- 03 May 17
Song-cycle lifts the lid on Ireland's rock past
Tommy Keyes earned his place in Irish rock history as main songsmith with the late ’70s rock outfit Sidewinder, and on An Irish Life he re-works some of the material and experiences from that era. So just as there’s a lived-in quality to Keyes’ voice, there’s an appealing sense of reality about songs that, taken collectively, serve as a virtual narrative for the growing pains of the modern Irish rock scene.
Aided and abetted by such seasoned musicians as Richie Buckley (sax) and Dick Farrelly (guitars), An Irish Life delivers exactly that: tales of the trials and tribulations of life in Ireland, with lyrics that refreshingly confront reality. The opener ‘I Was There’ sets the scene, name-checking Morans, McGonagles and other long-gone venues, as well as local heroes like Stagalee, The Bogey Boys and Rocky De Valera. In ‘Happy Days’, Keyes dreams of cowboys and football heroism, and football shows up again, alongside music, Radio Luxembourg and the cinema, in ‘Landscape Park’. Hot Press, meanwhile, earns a mention in the sprightly ‘Smalltown Superstars’, in which Keyes depicts the innocent optimism of the young muso.
‘Long Distance Call’ and ‘Dust In My Eye’ remind us that emigration has been a permanent blight, while the relentlessness of work pressures inhabit and disturb ‘Sleep She Said’. Love gets a look-in too in ‘Slowdown World’, and family and local football filter into in ‘Richmond Nights’. And it’s all underpinned by Keyes’ deft keyboards and confident soft-rock arrangements.
An Irish Life is part of Keyes’ monumental triple-CD boxset, but all are also available separately. This song-cycle lovingly explores the underbelly of Irish rock, a territory all too often ignored in our adulation of bigger names.