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Port Album by SJ McArdle


(Extract from the Irish Times)

Public art and popular song do not make the most natural or fruitful of partners. Drogheda singer-songwriter SJ McArdle aims to change that perception with this impressive song cycle culled from his show, Port, the result of a year-long research and writing project on the history of Drogheda’s ancient port, conducted while artist in association at Droichead Arts Centre in 2019.

The nine songs on Old Ghosts in the Water are obviously based on events plucked from the port’s eventful history. The bulk of the songs are intriguing and evocative; they are rooted in folk but coloured by expansive and imaginative arrangements. He has also assembled an impressive line-up, not least the celebrated voice of Dubliner Carol Keogh, while his own singing carries great conviction. There is also much to admire in the production of veteran double bassist Trevor Hutchinson, particularly his use of harmony, brass and deft instrumental breaks.

Among the strongest tracks is Brig Manley, a graphic reimagining of a sea rescue that went wrong. carries contemporaneous reports from the Freeman’s Journal of the 1871 disaster. No doubt McArdle’s research uncovered them. They are an example of how such historical material adds greatly to our interest and understanding.

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Two of the album tracks can be heard below