Keegan McInroe. Uncouth Pilgrims.

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Anyone with a hankering for some good old-fashioned Texan singer/song writing in the fashion of Michael Murphy or Terry Allen would be well advised to check out this fourth album from Keegan McInroe. McInroe has a knack for producing simple sounding songs that are melodic and memorable, honed by years of solo troubadouring through the States and Europe. Simple sounding perhaps but lyrically he garlands them with acute observations and well-crafted tales with much of this album inspired by events on his travels (the album title is a nod to Mark Twain’s European travelogue The Innocents Abroad).  He may be an old-fashioned solo troubadour on the road but here there’s a band of fellow travellers well able to summon up a fine rootsy folk feel or dive into a soulful swampy groove. It’s a lengthy cast list so suffice to say that fiddle, pedal steel, harmonica, mandolin, Dobro, ukulele and keyboards are all added to the basic guitar bass’n’drums set up. Overall the set up works but there’s a dichotomy here with some songs veering well away from the well-travelled folksinger mode.

McInroe nails his colours to the mast with the opening Country Music Outlaw, a witty number in which he maps out his life in terms of his heroes while admitting that he’s just another “shaggy singer of songs”.  Tonight is reminiscent of Terry Allen (particularly in the piano playing) and introduces a theme of sorts to the album, the transient romances common to travellers with Begona, a lovely pedal steel infused song, and Verona, with Dobro and accordion adding colour, continue in a similar manner, the latter alluding to the Shakespearean connections enjoyed by Verona.

McInroe offers up a fine story in a Townes Van Zandt style on the lengthy Woody & Ruth and on Give Me The Rain he recalls Randy Newman both in the melody and delivery. For the remainder of the album McInroe dips into a beefier sound which overall is less successful than the folkier offerings. I Got Trouble works well, a jagged bluesy guitar and gospel chorus and organ combine to create a sense of panic, late nights and drink fuelled paranoia, a theft in Barcelona. There’s more menace in Nikolina, a late night spiked trip down a blowsy jazz ridden blues that could be Tom Waits in his cups. Here McInroe is as far removed from his folky image as can be imagined but he pulls it off, the song quite powerful. The title song however is a pounding jackhammer blues effort that just jars in comparison to its siblings.

McInroe concludes the album with another summary of sorts on the jaunty Lay Down where he details his own travels, no need for heroes here, just him and his guitar, city to city, looking for some love.

Keegan McInroe embarks on another European tour this month with some UK dates included, see here.

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