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EAMON FRIEL - The Streets Forget

EAMON FRIEL - The Streets Forget
Thran Records THR1008

It has been nearly six years since I reviewed an album by that fine singer, songwriter, broadcaster, Eamon Friel. Too long, considering how much I enjoyed writing that review in early 2007.

Now the question is, two albums later, has Eamon gone backwards or forwards in terms of the quality of his output? (Oh, that is not fair of me: that CD I reviewed back then – Here Is The River – is one of the top twenty albums I have reviewed since the start of this Millennium.)

But fair or unfair, answer it I will. But don't expect a “yes” or “no” reply.

This new album has subject matter running the gamut. Whether it be the hypnotic opening track All The Fun Of The Fair where he perfectly captures the wonder to a kid of 12 of the travelling funfair coming to town; or the following track which is pure Flaco Jiménez; or the third number which is a lovely piece of whimsy wrapped up in a lullaby; or #4 which is a rousing clarion call - if not to arms exactly, then one designed to get us off our collective bums if we want to build a New Jerusalem – that almost had me wanting to man the barricades; (I won't list all 11 tracks, but you get my drift: there is plenty of variety here in subject matter and musical style.)

And on the subject of the latter, again one salutes the quality musicians that Eamon has surrounded himself with. And the name of multi-instrumentalist Eddie O'Donnell is very much to the fore. A serious talent, methinks.

I was now going to be ever-so-slightly mealy-mouthed and say that I enjoyed this album quite a lot, but had been a little disappointed that there was no King And Queen here. (What's that? Well it was a truly immense song from that 2006 album.)

And it is true there is nothing here quite its equal. But songs like that come around very rarely, and incidentally it is not what you might think it is: the royal couple were actually mountain peaks, and Friel gloriously imagined them in conversation with each other.

But then I started to muse a bit, and suddenly that word “mountain” provided me with the vital link, and made me zero-in on track #8, Better The Devil You Know. On my second play of the album, I realised this was the standout track by a distance.

In his liner notes, Eamon says, “All this happened on a hill behind Derry called Sheriff's Mountain”. And when I read that, I foolishly imagined myself back in my room in Stroke City's Tower Hotel with its fantastic panoramic view out over the city walls to that splendid urban landscape laid out down in the valley before me, with the Creggan Estate resplendent up on the top of the hillside.

But by the third play, I realised that the “mountain” could be any mountain anywhere, and that the Eamon in the song was both me and you. I believe it will be the one song here that will have real legs.

Will this album sell in shed loads? No, manifestly not. But it is infinitely better than many that will.

Dai Woosnam


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.