EP REVIEW: MICK O’TOOLE- ‘A Working Class Battalion’ (2016)

A bunch of dirty cider drinkers with one goal. To make you jig and pissed!

O'Toole

With Matilda’s Scoundrels last EP released and reviewed (here) a few weeks ago here’s the only band in the celtic-punk scene here that keep up with them in term of releases, Mick O’Toole. We were suppose to review this a while ago when we ordered ten copies on sale or return but the buggers went on tour to Belguim and sold the lot so I’m reviewing this from the Bandcamp site! Well what to say… I don’t know what they are putting in the cider over in the west country but with this amount of productivity it’s making me think of switching from the ‘black stuff’ just to keep up!

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Mick O’Toole left to right: Matthew Thomas- Banjo/Vocals * Jamie Squires Drums/Vocals * Tyler Shurmer- Guitar/Vocals * Arron Heap- Vocals/Mandolin * Jaseph Skin Greaves- Bass/Vocals

Mick O’Toole got together back in 2012 in the deepest darkest Shire otherwise known as county Wiltshire in a town called Calne.  Bored with heavy metal and with a new found love of Flogging Molly they decided to take a completely different route and get a celtic punk band together. Calling themselves Mick O’Toole after a character in a song from local celtic punk legends The Boys Of County Hell. Mick O’Toole’s sound is a irresistible blend of punk rock combined with traditional folk. Their first EP ‘Deep In Cider’ set the benchmark sky high but they managed to outdo even that with the release last year of ‘1665 Pitchfork Rebellion’. Going on to claim EP of the year at both Celtic Folk Punk And More (here) and here at London Celtic Punks as well (here) in the ‘Best Of 2015’ lists. Now with hundreds of gigs behind them including blowing down the house at the London Celtic Punks 2015 New Years Eve bash in Camden with Hungarian legends Firkin. They followed that up with the release of a single, ‘False Flag Collapse’. that featured the vocal talent of UK Sub Jamie Oliver and garnered rave reviews across the net and they continue despite the sad loss (all the best Guy) of various band members who couldn’t keep up.

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All the songs on A Working Class Battalion are brand new and self penned by Mick O’Toole themselves and you really cannot ask for any more than that. The twenty minute CD kicks off with ‘Still In Cider’ and it never ceases to amaze how different Arron sounds singing then when you’re talking to him. I don’t mean in a Joe Strummer public schoolboy/west lahndoner kind of way but even with the bit of distortion added he sounds completely different. A completely different version from the one they released back in 2013 I guess they couldn’t resist the brilliant pun ion the title! It has everything that Mick O’Toole do so well. Catchy as feck arrangements and a chorus to murder someone for. The trademark O’Toole banjo is loud and proud and the Bhoys have produced a fantastic video to accompany the song.

Up next is ‘Boundaries’ and another one to add that short but ever growing lost of celtic-ska songs. Still with very much of a punky twist to it and this time its the mandolin that shines but always with Arron’s voice leading. ‘A Traitor Born’ follows and there is no let up here either. While some of the music may not be particularly fast it is heavy and those drums and those strings get pounded as hard as any punk rock band do. Wonderful chorus here with the band singing along. How’s this for a song title? ‘What Was Once A Solid Foundation Is Now A Collapsing Empire’. A bit of a mouthful and the fastest tune here. A riot of a tune with some classy stop and start moments that again has a great shouty chorus. This leads us nicely onto the last song, ‘As If It were To End’. The track here that ought to make them its superbly catchy and they’ve added some strings that sound brilliant. Altogether its twenty minutes of some of the best celtic-punk music you will hear and sure to feature high in all the end of year poll’s (including ours!!). They can’t seem to do no wrong at the moment and it’s to be admired that they have withstood the leaving of the old guard and continue to work so well with the new guys in the band.

As the band say themselves

“No egos, no divas just working class men having a good time”

They have that thing where they appeal to all. At their local gigs they play a combination of folk classics and their own material and it all goes down equally well. Whether they are performing with the Anti Nowhere League or playing ‘Dirty Old Town’ in their local boozer they have got something good going on and people want to hear it.

(have a listen to A Working Class Battalion by pressing play on the Bandcamp payer below)

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you can watch this interview we done with the O’Toole lads a while back here. there has been a bit of personnel change since then but explains well the history of the band and what they are still about.

ALBUM REVIEW: STEELEYE SPAN- ‘Dodgy Bastards’ (2016)

With the release of Dodgy Bastards, the 23rd studio album of their career Steeleye Span remain one of the most influential names in music. Pioneers of folk-rock, they changed the face of folk music forever. Taking it out of small clubs and into the world of gold discs and international tours. Steeleye Span have remained at the forefront of the genre they helped to define and 38 years later have become an institution in British music.

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Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention were two of the most successful and popular British band’s of their generation. Both bands made their mark on the music scene by taking traditional British folk material and adding rock arrangements, something that hadn’t really been done before and both featured female singers, Sandy Denny for Fairport and Maddy Prior for Steeleye. Both mixed self-penned and traditional songs but it can be argued that it was Steeleye Span who went on to have a much more lasting effect on the folk-rock scene and indeed on music in general too. At their peak Steeleye Span’s revolving door of members certainly kept their fans on their toes but the one constant in the band has always been the ethereal voice of Maddy Prior that gave the band their identity at all the different phases of their existence. The major difference between the bands was that Fairport came to traditional folk from a rock background, whereas Steeleye Span arrived from the opposite direction.

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Formed at the beginning of 1970 in in Winchester, Hampshire that original line-up included Ashley Hutchings, at the time bassist in Fairport Convention, who had wanted to pursue a more traditional folk direction and so left them and joined forces with future Pogue Terry Wood, who had been in a trad Irish group called Sweeney’s Men, Maddy Prior, who had been in a folk duo with guitarist Tim Hart and Gay Woods (Terry’s wife) to become the starting line up of Steeleye Span. Lasting only one album Terry and Gay soon left and were replaced by Martin Carthy, one of the most respected artists on the folk circuit. While Bob Dylan fought his own fans and the critics to introduce electric guitar into folk music in the mid-1960’s Martin Carthy was instrumental in taking Steeleye Span in the same direction. They may have played folk music but they played it damn loud! Hutchings and Carthy left by the end of 1971 and while the loss of their two most influential members would cripple most bands the ‘Span not only drove on but actually entered into their most successful stage. Tim Hart was quoted as saying that the group wanted to

“put traditional music back into current musical language — to make folk music less esoteric”

New bassist Rick Kemp became Maddy Prior’s husband and in 1973, they added drums for the first time to the band. With the revolving door of players, artists as famous as David Bowie and even Peter Sellers guested on their albums. Their first major hit came with the Christmas song ‘Gaudette’ reaching #14 in the British music charts and in 1975, they released their huge smash hit ‘All Around My Hat’ which charted all over the world and made them big players everywhere. With the coming of punk and new wave in 1977, they took on even more traditional elements with the return of Martin Carthy, and the addition of John Kirkpatrick on accordion. Sadly though they split the following year. However they periodically reunited while pursuing their own projects and the occasional studio album appeared while the group performed at festivals and toured with enough regularity making it confusing whether they were a band that was together or not. They had a strong and large enough fan base that remained extremely loyal to them ensuring that whatever they did they always had an audience to hear it. Of all the ‘Span members it was Terry Woods who went on to have the most success playing mandolin in The Pogues while Martin Carthy may not have had the commercial success of Terry Woods but certainly commanded great respect

“If the English folk revival of the 1960s had a single “father” and guiding spirit, then Martin Carthy was it”

Maddy Prior’s most notable work was her recordings with the respected folk singer June Tabor. Tim Hart released a handful of notable solo outings before retiring to the Canary Islands, where he sadly passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2009.

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So all this, and that intro could easily have run into several thousand’s of words (have a look at their Wikipedia page here to see how!), lands us in 2016 and Steeleye Span’s new album. Dodgy Bastards is their 23rd album release is a mixture of self penned songs, traditional songs and some original tunes put to traditional lyrics. The group today consists of Prior, Kemp, drummer Liam Genockey, guitarist Julian Littman, fiddler Jessie May Smart, and Andrew ‘Spud’ Sinclair, who was filling in for six-year member Pete Zorn before Zorn passed away from cancer in April 2016. The main inspiration for Dodgy Bastards is taken from the work of the 19th century American Francis James Child. Starting in 1860 Child began to anthologize over 300 traditional ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants. Their lyrics and his studies of them were published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The themes were often dark and thought not suitable for the times containing such subjects as diverse as romance and half-human creatures or enchantment and forbidden love. The abuse of authority and the depiction of very real historical events and the boldness of outlaws and folk heroes made these songs dangerous to the authorities.

Dodgy Bastards begins with ‘Cruel Brother’ and from the start we have a song about a man who kills his sister! It’s classic Steeleye and starts with just the voices of the band before it kicks off. It’s certainly gentle and even hard to believe that this was classed as folk-rock back in the day but it’s catchy and extremely well played and Maddy’s voice is still as striking as ever. Lasting almost eight minutes it never outlasts it’s welcome and if you think this was gentle then ‘All Things Quite Silent’ takes it down further. Maddy’s voice dominates over a simple backing of guitar and fiddle. ‘Johnnie Armstrong’ is the story of Scottish raider and folk-hero Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie, who was captured and hanged by King James V in 1530. Big and gutsy, again it lasts over seven minutes. This is powerful stuff and the words can be dated to before 1724. This leads us nicely into the only song here I knew before, ‘Boys of Bedlam’. Loud and bombastic and with great fiddle and guitar.

(not the version on Dodgy Bastards but still worth a spin)

Recorded by Steeleye before as a simple folk version above here they give it plenty of welly and show those folk-rock credentials loud and proud even including a rap from Alex Prior, son of Maddy and Rick. Unrecognisable next to the earlier version from 1971 album  Please To See The King. The sleeve notes say of the song

“Priory of St. Mary of Bethlehem at Bishopsgate founded in 1247 became the male lunatic asylum known as Bethlehem Hospital or Bedlam in 1547. In 1815 it was moved to Lambeth in the buildings now housing the Imperial War Museum and in 1931 was moved to Kent. The hospital of St. Mary Magdalen was its female counterpart. During the 16th and 17th centuries the man in the moon was depicted as a bent old man with a staff leading a dog, carrying a thorn bush and lantern”

It’s an album standout for me though that’s hardly surprising I’m sure. On ‘Brown Robyn’s Confession’ recent addition to the band Jessie May Smart takes on the lead vocal before the distinct tones of Maddy joins her during the superb chorus. Another unusual tale this time of a ship’s captain and his men who go to sea and encounter a terrible storm. They cast lots to learn who is to blame, and it is Brown Robyn himself who is thrown overboard with him admitting that he has fathered children with both his mother and sister. Before he drowns he sees the Virgin Mary, who offers to let him come to heaven or return to his men. He chooses heaven. Next is ‘Two Sisters’ a murder ballad recounting the tale of a girl drowned by her sister with a great production as it is throughout the album. Accordion is great here and a real foot stomper of a song with Maddy’s voice soaring. The next song is about the dodgiest bastard of them all! A new song penned by Rick ‘Cromwell’s Skull’ clocks in at nearly nine minutes and with a beautiful fiddle solo from Jessie May Smart in the middle.

So now to the title song ‘Dodgy Bastards’ and folk music is jam packed with them and this jig is a full on tribute to them all. Great guitar work and shows exactly what great musicians they all are. Energetic and full of life which is what music should be. No one dies in ‘Gulliver Gentle and Rosemary’ which reminds me of a few songs that became successful in the 70’s/80’s. Them at their most pop friendly they soon return to darker themes with ‘The Gardener’. Nearing the end we have another new song, this time written by Julian, ‘Bad Bones’ in which Steeleye show their humorous side in a story of a right bastard. A totally unrepentant right bastard! The song includes another spoken word/rap and again it doesn’t feel forced or seem out of place. Not many bands could get away with it I tells you. Dodgy Bastards comes to an end with the epic ‘The Lofty Tall Ship/Shallow Brown’, lasting a serious ten minutes. Beginning as a slow ballad before gaining momentum its a is a traditional Scottish folk song about Henry Martin who turned to piracy to support his family. This develops into a beautiful rendition by Maddy of Shallow Brown a West Indian slave song/sea shanty and this then becomes another instrumental that brings the curtain down on this exceptional album with the highlight saved for the end.

(great half hour sampler of the album below)

The album is appropriately titled with its tales of murder, religion, incest, honour killings and tormented spirits and with their 50th anniversary fast approaching it’s simply unbelievable the quality of their work. Their work rate is incredible with Dodgy Bastards their eighth album in twelve years. The stories here are at the very heart of the what we know as Steeleye Span. The album clocks in at a incredible seventy-one minutes and deservedly so as the themes here are not for the short of attention span. Their audience these days may well be the preserve of the middle aged but they show here that they deserve better than to be pigeonholed like that. Constantly innovative and inspiring and as inspirational as ever they need to be heard and any readers here interested in the development of celtic-punk must make Steeleye Span one of their first stops.

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Peter Knight  Maddy Prior  Gay Woods  Troy Donockley

ALBUM REVIEW: SIR REG- ‘Modern Day Disgrace’ (2016)

Back in 2009 an Irishman left Dublin and set off to Stockholm where he met up with five other musicians to become Sir Reg. Only one of the most popular and critically acclaimed celtic-punk bands in the entire world! 

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Sir Reg are an energetic six piece from Sweden playing some of the best celtic punk around. And when I say around I mean in the entire fecking universe! On vocals is Brendan from Dublin who moved to Sweden to fulfill his dream of putting together the most amazing band possible. Karin, the violinist, is a tiny and fiery redhead from Sweden who leaves jaws ajar with her fiddle skills and Mattias L on drums, Mattias S on bass, Filip on mandolin and Chris on electric guitar. All have well diverse musical backgrounds and together as Sir Reg have scaled heights most celtic-punk bands can only dream of. Their are many kinds of success and one of the best has to be critical success. This Sir Reg have received again and again. Their previous albums have all been awarded Album Of The Year at the various celtic-punk sites with Celtic Folk Punk And More awarding Sir Reg with top spot for every album they have released.

