So you didn’t get enough of Gaelic Storm at the 2014 Colorado Irish Festival? Can’t wait until they return to Colorado in November? Well, you’re in luck, because they are releasing their new CD today (July 29). Most of the songs are old (favorites, that is); it’s a “Best Of” compilation album. But there are three new tracks that have never been released before. “Whiskey in the Jar” for instance, which for some inexplicable reason, they have never recorded before (unlike every band in existence. Which may be a good thing.) There’s also a new track called “Spider Bite.” But my favorite? Well, that has a story to it.
The first time I saw Gaelic Storm live, I was actually disappointed, I must admit. They rode to this huge peak of fame because of their performance as the band in third class on Titanic in the movie where Leonardo DiCaprio takes socialite Kate Winslet for cross-cultural experience. They played some of the best TRAD I’ve ever heard in a movie. It was one of my favorite parts.
Problem is, they do so much more than TRAD. Well, that’s a nice problem to have, with musicians as talented as these, and I’ve come to appreciate their unique style as much as the TRAD I first loved. I get the best of both worlds on this album, because the third “new” track is the tunes they played in the movie, a rousing set of “The Blarney Pilgrim” and “John Ryan’s Polka.”
If you’re a fan of Gaelic Storm at all, and millions are, you’ll love this compilation. If you’re not, give it a listen anyway, because it’s really good music.
We start off with a song called “Scalliwag,” which seems to be their version of “The Raggle Taggle Gypsy.” Very nice upbeat, done in their own unique style, featuring prominent djembe on rhythm, and some very nice harmony. Good fiddle break in the middle, keeping us with our Celtic roots.
Next up is “Born to be a Bachelor” from 2004. Carribean in style, featuring electronic pipes and even a didgeridoo. Strange that some wedding planners feature this as a wedding song, when it’s all about touting the single life and living with ma. Still an excellent original.
What can you say about “Whiskey in the Jar?” A classic Irish pub song for good reason. This usually very amped up band actually does a fairly tame version, featuring some excellent fiddle breaks, and a very melodic vocal line. It’s quite enjoyable.
Of course, we get back to the “amped up” with a cut from the 2010 album “Cabbage” called “The Buzzards of Bourbon Street.” Starts off with some excellent bagpiping, strolls on with some outstanding fiddle work, and everything is backed by some thumping percussion that really adds depth and color. Not totally traditional, but certainly gives the nod to the band’s history.
“Raised on Black and Tans” is also from “Cabbage” and features the story of growing up Irish, hearing the stories of the Rising and the Troubles, and trying to live up to them. This is a good storytelling song, in the tradition of The Elders or some of the things done by Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys. And that’s good company to keep.
“Me and the Moon” has a kind of Jimmy Buffet vibe to it. From the 2006 album “Bring Yer Wellies” this cut emphasizes the tropical drumbeat. It’s a mellow ballad of being lonely and nostalgic. You’ll like it.
“Girls of Dublin Town” came out in 2013 on the album “The Boathouse” but it harks back to a time longer ago, with images of the Irish rising to throw off British Rule, and a tune that seems to echo “The Wearin’ of the Green.”
We get back to the island feel with “The Night I Punched Russell Crowe.” It’s apparently based on a true story, in which singer Patrick Murphy is managing an Irish pub in Los Angeles. Russell Crowe is smoking a cigarette, and you know how California law is about that, so Murphy asks him to put it out and a ruckus ensues. Bandmate Steve Twigger helped Murphy write a song about it, which appeared on their 2008 album “What’s the Rumpus?” and became very popular.
Of course, Track 9 is my favorite, with some very traditional tunes, except for the odd sound of african percussion. It’s not unpleasant, and in fact, it fits very well with the music, but one would normally expect bodhrán on TRAD music. I especially love the drones of what sound like Irish bagpipes as the track opens. As I said above, it starts out with a really flying version of “The Blarney Pilgrim,” which makes sense, as the scene is a rollicking Irish dance party. Then they swing into an equally energetic version of John Ryan’s Polka that keeps the feet tapping. Worth the price of the album on its own.
“Miss My Home” is another lively song, but sentimental in its way. A bit reminiscent of Christy Moore, but with more rhythm and attitude, it tells of an Irish itinerant remembering his home even while living in exotic locales. It’s from the 2005 album “How Are We Getting Home?”
You can’t get by without a moonshine song, and “Darcy’s Donkey” fits that bill and more. Telling the story of a donkey who wins a horse race in Donegal after accidently being fed some poitin. A good treatment of a hilarious farcical story, with an entertaining ending, also off “What’s the Rumpus?”
The Irish are known for the ability to face adversity with a smile and a pint. This characteristic is nowhere better featured than in “One More Day Above the Roses.” It basically spits in the face of adversity, grabs life by the hand and swings it round the room in a frantic dance. An excellent encouraging song from the 2012 CD “Chicken Boxer.”
The Irish are also known for their rich fantasy lives, and this is amply demonstrated in “Slim Jim and the Seven Eleven Girl.” It’s also from “What’s the Rumpus” and tells of a lonely man who doesn’t know he’s being rejected by the girl who works at 7-11, so he persists and finally wins her heart.
“Spider Bite” is another one that has never appeared on Gaelic Storm albums before, but it’s a welcome addition, featuring a rollicking set of Irish tunes, played on traditional instruments (with the addition of the djembe again, but also featuring bodhrán). There is some outstanding musicianship here, making it another favorite track. This is the Gaelic Storm I first loved.
Gaelic Storm often finish off their shows with “Kiss Me I’m Irish” off their 2006 album “Bring Yer Wellies” and that formula holds true for this release. It’s always a crowd pleaser, but best heard (and sung) while waving a pint aloft. A fitting end to an excellent album.
With their signature acoustic production, Gaelic Storm blends indie-folk and world grooves with Celtic tradition to bring you twelve tales of plight and plunder, whiskey-drenched pirates, flying cannon balls and the ladies of ill repute. The group’s ability to deftly incorporate a rock sensibility into their sound affords them rare crossover appeal. In recent years, they’ve performed on the same bill with acts ranging from Zac Brown Band and the Goo Goo Dolls to Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett, at events as varied as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Milwaukee’s Summerfest.
This “Best Of” CD shows off the variety and talent that have made Gaelic Storm one of the most popular bands in the world. Order yours today.
EDITED TO ADD: “Full Irish” has become Gaelic Storm’s FIFTH #1 record on the Billboard World Albums chart. Congratulations!