Review Summary: Flogging Molly and Ronnie Drew team with Stef for a masterclass in modern songwriting
Pay attention now, your bepseudonymed writer (a.k.a. a tall, dark, handsome stranger) is about to dispense with the personal details. The first gig he ever played took place at a slightly obscure Dublin venue called the Voodoo Lounge- a long time before it was cool to even set foot in the place, it must be added. Back then it was an out-of-the-way little joint, a bit of a hike down the quays that was better known for being a tad bit knackerish than for the quality of its music events, hence your barely pubescent boy being handed an opening slot on a platter. It did have a little star quality, though, in that it was, and continues to be, co-owned by Fun Lovin’ Criminal Huey Morgan. Half a decade later, the Voodoo Lounge has been transformed, deservedly, into one of the city’s top rock clubs, without losing its distinctly dingey, New York dive bar charm. The perfect setting, then, for the shoot of smoky Dublin folk revivalist the Mighty Stef’s new video, ‘Death Threats.’
The video, lest it need to be said, is mesmerising- Voodoo is one of the few places in this cosmopolitan, tobacco-free city that could legitimately pass for a smoker’s paradise… and that hair! my God! He looks like a young Sandy Shaw, only six-feet-sumthing, fourteen stone and a man. The single itself is a stormy full-band blues that calls to mind the best of early Tom Waits
, with Stef making full use of his vocal range, from a careful Johnny Cash drawl to a gravel-stuffed Waits-y snarl. It meshes two of rock n’ roll’s most basic concepts: the imminent embrace of the grave, and the far more preferable embrace of a woman. Stef boasts: “Death comes crawling all the while, but I’m lost in my baby’s arms […] I may be afraid of many things, but I’m not afraid … of death.”
The radio edit clocks in over a minute shorter, but over the full five minutes there is barely a hint that it could become monotonous.
If the title track is a prime example of American folk adapted to a 20th Century context, the three remaining tracks take on a more Irish tone. ‘The Mero’ is a cover of a Pete St. John original, featuring Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners
alongside Bridget Regan and Dave King of Flogging Molly
. St. John is best known for his folk standard ‘Dublin In The Rare Old Times,’ which had become synonymous with the Dubliners long before Flogging Molly gave it a Celtic punk facelift on their 2004 album Drunken Lullabies
. ‘The Mero’ is very much in the spirit of ‘…Rare Old Times,’ making use of identifiable Dublin landmarks (Nelson’s Pillar, bombed by dissident IRA men in the 196os) to paint a vivid scene of Southern Ireland in the midst of the Troubles up North.
Original track ‘Where The Nightmares Begin’ calls to mind Luke Kelly’s rendition of the Patrick Kavanagh classic ‘Raglan Road,’ from the subtle banjo accompaniment that bubbles below the surface throughout, the gradually unfolding arrangement and the forceful, yet restrained, cadence that underpins his moribund tale of fatherly abandonment. ‘Romantic Ireland Is Dead And Gone’ takes on a different tack, beginning with an expansive Dylanesque harmonica riff before resolving to a jazzy, piano-led Stones-like shuffle. Stef adopts a playful American brogue, calling to mind Mick Jagger before he got all flamboyant and sh
it, the perfect base on which to sing the death-knell of fairytale Ireland: “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It lies with 2Pac in the grave.”
There aren’t any cattle markets in Moore St. in this song, as true a representation of life in an economic powerhouse as you’re likely to find. And as a teaser for a unfinished second album, it’s difficult to imagine any prospect more exciting than Death Threats
Death Threats video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uaaj2eThU4