The Westies are named after a notorious Irish related gang that held sway around Hell’s Kitchen in New York in the 1960s and ‘70s. The six piece band is fronted by Michael McDermott and Heather Horton and includes (on this occasion) guitarist Joe Pisapia and keyboard player John Deaderick. The album was recorded in Nashville and produced by the band’s bassist Lex Price. The songs are presumably written by McDermott although there is no writing credit on the actual CD. They are story songs that draw from the dark end of the street. They could be said to be in the same ball park as Bruce Springsteen, but you can also add the likes of Graham Parker and Elliott Murphy to list of acts who have a sound that is a mix of rock, r ’n’ b and roots music. McDermott has a rough hewn voice that is convincing as conveyor of combatative city culture.
The songs follow a cycle of slow paced intensity that features both the voices of McDermott and Horton to good effect. McDermott has previously released a series of solo albums and has been honing his writing skills over a period of time that shows in this album’s strengths. None of the songs clock in at under the three minutes mark and several run over five minuets. However all hold the attention and create audio world that runs in the head like a gritty movie.
Titles like Hell’s Kitchen, Death, Fallen, Bars and Devil set the tone for a musical cityscape that takes you into places you may not want to walk on your own. But here the Westies guide you through the urban jungle and its inhabitants.There’s no way that you won’t recognise the strength of these songs, even if the general sound has many precedents. They are memorable and delivered with a conviction that directly relates to the experience of the assembled players. They tell stories that have their roots in a tradition of tales of romance and myth, of reality and truth. You won’t find anything here that breaks down any musical barriers, rather, this is a simple and direct realisation of some really good music.