IRISH TIMES -Behind The Grey – Album Review
It takes time for Irish singer, songwriter and actor Eoghan Burke to release albums – seven years after 2014’s The Sky Went Low and the Sea Went High, Behind the Grey arrives.
It wasn’t his intention to title the record that way but, when Covid-19 arrived, its original title of After the End required delicate tweaking; as for the narrative tissue, Burke, a member of Galway’s Urchin Collective, writes: “Although a few of the songs were influenced by what was happening, a Covid album is one thing I don’t want to do.”
Perhaps that’s for the next album, then? For now, the songwriter offers songs and music that bring you on a hushed trip from late night to early morning. Inspired by a series of gigs in Switzerland and their post-show discussions as to the merits of focusing on words and vocals, the songs here were mostly recorded in a sitting room in a Georgian house in a Dublin suburb.
As such, there are no fanciful sonic airs or elaborate production but instead reflective, sometimes personal folk songs that mix the past (The Ballad of Tony Dunne, Clongorey Evictions) with the pandemic-oriented present (The Hand That I Seek).
The end result isn’t music that shouts for your attention – Burke would much rather persuade than pressure – but if you have a mind to it, you’ll listen and like what you hear.
Noely’s Naughty Nightly Nitpick – Review
Recorded on the same Georgian street where James Joyce dwelt and recorded with collaborator and fellow musician Christophe Capewell, It is a wonder collection of fervent and ruminative tracks with songwriting of a caliber that would certainly meet the approval of the meticulous Joyce himself.
According to Fia Rua himself the idea behind the album was to create “a more intimate, atmospheric album with electric guitar, piano and strings, allowing Fia to engage with his lower vocal register” and it certainly achieves this and then some.
There are ten tracks on the new album which range from the fictional to the personal, from the contemplative to the hopeful and each has their place on the record and serve a purpose to complete the narrative. There are no fillers on this record but there is certainly variation and a variation on themes which gives the whole thing a feeling of being a very grown up and a very complete work.
The album opens with the beautifully haunting “Church Song” featuring stunning backing vocals from the wonderfully talented Sweeney Lee.
It reminds one of a darker time in Irish social history and showcases Fia’s ability to write a song with the emotional maturity and thought provoking artistry he shares with some of the greats of Irish music.
The second and title track “Behind the Grey” comes from Fia’s daughter and her imaginary world “behind the grey” and the artist looking “through a young child’s eyes to another world. It is beautifully personal and full of a fathers love. One of my favorite lyrics of the album comes from this track “She’s bold as brass, she knows no border. She wants to go, before we get older.”
I love the “Ballad of Tony Dunne” . I think it highlights Fia’s ability to write about what he sees and as a fellow Irishman I think we can all relate to the “Tony Dunne” character. Sure every bar has one.
The sublime banjo on “Hard as an Angel” is the beating heart of the track underscored by angelic strings and fused with Fia’s unique and hard edged vocals.
The Clongorey Evictions tells the tale of one of the many horrific incidents during the dark times of the famine in Ireland when in November 1886 the River Liffey flooded, destroying the turf and potatoes that the tenants in the Bog of Allen area survived on. Unable to pay their rent and refusing to leave their dwellings, the tenants were eventually burned out of their homes by the landlord and the police. Fia’s voice and passion shines a light upon the subject that had been quenched over time. It is a musical story telling of the tradition of Luke Kelly at his best and Fia’s soulfulness telling of the tale truly brings the past alive.
“We bloom in the Rain” again showcases Fia’s masterful vocals and song writing abilities. It is charged with an optimism for the future and for things to come and features some wonderful fiddle and harmonica which adds to the atmospheric qualities of the track.
Speaking of atmospheres, the next track is beautifully so. Bright Star written by the incredible Pearce McGloughlin leads the listener on a delectable musical journey down the inner sanctum of the heart and soul. A three minute gem.
