Two exiles. A Scouser living in China and a Aussie living in Glasgow collaborate on a traditional Liverpool-Irish song. Performed by Grass Mud Horse and featuring Frankie McLaughlin on lead vocals and tin-whistle. Read on for an exclusive interview with Grass Mud Horse founder Chris Barry.
The international nature of modern Celtic-Punk rears its head again as two of the scene’s major players get to together to collaborate on the new single from Grass Mud Horse. Fusing the worldly storytelling of traditional folk with the fiercely untamed energy of Celtic-Punk; Grass Mud Horse are an emerging band made up of international talent. Currently based out of China and bringing their raw, Celtic anthems to the worldwide stage. Award-winning musician Chris Barry formed the group, which has gone on to perform alongside some of the biggest names on the Celtic-punk scene. To date, the group have released three singles, an acoustic EP and have another album and EP in the works. We spoke to Chris about the history of the song and the recording process.
Johnny Todd he took a notion
For to cross the ocean wide
And he left his love behind him
Waiting by the Liverpool tide
For a week she wept with sorrow
Tore her hair and wrung her hands
Till she met another sailor
Walking by the Liverpool sands
Fair young maiden are you weeping
For your Johnny gone to sea
If you’ll wed with me tomorrow
I will kind and constant be
I will buy you sheets and blankets
I’ll buy you a wedding ring
You shall have a silver cradle
For to rock the baby in
Johnny Todd came home from sailing
Sailing on the ocean wide
And he found his fair and false one
Was another sailors bride
All young men who go a sailing
For to fight the foreign foe
Do not leave your love like Johnny
Marry her before you go
I’m from a proud Liverpool-Irish family, me Grandad read Irish history at Liverpool Uni and I grew supporting Everton and Celtic. I remember going me first match, was about 7 or 8…was in the late 80s, we drew with Nottingham Forest I think. I don’t remember that much, but I do remember the crowd going silent as drum rolls started over the speakers and then erupting when the boys in blue all ran out as our Everton’s anthem ‘Z Cars’ kicked in. I remember fuck all about the match like, it was thirty odd years ago…but i remember that moment the drum rolls started and the crowd going mental as the players ran out, it was the first time I had the hairs on the back of me neck stand up.
A bit of background ‘Z Cars’ is essentially a sixties telly theme song based on an old Liverpool Irish kids song ‘Johnny Todd’ and it was infused with whistles and snare drums as a sort of homage to the Liverpool-Irish community the TV programme was set around. The original song isn’t that well known, but even Bob Dylan did a version. I wanted to do this song for me Grandad, who sadly passed a few years back. He was a mad Evertonian, and fiercely proud of our Irish roots. When I got older he taught me a lot about our roots as well as the city of Liverpool and Everton football club. I also wanted to do it for me Dad, Evertonians everywhere and all the Scousers with Irish roots whether red or blue.
Frankie’s involvement came about as we’d been writing together and discussing ideas about the future of Celtic-Punk for some time. I asked if he fancied collaborating on a track and he felt the time was right to get his hands dirty again so I sent him some stuff I was working on and he jumped at ‘Johnny Todd’ right away as he’s always loved it too. I recorded everything at my home studio in Ginhuangdao China, sent it to Frankie and he laid down the vocals and whistle parts at his studio in Scotland. I was cast in a Korean War film and left for a desert location right as I got his tracks. When time allowed me and me mate Didi, who was also on the film, but is also a talented engineer mixed the track. That was five months ago and I’ve just wrapped that film and now the singles coming out. Our plan is to release an album of pirate songs and sea shanties with ‘Johnny Todd’ being the lead single, it’ll feature previously released stuff like ‘No Prey No Pay’ as well as some new originals, versions of traditional songs and some reworks of other things we did previously but wanted to improve.
Anyway we all hope you enjoy it!