Fire in the Glen,
Rattling o'er the Bogs
(independent, 2017)

Fire in the Glen is an Irish band that most readers of this site will be familiar with, at least by name, because it is led by our founder, Tom Knapp. A trio, consisting of Mick and Megan Mullen, along with Knapp, they play a traditional Irish repertoire, along with some newer compositions like Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic," on guitar, keyboards, fiddle and a couple of bodhrans.

I'd heard a lot about the band from Tom but since day jobs and such keep them from touring outside their immediate area, I hadn't had a chance to experience them. This album, then, was my introduction. There's a lot that's good about them; they are enthusiastic skilled players and obviously love the material they present. Megan Mullens' piano dominates the arrangements, with Mick Mullens' guitar providing a driving rhythm. Surprisingly, Knapp himself plays more bodhran than fiddle, and that's a loss because -- and I'm not saying this because he's a friend and the leader of this tawdry collective of bloviators that make Rambles.NET what it is -- but the fact is his fiddle playing is the best thing in the band and I just feel like I'm not getting enough of it.

The band can play, they can sing -- their harmonies are skilled and lyrical -- and their song choice is fine, and if you sense a but coming, you're right. Since there's only the three of them and Knapp spends a lot of time away from his main instrument, the overall sound can be a bit thin. When Knapp breaks out the fiddle and romps through an instrumental, the album picks up in intensity and pleasure; the fiddle-led instrumentals are the highlights: the band plays better and creates more energy in them. The interplay between the keyboards and the fiddle is unique and welcome.

While I appreciate what Fire in the Glen does, I can't help but wonder why they don't do more of what they do best.

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music review by
Michael Scott Cain

13 May 2017

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