FolkWords Reviews

‘Songs and Stories From the Border’ - O’Hanlon’s Horsebox , gutsy, rough-edged music with attitude

(January 19, 2016)

There’s nothing remotely understated about ‘Songs and Stories From the Border’ from Armagh folk punk rockers O’Hanlon’s Horsebox but that’s not what many would want nor expect. Their Bandcamp ohanlons horseboxsite colourfully describes them as: “A shower of fuckers from the County Armagh.” Bear that in mind and you get precisely what it says, gutsy, rough-edged Irish music with attitude a-plenty and enough bite to scare off a dozen dogs. O’Hanlon’s Horsebox are Ross McKernan (banjo, whistle) Declan McBride (accordion, guitar) Conor Langan (bass) Michael O’ Hanlon (guitar) Fintan Woods (bouzouki, harmonica) Ryan Muldoon (drums) and Sean Lynn (mandolin) with everyone throwing themselves behind the vocals.

The album contains 10 self-penned songs that range freely across the band’s collective heritage, observations, experience and beliefs. From the hook-laden tale of ‘Joe Coburn’ one of the first World Heavyweight bare knuckle boxing champions, through machine-gun drumming and wild banjo of ‘The Fighting Boys from Corofin’, the acerbic and undoubtedly live-favourite ‘We are the People from the Border’ to the harsh reality of an archetypal drinking song ‘Drink It Up’ and the prophetic ‘The Brave’ this is honest, straightforward energy-driven Celtic enthusiasm. A more reflective but equally powerful edge appears as O’Hanlon’s Horsebox deliver the sadness of‘The Ballad of Rachel Corrie’ narrating the fate of the American Peace Activist, the human understanding of ‘It’s All Been Worthwhile’, quiet reflection through ‘Ballyliffin’ and the eternal optimism of the engrossing ‘The Sun Will Be Shining Again’.

With ‘Songs and Stories of the Border’ O’Hanlon’s Horseboxhasn’t created anything desperately different from other bands in a similar vein, however they have created a classic piece of folk punk that’s brim full of serious ideas and sparkling invention. It’s also an album that shows that a collection of musicians can range through a wide repertoire and have a bloody good time doing what they clearly do best.

Find O’Hanlon’s Horsebox and ‘Songs and Stories From the Border’ here: ohanlonshorsebox.bandcamp.com

Review: Tim Carroll

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