Despite writing songs for over twenty years and a lengthy career on the folk circuit, it’s only now that the Irish-born singer-songwriter is releasing his debut album, Devil’s Daughter. Joined by long-time collaborator Ian Pearson on violin alongside go to double bassist John Parker, Dan Wilde on guitars, piano and organ, drummer Jamie Welsted and Anna Hester providing backing vocals, it features ten self-penned numbers, first up being ‘A Healin’’, a swaying number about the therapeutic power of music that, like much of the album has Van Morrison as a touchstone. Just in case you miss the influence, the lyrics reference both Cypress Avenue and St. Dominics’ Preview.
A simply strummed lament with Ian Pearson on violin, ‘Stoney Broke In Dublin’ pretty much speaks for itself, though the loss of faith and the lines “The homeless beggar and the city whore/You’re just another coat against the rain” would fit pretty much the streets of any soulless urban sprawl.
On the more uptempo title track he sings how he’s “running out of reasons for things I can believe in” and that “the road don’t care where you’re coming from” but, while a definite glass half full/half empty number, ‘Hope Against Hope’ does at least let in a little light as, while there to lend a comforting hand if needed, the singer tells his son “you must take a chance and you must learn to dance, to your own turn/You must take a stand and be your own man, do what you know is true”. It’s kind of his version of Father and Son, but with just one voice.
The lugubrious ‘Fighting Irish’ taps into the stereotyope of the belligerent Irish drunk, until you realise it’s actually about an immigrant returned home, broken after toiling away overseas, drinking and scrapping away the demons “closing in, still chasing me”, most likely a soldier suffering from PTSD given the song ends with the refrain from ‘The Green Fields Of France’.
Set to a Morrison-styled slow waltz sway, ‘Come On Back To Me’ is a more straightforward lost love number featuring Hester on harmonies and things don’t initially get much cheerier as thoughts turn to mortality on the sparsely strummed, cracked vocal ‘Dark Days’ but it is, in fact, about living life while you can, because although we all have times of despondency, there are “church yards full of souls/Who’d love the aches in your bones”, so, since you’ll be six feet under too soon enough, for now “every day you live and breath/Is a better one”.
A similar theme informs the enervated minimalism of the fingerpicked ‘Enough Rope’ as he advises to “Ride that rope as long as you can” and while you may be metaphorically “digging holes in wet sand, day after day…You can fight, you can breath, you can ride on a wave” and you need to take “Enough rope to swing. Not to hang”.
A lively, fiddle accompanied bluesy romp, ‘Cocaine’ is a sort of cautionary tale about what happens when everything goes pear-shaped and you take a line rather pull on a rope to make it through and you end up “Itching inside like an earthquake” and “your dead worms are crawling through your head”. You can safely say it’s not pro drugs.
Relatively speaking, ‘Round In Circles’ ends on, if not a positive note, at least one of acceptance that you can’t do much about anything (“Well there ain’t no use in trying, you’ll only be misunderstood/Ain’t no point in crying, never did you any good”) so you might as well ride the carousel because, the “thing about a circle, it just starts but never ends” and, if nothing else, “I got me a woman, and she holds me through the night/Got more than she paid for, bought but didn’t buy/She keeps on a holding, never asking why”. I guess there are worse philosophies.
Artist’s website: www.kevinhuntband.com
‘Round In Circles’ – live: