A farmer in Inchigeela, County Cork, passes through a cemetery while returning from a fair. A cat approaches him with the request, “Tell Balgeary, Balgury is dead.” Stunned, the farmer heads home, where he shares the bizarre incident with his wife. His own eavesdropping cat interrupts: “Balgury is dead? Why didn’t you tell me?” Though drawn from the Irish folk tradition, the story fits right into former D.C. modfather Ted Leo’s developing aesthetic—a blend of punk, roots rock, and “vocals drawn…from the Celtic/folk well.” So much so, it seems, that Leo and his band, the Pharmacists, saw fit to release it twice—on their last LP, this year’s Hearts of Oak, and on a new 10-song EP, Tell Balgeary, Balgury Is Dead. Those expecting a reprise of that earlier group effort will be disappointed, however: After the title track, the Pharmacists are mostly MIA; instead, Balgeary showcases just Leo’s guitar and his characteristically frenetic vocals. The instrumentation makes for a live-show intimacy, and that quality is enhanced by the inclusion of covers familiar from Leo’s performances. He tweaks Ewan MacColl’s 1946 classic “Dirty Old Town” into a punked-up tribute to his own New Jersey hometown, for example, and reconstructs the Jam’s “Ghosts” with a simplicity that lays bare Paul Weller’s call to “old fashioned causes.” But as solid as these numbers are, they sound unsurprising next to the finest of Balgeary’s tributes, a plucky version of Split Enz’ 1982 semihit “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” that treats the listener to Leo’s dulcet—and clearly heartfelt—Celtic/New Wave yodeling: “Shipwrecked love can be cruel/Don’t be fooled by her kind/There’s a wind in my sails/Will protect and prevail.” New songs here include the salty “The Sword in the Stone” and the subversive “Loyal to My Sorrowful Country,” but Leo isn’t all heavy-heart folky: Though the former’s lyrics scorn rock ‘n’ roll flash, its Craig Wedren-esque vocals and glammed-up guitar would have fit neatly on the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack. And pay close attention to Leo’s sly lyrics in “Sorrowful Country”—”Now that Georgie’s reign’s begun/We can’t be, we won’t be/…Loyal to my sorrowful country.” Whether sharing his problems or all of ours, with a wink or a wail, Leo is one cat who can’t help sending a message. —Anne Marson