Hadrian's Wall,
Live ... we're not done yet!
(self-produced, 2001)

It's a good thing I know a little bit about this band and the new live CD since my copy, which arrived about a month ago and has been in the player almost continuously since, has a bare-bones appearance. Not to worry, the music more than makes up for the lack of information and the pretty pictures!

Quite possibly the best offering yet by our friends from Ontario, Canada, the quality and selection of this CD make it almost as good as being there. And, from the sounds coming from offstage, we would have been part of a large and quite appreciative crowd. Recorded on their home turf in Glengarry County, the CD is a generous 14 tracks, or just under an hour's worth of foot-stomping, singing while you drive, dancing on the side of the road music. This is the CD to suggest when asked which is the one an uninitiated Wall fan should buy first.

Included are crowd favorites like old standbys "The Martintown Song" and "Courtin in the Kitchen," interspersed among the knockout fiddle tunes such as "Right Arm Reel" and "Elbow Grease and Whiskey" that are fast becoming the signature pieces for the band. With each new recording it becomes more apparent that fiddler Jay Weiler is a master at his craft.

Recorded for the first time, but a favorite from their summer tour, is "Peter Street," which tells a lively story of a sailor tricked into having sex with a lovely lady only to wake next morning alone, with her skirt and apron to wear back to his ship in place of his uniform. The ship's captain and all his mates are in on the joke, of course, and there's a lesson in the song. (I keep thinking he mustn't have been Irish or Scots, otherwise wearing a skirt wouldn't have bothered him so much.) One of my favorite parts of a live "Hadrian's Wall" show is having all four members up front with only bodhran and voices for accompaniment, and "Peter Street" is a perfect example of how wonderfully balanced their harmonies are.

On the negative side, this is the last recording to include bass player Terry O'Farrell, who left the band to pursue a medical career. Terry's voice is prominent on the recording; he can be heard yelling encouragement to the crowd when it comes time for them to join in. (New to the band at Terry's departure, Glenn Forrester is rumored to be quite a talented musician as well.)

The only complaint I've heard (and complaints with this band are as rare as snowfall in Dallas) is the exclusion of lyrics in the liner notes of the previous four CDs. The problem is that, in order to get it all said, lead singer and frontman Neil Emberg, has to sing a bit fast. While Neil does an excellent job with a sometimes difficult task, someday there will be a fan's version of the lyrics featuring what we thought he was singing. When asked about lyrics, the band's official answer was "we don't know the lyrics!" Maybe not, but they sure had all of us fooled!

Hey Wall, I'm pulling off the road to dance beside the car again!!

[ by Sheree Morrow ]
Rambles: 2 March 2002