Dexys: Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul

A minor triumph for one of music's ultimate mavericks, Kevin Rowland, convincing that Irish folk and pop/soul standards can make an appealing combination.


Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul

Label: 100% / Warners Music
US Release Date: 2016-06-03
UK Release Date: 2016-06-03
Artist website

Kevin Rowland has never been averse to a touch of aggrandisement. So there should be no surprise that the title of his new album should indulge in some third-person referencing. But we should cut Rowland some slack. If Dexys (or Dexys Midnight Runners, as they have been known for nearly all of a 35-year plus career) have proven they are capable of, it's two things: 1) Irish and Celtic authenticity (which threads through much of 1982’s Too Rye Ay album and much else beside: for example the “Celtic Soul Brothers” immortal refrain, “More Please and Thank You”); and 2) Soul (which they nailed on their first album, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, and above all on their indestructible UK number one "Geno", Rowland’s adrenalized tribute to Geno Washington).

Since those early '80s days -- whose zenith came in the form of a U.S. number one, “Come on Eileen” -- Rowland’s life and times have ebbed, flowed and on occasions hit big lows. He has discarded sidemen and women, band members and associates like a sports franchise owner. He has searched, mostly in vain, for the pure, tortured incorruptible of this younger days, and has had his mental health issues. That three-decade pursuit has now culminated at a point where the maverick Rowland may just have come home.

Let the Record is a collection that on first inspection makes no particular rationale. What would a cover of Rod Stewart’s “You Wear It Well” have to do with one of the most traditional Irish airs, Carrickfergus? A smart running order helps, but it’s the performance from Rowland and his cultured set of musicians that pulls the project off.

Rowland’s original intention to was to soundtrack an entire album’s worth of Irish folk songs. Somewhere along the line he got diverted by the desire to throw some pop covers in there as well. Unfortunately, his first two choices for cover versions give the record a sluggish start. The performance on the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” is too mannered. Rowland sounds like he’s reading the lyric sheet out, undermining the pained declaration of unrequited love propelling the song’s message. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” is delivered at half-throttle, addressed too politely.

Thereafter Dexys switch more seamlessly than you might imagine between the Irish traditional and the pop tracks. “The Curragh of Kildare” hits an effortless groove and is enlivened by some passionate female counterpoint to the Rowland vocal. “You Wear It Well”, always one of the newly-knighted Stewart’s more under-rated smashes, has a jaunty, intimate feel. Leanne Rimes’ “How Do I Live”, which has suffered from too much radio exposure over the years, is re-interpreted by Rowland as a genuine scream of bewilderment. “Grazing in the Grass” is a joy, the backing vocals straight off the conveyor belt of '70s Soul Train.

Rowland and the band (comprising core musicians Sean Read and Lucy Morgan, plus associates such as violinist Helen O’Hara, reunited with Dexys for the first time since 1987) save even more treats for the last three tracks of the album. The rendition of Phil Coulter’s “The Town I Loved So Well” is impeccably arranged and paced; and Rowland’s depiction of a hometown disfigured by the troubles in Northern Ireland assumes the modern aspect of a place and people left behind by globalisation. Straight up, the band take on “Both Sides Now”, a wonderful song that would be easy to wreck, but the execution here swings and gives the lyrics a positive aura its plethora of covers have usually eschewed. The Irish folk song “Carrickfergus” concludes the album as a full stop ending to Rowland’s journey, content and at peace.

The one other clunker is “I’ll Take You Home, Kathleen”, which slips into dirge territory. But, taken in the round, Let the Record is an unexpected pleasure; and a late career highlight for the man who wrote the manual on nonconformism.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.