If Irish Americana was a formal genre, Pete Cummins would be our leading exponent. With almost half a century behind him as a roots-music songwriter, producer and performer with the Fleadh Cowboys and other bands, ‘Crooked Highway’ is a worthy addition to his body of work.
This is lovely subtle Americana music. Cummins has always had a nice country hue to his voice, and it is apparent right from the start – as the album gets going with the pedal-steel-laden Distant Starlight – that Cummins has written some strong country songs with reflective lyrics this time around.
Reggae and roots-rock don’t always make easy bedfellows, but they certainly do here, as evidenced by Gypsy Rose. Apparently Cummins plays most of the instruments on the album himself, and the guitar work on this track echoes the likes of Clapton and Garcia when they dabbled with reggae back in the 1970s. Gypsy Rose also showcases some nice quirky story-led lyrics, at one point even referencing leading Irish space-expert Leo Enright!
Other strong songs include the tender Eugene Moloney, which is dedicated to the murdered Dublin journalist, and closing topical rocker The Harder the Rain.
The impression one is left with is of a very well-paced ‘full meal’ of an album: all sorts of songs, all sorts of sounds, with everything arriving on the table both well played and well produced.
It is definitely one to pick up, and good to see it getting some radio play (at time of writing it was RTE Radio One’s current ‘album of the week’). Let’s hope for some live shows also.