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TINDERBOX - Counting Time

TINDERBOX - Counting Time
Private Label  TINDERCD03

Acoustic duo Tinderbox comprises Dublin-born singer Monique Houraghan and guitarist Dan Tucker. They’ve been playing their own accomplished original material for over 15 years, and Counting Time is their fourth album. Even more surprising, then, that this is my first encounter with their music. On this evidence, theirs is a distinctive sound, with Monique’s strong, forthright yet honeyed voice ably framed and supported by Dan’s expert, confident and delicately judged fingerstyle playing. The songs inhabit the crossover territory between hook-laden acoustic pop, Americana and contemporary country-folk, and vary sufficiently in style to maintain interest, but although undoubtedly memorable enough on initial acquaintance and very likely to make a favourable impact at gigs, several of them somehow fail to provide a lasting impression beyond that, for reasons I can’t quite fathom since they’re hard to fault.

Monique has an attractive, full-toned singing voice, but she shares with quite a number of other singers on what might be described as the looser acoustic scene the tendency to straddle the thin line between assurance and mannerism, with (I get the feeling) little room for further expressive flexibility on a song once phrasing and response have been settled.

Dan’s finely tuned playing can never disappoint, and his empathic approach has obviously been honed over the years to provide this level of support for Monique personally; these qualities are best experienced on songs like Amelia’s Dancing, Days Of Innocence and Drowning Me. Just occasionally, Tinderbox bring in a couple of extra musicians to flesh out the texture on lap steel, piano and bass, but generally the duo sound is all that’s required to bring their songs to life and the full sound they create on their own is well represented by the presence-filled recording.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.