Sunday, May 08, 2005

Black 47 - New York Town (2004)

What can I say about Black 47 except that they have done it again. The Irish rockers from New York City have released New York Town, another fabulous CD, this one dedicated to bandleader Larry Kirwan's adopted hometown. The twelve songs Kirwan composed form a loosely connected concept album: every one is set in the Big Apple. Kirwan has called New York Town his "love letter" to America's largest city. Whether the song concerns romantic relationships, the immigrant experience, people on the dark side of urban life, or the awful events of September 11th that appear to have inspired him, Kirwan writes some of the greatest story songs in rock music. As always he writes with both humor and sadness and each song makes you feel the emotion he wants to convey.

In a lot of a ways this CD is typical Black 47 but the concept and an unusual abundance of star-studded musical guests help set this one apart. Roseanne Cash, who is wonderful here, sings lead with Kirwan on "Fiona's Song," a story about a lonely young Irish woman who seeks solace in the bars of Queens, and David Johansen duets with him on the upbeat "Staten Island Baby." Suzzy Roche also appears on two tracks. Fiddler Eileeen Ivers & blues lady Christine Ohlman also add to the musical textures offered here. The guest vocalists, especially Cash, color the music in a way their prior CDs have not, so while this disc may have more universal appeal than its predecessors you should not use New York Town as a gauge to determine if you love Black 47. Those already fans of the band will enjoy this album immensely.

Interesting songs are everywhere. The title track finds Kirwan delving into the political side of the attacks on New York. "Livin' in America - 11 Years On" has the identical melody and an almost identical arrangement of the same song from the band's debut CD but a whole new set of lyrics updates the lives of the feuding couple we were originally introduced to in 1993. "Fatima," is another story regarding the problems of immigrants, but this time we hear the tale of a Muslim father not coming to terms with his daughter's Christian boyfriend while adjusting to life in our world.

The highlight is "Orphans Of The Storm," a song written as a sequel to Kirwan's "American Wake," a completely different song that appeared on Black 47's 1994 CD Home Of The Brave. In "Wake," Sean, a young Irishman, leaves his native land for America. The sequel finds Sean living in New York and working at The World Trade Center on September 11th.

New York Town is another Black 47 masterwork.

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