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Damien Dempsey Damien Dempsey
Album: No Force On Earth
Label: Clear
Tracks: 8

A very special album. Some might call it unique. One which commemorates, although celebrates might be a more appropriate word, the 1916 Easter uprising which resulted in the birth of the Irish Republic. And quite apt too that it should be an album of songs from an artist held in such high regard in his homeland. Taking a break from his band and taking up arms with his acoustic guitar, 'No Force On Earth' sees Dempsey releasing the potency of his stripped back acoustic guise with a set made up of original songs and songs which are part and parcel of his culture and personal journey.

Producer John Reynolds too has played his part in encouraging Damien to record voice and guitar into one mic in a basic and organic fashion - many would say as it should be - giving a fair representation of the true sound. There are subtle contributions from Reynolds' own drums and Clare Kenney on bass, as well as taking advantage of the excellent Tim Edey's availability for a few hours to add his splendid multi-talented touch on piano, accordion and guitar.

For all the cameos, it's a raw and unrefined album - roughly hewn is the term - and as such delivers all the passion and intensity you'd expect from a young Irishman singing about a significant episode and the aftermath in his homeland. 'Aunt Jenny' immediately harks back to childhood memories, his own relatives and their role as part of the "forgotten women" who played such a part in Ireland's freedom. It's a stirring start which sets the scene for a journey through learned songs and original songs which are packed with stories of relationships and connections which are traced back through family histories and which all have their own tales to tell.

Setting Yates' 'The Death Of Cuchulain' to music is a shrewd move - the video is up on YouTube as part of the Irish 2020 European City of Culture bid. Eamonn de Barra's flute adds a dash of flavouring to a piece which could be the centrepiece of the album. While 'Wave Hill Walk Off', its background in the indigenous Australian culture, is less direct although linked via the common struggle, it's the calm before the storm of Ewan MacColl's 'The Island'. It contributes the album title in a typically MacColl simple message and performance which belies the impact as well as setting the seal on just over half an hour of emotive reflection.

Inspired and inspiring and at times yes, it might tend towards the raw and dissonant - 'James Connolly' one of the leaders of the Rising whose plan was innately simple, is rough and ready but that's the nature of the beast, part of its charm and contributing to the desired effect. All is now cued up for some intimate solo live performances through England and Scotland in October which should be well worth catching.

Mike Ainscoe