March 2013        

Music

Belfast’s working-class troubadour


North Belfast’s own working-class troubadour, Pól Mac Adaim, returns after a long break from studio work with arguably his best record to date. His CD My Name Is Troy Davis, his fourth solo outing, was released shortly before Christmas on the German left-wing label Job Up records.
      The ten-track album kicks off with a fairly understated cover of David Rovic’s “St Patrick’s Battalion,” in which Mac Adaim displays his trademark multi-instrumentalism, playing guitar, whistle, and uilleann pipes. On this record, however, he will probably surprise fans awaiting more traditional ballads and covers, as this release features only three other covers: “Joe McCann,” “Wild Mountain Thyme,” and Christy Moore’s classic hunger-strike ballad “90 Miles from Dublin,” which skilfully ties together the album thematically.
      Most striking about the new work is Mac Adaim’s maturing both as a musician and a songwriter. While this is not a concept album, the issue of prisoners’ rights and struggles dominates, not least the title track, “My Name Is Troy Davis,” which was inspired by the correspondence between the singer-songwriter and the sister of Troy Davis, the innocent African-American who was wrongfully executed in the United States two years ago.
      Drawing further on the prisoner theme, the self-penned “H-Block to Maghaberry” is a stirring ballad, rallying against the seemingly unchanging British policy of criminalisation of political prisoners, from the original blanket men in the 1970s to the present day.
      Mac Adaim expands on his cautious scepticism about the Belfast Agreement from the previous record “Forsaken Land” with “Legacy of Brendan Hughes,” a biographical piece on the life of the legendary Provisional IRA veteran.
      The record is on the whole a very personal work, drawing much on the artist’s own Northern nationalist background and most probably inspired by the current imprisonment of his brother, Gary Adams.
      While lacking a degree of the internationalism of his earlier work, the record could not be dismissed as an entirely Northern record, with tracks like “Do You Feel?” about the struggle of the people of Co. Mayo against Shell and the soaring pro-Palestinian ballad “Another Day.”
      The timely album comes out a time of realignment of class battle lines, a welcome cry for a better world. For fans of Bob Dylan, Christy Moore and Woody Guthrie this album is a must-have and is thoroughly recommended to readers of Socialist Voice. This is a class album, in every sense of the word.
[RH]

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