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Daoiri Farrell Daoiri Farrell
Album: True Born Irishman
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10

Barely four months ago, and unduly belatedly, I discovered Dublin-born Daoirí's excellent 2009 album The First Turn, and on this very site proclaimed this young gentleman a major new talent on the Irish music scene. True Born Irishman's that album's followup, and it's obvious that it's a more considered product, notably in terms of production and arrangement; Daoirí's surrounded himself with a team of excellent musicians (Tony Byrne on guitar, Paddy Kiernan on banjo, Pat Daly on fiddle, Alec Brown on cello, Brian Dwyer on piano, James Mahon on uilleann pipes and Robbie Walsh on bodhrán, with appearances by Mike McGoldrick on flute and Eoin Kenny on low whistle). But as before, it's Daoirí's exceptional singing that makes the greatest impression - the sheer passion of his account of The Blue Tar Road, one of a pair of songs by his major inspiration Liam Weldon here accompanied only by a stark pipe drone, is undoubtedly the album standout. The lyric of this song fittingly provides the disc with its title, while also instancing a deep-seated empathy with the travelling people that crops up right at the start of the album on Fergus Russell's lively portrayal of Pat Rainey and later on Shay Healey's glorious This Town Is Not Your Own.

The tremendous confidence of Daoirí's singing has increased even since The First Turn (no doubt boosted by his university studies and consequent winning of awards in 2013 and 2015), and by all accounts his solo career proper was launched at this year's Celtic Connections, followed by plenty of high-profile touring including a support date for Sharon Shannon . The forthright lilt of Daoirí's singing style may in some measure recall Andy Irvine, or perhaps a higher-register Christy Moore, but his voice is absolutely distinctive in its own way.

His is a firm, commanding expressiveness that gets straight to the emotional point of a song, delivering an immediate immersion and involvement for his audience. His choice of material effectively and seamlessly blends and blurs contemporary Irish songwriting tradition with authentic tradition, and even Bogie's Bonnie Belle (perhaps the least obvious choice as regards repertoire) fits reasonably into the set. His new account of Van Diemen's Land has an epic gravitas, while enjoying a more fully-scored instrumental setting consistent with several of the album's other tracks including uncommonly fine renditions of The Unquiet Grave and a somewhat lesser-known traditional ballad The Shady Woods Of Truagh.

The instrumental sound may be more rounded, but the songs remain in focus and nothing's lost in impact since the arrangements aren't allowed to swamp or overload Daoirí's vocal. True Born Irishman is definitely one of the year's outstanding Irish music albums; you owe it to yourself to hear it.

David Kidman