Breaking back out the banjos and bouzoukis, the band pulls together fertile tales of Faulknerian loss and O’Connor-esque impoverished struggles.
Review by David Feltman
One of the most appealing aspects of folk music lies in the storytelling. The lyrical content of most modern pop songs are concentrated just on love and partying, but folk songs offer a robust and culturally steeped assortment of tragedy and comedy, heroism and caution…and yeah, love and partying too.
The best of these stories always seem to derive from Southern and Irish folk traditions and the Birmingham based Jasper Coal takes advantage of both worlds. Its newest release, Drowning the Shamrock, provides a new round of old-fashioned Irish folk music that’s faithful in form and content but uniquely Southern in perspective. Breaking back out the banjos and bouzoukis, the band pulls together fertile tales of Faulknerian loss and O’Connor-esque impoverished struggles. “The Foggy Dew” tells of a man mourning his friends that died in a failed rebellion and “Step It Out Mary” has the narrator exploiting his daughter to ensnare a rich son-in-law. And then there’s “Gather Up the Pots,” which plays like an Irish version of “The Dukes of Hazard.”
There aren’t many “happily ever afters” on Drowning the Shamrock; in fact, most of the songs are fierce downers. But Jasper Coal cuts the treacle in true Irish style by accompanying the sad stories with raucous tunes and a rebellious spirit. The music is jaunty and energetic, taking sheer pleasure in the delivery and the telling. Of the 10 songs, only the closing track, “Parting Glass,” takes a somber approach with gospel-like harmonizing. The album is both engaging and enjoyable while avoiding anything too grandiose or gimmicky. Whether you want to dance or drown your sorrows, this is the perfect soundtrack.