Bap Kennedy: The Sailor’s Revenge

[3 September 2012]

By Steve Horowitz

Maritime Music

Probably because Bap Kennedy comes from the island of Ireland he writes his songs with metaphors of being shipwrecked and surrounded by the sea. How much one enjoys this record depends on how much tolerance one has for the manly nautical descriptions. The songs are about love more than the ocean, but the sounds of the sea are ever present. So when he sings, “I am the captain of my soul” on “Lonely No More”, the song resonates with echoes of Jack London more than Walt Whitman. Well, what would one expect of an album called The Sailor’s Revenge?

The maritime themes can be found in the instrumentation as well. Kennedy plays an acoustic guitar along with producer Mark Knopfler, and they’re joined by Jerry Douglas and lap steel and dobro, Michael McGoldrick on flute, pipes, and whistle, and other talented players. There are strands of hornpipes and shanties woven through the tracks.

Some people, like Steve Earle fans, will find this album a revelation. Earle himself is a big Kennedy fan. And fans of Van Morrison will also heartily embrace this record. Morrison is also a big fan and has even written a song for Kennedy. Knopfler aficionados will welcome his constant presence exchanging licks or singing together with Kennedy. However, this album is unlikely to cross over to other audiences; the music is too insular. This may be the kind of record one would like to take on a desert island because of its themes, but even in landlocked conditions, one can always dream of being on the ocean while working in cubicles and living in suburbia.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/162141-bap-kennedy-the-sailors-revenge/