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The Rocky Road

Dublin singer does a first rate job of interpreting Irish Trad standards for a new generation

Rating: 8 / 10

Adrienne Murphy, 11 Jun 2008

What an unconventionanal but brilliant move on Damo’s part, to do an album of ballad covers just when he’s at the peak of his own songwriting powers. Comprising 11 beautifully varied trad numbers, The Rocky Road is a big-hearted tribute to the enduring power of Irish folk songs.

Opening with a particularly brilliant version of the title-track – an energising, uplifting, raucously joyous song – the record moves through story after story of love and seduction, battle and the hard life. Community sing-song comes alive in covers like ‘The Foggy Dew’, ‘The Hot Asphalt’ and ‘The Hackler From Grouse Hall’, ballads immortalised in recordings by Luke Kelly, Christy Moore, Ronnie Drew et al. Elsewhere, ‘Schoolday’s Over’ captures the end of childhood freedom, as young men put down their books for a working life in the mines, ‘Night Visiting Song’ is a deeply romantic farewell between lovers, before the man must flee Ireland in the Flight of the Earls, and that timeless love song, ‘A Rainy Night In Soho’ by The Pogues, gets the ultra soft, tender treatment that it deserves.

Damo’s accompanied here by many virtuoso musicians, including veterans John Sheahan and Barney McKenna of The Dubliners; all deserve huge credit for passing on these wonderful ballads – this artistic and cultural treasure hoard from our past – to a new generation.

Key Track: ‘The Rocky Road’

Rating: 8 / 10
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