ALBUM REVIEW: CIARAN MURPHY- ‘Once Upon A Time In Ireland’ (2009) *AVAILABLE AS A DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FOR THE FIRST TIME*

 Ciarán Murphy, ex-political prisoner, singer-songwriter and one man acoustic hand grenade from West Belfast. A protest singer in the finest Irish tradition and politically as sharp as a syringe needle hanging on razor wire. On this his debut album, available as a digital download for the very first time, he points out the often ugly truths of Irish life, asks difficult questions and never once pulls his punches. ciaran-once-upon
Ciarán Murphy seemed to come out of nowhere for us. One day on MySpace (remember that?!?!?) a long, long time ago I came across a few songs of his and its fair to say he fair done blew my mind. Having got a wee bit bored of hearing the same songs over and over again here was passionate, modern day, Irish rebel music with punk swagger and attitude that did all the things that good music is suppose to do. To educate, to inspire, to encourage, to dream. What was not to love? Later that year he went on to play the very first London Celtic Punks organised gig and it’s fair to say he stole the show and on top of that he was, as we say in London, a diamond geezer.

In these days of relative calm in the north-eastern section of Ireland the Police Service of Northern Ireland proudly claims to be ‘Making Northern Ireland Safer’. They’ll have you believe that they’ve moved on from the notorious days of the B-Specials and Royal Ulster Constabulary. The residents and Ciarán Murphy know differently and Once Upon A Time In Ireland opens with a angry blistering attack on Northern Ireland’s police force that is more punk rock than any punk song I ever heard.
“And they’re still a rich man’s police force,
they serve a rich man’s state.
They’ll baton charge the workers on the orders of the great,
they’ll use their fathers’ weapons to move against the free.
They’ll always be the RUC to me”
Armed only with an acoustic guitar, Ciarán comes across sometimes as a one-man punk army. His songs cover a multitude of topics relating to life in modern day Ireland (and to that north-eastern bit in particular). ‘A Word to the New Irish Racist’ damns those Irish people who suffered racist attitudes from British imperialists for decades, and who themselves now target new arrivals into Ireland:
“And every one of us were immigrants in our own time
And every patriot knows Irish is a state of mind
But you’re blind”
Ciarán understands because he comes from the same class as those left with no other option to survive than to leave Ireland in search of work over the years. Brilliant sentiments that could just as easily apply to any nation on the planet as to the Irish. Ciarán Murphy plays with such fury and ferocity that it’s no surprise he needs a box of plasters at the ready for when he leaves the stage. But folkies relax it’s not all full-on acoustic thrash, though. Some of the more impressive moments happen when the guitar assault slows down a little. Check out the gorgeous multi-tracked guitars on ‘Rebel Song’, while Ciarán spins a tale about a would-be revolutionary/terrorist having second thoughts while on the way to an attack. An amazing song that reminds us of the very real price that these soldiers paid for the cause.
(Ciarán playing live for London Celtic Punks in North London)

On ‘Che Guevara T-Shirts’ Ciarán takes aim at modern day politics and its clear here he foresaw the rise of the poison of identity politics. Divide and rule was once the tactic the state used to keep the left divided. Now its the ‘left’ that use it. He never leaves you unsure of where he stands. After all you get splinters in yer arse from sitting on the fence! The guitar picking on ‘You Cried for Ten Men Dead’ is simply outstanding. This track never fails to leave me in tears, as Ciaran sings to his father about the impact of Ireland’s struggle on the old man. From fighting for Great Britain in World War II, to joining a revolutionary army in Ireland, to crying for the ten hunger strikers who died in the Maze prison in 1981. The old man fell under the spell of whiskey and was unable to keep it together. Simply breathtaking. Played from the heart it’s followed by ‘State Of The Nation’ my favourite here where again modern day Irish politics is chastised.
“Kieran Doherty died as Irish TD (MP)
and not a word of condolence was passed
but for Lady Diana they lowered the flag to half mast.
Yeah they lowered our flag to half mast
so who’s taking us back to the past?”
The Irish government, so desperate to suck up to both the UK and the USA, are even willing to destroy national monuments to accommodate foreign interests and to degrade the ideals of the men whose acts they use to push an agenda these men fought (and many died) against. They have betrayed the people of Ireland but as a great man once said “our revenge will be the laughter of our children”.

‘Michael McIlveen’ is the tragic tale of a young 15-year old Catholic boy beaten to death on the streets of the north-eastern Irish town of Ballymena in 2006 by a Protestant gang. The teenager, known as ‘Mickeybo’ to his friends, was beaten with a baseball bat and kicked around 60 times in an alley after simply visiting a pizza shop. Ciarán reaches out to the Protestant community to remind them that some of the most revered and respected Irish revolutionary heroes have come from the Protestant faith.

Mickeybo 1991-2006 qui tacet consentire vidétur

‘Nine hours’ is again an incredible song where Ciaran, in jail for Republican activities, is given nine hours compassionate leave to attend the funeral of his father.  During the song Ciarán recalls childhood fishing trips with his Da and the history he taught him of the places they visited while he follows his Dads coffin in utter personal agony, regretting years of non contact. Nine hours later that day a steel door slams shut and that’s fucking it.
“I never thought that things would end like this,
not in my wildest dreams.
But life is cruel and sometimes twisted,
like their judges and it seems.
that nothing here is sacred and I know what that means.”
A song that will take your breathe away the beauty and sadness of it. On ‘Catholic Guilt’ Ciarán ponders his youth and faith and what the future will bring. The album is drawing to a close and ‘I Feel The Eyes Of British Spies’ is all about the very real technological war Britain declared on Republican communities but told with a sly humour and twinkling eye. The title track closes the album, with its multi-tracked guitar and one of Ciarán Murphy’s strongest vocal efforts. The song tells of Murphy’s quest for that elusive ‘once upon a time in Ireland’, of trying to come to terms with Ireland’s real and mythological past, and sifting through it all to find lessons that apply to Ireland today.

FOR DOWNLOAD CLICK HERE

AVAILABLE TILL THE END OF THE MONTH FOR JUST £5

While Ciarán Murphy’s 2008 debut release, The Verbal Hand Grenade EP, was a solid release, this one showed Ciarán had made infinite progress. Each song features just acoustic guitar and voice, but Ciarán creates so many different textures that no two songs sound alike. The beauty of the folk tradition – and it applies equally in punk rock – is that anybody can pick up an instrument and play the songs that strike a chord in them. We are almost a decade later yet Ciarán Murphy’s songs still need to be heard, and they need to be sung. In my opinion they are right up there with the songs of MacGowan, Kelly, Drew, Moore. You may think that’s an exaggeration, but hear this album and I’m sure you’ll agree. Sadly Ciarán has retired from the music scene and no amount of cajoling it seems (and we have tried, oh have we tried and tried!!!) will bring him back to the stage. That is a great shame as Ireland is in desperate need of its poets. There was a very good reason the British use to execute them you know.
Bandcamp
Previously only available on CD, this, Once Upon A Time In Ireland is now available via the London Celtic Punks Bandcamp page for digital download. A huge thanks to Ciarán for allowing us to  organise this. It was our pleasure Pip! Coming soon for first time as a digital download Ciarán’s debut release, Verbal Hand Grenade. Watch this space.

(you can hear the album for free here on the Bandcamp player)

JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON 2

Justice for the Craigavon TwoEvery single penny raised from this album goes directly to the Justice For The Craigavon 2 campaign. For Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, who were unjustly convicted of the murder of PSNI constable Stephen Carroll and sentenced to life imprisonment. The London Celtic Punks believe the case was corrupt and the ‘evidence’ inconclusive, contradictory and discredited. Both these poor guys find themselves victims of a system that sought to find suitable scapegoats in the wake of the political and media backlash following the killing. Over on our Bandcamp page you will find a bunch of downloads available mostly for donation. All the money goes to the Campaign and helps pay legal fees and to aid Brendan and John Paul’s families. You can make a real difference. Please send all donations to  justice4thetwo@gmail.com

Justice For The Craigavon 2
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thanks to Andy in NSW for help

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ALBUM REVIEW: MEDUSA’S WAKE- ‘Rascals & Rogues’ (2018)

The eagerly awaited debut album from youngish Aussies Medusa’s Wake, founded in 2015 in Sydney! Playing a mixture of Celtic and Australian folk in the spirit of The Pogues and Roaring Jack, using accordion, mandolin, banjo and tin-whistle! 

If there was a world cup to determine the best country for Celtic Punk music, then Australia would win it hands down every time. Not sure what they put in the water down there, but this place continues to churn out the best Celtic Punk bands over and over again. The calibre of music is so good that we have actually kidnapped The Rumjacks and are currently holding them captive at a secret location in Europe. When we received the new album from Medusa’s Wake a few week ago we were expecting a good album. The debut offering from the Sydney 6 piece, Rascals & Rogues, didn’t disappoint. Formed in late 2015, Medusa’s Wake released a 7 song EP in 2016. They then hit the studio in 2017 to record the current album which was released in June 18. Two of the song from the 2016 EP ‘No Nay Never’ and ‘Gates Of Hell’ have been re-recorded and feature on the debut album.

(here’s their debut EP from January last year. it’s available as a Pay Whatever You Want download. Meaning nowt if you like but enough for a couple of pints if you can!

Medusa’s wake left to right: John Coote- Electric Guitar, Banjo * Ben Pattison- Accordion * Ron Clark- Drums * Ed Lawlor- Vocals, Mandolin, Bazouki * Frank Sallie- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica * Zane McRae- Bass *

The album kicks off with ‘Seldom Sober’ which is also the first track and video released off the album which is full of energy and a great introduction to the band.

“I’m a Rover Seldom Sober
Whiskey I have only eyes for you,
I’m a Rover Seldom Sober,
Darling I think this time we are through.”

This is followed up by ‘Hobart Sailor’ which has a very familiar sound which is unique to the Australian Celtic Punk scene. ‘Convicts Tale’, ‘Irish Sky’ and ‘Branxton’ (traditional instrumental) stand out as favourites on the album however I must say there isn’t a bad song on the album. 11 excellent songs for the band to be very proud of. The mandolin and vocals really make this album one of the top releases we’ve heard so far this year. That says quite a lot as it’s been a good year for Celtic Punk album releases so far.

(The first single from the album recorded at Norton’s Irish Bar, Sydney, Australia)

We have no doubt that this is a band who we will hear a lot more about in the coming years and no doubt will feature on here again. Hopefully some day we will have the pleasure of seeing them live however a word of warning to the band, if you come to visit us you might like it over here and stay!!

(have a listen to Rascals & Rogues before you buy on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Rascals & Rogues

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You can stay informed with all the best in Australian Celtic-Punk and Folk-Punk by joining these two excellent Aussie Facebook groups.

AUSSIE CELTIC PUNK’S

here

AUSTRALIAN FOLK PUNK SCENE

here

ALBUM REVIEW: THE MAHONES- ‘Love + Death + Redemption’ (2018)

30492-London Celtic Punks web-zine is amazingly five years old today. Bloody seems like it too…

After a brief hiatus Celtic-Punk heroes and legends The Mahones have returned and are back with a bang with the first of a four album package slated for release in 2018.  With new album Love + Death + Redemption they hit the heights but maybe not so in a way we would expect them to.

Well what to say about The Mahones? If you haven’t heard of them where have you been hiding? Under a rock? Please bow your head and go away and rectify the situation as soon as you finish this review. While the Dropkicks and the Mollys have gotten the glory and the massive stadium gigs and tours there has been only one constant wherever you are 0over the last twenty-eight years and that has been The Mahones. Come rain or shine they have always been there. When I was a young punk rocker in my wee one horse town growing up the first, second, third, fourth etc., punk band I ever saw was the UK Subs as they were the only punk band that would play there. The same can be said of The Mahones and their constant touring. I am absolutely certain they rock up in some towns somewhere where they are the only physical link to the Celtic-Punk scene and that is one of the many reasons they are held in such high esteem. The band means the world to me personally as it was at one of their legendary gigs here in London I asked, and was granted, the hand of my good lady.

Their new album Love + Death + Redemption finds The Mahones in reflective mood. The full on Irish punk is toned down but it is still unmistakable Mahones. Instead the band have gone for a gentler more contemplative album with only brief flashes of Irish punk. The album opens with ”I’m Alive (Save Me)’ and as with most of the tracks here it is written by Finny and if The Mahones had a trademark sound then this song would be it with Finny’s voice straining and aching through a steady beat with the distant ring of the tin-whistle and layered guitar. Joined by the beautiful voice of Priya Panda from the Canadian hard-rock band Diemonds on vocals the words tell, possibly, of the sad break up of his marriage, but not the friendship, to fellow band member Katie. Be prepared to shed a tear here Celtic-Punkers. Throughout the album they are joined by a motley crew of special guests and on this song that also includes fellow Canadian rocker John Kastner on backing vocals and guitar. It’s a great start though not quite the rabble rousing that we are use to it is still powerful in other ways. It sets the standard for the album and they don’t disappoint as they follow this up with ‘Heroes Die’. The tune may be a bit more upbeat but again the words find Finny in reflective mood.

Next they slow it down a bit for ‘It’s Gonna Be Alright’ and Finny is joined by one of his heroes Johnny Fay  of the legendary indie band Tragically Hip. The lyrics of the song are maybe directed by Finny to himself but what do I know I’m just a Catholic Irish boy. It’s a restrained folksy tune and you either get and love his style of vocals or don’t and I have always loved it. Perhaps more on record than live even. The album is beginning to sound like a who’s-who of alternative Canadian music and on ‘Never Let You Down’ the band are joined by singer-songwriter  Sarah Harmer and her stunning voice is the perfect counterpoint to Finnys. A slow burner of a song that slowly builds and builds and with the aid of Michael O’Grady’s tin-whistle and Ryan Chopik’s mandolin it’s the most Celtic sounding song on Love + Death + Redemption. Back in October, 2016 Finny’s mother Anne McConnell-Strong passed away in a tragic accident and her loss has been felt heavily by Finny himself obviously but also the wider Irish community in Vancouver and Canada where Anne was much treasured. This explains in full the nature of the album and on ‘Mother, My Angel’ The Mahones pay tribute to this wonderful woman and all she did for others with a dazzling swirling almost psychedelic Celtic number.

Anne McConnell-Strong 1934-2016. Anne Kearney was one of five girls born and raised in a typical thatched-roof cottage in Oranmore, a quaint village in the west of Ireland on the edge of Oranmore Bay, an inlet of Galway Bay. Her sister Mary still lives in the old family home.
She studied nursing in England and later, along with first husband Brendan McConnell and the couple’s two eldest children, daughters Ita and Dympna, emigrated to Canada in the 1960s, eventually settling in the Limestone quarter. In Kingston, the McConnells owned and operated the old Frontenac Hotel on Ontario Street and, in time, the Irish pubs Finnegan’s and Muldoon’s, bringing in top-name Irish acts such as the Clancy Brothers and the Irish Rovers In 1978, Anne founded the local chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, was elected chairperson of the Eastern Comhaltas Regional Board in 1988, and spent nearly four decades ceaselessly promoting the development and preservation of Irish traditional music, dance and culture in Canada and the United States. Suaimhneas síoraí tabhair dí, a thiarna, agus go lonraí solas suthain uirthi.

