- 23 Oct 19
Long-awaited debut from former Dixons man
This is an album that seems tailor-made for review in the 1,000th Issue of Hot Press. Despite a long and impressive career that includes stints as guitarist with The Dixons and The Winters (both excellent outfits), Tangled Roots & Twisted Tales is Ed McGinley's first solo album. For this momentous occasion, he's gathered about him a bevy of Ireland's finest musicians, including the ever-excellent Garvan Gallagher on bass, James Delaney on organ, Bill Whelan on banjo and Percy Robinson on steel guitar, with the inestimable Les Keye at the controls. They all - and others like them - have made a powerful, if often unheralded, contribution down the decades. Saluté.
Most of the songs here are penned by McGinley, but he makes room for some well-chosen covers. Tim Hardin's 'Shiloh Town' is treated to sparkling guitar/fiddle playing behind McGinley's unfussy vocal, and the sombre brass intro lends a powerful sadness to a version of Hank Williams' 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' that takes the forlorn lyrics at face value. Bill Faye's 'Cannon's Plain' has clouds and rain and fallen trees to deepen the sombre mood.
Robinson's steel, meanwhile, makes for a stunning opening to McGinley's own reflective 'Highlands' (not the Dylan song). 'The Curse of The Midnight Special' is a plaintive song about a train with the clichéd name, and 'Tattoo On My Heart' employs deliciously brittle guitar, a forlorn organ and trusty horns for a truly gut-wrenching track. Robinson's steel is back for the jaunty country-folksiness of 'Long Ago and Far Away' that evokes early Paul Simon; and 'You're Never Coming Back' is a gut-wrenching song about a departed love, with elegant lines like "You'll never tread this stair, never check your hair at that mirror over there." Phew!
McGinley has an effortless way with a winning melody, but he also has the confidence not to try too hard, eschewing the kitchen sink for a musical alchemy that will encourage repeat listens.