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Music Review Therapeutic thrills from Dempsey and Grey

Damien Dempsey and NC Grey
Nell’s Jazz and Blues Club
London

THIS gig was part of Covered in Glory, an event celebrating 40 years of the Irish music magazine Hot Press, along with the launch of a book featuring the mag’s cover art over four decades.

It opens with Dublin-based British-Nigerian singer-songwriter NC Grey, whose penchant is for deep lyrics and catchy hooks. Her band furnish an underlay of soulful R & B, over which Grey’s sultry melodies glide, her voice invoking both the husky tones of Nina Simone and the breezy soulfulness of Erykah Badu.

Heartfelt tracks like Choose Me express a certain vulnerability that comes not from naivety but from a wellspring of deep self-knowledge and inner strength. At times tinged with melancholy, but always infused with an indomitable hope and infectious gratitude for the gift of life, Grey’s music has a healing quality that shines through.

That’s a quality that Damien Dempsey is well familiar with. Growing up in a classic Irish household in which song was as much a part of life as food, Dempsey’s opening track, he tells us, “is about how singing is therapeutic and it helps us through life.” It takes me back to last time I saw him play in Belfast, where he wasn’t so much giving a concert as leading a singalong of 500 people, a truly euphoric experience.

Like NC Grey, Dempsey is comfortable enough in his own skin to express his hurt and frailty and Sing All Our Cares Away is in many ways about the frailty of the human condition, the need to come together and gives ourselves a break.

It's a common theme in his songs, which tonight includes Negative Vibes, a truly magical song of psychic self-defence, as well as Maasai, a soaring ode to the majesty and possibilities of life.

And with It’s All Good, he does eventually get his singalong, ending the set with the crowd imploring each other to “love yourself today.”

A fitting testament to the healing powers of music.

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