MCDERMOTT’S 2 HOURS VS LEVELLERS | OYSTERBAND – Besieged/Anticlockwise (On The Fiddle OTFCD028F)

BesiegedMcDermott’s 2 Hours are best known for their live performances. Besieged is only their eighth album in a thirty-odd year career but it is rather special because it promises (or threatens) to be Nick Burbridge’s final outing with the band. Burbridge was a founder member of McDermott’s playing Irish folk-rock even before The Pogues; they inspired a bunch of friends to become Levellers and borrowed their members from time to time. Jeremy Cunningham and Simon Friend are part of the band on Besieged, Dil Davies is a long-time member and Al Scott has been roped in to produce and play bass.

The opener, ‘Firebird’ a co-write with Cunningham, perhaps refers to the parting of the ways: “the firebird escapes the fire” suggests that Nick’s departure won’t lead to a conflagration. He has flourishing solo careers in music and as a novelist and dramatist which are surely set to continue and he wrote all the other songs here. The second track, ‘Erin Farewell’, is a classic story of the Irish diaspora told from one man’s point of view. That man could be Burbridge except for the fact that he’s second generation Irish but he knows what he’s writing about.

The Troubles figure large in Nick’s songs. ‘This Child’ and the brilliant ‘Forlorn Hope’ are explicit but elsewhere conflict also looms large. ‘The Warrior Monk’ is set in the Crusades and the title track refers to an unspecified European war but Nick has other concerns. ‘All In Your Name’ is about child sexual abuse in the church, as far as I can judge, but even the more personal songs don’t go in for the happily-ever-after meme. Except perhaps for the closing title, ‘The Ring’, which could also be his valediction.

Early risers will also receive Anticlimax, a fourteen-track “best of” collection which also includes ‘Erin Farewell’ and ‘All In Your Name’. It opens with the stomping ‘Dirty Davey’, a song which sums up the band’s attitude perfectly. Other top tracks include ‘Harry Brewer’, ‘Black Sun (In Genoa)’, ‘Molloy’ and  ‘A Fable From Aigge’.  These early recordings are rather more classic folk-rock and heavier on the fiddle, but no worse for that and the set really rocks.

McDermott’s 2 Hours and indeed, Nick Burbridge, should be better known names. It’s still not too late to start enjoying them.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Fox On The Run’ – live: