Damien O’Kane might be one of the busiest men in folk. Married to the legendary Kate Rusby he spent last year collaborating with her on her own projects as well as touring and managing his own. Despite a year where his feet barely seemed to touch the ground he was still able to produce and release a phenomenal new album that has come to be known as Avenging & Bright.
O’Kane is a truly inspiring artist as he takes his careful hand to a collection of classics and puts new fire into them. Songs such as Boston City that you may have heard a hundred times are completely reborn like a phoenix from the ashes. It may seem an oddity that a traditional folk melody is surrounded by somewhat experimental rock music that seems to drift in from the late 80s but it’s a collaboration of sounds that works like no other. Rich and vibrant O’Kane’s songs are as constructed as beautifully and carefully as the finest architecture. Dextrous banjo tunes are so carefully laid atop gently plucked guitar strings and ardent beats that sit somewhere between a snare drum and beat boxing. His music really does create a whirlwind of genres that all crash and come together to fuse something that is totally unique and unexpected.
“Poor Stranger” from the album “Avenging & Bright”
Of course, drifting across each of his songs is O’Kane’s smooth Northern Irish lilt that floats along as smooth and serene as the rippling wasters of a mountain stream. The music O’Kane surrounds himself with is versatile and seems to swell and grow throughout Avenging & Bright. One moment is brisk and bold while the next it’s slowed and adopted a more melancholic tone. This versatility makes for an album that is peppered with constant surprises and tied together with his experimental tenacity it becomes an album that can easily make your heart dance and sink in equal measure as a flood of emotions seem to wash across you.
Avenging & Bright is an inspirational album born from the mind of a musical genius. It ties together genres and times to create a moving collaboration of old and new, a contemporary adaptation of days gone by and the dextrous and intricate melodies and warming to the core. A charming collection of songs that you can neither prepare yourself for nor ready your heart and mind for. Listen to this time after time and you will still never quite ready yourself for the feelings that will bubble up within you.
Review by Joe Knipe