Based in Medway, The Dredgermen comprise of Patrick Engelbert, Brendan Esmonde, Peter J Weller and Josh Carson, the four-piece apparently sought inspiration for their self-titled debut album in the sort of traditional Irish songs that might be heard ringing out during a lock in at some back street pub. I can’t say that’s an image that came to mind while listening, nor the ‘ale-soaked Simon & Garfunkel’ as one review put it. Rather they struck me as urban shanties, sung in an accented nasal vocal occasionally reminiscent of Billy Bragg. That said both Shallow and No Option But To Die both have a touch of flamenco in the DNA.
Featuring guitars, mandolin, bass, harmonica and percussion, they ply acoustic folk with an appealing rough edge on frequently nautically-informed songs that variously embrace relationships (the strummed Man Overboard with its maritime images of love), life at sea (Le Camaret is about being sea-sick in storm aboard a French lobster fishing boat from the 1800s while The River has a drunken sway-a-long chorus of lets go down to the bay, jump on my vessel and let’s sail away) and even meditations on the nature of man, deftly wrapped up in the lurching carousing stomp of Be I A Man, Be I A Beast?
Not everything measures up, but one of the strongest tracks is Tommy which, introduced by a blowing whistle and featuring mandolin, is an arms-linked swaying anti-war story inspired by Engelbert’s great-grandfather’s exploits during WWI and which surely sports the influence of Eric Bogle.
Dredgermen plied their trade working from a boat that dredged debris such as mud, coal or even corpses from rivers. Occasionally, they might just find something of real value. These lads have.
Review by: Mike Davies
The Dredgermen is out now, order it via Bandcamp: thedredgermen.bandcamp.com/album/the-dredgermen