ALBUM REVIEW: SONS OF O’FLAHERTY- ‘The Road Not Taken’ (2017)

Who are Sons Of O’Flaherty? Six good friends who grew up in the Celtic nation of Brittany in love with punk rock, folk and traditional Celtic music.

Yec’hed Mad and see you soon !

Now the history of the celtic nations and their people and culture and their languages has never been a particularly happy one with each nation experiencing waves of repression ever since they were taken over and with none of them free this repression continues but out of adversity springs hope and what I love above all else is to hear a band out of the Celtic nations embrace celtic-punk as a way to promote their identity and culture. The Sons Of O’Flaherty hail from Vannes in the north-western tip of Brittany, an area where almost 10% of children are brought up in Breton speaking schooling so were definitely talking about that rare thing here. A Celtic celtic-punk band!!
Now the Celtic League, the main body incorporating all the Celtic nations, identifies only Brittany, Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Cornwall and Wales as being Celtic nations. What is left of the once mighty Celtic peoples who stretched from Ireland to Turkey and tied by language and culture and traditions. There are of large Celtic connections to all of Britain and present day France and parts of Belgium (the Gaulic tribes) and Spain (Galicia) but these are not considered to be “Celtic” by some. The Celtic League classifies only the 6 nations as countries where their native Celtic language is spoken into modern times. I’m not alone in thinking this a rather closed mind classification and anyone visiting Galicia for example is struck by how similar it is to the Celtic nations rather than Spain. Every Celtic nation has suffered war and plunder as well as suffering attempts to destroy their culture and languages. The British governments crimes in this regard are well documented but the French have also long tried to suppress any cultural and lingual distinctions of the Celtic Bretons. Like the other five nations this has led to massive emigration and Celtic Breton communities all over the world especially in Canada and America.
Now, like me, you may remember Asterix the Gaul and his band of merry men and their exploits fighting against the Roman invader. Originally as a comic and then a cartoon that featured on the TV all through my childhood and it was it is in the northwest tip of France, in Brittany, that the famous stories were set. Asterix and his tribe were Gauls taking on the ‘Latin’ invaders who had spread across a large part of western Europe, establishing their towns and villas and changing for ever the history of Europe. Pushed westward it was only in the furthest northwestern extremity of France that the ancient Gauls, with their Celtic language and culture, managed to survive; and they have done so to this day, leaving Brittany – the land of the Bretons – as the largest outstanding stronghold of Celtic heritage on the continent of Europe. The Breton people are proud of their identity, and many think of themselves as Bretons not French. Throughout Brittany, small festivals and other events strongly stress the region’s distinct Celtic heritage and cultural identity. The most important event in the annual calendar is however the massive annual InterCeltique festival. Taking place every year in early August, in the port of Lorient. Founded in 1971 it has now become one of the biggest festivals in Brittany and France with well over 600,000 visitors attending each year.
The flag of the Bretons may be a modern design but is now recognized and accepted as a representation of the Breton folk. The nine horizontal stripes represent the traditional dioceses of Brittany. The five black stripes indicate the French speaking areas, while the four white stripes represent the Breton speaking regions. The flag has a canton in the upper left corner, indicating an ancient Breton coat of arms. Speaking and teaching Breton was prohibited til 1951 but ever since the French government have tried to chip away at the Celtic speaking inhabitants. 
Successive French governments, left and right, have consistently refused to sign the European Charter of Minority Languages and to recognize the linguistic rights of the Bretons. Despite the large amount of speakers and the interest in learning the language there are little to none radio and television broadcasts. The use of the Breton language in legal and commercial documents, as well as in publicity, is against French law and are therefore illegal. It remarkable then that the language has survived to the extant that it has and has been expanding for over a decade with more and more young people taking it up and Breton nurseries and children’s schools opening up across the region.

Alan Stivell

In the world of celtic-rock Breton music has played a major role with the Breton cultural revival of the 1960’s exemplified by Alan Stivell who became the leading proponent of the Breton harp and other instruments from about 1960, he also adopted elements of Irish, Welsh and Scottish traditional music in an attempt to create pan-Celtic folk music. This had considerable impact elsewhere, particularly in Wales and Cornwall. From 1972 he began to play electric folk with a band including guitarists Dan Ar Braz and Gabriel Yacoub. Yacoub went on to form Malicorne in 1974 one of the most successful electric folk band in France. After an extensive career that included a stint playing as part of Fairport Convention in 1976, Ar Braz formed the pan-Celtic band Heritage Des Celts, who managed to achieve mainstream success in France in the 1990s. Probably the best known and most certainly the most enduring electric folk band in France were Tri Yann formed in 1971 and still recording and performing today. As is often the case the Breton’s have embraced the celtic-punk revolution with open arms and bands like Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs, The Maggie Whackers and Sons Of O’Flaherty use their Celtic heritage to push for more civil rights and recognition for their language. The Breton’s have often looked to the Irish for influence when organising resistance to this oppression with several armed groups going back to the 1930’s with Gwenn Ha Du (Breton for “white and black”) to the Breton Liberation Front (Talbenn Dieubiñ Breizh) which was active in the 1960’s up to the 1990’s which in turn led to the militant Breton Revolutionary Army (Armée Révolutionnaire Bretonne, ARBwhich is still active to this day. The ARB, unlike its counterparts in Corsica with the (FLNC) and the Basque country (ETA) does not seek to hurt any individuals but instead to cause economic damage. Support for the ARB may be smaller than at it’s hayday in the 70’s when it attracted thousands to its demonstrations but its non-lethal attacks and policies still attract widespread tolerance and a certain level of support.
Sons Of O’Flaherty debut record was a self-titled five track EP released back in 2010. Clearly influenced by trad Irish ballad groups like The Wolfe Tones and that is reflected in the choice of songs with two Irish folk covers and a song titled ‘Bobby’ about legendary Irish hero and rebel Bobby Sands. It has since been made available as a Free/Name Your Price download so follow the link below.

Though not a ‘proper’ release they also gathered a few random tracks and released them as a 3 track EP titled Misc Songs last year and have also made them free to download.

The Road Not Taken was released at the end of last month and from the first couple of bars you know you are in for a good time here! I don’t know how much content their is of Breton music here as the Bhoys sound soooo fecking Irish they could be from Ballylooby! From the first song onwards I am simply astounded (and extremely, extremely jealous) at the quality of the lyrics here. ‘Dead And Gone’ opens the album and is a fast and furious pipes’n’punk tune about the day we die and then party/wake we want in our honour that name checks “the sweet hoarse voice of” Mike Ness, the Dropkicks and Sick Of It All.
“Have one last drink, one last laugh and maybe one last song
The last one for the road, the funeral’s upbeat
We’ll see you soon, we’ll miss you and please keep us a warm seat”
What a start. Ticking all the required boxes to get a great review after just one song the Sons Of O’Flaherty confirm it next with the Dubliners favoured ‘Sam Hall’. An old English folk song about a bitterly unrepentant criminal condemned to death. The song was known originally as ‘Jack Hall’ an infamous thief who was hanged in 1707 at Tyburn. Jack Hall’s parents sold him as a climbing boy for one guinea, which is why he is identified as a chimney sweep. The celtic-punk is flowing out and ‘The Lucky Ones’ tells about how lucky the Bhoys feel to be in a band and their determination to keep going.
“I don’t care how hard it will be, my songs I’ll always stammer out”
The harmonica is out for this and I always love hearing it. It may finally be finding its rightful place in the celtic-punk world judging by recent album’s I have heard.

We hit our first drinking song next with ‘Once Upon A Binge’, a straight forward punk rock tune garnished with mandolin and tin whistle while ‘Saint or Sinner’ tells of a bartender’s guilty conscience while the punk is turned up even louder with mandolin standing out proudest above the thrashing guitar.
“I don’t care what they think or say it’s death I’m selling”
The wonderful of pipes take the song out into ‘Red Wine Teeth’ and it’s more of the same. The Sons Of O’Flaherty could stand on their own feet as a punk band but the Celtic instruments add so much more. They are not just played over the top of the rock music but you the impression if anything it’s the other way round. 

Now any band who records ‘Fields Of Athenry’ in this day and age better be prepared to have it savaged unless they have managed to find a way to record it that takes it out of Irish ‘showband’ territory. They play a solid punk rock version with gang vocals and I always love to hear the “Let the free bird fly” add on. Gang chorus and the whole band having a go on vocals give the song a nice touch even though its pretty much influenced by the Dropkicks version.

The DKM’s influence pops up again on next song ‘The Better Claim’ with male/female vocals about the break up of a love affair that was never meant to be with some wickedly hilarious lines
“I met you, I loved you, you were all I hoped for
I gave you all I had, everything I had in store
I met you, I loved you, and your loss I’ll deplore
But things changed, now this can’t go on anymore”
that of course has the fella as the villain and rightly so in my experience! Rolling towards the end and ‘Glory Days’ starts off with a country vibe before the band rock out. A class song with the band playing magnificently here. Slow and epic sounding with a great chorus and clever and meaningful lyrics about a old mans life and what he has left to show for them. 
“I am now facing an old wrinkled man, his life has come and passed and his skin’s there to show
That even though his glory days might be far behind, there’s no regrets to have and no will to let go”

This is the album standout for me and though English may not be their first language, or even their second, by Christ you wouldn’t know that reading through their lyrics. Luckily for you they are included on the Bandcamp page so follow the link below and have a good read of them. ‘Love Me’ returns us to fast paced punk and then ‘The Townspeople’ brings the curtain down on an album with a gentle country folk number that is the perfect ending.

Those expecting a band from a Celtic nation to provide a purely folk album will be sorely disappointed here as Sons Of O’Flaherty are as equally influenced by Social Distortion as they are by Soldat Louis! Here is eleven songs with two covers lasting near forty minutes that keeps your interest up right until the very end. If we ever needed evidence that celtic-punk has begun to make inroads into celtic music we need look no further than Brittany and Sons Of O’Flaherty.

(have a listen to The Road Not Taken before you buy at the Bandcamp link below)

Buy The Road Not Taken

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Contact The Sons Of O’Flaherty

WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: THE DISTILLERY RATS- ‘Tales From County Whiskey’ (2017)

You can hear drunks in the streets singing Irish folk songs? The peaty scent of whiskey is crawling up your nose? The maidens wear their best clothes? Be sure, the County Whiskey Folk Punk Crew is near.

Lock up your liquor and hold back your daughters the Distillery Rats are back in town

Formed in the German wine making area of Heilbronn the Distillery Rats have been celebrating their own successful brand of Irish folk punk since 2005. We have mentioned before our theories of why in Germany celtic-punk and Irish music are so widely celebrated but they love all things Irish over there and the Rats are another in a long line of bands who have managed to take punk rock and Irish folk and unify them together into what we all know to be the ultimate good time music.

(compilation of snippets from each song on the album)

Since forming as 4-piece originally called Commerzpank in  2005, The Distillery Rats have played all over Germany in pubs,clubs and festivals large and small. From that original 4 piece the band has grown to include two vocalists, guitars, drums and bass and the folk side of the band banjos, mandolin, accordion, piano, bouzouki, whistles and uilleann pipes. Before this release their only release has been a now sold out five-track EP Back On The Road in 2010. So a full lengther has been a long time coming and widely anticipated within the scene.

The Distillery Rats left to right: left to right: Marcy Mahoney- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Mr. Firebeard- Accordion, Drums * Matt O’Killian- Banjo, Mandolin, Whistles, Pipes * Phil McMorning- Vocals, Bass, Accordion, Banjo, Guitars * Josey DiCilento- Accordion, Piano * Toby McWire- Electric Guitar * Mike McMorning- Drums, Percussion * George McGorgeous- Guitars, Backing Vocals

While here in England the celtic part of celtic-punk is often underplayed in countries like Germany and Hungary they completely go for the Irish/Celtic part and here on their debut album The Distillery Rats are no different. This is full on Irish folk played with pace when needed but not afraid to slow it down too either. Fifty minutes, fourteen songs, eleven of which are originals with a range of songs about whiskey, beer, porter and even cider. They also play some drinking songs as well! The whole thing kicks off, appropriately,  with ‘County Whiskey’ and as catchy a tune as you’ll find on here with a more rock’n’roll thing going on led by accordion before the pipes kick in. The first thing you notice here though is the sheer amount of instruments playing. With eight band members and pretty much all of them playing at least two instruments the whole thing is crystal clear and you can hear everything going on, even in the punkier numbers.As second song ‘Poor Old Paddy O’ kicks in you can’t help but notice that they seem to be inhabiting the middle ground between the DKM’s and Flogging Molly. The accordion lends more to FM but the punky guitar is dead on DKM. A song that bridges the gap between celtic-punk’s two biggest bands. Quite an achievement but can they keep it up? The album’s first traditional cover is a brilliant song in its own right, ‘Johnny Jump Up’. An Irish drinking song written by Tadhg Jordan and first popularized by Jimmy Crowley, before being brought to a wider audience by Christy Moore. Johnny Jump Up was a strong cider, apparently made stronger by being stored in old whiskey barrels brewed in county Cork. The bhoys play it with typical gusto and keep the pace up nicely. A cool mostly acoustic punk number that is still as loud as hell! Country’n’folk combine with Phil’s great and deep vocals for ‘The Angel’s Share’ a lovely dark ballad with just acoustic guitar and faint mandolin in the background that builds up without speeding up. Next is the lead single for the album, ‘Shannon River Lady. They released a class video and the song itself also borrows a little from rock’n’roll, in both sound and for the video, without abandoning The Distillery Rats formula too much.

Follows is another cover and again it’s one that has been regularly done over the years but if that is true then their is always a reason. ‘Come Out Ye Black And Tans’ is one of the best Irish folk songs ever written and ripe for speeding up and playing celtic-punk stylee. Fast and punky but with the guitar giving it a bit of a ska beat at times. An Irish rebel song written by Dominic Behan, brother of famed Irish writer Brendan Behan that will get your Irish blood pumping! The song tells the story of Irish resistance and ties Irish nationalism to the struggles of other peoples against the British Empire across the world. As much as I love this kind of ‘fire in the belly’ rabble rousing I also love the slower stuff, especially when it’s done well and ‘Anchor, Harbour, Home’ hits the spot nicely. Slow and if they were aiming for the classic sea shanty sound then well done to them. Nothing too serious lyric wise on Tales From County Whiskey and I can tell you after watching the news of the last few days then that’s a massive relief. I’m a bit bored of punk bands radical sound bites and have long come to the conclusion we’d be better off singing a song like ‘Singin 1, 2, 3’ then about nuclear war!

Fast and upbeat and more about real life than any punk song I have heard recently.