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Born out of the ashes of The Barcrawlers who were one of the earliest pioneers of celtic-punk in Scandinavia. For over a decade they toured across Scandinavia playing their energetic barand of Irish and celtic folk-punk to the masses. Deciding they had gone as far as they could they re-grouped and came together as Sir Reg (to be pronounced  as ‘Sir. Redge’) in early 2009. With a bunch of self penned original material they began to gig relentlessly  including in 2010 a three week tour supporting US horror-punks The Misfits which did brilliantly increasing the Sir Reg fan base. 2010 also the release of their debut album the self-titled Sir Reg. Opening up with the blistering ‘Feck The Celtic Tiger’ it set the benchmark for the year and no other album came anywhere near it. They followed this up with A Sign Of The Times in 2011 and 21st Century Loser in 2013 both of each reached beyond the celtic-punk scene into the mainstream Swedish media.

Putting celtic punk on the map!!

Well this has been a long time coming!!! I’m talking of course about the review not the album. I have to take the blame for the delay in finishing the review. This is no reflection on the album just me getting my arse in gear to finalise it.

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The album has eleven fine tunes spanning 35 minutes and the second tune is a tribute to our comrades ‘The Boys Of St Pauli’. This is followed up with ‘Drinking Like a Dane’ a high tempo song about a day on the lash which is a common theme throughout the whole album. My favourite tune is ‘The Wrong Bar’ which is about the day after a tough session and going for the cure and ending up in a church!!! Could easily happen! This could easily be mistaken for a song by The Dubliners. The band have released a superb video for ‘The Wrong Bar’, directed, edited and filmed by René U Valdes, which required viewing.

Aside from alcohol Sir Reg address the state of the modern world in 2016.

“……the world fucked up, it’s gone insane…….”

‘End of the Line’ deals with the recent wars and the impact on the innocent victims. ‘Fake Hero’ and ‘Breaking Down All Borders’ deals with the consequences of these wars and the mass migration which follows.
Overall this is an excellent offering from the Swedish Celtic punk six piece. Get your hands on a copy and give it a listen to. You won’t regret it.

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE NARROWBACKS- ‘Arrogance & Ignorance’ (2016)

If Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan and Bruce Springsteen survived a drinking session through the 5 boroughs, the hangover would be called The Narrowbacks.
narrowbacks
nar·row·back /ˈnæroʊˌbæk/ [nar-oh-bak]
–noun Slang.
1. Disparaging. an Irish-American.
2. a person of slight build who is unfit for hard labour
The Narrowbacks are from New York City and don’t they let us know us with their new album released this month Arrogance & Ignorance. Around the world Irish bands represent their city like The Wakes and Glasgow or The Bible Code Sundays and London and even though their are several absolutely brilliant New York Irish bands none are quite so linked to the city as The Narrowbacks are. They live and breathe their community and a listen to them brings alive the past, present and future of that community. With a sometimes painful history of tragedy and hardship that became a history of pride and celebration the Irish community today is again flourishing with increased emigration from Ireland and the way the Irish pass on that pride in their roots. One instance is the massive explosion in the playing of Gaelic Games in America and not just because of the newly arrived but those of Irish descent as well. With many of the old areas changing and other communities moving in, those places once known as Irish ghettos are no longer but the Irish still exist in vast numbers and their pubs and sporting venues are still reeling them in.
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The Narrowbacks from left to right: Anthony Chen – Bass (No Irish Ties) * Chris Moran – Drums (Irish American a few generations) * Seamus- Vocals and Patrick Keane- Accordion * (Father from Connemara Co. Galway, Mother’s family from Cork, Clare and Limerick) * Barry Walsh – Banjo, Mandolin (Father and Mother from Dublin) * Fionn McElligott – Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar (Father from Kerry, Mother from Kilkenny)

This is The Narrowbacks second album after Fire It Up in 2013 and they also released an outstanding EP last year, After Hours (review here). These records have for the main taken the same route of some seasoned Irish trad covers, some unusual or rare Irish trad covers and a smattering of self-penned numbers so it was a lovely surprise to see that every song here is one of the band’s own. All twelve tracks are written and arranged by the band and none disappoint too. If you thought they could do a catchy as hell version of ‘Sean South Of Garryowen’ then you need to hear them playing ‘Shannon’!
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Arrogance & Ignorance opens with ‘The Banner County’, which for those who don’t know is the nickname of County Clare in mid-west Ireland in the province of Munster. The song was written by Seamus and is about his and Pat’s Uncle Matt who is from Clare, who got drafted to go to Vietnam and ignored advice to dodge the draft so he could stay in the States. The accordion, played by Seamus brother Pat, leads the boys out and tits all at a fast and furious pace and it may be mostly acoustic but these are not your normal finger in the ear folk band by any stretch. The song moves along and is a superb catchy start to proceedings telling of Seamus Dad’s arrival in America and his dream of
“going back to the Banner county someday”
This is followed by Shannon which came out as a single for St Patrick’s Day earlier this year as an album taster and this song runs away as the album standout. That New York Irish feel is all over this song and only two songs in and I’m already using the word ‘catchy’ twice!

The accordion and banjo are amazing and Seamus vocals are raspy and hoarse but in a way that won’t put off your Mammy or your Nanna. Its heading towards St Shane but still manages to fit the music perfectly. ‘Loisaida’ slows it down a little and is the first taste of the band playing a real Irish traditional song. Even then there’s room for a bit more and song takes in a few styles and influences under it’s Irish wings.narrowbacks-pale‘Home’ brings out the tin whistle and its a rollicking good tune about you know what. It would seem that the NYC Irish and the Irish here in England never stopped dreaming of ‘home’. As the saying goes ‘Home is where the heart is’ and The Wolfe Tones hit the nail on the head with their song ‘My Heart Is In Ireland’. ‘Whiskey River’ slows it down again and its the usual tale of the love/hate relationship we Irish have with alcohol as well as some unrequited love thrown in its a bad mixture. ‘Fourth Of July’ is up next and is the biggest American holiday and also known as Independence Day when the war started that saw the British Empire given the boot. Nowadays its just an excuse for a big party and why not! Accordion and banjo again are flying here but I must add that none of this would be as effective if it wasn’t for the rock instruments of bass and drums. The whole band play as a unit and the album’s production is exemplary with the mix of everything absolutely perfect. Nothing is competing to be heard but rather it all accompanies including the voice,for as we know the Irish voice is also an instrument. Chugging guitar and a track that wouldn’t be out of place with that other son of Ireland The Boss singing with ‘Rosie’ and ‘Prodigal Son’ is a good auld fashioned Christmas song directed at a Irish mammy waiting for her off-the-rails son to come home. Starting off as a, here’s that bloody word again, catchy Irish tune it feels like it may go off at a tangent at some point and then it doesn’t disappoint and it all comes off with some beautiful words about making it home all wrapped it a nice touch of ska/reggae that doesn’t stick out at all.

As hard as it is to make a unsentimental Christmas tune The Narrowbacks have managed it. A real beauty. I’ve had this song stuck in my head for a week and we have made it the London Celtic Punks Christmas song of 2016. ‘Ole’ is up next and this has to be the bands signature tune. Not sure why Irish football supporters have embraced this song so much but embrace it they have. This is the kind of tune that their gig’s must get messy to!
“my Daddies a Paddy and I’m a Narrowback”
We are nearing the end and another album standout track is ‘Want you Back’ featuring the amazingly wonderful voice of Emily McShane. Acoustic guitar and piano start the song off and Emily and Seamus sing to each other about a terrible mistake. The flute gets an airing for ‘Out On The Avenue’ and excuse me but its a fecking glorious sound! An excellent song that leaves the final song as ‘Bastards Of The Borough’ where Seamus is unaccompanied on acoustic guitar and belts out the names of those old Irish areas of NYC with gusto and pride.

narrowback-jfkTwelve songs that, as we said, are all penned by the band that comes in just shy of three quarters of an hour. The Narrowbacks are the sons of Irish-immigrants who found each other at their local pub in the Bronx and for that we and the New York Irish can be grateful. We a expressive race and there is nothing we love better than a sing-song and with the Irish communities outside of Ireland changing and having to re-adapt bands like The Narrowbacks have never been so important . Our history needs to be remembered and passed down to the next generations. Those that sacrificed before us must never be forgotten.This six-piece group may propel itself with punk rock in its heart but it has the soul of an old Irish folk band and we are blessed that they do.
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EP REVIEW: BLACKWATER BANSHEE- ‘Blackwater Banshee’ (2016)

 A cracking new Irish band from Bristol in South-West England and with bands like this the celtic-punk scene is in safe hands!

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I came across Blackwater Banshee on Soundcloud a few weeks back but didn’t listen to any of their recordings till last week and what an eejit I was to wait so long. The five piece band are based in Bristol in South-West England and formed earlier this year. The band is made up of Karin Gormley on banjo and tin-whistle who is originally from Derry in Ireland, Richard Chapman is the vocalist and also plays mandolin, Bryn Llewelyn is Welsh and is on guitar and backing vocals and then we have Nige Savage on bass and Richard Underhill on drums. Bryn and Nige played in a classic rock band together and were looking to form a celtic rock band so after seeing his profile on Bandmix showing his background in Irish music they approached Rich and gathered him in. They then found Karin playing in an Irish folk session in Bristol. They soon started rehearsing back in June and recorded the EP in October. With Karin and Rich’s background in Irish folk and Bryn and Nige’s in rock they got the right blend of Irish folkness and rock to fit right into the celtic-punk scene.

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The EP is only four songs and as such is just a taster really of what they are capable of. All the songs are pretty standard trad Irish covers and concentrate on showing their folkier side. It begins with ‘Nancy Whiskey’ an old trad song that is about the dangers of drink rather than the dangers of women!

“I bought her, I drank her, I had another
Ran out of money, so I did steal
She ran me ragged, Nancy Whiskey
For seven years, a rollin’ wheel”

it’s played straight up and if your looking for comparison try O’Hanlons Horsebox or even the Bible Code Sundays. Its folk-rock designed to be played in an Irish Centre or pub full of 1st, 2nd, 3rd generation Irish and their friends. Their are several different versions and this is the one favoured by Shane MacGowan. Up next is the classic ‘Dirty Old Town’. Written by Ewan MacColl who has featured many times on these pages (have a look here where you can still get some free Ewan album downloads) back in the 1950’s and recorded most famously by himself, The Dubliners and The Pogues. Ewan MacColl actually hated The Pogues version of his song. In an interview Ewan’s wife Peggy Seeger, a renowned folk artist in her own right, contends that when Ewan wrote the line

“We’ll chop you down like an old dead tree”

he was implying improvement of Salford rather than destroying it. While as writer Jeffrey T. Roesgen quite rightly saw it

“In the Pogues performance we have little trouble seeing Shane, with spite seething from his lips, wielding his axe like a banshee, hacking his dismal town to splinters”

Love the tin whistle here at the beginning and the Banshees certainly give it their all. ‘Spancil Hill’ follows and is famous as one of the saddest songs about Irish emigration, and as you can imagine there’s at lot of competition when it comes to that subject. Recorded by Christy Moore with Shane MacGowan, The Wolfe Tones, Johnny McEvoy I’d go so far as to say its been recorded by just about everyone. Written by Michael Considine who was born in Spancil Hill in County Clare and emigrated to America around 1870. He intended to bring his love out to join him but knowing it would not happen he wrote the poem and sent it back to Ireland to his nephew and in 1873 he was dead at only 23 years old. The tragic story of poor Michael’s life only adds to the sadness of the song.

“I dreamed I held and kissed her as in the days of yore
Ah Johnny, you’re only jokin’, as many’s the time before
Then the cock, he crew in the morning, he crew both loud and shrill
I awoke in California, many miles from Spancil Hill”

More than once with a drink in me I have found that last line a bit too much myself… Blackwater Banshee make this their most personal song of the four adding electric guitar and the wonderful mandolin while the drums keep up the beat giving it a real pint in the air feel with Richard belting it out with real conviction. The EP ends with ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’ and it’s one of the livliest of Irish folk songs. Liverpool was once one of the major sea ports in the world. It was collected by Richard Maitland, a resident of Sailor’s Snug Harbor a home for retired seamen on Staten Island, who learnt it on board The General Knox around 1885. Designed to be shouted at the top of your lungs while banging your pint on the table during the chorus. Here the tempo is high, the energy is up and just listening to it now has got me headbanging away.

So their you have it. Four songs sixteen minutes. Admittedly their is nothing unusual here but what you get is some expertly played Irish trad that promises much much more for the future. When playing live they feature tunes from The Pogues and Dropkick Murphys so there is definitely a punk element to their sound. They are certainly a band to watch as if they can play these standards so well we gotta look forward to some of their own material and soon I hope. For a new band its always hard to get going so give them a like on Facebook and have a listen to the EP and lets awake the world to Bklackwater Banshee!

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ALBUM REVIEW: UNDER A BANNER- ‘The Wild Places’ (2016)

Passionate, powerful and poetic Midlands folk-rock band Under A Banner release their superb third studio album.

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Under A Banner have been on our radar for a couple of years now and apart from an appearance at a free music festival in Croydon they have as yet, as far as I know, not managed to get a gig in London town. This is something we hope to remedy soon and on the strength of this album it will be an absolute pleasure. They are one of a bunch of Midlands bands playing political folk-punk that straddles everything from the celtic-punk of Ferocious Dog to the anarcho-folk of The Silk Road. Under A Banner play an infectiously catchy brand of folk-punk caught somewhere between The Levellers at their softest and New Model Army at their punkest with a smidgeon of Ferocious Dog and youthful Billy Bragg, before he fled Barking to live in Dorset in a massive mansion and vote Lib-Dem.

