Category Archives: Americana

EP REVIEW: THE TWO MAN TRAVELLING MEDICINE SHOW- ‘They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs’ (2019)

Back again it’s the band with the longest name in Folk-Punk (and possibly the most members) with another release of original music. Dorset’s finest Folky-Americana-Country-Punk band The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show’s new EP is out now on Musical Bear Records.

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show are back again with their brand new EP and four all new tracks recorded entirely in a barn in North Dorset! Now this being the Summer it’s a wonder they have found the time as this is most definitely their time and one look at their list of gigs past and present the last few weeks shows a band that has crisscrossed the South of England playing just about every festival imaginable! Formed in Dorset in 2016 The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show have steadily grown in stature and popularity over the following years due in no small part to their hectic touring(no mean feat for a band that sometimes has up to ten members!) and they have added to their great reputation as a live band with a well received album and several EP’s of their own original compositions. Their debut album, Weeding Out The Wicked, came out in 2017 and has been followed by three quality EP’s in the following couple of years, Float Your Boat, A Snake’s A Snake and Oh Me Oh Mi. Releases that all capture The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show sound perfectly. American bluegrass and Americana butting heads with quaint auld English folk. A quintessential English folk group that could have been born at the heyday of Folk-Rock in the mid-1970’s and takes in influences from those halcyon days before redefining them and bringing them bang up to date.

The first of the EP’s quintet of songs is the title track ‘They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs’ and follows on in what I now think of as the traditional The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show way. A catchy thigh slapping driving beat accompanied by the sounds of more instruments then you could possibly take in all at once though the duelling banjo and fiddle shine through. The vocals from Mark are as usual strong and powerful and the words talk about how love changes us. Theirs a a nice slow break in the middle which gives the song a chance to build up and come back strong and yeah I really love it!!! They follow this swiftly with the glorious ‘Raise My Glass’ and a hoedown country stomper that is guaranteed to get audiences up and doing that famous dance scene from Seven Brides For Several Brothers! A typical drinking anthem that sees the band really go for it and if I have ever had any criticism of The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show it is that they sometimes are too restrained and ought to just to bloody well go for it like on ‘Raise My Glass’. A heartfelt cry from the heart in praise of all that’s good in a difficult world. They move away from their usual Summery/bouncy style with ‘Hanging The Bells’ which has a much tougher bite to it and comparisons to New Model Army leap out at you with the acoustic guitar and fiddle pushed to the fore over a song about getting away from the drudgery of life, or as singer Mark says 

“a song about the impossible, wonderful dream of awakening from the nightmare of history; to a dog’s life away from the grinding forces of politics”.

The EP comes to an delicate end as fiddle player Alison Jay takes over on vocal duties for ‘Teenage Dreams’ for this slow paced number on the danger of surrounding yourselves in nostalgia. The song drifts along beautifully before speeding up ever so slightly towards the end and again the amazing banjo playing and a-plucking shines a light on all the band do.

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show left to right: Seb Hartley- Harmonica, Mandolin * Martin Giles- Guitar * Steve Wareham- Slapbox * Alison Jay- Violin * Chris Pearce- Keys (back of photo) * Rob Volves- Bass (back of photo) * Olly Hopper Pay- Guitar, Cello (back of photo) * Mark Lyons- Singer, Guitar * Jamie Lynch- Lyrics * Brad Watt- Banjo *

As already stated this band can sometimes reach up to double figures so getting them down on record so vibrantly is no mean feat I can assure you and here on They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs they have the talent of fellow Dorset musician Charlie Draper to thank. Having already featured here on the London Celtic Punks site as vocalist/guitarist of Sinful Maggie (we will be reviewing their new release in the next week or so) Charlie has done a utterly brilliant job of capturing the energy and passion of the band whilst losing none of their trademark knock out Folk-Punk choruses. Though they don’t make it particularly easy to hear them play outside the South-East it might be worth your while YOU seeking them out!

Buy They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs mark1lyons@icloud.com 

The EP is released on Friday 16th August and sadly there is no pre-order or links but as soon as they become available on release I will add them here.

Contact The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show  Facebook

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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS ARTISTS- Rebel Voices. Songs Of The Industrial Workers Of The World

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The Industrial Workers of the World blazed a path in American history and its influence is still felt widely today. The ‘Wobblies’ and music were interwoven helping to build morale, promote solidarity and lift the bleak spirits of the working-class during the bleakest days of American history. Here are twenty of those songs that can still lift our spirits decades later.

Welcoming into the union those that others shunned, the Wobblies from the start were the labour movement’s pioneers and innovators, unionising hundreds of thousands of workers previously regarded as “unorganizable”. The Wobblies, the name given to members of the IWW, at their peak in 1917, numbered near 200,000 but state repression, competition from other unions and the inevitable split led to a decline in membership that has seen this once great organisation become a mere shadow of itself. The IWW organised the first sit-down strike (Schenectady, 1906), the first major auto strike (Detroit, 1911), the first strike to shut down all three coalfields in Colorado (1927), and the first ‘no-fare’ transit-workers’ job-action (Cleveland, 1944). With their imaginative, colourful and world-famous strikes and free-speech fights, the IWW wrote many of the brightest pages in the annals of working class history.

Wobblies also made immense and invaluable contributions to workers’ culture. All but a few of America’s most popular labour songs are Wobbly songs and IWW cartoons have long been recognised as labour’s finest and funniest.

The IWW’s Use of Music

In their struggle to promote these politics, the IWW was a singing union. In the period between 1910-1960 the songbook ‘The Little Red Songbook’, which is still in print, was regarded by many workers as one of their most beloved possessions besides, of course, their red IWW membership cards. The songbook was one of the most important documents and its songs were sung in numerous situations: around hobo campfires, in boxcars, in Wobbly halls, in the streets, on picket lines, at strike rallies, in court, on the way to jail and in jail. The songs were a crucial aid in recruiting new members, and they were important in building a sense of fellowship and in keeping spirits up in hard situations. Paul Garon writes in his book ‘What’s The Use Of Walking If There’s A Freight Train Going Your Way? Black Hobos And Their Songs’ that a mixed group of hobos sitting around a campfire would be more likely to sing Wobbly songs than Blues, Country or Vaudeville songs. This tells us something about the popularity these songs enjoyed.

from ‘Music And The IWW: The Creation Of A Working Class Counterculture‘ by Rudolf TB

Rebel Voices. Songs Of The Industrial Workers Of The World was released on Flying Fish Records formed in the 70’s by Bruce Kaplan. Use to releasing left field folk music the label had split from the more famous Rounder Records who were more reluctant to release leftfield albums like this compilation. The presence of Utah Phillips looms large here. A combination of activist, organiser, songwriter, singer, and storyteller, there are few performers who can put across a song such as ‘The Two Bums’ as well as he could.

The album also combines its participants into various small groupings and a big ensemble finale, an idea that works just as well in an album sequence as it has on many folk festival stages. There are several numbers originating with Joe Hill, needless to say, but also a grand Malvina Reynolds cover by Faith Petric and a terrific take on the classic ‘Hallelujah, I’m a Bum’ by Bob Bovee. Besides delivering its intended messages, this collection also puts the spotlight on some fairly unknown performers in a context that brings welcome thematic strength and emotional power to their work.

Rebel Voices is an amazing collection of stories and songs, that gives a perfect history of working people. The songs call for solidarity is as relevant today as it was when the songs were originally written. The music provides a feeling of being connected, and makes you want to sing along. No matter what your interest, but especially if it’s the history of the labour movement, this is a wonderful and thought-provoking collection of music.

Tracks
1. Preamble to the IWW Constitution
2. Organizer – Jeff Cahill
3. Little Red Hen – Faith Petric
4. Which Side Are You On? – Bob Bovee
5. Two Bums – Utah Phillips
6. Banks of Marbles – Fred Holstein
7. Put It on the Ground – Marion Wade
8. Popular Wobbly – Eric Glatz
9. Song of the Rail – Mark Ross
10. Hold the Fort – Bruce Brackney
11. We Have Fed You All a Thousand Years – Bruce Brackney
12. Ain’t Done Nothing If You Ain’t Been Called a Red – Faith Petric
13. Hallelujah, I’m a Bum – Bob Bovee
14. Boss – Utah Phillips
15. Preacher and the Slave – Jeff Cahill
16. Mysteries of a Hobo’s Life – Mark Ross
17. Stung Right – Fred Holstein
18. Jo Hill’s Last Will – Kathy Taylor
19. Mr. Block – Utah Phillips
20. Power in the Union

The Wobblies impact has reverberated far beyond the ranks of organised labour. An important influence on the 60’s New Left, the theory and practice of direct action, solidarity and ‘Class-War’ humour have inspired several generations of activists and are a major source of ideas and inspiration for today’s too. Indeed, virtually every movement seeking to “make this planet a good place to live” (to quote an old Wobbly slogan), has drawn on the IWW’s incomparable experience. The songs here are from the twentieth century but their relevance to current times invites us to explore the conditions that inspired their creation. In the face of oppression, these songwriters bravely took a stand. Such courage and heroism is immortal, such heroes should be celebrated and their songs can and still do lift our spirits.

