Category Archives: Americana

ALBUM REVIEW: 1916- ‘Far Beyond The Pale’ (2018)

The fourth studio album from one of the best bands in Celtic-Punk, the Rochester, NY based Irish-American band 1916. An explosive concoction of modern day Irish Punk and psychobilly with an original sound all of their very own.

You may scoff at the idea that their is a Celtic-Punk band out there that has an original sound all to themselves! In a scene where the comfort comes from all the bands mining from the same sources of history it is true believe me that one band has managed the seemingly impossible. To stand apart from the crowd but to still be a part of the Irish-American Celtic-Punk scene. Hailing from upstate NY, 1916 take influence from the traditional Irish folk of bygone days and mix in the modern Irish Punk movement but also add in elements from both psychobilly and rockabilly giving them the sound which sets them apart from other bands of the genre.

1916 left to right: Ryan Hurley- Upright Bass * Jon Kane- Mandolin * Steve LaDue- Drums * Billy Herring- Vocals, Guitar *

Their days began as an acoustic duo in back in 2006 with singer Billy Herring and drummer Steve La Due playing the trad Irish ballads of the Dubliners and Wolfe Tones in local pubs in and around their hometown of Rochester. Deciding to name themselves 1916, after the year the uprising in Dublin against British rule took place, to get people interested in Irish history it was in 2010 they took the decision to attempt to turn 1916 into a ‘proper’ band and called in electric guitars, trad instruments and drums. It wasn’t long before they were supporting the Dropkick Murphys and so began a new chapter in 1916 history. 2012 St. Patrick’s Day saw the release of their first studio album, A Drop of the Pure while the following year saw the release of Stand Up & Fight. Each album containing a selection of Celtic/Irish covers and originals that saw the bands sound evolving but it wasn’t until the release of Last Call For Heroes at Christmastime 2015 that the critics went ape. Named in the top half of all the various Celtic-Punk media’s Best Of lists (including our very own one here peaking at #3) 1916 had found their niche and bigger and better things were around the corner for them. As an aside I’ve had their amazing version of ‘Hot Asphalt’ as my ringtone ever since!

Far Beyond The Pale begins with a short instrumental dirge ‘The Risen People’. The sound of chains and a beating drum symbolising stamping feet and the struggle of the Irish race while a mandolin plays a delicate Irish tune. A great start to proceedings as the song becomes the pathway to ‘Some Songs’ and that classic and original 1916 sound is back. Fast and as catchy as hell with bass rumbling away and thrashy guitar nicely understated while Bill tests his lungs with his raspy shouting, though always tuneful, and a great “Woooohh-Woooohhhhhh” bit for us fans to sing along to. 1916 have a knack also for writing some great lyrics too and follow in the tradition of Irish story telling through song. The song tells of the day he fell in love with the music of

“Luke and Ronnie Drew”

and how he has come full circle and I hope Bill realises that he is a direct descendant of these legends and through his music he passes the torch onto the younger generations. Luke and Ronnie would be proud. Next up is the lead single from the album ‘Ophelia’. Bill’s Irish-American brogue and Jon’s mandolin keep the song firmly within Celtic-Punk but it would only take turning up the guitar to take it another level. Saying that I love the guitar on this album. It’s loud and ever present but understated in a way that means it never dominates.

The album title track follows and ‘Far Beyond The Pale’ brings in a slight country influence here but the 1916 rumblin’ is still there. They slow it down slightly but give full reign to Ryan and his upright bass. The phrase ‘beyond the pale’ is well known but what is not so well known is that has a specific Irish meaning. The phrase dates back to the 14th century, when the area around Dublin under English rule was marked by a boundary made of stakes and fences. This became known as the English Pale and to travel outside of that boundary, beyond the pale, was to leave behind all the rules and institutions of English society, which the English modestly considered synonymous with civilization itself. I’m happy to say my family come from many miles Beyond The Pale in Tipperary. They slow it down even further with ‘Guns Of 16’ and maybe I’m getting on a bit but it’s one of my favourite tracks here. A brilliant tune and Bill rolls out the words almost laconically

“Guns of 16 are here
Never have they gone away
Into your deeds they have moved
Keeping the butchers away”

Utterly brilliant. Well so far you have heard a lot about the psychobilly/rockabilly side of 1916 but having stuck fairly closely to the Celtic side of things so far they unleash things for ‘Shake And Roll’ and Ryan’s bass goes into overdrive! There is a saying that “Old punks don’t die they just become rock’n’rollers” and I actually think theirs a bit of truth in that. Having grown up with Rock’n’Roll and Irish music from my Mammy I’ve found myself getting more and more back into over the last few years. I have come to the conclusion its because I’m rather happy in life so don’t want to listen to noisy songs about nuclear war anymore!!!

“We hit the floor together as legion till the end”

Bill shouts out as Jon, Steve and Ryan belt out a real mosh pit filler. The psychobilly influence becomes more of a rockabilly influence for the following song ‘All Outta Whiskey’ and it is absolutely amazing the difference in sound having a upright bass makes when compared to a normal bass. This song is what I would describe as the traditional 1916 sound. First the subject matter (!) then rumbling bass and buzzing guitar with a gang chorus to sing along to and Bill’s laid back vocal style, which is both punky and shouty and trad and folky at the same time, all encompassing a song that straddles punk and folk that is a catchy as feck! The sea features heavily amongst 1916’s repertoire of songs as well as their imagery and no surprise if you read up on how the Irish washed up in north America and the terrible conditions they suffered on board coffin ships supposed to bring them to safety. At least 30% of all Irish immigrants perished on board the ships while many more passed away on arrival. ‘Sticks And Stones’ is another great punky number that rattles along at a fair old pace

“Come all you captains and sailors so bold
and take us through the raging seas of old
Arm yourselves men with your sticks and your stones
and fight against the tide that calls us home”

before taking us into a superb version of ‘Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’. Made famous of course by Cait O’Riordans version on The Pogues second album Rum, Sodomy And The Lash but the song dates right back to the 1880’s and has both Scots and Irish versions. Bills plays with the words a little introducing the line “A tattooer by trade I’m a roving young blade” into the song that speeds up the Pogues version and they nail it by turning it into a 1916 song rather than a Pogues/Dubliners cover. It’s fast, furious, frantic and catchy! We steering up towards the final bend and with ‘Christmas In The Canal’ they have the album standout. The sound is traditional 1916 and is a tribute to those original Irish who fell out of coffin ships and went to work doing the jobs no one else would do. Bill begins the song with the short exclamation

“it was the early 1800’s and the Irish were at the forefront of digging one of the great wonders of the world out of New York state for the Erie canal and despite the harsh conditions they were still able to celebrate”

before the rest of the Bhoys join in with the tale of the Irish digging out the 363 mile canal from the Hudson River near Albany, New York to the Niagara River near Buffalo. Armed with pick axes and shovels, it was backbreaking work, from sunrise to sundown for little pay but it was acknowledged that the Irish were a hard working and hard drinking crew. Not only did the Irish lend their unique work ethic to the canal, they also put their stamp on it in many other ways, including ‘canal songs’, fashioned after popular tunes from home but with new words to fit the environment. And of course, they settled in towns all along the canal route, where today you still find them proud of their Irish roots. The song celebrates them in song just as they sang back in the day and we are still singing now!! A cracking song and one of the elements I have always loved about 1916 is that they do pay homage to those dark days when the Irish in America were on the bottom rung. The album’s second and final cover is up next and the hymn ‘I’ll Fly Away’ is played as a fast folky number. Written by Albert E. Brumley in 1929 it is thought to be the most recorded gospel song of all time and I remember singing it with gusto in my Catholic school days, after all the only way to get the boys to sing was to give them a song that they could shout along to at the top of their voices! It’s already been given the Celtic-Punk treatment on 2012’s Toil by Flatfoot 56 but again 1916 give it their all and come up with something original rather than copied.

“When the shadows of this life are gone,
I’ll fly away.
Like a bird from prison bars has flown
I’ll fly away.”

The curtain comes down on Far Beyond The Pane with the wonderful ‘Going Home’. At over five minutes its by far the album’s longest song and though it starts off plaintive and on the slow side the Bhoys can’t help but go out on a flourish and Jon’s mandolin must have smoke coming off it by the time the end of the songs comes!

This is an album full of life. A celebration of Irish-American identity that is open and accepting to all and is packed to the rafters with passion and energy. The album is available on CD from the band as well as all the usual download sites and the CD comes with a massive booklet entitled Ships Log done in the style of a olde day ships log containing the lyrics of the songs. Mind you Bill’s vocal style renders it useless as you can understand every single word he sings over the album’s forty minutes. 1916’s star is rising all the time and with tours having taken them right across the States and Europe (though sadly not England) and back again and having become an integral part of the #1 event in Celtic-Punk, the  Flogging Molly Salty Dog Cruise, theirs no sign of it dying down just yet. 1916 are easily in my favourite, say, five bands in Celtic-Punk and I defy anyone to not enjoy this band and this fantastic album. With equal measures of humour and seriousness and whiskey it sure is a unique blend alright.

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  • You can read more about the ‘coffin ships’ and The Great Hunger here
  • The history of the Irish and the Erie canal here and here

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE MUCKERS- ‘One More Stout’ (2018)

While they do play Irish music Atlanta based celtic-punkers The Muckers blend in  influences from gypsy music, sea shanties, country, rockabilly and anything else they can get their hands on.

One More Stout is The Muckers second album and if their debut was a helluva lot of fun then they have gone and topped it with this one. Their self titled debut album came out in September 2016 and even though they had only recently formed it received excellent reviews from right across the celtic/folk-punk scene and entered the end of year charts of all the ones who did one including ours. We described it back then as

“A great knees up of an album with a grand sense of humour and infectiously good fun and well played”.

and to be perfectly honest we could easily re-use that comment to describe their new album One More Stout as well!

Based in the deep South of America in the city of Atlanta in Georgia they are the only local Celtic-Punk band and had gathered a massive following around them in the city and state among the Irish and their friends. That was back then and it would be safe to say that these days The Muckers are rapidly becoming one of Americas better known ‘new’ Celtic-Punk bands. They are on the face of it a straight up Irish band but dig a little deeper into their sound and you will discover a host of influences from at home and overseas. This is a very real American Irish music that takes the spirit of Ireland and adds in a little something from gypsy, country or even rockabilly to produce something that is an absolute joy to listen to, and I am positive a joy to catch live as well.

The Muckers left to right: Steve Lingo- Drums * Brady Trulove- Guitar * Jeff Shaw- Fiddle/Mandolin * Dave Long- Accordion * Randall English- Bass.

One More Stout kicks off with the opener ‘Let’s All Go to the Bar’ and it has a kind of Gobshites feel to it. A real happy-go-lucky bounce to it accompanied by a feel-good vibe that would be sure to fire any gig/party/barmitzvah off! The Gobshites comparison may be a good one as I later found out vocalist Jeff was an auld Gobshite himself for a couple of years and played mandolin work on their album The Whistle Before the Snap.

Originally penned by Rhode Island roots-punk quintet Deer Tick the song stays fairly close to the original but with a huge injection of celtic-punk attitude with some excellent accordion and mandolin.

“Forget if you’ll regret when the morning comes
We’ll have a heart attack, we’re having too much fun
If the coops show up we ought run, run, run
But we’ll laugh in their faces when they tell us we’re done”

At nearly four minutes it’s the perfect length and a great start to proceedings. Jeff Shaw has a great full voice that belies his wee frame and fits snug into The Muckers style of music. The Bhoys have an obsession with alcohol (fancy that!) and keep it up with their first self-penned number ‘Hellbound’ and Jeff puts down the mandolin to play some pretty damn amazing country style fiddle over this fantastic number. The song ends with a very nice Irish trad flourish and they back this straight up with another original ‘Day Drinking’ and it’s hard to believe they are only a five piece band so large is the sound here.

Not only that but they are almost acoustic except for Randall’s bass. I’m still looking for a word I can use instead of catchy (If you know please tell me!) but that is the word that is stamped all over The Muckers music. This song is again accordion led (even with a tinge of ska!) but with such a fantastic production it never over dominates things and blends right in. Next up is another cover and again they stay fairly close to the original by Californian country/American group The Devil Makes Three. They do of course speed ‘Black Irish’ right up and add some bollocks to it.

“Cuz I, I wanna feel that blood rushin in my veins
I don’t want this night to ever turn into day
If I could only do all them things I wanted to
While that spirit’s rushin now in my veins
Yes If I could only do all them things I wanted to
While that spirit’s rushin in my veins”

At least musically anyway as the lyrics speak for themselves! The fiddle kicks it off before accordion joins in and low and behold there’s an electric guitar thrashing away there! Now this is Celtic-PUNK I tells you. Now its the title track and ‘One More Stout’ is an ode to the famous Black Stuff. Following this is a cover by one of my all-time favourite Celtic-Punk bands the glorious Cutthroat Shamrock. Criminally under-rated they split up last year but I was delighted to see that they had reformed this St. Patrick’s weekend to play some local gigs around Tennessee. ‘Long Gravel Road’ is one of their best songs and I would heartily recommend checking their original version out here from their 2009 album Blood Rust Whisky. The Muckers do the song perfect justice and keep the country-Irish feel of the original intact while still putting their own stamp on it. We take a trip out East now with the Bhoys version of the old Russian traditional folk song ‘Limonchiki’. Of course the accordion is in favour here and Jeff hams it up a bit in a real nice number that is guaranteed to get feet moving! Next is a cover by Canadian Celtic-Rock legends Great Big Sea. You know when a band has reached legendary status when ‘ordinary folk’ start to take notice. In this case it was when my sister-in-law asked me if I knew Great Big Sea and did I have any of their stuff. Yeah only about six hours worth! Anyway The Muckers give ‘Old Black Rum’ a real going over and make it their own while ‘God Save Ireland’ is a old song. Very old. it was written to commemorate the Manchester Martyrs, three members of the Fenian Brotherhood executed in England in 1867 after a successful mission to free a comrade from arrest ended with the death of a policeman. It served as the unofficial Irish national anthem from the 1870s to the 1910s and has been recorded by a multitude of artists. In particular I always remember it raising the roof when The Wolfe Tones play it. Its catchy tune and singalong chorus make it perfect Celtic-Punk fodder and needless to say (but say it I will) Its gets a bloody good airing here. We back in the bar for ‘Whiskey’ and the on-off love affair we have with alcohol. Catchy in a sort of hoe-down country way which leads us nicely onto ‘Drunker’n Cooter Brown’ which takes it a bit further with elements of bluegrass and zydeco sneaking in.

One of the album highlights for me and if the dance floor aint filled up for this then there’s something wrong with the audience! ‘Molly, Pt. 2’ is the sequel to ‘Molly’ that appeared on their debut album and that was one of the standout tracks then so only fitting the sequel is here. The mandolin shines here showing what a great instrument it is in Celtic-Punk. Its delicate, beautiful sound butting up against the rougher edges of the other instruments really does sound wonderful. Finally we have reached the end of One More Stout and we wrap things up with an absolutely stunning instrumental traditional Irish folk reel called ‘Castle Kelly’. The tune is very old and also known The Dark Haired Maid’ when recorded by the Bothy Band, or ‘Mo Nighean Dubh’ if you speak Irish. The Muckers version is a s good as any I have heard. An amazing way to finish things.

As we have stated The Muckers are riding a wave which has seen them take the stage at Shamrock Fest and Dragon Con and they were invited to play the welcome party for what is rapidly becoming the most important event in the worlds Celtic-Punk calendar the famed Salty Dog cruise organised by Flogging Molly. Lucky bastards!! This band is set for the top table of celtic-punk embracing everything that’s great about celtic-punk. Passion and pride in the land of their ancestors but also a willingness to experiment a bit and step away from the confines of Irish folk and inject other cultures and music into what they do. And all the time with a smile plastered across their faces. The obvious fun they have is infectious and if the only thing Celtic-Punk achieves is to make people happy then The Muckers have got a surefire hit on their hands. Get on board before they become massive!

