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Originally from County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland, Seamus Fogarty now resides in London, and the capital provides the canvas for The Curious Hand. It’s there in the starkly heartbroken ‘Seems Wherever’, written from the perspective of the tube system and the deep well of the city’s troubled soul, and in the stony-faced rush hour commuters in ‘Van Gogh’s Ear’, pouring onto train carriages “bound for Egham or Whimple or West Ham”. But The Curious Hand also reaches back to Seamus’ homeland and past in charmingly simple and direct ways. Midway through the title track, for instance, a sampled conversation between neighbours back in Mayo takes centre stage as the musicians set off down yet another new musical path. Elsewhere, on ‘Tommy the Cat’, a skeletal instrumental becomes a bed for a recording of a shouting competition in the West of Ireland.
Fogarty’s method of lifting sounds wholesale from his environment and tucking them into the folds of his songs like keepsakes, renders himself at once, artist and archivist as well as twisting the notion of the folk singer’s role as collector and custodian of stories, traditions and cultural curio.
The Curious Hand was produced by Seamus and Leo Abrahams (Brian Eno, Wild Beasts) who also plays on the album. Other notable players include Emma Smith on a plethora of instruments (violin, clarinet, bass to name a few), Rozi Plain (backing vocals), Aram Zarikian (drums) and Seamus’ brother John Fogarty (accordion).