Feb 082024
the scratch Sally MacLennane cover

The Scratch hail from Ireland. Like so many Irish musicians, they were greatly affected by Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan’s death in November. The band had been playing around with a cover of “Sally MacLennane,” an upbeat celtic punk song that was the second single from The Pogues‘ second album. The song’s title is the name of a stout and the song is a celebration of the Irishmen who had to work outside of Ireland. Once The Scratch heard of MacGowan’s death, they decided to start performing the cover live and now they have released a video.

From the moment it starts, it’s clear The Scratch’s version of “Sally MacLennane” is going to be different. The original begins with a drum fill which is immediately joined by classic Irish instrumentation including a tin whistle and accordion. The Scratch’s version begins with a slowly strummed, low-tuned guitar. It is soon joined by another guitar and a pounding drum.

The band plays the song as if it was a funeral dirge. Guitarist Jordan O’Leary sings it like a lament, rather than a celebration. As their cover progresses, his voice is joined by the others, as if they were a group of mourners. Some distorted guitar is added and, about two minutes in, the pace picks up slightly. About two and a half minutes in, the band rocks out as if the song were a hard rock or even metal song, though that only lasts for a moment. Lead singer and drummer Daniel Lang takes over for part of the next verse before the rest of the band joins in again.

The result is something between folk and doom metal, though clearly closer to the folk side. It’s a complete rethinking of the song and the mood is suitably somber, given MacGowan’s death as the inspiration to take their cover public.

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