March 24, 2017 by T. Gregory Argall
Earlier this week I saw a photo posted on Facebook. The picture showed a cardboard box in the backseat of a car and was captioned “Look what we’ve got!”
I immediately commented, “I will buy the first one, right now. If you bring it to me I will also pay a delivery fee. Please.”
You see, I recognized that box for what it was and, more importantly, what it held.
I knew, instinctively, (just by reading the label) that the box contained CDs of the long awaited and much anticipated third album from the indie Celtic rockers known as Eclectic Revival. I also knew I wanted one.
Surprisingly, my bold tactic worked and within an hour I held in my hands the first CD out of the box. I peeled off the plastic wrap, opened the sleeve, and took out the shiny new disc. I was at work but could wait to listen to it. Since then, it has resided in the CD player in my car and will likely continue to live there for a long time to come. I’m already getting stares from other commuters wondering what the hell I’m singing so enthusiastically in the car beside them on the highway.
While I (and many other Eclectic Revival fans) wish we’d had the album sooner, it was certainly worth the wait.
A balanced mix of traditional and original tunes, there are twelve tracks on the album and not a sub-par song among them. I’m not going to break it down and describe each song, but I will make note of some standouts in my top twelve favourite songs in this collection.
Come Back Home – I was pleasantly surprised to find this song on the album since it also appeared on the first Eclectic Revival CD a few years ago. This is a new recording of a song that has long been one of my favourites. I’ve heard it performed live dozens of times and heard the song evolve slightly over the years, but it’s interesting to contrast this recording with the earlier version. You can not only hear how the already impressive musicianship of the bandmembers has meshed over time, but also how as a band that excels at live performance they have become more comfortable in the studio.
Six String Salute – This is a beautiful tribute to Canada’s armed forces, written as the band was cruising from gig to gig back and forth along the Highway of Heroes. It’s a nice, thoughtful thank you note without getting too heavy-handed or political.
St. Patrick’s Battalion – This is a song written by David Rovics, a sort of memoir of John Riley. Riley was an Irish immigrant to America who joined the US army during the war against Mexico in the mid-1800’s. He, along with two hundred other Irishmen who had fled the foreign occupation of their homeland, soon realised that they were on the wrong side of this particular conflict; they were the invaders and not the defenders. Having an “Are we the baddies?” moment that was drastically less humourous than the Mitchell & Webb version, they formed their own battalion and joined the Mexican army. This is a powerful song and a story worth hearing.
The Parting Glass – Watching an Eclectic Revival show, you will see and hear musicians who have played together for years instinctively meld together as they wield their instruments. But then when they take a break from playing and just let their voices blend together in a smooth and unexpected harmony, it’s a wondrous thing to behold. Such is the magic of The Parting Glass, which may have been written as an end-of-the-evening departure from the pub, or as a deathbed farewell to loved ones and a full life, depending on how you interpret the lyrics.
There is a bonus track, not listed on the cover, featuring Celtic trio Erin’s Marlore joining the band and taking lead on The Rocky Road To Dublin, a jaunty traditional song with a bouncing, complicated cadence inspired by the bumpy path in the title. It provides a nice finish to the collection, combining harmonies and penny-whistles with an jig-inspiring rhythm that drives your toe to tap.
From start to finish this album is a journey of human emotion, starting with the whistling optimism and humble acceptance of the title track, through the pride of Six String Salute to the determination and regret of Goodbye Whiskey through the hope, love and sadness of Sailing Home. But most notable by its absence, anger is nowhere to be found on this album, which I think is pleasantly fitting for a collection called Life & Love.
You can find Eclectic Revival on the interwebs at eclecticrevival.ca or track them down on Facebook. Tell them you want the new CD as well as the others. You’ll be glad you did.
Try to be nice to each other.