“1, 2, 3 pretty girl come dance with me”

I wasn’t expecting ‘Chicks For The Rooster’ next and have to say it blew me away. Totally accordion led and could easily pass for a Pogues instrumental or even a Brendan Shine show band tune. A real Irish knees up song and proving, if you needed it, that these bhoys know how to play Irish music… and play it well. When I saw ‘The Foggy Jew’ on the track listing I had a little nod to myself and thought oh no spelling mistake but instead it’s possibly my favourite song here. Slipping into klezmer slightly with great accordion and subdued backing from the rest of the band with a fancy pants brilliant celtic-punk chorus and even time for a banjo led ska/reggae section leading us out. We back in the pub again for ‘Henry Won’t Be Sober’ about going to see The Distillery Rats play and ending up somewhat on the merry side. We’re speeding to the end and ‘How To Spend It’ keeps up both the pace and the humour about a man with the awful problem of having too much money! The addition of uileann pipes here is always a great thing and any band who uses them is always guaranteed a great welcome by the London Celtic Punks. ‘Nothing Else Matters’ reiterates the Distillery Rats philosophy and, increasingly mine too, with talk of all the world’s problems and the only solution!

“I’m drunk, I’m drunk, I’m drunk but what should I rather be?

A bottle of whiskey and some pints of beer and nothing matters to me”

Tales From County Whiskey comes to an end with one of the most popular (and it has to be said overdone) songs in celtic-punk with ‘Drunken Sailor’. Now if you gonna record this song you need to make it every bit special as while it may be a great song to play live and a real crowd favourite it has been recorded by pretty much everyone and not too many version’s of it stand out. Luckily for this reviewer The Distillery Rats manage it. The longest song on the album they open it as part ballad before punking it up before then drifting into ska and back into celtic-punk again. Again it’s the amount of instruments an that lifts it out of the ordinary and makes it that bit special and with the chugging guitar and clear and crisp it’s a solid end to a grand album.

Sometimes its fast and sometimes its slow, sometimes its sentimental and sometimes its  in-yer-face. The Distillery Rats don’t let the ‘issues’ of the world get in the way of what they do, fantastically well, which is to play a great set of songs that would have even the grumpiest of folk music traditionalists (better known as snobs) on their sandalled feet and bouncing around the dance floor spilling their real ale. As we mentioned before they somehow manage to sound like both Flogging Molly and the Dropkick’s at the same time while never aping either. This is pure unadulterated good time excellently played Irish music with both a nod to the present and a loving referential tip of the hat to to the past. 

Buy Tales From County Whiskey

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ALBUM REVIEW: KILMAINE SAINTS- ‘Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos’ (2017)

High-energy celtic-punk from a bunch of Irish-Americans that will lift your hearts and your spirit…
as well your pint when you’re not looking!
Several hundred gigs in The Kilmaine Saints have made perhaps their breakthrough album with Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos. Plenty bands have seen critical success that perhaps don’t merit it but I’ve been delighted over the last few years to see that the Saints have also achieved that success around the celtic-punk media and what must surely follow now is to get more noticed among those DKM/FM fans who think the scene only revolves around them. The Saints come from a place that has an actual living Irish community. They may not be living ten to a room or ghettoised like their ancestors were but they are a community nevertheless. Beyond the leprachaun hats, shamrocks and green Guinness and other symbols of that hated phrase, ‘Plastic Paddy’, the Irish community is still very much alive. Brendan Behan couldn’t have put it better when he said

“Most people have a nationality, but the Irish and the Jews have a psychosis”

The Kilmaine Saints are a part of that community. A community that shares a deep love between people who share the same values of family, heritage, music and Ireland. They share that vision with an ever-expanding and loyal fan base singing, stomping and lifting their pints and shouting for more.

The Kilmaine Saints formed in 2009 when a couple of members of the Harrisburg Pipe And Drum Band (Pennsylvania) saw a gap in the market for a local celtic-punk band. With a large local Irish population shows were guaranteed and they thought it would be a good way to get free beer! Recruiting a couple of friends and a couple more Pipe band members The Kilmaine Saints began their journey on a road that would lead to hundreds of gigs and pile of recordings and would see them become one of the most popular celtic-punk bands in America. Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos is the bands fourth album after the critically acclaimed The Good, The Plaid And The Ugly in 2010, Drunken Redemption in 2012 and a live album Live At The Abbey in 2015 (which we reviewed here) as well as a mini-album unTraditonal from 2014. Each release has trod the well worn, and successful, path of solid, turned up to eleven celtic and Irish traditional ballads and rebel songs and some extremely good compositions of their own. Being a good covers band will only get you so far and the Kilmaine Saints haven’t got where they are from purely getting by on banging out ‘The Fields Of Athenry’ in Irish bars.

I could end this review right here by simply saying that Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos is fecking fantastic and is a must have for anyone who likes celtic-punk. It’s an extraordinary seventeen songs and over an hour of music that simply soars out the speaker from the first sound of bagpipes in ‘Idiom’. The pipes soon develop into Oi!-ish tune with plenty of gang vocals and shouty bits. A great chorus and fast and furious but still folky as f*ck and we are only on track one! This is followed by the title track ‘Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos’ and is without a doubt one of the best celtic-punk tracks of the year. Chugging guitar and a real catchy tune with the Mayo born Brendan showing that theirs a lot more to his vocals than just shouting!

There’s fiddle and pipes and the rest of the band do their bit with what originally I thought could be a saxophone in there as well. ‘Pennsylvania’s Finest’ is a fast Irish banjo led tune about the War Of Independence while the slow ‘Tiocfaidh Ar La’ leaves you with no confusion where the Saints stand. A real stormer of a song and nice that it’s not played in an angry way. The upbeat-ness of the song may belie what they are singing about but I bloody love it. The next few songs show the bands range with ‘Long Shot Nag’,a mental fast punked up Irish reel while ‘Memories Fade Away’ is a song for those Irish ancestors with a superb tune and accessible for all from seven to seventy.

“You’re going to Americay, your memories start to fade away
Wayo, Heyo, Your memories start to fade away, Wayo, Heyo
Row, ya bastards row you got more than one line to tow
Your roots you
ll plant in our soil the whips will keep you loyal
Seven years in servitude will earn your place in our new
world but don’t think that you’re not a slave, you’re Irish, poor and quite depraved
You’ll learn right quick that freedom comes when we’ve shred
your body to the bone
Welcome to Americay, your memories start to fade away”

They follow this up a selection of Irish and Scottish covers beginning with ‘The Foggy Dew’ about the 1916 Easter Rising. Recorded by far too many to mention it has become popular in the celtic-punk scene of late due to its celtic-punk friendly air. Good then that The Kilmaine Saints take a far more traditional route. Slow yes but with crashing guitar and Brendan’s crystal clear voice reciting the amazing lyrics of this song, originally written by Canon Charles O’Neill (1887–1963), a parish priest of Kilcoo, Ulster sometime after 1919. This is followed by another cover song, the Scots trad folk ‘Mingulay Boat Song’ and here they don’t follow the more traditional route and the song, written by Sir Hugh S. Roberton (1874–1952) in the 1930s. The song is again fast and with fantastic piping while punk rock guitar keeps up with it. The covers section ends with ‘No Awa Tae Bide Awa’, originally a drinking song, the archetypal ‘farewell’ song, played by pipers on the quayside as ships leave port.

“So whenever friendly friens may meet,
Wherever Scots foregather,
We’ll raise our gless, we’ll shout
Hurroo,
It’s Carnwath Mill for ever”

Played as a completely traditional folk track with minimal backing on the mandolin. Again a superb and reverential song that shows the respect The Kilmaine Saints have for their music. I say their music as it is in their blood. The second half of the album is dedicated to self penned tracks and songs like ‘2nd And Locust’ show a more mature side to the band and again i reach for that word accessible.

“The pipes on the street belted an old rebel tune
That familiar sound of the rising of the moon
Many years later as the city constrained
Despite the struggle one pub still remained
And one day every March the streets pack with green
To create one hell of an Irish love scene”

‘Long Walk To Sonnagh’ and ‘Innocent Hand’ showcase some wonderful Irish folk wrapped around a punk rock tune while ‘Wild Kolleen’ is bagpipe heaven for me. Brilliantly played pipes by both Jon and Billy certainly give them an edge on many other bands. We rolling into the last few songs of the album and it has become the custom these days to include a acapello song and ‘Golden Pen’ is beyond beautiful. The shortest song on the album but up there with the best. Stunning. This is followed by a return to raucous
Irish folk-punk with ‘Raise My Glass’ and ‘Ride Like Hell’ before ‘Last Call’ brings down the curtain on this brilliant album.

“This is the last call
don’t forget to tip before you go
We’re almost done now, time to call a cab
This is the last call one more shot before you’re out in the cold
Please buy some merch so we can pay our tab”
The fiddle rules on the last couple of songs and the fiddling from Liz is absolutely exemplary throughout the album. The Kilmaine Saints are equal parts Irish swagger, Scottish pride and a whole lot of whiskey and have risen to being one of the most popular and certainly one of the best American bands in the scene and with music the quality of this that rise is set to continue.

(listen to Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos for *free* before you buy it by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE CROOK AND THE DYLAN’S- ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’ (2017)

The Crook and The Dylan’s draw their roots from the land of St. Patrick while mixing influences from rock and country with all the energy of an evening in an Irish pub.

Before I start to wax lyrical about this great album I have to explain something first about celtic-punk. Like all music genre’s its boundaries are vast and along the edges extremely blurred. For instance the two major bands in the scene Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys are clearly miles apart yet inhabit the same space and share the same fans. Also with a scene that encompasses so much traditional folk music some of the most popular bands in celtic-punk aren’t even punk at all with the best examples being the trad folk/ballad bands The Dubliners and The Clancy Brothers. Even The Pogues couldn’t be really called a punk band but the punk ethos and ‘spirit’ they had in spades. I only mention this as not every band we feature here are strictly celtic-punk and we are, and have been, happy to feature bands from the Celtic diaspora who play hip-hop or metal as well as bands who not have Celtic roots but love the music and traditions. The Crook And The Dylan’s then are a perfect example of what I mean. Formed in 2010 in the French region of Cergy-Pontoise, northwest of Paris they have taken Irish music and fused it with French folk music to make something that is both very interesting and extremely good!

from left to right : Benjamin (guitars), Lulho (bass), Jude (drums), Patrick (lead voice), Djé (electric guitar, harmonica), Cédric (violin, mandolin, guitar)

French celtic-punk bands have never been shy about introducing their own sounds into the mix and influences from bands like the aforementioned Irish ones as well as better known French bands like Mano Negra or Les Négresses Vertes combine to give The Crook & The Dylan’s quite the unique sound. Their first release, a self-titled four track EP, came out in early 2011 and shows a band in its early development. A stripped back folky feel good record that includes the brilliant track ‘Ireland’.

Not much sign of their later celtic-ness but worthy of at least a listen. They followed this up with another EP the following year. Not For Me is five songs that show them following the same route of polished folk. Much in the vein of the folk music popular at that time of Mumford’s and Noah And his Whale. Nothing wrong with that at all but the expansion of the band gives it a much more fuller sound. The songs are catchy and forays into Americana and country sound brilliant while ‘Premier Rendez-Vous’ goes full country’n’western.

These two EP’s were recorded with four musicians and this grew to six in April, 2014 saw the release of their debut album Home At Last and they continued their trajectory incorporating fiddle, bass and mandolin into the band and a much more upbeat sound. The same feel good folkyness is there but with the fiddle giving it much more focus and steering the music away from the county folk of previous releases though sometimes teetering on bluegrass. Fifteen tracks all composed by the band members themselves including an update of ‘Ireland’ from that debut EP that kicks real celtic-punk arse!

So we now come to Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead and the transformation to celtic-punk is complete. The music is a mash-up of Franco-Irish styles with heaps of country influences seeping in. Patrick, the vocalist is half-Irish and his voice is similar to a lot of (maybe stereotyped?) French singers I have heard in that he sounds like he smokes sixty Gauloises a day! Gruff and growling and deep in both emotion and sound. His voice is perfect for what comes next with the band giving him the accompanying him with guitars, violin, mandolin, drums, percussion and bass.

(interview with the band in French but with loads of very good live clips of them performing songs from the album)

The album starts with ‘Morning Miss’ beginning with acoustic guitar and Patrick’s voice it soon envelopes the whole band and if one artist has been missing from this review so far then it’s time to bring out Tom Waits. Pat’s voice conveys much the same feeling. Slow and ponderous this is the sort of song I’m use to hearing at the end of album’s rather than kicking them off. The mandolin leads ‘Evening Prayer’ until the band kick life into the song with a real celtic-punk sound. As much as I liked them already The Crook & The Dylan’s evolution has seriously impressed me. They turn it on their head next with ‘Tales of Little Brat’ a real catchy country number with a great southern-rock guitar sound and Pat’s voice never better than on this track. We are back in celtic territory next with ‘Dance Johnny Dance’ a real infectious song that flits from acoustic folk to full on folk with ease. They slow it down with ‘A Pick of the Other Side’ and an image of a smoke filled bar fills my mind while again Patrick shows his range just isn’t restricted to more rocky numbers. All the songs here are very clearly sung in English making them very easy to understand. The bhoys really celt it up for ‘A Drink with the Devil’ and unsurprisingly the first single from the album is also the standout song on Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.

The band sound great and the perfect production sees all the various instruments sitting nicely side by side. ‘Among The Waves’ and ‘Dear Mary’ see a return to the country-folk of old while the former speed through the latter is slow but loud and brilliant! ‘Sometimes In The Afternoon’ is the longest track here at just over five minutes and is slow and beautifully written again with Patrick’s voice soaring at the sam time as showing a delicate side. This is celtic-punk in a nutshell that your favourite songs on an album can be both the fastest and the slowest songs on it (and sometimes even in the same song!). After that epic it’s time to get busy and ‘How’s Your Mind?’ does just that slow before it explodes into some real catchy celtic-punk with a guitar solo that slots in nicely. The catchy as feck county tinged ‘Sick Of the Cold’ leads us into the fast and punk as feck ‘Finish Him’ about the weekend alcoholocaust that goes on around us. The Crook & The Dylan’s rock out, with my beloved harmonica too, before the album comes to an exhaustive end with the slow and exquisite ‘Black Torn Ballad’.

An album that flits from fast to slow from song to song but still manages to have that perfect pace is a real achievement. The songs flow into each other in a way that I don’t often hear and really made me sit up and listen. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead is full of stories of lost love with emotion flowing all the way through it. On listening to this you get the feel that The Crook & The Dylan’s would be better experienced in the small intimate setting of a pub and I am sure they would agree but this album captures them perfectly and their Irish-French country/Americana sound is pretty unique and I must say is a breath of fresh air and after playing a good mood is guaranteed and what more could you ever ask from music?

