The County Affair - Off The Grid
The story of County Affair is almost a song in itself, Tony Regan and Kevin Brennan, having had a band in their twenties and then packed it in to become successful in their chosen careers, they now find themselves reversing the process and putting their work to one side to once again take up music.
The key drive to whether of not this was a good idea comes in the shape of "Off The Grid", 13 slices of Americana with a penchant for drinking and the odd occasional death along the way. Whether or not you'll like this will depend very much to how you take to Tony's vocal style, part spoken part sung, he veers from being a narrator or assuming the persona of the character of the song he happens to be singing.
The album kicks off with "Man Of Note" a bluesy Country tune which showcases Kevin's guitar skills, as Tony relays the tale of an alcoholic, who blames everyone but himself for his demise.
"A main in despair i'm a man beyond repair
Got a problem I know what to do
Have a drink, well maybe one or two"
Even when he has a job as a mechanic he finds himself sacked for sleeping on the job.
Alcohol is laced throughout this record like a Christmas cake, appearing on nearly every track in one forma or another.
In "Beach" the tale of a man pondering his woes after killing the love of his life, it turns out that he was a drunk driver. It's a curious song which mixes happier flashbacks with a somewhat matter of fact retelling of the accident which occurs on seeing a deer on a wet, back country road.
"I steered hard to the right
Sent us into a ditch, you to eternity"
It also details the shell of the man that remains "Lost my anchor now you're gone" and is all wrapped in a nice country ballad tune that belies the somewhat grim subject matter.
Never is alcohol more to the fore than on the excellent "Bourbon Breakfast" which spells it out in gruesome detail. It Is Tony's finest performance on the record, the grim retelling of his daily regime plays out against the plaintive vocal on the chorus where he all but screams "It's killing me inside! - It ain't helping me to hide - I'm still so terrified"
Complete with a great guitar solo, and a sumptuous mix of piano and organ, this is The County Affair at their finest.
The mix between a jaunty tune and downbeat lyrics is something that The County Affair do well, "The Seaview Inn", something of a drinkers "Hotel Caifornia" that you can go into and seemingly never leave, is a case in point, The accordion gives the tune an irrisistable charm as we hear of the regulars and about the pub called the Seaview Inn with no views!
The further you go into The County Affair's world, the more you find yourself immersed with the characters within their songs, which are painted vividly and bold. The albums closing track "Go Tell Your Father" details the breakup of a farming family in 1916 with one of the farmers sons announcng that farming life was not for him. with the drama playing out to the jauntiest accordion you could ever wsih to hear. While "The Waitress" details the love story between a musician and a waitress which begins with high hopes but ends when "fame come tumbling down".
As a reintroduction to the Americana scene "Off The Grid" is an unqualified success for The County Affair, quite unlike anything else yet equally seeming able to fit right in.