Padraig Jack was born ten miles off the west coast of Ireland, on the Aran islands, and lists these surroundings as one of his greatest influences, along with James Taylor, Van Morrison, Shane McGowan, and The Eagles. Jack’s father, Barry Ronan, is a bilingual songwriter, and Jack has carried on this proud tradition – writing and performing songs in Gaelic as well as English. Jack is carving out something of a reputation in Ireland, with a host of television appearances, as well as some high profile tours supporting Sharon Shannon. His Gaelic language songs are regularly played on the national Irish language radio station RTE Radió na Gaeltachta.
‘Making Sand‘, Jack’s debut record, offers a good mix of sounds, nicely blending his U.S. influences with an authentically Irish rootsy flavour. Jack’s wonderful voice is largely responsible for delivering this dose of authenticity, along with some injections of more folky melodies and instrumentation – most notably a wonderful whistle hook on the eighth and ninth tracks ‘Long Goodbye‘ and ‘Smointe Cailte‘, which are two versions of the same song, in English and Gaelic respectively.
Jack’s obvious strengths are his singing and songwriting, with a whole host of topics covered, including some more traditional style story songs. However, some of the production, although it is to a fantastic standard, seems a little overbearing at time. It’s very clean and polished and the commercial feeling it gives to the sound is somewhat at odds with the roots music that clearly sits at its heart. Jack’s talent is almost overshadowed at points, and the parts of the album that really shine are the most stripped back. The opening of lead single ‘Minnie‘, for example, is just Jack and a guitar, and it’s great – before long, the track adds multiple backing vocals and a full band, including drums, and it loses something for it. The album has a good offering of songs, but it leaves you with a desire to see Jack play solo, just to enjoy his singer-songwriter chops in their purest form, without any distractions.