Fionn Regan

100 Acres of Sycamore

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Perhaps burned by the "Dylan goes electric" response to his plugged-in sophomore outing, The Shadow of an Empire, Irish troubadour Fionn Regan reverts back to the wistful acoustic folk sound that earned him a Mercury Music Prize nomination for his 2007 debut, The End of History. Written during a stay at Pushing Daisies actress Anna Friel's holiday home on the Spanish island of Majorca, 100 Acres of Sycamore reflects its highly relaxed conception, as Regan's hushed tones, which sometimes barely amount to a whisper, glide over 12 tracks delicately filled with warm acoustics, lilting piano chords, and for the first time in his career, layers of strings, whether it's the gently plucked pizzicatos of the brooding title track, the luscious orchestral arrangements on the gently shuffling "The Horses Are Asleep," or the haunting violins of the gorgeous Jeff Buckley-esque closing number, "Golden Light." The sun-kissed surroundings also appear to have influenced Regan's state of mind, as other than the suitably titled melancholy of "Vodka Sorrow" and the heartbreaking tale of loneliness "Dogwood Blossom," the downbeat nature of its predecessor has been replaced by a more introspective and optimistic lyrical stance, as evident on the whimsical "Sow Mare Bitch Vixen," the heartfelt "For a Nightingale" ("I love you and I always will"), and the reflective echo-laden "Woodberry Cemetery." But having startled everyone with the amped-up sound of his last effort, Regan appears to have overcompensated this time round, as the never-ending stream of intimate stripped-back arrangements occasionally begins to merge into one pleasant but ultimately repetitive ballad. But while it's sometimes a little too understated for its own good, 100 Acres of Sycamore is a never less than a charming and emotive U-turn suggesting that Regan now realizes where his talents lie.

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