The McKrells, This Past Year DR0100CD
by Ryan Thomson
This album is a collection of fine bluegrass and country music featuring banjo, harmony
vocals, electric guitar, mandolin, bass, and drums. The playing and singing is excellent all
around, but the banjo playing is particularly impressive as it ventures into rock and roll
licks and jazzy soloing. On one tune the banjo plays in a jig-like 6/8 time signature. The
songs are about real life situations such as difficult relationships, and life's trials and
tribulations. One song describes "restless riders" on a bus to a gambling casino expressing
that "we're goin' to be all right when the bus pulls in."
Modern country music and bluegrass is part of the natural evolution of ancient celtic songs,
ballads, instrumental pieces which were also the "country music" of their time. Still, when I
first saw the beautiful celtic artwork and design on this CD, I had expected an older style of
music such as jigs and reels, etc. Most of the reviews I do in this publication (Celtic Beat)
are focussed toward more traditional celtic music and this album would probably be better
reviewed in a bluegrass forum.
There are some nice touches to many of the songs: a great percussion intro to the song
Broken Dreams that sounds like the drummer playing on a collection of bottles and kitchen
implements; some hot acoustic guitar and mandolin flatpicking; and the banjo exchanging
licks with the electric guitar at various times.
At the end of the album I discovered the band's most concrete celtic connection with a
short tune intro featuring the distant sounds of piping by Finbar Furey with audible gusts of
wind, and spoken gaelic. This intro segues into an uptempo bluegrass instrumental.
Written by Ryan Thomson, 1999