The Holy Innocents “Fortune” (Independent, 2017)

Belfast based The Holy Innocents surely have a rock’n’roll heart as they released this album late last year on vinyl and it’s only recently that a CD version has become widely available. A listen to the album reveals that the blood pumped through this heart has been transfused from across the water as it’s a wonderful homegrown amalgam of rootsy country, rock and country rock.

Following their first album (Letter To Lone Ridge, 2013) bandleader Eamonn McNamee went to the States soaking in the atmosphere as he transversed the South before embarking on Fortune with an expanded line up of the band. The result, an album that has traces of old time country and then  some quarrelsome, moody and noisy blasts that recall the likes of the so called “Paisley Underground” with the opening Galloping Major hurtling itself from the trap with a snotty insouciance not unlike Green On Red. The following title song kicks off with McNamee wailing lonesome over softly pummelled drums and spooky guitar until, halfway through, the beat picks up and the sparks begin to fly as the song ascends into a barrelling opus that could have been plucked from Lynyrd Skynyrd. There’s a superb grungy guitar intro to In Season, a song that sails between Neil Young  and The Jayhawks while Tough Luck is like Dylan and The Band on testosterone, a vital two minutes of sheer rock’n’roll bliss.

The album isn’t all ballsy rock as the shimmering Lone Star hums with the romance of the West and lonesome nights on the road while The Head, The Heart, The Tail is a full-blown country rock song that lopes along with the wind and keening guitars at its back. Master Of Disguise meanwhile is a lazy eyed country shuffle with female vocals harmonising with McNamee along with fine barroom piano adding to the atmosphere. McNamee hits pay dirt with the excellent Hollow Falls which is an odd amalgam of saloon bar philosophising and slouching country rock which hits that same weird Americana arcana that Twin Peaks touched on. The album closes with two songs that are more in the reflective singer/songwriter idiom. Mount Mercy shows McNamee able to summon up a feeling not dissimilar to Nick Drake’s autumnal colours while Seaside is an emotive and powerful piano led ballad that drifts at the end into ambient sea side sounds and shimmering guitar. A different side to the man for sure but equally as interesting as his Stateside rambles.

 

Author: Paul Kerr

Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.

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