In 1990, the Saw Doctors, an obscure band from the rural backwater of County Galway, topped the Irish charts with their second single, "I Useta Lover." It remained in the No. 1 slot for nine weeks and became the biggest selling Irish single ever at that point. They play the sort of roots-rock that has seldom dented the American charts since the E Street Band disbanded, but the Saw Doctors' roots include a large dose of Irish folk music as well as American rockabilly and British pub-rock. By 1997, the group had gone on to release three hit albums and an EP, scoring three Top 30 British hit singles in the process. Even though they toured America three times, the Saw Doctors never had a U.S. release until Sing a Powerful Song
was released late in 1997.
Culled from their previous Irish releases, this 17-song compilation makes a strong case for the Saw Doctors as one of the world's most appealing roots-rock outfits. The quartet plays with a loose-knit affability that de-emphasizes flashy solos and sonic innovation in favor of joyful gusto. This could easily lapse into bar-band clichés, but the songs written by the band's two singer/guitarists are too good for that. Davy Carton and Leo Moran have a sharp eye for mixed emotions and lyric detail, which they marry to bouncy melodies. They lionize Ireland's "N17" in much the same way Bobby Troup once celebrated America's "Route 66," but Carton and Moran are smart enough to balance the romance of the road with an acknowledgment of the price it demands. In "To Win Just Once," they have crafted an anthem for the losers of the world, and in "Same Oul' Town," they have mixed affection and frustration in their portrait of their provincial hometown. --Geoffrey Himes