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Under A Banner left to right Kat Davis- Keysboards * Jake Brooks- Guitars/ Backing Vocals * Si Hill- Bass * Adam Broadhurst- Vocals/ Guitars * Tim Wilson- Drums/ Percussion/ Backing Vocals

Based in Wolverhampton and formed only four years ago they are mostly most famous for their close relationship with their fans and their constant gigging around the country, though not London as we said! The Wild Places came out September 30, 2016 on Bad Elephant Records and has already garnered some pretty amazing reviews across the internet so hopefully they won’t mind another positive one!

The Wild Places was recorded at Park Studios in Birmingham, between March and June 2016 and was produced by Alastair Jamieson and the band themselves and a very nice job they have done as well. The album kicks off with ‘In The End’ and it’s a simple start. Just singer-songwriter Adam above an acoustic guitar and cello from guest Isaac Collier. Adam’s passion flows through the song and out through it into you. This track captures Under A Banner perfectly showing off their folky roots while title track ‘The Wild Places’ has them rocking out and is a perfect example of their rockier side. Two songs in and already their range is staggering. Catchy is a very overblown word used during album reviews and if anyone knows a better one can they please let me know it! Up next is ‘Birdsong’ and a song that slows it down again that soars with an almost Gothic feel to it that reminds me of miserable Leeds sods The Mission. There’s an epic feel not just on next song ‘Sunburst’ but throughout the album due in no small part to the excellent mastering and the aural wizardry of Jon Astley who has famously worked with Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Who among others. The albums longest track is ‘Snow Song and was The Wild Place’s first release. One of the album’s standouts mixing the acoustic and the electric together.

“What a perfect time to celebrate!

Love in a silent world creates another rush of hope;

something is coming”

It’s easy to see why they chose Snow Song as that first release seeing how it showcases everything that Under A Banner do so well. From the catchy (their we go again!) and simply effective tune to the outstanding lyrics this is them. The second release was the following song ‘Nothing’s Ever Really Gone’ and again the folk-rock shines with a briliant chorus that is a sure fire toe tapper at the very least!

The second half of the album begins with ‘About Love’ and is certainly different from the rest of the album but Adam’s voice and lyrics keep it interesting. I maybe didn’t much care for it on first listen but its grown to be one of my favourites.

“There’s nothing wrong with love songs”

Adam sings and the word that springs up here is ‘Hope’ even though it’s not mentioned once within the song! One of the things I hate most in reviewing albums is that if a band isn’t too well known you are forced to bring up better known, not necessarily better though!, bands as points of reference. For instance the band Under A banner are most likend to are New Model Army and on ‘Kill It All’ they sound most like them on this album. From the lyrics attacking consumersism and false religion to the music this is the sort of stuff NMA fans would go potty for. That is not to say of course that Under A banner are merely copying NMA or any of the bands mentioned before. They can proudly stand on their own or alongside any of the bands coming in or out of the folk-rock scene. They proclaim

“There’s more of us than their are of you”

while calling us to the barracades on ‘Legion’ and they continue the rockier momentum with ‘On Top of This Mountain’. Penultimate song ‘Already There’ sees another thing that the band revel in. A simple tune on acoustic guitar while Adam’s voice cracks with passion and the return of the stunningly beautiful cello only adds to the effect.

 “The beauty was already there”

under-a-bannerIf I had a small, tiny in fact, issue with The Wild Places it’s that they don’t quite unleash their power and go for it a little more. That is not to detract from the quality here mind you, it’s just that maybe one or two of the songs could have done with a slightly harder edge to them. It all comes to an end with ‘World of Hope’ and nowhere on else on the album does Adam sound so pissed off and angry. Looking back and wondering what happened to those chances we had to change things. Nostalgia is not only about ancient rockers at Rebellion, long given up on anything they once believed in but the times we had.

Under A Banner’s third studio album certainly hits the spot and will appeal to anyone who likes any of the bands mentioned in this review. They would be only a fiddle player away from being able to call themselves a celtic-punk band so I’m sure it will appeal to our more regular readers as well. With a blend of influences from right across the musical scene while incorporating folk and rock to wrap around Adam’s clever and intelligent lyrics they play with a passion missing from a lot of bands these days. Their is defeat and loss but always with hope and they manage it all with a sincerity that makes you believe they play these songs from the heart and soul and not out of some songbook.

(listen to The Wild Places by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS- ‘Seven Hearts One Soul’ (2016)

Imagine the foggy streets of long ago Dublin, crowded pubs ringing with laughter and singing, a time of sailing fishermen and people with stalwart beliefs. The past wrapped up in songs that make you want to dance and sing along till your throat demands another pint. This is what it’s like to listen to The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats!

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The O’Reillys and the Paddyhats played their debut gig at a wedding near Dortmund back in only June 2011 and since then have quickly shot to the top branches of the European celtic-punk tree. Germany has has always had a big love affair with Ireland. As a child it never ceased to amaze me that when i was over in the ‘auld country’ on my school holidays every other person seemed to be a German and their love of Ireland was clear. I remember well a conversation with some German tourist at a train station about The Wolfe Tones as a young teen while getting disapproving looks from my Grandad who though special branch were listening to every word anyone said! These Bhoys and Ghirl from the small town of Gevelsberg, just down the road from the city of Dortmund, are no different. Their love of Ireland is palpable and you can can feel it throughout this wonderful album that is sure to only improve their standing. The German celtic-punk scene is among the best in the world with bands such as Mr. Irish Bastard, Fiddler’s Green, The Porters, In Search of A Rose, The Ceili Family and the sadly deceased Auld Corn Brigade entertaining the world!

the oreillysThis is the bands follow up to their debut album Sound of Narrow Streets from September 2012 and they raised the funds for the release of Seven Hearts One Soul themselves and with the help of their loyal fans raised an incredible E8000 on crowdfunding to pay for its production in full. Recording the album in the famed Principal Studios home of legendary German punk band Die Toten Hosen just up the road from them the album is not simply your typical Irish folk punk record. All the elements are there sure and they straddle nicely the middle ground between scene giants The Murphys and the Mollys between the more folky and the more punky sides of celtic-punk but The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats have found their own niche within the scene and boy does it work well.

Seven Hearts One Soul begins with a short intro set aboard a sailing ship before ‘Black Sails’ bursts into your eardrums and we are off. Chugging guitar and great fiddle work with touches of country but firmly within the pirate tradition with a outstandingly catchy chorus. One of the things that the German celtic-punk bands don’t shy away from is Irish republicanism and I would even go so far as to say it’s one of the reasons why the Germans love us so much. ‘We All Know’ is not your standard rebel but the band give it plenty of oompf and its drives along at a great auld pace. Next is ‘Black and White’ and the banjo stands out here with a slightly slower song without losing any of the bands power. They return to pirate territory with ‘Chief of the Sea’ which starts slow before turning into a real thigh slapper. A solid backline accompanying the celtic instruments in this song about wanting rum!

The video is not the version from the album but if anything I much prefer it. Next up is the fantastic song ‘Barrels of Whiskey’ for which The Paddyhats put out a fecking brilliant video, below. Amazing fiddle here in this song, about illegally making whiskey, as throughout the album.

Follows is ‘Hey You’ and catchy as hell until the chorus kicks in and it manages to get a whole lot better and even has the tiniest bit of a ska beat chucked in there too. ‘Fair Old Lady’ is an ode to their home town of Gevelsberg and begins with acoustic guitar and has some great lyrics. ‘What I Am’ shows The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats in reflective mood with a slow ballad start that soon speeds up but could still be classed as a ballad. They have managed to record an album that captures their live sound well and if I ever get to see this band I expect to be on the receiving end of a sore throat screaming for an encore. ‘Hang By the Neck’ continues the catchyness of this album with more than a wee trace of country. The album ends with the only cover version here and ‘Black and Tans’ is a faithful version of the Dominic Behan penned Irish rebel song that is sure to get anyone’s blood pumping every time you hear it coming on!

“I was born on a Dublin street where the Royal drums do beat
And the loving English feet they tramped all over us,
And each and every night when me father’d come home tight
He’d invite the neighbors outside with this chorus

Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killashandra”

Tin whistle leads us into this song tells of the brutal paramilitary force the British government sent to Ireland in 1919 to smash resistance and the quell the rebellion that sought to end British rule and links that fight for freedom to others around the world. The nickname ‘Black and Tans’ came from the colours of their hastily put together uniform of mixed khaki of the British Army and rifle green from the Police. With the Irish leading the way and providing inspiration others took up the mantle and fought the British Empire across the world for their own independence. Due to their murderous activities and the atrocities they committed, feelings continue to run high and a ‘Black and Tan’ or just simply a ‘Tan’ remains a term of abuse and their very mention shows they are still despised by many in Ireland. It rocks out and has the best shouty chorus of any rebel song ever written.

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left to right: Fitzgerald O’Brien (Bass) ; Sean O’Reilly (Acoustic Guitar, Flutes, Lead Vocals) ; Emily O’Farrel (Fiddle) ; Dr. Bones (Drums) ; Ian Mac Fannigan (Backing Vocals, Washboard, Chain) ; Dwight O’Reilly (Banjo, Mandolin, Accordion, Backing Vocals) ; Ryan O Leary (Step Dancer) ; Connor O’Sullivan (Electric Guitar)

Released on the 9th of April earlier this year it has been slow in reaching us and then we were a bit late in getting this review done but it has been well worth the wait. Of the eleven songs all have been written by the band with the only exception that one excellently played cover. The CD comes with an excellent 16 page booklet with all song lyrics and any other information you could possibly need. The CD also comes in a special limited edition box-set with a whole host of goodies so check out the band web-site for that. Clocking in at 35 minutes the album is a quick and highly enjoyable blast that simply bursts with energy and atmosphere. Transporting you out of your living room and into the one place this kind of music was supposed to be heard. Yes, the pub! The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats play with an passion and pride in Irish music and culture that is a joy to behold. They take us on a journey (by sea of course!) full of tales of love and loss, of rebellion and comrades and friendship and, of course, drinking. The Paddyhats show what is possible in the celtic-punk scene. That it is still possible to come up with something fresh and unique and entertaining from beginning to end.

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ALBUM REVIEW: FIDDLER’S GREEN- ‘Devil’s Dozen’ (2016)

Fiddlers Green. The band that invented their own genre- ‘Irish Speed Folk’ !!

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Fiddler’s Green celebrated their 25th anniversary last year with the release of the fantastic compilation album 25 Blarney Roses and was as about as good as anything released in 2015. They hail from the small Bavarian town of Erlangen, that is twinned with our very own Stoke. Famed for their live shows and the ability to transfer that live sound to disc their popularity has grown and grown to see them hailed as one of the major bands in the European celtic-punk scene. It’s always hard to capture the passion and excitement of a celtic-punk gig onto a studio album but when a band achieves it then that album surely becomes a must have and Fiddler’s Green have been doing exactly that for 25 years now. Beloved by their loyal following it was only the other day when talking about fellow German band The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats new album, that we remarked on how Germany has has always had a big love affair with Ireland. Despite competition from such great bands as the aforementioned Paddyhats as well as  Mr. Irish Bastard, The Porters, In Search of A Rose and The Ceili Family it has been Fiddlers Green’s consistency that has seen them become arguably Germany’s most popular celtic-punk band.

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‘Devil’s Dozen’, also known as a Bakers Dozen, is a term often used in them olden days to mean 13, one more than a standard dozen. The practice of baking 13 items for an intended dozen was insurance against the items being lower than the statutory weight, or of lower than usual quality, which could cause the baker to be fined. And so on ‘Devils Dozen’ we find thirteen songs of, as it says on the cover, “Finest Irish Speed Folk”. The album begins with the title song and its accordion led classic Irish themed folk-punk from the very off. This is pure good time party music and there’s no one better at supplying that then Fiddlers Green. You won’t find much social commentary here and so what if you don’t!

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Fiddlers Green (left to right): Tobi Heindl- violin, vocals * Steve Klug- accordion, bodhran * Ralf ‘Albi’ Albers- vocals, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo * Pat Prziwara- vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo * Rainer Schulz- bass * Frank Jooss- drums, percussion *

Music has the ability to unite us and celtic-punk should not just unite but have us all linking arms throwing our beers in the air and professing our love for each other at the top of our lungs. There’s plenty of time to worry about the result of the American Presidential election another day. A great song that is followed by ‘Bottoms Up’ and you guessed it. It’s an ale themed song but the most interesting thing is they have sound rather like The Kaiser Chiefs here. That is if The Kaiser Chiefs had a fiddle payer and a accordionist! Very catchy and pure folk-punk though not of the celtic-variety in fact it has a more Eastern European feel to it.

Nevertheless a class song and just shows that Fiddlers Green refuse to rest on their laurels and churn out what is expected of them. One of the album standouts for me.

“Loose girls standing by the backdoor
Hot legs stepping on the dance floor
Join in, get the mojo working
Movin’, groovin, you know what it’s good for…”

Couldn’t get this bloody song out of my head for days after listening to this album so I was glad when we moved on to ‘Down’. The first minute is a ramped up celtic -punk version of the Simon and Garfunkel hit ‘El Condor Pasa’ and just as your settling down to a rather nice cover version the Fiddlers turn it round and add their own song about going down to you know where…

“We’ll pay the ferryman a dime
So come along, you’ re dead and gone
The demon tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound
Its saddest sound…”

One of the most interesting things about Fiddlers Green is their outstanding videos so you would be well advised that after you finish this review to go make yourself a cup of tea (or something stronger) and hightail over to their You Tube channel (link below) for a hour or two. and enjoy your viewing!

