Damien Dempsey, Almighty Love

Ian Gittins

By Ian Gittins

on 09.28.12 in Reviews
Spirited protest songs and heartfelt ballads

Largely unknown outside of his native land, Damien Dempsey is a prodigious figure in Ireland, where Glen Hansard recently called him the country’s Atlas, carrying the hopes of the people on his shoulders. Those same people have responded gratefully by regularly sending his albums into the higher reaches of the charts and Almighty Love, his sixth, will be no exception. Dempsey’s musical formula is a simple one: Inspired by childhood heroes the Dubliners, the Chieftains and – particularly – Christy Moore, he fires out spirited protest songs and heartfelt ballads over plaintive guitar and uilleann pipes, in the strongest Celtic accent heard in song since the Proclaimers. Dempsey has a well-deserved reputation as a champion of the common man and a critic of Ireland’s formerly lauded, now collapsed Celtic Tiger economy, but Almighty Love finds him in personal rather than political mode, pledging his devotion on the title track and mourning a late gay friend on the moving “Chris and Stevie.” When he does turn his attention to Ireland’s economic travails, his broad-brush deliberations can be a tad clunky (“In bad men you’ll invest, you charge big interest”, he tut-tuts on “Money Man”) – but his sincerity is palpable and it is easy to see why he is a prophet with honor in his own land.