It's a bit ironic that Fionn Regan has started to echo the weathered sound of former label-mate Ryan Adams since parting ways with Lost Highway Records shortly before recording The Shadow Of An Empire, his first album since his 2007 Mercury Prize nominated debut The End Of History. After the label and Regan had different ideas about the direction his new album was taking, Regan withdrew to an abandoned factory in County Wicklow, plugged in his guitar and recorded a record that evokes the feisty, erudite spirit of Lost Highway's favorite son. He hasn't lost the literate, lyrical base to his songs, but he does turn the volume and the turbulence up, delivering a solid rock record that features some quieter moments, as opposed to his rather hushed debut that only got loud on occasion.The album gets off to a rollicking start with the Basement Tapes brazenness of 'Protection Racket,' a raucous number that makes it quite clear that Regan has something new and noisy in mind on this record. He just seems agitated throughout the album, anxious to shake off the relaxed nature of his older songs in exchange for a more spirited, boisterous sound. The similarities to the bar-stool alt-country of Adams is most discernible on the pastoral dust-ups of 'Catacombs' and 'Genocide Matinee,' as well as the forlorn acoustic dirge of 'Violent Demeanour.' It's a style that the Irish singer-songwriter is still growing accustomed to, but he is bound and determined to make The Shadow Of An Empire a lively, unruly listen, often sacrificing the subdued emotional impact of his debut for something far more uproarious. He does occasionally retreat to that more familiar tranquil territory, especially on the somber 'Lines Written In Winter,' which alludes to the lyrics that Regan banged away on his Olympia portable typewriter, infusing the album with a beat and a pulse that is deliberate and noticeable.The record also has a very intentional live sound to it, which again hints at the boozy sessions Dylan recorded with the Band in upstate New York. There are loose, carefree moments everywhere on the record, especially on the rowdy farce of 'House Detective,' which has a very natural cadence to it, as well as an organic, in-the-moment sound that is a direct result of Regan's hands off, just hit record and play production. This spare, casual creative process lends itself well to the intimate feel of 'Little Nancy,' which places the listener square in the middle of the room while the band grandly brings the night to a close.The album winds down with a couple of sparse, acoustic numbers that will certainly resonate with the fans of Regan's first album who are calling out 'Judas' amidst the electric din of Empire. There is a slow, brooding Midlake sound on 'Lord Help My Poor Soul,' setting the listener up quite nicely for the doleful, piano laden title track which finishes the album, that with any luck will become a rousing pub singalong at closing time (at least in a pub that I would choose to frequent). It's a fitting end to a record that finds Regan experimenting with turning up the volume a bit, but still returning to his more traditional, lyric driven acoustic numbers. If he's willing to take a few unexpected turns while chasing his muse, his fans owe him enough to listen closely to the results. If he's raising too much of a racket for your liking, go back and listen to The End Of History, otherwise turn up Empire and rattle the walls a bit like Fionn Regan assuredly did while recording this riotous set of songs.RECOMMENDEDmp3:> Fionn Regan: ‘Protection Racket’

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