Author Archives: Andy the Celtic Punk Author

ALBUM REVIEW: THE REAL McKENZIES – ‘Float Me Boat’ (2022)

It’s about time we did another Real McKenzies write-up. This time, you’re gettin’ the full whack; the kilted Canadian legends have a best-of album, the aptly titled Float Me Boat. It floats ours sure enough, and were sure youll feel the same. Lets get into it.

Float Me Boat. The very best of The Real McKenzies.

The Real McKenzies’ music could be described as waking up with a hangover, but getting up anyway to fight the day. With their short-and-fast, nae-nonsense approach, this band has always put the “punk” into Celtic punk. I first heard of them while living in Berlin, and believe me, the Germans quite like these guys too.

We kick things off with opening track “Chip”, taken from 2008’s Off The Leash. True to form, the band let their trademark sound loose on us, a bagpipe rock style fronted by Paul McKenzie’s unmistakable vocal. Paul may have founded the McKenzies in 1992, almost a decade after The Pogues came about, but he’s played a key role in popularising Celtic punk, shaping it into the genre we all know and love. It also proves again that you don’t need to be in Scotland or Ireland to feel the fervour of the music, start a band and light shit up.

“Smokin’ Bowl” and “‘Cross The Ocean” make early appearances on the record too. The former is primarily a punk track, with the bagpipe takin’ a back seat for most of it. “Ocean”, meanwhile, is that riff-led romp that’ll get ya dancin’. A foray into pirate rock with humorous verses and some singalong in the choruses. I particularly enjoy givin’ this one a spin, but then I’m an Alestorm fan, so go figure 🏴‍☠️

To put the flag up even higher for my now-home of Scotland, “Scots Wha’ Ha’e” also makes a welcome entrance in the first half of the album. The McKenzies’ take on it doesn’t quite feature the original lyrics by Rabbie Burns 😉 But having said that, it’s as rousing as ever. Another one I can recommend.

Official video to “Scots Wha’ Ha’e”. Gives ye a feel for the McKenzies’ live show.

Firm favourites

“Spinning Wheels” is one good choice for the latter half of the record. The band get the banjo out for this one, and tell us about their relentless gigging experiences around the world. The shout of “Prost!” gives the nod to Germany, my home of six years and one of THE countries for any Celtic folk/punk band to go to.

Soon after, we get to “The Big Six” – or at least that’s what I like to call ’em 😉 Here the band lines up six songs that are firm favourites, ranking among the best McKenzies anthems ever recorded. We start with “Bugger Off”, a song that leaves nothing to the imagination with its ferocity, including a delightfully un-PC use of the word “cunt” 👍🏼 “The Tempest” follows up, and I like this one because it’s longer than yer average McKenzies song. A fine example of a seaman’s shanty.

“You Wanna Know What” brings the speed back. The tin whistle leads the way here, and Paul delivers a strong vocal take to match. “Culling The Herd” is the interesting one – a clean guitar riff fighting the vocals in the verse, giving the song a mystical twist as only the McKenzies can do it. “Due West” boasts another gallant McKenzies riff in what is generally a gallant McKenzies song, and of course, we can’t leave out “Barrett’s Privateers”. This is the band’s own tribute to Mr Stan Rogers, a Canadian folk music legend. It’s a shame the band’s rousing take on “Northwest Passage” wasn’t included as well, but better one Stan song than none at all. We’ll include it below for ya.

“Northwest Passage”, as interpreted by Paul an’ the boys.
A live version of “Bugger Off”, played to an enthusiastic Amsterdam crowd.

Drink some more

Last but by no means least, we reach track #23, and “Drink Some More”. A final hurrah to an epic best-of that looks back over 30 illustrious years, and will have ye playin’ your air bagpipe for many a day to come. All in all, not a bad achievement, given that Paul once claimed he only started the band to “get revenge” on his family, who dressed him in a kilt as a youngster and made him sing and dance to Scottish music! 😉 They planted a seed, and the best results can be yours on this CD.

To get a copy and support the band, buy Float Me Boat online; various outlets have got it, one place for UK fans to get it is HERE. If ye ditched your CD player a while back in favour of streaming, then you can listen on Spotify, Apple Music or (hello French readers!) Deezer. And be sure to show the band some love by stoppin’ by their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Now…you’ll get nae more this article, so you’d better bugger off 😉

Andy xx

ALBUM REVIEW: SIR REG – ‘Kings of Sweet Feck All’ (2022)

Swedish-Irish rockers Sir Reg are back with a new album, due out on April 1st. Anyone who loved 2018’s The Underdogs won’t be disappointed, as Brendan & Co. stay true to their solid reputation. Here we get yer tastebuds wet (have a Guinness to tide you over).

Kings of Sweet Feck All. Album #6 by the formidable Sir Reg – out April 1st 2022.

Not every Celtic punk band can sing about supermarkets, COVID-19, iPhones and fake news and get it to work. But one band that can, almost effortlessly, is Sir Reg. The upcoming album, entitled Kings of Sweet Feck All, boasts the band’s slick Celtic punk sound but is relentlessly modern at the same time.

Surprisingly then, the opening track is about history. “The Kings of Sweet Feck All” takes us back to the British rule that pervaded all of Ireland for many centuries. And yet, it comes at it from an unusual perspective – compassion. The band explain in the YouTube video description (see below) that some soldiers really were “the kings of sweet fuck all”, because they didn’t want to be there in the first place, and they knew what they were doing was wrong. But as the song says, if they’d stepped out of line, they’d have been treated just like their victims.

Lyric video to “The Kings of Sweet Feck All”, the title track.

After the opening track, the album takes a giant leap into the present day with “Goodbye To All Your Freedom”. With references to the coronavirus and pandemic, it’s pretty clear what loss of freedom Brendan Sheehy’s singing about here. He’s also encouraging the listener to sift through the fake news and make up their own mind. During a health crisis that’s shaken society right up, the amount of misinformation being banded about as truth was disappointing to see. Fortunately then, it’s not all doom and gloom as the choruses to this song give the listener a lift.

Another reaction – albeit more fun – to the pandemic is track #3 “Open The Pubs”. This was the first song from the new album to be revealed. It starts off slowly, before jumping into a rhythm that reminds me of The Real McKenzies’ “Bugger Off”…which is ironic, because “Open The Pubs” is trying to get people in the pub rather than out 😁 But how many Celtic folk/punk singers can sing about Netflix and get away with it? Well frontman Brendan, armed with his unmistakable voice, can. The band made a video for this one too, with a humorous quality to it, so check it out below if ye don’t know it yet.

“Open The Pubs”, track #3 from the new album. Liking the green violin, Karin! ☘️

Let down (and hangin’ around)

The band’s humour continues to show with the strangely titled “Tosspot City”. Another thrasher in A minor, the interplay between the drums and instruments is well done here, especially in the choruses. This lends the song a rhythm and beat that reminded me of another Reg favourite, 2018’s “Giving It Up (The Drink)”. Things then quieten down a wee bit for “Thank You For Your Lies”, led by the tin whistle and Karin Ullvin’s fiddle. The line We’re killin’ time and sippin’ wine, and prayin’ for this nightmare to go away seems to be about COVID again. But the song also laments the fact that various people – from online influencers to certain government figures – have let the people down during the pandemic.

This theme of “abusing the people” continues on heavier track #6 “This Coming Regime”, and this is a song that stands out. With an interesting use of samples, and another uplift that shifts the chorus up a few semitones, this was one of my favourite listens from the album. It’s definitely one of the more experimental, interesting tracks on the new record.

Teamwork

If the album hasn’t had enough o’ the drinking songs for your taste yet, then wait no longer: “Sober Up To Drink” is next 🍺 The Celtic instruments make a welcome return here, with the tin, fiddle and mandolin combining to form a strong team. Add to that a dose of the usual humour, with lines like Singin’ a song to a big crowded room, and I don’t think I know all the words / I fall off the stage and I piss me own jocks. A nightmare for any live musician 😂

Next, we come to the other song for which a video was made on YouTube, namely “Kick Out The Scum”. This one boasts another quality Sir Reg riff, one that reminds me of “FOOL (Fight Of Our Lives)”, one of my personal favourites by the band. Filip Burgman and Karin team up again on the mandolin and fiddle, and the band invites the listener/crowd to join in on a singalong chorus. Check out the video below, which boasts too much energy for society to handle 😁

“Kick Out The Scum”, track #8 and the third song for which a video was made.

Looking out for the little man

We round the album off with a few tracks more sombre in nature. “The Stinking Mattress” discusses supermarkets and homelessness, and a man who loses his job and his life to end up out on the streets. Keeping it relentlessly modern? Yep. On the penultimate track, the band aren’t telling people to give up the drink, but to “Give Up The Drugs”. And unlike “Giving It Up (The Drink)”, this song is deadly serious, with a clear message: find the help you need. Stay away from the people who deal and supply / They don’t give a rat’s ass if you live or die. Brutal and true.

One last ballad rounds the album off, in “The Story’s Been Told”. Sheehy’s lyrics about working-class life take us back to the roots of Celtic punk – and to Dublin in the ’80s as well. Modern technology gets another swipe (no pun intended!) here on the line We didn’t have iPhones, we played in the fields, and the title “The Story’s Been Told” seems to be lamenting how formulaic life can be these days, especially on social media. People nowadays have a lot compared to what they had in the past, and there are advantages to that. But as Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath once put it, “everybody knew each other in the street [when I was young] and everybody used to help each other out.” You don’t always get that nowadays, and life isn’t much better for it. So always acknowledge the little man, and keep looking out for him.

Line ’em up: Sir Reg, photo courtesy of Johan Lundsten.

11 pieces o’ gold

With explosive riffs, clever lyrics and plenty of the usual underdog spirit, Sir Reg emerge from the pandemic with a vengeance. Watch out for Kings of Sweet Feck All when it drops on April 1st, via Despotz Records. We’re sure you’ll enjoy these 11 pieces o’ gold. To get it, head to the band’s official webpage HERE. Or you can drop ’em a message on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter if ye have any questions or just want to chat to the band.

If money’s a bit tight at the moment (thanks, energy prices), then the album will also be available on the band’s Spotify, where they’ve built themselves an impressive following since their 2009 inception.

Sláinte! 🍻 Or as they say in Sweden, släng dig i väggen 😉

Andy x

EP REVIEW: WHISKEY’S WAKE – ‘Wake Up, Whiskey’ (2022)

Wake up, folks! It’s nearly time for Paddy’s Day ☘️ With THE day for Irish music just around the corner, we’re proud to feature a band whose new EP drops on March 11th, just in time for the celebrations. Grab yer favourite drink, put this one on and turn the volume up.

Whiskey’s Wake from Salt Lake City, Utah return with a new EP.

Today’s band goes by the name of Whiskey’s Wake. A self-described “Celtic-leaning rock band” from Salt Lake City, Utah, these six friends play a mixture of modern drinking songs, friendship anthems, and songs about…zombies 🧟🧟‍♀️ They’ve been inspired by the Misfits, the Dubliners and Rancid to name but a few. The boys actually made their first record a long time ago, when they were in their teens. But then life and school got in the way, and the band was on and off for many years. It wasn’t until the pandemic happened that they decided to take the band more seriously again – and we’re very glad they did 👍

On the EP, entitled Wake Up, Whiskey, we get right into the action on opening track “Whiskey Back”. This energetic song welcomes the listener with the familiar romp of Celtic rock/punk. With a week to go until March 17th, lead vocalist Adam Blair sings some very appropriate lyrics about enjoyin’ yer favourite drink. The sense of community spirit in this song is palpable too, as we continue to emerge from the pandemic and enjoy some real parties again! Let’s make some fucking noise, you say? I’ll drink to that 🥃

Music we enjoy

“We like to write music we enjoy, and think is worth listening to,” the band’s guitarist Patrick Reimherr told me. “And we do try to write songs that would make for fun live shows.” The latter statement certainly shows on track #2 “He’s Alive”. This one boasts more o’ those shout-out-loud barroom moments. The band put the song out ahead of time as a single, and I like how it moves effortlessly from chord to chord, underpinned nicely by Joel Pack’s slick basslines. The doo-wop singing towards the end made me grin as well 😁 More importantly, the song is proof of how hard the band worked on the EP as a whole, achieving a clean sound where the instruments all have space to breathe. So give “He’s Alive” a spin, ye lovable fecks:

“He’s Alive”, track #2 off Wake Up, Whiskey. This one has a good Celtic rock groove to it.

Red Haired Mary

“You Don’t Have to Run” is another energy-laden one, with a slower and more experimental passage halfway through. The rhythm section of Andreas Petersen (accordion), Danny Houpt (banjo) and Derek Julio (drums) combines to good effect here, making for a generally enjoyable listen. The standout track in the latter half of the EP has to be the band’s dynamic take on “Red Haired Mary”, though. We start off slow, before the pace builds for the rest of the song. The band are especially stoked about this modern rock version of the Irish standard, so be sure to check it out when the record drops this week!

All in all, Wake Up, Whiskey is a welcome return to Celtic music for the Wake, as the band nickname themselves. It’s a well-produced record, with the instruments working nicely together, and there are signs of more to come. “We actually have lots of material ready to go,” Patrick confirmed. “And we hope to release another, longer album this year.” Bring it on. Some shows could also be on the cards, so keep yer eyes peeled, especially if you live in the Intermountain region (that’s Utah, Nevada and Idaho to anyone who doesn’t know).

So where can I hear the record?

You can get the EP when it drops tomorrow, on March 11th! Follow the band on Instagram or Facebook, they’ll tell you where it’s available. If money’s a wee bit short, there’s also the band’s Spotify or Apple Music profiles, where you can even hear the band’s early high-school material if ye like.

Bring on St. Paddy’s week!

Andy x

BOOK REVIEW: MICHAEL CROLAND – ‘Celtic Punk Superfan’ (2022)

Anyone up for the history of Celtic Punk in 42 pages? We’re not kidding 🙂 We review a lot of albums, but sometimes books come our way too. This one is for die-hard fans, by a die-hard fan. Add in a dose of Judaism and Latin America, and you’ve got a unique take on Celtic punk. Check this out!

Celtic Punk Superfan by Michael Croland.. A must-read for any Celtic punk fan!

Celtic Punk Superfan is a neatly presented little chapbook (i.e. about 40 pages), and the title describes the author accurately ☘️ Though Michael started out writing about Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys for his college newspaper, the book’s preface carries a dedication to Neck – an early sign that Michael doesn’t just discuss the big names. “Every day’s St. Patrick’s Day”, the band once said. And if you’re Irish at heart, with an understanding and respect for the music, then the door’s open for you to discover more.

Neck get a mention in the book. Here’s their cracker of a tune “Always Upsettin’ Somebody”.

Introduction: Context

Celtic Punk Superfan starts by looking at the role Celtic punk has played in representing the Irish as a group of people. Shane and the Pogues get an early mention, and we’re happy to announce that a few webzines do too – including yours truly, London Celtic Punks 🙂☘️ So thanks for that, Michael!

The author explains how and why bands like Flogging Molly and the Dropkicks originated in the US, rather than in Ireland and Scotland. Their roots in the British Isles are obvious, but then so is the Irishness of Boston, for example. We’re reminded of how Celtic people throughout the world have put their voices and feelings into music. Plus, a lot of references from other literature are included here, proof that the author has definitely done his homework 👍

Foundation: The Two Heavyweights

Back in 2002, Michael was a student at Carnegie Mellon uni. He was as keen on writing Celtic punk articles as he was on writing assignments ☘️ He interviewed Bridget from Flogging Molly, and went to see the band live. The result was two articles that make up half of chapter 1. We look at Dave King’s exile from Ireland, the impact this had on Flogging Molly’s early music, and we’re treated to a quote by the man himself:

“Anyone who has a beating heart in their chest can relate to what I’m singing.”

– Dave King

We then move on to the Dropkick Murphys. Michael sees these guys as a different beast, one fuelled by working class pride and sport, e.g. the Boston Bruins (pictured below). The author was there in 2004 when the Murphys played to a sold-out Pittsburgh crowd, one that didn’t hesitate to rush the stage, if they weren’t just invited up by the band anyway.

Ice hockey team the Boston Bruins, supported by the Dropkick Murphys.

It’s always good to read about gigs where you can feel the energy coming off the page. Chapter 1 gives us plenty of that, and it reminds me fondly of the heart and soul I poured into Folk Springs Eternal. Now we move on to chapter 2…

JewIrish: Connections as a Jew

Now we all know that a book about Celtic punk is anything but boring. But chapter 2 gives us an angle that most people wouldn’t think of. Michael is Jewish, and he talks about the holy Yom Kippur and Purim holidays. But what about Celtic punk? Michael asked himself, “is there such thing as a Jewish-Irish music connection?”

Well, klezmer punk exists, so maybe yes. Michael looks at bands who’ve tried to blend the two influences. There’s Josh Lederman y Los Diablos and the White Shabbos, to name two examples. The Shabbos only recorded one album as far as I’m aware (2004’s Shabbos Holy Shabbos), and the production quality could have been a bit better. But these bands were capable of making a noise as good as any Celtic punk band, make no mistake about that.

The White Shabbos played a blend of Jewish, bluegrass and country music. Give this a listen!

Somehow, Celtic music seems to attract Jewish people. And if there really is a common thread, then two words sum it up: tradition and persecution. The former is something that both Jews and Celtic punks carry with them. The latter, sadly, is something that both have been victims of. And if they survived, they were often displaced, longing for their homelands.

But Saints and Tzadiks are another good example of a band who tried it. So are Black ’47 actually, with their song “Izzy’s Irish Rose” (see below). These guys aimed to mix klezmer with Irish folk. While it’s not quite Celtic punk, it does sometimes feature singing in both Yiddish and Irish. And it’s mixing the old with the new, which is exactly what Celtic punk does! Finally, Jem Finer from the Pogues (Jewish on his dad’s side) gets a mention as the chapter rounds out.

“Izzy’s Irish Rose” by Black ’47 takes an interesting turn from 3:08 onwards 🙂

This is a groundbreaking chapter by Michael, and one that I feel has postgraduate potential to it. Ian Prowse did a Master’s in Irish Studies, so why not? ☘️ But now for the rest of the book…

Ethnic Punk, Celtic Punk

The remaining chapters are a wee bit shorter, as we arrive at Michael’s blog. Michael ultimately draws the conclusion that he likes Celtic punk for its own sake, although there might be an aspect of his Jewish pride to it as well. He continues to discuss the different takes on the music, whether it’s Yidcore (punk first, Jewish second) or Golem (Jewish first, punk second).

