Johnny Duhan,
Just Another Town
(Bell, 2007)

Remember the days of the concept albums of the 1970s and '80s, where we got collections of songs built around a single idea? In Ireland we have a modern maestro of the genre, but we have to look closely to identify his work as concept albums.

The Voyage was a fantastic example taking family and relationships as he motif. Johnny Duhan returns with an even better collection of songs on this new album, Just Another Town, where the town and its inhabitants are at the heart of the wonderful compositions sung in his own inimitable style.

Opening with the beautiful "Another Morning," we awake into a musical landscape that will be familiar to all. The one track I recall from another performer is the mesmerizing and absolutely profound portrait of urban life called "Always Remember." If the adage that Dublin could be rebuilt from Ulysses, then in a few centuries this song could show students of social history the very real ingredients of any town and its people.

Duhan not only gives us exceptional quality, he also is generous in the quantity with 17 tracks on offer on this CD.

"In The Garden" reminds the listener of the people of the town and the ordinary innocent pleasures of adolescent life in unsentimental lyrics. A lush string arrangement introduces us to the title track. Again, Duhan draws lyrical portraits of very real people with their flaws and foibles. Listening to the track you can feel the chill of evening as he sings of the sun going down on the myriad scenes of town life.

A simple track listing will give an indication of the diversity of songs on offer: "Mary," "Benediction," "Daredevil" and "The River Shannon." One of my top picks among 17 favourites is "One Hundred Miles." Like all of Duhan's songs, it is simple and deep in equal measures. The language is simple, but the tune, musical arrangement and accompaniment combine to make even this four-minute tale of a person living away from home memorable.

Listen to "Young Mothers" and you are transported to the reality of everyday life once more. We all know these people but could never express the vision as Johnny Duhan does.

This was one of the best albums of 2007 and it is all the more valuable in coming from Ireland and from the genius of one songwriter who is sadly underrated in his own land. If enough airplays were given to any single track here he would be a superstar. As for now, you still have the chance to acquire a masterpiece.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Nicky Rossiter

12 September 2009

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