Rackhouse Pilfers’ second album Love and Havoc was released in March 2014. Their last album Back to the Country was an impressive showcase of their rootsy Americana charm. There have been some minor line-up changes in the interim, but this has not made any difference to the quality or style of the music. While their debut album chiefly characterised a sense of frantic and utterly enthusiastic dancing songs, Love and Havoc moves in a new direction. The spontaneous and unstudied aura of their first album still remains, but now tempered with a much more mature, laid-back sound. This latest effort also includes some original work; a change from the assortment of covers which comprised their last record.
The first track on the album Dust on the Road gets off to a crisp and rousing start. This song is a move away from the structural base of the last album, which presented as five soloists playing in tandem. Dust on the Road however, plays more like a traditional singer plus band arrangement, which is in keeping with the genteel style of bluegrass espoused by this new album. The vocal effect therefore, is no longer muffled and buried under the instruments, but rather given centre stage as an instrument in its own right. This new approach to the vocal style is continued throughout the record, notably in Bright Lights, which showcases a more sophisticated method of introducing backing vocalists. A strong Sligo accent can be clearly discerned in this track, which has the effect of grounding the song in a relatable and familiar place. Gone is the shout-along feel to the debut album, the backing singers are instead given distinct harmonies with which to contribute to the communal and collective impetus of the song.
The change in vocal methods is not the only modification made to Rackhouse Pilfers sound. Lyrically and stylistically, they have developed a sincere and genuine warmth which bolsters and complements the more dance and movement driven elements to their repertoire. Songs like Angela, Fallen Leaves, Lorraine and A Sailing Song all demonstrate a burgeoning profundity, whether it be the nostalgic Fallen Leaves or the adoring and affectionate Calico Sky (incidentally both penned by violinist Fiachra Cunningham). Two Oceans and Another Dirty Joke, both of which distinctly channel The Band with their quintessentially twangy and loose style, add to the well-roundedness of the album. The final song I’ll Find a Way is definitely one of the highlights of the record. Addictive and memorable, it has all the elements of a classic.
It could be said that Rackhouse Pilfer are taking steps to become a more serious and thoughtful outfit.
They have moved away from that recorded-in-a-barn sound, and morphed into something slicker and more polished. The tunes are still endlessly infectious and danceable, but with the introduction of heartfelt self-penned songs and a more mature and measured approach to their musical choices results in Rackhouse Pilfer really coming into their own as a band.