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Folk veteran returns with career-best album
Niall Stokes, 09 Mar 2010
How do we end up where we are? Can we be more or less than the sum of our experiences or is that thought just a conjuror’s illusion? Why is it that some people get better at what they do as they grow older and others shrink? Do we play a major part in shaping our destiny or is it all just luck and happenstance?
Well no and yes and yes and no. There is certainly an element of fluke to what becomes of us. Paul Brady says so himself in ‘Luck Of The Draw’, a song which will already be familiar to Brady-watchers from the Bonnie Raitt version. It concerns the lost souls, the wannabees that haven’t made it, but are still scratching around in hope, personified in the shape of a bar waitress, who’s writing screen plays on the side and dreaming still of the big break.
On one level, it is a tune of hope and defiance. There is nothing worse than giving in, nothing less edifying than resigning yourself to mediocrity – especially since the margin between success and failure is often so painfully thin. Everyone in Hollywood is an actor or a screenwriter and, given how many bad movies are made, it stands to reason that for every shit script that gets turned into a film, there’s a dozen better ones that have been passed over or ignored. Sometimes, after all, it really is just a question of getting a half decent break, of being in the right place at the right time. But what if you’re dealt nothing but bum hands? “These things we do to keep the flame burning,” the slightly world weary narrator observes, “And write our fire in the sky/ Another day could see the wheel turning/ Another avenue to try/ It’s in the luck of the draw, baby/ The natural law…”
But of course it is more than that. Forget about success or recognition for a minute. What you create as a writer or a musician is a function to some degree at least of the work that you put in, of how well you learn the ropes, and of the extent to which you successfully master your craft. It doesn’t mean that the graft is always going to be fully appreciated or feted. But if it is there in the work itself, there is no gainsaying it. This much Paul Brady understands. You can hear it in every choice of chord, in every melodic twist and turn, in the measured words, carefully considered and weighed for effect.