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Bap Kennedy unites Irish and American traditions with his new studio album.

Music Review: Bap Kennedy – Sailor’s Revenge

Sometimes it’s all about the company you keep and lately Bap Kennedy has been keeping good company indeed. His 1998 solo debut, Domestic Blues, was produced by Steve Earle. He recorded his 2005 album, The Big Picture, at the studio of Van Morrison, who co-wrote the song “Milky Way.”

His latest partnership is with Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame and one of rock music’s premiere guitarists. After touring with him as a guest artist, he recorded his new album at Knopfler’s London studio. Knopfler was on hand to produce the album and adds a few guitar licks along the way.

Bap Kennedy has always been an interesting musician as he combines the styles and sounds of his native Ireland with what can be best described as American roots music. Nashville legend and lap steel/dobro player Jerry Douglas combines seamlessly with traditional Irish musicians Michael McGoldrick (flute, pipes, and whistle) and John McCuster (cittern and fiddle). It all adds up to a unique fusion of Irish and American music.

Sailor’s Revenge finds a gentler and more reflective Kennedy. Much of the music on his seven previous solo albums tended to focus upon drinking and romance. Now his compositions follow the twists and turns of life. He treads the line between melancholy and poignancy as he weaves his tales.

“Shimnavale” is a melodic song about a real Irish town with lyrics of leaving, returning, misfortune, and looking back upon childhood. “Please Return To Jesus” is a song of religious reflection by a recovering Catholic. “The Beauty Of You” is the album’s only love song. It has a haunting melody and his wife Brenda chips in on the harmonies.

He travels in a different direction with “Jimmy Sanchez.” The title character was the youngest of the Chilean miners who were trapped for 69 days before being rescued. It is an uplifting tale based upon a letter from Sanchez to his wife and daughter.

It’s the use of the Irish instruments, which fill in the sound, that provides his music with texture. There is sophistication in the layers of sound that provides a different experience with each listen. His songs and music have a subtle nature and are perfect for reflecting upon around the fireplace.

About David Bowling

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