Seamus Kennedy,
Sailing Ships & Sailing Men
(Gransha, 2008)

For the first time ever, in my memory at least, the captain's old dog survives the wreck of the Irish Rover.

Seamus Kennedy pulls off the heroic save in the final lines of "The Irish Rover," a mainstay of Irish nautical songs, on Sailing Ships & Sailing Men. Usually, that "poor old dog is drowned" at the end of the lively number, leaving the singer the only survivor of the tragic shipwreck, but soft-hearted Seamus instead sings "the doggie swam aground" and gives himself a furry companion at song's end.

Sailing Ships & Sailing Men is, as its title implies, a collection of nautical ditties from a master of the Irish form. Kennedy isn't alone on this one, either; he provides vocals, guitar and mandolin, with the assistance of co-producer Brad Hayford (vocals, guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, whistle, harmonica, keyboards), Caryl P. Weiss (vocals, concertina, banjo), Tad Marks (fiddle, mandolin), Bill McComiskey (button accordion) and Dave Teeple (bass vocals).

The album includes a jolly mix of songs, 19 in all, including "The Day of the Clipper," "Paddy Lay Back," "The Boyos of Killybegs," "The Calabar," "The Fireship," "Baidin Fheidhlimidh," "The Sailor's Alphabet," "The Mary Ellen Carter" and "Rolling Home to Old New England."

It's as fine a set of nautical songs as you're likely to find. Not only is it a fairly complete and varied collection, but it's presented in the warm and friendly manner for which Kennedy's performances are known. (Unlike his several live recordings, this one lacks jokes between the songs, so you'll have to save your groans and guffaws for another occasion.) Kennedy, a Belfast native, has the perfect voice for Irish music, and this album makes for pleasant company on your journeys. Pick up a copy -- and help keep Kennedy employed, lest he be forced to place himself on the market for more honest work.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Tom Knapp

19 March 2011

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