In the wake of the Pogues and years before Celtic punk became a trendy thing with bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, the Tossers have been trying to perpetuate the long-standing tradition of Irish music since the beginning of the `90s, but with an edge this time. Using only traditional instrumentation composed notably of a mandolin, a violin and a tin whistle, they focus a lot more on the folk aspect of things, but often playing as fast (if not faster) as their punker contemporaries. On a Fine Spring Evening is the third output of the band on the label Victory Records, and the only good batch of releases by the label in quite a long time.
While Agony had an undeniable melancholy to it (not surprising with such a title), On a Fine Spring Evening is the Tossers' most upbeat and uplifting record ever. It's hard to listen to a lot of these songs without feeling warmer inside (and, of course, without tapping the foot to the catchiness of these songs).
The album starts with "Katie at the Races," a song that shows what the Tossers are about, mixing energy and speed with a catchy melody. Many might remember the song that follows, "Teehan's," for it was on their live CD/DVD released earlier this year. It's nice to hear a recorded version of it, with a clearer sound and better arrangements. Two songs later, we get to hear an Irish classic, "Rocky Road to Dublin." If it sounds familiar to you, it's normal since a punkier, heavier version of the song can be found on Dropkick Murphys' Sing Loud, Sing Proud. The next song, "Whiskey Drives Me Crazy," is definitely one of the highlights of the album, and might as well be the fastest song they ever played. The Tossers have always been strong on ballads, but this album doesn't contain that many. "St-Stephen's Day" is the only song that could really be considered a ballad, actually, even though the album contains other songs that are more on the slow side. This time around, it's not one, but two instrumentals that made it onto the album. But it's all right; both are great and are a fine demonstration of how good this band is musically.
Lyrically, they address the themes you can expect on a Tossers album, but also more unexpected ones. You can be sure they'll sing about alcohol and lost love, but also Paula Spencer, the famous Irish poet Brendan Behan and much more.
A disappointment on this album is that their banjo player, Clay Hansen, is nowhere to be seen (or heard). The other Tossers try to make up for it, and while they're all good, it's hard to ignore the absence of such a good banjo player. Tony Duggins' vocals are still awesome, going from melodic to energetic when and where needed and adapting perfectly to the nature of the song. A highlight on this album is Becca's violin playing, which takes a more important place this time around. It's also hard to forget Aaron Duggins' tin whistle, also more present than on the previous albums.
While their move to Victory had disappointed a lot of their followers, they redeem themselves with On a Fine Spring Evening, which is their best album in a long time. If you've been a fan for long enough, you know that they don't reinvent the wheel on this album, and you can be sure the next album won't be any different. However, their albums are never quite the same either. On a Fine Spring Evening feels happier and more uplifting than their previous albums. It is not to say that it is a bad thing however, since all songs on this album go from good to very good, without ever crossing the line to average.