Lisa Hannigan – Safe Travels (Don’t Die)

I asked friends on Facebook a few months back, for recommendations on great albums I may have missed over the years. Of all the recommendations I was given, Lisa Hannigan’s ‘Passenger‘ is perhaps my favourite. I’d heard her name in the past, when she was nominated for the Mercury prize for example, but don’t think I’d ever heard one of her songs before. It’s a little folky, a little country, but Lisa Hannigan has the distinctive voice and lyrical ingenuity to stand out from the singer-songwriter pack.

In particular, I have been listening to the song ‘Safe Travels (Don’t Die)’ an awful lot the last few weeks. It’s a darkly funny song about saying goodbye to a loved one when they go on a journey, and hoping they come to no harm on their return. I always enjoy a song with very funny lyrics, but sung completely straight (see also John Grant), and this song has some belters. “Please don’t bungee jump, or ignore a strange lump, and a gasoline pump’s not a toy” is a particular favourite.

Whilst the subject matter is sad, the humour prevents the song from becoming a tearjerker, in theory at least. The events of the last few weeks, however,  have made me hear it in a very different way. In an hour or so I’m going to set off to London for the funeral of my good friend Nick Mann, and I can’t help but think of his wife wishing him safe travels on the day he died, not knowing that he would not return. My wife often tells me to ‘be careful’ before I go off on my travels, or about my day. It’s only semi-serious of course, but it’s tough at the moment not to worry more than usual about the accidents or cruel twists of fate that might await.

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