Holy Bandits

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Buoyed by big, rich production that never slides into slickness, Oysterband (formerly the Oyster Band) sounds like they've been given a blood transfusion on this album. Opening with the joyful one-two punch of "When I'm Up I Can't Get Down" (later a hit for the Canadian folk-rock group Great Big Sea) and "The Road to Santiago" and featuring such anthemic delights as "Gone West" (with its big-as-a-house fiddle sound) and "Cry, Cry" (with its didgeridoo pedal point and rockish chorus), Holy Bandits proceeds from strength to strength with hardly a misstep. True, "I Look for You" is bewilderingly bereft of melodic interest, but by the time the gleeful barroom polka of "Here's to You" has given way to the melancholy sweetness of "Moving On" and then to an even more melancholy and even sweeter rendition of the traditional "Rambling Irishman," you'll have forgotten that there was ever a tuneless moment on this wonderful album. British folk-rock simply doesn't get any better than this.

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