Johnny McEvoy,
Going to California
(Dolphin, 2003)

Johnny McEvoy has been singing great music in Ireland for four decades. He started with the folk explosion, moved into country music and then returned with live performances that leave audiences screaming for more. He is probably unknown to many lovers of good music outside the shores of the Emerald Isle, but that is their loss. With a gentle, easy rendition he hypnotises his audience, especially when performing his own compositions.

Most of the tracks here are his own and they reveal his wide range of influences and abilities. "The Sailor" is a case in point with its very true-to-life tale of the seafarer whose sweetheart forgets him following a long voyage. "Oh how I long for the days that are gone, when you were a girl with the wind in her hair, and I a lad home from the sea."

Like all great writers he is inspired by his own life. His heartfelt song "Matthew" is written about a person with that dread disease of Alzheimer's. His mother suffered from it but he changed the gender for the song. Anyone listening cannot but feel a deep sadness for all families afflicted by such a malady.

One of my favourite tracks revolves around a father asking a son to sing him a song. It stands above others because he does not want a tale of wars and heroes and empires. He wants him to "sing me of rivers and forests of green."

McEvoy has a great love of history that comes across in his songs. An earlier CD had a marvelous tale about Michael Collins, which told us as much of the man as the epic movie. Here he gives us an 8-minute mini-story of Jack Reilly, an Irish convict who jumps ship in Australia. For any expatriate Cork person, his rendition of "The Bells of Shandon" will bring the proverbial "tears to a glass eye."

This is a top-class CD by an Irish singer who deserves a much wider audience.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 29 November 2003