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Mike Ireland and Holler

Try Again – 2002 (Ashmont)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Mike Ireland and Holler

It's been a long time between releases - four years, seven weeks, and five days, to be exact - for Mike Ireland & Holler, but the band's new release in a sense takes up right where its predecessor left off. That debut explored the emotional fallout of a recently failed marriage-Ireland's marriage. The recurring theme on this record is that such heartaches can hardly be avoided: at least in this life "happy never lasts," Irelandsings, and love is delimited by time or by death. Yet there's also a bent-but-not-broken kind of hope and resilience here: human beings will inevitably, can only, seek to find happiness in love in spite of its temporality and in the face of past heartbreak, will find the faith, as the title track puts it, to try again.

The songs here (all original, save for a thematically appropriate cover of Ireland favorite Charlie Rich's "Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs") beautifully articulate both sides of this equation - the heartbreak, and the trying again - and they do so musically as well as lyrically, through Ireland's continued predilection for the perfect enhancements of strings, through the fine playing of the current version of Holler and the sweet pedal steel of country-rock titan Buddy Cage, and most of all through Ireland's voice, which has become an instrument of amazing expressive force. It took him four years plus to do it, but Mike Ireland has made another remarkable record. (10A Burt St., Dorchester, MA 02124)