Just Another Town               

 

         And the street is drifting into evening

             While the sun is going down

             I'm just back there capturing the feeling

             Though it's just another town.




“Just Another Town is an artistic achievement of the highest order, comparable to the work of the best writers in literature. Johnny Duhan’s portrait of the songwriter as a young boy in the Limerick of the early 60s resonates in the deepest soundings of the heart and mind. The past is made vividly present. We are there with him in the street from the bright morning to the moon rising over the city at night. Experiences and themes unfolding over years are telescoped into one day; the boy’s growing awareness of home, neighbourhood and wider environs expand to include the world beyond the town that will finally take the man away.

    As we listen to Duhan’s backwards glance at his younger self our flickering memories are stirred and faces of half-forgotten people lean towards us and our own conflicted and mysterious childhoods are found.

    The chipped inkwell that Johnny dipped his pen into in national school all those years ago has transmuted popular song into high art.”         

                                                                                                  Paddy Houlahan

                


To The Light              


The Voyage               

              


                   Flame               

              

   Life is an ocean, love is a boat;

     In troubled waters it keeps us afloat       

When we started the voyage there was just me and

                                                   you,

    Now look around us, we have our own crew.





The Voyage travels to the heart of marriage and family life, encompassing the aspirations and struggles of several generations of the one strain. Birth is a recurring theme, with bells and chimes capturing the joyful mystery while the apprehension of bringing new life into a troubled world is marked by sombre tones. Commitment within marriage is deeply expressed but the task of maintaining the bond is given due weight. The album contains definitive versions of Johnny’s songs previously recorded by Christy Moore, Dolores Keane, Mary Black and Francie Conway, as well as a greater number of recently penned songs on themes of tension, reconciliation, and joy within the family circle. Throughout, Johnny’s voyage is laced with the optimism and humour of a sea shanty that carries us all the way to the 'shores of the heart'.


                                       

     Over stumps, stones, mould and boulders,

         Over rock-ledges and -shelves

         We struggled on and upwards 

         And rose above ourselves.


In The Afterbirth opens FLAME with a heraldic oboe ushering in the paradox of the pain and euphoria of birth - "Creation's mystery come down through history, it's trail upon the earth in the afterbirth". The Blight follows with a plague of the spirit that is relieved when the victim realises that he is not alone. Struggle lies at the heart of Flame. The title song chronicles the frailty of the life force and shows how a spark is found in a personal relationship. Face the Night and After The Dream assert in contrasting ways that reality faced squarely can be more wonderful than the stuff of dreams. Captain and On The Water chart a reckless career that leads to near defeat before youthful courage is recalled and faith restored. Another source of strength is contemplated in My Father Was A Sailor. And The Beacon describes a mountain-climb led by spirited young children. As the climb progresses the climbers reflect on the heritage that inspired the first pilgrims to make the ascent. All obstacles are overcome and a high, crystal clear place is reached where the beacon stands radiant. Finally, When You Go confronts the ultimate challenge and offers the hope of spiritual release to a higher place when the struggle is over.


            

  

             There is a time in life, it seems,

                          For believing in dreams......


Johnny didn't know who Don Quixote was when he set out from Limerick with his band in search of fame and the girl. Years later, having experienced enough of those lures to render himself completely confused, he read of the bewildered knight's quest to win glory and love by helping the downtrodden of Spain and saw himself in that story.

    The songs on this album have the energy and snap of a young man's self-belief. Johnny nails his colours to his lance (guitar) in My Gravity: "I sing for the lonely souls". Accosted on his way to a party by a tramp with a tale of lost love, Johnny later finds himself in that role in The Beggar, pleading with his girl not to walk out on him. The Night You Left Me deals with the aftermath of the same affair, while Johnny starts to shoulder the weight of failure in Don't Give Up Till It's Over, a song that seems destined to become an anthem of hope.

Johnny owns up to the element of calculation in a singer's performance in The Spider but returns to lost love with Our Last Drive, wondering did she drive into the poor part of town on their last date because she foresaw a bleak future with him. In the heart-felt There Is A Time, Johnny can no longer cling to the illusion that prompted his original quest. "There is a time in life, it seems, for believing in dreams. For me it's gone."

    But the story doesn't end there. Johnny's eyes are still drawn to the stars in To The Light. This final song powerfully expresses his belief that life is a voyage with a meaning and grandeur that is transcendent.    



   The Burning Word is the first completely new album I’ve produced in years. The dove emerging from the lick of fire on the cover is symbolic not only of the fact that the songs are spiritual but also that the collection has evolved from my album Flame, and may one day merge with it.


Over the years I have received letters from people all over the world telling me that the spiritual dimension in my songs has helped them through times of crisis as well as marking occasions of celebration. This contributed to me going below the surface of my faith for this work.


In the opening song, The Coat, the listener is asked to lay aside doubt and put on a garment of faith so as to make a journey in a cold season to a place of prayer. An invitation to a spiritual meal is extended in The Flame is Lit. Emily Dickenson’s This World is not Conclusion choruses the unfathomable mystery of our world and heralds an afterlife. Wonders catalogues a series of miracles that stem from Christ’s charitable nature, and Surrender gives in to the declaration of faith of the Lord’s Prayer.

      The incarnation mystery at the centre of the title song, The Burning Word, reflects on the paradox that pain lies at the heart of the joy of creation. Song of the Bird grew from a boyhood memory of arriving home with an injured bird which my mother allowed me to keep in our shed till it was strong enough to fly. The Storm chronicles my father’s exemplary courage after a family tragedy. Sure Amen is a hymn for the weary and doubtful. Part of a Tribe, an anthem for community. And finally, Old Story charts an epiphany experienced after a dawn mass.