Street Dogs singer Mike McColgan was the original frontman for Celtic punks the Dropkick Murphys. Before that, he was in the Army and served during the first Gulf War. Afterward, he was a Boston firefighter. Now he's really gone above and beyond the call of duty on his current band's fourth album in five years. With the kind of organic punk-rock edge that often eludes the Murphys, State of Grace plays like Boston's answer to Social Distortion. McColgan's travels left him brimming with tales about blue-collar characters, ranging from remorseful drunks to rehabilitated felons. The strident "Into the Valley" strikes a perfect balance between yo-ho sing-along and scarred street punk. From old-school history to modern-day events, the CD contains the kind of political streak rarely heard since the Clash. "Guns" takes aim at the NRA; with classic-rock guitar hooks, "Rebel Song" suggests that labor unions are a solution to the recession. And on the few songs that recall the Murphys, the singer's Boston brogue remains as powerful as ever. The rocking "Two Angry Kids" and acoustic "Free" will have even the most badass barroom bruiser spilling a tear or two in his Guinness.
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