Monday, 17 September 2018

Album Review: House On The Hill by Enda McCallan (by Emma Prew)

Enda McCallan is an acoustic folk punk musician from Omagh, Northern Ireland, who is now based in Manchester. It was in Manchester, at Manchester Punk Festival no less, where I first came across his music. I’d arrived to see Arms & Hearts but managed to catch the last couple of songs in Enda’s set and was really impressed – plus I kicked myself for not getting there sooner. On the 15th of September, Enda McCallan released a brand new four track EP titled House On The Hill and produced by Steve Millar (Arms & Hearts). I was keen to give it a listen…

First up on House On The Hill is a song called Cheatin’ Ways. Opening with some soulful electric guitar and a steady drumbeat, I soon realise that this isn’t an acoustic track like I was kind of expecting. Instead this a very much country-tinged rock track – I can imagine it being played from a car driving across America (maybe that’s what the skeleton is doing on the EP artwork). As you can probably guess from the title, this is a story of heartbreak but we don’t just hear from the man in this scenario. Chloe Hawes contributes some fine guest vocals to Cheatin’ Ways and we get to hear both sides of the story. There’s also a great, yet unexpected, guitar solo towards the end enforcing that American feel. December Nights is the second song of the EP and here Enda slows things down a bit – not that the first track was especially upbeat – for a track that is solely acoustic. December Nights feels like quite a sad and personal song. The lyrics speak of admitting where mistakes have been made in your life in the past but also how you can learn from them and try to better yourself in the future. There’s a particular line (‘Are you dreaming of being free tonight?’) that really reminded me of Bruce Springsteen – which is never a bad thing – although it did also make me think that this song could use some harmonica. Towards the very end of the song it suddenly switches to the fuller band sound and even has some backing vocals. Nice!

Irish Eyes was a pleasant surprise because I realised almost immediately that I recognised it. It was a fun song to hear live at MPF and is just as fun to hear the recorded version. It is is more of an upbeat and folky track than the previous two songs, serving as both a head-nodder and foot-stomper, but it also comes with an important message. Irish Eyes is an anti-racist anthem written from the perspective of an Irishman who has seen how many people are reverting back to racist views and ideologies of old. ‘The way I see it, There are no borders, There are no countries, We’re all part of one collective known as the human race.’ Brilliant! I also got my harmonica part that I wanted from the previous song – and then some banjo! The more upbeat pace is retained for the final track of the EP, which is also its title track – House On The Hill. Despite the faster pace this is clearly a sombre yet sincere track full of nostalgia. House On The Hill is a song written in memory of and, I suppose, in celebration of an old, potentially childhood, home and the people who were there with you. ‘…Like an old tattoo your memory fades but it will never truly leave, And I know one day we will meet again…’ It is sad but also a great tribute to somewhere and someone – or multiple someones – who have shaped Enda’s life in one way or another. And a short, sweet but rocking guitar solo ends the EP on a high.

You can stream and download House On The Hill here on Bandcamp and like Enda McCallan here on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

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