INTERVIEW WITH GARETH OLVER FROM THE AUSTRALIAN RADIO SHOW ‘THE CELTIC PUNKCAST’

We never shut the feck up about how brilliant Australian celtic-punk is so we are pleased as punch to present to you this interview with Gareth from the Celtic Punkcast radio show. He gives the lowdown on who the movers and shakers are over there, what its like living in the bush and a whole lot more.

“The best Celtic punk, Celtic rock & folk punk from around the world on this podcast”

Right we have always said that the Australian celtic-punk scene is the best in the world and that the bands in it are as well. When any idea how the celtic-punk scene started in Oz? Who were the first bands, the first concerts or festivals. Who from overseas made the biggest impact?  It’s a pretty good scene over here that’s for sure. We definitely have some world class acts here in Australia. When it comes to Celtic Punk I guess it’d be artists like Roaring Jack who got the scene going here, they were contemporaries of bands like The Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. There’s always been a strong folk and celtic scene here, bands such as Claymore who wouldn’t necessarily slot into that Celtic punk pigeonhole have been playing trad influenced music at places like the Port Fairy Folk Festival for years and they help introduce Celtic music to larger audiences. As for overseas bands that have made big impacts, obviously The Pogues were and still are really well known and popular and bands like the Dropkick Murphys are massive worldwide. The Murphys have had a couple of tunes used by the Australian Football League as well. Most people know Flogging Molly as well. In terms of influence, I’d say The Dubliners had just as bigger influence as anyone though, especially when it came to people staying in touch with their roots via music.

(We asked Gareth to pick the three best videos to represent Aussie celtic-punk and his first choice was ‘Riot On Race Day by Shambolics)

Who are the main players in the scene at the moment? Are you all missing The Rumjacks?  Oh yeah, we definitely are missing them! Honestly I didn’t realise how big The Rumjacks are outside of Australia. Probably after them would be The Go Set, The Ramshackle Army and even artists like The Dead Maggies do a great job holding down their part of the world. It’s been great to see some Oz bands get over to the states in recent years as well as over here too. In fact we see more of you then we do American bands!

The massive distances between cities in Australia must cause lots of problems for touring and networking but does this also mean that you have developed a certain sound or way for each area independent of each other?  Interesting question and one I probably don’t have the knowledge to answer. I think that social media and the internet in general makes networking so much easier. Anyone can find bands in any part of the world which is very cool. As for touring, I don’t really know, might have to ask Benny Mayhem about that one, he’s a Perth lad! Funny enough it was Benny himself who told me that when he was over in the summer!

You run a Celtic-punk radio show? Whats the deal behind that? How does it work? Give us an idiot proof way to listen to it.  Well the easiest way to listen is to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or follow on Podbean. Most podcast catchers have it on there though. Podcasts are great because of the convenience of them, you can listen whenever and wherever you want. The other way to catch the show is the weekly show on Blues & Roots Radio, which is a fairly large online radio network. Putting together a one hour podcast/weekly radio show usually takes me a couple of hours, between getting music sorted, the actual recording, editing and post production. Once I’ve done all that the podcast gets uploaded which can take about 30 minutes to an hour depending on whether Podbean is being cooperative or not. The weekly radio show when it’s done gets sent to Stevie Conner, who’s the head of BRR in Toronto and he slots it into the schedule. My show is meant to merely be a showcase for the bands who make such great music and there was a bit of an opening for another Celtic punk podcast. There was already some awesome shows like Paddy Rock, Irish Power Hour and the Shite’n’Onions podcast, so if I could complement them I’d be stoked. 

How did you get into celtic-punk? Do you have Celtic ancestors. A hell of a lot of Aussies do so do they make up the bulk of your audience?  Like most people my age it was probably the Dropkick Murphys who were my gateway band to the genre. First song I heard was The Warriors Code on a compilation CD and it just pumped me right up. From there I discovered bands like Flogging Molly, Flatfoot 56, Blood Or Whiskey and The Tossers who are probably my favourite band. I do have Celtic ancestry, my family came to Australia from Kernow (Cornwall) and I also have Welsh in there too. My wife’s heritage is Irish and Scottish so my kids almost have the Celtic crescent covered! As for the audience, it’s really a mixed bag, some from Australia, a lot in North America and some from the UK & Europe. Anyone who wants to listen is more than welcome wherever they’re from.

You’re based in Victoria but is there much of an Irish community there? People say that the Irish diaspora is smaller but has there been a noticeable decline, especially with emigration from Ireland still at peak levels? It does seem to me that here in London the new arrivals are not interested in Irish music. They seem to be wealthier and emigrating for ‘fun’ and in their gaps year rather than to escape poverty like in the past.  I am a Victorian, I live on a property about 200km west of Melbourne, in the Grampians. Spectacular part of the world. Where I live has a population of between 350-500 people, so only a wee place. Some parts of the state like the south west you really notice the Irish influence, especially in towns like Koroit, Casterton and Killarney. Koroit and Killarney both have yearly Irish festivals. We still see a lot of Irish people come to Australia, but mainly backpackers or students. The Irish mates I have for the most part are fans of Celtic punk, and they all still have that appreciation for the trad stuff too which is cool. It’s when it comes to shite like Ed Sheeran I call them out!

Gareth’s back garden!

I would like to think so but does it follow that celtic-punk fans also listen to folk from the past or present?  Honestly, I reckon it depends on the individual. If they come from families that played that sort of music when they were growing up then they probably do, but perhaps people who were punk fans first may not necessarily listen to folk or trad. But if they don’t then I’d encourage them to give it a go, there’s some great bands out there playing folk and trad.

Which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music?  I think the standard answer would be The Pogues, who no doubt have been extremely influential on a number of bands, but I’d say you’d be looking at bands like The Dubliners, The Wolfe Tones etc who were the ones that bands like The Pogues were listening to. Even bands like The Clash that embraced different styles of music and had success with it. There’s probably plenty of unsung heroes as well, like the venues that gave some of the bands that become legends in the Celtic Punk scene starts when they were just beginning.

(Gareth’s second Aussie celt-punk BIG hitter is a new song from The Bottlers)

There’s always been a big debate about celtic-punk and whether or not it is cultural appropriation and politically correct for non-Irish bands singing about the Irish getting pissed and fighting and pubs and what have you. Personally I love it. The idea of the likes of Indonesian or Brazilian bands getting into The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones after listening to the Dropkick Murphys. I mean its not like The Dubliners ever wrote a song about getting pissed is it? I think its just a case of snobbery but do you think it’s ok?  It doesn’t bother me too much at all, especially if it teaches people a bit about the history of the Celtic nations and Celtic people. It also helps keep the culture alive, if people from South America or Eastern Europe for example are inspired to take up the pipes or tin whistle after listening to the Murphys or Flogging Molly then that’s great. I get some people’s issues if all they see is the drink and fight stereotypes getting perpetuated or if it comes off like that faux Celtic Irish pub stuff that The Rumjacks described so perfectly but for me if people are respectful of the music and culture and they learn a thing or two then great. Honestly I’d love more people to know the Celtic history of my Cornish heritage, so if people dive in further and expand their knowledge how could that be a bad thing? Totally agree. The ideas behind ‘cultural appropriation is bad’ can be dangerous. That people cannot share cultures or even haircuts is absurd or maybe it’s just that we Celts have thicker skins?

Gareth with Jimmy from Shambolics

As we said many times we really love the Aussie take on celtic-punk. What do you think sets it apart from the celtic-punk of say the North America or Britain? It seems to have a very strong working class ethos and a Aussie slant that I can’t quite put my finger on but involves having fun and being serious at the same time, being full of mischief and after all any country that calls mates cunts and cunts mates is not half bad!  Interestingly enough I spoke a bit about this with Jimmy from the Shambolics not too long ago, he’s an Irishman who has lived in Australia for a long time and played in bush bands when he was living in rural areas. Australia has a long Celtic history, we the Celts were the ones brought out here after English colonisation and built the framework of what became Australia. They didn’t have the musical instruments from home, so they had to make do and create instruments like the bottle cap stick. They created a fusion of traditional style music with instruments created from necessity which became the bush bands that still survive in a small way today. The Australian way was we were a people who always kind of thumbed our nose at authority, enjoyed a laugh but would stand up for our mates and believed in the fair go. That spirit lives on in in the Celtic and folk punk music that comes out of this country. We as Australian people have had different experiences to people in North America and Europe and it shows in the music. When my wife was in Australia in her teens she said that she saw parliament on the TV and the MP’s were swearing at each other. That tells you what kind of place it is. My kind of place!

Celtic-punk nowadays. It seems to us that the scene over there is massive. There does seem to be more bands than before. Is this right is the scene bigger? If it is bigger has that made it more commercial/mainstream?  No I don’t think it has. Outside a couple of bands like the Dropkick Murphys and The Pogues you get blank responses to other bands. Outside the Celtic Punk scene in Australia a band like The Rumjacks are pretty well unheard of by the mainstream. Although I did hear a Go Set song on an ad the other night during the cricket so who knows?

the friendly neighbourhood wallaby

Who do you think are the best Australian bands and their best records? The ‘essential’ place to start in Aussie celtic-punk?  Well for me, I really like The Rumjacks, The Go Set, Shambolics, The Currency, The Bottlers, The Ramshackle Army, The Dead Maggies and Benny Mayhem. If people were looking for some Australian Celtic Punk albums I’d start with the Rumjacks debut ‘Gangs Of New Holland’, man that is a fecking fantastic album. Also, ‘Rising’ by The Go Set, ‘Riot On Raceday’ by The Shambolics and the new album from The Bottlers. My three year old daughter also told me to mention the Pogue Mahone album by the Shambos too, she has a meltdown if that CD gets changed in the car!

Any Aussie links you would recommend?  Honestly the best thing to do would be to check out the websites, twitter feeds and Facebook pages of some of the bands. The Triple J Unearthed site also has some good unsigned artists, just search for Celtic Punk on there and discover something new.

(Gareth’s third video this time from The Go Set who have darkened these shores many a time and each time with a growing fan base)

We are just about to publish our Best Of list for 2017 so what were your favourite releases of the year? Any you looking forward to in the coming months?  Man last year was a great year for albums in these genres, any year you have new albums from most of the big guns like the Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, The Tossers, The Real Mackenzies, Flatfoot 56 etc is a bloody good year, but my  favourite release for 2017 was ‘In It For Life’ by Black Anemone. That was a kick arse album. Loved the new Tossers album as well as the ones released by The Kilmaine Saints, The Peelers, Matilda’s Scoundrels, Craic, Dreadnoughts and The Bottlers. The new Real McKenzies album was great too. For 2018 I’m looking forward to the new album from 1916 and the new stuff The Mahones are releasing. Four new albums this year apparently! Yeah plenty of bands there that feature in our Best Of 2017. Stay tuned!

Thanks for taking time out of your schedule so all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug the Radio show and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank? Been my pleasure chatting to you guys, thanks for your support of the show, I really appreciate it. So subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave a review or hit me up on Twitter, Facebook or email me. Check out the schedule on Blues And Roots Radio as well to see the weekly shows schedule. I’d love to thank anyone who’s listened, chatted, shared the show and supported it, especially the bands who’ve supported the show as well as Stevie, Annie and Neil from BRR for giving the show a bigger audience and of course London Celtic Punks, Waldo from the Celtic & Folk Punk blog, the Mersey Celtic Punks, shout out to big fans Peter, Erin and Jennie and to anyone I’ve forgotten sorry. Oh and of course my wife and two girls. Can’t forget them.

You can listen to the latest January edition of the Celtic Punkcast at the link below. Simply cli for just over an hour of the best Celtic-Punk of the past and the present.

To find previous editions visit the web-site click the link

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If you as interested as I am in Australian celtic-punk then two sites worth checking out on Facebook are Aussie Celtic Punks and Australian Folk Punk Scene.

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ALBUM REVIEW: FEROCIOUS DOG- ‘Red’ (2017)

In every musical scene every now and then a band comes along that is so good they threaten to break out and become the next big thing. That band is Ferocious Dog and that they have got to where they are solely on their own merits and without any sort of backing is simply incredible. Ferocious Dog are on the brink of something special and their new album Red will only speed them there.

Where to start with Ferocious Dog? I first came upon their name a few years ago whispered quietly upon the internet. They were formed way back in the day but for some reason they raised few eyebrows on the celtic-punk scene despite playing some of the best kick-arse celtic-punk rock you are ever likely to hear. Maybe they were missed because they were tucked away up north or we had them pigeonholed as a punky Levellers or a folky New Model Army and while those comparisons may be true there’s a whole lot more to the Ferocious Dog phenomenon than that. Originally formed back in 1988 as a duo with Ken on vocals and acoustic guitar and Dan on fiddle it wasn’t until 2010 that they took the step to becoming a full band.

It was the famed, and sadly now defunct, Paddy Punx website that first brought FD to my ears. The web site that upset every Celtic band in history by providing free links to pretty much every release by anyone that ever called themselves celtic-punk. Their description of the band as ‘English celtic-punk’ is not an oxymoron trust me and was enough to get me scurrying to my laptop and start downloading their self-titled debut album. From the very first play I knew I had to track this band down. That was back in early 2013 and you knew you were listening to something special straight away. Here was a band that bridged perfectly the folk and punk/rock scene’s perfectly. Since those days their star has risen higher and higher with the release of their acclaimed second album From Without and a bunch of absolutely brilliant EP’s and singles.

For Ferocious Dog it was the year 2015 that saw their promotion to the Premier League of alternative music. The release of From Without accompanied by two awe inspiring singles, ‘Ruby Bridges’ and ‘Slow Motion Suicide’, and a near sell out tour that went from one end of this sceptred isle to the other and across again culminated in a sell out performance in their, near, home town of Nottingham at the famed Rock City venue. The first time in that esteemed venues 35 year history that a unsigned band had sold out the venue in advance! One fan explained

“For me it felt like a real watershed moment for a band I’ve had the pleasure of following for the last few years. It feels like this gig was the moment things might change, they have integrity and strength and a loyal following”

Headline spots at Glastonbury followed and in the years since they have become a de-facto headliner for festivals to fight over. Any festie appearance guaranteeing bums in wigwams. Constant touring has helped to cement their position even if it did mean saying goodbye to two of the original Hounds who helped them on their way, Scott Walters and Ellis Waring.

Ferocious Dog: John Leonard- Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar, Bouzouki, Tin-Whistle, Uilleann Pipes, Accordion and shouting! * Ken Bonsall- Lead Singer/Acoustic Guitar * Les Carter- Lead Guitar * Dan Booth – Fiddle * John Alexander- Bass * Scott Walters- Drums

All this and without even a tiny bit of support from the record industry… and not for the want of either. Ferocious Dog are that rare thing. A band with integrity and belief. Yeah you read that right these guys have been courted by the industry and they have chosen the DIY route. No one controls the bark of this dog! The punk scene is notorious for having bands within it making all the right (on) sounds but the moment any interest is shown they are off like a shot with any principals and convictions left chucked to the floor in the haste to get on board the gravy train. None of that holds any sway for Ferocious Dog and they continue to plough their way through the alternative music scene gathering up more and more fans as they take England (and now the Netherlands!) by storm.

With new members on board, Les Carter, from indie Gods, Carter USM, multi-instrumentalist John Leonard and drummer Alex Smith, and all now firmly bedded in, Ferocious Dog have just released their third and latest album to the world. Titled Red it continues where From Without left off with more of their punk rock infused folk/Celtic sounds but with a more mature feel to it. Everything seems a progression in the FD camp from their gigs to their records and even their merchandise! The six piece band take in elements of punk, rock and reggae and mix it up with Irish and Celtic folk music and biting social commentary that comes from the ‘shop-floor’ not university lectures. The band hail from around Nottinghamshire, a working class area that once was famed for its industry and among the areas most important was coal-mining. In the famed 1984-85 miners strike the majority of Nottinghamshire’s miners sided with the government against their own trade union causing splits among friends, family and work-mates and it’s no exaggeration to say that civil war was breaking out in many mining communities across Britain. My own father worked at a coal mine across the border from Notts in South Yorkshire and never spoke to his strike-breaking brother again, not even attending his funeral. Real life experiences that shape and change minds and whole communities. The politics on Red are from the heart and from the working class. From where real politics come from.

One of the things that has enabled Ferocious Dog to achieve what they have done is the high degree of loyalty they bring out of their fans. Known as ‘Hell Hounds’, taking their name from a song from their debut album, its not unknown for fans to follow the band around the country from gig to gig and its a loyalty that is well deserved. A friendly bunch who make every gig an event and their lively mosh pits are welcome to all. Having seen them play now countless times I can assure you that the Hell Hounds make sure every gig is different and while it is, and always will be, better to see them in a small venue it doesn’t get better than seeing this wonderful bunch live! The first time I saw the band in a packed Half Moon in South London I still managed to have a quick chat with two of the band members after the gig they seemed to know the entire audience by name! Always accessible and available and with a real interest in what’s going on in the scene few bands have the following that Ferocious Dog deserve to have. 