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* many many thanks to Zero G Sound for their invaluable help on this album and others in the Classic Album Review series. We have no rivals only friends so be sure to go check out their fantastic site here

 

EP REVIEW: 6’10- ‘Where We Are’ (2019)

Chicago based 6’10 is the acoustic project of Tobin Bawinkel, the lead singer of Flatfoot 56 whose critically acclaimed first full length album, The Humble Beginnings of a Roving Soul came out back in 2014. Gerard Melon discovers life isn’t just circle pits and spitting on sweaty crowds. Here’s a band that is a little more laid back and thought provoking.  

So here we have it, a new EP of six original tracks from Chicago’s 6’10. Many of you will know this band as Tobin from Flatfoot 56 ‘s side gig. This EP follows on from 2014’s The Humble Beginnings of a Roving Soul, and Flatfoot’s Vancouver Sessions where some of the band’s best tracks were reworked utilising traditional instruments and giving the tracks a more ‘folky’ sound. 6’10 were created by Tobin to explore the musical influences that he grew up with, folk, Americana, bluegrass and other ‘traditional’ styles of acoustic music. There aren’t really any other band members, more like regular collaborators and then specialist instrumentalists. This all leads to a more laid-back sound compared to Flatfoot, but still with the heart that we would expect from them.

 It kicks off with an ‘intro track’ of Tobin singing solo and with no instrumental backing called ‘The Old Man’. It’s a gentle introduction to the EP with the song being about an old man who wants an audience for his songs. Up next comes ‘Nam’, a livelier tune that probably would fit in on a Flatfoot album (and after all the waffle I spouted in the first paragraph!!!). It’s (obviously?) about Vietnam and tells the story of a nineteen-year-old getting drafted and sent out to fight; he wins a medal but is shunned when he comes home. (Dunno if his name is John Rambo!) Next up is ‘It’s All Been Said Before’, which has a very singalong catchy chorus, but this betrays the seriousness of its message, which basically is telling us to look at things from other people’s points of view instead of just repeating what’s been said before. Next up is ‘The Isle’, a cracking track which has religious undertones and gives Tobin’s voice a great work out. It’s very upbeat and the message (of redemption?) is very uplifting. For me personally, the next track ‘The Promise’ is the standout track of the six (don’t get me wrong they’re all top quality!) but this one is a real gem. It starts with a slide guitar sound that instantly brings you down south (think of the movie Southern Comfort), it’s very atmospheric as it builds up to the vocals first from Tobin and then Vanessa and then both together with the music gradually growing. It’s a love song that I can’t do justice to with writing, so I will just say listen to it! The final track is ‘Just Say Hi’ and it’s a two hander with Tobin and Vanessa singing a ballad about a man who needs to be more decisive if he is going to win a girl’s heart. It has a very intimate sound, just a guitar and the two singers as if it was recorded at home and not a studio, this adds to its appeal and is a warm sound to close out the disc.

This is a cracking little release from Tobin and his friends, that carries-on the great work from the first album. It’s a shame that it is only six tracks (including intro) because I’m sure we all would have welcomed more. I would definitely recommend buying it and encouraging a few live performances on this side of the pond. You can get it through the 6’10 Facebook page where you can also see what they’re up to.

(you can stream Where We Are before you buy it on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Where We Are  PhysicalCD  Download

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ALBUM REVIEW: BRADLEY PALERMO- ‘Volume 1’ (2019)

Los Angeles-based Folk-Punk Bradley Palermo has released his first album comprised of previously released singles, reworked and remastered to create Volume 1. Folk music doused in punk and Americana influences that bristles with dark humour.

We are certainly lucky to be friends with Bryan McPherson as it was that connection that led Bradley Palermo to chance his arm and dash a copy of his new album across the broad Atlantic to us in hope of a favourable review. When it is deserved we are happy to oblige and Bradley will be pleased to know it has done. Before setting out on his solo folk career, Bradley spent fifteen years fronting the bands The Sudden Passion and Femme Fatality. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri playing in local indie bands while developing an affinity for the alt-country bands that were emerging from the region at the time. Drawing inspiration from Americana his songs are often autobiographical with themes of the open road, free living and mortality. Volume 1 is a reworked and remastered collection of previously released singles and is a result of a successful crowdfunding campaign from last year. The album begins with ‘Tombstones’ and is the perfect balance of folk music and country music without any of the cheese often associated with both genres. Bradley’s voice is perfect for this as it’s just the right side of gravelly. Acoustic guitar is accompanied by a short synthesizer tune popping up throughout the song and some gang vocals towards the end as Bradley sings of life on the road as artist away from the grind of everyday life.

Bradley is joined by several friends on the album one being Reggie Duncan on steel guitar and on ‘I Like Things That Kill’ it hits the spot admirably in this (mainly) bitter song about a ex-lover.

My favourite track on the album is up next with ‘All My Friends (Have Died)’ and is a sober reminder that as we all get older we start to lose our mates along the way and here Bradley sings the praises of those closest to him. Musically its a slow burner with, again, wonderful steel guitar.

“Jeff never had a chance
the dope was there since day one
Tanya was probably murdered
but poor folks rarely see justice
Shane fell in love with himself
and finally died of a broken heart
Dominic lost his war with cancer
but goddamn he fought it hard
good goddamn son you fought that shit hard”

A beautiful song that is sure to get you thinking, as it did to me. After such a heartbreaking song the album takes a somewhat lighter turn with ‘2nd Wind’. Well musically anyway. A tale of redemption through meeting a women who could sort out the mess of a life.

‘The Long Way’ has more of a full band sound and tells of the breakup of Bradley’s first marriage beginning with the lines

“I should have never got married
that first time around
I made a fool of myself
more red flags than i could ever count “

and shows us that even at the worse of times some good can come through. After all it was this marriage that brought him from Missouri to Los Angeles. Again great harmonica here and a very undervalued instrument I think. It’s folk pedigree is enormous. The catchy ‘Deep Valley Blues’ is perhaps a bit too radio friendly for this misery guts ears but trots along at a nice pace and it’s not always a bad thing that you can imagine your Ma loving the same music as you.

‘Lost In August’ begins with the welcome understated sound of accordion from Solbodan Bobo Lekic and another unfashionable instrument the ukulele. It’s become too popular to bash the uke but you’ll not find any of that shite here. It’s got a great sound and is, fairly, easy to play so maybe that’s why musicians slag it off as it is so accessible to people. ‘The High Cost Of Free Living’ is another high point of Volume 1 and for an album that covers some fairly depressing themes its not devoid of humour though it tends to be as black as the hills!

“never amounted to much of nothing
but I’m still here and I still think that counts for something
and I ain’t starving for attention
boy I’ll gnaw your ear right off
about the high cost of free living”

Bradley has a great way of story telling as shown on ‘Trouble To Find’ where he tells of people he has met who have suffered from mental illnesses or have just been plain old aresholes (that’s assholes to you Americans!)

“I hope you get help or struck by a bus
you know something real quick and painless”

Volume 1 comes to an end with ‘Hollywood, Hollywood’ and closes things with another high point as Bradley tells of a place that is not all it’s cracked up to be.

“cause we found California but it’s far from paradise”

I’m glad Bradley Palermo thought to send us this album and while we may have a reputation for preferring the more rowdy side of Celtic-Punk I must also admit a fondness for albums like Volume 1. I have found myself playing it a lot more than necessary to review it which is quite the compliment if you realised the amount of music we receive. Lyrically it is superb and when accompanied by such soulful music I can only see Bradley’s career receiving the attention it most certainly deserves. One review stated that the album plays like a story he might tell you himself at a bar over some drinks and I can’t think of a better way to end this one review too.

(listen to Volume 1 for free before you buy on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Volume 1  Here  Contact Bradley Palermo WebSite  Facebook  Soundcloud  Instagram

“YOU’RE A ENGLISH BASTARD, YOU’RE A IRISH BASTARD”

“You’re a English Bastard, You’re a Irish Bastard”

is funny way to explain the situation of Irish folks born outside of Ireland. Stephen Gara, a friend, musician who plays in Neck, and who currently lives in the Hudson Valley was born in London to Irish parents. He told how the English referred to him as “the Irish Bastard.” But when he went back ‘home’ as they called Ireland, the folks there called him “the English Bastard.” But more on Stephen and his interesting story later!

While talking to Eddie of London Celtic Punks, we decided it might be interesting to write an article about the Irish who are outside of Ireland and their experience. Like the London Celtic Punks, we’ve also got the American Irish, world famous and well known now. New York and Boston are probably the most famous cities for their Irish immigrants. But New Orleans was the third most popular destination for Irish immigrants at one time.

This story will focus on where I live, the Hudson Valley, New York, USA and the Irish who live here. It is about 2 to 3 hours north of NYC up the Hudson River and would include the cities of Peekskill, Newburgh and Kingston.

IRISH BY THE NUMBERS

The population of Ireland is a grand 4.8 million or so as of 2017 (*1). The UK Irish Population is 869,00 as of 2001. 6 million people live in the UK who have an Irish Grandparent (10% of the population)(*2.)

AMERICAN IRISH POPULATION

Irish-Americans number 34.5 million, or 7 times the population of Ireland. Irish is the second most common ancestry of Americans, just behind German. (3.) 10% of the USA population is of Irish Descent (4.) The city of Boston has the highest Irish percentage, 21.5%, followed by Philadelphia at 14.5%. (5.) 126,000 people born in Ireland live in the USA.

