EP REVIEW: SINFUL MAGGIE- ‘Demo EP’ (2016)

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Four piece accordion punk rock’n’roll out of Dorset…yarr!

Sinful Maggie

Here we go again. I say that as we have been down this road many a time over the last few years I can tell you! I refer of course to that hot-bed of celtic-punk the South coast around Devon, Dorset and Cornwall throwing up yet another marvellous young band for us to slap our thighs and tap our toes to here at London Celtic Punks. Not sure what they are putting in the water down there but give me a pint of it! You would think that such a small scene such as ours would mean that any new bands would come to our attention straight away but still they occasionally slip us by and if not for fellow Dorseter’s Black Water County then Sinful Maggie they may still have sailed past unbeknown as well.

First things first though the band see themselves as a punk band and nothing else as Deano, Sinful Maggie drummer, said in conversation to me

“we try and avoid the Celtic punk ‘banner’ if you like. Really we see ourselves more as a punk band that opted for an accordion instead of another guitar. We’re not really influenced by folk or anything like that so we try and avoid it so people aren’t misled”

Still what ever label they want to attach themselves, or none, they are welcome into our little world any time they fancy it… just let us know!

Sinful Maggie

Formed back in 2014 and based in the lovely seaside town of Bournemouth (the nicest beach I’ve ever been to!) in Dorset, Sinful Maggie come from a tradition of music as well as an attitude unique to those part’s of England and Cornwall. In Georgian times, the entire Dorset coast was a smuggling hot-spot and virtually completely lawless and those times and that attitude is still be celebrated as ever in song.

(most of Sinful Maggies set at Chaplin’s Cellar Bar, Boscombe July 2016)
1. Take Out The Sun 2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Prowess 3. Old Dog, New Tricks 4. Mr Know It All 5. Long Walk Home 6. St Mary (Rancid) 7. Shitfaced 8. Everyone I Need 9. Rebel Without A Cause 10. Did You Have A Nice Life Without Me? (Cock Sparrer)

Coming at you definitely on the more punkier side of the fence the EP begins with ‘Lost and Long Forgotten’ and sure enough from the very start its fast and furious punk rock but with the superb addition of the accordion. More than ably played by the wonderfully named Briony Ireland who also played in the now defunct Dorset band The Devil’s Rejects who raised the flag for celtic-punk in Dorset and though they gigged relentlessly around the South-coast never did get a fair crack of the whip around the country. This is something that Sinful Maggie are hoping to change and they are already looking for gig’s in London and further afield. Next up is ‘Nature of Man’ and the highlight of the EP for me. Still got the same punky attitude of the opener and slower without being slow. Great vocals from Charlie that are both clear and shouty and fit a song that bursts between pop-punk, ska and Rancid’ish’ punk but all the time with that great accordion out front. The EP ends with ‘Shitfaced’ and as you’d expect from the title its the most raucous of the three and an ode to our favourite subject here and they certainly don’t let us down. This is the one at gig’s that gets people onto their feet I’d bet. Absolutely superb. Again all the elements are there and Sinful Maggie manage to do it all without aping anyone else or harking back to the past.

Sinful

Three songs and just over ten minutes of solid as feck hardcore folk-punk! The EP is a wee bit rough’n’ready and was recorded to give away to fans clambering for something to listen to. All the songs will be re-recorded and are set to feature on the bands forthcoming album later in the year. Sinful Maggie are a extremely welcome addition to the scene whatever it’s called! The EP is free to download so there is no reason at all not to take a chance and get it and then keep an eye on Sinful Maggie they may be popping up in a town near you very very soon.

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  • learn a bit more about the fascinating subject of smuggling over at Dorset Smugglers here.

“A CURSE UPON YOU OLIVER CROMWELL…”- PROTEST THE LONDON CROMWELL CELEBRATION

Every year there is a celebration of the life and achievements of the tyrant Oliver Cromwell here in London. This year, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, we will be taking part in a demonstration to say that Oliver Cromwell was a genocidal religious fanatic and butcher of the innocent. A vicious war criminal, a bigot and a man guilty of the worst ethnic cleansing and sex trafficking of unknown amounts of Irish women and children. May his history be re-written and his crimes be writ large for all to see and to remember for all time.

Join us by his statue right next to the Houses Of Parliament (Westminster tube is just a couple of minutes walk) at 1-30pm on Saturday 3rd September and bring flags, banners and placards. A special guest known to many of you will be performing!!

Protest Cromwell

By Liam Riordan

Cromwell and Irish Slavery

The term ‘slavery’ is rarely associated with the white race, although during the 1600’s this was the most significant portion of the market. More specifically, the Irish were targeted the most and the fact that the population of Ireland fell by 850,000 in the space of one decade highlights just how brutal things were.

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the execution of Cromwell’s dead body

Oliver Cromwell was one of the main reasons why the situation got to this point. His fanatical anti-Catholic views meant that any action he took over the Irish was brutal to say the least and as well as utilising the conquest of Ireland for religious and political means, he was bidding to cleanse the country of Catholics. In achieving this, selling the Irish off as slaves was one of his biggest weapons, but he also made sure life was as difficult as possible for those that did stay by burning off their crops, removing them from their land and sending them to Connacht. Anyone who did not agree with such policies were to be dealt with in the harshest means possible and in most cases, this either resulted in death or being sold to the West Indies as a slave. The fact that the drop in population was so drastic highlights how successful he was with these tactics. Cromwell is most notorious for the victims he burnt alive in St. Peters church in Drogheda, and the civilian and military massacres there, but also the civilian massacres at Wexford. We also have to remember he was responsible for ethnic cleaning that resulted in 50% of the population dying or sold off as slaves in the ten years after his invasion. In 1641, Ireland’s population was 1,466,000 and in 1652, 616,000. According to Sir William Petty (who served Cromwell in Ireland), 850,000 were wasted by the sword, plague, deliberate crop burning, hardship and banishment during the Irish catholic ethnic cleansing between 1641-1652

The main question that is generally posed at this point is why Irish slaves were in demand, when the African slavery market had been the primary ‘sector’, so to speak, for so many years. The answer was simple; money. Even though one could argue that the African’s were much more suited to working in the hot climates of the Caribbean, they still had to be purchased. The Irish on the other hand simply had to be caught or sentenced for transportation and it was therefore much more cost effective. Instead, they were captured before a payment was collected at their destination. The African’s on the other hand usually required two sets of payment, one for the initial purchase and the second for their next sale. Considering the fact that this could bring the total cost of an African slave up to £50, as opposed to the £5 that was generally demanded for white slaves, there was certainly reasoning behind the rise of this ‘sector’. It also meant that Cromwell was well and truly encouraged to adapt his harsh approach, with demand for white slaves clearly evident.

Cromwell’s Influence

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The fact that Cromwell was the mastermind of the vast majority of advances that Britain made into Ireland obviously holds a lot of significance. One of the most notable sieges of Cromwell’s career was the Battle of Drogheda, which resulted in approximately 3,000 Irish being killed. Unfortunately, this was just the start of the ruthlessness and any men that were not killed, were immediately sold to planters in the Barbados. Things were only to get worse though and it’s understood that one of his most ‘fruitful’ achievements during this time was selling 25,000 captured Irish to planters in St. Kitt in 1650. However, most will remember is his brutal disregard for children and it’s thought that through the 1650s he orchestrated the sale of over 100,000 Irish children, some as young as 10, to sell to the Americas. Unsurprisingly, there was a deep religious motive behind this and all of these children were from Catholic families – something that we have already established that Cromwell detested.

While many are under the belief that a lot of Cromwell’s military decision-making was to attempt to gain an upper political hand for Parliament, there are large parts that still revolved purely around white slavery. One of the main reasons he commissioned wars against Holland in 1651 was to monopolize the industry, as Britain were mainly competing with the Dutch. The seizure of Jamaica from Spain in 1655 was performed just as strategically and meant that the English slave trade could become dominant in Jamaica from this point onwards.

Ethnic Cleansing Of Ireland

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However, the biggest move of all concerning white slavery came on 14 August 1652 – the start of Cromwell’s Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland.

Cromwell’s first task was to sell 12,000 Irish prisoners to Barbados although incredibly, this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Upon Cromwell’s ‘To hell or Connaught’ proclamation, the Irish were issued a horrific ultimatum. On 1 May 1654 they were told that they would have to surrender and move to the west of the Shannon, or face the alternative of being sent to the West Indies. The fact that the former was nothing like habitable meant that Irish landowners were put in an impossible situation and many decided to ignore the orders until they were forced to do otherwise.

The reason why Cromwell had opted for such ruthless tactics was because of the value of the Irish land. Soldiers had been told that they would be rewarded with land for their services to the army, while Cromwell had made similar promises to investors who had ultimately funded his exploits in Ireland. Therefore, the country’s failure to respond to his proclamation meant that he must respond in even sterner form. A law was passed on 26 June 1657 declaring that anyone who refused to relocate to the specified location would be sent to the Americas, while anyone who had already banished but was planning on returning would be threatened with death.

Cromwell’s White Slavery Legacy

The above highlights how deep the white slavery problem was becoming, although there’s no doubt that it was the Irish who were mainly affected. Records suggest that Cromwell was behind the sale of approximately 100,000 Irish people including 52,000 women and children, to Barbados and Virginia. It was proving to be a lucrative market for Cromwell to dabble in, but his tenure was absolutely loathed by Ireland. As such, upon his death in 1660, there was great relief – even though the problem of white slavery was certainly not over. In fact, it wasn’t until 1839 when a resolution was sought, and this was only when Britain decided to end slavery once and for all. However, few would disagree that Cromwell’s policies were at the pinnacle of white slavery and this is why his legacy is intensely defended by the English establishment and continues to be reviled by the Irish, Scottish and Catholic communities.

Have you ever walked the lonesome hills
And heard the curlews cry
Or seen the raven black as night
Upon a windswept sky
To walk the purple heather
And hear the westwind cry
To know that’s where the rapparee must die

Since Cromwell pushed us westward
To live our lowly lives
There’s some of us have deemed to fight
From Tipperary mountains high
Noble men with wills of iron
Who are not afraid to die
Who’ll fight with gaelic honour held on high

A curse upon you Oliver Cromwell
You who raped our Motherland
I hope you’re rotting down in hell
For the horrors that you sent
To our misfortunate forefathers
Whom you robbed of their birthright
“To hell or Connaught” may you burn in hell tonight

Of one such man I’d like to speak
A rapparee by name and deed
His family dispossessed and slaughtered
They put a price upon his head
His name is know in song and story
His deeds are legends still
And murdered for blood money
Was young Ned of the hill

You have robbed our homes and fortunes
Even drove us from our land
You tried to break our spirit
But you’ll never understand
The love of dear old Ireland
That will forge and iron will
As long as there are gallant men
Like young Ned of the hill

CundeezVegBarColour (2)

After the demonstration we will of course adjourn to a nearby hostelry for a medicinal or two and then head off to the official aftershow at The Veg Bar in Brixton. A celebration of Irish and Scottish culture with The Cundeez coming down to play their debut London show all the way from Dundee with firm celtic-punk favourites Black Water County also on the bill supported by Kilburn Bomb Squad, the legendary Comrade X and new boys Dissent. No tickets its first in first served fiver on the door. Facebook event page here.

See you at Parliament!

ALBUM REVIEW: THE Пауки (THE PAUKI)- ‘La Isla Del Muerto’ (2016)

Russian beer-core legends have been around for over 20 years and as strong as ever giving us fast HC influenced celtic-punk with beer, pirates and a Russian mentality!

Pauki3

One of the highlights of the last few years has been the emergence of Russia as a celtic-punk powerhouse within the scene. Middle Class Bastards have blown us away with everything they have done (here) and the recent Tribute To The Pogues compilation album (here) showcased exactly what Russia and some of the other neighbouring ex-Soviet Union countries have to offer. From beginning to end it was simply magnificent and is still available as a free download. One of the common themes is that most celtic-punk bands veer a line that takes in The Dubliners, The Clash and The Pogues while a lot of the Russian /eastern Europe bands take a different route that includes Scots rather than Irish folk music and hardcore punk like UK82 bands like The Exploited or GBH.

Pauki2

The Pauki (left to right): Miguel Deviakovich – guitar, back voc * Boris Britva – guitar, back voc * Sasha Tankovich – vocal, flute * Alexey Kozlovskiy – bagpipe, back voc * Vetal “Basillo” Baranoff – bass, back voc * Ivan Laptev – drums

With all the songs sung in Russian its not going to be easy to do a review but will try my best and at least introduce you to a band that deserves to be heard across the world. The Pauki (translates as the much less interesting The Spiders) hail from Russia’s second-largest city after Moscow, St Petersburg. It is said to be the most westernized city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital so all forms of music are popular there and to that we can now add our own as well. The Pauki began playing in September 1991 so are one of the longest running celtic punk bands in existence, let alone Russia, so its about time they had a bit of coverage outside their own country.

Their seems a very clear sea-faring theme throughout the album with the opening track ‘Мы Никто’ beginning with the sound of the ocean before bagpipes wail in followed by electric guitars and you may think its heading into celtic-rock territory but then a thundering bass and all of a sudden the song takes off with the band all singing along before Sasha’s main vocals kick in and wrap around the song perfectly. Comparisons to Middle Class Bastards can’t be helped but hey they are fecking brilliant so whats it matter. ‘Doomsday’ is straight up punk and stands up well for it while the bagpipes are back for ‘Маски’ a really catchy tune and one of the album highlights. ‘Живой’ is an old song re-recorded and is fast as hell with Exploited style rapid drumming driving it along. Another catchy as hell one in ‘Поганый Drug’ follows and again is straight up bagpipe punk. Another re-recorded song next in ‘Я Вижу’ and the bagpipes are loud and proud. Expertly played and clear as day in the excellent mix. ‘Морская Задорная’ has the flute leading and easily makes the song the most ‘traditional’ celtic-punk song on the album with a famous Irish ‘air’ dotted throughout the song. The gang vocals are a great touch and nowhere better than on ‘Die Die’. ‘Тортуга Ждёт’ begins as a sea shanty before the chugging guitar and pipes and more gang vocals join in. Another top song on this album. We are nearing the end and having listened a lot to this in the car with the sound right up and the window down ‘Куда Девался Рай?’ came as a right shock. Shouty vocals and acoustic instruments and a sort of calypso thing going on. Still great just unusual! Well if that was a shock then ‘Kivema (12345 Remix)’ nearly made me hit a tree! Bloody techno I tells you. I’m not a fan as you can probably imagine but as its stuck on the end as a bit of a piss take then I can except it. A dance beat over the band shouting away with the occasional burst of guitar its certainly a novel way to end a celtic-punk album!

The title of the album is Isla de Muerta, in English ‘Island of the Dead’. Famous now for being the famed mysterious phantom isle in the Caribbean Jack Sparrow wanted to find in Pirates Of The Caribbean. No map marked the way so the treasure of Hernán Cortés remains to be found by whatever buccaneer or adventurer would like to claim it. Super happy I came across this album. Like most of you out there I’m coming into celtic-punk with a love of both folk And punk so sometimes I love to hear something with a bit harder tougher edge and I certainly got that from The Pauki.

Pauki1

Eleven tracks, all written by the band, that comes in at thirty four minutes with a couple of re-recorded old songs and that techno mix! The Pauki take the bagpipe punk of bands like the Real McKenzies and take it to the next level. The added elements of Russian and hardcore punk definitely give them something extra and mark The Pauki as a band to follow. I really loved this album and goes to show that you can have a bit too much folk in your life sometimes.

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE SHAMBOLICS- ‘Riot On Race Day’ (2016)

“In South Australia I was born, heave away, haul away In South Australia, ’round Cape Horn, we’re bound for South Australia”

…Ten original songs from rollickin’ celtic punk to country and spaghetti western…and beyond!

Shambolics

One of the biggest dangers of doing a site like this is that there are only so many ways you can describe something and if that something is something that you love it is near impossible to hold back and not go overboard about it! Now regular readers will know that when it comes to Australian celtic-punk we turn into a blubbering mess. Well if that gets on your nerves then skip this review as it is yet another fantastic album release from down under that we are going to rave on and on and on about!

