Mick Hanly,
Wish Me Well
(Dog House, 2005)

This is an outstanding album, proving the value of perfectionism. As Mick tells us in his book of the same title, it was a long time in gestation from the writing through the production -- and it shows.

I am proud to say that I heard many of the songs on this CD in an intimate live performance in a Wexford pub over a year ago. At the time I was mightily impressed, even with minimal musical backing. Presented here with lush backing and production, they are even better. The songs are intensely personal but are professionally crafted.

"I Feel I Should Be Calling You" is a wonderful song that deals with events in Hanly's own life, but anyone listening will find resonance in their own lives. Few of us will write a hit like "Past the Point of Rescue," as alluded to as reaching No. 2 in the charts. But like him, we will have successes that our parents may not live to witness and we will recall the title of this song.

One of my favourite tracks on the album is "Damaged Halo," another of those brilliant epic story-songs. Again it is based on real life, or lives, as he recalls an old school friend and contrasts his life to his own in music. There is lovely Irish feel to the story but its very parochial nature makes it international. The lines "We were damaged by the score, the clever and the dumb, will you tell me where in Christ was Jesus hiding" could refer to any town or group of people. You will never anticipate the tag line.

"Too Old for Fairytales" captures that limbo as we leave childhood but do not quite enter adult life.

I remember when I heard the songs live how the comments with which he introduced "I am, I am" lingered for days afterwards. The song and the comments ask us to admit that weird feeling most people get at some time to take stupid risks. He ends it on a more positive note of family responsibility.

Mick may come from Limerick city but his description of Australia opening "The Crusader" will transport you to the hot desert outback. The song itself is a beautiful tale.

The joy of any Mick Hanly album is the wonderful content of the songs. He writes and sings from the heart and the memory. His subject matter is the thing that matters to you and me and that is why he touches our ears, minds and hearts. "Cold, Cold, World" recalls his childhood and while reminding us of the past, he also pricks the conscience about how we treat people. "Shellabookee Boy" reveals a very personal portrait of his life at more recent times.

This CD is one you must listen to, absorb and let move you. I recently reviewed Hanly's book of the same name, which gives fascinating insights into these songs. You can enjoy the album without reading the book, but get both and find the truth in the adage of "the sum is greater than the parts." (An ideal present for anyone who loves good music would be the book and CD.)

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 2 July 2005