Ken and Dan- original Hell Hounds

Red begins with ‘Black Gold’ and there’s no holds barred from the very beginning with this song telling of the role of the British Empire in slavery. Kicking off with some amazing mandolin before fiddle and electric guitar announce the arrival of the whole band into the fray. Ken has a very strong voice that is clear and precise and his northern accent shines through. I’ll try not to mention that word (catchy) too much in this review but as that word could have Ferocious Dog next to it in the dictionary it may be hard! This is followed by ‘American Dream’ and a bit of a first here in that I think it may be the first song that a proper video was shot for.

This is where the real celtic-punk kicks in. The first few songs remind me of San Diego celtic-rockers Lexington Field and it comes together perfect with superb fiddle driving the song along. ‘Spin’ is up next and begins as a straight up Irish trad tune with tin whistle and fiddle and is a real lyrics heavy track about the state of the country as Ken puts the boot into the Tories. One of the things that Ferocious Dog are famous for is their own compositions but they always throw in a couple of well placed covers and the first here is a version of Steeleye Span’s ‘Black Leg Miner’ that fair raises the roof. It first appeared on their album Hark! The Village Wait back in 1970 and the lyrics spit bile and give an insight into the contempt felt by striking miners and their communities to the weasels who stabbed them in the back.

“Across the way they stretch a line
To catch the throat, to break the spine
Of the dirty blackleg miner.
They grabbed his duds, his picks as well,
And they hoy them down the pit of hell,
Down you go, we pay you well”

The songs origins lay in the Durham coalfields of the 19th century and Ferocious Dog with a sense of their own history have certainly chosen well here. It’s perfect FD fodder with its slowly sung verses and frantic and manic chorus giving the audience plenty of chance to singalong before the moshing starts!

The next track up is ‘Together we are Strong’ and will soon I am sure become a firm live favourite. Catchy as hell and a real fist in the air shoutalong rather than singalong. Pleading for unity among the poor and dispossessed it’s not one of my favourites here but I’m sure the Hell Hounds will lap it up. It just seems a bit formulaic for me still it’s an upbeat number that is designed for the dance floor not critics tapping away on their laptops! So five songs in and the pace has been relentless with the band refusing to let up for a second so we were due a slower song but ‘A & B’ still came as a bit of a surprise. The change in pace is not unexpected but what a song! Up there with the best that they have ever recorded. Fiddle player Dan takes over on the vocals with simple but effective backing from John on acoustic guitar in a beautiful song about “the hardest story to be told”Inspired by visits to Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps in Poland the song has few lyrics but packs more in than any on this album. Ending with mournful fiddle that brings the song to an end.

We are back in proper FD territory again with the next song ‘The Enemy Within’ and again its a song dedicated to the miners and the strike. For a year the miners held out against a government determined to not only break them but to smash them. The miners went from “saviours of a nation” to, as Thatcher christened them, The Enemy Within. In France as the last coal mine close the miners were lauded as they rose from the depths of the earth. They were feted on live TV and the whole French nation paid tribute to these brave hard working men who faced death every time they left home for work. Here as the pits closed they simply threw the miners and their families onto the scrapheap and did absolutely nothing for the communities that relied so heavily on the industry.

I look around and all the mines are gone, I felt the need to put my feelings into song, You dare to tell me now the miners were all wrong and yes I am your enemy”

So yes a lot of anger and rightly so. Starting with military drumming it soon turns into a potted history of mining over a typical FD mosh friendly Celtic rocker. We are rolling up towards the end now and ‘A Place I Want To Be’ is a bit of a shocker with Les taking on lead vocals and having always been a huge fan of Carter USM it really made my day when they first announced he was joining the band. The song begins slow and gentle with Les picking away on an acoustic guitar before it explodes into action and any tale of a relationship breakdown deserves a bit of passion before it returns to just Les and his guitar. Now many seasoned celtic-punk fans may give a little sigh at seeing ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya’ on the track listing but to be fair it’s possibly not a song that well known to the FD fan base. While many celtic-punk bands have given it a whirl (none have bettered the ‘rebel’ version by Easterhouse by the way here) it’s not particularly well known outside our circles. I’ve a tonne of family in Athy and spent many a summers day there escaping farm work and trust me they never shut up about this song! Here they start off gentle with the Celtic instruments to the fore but its not long before the band have all joined in and turned it into the celtic-punk dance fest its always destined to be. This is followed by ‘Small Town Hero’ and by Christ it’s the album standout for me. A chugging bouncy punk rocker with some lovely fiddle work. Despite Ken’s accent it has a feel of early Dropkicks to me. Maybe its the gang chorus of ‘Heys’ but it’s a real belter of a song and sure to be another live favourite with pints and fist thrust to the air. We have arrived at the end and the curtain comes down on Red with a real surprise number. FD have often flirted with reggae but here they go for a seven minute epic bastard of a song titled ‘Class War’. Now I’m not the biggest reggae fan. Twenty-five years of living in Hackney and listening to selfish bastards playing it out their windows at 3am has turned me right against it but I can appreciate it here and the change of pace is nice but the laid back vibe doesn’t last for long as FD can’t help themselves and before long it speeds up out of the blue and we are off again. Class war is indeed raging on the streets of England but it is not a war between the classes but a war against the working class and our very identity and culture. A great way to finish the album and so ends forty minutes of pure unabashed celtic-punk fun.

So there you have it and this is the longest album review to have ever appeared on these pages and  all written in just a couple of go’s with no notes. Obviously the inspiration flows out of Ken and the Bhoys into us all! The production on Red deserves a mention and Phil Wilbraham at the Electric Bear Studios in Mansfield has done an exemplary job here capturing the sound and feel of FD perfectly. The release comes in both vinyl and CD and the CD comes with a massive 28 page booklet featuring photos and lyrics. As is usual with all FD releases is has been recorded in tribute to Ken’s son Lee Bonsall.

LEE BONSALL

Pivotal to the ethos and drive of Ferocious Dog is the sad fate of Ken’s son Lee. Lee served in Afghanistan from the age of 18, and upon rejoining civilian life took his own life in 2012 at the age of just 24, unable to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from seeing one of his friends being shot dead by a sniper. Lee is commemorated in the Ferocious Dog songs ‘The Glass’, ‘Lee’s Tune’ and ‘A Verse For Lee’. This gave rise to The Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund which raises money and awareness for various causes close to the bands heart. Lee’s story was featured in a BBC documentary Broken By Battle in 2013. It was Lee that actually named the band as a child.

This third studio album from Ferocious Dog shows a band at the top of their game but they seem to have been at the top of their game for so long now that you could regard it as a usual state of affairs for them. It’s hard to see where their progression has come from as they haven’t radically altered their sound from their debut album but the difference from other bands comes from the quality of their songwriting and lyrics. Here three different members of the band take the mic and each excel on songs that range from full on fast celtic-punk rock to soft and gentle tear jerkers while all the time playing with a sincerity that would alien to most bands. I simply cannot state how much respect and love I have for this band and to prove it I am even giving up the heady delights of St Patrick’s Day in the capital with the London Irish to go see them in Oxford so see you there. I’ll be in the middle of the dance floor!

Discography

Ferocious Dog (2013) * Ferocious Dog 3 Piece Acoustic (2014) * From Without (2015) * From Without Acoustic (2017) * Red (2017)

Buy Red

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  • If you are at all interested in the world of Ferocious Dog, and why wouldn’t you be?, then a very good place to hook into is the Ferocious Blog. A fans eye view of everything a potential Hell Hound would want to know in the FD orbit. Here!

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: PAUL ROBESON- ‘Songs Of Struggle’

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Paul Robeson was one hell of a man. Outstanding in so many areas- scholar, athlete, singer, actor, linguist – the list seems endless. He was also a fearless campaigner for human rights, which led to his persecution by the authorities. His powerful bass voice had an immense power but also a gentleness and a warm sincerity that made it special. A unique voice and a unique person and Songs Of Struggle is a great introduction.
We will never see his like again.
Born: April 9, 1898  Princeton, New Jersey
Died: January 23, 1976  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Paul Robeson was one of the greatest figures of the 20th century, but he has been almost written out of American history due to his fearless advocacy of the principles of civil rights, equality and democratic freedom. He was an athlete, a qualified lawyer, a professional singer and star actor, but above all he was a campaigner for human rights the world over. A giant of a man in all respects, perhaps his most notable single attribute was his fine bass voice, and that quality can now be enjoyed and appreciated again through this album of some of his best known songs, including many of the songs reflecting his political allegiances.

Robeson saw singing and acting as a part of political campaigning after a visit to Germany and the USSR in 1934. Two factors combined on that trip, his hatred of Nazi fascism, and his admiration for the Soviet Union’s legislation for racial equality. In 1937, he sang in Spain for the Republicans fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War. The following year he came to Wales to film The Proud Valley, a film which meant more to him than any other, and which introduced him to the miners of the Rhondda Valley, and they struck up a friendship which lasted for the rest of his life. Returning to America, his fame grew with the nationwide broadcast of ‘Ballad For Americans’ in 1939, a song which was at once a declaration of love for America and a strong demand for equality. He travelled the country enthralling audiences with his songs and speeches, refusing to perform to segregated audiences, and encouraging black support for the war effort to defeat fascism which

“would make slaves of us all”.

As America entered World War 2, Paul achieved massive success on Broadway and nationwide, from 1942 to 1944, and redoubled his political campaigning against fascism, racism and colonialism, espousing the right of black people to full equality, the right of African peoples to self-government, and the progressive labour movement. His support for the war effort shielded him from criticism at first, but after the war, his views regarding the Soviet Union and African independence brought him into conflict with President Truman’s policy of containment, and it also became evident that Truman was not going to move on human rights. A growing number of Americans were also turning against him, and attempts were made to curtail his public performances. In 1947, in total disgust at such attitudes, he announced he would take two years away from the theatre and concert stage, in order to

“talk up and down the nation against race hatred and prejudice. It seems that I must raise my voice, but not by singing pretty songs”.

In 1949 he made his most controversial speech at the World Peace Conference in Paris, in which he decried the concept of American Blacks’ participation in foreign wars on behalf of a government which treated them as second class citizens. He returned to an America which was rapidly turning against him, the FBI held an ongoing investigation into his alleged ‘communist ties’, their were riots outside his concerts, and all this culminated in the revoking of his passport in 1950. This attempt to silence Paul Robeson started a period of political resistance using songs as his weapons which is unparalleled in modern history. In 1952, Canadian union leaders organized a series of concerts at the Peace Arch Park on the US-Canadian border, and invitations flowed offering Professorships and performances of Othello at Stratford. He was also invited by the workers he had befriended during the filming of The Proud Valley to sing at the South Wales Miners’ Eisteddfod.

In 1957, with the laying of the transatlantic telephone cable, Robeson gave his first Transatlantic Concert to an audience in Manchester in May, and the second in October to the Grand Pavilion at Porthcawl. In his autobiography Here I Stand, Robeson said

“I cannot say how deeply I was moved on this occasion, for here was an audience that had adopted me as kin and though they were unseen by me, I never felt closer to them”.

His passport was returned to him in 1958, and Wales was one of his first destinations, where he appeared and spoke at both the National Eisteddfod at Ebbw Vale, and the South Wales Miners’ Eisteddfod at Porthcawl.

Paul Robeson singing with a choir in a scene from The Proud Valley.

He spent the last years of his performing life abroad, but returned to the US when ill-health led to his retirement in 1963. He lived the final years of his life in seclusion in Philadelphia and died there on January 23rd, 1976. On his tombstone is his personal statement that

“The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

Addressing the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Ebbw Vale, 1958.

Thus this particular compilation of music highlighting both Robeson’s voice as well as his strong convictions is extremely appropriately themed. Much of this music is about political struggle. Opening with ‘Joe Hill’ one of America’s most famous folk songs and finding time to support the Irish people

“the only people ever persecuted in their own country were the Irish”

by singing one of the most spectacular versions of ‘Kevin Barry’ ever recorded. There is a superb article here by the Dublin based Come Here To Me web-site on Paul’s visit to London and how he came to learn the song. Kevin Barry was 18 years old when he was hanged in Dublin on November 1st 1920. Arrested after a battle with the British Army reports of his torture in Mountjoy Jail soon circulated but Barry refused to name his comrades. He was given a death sentence but it was widely believed that this sentence would be commuted, and that the British authorities would not dare to execute such a young man. His death is possibly the most poignant in Irish history.

Other pieces concern the simple struggle to continue life in the face of tribulation. They all display a worldly strength and the understanding of a man that clearly was familiar with these emotions. The performances are often minimal, using only piano and voice. Highly appropriate to these works, as this lends a highly personal atmosphere. Additionally it brings solid focus to the incredible talent that Robeson possessed. He was well known for learning languages, and singing/recording in the original tongue and here we have songs in English, German, Russian and Spanish. The sound on these recordings is a revelation. No tape hiss and no noticeable album noise. The fidelity is bright and far better than many vintage recordings. The recordings are from 1927-1942 and his most famous song ‘Ol’ Man River’ is one of the earliest here and sounds fantastic. More than 70 minutes, including a surprise 1939 poetry reading to conclude, just listen to that diction and voice control! 

FOR YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK

HERE

This is a collection that can be truly recommended.

(a tribute to Paul Robeson from the New York Irish rockers Black 47)

 with thanks to Zero G Sound- if you want music like this to light up your life then go find them here.

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPIN’ STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

(if any links are broken please leave a comment and we will try to fix it)

2017 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S PART THREE: THE CELTIC NATIONS- BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS, THE DECLINE!, BRUTUS’ DAUGHTERS, REAL McKENZIES, VINCE CAYO, THE BOTTLERS

So welcome to 2018 and the first post of the year and the last of our round-ups from 2017. We simply could not keep up with the volume of releases we keep receiving so rather than completely neglect them here’s some much shorter reviews that will at least give you a taste of what they are about. We much prefer to do really detailed reviews but these are still worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out and apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in. This week we concentrate on bands hailing from the Celtic nations or the Celtic diaspora. You can still catch up with our North America (here) and European (here) round-up’s.

BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS- ‘Walk Like Kings’  (Buy)

Described by the band as being made by accident we, and they, should be thankful for such unexpected delights. This is an album of thirteen glorious tracks covering themes of loss and longing and hope that show the Bhoys reaching new heights, musically and lyrically. Tracks, such as the fun filled ska beat ‘Disorganised Crime’ leap out of the speakers in a joyous racket that simply defies not being danced to and then there’s ‘Stand Up And Fight’, a collaboration with New Yorks finest Da Ded Rabbits, that punches it’s way through in a hard hitting pounding track that will be a surprise to some fans. Never fear the Bible Code sound is still evident as are other influences including an Oasis tinged ‘You Got Me On The Run’ but the title track, ‘Walk Like King’s’, is pure Bible Codes, a majestic thumping track full of defiance and pride for 2nd and 3rd generation Irish immigrants who weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths. Guests abound on this release – Elvis Costello, Matt McManamon, Brian Kelly… All adding to an eclectic mix of an album on which every track is worthy of your attention, be it the ethereal ‘America’

“Why we leave behind family, to a foreign land for to roam”

or the haunting beauty of ‘Snow Falling On Fire Escapes’ or the MacManus family collaboration ‘Willie Redmonds Volunteers’ all the tracks show a band at the top of their game and this is one that all London Celtic Punkers will want to check out. It has been a tough year for the band but this album is one thing that they can look look back on with fond memories and pride, let’s hope for more, someone once sang ‘accidents can happen, but only once…’ may the Bible Code Sundays fall into more.

“We face out, chest proud, In this town we walk like kings”

RIP Carlton.

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THE DECLINE!- ‘Heroes On Empty Streets’  (Buy)

More celtic-punk for you now but in the sense that this is a punk and from the Celtic nation of Brittany! The music scene in Brittany is very strong and is reflected in the growth of ‘Celticness’ and the resurgence in the Breton language. The Decline! are a five piece punk rock band from Rennes who formed in 2009. Their first EP, ‘An Old Indian Cemetery’, was released in the middle of 2010, and showed what proper genuine music today should be all about. They followed this up with their debut album ‘Broken Hymns For Beating Hearts’ the following year and was a mix of punk rock and acoustic folk tunes. 2014 saw the release of ’12a Calgary Road’ which saw the and branching out into celtic melodies but ploughing much the same furrow while taking on varying tempos with ease. This new album released in May may not have the asolute urgency of previous releases but more than makes up for it with it’s catchy singalonga punk rock. Kevin’s strong and distinctive voice and rumbling rhythm section certainly gets your blood pumping and while ‘Someday Somehow’ could pass for bleak post-punk maybe even Gothic in places the following track ‘Joyfull Thrill’ would make the early Dropkicks jealous.

