Sound — 6
Released in 2003, this is the first posthumous (non-compilation) Rory Gallagher album. The tracks were chosen by Rory's brother and manager Donal in tribute to the fact that Rory wished to release an all acoustic 'folk' album. The tracks vary in acoustic style and are taken from all eras of Rory's career; some of the tracks are live improvisations. Much of the album is in collaboration with artists Rory had admired and worked with before. The sound quality is patchy. Some of the tracks are rounded and clear whereas others are not set up properly. This is because of the tracks being pieced together to some degree to create songs out of some of Rory's abandoned works. Acoustic and traditional are the key to this album. Bratacha Dubha is possibly the most far-removed from Rory as you can get. It's an instrumental with Martin Carthy in the vein of an 'Irish-Elizabethan' genre. The best of Rory's guitar work, apart from on the title track comes from the self-penned 'Lonesome Highway' with beautiful acoustic finger-picking and chiming harmonics and the trio of improvised and praise-worthy live tracks; 'Amazing Grace', 'Walkin' Blues' and 'Deep Elm Blues', performed in 1994 with Bela Fleck and his banjo that compliments both artists. It's worth mentioning that the song 'As The Crow Flies' features in the French film 'Blanche'.
Lyrics — 7
Wheels Within Wheels, the title track is the most familiar song; melancholic (perhaps even darker) and with Rory's vocals so full of emotion, possibly at the point of tears. The vocal execution is superb as Rory feels his way through the song, so raw it can cut you up. 'Lonesome Highway' is the only other non-traditional or non-instrumental track on the album of Rory's to surface, again with a melancholic touch. Had the album been blessed with a few more tracks of this calibre then it would be picked up and played more often.
Overall Impression — 7
I'm torn on this album. I'm a massive Rory Gallagher fan and it is a must for the collection. Compared to the rest of the back catalogue it is a disappointment yet just for the sake of the few tracks that I love (and previously unreleased) it is worth buying. On the other hand it also allows yet another audience to access Rory's music. The big name collaborators from other genres, such as Bert Jansch, Bela Fleck, Juan Martin, Ronnie Drew and Lonnie Donegan, ranging from skiffle to flamenco to folk-rock and traditional acoustic. Most of the songs are gems in their own right, allowing a unique insight into Rory's acoustic work and his array of talent in genres he isn't normally associated with, however, many Rory fans have been disgruntled for several reasons; the garish (and some say distasteful) CD cover art of Rory's death-mask, the lack of flow across the album and it misses Rory's distinctive blues-rock electric guitar solos and riffs (which many picked up the album expecting to hear). We all know this was supposed to be purely an acoustic album but all-in-all the one thing that it's meant to be isn't there. Rory.