The influence of American music on this side of the Atlantic has always been one that has veered from the subtle to the obvious, with acts of the more credible nature never too sure how much of their inspiration to give away. Some, however, are happy to wear their hearts on their sleeves – with differing results. For Ciaran Dwyer, the main driving force behind Band On An Island, a trip across the US left him with a set of stories and songs with a distinct flavour to them and a new alias with which to present them.
As with his previous project, Knoxville Morning acts more as a collective than a band. Thus he is joined by the likes of The Mighty Stef), Gavin Elsted (We Are Losers), Brian Gallagher (Humanzi), Claire Prendergast and Stephen Fahey (Super Extra Bonus Party) for what amounts to a rock ‘n’ roll road trip soundtrack. While the thought of a young man from Kildare spinning tales of Austin, New York and New Orleans may seem an unwieldy clash of cultures, Dwyer pulls it off with more success than you might expect.
For a record based on such inspiring experiences, Knoxville Morning has a mournful air to much of it – drawing on the worlds of country, blues and folk for its musical direction. Dwyer doesn’t have the strongest of voices but he’s perfect for his own songs, occasionally straying into a Transatlantic twang. The album flows nicely, knowing just when to add a touch of uplifiting trumpet or a second vocal, especially on the soulful duet with Pendegast, ‘Baseball Song’. The appearance of The Mighty Stef makes a lot of sense (as does the record finding a home on his label The First Born Is Dead), as Knoxville Morning carries the same sense of down at heel drama as his best work.
Coming in at thirteen tracks and fifty five minutes, the record is a little baggy but feels like a genuine labour of love for all involved and as such instils a sense of warmth and joy in the listener. Proof that travel can broaden the music well as the mind.