Buy Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

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Contact The Crook and The Dylan’s

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REMEMBERING WILLIAM WALLACE RALLY IN LONDON AUGUST 20th 2017

“I have brought you to the ring, now dance the best you can!”
Words shouted by William Wallace to the Scottish army at the Battle of Falkirk on the 22nd of July 1298 as the English cavalry began to charge.

REMEMBER THE SCOTTISH PATRIOT AND MARTYR WILLIAM WALLACE EXECUTED AT SMITHFIELD IN LONDON AUGUST 1305

SUNDAY 20th AUGUST 2017

ASSEMBLE 2pm BY THE WILLIAM WALLACE PLAQUE ON THE NORTH OUTSIDE WALL OF ST BARTHOLOMEW’S HOSPITAL, WEST SMITHFIELD, LONDON EC1A 7BE.

(TUBE: ST PAULS/ BARBICAN/ FARRINGDON/ BLACKFRIARS ALL BETWEEN 5 AND 10 MINUTES WALK. RAIL: BLACKFRIARS/ CANNON STREET/ CITY THAMESLINK/ FARRINGDON. BUS: 4/ 8/ 25/ 56/ 172/ 242)

To the immortal memory of Sir William Wallace, Scottish patriot, born at Elderslie Renfrewshire circa 1270 AD, who from the year 1296 fought dauntlessly in defence of his country’s liberty and independence in the face of fearful odds and great hardship, being eventually betrayed and captured. Brought to London and put to death near this spot on the 23rd August 1305.

His example heroism and devotion inspired those who came after him to win victory from defeat and his memory remains for all time a source of pride, honour and inspiration to his countrymen.

Dico tibi verum libertas optima rerum nunqual servili sub nexu vivito fili.
{Latin: I tell you the truth. Freedom is what is best. Sons, never live life like slaves.}

Bas Agus Buaidh
{An old Scottish battle-cry in Gaelic: Death and Victory}

SIR WILLIAM WALLACE – A BIOGRAPHY

Blind Harry. Blind Harry was a wandering minstrel in Scotland in the 1400’s, and he told tales of William Wallace on his journeying round Scotland. This book is the second biggest selling book ever in Scotland, outsold only by the Bible. This work gives us much detail of Wallace’s early life, but as there is no other source to back any of the tales up, it must be looked at critically from an academic viewpoint.

It was Blind Harry’s work that was used as the basis for the motion picture ‘Braveheart’ -it is still in print, but it is in the form of an epic poem and may seem dated to modern sensibilities.
William Wallace jumps onto the pages of our history books in 1297, when he stabs the English governor of Lanark to death. It is said this was in retaliation for the slaying of his sweetheart. We do not know the exact year of William’s birth, but educated guesses put it between 1270 and 1275, so he was still a young man.

Little known plaque to William Wallace in the Mitchell Arcade in Rutherglen. It was in Rutherglen that Menteith agreed to betray wallace to the English.

From this point on, young men in Scotland, dismayed at the English occupation of their native soil, flock to join Wallace’s banner.

By mid 1297, Wallace has a rag tag army. He joins forces with Andrew Murray, (sometimes spelt Moray, but the pronunciation is Murray) a young man who has started a similar rising in the north of Scotland.

While these two are besieging the castle of Dundee, word comes that the English have sent a great army against them. The two armies come to battle at the bridge over the River Forth at Stirling on September 11, 1297. Wallace’s base at this battle was a huge rocky outcrop named the Abbey Craig, so called because of its proximity to Cambuskenneth Abbey, and today this rock is crowned by The National Wallace Monument, a 220ft tower celebrating the life of Wallace, and containing as its prime exhibit, what is believed to be the sword of our hero.

The Scots routed the English with much slaughter, but unfortunately Murray received wounds, which were to prove fatal, and he was taken north to Fortrose Cathedral to be buried.The Scots went on to invade northern England to bring back much needed supplies, and on return from this invasion Wallace was made “Guardian of Scotland” at the Kirk of the Forest, the remains of which stand in the town of Selkirk. He was also knighted, as from this time on he is referred to as “Sir” William Wallace.

Looking toward the great window of Westminster Hall, the oldest part of England’s Houses of Parliament. It was in this hall that Wallace’s sham trial took place.

The English king, Edward I, commonly known as “Longshanks” returned from his continental wars, and gathered another great army and marched north to deal with Wallace. These two armies came face to face at Falkirk in July 1298, and this time the English longbow was to prove the undoing of the Scots spearmen.

The Scots fled, and Wallace resigned the guardianship, preferring to fight the overwhelming might of England with guerrilla tactics.

In late 1299, Wallace decided to travel abroad and try and enlist foreign help. He travelled to France, and to Rome, hoping that the Pope would exert influence to try and curtail English deprivations in Scotland.

He returned to Scotland in 1303, only to find that the English had tightened their grip and that he must start from scratch to try and regain his countries liberty. The fight back began, but the odds were very much stacked against him. Wallace was eventually betrayed and captured at Robroyston near Glasgow, on 3rd August 1305. He was taken first to Dumbarton Castle, where his sword was left behind, and then he was taken south to London. He arrived in London on the 22nd August. The crowds were so great, so eager to see this Scottish “murderer” that he had to be kept the night in a house in Fenchurch Street. The next morning he was taken to Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, where his sham trial took place. He was allowed no defence, but he managed to shout above his accusers that he was “ A Scot, born in Scotland, and did not recognise England as his sovereign nation”.

He was tied to the tails of horses, and dragged through the streets of London for 6 miles, eventually arriving at Smithfield Elms. Here he was hung, then cut down while still alive. His stomach was opened and his entrails were pulled out and burnt before him. His heart was then ripped out, ending his life. His body was cut to pieces, his head stuck on a spike on old London Bridge. The parts of his body were sent north to dishonour the Scots. Longshanks thought by giving him such an ignoble death that the Scots would forget Wallace, and there were religious connotations too. Wallace would have no body to rise on Judgement Day, and so be damned forever.

But Sir William Wallace needs no tomb. His memory lives on in the heart and souls of Scots, every generation recognising his devotion to his native soil, and he will be remembered by Scots men and women till the end of time.

ALBUM REVIEW: MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS- ‘As The Tide Turns’ (2017)

The debut album from celtic-punks ‘great white hope’ Matilda’s Scoundrels!

“It’s an album we feel is about the times we live in right now and about the opportunity to change the direction that all this crazy stuff is going into a positive future which is what inspired the album name which itself we felt was the feel of the album from the songs we have written for it over the last 2 years. We hope you all enjoy it as much as we did writing it all and we can’t wait for you all to hear it!”

Not long after this web-zine was started we came across a fantastic new band from the south of England who were literally just starting out as well. I can’t now remember what it was that brought Matilda’s Scoundrels to our attention but I’ll be eternally grateful that something did. Since then they have featured often on these pages due to their more than regular gigs and releases. With a bunch of EP’s behind them, including a live one and a compilation of their first 2 now out of print EP’s, they have kept our reviewers both busy and happy, with a stream of extremely well received releases. From that very first review we wrote that we were looking forward to the inevitable album release and low and behold that day has arrived and to say we are happy is a massive understatement.

For a band that only formed in 2014 Matilda’s have crammed an awful lot in to a relatively short time. Gigs around Britain have been followed with appearances at many of the best music festivals around as well as a successful European tour earning them a growing legion of fans. They come from the famed old smugglers town of Hastings on the south coast of England and this connection can be felt in their music.

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

Though they are not strictly speaking really a celtic-punk band they have embraced the scene and are big fans of the bands within it, supporting many of the best groups that pass through England or London. Their sound has embraced elements of celtic-punk and this was certainly not harmed when Jason learnt to play the banjo! One of the things about Matilda’s Scoundrels is that within a few seconds of each song you will recognise who it is. It is quite the achievement to have so distinctive a sound and to be quite so unlike anyone else. You need good songs though and despite their regular recording they have managed to produce ten songs specifically for As The Tide Turns and each one would stand alone as a Matilda’s classic.

Matilda’s Scoundrels (from top left to right) James- Bass * John- Drums * Quinn- Mandolin/ Vocals * Dan- Guitar * Jens- Accordion/ Vocals * Jason- Acoustic Guitar/ Tin Whistle/ Banjo/ Vocals.

So enough about then what about today’s release. Well for a start you get ten self penned tracks that clock in at a pretty decent forty-six minutes which is plenty of value for any fellow Yorkshiremen out there! The album begins softly with ‘Burn It Down’ and Quinn’s mandolin before the music takes an upturn with Dan’s thrashy guitar and Jens accordion. Quinn shares vocals with Jason throughout the album and they accompany each other perfectly well. Quinns ‘raspyness’ and Jason’s loud shouty vox fit their sound and the music is in turns both folky and punky with moments of absolute calm as well as absolute uproar!! ‘Take It To The Streets’ begins with accordion and Jason takes the lead on vocals and the album is really flowing now. Catchy is oft used, especially by me, in the celtic-punk world and there is no better word but by Christ they have nailed it here.This is music to nod your head frantically to, to tap your leg to and at the same time, if you are young enough, stage-dive!

Quinn takes over for ‘Shackles & Bones’ and its accordion here that stands out. Sometimes live the accordion is not always ‘loud and proud’ but the production here is spot-on and so the folky instruments are all clear as anything. ‘Bow To The Powers’ seems to have been in their set for ages but this is their first proper recording of it and once again its fast and catchy and infectious. All the songs on As The Tide Turns would be ‘ear-worm’ material but ‘Mr.Martyn’ was a real pleasant surprise for me. The most celtic-punk song of the album so far it lasts well over five minutes and the real trad folk beginning fades into some trademark Dan Flanagan thrashy guitar before the song leads into some amazing folky punk with Quinn’s voice shining through. As usual the lyrics are well thought out and positive in a way that not too many bands are. This is kind of a serious album though and that is the only thing missing so far. Matilda’s have a great sense of humour and they are not adverse to singing a song about getting pissed so ‘Bottle Of Rum’ comes along at just about the right time.

(‘Take It To The Streets’ recorded for Sham City Roasters Acoustic Session)

One of the albums best tracks is up next and on ‘Friends Of Mine’ they knock out a song that is destined to be stuck in your head for the few days. Jason’s tin-whistle giving it that certain Irish/Celtic feel while they put the punk to one side and concentrate on producing a classic modern day sea-shanty. We are nearing the end and on this record they have been given a great chance to write songs they want to. This album shows they don’t have to cram too much in and with the longer running time and a average length of (gulp!) four minutes they can elaborate on their songs and they manage it without them feeling too long or too fancy. ‘War On Drugs’ is the album’s punk song but even then it still has a certain folkiness stamped all over it by a Doc Martin boot. We are back on the ocean again next with the penultimate song ‘Godforsaken Sea’ before finally the album’s closing track and also it’s best one. Lasting over six minutes ‘Into The Fire’ really, really shows the Scoundrels at their best. Tin-whistle and mandolin leads us into a proper Scoundrels epic. Mostly played at breakneck speed and with a catchiness that even outdoes the previous nine songs. The foot is tapping and the head is nodding and if I had a pint in my hand it would be raised above my head to the heavens. A great gang chorus and a tune to die for it’s as good a song as they have ever put to Bandcamp. One of the most noticeable things on As The Tide Turns is that while most celtic-punk bands find it easy to stick to making folk songs or punk songs Matilda’s Scoundrels play songs I would best describe as the embodiment of folk-punk. Each song is so much more than just that though with self-penned folk and celtic tunes wrapped round everything and never once sounding forced or out of place.

This fantastic album shows that Matilda’s Scoundrels are destined for great things, that much is beyond dispute, and its their ability of making everything they do totally recognisable yet without sounding repetitive that has helped them enormously. Their songs contain it all. Enough folk for the folkies and enough punk for the punkers and they’ve got this far on their own bat as well and now with the backing of the awesome DIY independent record label TNS things are only going to get better for these Hastings Bhoys.

  • North and South Londoners who are new to the Matilda’s Scoundrels sound are lucky to have two flippin’ fantastic gigs just around the corner. They are supporting The Dead Maggies on tour from Tasmania, Australia. The Dead Maggies are story tellers and music makers weaving Van Diemen’s Land’s dark and turbulent folk history with fast, powerful, toe-tapping, foot-stomping, wild folk music that makes you dance, shout and folk till you punk. This raucous combination of folk and cow-punk, with double bass, fiddle, banjo, guitar, clarinet, heavy drums and gang vocals rolls into Kingston (here) on Thursday 10th August and Hackney (here), north London on Friday 11th August. Entry is £5 on the door and music starts at 8pm both nights. Check our What’s On page for more details.

Order As The Tide Turns

(pre-order. official release date September 8th) FromTheBand  TNSrecords

Contact Matilda’s Scoundrels

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TNS Records

A not-for-profit DIY punk and ska label based in Manchester. We also put on gig, release a fanzine, have a distro and put out a podcast.

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(Matilda’s Scoundrels set from Zoo at Manchester Punk Festival 2017)

DANNY DIATRIBE AND D’LYFA REILLY REPPIN IRISH IMMIGRANT HIP-HOP

Irish immigrant hip-hop from Derry born Danny Diatribe and Manchester Irish rapper D’Lyfa Reilly showing the Irish in England are still here and we’re still fighting!

took a drop of the pure to keep my heart from sinking, that’s the Paddy’s Cure

Diatribe, drowning in the infinite, fiat currency and copy written birth certificates, born to war with devils, my spirit never settles, Irish blood it flows with the rage of a thousand rebels, I walk disheveled, drunken through the city streets, Let bottles of whiskey sleep, I disappear for 50 weeks, the drifter speaks, abandoned factories and textiles, I roll with vagabonds that bear the scars of exile, lost in the wilderness, natural born survivor, set your mind on fire, keep it living in the cypher, our rhymes are wiser, we spit the light of hope, struggle till the end till colours blend in out kaleidoscope, I’ve got my iris soaked in paragraphs of knowledge, smash your flashing boxes that have kept your brains in bondage, don’t be astonished, the people pay us homage, discussing economics, educated alcoholics.

We face the world with the freedom of a bird, speech slurred, drop of the pure to calm my nerves, The Paddy’s Cure for the worst that we observed, the devils thirst, drinking till the curse has been reversed.

Living the life of the modern day, urban seanchaí, herdsman with the words on my tongue aren’t lacklustre, got the same heart as the rebels in Ulster, in Leinster, in Connaught, in Munster, did I mumble? I must-a, cos I swear down you aint listening to my pissed up wisdom, two fingers to the system, a backwards piece of my mind what you’ll find inside this ting, set distance between me and you, cos between me and you you’re a cunt, and you can’t critique this alcoholic, physique. Belly of the beast, drinking devil juice with diatribe, Irish lions pride, saliva cyanide, rhyming right inside, sharp like a pain in my side, the bane of my life, Rome wasn’t built in a day and Hadrian’s wall wasn’t built in a night, so me and worries just pass like ships that sail in the night, I’m elevating the grind I drown my sorrow say hello to a hollow tomorrow

We face the world with the freedom of a bird, speech slurred, drop of the pure to calm my nerves. The Paddy’s Cure for the worst that we observed, the devils thirst, drinking till the curse has been reversed.

