GENTLEMEN SOLDIERS – Gentleman Soldiers (probably own label)

Gentlemen SoldiersIt’s twenty-eight years since The Pogues ceased trading as a full-time band but they are certainly not forgotten – principally because of one man and one song. Gentlemen Soldiers from Pomona County, California haven’t forgotten them either – their eponymous debut album is a collection of Pogues covers (plus a couple of outliers). The band comprises Tony Gibson (guitar, mandolin), guitarist Marcos Garcia, J.B.Duff on drums and bassist Emily Froberg.

Gentlemen Soldiers kick off with ‘The Body Of An American’ – a nice touch given their port of origin – and ‘Sally MacLennan’ both given the full Pogueish treatment and making a fine start to the record. Then, in case you were thinking Gentleman Soldiers were a one-trick pony they change the mood with Philip Chevron’s ‘Thousands Are Sailing’, a deeply affecting song of the Irish diaspora and one of the Pogues’ finest songs. They still give it the power it deserves but it’s a crisp, clean reading. I should pay tribute here to jazz fiddler Hanna Mignano who lifts all the tracks with her playing.

Another favourite is ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’ which is treated sensitively unlike ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ which the Gentleman Soldiers power through in the manner of the album cut. Ending the nominal first side of the album is that song. ‘Fairytale Of New York’ is not an easy song to cover, particularly in the absence of Kirsty MacColl although Emily is up to the challenge. The band add their own twist with the sound of an old vinyl record added over the opening verses. I can report that we have “You maggot, you cheap lousy faggot” again – I think it was Jem Finer who remarked something to the effect that if you were going to change the words, don’t sing the song. Of course, there may have been a few more adjectives involved.

Opening side two, metaphorically speaking, is the sound of a thunderstorm introducing the raucous ‘Boys From The County Hell’ followed by a drum-powered ‘Black Velvet Band’, the first of the outliers. Here, the gentlemen allow themselves a few liberties, this being a traditional song. The second guest is Steve Earle’s ‘Galway Girl’, probably a descendant of the Belfast girl whose eyes shone like diamonds. A similar fate is visited upon the unfortunate hero of ‘Fields Of Athenry’. The band brings in a trio of brass players to add authenticity to the final ‘Fiesta’, the sort of track that makes you want to go back to the beginning and start again.

I must confess that I have a fondness for covers albums, particularly Bob Dylan covers, because it is fascinating to hear a song through someone else’s ears as it were. Gentlemen Soldiers haven’t taken any liberties with these songs, probably because they like them so much although losing the banjo and gaining the fiddle does make a difference to the arrangements, of course, and the vocals are crisper that Shane’s habitual slur. All in all, it’s huge fun.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Sally MacLennane’ – official video:

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