Category Archives: Album Review

ALBUM REVIEW: THE TAN AND SOBER GENTLEMEN – ‘ Regressive Folk Music’ (2022)

Celtic-Punk-Grass played by some Hillbilly Irish. The Tan And Sober Gentlemen explore the Gaelic roots of North Carolinian music, and to play it with as much energy as possible. Their new album out this week sees their sound developing into something really special.

Since we reviewed The Tan And Sober Gentlemen’s debut album Veracity four years ago I reckon we have received maybe 400+ releases here so I don’t get the chance to regularly revisit albums once they are reviewed. Veracity is one of a handful though that often gets a play. We described it back then as

” Raw and unfiltered, a blend of hard-driving, danceable roots delivered with a punk edge and whisky-fuelled abandon they call ‘Celtic-Punk-Grass’.”

Recorded in the woods of Chatham County, North Carolina, Veracity is a riotous take on ‘Scotch-Irish hillbilly music’. North Carolina has a rich history of Irish, Scotch and Scotch-Irish history going back generations and the Tan And Sober Gentlemen are rightly proud of their state’s Celtic musical heritage. Musically they embrace the glorious foot stomping sound of their home while welding to it Irish and Scots tunes and melodies. Totally acoustic this is the kind of wide-open-throttle, no-holds-barred band that could drown out most Punk bands with their passion, energy and sheer ruggedness.

So four years on and with just a couple of singles inbetween it’s hard to keep a track of bands over there from over here but they have kept plugging away and playing whenever they could do or were allowed to. Founded in Snow camp their music is Irish-folk-music-meets-the-American-South sound of the North Carolina backcountry where  they were born and raised. The State has over a quarter of a million people of Scotch-Irish ancestry (second only to Texas) and coupled with those of just Irish ancestry the number is almost a million residents. The States traditional Folk music can be traced right back to those who started arriving in North Carolina long before the ‘famine’ and to those who came in it’s aftermath. And The Tan And Sober gentlemen play it with as much energy as humanly possible!

Regressive meaning “returning to a former or less developed state; characterised by regression” kinda sums up the sound of The Tan And Sober Gentlemen and they even downplay what they do

“You know our deal-we ain’t lighting the world on fire with songwriting or anything, we’re just a bunch of rednecks that like playing fiddle music real dadgum fast.”
but the truth is that music is a major way for people to find their identity and to keep culture alive and their are times when I think the Yanks are doing a better job at doing it then modern Ireland is.
The fella’s raised the necessary to record and release Regressive Folk Music with a very successful Kickstarter campaign where they sailed past their target. The album kicks off with ‘Kelly Sullivan’ and bursts through the speakers at you. Fast and furious from the very start and utterly brilliant too! The fiddle work is amazing and being a bit of a auld rocker I really enjoyed the sound of the thump-thump of the double bass too. The Celticness of the tune is unmistakable while next they play the first of a handful of covers. They turn to their local roots for ‘Corn Likker’, also known as ‘Old Corn Liquor’, a song that’s roots are obscure but found favour in the early days of recording in the repertoire of African-American musicians. On ‘Happiness Ain’t Happening’ they get the first chance to properly combine both traditions and chuck in some great humour and the song infectious tune would see the stiffest Joe clapping along and stamping his feet. After three songs it’s time for a breather and ‘All The Time’ sees Courtney take on vocals with a tender and tuneful song. It’s fair to say that the best Celtic-Punk bands out there, no matter how Punky they are can also knock out some great slow songs and ballads and I’m always a bit disappointed to hear an album without one. I thought on first listen this was the album high point and while I have changed my mind a little I think it is still up there. Another cover is up next and the Irish war song ‘The Foggy Dew’ has become very popular these days on the Celtic-Punk scene and several band shave already recorded it this year already. Set during the 1916 Easter Rising when a small group of Irish rebels rose against the might of the British Empire. The rebellion was crushed and it’s leaders executed but the event lit a fire in the hearts of the Irish people that would see them rise again only a few years later.

Unusually the song is delivered with female vocals and the rather un-straight forward version is uplifted by Courtney’s beautiful and emotional vocals. As impossible as it would seem to breathe new life into a song you’ve heard a 1000 times it’s managed here. An outstanding version. ‘Banks Of The Roses’ is dates from 18th century Ireland and is an perfect opportunity for Eli Howells to really let fly on the fiddle. Eli was born and raised in the hills of Burke County, North Carolina, and learned from master fiddlers such as Jane Macmorren at an early age. Honing his skill at fiddlers’ conventions, barrooms, and back porches across the state. His distinctive Scotch-Irish fiddle stylings provide the core of the Tan and Sober sound. ‘Mickey’s Grave’ and ‘Heart Is Haunted’ highlight their two wings with the former a rowdy shouty Irish Larkin-esque riot while the latter is a jolly uplifting County-ish / Bluegrass romp. Along with the slow songs another thing I look for is a bit of trad Folk. ‘Miss Shephard’s / The High Drive’ is a chance for the whole band to flex their collective muscles and prove to detractors that Celtic-Punk does have some real musicians in it and is even helping keep trad music alive and relevant. ‘Barbed Wire’ takes the Country route again and some quite stunning banjo leading into Courtney’s delivery of the Rockabilly swing of ‘You’ll Never Know’. We nearing the end and next up is the popular ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’. Again it’s roots go back much further than the first time it was recorded but it has became part of Irish musical history. There’s no way of course it wouldn’t find favour in the Celtic-Punk scene as well with a chorus that has always cried out to be turned up to 11 and belted out at the top of your voice.

Played as expected with wild abandon and absolutely guaranteed to make you lose your voice with all the band getting a chance to solo their instruments, it really does rock your socks off!  Only a couple more left and ’30 Years Of Farming’ is up now. Written by Fred Eaglesmith, who as a teenager, hopped a freight train to western Canada and began his career as a musician. Specialising in ‘twist’ songs, where there’s a twist in the tale in the final verse ranging from “tear at your heartstrings” to tongue in cheek. This song is the former. A real tear jerker.  The curtain comes down on Regressive Folk Music with ‘Samhain’s March’ and a beautiful lament played led mainly by Eli on fiddle and Tucker’s banjo picking. The best album ‘outro’ I’ve heard in such a long time and with a album packed with so much energy a very clever way to end things.

Another triumph for The Tan And Sober Gentlemen and their legendarily rowdy live shows will be winging it back across the broad Atlantic, from whence their forefathers left, in the Summer with the band looking forward to playing some Irish festivals and club shows. We will include dates and infos in our month Odds ‘n’ Sods Celtic-Punk news round up so be sure to subscribe (you need to do this on a laptop).  A riotous encapsulation of the band’s Irish roots and it’s members ancestry. Hard- driving, danceable roots music delivered with Punk edge and wild abandon. They are quite simply the best drinking and dancing band in Celtic-Punk.

Buy Regressive Folk Music  Bandcamp   EverywhereElse

Contact The Tan And Sober Gentlemen  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

ALBUM REVIEW: PADDY AND THE RATS – ‘From Wasteland to Wonderland’ (2022)

Hot on the heels of gaining a double over hapless England, Hungary has even more to shout about like the 6th full length studio album from Paddy And The Rats. A pirate party fuelled by heavy doses of Punk, Polka and Irish Folk and a worthy tribute to accordion player Bernie who passed away not long before the release of this album.  

It’s hard to begin this review without mentioning the sad loss the band suffered at the beginning of this year when their friend and fellow band mate Bernie Bellamy (Bernát Babicsek) sadly passed away.

“Speaking about the new song, the band says, “this album became very important to us because this is the last thing that Bernie recorded in his life. We’d like to dedicate the first single of the album to Bernie and to express all our emotions through the song we release first. That’s why we’ve chosen After The Rain. It’s a sad song but it also has a fully positive vibe. Sadness and desperation are there through the whole song, but meanwhile, you can feel something powerful when the pipe and the accordion come in at the drop. It conveys the feeling that you have to be strong and you have to move on. The last line in the chorus says: ‘After the rain, sunshine will never be the same’. I think this is the essence of the song. The absence of Bernie will be more endurable with time, but nothing will ever be the same without him.”

An awful thing to happen and we send our love to Bernie’s family and friends.

Bernie’s sad death dominates the album in more ways than one. Beside the tracks written especially for him the themes visited here can also be attributed like the sudden death of a friend,the loss of faith, misery but their are also uplifting songs with more irreverent themes like the obligatory drinking and pirate ones. Their recent albums have seen them a slight shift away from the Celtic-Punk that made them one of the biggest live acts in their home country but on From Wasteland To Wonderland they return fully to form but still manage to squeeze in several unexpected influences and flourishes.

Only a few weeks after bemoaning how long it had been since the Hungarian Celtic-Punk scene reared it’s head both The Scarlet and now Paddy And The Rats land on the pages of London Celtic Punks. Now one of the things that made the scene their so great was the diverse nature of the bands with none of them sounding even remotely alike and all and any variation of Celtic-Punk covered. Formed in Miskolc in the industrial northeast of Hungary in 2008 they have become popular outside Hungary and have toured all over Europe.

For the new album, the band teamed up once again with long time producer Zoli Baker who has done an outstanding job. From Wasteland To Wonderland is exactly that with the opening track titled ‘Wasteland’ right up to the final track ‘Wonderland’. Thirteen  songs and forty-five minutes later! The opener was one of the first tracks written for the albium and is classic Rats with Celtic-Punk flavoured with a little Eastern promise alongside hard riffs, playful fiddle solo and catchy melodies. The next couple of songs see them flip into pirate mode with ‘Ship Will Sail’

To the end of the world I’ll ride
For you, no place to hide
Till’ I hunt you down
Our ship will sail”

and then ‘Party Like A Pirate’. Two swashbuckling knees up that would have Captain Sparrow jigging like a right one. Seeing how recently vindicated Johnny Depp is a big Celtic-Punk fan this may be no surprise!
“Dressed up for the party
A one-eyed gent of elegance
My wooden leg is stuck in the lower deck
My freshly polished eye rolled down my neck”

Released as a single with an exciting accompanying video. The band said of the video –

“We shot the video in Tenerife in famous places like the Volcano Teide and the classic pirate village in Maska. The story starts on a pirate ship where a bunch of pirates have a party and bully a witch who curses the pirates to wake up in the present. They try to understand the modern world which leads to very funny situations. The song is a typical Paddy And The Rats party song – causing the urge to dance in everyone who listens to the catchy melody.”

The first single from the album was ‘After The Rain’. It’s a song we featured on release as it was a moving tribute to their friend and comrade Bernie. ‘Northern Lights’ takes in some thrashy Metal along the way adding some Scandinavian touches too by way of the lyrics, like Northern Lights or the girl with the shiny green hair.. Never afraid to try something different ‘Matadora’ sees some Mariachi-style trumpets while the haunting ‘Standing In The Storm’ slows things down. While we expect the unexpected from Paddy And The Rats ‘Everybody Get Up’ was still a bit of a shock with it’s fiddle intro and then straight into some Hip Hop ala Beastie Boys or Run DMC but still with the irreverent lyrics we do expect!

We wanted to visualise it, so we are wearing absolute different style clothing in the clip, summoning the New York hip hop and hardcore bands outfit of the 80’s. We made a very cool and funny mood video that can’t be taken serious, at all. So many bad things happened to us recently that we needed some happiness, at last. So we took our teenage ourselves out again and were just fooling around.”

‘Hometown Kid’ sees the lads channelling Green Day while lamenting the auld days as better. Which they were obviously. ‘Heartbreaker’ is pretty straight forward Hard Rock but with fiddle while ‘Rumble Outta Here’ plays like old old Paddy And The Rats. The lyrics tell of a long relationship, where you’ve been humiliated and leave and realise what you really need is your friends and a good drink in your favourite pub. They save the best for last and I bloody loved ‘The Last Hunt’. A great fast tune with the whole band giving it plenty in the chorus. The album ends, of course, with ‘Wonderland’ and appropriately enough a ballad. 2022 has not been a great year for them but hopefully they can put the first half of the year to bed now.

Comparisons to Alestorm are inevitable I suppose (the artwork designed by Jill Colbert, who also works with Alestorm, doesn’t help!) but these guys were at this a long time before Alestorm. They show enough here to prove they could blow Alestorm away in front of their own audience but still keep both feet in the Celtic-Punk camp. All of a sudden it feels like the Hungarian scene is back with a bang and the worldwide Celtic-Punk scene is all the better for it.
(Listen to selected tracks and download the album via the Bandcamp player)

Buy From Wasteland to Wonderland  CD / Vinyl   EverywhereElse

Contact Paddy And The Rats  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram  Spotify

Discography  Rats on Board (2009) * Hymns for Bastards (2011) * Tales from the Docks (2012) * Lonely Hearts’ Boulevard (2015) * Riot City Outlaws (2017) * From Wasteland to Wonderland (2022)

ALBUM REVIEW: HEATHEN APOSTLES – ‘Bloodgrass Vol. 3 & 4’ (2022)

The Los Angeles-based dark roots and gothic country band Heathen Apostles continue their (very dark) interpretation of Bluegrass, Country and Blues. They have just compiled Volumes 3 and 4 of their collection of songs together under the title Bloodgrass. 

Occasionally I’ll start a review along the lines of “not technically not a Celtic-Punk band” which usually means that that the band that I go on to review are not a Celtic-Punk band but are utterly brilliant and have a fiddle /accordion / banjo in them. Well welcome to the Heathen Apostles. A dark (very dark) Country-ish band with their very own genre’s – ‘Doombilly’ and ‘Bloodgrass’. Heathen Apostles do to Country / Bluegrass music what the bands we all love here do to Celtic music but they also add on a dash of Goth as well. They may be based in LA but they sound like they’re from the Appalachian’s harkening back to a bygone chapter of American history while firmly keeping one foot planted in the present-day. The band features ex-members of Radio Noir (Mather Louth), The Cramps (Chopper Franklin), Kings of Nuthin’ (Thomas Lorioux), and Christian Death (Stevyn Grey) in their ranks. In fact it’s amazing the sound that only four folks can wring out. They have already started their biggest (yet!) European tour (mainly Germany) so be sure to check out the tour dates squeezed in here somewhere and move heaven and earth to get to one of their shows and then let me know how it was!

We have already reviewed Bloodgrass Volume 3 last September but here it comes with an extra five songs labelled as Volume 4 and in an attempt to tie in with the Euro tour we are more than happy to re-visit the whole album. The album begins with ‘Bad Patch’ and fiddle, banjo and mandolin accompany Mather’s beautiful voice as she sings of the tragedy of the 1930s Dust Bowl. Severe dust storms wreaked havoc on the mid-west prairies during the 1930’s causing untold misery to those poor unfortunates. Trying to survive through those times “by the skin of their teeth”. Great lyrics and one hell of a catchy tune with the bands dark side kept at arms length.. at least musically anyway.

The next song is much more Apostles at heart. ‘Careful What You Pray For’ tells of the danger of religious dogma and while not dissimilar to the opening track it has that much darker feel to it. Mather’s amazing voice is put to great use here. What we must beware is that people don’t replace the dogmatism and fanaticism of some religions with divisive ideologies. These days notions such as original sin, atonement, ritual and excommunication are as likely to come from secular groups as they are from religious institutions. ‘Black Hawk’ was the lead single for the EP and I’ll not pretend to have any idea what the lyrics are about except the band say it tells “of transformation by shedding the darkness in order to welcome in the light” so there.

One band we always sneak a mention in when we review the Heathen Apostles is the fantastic The Phantom Of the Black Hills. Along with sharing many similarities music wise, they also share a record label (Ratchet Blade Records), a producer, the Apostles, Chopper Franklin and a love for telling entire stories in their intricate videos. So if you like what you hear go back settle down and check on their older videos. ‘Demi Monde’ is a slow song shrouded in occult imagery paying homage to the fires of Beltane while ‘Tall Rider’ brings down the curtain down on what was Volume 3. Catchy as hell and a reminder of the possibility of healing through love. With their roots in the ‘Folk tradition’ the music mangles up several genres while all the time adding much to the final sound.

What follows are the five songs that make up Volume 4 that begins with the catchy ‘Roots Run Deep’ and not unexpectedly continues in the same vein. The best of this side of the album is ‘Into The Wild’ where moments of Mather’s primal snarl and swagger run parallel along some of her most beautiful singing on the whole album. A beast of a song that sees them at their thigh slapping foot stomping best. ‘No Peace’ was written in response to recent cases of police brutality. Despite the subject matter the song bounces along rather nicely. ‘Solitary’ speaks of following one’s own path in life, no matter how lonely the road it may seem at times. Meaningful words given even more meaning through Mather. The album closes with the amazing ‘Shadow Of The Crows’ with it’s hybrid of several genres, mixing Middle Eastern and borderline psychedelic sounds with the band’s distinctly gloomy bloodgrass. The CD which comes out at any time contains an extra song I’ve not heard yet. A cover of the late Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan’s song ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’.

(Full live set from a gig at La Brasserie De Framont in France 8/9/2021 from last years European tour. If anyone knows of any promoters or venues able to help get them over to the UK please get in touch. PLEASE!)

The music here is exemplary throughout. Catchy as hell and heading there very happily! The various elements are once again handled expertly through the excellent production of master producer Chopper Franklin. With their roots in the ‘Folk tradition’ they mangle up several genres while adding much to the final sound and as you can imagine a band with their own genre it is virtually impossible to compare them to anyone else! The excellent artwork was done by their good friend Stephanie Inagaki, who also did the cover art for the previous Bloodgrass Vol. 1 & 2 album and EPs.

(You can stream / download Bloodgrass via the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Bloodgrass Vol. 3 and 4  Bandcamp  OtherSites

Contact Heathen Apostles  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

THE POGUES LIVE IN LYON 1986 THIRTY-SIX YEARS AGO TODAY!

FREE DOWNLOAD

I’m not a massive fan of live recordings but really enjoyed this one of a Pogues concert recorded for Radio-Bellevue in Lyon, France. I then realised the 36th anniversary was only days away so the perfect time to share this free download with you.

I tried to dig up some information for you and there wasn’t a lot out there but I did find some. The concert was recorded for a radio station, Radio-Bellevue, and took place at the ENTPE (Ecole Nationale des Travaux Publics de l’État). This is not what is called an actual ‘traditional’ music venue but was in fact a school gymnasium. Neither a good place to play or watch a band I imagine. Still 1200 Pogues fans sold out the venue and enjoyed a fantastic show from the boys and gal. The original recorder of the concert went on to add some technical information
“For mixing the show, I’ve used soundboard outputs mixed on-the-fly (headphones) on Sony TCD5M with a couple of additional ambiance mikes (Sennheiser) standing in front of the PA. Some traditional mixing errors for the beginning….as usual.”
By the time of the concert the wheels on The Pogues juggernaut were beginning to wobble. Cait would soon leave the band, Stiff Records would go bust and Shane’s er… personal issues were beginning to take over but by the following year they would release If I Should Fall From Grace With God their most rounded and critically popular album and all would be ok for a while yet. None of the songs here though come from that and this is The Pogues in all their youthful vigour. The sound isn’t perfect by any means but neither is it at all bad but then Celtic-Punk has never been about perfect sound quality. Embrace the music and go back in time…
1. Intro
2. The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn
3. Streams Of Whiskey
4. Billy’s Bones
5. Repeal Of The Licensing Laws
6. Transmetropolitan
7. The Old Main Drag 
8. Dirty Old Town
9. Wild Cats Of Kilkenny
10. Sally MacLennane
11. I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday
12. Greenland Whale Fisheries
13. Dingle Regatta
14. The Body Of An American
15. Poor Paddy
16. Waxie’s Dargle
 
Encore 1:
17. Haunted Cait vocals
18. Waltzing Matilda
 
Encore 2:
19. Jesse James
20. The Parting Glass
Shane MacGowan – Vocals * Spider Stacy – Tin-Whistle * Phil Chevron – Guitars / Vocals * Terry Woods – Guitars / Vocals * Jeremy ‘Jem’ Finer – Guitars / Vocals * James Fearnley – Accordion / Vocals) * Cait O’Riordan –  Bass / Vocals * Andrew Ranken – Drums
You can stream the concert here on You Tube

or download for free here

ALBUM REVIEW: THE LUCKY TROLLS – ‘Raised Fist And Rebel Songs’ (2022)

I love a band that says what they are. None of that Folk-Punk or Folk-Rock messing about for Belgium’s The Lucky Trolls. It says right across their t-shirts  and hearts “Irish Punk From Liège”.

It finally seems that things are returning back to normal thank Heavens! I spoke just the other day how great it was to know that bands like The Scarlet had survived the pandemic and were releasing their first material since before the nightmare began. The very same can be said of The Lucky Trolls who shot to fame back in March, 2019 with the debut release of a self titled 4 track EP capturing the #1 spot as that years London Celtic Punks Best Celtic-Punk EP. Twelve fantastic minutes where their energy and passion comes across in every single song of fast Celtic-Punk with often dual vocals from Nicolas and fiddle player Anne-Sophie.

The Lucky Trolls left to right: Fabrice Van Bever – Bass / Vocals * Anne Sophie Sauvage – Violin / Vocals * Gilles Bruneau – Drums * Romain André – Guitar / Vocals * Nicolas Fréson – Guitar / Vocals *

The band hail from Liège in Walloonia which is the French speaking part of Belgium. Once a centre for working class industry, especially steel making, it has in recent years become important for education with tens of thousands attending universities in the city. Also world famous for it’s football team Standard Liège who in common with many teams from similar industrial areas had gone into decline but are happily showing signs of a return to their former glories. The five members of The Lucky Trolls have all played previously in well respected Belgian alternative and Punk-Rock bands – Radio 911, Chump, We Are Minutes and Young Enough. Pre Covid they had racked up 50+ shows within two years and had opened shows for everyone from fellow renowned Celtic-Punkers The Real McKenzies to Folk-Rock artists like Jethro Tull.

The album begins with the great ‘City Of Iron’. A track we previewed on it’s release so impressed were we. The song tells of corruption in the town of Seraing where several members of the band live. It is located in the province of Liège where the accompanying video was also shot. Seraing is called ‘the city of iron and coal’ and their are many such places around the world where local politicians have feathered their nests at the expense of the people. The Lucky Trolls challenge Seraing’s administration “Gimme some reasons to stay in this town”. They follow this with ‘To All Broken Souls’ and it has a sound similar to Black Water County, who had ‘punked’ it up when I saw them live recently. Drummer Gilles says of the album

“It’s not heavy metal, nor punk rock that tears. It’s scales of Irish chords, melodies that you could hear in an Irish pub, on which we add more traditional instruments and not only big punk guitars.”

The underlying Celtic melodies are there and even though the music can be hard and certainly fast at times I can’t help but agree with Gilles that is does have an accessibility to it that would, I’m sure, please anyone with decent musical taste and get them up on the feet. ‘Second Wind’ is one such song that slows down again and again for some Celtic interludes before bursting into life again. I love the chugging guitars throughout and the use of fiddle as on ‘Better Way’ is superb.

On ‘Faded Sheets’ they are joined by Titou MacFire of the great French band CelKilt, who they are playing with soon in their home town, on vocals for a song that finds itself struggling to contain itself. The rapid drumming adds to its fast and furious feel even getting faster towards the ending! Most of the songs here are originals with the first cover being of the auld Irish rebel song ‘The Foggy Dew’. The song begins in traditional ballad style before springing into action a third of the way in. A really great version sung beautifully by Anne-Sophie. I hear this song a lot as it has become very much a Celtic-Punk standard but this is a version I really, really loved. Parts of the album are influenced by ‘Pop-Punk’ as you can hear sometimes the influence of Yank bands like NOFX as on ‘Streets’ but it is by no means over powering. This leads us to the second and final cover and another popular song in the scene. A shame they couldn’t have found some less well known covers but I’m guessing these have been included as they are popular played live so we can forgive them. Theirs enough cheesy and cringey versions of ‘Galway Girl’ out there but not here. Chugging guitars and loud fiddle steer it well clear of anything embarrassing. Almost at the end and can’t tell you much of the meaning of ‘The Flooded Roads Of Kent County’ but a cracking song never the less before the curtain comes down on the album with the trad Celtic-Punk sounding ‘Again’. A grand way to end things.

(The Lucky Trolls 2021 Saint Patrick’s live stream at the Cultural Centre of Beauraing in Belgium. The four songs includes three songs from Raised Fist And Rebel Songs – ‘Flooded Roads Of Kent County’, ‘Faded Sheets’ and ‘Streets’)

The album came out just a couple of weeks ago and already the band have had several shows to promote it’s release. It was recorded at Big Dog Recordings in Antwerp and produced by Tim Van Doorn. The Lucky Trolls style of Celtic-Punk is definitely in the Punk camp but their catchiness and fantastic tunes ensures that even though I find myself less and less enamoured by Punk music over time The Lucky Trolls debut album only add to my love of them.

(You can stream and / or download Raised Fist And Rebel Songs via the Bandcamp player below)

Download Raised Fist And Rebel Songs  Bandcamp  OtherSites

Contact The Lucky Trolls  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram  Spotify

ALBUM REVIEW: THE SCARLET – ‘Freedom Call’ (2022)

⚓ Brand new album from The Scarlet. Folk-Punk crazies from Hungary 🇭🇺

Their was a time, and it wasn’t all that long ago that the Celtic-Punk scene in Hungary was without doubt the best in the whole of Europe. We even once ran a feature on the scene there called The Who’s Who: Top Ten and celebrated Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week back in 2018. Since those days we have of course had the pandemic so it’s always great, and an enormous relief, to hear that our Celtic-Punk bands have survived and have continue to release some great music.

you can feel that we are fed up with the confinement and anxiety all over the record

The Scarlet were formed in the Hungarian capital Budapest in 2012 and Freedom Call is their follow up to their 2017 debut album Hardcore Shanties which itself followed a Demo EP and the excellent Midnight Avenue, six songs of self penned Dropkick Murphys influenced Celtic-Punk blessed with plenty of pirate ‘Yo-Ho-Ho’s’ and Metal guitar riffs.

The Scarlet left to right: Aurel – Bass * Juli – Flute * Daniel – Vocals * Dominika – Violin * Gabor – Drums * Hubi – Guitar *

The work for the album actually began before the pandemic with two songs released back in those carefree days that would lead to Freedom Call. The album kicks off with ‘Now Once And For All’ and the welcome return of thrashy Metal guitar coupled with some stunning fiddle work from Dominika is a reminder of The Scarlet’s sound. Dániel’s vocals are clear and focused and the slight accent is reminiscent of many of the other Hungarian bands who also mostly sing in English,. The schools over there must be excellent. A great opener with all the required boxes – catchy danceable fun.

