Founded in 2013, Irish-American folk rock band Sláinte dug its foundation in Boston. Born in Boston College’s very own Vouté Hall, the band performed its first show at a St. Patrick’s Day “darty” in the yard of Mod 37A. The band consists of eleven members––Brady Conley ‘16, Zack Bolles, Andrew Rodriguez, Steve Smith, Mike Perillo ‘15, Stephen Sunshine, Jon Harrington ‘15, James Harrington ‘15, Pat O’Donovan ‘16, Kevin Smith, and Ed Cardenas–each playing various instruments from acoustic, electric, and bass guitars to organs, tin whistles, banjos, and fiddles. Calling the likes of The Dubliners, Flogging Molly, and The Saw Doctors their leading inspirations, Sláinte brings a softer, rounder-edged take on the raucous Celtic punk more widely consumed.
Sláinte’s newest album, Up Down 95, respects the camaraderie of Irish-American punk musicianship, blending the debaucherous textures of its inspirators with the softer revelry of the traditional Irish pub. The first tracks, “Up Down 95” and “Drunken Lullabies,” open much to the effect of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” a vibrant entrance into what is largely a mild-mannered album. For “Irish Whiskey,” the band’s expansive eleven member roster is bolstered by vocalist Annie Cheevers. The smooth ballad embodies the singing-with-strangers pub experience.
Originally written by Bruce Springsteen, Sláinte’s cover of “Atlantic City” is a welcome twist, styling itself after the rendition of the song on The Band’s Jericho. Sláinte’s cover brings the trappings of modern Irish folk to the storytelling of Springsteen’s lyricism, creating a refreshing look into the group’s ability to cover rather than simply copy those it finds inspiration in. The performance of traditional celtic folk song “The Musical Priest” pays homage to the roots of modern Celtic punk. Much to the same effect of “Atlantic City,” it maintains the band’s creativity in making songs their own by adding a fuzzy guitar solo. Though busier than one might hope, the solo brings a startling, but not uncomfortable freshness to an otherwise simple piece.
“Boston Girl who Fled to New York” and “Streams of Whiskey” close out the album’s track list. The former lends itself to the sensibilities of warm, last songs before venturing off into the midnight cold of Boston winter. The latter yearns for an encore, the return of sonic fervor heard not many songs prior. In many ways, this ordering feels like a mistake, as though the entire work was yet unfinished or unbalanced.
Even so, this shouldn’t be seen as a misstep. It’s fair to say that the album’s inner workings are in no way immensely profound or analytically exciting. But that isn’t the goal of a completed work like Up Down 95. Music need not always comment on the happenings of the day’s politics or the treachery of public figures–sometimes it’s best if the music lets the listener know it’s time to relax and unwind. Up Down 95 tickles the sonic taste buds with minimal throat clearing and revelry through and through. It may not burn the house down, but it certainly lets you know it's time to let loose and have some fun.
Up Down 95 comes out on Sláinte’s Soundcloud March 11, 2022. You can find out more about the band and its roots at their website SlainteTheBand.com, and their social media accounts with the same handles. While the genre might not seem exciting to everyone, don’t let it dissuade you from giving the group a listen. Up Down 95 is an absolute mood booster and a great way to lift your spirits–it just might be the soundtrack to your next night out!