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Damien Dempsey brings his powerful live show to Monroe’s Live on Thursday next, December 14. This was the year in which Damien released his eighth studio album, Soulsun, but 2017 wasn’t without its challenges for the Dublin singer.
“I had a bit of an upset with my sinuses, so I had to cancel a few shows,” he says. “It couldn’t be helped, and I’m singing a lot better now and breathing a lot better. We got an album out and it was received very well, so I was happy with that. You’re never sure how an album will be received, but people seem to dig it.”
That’s down to the quality of the songwriting, with Damien as impassioned as ever. Sam Jenkins, a particular standout, came about because of his critical and enquiring mind.
“I look into Irish history a lot, because I think there are a lot of lies there,” he explains. “We’re just given a tiny bit of it in school, and a lot of it is watered down. I think the name ‘the Famine,’ it shouldn’t be called that. A Famine means an extreme scarcity of food, and there was lots of food in Ireland at the time. This country was called the ‘Garden of England’ by the British – there was a lot of food being shipped out under armed guard.”
The Sam Jenkins of the title is a character Damien created; a British soldier who is protecting one of these shipments out of ireland. As the song goes on, Jenkins becomes more horrified and is sent to Australia for refusing to follow orders.
“I wanted to write a song about the typical British soldier,” Damien says. “Britain was the richest country in the world, but a lot of the people there were hungry, dirty and poor, and just kept down. So, they’d have to join the army. There must have been some people who were horrified at what they were forced to do. There must have been someone who rebelled against it.”
Elsewhere on the album, Damien duets with Imelda May on Big Big Love, and recently joined her at London’s Royal Albert Hall to sing that song. But his personal highlight from 2017 was the sell-out show he played at Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.