Bap Kennedy – The Sailor’s Revenge (Disc Review)
I’ve written thousands of album reviews in my time and have managed to use every hyperbole, simile, metaphor and cliché known to man at one time or another to convey to the listener what I hear on a particular recording. One thing I have never done though is compare an album to “Blood On The Tracks.” It wasn’t about crossing an imaginary line, it’s just that nothing ever evoked the same mood as that one for me. Until now.
Bap Kennedy’s new release “The Sailor’s Revenge” comes as close as anything I can recall. The overriding sense of melancholy and general absence of a definitive time stamp to the stories work in much the same way for Kennedy as they did for Dylan. And like with Dylan, at their core, they are mostly love songs that yearn for another time and place. One look at the cover nearly tells the whole story of what to expect inside. (Something you don’t see too often in these days of mug shot covers.) I guess one could call this the Celtic “Blood On The Tracks.”
Working with producer and fan Mark Knopfler, Kennedy finds his groove and works all of the corners inside of it. That’s not to say everything sounds the same, it doesn’t, it just means that he knows he’s got some important songs that can move from track to track without any jarring detours. The songs are carried by Knofler’s guitar work with a bed of violin and pipes that are used to signal the passing of time. They are used sparingly, but to great effect.
All of the songs are strong and the sea is used as a metaphor in several of them. If there’s a tale to be told here it’s one of a prodigal son come home from the sea, but the stories aren’t wondrous and won‘t make for future legends. The stories are world weary, lived in, and tinged with a sadness that is reserved for closing time. There’s no crime in failing, but it’s hard to watch your dreams drift away with the tide. Just ask our returning sailor.
“Well I know you have to start somewhere
Now I’m lonelier than I can bear.
I felt success was waiting here for me to find
But now I’m ready to believe that God has changed his mind.”
Peel away a few layers of what eventually brought him back home and that girl that could have changed everything makes her appearance. And although the story is unique to him it’s a story as old as the sea and time itself. Every person, songwriter or not can cut through the years and find that spot where one path was either chosen or abandoned. Does it haunt him? Like the siren song it haunts him.
“Well I had to take that chance
It was now or never
I had to be with her,
She’s the apple of my eye.
Well, regrets I got a few
And they multiply
Like the stars in the sky
Anyway, not a day goes by.”
Don’t take my “Blood…” comparison as a knock off of that album, or that there are several doppelgangers among the tracks. There isn’t. What there is is that autumnal feel that comes over you when it’s late in the day and a chill is settling in. It brings buried thoughts to the surface and takes you to places that you thought you’d left behind. In Kennedy’s case the sea, as he well knows, doesn’t return what it takes from you either realistically or metaphorically. However, it can leave you some tales to tell while waiting for the tide to come in.
“Do I think of you and I?
Let me say,
Not a day goes by.”