They can’t keep the energy going for ever so they slow it down a little for next song, ‘Boat On The River’. Now this is a cover I have never heard before and surprisingly its not an auld Irish song its a metal ballad from old and nearly forgotten 70’s rockers Styx. I actually really like the original too which you can find here but its a great and highly unusual cover that pays tribute to Styx while taking it into celtic-punk territory. They add in a bucket full of country to ‘Perfect Gang’ with absolutely superb fiddle here and a real crowd pleaser I’m sure with the great chorus. The only traditional Irish folk cover here is up next with the famous ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’.

“I have sailed with Burgess once before, I think I know him well
If a man’s a sailor he will get along, if not then he’s sure in hell
So fare thee well my own true love
When I return united we will be
It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me
But my darling when I think of thee”

A brilliant rousing version of this great tune. Liverpool was once one of the world’s major sea ports and this song was collected from Richard Maitland, a resident of Sailor’s Snug Harbor a home for retired seamen on Staten Island. He told that he learned it while on board the sailing ship General Knox around 1885 and The Davy Crockett mentioned in the song was launched in 1853. Previously recorded by The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers and The Pogues its one of the standard Irish folk songs that pop up from time to time but great to hear a version that can stand alongside them here. ‘Johnny’ sees us back in ‘celtic-indie’ territory while ‘Bad Boys’ is there punkiest song here all the while the fiddle is still fiddling and the accordion pumping meaning we never stray too far from the Fiddlers Green sound. They slow it down again for ‘Blame It On Me’ and Ralf’s vocals are never better than here. A tale of bad luck and bad choices his voice fills with emotion while the band sweep and swirl around him and the gang chorus work brilliantly well. ‘All The Way’ switches it up again and we get a lovely slice of celtic-ska with the fiddle leading the track and pushing it along till the song speeds up into a great punk song before slipping back easily into ska. We are nearing the end so time for a silly one with ‘Mr. Tickle’ about everyone’s favourite Mr Men character (apart from Mr Messy that is). ‘Here We Go Again’ and ‘We Won’t Die Tonight’ bring the curtain down on this great album that proves Fiddlers Green are truly one of the best bands in celtic-punk. Solid reliable and innovative and always moving.

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Devils Dozen is thirteen songs of mostly self penned numbers with a smattering of unusual and well picked covers that comes in at just over 13 45 minutes long. The album is available on CD, with vinyl due in December, but also comes as various deluxe versions including things such as DVD’s and t-shirts. Fiddlers Green are a lot different from the band that released that debut album way back in 1992 but the core of the band has remained the same and they have as a unit never lost sight of the groups main principal that their fans are everything. They would never have become so popular if they had stood still and it is their ability to try new things and styles, but always in keeping with the Fiddlers Green ethos and sound, that has helped them achieve that popularity.

Discography

Fiddler’s Green (1992), Black Sheep (1993), Kings Shepherd (1995), Make Up Your Mind (EP 1996), On And On (1997), Spin Around (1998), Stage Box (Live 1999), Another Sky (2000), Folk Raider (2002), Nu Folk (2003), Celebrate (Live 2005), Drive Me Mad! (2007), Sports Day At Killaloe (2009), Folk’s Not Dead (Live 2009), Wall of Folk (2011), Acoustic Pub Crawl (2013), Winners and Boozers (2013), 25 Blarney Roses (Compilation 2015), 25 Blarney Roses Live In Cologne (Live 2016), Devil’s Dozen (2016).

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ALBUM REVIEW: MICKEY RICKSHAW- ‘Behind The Eight Ball’ (2016)

BOSTON CELTIC-PUNK RULES OK!

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Well well well we all know that The Dropkick Murphys can’t go on for ever and with Boston’s place secured in celtic-punk folklore then who then will take on their mantle when they have retired to the great celtic-punk guest house in the sky? Well I know a band that is more than capable and are ready and waiting in the wings to take over. That band are fellow Bostonians Mickey Rickshaw. A team of young fired up, blue collar, Irish Americans in touch with both their working class American lives and their roots back in the auld country. With Boston’s revered place in the history of punk, especially of the hardcore variety, and its massive, and vocal, Irish population its only natural that celtic-punk should have caught on so well among the Boston Irish community like nowhere else. Traditional celtic folk and punk rock aggression equals the 100% perfect sound for the Boston Irish and if the Murphys invented celtic-punk post Pogues then they have done their job well to hand the baton on to bands like Mickey Rickshaw that will take the sound on for the next generation.

(follow the link to listen to their debut album and download as ‘Pay What You Want’)

With an Demo EP behind them from 2013, 16 Down and Back Again, it was their critically successful album, No Heaven For Heroes, from last year that saw Mickey Rickshaw’s name explode onto the celtic-punk scene with universal great reviews and plaudits heaped upon them from all corners of the globe. Reaching the top echelons of all the major celtic-punk Best Of lists, including #9 in the London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Of 2015 here.

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Behind The Eight Ball was released just the other week on October 13, 2016 and was recorded and mixed and all that other malarkey in their home state of Massachusetts. Now the first thing to say about Behind The Eight Ball is that it seems to be over in a flash. Whizzing past at you at just under half an hour it’s a frenetic sprint to the finish and bar a couple of moments is fast as hell celtic punk rock to be mentioned in the same breath as the Dropkick Murphys so good is this album. Celtic Folk Punk And More web site seem to have already crowned it album of the year here!

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Mickey Rickshaw left to right: Kyle Goyette- Mandolin * Jay Tea Marchant- Bass * Shane Welch- Whistle * Jake Sullivan- Fiddle * Mike Rivkees- Guitar/Vocals * Chris Campbell- Drums * Jimmy Donovan- Guitar * Tom Donnely- Guitar

The first song out of the bag is ‘Rats in Allston’ and is a ode to Allston a neighborhood in western Boston. To say the album starts with a bang would be to put it mildly with a multitude of instruments all bursting out the speakers at you. With shades of the Murphys and also The Rumjacks this is celtic-PUNK and not for the faint hearted.

“When the sun goes down on the west in a cold cold world that we’re lost in,
You’ll be sleeping in the gutter, face down with the rats in Allston”

Great lyrics and top vocals from singer Mike Rivkees and an absolutely superb production that manages to get all the folky instruments and all the punky instruments and manages to mix them up and yet get everything crystal clear even when they are all at it at the same time.

‘Robbed in Mariscal’ begins as a ska song before mutating into hardcore punk and then flamenco and then gypsy before ending with a flourish while all the time not straying too far from the celtic-punk Mickey Rickshaw blueprint. All the songs here are self penned except for two, the first of which is modern day Scottish rebel song ‘Destitution Road’. Written by the sadly missed Alistair Hulett of Australian celtic-punk legends Roaring Jack it’s a grand version that does the song and Alistair justice. You can check out the Roaring Jack version here. Comparing the two songs it’s pretty obvious that celtic-punk has evolved in the eighteen years since the song was written. Mickey Rickshaw steam through the song in just two and a half minutes barely pausing for breathe.

“The land was cleared and the deal was made
Now an English Lord in a tartan plaid
Struts and stares as the memories fade
Of the Gaels of Caledonia
And he hunts the deer in the lonely glen
That once was home to a thousand men
And the wind on the moor sings a sad refrain
For the Gaels of Caledonia”

The band must have some clever mates as one thing they are becoming famous for is their videos. All done with great lashings of humour and self depreciation and ‘Grey Water’ is no different. A cracking video that makes you want to be right there in the crowd spilling your drink and having someone spill their drink on you. A definite standout track so get listening.

‘Monday Warning’ is another sure fire hit and although I keep mentioning the Murphys the Bhoys have developed their own sound and even though they play tribute to the Murphys here they manage to do it without aping them. ‘Ivy’ is a fast punk number but with accordion blaring out as loud as the electric guitar. The quickest song on here is ’18 Minutes Down’ about the sinking of the Lusitania during the 1st World War and is ran through in just 1:52 minutes and again they punk it up and leave you breathless just listening to it. ‘Non-Profit Warfare’ slows it down just slightly and if anything is a great example of standard celtic-punk while ‘One Life’ ramps up the speed again and is another album highlight.

“Some fall too early, some fall too hard.
Some fall together, and some fall apart.
Some fall from the top, and some fall for heart.
Some have it unfair and fall from the start”

‘Albatross’ begins ala Dreadnoughts before slowly building into a hardcore finish that belies its short length! Behind The Eight Ball comes to an end with the second of the album’s cover versions with ‘The Gael’. Written by ex-Silly Wizard member and Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean, the original by Dougie can be viewed here. You may recognise this from the movie The Last Of The Mohicans and Mickey Rickshaw give it the celtic-punk treatment with pipes, crashing drums and thrashing guitars a simply brilliant way to end the album and the perfect reverential nod back to the past. 

LONG LIVE BOSTON CELTIC-PUNK!!!!

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(listen to Behind The Eight Ball for free on the Bandcamp player below)

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  • Mickey Rickshaw will be in London from 7-9th January and we are booking the dates as we type so keep in touch with all the details as they are released by joining the Facebook event here.

ALBUM REVIEW: SAOR- ‘Guardians’ (2016)

A unique blend of Scottish folk and atmospheric black metal inspired by traditional Scots poetry and heritage.

saor-guardians

In reviewing this amazing album I really hope i can do it the justice it truly deserves.Sadly celtic-metal is not a music genre I am too familiar with although I can myself returning if theres more bands like Saor knocking around! Now Saor (which means ‘Free’ or ‘Unconstrained’ in Scottish gaelic) are not strictly a band they are the brainchild of talented multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Andy Marshall. Andy was originally a member of Glasgow band Falloch who received great critical acclaim for their debut album Where Distant Spirits Remain in 2011 although Andy left the band the following year. Striking out on his own Andy released his first solo album Roots in May 2013 again to an avalanche of critical applause. There were only four tracks, that came in at nearly fifty minutes long, which upon listening to managed to evoke the essense of Scotland from the first few bars of the self titled opening track. As one reviewer described it

“The sensation of standing among ancient Scottish mountains captured in sonic form, it speaks to my soul, utterly beautiful”

The following year in June, Andy released Aura. A five track album with the sound fleshed out somewhat by several guest musicians. Passionate and majestic the music soars and again won them an array of positive reviews. Around this time Saor played a handful of live shows but it has now been decided that Saor will remain a studio-only project and there will sadly not be any more live shows.

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So after a two year absence Saor have returned with an album laden with their trademark celtic melodies with their new release Guardians out on November 11, 2016Recorded over two years, in Cairndow and the Isle of Skye, Guardians begins with the self titled track and as is the way with a lot of celtic albums its the sound of a running stream and birdsong that opens the song. It doesn’t take long before crashing guitars and the glorious sound of pipes fills the air and we off on our journey. The drums rock in and the speed ramps up and ‘Guardians’ soars and ebbs and flows while Andy gives it that true death metal growl while he’s singing of tragedy and loss.

“On the mountains of heather they slumber together.
On the wastes of the moorland their bodies decay.
How sound is their sleeping, how safe is their keeping
Though far from their kindred they molder away.

Oh, never to perish, their names let us cherish,
The martyrs of Scotland that now are away”

The song lyrics are all inspired in some way from real events in Scottish history and various parts have been taken from ancient Scottish poetry and the absolutely amazing way that Andy has managed to incorporate that into the songs.

In ‘Guardians’ Horatius Bonar poem ‘The Martyrs of Scotland” is utilised while ‘The Declaration’ is inspired by the Declaration Of Arbroath and Robbie Burns. The declaration was in in the form of a letter submitted to the Pope dated 6 April 1320 declaring Scotland’s an independent, sovereign state.

“By oppression’s woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty’s in every blow!—
Let us do or die!”

The words come from a poem previously put to music by The Real McKenzies, the poem ‘Scots Wha Hae’. Written by Burns in 1793 it took the form of a speech given by Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The song which served for centuries as the unofficial national anthem of Scotland until the present day popularity of ‘Flower Of Scotland’ overtook it. It retains its anger and its passion and Saor pay tribute to it faithfully. The shortest of all the tracks here it still lasts over ten minutes giving it plenty of time to build up and release and build up again. Starting fast before the whole thing slows down for the fiddle while the drumming is simply superb emphasising the sound of the other instruments without ever taking over. The words for following track, ‘Autumn Rain’, come from ‘Culloden Moore’ by Alice MacDonnell and was inspired by her direct descent from a hero of the battlefield.

“Noble dead that sleep below,
We your valour ne’er forget;
Soft the heroes’ rest who know
Hearts like theirs are beating yet”

The battle of Culloden was the final confrontation between the Scots and the English in 1745 and the last major battle fought on this island. Lasting only forty minutes the devastating slaughter marked the end of the military phase of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745/6. Following the battle repression rained down on the native Scots and officers and chiefs who had escaped left for Europe while many of the Jacobite rank and file fled to the American colonies. The sorrow is palpable and Andys voice cries out in pain for them. Even today, they say that the birds don’t sing at the site of the Battle of Culloden. Alice Macdonell of Keppoch, writing at the end of the 19th Century writes of the bleakness of the place, after seeing it in the rain in autumn.

(spare an hour to watch this amazing docu-drama from Peter Watkins made in 1964. Cleverly reconstructing the battle of Culloden as if TV cameras were present.)

Fourth song ‘Hearth’ starts with acoustic guitar and the simple rhythm of the drums before it explodes into action with Andy’s vocals never more powerful than on this song. The words come from ‘My Native Land’ by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). Andy sings with a passion here, its the only time on the album you can hear some of the words, and while the words could apply to any country it is Scotland they were written for.

“This is my home
My heart
My soul
My hearth”

This is clearly the most celtic of the songs on Guardians and I love it. The swirling upbeats, the fiddle and tin whistle and the crashing guitars give this song in particular a feel of Scotland.