The highest concentrations of Irish descent in America are the Mid-Atlantic States and New England. Mid- Atlantic includes Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. The New England region is Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine. By population they should rightfully call the region New Ireland, not ‘New England’.

New York has the highest sheer number of Irish by descent in the USA, 2.5 million excluding California which has 2.6 million. (6.)

And lest we forget, Ireland’s first president Eamon de Valera was born in NYC in 1882.

NYC’s SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL AND SAINT PATRICK’S DAY PARADE

The First New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was on March 17, 1762, 14 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Homesick Irish serving in the British Army organised it and played the pipes, wore green, and spoke Irish, all of which were forbidden at the time in their native homeland. (7A)

In 1837, John Joseph Hughes, nick-named ‘Dagger John’ because he signed his name beginning with a cross, was made Archbishop of the NYC Archdiocese. Born in County Tyrone in 1797, he emigrated with his family to America in 1816 to escape persecution by Orangemen. (7B)

In May and June of 1844, Nativist riots in Philadelphia led to Irish- American homes being attacked and burned. More than 30 homes were burned and the militia was called out. (7C) After 2 Catholic churches and a seminary in Philadelphia were torched by Anti-Catholic Protestant mobs, Archbishop Hughes put armed guards with brickbats at Catholic Churches and he invoked memories of Russia before Napoleon’s troops, saying “If a single Catholic church is burned in New York, the city would become a second Moscow.” (7C) New York City leaders believed him, and the Anti-Catholic Nativist Protestant march was not allowed to happen.

The land for the present Saint Patrick’s Cathedral had been acquired by the diocese in 1810. In 1853, Archbishop John Joseph Hughes intends to build the present day Cathedral on it. Building was begun in 1858 and completed in 1879. By then , Archbishop Hughes had died in 1864. (7D)

Philadelphia Anti-Catholic Riots, 1844

HUDSON VALLEY: MUCH IN COMMON WITH LONDON IRISH

I interviewed four people Stephen Gara, Terry McCann, Jim Carey and Bill Kearney to get their personal stories and unique points of view. They represent a broad assortment of Irish immigration waves. Stephen, Terry, and Sean are musicians and Jim and Bill are the President and Vice-President of the Ulster County AOH respectively. For those unfamiliar, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is a charitable fraternal organisation formed by Irish Catholics to protect churches from destruction by Protestant mobs and to aid widows and orphans.

Over a course of a coupla-three-four pints at a break in a T. McCann Band gig in Kingston, I spoke with Stephen Gara and Terry McCann.

Stephen Gara

First generation Stephen Gara is the newest Irish comer to the Hudson Valley. He played with the London Irish Punk band Neck for many years, recorded three albums with them, and toured Ireland with them opening for Black 47. When forced to pick, his favourite Neck album is Sod ‘Em & Begorrah. He is master musician on the tin whistles, uilleann pipes, and highland Bagpipes. He is the newest immigrant to the Hudson Valley coming here to live with his wife in Peekskill, NY. They met when she toured Ireland on a Black 47 tour that brought “busloads of Irish-Americans around Ireland” on their tour. They fell in love and the rest is history. He moved to Amerikay to be with her and they now have a young son named Paddy. His parents were born in Donegal. Though born in London, he proudly only has, and has only ever had, an Irish passport. He told me how he was surprised to see American flags hung with papal flags on the altars of Catholic churches in America. Yes, well they wouldn’t put the Union Jack up in a Catholic church in England!

Stephen points out that there are more bagpipe bands in New York State than in all of Scotland. He also marches with the Firefighter McPadden Pipes and Drums. The band is named after a fire fighter who lost his life on 9/11/01 in NYC. Many NYC firefighters live in the Hudson Valley as it is a relatively short one hour commute to NYC to work.

Stephen Gara now plays uilleann pipes and tin whistles with T. McCann in the Terry McCann Band.

Firefighter McPadden Pipes and Drums

Terry McCann is a multi-talented musician who’s alto voice can hit the highest of notes when he’s strumming his mandolin. The leader of the T.McCann Band, he often breaks out into a jig set on a special wooden stage when playing. This is a real treat. Terry lives in Red Hook , NY on the “other side” of the Hudson River (the Connecticut or east side). By day he teaches Math to surly Middle Schoolers in Kingston when not running Marathons. They have their first album out, a recording of Irish Trad songs called “All for the Grog.” Terry’s personal fave from the album is “The Curr of Kildare.” Third-generation Terry was born in Kingston NY and Grandparents came from County Derry but had first migrated to Glasgow, Scotland. There Terry’s grandfather met his grandmother and they ended up in the USA working in sand and gravel pits in Long Island. Terry’s Dad Dennis, is the youngest of 11 kids. Terrence is named after his uncle, Terrence Michael.

T. McCann Band, Stephen Gara- centre, Terry McCann- far right.

THE ULSTER COUNTY AOH

Jim Carey and Bill Kearney are the President and Vice-President respectively of the Ulster County AOH, Ancient Order of the Hibernians. They are both fifth generation or so Irish immigrants. They revitalised the organisation in about 2002 when, Jim says, everyone in the AOH at the time was “Older than dirt!” Jim and Bill were elected as officers and the first they did was start up a bagpipe band., The Ulster County AOH Pipe and Drums. This brought in lots of new and younger members, and lessons were and still are free. You get set up with a kilt and all the gear, and sometimes even a loaner set of pipes if there’s one left about. The first parade the pipe band did in 2002 they only knew 2 songs, The Minstrel Boy and the Marine Corp Hymn. They played those two songs over and over during the 3 mile parade. The laughingly said they were lucky cuz the crowd never knew as they just kept marching along to fresh audiences along the route.

Jim and Bill both tell that their relatives came over in the 1850’s straight to the Hudson Valley area to build the D&H Canal. The Delaware and Hudson Canal was a very big deal up here. It moved coal from deep in Pennsylvania to Kingston, NY where it was then shipped down the Hudson River to heat NYC.

The D&H Canal in its heyday. The Aqueduct in High Falls , NY.

Paddy worked on the Canal. Irish digging the D&H Canal.

The D&H Canal today, a graffiti strewn rubble hidden in the woods.

All that remains of the aqueduct in High Falls, NY on the D&H Canal. Hidden in the woods. Today it is used as a diving platform for brave drunken youth to jump in the Rondout Creek.

Later the canal was used to ship some of the best naturally occurring cement in the world, Rosendale Cement, from Rosendale, NY, which is just south of Kingston, down to NYC to build the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1860’s. The Canal was closed in 1898. Yet the D& H Canal was open for 60 years, starting in 1828. Kingston’s first Catholic Church, St. Mary’s on Broadway opened in 1835, and later St. Joseph’s in Kingston in 1868.(8) Today, St. Mary’s is the home of a large stone Celtic cross that is the basis of a memorial to the great hunger in Ireland. It was erected on the Church grounds by the Ulster County AOH.

The AOH Cross to the Great Hunger at St. Mary’s Church.

Jim Carey’s great-great paternal grandfathers Carey and Tully, came from County Tipperary in 1850’s. His maternal great-great grandfathers Cooney and Eagan came at the same time. Before the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Jim tried the Knights of Columbus but being run by Italians, they told him to ‘Beat it’! Since that time Jim says he’s

“swung over to the Olive Branch of the Family tree”

by marrying an Italian, the lovely and gracious Fran Carey, the first time a family member has left the Irish enclave since 1850! She puts up with the Pipe Band and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with charm!

Bill’s Great-grandfather James Kearney was one of eight children and came over in 1860 from County Meath. Bill’s wife’s uncle re-started the then defunct Ulster County AOH in 1969. Bill’s father wanted him to join as a young man, but it was only for the very old and a boring operation at that time.

AOH Member “Gunny” at the Hooley

Bill and Jim, besides starting the pipe band set up a great Irish Festival in 1998 with the help of Bill Yosh another AOH member and local legend. For many years Bill has hosted a famous local Irish music radio show. They started what is called the Hooley in Kingston and it draws about 20,000 people per year. It is always the Sunday before Labor Day, which in America is the first Monday on September and a National holiday. Sponsored and produced by the Ulster County AOH, The Hooley has hosted such acts as Black 47, and Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones. The Irish Ambassador, based in NYC, is normally in attendance. Guinness is a sponsor and the beer follows freely. The Ulster County AOH Pipe and Drum band performs several sets and there is a National Stage and a Local Talent Stage. Where I have been lucky enough to performed for several years with my family band, The Wild Irish Roses. They have recently added a Trad Stage which features performers from Ireland who perform mainly in the Irish Language.

The Ulster County AOH has broken ground on a grand Irish Cultural Center in Kingston New York, the county seat. Referred to as the ICCHV (Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley) It is to be a grand hall for the Irish overlooking the Hudson River access of Kingston. The concept for the ICCHV was born in 2011, when a group of well established residents and business leaders set their minds on creating and celebrating the passionate community that is the Irish-American experience.

