The Indulgers,
In Like Flynn
(Celtic Club, 1999)

Born of a St. Paddy's Day gig in March 1998, the Colorado-based Indulgers have poured their energies into their debut CD, In Like Flynn, to great effect. The album, more rock than folk, maintains its grip on the pseudo-Irish sound that so many bands are striving for these days, and does it better than many I've heard.

The band is Irish native Damien McCarron on vocals, guitars and bodhran; Mike Nile on vocals, guitars, mandolin and accordion; Pat Murphy on drums; Chris Murtaugh on bass and bodhran; and Renee Fine on fiddle. They're joined by guests Neale Heywood (who co-produced the album with Nile) on guitars; Rob Gale on flute and whistle; Al Knipe on snare; Dave Fox on snare and toms; and Crystal McCarron on handclaps. Nile and McCarron are credited for most of the tune-writing.

Together, they put out a 12-track album filled with infectious rhythms and generally fun songs. While I don't see many of these becoming standards on the Celtic folk-rock circuit, they're still a lot of fun to listen to repeatedly. (I'm surprised I haven't worn through the disc yet.)

Take the title track, "In Like Flynn." The bouncy song about a hard-working, hard-drinking Irish immigrant's move to America for opportunity is an excellent introduction to the band -- a good song with strong lyrics, lively instrumentation and fine vocals from McCarron.

"Granuaile" is a homage to Ireland's famous she-pirate (better known by her Anglicized name, Grace O'Malley). "Diddly Day" sounds on the surface like another fun Irish tune with a nonsensical chorus -- but the lyrics tell a tale of unforgiving hardship.

One of my favorite tracks is "Banshee Cries," a lively song about hearts broken and pride regained.

You might be noticing a trend by now. A lot of the Indulger's songs have somber, at times even vaguely depressing themes. But the music is 100 percent upbeat -- and never once does that dichotomy seem awkward or disconcerting. As I noted earlier, this is an album you'll likely stick in your stereo, hit repeat and let play for hours at a time.

Other tracks on In Like Flynn include "Brave New World," a call for peace; "Company Man," a powerful song likening a worker's struggle to feed his family to a soldier at war; "Always," about making one's own way in the world despite the bad hand sometimes dealt; the grim "A Mother's Son"; and, perhaps somewhat incongruously amid all the heavier topics, "Caroline," a pleasant love song. And, just to prove they can handle pub sets as well as the next band, they include two original instrumentals, "So Fine" and "Flynn's Jig/Saving Grace." The fusion of Irish traditional styles with a rockin' beat and both traditional acoustic and modern electric instruments make both sets a unique treat to hear ... and made me want to hear more.

Points off for the liner notes, which consist mostly of thanks and acknowledgements in tiny print. Don't they realize yet that we want more than that? One excellent track, "Beating Heart," is a driving, passionate song about someone's imminent death -- I just know there's a story behind this, but I haven't a clue what it is. Is this about some back alley mugging victim? A member of the IRA? The target of assassination? A policeman, fallen in the line of duty? Alas, we don't know. And perhaps it doesn't matter. Still, I'm curious.

But the music is what counts most, of course, and in that arena, the Indulgers earn full marks. This one is worth picking up and playing often.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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