Tender and probing, meticulous in its excavation of the maritime escapades of 19th century whalers, incarcerated Fenians and Arctic explorers, this latest collection from west Kerry musician Éilís Kennedy marks her out as a songwriter, as well as a singer of deep humanity.
Kennedy wrote five of these nine songs, drawing on the rich histories of whalers and their wives, encountered while on her musical travels in New Bedford, Massachusetts. A standout is The Emily Anna, a faithful cap doffing to the reality of life on the high seas with all its “coopering, carpentry, corking and mending, blacksmithing, pitching and grinding the wheel”. So too is The Catalpa Rescue 1876, an account of the heroic rescue of six Fenians from Fremantle prison.
Kennedy mines a little-known version of the tale of the ill-fated voyage of Lord Franklin, Franklin's Crew, and reignites her own father Caoimhín Ó Cinnéide's poem, Ciúmhas Carrig Aonair, set to music by Shaun Davey some years ago.
Gerry O'Beirne lends delicate arrangements on all manner of strings, with Eamon McElholm, Shaun Davey, Rita Connolly, Trevor Hutchinson and others rendering this picaresque odyssey a fascinating project from start to finish.