Ned Ludd,
A Zero Ore
(self-produced, 1998)

Their website describes them as "combat folk rock" and that's a pretty accurate assessment of Italian band Ned Ludd. The music on A Zero Ore is hard driving and at times harsh in both its delivery and its criticism of social policy in Italy.

The music is more acoustic than not with guitar, accordion and mandolin frequently in the forefront. The lushness of the accordion and the clear sweet plucking of the mandolin springs from Italian folk roots. In turn, these roots often compete or fuse with a rock back beat, resulting in frenetic lively music that is sometimes reminiscent of Great Big Sea and, at other times, the Pogues.

Ian Lawther sits in on several of the tracks on uillean pipes, giving the music a Celtic touch. Lawther solos on two tracks, "Joseph Lawther/Monique Van Der Goor" and "The Mist Covered Mountains." The latter closes the CD, and the gentle and plaintive melody provides a soothing, if mournful, conclusion to the disc.

The liner notes are in Italian, as is the website (except for a few headers, such as the one about "combat folk rock") but the lyrics on the liner notes are translated into English. The topics are mostly current -- struggles with discrimination, disillusionment and unemployment. The lead vocalist shouts or half speaks most of the lyrics, and for the most part, I found the result musically unappealing. Understanding the language might, I concede, make a difference, but since I don't speak Italian, his voice becomes an instrument which doesn't mesh well with the others.

I'm sure I'm not the only reviewer to compare Ned Ludd to the Pogues; the intensity and energy are similar. If you're fond of the Pogues, give A Zero Ore a spin -- it's more than probably that you'll enjoy it.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 4 May 2002