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ALBUM REVIEW: BASTARD BEARDED IRISHMEN- ‘Drinkin’ To The Dead’ (2018)

Pittsburgh celtic-rockers the Bastard Bearded Irishmen deliver an original, ferocious blend of traditional and contemporary Celtic music, mixed with punk, gypsy and high-energy rock n’ roll on their third album out this week.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen are one of the hardest working bands ON the Irish-American celtic-rock scene and their hard work has paid off with the band now known right across the States and even beyond. Formed back in 2008 the band celebrate ten years together with the release of their third studio album, Drinkin’ To The Dead. Originally planned as a one off tribute for a friend’s funeral, George H. Evans IV, a friend of the band and guitarist who died in a car accident in 2004. George was a big Irish-American guy who loved the Dropkick Murphys and during that one-off show Jimmy Bastard and Ben Jaber decided their passion for Irish music needed a further outlet so after recruiting a couple more local guys and gaining a rather nice sponsorship deal from Jameson’s Irish whiskey the Bastard Bearded Irishmen were born.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen left to right: Jimmy Bastard- Lead Vocals, Acoustic/Electric Guitar, Banjo *  Paul Dvorchak- Fiddle * Danny Rectenwald- Mandolin, Banjo, Vocals * Ryan Warmbrodt- Rhythm Guitar * Dan Stocker- Drums/Percussion * Ben Jaber- Bass, Vocals (Ben has since left amicably and the new Bastard bassist is Sean-Paul Williams)

This is the band’s third album behind their self-titled debut of 2011 and ‘Rise Of The Bastard’ in 2014. That debut trod the well worn path of mostly auld Irish standards and though an excellent album it only left their fans wanting to hear more of their own stuff. They got their wish with Rise Of The… which was an album of solid self penned songs with just three covers chucked in. One of the most pleasing things about the Bastards was their ability to switch from Irish punk to folky trad and though on their new album the rougher edges have been smoothed down this ability still shines through.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen hail from Pennsylvania’s second largest city Pittsburgh located in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The city is known as ‘The Steel City’ due to its history of steel production and way back in the 1830’s, many Welsh people from the Merthyr steelworks immigrated to the city following the aftermath of the Merthyr Rising. By the 1840’s, Pittsburgh was one of the largest cities west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Great Fire of Pittsburgh destroyed over a thousand buildings in 1845 and the city was rebuilt by Irish immigrants who had arrived in the area escaping The Great Hunger back home. By the end of the century Pittsburgh’s 1,000 factories were consuming 22 million coal bushels yearly with coal mining and iron manufacturing attracting waves of European immigrants to the area, increasingly from southern and eastern Europe, and including many Catholics and Jews fleeing injustice and poverty in their homelands. Today the Irish still number 16% of the cities population and the Saint Patrick’s Day parade is second only to New York in the whole of the USA.

(the Bastard Bearded Irishmen bhoys discuss their upcoming 2018 album, Drinkin’ to the Dead and the evolution of the group)

So coming from an area with a rich working class history and confident in it’s Irishness the Bastard Bearded Irishmen found much work around the city playing to their fellow Irish-Americans but as has been said hard work and solid graft has seen them voted ‘Best Rock Band in Pittsburgh’ for four years in a row, ‘Best Bar Band’ twice, opening for the Dropkick Murphy’s and Stiff Little Fingers and a whole host of major folk and rock bands while, of course, playing just about every decent Irish music festival including last years mega Shamrockfest. Their third album Drinkin’ To The Dead came out on that most special of days for sc-fi fans, May the 4th, kicks off with ‘Salutations, Memoirs, Denouements’ which was their first single from the album released last February. They seem to have lost none of their bite since 2014’s Rise Of The Bastard and despite promising to have moved away from the Irish punk of the first two album’s I can tell you there’s plenty here to keep fans old and new very happy indeed. As is the way the opener is always one of the strongest songs and no different here with Jimmy Bastard belting out the lyrics about remembering close lost friends and comrades.

” But through the tears (we arise) as we honour the lives of the ones we left behind”

Fast and furious and tuneful with great fiddle work its a brilliant way to start things and I can tell I’m in for a good time here! Drinkin’ To The Dead also sees mando player Danny Rectenwald step up to the plate vocals wise and him and take the lead on a handful of songs here that gives some nice balance to Jimmy.

So if the opener made me think we were in for more of the same ‘No Problems, No Drama’ took me by surprise with its combination of celtic, reggae, klezmer and eastern European tunes all bashing up against each other. At over six minutes long it’s a bit risky but the risk was worth it as the lads take time to build up the song layering each others instruments on top of each other and building the song up to a climax. Maybe not one for live shows but it certainly works here and shows that there is a lot more to the Bastards than drinking songs… though they are pretty fecking good at them too as in next track ‘Let’s Have A Party’. It’s straight up Irish folk-punk though perhaps with just a tinge of country and again Paul’s fiddle is on fire as the band bash through the song as quickly as they can.

It may be overplayed as hell and appeared on every Celtic-Punk band’s play list but lets face it you can’t beat ‘Dirty Old Town’ can you. We have gone into this song so many times here but Ewan MacColl’s song is played so often for a reason and that is because it is such an amazing song. The Bastards play it Dubliners style. Nice and slow with Jimmy showing he’s got a decent set of lungs on him and the band with a nicely subdued backing but then half way through they kick it off and bring it in fast as yer like. Ewan was a bit touchy about this song especially about how Shane MacGowan sang it (apparently putting the emphasis in the wrong place) but sure wouldn’t he happy hearing it still blaring away sixty-nine years after he wrote it. Next up is a solid Irish folk instrumental ‘Harvest’ before the gypsy-punk of  ‘Ya, Ya, Ya’ begins with the familiar sound of a can of beer opening! It’s not all as expected and they can still bring out a few surprises and ‘Moscato’ is a nicely understated gentle tune dedicated to the delights of drinking wine. Just Jimmy’s voice, acoustic guitar, bass and mandolin lead us into another nice drinking song but more in keeping with the Irish tradition. The bittersweet tale of ‘Another Bottle Of Booze’ of realising what the stuff does to you but not be able, or wanting, to stop. A slow song but played tough and a real foot stomper. This is the quieter section of the album and ‘Green Side Of The Hill’ may start off as a ballad before incorporating reggae and gypsy into it. Great words too reinforcing what I have always said about them that their story-telling is an integral part of what they do. Eventually the song bursts out at you and the quiet section is no more and the band whip through the ending. The song is another long one at five and half minutes and never drags and the extra length of some of the songs on Drinkin’ With The Dead is evidence of a maturity that the band have faith in themselves to deliver songs that keep the listeners interest. ‘Drunken’ Drinkin’ is about being drunk and still drinking and the song again doesn’t stick to the Celtic-Punk blueprint and neither does it stick to just keeping it fast either.

We have a lovely Irish folk tune next in ‘Slip (the) Jig’ and a song that’s been around a couple of years now, ‘Pirates Of Three Rivers’ that is classic Celtic-Punk territory. The three rivers, the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio, converge in the city and Pittsburgh owes its existence to them.

We coming up towards the end and ‘What A Life That Would Be’ is a song that maybe shouldn’t work but by hell it does. Shift changes all over the shop and packed with influences from all over the place it on the face of it is all over the place but yeah it still gets you there! Down to the last two songs and they are both called ‘Drinkin’ With The Dead’ and as Jimmy Bastard says

“It’s kind of funny because the name of the album has been around for two years, we just had to get it done. And on the same day Danny said he wrote a song called ‘Drinkin’ to the Dead’ (the second version), I told him I wrote one, too. We thought we couldn’t have two song called ‘Drinkin’ to the Dead’ on the album, but then thought, ‘Yes we can. We can do whatever we want.’”

‘Drinkin’ To The Dead (Prelude)’ is a sad but glorious, thought provoking piano driven ballad dedicated to the friends they have lost. Danny’s voice achingly recalls loved ones.

“Raise a glass to tomorrow and the past
to the ones that we love
down here or above
for this may or may not be the last time we can.”

They follow it up with the second version of ‘Drinkin’ To The Dead’. At near eight minutes long you can bet your arse it’s an epic and rousing way to bring the curtain down on things. Solidly based on Irish folk the words speak of respecting the dead and moving on with your life and making those you loved proud of you. We Irish are obsessed with death though I have always found in a good way. A damn fine way to end things.

Bastard Bearded irishmen logo.jpg

As a band whose whole existence was to commemorate fallen friends and family Drinkin’ With The Dead is a more than just a couple of steps forward for the band. Proof if it was needed that Irish-American music is both inventive and innovative and willing to push the boundaries of what we think of as Irish music. Bastard Bearded Irishmen have stepped it up a notch and though still well grounded in celtic-punk the extra touches they have introduced will I am sure gain them recognition and friends far beyond our narrow little scene and Good Luck to them while they do it!

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(A mini-documentary on the Pittsburgh based band, Bastard Bearded Irishmen. Created as a senior class project by Rachael Hower. Recorded September 2014-February 2015)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE JOHNNY CLASH PROJECT- ‘The Johnny Clash Project’ (2018)

The most novel and interesting covers album you will ever hear! The debut album of The Clash re-imagined as The Man In Black. 1977 punk as boom-chuka-boom-chuka country’n’western with the roots of original rock’n’roll showing.

By some quirk of fate I came across The Johnny Clash Project and purely on the name I decided to check them out. Well to say I was impressed is an understatement. I was further intrigued to read that they would soon be touring the UK so I dropped the lads a message on Facebook to find out if they were playing London and sadly the answer was not. Well a couple more emails and a bit of jiggery pokery and we had landed them to play at the London Celtic Punks show later this month in Leytonstone on Friday 27th April. More on that later but you may now be wondering what was so special as to warrant all this interest well here you go.

Covers are not unknown in the celtic-punk scene and I dare say 95% of celtic-punk releases include a cover or two but The Johnny Clash Project’s debut album is all covers. Not only that they are of the same band, The Clash. It is in fact a song-by-song tribute to The Clash self-titled debut album from 1977. Now there’s two ways to record a cover (three if you include f*cking it up like Ed Sheeran did recently with ‘Fairytale Of New York’) you can either copy it closely or else breathe new life into it and try and record it in a new style. We are used to hearing both here and they both have value as long as they are recorded with love and respect. The Johnny Clash Project have taken the second route and recorded an album that is so God-damn memorable and catchy, its songs haven’t left my brain alone for over a week!!

What they have done is take the songs of The Clash and recorded them in the style of the great and legendary country outlaw Johnny Cash. Yes The Man In Black himself. There’s plenty of elements of blues, Americana, folk and rockabilly but essentially this is country of Johnny Cash of the Folsom Prison Blues era. Songwriter. Six-string strummer(!). Storyteller. Country boy. Rock star. Folk hero. Preacher. Poet. Drug addict. Rebel. Saint AND sinner. Victim. Survivor. Home wrecker. Husband. Father. Son. and more… Johnny Cash the ultimate music villain widely loved and respected by all passed away in 2003  and this is also a loving tribute to him as well.

The Johnny Clash Project formed in January 2013, in Bologna in northern Italy, and stars Lorenzo Mazzilli (voice and guitar), Paolo Cicconi (guitar and banjo) and Zimmy Martini (double bass). All three are active in other bands, The Giant Undertow, Lucky Strikes and Muddy Worries but here they are united in having only one purpose- to take the songs of the one band whose influence in punk has never waned and re-imagine them in the style of the ultimate Country singer-songwriter outlaw, Johnny Cash and to make them their own and this they have done. With several tours of home behind them and a two month tour last year that took in Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and England they have been causing waves and their live show has been receiving plaudits from all and sundry.

Taking the boom-chuka-boom-chuka of Marshall Grant’s double bass and piling on top a voice that is so close to Johnny’s that it will make you do a double take this album is an absolute must have. It all kicks off with ‘Janie Jones’ and it’s one of a handful of songs here that the original tune stays in tact. Most of the album is done in the style of ‘Remote Control’ and ‘I’m so Bored with the USA’ where the tune is completely different and it’s not until the chorus that you start to recognise things. There are several high points but to be perfectly honest from start to finish this album is an absolute belter. ‘White Riot’, ‘London’s Burning’. ‘Career Opportunities’ keep the energy of the originals and the fast tempo while  ‘What’s My Name’ and ‘Cheat’ are played as an emotional ballads and the curtain comes down with ‘Garageland’ and accompanied by Marc Santò on the fiddle and the three female singers from fellow Bologna ska band Le Birrette, Anna, Carlotta and Giulia, it even manages to stand out even more. Fourteen songs and just over forty-five minutes of musical heaven. There is something about knowing the words to a song that brings you closer to the music and here you almost find yourself singing along before you know what the song is!

As said Johnny was the ultimate rock’n’roll outlaw. Had he been born twenty later perhaps he might have embraced punk himself even. Ever faithful to both the spirit of The Clash and the sound of Johnny Cash this is pure unabashed country-folk but would they have got away with it if Lorenzo didn’t sound so much like Johnny Cash? Probably not but so what. Backed by Paolo Cicconi on electric guitar and banjo and Zimmy Martini double bass, they are joined here on the drums by Matteo Dall’Aglio whose simple rhythms and changes of pace take you back to those halcyon days of the 1950’s. The album was released on St. Patrick’s Day eve this year and has been released on Milan label Rocketman Records. The sound is completely authentic sounding and the whole project reeks of care and attention to detail. Normally we come across albums we love with a sense of joy crossed with dejection. Joy at the discovery of music that will warm your soul but dejection at the realisation that you will never (probably) get to see the band in question perform. Well some of you those feelings will remain while for Londoners we can catch The Johnny Clash Project in the flesh in just a couple of weeks time. Don’t miss this great band and while I do have a tendency to wax lyrical about records I love the songs on this album are still swimming inside my head as I write this a week after I first heard it so that has to be the best recommendation hasn’t it?

(listen to the whole of The Johnny Clash Project at the link below)

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The Johnny Clash Project will be joined on Friday 27th April by Dutch celtic-folk-punkers Drunken Dolly, also playing in London for the first time, and London’s #1 celtic-punkers The Lagan. Live at one of East London’s most popular Irish pubs The Plough & Harrow, 419 High Road Leytonstone, London E11 4JU. Halfway along Leytonstone High Road the nearest tube is an easy 8 min walk from Leyton tube. For up to date information join the Facebook event here. Full tour dates- Tuesday 24th April at The New Inn, Canterbury * Wednesday 25th April at The Liver Hotel, Liverpool * Thursday 26th April at the Craft Taproom, Liverpool * Friday 27th April at the Plough & Arrow, London and Saturday 28th at the Fez in Margate.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: PAUL ROBESON- ‘Songs Of Struggle’

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Paul Robeson was one hell of a man. Outstanding in so many areas- scholar, athlete, singer, actor, linguist – the list seems endless. He was also a fearless campaigner for human rights, which led to his persecution by the authorities. His powerful bass voice had an immense power but also a gentleness and a warm sincerity that made it special. A unique voice and a unique person and Songs Of Struggle is a great introduction.
We will never see his like again.
Born: April 9, 1898  Princeton, New Jersey
Died: January 23, 1976  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Paul Robeson was one of the greatest figures of the 20th century, but he has been almost written out of American history due to his fearless advocacy of the principles of civil rights, equality and democratic freedom. He was an athlete, a qualified lawyer, a professional singer and star actor, but above all he was a campaigner for human rights the world over. A giant of a man in all respects, perhaps his most notable single attribute was his fine bass voice, and that quality can now be enjoyed and appreciated again through this album of some of his best known songs, including many of the songs reflecting his political allegiances.