‘Rebel Inside You’ takes the Celtic-Punk of the opener and adds a slight Ska / Reggae tinge while also injecting the sound of Pirate-Punk as well. Fast and catchy again and it’s good to see that with some new members on board they seem to have slotted in well. Like fellow countrymen Firkin, The Scarlet use the flute to great effect. I wasn’t too overly keen on this instrument until we were lucky enough to put on Firkin one special New Years Eve in London a few years back and their manic flautist PJ stole the show completely. Since then I have grown to love it and coupled here with the fiddle it ensures that the ‘Celtic-ness’ is never left out. Longest track ‘Storm Earth And Fire’ tells of pirate life and begins with acoustic guitar and is perhaps the perfect combination of Celtic and Metal while still remaining kind of pretty traditional Celtic-Punk. These are not your usual band and their songs take several paths but always in a interesting way. Of several standouts here ‘Urban Buccaneer’ is my favourite. Take it for granted that all these songs are catchy as hell and guaranteed to get your feet moving. ‘Back To The Pub’ sees the compulsory beer song ticked off with the Punkest song here! ‘On My Way’ was the first single from the album and was a great way to announce their return. Another high point for Freedom Call.

The songs here have an amazing quality about that in that I feel they could be completely accessible to anyone. The underlying Folk tunes and sometimes harder Rock riffs fit together very well and could easily please anyone fortunate to come across the band. ‘Serve The Dark’ chugs along at a lovely pace while ‘Little Sister (Of Your Pal)’ sees The Scarlet ‘Irish’ it up with a song with a nice sense of humour. Not a band you hear a lot of covers from they see out Freedom Call with ‘Country Medley’ with The Scarlet treatment given to several famous Country-ish songs (‘Country Roads’, ‘5000 Miles’, ‘Cotton Eye Joe’) and while it could have easily slipped into cheesyness it manages to just stay on the right side though perhaps that is exactly what they were going for.

The album was again mixed and recorded by Zoltán Cs.Szabó, of the Hungarian garage rock band The Trousers, at the Artist Factory studio in Budapest who has done a brilliant job. He has also worked on their previous releases and has always got the maximum out of The Scarlet. Their are only nine songs here but it does last just over half an hour and the songs never outlast their welcome. Another great album from The Scarlet who deserve to be heard a lot more from outside their own borders. Me and the good lady are looking forward to visiting Hungary sometime in the near future and I intend to be arranging it to coincide with The Scarlet playing so expect a glowing gig review when I get back!

(You can stream the whole of Freedom Call below on You Tube)

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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: RAY & COLLUNEY – ‘Tyrants Of England’ (1971)

The latest in our series of reviews of albums from the past that deserve to be aired again! An extremely rare English Folk album from Ray & Colluney a duo using sparse guitar, mandolin and banjo but with flagolet on a few tracks helping to add atmosphere.

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Every time I hear a outstanding Folk album I think that would be just perfect for the Classic Album Series. First thing to do is to sort out a safe download link and then after that look up the album and the people who recorded it and write up a wee history of the album. Today we have chosen an album that is an amazing 50 (fifty!) years old this year and yet I could hardly find a thing about it. I was drawn to the Ray & Colluney album Tyrants Of England because it was likened somewhere else to another album, the Irish duo Callinan-Flynn’s Freedom’s Lament, was featured in the very last Classic Album Review in October. With similar instrumentation and vocal styles and even recorded around the same time the similarity is definitely there. The early 70’s were halcyon saw in the Folk clubs of the British (and Irish) isles with them bristling with duos and artists singing tales and songs of the auld days. I did read that at the time Ray & Colluney were considered pretty standard Folk club fare but in this day and age when this style of music is much less common we can look back and see it for how good it actually was.

“You tyrants of England! Your race may soon be run.
You may be brought unto account for what you’ve sorely done.”

So what scant details did I find out about this album then? It was recorded in 1971, with only 200 vinyl copies issued and it was the first album released on the highly collectable Westwood Records which has since become a bit of a cult label with releases now reaching £50+. It was engineered By Alan Green and manufactured by Folk Heritage Recordings in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire.

“‘Tis advertised in Boston, New York and Buffalo,
Five hundred brave Americans, a-whaling for to go, singing
Blow, ye winds in the morning, And blow, ye winds, high-i!
Clear away your running gear, And blow, ye winds, high-o!”

Several of the songs featured here are pretty much Folk standards of the time and you may recognise a handful made popular by The Dubliners but under different song titles. The title song ‘Tyrants Of England’ is also known as ‘The Hand-Loom Weaver’s Lament’ and dates from the beginning of the industrialisation of the textile trade in Lancashire. It tells of the black period when supply outstripped the market due to increasing mechanisation. This caused a scarcity of jobs for the weavers and a decline in wages for those still fortunate enough to be employed. Ian Robb and Hang the Piper recorded the song in 1979 and Ian wrote of the song on the sleeve notes.

“The ‘gentlemen and tradesmen’ of the song followed the official propaganda line in blaming the Napoleonic wars and Bonaparte himself for much of the starvation and hardship which resulted. Apparently, however, the working men and women of the factories and mills were not so easily taken in, and many of them, seeing little decline in the comforts of the ruling and merchant classes, held a sneaking respect and admiration for ‘Boney’, whom they regarded as a champion of the poor.”

This is exactly the reason why we run this series to remember albums that are slowly passing out of memory. If anyone knows more about this album or what became of Ray and Trevor we’d love to hear.

1 Tyrants Of England – 3:21

2 Bogies Bonnie Belle – 2:22

3 Jack Hall – 2:44

4 Rambling Soldier – 1:58

5 Blow Ye Winds – 3:24

6 Calico Printers Clerk – 3:30

7 Cock Fight – 2:16

8 To The Begging – 2:28

9 A Sailor’s Life – 3:51

10 Farewell Nancy – 3:50

11 Rakish Young Sailor – 3:17

Ray Haslam – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Trevor Colluney – Vocals, Banjo, Mandolin

with Malcolm McDonald – Bass and John Hampson – Flageolet

flageolet, wind instrument closely related to the recorder. Like the recorder, it is a fipple, or whistle, flute—i.e., one sounded by a stream of breath directed through a duct to strike the sharp edge of a hole cut in the side of the pipe. The name flageolet—which comes from the Old French flageol, meaning ‘pipe’ or ‘tabor pipe’—was applied to such flutes at least from the 13th century, but from the late 16th century it has referred most specifically to a form of the instrument developed at that time in Paris.

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“In Manchester, fine city of cotton twist and twills,
There lived the subject of my song, the cause of all my ills.
She was handsome, young and twenty, her eyes were azure blue
Admirers she had plenty: and her name was Dorothy Drew.”

ALBUM REVIEW: THE ROYAL SPUDS – ‘Roots Of Life’ (2022)

The second album from Dutch bhoys The Royal Spuds is a bit of Punk, a pinch of good old Rock music and whole lot of Folk and they’re pretty damn good at it!

The Royal Spuds hail from Leiden in the south Netherlands and maybe that’s the equivalent of Lincolnshire here which explain why such the odd name? Anyone who grew up in a Irish household will find it hard to dispute that the potato is king! Odd name or not The Royal Spuds have slowly been becoming one of the best bands on the continent with a steady stream of releases over the last few years including over the Covid lock downs. We came close to seeing them live on stage over here at the famous Dublin Castle in Camden but again Covid put paid to that (though we haven’t given up all hope of it being re-arranged someday) and their tour with fellow Dutch band Pyrolysis was unfortunately cancelled.

The Royal Spuds left to right: Maarten – Lead Vocals / Banjo / Mandolin * Dave – Bass * Milan – Lead Guitar / Backing Vocals * Michael – Accordion / Flute / Backing Vocals * Mark – Drums * Robin – Rhythm guitar / Backing Vocals *

It’s been four years since their full length studio album Unforgotten Lore was reviewed on these pages but a few singles, sessions and the odd track or video here and there have kept them in our thoughts so was great news to receive Roots Of Life and see what The Royal Spuds have got up to this time. The album begins with ‘Festival Grooves’ and a tight Ska is the backdrop to this lively opener. A cracking start and a mention for Maarten’s great vocals. A perfect fit for The Royal Spuds his English is perfect and he even comes across North American at times to me. A whole host of instruments all compete without drowning each other out and one guaranteed to get the party rocking. Not uncommon to hear Celtic-Punk bands embracing the Ska sound and certainly Celtic instruments seem to manage it with ease. Next up is a smash hit sea-shanty ‘Haul Away Joe’, a song that has become so popular these days that it has become synonymous with the very term sea-shanty. First commercially recorded by Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter in the 1940’s, it originates from the 18th century and has been performed by every Folk singer ever including many Celtic-Punk bands. Saying that though The Royal Spuds version is fantastic and played mid tempo but with some aggressive guitar and nice gang vocals. ‘Take Me Back’ kicks off with great banjo and accordion in a urgent song that takes Celtic-Punk and gives it a good twist. The musicianship is excellent throughout the album as well as the production which gives it a clean crisp sound without any hint of over doing things.

‘Where’s Your Future’ sees the Ska return and as I’ve said before on these pages I’m not the biggest Ska fan but the bhoys add in plenty of thrashing guitars and clashing drums to please me. Next up is for me the album’s standout track ‘Steelworkers Lament’ and it’s fair to say I’m a sucka for any song with a good working class theme. What a tune! Catchy as fecking hell with some high speed banjo and a great beat with the band on absolutely top form here with even the chorus amazing. Musically it takes in The Dreadnoughts and English band Mick O’Toole and the lyrics are clever and positive to boot.

“Giving up will be the last thing I do”

Only a couple of covers on this album and even though they have been extensively covered by other bands The Royal Spuds versions both stand pretty high. With ‘Back Home In Derry’ the album takes in a breather for a moment with a song written by Irish POW Bobby Sands who died on hunger-strike in 1981 and who was elected MP (member of the British parliament) just weeks before he died it’s a beautiful song with a lot of symbolism and here it is handled perfectly while the band add in some wonderful strings and wind instruments creating a calm moment on the album.

 

‘Aliens’ was originally released last year as a single during Covid and while it isn’t illegal yet to have a laugh but you never know in these strange times! Pure energetic accordion driven Punk-Rock from start to finish with a sense of humour. ‘Vultures’ sees the album out and begins with the not uncommon (on Celtic-Punk releases anyway) sound of the ocean which soon gives way to some slow flute and then some Metal-ish flourishes in a song where we hear the full range of The Royal Spuds talents with even the flute taking in some ‘ancient’ Folk influences.

Yet another great release from The Royal Spuds. A diverse and lively record that really shows their craftsmanship. The album’s artwork is absolutely stunning too and it would be a real shame if it didn’t one day adorn a vinyl release of Roots Of Life.

(You can download / stream Roots Of Life via the Bandcamp player below)

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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: AFTER HOURS VOLUME TWO – BLACK 47 TRIBUTE COMPILATION (2022)

Thirty years on from the release of Black 47’s eponymous first album and a year after Volume One comes the second part of a trilogy of tribute albums celebrating this popular and most controversial of Celtic-Punk bands of whom Time magazine wrote in 1993

“the proletariat passion of Black 47’s songs that make the group stand out”.

Celebrating the songs of Larry Kirwan and Black 47 with Finbar Furey, Barleyjuice, Jonee Earthquake Band, Finny McConnell, Bangers And Mash, The PoguestrA and The Muckers and once again produced by Peter Walsh of The Gobshites and Larry Kirwan himself.

While not strictly a Celtic-Punk band their influence on Celtic-Punk, especially in the States, is immeasurable. A New York band made up of Irish expatriates playing a mixture of several genres but with traditional Celtic and Irish Folk music at its very core and led by the distinctive and talented songwriting of Larry Kirwan.

Taking their name from the year 1847 which was the worst period of An Gorta Mór / The Great Hunger when blight wiped out the potato crop the staple of the Irish working class diet. This blight caused famine in the land while all the time the British army escorted Irelkand’s numerous other crops, under armed guard, to the docks and away from Ireland. A conservative estimate puts the number killed between 1845 and 1850 as way more than the official figures of one million people and another two million forced into exile with most of them washing up to North America.

THE JONEE EARTHQUAKE BAND – ‘Who Killed Bobby Fuller?’

Punk-Rock pirates hailing from the  Boston, Massachusetts playing a crazy mix of Surf, Country-Punk and Rockabilly… and whatever else they feel like playing! ‘Who Killed Bobby Fuller?’ was originally released by Black 47 on their second album, Home of the Brave, in 1994. Bobby was an American singer-songwriter best known for ‘Let Her Dance’ and his cover of the Crickets’ ‘I Fought the Law’ who was found dead in his car in Los Angeles in 1966 at only 23. One of the great unsolved Rock’n’Roll mystery songs!

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FINBAR FUREY – ‘Mychal’

Finbar Furey needs no introduction except to reiterate what a true legend of Irish music he really is. His song is ‘Mychal’ perhaps the highest emotional peak Black 47 ever reached. Written as a tribute to Father Mychal Judge a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest, who served as chaplain of the New York City Fire Department. On September 11, 2001 Fr. Mychal entered the North Tower of the World Trade Centre alongside other firefighters and rescue personnel. As the South Tower collapsed, debris flew through the North Tower lobby killing many including Fr. Mychal.  Though many had perished before him, he was given the solemn honour of being designated Victim 0001 – the first recorded casualty of 9/11.

When Larry asked me if I would sing this song, I told him I  would be honoured. Mychal was a wonderful human being who did so much for the people of New York and never left their side in their darkest hour. A beautiful song for a beautiful man.

BARLEYJUICE – ‘Celtic Rocker’

Barleyjuice are a nationally-known Celtic Rock band from Philadelphia who play mainly original but also a few traditional Irish music. Their songs over seven albums have been heard in movies, TV and radio programmes for over twenty years.

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FINNY McCONNELL- ‘I Got Laid On James Joyce’s Grave’

Another legend of Irish music Finny has been making music with premier league Canadian Celtic-Punk knock-outs The Mahones since 1990 over a dozen studio albums plus several other full players. Finny finally branched out on his own last year recording his first solo album The Dark Streets Of Love.

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BANGERS AND MASH – ‘Izzy’s Irish Rose’

Formed in 2003 in Suffolk County, New York Bangers And Mash have a personal recommendation from Larry Kirwan- “If you’re looking for a band with strong songs who can rev up the party and get punters dancing, you should have Bangers and Mash on your menu. Guaranteed to go well with Guinness and good times!”

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THE POGUESTRA – ‘Green Suede Shoes’

The PoguestrA is a group of musically diverse musicians from across the world united by a love of The Pogues playing together remotely. Tending to usually only record Pogues related material here they branch out to take in another of Black 47’s more popular and well known songs. Always on the lookout for new members feel free to contact them and join the gang.

THE MUCKERS – ‘Five Points’

After Hours 2 comes to an end with another of the Celtic-Punk scene’s favourite bands The Muckers. A five-piece Celtic-Folk-Punk band from Atlanta. With a strong emphasis on Irish music, the band also blends influences of Gypsy music, sea shanties, Country, Rockabilly, and plenty more!

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Another top notch production from Valley Entertainment and we await Volume Three eagerly. Their are links included for a variety of places to order from but if possible get it from the label directly instead of funding vultures who make money out of other peoples hard work and risks.

Buy After Hours  Fanlink  ValleyEntertainent  Bandcamp

Released by Valley Entertainment. Independent record label based in New York City. The label includes an eclectic repertoire with focus on singer-songwriters, modern Irish musicians and World music.

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AFTER HOURS VOLUME ONE COMPILATION

Volume 1 of the trilogy featured 7 more songs from Larry Kirwan and Black 47 by Celtic Cross, Pat McGuire, Screaming Orphans, The Gobshites, Rory K, Gary Óg and Martin Furey. 

Further Recommended Reading:

Let Ireland Remember

Irish National Famine Memorial Day

but the most extensive resource on Facebook about this period is to be found at

Irish Holocaust –Not Famine: The Push To Educate In Facts

EP REVIEW: BOG IRON – ‘Star Of The County Down’ (2022)

California’s Bog Iron celebrate their 16th anniversary with their first studio release in years featuring a winning combination of classic Folk and hard rocking Trad!

We are ingratiated to you readers sometimes for your recommendations for that is how we came across today’s band Bog Iron. We do have writers far and wide but still need you to point us in the right direction sometimes and it really does show the wealth of bands in the USA that a gem like Bog Iron can lay undiscovered by us till they are in their 16th year!

The early days! from 2010 (left to right : Patrick Golden, Steve Lenard, John Michael, Peter Sheehan

This is in no small part due to them being a gigging band so recording hasn’t been a major priority till now it would seem with two releases in 2022 and it only being April! The first release wasn’t exactly new but a recently re-discovered recording of a gig from the Summer of 2019 at the Midsummer’s Fairytale Celtic Ren Faire in Plymouth, California and recently mixed and mastered by band guitarist Patrick R. Golden. It is a superb album that really gives you a shake. For a start their is no Celtic instruments but the music is unmistakably Irish and even at times when the music takes a harder Rock turn it could still considered totally accessible to even the most hardcore of finger-in-the-ear Folkie. Discovered in a Dropbox folder from the festival’s sound engineer in early March it took a marathon session of auditing, mixing, and mastering but 36 hours later the album was ready for Bandcamp Friday (when the vultures forego their usual massive cut!) and the album was out. It really is a mad mix of Irish Folk songs given the Hard Rock treatment with great vocals and the production is note perfect. The banter with the audience is also a treat showing a band in love with what they do. The highlight of the album is the final song ‘The NIght Pat Murphy Died’ a near nine minutes epic that drifts off into the stunning ‘Those Were People Who Died’ by f’ed up Irish-American writer Jim Carroll. Live Bog Iron ll is only available for download at the moment via Bandcamp but you can listen to it via the player below.

Formed in Monterey, California, Bog Iron have been together since early 2008 formed from the session players on Dún Laoghaire born lead singer John Michael’s solo album. John and Patrick are the remaining two founding members but are joined by Kerry native Peter Sheehan on bass and local Bhoy Keith Wieland on drums. So it was that in the search for inspiration for a new studio release that the tapes for Live Bog Iron ll were found so we can grateful they put in the work. Star Of The County Down remains, and always will, a firm favourite on the Irish music scene but also among Celtic-Punk bands too. A song like many Irish Folk classics that is perfect for adapting to something a bit harder. The EP begins with the title song and yeah it ‘s trad Irish but stripped right back and re-assembled as an aggressive gem of Hard Rock energy. Incredibly all instruments here are played by Patrick with only backing vocals on ‘Star’ provided by John Michael. He even produced it too at Blood Crow Studios. The remaining three songs are all instrumentals though all wildly different. I’m finding it hard to put into words (for the first time in nine years!) for this review as on the face of it ‘Maggie And The Priest’, ‘Kerns And The Gallowglasses’ and ‘The Jig Of Liam Fitzmurderhorse’ are all pretty similar. That hard Rock sound but that clear presence of the underlying Celtic tunes makes each a completely unique transporting Irish folk into the present—and beyond!

The band claim to “put on a fierce live show” and if our only evidence is their live album then we can completely agree. It’s a shame that even though both releases are very good they are also both quite different. I am such a fan of the live album that must admit to a bit of disappointment on first hearing the EP but several listens in and it has grown on me immensely and I’m only impressed with Patrick’s (virtually solo) work. Their may be no wild sing-along choruses as before but it is still a superb piece of work channelling rock giants of Sabbath, Quo and AC/DC but also the the Folk genius of Horslips and the sadly largely forgotten and little known English band You Slosh. With these releases the first since 2018’s Echos From The Cliffs Of Mohere, itself a re-master/re-release of their 2008 debut album, with eight previously unreleased tracks. It is hoped a reinvigorated Bog Iron is in the traps and raring to go and do some catching up on the recorded side of things!

(You can stream  / download Star Of The County Down below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: BRIGADE 77 – ‘Rebellion’ (2022)

The fight against the British Empire by the Irish has long been an inspiration for many and this time for a Celtic-Punk album from Sweden! What better time to feature this album than Easter week. The time when in 1916 a small band of patriots rose up against the full might of the most powerful Empire in history.

Any regular readers will know that the sound of Celtic-Punk is now an international one. The reasons are many but above all it’s the love of the Celts and especially the Irish internationally that has made it so. Ireland’s 700-year struggle for independence from colonial rule has been the inspiration across the world for peoples fighting for their freedom so it is that it’s not uncommon to hear the odd rebel song thrown into many Celtic-Punk bands set-list. Rebel songs in Ireland date back to the first time a Irishman picked up a stone. It’s beyond doubt that English control over Ireland has been a bloody and a despotic one leading to genocide at it’s worse and the starvation of up to two million people and well over another million leaving for other lands, taking their anger and grievances with them.

Brigade 77 is the brainchild of Micke Ström, journalist and musician in Eskilstuna, Sweden. Active in the Punk scene for over 30 years he has always had an interest in Irish music and culture and was the tin-whistle player in a band called The Barcrawlers. The Barcrawlers were one of the best Celtic-Punk bands of their generation around the 00’s and were one of the first Scandinavian Celtic-Punk bands. It was from their ashes that the present day Sir Reg have arose. Brigade 77 is a solo project and Rebellion is the debut release including songs from different eras of the Irish fight for independence.

The album begins with the brooding ‘Intro’. A slow mournful dirge taking in the ‘Star Of The County Down’ that is followed by ‘Viva La Quinta Brigada’, the amazing tribute to those Irish members of the International Brigade, called the Connolly Column, who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939. Written by Christy Moore it’s become a staple on the Irish pub scene and names many of the people who left to fight in solidarity with the Spanish people.  It’s sung pretty much how youd expect to hear it sung by a one-man band in any pub (well maybe not every pub!) in Belfsst or Derry or Glasgow. This is followed by  ‘Fighting Men From Crossmaglen’, a more modern song again in tribute to the area of South Armagh that was perhaps the most staunchly Republican during the ‘troubles’. Again played mainly on keyboards its missing some crunching guitar but we get that next in the humorous ‘Sam Song’, a song dedicated to the use of surface-to-air missiles. Written by Gerry Ó Glacain in the late 1980’s during a time of high activity during the war. Black And Tans’ has become one of the more famous Celtic-Punk covers from this genre. Easily switched from Folk to Punk like here it has a chorus where it is seemingly impossible not to wave your fist about. Brigade 77 give it plenty of oompf and maybe could have turned up them guitars up a bit. ‘Irish Citizen Army’ is a song recently recorded by the Dropkick Murphys and tells of the life of the great James Connolly. He spent his entire life fighting for the rights of the poor and the workers and ended it executed while sitting tied to a chair while mortally wounded after the failed 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. A recent song it was written by The Blarney Pilgrims but made internationally famous by Black 47’s recording. Only a couple left and ‘Fields Of Athenry’ has in recent years usurped all others to become the most famous of all Irish rebel songs. Sadly the writer Pete St. John passed away just before St. Patrick’s day so the song is tinged with sadness at his passing. Rebellion finished with an instrumental ‘The Lonesome Boatman’, and the second song that the Murphys have covered. It’s a truly beautiful tune and The Fureys incredible version will be never be mastered but here is done with great spirit and is a great way to bring down the curtain.

(You can hear the whole of the album below via You Tube)

You hear on Rebellion influences as varied as Shane Macgowan, Gary Og, Shebeen, The Wolfe Tones but all mixed with Punk and naturally many different Celtic-Punk bands. Micke says

“My rebel songs are a bit different compared to those artists I am influenced by, but I wanted to take another path, or… maybe it’s because I’m not that great guitarist like Gary Og and the other rebel musicians =)”
Rebellion is unsurprisingly the first rebel album from Sweden. All songs are recorded and produced by Brigade 77 and despite being recorded in his garage the sound is more than adequate. Hard copies of the album are available from Micke by email and praise to be heaped upon him for bringing these glorious songs to a wider audience.

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE GROGGY DOGS – ‘Still Groggin’ (2022)

Spanish pirates The Groggy Dogs are back with their second album of trad Irish melodies and sea shanties with a spicy touch of Punk, Ska and Metal.

These guys more quickly and no sooner than Grog O’Clock land on our doorstep their second album arrives too. That debut album, Grog O’Clock was a front-runner for the London Celtic Punks debut album of the year, narrowly losing out to The Outcast Crew but it did make the Top Twenty of the best Celtic-Punk album’s and was well received across the internet. It’s available for only a single Euro and it really is a great album with some great covers and a couple of absolutely killer instrumentals.

Album #2 carries on it was will become I am sure the signature Groggy Dogs way. Covers, originals and instrumentals all paying homage to songs of the sea and the poor sailors that sailed them and sang those songs many years ago.

April sees only the bands second anniversary and if Covid can be thanked for one thing then it is the forming of The Groggy Dogs and since the ending of the lock down they have sprung out of the traps playing live at every single opportunity. Mauro, already a veteran of several Seville based Celtic projects wanted to play Celtic music with a bit more forceful sound and soon joined by the rest of the band and, no doubt the ‘Sea-Shanty’craze from a couple of years back on Tic-Tok, they settled on the idea of Prate-Celtic-Folk-Punk! AS we have said before their is no more than a fag paper between Celtic-Punk and Pirate-Punk with it overlapping constantly so it was no wonder that they soon came to our attention.

Still Groggin’ begins with ‘To Sea Once More’ and the familiar sound of the ocean and tolling bell. A fiddle led lament slowly drifts along before it erupts into a cover of the seafaring classic ‘Old Maui’. The song has become a bit of a staple among the Celtic-Punk community with it often sung acapello. Traced back to the mid-19th century it tells the story of a whaling ship returning to Maui in Hawaii after a long season of whaling.

“once more we sail with a northerly gale through the ice and wind and rain”

Canadian legend Stan Rogers released the best version I have ever heard but the song was made famous in our circles by The Dreadnoughts on their early album Legends Never Die. The Groggy Dogs stick closely to the Dreadnoughts version but add a fun video where the pirate quintet bring us a funny story about a robbery attempt adds to the song’s legacy. Their are so many sea-shanties ready for The Groggy Dogs to mine I was hoping to hear some more obscure covers and ‘Leave Her Johnny’ fits that bill perfectly. In sailor folklore ‘Leave Her Johnny’ was always saved for the very last duty of voyage. It dates back well before it first appeared in print in 1917 and exists in several forms but none quite as different as this one! Knowing you would soon be home would put the crew in great cheer so I’m sure their souls would well approve of the half-Ska/ half-Punk cheerful, bouncy tune given it here.

