by Steven McDonaldArbiters of a style thats been variously called celtopunk and rock & reel, Boiled in Lead originally consisted of Drew Miller (bass), Jane Dauphin (guitar, vocals), fiddler Brian Fox, and a drum machine known as Amos Box. This lineup played a handful of gigs around the Minneapolis area. As of St. Patricks Day 1983, the band had expanded to include drummer Mitch Griffin and fiddler David Stenshoel. This lineup recorded the 1985 bOiLeD iN lEaD, an energetic self-produced, self-released LP that hit the Celtic folk market like a rocket. BiL might well have played traditional music as part of their repertoire, but the format and delivery was anything but traditional. Second guitarist Todd Menton joined the band in 1985 after an encounter with Miller at an Irish session led him to sit in with the band for a few gigs. It also led to a change of instrument for Menton, who had been playing saxophone up to that point. The expanded lineup set to recording their second album, Hotheads, in the summer of 1986, but by the time the album was released in early 1987, both Griffin and Dauphin had left the band. Hotheads received a Minnesota Music Award for Best Celtic/Bluegrass/Folk Album of the Year. Old Lead compiles both albums onto a single CD. Griffin was replaced by drummer Robin Adnan Anders, whose style took in everything from straight-ahead rock to complex Middle Eastern structures that helped influence the direction of the band. BiL spent much of 1987 touring, heading into the studio at the end of the year to record From the Ladle to the Grave, which moved away from the loud Celtic approach to add Eastern European, Russian and even African material to the bands repertoire. Cooking Vinyl then signed BiL for European distribution. The album was released in April 1989, and proceeded to win another Minnesota Music Award, this time for Album/CD of the Year.The band was back in the studio in early 1990 to record Orb, working with Hijaz Hank Mustapha from the fairly like-minded 3 Mustaphas 3 (who signed to BiLs Omnium Records label for the Friends, Fiends & Fronds album). Fiddler Stenshoel had officially exited the band at this point, but did have a guest spot on the album. Once again, BiL displayed some stylistic movement, this time towards a more acoustic tone, although things could be quite loud and electric, as Tape Decks All Over Hell proved handily. For live shows through the end of 1991, Stenshoels place was filled by Michael Ravaz on fiddle and bouzouki. Josef Kessler took over the fiddle spot as of 1992, with his first recorded appearances occurring on the limited-release live cassette, Boiled Alive 92. The band made limited live appearances through 1992, and in November of that year Todd Menton left, to be replaced by Adam Stemple, formerly of Cats Laughing, a Minnesota band with strong ties to the science fiction fandom community, a connection that would have a distinct bearing on later work. Stemples first recorded work came with the thunderous Antler Dance, recorded in the summer of 1993 with Frank London in the producers chair. The album reintroduced hard rock elements with a vengeance, with a cover of Bruce Springsteens State Trooper getting a gruff treatment that would warm the cockles of Neil Youngs heart. An assortment of other material kept up the Celtic and world music sides, even as a riotous cover of Boney Ms Rasputin aimed straight for the heart of audience appeal. BiL also released a single, the no-airplay-guaranteed Fück the Circus, backed with Raca (Bunny Hop).This accomplished, the band hit the road for two years worth of electric, acoustic, and house concerts, taping shows here and there. 1995 yielded a collaboration with Steven Brust on Songs From the Gypsy, an album of songs by Miller and Brust based on the Steven Brust & Megan Lindholm novel, The Gypsy, the text of which was incorporated into a CD-ROM section on the disc. Once again, the band shifted directions somewhat, with the biggest influence on the music being Hungarian, though the overall feel was a mixture of hard rock and heavy folk, more in keeping with Brusts own style. The connections with Minnesotas strong science fiction community had come full turn.Since 1995, BiL have kept up a reasonable touring schedule, though band members have been involved with other projects — Drew Miller is working for Eastside Digital, heading up Northside Records attempts to gain a U.S. foothold for Scandinavian music (following Omniums release of Garmanas Vittrad), while Robin Anders has released solo recordings and instructional percussion videos.1998 brought about the release of a BiL compilation, Alloy, that once again firmly demonstrates the Boiled in Lead directive of never being boring in direction. While it includes several cuts taken directly from the released albums, it consists in the main of alternate mixes, demos, outtakes and live cuts (including Brusts ode to Scottish overindulgence, Puking in the Heather). Its a sometimes raw, sometimes rude, sometimes smooth and glossy look at a band that never rests on either its laurels or a body of traditional music. A second compilation, Alloy 2, is a two-CD set available only through the fan club.It seems very likely that Boiled in Lead may someday be seen as one of the more interesting and important bridges between world music and rock, with an influence that stretches far beyond its actual record sales.