ALBUM REVIEW: McSCALLYWAG- ‘Dirty Water’ (2017)

Celebrate the good life with Dutch celtic-punkers McScallywags. Influenced by traditional Irish folk music, sea-shanties and good ol’ drinking songs McScallywag are on a mission to put a smile on everyone’s face!

Got this album in the post from Waldo over at Celtic Folk Punk And More web-site (always worth checking out here) but with such a backlog of reviews its taken me till now to have a listen and I’m kicking myself for waiting so long!

McScallywag describe their sound as “Dropkick Murphys meets The Pogues” and while live they they provide a healthy mix of classic traditional Irish folk songs and McScallywag originals here on Dirty Water they gone for the originals approach with every song one they have penned themselves. The band are based in the Dutch city of Groningen, an area of the Netherlands renowned for its music and arts. Formed in 2013 when local hardcore punk band De Klootviolen parted ways with their vocalist and the rest of the band decided to continue but in a completely different direction. Armed with new instruments they continue to blaze their way through life celebrating their love for that life through alcohol and folk music. The Dutch scene is particularly strong at the moment with such great bands as Circle J and Bunch Of Bastards , who have both featured on these pages extensively as well as touring these shores, as well as the likes of LQR, Drunken Dolly and The Royal Spuds who we are hoping to catch up with at LQR’s ’10 Pinter’ festival next January.

McScallywag left to right: Tom Kootstra– Guitar, Vocals * Frodo Bosma– Accordion *  Ruud Platje– Drums, Vocals *  Arian Sikkens– Banjo, Mandolin, Vocals * Peter Janssen – Bass Guitar * Talitha Barelds– Cello, Vocals * Ashley Buitenwerf– Guitar, Vocals. Not in picture Sebastiaan Hidding– Violin

So what do we get here. As I say its nine original songs so that is already a plus in my eyes and the whole album comes in just shy of half an hour. the album starts with ‘Billy’s Curse’ and you not sure which way the album’s going with acoustic guitar and accordion swirling round while Arian’s voice sings out both tunefully and strong. The song doesn’t get much faster but does get louder and you can hear the cello here and it sounds great. Not yer typical celtic-punk instrument but all the better for that. Needless to say of course that Billy’s curse was in fact alcohol! ‘Days of Travel’ is up next and the band start to show what they can do here. Fast and furious acoustic celtic-punk party music. Stop and start fast music that owes much to hardcore punk in many ways.

The video gives you a great example of what McScallywag do. That they are acoustic, except for bass guitar, is incredible and reminds me of what was said about The Pogues that they were louder than any punk band! next up is ‘The Road’ and a real Poguesy feel to this. A slow ballad that speeds up near the end with gang vocals and is a real catchy foot-tapper. Some great positive lyrics here too that had me belting out the words in me living room.

So get up while you can, stand up and be a man.
Cuz there’s no such a thing as getting old,
you’ve got to live it up while you can.
So even when this world is at its darkest,
And your just clinging and holding on to that light.
You’ll find again and again that when your drinking with friends,
you’re gonna make it through the night,
shining bright”

Definitely one of the album highlights without a doubt. ‘Letter to Megan’ is about a subject that crops up quite often in celtic-punk. Hopefully as a warning to others? Screwing up your life and hurting the ones you love. The song starts off slow before bursting into life and ending in typical celtic-punk fashion and while the video below shows the song done to perfection it is annoying hearing people talking throughout BUT…

this is music for the live setting and McScallywag come into their own live from what I can see. That’s not to say that they haven’t managed to transfer that sound onto disc as they have done a brilliant job here and the production is perfect. ‘St. Paddy’s Anthem’ is up now and McScallywag’s tribute to that day where indeed

“It’s Saint Paddy’s anthem keep singing along,
as loud as you can, cuz tonight, everybody is an Irishman!”

Great vocals here and as loud a song as any on Dirty Water. Close your eyes and you can forget your not still listening to De Klootviolen and a band containing banjo, accordion, cello and mandolin.

“And the pubs around the corner there,
said: open all night.
There was Dropkick Murphys on the jukebox,
shouting, drinking what a sight.
They passed me down a bottle, and I bought a round of beer.
We raised our glass to the drinking class,
and we all sang and cheered”

This is hardcore punk-folk! Then  we have ‘Eye of the Storm’ and a dramatic shift in style with cello-player Talitha taking over vocal duties for a slow ballad about losing your love at sea. The mandolin accompanies her beautiful voice in a very under stated song where you can smell the salt air. ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is another stand out track for me. As I often say man cannot live on punk rock alone and he needs to slow down occasionally. It’s good for the soul. Vocals are shared again by Talitha and Arian and this is the moment on the album where you must raise your pint to the air. Every half decent celtic-punk album must have one and this is it. Love this song. We nearing the end of Dirty Water and ‘Whiskey I Love You’ is a singalong/clappalong folky number with gang vocals and a catchy chorus. Think Dropkicks ‘Boys On The Docks’ and you’ve got it. The album wraps up with ‘Johnny Went Away’ and it’s more of that stop and start hardcore folk that I love. The mandolin is in overdrive and the band all join in on vocals and bring the curtain down leaving me out of breath!

Having always been a fan of punk music it’s really refreshing to hear a folk band play as though they were a punk band. Its mostly very fast but incredibly tuneful and still folky despite the speed it’s played. They don’t sound like any of the scene’s favoured bands which is something I have said before about Dutch celtic-punk groups and that is something special. A great debut album and a band to watch out for. All the lyrics are on the bands web site (here) and are well worth a look while you listen to the album.

(have a free listen to Dirty Water below)

Buy Dirty Water

iTunes

Contact McScallywag

WebSite  Facebook  Soundcloud  Instagram  YouTube

(not quite a full length concert but great video with good sound)

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