King Puck is a pleasantly mellow Irish folk record. It was apparently recorded as a result of a collaboration between Christy Moore and the ubiquitous Irish music guru Donal Lunny. Moore explains in the liner notes that "during 1992 Donal Lunny and I initiated arrangements on a large body of songs. Some of the notes we played and some of the ideas we had are to be found on this album." The conceptual approach behind most of the arrangements seems to be to take it slow and easy. Moore adopts a hushed vocal tone throughout; sometimes, as on the mournful "The Two Conneellys," he sings so quietly that the volume has to be raised in order to hear him. Even the faster comic numbers are handled with unusual restraint. The soft and lilting guitar and accordion arrangement of "Sodom and Begorra" lends witty understatement to lines like "Salthill after dark is like Sodom and Gomorra/ There's people doing things tonight that they'll regret tomorrow." Moore picks up the pace on "Johnny Connors" and the subsequent instrumental title track, but never compromises the album's light mood. The only song that seems in need of a brisker treatment is the 13-minute finale, "Me and the Rose." It is a charming and funny bit of storytelling that was clearly written with live performance in mind. In fact, the last verse was recorded at a 1991 concert in Dublin, and features an enthusiastic crowd singing along to a well-known Irish folk tune. It's a little jarring to hear the crowd after ten studio tracks; "Me and the Rose" might have come off better if the whole song included crowd response. As it is, Moore seems a little lonely. The experience is a bit like listening in on a rehearsal. Even so, it's a pretty great rehearsal, and it makes a fine capper to an album full of gems, like the beautiful cover of Jackson Browne's "Before the Deluge." ~ Evan Cater
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