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Review: Bap Kennedy, Sailor’s Revenge

Bap Kennedy
Sailor’s Revenge
[Proper (2012)]

When I heard that the raspy voiced troubadour Bap Kennedy had enlisted Mark Knopfler for his latest effort, it was pretty much guaranteed that I would be excited to hear it. But when I heard that Sailor’s Revenge was a collection of Celtic-influenced folksy material, I couldn’t cue it up fast enough. After a February release in the U.K., Proper is giving the disc an international release on June 5th.

Anyone familiar with Knopfler’s most recent record Get Lucky will recognize the same faux traditional material and arrangements; uillian pipes and flutes make their appearance alongside the acoustic guitars, and guests include Jerry Douglas (dobro), Michael McGoldrick (whistle), and John McCusker (fiddle). Knopfler’s unmistakable guitar can be heard throughout. And Kennedy’s voice, which owes a clear debt to Dylan but is much easier on the ears, is the centerpiece of a set of really heartbreakingly beautiful melodies and straightforward lyrics.

Give a listen to the opening track:

The album stays mostly in this tempo range (the most upbeat track, “Working Man,” is still more of a jog than a run), though there is some variety in styles. Several waltzes, the Tex-Mex flavor of “The Right Stuff,” and the classic country of “Maybe I Will” provide a nice breakup in between the songs that owe much more to early- to mid-20th century Irish songcraft.

Kennedy and by extension Knopfler as the producer don’t blaze any new trails, which has been a frequent criticism of Knopfler since, well, as long as I’ve been paying attention to any music criticsm. But to his credit, Knopfler has been reviving a style of music that’s largely fallen by the wayside, and Kennedy’s songwriting and singing on this disc were a perfect match for that ambition. This is an outstanding CD of what could easily be mistaken for classic songs. Give it a listen.

—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)

Oh, hey, look, you can listen to the deluxe edition right here!

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2 comments on “Review: Bap Kennedy, Sailor’s Revenge

  1. Thanks for the heads-up, letting us know about your Knopfler guitar jones up front,
    and for the qualified recommendation. Keep posting to Driftwood Magazine!
    There’s too little good discussion of songwriting and recording that shoots for more
    than lowest common denominator and way too few writers who respect the material enough to offer some critical thought.

  2. Amen to the foregoing comment. Love that fiddle’s sound in there, especiallu in Shivondale. You know that traditional music is my my rock and Knopfler has that rere sensitivity to the true soul of the genre.
    .

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