Robeson saw singing and acting as a part of political campaigning after a visit to Germany and the USSR in 1934. Two factors combined on that trip, his hatred of Nazi fascism, and his admiration for the Soviet Union’s legislation for racial equality. In 1937, he sang in Spain for the Republicans fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War. The following year he came to Wales to film The Proud Valley, a film which meant more to him than any other, and which introduced him to the miners of the Rhondda Valley, and they struck up a friendship which lasted for the rest of his life. Returning to America, his fame grew with the nationwide broadcast of ‘Ballad For Americans’ in 1939, a song which was at once a declaration of love for America and a strong demand for equality. He travelled the country enthralling audiences with his songs and speeches, refusing to perform to segregated audiences, and encouraging black support for the war effort to defeat fascism which

“would make slaves of us all”.

As America entered World War 2, Paul achieved massive success on Broadway and nationwide, from 1942 to 1944, and redoubled his political campaigning against fascism, racism and colonialism, espousing the right of black people to full equality, the right of African peoples to self-government, and the progressive labour movement. His support for the war effort shielded him from criticism at first, but after the war, his views regarding the Soviet Union and African independence brought him into conflict with President Truman’s policy of containment, and it also became evident that Truman was not going to move on human rights. A growing number of Americans were also turning against him, and attempts were made to curtail his public performances. In 1947, in total disgust at such attitudes, he announced he would take two years away from the theatre and concert stage, in order to

“talk up and down the nation against race hatred and prejudice. It seems that I must raise my voice, but not by singing pretty songs”.

In 1949 he made his most controversial speech at the World Peace Conference in Paris, in which he decried the concept of American Blacks’ participation in foreign wars on behalf of a government which treated them as second class citizens. He returned to an America which was rapidly turning against him, the FBI held an ongoing investigation into his alleged ‘communist ties’, their were riots outside his concerts, and all this culminated in the revoking of his passport in 1950. This attempt to silence Paul Robeson started a period of political resistance using songs as his weapons which is unparalleled in modern history. In 1952, Canadian union leaders organized a series of concerts at the Peace Arch Park on the US-Canadian border, and invitations flowed offering Professorships and performances of Othello at Stratford. He was also invited by the workers he had befriended during the filming of The Proud Valley to sing at the South Wales Miners’ Eisteddfod.

In 1957, with the laying of the transatlantic telephone cable, Robeson gave his first Transatlantic Concert to an audience in Manchester in May, and the second in October to the Grand Pavilion at Porthcawl. In his autobiography Here I Stand, Robeson said

“I cannot say how deeply I was moved on this occasion, for here was an audience that had adopted me as kin and though they were unseen by me, I never felt closer to them”.

His passport was returned to him in 1958, and Wales was one of his first destinations, where he appeared and spoke at both the National Eisteddfod at Ebbw Vale, and the South Wales Miners’ Eisteddfod at Porthcawl.

Paul Robeson singing with a choir in a scene from The Proud Valley.

He spent the last years of his performing life abroad, but returned to the US when ill-health led to his retirement in 1963. He lived the final years of his life in seclusion in Philadelphia and died there on January 23rd, 1976. On his tombstone is his personal statement that

“The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

Addressing the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Ebbw Vale, 1958.

Thus this particular compilation of music highlighting both Robeson’s voice as well as his strong convictions is extremely appropriately themed. Much of this music is about political struggle. Opening with ‘Joe Hill’ one of America’s most famous folk songs and finding time to support the Irish people

“the only people ever persecuted in their own country were the Irish”

by singing one of the most spectacular versions of ‘Kevin Barry’ ever recorded. There is a superb article here by the Dublin based Come Here To Me web-site on Paul’s visit to London and how he came to learn the song. Kevin Barry was 18 years old when he was hanged in Dublin on November 1st 1920. Arrested after a battle with the British Army reports of his torture in Mountjoy Jail soon circulated but Barry refused to name his comrades. He was given a death sentence but it was widely believed that this sentence would be commuted, and that the British authorities would not dare to execute such a young man. His death is possibly the most poignant in Irish history.

Other pieces concern the simple struggle to continue life in the face of tribulation. They all display a worldly strength and the understanding of a man that clearly was familiar with these emotions. The performances are often minimal, using only piano and voice. Highly appropriate to these works, as this lends a highly personal atmosphere. Additionally it brings solid focus to the incredible talent that Robeson possessed. He was well known for learning languages, and singing/recording in the original tongue and here we have songs in English, German, Russian and Spanish. The sound on these recordings is a revelation. No tape hiss and no noticeable album noise. The fidelity is bright and far better than many vintage recordings. The recordings are from 1927-1942 and his most famous song ‘Ol’ Man River’ is one of the earliest here and sounds fantastic. More than 70 minutes, including a surprise 1939 poetry reading to conclude, just listen to that diction and voice control! 

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This is a collection that can be truly recommended.

(a tribute to Paul Robeson from the New York Irish rockers Black 47)

 with thanks to Zero G Sound- if you want music like this to light up your life then go find them here.

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPIN’ STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

(if any links are broken please leave a comment and we will try to fix it)

2017 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S PART THREE: THE CELTIC NATIONS- BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS, THE DECLINE!, BRUTUS’ DAUGHTERS, REAL McKENZIES, VINCE CAYO, THE BOTTLERS

So welcome to 2018 and the first post of the year and the last of our round-ups from 2017. We simply could not keep up with the volume of releases we keep receiving so rather than completely neglect them here’s some much shorter reviews that will at least give you a taste of what they are about. We much prefer to do really detailed reviews but these are still worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out and apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in. This week we concentrate on bands hailing from the Celtic nations or the Celtic diaspora. You can still catch up with our North America (here) and European (here) round-up’s.

BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS- ‘Walk Like Kings’  (Buy)

Described by the band as being made by accident we, and they, should be thankful for such unexpected delights. This is an album of thirteen glorious tracks covering themes of loss and longing and hope that show the Bhoys reaching new heights, musically and lyrically. Tracks, such as the fun filled ska beat ‘Disorganised Crime’ leap out of the speakers in a joyous racket that simply defies not being danced to and then there’s ‘Stand Up And Fight’, a collaboration with New Yorks finest Da Ded Rabbits, that punches it’s way through in a hard hitting pounding track that will be a surprise to some fans. Never fear the Bible Code sound is still evident as are other influences including an Oasis tinged ‘You Got Me On The Run’ but the title track, ‘Walk Like King’s’, is pure Bible Codes, a majestic thumping track full of defiance and pride for 2nd and 3rd generation Irish immigrants who weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths. Guests abound on this release – Elvis Costello, Matt McManamon, Brian Kelly… All adding to an eclectic mix of an album on which every track is worthy of your attention, be it the ethereal ‘America’

“Why we leave behind family, to a foreign land for to roam”

or the haunting beauty of ‘Snow Falling On Fire Escapes’ or the MacManus family collaboration ‘Willie Redmonds Volunteers’ all the tracks show a band at the top of their game and this is one that all London Celtic Punkers will want to check out. It has been a tough year for the band but this album is one thing that they can look look back on with fond memories and pride, let’s hope for more, someone once sang ‘accidents can happen, but only once…’ may the Bible Code Sundays fall into more.

“We face out, chest proud, In this town we walk like kings”

RIP Carlton.

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THE DECLINE!- ‘Heroes On Empty Streets’  (Buy)

More celtic-punk for you now but in the sense that this is a punk and from the Celtic nation of Brittany! The music scene in Brittany is very strong and is reflected in the growth of ‘Celticness’ and the resurgence in the Breton language. The Decline! are a five piece punk rock band from Rennes who formed in 2009. Their first EP, ‘An Old Indian Cemetery’, was released in the middle of 2010, and showed what proper genuine music today should be all about. They followed this up with their debut album ‘Broken Hymns For Beating Hearts’ the following year and was a mix of punk rock and acoustic folk tunes. 2014 saw the release of ’12a Calgary Road’ which saw the and branching out into celtic melodies but ploughing much the same furrow while taking on varying tempos with ease. This new album released in May may not have the asolute urgency of previous releases but more than makes up for it with it’s catchy singalonga punk rock. Kevin’s strong and distinctive voice and rumbling rhythm section certainly gets your blood pumping and while ‘Someday Somehow’ could pass for bleak post-punk maybe even Gothic in places the following track ‘Joyfull Thrill’ would make the early Dropkicks jealous.

We have to wait till track seven for the first signs of anything acoustic and it’s well worth the wait ‘We Love Our Scars’ hits the spot both lyrically and musically too. Its all very well done and very well produced too and while it may be possible to mistake this for an American punk release The Decline! are proud members of the Breton music scene. If catchy as feck melodic punk rock is yer thing then here’s the band for you.

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BRUTUS’ DAUGHTERS- ‘Hueso y Madera’  (Free Download)

Formed in November 2008 in Carabanchel, a suburb of Madrid as a straight forward punk rock band before they added Asturian bagpipe and fiddle and one of the most original bands in celtic-punk was born. This is the bands third album and, as usual, comes with songs written in Castilian, English and Asturian. As one of only a tiny handful of bands in the scene with female vocals they certainly stand out and with a defiantly anti-fascist message to boot. The music is fast and loud and punky but there is an undeniable hardcore traditional folk edge to it as well. Elements of their own countries as well as Celtic are merged together very successfully. As said I don’t understand much of the album but the sleeve notes speak of the endangered languages of the Celts, Celtic mythology and defending the underprivileged. The punk side of this reminds me of the Spanish punk music I use to hear in Hackney squats over the years but the folk influence is strong and comes out in reels and jigs throughout the album.

Only nine songs and twenty-eight minutes long but played at breakneck speed from the opening bars of the instrumental punky trad folk of ‘De Hueso Y Madera’ to the English language ‘Brazen’, the album moves at a great pace and its them pipes that really dominate here, holding it all altogether. Vocals are shared around the band and the standard gang chorus works very well especially on tracks like ‘Carretera’, for me the high point here with its catchy chorus while ‘Unidad’ is bass heavy and rumbles along nicely while the fiddle and pipes work overtime. ‘Carcel’ is another high energy number that offers up more of the same. Here’s a real Celtic band that is something quite apart from the herd. Alex voice is harsh and strong and fits the music perfectly. They are a lyrics heavy band so it’s a shame I can’t catch most of it as I am sure they have something important to say. Here’s a proper punk band playing proper punk rock songs that are littered with jigs and reels and a sea shanty about to break out at any moment. The hidden song here is the real folk gem though proving they can really play their instruments and you can find out yourselves for *FREE* yes you read that correct the album is available for sweet F.A from the link above.

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THE REAL McKENZIES- ‘Two Devils Will Talk’  (Canada / RestOfTheWorld )

Well what to say about Two Devils Will Talk? How it managed to escape a decent review is beyond me seeing how popular this awesome and is. Up there with The Mollys and the Murphs the Real McKenzies have been going an amazing 25 years and this, their tenth, is up there with the est I kid you not. I wasn’t overly enamoured with 2015’s Rats In The Burlap but here they have returned with fourteen rousing tracks of pure, unabashed Canadian-Scots celtic-punk mayhem. From the opening anthemic ‘Due West’ to a fantastic re-working of early McK song ‘Scots Wha Ha’e’ its absolutely brilliant. Once again they missed out of playing here so we never got to see them live but we can’t wait till they do darken these shores again. Punk, folk, acoustic, electric with pipes throughout weaving in the Celtic influence for which the band is best known. ‘Seafarers’ is one hell of a stand out tune. You can’t change how the waves roll only how you roll through them. The sense of humour they are famous for is riddled throughout the album and nowhere better than on the laugh out loud ‘Fuck The Real McKenzies’ where the band take the piss out of themselves, and everyone else too! They find room for a cover of Stan Rogers ‘Northwest Passage’ that only adds to this great song. Originally sang as an acapella song the McKenzies do it justice as you would expect. The album ends with my favourite McK song of all and plenty of rebellious, Scottish charm and wit here on an album that shows a band who are still capable of hitting the high notes even after a quarter of a century. A defiant return to form for one of the Premier League bands of celtic-punk.

The Real McKenzies on 25 years of Canadian Celtic punk rock here.

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VINCE CAYO- ‘Bound For Glory’  (Buy)

This debut album from talented multi-instrumentalist Vince Cayo has been bouncing around London Celtic Punks towers for a good six months now without making much of an impact until I decided to revisit a few albums for these round-ups and I can only think I didn’t listen to it properly as it is absolutely fecking brilliant. Not so much celtic-punk but def in the country-punk realm of things and Vince has a very strong voice that growls out at you like Tom Waits lashing it up with McGowan backed by The Street Dogs. Opening track ‘Wasteland Blues’ is a great start to proceedings with fast rock’n’roll country and harmonica shining out and Vince putting McGowan to shame! Vince says his influences range from the cream the celtic-punk but most importantly Flogging Molly, and the title track takes this adulteration to epic proportions, alongside such luminaries as Social Distortion, Billy Bragg, The Gits, Tim Barry, Bob and Dylan and they are all in there but with a bit of good auld Yorkshire grit and determination.

Not afraid to take a risk either with the epic ‘Folk The World’ seven+ minutes of heavy and hard hitting folk music that builds up and up into a real anthem of a tune with fiddle and mandolin taking it recklessly close to celtic-punk territory Vince! ‘Turn It Up’ is classic catchy punk rock that doesn’t seem out of place here at all and in fact slots in nicely among the folkier tunes. ON hearing this properly I though I could imagine him sharing a stage with the likes of Matilda’s Scoundrels so was no surprise to read after that he already had done. When I hear album’s like this I wonder if this is the start of something new. Well I say new but what I mean is a resurgence of folk and country music but with a modern interpretation. The album’s dozen songs wraps up the absolutely awesome country rock’n’roller ‘The Garbageman’ and ‘You Wont Be Marching Alone’. Great songs and a great production make Bound For Glory as good a debut album I heard in 2017  and I will be looking him up for any London dates I can tell you.

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THE BOTTLERS- ‘The Bottlers’ EP  (Buy)

Our final review comes from the land of Oz. A place I am constantly telling you and telling you is where the best Celtic-punk scene is and where the best Celtic-punk bands hail from. Why this is so is anyone’s guess. Perhaps one of these great Aussie bands would like to give us over here on the other side of the world a bit of an insight? The Bottlers come from that world and are a hard playing, nine piece (yes, nine!) celtic-punk band hailing from the capital city, Sydney. They may be city dwellers but you get the feel of the country off these Bhoys and Ghirl. Kicking off with ‘Hades Way’ its a rollicking good stroll through Irish folk-punk as filtered through the Aussie experience. Drawing from not only the vast rural reaches of the Australian nation but also the city and suburban streets with a solid tip of the hat to the folk, punk and folk punk pioneers that have traipsed and trekked the trails well before them.

This is both Australiana AND celtic-punk so intertwined are the two. ‘Take Back The Streets’ is a call to arms to the nations poor in a swirling waltz of anger and beauty. Only three songs on this EP and the curtain comes down with ‘Up She Rises’ and The Bottlers go out with a song that has a nod toward to 70’s English folk-rock in there somewhere amongst the rabble.

“The Bottlers believe folk based music should progressively speak of the times it exists in whilst hearkening back to it’s past, to the true heart of folk music, people. Because you truly can’t get where you’re going till you know where you’ve been”

and you can’t get better than that. In fact we may put it on a London Celtic Punk sticker.

  • yeah yeah I been reliably informed that Canberra is indeed the capital city not Sydney so congrats to Celtic Punkcast for spotting out deliberate mistake! Australia’s finest celtic-punk podcast. Check them out here or here.

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So ends Part 3 and our final part of the 2017 Round-Up’s. Again apologies to all the bands as each and every release fully deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still probably missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send in your stuff to us to review. We are always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

  • COMING SOON- THE BEST OF 2017! What we thought were the best releases of the year covering Albums, EP’s, Celtic/Folk-Punk, Traditional and more.

ALBUM REVIEW: GHOSTTOWN COMPANY- ‘FolkRock’ (2017)

An original German band with their debut album a mix of modern day folk-rock but steered by traditional influences of Irish-Celtic music and American country music.

