Anthony John Clarke,
The Songs of Anthony John Clarke
(self-published, 2002)

In a land of songwriters, Anthony John Clarke is the one most deserving of a wider audience. Singers like Sean Keane, Colum Sands and Frances Black praise him and radio presenters love his music. Of the albums that I have heard him play on, there is not a single bad track. If even one of his songs were to get international listenership from a big name, all others would be trampled in the stampede to get tracks from him.

They have access to the CDs and now he has gone one better and published a book of 13 songs. (Obviously, he is not superstitious.) Within 32 pages of black print on white paper -- no ostentation -- is a treasure house of material for any singer wishing to break away from the chart material or the "done to death" standards.

With full lyrics, guitar chords and notation, there is no excuse for not singing a superior new Irish song at your next gig. I hope he has sent copies to Christy Moore and the like.

The songs are fantastic, revealing a genuine feeling for modern Ireland that is not clouded by silly sentiment. The lyrics are poetry set to music. If there is a criticism of his work, it would be that it is, in the main, gentle -- but then so was the early Paul Simon. The songs are full of wit as well as insight.

"Tuesday Night is Always Karaoke" is a fantastic song that laments the passing of the live session. With lines like "a priest appeared from nowhere with those 'Fields of Athenry' and a Welshman murdered 'Vincent' and 'American Pie'," you can sympathise with the sentiment if you ever witnessed such musical carnage.

"Seven in Ireland" is a sad song of childhood in the Northern Ireland of the 1970s. Imagine Jesus returning for Christmas and you have the poignant song "The Wrong Way Round." In the end he sings, "the children try to stay up all night long but it's not me they're waiting for, no that's all long gone."

A person called Dolores is mentioned in more than one song and I wonder who she is. Maybe on a reprint the writer would include some background on each song.

There is no better way to end a review of this small masterpiece than to quote from his song "But Then I'm Irish": "But if you listened to a song or two, I say thank you very much, that still means everything."

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 8 February 2003

[ visit Clarke's website ]