Cockswain “For the Whiskey”
Release date: March 6, 2017
Running time: 36:31, 10 tracks
Even if Cockswain are not from Boston, Chicago or New York, it’s obvious that they are an Irish American band. Influences from top Celtic punk bands can be noticed on their songs, but they have their own identity and sound. Neil Jay Ward (lead vocals, guitar, bouzouki and mandolin) is a great lyricist and all the members write the music. So, “For the Whiskey” is based on self-penned songs and only two covers can be found.
Which are the album highlights? I would pick up tracks 1, 3, 5 and 10. The title track “For the Whiskey” is an upbeat number with powerful backing vocals and an infectious chorus. Mo guests on accordion and Amanda Lubking shines on the fiddle tune. The lively number “Cursed” features Mo on tin whistle. The song has a slight The Mahones touch and the band is really tight. The mix is quite good, as every single instrument can be easily heard. Neil and the boys do a great job on vocals and banjo and fiddle lead the melody. Mo sings lead vocals on “Come Have a Drink with Me”. The song kicks off with the boys singing the drunken chorus and then Wake on banjo and Mo on vocals join in. There is a banjo passage in the middle and then the main theme follows. Kick-ass Celtic punk number with a traditional flavor. The closing cut, “Whiskey, Love and War” is American Irish music at its best. The classic banjo led approach is used in this amazing song that can be filed together with Flogging Molly and Bastard Bearded Irishmen stuff.
“Johnny Be Fair” is a song written by Canadian singer Buffy Sainte-Marie. The folkie lyrics are really funny. Cockswain have re-arranged the song. Jack Hoole on drums and Wake on banjo create atmosphere. Amanda sings the daughter’s lead vocals while Mo sings the mother’s final verse. “Paddy is a Loose Cannon” has a Dropkick Murphys infused intro. Banjo and fiddle back Neil’s raw vocals about Paddy. Cockswain move to a quieter end on “When I Die”. Wake plays harmonica and Neil sings with acoustic guitar. More instruments are added and the song evolves in a way that I would define as a cross between The Whisky Priests and The Tossers. What about “Dark Angel”? Neil showcases his love for Shane MacGowan’s songwriting on this “obscure” The Pogues inspired track.
Cockswain come back to their seafaring territory with “Doriza”. The song is pushed by the wind: calm, storm, calm. “Dirty Old Town” is the second cover on the album. Interesting fiddle arrangements and the bass sound are the band’s addition to the Ewan MacColl’s classic song.
“For the Whiskey” is packed on a jewel case with a 6 page booklet. If you want to sing along, all of the lyrics are printed, together with a lot of information: line-up, guests, studio credits, band’s links and picture credits. The back cover band picture was taken once again by Marlow Sharpe, while the front cover picture was shot by banjoist Wake Lubking. That’s what he said about the photo: “It’s a pretty obscure picture on purpose and it’s a picture of a drink glasses being made in a glass factory in Prague. I visited this factory a few years ago (…) and the factory supplies beer and drink glasses to a huge number of pubs and bars in Europe. I thought it was fitting since the title of the album is “For the Whiskey”.”
It’s obvious that Cockswain members trust their friends. Not only have they used a pic by Marlow Sharpe for the rear cover, but they have recorded, mixed and mastered “For the Whiskey” at Full Well Recording Studio in Phoenix with producer Mike Bolenbach. The final result is spotless. Even if it’s a studio recording, he’s been able to capture the band’s live energy.
In 2017 the focus is placed on the albums released by the heavyweights of the genre: Dropkick Murphys, The Real McKenzies, The Tossers, Flogging Molly … However, there are a bunch of bands out there that are delivering honest albums that are worth hearing. Cockswain “For the Whiskey” is one of those CDs.
01. For the Whiskey 3:35
02. Paddy Is a Loose Cannon 3:19
03. Cursed 3:00
04. When I Die 3:25
05. Come Have a Drink with Me 3:14
06. Dark Angel 4:25
07. Dirty Old Town 3:38
08. Doriza 5:03
09. Johnny Be Fair 1:59
10. Whiskey, Love, and War 4:53
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Review by Kinksmarkham