Donal Clancy,
Songs of a Roving Blade
(independent, 2014)

There is a saying in Ireland: "He didn't pick it up off the street." This is a sort of colloquial endorsement of genetics, pointing out that various talents are inherited from our ancestors. The point is beautifully illustrated on Songs of a Roving Blade, a new album from Donal Clancy. One need know little of his ancestry being the son and nephew of The Clancy Brothers to spot this rare and brilliant talent.

The notes and some conversations with relatives reveal that as a young man he was more than content to play his guitar and leave the singing to others. To the great delight of the folk fan he has gradually eased out of that mode and has produced a wonderful CD.

The songs are not new, but Clancy shows us that by arrangement and masterly performance even the most familiar of folk classics can have a new and exciting lease on life. His arrangements are confident and effective. None more so than on his unique rendition of "Eileen Aruin," where he shows brilliant self-confidence allied to a very real singing ability on a spare rendition. He reveals in his excellent liner notes that the opening song "Mrs. McGrath" is sung to a melody that he has not heard used for it outside his family.

His seaside native area is reflected in the inclusion of two sea shanties, "Sally Brown" and "Heave Away My Johnny." Rather unusually on modern Irish folk albums we get a song in Irish when he delivers a beautiful version of "An Cruiscin Lan." This again is hardly a surprise with his early years spent in Ring, a small Irish speaking district in County Waterford.

On songs like "Nancy Whiskey" his confident and very rich voice reminds us of the beautiful and often lost meaningful lyrics written on those songs. This is no where more evident than on "Roddy McCorley," which we all too often hear blasted out as an angry pub song. Donal brings us the words as if from a poem.

No artist wants to be compared to others. They all want recognition for themselves and their talent. Donal Clancy cannot divest himself of name or heritage, but I guarantee that if anyone picked up this album anonymously and listened to the dozen tracks they would love it.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Nicky Rossiter

7 June 2014

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