There was a moment during Daniel Wade’s classy Launch event for his terrific debut album ‘Embers and Earth’ – I’m reluctant to call it a Gig as, when it takes place in the salubrious setting of the high-ceilinged acoustic-friendly Studio room of the National Concert Hall, you always knew it was going to be a little bit special – when, accompanied by his Dad on a Steinway Grand and his uncle on Uilleann pipes, playing a spoken word song called ‘Recruit’ about their relatives – his great grandfather and granduncle – who fought in the First World War, that tears were brought to every member of the audience – granted, some of us had been enjoying the free red wine reception beforehand – but this was a moment that was moving, emotional and will live long in memory.
I’ve long known what a quality, word-wisdom-beyond-his-years, poet and lyricist, Daniel is, from hearing him perform at open-mics and sessions over the years – but now listening to his deeply personal spoken word narratives being brought to life with musical accompaniment, kicks his work up to a very powerful and affecting level, and none more so than this tribute to family members who were written out of Irish history till very recently.
“The Islandbridge memorial, gritted by rainfall and infamy, excludes your name, your rifle lost its voice as you lost your fortitude, you were a war hero pocked with shame, mustard gas was the dreg of your every battle, grinding your lungs for the next five decades, your ammunition pouch thinned down, shell-shock leapt from your throat in deathly coughs.
How to remember you – two dead men I never met, as a Royal Dublin fusilier, 5th battalion 10th brigade, 4th division, with an ammunition pouch, gasmask and helmet, or as an expert gardener planting apple trees, living your final years on a British army pension believing you were a traitor to everyone. Did a Victoria cross decorate your mantel piece, were you threatened with conscription, or did massacre and shell fire enthrall you, were you taken in by the emblems of blood, did your rifle make you feel like a man, standing heroic in the barbed war-torn mud or did you want three square meals and a wage, whatever the reason I pray your stony faiths are bloodless, free of bullets and war’s waste as I commemorate you both here a century too late.
You want a shoulder to cry on – I have two shoulders.”
During the gig I posted that Daniel was tearing through pieces like a cross between Jim Morrison and Tom Waits but Nick Cave is probably the reference that he would be most comfortable and happy to hear mentioned – as it’s his clear love of earthy, atmospheric, lyrically rich artists that shines through and of course, his love of music.
The Album kicks off with the jazzy late night vibed ‘Colossi’ ; firmly and descriptively grounding the collection in his hometown of Dublin with all its seediness and charm.
His tribute to Antarctic explorer Tom Crean tugs us headlong into that amazing journey of escape that he undertook all those years ago – plus introduces that theme of the heroic outsider in his own country that Recruit deals with later and which his poem ‘After the Bailey’ concerning the Guildford four’s Gerry Conlon continues.
“The sailor pulled down his snow goggles against the wind’s ferocious lung, a white cyclone pressed him ahead of landfalls, with a skull hard as the stalactites that hang from a cavern roof, he began trudging north, the midnight sun raised to half mast, there were scattered lulls, peaceable as death, his boots scuffed the corrugated frost of the Antarctic, his brow stiff and downward, his goggle airtight, lest he go snow-blind, an Irish flag lay in his sledge, it fluttered greenly in white grist, the only flag of its kind to fly over polar crags. He heard the ravine take a vow of silence when the whiteout fell slack, his mouth was tinted purple by frosted spleen, the hands of winter clawing at his neck.”
It’s not surprising to find ‘Centenary’ on the album concerning the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 rising, as it adds to this strong Irish historical theme that runs through the collection, and the track ‘Buddy’ about a soldier killed during a recon mission during the Vietnam war, which was a highlight of the launch gig too, had me conjuring up words from Heart of Darkness and images of helicopters on napalm runs from that unforgettable opening sequence of Apocalypse Now.
“What would it take not to dust the entire forest, you and your boys wondering who’ll make it home with ballistic gashes, or a purple heart on every chest, the helicopter blades thudding waltz, the red dome of Heaven incinerated by Charlie’s ground fire…you saw five golden flares slither up from the earth, death smells of napalm and warm mud, harsh and clear, your tour of duty was cut short, so may it finish here.”
‘Title Fight’ is the other big highlight, with a cool dansy textured backing track, a former boxer himself – this is where he decides to have a bit of fun.
Aperture is another moving track that previously featured on The Circle Sessions compilation Cd and is a poem that unfolds in a way that draws you in – his personal experience of watching his grandmother suffering from senility before she died – personal, insightful and very relatable to. And performed with and to family members at the launch was again very touching.
‘Maritime Law’ – another highlight from the gig – worth it just to have heard Justin McCann pounding the Steinway into submission – for want of a better description let’s call it a pirate ballad – all quality lyrics – plus Steve Wickham’s distinctive fiddle strokes on the Cd brings more appreciative grins of satisfaction.
Gritty, real, lyrical gems, deeply rooted in Dublin and Ireland both historical and current, the title of the collection taken from a poetic tribute to where I spent much of my own teens, Dun Laoghaire, the port town of South county Dublin – there are treats and surprises, where a love of music is combined with a talent for words – embers that can burn you and a down-to-earthiness that will charm you – please check out and fork out for
Daniel Wade’s Ember and Earth.
Available soon through Itunes etc