I must first confess to being massively biased towards Smokey Bastard, as due to a bizarre set of circumstances I toured briefly with them recently and had a bloody awesome time. I think the first thing any of them said to me was “Hi, would you like some beer? We’ve got this huge keg and we’ve got to finish it tonight”, so good times were inevitable.
That, however, was not my first exposure to Smokey. I’d seen them in The Cross Kings a few months previously and really enjoyed their brand of folk-punk, but felt poor sound had let them down, a bit of an inevitability when you have 8 people playing 10 instruments as well as at least 4 singers.
But happily, the album does what I wanted it to do; I can hear all those interesting parts that get lost in a live setting and it does an admirable job of conveying the energy of a gig. I really can’t say enough good things about the production, they’re a group of great musicians playing complex and flowing melodies and to get across every instrument without it becoming muddy, as well as the complex and tom-heavy drums is a remarkable achievement especially as the whole thing was done DIY.
The lyrics are traditional folk with talk of pirates, drunkards and folk legends both modern and ancient. My only issue (one that was actually brought to my attention by the band) would be the lyrics of Steve The Tramp which, once you can actually hear all the words, comes across as a little snobby and superior (in fairness, it was written by a now ex-member of the band), but that’s a tiny concern that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s one of the best and catchiest songs on the album.
This is a genuinely great album and will be loved by any fan of folk-punk, and we should all be glad to know they are returning from their separate university towns to concentrate to Smokey as much as they can. We should also be glad to know that they are starting to stretch their wings with their song writing (all the songs on this album were written over a year ago) and move out of the shadow of the Dropkick Murphies and Flogging Mollies who dominate this genre and establish their own identity more. I’m already looking forward to the next album and will be at their next local show jigging along with the best of them.