Donal Hinely,
We Built a Fire
(Scuffletown, 2002)

This CD builds a fire that makes us want to see what Donal Hinely sees. We want to experience the events he portrays, and in his music he allows us do this.

We Built a Fire is like a CD of short stories, many of which also tell a moral tale so well that we do not realise the power until we listen a few times.

"Gasoline" is a song of the traveling and instant mobility that defines so much of modern life for good or ill. Hinely has crafted a fine song from a fabric well tried by other writers.

He follows with "Drunkard Moon," a poignant and heartfelt song that proves that this is a master craftsman in the songwriting field. Listening to this track is like watching a short movie; Hinely draws his listeners in and we really care about the characters. The backing vocal adds a nice dimension.

The influence of storytellers like Steve Earle and Richard Thompson comes through but does not blunt the edge of a new talent who could well be numbered with them in years to come.

My favourite track has to be "Cynthianna." After numerous listens I cannot determine if this is a person or a place and to me this is a mark of a great piece of writing.

He lifts the musical pace with "Hey Paul Revere." The story is one of the most chilling on the album. The trumpet backing gives a great depth but it is the lyrics that reveal his wit and concerns. "A poster of Charlton Heston on his wall" has nothing to do with movies and the line about "the plot to bring back Village People to destroy our moral fibre" is a beautifully understated sentiment.

The CD is full of songs of travel and moving on. His "Henry Ford" exemplifies this. He ambushes us so gently with his lyrics. After an anthem to travel he brings us back to earth by wishing for a time when "we were moved by beauty not Henry Ford." That line alone tells us a tale of how the means of travel have destroyed so much of what we needed to see.

"Promise of a Dream" has the potential to be one of the best songs of the decade as it tells a beautiful story of how we get by on dreams. In the story he meets a lady who once danced on TV but they meet in a Salvation Army store. I would love to hear this song played on radio around the world.

The title track closes the album and it is one of the best songs of family love and pride that I have heard in years. Hinely weaves a vision of young love outdoors at a fire drinking wine through to the realisation that the fire is a son or daughter who "grows beyond the two of us."

Congratulations are due to Donal Hinely for a well-crafted CD full of songs that educate us without us even realising it. The message is well hidden in the long grass of truth and good music.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 22 March 2003