We have to wait till track seven for the first signs of anything acoustic and it’s well worth the wait ‘We Love Our Scars’ hits the spot both lyrically and musically too. Its all very well done and very well produced too and while it may be possible to mistake this for an American punk release The Decline! are proud members of the Breton music scene. If catchy as feck melodic punk rock is yer thing then here’s the band for you.

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BRUTUS’ DAUGHTERS- ‘Hueso y Madera’  (Free Download)

Formed in November 2008 in Carabanchel, a suburb of Madrid as a straight forward punk rock band before they added Asturian bagpipe and fiddle and one of the most original bands in celtic-punk was born. This is the bands third album and, as usual, comes with songs written in Castilian, English and Asturian. As one of only a tiny handful of bands in the scene with female vocals they certainly stand out and with a defiantly anti-fascist message to boot. The music is fast and loud and punky but there is an undeniable hardcore traditional folk edge to it as well. Elements of their own countries as well as Celtic are merged together very successfully. As said I don’t understand much of the album but the sleeve notes speak of the endangered languages of the Celts, Celtic mythology and defending the underprivileged. The punk side of this reminds me of the Spanish punk music I use to hear in Hackney squats over the years but the folk influence is strong and comes out in reels and jigs throughout the album.

Only nine songs and twenty-eight minutes long but played at breakneck speed from the opening bars of the instrumental punky trad folk of ‘De Hueso Y Madera’ to the English language ‘Brazen’, the album moves at a great pace and its them pipes that really dominate here, holding it all altogether. Vocals are shared around the band and the standard gang chorus works very well especially on tracks like ‘Carretera’, for me the high point here with its catchy chorus while ‘Unidad’ is bass heavy and rumbles along nicely while the fiddle and pipes work overtime. ‘Carcel’ is another high energy number that offers up more of the same. Here’s a real Celtic band that is something quite apart from the herd. Alex voice is harsh and strong and fits the music perfectly. They are a lyrics heavy band so it’s a shame I can’t catch most of it as I am sure they have something important to say. Here’s a proper punk band playing proper punk rock songs that are littered with jigs and reels and a sea shanty about to break out at any moment. The hidden song here is the real folk gem though proving they can really play their instruments and you can find out yourselves for *FREE* yes you read that correct the album is available for sweet F.A from the link above.

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THE REAL McKENZIES- ‘Two Devils Will Talk’  (Canada / RestOfTheWorld )

Well what to say about Two Devils Will Talk? How it managed to escape a decent review is beyond me seeing how popular this awesome and is. Up there with The Mollys and the Murphs the Real McKenzies have been going an amazing 25 years and this, their tenth, is up there with the est I kid you not. I wasn’t overly enamoured with 2015’s Rats In The Burlap but here they have returned with fourteen rousing tracks of pure, unabashed Canadian-Scots celtic-punk mayhem. From the opening anthemic ‘Due West’ to a fantastic re-working of early McK song ‘Scots Wha Ha’e’ its absolutely brilliant. Once again they missed out of playing here so we never got to see them live but we can’t wait till they do darken these shores again. Punk, folk, acoustic, electric with pipes throughout weaving in the Celtic influence for which the band is best known. ‘Seafarers’ is one hell of a stand out tune. You can’t change how the waves roll only how you roll through them. The sense of humour they are famous for is riddled throughout the album and nowhere better than on the laugh out loud ‘Fuck The Real McKenzies’ where the band take the piss out of themselves, and everyone else too! They find room for a cover of Stan Rogers ‘Northwest Passage’ that only adds to this great song. Originally sang as an acapella song the McKenzies do it justice as you would expect. The album ends with my favourite McK song of all and plenty of rebellious, Scottish charm and wit here on an album that shows a band who are still capable of hitting the high notes even after a quarter of a century. A defiant return to form for one of the Premier League bands of celtic-punk.

The Real McKenzies on 25 years of Canadian Celtic punk rock here.

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VINCE CAYO- ‘Bound For Glory’  (Buy)

This debut album from talented multi-instrumentalist Vince Cayo has been bouncing around London Celtic Punks towers for a good six months now without making much of an impact until I decided to revisit a few albums for these round-ups and I can only think I didn’t listen to it properly as it is absolutely fecking brilliant. Not so much celtic-punk but def in the country-punk realm of things and Vince has a very strong voice that growls out at you like Tom Waits lashing it up with McGowan backed by The Street Dogs. Opening track ‘Wasteland Blues’ is a great start to proceedings with fast rock’n’roll country and harmonica shining out and Vince putting McGowan to shame! Vince says his influences range from the cream the celtic-punk but most importantly Flogging Molly, and the title track takes this adulteration to epic proportions, alongside such luminaries as Social Distortion, Billy Bragg, The Gits, Tim Barry, Bob and Dylan and they are all in there but with a bit of good auld Yorkshire grit and determination.

Not afraid to take a risk either with the epic ‘Folk The World’ seven+ minutes of heavy and hard hitting folk music that builds up and up into a real anthem of a tune with fiddle and mandolin taking it recklessly close to celtic-punk territory Vince! ‘Turn It Up’ is classic catchy punk rock that doesn’t seem out of place here at all and in fact slots in nicely among the folkier tunes. ON hearing this properly I though I could imagine him sharing a stage with the likes of Matilda’s Scoundrels so was no surprise to read after that he already had done. When I hear album’s like this I wonder if this is the start of something new. Well I say new but what I mean is a resurgence of folk and country music but with a modern interpretation. The album’s dozen songs wraps up the absolutely awesome country rock’n’roller ‘The Garbageman’ and ‘You Wont Be Marching Alone’. Great songs and a great production make Bound For Glory as good a debut album I heard in 2017  and I will be looking him up for any London dates I can tell you.

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THE BOTTLERS- ‘The Bottlers’ EP  (Buy)

Our final review comes from the land of Oz. A place I am constantly telling you and telling you is where the best Celtic-punk scene is and where the best Celtic-punk bands hail from. Why this is so is anyone’s guess. Perhaps one of these great Aussie bands would like to give us over here on the other side of the world a bit of an insight? The Bottlers come from that world and are a hard playing, nine piece (yes, nine!) celtic-punk band hailing from the capital city, Sydney. They may be city dwellers but you get the feel of the country off these Bhoys and Ghirl. Kicking off with ‘Hades Way’ its a rollicking good stroll through Irish folk-punk as filtered through the Aussie experience. Drawing from not only the vast rural reaches of the Australian nation but also the city and suburban streets with a solid tip of the hat to the folk, punk and folk punk pioneers that have traipsed and trekked the trails well before them.

This is both Australiana AND celtic-punk so intertwined are the two. ‘Take Back The Streets’ is a call to arms to the nations poor in a swirling waltz of anger and beauty. Only three songs on this EP and the curtain comes down with ‘Up She Rises’ and The Bottlers go out with a song that has a nod toward to 70’s English folk-rock in there somewhere amongst the rabble.

“The Bottlers believe folk based music should progressively speak of the times it exists in whilst hearkening back to it’s past, to the true heart of folk music, people. Because you truly can’t get where you’re going till you know where you’ve been”

and you can’t get better than that. In fact we may put it on a London Celtic Punk sticker.

  • yeah yeah I been reliably informed that Canberra is indeed the capital city not Sydney so congrats to Celtic Punkcast for spotting out deliberate mistake! Australia’s finest celtic-punk podcast. Check them out here or here.

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So ends Part 3 and our final part of the 2017 Round-Up’s. Again apologies to all the bands as each and every release fully deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still probably missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send in your stuff to us to review. We are always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

  • COMING SOON- THE BEST OF 2017! What we thought were the best releases of the year covering Albums, EP’s, Celtic/Folk-Punk, Traditional and more.

2017…THE STATISTICS!

a London Hun realises he will never beat the London Celtic Punks!

I know we say this every year but once again it’s been another absolutely fantastic year for both the celtic-punk scene in general and for us personally.  The amount of visits to the site exceeded last year by a whopping 10%! Far beyond anything we could have ever imagined. Once again we have been told by several bands that our reviews have a positive effect on music sales and things like Facebook Likes so we’re even more grateful that you seem to be listening and acting upon our recommendations.

TOP TEN COUNTRIES VIEWING

(2014/2015/2016 in brackets)

1. United Kingdom (!) (1/1/1 )

2. USA  (2/2//2)

3. Germany  (3/3/3)

4.  France  (5/5/5)

5. Ireland  (7/4/4)

6. Spain  (8/6/7)

7. Australia  (4/8/6)

8. Italy  (9/10/9)

9.Canada  (6/7/8)

10.Netherlands  (11/11/10)

We know from regular checks on our WordPress stats page that we have regular readers from all over the world and a big shout out to our fan in the Ivory Coast. We look forward to seeing Catalonia listed separately soon along with all the Celtic nations as well as the Basque country, Sardinia and Corsica (all countries we have regular viewers from). Until they gain independence they continue to be listed under the counties that occupy them. Not for much longer we hope…

TOP TEN ARTICLES VIEWED
(click to read)
So there you have it. Not particularly interesting to anyone but me but maybe there’s someone else out there who gives a feck!!! The next week will see the unveiling of the London Celtic Punks Best Of 2017 lists so be sure to check back and find out who rocked our odd boat the last twelve months.
Why not follow the blog and receive a e-mail every time we post by clicking on the logo at the top of the page and, depending how your viewing this, by clicking on the ‘Follow’ button either on the left hand side or scroll down after the posts.
* 2014 THE STATISTICS here
* 2015 THE STATISTICS here
* 2016 THE STATISTICS here

2017 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S PART TWO: EUROPE- CASSIDY’S BREWERY, GALLEY BEGGAR, MAD MAN’S CREW, YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS, THE BLACK CLOVER

Every year that we have been doing this has got better and better for celtic-punk releases. As happy as we are that this is so it also means that we just simply cannot keep up with everything out there. We haven’t had the chance to review everything we received or heard so here is Part 2 of our 2017 Round Up where we catch up with some of the releases that we missed first time round. Here at 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS blog we much prefer to do really detailed reviews but there’s been no way we could keep up so here’s a few quick ones just to get 2017 out of the way. Each and every one are worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out and apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in. This week we concentrate on European bands while last time we visited North America (here) and next time we will review bands from the Celtic regions so join us in a few days.

CASSIDY’S BREWERY- ‘One Brew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’  (Free Download)

The lads from Cassidy’s Brewery sent me the link to their debut album just a couple of weeks ago so they sneak into our round-up’s but they are one of many featured here that I would have liked to do a full review of. They are a six-piece band hailing from Belgrade, Serbia. Formed in 2008 the current line-up has been together now for a couple of years. The band started like most European celtic-punk bands I suspect playing covers from the mainstays of celtic-punk plus local legends, in their case the awesome Orthodox Celts, before setting out with their own material. Here they give us a ten track album split 50/50 with covers and originals and while the covers are faithful punked up versions of Irish standards like ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and ‘Drunken Sailor’ it is their own songs that really shine on this album. Lyrically they are very strong with the words to album opener ‘Sail Away’ particularly sticking in my head. If you going to play celtic-punk and have no celtic roots then you need to know your history and this is where Cassidy’s Brewery come over well. With a accent that is easy to understand in fact you don’t need the lyrics as Uroš vocals are as clear as a bell throughout. Irish and Scottish history is covered and no better than on ‘Heroes’ where William Wallace and Finn MacCool go for a beer and end up meeting Prince Edward!

“We’ll slap you silly, so please come out!”
“This one’s for Culloden, and this one’s for Boyne, and this one’s for the pissy-ass stout!”

Absolutely brilliant and I love my celtic-punk with a sense of humour and Cassidy’s Brewery give it us. Musically it’s pretty damn good as well. Fiddle, tin whistle and accordion supply the folk instrumentation and the rest is yer basic punk rock quintet of two guitars, drums and bass. Its melodic punk with metally overtones but it never strays too far away from celtic-punk and they mix it up with folk songs and a superb version of ‘Rolling Down To Old Maui’ that is as good as any I have heard. It may say above that is free but that just means it is available as a ‘Name Your Price’ so it’s free if you like but if you value the celtic-punk scene and bands like Cassidy’s Brewery then stick them enough for a Guinness in there!

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GALLEY BEGGAR- ‘Heathen Hymns’  (Buy)

Here’s a band that you wouldn’t categorise as celtic-punk at all. Or folk-punk either but they certainly do have some crossover appeal to fans of London Celtic Punks I am sure. Heathen Hymns is their fourth album after  Reformation House (2010), Galley Beggar (2012) and Silence & Tears (2014) and the band have got stronger with each release. Hailing from Kent and London Galley Beggar are a band of six musicians that grew up obsessed with an old sound. You could I suppose pigeonhole them among bands like  Fairport Convention, Pentangle or Steeleye Span and while their may have been a time in my spikey haired punk rock youth I would have scoffed at that I can say that the sheer quality of their music has won me over. With their folk-rock sound quite in vogue at the moment they have been steadily building a huge fan-base and even huger reputation  and they have successfully merged the traditional folk sound of England with the psychedelic folk rock sound of the 70’s and nowhere better than on the hypnotic ‘Moon & Tide’ and its fantastic video.

Of course it’s the originals here that are the real jewels but the way they handle the covers of traditional standards ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’,  first heard in 1689!, and featuring guest vocals from Celia Drummond of UK acid folk legends Trees, and ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ also impresses. Having recently signed to Rise Above Records they are set to kick on and move beyond their ‘festival fame’ and with bands like Ferocious Dog already on the way up its bands liken Galley Beggar who are set to join them.

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MAD MAN’S CREW- ‘Riot Without Weapons’  (Buy/Buy)

Hungary, Hungary, Hungary bloody Hungary. That’s how it seems this site goes sometimes. I won’t bore you with another list of absolutely brilliant Hungarian celtic-punk bands but will just say that I would swap all ours for theirs in a shot! Formed in June 2015 in Veszprém Mad Man’s Crew mix up a variety of styles with folk and punk colliding with ska via some rather nifty trumpet that slots in super nice. Kicking off with the brilliant ‘Leave Behind’ that takes melodic punk and throws in tin whistle and accordion and some band Oi! Oi!’s to great effect. As with Cassidy’s Brewery above the production here is superb and again the vocals are clear and Molnár is perfectly understandable. Eleven songs clocking in at forty minutes that very rarely strays from celtic-punk but when it does it explodes in your ears like a bomb going off. Fast paced punk rock with accordion is how I would best describe this. They have taken a different approach from the majority of Hungarian celtic-punk bands by concentrating more on the punk side of things though not to say the folk side is neglected it’s just that you wouldn’t automatically think of Irish folk music when you hear them. Other highlights here are the amazing ‘Anthem Of The Anarchists’ which takes all the elements and strands that make up celtic-punk and injects real life into them. I love this song so much it would make my Top Ten songs of the year!

Far as I can tell theirs no covers here but there is one song in Hungarian so maybe that’s one but a great debut album and yet another Hungarian band to go doolally about!

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YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS- ‘First Night Back in Port’  (Buy)

Hoist the Jolly Roger Ye Banished Privateers take no prisoners since launching in September 2012 and have a list of crew mates longer than yer arm with over thirty (!) members of the band and over a dozen on stage at gigs it makes for a rum do indeed. First Night Back In Port is the band/collective’s third album and is a staggering seventy-five minutes and fifteen songs of pure unabashed bastardized Irish folk an’ 17th century sea-shanty punk rock. The music takes you back to the 18th century a rough time when pirates dominated the seven seas and Ye Banished Privateers while they could easily become parody they mange to steer well clear of that thanks to great songs. At times it sounds like Tom Waits on the lash with fiddle, banjo and accordion while at others times its soft and gentle.

The album opener the emotional ‘Annabel’ is for me the best track here, a gentle introduction of a harrowing tale before plenty of opportunities galore to

“Let’s drink, let’s fight! Let’s fornicate by the harbour lights! Let’s fuck, let’s bite! Let’s dance away the night!”

leap out at you. The music is all acoustic and the vocals are shared around the band and while the music is strictly folk the spirit of punk is stamped throughout. One thing I did notice is that it is so full, with thirty members all battling for your attention, that it’s hard to pick out any elements in particular that impress. The sound is very authentic and not at all what I am use to listening to but i really enjoyed this wee time travel back to simple, honest and moving music.

