Eamon Friel,
Here is the River
(Thran, 2006)

Eamon Friel's Here is the River is the most beautiful and relaxing album of the year to date. Friel has a distinctive voice, but also a great and unique talent to write songs of meaning and emotion. Perhaps his one minor problem in getting his work out to a wider audience is his very quiet delivery. But then, there is the major problem outside his control, the fact that national radio in Ireland (and elsewhere) shies away from great talent if it is new and particularly if it is folk-oriented, and sad as it may be his voice may not reach those other stations that can spread the word. That's where you -- the reader of reviews -- can help. Get this album; request the songs on your radio be it local or national, Irish or Australian or West Dakota.

This is not the first Friel CD that I have reviewed and I hope it will not be the last. He mesmerizes with his lyrics. He writes of romance, he writes of politics and he writes of nature, and at all times he writes to touch the heart.

In fact one of the most amazing songs on this album is called "King & Queen," but it is not about royalty or politics or love. It refers to an imaginary life of two mountains and draws a pen picture of an Ireland no tourist organisation will ever realize. The lyrics are redolent of history -- the Armada, Amelia Earhart and Wolfe Tone intermingle -- but not afraid to use vernacular phrases like "the king says to the queen he acts the big man if he can." To top it off we get a wonderful instrumental piece to close.

"I'll Go Along With You" is another surprise in that it reminds of real-life romance. The song is basically about the fact that "she can ask him out" and that even in the 21st century the conventions are sort of offended by it. How many songs have confronted that?

The title track brings us back to the conflict in the island of Ireland, but its power lies in the fact that the message is covert and avoids the explicit lyrics more commonly associated with The Troubles. Friel returns to lost love on the beautiful "Love of My Heart," a song that ends with the line, "Love is a song sung in a world of stone."

One of my favourite tracks is "Under the Green of the Trees." It is a beautiful love- and story-song combined that gives free rein to Friel's way with words. He returns to nature with powerful effect on the amazing "Western Wind." In this song the very wind is made real and is used to bring us through the north west of Ireland with beautiful lines like: "In the hilly heart of Derry there's a square and you storm the city walls to swagger there."

This is a set of 10 songs that deserve a wide audience. It is also a songbook that should appeal to any singer out there who wants to sing another writer's excellent songs.

by Nicky Rossiter
1 July 2006

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