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The boy from Birr runs for cover. . . .

Mundy and Jedward. Jedward and Mundy. No matter how you say it, those are three words that just don't seem to belong together in the same sentence. Or in the same photo. But there they are together (see below), standing shoulder to shoulder in HMV at the in-store launch of Mundy's previous studio album Strawberry Blood in April 2009.

Back then, the brothers Grime were just another couple of star-struck schoolboys having their photo taken with Birr's beloved troubadour, whose stock had never been higher after his and Sharon Shannon's cover of Steve Earle's 'The Galway Girl' had become the biggest selling single in Ireland in 2008.

The photo is also notable because it is Mundy, not John and Edward, who is wearing the make-up. Maybe that's where they picked up their love of lipstick . . .

Soon the boys would become more recognisable in the UK than our Taoiseach or President. And very soon, they will be beamed into living rooms all across Europe, hoping for the douze points from the Finnish jury.

Mundy, meanwhile, is keeping on keeping on, playing three acoustic gigs next week in Ballincollig, Portlaoise and Clonakilty, while festival dates in Buncrana and Bunbeg in Co Donegal, and Carrick- on-Suir, Tipperary, are also on the horizon.

His new studio album Shuffle is primed for release in a fortnight and there's a free download already available of one of the tracks, 'It's A Wonderful Lie' -- a cover of a Paul Westerberg song -- from Mundy's website.

Consisting of 14 cover versions, the album is described as Mundy's love letter to his favourite North American songwriters. Given his success with Earle's homage to the cailini of Connemara, you can see why Mundy might have decided that a whole album of covers was in order.

To be fair, he has chosen his material well: some are canonical household names (Neil Young, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams); some of more cultish renown (the late Warren Zevon, Sparklehorse, Lucinda Williams).

Novelist Pat McCabe has penned the surreal stream-of-consciousness sleeve notes, playing Allen Ginsberg to Mundy's Dylan: he calls the album "a fireside-crackling magically serendipitous Rock-Ola jukebox of dreams and amberlit memories, which might be from yesterday or from no time at all, front porch-rockers from the now and the past but most of all the never-to-be . . ."

Fellow Midlander Gemma Hayes turns up to lend sweet harmony vocals on the Flying Burrito Brothers's 'Juanita' and to duet on their respectful cover of Zevon's 'Reconsider Me' from his killer 1988 album Sentimental Hygiene.

As for Mundy's reading of 'Drunken Angel', I'm too in love with the sound of Lucinda Williams's southern drawl to accept any substitutes, and I have the same prejudice regarding Simon & Garfunkel's 'Kathy's Song'.

Sometimes a song is so completely inhabited by a singer that it's hard to find way in to make it your own. Often the best way is to tear it down completely and refashion it from scratch. Mundy, you suspect, has too much reverence for these songs to favour such a scorched-earth policy.

But if this project brings artists such as the great Gillian Welch, John Prine, the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and The Replacements's Paul Westerberg to wider public attention, then everyone's a winner, baby

All that's missing from Shuffle is a guest appearance from Lord Jedward of Lucan. Methinks it's time Mundy and the local boys in the photograph were reunited.

'Shuffle' is out on Camcor on May 13. For tour dates, see www.mundy.ie nkelly@independent.ie

Indo Review