The Clumsy Lovers play raucous, uptempo Celtic-based rock with all kinds of Pacific Rim influences. Based in the Vancouver, B.C., area, the Lovers incorporate Californian and Hawaiian folk-rock, reggae and ska into their lively musical brew.
The band writes much of its own material, often mating its own compositions with traditional jigs and reels. Although guitarist Trevor Rogers writes most of the songs and does most of the singing, mandolinist Chris Hamilton and fiddler Andrea Jonat (nee Lewis) also contribute vocals. Bassist Chris and drummer Cameron Jonat set the band’s hyperactive tempo.
The Lovers, who have been together in various lineups since the early ’90s, maintain a breakneck touring schedule up and down the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada, and they are popular regular performers in certain bars and clubs from Vancouver to Vegas.
The band’s enthusiasm is contagious. Barnburner, released in early 1999, lives up to its title, with 11 high-octane tracks in just 40 minutes of CD time. The first two tracks, “Good to be Alone” and “Monumental Stupidity,” are catchy, rocking numbers. Both have a strong Celtic feel to them and make use of the clever juxtaposition of a slow melody line over a rapid beat.
“California” is a slower number, blending sunny So-Cal folk with Celtic riffs and rhythms.
“London Bridge” and “Bay & Algoma” mix Celtic tunes with a reggae beat to good effect. The latter features some lightning mandolin and fiddle duels and even some Eastern European sounds in its slow introductory section. Rogers displays some fancy guitar finger picking on “On the Road,” an amusing amalgam of soul, Celtic, rock and ska.
At times the Clumsy Lovers seem to be emulating the Saw Doctors, as on “Long Time,” and at others, such as “On My Way,” they could pass for Poi Dog Pondering or Portland’s Calobo.
Lewis’s vocals on the final track, “Let the Sun Shine In” aren’t particularly strong, but this song features her best fiddle work on the album.
All the Lovers are in their late 20s or early 30s, and their music obviously reflects the lifestyles, feelings and concerns of young adults. I suspect they’ll learn somewhere down the road that not every song has to be played at top speed — particularly Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” And the lyrics to some of the songs, like Hamilton’s “Hangover,” are sophomoric and repetitive.
But if you’re looking for kick-up-your-heels Celtic rock, the Clumsy Lovers have it by the keg-full on Barnburner. A toast to these musicians, who not only write most of their own music, but also self-produce and distribute their own CDs and tapes.
(Clumsy Lovers Records 1999)