The pride of Newfoundland, Great Big Sea are a great big deal in Canada and as of 1997 have made inroads into pockets of Europe. With their third album, is the time is right to make their presence known elsewhere? Play has all the makings of a breakthrough album. It is superbly produced by Danny Greenspoon, who successfully combines the traditional maritime and Celtic music of Newfoundland with modern rock tendencies. It is chock full of catchy folk-rock anthems, and has major-label affiliation; plus, worldwide interest in Celtic rock has grown immensely throughout the '90s and into the new millennium. Some may scoff or roll their eyes at the notion, but GBS, with their strong lead vocals, calculated harmonies, and regional yet universally identifiable themes, musters up idle speculation as to how a modern-day Dubliners might manifest themselves. Great Big Sea proves that they are fully capable of creating intelligent hook-abundant songs like "Seagulls," "My Apology" and "Something I Should Know," but their forte definitely lies in the reworking and modernizing of Newfoundland folk songs. The rollicking "Night Pat Murphy Died" features some fine accordion playing by Bob Hallett and boisterous vocals by all. Those wonderful harmonies steal the show on "Donkey Riding," which tells of the unenviable task of manhandling winches, ropes and chains aboard sailing ships in all types of weather. The a cappella "General Taylor" contains a marvelous but uncredited bass vocal line, and "Jakey's Gin" is a roguish, Pogues-like ditty; all infectious as the dickens. Amid the exceptional selection of original and traditional songs, GBS found room to cover cuts by R.E.M. and Oysterband. Fans of the latter will love this album.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Sleger