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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Originally founded in the 1990s, Glasgow-based Americana act The Hellfire Club utilise a number of influences and styles of music, as they vie from electric guitar, fiddle and organ (Kenny Irvine) fuelled, with some Steve Earle-like flavours tossed in the mix on “All Because Of You” (hints of Copperhead Road?) with rock, country rock warmed “Cal”. It is a wonderful strong sound; and with lead vocals backed by fiddle and swirling rhythm you can’t help but think The Band. The good thing is this band, that started out playing older styled country music spiced with an edge of their own The Hellfire Club are capable to make a furrow, create an imprint of their own to run parallel with it. The subjects, likewise are varied, and in the mandolin (Rab Armour), fiddle and banjo added array of instrumentation “Private Campbell” not only is a thoughtful reflective ode but the music lends added passion to the lyrics. Wonderful production it is too. Squeezed in between it and the following cut, good time uptempo “Hint Of A Wink” you have 14 seconds of fiddle work (Nick Ronan). Nice idea, there is an argument it could have lasted longer?
As for “Hint Of A Wink” it bounces along sprightly, Pogues-like some might say, but without Shane’s (McGowan) jolting vocals. The song entitled “The Hellfire Club” has a foreboding edge, dark and dangerous as it speaks of how deep within the city streets he waits till the darkness falls to make his move, and with strong harmony vocals, electric lead guitar and swirling rhythm the icing is neatly placed on the cake.
Shuffling, melancholy fashion “Absent Friends” is a barroom styled composition that comes complete with hearty sing-a-long chorus, more fiddle and piano, electric guitar and percussion. Something of an old-fashioned country weeper! Bursting out the blocks comes “Dali’s Clock” as electric guitar and hurried tempo decorate this infectious ode. “Montgomery” at over six minutes has an eerie feel as the boys speak of going down to Montgomery, Memphis, Texas, a man who lost his mind, was given pills to cure him and then goes to Birmingham to find some common ground. Nice rambling piece that has a lot going on within the song without becoming cluttered, which does happen on “The Hellfire Club”. Here you have one of those tunes that can take on a force of their own, and refuses to quit. The Hellfire Club are unlikely to ever make the big time, but if they are ever in your area go check them out, meanwhile you always have the album.
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