SHANE HOWARD: REFLECTIONS ON THE MAKING OF "HEARTH"
I felt very honoured to be invited to sing three of Michael
Kennedy's songs on the new album, HEARTH. But I'm also full of
ambiguity listening to this album. So saddened by Michael's
absence and yet so completely enthralled by the creative genius
at work. The songs, the songs!
Michael Kennedy’s gift was threefold. He had the soul of a gifted
poet, a voice of exquisite beauty and he was a guitarist of
exceptional ability. He brought all of these things together in
such an intelligent way; with an economy of emotion that was
never over-stated or over-ornamented.
Michael Kennedy's songs move me in a way that few artists
I’ve ever heard can. I hear the work of Teilhard de Chardin,
John O’Donohue and Thomas Berry echoing in the background
and I hear the distillation of complex thought and ideas into an
economy and poetry of language that is at times breathtaking.
There is an aching and deep yearning in his songs that cry out
from somewhere near the centre of the soul of the Universe,
from the soul of humanity, that transcend time and geography.
Luke Plumb Produced the album and also collaborated, as a
friend, with Michael and Michael's wife Carla regarding
arrangements, instrumentation and creative direction. I’m
captivated by the brilliance and beauty of Luke's production and
the fine musicianship, which perfectly compliments the brilliance
of Michael Kennedy as a poet and songman of the highest order.
The album is full of masterful playing from Luke, Mike McGoldrick, Kate Burke, John McCusker, James McKintosh, Shannon Birchall and
Phil Carroll. The songs are then beautifully & hauntingly rendered by Chris While, Karine Polwart & Carl Pannuzzo. An extraordinary album.
It was also a powerful experience to sing those songs at the National Folk Festival in Canberra, at the album launch concert, alongside the
stunning voices of Chris While, Carl Pannuzzo, Penny Larkin and Jane Thompson. Luke Plumb also drew together a formidable assembly of
musicians for the live launch.
When I hear Michael’s songs, I also hear his Celtic ancestors speaking through him in word and thought and tune. But I also hear the ancient
voice of Australia speaking too. His ancestors may have been Celtic in origin but his spirit was born of his birth country, Australia. He fuses this
duality into unity. There is a timelessness about Michael’s work that will ensure that many of these songs will still be sung by future generations.
There is also a deep spirituality at work but as he says in ‘Indigo’, “…let heaven take what heaven owns, I belong to indigo.."
Make no mistake about it, ‘Hearth' is a brilliant and coherent manifesto for our times and Michael Kennedy’s songs will get you from the cradle to
the grave, with grace and with your soul intact.
Shane Howard - April 2015
For Shane's poem "Poet (For Michael Kennedy)" click here