- 26 May 23
Folk crew deliver Joyce-inspired opus.
Songs inspired by works of literature are not uncommon – there’s Kavanagh’s poem ‘On Raglan Road’ for starters – but records based on short story collections are a lot rarer. But such is the adventurous debut by Irish folkies Hibsen, with The Stern Task Of Living taking its cue from James Joyce’s iconic Dubliners. It’s one more gem to emerge from the era of Covid and Zoom.
Hibsen are Jim Murphy (guitarist with Blue Fish Diamond) and Gráinne Hunt (vocals), here playing with the accomplished likes of string quartet Musici. Opener ‘The Sisters’ kicks off with plangent guitar, a beguiling melody and wistful strings. ‘An Encounter’ comes with lusty voices that set the track skipping around Dublin “on the mitch”, though not without an air of menace.
‘Eveline’ boasts happy schoolyard voices and commanding vocals from Hunt, on a thoughtful song of thwarted escape, while Murphy takes the lead on ‘The Boarding House’, which has melodic echoes of early Dylan. An overall approach that can seem one-dimensional, actually welds the 15 tracks into an impressive composite of guitar-based folksiness.
Hunt has a weighty voice that brooks no argument, as the songs take us through a busy Dublin, jostling with Mr Duffy, Nannie, Eliza, Father Flynn, Joe Dillon and a cast of virtual gypsies, tramps and thieves. One might almost sense the spirit of Joyce himself strolling through these tracks. Better still, you don’t have to know the stories to savour this as a musical experience in its own right.
Out now, self-released.
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