The gap may have been fourteen years but the wait for THE VICAR St SESSIONS VOL. 1 to emerge in a recorded format is over, much to the delight of the legions of Paul Brady fans. On the contrary, if you are yet to be acquainted with this highly acclaimed Irish artist then this new release will act as a fresh introductory opportunity. With this project being the snapshot of one month in the life of a performer back in October 2001, perhaps the use of the word ‘fresh’ is ironic. The decision to descend on Dublin’s Vicar St venue for a residency was ambitious at its outset, cautionary with its start, rampant in its promotion, before ultimately succeeding in its legacy.
In total Paul played 23 dates during that single venue run and this initial release, in what promises to be a series, evokes a little of the bristling craftsmanship that surrounded each night during the month. The obvious attraction of the thirteen tracks selected to populate Volume 1 is the sheer magnitude of the collaborating artists who ended up giving Paul more than a little helping hand in making the initiation a success. These artists ultimately queued up to work with a performer who at the time had already enjoyed a thirty year recording career, successfully moving between the styles of traditional Irish music through to contemporary pop/rock, whilst making calling stops within the country and folk communities.
Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor, Curtis Stigers, Ronan Keating and Bonnie Raitt are all household names to feature on the record. Paul was happy to share the spotlight of his own songs alongside selected numbers from his guests. This is reflected in the chosen tracks for the recording which surfaces under the Proper Records banner. O’Connor’s ‘In This Heart’, Morrison’s ‘Irish Heartbeat’ and Stigers’ ‘Don’t Go Far’, all graced with the additional presence of Paul, make the cut. Standing mightily alongside these songs are Brady’s own ‘The Soul Commotion’, making a good case for the stand out track, and a piece he co-wrote with Carol King ‘Believe in Me’.
THE VICAR St SESSIONS VOL. 1 ends on a real high with Mary Black and Mauna O’Connell joining Paul for a rousing finale of Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’. This is one of the less smooth tracks on the album which is the appeal to many of a live record. With this in mind the bulk of the tracks do blur the lines between live and studio, so it down to the choice of the discerning listener. What is removed from the debate is the first rate musicianship running through the core of the record and the imaginative ease of being a privileged guest at each of these live shows.