There’s so much of Bap Kennedy’s back catalogue that deserves further exploration, from the gentle, country-soul of Howl On, to the youthful rawness of his Steve Earle-produced solo debut, Domestic Blues. The Belfast singer’s songwriting, musicianship and rich, languid vocals add to a talent as good as anything out there in the Celtic-Americana realm. A list of fans/collaborators that includes Earle, Van Morrison and Nanci Griffith, shows the recognition is there from official channels.
But with The Sailor’s Revenge, Kennedy has surpassed all that to create as close as any musician is likely to get to their perfect record. The stars aligned, this is the album that Kennedy was always capable of making. Produced by Mark Knopfler, and featuring the talents of dobro player Jerry Douglas, flautist Michael McGoldrick and the great Scottish fiddler John McCusker, The Sailor’s Revenge is a collection of mellifluous, sweetly melancholy tracks that envelop you like a haze of warm air on a summer day – gentle stories of love, loneliness and the passing of time, fleeting moments of reflection that turn on a figurative sigh. Equal parts Irish folk and country, it’s always hard to ignore Kennedy’s similarities as a songwriter and singer to Bob Dylan, and there are moments here that recall early days Dylan (Lonely No More; The Right Stuff) in the best kind of way.
Working Man is inspired by Kennedy’s time as a builder’s labourer in the mid-1980s, pre record-deal; Jimmy Sanchez is about the youngest of the rescued Chilean miners, whose brush with death led him to evaluate his life, which Kennedy refers to in the lyric ‘I know I must change’. The title song, meanwhile, is one of the standout tracks – poignant, haunting and evocative.
Review by: Rachel Devine
Preview Whole Album
The Sailor’s Revenge is released on Proper Records (30 Jan 2012)