Damien Dempsey: The History Of Ireland in Song


” I really appreciate the honesty and hopefulness and compassion in his songs” says Alissa Skinner. “His openness about struggles like depression; Chris & Stevie made me cry in public”. She is referring to the great Irish troubadour Damien Dempsey, who we had the privilege of seeing in concert last night at The Imperial in east Vancouver. Damo as he is so affectionately known by.

The folksingers of Ireland are a unique breed. There is an innate sensitive melancholy of most Celtic storytellers, a group whose rich history is outdone only by their sorrowful lyrics and powerful odes of tragedy. And yet, in spite of all this – or perhaps because of it –  it is always a party at an IrishFest. Whether it is the music of my childhood, bands steeped in the tradition of the Ceilidh – The Barra MacNeils, Rankin Family, Ashley MacIsaac, and even Great Big Sea – to the more lamentable lyricists such as Glen Hansard, James Vincent McMorrow, The Pogues, and Damo.

Even amongst this group of soulful wanderers, Dempsey ushers in something else. Illustrious tales of strength, perseverance and hope, tinged with attitudes of sorrow, regret, and the working class heroes of Dublin. Dempsey sings a lot of about Celtic Tiger, a period of economic rejuvenation in the Republic during the Mid-90s.

And yet, for all the songs about “Chris & Stevie” or “Rainy Night in Soho”, there are the happy, upbeat tunes; tunes that would find themselves being played at “Sessions” throughout the cities, the “giddy-up and dance” tunes that remind us of happier times. And it is this hyper-realistic dichotomy that makes the Irish, and Damo in particular, such a splendid delight. I could listen to it for hours

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