Album Review: Junior Brother – The Great Irish Famine

Posted October 3, 2022 in Music Reviews

Junior Brother

The Great Irish Famine

[Strange Brew]

The Great Irish Famine marks the second full length release from The Kingdom’s own Ronan Kealy, better known as Junior Brother. Over the last number of years, Kealy has wasted little time in cementing his reputation as one of the most consistently engaging figures in the domestic musical landscape, especially considering the lack of live opportunities presented in recent memory. Frankly – considering the near decades long pall cast over Irish music by the seemingly endless stream of artfully stubbled, artlessly earnest youngish men clutching acoustic guitars – few foresaw the approach of a new challenger, with his own bag of wholly new tricks, utterly invigorating the mode and producing a body of work almost peerlessly intriguing in specificity and arresting in its ingenuity. 

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of Kealy’s approach is his decision to take the tropes and timbre of Irish traditional music and American primitive finger-picked style and instead of leaning on established, dog-eared, comforting qualities associated with guitar-lead folk music – Kealy distorts the medium, warping its boundaries and revealing fertile new ground. His work shines in this new space, playing, as he does, in a curious intersection between the oft-overlooked minutiae of rural life and an unknowable, uncanny, partially historical, quasi-mythological space of Kealy’s own creation.

Where many are satisfied merely to go bigger with each release, Kealy and his coterie of collaborators have elected to go deeper. Deeper into why Ireland is the way it is and, all the more satisfyingly, why it is he (and we?) feel the way we do about it.

Words: Danny Wilson


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