Author Archives: essexmarv

EP REVIEW: THE LAGAN- ‘Let’s Do It Again’ (2018)

Sneaked in just before the end of last year was this new EP from local beer-soaked Celtic folk-punk favourites The Lagan and with the Best Of lists due next week no way could we miss out on reviewing it so off went Marv to chat to Brendan and find out what’s what.  
Just after Christmas the shiny new and aptly named EP from The Lagan, ‘Let’s Do It Again’, popped through my letterbox with an excited thud. Released in the dying embers of 2018, it  concludes five long years since their magnificent debut album ‘Where’s Your Messiah Now?’. The song ‘Same Shite, Different Night’ from that album was responsible, almost singlehandedly, for changing my life. But that’s another (and probably very tedious) story.

I asked Brendan O’Prey, main vocalist and guitarist in the Kingston-on-Thames based band, why they had decided to go for an EP release after so long, instead of a full album.

“I just thought it was time to get something out!”, replied Brendan,  “when we started recording the EP it had been five years since we released WYMN. We had to get something out there, but didn’t have the money or material to release a new album. We’re not prolific songwriters and we didn’t have a lot of time in the studio”.
The EP, contains five stunning new recordings, three written by O’Prey, one traditional and one, ‘Home For A Rest’, a masterful cover of song by Canadian folk band Spirit of the West. I was not familiar with the original and was stunned to find it is actually a cover. The lyrics are so perfectly suited to The Lagan lads and lass I was convinced it was written by them!

All five of the tracks are absolute classic Lagan in full flight. With Brendan’s distinctive voice and the signature combination of driving whistle, fiddle, guitar and bass, these could simply not have been anyone else! With one exception they are rip-roaring beer-soaked 100 miles-an-hour glory tunes. If you loved ‘Where’s Your Messiah Now?’ (and if you didn’t then what is wrong with you?!), then you will love all of these. Their one and only flaw is that they are over too soon.
Said Brendan when I asked him about plans for another full album,
“that’s the next step. I’ve never sat down  to write an album as one piece of work, but I’d like to. Life gets in the way though, none of us do this for a living and we are always so busy gigging.”
‘A Song For Jim’, the penultimate song of this magnificent EP,  isn’t quite as manic as the others. It’s not that it’s slow, it’s just slower by comparison! Written by O’Prey, musically and thematically a recognisable child of ‘Work Away’ from Messiah (my fave track off that album), it is a heartfelt and sorrowful bittersweet requiem for Jim. I don’t know if it’s written from personal experience, the CD liner notes suggests it might be, but my word this is written and sung from the heart. It makes me wish I had known Jim, clearly a singularly special human being. I cannot wait to see this done live, the entire audience will go crazy.

The Lagan: Alex Kidd – Drums * Big George – Bass * Our Morgan – Fiddle/keeping the lads in check * Brendan – Guitar, vocals and anger issues * Andy Mac – Tin Whistles/Hype Man.

Speaking of which, when can we get our next Lagan fix?

“We’re gonna try to hit the festival circuit a bit harder this year, hopefully get out to Europe a bit more. Our first gig of 2019 is at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston on 2nd February. It’s a free show and it’s always a good time down there. so ‘mon down and have a sing-song with us.”
As Brendan says the next Lagan is Saturday 2nd Feb at their favourite haunt The Fighting Cocks in Kingston-Upon-Thames. It’s about twenty minutes from Waterloo on the train and the gig is **FREE** so no excuses especially with a stellar line up of  Blues/ Folk/ Country/ RagTime/ Jazz/ Swing from the  Swamp Stomp String Band and fellow Kingstonites acoustic folk-punkers Boogedy Smak. All the details are here on the Facebook event. See thee in the moshpit!
Buy Let’s Do It Again
Compact Disc- BanquetRecords
Contact The Lagan
(if you missed it (may God have pity on you) then have a listen to The Lagan debut album Where’s Your Messiah Now? here on the Bandcamp player below)

ALBUM REVIEW: RAISE YOUR PINTS Vol.3- VARIOUS ARTISTS

Raise Your Pints Volume 3 is a compilation of Celtic-Folk-Punk from MacSlon’s Irish Pub Radio; a Celtic-Folk-Punk internet radio station out of Magdeburg, Germany. It started life as part of wider mainstream internet radio station, but when that organisation closed back in 2009 these guys decided, thankfully, to go it alone with a full station dedicated to the glory of folk punk; they have never looked back!

So what do you get for your €9 (plus P&P)? Well, a hell of a lot as it turns out; some of the finest party oriented folk punk I have ever seen assembled in one place. It is a testament to the global love and reach of Celtic-influenced folk punk that of the twenty tracks on the disc, ten countries are represented. Six of the tracks come from German bands, which is understandable given the source, but we’ve got 14 additional jaw-dropping tracks from Spain, France, Ukraine, Serbia, Switzerland, Great Britain, Italy, USA and, of course, Ireland. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this eclectic mix of nationalities might water down the authenticity of the music- this is all top quality straight up loud, sweaty, folk punk perfectly designed with only one purpose in mind- an  accompaniment to a night of dancing and drinking to the small hours. To put it another way, it is slap bang in the middle of my sweet spot and I loved every single minute of this epic collection.

