If you have yet to discover the melodies and words of David Keenan, you are in for a rare and wonderful find. The eagerly anticipated second volume to his ‘Strip Me Bare’ release from earlier this year is a four-song offering comprised of as much fluidity, imagery and romanticism as its predecessor.
Despite formulating and developing his full band show on the road this summer with multiple festival appearances, support slots and a North American tour, ‘Strip Me Bare Vol. 2’ is an acoustic affair, with Keenan in the sole company of his guitar.
The EP lends itself to a raw, intimate feel – delicate at times and forceful at others. Matchbox builds to a vigorous sound and the repetition in the closing seconds (which has become somewhat of a staple for Keenan) truly resonates, allowing his ideas and beliefs to echo long after the final bar. “Be brave or be enslaved” he cries. A stunningly passionate yet rousing call to action.
James Dean is a simple croon that showcases Keenan as the sentimental, romantic dreamer that he is. He is obsessed with the idyllic but also with finding the flaws within it. He takes Dean, an infamous Hollywood tragedy, and engulfs him in Irish folklore. “I had a dream that James Dean was alive and well today. Looking for the quiet life, working for Irish Rail.”
Rise Up lacks the fervour and energy evident in the other tracks. It follows a similar pattern to the others, repetition included towards the end, but the story is not as whole and the message not as exhilarating.
His raspy guitar and soaring vocals tangle and intertwine incomparably on Nazareth House, which reignites a flickering flame. He sings with dynamics, abruptness, lilts and bellows, just to be sure you’re following intently. “Not tonight kid, you’re drunk, go home” he says, once again committing to an unmistakable Irish identity that’s intensely familiar, mournful and affectionate.
Keenan displays vision and romanticism that’s wonderfully youthful and illustrates it with language and imagery beyond his years. ‘Strip Me Bare’ is devoid of all modern day distractions and curates a world much closer to that of Yeats and Joyce. He’s a dreamer, a romantic, a poet and, above all else, an artist. One of the most inspiring talents to come out of Irish music in a very long time.