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Hot on the heels of the review of the new fellow Aussies Rumjacks album earlier in the week itss the new long player from Shambolics (there’s no The!) who hail from Adelaide which is the capital city of South Australia and they play good auld fashioned Poguesy style Irish celt’n’roll tunes. Formed out of the ashes of a previous celtic-punk band called The Gartloney Rats they featured on these pages once before back in June, 2014 when we reviewed their debut EP (here) titled ‘Pogue Mahone’ (in gaelic ‘póg mo thóin’)  which is, of course, the Irish for Kiss my Arse and also the name The Pogues began with till the Brit media realised what it meant and made them change it! The Pogues reference fits Shambolics well as almost uniquely, to me anyway, they adhere to a much more folkier sound then their Australian celtic-punk counterparts. Most Aussie bands you would generally call punk rather than folk so Shambolics stand pretty much alone doing what they do and they are doing it as well as anyone else across the globe. A trio consisting of an Irishman, an Englishman and a Russian you would hardly tell there’s no drummer either.

Shambolics

Jimmy on Banjo (Irish) * Alan on Guitar (English) * Paul on Accordion (Russian)

The album kicks off with the title song ‘Riot On Race Day’ and you get a feel for The Shambolics and what they are about from the first few seconds.

This is good time music for jigging about and going off on one after a few jars in the pub. Sure it’s folk but the kind of folk that would have the purists running away from and the punk rockers running to!

“There’s a riot on race day the Shambos beat them all
Played all day and never did stall
Music started they couldn’t stand still
There’s a riot on race day way down at Morphettville”

The second track is ‘Banshee’ and my favourite on the album. As catchy as feck and a real good tune with a whole host of instruments jumping out of you. Now gotta add that the production is here is absolutely spot on. All them instruments sound perfect and compliment each other so well done to Gavin O’Loghlen and the Bhoys for that.

‘Hell On Wheels’ slows it right down showing a different side to Shambolics and reminds me of Hell’s Ditch Pogues with a real cowboy banjo driving the song along. We are back with another slower song next with ‘Grace Of God’ and a word here for Alan’s vocals that portray both the funnier side of Shambolics as well as those songs more from the other side of the tracks. To be sure its not all piss taking and when they need to pull out a serious one his voice portrays perfectly with his deep raspy cigarette laden Irish accent doing a great job altogether.

“So with pockets full of holes, as are my worn out shoes
I feel the cobbled stones along the lanes
As I fall into a bar, and I hear a poor man singing
I drink my beer and share the poor man’s shame”

That Hell’s Ditch banjo is back with ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ and again the band nail it and chase that with ‘Stand Me Up’ that begin’s with one of my favourite instruments in celtic-punk the harmonica. A slight rock’n’roll flavour to this reminding me again of Shane with The Popes this time. Again a classic already and a song I’ll still playing in the months to come. ‘Go Wan Go Wan Go Wan!’ takes me back to summer holidays and slave labour on a farm in south Tipperary during the school holidays where your only reward would be a coke and crisps in the evening in a pub full of men talking about the price of milk.

“Ger Up the Yard, Ger Up the Yard, Smell of Hay about yer Person”

‘World Away’ slows again and you know I could see the appeal of Shambolics from 8-80 here. That sort of downtrodden thing that the Irish sometimes have in song fits in great here when placed up against some of the more upbeat and jolly songs. After all as much as we love those songs where we can leap around like maniacs and shout ourselves silly we also need songs where we can hold our loved ones and strangers and tell the word who we are while raising our glasses high.

“Travel the world, I was told, would make me a man
All the four corners, I’ve sailed and come back again
Always reminding myself wherever I roam
Someday my journey will soon, be calling me home”

‘Truck Of Lurve’ is classic Shambolics with some utterly hilarious bits within it and then finally Riot On Race Day comes to an end with the superbly fantastic ‘Shambo Blessing (Good Luck to you)’.

“May the road rise up to meet ya, may the wind be at your back
May the horse that has yer money be the first around the track
May the love you have inside ya never wither never die
May you live long and forever have a twinkle in your eye
So good luck to you
Good luck to you”

I think sometimes it would be easy to judge The Shambolics as a sort of jokey band thanks to the cartoon record sleeves (done by regular Shambolics collaborator Mark Mathieson)  and aye admittedly sometimes jokey lyrics but sometimes they can pull a song like this out of their ass and it all makes perfect sense.

“May your pint glass never empty, and yer pockets always full
May you never get a knock back, cos you know she never will
May you wander free and easy, and you never have to hide
And you wake up in the morning to a rasher and a ride
So good luck to you
Good luck to you”

So their you have it. Ten original tracks that will certainly get the blood racing that were all written by Alan and Jim of the band. I can have nothing but high praise for this album. From beginning to end it encapsulates everything I love about celtic-punk. A love and respect for folk music but which is never afraid to take it and shake it and give it a nudge up to the modern day. If the spirit of The Pogues still lives on in any band then by Christ then that band is Shambolics! Go Wan Go Wan Go Wan!

(have a sneaky free listen to Riot On Race Day by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below before you buy it!)

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE RUMJACKS-‘Sleepin’Rough’ (2016)

the Bhoys pull it off again. close the Best Of 2016 poll we have a winner already!

By Shane O’Neill

Rumjacks

Wow!!! These guys never fail to impress. 2016 should be renamed The Year of The Rumjacks. Firstly, they hit us with a mammoth 5-month European tour and then they release the 12 song masterpiece that is “Sleepin’ Rough” in early August. If that’s not enough they have also just announced that they will be ending the year with a 4-month tour of Australia once they return from Europe. Impressive or what?? Nobody can question them on their hard work this year. This band is going from strength to strength.

LCP Frankie

Frankie with Andy Mac of The Lagan

When I first heard The Rumjacks I never dreamed I would ever see them live, however they toured Europe in 2015 and again in 2016. I have to say they do not disappoint live either. I was lucky enough to share a few beers with The Rumjacks during their current tour. I have to say they are a really down to earth and humble bunch of really talented punks. None of the Bono type rock star bulls@#t from these guys. They are happy to mingle with the crowd and share stories about their music and tour. It is evident that these guys love what they are doing and we love it too so keep it coming….

Now where do I start with ‘Sleepin’ Rough’? One of the guys said to me it gets better every time you listen to it and I agree. I was a bit dubious when I heard the album was being released so soon after Sober & Godless (2015). Releasing back to back albums so soon after each other doesn’t always work but this is The Rumjacks – of course it works and has exceeded all expectations. ‘Patron Saint O’ Thieves’ is a crackin’ album intro to get you warmed up for what’s to follow.

“…..burn it bhoys…..”

The album has some fine tin whistle solos. This really brings out the best in tunes like ‘Murder Shanty’ and ‘Eight Beers McGee’. Personally my 3 favourite tunes are (in no particular order) ‘The Pot And Kettle’, ‘Fact’ry Jack’ and ‘A Fistful O’ Roses’.

‘Fistful O’ Roses’ was released as a single a few months back to give us a taste of the album. It a mighty fine offering about the dying pub / club scene in Sydney. As Frankie relates

“An agenda of sweeping law reforms and increasingly heavy tactics by our state government have crushed the city’s nightlife, the livelihood, and in many cases even the lives of many of its inhabitants. Iconic pubs, bars & restaurants are forced to close their doors, elderly residents are driven from their homes and Sydney is growing more desperate & hostile with every passing day.
This is a city under siege by those who rule her, set to become a playground for the elite, while the people who made it the treasure it was are squeezed out to wherever they hell they may venture.
We performed the video for the song as a macabre ‘dry wake’, set among the decay, in a derelict pub, one of many to fall victim to the states new order. Historic footage flits across the screen like memories of a life flashing before one’s eyes. ‘A Fistful O’ Roses’ is one last great send-off for the old girl, but make no mistake…”

This is an unfortunate theme which applies to most major cities and towns where we see traditional pubs, clubs and live music venues being closed down by developers. It really is such a shame to see the heart of cities and towns being ripped out not to mention the impact it has on the live music scene and new up & coming acts.

“Oh, this boozer is a wreck, all up & down the deck,
Like a tired old sinner off her game,
Wi’ her blood red lips, and her youth about her hips,
Still the regulars all love her just the same,
Where the mud-spat boots cut their way among the suits,
And the Sally’s come to rattle the can for Jesus,
‘Til they chain up all the doors & toss out all the whores,
Wi’ a fistful o’ half dead roses”

Be warned, before you press play on ‘Dead to me’ make sure you’re firmly strapped in. This tune will pick you up, spin you around and drop you flat on you’re a#$e before you know it – hard hitting or what? Throughout the album you can pick up many different influences from traditional Irish, Scottish and Aussie to sea shanty to hardcore punk. All this blended together give us the unique blend of Celtic punk that is The Rumjacks which others aspire to. Lyrically the album gets 10 out of 10 and no better man to pelt them out than Frankie with a mixture of Aussie / Glaswegian dialect. For me The Rumjacks are by far the best Celtic punk band on the scene at the moment and ‘Sleepin’ Rough’ is a fine example of what they are capable of. Not much more I can say other than go get yourself a copy of ‘Sleepin’ Rough’ and if you get half a chance go and see them live. I would personally donate body parts for a chance to see them again.

(left to right) Anthony- drums Adam: banjo/mandolin Frankie: vocals/tin whistle/ Gabriel: guitars Johnny: bass

(The Rumjacks left to right) Anthony- drums Adam: banjo/mandolin Frankie: vocals/tin whistle Gabriel: guitars Johnny: bass

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for more on The Rumjacks check out the following articles

Album Review: ‘Sober And Godless’ (2015)  here

Single Review: ‘Blows And Unkind Words’ here

30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time here

The Rumjacks And Irish Pubs here

EP REVIEW: LEXINGTON FIELD- ‘Redwood’ (2016)

It’s very simple. It’s called Fiddle-Rock.
LexField
 Now I have been a fan of this band for a loooong time. Pretty much from their earliest days so don’t be expecting any sort of unbiased review here as impartiality goes out the window when Lexington Field release another record. On first hearing Redwood I wasn’t surprised or shocked at all. I just had that knowing smug feeling that I knew I was onto a winner when I first heard them many moons ago.
Lexington Field
Formed back in 2009 in San Diego, southern California the band have previously released four albums, Old Dirt Road, Poor Troubled Life, No Man’s War and Greenwood and all have came garnered the same critical praise from both the celtic-punk and wider punk/rock music media. They have played and toured solidly and to call what they do unique is no way giving them enough credit!
(1. Old Dirt Road- 0:00 2. Poor Troubled Life- 3:10 3. Rest of Our Days- 8:04 4. Duke of Green- 11:40 5. American Crow- 15:52 6. Pioneer- 18:21)

Lexington Field play a mixture of music blending genres from country and Americana as well as punk rock and not to be forgetting a massive dose of traditional Irish music with a expert fiddle player right slap bang in the middle. The band call what they do ‘fiddle rock’ and is as good a description as I could give in two words. We reviewed Greenwood last Christmas (check the review here) and had this to say

“Thirteen tracks and forty minutes gives the songs plenty of time to develop and Beau’s great vocals and lyrics stand out giving Lexington Field that extra bit more.”
So at risk of repeating myself I have to say that once again Lexington Field have hit the heights with this release. Seven tracks that sail in at just a few seconds under half an hour and is over far far too quickly. Over a couple of weekends in early 2016 the band went up to Anza in California to record at Matt Maulding’s (formerly of the brilliant celtic-punk band Brick Top Blaggers) Weathertop Studio. There the band took six songs from their history and stripped them right down and basically rewrote them and are presenting them back to us now.

Released on July 8, 2016 the EP begins with ‘Old Dirt Road’ from their debut album of the same name. Where as the original was the standout track of that album and is the song that I think of when I reach out to put that album on. The energy remains exactly the same but without the electric guitar thrashing away and that is some achievement I tells you.

“Time flies by so fast
It’s hard to stop and think
With all these peaks and valley, and all the sand that lets us sink
One thing’s for sure
I won’t give up on my end to be a fighter, be a fighter

I don’t mind traveling down that old dirt road again
Cause I’ve got time to waste to go back where it all began
Though some might say I’m holding on, I‘m holding on too long
Well,don‘t you mind. Just don’t you mind

I feel so wasted
Maybe time can make it right
Set the stage for a comeback
Set the stage for a fight
The best defense I can put up on my end is to be a fighter, be a fighter”

Lexington FieldFollowing this is ‘Poor Troubled Life’ which again is taken from the album of the same name and once again is possibly the stand out track from that record. The music is exemplary and though I can imagine a few punk rock snobs not quite getting it I always say man cannot live by punk rock alone! Usually on a Lexington Field record the upbeat music belies the often darkness of the lyrics but here in acoustic mood it seems to fit a lot more easily. The music may be slow but plenty to admire and love especially here on this song with the whistle that sounds great (and shhh don’t mention the electric guitar on their supposed acoustic record!!!).

“It’s been too long, I feel disconnected
Empty bottles numb my soul
There’s still a chance for me to come back around
A chance for me to mend my broken life

And I can taste all that glory
All the love, the love I have around
It lifts me up poor troubled life
It lifts me up

I found it so hard to breathe
Gonna throw it all away
Without this troubled life
Could I live another day”

Next up is ‘Rest Of Our Days’ which comes from No Man’s War and here takes one of Lexington’s most obvious celtic-punk songs and channels into a lovely slice of Americana/country folk. The superb fiddle playing from the original is still there and lifts the song to the heavens with Beau’s great voice giving it all he can.

“I won’t cry and show my weakness if I ain’t got one
No I can’t cry and let that pain back in again
I won’t lie my pain it’s not forgotten
And the weakness runs deep beneath my skin”

‘Duke Of Green’ is the opening track of that debut album Old Dirt Road and the song that introduced me, and countless other, to Lexington Field.

“Why would you want to come home?
Don’t you see our tears have run dry?
You’ve lost it all again
I can tell by your eyes

Tried to talk sense
Tried to mend this broken fence
But you, you didn’t care
You haven’t won a single race
Still hold on just in case that you will be there”

We’re nearly at the end and ‘American Crow’, taken from No Man’s War, continues in the same vein taking one of their more raucous tracks and stripping it bare.

“I’m not an angel, don’t call me a saint
I am just a face in the crowd
I follow my orders with no complaints
For a nation who stands tall and proud”

‘Pioneer’ follows and is also from No Man’s War but unlike the rest of this EP was a slowish ballad to start with that swirled and swirled with wave upon wave hitting you. Here though ‘Pioneer’ is slowed right down and proves my theory that the best celtic-punk bands are as good writing and playing ballads as punking out.

“Don’t call me pioneer
A grossly overstated misconception to all pioneers
I pick up my guitar
And write these stupid songs out of deception to mask my emptiness

But I should go and feel my new surroundings
Where I know I’ll find my solid ground
And I will show the world that I can fight again

I tried to hide my tears
But lost my words instead to a silent, muted pain
The cure for this disease
Was to find my inner song, a bittersweet melody

Maybe time will heal this fall
Into the next chapter of my life
I will open up my heart to this brand new start blessed to me

Don’t call me pioneer”

Redwood comes to an almighty end with the bonus track ‘Good Times’. Written in the studio on their first day there with the alcohol flowing it was recorded in a straight take with just a couple of mics and really captures the feeling that the band were at the top of their game and really (!!) enjoying themselves too.

Lex Band

Lexington Field from left to right: Bryan Hane – Guitar, Tom Lazet – Bass, Vincent West – Drums, Beau Gray – Vocals, Guitar, Olivia Buscemi – Violin

The EP is available on download and CD and once again the bands great friend Jose Pimienta aka Joe Pi has done the amazing artwork (check out his work here) so here’s hoping for a physical release as well as that download. It would be far too simple to call this a Best Of or Greatest Hits as that’s well off the mark. What we have here, without wanting to sound too pretentious, are re-imagings of Lexington Field as perhaps they would have been 50 or maybe even 100 years ago. The music is as real and as raw as anything they have ever recorded and for that I am truly grateful. Here is a band that shows no sign of letting up and if ever their was a case of quality AND quantity then Lexington Field have it in spades!

