Damien Dempsey | To Hell or Barbados (UFO)

cd_dempsey"Serious" has a steady, fast beat with Dempsey fighting himself as a tempting heroin dealer trying to sell himself a fix.





Damien Dempsey is new to me, but no stranger to Ireland. The Meteor Music Awards honored him two years in a row as Best Irish Male. Success, refreshingly, has not gone to his head. Humble in press interviews, Dempsey shrugs nonchalantly when asked about working with the likes of Bob Dylan, Sinead O'Connor, and Morrissey. It's just another day in life of this talented Dublin musician.

For his fourth studio album, Dempsey called on John Reynolds (producer/engineer/mixer/musician) to help create To Hell or Barbados. Reynolds has worked with many artists over the years, among the most well-known being U2, Sinead O'Connor, and the Hothouse Flowers. To both men's credit, To Hell or Barbados is a well-crafted, versatile record with unique departures from traditional Irish music, folk, reggae, and rock 'n' roll. Dempsey shows off his ability to play with these genres with his astounding voice and lyrical talent.

The most emotional song is the title track, in which Dempsey tells the sorrowful tale of cruel Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century. Cromwell, intent on crushing Ireland, gave the Irish people a choice: be killed by his army or go to Barbados as slaves on the plantations. Over 50,000 Irish men, women, and children were branded and shipped off to the island in horrific slave ships. Heavy-hearted, Dempsey's voice is rough and chilling, reminiscent of Jeff Buckley.

Throughout To Hell or Barbados, Dempsey's voice is beautiful and cutting. He makes a listener feel melancholy, but not in a disheartening way. The melody in "Kilburn Stroll" is intertwined with light strumming guitars and continues this mood. "As a baby we knew well/ just how swell that love and trust/ could be for kids like you and me."

Reggae-influenced tones surround "Chase the Light," "Your Pretty Smile," and "Teachers." Wonderfully romantic lyrics and rhythm flow through "Chase the Light." "This is my time tonight/ I got one chance, one bite of life/ with your smooth arms wrapped round me tight/ I'm gonna chase the light." Dempsey writes about his worries and perceptions of life at turning 29 when his 81-year-old neighbor would gladly swap places.

"Serious" has a steady, fast beat with Dempsey fighting himself as a tempting heroin dealer trying to sell himself a fix. "Serious, I'm afraid there's a devil in the shade/ Serious, I am scared there is a devil in my head." He is his own worst enemy, crying out to an angel for help.

Ireland should rest easy knowing that Damien Dempsey is carrying on their proud musical traditions of creating poignant, elegant lyrics that can move all people, even if they live across the Atlantic. A- | Mary Beth Hascall

RIYL: Roddy Woomble, The Frames, Damien Rice

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