Damien Dempsey releases a new album which sways and surges in the Dublin sun.
Ten-track Soulsun sees one of the most important artists of our time in the form of his life.
Joined by three different singers - Pauline Scanlon, Imelda May and Dido, Dempsey reaches heights and musical majesty.
Dickie Felton dives into the Irish Sea track-by-track.
“I’ve never thought I’d feel this weak or rejected” starts DD as he embarks on the album opener. The gloomy opening line soon followed by a swipe of fight: “But I just know it’s going pass. I hope and pray it won’t last…”
Soulsun has a slow build-up with Spanish/Mexican acoustic guitar intro. And the song fades out with the same stark strings. This first track tells us that Damo is still rhyming beautifully: “Soulsun will come and breach my cranium”. A song about feeling meek and defeated but realising that better times will come.
Pretty Bird Tree
Damo’s second track - Pretty Bird Tree - is a haunting version of a song originally by LJ Hill. Hill is part Australian Aboriginal, part Cherokee Indian and part Irish singer-songwriter. He sings about adversity, alcohol abuse and the loss of loved ones. I can see why Dempsey has taken upon himself to tackle one of his songs.
The acoustic guitar is put to one side and Damo’s version of Pretty Bird Tree has a powerful feel of an REM or Pearl Jam track. The song helped on its atmospheric way by singer Pauline Scanlon. Set on the banks of the Namoi River, New South Wales, the song is an ode to loss, loneliness and ‘teardrops down the drain’.
The last bars feature a pulsating electric guitar rising and falling - around the Pretty Bird Tree. This song is sure to be a powerful addition to Damo’s live sets.
A rousing racket against false preachers in mainstream media, the church, and those in power. Simple Faith has a start similar to Morrissey’s Jack the Ripper.
Atmospheric and full of purpose, this song is a rant against false news: “We can close our eyes, we can all watch Fox News and swallow lies”. It’s bound to be a belting live track.
Big Big Love
A duet with fellow Irish singer Imelda May, Big Big Love is a bit like a Paul Heaton/Jacqui Abbott duet. It’s a soulful love song, a tale of a couple breaking-up but they remain together forever. If there can ever be an uplifting song about a break-up, Dempsey seems to have achieved it with Big Big Love.
Damo continues his passion for British/Irish history and this wonderful song is seen through the eyes of a young British solder. In 1945 Sam Jenkins is “shipped across to Ireland - stationed north of Galway - in a landscape that mirrored hell”. A very moving track where the young military man, on seeing Irish hunger and persecution, asks himself what on earth he’s doing as a “servant to a devil in a crown’ and the ‘rogues who rule britannia’. An amazing song.
Forever and a Day
The second love song on the album. “The time that I spent with you that’s what I live for”. Dempsey is singing about the loss of someone close to him. It’s the most moving song on Soulsun. “I will push through because you’d want me to”.
A desperate but touching tribute to someone lost. “Walk with me and together we will stay”. An epic song that ends rather prematurely on three minutes 20 seconds just as it starts to rise to the heavens.
Beside the Sea
A lovely floating feel-good song accompanied by Dido. Sandy coasts and mountains, valleys “revive my ghost” the pair sing on their way down to the sea. She likes the sea Dido, ' sand in my shoes' etc. I wonder if they go swimming together? Hello Magazine would have a field day...
An amazing reggae beat runs through the verses of Sweet Gratitude. A wonderful ode to positivity and “bringing joy to your heart”.
Just Dempsey's voice and strings. “When I fall at your door, Like St Peter you take me in”.
Stunning spoken word from Damo against a disco beat. Wow. This song works a treat. Dempsey takes us on a late-night-tour of his native city of Dublin and bursts into song a quarter of the way in.
“When are you coming home my friend, to all us family again?”
Soft Rain is probably the greatest song on Soulsun. It features street cleaners, humming barmaids, the Shannon, suns rising and mentions for Liverpool and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
A fan of open water swimming, Damien sings: “Are you coming in with me?”
So feel the sun on your skin, feel the waves on your body. You need to take the plunge into Soulsun today.
Damien plays Ireland and Australia.
Dickie Felton writes about music and football. His 2009 book The Day I Met Morrissey was a huge hit nowhere (apart from in Eccles and in Croatia). It's still buyable. In fact buy the tome here and we'll also ship Dickie's second book free: Morrissey International Airport.