(you can have a free listen to Redwood by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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INTERVIEW WITH COMRADE X

Hitting home with the force of a police raid on a late night lock-in at the dodgiest South London boozer Comrade X emerges from the rubble of political failure, X Factor and wall to wall mediocrity to raise a pint of Guinness to the spirit of 1977!
Over the last couple of years it has been our pleasure to make the acquaintance of a good few people, who we are extremely proud to say, have become part of the extended London Celtic Punks family. If you have attended a London Celtic Punks gig over the last few years then I am sure you will have witnessed our auld mucker Comrade X starting off proceedings by kicking up a storm with his own unique brand of acoustic-punk. Best described as “one geezer, one guitar, three chords and the truth” and, my own favourite, “Woody Guthrie meets Oi!” he’s just an ordinary bloke with an acoustic guitar and the truth to tell. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about what he does, but what does he think on the important matters of the day? We asked yer man a few questions over a few pints of stout so read on and find out…
Comrade3

Now Comrade X has been around on the music scene a lot longer than any of us have been so we thought we’d give him a chance to fill us in (not literally!) and give us the benefit of his knowledge. Now there may be a small handful of people reading this who are not aware of your contribution to the world of alternative music so want to enlighten them? What started your interest in music and how long you been playing and what bands you been involved in up to now? I was 14 when the Pistols appeared on Bill Grundy and it just blew me away. Till that point I was wearing tank tops, Oxford Bags and DM’s and fancied myself as a boot boy with an aspiration to be a face on the Shed End at Chelsea. After Grundy I wanted to know more about these punks. I bought New Rose when it came out and that was that – but it was really the first Clash album that shifted everything for me. After that I bought a guitar out of a junk shop in Leatherhead and started rehearsing with my first band Discipline at the Cabin Club down on Longmead Estate in Epsom. That would have been some time in 1977. We had guitars that chopped your fingers off and 5 watt Woolworths’ practice amps – we were dire but a fire had been lit. 

Comrade1Like most Londoners there’s more than just a drop of Celtic blood coursing through your veins. Do you think that has effected or contributed to how you play or why you play or your beliefs? Well, my grandad was from Kilkenny and arrived in Liverpool sometime in the 1890’s before heading to the East End. Of course I never knew him – he was dead by the time my dad was ten years old and he was orphaned and bought up by his older sister. The family name was changed by my grandad and I only know what my dad and his older brothers told me. Grandad sang rebel songs in pubs around Stepney and his favourite was Bold Robert Emmett so I was told. I think there’s a fair drop of that spirit in what I do. What? Singing rebel songs in a pub? I’d say so!!
Having been in bands and played solo yourself which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music? Biggest influence on me is Joe Strummer – his catalogue from the 101ers to the Mescaleros stands the test of time. The Mescaleros picked up some of Joe’s Celtic connections back to his own Scottish roots. He also introduced a lot of us to Woody Guthrie and through that Leadbelly and some of that deep roots Americana which of course all tracks back through the Celtic immigrant trail. I remember seeing the Pogues in their early days and for loads of us with an Irish/punk background lots of bits started dropping into place. Great to see new bands tipping their hat to that pioneering work by the Pogues and the Men They Couldn’t Hang. The Lagan are the tops for me, that might be a Surrey thing, but they are run close by outfits like Matilda’s Scoundrels and Black Water County. Steve Earle deserves a nod here as well – I was lucky enough to get to work with him a few years back. Top fella
 How you find the London Irish scene these days? Obviously the old community has shrunk and the new arrivals seem, to me anyway, not to be interested in Irish music. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. I certainly hope so. Is there still a community out there? So many pubs have closed or changed and communities are much more dissipated. I’m from Epsom where there used to be five big mental hospitals and they were staffed throughout by Irish immigrants working alongside colleagues from across the Commonwealth. My dad worked his way up to managing and inspecting the quality of those NHS services. Those hospitals have all closed but the social clubs in those places were something else. The sense of community was massive. The loss of those big centres of employment has had an inevitable impact.

As I say you’ve been performing for a hell of a long time in bands and now as a solo act but it has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone! Yep, nowhere to hide! That is a bit of a downside but on the upside there’s no one to row with other than yourself and the odd sound man who thinks that every solo artist with a guitar should sound like Cat Stevens.

What bands are you listening to at the moment? Do you follow celtic-punk at all. Any bands out of the scene that you like? I’ve already bigged up The Lagan, Matilda’s Scoundrels and Black Water County but I can add to that Mick O’Toole and of course the old troopers Neck who I’ve know since time began. I pick up loads of stuff from your recommendations from around the globe and I think that the Irish influenced punk/folk scene is healthy as fuck – cant wait to see the Cundeez down in Brixton as well.

Comrade2There’s always been a big debate about celtic-punk and whether or not it is cultural appropriation and politically correct for non-Irish bands singing about the Irish getting pissed and fighting and pubs and what have you. Personally I love it. The idea of the likes of Indonesian or Brazilian bands getting into The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones after listening to the Dropkick Murphys. I mean its not like The Dubliners ever wrote a song about getting pissed is it? I think its just a case of snobbery but do you think it’s ok? I agree. I’m sick of being told what is and what isn’t acceptable and until everything is narrowed down to a tiny spec. I like covering Holy Spook by the Popes – “…I wrecked my life on whisky, bad wives, taking pills and cursing…”. That’s just the blues mate and it doesn’t belong to anyone. This “cultural appropriation” stuff is just more hand-wringing, liberal bollocks.

Now London Celtic Punks have always had the by-line of ‘Folk Punk Football’ and football is very dear to your heart as we know. Obviously the modern game is shite and the only real football fans are to be found in the lower divisions and non-league. That about right? ha ha – no, you are completely wrong and modern football, as invented by Sky TV, is brilliant! What’s the matter with you?
How long you been going to Sutton United? Do you think supporting a team that has never really won anything has made you a better person? Does learning the value of defeat and pride in losing but trying your hardest teach you something that is missing in the Premiership or even society? I’ve been going to Sutton since the early seventies. My old man took me down there to try and wean me off Chelsea and a career as a hooligan. He wasn’t totally successful but I always kept a link with the U’s. About ten years ago I jacked in the Chelsea season ticket and now it’s Sutton home and away. I love it. I meet loads of old punks who see the connection with those old values in the non league game. Never won anything? We won the bloody league last season! And did I ever tell you about the time we beat Coventry City in the FA Cup? 
As well as football you are heavily involved in promoting trade unionism. The decline of the unions is a terrible thing but what do you think can be done to reverse that trend. My own union is a waste of space and I may as well throw my money down a drain but as a good friend of mine (a Scouser of course!) once said joining a union is like having house insurance you don’t expect the house to burn down tomorrow but what do you do if it does. I got involved in NUPE in the early eighties when I lost my job as a sparky and took a job as hospital porter. Brilliant days and we were solid as a rock before everything was ripped apart and privatised. You’ve got to have that strength in the workplace or you’ve got nothing.
With so much music in your life. What are your happiest memories of playing. The best gig or best people… Tolpuddle main stage last week was one of my best ever gigs. Strummercamp and that night at the Water Rats with you lot, Anto Morra and Pogue Traders is up there as well. The rest is just a blur of fast living. 
Comrade4Right you have hinted at this every now and then on stage so lets get the full unabridged story out of you now. How did you manage to get Neck’s anti-racist single ‘Every Bodies Welcome To The Hooley’ into the national charts? Ha, that really was the wide boys revenge mate. I pulled in favours with every journo I know and got the band on BBC prime time TV and radio and we had people targeting the record shops that used to file returns for the official chart. It was some proper old spivery and I am rightly proud of it.
What’s the immediate future hold for Comrade X. Any gigs/ festivals we should be looking out for you at? What about recordings. Ain’t it time you got something down on disc… or vinyl’s coming back you know? I’ve got a mate up in Luton who has built an analogue studio and I’ll be doing some recording up there in the autumn – some great shows coming up very shortly with you lot and the Veg Bar, The Lagan at the Fighting Cocks and Undercover Festival. And I will be helping my old mate Noel Martin from Menace with his bands 40th anniversary bash at the 100 Club. I’m enjoying myself and you can tune in through the Comrade X Facebook page.
 

Thanks Comrade for taking the time to answer a few questions. It’s a privilege to include you as a member of the London Celtic Punks crew and work with you over the last few years, so here’s to many many more!
CundeezVegBarColour (2)
You can catch Comrade X playing live at our next London Celtic Punks gig later this year on Saturday 3rd September on home territory in South London. He will be supporting Dundee based bagpipe punk band THE CUNDEEz on their London debut gig. All starts at 7-30pm sharp and costs just a fiver on the door. You can check out the Facebook event here to find out all the details of the venue and the other support bands or go to our What’s On- Upcoming Gigs & Events here.
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ALBUM REVIEW: SIGELPA- ‘Rabant Original’ (2016)

Folk core + Punk Rock + Ireland + Celtic + Catalonia = SIGELPA

Sigelpa

Now we have been around now for so long that we are beginning to do reviews from bands we have already reviewed before but only one band is rounding the corner for their third review and that is the wonderful Sigelpa from Catalonia. The group hail from Terrassa in the Barcelona region of Catalonia and their mix of punk, hardcore and good old fashioned Irish folk music, as I have said before, is right up my street. Everything about the band is pretty amazing right down to their extremely clever name. Its an acronym of the initials of the seven deadly sins in Catalonian. Superbia/ Pride, Ira/ Wrath, Gula/ Gluttony, Enveja/ Envy, Luxuria/ Lust, Peresa/ Sloth and Avaricia/ Greed making up the letters in their name.

Their new album, Rabant Original, was officially released on July 7th just gone and got a limited free release for a week which is when I downloaded it. Now I can’t tell you much about any of the song lyrics sadly as they are all, bar two (one in English and one in Galician), in Catalan so will just stick to the basics here. Sigelpa rattle Sigelpathrough their fourteen songs in no time at all with the whole album coming in at only twenty seven minutes and with the majority of their songs around the one and a half / two minute mark it’s a gloriously fast and wicked ride through celtic-punk owned territory! Rabant Original begins with a short intro ‘(pou)’ before ‘Aquí Ens Tens’ and the sound of electric guitar, accordion and fiddle fills the air and we are well away. Dual male and female vocals that is neither shouty nor crooned but fits the music perfectly. The accordion is to the fore in ‘Bronca’ and its really nice to hear female vocals at the front of a band for once rather than just singing the chorus and ‘Puta Ciutat’ show it off perfectly. The video for ‘A Saia Da Carolina’ will be just up your street if you can speak Galician but if not welcome to our world! A top version of this traditional Celtic folk song from Galicia.

The album signature tune ‘Rabant Original’ is pure pop punk with added accordion and fast drumming keeping the tempo right up high. Another highlight is ‘Dinamita’ which is a fast and furious racket with more lovely accordion and reminds me of the Brazilian celtic-punk band Lugh. Only 72 seconds long and over just as it gets going it’s accompanied by a video which shows Sigelpa in all their glory.

The band’s sound is never better than on ‘Us Tornarem A Votar’ with a great slab of celtic punk rock sure to get any bar room up on its feet and dancing away. Their simply is no let up and no time for anything slow here and ‘Culvolució’ carries it all on while ‘Mojigatrix’ is even faster! The only song sung in English is up next with the fecking amazing ‘Excursion Around The Bay’. Made most famous by one of celtic music’s big hitters Great Big Sea from Canada in 2000 on their Road Rage album. Written by Johnny Burke (1851–1930) who was a famous Newfoundland balladeer of his time. Not content to just copy the song Sigelpa inject it full of punk rock spirits and though it may start off quite familiar it ends a million miles away from the original. ‘L’Infern Està Pujant’ and ‘Exorcisme Vaginal’ take us up to the end and more of the same is all we are asking for now. Well played and expertly recorded and produced as well I have to say so well done to JM Castelló and Matias Scheinkman at Canela Hank Studio in Barcelona. The final track is ‘Sexual GGesus’ a fast and relatively long song for them at just under two minutes. Excellent country fiddle giving it a bluegrass sound in a song about punk rock wierdo GG Allin who died of a heroin overdose back in 1993.

Sigelpa

Sigelpa left to right: Albert (violin), Robert (guitar), Bruna (vocals), Guille (drums), Pol (vocals and guitar), Alba (accordion), Xavi ( bass)

And their you have it. All over in well under a half hour and as good a celtic-punk album has been released this year. Fourteen songs of which only two are cover versions. Sigelpa are a brilliant band and one of my favourites in the current celtic-punk scene. Everything they do has a great deal of thought put into it. Both their debut album and ‘Ens Van Diagnosticar Un Transtorn’ were outstanding. Great politics, great musicians, great songs and a great spirit too. Trust me it’s no gamble here get this album and enjoy one of the very best bands in the celtic punk scene today, and certainly one of the most inventive, in ANY scene right now.

(you can listen to the entire album below by pressing play on the Bandcamp player. Its available on CD for only 7 Euros and that is as cheap as chips!)

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  • for our review of the first album TerraMotta from Sigelpa look here
  • for our review of last years EP Ens Van Diagnosticar Un Transtorn from Sigelpa look here

SINGLE REVIEW: BRYAN McPHERSON- ‘Born Again American Blues’ (2016)

A fusion of Americana, folk, alternative and punk this Irish-American guy is a whole lot more than even this.

Bryan

Now I didn’t quite get the music of Bryan McPherson straight away I must admit. My fellow founding member of the London Celtic Punks had spent a couple of years previous trying to indoctrinate me and although I did really like what he did I was far from thinking he was the genius I now consider him. This all changed one summer Bryan MacPhersonevening in Camden last year when I saw Bryan perform live in a shitty rock venue with the crappiest PA ever and a even crappier sound man. Suddenly it all clicked into place and he has been a solid feature on my stereo ever since. Bryan was born and raised on the mean streets of Dorchester, a blue collar working-class Irish-American Catholic neighbourhood in Boston, that was also home to half the members of the original Dropkick Murphys. He was inspired as a kid by the energy and angst of punk, as well as the lyrically driven American folk songs of the early 1960’s. His first gigs were on street corners, at house parties and subway stations in Boston’s inner city. In 2001 he burst onto the acoustic music scene but then Bryan took a break from performing to address some personal issues and vanished from the scene. Since his return he has played the length and breadth of North America and more recently further afield as a solo artist. This is powerful passionate, acoustic-punk from the heart.

I got the born again american blues blues blues blues.

Playing another show down in Santa Cruz Cruz Cruz.
Up to Portland and Seattle, all the way from Syracuse.
And I’m playing like there’s nothing left to lose.
What do you want from me my lady of the sea?
You want to wash me toss me drag me wash me away.
I got the finger picking sticking love love love in my vein.
And I got an answer to all the other answers that will take your pain away.
I want to live forever on Friday.
When there’s always a check in the mail and I’m always paid.
What do you want from me my lady of the breeze?
I got a western wind blowing down on me.
I got a sleeping bag I take it with me wherever I go.
I always got a bed. I always got a home.
I got the sky for my sky light.
Don’t worry mama I’m alright.
‘Cause I was born at night.
I was born born born to fight with shadows on the wall.
7 years since last call, but there’s a soul dying somewhere tonight.
What do you want from me my lady of the street with your broken bottles and sewer caps forlorn?
I want 50,000 people to clap your hands right on time.
We can all sing in rhythm and we can all sing in rhyme.
The engineers will struggle to keep us all in time.
We’re all life-long prisoners of this time.
In these dark dark dark dark dark dark scary times.
We walk walk walk walk walk walk fine lines between ever present death and ever lasting life.
What do you want from me my lady of belief?
She says faith is a god damn motherfucker to keep.
Harmonica.
She said she’s never coming back again.
She said she’s never coming back again.
She said I’m as gone gone as your western wind.
You’re never ever ever ever ever gonna see me here again.
But then baby baby baby baby baby baby please come home.
You left me left me left me left me left me left me all alone.
And these eastern winds are blowing so god damned cold.
Look at us we’re growing so god damn old.
What do you want from me boy of the breeze?
She said you’re blowing like a broken tornado.
The End.