A CHANCE MEETING

I first saw Blood or Whiskey when I did not know it or expect it. In 2001 I returned from a trip to Ireland with a great new CD in hand. Picked up in a music shop, The Record Room in Sligo, it was Blood or Whiskey’s first album, produced by Kim Fowley. Little did I expect to see them on the cover of the local Hudson Valley newspaper when I returned to the USA! They were actually playing near me that weekend in Middletown, NY at a punk rock fest at a bar called the Celtic Horse. The festival was organized by the guys in The Anti-Socials who were huge Blood or Whiskey fans, Los Jimbos and Jimmy Pogo, who I didn’t know at the time, but have become great friends with since. About 4 great punk bands played and BoW headlined the show. They were in the States touring , promoting the album No Time To Explain which was just out. The Anti-Socials, The Nogoodnix were two of the supporting bands opening up for BoW and they were great. Years later, about 2011, I met James Pogo again through his new band The Armedalite Rifles, who I now play bass for, when sharing the bill at a local club. I was fronting in a Heavy Psych band called The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment at the time.

The Wild Irish Roses at The Hooley

And me? I’m third generation, my grandfather Joseph Patrick Michael Mullally being born on St. Patrick’s Day in Kilross, County Tipperary. March 17, 1913. World War I broke out, and with German subs sinking neutral ships, he did not see his parents until he was 5 years old in 1918 when the war ended. At the age of 5, he emigrated through Ellis Island with an aunt and his name is on the wall there. Three of my daughters and me play bagpipes and march with the Ulster County AOH Pipe and Drum Band. My son Aenghus is a snare drummer. The Templars of Doom, my Irish Punk band has our second album out Hovels Of The Holy. We’re looking forward to travelling to Toronto to play our first ‘international’ gig in May and hope to make it over to London sometime soon. Say “Hello!” and we’ll share a pint if we meet! Slainte! – Michael X. Rose

The Templars of Doom

Footnotes:

1. Eurostat via Google

2. Irish Diaspora Wikipedia

3. Washington Post, 3/17/2013

4. 2016 US Census.

5. Wikipedia

6. US Census Bureau vis mongabay.com 7A. here

7B. NY Times , Don’t Mess with Dagger John, March 7, 2018

7C.  here

7D. Wikipedia, “John Hughes, Archbishop of New York

8. HudsonValleyOne.co

Huge thanks to Mike for writing this great article and with good folk like himself the Irish-American community will continue to go from strength to strength. Here’s a few links for you to check out his most excellent band The Templars Of Doom.

(you can hear the new Templars Of Doom album Hovels Of The Holy for free -before you buy it!- on the Bandcamp player below)

The Templars Of Doom  Facebook   Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram

ALBUM REVIEW: T.C. COSTELLO- ‘Horizon Songs’ (2019)

Most American artists we only get to know from their record releases but it seems T.C. Costello drops over this side of the broad Atlantic often enough for him to develop quite the following for his anarchic accordion Folk-Punk!

Horizon Songs is the sixth studio album from long time auld mucker of London Celtic Punks T.C. Costello. Though based in his adopted home town of Greenville, South Carolina he’s also a part time member of Leicester based folk-rockers The Brandy Thieves and is often found crossing the pond to join them here on stage in the summer months during festival season. During this time he also ventures across Europe and has always also found time to do a couple of shows for the London Celtic Punks, as well as spending the afternoon entertaining the auld folk residents at the Nursing home I work at! A visual tour de force its not many who can pull off a gig supporting punk bands or playing for the oldies but T.C. manages both with ease. The official release date for Horizon Songs was 28th December, 2018 but I am ignoring that and putting it down as a 2019 release. I actually did have a copy in my hand at TC’s successful gig at The Lamb in Surbiton at the end of last Summer but TC sold so many CD’s I had to give him my copy back so he’d have some for the later gigs on his tour!

T.C.’s roots, like many Irish-Americans, are lost in the midst of time and the chaotic nature of their ancestors arrival in America but cherished they are and though not entirely responsible for T.C.’s output they do play a large part. Among the ‘murder ballads’ and sea-shanties here are gems from Ireland’s musical history (except for ‘The Wild Rover’. He fecking hates ‘The Wild Rover’!) and his identity as descended from immigrants fleeing famine and oppression has played a large part in the songs he plays and writes.

“The tour I did this year took me to Italy, England, Scotland and Ireland,” Costello says. “And their traditional songs have a lot of influence on my songwriting, anyway. I just draw off the traditional sources, both musically and lyrically, and if you write in that style, you’re probably going to write about immigration or murder.”

T.C. Costello’s latest release, Horizon Songs is pretty much a one man Celtic-Folk-Punk album as T.C. is one of those talented bastards who can play a multitude of instruments from tin-whistle to accordion to the hulusi (sort of a Chinese bagpipe). The album opens with the darkly humorous ‘The Muse Of Mary Malloy’, a perfect example of a ‘Murder Ballad’ in which poor Mary gleefully goes about murdering any poor man who falls for her charms until she finally finds the man of her dreams and after accidentally bumping him off is sentenced to death. Originally penned by and for T.C’s English band mates in The Brandy Thieves T.C. plays a memorable version here.

Next on an album that is heavy on traditional immigration themes is the old trad Irish folk classic ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’. Played with gusto and for good reason this is a popular song among the punkier bands in the Celtic-Punk scene as it can be played at 110mph as T.C. shows here! It’s bittersweet tale of a Irish man saying goodbye to his beloved,

“so fare thee well my own true love; when I return united we shall be”

, to leave to mine for Gold in 1800’s America, The jocularity of the tune is tempered by our realisation that this journey ended in tragedy for most of these young men. T.C. gave his comments on this great ballad in his recent review on these pages of the new album from The Templars Of Doom, here, last week. With two toe-tappers so far it’s time for a slow one and ‘Dear Bonnie’ and T.C gives full vent on the accordion and his vocal range is impressive as well. Now no one would accuse him of ‘crooning’ his way through things but his is a voice that portrays emotions and feelings and fits snugly within his songs. No Celtic-Punk album is complete without a drink song and ‘The Ballad Of Being Born In A Bar’ does the job ably, complete with cautionary tale that absolutely none of us take any notice of! ‘Run Like Hell / See The World’ is not two songs but one I think he couldn’t decide to name. Played fast again with a gang chorus of friends its a ode to sailing across the oceans leading into ‘It Starts With A Funeral’ ,a short but sweet song lasting just eighty seconds that finishes with a heavily Irish influenced flourish at the end that I would have liked to have seen extended. Next up is one of the album highlights and the wonderful ‘May The Horizon Be Your Home’ sees T.C. accompany some utterly fantastic accordion here with equally good tin whistle, 12-string guitar, ukulele and clawhammer banjo. The words here are aimed at those that would deny sanctuary to those in desperate need.

One of the jobs that immigrants, especially the Irish as their farming skills were all but useless in the new country, found work in was the mining industry and not many jobs were more dangerous and badly paid than down the pit and ‘Murder In The Diamond Mine’ tells of the desperation of one poor soul to get out of the mine which he eventually succeeds in doing but at a great price to his soul. Another tragic traditional Irish song follows with ‘Botany Bay’, sung by many Irish bands including The Pogues and the Wolfe Tones it tells of an an Irish labourer dreaming of immigrating to Australia to make his fortune.

“Farewell to your bricks and mortar,
Farewell to your dirty lies.
Farewell to your gangways and your gang planks,
And to hell with your overtime.”

We coming towards the end and ‘Horizon Songs’ ends with three excellent songs, the first of which ‘Highlands of Afghanistan’ is a modern re-working of the traditional folk song ‘Lowlands of Holland’ while ‘Grine Kuzine’ (in English ‘My Green Cousin’) sees T.C. test out his Yiddish language skills. One of a group of songs known as ‘disillusionment songs’ as they deal with the disappointment felt by many Jewish-Americans that the streets in the USA were not ‘paved with gold’ and instead they carried the poverty and hard times across the ocean with them from Europe. Horizon Songs ends with the amazing ‘Over The Skies’ and a angry, but told beautifully, ballad again with excellent accordion. Thinking that was the end it came as a shock to find an, admittedly not too surprisingly, eccentric extra track hidden away at the end so be sure not to miss that…

Jens- Matilda’s Scoundrels, Johnny- gun for hire! and T.C. at The Lamb in Surbiton 2018.

Recorded in 2018 while T.C. was touring Ireland, Italy and England and in between gigs reflecting on his immigrant heritage while passing from country to country with ease. The news was filled with stories from home with hardly a day going by without the headlines being about border walls or people attempting to enter the US. For this reason the album he wrote leans heavily upon new and old stories of immigration alongside ones about drinking, murder, sailing and death. All online sales of Horizon Songs will be donated to the non-profit organisation familiesbelongtogether.org, helping families at the US-Mexico border. Admittedly like many in the Celtic-Punk scene T.C. is best captured live on stage but he always manage to capture the energy of his live shows admirably on his records and I defy you to find many more in the scene who are as entertaining.

(have a listen to Horizon Songs on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Horizon Songs

FromTC

Contact TC Costello

Facebook  Bandcamp  Tumbler  ReverbNation  Twitter  YouTube

(T.C. entertaining the crowd at The Gunners for the London Celtic Punks masses last Summer at the start of his European tour. Thanks to Anto Morra for filming.)

