Dexys Midnight Runners broke up before Kevin Rowland could realise his vision of an album of traditional Irish songs, but the added “country soul” tag means it now stretches as far as Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now and a shuffling romp through Rod Stewart’s You Wear It Well. Playful pop sits alongside the melancholy beauty of the instrumental Women of Ireland, with guest violinist Helen O’Hara back for the first time in 31 years. Eyebrows may be raised over the more idiosyncratic choices and interpretations, but Irish-parented Brummie Rowland’s emotional connection with these songs is audible. He invests them with warmth and character, inhabiting them rather than covering them. Grazing in the Grass is enjoyably loopy; Paul Coulter’s The Town I Loved So Well is gently furious. Carrickfergus, an 18th-century song about a dying Irish labourer previously sung by Van Morrison and Bryan Ferry, finds Rowland digging deep into empathy and compassion for one of the performances of his career.
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