Sony/BMG – 2005 – 50 minutes

While Damien Dempsey's vocal is an acquired taste, there can be no doubting that on closer inspection you'll discover that his work shows an astute observation of Irish life. His third album 'Shots' delves deep into the Irish psyche and tackles issues that other writers don't even approach.

While many of his contemporaries are focussing on love and heartbreak, Dempsey's concern is in giving a voice to the downtrodden, those who can't speak for themselves and he does it very effectively. 'Sing All Our Cares Away', 'Choctaw Nation' and a new recording of 'Colony' encapsulate bitterness, anger, regret and acceptance with astonishing clarity.

He's not above irony and sarcasm either, though, as 'Party On' shows. A catchy song about vowing to give up drugs, it also has a serious and almost plaintive note as it depicts the difficulty of getting out of a dangerous situation. The music industry is a common theme for Dempsey also. 'I've No Alibi' from his first album didn't mask his contempt for certain ways the business is run and here 'Patience' illustrates his determination to succeed, which has stood him in good stead thus far.

Many might question Dempsey's vocal talent; truthfully, this reviewer did too, at first, but there is a lot to be said for his simple, direct approach to singing. And there is a lot more subtlety to his voice than you might guess. Dempsey is an artist that we're still discovering, really, and 'Shots' will go a long way towards raising his profile.

'Shots' is an excellent album that gives plenty of food for thought as well as continuing to re-invigorate the Irish songwriting tradition.

Katie Moten

Tracklisting: Sing All Our Cares Away – Not on Your Own Tonight – St Patrick's Day – Cursed With A Brain – Party On – Colony – Patience – Hold Me – Choctaw Nation – Spraypaint Backalley