Review: “Black & Blue” by Trinity River Whalers

This is my first Celtic Music Magazine review, and hopefully you'll find it useful so it won't be my last. I chose the Trinity River Whalers Black & Blue as my first foray into this forum partially because they're local to me in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I do like supporting local artists. This album surprised me a little. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but in a good way. There are fifteen tracks – Four are originals, three are medleys and most are creatively done covers.  This runs what they refer to as a “pub set”.

Trinity River Whalers - Black & Blue

Trinity River Whalers is a five-piece group with vocals spread among all five members. Marj Troyer wrote two of the originals. Steve Harrison penned two instrumental originals, including Melissa's Waltz. I understand this is the first Trinity River Whalers album to feature instrumentals, and they're well-done.  I tend toward the “celtic rock” side of things, and this album has a lot of that sea-faring, rollicking beat and tone. Even if I have it on my iPod at work, my toes are tapping and my typing moves to the beat.  The vocals are tight harmonies with a smooth line.

What both intrigued and surprised me were the country and gospel influences. I grew up near the Ozarks in Missouri. I've never lived north of the Mason-Dixon. I have hillbilly roots, and as I joke – no matter how much you dye them, the hick roots still grow out. There's something about this album that hits that for me, especially the final track which is a medley of Ghost of Molly McGuire/Will the Circle be Unbroken/I'll Fly Away. It sends me back to my dad singing Southern Gospel quartet music when I was kid and reminds me of family reunions (good memories, by the way).

Copperhead Road is my favorite Steve Earle song, and Trinity River Whalers do it justice – and made me go hunt up the Steve Earle version to make sure both are on my iPod. If I had to give it a “criticism” it would be the drums are not as pronounced as they should be on this particular track.

I never really thought about Celtic influences on Southern Rock or Gospel, but maybe I should have. These arrangements work.  It may be that this is an established band looking for new material, but I appreciate it's different music than some of the classic songs that most Celtic bands do – I'm sure Drunken Sailor shows up somewhere in this group's repertoire, but it's not here. This album now lives on my iPod and will remain there. I truly like the mixture of genres in the covers and traditional Celtic sounds and would recommend this group and this album to others.

Find their CDs on CDBaby.

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