The origins of Celtic-Punk go back to a handful of bands but without a doubt it was the seminal London-Irish band The Pogues that the whole genre owes most to. Here Graveyard Johnnys Callum Houston runs the rule over the most long awaited album in the scene of recent years. Pogues accordionist James Fearnley teams up with members of the only other two Celtic-Punk bands that have come close to The Pogues in both popularity and influence, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, to form The Walker Roaders. The pre-album release campaign was masterful but can the album live up to all the hype…
To anyone who is not aware of The Walker Roaders they are a new super group fronted by James Fearnley (accordionist of The Pogues) with Ted Hutt (founding member of Flogging Molly, producer for Gaslight Anthem, Tiger Army, Bouncing Souls etc etc), Marc Orrell (founding member of Dropkick Murphys) and additional musicians Kieran Mulroney (Low and Sweet Orchestra), Brad Wood (producer of Smashing Pumpkins) and Bryan Head (Dick Dale). It’s going to be hard to talk about The Walker Roaders without mentioning The Pogues.
The Walker Roaders were a street gang when James Fearnley was a kid growing up in Manchester who would slit your thumb with a knife if they came across you and felt like it.
The influence is clearly strong yet it is very much welcomed. It just goes to show how much of a contribution James’ playing had on The Pogues sound The album kicks off with “Lord Randalls Bastard Son”. This track is sure to win anyone over on the first listen. The pace is fast, the melodies strong and the words potent. James’ voice is sturdy, bold and northern as they come. He sings with strength and clarity giving every word importance and making sure not one is to be missed.
In the background I can hear what sounds to be the return of the beer tray, a subtle nod back to the early Pogues years. The second track “Seo Yun” is another fast paced number. The minor melody of the old Irish classic “The Foggy Dew” is tastefully borrowed for the verse but not before it jumps into a resolving singalong major chorus. The underlying Polka beat keeps the track turning and it’s heart pulsing. Following that is the first single from the album “Will You Go Lassie Go”. When I first saw the title I thought instantly it was going to be a cover of the traditional Scottish tune of the same name. It is however an original but has all the ingredients of a timeless ballad in it’s own right. The drums are huge, I can hear them echoing for miles through valleys with only the surging chorus of strumming guitars washing over them. This is a perfect festival song.
Before going any further I just want to state that the lyrical content, musical arrangement and production of this album is of an extremely high quality on each track, considering the members involved I would expect nothing less. “The Story” is a prime example of all those components. The accordion takes prominence and the song flows just as it’s title suggests. At “A Meteor at a Time” we reach the middle of the album and by now we are easing into mid tempo. I feel the momentum gets slightly lost here, although it is yet another great song I imagine it maybe more of a slow burner for some people. On my first few plays of the album “Old Tar Road to Sligo” was my first ear worm. It’s lively introduction and 6/8 swing takes me right back to the “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” glory days. The song structure meanders in some interesting directions but it is never far from returning to it’s source. I have to amid I did do a quick search on the price of Winnebago camper vans. “The Blackbird Only Knows One Song” stays in 6/8 timing which is proving to work very well. Here the vocals and lyrics take the helm held a float on waves of heavily reverbed banjo, accordion, guitar and crashing drums. “Here Comes The Ice” has to be my personal favourite. It bears a strong nostalgic feel with wit that will have you smiling and honesty that could almost bring you to tears. The song is joint together nicely with a repetitive catchy guitar riff.
To finish the album off on form we have “Turned out Nice Again”. Kicking straight in with a powerful melody played by the tightly combined accordion and whistle combination once again echoing back to that classic Pogues sound. Could there possibly be the additional of a special guest musician on this track? As a huge Pogues fan I have seen many similar bands pop up over the years but I have rarely been satisfied, there has always been something lacking. This album offers some kind of closure to that void. I really hope that this is just the beginning for The Walker Roaders, I would love to see the band take to the road. The album has been well worth the wait, the sound is timeless and the lyrics read like a novel. I’m sure lots of people will be looking for a hard copy of the album, I too want to keep this forever.
”Walker Roaders came together totally organically, A bit of fun really. The result of James, Marc and myself getting together to hang out and write songs. Then it became a mission to take Celtic music to another level!”- Ted Hutt on how the Walker Roaders came to be
Thanks to Callum Houston for the great review and who better to review a banjo heavy album than someone who knows his way round a banjo! Callum’s fantastic debut EP Gravities was released just last month and was reviewed on these pages here
. As part of the wonderful Psycho/ R’n’R Welsh trio the Graveyard Johnnys he has played just about every corner of Europe and now resides in Brittany but will be over visiting in December anday d will be doing a select series of shows including a special London Celtic Punks date that you should definitely keep your ears open for!! December tour dates Thursday 5th- The Anchor, Wingham * Friday 6th- Frosty’s Bar, Kenton, Harrow * Saturday 7th- Seamus O’Donnell’s Bristol * Sunday 8th The Star – Fishponds. Check Callum out on Facebook Bandcamp YouTube
Tagged: Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, The Pogues, The Walker Riders