The first review of 2021 features the new EP from Italian band Bards From Yesterday. Five young, capable and multi-talented musicians , originally from the areas of Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta, in northern Italy have chosen to embrace an ancient and distant culture, just as the bards did, Celtic minstrels who wandered from land to land, looking for as many incredible stories to retell and entertain.
And so 2021 carries on from where 2020 left off… Nevermind we get on with it and carry on the best we can don’t we? The Bards From Yesterday emerged over the last twelve months onto the Celtic-Punk scene despite being formed originally back in 2015. With 300+ gigs behind them and two official releases: Barney! their studio debut an EP with their favourite songs and Live In Brintaal! This was the culmination of over sixty gigs across northern Italy and Switzerland, ending at the Brintaal Celtic Folk Festival where the album was recorded. The album also contains the first song entirely written by the band, ‘Johnny Is Ainm Dom (Johnny Is My Name)’. So there you go this wee site carries just a drop in the ocean of all the bands out there and it is a battle we are more than happy to keep losing as it shows the scene is in a healthy state!
On (EP)Demia they have again recorded five songs and they are all covers bar the opening track. I was a bit disappointed initially as this is a band with undoubted talent and potential so it would be nice for them to take a risk and push their own material. I am sure they are more than capable of doing it and doing it extremely well. Still that disappointment subsided when I played the EP. Instantly a band we are very fond of’s influence can be found. That of fellow Italian Celtic-Punk band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards. Both bands strive for as authentic as possible Irish music. One of the most beautiful and powerful instruments in the world are the uileann pipes and similar to Uncle Bard they are used to tremendous effect here and they give the songs that authenticity missing from some Celtic bands. Giovanni (who also plays the flute and tin whistle here) really is an excellent player, as are all the members of this great band!
(the Bhoys blasting through three traditional polkas as recorded in their homes in quarantine during while they should have been on their St. Paddy’s Tour Of 2020. Titled ‘The Unlucky Paddy’s Set’. Enjoy)
The EP opens with the trad instrumental ‘Pali’s Jig’ and the sound of the uileann pipes is a truly wonderful thing. How their aren’t more players in the Celtic-Punk scene I don’t know as it adds so much to the songs. Here the band go ‘hell for leather’ and it just emphasises they they should try and branch out with their own material if they can write songs like this. Utterly brilliant. Next up are a couple of live favourites and Irish music staples ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ and ‘Star Of The County Down’. Both have almost been done to death but their is no denying they are fantastic songs and really when it comes down to it I never tire of hearing them. Especially of course when they are done with a bit of flair and individuality and Bards Of Yesterday give them plenty of both. Mattia’s vocals are clear and ‘Rocky Road’ is hard enough to keep up with in your native tongue so he does a great job not missing a beat while ‘Star’ starts off nice and slow before becoming exactly what you’d expect! A nice jolly upbeat romp to bump into people on the dance floor to. Next up is the pipe heavy Irish trad tune ‘Mick O’Connor’s Reels’. The song, written by north-west London based banjo playing Mick O’Connor, is quite simply superb and has an Horslips/Planxty feel to it. It also reminded me of the great late 80’s Yorkshire band You Slosh. Turning away from from Irish music for the EP’s final track with a song titled ‘Hector The Hero’. A beautiful song and one I first heard by The Bothy Band but the Bards Of Yesterday again give it their own stamp and refuse to just give us a straight cover but do their own thing. Which is exactly how it should be! It may also be familiar to any Mickey Rickshaw fans out there! Composed by Scots fiddler James Scott Skinner to honour Major-General Hector MacDonald, who had a distinguished career in the British Army, rising up the ranks from enlisted soldier. He tragically committed suicide in 1903 in Paris.
So our first review of the year and already an absolute corker. Much more trad and less ‘punk’ than Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards but cut from the same cloth as regards how they treat and play Irish (and Celtic) music. One great thing the band do is a series of videos where they play a song like ‘Drunken Sailor’ or ‘The Parting Glass’ and tell of the history of the song and how to play it. Sadly for me it’s all in Italian! The friendly links between Ireland and Italy go back further than anyone can imagine and their have been many great Italian bands who play better Celtic music than the Celts do and Bards From Yesterday could just be another one.