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THE BLACK CLOVER- ‘From Sailor To Hobo’ EP (Buy)

Another release that sneaked in at the last minute this time from France and the debut release from a band that came from the ashes of Seagulls Are Drunk who featured on these pages a long, long time ago. The Black Clover celebrate their first anniversary with the release of this EP and again like with SAD it has a very particular French sound to it while also incorporating celtic-punk and traditional French folk music. Beginning with ‘A Road To Galway’ the song builds up and up and while not quite hitting punk rock levels it certainly rocks along and has a very catchy feel to it. Driving bass and drums and all the time fiddle and accordion keep it moving. They mix it up with ‘Black Tot Day’ a slightly jazzy sound but losing none of the celtic-punk bite and catchiness. Slowing it down for the saddest song you’ll hear today ‘The Lost Beer’, the tragic ballad of a lost love. As with Seagulls Are Drunk I thought then they had a real Tom Waits thing about them and the same here and not just because of Seb and his low and gruffled vocals. Imagine Tom fronting a celtic-punk band and you basically got it but then they go and throw out ‘La Baffe’ a Celtic/Breton bastard of a punk rocker and you realise that all four songs here are all different and then the EP ends with ‘The Sea Is Behind Me’ a beautiful ballad. Great release and bodes well for the future from a band who sound both innovative and fresh while having their roots planted firmly in the past.

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So ends Part 2 of our Round-Up’s and apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still probably missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send in your stuff to us to review. We are always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

2017 REVIEWS ROUND-UP’S PART ONE: THE AMERICA’S- THE DREADNOUGHTS, CRIKWATER, PLASTIC PADDY, THE WILD IRISH ROSES, LA FIESTA DEL DIABLO, COCKSWAIN

Every single year that we have been doing this has got better and better for celtic-punk releases. As happy as we are that this is so it also means that we just simply cannot keep up with everything that get’s released. We haven’t had the chance to review everything we received or heard so here is Part 1 of our 2017 Round Up where we catch up with some of the releases that we missed first time round. Here at 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS blog we much prefer to do really detailed reviews but it has been impossible to keep up so here’s a few quick ones just to catch up and get 2017 out of the way. Each and every one are worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out and apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in. This week we visit not just North America as originally planned but further afield as well. Read on and find out where and shortly we’ll head to Europe so join us in a few days.

THE DREADNOUGHTS- ‘Foreign Skies’  (Buy)

This year gave us the ambitious ‘concept’ album, Foreign Skies, from Canada’s own Dreadnoughts. It was released to mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war (yeah, I know, the Great War ran from 1914-1918, so that includes 1917!), and features 12 original tracks all based on events, people and places that were part of that war. There are a few standout tracks, notably; ‘Daughters of the Sun’, ‘Anna Maria’, ‘Jericho’ and ‘Black Letters’. The rest is all good with the usual fantastic musicianship we’ve come to expect from the Dreadnoughts. The subject matter does make it a rather sombre listening experience, and while the feeling/belief behind the album is admirable, there is no getting away from the subject matter. An interesting work, but it won’t get too many airings at parties over the festive season.

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CRIKWATER- ‘Crikwater’  (Buy)

Now on first listen to this album from Crikwater you may wonder why they are appearing on a celtic-punk site and you may be right. They are here for the sole reason I love them! Formed in 2010 round the rust-belt in the Irish-American neighbourhood of South Buffalo, NY in 2010, Crikwater play beautiful but rowdy, country tinged Irish American traditional folk. No hint of an electric guitar on this their second album instead the band offer up 74 minutes and fourteen songs of classic Irish ballads that we all know and love like ‘Dicey Riley’ and ‘Long Black Veil’ and a few lesser known as well as some lively as hell polka’s, jigs and reels accompanied by some fantastic red-hot fiddle from Charlie Coughlin. The highlight for me was ‘Bruach Na Carraige Baine’ and words can’t explain the beauty of hearing the Irish language sung by someone born outside Ireland. Outstanding and you hear it below on the Soundcloud player. Recorded live in the studio in Orchard Park, NY. their long awaited follow up to 2012’s Don’t Stop ‘Til The Ship Goes Down showcases the bands amazing musicianship and their sound which encapsulates the modern Irish American experience laden with Americana, folk and country influences while all the time being steered by their Irish roots. Having grown from a humble quartet to a versatile sextet their mix of elegant ballads and rowdy pub songs is certainly among the best I have heard in recent years and they are almost certainly ready to give the big hitters of the Irish folk scene in America a run for their money. This is music for the pub to be heard with the drink flowing and the good times occurring and a tear in your eye for the auld place you left behind.

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PLASTIC PADDY- ‘Lucky Enough’  (Buy)

“A person who retains a strong sense of Irish identity despite not been born in Ireland or being of only partial Irish descent; used in reference to Irish-English or Irish-Americans. Perceived as irritating by Irish nationals”

Arriving in the same week as Crikwater this is as similar a album as you could find though separated by 1000’s of miles away from NY on the east coast of the US in sunny California. Though all born many miles away from Ireland this bunch of Irish-Americans have taken a similar, though much less trad, route as Crikwater distilling their own version of Irish music through country, Americana and folk and yet it still lives and breathes the atmosphere of yer old fashioned Irish boozer. Formed out of Pladdohg who disbanded in 2014 the music here again we would be hard pressed to describe as celtic-punk but I like it, a lot, so here it is! Their debut album Lucky Enough is 12 songs and 42 minutes long and consists of mostly original Plastic Paddy songs but with a small smattering of well loved standard Irish tunes including ‘Whisky You’re The Devil’ and ‘Dicey Riley’ popping up again. Highlights include an amazing version of Greg Trooper’s ‘Ireland’, a song with truly amazing words and I was saddened to read that Greg Trooper passed away in January this year just after his 61st birthday. R.I.P.

“With your mandolins, fill up the hall
not a dry eye left, you killed them all
Its just like you
just like you, Ireland”

Drawing on influences of Californian rock and country with Erin Bloom’s wonderful voice it also evokes late 60’s and 70’s British folk-rock and not many album’s featured here have slide guitar that much is true. Still it’s a polished album without being over produced album that captures their catchy sound and while they are home in the local pub I get the feeling that they could slide into the arena side of things as well with their music having appeal to anyone interested in Irish music.

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THE WILD IRISH ROSES- ‘Fill Yer Boots, Man!’  (Buy)

Now The Wild Irish Roses are your absolute true family band with Mom, Dad and all eight kids involved it doesn’t get more family than this! Again in common with the two previous bands Irish blood courses through the music and The Wild Irish Roses have a bright future ahead of them. Josie (15) sings and plays banjo, mandolin, penny whistle, viola while sisters Hanna (17) plays bodhran, Evelyn (13) plays concertina and viola, Penelope (10) sings and plays tambourine while the two youngest of the clan brothers Aengus (8) plays drums and Lazarus (5) plays harmonica. Father and guitarist of The Wild Irish Roses is Michael X. who also stars in recent London Celtic Punks featured band TheTemplars Of Doom while the Mammy Kristi plays bass. They cut their teeth in Brooklyn post-punk band The Astro-Zombies in the 90’s while during the 2000’s they were in The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment who released 8 albums up to 2010. Fill Yer Boots, Man! is an incredible 21 songs lasting 42 minutes and their is no let up throughout with the songs over as swiftly as they arrive. Kicking off with ‘Margaret Thatcher’s Death Song’ one of many self-penned numbers from the band including Evelyn’s ballads ‘Dancing Widowed Fool’ and ‘Blind Marianne’ and Josie’s contribution ‘Haunting Highland Laddie’, a tale of a piper who drunkenly fell from a castle tower and will haunt you to your grave- unless you pay him in pints of beer! Their is though a London connection here and that is from ex-Neck piping maestro Stephen Gara. Now happily settled in the States he made a special four foot bodhran called a Bodhran Mohr (Great Drum)which led to the song of the same title. It can be heard booming out throughout the album. The album closes with what for me was the absolute album highlight ‘Christmas in Kingston’, a sordid tale of lost love and redemption set in the former state capital of NY. Its rousing chorus of

“It’s Christmas in Kingston You Basterds, Every Junkie and Whore will be saved”

is up there with “You scumbag, you maggot, You cheap lousy faggot” and is sure to make it a surefire holiday favorite. It’s a bit of a mish-mash of an album but there is NO denying it’s originality and it’s an album that you’ll find yourself singing along to after a couple of plays. An incredible feat and a perfect example of ‘The family that plays together stays together’.

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LA FIESTA DEL DIABLO- ‘Mis Colegas, La Barra y Satán’ (Buy)

Proof that we are now a truly international scene comes in the shape of La Fiesta del Diablo. They are the very first band from Chile to appear on these pages and though celtic-punk is alive and kicking in Brazil we had never heard of it existing elsewhere. This is the bands second album having formed in November, 2015 in the capital of Chile, Santiago. They play what they call what they call themselves ‘multicultural noise’. On this album they take us on a journey through folk music with Celtic, Irish, gypsy, klezmer, tangos, rancheras and Russian, among others although with its roots firmly in punk rock. Whatever it is, one thing I feel that it’s got in common with celtic-punk is that La Fiesta del Diablo would be fantastic in a live setting.

(Video filmed in Bar Badalu in Santiago’s Italia neighborhood)

Twelve songs of which all but a small handful are written by the band. Kicking off with the brilliant energetic ‘Manifesto’ and its bouncy Russian trad folk sure to make your feet dance and get your head nodding away. Fast paced throughout and here the accordion is king with it’s sound dominating and nowt wrong with that. The songs are in Spanish and the vocals are nice’n’easy on the ear. A real mixed bag of an album and quite an eye opener as maybe it’s not celtic-punk but so much in common it deserves its spot here. Available for only $4 so take a punt and put it on on New Years Eve to get the party flowing. Brilliant.

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COCKSWAIN- ‘For the Whiskey’  (Buy)

Was only going to do five album’s per Round-Up but just had to give this one a quick mention. From Phoenix, Arizona this bunch of Irish-American’s must suffer in that local heat maybe that’s why they spend so much time in the pub! Rounded up in 2012 this is the bands second album after ‘Seamus’ in 2015. For The Whiskey is a fantastic release that I loved from the very first play. Their are hints of many of the scene’s big hitters from Blood Or Whiskey to DKM’s or the Molly’s but all played with plenty of individualism too. Ten songs that veer from full on Irish folk punk, ‘For The Whiskey’ (free song download here), to sober maudlin ballad ‘When I Die’ and all in between. All played with a fiery temperament and a real love of trad Irish folk music.

If you think you’ve heard just about everything a band can do it with ‘Dirty Old Town’ then Cockswain have a shock for you. An very interesting and surprising version. ‘Johnny Be Fair’ mixes in some female vocals and the curtain comes down with ‘Whiskey, Love and War’ utterly brilliant and a fine example of the celtic-punk genre. this came out around St.Patrick’s day and I can’t believe it took us so long to catch up with it.

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…and so ends Part 1 of our Round-Up’s and apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full epic London Celtic Punks review treatment. We have still probably missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send in your stuff to us to review. For details how use the Contact Us section. We are always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2017. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

Each December we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard that year to showcase in our end of year message and this year the runaway victors are from just up the road from us in Berkhamsted. We give you Flatcaps & Fisticuffs and their wicked version of ‘Good King Wenceslas’. The EP it’s from is availanble as a free download from here.

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st. the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun. Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

Christmas

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958. However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games. Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home. Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour. Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn. On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets. Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts! Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday. In older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th(Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britanny, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats). The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

Nollaig Shona Dhuit agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise (Irish Gaelic)

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THIS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

Now go have a drink…

EP REVIEW: FLATCAPS & FISTICUFFS- ‘Candy Cane’ (2017)

Twas only a couple of weeks ago that we reviewed Flatcaps & Fisticuffs debut EP and low and behold straight after another one lands on our doorstep. This time it’s a Christmas themed romp and it’s also available as a *FREE* download!

We kind of compared them to Matilda’s Scoundrels in our review of their debut EP Raspberry Cheesecake (here) but releases in a month is even beyond Matilda’s level of prolificness! Poor Bing will be rotating in his grave as the Bhoys annihilate the old-school Christmas banger ‘White Christmas’ as your starter, lay into ‘Good King Wenceslas’ as the chicken-in-turkey mains and then shock us all, especially me, with a cover of Run-D.M.C.’s ‘Christmas In Hollis’ bringing down the curtain as the classic Christmas Pudding dessert. A trio of tunes that will be sure to get your nan swinging from a low-hanging branch of the Christmas tree!

(as filmed in one take!)

You can download Candy Cane for free from SoundCloud or the Flatcaps & Fisticuffs website but you can play it using the Soundcloud player below.

Download Candy Cane

*FREE* FromTheBand *FREE*

Contact Fisticuffs & Flatcaps

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Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THIS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Breizh Anok’ (2017)

Proper authentic Celtic celtic-punk from the masters of the genre!

With more than 50,000 sales and over 600 gigs on the clock the Menhir Chimney Sweeps are one of the scene’s best and biggest bands, and they deserve that fame to spread beyond Brittany too.

There really is nothing like a Celtic celtic-punk band. By that I mean one from the celtic nations and I don’t just been anyone either but a campaigning radical Celtic celtic-punk band and their really is no one in the world to compare to Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs. Their are tonnes of great bands out there playing music inspired by their ancestors but their are only a tiny handful that sing in their native Celtic language and most of those come from Brittany. The north-west corner of what some know as France is in fact an ancient Celtic nation with its own customs, traditions and language. All of which the French government have for centuries tried to destroy. In common with all the other Celtic nations this has been resisted and in Brittany the Breton language is having a revival due in no small part to the wider community being so accepting of modern trends. Where as in Scotland the leaders of the Gaelic speaking community would rather it die out than mention that anarcho-punk band Oi Polloi sing in Gaelic. The reverse is true in Brittany as celtic-punk has been embraced and used as a weapon to push French away from the lips of Breton youth.

Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs with the incredible Louise Ebrel and the Bagad Bro Kemperle

Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs were founded in 2006 and its members include Éric on the bombard, Richard on the bagpipes, traditional vannetais singer Maurice Jouanno and Loran, famed guitarist from Bérurier Noir. Their first album Dañs an Diaoul (The Dance Of The Devil) came out the following year. The famous Breton singer Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician, guests on several songs on the album and has accompanied them throughout their career often playing with them live or on their records. We tried to get them over to these shores before but it was just too expensive sadly. If anyone out there fancies subsidising a wee tour drop us a line. They did play these shores before in early 2008 they played in Scotland with Oi Polloi and Na Gathan. Since then they have played 100’s of gigs and released two other album’s, Amzer An Dispac’h! in 2010 and Tan Ar Bobl in 2014. That LP was voted into 4th place in the 2014 London Celtic Punks Best Album list and deservedly so with it’s blend of hardcore punk accompanied by celtic instruments and shouty gang choruses and vocals. Guests from across the musical spectrum were asked to perform and did freely showing the lack of snobbery within the Breton folk/language scene. They choose to embrace Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs (not that it’s always been plain sailing) while as we have said Oi Polloi are put down and, even worse, ignored by their Scots compatriots despite all the positive work they are doing to promote Gaelic in Scotland.

Having got into them via a couple of Breton friends it really is amazing the sound that they can garner from trad Breton instruments and it was with no little shock and a wry smile that I only just found out what the band name means. It is Breton for chimney sweeps and a Menhir is the Breton equivalent of a Stonehenge style standing stone. These stones are found all over the Celtic nations as well as England and France. It is estimated that their are about 50,000 in these areas with over 1,200 in Brittany. The largest surviving menhir in the world is located in Locmariaquer, Brittany, and it is known as the Grand Menhir Brisé. Once nearly 68 foot high, today, it lies fractured into four pieces, but it weighed near 330 tons when intact. It is placed third as the heaviest object moved by humans without powered machinery. It seems apt that the band take their name from these ancient monuments as their music is so firmly rooted in Breton history and tradition.

To us the idea of a punk band playing with ancient instruments does not seem strange but outside our small but perfectly formed scene it is different but the Chimney Sweeps of Menhirs have won over everyone from young punks to their Grandad’s and Nannies and everyone in between. You may think it an exaggeration to say they are an institution but just about everyone in Brittany has seen or heard of this band that combines bombards and bagpipes with punk and is accompanied by and respected by some of the biggest names in traditional music.Using their music as a weapon to promote Breton independence it’s not too far fetched to say Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs are not just a band they are a movement and their new album Breizh Anok (Coop Breizh) is again a call to arms both literally and figuratively. You get ten songs clocking in at forty-six minutes that carries on their tradition of chugging, choppy guitar and Celtic pipes and whistles. They have always been a band that captures perfectly their live sound and here they have done it again. On Breizh Anok they are accompanied in part by the Bagad Bro Kemperle (a Breton traditional group comprising up to forty members). They joined the band on stage at Hellfest 2017 their whole performance is captured below but be careful it will bring out the Celtic warrior in you.