I love “Blood on my Knife”. It’s deliciously dark and tells the story of a fictitious character (When talking to Fia about this track he said he had to explain the darkness of the track to his parents and that it was a purely fictitious character. Fia didn’t have blood on his knife just like Johnny Cash never actually shot a man in Reno “just to watch him die”) who is at the end of his tether and has lost all hope for a future he no longer feels a part of. Again it’s Fia’s voice that makes this track. It’s dark and menacing and adds the colour needed for a track like this one. I love tracks like this one.
The Hand that I Seek is a sweet lonely tune that full of a sweet despair and longing for something that is out of reach while the final track on the album “Reach out for the Light”tells you that despite the the inner turmoil inside you, you have to look forward, forget the past and “Reach out for The light”. It is a great sing along way to end the album. An anthem-like ending to a roller coaster of emotional battering that is “Behind the Grey”
This is Fia Rua at his very best. His vocals and poetic artistry amalgamate in a mixture of emotive heartfelt songs and blistering ballads that entertain and inspire. And at its very source is a writer born of this land with the traditions and qualities of the great musicians, story tellers, bards, and writers that came before him.
Make you proud to be Irish I tell ya.
The Last Mixtape – Album Review July 2014
Alternative-folk artist Fia Rua’s third album The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High provides a thematically dense interpretation of the genre.
From the outset it becomes clear that The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High is an album of tone and mood. Resonating with an organic ominous sound, the record gradually establishes the interwoven themes that permeate throughout the lyrical content.
Flickering with an expressionistic nature Fia Rua’s songwriting takes its time. Calmly conveying the deeply personal and introspective feel of the songs themselves while the artist’s voice dominates proceedings. Through this the L.P. finds it’s core building around the musician’s deft turns of phrase (seen most effectively in ‘The Waves Are Gonna Take Your Sons’).
From the serene sway of ‘Darkness’ to the rumbling sound of ‘Long Weekend (Galway Town)’ the record moves dynamically. While slowly opening the scope of the album stylistically is shown in flourishes of folk, trad and at times punk.
Indeed, the brilliance of The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High is it’s willingness to play with the conventional aspects of the genres it borrows from. In an almost magpie like way, Fia Rua takes elements from a plethora of musical styles to create a sound that moves enough away from its roots to sound natural and relevant.
In a broader context the album also works to highlight the vibrant alternative-folk scene currently bustling around Ireland at the moment. In line with artists such as the Hard Ground, Marc O’Reilly, In Their Thousands, Sive, Inni-K, the Eskies etc Fia Rua embodies this new wave in Irish folk and traditional music. And in that respect this is a very exciting album indeed.
With The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High Fia Rua showcases the importance of expanding and crafting a sound that is personal to its core. Lyrically the album feels like a cathartic experience for the artist. While musically there is a real sense of character.
Pure M Magazine Album Review March 2014 ****
Fia Rua – A.K.A Eoghan Burke – is an alternative folk troubadour from Galway (Kildare born) who released his third album The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High in July of last year. Boasting an eclectic and varied career, Burke also has acting credits and has travelled around Europe with The Wilde Shamrock Touring Company (where he played William Shakespeare in an original play entitled The Life and Times of William Shakespeare), he also earned a Master’s Degree at the Irish World Academy in Limerick. Here he studied Community Music, specialising in the music of the Irish Travelling community. He spent time with young Travellers, aged between seven and twenty-five, in the Salthill halting site of Cúl Trá learning about their approach to learning the traditional music of their ancestors.
This album sees Burke take a pointed and unflinching look at environmental and cultural issues effecting Ireland today. Between global warming, masculinity, murder and a good old-fashioned love of locality, The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High has something for everyone. Joined by Adam Downey on drums, Ross Rooney on bass and Christopher Capewell on fiddle, this sparse quartet work well together to create a soundscape which sounds much bigger than a four-instrument band.
The album opens with ‘River Gort’, an American style folk tune complete with rickety drums and a curling violin melody. The entire album is imbued with Burkes Luke Kelly inspired rasping, gravelly, purr, most notably in this first track. The infectious chorus ‘Flow, river, flow, oh….. flow, river, flow’ will be stuck in your head for the next week.
