Dublin-based, Tupelo is an exciting new combo who apply the energy of the Old Crow Medicine Show to their music. As a rich head swirling mix of guitars, 5-string banjo, double bass, mandolin, bodhran, piano, percussion, sax and fiddle aid the lead vocals of James Cramer (who writes all the tunes) in splendid fashion. Since I am a huge fan of the Old Crows, Tupelo is a band (Cramer, Paul Murray, Damien McMahan, Kevin Duffy plus guest, Tim Condron on sax) I have a lot of time for as they lean on folk, blues, country and a hint of jug band fare.
I did not get to see the Old Crows when I was in the States, recently but there was a young guy sat outside Cracker Barrel singing ‘Wagon Wheel’ (Bob Dylan / Ketch Secor)! It might have only been just off the highway deep in the country but it helped make it feel like home. Little wonder the OCMS were heard by Doc Watson’s daughter busking in Boone, NC musicians seem to eek out of the woodwork there. Just like they do in Ireland. Showing a heap of control and taste the boys though tempted to up the ante rarely overdo it. Even if the first-half of the cd isn’t as strong as what follows.
‘Bad Man’ that starts away the album I feel isn’t a good choice. Likewise ‘No No Doctor’ and ‘Figure It Out’ a gypsy-like tune that though lively and, admittedly stronger than the other two noted lacks the quality of most songs on the album. As in the inspirational ‘Don’t Let Go’, a roving piece possessing good vocals, banjo and fiddle; the banjo fired ‘Firefly’ and sparkling feel-good ‘Dirty Money’ (listen out for the acoustic guitar solo). A song that speaks just about that and this isn’t the only time the darker side of life is noted since ‘No No Doctor’ gives mention to cocaine, and meeting his maker.
For top-class playing with some great licks and solos ‘Railroad’ hogs the show, for they have come up with the novel idea of featuring it twice in succession. Once, with a fully stocked band of fiddle, sax, upright bass, banjo etc ripping it up and then in a more conservative fashion (as a rockabilly rhythm beat accompanies Cramer, and they both work great. If pushed, and I would have to be the former though more entertaining and instantly infectious the later has more of a creative edge. While the fiddle enriched, jaunty as ride across the rolling hills in old truck ‘Blue Gardinia’ rattles out a fine rhythm. It has wonderful allies in the mighty song ‘Ten Miles Round’ plus, with a patriotic (rebel) feel ‘I’m An Irishman’ contains a feel The Wolftones etc would be proud of (and deservedly so)!
‘Don’t Stop’ opens with a neat vocal exchange before easing into a fiddle, guitar plus sax accompaniment. Followed by the emotive closing piece, ‘My Family’s Land’ —a song that takes the listener way back to times when people had a great association with the land. Cramer’s finely penned lyrics (he sure can write, apart from other things) steeped in strong emotional content are aided by 5-string banjo, guitar, fiddle and harmony vocals as minimal support ensure the composition is given space to blossom and grow uninhibited.
Five-stars are almost in order here. I look forward to catching up with the boys before too long, be sure to check-out their website for gig dates and more music!
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