• The Real McKenzies – Shine Not Burn

    Label: Fat Wreck Chords
    Release Date: June 22, 2010
    List Price: $9.98
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    The Real McKenzies have been making Scottish influenced punk rock on the eastern shores of Canada since the early nineties and have rightfully earned themselves a pretty solid cult following over the years. They are, after all, to traditional Scottish music what The Pogues (and followers like The Mahones, Flogging Molly and The Tossers) are to traditional Irish music. This is a band that has paid its dues, not just with over a half dozen full length albums and various compilation appearances but more so thanks to their constant touring. Anyone who has had the chance to check out a Real McKenzies live show can tell you to expect a rowdiness on the same level as Gogol Bordello – and that live experience is the focus of Shine Not Burn, their first live recording and second album for Fat Wreck Chords.

    Like The Pogues, The Real McKenzies are quite a bit larger than your average four piece band – in fact, for this recording, which captures the band on stage in Germany at a club called Wild At Heart from a three night stint delivered on August 17-19, 2009, there were no less than nine musicians on stage. Paul McKenzie, vocalist and harmonica player, has remained the constant in the band over the years, but here he’s backed by three guitar players, a banjo player, a mandolin player, a violin player a drummer and, of course, a bagpipe player. This gives the live performance that is Shine Not Burn a very full sound, made all the more appreciable by the solid production and near perfect quality of the recording. Where a lot of live punk recordings can sound suitably raw and sometimes flat out shitty, this one sounds rowdy enough to work but never so shoddy that you can’t understand or appreciate the lyrics and the musicianship. A perfect example is the live rendition of Bastards, a track that originally appeared on their LP Some Scotch To Go With That Irish. Here it’s got that right mix of hardened vocals, tired and maybe a little strained in their delivery but far more authentic because of it. The studio version isn’t watered down, per se, but it’s a little too perfect. The rawness of the live setting just gives the McKenzie’s material a lot more worth and a lot more merit.

    The songs cover a fairly narrow range of topics – Scottish heritage and booze being two popular topics that the opening two tracks (Nessie and Drink The Way I Do) kick the door down with. Traditional numbers like My Bonnie are given their own unique facelift here, while crowd pleasers from the bands catalogue sound great in acoustic format here (most of them were originally recorded with electric guitars). While it’s not uncommon to hear Scottish influenced music that deals with drinking, it is rare to hear it done as well as it’s done on this CD. The band’s style really lends itself well to the acoustic format while McKenzie’s vocals have a world weary sound to them that provides a welcome authenticity to the content. When he sings about drinking, you get the impression that he really means it. Anyone even remotely impressed by their studio offerings should waste no time picking this one up, as their live set mops the floor with their standard albums. If you don’t find yourself wanting to raise a glass or two while this album plays out, there’s probably something wrong with you. It’s infectious and frequently catchy as Hell and there’s really no reason not to check this out.