Not long ago in the summer of 2015, as tends to be the way with these things, two mates with an interest and a background in both folk and rock bands decided they wanted to combine the two and get a band together. With a handful of shows booked they set out on the search for fellow enthusiasts and having quickly agreed on the name Ghosttown Company they roped in a few acquaintances and the search was completed in October 2015. The band’s name describes the places left behind by the Irish during ‘The Great Hunger’ in the mid 19th century when millions were forced to leave Ireland in search of survival and a better life. Rehearsals soon followed culminating in a successful debut local gig in Saarbrücken. Not wasting any time at all the Bhoys took to the recording studio making their first Demo and after a further run of accomplished gigs the band signed a contract with Prosodia publishing company and so it has been a short journey to their debut album the rather aptly titled FolkRock, released in July this year.

Now celtic-punk and all things Irish are incredibly popular in Germany and we have gone over this several times including recently with reviews of albums by Restless Feet, Pitmen, Jamie Clarke’s Perfect The Distillery Rats and The Crooks And The Dylans. Here in England the celtic part of celtic-punk is often underplayed and many bands while actually playing celtic-punk and using Irish and Celtic tunes persist in calling their music folk-punk or attribute the said Irish tunes as English. This special affinity that German’s hold for the Irish means they don’t fall for such bullshit and hypocrisy and they completely go for the Irish/Celtic part and this makes the German scene one of the best in the world. Time and time again when I have met German folk I have been impressed by their knowledge of Irish culture, music and history. That Celtic are by far the most popular foreign team among German football supporters is testament to that affinity. There are several theories for this but my guess is that the Germans love a drink and a good party so it makes perfect sense for them to team up with the Irish. That and maybe perhaps a grudge against a certain nation as well has brought us together?

Ghosttown Company are not unusual among the German celtic-punk scene in that they play mostly acoustic folk music. Yes with the spirit of punk but this is celtic-punk played under the influence of Country, Americana and rock whilst butting shoulders with traditional Irish and Celtic songs. The album starts with ‘Shooting Star’ and they kick off with the album’s top song. Catchy is surely the most overused word when reviewing things so instead of repeating it throughout just assume every song is ‘catchy’ it will save us both time. The European celtic-punk bands love the flute and I am a late comer to the brilliance of this instrument (thank Firkin for my conversion) and it works wonders here. ‘Far Away’ is up next and is a more solid rock number with saxophone and chugging guitar driving it along. Now I’m not sure if the world needs another version of a famous folk trad classic and here it is ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ that gets the folkpunk treatment. Since the advent of recorded music the same songs have popped up for a reason and it’s a little rich to slate modern day celtic-punk bands for it when my Mammies record collection from the 50’s/60’s/70’s must have a thousand different versions of maybe 5 or 6 songs in it. More Dubliners than Thin Lizzy needless to say it’s a great cover and the Bhoys do it justice playing it with a hoe-down twist with added “Yee-Hars” and pub soundtrack. So far the band that is in the back of my head are The Men They Couldn’t Hang and on ‘Plastic World’, the LP’s longest song, you can hear it as well as feel it with the lyrics of the song. That ‘English’ influence continues with next track ‘Clowns In A Game’. One of the album highlights is the outstanding ‘Greenlands’ which takes us on a mesmerising journey through Ghosttown Company’s musical abilities. The music swirls and twines building up and up before relaxing again and repeating. The whole band plays their part and this must surely be a huge live favourite. While they can cut loose you also get the feeling that some songs like the following, ‘Going Down’, would benefit from the same and bit of ‘anarchy’. Another celtic-punk classic next with ‘Black Velvet Band’ and bands love this as it’s slow build up gives them a chance to go f**king mental when the chorus comes along. Not here though and the song is quite restrained with some excellent mournful saxophone and again the band take’s trad material and manages to do something a little different with it to give it their own stamp. The accordion and the mandolin lead us into ‘Hell You Know’ and another standout song that flows magnificently along. This is music that is perched halfway between folk and rock and the past and present and while it won’t scare your Grandparents it is still thoroughly thigh slappingly great. A visit to Ireland is recalled next in ‘Island Of The Green’ and the autobiographical story of how Ghosttown Company frontman and songwriter Chris fell in love with Ireland and all things Irish things on their first visit to Dublin. Music, alcohol and good times in the four corners of Ireland put to catchy (sorry!) country tinged Irish folk’n’roll. The last cover is ‘Spanish Lady’ and one of my favourite songs of all time. Now I can only remember this being covered in the celtic-punk world by Shane MacGowan And The Popes. It may be a tad restrained compared to that version but again they nail it and the thigh slapping continues unabashed!

The curtain comes down on FolkRock with ‘A Lost One’s Ballad’ and its a great way the close down. Slow and delicate and proof these guys can play a tune. Every celtic-punk album needs at least one of these songs and I have seldom heard better.

These Bhoys are brand new to the celtic-punk stage and are a more than welcome addition to it. As with many, many bands out there there is no stereotyping here (well maybe just a tiny little bit!) just a love of all the things that make us as humans great. These are things that the Irish are famous for but by no means solely confined to the Irish race. Generous, kind, faithful, hospitable, passionate and devoted while at the same time managing to be pretty well f**ked up as well and I get the sense that Ghosttown Company here are wise to that. The traditional songs here are solid renditions but gone are the days when celtic-punk bands were judged on their covers and with nine of the album’s twelve songs penned by the band themselves it bodes very well for them. Although here what I have done is actually pigeonhole them they were a band I found quite hard to do so. Now unique is not a word bandied around in celtic-punk circles very often, after all a lot in the scene does sound a bit ‘samey’ to put it mildly, Ghosttown Company have managed to come up with something different and show they are never just another Irish covers band and with this great debut behind them they are set for a great future.

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ALBUM REVIEW: CRAIC- ‘Sounds Of Vandemark’ (2017)

craic

noun also crack UK  /kræk/ US  /kræk/ irish english

enjoyable time spent with other people, especially when the conversation is entertaining and funny:

“The boys went driving round the town just for the craic”

CRAIC are your quintessential American-Irish band. Named after the Irish word for a good time that has invaded the English language in recent years and has become the word to describe a night out drinking. They hail from the city of Cleveland in the mid western state of Ohio in the Great Lakes region of the United States. A heavily industrial town that was built upon the bones of mainly immigrant labour in the 1800’s and needless to say a large proportion of those bones came from Ireland. Arriving in the 1820’s the first Irish settled in ghetto’s along the river where they they would build the Ohio and Erie Canal. Hard work that would see many of them perish. As numbers increased as the Great Hunger took hold in the old country the Irish in Cleveland grew too large for their ghettos and expanded into the factory districts of the city where many would eventually work. The Irish had a tough time of it living on Cleveland’s West Side.

“Shantytown was an open sewer of industrial and human waste.  The Flats area was home to cholera, diphtheria, and scarlet fever.  Because of the continuing Irish immigration, there were not enough homes to house everyone.  Therefore, many homes of Irish families housed many relatives from the old country.  The saloons became a place for the Irishman to go to get away from the house and to enjoy the company of his fellow Irishmen”

These Irish built the churches and schools for their descendants and even today many years after large scale Irish immigration to the States has finished the Irish still make up the second largest ethnic group in the city, with the largest being Germans. Irishness is still very much alive in the city with Irish traditions and customs still observed and sports clubs formed as is getting more common across the States Cleveland has an active and successful gaelic games club in the St.Patricks’s- St.Jarlath’s G.A.A. team (join them here if you’re in the area).

So it was in 2009 that this bunch of talented Cleveland Irish musicians got together and decided that the one thing missing from their local Irish scene was a fist pumping, ‘in your face’ good time band that takes traditional Irish music and mixes in folk, bluegrass and (you know what’s coming don’t you?) some quality high voltage punk rock.

CRAIC left to right: Timmy Causing – Acoustic Guitar * Brett M. Burlison – Lead Vocals * James R. McWilliam – Drums * Jennifer O’Neal – Fiddle * Theresa Kalka – Tin Whistle * Mitch Kozub – Banjo * Jason ‘Gojko’ Kollar – Bass * Aleks Patsenko – Electric Guitar

CRAIC’S first studio release was the 2011 EP It’s Still New Enough That It’s Forgivable which they followed up in March 2014 with their debut album Amongst The Mischief And Malarkey. The album received favourable reviews across the celtic-punk media and featured in many of 2014’s Best Of lists. That album was produced by ex-Dropkick Murphys star Ryan Foltz at Cleveland Audio studios and the band were so happy that they have welcomed him back to do a similar job on the follow up album Sounds Of Vandemark and again he has performed an exemplary job.

Sounds Of Vandemark is nine songs and seems to be over in a flash at just under a half an hour. I say seems as thats a perfectly reasonable length for an album but I enjoyed it so much I would have loved a bit more!!! There are five self-penned tracks and four covers and while that may seem a lot for a nine track album they have chosen well with a couple of standards and a couple of interesting non-Celtic songs that I had never heard before. The title of the album comes from the bands rehearsal space on Vandemark Rd, in a little suburb of Cleveland called Litchfield Township and the whole thing kicks off with ’20 Years Later’ and it don’t get better here than this. What a cracker to start with. Dropkick’s influences all over it from the crunchy guitar to the catchy chorus and vocals involving the whole band at times. Not to forget the subject matter which is of course having a beer or two with your friends and comrades. This is followed by a bit of an Irish/celtic-punk standard but what to say about ‘Drunken Sailor’ that hasn’t been said before I wonder?

Every few weeks it seems I have to come up with a new way to review this song so I won’t bother this time as it’s enough to say that CRAIC’s version with brilliant banjo, fiddle and tin-whistle is pretty damn good and is up there with any of the best. One of the ways that CRAIC have made their name has been their combination of bluegrass/ country and Irish music and while it hasn’t been particularly evident so far it sticks out a mile with ‘Gettin’ Up & Gettin’ Out’. Next up is another cover, this time ‘It’s Dangerous Out There’ written by American folk singer Bill Morrissey. Many of Morrissey’s songs reflected on working class life and he sadly passed away early at the age of 59 in July 2011. The song originally appeared on his album North in 1986 and his fabulous version can be heard here. Great lyrics and CRAIC do it justice keeping the folk heart of the original intact. We are back in Ireland again now with ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ and again it’s one covered countless songs but very hard to master due to the speed you need to sing the words. Still it’s one of my personal favourites and I love the lines

” Hurrah me soul says I, me shillelagh I let fly
Some Galway boys were nigh and saw I was a hobble in
With a load “Hurray” joined in the affray
Quickly cleared the way for the rocky road to Dublin”

A cool version that leads us nicely into ‘Hal’ and another great example of CRAIC and their excellent county influenced celtic-punk. All that’s missing here is a ‘Yee-Har’ but takes an unexpected punky turn during the chorus before returning to the C’n’W. ‘Wool’ is more of a straight punk number and gives the band the chance to let fly and rock out. The album’s penultimate song is the final cover here and again it’s a cleverly chosen one. ‘Anything Anything’ was originally penned by New Jersey rockers Dramarama and featured on their debut album from 1985. You may not know them but possible you will have heard the song due to it being featured on the soundtrack of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. CRAIC turn an already great song (here) into even better one. The tune stays sort of the same but the addition of all those Irish folk instruments takes it to another level. The album ends with the band’s superb tribute to their home simply titled ‘Cleveland’

“It’s a town for shots and beers

Steel mills and refineries

Our fathers’ broken dreams

Promises and fears

I’ve been around the world

But Cleveland’s always home to me

And when I need a friend

I’ll always find them here”

Working class Irish-American life summed up in just a few lines in one hell of a song! With Chicago belonging to The Tossers, London to the Bible Code Sundays and Glasgow to The Wakes we can now add Cleveland to CRAIC. A great album and that rare thing in that it has more than enough folk to please the folkies and yet is punky enough as well to keep the punks pogoing away. This band will go from strength to strength I can see and with their name on the rise across the States judging by the number of festivals they get to play then there is no stopping them I fear. ‘Hooligans With Rhythm’ indeed!

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(excellent video showing Craic playing live at Peabody’s in Cleveland, Ohio)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE POURMEN- ‘Rise & Shine’ (2017)

A bunch of hedonistic, lapsed-Catholic, Dorchester-Irish cowboys and whalefisher men, pissed on cheap whiskey with a soundtrack of punk, Irish, sea-shanties, outlaw country and Americana.

The Pourmen formed in January 2013 and played their first gig not long after on St Patrick’s Day and have in a short time become one of the bands to watch out for in the celtic-punk world. They hail from the famous town of New Bedford in the state of Massachusetts. The town is nicknamed ‘The Whaling City’ due to it’s prominence in the 19th century as one of the most important, if not the most important, whaling ports in the world. Up until the time of the Great Hunger in Ireland the town of new Bedford, not unlike the rest of America, was largely a town of Protestant origin with communities of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Dutch origin. It was around this time that the first waves of Irish Catholic immigration began with the first of many Irish churches, St. Mary’s built in 1918 and the Irish Aid Society was formed to help those who were down on their luck. Later immigrants from Portugal began to arrive, attracted by jobs in the whaling industry. With the industries decline New Bedford continues to be the leading fishing port in the USA. The seminal event in Irish-American history was the Great Hunger. Now you may know that as the Irish Famine brought on by a disease causing blight to wipe out the potato crop that the poor Irish almost entirely existed on. Well over a million people died of hunger in the late 1840s, on the doorstep of the world’s richest nation. The truth though are ever is much darker and was more akin to genocide. Comparison with other modern and contemporary famines establishes beyond any doubt that the Great Hunger which killed nearly one-eighth of the entire population and sent two million into exile, was proportionally much more destructive of human life than any in modern times. An attempt to wipe out the troublesome Irish Catholic was the ideology that saw food exported from Ireland at gunpoint while the starving lay dying in the streets. The people of New Bedford rallied to the aid of the starving irish and in 1847 alone, 118 ships loaded with provisions sailed to Ireland, led by the USS Jamestown, which made it across the Atlantic in just 15 days. Those that fled a Ireland of poverty and death has resulted in 22% of the population of Massachusetts being of Irish ancestry.

The Pourmen come from that community that has strong firm against the years and still today revels in its culture and traditions and Irish flags still litter the rows of little old houses in the outskirts of the state. Today’s modern Irish-American community still harks back to the old ways but is in no way confined to them. The community has taken to ‘celtic-punk’ as an expression of it’s identity but the music has always blended in influences from country and Americana as well as punk to produce the perfect immigrant music. The band has played countless pubs, festivals and other venues across New England from Boston to Portland, Maine and Providence, Rhode Island, encouraging folks to sing along to their tall tales and have shared a stage with all the best bands in the scene.

The Pourmen’s debut release was the album Too Old To Die Young which came out in July 2014. Thirteen tracks of uptempo Irish folk-rock with a smattering of self penned numbers and folk covers. Elements of trad Irish and Celtic, country, bluegrass and even rockabilly, as on the album highlight ‘Irish Girl’, combine with the energy of punk and rock’n’roll to make for a heady mix. Their humour shines throughout the album and cemented their place as one of the most promising bands in the USA celtic-punk scene.

