MICK SHEEHAN - Whiskey Refugees

MICK SHEEHAN - Whiskey Refugees

I was knocked out by this album.  It is raw, with plenty of rough edges but full of passion – a passion, which is often dark and bitter but which can also become tender and lyrical. The songs were born out of Mick Sheehan’s experience but he draws readily on the folk tradition for motifs and tunes.  Courting is a Pleasure becomes the story of the doomed love of a Darlington apprentice; the story of General Wolfe’s battle against the French becomes the miners’ battle with the police in 1984, and Whiskey in the Jar inspires the memory of a lost love in the album’s haunting title track.

The Curlew and the Crow – the culmination of the album – is a powerful musical autobiography.  It contains lines which written down appear almost banal – We lived in a bedsit in West Bromwich ‘bove an all-night convenience store -  but which become poetic in the context of the song.  And this is part of Mick Sheehan’s description of a bar in Lerwick in the nineteen seventies: Well the Faeroe men fought with their fists, and the Yanks’d use the chairs, And the Paddies fought on both sides for they really didn’t care.

Like the songs, Mick Sheehan’s voice is both powerful and gentle and I like his understated guitar accompaniments.  Be warned – this is the only folk album on which you will hear the voice of Margaret Thatcher - and the only time you will hear ‘The Iron Lady’ in the company of Jack Elliott of Birtley.

Howard Baker

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This album was reviewed in Issue 74 of The Living Tradition magazine.