The Mountain Firework Company – The Beggar’s Prayer

Album Review | Fretwork Union | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

The Mountain Firework Company describe themselves as Celtic bedsit Bluegrass or Irish Mountain Music. Rightly so some fancy juxtaposition of words is needed to describe the relaxed freewheeling mix of warm vocal harmonies, alt country, snappy rhythms and Bluegrass fiddle on their latest album The Beggar’s Prayer. Think Saw Doctors meets Oh Brother Where Art Thou, or kindred spirits to the South Coast’s other good time Folk Country band, Police Dog Hogan. If I found a Wild West Photo, like CSN&Y’s Deja Vu cover, of a beaded band grouped around a horse drawn wagon with The Mountain Firework Company printed on the canvas, then it wouldn’t seem out of place. So both the music and the band have a kind of rich patina and timeless quality. “Like A Fire” and “Spare Change” are tightly played up-tempo romps with the melancholic lyrics of true happy sad country, underpinned by some fine playing. Instrumental “The Fish and The Crow” is achingly beautiful and the interplay between Mike Simmond’s fiddle and the acoustic guitars of Gareth McGahan and Brian Powell crackles with Celtic potent. There is a timeless warmth to the group vocal harmonies on “Refugee” that just says quality, as does the blend into “Ready To Run” the next track. Again the playing is spot on, on this track and indeed the whole album. Lovely Celtic Soul with a classic Van Morrison feel on the looping chorus too. “At The Golden Gate” and “If Only” are still more warm romps, with the band’s distinctive harmonies and infectious Bluegrass playing underpinning some bitter sweet words. “The Beggar’s Prayer” marries blues lyrics with the languid tempo and beautiful fiddle of a Leon Redbone record. “Come Back” has the laid back freewheeling feel of a Fisherman’s Blues Waterboys track, again the band locks into that soulful groove with sweet music and harmonies, while the lyrics drip with sadness and regret. “One More Time” is another blues, delivered as only The Mountain Firework Company can, layers of vocals, finely played guitar atmospheric percussion and wonderful hurdy gurdy.

For every moment of slight tongue in cheek country melancholia, there are as many moments of real insight emotion and integrity. Light sparkling music weaves around some darker lyrics. The tightness of the band vocals enhance McGahan’s distinctive Belfast warm brogue, while the band have that mix of precision and looseness like a well oiled good time music machine.