Without any doubt, much loved award-winning BBC Radio Foyle and Radio Ulster broadcaster and long-established singer-songwriter, Eamon Friel, is one of the jewels in the crown of our local music scene.
The ‘Streets Forget’ is, believe it or not, his sixth album and once again, throughout this latest work Eamon distinguishes himself as a singer-songwriter with a marvellously exquisite feel for both word and melody. He writes with the fine precision of a poet who happens also to sing in a distinctive lyrical style. And for this CD, he has gathered around him a clutch of Derry’s finest local musicians who add feel and colour to this production which has been masterminded by the multi-talented Eddie O Donnell.
‘The Streets Forget’ is the unforgettable title song. In his sleeve notes, Eamon describes it as his favourite song on the album and tells us that “he knew when he wrote it that it was a special song.” This beautifully composed, wonderfully romantic song of “young love” has a gentle haunting feel about it. Love is remembered even if “ ....the city has no memory now/Of the song it sang for us and yet/I still want to tell you I remember/Although the streets forget.” There’s even a Van Morrison-esque sequence where the singer rages against those “with their feet on the ground who think they know everything”. ‘The Streets Forget’ is then followed by a completely different type of song- the comic ‘The man of few words’. Eamon is in his wordsmith element on this track that has, initially, the simplest and most effective of arrangements - Eamon’s voice powerfully accompanied by a Seamus O’ Kane solo on the bodhran. Here’s a delightful sample of the verbal jiggery pokery to be found on this track: The man of few words says there’ll never be peace/And so he was charged with disturbing the police/Now says the judge I have read the report/The man of few words he says, “ Silence in court” and then suddenly there’s a racey blast of accordion, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, piano, – you name it - and the man of few words is in full flow.
“The Streets Forget” thrives on the variety of songs on offer. The first track on the album ‘All the fun of the fair’ is beautifully arranged. Lyrically, as so often with Friel’s songs, not a word is wasted. The song’s “story” takes us from the Friel home at 137 Bogside “My mother was doubtful of course” across Rossville Street in the fifties “NATO crews out on the town-But we kept going till we heard the merry- go- round” way out to the Daisyfield where the three lads “watch as the carousel whirls in the dark”. Eddie O’Donnell on organ brings to life that magical Wurlitzer sound of the funfair and Marie Clarke’s highly evocative accordion makes this song almost glow. Eamon delivers the song in a breathy mystical manner- The power had failed: “There was chaos at first, then a hush , silence like prayer, I looked up at the millions of stars, all the fun of the fair”.
Contrasting “All the fun of the fair” with the last track ‘Rock and Roll Ballads’ gives an idea of the range of song on this CD. On this track, Eamon sings/tells the tragic story of an “Irish singer who has fallen on hard times in America”. He tells me that the song is loosely based on a story that he heard one time about the great Brendan Bowyer of Hucklebuck fame. Whether true or apocryphal, he could not say- “ Listen Irish, they call me that you know, Sorry Irish, got to let you go” The track has shades of Elvis, a rollicking and at the same time poignant rock and roll chorus with backing vocals from the Rathmor Four and Frank Robinson’s touching saxophone solo. Frank’s jazzy atmospheric saxophone also adds so much to the moody melancholy ‘One of these days’, a song that lingers in the memory.
As Eamon acknowledges, he is brilliantly served, throughout this CD, by his team of backing musicians and singers –Eddie O Donnell, Tracey McRory, Percy Robinson, Frank D Robinson, Norman Doherty, Ciaran O’Donnell, Liam Bradley, Marie Clarke, Seamus O Kane, young Marc Gallagher playing the recorder on “Lullaby” , the Rathmor Four - a veritable cast of thousands- with Eddie O Donnell lovingly arranging every song and Blast Furnace Recording Studios in Creggan once again coming up trumps. ‘The Streets Forget’ is available on THRAN RECORDS and you can catch up with the man himself on www.eamonfriel.com
As we approach 2013 and UK City of Culture, that year’s cultural programmers must surely be figuring out now how best to showcase such abundant local talents as Eamon Friel.
In the meanwhile buy or download his latest CD.