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Racing the Tide

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Album Review

The Elders may be based in Kansas City, but you'd never know it to hear their music, which is full of references to Irish history and myth. The sextet has a rock-based sound played on amplified instruments, with Steve Phillips' electric guitar prominent in the mix. But the pennywhistles, mandolins, and accordions are never drowned out. The Elders are more traditional than, say, Black 47, as expatriate Irish bands go, but they play original songs, mixing in part of a traditional tune here and there. Lead singer Ian Byrne (the only actual native of Ireland in the band) uses his slightly husky, Irish-accented tenor to bring out the sentimental, descriptive lyrics, which are full of mountain and sea imagery, and soaked in whiskey and stories handed down through Irish history. Early on, he is content to tell of the sailor's life in songs like "Racing the Tide" and "The Story of a Fish," but he turns passionate in recounting Irish political history in "Ever Be a Nation," a tale of British oppression that concludes, "A hundred bad years later and the struggle still goes on/A hundred bloody Sundays and their funerals come and gone/No victors only victims and survivors left to mourn/Our children need to know this Island is their home." As this suggests, the group is humorless at its best and somewhat histrionic at its worst, but it's hard to believe its music could fail to stir a crowd of Irish-American descendants even in Kansas City, especially if the bar was open.


Genre: Rock

Years Active:

Celtic rock band the Elders were formed in Kansas City, MO, by singer/percussionist Ian Byrne, a native of County Wicklow, Ireland, along with Americans Norm Dahlor (bass, banjo, guitar, vocals), Brent Hoad (violin, mandolin, keyboards, vocals), Steve Phillips (guitar, mandolin, vocals), and Brett Gibson (accordion). Phillips was a former member of the Rainmakers, which had made several major-label albums, but all of the musicians were middle-aged veterans of numerous previous groups, hence the name...
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Racing the Tide, The Elders
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