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World Music CD Reviews Celtic & Irish

Damien Dempsey

By Matt Cibula
Published March 30, 2007

United for Opportunity/Clear

Damien Dempsey is a huge star in Ireland. Last year, Shots went double platinum almost immediately, and this US re-release should win him the same kind of rabid audience over here. He is an everyman folksinger with a lovely, keening voice and a gift for empathy; “Sing All Our Cares Away” and “Not On Your Own Tonight” are a beautiful one-two combo. But Dempsey is also possessed of mordant wit and fiery political consciousness—his angry denunciations of imperialism wherever it rears its head, especially in the seven-minute “Colony,” have enough poison in them for the sting to leave a welt. Even more importantly, he’s not only influenced by Irish music but also by reggae and hip-hop and rhythm and blues and gospel, which means things rarely get too folksingery. The three bonus tracks here, from his new Irish live album, demonstrate just how beloved Dempsey is—and how important he might turn out to be.