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A Beginners Guide to Bravery


Artist: David Keenan
Label: Rubyworks
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 10 January 2020

Irish singer songwriter David Keenan releases his debut album, A Beginners Guide to Bravery. Rich in its wordplay, it reflects vividly both on his upbringing in Dundalk and the wider world and its characters that strayed into his life on his travels from home since...

What is it about the Irish music scene that seems to churn out a disproportionate number of artists that can't carry a tune? Van Morrison, Shane MacGowan, Bob Geldof are all exports that have done well outside of their native Ireland... but you wouldn't for a second, hand on heart, say they were good singers. There must be something in the Irish genes that produces substandard vocal chords. I'm joking, of course... Mind you, I'm half Irish and I can't sing either...

On the first play through of David Keenan's new album, A Beginners Guide to Bravery, I wasn't a fan. There was something engaging about the music, but the vocals were very distracting. Thank god I always listen to albums several times, before putting them aside and then picking them up again and playing them a few more times before reviewing them... because otherwise I would have written Keenan off as a rather dull act.

A little like Billy Bragg (although Keenan's singing is slightly better than Bragg's) Keenan delivers songs of pure beauty, and then quietly murders them with his vocals. However, the more you listen, the more raw, visceral and rewarding these songs are... to the point that Keenan's voice is an integral part of the enjoyment. A more polished, in tune singer wouldn't deliver the raw emotion that pours out of Keenan. Tracks like 'Love in a Snug' just wouldn't work without the way Keenan almost spits out the lyrics in his unique storytelling style.

Likewise 'The Healing' works well here, mainly down to Keenan's vocals. And the weird thing is, the more times you listen and the further through the album you go, the more polished Keenan sounds.

Another notable element is that the album is timeless. It could have been recorded at anytime (almost) in the last 100 years... or 100 years from now... The trademark Irish instruments do this album a great service. It sets the scene and adds a little traditional Irish flavour to the mix.


Darren Rea

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