When the 1980s were coming to an end, there was plenty of reason to be optimistic about Irish/Celtic music. Younger artists were pointing Irish music in exciting new directions, combining Celtic elements with everything from rock to hip-hop. And plenty of traditional Irish/Celtic artists were still around, including Tommy Makem. When Rolling Home came out in 1989, the veteran singer was 56 -- and at that point, he brought a lot of maturity and wisdom to his work. In traditional Irish folk singing, being an effective storyteller is everything. That was never a problem for Makem, who brings a lot of charm and charisma to original songs like "Brendan" (an ode to the 6th century Irish saint), "Long Winter Nights," and the title track, as well as traditional gems that Irish singers have been performing for generations. Anyone who is seriously into Irish/Celtic music will be quite familiar with "Courting in the Kitchen" and "The Boys of Mullaghbawn," which goes back to the 18th century and was an Irish standard long before the advent of recording technology. Another highlight of this CD is "The Town I Love So Well," Phil Coulter's poignant account of the turmoil that had ravaged his native Derry. If Makem sometimes reminds you of American country, folk, and western singers, it is no coincidence -- the folk traditions of Ireland, Scotland, and England had a major impact on the country, folk and cowboy/western music that developed in the United States. Rolling Home isn't Makem's best or most essential release, but it's a solid, pleasing effort that the Irishman can easily be proud of.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson