Album Review: The Paul McKenna Band – Breathe

Paul McKenna has long been ranked as one of the finest singer-songwriters of modern times with the New York Times hailing his band as ‘the best folk band to have come out of Scotland in the last twenty years’. Others have called them the best band of their generation and they’re not wrong in the slightest. Breathe is the fifth studio album from The Paul McKenna Band and after a couple of years hard at work on it, it is finally ready to see the light of day.

McKenna is a talented young man who is capable of dominating the folk scene in his own right but when you add his complete band behind him the result is something that simply cannot be rivalled. McKenna, along with Robbie Greig, Conal McDonagh, Conor Markey and Ewan Baird combine their considerable musical experience and move to produce a collection of songs that cut through your heart like a knife. There is a strong versatility to their work in which they draw inspiration from the traditional stylings from both Scottish and Irish folk and roots music to blend the two together in a charismatic trad-alt, folk rock fusion. Their music is fascinating and is warming as the sun as they lay siege to the world with a heady concoction of fiddles, guitar, whistles, pipes, banjos and bouzoukis. It may sound like a complex and dramatic amalgamation of sound but the reality is that each element is used so carefully and sparingly as to create a sparse and delicate blend of sounds that sound like a warm summers night.

McKenna has one of the most warmingly evocative voices around. His voice is strong and powerful and yet retains a raw and emotional range that when combined with his subtle Scottish lilt could melt the stoniest of hearts. A veritable poet with his prose, McKenna is a young man who intimately understands the power of words. His passions, fears, hopes and dreams; they all come swirling to life as his emotive voice echoes outwards like a breeze. McKenna and his band are truly remarkable as they blaze a trail for traditional folk fusions across the world. The atmosphere that the band generates is something akin to an act of God. It’s raw, rich and massively powerful. There is a quiet power that resides in McKenna’s tremulous words and when they are combined with his soft and earnest voice as well as his tender accompaniments.

Breathe is a stunning and moving collection of richly harmonising songs that are all rife with a ardent and upbeat sentiment that is totally compelling. As it plays itself out you can’t help but get washed away by its phenomenal melodies and charmed vocals. The Paul McKenna band are indeed one of the best bands to emerge in the last twenty years and Breathe is one of the most compelling albums of the last decade.

More info at: http://www.paulmckennaband.com/

 

Review by Joe Knipe

 

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