Album Review: Paul Brady and his Band – The Vicar St Sessions Vol 1

Paul BradyIf you are unaware of Paul Brady as an artist you only need to look at the names who guest on this album to appreciate the respect this musician garners amongst his contemporaries. Recorded live in 2001 where he performed 23 shows in Dublin, this album features the likes of Mark Knopfler, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, Curtis Stigers, Mary Black and many more, all performing alongside Paul Brady and his band.

The opening track is “ I Want You To Want Me” from his ‘Spirits Colliding’ album, with the opening line “We travel in circles, at most it’s a fleeting touch, a hurried connection” – Paul Brady’s unique vocals are backed by his excellent band. The next track “Baloney Again” features Mark Knopfler on vocals and that distinctive Dire Straits guitar sound interweaved by Steve Fletcher on keyboards. This song tells of the plight of segregated black people in America.

“The Soul Commotion” is one of my all time favourite Paul Brady songs from his “Primitive Dance” album, and this live version featuring a horn section does it justice, the atmosphere from the audience is palpable. Gavin Friday & Maurice Seezer feature next and give a rousing version of “Nobody Knows”. Paul Brady wrote “Believe in Me” with Carole King for his “Oh What a World” album and this is a real soulful track backed by a band who are at the top of their game.

“In This Heart” is a beautiful and moving acapella number featuring just Sinead O’Connor and Paul Brady on vocals. Van Morrison joins the band for “Irish Heartbeat” much to the joy of the audience, with Paul Brady’s vocals complimenting beautifully alongside a swinging horn section. “I was in a daze, moving in the wrong direction, feeling that I’d always be the lonely one” is the opening line to “Not The Only One” featuring the legendary Bonnie Raitt and you really sense that everyone is enjoying the moment.

Curtis Stigers is up next featuring just Paul and Curtis on piano and guitar for the exquisite “Don’t Go Far” which is a song about a parent not wanting to let go of their child. “The Long Goodbye” features Ronan Keating on vocals, this song written by Paul Brady was a Number1 hit in the States for Country duo Brooks & Dunn. The next track featuring Eleanor McEvoy “Last Seen on October 9th” is for me the stand out track on this album, this heart wrenching song about one of the many people who just go missing, feature just vocals and piano and you can feel the stunned silence from the audience.

The classic “The World is What you Make It” is the penultimate track on the album and lifts the mood including fiddle, mandolin, Bonnie Raitt on slide guitar and sing-a-long from the audience. The encore is a rousing spine tingling version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” with Mary Black on vocals and seems a fitting way to finish volume 1.

All in all this is a fantastic album featuring some of the greatest artists around and is a fitting testament to the work of Paul Brady. If you know his work then this would be a great addition to your collection as it features so many outstanding guests. If you are new to him as a musician then this is a great place to start – all in all you can’t go wrong.

Review by Graham Steel