The brooding image that looks out from the cover is timeless and that pretty well describes this album. Damien Dempsey has amassed six albums – all top drawer and top ten – and he has collected the best on two CDs that just amaze with the concentrated power and emotion.

Damien Dempsey, for me, can be summed up by one track. ‘Sing Your Cares Away’. Not a feelgood singalong; tales of the downtrodden and damaged of Dublin (or any city really) that rings out with truth and illuminates elements of their lives well enough that you could feel you know them.

His accent is so strong that he is not easy to understand immediately but listen closely and the words leap out at you like perfect little diamonds of prose. He has a keening quality to his voice that emphasises the emotion in the words but the words themselves are the real strength here.

The title track is massive. It just builds to an extended peak that draws you in and leaves you exhausted with the intensity of it. It is one of the most satisfying tracks I’ve heard in years but you almost have to go back and listen again.
He plays softer songs as well but always with the same power and strength behind the tales and pictures and ‘traditional’ tracks like ‘The Auld Triangle’ that sound as though they have been played for centuries.

One of the best tracks here – a jewel amongst gems – is his reading of the Pogues classic ‘Rainy Night In Soho’. He takes a great number and makes it somehow personal and original. There is no sense that he is changing Shane MacGowan’s masterpiece but it somehow becomes more Irish and less Kilburn and works for all that.

Detailing all the tracks would be a waste of time and time better spent in listening to this collection – I’d heard his name before but never really heard his music, my bad and thankfully this gives me the chance to pick up on what I missed.