Black 47

New York Town

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The Next Big Thing hype that followed Black 47 everywhere about ten years ago has long since slouched off to dog the heels of some other band, and its major-label contract expired years ago, and one of its most accomplished and distinctive members (piper and occasional Gaelic toaster Chris Byrne) has departed as well, but Black 47 continues unfazed as one of America's several good answers to the Pogues. Unlike other rock'n'reel groups that rely on traditional Celtic tunes and songs for the basis of their repertoire and muscle them up with modern beats, Black 47 is a showcase for original material, all of it from the pen of the occasionally inspired songwriter and consistently terrible singer Larry Kirwan; on this album, the band is also joined by such folk-rock, alt-rock, country-rock, and Irish legends as Rosanne Cash, David Johansen, Eileen Ivers, and Suzzy Roche, most of whom are responsible for the album's highlights. These include "Fiona's Song," on which Cash plies her dark, gorgeous voice and Ivers embroiders everything with haunting fiddle, and the two songs that feature the eternally good-humored Suzzy Roche ("New York Town," "Brooklyn, Goodbye"). David Johansen's talent is wasted on the jaunty but banal "Staten Island Baby," but "Black Rose" and "Blood Wedding" (both remakes of tracks from Black 47's early EMI years) make up for that misstep. Not essential, but not bad at all.

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