David Granville reviews Old Boots and Flying Sandals by Tim Dennehy, Sceilig Records (SRCD005)
FOR THIS, his sixth album, highly respected Irish traditional singer songwriter Tim Dennehy has extended his partnership with Clare-based multi-instrumentalist and producer Garry O'Briain to create a delightful collection of original self-penned songs, interspersed with some of the musician's favourite poems set to music.
Dennehy's voice is superbly rich and mellow. Whether he singing unaccompanied or backed by O'Briain (guitar, mandocello, keyboards) and high calibree musicians such as Nollaigh Ní Cathasaigh (fiddle), Josephine Marsh (accordian), Tommy Keane (flute), Jesse Smith (fiddle), Liz Johnston (cello) and Áine Derrane (harmony vocals), the result is uniformly rewarding.
However, the album is not without its darker side, and while poetry, love, loss, longing and the memories of childhood and youth in Co. Kerry are the inspiration for many of Dennehy's intensely personal songs, he is not afraid of embracing the wider concerns of humanity.
This is immediately evident on reading the accompanying liner notes, which include quotes from Michael Coady's poem 'There are also Musicians' (Though there are torturers in the world/There are also musicians) and Bertolt Brecht's 'Motto' (In the dark times/Will there also be singing?/Yes there will also be singing/About the dark times).
Dennehy's unaccompanied rendition of 'The Ballad of James Meere' is exceptionally powerful and haunting. One of the undoubted highlights of the album, it is a tribute to the travelling singers and musicians of Co. Kerry in the 1950s and "dedicated to those who live on or outside the margins of society".
Another Dennehy original, 'Farewell to Pripyat', recounts the fate of the abandoned town that was once home to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant workers. Both poignant and moving, the song reminds us of the town's nightmare past and of the fragile nature of the world we live in.
As might be expected of a true son of the west who grew up in the Co. Kerry Gaeltacht, songs in the Irish language are a natural part of Dennehy's repetoire. Old Boots and Flying Sandals includes two Dennehy originals ('Sceilig Mhichíl' and 'Scarúint'), a simple ancient Irish prayer (An Nollaig Theas) and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill's poem Leaba Shíoda (Labasheedy/The Silken Bed), which opens the album in fine style.
For those unfamiliar with the Irish language, an accompanying booklet helpfully includes translations of all the songs and poems written and performed in Irish.
An exceptionally beautiful and moving album. Highly recommended.
Old Boots and Flying Sandals can be obtained direct from Copperplate, 68 Belleville Road, London SW11 6PP, tel/fax 0207 585 0357, email firstname.lastname@example.org or from good folk music stockists.
Connolly Publications Ltd, 244 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8JR
Copyright © 2007 David Granville