Interesting character, Jeff Finlin. Singer, songwriter, drummer, producer, poet, yoga enthusiast. He has been producing funny, insightful, melodic albums under his own name since 1991, and this release attempts to house 20 of his best efforts under one roof.

Seven of his nine studio albums are represented in the “Essential” album. Half the tracks come from just two albums; ‘Somewhere South of Wonder’ and ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’.

He has acquired a small but loyal fan base in Ireland and tours here sporadically – last seen playing the Errigle with the splendid Clive Barnes adding the musical electric colour to Jeff‘s distinctive rasp of a voice.

His songs are difficult to characterise, some verge on country, some are pure pop. Many of the songs present as little vignettes of every man’s struggle against what life has to throw at them, intriguing short stories of spiritual uphill battles and poor hands dealt by fate. Titles such as ‘My Rosy Crucifixion By The Sea’ and ‘‘I Killed Myself Last Night’, might seem better suited to Raymond Chandler novels than on such an album as this and there are echoes of Richmond Fontaine in some songs. Surely no bad thing?

Somewhere south of wonder I can call the world my own. There’s a peace upon the valley and there’s nowhere that I am going.

Not exactly the most cheerful of sentiments. Yet there is an uplifting pace to the music that almost insists we give the character and ourselves hope.

Intermingled among these slice of life tales are beautiful songs of loss, love, and longing such as ‘Sugar Blue’ – his best-known song from the Cameron Crowe film, ‘Elizabethtown’ and the haunting ‘Alchemy’.

A difficulty with many artist compilation albums are the tracks that are omitted, and ‘Life After Death’ is no different. The omissions of ‘American Dream 109’ and ‘Soho Rain’ are mystifying.

There is nothing at all from his fine ‘Highway Diaries’ album. Still, as an introduction to the man’s oeuvre, it’s a great introduction to this fine artist. Catch him live next time he is back in Ireland. You won’t regret it.