The Phantom Tollbooth
November '98 Pick of the Month

Livin' It Up When I Die
Artist: The Electrics
Label: 5 Minute Walk/Sarabellum Records
Time: 11 Tracks / 38 minutes

For most of this century, tenors warbling "Danny Boy" have defined the sound of Ireland worldwide. Claiming ancient authenticity, Celtic music has pushed aside such sentimental slop, but the other popular musical form, the Irish drinking song, as practiced by the likes of the Chieftains or the Clancy Brothers, is still great fun. The Electrics fit right into this second tradition, cranking out a rollicking amalgam of Irish good time music for toast raising and heel kicking.

Take "Have a Jar on Me," a lively ballad about a wedding reception that almost ran dry until a new source of wines was discovered. Or "Party Going on Upstairs," where a downstairs neighbor is shocked to discover:

 And the blind were showing up to see what's goin' on,
 And the hungry for a banquet fit for kings.
 The lame kept me awake with their dancing all night long,
 And the ones who couldn't speak started to sing.
This is also a good-times CD with a compassionate side. "Rolling Home" assures:
 Is something missing from your life, come to me,
 I'll be waiting for your call.
 And when you feel you can't go on, come to me,
 I will lift you when you fall.
Yes, The Electrics's intent is to intrigue listeners, who prefer their entertainment with a pint of beer, enough for them to wonder whether or not they, too, have an invitation to the party. This may be the most radical departure form conventional contemporary Christian music imaginable, but it's never preachy, and always great fun.

Their second 5 Minute Walk release, Livin' It Up When I Die is The Electrics first specifically created for the label, the other being mainly a re-packaging of the best from earlier independent releases. This time Phil Maderia was imported from Nashville as producer. A friend of the band, he brought along his Hammond organ and accordion to fill out the band's colorful sound. Although fiddle, penny whistle, mandolin, highland and Irish pipes weave in and out of the standard rock band lineup like cords in a Celtic knot, The Electrics aren't purists. They are perfectly willing to draw on other good-time genres like surf guitar and zydeco.

Musical styles better suited to barrooms than sanctuaries may alienate many Christian listeners, but if they can get past the style they'll find a rewarding project rife with thinly-veiled references to Christ's life and work of redemption. One of the more heavily veiled references is found in "Raggle Taggle Gypsy," a traditional ballad of a wayward bride choosing shame and poverty over marital comfort. Her husband searches for her to restore her to her rightful home, and is soundly rejected. Wisely, the
spiritual connection is left up to the listener.

The Electrics keep it light, up beat, and extol the joy of simple pleasure throughout their tunes. In "'Til I'm Old," Sammy Horner sings, "…so I've got more than I could want; to keep me ‘til I'm old." Lest the listener think those satisfying good times are something they'll take from an evening in a barroom, Horner spells out the secret, "A heart of love and a faith that's true; are better more than gold." The author of that faith throws some great parties.

By Linda Stonehocker  (10/7/98)

Ten years and five albums down the line, The Electrics are still releasing albums that would make many of their juniors blush at the energy. Last year the band were unleashed on a mostly unsuspecting American public with a compilation album which contained many of their best tracks, even if it wasn't quite balanced enough sonically to keep every listener going the whole way through. This all-new album gave them a chance to make a more balanced recording, and they've certainly taken many of the right steps.

Ideas about heaven seem to be a recurring theme on this album, and the opening track is a case in point. Based on the parable of the great feast (Luke 14), it manages to mix hope and truth in with some shrewd phrasing and a lot of fun. "Party Goin' On Upstairs" is a good old-fashioned folk-rock song with plenty of fiddle and mandolin over Sammy Horner's distinctive vocals released by Sarabellum as the first rock single from the album.

A standout for me musically for me would have to be the second track, "Rolling Home," with its fluid pipes and warm feel. This one is possibly closer to some of their older material than some of the other tracks that push towards a slightly brighter feel.

If the strength of this album is anything to go by, their U. S. record deal certainly seems to be suiting the Electrics. Folk-rock studio albums are notoriously difficult to get right but this is one of the better releases of its sort I've heard in recent years, so grab your glass and have a jar
of the Electrics.

By James Stewart (11/10/98)