Bachelor's Walk,
Rain Check
(Magnetic, 1997)

Sometimes a song will burrow in deep on first hearing, carving out little tunnels in the shape of its words and shelves custom fitted to its tune, forcing me to hear that song at least daily until those shelves and hollows are full and my brain loses that hollow ache. I've been known to buy box sets to get one such song. Bachelor's Walk has tricked me into hearing an album full of them on Rain Check.

Like all addictive substances, Rain Check hid its seductive nature until far too late. My first play used it to fill an idle moment, a pleasant musical interlude before work. George Lonergan's vocals were clear and acrobatically limber, especially shared with Peter Cole; Mick Davis's fiddle both carried the spotlight and graciously shared it the many reels and jigs; Tommy Venxion threw in a surprising variety of instruments in just the right places. I actually thought it was an innocently nice album that could be played at will. And then I caught myself humming "Tunnel Tigers" at work and realized I hadn't heard a word my client had said for the last two verses. I knew I was hooked.

All the songs can't possess me at once, so I've been trapped by the album in stages. At first it was the work chant rhythm and evocative imagery of "Tunnel Tigers," a claustrophobic ode to miners and diggers through London's history. I then promptly grew addicted to "Rites of Passage," a haunting, elusively poetic song of transition. The lyrics snagged me first, and the liquid smoke of the tune, and just when that was starting to wear off, the strange, out-of-place saxophone interlude caught my ear again. Lately it's the brisk country-style ballad of "Billy Gray" with its bright melody and dark storyline delivered in vocals pained and aching in sympathy with the song.

Bachelor's Walk might not be so endlessly addictive if they stuck to one style of music, or even two. But as soon as one gets old, there are seven others waiting to clear the palate. There's the bright country of "Billy Gray," the soft traditional folk of "My Cavan Girl," the lonesome ballad of "The Dusty Diamantina," the opening Celtic flavor of "Airdi Cuan." And, never to be forgotten, there are the reels and jigs, mad and fast-paced, dancing between pure tradition and touched-up modern flourish. "Shaskeen Set," coming in to a rather dark pint on the album, is a champagne bubble of music, giving off a merry buzz. The speed that scatters the "Flowers Of Redhill" is a wonder to hear, and hides subtler pleasures of the tune that only come to ear on repeated hearings.

Every time I try to take Rain Check out of the CD player another tune insists on my attention. I can already sense "Tobin's Jigs," a solid collection of traditional tunes, getting ready to flash their new percussion and surprising guitar. The gentle, unobtrusive love story of "The Roseville Fair" has been humming through my mind at odd times, inviting me to give it another listen. It's an enduring addiction, and gets more enjoyable as I surrender. If Rain Check isn't available at your music counter, it can be found at If you've got room for a new habit in your life, it's a great choice.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 24 May 2003