ALBUM REVIEW: THE SHILLELAGHS- ‘Ripples In The Rye’ (2019)

The Shillelaghs are an Irish-Canadian band hailing from Calgary. With this their second studio album they deliver some hard hitting and original Gaelic tinged Celtic-Punk which takes me back to the glory days of the scene!
If there’s one thing we can’t seem to get enough of its band in Europe with the word ‘Bastard’ in it and in North America bands with the word ‘Shillelagh’!! At least though Bastard is easier to spell as i can think of at least four bands with different variations of shillelagh. It’s got to the point where I’m not sure what the correct spelling is but seeing as these guys and a gal from Calgary are very much in touch with their Celtic roots then I think its easy to presume this spelling is the correct one!

The Shillelaghs from left to right: Lisa Graham – Piccalo * Andrew Shannon – Bass Guitar * Dave Anderson – Vocals * Greg Devine – Accordion * Ryan ‘Van’ VandenBerg – Drums * Kyle Libbus – Guitar

The band took the well worn route to Celtic-Punk having formed out of various local punk bands in 2006 and unusually for a Celtic-Punk band those members are still intact and driving forward. You just cannot beat a settled and established line up. This would lead to the release of their debut album in 2011, Wastedly. It took another four years for them to follow this up and in 2015 the eagerly anticipated Bury Me At Sea landed at shore and gave The Shillelaghs uniformly great reviews across both the Celtic-Punk world and further afield too. Voted into #14 in our Best Of 2015 the album also made the top-ten of the sadly deceased (and buried at sea) Celtic-Folk-Punk site.
(Have a listen yourselves and stream the The Shillelaghs debut album Bury Me At Sea below on the Bandcamp player)

So thirteen years after coming together, and nine after their debut album, the original band are still together and pumping out what I would call ‘traditional North American Celtic-Punk’. Here The Shillelaghs have recorded ten outstanding original tracks for Ripples In The Rye and as vocalist and songwriter Dave beautifully puts it

“reaching out to the past to tell us of it’s struggles, only to find ourselves reflected back – hope and acceptance in the face of loss, and the power to enjoy ourselves in spite of it – being burdened with knowledge, and the internal power to throw off the chains of guilt – the immortal adventure of memory forged with your compatriots by your side, and the journey yet to be written…”

Ripples In The Rye starts with ‘Relentless’ and that’s the sound of classic (or traditional) Celtic-Punk invading your ear. Kicking off with some some pounding drums a piccolo (flute) grabs your attention and chugging guitar before Dave dives in on vocals that may divide some but I love them. On the growlier side of things these are punk vocals for a Folk-Punk band. The song keeps a steady pace except for an interlude broken by Kyle and a wicked little guitar solo. This is Celtic-Punk and so most of the subject matter tends to be of the serious though hidden behind a wall of tomfoolery and shenenigans and a ‘reet good time’ and while that tends to be true there’s always a stream of black humour throughout and The Shillelaghs don’t disappoint on ‘Drunk On A Loading Dock’ which has all the things I just mentioned in a song that flies past in just 123 seconds!! Very nice accordion solo here too (from guest Greg Devine who also helped with the production for the album too. My hat is tipped to ye!) and I would have enjoyed a bit more of that to be honest. ‘From Your Mind’ slows it down a bit with more accordion giving it at times a Cajun feel while the band support with a Ska-ish beat. Dave’s vocals here soar and prove there’s a lot more to it than just shouting in harmony. ‘Old Growth Soul’ begins gently with acoustic guitar before taking off in several directions. Influences galore here to the point that it’s hard to put your finger on them. Punk at times and Folk at others it’s a strange wee number though also strangely familiar. More than half way through and no sign of a ballad yet and ‘Let Me Go’ speeds along very nicely. A song about death is always a surefire hit and it’s the album’s standout track for me as everything combines perfectly for a song steeped in Celtic-ness in both music and lyrics. Another short song of only just over two minutes these Shillelaghs don’t hang about do they!

Released as the bands first ever official video (come on gang you got to keep up) and also the lead single from the album it’s accompanied by a video that is perfect in it’s simplicity. Just a band performing in front of their mates in a bar. That is the perfect Celtic-Punk video. So an album of just over half an hour for ten songs shows they keep it snappy but they take a longer route next on ‘Along The Road’ and it doesn’t disappoint either. The arrangements are a bit more elaborate but aye I agree with you guys keep it punky!! The songs are coming at us now and ‘Pale Horse’ is fast and furious and leans more towards a straight Punk song while ‘Street Pirates’ takes the tune from it’s name and though their are distinct genres of Pirate-Punk and Pirate-Metal it’s almost that ballad I was after but I think I’d have to call it a Pirate-Rock ballad. Cool as ever and catchy as hell with great accordion with a killer chorus that leads us nicely into the last song of Ripples In The Rye and ‘Blackthorns’ takes us out in style with another song of ‘traditional North American Celtic-Punk’. Dave sings achingly and bursting with emotion (as he does throughout the album) while the band come together for a song that is lead beautifully by Lisa on the piccalo.

I have spoken here about a kind of ‘traditional’ album. A traditional sound for a Celtic-Punk band. Well that doesn’t mean the likes of the Dropkicks and the Murphys it means the sound of bands like The Shillelaghs who have distilled the sound of their ancestors with the sound of modern (though not always that modern) music to make something that is both meaningful and to be enjoyed to the upmost. The Shillelaghs are a band that can take the serious and the fun and put them together to give a glorious riot of a good time. Ripples In The Rye is released on November 2nd and is available for pre-sale at the links below so don’t delay and get in there as quick as you can. In fact as quick as a Shillelaghs standout track will do.

(you can stream some of the songs from Ripples In The Rye on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Ripples In The Rye  Vinyl-FromTheBand  Download  Google

Contact The Shillelaghs  Facebook  WebSite  YouTube  Bandcamp  ReverbNation

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