Songs From Ireland is Damien Leith’s eight album. After winning Australian Idol in 2006, Ireland-born songwriter and multi instrumentalist has released seven albums, almost one a year. Two of them were number ones in the ARIA charts. All of them were pretty “pop” as Leith himself admitted, despite a hint of folky sound. Let’s say 80% pop and 20% folk. This LP maintains both aspects, with a slightly different proportion; I would say 50%-50%. It is a collection of 15 traditional Irish songs reinterpreted by Leith with the help of his family and a few fellow musicians. He recorded this celebration of his origins and musical homeland in Dublin, at the same studios where he used to work with his family band, Leaf, 14 years ago. His sister sings on some tracks, such as Bright Blue Rose, while one of his brothers plays the drums and the other plays guitar and took the picture that made the album cover.
Opener Black Is The Color is one of my favorite tunes – a lulling, slow traditional ballad sung in duet with Irish singer Sharon Corr, former member of world famous Irish pop band, The Corrs. With its uilleann pipes, it is one of the most “Celtic” sounding pieces in the whole LP. Following Molly Malone is another internationally known popular song set in Dublin and considered the city’s unofficial anthem. Galway Girl is an upbeat, foot-tapping duet with famous Irish musician Sharon Shannon, where accordion and fiddles are the true protagonists. The Parting Glass is another dancing song, as Rocky Road To Dublin, with its quick singing and choruses, while Red Is The Rose is a slow tune in which Leith shows off his well-educated voice with no particular highlights. I find almost all these ballads a little boring, with the exception of the very last song, Galway Bay, which, despite an acoustic start, is rather different from the other tracks and features an unexpected (and a bit alienating) duet with late American crooner Bing Crosby.
All in all, even though Leith surely has a beautiful and expressive voice, this album doesn’t convince me. The sound is too “clean” to convey the heartfelt and involving strength of classical songs.