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The Great Atlantic
Keith Mullins The Great Atlantic
Released 19 February 2010
Producer Who
Label Keith Mullins Music
Length 45:00
Genre indie, folk
Website www.keithmullinsmusic.com

It seems that somewhere in Ireland there is a factory producing slightly depressed, or at the very least, moany men (with a few women thrown in for those banshee-esque backing vocals) , who like to pick slowly at their guitars and wail and lament over troubling issues, such as I guess why they can't figure out how to strum their guitars. And this strange phenomenon has spread to the US, where similar bearded and caterwauling comrades wax lyrical on the latest thing to upset them all. Meanwhile this musical manner of complaining is lapped up by every self-respecting indie/alternative guy and gal and we now have such notable acoustic troubadours to our name as The Frames, Damien Rice, Paddy Casey, Damien Dempsey, David Kitt...I could go on, but I won't. Of course you may be picking up on a notion that I don't like singer-songwriters and all things acoustic, but you're wrong. I love crying into my cornflakes listening to a down-in-the dumps hairy man, safe in the knowledge that sometimes, he (or she) may be a bit more upbeat, a bit more original, and have something unique going on underneath all that finger-picking.

So you may understand my apprehension when I learned that Keith Mullins, whose debut album The Great Atlantic was released in Ireland recently, described himself as "another moany fecker with a guitar". Recorded in a log cabin in Galway, the album features backing vocals from Ciara Delaney and violin played by Sarah Lynch, and has a beautiful, sleek and well designed album cover, and a well-produced and mastered sound to it. However therein I believe lies the real problem with this album, as the sound is to me too well polished and sleek, sounding like a carbon copy (albeit missing some of the talent) of Keith's colleagues in this business of acoustic-indie music. The first few tracks on the album are monotonous and devoid of any originality, with lyrics as "deep" as "If Jesus Christ is no friend of mine would you stand by me". One particular track of note which exemplifies this weak standard is the third track, 'Not Strong In Me', which has a melody which seems to be afraid to move up or down the scale at all, ending up sounding like sean-nós gone wrong. He sings "this is what it's like to be hopeful". Well if it is I'm quite happy being pessimistic, thanks. Track 4, 'This Is Me, Walking Away' captures in a nutshell the album's insistence on mimicking other singer-songwriters, with its similarity to a Damien Rice track uncanny.

For all The Great Atlantic's failings, there are some signs of hope, as things begin to pick up about halfway through the album with some stronger melodies and nice instrumental arrangements. 'Mistakes' has a jaunty marching rhythm, twinkling piano and a violin solo which has a touch of melancholia and inspiration, and these elements come together to give the track a sombre and warm feel. The orchestral outtro ends the album beautifully and leaves you wanting more. Which brings me to the conclusion that perhaps if Keith wasn't so insistent on recreating that winning sound mastered by Paddy Casey et al, he may just have a lot going for him. Of course there's nothing wrong with sticking to his acoustic vibe, I just hope he has the courage to find his own voice in his next outing.

- Eadaoin Brown