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The Driftwood Manor "The Same Figure (Leaving)"

Given a second outing by Rusted Rail and Slow Loris, The Driftwood Manor's The Same Figure, Leaving will hopefully gain the attention it deserves this time around. Initially released as a limited edition CD-r by Ruralfaune, the album is easily as accomplished as anything you'll hear cluttering up the charts under the 'folk' tag but with a heart of darkness and desolation that sets it apart and gives it proper emotional heft where others leave great, gaping holes of inanity. The most fitting modern comparison would probably be Boduf Songs, with whom The Driftwood Manor shares a love of noise. Beneath the world-weary 'Each Day Has Bettered Me None' roils gut-wrenching spiral of electronics, and there are similar effects bubbling around 'You Have Mapped The Pathways' and 'To Be Done'. As a sonic incarnation of singer Eddie Keenan's pain and yearning it works perfectly, truly bringing to the surface an element of inner horror that couldn't otherwise be expressed without resorting to overwrought lyrical knuckle-clutching. 'A Coat Against The Winter' is the perfect scene-setter, being a paean to the warming qualities of whisky (in a physical sense as well as an emotional one) as well as a desperate expression of hopelessness against the indomitable sublimity of shattered desires. It's evocative of lonely late-night walks; breath amongst snowflakes, trailing scarves and hands shoved deep in pockets as the mind rolls over and over.

Neil Fitzgibbon and Anne Marie Hynes provide able back-up on fiddle and vocals respectively, providing the necessary earthiness to make sure the album keeps its head above water even in its bleakest passages. In that respect, not everything is as gloomy as it sounds. 'That Lasting Final Hurt' defies its title to become a veritable barn dance, led by Fitzgibbon and bringing out a rare lilt in Keenan's voice. After the initial shock of it's opening screed, even 'You Have Mapped The Pathways' settles into a relatively jaunty sing song with Hynes's warm brogue complimenting the chorus well.

Really, though, this is Keenan's show. Lyrically he's an excellent image maker and his dry, cracked voice suits tales of ache and longing perfectly. 'Blackbirds Are Screaming' and 'Each Day Has Bettered Me None' are all the more potent for their brevity, clocking in at a shade over two minutes each and when lyrics like 'Blackbirds are screaming in trees/A ghost of a chance on its knees' hit home then it goes to show that the power of suggestion will forever defeat the obvious, affected and maladroit hair tugging that seems to pass for the truth these days. Do yourselves a favour, slide The Same Figure (Leaving) into your CD player and face something head-on for once. It'll do you the world of good.

I like these guys. I like them a lot. Well it's mainly one guy called Eddie Keenan along with a bunch of likeminded musicians and peers helping him along the way. 'The Same Figure' was originally released as a limited CDR on Ruralfaune a while back and now it gets a proper release where folks can actually get to hear it as the initial pressing was all tiny miniscule like. On this album Mr Keenan is aided and abetted by folks from United Bible Studies and Steve Fanagan (Northstation/Slow Loris). What we have here is a truly excellent folk album which I played 3 times in a row the other morning before anyone else got to work (I start early!). I'm not one to usually replay the same record but I just needed to listen to it again! There's a large Celtic thread holding the album together giving it coherence but what really makes this album is the songwriting which is simply brilliant. There's not a duff track on it. The arrangements are excellent as well. In 'You Have Mapped Pathways' it's essentially man and guitar but then there's some whooshy oscillations in the background, some delightful female vocals popping up and a brass section appears out of nowhere making a great tune even better. There's light and dark on the album too with some songs having a more morbid edge than others giving it some sort of lifelike balance. Beneath the traditional folk there's an experimental edge with feedback and strange noises popping up hither and thither. 'On A Corner of Athlone' destroys me every time I hear it. It's one of the best songs I've heard in ages and it's so simple it makes me feel angry for not thinking of it first. The whole album is genius and it gets my 100% total and utter recommendation.... Fans of Alasdair Roberts and the like take heed! ***** Album of the Week
Norman Records

Given a new lease of life through the independent labels Rusted Rail and Slow Loris, the re-release of The Driftwood Manor's second album The Same Figure Leaving may well garner the attention it richly deserves. Nine songs that centre mainly on sharp acoustic guitar and the low vocals of Eddie Keenan, the usual tags of 'warm', 'brooding' and 'soulful' are thrown to the verges here. It's a folk album with a difference, a dark and disconcerting edge that's about as refreshing as a bony finger running down a spine in a gloomy graveyard on All Hallow's Eve.

