Fiddlers Green. The band that invented their own genre- ‘Irish Speed Folk’ !!
Fiddler’s Green celebrated their 25th anniversary last year with the release of the fantastic compilation album 25 Blarney Roses and was as about as good as anything released in 2015. They hail from the small Bavarian town of Erlangen, that is twinned with our very own Stoke. Famed for their live shows and the ability to transfer that live sound to disc their popularity has grown and grown to see them hailed as one of the major bands in the European celtic-punk scene. It’s always hard to capture the passion and excitement of a celtic-punk gig onto a studio album but when a band achieves it then that album surely becomes a must have and Fiddler’s Green have been doing exactly that for 25 years now. Beloved by their loyal following it was only the other day when talking about fellow German band The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats new album, that we remarked on how Germany has has always had a big love affair with Ireland. Despite competition from such great bands as the aforementioned Paddyhats as well as Mr. Irish Bastard, The Porters, In Search of A Rose and The Ceili Family it has been Fiddlers Green’s consistency that has seen them become arguably Germany’s most popular celtic-punk band.
‘Devil’s Dozen’, also known as a Bakers Dozen, is a term often used in them olden days to mean 13, one more than a standard dozen. The practice of baking 13 items for an intended dozen was insurance against the items being lower than the statutory weight, or of lower than usual quality, which could cause the baker to be fined. And so on ‘Devils Dozen’ we find thirteen songs of, as it says on the cover, “Finest Irish Speed Folk”. The album begins with the title song and its accordion led classic Irish themed folk-punk from the very off. This is pure good time party music and there’s no one better at supplying that then Fiddlers Green. You won’t find much social commentary here and so what if you don’t!
Music has the ability to unite us and celtic-punk should not just unite but have us all linking arms throwing our beers in the air and professing our love for each other at the top of our lungs. There’s plenty of time to worry about the result of the American Presidential election another day. A great song that is followed by ‘Bottoms Up’ and you guessed it. It’s an ale themed song but the most interesting thing is they have sound rather like The Kaiser Chiefs here. That is if The Kaiser Chiefs had a fiddle payer and a accordionist! Very catchy and pure folk-punk though not of the celtic-variety in fact it has a more Eastern European feel to it.
Nevertheless a class song and just shows that Fiddlers Green refuse to rest on their laurels and churn out what is expected of them. One of the album standouts for me.
“Loose girls standing by the backdoor
Hot legs stepping on the dance floor
Join in, get the mojo working
Movin’, groovin, you know what it’s good for…”
Couldn’t get this bloody song out of my head for days after listening to this album so I was glad when we moved on to ‘Down’. The first minute is a ramped up celtic -punk version of the Simon and Garfunkel hit ‘El Condor Pasa’ and just as your settling down to a rather nice cover version the Fiddlers turn it round and add their own song about going down to you know where…
“We’ll pay the ferryman a dime
So come along, you’ re dead and gone
The demon tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound
Its saddest sound…”
One of the most interesting things about Fiddlers Green is their outstanding videos so you would be well advised that after you finish this review to go make yourself a cup of tea (or something stronger) and hightail over to their You Tube channel (link below) for a hour or two. and enjoy your viewing!
They can’t keep the energy going for ever so they slow it down a little for next song, ‘Boat On The River’. Now this is a cover I have never heard before and surprisingly its not an auld Irish song its a metal ballad from old and nearly forgotten 70’s rockers Styx. I actually really like the original too which you can find here but its a great and highly unusual cover that pays tribute to Styx while taking it into celtic-punk territory. They add in a bucket full of country to ‘Perfect Gang’ with absolutely superb fiddle here and a real crowd pleaser I’m sure with the great chorus. The only traditional Irish folk cover here is up next with the famous ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’.
“I have sailed with Burgess once before, I think I know him well
If a man’s a sailor he will get along, if not then he’s sure in hell
So fare thee well my own true love
When I return united we will be
It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me
But my darling when I think of thee”
A brilliant rousing version of this great tune. Liverpool was once one of the world’s major sea ports and this song was collected from Richard Maitland, a resident of Sailor’s Snug Harbor a home for retired seamen on Staten Island. He told that he learned it while on board the sailing ship General Knox around 1885 and The Davy Crockett mentioned in the song was launched in 1853. Previously recorded by The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers and The Pogues its one of the standard Irish folk songs that pop up from time to time but great to hear a version that can stand alongside them here. ‘Johnny’ sees us back in ‘celtic-indie’ territory while ‘Bad Boys’ is there punkiest song here all the while the fiddle is still fiddling and the accordion pumping meaning we never stray too far from the Fiddlers Green sound. They slow it down again for ‘Blame It On Me’ and Ralf’s vocals are never better than here. A tale of bad luck and bad choices his voice fills with emotion while the band sweep and swirl around him and the gang chorus work brilliantly well. ‘All The Way’ switches it up again and we get a lovely slice of celtic-ska with the fiddle leading the track and pushing it along till the song speeds up into a great punk song before slipping back easily into ska. We are nearing the end so time for a silly one with ‘Mr. Tickle’ about everyone’s favourite Mr Men character (apart from Mr Messy that is). ‘Here We Go Again’ and ‘We Won’t Die Tonight’ bring the curtain down on this great album that proves Fiddlers Green are truly one of the best bands in celtic-punk. Solid reliable and innovative and always moving.
Devils Dozen is thirteen songs of mostly self penned numbers with a smattering of unusual and well picked covers that comes in at just over 13 45 minutes long. The album is available on CD, with vinyl due in December, but also comes as various deluxe versions including things such as DVD’s and t-shirts. Fiddlers Green are a lot different from the band that released that debut album way back in 1992 but the core of the band has remained the same and they have as a unit never lost sight of the groups main principal that their fans are everything. They would never have become so popular if they had stood still and it is their ability to try new things and styles, but always in keeping with the Fiddlers Green ethos and sound, that has helped them achieve that popularity.
Fiddler’s Green (1992), Black Sheep (1993), Kings Shepherd (1995), Make Up Your Mind (EP 1996), On And On (1997), Spin Around (1998), Stage Box (Live 1999), Another Sky (2000), Folk Raider (2002), Nu Folk (2003), Celebrate (Live 2005), Drive Me Mad! (2007), Sports Day At Killaloe (2009), Folk’s Not Dead (Live 2009), Wall of Folk (2011), Acoustic Pub Crawl (2013), Winners and Boozers (2013), 25 Blarney Roses (Compilation 2015), 25 Blarney Roses Live In Cologne (Live 2016), Devil’s Dozen (2016).
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