Guardians ends with ‘Tears Of A Nation’ and the words here come from ‘The Tears of Scotland’ written by Tobias Smollet (1721-1771). As is obvious from the title it’s another mournful tribute to those who laid down their lives over the centuries for a free Scotland.

“Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn”

So while Andy undoubtedly provides the backbone, at the very least, of Saor it would be unfair not to give the guest musicians who also appear a mention here. Bryan Hamilton from Falkirk metallers Cnoc An Tursa on drums, John Becker from Chicago prog-rockers Austaras on strings, Meri Tadić- Fiddle, Reni McDonald Hill on bodhrán and Kevin Murphy on highland bagpipes all provide excellent accompaniment for Andy. Vinyl and tapes will be available soon and the Digipak CD comes with a ten page booklet with lyrics. Guardians may have only five tracks but the word epic could have solely been invented to help me to review this album clocking in as it does at just over fifty five minutes, with each song lasting over ten minutes. As Andy explains

“I start off with a riff or melody on guitar and start recording demos. Once I’ve got the basics down, I begin adding other instruments and vocal ideas. I’ve no idea how the songs become complex and long, it’s just something that naturally happens when I write music”

From the admittedly little I know it would seem that the genre of folk-metal has long been the domain of Scandinavian bands whose traditions and songs seem to more revolve around trolls and Lord Of The Rings-esque characters while the small band of actual Celtic based celtic-metal bands seem to add something more substantial and real. Ireland’s Primordial, the first celtic-metal band, and Cruachan and Saor keep that flag flying and here on Guardians it is that fury and anger at the ills inflicted upon Scotland and the sadness and melancholy of the history of their land while at the same time the realisation that freedom has surely never been so close that gives Guardians such a dramatic feel to it. The music sweeps you away and if like me you are a stranger to celtic-metal then this is a perfect place to start and immerse yourself in the soundscape of Scotland.

(you can listen to Guardians by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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*THIS IS A PRE-ORDER. RELEASE DATE IS NOVEMBER 11TH*- FromTheBand

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE WAKES- ‘Venceremos!’ (2016)

by Pete Morgan

Glasgow Irish folk’n’roll hooligans.

They might all be Jock Tamson’s bairns but their Mammy is Roisin Dubh!

the-wakes

London Celtic Punks friends and favourites launched their fifth studio album at the end of September just gone with a fantastic hometown gig at the Classic Grand, Glasgow.  A gig that saw the band enhanced with a small brass section that added to the sound and showed how the boys are growing musically.

The CD, like the gig, doesn’t disappoint: Thirteen tracks over forty-five minutes show the band in top form and giving all and more that we’ve come to expect from Glasgow’s finest ‘punk, folk’n’rollers’. Building on and growing from previous CD’s including No Irish Need Apply and The Red and the Green, Venceremos shows a growth in musical maturity and songwriting while staying true to the bands fundamentals will have you hitting replay button time and time again.

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For this release the band have teamed up with Drakkar Records and the result is an all singing, all dancing package with a gatefold sleeve CD that includes a pullout booklet of photo’s and lyrics which can be bought from the band’s website below and also from the Glasgow independent radical bookshop Calton Books (link below).

Opening with an irresistible punk/new wave beat of ‘Within These Towns’ the gauntlet is thrown down: the song delivers up a crushing criticism of politicians  of the Thatcher era who turned their backs on those towns and people reliant on manufacturing as they allowed industry to fall into irreversible decline and communities abandoned. A bleak subject of towns

“where we are born to die, to live our lives …”

is nonetheless invested with defiance and pride in it’s delivery and any thought of being downbeat is erased with the upbeat, ska infused, Rise. A story that dances along and is bound to become a live favourite, telling a tale of Dublin, Easter 1916, and provided lots of opportunities for a sing-a-long while raising a clenched fist…

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‘No Human is Illegal’ as a song is a class apart. This song possibly best defines the ethos of the band: humanitarian, international, caring, willing to stand up, to wear those hearts on sleeves … A simple enough statement, but a statement that carries undeniable power, delivered almost in an understated manner. This song is impossible to resist and invites us into a quiet corner, the lyrics falling softly, yet challenging the scaremongers and those who use sensationalist headlines to turn a profit  … but we’re left in no doubt

“That old bullshit just don’t cut it any more”

There’s no time to sit around as ‘Whisky Afternoon’ has us back on our feet as the band ‘rock-out’ to an enjoyable wee number of an afternoons drinking that we’ll all be familiar with, same goes for this tune that has a solid back beat that moves it (too?) quickly to a conclusion and then it’s on into ‘The Battle of George Square’: Tanks on the streets of Glasgow to quell the red Clyde revolution. Again the music and lyrics invoke an atmosphere that’ll put on the ground, shoulder to shoulder with Glasgow’s working class.

wakes2The Wakes don’t do shying away and, just as with No Human, they address issues head-on: the turning of young men into state killing machines in ‘Kings Shilling’, (touch of Skids/Big Country?) the bloodshed  in the ‘Holyland’. The domestic home-grown issues of poor housing and rising rent are highlighted in ‘Nae Soft Touch’ (touch of Christy Moore about this one) telling the story of issues from Govan, 1915, that are just as relevant today.

Track 8, ‘I Believe’, a ‘up-beat’ cry of positivity , a rallying cry and affirmation of the power of people is driving along on the back of some beautiful brass that shows how the band, as musicians, have grown and the sound of the Wakes continues seeking out avenues to explore. While ‘Ramblin’ Man’ pays tribute to the great Woody Guthrie in a tune that will almost have you up on the floor square dancing! But wait, whats next, a fecking polka! ‘Freighter of the Dead’ sails us over choppy waters navigating the straits of Pogue Mahone and onto the shores of Gorgol Bordello in a rollickin’ rocking good time tune that shows the boys are well able to let their hair down (sorry Chris!) and this is another tune that will fill the dance floors. As we’ve come to expect there’s a track from the ‘homeland’ that’s given the Wakes unique and personalised  treatment: ‘Erin Go Bragh’ starts off familiar enough but the bass playing and thunderous drumming supported by the chants gives this a whole new life and the song feels ‘epic’, a TV shows turned into a blockbuster of a movie!

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The Wakes (left to right): Paul- Vocals/Guitar * Conor- Banjo/Mandolin * Chris- Vocals/Bass/Saxophone/Flute * Danny- Whistles * Eamonn- Drums * Christopher James- Harmonica/Guitar.

Closing on the title track, ‘Venceramos’ the song as well as the album as a whole, is a triumph: carried along on the back of a guitar sound that gets under the sink, drums & bass that get the heart pumping, the piercing harmonica, everything comes together with the united rising vocals in a song that is an affirmation of the power of truth against evil, the truth of those who struggle against the evil of corruption, greed, inhumanity … In an echo of Bobby Sands we’re told:

“You can try to kill the dreamer but the dream never dies’ and the heart grows huge with the refrain Venceremos! Venceremos! We Will Overcome …”

Venceremos is a must have, the Wakes a must see.

Discography

These Hands (2007) No Irish Need Apply (2009) Stripped Back Sessions Vol. 1 (2011) The Red and the Green (2013)

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(live in London last year at the Cock Tavern in association with London Celtic Punks and the Hayes Bhoys CSC- thanks to Deano for filming)

 

ALBUM REVIEW: RED HOT CHILLI PIPERS- ‘Octane’ (2016)

A fusion of traditional tunes and rock classics taking ‘Bagrock’ to a whole new level!

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Just the other day we reviewed the new single from Scots folk-rockers The Red Hot Chilli Pipers and we were so impressed that we’ve decided we had to check out and review their new album Octane as well. Released last June, Octane continues The Pipers quest to introduce the world to their very own genre of music- Bagrock!

Red Hot Chilli Pipers

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers are an Scottish pipe and drum group formed in 2002 and since their formation have combined guitars, keyboards, drums and, of course, bagpipes to create a style of music they have labelled ‘bagrock’. The band have toured the world performing a fusion of traditional pipe tunes and contemporary songs ever since. They have released a host of successful and acclaimed albums including their debut, the self titled, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers followed by Bagrock To the Masses and in 2008, their third and first, live album, Blast Live. 2010 saw their most popular album to date’s release Music for the Kilted Generation, which reached Number Two on the US Amazon Chart. The title is a parody of the Music for the Jilted Generation album by The Prodigy which sets the tone for much of what The Pipers do. Breathe was released in July 2013 and their latest album Octane, which came out earlier this year, continues to mix up both traditional Scottish tunes and rock classics, taking bagrock to a whole new level! Famed for their exhilarating live show it has led to them playing festival after festival around the world and seen their star rise above heights they must have thought unimaginable back at home in 2002!

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Octane carries on in much the same way as those previous album’s with a selection of stone cold rock classics and some of the bands own compositions all done and re-arranged with some of the best bagpipe playing you will find put down on record in 2016. Kicking off with ‘La Grange: La Grange / The Green Room’ its starts with a bit of boogey-woogie and then some strong guitar and then the pipes stroll in and takeover. ‘Starlight: Starlight / Charlie Brown’ is up next and aye its the Muse song intertwined with a track by Coldplay. Now some of the keyboard arrangements are a bit cheesy I’m afraid, it has to be said, but who cares cos as soon as the piping starts your away and you don’t give a toss! Its time for some trad next with a song called, yes you guessed it, ‘Time for Trad: The Kesh / Old Wullie’s Dog / Merrily Kiss the Quaker’s Wife’ where the Pipers go to town with a truly brilliant bit of celtic-rock that for me is the standout track on Octane. ‘Fat Bottomed Girls: Fat Bottomed Girls / Fat Arsed Lassies’ is up next with Queen’s famous non-PC track.

One of the better, but little known, Queen tracks and here given a brilliantly catchy rendition and accompanied by a fantastic video as well that you must check out above. Another unusual, but again superb, cover next with The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army: Roadhouse Song / Seven Nation Army’ before their own composition ‘Pressed For Time’ which again stands out among the covers. Now is a good time to tell you that (almost) all the songs are instrumental with no vocals. I am torn between thinking this is a good or bad thing. The album is great as it is but would they benefit from a singer I’m just not sure so I will stick to the old adage

“if it aint broke don’t fix it”

‘The Fallen’ was written by Red Hot Chilli Piper Roddy S. MacDonald and was released just the other week as a charity single as a tribute to the 343 heroes from the Fire Department of New York who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001.(you can find more on the single release and how to buy it/donate here). ‘Chasing Love’ is another Pipers composition and as you could probably tell from the title is a much slower song before transforming into ‘The Way It Is: The Way It Is / Chasing Love’ and like nearly all the covers here you’ll be instantly racking your memory as you know the song but can’t quite reach who the artist is! As the album nears the end there’s more famous rock and pop songs here like Van Halen’s ‘Jump: Jump / Dancing Feet’, John Mayer’s ‘Neon: Neon / Wee Derek’s Song’ and Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World: The Bung / Everybody Wants to Rule the World’. They wait till the second last track to give us a real old traditional favourite with ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’ which is credited to Francis McPeake back in 1957 though thought to be at least two centuries older. For the only time on the album we get treated to vocals and nowhere here do the band sound so Scottish especially as the song so strongly resembles the famous Scots tune ‘Go Lassie Go’ so much. Octane comes to an explosive end with ‘Urban: Rip the Calico’ and goodbyes are said with another catchy Red Hot Chilli Pipers song that really hits the spot.

So their you go fourteen tracks, mostly covers but with a decent smattering of self penned numbers that comes in at just over fifty minutes. Great value and the energy doesn’t cease for a single second throughout. The piping is simply brilliant and the accompanying mix of guitar, drums, brass etc., is inspired. Production is superb but if you’re not a fan of bagpipes (if so then why are you here?) then this won’t interest you BUT if, like me, you fecking love them then this album is an absolute must. It definitely errs towards the easy listening section of your local (if you got one!) record shop but let that not distract you from what is a excellent album of traditional Scottish music for the present day.

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ALBUM REVIEW: SISTERS OF MURPHY- ‘Working Stiffs Unite!’ (2016)

Rochester New York State’s favorite celtic rock group sticking up for the working man and woman performing memorable self penned originals and the odd traditional cover!

Sisters cover.indd

Pouring out of the sometimes sunny Rochester area of New York state, about 300 miles from NYC, comes the brand new album from one of the areas favourite sons The Sisters Of Murphy. Released last Labor Day weekend Working Stiffs Unite! is their debut full length album after two EP’s, Holy Show in 2011 and On The Wrong Side Of The Road in 2013. Formed either nine or ten years ago, their memories are a bit sketchy, the band have been plugging away playing regularly since and have garnered great reviews and a multitude of fans of their solid working man (and woman) Irish rock’n’folk’n’roll. Those first two EP’s released on Silverdish Records were a great combination of folk, rock, pop and traditional Irish and unusually were pretty much made up entirely of the bands own compositions. Tight, well played celtic music and with this release they will surely get the recognition they deserve.

Some of Rochester’s earliest settlers were Irish, even before the dark days of the so called ‘famine’ and even today make up an astonishing 16% of the population. The Hibernian Benevolent Society was formed in 1828 and the Irish soon after founded St. Patrick’s church. There were at least 60 Irish families and an estimated 800 Irish-born men in Rochester by 1834. They built log cabins in an area that became known as Dublin and as only the most dirty and dangerous jobs were open to them many began work on the Erie Canal while others toiled in the flour and lumber mills. Many incidents of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish bigotry were reported and the local press attacked “popery” and these newly arrived immigrants but with the election of Henry O’Reilly as Postmaster in 1838, the long tradition of Irish involvement in politics in Rochester began. Of course the Rochester Irish were very active in sending aid back to Ireland as the ‘famine’ took hold and people were literally fleeing for their lives. Many sent money home to bring relatives over and by the early 1850s, the city’s population had grown by 7,500 with more than half coming from Ireland. In his 1957 book, Blake McKelvey wrote in Rochester History about the Irish

When Jeremiah O’Donovan, an Irish poet (and revolutionary!), reached Rochester in 1855, he characterized the city in his diary as the “promised land.” … One Irishman had risen to the head of the largest store in the city. He described another as the founder of a large clothing firm, and identified several more as grocers, meat merchants, furniture dealers and a variety of other tradesmen. O’Donovan found one Irish doctor in Rochester…

Gradually though anti-Irish feelings went away and just as in the the rest of America they helped shape all that was good and great about the places wherever they shipped into. The Irish population of Rochester may have shrunk in recent years somewhat but the community is still strong and flourishing and proud of their noble history! The Irish are still here and they are still fighting!!

