ALBUM REVIEW: EAST RIVER RATS – The Year Of The Rat (2023)

Nova Scotia has a special place in Celtic music and especially in Celtic-Punk. Just last week we reviewed the new album by Brad Lannon and today we have another band from the same place the wonderful East River Rats and their second album The Year Of The Rat.  

East River Rats are a seven piece Celtic band from the northern shore of Nova Scotia, Pictou County. Pictou is the 6th biggest county in the province with a staggering 50% of Scots descent and a further 20% of Irish descent making this a real part of the Celtic nations. The band were founded by Brian MacKenzie in 2016 expect sing along vocals, guitars, bagpipes, mandolin, accordion, tin whistle, bass and drums all coming together to create a unique high octane style that combines elements of traditional Scottish Celtic rock and gritty Irish punk. They released their debut album When The Cats Away back in 2018. It passed us by at the time but the sadly missed web-site Celtic, Folk Punk And More described them as

“the latest addition to the Celtic rock lineage from the Maritimes. The band is proud of their Scottish heritage and they have been able to establish their own identity as a Celtic rock band rooted on the tradition.”

The twelve track album is available as a ‘name your price’ download meaning you are free to download for as much as you would like to.

Got to come clean and say that we haven’t a lot of information on the band but we’ve been listening to the album for a while (it came out on St. Patrick’s Day) and we’ve really enjoyed it. The Year Of The Rat kicks off with their theme tune and ‘East River Boys’ is a happy, jolly ode to the boys home town while the pipes are out and blazing for ‘Smoke And Cheap Whiskey’ and a catchy rocking number with clear but grizzly vocals. ‘Teigh’s Way’

The Year Of The Rat shows a band that can play totally accessible music that would still appeal to both Punks and Folkies and the East river Rats can both turn it up and turn it down to please both. It could be argued that they would fall into ‘Celtic-Rock’ rather than ‘Celtic-Punk’ but that’s not a distinction we make much of here. Being so close to the sea it’s no surprise to hear a few songs of the sea and ‘Kings Navy’ is one of the highlights here. Again superbly catchy and great lyrics to boot.

Next up is the lead single for the album and one of the more punky tracks ‘Red Roddy’. Chugging guitars and gang vocal chorus and some excellent piping combine for a bloomin’ great song that was accompanied by a great video too. It was directed and edited by Danny Harvie and shot by Danny and Mat Brennan. Another oceanic song now with ‘Maritime Man’ and much more in line with what we would associate as a sea-shantie. ‘All The Way To Amerikay’ is a fast and raucous romp telling of our ancestors long and arduous journey ‘cross the broad Atlantic. It’s often forgotten that many Scots made the same journey as the Irish and for much the same reasons too with hundreds of thousands arriving in Canada since the late 18th century.

‘Way She Goes’ and ‘Mudder And The Neighbour Lady’ don’t stray too far from their acceptable formula. Now these guys look like they know their way round a good auld drinking song and they don’t come more blatant than ‘Pissing In A Kilt’ which is packed with good advice for potential kilt wearers. ‘One More Drink’ is another album highlight and is of the kind that Celtic-Punk bands excel at. An introspective look at ourselves, warts an all. At nearly five minutes long it never gets too much. The curtain comes down with what is described as a bonus track, ‘Last Night’. Just voice and acoustic guitar tell of the night before and the antics of what they got up to. A fitting end to a great album that after all the raucousness fits in absolutely perfectly.

(The full East River Rats 80-minute set from the Wharf Rat Rally House Party from Friday September 4th 2020)

Twelve original tracks which they are to be applauded for. The music was written, arranged and performed by East River Rats with lyrics by Brian MacKenzie and Caleb MacIvor. The album was mixed, engineered and produced by Mark Cosh at the local Shoebox Studios, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

(You can stream / download Year Of The Rat via the Bandcamp player below)

Get The Year Of the Rat  Bandcamp

Contact The East River Rats  Instagram  Facebook  YouTube


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