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Material: Although raised in Australia, Vincent Cross was born in Ireland, making honest his Irish oeuvre. Folk titans Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie are primary influences, but Cross melds their ethos with Emerald Isle mythology, swapping the American worker’s yearning for justice and comfort with romantic stories of Celtic struggle. Presenting four slices from his forthcoming “song cycle,” The Life & Times of James “The Rooster” Corcoran, the 10-track epic concerns the 19th Century gang leader whom the singer claims as a distant relative. The album is a compelling juxtaposition of originals with traditional yarns.
Musicianship: Like any towering folk artist, Cross’s voice cuts to the listener’s core, his sorrowful notes transporting American audiences across the Atlantic and back in time. An Irish mist rolls over with every syllable, recalling a gauzy lore that may never have been. Though Cross’s nostalgic vocalization meshed precisely with his earnest strumming, the camera’s tight framing denied viewers the opportunity to examine his finger work.
Performance: What he lacks in rock star charisma Cross amply compensates for with direct intimacy. It is that personable nature which allows him to connect meaningfully with audiences, purely and simply. His explanations detailing the history behind each song, though, deserve greater polish. An effort was made to relate with the chat room’s inhabitants, yet this act remained a halfhearted afterthought. Now living in (and performing from) New York City, the distant honks of Big Apple traffic occasionally intruded, infusing a comforting touch of modernity to Cross’s tales of past Gaelic adventure.
Summary: Able to warble imagined fables with raw truth, Cross’s mastery of the personal touch grants his music an emerald edge. While his sound retains the potency of Irish Scotch, his presentational trappings lack comparable masculinity and self-assuredness. Indeed, the critically acclaimed troubadour appears content to allow his music alone to bear the responsibility of carving a lasting path to people’s hearts. In a universe brimming with extraordinary singer-songwriters, Cross’s backward-gazing material feels destined to suffer a grim fate, much like one of the protagonists inhabiting his wistful narratives.