Tim Dennehy,
Between the Mountains & the Sky
(Sceilig, 2003)

Ireland is famous for its literature. Kerry is the kingdom of Ireland and Sigerson Clifford is one of her greatest writers. Now his beautiful words are given to a new audience through the warm voice of Tim Dennehy.

Clifford was actually born in Cork but the family moved to Cahersiveen soon after and, although most of his works were written long after, his brilliant words are deeply rooted in the lives and stories of his grandfather and the people of that region.

"Boys of Barra Sraide" is probably one of his best-known songs, having been recorded by a large number of people, but that is just one of a dozen pieces on offer here. "Lenihan's Big Bazaar" is one of my favourite pieces on the album. It is reminiscent of Percy French with its narrative form. Here in just over four minutes you can travel back to a time of innocence and wonder when traveling shows brought the entertainment we now seek in CDs and television sets. But it covers much more that the show as is evident in the lines, "The great diversion that we had when the Missioners came, we were only middling sinners with venials to our score." All Irish people of a certain age will identify with this. (For the non-Gaelic, the missioners were like evangelical preachers and venials were sins less serious that so called mortal or grave sins.)

Clifford's songs are ideally suited to Dennehy's voice. His diction and tone are essential for the appreciation of the lyrics. "The Ballad of the Tinker's Son" is a tale beautifully sung by a man who has a very obvious love of the story, the words and the history.

If you attended an Irish school or perhaps any school between 1900 and 1960, "The Old School" will touch you. It is pure nostalgia and as Dennehy sings the roll call, insert your old friends; the visions of lessons learned will come of their own accord. The song is followed by a poem that complements the song perfectly.

"The lips of laburnum drool fire" -- so starts the song "The Boy Remembers His Father." How many modern writers can show such a poetic scene in six words? The song is a moving tribute to the bond between fathers and sons that is seldom equalled in music. "The Races" is another evocation of times long past, as is the wonderful and magical "I Am Kerry." The latter is a poem that would be written about every place on Earth if we had the talent of Sigerson Clifford. It is Kerry, but it is also our Ireland of legend and the story that comes if we listen to "their voices come on every little wind whispering across the half-door of the mind."

The title track is from the pen of Tim Dennehy. It was written as he returned to Clare from the Clifford's funeral. It is a tribute and a celebration of a man who is very well commemorated on this beautiful album.

In addition to the collection of poems and songs, expertly performed you will get a 48-page booklet of lyrics, recollections and photographs that complement the CD to perfection.

This is the album to own if you like intelligent, heartfelt lyrics performed whereby you understand every syllable and can feel the love of the world emanating from your speakers.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 2 October 2004