Four Shillings Short,
Kelptic OddYaSee
(self-produced, 1996)

Four Shillings Short's Kelptic OddYaSee is as quirky as the title suggests and very enjoyable, although a bit uneven.

The band is Aodh Ob O Tuama (vocals, tinwhistles, spoons, gemshorn, loud noises), Christy Martin (vocals, hammered dulcimer, mandolin, sitar, tamboura and go-for), Kristoph Klover (electric guitar, 6- and 12-string guitar, mandola, oboe, backing vocals, duck noises and Gwen the feline bagpipe [please note -- I'm only copying from the liner notes!]) and Jeff Buenz (fretless bass, tall tails and animation). They are joined by a complement of guest artists. Gwen the cat gets her own credit.

Four Shillings Short fares well on many of the tracks, including a sprightly rendition of "Kelptic Dulaman/Julia Delaney," "Lark in the Morning," "As I Roved Out" and "The Blacksmith." The last has a driving bass line and electric guitar riffs that add an edgy power to the song. Martin's hammered dulcimer and vocals are wonderfully ethereal on "Oh Susannah." Her original second verse is for her sister Susannah, also one of the guest artists, and overall the arrangement breathes new life into the old song.

"Internet Blues" is another Martin original and it's truly a song for the times. This is the track on which Gwen makes her debut, so pay attention. (To be honest, she sounds more feline than like a bagpipe, but I'm not an expert in that area.)

The band's originality and willingness are its strengths; for the most part, there's something very gutsy and fresh about their arrangements. Sometimes, though, a better sense of restraint and timing would have made the CD more cohesive and a bit more polished. For example, I have always found "Kilkelly" to be a powerfully moving song, but in this arrangement, the verses are interspersed with increasingly longer passages of "Emigrant's Jig," presumably to indicate the passage of time. The end result is that the listener cannot engage in the story. The whole song is over-arranged, actually; sometimes, less is more.

I also found the placement of "Peace in Erin" as the first track to be a less than felicitous choice. While the combination of vocals, sitar, tinwhistle and electric guitar is well-executed and unusual, the track is long and unvaried in its plaintiveness and might discourage listeners from continuing or, at the very least, might inspire them to skip ahead and not appreciate the track as much as it deserves.

In the long run, however, the strengths of Kelptic OddYaSee far outweigh the weaknesses, and at 69 minutes of playing time (including Gwen the cat), Four Shillings Short provides full measure.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 16 March 2002