Irish "folk & roll" quartet the High Kings may have been created by the same team behind such commercial entities as Riverdance and Celtic Woman, but with three of its members related to traditional legends like the Clancy Brothers, the Fureys, and Sean Dunphy, they possess an authenticity which belies their manufactured beginnings. Memory Lane, the follow-up to their self-titled debut which unexpectedly achieved success across the Atlantic thanks to a St Patrick's Day PBS special, features several songs which their more established relatives have also previously performed ("The Irish Rover," "The Green Fields of France," "Boolavogue"), alongside ten other traditional Irish compositions which showcase their lilting Gaelic tones, impressive multi-instrumental skills, and rousing, toe-tapping folk-sound. Steeped in the history and culture of their homeland, there are faithful renditions of "The Fields of Athenry," Pete St. John's tale of the Great Potato Famine, "Raglan Road," the 1940s Patrick Kavanagh poem set to the music of 17th century air "The Dawning of the Day," and "The Rising of the Moon," a ballad recalling the battle between the United Irishmen and British Army in the 1798 Irish Rebellion. But in addition to performances of national favorites like "Whiskey in the Jar," made famous worldwide by Thin Lizzy and Metallica, and "Red Is the Rose," the Irish variant of the 1841 Scottish number "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond," the four-piece also test their songwriting talents with a rare self-penned effort, "Leaving of Liverpool," whose simple and melodic, acoustic banjo-led arrangement neatly fits in with the rest of the more familiar classics. Backed by Mark Murphy's polished, easy listening production and a string of bodhrans, penny-whistles, and accordions, Memory Lane is undeniably a box-of-chocolates interpretation of what traditional Celtic music sounds like. But while it might be a little too twee and sentimental for some, it's a charming introduction for those who fancy dipping their toes into the world of Irish folk.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien