Robbie O'Connell,
Never Learned to Dance
(Green Linnet, 1992)

Robbie O'Connell is a nephew of the famous Clancy Brothers, one of the groups which helped to revive Irish folk music and make the world notice. Now based in Boston, he has often toured with the Clancys and, later, with Liam Clancy and his daughter. This, one of a number of solo albums from O'Connell, is a combination of sad love songs and lively comic pieces.

Tracks include "American Lives," an anti-war song in the vein of the '60s protests. It bears careful listening to catch the meaning of the words. "Galileo" takes the Catholic Church to task over its treatment of Galileo. They finally forgave him for speaking the truth after 400 years.

"The Turning of The Tide" tells of a man returning from emigrant life and re-discovering his father in an Irish town. "Hard to Say Goodbye" is a bittersweet emigrant song sung in a comic vein but with real emotion. "The Old Man of the Mountain" is a sad tale of a man's life as he survives the Great War and then enters another. It is a very moving song.

It's comedy time again with "The Mistress" -- but there's an edge as he sings of taking a mistress and the satirical twist in the end. "The Singer" is the final track, and it's a singer-songwriter's nightmare. It is the story so familiar to all interested in collecting old songs. It concerns the drunk in the pub with a promise of great new material -- but is he only angling for free drinks or has he got an elusive old tune?

Robbie O'Connell has a distinctive voice which may not please every ear, but he is an excellent performer. The real bonus on this 12-track album is that he is the writer of every song and shows a wide range of skills.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]