When I first thought about reviewing the last recorded work by a band, I questioned the futility. Why? If they are over, there must be a reason. Yet some infernal sadness tugs at my musical heartstrings, with questions like "Who were these guys?" "Were they good?" and "Will we be missing them?”
So I put on Black 47’s “Last Call.” And listened. Again. And again. First, I'm hearing Springsteen, then Lennon. Direct musical phrasing and vocal duplicity. Again I ask why? For a few hours at work. At home. On drives to central Pennsylvania from NYC, I listened over and over. Not even listening. Seeking. But what? Answers. To what?
I don't know what milestone I had passed when it struck me. Party band. Good musicians. Good times. Collected. For the Irish. By the Irish. I realize I over thought this CD. Black 47 is not an obsessed and frustrated composer seeking audience and brilliance. These boys have fired the furnace of many a feis. They've kicked their heels up in the sawdust of many a Bronx bar and kept time to reel and rocker alike. I hear the patron's shrieking and the maids giggling. And yes, I smell the pints and the fags burning.
What surprised me, musically, is how American they sound. Like Southside Johnnie or the E Street Band. How deliberate and exacting. Almost in tribute to the originals. Does there need to be a reason? Why can't an Irish band sound completely American? Down to the horns? Why not? I have spent years playing with tribute bands that didn't reflect my culture.
Black47 is more than a band. It’s a culture. They have a brave and loyal following. They will, I'm sure, be sorely missed.
All (but one) of the songs were written by Larry Kirwan, guitarist, vocalist and percussionist -- and principle hell-raiser who has surrounded himself with great players of both both traditional and modern styles. Together, they explore Irish themes with American tone reminiscent of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Notable tracks include the tongue-in-cheek "Salsa O'Keefe," spirited "Shanty Irish Baby," and "Queen of Coney Island." Great attention is paid to Irish themes in “Dublin Days” and “Johnny Comes a Courtin.” It is hard to tell which side of the Atlantic this was recorded on.
George Harrison reminded us that "All things must pass" and so they do. And so has Black 47. A glimpse of their website, www.Black47.com, reveals a strong fan connection. To the many who have enjoyed them for the past 25 years, "Last Call" is a sound effort and a fitting tribute.