Damien Dempsey – ALMIGHTY LOVE

For Damien Dempsey, people and place are King. His voice is Dublin yet wholly distinctive, almost clichéd to say it, but he is part of a rich bloodline of Irish singers from Luke Kelly to Ronnie Drew, Christy Moore to Andy Irvine. Their kin outside Ireland are Springsteen and Guthrie, Dylan and Marley.

In his new album ALMIGHTY LOVE, Dempsey’s sense of place reaches out beyond Donaghmede and North Bull Island, where he first performed in public as a teenager, across the Irish Sea and further afield. The locale is still in the lyrics. It’s there in the hauntingly poetical Chris and Stevie, a tribute to male bonding and grief. You can hear it in Canadian Geese – large migratory birds whose flight path took them past Dempsey’s boyhood window. It’s there also in the references to railway tracks and waves, visible from the rooftops of Dempsey’s childhood home. Those railway tracks took Dempsey and his boyhood friends out into their own imaginations and he hasn’t forgotten. ALMIGHTY LOVE goes on a journey of a different kind. Dempsey, at 37 years old, has already said so much about self and state that trying to plough over old ground wouldn’t have been artistically challenging or fresh. So instead, he has given us an album of confidence and maturity, which has a more global sound to it and a broader scope. It is at once bigger and quieter, still rallying against injustice, yet with a more reflective and thoughtful tone, communicated more widely. It’s not that ALMIGHTY LOVE is a radical departure. It’s more an evolution on previous themes and concepts. The anthems are still there: Bustin Outta Here, The Good and the Great, Community and Almighty Love. His generosity of spirit, affiliation with those in need and the downtrodden, and recognition of their suffering, remains. It prevails even when that preoccupation may shine a spotlight on aspects of modern society that are uncomfortable to face.

Glorious revolutions can breed terrible evil and rage. Bob Marley understood that and London based poet and rapper Kate Tempest understands it too. She collaborates with rhythmical focus and fury on Born Without Hate, adding to the internationally grounded feel of the album. Of the 100 or so songs earmarked for the album, nine originals and just one cover were chosen– Andy Stewart’s Fire in the Glen, which Damien was singing in the kitchen late one night and it stayed in the air and drifted into the studio. Sinéad O’Connor, one of the greatest voices of her generation, adds backing vocals, but gives without taking. Her voice alongside Damien’s makes sense in their mutual authenticity and authority. Making ALMIGHTY LOVE was a long and careful process. Damien worked with long-term collaborator John Reynolds, who is an internationally recognised producer. This is their fifth album together, and theirs is an instinctive and homely artistic relationship, and it shows.

Damien’s debut album in 2000, THEY DON’T TEACH THIS SHIT IN SCHOOL set him apart as a unique and important voice, championed from an early stage in his career by Sinéad O’Connor and others. The follow-up, SEIZE THE DAY, released in 2003, marked the beginning of his relationship with producer John Reynolds, picking up many awards and leading to extensive international tours. Commercial and critical success continued with the release of the No. 1 album SHOTS in 2005, backed by Brian Eno, and TO HELL OR BARBADOS in 2007, which debuted at No.2 in the Irish charts.

Damien is an award-winning artist, having won several prestigious Irish Meteor Awards including Best Irish Male and Best Traditional Folk Award. His albums have topped the charts and gone Platinum, and he has been lauded by, among others, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Billboard, MOJO and The Sunday Times. Since the release of his last album, Damien’s creativity has found other outlets also. One notable project was with Irish graffiti artist Maser, on a project entitled ‘They Are Us’. This was sparked by Dempsey’s lyrics, and involved the painting of his words on derelict buildings in Dublin. Sales of the limited edition prints raised funds for The Simon Community, which was a charity set up to help the homeless and disenfranchised in Dublin and elsewhere. Dempsey’s charitable work continued in December 2010, when he and Oscar winning songwriter Glen Hansard recorded and performed the Irish folk classic, ‘The Auld Triangle’. Monies raised went towards the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) ‘Keep The Lights On’ Campaign.

Since his first live outings in the mid-1990s, Damien’s gigs have seen him wow audiences across the globe, and his performances have taken on a spiritual and soulful quality. October/November 2012 will see Damien touring throughout the UK and Ireland, for more information and the latest tour dates visit www.damiendempsey.com

“Dempsey’s musical heroes are now his admirers. And this is an Irish classic.” The Guardian

The Dublin folk hero is a stirring mixture of grit and grace and tenderly soulful” MOJO

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Mary Black, The Night Is On Our Side (3ú Records/Blix Street)

The Night Is On Our Side is the latest single to be released from Mary’s recent album, Stories From The Steeples– her first studio recording in six years. In a career spanning over twenty-five years, Mary’s success has been attributable to her discerning taste when it comes to choosing material, and not least her ability to get under the skin of a song and tease out its innermost sentiments; Stories From The Steeples offers reaffirmation that this artistry shows no sign of diminishing.

Ever willing to support burgeoning, Irish song writing talent, this latest single comes from the pen of the young Dublin songwriter, Danny O’Reilly. It’s a carefree, pop-tinged number, with lyrics that tend to lean on the brighter side of life. Lead by a breezy arrangement of guitars and piano, the song is underpinned by a string section that adds warmth and class.

And then there’s Mary’s voice- a precision instrument of beauty that the passing years only seem have furnished with yet more grace and compassion. Mike Wilson

Mary’s record company, have given, folking.com exclusive permission, to stream the latest single as part of this feature below… Click on the play button to listen to the track!

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PAUL BRADY – DANCER IN THE FIRE: A PAUL BRADY ANTHOLOGY

‘Dancer In The Fire’ is a rich and diverse double CD of Paul Brady’s favourite recordings, personally chosen by the artist and serving as a companion to ‘Nobody Knows – The Best Of Paul Brady’, a single CD compilation released in 1999.   Paul will be touring the UK in April and May.

The idea to put together this collection came as a result of being asked many times over the years, what are my own favourites out of all that I’ve done? I’ve always found it hard to answer. I’ve gone through so many musical shapes over my 45 year career that I’m never sure which incarnation the question relates to. Sometimes I feel compelled to name those songs or recordings that are the best known, imagining that if I mention one less familiar or from a different genre to where the questioner is coming from then there won’t be a lot more to say.  Or maybe too much to say!

Since I went solo in the late 70’s I’ve released 15 albums, 140 songs or so, most of them new compositions. In the late 90’s I put out a best-of-to-date, ‘Nobody Knows’, featuring 14 of the most popular recordings from the previous two decades. Undoubtedly a lot of those were favourites of mine too.  But like many artists I know, I don’t always feel the most popular songs or the most successful recordings are necessarily the best things I’ve done.  Sometimes you find yourself neglecting songs you absolutely loved when you wrote and recorded them, simply because they never really seemed to connect with the listener at the time.  Or maybe you just thought they didn’t. It’s complicated and a mystery to me!

With this record I decided to focus on songs and recordings of mine I’m personally fond of, mostly those that might not have got a lot of attention or been all that well known. Some recordings have been out of circulation for years. In a couple of cases I’ve remixed a well known song. The only area I’ve left alone is my most recent album ‘Hooba Dooba’ and those recordings already on the 1999 best-of.

To anyone coming to my music for the first time this may seem an eclectic collection. I’ve grown up in the rich musical environment of Ireland from the 1950s to the present day; a unique and heady mixture. I feel very lucky to have formed my musical identity before the rigid categorisation introduced by marketing and the media in the 70s. The stylistic diversity of this record bears witness to that fertile ground.

Paul Brady, Dublin January 2012.

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