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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Mickey Finns - Prayers And Idle Chatter

The Mickey Finns - Prayers And Idle Chatter
2012, Mankeltray Music
The Mickey Finns have taken just two albums to be hailed one of the best Celtic rock bands in the world.  Featuring former members of The Prodigals (Ray Kelly – vocals, guitar; Brian Tracey – drums); the former lead violinist for Michael Flatley’s The Lord Of The Dance (Matt Mancuso); and, multi-instrumentalist Eric Kaye (The Prodigals, Clint Black, Marc Cohn, Lucy Woodward), the New York City based quartet gets crowds on their feet early and often.  The Mickey Finns’ latest studio effort, Prayers And Idle Chatter, features the sort of whiskey-soaked vocals that are ideal for Celtic Rock.

Prayers And Idle Chatter kicks off in high style with "The Prodigal Son", a heel turner with great energy and a dancing spirit. "Sweet Clare Girl" has a folk/country feel, filled to the brim with quiet but vital picking and focused vocal harmonies. The instrumental work is top notch throughout, but especially in the bridge. "McGuinness' Mass" is a down tempo drinking song that explores the camaraderie of the neighborhood pub and the form of penance that is brewed or distilled but universal across time and cultures. "Loop Reels" is a frenetic fiddle driven experience underwritten by some seriously motivated percussion. The Mickey Finns quite literally rock out here. "Absinthe (Makes The Heart Grow Fonder)" borrows a bit of rough-edged energy and imbues it with a country/Celtic pastiche. This would be one fun tune to experience live.

"Tanks And Barbed Wire" tells the story of love between a Protestant man and a Catholic girl at a time when such liaisons were dangerous. The outcome of this song is expectedly tragic, but holds a moral about learning to live together. The Mickey Finns take a lighter tone on in “The Jester”, a light and airy tune full of lilting violin and bright, breezy phrasing.  Kicking it up a notch or two, the band launches into the vibrant “Two Jigs For Aoiffe”.  The musicianship is stellar and The Mickey Finns sounds very much in the zone.  “Dark Roll Down The Dawn” represents a dichotomy in The Mickey Finns’ style that is intriguing.  There’s tremendous energy here, and it’s abundantly clear the band is having fun; yet there is a clear sense that they are holding something in reserve.

“Duffy’s Cut” memorializes 57 Irish immigrants who died of Cholera outside of Malvern Pennsylvania in 1832.  Brought to America to help lay railroad tracks, it is believed the workers were denied medical care due to anti-Catholic prejudice.  The Mickey Finns handle this tune perfectly, creating a wonderful melodic sensibility in the Wally Page-penned tune.  The sentiment here is real without sounding overly sentimental.  The Mickey Finns close out with a rockin’ reel, “Be Mine”.  Nothing is left in the studio here, and it’s clear that the impression earlier that the band was still holding something is proven to be spot on.
The Mickey Finns engage in a long slow build on Prayers And Idle Chatter that culminates in a blow-off-the-roof performance in “Be Mine”.  Through the entire eleven-song cycle there is a sense of expectation, of something more.  The Mickey Finns deliver and then some.  Prayers And Idle Chatter captures the energy and pure musicianship of the band.  All of this is tied together by the engaging presence of lead singer Ray Kelly, who is a first class front man with a voice that stops people in their tracks.  Somewhere in the nexus between The Waterboys, Black 47 and Great Big Sea you will find The Mickey Finns.  They’re doing just fine, thank you.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
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