Finally the last of the 2021 releases to review. Black Matilda’s debut release came out just before Christmas and shows their Gaelic / sea-faring roots. Hardly surprising for a band from Nova Scotia.
While many places across the world are rightly proud of their Irish connections. Places like Boston, Liverpool and New York are synonymous with Ireland and it’s even thought up to 1 in 10 Londoners has a Irish grand-parent but their is nowhere outside the Celtic nations that has a Gaelic culture comparable to Nova Scotia in Canada. Well over 25% of the territories residents trace their roots back to Ireland and Scotland and the Scottish language is still spoken regularly across the province though it’s decline in use in use over the generations is perhaps to be expected but their are still speakers in Pictou County, Antigonish County, and Cape Breton Island, and the language is taught in a number of secondary schools throughout the province. The very name Nova Scotia translates as ‘New Scotland in both Scots and Latin and the Irish have been calling the area Talimh An Eisc (‘The Land of the Fish’) for centuries.
So no surprise then that Nova Scotia has thrown up a wealth of Celtic influenced bands over the years and you can add some pretty amazing Celtic-Punk to that list. The Stanfields, The Stab Rovers, East River Rats are all bands that have featured on these pages and the latest to arrive are Black Matilda and they released their self-titled debut EP in the middle of December. Founded in 2019 in Lunenburg, a port town on the South Shore of Nova Scotia it is still reliant on the fishing industry and is home to Canada’s largest secondary fish-processing plant. Back in 1995 the town was designated a World Heritage Site and is considered today the best example of British colonial settlement in the whole of North America as it retains its original appearance from the 1800’s.
So with such a background and wealth of history no wonder Black Matilda have joined the Nova Scotian Celtic-Punk crew! The EP kicks off with ‘Intro’ and the not uncommon start to many releases the sound of the ocean accompanied by a bell ringing in the wind and the mournful sound of an accordion its an atmospheric start that slips gently into the EP’s lead single ‘I Must Sail Away’.
Accompanied by an outstanding stop motion animation video the song is a piece of pure Celtic-Punk joy with the refrain “if heaven is a place it’s a ocean” leaving you with no doubt where they are from. The song leads with some excellent accordion before the rest of the gang join in. ‘Life Of The Party’ reminds me of Hold Fast with tongue placed firmly in cheek and a catchy hard nosed Celtic-rocker. It’s all acoustic but with the sound turned up loud. I’ve seen many a wee Punk rocker get his cobwebs blown away by bands like Black Matilda assuming the sight of acoustic guitars and mandolins means finger in the ear music! ‘Batten Down The Hatches’ is a perfect example, purely acoustic except for a small guitar solo in the middle. Their are only five songs here but plenty of promise too. Their social media is a bit sparce so hopefully they are squirreled away busy writing and recording as I write this. The final song ‘Lost At Sea’ sees the band rock out completely with great spoken/ shouty vocals and a heaviness that eclipses the previous songs and sees the EP going out in real style.
“We are beyond thrilled to share our music we wrote during the pandemic. While in lockdown, we knew people were looking for an escape. This is what we came up with!”
One thing we must all know by now is that the Irish are everywhere but today with globalisation their obvious presence is waning somewhat. No so in Nova Scotia wherever you look you will find the traditions and customs of the people who washed up there over the years and they are honoured today by bands like Black Matilda.
Download Black Matilda Spotify
Tune in on Sunday for the unveiling of our annual Best Of awards for the best Celtic-Punk (and more!) music of the last twelve months. For any Celtic-Punk fans its not to be missed!