Released in October, Damien McGeehan’s new album, Kin, could be described as Irish music, heavily influenced by his native Donegal – which would be both true and also hugely insufficient for the eleven tracks on the album.
McGeehan is a Donegal fiddle player (though he also plays mandolin and tenor guitar on this album) whose previous album was The Tin Fiddle and who previously belonged to the trio Fidil. You can see where his heart lies – try the opening track ‘An Chead Chathlan’, or ‘Errity’s Jigs’, or the traditional ‘Dulaman na Binne Buidhe’.
But this album goes well beyond this base. The video below links to ‘Runnin’ on Bourbon’. You can see both the traditional and tin fiddles – plucked and bowed and leading a New Orleans sound. McGeehan describes it as, “…spent a few nights imbibing the music and atmosphere of Bourbon Street in the city of New Orleans. The tune is a celebration of the people, their vibe and their music”. It’s a gem.
Elsewhere, there’s a gentleness to both ‘Siun’, composed to help a new niece drift off to sleep, and ‘Paddy’s Tune’, influenced by a Senegalese musician who collaborated with the band Fidil – both of these also gems.
Finally, there are three songs, sung by Shauna Mullin, his wife, who McGeehan describes as “she was my favourite singer long before we were married”. I have to confess, I saw ‘Strange Affair’ on the track list and wondered how it could be done justice in comparison with either the Thompson(s) original(s) or the June Tabor cover. This is up there with both those versions. As are the versions of Tom Waits ‘The Briar And The Rose’ and The Henry Girls ‘James Monroe’. Great arrangements for a lovely voice.
Kin is a grand album, bedded in Co Donegal and stretching across the world to be influenced by other traditions. Give it a listen.
Artist’s website: https://www.damienmcgeehan.com/home
‘Runnin’ On Bourbon’ – official video: