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FOS Brothers ´Clear Again´ Album review
The FOS Brothers themselves have said that Clear Again has been “a long time in the making due mostly to [their] ineptitude and a misspent youth rather than knuckling down and finishing the damn thing.”
But listening to the album does not give the impression that the brothers are at all inept. Instead, it shows that their 25 years playing together have resulted in a polished yet still emotive and raw sound.
Their brand of acoustic folk relies at times on tried and tested folk tropes, but they counteract this by exploring satisfyingly varied genres and moods during the course of this record. Clear Again begins with overt and upbeat Irish folk, but over the course of the album this gives way in turn to to country, soft rock, and a to a more modern folk sound.
The invigorating second track ‘Home by Bearna’ is a shining example of the duo’s ability to step up the pace, and they play it with gusto. However, the 6th track, ‘Follow Me’, suddenly transports listeners to Southern USA with gentle country twangs. Sarah Jory, who worked for years as a multi instrumentalist with Van Morrison, plays pedal steel here beautifully.This track could easily have been a jarring change, but framed as it by other similarly paced songs, it becomes one of the highlights of the record.
The CD was mastered by Simon Heyworth, the co-producer of Tubular Bells in addition to many King Crimson albums, and it shows. The arrangements of and accompaniments to the songs are well done; never adding extraneous noise to what is pervasively a very calming album. The violins in ‘All the Time’ and ‘Matty’ are particularly lovely; adding depth to the rather simply sung melodies.
Indeed, the lyrics often seem to take a backseat, and listeners may well find that they pay little to no attention to them during many of the tracks. The harmonies work well, but there’s nothing complex or impressive about the way in which the FOS Brothers sing.
What draws the ear instead are the finely played and arranged instruments. However, while the band aims to offer a “unique soundscape”, many of the songs play it too close to the safety of their influences for that to be the case here.
The song on the album that stands out as the most unique is the title track ‘Clear Again’. The structure and downbeat nature of the lyrics coupled with the central guitar riff lends itself to acoustic alt-rock from the 90’s-00’s, until the violin swoops in and brings listeners back to folk.