The Whisky Priests,
Life's Tapestry
(Whippet, 1996)

The Whisky Priests may have recorded in a studio, but Life's Tapestry feels like a live performance album. Specifically, the kind of live performance that occurs as all the bars are closing and a group of musicians who have been paid in liquid goods stumbles out into the streets, drunk but nowhere near quitting. The Whisky Priest's voices are rough and blurry at the edges, and the songs here show the raw, unthought emotional display usually usually found only in the completely smashed.

The music is too well done for it to have been made in a drunken stupor, of course. The instruments are clear and sharp, providing a bright contrast to lead vocalist Gary Miller's often blurred and overwrought voice. The music manages to swell and charge with as much force as Miller's performance demands from it. Swinging from a cheerful rage with the opening "Ranting Lads" to homesickness in "This Village," the Whisky Priests deliver songs that strike at the heart without bothering to stop in the brain first.

Many of the lyrics attain a sort of poetic confusion. "Silver For the Bairn" colors a story of celebration with grief and loss, without ever spelling out exactly what the celebration is. "Workhorse" becomes a strange parable with unclear meaning when the story is looked at too closely, but keeps its electric charge of thwarted passion when allowed to just be.

These more amorphous songs, like the potentially religious "When I'm Born Again," manipulate feelings without giving them a clear direction to be driven in. The more direct songs are mostly hymns of outrage, like the fictionalized account of miscarried justice in "Farewell Jobling" or "Favourite Sons," a rant for all the people who ignore the brilliance in their midst until too late. Still, there are a few gentler moments on the album. "This Village" honors the faults and virtues of a prodigal resident and the home that draws him back, with a tune more acoustic than the rest of the album.

Perhaps the most representative song on the album, "He's Still My Son," shows off the Priest's knack for bringing emotion to edge of maudlin without crossing the line, while a stray organ and deftly handled guitar create an almost hymn-like feel in this rock song of a mother's unconditional love for a child who far beyond any other human compassion.

Life's Tapestry is clearly meant to be enjoyed through experience. Turn it up too loud, sing along and put on your best ranting voice with the Whisky Priests.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 3 May 2003

Buy it from