Released on July 18th, 2016 and is performed and was written by the man himself Bryan MacPherson and recorded by Bryan Dobbs in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, California and mixed and mastered by Willy Samuels at Nutone in Pittsburgh California.

Bryan McPherson

With just a guitar and a harmonica and a passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting voice. Bryan’s music can chill you to the very bone as he dissects American working class life. When those pampered and privileged members of the middle classes want to lecture us about so-called ‘white privilege’ then maybe they ought to have lived a moment in Bryan McPherson’s shoes. Just a moment. Street life, politics, addiction, the prison system, class war and discrimination litter the alleys of McPherson’s songs. Don’t despair though as amongst it all shining through are moments of beauty and clarity that are as beautiful as ever was committed to paper. The music of Bryan McPherson may not be an altogether fun roller coaster ride but you will get untold pleasure hearing it.

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  • Bryan is a bit skint so if you are feeling generous you can get all ten of Bryan’s available previous releases for just $20.22 (that’s about £13). That’s Born Again American Blues (2015), Street Lights (2009), Live at Artaban Hall (2013), Wasted World- Live At A Campfire In Nedrow, NY. (2015), American Boy / American Girl (2012),Wedgewood (2015), Live at The Milestone (2014), Kelly Thomas (2014), Originally From Dorchester (2013) and Live at Club Passim 2004 (2004). That’s over 50% off so help a buddy out here.

OBITUARY: REMEMBERING ERIK PETERSEN

by Dave Hughes

“So tattoo our arms and raise our glasses, call out your name at New Year’s Eve, maybe next time we kneel at a casket, we can say at least the story’s complete”

Erik 2

Folk punk can get a bad rap. Out on the internet there are thousands of bad recordings of badly sung and badly played songs about Things That Are Bad (™). Songs that lack nuance, metaphor and melody. Then there was Erik Petersen. He was different, he was the master of crafting a song around an ancient melody, turning a phrase, and constructing a tale full of metaphor, life, death and everything in between. It breaks my heart to be writing an obituary for Erik, he was one of my heros, he was a friend, and above everything else he was a genius.

Erik was a long time player in the Philadelphia punk scene. His band The Orphans split up in 2000, but not before writing some amazing slices of hardcore (check out The Government Stole My Germs CD from their Raise The Youth anthology). Near the end of The Orphans, a shut down show might mean Erik grabbing an acoustic guitar and playing some unplugged songs instead. There is a show on Youtube from a veterans hall, a young Erik sits on a chair in the middle of a room of punks playing early versions of songs that would go on to be Mischief Brew. Erik, himself, had commented that this scratchy footage was the start of Mischief Brew.

Erik 1Between The Orphans and Mischief Brew there was the Kettle Rebellion. The Kettle Rebellion was a tight three piece of Erik, Jon Foy on Bass and Chris Doc Kulp on drums. They played a style that could be described as Medieval Folk Punk, the kind of hardcore that you’d hear while you strolled through a renaissance fair. An eight track LP was recorded in 2002, but before it could be released, the master tapes were stolen and leaked to archaic MP3 sharing sight Soulseek. In response, Erik scrapped the project. Years later, he stumbled across a version of the master tapes and decided to put it out. In 2013, the Kettle Rebellion LP was finally released through Fistolo on Vinyl, and my own record label, Different Circle Records, on CD.

Erik and Mischief Brew were DIY to the core, and before going on with the story, I have to introduce Denise. Denise was Erik’s wife and partner in crime for over 20 years. Emails sent through to Fistolo would invariably be responded by Denise. She’s a wonderful small package of vibrancy, smiles and energy. There’s also the Pugs, a Mischief Brew article is not complete without bringing up the Pugs. The Petersens rehomed many pugs through the years, and they were a common feature at their American shows. Check out the early recording of Erik playing at a PunX Picnic and you’ll hear one of them, perhaps Garcia, yelping along to Erik’s genius. Up the Pugs.

Erik 4In 2003, Erik released a split record with Robert Blake entitled Bellingham/Philadelphia, and also a more electric EP known as Bakenal. These were the start of the Mischief Brew sound that the underground world would associate with Petersen. It was on the Bakenal EP that the anthem “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell” first appeared, with it’s rally cry of “I am a leader but you will not follow me” providing the spit and sawdust that anarcho-folk had been looking for. Lyrics from this song would be sprayed across walls around the world, most prominently across the outer wall of the Squat-cum-Social-Centre Knoflook in Den Bosch, Netherlands. Footage of Erik standing on the bar at Knoflook (during their last Europe Tour in 2008) singing Jawbreaker’s Boxcar can be found on YouTube. It’s a moment of pure joy, and testament to how he could command a room with his guitar.

Mischief Brew had a few line-up changes through the years, finally settling on a three-piece core of Erik, Shawn St Clair on Bass and Erik’s brother Chris Petersen on drums. Occasionally they’d be joined by Kettle Rebellion’s drummer Doc on percussion and second guitar duties. They released albums infrequently, but at a pace that was slowly increasing in recent years. The initial full length, Smash The Windows, was released in 2005, with its smash the system electric folk punk featuring guest spots from Stza from Leftover Crack and Franz Nicolay (solo artist and past member of The Hold Steady). Featuring a reworked Kettle Rebellion track called A Liquor Never Brewed and a full band Roll Me Through The Gates of Hell, this is the place to start with Mischief Brew.

From there we got Songs from under the sink (an acoustic collection of ‘forgotten’ old songs), The Stone Operation (a European influenced carnaval of a record) and the latest This is Not For Children (their punk rock roots coming to the fore). In between there was a smattering of EPs, the greatest of these being Eriks side of Photographs from the Shoebox (a split with Joe Jack Talcum). On this EP, you will find Labour Day Massacre, one of the prime examples of Erik’s socially conscious political songwriting.
Erik 3Mischief Brew played a lot of shows in America. From small cafes with acoustic guitars in front of a close crowd,  to an audience of thousands at the NYC Bowery Ballroom with The Hold Steady. They toured Europe twice, the last time in 2008 and were about to start another visit here next week. Youtube is a library of live performances, but that only gives you an impression of what it was like to be there.

I’ll finish this with a story about the last time I saw Erik, Denise and Mischief Brew. I found myself living in Brooklyn in 2013 and feeling quite homesick. Mischief Brew had a show booked at a dive bar called Grand Victory which I had frequented a few times. I went along, expecting a small turn-out and to hear some of my favourite songs belted out. I hadn’t seen them since 2008 when they had played in Glasgow (on borrowed guitars due to a fuck-up by the airline), but soon bumped into Chris and Shawn as if it had been yesterday.

There must have been around 200 showing up to this bar show, DaysNDays and Absinth Rose supported, and it was life affirming. From opening with Children Play with Matches to the closing anarchy of Roll me Through the Gates of hell, I was sweaty, hoarse throated and absolutely elated. I headed to the merch desk to buy a vinyl copy of the Stone Operation, and when hearing my thick scottish accent, Denise automatically recognised who I was and the night truly started. I sat at the end of the bar, unending stream of whisky, with Erik, Denise, Shawn, Chris, Doc and Maria (Denise’s sister). They invited me back to Maria’s flat with them for more drinks and merriment. Erik and Shawn drove ahead with the gear and we stayed at the bar to finish our drinks.

Erik 5By the time we arrived at Maria’s, Erik and Shawn were asleep on the sofas with three pugs dancing around the apartment. The rest of us stayed up a while in the kitchen, drank fruit flavoured beer, and I felt like I truly belonged. I went to sleep on the floor with a pillow that was given to me, but awoke with a blanket over me and a pug on my head. Once we were all awake, we sat around and chatted about life, music, and plans. We ordered burgers, ate, and bid our farewells as I ventured out in the hot Brooklyn sun. I’d lost a day, but gained a life time.

I’m sitting writing this in a flat in Paisley, Scotland, with my Mischief Brew T-shirt (bought at the show in Brooklyn), my “May All We Do Be All For Our Delight” tattoo on my arm, trying to comprehend where we go from here. Erik Petersen soundtracked my last 10 years, gave me inspiration for my own songwriting and journey, bonded me with some of my closest friends, and gave me something to strive towards. No Gods, No Masters, No Setlists.

Fair Well Good Fellow, the tape has slowed down, but the music won’t stop.

Find out more about Erik’s great legacy of songs and other work by following the links-

Facebook  WebSite  MySpace  Twitter  YouTube  Bandcamp

STOP-PRESS

Friends of Erik have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for his wife and family to help get them through all this without the added worry of funeral expenses and to help them get by in this tough time. All of the money raised will be given to his wife, Denise. The campaign can be found here so donate if you can and if you can’t then please share.

ALBUM REVIEW: RUNA- ‘Live’ (2016)

Timeless, flawless, innovative and award-winning Irish-American Celtic roots music.

RUNA Live

After four superb studio albums the brilliant Runa release a live album, imaginatively titled Live, that captures perfectly the sound of this amazing band. With a pedigree second to none, made up of vocalist and step-dancer, Shannon Lambert-Ryan of Philadelphia, Dublin-born guitarist, Fionán de Barra, Cheryl Prashker of Canada on percussion, Dave Curley of Galway on mandolin, vocals, bodhrán, and step-dancing, and Maggie Estes of Kentucky on the fiddle they are surely bound to hit the heights again with this album and they have deservedly earned their reputation as one of the most innovative and unique Irish bands of recent times.

Claude was a evangelical preacher, faith healer and singer-songwriter who helped popularise the music of the Appalachian mountains and was one of the fore-runners of the birth of rock’n’roll. Great percussion here keeping a fantastic beat while Shannon’s beautiful voice confers the greatest respect for Claude’s music. The opening song contains all those elements that make Runa such an interesting band. Based in the music of the celtic nations there is so much going on here that to simply call it celtic music does not give you anything like the full story. ‘

“Still I sing bonnie boys, bonnie mad boys,
Bedlam boys are bonnie
For they all go bare and they live by the air,
And they want no drink nor money”

In the 18th century it became a popular diversion to visit the hospital to watch the antics of the poor inmates. Admission was one penny and the hospital realized an income of four hundred pounds a year from visitors. The song Fionán de Barra takes over vocal duties and murderer. Excellent fiddle and a real thigh slapper that gets the audience here really involved and singing along.

“False Sir John’s a wooing gone
To a maid o’ beauty fair
May Colven was this lady’s name
Her faither’s only heir”

“Then myself and a hundred more to America sailed o’er
Our fortunes to be making we were thinking
When we landed in Yankeeland they shoved a gun intae our hand
Saying, Paddy you must go and fight for Lincoln

General Meagher to us said, If you get shot and lose your head
Every mother’s son of you will get a pension
In the war I lost my leg, all I’ve now is a wooden peg
By my soul it is the truth to you I mention

Now I think myself in luck to be fed on Indian buck
In old Ireland the country I delight in
And with the devil I do say, Oh Christ curse America
For I’m sure I’ve had enough of your hard fighting”

One of the saddest of the Irish emigration songs it is unusual in that songs of that time were written by the people escaping the ‘famine’ back home and extolling the virtues of the ‘land of liberty’. To put it glibly ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’. Truly not every man is a king in the US of A. Fionán takes over the lead vocals again and his whispered hushed tones fits perfecting the sadness in the song. ‘The stereotype of whale fishermen is a of a hairy chested, hard working, hard drinking, hard fighting men of the sea and while, no doubt the description fitted many of them, they often showed a strong liking for gentle ballads like these. The first parts tells the whalefishers story while part two tells of how closely we came to the extinction of this majestic animal.

“My soul has been torn from me and I am bleeding
My heart it has been rent and I am crying
For the beauty around me pales and I am screaming
I am the last of the Great Whales and I am dying”

1947 between a young boy and a false knight (the devil in disguise). The child gets the better of him and damns him back down to hell. Steeleye Span, Oysterband, The Blue Velvet Band have all recorded the song and here Runa give it as good as anyone with Shannon’s vocals shining out. So ends Set One and begins Set Two.

RUNA inside

All rested Runa return to rapturous applause and kick off their set with fiddler and composer born to a Irish musical family in Chicago, Illinois. next up is ‘

“Mhí mise lán den tsaoil is bhi cion amuigh is istigh orm
Nach mór a dáthraigh an saol nuair nach bhfuil eion ag duine ar
bith orm? / At one time in my life I was dearly loved by everyone
Haven’t times changed when no one cares a whit for me?”

(“Fine girl you are!”) version beloved by Irish pub dwellers worldwide but another less well known song written by Gerry O’Beirne about a man who leaves Ireland and ends up in the America southwest, eventually dying fighting and dying for the Mexican Army in the San Patricio Battalion (St Patrick Brigade).

“There the winds of change they blew so far
Of liberty and revolution
And it seemed that each man heard in his breast
the drumming of a nation”

Robert Dwyer Joyce

“Twas hard the mournful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
Ah, but harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us
And so I said, ‘The mountain glen
I’ll seek at morning early
And join the brave united men’
While soft wind shook the barley”

and Aoibhneas Eilís Ní Cheallaigh/ Filleadh An Bhadora

Discography

Jealousy (2009) * Stretched On Your Grave (2011) * Somewhere Along The Road (2012) * Current Affairs (2014)

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  • For the review we published of the last Runa studio album Current Affairs check here

ALBUM REVIEW: Oi POLLOi- ‘Saorsa’ (2016)

Rocking hard berating the system while shouting “Oi! Oi! Oi!” in Scottish!
by Shane O’Neill
OiPolloi

‘Saorsa’ means ‘Freedom’ in Scots Gaelic and is the sixth studio album of long running Scottish anarcho punk outfit Oi Polloi and the first since 2012. The album is hard hitting anti fascist, anti establishment, anti racism, anti homophobia, anti sexism ( did I miss any anti…..) Oi! punk with strong Gaelic flavour wrapped up in no less than 15 tunes.

Again they don’t shy away from addressing politically relevant topics accompanied by a healthy mix of crusty, punky, singalong Oi! Oi Polloi must be commended for the use of their music to promote the Gaelic culture in particular the use of the Gaelic language in their lyrics.

” …this is class war we’re fighting back…”

“…..progressive Oi! is kicking back…..”

The fourth song on the album ‘No’ is a demonstrated best by the picture below. As they say sometimes a picture paints a thousand words.

Oi Polloi No

The album also contains a track titled ‘Yes’ to voice the bands support of the recent Scottish independence referendum. This one may be getting more air time sooner than we think!!

‘Dirty Protest’ tells of the protest in Ireland’s British prisons about the criminalisation of republican prisoners. Prisoners held in the north of Ireland were regarded, quite rightly, as political prisoners but that status was being eroded and finely was abolished in 1976. Among other things, this meant that they would now be required to wear prison uniforms like ordinary convicts. The prisoners in the infamous Maze, also known as Long Kesh, refused to accept that they were ordinary criminals, and refused to wear prison uniform and instead dressed only in prison issued blankets. The fight led later to the hunger strikes that resulted in ten deaths. For an excellent documentary on The Blanketmen check here)

‘GCHQFU’ is a fine ode dedicated to our friends in the secret service who spend their time ensuring we all tow the line.

“They’re watching me, they’re watching you…GCHQ fuck you”

One thing you can’t accuse them of is not having a sense of humour though as evident on ‘Our Winged Sisters’. Check out the brilliant video!

“This one’s for our sisters who we owe so much, so very much
Neonicotinoids are leaving them fucked, dead in the dust
We must all become pesticides resisters, rezizzterzzz!
Don’t you think we owe it to our winged sisters, our sizzterzzz?

Our winged sisters! Our winged sisters! Our winged sisters!
Sizzzterzz! Sizzterzzz! ZZZZZZZ! Sizzzterzz! Sizzterzzz! ZZZZZZZ!

Fight for the bees will give you a buzz, give you a buzz
Just like listening to our mighty streetcruzzt, mighty streetcruzzzzt!

Our winged sisters! Our winged sisters! Our winged sisters!
Sizzzterzz! Sizzterzzz! ZZZZZZZ! Sizzzterzz! Sizzterzzz! ZZZZZZZ!