‘When Mark met Tom’ is in turn a drinking ballad, a buddy journey and a cautionary tale. This song is certainly the most lyrically profound on the album, with a few witty lines here and there: ‘Gossip covered memories, handshakes covered grief, Tom took out a fifty, and they both smiled with relief’. The rumbling bass and singing violin gives this tune a timeless, classic feel; it could almost have been written sometime in the sixties.
‘Hard to be a Man’ is the fifth track on the album and takes the listener on an altogether different route. Opening with swift but gentle drumming, and a subdued accordion, this tune builds slowly and is gradually joined by backing singers. Lyrically, this song takes us through Burke’s idea of masculinity with regards to the passage of time, loss and nostalgia (women of course being exempt from these phenomena ;)).
Special mention must be made of ‘Ye Can’t be Sane’, which could easily have been written by Horslips, and the wonderfully confusing ‘Bohemian Rednecks’, which is weird enough to warrant several consecutive listens – in the best possible way.
Burke has no interest in being yet another singer-songwriter. Indeed, he chose the name Fia Rua (which means Red Deer in Irish) in order to distinguish himself from the countless acoustic guitar wielding minstrels who go by their given names. In a strange way, it works. The moniker Fia Rua gives a sense of ancient timelessness to what is essentially a modern take on traditional Irish folk, but American inspired music. The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High is familiar enough to be comforting, but modern enough to be fascinating – a rare quality in an album. This latest from Fia Rua is definitely worth a listen.
Musician.ie (The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High – Album Review)
I spoke to Eoghan Burke AKA Fia Rua recently about his new album “The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High”. As the title suggests the central theme revolves around global warming and it’s consequences. Or, as the man himself puts it “I’m living in Galway so the weather and what happens because of it means it can be the main topic of conversation”. The title itself is a line from the first single “When Mark met Tom” a song about murder and not weather at all. “The line stood out so I chose it as the title and then it became apparent that global warming was a theme throughout the album so it fitted”, he explained.
Fia Rua is certainly embracing the lifestyle afforded to him in Galway and it comes across in his writing and this album. I would compare the single ‘When Mark Met Tom’ to something I can imagine the Furies or Dubliner’s would have sung. It’s the storytelling aspect of the song and Eoghan’s use of his own accent that makes his music stand out from other folk artists.
Not only is Fia Rua channelling Traditional Irish music in his song-writing but also in his themes. Masculinity is central throughout the album, first on “When Mark Met Tom” but especially on ‘Hard to be a Man’. Eoghan Burke doesn’t mince his words and we are rewarded with a refreshing take on a genre that can become repetitive. The directness of Burke’s description of Galway on a night out on the town on ‘Long Weekend (Galway Town)’ may leave some red faced but it is juxtaposed with his poetic descriptions of Connemara and beauty to be found there. You know those ads that say “If you like such and such then you’ll also enjoy this”. I would like to take this opportunity to apply that line here. If you Like Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ then you will also enjoy ‘Waves Are Gonna Take Your Sons’.
Burke’s voice on “The Sky Went Low and The Sea Went High”, this his third album, is beguiling. It changed with the tempo and the timbre required of each song while retaining that hard edge throughout. His lyricism and song-writing is in the Traditional Irish music sense and in the same school as Damien Dempsey.
Dublinconerts.ie (The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High – Album Review)
Originally from Kildare, Eoghan Burke has made Galway his home and on his third album under his Fia Rua moniker, The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High, Burke delivers sharp vignettes of life in his adopted county.
When an artist decides to stick to a sparse musical template, mainly featuring drums, bass and acoustic guitar, then it is imperative that they have something worth saying and fortunately Burke does indeed have something to say, with his poetic lyrics standing out over his brand of folky punk.
This is immediately apparent in the opening track River Gort, a hoedown embellished by violins that meanders like a river courtesy of Burke’s evocative words. Baby I’m A Liar is a bit more lively and the refrain of”‘Baby I’m a liar, bad buzz, bad buzz,” is an earworm that will take up residence and take a Zippo to any eviction notices that it may be served.
When Mark Met Tom is a comforting story of two old friends catching up over a few pints while Ye Can’t Be Sane is an up tempo meditation on life’s big unanswered questions.