'A Coat Against The Winter' could have been named 'An Iron Helmet Against Beauty' or 'A Match Against A Glacier'; there's definitely a sense of intimidation, a fear of how powerless we stand against nature's mighty power. This I gather by the developing beauty of 'A Coat Against The Winter', which reflects the changing environment as cold weather draws in but the dominant scrape of guitar strings seems to convey the peril that can befall us in this season, leaving even the healthiest body as bare and frozen as a deciduous tree.

Having reviewed folk albums more than any other genre this year, the real distinction of The Driftwood Manor's offering becomes clear in 'You Have Mapped The Pathways' and 'Each Day Has Bettered Me None' with weird electronic whirrs which set this far above the typical guitar-and-strings arrangements of 'nice', standard folky fare. Even where the guitar and violin do lead, as with 'Words Caught In Ruins', Keenan's vocal is eerily suppressed.

For a rather simple song, 'On A Corner In Athlone' is surprisingly urgent. Eddie Keenan's voice can be heard beautifully here, and as the midpoint of the album, it seems the softest and most tender moment when the strange darkness of the other songs flickers out. Only temporarily however for 'That Lasting Final Hurt' follows with a rapid pace set to mandolin with a lovely female vocal with the return to the ghostly, dispossed vocals. This song, along with the next track 'Blackbirds Are Screaming' and an as-yet undisclosed other, are part of a triptych of videos produced by TinyEPICS which all reflect the earlier sentiment of natural fear.

Drawing a deep, final furrow under track nine 'The Same Figure (Leaving)' is the most fulfilling number which does justice to the record as whole, marking itself out as worthy of the esteem that goes with being the album's title track. Along with guitar, violin, brass and electronics there are other instrumental textures in the album that include banjo, double bass and mandolin and it is here that all the eerie, lovely instances have segued into one cohesive whole, Eddie Keenan's voice breaking past the willowy straps and bonds of the fine production to resonate with lasting clarity.

Although three of the songs are over four minutes long, the album just about breaks the half-hour mark. Finally, with the denouement, the shock that was always threateningly close while listening manifests: a scary sadness that this album is over. Repeatedly replayable, with 'The Same Figure (Leaving)' The Driftwood Manor have made what is highly likely to be the finest record to find its way out of the thickets of Irish folk this year.

Like a twilight walk across a summer meadow, between tumble-down cottages to finally reach the gently singing coastline, this album is filled with reverie, half-whispered stories and the scents of memory, the melodies filled with emotion and the playing sublime in its simple majesty.

Featuring a host of musicians, most of whom are involved with United Bible Studies, in some way, the mood is gentle and pastoral, sounding not unlike a lost acid-folk classic from 1971.

Opening track "A Coat Against Winter", has a melt-in-your-heart melody that lulls you softly, kissing the back of your neck with sweet notes and melody, the track leading beautifully into "You Have Mapped the Pathways", a levitating drone leading into a strummed tune, like something from the vaults of Village Thing, complete with a wistful trumpet accompaniment.

After the, almost too beautiful , "Words Caught in the Ruins", a song as soft as petals, the spectral folk of "Each day Has Bettered Me None" is a wonderful acoustic song backed with electronics, whose very harshness only serves to highlight the songs' fragility.

With banjo and guitar dancing elegantly together, "On a Corner of Athlone" is another song that pulls at the emotions, the melody rich with longing, an aching sadness that hangs like mountain mist around you, the drifting strings merely upping the intensity. . Most artistes would be pleased to write one song this beautiful, the fact that this album is filled with them is a testament to the power of the band and a damn fine reason for you to buy a copy.