We are back on Celtic territory next with the album’s first cover and it is expertly chosen. From The Waterboys now classic album Fishermen’s Blues which saw them abandoning their pompous rock sound for a mix of Irish and Scots traditional music. The Mahones keep close to the original and do the song more than justice.

“You ain’t calling me to join you
And I’m spoken for anyway
But I will cry when ye go away
I will cry when ye go away”

Again the lyrics tell of the pain Finny and his close knit family has suffered. We are more than half way through the album before we see any sign of the (in)famous Irish punk that The Mahones are (in)famous for and it comes courtesy of guitarist Sean Ryan on vocals for ‘Win Some, Lose Some’ with backing vocals from members of his other band Irish Nails. Its fast, furious and glorious and over in just over ninety seconds and will I am sure fill the moshpits of all corners of the globe. Next up is another cover this time ‘Heroes’ written by another of Finny’s favourites David Bowie with Brian Eno. Again it is played fairly close to the original but with some lovely flourishes and Mahones touches that move the song far beyond just being another bog standard cover. The song tells the story of two lovers, one from East and one from West Berlin and has become one of Rock musics great songs. We are nearing the end of Love + Death + Redemption with ‘Angels’ the last of the original songs here and again its reminiscent of earlier song ‘Mother, My Angel’ with Finny’s voice distorted and detached while the music swirls around his words. It’s not The Mahones we are use to but it’s beauty is undeniable. The curtain comes down with the great Irish classic penned by Pete St. John ‘The Fields Of Athenry’. Over the last decade or two the song has become perhaps the most recognisable of all Irish songs and recorded countless times by artists of all genres. Finny is accompanied on vocals by Canadian-Irish singer-songwriter Damhnait Doyle. I always wonder why so many bands choose this song to record these days but then when you hear it sung with passion and pride it has an affect on your heart and soul that shows exactly why. It is a song we Irish can be proud to give to the world. It ends with the whispered words “Love you Mum”. Leaving us in no doubt who the song is sung towards.

The album was produced by Finny himself and engineered and mastered by Gene Hughes. It was part recorded back in the auld country at The Doghouse Studio in Belfast as well as Red Rhino in Montreal and Telejet Music in Toronto. The production as usual is impeccable, it is well known, after all, what a perfectionist Finny is. Love + Death + Redemption was written for and dedicated to the loving memory of Finny’s late Mother Anne. No Irish boy gets over the loss of his Mammy…

the four upcoming Mahones releases for 2018

So as stated not your typical Mahones release but none the worse for that. The tragic events of the last couple of years have I am sure taken their toll on Finny but here he has managed to put a voice to those emotions and feelings, and maybe his demons as well, and make something that is undoubtedly good for his soul and whats good for Finny is good for us too. A grand album, one to listen to with the headphones on first and catch it all. With another three Mahones slated for release this year Love + Death + Redemption is an incredible start and I can’t wait to hear the others. Glad to have you back with us Finny you were sorely missed.

Discography

Draggin’ The Days – 1994 * Rise Again – 1996 * The Hellfire Club Sessions – 1999 * Here Comes Lucky – 2001 * Live At The Horseshoe – 2003 * Paint The Town Red – 2003 * Take No Prisoners – 2006 * The Irish Punk Collection – 2008 * The Black Irish – 2010 * Angels & Devils – 2012 * A Great Night On The Lash – 2014 * The Hunger & The Fight (Part One) – 2014 * The Hunger & The Fight (Part Two) – 2015 *

Buy Love + Death + Redemption

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(The Mahones at ‘Chien a Plumes’ Festival in Langres, France on 6th August 2017)

ALBUM REVIEW: HOLD FAST- ‘Black Irish Sons’ (2018)

 The debut album from Pennsylvania-Irish band Hold Fast takes both traditional Irish and original material in a blend of Celtic, punk and rock.
Hold tight, hold steady, Hold Fast! 
The term Black Irish is thought by many to originate back in Ireland for the offspring of Spanish sailors shipwrecked on the west coast of Ireland back in 1588. Far more likely is it became a term of abuse for poor Irish immigrants in the latter half of the nineteenth-century. The necessity for these immigrants to take the lowest and most dangerous jobs thought by the more well off classes to be the preserve of Blacks came to see them labelled Black Irish. It came about as a result of English/Protestant prejudices imported to the USA by the early colonists who saw the Irish as uncivilised and Catholicism as anti-everything for which Protestantism stood. In recent years the term has been reclaimed and is now worn as a badge of honour by working-class Irish-Americans who sometimes ‘cross the line’.

Hold Fast left to right: Buzz Klinger- Bass, Harmonica * Michael Parks- Drums, Percussion * Dave Thompson- Tenor Banjo, 5-String banjo, Mandolin, Acoustic Guitar, Piano * Cole Brown- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Jon Heller- Accordion, Bagpipes * Kayla Rosencrans- Tin-Whistle *

Formed only a couple of years back by Cole and Drunk Dave Hold Fast hail from Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, home of a flourishing Irish rock and punk scene with the The Kilmaine Saints at the very top of it ably supported by other local bands in the Bastard Bearded Irishmen, Punkabillys , Lucky Lad Green and The Tradesmen. In fact piper Jon also pipes for the Kilmaine Saints. The Saints have been very instrumental in helping Hold Fast get on the scene and get their name out there.

Black Irish Sons is their debut album and features ten tracks, eight original tunes and two covers, one rather overexposed and one that is much less well known. The album begins with ‘Gangway’ and the sound of bagpipes fills the air and then the sound of a pub before the band join in and when the banjo comes out the song instantly reminds you of a rather famous Dropkick Murphys song. They follow this up with ‘Drunken Irish Bastard’ and lead singer Cole has that unmistakable Irish-American twang to his vocals and a clear voice that sounds like he smokes 60 a day! The band cite trad Irish ballad bands like The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones as influences and they do sound quite a lot like a punked up version of these bands rather than The Pogues folkier version of them.

Cole’s voice is very much to the fore throughout the album and on crowd favorite ‘The Banshee Wail’ it is given full reign to go from shouty to soft but always tuneful. An album standout the music veers from hard to gentle with Cole accompanied by a understated mandolin most of the time until the song comes to a tremendous end with the music not getting faster just louder. Any Celtic-Punk worth a sniff these days needs a few ingredients to make the correct mix and one of these is a decent sense of humour which Hold Fast certainly have and ‘My Girl Is A Singer In A Punk Rock Band’ is evidence. Played as a straight up punk song with tin-whistle its got energy and bite and gives Cole a good opportunity to test those vocal chords. We love our Celtic-Punk here but we also love a good auld ballad and Hold Fast deliver a beauty with ‘Cthulhu’. Named after the monster created by writer H. P. Lovecraft that would drive any sailor who looked upon it insane. Never read any of his books though I did try once and found it a heavy going with very very tiny print but the song conveys the terror of the being quite admirably. The album’s first cover is titled ‘Belle of Belfast’ here but is much better known as ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ and is rapidly heading to the #1 spot of covered classic Irish tunes. Have to say I do roll my eyes soon as I see the song listed on a new album but there’s a great reason for it being covered by so many and that’s because it’s such a fantastic song and perfect for a Celtic-Punk re-tune. Done and dusted in seventy-five seconds Hold Fast certainly don’t hang about! Next up is the rowdy title track and ‘Black Irish Sons’ takes the Black Irish theme onwards and chugging guitar and loud vocals makes for a perfect singalong.

“Because all day long whiskey and shenanigans

Every bastard that we meet turns out to be another friend

You can pour another round and we’ll raise a pint again

Cuz we’re the Black Irish sons of Erin”

You get the feeling that the band play their instruments with one hand while the other holds a beer! We are back in ballad territory again next and it’s another Hold Fast beauty with  ‘Curse of the Drinking Class’ with Cole’s voice nicely reigned in and sounding never better. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and restrained accordion and tin-whistle it’s a great song. We get another alcohol laden track now and it’s to the seas me Bhoys as ‘Pour Me Grog’ hits the deck. A great banjo sound and gang vocals make this one of my favourites here. The album ends with one of my all-time favourite sons ‘Big Strong Man’. The writer of the song remains unknown but if not for the Wolfe Tones I fear the song would have been lost for forever. The date the song was written can be guessed from the references to the actress Mae West, the ‘Jeffries-Johnson’ boxing match of 1910, the famous Irish-American boxer Jack Dempsey, whose career began in 1914 and to the RMS Lusitania briefly the world’s largest passenger ship, the ship was sunk on 7 May 1915 by a German U-Boat off the southern coast of Ireland at the cost of almost 1,200 lives. The Hold Fast version punk up The Wolfe Tones version (check out the Tones version here) somewhat but keeps the tune intact and the hilarious lyrics keep the tune afloat. One for the crowd to go wild too and a cracking way to bring the curtain down on the album.

At only twenty-eight minutes long it’s over far too quickly but that’s what makes Black Irish Sons such an interesting album. Moments of fast punk rock and slow and gentle ballads mixed together to make an album that is laid out perfectly and at a ideal pace. The bands Irish roots are stamped all over things and they may look to the past of the Tones, Clancy’s and Dub’s but are not stuck there and have added their own stamp to everything they do. The more I hear of bands like Hold Fast I begin to realise the importance of Celtic-Punk to the Irish-American community.

Hold tight, hold steady, Hold Fast!

(listen to the whole of Black Irish Sons for free before you buy by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Enjoy!)

Buy Black Irish Sons

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Contact Hold Fast

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE CLAN- ‘Here To Stay’ (2018)

Here To Stay the third studio album from the Milan based Irish rockers The Clan. Celtic rock band formed 2013 from a group of musicians coming from diverse musical directions but with the same deep love for Ireland and its unique sound. 

Back in 2016 The Clan were one of the first bands on the site that had been reviewed a second album. Time marches on and here we are now reviewing third third album and if we ranted and raved about the previous two then prepare yourselves for some more of the same as this album rates up there with both of them! The Clan hail from the small town of Muggiò in the province of Lombardy in the north of Italy and have been playing music together since 2013. The relationship between Italy and Ireland has in my own experience been a happy one. At my Catholic school here in England the two communities got on well while in the States, as far as I know, there has always been a high degree of inter-marriage. Plenty of Italians have passed through Ireland over the decades and more than a few have passed the other way with pretty much all of my Irish relations having chosen Rome for their honeymoon destination! We are both sitting out the World Cup too!! The Celtic-Punk scene in Italy is also quite unique as the scene is so bound up with the music of Ireland. There is a sort of generic Celtic music that incorporates music from all the Celtic nations and though instantly recognisable as Celtic-Punk it doesn’t belong to one place in particular. The Italian bands are different. The music from bands like The Clan, Modena City Ramblers, Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards, Kitchen Implosion, The Rumpled and Dirty Artichokes (coming to London in August!) all have the same deep love for Ireland, it’s culture and musical traditions. That love dominates their music throughout and has produced a truly unique style of Irish music.

As we have said many a time it’s no good expecting the best Celtic-Punk bands out there to have Celtic blood in them as you will be sorely disappointed! The Clan come from a beautiful place and play beautiful music that fills your heart with cheer and will surely plant a smile right across your face. Here To Stay begins with a kick-arse tune from the very off with ‘Pocket Money Heroes’ and it may start as if it’s heading down the hard’n’heavy route but before you know it’s completely changed track and your listening to a high energy poppy punk song with reggae interludes and great bagpipes and fiddle that change the direction of the song on arrival. A massive gang chorus of ‘whoah’ the opener covers everything and shows their songwriting abilities from the first beat. The Clan to more trad territory next with ‘Glory Waits’ and one of the standout tracks here for me.Mandolin and tin-whistle and one hell of a folk rocker with a dead nice country feel to it. Catchy as hell and just what we came here looking for. The next song up is ‘Jail Times’ and I have to say it’s not my cup of Barry’s. It’s well played and will especially appeal to fans of bands like Rancid with even a organ interlude! We are back on more solid ground next with ‘Rebel Town’ and finally the Irish influence comes spilling out. Now this is Irish-punk music with a brilliant singalong chorus and a foot stomping beat that will fill the dance floor. That a band can take two such diverse genres like punk and trad folk and then mix them into something so infectious it would get even the most miserable onto their feet is always something that never ceases to amaze me. The bagpipes open for ‘Johnny’ along with the drums giving its a Scots feel before the ‘whoahs’ start again and it’s a catchy punk number with Angel’s voice given full range and his gravelly strained tones portray a passion for what he’s doing. ‘Rat Race’ again takes the standard Celtic-Punk weapons of tin-whistle and mandolin and teams them with punk and comes out with a real beauty of a track. This is followed by the album’s title tune and ‘Here to Stay’ is a lively upbeat reggae infused number that’s duel vocals give it a Black Water County feel. There’s more of a punk rock influence here then before but it still sits within the Rancid description I think. The pipes are back again for ‘Prodigal Son’ and Chiara’s playing is immaculate as The Clan throw out yet more ‘whoahs’ making for a great audience song where arms are flung aloft and lungs are loosened and beer is no doubt spilt. Catchy as hell as is the whole album The Clan have an ear for a good tune. ‘Seize the Day’ is the album’s nearest tune to a ballad with Angel accompanied for most of the song only by a frantically strummed acoustic guitar though later Frisco joins in with some exquisite fiddle playing. Finally we reach my favourite song of the album, the western influenced, in style and content, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ and if I was to make a Top Ten Celtic-Punk videos then The Clan would feature heavily so don’t pass by without watching the great video below. The music like the video is heavily influenced by both western and country but with that unmistakable Clan Irish-punk feel to it.

We are nearing the end and ‘Vesuvius’ is up and the album’s only instrumental and takes Irish music to another level. You may hear stuff like this every now and then but rarely, i repeat rarely, do you hear it so well played and executed like this. It takes all the best elements of The Clan and exploits them to good use especially Chiara this time on the tin-whistle. Brilliant Irish folk music played by Bhoys from Milan. One to get up the noses of the folk snobs! Absolutely fantastic. The album goes out though on ‘Easy Roller’ and The Clan love a heavy metal song and here they sound like the band they love, AC/DC, thrashing it out with the bagpipes. There were a couple of bonus tracks on my download and the earlier track ‘Johnny’ is re-recorded in Italian as ‘Johnny Non Parla’ and finally Here To Stay comes to an end with another Italian version of the album’s opening track this time called ‘Rievoluzione’ and the band are accompanied by Cippa and Paletta of the Italian punk band Punkreas.

