Warblefly: The Sinful, Wise & Insane

As eclectic as they wanna be, but still clearly flying the banner known as Celtic, Warblefly impress with their second album, “The Sinful, Wise and Insane.” Their press release describes them as “too folky for the indie circuit and too groovy for the folk circuit” and it seems an apt description. Not “punk” by any means, but still too fast and aggressive for the stuffy folkies (or so I’d imagine.)

The album is equal parts traditionals and originals, and opens up with the trad. number “As I Roved Out” which is done fairly straight-forward and I must admit – the musicianship impressed, especially the violin, melodion and the whistle, done by David Hassell, Ellie van Veen and Emma Dover respectively. The gravelly voices of Nigel Griffiths (bass as well) and Adrian Leach (banjo and bazouki) seem a kind of a cross between Spider Stacy and Shane MacGowan…not as gruff or slurred as Shane but a bit more rough then Spider. Good stuff.

Next up is another trad, the instrumental “The Red Haired Boy” which also plays things quite straight. Kind of like a more subdued “Wildcats of Kilkenny.” This band proved themselves very good musicians with these first two songs. When speed is required, these ‘flys can pump it out. Very capable and very well played by the band: Guitar sounds from Frank van Veen, acoustics and bodhran from Matthew Heard, mandolin and trumpet from Peter Frizzell and drums by Dave Hodgson.

Of the originals, my favorite is probably the first “The Rebel Soldier.” It is quite good. The tale relates, of course, the lament of a rebel soldier far from home. “I eat when I’m hungry and I drink when I’m dry/If the drink don’t get me, I’ll die when I die.” Lyrically very inspired stuff from head lyricist the aforementioned Adrian Leach. Leach seems to be taking his cues from not only MacGowan, but Tom Waits, Brendan Behan, Joyce, etc. The title of the CD is lifted from the line “I’ve drunk with the sinful, the wise and insane.” Haven’t we all? Well said, sir.

I also dig the speedy “Tapachula Scramble” which seems to have a bit of tex mex flavor to it showcasing the bands eclectic side indeed. “Home and Dry” follows similar pathways, it being speedy and tightly played and leads into “Dead Jose” which is another winner, with a heavy melodion line, propelled along by the vocals and a lament-type chorus for the title character before hitting 4th gear the rest of the way, and busting into a spaghetti-western type spoken word. “The Life of Reilly” begins the wind-down. The character has “lived the life of Reilly and it just don’t make me happy anymore…. A man with no ambition but at least I’m still a man.” Hear hear. Another strong original.

The album closes with two trads “The Bonnie Ship of the Diamond” and “Twa Recruitin’ Sergeants” both of which are done very well. The prior being a nice sea-shanty-type tune and the latter a “getupandsingtilyapuke” rollickin one. I really liked this one.

Warblefly proved themselves to be a force in the Celtic circuit with this effort and will surely only get better with age. If your bag is very well-played, fast, speedy folk, (not punk) with hints of several other styles involved, check it out. Nice one.

April 2002

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