Now as much as it bugs me that I can’t understand what the songs are exactly about you can get a decent idea overall. Their is still no bassist and only a drum machine but by Christ can these Bhoys whip up a racket. Kicking off with ‘Dir Ha Tan’ the sound of the ocean is soon accompanied by the bombard, a sort of Celtic trumpet!, and soon we are off to that legendary Des Menhirs guitar sound and it’s fecking excellent. The drums are harsh as only a drum machine can be with its military style precision it makes sure you pay full attention. We get more like that until ‘Sucks’ rolls in and the band give the Crass song a real ear bashing with its anti-religion message. originally from the Feeding Of The 5000 album in 1978 its given a tweak here and there and

“Do you really believe in the system? Well O. K.
I believe in anarchy in Brittany.
Is it alright really? Is it alright really?
Is it working?”

The songs are given plenty of time to develop but they know when is enough as none drag on, despite a couple of songs lasting over six minutes and most well over four. Next up is the famous partisan song ‘Bello Ciao’ called here ‘Bell’ A.R.B.’. Written during the 1944/45 winter when Italians fought against German Nazis and fascists of their own country. Simple lyrics straight from the heart and more popular now than ever again it’s given a tweak and sang in part as a tribute to the ARB who were the Breton version of the IRA. I’m not afraid to say that a lot of this album has gone over my head and I have definitely, I’m sure, missed several really important bits but it’s far more important that they sing in their own language.  The album ends with a bunch of songs that nail their colours to the wall like ‘Fuck The System’ a straight up punk number. Their are no ballads here but the amazing Louise Ebrel pops up on ‘Pach Punk’ and shows that age don’t matter just so long as you got spirit. The album ends with ‘Oy! Oy! Oy!’ and goes out with a bang.

What to say here. It is powerful in music and I daresay in lyrics too. A band doesn’t get to where they are without meaning an awful lot to a lot of people. To be listened to with a free spirit as they will I promise you release that Celtic warrior inside us all. Now if only London Celtic Punks can find that sugar-Daddy (or Mammy! we not sexist) that will help us get them over here to play!

(you can listen to the whole album on You Tube below starting with ‘Dir Ha Tan’)

Buy Breizh Anok
Contact The Band
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email- contact@ramoneursdemenhirs.fr
 

here’s a list of YouTube videos here  well worth trawling through on a quiet night accompanied by a few beers!

easily the best English language web site check out THE BRETON CONNECTION “a portal to the Breton movement for self-determination and cultural rights”.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE PEELERS- ‘Palace Of The Fiend’ (2017)

Formed way back in 1999 in a small farmhouse kitchen in North Glengarry County in Eastern Ontario and now based in Montreal The Peelers have long become one of the more famous and popular celtic-punk bands in Canada. Glengarry holds a special place in Canadian Irish history being separated from New York State by the St. Lawrence river it was originally settled by Irish immigrants who chose the name Glengarry in memory of their home. It was the place that the coffin ships during Án Gorta Mór, otherwise known as the Irish ‘famine’, sailed when turned away from America. The major quarantine station for immigrant ships was on the St. Lawrence river and it is thought up to 15,000 Irish people are buried on the small island of Grosse Île where a huge Celtic cross now stands as a memorial to their souls. We recently covered this subject on our review Of Declan O’Rourke’s new album Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine here.

The Peelers have, over their long existence, played at just about everywhere you can think of right across North America. From your small town dive to snowboarding championships,  cocktail lounges, festivals and just about every other kind of place a bunch of guys can fit a drum kit. Their debut album, Boots And Suits, hit the streets in 2002 before second album Liquordale a couple of years later. That release was named as Album Of The Year by the Boston based Shite n’ Onions web-site.

They started recording the new album in 2013 but like they say ‘good things come to those who wait’. For me this album is one of the best releases of 2017 and there has been some cracking albums released this year. It has thirteen songs and features guest performances by Finny McConnell (The Mahones) on the third track ‘Going Down Swingin’. Palace Of The Fiend was recorded in five different studios, located in Montreal, Toronto and Casablanca, Morocco and was one of the first releases of 2017, coming out on January 3rd so apologies to the band for taking so long to get the review done.

(The first video released from Palace of the Fiend)

This is a great upbeat tune to put you in the mood for a pint or two. The album opens with ‘New York’ which sets the scene nicely for the fifty+ minutes that follow. Stand out tune for me are ‘Five Roses’, ‘A1a Fla’, ‘Stand Down Clearly’ and ‘The Black Eye Blonde’. The curtain comes down with an amazing version of ‘Cúnla’ and illustrates the link to the past that The Peelers are so proud of. A ‘sean-nós’ (style of unaccompanied traditional Irish singing) children’s song believed written in the 14th century. The album is definitely more in The Flogging Molly school of celtic punk than Dropkick Murphys. I’d highly recommend Palace of the fiend to anyone who likes their Irish music with a twist of punk. – Shane

Buy Palace of The Fiend

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Contact The Peelers

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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: FLOYD WESTERMAN- Custer Died For Your Sins (1969)

Floyd Westerman was a Dakota Sioux musician, political activist, and actor. After establishing a career as a country music singer he later in his life became the leading actor depicting Native Americans in American films and TV. He worked as a political activist for Native American causes and released two full-length albums, one of which features here, Custer Died For Your Sins, which took its title from a popular book.
Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman
August 17, 1936 – December 13, 2007 
On the tenth anniversary of his sad passing (or entering the spirit world as he would himself put it) we offer up Floyd Westerman’s debut album as part of our Classic Album Review series. It comes with a free download which you can find further down the page and we hope you will take us up on this. Floyd was an engaging singer-songwriter and it’s a shame he never got around to making another dozen albums of protest songs. After all his people and their sad and tragic history could certainly supply the material to fill them.

CUSTER DIED FOR YOUR SINS

For the lies that were spoken
For the blood we have spilled
For the treaties that we broken
For the leaders you have stilled
Custer died for your sin
Custer died for your sin
Now a new day must begin
Custer died for your sin
For the tribes you terminated
For the myth you keep alive
For the land you confiscated
For our freedom you deprived
Custer died for your sin
Custer died for your sin
Now a new day must begin
Custer died for your sin

Now A new day must begin
Custer died for your sin
For the truth that you pollute
For the life that you have cost
For the good you prostitute
And for all that we have lost
Custer died for your sin
Custer died for your sin
Now a new day must begin

Custer died for you sin
Now a new day must begin

SLEEVE NOTES

From our hearts thank you by Vine Deloria Jr.

By a thousand campfires, traveling the endless miles of reservation frustration, huddling in the desolate urban centers and Indian bars, the soul of the American Indian cries out to his gods for justification.

Until now there has been no answer, no joyous cry of freedom. With this album. Floyd Westerman takes the giant step across cultures to bring the anguish and unquenchable pride of the American Indian to the forefront.

Raised in government boarding schools, supporting himself since he was fourteen, victim and conqueror of the society that betrayed his ancestors, Floyd is the only person who could have done these songs.

A veteran of the contemporary Indian movement, his rendition of Where Were You When? reflects the bitterness of those who have fought too hard only to be shunted aside in favor of newly arrived “Indian experts” who have all the answers.

The defiant title song, Custer Died For Your Sins, could only be sung by one who has glimpsed the Indian renaissance in the reservation backwash of American society.

Thirty-five More Miles, the story of Floyd’s mother represents the senseless waste of Indian lives by a society that does not understand and could not learn to care.

Red, White and Black and Missionaries tell of the struggle against hopeless odds which seeks to create in American society new sense of the dimensions of cultures.

Floyd was born to sing these songs and they were written in search of a singer like Floyd. Like the eyapaha, the cryer of old who summoned the camp to action, Floyd will provide the spark, the badly needed war songs that thousands have waited to hear. Hear him well.

The songs, brilliantly penned by Jimmy Curtiss, are a testimony to Jimmy’s ability to transcend time and space and live with the people in their sorrow and triumphs, to understand their sense of hopelessness and yet to see their vision.

With this album the continental divide of oppression is crossed and a new day begins. Remember it as the years pass and a new history for the American Indian is forged out of the decades. Remember how the world was before the songs were heard. The day is corning when you will not remember how it started — that it started with this record.

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Floyd Westerman was born on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe. It is one of the tribes of the Eastern Dakota subgroup of the Great Sioux Nation, living within the U.S. state of South Dakota. At the age of 10, Floyd was forced to go to the Wahpeton Boarding School, where he met Dennis Banks, who would later become a leader of the American Indian Movement. There Westerman and other boys were forced to cut their traditionally long hair and forbidden to speak their native tongue. This experience would profoundly impact his later life and as an adult he would champion his own heritage. He graduated from Northern State University with a B.A. degree in secondary education and also served two years in the US Marines, before beginning his career as a singer.

Custer Died For Your Sins was his debut release and is one of his few. He never created a large body of work throughout his career, but the tricks he had up his sleeve were good ones. Whilst playing in Colorado he met and became friends with the author Vine Deloria Jr., also a songwriter. They talked about the lack of Native American issues and traditions in song and a collaboration began. Floyd took sections of Deloria’s book, Custer Died for Your Sins, and created profound, sometimes humorous songs from the subjects. This led to the release of his debut album, titled after his friend’s book. The album has a strong country flavor that suited Westerman’s voice and has remained a sought-after classic ever since. The title song is tough and to the point, while other songs such as ‘Here Come the Anthros’ reveal a stinging satirical sense of humor. Two anthems on Side Two are particularly hard-hitting: ‘Missionaries’, certainly a well-deserved jab and ‘Where Were You When’ which takes a poke at Native American pride of the opportunistic sort. He established a solid reputation as a country-western music singer and his recordings offer a probing analysis of European influences in Native American communities. In addition to his solo recordings he collaborated with Willie Nelson, Harry Belafonte, Joni Mitchell and Kris Kristofferson among others.

After years of performing as a singer Floyd became interested in acting and he debuted his film career in Renegades (1989) alongside Lou Diamond Phillips. Additional film roles included Dances with Wolves (1990), The Doors (1991) and numerous others. His television roles included Walker, Texas Ranger, Northern Exposure and multiple appearances as Albert Hosteen on The X-Files. Westerman was recognized for his political advocacy for Native American causes and at times he participated in and supported the American Indian Movement. Floyd Westerman died on December 13, 2007, at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California after an extended illness and complications from leukemia.

MISSIONARIES

Spread the word of your religions
Convert the whole world if you can
Kill and slaughter those who oppose you
Its worth it if you save one man

Take the land to build your churches
A sin to tax the house of god
Take the child while he is supple
Spoil the mind and spare the rod

Go and tell the savage native
That he must be christianized
Tell him end his heathen worship
And you will make him civilized

Shove your gospel, force your values
Down his throat until he’s raw
And after he is crippled
Turn your back and lock the door

Like an ever circling vulture
You descend upon your prey
Then you pick the soul to pieces
And you watch as it decays

‘Cause religion is big business
As your bank account will show
And Christ died to save all mankind
But that was long ago

Missionaries, missionaries go and leave us all alone
Take your white god to your white men
We’ve a God of our own

Musicians: Floyd Westerman: Vocals, Rythm Guitar *John Palmer Trivers: Bass * Bob Abrahams: Acoustic Lead Guitar * Jerry Shook: Harp, Dobro * Barry Lazarowitz: Drums * J.C. (Jim Curtiss): Rhythm Guitar * Pete Drake: Steel Guitar

Produced by Jimmy Curtis & Terry Philips

Recorded at Al Studios, New York City and Music City Recorders, Nashville, Tennessee

More On Floyd Westerman

Wikipedia  WebSite  Obituary  JohnKatsMusic

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPING STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

(if the links are broken please leave a comment and we will fix)

 

EP REVIEW: FLATCAPS & FISTICUFFS- ‘Raspberry Cheesecake’ (2017)

*FREE* download of the debut release of delicious country Folk-Punk from Flatcaps & Fisticuffs from the town of Berkhamsted!
Ukulele, mandolin, guitar, cajon, trumpet and a fragrant hint of rap!
You know when you have made it as a band when you find other bands being compared to you and so it is with Matilda’s Scoundrels and Flatcaps & Fisticuffs. They are by no means clones but I think you could easily bracket them in the the same style of folk-punk with a bit of celtic-ness! I literally found out about them this week so made the short leap to the free download and bloody loved it so thought I’d get in touch with the guys and find out what’s the score with them. Long, long ago is how it usually starts but not this time! Duncan the mandolin player had just arrived in England from South Africa and on meeting Ben the guitar player in a pub and over a few (!) beers it was suggested they start a band. The hardest thing about starting a band, I’m reliably informed, is to find a drummer but they already knew one so it wasn’t too long before they progressed from playing open mic gigs in pubs around Hertfordshire to making their own folk punk sound with uke, mando and other standard band instruments.
The band hail from Berkhamsted, a historic market town in Hertfordshire in the south of England. Now any new appearance of a band in England even remotely sounding just a little celtic-punk is a joyous event to us and so we were more than a little excited to press play and see if they warranted all this excitement.
…well I am glad to say it’s a blooming excellent EP and you’d have to be a right mug not to take them up on their fantastic offer of a free download of it.

Flatcaps & Fisticuffs left to right: Ben- Guitar / Backing vocals * Duncan- Mandolin / Vocals * Adam- Uke / Vocals * Ben- Drums * Will- Percussion / Vocals * Tom- Bass

Raspberry Cheesecake begins with ‘Socks’ and it’s right up my alley with this ode to yer man’s socks hitting all the right notes for me.

“My socks, my socks, without them I’d be lost”

Fast paced with plenty of slow bits and a lovely gang chorus that’s easy to singalong to. It’s a bit daft but hey-ho give me the Toy Dolls over The Subhumans any day of the week. As stated already it has a tinge of Matilda’s Scoundrels about it with classic English folk and punk colliding and almost very nearly spilling over into celtic-punk.

On ‘Capo On A Jew Harp’ it’s more of the same if not punked up a bit but just as accessible and as catchy. The lyrics take a harder edge while still keeping the fun element. Politically directed lyrics but with a good sense of humour thrown into the mix is always going to be a winner. Bland virtue signalling has had its day and with the world seemingly on the brink every couple of months we want our politics to lift us don’t we? The final song here is a cover of the, frankly annoying, New Zealander Lorde’s debut single ‘Royals’. While her version is ok Flatcaps & Fisticuffs blow her away with the cobwebs with the catchiest little number here. The uke stands out loud and proud and it all has a bit of a celtic-ska thing going on. Seriously a fantastic number and enough here to keep fans of about five different genres delighted!

Raspberry Cheescake (where on earth did they pluck that name out of??) was released only last month and so we have been lucky to have found it so quickly. Flatcaps & Fisticuffs have made it available for free so just follow the link at the bottom of this review and I am absolutely certain you will be extremely glad you did. In this country we don’t have a wealth of bands playing this style of music so when one comes along its always a bit of an event and even better when they deliver something so special. So now that we have found them our next step is to get them on the short road to a London Celtic Punks gig. So here’s what to do… download the EP, find them and then like them on Facebook (link below) and lastly keep an eye out for them playing very, very soon. Enjoy!

Download Raspberry Cheesecake

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Contact Fisticuffs & Flatcaps

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While plans are afoot to bring Fisticuffs & Flatcaps for a London Celtic Punks show you can catch them at The Horn in St Albans on 18th of January, Nottingham on the 27th of January for a Homeless charity fundraising gig (TBC) and in London for somebody else at the Finborough Arms in Kensington on the 3rd of February. See you at the bar!

ALBUM REVIEW: DECLAN O’ROURKE- ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine’ (2017)

Declan O’Rourke delivers an amazing album of extraordinary true tales from the most tragic period in the history of Ireland. Fifteen years in the making he takes the best of traditional Irish music and the heart of modern song-writing for something truly special.

Sometime around 1570 Spanish soldiers returned from their ‘adventures’ in South America with a tuberous vegetable that at the time was only native to the Andes. It didn’t take long before the potato as it became known became very popular and was found to grow extremely well from one end of the continent to the other as well as having a beneficial effect on the diets of those, mainly poor, Europeans that ate them. The potato grew especially well in Ireland and was grown in every space imaginable. Irish farmers were with very few exceptions tenant farmers and had no rights on the land they farmed. They also grew an abundance of wheat, barley, oats and cattle but this was sold by the farmers to their absentee landlords living in England and placed on ships for export. The food that maintained the British Empire was all produced in Ireland.

