I don’t look back and think ‘let me sit down and lis­ten to those old records.’ I might do when I’m 80. But not now. I’m very much alive here and now, cre­at­ing

Dexys’ Kevin Row­land tells Teddy Jamieson about the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind their new al­bum of Ir­ish songs

The Herald - Arts - - COVER STORY -

HOW would you sum up this new al­bum then Kevin? Down the phone there is a pause. “I thought you’d be able to do that,” the voice an­swers. “I don’t think I could.”

Kevin Row­land is in a car at the end of the day. He isn’t driv­ing. At least I don’t think he is driv­ing. It doesn’t oc­cur to me to ask. He is def­i­nitely chew­ing on some­thing as he speaks. That’s be­tween chew­ing up the ques­tions I’m ask­ing him.

Dexys have a new al­bum com­ing out. It’s called Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Ir­ish and Coun­try Soul. That’s as good a way to sum it up as any, I guess. It’s good enough for Row­land cer­tainly. “It’s in the ti­tle,” he tells me.

Be­hind said ti­tle is a cov­ers al­bum, a col­lec­tion of (over?)fa­mil­iar old Ir­ish songs, in­clud­ing I’ll Take You Home Kathleen, Car­rick­fer­gus and 40 Shades of Green, as well as cov­ers of tunes by the Bee Gees (To Love Some­body), Rod Ste­wart (You Wear It Well), Joni Mitchell (Both Sides Now) and even Lee Ann Rimes (How Do I Live), played sump­tu­ously by a fine band and in­clud­ing a guest ap­pear­ance by vi­o­lin­ist He­len O’Hara who last played on a Dexys record 31 years ago.

What does that make it? Another cu­ri­ous chap­ter in the story of Dexys, I’d sug­gest. Another con­trar­ian ges­ture in a ca­reer marked by wil­fully con­trar­ian ges­tures.

Where to start with the story of Dexys? From punk days (when Row­land was in the band The Killjoys) to the present day, the band have been by turns a mad, silly, glo­ri­ous, messy plea­sure. The Dexys leg­end takes in Row­land at­tack­ing jour­nal­ists, steal­ing the master tapes of his first record, thiev­ing some ideas for the band’s rag­gle-tag­gle in­car­na­tion (the one that gave us Come On Eileen), mak­ing an al­bum Don’t Stand Me Down that is near as dammit a mas­ter­piece (and you can quote me) and yet re­fus­ing to re­lease a sin­gle to pro­mote it.

Then there was Row­land’s Glas­ton­bury ap­pear­ance in a dress and stock­ings which saw him shame­fully bot­tled off the stage, fol­lowed by ra­dio si­lence when Row­land was bank­rupt, sign­ing on and do­ing too much co­caine. And then af­ter years in the wilder­ness Dexys re­turned in 2012 with a rather well-re­ceived al­bum One Day I’m Go­ing to Soar.

So maybe record­ing an al­bum full of songs such as Car­rick­fer­gus (cov­ered in the past by Van Mor­ri­son and Bryan Ferry of course) shouldn’t be a sur­prise.

“Dexys try not to re­peat them­selves,” Row­land sug­gests, “and it just felt it would be a bit of a mis­take to do another al­bum like the last. This is an al­bum I wanted to do for a long time and now seemed like the right time to do it.”

In fact the idea of do­ing an al­bum of Ir­ish songs first oc­curred back in the 1980s when the band was rid­ing high on the back of the Too-Rye-Ay al­bum. “We just never got to do it. The idea stayed with me and it ex­panded from purely Ir­ish songs to a few other songs I’d al­ways wanted to sing.

“I didn’t re­ally worry about how it would link to­gether. I think we man­aged to make it work in the track list­ing, in the way one song flows into another. And it’s all the same band play­ing them.”

Are they mostly songs you heard in child­hood, Kevin? “Not re­ally. I’d love to say I was a child when I heard Rod Ste­wart but I was 18. But it moved me greatly.”

It was as a child he be­gan to hear the Ir­ish songs though. And when he was a teenager he’d go out of a Satur­day night and come home to find his par­ents in the house with mates singing them. “They’d be in a good mood and they’d have a cou­ple of drinks and then they’d start singing, you know?”

Did he join in? “I prob­a­bly didn’t at that age, no. I did when I was young. When I was seven or eight. I didn’t sing when I was a teenager be­cause you get all self-con­scious, awk­ward.”

The other thing that hap­pens when you’re a teenager, I point out, is you re­ject all the stuff your par­ents like. You didn’t do that? “I did, yeah. I sort of liked it but I would take the piss out of it. I’d think it was corny. I re­mem­ber at a party I started singing Wild Colo­nial Boy but in a broad Mayo ac­cent – which is where my folks are from – but re­ally over­do­ing it, you know. I think they knew I was tak­ing the piss. It wasn’t ter­ri­bly well-re­ceived. They were right. It was just my awk­ward­ness.”

Well, he says that. But frankly I’m with the teenage boy he was. As some­one

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