Patsy Watchorn,
Hearts on Fire
(Rare Auld Times, 2003)

Patsy Watchorn is like Ronnie Drew or Bob Dylan in that he has that unique gift of a distinctive voice that brings heart to any song -- old or new. On Hearts on Fire, he opens with the title track, a Frank Hennessy composition, and grabs your attention immediately.

His love of Dublin is evident in many tracks but never better than on the modern classic of the fair city, "Dublin in my Tears." The lyrics recalling children's games, "Biddy in the Coombe" and references to our "age of wealth " are social history in rhyme.

Patsy makes the classics his own. A few years ago we thought only Danny Doyle could do justice to "Step It Out Mary" and Luke Kelly owned "Raglan Road." Give this CD a listen and, while you will still appreciate those versions, you will love Watchorn singing them.

This is like a textbook of the social history of Dublin set to music and condensed into about an hour. You get beautiful tracks such as "Foggy Dew," "Ann Devlin" and "Grace." Here is revolution, rebellion and romance all provided by one great singer. Not that all is Dublin history; he also gives us Richard Thompson's exquisite composition "Galway to Graceland." Listen to the poetic craft in the lyrics on that 4:22 epic.

One of my personal favourites has to be "Dancing at Whitsun," a lovely and simple song sung with affection that's not overproduced.

The CD ends with "Dublin Town in 1962," another piece of our rare, but not so auld times. I had not realised until I looked over the credits that this came from the pen of Dermot O'Brien. The album comes with a nice insert giving the musical biography of Patsy along with some notes on the songs featured.

This CD will enthrall tourists looking for a good musical souvenir but don't let them take them all away. Get your copy and, even if you're only young, relive a bygone age in song and story.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 12 June 2004

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