Link to Living Tradition Homepage






Harbourtown Records HARCD 049

I came across Nick Hennessey some years ago at the National Folk Festival and was thunderstruck by the emotional power of the stories he told and the ballads he sang. Here was a young man whose skill and integrity would surely carry him on an exciting creative journey.

The dozen songs on this 53-minute CD - more ambitious than Pebble and Bone - show that by this stage of his travels he is without question a true artist - not a description to be lightly used. The album has a Tabor-esque solemnity that some may find difficult. But try it if you think that folk song, with its deep roots in our inherited imagination, can match other art forms in searching out truth and beauty and little things like that.

Four tracks show Nick's interest in Irish culture: Balor (by Simon Heywood), Donal Og, Wandering Aengus, and Hermit's Song. Impressively serious, seriously impressive. In Wandering Aengus, for example, his own fine poem leads into the one from W B Yeats which he has put to music. With Annachie Gordon and Lord Franklin we are back with more familiar ballads - no happy endings here. His choice of contemporary songs adds to the sombre mood - Sydney Carter's Crow on the Cradle and Lal and Mike Waterson's Scarecrow. Four songs which are all his own - the mysterious Falling Sun; Naked Flame, which came from a broken relationship; Gallows Tree, about witchcraft executions; and The River, in which he makes uncommonly good use of a common metaphor for life's journey.

Nick's singing is better than ever - natural, flowing, always serving the story. In keeping with his bardic aura, he accompanies himself on the harp. This blends beautifully with Sherry Robinson's cello.

A Rare Hunger is in similar vein to Chris Wood's recent masterwork The Lark Descending, though less accessible. I'm glad we have artists like this working within the living tradition, just as I'm glad we have jolly chorus songs and rattling good dance tunes.

Tony Hendry

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 70 of The Living Tradition magazine.