As we strive to introduce you to new music you must check out the German psychobilly band Pitmen. A real melting pot of influences. In amongst the classic psychobilly fare, you can also hear Irish folk with banjo and fiddle giving things a nice céilíbilly twist and all blended together in original Pitmen style!
When I was a young one the music that reverberated through my house growing up were the sound of Irish folk and American rockabilly. My Mammy was a bit of a one in her younger days and from photo’s I’ve seen had the most incredible beehive haircut and saw every decent band of her generation from The Kinks to the Rolling Stones to The Beatles and even Johnny Cash. So no surprise then that both me and the brother grew up with a love of both Irish folk and rock’n’roll and while he became a Goth and I found myself living off chips, lager and punk and living in a squat we never lost that love. So when this album from German band Pitmen landed on my doorstep I was well excited. All I knew of them was a live You tube video of the band performing an old Irish rebel song ‘Roddy McCorley’ at a Psychobilly festival and it stirred me enough to order their new album, Back To The Pit, that had just come out.
Pitmen were founded in the spring of 1995 and the following summer of 1996 they recorded a demo which led Crazy Love Records to release it as Pitmen’s debut EP Misfits. They followed this in 1997 with their debut album Listen To The Engine and in 2001 their follow up album Welcome To The Show. Then back in 2003 at the top of the game and headline appearances around Europe at all the major Psychobilly festivals they decided to take a break. The members of the band went on to form and join other bands of many different genres with front-man Christian even forming a Irish folk outfit called airím with Susanne Böhler. So it was after six years Pitmen began to rehearse again and the following year they played their first live show since 2003.
So it is that after a several-year recording hiatus, Pitmen are back and Back To The Pit is the result. Fourteen tracks of
“Equal parts psychobilly, folk from both sides of the Atlantic, hard-as-fuck neo rockabilly and Celtabilly”
as O’Prez of the Dublin based psychobilly Hellacious Harmonies, here, site called it.
Long time fans are sure to be joined by new recruits on hearing this album and Back to The Pit kicks off with some western style guitar that thundering double bass and Christian ‘s clear as a bell vocals for ‘Always On The Run’. Great start to proceedings and from the very off you can tell this is an absolutely spotless production with the sound as perfect as it could possibly be. The music speeds up for the psychobilly anthem ‘Grab Life By the Balls’ but still sounds perfectly accessible.
‘You Are Not My Friend’ is next and even though the CD booklet is sparse to say the least it doesn’t matter too much as regards the lyrics as Christian’s vocals are very easy to understand. I guess that playing Irish folk songs has helped that and every now and then you can detect a slight Irish twang to his voice as in the catchy as hell ‘Fifteen Dead’ with its fantastic singalong chorus.
Now anyone with a slight interest in psychobilly will know that there is a zombie fixation throughout the scene and following song the rockin’ instrumental ‘Zombie Rumble’ keeps that going nicely. A right foot tapper and thigh-slapper which takes us nicely onto ‘Please Don’t Call Me Baby’, one of the album highlights which if it weren’t for the electric guitar harks back to the genre’s 50’s roots. The first sign of that Irish folk influence comes rolling in next with ‘Hot Rod Hotel’ which features the wonderful voice of Nina Heinrich on backing vocals and only whets the appetite for a bit more folk and a bit of her too. There’s more horror themed catchiness to follow in ‘Roadkill’ and they follow this up with the hilarious ‘You’re The Reason Mommy’s Drinks’ which is some sort of country-psychobilly mash up lullaby from a disappointed father to his stepchild! The banjo and fiddle are out and proud courtesy of Fran Urton on fiddle and Eduardo Ribeiro on banjo. Great sense of humour there lads. Love it. Next up now is the song I have been waiting for. With the Dropkick Murphys adopting of Finbar Furey’s legendary song ‘The Lonesome Boatman’ and their recording of it on this years new album 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory. I would even go so far to say it was the album highlight but how well would Pitmen stand up to it and would they be able to do it justice. Well I can report it is amazing. Simply amazing. It’s unlike any version you will have heard before I can guarantee and yet is still unmistakable. All the songs here are sang in English except for ‘Schnitzel mit Kartoffelsalat’ which is in German and from what I can gather a drinking song about a food fight! Singer and guitarist Christian has written the majority of the songs here albeit with help from both his wife and guitarist Holger so they take a break with a superb cover of The Animals ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’. Again its done in their own style and is yet unmistakable and as we near the end they follow it up with another cover, ‘Baltimore Fire’, of an old song about the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 which was originally recorded by Charlie Poole (1892-1931) and The North Carolina Ramblers. Nina Heinrich is back on backing vocals and you can find more of her great voice by checking out Christian and hers folk trio Sackville Street here. The fire raged for over thirty hours, spanning seventy city blocks, and destroying 1,545 buildings, doing an estimated $3.84 billion in damage in today’s money. A great choice of cover and shows the band know their onions and have plenty respect for the music that has influenced them. We are at the end of the album and another album highlight with the romantic ‘One More Day’. A real fifties feel here with the vocals accompanied by whistling, which you don’t hear much these days. The banjo is back and a really outstanding way to bring down the curtain on Back In The Pit.
So sixteen years on from their last album Pitmen are back with an almighty bang and I was gutted to find out that they played here only last month at the famed Bedlam Breakout festival where they went down a storm. Now as much as I love psychobilly it has to be said, and the same too could be said about celtic-punk, that many bands do sound the same so when you do hear something that you can say is unique its worth taking notice of. Twenty-two years on from getting together in their working class coal-mining home town of Essen Pitmen are still bringing something to the table that no other psychobilly bands can manage. This is a fine album of mainly foot stompin’ originals and a selection of instrumentals and covers that just enhance what they do. Be sure to keep an eye on Pitmen as they will be featured here again soon!!
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