Whiskey Picnic, the latest release by Irish folk band Rogue Diplomats, is simply a trip into the history of Ireland. Despite being filled with traditional Irish jigs and humour, this record could have used a little bit more of that Irish luck as it unfortunately did not quite hit the intended mark.
The opening track, “Whiskey Picnic,” is a 26-second long ‘drunken’ ramble starting this picnic off. It was a little unsettling at first, but did get me excited for some fun folk jams. I was hoping it would be reminiscent of my time in Killarney, the acoustic folk chords and lyrics showcasing a romantic view of the world. “The Mermaid” is a prime example of this record’s sound with story-like lyrics of the sea and stormy winds, a fiddle, and a strumming guitar. Vocalist Brian Donnelly has a great voice and really helps elevate the tracks to represent what Whiskey Picnic is about.
The instrumentation and overall sound of the record are solid. The band plays well together and the vocal harmonies throughout the record were impressive. Unfortunately, I felt like this could have been one of those Sounds of the Irish albums you pick up in drug stores. There wasn’t anything that really made this record more than a tribute to the country’s history, nothing that could make the record as a whole memorable.
There were two highlight tracks, however, the first being “My Son John.” Right when I thought, “Oh jeez, this whole record is going to be the same,” this track broke that tone, and the album started to showcase more of a selection in sound throughout. Vocals by Christine Scharf Breiner and guest vocalist, Robyn Adele Anderson slowed the pace considerably, but in the best way possible. This is definitely a track worth several listens. The harmonies, soft guitar, and catchy chorus will stick in your head for days.
“Come Out Ye Black and Tans” was the second stand out track, and my absolute favourite (it has always been one of my favourite traditional Irish songs). Donnelly and Breiner do a fantastic job on vocals, but the fiddle work from Nike Van Wyk and Nathan Diehl’s accordion were incredible, taking you deep into the story of Irish nationalism.
Whiskey Picnic is a well-played collection of a variety of Irish folk tracks, both traditional and original, and is definitely one to take for a spin if you are looking to hear a collection of Irish folk. And while I don’t feel as if this is an album that really highlighted Rogue Diplomats’ originality, with a band filled with such talent, they have the potential to explode into something far more powerful.
Written by Danielle Kenedy
*edited by Kate Erickson