Finally, we arrive in the year 2021, in the midst of that pesky COVID-19 pandemic. St. Patrick’s week is underway, bringing us livestreams across different continents, with the Dropkicks, Flogging Molly, the Real McKenzies, Flatfoot 56 and the Fighting Jamesons all checkin’ in. There was an online Latin American festival too, with South American bands using a lot of the instruments we’re used to seeing in Celtic punk. If the music has made it around the world, then so has the dress sense, clearly 😊

The last 2022 postscript brings us right up to date. Now people are starting to go to gigs again. Alas, some shows are still getting cancelled, and some people are still hesitant to go until we get further out of the woods. But the only way is up from here! Michael has the final word with a wee poem he penned for the Celtic punk fan. It contains tributes to various Celtic punk acts, including Vanilla Ice (okay I’m joking, but he does get a mention!)

So…

All in all, it was never just about The Pogues, or Flogging Molly, or the Dropkicks. Celtic punk has reached far and wide, and the scene remains healthy with different bands and fans springing up all over the world. Michael has put his heart and soul into a book about his love of the genre, and his own personal take on it. The book is also well edited and presented; as such, we wish Michael the best of luck with it!

Get your copy of Celtic Punk Superfan by Michael Croland from the author HERE.

Sláinte and l’chaim!

Andy x

ALBUM REVIEW: OYSTERBAND – ‘Read The Sky’ (2022)

The stars-and-skies theme of 2022 continues with the 12th studio album by award-winning folk rock legends Oysterband. With Read The Sky, the band emerges from pandemic and lockdown hell with ten new songs, and proof that there’s plenty left in the tank yet, both musically and politically.

Read The Sky. The 12th studio effort by folk rock legends Oysterband. Out March 4th!

Like with Ian Prowse’s One Hand on the Starry Plough, what we have here is a collection of songs that aren’t typically Celtic punk. But while the music might not be similar to the likes of “Granite Years” or “The Road to Santiago”, you can never question the impact that John and the boys have had on the UK folk scene since their ’70s inception. Let’s kick things off with “Born Under the Same Sun”; this opener introduces the album’s slick production values, and discusses the changes that our society has seen in recent years. So is the music relevant? You bet. The song is a fine reminder of the socially aware attitude that the band have often embraced, particularly back in the ’90s, and taken into their recording sessions, which this time were done under COVID conditions.

Next up we have “The Corner of the Room”, track #2. This was released as a single just recently, and in my view it was a good choice. The song is a personal tale of hope and ambition, one sure to be popular among devoted fans of the band. The upbeat mood continues here, and I had to smile at the reference to the Isle of Skye, not too far from my now-home of Glasgow.

Reinventing the fiddle (sort of)

From the album booklet, track 3 “Roll Away” looks like it might be a tune (due to the lack of lyrics). Don’t be fooled – it’s a Back Door Slam cover, written by the hands of Davy Knowles. This is where the fiddle, that archetypal Celtic punk instrument, comes to the fore in a somewhat unorthodox way. Many Celtic punk fans are used to hearing the instrument lead the way, in the form of various jigs and reels (think Dan Booth’s work with Ferocious Dog, for instance). But here, the fiddle takes on a different role. Ian Telfer gives the strings more of a twitch on “Roll Away”, in a way that reminded me of some of Hilary Hahn’s work. Ian is one of three remaining members from Oysterband’s early recording line-up, with lead vocalist John Jones and guitarist Alan Prosser being the other two.

The interesting violin work continues during “Wonders Are Passing”. This reflective, Earth-centred track features a solo in the middle, but what struck me was that the fiddle never truly seems to take off. It sounds more restrained than freeform, though this isn’t a bad thing. In fact it would seem intentional, as if it were done to match the mood of the lyrics. “Fly or Fall” has more of the same – some excellent fiddle runs and a catchy chorus, but again, the fiddle still doesn’t steal the limelight.

“Wonders Are Passing”. Track #4 of Read The Sky, and available on YouTube with a beautiful wee video.

The fiddle finally does blossom out towards the end of track #6, “My Son”. The moral behind this track is with great power comes great responsibility, just like in the famous film 😉 In that sense, there’s no better time for Ian to step forward and showcase his skills than during the beautiful outro to this song.

The reeds and the pipes

It might not be your typical Celtic punk album, but Read The Sky doesn’t omit the other familiar folk instruments completely. “Star of the Sea” marks the welcome return of the accordion that fans will know and love from the likes of 1995’s “Put Out the Lights”. “Sea” whisks us away on a brief journey to the far-flung reaches of Hong Kong, and I did wonder if the Dolores in question is the sadly missed Dolores O’Riordan. But the Cranberries frontwoman passed away in London, though she did play in Hong Kong several times.

If “Star of the Sea” didn’t copy “Put Out the Lights” in featuring the uilleann pipes, track #9 “Streams of Innocence” makes up for this. The penultimate track boasts some o’ those piping passages, underpinned by a strong, rolling rhythm. But what about track #7, “Hungry For That Water”? This one is one of the album’s more mystic moments, especially in terms of the lyrical imagery. Add to this some intriguing acoustic soloing that brings to mind Shane MacGowan’s “Lorca’s Novena”, and you’ve got a song whose impact stays with you for longer than you’ll initially realise.

The time is now

The band close the album out in a similar vein to how they opened it; they make another clear socio-political statement with the title track. “The Time Is Now” was the first single released to radio, and fittingly the band performed it during COP26 on BBC Radio 2. The song has a catchy hook to it, underlined by bassist and producer Al Scott’s work on the four-string. John’s lyrics point to the changes we’re seeing near and far in Mother Nature. And the message rings true; in an age where we all need to do something to protect the one world we’ve got, the time really is now. Leave the car at home where possible. Avoid single-use plastic where possible. Sign a petition where possible. We the people have more power than we think on this one. And that’s exactly how it should be.

“The Time Is Now”. The band’s personal statement amid the COP26 conference of late 2021.

“The Time Is Now” puts a thoughtful finishing touch to a well-conceived and well-rounded record. When my wife asked me to describe the album as a whole, one comparison I drew was with another group of British folk-rock legends, namely Fairport Convention. We saw them in Oysterband’s native Canterbury just before the pandemic hit, and perhaps the comparison is fitting, as Oysterband have performed at Fairport’s Cropredy festival on a number of occasions. Either way, we are reminded fondly that folk music knows no barriers. Groups young and old[er] are embracing the genre and working hard, year after year, to keep the music and life’s important messages alive.

Right…where can I get it?

Read The Sky is out on Friday 4th March on Running Man Records. One way to pre-order it is HERE. Give the album a spin, and see what thoughts of your own come to mind. The lyrics are included in the booklet, along with a beautiful wee quote by Emily Dickinson, THAT famous reclusive 19th-century poet.

Alternatively, if ya ditched your CD player years ago in favour o’ streaming, then keep an eye on the band’s Spotify profile HERE or Apple Music profile HERE, where you can refresh your memory of the band’s previous material while awaiting the March 4th release date. Lastly, whatever your choice of listening format, make sure you catch the band on their UK tour commencing April 2022.

ALBUM REVIEW: BURBRIDGE AND BOOTH – ‘Icons’ (2021)

Make way for a Celtic punk superduo! When the highly respected and prolific Nick Burbridge contacted Ferocious Dog’s Dan Booth, he suggested making an album together. Dan quickly agreed, and the project was on. The result is Icons, an unorthodox folk-punk album that showcases more fine work from these two men. Check it out!

Icons by Nick Burbridge (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Dan Booth (fiddle).

As we all know, Celtic punk often boasts the crunch of an electric guitar and the crack of a drum head. That’s why Icons is not your typical Celtic punk record. The album is entirely acoustic, a stripped-back undertaking that sounds like it could be played at a spontaneous pub session. But don’t be fooled: Nick Burbridge has lost none of his musical competence from the days of McDermott’s Two Hours. His wit is as sharp as ever too, with an onslaught of clever, poetic and politically aware lyrics. The album launches us straight into the action with the title track. “Icons” points the finger at imperialist figures of the past, and the human rights atrocities that wouldn’t be tolerated today. If we all pull together, we can tear these figures down, begins the chorus. Together with the line We stand as one and take the knee, this song makes a clear statement for the current times. The use of the word “icons” is meant in a disdainful, rather than respectful manner.

“Icons” is the title track, and sets the tone for the record.

Nick has struggled with depression over the years, and as such, he uses his work to call attention to people who feel (or simply are) rejected by mainstream society. This theme continues on “Soldier’s Heart”, a song that provides a grim insight into the day-to-day horrors of war, and its ugly brother, war crimes. This creates an atmosphere that only lets up during the mid-section, where a drop in pitch makes way for the warmer tones of Nick’s voice. Another track that provides a temporary break from the hard-hitting lyrics is “Judgement Day”. I had to smile at lyrics like My friend Flynn’s on the last train in, and the line about a sex worker who describes her male customer as “awful small”, to which he replies: I’m gettin’ old now, you’re lucky there’s anythin’ there at all.

