Alive, Alive'o

The Young Dubliners

Cargo Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Alison Bellach


Yesterday, I was blasting the Dubs' (as we fondly call them out here in California) "Follow Me Up To Carlow" out my apartment window: "Curse and swear, Lord Kiloare / Fîach will do what Fîach will dare / old Fitzwilliam have a care / fallen is your star, low. / Up with Halbert out with sword / on we go by the lord / Fîach McHugh has given the word / Follow me up to Carlow." Not five minutes later did I hear a knock on the door - the guys who were BBQ-ing outside wanted to know two things: "Are you Irish?" and "What the hell was that guy saying?!"

For some reason, people have this really screwy idea that traditional folk songs have gone the way of the melting pot. It seems that entire generations have melded together into one giant common clan, with no distinct history and no distinct future - I should know, I hear Sociology professors talk about constantly, and see Black, Chicano, and Asian American Studies students try to remedy it on a day to day basis. (Oh, the joys of college life!) Now, admittedly, I am a product of this new environment (and no, guys, I'm not Irish); luckily for me, though, I haven't closed my mind off to the awesome products of those more "historic" traditions. Dang it, I enjoy the stuff.

Luckily for me, so do the Young Dubliners. I have to say that these guys are probably members of the most versatile musical group out there. They make me want to jump around, rocking out; they make me want to listen in quiet understanding; they make me want to learn how to Irish dance. (There was this girl, Allison Duncan, in junior high, who used to do that. Her costumes were cool, and her ability to move that fast was amazing!) They take rock to a new level with amazing instrument integration, awesome lyrics, and talent beyond belief, and, most amazingly, by combining good ol' fashion alternative with a sharp Celtic/Irish element.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Alive, Alive'o was the product of, I guess you could say, complaints by the longtime Dub fans, who felt that the band's studio albums didn't reflect their true talent. Very few bands can claim that their live sound is superior to the studio produced one; this album is a testament to the obvious talent The Young Dubliners possess. This live album, which is a recorded performance from the Belly Up Tavern, shows that they are not a product of the producer's skills, but instead, can thrive in the challenging live environment.

But enough raving about the band in general, let's talk about the album. It's too short. Okay, admittedly, the album is as long (or longer) than a standard release; still, the last track, "Blink", leaves you practically gasping for more. The album contains a mix of six previously unreleased songs performed live, one previously unreleased studio track ("Blink"), and two Dub live standards ("Change the World" and "Follow…"). The performance of the live songs is absolutely flawless; even "Follow…", which is sung at a breakneck speed, sounds incredible.

The album starts off with "One and Only," a moving and disturbing song about sexual abuse. If any of you have read my other reviews, you know what's important for me in a song, and this song has it all. The lyrics are dark, flow beautifully, and convey emotion that is wonderfully emphasized by the melodies and harmonies that accompany them. The second track, "Rising/Change the World", starts with an awesome (I know, the word's getting over-used, but they have yet to create a word which would adequately express my infatuation with the sound this group produces. So, deal with it.) Irish jig dealy. Have you ever sung along to an instrumental piece? Well, get ready, folks, now's your chance….

"Confusion" is haunting and seethes with loneliness (which is good); "What Do You Want From Me" conveys annoyance (which is good too); and the cover of the Waterboys' "Fisherman Blues" is fun (even more goodness!). "Blink" needs to be on the radio right now. RIGHT NOW, I TELL YA!

What really gets me about these guys is that I honestly, no matter how hard I try, cannot find one part on this album that is lacking. Each track is performed with a perfection I have rarely seen, and the band even seems to enjoy the performance! They play to the crowd but take time to please themselves in the process. I couldn't say this was a labor of love, because it seems like there was no labor; the music flows through them and out as if they were muses channeling the rhythms in the air around them. (Wow, I got sort of cheesy there. Oh well.)

I really don't know what I could say here that would make you understand this album's greatness. If I were a millionaire, I'd buy the world a copy. If I were Bill Gates, the Young Dubliners would provide the Windows Start-Up sound. If I was at MTV, they would be the only video I played. (Well, I'd put Del Amitri in there too, but this isn't a Del review. Heh heh…)

So, although Bob will hate me for this, I promise that I am being a hard-ass when I give this grade! They just deserve it!

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Alison Bellach 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 Cargo Records, and is used for informational purposes only.