CD review by Chris Spencer
I have been in the audience of many of Enda Kenny’s performances over the past 30 years, witnessing his progression and maturity of songwriting over that period of time.
He has become almost a staple of the Australian folk music scene, appearing at festivals all around the country, singing his songs and telling his stories.
I think that over this period, he has become more confident in his trade, his humour has come to the fore and his songwriting has become objective and tighter.
Those of you who are fans will recognise that this album was released a while back and as far as I can make out, he’s only released 2 more since.
I didn’t realise, until listening intently, that this album is a concept album.
Kenny states in his liner notes that while holidaying in Broome in 1992, he wrote several songs reflecting the stories of the pearling industry.
However it wasn’t until he heard George Papavgeris sing “Johnny Don’t go Walking with the Fishes” at the 2006 National Folk Festival, that he dusted off his Broome songs and wrote a couple more to have enough to make this album.
Ironically, the only song that doesn’t talk about the pearling industry is the lead track, “Red Dust”, which describes his memories of travels in North Western Australia, before arriving into Broome.
“Those Days”, with its intro of fiddle, laments the demise of the pearling industry.
The Papavgeris song was originally written about sponge divers off Salonika, but Kenny adapted it to warn young men not to enter the dangerous industry.
This song is underscored by mandolin and understated percussion.
“Signature of Man” comments on the high numbers of Japanese divers who died while working in the industry.
“The Pearl Diver” is a poem written by A. Banjo Paterson, recited by Enda, which is an interesting inclusion on the album.
“The Continental” takes a different tack.
On this song, Kenny highlights the emotions of young men having a good time, farewelling their mates at The Continental Hotel in Broome, presumably, before embarking on ships to take them to Europe to fight in the first world war.
“Master’s Buttons” is more upbeat,
Overall, the album is recorded sympathetically by Lindsay Martin, who provides fiddle, mandolin and keyboards.
The vocals are out front and are never overrun by the musical accompaniment.
Other musicians to guest on the album include Sandy Brady (basses), Anastasios Kotoros (darbuka) while Nella Magnante sings backing vocals – noticeably on “Pearl”.
There is much to enjoy on this album, particularly for fans of Kenny.
This album would make a fine addition to any collection of folk enthusiasts.