After tackling old-school rock & roll on Daniel in Blue Jeans, Christian gospel on Peace in the Valley, and Christmas carols on O Holy Night, easy listening crooner Daniel O'Donnell returns to the music of his homeland for the first time since 2002's The Irish Album. Continuing his unrivaled prolific career output, Moon Over Ireland is his 31st studio release over a 24-year period which has seen him compete with Cliff Richard for the title of the nation's favorite wholesome pop icon. Perfectly timed for Mother's Day, this 16-track collection will undoubtedly be the gift of choice for his loyal and predominantly older female fan base, thanks to the simple acoustic country-folk-tinged production and inoffensive pleasant vocals formula that have dominated the majority of his back catalog. Alongside tracks that he's regularly performed throughout his career, including "The Fields of Athenry," Pete St. John's '70s folk ballad based on the Great Irish Potato Famine, and "The Town I Loved so Well," Phil Coulter's ode to his Derry childhood, O'Donnell has also used this opportunity to record some of his favorite but lesser-known Irish and Irish-North American pieces. "My Wild Irish Rose" is a tasteful orchestral interpretation of New Yorker Chauncey Olcott's 1898 composition, later made famous by Slim Whitman; "When You Were Sweet Sixteen" is a simple, piano-led cover of the Al Jolson standard which was taken into the charts by Dublin folk band the Fureys in the '80s, while "The Boys from Killybegs" is a faithful rendition of the Clancy Brothers' Tommy Makem's tale of Donegal fishermen. Adding a more personal touch to the proceedings, Moon Over Ireland also features several newly penned tracks, including the self-explanatory celebration of his hometown, the accordion-based "My Lovely Donegal," and the touchingly nostalgic "My Father's House," written by Kevin Sheerin, a regular member of O'Donnell's band for over 12 years. Whether you find its vintage Val Doonican-esque nature a little too sickly to stomach or not, O'Donnell's unwillingness to compromise should be admired, and although it certainly won't convert any of his detractors, his second release in three months is undoubtedly an authentic and proud celebration of his nation's traditional musical heritage.
Moon Over Ireland Review
by Jon O'Brien