An intriguing transatlantic folk/soul blend with a touch of Gaelic for good measure.
With the release of his fourth album ‘Twenty First Century Fool‘, Ewan Macintyre manages to span the Atlantic Ocean with the original tracks being recorded during lockdowns and curfews in Montreal, Canada and then completed across the ocean on the beautiful Isle of Skye on the west coast of Scotland. Indeed, this album bold introduces Gàidhlig (Scots Gaelic) into his songwriting, driven in part by his homesickness for the country of his birth.
The Covid pandemic almost seems like a lifetime ago now and all musicians were forced to improvise and many used online streams to great effect, but for others, including it seems Macintyre, they found them tedious and uninspiring with no live audience to feed from. Necessity though is the mother of invention and Macintyre pulled together a storied cast of local Quebecois musicians with Amanda Gibeau and Karine Bouchardon adding their classically trained string expertise to much of the record. ‘Twenty First Century Fool’ marks a stark departure from Macintyre’s last album ‘Dream on Sally’ which was recorded live off the floor whilst on tour, here though we have a full band sound with Dana Babineau-Burns, Antoine Larocque, Smith, Etienne Lambert, Chester Alaric adding their skills on backing vocals, accordion, guitar, drums and bass/double bass respectively.
The album kicks off with ‘Fall in Canada’, a track that manages to produce a dreamy folk sound, complete with wailing guitars and lush strings which at times has a jazz-like feel while never straying fully into that territory. The two Gàidhlig songs on the album show Macintyre’s desire to promote and encourage the use of Gàidhlig in a diverse array of music. ‘Seòladair na h-Inntinn’ (traveller of the mind) is an epic imagining of an exiled soul who stays sane by projecting his mind into false realities that stay within his control, while the more gently melodic ‘A Bhith Saor’ (to be free) is a commentary on the paradoxical nature of freedom, inspired by the ability of governments and communities to strip us of our liberties. The other standout tracks on the album are the excellent ‘Any Doubt’ and the closing track ‘Ode to the West’, which both focus on the challenges involved in following your dreams. Incidentally, the cover art for this album, created by Macintyre’s childhood friend Stephen Moir, is superb and it would be great if more artists put this level of creative effort into their covers.
‘Twenty First Century Fool’ is an intriguing album and it will take more than a simple first listen in order to fully enjoy the fine musicianship that is on offer. The use of two Gàidhlig songs is a brave move but they sit comfortably in the company of the other seven tracks which make up the album. Sit back, turn the lights down a bit, grab a glass of a good quality single malt (other drinks are of course available) and let this album weave its insidious magic into your mind.