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BRIER - "Ballads & Craic" Rating:   ***
Outlet Studios Reviewer: Brendan Carson

- click logo for BRIER website

This is a great little Folk Group from County Down in Ireland. They have been on the road both at home and abroad for many's the year and have a great following wherever they play. Certainly they filled the Folk Club every time they appeared here.

Best appreciated in the flesh because what you can't really capture on a CD is the craic and banter with the audience that makes the group so enjoyable.

Some really nice numbers with a bit of fun mixed in.

The CD kicks off with a great song - Las Vegas (In the Hills of Donegal) which conjures up an unusual idea since you could hardly get two places further apart in feel, geography, culture or song.

I really enjoyed the rendition of McTell's 'From Clare to Here'. This song is still a classic and is well put over here with nice vocals and tasty guitar accompaniment. 

Their version of the great Bogle song Green Fields of France is also put across very well but they annoyingly use the Fury Brothers version of the chorus and not Bogle's original which was '...did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down, did the bugles play the last post and chorus ......' 

Galway Bay is also a fine song but I can't but help compare it with Dolores Keane's version and it doesn't really stand the test.

Spancil Hill sees some excellent fiddle playing from guest musician Zoe Conway and although an old bog standard it's still a favourite with the crowds.

There are three of George Dinsmore's songs on the record. I found 'The Maid of Mourne' full of clichés and a bit too C&W for my taste. 

A Fisherman's Life has a nice gentle swing to it and the lyrics are quite good for what is a typical love of the sea song - hankering to get home. I suspect that this would go down well with the Vikings in Ardglass! 

The third of his songs Goodbye Goodnight is very like the Just Another Song from the Battlefield in it's theme - no-one wants to leave at the end of a good night of drinking and song. A thumbs up for this one too.

Moriarty - a well spoken little poem, with more of Zoe's great fiddle playing  in the background, is unusual on a folk record but I think, while it's a bit maudlin, that it's put over well. There's many the lad or lass from Ireland who left for the golden streets of London planning to come home after earning a few bob who still cry into their pints twenty years on.

Seven Drunken Nights and Big Bellies give the usual comedic turn to the Brier act. Good fun!

I was less than impressed with the instrumentals and perhaps a bit more time over these could have resulted in tighter playing. 

Overall I was impressed by the album. Of this genre it really is very good and Brier come across exceptionally well. Without doubt an absolute must for Brier fans!

Just click on their logo at the top of the page to go to their web site.

In terms of production this is better than many Outlet recordings. Unfortunately Outlet gained a poor reputation in the past for poor production quality but this is a real improvement. Engineer Eugene Smith and his co-mixer Martin McAllister have done a good job here. Martin has also added to the arrangements and his guitar playing really is excellent! One minor comment - I hate electric pianos and they don't really add anything to the song. On Leafy Lane it adds an unnecessary annoyance on what is otherwise a lovely song well produced.

I am also one of those pedants who gets pissed off when there are no lyric sheets, credits for the singers and no acknowledgement of the authors of the songs. For GOD's sake Outlet why not spend another couple of bob and give the musicians and songwriters their proper dues!