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100 Acres Of Sycamore
Bray wanderer returns to top form
Olaf Tyaransen, 29 Jul 2011
It’s been five years since Fionn Regan released his Mercury-nominated debut, The End Of History, and, despite its title, quite a lot has happened since. That first album, released on British indie label Bella Union, garnered much critical acclaim, with the 25-year-old Dubliner compared to everyone from Leonard Cohen and Bert Jansch to Bob Dylan and Nick Drake. Riding high on the wave of that success, Regan departed the Bella Union fold and signed with Nashville-based Lost Highway Records (where his label-mates included Ryan Adams and Moz).
Unfortunately, that deal didn’t work out. Having toured History heavily, a somewhat shell-shocked Regan went into studio with heavyweight producer Ethan Jones (whose credits include Kings Of Leon, Emmylou Harris and Rufus Wainwright). The resulting album obviously wasn’t what Lost Highway had been hoping for. Regan left the label, and the record was never released.
Returning home to Ireland, the disillusioned singer set up a small studio in an old biscuit factory and recorded a new album, The Shadow Of An Empire (released on Heavenly Records early last year; he’d waited until it was fully complete before shopping around labels). Undoubtedly reflecting his feelings post-the Lost Highway debacle, the rough-hewn album was the polar opposite of his debut. The Dylan influence was almost overwhelmingly obvious, but it was largely raw, electric and angry rather than winsome, humorous and folky. Some fans cried “Judas!”, but it was well-received critically, and landed him a deal with a major label.
Regan hasn’t wasted much time coming up with his third release. Interestingly, much of the beautifully-titled 100 Acres Of Sycamore was written in the home of actress Anna Friel. Following the Empire tour, he took a break in Spain where he bumped into the former Brookside star in Valencia. Having bonded over a shared love of Robert Graves’ book The White Goddess (about the psychological and mythological sources of poetry), Friel invited the Dubliner to stay in her holiday home in the Majorcan village of Deia.