Bap Kennedy is one of those artists who has, over the years, won the hearts and minds of fellow musicians, critics and a dedicated band of followers who eagerly await each of his releases. Although he started off with Celtic rockers Energy Orchard he firmly nailed his colours to the Americana mast with his first solo album, Domestic Blues which was recorded in Nashville under the auspices of Steve Earle, producer. Since then Kennedy has wavered somewhat between his roots and his affinity towards the new world with his previous release ('The Sailor's Revenge') tilted towards the Celtic end. For 'Let's Start Again', he's attempted to bridge the Atlantic by recording a bunch of songs very much in the Americana vein in his native Ulster with local musicians (including his wife Brenda and touring members of his band Gordy McAllister on guitar and Rabb Bennett on drums).
The album kicks off strongly with the title song featuring some fine harmonies from Brenda Kennedy and a gentle country vibe from the band with soothing keyboard, rippling mandolin and sneaky Dobro. 'Revelation Blues' is a fine roots rocker with fiery fiddle over a pell mell rhythm that packs a punch. So far so good, but Kennedy ups the ante with the excellent honky tonk blues of 'If Things Don't Change' with some nice fat pedal steel beefing up the sound. King Of Mexico should be a winner as Bap goes south for some sunny sounds and there's no doubt that it's well delivered with accordion and mariachi type guitar picking but its initial similarity to a laid back 'La Bamba' and the lack of grit makes for a tourist advert rather than the reality of life down there. Kennedy recovers with the double whammy of 'Song Of Her Desire', a yearning love song with some fine Dobro playing and 'Radio Waves' which revisits border territory and can be a considered a close cousin to Dave Alvin's Border Radio. From here on in it's somewhat akin to listening to a juke joint jukebox with 'Heart Trouble' offering some Western swing. 'Strange Kid' borrowing from Robert Johnston's 'Four Until Late' and giving it a country lick while 'Fool's Paradise' takes us back into the Mexican tourist brochure.
The final song, 'Let It Go' is a return to form; border tinged but with some grit and earthiness, groovy keyboard, swinging fiddle and spiky guitar it recalls the spirit of Doug Sahm and that's something Kennedy can be proud of.
The review copy we received was a limited edition double album with the second CD a collection of songs from Kennedy's solo career. It adds a couple of quid on the price but for collectors and beginners to his music well worth a punt.
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