At The Helm Records/Last Chance Records
Another Masterpiece From The Most Romantic of Irish Wordsmiths.
With more than a hint of mischief the album opens with the jaunty Nothing Can Stand In The Way of Love! The opening verse “Hey baby I know/I’m always gonna be/Between the devil/And the deep blue sea/I know that I’m just a man/Just flesh & blood/And nothing, nothing can stand in the way of love,”is a corker, even without the benefit of hindsight.
Kennedy’s voice sounds happy and the twang guitar coupled with a swing accordion backing makes for a real party toe-tapper and hip shaker.
Even in his Energy Orchard days Kennedy was always a Romantic song- writer, with a capital R. Track #2 the piano led, Good as Gold gently swings along with all the perceived wisdom of a man getting a second chance at life…and love, and again…is right up there with his finest recordings.
After all these years the songwriter still manages to surprise me. To a sweet Tex-Mex tune Bap takes on the roll of a troubled young man called Henry Antrim in 1880 in an American Border Town who knows his ‘days are numbered’ and talks to a beautiful Señorita about how he’d like to be remembered. Henry Antrim was the real name of Billy The Kid.
With a much faster electrified Tex-Mex style tune Por Favor is the perfect foil for Honky Tonk Baby which follows, midway through the album, and both show that the Belfast Boy has a real Country heart and Soul. That latter song; if I’m not mistaken is an ode to his bass-playing wife Brenda and twists the traditional ‘love song’ style on it’s head.
The title track, Restless Heart was released a few weeks ago as a ‘teaser’ and has received numerous self-merited radio plays. With addition of that honky-tonking piano and a Twangtastic guitar again, this soft and tender Country Rocker harks back to the days of Kennedy’s Hank, Elvis and Me.
The album closes with another electric rocker – It’s Not Me, It’s You. A bit of a tongue in cheek rabble-rouser for the upper Middle Aged among us. Much like the mischievous opening track, the chorus on this track will have you chuckling as tears roll down your cheeks.
Choosing a favourite should be impossible when the quality overall is pretty damn excellent ….but it’s not.
Even if Bap had released Track #3 I Should Have Said 5 or 6 years ago it would have torn my heart to shreds in the way Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics always does when I hear it on the radio.
“I was young & foolish/And I could not fail/I could see the big picture/And the devil in the detail/And I lived for the moment/In a circus ring/Now we all know better/Hindsight’s a wonderful thing/I should have said I love you.”
Who knows what or who Bap was writing about? Parents? Friends? Belfast? His brother? ex-Band mates? Bloody Hell……this song was written long before that horrible diagnosis but…….but…..as my father used to say “God acts in mysterious ways.”
Kennedy’s beautiful and touching words resonate with me and will you; but when you hear Bap almost whisper them through a strained voice over a diluted Walk on the Wild Side type backing your heart will crack wide open; and if it doesn’t…..you are logged into the wrong website!
I’ve been writing reviews for 15 years now and I’ve never loved music as half much as I do this album; but have hated actually having to write every single word on this page.
Those words will baffle some of our regular readers but the legions of Bap Kennedy’s fans across the globe; of whom I am a fully paid up member, will understand my heavy hearted sentiment.
Bap has had a glorious career, starting with his time with Energy Orchard (a Band that crossed the boundaries of Indie, Folk, Country and what was to become Alt. Country?) then at the behest of Steve Earle became an acclaimed solo singer-songwriter that has brought plaudits from across the spectrum and friendships (musical AND personal) with the likes of Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Shane McGowan…..and me.
After falling out of love with the music industry he then went and met and fell in love with Brenda, whom he married and amazingly (not really when you meet her) got his muse back and began writing some of the finest songs of his illustrious career with Shimnavale and The Sailors Revenge.
In late 2015 he began writing songs for a forthcoming album, and in the New Year went into the recording studio to begin the onerous process of making an album due for release at the end of 2016.
With Brenda now on bass and an assortment of exceptional musicians, Bap was really enjoying playing concerts again, then the night before he was due to play a Festival in Westport Co. Mayo (Ireland) he woke up with severe stomach pains and eventually allowed Brenda to take him to hospital……days later he was diagnosed with pancreatic and bowel cancer.
#Postscript Sadly Bap passed away just after 6pm on Tuesday 1st November 2016
Released UK 2nd December 2016
Released US 27th January 2017