy breaks down any sense of resistance, stepping right into the listener's ear and soul.
Kirwan's influences show readily in cuts like Nothing is Sacred No More with its heavy Dylan vibe, though others are completely his. Michelle starts as a funereal number with building symphonic cello (bowed bass?) and string elements, a piano motif its anchor beneath plaintive vocals, the singing somewhat Leigh Gregory-ish or Ray Davies-esque, though Lou Reed's stint with the Velvets is just as traceable…later mated to Bowie's Spiders period in the sassily folkish Everchange. The whole disc's lyrics, appropriately, frequently reflect the Thin White Duke's Aladdin Sane era linked to Lewis Furey and other eccentrics, a noble gutter ballet.
If the above indicates Kirwan's hungry period, then that's exactly right, but the energy, cleverness, and depth of insight and craft all point to a firm foundation, not a flash point of intensity soon to be abandoned once a foothold is obtained. The guy's burning with wit, passion, and creativity, a groundling troubador rejecting the bourgeois for the pleasures of the earth and wind, looking to the Everyman, drinking beer and bourbon while the gentry quaffs champagne and Armagnac. In other words, he's one of us.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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