Damien Dempsey’s voice is Dublin yet wholly distinctive, almost clichéd to say it, but he is part of a rich bloodline of Irish singers from Luke Kelly to Ronnie Drew, Christy Moore to Andy Irvine. Their kin outside Ireland are Springsteen and Guthrie, Dylan and Marley.
On his new album Almighty Love, Dempsey’s sense of place reaches out beyond Donaghmede and North Bull Island, where he first performed in public as a teenager, across the Irish Sea and further afield.
The locale is still in the lyrics. It’s there in the hauntingly poetical Chris and Stevie, a tribute to male bonding and grief. You can hear it in Canadian Geese - large migratory birds whose flight path took them past Dempsey's boyhood window. It’s there also in the references to railway tracks and waves, visible from the rooftops of Dempsey’s childhood home. Those railway tracks took Dempsey and his boyhood friends out into their own imaginations and he hasn’t forgotten.
Almighty Love goes on a journey of a different kind. Dempsey, at 37 years old, has already said so much about self and state that trying to plough over old ground wouldn’t have been artistically challenging or fresh. So instead, he has given us an album of confidence and maturity, which has a more global sound to it and a broader scope. It is at once bigger and quieter, still rallying against injustice, yet with a more reflective and thoughtful tone, communicated more widely.
Damien’s debut album in 2000, ‘They Don’t Teach This Shit in School’ set him apart as a unique and important voice, championed from an early stage in his career by Sinéad O’Connor and others. The follow-up, ‘Seize the Day’, released in 2003, marked the beginning of his relationship with producer John Reynolds, picking up many awards and leading to extensive international tours. Commercial and critical success continued with the release of the No. 1 album ‘Shots’ in 2005, backed by Brian Eno, and ‘To Hell or Barbados’ in 2007, which debuted at No.2 in the Irish charts.
Damien’s fans include Brian Eno, Sinéad O’Connor, Bob Dylan and and Morrissey, who invited him to support him on his US tour. Damien is an award-winning artist, having won several prestigious Irish Meteor Awards including Best Irish Male and Best Traditional Folk Award. His albums have topped the charts and gone Platinum, and he has been lauded by, among others, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Billboard, MOJO and The Sunday Times.
Since the release of his last album, Damien’s creativity has found other outlets also. One notable project was with Irish graffiti artist Maser, on a project entitled ‘They Are Us’. This was sparked by Dempsey’s lyrics, and involved the painting of his words on derelict buildings in Dublin. Sales of the limited edition prints raised funds for The Simon Community, which was a charity set up to help the homeless and disenfranchised in Dublin and elsewhere.
Dempsey’s charitable work continued in December 2010, when he and Glen Hansard recorded and performed the Irish folk classic, ‘The Auld Triangle’. Monies raised went towards the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) ‘Keep The Lights On’ Campaign.
Last year, Damien also made his acting debut in the Irish feature film ‘Between The Canals’. His music is also proving very much in demand for soundtracks, with ‘Sing All Your Cares Away’ featured in the BAFTA Award winning film ‘Tyrannosaur’, while Damien contributes to two upcoming Irish films "Stalker" and "King of the Travellers".
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