Market Square 2018
Frighteningly intense splicing of country tropes onto blues ropes from Norniron’s noisemaking trio.
There’s something unsettling about “Scarecrow”: appearing today, when complacency has fuddled the fibers of many a music style, this record rips the cloth of it all to reveal a raw nerve that, quite possibly, only particular geographical points can possess – or be possessed with – and Northern Ireland is one of those. Not for nothing, perhaps, the only borrowed piece on display here is “I Can’t Be Satisfied” because it would be difficult to find a better reflection of the group’s restlessness than the Muddy Waters’ classic, whipped into a frenzy to match their own songs. And the racket the ensemble’s members are able to raise is truly rapturous.
Excitement levels get set up high thanks to bluegrass strum and skiffle scrape of “Mean Town Blues” where mandolin and washboard vie to grasp the listener’s focus before Lonesome Chris Todd’s exclamatory vocals kick in, so there’s no escaping this emotional, urbanity-dissing urgency, as a slider roll smoothes out the group’s anxiety only to go for unison in “Lonesome Thread” which is as elated as a solitude hoedown can be. Trance-inducing repetition may not sit well with less balanced souls, yet it’s the feature that will drive the band’s barnyard-Bible message home on the epic finale “No Stone Unturned” – having turned “Little Too Late” into a delirious voodoo parade through an organ-swirled swamp.
Genuine sadness doesn’t belong on this album, though, so a rousing vortex of “Charger Swing” drowns Richard J. Hodgen’s drums and Dave Thompson’s bass in a blissful brass morass – stricken with piano ripples and communal spirit – while the mojo of “Jojo” has a pure Appalachian vibe to its run, and “Sometimes” wraps a chopped clang around cheeky heaviosity. Still, the result of it all feels scary, and if there’s a need for a Halloween soundtrack, this trio are ready to provide one… or two… or three.