Dan Donnelly: Country & Northern
Usually when Irish artistes combine Country music with their own distinctive cultural style, the results are very often twee and awful. This manages to combine a number of musical styles without sounding contrived or confused and the one ingredient that is consistent throughout is honesty.
The opening track Your Loving Arms is a joyous romp with a Blue Grass feel, superb banjo and fiddle playing and a vocal that is very listenable. Dan Donnelly has a wonderful voice that provokes all sorts of emotions, alters from track to track, and so never becomes boring. Musically this record gathers influence from everywhere as it flows along -Dylan, Neil Young, World Party, The Eagles, Suzanne Vega, The Levellers, The Pogues; even Stiff Little Fingers spring to mind. This is contrast at its best- foot stompers and heart wrenching ballads side by side. Song For George is a very fitting tribute to George Harrison without sentimentality just plenty of harmonising chants. See The Light is a remarkable song with instructions for his lover of what to do after his death. Really, this is where the album finishes but I get the impression Mr Donnelly does not want to end his record on a sombre note, and so leaves us with the 1957 American folk song Plastic Jesus famously sung by Paul Newman in the film Cool Hand Luke. This is a really brilliant version that changes tempo from a cry in your beer country to a full scale square dance where you can almost feel the hay under your cowboy boots.
From start to finish, there is fantastic musicianship, production and material on this album. In my opinion, Country music has become very corporate and stale in recent times. However, when there is an artist like Dan Donnelly whose confident and strident song writing can take a listener on a very emotive journey, there is a lot of hope for the genre. Anto Morrison Review from Folk London - December 2011