Bright lights of the city blinding, find them in the shadows rhyming, drunk off the wine their buying sliding through their stomach lining, the Irish traveled tides to find them, pints to keep the light from dying, in the cities of the world residing, drinking to stop the demons rising drinking to stop the demons rising drinking to stop the demons rising and you’ll find them….

(A behind the scenes look at the making of the Paddys Cure video shot in Manchester)

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Contact Danny Diatribe

Danny Lynch better known as Danny Diatribe hails from Derry City but is now based in Manchester. He has released a couple of fantastic album’s including Elevation Illustrations which is reviewed here and you can hear below on the Bandcamp player.

Danny has a new album, Tales From the Down and Outs: The Irish Art of Story Telling, almost ready for delivery and is looking for help finding a Euro and North American release so if you can help one of own please get in touch with Danny at one of the links below.

Facebook  Bandcamp  Soundcloud  YouTube  Google+  Twitter

Contact D’lfa Reilly  

Creating his own mark in the hip hop scene, D’Lyfa Reilly is a modern day urban Seanchaí (storyteller) from Manchester. Other than being a dab hand at picking a pun ridden alias, he has been perfecting his art of relaying tales untainted by sugar-coated commercialism. D’Lyfa Reilly is a real gem, an emerald if you will.

Facebook  Soundcloud  Bandcamp  YouTube

(Danny Diatribe joins House of Pain on their UK tour. This documentary was shot at the Manchester show at the O2 Ritz in June 2017. Behind the scenes footage of Danny’s soundcheck, backstage and performing ‘Jimmys Bets’, ‘Paddys Cure’ and House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ live)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE SILK ROAD’ ‘S/T’ (2017)

Infectious and catchy throughout the debut album from northern English celtic-folk-punkers The Silk Road has more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and plenty of folk to keep the oldies like me happy!

Here’s an album we have been waiting for here at London Celtic Punks with baited breath! Those with a good memory will remember way back last October we reviewed the four track pre-album sampler from The Silk Road and back then we were very impressed

“This kind of music lends itself more to the live experience so if they are able to capture that in the studio then by St George they will have cracked it”

and I am pleased to say they haven’t let us down either!

The Silk Road hail from Chesterfield in the north of England an area famed for it’s industry and for the militant trade unionism that goes with it. Their music reflects this. Their is no pretense or ‘virtue signalling’ here. Their beliefs were learnt at the knee of older generations who lived through times they did not want to see repeated. Formed in 2015 all the band have played music locally going back some twenty years ranging from folk to punk to ska so plenty of experience involved here. Taking some old demos that singer/songwriter Tich had recorded in his studio as a base The Silk Road began to take shape and after adding some new material The Silk Road’s debut album began it’s story.

Musically The Silk Road are cut from the same cloth as three bands who are still regularly packing them in at gigs across the country all year round. The Levellers, New Model Army and Ferocious Dog are the main bands that represent a broad mixture of scenes from folk-punk to celtic-punk to English-folk. The music while it may sound like celtic-punk to some is actually the music of the north of England. Their has always been a strong tradition of folk music among the working class and just as with celtic music it was in the early 80’s that young bands began to change, add and adapt it with hard rock and punk music. For me there is no better example of this than the first two album’s from Billy Bragg. He may be a bit of a wanker now on his farm in Devon lecturing us on how to vote and still pretending he lives in Barking but those albums are an incredible mix of politics and passion that captivated us and I still regularly play them. Armed only with a cheap electric guitar Bragg stormed the Singles charts of the day with his rough but passionate voice and a way of writing straight from the heart. His best songs were always about the mysterious interactions between men and women rather than his left-wing polemics but this was urban folk at it’s finest. Now some 20+ years later The Silk Road take their place on the same path and I’m sure they won’t be moving to Devon the first chance they get!

This self-titled album is thirteen original compositions by the band and though it’s very much a team effort it’s in no small part down to the vision and drive of lead vocalist Tich. A tattooist by trade it was his idea to use the symbol of the silk road as the bands logo. Yes it may look Celtic/Irish but the three hares with interlocking ears is actually from the far east where the silk road was the ancient trade route linking Asia to the West. The album cover itself was designed by no other than celtic-punk’s leading lady Katie ‘Kaboom’ McConnell of The Mahones.

The album begins with ‘No Revolution’ and it’s a loud start. I was expecting something a bit quieter so was pleasantly surprised. Quite a basic 80’s punk sound here which I absolutely love. The fiddle may have been worth turning up a bit but its got harmonica so that’s me happy for the next forty-eight minutes! Tich’s vocals are clear as crystal and so easy to understand, and get, that there is literally no point in putting them in the CD booklet. ‘Find A Cure’ follows the same road except with a short reggae interlude before a great punk rock Irish jig takes over. Great chorus here that will have you singing it in your head long after you’ve heard it. One of the highlights is ‘I Don’t Care’ with it’s snotty punk rock base but with the fiddle in charge and Tich’s great vocals laden over the top. It’s all been very punk rock orientated so far and just as i was settling in ‘Elizabeth Rose’ comes on and by Christ I’m in celtic-punk heaven with this Irish trad punk jig. The fiddle leads the way with the rest of the band pushed to the background and a real foot tapper that I’m sure is a live favourite and gives Tich a chance to rest his lungs. They slow it down next with ‘Scars’, the first song here that featured on that Pre-Album Sampler, and sounds to me not too far from The Levellers. Not a much of a fan of them myself but this is excellent stuff with slow acoustic guitar and fiddle and nice vocals. The welcome sound of the banjo kicks off ‘Master Race’ with what sounds like spoons! Harmonica is top dog here and I love it. A instrument I always feel suits celtic-punk but is criminally underused. ‘Still Breathing’ seems to me a bit out of place here. Hard to say why exactly but its upbeat and jaunty sound perhaps. Not to say it’s not a great song as its class fiddle led punk rock. ‘Breaking Down The Laws’ keeps the music flowing with Brian’s solid drumming. ‘Ancient Road’ leads directly into ‘Montagu’s Harrier’ and while the first three minutes are reminiscent of 80’s anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds the second half is an absolutely stunningly traditional Irish folk piece/reel dedicated to an endangered bird of prey.

The bodhran is out and it’s not long before the whole band have gate crashed the song and take it another level. These two songs are a perfect introduction to The Silk Road and showcase brilliantly whet they are capable of. We are coming towards the end of the album and it’s clear by now that the band wear their politics on their sleeves and no better than in ‘City Under Siege’. Back in October I wrote

“this kind of music is very much in vogue at the moment. Not played or favoured by fashionista’s or middle class hipsters it comes very much from that sort of old Labour background of trade unionism and old fashioned values like solidarity, compassion and the wish for a better world for all. Things sadly out of fashion at this moment in time”

and while ‘Corbyn’ and the Labour Party’s revival hasn’t completely convinced me I do see hope for my class where once I saw none. Another album high point up next with ‘Boats Come In At Midnight about modern day smuggling. Very catchy indeed and half way through the fiddle comes in giving it a real nice ending. The album ends with ‘On Ya Way’ and maybe it’s a sign of mellowing with age but I really love this song. My favourite track. Tich belts it out from his heart and harmonica and acoustic guitar steer it in a direction that reminds me of Ferocious Dog a little when they slow it down.

Overall this is a great debut from The Silk Road and will win them legions of fans from the trinity of bands I mentioned above. Infectious and catchy throughout with more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and folk to keep the oldies like me happy. Its always brilliant to welcome another celtic-punk band into the scene and even better when they have trodden their own path. Haven’t seen them yet but will be making it my mission to catch them over the summer and I really hope they play ‘On Ya Way’ when I do.

Buy The EP
Contact The Band
(full concert from last year)

BEYOND THE FIELDS NEW VIDEO AND TRIBUTE TO ALISTAIR HULETT

The new video from Swiss band Beyond The Fields is a fantastic cover of the Alistair Hulett penned classic ‘Blue Murder’.  Their fine homage to one of Scotland’s finest folk musicians was recorded live at this year’s traditional Grabenhalle Irish Night in St. Gallen, Switzerland on March 18th, 2017. Mixed by Eddy Sloof and filmed by Metunar.
By kind permission of The Alistair Hulett Memorial Trust.

They say it’s easy money
A full page ad in the local rag,
Always nice and sunny.
Come on lad, and pack your bag.
It’s off to West Australia.
Leave the old hometown behind.
Be a winner, not a failure.
There’s money to be made in the Wittenoom Mine.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

They took me to my quarters,
A stinking bed in an old tin shed.
Got my working orders,
With a lamp, and tin hat on my head.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

My girl she’s a cook and a cleaner.
Works all day in the canteen hall.
Six days since I’ve seen her.
Some don’t have no girl at all.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

Sweeps the fine blue dust up.
Tips it into an old wool pack.
Never had a check-up.
If she did she’d get the sack

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

I feel my health is failing
Working down in the thick blue dust.
The kids play in the tailings.
The boss says work, and work I must.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

For those who aren’t too familiar with Alistair Hulett’s (1951 – 2010) life and work, he was born and raised in Scotland but spent half of his life in Australia. He made a name for himself both as a solo artist and as the lead singer of legendary Australian folk rock band Roaring Jack. Apart from being a gifted singer/songwriter, Alistair was a committed socialist and a dedicated political and community activist. He was indeed one of those artists who consequently used his art trying to make a difference, to fight injustice and exploitation wherever and whenever he could. Alistair wrote songs about crimes against indigenous people, whether it was the British nuclear tests in Australia (‘Plains of Maralinga’) or human rights violations in Papua New Guinea (‘Good Morning Bougainville’). He wrote songs about the Highland Clearances (‘Destitution Road’), detention centres (‘Behind Barbed Wire’), the mistreatment of workers, you name it. ‘Blue Murder’ was one of two songs he wrote about the suffering of those who worked in the blue asbestos mine in Wittenoom, Western Australia. Countless miners and their families who paid with their health and lives after being exposed to lethal asbestos fibres, a health hazard well known to those who ran the mine.
Alistair originally wrote the song for a play while still in Roaring Jack. He eventually recorded it for his third solo album “Saturday Johnny & Jimmy the Rat”, together with folk legend Dave Swarbrick on fiddle!
To find out more about Alistair Hulett and his amazing body of work, visit
http://www.alistairhulett.com

BEYOND THE FIELDS

Eva Wey (Fiddle) * André Bollier (Vocals and Acoustic Guitar) * Marcel Bollier (Bass) * Uwe Schaefer (Mandolin) * Eddy Sloof (Drums and Percussion)

A Celtic folk rock band from the Lake Constance area, playing both acoustic and electric shows. Founded by singer/songwriter Andre Bollier, and featuring classical, folk, jazz and rock musicians from both Switzerland and Germany, the band offers its own distinctive mix of Irish and American folk traditions with rock, punk and other elements.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE GOBSHITES- ‘Some of The Best’ (2017)

The Only Folk’n’Irish Band That Matters!

The Gobshites hail from Foxboro in Massachusetts which is about 22 miles south of Boston and is part of the Greater Boston area making them part of celtic-punk folklore. Let’s face it everything Boston is worshipped in the scene and The Gobshites have certainly played their part in making Boston so. We have waxed lyrical about Boston before when we have reviewed albums form the Dropkick Murphys and Mickey Rickshaw but the story of Irish migration to the Boston area begins with those who were brought over unwillingly as indentured servants in the mid-17th Century.  The first real migration of the Irish began in 1718 with the arrival of the Scot-Irish or the ‘Ulster Irish’. The Irish continued to arrive throughout with the slow pre-‘famine’ trickle of the 1820’s onward of Irish Catholic immigrants as well as the corresponding increase in anti-Irish/Catholic sentiment within Boston beginning with the notorious Pope’s Day celebrations and the burning of the Ursuline Convent in 1834 in Charlestown and the Broad Street Riot of 1837. Finally the massive wave of immigration into Boston after the so-called ‘Famine’ and the rise of the Irish from poverty and discrimination into their assimilation into Boston culture. Mind you, The Gobshites ignore all that and sing about boozing it up!

Way back inn 2002 Irish-American punk rocker Pete Walsh, then the lead singer and rhythm guitar player for punk band Meat Depressed, decided he wanted to start up an Irish band and within less than a month later The Gobshites were supporting New York Irish legends Black 47 in their first gig. The band have been through many many line up changes but have been lucky to have had several periods of stability through their career where they have been able to release some of the best records in celtic-punk history. Their debut album, When The Shite Hits the Fans, hit the streets running and instantly gained them a legion of fans and led to them playing all over  the northeastern United States as well as the renowned Shamrockfest in Washington DC and having a float playing along the route of the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade. 2007 was a busy year with two albums released with Get Bombed and Another Round before 2011’s Songs Me Da Got Pissed To and the official live bootleg Poitin. It may have been six years without any new material but the lads had not disappeared and continued to play regularly around their home and further afield leading to The Whistle Before the Snap late last year which featured Ritchie Ramone on drums and for the first time consisted of solely Gobshites penned songs.

Some Of The Best is their new release and is typical of The Gobshites wicked sense of humour. The band are famed for taking unusual punk rock songs and turning them into Irish folk trad classics. In a scene where we are more used to folk songs being given a punk rock edge The Gobshites happened on something both really good and highly original. Transforming songs like Black Flag’s ‘Six Pack’ into good auld Irish Singalongs with The Ramones ‘Long Way Back to Germany’ becoming ‘Long Way Back to Ireland’ with fiddle jig incorporated.

Some Of the Best was released on June 1, 2017 and is sixteen of the best songs from The Gobshites back catalogue and is an absolutely fantastic album and the perfect introduction to the band if you have been unlucky not to have heard them yet! Beginning with a superbly ramshackle trad Irish folk tune ‘Anderson’s Reel’ showing that the lads can really play their instruments. A great version of celtic-punk fave ‘Star Of The Country Down’ follows and then ‘Cheers (Raise A Pint)’ which was the first song I ever heard by The Gobshites. It appeared on the famous celtic-punk compilation series What the Shite? Volume Two from 2006 which introduced the world to a whole load of new bands. Catchy is The Gobshites byword and though acoustic and folk its also punk as feck as well!

The Gobshites left to right: Stephen Feeney- Accordion * Corey Jobeau- Mandolin * Nina Ross- Fiddle * Peter (Peadar) Walsh- Vocals/ Guitar * Paddy O’Hare- Drums * Amanda McCue- Guitar/Vocals * Dave Vittone- Accordion/ Keyboards/ Hello Kitty Piano * Tom Hughes- Bass (various folk fill in on Whistle and Banjo but looking for full time applicants for both!)

