ALBUM REVIEW: CLOVER’S REVENGE- ‘Truants And Absolution’ (2020)

Based In Sarasota, Florida, Irish Speed Folk trio Clover’s Revenge exist at the dangerous intersection of two great Irish musical traditions: Acoustic pub music and Celtic-Punk-Rock. Their second full length release, Truants And Absolution, came out on Paddy’s Day.

The new album from Clover’s Revenge carries on in much the same vein as their debut release Gotta Get O’Raggednized. Very simple instrumentation with an emphasis on traditional Irish music but done with barrel loads of humour and charm. The review for their debut album declared them very much a pub band and I can still find no disagreement with that after listening to Truants and Absolution as well and just like their debut it is restricted to eight songs and while that may feel a bit on the short side at twenty-four minutes it’s not too bad. The songs are a mixture of well known classic trad and folk songs and some not so well known (but I wouldn’t quite say obscure) and the odd original track.

Clover’s Revenge left to right: Beau Wilberding- Cajon Drum * John Barron- Mandolin * Zach Johnson- Guitar *

Based in Florida I had always thought the area was largely untouched by Irish immigration but a staggering one-in-nine Florida residents are of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry. That works out at over two million folks!!! The Florida Irish claim to fame is that Father Richard Arthur, St. Augustine parish priest, started the first public school in America in 1606. Open to children of both sexes and of all races!  Since that time, the Irish in Florida have proudly played and continue to play key roles in the history and heritage of the state. So it is that wherever you find the Irish you will find several bands of hearty folks willing to entertain them and in Florida they don’t come any bigger, or better, than Clover’s Revenge.

Debuting, like many other bands, on St. Patrick’s Day Clovers Revenge first saw the light of day in 2015 and have performed all over the State as well as regular trips back to the ‘homeland’ while 2020 was set to be a BIG year for the Bhoys with a Northeast/Midwest tour booked in June and then in July a series of gigs in Scotland which was also going to see them perform a one-off London date organised by us. As time has ticked on these dates have looked increasingly unlikely to happen sadly but we can but hope. The band were formed by frontman, lead singer and mandolin player John Barron and he is ably backed up by Dr. Zachary Johnson, on vocals and guitar and Beau Wilberding, who also sings and plays the cajon, a box-shaped percussion instrument played with the hands. Taking influence from modern day Irish-American bands as well as the irreverence of The Pogues they manage while not bringing anything particularly new to Irish music certainly they make music that is fresh and appealing and in the right setting (guess where!!) is most definitely enjoyable.

Labelled ‘Irish Speed Folk’ Truants and Absolution kicks off with a song much loved in Irish Folk and Celtic-Punk and no matter how often I hear it I never tire of ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’, especially when it’s played well like it is here. The song has a natural energy and a great tempo for ‘punking’ it up and Clover’s Revenge give it plenty of oompf. I also love the harmonica at the beginning (a much underused instrument in folk these days) and the song also has a touch of bluegrass/ country at times. Next is the first original and ‘The Maid Behind The Bar’ and John certainly has a voice that fits in perfectly with the sound of the band. It may not be Frank Sinatra but its slightly rough edges are perfect for Irish music. The song is dedicated to the priestesses of fun at the altars of our joy and in particular one Danae Chiaudano from McCabes Irish Pub in Bradenton, Florida who has kept the Bhoys beer glasses over-flowing through the years. It is set to be the albums second single release.

The following is a mashup of two jigs ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me / Dinny Delaney’ and is absolutely stunning. Amazing in its simplicity and yet sounding like several more people were plucking away rather than just John and Zach. That big sound continues next with another original Clover’s Revenge song, this time written by Zachary and instrumental called ‘The Ahdmor Jig’ which soon morphs into a loud and rowdy version of ‘Tell Me Ma’ and if Leaving Of Liverpool is popular in Celtic-Punk then this has to be the #1 song of all time. Played with reckless abandon the song is irresistible played by most but Clover’s Revenge nail it. The first single from the album was another original and one the lads may go to hell for! ‘The Merry Misadventures Of Sister Mary Margaret’ is fast approaching a healthy 10,000  streams on Spotify and has seen plenty of airplay both within and outside the Celtic scene. Composed by John and arranged by the band it’s a great auld romp about a gambling obsessed Nun. My Mum went to convent school and we had plenty of Nuns teaching at my secondary school and so its hard to get offended ‘cos if you ever actually knew any nuns and while they did have their fair share of hard nosed task-masters their were also ones who loved music and football and the horses!

‘Big Strong Man’ is best known to us as one of the signature tunes of the great Wolfe Tones and with no record of who or when it was written it was the Tones version that claimed it as an Irish-American song helped no doubt by the reference to Irish-American boxer Jack Dempsey. Another well chosen track and in keeping with the high tempo sound of the album and no doubt a live favourite with its catchy as feck singalong chorus.

“He was my brother Sylvest (What’s he got?)
A row of forty medals on his chest (Big Chest!)
Well, he killed fifty badmen in the west
He knows no rest, thinkin’ a man’s hell fire
Don’t push, just shove, plenty of room for you and me
He’s got an arm like a leg
And a punch that can sick a battle ship (Big Ship!)
Well it takes all the army and the navy to put the wind up Sylvest”

The album comes to an end with a epic version of the great American traditional folk ballad, ‘The Lakes of Pontchartrain’. At over six minutes long its quite the departure on an album of short, fast and friskey numbers but I needn’t have worried as the band have interpreted the song into a musical tour-de-force. Again the origins of the song are unknown, though it is thought to have originated in the southern US in the 19th century. The story tells of a man who is sheltered by a Louisiana Creole woman who he falls in love with but when he asks her for her hand in marriage she declines as she is already engaged. The course of true love never runs smooth in Folk music! The highlight of the album for me its a great song owing much to Paul Brady’s version and a utterly superb way to close down the album.

So eight songs (or is it more like ten?) of simple Irish Folk music that the lads don’t mind admitting are heavily influenced by ‘more talented Irish musicians from history’ and their is absolutely no shame in that at all. Like their debut Truants And Absolution is best heard live but they’ve done a wonderful job transferring that live sound onto disc and the album reflects their live performance pretty damn well. A sound we were looking forward to hearing in auld London town in July and while we are still hopeful there’s no guarantees of bloody anything in 2020!

Buy Truants And Absolution  FromTheBand  iTunes  Amazon

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