Richard Gilpin
"Loose Ends"
by Johanna J. Bodde


ICHARD GILPIN   "Loose Ends"   (Self-Released)

Richard Gilpin's debut album "Beautiful Mistake" (2002) and a few other CD's were given to me by one of our Belgian friends, in exchange for the writing of a long festival review on his website. And I instantly liked Richard's fine voice and inventive music! In one way or another I missed his second album "33" in 2003, but now there's "Loose Ends": a great new collection of eleven self-penned songs.

Richard was born in Belfast and when he's not touring, he now enjoys small town life in Donegal. But this is not just a CD with traditional Irish music, it's far more than that. There's also folkrock, countryblues and even a bit of reggae featured in the eclectic musical mixture. And I have to admit that I always melt when I hear that charming Irish accent! Also the beauty of ancient landscapes and centuries old buildings -almost turned into ruins- seem to show up while listening to Richard's music, the Catholic tradition of the country only adds to the mystical atmosphere...

The CD opens strong with "Soul Searching", that's the dipped-in-reggae song with Richard on electric guitar, keys and drums plus percussion setting the mood and pretty backgroundvocals by Julie Follis and Maura Donaghy. "The Ballad Of Francis And The Sultan" tells a historical tale from the year 1219 about Francis of Assissi, adorned with accordion, double bass and the exotic darbuoca. "The Great Compromise" is a simular epic ballad, only this one has traditional Irish sounds from fiddle (played by Cathal Hayden) and mandolin. Here we find the songtitle: "For silence is the best of friends / To a master of disguise / You'll tie up all of my loose ends / In the great compromise." Fiddle, mandolin and accordion come back faster on catchy "The New Republic". Just as melodious is "The Healing Pool", close to six minutes long but with the various solos never a boring second. Richard plays here acoustic guitar and John Doherty is absolutely great on the electric! "Leave It All Behind" is an acoustic rocksong with mandolin and organ, even more interesting work is done by the same instruments plus the electric guitars (Doherty and Gilpin himself) on "No Expert": an upbeat uptempo hitsong in the making, kinda like Nick Lowe's punky pubrock, good stuff! Piano-ballad with double bass "Because You Can" is then very different again and I was most surprised by the effective tribute "Oscar Romero".
Richard tackled the difficult, dark subject in a simple ode and that works very well. As my co-writer and I recently worked my poem about El Salvador in Archbishop Romero's time also into a song, I curiously asked Richard how he got his inspiration. He answered: "Bought a book of Oscar Romero's words called "The Violence Of Love". It lay on my bookshelf for many years, then around 2 years ago I began to read and was blown away by the sheer courage of the man. Struggled a lot with the lyrics and just decided to keep it very simple as a tribute to the man, and those like him. Maybe encourage others to read about him... at least you won't forget the name after hearing the song!" So true... "He did not run he did not hide / For those with only violence on their mind" and "In Eden's ruin a single grain / A burning bush, a hurricane." Powerful!

In the goodlooking CD-booklet with lyrics and pictures, Richard urges us to join Amnesty International, yes, let's not put that off until later this time!
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, February 2007.