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DAMIEN DEMPSEY - No Force On Earth

DAMIEN DEMPSEY - No Force On Earth
Clear Records CLEARCD01

Following the onslaught of WW1 related albums since 2014 in the UK, many Irish artists are following suit, with several recordings commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising in 1916 being released this year. And why not – the uprising has generated myriad songs relating to that period in history, and has irrevocably altered the Irish psyche from that time to this. So here is another.

Damien Dempsey is a figure well known on the fringes of the Irish traditional scene as a songwriter whose perceptive lyrics can really get inside your head. I am not sure if I would describe him as a traditional singer, but here he tackles some old songs relating to war in general and the uprising in particular, alongside some of his own songs inspired by the event and by people’s reactions to it. So this CD, on which he eschews his band in favour of a more acoustic approach, gives his take on songs like The King’s Shilling, Banna Strand and James Connolly, as well as his own moving song, Aunt Jenny, his own setting of Yeats’ The Death Of Cuchulain, and Ewan MacColl’s The Island.

Damien’s style is unmistakable, with his thick Dublin accent and heavy guitar playing. He could be described as brash, belting songs out in what feels like fifth gear all the time; there isn’t much light and shade; he always tends to sing things just a tiny bit too high for his range and in doing so, doesn’t always reach the notes perfectly. But strangely, all that is part of his appeal and you feel that you are getting something very honest and real, and he delivers with 100% conviction 100% of the time.

This is one that will appeal to Damien’s many fans, and one that might be worth a listen if you like your singing gritty and you fancy something a bit different.

Michael White

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.