Toss the Feathers,
Columbus Eclipse
(1989; Magnetic, 1993)

Before you start this review, you need to get yourself a pint of Guinness to get yourself in the proper mood. Don't worry, the review will still be here when you get back.


Back that quickly, huh? Then let's begin. Toss the Feathers -- whose motto is "taking Irish music to the extreme" -- hasn't released an album in years (that I'm aware of). But that doesn't seem to matter. Their brand of Irish folk rock is timeless in that the old Irish, traditional style has a new feel to it when you add some modern instruments. Columbus Eclipse is the band's second CD and was originally released in 1989.

The album starts out with the haunting song "The Highwayman." This is my favorite track on the CD. The violin and mandolin, with the steady percussive beat in the background, complement the vocals about a man of noble birth who steals riches from the upper echelons of society. But the greatest treasure he ever stole was the heart of his true love.

Another great song is "Requiem for the Innocent." This piece might be a bit graphic as it depicts what life is like for some of the Irish population today. The song describes the life of a 16-year-old girl whose life is wasted with drugs and alcohol. While it is a depressing song, there is something about it that won't let you skip to the next track.

On a happier note, there are many tracks that would be a lot of fun to listen to live, surrounded by friends in your favorite pub. The drinking songs that beg for audience participation. "Rally Round," "The Crack Was 90" and "Dusty Roads" all indulge the fiddle and/or banjo with witty lyrics in many instances.

Toss the Feathers was founded in 1987. The original line up included Mike Goldrick (flute and whistle), Eddie Sheehan (vocals and guitar), David Smylie (bass and vocals), Paul Usher (drums), Peter Carberry (mandolin and accordion) and Angela Usher (banjo and whistle). By the time Columbus Eclipse rolled around, Peter and Angela had left the group to be replaced by Des Donnelly (fiddle) and Chris Comac (banjo and mandolin). Interestingly enough, I recently reviewed another CD -- Champions of the North -- which Mike and Des recorded when they were teenagers. If you like Toss the Feathers, I recommend you check out that earlier recording.

Despite how much I enjoy listening to Columbus Eclipse, I do have one tiny problem with it. The sound quality is inconsistent. I constantly have to fiddle with the volume between tracks as some are recorded so softly you can barely hear them, while some come blaring out at you. It'll startle you enough that you might spill your beer. And we all know that's bad! After you hear the CD a few times though, you get kind of used to the recording inconsistencies.

I have no idea if Toss the Feathers is still around. While I hope they are still producing great music, I am going to recommend Columbus Eclipse regardless. This CD has a lot of energy that makes me wish I had a chance to see the band live. Give it a listen. You'll be proud of your Irish heritage (even if you don't have any) as you sing along and perhaps dance a jig or two. (Guinness will help if you've never danced before).

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 19 April 2003