Eventually, however, the scene is bound to move to Ireland, where Kirwan’s bug for Irish politics leads him a bit off course. Esoteric references riddle songs like “Rosemary (Nelson),” a tribute to the slain civil rights lawyer, or the folk ballad “Red Hugh,” about the rebel 16th-century Celtic chieftain, and the songs lose their way in reiterating old grievances. But Kirwan’s impish sense of humor resurfaces “The Lost Tapes of Hendrix,” a shaggy tale involving a secret cache of master tapes, a Dublin bank vault, and an American schemer bested by the canny Irish. A droll vein of old music hall comedy runs through the “Wedding Reel,” featuring Kathleen Fee in a saucy duet between a slacker husband and his spitfire wife.
Like many an Irishman before him, Kirwan’s got a sentimental streak a mile wide. Witness the nostalgic “The Islands,” a homesick look back at his Wexford home, and the impossibility of retrieving the past. You don’t need to be Irish to get a little tearful at “Bás in Éireann,” the lament of petty thieves deported to Australia, or Kirwan’s rendition of the plangent Irish folk classic “One Starry Night.” (Kirwan comes this close to murdering that beautiful ballad – but he’s so damn earnest, you almost forgive him. Almost.)
Bankers and Gangsters is a genial grab-bag of songs, and though it's no Major New Statement, I’m guessing that the Black 47 faithful won’t care. Nor should you. It’s the rollicking spirit of the album that matters — that’s always been Black 47’s secret ingredient, and Larry Kirwan and company deliver the goods yet again.