Posted on: June 24, 2007 Posted by: James McQuiston Comments: 0

Damien Dempsey – To Hell Or Barbados / 2007 Clear / 10 Tracks / / / Reviewed 23 June 2007

The style of music that Dempsey plays on “To Hell Or Barbados” is an eclectic one. So eclectic, in fact, that it is hard to sit down and actually listen to the disc for any length of time. Sure, individuals will be able to built themselves up to a point where they can go through the entirety of the disc, but I know I had to approach and re-approach “To Hell or Barbados” when I first heard “Maasai”.

“How Strange” is a track that actually shows Dempsey’s strengths while not showcasing many of eir weaknesses. The one major issue that one can have with this track has to be the tone of eir voice. Obviously, Dempsey’s vocals are going to be a major part of this disc, but there are lines during this track that are stretched out a little too long for the song to work. The guitar line that starts off “Chase the Light” is soulful and impressive, but the vocals are paced oddly. There are hints of 311 and Dave Matthews in these vocals, but there seem to be two distinct tempos and harmonies present in this track. This means that there is some dissonance between the disparate elements, and while there are periods of convergence in the track (largely aided by the bass line during the track), the song still feels like a Frankenstein’s monster.

The instrumentation again starts a track strongly, as is the case with “Your Pretty Smile”. Luckily, Dempsey’s vocals seem to be on the same page as the instrumentation here. While there is not much in the way of differentiation to the vocals, I can see Dempsey succeeding here in the same way that John Maher has with the lightly-baked Caribbean meets reggae fare. If this disc is ever re-released, it would make sense for Dempsey to move this track a little closer to the opening. This would allow listeners to have something to latch on to, and to give the rest of the tracks on the disc a little more energy and momentum. The weird, almost Ali G-like delivery during “Serious” is blended with an equally-odd U2 like guitar arrangement. This creates the same type of dissonant sound that was present during “”Chase The Light”, and gives detractors more fuel to their fire. If there is more cohesion between the instrumentation and the vocals on the next Dempsey album, the resulting music will be stronger and Dempsey could just see eir name in lights.

Top Tracks: How Strange, Serious

Rating: 4.8/10

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