On their debut album I was especially impressed by the couple of instrumentals and am again here, starting with ‘Grog Party’. A true measure of a decent Celtic-Punk band is the ability to turn their hand to a trad song and here you would think them a Ceili band except for the thrashy guitar and Ska breakdown. Excellent stuff that would be welcome in any Irish public house in the world! The two pre-release singles for the album were ‘Old Maui’ and ‘The Dreadnought’. Another unusual sea-shanty classic and not one I had heard before. Telling of the true story of the ship of the same name, a clipper, built in 1853 in Massachusetts that was the fastest of her time until she sank while in Cape Horn in 1869. The band sing it kinda slow and sound incredibly like the band of the same name here.

Time for another of The Groggy Dogs ace instrumentals and ‘Grog’s Reel’ is another great mash up of trad Irish/ Celtic and more modern sounds without losing any of its old charm. We almost near the end and time for a more familiar song with ‘Katie Bar The Door’. The exact origin of the phrase, meaning ‘watch out, trouble is on its way’ is unknown but it originated in the southern United States and one possible explanation is it was taken from a Scottish ballad called Get Up and Bar the Door published in 1776. The lads be big fans of The Dreadnoughts album Legends Never Die as this another from it that sadly doesn’t differentiate too much from their version. The album’s curtain comes down with their third instrumental ‘The First Grog’ and again it is bloody marvellous. Mashing up the trad Folk melody with Punk, Metal, Ska, Reggae and still leaving it sounding like the song is from the 19th century!

The Groggy Dogs left to right: The Deadman (Lucas Hidalgo) – Drums * The Voodoo Witch (Fátima Caballero) – Violin * The Cap’n (Mauro Blanco) – Vocals, Guitar * The Cook (Carlos Ghirlanda) – Bass * The Buccaneer (Seba Santa Cruz) – Accordion *

A truly talented group and another great album from them. If I did have one slight criticism it is that they need to stamp themselves much firmer on the more popular covers but even these are excellent versions that more than give the band I have mentioned a run for their money. The production for the album is top class and the many Folk and Rock instruments merge together perfectly. The Groggy Dogs are definitely one to watch especially for those who prefer the ‘folkier’ side of Celtic-Punk but still with plenty of oompf to go along with.

Download Still Groggin’

Contact The Groggy Dogs WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

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

ALBUM REVIEW: ROUGHNECK RIOT – ‘Burn It To The Ground’ (2022)

UK Folk-rockers Roughneck Riot return from a 4-year break with a loud and angry new album Burn It To The Ground.

Roughneck Riot have returned from an extended pandemic induced siesta to hit us with their latest album release Burn It To The Ground. This is the first release from the Warrington based hardcore folk punk outfit since Out Of Anger was released in 2014.

The past few years have been tough on us all and here at London Celtic Punks HQ we are delighted to see the influx of new music coming from every angle. We have taken this as a sign of normality returning. Burn It To The Ground certainly marks the return of Roughneck Riot to the scene.

The band are known for their hardcore edge whilst keeping touch with the folk punk sound. The album is well balanced, and the results are impressive. The album opens with the suitably titled tune “We’re Still Here” reminding us that they haven’t gone away y’know!! With a total of 12 tracks the album has something for everyone. The stand out tracks are “Cognitive Dissonance”, “No Cure For Us” and the title track “Burn It To The Ground”.

Often when bands take a break it’s hard to gauge what will happen on the other side. Roughneck Riot have come through their four year intermission sounding as good as ever. They are back on the road and no doubt we will be hearing much more of them. Hopefully we don’t have to wait 8 years for the next release.

TRACK LISTING

1. We’re Still Here
2. Stay Awake
3. A New Day Is Dawning
4. Don’t Count Me Out

5. Lampedusa
6. Cognitive Dissonance
7. Burn It To The Ground
8. Tired Eyes
9. We’ve Already Lost
10. The Reckoning
11. No Cure For Us
12. Fucks Sake

Burn It To The Ground is available on all streaming platforms and available to order in CD and vinyl wherever you are. It has been released on SBAM Records and is also available from them.

Buy Burn It To The Ground  FromTheBand

Contact The Roughneck Riot  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube 

ALBUM REVIEW: DRUNKEN FIGHTERS – ‘Someday’ (2022)

The debut album from Catalonian Celtic-Punk band the Drunken Fighters formed out of the ashes of the Drink Hunters!

Was a few years back that Barcelona based Drink Hunters began to make waves in the Celtic-Punk scene with three absolutely stunning albums from 2013-2016. The best being Lurking Behind The Woods which gathered some excellent reviews. What became of them to become Drunken Fighters we won’t speculate on here but I’m happy to see that things have moved on and those talented musicians and songwriters have found a new home for their music.

Formed in 2018 even without the pandemic it’s taken the band a good while to get some songs down on disc but the wait has been waiting for. With the band named Drunken Fighters and beer-drinking considered a national sport in Celtic-Punk it comes as no surprise to hear the album kick off with the sound of a tin of beer being opened. Straight away in ‘Fight’ you can hear influences from fellow Spanish band Brutus Daughter and not just in that they also have a powerful female singer in Alex. The strong Punk Rock sound is accompanied by excellent flute, fiddle and mandolin giving it that unmistakable Celtic edge. On ‘Germs’, the first single from the album, the band take on the far-right and in a country that in living memory existed as a fascist dictatorship the danger is ever present.

“A disease of hate reminds of the seventies”

The songs are all sung in English and while at times it’s a little heavy going the lyrics are all available at the Bandcamp link below. One of the album highlights is ‘I’ll Be Free Someday’ a catchy fast number with some great changes in tempo that only add to the song. The fiddle here is superb and the song cracks on at a good pace. The energetic ‘Friends’ and even faster ‘Like Today’ incorporate sounds from newish bands that themselves crossover genres like Ska-Punks The Interupters. ‘Voice of the Sea’ is perhaps more trad Celtic-Punk than the rest of the album beginning with acoustic guitar and it’s ocean theme.

“When the only ones sailing my coasts were old sea wolves and all stories about me were drunk of too much rum everything was better, It’s breaking my heart As years go by humans go back”

This is followed by the albums second single ‘Je$u$’ and then ‘Be Lost To Be Found’ another great track here. The next couple of songs rattle through in much the same vein with the utopian ‘Requiem’ and ‘LRK’ (shortened from Lost Rebel Kids) continuing with fast guitars, great fiddle and flute and nice tempo changes. The album closes with ‘Monday Dawn’, the longest song here, and some great lyrics about the ‘dignity of work’ and finishing work on a Friday until ‘Monday Dawn’. If a song on Someday was crying out for a bit of humour then it was this one with it’s upbeat melodic tune the seriousness of the lyrics sit a bit awkward.

So if you are more inclined towards the more folkier side of Celtic-Punk then Someday may perhaps not be for you but even then I would hope that listeners could recognise the skill and musicianship of those involved here. Eleven songs, all written by the Drunken Fighters themselves that clocks in at a very respectful forty minutes, which for a ‘Punk’ album is on the long side. Produced by the band and recorded and mixed by Xavi Escribano at EM Estudi Someday is a great debut album and one for those that miss the early days of Celtic-Punk and like a bit more ‘oompf’ with their fiddle!

(You can stream and download Someday via the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Someday  Bandcamp

Contact Drunken Fighters  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

ALBUM REVIEW: SLAINTE – ‘Up Down 95’ (2022)

Sláinte (slahn-chuh): Irish for cheers. 

Slainte offer a fresh take on trad Irish folk music, medlying classic ballads with modern favourites, and marrying traditional Folk instruments with Rock ‘n’ Roll electric guitar.

Boston, Boston, Boston, Boston but there’s a very good reason why its features so much on these pages. The Irish, Whitey and the Irish mob, Charlestown and South Boston, the Kennedys, the Celtics and finally our heroes of great fame the Dropkick Murphys. Sadly just like in London in recent years gentrification has all but wiped out the traditional working class Irish areas of Boston but the Boston Irish community lives on. Their are obvious reasons why yuppies prefer Irish areas of the city to others but like a virus everywhere they move they soon destroy the very reasons that made them want to move there in the first place.

One of the most important fronts in the battle against gentrification is culture. To keep alive the traditions, spirit and customs of where you come from. Of course this doesn’t just apply to the Irish but to everyone but for the Irish our biggest weapon is music. Where else could a band like the Dropkick Murphys have come from and then grown to become one of the biggest in the world?

Slainte from left to right: Andrew Rodriguez – Vocals, Electric Guitar * Mike Perillo – Vocals, Bass Guitar * Steve Smith – Vocals, Electric Guitar * Brady Conley – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * James Harrington – Harmonica, Tin Whistle * Jon Harrington – Fiddle * Zack Bolles – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Ed Cardenas – Percussion * Stephen Sunshine – Vocals, Tenor Banjo, Organ, Lap Steel Guitar * Not Picured (still inside the pub perhaps?) – Pat O’Donovan – Mandolin, Accordion * Kevin Smith * Percussion *

Last year the arrival of Shadows Of Boston dominated the Celtic-Punk scene and just this week the latest album to land on our doorstep is also from Boston from the band Sláinte. Formed at Boston college in 2013 the Bhoys have been a regular fixture on the Boston and New York pub scene ever since. Featuring 11 (eleven!) members making them the largest band in Irish history! While not strictly Celtic-Punk, their music owes much to the likes of well established bands like The Pogues, The Dubliners and The Saw Doctors as well as bands of today like The BibleCode Sundays and NY’s The Narrowbacks. When their founding member and lead singer moved to New York City in 2016, the remaining members decided that rather than fold or look for a new singer from then on the band would not only let everyone sing but they would cast their net further than Boston and Providence and start to play New York as well. In the years since they have added five new band mates, spent a fortune on petrol, played some untold amount of shows and shared a ton of laughs.

Nine years to make your debut release is a long time but not overly uncommon in a scene where playing live is the priority. Up Down 95 is the name given to their album and a tribute to the last few years together while looking forward to the future. Recorded by the lads themselves in various garages, basements, parking lots and fields throughout the Northeast, Up Down 95 is a completely independent DIY release and features original Sláinte material as well as some classic and contemporary Irish and American covers.

Beginning with the title song ‘Up Down 95′. It’s a rollicking rockin’ ‘country-ish’ number with lashings of harmonica.

“when the bar man asked for Galway Girl we said nay nay never no more”

The kind of song to get those with a bit more youth in their tank up on the bar while the rest of us be slapping our thighs and tapping our feet. The title of the song and album is the highway that connects NYC, Providence Rhode Island, and Boston, the three cities they have spent all their time traveling between over the last few years.

A nod to Celtic-Punk next with a straight up cover of the Molly’s ‘Drunken Lullabies’ which only goes to show how far Celtic-Punk has permeated Irish-American life. Next up is the stunning ‘Grace’ written by Sean And Frank O’Meara in 1985 it was first popularised by The Dubliners and sings of the doomed marriage of rebel leader Joseph Plunket and Grace Gifford just mere hours before Joseph was executed by the British for his part in the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin. An incredibly moving song it received a major boost in popularity when it was adopted by supporters at Celtic football club. Since then it became many a bands staple and was even recorded by life long Celtic supporter Rod Stewart. The phrase, “the blood upon the rose” comes from one of Joseph’s poems. Performed beautifully by the band they follow it up with a couple of their own compositions. ‘Ember’ is some classic-Rock and shows the bands ambitions go further than just playing other people’s songs. One of the album highlights, while on ‘Irish Whiskey’ Zack Bolles is joined by special guest Annie Cheevers on vocals for a simple yet boisterous song full of banjo, mandolin, fiddle and I’m sure plenty more. By now one of the bands I’m hearing being channelled here is London’s very own BibleCode Sundays. Not so much in sound but more in that they know people and more specifically their own people and what they want. A bit of an unusual cover next of ‘Atlantic City’ from Bruce’s acclaimed acoustic album Nebraska from 1982 (40 years!). Played straight tune wise they add plenty along the way giving it the Sláinte stamp. Now any Irish pub bands can just coast by with the covers but the real sign of a good band is the ability to knock out a good trad tune and (in common with both the Bible Code’s and the Narrowbacks) Sláinte come up with the goods on the excellent ‘The Musical Priest’ where they play it far from straight and inject a bit of Horslips styled meandering into the tune. Another highlight and another to get the young guns up on the bar! The Saw Doctors ‘Joyce Country Ceili Band’ is followed by an original song ‘Boston Girl Who Fled to New York’ and no idea if it’s autobiographical or not but a cracking ballad with some beautiful meaningful lyrics and a superb tune. Up Down 95 comes to an end with a cover of ‘Streams Of Whiskey’ where Shane MacGowan sings of going on the piss with legendary Irish drinker writer Brendan Behan and while no doubt a great version I would have liked them to have thrown caution to the wind a wee bit and gone out in proper wild abandon Pogues style but still a great version and way to wrap things up.

The album was produced, recorded, edited, and mixed by Zack Bolles and Stephen Sunshine of Slainte and mastered by Ian Blanton of Empirical Dynamics in Boston while the cover artwork was done by Bot Roda. A great album but it only goes to show that the best place to hear Irish music is in the pub and while they’ve done a brilliant job of transferring that sound onto disc it’s an eternal battle that Irish bands will always fight. Sláinte are playing all over Boston for St.Patrick’s week so be sure to check them out if you lucky enough to come from Boston!
(You can stream / download Up Down 95 via the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Up Down 95  Bandcamp (also itunes, apple, spotify, amazon, youtube)

Contact Slainte  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

NEW SINGLE FROM NOVA SCOTIAN CELTIC ROCKERS THE STAB ROVERS

The Stab Rovers have a strong connection to the Atlantic. Born and raised in the Maritime Provinces, and now calling Nova Scotia home these maritime boys play a mix of Trad and original Celtic and Folk inspired tunes, reimagined in a high energy format.

The Irish outside Ireland outnumber those at home many many times. For instance in the mid-70’s it was estimated their were more people from Mayo in Leeds than in the capital of Mayo itself! The children of those Irish are now fathers themselves and so the Irish diaspora continues to grow and hopefully flourish.  Now some places just roll off the tongue when discussing the Irish diaspora, Boston, Liverpool, New York and London but their is nowhere as proud of their Gaelic roots as Nova Scotia is. The very name Nova Scotia translates as ‘New Scotland in both Scots and Latin and the Irish have been calling the area Talimh An Eisc (‘The Land of the Fish’) for centuries. With over 25% of residents ticking the Irish ethnicity box on recent census and many doing likewise with ‘Scottish’ it’s no surprise to find out that wherever Celtic music is you’ll also find Celtic-Punk too.

Formed as a trio in 2014, The Stab Rovers have since grown to include 5 members. The band members possess decades of experience playing in alternative rock and punk bands all over Eastern Canada. Their self titled debut album was released in 2018 and included several traditional tunes but all with original Stab Rover arrangements.

“We like to think that the songs sound much more interesting when re-imagined as if performed by rowdy pirates.”

During the pandemic, the Stab Rovers used their time in the studio to write and record and after two years without live performances The Stab Rovers are happy to be back playing before the masses! Their new single ‘Off To War’ reflects back on the strong military and naval traditions that are so important and engrained here in the Maritimes. It also paves the way for many more forthcoming releases.

The Stab Rovers left to right : Reece Baird – Mandolin, Guitar * Allan Muir – Guitar, Whistle, Vocals * Alden Huskins – Drums, Bass * Kory Wade – Bass, Guitar, Vocals * Cameron Strong – Banjo, Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals *

We like to think we have our collective finger on the pulse of Celtic-Punk but occasionally a band will slip through and we’ll wonder how on earth we hadn’t heard of them. When we first heard of The Stab Rovers we had thought they had disbanded years ago but were delighted to find out we were wrong. It  may have been a few years since their debut album but it’s not that unusual with Celtic-Punk bands who tend to concentrate more on playing live than recording. That debut album is available for download at the link below.

So absolutely great to have The Stab Rovers back in the fold and we look forward to hearing lots more by them in the near future.

Download Off To War  Bandcamp

Contact The Stab Rovers  Facebook  YouTube

ALBUM REVIEW: JAMIE CLARKE’S PERFECT – ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’ (2022)

Only a mere thirteen folk can ever say they were once members of The Pogues and one of those is Jamie Clarke. Since then with his band Jamie Clarke’s Perfect he has carved out a career making, playing and recording a glorious mix of Irish Folk, Garage, Rockabilly and Punk Rock!

We are lucky to have Paul Evans from the #1 Pogues tribute band The Pogue Traders to review the new Jamie Clarke’s Perfect album hot off the press.

Jamie Clarke’s Perfect are a German based folky / rockabilly-ish outfit with nine albums to their name. Perfect were formed after The Pogues disbanded in the late 1990s. Until then, Clarke was a guitarist for late-period Pogues (he took over when Phil Chevron retired from the band in 1994) and featured on the final ‘Pogue Mahone’ LP, co-writing The Sun and the Moon with Spider Stacey.

Their latest offering, Monkey See, Monkey Do arrived in January is packed with tight, punchy hoarse tunes written for a ‘rambunctious live band’ market. It’s a play-loud set, and if you’re looking for an introspective concept album, or lounge-bar background music, this isn’t it.

It’s a wide-ranging collection. Tracks like How the Mighty and Morgane Morgenstein would fit in very nicely on those post-MacGowan Pogues LPs. Greetsiel Reel and Monkey Done gets us closer to the celtic-punk feel of The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Green Cadillac brings a welcome rockabilly-pop dimension while Time is Ticking and the excellent Madness-ish Raise Your Voice tips into ska-punk territory.

I’ll predict the standout track Lady Luck will end up at the end of their live set whenever they want to be brought back on for an encore.

Money See, Monkey Do, does a difficult job well – it’s a new album from a band who have written something to punch-up their live set. Buy the CD, or stream it, but whatever you do, catch Jamie Clarke’s Perfect next time they’re in your town because this album will sound even better live than it does in your living room.

Buy Monkey See, Monkey Do – DackletonRecords (CD/Vinyl)

Contact Jamie Clarke’s Perfect WebSite Facebook YouTube Instagram

Paul Evans is the tin-whistle player in The Pogue Traders – a London-based Pogues tribute band formed in 2007 that even comes with a personal recommendation from one of the original band members.

“The best Pogues tribute band I’ve seen” – Andrew Ranken

It’s coming up to the busiest time of year for Irish music. A time when for many years a Pogues or Shane MacGowan concert was a must so in their prolonged absence it’s only right that a band should fill that void and The Pogue Traders fill it seamlessly. A mini tour around the country sees them take in well know Irish diaspora hot spots so be sure to check them out and if you are wondering what to do in London on St. Patrick’s Day then why not join us for a South London pub crawl ending at The Half Moon Putney for a poguetastic night celebrating the worlds greatest ever band.

THE POGUE TRADERS 2022 ST. PATRICK’S TOUR

https://www.facebook.com/events/1005352306732195/

Leeds – Brudenell Social Club Friday March 11th

Holmfirth – Picturedrome Saturday March 12th

London – Half Moon Putney, Thursday 17th March

Glasgow, – McChuills Saturday, March 19th

And finally, the Nottingham Greyfriars gig from November 2021 was postponed due to illness and is now happening on April 30th 2022 – details to follow.

The Pogue Traders  Facebook WebSite

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: BRYAN McPHERSON – ‘How To Draw Everything’ (2022)

Fiery, Folk-playing, Irish-American blue-collar Boston native Bryan McPherson is back aided by a ‘Molly’ and a ‘Murphy’ among others with a new album and bejaysus if it’s not one of his best ones yet!

I’ve often wondered at the word ‘fan’. As a longtime Leyton Orient supporter we don’t get many ‘fans’ down Brisbane Road. Over the years when we have had the odd moment of success some have drifted by before decamping to follow more media friendly teams that they can brag about on Facebook. See I think of ‘fan’ as opposed to ‘supporter’ as a rather trivial term for someone who isn’t really invested in what they follow. In that sense I don’t like to think of myself as a Bryan McPherson fan I think I’m more of a Bryan McPherson supporter! So with that in mind I’m a keen supporter of whatever he gets up. It’s been two years since Kings Corner was released and for Bryan believe me that’s quite a gap. A simple search for Bryan on this site will throw up reviews and articles reaching into double figures, a number reserved only for the likes of scene stalwarts like The Pogues or the Dropkick Murphys.

It doesn’t seem like two years that must be said as Bryan is one of those performers who keeps his audience, his supporters, close by him. Throughout the lockdowns Bryan was a regular face on our screens with his live streams and videos so it never seems he’s too far away and always there ready to connect with us. Perhaps it’s his Working Class background that keeps him so grounded, especially when all I ever see is huge amounts of praise and adulation for him! His ability to sing everything with passion imbued with a raw sense of emotion is second to none. An interesting anecdote here is (she’ll not be happy I told anyone) on hearing this album for the first time alone in the car my Mrs cried. She couldn’t put her finger on why but just a few snatched lines of lyrics and the mere sound of his voice seemed to be enough for the tears to flow.

Unusually for Bryan he has roped in some friends to aid on the recording of How To Draw Everything. Use to just voice, harmonica, acoustic guitar this album feels more fleshed out compared to much of his previous work with the ex- Dropkicks and current Walker Roader Marc Orrell on mandolin, Dustbowl Revival’s drummer Josh Heffernan, violinist Chris Murphy, who has worked with everyone from the Waterboys to Mike Watt, and Grammy Award-winning record producer and original guitarist for Flogging Molly, and also a Walker Roader, Ted Hutt on bass and percussion. Quite the roll call I’m sure readers, here especially, will agree. The album opens with ‘2 Birds’ which was also the first single/video released. With a rare opportunity to film outside his Mam and Dads house it’s a great video. Simple and effective and fits the song perfectly. I always get the impression that Bryan prefers the ‘home’ setting to set ups like this but he throws himself into and even manages to not look uncomfortable!

(Director of Photography: Eric Wagner * Production Assistant: Joe Bennett)

“There’s something about the sky that makes me grateful to be alive.”

A beautiful song with an unbelievably catchy chorus Bryan wraps so much round a simple tune. Lyrically there’s plenty to unwrap with Bryan triumphing over the demons in his life and coming out the other side. ‘Alameda St’ keeps it upbeat and tells of his move from Boston to Los Angeles and trying to figure out what to do with your life, and what lies deep in your heart. ‘Sweet Kari’ is more trad McPherson with a soft whisper cracking over a gentle folk song telling of moving on from lost love. The video here is from one of Bryan’s many live streams and is included here just for reference as like the video for ‘American Dream’ below many aspects of the song changed from these recordings to what eventually would appear on the album.

The harmonica is one of my favourite instruments and I think it’s a shame it doesn’t get used more in Celtic-Punk. It’s most definitely a folk instrument as you don’t need a music lesson to learn, making it the most working-class of all musical instruments! Here it gets an airing for both the upbeat and the gentler songs with ‘Hello, So Long And Goodbye’ a perfect example of the former. Catchy and tuneful but then the whole album is. How To Draw Everything has several anthems and ‘Lightning Lullaby’ is one such with several lines jumping out at you. “A bridge in England where everyone falls” and “going on tour with my depressing songs just like my Grandma use to sing to me” are just two as Bryan sings of the power of music in bringing people together. These are divided times and while each side thinks it’s because of the other their is always hope they are both wrong to think so. All the tracks here are written by Bryan except for ‘Shooting Star’ next up, where he was joined by Josiah Mazzaschi. A gentle beautiful song followed by another in ‘Troubled Times’. Bryan McPherson isn’t scared of an epic. My favourite of his songs is ‘I see A Flag’ check out the video from London where he performed to a small but adoring crowd back in 2015. Who would open their set with a eight minute song? Bryan McPherson that’s who. ‘American Dream’ is more than double that and it’s telling that it was several plays before I realised it’s length so gripping was it. Written in 2020 as tensions across the USA were greater than many even ever remember their was a need to remind ourselves that

“good outweighs the bad no matter how imperfect the country is, and there is power in recognizing our similarities.”

Chronicling his years on the road, playing and visiting every corner of the USA, meeting good and kind people everywhere he went. People with many differing views and experiences but still with the time to bond with this travelling musician living out of his car. A song full of optimism and a song I hope that looks to the future.

We are heading towards the end and ‘Home’ and on an album so strong while it is hard to pick this is my standout track. The word ‘beautiful’ has been overused in this review I’m sure you get my drift. ‘Bedroom Eyes’ is an optimistic love song and it’s just like Bryan to make some beautiful (groan..) out of something that on the face of is tragic.

“where I come from we grow up too tough”

After the first few plays I had insisted this was one of Bryan’s best albums but now while all the eleven songs are sitting at the top of my phones ‘most played’ list I would go so far as to say this is his best work to date. Each song is crafted with so much love and attention. This is what writing ‘musician’ on your passport really means. The album ends with the title song ‘How To Draw Everything’ and another standout track among the many. An amazing end to an amazing album.

How To Draw Everything was recorded at Kingsize Soundlabs in Los Angeles, California and produced expertly by Ted Hutt and engineered by Ryan Mall. Bryan’s journey from his raw debut Fourteen Stories, released in 2007 (I recommend checking out his back catalogue at the Bandcamp link below) has been a roller coaster of emotions with us being allowed into every aspect of his life and his thoughts. With age does come understanding, As he puts it

“From the perspective of age comes a spiritual death of what was, and in its place, a re-discovering of peace, country, and self are found. Hope finally outweighs despair and can be reclaimed, like a child wondering at the seeds of a dandelion. Hope was there all along.”

It may be a peculiar to put it but I support Bryan McPherson.

(Stream/ download Buy How To Draw Everything on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy How To Draw Everything Stream/Download/Vinyl/CD

Contact Bryan McPherson WebSite Facebook Instagram YouTube

All Bryan’s previous studio releases are available via Bandcamp plus many interesting live concerts and tracks, many available for free download and all available to stream. You can also support Bryan by buying some merchandise including a brand new How To Draw Everything t-shirt.

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

ALBUM REVIEW: SYR- ‘Sentinel’ (2022)

Syr is a Celtic Folk Rock band from Columbia, South Carolina. Music inspired by Celtic history, mythology, and folklore… like what you would listen to just before smashing a Roman legion!