Fourteen original songs that rocks in at just under fifty minutes Here To Stay was released last St. Patrick’s Day eve on the 16th March 2018 on Black Dingo records. It’s a fantastic album and, as others around the world’s Celtic-Punk media have written, a definite contender for those end of year Best Of polls. The Clan have been one of the best bands within the scene for a few years now coming to the fore on the strength of a handful of excellently produced videos but have managed to keep up the quality and prove they are no novelty outfit. While the posh wankers can whinge and groan about so-called cultural appropriation bands like The Clan take Irish music and play it with a love and respect for the past while keeping an eye to to the future.

(Here’s that video. Yes that one!)

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SINGLE REVIEW: TORTILLA FLAT featuring JORGEN RED WESTMAN- ‘THE 45rpm’ (2018)

With the Swiss taking the World Cup by storm here’s a band that’s been around for quite a while and have released a bunch of cracking Celtic-Punk records. ‘The 45rpm’ is a vinyl 7″ release of chugging punk rock with full blooded bagpipes roaring throughout.

Taking their name from John Steinbeck’s novel of the same title Tortilla Flat are from Langenthal in Switzerland and play Celtic-Punk heavily influenced by both Scottish and Irish melodies. This is a band that easily sits slap bang on the line between Celtic and Punk/ A band that anyone with the slightest interest in either would love I am sure. Therefore it’s a mystery to me why they don’t get a bit more press. They thoroughly deserve to. We are at fault as any as despite owning a couple of Tortilla Flat CD’s they have never properly graced these pages despite having a total of seven album releases and a couple of singles in their back catalogue. Well hopefully this will go some way to redressing the balance with the release of a vinyl only 7″ single. I have noticed vinyl making a bit of a comeback generally but more importantly there has been a good few recent Celtic-Punk releases too.

Tortilla Flat as featured on the single from left to right: Tom MacFly- Bagpipe * Rob Highlander- Bagpipes * Chris- Guitar & Vocals * Jorgen Red Westman- Vocals * Ritchie- Bass * Lord Peter of Lochaber- Bagpipes * Lexu- Drums *

Where folklore meets stirring punk attitude, there’s something for everybody. An invitation to dance and sing, or maybe just to shout along but these Bhoys are enjoying the ride

“because it’s both a soundtrack for party nights and comfortable evenings with friends; because it makes rainy days sunnier and brings you a holiday on the islands within reach during the summer heat.”

Tortilla Flat have at their core three good friends in Chris, Ritchie and Lexu and are supported at various times by the The Independent Pipers who supply a good dose of Celt whenever it’s needed. The music you hear first maybe punk rock but there is no denying that it’s Celtic melodies, mainly Scots, that run things here with the pipes always leading the way.

The single kicks off with the title song ‘The 45rpm’ and its a 1977 Brit punk style number with some wonderful bagpipes. The song features Jorgen Red Westman on vocals and he has a great voice, hardly surprising as he has just celebrated thirty years as the frontman of the legendary Swedish garage-surf-punk band Psychotic Youth. The song moves at a great pace with a catchy beat akin to those early punk bands. Not too fast but miles away from slow!!! The song first appeared, in a different version, on their seventh album from last year Forward To The Past.

Next up we have classic Tortilla Flat fodder where they take the song ‘A Man’s A Man For A’That’ written over 220 years ago by the great Scottish poet and nationalist Robbie Burns. A poem that promoted Burns political and moral views. Published anonymously in The Glasgow Magazine for fear of arrest, it is thought the song is proof of his support for the Revolution in France. The song was recorded live in concert at the stunning Klostersommer Rueggisberg, not that you would know it as the quality is far and above any live recording I have heard in years!

The guitars chug, the bass thumps and drums beat while the pipes pipe. A bloody brilliant song and a real foot stomper too. Originally recorded for The Great Escape from 2013 the brilliant video was recorded, filmed and mixed by Benny Wyder of Swiss Music Service

“Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that”

This is followed up with the Irish folk classic ‘The Wild Rover’recorded during the same set again it is clear as crystal and could almost pass for a studio recording of not for the clapping and cheering from the audience. Played by everyone at some point there is no denying its popularity among the punters at gigs and I remember it being one of only a small handful of songs we (the boys) use to really enjoy singing at school as we were allowed to stamp our feet and clap our hands during the chorus. It makes for a perfect Celtic-Punk song with plenty of punk rock attitude and Folk history. Tortilla Flat do a grand job keeping it fast and catchy. The single comes to an end with a alternative version of ‘The 45rpm’ again featuring Jorgen and also Chris on vocals. The lyrics tell of how much better music on vinyl is than on CD or download. I’m afraid people I have to concur. I have never quite given up on vinyl in all my years and it is true when Jorgen sings

“you were born too late and you will never understand”

what it meant to you when you had saved up enough money to go and buy a record. A feeling that modern day music just doesn’t, and won’t ever, compare to. The single is released at the end of this week but you can pre-order the single via mail-order from MacSlon’s and Outsider at the links below. The 7″ vinyl version is limited to just 300 copies but will be available as a digital download as well.

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If all the dew were diamonds”, Pablo said, “we would be very rich. We would be drunk all our lives”. But Pilon, on whom the curse of realism lay uneasily, added: “Everybody would have too many diamonds. There would be no price for them, but wine always costs money. If only it would rain for a day, now, and we had a tank to catch it in”. “But good wine”, interjected Pablo, “not rotgut swill like the last you got”. “I didn’t pay for it”, said Pilon. “Someone hid it in the grass by the dance hall. What can you expect of wine you find ?”

dialogue from “TORTILLA FLAT” by John Steinbeck, 1935

EP REVIEW: FLATFOOT 56- ‘The Vancouver Sessions’ (2018)

Chicago’s Flatfoot 56 announce the release of their new EP featuring five songs old and new that blend the band’s mix of traditional Irish folk music and surging punk rock.

While the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly are undoubtedly the biggest band in Celtic-Punk I have no doubt who the best band in Celtic-Punk is and that is Flatfoot 56. Ever evolving and always innovative it only seems a few weeks ago that they managed to walk away with the London Celtic Punks album of the year for 2017 (here) for their superb album Odd Boat. It was an unanimous #1 vote from all four of us here and Gerry made it clear what he thought on the review of the album

“I honestly could have sat here and gone through each track individually and told you all how good they are, but that would be crazy and still wouldn’t do the album justice. The only way you’ll be able to see how right I am is by going out and buying it!”

The new EP released last month is completely acoustic and consists of five songs one new and four old ones that have been completely re-written and presented as basically new songs.  The band have never been adverse to using traditional instruments but here they bring out the Irish uileann pipes as well as whistles and accordion to produce a sound that is both melodic and gritty but thoroughly magnificent. To help achieve this the Bhoys enlisted the help of veteran producer Roy Salmond, the owner of White Water Productions near Vancouver, BC who has been working with artists for over 30 years.

The Vancouver Sessions begins with a song from the bands 2007 album Jungle of the Midwest Sea re-imagined as a classic slice of Delta Blues. Compared to the original it is barely recognisable and I even had to check it was the same song! On ‘Cain’ Flatfoot 56 head more in the direction of their folky offshoot 6’10 but still manage to keep the Flatfoot 56 energy and passion. As Tobin puts it

 “took on an entirely different feel than the original, loved the way this new take on an old song turned out. It’s low, its gruff and it’s us in a very weird way.”

Mandolin, fiddle and Tobin’s gruff rumbling voice ensure this song is the ultimate ear-worm designed never to leave you alone once you’ve heard it. The song comes accompanied by one hell of a video too of the band sitting around a campfire playing in the most natural settings for the song.

In fact for the video members of 6’10 accompany them and even bringing in original members and friends including Tobin’s good lady Vanessa.

“I see you coming, don’t do it
I know you and I see through it
Your parents curse made you work the fields
You gave God what grew but you didn’t yield
In your anger, you beat him dead
And his blood turned your field red”

The song tells of Cain and Abel the first sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was a farmer and his brother Abel a shepherd. The brothers made sacrifices to God but God favoured Abel’s sacrifice instead of Cain’s. Cain then murdered Abel, whereupon God punished Cain to a life of wandering. ‘Cain’ is followed by the EP’s only new song ‘How Long’. Tobin kicks it off with acoustic strumming and then his wonderful warm full vocals take over and with accordion and drums keeping the beat while Vanessa’s beautiful voice is a lovely counterpoise to Tobin’s. The song’s lyrics talk about the yearning for something more than all of the chaos the world seems to be throwing around. Consistent with many of Flatfoot 56’s lyrical themes, this one leaves the listener hoping and looking for something more. ‘I Believe It’ has already seen the light of day in an semi-acoustic version on 2012’s Toil but here they slow it right down in a song that strips the original right back to its barest bones before adding in some amazing uileann piping. The pipes drone only adding to the melancholy of the song.

“thoughtful—and tender, at times—reminders of what life can be if we slow down and take lyrics in”.

The song ends with a few lines from the Flatfoot favourite ‘I’ll Fly Away’ and slowly it ebbs away.   ‘Penny’ was the fastest and most punky song on last years Odd Boat so even more remarkable that they have managed to turn it into the song here. The tune remains but the addition of gentle mandolin takes it to another level while again Vanessa’s traditional style of folk vocals adds perfect balance. For the EP’s closing number Flatfoot again take one of their fastest tracks and adapt it into something stunning and while ‘Take Hold Again’ is the most recognisable of the songs here its still packs a punch in such a different way to the original. Elements of trad Irish folk, Country and Americana abound and while its not your usual F56 release for those of us who have softened to 6’10 its utterly perfect.

The album has been released on Sailors Grave Records and comes as a special edition etched vinyl disc in three different colors. It is also released on CD and digital formats but you can have a sneaky free listen via the bands Soundcloud account here.

The band have announced that it is important to remember that this is not a new direction for Flatfoot 56 but rather a temporary diversion and it won’t be long before they are back to their driving anthemic Celtic-Punk rock anthems before we know it. And anyway they do have 6’10 for this sort of thing. If their goal is to help introduce their punk fans to folk then they can sit back and relax as it is mission accomplished as The Vancouver Sessions may be calm and laid back but it still successfully transfers their aggressive punk rock sound into something that is real, raw and superbly beautiful.

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Discography

Rumble of 56- 2002 * Waves of War- 2003 * Knuckles Up- 2006 * Jungle of the Midwest Sea- 2007 * Black Thorn- 2010 * Toil- 2012 * Odd Boat- 2017*

ALBUM REVIEW: 1916- ‘Far Beyond The Pale’ (2018)

The fourth studio album from one of the best bands in Celtic-Punk, the Rochester, NY based Irish-American band 1916. An explosive concoction of modern day Irish Punk and psychobilly with an original sound all of their very own.

You may scoff at the idea that their is a Celtic-Punk band out there that has an original sound all to themselves! In a scene where the comfort comes from all the bands mining from the same sources of history it is true believe me that one band has managed the seemingly impossible. To stand apart from the crowd but to still be a part of the Irish-American Celtic-Punk scene. Hailing from upstate NY, 1916 take influence from the traditional Irish folk of bygone days and mix in the modern Irish Punk movement but also add in elements from both psychobilly and rockabilly giving them the sound which sets them apart from other bands of the genre.

1916 left to right: Ryan Hurley- Upright Bass * Jon Kane- Mandolin * Steve LaDue- Drums * Billy Herring- Vocals, Guitar *

Their days began as an acoustic duo in back in 2006 with singer Billy Herring and drummer Steve La Due playing the trad Irish ballads of the Dubliners and Wolfe Tones in local pubs in and around their hometown of Rochester. Deciding to name themselves 1916, after the year the uprising in Dublin against British rule took place, to get people interested in Irish history it was in 2010 they took the decision to attempt to turn 1916 into a ‘proper’ band and called in electric guitars, trad instruments and drums. It wasn’t long before they were supporting the Dropkick Murphys and so began a new chapter in 1916 history. 2012 St. Patrick’s Day saw the release of their first studio album, A Drop of the Pure while the following year saw the release of Stand Up & Fight. Each album containing a selection of Celtic/Irish covers and originals that saw the bands sound evolving but it wasn’t until the release of Last Call For Heroes at Christmastime 2015 that the critics went ape. Named in the top half of all the various Celtic-Punk media’s Best Of lists (including our very own one here peaking at #3) 1916 had found their niche and bigger and better things were around the corner for them. As an aside I’ve had their amazing version of ‘Hot Asphalt’ as my ringtone ever since!

Far Beyond The Pale begins with a short instrumental dirge ‘The Risen People’. The sound of chains and a beating drum symbolising stamping feet and the struggle of the Irish race while a mandolin plays a delicate Irish tune. A great start to proceedings as the song becomes the pathway to ‘Some Songs’ and that classic and original 1916 sound is back. Fast and as catchy as hell with bass rumbling away and thrashy guitar nicely understated while Bill tests his lungs with his raspy shouting, though always tuneful, and a great “Woooohh-Woooohhhhhh” bit for us fans to sing along to. 1916 have a knack also for writing some great lyrics too and follow in the tradition of Irish story telling through song. The song tells of the day he fell in love with the music of

“Luke and Ronnie Drew”

and how he has come full circle and I hope Bill realises that he is a direct descendant of these legends and through his music he passes the torch onto the younger generations. Luke and Ronnie would be proud. Next up is the lead single from the album ‘Ophelia’. Bill’s Irish-American brogue and Jon’s mandolin keep the song firmly within Celtic-Punk but it would only take turning up the guitar to take it another level. Saying that I love the guitar on this album. It’s loud and ever present but understated in a way that means it never dominates.

The album title track follows and ‘Far Beyond The Pale’ brings in a slight country influence here but the 1916 rumblin’ is still there. They slow it down slightly but give full reign to Ryan and his upright bass. The phrase ‘beyond the pale’ is well known but what is not so well known is that has a specific Irish meaning. The phrase dates back to the 14th century, when the area around Dublin under English rule was marked by a boundary made of stakes and fences. This became known as the English Pale and to travel outside of that boundary, beyond the pale, was to leave behind all the rules and institutions of English society, which the English modestly considered synonymous with civilization itself. I’m happy to say my family come from many miles Beyond The Pale in Tipperary. They slow it down even further with ‘Guns Of 16’ and maybe I’m getting on a bit but it’s one of my favourite tracks here. A brilliant tune and Bill rolls out the words almost laconically

“Guns of 16 are here
Never have they gone away
Into your deeds they have moved
Keeping the butchers away”

Utterly brilliant. Well so far you have heard a lot about the psychobilly/rockabilly side of 1916 but having stuck fairly closely to the Celtic side of things so far they unleash things for ‘Shake And Roll’ and Ryan’s bass goes into overdrive! There is a saying that “Old punks don’t die they just become rock’n’rollers” and I actually think theirs a bit of truth in that. Having grown up with Rock’n’Roll and Irish music from my Mammy I’ve found myself getting more and more back into over the last few years. I have come to the conclusion its because I’m rather happy in life so don’t want to listen to noisy songs about nuclear war anymore!!!