Dan Booth, Ferocious Dog and The Levellers

So far, we’ve praised Nick’s contributions highly. But the other half of this record is Dan Booth, fiddler and founding member of Ferocious Dog, no strangers to the Celtic punk fan. Dan takes over the proceedings towards the end of “Cover Me”, which the Dog themselves recorded on 2019’s Fake News and Propaganda. It’s got working down the pit, it’s got prostitution, it’s got fighting. And it’s got wounded souls, who are longing for some protection from the world. As I listened to Dan’s jig, I was transported straight to a pub in Ireland, watching an evening session in an intimate setting. Dan regales us with more slick, fast-paced interludes in “Living on Thin Air”, another Dog number, and if ye’ve never seen the version where Dan, Ken and the lads were joined by Nick on stage, take a look ‘ere, ye ken:

Living on Thin Air, played live by Ferocious Dog featuring Nick Burbridge.

“Dirty Davey” is another title you might recognise. None other than The Levellers covered this one way back in ’93, on their self-titled effort that went all the way to #2 in the UK. The band have cited Nick and McDermott’s Two Hours as a key influence, and the opening piss-take of English Country Garden here is sure to make you smirk. The song then continues in its verbal abuse of political corruption, and the associated treatment of suspects and prisoners.

Nick on guitar and vocals, Dan folkin’ the fiddle, and a collaborative album to match.

Corruption and oppression

When Nick released War Without Honour, a collaborative non-fiction book from 1989, it kicked up a storm. This album might achieve the same, if the intended political targets were to listen to it (it’d be good music for a party). Sadly, it’s doubtful that they will, but the twelve tracks here are still fine examples of Nick’s poetic prowess and Dan’s signature fiddle runs. Icons is a protest album that relentlessly goes for the bollocks, but is sensitive at the same time, looking out for the oppressed and lamenting the corruption of the masters, whatever their various guises may be.

It’s clear that the main goal of the Nick’n’Dan project is not commercial success, but to remind people that corruption and greed are always present. And that it’s up to us individuals to keep them in check. In that sense, congratulations to Nick and Dan on conceiving this unique album, and an additional “thank you” goes to Sarah Huson-Whyte and Tim Cotterell, two more greatly skilled musicians who supplied additional instrumentation to the record.

You can get your copy of “Icons” by going HERE. You’ll also find A3 prints of the artwork that Jez from the Levellers produced for the album! Alternatively, if ye need to support the artists for free, the album is also available for streaming on YouTube, Spotify and the like.

Stay folky,

Andy x

INTERVIEW: IAN PROWSE – ‘One Hand on the Starry Plough’

In part 2 of our Ian Prowse special, we’ve interviewed the man himself. Ian’s fourth solo record One Hand on the Starry Plough comes out on February 11th, which is mere days away! If you’re familiar with Ian’s back catalogue, or ya wanna know more about him and his contributions to Celtic music, then check the interview further down ☘️

One Hand on the Starry Plough. The fourth solo effort from Ian Prowse, out February 11th.

If ya missed our very recent review of Ian’s upcoming album One Hand on the Starry Plough, be sure to check that out HERE. Other than that, let’s get into the interview, and see what Ian himself has to say about the new record! Here it is…

London Celtic Punks sit down with Ian Prowse on the eve of his fourth studio album.

We would like to congratulate Ian on a job well done, especially during the terrible lockdowns that have affected so many musicians’ lives. One Hand on the Starry Plough is available now on Kitchen Disco Records, you can get it HERE. You can also get a taster of what the album has to offer, by checking out the official YouTube video to track #1 “Battle” below:

“Battle”, track #1 from One Hand on the Starry Plough by Ian Prowse.

Sláinte mhaith! 🥃 And enjoy the music ☘️

ALBUM TEASER: IAN PROWSE – ‘One Hand on the Starry Plough’ (2022)

One album we’ve been looking forward to in 2022 is the new offering by Ian Prowse. The seasoned singer-songwriter is known for his work in rock genres. But his contributions to Celtic music can’t be underestimated, and he hasn’t forgotten those influences on his upcoming record.

One Hand on the Starry Plough by Ian Prowse. Out 11th February 2022.
One Hand on the Starry Plough by Ian Prowse. Out 11th February 2022.

Released off the back of a tough time for musicians and artists, One Hand on the Starry Plough will be Ian’s fourth solo record. We’ve been granted an early listen, and the album has all the right people behind it. Long-time pal and bandmate Tony Kiley was chosen as producer, and a wide range of guest musicians lend their instruments and voices to the record. The result is a diverse and exciting album, where bluesy rock, choir singalongs and – of course – folk music all turn up for it.

Now…Ian is perhaps best known for his work with Liverpool-based band Amsterdam, whose single “The Journey” hit #32 in the UK charts back in 2005. But he’s no stranger to the Celtic music that we all know and love. Ian has participated in the Irish Sea Sessions, and he holds an MA in Irish Studies from the University of Liverpool. While at uni, he concentrated his work on the role of Christy Moore in Irish folk music, which I bet was an interesting and rewarding write-up ☘️ Both Moore and Elvis Costello have given Prowse their seal of approval, and Ian’s first band Pele supported The Pogues back in the day too.

So while Starry Plough ain’t your typical Celtic punk record, it’s well worthy of a closer look. We’re gonna keep things Celtic by focusing in on some of the album’s folky moments.

Holy, Holy River

It’s not long before the album makes its mark in terms of the Celtic influences. Track #2 “Holy, Holy River” is arguably the strongest song on the album. The fiddles and tin whistles that burst into view remind us of the warm, romantic feeling that Irish music brings to every heart. The song then grows into a stomping rock track, with some tin whistle soloing in the middle and the eponymous one hand on the starry plough lyric repeating during the outro.

Ian has said that the album, as a whole, is about hope. It’s about looking up at The Plough in the starry night sky, and realising that we DO have one hand on it. As long as there is hope in life, we’re not lost 🙂 So “Holy, Holy River” is a worthy centrepiece to the album, and is reminiscent in places of another popular Prowse piece, “Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?“, which was covered by none other than Christy Moore on his successful album Listen.

Ian Prowse. A seasoned singer-songwriter with a lot of support behind him.

Dan

Another song to stomp around to is track 8, entitled “Dan”. The catchy, attention-grabbing lyrics here are bolstered by the fiddles in the background, and again the tin whistle is along for the ride. These familiar instruments come to the fore in another folky interlude, and they stick around for the second half of the song.

Interestingly, this song also mentions Cork City and Michael Collins at one point. Now Collins wasn’t born in Cork City (though he was born in Co. Cork), but he did go to the city to speak, and he was there during the Irish Civil War. The “Dan” in question doesn’t appear to be Dan Breen, though – it seems to refer to a musician, not a politician. Maybe it’s the singer-songwriter Dan Donnelly? Ian himself can surely tell us more next week. So in other words, watch this space…😉

My Old Black Tie

The final song to highlight is “My Old Black Tie”, a beautiful, melancholy ballad found in the middle of the record. The fiddle gels well with the electric guitar here, but perhaps it’s the lovely wee flute solo at the end that steals the show. Proof – as if we needed it – that Irish music can be quiet or loud, and still powerful in both cases. Drawing the listener back to the album’s main theme is always a good way to round off the first half of a record, and Ian does that as he sings: Do you remember the starry sky? / Do you remember all our lives?

Bring on the release!

“Diego” and “Big Feelings” have Celtic elements to them too. But give the album a spin yourself when it comes out on February 11th – which ain’t all that far away now! 😉 With an imaginative new record on offer, Ian’s back, and he’s taking on the world once again. If ye really can’t wait until Feb 11th and you need a sneak peek of the album right now, then check out the official video to track #1 “Battle”. Here it is:

“Battle”, track #1 from One Hand on the Starry Plough by Ian Prowse.

One Hand on the Starry Plough is available for pre-order HERE. To check out Ian’s previous work via the streaming platforms, look him up on Spotify or Apple Music. Or catch up with him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram too.

ALBUM REVIEW: SHANGHAI TREASON – ‘Shanghai Treason’ (2022)

2 years ago, Sheffield-based Shanghai Treason played their first gig. Now the wait is over…January ’21 sees the release of their self-titled debut album! If you’re partial to a bit o’ Dropkicks, Flogging and Roughneck Riot (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), then these “Yorkshire banjo punks” should be to yer liking. This record sounds like a band working hard, having fun, and determined to make a difference.

Shanghai Treason. From Sheffield, and keen to keep the local music scene going.

As we all know, the banjo is a firm favourite in any Celtic punk line-up. And on this record, the instrument makes its mark immediately. “Emerald Causeway” is a cracking tune to start things off, an energetic number where banjoist Tom Hardy leads the way.

This is a sign of a band that shows promise, and we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed. The boys have been picked up by none other than The Rumjacks, who’ve taken them out on their current UK tour. Sadly, some shows have been cancelled – including Glasgow, dammit – but it’s a great early opportunity for the band in any case.

Now, the music might make an impression on the listener, but so too do the lyrics. In next track “Gatling Gun”, which has been released as a single, we hear clever lines from singer Sam Christie such as The city sucked me in, and moved the goalposts. A better one is Would you sew my eyes shut? I got a needle – you got any thread? That one’s from “The Fiendish Blue”, and I had to grin when I heard it. It’s always good to see a band using words in an intriguing way, right down to their band name.

