Soulful voices and heartfelt songs exist in every nook and cranny of the world. Some are heard on a widespread scale and reach iconic status while others linger close to their homesteads, cherished as secret treasures. It could go either way for Wexford's Ian Doyle. His debut album The Greatest Event, released under the name of The Man Whom, is an accomplished debut based mainly upon acoustic guitar, peppered with flavours of folk, blues and americana.
With The Greatest Event's first track comes the album's first surprise. Bypassing the standard practice of an exhibitionist opener Doyle keeps things simple on Easier To Run, welcoming listeners to the album's staple, pleasant pairing of acoustic guitar and string section. The hook comes on the second track Sing Til There's No Song Left, a multi-instrumental charmer of banjo and guitars, clever percussion and lilting trumpets.
Folk music is one of the most popular styles of music in the world, familiar instruments and warm vocals working together as identifiers that most people can enjoy and there's plenty here for fans of the genre. There are moments when The Man Whom and his band of skillful musicians really shine, such as Leaving This Town, a mournful drawl set to poignant guitar and piano with a thrilling final twist. Call All The People is Ian Doyle's best work arriving in the middle of The Greatest Event, a lush marriage of guitar and strings that cascades onwards of five minutes, finished to an impeccably high standard.
Missing factors on this album are few: there are moments when it seems like the guitar will take the leap into rock and stride ahead, which might provide a little variety. With The Man Who Knew Too Much and its guitar-led introduction that ripples forward for almost a minute, there comes the realisation that this album might also have enjoyed an instrumental interlude. That said, Ian Doyle's vocals are clear and steady, working fantastically well on every song. Til It's Gone is the final track and seems a little needy, like a final last effort to impress in case listeners don't realise what they've got.
Enjoyable overall, there's a vagueness about this collection of songs that reflects the album title and stage-name of The Man Whom. Because this type of music is so popular when done well it has the potential to be heard on a widespread scale but because there are so many excellent musicians of a similar style, The Greatest Event might just end up as one of Wexford's best-kept secrets.