“We hit the floor together as legion till the end”

Bill shouts out as Jon, Steve and Ryan belt out a real mosh pit filler. The psychobilly influence becomes more of a rockabilly influence for the following song ‘All Outta Whiskey’ and it is absolutely amazing the difference in sound having a upright bass makes when compared to a normal bass. This song is what I would describe as the traditional 1916 sound. First the subject matter (!) then rumbling bass and buzzing guitar with a gang chorus to sing along to and Bill’s laid back vocal style, which is both punky and shouty and trad and folky at the same time, all encompassing a song that straddles punk and folk that is a catchy as feck! The sea features heavily amongst 1916’s repertoire of songs as well as their imagery and no surprise if you read up on how the Irish washed up in north America and the terrible conditions they suffered on board coffin ships supposed to bring them to safety. At least 30% of all Irish immigrants perished on board the ships while many more passed away on arrival. ‘Sticks And Stones’ is another great punky number that rattles along at a fair old pace

“Come all you captains and sailors so bold
and take us through the raging seas of old
Arm yourselves men with your sticks and your stones
and fight against the tide that calls us home”

before taking us into a superb version of ‘Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’. Made famous of course by Cait O’Riordans version on The Pogues second album Rum, Sodomy And The Lash but the song dates right back to the 1880’s and has both Scots and Irish versions. Bills plays with the words a little introducing the line “A tattooer by trade I’m a roving young blade” into the song that speeds up the Pogues version and they nail it by turning it into a 1916 song rather than a Pogues/Dubliners cover. It’s fast, furious, frantic and catchy! We steering up towards the final bend and with ‘Christmas In The Canal’ they have the album standout. The sound is traditional 1916 and is a tribute to those original Irish who fell out of coffin ships and went to work doing the jobs no one else would do. Bill begins the song with the short exclamation

“it was the early 1800’s and the Irish were at the forefront of digging one of the great wonders of the world out of New York state for the Erie canal and despite the harsh conditions they were still able to celebrate”

before the rest of the Bhoys join in with the tale of the Irish digging out the 363 mile canal from the Hudson River near Albany, New York to the Niagara River near Buffalo. Armed with pick axes and shovels, it was backbreaking work, from sunrise to sundown for little pay but it was acknowledged that the Irish were a hard working and hard drinking crew. Not only did the Irish lend their unique work ethic to the canal, they also put their stamp on it in many other ways, including ‘canal songs’, fashioned after popular tunes from home but with new words to fit the environment. And of course, they settled in towns all along the canal route, where today you still find them proud of their Irish roots. The song celebrates them in song just as they sang back in the day and we are still singing now!! A cracking song and one of the elements I have always loved about 1916 is that they do pay homage to those dark days when the Irish in America were on the bottom rung. The album’s second and final cover is up next and the hymn ‘I’ll Fly Away’ is played as a fast folky number. Written by Albert E. Brumley in 1929 it is thought to be the most recorded gospel song of all time and I remember singing it with gusto in my Catholic school days, after all the only way to get the boys to sing was to give them a song that they could shout along to at the top of their voices! It’s already been given the Celtic-Punk treatment on 2012’s Toil by Flatfoot 56 but again 1916 give it their all and come up with something original rather than copied.

“When the shadows of this life are gone,
I’ll fly away.
Like a bird from prison bars has flown
I’ll fly away.”

The curtain comes down on Far Beyond The Pane with the wonderful ‘Going Home’. At over five minutes its by far the album’s longest song and though it starts off plaintive and on the slow side the Bhoys can’t help but go out on a flourish and Jon’s mandolin must have smoke coming off it by the time the end of the songs comes!

This is an album full of life. A celebration of Irish-American identity that is open and accepting to all and is packed to the rafters with passion and energy. The album is available on CD from the band as well as all the usual download sites and the CD comes with a massive booklet entitled Ships Log done in the style of a olde day ships log containing the lyrics of the songs. Mind you Bill’s vocal style renders it useless as you can understand every single word he sings over the album’s forty minutes. 1916’s star is rising all the time and with tours having taken them right across the States and Europe (though sadly not England) and back again and having become an integral part of the #1 event in Celtic-Punk, the  Flogging Molly Salty Dog Cruise, theirs no sign of it dying down just yet. 1916 are easily in my favourite, say, five bands in Celtic-Punk and I defy anyone to not enjoy this band and this fantastic album. With equal measures of humour and seriousness and whiskey it sure is a unique blend alright.

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  • You can read more about the ‘coffin ships’ and The Great Hunger here
  • The history of the Irish and the Erie canal here and here

LIVE REVIEW: TC COSTELLO/ ANTO MORRA/ BRENDAN O’PREY AT THE GUNNERS 17th MAY 2018

A very nice review by the talented Anto Morra of the recent London Celtic Punks gig held in north London that saw the start of TC Costello’s European tour. Accompanied by Anto and Brendan O’Prey (literally at times!) the night saw Irish artists from three different countries perform and they will all, I am sure, go on to play much better attended gigs than this one! 

A GREAT NIGHT WITH THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS

by Anto Morra

THE GUNNERS  LONDON N5 – TC Costello, Anto Morra, Brendan O’Prey  Despite a poor audience turn out for the gig it was quality not quantity that made the evening so great.   London visits are much more gruelling  for me as I get older and to avoid traffic congestion, parking tickets (or any of the other unjustifyable things they can charge you £60 for 3 days after the event) I have to travel in on public transport from my safe parking base in Woolwich, ironically the gig was in Arsenal / Finsbury Park quite a trek on public transport with instruments, leads & Merch.  I was as usual unfashionably early, the first there but was able to sound check my Bodhran and fill the sound man Andy in on the evenings proceedings.

As the small posse gathered I was reminded how lucky I am to know this motley crew,  a nicer bunch of people you couldn’t wish to meet and it was great to catch up with them again.  Established in 2009 The London Celtic Punks webzine has been putting on gigs, promoting bands and reviewing albums that fit the ever growing Celtic Punk genre.

Since The Pogues in the early 1980’s, Celtic Punk has grown beyond anyones expectations with the top names today being the likes of The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, The Mahones and The Rumjacks.  The term Celtic is used very loosely I think as a replacement for the ‘Folk’ terminology to distinguish it from those finger in the ear, woolly jumper wearing acts I love so much as there is very little that is Celtic about The Levellers or Ferocious Dog but their names will always crop up when the genre is being analysed.  Three of the best Celtic Punk bands on the London circuit I’ve come across are the Bible Code Sundays, Neck and The Lagan.  Recently The Lagan front man Brendan O’Prey has started to venture out as a solo performer and he was the opening turn this evening and a very fine one it was too, packed with Christy Moore classics but unlike Christy these days performed with personality and passion.

After a bit of insistence he finally gave Me and the Bhoys the classic Lagan song we wanted.

Next up was myself I thought I’d start with my new revised ‘Ballad Of Margaret Thatcher’ and I nearly got through it without fault but still not quite!   As I never write a set list and try to work of the audience TC Costello had told me he had been listening to Gypsy Smile and London Irish a lot, so I thought I’d play that for him until I thought this might be better with a band.

I rattled through a few more including requests from the Merch King Chris Brown and Mr LCP himself- Mark, but slung this bit of Irish Trad in towards the end of my set, sticking to my only performance rule that is to start and finish with my own songs.

My Complete Set List:   Guardian Of The West (Ballad Of Margaret Thatcher). Gypsy Smile. London Irish, Wasted Life (Stiff Little Fingers Cover).  Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (The Jam Cover). Finnegans Wake (Trad). Rocky Road To Dublin (Trad).  Ballad Of Anto Morra.

Finally the star turn all the way from South Carolina and jet lagged from a gig in Brooklyn New York the night before (but you’d never know) a one man Celtic Punk machine….. TC Costello.

(Performing Waxies Dargle, Rose Connolly, Blow The Man Down, Mafia Punk)

To conclude: Brendan O’Prey’s pure Irish passion comes across in a genuine way.  As a solo performer myself I love to hear things stripped bare and hearing him without the band was a real joy.  His vocal style reminded me a little of Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers also from the North of Ireland and also with a rasp to die for.

I’m never happier than when I’m in performance mode and so had a thoroughly fun time and to be joined by Brendan and TC was a privilege.  I’ve no more plans to play in London so this may have been my last gig there and if so I’m happy it was a memorable one.

TC Costello is remarkable.  Pure Energy, Pure Punk, Pure Entertainment.  If he comes to a town near you don’t miss him- his warmth and charm is infectious and when he hits those high notes there is a vibrato reminiscent of John Lydon himself.  Let’s never forget John Lydon was the very first London Irish Punk.

You can catch Brendan O’Prey and TC Costello along with Matilda’s Scoundrels at another London Celtic Punks show on Thursday 5th of July at The Lamb in Surrey KT6 5NF. It is TC’s last gig before he heads back to the States so lets send him off with a rousing goodbye. The Lamb is just a couple of minutes walk from Surbiton station which is only 20 odd minutes from London by train and walking distance from Kingston and promises to be a fantastic night. Entry is **FREE** and the evening will start around 7-30pm but check the FB event here for set times and running order nearer the date.

The Lamb 18

Check out these great artists and buy all their records and merchandise!

Brendan O’Prey Twitter The Lagan- WebSite  Facebook  Twitter

Anto Morra  Facebook  Reverbnation  Twitter  YouTube  Bandcamp

TC Costello  Facebook  Bandcamp  Tumbler  ReverbNation  Twitter  YouTube

TC is probably pogoing around the Europe, as we speak, at a tremendous rate, so be sure to see if he is popping up in your town. It’s more than possible!

HUNGARIAN CELTIC-PUNK WEEK PART 4. THE WHO’S WHO TOP TEN!

So hopefully by now you will have equipped yourselves with at least three bands from the Hungarian Celtic Punk scene over the last few days so what better excuse than to give you a Top Ten of the best bands in that wonderful scene. They range from traditional Irish to folk-rock to full on punk but each band contributes to the scene without copying another and that is what makes the Celtic-Punk scene in Hungary so great. Some of the bands have overlap of members and it’s even possible by now that some have disbanded but these are the bands that have given Hungary such a great reputation among the worlds Celtic-Punks! Feast your ears on these lot!

PADDY AND THE RATS

Formed 2008 * From Miskolc * Buy Rat’s On Board

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FIRKIN

Formed 2008 * From Budapest * Buy Finger In The Pie

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JOLLY JACKERS

Formed 2013 * From from Dunaújváros * Buy

Facebook Bandcamp YouTube Deezer Spotify

THE SCARLET

Formed 2012 * From Budapest * Buy Midnight Avenue (here)

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THE CRAZY ROGUES

Formed 2012 * From Veszprém * Buy Rebels’ Shanties (here)

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THE O’NEILLS

Formed 2013 * From Budapest * Buy Chapter One (here)

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LOCH NESZ

Formed 2010 * From Budapest * Buy Leave The Captain Behind (here)

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Soundcloud

MAD MAN’S CREW

Formed 2015 * From Veszprém * Buy Riot Without Weapons (here)

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COLLEEN

Formed 2014 * From Budapest * Last I heard they had changed their name to Kolorful

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PUNK WHISKEY

Formed 2011 * From Budapest * Buy Delirious (here)

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Soundcloud

If you are interested in finding out more about the great celtic-punk scene in Hungary (and you better be) the best place to visit is the ‘Celtic Punk/ Irish Folk Hungary’ group on Facebook here

STOP-PRESS in the following weeks after we published this article yet another Hungarian Celtic-Punk band appeared on the horizon so we thought we would add them in at the end here. So here’s one more. The more’s the merrier!

HIGHLAND BASTARDS

Formed 2016 * From Ózd * Buy Lost At Sea (here)

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HUNGARIAN CELTIC-PUNK WEEK. ALBUM REVIEW #3: JOLLY JACKERS- ‘Out Of The Blue’ (2018)

The last of our album reviews of Celtic-Punk bands from Hungary is the third studio release from one of the scene’s newest bands, Budapest’s Jolly Jackers.

So after the two big hitters of the Hungarian Celtic-Punk scene, Firkin and Paddy And The Rats, were featured these last few days it’s time for one of the lesser known bands and it’s a band that are clearly set for great things in the future. Out Of The Blue is the bands fourth release and sees them take their place alongside the aforementioned big hitters.

Jolly Jackers left to right: Andrea Boncz – Flute/Tin Whistle/Vocals * Enikő Papp: Bass Guitar/Vocals * István Sztivi Faragó: Main Vocals/Guitar * Márk Fenyves: Lead Guitar * Noémi Szentimrei: Violin * Viktor Szepesi: Drums, Percussion

Jolly Jackers are a six piece band that hail from Dunaújváros a working class city in central Hungary famed for its steel production. They formed on New Years Day 2013 and their debut release was the superb five track EP Call The Captain which came out for St Patrick’s Day 2014 and is available for free download at the link below.

They followed this up with their debut album Sobriety in January 2015 which again was mostly penned by the band themselves. Sobriety made the Top Twenty of the London Celtic Punks album of the year (here) back in 2015 with its fast paced original brand of celtic-punk going down a storm. Again Jolly Jackers have made it available for free download so again follow the link below to get your free copy.

Their third release was last year’s eight track album Blood, Sweat And Beer which again hit the streets in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Both their albums so far had sailed it at twenty-six minutes so if you like your Celtic-Punk in short and snappy blasts then Jolly Jackers ARE the band for you. Once again it made our end of year Best Of list (here) and came in a very respectable #22 in a year when every big band in the scene released album’s.

So there you are. Plenty of free music for you to whet your appetite for their new release. Breaking with tradition Out Of The Blue came out at the end of April and seals their place as one of the best bands in Hungary. Clearly inspired by both the giants of the scene at home as well as the international greats

The album begins with the creepily beautiful ‘Blue’ a short half minuter that could come straight out of a Halloween movie but luckily we are back on sounder ground as it soon morphs into ‘Billy the Crook’ and the sound of Hungarian Celtic-Punk fills your ear-holes. The sound is immaculate with Sztivi’s vocals clear as a bell and his English perfect as well and as Jolly Jackers are a story telling band that’s good. The other thing I picked up on straight away was the use of the flute and Rea’s playing was faultless. It’s not an instrument you usually hear within Celtic-Punk but in Europe, especially in Hungary it would seem, it has become an integral part of the band. They follow this up with ‘Rich, Famous & Cool’ and it’s a nod to pop-punk with its lyrics about a musician setting off to become famous but when his partner becomes pregnant he has to sell his guitar.

“I’ve got no longer plans
I’m not rich, famous or cool
But guess what: I’m happy
’Cause I found my place in the world
My place in the world”

A wonderfully positive message and the uplifting music that combines short snappy distorted guitar with fiddle. In a somewhat crowded music scene in their home country it must have been tempting to try a shortcut and emulate one of the more famous bands but that is not Jolly Jackers way and they have managed to come up with a very original take on Celtic-Punk. They add in some trademark jolly-ness next with the catchy foot-tapper ‘See You at The Sea’. A jaunty song that while gentle does sit well in amongst the harder edged songs. They stretch out their influences further with ‘Chameleon’. Beginning with acoustic guitar and Sztivi’s it has a real country edge to it before half way through the song kicks in and they turn it into an anthemic Celtic-Punk rocker. At just over four minutes it’s the albums longest tracks and towards the end the band go to town and thrash it out. I would love to hear this at the end of the night it would bring the house down! They follow this with ‘War’ and heavy guitar and flute dominate the song. Within the song are several fiddle solo’s and changes in tempo that really give it something. My favourite song here.

“Freedom is not about blood in the grass
Not about children without their parents
It’s not about death it is not about gore
You say it’s for freedom, but it’s all about war”

Jolly Jackers turn the mood up for ‘Dancing Shoes’ and it’s a short folksy twee number played fast and with spirit while ‘Lies’ brings out the Celtic-Punk guns in a song about no friends of ours, politicians!

‘Deaf And Dumb’ continues with much the same with the band experimenting with electric guitar and fiddle solo’s and a heavier punk sound then the rest of the album. We are coming towards the end of Out Of The Blue and ‘Demons And Angels’ is the nicely told story of a soldier dreaming of his wife while on the front line. The tune is also a simply played Celtic number but with solid punk backing. They keep the first big surprise till the end and ‘Until We Meet Again’ is beautifully sung traditional Celtic number. Absolutely stunning. The album ends with the instrumental ‘Surprise’ and sure they couldn’t have picked a better song title with its lounge lizard jazzy electric guitar joined half way in by Noémi on fiddle. A very unusual way to bring the curtain down and i’m surprised to hear myself saying that yeah it fitted in exactly right.

From the album’s cover to the music inside it this is an unusual album. The sleeves colourful cartoon of the band members made me realise that most Celtic-Punk imagery is a bit dark and often stacked with meaning so Jolly Jackers attempt to bring a bit of light into things is very much welcome. Out Of The Blue indeed. They have kept the folk melodies of their previous releases but the punkier elements seem toned down but without losing any of their wild abandon. Not prepared to stick to the script it was nice to find Jolly Jackers willing to take chances and even better that they managed to pull them off. Here is an energetic band with great tunes and an ability to write their own songs that seems to me to be in transition. As the saying goes their is plenty here for everyone to enjoy all of it Jolly Jackers very own.

(have a free sneaky listen to the whole of Out Of The Blue for free before you buy it by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Out Of The Blue
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Don’t forget to check back in a couple of days for our final part of Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week.

If you are interested in finding out more about the great celtic-punk scene in Hungary (and you better be) the best place to visit is the ‘Celtic Punk/ Irish Folk Hungary’ group on Facebook here

HUNGARIAN CELTIC-PUNK WEEK. ALBUM REVIEW #2: PADDY AND THE RATS- ‘Riot City Outlaws’ (2018)

Hungarian Celtic-Punk week continues with another huge band from the scene. Paddy And The Rats serve up a pirate party with a heavy dose of polka, punk and folk bringing the Irish pub straight into your merry home! 

So we move onto Album #2 of our Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week (be sure to check out #1 here) and it’s another band who are massive both and home and abroad. Paddy And The Rats are possibly the best known of all the Hungarian celtic-punk bands and deservedly so. Hard work and constant touring have paid dividends for the band and these days they are known throughout Europe for their superb records and great live shows. Riot City Outlaws is their fifth studio album following ‘Rats On Board’, ‘Hymns For Bastards’, ‘Tales From The Docks’ and ‘Lonely Hearts Boulevard’. Formed in 2008 with a love of Irish music, pirates and punk rock they have been going strong and getting stronger ever since. The original celtic-punk sound from their first four albums saw them change track somewhat on their last album but we did note that

“No harm in that. Its called progression and I’d rather they did that than just stick to playing ‘The Wild Rover’ for evermore.”

and it couldn’t be more true. A band can stand still and play the same album year in year out but that is not what Paddy And The Rats are about and thank the Heavens. As they say themselves

“Well, it`s one thing to dream about being Irish”

but this Miskolc-based six piece decided to throw a hefty dose of pirate-isms, polka and gypsy punk onto the Celtic mix!

Riot City Outlaws launches with ‘Aerolites’ and one of the albums stand out tracks straight away. Beginning with piano, acoustic guitar and Paddy’s great rock vocals it soon picks up pace and becomes a catchy feelgood Celtic rocker that’s guaranteed to get you on your feet.

The Bhoys follow this up with another classic song the accordion led ‘Join the Riot’. Like the opening track it switches melody from calm and collected to wild and manic whilst still keeping the feelgood factor. Accompanied by one of their famously excellent videos Paddy And The Rats nail their colours to the mast both figuratively and literally. Another song bound to get the audience beating up the floor at live gigs.

The Rats have always added a healthy dose of pirate to their Celtic-Punk and it’s always worked well for them, especially as pirate-punk/metal has always been seen as more a joke or parody thing. Obviously their roots as a folk-punk band must help and on ‘Black Sails’ those roots shine through with an accordion led track that also hits the heights that is both hard and heavy and ‘pop-punky’ at times. Paddy’s vocals shine throughout the entire album and are both crystal clear and very easy to understand. Having signed to Napalm Records in the summer the powerful production by Grammy award winning producer Cameron Webb, famous for his work with the likes of Motörhead, Megadeth and Social Distortion, lends itself well to Paddy And The Rats with their loud massive choruses and bombastic big tunes. ‘The Way We Wanna Go’ is one such tune with banjo, mandolin, fiddle all fighting each other in a mighty tune. If there is one song here that maybe ventures into parody its ‘Sail Away’ with its drunken bar scene opening and then a rollicking folk-punk tune taking over before ending with a fantastic punk rock/fiddle jig. These are the kind of songs that would go down equally as well in a small hovel of a pub or a stadium full  of adoring fans and Paddy And The Rats are use to both. ‘Blow’ is accordion led along with tin-whistle and chugging guitars it takes a different approach with a really (and a mean really) cool pop-punk sound in the vein of Green Day or Pennywise. they follow this with what passes for a ballad on this album and ‘Castaway’ may be slow (ish) but it’s certainly not dull and is as loud and as brash as the fastest song here. Accompanied by another great video it would be well worth your time to put the kettle on, grab a packet of biscuits, take a hour of your life and clicking on their You Tube channel. A lot of thought and attention has gone into them.

The ocean is the theme of the next couple of songs and both ‘One Last Ale’ and ‘Where Red Paints The Ocean’ are brilliant Celtic/Pirate rockers. Tuneful, catchy anthemic songs that again manage to be both hard and gentle with Paddy showing his vocal range from both hard and gentle as well.

We are steering towards shore and time for another ballad in ‘Another Life’. They know their way round a good song and are equally at home playing anything from Pirate metal to folksy ballads like this with everything rock based inbetween. A great way to slow things down and ‘Bound by Blood’ begins sounding like another ballad before kicking off into the stratosphere and thrashy guitars and another song in the vein of the earlier ‘Blow’. Coming across like the bastard Irish born offspring of The Offspring and The Beach Boys it’s as catchy as it gets. The familiar story of the morning after is taken up next with ‘I Won’t Drink Again’ with acoustic guitar and tin whistle leading the way before turning into a song the Dropkick Murphys haven’t written in years sadly. A happy-go-lucky tune that’s a real foot tapper. The end of the official album comes with ‘Children of the Night’ and needless to say (but say it I will!) it’s an absolute stormer of a song.

The video above may not be exactly the greatest you will ever watch but it again perfectly shows the relationship between Paddy And The Rats and their fans. Paddy before the song starts speaking from the heart but in Hungarian so thanks to Ábel for translating and giving us an insight into the song we wouldn’t otherwise have had.

“My son was born 1,5 years ago and that moment changed my life forever. I was started to think differently and that I wrote that song mostly because he came to the world. I believe there is a very important thing to pay attention to every children. These tiny ‘creatures’ are our future for sure, but in many cases the politicians don’t notice that and they sacrifice them or they parents for the sake of the power, so they remain alone. We think that is so horrible to grow up in this world without parents, who are driving you on your way, and even worse to let them alone. That’s why we wrote that song.”

On an album of high points again Paddy And The Rats do it with a song that contains every element that makes Paddy And The Rats so enjoyable. The bagpipes and fiddle are loud and proud on my favourite song form the album. A real Celtic-Punk classic. So there we have the end of the official album but there are two bonus tracks added that deserve a mention the Irishy ‘Raging Bull’ and celtic pop-punk ‘Summer Girls’. Both great songs that I’m puzzled are tacked on at the end not that I’m not glad they are.

Riot City Outlaws is a real return to form from Paddy And The Rats and when you hear music like this it fills you with its infectious energy and simple happiness. Dark tales make perfect subject matter for Celtic-Punk and theirs loads here wrapped up with them catchy choruses and dynamic up-tempo songs. paddy And The Rats may have returned to their roots here but they are standing still and on hearing this neither will you!

(hear selected songs from Riot City Outlaws on the Bandcamp player below)

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Don’t forget to check back in a couple of days for Part 3 and the final part of Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week. Part 1 here

If you are interested in finding out more about the great celtic-punk scene in Hungary (and you better be) the best place to visit is the ‘Celtic Punk/ Irish Folk Hungary’ group on Facebook here

HUNGARIAN CELTIC-PUNK WEEK. ALBUM REVIEW #1: FIRKIN- ‘We Are The Ones’ (2018)

Kicking off a week celebrating Hungarian Celtic-Punk we have the new album from Grammy Award-winning Budapest Irish band Firkin. Having played well over six hundred concerts in seventeen countries and it’s no wonder as they are without doubt one of the best live bands on the continent.

When you think of Celtic-Punk the first countries you would think of would be the ones that the Celtic diaspora fled to in times of despair and poverty and oppression. Well maybe that was then but these days Celtic-Punk is a truly international phenomenon and of all the countries outside of the traditional homes of Celtic-Punk no country has embraced the music quite like Hungary has. I’d be hear all day if I was to list all the bands on the scene over there but rest assured that we in England would be jealous of to have but half of them! Why exactly Hungarians have embraced the music to their hearts and ears I do not know. Maybe one of Hungarian friends can let us know. For the following week we are running a special Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week with three of the scene’s best bands all releasing albums then it makes sense to follow up last years (see 2017 here) Hungarian Celtic-Punk week with another one. So stay tuned and visit again in the week for #2 and #3.

One of the things that makes the scene there so special is the bands have all found their own niche within it and the music ranges from full on traditional folk to fast and heavy hardcore punk but today we feature one of the most prominent and internationally well known- Firkin. Formed in 2008 in the Hungarian capital of Budapest by flutist PJ, Firkin have released a whole bunch of albums and toured numerous times including playing an absolutely stunning one-off show in London on New Years Eve 2015. The gig drew in equal numbers of Hungarian ex-pats and London celtic punks that raised the bloody roof off the Dublin Castle! Certainly if putting in the hard work gets you the glory then Firkin have been working overtime to get the attention they deserve. The bands original vocalist Barna left the band amicably after recording the album Finger In The Pie in 2014 but new vocalist Andy has stepped ably into his shoes and Firkin have carried on without pause or even catching breath! Firkin have played more than 600 concerts in 16 countries and not just in Europe having toured Canada in 2011. Their debut album, Firkinful Of Beer, hit the streets in May, 2009 and within a year had gone gold. Soon after the album was nominated for a Hungarian Grammy Award, Fonogram 2010, which was followed by two further nominations in 2013 for their third album Igyunk Pálinkát! and in 2014 with their fourth album Keep On Firkin. In 2016 Firkin’s song ‘Focimese’ became the official song of the Hungarian football team for the UEFA Championships which saw Hungary storm the opening group stages before being hammered, like Ireland were, by Belguim in the knock-out round. Last year saw them grace the stage at many of Europe’s leading festivals which brings us up to date with the release of We Are The Ones which will be followed by a huge European headline tour in the Summer.

We Are The Ones is Firkin’s sixth studio album and they continue their quest to take over Europe by introducing the uninitiated to quality Irish-punk rock! Beginning with ‘All Is Well’ and its a fast start from the very first beat and Andy’s great vocals fit right in. The music flits between Springsteen heartfelt rocker and the Irish punk of their early days. ‘One More Pint’ is a tale of life passing you by but there always time for one more pint. Again Andy’s vocals sit nicely. Tuneful and shouty at the same time and in absolutely crystal clear English too! Firkin have always handled a nice ballad well and just as you think ‘Those Irish Punk Girls’ is it it flies off into fast as feck Irish punk with fiddle and flute literally leaving a stream of smoke behind them. As good a song on the album as any and a real blast from Firkin’s past. Another standout track follows with the album’s title song ‘We Are The Ones’.

A great gang chorus of “OH-H-H-H-H’s” in a song where Firkin pay tribute to their fans. Catchy as hell and will grow to be a real fan favourite I am sure.

“We are the ones who will go insane,
go mad when we are in pain.
We are the ones who might be exiled,
we’ll feel at home and smile”

Next up is ‘Lily Of The West’ and believe it or not a song that I could imagine leaving Christy Moore’s lips this one. An old song and not your typical cover version it has a real authentic Irish feel to it with the music at times bordering on trad as well as country. One for your Ma’s this one. Now its ‘Your Odyssey’ and I can’t imagine Christy singing this one! Proper Celtic-Punk with thrashy guitars maybe a little understated but still giving the song plenty of oompf. I was never a fan of the flute to be honest. That was until I saw Firkin live in concert and I was immediately converted. PJ is such an amazing musician and has an incredible stage presence that its hard to stand in awe of Firkin when they let fly. We are back in the pun now with ‘Hold My Beer’ and like a lot of bands Firkin make music to be enjoyed with a jar or two and I’m reliably informed that Hungarians like their beer so a band named after a beer measure ought to have a couple of alcohol friendly songs at least!

As we head towards the end of the album and it’s time for Firkin to dust off a few covers which they begin with the famous Dubliners trad song ‘Nancy Whisky’. A perfect song for Celtic-Punk bands to cover and Firkin serve up a great version and follow this up with perhaps the greatest (and saddest) song ever written about Irish emigration, ‘Spancil Hill’. A real tear-jerker this one and again delivered with style and given an upbeat treatment. Time for an original and Firkin have always dipped their toes into folk-metal while never quite getting their heads wet and ‘Awaken The Iron’ is as far as they venture on We Are The Ones. A great metal-folk-punk song with Andy never sounding more like a pirate in his life.