Dynamic music

Shanghai Treason stays true to the Celtic punk tradition, by boasting its fair share of speedy, 2/4-time songs. Listen to “On The Ropes”, where the accordion takes over and gives the banjo a wee rest. “Wildfire” sounds like it’ll be another thrasher, but a break in the middle saves it, before we’re plunged back into the fast-paced fun. Importantly, “Wildfire” also features Dan Booth, well known for his work with Ferocious Dog. Dan played fiddle on the track, and also co-handled production of the album. For Shanghai’s take on FD’s “Crime And Punishment”,

Despite the faster numbers, the band is apt at writing slower tunes too. “Uphill Battle” is a good example, with a steady jig rhythm commencing halfway through, making the song one of my favourites on the album. A much sadder example is “Hero’s Welcome”, a song about a POW returning home from war, only to be suspected of being a spy and tragically killed. Closing track “Boatman” is the other acoustic-led one, where the eponymous boatman could be literal, or maybe a metaphor, leaving it up to interpretation.

Where can I hear the album?

The best way to show these lads some support is to head to their Bandcamp page. There, you’ll find not only the album but some kick-ass merch. If ye fancy a listen first, there’s a wealth of videos on the band’s YouTube page for you to try, and be sure to subscribe!

If streaming’s your thing, and ye wanna contribute some royalties to the band, you can also give them a listen on Spotify or Apple Music. Last of all, be sure to drop ’em a message and stay in touch on either Facebook or Instagram. Their Facebook page lists lots of upcoming shows as the world slowly gets back to gigging ways.

Thanks for readin’! Or as they say in Scotland…slàn leat agus pòg mo thòin 😁☘️

Andy x

ALBUM REVIEW: FEROCIOUS DOG – ‘The Hope’ (2021)

Having gone to see Ken and the boys live in Edinburgh this year, it seems only right that we review Ferocious Dog’s new album before the year’s out. Enjoy The Hope, a triumphant slice of folk-punk from a band at the top of their game.

The Hope by Ferocious Dog. Don’t forget to spin this one!

From the epic opening seconds of “Port Isaac”, it’s clear that this is an album that the band put a lot of thought and work into. With a sense of foreboding we’re chucked on board a ship, with Cap’n Flint barking the orders (not really) and the opening lines of “Haul Away Joe” chiming into view. After that, the band’s cover of this sea shanty gets going properly, and we knew it wouldn’t be long before the Dog’s familiar brand of folk-punk and polka beats came to kick us in the ass. Some o’ the lyrics are also a fresh deviation from other versions of the song out there.

Follow-up track “Pentrich Rising” continues in the same vein. The band filmed a video for this one, which reconstructs the failed Pentrich rising of 1817. To check out the video, and a “making of” that the band put together, go HERE and HERE. Or just watch it below:

“Pentrich Rising”. About the workers’ uprising of 1817 that foundered due to an inside job.

Plenty to dance to

Following the trend set by “Joe” and “Rising”, there’s plenty more to dance to on this record. Take your pick from some o’ the ones below ☘

“Born Under Punches” is about the sad story of a broken home, where the youngest runs away to follow their dreams in London, only to end up “on the old main drag”, as Shane MacGowan might have put it. But bleak or not, the song’s danceable from the start. So too are the equally-themed “Slayed The Traveller” and “Sea Shepherd”. The latter of these shows direct support for Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd charity who promotes an Earth-centred (rather than human-centred) view of the world. And if “Haul Away Joe” was a re-imagining of a trad song, so too is the band’s take on “The Parting Glass”. To quote Billy Bragg, they really put the power drill on this tune, to see what would come out.

Born Under Punches” talks about homelessness on the dark streets of London.

Music of the heart

The picture we’ve painted so far is of a fast-paced jumper of an album. But don’t be fooled – there are plenty of sombre moments on this record too. The first of these is “Broken Soldier”, a beautifully sad song about war, inspired no doubt by the sad fate of Ken’s son Lee Bonsall, who had served in Afghanistan. The line “it’s a far cry from the blue skies” particularly strikes you – it hints at the fact that war is horrific, but that our Western society can be ugly and unkind too.

“1914” is another example. Here, lead vocals are taken by fiddler Dan Booth, whose delivery of the line “there was whiskey on Sundays and love in the wings” is definitely reminiscent of “The Broad Majestic Shannon”, another MacGowan masterpiece. If this song takes a look back at WWI, “Khatyn” is about WWII, and a village in Belarus that in March 1943 was all but wiped out by the Nazis. Credit to the Dog here for not being afraid to bring in events and countries from outside the Celtic world.

The masterpiece of the album, however, has to be “The Hope”, an outstanding title track that is worthy of being a title track. A strong ballad, featuring beautiful singing from Ken, this one slowly builds to a wonderful choir-like singalong at the end, bringing a tear to the ol’ eye. This is music of the heart, written for those struggling to find any joy in life, walking around thinking, “I hope one day happiness comes my way.” If you’re reading this and you feel that way, then we hope you find happiness too. There are different answers that work for different people, so never stop searching for solutions.

“The Hope” – an outstanding and moving title track if ever there were one.

Go check it out!

With 17 songs, you won’t be shortchanged (or disappointed) by what’s on offer here. The album is a success, a masterclass in folk-punk with top-notch production values. The band put a lot of graft in here, so well done to them on reaching #1 in the UK Folk charts, and even #31 in the mainstream charts. Not that charts always matter, but it’s nice to let the mainstream know that there’s more music out there than just what gets played on national radio. There’s a wealth of great underground music out there, and it’s good when some of it succeeds on its own terms.

Now, as Jack Nicholson famously said after his wife locked him in a storage cupboard: “GO CHECK IT OUT!” 😁 If ye have the money, buy “The Hope” from Amazon (it’s not available from the band’s website until after Christmas, ye ken). If money’s a wee bit tight, then the album’s up on the major streaming platforms too. And whatever ye do, be sure to follow the Dog on Instagram or Facebook.

INTERVIEW: RICHARD BALLS – A FURIOUS DEVOTION

There is always one thing that I’ll keep within me / Deep in my heart, a furious devotion / The love of old Ireland, and Mother Mo Chroi.

In part 2 of our Shane MacGowan special, we’ve interviewed Richard Balls, the author of the new Shane biography A Furious Devotion: The Life of Shane MacGowan. The interview was recorded, so if you’ve read the book, or if you plan to, or if ya need a last-minute Christmas present for someone special, check out the video below ☘

Shane and Richard share a drink back in the day 🍻

If ya missed the recent release of A Furious Devotion, then be sure to check out part 1 HERE. It provides a bite size overview of this Shane biography. But apart from that, let’s get the full low-down from the author 😎 Without further ado, here’s the interview…

Once again, congrats to Richard on a thorough job of portraying the life of Shane. A Furious Devotion: The Life of Shane MacGowan is available now on Omnibus Press. Sláinte! 🥃

SHANE MACGOWAN: THE NEW BIOGRAPHY

A Furious Devotion is the new biography of Shane MacGowan, authorised by Shane himself! Author Richard Balls is a devoted Pogues fan, who has also written about Stiff Records. Now Richard has tackled the task of writing the ultimate Shane biography. His early life, his family, his big influences, the good times and the bad – it’s all accounted for here. Let’s have a look at the result, and learn about the Celtic punk legend like you’ve never seen him before.

A Furious Devotion by Richard Balls. The authorised story of Shane MacGowan.

It would be impossible to paint a full picture of Shane, The Pogues and Shane’s life in general if you just observed it from afar. So you won’t be disappointed by A Furious Devotion: The Life of Shane MacGowan. Richard Balls is the author, and he visited Shane and Victoria at their Dublin flat, spending time with ’em over two years. Richard also interviewed an extensive number of people who’ve shaped Shane’s life; everyone from closest family members to lifelong friends, bandmates and even Shane’s English teacher are quoted here. This provides us with a unique, detailed overview of this extraordinary man, one that helps us understand him better than we already did ☘

This holy place

For example, one place that Richard draws special attention to is The Commons. A cottage in rural Co. Tipperary with its thick stone walls, cobwebs and a fistful of character, this is Shane’s spiritual home. It’s the place where he spent the first years of his life, and even today it remains practically untouched by the ravages of time. So it’s fitting how we learn from Richard that Shane was introduced to Irish music here by his family, and of course to Catholicism.

Years later, after father Maurice and mother Therese moved the family to England for work, Shane would still return to The Commons for months at a time, bringing many a girlfriend along to this holy place. But you don’t need to go there to know it’s a world away from the very English backdrop of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, where Shane spent the rest of his childhood, feeling like a fish out of water. Trust me, I’m from Maidstone, and while Kent has some beautiful places, it ain’t Irish and it certainly isn’t republican 😉

A well-read mind

You may have wondered why Shane’s songs have stood the test of time so well, especially among us Celtic punk fans. That’s partly because his interest in writing and reading developed very early on, paving the way for those memorable, heartfelt lyrics. Therese and Maurice both encouraged Shane to follow in their intellectual footsteps. As a result, having barely hit his teens, Shane was already reading James Joyce and Thomas Mann and winning national writing competitions.

