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Kieran Halpin Kieran Halpin
Album: Doll
Label: SOS
Tracks: 11

Kieran’s latest album finds him thoroughly at home in Germany, where he’s now living, relaxing in convivial company while continuing to respond to the songwriting muse in his own determined fashion. Clearly Kieran is enjoying – and really benefitting from – the stylish musicianship and production expertise of Manfred Leuchter, as well as the percussion skills of longer-term collaborator Yogi Jokusch. Manfred’s distinctive contributions (mostly on accordion and melodica) give the music something of what I can only describe as a “European” sound, which in some measure also accentuates the somewhat mellower nature and positive vibes of a number of the songs in this new batch (A Simple Life and I Wish You Well, for example).

But it’s arguably on the title track where his playing style and Kieran’s trademark guitar patterns most persuasively coalesce, if perhaps also toning down just a bit the savagery of the lyric (the desire for revenge and the experience of pain from a doomed relationship) from the attack of its rhythms and metre. Similarly, even the helpless, angry You Make Me Feel Like A Fool comes across more as sanguine, even resigned, without the ability to find a solution (Manfred’s piano work on this song is beautifully sympathetic). For as it turns out, some of Doll’s most memorable material perhaps inevitably harks back in style and feel to the glory dayz of Kieran’s earlier albums (the closing track even audibly reproduces the faithful runout groove of vinyl); but that doesn’t mean that Kieran’s retreading old ground or running out of ideas, for he continues to respond afresh to these eternal conundrums of life and love. Standout songs like the tenderly affectionate Mission Bell and the achingly vulnerable Fragile Heart in particular epitomise Kieran’s ability to really reach into and penetrate your emotions. Revealed is another song demonstrating Kieran’s proven gift for expressing emotional honesty (it also contains some neat dobro playing from guest Ian Melrose), while both Old Dog and the country-waltzer-styled anthem Storm And High Water are “tell it like it is” pieces with the ring of truth. Trouble In Paradise, on the other hand, is direct, name-shaming political comment.

Once again, then, Kieran’s given us his quintessential world-view, and Doll will prove a worthy addition to his canon of albums of thought-provoking contemporary songwriting.

David Kidman