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For the love of the Irish

Anthony Starez
St. Petersburg Times
November 19, 1993

Having first played at the Harp & Thistle Pub on St. Petersburg Beach in 1990 as a visitor from Canada, Brendan Nolan has now made the Pinellas beach his home.

Originally from Dublin, Nolan's poignant story-telling songs are expressed through traditional Celtic/Irish folk stylings, but Nolan can be considered a contemporary artist using old tools. His newest release, Across the Great Divide, is a conceptual album that views Irish immigration to the United States as a mixture of pain and yearnings for the homeland.

"Being an immigrant and away from Ireland for so long, I've found myself singing a lot more songs on the subject," Nolan confides in his smooth Irish accent. "There was nothing very uplifting about the immigration experience for many people who left Ireland, particularly during the famine years."

Nolan adds that an exodus of Irish immigrants has continued through the 1980s with the worldwide recession hitting Ireland especially hard.

"As dreams break like shells upon the shore/What are the days spent waiting for the sunset/When loneliness is never far away/But to sing across the miles/To a stranger's friendly smile/Made it all seem worth it anyway" -- lines from The Curse of The Immigrant, a song that Nolan says is autobiographical. Other songs on Across the Great Divide are Far From Their Homes, No Irish Need Apply and Flight of the Earls.

Nolan's evocative voice, which trembles with vibrato, is accompanied on Across the Great Divide by acoustic guitar and instruments ranging from viola, mandolin, whistle and an Irish hand-played drum called a bodhran.

Although Nolan shuns the title of Ambassador of Irish Culture, he says, relenting, "If that's the case, then I'd be comfortable doing it."