Trinity River Whalers
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Trinity River Whalers

Fort Worth, Texas, United States | SELF

Fort Worth, Texas, United States | SELF
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“With as much energy as is possible…” defines the expression “Both Barrels,” also the title of the Trinity River Whalers’ newest CD release. Generally, the both barrels etymology is based on the idea of shooting a gun with two barrels or in this case, (as the cover art suggests), the merry energy that occurs in a room or ship hold full of barrels of wine or whiskey. Clearly, “energy” is the operative word here. The Whalers never cease to amaze or disappoint me and this CD includes the right musical elements to entertain: soul, vigor, whimsy, pathos, hilarity, and above all, the Whalers trademark of stunning vocals and great instrumentation and arrangements. I have been a devoted fan of these musicians for many years and I have admired and appreciated each Whaler incarnation for many good reasons. To paraphrase Micheal Price: “I love The Whalers individually and in groups.”).
The Whalers do indeed fire off with both barrels with the first track “Portland Town” (written by Steve Romanoff). Steve Harrison’s lead vocals are smooth and sexy and he is well accompanied by the group’s always-energetic backing harmonies. Add in the driving backline by Rodger Harrison and Randy Christian, along with Marj Troyer’s nimble-fingered mandolin and Steve Harrison’s expert bouzouki playing and I find myself clap/stompin’ and singing along and wanting more. (I must confess, at home, I also break out the accordion and play along with them; it’s that kind of fun!)
A Whalers’ trademark is their love for seafaring songs and they deliver them with enthusiasm-- as if they were actually old salts themselves. Micheal Price’s delivery of “Silver Sea” is just that and a lovely, plaintive contrast to the livelier “Portland Town” fishing song. Micheal’s rich baritone was made for this song and it is enhanced beautifully by the group’s vocals, beginning with Rodger Harrison’s soulful, heart-felt harmony leading into a fine crescendo of a full-bodied Whalers’ chorus. Another great sailing song (from Newfoundland) is the “Jolly Rovin’ Tar,” again with a powerful vocal by Steve Harrison and with great backing instrumentals and vocal chorus. I particularly like the Buffet-esque calypso beat of this one. I do love that the Whalers have a knack for picking a genre (in this case sea-related songs) but with such variety in story and melodies.
Another reoccurring theme in this CD is marital relationships, especially with arranged (or as I call them “forced”) marriages, which is a quite popular, yet tragic theme in Irish and British ballads. One such song is the very sad Sean McCarthy song “Step it out Mary” which is paradoxically penned to a children’s skipping ditty from County Cork. Once again, Steve Harrison’s robust vocal delivery and skillful lead guitar playing does great justice to this song. Brother Rodger also performs an intriguing and cool bass line for this song. There is definitely something about sharing the same DNA and musically the Harrison brothers create magic with their music. You can well hear how they capture timing, rhythm, and melody, and play off each other.
The Whalers also perform two of my other favorite “marital” songs: one is Raggle Taggle Gypsies, delivered beautifully by Marj Troyer (with both her vocals and dynamite mandolin playing). I love this particular song because the wife in question feels empowered to leave her wealthy lord husband to live a life of love with her gypsy man. At the end of the track, the Whalers do a clever and quick musical segue into another one of my favorites: “Mari Mac,” wonderfully vocalized by Randy Christian. Randy has an incredible talent that reminds me of early vaudevillian players: A great singing voice coupled with comedic acting and how does he get all those words and syllables in and stay on pitch and beat? What great fun the band has with Mary Mack. Once again Rodger’s driving yet steady bass gives a great bottom end and Steve performs these fun progressive lead guitar licks at each turn of chorus. I might also add that Randy has really honed his skills on percussion, which adds great driving rhythm to the Whalers’ songs.
…and what is a Whalers CD without drinking song tributes? Randy Christian sings a Tommy Makem song “John O’Kelly’s Brew” and sings it with such great gusto, that I crave and fantasize about whiskey every time I hear it! I love, too, that this song is dedicated to Rodger and Steve Harrison’s Great-Great Grandfather: John O’Kelly McGill, Scots-Irish storyteller, cotton farmer, and brewer of whiskey. What a wonderful thing to find an ancestral connection in a Tommy Makem song and I think Tommy would be pleased with the Whalers’ rendition of his song.
We get to enjoy two more songs of the drinking variety sung by Marj Troyer. Marj composed a whimsical and clever song called “Doctor’s Orders,” which speaks of the numerous ways you can hydrate yourself after your Doctor has advised you to add more liquids to your diet. I particularly love this song beca - Céilí Newsletter for Southwestern Celtic Music Association


According to their website, Trinity River Whalers offer “Celtic Music with a Texas Twist” or “Texas Music with a Celtic Twist” and in this, the Whalers certainly do not disappoint. They come out with “both barrels” right from the start, with the tune “Portland Town,” with a powerful, toe-tapping harmony that brings to mind such bands as Alabama and the Oak Ridge Boys.