This gift for writing, and Shane’s growing love of music, would later be two key ingredients in his work with The Nips, Pogues and Popes. Richard reveals the final, explosive ingredient to us in the back room of a pub in 1976. That night, Shane watched The Sex Pistols for the first time, and discovered his heart’s second home in punk. He remained in London, and so The Nipple Erectors were born.

A wee pic of Shane and Richard, taken a few years back.

Highs. Lows. Recovery.

We all know and love The Pogues’ rapid rise to fame, and sadly their moment in the public eye was over too soon, with Fairytale of New York serving as today’s sole reminder of the success the band once enjoyed. Nonetheless, everyone can learn something new from Richard’s in-depth analysis of the ’80s and ’90s. We learn how Jem Finer had been told he was “tone-deaf”, only for him to shake this off and emerge as the other prolific songwriter for the band. We learn how Shane really did go and “work for a five” on those streets in The Old Main Drag. And how, in spite of the clear Irish direction of their music, it wasn’t until the height of The Pogues’ success that Shane really got political for the first time with The Birmingham Six, a song that Ben Elton – and eventually the BBC – refused to broadcast. In that respect, 1991 couldn’t come soon enough.

I won’t say a lot about the much darker times in the years that followed, between when Peace And Love signalled the band’s growing musical differences and Sinéad O’Connor eventually reporting Shane to the police for heroin abuse. The horror of those bleak times is very tangible, and Richard’s descriptions make them all the more tangible. But one good thing that finally came of it was that Shane visited a visionary lady in the West of Ireland, one Christina Gallagher. We discover during this passage that she “sucked all the badness out of him”. If Shane truly does see other people as souls, rather than as humans, then we hope he finally found his match in Christina, who has given him some of the spiritual support he needs to deal with the world.

The music is cool again

So now…read the book and discover the rest for yourself 😉 But overall, A Furious Devotion makes it crystal clear what Shane has done for Irish music. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Irish music and “being Irish” was not seen to be fashionable in Britain. Shane, along with The Pogues, The Popes and all the musicians he’s shared stages, songs and records with, is a big part of why the music is cool again, and why on Paddy’s Day people celebrate being Irish even though they’re not! Only The Pogues could have achieved that in Thatcher-era Britain, and they could not have done it without their mercurial frontman at the helm. A man who came from the English establishment, even attending two public schools, but at the same time couldn’t have been further from it all.

We at London Celtic Punks would like to congratulate Richard Balls on a job well done! His book, A Furious Devotion: The Life of Shane MacGowan, is out now on Omnibus Press, the world’s most rock n’ roll publisher, and is available from all well-known retailers. We would like to thank Omnibus Press for giving Richard this chance to keep the life and music of Shane MacGowan at the front of people’s minds.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Shane pictured in September 2021.

GIG REVIEW: FEROCIOUS DOG – EDINBURGH 6/11/21

Ruff ruff! This weekend Ferocious Dog took to the stage in Edinburgh, at legendary venue La Belle Angele. They played a blinder, as if you needed telling 😉 Here’s a review o’ the gig by The Celtic Punk Author, who was there. With support from Mucky Scoundrel.

It feels bloody good to watch live gigs again after that pesky virus stopped ’em. If there’s one band that doesn’t disappoint, no matter how many lockdowns we’ve had, then Ferocious Dog is it. On Saturday 6th November the boys set up at La Belle Angele, an awesome wee venue in Scotland’s capital that brings in the finest in underground music names.

Supporting: Mucky Scoundrel

I got to the venue early, bought the obligatory pint and made a donation to the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund (more info below). Soon after, it was time to enjoy Mucky Scoundrel, last-minute replacements for the injured Gimme Gimme Gimmes. Frontman Mark Feeney broke a string during the first song (a nightmare that all us guitarists can relate to!), but he played to an obliging audience as the club floor started to fill. Opening as a solo act can be a wee bit lonely, lemme tell ya, but Mark had an excellent accompaniment in Danny Kelly, who supplied some slick basslines and backing vocals.

The duo played 8 songs as I recall, with a mixture of humorous lyrics and more serious numbers, and some sweet vocal harmonies to bolster the music. To get a feel for what they can do, check this oot:

Mucky Scoundrel. Last-minute replacements for the injured Gimme Gimme Gimmes.

To hear more from Mucky Scoundrel, check ’em out on Facebook, or watch the well-made, if slightly sad video to “Last To Fall” on YouTube. It’s a full studio version of a song that featured in Saturday’s setlist. Click HERE to watch it.

Headlining: Ferocious Dog

The Angele was nicely filled by the time The Dog’s walk-on music “Port Isaac” chimed into view. The band were to play many songs off their newest album The Hope (UK #31), and sure enough, they kicked things off with their rendition of fisherman’s shanty “Haul Away Joe”. After that it was straight into “Pentrich Rising”, arguably the band’s finest song to date (and there are many candidates for that!) A sample of the live performance, and how it got folks up and jumpin’, can be seen below:

“Pentrich Rising” – about the armed workers’ uprising of 1817, which started in ex-mining village South Wingfield.

Next up was “Victims”, another track in E minor with a more melancholy fiddle riff. The front-row faithful, known affectionately as the band’s “hell hounds”, kept the mosh pit going and were well up for the “OK, let’s go!” shout during the song. We then moved into “Broken Soldier”, the first of a number of songs the band played about the horrors of war. For those who don’t know, Lee Bonsall (mentioned above) was lead singer Ken’s son. Lee gave the band their name when he was a boy, and went on to serve in Afghanistan at the age of 18. Sadly, he later took his own life at the age of just 24, unable to overcome what he’d seen and been through in the war. This gave rise to the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund, and if you can spare a few quid for these guys, then get in touch with them HERE, and show your support for those still fighting the war in their hearts and minds, years later.

On the subject of charitable giving, “Sea Shepherd” is a song with a pirate-like feel to it, dedicated to the marine conservation charity of the same name. Ken was proudly sporting his Sea Shepherd T-shirt at the gig, and volunteers from Sea Shepherd themselves were at the doors with merch (I bought a beanie to replace the one I lost years ago). I first heard of these guys years ago through the Dutch band Omnia, who play[ed] pagan folk with a big dose of “fuck authority” thrown in. Sea Shepherd are more into direct action than Greenpeace, but they stay on the right side of the line. To learn more about these guys, make a donation or buy something, check ’em out HERE.

On “1914”, another track off The Hope, fiddler Dan Booth stepped up to sing lead vocals. Dan is one of two remaining members from the original 1988 line-up, with Ken being the other one. I particularly smiled at the line “there was whisky on Sundays” – if that ain’t a nod to The Pogues and “The Broad Majestic Shannon”, a fine piece of MacGowan magic, then I don’t know what it is, ye ken.

Ferocious Dog live in Edinburgh. L-R: Ryan Brooks, Dan Booth, Ken Bonsall, Alex Smith (hidden), Sam Wood and John Alexander.

Music has the right to children

After a reel or two, which broke things up nicely but kept folks dancing, the band returned to their eponymous 2013 album, and the songs “Too Late” and the reggae-tinged “Freeborn John”. After these two strong tracks, it was back to The Hope again for “Born Under Punches”, another poignant song about homelessness in London. “Punk Police”, meanwhile, was written about those who feel they can tell others what’s punk and what’s not, or what they can listen to and what they can’t. As a famous Scottish duo once pointed out, “music has the right to children”. So although a punk band must understand what punk is about and how it originated, punk does have the right to morph and grow, as do all forms of music. With a “fuck the punk police” shouted at the end of the song, Ken made this clear.

The Dog closed their set with a few more songs, but were eagerly welcomed back for an encore. They had three more songs ready to go, the strongest of which was arguably the finisher, “Slow Motion Suicide”, taken from 2015’s From Without. This closer was another sad reminder of the terrible consequences of mental health problems, if the victims don’t get the support they need. Having suffered from depression and anxiety myself, I believe there’s an answer for everyone. People react differently to different types of treatment; what’s important is that people get the help that works for them.

All in all…

All in all, this was a fine gig, with a good dose o’ speedfolk to keep out the November cold. The band tore through their set impressively, never letting up but remaining as tight as we all knew they would be. As the crowd put their hands in the air for the obligatory end-of-gig photo, I was glad I went, and I’ll keep me ear to the ground for future FD gigs in this neck of the woods. Okay, my one complaint: the band didn’t play “Crime and Punishment” 😁 But that’s jammern auf hohem Niveau, as they say in Germany (English: “nitpicking”).

We would like to thank La Belle Angele for putting the show on, and for all they do to support live music. Show ’em some love and attention by visiting their website for further info and news about upcoming events. Next time you’re up Edinburgh way, we recommend checkin’ out what’s on there 👍

Folk on!

Andy x

EP REVIEW: THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY – ‘Highflyer’ (2021)

One of Australia’s finest Celtic punk exports are back with their first EP since 2016’s ‘Whitewashed Graves’. Have they still got it? Make no mistake: these guys pack a punch, and they always have.

The Ramshackle Army kicked the Celt-folk door open way back in 2010. Quickly, they proved they could deliver exciting, fast-paced performances to rival the best of ’em. While they’ve obviously been influenced by The Dropkick Murphys, and have a core sound reminiscent of 2000s-era punk rock, the band is much more than a mere Dropkicks tribute, let me tell ya that!

