Boiled in Lead: 17 March 2001

Jack Merry wrote this review.

Boiled in Lead are, without any doubt, one of the best live Celtic/punk/balkan fusion bands on the planet bar none. Confused yet? Well, let’s have Chuck Lipsig in his essential Boiled In Lead omnibus give a go at explaining them: ‘The problem when writing about Boiled in Lead is how to describe them. Rock and Roll? Punk? Blues? Jazz? Traditional? Which tradition? They’ve done everything from Irish to Albanian to Vietnamese to American Traditional. Indeed, there have been few constants with the band. They’ve had three different lead singers and the same number of fiddlers. They’ve had dozens of musicians and singers backing them up on various tracks. About the only consistencies, besides their name and eclectic nature, have been Drew Miller on bass and the fact that the band has been based in Minneapolis.’

Now the music archives have everything they’ve done including, and I’m quite serious about this, the Serbian ‘Bunny Hop’ which is the B-side of the ‘Fuck The Circus’ 45.

17 March 2001 is an extremely limited release 2-CD set recorded at Boiled In Lead’s annual St. Patrick’s Day concert at First Avenue in Minneapolis. How limited? Would you believe only 60 sets were made? That’s what Drew Miller claimed in a conversation by email with our Editor. If that is true, it may one of the rarest recordings of them ever made…aside, of course from the 1999 & 2000 show recordings, which were home-made burn jobs with a total run of around 30 each. And it almost certainly means that this recording will end being traded widely on the peer-to-peer networks. One could also imagine a client of Sparrow in the future Minneapolis of the Bone Dance novel asking him to find this rare artifact. I suspect Sparrow’d find it a difficult task!

Their concerts are legendary among those who knew them at their peak when they were active in the Minneapolis area. They toured heavily between 1994 & 1996, though not often enough for hard core fans…and earlier in the 90s played more shows outside of the US than at home. They have played all-acoustic sets at McCabe’s in Los Angeles and the Mean Fiddler in London; now they only play once or twice a year, including their annual St. Patrick’s Day concert at First Avenue in Minneapolis where this was recorded. (The First Avenue club is indeed one of the places where Eddi and the Fey from Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks novel played) First Avenue has been described by Billboard thusly ”In the fluid, frantic, and often frustrating business of running a music club, there are few longtime survivors. Minneapolis’ First Avenue is one room that has beaten the odds.’ It provides the perfect setting for a much beloved band, a fanatical crowd, and a sound techie (Greg Reierson) who both recorded and mastered this set, though Drew points out that and the house sound mix by Tom Cesario had a lot to do with the overall sound. Hot, noisy, and definitely wired — both the band and the crowd were in top form.

I’m weird in that I like live recordings no matter how shitty they are. That does not, however, mean that I do not appreciate a brilliantly mastered live show that captures the essence of a band on a great night. I’ve heard other recordings of Boiled in Lead live that we have here in the office, i.e. the Farmstock tapes, but this is the first great live recording of them I’ve heard.

This version of Boiled In Lead is Robin ‘Adnan’ Anders on drums and percussion, Drew Miller on bass guitar and dulcimer, Adam Stemple on guitar, mandolin, and vocals, and David Stenshoel on fiddle. None of the female musicians who have been part of the band are now involved, but Jane Dauphin can be heard on Boiled in Lead and Hotheads. Neither does Todd Menton, the original BiL vocalist, appear here.

Damn near every Boiled in Lead track that I wanted to hear them perform live is here: ‘The Pipers’ Departure’, ‘Snow On The Hills / Banish Misfortune / Walls Of Liscarroll’, ‘Bring It Round’, ‘Sota’, ‘Step It Out Mary’, ‘Guilder-Ska’, ‘Black Crows / Sally In The Garden’, ‘Sher’, ‘Drowning’, ‘Castle Kelly’, ‘Hide My Track’, ‘Dandelion River Run’, ‘O Ya’, ’15 / Hungarian’, ‘Newry Highwayman’ (which should’ve been paired with ‘State Trooper’ but wasn’t), ‘Cunovo Oro’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘Sidi Boumedienne’, ‘Abdullah & Sven’s’, ‘Rasputin’, ‘Salt Krik / Madman Mora Blues’, ‘Whiskey Was My First’, ‘Kennedy Jig’ and ‘Jamie Across The Water’. The Tim Malloys (Adam Stemple’s current band) join BiL for a couple of drunken Irish songs during the encore (tracks 22 & 23), and the concert finishes off with the slow air ‘Jamie Across The Water’. The only cut I wish was here that is not is ‘The Man Who was Boiled in Lead’ but they seemed to have stopped doing that when Menton left the group.

There’s not a single thing that I can complain about here. Well, yes there is. There are almost no frelling liner notes beyond noting the band members and a listing of the tracks! Nothing. Come on lads, you can do better than this! Now I realize that this release is most likely only for really, really hardcore fans — all sixty of them who actually manage to purchase it — but some of us like liner notes! Sheesh!

The bottom-line is that if you like Boiled in Lead, you want this. Really. Truly.!

(DeSelby Productions, 2002)

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