McDermott's 2 Hours v Levellers, Claws and Wings (Hag Records, 2002)
If you're thinking this a strange name for a band, you're not alone, because so did I. But it's the music that's important, not what they want to call themselves. In fact, the album appears to be a collaboration between members of two bands, McDermott's 2 Hours and The Levellers. All the songs are written by Nick Burbridge who sings and plays acoustic guitar for McDermott's 2 Hours, along with Tim O'Leary on fiddle, cittern, whistles, viola, guitar and backing vocals. For the Levellers, you have Charlie Heather on drums and percussion, Jeremy Cunningham on bass guitar and John Sevnik on extra fiddle. Plus a few guest musicians -- Nigel Adams on trumpet, Phil Nelson on bassoon, and Jake Rousham, 'music maker'. Although it has a strong Irish feel to it, the whole project was recorded and mixed at Metway studio, Brighton, East Sussex, England.
Banging on the adage of 'You can never get a protest singer when you want one,' I liked what I heard the minute I put the album in the player, and I think you will too. To give you an idea what the band sounds like, it has slight shades of the Pogues, but without the punk crashing and banging.
The album has good variety of strong, poignant songs reflecting on life today. The album starts off brightly with 'Song of the Levellers' followed by 'North and South'. Both these songs seem to protest the stupidity of Whitehall's (the government's) faceless minions without any forethought or care for anyone but themselves. The lyrics and music of these two songs alone make it worthwhile buying the album. However, the rest of the album is damn good, too. There are songs here that really have something to convey in the lyrics. Songs about social conscience or protest always make good listening -- depending on where you live and into whose arms you were born -- but on the whole, most folkies will be able to identify with the material. The sleeve notes include all the lyrics, which sometimes is essential reading if you are to enjoy all the songs.
I think everyone in the world must have seen that famous photograph of the naked girl running in terror from the bombs landing on her village in Vietnam. At track five is a very strong song called 'Snapshot', an antiwar song written around this poor girl's misery. And the album's eleven songs continue with a mixture of sometimes strong and angry lyrics balanced by some that are sensitive, which provide a good change of mood.
Summing up, this may not be an album to everyone's taste in folk music; in truth you may have to listen to it a few times to take it all in. When you do, I swear you will hear something you missed the first time. The lyrics and the tunes are excellent and will grow on you. Plenty of damn good material for other singers and bands to cover.
I say no more, but you seriously need to listen to this album.
The Levellers have a Web site.