FINTAN McHUGH – Wait Till The Clouds Roll By (own label)

Wait Till The Clouds Roll ByWait Till The Clouds Roll By is the debut album from young Irish singer Fintan McHugh. It has been available for a while but has only recently come into our possession and we feel compelled to bring it to your attention. Fintan plays guitar and cittern and for his instrumental breaks he chooses harmonica. Bringing a modern style of moothie to a traditional ballad gives the song a new slant.

Fintan opens the set with the title track, a nineteenth century parlour until it was appropriated for the folk scene, probably by Uncle Dave Macon. It’s an excellent start with a good chorus to settle the listener in but, for me, the key track comes next. ‘Lord Saltoun & Annachie Gordon’ is one of my favourite ballads and Fintan’s long version wrings every ounce of pathos out of the text. The use of the harmonica somehow transforms the song, giving it a modern resonance in a way that I can’t quite explain.

‘The Rocks Of Bawn’ is a song I’ve never quite understood but it would seem that after Cromwell “subdued” Ireland the best land was given to the Protestant incomers while the Irish were moved to the inhospitable west coast. Some versions refer to a recruiting sergeant because a life in the army was considered a better bet than scratching a living out the rocky coast. Fintan’s version goes straight to the top and wishes for the Queen herself to ride along and recruit him. He uses the cittern almost as a percussion instrument on the song, maintaining a steady beat on the bass strings.

Fintan was much influenced by Andy Irvine as a youth, borrowing ‘You Rambling Boys Of Pleasure’ from him and basing his arrangement of ‘The Blacksmith’ on Planxty’s. There is a dynamism about his guitar playing that reflects their style. He sings ‘A Stór Mo Chroí’ unaccompanied, almost as a warning to the addressee who has made the decision to leave Ireland to escape the potato famine rather than as a song of sentiment and longing.

There are two of Fintan’s own songs in the set and it’s interesting to note that sometimes his phrasing echoes the uneven line lengths of traditional ballads. To be honest, these songs are rather insubstantial compared with the mighty texts they sit among, but this is still an impressive debut album.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘A Stór Mo Chroí ‘ – official video: