Ballyrag – Where the Ocean Meets the 10 (CD)

Mixing the catchy rhythms of a jam band with the alternative sound of the mid-1990s, Ballyrag makes an album that is innocuous and bubbling with energy. Coming to the table with omnipresent bass guitar, Ballyrag first bands a good impression with individuals on “Sweet Things”. In this track, a surf rhythm is mixed with classical Spanish music to create a style that transcends the conventions of both the genres. “Johnny Adkins” follws up “Sweet Things”, and this is the beginning of where Raif starts to go in a verbal rut, only coming to prominence in this track for reaching the happy medium between rasp and smoothness that makes Mark Schultz so endearing. Moving quickly onto “Nothing Ever Changes”, a track which has nothing out of the ordinary besides the additional vocal ornamentations scattered through the song, Ballyrag have in the space of 4 songs reached the limits of their musical versatility.

While the bag of tricks that Ballyrag have to work with is extraordinarily small, the fact is that the music contained on “When the Ocean Meets the 10” is at all times hook-laden and able to be sung along with. “Druids” is a track that tries to change the paradigm that the band works under, incorporating a country influence to the mix, but really doesn’t get far away from the rest of the tracks on the disc. “Edge of the World” starts off more introspectively than the rest of the songs on the disc, with a piano flirting along with Raif’s voice. Even in something so serious, like “This is the place where you died/Isn’t it pretty/And this is the bed where you lied/Here In the City”, Raif’s voice is still hopefully, and eir’s penny whistle flitters around the track like a butterfly flutters around even at the most inopportune times.

Ballyrag is a band that always has the immaculate timing, the solid sound, but in no way experiments with the boundries of their music, and as such, the disc suffers. “Where the Oceans Meet the 10” might be a disc with some of the most beautiful tracks to be found on it, such as “Texas”, but without this desire to experiment and improve their sound, Ballyrag will be a static entity, forced to repeat the same formula day in and day out. “Where the Ocean Meets the 10” is an album that mixes jazz, funk, surf, traditional and alternative musics, and operates like a stone picking up speed – slowly at first, but when the listener gets to “Sara”, the best track on the disc, they will be bowled over by the pop sensibilities of Ballyrag.

Top Tracks: Texas, Sara

Rating : 6.0/10

Ballyrag – Where the Ocean Meets the 10 / 10 Tracks / 2003 Self-Released / http://www.ballyrag.com / Reviewed 26 February 2004

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