2018 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S. PART THREE: USA AND JAPAN- THE CHERRY COKE$, THE GODDAMN GALLOWS, RAILROAD EARTH

Here is Part 3 and the final part of our 2018 Round Up’s where we catch up with the releases that we couldn’t give a decent review to first time round. I would make it a new year resolution to do better in 2019 but feel I can’t as the amount of excellent releases we receive far exceeds our ability to review them in time, but we are getting better! We don’t want to dilute our reviews or hurry them so hopefully you will understand the thought and work that goes into our reviews and forgive us. Today we go to the north America and also fit in one of the best Celtic-Punk bands in the world from Asia. Each and every one are 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 like this. Part 1 was releases from the Celtic nations (here) and Part 2 was Europe (here) so today dive in!

THE CHERRY COKE$- ‘The Answer’  (Buy)

One of the most established bands in the Celtic-Punk scene and yet still widely unknown outside their home The Cherry Coke$ release their eighth studio album, The Answer. Now veterans of the scene since their humble beginnings back in 1999 they have gone onto become huge at home mixing traditional Irish folk music with fast and furious punk rock in the same way as Flogging Molly. They rose to prominence after the release of their debut album Beer my Friends which earned them nationwide attention and appearances on Japanese TV and their video being shown regularly on MTV. Twelve songs here lasting just under forty-five minutes and what you get is an eclectic mix of Irish, Punk, Rockabilly, Folk and more all blended together into The Cherry Coke$ very own style. Imagine a harder edged Mollys but with a bit more bite and dual male/female vocals and you’re on the right track and just to show these guys can play they knock out a couple of traditional Paddy’s Day cover songs in ‘The Irish Rover’ and a blazing traditional version of ‘John Ryan’s Polka’ but it’s their own compositions that really shine.

The single ‘Dong Chang Swag’, the Poguesy ‘A-Yo’ and the seven minute song ‘Lilac’, taking in the pomposity of Queen amongst everything else they pack in!, that are my standout track’s here. Another outstanding album and no surprise there!

Contact The Cherry Coke$-  Facebook  LastFM  YouTube

THE GODDAMN GALLOWS- The Trail  (Buy)

The sixth album from a band that is new to me but one I will be definitely checking out. The band formed in Portland, Oregon in 2004 later moving to Los Angeles, living, so they say, in squats and abandoned buildings before spending four solid years on the road dragging their asses from town to town defining their sound. They certainly are a novel band with hardly two songs on The Trail sounding the same. The band mix up a chaotic blend of rockabilly, psychobilly, punk rock, bluegrass, folk and metal to make what some have labelled as ‘hobo-core’. Kicking off with ‘Grassmuncher’ a mental instrumental which begins with the folk elements of the band coming together before the band unleash and metal guitar soon takes it far far away from the finger-in-the-ear folkies. The vocals and music here is gritty and hard and not for those of a gentle disposition. That is not to say that The Goddamn Gallows can’t knock out a quality tune and this album is full of them. Cut from the same cloth as one of my favourite bands Phantom Of The Black Hills (who we did a feature on recently here well worth checking out). Loads of great songs like ‘It’s Gonna Be Ok (no, It’s Not)’ a doom laden slow dirge of a song that also has its speedy bits and a wicked sense of humour, the title track with its folk-punk-metal xylophone (!), the Demented Are Go-esque psychobilly-country-metal of ‘Honeyhole’ and the epic closing track ‘Down With The Ship at over six minutes with dual vocalists and the catchiest song you’ll find here. The little I have heard of Goddamn Gallows gives me the impression that this album is a mixture of the old sound of the band and the new heavier direction they seem to be travelling in. They are on tour throughout Europe later this year, sharing shows with Gallows Bound and Koffin Kats, so I guess we’ll find out then won’t we?

(you can hear the whole of The Trail over on You Tube below)

Contact The Goddamn Gallows-  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Spotify

RAILROAD EARTH- Captain Nowhere EP  (Buy)

With some similarities to The Goddamn Gallows this is another release that is certainly not Celtic-Punk but interested me enough to give it a far few plays this year. This is The Goddamn Gallows with all their rough edges gone and a shave! That’s not to say it is in any way weak or wimpy just that its coming from a different angle. Beautifully played Americana with some of the best banjo of the year from a band that has been together for eighteen years! With six albums behind them Captain Nowhere was my first experience of Railroad Earth but carries on in the same tradition as that first album, The Black Bear Sessions, back in 2001. The EP kicks off with the marvelous banjo and mandolin laden ‘Blazin’ A Trail’ accompanied by the glorious sound of an upright bass its utterly fantastic and a surefire foot-tapper if not thigh-slapper!! The kind of song that is guaranteed to get you off your backside and jigging about.

Only six songs here on a record that lasts thirty-five minutes but eleven of those belong to the epic closing title track, ‘Captain Nowhere’. A slow countryfied ballad that ebbs and flows beautifully along that belies it’s length. ‘Only By The Light’ and ‘The Berkeley Flash’ also stand out for me on a release that is kind of hard to pigeonhole but fiddle player Tim says “We’re a Country & Eastern band!” and that may indeed be right.

(The band live in concert at Red Rocks Festival)

Contact Railroad Earth-  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Soundcloud

So ends the third and final part of our 2018 Round-Up’s. We are guaranteed to have still missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send us your releases to review. We are also 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 filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending on how you are viewing.

DON’T MISS THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR YEAR ON MONDAY WHEN WE UNVEIL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS BEST ALBUM OF 2018!!

ALBUM REVIEW: TAN AND SOBER GENTLEMEN- ‘Veracity’ (2018)

Their has been a few great debut Celtic-Punk albums during 2018 but here is one of the very best from North Carolina’s the Tan and Sober Gentlemen. Raw and unfiltered, a blend of hard-driving, danceable roots delivered with a punk edge and whisky-fuelled abandon they call ‘Celtic-Punk-Grass’.

Holy f*$%*£g shit this is a one hell of a great album!! If anyone out there is still mourning the loss of the great Cutthroat Shamrock then dry your eyes and sit yourselves up as grieve no more as the Tan And Sober Gentlemen are here to fill that big Celtic-Bluegrass-Punk gap in our hearts. We were lucky earlier in the year to be chosen to showcase their debut single a release of the auld Celtic rebel number ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ which, needless to say, was absolutely fantastic. This though just left me itching for more so I was doing cartwheels when they sent me their debut album last week and it’s not been out me lugholes ever since!

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

Tan And Sober Gentlemen from left to right: Alan S. Best- Mandolin, Accordion, Penny Whistle *  Ben Noblit- Bass * William Maltbie- Singing * Jake Waits- Drums * Tucker Jackson Galloway- Banjo * Eli Howells- Fiddle * Courtney Raynor- Guitar

Since forming in the summer of 2016, Tan and Sober Gentlemen’s reputation has garnered them wide support at home in the Appalachians, across the East Coast and even back ‘home’ in Ireland. Veracity was released on 1st December this year and recorded and mixed at BNB Audio by Brett Scott and he has done an amazing job taking Tan And Sober Gentlemen’s live sound and transfering it successfully to record. Kicking off with ‘Rabbit’ and as ferocious banjo picking you ever gonna hear. It’s lively, catchy and totally awesome. The kind of song that almost forces you to onto the dancefloor to kick up the dust or as Black Water County would say “Beat up the floor!”. The song is based on a old black banjo tune from their home in the North Carolina Piedmont. First mentioned in 1913, it is thought to be much much older. Played at breakneck speed leaving the Country’n’Western me Mammy use to listen to in its dust. Mandolin, fiddle and Banjo are on fire while the rest of the band struggle I reckon to keep up. The pace doesn’t let up next with ‘The Day Has Come’ and neither does the catchyness! The first signs of the bands roots comes with an amazing cover of The Pogues classic tribute to Irish-America ‘The Body Of An American’. Beginning with Eli’s tender fiddle that almost stretches into the auld rebeller ‘Boolavogue’ before the band all come together as the song builds up and like the original bursts into life. Guitarist Courtney takes over ably on vocals and belts it out with gusto and heart. Yeah it maybe impossible to fuck up this song but it’s just as hard to impress with it too but a great version and a surefire way to get the dancefloor moving I am sure. ‘Waterbound’ is more traditional Hillbilly/Bluegrass fair but again played at a pace that’ll leave you out of breath just listening to it. A 20’s fiddle tune from Grayson County Virginia, though also thought to be much older. They slow it down slightly for ‘Deep Chatham’ but not by much! Courtney takes over from William on vocals again for ‘Knoxville Girl’, the albums longest song at just under six minutes. As far as I can tell it tells of a rather vicious fight but wrapped around a beautiful country and western ballad with some great fiddle. It’s the sort of song that would have fit perfectly on Nick Cave’s infamous Murder Ballads album. From the 17th century, the song was originally from Shropshire England, where the murder was commited, but it made its way across the broad atlantic to America by Irish immigrants, who sang it as ‘Wexford Girl’. It again took on new life when it was renamed ‘Knoxville Girl’ two centuries later after a second murder occurred. One of the album’s highlights is one of their own compositions and ‘Hold My Hand’ is what every country song should sound like. No mistaking the highlight of the album for me and it totally justifies them releasing it as the lead single for the album too. ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ is one of my favourite songs anyway but the Tan And Sober Gentlemen perform one hell of a good version of it. You can check out our review of it as a single here where we also dig into the interesting history of the song too. Veracity ends with ‘Going Home’ and it’s a song packed with history. Black churches in western North Carolina sang hymns in Gaelic well into the 20th century, and many Southern Baptist hymns are based on Scottish melodies. Antonin Dvorak was staying in the mountains of North Carolina when he stole the tune of two different bagpipe songs and wrote the 9th Symphony. It is thought the melodies of those two bagpipe tunes made their way into the repertoire of the black churches in Asheville NC, where Dvorak heard them and incorporated them into the Largo Theme. The song is now sung as the last song of every ceili. The band actually learnt it in Fort William!

