John Doyle Album One of Year's Finest


Shadow and Light

Compass 4565

John Doyle tours with Liz Carroll and in lineups such as Solas and the Karan Casey Band. But don’t you dare slap the label “side man” on him. After hearing Shadow and Light, you’ll be checking listings to see when Doyle’s headlining at a venue near you. Doyle is part of the muscular jazz-meets-skiffle-meets-trad guitar continuum pioneered by (the late) Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Like them, he makes really hard things sound smooth and easy. There is, for instance, the sweet “Little Sparrow,” which he penned for his daughter. At first it sounds like a simple little tune the likes of which might come from a backwoods picker. Then it hits you that it’s not a bird that’s flying up and down the strings. And if you really want to feel the heat, listen to his sizzling fingering on “The Curraghman.” Just as impressive are Doyle’s vocals and his composition skills. His tenor voice is at once comforting and expressive--perfect for musical storytelling. Among the tales is “The Arabic,” a song about his grandfather’s harrowing emigration from Ireland to America. Both guitar and voice roll and pitch like the doomed ship that deposited some passengers in a watery grave. It’s so vivid that you can close your eyes and see pictures in your head. What’s your pleasure? A transportation song? “Bound for Botany Bay” will answer. A warning about the evils of drink? Check out the Appalachian-flavored “Bitter Brew.” A little history? How about “Farewell to All That,” a musing on Robert Graves’ (tragic) memories of World War One? Throw in support from Compass vets such as Alison Brown, Stuart Duncan, and Todd Phillips and you’ve got one of the year’s finest records. In fact, it's probably my favorite album of 2011.

Go to John's Website to hear samples.

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