ALBUM REVIEW: KILMAINE SAINTS- ‘Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos’ (2017)

High-energy celtic-punk from a bunch of Irish-Americans that will lift your hearts and your spirit…
as well your pint when you’re not looking!
Several hundred gigs in The Kilmaine Saints have made perhaps their breakthrough album with Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos. Plenty bands have seen critical success that perhaps don’t merit it but I’ve been delighted over the last few years to see that the Saints have also achieved that success around the celtic-punk media and what must surely follow now is to get more noticed among those DKM/FM fans who think the scene only revolves around them. The Saints come from a place that has an actual living Irish community. They may not be living ten to a room or ghettoised like their ancestors were but they are a community nevertheless. Beyond the leprachaun hats, shamrocks and green Guinness and other symbols of that hated phrase, ‘Plastic Paddy’, the Irish community is still very much alive. Brendan Behan couldn’t have put it better when he said

“Most people have a nationality, but the Irish and the Jews have a psychosis”

The Kilmaine Saints are a part of that community. A community that shares a deep love between people who share the same values of family, heritage, music and Ireland. They share that vision with an ever-expanding and loyal fan base singing, stomping and lifting their pints and shouting for more.

The Kilmaine Saints formed in 2009 when a couple of members of the Harrisburg Pipe And Drum Band (Pennsylvania) saw a gap in the market for a local celtic-punk band. With a large local Irish population shows were guaranteed and they thought it would be a good way to get free beer! Recruiting a couple of friends and a couple more Pipe band members The Kilmaine Saints began their journey on a road that would lead to hundreds of gigs and pile of recordings and would see them become one of the most popular celtic-punk bands in America. Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos is the bands fourth album after the critically acclaimed The Good, The Plaid And The Ugly in 2010, Drunken Redemption in 2012 and a live album Live At The Abbey in 2015 (which we reviewed here) as well as a mini-album unTraditonal from 2014. Each release has trod the well worn, and successful, path of solid, turned up to eleven celtic and Irish traditional ballads and rebel songs and some extremely good compositions of their own. Being a good covers band will only get you so far and the Kilmaine Saints haven’t got where they are from purely getting by on banging out ‘The Fields Of Athenry’ in Irish bars.

I could end this review right here by simply saying that Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos is fecking fantastic and is a must have for anyone who likes celtic-punk. It’s an extraordinary seventeen songs and over an hour of music that simply soars out the speaker from the first sound of bagpipes in ‘Idiom’. The pipes soon develop into Oi!-ish tune with plenty of gang vocals and shouty bits. A great chorus and fast and furious but still folky as f*ck and we are only on track one! This is followed by the title track ‘Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos’ and is without a doubt one of the best celtic-punk tracks of the year. Chugging guitar and a real catchy tune with the Mayo born Brendan showing that theirs a lot more to his vocals than just shouting!

There’s fiddle and pipes and the rest of the band do their bit with what originally I thought could be a saxophone in there as well. ‘Pennsylvania’s Finest’ is a fast Irish banjo led tune about the War Of Independence while the slow ‘Tiocfaidh Ar La’ leaves you with no confusion where the Saints stand. A real stormer of a song and nice that it’s not played in an angry way. The upbeat-ness of the song may belie what they are singing about but I bloody love it. The next few songs show the bands range with ‘Long Shot Nag’,a mental fast punked up Irish reel while ‘Memories Fade Away’ is a song for those Irish ancestors with a superb tune and accessible for all from seven to seventy.

“You’re going to Americay, your memories start to fade away
Wayo, Heyo, Your memories start to fade away, Wayo, Heyo
Row, ya bastards row you got more than one line to tow
Your roots you
ll plant in our soil the whips will keep you loyal
Seven years in servitude will earn your place in our new
world but don’t think that you’re not a slave, you’re Irish, poor and quite depraved
You’ll learn right quick that freedom comes when we’ve shred
your body to the bone
Welcome to Americay, your memories start to fade away”

They follow this up a selection of Irish and Scottish covers beginning with ‘The Foggy Dew’ about the 1916 Easter Rising. Recorded by far too many to mention it has become popular in the celtic-punk scene of late due to its celtic-punk friendly air. Good then that The Kilmaine Saints take a far more traditional route. Slow yes but with crashing guitar and Brendan’s crystal clear voice reciting the amazing lyrics of this song, originally written by Canon Charles O’Neill (1887–1963), a parish priest of Kilcoo, Ulster sometime after 1919. This is followed by another cover song, the Scots trad folk ‘Mingulay Boat Song’ and here they don’t follow the more traditional route and the song, written by Sir Hugh S. Roberton (1874–1952) in the 1930s. The song is again fast and with fantastic piping while punk rock guitar keeps up with it. The covers section ends with ‘No Awa Tae Bide Awa’, originally a drinking song, the archetypal ‘farewell’ song, played by pipers on the quayside as ships leave port.

“So whenever friendly friens may meet,
Wherever Scots foregather,
We’ll raise our gless, we’ll shout
Hurroo,
It’s Carnwath Mill for ever”

Played as a completely traditional folk track with minimal backing on the mandolin. Again a superb and reverential song that shows the respect The Kilmaine Saints have for their music. I say their music as it is in their blood. The second half of the album is dedicated to self penned tracks and songs like ‘2nd And Locust’ show a more mature side to the band and again i reach for that word accessible.

“The pipes on the street belted an old rebel tune
That familiar sound of the rising of the moon
Many years later as the city constrained
Despite the struggle one pub still remained
And one day every March the streets pack with green
To create one hell of an Irish love scene”

‘Long Walk To Sonnagh’ and ‘Innocent Hand’ showcase some wonderful Irish folk wrapped around a punk rock tune while ‘Wild Kolleen’ is bagpipe heaven for me. Brilliantly played pipes by both Jon and Billy certainly give them an edge on many other bands. We rolling into the last few songs of the album and it has become the custom these days to include a acapello song and ‘Golden Pen’ is beyond beautiful. The shortest song on the album but up there with the best. Stunning. This is followed by a return to raucous
Irish folk-punk with ‘Raise My Glass’ and ‘Ride Like Hell’ before ‘Last Call’ brings down the curtain on this brilliant album.

“This is the last call
don’t forget to tip before you go
We’re almost done now, time to call a cab
This is the last call one more shot before you’re out in the cold
Please buy some merch so we can pay our tab”
The fiddle rules on the last couple of songs and the fiddling from Liz is absolutely exemplary throughout the album. The Kilmaine Saints are equal parts Irish swagger, Scottish pride and a whole lot of whiskey and have risen to being one of the most popular and certainly one of the best American bands in the scene and with music the quality of this that rise is set to continue.

(listen to Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos for *free* before you buy it by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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