Diamond In The Rough

Own label, 9 Tracks, 38 Minutes

How do you capture a band’s creative energy on an MP3 file? It can’t be easy for those who work with The 19th Street Band. Their concerts are high-octane Americana. Yet on their latest album, they manage to give us a sample of the joy that cascades from their stage shows.

Their new recording is a vibrant celebration of country folk-rock from start to finish. From the opening chords of I Just Had to Say to the closing refrain of I’ve Been WaitingThe 19th Street Band give it alI they’ve got, as usual. Six of the tracks were written by the band themselves, and the remaining three are by Philip Donnelly, John Prine, and Stephen Pearse. This is where the alliances become very interesting indeed.

Donnelly, the so-called ‘Clontarf Cowboy’ produced those tracks and also played guitar and percussion on other songs. His CV is an impressive read, he’d worked with Johnny Cash, Donovan and the Everly Brothers, to name a few. Sadly, Donnelly died only a short time after this assignment, and Prine passed away more recently.

Although band members created much of the material, Donnelly’s involvement Iifts their work to another level. He has captured the band’s rich delivery, taking their compositions into the same class as his own. Frontman Caolaidhe Davis is a son of Northern Ireland, and keeps the band from becoming too laidback with his Joe Strummer- style zeal. His wife Meghan is a remarkable fiddle player and creates beautiful harmonies. They produce a similar atmosphere to The Beautiful South, particularly on Nothing to Do (All day to Do It) – with its horns section.

Hillbilly Boy shows the band’s humour, linking American culture with Northern Ireland. Firefly has an East European feel, driven along by Greg Hardin’s bass and Patty Dougherty’s drums. Diamond in the Rough shines in the greyness of lockdown, as preparation for the full-on live band experience.

Clive Price