Booze features heavily on the Gobshites play list and would come as no surprise seeing as they follow the two most beer friendly music scenes in Irish and punk. ’12 Steps’ has a “drink, drink. drink, drink, drink etc.,” chorus that must make it VERY popular at live gigs and again is a brilliantly catchy tune and has a Hello Kitty toy piano solo to boot! ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’ is a cover of the song banned by pretty much everyone on it’s release in 1972. Penned by Irish-scouser ex-Beatle Paul McCartney it was banned so thoroughly that its pretty much unknown in the UK despite it reaching number 16 in the Official Singles Chart.

“Tell me how would you like it
If on your way to work
You were stopped by Irish soldiers
Would you lie down do nothing
Would you give in or go berserk”

Written in response to Bloody Sunday when British soldiers ran amok in Derry in the north of Ireland murdering sixteen unarmed Catholic civilians. It’s a great song and we can’t imagine the bravery of McCartney to release it at that time. Again a brilliant version here with Pete’s voice giving it the right amount of emotion and The Gobshites stamp is all over it. Next up is possibly the album standout for me, ‘Friggin’ In The Riggin’. The Sex Pistols risque double-A side that reached No. 3 in the UK singles chart in 1979 and was actually the band’s biggest selling single and being three quarters sea shanty anyway it was ripe for covering. Over in a flash the celtic instruments rule and turn the Pistols song into the Irish standard it was always meant to be.

“It was on the good ship Venus
By Christ, ya shoulda seen us
The figurehead was a whore in bed
And the mast, a mammoth penis”

Not for the fair hearted, or your Nan, but great fun. Two great drinking songs next with ‘I Only Drink Stout’, a piss take version of The Queers ‘I Only Drink Bud’, and the simply titled, and apt!, Gang Green song ‘Alcohol’ keep up the tempo until a good and solid ‘Dirty Old Town’ hits the decks and yeah I know you’ve heard it a million times but a good version is still a good version and even a shite one can still have you belting out your lungs! Has a very good Clash tribute at the end to ‘London Calling’.  ‘Pubcrawling’ name checks the local bars of Foxboro (be interesting to know how many have survived the yuppie invasion) while ‘Pirates Life For Me’ begins with the sound of the ocean and sample galore as The Gobshites ham the theme tune to Pirates Of The Caribbean right up.

‘Trouble With Women’ is a funny wee ditty which slots in nicely with its slow and (yes!) catchy chorus. Another favourite of mine here is The Ramones track ‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’, though this live version owes as much to The Meteors psychobilly version as The Ramones.

Pete is joined on vocals by Ritchie Ramone and what sounds like a massive crowd. The aforementioned ‘Long Way Back’ features another Ramone in Tommy and begins with uileann pipes and is another bloody corker. Boston based musician and sometime actor Lenny Lashley of The Street Dogs gives us a song simply called ‘Irish’ and its as good a homage to the homeland as any. Written by Lenny for his old band Darkbuster we are nearing the end and its time for the abso-fecking-lutely hilarious ‘Shane’s Dentist’. Written by country/punkabilly legend Mojo Nixon just watch the video for the story but yes it’s about you know who. For the final song we leave where we came in with a short and extremely well played Irish traditional tune ‘The Sally Gardens’.

So there you have it and there can be no surprise when I say that every song on this album is Premier League. The Gobshites have been at the forefront of the celtic-punk scene ever since they started and with a back catalogue to die for they could have made this Best Of thirty-two (or sixty-four!) tracks and the quality would still shine right through. They may not have toured Europe or even across America (yet!) but they have still managed to make quite the name for themselves. I haven’t played The Gobshites in quite a while but this is surely one of the most catchiest and cool as fk records I have heard in ages and not only that but they have made it a ‘Pay What You Want’ download meaning that it’s available for free if you so wish but get the Bhoys at least a Guinness won’t you? So drop what you doing, get downloading, get the beers in, only stout of course, sit back and relax and turn up the volume!

(listen to Some Of The Best for free below on the Bandcamp player)

Download Some of The Best

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gob·shite  (gŏb′shīt′)

n. Chiefly Irish Slang  person regarded as mean or contemptible.

NEW SINGLE FROM FINLAND FOLK-PUNKERS LORETTA PROBLEM

 Finnish celtic-punks Loretta Problem have been together for over twenty years and are happy to offer up London Celtic Punks readers a free download of their fabulous new single ‘Welcome To The Circus’.

Not one of the most prolific bands in the celtic-punk scene but certainly one of the more interesting. Loretta Problem hail from the death-metal loving fjord’s of Finland and are the sole representative’s of celtic-punk in their country. Like the other Nordic countries there are well established and popular punk and metal scene’s so should come as no surprise that celtic-punk would make an appearance. Loretta Problem have released one album and two singles in their time together which admittedly is not a lot to show for over twenty years together but for over a decade Loretta Problem took a back seat while the various band members were working on other projects like families or in other bands. They still got together to play at a select handful of gigs and festivals every year but regrouped about 2-3 years ago, and have reached the point now where they are ready to fully relaunch the band.

Their new single ‘Welcome To The Circus’ was released a few weeks back but we were waiting on the accompanying video to give it a well deserved plug so here it it. Sounding better than ever the single moves away slightly from their earlier stuff which had a certain metal influence toward a more folky sound akin to what I use to call festival folk. These days that sound is represented by the likes of The Levellers, New Model Army and Ferocious Dog. Well played anthemic punk rock with great fiddle from Tarja throughout. Clear vocals sung in English that completely suit the music but don’t waste time listening to me just have a listen I’m sure you won’t be disappointed! The celtic tone still remains, as well as big hearted punk attitude with fistful of middle fingers!

Loretta Problem have been together now since 1994 and have never stood still but instead have had constant development as a band. You won’t hear the Fields Of Athenry here but instead you will get some great folk’n’punk which takes Celtic music and even celtic-punk and puts a different spin on it. A fantastic single catchy and full of energy and life that leaves us only wanting more. You can hear their back catalogue over at their Spotify account here but follow the link below to get a free download of Welcome To The Circus.

Download The Single

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  • We reviewed an earlier single from Loretta Problem back in 2015 which you can find here.

THE HISTORY OF CELTIC-ROCK MUSIC

Today the 30492- London Celtic Punks web zine is four years old today so what better way to celebrate our birthday than to give you this small but perfectly formed potted history of Celtic-Rock. We have never just wanted to be a place that only reviews new records we want to celebrate everything that makes us celtic-punks. Our love of our roots and our history and our traditions and the love that those with no Celtic ancestry have as well. Celtic-Punk is for all that share our common values of friendship and solidarity and the love of a good time. Music cannot change the world but it can certainly make it a better place to live in and in these uncertain times that is something we all need. The roots of celtic-punk should be important to us as that is where we come from and we must never forget that.

The London Celtic Punks Admin Team

Celtic rock is a genre of folk rock, as well as a form of Celtic fusion which incorporates Celtic music, instrumentation and themes into a rock music context. It has been extremely prolific since the early 1970’s and can be seen as a key foundation of the development of highly successful mainstream Celtic bands and popular musical performers, as well as creating important derivatives through further fusions. It has played a major role in the maintenance and definition of regional and national identities and in fostering a pan-Celtic culture. It has also helped to communicate those cultures to external audiences.

Definition

The style of music is the hybrid of traditional Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton musical forms with rock music. This has been achieved by the playing of traditional music, particularly ballads, jigs and reels with rock instrumentation; by the addition of traditional Celtic instruments, including the Celtic harp, tin whistle, uilleann pipes (or Irish Bagpipes), fiddle, bodhrán, accordion, concertina, melodeon, and bagpipes (highland) to conventional rock formats; by the use of lyrics in Celtic languages and by the use of traditional rhythms and cadences in otherwise conventional rock music. Just as the validity of the term Celtic in general and as a musical label is disputed, the term Celtic rock cannot be taken to mean there was a unified Celtic musical culture between the Celtic nations. However, the term has remained useful as a means of describing the spread, adaptation and further development of the musical form in different but related contexts.

History

Origins

Celtic rock developed out of the (originally English) electric folk scene at the beginning of the 1970’s. The first recorded use of the term may have been by the Scottish singer Donovan to describe the folk rock he created for his Open Road album in 1970, which itself featured a song named ‘Celtic Rock’. However, the lack of a clear Celtic elements to the self-penned tracks mean that even if the name was taken from here, this is not the first example of the genre that was to develop.

Ireland

It was in Ireland that Celtic rock was first clearly evident as musicians attempted to apply the use of traditional and electric music to their own cultural context. By the end of the 1960’s Ireland already had perhaps the most flourishing folk music tradition and a growing blues and pop scene, which provided a basis for Irish rock. Perhaps the most successful product of this scene was the band Thin Lizzy. Formed in 1969 their first two albums were recognisably influenced by traditional Irish music and their first hit single ‘Whisky in the Jar’ in 1972, was a rock version of a traditional Irish song. From this point they began to move towards the hard rock that allowed them to gain a series of hit singles and albums, but retained some occasional elements of Celtic rock on later albums such as Jailbreak (1976). Formed in 1970, Horslips were the first Irish group to have the terms ‘Celtic rock’ applied to them, produced work that included traditional Irish/Celtic music and instrumentation, Celtic themes and imagery, concept albums based on Irish mythology in a way that entered the territory of progressive rock all powered by a hard rock sound. Horslips are considered important in the history of Irish rock as they were the first major band to enjoy success without having to leave their native country and can be seen as providing a template for Celtic rock in Ireland and elsewhere. These developments ran in parallel with the burgeoning folk revival in Ireland that included groups such as Planxty and the Bothy Band. It was from this tradition that Clannad, whose first album was released in 1973, adopted electric instruments and a more ‘new age’ sound at the beginning of the 1980s. Moving Hearts, formed in 1981 by former Planxty members Christy Moore and Donal Lunny, followed the pattern set by Horslips in combining Irish traditional music with rock, and also added elements of jazz to their sound.

  • THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY (here)

Scotland

There were already strong links between Irish and Scottish music by the 1960s, with Irish bands like the Chieftains touring and outselling the native artists in Scotland. The adoption of electric folk produced groups including the JSD Band and Spencer’s Feat. Out of the wreckage of the latter in 1974, was formed probably the most successful band in this genre, combining Irish and Scottish personnel to form Five Hand Reel. Two of the most successful groups of the 1980s emerged from the dance band circuit in Scotland. From 1978, when they began to release original albums, Runrig produced highly polished Scottish electric folk, including the first commercially successful album with the all Gaelic Play Gaelic in 1978. From the 1980s Capercaillie combined Scottish folk music, electric instruments and haunting vocals to considerable success. While bagpipes had become an essential element in Scottish folk bands they were much rarer in electric folk outfits, but were successfully integrated into their sound by Wolfstone from 1989, who focused on a combination of highland music and rock.

  • HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC (here)

Brittany

Brittany also made a major contribution to Celtic rock. The Breton cultural revival of the 1960s was exemplified by Alan Stivell who became the leading proponent of the Breton harp and other instruments from about 1960, he then adopted elements of Irish, Welsh and Scottish traditional music in an attempt to create a pan-Celtic folk music, which had considerable impact elsewhere, particularly in Wales and Cornwall. From 1972 he began to play electric folk with a band including guitarists Dan Ar Braz and Gabriel Yacoub. Yacoub went on to form Malicorne in 1974 one of the most successful electric folk band in France. After an extensive career that included a stint playing as part of Fairport Convention in 1976, Ar Braz formed the pan-Celtic band Heritage des Celtes, who managed to achieve mainstream success in France in the 1990’s. Probably the best known and most certainly the most enduring electric folk band in France were Tri Yann formed in 1971 and still recording and performing today. In 2017 celtic-punk band Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs fly the flag for Brittany singing in their native language and playing regularly and often accompanied on stage by Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Tan Ar Bobl’ (here)

Wales

By the end of the 1960’s Wales had produced some important individuals and bands that emerged as major British or international artists, this included power pop outfit Badfinger, psychedelic rockers Elastic Band and proto-heavy metal trio Budgie. But although folk groupings formed in the early 1970’s, including Y Tebot Piws, Ac Eraill, and Mynediad am Ddim, it was not until 1973 that the first significant Welsh language rock band Edward H Dafis, originally a belated rock n’ roll outfit, caused a sensation by electrifying and attempting to use rock instrumentation while retaining Welsh language lyrics. As a result, for one generation listening to Welsh language rock music could now become a statement of national identity. This opened the door for a new rock culture but inevitably most Welsh language acts were unable to breakthrough into the Anglophone dominated music industry. Anhrefn became the best known of these acts taking their pop-punk rock sound across Europe from the early-80’s to mid-90’s.

  • TRIBUTE TO WELSH PUNK ROCK LEGENDS ANHREFN (here)

Cornwall and the Isle of Man

Whereas other Celtic nations already had existing folk music cultures before the end of the 1960s this was less true in Cornwall and the Isle of Man, which were also relatively small in population and more integrated into English culture and (in the case of Cornwall) the British State. As a result, there was relatively little impact from the initial wave of folk electrification in the 1970’s. However, the pan-Celtic movement, with its musical and cultural festivals helped foster some reflections in Cornwall where a few bands from the 1980s onwards utilised the traditions of Cornish music with rock, including Moondragon and its successor Lordryk. More recently the bands Sacred Turf, Skwardya and Krena, have been performing in the Cornish language.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: BARRULE- ‘Manannans Cloak’ (here)

Subgenres

Celtic Punk

Ireland proved particularly fertile ground for punk bands in the mid-1970s, including Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, The Radiators From Space, The Boomtown Rats and The Virgin Prunes. As with electric folk in England, the advent of punk and other musical trends undermined the folk element of Celtic rock, but in the early 1980s London based Irish band The Pogues created the subgenre Celtic punk by combining structural elements of folk music with a punk attitude and delivery. The Pogues’ style of punked-up Irish music spawned and influenced a number of Celtic punk bands, including fellow London-Irish band Neck, Nyah Fearties from Scotland, Australia’s Roaring Jack and Norway’s Greenland Whalefishers.

  • FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK (here)

Diaspora Celtic Punk

One by-product of the Celtic diaspora has been the existence of large communities across the world that looked for their cultural roots and identity to their origins in the Celtic nations. While it seems young musicians from these communities usually chose between their folk culture and mainstream forms of music such as rock or pop, after the advent of Celtic punk large numbers of bands began to emerge styling themselves as Celtic rock. This is particularly noticeable in the USA and Canada, where there are large communities descended from Irish and Scottish immigrants. From the USA this includes the Irish bands Flogging Molly, The Tossers, Dropkick Murphys, The Young Dubliners, Black 47, The Killdares, The Drovers and Jackdaw, and for Scottish bands Prydein, Seven Nations and Flatfoot 56. From Canada are bands like The Mahones, Enter the Haggis, Great Big Sea, The Real McKenzies and Spirit of the West. These groups were naturally influenced by American forms of music, some containing members with no Celtic ancestry and commonly singing in English. In England we have The BibleCode Sundays, The Lagan and others.

