Reviews - "Will o' the Wisp"  2004

A review of his album 'Will o' the Wisp'

From a county with a rich heritage of imaginative prose comes a singer-songwriter steeped in this tradition. Kerry's Ian Whitty has compiled a record of seven songs that is equally beguiling, deep and musically insightful.

From its opening moments, the album establishes itself as an understated yet intricate collection. While gentle acoustics are meet with some eerie but delicate electrics on opener "Dusty Angels", it is Whitty's unique vocal that is the standout instrument. As Ian sings of "we could move so gently and so quietly out of sight", it seems that he is almost trying to find a place for this album - a little hideaway from the lurches of everyday live.

Intelligent instrumentation is used throughout to ensure that "Will o' the Wisp" does not fall into the lacklustre spectrum of much of the singer-songwriter world. A useful supporting cast offers organ, glockenspiel, strings and more to the album that compliment the production work of Whitty and Steve Fanagan. The title track and "Build You Wings" immediately appear as album standouts but it is perhaps the tantalizing juxtaposition of Whitty and Eithne O'Mahony's vocals that leave the most enduring memories from this album.

Finishing up with "The Neon Word", a spoken word composition is indeed a bold move. It perhaps sheds an intensity that wasn't always evident in the album. It exposes Whitty, as he is practically stripped to the bone, as he is almost speaking in tongues with a sort of protest against the mass-populism of city-life. It shouldn't work but it does, somehow fitting into the whole rhythm of the album.

"Will o the Wisp" creeps in at twenty-seven minutes without you even noticing. It is a slow-burning mini album that is an exemplary introduction to one of the best at his craft in the country.

Ciaran Ryan


RTÉ - Will o' the Wisp - December 19 2003

Whimsical River Records - 2003

Half way through this album you find yourself surprised that the lack of variety on show here doesn't seem to matter. All the tracks on 'Will o' the Wisp' move at a similar pace, covering the same ground in different ways, but it seems to work. Ian Whitty has clearly marked his territory and here he sets about exploring it.

This Killarney native is not pushing any boundaries with this short, seven track album. What he does do however, he does well. These are quiet unassuming recordings that from time to time display a real knack for melody and sense of atmosphere.

Whitty evidently takes great care with the words, and this is lyrically dense stuff. On occasion the words are delivered at such pace, and with such careful phrasing, that they can seem to sit uncomfortably upon the tune.

He is at his best when he reins in his tendency to be overly wordy, allowing a repeated line or instrumental break to carry the song, and to let it breathe. Songs such as 'Two for Joy' and the title track are both examples of this, and both excellent.

All too often with solo singer-songwriters the actual music is relegated to just simple accompaniment for the vocal, using the lack of instruments as a short cut to an intimate sound. This album refuses to fall into that trap, utilising the accordion and violin to create a real sense of atmosphere, the additional instruments and in particular the strings complementing the songs well.

The last song is a poem set to music, and is the only questionable track on the album. It is inoffensive enough but, to be honest, I have yet to hear a spoken word track that doesn't sound pretentious.

Operating in a genre of music that has no shortage of young pretenders, being talented is no guarantee of success. Ian Whitty may yet become lost in the crowd, but this album will certainly prove a distinguishing feature.

Ray Donoghue, 3/5


Unlabelled - Ian Whitty

December witnessed the release of Ian Whitty's eagerly awaited debut record. The mini-album entitled 'Will o' the Wisp' features seven very intimate recordings that are characterised throughout by Ian's lyrically engaging and distinctive contempory folk sound.

The record which is released on Ian's own label (Whimsical River Records), was co-produced by Ian and indie maverick Steve Fanagan.

Ian Whitty has built up a steady following of late and has been identified by many as a strong new voice in Irish song writing. Last year he completed his first tour of America's East Coast. In recent times he has shared the stage with such acclaimed acts as the Frames, Damien Rice, Josh Ritter and David Kitt to name but a few.

"Whitty has managed to carve out a personality, a sense of identity and idiosyncrasy with this collection, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do within the Irish scene".
Hot Press

"It is seldom that a record houses such well crafted and intimate lyrics".
Eclectic Honey

"It comprises of only seven tracks but Will o the wisp is one of the most powerful and arresting Irish records I've heard this year".
Paul Dromey, The Evening Echo.

