The Record Stache

River Drivers Fire Up Social-Political Ammunition on New ‘Big Oak Road’ LP

Big Oak Road

Lately Philadelphia has been known to be a city with plenty of music output that is finally gaining recognition on a lighter scale, whether it be nationally or internationally. A good case in point is the indie folk collective known as River Drivers. Not long ago, they presented two singles of their new album and today we have the pleasure of premiering their entire new album, called ‘Big Oak Road’. It releases on Friday but with got the full stream for you today. This was worth the wait as we will soon find out.

Here we have a bit of political commentary much of it based on historical events, bringing to mind the likes of Billy Bragg and The Pogues. On the other hand, we have upbeat fun make-you-want-to-dance rhythms with a Celtic flair, with elements reminiscent of the Vancouver-based band Spirit of The West and Scotland’s primary indie folk daughter Amy MacDonald.

River Drivers is a four-piece whose unique passion-infused style of music draws from Celtic, Americana and Appalachian influences and features powerful and distinctive vocals. Their repertoire strikes a fine balance of original songs and more obscure folk songs, resurrected from deep folk vaults.

Anchored by Kevin McCloskey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass) and Mindy Murray (vocals, guitar, banjo, bass) with accompaniment by Marian Moran (tin whistle, low whistle, concertina, melodica) and Meagan Ratini (fiddle, Irish flute, tin whistle), their high energy music explores pervasive themes of hard-working men and women and social justice.

They earlier offered a taster in the high-energy double A-side single ‘Children’s March (Mother Jones) / Going Once’, two tales rooted in U.S. Irish history – stories of what people suffered through and what they did to overcome.

“These songs are about two mothers from two different worlds, who each left Philadelphia with a group of children. In ‘Children’s March’, we see Mother Jones lead a bunch of young maimed and malnourished children from Kensington to New York to confront the wealthy businessmen who owned the factories where they toiled,” says Mindy Murray.

photo by Ron Donocoff

“In ‘Going Once’, Martha has to find a new home for her nine kids after their Torresdale farm is sold at auction for back taxes. This brave woman Martha was my grandmother”.

Influenced by the likes of Billy Bragg, Christy Moore, Ewan MacColl, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Paul McKenna Band and Altan, River Drivers’ distinct flavour of music is a sum of its parts.

Kevin McCloskey’s passion for songs portraying the plight of working men and women was kindled by a childhood of performing Irish standards with his father, Irish tenor Tommy McCloskey.

Mindy Murray’s works are infused with the music of the mountains and the miners, having witnessed firsthand the struggles of day-to-day life in Appalachia during medical school. Years later, she and daughter Meagan Ratini formed the duo Port Murray. Meagan herself fell into Irish music over many years of mastering instrument after instrument. She became further immersed while helping to run the New Jersey Folk Festival.

Marian’s roots lie in Ardara, County Donegal, an epicenter of Irish traditional music. Whenever she can break away, she steals back to the rugged coastline village to recharge at its nightly sessions and music festivals, eventually bringing River Drivers over to perform.

As of October 18, the album ‘Big Oak Road’ will be available across digital stores and streaming platforms such as Spotify. It can also be ordered via Bandcamp. That same day, River Drivers commence a series of album release celebrations in Trenton and Waretown, NJ, as well as Philadelphia.

Oct. 18   Trenton, NJ (CD release concert) – Tir na nOg (8 pm)
Nov. 02   Waretown, NJ – Albert Music Hall  (10 pm)
Nov. 23   Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia FolkSong Society’s PFS Venue (8 pm)

Kevin McCloskey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass)
Mindy Murray (vocals, guitar, banjo, bass, frame drum)
Marian Moran (tin whistle, low whistle, concertina, melodica, background vocals)
Meagan Ratini (fiddle, tin whistle, frame drum)
Produced by Richard Hartline and Tom Murray of Tulipomania
Recorded by River Drivers and Richard Hartline
Engineered and mastered by Richard Hartline
‘Children’s March (Mother Jones)’ written by Mindy Murray and Kevin McCloskey
‘Going Once’ written by Mindy Murray
Crooked Jack by Dominic Behan
Isn’t It Grand Boys (Look at the Coffin) by Liam Clancy, Pat Clancy, Tom Clancy and Tommy Makem)
Going Once, Si Se Puede, Cumann na mBan, Big Oak Road by Mindy Murray
Moonshiner – traditional
Union Man by Tim Stafford
Farewell Johnny Miner by Ed Pickford

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