AL­BUM OF THE WEEK

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

The grand old man of Amer­i­can song is some­times la­belled a ‘song­writer’s song­writer’ but such a so­bri­quet can be more of a curse than a bless­ing. New­man’s keenly ob­served and wryly funny songs should be cel­e­brated by all who en­joy whip-smart song-craft and, at 73, there’s no ev­i­dence what­so­ever that his pow­ers are fad­ing. Dark Mat­ter is his first al­bum of orig­i­nal ma­te­rial in al­most a decade and it’s as ra­zor­sharp as you’d ex­pect from a man who reg­u­larly takes a sur­geon’s scalpel to so­ci­ety. He says he has re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to di­rectly tackle the di­vi­sive fig­ure in the White House, but these songs crackle with un­ease for the world in which we find our­selves in 2017. ‘Broth­ers’ may be based on an imag­ined con­ver­sa­tion be­tween JFK and his equally doomed brother Robert about whether or not to in­vade Cuba, but it cap­tures much of the ten­sion and anx­i­ety that pop­u­lates to­day’s news pages. ‘The Great De­bate’ clocks in at eight min­utes and would surely have out­stayed its wel­come in lesser hands. But here, the singer looks at one of the great con­ver­sa­tions of our time: that of ‘true be­liev­ers’ and those who es­pouse what they reckon is the in­con­tro­vert­ible ev­i­dence of science. A big theme, for sure, but Randy New­man is the per­fect man for the job.

World on a string: Saint Sis­ter’s Gemma (left), who plays harp, and Mor­gan are pi­o­neers in the ‘at­mos­folk’ genre.

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