The Contender kicks off with hands raised and fists pumping in a Neil Young rage of the box office title track - with soaring guitars and pounding drums. From this you would not have guessed that McLoughlin was born in Ireland, but his musical heart is straight from America's south, as I Get The Message and You On My Mind Again prove as they follow in the same style as The Contender, with Crazy Horse style guitar dominating.

For his follow up to 2010's Ride The Wind, McLoughlin has brought in German-born, now Nashville-based Thomm Jutz, German bluesman Timo Gross and respected Monaghan musician Mick McCarney - and their guitars help lift this album to new heights for McLoughlin.

His voice is husky and crisp - and matches the raw heartland feel and drifts from Tom Petty (I Found A Star) to Mark Knopfler (on the divine and bluesy Moonshadows). Delicate moments interrupt those louder moments - with In The Time and Two Riders also hinting at influences like Tony Joe White. The album is more fun when the foot is full down on the throttle as Harlan Road proves but the quality never dips.

Also worth a mention are the backing vocals - particularly from Julieanne Reel, Irene Kelley and Justyna Kelley.