Gig Reviews - Self-titled debut
For all of the Celtic influences evident in East Coast music, the one missing trait is normally the anger. Traditional Celtic music was rebellious and angst ridden - it wasn't all fun and fiddles. Our brand of Celtic rock is sometimes overly benevolent - I guess it's that congenial Maritime peace of mind coming through. We're generally happy folk - happy, happy, happy.
Enter The Punters from Newfoundland - politically vial, passionately patriotic, and more than capable of inspiring spontaneous foot stomping. This is a great debut from a band that sounds well-seasoned and mature both musically and philosophically. Their lyrics stand out, whether they wrote 'em or not.
There are some history lessons here. "'49" refers to the year Newfoundland became our tenth province. If you recall, the referendum was far from a landslide something like 51-49 in favour of joining Canada. It was a fiery era in The Rock's history, and Confederation remains a hot topic to this day. How do The Punters stand on this? ''It was pulled off on April Fool's/but no one got the joke.""....You sign away the right to manage your own sea." 'Nuff said.
There is more political sniping on "Like Ya Would" (which could be subtitled "Newfie Premiers We Have Loved (Not!)") and "(Nothin' but) The Same Old Story". When the lobbying is through, there are songs of love lost (the best of which is a soothing version of Richard Thompson's "Walkin' on a Wire") and near disasters at sea ("The Ferryland Sealer", which includes a fine example of Jason Whelan's electric axe melding wonderfully with the homespun feel of the song).
The players that form The Punters have obviously molded their individual styles to fit into the band's direction, which is unlike that of any other Celtic Rock band in our territory. Elements of jazz ("Polkas that Haunt Us"), funk ("Like Ya Would"), grunge ("Full Emile Deal/The Gypsy") all quietly creep into the kitchen, complementing the jigs and reels. The traditional songs are heartfelt - even the old language of "Bonnie Brown Hair" spills naturally from their lips. Never has a fairer maiden been immortalized. Bassist Brian Kenny shines throughout the disc. Fiddler Patrick Moran's bowing is pure integrity.
One cannot define the maturity of The Punters by the years in which they were born. The Punters are as fresh and real, as diverse and exciting a Celtic rock album as I've heard. I ' ve seen them live, and loved every second. They've translated this live feel directly to disc - you can hear the sweat and taste the salt. You can even see the characters in their songs come to life. The Punters wear their heritage on their guitar straps, and they have a lot to be proud of.
RATING - 10 for 12 - .833
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