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The Driftwood ManorThe Driftwood Manor
Album: For The Moon
Label: Folkwit
Tracks: 9
Website: http://thedriftwoodmanor.bandcamp.com

The Driftwood Manor is an Irish folk band, centred around the songwriting of frontman Eddie Keenan. So plain, so simple - but as usual there's a lot more to it than that, for they mix traditional influences with flavours and inflections from all manner of other musics, often bewilderingly so, with the result that the listener is kept on the toes and on the alert. The band has released three albums and six EPs since its formation in 2007, but has remained on the margins of obscurity, not least since several of those earlier releases have only been available in non-physical or elusive formats (I've even not heard some of them myself). The latest album, however, is the first to be readily available in physical form, which will be welcomed by the listener who's yet to make their acquaintance. For it's an acquaintance extremely well worth the making, I must say.

The Driftwood Manor's previous offering was the 10-track mini-album Of The Storm, recorded in 2013 and released digitally the following year to very good reviews. It was a rather special release, a seriously spellbinding and most intriguing pot-pourri that soaked up the vibe of 70s psych-folk while paying graceful and sensitive homage to tradition, much in the eccentric and wayward manner of Dr Strangely Strange I thought. Now, its successor For The Moon brings reminiscences of that combo's followup Heavy Petting in its cautious occasional embracing of thicker textures. The album personnel on For The Moon is almost entirely changed - apart from Eddie himself of course, there's only fiddler Neil Fitzgibbon still there, and an appearance by bassist Bean Dolan on one track - and thus the musical character of the record is bound to be different from its predecessor. Although Eddie's personal vision remains as persuasive as ever, some of the most striking elements of Of The Storm (such as Brigid Power Ryce's vocals) are absent from For The Moon. Having said that, there's still much to entrance the mind and ear, especially in the inventive and potent lyrics on offer, which through creative use of symbolism express often darker issues such as life's fragility and the philosophy of personality but retain a lightness of touch in the musical settings. And the very titles of the songs are often rather intriguing - eg opener Fraction Of A Wolf. Perhaps the closest semblances to the crisply defined modes of Of The Storm are When Wisdom Was Lowered From Heaven and The Fox And The Bear, but each song carries a taut focus all its own and there's no weak link in the sequence. The closing track, the stark, bluesy-gospel-inflected I Have Become The Waves, both creates and maintains a powerful lasting impression and tempts a swift repeat play.

Musically, Tommy Ryan's drumming is more to the fore, as is Felix Sonnyboy's banjo, while greater use is made of effects outside the usual acoustic ambit - such as some beatboxing on the second track (Spring) which turns its vocal chant into a kind of mantra. Other neat touches include slide guitar on the gutsy, driven Fire And Brimstone, and The Secret People incorporates some mesmeric drone-vocalising.

Finally then, praise be to Folkwit for taking the initiative to bring The Driftwood Manor onto their roster and release For The Moon. Hopefully this will enable Eddie to gain a wider appreciation for his music.

David Kidman