Atlantic Light is Eamon Friel’s eighth and final album. The Derry broadcaster, performer and songwriter died unexpectedly at a remarkably youthful sixty-nine over the weekend. He was immensely popular in and around Belfast and will be sorely missed.
The album fits smoothly into Eamon’s oeuvre. It’s gentle and understated with support from his regular band, some of whom, notably guitarist and arranger Eddie O’Donnell, have been with him forever. There is a thread of nostalgia running through much of Eamon’s work and Atlantic Light is no exception. The opening track, ‘The Old Songs’ harks back fifty years to the music that bound people together in their formative years. ‘Takeaway’ talks about holiday work in a Chinese in Clapham and we’re going back five decades once again. It’s a happy song: any chorus that starts “chicken and sweetcorn soup” is alright in my book. ‘Benediction’ is another song from his school days in Derry. Eamon has a quiet, sometimes whispery voice, that suits this song and the title track very well.
He can crank it up sometimes. ‘Under The Sun’ has the full bass, drums and lead guitar treatment and I’ve often wished in the past that he’d push a bit more. ‘Street Of Song’ moves back in time of Tin Pan Alley – a period that Eamon clearly has great affection for. Frank Robinson’s saxophone and Liam Bradley’s brushed drums give it the perfect period feel. ‘The Hammer’ is an attack on uncaring capitalism which is sung remarkably calmly – I can think of one or two singers who would double the speed and scream these words but Eamon’s regretful tone work just as well. The closing ‘Cnoc An Chónaí’ is another song of nostalgia sung for the musicians of the north London Irish pub scene decorated with Paul Cutliffe’s uilleann pipes. Even the old songs get old sometimes.
And so Eamon Friel formally closes his account with an album that will please his fans but I suspect that there are some demos and out-takes waiting to be unearthed.
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