Looking like a working-class brawler and singing like Luke Kelly, Damien Dempsey is one of the more inspiring trad-Irish balladeers to step up in recent years. The Pogues' Shane MacGowan has praised Dempsey for describing, in his songs, things as they really are — "which is a pile of shit, you know what I mean?" — but for also seeing the beauty in Ireland's past and the possibilities for its future. Whether accompanied by his own guitar, a hollow banjo or keening fiddle, or all the strings of frequent collaborators the Dubliners, Dempsey's firm baritone carries more emotion through one song than most folks experience in a whole week. The cover of Dempsey's latest, The Rocky Road (an album stocked with classics like "The Foggy Dew" and "Night Visiting Song"), shows the man himself savoring a snifter of whiskey in a pub. Once you've listened to a few tracks from it, you'll be right there with him. Fresh off his opening gig for Oscar winners the Swell Season, Dempsey brings his Connacht brogue to the Duck Room.
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