Agro-chemical companies – we must resizzzt them, rezizzzzt them!
We muzzt oppose their apicidal syzztem, zyzzztem!”

Other notable tracks include the opener ‘Let’s Go’, ‘The Face’ and ‘Spelling It Out’. The CD comes in a digipack with fold out poster including lyrics and infos with the album due out on vinyl any day soon. Check with the record companies listed below. The artwork was once again provided by the talented hands of SONIA L. who also was responsible for the stunning celtic knotwork based art of Oi Polloi’s classic 90’s album ‘Fuaim Catha’. This is definitely an album you need in your collection. You won’t regret it.

Tracklist
1. Let’s Go!
2. Soil Yourself
3. The Face
4. NO!
5. Dirty Protest
6. Contra El Sistema
7. GCHQFU
8. Da Mhionaid
9. Destroi Phallocentricity
10. Metal Detector
11. Our Winged Sisters
12. YES!
13. Vos Vilen Di Anarkhisten?
14. Sing A Song Of System
15. Spelling It Out

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the full live set from last years 0161 Festival at the Miners Community Arts and Music Centre in Moston, Manchester.

Oi POLLOi ON WHY THEY SING IN THE GAELIC LANGUAGE

There are estimated to be somewhere in the region of 6,000 different languages currently spoken on planet earth. In the face of rampant globalisation, however, 90% of them are expected to be extinct by the end of this century. Here in Scotland our indigenous Celtic language, Gaelic, is one of those threatened. For hundreds of years Gaelic speakers here have been subject to oppression and persecution from central government and its attempts to wipe out the language. Up until the 1970s children in the Scottish highlands could be beaten for speaking Gaelic in school and even today Gaelic speakers still lack the same basic linguistic human rights as those of English speakers. Today the number of those speaking the language is down to somewhere around 55,000 people or just over 1% of the population but a growing number of Gaelic language activists are now fighting back to demand their rights and preserve their ancient tongue. These songs here are part of that struggle to defend our indigenous language – not, we hasten to add, out of some kind of narrow-minded xenophobic patriotism (which as anarchists we totally oppose) – but out of a belief in the value of diversity and respect for different cultures. We believe that ALL minority languages and the linguistic human rights of their speakers should be respected. Whether it is Saami in Finland, Sorbisch in Germany or Gaelic in Scotland we believe it is a tragedy for ANY threatened minority language to disappear. The Gaelic songs on this album then are part of our contribution to the fight for multicultural societies where all indigenous languages like Manx, Welsh and Gaelic are able to thrive and where children have the opportunity, if they so choose, to be able to grow up with a bi-lingual education, having both the benefits of the indigenous language of the area where they reside as well as English or whatever as a lingua franca. Those interested in more information about the links between indigenous cultures and bio-diversity and linguistic diversity should visit www.terralingua.org or read some of the great books on the subject out there like David Crystal’s excellent ‘Language Death’, Mark Abley’s ‘Spoken Here – Travels Among Threatened Languages’ or the highly recommended ‘Linguistic Genocide in Education – Or Worldwide Diversity and Human Rights?’ by Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas. For more information about the Gaelic language itself visit www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhlig/english.html or just come and ask us at our gigs.

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS GUIDE TO LIFE- HOW TO PRONOUNCE ‘CELTIC’

Today is our birthday. The 30492 – London Celtic Punks blog was born today on the 7th July, 2014 . It’s been an enjoyable slog I must say and it’s been an pleasure to meet so many like minded people. There is plenty more to come from us and we just hope that we can continue to introduce you to good music and good craic for many years to come. 

Celtics

One thing that we have been asked more than any other is how is the word ‘Celtic’ pronounced. For us over here in England it seems pretty natural but I can see how it can be a bit confusing if you are from overseas. During the so-called Celtic Twilight period in the late 1800s and early 1900s both hard c (‘Keltic’) and soft c (‘Seltic’) were used. The word Celt is derived from Keltoi, which is the name the Greeks gave the ‘barbarian’ tribes along the Danube and Rhone rivers. The Romans borrowed the Greek name, but spelled it ‘Celtae’, and the word entered French in the form ‘Celtes’, from which the English derived Celt. In French the soft c pronunciation is standard for ‘Celtique’, following standard French pronunciation rules. The Irish (‘Ceilteach’) and Breton’s (‘kelt’-ethnicity and ‘keltiek’- language) both use a hard c sound. Modern Breton also has a word ‘Keltia’, meaning the Celtic world.

Dewsbury Celtic

Dewsbury Celtic

The Celtic Twilight period was also around the time when many sporting organisations were springing up with the name Celtic in them. Most were based outside of Ireland and were formed either by first or second generation Irish immigrants. The most obvious being of course Glasgow Celtic in 1888 but their are many other great examples. Dewsbury Celtic Rugby League Football Club (1879) are the oldest Irish sporting organisation outside Ireland. Formed in 1879 when the Irish escaping post-famine poverty and hunger arrived in Yorkshire to work as labourers and in the local mills. They settled in the Irish ghetto of Westtown and formed a rugby club which soon after changed to being a football club before changing again shortly after and returning to rugby. They began life as Dewsbury Shamrocks and changed their name in around 1910 to Celtic. The club today are based in Irish National League Club in Dewsbury and play in the National Division of the Rugby League Conference. The club field a dozen or more youth teams and are doing an absolutely amazing job of keeping alive the ‘Celtic’ spirit and traditions in West Yorkshire.

As more and more Irish flooded into England and Scotland football teams like our very own (1888) and Stalybridge Celtic (1909) or Farsley Celtic (1908) in the north of England were established and then later in America the Boston Celtics Basketball Club (1946). These are all referred to with the soft c pronunciation and the modern convention is to keep the soft c pronunciation to refer only to sports teams.

The use of the hard c version in cultural matters indicated, until recently, that the user was somewhat knowledgeable in these matters. This has changed since Riverdance, Titanic, etc., and also the use of the term ‘Celtic Tiger’ to refer to the improved economy of Ireland and Scotland. Personally I would use the hard k when talking about Celtic culture, language or traditions except when talking about sporting clubs but to be honest both can be ‘korrect’!!

ALBUM REVIEW: FOLK THE SYSTEM- Unrest In The Wolds’ (2015)

Thatcher may be gone but the people still need a voice and FOLK THE SYSTEM are back. They’re older, got less hair and slightly cleaner clothes but still folking angry!

Folk The System

Last year we received a CD in the post from deepest darkest Oxfordshire, otherwise known as the Cotswolds and here on this CD as just plain Wolds. Taking in parts of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Warwickshire and Worcestershire the word Wold comes from the old English meaning ‘forest’. It’s basically what is left of the English countryside and parts of it would rival anywhere in England as the most beautiful spots in the entire country.

Folk The System band

Folk Th System left to right: Maty Tustian – Bodhran/ Vocals * Tony Partner – 6 String Acoustic/ Bass * Johnny Tims – Fiddle * Simon Hill (Pil) – Vocals/ 12 String Acoustic/ Electric Guitar/ Tin Whistle

Based in, and from, the old Oxfordshire town of Banbury Folk The System got together in the early 1990’s and toured the length and breadth of this island from the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall and played with all the folk-punk scene’s big hitters of the day before sadly, after years of drinking, dancing and general chaos, deciding to call it a day back in 1996. (The band have put their 1994 demo up for free download here if you want it!) The boys though remained good friends throughout the years and in 2013 all the original members of the band decided to give it another crack. 2014 saw Folk The System return to the stage for the first time in nearly 20 years and this brings us nicely up to date and the release of Unrest In The Wolds. The album is available on download and CD and the the CD comes with a 4 page booklet with the lyrics printed so small you’ll need a magnifying glass to read them!

Though the album came out last year we are finally getting around to reviewing it now due to two things. First off an unreliable mate who said he would write it and secondly I was planning to catch them live on home turf in Banbury supporting Ferocious Dog which I thought would help me write this. Well as they say better late than never and looking at their stall last weekend they still have a few copies of the album left so follow the link at the bottom to get your mitts on one.

Folk The System- ‘Witchfinder Generals’

Bringing together some tracks from the past with some new and unreleased material, the album is ten tracks that clock in at a very respectful forty minutes and just like their live set is over far far too early for my liking. The first impression you get from listening to the album is that their are no drums (they must be followers of the Steve White And The Protest Family philosophy that ‘Drums Ruin Everything’) only a bodhrán and that all the instruments are acoustic. Don’t be dismayed though celtic-punk fans they kick up a right storm and can easily be compared to early 80’s English anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds. The album begins with ‘Witchfinder Generals’ and its a very familiar Irish/English hybrid folk sound crossed with Simon’s punky vocals and hardcore lyrics about the social services and the power they wield. Starting off slowly it begins to build up and with some bitter and angry vocals its a great start to the album. Next up is ‘Civilisation’ and you may not think it but I found the bodhrán dominating here as the excellently played fiddle flies off the scale. Two songs in and I’m getting a sort of harder version of The Levellers here both musically and politically. Yeah they cover much the same ground as B-right-on’s favourites but I always found them a bit lame so it’s refreshing to hear the anger and passion I always found missing from The Levellers. ‘Lost Land’ again hits the spot with gang vocals and superb fiddling. ‘Death of a Nation’ follows much the same path with the whole band coming together even though the mix could have been a bit louder here. The next song is probably their most popular and if the band had a signature tune then I am sure it would be ‘Enviromentally Friendly’. It got the largest cheers live and also the most audience participation as the crowd sang along to the words about the hypocrites who tell us to recycle while continuing to ruin the environment themselves. Like those green charities who spend your hard earned on massive wages for their bosses or office furniture. Simon spits out the words with a bile that comes from truly believing in what your singing about. A very catchy fiddle tune accompanies this and for certain one of the standout tracks here. ‘To No End’ again hits you in the heart and brain and further confirms the album as one of the best I have heard this year. All the songs here are written by the band and the only instrumental is up next and called ‘Murphy’s Logic’ I suppose in tribute to its Irish sounding tune. While the album is, as I already said a hybrid of Irish and English tunes ‘Murphy’s Logic’ is unashamedly Irish and will leave you breathless as it swirls around you with the band combining on this the albums most trad song perfectly with the occasional shout from Simon it certainly gets the auld feet tapping. It featured on that old demo mentioned earlier and like an old wine has matured and got better with age. Following on and getting towards the end of the album ‘Street Corner People’ takes in the cuts on the National Health Services especially in regard to mental health. Again strong bodhrán and the introduction of tin whistle keep the song going at a healthy pace and at nearly five minutes is the longest on the album. ‘Vanity’ was my favourite song when they played live and here they are at their most anarcho-punk with a song about animal rights and animal liberation. Another song that has survived from that old demo from twenty two years ago and has only got better in time. Unrest In The Wolds come to a sad end with  ‘Least You Deserve’ and Simon’s heartfelt vocals are never better. An extremely strong and dark end to the album that only leaves you wanting to listen  to it all again.

Now after seeing them live and listening to this album I can tell you two things. They may be an acoustic band but they kick up more of a storm than most full on punk bands that I know. Loud and shouty but never preachy with a sound that may remind you of the aforementioned Levellers or more modern bands like Ferocious Dog and I suppose it is a familiar sound but don’t be misled into thinking theirs nothing original here. Folk The System far out date most of the bands in the scene so give them credit for coming up with it in the first place. While bands like The Levellers continue to garner the applause and pundits and sell out venues with their soppy mish-mash of hippyfied folk and punk its bands like Folk The System, and Ferocious Dog, that deserve to sweep them away as the passion here is more than most of The Levellers tie-dyed crowd could probably ever contemplate. The monster that was Thatcher may be gone but the evils of the system that spewed her out are still here and though they be a bit older and cleaner, and have less hair, Folk The System are still folking angry about it. Far be it for us to want to perpetuate the unfair system we are in bu let them remain so if it means they keep playing fantastic music like this.

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Folk The System instruments

EP REVIEW: BALSALL HEATHENS- ‘Life’s Too Short’ (2016)

 Brummie gypsy pirate punk duo with Jock from GBH on guitar and Sam from Contempt on vocals and fiddle.

Balsall Heathens

The Balsall Heathens are a two piece acoustic duo from Birmingham that have been going for a number of years, playing mainly at punk festivals, but have only just recently released their first record. Made up of Colin ‘Jock’ Blythe, founding member and guitarist/songwriter of punk legends G.B.H. and Sam who has played with countless bands in the past and is currently playing in The Alcohol Licks, Contempt, The Dollcanoes and Canar du Jour. Forming in 2007 and taking their name from Balsall an inner-city area of Birmingham in the West Midlands it is home to a diverse mix of working class people and is the location of the infamous Balti Triangle where the amount of curry houses is legendary enough to warrant its own name!

Balsall Heathens 3GBH were one of the wave of original English punk bands that came to be known as ‘UK82’ along with the likes of The Exploited, Discharge and The Varukers. Constantly touring all over the world GBH remain one of the most popular punk bands in existance and they have stayed loyal both to that UK82 sound and their legions of fans worldwide. Obviously this makes Balsall Heathens gigs pretty hard to organise especially with Sam’s busy schedule but their love of the music means they make the time and they actually play a lot more then you would think. Jock plays acoustic guitar and Sam plays fiddle and sings and they describe themselves as ‘gypsy pirate punk’ and began back in the day by playing purely upbeat cover versions of folk and country covers like ‘Whisky in the Jar’ and the ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’. They began to write some of their own material and so we have the EP ‘Life’s Too Short’, their debut release on Violated Records.

Opening with ‘Whiskey In The Giro’ it’s a re-working of the Thin Lizzy/trad classic ‘Whisky in The Jar’ that I first heard on the B-side of an The Men They Couldn’t Hang single I think. A whopping six and a half minutes long. First impressions are of Sam’s strong female vocals and also her outstanding fiddle playing. Amazingly the song does not outstay its welcome despite its length. This is followed by ‘Life’s Too Short’ and it has a downright country feel to it while telling us to enjoy our lives and to cut the bullshit out as Lifes Too Short. Really enjoyed this track and again Sam’s fiddle is amazing in this anarchist hoedown. The instrumental ‘The River’ comes next and lasts pretty long, over five minutes, for a folk punk song and once again is a joy to listen to. Sounding very celtic its not a million miles away from what we are use to here. They get silly next up with the bluesy ‘Dogfood Blues’ with Jock proving that he can play a mean guitar while the last track ‘Get Jiggy With It’ is not a cover of the Will Smith single (how do I even know that?!?!) but a lovely country folk-punk romp that sped right up till the final second.

Balsall Heathens 2 (2)Recorded in Birmingham and released on Violated Records the EP lasts a decent twenty-five minutes and trots along at a fine auld pace. Needless to say their is nothing particularly groundbreaking but it’s a solid release and impressive that their is only the two of them playing here. The spirit of punk shines through as well as a sense of humour and a superb DIY attitude. They manage to capture the live sound of the band pretty well and it is live that The Balsall Heathens are at their best. Later this year they will be appearing at the Rude Festival in St. Louis, Missouri, the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool as well as touring mainland Europe as well. Currently writing some new material we can expect another release in the coming year so all being well we will be seeing a whole lot more of the Balsall Heathens.

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THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY

BY PÁDRAIC GRANT

Shane MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

The Pogues Continuity Splash

The Pogues (formerly Pogue Mahone, Irish Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse’) were formed in 1982 by a group of London Irish musicians eager to drag Irish folk into a musical world that had been changed and redefined by the advent of punk. This mission was to be marked by success and failure, but by 1996 when they officially disbanded, they had permanently left their mark on both folk and mainstream music.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the band through those years was the extensive influence literature had on their lyrics. Rather than simply drawing on certain works for inspiration, almost every lyric in the Pogues extensive repertoire can be traced to a certain area of the written word.

Shane

Leading this literary charge was main songwriter and ideologue Shane MacGowan, who’d come through punk emboldened by its ideals, but distraught by its mainstream assimilation. The catalogue of songs penned by MacGowan regularly evokes previous writers and styles, often twisted and placed in new frameworks. Indeed, most of his lyrics are as intellectually stimulating when read as poems and stories as when performed as full songs.

