A frequent player on the UK folk circuit with notable performances at Cambridge Folk Festival, Kevin Hunt’s shows are celebrated for their unique melding of intimacy and raw energy. With musical roots in his native Ireland, Kevin has been crafting songs for over a quarter of a century, refining his lyrical expression via the fluid, ever-evolving concept of his live act. His much-anticipated debut album Devil’s Daughter is the fine fruition of a lifetime cultivating the art of song-writing.
Recorded at Gladeside Studios in Cambridge under the skilled supervision of respected producer Dan Wilde, the ten-track album captures the essence of Kevin’s live shows; an organic, vital energy marked by intimate, natural arrangements. Complementing the production is a superb assembly of session musicians including striking contributions from double bassist John Parker - better known as one half of the acoustic duo Nizlopi - and singer-songwriter Anna Hester whose delicate backing vocals are the perfect counterpoint to Kevin’s rugged refrains.
The interplay between musicians is dazzling yet unobtrusive, an elegant balance typified by the exchanges of Hunt’s guitar and Ian Pearson’s violin. Kevin and Ian have been playing together for fourteen years and the communion is palpable, a graceful simplicity that Kevin himself sums up aptly: ‘He just drops in and plays the perfect fiddle. It's magic.’ There is a freedom and lightness to the musicianship throughout the album, an understated familiarity that accords a sense of privileged insight. To listen to Devil’s Daughter is to step straight into one of Kevin’s spirited gigs, the alchemy of the house band transported to the studio, a record of spacious, unhurried arrangements punctuated by fits of energy (‘Devil’s Daughter’, ‘Cocaine’).
All songs on the album were written by Kevin and themes of redemption, anguish and acceptance proliferate. The opening track ‘A Healin’ immediately evokes music’s potential as a therapeutic force and the references to Van Morrison throughout place the music in a long tradition of existential singer-songwriters or as Kevin prefers to put it: ‘original songs about the same old problems.’ The finesse of the writing points towards the influences of the past, yet these are undoubtedly songs of our times, a reckoning of optimism and despair epitomised by the chorus ‘hope against hope, fear upon fear, that’s life’ (‘Hope Against Hope’). There is solace and longing on Devil’s Daughter, but there are no easy answers – ‘digging holes in wet sand day after day’ (‘Enough Rope’).
Honing his craft as a teenager in Ireland, Kevin soon discovered song-writing as a process of unburdening:
‘One of the first songs I wrote was about the troubles in Northern Ireland and I discovered I could more effectively express how I felt about complex subjects in song than I could any other way so I guess that's when song-writing started for me.’
The lyrics on the album demand repeated listening, the drifts and nuances emerging over time. As Kevin sees it, the listener gradually becomes the author:
‘I've realised that the meaning of songs is in who hears them and over time those songs change and what the listener takes from them will change too. As long as they are written from a genuine place - good, bad or ugly - then they will carry in some shape or form. What a song might be about is not really up to me to define even if I've written it. That's for someone else to decide for themselves. That's what makes music pretty special as an art form. Songs are just moments, that's all. Not definitions or dogmas.’
The album closes with the Dylanesque ‘Round In Circles’ and indeed the momentum of Devil’s Daughter feels circular, a pragmatic moving on where every step forward eventually leads to the past. These are curative songs of imperfect peace, an understanding that life is flawed, but never futile – ‘enough rope to swing, not to hang’ (‘Enough Rope’).
Devil’s Daughter is due for release via all major digital platforms on June 5 with vinyl and CDs available via his website kevinhuntband.com. Be sure to catch Kevin playing some of the UK’s finest folk clubs throughout 2020.