Working Stiffs Unite! kicks right off from the very first bars with ‘L.O.V.E.’ and its full on Irish celtic rock coming out at ya. The fiddle and banjo mixing it up with the more traditional rock instruments and it all get’s the album off to a great start. ’40 Days At Sea’ starts off in an acapella style similar to something you could imagine Ronnie Drew doing before the band come in and again it’s as catchy as hell with the band combining perfectly and the production getting it just right too with all the bands instruments mixed just right. ‘One Word Of This Kiss’ begins with a thrashing guitar and while doesn’t scale the heights of the previous songs in speed it certainly makes up for it in energy. ‘Come Back To The Emerald Isle’ has a real country/Americana feel to it with the fiddle leading the way and Jonas voice giving just the right amount of honky tonk! ‘It’s A Shame’reminds me of London Irish bands like The Bible Code Sundays and The Craicheads. A poppy song that is as catchy enough but must say I prefer the harder edged songs here.

Next up is The Sisters Of Murphy’s epic song. Probably their signature track, ‘Green Over Red’. The song begins with the sound of an engine and soon uilleann pipes pipe us into a intro soon joined by acoustic guitar and the rest of the band join in this poignant song about emigration, fighting oppression and making your new home your own.

The year is 1925, and Tipperary Hill’s alive
With so many Celts who came across the sea
Listen to the children sing, dancing as the church bells ring
Laughing and finally feeling free

Now it feels like home!

Youth out marching in the street, stones in hand; there’s no defeat
No way in hell we’re going back again!
Huckle Ryan saves the day, says these boys won’t go away
There’ll be more than lights getting broke today

Oh oh oh, now it feels like home!

We knock it down, you build it up—we’ll tear it up again
You better get it right, man: green over red
Nothing you can say or do, ’cause this here is our avenue
You better get it right man: green over red!

We knock it down, you build it up—we’ll tear it up again
You better get it right, man: green over red
Nothing you can say or do; our flag is flying tried and true
You better get it right man: green over red!

Now it feels like home!

A real fist in the air singalong before the band ramp it right up for the second part and we are away with a reel that will get you beating up the dance floor. The standout track here that encapsulates all that is good about the Sisters. Following this they take a much more traditional folk route and it still works and ‘Jack Haggerty’ sounding a bit similar in style to Paul Brady version of ‘Arthur McBride’. On the title song ‘Working Stiffs Unite’ its the story of the struggling worker that the band bring to us.

They are quite right to be angry and dismissive of the current political machine that ignores everyone expect their friends in big business, the song does have a seething heart but the tune carries you along tapping your toes. ’17’ is a beautiful slow ballad that swirls in moments that build up to a crescendo before dying down again. This is followed by a live version of fan favourite ‘Katie Dear’ and fits in perfectly with the rest of the album with a great trad celtic folk sound and crowd singalongs. Now that’s your lot unless you get the version available below on Bandcamp where you get an extra free track. The ‘Green Over Red (Radio Mix)’ where to be honest it doesn’t sound that much different except its much more shorter and snappier.
www.ssrphotography.com

(left to right) Jona Chartrand: electric guitar, vocals * Haley Moore: fiddle * Mark Tichenor: concertina, vocals * Rick Elmer: drums, vocals * Cedric Young: whistles, mandolin, banjo, pipes, guitar, vocals * Scott Austin: acoustic guitar, vocals Bruce Lish: bass, vocals

The Sisters Of Murphy debut album captures perfectly that Irish-American celtic-punk sound that I love so much. Catchy and compelling and steering a fine line between humor and heartache and seriousness and piss-taking throughout all of the eleven songs. The album lasts nearly fifty minutes and is made up of all self penned tracks that tell the story of the Irish-American working man and woman. It’s election year in the States and with the choice in front of us are two enemies of the working class so as usual we have no one to rely on but ourselves. Their is loads to admire here and along with their fellow, brilliant, Rochester Irish band 1916, The Sisters Of Murphy are putting NY back on the celtic-punk map.

(you can have a listen or two to Working Stiffs Unite! for free by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Before you buy it that is!!)

sisters-of-murphy-celtic-topBuy The Album

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you can read Blake McKelvey’s 1957 pamphlet on the Irish immigrants in Rochester here.

EP REVIEW – THE SILK ROAD ‘Midnight’ (2016)

Pre-album four track sampler EP from northern English fiddle punk band The Silk Road.
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The Silk Road are another new band to us here in England playing folk-punk and are coming out of the same sort of scene as older bands like The Levellers and New Model Army and newer ones like Ferocious Dog. All of whom are still packing them in across the country at regular intervals. They come from Chesterfield in northern England an area famous for coal mining and the accompanying militant trade unionism that goes with it. The scene for this kind of music is very much in vogue at the moment. Not played or favoured by fashionista’s or middle class hipsters it comes very much from that sort of old Labour background of trade unionism and old fashioned values like solidarity, compassion and the wish for a better world for all. Things sadly out of fashion at this moment in time. Formed in the summer of 2015 by Tich, Andy and Shaun and going on later to recruit both Jamie and Brian. All the member’s of The Silk Road had extensive histories in local bands going back over twenty years playing a range of traditional folk, punk, ska and metal/rock. The band started from some old demos and some newer recordings that singer/songwriter Tich had recorded in his studio. Working on these as well as adding some new material together, The Silk Road began to take shape. Midnight was released last July and this EP is pretty much a taster for their forthcoming debut album. In fact the boys are in Chesterfields Foundry Studios with Paul Hopkinson at the moment with the album’s release slated for November/December this year.
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Andy Hardwick- guitars/banjo * Brian Buckberry- drums * Tich Vango- guitars/vocals * Jamie Burney- fiddle/violin * Shaun Haley- bass * Jim Fisher- Harmonica player on EP (not pictured)

silk-road-tattThe EP begins with ‘Boats Come In At Midnight’ which is about modern day smuggling. Like the band they have been most likened to, Folk The System, much of what they play can be traced back to 1980’s anarcho-punk. Very catchy indeed and half way through the fiddle comes in giving it a real nice ending. Track two is ‘Ancient Road / Montagu’s Harrier’ and introduces harmonica into the mix. A instrument I love to hear as it is much neglected in folk/celtic-punk. Over six minutes long with the first half a solid and catchy enough punk tune which is reminiscent of anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds while the second half has an absolutely stunning traditional folk piece/reel dedicated to endangered bird’s of prey. The Silk Road play English folk here. Not Irish or Scottish folk and labelled English like some bands do but this is the folk music of northern England and will surely get them onto the radar of the band who excel at playing this kind of music and are taking it to the masses, Ferocious Dog. ‘Scars That Remain’ is track three and if The Levellers are the main inspiration for The Silk Road then this is their tribute to them. I’m not a massive fan of The Levellers myself this is excellent stuff. Slow acoustic guitar and fiddle and nice vocals atop brings up to final track, ‘I Don’t Care’ which raises the bar again with some brilliantly catchy fiddle led punk.
Clocking in at just over seventeen minutes its a great EP and I cannot wait to hear more from The Silk Road. This kind of music lends itself more to the live experience so if they are able to capture that in the studio then by St George they will have cracked it.
(Crap sound and not on the EP but here they are in all their glory!)

(you can listen to Midnight by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
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ALBUM REVIEW: SMZB- ‘The Chinese are Coming’ (2016)

The new album celebrating the twentieth anniversary of SMZB.

One of the scene’s best bands and the only celtic-punk band in China!

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smzb-logo

yes.. look again!

Celtic-punk in 2016 is truly a global music genre. Gone are the days when it was the preserve of spotty second, third or fourth generation Irish kids and welcome now to the World Of Celtic-Punk! SMZB hail from Wuhan in mainland China and were one of the first original Chinese punk bands forming in 1996. The name SMZB means Sheng Ming Zhi Bing and in English is literally, ‘Bread of Life’. Unsurprisingly when you hear their music the Chinese authorities have never taken kindly to them and so three of their albums have been banned at home. Sometime around the mid-noughties they made the decision to move away from their original raw sound of early British punk, ska and ’80s hardcore and add bagpipes, flutes and fiddles to their sound. Sounding like a combination of The Pogues, the Murphy’s and Rancid they have deservedly become absolutely huge in their native country and their fame is growing outside China too. They have toured Europe a few times, including earlier this year though sadly never visiting these shores, as well as recording several acclaimed albums including a split with Norwegian celtic-punk legends Greenland Whalefishers.

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The Chinese Are Coming was released on Maybe Mars Records on September 30 this year and begins with the drone of bagpipes through the ‘Intro’ with pounding drums joining in and soon enough the album explodes in your earholes with some quality celtic-punk. SMZB may have been the first and still are arguably the best Chinese punk band but the video to the album’s real opener ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Rebel’ shows they are not alone and features several other local punk bands and is a tribute to Lei Jun China’s first skinhead and Beijing’s punk godfather, who passed away a year previous to this video being premiered this year on the 6th of May.

Reading through the lyrics and knowing the conditions they live in you can only marvel at how brave the band are for singing what they do. It certainly shows up some of the ‘revolutionary’ bands in the west who seem more concerned with getting on the bill at Rebellion festival and getting a huge payday.

“You cannot change anyone in the world,
The only one you can change is yourself.
When you find out the truth and their lies,
That’s when you should do something”

The band to be referenced most here is of course The Dropkick Murphys and SMZB have nailed their sound perfectly. It is all bagpipes and catchy as hell punk rock. Up next is ‘The Chinese Are Coming’ which was the first single off the album and begins with a Ramones-ish

“Hey, Ho! Where shall we go?”

and while on the accompanying video the lyrics are sung in English on the album its in their native language but the words show SMZB’s great sense of humour as well as adding in a great bit of Irish folk thanks to some expert tin whistle playing.

‘Born In The PRC’ is not a celtic-punk version of The Bosses song but an angry and vitriolic response to the nationalism of their government and what punk means to those who face real oppression on a daily basis not like the pampered students here in the west whose oppression is only inside their own imaginations.

“I was born in the P.R.C., it’s such a tragedy,
It’s a so-called nation, but really a fake nation.
I don’t want to living here, I don’t have any choice,
There’s only one party here, I want to be their enemy.
I was born in the P.R.C., the nation with autocracy,
Punx Rebellion of China, is what it means to me.
I was born in the P.R.C., in 2 years I’ll be 40,
Still can’t live freely, that’s why I’m still on stage”

SMZB keep up the pace with ‘Road To Petition’ which brings in the banjo to great effect while ‘Generation’ has a much more traditional folky feel to it showing that the lads can turn it up and down when required. The next song is ‘Flower Of The Socialism’ and is fast heads down, balls out, two fingers to the world, punk rock which slows down only briefly for a few seconds of tin whistle while band founder Wu Wei spits out the words that obviously come straight from his heart.

“You have to try to play your role well, or choose to be a bastard.
You have to try to forget your dream, and then into the arm of reality.
You can’t to extricate yourself from here, you are the one of scars.
Socialism already in bloomed here, you have also sprouted in this land”

smzb-logo-2The next couple of songs, ‘Sunny Speculation’ and ‘One Night In Prison’ are sung in their native language again. Fast tuneful Murphyesque punk is the order of the day. They may have started as a straight up punk band but its thanks to the fantastic abilities of Tang on bagpipes and tin whistle and Tu Dou on banjo that that transition has been so successful. ‘Welcome To China’ sees a return to English in a song that bites back against tourism and the attitude of tourists when they visit China. Now if you have heard ‘White Noise’ on the Stiff Little Fingers album Inflammable Material then you will get what the breakneck ‘The Chinese Are Coming Again’ is about. If you haven’t heard it then give it a quick blast here. Its fair to say their still enormous mistrust of Chinese immigrants and here SMZB expose the bigots that would treat people as a mass rather than individuals. ‘Colonial Trip’ features a guest female vocalist and is reminescent of The Dubliners/Pogues until an electric guitar bursts in and we are brought up to the present day. A great song that nicely straddles both the past and present and even ends with some trumpet playing thrown in to the mix. ‘Tattoo The Earth’ again is more Poguesy while ‘Redemption Song’ takes Bob Marley’s original song and turns it into a celtic-punk classic with the pipes playing loud and proud. The Chinese Are Coming comes to an end with the absolutely stunning ‘Song Of The Seagull’. The longest track on the album, at well over seven minutes, its a tribute to Lin Zhao. A Chinese student from Peking University who was jailed in 1960 for pro-democracy activities. The song is based on a poem she wrote in prison where, forbidden to use pens, she composed countless articles and poems using a hairpin dipped in her own blood. In 1968 she was executed and in 1981 Lin was officially exonerated though the Chinese government still to this day are reluctant to allow any mention of her or her writings. Find out more about the tragic life of Lin Zhao here.

Beginning with just piano, acoustic guitar and the beautiful voice of their guest vocalist (sorry but I couldn’t find her name anywhere) before the full band kicks in with their tribute and some angry celtic-punk rock brings the curtain down on the song and the album. I simply cannot imagine a better way to end this album. A song dripping with emotion and meaning and that symbolises everything that SMZB stand for.