  • THE EFFECTS OF NEW DIASPORA CELTIC PUNK: THE CREATION OF A PAN-CELTIC CULTURE (here)

Celtic Metal

Like Celtic rock in the 1970s, Celtic metal resulted from the application of a development in English music, when in the 1990s thrash metal band Skyclad added violins, and with them jigs and folk voicings, to their music on the album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth (1990). This inspired the Dublin based band Cruachan to mix traditional Irish music with black metal and to create the subgenre of Celtic metal. They were soon followed by bands such as Primordial and Waylander. Like Celtic punk, Celtic metal fuses the Celtic folk tradition with contemporary forms of music.

  • CELTIC-METAL’S TOP FIVE BANDS (here)

Influence

Whereas in England electric folk, after initial mainstream recognition, subsided into the status of a sub-cultural soundtrack, in many Celtic communities and nations it has remained at the forefront of musical production. The initial wave of Celtic rock in Ireland, although ultimately feeding into Anglo-American dominated progressive rock and hard rock provided a basis for Irish bands that would enjoy international success, including the Pogues and U2: one making use of the tradition of Celtic music in a new context and the other eschewing it for a distinctive but mainstream sound. Similar circumstances can be seen in Scotland albeit with a delay in time while Celtic rock culture developed, before bands like Runrig could achieve international recognition. Widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding voices in Celtic/rock is the Glasgow born Brian McCombe of The Brian McCombe Band, a pan Celtic group based in Brittany.

In other Celtic communities, and particularly where Celtic speakers or descendants are a minority, the function of Celtic rock has been less to create mainstream success, than to bolster cultural identity. A consequence of this has been the reinforcement of pan-Celtic culture and of particular national or regional identities between those with a shared heritage, but who are widely dispersed. However, the most significant consequence of Celtic rock has simply been as a general spur to immense musical and cultural creativity.

ALBUM REVIEW: CHEERS!- ‘Daily Bread’ (2017)

Snarling, swirling, raging, roaring Celtic folk-punk brewed in Pilsen and tempered by accordion, whistles and flutes!
Cheers! are a band I have heard about for a few years now but bar a couple of tracks on compilations and the odd video here and there I hadn’t yet got round to properly listening to them till Daily Bread popped through my letter box the other day. They released their first single back in 2011 and their debut album Wrong and Right in 2013 and since then have toured extensively across their home country and throughout mainland Europe. They hail from the city of Pilsen in western Bohemia in the Czech Republic which is about 50 miles from the capital city of Prague. Of course the city is most known worldwide for Pilsner beer created in the city in 1842.  The combination of Pilsen’s famously soft water, Saaz noble hops from nearby Žatec and Bavarian-style brewing produced a clear, golden (and delicious!) beer which was regarded as a sensation and is still a big hit today among aficionados of the odd drink or two.
(have a listen to the debut Cheers! album Wrong And Right below)
There have been a handful of Czech celtic-punk bands kicking up a storm with the most famous being the excellent bagpipe punk band Pipes And Pints, celtic rockers Benjaming’s Clan and the relatively new Pirates Of The Pub. The scene over there may not be massive but is in a very healthy state with many touring bands choosing to stopover and play, especially in Prague. That all these bands have proved popular outside their home country proves they all are doing something right and on listening to Daily Bread I can see why.

Cheers! left to right. Top: Pisek- Electric guitar * Mates- Accordion. Middle: Kata- Tin Whistle Maty- Drums * Fifa- Fiddle. Bottom: Laska- Bass * Pafka- Acoustic Guitar/ Vocals

I’ve noticed a trend recently of bands releasing videos for the opening song on their album’s. Maybe they always have and it just hadn’t clicked before but it does makes sense to kick your album off with one of your strongest songs and here Cheers! are no different opening with the great track ‘Chances’.

Fiddle and tin whistle provide the celtic side of foot-tapping and melodic punk rock. Celtic-punk is best suited to a pub environment and make a perfect place to film your videos and ‘Chances’ is no exception. The punk takes a back seat to some exceptional Irish folk music next in ‘London Days’. The story is of the many who come to London and fall through the gaps. The ones who don’t become rich and live their lives solely surviving. In my day it was the Irish, the Scots and the northern English and these days they come from across the world. A catchy, gang chorus and strong fiddle keep the song ticking over till the heartfelt ending.

“For life is quite short you know and to fall is not wrong at all”

This leads into ‘Misery’ and the accordion stands out here in an angry song about the faceless workers everywhere toiling away. The chugging guitar keeps it tuneful and ‘Dagger’ takes us down a different path with its upbeat Flogging Molly-esque Irish folk. Pafka’s vocals are strong and clearly sung in English. The CD has the lyrics but they are clear enough just from listening. ‘Here We Are’ is kind of Bad Religion meets Irish folk. Fast rapid drumming and accordion keep it going before next song, ‘Standard’, returns us to Molly’s territory and a song that starts acapello before familiar sounding fiddle takes over. Brilliant lyrics next in ‘Pie Of Shame’. Not about pie as you may think but the wish for a better and more peaceful world. It could be a bit cloying but isn’t at all especially as it lasts just a few seconds short of five minutes. I’m well jealous of songwriters with the ability to write like this. We haven’t had a slow one yet and ‘Saint Of The Scene’ comes at the perfect time. Poguesy accordion and a swirling sound surrounded by gang vocals and tin whistle and fiddle give it a perfect pint in the air feel. ‘Mr. Batter’ is a fast and furious tune with great funny story about a copper stealing bum who ends up on the wrong side of the law. Again Cheers! turn it on its head as just as your settling in they pull out something different to rouse you. ‘Hey Devil’ is next and the band this is most reminiscent of would be The Dreadnoughts fast as hell and completely led by Filip’s glorious fiddle playing.

They slow it down again next with ‘Land Where Nobody Lives’ which suddenly erupts into life and the tale of the prodigal son returning home ends with a Flogging Molly burst of life. We are rolling up to the end of Daily Bread and ‘Once We Reach The Ireland’s Bay’ takes the album to premier league status. The wonderful sound of uileann pipes from album guest Zdeněk Bugoš blaze a trail through this fantastic ballad. The sort of song I would love to push down the throats of the folk purists (snobs!) who say celtic-punk bands have no folk tradition or feeling. Cheers! nail it here with this song. Daily Bread comes to an end with the short and sweet and punky ‘Only Thing’. Seventy seconds of Dubliners style punk rock wraps things up nicely.

Thirteen songs clocking it at an impressive near fifty minutes! The music is of a solid punk rock backdrop with fantastic celtic musicians driving it along and Pafka’s great vocals atop. Very hard to pigeonhole Cheers! as they change tempo and their sound quite regularly on this album but despite that they have still managed to make a album that flows along very nicely. On this showing it’s easy to see why they have become so popular already and with only one album behind them that is is even more of an achievement.

Buy Daily Bread

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  • A very nice review of the album and an interesting interview with singer/guitarist Pavel here on the Celtic Music Fan site.

EP REVIEW: BLACK RAWK DOG- ‘Suburban’s Folk Stories’ (2017)

Another top quality Indonesian celtic-punk band belt it out of the ball park with their new EP! Black Rawk Dog continue the Indonesia love in…

Just a couple of days ago we reviewed a great EP from an Indonesian celtic-punk band (here) and low and behold just like buses up rolls another one five minutes behind! As with Rain In Summer we first came across Black Rawk Dog on the absolutely superb Indonesian celtic-punk compilation ‘Wind From The Foreign Land’ from 2014. Fourteen tracks from fourteen different celtic-punk bands from across Indonesia and from right across the whole celtic-punk spectrum from folky traditional folk to celtic-Oi! and hardcore it’s all there and is definitely one of the best album’s I have ever heard. We described Black Rawk Dog then as

“fast paced fiddle and mando punk played at breakneck speed with gang vocals”

and on the basis of Surburban’s Folk Stories I can see no reason to change that!

(The EP teaser a collection of videos by friends of the bands showing them hanging)

The Black Rawk Dog story begins at the end of 2010 when a group of Sidoarjo friends become interested in and decide to take up an unlikely form of music for youths in their country. It takes a while to get going and in November, 2011 they begin their journey playing with another of Indonesia’s celtic-punk greats Skarockoi! They began to invite some of the other great bands from around the country to play in Sidoarjo and soon enough they were being invited to play around the country as well leading to their performance at the Jogja Celtic Punk Night. BY now the band had set out to find more about traditional Irish music and the wider celtic music scene in Indonesia and Black Rawk Dog were now firmly on their way to transform from a punk band with folk instruments to a fully fledged celtic-punk band. A skinhead mate suggested ‘Black Dog Conspiracy’ as a band name and somewhere along discussions they ended up as Black Rawk Dog and set out to take Indonesian celtic-punk to the masses!

Surburban’s Folk Stories was sent to me by an old mate on Facebook Jr Miko from the record label that released this and pretty much everything Indonesian celtic-punk related. The first thing that strikes you on listening to this EP is how much energy the band has. If it’s possible to tell how much fun a band has through listening to them on record then here is the best example I have heard it quite a while. They roll out all the celtic instruments to kick start ‘Brand New Day’ the opening track.

Tin whistle, bango, fiddle all leading the song with vocals shared among the band and a real Dropkick Murphys singalong going on. Now the band sound more like Flogging Molly than the Murphys but the songs do remind me of them more somehow. A fantastic start to the EP and the sound of quality Irish folk music fills the air on the second track too. ‘Work Proud’ is again sung in English and is nice and clear and just on the right side of punky gruffness. Again its fast but without losing the folky sound and the ‘Woah Woah’ gang chorus is great. The celtic instruments are out in force again but the whole band is on top form here with nice drumming and guitar. Now regular readers will know how i wax lyrical about the most under-rated instrument in celtic-punk, the harmonica. My uncle Pat bought me a mouth organ when I was a kid and though I never did quite master it I still love the sound. ‘Still One’ slows it all down a little and the harmonica kicks it off until more gang ‘Woah Woah’s come in and beautiful guest female vocals take the song slowly up in tempo into a fast and frantic hardcore celtic folk punk number. The song ends with a high kicking blast that comes with a tinge of country included. More than half way through the EP and I am absolutely loving it. Play this in a bar in Dublin, London or NYC and tell the regulars these are a local band and you’ll get no argument I am sure. In fact the way that Black Rawk Dog have taken to Irish music would put most Irish bands on the island of Ireland to shame. Indonesia is a 80% majority Muslim country so great to hear ‘Rumble In The Bar’. Celtic-punk as our header states is music of rebellion and resistance and great to hear Indonesian’s playing it as well as anyone else, and sometimes better. Starting off with banjo it all turns into a massive ceilidh and like some sort of Irish-punk-celtic-hoedown with more gang vocal chorus and fiddle to die for. Super production here on all the songs and the music is flowing as the beer is flowing out and sadly the EP comes to an end with ‘The Old Man Stands Alone’. Expecting a slow maudlin ballad Black Rawk Dog kick out the best song on the record that takes me right back to to the days of The Pogues. Whoever is sharing their record collection with these guys is doing a fantastic job and I’m left wanting to hear more from this great band.

All the songs here are penned by the band themselves and if I had any criticism it would be that it’s only twenty minutes as I am now desperately wanting to hear more from them. This EP is a perfect example of what can be done with a bunch of extremely talented musicians and a wish to move beyond playing bog standard punk music. This is easily as good as anything I have heard this year and I only wish that bands like Flogging Molly or The Murphys would put their hands in their pockets and get some of the bands from Indonesia over to the States for some exposure. How about getting them on the next Salty Dog cruise Flogging Molly?

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WLRV Records is a Yogyakarta based independent record label, focusing on celtic punk and punk. Started by YK Mass in 2012 we are here to support Indonesian Celtic Punk / Irish Folk Punk / Paddy Punk movement.

EP REVIEW: RAIN IN SUMMER- ‘Discordant Anthem From The Gutter’ (2017)

Formed from a grain of sand on baladewa streets in early 2008!

Indonesian celtic-punk of the punky variety.

Without going too far into the history of celtic-punk it can be said that the genre was back in the day originally a product of the Irish diaspora living in England and mainly in London. With the worldwide popularity of The Pogues it very soon spread across the Atlantic to north America to the Irish communities there and from there we had a couple of bands who went on to become absolutely massive and helped spread the modern day celtic-punk scene into every corner of the globe. In just the last few weeks on this site for instance we have published reviews of records from Hungary, France, USA, Netherlands, Belarus, Germany and Galicia  and now we have a band from one the biggest and best celtic-punk scenes in the world- Indonesia.  Yes it may seem strange and even unbelievable but the Indonesians have embraced celtic-punk and seem to have taken to it completely. Rather than go into the various bands of the scene you’d be better off checking out ‘Wind From The Foreign Land- Indonesian Celtic Punk Compilation’ from 2014. An album of fourteen tracks from fourteen different celtic-punk bands from across Indonesia. From folky almost traditional folk to celtic-Oi! and hardcore it’s all there and is one of the best album’s I have ever heard (here). Out in the Indian ocean and a thousand or two miles from Australia Indonesia gained independence from Holland after the second world war. The country itself has a population in excess of 230 million and comprises nearly 13,500 different islands and for a country that is 87.2% Muslim the scene has adopted one or two of celtic-punks better known subject matters, if you know what I mean…

Rain in Summer have been going almost a decade having formed in 2008 and this is their second release. It came out in a short run of 100 CD’s for Record Store Day in May just gone. That first release was a 6 track EP titled Untuk Kutaku which you can hear below on the ReverbNation player.

Discordant Anthem From The Gutter begins with ‘Suara’ and it sounds like about two dozen musicians locked in a pub! At least three singers giving it welly with electric guitar keeping time but with the sound (suara) of tin whistle, mandolin and fiddle throughout giving it that unmistakable celtic sound. A catchy as hell wee punky number to begin with. ‘Are You Okay?’ is up next and starts off in a kind of trad celtic-punk style before going punky and then returning, thanks to tin whistle, back into celtic-punk. The vocals are brilliant throughout and while it may not be polished it sounds all the better for it. Growing up listening to DIY punk releases means I can overlook some things and appreciate the rawness of others and the passion here shines through. Lyrics this time are sung in English while the rest of the EP is in Indonesian. ‘Semua Terekam Dalam Media’ follows and is a fast paced punk number with throaty vocals and mandolin. ‘Kita Semua Saudara’ is next and slows it down not that most will notice though. The electric guitar is still there as well as the gang vocals and heavy drums. It’s one of those moments when played live that you reach for the sky and grab your mates and your loved ones. A swirling and catchy as hell three minutes of perfection. ‘Eksploitasi’ (‘Exploitation’) is another fast paced punk song which slows down a couple of times only to get faster again. The EP is all over in less than twenty minutes. It grabs your attention and then just as quickly is gone. We are now onto the last song ‘ Warrior’ and straight from the off its reminiscent of Belfast punkers Stiff Little Fingers. For me the standout track of the EP with its perfectly paced fast punk rock and the celtic instruments just nicely accompanying. Again the tin whistle, fiddle and mandolin are all over this song and place the band firmly within celtic-punk. The production on the last song seems a bit clearer too to these big ears as well.

