Johnny Duhan,
To the Light
(Corsar, 2008)

I love to know the story behind the songs I listen to. Thankfully, Johnny Duhan has produced To the Light, which is just the sort of publication that could usefully accompany every serious album on the market.

Released in conjunction with his latest album -- of the same name -- this excellent book provides us with insights into the songs as well as a fitting if fragmented autobiography of the writer/singer.

It covers the tracks on four albums, and I read it at one sitting, so fascinated was I to understand why a writer picks a theme and then runs with it until it is a song.

The book gives us the lyrics to his songs but also reveals notes from his journal. As such, it gives us an emotional as well as literary background to the songs. In addition, there are anecdotes about recording songs with the likes of Christy Moore.

The historical background to the songs makes the book a sort of social history of the past 50 years and could in fact be read as such by someone with little or no interest in music. Here is life in his native Limerick with the characters of any town drawn in full colour by an expressive turn of phrase. He also recounts the joys and despairs of the music business and the life of the amateur farmer when things have gone awry in music and don't go much better in growing things.

This is a book you can sit and read but then leave on the shelf and delve into it again as you listen to the albums. Great songs often get that added dimension when you have the backstory.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Nicky Rossiter

13 March 2010

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