Anyone who ever listened seriously to Irish folk music will have heard the distinctive sound of the Dubliners. If you heard the Dubliners you cannot have missed the distinctive voice of Luke Kelly. Sadly, Kelly died at the height of his popularity and probably years before he reached the peak of his performance. Ronnie Drew often referred jokingly to him as “a communist who even gave pennies to the poor.” In fact, Kelly was a man of strong views and many of his best-known songs had a social message. Through these he inspired singers throughout the world and one of these is Brian Roebuck.

From this inspiration we get an excellent album of songs associated with Luke Kelly, sung with an obvious love of the man and the music.

The live performance opens with the reel “Sporting Paddy” and moves into the Dublin song most associated with Kelly, “Raglan Road,” combining Irish traditional music with the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh; although Luke gave the definitive version, this CD offers another very good rendition. Another song linked in many minds to Kelly is “Joe Hill,” and again Roebuck gives it a powerful performance.

On a more light-hearted side he gives us “Whiskey in the Jar” and the great humorous song about a sad profession on “The Monto.” There are a few lovely instrumentals on the album and one of my favourites is “Autumn in Paris.”

So often we forget the vast repertoire of songs made accessible and popular by Kelly and his fellow Dubliners. “Peggy Gordon” is a song in point. Here too you can bang the table and stamp your feet as you sing along with “God Save Ireland” or “Kelly the Boy from Killan.” Both tracks are beautifully combined with instrumental pieces.

The album closes with “The Night Visiting Song,” the last song Kelly sang before his life was cut all too short. It is a Scottish song but Kelly gave it a wonderful Dublin feel and Roebuck carries on the tradition. Ironically, the song fits all too neatly into the end of a life or a concert.

If you were a fan of Luke Kelly or just like good old Irish folk favourites, this is the album for you.

Nicky Rossiter

Rambles Magazine 2006

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