The nutritional value of potatoes was high because the skins could be fed to pigs and chickens and if a farmer was lucky enough to have a cow, their diet, based on the potato was highly nutritious. However, potatoes have predators. One is a fungus, blight, which destroys the entire plant from the leaves to the tubers below. Sometime in the mid-1840s, one ship sailing from South America introduced potato fungal spores into Ireland. The result was catastrophic, with every farm infected with the blight by 1846. With the primary food source cut off, the Irish began starving while exports of Irish produce (the so-called ‘English beef’) continued, sometimes by armed guard to protect it from the starving and dying. The so-called ‘famine’ became known instead as Án Gorta Mór, Irish for ‘The Great Hunger’. The blight did not just affect Ireland and all over Europe the potato crops failed but those countries stopped exporting food so they could feed their own people. This did not happen in Ireland. It took months during 1846 for the news of the condition of the Irish to reach the United States. There money was collected and aid shipped to the Ireland. Many of these ships were stopped and prevented from finishing their journey with the aid often going to feed horses.

So it can be clear and without doubt that the famine was no famine at all. An island famous for farming could easily have fed itself but an attempt was made to wipe the Irish Catholic from existence. The authorities claim the population of Ireland at the time was 8 million in an attempt to lessen what was done. It is widely acknowledged as an underestimate with some scholars imagining it was more like 11 million meaning over 5 million people starved to death, cutting the population almost in half. With very few exceptions, the response of English society was one of denial. The government and capitalist class in England viewed it as a superb opportunity to cleanse Ireland of their poor, ignorant tenant farmers. Absentee landlords stepped forward with offers to pay passage to any starving Irish willing to emigrate. The conditions aboard the ships that carried them to the United States were horrendous and when they arrived, the exploitation continued as soon as these poor souls stepped off the ships and their oppression continued but the Irish survived and now almost 170 years from the peak of Án Gorta Mór the Irish community continues to prosper in the USA.

Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine is the new album from Irish singer-songwriter Declan O’Rourke and tells the story of the ‘famine’ in a

“an attempt to bring fresh air to an unhealed wound, and to remind the Irish people of what we have overcome through an examination of what has lurked just below the surface of collective memory for so long”.

It was as an immigrant himself in Melbourne that he first learnt to play the guitar after moving there at 10 years old when his family upped sticks from Dublin. Trips back and forth from home to ‘home’ continued well into his mid-20’s and finally having settled in Dublin he released his acclaimed debut album Since Kyabram in 2004 and followed up this success with Big Bad Beautiful World three years later. A stint with a major label followed and led to more critical and commercially successful releases which brings us pretty much up to date and an admission here that before this album I had only heard the name Declan O’Rourke so had no idea what to expect from this album except having an 2nd-generation Irishman’s interest in the subject matter.

The album was inspired by a night spent in a old Irish workhouse with his Dad. These were the places that the poor and starving turned to as a last resort but many found no help due to the sheer numbers of desperate and dying seeking help. Many died and many more were turned away. While making this album Declan found out that his Grandfather was born in a workhouse giving himself a very real link to the people that illustrate this album.

The album begins with ‘Clogman’s Glen’ and a mournful fiddle and as soon as Declan’s voice comes in it instantly shines through strong and proud. Reminiscent of Damien Dempsey in tone and Christy in manor it’s a beautiful and moving song that tells of a husband singing to his wife of the time before the famine when life had been good to them. Now all that they had known had changed and was gone forever. Ireland was a extremely religious nation at the time of the famine and could be seen as the major reason why Protestant Britain wanted to wipe the Catholic Irish off the face of Ireland. In ‘Along The Western Seaboard’ a priest laments that

“When we need to feed so many, and there’s not even for the few”

and curses the British for their cruelty at letting the people die. In this song Án Gorta Mór is explained. The Damo comparisons continue with the passion literally seeping from Declan’s voice. ‘Buried In The Deep’ is the horrific story of the coffin ships that left Ireland with the sick and diseased crowded onto them. Emaciated, filthy and near dead the mortality rate aboard reached 20%. Many ships were lost at sea, and deaths were so common that the dead were simply thrown overboard without so much as a word of prayer or comfort said over them.

“When I die they’ll put me over

That’ll cure my broken heart

My dreams can go no further

We’re buried in the deep

Where hunger cannot find us”

A beautiful song with Declan accompanied by harp and pipes on this stunning lament to those poor souls. Emotion spilling out it brought a flush to my cheeks as the realisation of what happened hits home.

‘Poor Boy’s Shoes’ is next and its upbeat start belies the sad origins of the song. Inspired by a line from John O’Connor’s book ‘The Workhouses Of Ireland’ it was the first song Declan wrote of this collection

“The man who carried his wife from the workhouse to their old home, mile after weary mile, and was discovered next morning dead, his wife’s feet held to his breast as if he was trying to warm them…”

as Declan says “I had stumbled into a chapter of history I knew almost nothing about. I wanted to be a witness, to share these stories the best way I knew how, through music”. An ending that will bring a tear to your eye as it did to mine. A punch to the gut as life is suddenly turned upside down for a very real family, The Buckley’s, and it beggars belief how any survived at all. He brings the story vividly and heart wrenching alive to us.

And there he tried to warm her cold feet through, And they found him there, in poor boy’s shoes”.

The bodhrán kicks off ‘Indian Meal’ and its driving rhythm tells of the removal of food while at the same time…

“There’s ships leaving’ full of pigs, heifer, and lambs
Some transportin’ convicts to Van Diemen’s Land
We’re hemorrhagin’ barrels of butter and grain
And all that comes back in, and all that remains is…
Indian Meal, Indian Meal, Indian Meal”

The government and forced labour schemes fed the poor, if they were lucky, a tasteless and un-nutritious porridge that did little benefit. The British Government found wanting and unable to hide the stench of the dead creeping across the Irish Sea responded with feeble ‘relief’ in an attempt to conceal their guilt. The stunning beauty of the harp helps ‘Mary Kate’ on its way and sorrowful the pain at having to leave your beloved ones behind and heart-breaking doesn’t even begin to measure its words. The true story of Irish girls ‘saved’ by being sent overseas. In the song Mary Kate is chosen to leave to Australia while her younger sister is to remain.

She tells her sister at the dock that she will she see her again knowing full well that to stay means death. The harp remains for ‘Laissez Faire’ which was the name given by the British to the system that believed that the free market will solve everything. That it is unethical to intervene in nature and that helping the poor only makes them lazy and dependent. An experiment that would lead to millions of deaths. The song makes mention of the help and aid given by the Quakers, among others, in America while at home and in Britain help was reluctant and miserly. Catholics were offered soup but only on condition that they renounced their Catholicism which led to the derogatory term ‘soup taker’ for any Irish Catholic who betrays their religion and country.

“Swap your Catholic halo for a Protestant hoop and give up your place in heaven for bowl of soup”

‘Rattle My Bones’ is a moment of lightheartedness among the tragedy as Declan starts off acapello before joined by accordion and soon has the ‘bones’ of a sea-shanty going. ‘The Villain Curry Shaw’ tells of a family leaving for Nova Scotia on board the Hannah setting sail from Newry on 29th April 1849. This true story tells of the ships sinking and the captain and two officers who left the sinking ship aboard the only lifeboat, leaving passengers and the rest of the crew to fend for themselves. 49 died and 130 were rescued from the freezing ice. His cowardice has gone into the history books and is now immortalised by Declan for all. The laments over for a moment ‘Johnny And The Lantern’ is for me the best song here capturing both the tragic times as well as the famous irrepressible Irish shining through. The Irish always fought the invasion of their country and again the upbeat and cheerful tune belies the subject but surely the demise of an absentee landlord is a time for celebration is it not. The landlords that sucked the land dry that farmers farmed were quick to evict when rent became hard to pay as Án Gorta Mór began to bite. Well fed on the back of their peasant farmers they were despised from one end of Ireland to the other.

‘Johnny And The Lantern’ tells of an anonymous Irish farmer shooting to death one such landlord, Manning, on the road in Delvin, Westmeath and, as is further illustrated on the cover of the album by the band dressed in ‘famine’ clothing, his body is cut to pieces.

‘And the last thing they buried, Were the hands that took the rent’.

On an album filled with melancholy and calamity your heartstrings are in constant danger as on ‘The Connaught Orphan’. Declan’s voice pulls the emotion from the tale of a young 6 year old boy who starving and all alone is provided with a new set of clothes by an American Quaker women. She wonders why the young lad is unhappy at his new outfit.

“I’ll surely die of hunger now
If they see me with your nice new clothes
They’ll think I’m telling lies, and that
I have a mammy feeds me so”

The awfulness of the situation is captured perfectly.

The inscription on the cross reads: Cailleadh Clann na nGaedheal ina míltibh ar an Oileán so ar dteicheadh dhóibh ó dlíghthibh na dtíoránach ngallda agus ó ghorta tréarach isna bliadhantaibh 1847-48. Beannacht dílis Dé orra. Bíodh an leacht so i gcomhartha garma agus onóra dhóibh ó Ghaedhealaibh Ameriocá. Go saoraigh Dia Éire – Children of the Gael died in their thousands on this island having fled from the laws of foreign tyrants and an artificial famine in the years 1847-48. God’s blessing on them. Let this monument be a token to their name and honour from the Gaels of America. God Save Ireland.

The story of those coffin ships is told in ‘The Great Saint Lawrence River’. Between 1845 and 1851 over 1,500,000 people left Ireland on diseased and vermin-infested ships rampant with disease.

“When I die they’ll put me over, We’re buried in the deep, Where hunger cannot find us”.

In the midst of Án Gorta Mór the U.S placed restrictions on the amount of Irish flooding into the country so unable to land the ships sailed on to Canada but the extra weeks meant many more perished. A 46-foot high Celtic cross stands at the highest point in the St. Lawrence River, thirty miles from Quebec. Grosse Île served as the quarantine station for immigrant ships and boar witness to the terrible devastation that brought Ireland’s destitute to the New World. It is estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 are buried here. The largest mass grave of Án Gorta Mór victims outside of Ireland. The album ends with ‘Go Domhain i do Chuimhne’ a spoken word song.

Ach na dearmaid ar gcaithú, Cuimhnidh lámh ar an mead, A tháinigh muid tharais, Más féidir linn cuimhniú, is teacht ar an tuiscint, Más féidir linn tuiscint, maith (far an) croí.

(But don’t forget our sorrows, And all of our sadness, Reflect on all that we have overcome, If we can remember, we can try to understand, If we understand, we can learn to forgive).

Spoken first in the language of Ireland and then repeated in English it is a call to remember the tragedy of those times and of the loss that we suffer as a nation both collectively and personally. This winter marks the 170th anniversary of Án Gorta Mór reaching its peak. Events that haunt us yet. The island hasn’t recovered either with the population still far below what it was in the 1840’s. It saw the Irish scattered to the winds and their orphans are still with us today with over 80 million across the world claiming Irish heritage. It is a truly electrifying way to close this outstanding album.

Growing up in England we were never taught at school about Án Gorta Mór. Maybe they thought the reality of what happened and the obvious blame at whose door the dead should be laid to rest would be too much for us, instead we found out at home in hushed bedside stories and tales around fires. My own Great-Grandfather left Ireland and lost all four of his children and wife before returning to Ireland many, many years later to marry again and start a new family. Stories we all have if we look for them. This album covers Án Gorta Mór in a most sensitive and beautiful way. Never shying away from apportioning blame to the ‘richest nation on the earth’ and telling the story of real men, women and children. People from history who lived and died in those terrible times. During ‘Go Domhain i do Chuimhne’ Declan urges us to keep our heritage, traditions and language alive. The Irish people owe Declan a great service for what he has produced here and maybe its too much to ask for it to be put on the British school curriculum but it warrants it so. It’s an emotional ride alright with several songs the tears arriving. It has taken Declan 15 years to deliver Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine and on it he is ably assisted by a wealth of Irish musicians including John Sheahan on fiddle, Dermot Byrne on accordion, Gino Lupari on bodhran and Mike McGoldrick on pipes, whistle and flute and I can honestly say that in all my 47 years I have never heard anything that evokes Án Gorta Mór in such a moving and evocative way.

Buy Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine

SignedVinyl  SignedCD  Amazon

Contact Declan O’Rourke

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Soundcloud

In writing this review I owe a huge debt to the following- my Grandfather, Michael Joesph Wilkinson. Missed every day. Dave McNally of Folk Radio UK here for his outstanding review here and Stair na hÉireann which provides invaluable help with articles on every aspect of Irish history here.

Further Recommended Reading:

Let Ireland Remember

Irish National Famine Memorial Day

but the most extensive resource on Facebook about this period is to be found at

Irish Holocaust –Not Famine: The Push To Educate In Fact’s

(Declan O’Rourke performs two tracks, ‘Indian Meal’ and ‘Poor Boy’s Shoes’ and talks about the album and his reasons for recording it)

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THIS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

It’s the first of December so let your pint glass be half full for a change and get into the festive spirit with what started as a Top Ten but but soon became the London Celtic Punk’s Top Twenty of the best kick-arse Christmas celtic-punk tunes ever written and absolutely no surprises at #1.

20. THE PRIESTS FEATURING SHANE MacGOWAN-  ‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth’

Yeah you read that right. It may not quite reach the heights of Bing’n’Bowie but feck it nothing this man does is anything short of brilliant!

19. THE RUFFIANS- ‘Christmas In Killarney’

The Ruffians cover the holiday classic Christmas in Killarney on their 2005 Christmas EP Together at Christmas.

18. REILLY- ‘Paddy’s Christmas’

Milwaukee Celtic punk band Reilly’s version of Snoopy’s Christmas, now called Paddy’s Christmas on their 2008 album Kick Ass Celtic Christmas.

17. THE GOBSHITES- ‘Christmas Eve in the Boozer’

Boston Celtic punk band The Gobshites’ cover of the Yobs’ Christmas Eve in the Boozer. On The Gobshites’ album When the Shite Hits the Fan.

16. IRISH ROVER – ‘Christmas Time In Hells’

Performed entirely by  Rover MacChroi and one for the miserablists out there. This guys glass is definitly half empty!

15. DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘AK47 [All I Want For Christmas Is An]’

Proof the Murphs can do no wrong…

14. THE REAL McKENZIES- ‘Auld Lang Syne’

Now not strictly a Christmas song but I’ve met Scots who actually enjoy Hogmaney (New Years Eve) more than Christmas!

13. THE MAHONES- ‘Angels Without Wings/Merry Christmas Baby’

From The Mahones 2012 album Angels & Devils here is their awesome Christmas song featuring Felicity Hamer.

12. SHANE MacGOWAN- ‘Christmas Lullaby’

Gotta love this tune. Irish blues with a punk rock edge. McGowan nails it again.

11. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS- ‘White Christmas’

Belfast punk rock legends, and still going from strength to strength, cause Bing to rotate in his grave with this which appeared on the B-side of ‘The Edge’ 7″ in 1979.

10. SHILELAGH LAW- ‘Christmas in New York’

Christmas is many things to many people. I will always remember that a good mate Steve died on Christmas Eve and so it’s also a good time to think of those who have passed and raise a glass to them. Here’s a tribute to the victims of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, by NY’ers Shilelagh Law.

9. MALASAÑERS- ‘Xmas Tree’

Rousing celtic-punk from Spain and available to download for free at: malasaners.bandcamp.com. Watch out for their new album due any day soon.

8. FINNEGAN’S HELL- ‘Drunken Christmas’

Sweden’s Finnegan’s Hell deliver an unorthodox Christmas anthem and yeah, yeah, yeah some Irish stereotyping sure but get over yourselves. What is it you think The Dubliners sang about? My house at Christmas was more like this than what you see on the BBC I can tell you. Anyway judge for yourself!

7. CelKILT- ‘Santa Santa!’

CeltKilt from France even released a full album of Christmas themed songs Kiltmas Songs! in 2015 and as they say themselves, and it sounds better in French I think, “festive celtic rock celtique festif”.

6. THE WAGES OF SIN- ‘Merry Christmas from the Wages’

Enjoy the festive sights, sounds, and smells of the season with Wages Of Sin and their first, and possibly last, holiday single!

5. DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE- ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’

Possibly a bit much for this Catholic Bhoy to bare so if you of a delicate disposition skip to #6. It is hilarious though from this Oregon band from their 2007 album Christmas Songs for Drunken Atheists.

4. THE GENTLEMEN- ‘Oi! To The World’

Oi to the world! so said old punkers The Vandals and this cover by The Gentlemen from West Virginia captures perfectly. One of the celtic-punk scenes most under rated bands does anyone know what became them? Any family opening up Christmas presents to this album is an top one in my book.

