Personnel: Bap Kennedy (vocals, acoustic guitar); Mark Knopfler, James Walbourne (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, background vocals); Jerry Douglas (lap steel guitar, dobro); John McCusker (cittern, fiddle); Guy Fletcher (ukulele, piano, Hammond b-3 organ, background vocals); Michael McGoldrick (flute, whistle, pipes); Glenn Worf (upright bass, electric bass).
Recording information: British Grove Studios, London.
Photographer: Ken Haddock.
Irish songwriter Bap Kennedy is a talented man who is fortunate enough to have some talented friends -- he's worked in the studio with Steve Earle, Van Morrison, Shane MacGowan, and Nanci Griffith, and on his 2012 album The Sailor's Revenge, his pal Mark Knopfler produced the sessions as well as playing lead guitar. Knopfler's presence may help The Sailor's Revenge get a greater hearing in the United States than the bulk of Kennedy's previous releases, but the producer clearly has too much respect for the artist to impose too much of himself on this material. This is entirely a Bap Kennedy album, a set of literate and atmospheric songs that fuse Kennedy's Irish sensibilities with hints of American blues, folk, and country influences. John McCusker's mournful fiddle and Jerry Douglas' tasteful steel guitar work are given more space in the arrangements than Knopfler's trademark guitar licks, which suits the mood of this material; even the happiest songs on The Sailor's Revenge have a rueful undertow, and bittersweet memories of loves lost and friends missed are common here. Kennedy's vocal style is simple, but he's a good storyteller who knows how to draw the drama from these tales without making them sound melodramatic, and the elegance of his melodies is well served by the musicians and the arrangements, bringing a welcome intimacy to this music that sounds as lovely and melancholy as a night spent watching the moon reflected on the ocean. Mark Knopfler has brought some star power to The Sailor's Revenge, but he's also treated Bap Kennedy's skills as a performer and tunesmith with the care they deserve, and this is a dark but frequently beautiful set of Celtic-flavored contemporary folk. ~ Mark Deming