From the moment he began penning songs, MacGowan was artistically indebted to his Irish homeland, a fact reflected in both music and lyrics. Literary touchstones spanned the Irish spectrum—Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, and James Stephens were drawn from and their influence incorporated into his burgeoning songbook. While the idea of the songwriter-as-poet is often evoked in a clichéd (even insulting) manner to give certain artists ‘credibility’, MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

As the band gained further success and the other members began to substantially contribute to the lyrics, concerted attempts were made to avoid stagnancy. Eventually, the collective focus fundamentally changed in ways that would have massive effects on the group. Extraneous reference points began to dominate, with the music switching to a menagerie of world music styles, and the lyrics drawing from non-Irish, less literary sources. This fragmentation would afterwards be cited by MacGowan as one of the biggest reasons for his estrangement from the other members of the band.

TRADITION REANIMATED

Going back to the band’s formative years, an important reason for the band’s very existence was a fervent desire to reiterate the aspects of Irish folk music that ran contrary to the sophisticate persona espoused by the dominant elements of ‘80s music. From the stale by-products of 70’s AOR who had somehow got through the post-punk safety net (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel) to the New Romantics with their synthetic music and lifestyle, the Pogues sought to challenge the status quo by injecting a sense of danger into Irish folk, thereby returning Irish folk to the mainstream. This was to be achieved through a heady mix of punk and folk, filtered through a coarse, unrefined aesthetic. And with virtually no electric instruments (Cait O’Riordan’s bass guitar was a notable exception) and a minimalist bass/snare drum kit, the contrast with mainstream instrumentation was glaring.

Despite this, perhaps the freshest aspect of the re-named Pogues was the literary quality of their original songs. Amongst volatile renditions of traditional standards nestled originals composed in the same style, infused with a punk-derived radicalism that brought the band beyond mere rehashed folk. The London-Irish composition of the group meant that its Irish influences were viewed through the lens of cosmopolitan London, and the city would go on to be the focus of numerous songs by the band.

Red Roses For Me

Gaining a reputation through relentless touring, they signed to the independent Stiff Records in 1984. The first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, was released in October of that year, and was an underground success despite its poor mainstream showing. Critical attention focused on the burgeoning lyrical talents of Shane MacGowan as much as on the music. Taking its title from a late-era Sean O’Casey play, the album offered a demonstration of MacGowan’s continuity with Irish writers past. The Irish identification was even carried onto the album art: A portrait of the band members seated around a painting of John F. Kennedy, a symbol of solidarity with the Irish diaspora across the world.

O’CASEY AND SOCIALISM

Aside from bestowing the album with a name, O’Casey was influential stylistically. The lyrics on ‘Red Roses for Me’ focused on the lives of the 1980s working class in the same way O’Casey portrayed the proletariat of the early 1900’s. A lifelong communist and Republican dissident, his portrayals were combined with his socialist beliefs to demonstrate the inherently political nature of working class life. Similarly, the debut Pogues LP illustrates the impact of wider political processes on mundane reality.

Sean O'Casey

Sean O’Casey

While avoiding overt left-wing sloganeering, the anti-authoritarian approach evident in certain tracks was intensified by the experience of Thatcherite Britain, where harsh monetarism had led to the working class feeling persecuted by the ruling Conservative Party. This sense of injustice was given credence by the Miner’s Strike occurring the same year the album was released, an event that embodied opposition to the implementation of profit-driven neo-liberalism. Under such circumstances, the sense of anger present in ‘Red Roses for Me’ is easily read as a reflection of the labour class’s embittered undercurrent, manifesting itself in several songs on the album.

The opening song, ‘Transmetropolitan’, is a conspicuous example of this attitude. Both tribute to and attack on the city of London, the composition is a contradiction. The music is frenetically gleeful, while the lyrics veer from a celebration of London life to a bitter attack on the pillars of the British establishment:

There’s leechers up in Whitehall
And queers in the GLC
And when we’ve done those bastards in
We’ll storm the BBC.

Whitehall (the home of the British government, the GLC (Greater London Council), and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) represented the stale powers-that-be, a focus for bitter resentment. That the enemy was the suitably vague “establishment” was a by-product of the band’s punk roots, a recurring and pervasive influence that sat comfortably alongside the anti-authority stance of the writers inspiring the group.

BEHAN AND BLACK COMEDY

Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Despite the O’Casey reference in the title and the similarities shared in the portrayal of working class existence, it is clear that Brendan Behan is the dominant influence on ‘Red Roses for Me’. ‘The Auld Triangle’, an Irish standard adapted from the introduction to the Behan play ‘The Quare Fellow’, is the third track on the album and a marked contrast to the rest of what is an ultimately raucous record.  It’s stark, skeletal, and relies primarily on MacGowan’s vocals. The mood is despondent and the lyrics wistful, but lightened by occasionally humourous lines (a literary technique MacGowan adopted in his own writing, which often includes comedic moments in the midst of squalor). This aspect of his songcraft would later be explored and refined on ‘Rum, Sodomy & the Lash’.

‘The Boys from the County Hell’ is the most precise example of punk’s influence on the album. Upping the ante on ‘Transmetropolitan’, it’s a vicious exploration of the alcohol-fuelled violence of the urban London lifestyle (the city termed ‘County Hell’ in a translation bearing the mark of Irish geographical terminology), and a further fleshing out of MacGowan’s songwriting, recalling the unflinching portrayal of violence in Irish tradition. Coming from that lineage, it contains one of his most blackly humourous couplets:

My daddy was a Blueshirt and my mother a madam.
My brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam.

‘Streams of Whiskey’ carries the Behan obsession to new heights, encapsulating MacGowan’s adoration of the man in one song. The lyrics depict a conversation held with Behan in a dream. When asked about his views on the “crux of life’s philosophies”, he answers: “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”. This ‘philosophy’ manages to make alcoholism sound almost idealistic—after all, it concerns a person who once quipped

“I’m a drinker with a writing problem”

Flann O'Brien

Flann O’Brien

‘Streams of Whiskey’ is also a buried reference to Flann O’Brien—a pseudonym for Brian O’Nolan, who MacGowan cited as one of his favourite authors in ‘A Drink with Shane MacGowan’.  O’Brien’s ‘The Poor Mouth’ (originally published in Gaelic as ‘An Beal Bocht’) includes a story regarding a mountain with two streams of whiskey flowing at its summit. A brilliant satire of Ireland’s victim mentality, the novel is built on, as with most of O’Brien’s works, an absurdly funny plot and writing style that Shane MacGowan emulated throughout his time in the Pogues.

NEW STRUCTURES

‘Red Roses for Me’ may have received praise for its literate lyrics, but the following year’s ‘Rum, Sodomy And the Lash’ was the moment where the Pogues songcraft truly blossomed. From post-modern character realignment to minutely-detailed narratives, the many facets of Irish literature are explored and amalgamated into a work that reads like an overview of the canon.

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

As the opening track for the album, ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ is a significant song in more than one respect. Not only does it demonstrate the cleaner production and more thought-out arrangements of the record as a whole, but most importantly the progression of MacGowan’s songwriting. As a character, Cúchulainn (a legendary Celtic warrior and son of the god Lugh) was a towering figure in Irish storytelling, regularly recurring in stories up to and including the Celtic Revival of the late 19th century. While The Pogues stick to this tradition, the song that bears his name is a sober modernisation of the monolith; a demonstration of the continuity held with preceding Irish literature, but a strong statement of realist rather than mythic characterisation.

This approach to the protagonist is similar to the proto-postmodernism of Flann O’Brien in novels such as ‘The Third Policeman’ and ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’, which dragged characters such as the mythic Fionn MacCumhaill into a contemporary setting. Thus ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ styles the character not as a demi-god, but in the flawed guise of the socialist IRA leader Frank Ryan. Appearing alongside the singers John McCormack and Richard Tauber, Cuchulainn is an unacknowledged hero, a participant on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War (as was Frank Ryan in reality.) Cuchulainn’s illustrious status in Celtic folklore is contrasted with the more human heroism of the unacknowledged Ryan, an anti-fascist who later faced the ignominy of death in a Nazi submarine. “You decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids” and “We’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks” serve as MacGowan’s tribute to a man whose heroism was to stand against the fascist tide in an Irish nation still in thrall to the Catholic Church.

That this depiction is in complete contrast to the Cúchulainn of William Butler Yeats may not be coincidental. MacGowan’s opinion of Yeats is derisory at best: “[Yeats wrote] a few classics…but there’s a mammoth amount of work…there’s like books and books and books of his stuff, and there’s about three or four good poems.” (A Drink with Shane MacGowan) The negative sentiments might also be inspired by Yeats’s championing of aristocratic ideas and (later retracted, as the Second World War approached) support for Irish and European fascism, something that was later also criticised by George Orwell.

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

Eerily slow-burning after the preceding frenzy, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is a torrid narrative recounting the struggles of a male prostitute in seedy London. MacGowan’s evolution as a lyricist may have been obvious on ‘The Sickbed of Cúchulainn’, but only a truly adept wordsmith could forge the themes of drugs, prostitution, and police brutality into such an easily engrossing story. Accompanied by almost hypnotic musical repetitions, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is replete with characteristic attention to detail:

One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag.

In later years, this song would be offered as ‘evidence’ that MacGowan had worked as a hustler. Although it may be a common assumption that realist first person narratives must be based on something experienced by the author, in MacGowan’s case the supposition could have been caused by the debt his style owed to writers like Frank O’Connor. A short story author of great magnitude, O’Connor wrote essentially autobiographical stories in the guise of characters like Larry Delaney, recounting childhood events rich in detail and evocative of the conservative Ireland of the early 20th century.

Frank O'Connor

Frank O’Connor

MacGowan similarly recounted stories heavy on minutia, but as far removed from bucolic rural Ireland as could be possible. When people read the lyrics of songs like “The Old Main Drag”, the easy interpretation was that due to the attention to detail inherited from writers like O’Connor, MacGowan was channelling his real life experiences through the characters in his writing. As with many issues surrounding the Pogues, though, there is no firm answer regarding the truth of these rumours. The sheer number of contradictions is similar to the fog around MacGowan’s eventual dismissal by the group.

BUILDING AN IDENTITY

Another highlight from the album is the quixotic ballad ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, one of the more sentimental songs performed by the band. However, like everything MacGowan wrote in this period, it is laced with the typical dark elements that prevent it from becoming merely saccharine. Therefore, while the song laments the “streams, the rolling hills, where his brown eyes were waiting” or “The birds whistling in the trees / Where the wind was gently laughing”, the protagonist is also “drunk to hell”, the setting filled with men who “prayed, cursed, and bled some more”.

In this moment, Shane MacGowan established an identity—one adapted from past writers (the contrast between sweet sentimentality and darker elements, humour intercepting both, a hallmark of Irish writing from Behan to Beckett), but an identity nonetheless. This proved a blessing and a curse, for while the positive comparisons were no doubt welcome, others were beginning to wonder if the Pogues, and Shane MacGowan in particular, had inherited the predisposition for alcohol held by the writers they admired. Press attention would lead to the stereotyping of the band as alcoholic Irishmen (particularly in an infamous Sounds’ article written around the release of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ as a single), a perception made even more believable by other songs, including ‘Sally MacLennane’.  Similar to older folk songs about the return of a person to their hometown (a theme also touched upon in ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, written by the Irish literature-influenced Phil Lynott), the song is an ode to the joys of alcohol with nearly every verse containing a reference to drinking.

Much of the band’s catalogue is the same, and with their love for writers who also enjoyed a drink (not forgetting their Irish background), it was inevitable that they would be included in the ‘drunken Irish artist’ stratum. In the ‘Sounds’ article mentioned above, Spider Stacy remarked, “I drink to blot out drunkenness”. A quick retort to an over-bearing journalist it may have been, but in the years to come such excesses would prove to be the undoing of the band. But before that point, there was much glory and still more ignominy to come.

‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ was a crucial step forward for the group. Moving on from the lyrically-constrained ‘Red Roses for Me’, which had been somewhat straightforward in its subject matter, the incorporation of differing stylistic approaches made this album a milestone for the incorporation of literary methods into modern Irish folk music. Over the coming years, the subjects would become more expansive, the music more extravagant. Here, the Pogues would achieve the perfect balance of tradition and innovation in their songwriting, the democratic ideal prominent since the beginning would finally flourish, and commercial success would be assured.

NEW DEPARTURES

This phase began with the release of the ‘Poguetry in Motion’ EP in 1986. Comprised of four wildly varying tracks, the EP worked as a bridge between the boisterous folk of before and a new, heavily-orchestrated style embodied by ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’ (significantly, in all respects a masterpiece). Both styles would be followed up on proceeding albums, but the EP is interesting as a microcosm of the band’s musical past and future, and their sense of humour, with the instrumental ‘Planxty Noel Hill’ a swipe at the eponymous musician and member of the folk aristocracy in Ireland.

Taking part in a radio debate with the Pogues, Hill had referred to their music as a “terrible abortion” and as disrespectful to traditional norms. The ‘planxty’ in the title is a traditionally honourific prefix dating back to the 1600s, and serves as a rejoinder to Hill, a tongue-in-cheek espousal of the ultimate traditionalist form. ‘London Girl’ and ‘Body Of An American’ rounded off the release and are notable because of their respective connotations of ‘Red Roses For Me’ and ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’-era material. Clamorous, intelligent, romantic, iconoclastic, the EP was a bookend for what had come before, and a torch-bearer for what was to come next.

Two years later, 1988 saw the release of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, a new departure in several areas. The lyrics are more far-reaching than ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’, yet remain within the realms of Irish tradition. From the pleasures of a win at the dog tracks to the laments of the Irish diaspora in America, and even the first overtly political songs of the band’s discography, the subjects expand far beyond the character studies and narratives of the first two releases. It even sounds more sprawling, the appearance of a full drum kit and session accompaniment seeming like sheer opulence compared to the thriftiness of before. Two new members make their debuts: multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods (formerly of the legendary folk-rock bands Sweeney’s Men and Steeleye Span) and Daryl Hunt (replacing the outgoing Cait O’Riordan). The inclusion of jazz and indigenous Spanish and Middle-Eastern folk would sound more shocking had they not been woven so brilliantly into Irish music forms, the mock-sitars of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ countered by ‘The Lark in the Morning’, a traditional jig that ended the song, and the faux-jazz ‘Metropolis’ and its prominent horns disarmed by mid-tempo folk verses.

J.P. Donleavy

J.P. Donleavy

Commercial success was confirmed with the release of ‘Fairytale of New York’. Written by MacGowan and Jem Finer, it shares both a title and subject with J.P. Donleavy’s novel ‘A Fairytale of New York’, both works regarding the pursuit of the American dream and, tentatively, the experiences of the Irish diaspora. The merits of the song lie in its exploration of relationships and their intricacies, how they span place and era and how external bickering can mask deep affection. MacGowan is accompanied on the track by Kirsty MacColl, in the guise of a woman whose hopes for a life of prosperity lie dead, shattered by the very person who embodied them. The duet examines the dreams, the shattering, and finally the redemption, like a short story where a monumental topic is condensed, and benefits as a result. A technicolour version of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, a romantic song that remains solidly realist (as the input of MacGowan ensured), the song was only kept off the top spot by the poor ‘Always on My Mind’ cover by the Pet Shop Boys. It has since become a Christmas standard, and the most well-known demonstration of the Pogues’ songwriting skill.

POLITICAL MILITANCY

The subject of Irish Republicanism and the conflict in Ireland was a popular focus for folk groups during the ‘80s, a contemporary issue of great importance socially and culturally. The Pogues explicitly explored this for the first time on ‘If I Should Fall’. Grounded in personal conviction and a long literary tradition, the Pogues were unashamedly Republican, and indeed at an early stage held the moniker the New Republicans. These beliefs manifest themselves in the medley ‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six’. Musically, little links the two songs, but the subject matter is related through its exploration of the ongoing war between the IRA and British forces in Ireland.