So we’ve nine songs that clock in at thirty-three minutes and while they may be better known at home for their raucous, energetic live performances and with Veracity they have captured their wild abandon perfectly. With sold-out shows across the South, and, more interesting for us, international tours on the horizon, Tan And Sober Gentlemen are set for great things.

(you can have a free listen to Veracity before you spend your 10 bucks on it on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Veracity

FromTheBand

Contact Tan And Sober Gentlemen

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: PHIL OCHS- ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ (1965)

The ultimate 60’s folk singing radical who put protest songs on the map and wrote the most sincere and provocative material of his day. I Ain’t Marching Anymore is Phil Ochs’ second LP and includes the awe inspiring title track that defined a generation.

There were those who fought and those who fought against the Vietnam War and Phil Ochs was the latter. He wrote the best song of the war, the title track of this album, which tells the tale of a soldier who has fought in all the wars throughout American history from 1812 to the Civil War right up to the World Wars of the 20th century but who now chooses to lay down his arms. The release of I Ain’t Marching Anymore became a defining moment during the War and catapulted Phil Ochs into the unofficial leadership of the anti-war movement.

“Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans
At the end of the early British war
The young land started growing
The young blood started flowing
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I’ve killed my share of Indians
In a thousand different fights
I was there at the Little Big Horn
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying
But I ain’t marching anymore

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes, I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh, I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain’t marching anymore

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning I knew that I was learning
That I ain’t marching anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
When they close the missile plants
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore
Call it, peace, or call it, treason
Call it, love, or call it, reason
But I ain’t marching anymore
No, I ain’t marching anymore”

Phil Ochs was born Philip David Ochs in El Paso, Texas, in 1940 to a New York doctor Dad and a Scottish Mammy. His father joined the army in WW2 treating soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge. His shocking experiences there would lead to mental health issues and in November 1945 he received an honorable medical. On returning home he would in later years suffer from bipolar disorder and depression, things that would later haunt his son too. Phil had dropped out of university and his interest in folk music and politics would see him move to New York in 1962 where he would become a fixture in the burgeoning Greenwich folk scene.

His debut release, 1964’s All the News That’s Fit to Sing, was the album that defined what he called his ‘singing journalist’ phase, strewn with songs whose roots were pulled from Newsweek. A year later Phil Ochs would release I Ain’t Marching Anymore, twelve original Ochs compositions plus a cover of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Ballad of the Carpenter and a version of ‘The Highwayman’ by the English poet Alfred Noyes set to music. The most notable was of course the title track but also ‘Here’s To The State Of Mississippi’, a six minute long biting attack on the states attitude to race relations. There is humour wrapped up in social commentary as on ‘Draft Dodger Rag’ where he rips a new one on those who cheer leaded the war while using any means necessary to get out of fighting themselves. ‘That Was The President’ is a loving tribute to John Kennedy written not long after his assassination. In the album’s liner notes he adds that his Marxist friends could not understand why he written this song and this was one of the reasons he couldn’t be a Marxist. His socialist sympathies showed with ‘The Men Behind The Guns’ but he also courted controversy among his left-wing fans when on ‘That’s What I Want to Hear’ he tells a jobless worker to stop moaning and fight. He also rails against the death penalty with ‘The Iron Lady’ with its memorable line

“And a rich man never died upon the chair”

but Phil Ochs had a way of softening the message and making it accessible and where some may have indeed be turned away by his politics many were charmed by him and the sentiment he would readily employ to great effect. We are happy to be able to bring you a free download of this landmark album that also includes an electric version of ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ which was originally released as a single in the UK. Simply skip to the bottom and follow the link.

In the early ’60s Phil was as well known as Bob Dylan but while his albums received critical attention he achieved little commercial success with only a string of minor hits behind him. By the early 70’s Ochs was still recording but his star had waned. His records weren’t selling and even the critical acclaim had dried up. Struggling with both alcoholism and bipolar disorder and distraught at the military coup in Chile, where the popularly elected government of communist president Salvador Allende had been crushed, he was in a downward spiral. He played a handful of shows in 1974 and by all accounts had lost none of his fire or his ability to move a crowd but on April 9th, 1976 aged just 35 Phil Ochs took his own life. As Congresswoman Bella Abzug said in the Congressional Record on April 29, 1976:

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, a young folksinger whose music personified the protest mood of the 1960s took his own life. Phil Ochs—whose original compositions were compelling moral statements against war in Southeast Asia—apparently felt that he had run out of words.

FOR YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK

a) HERE or b) HERE

(Phil Ochs appears on Phil appears on Come, Read To Me a Poem on April 12, 1967 in New York City performing two songs and a lengthy interview)

LINER NOTES FOR I AIN’T MARCHING ANYMORE RE-ISSUE

by Richie Unterberger

Phil Ochs’s debut album, 1964’s All the News That’s Fit to Sing (also reissued on CD by Collectors’ Choice Music), established him as one of the foremost folk musicians in the topical singer-songwriter movement. While Ochs would eventually broaden his vision to encompass just as much personal and poetic verse as political protest, 1965’s I Ain’t Marching Anymore contained perhaps his most issue-driven songwriting. Militarism, American imperialism, the Vietnam War, labor struggles, and the explosive conflicts of the Civil Rights movement — one or the other of these concerns were behind the messages of almost every song. If this ensured that some of the pieces would be more dated than Ochs’s subsequent, more diverse repertoire, they also provide something of a snapshot of the mid-1960s social turmoil that both enraged and inspired his generation.

“He was getting better in his writing,” says Elektra founder and president Jac Holzman, who (as he had been on Ochs’s debut) was credited as production supervisor for the LP, with Paul Rothchild billed as recording director. “He was extremely prolific, but there’s a big difference between craft and art. He was becoming much more of a craftsman. It was tough being a songwriter [in that era], because of this 800-pound gorilla, Bob Dylan, who could dash off stuff in no time that was superb.”

That wasn’t stopping, of course, a legion of young singer-songwriters such as Ochs from stepping onto the road that Dylan had done much to pave. “He was angrier,” responds Holzman when asked what set Phil apart from his competition. “But not a nasty anger. But you could hear it. He had more edge. Buffy Sainte-Marie had edge of a different kind; some of her edge was a shrillness. But I think he had righteous edge. [Tom] Paxton was a better songwriter in the strict song sense, and he took a much lighter view of things, which I think sometimes is very effective.”

There was certainly no shortage of topical material for Ochs and Paxton to draw upon, and both were doing a lot of recording for Elektra in the mid-’60s. “There’s another thing that’s important about topical songs, especially on Elektra,” continues Holzman. “We came out with records frequently. We didn’t wait three years, or two years, between releases. Phil Ochs, he could have one out every six months. I learned a lot about the frequency of interaction between an artist and their audience from most of my singer-songwriters. We kept them recording.” Certainly Ochs had plenty of material ready to lay down when he went back into the studio to cut his second album, comprised entirely of original compositions, with the exception of a cover of noted British folk musician Ewan MacColl’s “Ballad of the Carpenter.” (Phil did give co-writing credits to Alfred Noyes on his adaptation of the poem “The Highway Man,” and to John Rooney on another such adaptation, “The Men Behind the Guns.”)

Undoubtedly the song that reached the widest audience was the title cut — not just via Ochs’s recorded version and concerts, but also via its subsequent adaptation as one of the anthems of the anti-Vietnam War movement, sung by crowds at innumerable demonstrations (and still sung at some such events today). “Oh yeah, it was a natural,” laughs Holzman. “It was easy to remember, it was catchy, and it was singable. All of those are good things.” It’s still not well-known that Elektra also had Ochs record an electric folk-rock remake of the song, “hoping to see if we could get some radio on it,” according to Holzman. With backup by the Blues Project (whose Danny Kalb had played second guitar on All the News That’s Fit to Sing), the 1966 single was only issued in the United Kingdom (and also as a flexi-disc with Sing Out! magazine).

The two other tracks on I Ain’t Marching Anymore to make the greatest impact also took on the era’s most controversial outrages. “Draft Dodger Rag” was, like “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” also picked up at many anti-war rallies, demonstrating that Ochs could blast the military with satire as well as earnest declaration. “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” — at nearly six minutes, a very long track for 1965 — generated some controversy of its own, particularly in Ochs’s advice for the state to find another country to which to belong. Phil himself likely remained proud of the song, as he updated it for the Watergate era, retitling the number “Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon” on a 1974 single (the other side of which, incidentally, was an updated version of another number from his early career, “Power and the Glory”).

