traditional Irish music with an aggressive and energetic modern-day approach
Every Day Above Ground was released way back in March but as I only just got to hear it I’m rushing it in before the year ends. Don’t want to break the rule of only reviewing albums in the year their released do I? The Fighting Jamesons come from the resort town of Virginia Beach in Virginia, the 39th most populous state in America, and they embrace their Irish roots with obvious relish. The band inhabit the folkier side of celtic-punk and play mostly acoustic but like the band they probably sound most alike, Flogging Molly, they can kick up a real storm and would leave plenty of punk bands in their wake. Heads down and fast as humanly possible is how The Fighting Jamesons like it and we have to say we bloody love it too!
The band members have an interesting history as lead guitarist Geo tells me
“we have always been an interesting mix of dudes when it comes to our musical backgrounds. Of course we have Irish and then it gets fun… punk, metal, hardcore, alternative, classic rock, classical, old time folk, new folk, reggae, world & Kiss. Hahaha”
I got their first album last year and was suitably impressed. A eight track mini album with three covers and five original numbers that comes up just a few seconds short of half an hour. Have to say though it was a wee bit disappointing to hear so many covers that were the usual celtic-punk standards. This is no way a slur on the band as they’re no way on their own as virtually all celtic-punk bands seem to kick off their recording output by overdoing the most popular covers.
Geo again told me by explaining
“I’m originally from New York from a proud Irish family who loves this music! There is no better feeling than hearing Ronnie Drew, Shane MacGowan, Luke Kelly or Liam Clancy sing. So here we are playing our own form of Irish Music. We love to reconstruct the Irish classics. It’s always a challenge to come up with your very own version of these timeless songs”
So the feeling that I had was can The Fighting Jamesons produce the goods themselves. The signs were there on that first album and with the release of Every Day Above Ground we can safely say that the bhoys can take their place amongst the American celtic-punk greats!
As singer-songwriter Michael Powers puts it
“the new album is darker than the first one. I feel as if we built off the first album, arranged better songs with a lot more depth. I wanted to make a real honest record. I had been writing the album every day of my life for about two years. If I had an idea or inspiration I stopped and wrote it down or played/hummed the melody into my phone. Sometimes life throws you a giant curve ball and everyone deals with it differently. I wrote my way out of it with this album”
The album starts of with ‘Year Gone By’ and its a manic start with the accordion to the fore and the rest of the band rocking out alongside. It has a slight ‘gypsy’ touch to it and is one of the most celtic-punk tracks of the entire album. In fact those comparisons to Flogging Molly are undeniable but its the Molly’s as trapped between 2000 and 2005 which lets face it was easily their best years. ‘What Does It Mean’ follows and the quality of the lyrics hits you hard as their mostly downbeat despite the music so they demand a proper listen. This is the albums standout song but hard to choose believe me. The albums first cover is ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ a 19th century song about a immigrants experiences as he travels to Liverpool in England from his home in Ireland. Made most famous by The Dubliners, the lads certainly give it a good seeing to and whip up quite a frenzy that will leave you unable to keep up with the words by the end.
“The boys of Liverpool, when we safely landed
Called myself a fool, I could no longer stand it
Blood began to boil, temper I was losing
Poor Old Erin’s Isle they began abusing
Hooray me soul, says I, me Shillelagh I let fly
Galway boys were by and saw I was a hobble in
With a loud hurray, they joined me in the affray
Quickly cleared the way on the rocky road to Dublin”
‘Mid The Green Fields Of Virginia’ comes next and starts off with a real country feel to it before going off on one and the guitars come in and kick off. A great mixture of Irish, country and punk rock its a song over eighty years old from The Carter Family and pays tribute to the place they all call home now. ‘Last Thing I Remember’ keeps up the pace and even more darkness envelops ‘Every Day Not Wasted’ the well known story of a life lost in alcohol and oblivion. Slow and angry this song is for wrapping your arm round your mates and swaying with your beer held high. There but for the grace of God…
“Every day not wasted is a wasted day”
‘How I Ended Up This Way’ tells of drinking with your family and how it can get out of hand. ‘Around The Bend’ is a banjo led fury of a song and once again Michael’s great voice dominates. The Fighting Jamesons are one of a select group of bands (fortunately we have most of them in celtic-punk) whose lyrics are as important as the music wrapped around them. Each song is a story worth telling and hearing and lucky for us the musics just as good too. Next up is another Irish classic ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew You’. Made most famous in celtic-punk by The Dropkick Murphys who play a version in each live show. An anti-war anthem for each generation since it first appeared in 1867.
“You haven’t an arm, you haven’t a leg,
You hadn’t an arm, you hadn’t a leg
You’re a armless, boneless, chickenless egg
You’ll have to be put with the bowl to beg
Johnny I hardly knew ya”
‘A Song For Letting Go’ swiftly follows the whispered last words of ‘Johnny’ and banjo begins the familiar story of a selfish man and his wife/girlfriend. The song again moves at a grand old pace and it would be interesting to see if the bhoys can keep it up live as its wearing me out just listening to the fecker! ‘Isn’t It Grand’ slows things down and its in right proper traditional country’n’Irish territory but still with that punk twist on it. Originally recorded by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem there’s a nice bit of dark humour here before ‘The Ramble Home’ brings the album to a close with a rather jolly uplifting fiddle led tune that draws you in before punky guitars leap out of nowhere and before we know it we’re listening to a song Flogging Molly would have loved to have written back in their Swagger/Drunken Lullabies days.
Every Day Above Ground is twelve tracks lasting a staggering fifty minutes that barely pauses for breath for a minute. Even the ballads have a sort of haste to them and as soon as their finished there’s another blistering track of full on Irish following straight away. Bands like The Fighting Jamesons earn their bread and butter on the live circuit and its there that they are best experienced so to be able to even capture a small bit of that on record is a great achievement and this they have managed. Their hybrid sound of American and Irish really hits the spot but if i could redefine them even further I’d guess I’d call it Irish-country-punk as even at their most punky or most Irish there’s still a wee something underneath that anchors it down. Once again Geo tells us
“I’m really not sure how I would categorize the band anymore. We have a ton of punk elements especially live. We tend to play a bit faster when we get out on the road (never a bad thing) but, I know we are a band that plays Irish music…. after that it’s up to the individual listing to put us in their own Irish category. The Pogues are a great example of this…. they play Irish music and then mesh it with so many different styles. As a songwriter I love that and hope people checking out the new album can hear it. So if someone hears Irish Punk when listening…awesome. If someone else hears Irish gypsy music that’s awesome too”
This is a fantastic album and will send you into uncontrollable foot tapping if you’re anything like me and if you’re a bit more normal you’ll be jigging round yer living room! The Fighting Jamesons are made for a good time plain and simple.
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