Sing A Powerful Song

The Saw Doctors

Paradigm / Shanachie Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Irish rock and roll is dead, hail Irish rock and roll.

U2 hasn't done a decent album in nine years, instead becoming self-indulgent stadium rockers who equate incomprehensibility with intellectualism; In Tua Nua is forgotten; Sinead O'Connor gave up a brilliant first CD to become the Pope's primary public detractor, and then hooked up with The Artist From The Outer Darkness; and the less said about the Cranberries, the better. (Sorry, Crans fans; until Delores O'Riordan stops hitting Rs like Kevin Cronin on Prozac, I won't listen to her. Enunciation is a part of music theory.)

But wait, there's hope. Irish rockers the Saw Doctors formed in 1987 in County Galway, their goal being a fusion of Irish sensibilities and traditional American rock and roll. Within two years, they had the biggest single in Irish charts history, "I Usedta Lover", which spent nine weeks at Number One. Since then, they've produced four albums. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sing A Powerful Song is an American compilation release of their first three CDs in the UK. (As a side note, I'm still debating whether I like this marketing technique, used by Great Big Sea most recently. While I understand that releasing one CD as a test is cheaper than cutting three, it would be nice if the full albums were then released later, something we're still waiting for with both Great Big Sea and the Saw Doctors).

Let it be stated here: the Saw Doctors are just a whole lot of fun. These lads aren't some sort of pseudo-Celtic mystics, Clannad in flannel; they're rock and rollers who happen to be Irish, what you'd get if Bruce Springsteen had grown up in Galway instead of New Jersey. Sing A Powerful Song isn't an intellectual experience, particularly; it's a visceral one, and a hoot at that.

Tracks that bear particular attention: "It Won't Be Tonight", a driving paean to breakups and moving on; "Macnas Parade", a joyful tribute to an annual festival in Ireland; "N17", the regrets of an Irish expatriate in America; "Red Cortina", "Never Mind The Strangers"...oh, heck, it's all good. "Share The Darkness" is a soft and moving love song, gentle and oddly emotional for such an otherwise straightforward band, and "Hay Wrap", put it this way: Saw Doctors lead vocalist Leo Moran wanted to prove there was indigenous rap music to Ireland. This is a scary thought in and of itself. And finally, ending the CD, the bouncy, blasphemous, rollicking "I Usedta Lover" shares the thoughts of a young man whose piety ends when a certain behind appears at the communion rail. This is why rock and roll exists on some level. This is fun .

The best way to summarize the Saw Doctors is in their own words: "Born into a repressed, catholic, conservative, small-town, angst-ridden, agrarian, and showband-infested society, we're trying to preserve the positive elements of our backgrounds and marry them to the sounds which have culturally invaded our milieu through TV, radio, 45s, fast food restaurants, 24 hour petrol stations, and electric blankets!" Sounds to me a lot like the birth of rock and roll in America. Get back to your roots - go snag some Saw Doctors.

Rating: A-

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© 1999 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Paradigm / Shanachie Records, and is used for informational purposes only.