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Fifteen tracks and over fifty minutes to boot that gives you more than enough for your money and if there is ever a band in the celtic-punk scene that demands your support than it is SMZB. Being the only celtic-punk band in your state or city can be a lonely experience but SMZB have become an icon of Chinese music that deserve to be heard far beyond their own country. What they have to say is important and we can be grateful that they have chosen to wrap it some of the best celtic-punk music you will hear.

(listen to The Chinese Are Coming for free by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below before splashing out your $10 on buying it and supporting this awesome band!)

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(full concert of SMZB from their 15th Anniversary show back in 2011)

EP REVIEW: MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS- ‘The Organworks Recordings Session’ (2016)

Matilda’s Scoundrels gear up for their forthcoming new album later in the year by releasing yet another superb EP.
the-organworks-recordings-session

We return again to another new release from our friends Matilda’s Scoundrels. I have lost count of the number of their releases this year so pop along to their Bandcamp page, listed below, and have a look for yourself. Since forming in 2014, (doesn’t it seem longer?) in famed smugglers town Hastings on the south coast of England, the boys had built a solid reputation on the local gig scene but it is in the last year especially that they have began to bring their sound to festivals, bars, pubs and clubs across the UK with an ever increasing army of followers. Having played a bunch of festivals this year including Rebellion, Boomtown and Common Ground, as well as a bunch of tours that have taken them as far as Scotland to support Blood Or Whiskey. It was on one of these trips through the north that the Scoundrels popped into the Organworks Recording Studio in Leeds back in August and recorded a live session consisting of four tracks, two songs from previous EP’s, a cover and a brand new one.

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Matilda’s Scoundrels left to right: Thomas Quinn, James Baughurst, Dan Flanagan, Jason Stirling, Jens Jensen, Jon the drummer.

The EP begins with ‘Beasts In Disguise’ which first saw the light of day last year on the EP of the same name. The production of that EP was a little rough and ready so great to hear it as was intended. Compared to that early version it shows a band with a lot more oompf. Quinn the singer has come on leaps and bounds and spits the words out with a confidence missing from their early recordings. Following is one of my favourite Scoundrels songs ‘Sinking In Their Sins’ which appeared on the split EP they also did last year with The Barracks.

(not the version featured here on this EP but you can hear that below)

Another class song with the band happy to punk it up a bit more than usual with Dan’s guitar a lot more evident. I was of course most interested in their new song and ‘Take This To The Streets’ does not disappoint. Jason kicks it off with his distinctive growl and acoustic guitar but its not too long before its all descended into familiar Matilda’s Scoundrels territory. A ever so slight country feel nestled in there among all the other influences. Soon Quinn joins in and the dual vocals work brilliant especially with Jen’s accordion backing. The final song here is a cover of Dutch punkers Black Volvo song ‘Rockers’. Having not heard the original I wasn’t sure what to expect but its in the same vein as ‘Pissheads Anthem’ and I’m sure regular fans will get what I mean. Fast and messy punk rock but still with that unmistakable Scoundrels sound.

(save £100 and have no negative effect on your local punk scene by watching the Scoundrels performance at this years Rebellion festival below)

The band have achieved something quite amazing. Within a few seconds of each song you know for sure its the Matilda’s Scoundrels so distinctive is their sound and so unlike anyone else I have heard. Hard work and touring can get you places but you need the tunes to go with it and the Scoundrels steady rise just goes to show that a band can make it within being arseholes or selling out or stepping on others to get there. It’s a story of success that has not ended yet and with an album due out fairly soon (the band are intending to play less gigs for a while so they can record it) that success shows no sign of ending yet.

(listen to the EP by pressing Play on the Bandcamp player below)

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“No business carried on in Hastings was more popular and extensive as that of smuggling. Defrauding the revenue, so far from being considered a crime, was looked upon as a laudable pursuit, and the most successful ‘runners’ were heroes. Nearly the whole of the inhabitants, old and young and of every station in life, were, to some extent, engaged in it”

ALBUM REVIEW: DRINK HUNTERS- ‘Shameless’ (2016)

Catalan Bhoys showing the rest of us how to do Celtic-punk again!

Drink Hunters

Welcome to the third long player from one of the top celtic-punk bands in Europe, Catalan celtic-punkers Drink Hunters (their is no ‘The’). Formed in Barcelona in 2008 they have previously self-released two outstanding albums on a shoestring budget and set about raising money for this one by crowdfunding among their fans who responded magnificently and raised the necessary readies in no time at all. The band got together in Barcelona in 2008 when Pau (drums and vocals) and Aaron (bass and lead vocals) wanted to get a band on the road and decided to follow the path of celtic-punk. They talked about the idea with Raja (guitar and vocals) and a band began to take shape. Only thing now missing was to fill their energetic punk rock with some Irish folk touches. And for that they contacted with Nando (fiddle) and Rosa (accordion) and in early 2013 they signed Isra (Irish tin whistles and banjo) and Drink Hunters were armed and ready to go.

When we reviewed their last album (here) we described them as

“…which sounds pretty much like NOFX doing celtic-punk! The ‘celtic-NOFX’ label fits in quite well with The Drink Hunters and the majority of the songs fly by in around 2 minutes”

and to be perfectly honest that still fits them pretty damn well. Members have come and gone from the band but Drink Hunters philosophy of combining solid punk rock tunes with Irish traditional folk and themes has made them a sure fire hit across Europe and among those in the know in celtic-punk circles.

drinkhunters

Shameless was released in July and is eleven tracks long that rolls in just a minute short of thirty minutes. Of those eleven songs all are written by the band themselves and as usual top marks for that. As much as I do love to hear version after version of ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ its far more enjoyable to hear what the band themselves have made and nurtured. Shameless begins with the short and very very snappy ‘1234’ and for a second you could imagine it as Bad Religion till the celtic instruments kick in and Drink Hunters are back with a right bang. All the lyrics are sung in English or should I say Californian! While we would prefer bands to sing in their native tongue its understandable why bands don’t always and Pau from the band is at least honest when he said, when we reviewed their last album,

“yeah, I feel that the English language can open more doors, particularly in this genre which is not very popular in Spain yet”

Next up is ‘Trashy Music’ and again from the start the music kicks in and the Bhoys put the boot into shitty sell out bands which is something you could never accuse them of being. Completely independent and totally DIY in ethos.

The album continues with ‘Do More Listening’ and ‘I Need To Forget’ which ramp up the speed and keep the fiddle player busy keeping up. A fantastic combination of old and new traditions Drink Hunters are that odd thing in celtic-punk. A band that follows no-one, sounds like no-one else and ploughs their own trough in coming up with something truly unique within celtic-punk.

(two songs from the album that were released in advance done all acoustic like!)

Album title track ‘Shameless’ is one of the shortest songs on the album and shows the band at their most fluid as they take the piss out of themselves somewhat.

“And they can say
we have no class
we have bad manners
and we want to be like them

But we’re sure
we’re so prooooud!”

‘Picnic Blanket’ has some real good Irish fiddle parts while the music steamrolls along. A real foot stomper this one and a real album standout. ‘My Car’ treads the same path as before with a silly song about being in love with your car.

“Your car is a crap
My tapes make me so elegant”

They showed they can play their instruments too by recently releasing an acoustic version of ‘My Car’ as well and it rocks mightily!

Next up is ’34’ and fiddle and tin whistle over pounding drums until friend of the band El Nota pops up to do a short rap in the middle. We are storming to the end and their is no let up in the speed of Shameless and ‘What Am I Waiting For?’ is no different. Fast paced and heading out in a bang with ‘Someone Else’ and finally the album comes to an end with my favourite song on the album. Encapsulating everything I love about the celtic punk scene it is called simply ‘Celtic Punks’. In Spain’s fractured land where one day we would hope to see freedom for the Catalans, Basques and Galicians the song offers a hand of friendship. As with Scotland its not necessary to hate your neighbours. One day you will all be on an equal footing so let solidarity be the key to your freedom.

“We are Celtic Punks!

You will never understand why we’ve chosen this path
our way of seeing things neither our music.

This is not a fad, It’s a way of life
feeling it inside our hearts
We’ve not given up yet.
No matter whether you are male or female
We are few people but we are united!

Celtic Punks gara gu (Basque)
Nos somos Celtic Punks (Galician)
Nosotras somos Celtic Punks (Spanish)
Nosaltres som Celtic Punks! (Catalan)”

An absolutely storming way to finish and worth the price of the album on its own. The most obvious thing for me that stands out about Drink Hunters is that if they were North American they would be, and pardon my French here, totally fucking massive. They certainly deserve it and as one of the hardest working bands around international stardom shouldn’t be too long with catching up with them.

(have a listen to the whole of Shameless by pressing Play on the Bandcamp player below)

Discography

2010- I Love Whiskey I Love Beer, 2011- With My Crew, 2014- Lurking Behind The Woods

 

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* their are a host of other great bands in the region with Sigelpa also from Barcelona leading the way but one of the best ways to keep up with whats happening in Spain, Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque country and the celtic-punk scene in general is to follow the ever brilliant Celtic Folk Punk And More web-site. Begin here by checking their review of Shameless.

EP REVIEW: SLAINE- ‘Slaine Is Dead’ (2016)

Irish-American hip-hop artist, lyricist, famous actor, gambler, Bostonian and professional asshole!

slaine-is-dead

Life is hard for some. That much is clear. The story of Irish-America is one of success and how after years of toil and racism and bigotry against them the Irish finally lifted them selves from the ghetto’s and universal success became the order of the day. Well there are two Irish-America’s and Slaine’s, real name George Carroll, is definitly the most interesting. After all it is working class Irish-American life that Hollywood likes to make TV and movies about.

slaineSlaine’s life reads like a novel. Born in Dorchester, home of several past and present members of The Dropkick Murphys and a large Irish community, Slaine got into hip-hop at a early age

“I started writing rhymes when I was nine years old, I use to record on my boom box with a pair of headphones plugged into the microphone jack. I felt they were just words on a page because I didn’t have an outlet to perform them”

and recognising the path to stardom lay in a move to New York he later packed his bags and moved to New York City and enrolled in school. After only seven months, an unfortunate altercation between Slaine and a school employee resulted in his expulsion. He didn’t let this set him back and he remained determined and focused. Surviving on the hard lonely streets of New York City by doing anything he could lay his hand to and eventually it paid dividend and he was introduced to Danny Boy O’Connor of House of Pain. This led to him being signed to a production deal with DJ Lethal of House of Pain which led to the release of ‘The White Man is the Devil’ (‘white man’ being a reference to cocaine, not a declaration of self hate) and touring world-wide. In a very short time he had gone from living in absolute poverty with a drug habit to traveling the globe and working with hip-hop icons such as House of Pain, Cypress Hill and a whole host of others. He became part of the mostly Irish-American hip-hop collective La Coka Nostra alongside Ill Bill and all three members of House of Pain – Everlast, DJ Lethal and Danny Boy. La Coka Nostra’s debut album, A Brand You Can Trust went straight in at #84 in the American Top 200 showing that the group’s brand of blue collar hip-hop was exactly what fans were waiting for. Slaine’s name continued to grow far past his hometown of Boston due to the exposure he was receiving but as his music career grew, so did his personal battle with drugs. Overdoses, hospital visits and a spiral of drugs and violence, continued until he finally checked himself into rehab.

“Everybody had a story to tell. That was where the idea and the hunger for ‘The White Man is the Devil’ was born”

On conquering his addiction, fellow Bostonian Ben Affleck presented Slaine with the chance of a lifetime to make his acting debut playing Bubba Rogowski in the gritty portrayal of Boston-Irish life in Gone Baby Gone. Both a critical and financial success this led to Slaine going on to star in, among others, The Town, The Crack Down and Bad Blood alongside such famed actors as  Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini. While scaling the heights in the acting world he returned again and again to his hip-hop roots releasing several album’s of hard hitting lyrical content and vicious delivery. His last official release was The King Of Everything Else album back in 2014 so we have have awaiting his return with baited breathe.
slaine-king

The EP kicks off with ‘Slaine Is Dead (Intro)’ which is in fact part of the beautiful ‘The Ballad Of Mairead Farrell’ which tells of an IRA volunteer gunned down on active service in Gibralter in 1988. One of the saddest of all rebel songs and nails Slaine’s colours to the mast from the first few seconds. I first heard this song as played by Irish-American band Seanchai and The Unity Squad and you can find their great version here . Slaine Is Dead really starts with the title song next and Slaine’s lyrics come busting straight out of his heart into the speakers at you.

“So many dark days they have ruptured my patience
I’d like to part ways but I’m stuck in the matrix
See I’ve been out of luck, so corrupted and faithless
And now without a buck I’m like fuck it I hate this
So many close calls, all these brushes with greatness
But not enough to power my spaceship
Not enough to persuade the gods right and face where they sit
As they parade the dogs of war off fake cliff
And that’s how It felt from grace, through the winds of sin
I had to go and find my wings again
While the angel of death goes and sings the hymn
As he strangle my breath, tore me limb from limb
Well you let your soul slip to the other side
Will the caterpillar turn into the butterfly?
I can see the pain falling from my mothers eyes
But I keep on falling for these fucking lies
So my mind holding on to the liquor and coke
In my fire room it’s out but there’s a flicker of hope
In these institution walls where they kickin’ the dope
I’m reminded of the power of that shit that I wrote
I walk with the devil, talking to God
Murder stories in this purgatory, coughing up blood
But I will not break, I will not fall
This is just another rhyme that I wrote on my wall

It’s been so long, you see my face
While I come back to plead my case
When I’m gone and time comes to make a leap of faith
There’s no way to keep the secret safe
That Slaine is dead”

In a career where Slaine has achieved heights that others can only dream of his music career has been mostly based on confronting both his demons and his failures. The EP sleeve features the dates 1977-2014. That is the year he was born and the year Slaine finally threw the monkey of addiction off his back and went sober. After years of dependency he was free and music and acting became his way of ensuring he was never going to return to those days. That Slaine is dead.

