Album Review: Damien Dempsey, “Seize The Day” (2003)

I don’t know why, but I’m really fond of Irish music and musicians.  It could be me subconsciously trying to get in touch with my 1/8th Irish side, or perhaps its due to the fact that two of my best friends and their family (whom have become my second family) are Scottish and Irish and very proud, and quite often introduce me to Irish music, but either way, I find myself being drawn to a lot of music from Ireland.

The aforementioned best friends and sisters got me hooked on both Declan O’Rourke and Paddy Casey, but I discovered Damien Dempsey all on my own.  Dublin-bred Dempsey’s music is a relaxing mix of laid-back rock tunes about life, love, and Irish pride.  Dempsey’s second album, Seize The Day, is a stellar presentation of all three elements.

The album begins with a reggae-influenced tune called Negative Vibes.  You’ll notice Dempsey’s beautiful brogue immediately with the opening lines, “Lord, won’t You give me the strength to be strong and true?”   The rest of the song serves as an inspirational tale about ignoring our distracters (“I’m never going to let/Your negative vibes and comments/ Get through to my psyche and cripple me”), and the song is an upbeat and fun start to the album.  It’s All Good is another upbeat, positive song, particularly during the final refrain of, “Love yourself today”.  Dempsey’s positivity is contagious, and I always find myself listening to both tracks when I’m feeling down or having a hard day.

Ghosts of Overdoses sounds more like a traditional Irish folk song, with the opening flute and slow, melancholy melody.    Similarly, Apple of My Eye sounds like something you’d expect to hear when you think of Irish music- lots of pan flute, thick accent, and sweet lyrics (“Flying o’r the sea/My guitar and me/Thirty thousand feet/What a brilliant feat.”)  Dempsey sings both songs nicely- he’s got a gentle tenor voice, and he handles both ballads extremely well.

The whole disc isn’t about happy go-lucky sentiments, however.  Industrial School is a passionate cry to the Irish community to rise up (“Now the Irish have their stories and their music that’s passed on/From distant generations, who were kept down for so long/But they also have the madness, child abuse and rage/Sexual frustration passed down from another age/Their language land and culture, their ancient pride was lost/And sexual repression was what religion cost/We have to break the cycle, ‘cause it’s still passed down boss/We have to break the cycle before any more kids are lost”)  while Great Gaels of Ireland serves as a triumphant song about Dempsey’s heritage (“Now I want you to be proud/And I want you to shout loud/”I am proud of my people/I politically rebel””).  Both songs are written so that even if you aren’t of Irish lineage (and trust me, though I am proud of that 1/8th of me that is, I don’t really consider myself to be Irish…) you can completely relate and get caught up in the sentiment all the same.  The latter song also features a few words in Gaelic (“Na paisti, diomas”), which are a repetitious reminder towards the end of the song to “be proud” and “be haughty”.

The middle of the album is fairly weak, but not for any particular reason.  While Factories and Jar Song are decent enough songs, their main problem is being placed next to each other and sounding so similar musically.  The result is both of the songs sort of blending together and being lost among the other standout tracks on the album.  Celtic Tiger is well, interesting.  Dempsey actually raps during most of the song, and from what I’ve heard of some of his other albums, it seems that he does this frequently.  However, I’m not really a fan of his “rapping”.  It’s a bit hard to understand what he’s saying with how thick his accent is, and I really find it most disappointing to hear his beautiful vocals being wasted on a rap song that’s not too good, anyway.  Marching Season Siege is a little too all over the place production-wise for my liking; there’s far too many instruments packed into the one song and none of it creates any sort of palpable melody.

The album ends with the title track, Seize The Day– another cheerfully optimistic song.  I must reiterate how much I love how positive Dempsey’s songs are.  Every song on the album, no matter what the song is specifically talking about, ends up being uplifting and features a refreshing spin on life.  The final song is no exception- Dempsey sings about living each days as though it’s your last (“Seize the day, hey/Sure you don’t want no regrets when you look back/Seize the day, hey/Sure at least you’ll know/You gave this life a crack”), and the powerful guitar work and drumming throughout the song make the track even more exciting and motivating.

Damien Dempsey isn’t a name you’ll hear in a bar in the States, though it’s likely you’ll hear his music and name in the pubs of Ireland.  Don’t let that stop you from missing out on his music though- whether you’re full blood or not Irish at all, anyone could appreciate Dempsey’s tunes of positivity, life and the overall pursuit of happiness explored on Seize The Day.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Negative Vibes
2. Ghosts of Overdoses
3. It’s All Good
4. Factories
5. Jar Song
6. Celtic Tiger
7. Apple of My Eye
8. Industrial School
9. Great Gaels of Ireland
10. Marching Season Siege
11. Seize the Day


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