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Daoiri Farrell Daoiri Farrell
Album: The First Turn
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10

Such is the nature of the music scene that often I can make a discovery, coming across an artist for the first time and getting bowled over by an album he/she made years ago which may no longer be representative but is still worth alerting the world to. Long story short - Dublin-born Daoirí Farrell is the latest in that category. Here I am listening to his marvellous debut album from 2009. Now you probably know that Daoirí's currently heading for the high profile with the release, next month, of his second album True Born Irishman. But until I read the press release for that album I wasn't aware that folks have been singing his praises ever since he won the All-Ireland Champion Singer award at the Co. Derry Fleadh in 2013 and then the Danny Kyle Award at 2015's Celtic Connections as part of the lineup of the quartet Four Winds…

So, turning the clock back again: Daoirí was once an electrician by trade, whose light-bulb moment came when he saw Christy Moore perform on Irish TV. After releasing The First Turn in 2009, on which he sang and played mandola and was helped out by a handful of musician friends, he took a few years out studying traditional music and performance at the University of Limerick, where he was introduced to the singing of the late Liam Weldon, which was to prove formative to his own approach to song. It transpires that Christy Moore spotted Daoirí himself while frequenting Dublin's famous Góilin Singers' Club, which quickly led to support work for a number of important Irish folk names. All of these experiences, together with some fulsome praise from his peers including Dónal Lunny, inspired him to launch his own solo career proper at this year's Celtic Connections.

My appetite duly whetted by Daoirí's live session for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show a few months back, and a live clip on YouTube, the tracking-down of Daoirí's debut album (his only recorded artefact to date) became something of a priority - and it was well worth the effort, as I was able to confirm when the eagerly-awaited jiffy arrived from the man himself just a few days ago. The very first track, Daoirí's account of McShane, is Class (with a capital C): assured singing with a clear expression and diction and a firm command of both content and melody line, all accorded steady and reliable instrumental backing that develops and expands rather like at a session where passing musicians (and some chorus singers) come and join in the fray. This appealingly loose, convivial feel is prevalent throughout the CD, as Daoirí and his mandola enjoy accompaniment from (primarily) James Ryan of The Jeremiahs (on guitar, mandola, tenor guitar) and Alan Doherty of Gráda (on flute, whistle and a dash of percussion) with additional contributions from Robbie Walsh, John Ryan, Seán Regan and Martin Moran (the latter's electric guitar imparting a kind of African feel to Daoirí's interestingly syncopated take on Tippin' It Up To Nancy).

But it's Daoirí's exceedingly confident singing that's the constant throughout the ten tracks, a stylish set of performances of a varied repertoire that's mostly traditional in origin (his booklet notes are helpful in this regard). There were times I was reminded particularly of Andy Irvine (indeed, Daoirí states in his liner notes that he learned The Creggan White Hare from one of Andy's albums), but Daoirí remains his own man, as you can hear on his impassioned account of The Shamrock Shore, learnt from versions by Frank Harte and Paul Brady but here turning out commendably individual. This is one of only two songs that Daoirí sings unaccompanied, the other being at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum: The Pool Song, Con Ó'Drisceoil's wickedly funny commentary on the ruination of rural pubs. And the delectable ode to the joys of Boozing is another successful foray into the lighter side of the repertoire. Just occasionally (Bound For Van Dieman's Land, John O' Dreams) Daoirí's interpretation doesn't quite feel fully formed as yet, but for the rest he sure proves to have the measure of his chosen material. Me, I'm really looking forward to his followup album now - I'll keep you posted!

David Kidman