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TIM DENNEHY - Old boots and flying sandals

TIM DENNEHY - Old boots and flying sandals
Sceilig Records SRCD005

I’ll spare you the précis of the usual promotional bumph, as readers of TLT don’t need telling who Tim Dennehy is.  Suffice to say two things: that this is Tim’s sixth album, and more importantly, that those of us who feel that Mickey MacConnell’s The Tinkerman’s Daughter is a true masterpiece, should realise the huge debt owed to Tim who first adapted Sigerson Clifford’s The Tinker’s Daughter to music and whose song proved to be the inspiration for Mickey’s version.

This is an album that exudes artistic integrity. There are positively no gimmicks, and no concessions to the less-than-earnest listener.  You need to concentrate on the lyric if you want to catch the story: and many of these stories are well-worth-the-catching.  No concessions also to those of us who do not hail from the Gaeltacht: this son of Co. Kerry (now based in Co. Clare) delivers four tracks in the Irish language.  However, there are English translations for duffers like me who don’t have a grasp of the lingo. That said, it is folk like me he is clearly aiming the album at: he needs to make sales outside the Hibernian diaspora.  And I have to say (in support of his Irish-language choices) that never has the Gaelic language sounded more mellifluous.  And with the English lyric alongside, I was able to follow all four without a hiccough!

Although SEPIA is the colour that runs through most of the tracks – Dennehy is very strong on nostalgia – don’t get it into your head that this album is a hymn of praise to an Ireland and a type of Irishman long gone.   (Strike that last sentence, because well, obviously it IS, in part. But only in part.)   It also covers a surprising range of subject.  One of the better tracks is Farewell to Pripyat, a moving song from Tim’s pen on the fate of village nearest the Chernobyl plant.  There have been several songs on the plight of the people affected by the radioactivity, but this is the first I can recall that describes what happened to the Ukrainian village when it was deserted by its fleeing inhabitants.  And golly, his images are razor-sharp.

And talking of his range: then there is a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley set (perhaps not altogether convincingly) by Tim’s producer and talented multi-instrumentalist, Garry O’Briain.  And then there is another poem by James Fenton.  Now, Fenton (Professor of Poetry at Oxford) is a poet that I – like Tim - have long admired.  However, I Know What I Am Missing never struck me as that much of a poem.  However, Tim believed in it sufficiently as to put music to it, and guess what?   

The melody turns an indifferent poem into a fine song lyric!   The tune serves as a magic catalyst for the words.   And some sublime harmony singing from Áine Derrane added to Liz Johnston’s cello, Garry O’Briain’s guitar and Jesse Smith’s viola, turns it into the outstanding track on this handsomely Digipacked CD.  In my book, “to listen” is always an active verb and not a passive one. Thus, whilst perhaps this CD is not for the casual listener, it will more than repay someone who is prepared to make the effort.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 76 of The Living Tradition magazine.