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Elizabeth McQueen & the Firebrands

Happy Doing What We're Doing (Freedom)

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Feb. 18, 2005

Phases and Stages

Elizabeth McQueen & the Firebrands

Happy Doing What We're Doing (Freedom)

Elizabeth McQueen is full of surprises. Few artists today would record a tribute to pub rock as their second LP. Actually, you have to wonder how many people even know what pub rock is. For the uninitiated, it was an influential UK scene flourishing in the early Seventies that included groups like Eggs Over Easy, Brinsley Schwarz, and Ducks Deluxe. Names you might recognize, like Nick Lowe, Declan McManus (aka Elvis Costello), Graham Parker, and Joe Strummer (RIP), played a loose, unpretentious mix of rock & roll, country, and blues in a circuit of pubs around England. Happy Doing What We're Doing accurately captures the spirit of those bands, which she brands as "roots pop." None of the tunes she's chosen were big hits, though they'll be instantly recognizable by fans of Rockpile, Squeeze, and Costello. The fact that a woman is singing these songs might seem a stretch since men dominated the pub-rock scene, but McQueen's clear and confident vocals adapt nicely, and the fact is she's chosen great songs ("Seven Nights to Rock," "A1 on the Jukebox," "Local Girls," "When I Write the Book"), imbuing them with youthful character. Come to think of it, it should come as no surprise that McQueen and her crack Firebrands identify with these long gone English bands. They were just playing roots music in bars, and that's what McQueen and her band do in Austin on a nightly basis.

***.5

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