The tides of Irish music have changed the landscape significantly over the past two decades. Nevertheless, David Kitt has managed to hold fast and remains one of Ireland’s most quietly consistent musicians, whether it has been releasing music under his own name, or as his electronic alter-ego New Jackson.
Kitt is now based in the Co Kerry town of Ballinskelligs, where he moved in 2020 after the pandemic scuppered a plan to emigrate to Australia. It seems that the rural life suits the Dublin-born musician, who claims to be in a purple patch of creativity and recorded these songs in what he described as his “Breaking Bad mobile studio set-up”. That claim certainly checks out with his ninth studio album, with songs here written as far back as 2016 and as recently as 2022, some in his adopted hometown, some in Dublin and some in Paris, where he spent a period at the very beginning of the pandemic in residence at the city’s Irish Cultural Centre.
As such, there is a broad range of themes here: Wishing Well playfully contemplates where we turn when religion is removed from our lives (“St Francis on the road, St Brendan on the rough seas / Madonna on my back, St Tony for my house keys”), Not So Soon subtly nods to sociopolitical turmoil, and Wexford Strawberries is one of several songs exploring his break-up with the Australian musician Margie Jean Lewis, a bittersweet emotion entwined with an evocative memory, something Kitt has always crafted so beautifully.
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Lewis’s voice can nonetheless be heard on one track here, as can that of the cult musician Mary Margaret O’Hara, whom Kitt crossed paths with during his involvement on Cornaleena, his collaboration with the author Kevin Barry. Her eerie keen lends itself wonderfully to the ghostly gloopiness of All Folly. It is Katie Kim’s voice that really elevates many of these tracks, though; her contributions to the dreamy, fuzzy psych-folk of Every Little Drop, the disconcerting wooziness of It’s in All of Us, and the vampiric Till the End – which could slot neatly into a David Lynch film – enhance these songs tenfold.
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As experimental as Idiot Check gets at times, however, it is always anchored by Kitt’s distinctive voice and his devotion to melody, whatever the setting of the song. It means that the glimmer of electronic pop on Leave Me Making can sit alongside the easy-going, dreamy folk-pop tick of the album’s optimistic closing track, Wave of Peace, without compromising on creativity. Nine albums in, that is no mean feat.