simple acoustic music. passion, anger, heart and a sense of humour and absolutely nothing at all like James Blunt
Here we go again I hear you all groan and say “oh no not another bloody Australian celtic-punk album. Any minute now he’s gonna start banging on about The Rumjacks and Aussie celtic-punk being the best in the world”… well surprise surprise you’re right and you’re right for a good reason. Aussie celtic-punk has the best scene in the world and it didn’t get that way from just writing songs about drinking either. For whatever reason, and we’ve touched on it in this interview with Jay before (here), the Australian bands just seem to be better story tellers than most. Their songs have an uncanny ability to uplift and educate and inspire you. I mean even the average bands are brilliant! We were enormous fans of Jay’s previous band Between The Wars and it broke our hearts when we heard they’d split up earlier in the year. Luckily for us though Jay has returned with an outstanding album of acoustic celtic folk punk that keeps much of the spirit of Between The Wars but adds just enough of a new feel to it to stop it being another BTW record.
His new album ‘Carry Me Home’ came out on last month on Australian-based record label Slippery Slope Records which specialises in celtic punk, folk punk, folk and celtic sounds. Between The Wars were very much on the celtic folkier side of celtic-punk and this album continues in that vein. From the start with the slow instrumental ‘Prologue’ its unmistakable where the roots of this album lay. The first proper track is ‘Pints Of Guinness Make Me Weak’ a slow ballad with just acoustic guitar and ex-BTW’er Hayley Anderson’s great fiddle and Jays voice. One of the things BTW were most famed for was their storytelling lyrics and on Carry Me Home that tradition continues.
“We stood at the bar and sang useless songs. We stood at the bar and we sang Black Is The Colour”
Another thing they were famous for was their perfect mix of light hearted and dark material. ‘Give Me A Drink!’ is the first visit to celtic-punk territory and doesn’t disappoint with the drums clashing away and the fiddle on fire. A great song.
“that night I walked alone but at least it was fucking better than going home. I crept back homeward on my hands and my knees. The wife was at the door with a bottle of brown ale for me”
‘Souvenirs’ is a love story set to lovely Irish fiddle and Jays guitar. Joe Guiton, from Melbourne folk punkers Suicide Tuesdays, guests on backing vocals.
“I’m in love with who we’ve been. Now I’ve got to make it last before I fuck it up (and I’m gonna fuck it up). You and I will fly for the rest of our lives. We’re souvenirs”
‘The Irish Boys Of Old’ is a modern day classic Irish celtic-punk rebel song. BTW never shied away from mentioning the war in Ireland and never flinched from taking sides either and this song leaves you in no doubt where they stand.
“The King and the Crown have tried to take our land and no matter how hard we fight, they’re the stronger man. We take to the hills and we take to the lanes. There’s no higher calling than to fight for Ireland”
Again great fiddle playing and lyrics but five songs in and I’ve a feeling that I could be saying that about every song! And I haven’t even said the word catchy yet! no Jay album wouldn’t be complete without a sea shanty but as is his way ‘The Cruel Sea’ is punked up to eleven and sails past at full pace, accompanied on the mando by Joel Stibbard, its one of the album’s standout tracks.
“The water kept on flowing inwards taking all the rum away; no chance to drink our fears away. We are the disaster of the open sea, take another hit. We are the disaster of the open sea, take another life, take another life, take another worthless life”
The drums on ‘If You’re Not, Don’t’ are typical of this album. Even though the song is not particularly fast Dan Scalpelli’s drums drive the song along and combined with Jay’s voice give the album a proper celtic-punk in yer face feel.
“Looking back at my history, it’s pretty clear that I am not the safest bet. You can breathe in as long as you breathe out. If you’re not in love then don’t come home”
‘Oh Penny’ is yer classic working class love ballad of lost love best to be listened to crying into a beer of course.
“I joined the union when I turned of age just like my daddy did. Building the buildings, giving Melbourne a face, but I was still just a kid. I vowed to continue to raise the money because Penny’s worth her weight in gold”
‘The Number Of The Worker’ is a union promoting working man and womans street anthem chock full of class pride. As someone who does twelve hour shifts its long bugged me that it should be
“Eight hours to work, Eight hours to play, Eight hours to sleep”
they let fly no holds barred
“I tell you I’d rather die than not raise my banner high so let’s up and tell the big knobs to take heed and its 8-8-8, the number of the worker with hours for everything we need, we’ll stand our ground and we’ll raise our flags. For the eight hour day, the working man will bleed”
‘Linoleum’ is the NOFX classic but Jay plays it as a simple song sounding just how Jay would. Opening his heart for us. ‘A Derry Girl And A Whiskey Chaser’ is Jay and Hayley again and once again is just a plain great song. It has an old fashioned feel to it with wonderful lyrics about the death of a friend.
“Johnny boy we miss you, cry out your oldest friends. Where’s our man of jokes and tales, will he ever be seen again? Here’s a song for our mate, a pint for his loss and a chorus for his love. May his Derry girl and a whiskey chaser await him up above. A final word for all you poets, artists and the strums. Take your hearts and hopes and dreams and rise up from the slums and if you happen to get lucky and find yourself some gold, give a thought to Johnny, let his memory not get old”
‘I Wont Die Digging’ sounds like it could have been on the ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ soundtrack with Jay and friends singing about back breaking work, drinking and graves with the sound of wind whistling in their ears.
“I’m digging my grave, knee deep in the soil. I’ve broken my back from a month of toil. I’m going to hell for the rest of my days. Until that moment comes, I’m digging my grave”
Next up is ‘Sleepy’ featuring backing vocals from Teer, Jays partner and light of his life.
“and it feels like it’s been too long since I’ve seen you. Yes, it feels like every minute’s too long since I’ve seen you so sleep again”
Jay again spills his heart for us and is the perfect way to drift into the albums last track ‘Epilogue’. Backed by the Australian-Irish band Saoirse, Jay tells of living and fighting in Derry in your youth and leaving your girl and Ireland behind to go to Australia.
“I haven’t made a life here. What use is a life without you? I’m either drunk or fighting, sometimes both, but I don’t care”
A sad song but the history of the Irish away from Ireland has never been a particularly good one. Many fell through the cracks of society damaged by drink and drugs or just hard work. Not many fortunes were made its sad to say.
Overall this is a superb album and one of my favourites of 2014. I was a massive fan of Between The Wars and I’m extremely happy that Jay is continuing what they began but as i said earlier its not just another BTW record you’re listening to but the next chapter. Lyrically its as good as anything I’ve ever heard in celtic/folk-punk. Jay’s words have always resonated with me. Maybe its his long distance Yorkshire roots! The musicians on this album are all top notch as well. Throughout ‘Carry Me Home’ Hayleys fiddle playing is just downright brilliant. Never over complicated and never over dominating it simply accompanies. It may be another chapter but its not the end of the book for Jay and we look forward to hearing much more from him.
Buy The Album
Here Don’t bother getting it from anywhere else as if you buy from Jay he’s donated all proceeds to several charities. good man! He’s taking NO money for the digital version of the record and $4 to go towards production costs of the physical copy.
Slippery Slope Records
Between The Wars
Tagged: Jay Wars