The EP was released on WLVR Records who not only released the Indonesian Celtic-punk compilation mentioned above but also fantastic records by The Cloves and The Tobacco, which we reviewed here, and Dirty Glass, here. Discordant Anthem From The Gutter places them firmly on the punkier side of celtic-punk and with a sound that straight away informs you they are a part of that blossoming Indonesian celtic-punk scene. As already stated it’s not polished but too many releases are tinkered with and all that manages to do is to remove that live feel that is crucial to any celtic-punk release. Here listening to this you could almost be in the pub sweating away with the lads on stage. Six songs of catchyness that will have you headbanging away and anyone planning on a holiday to Indonesia be sure to contact some of these bands as I get the feeling a concert out there would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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WLRV Records is a Yogyakarta based independent record label, focusing on celtic punk and punk. Started by YK Mass in 2012 we are here to support Indonesian Celtic Punk / Irish Folk Punk / Paddy Punk movement.

  • There is a fantastic Facebook group called ‘Indonesian Celtic Punk’ (here) we recommend you join. The Cloves And The Tobacco are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Indonesian celtic punk so invest a bit of time and find out a bit more about this great scene.

ALBUM REVIEW: FLOGGING MOLLY- ‘Life Is Good’ (2017)

“The one thing we are is a positive band. When people come and see our shows, it’s a celebration of life, of the good and of the bad. And we have to take the good and the bad for it to be a life”- Dave King

Life is Good!

It certainly is good for Celtic Punk fans around the globe. Here we have the release of yet another quality album in 2017. It comes from the third branch of the Holy Trinity of Celtic Punk, Flogging Molly. It follows on from outstanding albums from the other two branches this year, namely The Dropkick Murphys and Flatfoot 56. We really have been spoiled this year, especially when you consider that we’ve also had new albums from The Tossers, Damien Dempsey, Paddy and the Rats and so many more Celtic bands. Too many to mention here, especially as this meant to be a review of Flogging Molly’s Life is Good. So maybe just take a minute to think how lucky we all are to be part of such a dynamic and productive “scene”!!

Life is Good is the eighth album to have been released by Celtic Punk premier leaguers, Flogging Molly, and its class! That’s one of the things that went through my mind while I was listening to it, the class just stands out! It’s made up of 12 tracks and runs for three quarters of an hour.

That “class” is evident throughout all the tracks here, it shows how well the band works as a unit, complimenting each other. I suppose twenty years of performing together is going to give us that polished sound. Their last album “The Speed of Darkness” consisted of a, what some people might claim, more mainstream rock sound. I must admit it was one that grew on me, rather than hit me straight away, although now it is one of my favourites. Life is Good definitely sounds more Celtic influenced, with some beautiful fiddle work from Bridget and some rousing banjo from Bob. It is not as raw as Drunken Lullabies or Swagger, but the same feeling is still there, it’s just a bit more professionally produced.

It kicks off with There’s Nothing Left, setting a jaunty pace that is kept up throughout. The Hand of John L Sullivan is next. Many of you will have heard this one as it was a video released a few months ago. It shows how Dave King still has the knack for writing punchy and interesting songs to go along with his ballads and anthem like offerings. Welcome to Adamstown incorporates a great brass section to give some “oomph” to the baseline. It’s a tale of unfinished suburbia in King’s native Dublin. Next comes Reptiles (We Woke Up). Now this is one of those aforementioned anthems, I can picture the crowd at The Forum, at the end of June, having a great time with this one. A bit like the All of Our Boys / Oliver Boy singalong from Speed of Darkness.

Here it is:

The Days We’ve Yet To Meet is the next track, a good up tempo rock number. Then we have the title track, Life is Good. A bittersweet song dealing with death and illness, but also impressing upon us to live our lives and enjoy them. The Last Serenade comes next, it’s one that resonates with me, dealing with ailing fisheries that most of us who live on the coast have witnessed. It’s a slow tempoed ballad and might not really sit well with a Punk audience, but I love it! The slow pace continues with the intro to The Guns of Jericho which soon livens up to a foot stomper though!

Crushed (Hostile Nations) also starts slowly with some lovely pipes accompanying Dave’s opening lines, but it soon turns into a deep almost hypnotic heavy beat. There’s electric guitar solos and a pounding rhythm, I’m reminded of Horslips, but different! There seems to be a darkness to it, probably part of the “Hostility”. A great track!!After the angst of Crushed, we move into the optimism of Hope! Another one that will have the fans up and singing along to the chorus. The Bride Wore Black is a fine pacy tune that you could dance to. I don’t know who it’s about, but she sounds like a bit of craic anyway!! We finish with Until We Meet Again, another ballad with some lovely fiddle and accordion playing, that rounds off the album perfectly.

Flogging Molly have been together for twenty years now, having formed in 1997. Dave King, Bridget Regan, Bob Schmit, Denis Casey, Nathan Maxwell, Matt Hensley and Mike Alonso have combined to bring us six exceptional studio albums and two sublime live recordings. They have played some of the best live gigs that I’ve been to and I hope to see many more! What they bring to the music scene in general and the Celtic Punk scene in particular is an authenticity and intelligence. Let’s hope they (and me!) are around in another twenty years! Slainte.

Ger Mellon 2017.

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  • On Thursday you lucky folk Flogging Molly play at The Forum in Kentish Town, north London. Ticket information here.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE SCARLET- ‘Hardfolk Shanties’ (2017)

It’s been five minutes so must be time for another amazing Hungarian celtic-punk release from another amazing Hungarian celtic-punk band!

2015 was the year of the Hungarian celtic-punk band with a seemingly never ending succession of celtic-punk releases throughout the year that filled the end of year Best Of polls for not just ourselves but for all the other celtic-punk media. Well last year was a bit on the quiet side but the Hungarians are back in 2017 with a bang and already this year we have had Hungarian Celtic-Punk week when we reviewed three releases by bands old and new to the scene in Firkin, Crazy Rogues and The O’Neills plus as well as finding space for the excellent Jolly Jackers album and a new Paddy And The Rats release due any day soon its shaping up to be a repeat of two years back. The Scarlet’s singer/songwriter Dániel also plays in The O’Neills and while they are a much more traditional Irish folk band it seems he has chosen The Scarlet to take out his aggression on and their music has a much harder edge to it than previously. Which brings us to this release which came out in March (when else!) and is the debut long player from Budapest based band The Scarlet. They have previously released a Demo (available for free download from here) in late 2012 and in January, 2015 they released their first official record in Midnight Avenue. That was six tracks and twenty minutes of, mostly Dropkick Murphys style, quality celtic-punk that introduced them both to the celtic-punk scene and the world (here). A combination of pirate ‘Yo-Ho’s’ and metal guitar riffs accompanying the celtic instruments it left us itching to hear more and we were jumping for joy on the news that an album was coming out.

Now as is the case with music genre’s many overlap and while to the casual listener it may all sound the same but to those that like to label things this is probably more towards the pirate punk end of celtic-punk and maybe even celtic-metal as well.

The album kicks off with ‘Heroes of Our Future’ and even though it’s the shortest song on the album it’s still one of the high points. The Hungarians love the flute and The Scarlet are no different with Júlia’s flute competing with fiddle and metally punk electric guitar riffs. Dániel’s vocals as on that earlier EP are clear and even with his slight accent the English lyrics are easy to understand though sung in a more rock style than before.

The music has a urgent feel to it and ‘The Darker Shade of Red’ doesn’t let the pace slip while the sea theme continues with ‘We Plunder’. The heavy guitar and thundering bass, which sounds particularly good, give the song a hard feel but all the time the flute and fiddle keep it celtic. ‘Monday Morning’ is another album standout and one of the more ‘trad’ celtic-punk moments on the album. Gang vocals on the track are a nice touch and keep it interesting. We are halfway through Hardfolk Shanties and ‘Son of a Pirate’ keeps the pace up. I am a new convert to the use of flute in celtic-punk. I was never one for it but on seeing the mighty Firkin here in London on NYE 2015 I have to say I was totally won over. The Scarlet and Firkin share a lot of similarities except in sound and once again it’s pleasing that bands have managed to tread separate paths in a, sometimes, one dimensional scene.

Saying that if there was one song on the album that has a Firkin shadow looming over it then it is ‘Take the Wheel’. In a album of high points it’s not hard hard to pick out songs worthy of attention and ‘Heading to South’ is one. Great fiddle work and chugging guitar and a real catchy tune too. We coming up to the end of the album and ‘Battlefield Requiem’ keeps up the good work and another mention here for Dániel’s tortured vocals which fit perfectly with the sound the band are producing. ‘Runaway’ has a punk feel to it with that thundering bass back again and finally Hardfolk Shanties comes to an end with ‘Long Live the Dead’. The song begins folky acoustic style before moving into celtic-punk territory. Another class song and that The Scarlet can pack so much into their songs when the longest here is only just over three minutes long is remarkable.

So the album is over and you get ten songs all penned by the band themselves that comes in at literally just over half an hour long. If you like your celtic-punk a bit different then Hardfolk Shanties will be right up your street. More punk than most and with metal influences that keep it on the harder side side of things but thanks to the addictive flute and fiddle here it is firmly within the celtic-punk scene. Fiddler Dominika can be thanked for the superb pirate themed album artwork and the album was mixed by Zoltán Cs.Szabó, of the Hungarian garage rock band The Trousers, who has done a grand job and got the maximum out of The Scarlet. A great album and as already stated it sits proudly on the harder edged side of things but it is nevertheless still a fine concoction of both old time folk and more modern punk and metal. Heartily recommended ship mates!

(you can hear Hardfolk Shanties by pressing play on the Soundcloud player below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: Всё_CRAZY- ‘Мокрые слухи’ (2017)

no nonsense no frills just straight up fantastic celtic-punk from Belarus.

We been big fans of Всё_CRAZY (in English- ‘All Crazy’) for a while and Мокрые слухи is their second album and comes only a year and a couple of months after the release of their debut album По Морям. That album was reviewed on these pages here and we had this to say back then

“They have taken celtic music and added their take on it and made something really interesting. We have waxed lyrically before about how wonderful we find it that celtic-punk has gone international over the last few years. Gone are the days when celtic-punk was solely played in the places where the Irish or other Celts settled and these days some of the best bands in the scene are not only from Canada or Australia or the USA but place like Belarus or Indonesia or Brazil. They deserve a fair hearing and we really hope you give them a try you won’t be disappointed.”

The album also landed in the London Celtic Punks Best Album Of 2015 and received favourable mentions across the worldwide celtic-punk media.

left to right: Aliaksandr Hliakau – bass/vocals; Nikalai Kavalikhin – drums; Liudmila Navakouskaya – mandolin; Aliaksandra Halkouskaya – vocals; Sergey Lesnevskiy – accordion; Eugene Rakhanski – guitars; Anton Sirotin – guitar/vocals; Alexey Voryvodsky – sound engineering

Всё Crazy hail from Belarus which up until 1991 was part of the Soviet Union and is bordered by Russia to the north east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the north west. They come from the capital city Minsk and has a tragic past. During WWII Belarus was devastated losing about a third of its population and more than half of its economic resources. Of course after the war came occupation by the Russians but the government and people remain on friendly terms with many speaking both Russian and Belarusian.

(Brand new concert video. Great quality and contains a good few songs from the album)

So why then have these band of merry souls decided to take up the music and culture of another country with a tragic past on the other side of the continent? Well Alex from the band told me

“We began celebrating St. Patrick’s day in our country about 10 years ago, it was a new experience for us. We found that Irish people have a lot in common with Belarusians, for instance, drinking a lot and eating potatoes! The same similarity we found between Celtic and Slavic folk tunes. Altogether, it resulted in the music we play today”

Belarus is a land locked country and again as on that debut album there is an inescapable longing both for the sea and alcohol as the two driving forces of the Belarusian people. No wonder they feel at home singing Irish tunes! The title of the album translates as Wet Rumors which is a local phrase for telling someone what they want to hear. Released just a couple of weeks ago it’s not been plain sailing for the band with the inevitable loss of band members as you get more popular and get offered more gigs and touring becomes a necessity. The mandolin player went on maternity leave but can still be heard on this album and two new instruments (violin and flute) appeared as one musician as Inna Perasetskaya-Malakovich joined the ship.

The album launches with ‘Liudmila’ which is a cover of a song by American folk-punk band Harley Poe. Never having heard of them I thought I would check them out and they were OK I suppose but not a fecking patch on Всё_CRAZY!! Hard as nails folk with the punk kept slightly in check and heavy on the accordion. A right knees up of a song with vocals, as on the entire album, sung in Russian but have a real nice sound to them. if you are the kind of person that is put off my celtic-punk not being sung in English then you in the wrong place. Next up is ‘The Factory’ and the first self-penned number. Have to say there is a nice balance of covers here among the bands own material and some interesting ventures within the song and all done with a great deal of style. One thing is for certain these are definitly not straight covers. ‘The Factory’ is about the limitations of man and his attempt to escape his problems through alcohol. A vicious circle. Most of the music here is joyful but there’s a slight menace here. ‘Wet Whores’ is really part one of a song where the second part follows later on in the album. The songs are getting faster and more and more punk is slipping in all time. ‘Mom’ follows and is a cover of a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club song but never having been a fan of them I can’t tell you much except I don’t think they were a folk-punk band and so it seems to me that Всё_CRAZY’s version walks all over there’s. The band have stamped their brand all over it as the song begins as a dirge, Slow and mournful before changing halfway into a upbeat tune with lovely male/female vocals and a gang chorus to die for. The familiar sound of ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ makes an appearance and takes us into the albums first traditional celtic-punk tune ‘Over the Mountains (Bugger Off!)’. They do a grand version of The Real McKenzies song and the trad elements are a mixture of Slav and Celt and sound brilliant. Another trad song next and ‘Tired Me Out, Bastards!’ originates from the bleak lives of prisoners in the harsh existence in Siberia. We first became of Всё_CRAZY on the release of the fantastic Tribute To The Pogues compilation that came out in 2015. with twenty-seven bands from over a dozen countries it was hard to spot the standout tracks but their cover of the Jem Finer and Andrew Ranken penned ‘My Baby’s Gone’ was easily among the best tracks on the album. Taken from the underwhelming post-Shane album Waiting for Herb it was a brave choice of Всё_CRAZY to go with one of The Pogues lesser known songs but it completely worked. (Follow the link here to get a free download of Tribute To The Pogues)

(Всё_CRAZY re-recorded the song for the album but here’s the sweary version!)

