For nearly any singer/songwriter on the planet, the idea of collaborating with Mark Knopfler would be the stuff of fantasy. But for Bap Kennedy, it was just the latest in a long line of projects with high profile, and highly respected, musical legends. For a man who has worked with Steve Earle and Van Morrison, to name just two, an offer to record an album in the Dire Straits frontman’s own studio was another musical milestone. THE SAILOR’S REVENGE, the album that Kennedy wrote and Knopfler produced, features songwriting that grows stronger with every listen, assisted of course by Knopfler’s distinctive delicious guitar and tasteful widescreen production.
“The best singer songwriter I ever saw” Steve Earle
Bap’s first encounters with the record business were as rhythm guitarist, lead singer and primary songwriter for Belfast rockers Energy Orchard, with whom he recorded 5 albums. When the band left Belfast, they established themselves as legends of London’s live music scene. It was while he was in Energy Orchard that Kennedy first worked with compatriot Van Morrison, who gave the band several support slots to supplement their own hectic touring schedule of both the USA and Europe.
When Energy Orchard split up, Bap had little time to rest, because alt-country superstar, and longtime Energy Orchard fan, Steve Earle soon contacted him, suggesting that he would produce Bap’s first solo album.
Kennedy agreed, and soon found himself on the plane to Nashville, TN, where he would record DOMESTIC BLUES. The album featured several of Nashville’s most highly regarded musicians, including Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan and Nanci Griffith. It was a real success, getting into the top ten of the Billboard Americana chart.
The follow-up album, LONELY STREET, was an artistic project based on, and dedicated to; two of Bap’s childhood musical heroes, Hank Williams and Elvis Presley and his next album THE BIG PICTURE would see Bap returning to work with Van Morrison, who had supported Kennedy since his Energy Orchard days. THE BIG PICTURE was recorded at Morrison’s studio, and included a Bap and Van co-write, Milky Way. The album also featured guest vocals from Shane MacGowan, lead singer of the Pogues, on the song On the Mighty Ocean Alcohol, and a reading from Carolyn Cassady, one of the leading figures from the Beat generation of American writers, at the end of the beautifulMoriarty’s Blues.
For Howl On, released in 2009, Bap recorded in his native Northern Ireland for the first time in his solo career and, much like with LONELY STREET, returned to writing a series of songs on a subject that had fascinated Bap in childhood.
THE SAILOR’S REVENGE features Kennedy’s most mature and sophisticated songwriting to date, an achievement in itself when you consider his back catalogue. Bap is joined by guest musicians such as Jerry Douglas, Glenn Worf and of course Mark Knopfler, all combining to ensure that the musicianship on the album is every bit as good as the songwriting. When it comes to the songs there are simply too many superb compositions to list here. Highlights include the album opener Shimnavale, a place that sits between the Irish Sea and the mountains of Mourne in County Down, inspired by old photographs of a family who lived there and Bap’s own experience as an immigrant. Working Man tells of Bap’s life as a builders labourer in the mid eighties while waiting for a record deal to come along and Jimmy Sanchez was written about the Chilean miners rescue where nineteen year old Jimmy, the youngest miner trapped was quoted as saying that God must want him to change, powerful words, hence the line in the song “I know I must change”.
THE SAILOR’S REVENGE is a phenomenal body of work and as “game changing” as a Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan with no brakes… We urge you all to buy it! folking.com
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Bap Kennedy is touring the UK, this month (March 2012), more information and the latest tour dates can be found at www.bapkennedy.com