Fine Crowd,
Poverty's Arse
(self-produced, 1995)

A Newfoundland fan was so eager to promote Fine Crowd, he took it upon himself to send me a review copy of the band's CD Poverty's Arse. It's always heartening to see such support among listeners.

That said, the band deserves the fan's acclaim. From the the bouncy opening track, "Blarney Roses," and on through 13 tracks of traditional Celtic and Maritime songs, the band acquits itself well. The musicians are strong instrumentally and fair to good vocally -- all in all, a pleasant listening experience.

Fine Crowd is Will Penney on vocals, bass and 6- and 12-string guitars, Bill Penney on vocals and 6-string, Fred Jorgensen on vocals, tin whistles and bodhran, Priscilla Dalton on vocals and 12-string, and Vic Tilley on vocals, mandolin, bouzouki, bones and 6-string, 12-string and classical guitars. Jorgensen in particular impressed me with his fine whistling, which he wields with great dexterity on "Jolly Tinker/Kerry Polka/Julia Delaney," and Dalton sings grandly on "The Islander."

At the same time, however, the album isn't a complete success. Vocals aren't always as strong as they could be, and song choices could have been a bit wiser. For instance, "Poor Old Mare" drones on for 185 seconds -- a good 150 seconds longer than it needed to be. Vocals on "By Peter Kerrivan" grate heavily on my ears, and it's not the best version of Andy M. Stewart's "Queen of Argyll" I've ever heard sung -- although Tilley's mandolin is a saving grace on this track.

Will Penney shows songwriting promise with the fun morning-after-the-party song, "Clean Up After the Time" -- I'd like to hear more of his work, but it's his only original song on this album. Jorgensen likewise writes good, wistful lyrics for "Days Gone By." The album ends with a nice a capella version of the traditional "Parting Glass" and a strange "hidden track" apparently called "Merry Frolicking Jovial Song," by Vic Tilley.

Formed in 1993, Fine Crowd apparently gained quite a bit of popularity before parting ways in 2000. This is a nice reminder of the band, which I suspect put on quite the fun performance.

[ by Tom Knapp ]