His life as an addict is depicted further on ‘Nobody Prays For Me’ which features Demrick and this lyrical masterpiece continues. The dictionary definition of an ‘seanchaí’ is of a storyteller

“…were servants to the chiefs of the tribe and kept track of important information for their clan. They were very well respected and they made use of a range of storytelling conventions, styles of speech and gestures that were peculiar to the Irish folk tradition and characterized them as practitioners of their art”

and Slaine is certainly a modern age equivalent of that ancient art. In the first single from the EP ‘Pusher’ Slaine takes us into the dark and dangerous world of the drug dealer. These weren’t the times that he is proud of but he’s presenting them here as a warning to others not to follow the path he trod.

‘Just The Way You Are’ features guest vocals from fellow Mass. rapper Termanology and chronicles both his battles with addiction and the effect it had upon his family and friends. ‘Knocked Down’ features Rite Hook guesting. Rite Hook is a lost son of Massachusetts himself. Years of hard living defined his early career and in 2012, he overdosed and died. His heart stopped completely, and paramedics had to revive him. A survivor in the truest sense of the word he returned to music and like Slaine it came with a newfound focus. On ‘Legendary’ (featuring Ill Bill, Vinnie Paz and Jared Evan) we can begin to see the light, for want of a better word. He’s been to rock bottom and is starting to fight back. His drive to become ‘Legendary’ has been finally achieved so we can witness his salvation on the final track ‘Coming Home’.

slaine-is-dead3

Slaine’s music is hard, dark and aggressive. It always has been. Irish-American life is not always ‘Shamrocks And Shenanigans’. Sometimes its hard. We Irish come from a complicated race and it’s always been true that our worse enemy is within ourselves. Our struggles with alcoholism and drugs are well documented and often are hidden behind closed doors and though the working class life that Slaine and others come from may not be one you are familiar with but it exists. Slaine has fought hard but has never walked away from his roots. He deserves his salvation.

“I love making music that means something to me, I am grateful for all the experiences that I have had- good and bad. I am lucky to be alive, but my past also made me who I am today”

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SINGLE REVIEW: THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY- ‘Foreign Soil’ (2106)

The new release from The Ramshackle Army proves again the high quality of Aussie celtic-punk. Influenced by the punk they grew up with, the Celtic traditions of their families history and the colonial heritage of Australia the band come up trumps again.

ramshackle

With The Rumjacks just landing back home in Australia after a God alone knows how many months European tour which saw them ship up in London twice and The Go-Set set to follow them into town a week today Australian celtic-punk is spreading across the globe like cane-toads (remember The Simpsons versus Australia?). Anyhow last Wednesday saw the first new release from The Ramshackle Army since their early 2014 album Letters From The Road Less Travelled hit the shops to great applause and its another belter.

ramshackle3

The Ramshackle Army began plying their trade in the pubs and bars of their home town Melbourne before making the leap to a wider Australian punk and celtic-punk audience and then they were handpicked by The Dropkick Murphys themselves to support them on their 2011 Australian tour. After this the Murphys asked the Army to join them for their 2012 St Patricks Tour of the USA. So in March they embarked on their first tour of the US playing a handful of warm up shows with some of the best American celtic-punk bands going before joining the Murphys for a run of shows which ended with the massive 6,000 Tsongas Arena on St Patrick’s Day. Their adventures in America ended with the Ramshackle Army headlining the Guinness stage at the Shamrock Fest in Washington before 15,000 eager celtic-punk fans.

ramshackle2In 2014 the band joined the prestigious independent record company East Grand and released Life Lessons And Drunken Sessions following it up with their first full length release Letters From The Road Less Travelled. In 2015 and with the band on the verge of world domination they were hampered by line up changes but ended the year in the USA again in September and October of 2015, playing California’s Get Shamrocked festival and going on to join scene legends The Tossers for their Halfway To St Patricks Day tour. This year has seen them playing across Australia and seen their welcome return to the studio with the new EP Whitewashed Grave set for release later in the year.

ramshackle-1As with all their previous recordings Foreign Soil is heavily influenced by the story-telling style in the old folk tradition but comes wrapped up with a boatload of high energy punk rock that does the sometimes impossible act of transferring the live energy of an Ramshackle Army live gig onto disc. So after just six years and countless shows across two continents The Ramshackle Army are back and for just a lousy American dollar (that’s only about 75p or 89c!) you can own their new single and give the bhoys and ghirl a hand up in taking over the world!

In search of solace land of hopes and dreams was sought.
In waters treacherous and in storms that we were caught,
A 9 to 5 with pride and life for sons and daughters.Though through tales of hope and what awaits on foreign shore,
No those broken dreams can’t mend when greeted by closed doors.Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, When will you heed my plea.
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, Will someone rescue me
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, I’ll never ask for more than peace on foreign shore.

Imprisoned by our plight and desperate acts faith,
They enter battles in our name and battle cry our pain,
Just keep me sane and welcome my escape.

Though through tales of hope and what awaits on foreign shore,
No those broken dreams can’t mend when greeted by closed doors.

Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh

Though through tales of hope and what awaits on foreign shore,
No those broken dreams can’t mend when greeted by closed doors.

Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, When will you heed my plea.
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, Will someone rescue me
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, I’ll never ask for more than peace on foreign shore.

When will you heed my plea
Will someone rescue me
I’ll never ask for more than peace on foreign…

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go-set

If you fancy a spot of live Australian celtic-punk then you are in luck! Fellow Melbourne celtic-punkers The Go-Set sail into London town a week today Friday 30th September at The Veg Bar in South London. Playing alongside London Irish favourites The Lagan and Hastings folk-punkers Matilda’s Scoundrels, fresh from supporting The Levellers last week. Kicking off the night is internet sensation (look up ‘I’ll Dance On Your Grave Mrs. Thatcher’) John McCullagh who may, or may not, be joined on the night by some extra special guests from South London’s favourite band Alabama 3. It’s an expensive business touring from Oz so tickets are £8 and available from WeGotTickets. You can keep up with the gig at the Facebook event here. The rest of the tour takes in Brighton 29th September, Derby 1st October and Leicester 2nd. Details from their Facebook page here.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE DUBLINERS- ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ (2003)

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The Dubliners are without doubt the best known band in the Celtic music world. Formed in 1962 their first hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ launched them into international stardom. Non stop touring and a stint with The Pogues ensured that the popularity of their music never ebbed. Without them it is highly debatable whether or not celtic-punk would have ever come about as Shane McGowan himself has said.  The Dubliners- The first and original celtic-punk band.

Dubliners

The Dubliners, now one of the most legendary bands in the world, started off in O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin in 1962 under the name of The Ronnie Drew Folk Group. Then they were four, Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Luke Kelly (vocals and 5-string banjo), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon and vocals) and Ciaran Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica). In 1963, they played a gig in Edinburgh where they met the head of Transatlantic Records, Nathan Joseph, for whom they started recording. In 1964, Luke Kelly left, and Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar and vocals) were added. When Luke Kelly returned and Bobby Lynch left in 1965, we have what is considered as the original Dubliners, five individualists, five men whose talents were mixed together in a superb blend and just wanted to play and have a good craic. If they only knew what was awaiting them!

In 1967 their major breakthrough came as a result of a coincidence. Their song, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ which was recorded in one take, was snapped up by a pirate radio station which started playing it along with the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix. Suddenly, The Dubliners were a major band, playing all over the world, getting into the charts, and receiving gold discs. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who as Colin Irwin in the reissue of Live at the Albert Hall says

“looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height”

The seventies started like the sixties ended – wilder touring, drinking and playing. They started doing regular tours, and they were still recording, of course. Then, in 1974, Ciaran Bourke collapsed on stage with a brain hemorrhage, which eventually led to his death. He first, though, recovered remarkably and was back on stage with The Dubliners, but collapsed again. At the same time, Ronnie decided to take a break, and Jim McCann took his and Ciaran’s place in the group.

dubliners

In 1979, Ronnie decided to make a comeback as a member of the group, although he probably never really left it. In the five years, he had recorded two solo albums, and The Dubliners three albums. With Ronnie returning, Jim left, and The Dubs were almost back where they started. Then Luke Kelly became ill, he collapsed on stage with a brain tumor, for which he received surgery several times. He too, made remarkable recoveries, and went on touring with the Dubliners, at the same time continuing his wild and unhealthy lifestyle. Sean Cannon, a long time friend, stepped in for Luke, when he couldn’t be on stage. Sean’s appearance wasn’t that well received by the audiences at the beginning, but he has later turned out to be an important addition to The Dubliners, and their repertoire. In 1984, Luke Kelly died, but The Dubliners, now with Sean Cannon as a member, decided to keep on.

1987 turned out to be one of the best – and busiest – years for the Dubliners. Their long time friend, and guest musician, Eamonn Campbell, brought the group together with the Pogues on the hit single ‘The Irish Rover’. This single took the Dubliners back to the charts, and also gave them a completely new audience; people who weren’t even born when The Dubliners started off. And with Dublin celebrating its millennium in 1988, The Dubliners also received more attention than for years. Eamonn Campbell joined them on regular basis, a move that has turned out to be one of the most important in their history. In 1988 Ciaran Bourke died, after years of pain and difficulties. He always was, and still is very much remembered by The Dubliners, just like Luke Kelly is.

The eighties finished off with rumours that The Dubliners were to retire, probably something that’s always been following the group. However, they didn’t, and celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1992, with a double CD and extensive tour. The nineties brought a tour video from the German tour 1995, and the “shock” news that Ronnie Drew was leaving. He left in December 1995, after releasing a superb album, Dirty Rotten Shame a few months earlier.

dubliners2Now, even the most optimistic Dubliners fans thought it was the end, but the lads decided to convince Paddy Reilly to join them, and they continued their busy touring and recording schedule. This move has also turned out to be excellent. Paddy, not very well known in Europe, had never been touring there, so he too enjoyed the experience, as well as being part of a band. He still, though, does tours in the USA in the winter and summer months. In 2002, they temporarily reunited with Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann, for their 40th anniversary tour but sadly after the tour, Jim McCann was diagnosed with throat cancer and, though he fully recovered, his voice was severely damaged, and has not been able to peform since his illness. Despite this, he regularly acts as MC at folk gigs, notably at The Dubliners reunion shows, and at the 2006 ‘Legends of Irish Folk’ shows (where he also played guitar in the finale).

Leader and legend Ronnie Drew passed away in 2008 meaning the end of the original Dubliners. Before he passed though he recorded with The Dropkick Murphys in a memorable version of ‘Flannigan’s Ball’ therefore passing on the baton to the only group comparable to them in what they mean to the Irish diaspora.

It was The Dubliners (and The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem who will be next in our series) pioneered the way for untold number of bands from Ireland and for Celtic music, like the Chieftains, the Pogues, U2, the Fureys and so on. The artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols is endless. They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never otherwise have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the music, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and their characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again. The Dubliners brought Ireland to the world in a way that emigration hadn’t, they have brought the world to Ireland, and they have brought people all over the world closer together. When it ended, the world was never going to be the same again.

The Dubliners 1962-2012
Over the 50 years there were 12 people in The Dubliners.  Ronnie Drew (’62-2008), Luke Kelly (’62-84) , Barney McKenna (’62-2012), Ciaran Bourke (’62-74), John Sheahan (’64-2012), Bobby Lynch (’62-65), Jim McCann (’74-79), Sean Cannon (’82-2012), Eamonn Campbell (’88-2012), Paddy Reilly (’96-2005), Patsy Watchorn (2005-12) and Gerry O’Connor (2012).

The surviving members of the group – Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and Gerry O’Connor, except John Sheahan, are still touring in 2014 under the name The Dublin Legends.

The Dublin Legends 2012-

After the departure of John Sheahan and the official retirement of the name The Dubliners in late 2012, the remaining members of the group – Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and guest musician Gerry O’Connor – formed a folk band called The Dublin Legends to keep The Dubliners’ legacy alive. The band released their first live album entitled An Evening With The Dublin Legends: Live In Vienna in January 2014. They continue to perform extensively and you can find their web site here.

Tracklist:

1. The Wild Rover (2:50)
2. Medley: Doherty’s Reel / Down The Broom / The Honeymoon Reel (3:36)
3. The Holy Ground (2:26)
4. A Parcel Of Rogues (4:21)
5. God Save Ireland (1:57)
6. A Nation Once Again (1:31)
7. Spancil Hill (4:03)
8. Molly McGuires (2:01)
9. The Old Triangle (2:55)
10. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (6:16)
11. Johnston’s Motorcar (1:50)
12. Seven Drunken Nights (3:23)
13. Black Velvet Band (3:18)
14. Free The People (3:08)
15. Van Diemen’s Land (2:15)
16. Dirty Old Town (2:59)
17. Medley: The Maid Behind The Bar / Toss The Feathers (2:18)
18. Lord Of The Dance (2:27)
19. All For Me Grog (2:24)
20. Whiskey In The Jar (2:47)

FOR YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK

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The Dubliners On The Internet

OfficialDublinersSite  TheDubliners  It’sTheDubliners

“They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who were converted to their charm. That isn’t only because of the music, the instrumentals or the stories, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style, the drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards (I even tried to copy them in the 70’s), their extensive touring, their charisma and the enigmatic characters. It was a blend the world will never see again.  It was an entire package that invented the word unique. How do you top that?Every artist in the world is trying to achieve success by getting their ‘sound’ and being unique.  The Dubliners did it”  –Robert Tallent

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS 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 and hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)  here

EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here

EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)  here

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)  here

GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)  here

EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ (1972)  here

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