Our first ‘proper’ review of 2022 and it falls to Syr a Celtic-Rock band from South Carolina. Sentinel is the bands third studio album and comes after a series of predictable pandemic-related delays. Two years of canceled and postponed live shows, live streams and uncertainty about the future only seems to have amplified Syr (pronounced Sire) and their stories of Celtic history, stories and myths taking in themes like battle, love, and victory. Lead singer and founder Kyle MacCallum says

“The idea is to write about Celtic history, legends, and stories finding themes that would resonate with a modern audience.”

Taking the well trod route of humble beginnings of pubs and local venues, the band’s high-energy live performance has since received a welcome at regular performances at some of north America’s biggest Celtic events and festivals. Sentinel is their third album after the self-titled Syr in 2015 and The Winter King in 2017. These have been accompanied by a couple of singles all available via the band.

Syr is Kyle MacCallum – Lead Vocals, Guitar * Laurel MacCallum – Vocals, Percussion * Kelly and Greg Vance – Bass and Drums * Ben Campbell – Guitar * Worth Lewallen – Fiddle

Not a band I’m familiar with so fresh ground to be trod for the site and while Syr think of themselves as more a Celtic-Rock band

“While I wouldn’t characterize the band as “punk” you’ll definitely pick up on the metal influence, and the defiant tone that has always been a feature of us Celts!”

I couldn’t agree more! Sentinel begins with Isolation’ a short atmospheric intro that sounds like it could come from a movie that soon bursts into ‘Revenant’, a track that spans everywhere from trad Irish Folk to New Model Army to Euro Folk-Metal. This is the kind of Celtic music that is accessible to all. Tuneful, catchy, light hearted (in a serious way!) and 100% genuine. ‘Tir N’aill’ was the albums first single and here Laurel takes over from her brother Kyle on lead vocals. Kyle has more the ‘rock’ style vocals while Laurel is more folk orientated reminding me of the lovely Aoife O’Donovan.

Like the music the video is also atmospheric and features the lyrics above sweeping landscapes from the Celtic nations. The tribal sound of the drums is used to great effect in ‘Specters’ despite its slightly poppy sound (though that’s probably just by our standard!). Title track ‘Sentinel’ stands out with it’s unrestrained power even though it’s played little more than a ballad.

The music itself is played simply but effective with only Worth Lewallen’s constant fiddle (alongside the occasional whistle and mandolin) embracing Celtic instrumentation but then the voice is as powerful as any instrument especially in Folk music and in Kyle and Laurel both have the most expressive voices that seem to cross both ancient and modern. Of course the drumming adds a dimension to the music lost in the more ‘traditional’ style Celtic-Punk and nowhere on the album is this expressed better than on the instrumental ‘The Painted Ones’. ‘Baobhan Sith’ has shades of great trad crossover band Planxty. Slow, gentle and beautiful. ‘Lay of the Ashes’ kicks it up a notch with a lively song led into with some great fiddle. ‘Idistaviso’ gives us a positive slice of Celtic-Americana that wouldn’t be out of place being ruined by many a star (BS anyone?). It may sound funny that as editor of a Celtic-Punk site it is the slower more Folky Syr offerings I prefer especially this. ‘Oran Na Gaillinn’ is upbeat and catchy and also the longestvtrack here at almost six minutes. Known in the Celtic-Punk as either a head-nodder or a thigh-slapper. Kyle sings in Irish next on ‘Albion II’ and understand the meaning of that. Of a Irish-American who has taken the time to learn the language of his ancestors. It’s a shame more Irish musicians don’t follow him. A great rocking song with some super fiddle. We are almost at the end and ‘Legacy’ starts with what sounds like the feet of marching men off to wage war and fight to defend their homes. Stirring stuff alright. The curtain comes down on Sentinel with ‘To Avalon’ and an instrumental fit to see out the album. Great in scope and style and a rousing way to say goodbye.

Thirteen tracks that come in at just under a hour and absolutely note perfect production. Syr play the sort of music that bridges not just the gap between Celtic-Punk and the Trad/Folk scene but also the sounds of the 70’s and 80s Irish Folk scene and now while also embracing the better bits of the Folk-Metal scene too. This is a grand record and it’s easy to see why they are becoming so well known on the American Celtic circle. Music played with a passion but also a belief in it.

(You can listen to / steam/ download Sentinel from the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Sentinel  From The Band-CD  Download

Contact Syr  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

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: THE BLACK TARTAN CLAN – ‘A New Beginning’ (2021)

The Black Tartan Clan are back! Having re-located from Belgium to Spain one of Celtic-Punk’s greatest ever bands return with a fantastic new album.

It was a dark day back in 2017 when The Black Tartan Clan sadly called it a day. With five releases and a Greatest Hits behind them the bands founder and joint songwriter MacTouche had decided to up sticks and re-locate to Spain. This did cause a bit of upset among other members of the band and they have re-grouped as the Black Tartans and have also recently started to record new music too. MacTouche still had an interest in making great Celtic music so the band has re-started with new members but the task was made many times harder by the Covid lockdown. Last March though the band were finally able to get together to rehearse and then to finally play live. The original version of The Black Tartan Clan were famous for their amazing bagpipe sound. I’d go so far as to say they were even the best band in Celtic-Punk for their piping. Here though the pipes are gone and all the pipe parts are replaced by guitar. The Black Tartan Clan keep their Celtic-Punk sound but in a much harder way.

Black Tartan Clan left to right: MacKurr – Guitar * MacTouche – Vocals (founding member) * MacRivery – Drums * MacChaud – Guitar * MacFrank – Bass * MacPië – Silent partner (founding member) *

A New Beginning is not quite a new album as all the songs have previously appeared but the bands new style gives them a lift and while it would be hard to improve on them they certainly give it one hell of a go. The opening track is the band’s anthem ‘We Are The Clan’ from the 2014 album Scotland In Our Hearts and its a hard rocking affair and the guitar sound not a million miles away from The Skids. You can still hear the pipes through the guitar and MacTouche’s gravelly vocals haven’t changed much, thank Heavens, as he sings in both English and French. ‘Don’t Walk Alone’ comes from the album of the same name from 2013 and again it’s straight down the line hard rocking but catchy with it. ‘Ye Jacobites’ is an (very) old Robbie Burns poem put to music countless times but usually with a distinctly Folky influence but not here!

 

Three songs in a row now from the 2014 Scotland In Our Hearts album. ‘Scotland In Our Hearts’ is the first and you can imagine exactly where the pipes would be and you know what it works. I wasn’t too sure before I played it but aye. It must be incredibly hard to perform minus the thing you’re band is famous for but the guys have pulled it off even if their sound is now a bit more towards hard rock it still has all it’s roots in Celtic-Punk. ‘Piper Bill’ was always one of my favourite BTC songs and they do it justice here.

The last couple of songs start with a great ‘Friends Until The End’ and then the album ends with the appropriate ‘Toora Loora’ from Don’t Walk Alone. Only a handful of songs and hopefully it will serve it’s purpose to let the Celtic-Punk scene know they are back and though different they are still great. It’s absolutely brilliant to see these guys back and proving they’ve plenty left to give as well. Listening to this had me pulling out all my old Black Tartan Clan albums. It’s a hard rocking album but I needed an album like this as I been listening to too much Ewan MacColl of late!

Download A New Beginning  Apple  Deezer   

Contact The Black Tartan Clan  Facebook  ReverbNation  YouTube

The Black Tartan Clan back catalogue is all available on Spotify

2021 CATCH UP REVIEWS. PART 2 – WILD COLONIAL BHOYS, THE POKES, HAWTHORN, SURFIN’ TURNIPS,

Our last post was an attempt to catch up with a few albums that we loved but had missed for reviewing during 2021. Part One wasn’t originally planned to be but they all ended up being ‘solo’ albums and so today we have a bunch of albums from bands. Apologies for not being able to do more detailed reviews but as we say each and every month “we can’t review what we don’t hear”. 

WILD COLONIAL BHOYS – Remote Ruaille Buaille

Not a band I’m particularly knowledgeable about bar coveting one of their great t-shirts but here goes. I’m pretty sure I had some stuff from them in the past but was all lost in the great external HD crash of a few years ago. Hailing from Minnesota the album was recorded remotely, hence the name, which makes the expert production even more impressive.

Things start with the self penned ‘Red haired Lass’ and a upbeat bouncy Country /Celtic number. The production here is maybe one of the best I’ve heard all year. The sound is so full with the many instruments here all complimenting each other. The talented band show their ability throughout the album able to switch from more rocking numbers even to trad Folk. Their harder edge comes out early on, on the first of a handful of covers and ‘Rocky Road’ never fails to disappoint. Their are several excellent covers like  Ewan MacColl’s ‘Homes of Donegal’, and Luke Kelly’s ‘Schooldays Over’ but as usual it’s the originals that I’m really interested in. The standout track here is the ‘Tragedy At Duffy’s Cut’ where the Bhoys tells the tragic story of the death of 57 Irish immigrants whilst working digging the railroad near Philadelphia in the 1830’s. The death and unmarked grave containing these men’s remains was hidden for decades and is a stark reminder that the lives of working-class Irish Catholics in those days were worthless. A fascinating story well worth reading more about but the story is well told here. The album ends with a great upbeat version of ‘The Auld Triangle’ and it all reminds me what I have been missing. A fantastic album that captures the spirit of Irish-America perfectly.

THE POKES – Another Toast  (Here)

The Pokes had quite a lengthy several year hiatus between this album and their last but have returned with an album that reminds me of them at their best. Another Toast is their fifth studio album and takes off from where Mayday ended. Their distinctive Folk-Punk sound is left intact as well as the humour they are famous for. Kicking off with an ode to their beloved Berlin wart’n’all. Accordion led with a real catchy beat chugging along. As I’ve said before The Pokes remind me a hell of a lot of the Geordie band The Whiskey Priests. Unafraid to venture into political commentary but it’s pure bold and absolute brazen entertainment that is the goal here and is achieved 100%. My personal favourite here is ‘Gambler’, now talk about bloody catchy! but several songs could all be described the same. With the album’s artwork it’s no surprise The Pokes take a deep look at death here but always with a jig in their heart and a beer glass being slammed into a table.

The CD album comes with the added bonus of the vinyl only Sail single from earlier this year and also with a extensive 16-page booklet. The album was released on the famous Mad Butcher Records and is available in all formats. This to me is Celtic-Punk without being particularly Celtic but it is nevertheless absolutely superb party music!

HAWTHORN – All The Light We Cannot See  (Download)

We have just literally done a review of another band from Arizona (the new album from Swainn) and his has been in the to-do pile for a few weeks without us giving it much of a chance. hawthorns roots began in another local Celtic-Punk West Winds and they have previously released a 6-track EP in 2017 before this. Hawthorn are, rather unbelievably, a duo with Sarah Elizabeth and Brent Anderson playing all the instruments. The band is rather mysterious with blurred videos and artsy photos never quite giving you a decent view of the band. Still we here for the music and that is damn good.

I didn’t know they were a duo for a good while after I heard this album and I still find it hard to believe now after several listens. The amount of instruments here is incredible with flute, tin-whistle, uileann pipes, upright bass, mandolin, banjo and plenty more all in the mix here. At times the music is aggressive Celtic-Punk and at other times gentle Celtic inspired Folk. Basically the perfect model for an album on these pages. Of the former the brilliant intro ‘Beltane’ that leads into the fast bagpipe led ‘A Green And Ancient Light’, ‘Gardner’s Ghost’ and the album’s closing song ‘Raven’ all rock along with Celtic intensity, while of the latter the Irish trad instrumental ‘Lughnasadh’, the atmospheric ‘Samhain’, with almost Gothic sounding uileann piping, and the gentle ‘Solstice’ all stand out. Overall it’s a great album with a bit extra than most Celtic-Punk albums. Definitely not yer typical American album with both it’s style and lyrics. The album is available at the link below for ‘name your price’ download so basically a £100, a pint of Guinness or bugger all. Up to you but make sure you do download it.

THE SURFIN’ TURNIPS – Down The Allotment  (Download)

The Surfin’ Turnips have been with us now a good few years and round their way (Bristol and the south-west of England) they have become quite the institution. Known primarily as a festival band they have a decent enough back catalogue too and their latest album Down The Allotment came out back in March.
These guys are the real deal when it comes to West country Cider Punk anthems and its all heads down Folk’n’Roll as on the album opener the Ramonesy ‘Mermaids Leg’ that leads into the Folky but Punky but still Folky ‘Windbound’. It’s all done in great spirit and with tongue lodged firmly in cheek with salty songs of the sea, some of the fields and some of the orchards too. There’s plenty here but maybe you have to be a local for it to really click with you. Some of the subjects sailing right over me head but I loved the uncomplicated Punk-Rock sound that is only improved by the addition of accordion. The kind of band that when asked your standout tracks it would change every listen. At the moment the spoken word ‘Evesham Wheel’, UK82 style ‘Cider Police’, the piss taking ‘You Are My Cider’ and the album’s closing song, and also one of my favourite songs, ‘The Bonnie Ship The Diamond’ all stand out though I can guarantee that will change. One for ‘turnip’ up loud and getting your dancing boots on!
 

2021 CATCH UP REVIEWS. PART 1 – PHIL ODGERS, CHRISTY MOORE, JIM LINDBERG, DAN WALSH

Here’s hoping you all had a great Christmas and New Year.  Despite everything it’s been another great year for music. Maybe not quite as much of it but things are picking up and the end of 2021 saw us caught in a deluge of music we couldn’t keep up with. Any regular reader will know we prefer to do detailed reviews and even though we can’t do them justice here are some notable release we simply had to mention before the end of the year.  Each one impressed us immensely and are worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out. We start with Part 1 and a bunch of solo artists.

PHIL ODGERS – Ghosts Of Rock’n’Roll  (Bandcamp)

Phil ‘Swill’ Odgers has been one half of the legendary joint vocal strike force of legendary folk rebel rockers The Men They Couldn’t Hang since the early 80’s and has recorded under many various monikers over the years. In fact this is his fifth solo album. In February TMTCH announced the sad death Of Swill’s fellow vocalist Stefan Cush and many wondered where The Men would go from here. Well The Men still continue to perform and Swill put out Ghosts Of Rock’n’Roll in September after a successful campaign to raise the necessary to release it. Eleven tracks of acoustic folkiness accompanied by guests galore including Sid Griffin and The Men fiddler Bobby Valentino. The music itself owes much to The Men perhaps inevitable given Phil Odgers distinctive vocals. Of the songs here the opening ‘The Serpent, The Maiden and The Bear’ kicks off with a county-ish happy-go-lucky jaunty banjo led song with the warm vocals telling of guiding your way home from reading the stars.

The following song, a cover of Phil Ochs, ‘Flower Lady’ is another high point standing out from the more Folky songs with its R’n’R guitar while it is ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ that is most memorable. A beautiful study in aging and dementia originally written by Joe Solo. Ghosts Of Rock’n’Roll is like a Men album it that it does encompass several distinct influences and also like a Men album it is both uplifting and sobering. Though the sadness of the death of Cush hangs over the album is dedicated to Cush and is a fitting memorial to him.

CHRISTY MOORE – Flying Into Mystery   (Here)

A ‘proper’ new album from one of the last remaining true legends of Irish music. Christy Moore’s first studio album since 2016 features twelve songs Christy has brought to life and made unique even if some we have heard before. For the first time (with the exception of health induced breaks) since 1969 Christy’s life hasn’t revolved around live performances and so as he says “all my focus has been on this album”. As is common with a lot of his work the album consists of his own interpretations of others and a handful of his own compositions. There are Gary Moore’s ‘Johnny Boy’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘I Pity The Poor Immigrant’ among the better known but also the less well known like the chilling ‘December 1942’ by Cork singer/ songwriter Ricky Lynch telling of the arrival of a train from the Warsaw ghetto at Auschwitz “to unload its human cargo/met by demons and by devils and their savage dogs”. While I do sometimes despair of the dreaded ‘celebrity opinion’ and their desire to stay relevant Christy’s politics at least come from the heart and on the album’s lead single ‘Clock Winds Down’ he sings of the mess the planet is in. Written by American singer Jim Page who was also covered by The Moving Hearts when they recorded his anti-nuclear classic ‘Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette’.

This is followed by another harrowing song, the traditional ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ telling the cautionary tale of a young lad Henry tried and convicted for poaching and sentenced to transportation to the horrors of the British penal colony in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania).

“Young men, all now beware, Lest you are drawn into a snare”

My own favourite here is one of his own songs and ‘Bord na Móna Man’ is always the kind of song I think of when I think of Christy Moore. A comic tale and a tribute to the art of turf cutting and turf cutters. Their was a time when it was a feature of Irish national life but these days the government would rather import it from overseas.

Their is something very familiar about this album. That mix of trad, modern covers and rowdy self penned numbers is very much the Christy formula but he does it with such style that the whole thing still sounds fresh and new.

JIM LINDBERG – Songs From The Elkhorn Trail (Here)       

Here’s another ‘Punk’ vocalist taking time out from his usual duties to lay down a solo album but unlike Cush this is the Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg’s first album. Known for shouty Pop Punk friendly anthems he takes a far more reflective turn here and once again the subject of getting old comes up and again is handled beautifully. His father passed away in 2018 from Alzheimer’s Disease and was obviously a huge influence on his life supporting him in his career with Pennywise and even buying him his first guitar. The album cover depicts Jim playing guitar by his old mans Palm Desert home by the Elkhorn Trail and on the cello infused ‘Don’t Lay Me Down’ he opens his heart to us

“Drove to the desert house to say my last goodbye / I ran every light, didn’t make it there in time … A toast to those who gave us life”

Some of the songs here are over twenty years old and the upbeat music often disguises something more serious. The opening track ‘The Palm Of Your Hand’ is a great rousing start and call to sort ourselves out despite the pain we may hold.

On ‘You’re Not Alone’ Jim keeps it catchy as hell, poppy even with an inspiring message keeping the cringe at arms bay. ‘Hello Again’ is a gentle number that verges on exploding into something else but is reigned in magnificently. The words of a man who loves a drink while he reminisces about his Dad before the piano led ending. A truly lovely song though dark as much of the album is. The full band ‘Not One Of Them’ comes as close to a rock-song as possible here but still retains a country-ish feel to it while ‘Good Enough’ also comes close but in acoustic way. On such a good album it may be hard to pick a standout track but along with the two songs featured here a special mention for the strings laden ‘It’s Only’ and an emotional journey through the life of a life well lived.

Not being much of a Pennywise fan I was initially reluctant to give this a spin but I am glad I did and I am sure it will connect with many people in the same way it has with me. The album features some star guests in Social Distortions David Hidalgo Jr. on drums, The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones Joe Gittleman on bass, Dropkick Murphys / Walker Roaders guitarist Marc Orrell and award-winning record producer, musician, and songwriter Ted Hutt working the knobs. Lindberg will be celebrating his Mammy’s Irish roots supporting the Dropkick Murphys for their St. Patrick’s home town gigs so no doubt plenty of you will be lucky to see him then.

DAN WALSH – Live at the Floodgate   (Here)

There ain’t many instruments so suited to Celtic-Punk as the banjo is and while this is a Folk album there is plenty to love about the way Dan Walsh plays for everyone. Since his debut album, Tomorrow’s Still To Come, in 2009 Dan has made a considerable impact n the UK music scene with collaborations with all sorts from The Levellers to Seth Lakeman but he is more than just a ‘banjo to hire’ and his own material displays influences from some pretty imaginative sources! Born into a Irish family in the English town of Stafford Dan has been playing since 13 when so impressed by the likes of Barney McKenna and Gerry O’Connor he begged his parents to buy him a banjo and he has never looked back since. Now several album’s in he has recorded a live album ‘Live At The Floodgate’ at a pub in his own home town.

Recorded just before the first lockdown but only recently released, Live At The Floodgate sees Dan re-visiting all five of his previous albums as well as some new material and also some of his favourite covers like his outstanding version of Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ that he has never released before. He kicks off with a thoughtful and tentative instrumental ‘Over The Border’ which ever so slowly builds into the equivalent of banjo Motorhead! The first time we hear Dan’s voice is on ‘Still A Town’ about gentrification and perhaps the destruction of the kind of places where this kind of music can still be heard. There’s a couple of auld Saw Doctors tracks ‘The Suilin’ and ‘At Least Pretend’ while ‘Late Night Drive’ at half way through the album begins to show Dan’s confidence as he plays with such speed it’s incredible and all note perfect too. You can hear from the audience too that the excitement is building. Two of the previous reviews have touched on the treatment of the elderly and here Dan puts the banjo down for acoustic guitar as he tells the moving story of an elderly man in a care home on ‘The Song Always Stays’. The song was actually inspired by a visit to Scots singer Glen Mason in a Surrey care home. Glen was often visited by musicians, whose repertoire would sometimes include his own songs, up to his death in 2014. The beauty of music eh? One of the highlights is the epic (over seven minutes!) ‘Joxers Set’ which starts off with you expecting another ballad before speeding up several times to the point where you cant imagine he can go any faster… before getting faster! Dan could have left it there but returns for the obligatory encore and the alcohol has flowed enough even for some audience participation as he sends his appreciative fans home (no doubt with the song playing in their heads for the following couple of days!) to Lester Flatt’s ‘Sleep with One Eye Open’

The live album can be very much a mixed bag but here Dan plays with such an intensity and comes across as so likeable that it’s impossible not to get drawn in. Over an hour that shows him at his very best and with the varied material here this is an album that anyone could love even them as don’t like banjos. If such a person does exist?

WATCH OUT FOR PART 2 COMING THIS WEEKEND!

ALBUM REVIEW: THE GROGGY DOGS – ‘Grog O’Clock’ (2021)

Grog-fuelled, rum-thievin’ Punk Metal Pirate Band with a drop o’ Celtic on top!

Our last review of the year, we’ll see you soon, sees the debut album from Seville based Groggy Dogs. They be a pirate band that fuses Punk, Metal ‘n Ska wit’ sea shanties ‘n traditional Celtic melodies, achievin’ a forceful ‘n fun sound that invites ye t’ dance ‘n party wit’ a few grog jugs.

The end of 2021 saw a flurry of ‘Pirate-Punk’ releases to which we can now add The Groggy Dogs and their debut 8-track album Grog O’Clock. Based in Seville in southern Spain. The city itself is not that far from the sea which may explain why the guys set up a Piratey band. As we have said before there is no more than a fag paper between Celtic-Punk and Pirate music sharing many of the same tunes and songs and sea-shanties galore, as evident on Grog O’Clock.

The Groggy Dogs left to right: The Deadman (Lucas Hidalgo) – Drums * The Voodoo Witch (Fátima Caballero) – Violin * The Cap’n (Mauro Blanco) – Vocals, Guitar * The Cook (Carlos Ghirlanda) – Bass * The Buccaneer (Seba Santa Cruz) – Accordion *

We can thank the Covid lockdown for The Groggy Dogs as they were formed only in April, 2020 only a month after the worldwide lockdown began, with Mauro, already a veteran of several Celtic projects wanting to give the music a more forceful sound. Soon joined by several other musicians and being huge fans of traditional sea songs, the decision was to form a Pirate-Folk-Punk band.
“An unknown plague was sweepin’ the whole world when The Cap’n, marooned, realizin’ that his supplies were diminishin’, decided t’ embark on a new adventure in search o’ ports t’ plunder. He knew that his guitar ‘n his grog-worn voice wouldna be enough t’ navigate through the roarin’ seas ‘n winds so he united the crew”
This album has been out a while being released last April and just goes to show if you want a review then you have to send it us. We don’t need a CD just a download and away we’ll go. The album was recorded in mid-2020 and contains the perfect combination for drinking and having a great time with it’s mix of popular covers and original compositions. Starting off with the great instrumental ‘The Roaring Seas’ and maybe somewhat predictably but still very effective the sound of the shore is soon joined by accordion and then fiddle. Needless to say guitars start thrashing, drums pounding and bass throbbing before the song goes off in a unexpected tangent  of Ska and Metal. I love a bit of trad to kick things off and we next get the first of the covers and a thrashy energetic 18th century Irish sea-shanty ‘Ten Thousand Miles Away’.

Ska is never too far away and the song bounces along in that way that only Ska can do but the fiddle and accordion are pumped up loud (but perfect) in the mix and the song changes tempo several times but always remains tuneful. ‘All For Me Grog’ is another well known sea-shanty that tells of a sailor who sells everything he owns, as well as his wife, to pay for his distractions! The Dubliners had a top 10 hit with the song in 1967 which still remains the most popular version. This is followed by a companion song ‘The Wise Grog’ and another top notch accordion led Metally-Ska instrumental.

Next another well known standard of the genre ‘Drunken Sailor’ and again dating from the 18th century and from Ireland. This song could have been written to be turned into Punk so natural is it. Played fast and with plenty of chorus for the audience to join in on it’s no wonder it has become so popular. ‘The Ghost Of High Barbery’ dates even further back to the early 17th century and tells of a English ship being attacked by African pirates and having to defend themselves.

“For quarter, for quarter those pirates then did plea
But the answer that we gave them, was to sink them in their sea.”

(Directed and animated by Carlos Ghirlanda. Art by Martín Neironi and Agustín Capiglioni)

Not a song I’ve heard before but I love The Groggy Dogs version with it’s gruff vocals and speedy tuneful tune. ‘Botany Bay’ is also known as ‘South Australia’, under which title is was recorded by The Pogues, and is still a favourite of mainly Irish bands. The album ends with another brilliant instrumental and ‘Last Night’s Grog’ sees the album out with probably the best song and never do they sound more Gaelic! A fast, catchy, tuneful, uplifting instrumental to send us off.

Grog O’Clock was expertly recorded, mixed and mastered by The Groggy Dogs Cap’n and founder Mauro at Estudios Tomahawk. The sound is absolutely perfect and with all the instruments as clear as the proverbial bell! The whole album blends traditional Irish Folk and sea-shanties (sometimes the same thing) with more modern influences to make for something very good. The touches of Punk, Ska and Metal in The Groggy Dogs hands make for a brilliant sound. A forceful ‘n fun sound that invites ye t’ dance ‘n party wit’ a few jugs o’ grog (that’s enough of that- editor).

(You can stream / download the whole of Grog O’Clock on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Grog O’Clock  CD-FromTheBand  Download-Bandcamp

Contact The Groggy Dogs  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

So that’s your lot for 2021. Our final post. Thanks for sailing with us and thanks for everybody involved in the site and everyone that has supported us over the last year. Happy to say that 2022 is shaping up to be a great year something for us all to celebrate. 

