The Tim Malloys,
Drunkards, Bastards & Blackguards
(Fabulous, 2000)

I'm not sure, but the album Drunkards, Bastards & Blackguards might be an autobiographical release for the Tim Malloys. Yes, the band of raging Minneapolis Celts are back for another swig!

A quartet on its previous album, the band has been pared down to a trio: Adam Stemple on guitar, vocals, mandolin and keyboards, Neil Johnston on bass guitar, bodhran and vocals, and John Sjogren on guitar and vocals. Brian Smith, formerly on vocals, tin whistle and harmonica, has been replaced with guests Dave Stenshoel on fiddle and Armitage Shanks on accordion and banjo.

They rock through the album, starting with the bitter, proud "Ordinary Man," about a man losing his factory job, and a rockin' rendition of "Leaving of Liverpool," about a man leaving his love to seek his fortune in the States. Track 3 is the unusually funny "Cannae Throw Your Granny," a toe-tapping, chuckle-sparking ditty about family violence and politics. "Join the British Army" makes the singer's feelings about English soldiers plain, but if the percussion doesn't put you in a groove, you need to crank the volume a bit more.

"One Night in Boston," a Stemple original, is a dolorous song of personal tragedy. If the melancholy brings you down, you'll be lifted by a frantic "Star of the County Down," militant "Twa Recruitin' Sergeants" and absolutely hopping "Bottle of Smoke," an exuberant tale of victory at the horse races. Their version of "Black is the Colour" is a throwaway track; there's nothing unique or exceptional about this version of the oft-recorded traditional song. However, it flows neatly into the tense "The Storm."

My favorite track on the album is the lively "Johnny Jump Up," a grand song about the havoc-inducing effects of hard cider. Next is "Celtic Symphony," an intense and varied song by Brian Warfield of the Wolfe Tones -- I can't quite follow the storyline, which involves a bargain with the devil, but it initially lost points for pronouncing "Celts" as "Selts" in a short refrain. Adam Stemple wrote to clear that up for me, however: "The Celts in the song are the Glasgow Celtics (pronounced "seltics" like the Boston Celtics), the jungle is their stadium, and the Tim Malloys are what their fans are referred to after their most famous (or nefarious) fan." Thanks, Adam!

The album ends with "Fairytale of New York," a rough-edged Christmas carol for the drunks, punks and policemen of New York City. Oh, and then there's that bonus track, mercifully brief.

Because of the Tim Malloys' rather ... exurberant approach to language, this album isn't really appropriate for younger listeners, but the music is good and infectiously entertaining. The band brings a heady mix of Irish fun and Irish anger to the recording, and I suspect they'd be a treat to see perform in a packed and rowdy pub.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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