Lancaster County Prison,
Every Goddamn Time
(Coolidge, 2003)

From the inspiration of the great Irish pubs of Queens, New York and places unspecified comes an album of rocking Celtic music that will blow your minds. Aided and abetted by one Shane MacGowan (yes, the Pogue of various parishes), they give us new songs, old songs revamped and boring songs invigorated.

One of the new tracks is by band member Gerald Donnelly called "Ironclad." It reminded me of Steeleye Span in its heyday. Some purists may be knocked off their feet by this album, as the band take some beloved songs and make them their own. Listen with new ears to Phil Coulter's "Town I Loved So Well" as MacGowan joins the proceedings.

Hide the crockery if your granny is a John Denver fan because these guys take "Country Roads" to a new destination and at well over the speed limit. Listen without prejudice and I dare you not to love it. I particularly liked the band's "tribute" to New York in "Home Sweet Brooklyn." Only a resident could write it and sing it so well. Track title of the year must go to "Ate His Thumb."

An icon of another genre that gets the Prison treatment is Marty Robbins on "El Paso City." They even try the old yodel at times and are not too bad at it. Another standard that gets the treatment is "Long Black Veil," and I just loved this version. Re-working well known songs is a very tricky business. It can trip you up and annoy lovers of the originals, but done well it makes a completely new classic. I am pleased to note that this shower of great musicians can do it and do it.

Maybe it is something in the New York-Irish mind that allows them to take these liberties and, more to the point, make them work. Black 47 has done it. Pierce Turner, an ex-pat Wexford man, recently extolled the virtues of traditional Irish musicians in accepting experimentation, and obviously Lancaster County Prison subscribes to the philosophy.

I can imagine a rollicking pub, a few pints and shouting for more from this band. Even in my solitary room, in front of a computer I am shouting for more, more, more.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 28 August 2004

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