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.

EP REVIEW: FOGGY DUDE – ‘More Ain’t Less’ (2021)

Our favourite Czech Republican Celtic-Punk band Foggy Dude are back with an amazing studio EP of seven songs to follow last years Pub 10 live recording. 

These guys came to our attention last year with the release of Pub 10 a live EP of five songs recorded at their favourite Prague pub. Sadly for them, being live, it wasn’t eligible to be included in our end of year Best Of’s or else it would have definitely featured so impressed were we. Recorded ‘warts’nall’ it really captured this talented band perfectly so I was delighted to hear they were still going and had recorded new material.

Foggy Dude left to right: Jirka – Bass * Drunken Joe – Acoustic Guitar * Caba – Mandolin * Štofi – Electric Guitar * Ilia – Violin * Jirka – Tin Whistle * Peťa – Drums *

Foggy Dude (great name!) were formed in the Summer of 2017 by a group of friends who were studying at Strahov Technical University in the Czech Republic capital of Prague. In their earliest days they were a 8-piece gigging round the local student/punk scene in Prague at mainly the Vagon Rock club, 007 club Strahov and, what would become their spiritual home, the Block 10 Pub. A few years later they may no longer be students but they can still be found hanging around the pubs of Strahov. As any Celtic-Punk fan will tell you it’s next to impossible to keep that many people together long term and so it proved as people have come and gone from the band and no sooner had they released Pub 10 then two members up and left. Foggy Dude have risen to the challenge though and now a mere 7-piece instead of bringing in a singer they now share the vocal duties among the band. A very novel and commendable approach.

A wise man once said: Do you know why you should drink more? Because more ain’t less! Or so the story goes according to Ilia, who decided to demonstrate said proverb to us one drunken night at Pub 10. Since then, we took it to our hea… livers, as we got through many more drunken nights. We wrote some songs, we sang them loud for the entire drinkery to hear and thus this album came about. – Taken from the album notes.

More Ain’t Less begins with ‘Raise Your Glass’ and Ilia, the fiddle player takes on the main vocal in a tribute to The Dreadnoughts. So impressed by the Canadians love of sea-shanties (they recorded a whole album not long back) they decided to write one themselves to open shows so only right it should open here too. Next up is bass player Jirka and a song he wrote in the Himalayas (!) about the small things in life sometimes being the most enjoyable. In this case being in the Himalayas and missing a pint in your favourite bar with your friends.

“I sailed the deepest ocean
and climbed the greatest mountains
I know what is the life
I slept with many girls
and beat a lot of men
I know what is the life”

Great words and musically it’s bloody fantastic too. Great fiddle and a tune to die for. Five minutes of pure unabashed kick-arse Celtic-Punk party music. Catchy beyond words. All I can say is you’ll just have to check it out yourselves.

Cába of the mandolin sings ‘Hunt For Leprechaun’ and it’s actually the very first song ever written by the band about having your gold stolen by a leprechaun and then gaining your revenge. Again it’s a belter of a song and as catchy as hell. Word is they only wrote this song as they wanted to shout “NOW THE GOLD IS IN HIS ASS” in public! This is one hell of a bunch of talented guys and I don’t just mean musically either as they next turn their hand to an instrumental and ‘Felfire Dance’ includes two jigs both written by the band. The origins of the song lay in the time Cába was studying in Ireland. Jirka is back next for ‘Old Man’ and a sad tale but told with amazing gusto and such a uplifting Eastern influenced tune. A old man slaves his life away breaking his back till he can work no more and on finding his life in ruins finds solace in the bottom of a glass.

“Once there was an old man,
in a grotty pub, siting alone
and he had a story to tell
I got one bottle of whiskey
and I sunk across the table”

We see plenty of these old fella’s in the Irish community but truth be told they are everywhere and they built everything. Cába is back on vocals for ‘You Didn’t Even Appear At All’ and a more straight up Punk track but still with all the Celtic instrumentation. Based on a habit of old singer Sam to leave funny messages on peoples phones when angry or drunk or drunk and angry. The EP ends with another fine instrumental ‘Slainte Pico’ of two Foggy Dude original compositions.

Altogether this is a really wonderful release and it really made my day. With a pile of releases to get through of mostly Folky stuff it was an absolute pleasure to get this and it ended up taking over my day so good was it. The only disappointment here is that their is not more of it! The balance struck between Folk and Punk and Trad is perfect as is the production and it comes with the best booklet I’ve seen on any release this year. If we did give marks out of ten then put More Ain’t less down for a 9!

Download More Ain’t Less  Spotify  YouTubePlaylist

Contact Foggy Dude  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

ALBUM REVIEW: THE OUTCAST CREW – ‘Myths & Yarns’ (2021)

The debut album from Ireland’s newest Celtic-Punk band- The Outcast Crew. Ten original roaring trad punk songs about myths, folklore and singalong sea shanties!

Strangely there aren’t a huge amount of Celtic Punk bands based in Ireland, so we were delighted to receive the debut album Myths & Yarns from The Outcast Crew. It is extremely encouraging that the genre is alive and kicking back in the homeland.

The Outcast Crew are 6-piece band including Brian O’Mahoney (Vocals/Guitars); Paul Flynn (Drums); Niall Harney (Bass); Adela Mealy (Accordion); John Davidson (Fiddle) and Alasdair McCann on banjo. Myths & Yarns has been released though the Los Angeles publishing company ‘Songs to your Eyes’.

Lead singer and songwriter Brian O’Mahoney explains how the album came about.

“I had written a couple of instrumental folk/trad albums for publishers in both London and LA. Austin Seltzer had mixed and mastered a previous album of mine and he suggested I write an album with folk instruments along with heavy guitars and vocals.”

The album is made up of 10 songs and is a perfect blend of all that is Celtic Punk. You can clearly hear influences of 70’s classic punk (The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Sex Pistols) which are blended perfectly with the more Celtic influences of The Pogues and more recently bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly.
As the title suggests the album is fully of tales of folklore, myths, sea voyages and of course the odd session which are brilliantly delivered with gritty vocals, guitar, banjo and fiddle.

“You are the one I want”, “Renegade” and “Bound for Hell” are worthy of a specific mention as songs which stand out on the album. In saying that the whole album is an excellent offering as a debut album. I have no doubt that based on Myths & Yarns we will be hearing much more of The Outcast Crew in the future. Keep it coming lads.

Buy Myths & Yarns  Amazon  Apple

Contact The Outcast Crew  Facebook   Spotify

ALBUM REVIEW: STAR BOTHERERS – ‘Tales Of Layton Rakes’ (2021)

The second album from Midlands based Star Botherers is a fine mix of Folk, Punk and social commentary.

Now if one band has dominated the Celtic-Punk scene on these islands in the last twelve months it has to have been Ferocious Dog. The runaway success of their recent album The Hope has only continued their rise in popularity and they’ve plenty more in the bank to come too. Along with their success they’ve managed to ferment a whole crew of regular support acts wherever they go that play a similar kind of broadly left-wing Folk-Punk. Some of these are pretty damn good with The Silk Road, The Leylines, The Whipjacks leaping to mind, but also many more are drippy studenty singer-songwriter types, a band that I knew existed in same milieu as FD but I hadn’t heard was the Star Botherers. Coming from the same small town as Ferocious Dog, Warsop near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, they have a good relationship together with FD covering a few of their songs and Broken Soldier features on the new FD album, The Hope. It’s an area famous pretty much just for coal mining which ceased in the area 30 years ago but like most mining communities continues to define where they live.

Star Botherers from top left: Ellis Waring – Bouzouki, Mandolin, Guitars, Ukulele * Brad Drury – Percussion * Joel Howe – Guitars, Accordion, Vocals * bottom left: Andrew ( Bart) Hawkins – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar * Dave Drury – Bass, Vocals *
Recording, mix, master, produced: Joel Howe

Tales Of Layton Rakes is the Star Botherers second album after debut Happy Angry from 2017, which itself was preceded by a handful of demos that are now unavailable. Some of the tracks from those early days have been re-recorded here and the one or two I have heard have benefitted from the update. The album opens with, I think the album’s best song, the modern sea-shanty ’13 Years In Oregon’ a gloriously updated version of a track that appeared on their very first EP. The song steams along at a great pace telling of a life on the sea with some great lyrics and nice vocals from Andrew putting on a sort of Yank drawl. It’s a great wee opener and not what I was expecting from a band that I had imagined were prone mostly to jokey songs. The first of the modern tracks is up next and ‘Spoons’ is, as most UK based residents will know, the nickname for the cheap and (sometimes) cheerful (sometimes not) pub chain JD Weatherspoon. In the modern day of gentrification it’s often the only place in some city centres where working class people can afford a couple of pints. It’s common these days for people to bash Spoons under different guises but underneath it’s always that the owner of Spoons was prominent in the ‘Leave’ campaign. This is followed by ‘Blackpool’ and a list of things about why the town is “Shit, Shit, Shit”. Catchy and it chugs along with a story about a day out in the famous seaside town. ‘Let It Stand’ tells of the plan to erect a statue of Maggie Thatcher in her home town of Grantham not far from where the band are from. Needless to say it’s not universally popular but to to everyone’s surprise the band are in favour but as a way to remember what she stood far. ‘Just Around The Corner’ is another older song re-recorded. A jaunty folky tale of working your life away to make a decent life for you and your family and the breaks you get and more often don’t get. All quite serious stuff but hidden away in the kind of song that you could easily end up swinging strangers around a dance floor to. ‘Another Lidl Song’ is about the cheap but popular Lidl supermarket that is the fastest growing supermarket in Britain. ‘Kyle And Norton’ compares the two staples of British telly swopping their shows and how they get on. A clever and witty song.

‘Freethinker’ is another re-recorded song that has been covered by Ferocious Dog and it sounds like FD copied it note perfect! ‘Swearing In Songs’ is a slower Country-ish number with rather understated swearing considering the subject matter. ‘Silence Is Acceptable’ almost reaches Celtic-Punk in it’s intensity with a roll call of people and groups who fought for rights for all while ‘He Got Dreads’ I would say is about the kind of person who sneers at Spoons and Lidl and working class people in general. All the songs here are written by lead singer Andrew Hawkins with the exception of the next song, ‘Oddly Excluded’. Originally recorded for inclusion on the tribute album The Pete Drake Project (Vol​. ​1) and is one of the album highlights here. The album ends with ‘Sailors Grave’ and another marvelous song about the sea. Bit more Punky it definitely lifts the album at the end.

The album is released tomorrow and is available for pre-order below. It was recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Joel Howe at the Black Market recording studio at home in Warsop and the CD comes with a whopping 16 page lyric booklet. Lyrically it they do seem caught between being an outright jokey band and their more serious material. A balance that will come in time I’m sure. Overall it’s a great album but like most Celtic or Folk-Punk it’s probably best to hear these songs in the live context as it is undoubtedly perfect for drinking and lepping about to!

(You can stream and download Tales Of Layton Rakes on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Tales Of Layton Rakes  Bandcamp

Contact Star Botherers  Facebook  YouTube  

ALBUM REVIEW: SWAINN – ‘Under A Willow Tree’ (2021)

The third album from Arizona based Swainn (also known as Cockswain). Sunburnt Celtic-Rock sealed by Punk-Rock energy and desert heat.

Sitting here in a big jumper with a icy droplet hanging off the end of me nose trying to escape the bitter cold it’s hard to imagine a world where people listen to Celtic-Punk all year round in t-shirts and shorts but we Irish are a travelling race and we are everywhere! What those first Irish settlers thought when they first washed up in Arizona we can only imagine but it may have been along the lines of “phew” ! So it is that wherever you go you’re always guaranteed to find a Irish pub and more than likely a band inside it.

Swainn left to right: Mandy LubkingFiddle, Backing Vocals * Neil Ward – Vocals, Acoustic / Electric Guitar * Brian DailyDrums * Wake LubkingBanjo, Backing Vocals *

It’s not uncommon for Celtic-Punk bands to trace their origins back to St. Patrick’s Day. The lure of a bit of cash (or free drinks!) must seem appealing and many seem to enjoy it so much so that one or two offs become four or five and eventually become permanent. Well nine years on from their humble openings around the pubs of Tucson and marathon three hour sets at packed pubs throughout the wider Phoenix area it’s now time for Swainn’s third album. They have appeared on these pages before back in 2017, when known as Cockswain, with a review of their second album ‘For The Whiskey’, a follow up to their debut album ‘Seamus’ in 2014. Taking the well worn route of mixing originals and Irish standards their audiences soon grew alongside many successful festival appearances but the appeal for a musician is always to play your own material and that is where they are now with Under A Willow Tree. As Neil says “we started out as a scruffy sea shanty Irish band who wrote drinking songs, and we’ve come so far”.

The title of the album Under A Willow Tree represents for the band symbolism, myth and history. As fiddle player Mandy explains

“The Willow itself has Celtic symbolic origins, the tree really represents a lot of synchronicity for us, because Neil regular references nature in the lyrics. When we were settling on the title, I was studying mandolin techniques online one night, and the video was set to none other than ‘Bury Me Beneath Willow’ by Woody Guthrie. It was meant to be.”

The album kicks off with ‘Voices’ and for those this side of the pond it has certain resonance with English band Mick O’Toole. Fast and heavy with the banjo pushed hard into the mix and Neil’s vocals growling out at you. A grand opening and while I may have made it sound like like some sort of Celtic Napalm Death it has that undeniable accessibility that any generation could warm to. Next up is the album’s lead single ‘Bag O’ Bones’ and sometimes a press release can get a wee bit too flowery

“I was reading a bunch of Ram Dass, he was a psychedelic Buddhist teacher who moved on to another plane. ‘Bag o’ Bones’ is basically your body in a sense. Your spirit is anchored down until you pass on. That’s what the song references.”

God alone knows how I would have described it otherwise! ‘In The Morning’ began life as a straight up drinking song before becoming about mental health and depression and sadly I’m not sure anyone knows more about the sad connection between the two as the Irish and yet ones of my generation still worship the grain. Great banjo from Wake here and a real thigh slapper before ‘Take Action’ whish begins in a trad Folk style before mixing in some bluegrass style while making a simple statement without ramming it home thank Heavens. The mention of Bluegrass is quite as apt as the acoustic  ‘Home’ takes it to the next level with a song that could almost come from another era. You know after that we are due a stormer and we get it in ‘Let’s Get Loose’. A quick and jaunty trip with lots of gang shouts and a right royal rowdy Celtic Folk knees up. ‘Sink Or Float’ is a bit more on the poppier side of things but still unquestionably just as catchy while telling us of the journey of outcasts.

“I sing Danny Boy and the Rose Of Tralee cannot deny the rebel in me”

‘Fairwinds’ is more traditional Celtic-Punk sounding not so far off Flogging Molly at their best. A uplifting number with great banjo and fiddle. A “raucous fight song meant to kick everybody’s ass” according to Neil. One of the things here that makes Under A Willow Tree a cut above most Celtic-Punk albums is the quality of the songwriting and ‘Up On The Mountain’ is a perfect example. Celtic-Punk should, in common with Celtic-Folk, be about story telling. There is no other genre that could ever get you jigging about to a song about famine dying of hunger or alcoholism or despair! 

“I hope people have a good time when they listen to us or see us live, that’s always the goal for us.”

We washing up to the end and time for another slower number in ‘Brand New Day’ before the album ends with the fantastic piss taking ‘Another Drinking Song’ where the band take the mickey out of themselves in what could be described as ‘classic Celtic-Punk’.

(‘Another Drinking Song’ live at The Tucson Celtic Festival and Scottish Highland Games, Tucson, AZ in November 2018)

One thing I know is that whenever I have been anywhere hot I always get a urge to go sit somewhere cool where cold drinks are readily available so if the folks from Swainn are anything like me this is where they find their inspiration! On Under A Willow Tree we find Swainn moving away from the “scruffy sea shanty Irish drinking songs” that they began with but still staying true to the traditions they come from but trying something more sophisticated.

Buy Under A Willow Tree  Here

Contact Swainn  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

( A live stream from last St. Patrick’s Day direct from the Swainn garage for the Phoenix Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library Phoenix Virtual Concert)

ALBUM REVIEW: SPOTTED DOGS – ‘The Old Disgrace. Live’ (2021)

We don’t get many live albums to review but when we do they tend to be pretty decent. Swedish band The Spotted Dogs new album of fast Irish Folk is no different and transports you from your home direct to them and even puts a pint in your hand too!

FREE DOWNLOAD

Well you wait all year to review a new Swedish release and then you get two in the same week and not only that but both from the charming (so I’m told) old city of Gothenburg. Surprisingly there’s no overlap so some healthy competition for each other and let’s hope this is a start of a beautiful relationship!

We dig with whitening knuckles in the Irish soil and find the vein of hard swinging Celtic-Punk. Just surrender, lace up and roll up!

Like most bands the original inspiration can be traced back to a handful of bands and likely subjects The Dubliners and The Pogues figure heavily in The Spotted Dogs sound. Formed way back in 1995 by five spotty Swedish teenagers they spent their early days playing at illegal clubs in boathouses along the archipelago outside Gothenburg. As they became more well known and the popularity of Irish music grew so they progressed to the pub scene around the city. From the start the Bhoys knew they wanted to play Irish Folk but with Punk-Rock attitude and over the years their sound has developed into a more faster style though more akin to Flogging Molly than the Murphys. An early decision was to drop any slow ballads from their set and keep their set upbeat and more in keeping with the pub setting. These days The Spotted Dogs spend their time playing mostly Punk clubs in western Sweden.

The Old Disgrace kicks off with that auld London Irish favourite ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’, one of many here made famous by Ronnie and Luke and co. It’s fast and furious yet totally accessible. Like a band at your local Irish Centre who decide to unload for the last few songs when everyone’s a little more ‘relaxed’ (!). This is followed up by a couple of Celtic-Punk / Irish Folk standards and ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’ and ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans’ could well be my favourite rebel songs and their tempo has made them perfect for Celtic-Punk bands to adapt and you’ll not beat ‘Black & Tans’ for a shouty chorus. Next up is ‘Connolly Was There’ a song recently recorded by the Dropkick Murphys telling of the great role the Irish labour leader James Connolly played wherever he went. Born in Scotland he enlisted in the British Army serving in Ireland where his parents had emigrated from. He would later desert and eventually move to Ireland where he organised the Dublin workers in the Irish Citizens Army. He would fight in the 1916 Easter Rising where he was shot and captured and eventually executed. His execution would be roundly condemned for given no more than a day or two to live he was unable to stand for the firing squad and so he was tied to a chair and executed. Last rites were given by Father Aloysius Travers and asked to pray for the soldiers about to shoot him, he said

“I will say a prayer for all men who do their duty according to their lights.”

‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ follows and it never ceases to amaze me that people can keep up with the words, especially here played at this speed. ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ written by Leon Rosselson, and made popular by Billy Bragg (remember when he was good?) took it into the charts in on the Between the Wars EP, released towards the end of the momentous miners’ strike in 1985. The song tells the story of the Diggers, a group of radicals radical group who set up what was effectively an agricultural commune at St George’s Hill near Weybridge in Surrey amid the tumult of the English revolution. These days St. Georges Hill is a collection of golf courses surrounded by the mansions of the mega wealthy and no monument to the men of 1649 stands. One thing to take notice of here is Anders vocals. Loud and clear and able to carry a tune you get the impression he could belt out a ballad if the band would let him! He almost gets the chance next and while ‘The Foggy Dew’ may be what passes the closest to a ballad here it is by no means in the true sense of the word. Another ‘rebel’ song embraced by the Celtic-Punk scene this is a great version. The last three songs whizz past in no time at all and are all famous ‘pub’ songs for want of a better word. ‘Join The British Army’, ‘Greenland Whale Fisheries’ and finally ‘Muirsheen Durkin’ give the six-piece band a complete work out and though the album may only last just over twenty-five minutes theirs more energy in it’s ten songs than many double that.

The songs on The Old Disgrace were all recorded live at a concert at Pustervik in central Gothenburg and the recording is absolutely note perfect. Shut your eyes and you could almost be there. There’s nothing original on this album to be honest and why that my sound bad don’t be put off this album is fantastic. Passion, pride and the pursuit of a bloody good time. If you’re going to perform an album of covers then my advice to you is to do it like The Spotted Dogs do.

(You can listen to The Old Disgrace on the Bandcamp player below. It’s available as a **FREE** download so follow the link below and grab yourself a copy)

Download The Old Disgrace  Bandcamp

Contact The Spotted Dogs  Facebook 

ALBUM REVIEW: THE CRAZY ROGUES – ‘Advanced Roguery’ (2021)

The new album from Hungary’s The Crazy Rogues again stretches what we think of as Celtic-Punk while still keeping both feet firmly in the Celtic-Punk scene.

So it is that just a couple of weeks after we featured the release of their lead single we now have the pleasure of reviewing Advanced Roguery from The Crazy Rogues. This is the first full length album from the band after several EP’s, all of which have been received favourably by the Celtic/Folk- Punk press, and while the Hungarian Celtic-Punk scene has been a bit quiet of late it never too long before a high quality release hits the shops. Formed in Veszprém in mid-Hungary in 2014 they are among the earliest of the second wave of Hungarian Celtic-Punk bands after the likes of Paddy And The Rats and Firkin. It’s been a long four years since the Rebels’ Shanties EP and what a four years it has been!

The Crazy Rogues: Teo Biermann – Flute, Vocals * László Verrasztó – Lead Vocals * Dávid Csillag – Violin, Vocals * Krisztián Fellegi – Banjo, Mandolin, Vocals * Gábor Fazekas – Guitars, Vocals * Péter Németh – Bass * Ákos Nagy – Drums *

The album kicks off with ‘Bull’s Eye’ and one thing The Crazy Rogues have never been afraid of and that is to experiment and escape the basic standard Celtic-Punk formula. Eastern Europe meets Far-West Europe as the influences bounce off each other with gang shouts and mandolin and fiddle embracing László’s great vocals. Catchy as hell and some great lyrics too in a story about stealing from a gangster. Even their songs subject matter makes a nice change! Advanced Roguery includes three tracks released for St. Patrick’s Day 2019 but all re-recorded and re-mastered. The first of which is the Punky ‘Fight You’ another great story this time of a man betrayed and now out for revenge. The Crazy Rogues can’t quite escape their PaddyPunk roots and they do a utterly fantastic cover of one of the most famous and popular Irish rebel songs. ‘Black ’n’ Tans’ has become a bit of a standard now among Celtic-Punk bands with it’s rousing chorus and violent call to arms against the British army.

“Come out and fight me like a man”

As we often say the test of a truly great Celtic-Punk band is their ability to turn to a ballad or quieter moments and on ‘Brother’ they achieve it with some very moving lyrics and the tune that takes an upbeat turn half way through. ‘Man Cave’ is the second of the re-mastered tracks and one thing that the pandemic proved was that men have been pushed out of the house under the illusion of having their own space. Several friends now have these spaces in their back gardens where they can keep their football memorabilia or music without being nagged at!

“Our sacred base, A hideout for the days, When man can be what he’s meant to be”

Now for the album’s standout track and no surprise that the band chose ‘Empire Of Sand’ as the albums lead single. Blending their trademark Celtic-Punk sound with Arabic tunes making a perfect example of what they call ‘Rogue’n’Roll’ that was released back in June 2021 in a live studio session.

The video above is a slightly different from that on the album, for that you’ll have to listen to it on the  Bandcamp player below. ‘Lady With A Lily Crown’ and ‘Better Than Home’ both give a wee nod to a famous (non) Irish Folk song and rattle along at a fair pace before we are in for a real Celtic-Punk rattler with ‘King Of The Alehouse’ with some clever wordplay about unrequited love in Kilkenny. We nearing the end and ‘Too Far Away’ is a nice ballad style track before the last of the re-done songs, Stranger’s Tale’ and having not heard the 2019 versions I can’t comment on how different they are except that they are all among the best songs on Advance Roguery.

One of the things that Hungarian bands have especially embraced is the flute and while I wasn’t much of a fan It was while watching fellow Hungarians Firkin that I fell in love with its use. The curtain comes down on Advance Roguery with ‘Walk The Line’ and takes as it’s base traditional Irish and Moldovan Folk tunes with some great guitar and drum work and and a uplifting accompanying Punky tune.

Expertly recorded, mixed and mastered by Botlik Mátyás at Grenma Studios in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Botlik has captured the sound of the band perfectly. Their are twelve songs here of which eight are compositions written by the band and together they represent well the journey The Crazy Rogues have taken over the years. Advanced Roguery blends the old with the new though their sound is still underpinned by Celtic-Punk you will find a variety of styles here that all sound terrific together and they lift the band to a whole new level of roguery!

(You can stream and download Advanced Roguery on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Advanced Roguery  Bandcamp 

Contact The Crazy Rogues  Facebook  SoundCloud  YouTube  Instagram

ALBUM REVIEW: HOLD FAST – ‘Last Of The Rebels’ (2021)

No easy task keeping the tricolour flying for Pennsylvania’s large Irish community but Hold Fast do just that. Whether tales of the sea, songs of whiskey, or lessons on love and life. Back with the follow up to their debut album three years ago Hold Fast provide more rowdy Celtic-Punk and Irish Folk.

Hold Fast can get a rebellion started and keep it going long into the early morning! 

In this day and age we have easy access to music of all kinds and as you can imagine we get plenty of new music here at London Celtic Punks. So much in fact that sometimes I can find myself listening to nothing but new releases for days on end. Saying that some ‘older’ album’s do stand out and one of them has been Hold Fast’s debut album, Black Irish Sons, which I have revisited many a time in the years since it came out.

“moments of fast punk rock and slow and gentle ballads mixed together to make an album that is laid out perfectly and at a ideal pace. The bands Irish roots are stamped all over things and they may look to the past of the Tones, Clancy’s and Dub’s but are not stuck there and have added their own stamp to everything they do.”

Black Irish Sons was universally well received at the time sitting just outside the London Celtic Punks Best Album Of 2018 top ten in #12 and finishing Top Ten for both Paddyrock and Celtic Folk Punk And More. So with the winds at their back they continued doing what they do playing regularly around their home state until the Covid lockdowns and things were put on hold. The recent appearance of Last Of the Rebels signifies two things to me. The triumphant return of Hold Fast and the return also of (even if just a little) a normal life.