Unsurprisingly it’s my favourite song of the album. Great m/f vocals again and mandolin and guitars work perfectly together. The unsuccessful search for the road to the sea is next in ‘Road To The Sea’ and is a reference to the topic of death and frailty of all things. You can hear the bones of a sea shanty here in a song that lasts over five minutes. Rather surprisingly the band actually formed in 2002 playing all sorts, from reggae to blues rock. Multiple lineup changes saw the band not settle until the release of an album ‘Телипыч’ (‘Telipych’) which became a turning point for the band. The end of that chapter and they changed course, lucky for us, to celtic-punk. The next track ‘Motorped’ was written back in 2002 but unexpectedly suited the concept of the album, and therefore got a place here. Another corker and another knees up with a hint of bluegrass/country wrapped inside. Nearing the end of the album and ‘Babe On The Shore’ keeps the catchiness and gang vocals going with flute taking the lead here. The final song here is another cover but ‘Some Day (When the Saints…)’ is anything BUT a straight cover and I would bet my house on it being a fan’s live favourite. The song lasts over six minutes and takes in several genres in a kind of well played mayhem.

So I can only give you my opinion on the music and what I have managed to piece together regarding the meaning of the songs. The upbeat sound here belies that many of the songs are permeated with a sorrow. Something else the Belarussians have in common with the Irish so. The violin, whistle/flute and accordion feature strongly here but is well balanced by the guitar. A very interesting album and the mix of folk styles from their home country and ours added to good ol’ fashioned punk rock makes for some absolutely great music.

( you can hear Мокрые слухи below by pressing play on the Bandcamp player before you buy. It’s only $3 so go on and splash the cash!)

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ALBUM REVIEW: ‘THE HANGMAN’S BLUES: Prison Songs In Country Music 1956-1972 (2016)

Grim tales of jailbirds, cutthroats, cuckolds, executioners, murderers and escapees.  Prison ballads form part of the historic lifeblood of Country Music and saw a resurgence after the 1960 execution of controversial convict Caryl Chessman. Here are some of the very best, seldom heard since their original release. Running the gamut from smooth balladeers of woe to ramshackle and plaintive backyard rockabilly.

While these days your more likely to find your folk music heroes went to Eton with Prince William or all met at Cambridge/Oxford/insert other posh university it’s not always been so. While it’s always been true that the music of the working classes has always been adopted by the well-heeled and the image of the bearded Green Party, Real Ale drinking, middle class ‘leftie’ singing away with his finger in his ear still rings true around the folk clubs. This also explains their reluctance to accept other genre’s like celtic-punk as part of the folk scene as at it’s heart is a snobbery to keep others out at all costs. Folk music was never a static thing with bands and singers always finding ways to keep the music alive and relevant though always with a healthy respect for the past. That the celtic-punk scene can be said to be partly responsible for the popularity of bands long gone like The Dubliners, Clancy Brothers and The Pogues butters no onions with these people who just want to keep things as they were at all costs. Happy to be big fish in small pools! What the artists on this album would make of four faux-ploughboy, waistcoat wearing members of the aristocracy representing folk music I don’t know (have to admit here I DO actually love Mumford And Sons!) but one thing is for sure they wouldn’t last five minutes in the company of people featured here and long to be be forgotten while these days be writ high.

One things for sure it has always been, and always will be, the poor that go to jail. Whether for a crime they freely admit (or not!) or through bigotry and lack of decent representation the jails of the world are full of the poorest of our society. Folk and country music has never been a stranger to the inside of prison walls right from the very start and this stunning compilation covers just about every country music offshoot musically as well as covering just about every reason why you could end up inside. The album opens strongly with ‘The Wall’, written by Harlan Howard, given a powerful performance here by Freddie Hart. Born to a sharecropper family in Alabama Hart left school at 12 but still managed to become one of country music’s biggest stars of the 70’s. I love the sound of the harmonica and there’s plenty of it’s woeful sound to be found here to keep me happy.

“The years gone by since he made his try
But I can still recall how hard he tried and the way he died
But he never made that, wall he never made that wall”

All the tracks were recorded between 1956 and 1972 and although I have heard several prison -themed album’s in the past I seriously cannot remember one that came anywhere remotely close to the quality found here. I could wax lyrical about every artist but this review would then run for pages and pages. Suffice to say that all the artists here know what it means to be hungry and many indeed did cross swords with authorities and some others saw the other side of a prison gate. Tennessee born, early rockabilly star Jaycee Hill’s  fantastic ‘Crash-Out’, is typical of many here with the acceptance and regret of a life of crime. Most of the artists here are American but one of the album highlights is the London born Marty Robbins with his intense performance of ‘The Chair’. Inspired by the controversial execution of Caryl Chessman in 1960.

Chessman was an unsavoury character that much is true and something he was intelligent enough to recognise within himself but he was convicted and charged on a law that was later repealed though not retroactively meaning his death sentence still stood. He became the poster child for the anti-capital punishment cause and the most recognizable face on death row. In May 1960 Chessman choked to death in San Quentin Prison’s gas chamber while the phone outside rang, just too late, with his stay of execution. His story is also dealt with in songs on this album by Country Johnny Mathis, one of the album highlights with its sheer, haunting poetry, Ronnie Hawkins and Jimmy Minor. The full story of Caryl Chessman is also told in a fine performance from Hoyle Miller notable for the last line of his song

“you see I too Hoyle Miller was once too on death row”

Dirt farmer’s son Porter Wagoner gives us a compelling version of the Hank Williams penned ‘(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle’. Known for his flashy suits and for giving Dolly Parton her big break Wagoner never forgot his working class roots often touring in rural areas where many would not perform and was also famous for his friendly relationship with his fans mingly before, during and after gigs with them. The jauntyness of ‘I Always Did Like Leavenworth’ belies the subject George Kent is singing of. Eddie Noack was a honky tonk singer influenced by Hank Williams and his superb version of ‘Invisible Stripes’ tells of the stigma that jail carries throughout  the rest of your days. Named from the stripes of the uniform prisoners were made to wear. A subject also visited here by Howard Crockett who turned to singing after a shoulder injury ended a promising baseball career. He performs a excellent cover of the famous Johnny Cash penned song ‘I Got Stripes’. Artist jailbirds like Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe and Merle Haggard are notable by their absence but the music that inspired them more than makes up for it. There are simply too many great songs and artists here to give justice to and the album comes to an end with ‘A Prisoner’s Dream’ by Charles Lee Guy III. When he was 16 he was convicted of manslaughter and sent to jail. During his imprisonment he learnt to play guitar and started writing songs. He sent a tape to Capitol Records who were sufficiently impressed to bring their studio equipment to Vacaville Prison in December 1962 to record him. Charles’ album, The Prisoner’s Dream, was well-received and in October, 1963 Time Magazine reviewed the album:

“Charles Lee Guy III has been an inmate of California State Prison since he was 16. The songs he has learned to sing there all reflect his sorry circumstance – and among them is the latest composition of a prison chum, country music’s Spade Cooley [himself a wife killer]. Guy’s woeful voice and guitar accompaniment fit the spirit of his music, and in this remarkable album he has the power of a young white Leadbelly.”

One of the songs on that album was titled ‘Wishin’ She Was Here (Instead of Me)’ thought to refer to his mother who many thought had committed the murder that Charles had been found guilty of. A moving, emotional and chilling way for this album to close.

All the tracks here were first issued on long forgotten 45’s often on obscure, tiny or private-press labels. All are incredibly rare and many are reissued here for the first time since release and are remastered from the original master tapes giving the album a sound that is as clear as crystal. Their are twenty-eight tracks here and just under eighty minutes of music. Pretty much all of the songs come in around the two minute mark and the pacing on the album is also well thought out. Available on vinyl and CD the amount of care put into this album is to be applauded including the incredibly handsome twenty page, full colour booklet that comes with informative liner notes by Alvin Lucia and rare photos and label shots. This amazing package has been put together by Bear Family Records who also gave us Hillbillies In Hell- Country Music’s Tormented Testament, another timeless compilation telling of Satan, drugs, murder, suicide, demonic visions, infanticide and redemption. Their were plenty of prison songs before the era (1956-1972) chosen here on The Hangman’s Blues but these songs begin from the early days of rock’n’roll and though most are straight up country songs all have a dark edge to them, of course, and some have that raw rock’n’roll sound that many of you will love I am sure.

Declarations of innocence, profound diatribes on capital punishment and mournful odes to the Last Mile. The Hangman’s Blues will chill, thrill and bedevil the dreams of all who hear it. Feel the penal pain. Like the album liner notes say…we are all prisoners in one way or another.

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ALBUM REVIEW: RESTLESS FEET- ‘Homeward Bound’ (2017)

German celtic-punk band Restless Feet’s second studio album playing fast Irish folk from Traditionals to more asskickin‘ stuff about sailing far away and returning home.

In a genre that most music fans would probably think of as being extremely small its heartening when you come across a band that you think is new only to find out they have been around a while and this is not their debut album as originally thought. That after all is a sign of a very healthy scene and long may it continue that I don’t know every band out there!

Restless Feet originate from the beautiful old town of Freiburg in the south-west of Germany and were in fact formed back in November, 2011. Their debut album Almost Irish contained seven tracks of which but two were covers but did contain the amazing track ‘Empire Of Gold’. If I had come across this song back then then I can tell you with all certainty that I would have been following them ever since.

The mini-album also contained a couple of Breton songs showing that Restless Feet know their onions and were not content to just rattle out the old favourites. That’s not to say they can’t play the old faves as it also contained a couple of Irish folk standards but it set the pace for their following album, which was about to hit the streets over three years later, just in time for St Patrick’s Day 2017.

I have mentioned on this site before the special affinity that German’s hold for the Irish. Time and time again when I have met German folk I have been impressed by their knowledge of Irish culture, music and history. That Celtic are by far the most popular foreign team among German football supporters is testament to that affinity. There are several theories for this but my guess is that the Germans love a drink and a good party so it has got to be between us and the Mexicans aint it? Here Restless Feet offer up six self penned tracks and seven carefully chosen covers that go to show that the German love for Erin still shines strong and shows no signs of abating either.

Homeward Bound begins with ‘I Hold Sway’ and gets proceedings off to a great start. All acoustic but with a real punk rock feel. The Irish/celtic sound is supplied by the energetic fiddling of Marcy and Kai on tin whistle and banjo while the rest of the lads, Maggu, Arthur and Alex, supply a steady and sturdy back drop.

(the first single and official video released from Homeward Bound)

Fast and over in a flash and leads into ‘The Cabin’ a very short accordion number used as the intro to the following song ‘Wake’s Souvenir’. Slowish but still tuneful and catchy that speeds up in the middle and its not often you will hear an acoustic guitar being thrashed so loudly! Many Euro celtic-punk bands include flute and I was a late convert to the idea but here, as it usually does, it sounds fantastic.The first cover is ‘The Shores Of Botany Bay. First time I ever heard this was by the legendary Irish folk band The Wolfe Tones and Restless Feet do it justice with a wee Irish trad tune slapped into the middle making it extra bit special. Restless Feet have two main vocalists and they slip from song to song so forgive me for not which is Kai and which is Maggu. They both sing in a distinct German style with the accent strong but at the same time absolutely clear as crystal and while the CD does come with the lyrics included you don’t need them at all. ‘Sailor’s Yarn’ is a great tune with superb fiddle and backing gang vocals. In the search for the song that represents celtic-punk the following, ‘Waste My Throat (On Irish Folk)’, song is a worthy contender. A real footstomper and one for the crowd to join in with cries of “yeah” peppered throughout. Would have maybe perhaps benefited from some driving electric guitar but still a album high point. Restless Feet next show us that their is more to their band than just punked up folk songs with ‘Tuneset’ which is in fact two and a half minutes of full on Irish trad folk with three superb reels- ‘Irish Washerwoman’, ‘Cooley’s Reel’ and ‘Maid behind the Bar’. Banjo, fiddle and flute giving the impression that what you got here is a trad band not an actual celtic-punk one. Next we have ‘Greenland Whale Fisheries’ which I am sure most of you will know as it has been covered by most bands between The Dubliners and The Pogues and has even been taken as a name for one of the celtic-punk scene’s most popular bands. Now I love this song but would have preferred something a little more off the map but we have to remember that to audiences not accustomed to Irish music this is a song that will get people off their bar stools and up jigging. On that first album Restless Feet showed they weren’t adverse to playing the odd rebel song and here they serve up the glorious ‘The Boys Of Wexford’. The song commemorates the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and, more specifically, the rebellion in Wexford.

“We are the Boys from Wexford
Who fought with heart and hand
To burst in twain the galling chain
and free our native land”

Made famous by The Clancy Brothers and The Wolfe Tones its a great version and sure to get the blood pumping of any freedom loving patriot. The last self penned number is ‘The Ballad Of Johnny Doran’ and bejaysus it’s an absolute corker. Loved it. Slowish and catchy with the backing minimal and the fecking brilliant chorus telling of a traveller’s life.

“I’m the Everywhere Man, slán and I’m gone”

The album standout and not just for me either (see the review on Celtic Folk punk here). We are back in Pogues/Dubliners territory again next with version of ‘The Irish Rover’ and not much to add but its as good as you will hear and the Bhoys stick fairly close to that most famous version. We are shipping up to shore and I feel I really must take off my hat and salute Restless Feet for including ‘By Memory Inspired’ here. Growing up with Irish music I thought I had heard just about every rebel song but this had passed me by. Again it’s a song commemorating the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Slow and quiet and beautifully played and sung from the heart.

“By Memory inspired And love of country fired, The deeds of Men I love to dwell upon”

The tragic defeat of that rebellion is remembered and the brave men who gave their lives names are sung with a poignancy that many Irish bands could learn from. Daniel O’Connell, William Orr, John Mitchel, John McCann, John and Henry Sheares, Fr Thomas Maguire, Robert Emmet, and others are recalled. Homeward Bound comes to an end with ‘Rolling Down To Old Maui’ and I was actually dreading another acapello version of this but the Bhoys turn it into a great tune with brass instruments and superb fiddle turning it into one of the best versions I have heard straight up!

So forty minutes of class acoustic Irish folk punk from a bunch of Germans with a real feel for what they are playing. Whether it’s playing their own material, classic Irish standards or even lost and forgotten gems of Irish folk, Restless Legs are a great addition to the celtic-punk scene and to landlubbers everywhere. With recent gigs supporting some of the scene’s biggest bands, including our own Ferocious Dog, the future is looking very bright for them.

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