Toad In The Hole: Alleyway Rover

One thing about the Pacific Northwest (& anywhere else for that matter) that always irritates me are all those new-age, tarot card reading bands, that dress up like medeval pixies and play “celtic” music. I don’t care about star signs, & colored rocks, or whatever. I care about the music, I care about the jigs, reels, & ballads. Maybe I’m just an asshole, or maybe I just can’t stand Tarot cards.Either way, I’ll worry about that later, because I should probably start reviewing the album “Alleyway Rover” I received from the band Toad In The Hole.

Now I may be wrong, but I think the band Toad In The Hole, may be named after the traditional dish of the same name that contain sausages in a Yorkshire pudding mix. Hailing from the Eugene, Oregon, Toad In The Hole play the type of music I do enjoy… A high-energy mix of rowdy post-Poguesish originals, traditional jigs and reels, and heartfelt ballads. Formed in 2001, Toad In The Hole’s second album, “Alleyway Rover” is a very fine album indeed. The sound is produced just about right, and the music itself flows along nicley like a continuous flow of whisky into a pint glass. Now if that description doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what will.

I haven’t had enough time to review the lyrics, but some common subjects include: drinking, Ireland, Scotland, Cuchulainn, & have I mentioned drinking yet? I hear some Robert Burns influences in songs like “Raise A Glass” and “Bonnie Doone” (A Burns original). A little “Sally MacIellanne” influence in “Kiss The Ruddy”. I should mention that in the medley “Warhorse” you’ll hear a nice little ditty from Flogging Molly’s “Black Friday Rule”. So as you can tell, there’s some great stuff here. I agree with the lyrics in the last track “Druthers” I won’t give away the story, but I will say that I can’t stand bourbon! Click here for the lyrics to “Druthers”

Musically, Toad In The Hole is top-notch. I could sit and listen to them for hours, and the next time they roll though town, I most likely will! Some of the traditionals include: Congress Reel, Hunter’s Purse, After The Battle Of Aughrim, Bunch Of Keys, Red-Haired Boy, Toss The Feathers, Mick Maguire, and many, many more!

Here’s what the bio on their website says: The compelling voice and style of founder and lead singer Matthew Hayward-McDonald bring a unique presence to the stage. The accessible and finely crafted lyrics are enhanced by accomplished vocal accompaniment that often utilizes four-part harmony. Guitarist Jason Kelly (Used to play in the Eugene ska band, The Varicoasters, and in a jug band where he met Matty) plays with driving rhythm and technical finesse that serves as a solid base for this lively music.Kathryn Claire sings and plays fiddle with grace and charm that draws the audience in and leaves them spellbound. This is beautifully complimented by the nimble fingers of Liz Myers whose musical versatility includes soaring tin whistles, flute and crowd pleasing bagpipes. Driving the rhythm is bass player Jon Dresdner (Used to be in the band Sodajerk) and bodhran player Joel Kenney. Dresdner’s rich tone adds fullness to the sounds and his dynamic bass lines create the backbone to the music. Kenney’s energetic and lively playing is as fun to watch as it is to hear. The high energy and versatility of Toad in the Hole may at one moment bring you to tears and at the next moment have you dancing a jig with the best of them.

Check these guys out. It’s some quality stuff. If someone has a copy of their first album, “Piss Away Your Charms” lemme know!

November 2004

Review By: Brian “Pissin’ in the Bourbon” Gillespie

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