Review: Eamon McGrath, “Tantramar”

Eamon McGrath - Tantramar

According to Wikipedia, the name “Tantramar” is derived from the Acadian French tintamarre, meaning ‘din’ or ‘racket’, a reference to the noisy flocks of birds which feed there.”  It’s a fitting title for Eamon McGrath’s new record.

Pensive electric guitars launch the album’s first song “Chlorine,” then suddenly stop. After that brief prologue, the true song commences. It’s an effective introduction, acting like a merge lane from whatever you were previously doing, to the trip you’re about to undertake.

Eamon has a passionate voice, used effectively. Somber, speak-sing style of versus contrasts with the scratchy chorus like it might crack at any moment when pushed to a scream.  If you believe.

Charged with a dissonant saxophone, the mid-tempo second track is unambiguously called “Power.”  The sax is so good, I wish it had been used in more tunes. At this point, I must digress to discuss how competent and fulfilling the band is.  The drums are executed expertly, played hard only when necessary; the piano subtly adds texture and, the recording/production team perfectly captured moments, without losing any fidelity or emotional punch.

“This Town Dies When Festival Season Ends” employs matter of fact, diary-like lyrics, which to work, the listener has to believe them. Eamon succeeds in this attempt – simple sounding enough that anyone would think they could do it. However, there’s a big difference between your diary and Eamon’s? He is songwriter and you’re not. He adds just enough detail and rhyming and poetic tact.  He’s fearlessly open.  I have to say, the stereo-swapping caterwauls beginning around the 3:30 mark, solidifies this as my favorite song on the record. Wow. Just… Raw and powerful.

“Just Kids” wears its influence on its sleeve.  If you’re unfamiliar with Bruce Springsteen’s isolated, somber masterpiece Nebraska, this song will sound like a revelation.  If you have heard it before, you’ll still love this song because it so perfectly captures the intangible feeling Bruce created.

“Wild Dogs Revisited” has a slow tempo and acts as a reprieve from the emotional expulsion from Eamon’s internal demons.  Of the several tracks on “Tantramar” that surpass the 5+ minute mark, it’s the one which I find overstays its welcome.

Everyone involved and Eamon in particular should be ecstatic with the album they’ve created. It reminds me of 1980’s Leonard Cohen but, with a rock element added… like the best moments of 90’s cult rock favorites Afghan Whigs.  I can see myself coming back to it again and again throughout the years.

Preview and buy “Tantramar” on Bandcamp.

A bit of a Renaissance man, Steve Murphy is a singer-songwriter, author, and journalist based out of London, Ontario. An avid vinyl collector and audiophile, his personal collection of albums is wide ranging and in the thousands, including four released from his band Westminster Park.

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