They followed this album up the following year with Pour Another and yes it pretty much follows the same alcohol soaked path as before with the music soaking up influences from everywhere but that Irish backbone a constant throughout. As on their debut album The Pourmen show they can compete with any trad band with a couple of instrumentals of absolute fantastic Irish folk as well as some well chosen and well played covers. The album made the Top Ten of Paddyrock’s Top 30 Celtic Punk Albums of 2015 and

And so we are now in 2017 and the release of their brand new album on St Patrick’s Day, when else!, Rise & Shine. Here we get only seven songs and with a running time of 22 minutes Rise & Shine it’s debateable whether what we have here is either a long EP or a short LP. Nevertheless it’s an outstanding release and has been coming out my speakers since I got it a fortnight ago. The album kicks off with ‘Day Drinking’ a short, less than two minutes, blast of fast and furious Irish folk-punk with electric guitar buzzsaw and brilliant piping and and mandolin. Over before you know it and we are into ‘I Got Nothing’ and Rick’s voice fits perfectly with the just about of punk rock sneer and ‘croon’! Catchy as hell (if anyone knows a better word for ‘catchy’ then please leave it in the comments!) and those elements of country at play here though the songs Irish roots are clear for all to hear. This time its the fiddle that stands out and The Pourmen certainly have a wealth of talent at their disposal. We are back soaked in alcohol again next with the country ‘Sober Heart’. A broken relationship and it’s perfect county material with a laid back tune with a cracking guitar solo towards the end, not often you hear an auld punk rocker saying that. ‘The Rising’ begins with Sluggo piping the chorus of ‘Rising of the Moon’ before the band jump in and turn the whole thing into a celtic-punk racket of Irish punk rock with updated lyrics and a tribute to their friends and their home of New Bedford. Now i may be an auld punk rocker’ but it’s no surprise to me that my favourite track is ‘Cultivator’. The longest song here at just over four minutes and by Christ it’s (sorry) catchy. The country and bluegrass here takes over and is simply brilliant. The song tells of the tale of poor Billy whose tongue gets him into trouble and makes him pay the ultimate price. The fiddle again is outstanding and a real story told in song in the old Irish way. Coming up to the end and finally we have a song about the local industry with ‘Ice On The River’. Again it’s country tinged and (groan!) catchy. Folky and acoustic, I think, and a superb foot tapper for those of us who are a bit shy without a few pint’s in us leading us into the final track ‘Prodigal Son’. Sluggo again gives us some great piping with the tune from ‘Kelly The Boy From Killane’ before the music takes a swerve and we are in classic celtic-punk territory with the band turning it on and leaving us with an absolutely brilliant story of setting out on your own two feet and it’s all over far too quickly and if this was a gig I’d be shouting myself hoarse yelling “MORE”.

Rise & Shine saw the light of day in March of this year and though it took a while to reach us we are certainly glad that it did. The album was produced and arranged by The Pourmen themselves and vocalist Rick was behind the music and lyrics with contributions from all the band members. This is a fantastic release with the only criticism that I can offer up that it wasn’t even longer so as you can see not really a criticism at all!! Seven songs that more than make up for its brevity with some absolute brilliant (last time i promise) catchy and extremely well played Irish folk-punk that would soften the heart of the greatest punk rocker in town. The crossover appeal of bands like The Pourmen explains celtic-punk’s success at capturing the heart of Irish-America. While the music appeals to all whether young or old, or punk or folk the values its extols are the values that made the Irish the Irish. Love, friendship, faith, loyalty and the love of a glass or two of something strong!

(listen to Rise & Shine for free before you purchase on the Bandcamp player below)

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(The Pourmen getting in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day 2017 on their local TV station)

ALBUM REVIEW: KILMAINE SAINTS- ‘Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos’ (2017)

High-energy celtic-punk from a bunch of Irish-Americans that will lift your hearts and your spirit…
as well your pint when you’re not looking!
Several hundred gigs in The Kilmaine Saints have made perhaps their breakthrough album with Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos. Plenty bands have seen critical success that perhaps don’t merit it but I’ve been delighted over the last few years to see that the Saints have also achieved that success around the celtic-punk media and what must surely follow now is to get more noticed among those DKM/FM fans who think the scene only revolves around them. The Saints come from a place that has an actual living Irish community. They may not be living ten to a room or ghettoised like their ancestors were but they are a community nevertheless. Beyond the leprachaun hats, shamrocks and green Guinness and other symbols of that hated phrase, ‘Plastic Paddy’, the Irish community is still very much alive. Brendan Behan couldn’t have put it better when he said

“Most people have a nationality, but the Irish and the Jews have a psychosis”

The Kilmaine Saints are a part of that community. A community that shares a deep love between people who share the same values of family, heritage, music and Ireland. They share that vision with an ever-expanding and loyal fan base singing, stomping and lifting their pints and shouting for more.

The Kilmaine Saints formed in 2009 when a couple of members of the Harrisburg Pipe And Drum Band (Pennsylvania) saw a gap in the market for a local celtic-punk band. With a large local Irish population shows were guaranteed and they thought it would be a good way to get free beer! Recruiting a couple of friends and a couple more Pipe band members The Kilmaine Saints began their journey on a road that would lead to hundreds of gigs and pile of recordings and would see them become one of the most popular celtic-punk bands in America. Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos is the bands fourth album after the critically acclaimed The Good, The Plaid And The Ugly in 2010, Drunken Redemption in 2012 and a live album Live At The Abbey in 2015 (which we reviewed here) as well as a mini-album unTraditonal from 2014. Each release has trod the well worn, and successful, path of solid, turned up to eleven celtic and Irish traditional ballads and rebel songs and some extremely good compositions of their own. Being a good covers band will only get you so far and the Kilmaine Saints haven’t got where they are from purely getting by on banging out ‘The Fields Of Athenry’ in Irish bars.

I could end this review right here by simply saying that Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos is fecking fantastic and is a must have for anyone who likes celtic-punk. It’s an extraordinary seventeen songs and over an hour of music that simply soars out the speaker from the first sound of bagpipes in ‘Idiom’. The pipes soon develop into Oi!-ish tune with plenty of gang vocals and shouty bits. A great chorus and fast and furious but still folky as f*ck and we are only on track one! This is followed by the title track ‘Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos’ and is without a doubt one of the best celtic-punk tracks of the year. Chugging guitar and a real catchy tune with the Mayo born Brendan showing that theirs a lot more to his vocals than just shouting!

There’s fiddle and pipes and the rest of the band do their bit with what originally I thought could be a saxophone in there as well. ‘Pennsylvania’s Finest’ is a fast Irish banjo led tune about the War Of Independence while the slow ‘Tiocfaidh Ar La’ leaves you with no confusion where the Saints stand. A real stormer of a song and nice that it’s not played in an angry way. The upbeat-ness of the song may belie what they are singing about but I bloody love it. The next few songs show the bands range with ‘Long Shot Nag’,a mental fast punked up Irish reel while ‘Memories Fade Away’ is a song for those Irish ancestors with a superb tune and accessible for all from seven to seventy.

“You’re going to Americay, your memories start to fade away
Wayo, Heyo, Your memories start to fade away, Wayo, Heyo
Row, ya bastards row you got more than one line to tow
Your roots you
ll plant in our soil the whips will keep you loyal
Seven years in servitude will earn your place in our new
world but don’t think that you’re not a slave, you’re Irish, poor and quite depraved
You’ll learn right quick that freedom comes when we’ve shred
your body to the bone
Welcome to Americay, your memories start to fade away”

They follow this up a selection of Irish and Scottish covers beginning with ‘The Foggy Dew’ about the 1916 Easter Rising. Recorded by far too many to mention it has become popular in the celtic-punk scene of late due to its celtic-punk friendly air. Good then that The Kilmaine Saints take a far more traditional route. Slow yes but with crashing guitar and Brendan’s crystal clear voice reciting the amazing lyrics of this song, originally written by Canon Charles O’Neill (1887–1963), a parish priest of Kilcoo, Ulster sometime after 1919. This is followed by another cover song, the Scots trad folk ‘Mingulay Boat Song’ and here they don’t follow the more traditional route and the song, written by Sir Hugh S. Roberton (1874–1952) in the 1930s. The song is again fast and with fantastic piping while punk rock guitar keeps up with it. The covers section ends with ‘No Awa Tae Bide Awa’, originally a drinking song, the archetypal ‘farewell’ song, played by pipers on the quayside as ships leave port.

“So whenever friendly friens may meet,
Wherever Scots foregather,
We’ll raise our gless, we’ll shout
Hurroo,
It’s Carnwath Mill for ever”

Played as a completely traditional folk track with minimal backing on the mandolin. Again a superb and reverential song that shows the respect The Kilmaine Saints have for their music. I say their music as it is in their blood. The second half of the album is dedicated to self penned tracks and songs like ‘2nd And Locust’ show a more mature side to the band and again i reach for that word accessible.

“The pipes on the street belted an old rebel tune
That familiar sound of the rising of the moon
Many years later as the city constrained
Despite the struggle one pub still remained
And one day every March the streets pack with green
To create one hell of an Irish love scene”

‘Long Walk To Sonnagh’ and ‘Innocent Hand’ showcase some wonderful Irish folk wrapped around a punk rock tune while ‘Wild Kolleen’ is bagpipe heaven for me. Brilliantly played pipes by both Jon and Billy certainly give them an edge on many other bands. We rolling into the last few songs of the album and it has become the custom these days to include a acapello song and ‘Golden Pen’ is beyond beautiful. The shortest song on the album but up there with the best. Stunning. This is followed by a return to raucous
Irish folk-punk with ‘Raise My Glass’ and ‘Ride Like Hell’ before ‘Last Call’ brings down the curtain on this brilliant album.

“This is the last call
don’t forget to tip before you go
We’re almost done now, time to call a cab
This is the last call one more shot before you’re out in the cold
Please buy some merch so we can pay our tab”
The fiddle rules on the last couple of songs and the fiddling from Liz is absolutely exemplary throughout the album. The Kilmaine Saints are equal parts Irish swagger, Scottish pride and a whole lot of whiskey and have risen to being one of the most popular and certainly one of the best American bands in the scene and with music the quality of this that rise is set to continue.

(listen to Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos for *free* before you buy it by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE CROOK AND THE DYLAN’S- ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’ (2017)

The Crook and The Dylan’s draw their roots from the land of St. Patrick while mixing influences from rock and country with all the energy of an evening in an Irish pub.

Before I start to wax lyrical about this great album I have to explain something first about celtic-punk. Like all music genre’s its boundaries are vast and along the edges extremely blurred. For instance the two major bands in the scene Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys are clearly miles apart yet inhabit the same space and share the same fans. Also with a scene that encompasses so much traditional folk music some of the most popular bands in celtic-punk aren’t even punk at all with the best examples being the trad folk/ballad bands The Dubliners and The Clancy Brothers. Even The Pogues couldn’t be really called a punk band but the punk ethos and ‘spirit’ they had in spades. I only mention this as not every band we feature here are strictly celtic-punk and we are, and have been, happy to feature bands from the Celtic diaspora who play hip-hop or metal as well as bands who not have Celtic roots but love the music and traditions. The Crook And The Dylan’s then are a perfect example of what I mean. Formed in 2010 in the French region of Cergy-Pontoise, northwest of Paris they have taken Irish music and fused it with French folk music to make something that is both very interesting and extremely good!

from left to right : Benjamin (guitars), Lulho (bass), Jude (drums), Patrick (lead voice), Djé (electric guitar, harmonica), Cédric (violin, mandolin, guitar)

French celtic-punk bands have never been shy about introducing their own sounds into the mix and influences from bands like the aforementioned Irish ones as well as better known French bands like Mano Negra or Les Négresses Vertes combine to give The Crook & The Dylan’s quite the unique sound. Their first release, a self-titled four track EP, came out in early 2011 and shows a band in its early development. A stripped back folky feel good record that includes the brilliant track ‘Ireland’.

Not much sign of their later celtic-ness but worthy of at least a listen. They followed this up with another EP the following year. Not For Me is five songs that show them following the same route of polished folk. Much in the vein of the folk music popular at that time of Mumford’s and Noah And his Whale. Nothing wrong with that at all but the expansion of the band gives it a much more fuller sound. The songs are catchy and forays into Americana and country sound brilliant while ‘Premier Rendez-Vous’ goes full country’n’western.

These two EP’s were recorded with four musicians and this grew to six in April, 2014 saw the release of their debut album Home At Last and they continued their trajectory incorporating fiddle, bass and mandolin into the band and a much more upbeat sound. The same feel good folkyness is there but with the fiddle giving it much more focus and steering the music away from the county folk of previous releases though sometimes teetering on bluegrass. Fifteen tracks all composed by the band members themselves including an update of ‘Ireland’ from that debut EP that kicks real celtic-punk arse!

So we now come to Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead and the transformation to celtic-punk is complete. The music is a mash-up of Franco-Irish styles with heaps of country influences seeping in. Patrick, the vocalist is half-Irish and his voice is similar to a lot of (maybe stereotyped?) French singers I have heard in that he sounds like he smokes sixty Gauloises a day! Gruff and growling and deep in both emotion and sound. His voice is perfect for what comes next with the band giving him the accompanying him with guitars, violin, mandolin, drums, percussion and bass.

(interview with the band in French but with loads of very good live clips of them performing songs from the album)

The album starts with ‘Morning Miss’ beginning with acoustic guitar and Patrick’s voice it soon envelopes the whole band and if one artist has been missing from this review so far then it’s time to bring out Tom Waits. Pat’s voice conveys much the same feeling. Slow and ponderous this is the sort of song I’m use to hearing at the end of album’s rather than kicking them off. The mandolin leads ‘Evening Prayer’ until the band kick life into the song with a real celtic-punk sound. As much as I liked them already The Crook & The Dylan’s evolution has seriously impressed me. They turn it on their head next with ‘Tales of Little Brat’ a real catchy country number with a great southern-rock guitar sound and Pat’s voice never better than on this track. We are back in celtic territory next with ‘Dance Johnny Dance’ a real infectious song that flits from acoustic folk to full on folk with ease. They slow it down with ‘A Pick of the Other Side’ and an image of a smoke filled bar fills my mind while again Patrick shows his range just isn’t restricted to more rocky numbers. All the songs here are very clearly sung in English making them very easy to understand. The bhoys really celt it up for ‘A Drink with the Devil’ and unsurprisingly the first single from the album is also the standout song on Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.

The band sound great and the perfect production sees all the various instruments sitting nicely side by side. ‘Among The Waves’ and ‘Dear Mary’ see a return to the country-folk of old while the former speed through the latter is slow but loud and brilliant! ‘Sometimes In The Afternoon’ is the longest track here at just over five minutes and is slow and beautifully written again with Patrick’s voice soaring at the sam time as showing a delicate side. This is celtic-punk in a nutshell that your favourite songs on an album can be both the fastest and the slowest songs on it (and sometimes even in the same song!). After that epic it’s time to get busy and ‘How’s Your Mind?’ does just that slow before it explodes into some real catchy celtic-punk with a guitar solo that slots in nicely. The catchy as feck county tinged ‘Sick Of the Cold’ leads us into the fast and punk as feck ‘Finish Him’ about the weekend alcoholocaust that goes on around us. The Crook & The Dylan’s rock out, with my beloved harmonica too, before the album comes to an exhaustive end with the slow and exquisite ‘Black Torn Ballad’.

An album that flits from fast to slow from song to song but still manages to have that perfect pace is a real achievement. The songs flow into each other in a way that I don’t often hear and really made me sit up and listen. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead is full of stories of lost love with emotion flowing all the way through it. On listening to this you get the feel that The Crook & The Dylan’s would be better experienced in the small intimate setting of a pub and I am sure they would agree but this album captures them perfectly and their Irish-French country/Americana sound is pretty unique and I must say is a breath of fresh air and after playing a good mood is guaranteed and what more could you ever ask from music?

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ALBUM REVIEW: ‘THE HANGMAN’S BLUES: Prison Songs In Country Music 1956-1972 (2016)

Grim tales of jailbirds, cutthroats, cuckolds, executioners, murderers and escapees.  Prison ballads form part of the historic lifeblood of Country Music and saw a resurgence after the 1960 execution of controversial convict Caryl Chessman. Here are some of the very best, seldom heard since their original release. Running the gamut from smooth balladeers of woe to ramshackle and plaintive backyard rockabilly.

While these days your more likely to find your folk music heroes went to Eton with Prince William or all met at Cambridge/Oxford/insert other posh university it’s not always been so. While it’s always been true that the music of the working classes has always been adopted by the well-heeled and the image of the bearded Green Party, Real Ale drinking, middle class ‘leftie’ singing away with his finger in his ear still rings true around the folk clubs. This also explains their reluctance to accept other genre’s like celtic-punk as part of the folk scene as at it’s heart is a snobbery to keep others out at all costs. Folk music was never a static thing with bands and singers always finding ways to keep the music alive and relevant though always with a healthy respect for the past. That the celtic-punk scene can be said to be partly responsible for the popularity of bands long gone like The Dubliners, Clancy Brothers and The Pogues butters no onions with these people who just want to keep things as they were at all costs. Happy to be big fish in small pools! What the artists on this album would make of four faux-ploughboy, waistcoat wearing members of the aristocracy representing folk music I don’t know (have to admit here I DO actually love Mumford And Sons!) but one thing is for sure they wouldn’t last five minutes in the company of people featured here and long to be be forgotten while these days be writ high.