I was already familiar with a handful of the beauties on this album; Ferocious Dog and Black Water County from the UK, Orthodox Celts from Serbia and Airs & Graces from Germany. Without exception the other bands on the album were completely new to me and in that respect it serves as what used to be called a “Sampler” album back in the days of yore. A collection of tunes allowing the listener to cheaply explore the best that a bunch of bands have to offer, without risking a load of cash on albums you might not like. Yes, I am aware the switched on media-savvy youth of today today just use YouTube for this, and so do I, but the point here is that this collection has been curated with love and a deft touch. Let this album take you on a journey across someone else’s music taste; it is a joyous trip!

Reviewing a compilation album is difficult. Running through each track and trying to describe it would soon become boring reading so I’m going to explore some of the tracks that were the standout songs to my ear- the tracks you have to go back to after the first complete run through because you can’t wait to hear them again.

First up is actually the first track on the album; ‘The Fury’ by Brick Top Blaggers. Opening with a slow and mournful waltz led by the fiddle, with acoustic guitar backing and a keening vocal, it lulled me into a false sense that the album would probably be featuring an appearance of ‘Danny Boy’ somewhere along the line and perhaps another version of ‘Fields of Athenry’. All classic songs of course, but not the Celtic party anthems I felt I was promised by the cover of the album, which features a caricatured drunken bawdy mess taking place inside a stereotypical Irish pub! The song soon put that to rights. After a verse of soulful fiddling the band clearly got fed up with it, cranked up the amps, plugged in the electric guitar and set the overdrive to eleven before kicking in with the drums for a fast melodic romp. The kind of track that makes you prick up your ears while having a quiet drink with your mates and paves the way to getting home at 2am when you only went out for a swift one. The biggest surprise of the track came when I checked out the nationalities of the bands to begin writing this review; these guys are from the USA, California in fact. The Beach Boys they ain’t!

I can’t review highlights without special mentions for Black Water County who lent their track ‘Way Down Low’ to the party, and Ferocious Dog who showcase ‘Crime and Punishment’ from their second album, From Without (not the Red album as documented in the CD inlay), Normally these would have been instant standout tracks for me, but I am very familiar with these bands and their music so it was more like welcoming old friends into the pub than finding new stunners. This is particularly relevant as, at time of writing this, McSlon’s Irish Pub Radio listeners have just voted Ferocious Dog’s Red album the #1 ‘Best Celtic Rock, Celtic Punk & Trad. Irish Folk Album’ of 2018. Congratulations to Ken and the lads!

Next in Marv’s Top Picks is ‘Yvonne John’ by The Logues. It reminded me a little of The Waterboys ‘A Bang on the Ear’ in places due to its production simplicity, though it is faster and drives along at a blistering pace led by some manic mando or banjo picking, occasional tin whistle and solid drumming. But its real beauty is in its soaring chorus, professing undying love to the itinerant Yvonne John three weeks after a catastrophic split. The song is so heartfelt I should think it might be a love-letter to real person. If so, Yvonne, wherever you are, you really need to listen to this! This was actually my favourite on the album, though all the tracks are so good it was a close call. I was interested when I found The Logues are the only representatives from Ireland on the album and wondered whether that subconsciously affected my instant affection for the song. But in the end I concluded this was not the case, it’s just the best bloody song in my opinion.

‘Folkpunk-Song’ by Paddy’s Funeral, from Germany, actually started out as my least favourite track on the album. It is a perfect “meta” song, deconstructing the notional formula used to construct folk punk songs, within the medium of a folk-punk song, doing all the things the lyric is instructing as they are sung. Very clever.

“At first we hear a mandolin,

It’s playing fast 16ths.

There it is the singer’s voice,

Dirty dark and mean.

The bass is playing one and five.

The bass drum quarter notes.

The key, surprise! G Major!.

This is how it goes…”

They even roll in a few bars from ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ half way through just to underline their credentials. I jumped to the conclusion they were smugly poking fun at my very favourite form of music in the guise of a comedy track (how dare they!). I don’t think it is actually the case now, after checking out some of their other material on YouTube, but even if it is they nail it so well it’s actually impossible not to love the song. It is so joyful I forgot they might be taking the piss! They might be doing it in an arch and knowing way, but they get it spot on, so I’ll forgive them this once.

When I asked MacSlon’s how the ‘Raise Your Pints’ series of compilations came about they told me that in 2015, after a few years of going it alone with their folk punk radio station, they produced an album called ‘Let the Kelts unite Europe’ to support the “Keltic Festival” in Germany and decided to do it again the following year. ‘So Raise Your Pints Vol. 1’ was released in 2016 and they hit upon the brilliant idea to do a new volume every year to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Volume 3 was released in 2018, though it is still available from the shop on their website. I simply cannot urge you strongly enough to check out this compilation series. What I have heard is fantastic and I cannot wait to see what we get in Vol. 4 on 17th March 2019. They are even going to be putting on a ‘Raise Your Pints’ festival in Germany in 2020 and I, for one, plan to be there.

