Four Shillings Short,
The Boggy Spew
(self-produced, 1998)

From the title and the group name, I approached this CD with a mixture of expectation and trepidation. In Ireland a name like "Four Shillings Short" is often an indication of a group with a sense of humour; as the saying goes, "four shillings short of a pound or two sandwiches short of a picnic" indicates a little madness.

Unfortunately, the maddest thing about the album is the liner notes, which are exasperating as they veer between too little genuine information and pretentious smart remarks.

However, the CD has an excellent collection of music, most of which is very enjoyable. "Wayfaring Stranger" and "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" are haunting tracks that bear listening to over and over again. "Auld Grey Man" is listed as traditional but was a new experience for me and was very enjoyable.

This group has a knack for combining some excellent haunting instrumental work with vocal tracks. This is particularly well done on the combined piece "Valencia Harbour/Follow Me Up to Carlow." The almost ethereal instrumental leads brilliantly into the vocal.

"James Connolly" is a track that I first experienced sung by Christy Moore but on this CD it is reworked and expanded to embrace other union men and profits greatly from it. One small quibble is that, although Moore attributes it to Arthur Patrick Galvin, Four Shillings Short classes it as traditional.

As with all folk albums, the lyrics being included would be a definite plus.

For Shillings Short seem to enjoy giving variations on the more traditional renditions of the songs included on the CD. This is often a great breath of fresh air but I found myself too often longing for the old and trusted version.

This CD is worth adding to your collection but takes a few listens before you really start to like it. Unfortunately, most people must decide to purchase based on an initial sampling.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 15 February 2002