Described as not so much a final curtain call as a magnificent encore, Besieged sees singer, songwriter, poet, playwright and frontman with McDermot’s 2 Hours, Nick Burbridge, deliver a spectacular swan song. And if you are unfamiliar with the name it’s a band that certainly deserve their moment in the sun and an overdue reappraisal. The Pogues may have caused more controversy, The Levellers attained more fame, The Oysterband more critical accolades but it was McDermott’s 2 Hours that was out there first, fusing the beauty of Irish folk sounds with the fire of punk in the bars and venues of Europe. Today such a scene is taken for granted, maybe seems an obvious meeting of sonic ideas but someone had to sow the seeds and M2H proved to be the missing link between the more traditional sounds of bands such as The Dubliners and the punk folk boom that is still doing a roaring and raging trade today.
It seems fitting that he again teams up with people who managed to step through the musical door that he helped open, namely Jeremy Cunningham and Simon Friend from The Levellers and Dil Davis and Al Scott of The Oysterband. What Besieged captures so well is the Irish experience of the 60’s and 70’s, a time when many had travelled across the Irish Sea for work on the mainland whilst longing to return home and treated with suspicion and contempt as The Troubles raged in the communities that they had left behind.
Lyrically it oozes with the language of Beckett, Joyce, Yeats and the often unrated pen of Shane McGown and musically it wanders sure-footedly between many genres often leaning further into one or another as it sees fit. This Child has a gritty rock groove, all dynamics and drama, Forlorn Hope wanders through Leveller-esque folk-punk territory and The Damned Man’s Polka is a slice of fun and frivolity. And alongside such jaunt and jollity there are also moments of sheer gorgeousness, such as Erin Farewell’s sweeping majesty and the haunting, drifting final offering The Ring.
McDermott’s 2 Hours and Nick Burbridge’s songwriting changed the musical map. It took folk out of the back rooms and social clubs, gave it new energy, made it cool and set it on a path that today sees bands such as The Levellers, Ferocious Dog and New Model Army playing to massive festival crowds. It is fitting perhaps that this last chapter draws some of those people together for one last session and also delivers some of the best music of Nick’s long and illustrious career. The perfect full stop at the end of a most eloquent and inspired musical chapter.