Robbie Cavanagh - 'The State Of Maine' (Self Released) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Michael Anthony   
Friday, 14 March 2014 04:00

front tsom smallEvery now and then you come across an artist whose very sound or tone or phrasing seems to instantly locate the heart or connect with your very being in some way. Robbie Cavanagh is one such artist.


Robbie will be known to some as singer/guitarist with This Devastated Fan (TDF), whose album ‘Plot and Debauchery’ was reviewed on this very website just a few months back. ‘The State of Maine’ is his first solo album.


It more than maintains the quality and intrigue of ‘Plot and Debauchery’ but brings into clearer focus the gentler, more sensitive, more thoughtful musical side of a man who, by his own admission, has “a dark soul”.


Gentler and more sensitive the music may be, but the ten songs that make up the ‘The State of Maine’ have real bite. They are personal and sometimes stinging recollections, delivered with heartfelt honesty and stark emotional force. You want romantic skirmishes, dangerous liaisons, emotional scars – they’re all here. A soul, and musician, on fire.


While ‘The State of Maine’ essentially features Robbie and his guitar, additional musicians have been used to enhance the power and poignancy of the songs, with contributions from Rachel Shakespeare (cello), Melody Nairn (vocals), Anthony Hindley (keyboards), Rick Brewin and Drew Tosh (vocals and percussion), and TDF bandmates Jamie Cavanagh (drums) and Will Rogers (guitar).


It’s hard to pick out favourites as this is one of those rare albums where every track – from the folk stylings of ‘Boy From The Fair’, through the rocked-up anger of ‘Heavy Heart’ (lovely cello) to the flamenco stomp of ‘Worn’ – is a winner.


‘Centrefold’ and the countrified ‘Choked Up’ have deceptively sweet melodies that can barely mask their weighty and acerbic lyrics. In contrast ‘Deeper’ exhibits a thoroughgoing darkness that is utterly compelling and heartbreaking. (“I have a fear so tender and a hand so strong,” sings Cavanagh, “I will scratch you open and leave a scar so long”)


Possible lead track ‘The Willingness To Move’ features some delicate guitar and a great vocal. Cavanagh’s voice also stands out on the more bluesy ‘Untitled’ and the gentle ‘SLC’, and I can’t let this review pass without mentioning the exquisite and well-placed contributions of Shakespeare and Nairn on the wonderful ‘1991’.


‘The State of Maine’ is an exceptionally strong solo debut. Throughout you can sense the person, the experience, and the angst in the music. It would do a disservice to the songs on offer to say that Robbie Cavanagh is an artist of enormous potential, though that is also undoubtedly true. It’s way too early for comparison with singer-songwriters of the stature of Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen but that’s the kind of territory we are nudging here. If you like your music real and emotional, check out ‘The State of Maine’. You will not be disappointed.