One things for sure it has always been, and always will be, the poor that go to jail. Whether for a crime they freely admit (or not!) or through bigotry and lack of decent representation the jails of the world are full of the poorest of our society. Folk and country music has never been a stranger to the inside of prison walls right from the very start and this stunning compilation covers just about every country music offshoot musically as well as covering just about every reason why you could end up inside. The album opens strongly with ‘The Wall’, written by Harlan Howard, given a powerful performance here by Freddie Hart. Born to a sharecropper family in Alabama Hart left school at 12 but still managed to become one of country music’s biggest stars of the 70’s. I love the sound of the harmonica and there’s plenty of it’s woeful sound to be found here to keep me happy.

“The years gone by since he made his try
But I can still recall how hard he tried and the way he died
But he never made that, wall he never made that wall”

All the tracks were recorded between 1956 and 1972 and although I have heard several prison -themed album’s in the past I seriously cannot remember one that came anywhere remotely close to the quality found here. I could wax lyrical about every artist but this review would then run for pages and pages. Suffice to say that all the artists here know what it means to be hungry and many indeed did cross swords with authorities and some others saw the other side of a prison gate. Tennessee born, early rockabilly star Jaycee Hill’s  fantastic ‘Crash-Out’, is typical of many here with the acceptance and regret of a life of crime. Most of the artists here are American but one of the album highlights is the London born Marty Robbins with his intense performance of ‘The Chair’. Inspired by the controversial execution of Caryl Chessman in 1960.

Chessman was an unsavoury character that much is true and something he was intelligent enough to recognise within himself but he was convicted and charged on a law that was later repealed though not retroactively meaning his death sentence still stood. He became the poster child for the anti-capital punishment cause and the most recognizable face on death row. In May 1960 Chessman choked to death in San Quentin Prison’s gas chamber while the phone outside rang, just too late, with his stay of execution. His story is also dealt with in songs on this album by Country Johnny Mathis, one of the album highlights with its sheer, haunting poetry, Ronnie Hawkins and Jimmy Minor. The full story of Caryl Chessman is also told in a fine performance from Hoyle Miller notable for the last line of his song

“you see I too Hoyle Miller was once too on death row”

Dirt farmer’s son Porter Wagoner gives us a compelling version of the Hank Williams penned ‘(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle’. Known for his flashy suits and for giving Dolly Parton her big break Wagoner never forgot his working class roots often touring in rural areas where many would not perform and was also famous for his friendly relationship with his fans mingly before, during and after gigs with them. The jauntyness of ‘I Always Did Like Leavenworth’ belies the subject George Kent is singing of. Eddie Noack was a honky tonk singer influenced by Hank Williams and his superb version of ‘Invisible Stripes’ tells of the stigma that jail carries throughout  the rest of your days. Named from the stripes of the uniform prisoners were made to wear. A subject also visited here by Howard Crockett who turned to singing after a shoulder injury ended a promising baseball career. He performs a excellent cover of the famous Johnny Cash penned song ‘I Got Stripes’. Artist jailbirds like Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe and Merle Haggard are notable by their absence but the music that inspired them more than makes up for it. There are simply too many great songs and artists here to give justice to and the album comes to an end with ‘A Prisoner’s Dream’ by Charles Lee Guy III. When he was 16 he was convicted of manslaughter and sent to jail. During his imprisonment he learnt to play guitar and started writing songs. He sent a tape to Capitol Records who were sufficiently impressed to bring their studio equipment to Vacaville Prison in December 1962 to record him. Charles’ album, The Prisoner’s Dream, was well-received and in October, 1963 Time Magazine reviewed the album:

“Charles Lee Guy III has been an inmate of California State Prison since he was 16. The songs he has learned to sing there all reflect his sorry circumstance – and among them is the latest composition of a prison chum, country music’s Spade Cooley [himself a wife killer]. Guy’s woeful voice and guitar accompaniment fit the spirit of his music, and in this remarkable album he has the power of a young white Leadbelly.”

One of the songs on that album was titled ‘Wishin’ She Was Here (Instead of Me)’ thought to refer to his mother who many thought had committed the murder that Charles had been found guilty of. A moving, emotional and chilling way for this album to close.

All the tracks here were first issued on long forgotten 45’s often on obscure, tiny or private-press labels. All are incredibly rare and many are reissued here for the first time since release and are remastered from the original master tapes giving the album a sound that is as clear as crystal. Their are twenty-eight tracks here and just under eighty minutes of music. Pretty much all of the songs come in around the two minute mark and the pacing on the album is also well thought out. Available on vinyl and CD the amount of care put into this album is to be applauded including the incredibly handsome twenty page, full colour booklet that comes with informative liner notes by Alvin Lucia and rare photos and label shots. This amazing package has been put together by Bear Family Records who also gave us Hillbillies In Hell- Country Music’s Tormented Testament, another timeless compilation telling of Satan, drugs, murder, suicide, demonic visions, infanticide and redemption. Their were plenty of prison songs before the era (1956-1972) chosen here on The Hangman’s Blues but these songs begin from the early days of rock’n’roll and though most are straight up country songs all have a dark edge to them, of course, and some have that raw rock’n’roll sound that many of you will love I am sure.

Declarations of innocence, profound diatribes on capital punishment and mournful odes to the Last Mile. The Hangman’s Blues will chill, thrill and bedevil the dreams of all who hear it. Feel the penal pain. Like the album liner notes say…we are all prisoners in one way or another.

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ALBUM REVIEW: BLACK IRISH TEXAS- ‘The Good, The Bad And The Indifferent’ (2017)

Black Irish Texas are not just another Irish punk band. They may be influenced by the giants of the scene but this seven piece brings plenty more to set them apart. With Guinness fueled lyricism Black Irish Texas navigate you between psychobilly and Texas two-step all in one show. With a new album to promote they are touring Europe later this year so I hope you’ll be lucky to catch them.

Now long, long ago before there was Facebook existed a thing called My Space. It was similar in many ways and took off in a way that nothing before it had ever done before. Music orientated it introduced us to bands across the globe who you would never knew even existed. Sadly it was bought by Rupert Murdoch and his massive media empire who from the go set about messing around with the format and ended up destroying it and so everyone left in dribs and drabs and migrated to Facebook which had stolen all the best bits of My Space and well the rest is history. I mention this because the first band I found on my first ever computer on my first visit onto My Space was Black Irish Texas. A bunch of songs that took in all my favourite genres of music and chewed them up and spat back out some of the best music I had ever heard. Psychobilly, punk, Irish, Americana, country all flow through their music and combined with the intelligent and thoughtful and often hilarious lyrics I knew this band was going to be a favourite of mine for a LONG time.

The band hail from the fastest growing city in the Unites States, Austin in Texas. It’s an area famed for it’s vibrant and exciting music scene that has spawned such luminaries as Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison in the 50’s and 60’s through to the hippie days and then punk bands like The Dicks and MDC in the 70’s. More recently it’s been mainly college rock and indie being churned out. In fact the official Austin slogan is ‘The Live Music Capital of the World’ and emerging out of that highly competitive music scene comes Black Irish Texas.

Formed in 2004 and with untold amount of line up changes and trials and tribulations. So many in fact that I have often thought the band were no more but again and again they kept cheering me up with their return. Their debut album To Hell With The King released in 2009 was just about the most perfect celtic-punk album I had heard at the time. Spaghetti western/Americana/punk infused Irish American music that still now feels completely fresh and original. A mixture of brilliant originals and some choice covers of The Pogues and a couple of trad songs, ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ and an outstanding ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans showed they were a force to be reckoned with. With a welcome (hic!) sponsorship from Jameson Irish whiskey and growing local support Black Irish Texas began to play further afield and within a few years they had covered most of America gaining devout followers everywhere they ventured.

To Hell With The King was followed by the six track EP An Ode To Saint Cecilia in 2013 and again was received with tremendous reviews. St Cecilia is of course the patron saint of musicians so who better to have on your side in the world’s most competitive music city. Another album followed with Lifetime Problems and Short Term Solutions but as i haven’t heard that one (hint hint) I cannot tell you anything about it!

(here’s the title track from An Ode To St. Cecilia)

Now with a settled line up of some of Austin’s best musicians and with a European tour on the horizon which will take them across Europe as well as back to their ancestral home in Ireland (but alas won’t see them coming to play here in the belly of the beast) things have never looked rosier.

So the new album hits the floor running and shows Black Irish Texas have lost none of their flair for interesting and original Irish music. After all it is Irish music that underpins everything they do. Whatever they throw in that mix at the base of it all is the music of Ireland but distilled through a bunch of Irish-Americans with a list of influences as long as your arm. The Good, The Bad And The Indifferent (great title by the way) begins with ‘G.B.U. Theme’ and is the Black Irish Texas take on the unofficial anthem of their home state. A spaghetti western tune played nice and slow but with tin whistle. They up the tempo next with ‘Ain’t Gonna Last’ and vocalist/guitarist James has a natural voice for celtic-punk and veers nicely between singing and shouting.

(the official video for ‘Ain’t Gonna Last’)

Over in a flash of just 102 seconds it’s fast and furious with the band going at full pelt. Black Irish Texas have never shied away from playing the odd rebel song and it’s no different here with one of the best appearing. ‘Join The British Army’ is a old trad Irish folk song dating right back to Victorian times and concerns a young Irishman who regrets his decision to volunteer for the British army.

“Too-ra loo-ra loo-ra loo,
Me curse upon the Labour blue,
That took me darlin’ boy from me,
To join the British army.

Corporal Sheen’s a turn o’ the ’bout,
Just give him a couple o’ jars o’ stout,
He’ll bate the enemy with his mouth,
And save the British army.

Too-ra loo-ra loo-ra loo,
I’ve made me mind up what to do,
Now I’ll work me ticket home to you,
And fuck the British army”

Now regular readers will know that as much as I love it speedy I’m now getting on a bit and slowing down. Those 8-hour gardening sessions are a thing of the past without a few days recovery so I loved ‘Richcreek’. A slow and ponderous celtic/country instrumental led by the banjo with very nice backing from the rest of the band until the fiddle comes in late on. I love this song, right up my street. The Bhoys turn it on its head next with ‘Yates’. Another top notch song, great guitar and thundering double bass and dynamite banjo and fiddle. One of only a few bands in celtic-punk who use a double bass and boy (or should that be Bhoy) does it work well. The sound is incredible and when played well as it is here by Shannon McMillan then it can make a mediocre song brilliant. Not that Black Irish Texas have to worry about that. James comes in at the end with some vocals but by then the Irish tune has got hold and it is flying. ‘No One’s Having Any Fun’ starts slow with that western feel to it again but soon speeds up and sets Trump in their sights. Most of the anti-Trump protest’s we see are usually of very rich people whining about white privilege (sorry idiots it doesn’t exist) but these guys are actually working class and their protest is sincere and real and not designed to upset their parents or assuage their guilt at being rich. They cover the famous anti-war track ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ next and play it with a gusto that I haven’t heard with this song before. Eric Bogle’s legendary tune takes in folk and rockabilly and while it does seem strange to hear this song in a way you could mosh to it’s still very respectful and James reciting of the lyrics are very clear throughout. The album ends with the imaginatively titled ‘Don’t Too Ra Li To Me’ and they save the best for last with every influence they ever picked up layered on top of an Irish/country tune. The bands famous sense of humour has been missing up till now and they more than make up for it here. Imagine a Irish folk punk  hoe down with James spitting out line upon line that will make you smile and/or shout yourself hoarse!

(here’s a stripped down concert at The Hideaway, Johnson City, Tennessee Aug 2016 of the band playing some old faves and some new album tracks)

So there you are. Eight songs that come in just short of a half hour and every single one a bona fide winner! Black Irish Texas are dead right when they say we should NOT try and pigeonhole them as an Irish pub band. And while it may be (!) possible you will hear them singing ‘Danny Boy’ one day i can guarantee it will be the best fecking version you will ever hear of it. In these times of uncertainty the Irish-American community is safe with bands like this at it’s forefront. Some of the most original celtic-punk music I have heard this year and as 2017 is shaping up as the scene’s busiest ever year that is some compliment.

Buy The Good, The Bad And The Indifferent

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WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  ReverbNation and of course MySpace where it all began for me!

EP REVIEW: FOLLOW THE CROWS- ‘West is East’ (2017)

London based Celtic folk rock/Irish/bluegrass band with hard-driven vocals fused with guitar and mandolin mayhem, underpinned by riotous folk rhythms of rebellion, redemption and downright recklessness!

Formed in August, 2012 Follow The Crows are the latest in a growing line of bands playing in the London Irish-folk scene that have embraced some of celtic-punk’s harder edges. They have been playing regularly around London for a good while but so far apart from coming across them on Facebook we haven’t had the opportunity to check them out live in person as it were. Then this arrived on the doorstep, their new EP released last January and after just a couple of listens they have swiftly risen to the top of the list of bands I want to see.

Follow The Crows (left to right): James Cannon- Vocals, Guitar * Ben Sumner- Mandolin, Banjo, Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals * Dan Ferguson- Fiddle * Lawrence McNamara- Bass, Backing Vocals * Karl Hussey- Drums, Percussion

East Is West is Follow The Crows debut release and begins with the kind of song that our description at the top of this review fits exactly. ‘Lay It Down’ starts with the sounds of the ocean before slowing morphing into a song combining elements of trad Irish, bluegrass and Americana that makes this EP a real winner. Catchy as hell and a real foot tapper.

Extremely well played by very good musicians and while there are no thrashy guitars, or even drums, it’s given that bit of edge by singer, James raspy vocals.

“Freedom songs don’t say anything
When you’re out on you’re own
With those big wheels turning
Those bridges burning
West is east high is low”

They follow this with the soft rock edged ‘As The Night Comes Falling’. Threatening at any minute to go flat out, and part of me does wish they would, but they reign it in and keep it nicely subdued. Coming off here as part Tom Waits- part Mumford with a dash of rock’n’roll it’s another great number. Third track here is ‘Black For The Crows’ and if you’ve ever heard the Murder Ballads album by Nick Cave then that’s the territory we are in here. Great song and though underpinned by Irish/celtic music influences seep in from everywhere.

“They rose up their banners for glory on high
Sounded the bugle beneath the blue sky
‘Freedom will follow when the day is o’er”

The EP comes to an end with ‘Quiet Land Of Erin II’ and for me they save the best for last. Ever so reminiscent of The Waterboys here I think. With James sounding a real ringer for Mike Scott. The vocals are almost whispered while the Crows get plenty of guests in to give the song a real full band sound once it gets going. More proof that Follow The Crows are fantastic musicians and with the songs to match to bring the curtain down.

“Oh father now she said
The curlew and the cuckoo’s fled
Troubled is the heart that you’re hearin’
Oh father now she said
They buried you among the dead
On the quiet, quiet land of Erin”

At the moment East Is West is only available as a digital download for now and priced at a very reasonable £3. It’s a great introduction to the band and if they want to stray away from the London pub circuit then a follow up album of more like this is a necessity and will surely achieve it.