‘Streets of Sorrow’, a stark, emotional lament for the war-torn streets of cities like Belfast and Derry, urban areas scarred by the trauma of ongoing war, is immediately followed by the passionate anger of ‘Birmingham Six’, despondency exploding into rage against a Government viewed as oppressive and racist:

There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there’s four,
They were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law.
And the filth got promotion,
But they’re still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time.

The Loughgall Martyrs

The Loughgall Martyrs

Naturally enough, the song was banned by the BBC, continuing a torrid relationship between the band and the corporation. As a medley, the song works perfectly: A distillation of the anguish caused by the Irish conflict and the unbridled anger at a British Government the Republicans viewed as the cause of their problems. That the Pogues held controversial opinions was not in doubt. At the time, the only mainstream voices were those of outright condemnation of the IRA on the one hand, or outright silence on the other. In that spirit, there is more than mere protest in ‘Birmingham Six’, with the final verse containing a reference to the Loughgall Martyrs, eight IRA volunteers killed while attacking a Royal Ulster Constabulary police barracks:

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads,
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head.

Again, there was a literary precedent for the group’s political views, with Brendan Behan, Frank O’Connor, and Ernie O’Malley among the writers who had actively participated in the IRA and expounded upon their views in writing. The theme would be taken up again in later songs like ‘Young Ned of the Hill’ and ‘Rainbow Man’.

POSTMODERN MYTHOLOGY

Another new topic for the band was the role of mythology in Irish life. ‘Sit Down by the Fire’ is a comic take on this tradition:

Sit down by the fire, and I’ll tell you a story
To send you away to your bed.
Of the things you hear creeping
When everyone’s sleeping
And you wish you were out here instead.

The Riders of the Sidhe, by John Duncan

‘The Riders of the Sidhe’ by John Duncan

Lyrically, the focus is on the fairies, or ‘sidhe’, that haunted Irish imagination for centuries, and still persist in popular superstition. MacGowan has long found the idea of parents telling these terrifying stories to children at bedtime as comical, an absurdity built into Irish life for centuries.

The song’s subject matter is interesting because it shows the group exploring the area of folklore (despite its monolithic status pre-20th century, folklore had never been a big concern for the band) while also stepping back from it. This separates such an exploration from the misty-eyed renderings of other more literal folk-rock acts like The Horslips, who had created concept albums based around Celtic mythology. It also continues the motif of postmodernism from MacGowan, the song being a meta-narrative about the telling of a folk tale rather than a simple rendition.

BEYOND IRELAND

While it may have been expected that the band would bask in the critical acclaim of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, this wasn’t to be the case. MacGowan’s alcoholism had progressed beyond being a mere nuisance, and the other members were becoming disgruntled. Worried that MacGowan was hitting the gutter, just as Behan had before, and more willing to take advantage of the democratic songwriting ideals the band had been founded upon, the songwriting representation from the rest of the band would increase on future albums.

This process was immediately visible on 1989’s ‘Peace And Love’. MacGowan’s declining influence was indicated by the (comparatively) paltry six songs he contributed to the 14-track record. The new songwriting arrangements made for instant change, the first surprise coming with the introductory instrumental ‘Gridlock’. An exploration of hard bop jazz and an uncompromising repudiation of folk, the song differs thematically from anything performed by the band before. However, the song that defines the negative side of this experimentation best is the bizarre Celtic-Caribbean fusion of ‘Blue Heaven’, a reprehensible song with the Calypso pretensions suffocating any melodic inventiveness; a situation that occurs with saddening periodicity in the band’s later catalogue. Even the Irish folk songs sound bland and enervated, an alarming regression from the band’s original desire to invigorate the style.

Despite portraying himself as the arch traditionalist during this era, Shane MacGowan was not, in fact, conducting a one man crusade against the pretentious designs of his fellow band members. He had likewise introduced extraneous influences into the pure folk of before. As noted by Simon Reynolds in ‘Generation Ecstasy’, rumours abound that, having become immersed in the acid house scene, he wished to include a 20-minute appropriation of the genre (titled ‘You’ve Got to Contact Yourself’) onto ‘Peace And Love’. Whether there is any truth to this is again unknown, but what is audible fact is the bizarre Motown stomp of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, released as an EP following ‘Peace And Love. While two collaborations with the legendary Dubliners are included, this appears to be an almost apologetic move. Unfortunately, the cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ would require much greater atonement than that.

ENGROSSED IN EUROPE

‘Hell’s Ditch’ seemed like the final break with the Pogues of before. Although containing some fine songs grounded in the same folk stylings (‘Sunnyside of the Street’, ‘Hell’s Ditch’), it sounds uninspiring and even conventional in parts—as pedestrian as the ‘celtic fusion’ peddled by acts like the Saw Doctors or The Waterboys, and not helped by the sterile production courtesy of Joe Strummer. Most substantially, the Irish element was downplayed massively; it was simply another amongst the other myriad styles of ‘world music’.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

This extended to the lyrical elements, too, but in a vastly more positive way. MacGowan’s contributions were fresh and informed by a different aesthetic from the Irish folk of before, transporting the narrative style to exotic characters and locales from further afield on the European continent. The title track’s debt to Jean Genet manifested itself in a snapshot narrative, stark prison imagery wrapped in an overtly-sexual veneer:

The killer’s hands are bound with chains
At six o’clock it starts to rain
He’ll never see the dawn again
Our lady of the flowers

Verses describing death and squalor (like those above) are juxtaposed with others like:

Genet’s feeling Ramon’s dick
The guy in the bunk above gets sick

This is a structural trick that jars the listener and underlines the debt to the novel ‘Our Lady Of The Flowers’. In common with the Irish influences of before, Genet celebrated the lowlife, the disenfranchised, and those who refused to conform to societal norms, but in a more explicit manner that questioned the values society encouraged and celebrated.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca

Aside from Jean Genet, the spectre of Federico Garcia Lorca also informed the album. Like ‘Sickbed of Cuchulainn’, ‘Lorca’s Novena’ deals with modern heroism against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Backed by an eerie, dread-inducing combination of heavy bass and martial drums, the song tells of how the homosexual poet met his death at the hands of Franco’s nationalists. It’s not only the horrific circumstances of the poet’s death that justify the sinister vibes, but the wider context of a fascist victory that would ensure the legitimisation of such reprehensible deeds.

The final song of ‘Hell’s Ditch’, ‘Six to Go’, is an aural tombstone to the MacGowan Pogues, a condensed form of all the musical and conceptual contradictions that would contribute to its demise. Concerned with the six counties of Ireland which remain under the political control of Britain, it includes what sounds alarmingly like clichéd tribal chanting, an Africa found by way of ‘The Lion King’ rather than anti-colonial solidarity. In common with other songs of this era (‘Blue Heaven’, ‘Summer in Siam’, ‘Five Green Queens And Jean’), the solid core ends up ruined rather than enhanced by its exotic trappings.

The positive impact of the international influences on ‘Hell’s Ditch’ is confined solely to the lyrics, which flourish and give the Hibernian focus of the first three albums a sense of context, placing Ireland amongst the other great literary nations of the world, rather than resorting to the Irish chauvinism jokingly played up (particularly by MacGowan) in interviews. If the music had gone the same way, perhaps the culmination of stylistic disparity and substance abuse wouldn’t have led to the decision to kick MacGowan from the band as a whole.

After the disintegration of the original line up, the remaining members regrouped to make two further albums: 1993’s ‘Waiting for Herb’ and 1996’s ‘Pogue Mahone’). Yet without MacGowan at the lyrical helm, the collective lacked the cutting edge they had once possessed. Hence, while the two discs have their moments, they lack charisma and the sense of energy that defines the earlier albums, not to mention that they continue the terrible world music flirtations that marred the last two MacGowan albums. However, by the time of the band’s official demise in 1996, their influence was beginning to be felt in a big way.

LANGUAGE AND CLASS

When evaluating their overall influence, the Pogues use of language cannot be ignored, and it betrayed more than a small debt to Irish literature. In his essay regarding Yeats, George Orwell points out the difficulty of equating ideology with a writer’s style. He notes that Yeats’s attempts at simplistic writing appear convoluted, giving the example of the following verse from ‘An Acre of Grass’

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Orwell calls attention to the word ‘that’ before William Blake’s name as an attempt at conveying familiarity by utilising forced prosody, a co-option of the language of the lower classes negated by the poet’s aristocratic tendencies. When the Pogues lyrics are analysed in a similar way, the opposite conclusion is clear: the lyrics are unforced and authentic, intelligent but unpretentious. ‘Dark Streets of London’ is an effortlessly figurative example of this

“I like to walk in the summer breeze
Down Dalling Road by the dead old trees
And drink with my friends
In the Hammersmith Broadway
Dear dirty delightful old drunken old days”

The quality of such writing is that it makes the quotidian seem otherworldly through common poetic methods like alliteration. The tongue-twisting last line reads like something written by Gerard Manley Hopkins rather than an extract from a popular music song. Coming at the dawn of their career, such examples would become commonplace for the band, a musical fulfilment of Orwell’s proletarian artistic vision.

IRISH POST-COLONIALISM

Interpreted through the lens of post-colonialism, the band offer an intriguing range of interpretations, and indeed contradictions. Firstly, the very fact that they were composed primarily of London-born musicians would seem to render their status as Irish music icons quite hollow, an easy target as ‘musical imperialists’ plundering the vaults of a rich tradition. This allegation is easily refuted, however, the band’s members were all of Irish heritage, some even born there and with strong connections to the island.

In a more elaborate sense, the very foundations of the group immunise them from such attacks. By attempting to modernise folk, adhering to its roots but emphasising areas neglected by other artists, such as attitude and literary merit, the Pogues (in their early stages at least) helped save Irish folk from becoming a marginal strand of the ‘world music’ scene. This was in marked contrast to other groups, such as Moving Hearts, who from the beginning merged folk with jazz and rock styles. If this interpretation is accepted, then consequently Shane MacGowan’s criticism of the post-‘If I Should Fall’ immersion in world music becomes easier to accept as well. After all, when the theoretical grounding they had started with began to dissolve, the songs became less distinguished and more conventional, consumed within the quagmire of the cultural buffet of world music and generic folk-rock.

The Pogues And The Dubliners

The Pogues And The Dubliners

Another barrier against such attacks is to take the opposite conclusion: the Pogues as the products of an Ireland that has throughout its history assimilated invaders and immigrants into the native society. While historically there had been fierce resistance to such absorption, at certain points the cultures of the native and colonial Irish inevitably coalesced. The greatest manifestation of this was in the Celtic dawn of the late 19th century, when a vast re-discovery of Gaelic Ireland was expressed through modern literary and performance techniques. Writers like Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory (despite the mockery afforded them from MacGowan) worked to create a distinctly Irish literature, not dependant on wider developments within Britain for inspiration.

Important as an explicitly nationalist rejection of cultural imperialism, the Irish literary revival’s reverberations continued throughout the 20th century. As the 21st century approached, there were intimations that the cultural dependency had been reversed to a certain extent. The post-colonial literary theorist Declan Kiberd writes:

“When Daniel Day-Lewis pronounced his win at the Oscars [for his portrayal of Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’] a triumph for Ireland, he effectively dismantled the English-when-they-win, Irish-when-they-lose equation. But he chose Irishness just as much as the Anglo-Normans did before him: in neither case was it forced upon a hapless victim”

This was but one example of the increasing prevalence of Irish (or faux-Irish) content in popular culture in the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, alongside films like ‘The Commitments’ and productions including ‘Riverdance’. The Pogues’ role in this reversal is interesting, because while in terms of location they were primarily English, they were possibly the most fervent purveyors of ‘Irishness’ amongst their Celtic cultural contemporaries, musically and in content. That it took a band located in England to re-assert Irish music’s place in popular music (rather than confined to the folk sidelines) says a lot about Ireland’s unusual place along the path of post-colonialism, the mass emigration that occurred mainly as a consequence of colonial exploitation has rendered its culture stronger in areas other than its origin. Following their artistic forebears, the Pogues contribution to post-colonialism has been to re-establish Irish identity (in the form of music and text) as having something to offer beyond novelty or the margins, as a vibrant player on the international stage.

CELTIC PUNK AND A WIDER INFLUENCE

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

The mid-90’s saw the emergence of a host of (primarily American) bands largely influenced by The Pogues musical, lyrical and conceptual qualities. The fact that this scene has grown so vast as to require an article (or a book) of its own is testament to the inspiration legions of acts have taken from the band, but the two most popular acts, critically and commercially, are undoubtedly Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphys.

The former takes their cue from all eras of the Pogues, while including conventional instrumentation like the electric guitar (‘Another Bag of Bricks’ even usurps the Middle-Eastern influences of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ in a garishly conspicuous way.) Albums including ‘Swagger’ and ‘Drunken Lullabies’ share thematic subjects with the Pogues, abundant in references to Irish history and politics, including the important role of the Catholic Church. Dropkick Murphys differ from Flogging Molly by mixing their folk with prominent ‘Oi!’ influences. This has led to a blatant espousal of working class socialism more explicit than that ever referred to in Pogues songs. Making visible their debt to the Pogues, the band even had MacGowan appear as a guest vocalist on ‘Good Rats’ from 2001’s ‘Sing Loud, Sing Proud’.

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

While Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys may be the most important bands deriving stylistic influences from the Pogues, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The celtic punk scene has spread from its main base in America all around the world, a common motif of the hybrid being Pogues covers, homages, and references, a musical movement equivalent to the Irish diaspora’s diffusion on a global scale. Beyond this scene, the group’s influence has extended to areas more mainstream than the largely underground punk circuit.

On a global level, Irish folk became a visible presence in popular culture by the early 90’s, albeit in watered-down forms like ‘Riverdance’ and ‘The Corrs’, which bore scant relation to the music or ethos of the Pogues. It’s hard to say whether such acts can even be considered as musically influenced by the Pogues, but it is certain that the Pogues chart success the laid the foundations for mainstream assimilation of Celtic music by popularising it in the first place. So while songs like ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ can’t be counted as direct influences upon mainstream exports, they can be considered torch bearers for their cultural phenomena.

MacGOWAN’S CURRENT STANDING

So where do the Pogues stand today? While other members of the band made vast contributions to the group and Irish folk, it is MacGowan who remains famous in the mainstream. Portrayed in the press as a stereotypical drunken Irish poet, a boozed-up bohemian associated with other artists known for their excesses (especially Pete Doherty of the Libertines and Babyshambles), he is also increasingly lauded as a genius songwriter by sources as mainstream as the NME and The Guardian.

Since the full reformation of the band in 2001, these laudatory sentiments have only increased, a result of the now-legendary status afforded to the band’s performances. Inevitably, the media has commented on the continuity between his ‘literary drunk’ status and artists of the same vintage who preceded him. MacGowan even doggedly champions Coleridge over Wordsworth, believing the latter’s work to be inferior on an artistic level, but his fondness for Coleridge also lies in the Romantic’s famous use of opium.

It’s a pattern that remains a constant through all the Pogues albums, the championing of the underdog cast aside by society, and that is the role MacGowan has taken for himself. Whether writing in the guise of a person experiencing the euphoria of winning a bet, the solitary child terrified by ghouls of their parent’s making, or the railway workers toiling and dying without recognition, he imparts a personal touch that is ultimately the real affinity he shares with the writers he admires. Frank O’Connor, Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Mannix Flynn, authors MacGowan maintains have lived; the same underclass he immortalises in his own writing. Ultimately, he has emulated them in his own life and gained similar recognition, hailed not only as a musician, but as a legitimate and important contributor to the continuing evolution of Irish writing.

PopMatters

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*originally published on the marvellous Pop Matters web site.

PopMatters is an international magazine of cultural criticism. Our scope is broadly cast on all things pop culture, and our content is updated daily. We provide intelligent reviews, engaging interviews, and in-depth essays on most cultural products and expressions in areas such as music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet.

* if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a stack of great articles on them-

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

‘Book Review: Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen’  here

‘The Pogues On Mastermind- The Questions’  here

ALBUM REVIEW: DANNY DIATRIBE- ‘Elevation Illustrations’ (2016)

Elevation Illustrations is the second album release from Danny Diatribe aka Irish rapper Danny Lynch originally from Derry City but based in Manchester.

