For most musicians in this misbegotten age, concerts are merely a means of advertising their CDs. Then there’s a small minority — the Radiators, for one — whose disks are advertising for their live gigs. “C’mon,” the music says, “you think this is hot, wait’ll you hear it live, with two inches of beer on the dance floor soaking into your shoes and cigarette smoke thicker than a sweater in the air, and its just you and a hundred of your closest strangers living it live.” Which brings me to The Mollys, and this is my round. It’s that kind of CD, pure and simple, where all listening to it does is make you start scanning the paper to see if they’re in town at a place that has good beer on tap. There’s a kick to the music that doesn’t quite translate off the disk, and that’s what keeps this is my round from getting beyond just good.
Of course, there’s enough on the CD to make it worth listening to, even if the Mollys aren’t in town for a gig. The twist that they offer is along with your usual Irish folk, there’s a Mexican twist. To my ear, there wasn’t quite enough of it, but “El Viejo Rico” and “El Primero Beso” are two of the album’s strongest tracks. There’s not much real integration of the two sounds, as the band tends to switch back and forth rather than trying a fusion. Some of the tracks tend towards the humorous, though the first one, “One Day I Went Out Walking” has a sharp edge that contrasts nicely with the subdued goofiness of “Kathleen” and “The Haggis.” In between, though, some darker tones emerge. “On We Go” ends with a jauntily accompanied murder, and there’s a fair bit on here about crawling inside a bottle and staying there. Admittedly, it’s one of the classic themes, but it gets a trifle too much play.
The highlight of the CD is indubitably the lament, “Johnny Will You Cross.” Catherine Zavala and Nancy McCallion’s vocal harmonies work even better here than on some of the rougher-edged pieces, and the instrumentation is tastefully understated, with guitar and accordion taking turns to come respectfully to the fore.
Overall, the musicianship is good and sometimes better than that. Gary Mackender’s percussive talents are perhaps underused on a few tracks, but he and Dan Sorenson keep things moving nicely. Zavala and McCallion trade lead vocal duties like they’re tossing a frisbee back and forth, and there are very few drops (to strain a metaphor).
So, is it worth it? Go see the show, then pick up this is my round for the memories, and to keep you warm until the next time the Mollys come around.