Back in 1700, Scottish outlaw James MacPherson, sentenced to death for his freebooting crimes, composed a final song and offered his treasured violin to anyone who would play it at his execution. When no one volunteered, he smashed his instrument over the hangman's head and leaped off the gallows ladder.
Centuries later, Tullamore accepts his challenge with the sprightly "MacPherson's Rant." The Kansas City group's latest, Wild and Wicked Youth, presents plenty of uncompromising characters who share MacPherson's resolve and his fate, from the Scottish lass burned at the stake for her tryst with an English lord to "wild colonial boy" Jack Dolan. In Irish-wake fashion, most of these traditional Celtic numbers evoke a much cheerier mood than the subject matter suggests.
Tullamore has shuffled personnel since 2004's One for the Road, and though a few faster-paced tunes miss the rhythm of the goatskin drum, new member Rachel Gaither possesses a gorgeous voice and quick fiddle fingers. Tullamore's annual March 17 gig at O'Malley's Pub in Weston looks like the area's best bet for an authentic St. Patrick's soundtrack.