MacPherson’s Pocketwatch: “Shenandoah” – an indie fiddle-folk sound

Fiddler Brandon Kennedy and guitarist Sean Piland make up MacPherson’s Pocketwatch, a fiddle-folk power duo that blends Celtic traditional music with an acoustic American singer-songwriter style.  Their voices are more down-home than polished or pretty, and it fits the music perfectly. They sing with conviction and emotion, adding lush harmonies. Passion infuses their songs, which can be heard on their “Demo EP”, whether the catchy “Wild Rover” or the heart-wrenching but electrifying instrumental “Inisheer”.  They have a gift for crafting instantly engaging melodies, both instrumental and vocal, and they do enough with them so that they don’t get stale after repeated listens. As simple as the music may appear, it resonates emotionally so that it continues to captivate and inspire. Each listen is rewarding and emotionally fulfilling.

My first inclination was to compare them with the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. But I realize both of these comparisons are lacking. MacPherson’s Pocketwatch is a little more traditional and a little less barn-stomping, at least judging by what can be heard on the EP. But this isn’t a deficiency. It suits their songs beautifully.

The music and the musicians are fantastic. They seem to be down-to-earth and genuine, and not so much into ‘the game’. It seems that Brandon and Sean just want to play their music, like the folk artists of the late 60’s, and aren’t as interested in becoming millionaires or producing a glossy act.

Their single, “Shenandoah”, for all its intended simplicity, delivers both a raw and personal sound while keeping it full and rich all at once. The simple, yet brilliant songwriting forge lyrics and music which is creative and evocative. There’s a movement afoot in American music that many are doing, but few are doing well.

MacPherson’s Pocketwatch manage to capture this fiddle-folk indie sound effortlessly. Listening to this duo is like having a beer and a shot in a local bar and swapping stories with a couple of strangers who have musical instruments.

“Shenandoah” is a mature, sophisticated composition that, nevertheless, does not lose sight of the more distant pasts that provide much of its inspiration. But revisiting familiar Celtic musical imagery, never feels just a tribute to any source material.

There’s a craftsmanship here that’s built on understanding, rather than any notion of musical subservience to a past legacy that might have proved stifling. MacPherson’s Pocketwatch makes music that coheres effectively and shows an adventurousness while staying within sight of the elemental spirit of its inspiration.


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