- 04 May 21
A sprawling, stunning epic from indie stalwarts.
As someone who is perfectly happy to sit at home, I've often wondered this past year about the nomads of the world, and how they're getting on in the current – ahem – climate. How are the perpetual travellers coping, during this period of unceremonious grounding?
Maria Doyle Kennedy has spent much of her life either on the road, touring with her husband Kieran, or acting in places like Canada and Scotland. But instead of dwelling on her own sudden flightlessness, Doyle Kennedy seems to be concerned with everybody else. "How are the heads?" begins a press release signalling the release of her new album, Fire On The Roof of Eden.
A mammoth project – at 72 minutes – the album was fuelled by lockdown limbo and is full to bursting of nearly every genre, from folk, to the alt-pop of 'And The Wind Just Cries', to the bluegrass-tinged 'Purple Girl', to good old fashioned rock n' roll. Vocorder even makes an appearance on 'Little Siren'. But Fire On The Roof of Eden somehow never feels forced, rushed or haphazard, despite the sprawling territory it covers.
Doyle Kennedy maintains that the process was anything but smooth, though perhaps that's what makes it great – an entire year of lost time is somehow gained back in the Kennedys' timeless new album, where moments of freneticism are placated by haunting strings, tweeting birds, or a cat's plaintive mewing.
It should be noted here that despite the fact that the project is under Maria's name, she's pretty adamant that it's "100% of Kieran's energy". The couple maintain their admirable alchemical balance on Fire On The Roof, which was recorded and produced entirely in their kitchen/studio.
For all its stay-at-home aspects, this is still a worldly album. Full of mystic escapism and wanderlust, there's a stunning French offering called 'L'Amour C'est Nous', and a Spanish-inspired interlude titled 'Jerez', which recalls the time the two musicians spent living in Spain.
Musings on femininity dominate Fire On The Roof's subject matter, with Doyle Kennedy embodying (or at least contemplating) many kinds of women – she's a kind, concerned Earth Mother on 'Consolation', a wild, epic Goddess-type in album-opener 'Cyane', and becomes wryly apologetic on 'Lucinda' – a track about being late to a Lucinda Williams concert. Some moments she's ethereal, her vibrant, husky voice spilling over a waterfall of a melody. And others ('Keeps On Spinning' comes to mind), she winks out phrases like, "I suppose I could set aside a day or two, have my evil way with you" – full of cheek.
Whether she's exploring several iterations of herself through a new frame – or because she's an actor and can't help but try on new faces – the effect of the whole thing is utterly intoxicating.