Album Review: Maggie’s Clan’s Self-Titled Album
ALBANY – Releasing their self-titled LP on Sep. 10, 2022, Celtic powerhouse Maggie’s Clan have successfully crammed nine songs, all mostly high-octane tunes, onto a record that easily gets the toes tapping and the hands clapping. As a whole, the album blends elements of traditional Celtic music, with those the likes of Flogging Molly et al.
The record’s opener, “Pebbles in a Jar,” is an upbeat number that begins with full-band instrumentation. Moving through the progression in a fairly straightforward manner, what stands out is the fiddle interlude – it’s the strongest part of this tune. The violin really soars on this track, and the harmonies during the chorus serve as effective bedrock for this instrument to float through and above on. I really enjoy how the end has all instruments drop out except the violin and drums, before one more raucous full-band instrumentation and one final verse, drum fill, and chorus. It’s a well-arranged tune that keeps an otherwise common chord progression fresh and enjoyable.
For track two, “Donegal Bay,” starting off with guitar and tin whistle, the full band soon jumps into a rousing rendition of the traditional tune, “Morrison’s Jig.” It’s an amazing interlude to the song! Soon, the band drops out to just guitar and voice. The band continues to use “Morrison’s Jig” as a vehicle to get the listener to the next section of the song. After the second chorus, we hear a soft interlude of flute, guitar, tin whistle, and violin; one that evokes nostalgic feelings and lets the listeners contemplatively sit with the music for a bit. As the drums enter, it’s clear we’re on to a new part of the story; very thematically written, it reminds this listener of a suite: several motifs sprinkled into one tune.
A compelling vocal line takes front stage on “Connemara,” track three. The marching feeling propelled by the drum part, and epic nature of the lyrics, bring a sense of intense yearning and nostalgia; far away on the horizon, but not too far that it’s out of sight.
Kicking things up a notch – or twenty – is a tune that’s highly reminiscent of something from The Pogues. “St. Patricks Day,” has lyrics that detail what many musicians went through at the onslaught of the pandemic; losing all your work in the blink of an eye is never easy. Despite that, no virus will take away the band’s pride in the culture and St. Patrick’s Day. A morbid song, wrapping its lyrics in upbeat musical instrumentation – it’s definitely fun to hear!
Rather than the band’s own written material, what follows next is the traditional, “Follow Me up to Carlow.” If the other areas of the album help predict, listeners can expect a blistering version of this traditional rebellion tune. The distorted electric guitars heard on this number really spice up the intensity of the arrangement and lyrics. The fiddle is beyond impressive on this record, but this song really has some great stand out moments for this instrument.
The next two songs, “Crossing the Ridge” and “The Parting Glass,” tracks six and seven, respectively, pair together quite well. The former is an instrumental track. While it’s still high in energy, it isn’t nearly as in-your-face as the previous tune. It’s a nice break and transitional tune that gives listeners a great dose of fantastic interplay amongst strings, guitar, drums, and mandolin. Paying homage to one of the most sentimental, ubiquitous, and beloved Celtic tunes, Maggie’s Clan put their unique spin on “The Parting Glass.” Combining electric instrumentation, with rarely heard lyrics, and a jam session here and there, it is presented in a way that makes those that know the tune wonder what may happen next.
While there’s nothing wrong with the waltz “The Bitter End,” track eight – it’s a song that in this listener’s opinion, doesn’t leave much to discussion; the lyrics describe a loyal and passionate friendship. That being said, “Going Home,” is a great closer. The track is a solid waltz that moves along at a nice clip. Bringing all the instrumentation and themes heard throughout the record into one last song, Maggie’s Clan delivers yet another lyric that is rich in storytelling, successfully encapsulating a big part of what makes Irish and Scottish music so enjoyable to many. To elicit nostalgia in folks that may have never experienced the details of a given song, yet feel like they have, in their own way, is the mark of a great songsmith. The marching rhythm for the album’s outro is a great way to conclude the record, as it builds in musical intensity before coming to an end.
A nice nine-song tour-de-force effort, Maggie’s Clan has crafted a record that serves as a great primer for Celtic rock. Check it out for yourself!