St. Patrick’s Day is soon upon us, and you know what that means; drinking, more drinking, WAY too much drinking, and, of course, Irish drinking songs. I can’t think of a better album to welcome in the next big holiday than West of Mabou’s debut album West of Mabou. It is without a doubt THE soundtrack you are going to need to get you pumped up for that long day of intoxication, parade shenanigans, and hordes of lunatics celebrating their Irish roots, even if they don’t have any. Even as I write this, I have a beer in hand and a goofy grin that could only come from this excessively positive music.
In some ways, you could say that West of Mabou is just like every other pub act. They play lively, Celtic music highlighted by its virtuoso fiddle players and jubilant attitude. Sure, you can get drunk to these tunes, but West of Mabou are not as one dimensional as the old farts at your local dive bar who won’t stop playing that cover of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” for all the fucking obnoxious college students. These guys are definitely better than that. For one, they don’t just have one kick-ass fiddle player, they have two AND a bagpipe player! Secondly, these are all original tunes with some neat little twists and turns. This is still a limited, niche genre, so don’t be expecting diversity, but it’s also way more than just background noise.
The opener “Rannie MacLellan” is your typical barnburner that will have you Irish dancing in no time, and boy does it cook! If all the tracks were like this, it would be exhausting, and you’d be good and blacked out before the fun really started. “Pressed For Time” approaches similar territory, but, like the title suggests, is frantic in nature, and will get your heart racing faster than a missed alarm clock. Most other Celtic groups fail to reach a wide audience because they refuse to succumb to modernity. West of Mabou, however, is a blast because they don’t come off as stodgy traditionalists. It helps that drummer Jared Dormer keeps things steady with solid and propulsive drum work that might not exactly reach the aggression of Flogging Molly, or even The Pogues, but will have you jigging nonetheless.
Songs like “Asleep at The Wheel” and “Hornpipes” also change things up a little. The latter is downright progressive for Celtic folk in that it gets things rollicking with a modest, yet groovy drum solo, and a Bo Diddley guitar rhythm that is pretty reminiscent of George Michael’s “Faith”. In the end, it’s all roots music, though, but hey, at least it’s not a fiddle player showing off for an hour!
Here in lies, of course, the slight downfall of this record. It is too long and is a bit too repetitive. Once you’ve heard one track, you kind of have the basic idea. It all seems like a blur after a while. It doesn’t help that there are no words to these songs. I realize that is what they were going for, but I just want to sing along so badly! I guarantee that even before March 17th hits, you will want to sing along too. This is essential stuff, my friends. If you dare call yourself Irish (even if it’s not true), you need to hear this!
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy