Damien O’Kane - Avenging & Bright

2017 studio album

Avenging & Bright - Damien O’Kane

the bright young folk review

Avenging and Bright is a bold and vibrant album, rich in tradition but with inspired contemporary sounds, settings and arrangements. Damien O’Kane’s Irish heritage comes through strongly in his third solo album.

Previously as a member of Flook and more recently playing with Kate Rusby’s band, O’Kane demonstrates a real talent for breathing new life into traditional songs, and creating new, exciting musical settings using synthesiser, electric guitar, tenor guitar, banjo and percussion.

The title track, Avenging and Bright, is an ancient story of Irish warriors, vengeance and betrayal written by Thomas Moore. O’Kane brings forward an original tune which, together with his authentic vocals, captures the pride and peril of times gone by. Funk guitar riffs and syncopated beats complete the contemporary setting of this powerful song.

In Boston City, O’Kane takes a ballad, well known in the 60’s folk scene, and puts the lyrics to one of his new tunes, telling the tale of a young man incarcerated in the Charlestown State Prison. There is real pace to this track, driven along by Ron Block’s inspired bluegrass banjo playing and supported by guitar and keyboards, which bring both light and shade to this compelling song.

Interpreting very well-known traditional songs can carry an element of risk, however, O’Kane’s rendition of January Man, recognised as a Christy Moore staple, is very much up to the mark. Synthesiser and electric tenor guitar echo in accompaniment creating a bold setting to this deep reflection on life and the changing months and seasons.

O’Kane’s inspiration for writing Dancing in Puddles was his daughter and her love of the cartoon character Peppa Pig. This is an infectious tune with inspired guitar playing, deep bass and harmonics throughout. The joy of this exquisite tune comes through so strongly you find yourself drifting back to childhood memories.

Written by his wife, Kate Rusby, Lately is a simple and gentle song with touching lyrics and melody. O’Kane’s vocals are full of emotion and perfectly complemented by Rusby’s harmonies on backing vocals. A moving reflection on the passing of time.

Avenging and Bright successfully blends old with new and offers traditional music in a new setting. O’Kane’s interpretations and arrangements are unique, both in their innovation and in the balance they strike, acknowledging the past whilst taking the tradition forward. He is an artist with vision, talent and inspiration and, for those who like to have an ear to the past and an eye to the future, this enjoyable album is definitely recommended.

Andy McMillan

Released on Pure Records on 8 December 2017.

1. Boston City
2. Poor Stranger
3. Though all Bright Flowers
4. Avenging and Bright
5. Castle Kellys
6. Lately
7. All Among the Barley
8. January Man
9. The Homes of Donegal
10. Many’s the Night
11. Dancing in Puddles

Damien O’Kane discography