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New York Town

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Album Review

The Next Big Thing hype that followed Black 47 everywhere about ten years ago has long since slouched off to dog the heels of some other band, and its major-label contract expired years ago, and one of its most accomplished and distinctive members (piper and occasional Gaelic toaster Chris Byrne) has departed as well, but Black 47 continues unfazed as one of America's several good answers to the Pogues. Unlike other rock'n'reel groups that rely on traditional Celtic tunes and songs for the basis of their repertoire and muscle them up with modern beats, Black 47 is a showcase for original material, all of it from the pen of the occasionally inspired songwriter and consistently terrible singer Larry Kirwan; on this album, the band is also joined by such folk-rock, alt-rock, country-rock, and Irish legends as Rosanne Cash, David Johansen, Eileen Ivers, and Suzzy Roche, most of whom are responsible for the album's highlights. These include "Fiona's Song," on which Cash plies her dark, gorgeous voice and Ivers embroiders everything with haunting fiddle, and the two songs that feature the eternally good-humored Suzzy Roche ("New York Town," "Brooklyn, Goodbye"). David Johansen's talent is wasted on the jaunty but banal "Staten Island Baby," but "Black Rose" and "Blood Wedding" (both remakes of tracks from Black 47's early EMI years) make up for that misstep. Not essential, but not bad at all.

Customer Reviews

All music guide is wrong.

This cd rocks. Black 47 is a band that you like or don't that simple. All music does not like them and it shows. They are good I prefer to see them live over recorded. They write what they want and play what they want. They only have one traditional song to my knowledge and it is the best version of it I have heard. The San patricio bragade tells about what my ancestors faced when they came to this country. The other songs are great and all music guide really needs to listen to the lyrics of the song and not just copy the same review from cd to cd. All I am asking is give black 47 a chance. Critics should warn us of crapy pop artists not bands with culture and style.

This is a great record

In an interesting venture into a wider variety of music, Black 47 brings us some amazing music. Among the best songs include Staten Island Baby, I Won't Take You Home Again Kathleen, and the title song, a song that can only be truely understood by those of us who lived in NY before, during, and after 9/11. The remake of Black Rose is always entertaining and that of Blood Wedding is beautiful. I don't quite understand why every reviewer says Larry Kirwan has such a terrible voice. It's rock music, for Christ's sake. I listen to the Irish Tenors for Irish singers with a classically beautiful voice, not Black 47. And his voice isn't really that bad. He has a very expressive voice, which can portray strong emotion and irony, or both, as is often called for in his music. I'll give you he's not God's gift to talk singing, mostly because he tries too hard to disguise his accent (don't do that! The Irish have GREAT accents!), but this album doesn't call for that as much as the others. This isn't quite as good as Fire to Freedom, but having Fire to Freedom be your best record is nothing to be ashamed of. Most bands' best record doesn't even come close. This record is still great. It's fun, entertaining, and very Irish American, and that's all I've ever asked for from Black 47.

Rare dud

I was shocked by this album. The songwriting is sub par except for a few tracks. I found myself in a few spots asking, "yikes did they really just try rhyming those two words?" I also can't give an album decent review when they keep recycling old songs just to fill the cd. All in all this is the only real dud I think the band has released. Shame.


Formed: 1990

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Black 47 (a name deriving from the year 1847, the blackest year of the Irish potato famine) is a New York-based band made up of Irish expatriates and led by songwriter/playwright Larry Kirwan. In addition to Kirwan (vocals, guitar), the band consists of Chris Byrne (uilleann pipes, tin whistle, vocals), Fred Parcells (trombone, tin whistle, vocals), Jeff Blythe (saxophone), Thomas Hamlin (percussion), and David Conrad (bass). Black 47 plays a mixture of traditional Celtic folk music, rock & roll,...
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