Sean Tyrrell,
Rising Tide
(Longwalk, 2004)

I have hit upon a seam of Sean Tyrrell releases and I keep looking for more. This singer has a distinctive voice that takes any song -- folk, pop or musical -- and makes it sound as if it has been in the traditional songbook for centuries.

He opens this CD with that old standard "Side by Side," and he makes you forget the music hall rendition. This is the new definitive.

Some months ago I reviewed an album - no, raved about an album -- by Eamon Friel. Tyrrell has taken one of his songs, "Such a Night of Stars," and given it the Sean sheen. At first I kept referring back to Eamon's version and I didn't particularly like Sean's take. Then I listened some more, and guess what? Now I have two different favourite songs called "Such a Night of Stars."

A "magnum opus" on this album is the fascinating story of "The Quaker" using the words of Samuel Lover. What can I say about "Coast of Malabar'? A great song sung by a maestro.

In Ireland we have the feast of Little Christmas on Jan. 6. When Phil Gaston travelled in the Burren on that night he was inspired by the candles glistening in cottage windows to write "The Lights of Little Christmas." The tale of love lost to emigration is beautifully told: "Is she here or in America? Is she home or is she gone?"

Sean has a great love of poetry and is constantly putting the words of poets to music and exposing them to a wider audience. He uses a well-known writer like W.B. Yeats on "The Cap and Bells," but I much prefer when he takes lesser-known poets such as Michael Hartnett and gives us the wonderful "The Ghost of Billy Mulvihill."

The wonder of Sean Tyrrell is that he takes songs that I often hate and makes me like them. I was so tired of the usual versions of songs like "South of the Border" that I would be tempted to skip the track. Listen once to Sean sing the standard and no more skipping. Another one getting the treatment and re-juvenation here is "Isle of Inishfree."

Sean has been setting poems to music for three decades and I enjoyed his singing of one his first ventures from the 1970s on "Time You Old Gypsy Man" using the lyrics of Ralph Hodgson.

Sean Tyrrell has been singing for quite some time but I only discovered him in 2003. I am scrambling to make up those lost years and I invite any lover of good music and lyric to join me in the quest.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 26 February 2005