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Bap Kennedy Bap Kennedy
Album: Reckless Heart
Label: At The Helm
Tracks: 10

Diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, Kennedy completed his final album just weeks before he died at the start of November, and both his determination to see the project through to the end and the music it contains serve as tribute to his fighting spirit and soulful talent. Despite, or perhaps because of, his illness, the album has a musically upbeat feel and, while some lyrics are reflective, the overarching tone is positive and about not having regrets.

Case in point is the Dylanish rolling rhythm opener 'Nothing Can Stand In The Way of Love' on which, to a driving drum beat, accordion, barrelling piano and some hot licks middle eight guitar, he sings about jumping aboard the train before it's gone. Likewise on the soulful country soft shoe shuffle 'Good as Gold' he talks about going with the flow and how "Sometimes you hear a beautiful lick, you gotta feeling this could be it, and you know exactly where to go…"

He's wistfully reflective on the acoustic strum of 'I Should Have Said' with its theme of letting love that slip past or between your fingers, a song which, with its soulful groove and organ calls to mind Van Morrison while the bluesy 'Help Me Roll It' with its call and response chorus is back again in Dylan territory, specifically that of 'Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat'.

Although Dylan echoes are still evident, he shifts direction towards 'John Wesley Harding' for the border county sound 'Henry Antrim' which, titled after one of Billy the Kid's aliases, deals with facing mortality in the lines "I may grow weary of this crazy life, when the day comes I'll let you know" while "when the blazing sun comes up tomorrow, reach out for me and I'll be gone" takes on a more poignant note.

Its back to the uptempo country barroom blues for the title track with its hints of Hank Williams, especially in the mid section where you'll also hear the influence of Irish country roots, things remaining pacey on the rock n rolling zyedeco chug of the accordion coloured 'Por Favor',a number you could hear The Mavericks covering.

Its back to Hank and the saloon for the good time piano pumping 'Honky Tonk Baby' before the album moves to a close with, first, the reflective country-soul piano ballad love song 'The Universe And Me', essentially a celebration of being alive "down here all alone, just the universe and me." even if "there's no music in money there's no money in love." Finally, it ends back in musically upbeat mode, a touch of rockabilly evident on the chugging midtempo swagger of 'It's Not Me It's You' which, while Dylan's again in there, puts me in mind of an Irish answer to Dave Edmunds' Rockpile, though it's hard to listen to him sing "we come into the world alone screaming and kicking, then we don't want to go, but it's a return ticket." Somehow, though, I think he would have smiled at the irony and he'd certainly have wanted you to get up and dance to the music rather than sit there moping. Here's to you, Bap.

Mike Davies