(listen to East Is West by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

Get West Is East

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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Steady As She Goes. Songs And Chanties From The Days of Commercial Sail’ (1976)

FREE DOWNLOAD
As performed by Louis Killen, Jeff Warner, Gerret Warner and John Benson
We’ve done it again for you. Here’s another in our Classic Album Reviews- Celtic-Punk Steppin’ Stones series of olde-timey records that deserve another spin in our modern age. Now celtic-punk has several distinct theme’s that every band sing about and one of those is the sea and  Steady as She Goes is an album dedicated to the workers on the sea. That work was undoubtedly hard and very often tyrannical under many a vicious Captain’s rule. The workers said
“a song is as good as ten men”
The songs were used in the manner of field work song’s in the fields and these shanties tell the tales of loneliness, the families these men left behind and the daily hardships of an unkind sea and nautical life. There is some hope though but also about raising anchor with raising anchor with the certain knowledge that you’re heading home. Now read on and download and then sit back and smell the salt air!
In keeping with the ethos of the series here are some raw and evocative recordings of sea shanties whose roots are as obscure as the men who originally sung them. All we can say it that we are lucky that people wrote them down and recorded them otherwise they may have been lost forever. Most of the songs here are recorded a capella without backing but a few feature Louis Killen and his concertina.
There is some harmony and what we know would call gang vocals, but there is no classically-arranged stuff. Some of the songs here I first heard at Primary school when the teachers bored of trying to get the boys to sing hymns would let us sing songs that didn’t require so much of a decent singing voice as a big pair of lungs! These were of course the sanitised versions and I certainly don’t remember singing of whores and wenches much…

1- Paddy Lay Back, (Benson)
2 – Bold Riley, (Jeff Warner)
3 – Rolling Down To Old Maui, (Jeff Warner)
4 – Jolly Roving Tar, (Garret Warner)
5 – Topman And The Afterguard, (Killen)
6 – Off To Sea Once More, (Killen)
7 – Strike The Bell, (Jeff Warner)
8 – Ship In Distress, (Killen)
9 – Blow The Man Down, (Benson)
10 – The Coast Of Peru, (Garret Warner)
11 – All For Me Grog, (ALL)
12 – Shallow Brown, (Garret Warner)
13 – Bring ‘Em Down, (Killen)
14 – Away Rio, (Jeff Warner)

ALBUM SLEEVE NOTES

PADDY LAY BACK: A capstan shanty (used for hauling up the anchor) describing the feelings of a sailor towards his shipmates when landing on a new ship. There are, as well, some terse words concerning the Captain, the Mate, and the agent who got him the job.

BOLD RILEY: A halyard (literally haul on the yardarm) shanty. According to A.L. Lloyd, it got its start in ships carrying sugar and rum from the West Indies to Bristol and Liverpool. “White stocking day” refers to the days when wives would put on their most attractive attire to make their trips to the shipping office for their allotment pay.

ROLLING DOWN TO OLD MAUI: Stan Hugill of Liverpool says that as early as 1820 Maui, one of the Hawaiian Islands (then the Sandwich Islands), was considered “home” by the Yankee sailors who hunted the northern grounds of the Behring Straits for right and bowhead whales. This is an off-watch song, as distinct from a working song, of whalermen longing for the women and weather of better latitudes.

JOLLY ROVING TAR: Frank and Anne Warner collected this song from Mrs. Lena Bourne Fish of East Jaffrey, N.H. in 1941. The vitality of the melody doesn’t hide the feelings of Jack Tar towards the shoreman who loved the sailor when he had money and despised him when he didn’t.

TOPMAN AND THE AFTERGUARD: Conditions in the navies of the world were always bad in the days of sail. Here is the story of the British Royal Navy as told by the afterguard or Marine who worked in the topmast and by the topman or sailor who worked in the ship.

OFF TO SEA ONCE MORE: The most realistic of all songs about the conditions of seafarers under sail. This is what life was like both ashore and at sea.

STRIKE THE BELL: Four hours on watch and four hours off, day and night, was a hard life aboard ship. Eight bells marked the end of the watch, as well as the time, and answered the plea of the sailor for a few moments rest in his bunk, even if the call would soon be “all hands on deck” to weather the storm. The “glass” referred to in the chorus is the barometer.

SHIP IN DISTRESS: One of a number of traditional songs dealing with the terror of a sailor adrift in an unsellable vessel.

BLOW THE MAN DOWN: A halyard shanty with a story line favored by all sailors who had to spend much time away from the ladies.

THE COAST OF PERU: A nearly step-by-step account of the hunting and killing of a whale. The song was collected by Gale Huntington of Martha’s Vineyard, and is thought to date back to the last quarter of the 18th century.

ALL FOR ME GROG: Another off-watch song describing both of the major pleasures of Jack Tar ashore.

SHALLOW BROWN: Another halyard shanty from the West Indies, this one collected by English folklorist Cecil Sharp in the early part of the twentieth century. Some versions of this song indicate that Shallow Brown might have been a slave who was sold to a Yankee shipowner. Free man or slave, he is jumping ship “… to cross them Chili mountains” and seek a better life.

BRING ‘EM DOWN: One of the shanties used for “bracing” the ship when short, sharp pulls of the line were needed. Bracing turned the yards when the ship was being tacked or changing course.

AWAY RIO: A capstan shanty used to ease the work of “heaving a pawl” and raising the anchor. A favorite song of the day, it would have been known by old hands and green recruits alike, and was most often used as the first song of a voyage when outward bound from home port.

The work songs of the sailing ships were “chanteys” or shanties”-both spellings are used, but the pronunciation is always with the soft “sh”. That’s why some experts believe the origin is French from “chanter”, but no one knows for certain.

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 THE PLAYERS

Louis

Louis Killen. (1934 – 9 August 2013) Lou was a Geordie, born and bred in Gateshead, Tyneside and raised in a Irish-Catholic home where singing was a part of everyday life. From Irish ballads to native songs of the area about working class life in the coalfields and stockyards. An accomplished folk singer and concertina player he formed one of Britain’s first folk clubs in 1958 in Newcastle at a time when folk clubs were numbered in the tens. Emigrating to the USA in 1967 he worked with folk legend Pete Seeger before joining The Clancy Brothers. They recorded four albums before he left in the mid 1970’s. He resumed his solo career and a major English tour in 1991 drew large audiences which confirmed that his fine singing had not been forgotten. In 2003 he finally returned to England and passed away still performing to the end ten years later. Towards the end of his life Louis decided to fulfill an almost lifelong desire and came out as a woman called Louisa Jo.

Gerret and Jeff

Gerret and Jeff Warner. Brothers who grew up listening to the songs and stories of his father Frank and the traditional singers his parents met during their folk song collecting trips through rural America and they often accompanied their parents on their field trips throughout rural working class America. Jeff has performed widely, from large festivals in the UK, to clubs, festivals and schools across America while Gerret began a career as an award winning filmmaker before joining his brother on stage to perform.

Fud

John ‘Fud’ Benson. Born in Newport on Rhode Island he grew up sailing the waters of Narragansett Bay. Again from a musical family his interest in sail and song found expression in the traditional music of the sea and this is one of the rare recordings he made. Also very well known as a stone carver and mason who has carve the inscriptions for such iconic monuments such as the John F. Kennedy memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. In 2007, he received a National Heritage Fellowship the nation’s highest award for excellence in the traditional arts. He is still hard at work in his studio in his home town of Newport.

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPING STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE TOSSERS- ‘Smash The Windows’ (2017)

From the predominantly Irish neighborhoods of Southside Chicago The Tossers have been expanding the boundaries of contemporary Irish music since before much better known bands had even begun and have become one of the most popular and successful bands in the worldwide celtic-punk scene.

By Shane O’Neill

tossers

Only a few weeks into 2017 and we have already seen a whole host of fantastic album’s being released onto the scene. The Tossers are celtic-punk heavyweights and they hail from Chicago, Illinois. To be exact they hail from the South of Chicago. This is the part of Chicago that has housed the cities Irish Catholic community ever since they first started arriving from the ‘auld country’. The immigrant history of Chicago is rooted among untold amount of countries and people whose struggles and adversities have led them to the Midwest and to Chicago. From the cities founding in the 1830’s, Chicago has been the final destination for people journeying from all over the world looking for the famed land of opportunity that is the US of A.  It may surprise people to know that in a city known as ‘Chicago Polonia’, and also ‘Poletown’, that it is the Irish that constitute the city’s biggest ethnic community. While most Irish-American families in Chicago are three or four generations deep, plenty of Chicago’s Irish have landed fairly recently. Ireland’s economy in the 1980’s and 1990’s prompted many of its young people to go where many others had gone before them and Chicago with it’s strong Irish links was if not top of the list then very close to it.

tossers-erin

It’s hard to believe that the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Loudest Folk Band’ have been around for twenty-four years now, forming as they did in July, 1993. The six piece from south Chicago have been unleashing their brand of Celtic folk punk even before Dropkick Murphy’s (1996) and Flogging Molly (1997) hit the scene. Steeped in Irish tradition, The Tossers take their place as one of the finest Celtic punk bands on the planet. Like most bands of this genre you can clearly hear the influences of The Pogues and Tony Duggins style of delivering the vocals is frighteningly close to Shane McGowan. That said, The Tossers are not a tribute act – far from it. They have a very unique way of delivering a fine but hooligan like take on folk music. The band’s name though for us here in Britland is an unusual one and would I think effect their t-shirt sales here. Saying that one of the blog editor’s wears his Tossers t-shirt with pride and I must say it suits him fine! Rest assured though it’s not the rude meaning you lot think it is as it actually dates back to Shakespeare, and depending who you ask it also means commode, drunk, to agitate, disturb, or disquiet but the band chose their name for its meaning to “throw away”.

tossers-band

Smash The Windows is due for release early March 2017 and comes four years after their last album hit the streets, the astounding The Emerald City back in March 2013. You can read our review of The Emerald City here and I suggest you do as it is a fantastic album that i still play regularly. Smash The Windows is certainly value for money with a total of seventeen songs that clock in at just under one hour in length. That is definitely a well packed album and there’s something in there for everyone. The album pays tribute to the bands Irish roots and what it meant to be an Irish American.

The album begins with ‘Erin Ga Bragh’ which is of course Irish for Ireland For Ever and The Tossers nail their colours to the mast from the very off. Fast and furious Irish punk rock played on mainly acoustic instruments that would equally please the most devout punk or folky! ‘Smash The Windows’ and ‘The Horses’ are both full of energy and I can imagine them being a real hit live. There is a cracking cover of ‘The Foggy Dew’ which is always a crowd pleaser. I have never really been a fan of the song ‘Danny Boy’ (not sure why) but I must say I really like The Tossers version. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Celtic Punk without a tribute to our beloved alcohol. ‘Drinking All The Day’, ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Lots Of Drops Of Brandy’ ticks this box on the new album. ‘1969’ brings us back to a darker time in Ireland’s history during the Civil Rights campaign and serves as a reminder that we should never forget what the brave people of the time fought for on our behalf. In today’s world, we take too much for granted and forget that without the sacrifices of many back in the 60’s and 70’s things could have been very different today. There are too many good tunes on this album to pick a favourite. Not one of them have disappointed. The album is being released by Victory Records and will be a big hit.

The Tossers Logo

Again on this album one of the things that amazes me is the way that The Tossers can change tempo and go from a raucous Irish punk rock number to a solemn reflective Irish ballad or a full on trad folk piece without you even noticing. The Tossers are more than just a band to their fans. They inspire and promote a love in your roots that is sadly missing for most people. They tell the tale of both Chicago and America’s Irish communities. Serious and piss-taking and joyful and sad and upbeat and maudlin The Tossers do it all and yes we Irish are all of these things… and The Tossers celebrate it all.

Discography

The Pint of No Return (1994) * We’ll Never Be Sober Again (1996) * The Tossers/The Arrivals- split (1998) * Long Dim Road (2000) * Citizen Fish/The Tossers- split (2001) * The First League Out From Land-EP (2001) * Communication & Conviction: Last Seven Years (2001) * Purgatory (2003) * Live At The Metro ’04 (2004) * The Valley of the Shadow of Death (2005) * Agony (2007) Gloatin’ and Showboatin’: Live on St. Patrick’s Day (2008) On a Fine Spring Evening (2008) The Emerald City (2013)

Buy The Album

Here directs to several sites where the pre-order is available or VictoryRecords

Contact The Band

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THE LANGER’S BALL FROM MINNESOTA ANNOUNCE DISCOGRAPHY AVAILABLE FOR FREE DOWNLOAD!

Straight up, no-frills Irish ballads from the frozen Mid-West with just a hint of razor blades, safety pins and American rock ‘n’ roll!

The Langer's Ball 2

The Langer’s Ball have long been hailed as one of the most interesting and innovative bands in the north American celtic-punk scene. They have never been afraid to mix in other genre’s of music while all the time keeping one toe firmly in the music of The Emerald Isle. It’s bands like The Langer’s Ball that keep the scene alive and fresh and bring new ideas to the celtic-punk table. Just recently they took the unusual step of releasing their entire Bandcamp back catalogue for free download,a move that will I am sure get them the recognition they so richly deserve.

The Langer’s Ball two studio albums

Hailing from Saint Paul in Minnesota in the frozen mid-west of the USA have long been at the forefront of the celtic music scene in the area and now their fame reaches right across the America’s and it’s time us over this side of the Atlantic tuned into what they have to offer. The story of the Irish in Minnesota is remarkably similar to many other states across the States. They may only be the second largest population of the city at 14% but despite being only half the number of those of German descent they managed to somehow (I wonder how they managed that?!?!) control all facets of government for decades. Of course the days when the Irish ran the city are long gone now but still many of those in local government, the Police and Fire Service come from typical Irish backgrounds.

The Langer’s Ball began life as a duo back in 2007 and the release by Michael and Hannah of a couple of low key album’s that were well received by the celtic-punk community. This persuaded them to fill out the sound somewhat and so they recruited a few local musicians expanding from a duo into a full on band and so The Langer’s Ball were born. Taking their name from the Irish word ‘Langer’ which has its origins in county Cork and can mean up to three things. A right eejit, being pissed or your dick! After those two early albums back in 2007 and 2008 The Langer’s Ball went on to release ‘Drunk, Sick, Tired’, a live St Patrick’s day recording, in 2011 and ‘The Devil, Or The Barrel’ in 2012. Their first studio album went on to garner #1 Rock/Trad Album Of The Year by Grinning Beggar, #2 Album of The Year 2012 for Shite’n’Onions and #3 Album of The Year for Paddy Rock as well numerous outstanding reviews across the board and not solely from the celtic-punk media.

They followed this with 2014’s ‘7 Year Itch’ their last release from a couple of years ago which we reviewed here and described it as

“The title of the EP refers to this being the bands seventh year together and with a bunch of new songs they were itching to release and with the success of the session it all came together perfectly to release this to The Langer’s Ball growing army of fans at home and abroad. The music itself is reminiscent of the more folkier side of celtic-punk but with plenty of bite with the extremely well played accordion to the fore throughout the EP”

They followed this up last year with the stunning Whiskey Outlaws, their first full-length studio album in 4 years. An absolute killer of an album which made all the Best Of lists of the major celtic-punk media and confirmed their place as one of the best bands in the scene.

Brilliant originals and a superb choice of covers complement each other well. When we reviewed it here we thought

“One of the things I love about The Langer’s Ball is their sense of humour and its evident on every recording I have heard of theirs. ‘I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover/Bye Bye Blackbird’ just about sums them up. A three minute romp that is guaranteed to get you up and jigging about”

From the band’s interesting and knowledgeable choice of traditional folk covers to their incorporation of Americana, country, rockabilly, hardcore, baroque, klezmer and even psychobilly alongside the Irish punk The Langer’s Ball are constantly evolving and constantly improving and you can get on board and check out that from begiinning to present with their very generous decision to make it all *FREE!!!!* So don’t delay you never know how long these offers are going to last do you?

Contact The Langer’s Ball

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  ReverbNation  Bandcamp  Google+  Soundcloud

The band have made their entire Bandcamp discography ‘Pay What You Like’ which means you can download for free. Just click the ‘Buy Now’ option, which will ask you to ‘name your price’ but there is no minimum price, so just have it, the band want people to share their music.

