The Real McKenzies – Rats In The Burlap

Rats In The Burlap
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Run Time: 37:31

1. Wha Saw the 42nd
2. Up on a Motorbike
3. Who’d a Thought
4. Midnight Train to Moscow
5. Lilacs in the Alleyway
6. Yes
7. You Wanna Know What
8. What Have You Done
9. Bootsy the Haggis-Eating Cat
10. Spinning Wheels
11. Stephen’s Green
12. The Fields of Inverness
13. Catch Me
14. Dead or Alive

During a dreary St. Patrick’s day in a distant blackout, I sat on the shoulders of a pair of Canadians screaming songs we all knew. Farewell to Nova Scotia was shambling off the walls of a tiny apartment performed by The Real McKenzies’ via a set of cheap speakers, as I tried desperately not to be maimed by a dangling ceiling fan. The Robert Burns quoting, shanty improving Real McKenzies are a Canadian treasure. If you have not heard them yet, I’d suggest starting before their latest release, “Rats in the Burlap”. It’s a continuation of their talents with a song line up that plays like a set list.

The pipes and traditional feel of Wha’ Saw the 42nd will be recognizable to any long time fan as classic. To a new comer, it’s a mark of the high expectations to be had for this album. It plays like a set list for a show you were too drunk to enjoy.

Midnight Train to Moscow, not just a 1989 Billy Crystal movie, is an uptempo track that seems like there’s a story behind it. A story I would very much like to know. It progresses into “Lilacs in the Alleyway”, which I believe is akin to the Simpsons line, “You’re like a flower that grew out of a pot of dirt”. The bagpipes in this song are seamless and a testament to the talent inherent.

Hate your job? Want some catharsis that isn’t annoying your friend(s) when you’re drunk? Take a listen to You Wanna Know What and have about 6 drinks. You’ll feel a bit better. You’ll probably still get in trouble for your pisspoor performance the next day, but that’s really not my problem.

Stephen’s Green has an almost Street Dogs feel to it. It’s a tragically beautiful song, “Here I sit and wait. And my one regret I think that I can name is that I didn’t start robbing rich men sooner.” It’s a melancholic song about a dark history of a historic park, while maintaining the same socialistic and rebelious ideologies punk has retained.

There is a bold detour with Bootsy the Haggis Eating Cat and it works. There’s a sort of Wiyos (try “Yellow Lines” for a song from them) sound. It seems to draw on early 20th century music with the tin voice, snare emphasis, and sliding bar chords.

The album ends as much like a show as it started. Dead or Alive might as well be a final cheers before you all disperse from the pub. The quiet banjo ending is a departure from previous albums and casually serenades you home.

The Real McKenzies’ have an impressive track record and it’s maintained by this release. It doesn’t go above and beyond, but it’s as good as anything else they’ve released and that makes it pretty damn great.




23 years going and The Real McKenzies are still putting out fantastic albums. With some of the best piping in the scene to date, Rats in the Burlap is a must own.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button