Sometimes the PR information accompanying an album unintentionally reveals more about its subjects than its author probably intended. Such is the case with Border Lord (a truly dreadful name reminiscent of some bowsie heavy metal band) and their album Bonny Brave Boys (an even more atrocious name derived from an equally dire song which appears on the album). Said flyer informs the reader that the band’s singer, Rick Stanley is capable of moving audiences “from tears to laughter in the space of a song with his rich ‘Cat Stevens’ voice”. This is partly true since this reviewer burst out laughing when he first heard the strained-hernia-type whine emanating from Mr. Stanley’s larynx and then was tempted to weep at the prospect of wasting a segment of his ever decreasing life-span by listening to the remaining fifty-one minutes of the album. What Yousuf Islam would himself make of the comparison to his dulcet tones is unrepeatable..
Rick is not just content to murder The Light Dragoon (personally, and with malice aforethought) but he also transforms Stewball and the Monaghan Gray Mare (excitement guaranteed when sung by Andy Irvine) into a race between a couple of addled old nags. Then there is his truly diabolical self-composed song, Bonny Brave Boys, which contrives to suggest that parents awaiting the return of their sons from the Vietnam War would wait at the harbour for the troop ships’ return wailing “Where’s our bonny brave boy?” as if they were all descendants of Robert Burns or Highlanders suddenly transported to California. By the time the listener arrives at his maudlin rendition of Andy M. Stewart’s originally bouncy Take Her in Your Arms despair has fully set in. Still, there remains the chance to dredge the depths of insipidity in Rick’s version of Outlandish Knight, apparently ‘inspired by Danú’ (I’d suggest that the band should urgently seek legal advice). If your endurance is strong enough to reach the dismal Queen Anne’s Lace (‘The stars are like diamonds on her dress of Time’), then extracting your own entrails with a blunt steak knife, gently frying them in garlic and serving them up on a bed of saffron rice while bleeding to death on the kitchen floor does really seem like a more pleasant option.
If all this was not irksome enough, then the instrumental tracks, featuring Stanley’s harp, the cello of Robin Pfoutz and, on occasion, producer Tim Britton’s flute and whistle, are firmly set in that part of the musical landscape known as Celtic Tweedom (and don’t blame me for using the blasted ‘C’ word as it is used on the liner’s cover, though what defines a ‘contemporary’ Celtic song is utterly beyond my comprehension). Their versions of Carolan tunes and others, such as Morrison’s Jig, are reminiscent of a bedroom in an awesomely chintzy B&B this reviewer once occupied in Glenties where all the furnishings were pink (including a nauseous pink satin bedspread), the walls were painted pink and there was even a pink knitted poodle dog covering the spare (and, naturally, pink) roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.
There is no doubting that Rick, Robin and Tim are all able musicians, but, forgetting the excruciating songs, Bonny Brave Boys is duller than a dull night in Dullsville. The PR flyer includes a photograph of the band’s new line-up which now includes one Marie Stanley on percussion (so they are now a trio, if this was not previously apparent). Any suggestion that she might add life to the band should be promptly rejected on the grounds that the picture intimates that its photographer told Marie to “beat the hell out of the bodhrán or the fluffy little kitten gets the bullet” such is the grim and contorted expression on her face as she hammers the drum. Meanwhile, Rick dangles himself around Robin’s cello while appearing to be fondling his own genitals and, by his own tortured expression, does not appear to be enjoying the experience.
Don’t be tempted to buy this album even for someone you loathe with an intensity bordering on the murderous!
13th October, 2004
Details of the availability of this album could be provided, but isn’t there enough suffering in the world already?