“Show a leg!
Pirates aboard! Prepare your swords
Pull out the guns and shoot a full load
Release your wrath ‘n aim the mainmast
Fight for the glory till the last breath
Remember the days, the years we fought together
Steered between waves through days and nights
This is the moment we all been living for
Awaken the iron, rats quake in their boots”

The albums fastest song gives way to ‘Galway Girl’ and this song I am sure is played hundreds of times every night on every continent on the planet and I am sure Steve Earle never imagined the hit he had had on his hands but the song is now up there at the very top of popular Irish songs. Nevertheless Firkin don’t do sloppy covers and they stamp the Firkin brand on it and mange the seemingly impossible to make it their own. We Are The Ones comes to an end with the beautiful Irish trad number ‘Flowers’ featuring the absolutely stunning voice of Hungarian folk singer Agi Szaloki. Originally called ‘The Flower Of Magherally’ it dates from 1928 and was most famously covered by Altan.

“I met my love near Banbridge Town,
My charming blooming Sally, O
And she is the crown of County Down,
The Flower of Magherally, O”

Andy shows he can really sing and what a pair of lungs he has as together they belt out a real folkie number that brings down the curtain perfectly.

So another classic Firkin album ends and with twelve songs and seven originals it’s a good balance of their own material and covers too while it steams along at such a nice pace I was surprised it was forty minutes long as it seemed to be over far too quickly. The auld Irish influence may have subsided a wee bit in favour of more typical Celtic sound but theirs no denying that Firkin are at the top of the tree when it comes to Celtic-Punk on this fair continent and long may they continue and they surely will if they continue to put out such great material.

Buy We Are The Ones

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( A whole Firkin concert from 10th June, 2017 – Open-Air Theatre Budapest)

Don’t forget to check back in a couple of days for the rest of Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week. Part 2 here

Don’t forget to check back in a couple of days for Part 2 of Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week. If you are interested in finding out more about the great celtic-punk scene in Hungary (and you better be) the best place to visit is the ‘Celtic Punk/ Irish Folk Hungary’ group on Facebook here

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: EWAN MacCOLL and DOMINIC BEHAN- ‘Streets of Song. Childhood Memories of City Streets from Glasgow, Salford and Dublin’ (1959)

Scottish folksinger Ewan MacColl and Irish singer Dominic Behan delve into their childhoods to present the songs and chants of working-class neighborhoods in Dublin, Glasgow, and Salford. Unaccompanied—in keeping with tradition—the 100 songs include rhymes, ditties, counting games, skipping-rope pieces, jibes, taunts, oaths, street ballads, seasonal songs and insults. In between selections, Ewan and Dominic provide context by explaining the circumstances in which the songs were performed.

A fascinating real piece of working class history performed by two legendary figures who have featured on these pages many times. Some listeners may recognize songs from their own childhood their are certainly more than a few I recognise from my younger days on the streets and playgrounds of South Yorkshire. Both Dominic and Ewan spent their lives preserving and archiving music from days past and now almost sixty years later we can present this remarkable album to you. It comes as a free download so feel free to take a copy and enjoy and if you wish follow the link below to get the accompanying booklet that came with the album.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Ewan MacColl- January 1915-October 1989

For nearly 60 years, Ewan MacColl, an activist and left-wing socialist, expressed his views as a playwright, social activist, songwriter and performer. During the course of his lifetime he composed a body of work that ranks among the best in the folk genre. He was born in Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of a Lowland Scots father and a Gaelic-speaking mother. Both parents had an extensive repertoire of Scots folk songs and ballads, and a large part of MacColl’s tremendous repertory was learned from them. After leaving school at the age of 14, he spent the next 10 years working odd jobs between periods of unemployment and one day out busking, he was noticed by a BBC director and given his first radio broadcast in a programme called Music of the Streets. Soon MacColl began to devote an increasing amount of his time writing programmes for the BBC, including his first group of Folklore broadcasts. Included among his many folk music activities have been the collecting of folk songs for the BBC archives and in addition to being one of these island’s leading folk singers Ewan MacColl’s fame lives on in the songs that he both saved from extinction and those he wrote including ‘Dirty Old Town’, ‘Freeborn Man’ and his Grammy Award-winning song ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, a hit single for Roberta Flack in 1971, which he wrote for his longtime collaborator and life partner, Peggy Seeger. After many years of poor health (in 1979 he suffered the first of many heart attacks), MacColl died on 22 October 1989, in London, after complications following heart surgery

Dominic Behan- October 1928-August 1989

Dominic Behan was born in Dublin, Ireland, having a traditional Irish fiddler as a father and a folksinger as a mother. Born into a family of committed republicans, it was no surprise that even at the age of six he joined Na Fianna h-Eireann (republican Boy Scouts) and by sixteen was an active fighter for the IRA. His activities on behalf of his political convictions resulted in his being imprisoned, in Dublin and in London, four times between 1951 and 1954. Following in the footsteps of his uncle, the noted rebel song-writer Peadar Kearney (who wrote the Irish national anthem) he penned a number of rebel ballads, including the well-known ‘Patriot Game’. During the 60’s and 70’s he wrote almost twenty plays for British TV as well as writing several books though it was as a songwriter that he excelled and had more than 450 songs published during his lifetime. Dominic had well publicised spats with both Liam Clancy and Bob Dylan over use of his songs where lyrics were changed or omitted. He took the view that his work was written to make some form of social, historical or political statement and should either be used as an entire piece of work or not at all. Dominic died at home in Glasgow, aged 60, on 3 August 1989.

Streets Of Song sleeve notes by Kenneth S. Goldstein

Childhood memories of City Streets from Glasgow, Salford and Dublin. The Oral Lore of Children

In listening to this recording, one will find three distinct types of oral children’s lore. First there are the items which have little or no restrictions of national boundary. Some of the pieces recited and sung in this recording are known throughout the English-speaking world, originating, perhaps, in the British Isles and spreading out from there to all of the many countries culturally and linguistically affected by the British and their far-flung empire. Who, in the English-speaking world, for example, has not heard one or another version of the singing-game The Farmer Wants a Wife (heard in a Dublin Irish version on this recording), or Poor Mary Sat A-Weeping (from Salford on this recording). You may know these pieces by other names, and in forms differing quite radically from those presented on this recording, but it will require little imagination or insight to realise the relationship of the versions you know to those presented here.
A second category of pieces found in this recording are those which appear to have strictly national boundaries, being known either only in the British Isles or, perhaps, only in a single country or national group. Such pieces are frequently related to festivals or events which are purely national in character and incidence, or are so dependent upon purely national events or references as to make them almost meaningless outside of the national boundary of the country in which, they may be found. Such pieces include the holiday song Christmas is Coming (item number 67, from Dublin, but known throughout the British Isles), and the Scottish jibe, Wha saw the tattle howkers (item number 62, from Glasgow, but known in other parts of Scotland) among numerous others.
The third category consists of those pieces of a purely local nature, existing almost exclusively in a single community, town or county, but rarely found elsewhere. The reasons for such limitation of tradition are similar to those given for the second category mentioned above, but with considerably more localised references or language. Such piece include Up The Mucky Mountains (item number 64) and Jessie Stockton (item number 68), both from Salford, and Cheer up, Russell Street (item number 56) from Dublin. Into this last category must also go those pieces which are the creative efforts of a moment, in use for only a short period of time, and fading into the world of lost traditions almost before they were born. Occasionally such-pieces fall into the collector’s lap, but the collector (at best, just an accident in time, in such instances) has no way of sorting out these pieces from those which are more than just mere ephemera.
The record contains an even 100 pieces of diverse examples of children’s lore. Here will be found game songs, nonsense rhymes and ditties, counting games, ball-bouncing games and rhymes, skipping-rope pieces, jibes, taunts, oaths, street ballads, seasonal songs, and insults. What is the origin of these pieces? For most of them we cannot even begin to speculate on the question of origins.
Some few can be pinpointed to historical occurrences and personages King Henry, King Henry (item number 12), tells of the affairs of love of a well-remembered English monarch. Others are the breakdown of older traditional ballads and tales; I know a woman, she lives in the woods (item number 23), obviously derives from the ballad The Cruel Mother (Child 20). Some like items 4, 56 and 59, are children’s parodies of recent creations, including music hall and popular songs. Most of the pieces are created out of happenings and sights of everyday life. Because of the universality of their subject matter they might arise anywhere or at almost any time so it is an impossible task to do much more than guess at their origins.
First, we are introduced to the cultural milieu with which we are dealing. Poverty, a proud working-class inheritance, slum conditions, and the everyday, mundane things and occurrences affecting the individuals concerned. Next, we are presented with the oral products of that environment, set off against a train of thought concerning those products, not of the children living, playing and reciting those pieces of lore, but of two adult bearers of this urban tradition whose sensitivity to the setting is expressed in terms of mature afterthought. The opportunity presented by this recording to study the whys and wherefores of urban childhood traditions is the next best thing to working in the field with the children themselves.
One fascinating problem suggested by working with children’s lore, and, even more specifically, with the lore of working-class children, is the question of class boundaries of such lore. Of this question, Dominic Behan has written:
“It can — so far as kids are concerned — be made only by children who own so little other rights to amusement that they must sing and make up songs about themselves and the places they inhabit; tenement house schools, neighbours, and, most and biggest of all, their playground — the streets. Maybe this is not quite true, maybe other classes of folks’ children make up other classes of songs. All I can say is if they do, I have never heard them.”
So much for the songs: what of the games? Are they ‘class’ bound? Do they belong to certain people or are they the property of all? Once again, I don’t know. Once again I will guess, and say all.
The challenge has been issued. It is the duty of folklorists, sociologists, and psychologists to take it up and answer the question. An attempt to do so from a library chair will prove futile; the data are insufficient and largely undocumented in most of the existing works on children’s lore. By utilizing the existing tools of each discipline we can expect to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. We are fortunate in dealing with children’s lore, to be working in an area which appears to have no beginning or end in time, and while some scholars have bemoaned the dying of oral tradition (such claims have been made for the past century, though I for one prefer to think of traditions changing and evolving rather than dying), none will be so rash as to deny the very vital nature of children’s songs and games. There is no question of the existence of sufficient material for study.

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Great article on the Life And Work Of Dominic Behan here

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

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

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

(if any links are broken please leave a comment and we’ll do our best to try and fix it)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE MUCKERS- ‘One More Stout’ (2018)

While they do play Irish music Atlanta based celtic-punkers The Muckers blend in  influences from gypsy music, sea shanties, country, rockabilly and anything else they can get their hands on.

One More Stout is The Muckers second album and if their debut was a helluva lot of fun then they have gone and topped it with this one. Their self titled debut album came out in September 2016 and even though they had only recently formed it received excellent reviews from right across the celtic/folk-punk scene and entered the end of year charts of all the ones who did one including ours. We described it back then as

“A great knees up of an album with a grand sense of humour and infectiously good fun and well played”.

and to be perfectly honest we could easily re-use that comment to describe their new album One More Stout as well!

Based in the deep South of America in the city of Atlanta in Georgia they are the only local Celtic-Punk band and had gathered a massive following around them in the city and state among the Irish and their friends. That was back then and it would be safe to say that these days The Muckers are rapidly becoming one of Americas better known ‘new’ Celtic-Punk bands. They are on the face of it a straight up Irish band but dig a little deeper into their sound and you will discover a host of influences from at home and overseas. This is a very real American Irish music that takes the spirit of Ireland and adds in a little something from gypsy, country or even rockabilly to produce something that is an absolute joy to listen to, and I am positive a joy to catch live as well.

The Muckers left to right: Steve Lingo- Drums * Brady Trulove- Guitar * Jeff Shaw- Fiddle/Mandolin * Dave Long- Accordion * Randall English- Bass.

One More Stout kicks off with the opener ‘Let’s All Go to the Bar’ and it has a kind of Gobshites feel to it. A real happy-go-lucky bounce to it accompanied by a feel-good vibe that would be sure to fire any gig/party/barmitzvah off! The Gobshites comparison may be a good one as I later found out vocalist Jeff was an auld Gobshite himself for a couple of years and played mandolin work on their album The Whistle Before the Snap.

Originally penned by Rhode Island roots-punk quintet Deer Tick the song stays fairly close to the original but with a huge injection of celtic-punk attitude with some excellent accordion and mandolin.

“Forget if you’ll regret when the morning comes
We’ll have a heart attack, we’re having too much fun
If the coops show up we ought run, run, run
But we’ll laugh in their faces when they tell us we’re done”

At nearly four minutes it’s the perfect length and a great start to proceedings. Jeff Shaw has a great full voice that belies his wee frame and fits snug into The Muckers style of music. The Bhoys have an obsession with alcohol (fancy that!) and keep it up with their first self-penned number ‘Hellbound’ and Jeff puts down the mandolin to play some pretty damn amazing country style fiddle over this fantastic number. The song ends with a very nice Irish trad flourish and they back this straight up with another original ‘Day Drinking’ and it’s hard to believe they are only a five piece band so large is the sound here.

Not only that but they are almost acoustic except for Randall’s bass. I’m still looking for a word I can use instead of catchy (If you know please tell me!) but that is the word that is stamped all over The Muckers music. This song is again accordion led (even with a tinge of ska!) but with such a fantastic production it never over dominates things and blends right in. Next up is another cover and again they stay fairly close to the original by Californian country/American group The Devil Makes Three. They do of course speed ‘Black Irish’ right up and add some bollocks to it.

“Cuz I, I wanna feel that blood rushin in my veins
I don’t want this night to ever turn into day
If I could only do all them things I wanted to
While that spirit’s rushin now in my veins
Yes If I could only do all them things I wanted to
While that spirit’s rushin in my veins”

At least musically anyway as the lyrics speak for themselves! The fiddle kicks it off before accordion joins in and low and behold there’s an electric guitar thrashing away there! Now this is Celtic-PUNK I tells you. Now its the title track and ‘One More Stout’ is an ode to the famous Black Stuff. Following this is a cover by one of my all-time favourite Celtic-Punk bands the glorious Cutthroat Shamrock. Criminally under-rated they split up last year but I was delighted to see that they had reformed this St. Patrick’s weekend to play some local gigs around Tennessee. ‘Long Gravel Road’ is one of their best songs and I would heartily recommend checking their original version out here from their 2009 album Blood Rust Whisky. The Muckers do the song perfect justice and keep the country-Irish feel of the original intact while still putting their own stamp on it. We take a trip out East now with the Bhoys version of the old Russian traditional folk song ‘Limonchiki’. Of course the accordion is in favour here and Jeff hams it up a bit in a real nice number that is guaranteed to get feet moving! Next is a cover by Canadian Celtic-Rock legends Great Big Sea. You know when a band has reached legendary status when ‘ordinary folk’ start to take notice. In this case it was when my sister-in-law asked me if I knew Great Big Sea and did I have any of their stuff. Yeah only about six hours worth! Anyway The Muckers give ‘Old Black Rum’ a real going over and make it their own while ‘God Save Ireland’ is a old song. Very old. it was written to commemorate the Manchester Martyrs, three members of the Fenian Brotherhood executed in England in 1867 after a successful mission to free a comrade from arrest ended with the death of a policeman. It served as the unofficial Irish national anthem from the 1870s to the 1910s and has been recorded by a multitude of artists. In particular I always remember it raising the roof when The Wolfe Tones play it. Its catchy tune and singalong chorus make it perfect Celtic-Punk fodder and needless to say (but say it I will) Its gets a bloody good airing here. We back in the bar for ‘Whiskey’ and the on-off love affair we have with alcohol. Catchy in a sort of hoe-down country way which leads us nicely onto ‘Drunker’n Cooter Brown’ which takes it a bit further with elements of bluegrass and zydeco sneaking in.

