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Blue Eyed Hawk Review

The late Thursday evening at the Abbey Theatre bore witness to the presence of a very different, and highly original type of jazz group; a group still in their infancy, already showing monumental promise.

Blue-Eyed Hawk to say the least, are not your typical improv-jazz band (if indeed such a group could exist). Using their eerily sound awareness of atmosphere and uncannily powerful understanding of each-other’s roles, all four members of the band last night were able to lose not only much of their audience in their world, but interestingly, themselves too.

The group takes their name from the poem “Under the Moon” by Irish poet W.B. Yeats, interestingly also a founder of the Abbey Theatre. This performance is one to stand out amongst others by the band since, as band guitarist Alex Roth announces, “It’s like we’re bringing it all back to where this whole thing started.”  Almost all of the group’s music is based on poetry and a great portion of their pieces are inspired from Yeats’ work and that of Seamus Heaney; something that surely gives the group a great resource of writing material and room for effects. Believe me, the use of cleverly crafted sound effects form the air and mood of this performance.

From the moment the group begins playing there’s a subtly curious yet almost instant feeling they’re not going to follow a formulaic method of performance. Lead singer Lauren Kinsella begins the performance initially silent for a few short seconds, as if in deep thought, and then suddenly jump-starts it all with what can only be described as the call of a forest owl beckoning out to anyone who will listen.  Couple this with the rustling of the drums by Corrie Dick and the guitar plucks by Alex Roth that mimic a harp in vibrations and what you’re treated to is the slow but gradual outreach of an atmosphere luring you into the immerse of a natural feeling, yet man-made little cosmos.

The main keyboardist and trumpeter Laura Jurd carefully picks when to interject in the middle of each song, momentarily divorcing herself from the keyboard to improvise with the instrument that brings the true jazzy and laid-back feel into the forefront of the performance. While at first she seemed nervous Laura quickly found her feet with her trumpet and casted another soft glow on the audience, stealing the show through short but memorable bursts through many of the group’s songs.

 

'Blue-Eyed Hawk' (all credit to 'Edition Records')

One thing to definitely note about Blue-Eyed Hawk is their ability to work together as a single body, but also that they can veer off the course and go their own way whenever they wish and seamlessly return to the fold of four once again. Many bands tend to suffer from the problem of a lack of synergy, so often at performances most members of a group tend to fall away and get lost in their own individual worlds, losing the momentum of the performance and their audiences with it; so it’s refreshing to see and hear the fruits of talented musicians pay off. The group perpetually carry their togetherness and desire to work together on stage with them.

Some great tracks were performed throughout the evening, among the most memorable being the sombre but heartfelt “Try to Turn Back” along with the deep mix of loneliness and companionship captured in the Yeats’ tribute “O Do Not Love Too Long” and of course, the wholly new song “Think about your Grandfather”, which effortlessly guided us all into deep nostalgia.

One thing I noticed however, was that the band frequently played it safe and rarely broke-out into the creative and passionate improvisation they have become so known for in their time together. It’s understandable that having only released their debut album in August Last year, Blue-Eyed Hawk are still finding their feet in live performances as their fandom grows. It would’ve been interesting to see a more frequent occurrence of break-off and an element of uncertainty, not knowing who is going to break out and shine next, as did happen on occasion in the performance.

Sometimes the group seemed a little nervous and quiet when addressing the audience; and maybe this in some way contributed to the infrequent breakaways and solos but still the spellbound audience consistently cheered on the band without fail every time, becoming more enthusiastic after each track and one could see the positive effect it was having on the group, making them in a big way relatable to the audience members themselves.

Blue-Eyed Hawk are one of the most unique and individualistic musical groups I have seen in years, never once did I feel disinterested or want the performance to end; if anything I was actually disappointed when it did end because it meant that we, the adoring crowd would no longer share such an intimate experience with these musically eccentric and quirky artists. They put an effort into the music they make because their belief in the music really does show its strength, and I’m sure that a great number of us present that night cannot wait to see where Blue-Eyed Hawk will venture to next with this brimming creative talent.

All these qualities and occasional, but brief, shortcomings leave me awarding Blue-Eyed Hawk’s performance with 4.3 out of 5 stars.  While they may be nervous at times and seem a little afraid to dip into the more dangerous breakaways for the time being, these artists show true promise, deserve the praise they are receiving from critics, and I personally will be eagerly awaiting their next album and performance in Dublin.

 

Blue-Eyed Hawk’s debut album “Under the Moon” is available in all good record stores including HMV and is also available to order online at www.editionrecords.com

 

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