With an almost traditional sound, underpinned with a low drone "That Lasting Final Heart", has an energy the belies the melancholy of its title, whilst "Blackbirds are Screaming" is slow and stately, sounding like Arborea with the ringing banjo and emotional charge. Awash with electric guitar waves, the delicate "To Be Done" is the perfect mix of song and experiment, neither outdoing the other, complementing and enhancing the song in equal measure, something the musicians excel at in all their incarnations, the song never lost to the noise.

Finally, the title track is five minutes of perfection, the distilled essence of all that has gone before, the song fading like the memory of a shooting star, a brief moment of magic in a universe of possibilities.

The Driftwood Manor are one of Ireland's most prolific artists in the experimental folk scene. The band is centered around singer, songwriter, and guitarist Eddie Keenan, who enlists a cast of supporting musicians that varies with each release. The album marks a return to the folk songs of the first one, though with slightly less rock/pop leanings. A bit of an Americana sound is thrown into the mix as well, something which suits the general sound of the band admirably. The focus is once more of Keenan's voice and guitar, with excellent support by Neil Fitzgibbon on fiddle and Bean Dolan on double bass, among others. "A Coat Against the Winter", the opener, is a wonderful example of the band's introspective and melancholic sound and lyrical leanings: "We can have another whiskey / Before we step into the outside / As a coat against the winter / Like a word against the silence". Another highlight is the swinging mandolin-based "The Lasting Final Hurt", featuring perfect support work from Fitzgibbon's fiddle and Audrey Ryan on backing vocals. A final mention goes to the closing and title track, a wonderful ode to calm acceptance, where most if not all of the players on this album come together, particularly in the layered choruses of Keenan, Anne Marie Hynes, and for this one also Dave Colohan. I sincerely recommend them for anyone who is interested in alternative and experimental folk.
Evening of Light

If you thought folk music was all about lonesome roads and ships sailing an empty sea, think again. I cannot recommend The Driftwood Manor's new album The Same Figure Leaving highly enough. It's a rich and varied with nine songs that somehow convey a softness despite the sinister undertones.
Harmless Noise

Another splendid release from Eddie Keenan and his band who contain members of United Bible Studies. Dave Colohan appears on this and if you're a fan of Agitated Radio Pilot (and you really should be!), it's safe to say you will love this too. This is a re-release of the Rural Faune cdr, long sold-out.
Boa Melody Bar

Driftwood Manor is an Irish acoustic altfolk band accompanying the songs of Eddie Keenan mostly in a low energy minor key slowing down fashion, very intuitive and mood dumping, accompanied by strummed guitar, bouzouki, accordion, bowed double bass, trumpet, fiddle and a few more texturing instruments. The songs aren't quiet clear to me and the mood, like a marsh, is sucking you deeper and deeper into it. Some members of United Bible Studies were involved as well adding more mood to it completing the musical background to a Irish-based wild natural landscape.

Folk music is, along with pop music, something that arrives here on a regular basis which is nice, since I like both, but also I don't think I am not the expert at all to say anything about it, on both of them. The main man here is Eddie Keenan, who teams up with a bunch of people from United Bible Studies and merges folk with more free-folk improvisation, so its not very traditional folk music. There are lots of acoustic guitars being strummed here, intimate voice, but also fiddle, bouzouki, accordion, banjo, oscillations, tibetan prayer bowl, trumpet and it sounds altogether pretty coherent. More traditional than avant I think, but its the right amount of mixture for me. Very normal, the perfect antidote to many a-lunacy music in Vital Weekly, but not as cliched as it could have also been, still with that raw edge of weirdness lurking in all corners - weird changes every now and then, a bit of distortion in 'Each Day Has Bettered Me None'. Music that I wouldn't want all day, but also music that I every much like every once in a while. What can I say about this? I have no idea - what do I know about folk music?
Vital Weekly