Paddy Smith – The Devil’s Backyard | Album Review

Paddy Smith – The Devil’s Backyard

Self-Release – 2022

9 tracks; 29 minutes

Paddy Smith is a singer/harmonica player from Ireland and this is his second album, albeit rather more an EP in length. Inspired by the Rolling Stones, Paddy started on the harp at just 12 years of age. His life was sent into a spin when he lost his daughter Clara at just 17 to cystic fibrosis. After the inevitable aftermath of such a tragedy Paddy turned to music as a solace and a debut album was released in 2013, followed by a 4-track EP in 2016. This release also reflects some of the life-changing events that he has been through. Recorded in Dublin with some of Ireland’s best musicians, Paddy wrote seven tunes and there are two covers. The band is Paddy on harp and vocals, Danny Tobin on guitar, James Delaney on keys, John Kearns on bass and Jason Duffy on drums.

The album opens with a pair of tracks written by Paddy, Danny and Robbie McDonnell. The title track is a brooding account of difficult relationships with suitably mournful harp: “I met my love in the Devil’s backyard, she ripped out my heart and tore it apart”. “Gambling Blues” has strong guitar work alongside Paddy’s harp and tough vocals as Paddy confesses to a habit which is bound to end in disappointment. Paddy and Danny wrote the next two cuts, “Rebel Blues” being an uptempo instrumental with an opening feature for guitar before Paddy gets stuck into some strong harp work; “My Girl” is a gentler tune with lyrics about a girl with problems, an addiction that places her at serious risk, Paddy trying and failing to get her into treatment, the Devil again referenced here. Musically the tune features the keys and Paddy concentrates on the vocals, one of just two tunes here with no harp.

The pace quickens for a solid cover of “Next Time You See Me”, written by Earl Forest and Bill Harvey for a Junior Parker single on Duke back in 1957. Junior’s original had horns but the combination of Danny’s fretwork and Paddy’s harp works just fine. Two more songs written by Paddy, Danny and Robbie follow: “NYC” references Paddy’s time in the States but has an odd mix, the vocals being rather indistinct against the ringing guitars and keys; in sharp contrast, “Packed And Gone” is a very clear, bright and breezy shuffle with jazzy guitar and bass behind Paddy’s vocal about heading out on tour.

The last two tracks seem to be about the tragedy of Paddy’s daughter’s passing. The choice of Charlie Musselwhite’s “Sanctuary” is telling, with more mournful harp and the haunting lyrics about death, “where I shall find my sanctuary”. Paddy’s singing here is almost semi-spoken, reinforcing the feeling of the song. Paddy’s own song about Clara is entitled “An Angel All Along” and is a short piece of Americana with acoustic guitar and piano.

Paddy proves to be a versatile harp player and the songs here mostly work very well. He is ably supported by his band and it is a pretty listenable disc.

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