One album we’ve been looking forward to in 2022 is the new offering by Ian Prowse. The seasoned singer-songwriter is known for his work in rock genres. But his contributions to Celtic music can’t be underestimated, and he hasn’t forgotten those influences on his upcoming record.
Released off the back of a tough time for musicians and artists, One Hand on the Starry Plough will be Ian’s fourth solo record. We’ve been granted an early listen, and the album has all the right people behind it. Long-time pal and bandmate Tony Kiley was chosen as producer, and a wide range of guest musicians lend their instruments and voices to the record. The result is a diverse and exciting album, where bluesy rock, choir singalongs and – of course – folk music all turn up for it.
Now…Ian is perhaps best known for his work with Liverpool-based band Amsterdam, whose single “The Journey” hit #32 in the UK charts back in 2005. But he’s no stranger to the Celtic music that we all know and love. Ian has participated in the Irish Sea Sessions, and he holds an MA in Irish Studies from the University of Liverpool. While at uni, he concentrated his work on the role of Christy Moore in Irish folk music, which I bet was an interesting and rewarding write-up ☘️ Both Moore and Elvis Costello have given Prowse their seal of approval, and Ian’s first band Pele supported The Pogues back in the day too.
So while Starry Plough ain’t your typical Celtic punk record, it’s well worthy of a closer look. We’re gonna keep things Celtic by focusing in on some of the album’s folky moments.
Holy, Holy River
It’s not long before the album makes its mark in terms of the Celtic influences. Track #2 “Holy, Holy River” is arguably the strongest song on the album. The fiddles and tin whistles that burst into view remind us of the warm, romantic feeling that Irish music brings to every heart. The song then grows into a stomping rock track, with some tin whistle soloing in the middle and the eponymous one hand on the starry plough lyric repeating during the outro.
Ian has said that the album, as a whole, is about hope. It’s about looking up at The Plough in the starry night sky, and realising that we DO have one hand on it. As long as there is hope in life, we’re not lost 🙂 So “Holy, Holy River” is a worthy centrepiece to the album, and is reminiscent in places of another popular Prowse piece, “Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?“, which was covered by none other than Christy Moore on his successful album Listen.
Another song to stomp around to is track 8, entitled “Dan”. The catchy, attention-grabbing lyrics here are bolstered by the fiddles in the background, and again the tin whistle is along for the ride. These familiar instruments come to the fore in another folky interlude, and they stick around for the second half of the song.
Interestingly, this song also mentions Cork City and Michael Collins at one point. Now Collins wasn’t born in Cork City (though he was born in Co. Cork), but he did go to the city to speak, and he was there during the Irish Civil War. The “Dan” in question doesn’t appear to be Dan Breen, though – it seems to refer to a musician, not a politician. Maybe it’s the singer-songwriter Dan Donnelly? Ian himself can surely tell us more next week. So in other words, watch this space…😉
My Old Black Tie
The final song to highlight is “My Old Black Tie”, a beautiful, melancholy ballad found in the middle of the record. The fiddle gels well with the electric guitar here, but perhaps it’s the lovely wee flute solo at the end that steals the show. Proof – as if we needed it – that Irish music can be quiet or loud, and still powerful in both cases. Drawing the listener back to the album’s main theme is always a good way to round off the first half of a record, and Ian does that as he sings: Do you remember the starry sky? / Do you remember all our lives?
Bring on the release!
“Diego” and “Big Feelings” have Celtic elements to them too. But give the album a spin yourself when it comes out on February 11th – which ain’t all that far away now! 😉 With an imaginative new record on offer, Ian’s back, and he’s taking on the world once again. If ye really can’t wait until Feb 11th and you need a sneak peek of the album right now, then check out the official video to track #1 “Battle”. Here it is:
One Hand on the Starry Plough is available for pre-order HERE. To check out Ian’s previous work via the streaming platforms, look him up on Spotify or Apple Music. Or catch up with him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram too.