The rest of the album displays a talent for the strings and a powerful, infectious beat, with songs like “Raggle Taggle Gypsies” and the ever challenging and fun “Mary Mac.”

The Trinity River Whalers show their soulful side with the beautifully poetic ballad, “Silver Sea.” This tune makes even the staunchest landlubber long to trim the sails and head out to sea.

The Whalers also have a humorous side as well, as expressed in the tune “Doctor’s Orders.” This, as well as tunes such as “John O’Kelly’s Brew” and “One Last Drink” fill out the Celtic music enthusiast’s thirst for drinking songs, and “Step It Out Mary” and “Jolly Rovin’ Tar” keep you on your dancing toes.

Perhaps the most unexpected, but very delightful, track on this album is a cover of The Proclaimers “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). In many ways, I enjoy this better than the more well-known version.

Overall, I would say this album would be a welcome addition to the library of any Celtic music or bluegrass fan.

Natalie Smith is a bagpiper and Celtic music enthusiast living in Western Colorado. She is a podcast addict and writes reviews for Celtic MP3s Music Magazine.

- Marc Gunn's Celtic MO3s Music Magazine


Review: "Party In A Box" by Trinity River Whalers
Artist: Trinity River Whalers
Album: Party In A Box
Year produced: 2009

I can't help it. This CD takes me back to days as a child where I played my parent's Kingston Trio records over and over again and sang along. The Trinity River Whalers have that same easy sound with a Celtic touch. Harmony, good arrangements and a jovial feel to the tracks on this album make it a joy to listen to. Funny, the lyrics aren't all peppy and uplifting, but you still find yourself tapping your foot as you hear them when set to music.

I loved "My Blood" and "Mr. Valentine's Dead," and there are plenty of tracks here that you can sift through to find your own faves. There is a mix of traditional fare and other tunes here, so the tracks have a broad appeal. A nice, wide range of instruments parade around in the songs here. You'll hear banjo, guitar, harmonica, accordion, mandolin and pennywhistle among other sounds peppering the melody. This isn't the band's first effort either, they have released music together for some time now. Some groups have the magic, and some don't. The Trinity River Whalers can enjoy the sparkle that they create--and it's contagious
- Marc Gunn's Celtic MP3s Music Magazine


Discography

Sing Ho! - CD 2002
Blind Hope - CD 2004
Knotty Tales - CD 2005
Dancin' Beggarman - CD March 2007
Party In A Box - CD 2009
Both Barrels - CD 2010
Cowtown Celtic Live - DVD 2011

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Bio

The Trinity River Whalers, a D/FW-based Celtic/Folk/Rock 5-piece group is seeking to expand their horizons and explore new venues. The band is heavily influenced by Celtic music and sea songs that lend themselves to the Whalers’ talent for big harmonies, while borrowing freely from other genres, blending in a bit of blues, swing, or Americana/country to suit their style and the event. As singer-songwriters, the Whalers offer original songs, plus tasty selections from the likes of Steve Earle, Tom Waits, Garth Brooks and Van Morrison, with a "Fleetwood Mac meets the Clancy Brothers" feel.

Pub favorites, the Whalers, are also regulars at the North Texas Irish Festival and the Austin Celtic Festival, plus the guys, who are former members of the Blarney Brothers (Randy Christian—accordion; percussion; Mike Price—rhythm guitar; Rodger Harrison—bass; Steve Harrison—bouzouki, guitar, didgeridoo), are veterans of some of the biggest Celtic festivals in the country, including the Milwaukee Irish Festival and the Boston Sail 2000, as well as Ft. Worth’s Main Street Arts Festival, Denton Jazz & Art Festival and other similar civic and cultural events. Mandolin maven and lead guitarist, Marj Troyer, is a roadhouse rock refugee and adds a perfect 5th to the Whalers’ harmony.

Proving the Whalers’ sound isn’t just for pubs and Irish festivals, they are featured at special events of varying types, including the Lightcatcher Winery in west Ft. Worth where they can be heard throughout the year at their Christmas Toys for Tots show, the July 4th Bash, St. Patrick’s Day Bacchanalia and the annual “Crush Day/Lucy Dance,” that grows every year and showcases the band’s versatility.