3. THE NARROWBACKS- Prodigal Son(I’ll be home for Christmas)

Part filmed at Paddy Reilly’s in New York this song actually brought a tear to my eye when I first heard it. After a couple of years of not speaking to my Mammy after a stupid argument we had only just made up. Kids look after your family. Keep them close and love them lots.

2. THE DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘The Seasons Upon Us’ (2016)

Unfortunate to go up against The Pogues this is The Murphys superb Christmas epic. Hilarious video of Irish-American life. Sure to lift the spirits.

1. THE POGUES FEATURING KIRSTY MacCOLL- Fairytale Of New York

When you see other Christmas best of list’s they always put ‘Arguably the greatest Christmas song of all time’ well we’ve no time for that bollocks. It is without a doubt THE greatest Christmas song of all time so there! R.I.P Kirsty

so there’s our Top Twenty. If you think we missed any post in the comments as is usually the way with these things we couldn’t stop there so bubbling under here’s one to play loud and proud!

…and so we end with some great words “let’s not fight tonight”. Just listen to The Ramones instead.

EP REVIEW: HEADSTICKS featuring STEVE IGNORANT- ‘Lies, Lies, Lies’ (2017)

The new four track EP from northern England folk-punk powerhouse Headsticks featuring the legendary voice of Mr. Crass Steve Ignorant.

On first listen to this you may wonder why its being reviewed on these pages. After all we pride ourselves on being celtic-punk and covering (or trying to cover) every aspect of the Celtic music diaspora. While this has seen us feature everything from trad to metal to hip-hop the one kind of music that we haven’t really gone into is what I use to describe as ‘festival music’. The sort of alternative folk-rock pumped out for the last few decades by the likes of New Model Army or The Levellers. But they do own, much like everyone in England!, some rather special Celtic credentials too with the bands roots firmly in the ashes of two much loved, and sadly long gone, celtic-punk bands ‘Tower Struck Down’, who were one of first English celtic-punk bands back in 1985, and Jugopunch.

Headsticks (not The Headsticks) hail from the once proud industrial town of Stoke once amed for the manufacture of pottery (the area is known as The Potteries), coal mining and steel making. All of the areas main industries are long gone having been decimated by successive governments of Labour and Tory who care nothing for the working class while they chase the votes and follow the whims of the urban ‘chattering’ classes. They have featured on this site before with reviews of their debut album, Muster and their follow up Feather And Flames. Both albums were very well received and have seen the bands star rise with each release and having graced the 0161 Festival in Manchester among others and even reached London several times, each time with a growing number of fans.

While there is nothing particularly ‘Celtic’ going on within this EP what you do get is four songs of expertly played catchy as hell and in-yer-face folk-punk with a biting and still humorous at times social commentary which takes well aimed strikes at those who blight our lives with their misrule while all the time knowing exactly who their music is aimed at.

“It’s a social commentary that the working classes can easily relate to…..we aim to make people stop and think with our songs and it does seem to do that! It’s not so much about smashing the statues and setting fire to the government buildings, but more of asking people to look outside their own bubble, basically to start giving a shit before it’s too late!”

The band describe themselves as “where folk and punk collide” and is as perfect a way to sum them up in five words as could be imagined. The songs start side 1 and ‘Big Game Hunter’ and features the unmistakable dulcet tones of the one and only Steve Ignorant of seminal English anarcho-punk band Crass. We have all seen the photos on Facebook of these utter shits standing next and smiling over the corpse of some amazingly beautiful animal they have shot from safety while on safari. While our hope is that they turn the tables on these monsters it rarely happens and ‘trophy hunting’ only seems to be getting more and more popular among the rich and powerful. Maybe one day they will doing it to us? The song has managed to catch both the typical sound of Headsticks and a couple of Steve’s better previous bands pitched somewhere between Schwartzeneggar and the Stratford Mercenaries.

“Arrogance personified, the abuse of wealth and power”

Side 1 comes to an end with ‘Dying For A Lie’ which gives its name to the record. The sad tale of war criminal Tony Blair and the lies. lies, lies that he told to bring us to war in Iraq. The song is catchy and a real head nodder for those of us well past our moshing days. Like a lot of their previous stuff there are touches of country music here and there and it all makes for an enjoyable romp with a nice fist in the air chorus to shout along to.

Flipping over we have side 2 and we are off with the fantastic folk-punk anthem ‘Soaps & Costume Drama’. The recent fad of fancy BBC dramas is a world away from the lives of most people and nowhere on this EP do the words resonate so powerful.

“She escapes into another costume drama, as she waits for her knight in shining armour”

Absolutely classic Headsticks and it sees the welcome introduction of one of my favourite instruments the harmonica too. The disc comes to an end with ‘You’re Killing Me America’, both a band and a crowd favourite re-recorded from the Muster album. It’s brought slap bang up to date beginning with Donald Trump’s voice starting the song off and I would say the rough edges are gone but I don’t think the old version had any but they have added something to it besides a few samples but its kind of hard to put your finger on it. It may have only acoustic guitar and harmonica as ‘folk’ instruments but Headsticks have an unmistakable traditional English folk sound that I’m sure would appeal to all fans of celtic-punk.

(a live version and without the samples and harmonica and extra flourish of the version on the EP but just to give you a wee taster!)

The whole thing comes in a package of a 10″ record on red vinyl that is quite possibly the most beautiful package we have ever received at London Celtic Punks towers. You don’t just get the record either with a whole bunch of stickers, postcards, lyric sheet and download code included. Having been around a bit I’m more than happy to see the resurgence of vinyl even if I do personally listen to most of music on my mobile! The band have also released a live album recently and we will be getting round to that soon but the urgency and honesty and just plain good old fashioned folk’n’roll from their album’s is still very much in evidence and while they may be heavy on the mind they are also light on their feet. An EP of four superbly crafted songs that reflect perfectly what the band represent- the place “where folk and punk collide”.

Buy Lies, Lies, Lies

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Tower Struck Down WebSite here

EP REVIEW: BogZH CELTIC CATS!- ‘Kazh al Lagenn’ (2017)

Celtic celtic-punk and rock, rage and Celtic swing from Naoned.

Rearranged and adapted Breton rock, trad Irish and Scottish Celtic rock’n’roll punk-folk.

Released last month this is the debut release form the latest Breton celtic-punk band to grace these pages. Earlier this year we published a review of the great debut album from Sons Of O’Flaherty. In that review we told a faction of the history of Brittany so rather than go over it again hightail it here and learn a little of the story of this proud Celtic nation. The Breton’s have embraced the celtic-punk revolution with open arms and bands like Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs, The Maggie Whackers and Sons Of O’Flaherty use their Celtic heritage and music to push for more civil rights and recognition for their language.

BogZH Celtic Cats! were formed in late 2014 out of the ashes of famed Breton rock band Daonet by three of their former members. Daonet were a rock band playing dynamic rock music with celtic rock melodies with lyrics mostly in Breton embodying the image of a free, conscious and future-oriented Brittany. Hervé and Gilles were drummer and bassist in the Daonet and were playing in a rock and blues band Bogzh until they were joined by JJ, blues harp player and singer and Hervé’s brother, Fabien who also played in Daonet and Gilles son Gwenolé on both bass guitar and upright bass though not at the same time! The band started off with a repertoire of celtic-punk classics from the likes of the Dropkick Murphys and the Real McKenzies as well as adapting some traditional folk songs of Brittany, Ireland, Scotland and singing in a combination of Breton, English and French. Kazh al Lagenn is the bands first release and came out last September. Self produced and distributed by the band themselves it’s truly a DIY release and a sign of the healthy celtic-punk scene in Brittany.

The EP begins with ‘Ye Jacobites By Name’ a traditional Scottish folk song written in 1791 by the legendary Scots poet Robert Burns. The Jacobites were Scots rebels trying to return James II, the last Catholic British monarch,  to the throne after he had been deposed by Parliament during the Glorious Revolution. The series of battles took its name Jacobitism, from Jacobus, the Latin form of James. With the defeat of the Jacobite army at the battle of Culloden in 1746, the union of England and Scotland was sealed, and this song is a call to the Jacobites to take up Scottish independence but with a more anti-war outlook. Recorded untold times through the years it’s a song that lends itself well to celtic-punk and BogZH Celtic Cats! give it a good seeing too playing with a heap of gusto with strong performances from all.  Starting off with some lovely western overtones before the band jumps in and harmonica, pipes, electric guitar, bass and drum taking us firmly into celtic-punk territory. Fast and catchy before slowing down and speeding back up again before ending on a flourish. Gilles’s voice is powerful and backing vocals from the rest of the band are equally as strong. Next up is the EP highlight for me the extremely brilliant ‘An Avel’ ( meaning ‘The Wind’). I love harmonica and wish it was more widely used in celtic-punk circles. Sang in Breton the song is catchy as hell and harks back to the days of Daonet with a song fit to grace any rock bands set. We are in Ireland next for a song covered by just about everyone in the scene and it takes a lot to get much of a rise out of me for ‘Star Of The County Down’ these days but BogZh Celtic Cats! keep it slowish and rocky rather than punky and yeah it’s fine and faithful to the original.

Does the scene need another cover of this admittedly great song? Probably not but there’s a very good reason why songs like these are so popular and while we may be a little jaded on hearing it we have to realise that to fans of BogZh Celtic Cats! it’s quite possibly a new song to them. The pipes are the standout on the next track ‘Kenavo Da Viken Ma Breur’ (meaning ‘Farewell My Brother’) and in the longest track on the EP the Bhoys really go for it and at times it could drift off into Goth or Post-Punk but always Celt.

Dropkick Murphys ‘Prisoner’s Song’ from their Signed And Sealed In Blood album is given a faithful and if anything outCelts the Murphys on this great track. The EP ends with the lads version of the traditional Breton folk song ‘Son Ar Chistr’ and those elements are out in force again and it’s a winning combination for me. As a punk with a few Goth tendencies I love that that they aren’t just a straight up punk band but something a little different. Vocals on the EP are shared between JJ, Gilles, Gwenolé and Fabien and work extremely well.

A great way to start their recording history and another welcome addition to the Breton scene. With bands like this the Celtic revolution is in safe hands. While they may not be as celtic-punk as say the Sons Of O’Flaherty they have taken the rock sound of Daonet and embraced punkier elements to it and come up with something that actually sounds quite fresh to these ears. The only problem being that five songs is not enough and we want to hear a lot more from these.

BogZH Celtic Cats! from left to right: JJ- Harmonica, Vocals * Maxime- Bagpipes, Vocals * Corentin- Tin Whistle * Gwenolé- Bass Guitar, Upright Bass, Vocals * Fabien- Folk/Electric Guitars, Vocals * Hervé- Drums * Gilles- Tenor Banjo, Guitar, Vocals.

(you can listen to Kazh al Lagenn for *free* on the Bandcamp player player below before you buy. Available as download or CD)

Buy Kazh al Lagenn

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Contact BogZH Celtic Cats!

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You should also check out THE FOLK’N’PUNK BRIGADE which is a local celtic-punk collective similar to London Celtic Punks. A group of friends and musicians from French bands The Moorings and Saints and Sinners and Breton bands The Maggie Whackers and Sons Of O’Flaherty- Facebook

The Celtic League is an inter-Celtic political organisation, which campaigns for the political, language, cultural and social rights, affecting one or more of the Celtic nations- Facebook  WebSite

Gilles from the band also runs an extensive Blog featuring both Daonet and BogZH Celtic Cats! as well as heaps of Breton and Celtic music so check that out here- WebSite

ALBUM REVIEW: THE LUCKY PISTOLS- ‘Where The Orioles Fly’ (2017)

FREE DOWNLOAD

To put it as simply as we possibly can The Lucky Pistols are an Irish folk punk band based out of Baltimore, Maryland. There.

Back in the year 1816 only 6,000 Irish people immigrated to America but within just two short years tragedy and an deliberate attempt to wipe out an entire race this number would double and would sadly continue to grow for the foreseeable future.  The greatest spike in the number of Irish who immigrated to America came during 1845-1853 the time of The Great Hunger which completely devastated Ireland.  In 1846, 92,484 immigrated and by 1850 that number had grown to 206,041. By the end of 1854 over two million had immigrated to America, astonishingly this was over one quarter of the population of Ireland. These were the lucky ones with the dead left by the roadside at home and many more dying on what became known as ‘Coffin Ships’ on the long torturous journey to what they hoped was a better life. It was during this dramatic exodus that Baltimore experienced it’s boom in its Irish population with close to 70,000 arriving in the city in the 1850’s and 60’s. Those who arrived in Baltimore settled in the southwestern part of the city with the men working for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the women finding work usually as domestics. The work was hard and dirty and dangerous but as employment opportunities were scarce and these Irish immigrants were mainly farmers so due to their lack of skilled labour, they faced a great deal of discrimination and were viewed as inferior people. They lived in tiny crowded and subdivided homes. Unable to afford better housing they were still better off than if they had stayed in Ireland and despite the low wages they were still were five times more than the eight pence a day that a farmer back home earned.

Baltimore became the third most common point of entry for European immigrants, behind New York and Boston.  In 1867, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad entered into a partnership with the North German Lloy Stemship Line to build immigration piers at Locust Point.  The ships landing at Locust Point would drop off German, Irish and English immigrants.  From there, immigrants could immediately go and work for the railroad or board a train and continue westward. The Irish experience in Baltimore was not a happy one but one of hardship and challenge.

Their children are The Lucky Pistols.

The Lucky Pistols left to right: Tony Graham- Bass, Backup Vocals * Sean Suttell- Guitar, Mandolin, Harmonica, Lead Vocals * Jay D’Annunzio- Drums (joined after release of the album. Drummer on the album is Matt Toronto) Victoria Renee Grier- Fiddle (Joined after release of the album)

The roots of The Lucky Pistols rather surprisingly begin in the German town of Heidelberg in a band called The Cold Shots. Pistols and good mates Sean and Tony spent five years ago playing Irish folk punk supporting many great Irish punk bands like Paddy And The Rats and The Mahones. As is the way with many immigrants the lure of home became too great and on the break up of The Cold Shots Sean and Tony moved back to the United States in 2013. After a short break Sean began playing solo gigs on the Irish pub scene in Baltimore and Annapolis and it wasn’t long before the Bhoys got the bug and decided to give it another shot and have been trying out their style of Irish folk punk on the east coast ever since.

Where The Orioles Fly is The Lucky Pistols debut album and to their absolute credit have made it available a free download so regardless of what you are about to read you ought to download it straight away. After all who is to say our opinion is worth anything anyway? The album begins with ‘Songs Of Ireland’ and straight from the off its fast paced acoustic Irish folk-punk. Yeah my favourite! I get off on this stuff I really do. A tale of drinking with mates and belting out Irish songs is, I am sure, familiar to many of you. My own brother when he was younger and hadn’t embraced his Irish roots as much as some in the family (ahem…) still knew the words to the entire Irish emigrant songbook. Catchy as hell and that north American celtic-punk sound that definitely has crossover appeal in that it is basically folk music for punks.  I love the harmonica and it is sadly underused in celtic-punk but used to great effect in ‘Girl At The Gallows’. Two songs in and you get a feel for what The Lucky Pistols are about and it’s good. The album’s title song, ‘Where The Orioles Fly’, rolls in next and the oriole is the official state bird of Maryland and the name of the local major league baseball team and tells of Sean and his journey home from across the sea.

Sean’s voice leads the band along and is the more stronger for it. The songs tell stories in that Irish tradition and also in the tradition of Ireland a few drinking songs wouldn’t go amiss and more importantly those warning of the perils of the demon drink and ‘Moonshine (Howlin’ At The Moon)’ is the first here. Country influence especially strong here but not of Nashville but of working men and women far away from rhinestones and glamour. There follows a group of songs with much in common. ‘Downtrodden’, ‘Back In The Harbour’, ‘Walls Of Misery’ all tell of the various struggles of those at the bottom of the ladder. Sad to say not everyone is a “king in the US of A”.

It’s not all doom though as ‘Regrets Are A Waste Of Time’ tells of dusting yourself off when life drags you through the dirt. Great sentiments and not many know the truth of that as much as the Irish do. The music so far has been fast and flowing steady but what I have been waiting for has been a kick-arse ballad and finally I am rewarded with the wait with the penultimate song ‘Drink With You’. Every celtic-punk album needs one and as it the way they usually revolve around a drink or two and The Lucky Pistols don’t buck the trend. Mind you I wouldn’t say its completely a ballad but it still rolls along beautifully and you can class it as the album’s epic. Where The Orioles Fly ends with the classic Irish standard ‘God Save Ireland’ and a song that is very rarely covered which is a shame as both the words and the tune I’ve always thought would make it the perfect song to ‘punk’ right up. Written back in 1867 it was the unofficial Irish national anthem up to the 1920’s and tells the story of three Irishmen executed in Manchester, England for their part in the ambush of a Police transport. The ambush achieved it’s goal of the release of two of their comrades but a shot fired at the lock of the van inadvertently caused the death of the police guard. In the ensuing weeks many local Irish were rounded up and eventually three men were sentenced to death. Despite none of them having fired the fatal shot Michael Larkin, William Phillip Allen, and Michael O’Brien were put to death and became known as the Manchester Martyrs. The songs lyrics were released the day before their execution on 23rd November 1867.

