If you talk of Irish music and Orange County, that talk will inevitably turn to the band that's been doing the Eire thing for years: the Fenians. So omnipresent are the Fenians that their name pops up in casual conversation in weird, unexpected ways: “The Fenians ran over my cat.” “The Fenians cured my rheumatism.” “The Fenians were almost elected pope.” “The Fenians stole my identity.” “The Fenians got my sister knocked up.” “How would the Fenians get rid of the body?” “Would you like some fresh, hot Fenians for just 59 cents extra with your order, sir?” “Is that the Fenians in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

Woe, then, to poor Sligo Rags, a trio of mostly acoustic Irish music players, who can't escape the Fenians' gaping maw. (Who wrote the liner notes for this album? A Fenian!) Yet Sligo Rags are really only similar to the Fenians in that both share the same sonic geography. They're a much mellower outfit: while Fenians gigs can make you want to get tanked on Guinness till it spews back out your mouth, we sense Sligo Rags music works best over a plate of salmon and a simple pint whilst sitting in a quaint seaside Irish pub (or lately, judging by their show calendar, Stubrik's Steakhouse in Fullerton). Mandolins, banjos, fiddles and accordions dominate the mostly traditional tunes, and for the sake of familiarity, they throw in “Dirty Old Town” and “Star of the County Down,” which most novices would probably remember from old Pogues and Van Morrison albums. As Irish-trad bands go, you'd pretty much have to journey to Sligo to find anything better. We've actually been to Sligo, too, five years ago on a drive from Limerick to Belfast; the town wasn't all that, but for road tunes, we sure would have preferred to have this record along instead of the sleepy Enya tape we picked up at the Waterford crystal factory gift shop.


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