Michael DeAngelis, Son of a Donigan (October Eve, 2004)
The John Doe Thing, Freedom Is (Twah!, 2003)

Here are two singer-songwriters for whom the company they usually keep -- the New York Irish-American Bar circuit and the L.A. punk scene -- may be strange bedfellows. But the talents of these two rise above what you might expect from these particular musical backgrounds.

Michael DeAngelis is the voice of Hair of the Dog, a vibrant New York-based Irish band who have played the club, bar and festival circuit for many years and released some fine albums. Away from the ballads and drinking songs that Hair of The Dog performs year-in and year-out there lives a singer-songwriter. That's the premise of Son of a Donigan, a collection of original songs inspired by the Irish-American emigrant experience and the lives of second-generation Irish Americans who grow up with a vision of Ireland given by their parents. The album works in a memorable folk/soft-rock vein -- nothing too dangerous in the musical stakes, no beat boxes, etc., just rock-solid musicianship that envelops de Angelis' melodic voice. 'Baltimore' and 'Angel from Armagh' take their cues from Bob Dylan circa Desire with Sara Milinovoich's fiddle work recalling Scarlet Rivera's wondrous violin work. 'Lost in Cork' deals with chemical fallout and is given a suitably world-weary reading. Richard Thompson's 'Galway to Graceland' fits into the package successfully.

For those unfamiliar with deAngelis' work outside of Hair of the Dog, Son of a Donigan comes as a surprise and a very nice one.

John Doe, founder of L.A. cowboy punks' X, issues Freedom Is on the German Twah! label. Doe's laconic vocals and the spiky guitars and raw garage rock sounds work together to create a sound that is melodic yet angst-ridden and powerful. 'Catch Me' starts things off in relaxed mode with Doe's floating vocals riding on top like on an open roofed Cadillac. Sampled beats introduce 'Some Day/No Day' that starts quietly but reveals a fiery chorus, spitting guitars and rock-steady drumming. Exene Cervencova contributes backing vocals on 'Ever After', adding extra weight and bite, and the guitars growl convincingly. Freedom Is is angry, emotional, confrontational, sometimes all at once; whatever, it's good . . . and leave any preconceptions at the door, please.

[John O'Regan]