Missing in action for too long, Brighton based The Mountain Firework Company have finally released a follow up to their 2012 release, The Lonesome Losing Blues, and it’s been well worth the wait. This five piece band perform an incredibly listenable brand of bluegrass and Celtic influenced folk music and at various times they can remind the listener of Ronnie Lane, Fairport Convention or even Lindisfarne back in their Fog On The Tyne days. They’re a great unit and live can be quite incendiary as several appearances at Celtic Connections have shown. The Beggar’s Prayer is no great departure from their usual style and finesse as they variously skirl and weave through several up-tempo numbers along with several more introspective pieces which investigate matters of the heart among other topics.
The band is comprised of front man and writer Gareth McGahan who plays guitar and banjo, along with Grant Allardyce; drums, Brian Powell; guitar, Simon Russell; double bass and autoharp and Mike Simmonds; violin, viola and mandolin. Together they create a fine din belying their acoustic set up while they are also well able to switch tempo mid song adding a fine dynamic sense and swing to the proceedings. McGahan meanwhile has the knack of writing memorable tunes along with catchy choruses with all band members adding their voices while he possesses a fine voice with a soft northern Irish brogue to it. The result on The Beggar’s Prayer is 14 numbers which roll easily from the speakers, some rousing, some more melancholic, but all immediately attractive.
Like A Fire opens the proceedings with a flourish. A whirlwind of fiddle infused folk rock, it’s a grand start and a guide to several other songs in a similar musical vein such as Refugee, A Long Time Ago, Ready To Run and the epic Hello Stranger. There’s a more down-home raggle taggle element to Come Back and Spare Change, two songs which recall the late Ronnie Lane as does the title song which is more mannered in an old time tea band style. The band’s instrumental prowess is well to the fore on The Gravedigger’s Lament which has a great percussive beat along with gypsy like fiddle and their bluegrass influences are well evident on If Only and How Long. Meanwhile there’s the melancholy of One More Time and Come Back, two songs where McGahan is the abandoned lover. Almost hidden within the track list is a short instrumental, The Fish And The Crow, a tune reflected in the album’s artwork and which allows the band to create, albeit briefly, a wonderfully sad and reflective moment.
Like an old friend appearing at your door after an absence, The Mountain Firework Company are back and you should invite them in.