The scruffily poetic Irish singer/songwriter Fionn Regan has the misfortune to be the latest performer to be saddled with the “new Dylan” mantle. Although he ended Monday’s hourlong set at the Troubadour with a romp that shared its shaggy dog surrealism with “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” the most intriguing aspects of Regan’s perf were those that were the least “Dylanesque.”
Where Dylan, for all his early folk patina, has been a distinctly cosmopolitan figure, Regan’s songs (mostly drawn from his Lost Highway debut “The End of History”) limn a deep vein of bucolic mysticism.
“Ideas are like sparrows,” he sings in “Hey Rabbit,” the opening song, “they dart down the hallway, the chimney and out of the spout/down the wormhole and out my mouth” (the same song also finds time to worry that “no one these days says thank you/when you open the door for them anymore”).
More impressionistic than narrative (“I draw a line from A to B and see what happens in between/it’s an open mystery as far as I can see,” he admits in “The Underwood Typewriter”), Regan’s songs have a gentle intimacy on album, his delicate finger picking reminiscent of Bert Jansch, his dusky vocals and swoony melodies leaning toward Nick Drake.
But live, the addition of two drummers and a bassist, and with warbler Gypsy L adding occasional femme harmonies, the music moves toward the incantatory intensity of Damien Rice. Throughout the evening, Regan evinced an appealing eccentricity (including some spacy between-song patter) that made him very much his own man.
Brandi Shearer, whose “Close to Dark” is the first contempo release from indie retail powerhouse Amoeba Records label, preceded Regan, and her brief set showcased her impressively bluesy voice and songwriting.
There’s more than a touch of Janis Joplin heft in the ballad, “You’re Mine,” but it’s leavened by a sly humor: “You’re a liar, you’re a cheat,” she moans, “but you’re mine.” Backed by an ace band, including guitarist Willie Aron, Shearer’s set had a comfortable lived-in feeling, while Shearer always seemed ready to cut loose and start smashing the furniture.