Though I Ain’t Marching Anymore helped Ochs continue to expand his fan base, it wasn’t the sort of thing that could enter the hit parade. Nonetheless, Holzman has recalled how Phil, rather surprisingly, would constantly inquire about how his records were selling, though at that point his sales were modest and dominated by pockets of enthusiasts in big cities in the Northeast. “I thought that was kind of charming, as a matter of fact,” says Holzman of Ochs’s commercial ambitions. “He was always interested in how he was doing, always comparing himself to somebody else, and that drove him nuts. I think the seeds of it were certainly there at Elektra. I think it was clear to all of us that this is not how you did it, but his illusions did not stop that material from coming. If he had tried to write pop songs or much more popular-oriented songs for Elektra, I wouldn’t have recorded ’em. That’s not where I saw him. I would have given him his release and let him go elsewhere.”

Ochs did actually dent the lower reaches of the Billboard charts for the first time with his third and final Elektra album, 1966’s In Concert. Yet this did indeed occasion his release from the label. As Holzman recalled in his autobiography Follow the Music (co-written with Gavan Daws), “We kept him on Elektra for three of the six albums we could contractually claim, and then he asked to be released because he felt we weren’t doing enough for him. In a way that was true, because by then…the whole music scene was shifting away from what Phil did, or at least what he did best, which was the topical political song. With fewer people listening, his personal devils took over.” I Ain’t Marching Anymore, however, captures him at a younger, fresher time, when he was reaching his peak as a master of topical song, even if his artistic restlessness would move him onto different fields as well in the future.

For more on Phil Ochs

PhilOchsHomePage  SonnyOchsHomePage (Phil’s brother)  Shadows That Shine  Wikipedia  AllMusic 

(The best documentary on Phil Ochs on the net. PBS American Masters- Phil Ochs There But For Fortune. Written and directed by Kenneth Bowser)

for more like this…

PHANTOM OF THE BLACK HILLS

Phantom of the Black Hills are one of the most innovative bands you will ever hear that has a banjo! This isn’t the Country music of Nashville or the Grand Ole Opry instead its angry polemic over bluegrass banjo, mandolin and upright bass mashed together with raucous punk guitar, blistering drums and dirty, snarling distorted vocals with extreme sound effects and movie dialogue samples. They are one of my favourite bands so I thought I’d attempt to convert a few of you lot too.

The Black Hills are a mountain range in South Dakota famous for the Mount Rushmore memorial of the four presidential heads of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln carved into the granite. It’s also an area where large populations of Scots and Scots-Irish settled which may explain the areas fondness for moonshine. Production of illegal alcohol that is still widespread today. Another possible by-product of the Celtic on the local population is widespread mistrust of all government. Many see themselves as outlaws and in the Black Hills you are unlikely to find a Vegan coffee shop or demand for stricter gun control laws. Phantom Of The Black Hills are a band that shy away from publicity. From the bandana’s that hide their faces in their videos and photos to their Web-Site and Facebook page that are very careful not to give away any clue as to their identities. We can only hope they are the real deal and not a bunch of music school rich kids!

The musical worlds of Phantom of the Black Hills couldn’t be more different. In the Celtic-Punk scene we are used to bands fiddling with traditional music and adding, sometimes taking away, things to come up with something fresh. Country And Western though sometimes seems so staid and set in its ways its hard to imagine a band doing to it what say the Dropkick Murphys have done with Irish music. That was until the Phantom Of The Black Hills rode into town. With their cowboy hats pulled down over their eyes and frightening outlaw masks they look more like they have come to relieve you of the gold in your purse. Violence, drunkenness, debauchery abound in these tales of South Dakota’s doom country and hellbilly punk outlaws.

Relatively unheard of over this side of the pond I thought it only fair to share my good fortune with you. They have released five albums, the links to hear each one are included as well as one of their amazing videos from each album. You can buy all together from the Bandcamp site for a reduced rate just check there and the link is at the bottom. This is surefire music to go to hell for.

Whoever said the devil had all the best tunes must have heard the Phantom Of The Black Hills.

Ghosts

Released January 1, 2009

Ghosts was the 2009 debut album of the Phantom Of The Black Hills. It was released on Ratchet Blade Records who specialise in ‘Dark Roots Music’. They have supported the Phantom Of The Black Hills from the beginning and have released all their albums thus far. Ghosts  introduced the  world to their relentless Hellbilly music and rants. Opening with the insane  ‘Confessions Of A Barn Burner’ it goes from weirder to weirder right up to album closer ‘Read My Bible’. Banjo laden doom music for a generation of country and folk fans who want something a bit more extreme and it don’t come no more extreme than this!

(Part One of the ‘Government Demons’ trilogy)

(Listen to Ghosts below on the Bandcamp player)

Born To Gun

Released January 1, 2010

The second album from the Phantom Of The Black Hills and again it was released on Ratchet Blade Records. If you thought Ghosts was dark then prepare yourselves. With loops and sampling, and with as much distortion as twang the two worlds of country and punk crash together. Bluegrass banjo pickin’ and mandolin, upright bass thumpin’, with loud punk guitar, hard-hitting drums and angry, snarling distorted vocals it carries on in the same vein as Ghosts but more so…

(Part Two of the ‘Government Demons’ trilogy)

(Listen to Born To Gun below on the Bandcamp player)

Enemy!

Released January 1, 2012

Lyrically more dark and intense than the previous two releases, Enemy! is filled with musical imagery of war, lust, death, and hell… Produced by Cramps bassist Chopper Franklin and mixed by legendary punk rock producer Geza X they pushed the banjo, fiddle and mandolin up even more to the fore but with the guitars as brutal as ever. The arrangement of the music is flawless. Able to spend two years on Enemy the band were able to create heavier sound effects and loops and with ever more controversial lyrics. Hard-hitting, controversial dialogue permeate the raw, rusty sounds of the record. Their best release to date.

(Listen to Enemy! below on the Bandcamp player)

Moonshine Bright

Released January 1, 2014

This was the album that somehow winged its way across the Broad Atlantic to me and saw me play it to death over the next few years. The highly-anticipated fourth album release  was again produced and mixed by The Cramps bassist Chopper Franklin and he captures the band absolutely perfectly. On Enemy! the banjo, fiddle and mandolin were to the front, so for Moonshine Bright it was time to grind the guitars up more. The result is as memorising mix of traditional country instruments with searing guitars, distorted vocals, intense sound effects and movie dialog. One of the most innovative bands around their songs are brutal missiles that encourage all to live a life of full freedom.

(Listen to Moonshine Bright below on the Bandcamp player)

Scalped

Released August 25, 2017

Which brings us nicely onto the Phantom Of The Black Hills last release and you can tell from the album sleeve who exactly they would like to scalp! Still blending a lively mix of styles from Southern Rock, punk, Alternative Country and a B-movie aesthetics but always experimenting and never standing still. For a band that don’t give anything away and pride themselves on their anonymity they had this to say about Scalped “our previous records have either leaned more toward the roots music or the aggro approach, but on ‘Scalped’ we’ve combined everything on one on album”.

(The first music video from Scalped, directed by Chopper Franklin and featuring Mather Louth from the Heathen Apostles)

(Listen to Scalped below on the Bandcamp player)

Phantom Of The Black Hills

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Soundcloud  Bandcamp  POTBH Shop   Ratchet Blade Records

ALBUM REVIEW: LOUIS RIVE- ‘The Cheap Part Of Town’ (2018)

The debut album from Louis Rive a Scottish singer-songwriter drawing on all aspects of folk music from traditional to barroom ballad to modern day tale-tellers and poets. Influenced by The Pogues, Hamish Imlach, Michael Marra and The Corries Louis has set out to continue the grand tradition of the Celtic storytelling musician.

Funny sometimes the circumstances you first hear a new song or a new album. In the case of the new Louis Rive album I was trying to get to sleep one night but had such a pain in my knee I could not drop off so having the next day off work I got up in the middle of the night and went downstairs. The Cheap Part Of Town had been in my huge to-listen pile for a couple of weeks so on a whim I thought I’d give it a whirl and see what it was like. Well initially I thought it was the combination of a couple of beers and a handful of strong painkillers but I ended sitting up till the early hours with the the album on repeat so much did I love it!

The Cheap Part Of Town is just Louis on his own. Nothing else just him and his acoustic guitar. Plenty of thrills but no gimmicks, except for a wee bit of fiddle. Just straight up acoustic folk with tales of Louis life tacked onto it. Born in the Edinburgh you won’t see on the postcards in the centre of the city or on programmes about the Festival he later had the same ‘rite of passage’ as many Scots of his, and indeed many previous, generation and moved to London. It was in London he garnered many of the ideas of the songs on the album but three years grafting shitty odd jobs in London was three years too many and he fled to Spain where after two years getting pissed and stoned in a village in Andalusia before a cheap flight took him to Barcelona, basically because of a cheap flight. Not wanting to go back to that existence of badly paid jobs purely to cover the rent he decided to concentrate on his music and with a wealth of stories from the shiteholes he has lived and the interesting folk that he has met he began to put these stories to music. As Louis himself says

“Folk music is storytelling. Storytelling is poetry. Poetry is songwriting when you can’t play the guitar.”

The Cheap Part Of Town begins with ‘Francis Drake’s Last Trip’ and after all my talk about the album being full of his life experiences this I doubt does. The tale of Sir Francis Drake famed English sea captain, privateer, slave trader, naval officer and explorer of the Elizabethan era and his adventures fighting the Spanish whilst attempting to capture gold and silver and bring it home to London. Drake died of dysentery in January 1596 and while he is celebrated here he has always been labelled a pirate in Spanish quarters.

