Listening to Ruirteach Blues, it’s easy to think you’ve walked into a club in the Deep South of America. Pulling you back to reality is the Irish accent of David King, the musician in question, formerly of Gracehopper. Having recently released his debut album, the Raheny native is slowly but surely rising the ranks of the Irish blues scene with an arsenal of incredible songs.
Opening with Down In Flames, King treats us to a Black Keys-style track. A head-nodding beat and infectious chorus make it a strong opener, paving the way for what’s to come. The full band sound carries into Keep On Running, bringing hints of ZZ Top this time. If you’re going on a road trip, this song is essential. Just listening to it brings to mind open windows, the blazing sun on sunglasses and a pumping stereo.
Blues has a tendency to shy away from complex chord progressions. Muddy Waters himself was guilty of falling into the same blues-riff-on-a-loop trap; it’s a traditional characteristic. David King does what a lot of modern blues artists struggle to do. He makes complex chord progressions work in the blues format. These songs aren’t the same thing on a loop, there are breaks, bridges and different choruses. All this helps make these tracks blues and unboring.
Throughout the album, and particularly from Drunk For You onward, there are some similarities between David King and Hugh Laurie’s steps into the blues world. Piano bouncing, well crafted tracks, but sang with the conviction of Son House or Blind Melon Jefferson. King’s accent shines through more than Laurie’s, which is a nice touch. It makes these tracks all these more relatable and believable. They don’t feel like fiction, whether they are or not.
Out At The River reminds me of Mississippi John Hurt. The intricate guitar is played with some mistakes, sacrificing technique for passion like the blues grandfathers did. The song is a nice lull after the hectic opening tracks. It calms the ears after the full band openers. House Devil Street Angel brings things back up again, throwing back to the Black Keys influences. The distorted backing vocals and harmonica are great, but not as good as the layering in the chorus. Strong but not overpowering guitars play with subtle but noticeable harmonies.
The album dips off from here, taken an acoustic approach. Live in a Daydream would fit perfectly on the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou?, while No Accolade reminds me of a New Orleans bar.
The title track is an interesting one to end on. It’s probably the slowest and quietest, a little disappointing as a bookend, though it does build up to a nice crescendo, bringing in the band again. Unfortunately the momentum of the album is almost lost by then. That said, it’s still a fantastic song, with some nice guitar work and gentle piano. David’s voice, while not the best range, sits perfectly on top of the instrumentation. It’s worthy of being the title track.
For fans of The Black Keys, this album is going to satisfy your every need. For BB King or Howlin’ Wolf fans, it might be a little modern for you, but there are definitely highlights for you to sink your teeth into. As far as debut albums go, this is one of the strongest I’ve heard in a while.