The second album from Dutch bhoys The Royal Spuds is a bit of Punk, a pinch of good old Rock music and whole lot of Folk and they’re pretty damn good at it!
The Royal Spuds hail from Leiden in the south Netherlands and maybe that’s the equivalent of Lincolnshire here which explain why such the odd name? Anyone who grew up in a Irish household will find it hard to dispute that the potato is king! Odd name or not The Royal Spuds have slowly been becoming one of the best bands on the continent with a steady stream of releases over the last few years including over the Covid lock downs. We came close to seeing them live on stage over here at the famous Dublin Castle in Camden but again Covid put paid to that (though we haven’t given up all hope of it being re-arranged someday) and their tour with fellow Dutch band Pyrolysis was unfortunately cancelled.
It’s been four years since their full length studio album Unforgotten Lore was reviewed on these pages but a few singles, sessions and the odd track or video here and there have kept them in our thoughts so was great news to receive Roots Of Life and see what The Royal Spuds have got up to this time. The album begins with ‘Festival Grooves’ and a tight Ska is the backdrop to this lively opener. A cracking start and a mention for Maarten’s great vocals. A perfect fit for The Royal Spuds his English is perfect and he even comes across North American at times to me. A whole host of instruments all compete without drowning each other out and one guaranteed to get the party rocking. Not uncommon to hear Celtic-Punk bands embracing the Ska sound and certainly Celtic instruments seem to manage it with ease. Next up is a smash hit sea-shanty ‘Haul Away Joe’, a song that has become so popular these days that it has become synonymous with the very term sea-shanty. First commercially recorded by Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter in the 1940’s, it originates from the 18th century and has been performed by every Folk singer ever including many Celtic-Punk bands. Saying that though The Royal Spuds version is fantastic and played mid tempo but with some aggressive guitar and nice gang vocals. ‘Take Me Back’ kicks off with great banjo and accordion in a urgent song that takes Celtic-Punk and gives it a good twist. The musicianship is excellent throughout the album as well as the production which gives it a clean crisp sound without any hint of over doing things.
‘Where’s Your Future’ sees the Ska return and as I’ve said before on these pages I’m not the biggest Ska fan but the bhoys add in plenty of thrashing guitars and clashing drums to please me. Next up is for me the album’s standout track ‘Steelworkers Lament’ and it’s fair to say I’m a sucka for any song with a good working class theme. What a tune! Catchy as fecking hell with some high speed banjo and a great beat with the band on absolutely top form here with even the chorus amazing. Musically it takes in The Dreadnoughts and English band Mick O’Toole and the lyrics are clever and positive to boot.
“Giving up will be the last thing I do”
Only a couple of covers on this album and even though they have been extensively covered by other bands The Royal Spuds versions both stand pretty high. With ‘Back Home In Derry’ the album takes in a breather for a moment with a song written by Irish POW Bobby Sands who died on hunger-strike in 1981 and who was elected MP (member of the British parliament) just weeks before he died it’s a beautiful song with a lot of symbolism and here it is handled perfectly while the band add in some wonderful strings and wind instruments creating a calm moment on the album.
‘Aliens’ was originally released last year as a single during Covid and while it isn’t illegal yet to have a laugh but you never know in these strange times! Pure energetic accordion driven Punk-Rock from start to finish with a sense of humour. ‘Vultures’ sees the album out and begins with the not uncommon (on Celtic-Punk releases anyway) sound of the ocean which soon gives way to some slow flute and then some Metal-ish flourishes in a song where we hear the full range of The Royal Spuds talents with even the flute taking in some ‘ancient’ Folk influences.
Yet another great release from The Royal Spuds. A diverse and lively record that really shows their craftsmanship. The album’s artwork is absolutely stunning too and it would be a real shame if it didn’t one day adorn a vinyl release of Roots Of Life.
(You can download / stream Roots Of Life via the Bandcamp player below)
Buy Roots Of Life FromTheBand (CD / Download)