One of the album highlights for me and if the dance floor aint filled up for this then there’s something wrong with the audience! ‘Molly, Pt. 2’ is the sequel to ‘Molly’ that appeared on their debut album and that was one of the standout tracks then so only fitting the sequel is here. The mandolin shines here showing what a great instrument it is in Celtic-Punk. Its delicate, beautiful sound butting up against the rougher edges of the other instruments really does sound wonderful. Finally we have reached the end of One More Stout and we wrap things up with an absolutely stunning instrumental traditional Irish folk reel called ‘Castle Kelly’. The tune is very old and also known The Dark Haired Maid’ when recorded by the Bothy Band, or ‘Mo Nighean Dubh’ if you speak Irish. The Muckers version is a s good as any I have heard. An amazing way to finish things.

As we have stated The Muckers are riding a wave which has seen them take the stage at Shamrock Fest and Dragon Con and they were invited to play the welcome party for what is rapidly becoming the most important event in the worlds Celtic-Punk calendar the famed Salty Dog cruise organised by Flogging Molly. Lucky bastards!! This band is set for the top table of celtic-punk embracing everything that’s great about celtic-punk. Passion and pride in the land of their ancestors but also a willingness to experiment a bit and step away from the confines of Irish folk and inject other cultures and music into what they do. And all the time with a smile plastered across their faces. The obvious fun they have is infectious and if the only thing Celtic-Punk achieves is to make people happy then The Muckers have got a surefire hit on their hands. Get on board before they become massive!

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EP REVIEW: BLACKBEARD’S TEA PARTY- ‘Leviathan!’ (2018)

The first new release from Blackbeard’s Tea Party in three years takes traditional songs and folk tunes about the whaling industry and gives them a heavy edge but with a playful arrangement and driving dance rhythms.

Blackbeard’s Tea Party have been together since 2009 and in that time became firm favourites on the English folk scene. An independent band with four albums to their name, Blackbeard’s Tea Party have also completed a number of successful UK headline tours. So it’s been a bit of a mystery as to why they went quiet on the recording front and this is their first release since Reprobates in 2015. They continued to tour and are still as popular as ever but in this game you have to have regular output otherwise there is always another new band waiting in the wings to take your place.

Anyroad they are back now and with this great EP celebrating the history of the whaling industry. Although whaling had existed for thousands of years it was in the 17th century that industrial whaling emerged with organised fleets that by the late 1930’s were killing more than 50,000 whales a year. Communities along the coast around the world have long histories of subsistence whaling and harvesting beached whales. On Leviathan! Blackbeard’s Tea Party play out the history of an industry that once made the fortunes of ports such as Hull, Whitby and Peterhead. Thousands relied upon the practise but it would eventually drive the species to the verge of extinction so much so that in the 1980’s it was banned though many countries still hunt whales under so called scientific purposes.

Blackbeards Tea Party from left to right: Liam ‘Yom’ Hardy – Drums * Dave Boston – Drums * Stuart Giddens – Lead Vocals, Melodeon * Laura Boston-Barber – Fiddle * Martin Coumbe – Guitar * Tim Yates – Bass

Leviathan! is the bands fifth studio release and even though only five songs its a mighty fine way to remind any fans who have lost touch that they are still around! The EP begins with the traditional folk song The Diamond’. Popularised by Scottish legends The Corries (check out their version here) the song first appeared on Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd’s 1957 album Thar She Blows! Lloyd recorded it again in 1967 for his album Leviathan! Ballads And Songs Of The Whaling Trade. I would guess these two releases have been very much influence on Blackbeard’s Tea Party.

On the song A.L. Lloyd commented on the Leviathan! album sleeve notes:

Sad events lie behind this most spirited of whaling songs. By the 1820s the relativity milder northern waters were fished clean, and whalemen were having to search in more distant corners of the Arctic, notably round the mighty and bitter Melville Bay in Northwest Greenland. In 1830, a fleet of fifty British whaleships reached the grounds in early June, a month before they expected. But the same winds that had helped them also crowded the Bay with ice floes and locked most of the fleet in, including the Diamond, the Resolution, the Rattler (not Battler) of Leigh (not Montrose), and the Eliza Swan. Twenty fine ships were crushed to splinters and many bold whalermen froze or drowned. The Eliza Swan was among those that got free and brought the sad news home. Our song must have been made only a season or two before that tragedy for the Diamond‘s maiden voyage was only in 1825. One wonders if the man who made the song was up in Melville Bay, the year of the disaster, and whether he was lost with his ship.

Blackbeard’s Tea Party have always been an innovative band and their version skates through English and Celtic folk music while adding some surprisingly modern touches while Stuart Giddens sumptuous (their description not mine!) vocals ably fit the music. His voice may not be that of a crooner but it is strong and versatile and reminiscent of folk singers of old but without the trademark finger in the ear. They follow this up with the first of two instrumentals and ‘DLFN’, written by the bands Laura Barber and Dave Boston is certainly a bit of a shock. With Blackbeard’s dark bite it chugs along with a real foot slamming beat. The fiddle shines throughout and only adds to the somber mood of the song. Next up is title track ‘Leviathan’, written by Giddens it’s a song that verges (or even passes!) on folk-punk and steams along at a mighty pace with Stuart telling the story of the albino sperm whale known as Mocha Dick that lived in the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century and went on to inspire the story of Moby Dick by American writer Herman Melville in 1851. This song shows Blackbeard’s Tea Party in all their glory as story-tellers as all the finest folk musicians truly are. The song plays out the excitement of the hunt while never shirking from the blood thirsty reality of a whalers life at sea where these mighty creatures may at any moment strike back and take the ship down. We now have another Boston/ Barber instrumental in The Lost Triangle’. Again the fiddle shines and the darkness of the song evokes the bloody reality of life out at sea. At nearly seven minutes long the song is loud and bombastic and ends with a real doffed cap to the early days of English folk before speeding up again and ending with a real flourish reminiscent of 70’s folk/prog rock.. Leviathan! comes to an end with another traditional folk song, ‘Weary Whaling Ground’. The song is about whaling in Greenland during 1840-50. Again A.L. Lloyd recorded it for Leviathan! Ballads And Songs Of The Whaling Trade and his album notes sum up the feeling of the poor souls aboard ship better than anyone.

“Three emotions dominated the old time whalerman: exultion in the chase, a longing for home, and disgust at the conditions of his trade. This latter mood descended heaviest upon him when the fishing was poor and he became “whalesick” (like homesick, only sick for whales). The man who made the complaint for The Weary Whaling Grounds must have been very whalesick.”

Having added a second drum kit to the band it has given the band a much rougher and tougher edge and with dark material like this it works a treat giving it a doom and maybe even Gothic touch they never had before. Their may be only one new song here with lyrics but the band have turned out two extremely good original instrumentals and have taken two songs from relatively ancient times and breathed new life into them. That new song ‘Leviathan!’ shows the new found power of the band and their flair for storytelling which places them in a direct line from the likes of Ewan MacColl to today. There was a time when the folk purists (or snobs as we call them!) would have approved of Blackbeard’s Tea Party but maybe they are trying to distance themselves from the ‘party approved’ AOR folk of the likes of the Mumford’s but the move into darker territory suits them well.

Discography

Leviathan (2018) * Reprobates (2015) * Whip Jamboree (2013) * Tomorrow We’ll Be Sober (2011) * Heavens to Betsy (2009)

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For more on the sea why not dip your toe into our Classic Album Series review of ‘Steady As She Goes. Songs And Chanties From The Days of Commercial Sail’. Released in 1976 the album is dedicated to the workers of the sea. Undoubtedly hard and very often tyrannical under many a vicious Captain’s rule. The workers said “a song is as good as ten men” and the songs were used in the manner of field work song’s. These shanties tell the tales of loneliness, the families these men left behind and the daily hardships of an unkind sea and nautical life.

Many of the albums featured in the series (here) come with free downloads.

THE CARDINAL SINS- ‘Straight Left Right Hook’ (2018)

It may sound a bit strange that over the years we have only featured a handful of ‘Irish’ Irish bands on this site but for whatever reason Celtic-Punk in Ireland has never seemed to take off band wise. So with that in mind we love it when a new band from the auld country appears and even though The Cardinal Sins have been going a few years we are sure they are new to most of us over this side of the water and hopefully it won’t be long before we get to see them in the raw!

STRAIGHT LEFT RIGHT HOOK

Write him off at peril, he’ll dance around at god’s free will
Rolling through the town like a steam train running late
He’ll settle all and put em down, take any man that glanced a frown
Line em up 1 to 10 and let them have their go
Chorus:
Straight left down he go’s (hey Ho!)
Right hook down he go’s (the crowd began to shout!)
Straight left down he go’s (man Down!)
Right Hook down he go’s (he knocked the fucker out!)
Jimmy said he’d give a try he’s 7ft tall and just as wide
The crowd were looking for a cheer so they took it to the square
In and out they danced about, and from the sides they bawled and shout
The honey-badger threw his fist, Jimmy’s on his ear
It was hard to see if he’d get back on his feet,
But jimmy bowed his head, he was taken by the best
And in the disbelief well the crowd took to their feet
And then they start to shout
HE KNOCKED THE FUCKER OUT!!!

The Cardinal Sins are a Celtic Rock group from Laois and Offaly in Ireland that formed in 2013 with six members making up the Holy Synod. The band come with a high pace, high tempo list of contemporary , traditional and original songs played in their high energy style with influences including The Pogues, Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s to name a few. Over the years The Cardinal Sins have enjoyed success at home which saw the band release their debut EP, release several music videos, play at various festivals in Europe as well as becoming a regular on the Irish festival circuit. 2016 saw their first ambitious tour, outside Ireland, of Italy taking in Milan, Bologna, Parma, Cuneo and Pesaro. The same year also saw concerts in Copenhagen along with trips to Germany to co-headline the Volmarstein Folk Festival with Irish music legends De Danann. Last year saw The Cardinal Sins concentrate on the Irish festival circuit and to start to write some original material that will see the light as an EP later this year. The lead single to this EP “’Straight Left Right Hook’ is out now and available on iTunes and Google.

Cardinal Sins left to right: Trisha Mulraney- Fiddle / Whistles * Stephen Murphy- Bass / Vocals * Wayne Brereton- Lead Vocals / Acoustic Guitar / Electric Guitar * John Tobin- Banjo / Mandolin / Vocals * Reece Wardrop- Drums / Percussion * Darren Cahill- Accordion / Vocals.

The song itself is a riotous romp pitched somewhere between the simple Irish folk of our childhoods and uplifting pounding fist in the air punky rock music. A tonne of passion and plenty of pride The Cardinal Sins have nailed it here and we look forward to hearing that EP when it lands. In the spirit of the Dropkick Murphys ‘Shipping Up’ being played at every rugby match everywhere The Cardinal Sins have adopted their very own sports star in local Portalington MMA fighter Philip ‘the honey badger‘ Mulpeter and Straight Left Right Hook has become his walk on tune. Its all a bit rough for this gentle soul but you can check out this up and coming Irish fighter here

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EP REVIEW: THE GRINNING BARRETTS- ‘The St. Padraig’s’ (2018)

 Beer and Whisky fuelled bagpipe Celtic punk rock from Vancouver Island 5 piece The Grinning Barretts who deliver a range of originals from floor stompin’, table poundin’ trad Irish folk, to catchy, ‘waketheFup’ Irish punk anthems!

The Grinning Barretts hail from the town of Ladysmith on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The area was renowned for coal mining in the early decades of the twentieth century. As would seem to be the way with industrial workers it is coal-miners who have been traditionally the most militant and the area was famed for it’s militancy with many strikes and unrest as the areas miners battled the mine owners in an area at the time thought to be the most dangerous in the entire world. As around the world the bosses realised it is cheaper to import coal dug by children and modern day slaves and so the mines eventually closed but the ides that were forged miles underground by those miners still live on in the closely knit town where Pamela Anderson was born! The band formed in 2015 and after going through several line up changes have finally settled upon a steady line up. The St. Padraigs EP saw the light of day on St. Patrick’s Day just passed and the Bhoys already have a follow up release planned any day soon and a third release for later in the year. Out of the ashes of local ska bands The Kiltlifters and Street Prophets Union, Scot and Pat decided after a decade away from playing live music that the time was ripe and the area was in need of a kick-arse Celtic-Punk band so after roping in recruits from the local Pacific Gael Pipes and Drums corp. as well as from the local rock scene The Grinning Barretts hit the stages around Ladysmith and the rest is history!

The Grinning Barrettts left to right: Jeremy Fiddy- Drums * Bern Kinnear- Bass * Aaron Bergen- Bagpipes/Whistles * Dylan Wickham- Guitar/Banjo/Vocals * Pat Westmacott- Guitar/Mandolin/Vocals * Kevin Dougan- Bagpipes/Whistles

The EP begins with the pounding blue-collar working class anthem ‘Plutocrass’ and it’s hard and fast bagpipe punk from the get go. The sound is in the same vein as Yank bands Of Doom and Alternative Ulster. Yer basic standard catchy as hell punk rock played with superb bagpipes as an integral part of the music rather than just tacked on as an afterthought. The band call it “A shot at the rich bastards who own news outlets, and pay them to lie so they can get richer.”  

“Billionaires paying millionaires to tell the middle class to blame the poor
To keep them from our guillotines, torches and pitchforks
Billionaires paying millionaires to lie right thru their teeth
Filling empty heads with ignorance to justify their greed”

I likes it a lot! ‘W&B’ carries on in the same vein with a story of friendship but told in The Grinning Barretts own indeterminable way

“When the pot is getting hotter or you’re only treading water
I’ll be a life boat and ferry you home
Fuck your fair-weather friends I’ll be there till the end
Drinking whisky and pissing on their bones”

It’s great stuff and again catchy as hell and with a real foot slappin’ beat to it. There are no namby-pamby lyrics or feelings here just words as normal working folk would speak them. This is NOT a safe space!! Pat’s growl fits the bill and the chugging guitar accompanies the pipes perfectly here. Next is ‘Kudatah’ and there’s the slightest ever tinge of a ska beat going on. Obviously these guys can’t leave it all behind. It works as well as it so often does in Celtic-Punk.

