It’s no empty figure of speech to say this Canadian mandolin/mandola master’s debut album was nearly two decades in the making. Maybe you could call it perseverance, or maybe you can call it procrastination, or maybe you could call it both. But in his liner notes, McNulty, who spent 40 years as a journalist, explains that he recorded six of these instrumentals back in 2003 before work, and life, got in the way.
During those years, he played in local bands, promoted bluegrass festivals and hosted a bluegrass radio show on a Vancouver station. It was only recently, after he retired, that he was able to pull together a core of talented pickers and put the finishing touches on Firecracker Day.
McNulty’s originals are, by turns, as whimsical, quirky, soulful and evocative as their titles suggest—“Turtle On The Highway,” “Crow Down The Chimney,” “Moose In The Meadow,” etc.
The title tune is an ode to his grandfather, a World War I veteran who later worked for a fireworks company. McNulty wrote “Down Through The Years” back in 1994, shortly after he last “shook the hand of Bill Monroe.”
On “Spanish Banks,” he delves into a Latin groove on mandola, in accompaniment with Trent Freeman on fiddle. On “Nootka St. Mazurkas” he reels out a traditional eastern European dance tune, backed by Garry Stevenson on guitar, Tammy Fassaert on bass and Caridwen Irvine-Spatz and Greg Spatz on fiddles.
All in all, this is a lively, eclectic and inspired collection that hits the mark time and again.