I think it's true art is meant to be stumbled upon. Some months ago, needing something for my soul, I was stopped dead in my stumbling tracks by an extremely special artist. His name: David Keenan. The twenty-four year old Dundalk-native has released his sophomore EP Strip Me Bare, available now via Barrack Street Records.
For fans of folk, Keenan is a rare and exhilarating find. The lyricism on Strip Me Bare is something magical. His poetry has that wonderful, melancholic, oh-so-Irish quality of Seamus Heaney or Yeats; his arrangements have the gravity of a Cohen tune; his vocal calls to mind the whimsy of Tim and Jeff Buckley. At the same time, Keenan isn't comparable to any legend. He maintains a visceral honesty and originality in his work.
Gentle acoustics juxtapose a soaring vocal—these songs have open air beneath them. "Altar Wine," the only track built over top a piano, is so expertly written I believe it gives the aforementioned artists with whom he is so often compared a run for their money. Yes, Keenan weaves a tale like most storytellers can, but he also paints with words like the folk world hasn't heard from a person so young in quite a time. Strip Me Bare is also expertly sung. The transitions are effortless as he moves back and forth between spoken word, a fragile croon, and an unmistakable growl derived from a lifetime spent listening to great Irish singers, of the pubs and stage alike. It is delicate but powerful, tributary but not derivative, crystal clear yet impressionistic, marvellously resistant of 21st century technology, and a songwriting masterclass. It is the kind of music to get lost in.