Fia Rua – A.K.A Eoghan Burke – is an alternative folk troubadour from Galway (Kildare born) who released his third album The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High in July of last year. Boasting an eclectic and varied career, Burke also has acting credits and has travelled around Europe with The Wilde Shamrock Touring Company (where he played William Shakespeare in an original play entitled The Life and Times of William Shakespeare), he also earned a Master’s Degree at the Irish World Academy in Limerick. Here he studied Community Music, specialising in the music of the Irish Travelling community. He spent time with young Travellers, aged between seven and twenty-five, in the Salthill halting site of Cúl Trá learning about their approach to learning the traditional music of their ancestors.
This album sees Burke take a pointed and unflinching look at environmental and cultural issues effecting Ireland today. Between global warming, masculinity, murder and a good old-fashioned love of locality, The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High has something for everyone. Joined by Adam Downey on drums, Ross Rooney on bass and Christopher Capewell on fiddle, this sparse quartet work well together to create a soundscape which sounds much bigger than a four-instrument band.
The album opens with ‘River Gort’, an American style folk tune complete with rickety drums and a curling violin melody. The entire album is imbued with Burkes Luke Kelly inspired rasping, gravelly, purr, most notably in this first track. The infectious chorus ‘Flow, river, flow, oh….. flow, river, flow’ will be stuck in your head for the next week.
‘When Mark met Tom’ is in turn a drinking ballad, a buddy journey and a cautionary tale. This song is certainly the most lyrically profound on the album, with a few witty lines here and there: ‘Gossip covered memories, handshakes covered grief, Tom took out a fifty, and they both smiled with relief’. The rumbling bass and singing violin gives this tune a timeless, classic feel; it could almost have been written sometime in the sixties.
‘Hard to be a Man’ is the fifth track on the album and takes the listener on an altogether different route. Opening with swift but gentle drumming, and a subdued accordion, this tune builds slowly and is gradually joined by backing singers. Lyrically, this song takes us through Burke’s idea of masculinity with regards to the passage of time, loss and nostalgia (women of course being exempt from these phenomena ;)).
Special mention must be made of ‘Ye Can’t be Sane’, which could easily have been written by Horslips, and the wonderfully confusing ‘Bohemian Rednecks’, which is weird enough to warrant several consecutive listens – in the best possible way.
Burke has no interest in being yet another singer-songwriter. Indeed, he chose the name Fia Rua (which means Red Deer in Irish) in order to distinguish himself from the countless acoustic guitar wielding minstrels who go by their given names. In a strange way, it works. The moniker Fia Rua gives a sense of ancient timelessness to what is essentially a modern take on traditional Irish folk, but American inspired music. The Sky Went Low And The Sea Went High is familiar enough to be comforting, but modern enough to be fascinating – a rare quality in an album. This latest from Fia Rua is definitely worth a listen.
Fia Rua’s Latest Single Darkness.