‘Tales From Hard Luck Town’ is the debut album from Belfast based band The Dandy Horses and it follows on from 2014’s successful ‘Hat On The Sun’ EP.

Opening with ‘Hard Luck Town’, the sound of a solitary church bell ushers the listener into a spaghetti western feeling foot stomping song that features clever lyrics full of social comment about the peril and pit falls of life that often land undeservedly upon us all as a result of the actions of others.

Beware the politician man and those who work for banks. They’ll empty out your pockets and expect you to say thanks. And when you’ve nothing left to give you’ll join the homeless ranks in Hard Luck Town. Oh when you’re down in Hard Luck Town.

‘Space to Roam’ is a gentle Irish country rocker that features some catchy call and answer vocal delivery. Another tale of life portrayed in the lyrics as the protagonist in the song is portrayed as emerging from a difficult time and aiming towards positive again.

I’ll find new shores to walk upon with my head held high towards the breaking dawn. New paths untried, let my heart be my guide. Each step I take I`ll be reborn.

‘Starting Over’ is a beautiful ballad which suits Joanne Cassidy’s vocals perfectly. A song about a massive change in life, which here takes the example of moving home. Think back to how you felt leaving your first family home or flat and this song nails it.

I know home is more than brick and wall and that brings me some comfort through it all. And I`ll take me you and little boy blue and we will start over again.

‘Stone In My Shoe’ continues the humorous and observational lyric theme with its clever wordplay, which is used to great effect here to take a side swipe at someone who’s clearly been ejected from a controlling relationship. The opening harmonies that greet the listener at the introduction make the hairs on your neck stand up.

So fare thee well and goodbye forever. I`d wish you well but just don’t think I should. And when you’re gone I really hope that it’s forever. You`ve been nothing but a stone in my shoe.

Recorded and produced by Michael Mormecha at Millbank Studios the sound and mix are perfect. Layers of harmonies overlap and intertwine with an array of instrumentation. Flute, whistle, violin, and banjo are used to great effect and every instrument can be heard clear and sharp while augmenting the guitars bass and percussion.

‘Hydebank Hotel’ is another uptempo tongue and cheek song that details the time when you just know you’ve had too much and gone too far while under the influence. We dare anyone who listens to this not to relate to it somewhere.

Here I stand in Rosie`s court. Too much booze and too much sport has left me all out of sorts. Fight broke out. I can’t recall. I hit you then I hit the wall. I`m a girl who likes to brawl.

‘She Said’ is a favourite on the record. An Irish murder ballad that’s full of love and jealousy, a tale of a controlling husband who pushes his wife over the edge. Joanne’s vocal delivery here is supreme and haunting. With sparse backing instrumentation, she delivers a classic Irish ballad that screams out to be heard in a smoke-filled pub in front a peat fire. It’s also a nice reminder that most Americana murder ballads have their roots in the songs and stories that sailed across the Atlantic ocean in ships full of Irish immigrants.

See now I’ve caught you my love why resist. I know you love me too so show me or I’ll insist. Is that a blade I see gripped tightly to your side? Don’t be a fool my love and she swings with all her might.

‘One Reason’ closes the record with a dark and hypnotic brooding tale of lust. Noeleen Cosgrove perfectly delivers this one in which sexual tension over rules common sense.

The smell of skin and the taste of your lips in the heat and warmth of the night. Losing my way as I fall down and pray don’t let me give up this fight.

‘Tales From Hard Luck Town’ is a very clever record that’s full of observational humour based on real life experience. The writing is so good that each song tells its own story much like a mini soap opera and we’ve only scratched the surface of it in this review. There’s a clear embracing of Irish traditional music and some might say identity in the sound of the record and, while the record leads the listener into to some dark places it also takes care to deliver them out again.

The many talented multi-instrumentalists in the band have gelled together through touring and the confidence gained from their many live performances is in evidence here not in only the quality of the lyrics and music, but also in the delivery.

Information on how to buy the record and details of a special launch party on the Belfast Barge on the 13th August can be found on  The Dandy Horses’ website.