Seamus Kennedy,
Let the Music Take You Home
(Gransha, 1998)

Anyone who has seen Seamus Kennedy perform knows he's a one-man Celtic variety show. The CD Let the Music Take You Home is a lot like that, except there are a few extra men involved.

Recorded live at O'Friel's Irish Pub in Wilmington, Del., the CD boasts Kennedy at his best, both singing and cracking wise in front of an eager crowd. Joining him on-stage are Brad Hayford (vocals, bass, keyboards, 5-string banjo, mandolin, harmonica, whistle), Alex Kuldell (side-drum), Bob Spates (fiddle), Mark Hillman (uilleann pipes), Mike Auldridge (dobro) and Dave Teeple (bass, vocals). Kennedy himself sings, banters and plays guitar, bodhran and tenor banjo.

The tunes on the album are a good mix of Celtic favorites ("A Walk in the Irish Rain," "The Old Dun Cow," "Ae Fond Kiss," "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda") and novelty songs ("General Guinness," "Old McDonald's Deformed Farm," "Fishing for Chickens"). There is also significant time devoted to jokes and humorous stories -- and it's here the album falters a bit. Don't get me wrong, I laughed the first several times I heard the adventures of Murphy and O'Brien and Kennedy's other bits of funny. But you can only laugh at a joke so many times, so putting the CD on repeat got old pretty fast.

It's an easily overlooked failing, however. The songs are great, and Kennedy's voice is perfect for his witty style of performance. He provides the appropriate amount of seriousness for straight numbers like "Oro! Se Do Bheatha 'Bhaile," "The Shearin's No' for You" and "Let the Music Take You Home," and he oozes delight on comedy numbers such as the offbeat "Fishin' for Chickens" and the demented "Old McDonald's Deformed Farm" -- my friend Julie tells me the latter is "a mean song," and she's probably right ... but I suspect you'll find yourself laughing just the same.

I've only ever seen Kennedy perform as a solo act, so the fuller sound of the small backing band was a nice touch.

If you enjoy a good, fun time with Irish music, give Kennedy a try. Let the Music Take You Home seems like a good place to start -- but be ready to hit the skip button a few times if you listen to it often and tire quickly of old jokes.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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