Eamon Friel,
Word of Spring
(Thran, 2000)

Some months ago I reviewed a compilation album that featured a song by Eamon Friel I particularly liked. Now I am delighted to review a complete album by the Irish singer.

Word of Spring is a self-professed "old fashioned" album of songs. The lines rhyme, the songs have tunes and are easy for the least musical among us to hum or sing. This is a true assessment because some of these tracks will drive you nuts as they seep into your brain and you find them unconsciously hummed as you stroll about.

It is a collection of songs in the common genres of folk albums -- love songs, emigration songs and "pride of place" songs. "City of Song" is one of the latter as Friel sings with pride of Derry -- "a town that has known many sorrows, but the heart of the people is strong." One cannot help but compare it with Phil Coulter's well-known "Town I Loved So Well," but this is a much gentler and more personal tribute to the city. The personal aspect is well depicted by the first verse recounting a man leave his family to look for work.

The city of his birth is featured also in "On Derry's Quay," a beautiful song of emigration that asks those staying at home to "hold us close in your memory as we leave you." The harmony singing on this track is wonderful and gives a vivid feeling of a live session at an American Wake. Personal love is depicted in the tracks "Such a Night of Stars" and "Mostly I've Been Missing You." The latter contains the poetic lines "When all you have is memories to admire / You warm your life before them like a fire."

The final and longest track on the album is a rousing tune with more than a hint of truth about how so many young people living on the land got their education in the "school of life" rather than the classroom. It far from being a bitter song; in fact, in many ways it gives a feeling that formal education is not the only option. This is personified in the lines at the end "now the schoolyard's silent and the school is closed, I bought it with some money I was owed, done it up and moved in so I got to school at last." The song has a fabulous cil band beat that defies you not to tap your feet and sing along the chorus, which is what a good folk song should do.

Eamon Friel is a writer and performer to watch, and I for one await his next album and would love to see him perform live.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 2 March 2002

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