- 31 Mar 09
Veteran troubadour steps up to the plate with fine collaboration
This cool-as-folk debut from Emmet Scanlan & WTGT is a tight, impressive, fully-formed affair. Hands takes you on a journey but, having honed their chops through four years of peripatetic playing everywhere from Mayo to Memphis, these are no musical journeymen.
A west of Ireland-based act fronted by Limerick-born Scanlan, there are six other nimble hands on deck – attached to Scottish cellist Nicola Geddes, Italian percussionist Alan Preims and Swedish classical guitarist Peter Akerstrom (although he doesn’t play on this album, Irish bassist Cathal Doherty has subsequently been recruited).
These diverse multi-national influences are obvious throughout; the style and tempo constantly skips all over place as this gypsy orchestra mix and merge various styles and blends of music (often within the same song), but there’s such warmth, richness and fluidity to the playing that it all flows together perfectly.
Scanlan’s subtly American-accented vocals range from bluesy and maudlin (‘Sweet Lady Life’, ‘Estranged’) to upbeat and jaunty (‘Under The Weather’, ‘Helicopter’). The majority of the 12 featured tracks are love songs - of both ‘going good’ and ‘gone bad’ persuasions – but he’s also a bit of a raconteur. ‘Superstore Flowers’ is a brilliantly delivered tale of regret about a deadbeat cuckold: “Mister man, well he got toasted/Put all his money on a horse that rode him/And his wife and kids/Into the ground.”
Later in the same song, he sings a brilliantly catchy refrain that could’ve been written 200 years ago: “Skaramoosh baraboosh and this don’t mean no thing/It’s just some words strung together that may help you to swing.”
Irish singer-songwriters are ten-a-cent nowadays but, while not especially innovative or groundbreaking, this polished debut still has something really special about it. And the truly excellent WTGT are to Scanlan what Lisa Hannigan was to Damien Rice.
That’s what I think anyway.
Key Track: 'Superstore Flowers'