This one was a very strong candidate for the best album of 2019, it had some pretty stiff competition that year too. In 2020 we only went to 1 gig (yeah OK it was a year shortened by Covid) and that was to see Ian Prowse open for Elvis Costello, and the first gig we attended when the world got back to normal ? Well that was Ian Prowse too just over 2 years later. There’s something about a Prowsey gig that lifts the spirits, fortifies the soul and makes you feel better about shit in general. “Here I Lie” does all of that on record.
Since we last encountered him Ian Prowse had made another album with Amsterdam (“Arm In Arm” in 2008) followed by two solo albums, “Who Loves Ya Baby” in 2014 and “Compañeros” (an album of cover versions) in 2015. All three were CD only releases (although as I'm posting this Ian has announced a 10th anniversary edition of “Who Loves Ya Baby” inc. 3 tracks that never made it onto the original release and an vinyl, so we'll get to that as and when). Which is why we now jump to 2019 and “Here I Lie”, whereupon Prowsey serves up the the finest set of songs he’s ever put together on a single album. Songs of love, loss, hope, sorrow, joy and even some history too.
It all begins with “Joseph”, the story of Grace Gifford & Joseph Plunkett who were married in Dublin’s notorious Kilmainham Gaol the night before Joseph was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. The tone is set early, great singalong songs these are but “Spoon, moon, June” they ain’t, some things need saying and Ian Prowse is gonna say them.
“The Ballad Of North Street” is another of Prowsey’s hymns to Liverpool. The opening line “Down in then Crocodile Bar where me and Gareth went too far” always makes me smile after someone on Twitter once asked “On which occasion?” ! That’s followed by “We Ride At Dawn” a song of hope and not giving up. “Something’s Changed” is a breakup song but it’s also about how people can change, not always for the better.
Then we arrive at what, to these ears, might just be the greatest song Prowsey has ever conjured to existence (and he’s been responsible for a few). “American Wake” is a helluva song and an education along the way. When young Irish emigrants would leave for America in the 19th century the families they were leaving behind knew this was probably the last time they would see them so they would hold a gathering before they left, a wake to say goodbye. Here we hear from Mary and Sean Devlin, Sean is off to America and Mary, his mother, knows it will be an opportunity for him but is obviously still distraught at “losing” her son. It’s a song I sing along to with great enthusiasm whenever it’s playing until we get to the final lines where, Mary, on her deathbed, thinks to herself “I hope that Sean’s alright”, oh brother it’s a choker. The song also has the most incredible guitar solo (not something that usually overly concerns me as you know), have a listen down there.
Side Two opens with the title song, a song to his daughter from a future time when Dad’s not here anymore. If you’re having a bad dad here’s a message from yer old man to try and make things better, music can defeat even death itself. “All The Royal Houses” is another feisty Republican anthem aimed at the monarchy “I’m for the people not the Crown”. “Ten Second Journey” was inspired by the documentary “The Falling Man” concerned with the photograph of a lone man falling head first from the World Trade Centre on 9/11. “Rebel Girl” is again a song for Ian’s daughter.
It all comes to a close with the gentle lament “Ned Madrell”. Ned, who passed away in 1974, was a fisherman from the Isle of Man and the last native speaker of the Manx language, a form of Gaelic, spoken by the Manx people. In one song Prowsey brings to life a beautiful melody to tell us an historic story we may not have known about. It’s a song of history, of loss but also of hope “It’s not that he was the final one, It’s just what’s been and gone”.
“Here I Lie” is a bloody fantastic album. It contains music to make you sing, dance and cry alongside songs that make you smile and those that teach you something you didn’t know before. I know I keep saying it but if Ian is someone you’ve yet to get on board with, what are you waiting for ?
American Wake - https://youtu.be/G1PHD0QQM0A?si=dc_r2E_oLIMVAZQt