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The Savage Jim BreenThe Savage Jim Breen
Album: Awake
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 11

The Savage Jim Breen is an alt-folk collective-cum-collation of like-minded talents that comprises James Haughey, Manus Crowley, Greg Breen and James Savage - hence the portmanteau nomenclature! Their avowed mission is "a joint effort to bring to light the musings of an ever-elusive Irish recluse … the so-called Savage Jim Breen" … whose letters, rants and ravings pondering the ever-changing land we live in are delivered to a common friend, and from these the four songwriters deliver their narrative. That's the premise from which they work. Apparently… Strangely strange but oddly normal, I might say - much in the manner of the early-70s Irish folk outfit of that persuasion, to whose sound the music of The Savage Jim Breen bears a curiously serendipitous resemblance at times, especially in respect of the vocal harmonising, determinedly homespun playing and scoring and rough-hewn, sometimes slightly ramshackle demeanour. It turns out that all four members of this present quartet have been creating and collaborating on the Irish music scene for a while now, and have played all Ireland's major festivals as well as Wales' Green Man folk fest.

Small wonder, then, that the ethos of their music is to "tell the story of a 21st century Ireland, a place heavy with the modern burden yet somehow lifted by a sense of optimism and the ever there". Within which personal experience of that land is everything. Songs like Human Tide, Birdsong and Home are distinguished by their gloriously quirky, natural sense of savvy and interestingly wayward configured harmonies. Turn To, another standout track, is notable for its delicacy of expression and thought; The Offing is an altogether darker and more discordant expression of the overwhelming yet uneasy nature of a relationship, and Broken Heartland is an intense and keening lament, while in contrast Wild Mountain Side stomps and growls like a party animal with a wound in its side (and sports a sparky electric guitar solo along the way). Only the closing track (Tanzania) seems to go on a bit too long for its content perhaps. But the minimalist digipack presentation scores points by including a songbook insert.

The Savage Jim Breen have produced an impressive and thought-provoking record which will outlast many of its contemporaries.

David Kidman