Black 47,
Trouble in the Land
(Shanachie, 2000)

Black 47 (based in New York City and named after the blackest year of the Irish potato famine) began recording in 1992, but I never had the opportunity to hear them until 2000, and then only because I sampled their sound at a listening booth at a local record store. Have they ever been played on radio anywhere? Never to my knowledge, but after searching on the web I discovered they have quite a following, especially in their native New York.

This may be the most original CD by anyone in many years. They combine the usual rock line-up of electric guitars, bass and drums with saxophones, trombones and a whole host of Irish folk instruments (including those great uilleann pipes). Singer Larry Kirwan surrounds himself with top-notch musicians who play their hearts out. You are never bored by the band's unique musicianship and arrangements, Kirwan's imaginative lyrics, and their love of what they do. Their sound can be described as raw Celtic rock with a reggae beat. (I am not kidding).

Since Kirwan is also a playwright, you can expect something different lyrically and that is exactly what you find. He composes lyrics that tell stories about the Irish political experience on "Touched By Fire," a song about the band's own stage performances on "Those Saints," and a song about the martyrdom of an Irish-American he obviously idolizes on "Bobby Kennedy." There is an anti-hate group message in the title track, and a story about a girl the narrator was attracted to while making Irish folk instruments in "Bodhrans on the Brain." There are references to James Joyce, Irish political leaders Bobby Sands and James Connolly, and John Lennon and the Beatles.

One can not totally describe the sound of this CD or the personality of this band. You have to hear them to fully understand. Kirwan's left-wing view of everything should not offend those of a more conservative nature. He is not trying to be a revolutionary. All he wants is justice as he sees it.

There are five previous Black 47 studio albums and a live album. I can't wait to hear more.

[ by Charlie Ricci ]
Rambles: 21 July 2001



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