Seamus Kennedy,
A Smile and a Tear
(Gransha, 2001)

Fans of Seamus Kennedy's live shows know he's usually on stage alone. With just his orange, white and green guitar, a vast array of traditional and novelty songs, and a wide assortment of groan-inducing jokes, Seamus holds sway over his always-delighted audiences.

Not so on A Smile and a Tear. For his latest CD, Seamus recruited plenty of musicians (eight in all), transforming the solo act into a full-scale band.

Never one to skimp on his CDs, Seamus has packed 17 tracks onto his new recording -- and there's not a wasted track in the bunch. One highlight is a Seamus Kennedy original, "The Boogie Woogie Piper," which imagines a new Scottish-American musical craze.

The program on this album is varied. There's poignancy, such as "Wilderness Letters," about an Irish immigrant who left his young bride and children alone in the American wilderness while seeking his fortune, and "Grace," based on the bravery, love and death of Joseph Plunkett. There's national pride in "Song for Ireland." And there are plenty of laughs, such as the too-true "American Beer," the polysyllabic "Chemists' Drinking Song" and the space-time distorting "To Morrow." "The Scottish Song" is a 3:18 summary of Shakespeare's Macbeth, and "The Tumbler" spoofs Kenny Rogers' famous song, "The Gambler," with a new laundromat twist.

Seamus Kennedy keeps racking up winners. A Smile and a Tear is an excellent new addition to his discography, one of the best of the lot.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 8 December 2001