Founded in 2016 in the state capital of Harrisburg Hold Fast are but part of a flourishing local Celtic-Punk scene along with the mighty Kilmaine Saints, Bastard Bearded Irishmen, Punkabillys, Lucky Lad Green and The Tradesmen the best known and all of whom have featured on these pages at one time or another. The Irish make up the State’s second biggest ancestry group at just under 20% (#1 is German) but in many places that rises to over 40% and so there’s a very good reason for such a wealth of Celtic-Punk bands alongside the State’s many traditional Irish Folk acts.

So can Last Of The Rebels compete with Black Irish Sons or not is the question? The first thing I noticed is the number of tracks on their debut was a bog standard ten but here the album stretches to fourteen songs and lasts just under a hour. That’s a risky thing with peoples attention spans not being what they were and especially in Celtic-Punk where we all accept that the best place to hear the music is down the pub in the company of others rather than sitting at home. The album kicks off with ‘Silver Shamrock’ and while I was expecting a ditty based around the unforgettable theme tune from Halloween 3 it turns out to be a rocking Paddy-Punk bagpipe heavy tribute to the Silver Shamrock tattoo parlour run by a horror mad Irishman. Not the blazing opener I was hoping for but a good toe-tapper singalong and anyway ‘Three Can Keep A Secret’ supplies the rowdiness next and it’s top quality Piratey Punk. Cole’s vocals are just the right side of raspy here, strong and powerful. Not quite Tom Waits but Shane-ish compared to most. Glad also to see our auld mate Mike McNaughton has joined the cast here since the album’s release on drums too.

Title track ‘Last Of The Rebels’ was the first single from the album and came out with a rather uninspiring video but these guys don’t have time to get all artsy-farty and the video did it’s job in letting us all know that Hold Fast had lost none of their spunk in the intervening years. Hold Fast keep the covers to a minimum and concentrate on their own material like ‘Magh Meall & Tir Nan Nog’ a Punky, fast and furious (the shortest song here) modern sea-shanty. On past experience the ballad holds no fear for Hold Fast and Cole’s vocal range can more than handle it and so they show on ‘Prodigal Sun’. A outstanding song with some great writing too. They follow this up with a dark and foreboding short instrumental ‘Gentlemen And Rogues’ which more than tips it’s cap at legendary Irish act Horslips. ‘The Sails Are On Fire’ takes us on another nautical voyage which even includes some nice brass instruments. The challenge from piper Jon was to find the Tuba and if I had to guess than I’d say it was here. Of all the American sports I think it is Baseball that we over this side of the Atlantic don’t get the most. As far as I’m aware its the sport of choice for the working-class American and especially the Irish-American working class. As an aside I live about a 20 minute walk from where the first ever Baseball game was played! Still I just don’t get it but I’m happy and willing to agree that it’s more than just a American version of Rounders! ‘The Ballad Of Joe Savery’ is next and when I looked up the name I found local Philadelphia sporting idol Joe Savery but on listening to the song it has bugger all to do with him and is another superb tribute to sailors.

‘To Davey Jones’ tells of the well worn metaphor (Davy Jones Locker) for the bottom of the sea where the souls of drowned sailors dwell and shipwrecks lay consigned to the depths of the ocean. Jon puts down the pipes to concentrate on accordion duties and another great song of the sea. When the Yuppies were doing their sea-shanty impersonations a while ago on Tik-Tok I never seen one that you could even compare to this. Time for another crowd pleaser and ‘Brody’s Lament’ gives them that. A great singalong chorus and plenty of thigh slapping Country infused elements here to enjoy. One thing missing so far has been a proper overt Irish rebeller and they don’t disappoint with a great version of the famed Wolfe Tones track ‘Erin Go Bragh’. On Black Irish Sons they performed another Tones song ‘Big Strong Man’ that they absolutely owned and is well worth checking out. Here named simply ‘The Erin Go Bragh Suite’

“I’ll sing you a song of a row in the town
When the Green flag went up and the Crown flag came down
Twas the neatest and sweetest thing ever you saw
And they played the great game they call Erin Go Bragh”

The song is about the events that took place during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and was written by Peadar Kearney, who also wrote the Irish national anthem. At almost 10 (ten!) minutes it can definitely be described as the album’s epic and as I hinted earlier never outlives it’s welcome. Played slow and purposeful before half way through a sudden surge into life and a Punky Celtic-Punk tale of the ‘boys’ taking on the Tans in county Cork and wiping out the whole ‘f**king lot’. Well worthy of being called epic it’s the album  standout track and shows Hold Fast cramming every element that makes up Celtic-Punk into one song. We are treated to another great cover next as the album comes to an end. ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ is a Scottish Folk song that is perhaps best known as played by Irish acts like The Pogues and The Dubliners ( and indeed The Pogues And The Dubliners) and this is a perfect example of how to play a popular standard. Take it and inject it with some energy and passion and some of yourselves too. ‘Raise Your Glass’ takes us back to where we all like to be- the pub before the curtain comes down with the final track and ‘Slán’. Irish for goodbye Hold Fast say goodbye with a gang-vocal cover of ‘Raise Your Glass’ accompanied on piano before a few seconds of silence before the bonus track and I’ll say no more and leave it to you to find out.

(The Hold Fast set from the Paddyrock Live Stream fiesta from this years St. Patrick’s Day)

So an absolutely outstanding album from the Hold Fast Bhoys. To be honest I was never in any doubt, These guys have the spirit of Irish-America flowing through them and seem to know exactly what the community (and it’s friends) want. This is a great record but sadly for many of us we will never get to experience it in it’s ideal environment. Why the public house of course!

(You can stream / download Last Of The Rebels on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Last Of The Rebels  FromTheBand  Bandcamp

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ALBUM REVIEW: GREEN GUARD – ‘Devil’s Lung’ (2021)

Hello and welcome to Green Guard. Pretty damn good Celtic-Folk-Punk from Moscow, Russia with bagpipes… and heart!

Russia has seen a fair few Celtic-Punk bands come and go so it’s always great to be able to report on these pages a new band. I say new but that is only to us and they’re been around since 2017 (which in this scene still makes them babies!). They released their debut album, Green Noise, in 2018 which was followed up by a couple of singles and the 10-track Ulster Girl album last year. All are available on the  band’s Bandcamp player for just a few dollars. All their previous releases like their new one are exclusively new material. This is a completely free covers zone! Devil’s Lung came out digitally last March in the run up to St. Patrick’s Day but finally saw the light of day as an actual CD just last week.

Devil’s Lung begins with ‘Lights Of Morning’ and the first thing to notice is the female vocals placing Green Guard in a very select group of bands within Celtic-Punk. Whether by accident or design female involvement seems on the main to be restricted to fiddle and accordion with some of the scene’s best but it’s by no means uniform with Brutus Daughter and Toxic Frogs bucking the trend. Green Guards music is best described as urgent. A sort of Gothy Punk-Rock played at breakneck speed with Valeria’s vocals both clear and powerful accompanied by highland bagpipes, flute and bouzouki giving them a very distinct Celtic sound. No attempt is made at Celtic melodies just glorious catchy as hell Punk-Rock that happens to be played with Celtic instruments. ‘Raindrops’ is a great song. Balanced between Metal, Punk and Medieval Folk it’s again a catchy number and again Valeria’s vocals stand out giving the bands sound a delicate edge. ‘Hell As Home’ sees chugging guitar and pipes before it’s time to slow it down and ‘Devil’s Lung’ does just that, but only for a bit before the guitars and drums come crashing down and soon a nice wee bagpipe solo takes over. One of the best tracks here it shows the amazing depth of this band and the multitude of influences they inject into each song. It comes as no surprise that members of Green Guard are also involved in Metal bands given the influences here and ‘Pain’ was indeed written by guitarist Anton for a metal project. Using piano and vocals to tell the tale of addiction and the high price that that addicts (and those around them let’s not forget) have to pay. The first time Green Guard performed ‘Pain’ was in the Spring of 2020 while in Covid quarantine. It became the first single from the EP in May of this year and it is a slightly undated version that appears on the album here. Valeria sings in perfect English with dramatic effect. Think of Kate Bush as a Punk-Rocker! Only a couple more songs to go and ‘Share Me So Light’ showcases Marina’s outstanding piping before the final song ‘Summer’ ends on a positive note with a song that bounces off the walls. Musically it could easily fit into the American Pop-Punk scene with it strong catchy and melodic tune and Valeria’s note perfect vocals.

Only eight songs which places it to me right on the fence between album and EP. There’s no science (or logic!) involved really but it’s the album’s length at almost thirty minutes that finally convinced me that Devil’s Lung belongs among 2021’s albums. I really enjoyed this album but it did raise a couple of questions. There doesn’t seem, to my ear anyway, to be any Celtic melodies here but the band contains more Celtic instruments than most Celtic-Punk bands do. On top of that they are proud to label themselves a “Celtic Folk Rock Punk band” so is it still Celtic-Punk or just Punk with bagpipes? Have a listen and see what you think. Whatever you decide the one thing we can agree on is that it’s pretty damn good!

(You can stream and download Devil’s Lung on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Devil’s Lung  Bandcamp

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS – ‘In Strange Waters’ (2021)

Seems like only five minutes since their last album The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats reel off another one! This time In Strange Waters celebrates their 10th anniversary together but not as you’d expect it to do. Nine of the best Paddyhats songs played in completely new arrangements and genres and a bonus of a completely new song. There’s only one man we know that can get to grips with that. Take it away Anto Morra.

The Paddyhats have got to be one of the hardest working bands around, even managing to release the brilliant ‘Dogs On A Leash’ in 2020. How many gigs they managed from their accompanying tour is anyone’s guess! Clearly German work ethic is unfazed by the pandemic. I was delighted and privileged to be asked to review their 10th Anniversary offering ‘In Strange Waters’ not just a compilation album re-mastered and packaged with an extra song, but a brilliantly executed snapshot of their 10 years together with 9 of their best songs re-imagined, arranged and recorded and a previously unreleased song.

The album opens with their 100% party song ‘Barrels of Whiskey’. Here the drums are stripped back, a bottle-neck guitar is added together with a more refined moody vocal style. It has an almost Alabama 3 quality, and the horn section at the end is a lovely touch. Taken from their 2016 album ‘Seven Hearts One Soul’ is ‘Fair Old Lady’

The 10 year version starts with a beautifully sparse piano making it very mellow and as it continues it becomes more Celtic Mysticism than Celtic Punk, reminding me of Enya’s 1988 hit ‘Orinocco Flow’ but with a much more earthy vocal and a lot less pretentious. There is an unaccompanied section with just vocal harmonies, which works brilliantly.

‘Ferry Man’ from 2020’s ‘Dogs on a Leash’ is taken up a notch in party stakes and with a terrific horn section, almost ventures into Two Tone territory, while amazingly still maintaining an overall Irish feel.

‘Light Up’ is the only song I’ve not heard before, and is a craicin’ song in the Shanty tradition with a perfectly subtle banjo break. Ed Sheerhan’s ‘Galway Girl’ springs to mind when the funky pop rhythm of ‘Irish Way’ kicks in. It’s an age old tale of men being led a stray by the smarter sex, and a very fresh and far removed update from their 2017 album ‘Sign Of The Fighter’.

‘We’re bollocks full of Sin’ has got to be one of the best line in a song ever! So glad it’s still in this really interesting, less aggressive and more melodic version of their 2018 album title track ‘Green Blood’

Followed by another album title track 2020’s ‘Dogs On A Leash’

This time done as a wonderful sparse acoustic version,with almost barbershop vocal harmonies. Before you get too comfortable and start to think they may have lost their edginess ‘We All Know’ shows off a more Metal influence and is almost ‘Black Sabbath’ in places and Death Metal in others. ‘Beautiful Fear’ is a wonderful song and this new Shanty version with big dramatic drums gives it all the pathos the lyrics require.

2018’s ‘Yesterday’s Rebel’ closes the album and once again it’s softened with a host of synthetic pop additions reminding me of what Sinead O’Connor did with traditional songs on her album ‘Sean-Nos Nua’

This is possibly The Paddyhats easiest to listen to album. A real testament to their song writing and creative abilities, great songs can be done in lots of different ways and this proves that in so many ways. This band do not let the grass grow and I’m so glad they’ve dared to do this different. They still are and always will be one of the best Celtic Punk Bands around and their humour and versatility has never been more prevalent than on this record. Well done Paddyhats, Keep Punking about and mixing it up!

Buy In Strange Waters  FromTheBand  StreamingSites

Contact The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats

Born and raised in London by immigrant parents from Ireland Anto Morra swapped the Smoke for the Swamp in 1989 and adopted Norfolk as home but still returns often to visit his Mammy and play for London Celtic Punks. At times a pogoing, gobbing Punk, a lazy pot smoking hairy Hippy, a bopping Rock-A-Billy, a sharp dressed Mod and even a Bauhaus loving Goth he’s soaked it all in and none of it and all of it has been an influence on him.

https://www.antomorra.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: BLAGGARDS – Blagmatic’ (2021)

Texas Celtic-Punk band Blaggards (there is no ‘the’) play what they call Stout Irish Rock. Traditional Irish mixed with Rock’n’Roll, informed by everything from Johnny Cash and Elvis to Thin Lizzy and Sabbath. Their new album has just hit the shops 

Unbelievably this is the fourth Celtic-Punk album out of Texas in just the last few months. The Real McCoys, The Dead Rabbits and Die Strömms have all released albums we have raved about and it will be bloody hard to separate them come the end of year best of 2021 polls. The band’s name is pronounced “bla’guards” and was a word used continuously by my Grandad back in the day.

“A scoundrel; an unprincipled contemptible person; an untrustworthy person. Usually, only used to refer to a male person.”

The band formed in July 2004 in Houston, Texas after Dublin born Patrick Devlin emigrated from Ireland in his early 20′s. Working as a jobbing musician for several years, Patrick saw the popularity of Celtic-Punk and that nobody was taking advantage of. So in 1996 he formed On The Dole who would go on to play with the likes of the Wolfe Tones and the Saw Doctors. It was in 2003 though that Patrick met Chad Smalley, a bassist and singer and veteran of the local music scene. Having just returned from New York Chad was looking for a new project they hit it off and the two of them soon began singing and performing together and a year later, Blaggards was born. Eric C. Hughes would later join on drums officially in January 2020 after several ‘unoffical’ performances. Blaggards have one of the busiest touring schedules of any band in the American Celtic-Punk scene. Playing constantly throughout Texas and nationally and also touring Ireland every year (except lockdown)  since 2010. This busy schedule has perhaps hampered their recording output as Blagmatic is only the bands third album after Standards, an album of exuberant, irreverent Irish Folk covers from 2005 and Live In Texas, recorded at the Continental Club in Houston, in June 2009.

Blagmatic begins with the first of a handful of Irish trad covers. Some may be a bit overplayed and some are not but each and every one are injected with new life, given the Blaggards original stamp and played with a good healthy dose of irreverence. ‘The Moonshiner’ begins with a bit of guitar I can only describe as Horslips-ish before slipping straight into a good bit of headbanging Irish Folk-Rock. Maybe if AC/DC were Paddies and not Jocks this may be old hat but it all sounds pretty damn fresh to me. Following this is another Irish cover and ‘Spanish Lady’ is played a lot more traditional Celtic-Punk sounding.  An old song I first heard it by the Dubliners when I was a kid but the song dates back a hundred years or so. Like a lot of Irish Folk songs it’s all a bit unclear.

‘Sweet 16’ is the first of the Blaggards compositions all written by Patrick. The Celtic instrumentation is kept at a bare minimum as they play another rocker that gets the toes tapping and the neck snapping! The irreverence continues with a fantastic cover of ‘Delilah’. Originally recorded by Welsh singing legend Tom Jones it’s great singalong chorus has for years disguised the true meaning of the song. A man discovers that Delilah has been cheating on him, so waiting outside for her lover to leave, he enters the house and stabs her to death. When the ‘cancellers’ find out they’ll be horrified!

“My, my, my, Delilah
Why, why, why, Delilah
So before they come to break down the door
Forgive me, Delilah, I just couldn’t take anymore”

A couple of Blaggards songs now beginning with ‘Rain Or Shine’ which starts off with a great hard rock guitar riff. No wonder Patrick wields a v-shaped guitar! The slips into some more Horslips style Rock before a wee Gaelic flourish and some lovely fiddle before returning to its metal origins.

‘PLFM’ is a modern sea-shanty with a nod to Alestorm. Catchy as feck as every song on Blagmatic is trust me. The Bhoys are not afraid to revisit some stone cold classic (some may say overdone!) but there’s a very good reason why people still want to hear songs like ‘The Wild Rover’. I always think of it is a real rabble rouser as at school this was one of only a small number of songs they could get the boys to sing. We loved as we could beat up the desks with our fists in the chorus! Needless to say Blaggards rip it to pieces and be sure to avert yer ears if you are a sensitive soul!

‘2nd Worse’ is a great song and a good old fashioned rocker in both style and subject matter. The 2nd worse of the title is an ex-girlfriend and the song bops along with some good laughs and a bit of mean fiddling. When I spotted the next song I must admit to cringing a little. I’m sure unbeknown to Blaggards were not to know that ‘Wagon Wheel’ has become a bit of a joke in the London Irish scene. Played so often that folk now call out for it and even one famous London Irish Celtic Punk band are known to have a go occasionally. Not that I would need to worry as the song is a total hard-rocker and f’all to do with a hitchhiker going to meet his girlfriend. We nearing the end and time for an emigration song. ‘Spancil Hill’ is without doubt one of the saddest (and let’s face it the competition is immense!) and beautiful of all Irish emigration songs. I can still clearly remember properly listening to this song for the first time. I had heard it plenty of times growing up but the first time I took care to listen to the words brought a tear to my eye the sadness of it all.

“Then the cock he crew in the morning, he crew both loud and shrill
I awoke in California, many miles from Spancil Hill”

The curtain comes down with another original ‘Lights Of El Paso’ and a touch of western Americana and tongue in cheek humour rounds the album off expertly.

Blaggards left to right: Chad Richard Smalley – Bass and Backing Vocals * Patrick Devlin – Guitars and Vocals * Eric C. Hughes – Drums and Backing Vocals *

As well as the three Blaggards they have been assisted on Blagmatic with some truly talented guest musicians. Jeff Duncan – fiddle, Patrick Brennan – keyboards, Willy T. Golden – pedal steel, Shane Farrell – mandolin and banjo and Paul Beebe on backing vocals, who also produced, engineered and mixed the album too. The album is available on CD, vinyl and download and although it’s available on all the various streaming sites we’d ask you to get it from the Blaggards themselves. There is even a option when you buy the album to ‘reforest Ireland’ by donating an extra $5 to CatchMyCarbon.ie who plant native Irish trees in new forest sites in the West of Ireland. A fantastic album and despite the hard rock at times I think it would still be totally accessible to even the folkiest of Folk fans. Not all of what is here can be described as Celtic-Punk or even Celtic-Rock but i feel I can say that everyone of you would still enjoy this great album and oh my God they must be fecking brilliant to watch live!

Buy Blagmatic  FromTheBand CD/Download  or Vinyl

Contact Blaggards  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

As well as working their arses off Blaggards also do a regular podcasts called SlapperCast: a weekly talk show where the guys share their experiences and occasionally chat with guests. The episodes passed #130 a good while ago and last anything from a few minutes to over a hour and have never failed to put a smile on me face. 

https://slappercast.fireside.fm

Full live show recorded in their mates warehouse A & A Supply Company streamed live on You Tube on Sunday, April 26, 2020. In full HD with stereo sound the set includes many songs from Blagmatic.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: CALLINAN-FLYNN – Freedom’s Lament (1972)

The latest in our series of reviews of albums from the past that deserve to be aired again! Freedom’s Lament is an album from the early 1970’s from Callinan-Flynn, a Irish Folk duo that only recorded one album and one single of contemporary Irish Folk that still stands proud today almost fifty years on. 

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I was after a copy of this album for quite a while after reading about it but gave up on hearing how rare it was so I was delighted to come across the album hidden away on the internet and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. Recorded between sometime between 1971 and 1972, things are a bit vague!, by the duo David Callinan and Mick Flyn and accompanied by drummer Kieran O’Connor and Romey Young on mouth harp. The album was recorded at Chalk Farm Studios , London and came out on the small micro-label Mushroom records (I wonder if this has anything to do with them not remembering when they recorded it) in 1972 and with a tiny circulation of only 200 on vinyl though it was re-issued by by Dolphin Records a couple of years later. So no surprise that it would soon become a highly sought after collectors item with original albums at well over £200 on eBay. A CD version did come out in 1991 on UFO Records with two extra songs that were released in 1972 as the ’72 With The Songs’ single.

Mick Flynn (left) David Callinan (right) perform live on stage at the Roundhouse in London in 1972. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

The songs on the album are evenly split credit wise with only three covers, rather unusual at the time in Irish Folk music. ‘Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore’, Moon Coin Reel’ and ‘The Banks Of Newfoundland’ making up the covers. The music itself is played quite simply and is all the more memorable for it. The opening track ‘Puckarees’ is a perfect example with Mick Flynn’s strong but gentle vocal over the drone of the jew’s harp giving it a fairly typical 70’s Folk sound. Later on in the song it takes a turn into traditional Irish that at the time I’m sure would horrified the Folk snobs purists but even now sounds totally contempory. Therein lies part of the problem with the gatekeepers of Irish music. Always unwilling to change and to give those that do their full due. I have often heard trad Irish played better by Celtic-Punk bands than trad bands!

The main accompaniment to the vocals is acoustic guitar though often other instruments do appear, their appearance is often used sparingly and rather on the quiet side. Back in the day Callinan-Flynn would have been lumped together in the ‘Psych Folk’ scene despite not being particularly ‘Psych’ at all! It does have a haunting, melancholy feel at times but the music is far more standard Irish Folk than anything. The album strays away from the Celtic/Irish sound occasionally with ‘Marion’s Song’ a particular highlight but I’m sure songs like the republican ‘Ballad Of Belfast’ would also have upset the Folk music orthodoxy. While songs of 1798 were welcomed any mention of the ongoing war just a 100 odd miles north of Dublin saw the powers of the Irish state come down on performers. At the time ballad bands like the Wolfe Tones and Barleycorn were playing to packed houses both at home, and also over this side of the Irish sea, playing the ‘people’s music’ that was banned from the airwaves and television. Sometimes a simple plea for ‘1 man 1 vote’ in the north of Ireland, as in ‘We Are The People’, would be enough for a song to be banned.

Looking at Freedom’s Lament through modern eyes it’s easy to see it as a ‘rebel’ album but I think it so much more. It played a very important part in the development of Irish Folk music that would lead later onto the Celtic-Rock scene. Radical politics were common place in the 70’s and in fact put what passes for radical politics in this day and age to shame. The war in Ireland was awakening. Civil rights, equal votes and decent jobs and housing were all denied to Catholics in the north and it was inevitable that the new generation of musicians would sing about these things.
Tracks:
01. Puckaree – 5:13
02. Freedom’s Lament – 3:15
03. Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore – 4:18
04. Moon Coin Reel (Johnson’s Favourite) – 2:16
05. The Old Man And The Flower – 2:32
06. The Banks Of Newfoundland – 4:46
07. Beyond The Pale – 2:40
08. Ballad Of Belfast – 3:53
09. Marion’s Song – 3:33
10. Paddy’s Delight (Tinkers’ Polka) – 2:33
11. London N.W.2 – 2:23
12. Fortune For The Finder – 3:43
13. We Are the People (The Road to Derry Town) – 3:55
14. A Woman Is a Woman – 3:42

Vocals, Guitar [6 String], Harmonica – Dave Callinan * Vocals, Guitar [6 String], Twelve-string Guitar, Flute, Bodhrán, Bongos, Mandolin, Harmonica, Autoharp, Tin Whistle [Penny Whistle] – Mick Flynn * Drums – Kieran O’Connor * Jew’s Harp [Jaw’s Harp] – Romey Young

Design [Cover Design] – Romey Young * Producer, Engineer – Vic Keary

These days David Callinan is is better known as a writer and author with a back catalogue of books ranging from thrillers to children’s books and stories and non-fiction. He began his musical career in The Spalpeens in the boom years of the Irish ballad scene before moving to ‘Celtic Swamp Music’ with Urban Clearway, with whom he toured with the likes of Elton John, Billy Connolly, Fairport Convention and Rod Stewart. A highlight of his musical career was co-writing a Celtic-Rock opera for the Edinburgh Festival. Pucka-Ri starring Pierce Brosnan. After Urban Clearway split, Callinan joined forces with Mick Flynn in the folk-rock singer-songwriter duo Callinan-Flynn. Mick Flynn began his career playing and recording with the Tinkers and is still recording with Mick Flynn & The Rustic Rolls Royces releasing Uisce Beatha three years back.

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David Callinan has said that he was shocked by the relative success of the album seeing as how it had little impact on release.

“I was quite amazed when I found out that an album I made in 1972 has become a surprise underground rare hit and been sought after by fans and collectors all over the world. They are calling it folk-psych (whatever that is). A new wave Irish chanteur, Sean Tyrrell has also recorded some songs I wrote many years ago.
Could be the start of a revival.”

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David Callinan Web Site

ALBUM REVIEW: TORTILLA FLAT – ‘New Stuff In An Old Barrel’ (2021)

The bagpipe heavy Swiss Celtic Folk’n’Punk band Tortilla Flat celebrate both their 30th anniversary together as well as their 10th anniversary of playing with The Independent Pipers with the release of their ninth album New Stuff In An Old Barrel.

Tortilla Flat celebrate a amazing 30 (yes thirty!) years together in 2021. This makes them one of the oldest Celtic-Punk bands in the world still going and definitely one of Europe’s (if not the) oldest. Thirty years on since Chris, Ritchie and Lexu sat down together and inspired by Scots and Irish Folk music made plans for a Celtic-Folk-Punk band in their home town of Langenthal in Switzerland. Taking their name from the John Steinbeck novel and movie of the same name about a bunch of Californian outsiders who want to do nothing but get drunk, Tortilla Flat are joined regularly by the The Independent Pipers who keep up a steady supply of expert bagpipers. For many bands in the Celtic-Punk scene the priority has always been the live show, after all it is what pays the bills for many, and so don’t get round to recording as much as bands in other Rock genres would. Tortilla Flat are an exception though as since their debut In The Grip Of The Grape back in 1996 their new album New Stuff In An Old Barrel will be their ninth album alongside plenty of other singles and EP’s as well.

