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Boiled in Lead
40 Years
Review by Chris Nickson

It’s hard to believe that Minneapolis’s Boiled in Lead have been going for four decades – well, plus a year now, but the time keeps passing. Yet, how the hell can they rock traditional music so hard after all that time? But the evidence is there for everyone to hear on 40 Years, recorded live in March 2023, by a new, slimmed-down version of the band that’s as full of spiky energy as if they were all still 20 years old. Must be something in the Minnesota water.

Always a dynamic live act, this is the ideal way to mark their return. Starting out with a fierce gallop on “Bold Lovell,” where singer and multi-instrumentalist Todd menton summons up all the gravel in his voice, the band takes a geographical left turn with some traditional Balkan tunes that offer the newest addition, fiddler Haley Olson, a chance to strut her stuff, and she does it in fine style. It’s a reminder that BiL have been eclectic for many years; they long ago shook off the Celtic tag early in their career, and they careen around the globe with true panache and skill.

Of course, there’s longtime favourite with its local setting, “Death On Hennepin,” which has all the hallmark of a real modern folk song, and a trip into America’s past on “Hard Times.” But it’s with another traditional piece, “My Son John,” that they full unleash the rock monster within, for a piece that roars and burns, leading into the closer, Menton’s “The MicroOrganism.”

Perhaps it’s nothing short of a miracle that bassist Drew Miller – the only constant in the changing line-ups – has kept the band together for so long. But after 40 Years of Rock’n’Reel, they still have plenty to say (and shout). With a new studio album in the works, 40 might just be the new 20.

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