Skulduggery Street - Barleyjuice

Ryf Records

Is it fair to call Skulduggery Street, Barleyjuice’s Abbey Road? So, maybe they aren’t the greatest rock group of all time and sure, the album drifted in through the post without the slightest fanfare like so many other innocuous releases. But yes, this recording is a landmark achievement from a Philadelphia six-piece that has only ever qualified themselves as a pub rock band. Skulduggery Street (despite the obvious ironic reference to the iconic Beatles album) is an impressively sophisticated and creatively cohesive piece of work. Many Celtic rock bands claim domain over the pissed abyss of pub anthems, but in the cold light of day they come off as tea-toddling poseurs in a wasted world; full of amped-up attitude Friday through Saturday, but lack the 'every day, all day’ conviction it takes to make a true drunken rabble offer themselves up to the stage in a jar. Not Barleyjuice. Skulduggery Street is heartfelt yet not artificially hard. These are master crafted sing-alongs loosened by liquor and accessible to all. The heart and tortured soul of Barleyjuice is singer/songwriter Kyf Brewer (yes, that’s his actual surname). It’s his whiskey-soaked tenor that nails the band’s charming authenticity to the table leaving you one hoisting arm free to toast them into intoxicated oblivion. It’s got to be all an act, but Brewer is a damn fine actor. He coughs up the quintessential voice of the Shane McGowan barfly poet, captured in a rare moment of clarity before stumbling back into a stupor. In reality Brewer is multi-disciplined; handily looking after vocals, harmonica, bagpipes, bodhran, congas and tin whistle, a nimble feat you just can’t accomplish with one foot in the gutter. The dank alley cast of fable is alive and well on Skulduggery Street. Among the finest tales is the Prettiest Girl At The Fair, Molly’s Girls, the title track and the anthem, Get Your Irish On. Scottish Green adds another high to the alcohol with the first Celtic ode I’ve heard to Mary Jane. You may lose years off your liver on Skulduggery Street but your head will swim with memorable tunes to last a good long time.