Sure, "The Clanky Jig" is a cracking good instrumental jam, but I hear a lot of good sets from a lot of bands. It's a well-done piece -- particularly the mandolin and bouzouki, both wielded by bandmate and tune composer Brendan Keenan -- but there was nothing exceptional to catch my ear and set this band apart from the rest.
When Cait Sargent started singing "Rocky Road to Dublin," I didn't pay much attention, either. Again, it's an oft-covered song and, while Sargent has a good voice, I wasn't hearing anything to make me sit up and take notice. And then the music started to build, and Green St. -- the first full-length album from Worcester, Mass.-based band Fergus -- had my full focus.
First bouzouki, then bass, then drums and a droning fiddle ... the music behind Cait's vocals grow into a near-frenzy, an arrangement that suits well the song's narrative. I decided to listen more closely, and I've kept Green St. playing nonstop in my car for the past few days. It's good stuff. It's a good band.
Besides Sargent on vocals and bodhran, we have jack-of-all-trades Keenan on guitar, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, accordion, keyboards and backing vocals, plus Myra MacLeod on fiddle, Tom Lubelczyk on electric and upright bass, and Peter Himmer on drums and percussion. The overall mix is good, but Sargent is the real star of the show. Her voice, apparently honed on show tunes, has shades of Cathy Jordan on a few tracks. (If you don't know who Cathy Jordan is, why the heck are you even bothering to read an Irish music review? Her band Dervish is a mandatory part of even the most basic Celtic music collection.) "Back of Beyond" and "P Stands for Paddy" in particular stand out on this album.
Not everything is a perfect fit. I understand the desire to mix things up a bit, but Thom Moore's "Carolina Rua" and Gerry O'Beirne's "Western Highway" -- while perfectly good tracks on their own merits -- sound out of place on this CD. And given the band's mastery of energetic tracks, there are perhaps a few more slow numbers than there should be. But these are niggling complaints; overall, Green St. is a a laudable debut for Fergus, and I hope to hear more from Worcester soon.
13 March 2010
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