This week”s Album of the Week is from Bap Kennedy.
For nearly any singer/songwriter on the planet, the idea of collaborating with Mark Knopfler would be the stuff of fantasy. But for Bap Kennedy, it was just the latest in a long line of projects with high profile, and highly respected, musical legends. For a man who has worked with Steve Earle and Van Morrison, to name just two, an offer to record an album in the Dire Straits frontman”s own studio was another musical milestone. The Sailor”s Revenge, the album that Kennedy wrote and Knopfler produced, features songwriting that grows stronger with every listen – assisted, of course, by Knopfler”s distinctive delicious guitar and tasteful widescreen production.
The Sailor’s Revenge features Kennedy’s most mature and sophisticated songwriting to date – an achievement in itself when you consider his back catalogue – as well as the instantly recognisable guitar work of Mark Knopfler, who also produced the album. Knopfler is joined by a collection of the most highly respected session musicians, such as Jerry Douglas and Glenn Worf, combining to ensure that the musicianship on The Sailor’s Revenge is every bit as good as the songwriting.
With The Sailor’s Revenge, Kennedy has surpassed all that to create as close as any musician is likely to get to their perfect record. The stars aligned, this is the album that Kennedy was always capable of making. Produced by Mark Knopfler, and featuring the talents of dobro player Jerry Douglas, flautist Michael McGoldrick and the great Scottish fiddler John McCusker, The Sailor’s Revenge is a collection of mellifluous, sweetly melancholy tracks that envelop you like a haze of warm air on a summer day – gentle stories of love, loneliness and the passing of time, fleeting moments of reflection that turn on a figurative sigh. Equal parts Irish folk and country, it’s always hard to ignore Kennedy’s similarities as a songwriter and singer to Bob Dylan, and there are moments here that recall early days Dylan (Lonely No More; The Right Stuff) in the best kind of way.
Working Man is inspired by Kennedy’s time as a builder’s labourer in the mid-1980s, pre record-deal; Jimmy Sanchez is about the youngest of the rescued Chilean miners, whose brush with death led him to evaluate his life, which Kennedy refers to in the lyric ‘I know I must change’. The title song, meanwhile, is one of the standout tracks – poignant, haunting and evocative.