Shoulda Been A Champion ...
Denis Kevans with Vinegar Hill
Compact Disk, Lorikeet Records
(For stockists phone Denis Kevans: 047 573 119)
Reviewed by Al McCall*
In my role as non-resident (and usually anonymous) poetry editor for Green Left Weekly, I have a lot to do with Denis Kevans. Indeed, in any pile of poems I collect during any one month, among the scraps of paper mounding on my desk, Denis is sure to be well represented. As a poet and singer, he is well known in Australia as a generous performer, passionate about his politics and generous with his time.
Whether it be woodchipping, East Timor, a trade union issue or some such, Denis is sure to have written many poems on the topic. Such a productive output responsive to contemporary politics is the core of his minstrelsy. Ballads or broadsides, the history of progressive politics is writ large in the many poems and songs of Denis Kevans.
I fondly recall him performing a song about Bobby Sands during an H-Block event in Newcastle during the early '80s. Given the time, place and sentiment, it was just so moving. Sands was dying on hunger strike in Long Kesh, and a world away, Denis Kevans was bringing it all home to us. Ten years later, I was laughing my head off as he performed his comic send-up of the oft misused expression, petite bourgeoisie. That's a special talent, as much born in the man's skill as it is generated by his passionate humanity or feeling for an odd phrase.
For those who own copies of his poetry anthologies, here is something else to add to your collection. Shoulda Been A Champion suggests his range. With songs about rugby, green bans and war, he tackles his material with such confidence that the divergence of his subject matter, whether in pathos or comedy, doesn't seem to matter. For Kevans it is all grist for the mill.
This CD is the next best thing to hearing him live. Set in a style drawn from traditional Australian/Irish folk arrangements, Vinegar Hill's mix of pipes, banjo, tin whistle and the like makes for easy listening.
[*Al McCall is not the reviewer's real name.]