Album Review - Phil Callery / Landscapes of the Past

Phil Callery has taken a break from his work with the Voice Squad to release a solo album. It's an impressive collection chosen from what must be a vast repertoire.  His well of inspiration is deep as his career spans decades, from his early days in the Dublin Folk Clubs scene of the late sixties to the "Singers Club" he established in Dublin in 1970. The establishment of the "Singers Club" was an immediate success, based as it was on Ewan MacColl's "Listeners Club" in London.  Many big names walked the boards including Dolores Keane, Triona and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, Mary Black, Christy Moore, Luka Bloom, Paul Brady to name just a few. Phil has guested on several albums to date including with Sinead O'Connor, Christy Hennessey, Jimmy McCarthy and many more. He has toured extensively in Europe with 'The Voice Squad' and successfully toured Canada and the USA.

What is immediately striking about this album and Phil as a singer is the manner in which he approaches each song. His approach to interpreting them is astonishingly honest. There are no theatrical embellishments, even on a minor scale. Like an actor in close up, it takes only the smallest of inflections of his voice to imbue a deeper sense of what the song is about. Sing it straight and true, tell the story and let the listener make up, or take up the rest from what they hear. I have heard it sung like this on many an occasion, but never as good. His voice conveys the patina of life and the journeys he has taken, listening and absorbing, and now giving new life and meaning to the songs. A journeyman he undoubtedly is because no one else could come up with the songs he has chosen. If you were ever to wonder what song would suit that late night, now it’s your turn moment, then you should pick any one of these fourteen tracks.

 For anyone with the inclination for song, this is a treasure chest of golden moments. To further demonstrate his grasp of this fine art he delivers all songs unaccompanied. This takes substance and it takes experience. It requires good songs and it requires them to be delivered upon. This in case you are in any doubt is fully within the grasp of Phil. The New York Trader by Frank Harte has in the words of Phil “great rhyme and metre" Lough Erne Shore is a more well known tune which was a favourite of Paul Brady. Johnny I hardly Knew Ye, again provided by Frank Harte gives you comfort in your prior knowledge from other recordings. However there are many lesser known tunes including a great Sean Mone song called Lovers & Friends and the closing song The Joy of Living by Ewan MacColl.

Landscapes stands alone amongst the albums we have recently reviewed for the way it captures our great tradition of song.  Joyous, funny, political or with a strong social conscience we sing it in all its forms. Phil has captured 1,000 nights from the landscape of my own past on the album. From my father's songs in the west of Ireland to songs of emigration in London in the 1980's. From late night lock In's in McGovern's in Kilburn to house parties all over that great city. Make it your Summer resolution to learn at least two tracks for those cold Autumn nights.  In picking the songs you can find a no better starting point than Landscapes of the Past.

Listen and buy : or Phil's website

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