A shower of hallions from the County Armagh!
Ireland is the country that most celtic-punk revolves around if we going to be honest. It would be fair to say the majority of us are of Irish descent and its largely Irish tunes and instruments that get played so its always been a sort of annoyance that the Irish in Ireland have been slow to embrace celtic-punk as much as the Irish diaspora have. In fact I can’t help but feel that there’s a wee bit of snobbery involved. So it was with great pleasure that I sat down to listen to ‘Songs and Stories of the Border’ from a great new young band from Ireland called O’Hanlons Horsebox. They have been together since the end of 2011 and play a style somewhere between The Pogues and The Saw Doctors. They say of themselves
“It’s traditional Irish folk music with a kick in the arse!”
and although their is nothing overtly punk about the music the spirit of punk runs through the whole album and is an absolute joy to behold with exactly the right amounts of humour and seriousness coursing through it.
‘Joe Coburn’ kicks off the album and accordion begins the song and soon enough it bursts into a tune about Joe who emigrated to America before the famine from the lads home town of Middletown in County Armagh and went on to become one of the first World Heavyweight Bare-knuckle Boxing Champions. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013 and from the start O’Hanlons Horsebox straddle that middle ground that would appeal to both yer casual listener while they play away in the back of the pub or your celtic-punk fanatic watching them up on the big stage.
“fight to live in the land of the free”
‘The Fighting Boys from Corofin’ is the first big nod to The Pogues complete with yelps and shouts and “Diddley” chorus. Splendid stuff. ‘The Ballad of Rachel Corrie’ follows and is a moving ballad telling the story of a young American peace activist who was killed back during the Palestinian uprising in 2003 by the Israeli army.
“Rachel Corrie was brave, much braver than me”
After that the Bhoys return to more humorous material and ‘The People from the Border’ tells of living the border in Ireland and
“we drink in the north we’re on the dole in the south”
At last a proper drinking song and ‘Drink It Up’ is my favourite album track and possibly the closest to a celtic-punk classic. Harmonica (which regular readers will know never fails to please me!) and a real catchy tune with touches of 80’s Indie pop legends The Housemartins in there.
‘The Brave’ is accordion led and has a real American feel to it. ‘It’s All Been Worthwhile’ is a beautiful song that tells of the struggles of a working class man’s life of labour and the events that lead him to thinking back that
“It’s all been worthwhile”
‘Farewell to Thee’ is the classic story of no work at home so like many before them having to leave to find a better life in another country. This isnt the story of middle class university graduates leaving to find themselves but of the men and woman of the 50s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s Irish who left an Ireland through desperation not choice. People like mine who never settled here and never once called it home. As The Pogues said
“Did you count the months or years or did your teardrops quickly dry”
The characters that inhabit O’Hanlons Horsebox songs are still counting and as Fintan from the band reveals
“has been all too real for half of the band. I wrote this song before I had to leave for England in search for work, whilst thinking of the others who had travelled the same path before me and their stories”
What The Saw Doctors have done for Galway it looks like O’Hanlons Horsebox are going to do for Donegal and ‘Ballyliffin’ certainly sounds a grand place in this song. Not sponsered by the Donegal Tourist Board but feck it why not!
“Located against the backdrop of the hills of the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal, the village of Ballyliffin is a place of great natural beauty where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Glashedy Island and the Atlantic Ocean”
‘Sun Will Be Shining Again’ brings the album to a close and ends with a slow song that sums the band up completely.
Ten great songs of authentic Irish folk-punk. The music may be acoustic but, just like The Pogues could, O’Hanlons Horsebox sure can kick up a real racket. Catchy and well played and and plenty of charm and blarney and a mix of serious and fun that would make any evening go with a bang and when it comes to ‘Songs and Stories of the Border’ it is just over half an hour and all songs are self penned by the band themselves so a massive tip of the hat for that. The temptation to pad it out with a couple of folk standards must have been massive but well done to them for sticking to their own material and I’m glad they did as it stands up very well. They have already toured in Canada so we are awaiting a visit to this side of the Irish sea with bated breath as a great night is guaranteed I am positive. That none of the band have ever had traditional music lessons gives them that nice rough punk rock edge that we like so much here and we can’t wait to hear more.
(you can listen to the whole of ‘Songs and Stories of the Border’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. To buy the album follow the link below the player)
Buy The Album
Contact The Band
The Rachel Corrie Foundation- For Peace And Justice