The Irish Brigade,
Live at the Half Time Rec
(New Folk, 2002)

The first track, a duet of pennywhistle and bodhran, is a potent, vibrant start to this live recording from the Half Time Rec in St. Paul, Minn. The Irish Brigade is a duo, but the pair is joined here by a few musical friends to deliver an exciting package.

Mike Wallace provides guitar, bodhran, bass and vocals; Sean Conway supplies flutes, whistles, guitar and vocals. Guests are John Wright on bass, Karie Oberg on vocals and Mike Ryan on dumbek. But it's just the duo on most of the album's 18 tracks, but Wallace and Conway manage to sound like a larger band.

The Irish Brigade shows its versatility, too: the album begins with a whomping set of traditional reels, followed by a lively read on "Rocky Road to Dublin," then a strong but tender rendition of "Carrickfergus" and a pair of fast jigs. And so on -- these boys don't let their audience get settled into a rut anywhere along the way. In fact, the audience is my only real complaint -- the recording snips off all but the barest hints of applause and other audience reactions, and a live album should certainly keep the audience in the mix!

The varied set list continues with the reflective "The Dutchman," the high-spirited "On the One Road," "Ride On," "The Night Visit," "Black is the Color," "Whisky You're the Devil" and even Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue." Jammin' instrumental sets are speckled throughout to good effect.

In other words, the Irish Brigade is no one-trick horse. The duo's diverse talents receive excellent attention in this live recording, leaving us poor listeners at home wanting more.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 7 September 2002

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