Larry Kirwan

Kilroy Was Here

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Since Larry Kirwan is the lead singer and chief songwriter of his own band, Black 47, one may validly ask why he needs to launch a concurrent solo recording career with Kilroy Was Here. (His earlier release, Keltic Kids, was a children's album.) The answer, on the evidence of this disc, is that he wanted an outlet for his softer, more extended reflections. Black 47 member Fred Parcells provides brass and string arrangements played on his own trombone, Rich Viruet's trumpet, Faith Glassman and Lisa Gutkin's violins, and David Conrad's cello, and they, along with the guitar, bass, and drums, provide stately, melodic backgrounds to Kirwan's lengthy ballads. Set at loping tempos, the songs are full of Kirwan's contemplations of life and memory, contemplations not unlike those he engages in his Black 47 songs. As usual, he is describing the background of an Irish expatriate who comes to New York ("Life's Like That, Isn't It?" is another of his autobiographies), but remains obsessed by his native country and its troubled history. It isn't hard to point to the influences here. Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is a clear antecedent, as is Bruce Springsteen's The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, at least on its ballads. (See also the Waterboys and Dexys Midnight Runners.) Kirwan's voice remains an acquired taste; he alternates between a throaty, near-spoken tone and a strained, adenoidal tenor wail, always sounding much more impressed with his own lyrics than any listener could ever be. But there are songs that justify his sense of drama, notably "Molly," in which the other man in a romantic triangle expresses his emotional turmoil. Still, this is an album for people who have already discovered Kirwan through Black 47 and become sympathetic to his worldview and tolerant of his voice.

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