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The Elders - Racing the Tide

Racing the Tide

The Elders

Pub Tone 51889

Pub Tone Records
3656 W. 95th Street
Leawood, Kansas 66206

Available from The Elders' web site.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Firmly Celtic in their base, hailing from America's breadbasket (motto: "Arse Kickin' Music from the Heartland"), rollicking from one coast to the other and abroad, The Elders capture a hybrid that initially sings the airs of Eire, then of AmerEnglish folkrock, sometimes of New Orleans jazz, finishing with whatever might be amiable to their high energy presentation. Blending The Chieftains with Horslips, the Pogues, Immaculate Fools, Bad Haggis, and myriad Celt-rock ensembles, the lads craft a highly polished repertoire, to this genre as Bob Seger is to modern American rock.

Along with sprightly melodies will be found an attention to backing vocals partially harking back to such English combos as Pentangle, Steeleye Span, and so on, keeping every aspect of each song busy and involved. Expect the usual fiddles, whistles, mandos, banjos and such, but it's their synchrony to the blended staples of several modes that provides ready ignition to easy accessibility. Then there's the obvious gusto one can't help but start boot-scooting to…

The sextet also follows old protest traditions, providing grassroots anecdotalism in searing terms. Take Dear God, a laid-back tune swelling with hope and heavily imbued with subtle allusions and symbols:

Ragged hymn of beauty, melody high and wide
I only wish I'd written it myself
She sang it to my brain, gorgeous and strange
Impossible for anybody else

Dear God, turn your radio on
I surrender from this moment on
A gift to all humanity, forget your pride and vanity
Three minutes of heaven, and then she'll be gone
Dear God, turn your radio on

There's also a rough-country bravado blent with realism and sardonic grit, as in Racing the Tide's revelations of grim duty, speaking to the rigors of life's necessities not untinged by the wilder shores of spirit, much said in few words. Australia, on the other hand, recalls Audience, Stackridge, Sailor, and some of the odder avant-folkrock outfits, boozy with strange timbres, electric with intelligence. More often than not, there's an anthemic quality to the compositions, parting-shotted as Saint Brendan Had a Boat closes out the CD, a celebration of bonny refrains and bouncing dance-steps.

The Elders have a number of releases out, this being the latest, and they're going from strength to strength. It would take no Nostradamus to predict the next disc will be fully as solid as this one. The general public might initially balk at such distinctly Irish foundations, but, once exposed to them, this unique hybrid the band presents is irresistible, rapidly overcoming whatever may stand between ethnic airs and down-home familiarity. These boys don't just pick and grin, they damn near set their instruments on you'll see even more evidently if you catch their DVDs.

Track List:

  • Send a Prayer
  • Bad Irish Boy
  • Dear God (Hoad)
  • Cousin Charlie
  • Right with the World (Hoad)
  • Racing the Tide
  • Banshee Cry
  • Gonna Take a Miracle
  • Australia (Hoad)
  • Story of a Fish
  • Five Long Years
  • Ever be a Nation
  • Saint Brendon had a Boat (Hoad)
All songs by Hoad / Phillips / Byrne / Dahlor, except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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