Ireland has produced a skip full of acoustic troubadours and it’s almost a cliché at this stage to scoff. But where there is quantity there will always be gold amongst the silt and over the years Mumblin’ Deaf Ro has proven to be one of this country’s most treasured songwriters. I first became aware of Mumblin’ Deaf Ro when his second album ‘The Herring And The Brine’ was released in 2007. I’ve got to admit that his vocals took a bit of getting used to but his pithy lyrics and imaginative riffage quickly won me over. In fact What’s To Be Done With El Salvador made enough of an impression to become the 4th favourite song of 2007 over on mp3hugger. That discovery led to MDR’s 2003 debut ‘Senor, My Friend…’ and again I was smitten. Ro has a gift for storytelling and his talent ensures that his lyrical jaunts are coloured by wide-eyed instrumental arrangements. Getting to know this album is a real joy and over time you’ll discover your own favourites.
This digital release includes the album and 3 bonus tracks, 2 of which were not on the original release and another which is a solo version of ‘These Men Get Paid To Know’. Also bundled in the download is the original artwork, some photos of Ro from the time and an in-depth analysis from the man himself about each of the tunes. You can sample the whole album and even download ‘The Hero Is A Graduate’ for free further down this page.
Ro spoke to us recently and gave us the background on how ‘Senor My Friend’ came to be.
(In reading this piece, try to picture me being interviewed beside a mixing desk, like on TV – journalists/writers get interviewed in front of bookshelves.)
About six years ago I released ‘Senor, Mr Friend . . .’ and I’m hugely flattered and grateful that mp3hugger has decided to exhume it for this indiecater release.
While recording the album I went through several phases of self-doubt about whether it was just a vanity project, whether the album would sink unnoticed, and whether I’d be able to finish it at all. I had been playing gigs since February 1993 in various bands and, latterly, as a solo act; usually to very small crowds and on a bill with acts that were outrageously incompatible. (Where do all those heavy metal bands come from and why are always next door to me when I rehearse?)
The business of recording music at home with basic equipment and zero expertise is documented on the liner notes of the album itself (included in this download). I started by doing a demo of three songs: ‘Every Now and Then She Gets a Moment’, ‘Keep the Line Movin’ and the ‘Ballad of Lonesome Ray James’. The idea was that I’d hand it around to people and maybe get a few support slots. Alison Curtis from Phantom FM (back when it was a pirate) started playing Keep the Line Movin’ from that demo. Encouraged, I decided to rattle off a few more songs and make it into a longer recording or maybe an album. It was a lot harder than it seemed, and took me about 18 months in total. I recorded during the evenings for the most part, usually when I was quite tired. I made loads of mistakes and changed my mind far too often.
I also had little idea of the work involved in releasing an album. In recent years I have organised a wedding, bought a house, taken on more responsibility at work and completed further study, but none of it compares to the intensity of releasing a record. For instance, the CDs were pressed in the Czech Republic but were impounded at the airport with punitive daily fines; at the same time I was trying to deal with a record number of parliamentary questions (500 on one day) for the then Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen. There were a huge number of emails, phone calls, dead ends and changes of plan to contend with and amidst it all you try and retain some sense of the artistic serenity that lets you focus on the music itself. It is an exhilarating but extraordinarily vulnerable, and narcissistic, period.
I had hoped to get reviewed in some places as I couldn’t afford to promote the album properly, but it never really occurred to me until the last minute that the reviews could be bad and that I could be humiliated publicly – people in work still thought I was trying to become the next Ronan Keating. In the end it all went well enough. The reviews were kind. I have a theory that if papers like your music they review it if they can, and if they don’t, they don’t – what’s the point in slagging off an act nobody has heard of? The launch night was very special. My girlfriend (now wife) was rushed to hospital just before the gig with chronic stomach pains, but she made it back to good health and to the gig for the encore. It was that sort of night. A small but enthusiastic coterie of fans bought the album and has kept listening to it over the years, which means a lot to me.
In preparing for this re-release I listened back to the album a few times to gauge my reaction to it now. Naturally – like all musicians — I wince at some of the more obvious missed notes and loose timing. I think that the clumsy recording is part of the album’s personality though and that it wouldn’t be same if it were cleaned up. I still love the songs. They were recorded over a spread of years but the bulk of them were written during the four happy years I lived in the city centre of Dublin with two of my closest friends in a non-gay three-man living arrangement. The album recreates that period for me perfectly whenever I listen to it.
…if you like lo-fi finger picking folk, insightful lyrics and beautiful chord progressions then all your Christmases have come at once…
…Mumblin’ Deaf Ro’s music is of remarkable feeling, imagination and honesty. It gushes pure talent…
The Irish Times
…an unfailingly melodic and sometimes moving testament to the power of ingenuity, wit and the Roland VS-880 home recorder. Cherish it…