Celebrated international Irish artist Ronan Keating has defined more than two decades of pop music. Now he has hand-picked twelve songs of his homeland that he was born to sing.
Drawing from the wealth of Ireland’s talent, his new album, ‘Songs From Home’ is an intimate album that boasts brilliant reworks as well as an original single from the star. ‘Songs From Home’ is today, via Decca Records.
‘Songs From Home’ is a commemoration of Ronan Keating’s love for Irish music, and also the continuing significance in it plays in his life. The album is a treasure-trove of traditional poetry and folklore, set alongside contemporary pieces; most will be familiar to listeners, but there will also be some surprises.
‘Raglan Road’ is the perfect opening to the album. Written by poet Patrick Kavanagh, the words were set to music by Luke Kelly of The Dubliners, it should be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with Irish music. In Keating’s hands it’s given an anthemic, soft treatment, and you are made to feel that perhaps the dark haired girl he’s singing of is no woman, but rather his hometown of Dublin.
‘Into The Mystic’ was originally from Van Morrison’s classic 1971 album, ‘Moondance’, and while the instrumentals conjure up that release, Keating doesn’t attempt to replicate Morrison’s gravelly vocals – and it’s well that he doesn’t – instead he imbues it with his own passion.
The same can be said for his treatment of the U2 song, ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’. It’s a slower treatment, it’s less anthemic; it’s still deeply moving nonetheless.
Christy Moore’s, ‘The Voyage’ is beautifully rendered, and it’s easy to imagine Keating growing up singing this with his family. Accompanied by guitars and tin whistle, you really can’t get much more Irish than that.
‘The Island’ is incredibly moving. Originally written by Paul Brady, who compared the tragic events of the Lebanese Civil War with The Troubles of Northern Ireland, it’s still as relevant today as it was when it was first released back in 1985. It’s a moving song, and once again Keating is accompanied by tin whistle, just in case we were in any doubt that this was an Irish song.
‘Summer In Dublin’, originally released by Bagatelle back in 1980, will bring a fond tear to the eye of anyone who has fond memories of the Fair City. Not much has changed in the past 40 years since it first came out – and in Keating’s case he’s thinking back to the summer of 1990, just before Boyzone’s meteoric rise to fame, and when Ireland to a man seemed fixated on the World Cup.
A more contemporary classic, Foy Vance’s ‘Guiding Light’, is somewhat sombre, but nonetheless beautiful. It calls to mind Keating’s own song, ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’. The theme is somewhat similar, and perhaps the track has been produced to reflect this. Keating is given the opportunity to work his impressive vocal chops on this track as well, especially in the last third, which sees him affect a gospel style, accompanied by almost choral backing vocalists.
Track 8 sees Keating collaborate with fellow Irish vocalist, Mary Black on her song, ‘No Frontiers’. Black is content to let Keating take the lead, but there’s no getting away from the fact that she knows this song backwards and forwards. The elegance of her harmonies are a beautiful adjunct to Keating’s voice; it’d be brilliant to see the two perform this live.
Damien Rice’s ‘The Blower’s Daughter’, is perhaps best known from the 2004 film, ‘Closer’, and is probably one of Rice’s best known songs. Ronan Keating treats it with the reverence and respect it deserves, and the song is paired with a sumptuous instrumental, that fills every inch of the track. Play this at 11 – or at least extremely loudly through headphones.
Keating returns to tradition with ‘The Parting Glass’, a song which has long been sung at the end of an evening’s gathering. It’s testament to Ronan Keating’s vocal prowess that he is able to render the most contemporary of tunes with the same gravitas and skill as the most ancient.
‘Heyday’ is a poignant nod to ‘Skylarkin’, the first and only solo album of Mic Christopher, and released after his untimely tragic death back in 2001. Mic was a leading light on the Dublin music circuit in the 1990s, with his band, The Mary Janes, and a friend and contemporary of the likes of Glen Hansard, and Karl and David Odlum. Hansard’s band, The Frames, has commemorated Christopher’s death by dedicating to him each album released since his death. Ronan once again gives the track the respect it deserves, and while it’s an upbeat and fun song, it’s impossible to separate it from the tragedy.
Final song, ‘Set In Stone’, is one of Keating’s own, and serves as a fitting companion to the other bookend, ‘Raglan Road’. While ‘Raglan Road’ could be Keating’s love song to Dublin, ‘Set In Stone’ feels like his love song to his music career. Slow and anthemic, it’s a love song about fighting the good fight, sticking it out; longevity. Ronan Keating has certainly done that.
‘Songs From Home’ is out now via Decca Records.