“The music business is an odd one, especially when you love to make music and have people enjoy it. We have worked for nearly 10 years to better ourselves as musicians and play as often as we can. We are still trying to make the transition to full-time musicians, and are of the mind that if people love what we do, we can do it! That said, people have to hear what we do before they can love it, so we want to afford them the opportunity to do just that”

So what are you waiting for?? BUT if you’re feeling generous then chuck them a few bucks and if you like what you hear then why not visit their store here and get the  physical CD’s.

ALBUM REVIEW: DROPKICK MURPHYS- ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’ (2017)

as reviewed by special guest writer

Frankie MacLaughlin from The Rumjacks

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When I was tasked with reviewing the new offering from Dropkick Murphys ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’, I thought ‘shit!.. I wonder if I shouldn’t be half steamin’ in a pub with couple o’ pals in tow, instead of cooking dinner in preparation for a quiet night in, pet sitting for friends. Perhaps then I’d better appreciate the raucous, sudsy, barrage that has long been standard fare, down among its natural habitat.

I admit I was less than enthused by their early offerings, the singles ‘Blood’, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Paying My Way’. I don’t think I’m all that alone in saying I’d been disappointed in the past, so I decided I’d need to listen with fresh ears and not hold their finest moments against them as a yardstick.

It might surprise some to learn that I dont habitually listen to a great deal of Celt-Punk, whatever music finds its way in and out of my day does so of its own accord and on its own merits. This helped make listening to ’11 Short Stories’ as impartially as I could, a hell of a lot easier, and I’ll tell you now… I like it.
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I think its safe by now to say that the Murphy’s weren’t about to come kicking in doors and changing the world, but that’s fine, they already did that, arguably several times over. After first steaming in with some proper street punk clout, they went on to spearhead the modern age of Celtic punk rock. While many of us were still busy trying to be The Pogues, these guys gave us a whole new benchmark to work to.

While the album lacks some of the punch that we’ve been treated to previously, it still has its decent share of moments. Tunes like the lead single ‘Blood’ and ‘Paying My Way’ are unashamedly crafted to get everyone in on a singalong, big rolling chants with easy to latch onto lyrics sees them at their most accessible. So too with the albums opener ‘The Lonesome Boatman’, first recorded by The Fureys in ’69, its huge atmosphere & ‘whoa-oh-whoa’ vocals would make a great set opener in the big arena.

‘Rebels with a Cause’ is just a good, solid, punk rock tune that could sit just as easily with Al Barrs efforts as part of The Bruisers, for all its rapid fire delivery. ‘Kicked to the Curb’ strikes me as a ‘fun as f#%k classic rock & roll tune, that you could take the piss & do the twist to… without feeling like you’re taking the piss.

‘Sandlot’ is as nostalgic as it gets, its acoustic guitars and almost Motown beat are refreshing. I’m sure that no matter who we are we could relate pretty easily to the sentiments on show here, particularly…

“we were rich but no one told us, we didn’t know..”
‘4.15.13’ really stands out to me as a seriously honest moment from the band. Minus all the usual bells and flashing lights that normally draw us to a Murphys tune, its a humble and very human song, which I cant help think would’ve been right at home in a Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros set.

‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ similarly rocks a little of that Motown rhythm, and I like it a lot more than when I first heard it released. Though when you’ve been to Celtic Park a bunch of times to hear 70 odd thousand heads singing the classic tune, it was always going to be a tough comparison for me… it chugs away admirably enough nonetheless. ‘First Class Loser’ is folkie singalong Murphys at their best, while ‘I Had a Hat’ is a wild old calamitous affair. Here the tune written by James Mooney and made famous by the likes of Ray Perkins and The Andrews Sisters, sounds like the fight scene in a dodgy western,.. the kind where the barman expertly ducks a flying chair and carries on polishing the glassware.

All in all what I’m hearing on this record is a band enjoying what they do, making the music they feel like making right now. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest it was an exercise in ‘karaoke’ or ‘Dad-Rock’, although if they were to lean a little more that way, who’s going to hold it against ’em? It goes with the territory, these guys aren’t hungry young punks anymore, they’re family men, who work tirelessly and humbly in their community, a community they clearly love. I think they can be forgiven for being a little more nostalgic, or wanting to do their bit to lessen the impact of serious drugs, violence and hatred on that community. Something they’ve been particularly vocal about, especially of late, and very especially on this album.
When they finish the record with ‘Until Next Time’, singing
“We all had a good time and we’re sad to see it end…”
its nothing if not entirely believable. I think the Dropkick Murphys had a lot of fun making this record, they were as true to us all as they could be, and more importantly they were true to themselves. I for one wouldn’t be too offended if they stuck around and kept making music with that approach…
But that’s just my opinion. 
dkm-stpauliGet The Album

iTunes  FromTheBand-UK/Ireland  NorthAmerica  Europe

Contact The Dropkick Murphys

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Soundcloud  MySpace

frankieMajor thanks for Frankie to taking the time out to write this review and for those of you been living under a rock then that can be the only possible excuse to not know that Frankie is the singer/songwriter for Sydney celtic-punk legends THE RUMJACKS. Later this year they will be heading to the USA for a series of shows and they are intending to get back to Europe too so do yourselves a favour celtic-punk fans and get on board with The Rumjacks. It’s been one hell of a ride so far and there is no sign of it slowing down for a good while yet!

Read up on what we have had to say about The Rumjacks here. Our panel of pissheads experts even awarded them Best Celtic-Punk Album Of All Time here! Hunt them down at these- WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  YouTube  Soundcloud

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: JOHNNY CASH- ‘The Christmas Spirit’ (1963)

Songwriter. Six-string strummer. Storyteller. Country boy. Rock star. Folk hero. Preacher. Poet. Drug addict. Rebel. Saint AND sinner. Victim. Survivor. Home wrecker. Husband. Father. Son. and more…

FREE DOWNLOAD

Though he would go on to later make umpteen Christmas themed albums this was Johnny Cash’s first attempt and by far his greatest. Released in 1963 The Christmas Spirit features twelve songs of which many were penned either by the great man himself or his family and a handful of Johnny’s unparalleled Christmas standards such as ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Blue Christmas’.

johnny-cash-christmas

The Christmas Spirit was released on 1st November 1963 on Columbia Records and had a re-release in the the early 1990’s where the production was re-mastered. Now my Mammy use to own a whole load of Johnny Cash album’s and among them were several Christmas records that could, I’m afraid, be described as Cash-in’s (groan…). This record though has an authentic feel to it. Like Johnny was singing with all his heart and soul on this one, coming as it did not long into the start of his recording career.

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The Christmas Spirit has twelve songs and comes in at just under forty minutes. It has three songs composed solely by Johnny and one co-written with his father-in-law Ezra ‘Eck’ Carter. It also features two songs written by Johnny’s wife and long time collaborator June Carter. As for the songs it’s all about the wonderful and warm voice of Johnny Cash. ‘Christmas As I Knew It’ is an biographical song about Johnny’s childhood Christmasses in Dyess, Arkansas that was written by June and Jan Howard. Johnny speaks from the heart about his working class background and his family and their Christmas traditions.

The LP features Johnny’s amazing version of ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ plus ‘Here Was a Man’ and ‘Christmas As I Knew It’, plus more like ‘Blue Christmas’, at the time made famous by Johnny’s old label mate Elvis Presley, and a warm reading of ‘Silent Night’, making The Christmas Spirit a groundbreaking effort for this sorely missed legend. Johnny sings lead vocals on all the songs with backing from various Carter family members and the feel of the album is one of absolute calm. It may not be very fashionable for some Johnny Cash-come latelys to admit that religion was one of the driving forces in one way or another throughout Johnny’s career but it certainly was.

The Christmas Spirit by Johnny Cash

“On Christmas Eve I dreamed I traveled all around the earth
And in my dream I saw and heard the ways the different people hail the king
Whose star shone in the east and what a dream it was
In London Town I walked around Piccadilly Circus

A mass of people movin’ here and there I wandered where
On every face at every place was hurry up I’m late
But a kind old man at a chestnut stand said merry Christmas mate
And I felt the Christmas spirit

In a little town nestled down in Bavaria Germany
I walked along to see what the feeling there would be
And here again was the busy din the rushin’ the yellin’
But some kind boy said Frohliche Weihnachten
Not understanding the words but gettin’ the buyin’ and sellin’
I felt the Christmas spirit

In Bethlehem I heard a hymn some distant choir sang
And with other tourists I walked along to a church as its bells rang
Then I heard someone tell someone there’s where Christ was born
I wonder if he looked like our baby looked on that first morn

And then I really felt the Christmas spirit
From a businessman in the Holy Land as a sidewalk souvenir shop
I bought a little Bible since I’d hardly stopped
And it was in Paris France somehow by chance that I took the Bible out

And as I flipped the pages I saw these words and I knew what it was all about
For I read fear not for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy
Which shall be to all people
For unto you he was born this day in the City of David a Saviour
Which is Christ the Lord

Then I took the little Holy Book held it close and tight
I closed my eyes and visualized the glory of that night
So suddenly it came to me for when I awoke on Christmas Day
I felt the Christmas spirit down deep inside to stay

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Johnny and June

From the very beginning of his career Johnny Cash recorded gospel songs and if Johnny Cash sang it then you knew Johnny Cash believed in it with all his conviction. His rugged voice, growling, sometimes simply speaking of killers and Jesus in the same breath. He himself had at heart this combination of light and darkness. He was a devout Christian who read his bible daily even in the middle of the deep and dark drug addiction he suffered from. There’s not a single bad song here. Johnny’s voice saves it from any excessive garishness or sentimentality making it a must have for any Cash fans or anyone looking for some Christmas music that ranks up their with ‘Fairytale Of New York’. Johnny Cash was both saint and sinner personified and at what better time to remember him than now at Christmas..

FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK HERE

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THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPING STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

(if the links are broken please leave a comment and we will fix)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE NARROWBACKS- ‘Arrogance & Ignorance’ (2016)

If Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan and Bruce Springsteen survived a drinking session through the 5 boroughs, the hangover would be called The Narrowbacks.
narrowbacks
nar·row·back /ˈnæroʊˌbæk/ [nar-oh-bak]
–noun Slang.
1. Disparaging. an Irish-American.
2. a person of slight build who is unfit for hard labour
The Narrowbacks are from New York City and don’t they let us know us with their new album released this month Arrogance & Ignorance. Around the world Irish bands represent their city like The Wakes and Glasgow or The Bible Code Sundays and London and even though their are several absolutely brilliant New York Irish bands none are quite so linked to the city as The Narrowbacks are. They live and breathe their community and a listen to them brings alive the past, present and future of that community. With a sometimes painful history of tragedy and hardship that became a history of pride and celebration the Irish community today is again flourishing with increased emigration from Ireland and the way the Irish pass on that pride in their roots. One instance is the massive explosion in the playing of Gaelic Games in America and not just because of the newly arrived but those of Irish descent as well. With many of the old areas changing and other communities moving in, those places once known as Irish ghettos are no longer but the Irish still exist in vast numbers and their pubs and sporting venues are still reeling them in.
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The Narrowbacks from left to right: Anthony Chen – Bass (No Irish Ties) * Chris Moran – Drums (Irish American a few generations) * Seamus- Vocals and Patrick Keane- Accordion * (Father from Connemara Co. Galway, Mother’s family from Cork, Clare and Limerick) * Barry Walsh – Banjo, Mandolin (Father and Mother from Dublin) * Fionn McElligott – Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar (Father from Kerry, Mother from Kilkenny)

This is The Narrowbacks second album after Fire It Up in 2013 and they also released an outstanding EP last year, After Hours (review here). These records have for the main taken the same route of some seasoned Irish trad covers, some unusual or rare Irish trad covers and a smattering of self-penned numbers so it was a lovely surprise to see that every song here is one of the band’s own. All twelve tracks are written and arranged by the band and none disappoint too. If you thought they could do a catchy as hell version of ‘Sean South Of Garryowen’ then you need to hear them playing ‘Shannon’!
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Arrogance & Ignorance opens with ‘The Banner County’, which for those who don’t know is the nickname of County Clare in mid-west Ireland in the province of Munster. The song was written by Seamus and is about his and Pat’s Uncle Matt who is from Clare, who got drafted to go to Vietnam and ignored advice to dodge the draft so he could stay in the States. The accordion, played by Seamus brother Pat, leads the boys out and tits all at a fast and furious pace and it may be mostly acoustic but these are not your normal finger in the ear folk band by any stretch. The song moves along and is a superb catchy start to proceedings telling of Seamus Dad’s arrival in America and his dream of
“going back to the Banner county someday”
This is followed by Shannon which came out as a single for St Patrick’s Day earlier this year as an album taster and this song runs away as the album standout. That New York Irish feel is all over this song and only two songs in and I’m already using the word ‘catchy’ twice!

The accordion and banjo are amazing and Seamus vocals are raspy and hoarse but in a way that won’t put off your Mammy or your Nanna. Its heading towards St Shane but still manages to fit the music perfectly. ‘Loisaida’ slows it down a little and is the first taste of the band playing a real Irish traditional song. Even then there’s room for a bit more and song takes in a few styles and influences under it’s Irish wings.narrowbacks-pale‘Home’ brings out the tin whistle and its a rollicking good tune about you know what. It would seem that the NYC Irish and the Irish here in England never stopped dreaming of ‘home’. As the saying goes ‘Home is where the heart is’ and The Wolfe Tones hit the nail on the head with their song ‘My Heart Is In Ireland’. ‘Whiskey River’ slows it down again and its the usual tale of the love/hate relationship we Irish have with alcohol as well as some unrequited love thrown in its a bad mixture. ‘Fourth Of July’ is up next and is the biggest American holiday and also known as Independence Day when the war started that saw the British Empire given the boot. Nowadays its just an excuse for a big party and why not! Accordion and banjo again are flying here but I must add that none of this would be as effective if it wasn’t for the rock instruments of bass and drums. The whole band play as a unit and the album’s production is exemplary with the mix of everything absolutely perfect. Nothing is competing to be heard but rather it all accompanies including the voice,for as we know the Irish voice is also an instrument. Chugging guitar and a track that wouldn’t be out of place with that other son of Ireland The Boss singing with ‘Rosie’ and ‘Prodigal Son’ is a good auld fashioned Christmas song directed at a Irish mammy waiting for her off-the-rails son to come home. Starting off as a, here’s that bloody word again, catchy Irish tune it feels like it may go off at a tangent at some point and then it doesn’t disappoint and it all comes off with some beautiful words about making it home all wrapped it a nice touch of ska/reggae that doesn’t stick out at all.

As hard as it is to make a unsentimental Christmas tune The Narrowbacks have managed it. A real beauty. I’ve had this song stuck in my head for a week and we have made it the London Celtic Punks Christmas song of 2016. ‘Ole’ is up next and this has to be the bands signature tune. Not sure why Irish football supporters have embraced this song so much but embrace it they have. This is the kind of tune that their gig’s must get messy to!
“my Daddies a Paddy and I’m a Narrowback”
We are nearing the end and another album standout track is ‘Want you Back’ featuring the amazingly wonderful voice of Emily McShane. Acoustic guitar and piano start the song off and Emily and Seamus sing to each other about a terrible mistake. The flute gets an airing for ‘Out On The Avenue’ and excuse me but its a fecking glorious sound! An excellent song that leaves the final song as ‘Bastards Of The Borough’ where Seamus is unaccompanied on acoustic guitar and belts out the names of those old Irish areas of NYC with gusto and pride.

narrowback-jfkTwelve songs that, as we said, are all penned by the band that comes in just shy of three quarters of an hour. The Narrowbacks are the sons of Irish-immigrants who found each other at their local pub in the Bronx and for that we and the New York Irish can be grateful. We a expressive race and there is nothing we love better than a sing-song and with the Irish communities outside of Ireland changing and having to re-adapt bands like The Narrowbacks have never been so important . Our history needs to be remembered and passed down to the next generations. Those that sacrificed before us must never be forgotten.This six-piece group may propel itself with punk rock in its heart but it has the soul of an old Irish folk band and we are blessed that they do.
Buy The EP
Contact The Band

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