Fortune's Hand,
Live at Dolan's Pub
(self-produced, 2002)

Sometimes, even a very good band loses the ability to surprise you. Fortune's Hand, a Nova Scotian band that impressed me a year ago with Rhythm of the Wind, managed to catch me off guard with the follow-up CD, Live at Dolan's Pub.

The disc opened, not with a Maritimes tune as I expected, but a Dave Matthews-inflected cover of the Barenaked Ladies' "Brian Wilson." The first track left me wondering where these boys were headed, especially when #2, a Mark d'Entremont original called "Believer," remained firmly in the folk-rock vein. Then it's time for "Rocky Road to Dublin" and, while the song is traditional, the sound has an edgy twist.

Continue to expect the unexpected; next up is a mellow cover of "Sweet Child o' Mine," the Guns 'n' Roses hit, followed by Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road" and Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels."

Vocal leads in Fortune's Hand are shared by d'Entremont (guitar) and Kevin Bohaychuk (whistles, fiddle, guitar). As on their previous release, d'Entremont leans more towards an alt-rock sound; now, Bohaychuk's vocals also have a rockier feel than they did on Rhythm. The rest of the band is Rob Mattatall (drums, backing vocals) and Mike Glaze (bass).

Other songs on the album include Shane MacGowan's "Sally MacLenanne," Shel Silverstein's "The Unicorn Song," Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," "Walking on Sunshine" from Katrina & the Waves, and the traditionals "Peter's Street" and "Mary Mac."

Dolan's Pub is certainly a diverse recording, and the live performance is flawless. Still, I can't say I enjoyed it as much as the band's studio recording. Fortune's Hand has drifted away from the biggest strengths of the last album: a mix of traditional Irish and Maritimes tunes and some very strong original pieces. This one is mostly a bunch of straightforward covers -- they're a lot of fun, probably even more so in a live setting, but lack some of the band's former spark. Dolan's Pub is a gift to the band's loyal fans, something I'm sure they'll play over and over again. Most people will prefer Rhythm.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 31 August 2002