(Off Hand, 2004)

Houston band Jiggernaut infuses Celtic rock with American country to create a lively mix.

The vocals of Deanna Smith Scotland have a rich, powerful sound that is far from the lilting soprano of many female Celtic singers. She sounds more at home singing the drinking song "Come In, Sit Down" than she would on a historical ballad. Despite her last name, Scotland has a Texas inflection in her voice that does not sound at all out of place here. After all, Celtic music might be considered the country music of its people.

Acoustic and electric bouzouki player Wolf Loescher lived in Scotland for three years, so he sings more like someone from overseas. Both of them deftly handle a variety of themes and moods.

The 12 songs on Evolution are a mixture of traditional and newly written. Most of the non-traditional songs are written by artists outside the group, including "The Downeaster Alexa" by Billy Joel, "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" by Richard Thompson, and "Thousands are Sailing" by the Pogues. Jiggernaut's version of the Pogues' song is an ironic inclusion, because there is a mournful traditional Irish song by the same name. With comments about crime and White House dollars, this is not your mother's auld-countree music. That is true of most of the songs on this CD.

Richard Kean leads on the three instrumentals on Highland pipes and gaita gallega (a bagpipe from northern Spain). Kean's pipes are smaller, smoother and less harsh than the familiar great pipes used in drum and pipe bands. Kean left the group after the CD was made.

His replacement, EJ Jones, also appears on the CD playing smaller types of pipes, flute, whistles and bombarde. Steve Harrison, who also left the group after the recording, plays a subdued but supple electric guitar.

Evolution is the group's second CD. The band has evolved with three years on the road and new band members. It is a change that seems to be working out quite well.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 26 March 2005

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