Buy Raise Your Pints-  Here

Contact MacSlons Irish Pub Radio- WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  

ALBUM REVIEW: TIR NAN OG- ‘From The Gallows’ (2018)

From The Gallows is the fourth album from German Celtic folk punk band Tir Nan Og. Released in January 2018 according to Marvey Mills it delivers an instant slab of authentic folk punk loveliness from the opening song to the very last drop of the fourteenth track.

It is necessary, when reviewing an album, to draw comparisons with others of the genre in order to locate it in the broad and diverse spectrum, for the delight and delectation of the reader. I have found that many European Celtic folk punk bands tend to focus on a few keys themes; drinking, fighting and wenching, wrapped up in fast aggressive tunes with the distorted guitar turned up to 11 and the drummer beating out a rhythm like a runaway train. Songs you might imagine singing along with at the top of your voice, pint of booze in one hand and the other clenched in a fist punching the air in defiance of the oppressive overlords of the past. From the Gallows is not one of those albums. Think of a combination of Black Water County, The Biblecode Sundays and Mad Dog Mcrea with a little of the whimsy of Merry Hell thrown in for good measure and you will get somewhere close. Don’t get me wrong, all those good old familiar party themes are well represented here, but the musical underpinning is layered, sophisticated, varied, skilfully delivered and occasionally surprising.

The opening track, “O’ Hanlon’s Last Words”, sets out the stall for the album and I knew by twenty seconds in that I would love the whole album. Leading from the front with some capering-pace solid fiddle licks and acoustic strums it melds seamlessly into the opening lyrics. Robert Meyer, the most Irish sounding German voice I have ever heard, delivers “Bless me Father for I have sinned done quite an evil deed”. His gravelly tones supported by dancing flute riffs, you know instantly where this track is going. He is joined on vocals by Sarah Kucharek, sounding for all the world like Shannon from Black Water County, in some fabulous backing harmonies as the song build pace.

Tir Nan Og left to right: Sarah Kucharek- Vocals, Traverse Flute * Robert Mayer- Guitars, Vocals * Andreas Fingas- Backing Vocals, Bagpipes, Whistles * Volker Katzki- Drums, Bodhran * Joachim ‘Joggi’ Fink- Bass * MatthiasPracht- Fiddle, Nyckelharpa

Loosely themed, naturally enough, around the struggles of life and death with the shadow of the gallows ever-present, the album keeps up a blistering pace, throwing in the ubiquitous tin whistle, flute and some alternative percussion I could not quite identify, as it romps from song to song. By  track three, Sarah takes over on lead vocals on the excellent “Firestorm” with scaffolding ably provided by some growling fiddle, droning pipes (maybe!) and backing harmonies from the rest of the band. The thoughtful fourth track “Monster (In My Mind)” dials down the pace a little and is pushed along by interwoven flute and whistle harmonies, with a beautiful flute and fiddle breakdown towards the end.

Sarah returns on haunting lead vocals for my personal favourite track on the album, ‘Last Farewell’, telling the sorry tale of Myles Joyce, one of three men wrongfully convicted and hanged in 1882 for the murder of a local family on the border between Mayo and Galway after a shameful trial by British authorities. “Toll for me the Angelus bell, let it ring let it sing my last farewell”.

The pathos is punctured admirably by the next two tracks “Three Nights in Town” and “Shaun O’Malley”. Riotous and ribald romps documenting the misfortunes of drinking too much when seeking romance and of being mistaken for the ne’er-do-well Mr O’Malley wherever the author turns. The latter being the perfect song for spinning and reeling audience participation at any whiskey-fuelled gig at a certain point in the evening! I am looking forward to being in that crowd one day, screaming “Who the fuck is Shaun O’Malley” along with the band onstage.

The fun doesn’t end there though. Seven more tracks complete the album, including two bonus tracks, with the instrumental “Bastard Reel” being a standout joyous and fiddle-driven reel, with one of the final songs sung in the band’s native tongue. The final track “Johnny Pirate”, with alternating English and German verses, is happy pirate rock documenting the life and times of Johnny Depp!

Tir Nan Og’s music is familiar, even on the first listen. Authentic and eclectic in its influences it draws on a pantheon of instantly recognisable themes. This absorbs you, quickly and completely. But just when you think you know where it is going, the band changes tempo, drops in a change, adds a different instrument or goes in a new direction. That is one of things I really enjoyed about this album, it never seems to get complacent or relies on regurgitating that which has gone before. Skilled and layered musicianship expertly woven together with glorious vocals and harmonies create dynamism and energy exhibited by the best that Celtic folk punk has to offer. I like this band so much I am off to purchase their first three albums and I will be looking out for them eagerly on the gig and festival circuit.

Discography

Ardacris (2016) * Jack Of Folk (2015) * Bitter Brew (2012) * After Work (2019) *

Buy From The Gallows

FromTheBand  Amazon

Contact Tir Nan Og

WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube  LastFM

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