2018-04-26 ALBUM REVIEW – EAST RIVER RATS "When the Cat’s Away" (2018)

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East River Rats “When the Cat’s Away”
Release date: April 14, 2018
Running time: 32:33, 12 tracks

East River Rats is a 7 piece band from the northern shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. The band was founded by Brian MacKenzie in the summer of 2016, but the current line-up was born in the summer of 2017: Brian MacKenzie (lead vocals, guitar, tin whistle, bodhrán, songwriter), Caleb MacIvor (vocals, bass, accordion, songwriter), Cole Yorke (mandolin and backing vocals), Greg Stanley (guitar and backing vocals), Marree MacKenzie (fiddle), Jarvis Hale (banjitar) and Eli Hollett (drums and backing vocals). They released a video for “Let’s Get Drunk” and a couple of demo tracks available for free on Bandcamp prior to their debut album, “When the Cat’s Away”.

The album opener is “Elison’s Reel”, a kick-ass tune written by written by Jarvis Hale. From the very beginning the band makes it clear that their music is intended for dancing and having fun. The next song is about their home, “Pictou County Town”, a fiddle and banjo led number with good backing vocals on the chorus.

The following cut is the first single off the album (the video). “Let’s get Drunk” is a rocking song that becomes addictive with its hey shouts. If that song is a standout number, track no. 4 is another highlight on the album: “Grandfather’s Tartan”. Excellent ballad that reminds me of “All for me Grog”.

The first trad. song on “When the Cat’s Away” is “(The Bonnie Ship) The Diamond”. Several bands have recorded their own version of this song. If you were thinking that nothing new can be added to this song, you’re wrong: East River Rats have really worked on their arrangements and the final result is quite interesting.

Track no. 6 is called “I Came Here to F*ck or Fight”, a fantastic song where tin whistle can be heard together with the 6 string banjo and the fiddle. The level is also high on the next cut, “Pour Me” a The Tossers infused song. “Woman for Me” showcases the band’s quieter end. Caleb sings lead vocals and plays accordion on that track.

But East River Rats is a band with a live attitude and the next number is an upbeat song: “Last One in the Pub”, written by Greg and Caleb. After that original, the boys and the girl deliver an excellent cover of “Woodpile”, an amazing shanty with a The Dreadnoughts spirit.

As you have already noticed, drinking is present on the East River Rats songs. Brian’s “Whiskey Galore” is no exception and its sound makes me think of In for a Penny. The album is over with “Scotian Lullaby”, a fantastic song with a trad. feel, but written by Caleb.


East River Rats are the latest addition to the Celtic rock lineage from the Maritimes. The band is proud of their Scottish heritage and they have been able to establish their own identity as a Celtic rock band rooted on the tradition. Contact the band on Facebook to grab a copy, they ship worldwide!





Track listing:

01 – Elison’s Reel 1:36
02 – Pictou County Town 2:48
03 – Let’s Get Drunk 2:49
04 – Grandfather’s Tartar 2:09
05 – The Diamond 3:36
06 – Came Here to F*ck or Fight 2:17
07 – Pour Me 2:38
08 – The Woman for me 2:23
09 – Last One in the Pub 2:58
10 – Wood Pile 1:42
11 – Whiskey Galore 3:27
12 – Scotian Lullaby 4:04


Review by Kinksmarkham

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