Ear to the Sound: Brendan Regan, "Settling Up"
We live in an age of tremendous musical proliferation and in a community of great songwriters, but only a few songs have been passed on to us from the pre-modern era. Even early civilizations made some form of music tens of thousands of years ago, with evidence that rock formations were struck rhythmically alongside the painters of early cave drawings. But there are a precious few songs that have crept along through the ages in a sinuous, tenuous journey to arrive in our ears today.
On his new EP, Settling Up, Brendan Regan re-envisions classic Irish melodies from the 1500s to the 1970s. Regan makes bold choices with expansive, textured, cinematic re-imaginations of age-old melodies. You might think you know these tunes, but Settling Up is a surprising twist on time-honored musical tales told in a nuanced, new light.
Regan himself is Black Irish in descent, and he has the voice of someone who was raised with music in his blood and heritage. It's that kind of deep, cultural love that shines through in Regan's delivery on Settling Up. He summons generations of sombre tales in his tender and passionate performance. But far from timidly standing on the shoulders of giants, Regan stretches his wings and is never fearful of turning traditional, revered tunes into a modern vision. Listening to Settling Up also gave me an opportunity to revisit Regan's impressive catalogue of original songs. "Finite" and "Chasing Perfect" are wonderful songs to get a taste of Regan's voice as a songwriter.
Regan also partnered with Andrew Joslyn, whose skills as a string player, songwriter, arranger, and sonic sculptor are definitely on display. Joslyn's musicianship and string performances stretch these songs into a deeply textured tapestry. Joslyn’s violin is at times a fiddle, a string section, an orchestra, and a moving landscape. The breadth of Joslyn's skill and acoustic craftsmanship is a breathtaking achievement on Settling Up. There are few people who can invoke as much passion and imagination out of even a single instrument, much less out of several instruments, but Joslyn proves himself to be a one-person torrent of massive acoustic artistry.
It's also worth noting that Settling Up was produced by acclaimed, award-winning producer and songwriter Eric Lilavois at London Bridge Studio. The production on these tracks is warm and sparkling, but never overly polished. The EP at once has a sound that is both modern and timeless. The result is a thick tonal experience on a really fantastic EP.
Original music always merits extra attention, but sometimes something old can be something new. Regan and Joslyn craft a sad, sweet, moving journey out of traditional Irish tunes, creating an entirely new experience for any lovers of the genre. If you're a die-hard fan of Irish Folk, you'll either come away with your feathers ruffled, or you'll fall in love with these songs. But either way, you'll be moved, and that's the mark of a great musical accomplishment.
Listen to the new EP now at Brendan Regan’s bandcamp.