"A very fine song writer".
Dublin Events guide

"The lyrical content of Ian Whitty's music continues to envelop every-one who encounters it".
The Kingdom Newspaper

"There is something fragile about the stance and lyrics of Ian Whitty that draws you into his world. For the broken hearted this man is medicine."
The Irish Emigrant


eclectichoney - Will O' The Wisp


Will O’ the Wisp is a real ‘batten down the hatches on a January night’ kind of record. It’s understated. It’s raw. It’s powerful and vulnerable both at the same time. Whitty’s voice can easily handle the range of emotions, and is more than a match for the stunning lyrics. Indeed it’s seldom that a record houses such intimate and well-crafted lyrics. A summery acoustic folk-pop jaunt this is not.

Instead, Whitty pulls back his songs to the very core; the place where there is nothing left but the sentiment of the song itself. Never does Will O’ the Wisp escalate past its slow-paced ruminations, and what it may lack in immediacy it gains in its timelessness. Will O' the Wisp is not a record that will wear away easily; its permanence ensures that in a few years time this will still probably be dug out for frequent relistens.

Dusty Angel’s refrain of “Keep on Moving” is enveloped with both sadness and a definite optimism. Will O’ the Wisp is a stroll down a late night memory, while Two for Joy, the highlight, making use of Eithne O’ Mahoney’s beautifully subtle vocals, which are layered delicately with Whitty’s. Steve Fanagan’s trademark minimal, yet always masterfully sufficient, production adds the final polish to a remarkably quiet, yet forceful mini album.

Michelle Dalton - Martin Finke, Ian Whitty

Whelan's, Monday 19th August 2002

It feels somehow apt that this gig took place at the end of (our non-existent) summer. At a time when shadows would normally be lengthening as the chilly evenings took hold of the days, the two musicians who played tonight gave us true, simple music to wrap ourselves in, and make us feel warm inside.

Both Ian and Martin travelled for tonight's gig. Martin having come home from his stay in the States, and Ian up from Killarney. The sense of place in both their songs is strong, identifiable markers of the influence held by Dublin and Kerry respectively. This connection meant the two performers complimented each other, and blended together giving us images of domesticity, and of love.

Ian played first, his distinctive voice and evocative lyrics grabbing the audiences attention. One song (which had echoes of Dylan’s “Last Thoughts on Woody Gutherie” in parts) was recited instead of sung, as he claimed to have never found the chords to suit it… The actions of a brave man, as Whelan's audiences generally aren’t known for their patience and attention span. However (as throughout the whole evening) the only sounds that could be heard apart from the musicians were pints being pulled, and cars passing outside.

Martin's unassuming manner on stage belies his strong imagery. Wordy songsmiths tend to be frowned upon these days, but Martin has an ability to use phrases that astound you, for example “a few more years of this and my life will be full of untended upended stories that straddle a decade of ruin” from ‘Lament for a locksmith’. He used his lengthy set to good effect, taking songs from his various releases such as Cast in Old Cast Iron and Let It Ring. He was also unafraid to throw in covers diverse as a Lou Barlow song, the traditional “Parting Glass” (sung acapella with Lara), and the closing song of the evening, the Wedding Present’s Octopussy. Martin hopes to have his next album (studio based this time apparently!) out by February 2003. Keep an eye out for it.

Ciaran Wrenn


Evening Echo - Will O' The Wisp

"Ian Whitty recently launched his terrific album Will o' the wisp in the half moon theatre. It comprises only seven songs but it is one of the most powerful and arresting Irish albums I've heard this year"

Paul Dromey


Other reviews

‘Whitty has managed to carve out a personality, a sense of identity and idiosyncrasy with this collection, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do within the Irish scene.’
Hot Press

‘Will o’ the Wisp all adds up to a lovely whole.’
Evening Herald

‘The lyrical content of Ian Whitty’s music continues to envelop every-one who encounter’s it.’
The Kingdom Newspaper