Release Date: March 19, 2012
Run Time: 35:02
3. Back Home in Derry
4. Johnston’s Motorcar
5. Melting Away
6. Whiskey & Tattoos
7. Louse House
8. Foggy Dew
9. Join or Die
10. Black & Tans
11. The Auld Triangle
You don’t have to dig deep in Celtic music to find songs about drinking. Whether it’s current Celtic punk stars Dropkick Murphys, or a more pronounced example like The Pogues, something about Celtic melodies and a frothy black pint just seem to fit. Rochester, New York’s 1916 do nothing to dispel this union with their first proper release, appropriately titled A Drop of the Pure.
A Drop of the Pure gets the ball rolling with All for Me Grog. A sea shanty that’s so old and been done so many times by so many different bands, from The Clancy Brothers to Joey Briggs, that no one’s quite sure where it actually came from or who wrote it. It’s a hell of a fun song though and I’ve never heard a bad version of it. 1916′s take is energetic and fast, with vocalist Bill Herring’s voice a perfect fit, he really sells the lyrics and the story of the song.
Sláinte is another fast, punchy punk song about fighting for freedom, remembering fallen brethren and raising a pint to both with friends. It’s got a great hook and a lot of heart.
Back Home in Derry is probably my favorite song on the record, certainly the one I’ve been listening to more than the others. The band slow things down a bit with it musically, giving it a more traditional sound than the previous two songs and really emphasizing the story being sung, a very powerful and moving tale of a man headed on a ship for a life of slavery and hard labor, if he doesn’t die on the journey first. It has some of the best lyrics in the history of Celtic music and was written by none other than Bobby Sands himself, made popular by Christy Moore some years ago. 1916′s version is one of the best I’ve heard. The passion in Bill Herring’s voice is beautifully complemented by Jake Publicover’s backing vocals and the whole band use their instruments to give the song the respect it deserves. Overall it’s a thing of beauty and a very moving version.
Johnston’s Motorcar is another cover, this time of a Willie Gillespie song made famous by The Dubliners. Rather than attempt a more straightforward cover of The Dubliners’ version however, 1916 do a punk version, which is fitting as the song is an Irish rebel song about a true story of the IRA needing transportation and stealing a motorcar from a doctor. It’s another great story and another great version of it.
Melting Away sounds exactly like Great Big Sea, if Great Big Sea ran their guitars through distortion petals. It may not have the great lyrics or pure energy of the first few songs on the album, but it’s catchy as hell.
Whiskey & Tattoos is a pretty self explanatory song that is the least memorable, lyrically and musically, on the album. It isn’t a bad song, it just doesn’t have the grab most of the other songs have.
Louse House is another traditional song and another one made famous by The Dubliners (what traditional Irish song wasn’t made famous by The Dubliners though) as Louse House of Kilkenny. It’s another slower song with wonderful vocal work that simply fill the room.
I was excited when I saw the song list, to see that The Foggy Dew was represented. The Foggy Dew is my favorite song of all time. It’s a beautiful story and for my money features the best melody in Celtic music. It’s been covered a million times by a million bands, the standout version probably being The Chieftans one that features Sinead O’Connor on vocals. 1916′s version is one of the better Celtic rock versions out there (my personal favorite would be The Young Dubliners cover.) The 1916 version is a great rendition with some beautiful guitar playing the highlight of it.
Join or Die and Black & Tans are two more fierce and rollicking punk tunes that are both catchy and exciting with Join featuring some impressive banjo playing and some fantastic drumming by Steve Ladue. Both songs features Chris VanCleve’s fantastic upright bass talents, adding an interesting rockabilly waltz to the mix. Black & Tans is another Irish rebel song and one that simply has not aged in lyrical content, a great complement to its author Dominic Behan.
Finally, the record ends with a version of The Auld Triangle which is sung acapella and sounds like it’s being sung in a Catholic church. Which makes sense as acapella literally means ‘in the manner of the church.’ It’s notable for it’s vocal styling but is otherwise probably the only song on the record you’ll find yourself skipping if you’re listening through the album, while you are in the mood for something to get the blood flowing before a night on the lash.
Overall, A Drop of the Pure is an amazing record by a band of very talented musicians. The covers on the record shine a little brighter than the original material, but the whole album is chock full of amazing songs played with a great deal of energy and talent. A must for Celtic rock and punk fans.