Danny Diatribe

Now first things first. What I know about hip-hop you could write on the back of a postage stamp to be honest but I do like music of the Irish diaspora and I do own the House Of Pain discography and that has made me the most qualified out of all the London Celtic Punks reviewers to take on the new Danny Diatribe album for you! Danny was born Danny Lynch in Derry city in the occupied north of Ireland but emigrated to Manchester as a young ‘un ten years back. Danny may not be the first celtic-rapper (see our article The Top Seven Celtic Hip-Hop Artists And Bands here) but he is one of only a small handful waving the tricolour in England!

Danny Diatribe 3

Elevation Illustrations is Danny’s follow up album to 2013’s Information Age and though musically a hundred miles away from what I usually listen to I found myself getting proper into it… so i did! With a whole host of guest artists appearing Elevation Illustrations is like a who’s-who of the Manchester rap scene but is most definitely Danny’s work. Kicking off with ‘Towards Balance’ which was released as a single from the album.

Followed by ‘Encounter Philosophical’ and another great video goes with the song this time filmed in Reykjavik, Iceland. In fact one of the things most impressive things about Danny Diatribe is the quality videos that accompany pretty much all of Danny’s songs. ‘Magum Opus’ features Conor McGregor giving out on what is the Irish way while ‘Roses’ features Wile Man. The nightmare of alcoholism is the feature of ‘Ten Green Bottles’
“Emerge from buried history, i never speak in novel tones,
Never do I grovel thrones, I hobble down the cobble stones,
Sunken in the drunkin groans, my thoughts are dim lit alleyways,
Drown my screaming ego, I escape from my reality.Fall into the gutter on theses doom stilts,
Calls for help turns into a spludder as the room tilts,
This is the life for me, cos there is no life for me,
I drown the fuckin sight i see”

and more nightmarish visions follow in title song ‘Elevation Illustrations’ featuring Herrotics and Misc Jockey. ‘South Manchester’ is a gritty slowed down diatribe on an area of Manchester that goes from the footballer-belt right up to the inner-city. ‘Boneshakers’ features Dubbul O and ‘The Vagabond of Babylon’ features Danny in the video wandering round his native Derry.

‘Paddys Cure’ follows and begins with a blast of the Dubliners and is as good a song about Irish emigration as you’ll hear. The song is featuring fellow Manchester Irish rapper D’Lyfa Reilly and the pride and the sadness of leaving Ireland and being Irish is clear.

‘The Void’ features Tony Skank, ‘Bun The System’ features Bill Sykes, Black Josh & Cheech and we’re coming to the end of the album and the last two songs sum up the album perfectly. ‘The Fractal Mind Of Diatribe’ is an extended rant giving Danny’s main philosophies on life.

“I’m Danny Diatribe, chillin on a manny vibe,
The chillin Irish guy that keeps it lit just like a fire fly,
Got more juice than 5alive, but never on the flyer I
Think promoters sleep they’re counting sheep and rapid eye
movement, showing improvement, I’ve been rhyming for a decade,
from mind to pen to tongue my lungs expand under my chest plate,
the Derry native gets creative with his intake
breath controls the central role for meditating stressed states
rippin the microphone cos its the dopest thing i know
gathering up my thoughts and then express it in a flow
I’m academic when i said it and it shows
I kick enlightened poems if you don’t know well now ye know,
but some dont comprehend so they need to be told again
the universe extends every time i hold a pen
don’t follow trends but ye can catch me at the bar with cats
spittin raps till another celebrity star collapse
off the beaten track, only reaching those that’s seeking facts,
leave that heathen chat, your teeth’s in that and what you speak is wack,
no-one believes in your mc-ing get your reason back,
im a seasoned cat, your a cell inside a semen sack,
must be fuckin dreamin, black Irish and we’re up north
the catechism causes craniums to contort,
futuristic, my target market’s unborn,
I speak the celtic flow that makes you want more,

cause an uproar”

The song ends with the great line

“so thanks for listenin, grab a tin with me next of kin,
grippin them and sippin them up on a roof in Withington”

and finally ‘Elevation Illustrations’ comes to an end with ‘Astral Journey’ featuring Legion and the curtain comes down.

The album was produced by Pro P who has been tipped as one of the top 10 UK hip hop producers to look out for in 2016 by the highly influential web site UKHH.COM. Fourteen tracks that nicely bring up both The Clash and Public Enemy in describing Irish immigrant life while raging on the attacks on our civil liberties, Palestine, imperialism, the working class and the gritty side of Manchester life. All are in his cross-hairs and the execution is pure brilliant. Backed by a varied and excellent sets of beats from trip-hop to jungle, to electronica and back again Danny has delivered something that takes the idea of celtic-punk and brings it much much closer to modern culture than we could ever do. Sharp tongued and finely distilled Danny Diatribe is set for important things. Buy the album and tell your friends you got your finger on the pulse of underground Irish immigrant hip hop. You will sound cool as anything!

(you can listen to  by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below before you buy. Go on it’s only a fiver!)

Danny Diatribe 2Buy The Album

FromDanny

Contact Danny Diatribe

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Interesting story regards the old fashioned gent on the album cover. It is not as originally thought Danny pre-beard but his Great-Grandad James Lynch in 1890. He was a protestant that converted to Catholicism to marry and had to be sneaked into church on the quiet. Both him and his brother played football for Ireland and he was given an award by the Royal Humane Society for saving a drowning woman’s life by jumping in the water, punching her unconscious, swimming back to shore with her and resuscitating her on land!

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE GREATEST SONGS OF WOODY GUTHRIE (1972)

“I hate a song that makes you think you´re not any good! I hate a song that makes you think you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too fat or too thin or too that. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or your hard travelling”

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Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was the single most important American folk music artist of the 20th century, in part because he turned out to be such a major influence on the popular music of the second half of the 20th century, a period when he himself was largely inactive. He performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’. His greatest significance lies in his songwriting. Songs like the standard ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and much-covered works as ‘Deportee’, ‘Do Re Mi’, ‘Hard, Ain’t It Hard’, ‘Hard Travelin’, ‘1913 Massacre’, ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ are all featured on ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ in one way or another.

Woody1Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in the oil boom town of Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912. He went on the road when only 13 years old after his mother was debilitated by Huntington´s Chorea, a incurable nerve disease which would eventually kill Woody himself in 1967. During the years leading up to the Second World War he was with the refugees of the Dust Bowl on their trail westward, with the migrant workers in the California orchards, in the factories and mines where workers struggled for union recognition to gain better pay and conditions, with the black Americans against the prejudice facing them and during the war he was in the navy. Throughout all these experiences and a life full of tragedy his faith in people and his belief that the ordinary person would win in the end never faltered.

Most of those performances and recordings came after Guthrie’s enforced retirement due to illness in the early ’50s. During his heyday, in the 1940s, he was a major-label recording artist, a published author, and a nationally broadcast radio personality. But the impression this creates, that he was a multi-media star, is belied by his personality and his politics. Restlessly creative and prolific, he wrote, drew, sang, and played constantly, but his restlessness also expressed itself in a disinclination to stick consistently to any one endeavour, particularly if it involved a conventional, cooperative approach. Nor did he care to stay in any one place for long. This individualism was complemented by his left-wing political views. During his lifetime, much attention was given in the U.S. to whether left-wingers or even liberals were or had ever been members of the Communist party. No reliable evidence emerged that Guthrie was, but there can be little doubt where his sympathies lay!
Sadly it was as Woody’s health declined to the point of permanent hospitalization in the 1950’s that his career took off. His songs and his example served as inspiration for the folk revival in general and, in the early 1960’s, Bob Dylan in particular. By the mid-’60s, his songs were appearing on dozens of records, his own recordings were being reissued and, in some cases, released for the first time, and his writings were being edited into books. This resurgence was in no way slowed by his death in 1967; on the contrary, it has continued for decades afterwards. New books are published and the Guthrie estate has invited such artists as Billy Bragg and Wilco in to write music for Guthrie’s large collection of unpublished lyrics, creating new songs to record.

So now you know a little bit more about the man in question what’s the story with the album?Woody2

There are two reasons why calling this album ‘The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie’ rather than some variation on the greatest hits idea makes sense. First, Guthrie was out singing these songs before there ever were any Billboard charts to help defiine exactly what constituted a hit. Second, although this album starts with Guthrie himself singing ‘This Land Is Your Land’ clearly his most famous and most popular song, the track shifts to the song being sung by the Weavers. Guthrie sings a few songs and a few duets, but mostly his songs are sung by other artists. So what we have here is a tribute album, originally a double-album now on a single CD, that represents some of the best first and second generation folk singers who followed in the path blazed by America’s troubadour. The first generation would be those artists that actually got to play with Guthrie, which would be not only the Weavers with Pete Seeger (the artist who most closely followed in Guthrie’s footsteps), but also Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. The next generation is represented on the album by Odetta, Joan Baez, and Country Joe McDonald. Yes, there is an authenticity to hearing Guthrie sing his songs that nobody else can touch, but there is also something to be said for other artists replacing his rawness with more of the inherent beauty of his songs. Whichever you prefer there is a wealth of Woody material out there for you. Happy hunting!

Track Listing:
1. This Land Is Your Land- Woody Guthrie/The Weavers
2. Do Re Mi- Cisco Houston
3. So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh- The Weavers
4. Pastures Of Plenty- Odetta
5. Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)- Cisco Houston
6. 900 Miles- Cisco Houston
7. Roll On Columbia- Country Joe McDonald
8. Hard, Ain’t It Hard- Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston
9. Dirty Overhalls- Woody Guthrie
10. Riding In My Car (Take Me)- Woody Guthrie
11. Ship In The Sky- Cisco Houston
12. The Sinking Of The Reuben James- The Weavers
13. Rambling Round Your City- Odetta
14. Jesus Christ- Cisco Houston
15. When The Curfew Blows- Country Joe McDonald
16. 1913 Massacre- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
17. Talking Fishing Blues- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
18. Curly Headed Baby- Cisco Houston
19. Jackhammer John- The Weavers
20. The Great Historical Bum- Odetta
21. Pretty Boy Floyd- Joan Baez
22. Buffalo Skinners- Jim Kweskin
23. Hard Travelin’- Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry

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“A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it or it could be
who’s hungry and where their mouth is or
who’s out of work and where the job is or
who’s broke and where the money is or
who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is”

For More Information On Woody Guthrie:

best place to start is the OfficialWebSite * a selection of free music is available at LastFM * Wikipedia * the WoodyGuthrieCenter  is dedicated to celebrating Woody’s life and legacy * Woody100 * the quotes of Woody Wikiquote * The RollingStone articles on Woody * Gerry Adams on Woody Guthrie Léargas *

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (click here for the entire series) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON TWO!

The 14th March 2016 saw the 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six. Perhaps the most famous ‘miscarriage of justice’ in legal history. They were not alone then and they are not alone now. There are many innocent men and women languishing in prison who urgently need our help to turn the excruciatingly slow wheels of justice in their favour. The case of the Craigavon 2, Brendan McConville and John-Paul Wootton, is one such case and their conviction must be overturned. We at London Celtic Punks are fully behind the Justice For The Craigavon 2 campaign. We cannot let a miscarriage of justice to this scale ever happen again.

Justice 1

Justice 2

“Hopefully this miscarriage of justice can be over turned and this nightmare of suffering for us and our families ended. However, after the experience we have already had we do not have a great deal of confidence in the criminal justice system, hence, we are asking you, the public, to follow the course of our appeal and to see for yourself the manner in which information is dealt with and how ‘justice’ is being administered in your name. Let’s not wait 15 – 20 years to deal with a miscarriage of justice, let us do so now”

Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton.

Maghaberry Jail Co. Antrim

Help the campaign. Join the Facebook page. Spread word of Brendan and John Paul’s innocense. Find out more here- WebSite  Twitter  Facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: 13KRAUSS- TheEnd Is Nigh’ (2016)

Part Dropkicks, a wee part Molly’s but always 100% celtic-folk-punk!

13Krauss

The End is Nigh is the follow up album from 13Krauss  to their excellent debut album, Seguir En Pie, which was released to great acclaim back in 2014. For our review of that grand album then check out here. Originally forming up as a straight up, no frills punk rock band but after a Real McKenzies show in their home town they were inspired to change direction and take the celtic-punk high road. So the boys went on to add an accordion player and a bagpiper and 13Krauss the celtic punk band were born! Hailing from Zaragoza in what is basically the dead centre of Spain they have become firm favourites on the Spanish scene, and further afield as well, and on the basis of these two albums it is no surprise why either.

The album begins with ‘Reza Por Tu Vida’ and the sound of an ocean and a toiling bell adds some nice touches to this blistering slab of fast and furious celtic-punk. One of only three songs sung in Spanish, the rest are in English, except for the one instrumental. Its a brilliant start with shouty gang vocals atop of acoustic guitar and bagpipes and its very Dropkicks sounding indeed. ‘Doomsday’ follows and reminds me of my current scene fave’s Ferocious Dog with the fiddle looming large and cranked up electric guitar and mandolin. Bodi vocal style is excellent. Shouty and strained but never unintelligible and you know that if pushed he could give it a real ‘croon’ with the best of them. The bagpipes are back out for ‘Flying Broken Chairs’, a catchy as hell track telling of a wicked and wild night down the boozer. They literally just released the video for ‘Flying Broken Chairs’ just yesterday featuring footage from this years St Patrick’s Day gig in Sala López in their home town of Zaragoza.

The best celtic-punk bands have the ability to slow it down and with the aptly named ‘Slow Down’ 13Krauss prove they can do it too. The story is of looking for leprauchauns and has quite the polka sound to it. Much like The Dreadnoughts use to play. Another thing a lot of non-celtic in origin celtic-punk bands are very good at is bringing new sounds and influences into their music and again ‘En Mi Ataúd’ has a sort of polka /Russian thing going on and its great. ‘Don’t Feed The Goblin’ is the only instrumental here and instrumental by name MENTAL by nature. A fast as hell ride through Dropkick Murphy’s style bagpipe punk rock. 13Krauss switch it up again and ‘Miserable Bridges’ has a skate-punk feel to it while again David’s bagpiping is absolutely superb. We are nearing the end now and ‘The Smitting Blow’ changes it up again with a country folk punk number that is unlike anything else here but equally as good and then finally we have ‘El Mañana No Espera’ and the end of the album. The bagpipes are loud and proud and the curtain comes down on this fantastic album with another piece of Murphy’s influenced celtic-punk rock.

The album was recorded and mixed in their home town and the nine tracks clock in at a very healthy thirty minutes. It was released just after St Patrick’s Day earlier in the year and is available for download as ‘name your price’ and only €9 for the actual physical compact disc which comes in a rather nice jewel case with all the song lyrics, credits and pictures in a extensive twelve page booklet. That there’s not a single cover version here is the first thing that struck me on hearing The End is Nigh. Just nine great slabs of celtic-punk that show the influence of other bands in the scene but always with the 13Krauss stamp of individuality on it. They have a great knack of switching it up and just as you feel your in for a ride of Dropkick Murphys expectations your off in another completely different direction. There are some outstanding celtic-punk bands from the region with Catalan bands The Drink Hunters and Sigelpa due to release new albums very soon, Bastards from Galicia still touring Europe relentlessly and The Fatty Farmers having also recently released a excellent new album too. 13Krauss deserve to be heard beyond Spain but also beyond Dropkick Murphys fans too as this album will appeal to all fans of the genre whether you prefer the punky or the folkier side of celtic-punk. 

(You can have a free listen to The End Is Nigh by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Follow the link below to buy)

13Krauss logo (2)

Buy The Album

FromTheBand

Contact The Band

Bandcamp  Facebook  Twitter   MySpace   YouTube

* the guys from 13Krauss have also set up the ZARAGOZA CELTIC PUNKS group on Facebook so trot along there and join up here

(Check out this full concert from 13Krauss. a unusual camera angle but you can see how much the crowd gets into as the gig goes along. Brilliant!)

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