Invite a seanchaí into your home . . . you will be glad that you did. With Jim Hawkins new CD, My Own Native Land: Stories and Songs of Ireland, that has never been easier. Hawkins’ debut album will carry you across the miles, over the waters and back in time.
When a colleague suggested that I review “My Own Native Land,” I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of either meeting Jim or hearing his work. I looked forward to the CD arriving in my post box. Its arrival took me on a merry journey of stories and songs.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Ireland, taking time to stop and talk to any elder I might encounter for as long as they wanted me to or time would allow. Each one would start off by saying: “You should’ve been here when the Seanchaí walked about. Now they could tell a story!”
It was their voices that I heard, in chorus, after my first listen to Jim’s album, affirming, “Now HE can tell a story!” Some of Jim’s songs and stories were familiar. They took me on a journey back to cozy kitchens and long summer evenings filled with laughter, singing and friendship. Such was the case with Star of County Down, The Flower of Sweet Strabane and God & the Devil Dividing People. I cannot say how many countless times and in how many regional accents I have heard these songs and story. Each time, Hawkins delivered his offerings — which included a number of songs — with a nuance not heard before.
Jim’s album is for listening to on a car trip, a long winter’s evening or any time that you have to — or want to — settle in and just listen. Like a good pint of the Black, it takes time to build a good story, to set the tone and paint a picture. I can see Jim as quite at home in those long-ago days, wandering about the countryside, sharing tales and songs for a “warm spot and a bite, and perhaps something to quench me thirst?” I can see the house filling up with family and neighbors, as word spread that he was weaving his spell of words.
Such is the mark of a true storyteller, a Seanchaí. They can make you feel things, see things that others cannot, whether physically in front of you or in simply lilting out of the speakers on your sound system. So grab Jim’s newest CD, pour yourself a cuppa, grab a slice, a few friends and your favorite pet and settle in for a magical, musical, story-filled hour … and some. You will be glad you did.
Enjoy the journey, mo chairde. I certainly did.