The McGillicuddys,
Kilt by Death
(self-produced, 2002)

The McGillicuddys are an all-too-rare breed these days; they're an energetic Celtic group out of Victoria, British Columbia, guaranteed to have you loving their sound with the first song. It's Celtic rock with a seriously sharp punk edge.

The group was formed in 1998, and they've been playing the local music scene ever since. Their website describes the McGillicuddys as "a mix between Social Distortion, the Pogues, the Ramones and the Clash." That's a pretty heady blend, considering that each of those groups has a distinctive sound.

The McGillicuddys are Mike Walker (lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, tin whistle), Jill Clayton (accordion, backing vocals), Ian Barrett (electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals), Brent Restall (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Michelle Kent (bass guitar, backing vocals). All are strong musicians on their own, but combined, they've got a sound you just have to hear. This disc does well when the volume is torqued (although your pets may object to it).

I think the first thing that struck me was Walker's vocals. He's got a striking voice that I found quite similar to that of the Pogues' Shane MacGowan, raw and distinctive. The next thing that struck me was the energy contained on the disc, each song pulsating with a vibrancy that is difficult to find. A live show by this group would fill the dance floor beyond capacity!

There is a harmonic blend of traditional and original tracks on this debut disc, with the traditional track arrangements being just as potent and energized as the originals. Clayton and Walker both show a great deal of promise and talent as burgeoning songwriters, which naturally adds to the group's already pleasing sound. We all love cover tunes, but there's something to be said for those original tracks as well.

The disc opens up with a lively drum intro to Clayton's "On The Rocks," a rhythmic hard-hitting look at how a popular beverage can change a life. Many's the person who has fallen into the glass and found themselves on the rocks later on in life. The lure of forgetfulness is strong, and the bottle is so good at appearing to be a friend.

"Nancy Whisky" is a favourite of mine, and this version is a very amicable one. Nothing really stood out to separate it from the multitudes of other covers of it, though. Enjoyable, just not outstanding. Being a second song dealing with whiskey that I have chosen to spotlight, I have to wonder if there isn't a trend growing here.

The final song on the disc is a wonderful traditional track, "The Leaving of Liverpool," and no, folks, this one doesn't have anything to do with whiskey! The McGillicuddys perform it to perfection, and one can easily lose themselves in the melancholy lyrics, but the energetic melody fuels only the desire to hit the dance floor!

This is a party disc, with some of the best Celtic punk-edged rock I've heard in a very long time. It's definitely worth whirling on the CD player a few thousand times! Give them a listen, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

- Rambles
written by Naomi de Bruyn
published 14 December 2002

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