Twenty First Century Fool is the fourth solo album by Ewan Macintyre since his departure from Southern Tenant Folk Union, recorded in Montreal with a group of Quebecois musicians and completed on the Isle Of Skye. It marks Ewan’s first writing in Gaelic and is clearly a product of lockdown: there is a restlessness about it that no doubt reflects Ewan’s state of mind at the time.
The opening track, ‘Fall In Canada’ is a bluesy song driven by strings with an almost tortured vocal from Ewan, the mood of which he contradicts by whistling the instrumental break. It’s a haunting way to start the record. It’s followed by the rocky ‘Horizontal Man’ with, dare I say, a hint of Dylan about Ewan’s vocals. It would be the perfect single and sets the scene for ‘Caterpillar’ another song with the band at full throttle.
‘Saturday Blues Jig’ is a short guitar and mandolin instrumental which sets out to change the mood except that ‘A Bhith Saor’, which it leads into, is a complex multi-layered track which leaves the simplicity of the jig behind. We’re used to bands who sing in Gaelic imitating the style of traditional songs but Ewan doesn’t do that and this track is closer to psychedelic rock than a Scottish ballad. ‘Any Doubt’ returns to the restlessness that permeates the album as Ewan is planning his return to Scotland. The Quebecois sound of the band is very Scottish at times, with Antoine Laroque’s accordion comfortably spanning the Atlantic waves.
‘What In The World’ reminds me of another singer but I can’t pinpoint who that might be. It’s another song of questioning and yearning with Dana Babineau-Burns’ vocals adding another dimension. ‘Seoladair Na H’Inntinn’ is the second Gaelic song and it’s clear that Ewan is out to push the envelope of what is expected. Finally, ‘Ode To The West’, is just that with introductory guitar and violin leading us out across the prairie and Ewan channeling Dylan again.
I must admit that Twentieth First Century Fool took some time to work its way into my favour but the effort was worth it. It’s a case of the more you listen, the more you hear.
Artist’s website: www.ewan-macintyre.org