The Army have toured the US several times, supportin’ top names like The Tossers and The Dropkicks themselves, and sharing festival stages with Flatfoot 56 and The Mahones. The Army (as I shall refer to them from now on) have described their music as “the sounds of punk rock, with a dose of the Celtic folk”. And that, my friend, is precisely what we have here on ‘Highflyer’. And damn, it’s good to see these guys the other side of lockdown.

The Ramshackle Army. L-R: Jig (bass), Nath (guitar), Gaz (vocals), Adge (drums), Josh (banjo/mandolin) and Kat (fiddle).

To the EP itself: this 5-track record is a thrasher, from start to finish 🙂 It also showcases some of the band’s punkiest moments to date. From the minute the title track “Highflyer” kicks in, we know we’re in for another good ride. Singer Gaz Byrne treats us to the catchy, Cockney-tinged vocal melodies we’re used to from him. The sound again immediately provides that homely feeling that Celtic music always summons in the listener. With lines like “Where is the line in the sand? / Why do highflyers sink so low?”, the song takes a critical swipe at the business success but lack of moral principles embraced by some “highflyers”, wrapping it up in a hopeful and powerful chorus. A strong opener, and one that brings back memories of “Protest Songs” from the aforementioned ‘Whitewashed Graves’ EP, or indeed 2012’s classic “Rue The Day”, the video to which is currently nearing 50,000 views on YouTube.

Tracks #2 (“Bend Don’t Break”) and #3 (“Rise and Fall”) allow the band’s rock sound into the foreground, with the fiddles and mandolins taking more of a back seat. However, this takes nothing away from the musicianship of these songs, and our favourite Celtic instruments make a strong return in the interestingly-titled “The Also Rans”. If you’re looking for the band’s signature “woah-oh!” singalong moments, then await the chorus patiently 😁 For me, this is the second strongest song on the record only to title track “Highflyer”, but you might feel differently, so crank the volume 😉

You’ll want to keep the volume up for closer “Old Weapons”, too. I’m pretty familiar with The Army’s back catalogue, but they’ve hardly ever sounded heavier or faster than they do here. A desperate burst of energy to emerge from the terrible pandemic that’s wrecked people’s lives, perhaps? Maybe. Either way, this one’s sure to be a firm singalong at the band’s gigs in support of the EP, supplying 1 minute and 49 seconds of untempered energy.

Anyway, enough from me…to feast yer ears on this fine piece o’ work, click HERE or try Spotify.

To connect with the band, check ’em out on Facebook or Instagram.

After 11 years in the biz, The Ramshackle Army are still tight as fuck. If it’s good-quality, almost virtuoso-level Celtic punk that you seek, you’ll still find it right here.

THE DUNES

What happened when Shane MacGowan met Ronnie Drew back in the ’90s? Well, a few things happened, but here’s one thing ye might not know about. Let’s take a trip back through time, but not one that will bore you.

Back in the day, Ronnie Drew was makin’ a solo record called Dirty Rotten Shame. He was short of a few songs, so he contacted the ol’ legend himself, Shane MacGowan. Shane sent him a song he’d written, called The Dunes.

Like most of MacGowan’s work, it’s a beautiful piece of music, and it shines a light on the ugly side of life. On one of Ireland’s toughest times. The Famine of 1845-52.

The Potato Famine. A terrible blow to the Irish population.

The Great Hunger

I walked today on the cold grey shore
Where I watched when I was much younger
Where they built the dunes upon the sand
For the dead from The Great Hunger.

Those are the first lines Ronnie sings in the song. It sets the scene of the terrible famine of 1845 to 1852, caused by a potato blight. The Irish, especially the working class, were heavily dependent on the potato, often eating 5 kilos a day. So the Famine struck right at the heart of their livelihood.

Ultimately, a quarter of Ireland’s population was either wiped out, or left to find a home elsewhere. This is what Shane writes and Ronnie sings about in the song, almost like they were there. More to the point, Shane was, when he was 18 or 19. “I was up near Louisburgh in Co. Mayo, and I heard the story about people burying their dead on the beach, during the Famine times,” the singer said once. “The place was eerie, all these bones lying about. I’ll never forget it.”

And Shane didn’t forget. Just listen to the line, “the children kicked the sand about, and the bones they are revealed, then”, and there’s your proof.

Shane at his best

  Despite being about such a grim topic, The Dunes showcases MacGowan at his finest. While it’s hard to pick out the best lines Shane’s ever written, I particularly like the penultimate verse, which goes like this: 

A crack of lightning split the sky 
The rain on the dunes, it poured 
I left them lying where I shot them down 
The bailiff and the landlord 
Then I went for a drink in Westport. 

  He’s had his problems, but Shane is a fucking genius. And the “Westport” line is the only moment of hope in the song. The only moment where the narrator seems to hint at a normal life, like going for a drink in the pub. Sadly, it’s also a strong reminder of the part of Ireland that was hit the hardest by the great hunger. 

  It was the West, and the South, that copped the worst of it. Many of those who died were Catholics, as referenced by the “rosary” line earlier in the song. And one of the truly tragic factors about it all was the soup kitchens. These were set up to provide relief to the starving poor, and it did help. But since the kitchens were Protestant, and Catholics were sometimes reluctant to go in case they got converted, we’ll never know how many people died out of fear of losing their religion.

Shane and Ronnie. A pair o’ legends.

Busting a myth

 Most of what I know about the Famine was written in a book by Joseph Coohill. His father was an Irish-American, and Coohill is a respected academic. His book Ireland: A Short History is informative without being hard to follow. Also, to Coohill’s credit, the book is fair to the Nationalist and to the Unionist sides. It’s fair to the Irish, but portrays the British in a factual light too. 

  That brings me on to something. The myth you’ll sometimes hear is that the Famine was entirely the fault of the British. While it’s a popular myth, it’s not completely true. The Quakers, and even Queen Victoria, donated a shitload of money, to try and stem the impact of the Famine. Robert Peel was PM when the Famine started, and he genuinely tried to help, but was stabbed in the back by his own government. They didn’t want him importing cheap food from abroad, even though people in Ireland were already starving to death. Sometimes it was the rich Irish landlords and bailiffs who turfed the starving people out of their homes, and effectively “stole their grain”, like it says in The Dunes

 If you’re looking for people in Britain who cocked things right up, try the following: 

  1. Peel’s successor, PM John Russell. He believed in economics, rather than fixing an agricultural problem. 
  1. The scientists appointed by PM Peel to investigate the Famine. They disregarded a specialist’s opinion that the potato blight was caused by a fungus (which it was). 
  1. The arrogant people among the British, who believed the Famine was “sent by God to punish the Irish”. So much for love thy neighbour. Ireland was part of the UK at the time, so why didn’t more people look out for them? 
  1. Charles Trevelyan, treasurer to PM John Russell. Trevelyan was slow to give the Irish any kind of proper aid, and he also believed in the God-punishing-the-Irish crap. A poor treasurer and economist if ever there was one. 

The takeaway

  As Ronnie returns to the opening verse of The Dunes to finish, he sings about a man walking on the same shores where he witnessed the horrors of the Famine as a young boy. That implies that the Famine may have passed, but that it lives in the hearts and minds of the people connected with it. There’s a lesson to be learned in life, then. And that lesson is this: do what you can to help others. As human beings, we can’t work miracles. But we can all do something or other to make a difference. 

  It could be doing a Ferocious Dog and organising a food bank at a music venue. It could be raising money for, or donating money to the homeless, as I’ve done in the past and still do. It could even be as simple as looking out for folks during the terrible COVID-19 pandemic. In a world where ordinary people can feel powerless, let’s all do a little bit to make it a better, more humane place. 

Listen to The Dunes HERE.  Or, you can watch an old video of Ronnie singing it HERE

R.I.P. Ronnie, we love ya x

Andy

A CELTIC PUNK LOVE AFFAIR

Ever since Shane and The Pogues knocked our ears into gear in the ’80s, hundreds of bands have followed in their footsteps. Year after year, they bring us exciting Celtic punk songs, albums and gigs to light up a somewhat shit world. But what about Celtic punk stories? Why ain’t there many of them floatin’ aboot?

Maybe there’s more than one way to entertain people. If you’re into Guinness, St. Paddy’s Day and young people embracing the Celtic spirit worldwide, then what we have here will be right up yer alley, ye ken. They say hope springs eternal…and so does folk!

Have you ever wanted to read a short story, or even a novel, about Celtic punk? As if The Pogues, Tossers and Mahones were ready to jump off the page at ya? If that sounds cool, then meet Gus, Lin, Herman and Rash. Four characters from the far-flung reaches of Nova Scotia, Canada. They’re passionate musicians, folkin’ the Irish pubs and refusing to bend to society’s wishes. Below, I give ye four reasons why you should give a shit.

1. They have the bottle of smoke

Yes, that’s a Pogues reference! The Bottle of Smoke is the band’s aptly-named local Irish pub. We kick things off with them playin’ The Smoke mid-week to an appreciative audience; Gus on guitar and vocals, Herman on mandolin, Rash workin’ the accordion, and Gus’s cousin Lin banging the bodhrán (not in a sexual way). Gus is essentially the band’s very own Shane MacGowan; a troubled ratbag who likes a drink or six, but a songwriting genius with a fistful of dreams and a big, beating heart at the centre of it all. And speakin’ of The Pogues, if there’s one band you would automatically compare these four musicians to, then the London Irish legends are it.