Tortilla Flat live at Stadtpark Aarburg last month.

This is the third time I have had the pleasure of reviewing Tortilla Flat and so I do kind of know what to expect when I hear it. Previous albums have been a mix of bagpipe heavy authentic sounding traditional Folk and ’77 style Punk rockers and no New Stuff In An Old Barrel is not much of a departure from that. The album kicks off with ‘The March Of Bill Carson’ a slow Western style instrumental dedicated to the memory of Bill Carson the character from the film The Good, The Bad And The Ugly who sets the whole shebang off when he reveals that he has buried a stash of gold in a cemetery and then he pops his clogs! This morphs straight into ‘Tobermory Bay’ the first of the Celtic-Punk rockers here inspired by a visit vocalist Chris made to the Isle Of Mull and the accompaniment from The Independent Pipers (Tom MacFly, Rob Highlander and Lord Peter Of Lochaber) is truly amazing. Some Scots inspired Ska up next with ‘Captain Bill McCoy’ with some excellent accordion from Asi MacHasi guesting for the band. The song tells the true story of Scots-American Bill McCoy who the phrase ‘The Real McCoy’ originated from. During the prohibition era (1920–33) McCoy was illegal a rum runner who was known for never watering down his imports; thus, his product was ‘The Real McCoy’.

Tortilla Flat left to right: Asi MacHasi – Accordion * Chris – Guitars and Lead Vocals * Tom MacFly – Bagpipe * Lexu – Drums * Rob Highlander – Bagpipe * Ritchie – Bass and Mandolin * Lord Peter of Lochaber – Bagpipe * Christine Sdiri – Violin and Cello *

The first trad Folk song next and the popular Irish song ‘The Parting Glass’ made famous by The Clancy Brothers and unusually for once isn’t the closing song. Done in every style imaginable now Tortilla Flat play it punky. We all have our own reasons to like this song, usually to do with someone close to us and I’m no different. ‘Stag Night Site’ returns us to some good auld bagpipe Punk and the funny antics of a night before the big day. One of the album highlights now and ‘Cut And Dried’ sees the band joined by old mate Jorgen Red Westman of the Swedish Punk band Psychotic Youth. He previously joined Tortilla Flat on their vinyl single ‘The 45rpm’ a couple of years back. Jorgen has a great voice and the song is as catchy as hell and ought to get plenty of airplay with his faux American accent helping I’m sure. The bagpipes fit right in and sounds a bit like a Celtic Social Distortion! Next we get an simple acoustic number about the Covid lockdown with ‘Baby I’m Bored’ before another Celtic-Punk number ‘Trumped Up’. The last few songs are all outstanding beginning with ‘The Girl With The Rose Tattoo Tattoo’ and hard rocking guitar meets utterly superb bagpiping in a catchy great love song that Angry Anderson would approve of I am sure. The famous ‘Loch Lomond’ returns us to trad Folk and it’s heartening to hear a band that can switch from both ends of the Celtic-Punk scale so easily. Christine Sdiri accompanies the band on cello and once again this is a song that normally closes records. You may not recognise ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ from it’s title but within a couple of seconds it reveals itself as the 1977 novelty Punk-Rock hit from Plastic Bertrand. An long time live favourite it’s finally been put down on disc and it’s fantastic! This leads us finally to the last song on the album and ‘The Rain Over Brodgar’ is a great way to bring down the curtain. A quiet thoughtful somber instrumental. Christine returns to play both cello and fiddle and only a couple of minutes long they could have stretched it out further I think and let it really develop.

The album’s title could have been the smallest review we have ever done. New Stuff In An Old Barrel is exactly that. Even the songs that have stayed faithful to the trad versions still have a modern air to them. The album is a limited release with just 250 copies of the CD available in a numbered box but is also available through all the usual digital channels. Another great release from Tortilla Flat and another band that deserve to be much more widely known. Here’s to 2041 and the half century!

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Contact Tortilla Flat  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube * The Independent Pipers

If all the dew were diamonds”, Pablo said, “we would be very rich. We would be drunk all our lives”. But Pilon, on whom the curse of realism lay uneasily, added: “Everybody would have too many diamonds. There would be no price for them, but wine always costs money. If only it would rain for a day, now, and we had a tank to catch it in”. “But good wine”, interjected Pablo, “not rotgut swill like the last you got”. “I didn’t pay for it”, said Pilon. “Someone hid it in the grass by the dance hall. What can you expect of wine you find ?”

from “TORTILLA FLAT” by John Steinbeck, 1935

1916’S BILL CHATS WITH LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ABOUT THE BANDS LATEST ALBUM

Upstate NY, Celtic rockers 1916 are an explosive concoction of modern Irish Folk, Punk and Psychobilly which makes 1916’s sound both highly original and at the same time traditional! A band that truly stands apart from other bands in the Celtic-Punk genre.

Our man Raymond Lloyd Ball caught up with lead singer and songwriter Bill Herring to talk about the band’s origins and their highly rated latest album Revolutions.

So here’s the story. 1916 is a band from Rochester, NY, about 45 minutes from where I am in Buffalo. We’ll touch on it, but this region of New York State was a place where, in the 1850s-1860s many Irish immigrants made their way from New York City or Boston. Obviously, the name “1916” needs no explanation. I was able to get an interview with Bill Herring, singer and guitarist in the band about the latest album “Revolutions” and the general gist of the scene as is.

Ray: First of all, we get the prominence of the name 1916, but what in the community in Rochester gave you guys both the incentive and the ability to put together the group and really make it work?

Bill: Well the “working” of 1916 is always something I consider to be a work in progress. Always evolving, changing with the times.

The name came about as a result of a healthy respect for Irish history and as a desire to get Americans interested in their own shared past. When we first started the group there were many many people who had no idea what “1916” stood for or what the significance of the name was. We always try to respect that history in our songs whenever we can-with undertones of revolution and forging your own path throughout the vibe of the music. That being said we do try to have some fun with it as well, with a songs like Ordinary Man and Khaleesi.

Rochester and most of central/western NY state is heavily steeped in a rich history of Irish culture. You’d be hard pressed to stumble through a post colonial churchyard west of Syracuse without finding Irish names on half the headstones. That rebel spirit has revealed itself in the existence of the Molly McGuires in the 1800’s and later on the Hibernians as time passed. I’m sure you even probably heard of the Fenian raids of post civil war Buffalo into British owned Canada in hopes of seizing a new Ireland. Now I’d be lying if I said we did name the band with all this in mind…but maybe it was all this history that led us to inevitably choose that name. I will say there is a quote from Dave King of Flogging Molly, where he talks on the Whiskey on a Sunday film they released several years ago. He mentions growing up in Ireland and seeing the young men of Dublin falling into a life of war with the IRA, and that there must be a higher form of communication to let people know what is happening over there. The only thought I had after hearing that was that-through intense, super fun music, you could engage people enough to get them interested in learning about this past…and how it affects the present day situation between Ireland and the USA.

Ray: Awesome answer, I’m AOH Myself.

Bill: As am I…

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is an Irish/Catholic fraternal group that does everything from charitable work to commemorations of things such, as Bill mentioned, the Fenian Raids from Buffalo to then British Canada. As a member from here, we hold an annual ceremony to the raids and to those who gave their lives for the cause of Irish independence.

Ray: So, given that history, how do you feel it’s important to incorporate modern music in a way that’s different then the traditional sessions you here at every other pub?  I know you incorporate modern instrumentation while still harkening to topics that are either old in premise, modern, or similar (I’m thinking of a man you don’t meet everyday) and make it fresh?

Bill: Yes I think it’s important, at least for 1916, to provide a bridge between Irish traditional music and American folk/rock music. Even early county music has its roots steeped in Irish and Scottish music. That’s really the sound we’re going for. An American band that pays tribute to our immigrant cultural heritage.

Ray: Lastly, in terms of Revolutions, that came out just at the end of last year if I’m not mistaken. How on earth did you cut a record, and a good one at that, during the pandemic?  How how did that effect the process 1916 has either writing or recording?  Obviously “When We Reopen” is directly about it, but did anything else about the pandemic change the record?

Bill: The record wasn’t really about the pandemic. We actually wrote all of those songs (except for When we Reopen) well before any of this craziness ever happened. If anything there was a palpable vibe that I felt during the writing of those songs that you could feel out on the streets. People were edgy…combative. It felt like something bad was about to happen. The song that most mirrors that I think is The Falling. I wanted to write a song about my observations on the devolution of humanity in the face of our own technological achievements. Then I saw how bad things really could get the following year with the plague and the riots.
We recorded that record, mostly, with Bob Schmidt – (formerly of Flogging Molly) at the engineers booth along with our trusted friend Doug White, owner of Watchmen Studios in Lockport NY.
Having missed two consecutive St Patrick’s Days now, we are still trying to save up enough money to release the album on disc. I think people don’t realize how hard the shutdowns were on bands like ours. It was a tough tough time and I hope this bullshit is over soon.

Ray: That said, “Revolutions” is a solid record. I’ve been listening to it on and off for some time now. It’s got the classic 1916 vibe, upright bass, classic (though I’m definitely biased) Gretsch guitars, and a handful of traditional instruments with a solid kit. Is it reinventing the wheel?  No. And better for it. We’ve all come a long way since The Pogues and earlier, more brash bagpipes-over-Minor Threat-style Celtic Punk. And there have been a number of bigger and smaller acts that have definitely left their mark upon the scene. They take some rockabilly, some punk, and a lot of Celt to make a fine Irish/American blend. Cheers to the guy from down the I-90.

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Thanks to Raymond Lloyd Ball. He has already featured on these pages as the driving force behind The Fighting 69th from Buffalo. The review of his 2-volume set of Dropkick Murphys covers was one of the most viewed of that year. One of the most prolific and diverse artists in the Celtic-Punk scene we are proud to have Raymond on board the London Celtic Punks team. Writer, artist, musician he is a credit to the American-Irish community and you can find a wealth of his material available at his Bandcamp site.

During the lockdown 1916 played several full concert live streams, as well as some great solo performances from Bill himself. Here’s just under two hours of 1916 from this years St. Patrick’s Day live stream performance. I can barely remember it through a fog of stouts and ales though I know I must have woke the neighbours! The music starts at nineteen minutes.

ALBUM REVIEW: FINNY McCONNELL – The Dark Streets Of Love (2021)

After 30 years of leading renowned Celtic-Punk rockers, The Mahones, Finny McConnell decided that it was time to make an album for himself. Showcasing his intimate songwriting skills, Finny also includes covers of songs with deep meaning to him. The Dark Streets of Love is a collection of his most intimate music, stripped bare.

Earlier this year Finny made an announcement over on The Mahones Facebook page that the band’s days of spending months on end touring round the world were at an end. It didn’t come as much as a shock admittedly as I don’t think it was possible to keep up that level of commitment indefinitely. I mean The Mahones not only covered more miles than any other Celtic-Punk band in a year but I daresay any band!

It must be strange being in a band where you alone are the chief songwriter as well as singer and for all and purposes the leader so where does the urge to go solo come from I wonder? In just the past couple of years The Mahones have recorded an acoustic album where much of the ground covered on The Dark Streets Of Love is covered. But this album is much more than just a Mahones album in Finny’s name you feel. The songs he has chosen, and among them are a few of his composition, are obviously very close to his heart. Finny has always been one for wearing his heart on his sleeve and it’s rare that a performer can come across so honestly especially at a time when honesty is at a premium.

Of the eleven songs presented here seven are covers the rest by Finny. To a causal observer though it would seem like they were all covers such is the quality of Finny’s songwriting. Whether writing about going on the piss in north London, basketball, Irish history, loss or love or unrequited love he put’s the same passion into everything. That with other people is sometimes their undoing though Finny seems to thrive on it. The Dark Streets Of Love kicks off with a song by everyone’s favourite Irish-German-American and The Bosses ‘Atlantic City’. From the opening few seconds even before Finny comes in you know you’re onto a winner here. When he does come in he sings with a sort of weariness that even Bruce didn’t achieve. Gentle accordion adds to the atmosphere only coming into the open during the musical sections and so taking none of the spotlight away from Finny’s voice. ‘Someone Save Me’ is from a recent Mahones album, The Hunger And The Fight Pt. 1 from 2014. Co-written with his now ex- wife Katie I thought it was a beautiful song then but now… Gina Romantini’s beautiful fiddle lends subtle support to Finny’s voice just as Kevin Hearn’s accordion did during the opening track. A magnificent tribute to love and such is the passion expressed it can sometimes feel like you’re sitting in on a private conversation.

‘Stars’ is again from the same Mahones album as ‘Someone Save Me’ and again was co-written with Katie. A loving tribute to the life of Oscar Wilde. A sad tale of the famed Irish poet and playwright convicted of “gross indecency” at a time when homosexuality was illegal. He was imprisoned and died in poverty in 1900 at the tragically early age of 46. One of The Mahones better ‘modern’ songs it has a fantastic chorus and Finny tells the story with grace. Finny has always had a bit of a Shane drawl and puts it to good use on ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’. Even among the stone cold classics Shane MacGowan penned this song is one of a handful that tower above even them. Fellow Mahone Michael O’Grady adds haunting tin-whistle and Glenn Milchem drums as Finny sticks closely to the original. Maybe a bit too closely at the end!! On a album that is so tender ‘New York City’ seems a bit out place with its Glam-Rock bounce and chunky guitar but then why wouldn’t a solo album follow the same pattern as The Mahones. He never said it was going to be a quiet album. Loud and bombastic and taken from The Hunger And The Fight Pt. 2 from 2015 Finny channels the 1970’s for the next few songs beginning with this tribute to NYC. Maybe the cities best era as despite it’s high crime rate and poverty it wasn’t full of fucking yuppies. The introduction of piano for ‘So Far Away’ is masterful as Finny sounds like he’s chatting someone in a pub in the early hours. Again piano led ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ sees Finny’s gravelly vocal chords giving a simple but stunning rendition of Lou Reed’s original. Though the covers here are great it is Finny’s own material that shines through. On ‘We’re Miles Apart’ he talks maybe about himself and maybe he doesn’t. A sad song about lovers who become friends. I’ve always though Finny was cut from the same cloth as the legendary Tom Waits and on the Waitsy ‘Cocktail Blues’, swishing drums and jazz piano steer clear of ‘Jazz Club’ comparisons thank God. From one of the earliest Mahones albums The Hellfire Club Sessions from 1999 it drops the Gaelic touches and sticks tightly to ‘lounge lizard’ territory. The curtain comes down with a song in tribute to Gord Downie from Finny’s home town of Kingston in Ontario. Gord passed away in 2017 of cancer and is remembered as lead singer and lyricist for the The Tragically Hip’ ‘Fiddlers Green’ is a great tribute and played stripped back with just Finny and acoustic guitar.

As is the way though there’s a bonus track and it’s ‘Back Home’. One of The Mahones best ever tracks taken from Draggin’ The Days from 1994.

“Hey, it’s not long till we get home
Say, you know I hate to drink alone
Did I tell you, you send shivers through my bones
And I wish I was back home with you again”

A great way to end things buy why bother with this ‘bonus track’ hooey!

The album was produced by Finny himself and engineered by Gene Hughes and recorded as live over St. Patrick’s Day 2021, in Toronto. It’s not your typical Mahones album in fact the Irish touches here are far and few between but Finny’s Irish soul shines through. A beautiful and at times heart wrenching journey through one of Ireland’s true musical geniuses.

Buy The Dark Streets Of Love  TrueNorthRecords   OtherCorporateBullshitSites

Contact Finny McConnell  Facebook  Instagram  Twitter

As suspected you can’t keep a good man down for long and Finny will still need his suitcase and shower cap as he’s now a part of the Punk-Rock trio Ultrabomb with Greg Norton of Hüsker Dü and Jamie Oliver of the U.K. Subs. The guys will be performing a mix of all three bands songs plus material they’ve written for a new album. They have announced a handful of gigs as we to press including Ireland and one here in London at 229 The Venue in the west end. Sadly though we are going to have to wait till April 2022. You can find all the relevant details including ticket information over on the band’s Facebook event.

ALBUM REVIEW: DIE STROMMS – ‘Vinum, Et Domina Canticum’ (2021)

There’s a new sound rumbling out of the ‘red dirt’ countryside on the third album from North Texans Die Strömms. A winning combination of Celtic-Folk, Western, Bluegrass, Punk with loud guitars, mandolins, banjos and fiddles they have created a sound they call ‘Southern Celtic Cow Punk’.

The Ramones meets Willie Nelson by way of Celtic-Folk!

Amazingly this is the third Celtic-Punk album we have reviewed from the state of Texas in just the last few months. Both The Real McCoys and The Dead Rabbits released albums around St. Patrick’s Day to great acclaim and now Die Strömms join them as another contender for album of the year. The north Texan outfit with the least Celtic-Punk name in Celtic-Punk celebrate the release of their third album of what they call ‘Southern Celtic Cow Punk’. Cowpunk to those who don’t know is to Country music what Celtic-Punk is to traditional Celtic Folk. Their was instant crossover with many of the bands labelled ‘cowpunk’ playing with The Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang in the London clubs back in the earliest days of Celtic-Punk. These bands rubbed off each other and incorporated each others sound to a great degree. There’s a brilliant article on the history of the genre, ‘A Brief Y’Alternative History’ , on Pop Matters written by a fan.

Formed in Dallas, Texas in 2015 by Kane Kelly using the alias ‘Killian Strömm’ Die Strömms {pronounced die stromz) have independently released two albums (Der Aufstig von Texas Keltishes Kuhpunk / Rise of Crazy Southern Cowpunk in 2017 and Viva el Dia de los Muertos in 2018. Like most active bands plans were waylaid with the arrival of the pandemic and so it was that Vinum, Et Domina Canticum / Southern Summer Anthem was somewhat delayed after it’s initial launch on Soundcloud.

The album kicks off with ‘Bleeding Hearts’ and not a million miles away from recent favourites Phantom Of The Black Hills. Chugging guitar and Tex-Mex melodies along with clear yet forceful vocals give the album a craicing start. ‘Whiskey Ship Down’ continues in the same vein but with much more a Celtic Hoedown going on. ‘Drunkard’s Progress’ is one of the most memorable songs here with a simple yet effective tune and tongue in cheek lyrics celebrating the likes of heroes like nurses, teachers and bar-tenders. The music again floats the line between Celtic and Country and is incredibly catchy and doesn’t take itself too seriously but the drinking songs here are definitely a notch above the drink, fight, fall over kind we usually hear. The production is perfect and it helps that the vocals of lead singer Killian Strömm are absolutely perfect too. Clear and distinctive their is no need for a lyric sheet for this album as even on the more raucous songs its all very easy to understand and as I’ve hinted this is intelligent Celtic-Punk with a good dose of black humour. ‘Absinthe & Gin’ is a album highlight with banjo and mandolin put to extremely good use. ‘Makes Them Money’ takes aim at the wealthy but again done with great humour and a great song that drops the folkier influences and still works well and doesn’t sound out of place either, before the album title track next and the first song to be released from the album  ‘Southern Summer Anthem’. The fiddle is back and pure Rock’n’Roll Celt style.

‘Glass Of Beer’ is pure country. Simple and again effective despite lasting only ninety odd seconds before we go dashing headfirst into the albums most Celtic number the brilliant ‘Swagger’s Tale Jam’ based on the famous ‘Swallowtail Jig’ dating back it is thought to the mid-nineteenth century. One of the most distinctive and well known Irish instrumental tunes guest fiddler Koi Anunta does a incredible job with a nice rockin’ backing. There’s certainly plenty of talent here and originality too as they follow this with another trio of ‘southern-rock’ number type numbers ‘Where Are The Songs’ (with a utterly brilliant intro), ‘Greater Life Academy’ and ‘Speak No Lies’. Another famous Irish trad tune is utilised for ‘The Alchemist’ and almost sees the album out in great style with another high class drinking song before the whole thing comes to an end with the standout track ‘A.O.T.’. Catchy is just not the word trust me!!!!

I’m a sucker for a bit of trad Country (even the embarrasing stuff!) so this album is right up my street and even when the songs lean more towards rock or country you still hear the Celtic influences. Seriously not a single weak tune on this album and I have to admit that on face value I wasn’t really expecting anything much but what we got instead is one of 2021’s best albums.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/artist/6By6FMJQjTrSJJNMgJ6Wwk

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE SKIDS – ‘Songs From A Haunted Ballroom’ (2021)

Their third album since Fife’s most explosive band reformed is a collection of covers mostly from the era that saw The Skids labelled as one of the most influential original Punk bands. Long time fan Gerry Mellon gives us the rundown on Songs From A Haunted Ballroom that pays tribute to the band’s that played their hometown venue, the great Kinema Ballroom in Dunfermline!

Now I’ll be the first to admit that albums made up of cover versions are not a particular favourite of mine to listen to. Admittedly every band has their favourite song or two that they like to play and many produce top quality versions of other people’s creations, but it’s usually one track on the album or a couple of songs at a gig. The Skids don’t do things like other bands though, do they! Their last album, Peaceful Times was a collection of acoustic versions of some of their older tracks and was a more than decent offering from them. So, it looks like this incarnation of the band are ready to push the limits just as much as the originals did. It seems to be working well for them if the reviews of their ‘comeback’ tour are anything to go by, a headline appearance at next year’s Rebellion Festival should be well worth catching. Their back catalogue and newer stuff, including some from the magnificent Burning Cities album, should make for a thrilling show. Anyway, after all the, well deserved, praise that I’ve heaped upon them I have to say, The Skids have released a covers album!! What’s more important though, is that it’s pretty good!!

The new album is called Songs from a Haunted Ballroom, a link to a track on the Yankee Dollar ep called Hymns from a Haunted Ballroom, and is an eclectic collection of songs that were popular when the band were originally performing. The Haunted Ballroom refers to the Kinema in Dunfermline, the main place in the town for touring (and local) bands to play. Perhaps this is the place where they heard some of these tracks for the first time. The pandemic will probably have played its part in the band releasing a covers album, getting together to work on new material must have been a nightmare for so many bands over the past couple of years. There may well have been a lot of looking back over good times and large doses of nostalgia for the band members, the main contributors on this release are Richard Jobson, of course and Bruce and Jamie Watson, father and son from Big Country. It’s produced by Watson and Liam Saunders and is comprised of 14 tracks. The last three tracks are originals from the band, the superb Into the Valley which announced them to the world back in 79 and had a whole generation of schoolkids (me included) trying to translate it!!! The excellent Saints are Coming released before Into the Valley, but was only really made famous by the U2 and Green Day version. The third song is Christmas in Fife and it seems to be a bit of a piss take of Christmas songs!

As I said the cover versions are fairly eclectic in styles, but they all come from the same era of Glam rock and Punk in the 70s. It kicks off with Young Savage, an early track from Ultravox in the pre–Midge Ure days, to be honest I’m not too familiar with the original, but Jobson does an excellent job with the vocals on this upbeat, hight tempo opener. Next up is the superb Complete Control from The Clash, they make a very good go of it indeed and I would love to hear a live version. It’s never going to be better than the original, but I doubt that’s what they were trying, more a case of them putting their own stamp on a punk rock classic. The Adverts Gary Gilmore’s Eyes is next, another early punk classic. For those new to the track, it tells the story of an American murderer who has donated his eyes to be used after he is executed. The lyrics are the guy in the hospital waking up after an operation and discovering he has received Gary Gilmore’s eyes! It caused a storm when the adverts appeared on Top of the Pops playing it back in the day! I remember it well and it was bloody fantastic!! This version sounds as if it’s being played at a tiny bit slower tempo, or it could just be the way that Jobson delivers the lyrics in a sometimes-staccato way, it still sounds great though.

Heart of the City comes next, the original is by Nik Lowe, it’s another track I’m not overly familiar with, but I’ll check it out soon. All of these tracks have outstanding guitar-work on them and this one is a real beauty, with rhythm and lead both pushing it on at an electric pace. Magazine’s The Light Pours Out of Me is up next and, surprise surprise, it’s another cracking track. You could actually believe that this one was a Skids original, it has the beautiful guitar build-ups and then an almost chant-like chorus, very reminiscent of early Skids numbers. An unusual selection comes up next with David Essex’s Rock On and the band put their own stamp on this glam rock-pop favourite. Essex’s version is slower and thinner and doesn’t have the menace that Jobson puts into this one; The Skids have roughened it up a bit with thrashing guitars and an aggressive vocal from Jobson. He goes on to tell how it was one gang’s favourite song back when he was going to the Kinema in Dunfermline, apparently once you heard the gang members start to sing this song it was time to scarper or as Iron Maiden would have it Run to the Hills!! I clearly remember and love the original and can honestly recommend this version to anyone.

Who remembers Mott the Hoople then? In the early 70s they were this weirdo hippy looking bunch who came out with some actually quite good music, All the Young Dudes would probably be their best-known number. Violence is their track that comes up next and the Skids put their own stamp on it to make it sound much punkier than the original, it’s a good track without being a real banger (as the kids would say!) The next track is from Garland Jeffreys (nope, I’ve never heard of him or it either!). 35mm Dreams is the name of it and it appears to be a homage to old movie stars from the b&w era. I’ve never heard the original and to be honest didn’t even seek it out, this track is goodish, but not a patch on the band’s other televisual homage TV Stars. When I hear Jobson singing about Greta Garbo and Bette Davis (among many more) my heart is screaming out Albert Tatlock!!! Track 9 comes from none other than the kings of UK punk, The Sex Pistols, and its Submission. Much like with the earlier Complete Control, trying to just copy the original would be pointless and who could copy our Johnny’s vocals anyway! Well we have Richard Jobson who has his own inimitable style and he performs this track with aplomb. The guitar is crisp and clean and sounds relentless in this excellent cover. Back in the New York groove is the next track and if you’re anything like me, hearing it will put a smile on your face. It was originally from a band called Hello (nope, me neither!), but has been covered by a few groups. It’s a track that used to get them on the dance floor in the 70s and has another Skids-esque chanting chorus, great fun. Next up is the stone-cold classic I Wanna Be Your Dog, by Iggy and the Stooges. It really is hard to believe that it was first released in 68, over 50 years ago. When you hear this cover, it sounds like it could have been written last week! Anyway, they make an excellent job of it with no frills just a great punchy punk rock song.

