Black 47

Green Suede Shoes

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These guys get slagged plenty in the regular press, but Black 47 can be one of the most exciting rock & roll bands around when they've got their Irish mojo workin'. Granted, Larry Kirwan simply cannot sing, and piper Chris Byrne is both the world's best and the world's worst Irish reggae toaster. But the rest of the band cooks simply and mightily, goosing the traditional jigs and reels that make up most of its melodic repertoire with R&B, hip-hop and reggae riddims. Since Kirwan is a playwright, his songs tend to be stories. Since they're stories, they tend to be long, but since they're mostly good stories, you don't tend to notice so much. "Czechoslovakia" is a hysterical mail-order bride tale sung over "Merrily Kiss the Quaker" (a trad number reprised later on as "Gerty's Farewell"); "Forty Deuce" is a tribute to the band's crappy neighborhood; "Bobby Sands MP" is a classic piece of beery historical propaganda, overwrought in the grand tradition. And you haven't lived until you've heard Chris Byrne chant his account of a cop killed in the line of duty, toasting in first person over a churning, dancehall reggae beat ("To the junkies, the Yuppies, Ice-T and the whores/I bid you all a slan agus beannacht"). Sure, the title track is goofy wordplay on a par with their previous "Paddy's Got a Brand New Reel," but who's going to hold it against them?

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