The only Celtic instrument on display are the pipes but these Grinning Barretts are definitely an Celtic-Punk band. The use of the pipes is so entwined with the music how could they be anything else. Check out their full concert video at the end of the review for further proof. Another great example is their first cover with ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’ as it’s never been played before. Something about this traditional Scots folk ballad just lends itself to Celtic-Punk and quite a few bands have covered it but The Grinning Barretts give it the full on punk rock treatment. They follow this up with a visit to Ireland and another, perhaps overdone, Celtic-punk standard with ‘Black Velvet Band’. The Bhoys adapt it to their own home and give it plenty of oompf and you may suspect a ballad is coming till the cobwebs are well and truly blown away and the song almost veers into metal but its the unmistakable tune of the original that shines through. We coming up to the final bend and its time for my favourite song and its an anthem dedicated to workers everywhere. A union song that would give The Dropkick Murphys a run for their money! ‘UFS’ is not just a union song though its a Join Your Union song. I come from a long line of militant trade unionists myself so love the sentiments here. If only we as workers understood our power is when we are together and that being in a union is a necessity these days. When you buy home insurance you don’t think your house is going to burn down and the same with joining the union you may think the bosses will always treat you fairly but history says your wrong. Do as The Grinning Beggars say and join a trade union today. Beers and cheers to Brooks Jamison for the superb guitar solo who delivered the goods in only three takes and asked only for beers for the pleasure. Finally The St Padraig’s EP ends with ‘To Your Name’. It’s the longest song here due mainly in part to Aaron Bergen’s fantastic bagpipe solo at the end of a classy punk rock number about always remembering you lost friends and comrades. 

“To your name, we raise a glass
To the miles that we walked together”

As I stated these are words from the heart and from the street not the coddled university’s where the pampered offspring of the middle classes turn their fury away from the real enemies and onto the working class who have never profited from anything but have always lost everything.

All together we have seven songs with five originals and some novel takes on a couple of standards that you will never have heard played like that! Not a band for the faint hearted folkie but if you love your Celtic-Punk played with passion and pride in their class and their music then this EP is for you. The Grinning Barretts will drink your beer, and you will like it.

(listen to the whole of The St. Padraigs EP below on the Bandcamp link)

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(full concert from last year at Logans in Victoria B.C. and as they say “Apologies for poor sound and dark lightning but it is a punk bar”)

ALBUM REVIEW: BASTARD BEARDED IRISHMEN- ‘Drinkin’ To The Dead’ (2018)

Pittsburgh celtic-rockers the Bastard Bearded Irishmen deliver an original, ferocious blend of traditional and contemporary Celtic music, mixed with punk, gypsy and high-energy rock n’ roll on their third album out this week.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen are one of the hardest working bands ON the Irish-American celtic-rock scene and their hard work has paid off with the band now known right across the States and even beyond. Formed back in 2008 the band celebrate ten years together with the release of their third studio album, Drinkin’ To The Dead. Originally planned as a one off tribute for a friend’s funeral, George H. Evans IV, a friend of the band and guitarist who died in a car accident in 2004. George was a big Irish-American guy who loved the Dropkick Murphys and during that one-off show Jimmy Bastard and Ben Jaber decided their passion for Irish music needed a further outlet so after recruiting a couple more local guys and gaining a rather nice sponsorship deal from Jameson’s Irish whiskey the Bastard Bearded Irishmen were born.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen left to right: Jimmy Bastard- Lead Vocals, Acoustic/Electric Guitar, Banjo *  Paul Dvorchak- Fiddle * Danny Rectenwald- Mandolin, Banjo, Vocals * Ryan Warmbrodt- Rhythm Guitar * Dan Stocker- Drums/Percussion * Ben Jaber- Bass, Vocals (Ben has since left amicably and the new Bastard bassist is Sean-Paul Williams)

This is the band’s third album behind their self-titled debut of 2011 and ‘Rise Of The Bastard’ in 2014. That debut trod the well worn path of mostly auld Irish standards and though an excellent album it only left their fans wanting to hear more of their own stuff. They got their wish with Rise Of The… which was an album of solid self penned songs with just three covers chucked in. One of the most pleasing things about the Bastards was their ability to switch from Irish punk to folky trad and though on their new album the rougher edges have been smoothed down this ability still shines through.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen hail from Pennsylvania’s second largest city Pittsburgh located in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The city is known as ‘The Steel City’ due to its history of steel production and way back in the 1830’s, many Welsh people from the Merthyr steelworks immigrated to the city following the aftermath of the Merthyr Rising. By the 1840’s, Pittsburgh was one of the largest cities west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Great Fire of Pittsburgh destroyed over a thousand buildings in 1845 and the city was rebuilt by Irish immigrants who had arrived in the area escaping The Great Hunger back home. By the end of the century Pittsburgh’s 1,000 factories were consuming 22 million coal bushels yearly with coal mining and iron manufacturing attracting waves of European immigrants to the area, increasingly from southern and eastern Europe, and including many Catholics and Jews fleeing injustice and poverty in their homelands. Today the Irish still number 16% of the cities population and the Saint Patrick’s Day parade is second only to New York in the whole of the USA.

(the Bastard Bearded Irishmen bhoys discuss their upcoming 2018 album, Drinkin’ to the Dead and the evolution of the group)

So coming from an area with a rich working class history and confident in it’s Irishness the Bastard Bearded Irishmen found much work around the city playing to their fellow Irish-Americans but as has been said hard work and solid graft has seen them voted ‘Best Rock Band in Pittsburgh’ for four years in a row, ‘Best Bar Band’ twice, opening for the Dropkick Murphy’s and Stiff Little Fingers and a whole host of major folk and rock bands while, of course, playing just about every decent Irish music festival including last years mega Shamrockfest. Their third album Drinkin’ To The Dead came out on that most special of days for sc-fi fans, May the 4th, kicks off with ‘Salutations, Memoirs, Denouements’ which was their first single from the album released last February. They seem to have lost none of their bite since 2014’s Rise Of The Bastard and despite promising to have moved away from the Irish punk of the first two album’s I can tell you there’s plenty here to keep fans old and new very happy indeed. As is the way the opener is always one of the strongest songs and no different here with Jimmy Bastard belting out the lyrics about remembering close lost friends and comrades.

” But through the tears (we arise) as we honour the lives of the ones we left behind”

Fast and furious and tuneful with great fiddle work its a brilliant way to start things and I can tell I’m in for a good time here! Drinkin’ To The Dead also sees mando player Danny Rectenwald step up to the plate vocals wise and him and take the lead on a handful of songs here that gives some nice balance to Jimmy.

So if the opener made me think we were in for more of the same ‘No Problems, No Drama’ took me by surprise with its combination of celtic, reggae, klezmer and eastern European tunes all bashing up against each other. At over six minutes long it’s a bit risky but the risk was worth it as the lads take time to build up the song layering each others instruments on top of each other and building the song up to a climax. Maybe not one for live shows but it certainly works here and shows that there is a lot more to the Bastards than drinking songs… though they are pretty fecking good at them too as in next track ‘Let’s Have A Party’. It’s straight up Irish folk-punk though perhaps with just a tinge of country and again Paul’s fiddle is on fire as the band bash through the song as quickly as they can.

It may be overplayed as hell and appeared on every Celtic-Punk band’s play list but lets face it you can’t beat ‘Dirty Old Town’ can you. We have gone into this song so many times here but Ewan MacColl’s song is played so often for a reason and that is because it is such an amazing song. The Bastards play it Dubliners style. Nice and slow with Jimmy showing he’s got a decent set of lungs on him and the band with a nicely subdued backing but then half way through they kick it off and bring it in fast as yer like. Ewan was a bit touchy about this song especially about how Shane MacGowan sang it (apparently putting the emphasis in the wrong place) but sure wouldn’t he happy hearing it still blaring away sixty-nine years after he wrote it. Next up is a solid Irish folk instrumental ‘Harvest’ before the gypsy-punk of  ‘Ya, Ya, Ya’ begins with the familiar sound of a can of beer opening! It’s not all as expected and they can still bring out a few surprises and ‘Moscato’ is a nicely understated gentle tune dedicated to the delights of drinking wine. Just Jimmy’s voice, acoustic guitar, bass and mandolin lead us into another nice drinking song but more in keeping with the Irish tradition. The bittersweet tale of ‘Another Bottle Of Booze’ of realising what the stuff does to you but not be able, or wanting, to stop. A slow song but played tough and a real foot stomper. This is the quieter section of the album and ‘Green Side Of The Hill’ may start off as a ballad before incorporating reggae and gypsy into it. Great words too reinforcing what I have always said about them that their story-telling is an integral part of what they do. Eventually the song bursts out at you and the quiet section is no more and the band whip through the ending. The song is another long one at five and half minutes and never drags and the extra length of some of the songs on Drinkin’ With The Dead is evidence of a maturity that the band have faith in themselves to deliver songs that keep the listeners interest. ‘Drunken’ Drinkin’ is about being drunk and still drinking and the song again doesn’t stick to the Celtic-Punk blueprint and neither does it stick to just keeping it fast either.

We have a lovely Irish folk tune next in ‘Slip (the) Jig’ and a song that’s been around a couple of years now, ‘Pirates Of Three Rivers’ that is classic Celtic-Punk territory. The three rivers, the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio, converge in the city and Pittsburgh owes its existence to them.

We coming up towards the end and ‘What A Life That Would Be’ is a song that maybe shouldn’t work but by hell it does. Shift changes all over the shop and packed with influences from all over the place it on the face of it is all over the place but yeah it still gets you there! Down to the last two songs and they are both called ‘Drinkin’ With The Dead’ and as Jimmy Bastard says

“It’s kind of funny because the name of the album has been around for two years, we just had to get it done. And on the same day Danny said he wrote a song called ‘Drinkin’ to the Dead’ (the second version), I told him I wrote one, too. We thought we couldn’t have two song called ‘Drinkin’ to the Dead’ on the album, but then thought, ‘Yes we can. We can do whatever we want.’”

‘Drinkin’ To The Dead (Prelude)’ is a sad but glorious, thought provoking piano driven ballad dedicated to the friends they have lost. Danny’s voice achingly recalls loved ones.

“Raise a glass to tomorrow and the past
to the ones that we love
down here or above
for this may or may not be the last time we can.”

They follow it up with the second version of ‘Drinkin’ To The Dead’. At near eight minutes long you can bet your arse it’s an epic and rousing way to bring the curtain down on things. Solidly based on Irish folk the words speak of respecting the dead and moving on with your life and making those you loved proud of you. We Irish are obsessed with death though I have always found in a good way. A damn fine way to end things.

Bastard Bearded irishmen logo.jpg

As a band whose whole existence was to commemorate fallen friends and family Drinkin’ With The Dead is a more than just a couple of steps forward for the band. Proof if it was needed that Irish-American music is both inventive and innovative and willing to push the boundaries of what we think of as Irish music. Bastard Bearded Irishmen have stepped it up a notch and though still well grounded in celtic-punk the extra touches they have introduced will I am sure gain them recognition and friends far beyond our narrow little scene and Good Luck to them while they do it!

Buy Drinkin’ With The Dead

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(A mini-documentary on the Pittsburgh based band, Bastard Bearded Irishmen. Created as a senior class project by Rachael Hower. Recorded September 2014-February 2015)

ALBUM REVIEW: MR. IRISH BASTARD- ‘The Desire For Revenge’ (2018)

Mr. Irish Bastard blend the drink infused energy of pure Irish folk with punk rock guitars and a bottle full of attitude. They have toured excessively, played with the Pogues and have graced stages from Tokyo all the way to Kiev.

The beginning of a band are usually quite ordinary and when in 2006 Mr. Irish Bastard set out to shake the world all their band members could hardly all fit on the stages they played on! Today, three studio albums and a good 700 gigs later, including tours of China, Japan, and alongside such celtic-punk giants as The Pogues, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and The Levellers, Mr. Irish Bastard have become an internationally renowned band and not just within the celtic/folk-punk scene.

The German Celtic punk giants, Mr. Irish Bastard, spring into 2018 with the release of their latest studio album The Desire For Revenge released on Reedo Records. This year so far has been extremely busy on the Celtic punk scene with many bands releasing new materials just before Paddy’s Day. It’s been tough keeping up with all that’s going on but have to say generally the quality of material coming out have been very good and Mr. Irish Bastard have landed us with another good one. The Desire for Revenge comes three years after the bands last album release and it kicks off with a (pre) Christmas themed tune ‘Black Eye Friday’. A high tempo opener paying homage to the traditional festive “bash”. This leads into ‘Oliver Cromwell’s Head’, a song which takes no explanation. This song pulls no punches in the hatred a lot of Irish have for the Cromwell following the cruelty he inflicted on our ancestors.

“and we’ll chop off his head and kill him twice just to make sure he’s blood dead, and we’ll dance around a burning spike around Oliver Cromwell’s head”

‘Darlinka’ (Darling Karlinka) has a very catchy Gypsy Folk beat. This one wouldn’t be out of place on a Gogol Bordello album. In total there are a total of 12 songs on the new album with a few like ‘Mike Malloy’ and ‘Poor Irish Billy’ standing out tunes. It also contains a cover of Cyndi Lauper single ‘Time after Time’. An unusual choice to cover but have to say it works well.

Mr. Irish Bastard are one of the stand out Celtic punk bands on the European stage and with the latest album it is easy to see why. The eight piece outfit continue to consistently churn out top notch material allowing them to go from strength to strength. Long may it continue. If you like your celtic punk fused in whiskey, banjo, mandolin and tin whistle then get your hand on The Desire for Revenge.

The Desire For Revenge was recorded by  Mr. Irish Bastard, Gran.E.Smith on mandolin, banjo and  bouzouki), Beouf Strongenuff on bass and drummer Ivo K’Nivo, guitarists P and Moe Leicester, BB on the accordion and tin whistle expert Kate. A new dimension in sound is added by the violinists Laura Zimmermann and Mona Kaczmarczyk. As Mr. Irish Bastard explains

“The violin is a new timbre in our sound and carries emotions that have not played any obvious roles with us, we celebrate and define our previous history as a band on the new album. At the same time, we also refine our sound, because only those who change will ultimately remain true and remain honest with their listeners. In short, as in any folk interpretation, longings all over the world remain the same. People all need the same thing, friends, something to drink and eat, love. And some now and then also lust for revenge, retribution, guilt and atonement. ‘The Desire For Revenge’ could be their record”

Buy The Desire For Revenge

Amazon  GreenHellRecords  MacSlonsIrishShop

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