While this is mainly a fine album, there are a couple of tracks that miss the mark. Hard To Be A Man and The Waves Are Gonna Take Your Sons pass by without making much of an impression but on the credit side Long Weekend (Galway Town) is a beautiful song about escaping the excess of a long weekend’s excess on the West Coast while Darkness is the best song on the album. A brooding, strummed intro heralds some dark, melancholic lyrics that make for uncomfortable yet compelling listening. It’s an incredibly beautiful, thought-provoking song that demands repeated listens.
The album’s closer Bohemian Rednecks is also pretty impressive. Taking aim at those arty types that spend their time incessantly rambling on about their “hopes and dreams and talking shite, 3am on a Thursday night,” it’s a scene that many of us can identify with and the addition of bongos in the arrangement add a subversive element of pastiche to the tune.
While Fia Rua’s vocal delivery and generally colloquial subject matter mean that he will not appeal to everyone, there is much to admire in this album and this artist who seems determined to do things on his own terms while infusing a refreshing honesty in to his work.
Ceol Collective Album Review Febuary 2014
Galway-based, Kildare native Fia Rua’s 2014 album “The Sky Went Low and The Sea Went High” is his third release and at times makes for uncomfortable listening. Currently on a tour of Switzerland with Harry Bird & The Rubber Wellies, Fia Rua’s alt-folk offering challenges the listener to come along with singer/songwriter Eoghan Burke’s mix of darkness and humour as he touches on topics as innocuous as pints with friends and as universal as masculinity and death.
With a myriad of influences clearly identifiable, from the trad roots of “Long Weekend (Galway Town)” to the anthemic “Bohemian Rednecks”, this album cannot be boxed away with the rest of the alt-folk scene and for that must be commended. However, it was this abundance of styles that proved distracting and made it difficult to form a clear impression of the album as a whole. While some songs were forgettable (“Waves are gonna take your sons” for example), there were some stand out tracks – “I Need A Recovery” and “Hard to be a Man” were personal favourites.
Refusing to be lumped in with others in the scene, Fia Rua stands alone with his folk-punk stylings and poetic lyrics.
Hotpress Album Review
2uibestow Music Blog (Ireland) Album Review
Nessymon.com Blog (Ireland) – Album Review
This is one of those albums that has been knocking around my desk for a while. ‘Falling Time’ is the current album from Galway based experiemental folk artist Eoghan Burke, better known as Fia Rua.
Opening with the title track ‘Falling Time’, an uptempo track with fiddles, guitars, everything you’d expect to hear on a folk album Fia Rua though is a little different as contemporary production creeps in, with little noises and hooks. You’ll be singing this all day.
There are a few guests on the album including Jinx Lennon, who on Shakier, spits out lines like ‘you got to keep it raw, awkward and real if you want to survive the next twenty four years’.
I’m going to to be totally honest here, sometimes I find Irish folk music very confining, I can listen and appreciate it but it would never be the first CD I look for (I blame my Granny). It reminds me of being somewhere where there isn’t a good bus service and I can’t get out.
I can though, recognise good production and good songwriting and Eoghan Burke delivers on both fronts, bringing his brand of folk out of his past and into the current music scene. On this album we see the variation of Burke’s talent with the tender ‘Last Wave’ to the uptempo ‘Walk Away’ with modern production and sometimes full on rock vocals.
If you’re into your folk music, you’d better do yourself a favour and get this album. Fia Rua is probably the most relevant folk artist on the Irish scene right now.
The Motion Magazine (UK)
Singer-songwriter Eoghan Burke released his first album in 2003 called ‘Feeding The Hunger’. Now going under the name Fia Rua, Eoghan is currently touring Europe promoting his current album ‘Falling Time’ which was released in January 2011. Refreshing yet endearingly familiar, Falling Time consists of songs which tell tales of the emotional pursuit of freedom.
The album mesmerizes right through ‘til the end, featuring traditional folk sounds elevated by a modern and impetuous flare. Lyrically captivating, tracks possess that quintessential Irish charm along with a reoccurring sense of realism. Hauntingly beautiful, final track Ghost provides a powerful spell-bounding climax to a fantastic album.