Click here for reviews of The Driftwood Manor - "Holy Ghost" e.p.
Click here for reviews of The Driftwood Manor - The Same Figure (leaving)
The Driftwood Manor "Dominican Black Abbey"
Enchanting "Dominican Black Abbey" is a six track collection
of acoustic loveliness Featuring Eddie Keenan and a selection of
friends including Neil Fitzgibbon whose fiddle adds a wonderful layer
of emotion to the opening title track. On "I Could Sense a Violent
Death" electric and acoustic guitars create a sombre atmosphere that
matches the lyrical content, reminding me of Stone Breath in its dark
approach. This dark approach remains throughout the disc with "Like
Parting With Ghosts" using the sound of a Bouzouki to evoke a sense of
loss, the fiddle again adding to the ache, a guitar splashing sound
over the top creating another layer of atmosphere to one of my
favourite tracks on the disc. Simpler in its construction, "Trees
Shaped by the Wind" is a beautiful, haunting song that lingers in the
mind, as does "The Blackest of Silks" another acid-folk classic that
shines with elegant light, a rattling feedback driven electric guitar
adding anger and bite to the track.. Finally "There are Signs" leads
us out in a gentle procession, reminding me of Simon and Garfunkel
reborn as wyrd-folk idols, rounding off another damn near perfect
album that is as essential as the last.
The Driftwood Manor is fast becoming one of the household names for alternative
folk in Ireland. I've never hidden my admiration for their previous releases,
albums and EPs alike, and it doesn't surprise me that their latest little
offering Dominican Black Abbey is no exception. Again released
by Rusted Rail, these six tracks provide further proof of the songwriting talent
of Eddie Keenan and his morphing band.
It's a while since Rusted Rail have chucked some 3" CDs our way but
this week three hit our saggy shelves. Much excitement! And if you're
one of those people who buy 3" CDs to listen to (unlike me who tends
to get them to lose as they're too bloody small) then you're in for a
folky feast. The last Driftwood Manor album was actually a great
album. It's still in reasonably regular rotation at home which is a
good sign in my book! On this EP Eddie Keenan (main lord of The
Driftwood Manor) is assisted by Bryan Higgins of Galway doom merchants
Rites for a doomier edge and lo and behold there is a "doom edge" to
it. Also helping out in this shifting musical collective is Annemarie
Deacy from Mirakil Whip. Partayy!! Anyway if you're not familiar with
this DM they make awesome traditional sounding Celtic-influenced folk
music with an experimental tinge. They are largely always folk but
they change and diversify somewhat on each release with this one being
occasionally doomy. Though I've just listened to the stripped back
'Trees Shaped By The Winds' track three times in a row which is very
much in the vein of Adrian Crowley and hasn't a sniff of doom about
it. Excellent songwriting as ever.
Dominican Black Abbey, the new six track EP by The Driftwood Manor, is one of the most refreshing and engaging folk releases by an Irish artist in a long time. Although nominally a band, The Driftwood Manor is Athlone/Galway based singer-songwriter Eddie Keenan, who, on this work, is assisted by Neil Fitzgibbon (violin), Annemarie Deacy (vocals), and Bryan Higgins (guitar). While there are many great Irish folk songs and individuals who have done great things to keep them alive, there is the problem that we remain stuck with only a repertoire collected from the past with little new material added. As the great singer Mary McPartlan said: "For the whole traditional industry, it's time more new songs be composed. The world does not need any more versions of 'Black Is The Colour'. Nobody should be fearful of writing new songs in the folk idiom and there needs to be new people writing trad songs. This century needs to have something to pass on to the next generation." Eddie Keenan is one person rising to that challenge. What makes Keenan's songwriting so invigorating is that it pays homage to Irish folk's inventive 1970s era, without stooping to copy it. Rather Keenan seeks to learn from it so he can move forward with his own creativity, in the process producing something both recognisably folk and recognisably his own.
The EP starts with the rolling guitar arpeggios of the title track, and a gentle, sensitive vocal from Eddie but Dominican Black Abbey really starts to reveal itself with 'I Could Sense A Violent Death'.Here Eddie's mellow acoustic guitar figures and vocals are backed by the heavy, feedback drenched, guitar of Higgins (of Galway metal band Rites), creating a hypnotic effect and an accessible and harmonious mix of acoustic folk with alternative/avant-rock forms. This approach also works well on 'The Blackest Of Silks', where Higgins' guitar work is more psychedelic.
The most pure folk tracks, and the EP's highlights, are 'Like Parting With Ghosts' and the particularly magnificent 'Trees Shaped By The Wind'. It is here Eddie shows that not only is he steeped in the records of 1970s' folk, but more importantly he is animated by their creative spirit. Both songs show the potential he has to stand with more established artists who should also look at covering these songs.
Eddie is a hugely talented singer-songwriter, contributing to the
on-going development of the folk tradition in Ireland, and it is these
qualities that make Dominican Black Abbey a welcome, perhaps even
important, release. Dominican Black Abbey was produced by Eddie and
Keith Wallace. It is out now on the independent Galway label Rusted