THE 19TH STREET BAND – Near Perfect (own label)

Near PerfectNamed for the street in Arlington where Caolaidhe and Meghan Davis lived, The 19th Street Band play an amalgam of Irish and American folk-rock. Near Perfect (no false modesty here) is their third studio album, mostly original material but including a cover of ‘Livin’ In These Troubled Times’, the number one hit for Crystal Gayle.

Having cited Irish rock and Americana it’s difficult to further categorise the band – they don’t sound quite like anyone else. The standout feature of their performance is their harmonies; Greg Hardin being the third writer and vocalist. Those harmonies define the word “dynamic” sometimes deliberately roughened up a bit. Only drummer Patty Dougherty remains voiceless. Over guitars, bass and drums we have fiddle, mandolin and harmonica – Meghan’s fiddle providing the lead decoration most of the time – with Gregg’s bass being nicely up in the mix.

The songs are up-tempo and driving and they don’t really use the soft pedal if they actually have one. Sometimes a song will start out just on acoustic guitar – the closing ‘Whiskey Chicken’ for example – but they’ll be off and running as soon as they can. The title track is an amusing description of Caolaidhe and Meghan’s relationship and I’m sure we’ll all find something we recognise in its words.

Other top tracks are ‘Crystal Ball’ and ‘Long Night’ with its old-timey fiddle and what is either mandolin or guitar being played high up the dusty end. Caolaidhe’s harmonica introduces ‘Promises and takes the instrumental break before handing over to the fiddle. In an odd way it reminds me of The Band’s ‘Evangeline’ without actually sounding anything like it. In truth, there isn’t a single track that doesn’t earn its place here.

Near Perfect is an album to enjoy with going in too deep or taking it too seriously. As The 19th Street Band say “life is just a beautiful mess”.

Dai Jeffries

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