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Wellies’ plays perfect Storm for St. Patty’s Day

Sean Sweany | Thursday, March 8, 2007

With St. Patrick’s Day and the wearin’ of the green just around the corner, Irish culture is in full bloom in expectation of the holiday. As would-be revelers prepare for parades, parties and green beer, the distinct sound of traditional Irish music can be heard not far behind. For those looking to add some last minute Irish music to their repertoire before the 17th, they need turn no further than “Bring Yer Wellies,” the newest album from the acclaimed Irish band Gaelic Storm.

A California-based traditional Irish group, Gaelic Storm got its start touring Irish pubs near Santa Monica. In 1997, the band starred as the steerage band in the film “Titanic” and the popularity gained from their appearance vaulted them into the international spotlight as one of the world’s top Irish bands.

Gaelic Storm’s self-titled first album reaffirmed to listeners that the band could produce an Irish sound while incorporating elements of rock and other musical instruments not usually associated with Irish music. While not a Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys, Gaelic Storm spanned the gap between these groups and more traditional ones such as The Chieftains, creating a niche for itself and finding an appreciative audience.

One decade and five albums later, Gaelic Storm shows that it still has the same ingenuity and energy with its sixth album, “Bring Yer Wellies” (“wellies” is slang Wellingtons, rubber rain boots in Europe).

Nearly every song in “Bring Yer Wellies” has a fun, carefree tone that one might hear from a band in a real Irish pub. An intricate combination of fiddles, whistles, bagpipes, drums and an accordion allows Gaelic Storm to create full melodies catchy enough to make feet involuntarily tap along in time.

The album starts on an upbeat note with the fast-paced song “Scalliwag,” where a “raggle taggle gypsy” narrator bids the listener to escape with him over the waters. After this, the album settles into a pattern of alternating between barroom ballads and quicker songs like the first one.

One of the notable barroom ballads is “Hello Monday,” which laments the arrival of the work week after a weekend spent enjoying the previous week’s paycheck. Most of these “pub songs” are funny and lighthearted in nature, lending an enjoyable air to the album.

Interspersed throughout are several instrumental numbers that make strong use of the electronic bagpipes for which Gaelic Storm is famous. These include fast paced jigs and reels, each containing three parts that flow into each other to create songs worthy of being replayed again and again.

The best of the instrumentals is “The Salt Lick,” which begins slowly and escalates to a rushing tempo dominated by the bagpipes. Here and elsewhere on the album, the bagpipes have a clear, undisturbed sound that is unlike the sometimes harsh tone real bagpipes create.

Each song on “Bring Yer Wellies” gives the impression of being a live recording while maintaining a clear and rich sound – a difficult feat to accomplish. What makes this even more impressive is that fact that the band recorded the 14-track set in only one month, a testament to their hard work and commitment to their music.

By the final song of the album, entitled “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” listeners will feel compelled to take to the streets and proclaim this Irish saying to anyone who will listen. In “Bring Yer Wellies,” Gaelic Storm delivers a festive collection of genuine Irish sounds, despite technically being an American band. The album is the perfect way for anyone ready for St. Patty’s Day to get a head start on the merriment.