Updated Dec 5, 2023
The McKrells, This Past Year
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 flat picking; 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