Blood or Whiskey

Blood Or Whiskey

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Some artists bank on comparisons to similar-sounding, established acts, while others consider it an affront to their creativity and integrity to be tagged as a "sounds-like" band. County Kildare's Blood or Whiskey realizes that mentioning the Pogues is inevitable when describing their style, and they don't mind. Lead vocalist and bouzouki player Barney Murray possesses a guttural voice that makes Shane MacGowan sound like a syrupy crooner by comparison. Murray bears an uncanny resemblance to Animal, lead singer of early-'80s punk band the Anti-Nowhere League, and in true punk fashion there's no shortage of songs: 18 all together, with several clocking in at two minutes or less. The aggressive, paradoxical vocals along with banjo and whistle-driven songs are also trademarks of that other band, and neither group relies a great deal on the folk archives for their set lists. Blood or Whiskey's rough-hewn melodies are catchy enough, but with lyrics like "Shot in the head in a bar in Bucharest I was just hopin' to score" ("Bucharest") and "You can keep the baby, baby, just don't ask me to stay" ("Keep the Baby"), Blood or Whiskey's persona is one of neither sophistication nor sensitivity. Briefly lost in the comparatively poignant accordion waltz intro of "Deathwatch," reality abruptly strikes 30 seconds later when in lumbers Barney to leave his indelible imprint on the song: "I was a happy boy living on the dole but you came and ruined it all for me." Colm Gallagher's tin whistle playing is convincing enough, and some pleasant guitar/banjo harmonies are uncovered on occasion. Even though Barney Murray barges in like an uninvited guest, he deserves credit for never wearing out his welcome. Slightly demented yet oddly charming.

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