The final three tracks are, as previously mentioned, Skids originals that have been re-recorded. The two singles sound great, and the Christmas one is what it is! I think it’s fair to say that the guitar work, whilst being brilliant in its own right, can never reach the highs that Stuart Adamson brought to the sound and I can’t help but imagine what these covers would’ve been like if he was still around to have contributed. He is sorely missed, when you hear albums like Undercover by Big Country, you can see he was equally as impressed/enamoured by other bands music and adept at performing it. Funnily enough, that’s probably the last time I was as impressed with a covers album as I am with this one! It would be worth checking out the originals of these tracks to see just how good a job of interpreting them into a Skids sound the band has done. Well worth the price and hopefully the entrance fee if we ever get back to gigging again.

Buy Songs From A Haunted Ballroom

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Lucky for Gerry The Skids are on tour at the end of this month from the 28th August taking in the length and breadth of England and Scotland. Tickets are available from the usual outlets and links on venue websites.

ALBUM REVIEW: SETH MARTIN – ‘Through Dark Valleys’ (2021)

Hear the new album from Seth Martin, Oregon born singer/songwriter from Oregon living in South Korea. T.C. Costello reviews his latest album, Through Dark Valleys, and discovers his music has deep roots in the American Folk tradition as well as strong political convictions.

During these unprecedented new-normal and blah blah blah times, artists across the globe have been forced to adapt, improvise, and learn to create in new ways. While I’ve dealt with said times by entering a period of unprecedented unproductivity, other artists have embraced the new normal and have turned to the internet. Live streams have been ubiquitous across social media these last 12 months, often times with stylish masks and links to fundraisers.

But Seoul-based folklorist and singer-songwriter Seth Martin, with his reputation for collaborative efforts bringing together various artists and traditions from around the world, was faced with a unique challenge. How was he to collaborate at a time when social interaction was to be kept, by law, to a minimum? In the end, despite his fairly pronounced luddite sensibilities and approaches to performing and recording, turned to the internet. The result was an album that never would have happened, had it not been such an unprecedented, blah blah blah, nightmare of a year.

“Through Dark Valleys,” says Seth, “is both part of a half-decade long project and a fairly sudden decision to finish an album, however unconventionally, that resulted in an unusual and explosive collaborative final recording process.”

A part of this “Mountain Trilogy,” ¨Through Dark Valleys” is built around a set of studio performances from 2015-2016 in Portland, Oregon, with Seth and his longtime producer and collaborator David Fuller, “as well as “a handful of live, lo-fi phone or camera recordings I had made in recent years here in Korea,” Seth adds.

Different versions of the album had been in the works for years, but circumstances kept getting in the way of its completion. Finally the needed spark came unexpectedly last winter. The album would not have happened without the sudden chance to perform with and get inspired by well-known Korean folk rocker Hahn Dae Soo, one of Seth’s musical heroes. Hahn was not part of the album, but his influence is largely what made its completion possible.

Hahn Dae Soo was so kind, hilarious, and fun to work with, and the experience of joining him for a recording session, a show, and several meals and times of sharing stories deeply inspired me. He only had a few weeks to make a full album, and his main concert in Korea to support the album–which he claims, sadly, is his “last”–had to be switched from in-person to online due to Corona regulations.

But instead of disappointment, writes Seth, Hahn Dae Soo “used his influence to simultaneously include and encourage a large group of musicians in his project,” and to preach “caution, cooperation and solidarity in efforts to respect mask and group regulations, to keep one another safe during this pandemic.”

Seth remembers his time with Hahn as “fresh water to my pandemic-depressed soul,” and after the collaboration, he suddenly felt that it was not only possible, but that winter 2020, with all its isolation and limits for artists, was the perfect time to finish the album. In early December, he contacted violinist Zoe Youngmi Blank, producer David Fuller, and his younger brother and fellow artist Joel Martin, with hopes of finishing the process by Christmas.

All agreed to take a shot at building and completing the album together, with plans of a final project ready to share by Christmas. Zoe, who contributed backing vocals and violin from her home in Seoul, called it the “most fulfilling remote collaboration (she’s) been a part of”:

Due to the Corona music hiatus, it was a relief to finally play music together, though it being remote. Actually it being remote lead to a unique synergy between Seth, David Fuller and Joel Martin that surprised me. The project existed somewhere beyond space and time. We, all spread across the planet, could meet in this nonphysical recording space… online. In folk tradition, we echoed past generations’ struggles and strengths, yet grounded ourselves to modern day relevance present in Seth’s lyrics.”

Joel, who added guitar and vocals mostly from his homemade studio in the hills of small-town Toledo, Washington–his and Seth’s hometown–where he had been spending the fall and winter in isolation with his parents, said he is “awestruck at how spectacular a job… David Fuller did with the messy pile of tracks he got from all of us.”

Seth describes the process as “a flurry of experimentation and track sharing between myself, David, Joel, and Zoe–two of us in Korea, two in the US, all isolated from each other.”

This rag-tag and somewhat intentionally haphazard, free-flowing collaboration resulted in a low-fi, psychedelic album with atmospheric and at times disconcerting arrangements, and the choice of songs were frankly a perfect reflection for such a year.

Heavy themes aside, the album starts with a simple fiddle-and-banjo tune with that one can easily whistle or hum along to, and indeed, the cast of the album joins in with humming and whistle along.
Next comes one of the highlights of the album, the stream-of-consciousness “April 1st (Rusty Roads)”.

The base track was Martin performing the ten-minute song for the first time ever into his phone, “So parts of it were inspired and kind of made up on the spot, as I read the paper in front of me in my room and also improvised as felt right in the moment.” Martin adds, “we embraced rather than cleaned up the messiness, and real grief and wobbliness in the recording.”

Seth follows this with an interpretation of Mother, Sister, a poem by Kim So-Wol, a Korean poet under Japanese colonisation. Providing lead vocals on Mother, Sister is Gwon Jaehyoung, a Korean folk musician and leader of SMB mountain school. Martin joins him, and Seoul singer-songwriter eeho adds some wonderful background vocals. Next comes “Don’t Forget It,” which Seth wrote in 2014 when he was hiking in Korea, falling in love with Lee Nan Young, now his wife, and decided to move to Korea. The track begins with a familiar refrain from a classic children’s song about a bear that went over a mountain, but these lines are soaked in a current and heavy feeling of loneliness fitting the times we are in, and carry added significance given the mountain symbolism and themes that run through the project. There is also the Korean symbolism of bears and mountains being referenced here, adding to the beauty and intertwined, heavy history in the song, personally, and with Korea-US relations generally. As the song winds and rambles down its path, it features some truly impressive violin work from Zoe that really adds unexpected rhythms and several climaxes to the song.

Then, after nearly ten minutes of singing about the importance of walking the long and hard roads together and promising not to let go of love when life is at its loneliest and hardest, we are suddenly brought to another scene of grief and pain. Track 6 features the traditional American spiritual ¨Climbing High Mountains,¨ which is quite the pertinent hymn for 2020.

“I’ve been climbing high mountains trying to get home.
I’ve been wading deep waters trying to get home.
I’ve been burying my loved ones trying to get home.
I’ve been climbing high mountains trying to get home.”

Musically, this a slow build featuring multilayered violin tracks by Zoe, and a chorus of background singers from either side of the Pacific Ocean, that is too time consuming, if not impossible to identify by name.
In Korea, Seth recruited Yamagata Tweakster, Eeeho, Choi Sung-Hee, and No Soon Cheon, about half of whom I know, and on the US’ West Coast, David recruited close family and friends, Nicholas Von Pless, Sarah Fuller, Maya Fuller, Jonathan Behr, and Elizabeth Hadley -“All from his Corona “pod,” Seth adds.” Further, students from SMB mountain school as well as friends at an ant-gentrification vigil added background vocals throughout the album, if not this song specifically.
Next stop is America in the 1860s with Civil War ballad “Going Across the Mountain,” popularised by Frank Proffitt, who claimed it was written by a family member from South who crossed the mountains “to give (President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis’) men a little of my rifle ball.”

Another, slow build, it starts with a spacey intro of the well known Korean folk song, Doraji, and ends up with a bit of a disco rhythm courtesy of Joel Martin and David Fuller on bass and percussion. The effect is a more than a bit disconcerting, particularly with the different backup vocalists chiming in and cutting out seemingly at random. Even more disconcerting is that the song descends into another controlled-chaos remix of field recording of a Korean grandmother’s singing a protest tune called “Little Giant”

It is a mixture of David’s experimental mixing, and banjo chiming alongside a field recording of a Korean grandmother singing a satirical tune in protest of a gentrification project in (A Seoul neighbourhood), in which a group of newtown apartment folks pressured the local government to bulldoze her small diner along with many other streetside shops, to “improve” and “widen” and make more safe a street between an outdoor market and a school. The grandmother is calling out the apartment collective defiantly. Her shop had been a popular stop for locals for around 3 decades, and was called “Little Giant.”

Next is the only track on the album that Seth had absolutely no part in. It’s a sound collage put together almost entirely by David Fuller in his Portland studio–the central headquarters and final destination of everyone’s individual recordings done in isolation across Korea and the States. Using passages from the dark and often caustic verses of “45 Voices: Overheard in an American Graveyard,” Seth’s book of poems reflecting on the first 100 days of the Trump regime, written as a sort of continuation or companion piece to the first Mountain album-t proves very zeitgestiy with delivery of lines like:

“Of course not all immigrants are rapists and drug dealers, but don’t you think the stereotypes for a reason?¨Seth adds, “Fuller’s own voice is featured but in a deeply distorted fashion, and he also included several other voices of album collaborators, each taking on various disturbing Americana “characters” as they were depicted in the book. In creating this sound collage, Fuller creatively included the poetry book follow-up to This Mountain into Through Dark Valleys, not only linking it to both albums, but also endowing sections of it with its own sound, and thus cleverly recasting it as a musical work itself.” Regarding the experimental sounds in the background, Martin adds, “I couldn’t tell you all the technical weird stuff David did in that track exactly, but I love it, and I am glad it is there.”

Next, the crew of the album plays Martin’s “The Ballad of Eric Garner,” Set to the tune of the American work song “900 Miles,” the song is a tribute to Eric Garner,” famously murdered by police in New York City, but also serves as a statement on the realities of current systemic racism and police brutality across the States.

“Out in famous New York City
Famous for its lack of pity
That’s where a man named Eric Garner used to live
He was big and Black and proud
Had friends and family all around
And despite so many hassles with police
Garner’s neighbors knew him as a man of peace“

A very raw recording, you can hear Martin’s chair squeaking as he sings of Garner’s last day on earth, and his ensemble delivers some particularly psychedelic instrumentation with producer David fuller adding keyboards, trumpet and clarinet.

Another experimental track, “Ferry Boat and Passenger & smoke break during an air raid drill” follows.

The lyrics come from Buddhist Korean Independence activist Manhae’s famous poem, and Martin’s wife, Lee Nan Young, reads the poem in Korean:

“I am the boat that carried you
across the river…
You pressed your dirty feet
against my sides,
while I kept you safe and dry.
When you reached the other side
and began to walk away,
you did not look back.
Every day,
every day,
I am still here
waiting for you to return…”

Martin’s original, “Grown up Soul (These Dark Valleys)” proves to be a perfect ending to the album, once again with a raw, but multilayered psychedelic sound, Seth sings:

“I’ve been walking these dark valleys
trying to find a place called home
And everywhere I laid my head
I felt so cold and all alone”

(You can stream or download Through Dark Valleys at the Bandcamp link below)

Buy Through Dark Valleys  Bandcamp

Contact Seth Martin  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

Thanks to TC for the review. TC is currently shacked up in Barcelona and playing the odd gig or two there so give him a nudge over at his FB page to find out where and check out our review of his last album The Blackbird to hear more from him.

MUIRSHEEN DURKIN RELEASE NEW SINGLE. COVER OF THE UK SUBS ‘RIOT’

German Celtic rockers Muirsheen Durkin release ‘Riot’ as a tribute to old school indestructible Punk-Rock legend Charlie Harper of the UK Subs.

“Closing down our club for no good reason” A wake-up call after the forced Corona break!

Having known each other for some thirty years it was only a few years back in 2009 that the idea to start something new came up. Wanting a band with its feet based firmly in traditional Irish music and with an emphasis on emigration songs Muirsheen Durkin & Friends was born. Their feet may be in trad music with mandolin, banjo, tin whistle, accordion and two pipers but the addition of classic rock and Punk sees Muirsheen Durkin as one of the leading lights in the German Celtic-punk scene.

Their latest single is a pretty damn good cover of the UK Subs ‘Riot’. Released in 1997 on the album of the same name which was the first in decades to re-unite original members Nicky Garrett and Alvin Gibbs back together with the Peter Pan of Punk Charlie Harper. Formed in 1976 the UK Subs were one of the original bands in the first wave of Punk in the UK. Famous outside of Punk for their album releases starting with consecutive letters of the alphabet from Another Kind Of Blues in 1979 to Ziezo in 2016. Since then this most prolific of bands have added another two albums and a EP. Born in Hackney and now aged an incredible 77 years old Charlie Harper has been the mainstay of the band throughout the years. Still energetically performing at up to 200 UK Subs gigs a year he is an inspiration to us all.

Inner City life
Is getting me down
Police and gang wars
All over town
Closing down our clubs
For no good reason
Hassle us on the street
Take away our freedoms
*
Oh, oh, we want a riot
Oh, oh, so sick and tired
*
Here come the riot squad
They’re closing in
Guns and riot shields
And gas grenades
They see us standing there
All in a line
Black and white unite
Confrontations high
*
Oh, oh, we want a riot
Oh, oh, we’re sick and tired
*
Oh, oh, leave us alone
They have a justice bill
That’s what they say
Now, they have the power now
To put us away
There were four of us
Minding our own
We’re a riotous assembly
Walking down the road
*
Oh, oh, we want a riot
Oh, oh, so sick and tired
Oh, oh, we wanna riot
Oh, oh, leave us alone
*
The song is available on the MacSlon’s Irish Pub Radio compilation album Raise Your Pints #6 – Coronoa Sessions which features twenty bands from eleven countries celebrating (might be the wrong word- editor) the virus lockdowns in Celtic-Folk-Punk style. Every variation of Celtic-Punk is covered from trad to Hardcore and is available from the link below.

RAISE YOUR PINTS #6

Contact Muirsheen Durkin  WebSite  Facebook  ReverbNation  Spotify  YouTube

ALBUM REVIEW: THE RUMPLED – ‘The Perfect Match’ (2021)

Another release from prolific Italian Celtic-Punkers The Rumpled. With a sound influenced by traditional Irish Folk they are already one of the best bands in the scene and a band to expect big things from in the near future.

The last few years have been quite a time for fans of Celtic-Punk in Italy. While the genre has always been popular due in no small part to to the friendly relations between Italy and the Celtic nations never before has Italy had quite so many great bands, among them some of the best in Europe. I won’t go into the names as I’m afraid to miss one of them but a simple search among the posts here will give you the opportunity to give your ears a real treat. The Rumpled are one such band and in their relatively short existence they have been as prolific as any band in Celtic-Punk. Formed in Trento in the north in 2013 it was five years before they got some songs down on record and the result was Ashes & Wishes, recorded and produced by Gianluca of Black Dingo Productions, who have supported The Rumpled ever since. A sixty date tour of Switzerland, France and Italy in 2119 promoting the Grace O’Malley EP was followed by another EP, Toss The Coin, and tour the following year. Of course Covid soon arrived and any plans the band had were shelved while the world came to terms with what was going on.  Despite this the band ploughed on and did manage to release both Home Sessions, a EP of covers with the help of some pretty well known faces in Firkin and Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards, and an acoustic EP Rumplugged.

The Rumpled from left to right: Michele Mazzurana- Drums, Backing Vocals * Davide Butturini- Guitars * Patrizia Vaccari- Fiddle * Marco Andrea Micheli- Lead Vocals * Luca Tasin- Bassman, Backing Vocals * Tommaso Zamboni- Accordion *

The new album is called The Perfect Match and was released late last month again for Black Dingo and while new material is thin on the ground, with it being basically a re-recorded and re-vamped compilation of The Rumpled’s last two studio releases it is still an outstanding release and the perfect place to enter if you are new to the band. The Perfect Match kicks off with ‘Time To Go’, the album’s only new song and which was also the lead single for the album. The song is dedicated to Italian para-olympian athlete Giuliana Chiara Filippi and her story of fortitude and resilience, despite her many obstacles to overcome, and her dream to represent Italy in the Paralympics. Inspired they choose her to be featured as the main character in the video. A truly Perfect Match.

A great rocking start and a lovely tribute. We wish her well. Talking about the single The Rumpled said

“The song is an invitation to return to life with energy and enthusiasm and move into the future, throwing the difficult situation of last year behind us. After this long break, our desire to restart, to get back on stage and perform for a crowd is uncontainable, that’s why we all sing the in chorus: “hey ho, it’s time to go, we’re gonna raise hell tonight – So let’s go to another show and everything’s gonna be alright”!”

Musically The Rumpled play an energetic and lively style of Celtic-Punk. While The Rumjacks influence casts a shadow over much of the Italian Celtic-Punk scene The Rumpled have always done their own thing with a sound influenced by traditional Irish Folk music as much as anything. ‘Stand Up’ was the opening track on the Toss The Coin and sees the band accompanied by the Bold Rumjacker himself Frankie McLaughlin. Accordion led and with one hell of a catchy chorus it’s fist in the air time here as you swing your mates round and round. The energy is unrelenting and continues throughout the albums forty minutes with only a handful of pauses for breathe.

The following six songs also come from the Toss The Coin with ‘Take A Drop’ and ‘The Gipsy Dancer’, a lead single from Toss The Coin and you will see where the EP gets its title from in the excellent accompanying video. ‘The Road’ is less ‘traditional’ and more modern sounding Celtic-Punk combining elements of Ska with some great ‘Woah-Woah-Woahh’ gang vocals. ‘One Love’ is the first of two songs to feature guests from fellow Italian Celtic-Folk-Rockers Folkamiseria from western Piedmont. More Folk orientated but still with that harder edge while ‘Broken Romances’ has a more harder edge.

‘Patty’s Jig’ was the final song on the EP but here marks half way. Accompanied again by Folkamiseria on bouzouki The Rumpled show they can go full on traditional with a self penned Irish Folk tune that could have been written a hundred years ago!! Song #9 here is the song that began the Grace O’Malley EP ‘Song of Ill Repute’, a speedy accordion and fiddle led whirling dervish of a song which is followed by the EP’s title track, a extended version, ‘Grace O’Malley’. With over 1,000,000 plays on Spotify and a place in the Top Ten Celtic-Punk EP’s Of 2019 on this here web-zine. Grace O’Malley was known as ‘The Pirate Queen’ and until recently was largely known only to Irish communities around the world with tales of her exploits being told and re-told through the generations. A fearless leader over land and sea, a politician and tactician, rebel and pirate, and the ’most notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland’.

‘Fearless And Brave’ sees the band accompanied by Paddy O’Reilly from the awesome Celtic-Punk band Paddy And The Rats. Utterly brilliant the dual vocals work to great effect while the Celtic-Punk crosses into Ska and back. ‘Feelin’ Fine’ keeps up the pace going and finally ‘The Maiden’ brings down the curtain.

So while it’s a shame for us long time fans of the band not to have an album of brand new music its perfectly understandable that The Rumpled want to get their music out to as wider audience as possible and this is a great opportunity for them to do so. So if you’re a fan pass this on to someone who isn’t (yet!) and make their day. The album is available on both download and physical release and also why not read up on Grace O’Malley it really is a fascinating story.

Buy The Perfect Match  Here  Contact The Rumpled  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

Black Dingo Productions  WebSite  Facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: PHANTOM OF THE BLACK HILLS – ‘That Witch’ (2021)

One of the best bands to wield a banjo IN THE WORLD Phantom Of The Black Hills  soak in influences as varied as Country, Punk, Goth, Folk, Bluegrass with distorted vocals and mysterious mystique and a dark (very dark) western ethos. 

That Witch is their 6th studio album and they are accompanied by Mather Louth from renowned ‘Gothic Americana’ band Heathen Apostles.

To put it simply Phantom Of The Black Hills are fantastic!!

When I saw that their was a new Phantom Of The Black Hills album on the way I can admit to being pretty bloody excited. Even though I love music we receive so much here at London Celtic Punks Towers that it is hard sometimes to rally up enthusiasm for new releases but for That Witch I was even willing to pay (those that know me will know how incredible that is!). Luckily for my Scots /Yorkshire sensibilities I was incredibly lucky to receive a free download from Ratchet Blade Records and it’s not left my lugholes ever since!

The Phantom and Mather Louth

That Witch had originally been planned for release in 2020 but with all the shit going on was delayed almost a year. For those wishing to pigeonhole the label’s most bandied about for the Phantom Of The Black Hills are ‘hellbilly’, ‘frontier-core’ or ‘doom country’ and all capture them pretty fairly squarely and imaginatively. Taking elements of Country, Folk, Punk, Psychobilly, Bluegrass and mixing traditional instruments like mandolin, banjo and fiddle but combining them with fiercely dark and angry polemic, crunching guitars, snarling distorted vocals, intense sound effects and cleverly used movie dialog this is one ‘country’ band you won’t see at the Grand Ole Opry! Shrouded in secrecy hiding themselves away from the glare of publicity the bandana’s they wear in their videos and photos are very careful not to give away any clue as to their identities so it’s kind of hard to tell you anymore about the band themselves! That Witch is their sixth album, the last being Scalped in 2017. That album was to first to feature guest vocals from the lovely Mather Louth on ‘Wild Witch Of The West’ (be sure to check out the brilliant video). She also doubles up as the lead singer of excellent fellow ‘Gothic Americana’ band Heathen Apostles and she guest vocals on pretty much the whole of That Witch giving the album that little extra special range.

The Black Hills of the bands name are in the American state of South Dakota and are most famous for the Mount Rushmore memorial of the four presidential heads of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln, each measuring over forty feet high,  carved into the granite by Gutzon Borglum from 1927 to 1947. It’s also an area where huge numbers of Scots and Scots-Irish settled. This may explain the propensity for moonshine in the area! Production of illegal alcohol that is still widespread today. Another possible by-product of the Celt on the local population is widespread mistrust of all government institutions and even today in a age where yuppies and hipsters seem to have overtaken everywhere you are unlikely to find a Vegan coffee shop or a demand for stricter gun control laws in the Black Hills. Having been forced out of their homes over here they brought that mistrust with them and it still permeates through the local populace.

That Witch begins in superb form with ‘Rising Son’ and The Phantom snarling his way through a song that takes the point of view of Native American’s and their resistance to the early settlers who sought to steal their land and force them onto special reservations.

“This ain’t Oklahoma
And I was here long before ya
Mistress Darkness has come
And when the night is done
I’m the rising son”

The song is a slow burner. A dark foreboding of what is to come building to a climax in the lyrics rather than the tune. Excellent fiddle throughout from El Gato is matched by Popeye on guitar, banjo and bass and Deacon on drums.

‘That Witch’ sees The Phantom and Mather dueling it out on vocals and it’s another dark slower song and I think it’s fair to say that while their albums have progressively darker the sound has mellowed somewhat though the heaviness of the music does mitigate that. You often think you’re listening to a much faster song than you actually are. We get a fast one next with the album’s lead single ‘Buck Knife’ and the tragic tale of a veteran of the Civil War suffering from PTSD. On returning to his home town he is shunned and the story climaxes in a orgy of deadly violence before ending with the kind of twist to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

Heathen Apostles are one hell of a band in their own right and it is absolute genius to team her up with the Phantom Of the Black Hills. The perfect foil to The Phantom’s vocals her beautiful voice on ‘Lady Judas’ belies the story while we do see a lot less of the electric guitar like on next track ‘Moon Killer’ with vocals now dominating but it works a treat and the distorted vocals are still clear enough to understand every word and the various tales of  violence, drunkenness, debauchery and revenge.

“Time to take a vow and consecrate

Using skin and motion as my bait

The cauldron is a-bubblin’
Got to go and show him sin

Lucifer just don’t want to wait…”

‘Hunger’ is co-written by Mather Louth and the band and she leads here her voice soaring above the bands train-like rumble and that majestic fiddle.  The Phantom takes the rein back for ‘Road To Bleeding’. This is the kind of song that previously they would have slung hard and heavy electric guitar all over but now they treat more gently. ‘Sin & Sanctify’ is as close (still not that close really) as they come to a traditional Country song while the album continues to its violent conclusion with two of the album’s best songs ‘Wicked Storm’ and the storming ‘Attack’.

That Witch was released July 2nd on Ratchet Blade Records. The Los Angeles based label home to the Heathen Apostles, Doghouse Lords, the Mau Maus, Charley Horse, Berlin Brats and many more. Ratchet Blade Records describes itself, correctly, as “the best in dark roots music”. Once again it features the amazingly talented former Cramps bassist, and current Heathen Apostles one, Chopper Franklin on production duties. The digital sale of the album is only $7 and the CD not much more but comes with buttons and stickers. Their is also an option for international orders which has drastically reduced ($5 international shipping as opposed to $15) postage charges. To be honest I’m kinda upset this ain’t a Celtic-Punk album as it would definitely be up there in our end of year Best Of awards. Looks like I’m going to have to make up a special new category just for them!

The Phantom Of The Black Hills have come a long way since Ghosts and while their sound may not be quite as raucous as then they still are as powerful and heavy and even more darker than ever before. The teaming up with the beautiful Mather Louth adds a whole new dimension to the sound. It’s a dark world out there and the imagery The Phantom Of The Black Hills conjure up in the mind may not be a pleasant one but it’s an imaginative one filled with the ghosts of the wronged, deserted mines and villages, dust and dirt and the people who lived there and also the  best music the ‘old’ west can produce.

(you can stream/download the whole of That Witch on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy The Witch  Bandcamp (Download/CD)

Contact Phantom Of The Black Hills  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp

Ratchet Blade Records  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

Discography: Ghosts (2009) * Born To Gun (2010) * ENEMY! (2012) * Black Hearted Killer EP (2013) * Moonshine Bright (2014) * Scalped (2017)

If you would like to check out the Phantom Of the Black Hills previous albums (and I’m sure you can tell from our glowing review what we think!) then we ran a feature back in late 2018 where we tried to introduce the band to a wider audience, especially this side of the Atlantic. Links are included to listen to all their previous releases so click below and enjoy being lasso’ed in! You can but their entire catalogue for less than £20 through Bandcamp.