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ENDA KENNY - Heart Tattoo

ENDA KENNY - Heart Tattoo
Private Label EKCD0014

I first came across this remarkable performer at Stainsby Folk Festival back in the 1990s, when he had the unenviable job of stepping in for Vin Garbutt at the last minute (Vin had to unfortunately drop out due to serious sudden illness in the family). And Enda had done the impossible that weekend: he had made the audience of Garbutt devotees not want their money back! In fact, Enda went down a storm.

So I made a special note of his name way back then. And even though with a voice like Kieran Halpin, and material and life experience not unlike that of Eric Bogle, a possible life as a tribute act was his most likely fate, I just knew in my bones that this Irishman, domiciled in Australia since 1987, would have a career of some note in his own right. A career that would go on to make him a real “name”, like the stellar two just mentioned.

And I was to be proved right. He has returned to Stainsby, at least twice in the intervening years, and has completed several tours of these islands of ours. And I kept seeing his name appearing, more-and-more. But I did not expect his career to reach the dizzy heights of Prime Minister of Ireland!!

(That last sentence is my little joke. Of course, he and the Irish Taoiseach share the same two names!)

And so to his latest album, all but one, self-penned songs, mostly set in his beloved Melbourne. And trust me, they give you a far earthier and warmer picture of the city and its inhabitants than anything you will see in the fictional Ramsay Street of that TV soap.

I think if my great hero, the Melbourne good egg, Renaissance Man, and broadcaster and columnist nonpareil, Phillip Adams, could be a folk singer, he would write songs like Enda’s.

The songs here are well crafted and flawlessly performed, with Lindsay Martin on fiddle, working his customary magic. Largely, all succeed, with the exception of Nariel Creek, his playful “nonsense” song, which was alas, up the proverbial creek, and ready to sink without trace.

My favourite track by some distance was the title track, a song I expect to be covered by some illustrious names in the months to come. It just gets you gripped, from its opening lines, which become the chorus:

Have you ever had you heart tattooed with anybody’s name? / Did they leave a mark inside of you? / Will you ever be the same? / Is the ink they left behind / Still runnin’ through your veins? / Have you ever had you heart tattooed with anybody’s name?

The CD comes in a handsome Digipak. Enda, please note the spelling of this registered trademark. No “ck”. But hey, that is hardly a hanging offence! And I cannot - for once - be critical of the liner booklet just containing lyrics (instead of the songwriter also adding vital “creative process” details re the songs). Why not? Well because the songs speak for themselves, and need no footnotes: no elucidation.

And that is rarer than you might think.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 111 of The Living Tradition magazine.