As well as playin’ The Bottle of Smoke as often as the pub’ll book ’em, the band are making inroads into the rest of Atlantic Canada as well. They’ve played out west a little, they’re set to play Cape Breton Island on St. Patrick’s Day, and they’re keepin’ their well attuned ears to the ground for more. The stage is quite literally set for a Celtic punk love affair.

Sounds good so far? Read on, ya big bollocks 😉

Shane MacGowan and The Pogues. The band’s heroes and their biggest influence.

2. They have ideals

We all realised we weren’t gonna get anywhere in life unless it was through the music. Ozzy didn’t wanna do what his father did for a living, and Tony didn’t wanna do what his dad did. Neither did Bill, and neither did I.

Geezer Butler, Black Sabbath

While Kilmainen (being the band’s name) might not be working-class, backstreet kids from Aston, Birmingham, they ain’t exactly moneyheads either, to use Gus’s own word. Gus himself is a standout example of this, working just 15 hours a week in a music shop. Underpaid, no doubt, but doing something he actually cares about. Cousin Lin is similar, having snubbed the corporate world to go part-time in an artsy café. The band members take the time and energy saved, and reinvest it into the one thing that matters most to them: their music.

The plan is that writing songs together, recording albums, doing interviews, playing gigs and working with other musicians will one day become the quartet’s full-time gig, their sole source of income. That’s certainly what the Austrian-born Herman dreams of, as he spends Sunday afternoons promoting the band’s music online. The biggest dreamer, though, is once again Gus: what you’re about to read is one of the entries he pours into his diary mid-way through the story.

I don’t want to live by society’s rules. It’s boring. I don’t wanna live life with no idea what I want. Society wants you think you’re worthless, and that it’s YOUR fault if you’re unhappy. But I can see through that. I KNOW what my purpose in life is. It’s the best feeling you can get, when people say your music’s helped them. Tell me it’s just a hobby? Bollocks to that. I wanna BE someone in life, change things up.

Guthrie “Gus” Ward, Folk Springs Eternal

I once saw a great film where actress Julia Jentsch said, “I want to live young, wild and free.” Most people will tell you that’s stupid, but her co-star Daniel Brühl said, “that’s not stupid.” He was right, and so is Gus above. There’s nothing wrong with having a dream, with looking at the world and asking questions. Asking whether life can be lived differently, rather than the way it’s spoonfed to us. That’s where the hope lies, my friend. And hope – like I started out saying above – springs eternal, right?

Will folk music spring eternal in Kilmainen’s case, too? Read on, because here’s where it gets nail-biting.

3. They have to fight society

Unless you’re sheltered from the world, or just strike lucky, you won’t follow your dreams without some serious backlash along the way. Numerous examples exist: Mahatma Gandhi, Carl Brashear, Jacinda Ardern, Mark Oliver Everett, the list goes on and on. These people had to battle their way to success, and our four musical heroes are no exception to this rule. We get a glimpse of it in chapter 4, when Rash’s office colleagues disregard his ambition to become a professional musician. “There’s no money in that game,” they tell him.

If that seems quite harmless, wait a little. Lin gets on a bus five days later, and is violently attacked by three youths who don’t like women who think and dress for themselves. “Irish music ain’t cool,” they say, and apparently neither is being a lesbian. Luckily a trip to hospital is averted just in time, BUT: bring on St. Patrick’s Day, where things go from bad to worse. In less than 24 hours, the band is all but over, with their morale and reciprocal support in the gutter.

The Halifax police headquarters where Gus is held on St. Patrick’s weekend.

4. They have to win.

What will become of the band? Will the quartet survive their trial by fire? Or will they fail and self-destruct among the flames? Well that I won’t tell you 😉 I will only promise you that the Celtic punk author doesn’t make a habit of letting people down.

So you have two options, my friend. One: you’re invited to take a wee look around my website, where the story and other cool stuff is available for purchase. Click HERE to check it out. Or two: if you want chapter 1 for free first (plus a free song!), then click HERE instead. I swear by the holy iron which I hold, that I, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser (okay, no), will not pass your email addresses on to any gobshite else.

I hope you enjoyed the read, my friend. Sláinte mhaith! 🥃

Andy x

Click HERE to learn more about the book. Want chapter 1 for free? Click HERE instead.

CELTIC PUNK OLD AND NEW

The Pogues. The Mahones. Flogging Molly. The Dropkicks. All bands who’ve made their mark on the Celtic-Punk genre. But we can’t forget the lesser-known bands too, the musicians working tirelessly to keep the flag up and flyin’! In his first guest post, Andy Beck (aka. The Celtic Punk Author) showcases the old and new from his small, but growing Celtic Punk playlist on Spotify.

We kick things off with Sir Reg, an energetic six-piece from Sweden with a top Irish singer in Brendan Sheehy. “Giving It Up (The Drink)” is a prime example of what these guys can do, arguably bettered only by the irresistible “FOOL (Fight Of Our Lives)”. This outstanding track appears further down the playlist, and is taken from the same album, 2018’s The Underdogs.

If Reg are still too well-known for ya, then how about the acoustic fun of Anthony Leclair? “A Prayer To Spirits” is an expletive-laden number that sits finely among the rest (before proceeding to fall drunk under the table). “Jack Daniels can just fuck right off, I’d rather drink shite beer”, is how it goes. And I can get behind that. Sorry, but you’re talking to a single malts guy who’s visited about half the distilleries in Scotland, so mine’s a Lagavulin 16.

One more fun acoustic one before we get back into the heavier shit. Check out “McGuffin” by an outfit called Gypsy Rebel Rabble, hailing from Dublin’s fair city. This song was written about a man with some sort of grudge, and an unstoppable urge for revenge, and I’ve been hooked on it since first it was recommended to me. So be sure to give that one a spin for proof that Celtic punk don’t always gotta be distorted.

Gypsy Rebel Rabble hail from Dublin. Give the uptempo “McGuffin” a spin!

Meet the Germans!

If you’re lookin’ for Celtic music beyond the Celtic countries, you’ll go a long way to find a more fertile place than Germany. There are about a dozen Irish pubs in Berlin alone, and I’m unashamed to tell you that it’s precisely this fine city that got me into Irish music properly. I lived there for 6 years, travelled around the country a bit, and came across a number of awesome acts who can hold a candle (and a Guinness) to any Irish, Scottish, American or Canadian folk punk band out there.

On the playlist, we kick shit off with The Feelgood McLouds. If “McGuffin” (see above) had me hooked from the go, so did these guys’ track “Dirty Bastards”. It’s a catchy offering by the Saarland group, with lyrics about camaraderie and a bagpipe leading the tune against a wall of distorted guitars. I challenge you to listen to it and not start nodding your head, tapping your feet or whatever the feck else one does when enjoyin’ a tune.

Another band you shouldn’t miss is the Kilkenny Knights. I had the honour of playing the same festival as these guys in 2015, when they won the Newcomer Award that my old band The Celtic Gobshites had won the previous year. And sure enough, “A Drinker’s Song” boasts a catchy accordion riff that takes me right back to them Irish pubs and mediaeval markets that I loved so well.

No reference to German Celtic punk would be complete without a nod to the kings of ’em all – Fiddler’s Green. These guys organise an entire festival every year in North Bavaria, known as the Shamrock Castle Festival, and it would have taken place this year too had it not been for that bastard virus. Still, “John Kanaka” is the band’s fine-ass reworking of an old Hawaiian sea shanty, complete with beer cup antics before the guitars and drums knock your ears into gear. “Yindy” is another one I chucked on the playlist, with fun – albeit slightly silly – lyrics to keep ye grinning.

The Kilkenny Knights, all the way from Coburg, Germany

A Few Surprises!

I’ll leave yers with a few surprise tracks that ye may not have expected on a Celtic punk playlist. Ever heard of Saor Patrol? If no, these guys are aboot as Scottish as it gets, ya wee bawbags. They’re a pipes and drums band whose proceeds go entirely to the Clanranald Trust, an educational establishment that preserves and spreads medieval Scottish culture. “Three Wee Jigs” is a perfect example o’ how these guys can rock ya socks off, so stick it on, crank the volume and go mental.

If the Germans had ya riveted earlier with their take on the music, then check out French outfit Toxic Frogs too. This all-female act knows how to sing, scream and folk with the best of ’em. The lyrics are admittedly a tad difficult to understand, but show me a punk fan who cares much about that and I’ll show ya a bad seed.

Last of all – but by nae means least – I have to cite the mighty Alestorm! Though pirate metal is these dudes’ specialty rather than Celtic punk, I believe they deserve a spot or two on the playlist. Almost all of their songs are about pirates and sailing the seven seas, so the outrageously funny “Wooden Leg” will surely not disappoint! Check it out, but be prepared to be hooked (no pun intended).

So where’s the damn playlist, then?

Thought you might ask me that Click HERE to be taken there, ye gobshites.

If ya like what you hear, the creator would sure appreciate a like. Feel free to tell someone else about it if ya think they’d like it too (in English: please share). Got any recommendations for what should be on the ol’ list? Send ’em to The Celtic Punk Author on Instagram -> @thecelticpunkauthor

Sláinte mhaith and enjoy the ceol, ya bollockses x

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