Ronnie Drew,
The Humour is on Me Now
(Dolphin, 1999)

Ronnie Drew seems to have been around forever. The gravelly voice, the grey beard and the humour are fixtures in the minds of all who love good folk and traditional music of Ireland.

On this 1999 release, The Humour is on Me Now, he teams up with Mike Hanrahan of Stockton's Wing as producer and a gathering of the finest instrumentalists to bring us a CD that should grace any collection worth its salt. He neatly repackages those old, overdone songs we all too often dismiss with new works to make us think.

Johnny Duhan's "Always Remember" is a classic example of the latter. It reminds us of the darker side of life but advises us to remember the sun as well. Maire Breathnach plays a fantastic fiddle on this with Martin O'Connor on accordion, among others.

Ronnie has a great affinity with poets and playwrights, and he features a number of them on the album. Sean O'Casey's "Since Maggie Went Away" is followed by his "Red Roses." Later, we get a poem from that twinkle-eyed Kerryman, Brendan Kennelly, called "Clearing a Space," and then the big poem turned folk hit, "Raglan Road," from the pen of Patrick Kavanagh.

The latter-day poet Shane McGowan is represented by the haunting tale of famine graves on "The Dunes." It is seldom better performed than by Ronnie right here. Among the older songs getting a fresh and most welcome reprise are the title track as well as "Courtin' in the Kitchen" and "The Black Velvet Band."

Listening to these songs, we are reminded of the writing genius that permeates our music. The phrasing, the descriptions and the humour put many a modern writer to shame. Forget that they may have been overdone in the past. Listen as if you had never heard them before, and I bet you will be pleasantly surprised.

Mike Hanrahan penned the final track on offer here called "We Had It All," and it sums up this wonderful album.

by Nicky Rossiter
5 August 2006