Once Paul Brady made albums that hit you smack between the eyes, Hard Station was the kind of record which thrilled you from the off, one listen you were hooked and couldn’t wait to hear it again. The songs were about life, love and experience, tracks were five minutes plus. When the man had something to say he said it with melody and authority. Even now it remains a dynamic listen and stands as a classic in the annals of Irish rock.
All of which is a long way from Unfinished Business, nowadays Paul Brady takes things easier, he has far less to prove, he is after all one of the legends of his country’s music, switching between genres with consumate ease, dwelling in that hinterland where his name alone is enough. It’s been a long seven years since he last let a studio album loose on the world, the frantic Hooba Dooba, archive releases plugged the gap meantime, but an album’s been due for a protracted period. Unfinished Business might hint that he’s got lots to say and he’ll say it loaded with incident and vitriol, but when a lounge jazz ensemble rolls out the title/initial track it’s an unexpected change of pace. Whilst he does have unfinished business, by his own admission he wanted to take his time with this album, release it when the time was right and work with other writers to amplify the record’s potential. With that in mind he approached three partners whose pen and melodic sense he trusted, Irish poet Paul Muldoon, Nashville based Sharon Vaughan and Ralph Murphy –whose contribution Once In A Lifetime is the stand out track, a gentle and considered ballad about deepest emotion and feeling, to these ears it ranks up there alongside The Island, Homes Of Donegal, Nobody Knows as quiet strength and measured steel. But then, there’s a lot of contentment hereabouts as Brady slips into maturity there’s less to shout about, more to observe and reflect on. I Love You But You Love Him has a chugging guitar underline and typical tricksy rhythm changes that appeal but its lyrics are less than his normal standard even at one point stooping to ‘ I love my grub…!’ Best move on. Something To Change is harder, far more like it, ‘ I’m not looking for trouble, Just looking for something to change.’ This is someone on the edge, not content with the status quo, determined to make an adjustment, it’s just a question of degree. There’s a squabble on Say You Don’t Mean with line after line of opposites whereas Oceans Of Time is paradoxically as laid back as you want, ‘why should we hurry up the tide?’ Why indeed according to Uncle Paul, nobody will notice if you rush anyway, whilst Maybe Tomorrow has him advising that you actually can find redemption if you stray off the tracks, if you don’t mind a bit of deceit in the meantime, not too much, just in case you’re caught!
Recorded almost solo, playing the majority of instruments himself, Paul Brady’s made an album that bridges his career in an arch, there are two trad folk songs which feature Andy Irvine his former sparring partner and Planxty colleague, the first The Cocks Are Crowing is bitter sweet rejection whilst Lord Thomas & Fair Ellender comes from the stock of New Lost City Ramblers, that Brady first sung back when the folk boom was booming with the Johnstons and hence the Americana setting. Both cuts are acoustic and return his rougher vocal to familiar territory like an old friend popping round suddenly one afternoon for a surprise visit.
That he still has Unfinished Business is one reason to be thankful, that he is still gigging is even better news, he has after all given two of the finest concerts I’ve ever experienced and his status as a touchstone of roots music is assured. This’ll take a while to seep into your conscience, immediate gratification may only be achieved by hard core Bradyites – if there’s such a word – the rest of you will have to have patience and wait for the album to reveal its delights. By the sixth or seventh spin thorough satisfaction is guaranteed. Long may he run.
Released on Proper and check all details at www.paulbrady.com