CD Review: Kevin McKrell’s “I Wish I Had a Boat”


Kevin McKrell: I Wish I Had A BoatKEVIN McKRELL
I Wish I Had a Boat
(Overit Records)

Review by Greg Haymes

Back in those fondly remembered days of the Grinch (if you can remember them), Kevin McKrell was a founding member of the much beloved Irish music trio Donnybrook Fair. Since then, he’s helmed several like-minded bands – including Hard Times, the Hard Road Ceilidh Band and, of course, the McKrells. He’s also been a regular at the annual holiday concerts Mountain Snow & Mistletoe and Melodies of Christmas. And let’s not forget his venture into doo-wop in the ’80s with the all-star Fabulous Newports.

But all the while, he’s also maintained his solo career, and his new album serves as something of a retrospective, as McKrell offers new recordings of some of his earlier songs, revisiting “I Miss the Rain,” “Lost in Your Eyes” and an exquisite take on “Bound for Boston.”

But there’s plenty of new material on I Wish I Had a Boat, too. The title track continues his exploration into Celtic bluegrass, but there’s also a distinctive country twang, especially during Eric Finn’s string-bending electric guitar solo. Several on-the-road tunes are full of wanderlust, including the jaunty autumn-in-the-Berkshires flavored “Mass Pike Morning” and the spicey Celtic calypso of “Traveling Man,” spiked with Brian Melick’s percolating percussion. One of the best vocal performances on the album, “Dublin Town” is laced with an air of resignation, but McKrell also adds a layer of gutter grit ‘n’ grime.

Other musicians who joined McKrell in Albany’s Overit Studios include his daughter Kate McKrell on bodhran and vocals; Hair of the Dog’s Rick Bedrosian on bass; Seth Warden on guitar; and McKrell’s Mountain Show Orchestra mate John Kirk on banjo.

A handful of the songs were recorded live in the studio – including a sweet rendition of the standard “Danny Boy” and a hard-driving treatment of the traditional “John Barleycorn Must Die” – and the tech team of John Delehanty, Frank Moscowitz and Troy Pohl capture the performances with a crisp clarity and plenty of sparkle.

You can catch Kevin McKrell & the McKrells at a number of venues around Nippertown this week, including SPAC’s Spa Little Theatre in Saratoga Springs at 7pm on Friday (March 13); the Madison Theatre in Albany at 4 & 8pm on Saturday (March 14) and the Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs during the all-day St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Tuesday (March 17). Oh, and an exhibit of McKrell’s paintings (yes, that’s his artwork on the CD cover) is also slated to open at the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany on Friday, March 27.

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1 Comment
  1. Dave Render says

    In 1979 I flew here from Chicago for a job interview. The Interview team took me out on the town that night, and we stopped in at, of all places, the Grinch. There on a raised stage behind the bar crooned Kevin McKrell, singing “Charlie and the MTA”. What a memory! (PS: I got the job and have been here ever since!)

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