You can't judge a book by its cover, especially a holy looking one. The front of The Feargall Family, Featuring Reverend ROQ & JC, features the good rev resembling a cross between a minister--albeit the kind of clergyman who's skimming off the top of the collection plate to keep his El Camino gassed up--and a beatnik trumpet player. In the background is JC looking rather Amish in his overalls and wide-brimmed black hat. And the name Feargall Family immediately made me think of odd-voiced Undertones front guy Feargal Sharkey. So I guess I was expecting some tongue-in-cheek hymns delivered in a piercing tenor, possibly with a roots/country backing.Nope. The Feargall Family turns out to have a lot more in common with the Family Stone than the Carter Family. The 11 songs here blend crystalline pop and punchy soul, with just enough rolling-in-the-aisles funk around the edges to keep a congregation happy. The crisp, percolating opener "Something I Ain't Got," all hooks, joy and handclaps, sets the tone from note one. A couple songs seem to address the musical question: What if, while recording "Ebony and Ivory," Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney somehow morphed into one person?
But the main jumping-off point for the Family is (my) old-school Steely Dan. The album-capping "Firetruck" is the best example, but "Screaming" is at least a kissing cousin to "Do It Again," and it's also hard to miss the near-reggae lope and Pretzel Logic-vibe of the instrumental "Sweet Salvation." There are even a couple of searing guitar solos that recall those that hired guns like Jay Graydon used to unleash for Messrs. Becker and Fagen.
Ace investigative reporting skills--or, lacking those, a well-placed e-mail--will uncover that, true to their initials, Reverend Roq is actually Dry White Toast guy Ric Ricker (bass, guitars, piano, synth, vocals) and JC is former Desmonds leader Jeff Carroll (drums, guitars, piano, vocals). With stuff that sounds this good, there's no need to hide behind pseudonyms, gentlemen.