“Climbed they up the rugged stair, rang their voices out in prayer,
Then with England’s fatal cord around them cast,
Close beside the gallows tree kissed like brothers lovingly,
True to home and faith and freedom to the last”

The Lucky Pistols turn in an utterly fantastic version what is without a doubt the highlight of the album. Fast and catchy and thigh slappingly brilliant. A song that is built to last and no better tribute to those people mentioned at the beginning of this article. Sean the vocalist and songwriter of the band takes his inspiration from his Irish nannie (like a true Irish grandson!) and Maryland has a rich Irish culture which is celebrated throughout the year. Throughout the USA Irish culture is holding firm against globalisation and ‘mono-culture’ and bands like The Lucky Pistols play more than their fair share in aiding that. That their music speaks to the grandchildren of those brave Irish souls who settled in Baltimore many years ago is undeniable but their feisty mix of acoustic folk-punk laded with plenty of Irish ‘oompf’ with gather many friends of the Irish around the hearth too.

(you can download for free this fantastic album but if you can spare a dime or enough for a Guinness even then follow the link but listen first here)

Download Where The Orioles Fly

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ALBUM REVIEW: CHRISTY MOORE- ‘On The Road’ (2017)

Christy Moore is one of a handful of people who brought Irish folk music out of the backroom sessions in pubs and homes and out in to the mainstream. With influences from rock, pop, and jazz music he is one of the architects of modern Irish folk music.

Released this very day is On The Road the new album from Irish music icon Christy Moore, a two-disc, 24-song set of classic tracks Christy has made his own in an incredible fifty years of touring and recording. The tracks have been recorded in seventeen live venues from London to Westport, Glasgow to Galway, over the past three years and is the first time Christy’s biggest tunes have been made available on one album. Of course with a career as long and successful as his not everyone will be happy and personally I would have liked to have seen some of the songs that gained him notoriety in the 1980’s when he was the bain of the Irish establishment recording tracks such as ‘They Never Came Home’ about 1981’s Stardust fire where 48 people died at a Dublin nightclub. Christy was hauled before the courts and fined and had his album withdrawn for suggesting, quite correctly, that the fire exits being chained was the reason for the disaster. ‘The Time Has Come’ described the last meeting of a hunger striker and his mother receiving regular plays on Irish Radio until it was revealed exactly what the song was about and it was subsequently banned. One song included here though banned at the time was ‘Mcllhatton’, which along with ‘Back Home in Derry’ was banned after it was discovered they were written by Bobby Sands whilst in prison. So there is no ’90 Miles From Dublin’ but what were we to expect. Much of the material here is of the leftfield kind and while ‘Viva La Quinte Brigada’ may have been the embodiment of everything the Irish government hated upon it’s release the years have been kind to this roll call of the brave Irishmen and women who left Ireland to fight Franco and the fascists in 1936 Spain. With his political output having ground to a halt, hopefully temporarily, it is Christy’s renowned sense of humour that takes centre stage. It is on songs such as ‘Joxer Goes To Stuttgart’ about Irish fans travelling to Euro 1988, in West Germany and, utilizing the same tune, ‘Delirium Tremens’ telling of his alcoholic demons, an idea later stolen by indie rock band Carter USM for ‘Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere’, that Christy’s music comes alive with the audience enthusiastically singing and clapping along.

“Goodbye to the Port and Brandy, to the Vodka and the Stag,
To the Schmiddick and the Harpic, the bottled draught and keg.
As I sat lookin’ up the Guinness ad I could never figure out
How your man stayed up on the surfboard after 14 pints of stout”

As much as I love the more raucous and lively tracks there is no denying the beauty of the slower songs here. Well known standards such as ‘Nancy Spain’ and ‘Cliffs Of Dooneen’ are putty in his hands extolling emotion that not many can squeeze out of a song heard countless times. One of the highlights of the album is his take on The Pogues ‘Fairytale Of New York’ and his half whispered voice and relaxed guitar adds another dimension to this amazing song. It ends with Christy whispering of a night on the lash with Shane in Tipp and it is breath-takingly beautiful. There is a new song in the shape of ‘Lingo Politico’ dedicated to politicians everywhere! The quality of these recordings is simply outstanding and they have been edited together superbly to make an album that flows and ebbs beautifully. Accompanied by a booklet that tells you every single thing you need to know about these recordings. Christy’s voice is strong and powerful when needed and gentle and kind at other times. Their can’t be many who need an introduction to his recordings but to those who love him and those looking for an introduction to his best work this can be recommended mainly because of that excellent production..

AN ORDINARY MAN By Scott Feemster

Christopher Moore was born in Kildare, Ireland in May, 1945. His father owned a grocery shop while his mother was a keen music fan and was often caught singing around the house to Clancy Brothers records. Christy and two of his five siblings, Ailish and Barry, all went on to be notable singers, Barry adopting the stage name Luka Bloom later in life. When Christy was young, he became aware of the deep well of Irish folk songs, though, at the time, he was more impressed with rock’n’roll than folk tunes. Regardless of influence, he took up the guitar and bodhran and played briefly in a band with who would become his long-time collaborator, Donal Lunny. When he was out of school, Christy took a job as a bank clerk in Dublin and became fascinated by the local folk scene. Though he played a few gigs he couldn’t work his way into the Dublin scene as much as he wanted, and when a labour strike struck in the mid 60’s he decided to pack it in and move to England to find work. Christy spent the next few years gaining quite a reputation in England with his mix of traditional Irish and British songs and towards the end of the 60’s he decided to take the next logical step. Managing to get noted songwriter (and brother of Brendan) Dominic Behan to produce an album of traditional folk and political songs called Paddy On The Road (1969) and it has become something of a rarity in later years since only 500 copies were pressed. Though thrilled that he finally had an album to show for his efforts, he was disappointed that the English musicians backing him didn’t have the proper feel for the Irish material he was presenting. Christy moved back to Ireland and set upon finding some musicians who could play the fiery brand of politically-charged folk music he wanted to produce. Moore teamed up with his old friend guitarist/bouzouki player Donal Lunny, uillean piper and whistle player Liam O’Flynn, mandolinist Andy Irvine and bodhran player Kevin Conneff to produce Prosperous (1972), an album that marked a turning point in Irish folk music. Suddenly, younger Irish musicians were taking up traditional instruments and songs and injecting new urgency and fire into them. This combination worked so well together that they decided to carry on as a group, calling themselves Planxty. Touring relentlessly and recording the landmark Planxty (1973) and The Well Below The Valley (1973).

Moore set to work on a solo album that would show all of his strengths, and decided to split Whatever Tickles Your Fancy (1975) between an acoustic side and an electric side. The acoustic side featured Moore’s voice, guitar and bodhran playing, while the electric side was similar to the folk-rock style Fairport Convention were popularizing around the same time. Moore followed it up with his self-titled Christy Moore (1976), this time concentrating on acoustic-based narrative folk songs that were his strength. Moore took on a heavy schedule of touring and playing gigs but kept his connection with his former Planxty bandmates, and by late 1978 the original four members were keen to try the band again adding fifth member flutist Matt Molloy to the band and recording three further album’s between 1979 and 1983. Wanting to branch out from the traditional sound put forth by Planxty, Moore joined with Lunny in 1981 and formed Moving Hearts, who combined traditional Irish music with contemporary elements from rock and jazz. Other members of Moving Hearts included guitarist Declan Sinnott, saxophonist Keith Donald, bassist Eoghan O’Neill, drummer Brian Calnan and uillean piper Davy Spillane. Protests against internment, the ‘H Blocks’ and in support of the hunger strikers led to several bans and Christy’s outspoken opinions left him no friends in the establishment. Two politically-charged albums resulted, Moving Hearts (1981) and Dark End Of The Street (1982), before again Christy left to concentrate on his solo career.

To say that the 1980’s was a busy period would be an understatement, as Christy managed to be a member of Planxty, Moving Hearts and a solo artist all at the same time. He released a whole series of solo albums throughout the 80’s, including The Time Has Come (1983), the critically acclaimed Ride On (1984),  Ordinary Man (1985), Spirit Of Freedom (1985) Unfinished Revolution (1987) and Voyage (1989), with guests including Sinead O’Connor and Elvis Costello. If Christy wasn’t enough of an Irish national treasure with his work in the 70’s, his output during the 80’s combined with populist political commentary in his lyrics cemented his stature in Irish music as Ireland’s equivalent of America’s Woody Guthrie.

Moore entered the 90’s still touring and releasing albums, though slowing down a bit to near human levels. Releasing the over-produced Smoke & Strong Whiskey (1991) before a more traditional, stripped-down sound with King Puck (1993). The rousing Live At The Point(1994) followed but in 1997, Christy’s decades of constant touring, combined with his attraction to copious amounts of alcohol finally caught up with him. Told if he continued performing at the level he had been his heart would kill him he retired to take care of his health, but soon returned to the studio to make Traveller (1999), a giant left turn for Moore. The album was techno-pop utilizing synthesizers, drum machines and heavily effected electric guitar, along with the usual traditional Irish instrumentation. The album was greeted by surprise by Christy’s fans, but was generally well reviewed. He planned a return to performing live again in 1999, but his health still wasn’t up to it using the down time to his advantage writing his autobiography, One Voice (2000).

Though it looked like his days of heavy touring were over, he was not done recording getting together with Donal Lunny and Declan Sinnot for This Is The Day (2001), which, sound-wise, split the difference between his earlier stripped-down acoustic records and the sound captured on Traveller. Moore followed with a series of low-key appearances in Dublin, and after being profiled on an Irish TV special, renewed interest was shown towards Planxty, and Moore joined with Lunny, Irvine and O’Flynn for some reunion shows. Planxty kept their reunion open-ended, and did not rule out working together in the future but Christy returned to his solo career with the critically-acclaimed Burning Times (2006), which featured his own compositions mixed in with covers by such songwriters as Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan and Morrissey. Again, Moore took to playing some shows, although in a much more low-key manner, and put out the double album Live In Dublin (2006). Recent years have seen no let up but with his releases now tending to be of the tribute/live/greatest hits variety he is still a regular visitor to this side of the Irish sea and although recently the admission fee’s have been somewhat expensive he still remains one of Ireland’s most treasured performers and, dare I say it, now part of the establishment.

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ALBUM REVIEW: GHOSTTOWN COMPANY- ‘FolkRock’ (2017)

An original German band with their debut album a mix of modern day folk-rock but steered by traditional influences of Irish-Celtic music and American country music.

Not long ago in the summer of 2015, as tends to be the way with these things, two mates with an interest and a background in both folk and rock bands decided they wanted to combine the two and get a band together. With a handful of shows booked they set out on the search for fellow enthusiasts and having quickly agreed on the name Ghosttown Company they roped in a few acquaintances and the search was completed in October 2015. The band’s name describes the places left behind by the Irish during ‘The Great Hunger’ in the mid 19th century when millions were forced to leave Ireland in search of survival and a better life. Rehearsals soon followed culminating in a successful debut local gig in Saarbrücken. Not wasting any time at all the Bhoys took to the recording studio making their first Demo and after a further run of accomplished gigs the band signed a contract with Prosodia publishing company and so it has been a short journey to their debut album the rather aptly titled FolkRock, released in July this year.

Now celtic-punk and all things Irish are incredibly popular in Germany and we have gone over this several times including recently with reviews of albums by Restless Feet, Pitmen, Jamie Clarke’s Perfect The Distillery Rats and The Crooks And The Dylans. Here in England the celtic part of celtic-punk is often underplayed and many bands while actually playing celtic-punk and using Irish and Celtic tunes persist in calling their music folk-punk or attribute the said Irish tunes as English. This special affinity that German’s hold for the Irish means they don’t fall for such bullshit and hypocrisy and they completely go for the Irish/Celtic part and this makes the German scene one of the best in the world. Time and time again when I have met German folk I have been impressed by their knowledge of Irish culture, music and history. That Celtic are by far the most popular foreign team among German football supporters is testament to that affinity. There are several theories for this but my guess is that the Germans love a drink and a good party so it makes perfect sense for them to team up with the Irish. That and maybe perhaps a grudge against a certain nation as well has brought us together?

Ghosttown Company are not unusual among the German celtic-punk scene in that they play mostly acoustic folk music. Yes with the spirit of punk but this is celtic-punk played under the influence of Country, Americana and rock whilst butting shoulders with traditional Irish and Celtic songs. The album starts with ‘Shooting Star’ and they kick off with the album’s top song. Catchy is surely the most overused word when reviewing things so instead of repeating it throughout just assume every song is ‘catchy’ it will save us both time. The European celtic-punk bands love the flute and I am a late comer to the brilliance of this instrument (thank Firkin for my conversion) and it works wonders here. ‘Far Away’ is up next and is a more solid rock number with saxophone and chugging guitar driving it along. Now I’m not sure if the world needs another version of a famous folk trad classic and here it is ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ that gets the folkpunk treatment. Since the advent of recorded music the same songs have popped up for a reason and it’s a little rich to slate modern day celtic-punk bands for it when my Mammies record collection from the 50’s/60’s/70’s must have a thousand different versions of maybe 5 or 6 songs in it. More Dubliners than Thin Lizzy needless to say it’s a great cover and the Bhoys do it justice playing it with a hoe-down twist with added “Yee-Hars” and pub soundtrack. So far the band that is in the back of my head are The Men They Couldn’t Hang and on ‘Plastic World’, the LP’s longest song, you can hear it as well as feel it with the lyrics of the song. That ‘English’ influence continues with next track ‘Clowns In A Game’. One of the album highlights is the outstanding ‘Greenlands’ which takes us on a mesmerising journey through Ghosttown Company’s musical abilities. The music swirls and twines building up and up before relaxing again and repeating. The whole band plays their part and this must surely be a huge live favourite. While they can cut loose you also get the feeling that some songs like the following, ‘Going Down’, would benefit from the same and bit of ‘anarchy’. Another celtic-punk classic next with ‘Black Velvet Band’ and bands love this as it’s slow build up gives them a chance to go f**king mental when the chorus comes along. Not here though and the song is quite restrained with some excellent mournful saxophone and again the band take’s trad material and manages to do something a little different with it to give it their own stamp. The accordion and the mandolin lead us into ‘Hell You Know’ and another standout song that flows magnificently along. This is music that is perched halfway between folk and rock and the past and present and while it won’t scare your Grandparents it is still thoroughly thigh slappingly great. A visit to Ireland is recalled next in ‘Island Of The Green’ and the autobiographical story of how Ghosttown Company frontman and songwriter Chris fell in love with Ireland and all things Irish things on their first visit to Dublin. Music, alcohol and good times in the four corners of Ireland put to catchy (sorry!) country tinged Irish folk’n’roll. The last cover is ‘Spanish Lady’ and one of my favourite songs of all time. Now I can only remember this being covered in the celtic-punk world by Shane MacGowan And The Popes. It may be a tad restrained compared to that version but again they nail it and the thigh slapping continues unabashed!

The curtain comes down on FolkRock with ‘A Lost One’s Ballad’ and its a great way the close down. Slow and delicate and proof these guys can play a tune. Every celtic-punk album needs at least one of these songs and I have seldom heard better.

These Bhoys are brand new to the celtic-punk stage and are a more than welcome addition to it. As with many, many bands out there there is no stereotyping here (well maybe just a tiny little bit!) just a love of all the things that make us as humans great. These are things that the Irish are famous for but by no means solely confined to the Irish race. Generous, kind, faithful, hospitable, passionate and devoted while at the same time managing to be pretty well f**ked up as well and I get the sense that Ghosttown Company here are wise to that. The traditional songs here are solid renditions but gone are the days when celtic-punk bands were judged on their covers and with nine of the album’s twelve songs penned by the band themselves it bodes very well for them. Although here what I have done is actually pigeonhole them they were a band I found quite hard to do so. Now unique is not a word bandied around in celtic-punk circles very often, after all a lot in the scene does sound a bit ‘samey’ to put it mildly, Ghosttown Company have managed to come up with something different and show they are never just another Irish covers band and with this great debut behind them they are set for a great future.

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