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Bap Kennedy

Domestic Blues – 1998 (E-Squared)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Bap Kennedy

Although Bap Kennedy's name might be unfamiliar to most listeners, he has a fairly impressive history. The Belfast native's first band, Energy Orchard, released five successful albums in Ireland before breaking up. Only one of the five was released in the States on MCA in 1991, at the suggestion of Steve Earle, who was also signed to MCA and a fan of the band's.

Seven years later, the pair reunited on Earle's E-Squared label to produce Kennedy's solo album of tarnished grace and rugged beauty. Kennedy's lilting songs are as informed by his Irish traditions as they are by his exposure to American barroom country blues. With inspired performances from veterans Jerry Douglas (whose dobro work defines this album in sweet, sharp relief), Peter Rowan, Nanci Griffith, the late Roy Huskey Jr., and Earle himself, Kennedy has crafted a set of songs that are by turns gorgeous ("The Shankill and the Falls," "The Ghosts of Belfast") or propulsive ("Unforgiven," "My Money") or boozily brilliant ("Vampire," "Mostly Water"). You should see Kennedy's name plenty of year-end Top 10 lists.