Ray Allen is a singer-songwriter from Cork, Ireland. With a decade’s worth of experience writing songs, he has recently forayed into public performance and recording. Brother Captain is his self-produced debut EP. To add my own thoughts before we get into this: it’s an intriguing piece of art. It doesn’t conform to traditional structures, and I always enjoy that approach to creating music.
His latest 4-track EP entitled ‘Brother Captain’ opens with a sweet and soothing acoustic guitar arpeggio on the song ‘Sheepdogs’. Allen sings that “There are men who melt hearts / With every word they breathe / Well, I hope you never meet one / I hope you never see one / Bare his teeth.” The guitar-based instrumental is sweet, and the tender singing style is right up my street, but it’s definitely the lyrics that captivated me most about this track. I would’ve liked a little more to happen instrumentally.
I liked the contrast between the eerie, creepy lyrics and the upbeat, joyous, serene instrumental. I can instantly tell that Allen is a creative guy with more going on beneath the surface than you’d get with your ordinary acoustic singer-songwriter. It’s hard to cover all the themes within this track because Allen covers so much ground, but it seems to be a romantic piece with tinges of darkness. That’s just my interpretation, of course.
"Fugitive Blues" completely bowled me over. The hauntingly dark acoustic guitar chord progression blends wonderfully with Allen’s creepy sing-talking style. It’s the lead (acoustic? electric?) guitar that I absolutely adored on this piece. I can’t explain it until you hear it with your own ears, but it sounded like a foreign, otherworldly sound. It reminded me of an Erhu or some other orchestral instrument, but I got the feeling that Allen was simply creating an original sound with a standard guitar. I would’ve liked a little more variety or energy in Allen’s vocals, but I think that’s part of his unique style. Besides, I wanted a little more variation with the instruments used in the opening track, and I certainly got that in this follow-up song. I still have that lead guitar arpeggio (I think it was a guitar…) stuck in my head.
"Istanbul" is an upbeat piece - vocally and instrumentally. Arguably, even the lyrics are upbeat. The guitar-playing is splendid. I enjoyed Allen’s tender style more on this piece. Soft singing suits his restrained, tempered style of music. There are so many layers to this track, much like the rest of Allen’s tracks, even if you don’t realise it, at first. It’s gentle music, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t intricacies and complexities hidden within the structure of the song. I know his style, but I never know what’s coming next in terms of melody and general songwriting. I like this.
All in all, I really liked what I heard here. "Fugitive Blues" is a track that I’ll return to in the future, and I hear so much music every week that it’s rare for me to return to anything I’ve listened to in the past. I would only ever want a little variation in energy in terms of the vocals now and then. As I said, he’s a good songwriter with an engaging voice
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