Bless me father: Paddy Dennehy’s Little Light is a melodic cold shave of a folk record that is riddled with religion and nervy doubt. He’s Irish, but don’t expect the sensitivity of Christy Moore or Paul Brady. Well, there may well be a bit of Sinead O’ Connor, and that’s always a pretty good thing.
This record can easily sing under the aegis of The Talking Heads’ ‘Life During Wartime’ lyric: “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around”.
The press bio says his music “discusses topics of love, lose, loneliness and religion”.
I say there’s an aged limestone fence that runs through our local Evergreen cemetery. In afternoon bright daylight, these stones are grey, tough, stoic and (sort of) bleached in a strong afternoon sun. But in the rain, those same stones reveal their deep pensive hues. It’s (sort of) magic of old wisdom drenched in rainwater.
Now, in all fairness (and to give credit where it’s due) my friend, Kilda Defnut, says she likes her folk music “with old wisdom, the odd dirty joke, always ready to shear a sheep, drenched in rainwater, and served with a Scottish ale chaser.”
That said, Little Light is a collection of tunes that are brittle with lost faith, and fluid with Gospel infused confessional sincerity. Yes, indeed, Johnny B. Good! The title track is an impassioned glace at “them blood tipped needles…with the wrath of God revealed”. This is beautiful anguish with an electric guitar that understands those “needles”. And, quite frankly, it’s (almost) an obscenity to hear this open-heart surgery of a tune. But good art sometimes flows through the soul’s damaged artery.
This is a highway paved with the words of folkies like Thea Gilmore and Bruce Cockburn.
And then two tunes quell the passion. ‘Painting Of A New Country’ is piano played and quite lovely, while Paddy sings, “We murdered God right on the kitchen floor”. This is tough lyrical stuff. ‘Strange Wings’ is, again, piano played with grandiose strings and anchored in the voiced humanity which asks, “If there is a door of mercy in the chambers of God’s heart”.
This is the sound of a very current ventilator pumping life into suffocating world.
So, yeah, and to quote The Pretty Things (and the recently departed Phil May), “Get the Picture?”
There’s an odd comfort in these songs. ‘St. Peter’s Replacement’ roams the dark psyche like a Tom Waits tune. It drips with sad agitation. And those beautiful background voices hover like a halo over the sad pulse of the song. ‘Snow Song’ is piano pensive with a voice that desperately desires to believe in the holy water of Fatima, and recalls Iowa’s Greg Brown’s tough physics vocal depth that sang ‘America Will Eat You’ in his brilliant album, One Big Town. Pathos hangs in foggy pentameter. The great rock band Gomez’s lead singer Ben Ottewell can capture the same dramatic Floydian “random precision” despair. ‘Someone Else’ (with big strings) is just open-veined piano confessional stuff. Given half a chance, it could quell Cerberus’ three-headed bark. Ditto for ‘Abednego’, a song that evokes biblical salvation in a in folky form that rocks like some obscure song from a banished hymnal. ‘Hard Times’ continues to pour concrete onto gospel choir’s need to embrace the Lord, and is propelled by some benevolent spirit who probably owns every Sam Cooke album. This is soulful stuff.
‘Feed The Full’ gets acoustic religion right, just like a warm fire gets a dark night right. It’s a brilliant and urgent tune. This is getting into the anguish of (the great) Peter Hammill territory.
And then ‘One Good Reason’ plays solitaire with a slow helpful hand. It’s a necessary catharsis to the album’s beautiful turbulence that pleads a confessional, gospel-bled, and very naked human hope.
A final unsolicited plug: Paddy Dennehy’s muse walks with the very same street cred as fellow Irish singer-songwriters as Kieran Halpin and Andy White because he, like they, write raindrop songs that, thankfully, add dark colour to the many (and the few) of so many graceful graveyard stones that are drenched with Scotch ale graced baptismal rainwater.
Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/PaddyDennehyMusic/
‘Painting Of A New Country’ – official video:
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