A Review of the CD
"We Built A Fire"
by Donal Hinely

"We Built A Fire"
by Donal Hinely

Lochshore - 2002
CDLDL 1312
http:// www.donalhinely.com

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 6/03

I don't know about "fire" in the sense of lighting a beacon for other recording artistes to observe and acknowledge. But I can tell you this: from the FIRST moment the voice hits you, it creates sparks. And before long the album is well alight.

The title track is the final one. By then one has really concluded that one is in the presence of a considerable new talent. But let me not go overboard: this is not some seminal album that comes along once in a decade. One can safely say that music historians thirty years from now, will not see this as a "Red Headed Stranger", the way that their counterparts writing now revere Willie Nelson's classic of the mid Seventies. But that said, there is so much about this album that is genuinely exciting. The moment the voice creates that tingle, it gets your mind racing. When did you LAST get such a sense of excitement? Even Slaid Cleaves didn't make your nerve ends feel quite so alive. I have to go back to hearing Loudon Wainwright lll, back God knows when, and that first LP, as he wailed out the words "In Delaware when I was younger". Not that the songs are anything approaching the Wainwright quality. Nor are they as quirky, nor do they cover as impressive a range of subjects. (Indeed, these seem to be centred on the theme of travelling on.) But what they have, is something fairly rare. They are - and forgive me for a misspent youth in a thousand "picture palaces" - strangely CINEMATIC. Close your eyes and with each song you see the footage of a Coen Brothers or Wim Wenders movie.

Much is made in the press release of the influence of songwriters like John Hiatt, Steve Earle and Richard Thompson. Great names indeed. But then the press release goes on to talk about the great Texas storytelling tradition, and it was here that we have the real clue. This guy strikes me as being, in racehorse terms, by Jerry Jeff Walker out of Nanci Griffith.

On the album, he is well served by a handful of musicians, and pulled off quite a coup in getting the services of Grammy nominated Kim Richey on some harmony vocals.

"Promise of a Dream" is the one song that came closest to ringing all the right bells for me. It tells the story of how he meets a once-mildly famous lady, now down on her luck in a Salvation Army store. It is more of a complete song than many of the others: listening to the rest of his songs is a bit like a movie actor looking at the previous day's "rushes" (that is, snippets of the latest footage filmed). Sort of incomplete.

But then of course, one senses that writing "start/middle/end" songs were never part of Hinely's "master plan"! If his plan was to make critics sit up and take notice, then he has succeeded admirably.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

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