As stated their are no gimmicks just Louis and on this evidence he doesn’t need any. Blessed with a strong voice and a ear for a catchy tune as well as a way to tell an interesting story all wrapped up in just over four minutes. He follows this with ‘Streetlights Of London’ and the story of the N19 bus which use to take Louis from the working class Highbury Estate to the graveyard shift in posh hotels in the centre of London. The song tells of the life on that bus from cleaners in the morning to drunks in the evening with all of society’s excess and necessity reflected on the top deck of an out-of-hours mode of transport. The song is played faster than ‘Francis Drake’s Last Trip’ and still carries on the theme of catchy, tuneful and interesting story telling that flows throughout the album.

“Running through the underground
with a carrier bag of sin
Constabulary absence opportune moment for another tin
The carriage was dark but there’s nobody there”

Another fascinating character in Louis life was the subject of the next track ‘Cider Al’. Drinking in the The King’s Arms, Tollcross back home in  Edinburgh the karaoke gave you a free shot of shit whiskey for entering so all the local pissheads would come down and do a song and get free booze.

One such fella was Cider Al who always sang the same song ‘Common People’ by Pulp. In life you come across these people who come and go in your life.

“We heard Pulp’s ‘Common People’ for the seventh time
You stumbled through the lyrics as you spilt your wine
And we all laughed and joked and said that you’d be fine,
we were wrong”

I am getting sick of using the word ‘Catchy’ but there yo go there’s no better word for what I’m listening to. A loving tribute but also a sad one. The sad songs pile up now with ‘Mulberry Mews’ up next and the stories of childhood and growing up, buying drink and fags, the boredom of the high street, visiting his great-aunt in an old people’s home and that you can never get away from where you came from.

“Oh mister barman pour me another
I know the night is drawing near
They’ll carry her body down to the churchyard,
Sunday morning
Where there’ll be no-one to shed a tear”

A bleak tale about a neighbourhood of Edinburgh that doesn’t exist. next up Louis writes about Hospitalet de Llobregat, a satellite town now merged into Greater Barcelona, in the title track  ‘The Cheap Part Of Town’. The forgotten part of Barcelona and the song speaks about all the folk on the street, the gypsies, drunks and prostitutes. It was a tough area with a incredibly rich array of characters but these places are always more interesting than the rich part of town, which is why the rich always want to live there but without the threat and danger. Give it a couple of years and I’m sure the yuppies will have turned Hospitalet de Llobregat into just another bland suburb. Gerry Denis adds some reserved fiddle here that fits just in. All the songs here are varied and original and from ballad to foot stomper’s like ‘House Of God’ and ‘Lowlife’ great tunes abound with great hooks. Every song tells a story. The failings of the church towards the poor or the awful memories of a life in service that a soldier attempts to block through drink. While the rite of passage for recent Scots was a journey down South to Kings Cross in times past it was Americas that the Scots went. Large-scale emigration began in the 1700’s, after the defeat of the Jacobite rising and the resulting breakup of Highland Clearances (the Scottish An Gorta Mór). Displaced Scots left in search of a better life and settled initially around South Carolina and Virginia and then further in successive generations. ‘Take Me To Virginia’ tells of one of these Scots working his hands to the very bone but refusing to give up on the land he works.

“They took me to Virginia
Four and twenty years ago today
I’m still working the land
Blood and stones with both my hands, Virginia”

The idea that there’s always something better over the horizon is something I can relate to. Being half Scottish and having left the frozen north back in 1990 I can testify the sight as you got off the train at Kings Cross back then would be enough to make you turn tale and head back to comfort of your Mammy’s bosom. The curtain comes down with the album highlight the beautiful ‘Alone’ and here Louis brings together all the strands of the previous songs and as with all the songs presented here it offers you the chance to enjoy the music wash over you as well as to listen to the words and dissect them.

A truly wonderful and original half hour plus in the company of a singer-songwriter that deserves to more widely heard. To tell tales of working class life in folk music is not unusual but what is unusual is for them to be told with such passion and feeling and the taste and smell of authenticity that fills your senses with the legends of Louis life across Europe. Louis has a grand future ahead of him and on listening to The Cheap Part Of The Town I want to come with him.

(have a free listen to The Cheap Part Of Town before you buy on the Bandcamp player below. It’s only a fiver so support independent artists and get your wallets out!)

Buy The Cheap Part Of Town

From Louis

Contact Louis Rive

ALBUM REVIEW: CLOVERS REVENGE- ‘Gotta Get O’Raggednized’ (2018)

Based In Sarasota, West Florida, the Irish speed Folk trio Clover’s Revenge take a break from playing all of Florida’s best Irish pubs and festivals and have just released their debut full-length album!
One of the beauty’s of Irish music is that it is best heard in a certain setting. Not sure why but it is the live arena that Irish music, and all Celtic music too, really comes alive. Its not easily done but to transfer the sound of essentially a pub band onto a live recording is not easily done but here on Gotta Get O’Raggednized Irish speed Folk trio Clover’s Revenge have pulled it off. Formed on St.Paddy’s Day back in 2015 Clover’s revenge have been gaining fans and building excitement throughout their home state of Florida but also all along the Southeastern United States.

Clover’s Revenge are only a trio which is unusual in itself for Celtic-Punk/Rock bands but their sound certainly fills your ears and gives the illusion that their is a lot more of them! Made up of John Barron, the group’s frontman and mandolin player, Dr. Zachary Johnson, the band’s other frontman and guitarist, and Beau Wilberding, the sitting-down frontman who plays the cajon. Now until just a few years ago I had absolutely no idea what a cajon was but the last few years have seen both a reduction in the amount of drummers with drum-kits and the need for a type of percussion in bands that wouldn’t quite warrant the full on drum effect. The cajon has its roots in South America and is basically just a box that is played by slapping the front or rear faces with the hands, fingers or sticks. All three have very diverse musical backgrounds from rock to alternative right up to classical music.

Gotta Get O’Raggednized may only be eight songs but clocks in at a very reasonable twenty-six minutes long. When the band set out to release their debut album the aim was to convey the energy and drive of a Clover’s Revenge live show onto CD. Beginning with ‘Will We Ever Make It Home’ the album kicks off with a original composition and is a rousing Flogging Molly-ish ditty that is surefire footstomper. As I said you’d never believe their were only three of them and if the sound on the video is a bit rough ‘n’ ready then the guys have certainly smartened it up for the album but have lost none of the charm of the live version. At its heart a driving traditional Irish tune but played wild abandon and a punk rock soul. John’s Irish-American brogue is clear and precise and fits the music perfectly. An existentialist speed Folk tune that examines the Irish diaspora in all its faults and glories.

Now not only are they very much a pub band they also sing a lot about being in the pub and for my money those kind of songs embody what we all fell in love with Irish music in the first place. When I think of my Nanna singing in the kitchen it was these kind of songs even though she thoroughly disapproved of that kind of life! The first of the album’s covers is up next and they are a mix of both well known (or over used in other words) and lesser known traditional Irish tunes. ‘Little Beggar Man’ is most famous for The Clancy Brothers version back in the 1960’s but has been recorded several times since. Again the tune is a jaunty one and catchy too. The lyrics tell of a lowly beggar who despite his low station in life is happy with his lot. We all have a lot to learn from him. A much more well known song follows and ‘The Irish Rover’ is played fast and folky and is a solid version that no matter how often I heard it will always get me belting out the chorus at the top of me voice. The Bhoys sound like they had a great auld time recording the album and this transfers well into their sound. The album has thus far sounded as Irish as they come but on ‘Banish Misfortune’they really nail it. An absolutely stunning jig played to perfection here. First published back in 1873 it has had several different names over the years but its great hear such a fantastic trad Irish tune in the middle of this album. Influence from The Pogues rears its head again next with ‘Waxies Dargle’. Its again a solid version but Clover’s Revenge come into their own next with another original song ‘No Irish Need Apply’ about the struggles of the Irish in the USA and the hope that the Grandchildren of those Irish will never forget their struggles. It’s hear that Clover’s Revenge most sound like a Celtic-Punk band. With anger and passion the rousing anthem is the tale of Irish people and their children in those early days. Rooted in  traditional Irish folk music but with a very real punk rock soul. The Irish have more in common with modern day immigrants to the USA than perhaps many would like to think. The album ends with two traditional Scottish songs that have seen plenty of versions over the years both in Folk music and in Celtic-Punk. The ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ was first published in 1808 and ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ in 1821 bring the album to a close with one a rousing shoutalong and the other a beautifully played ballad.

Entirely acoustic these guys have the ability to rock up anywhere play and next Summer they will wash up on Ireland’s shore in a reverse of their ancestors with a shipload of their biggest fans to visit Dublin and Galway. The Bhoys are looking for venues and are available to play pubs, parties, fights, wakes, festivals, and any other venues that either defy definition. Taking traditional Irish pub songs and soaking in influences from scene legends The Pogues and Flogging Molly. Both of which you can hear within Gotta Get O’Raggednized’s eight tracks. Just drop them a line and get them on in your back garden if need be!
 Buy Gotta Get O’Raggednized
CD- FromTheBand  Download- iTunes  Amazon  CDbaby
Contact Clovers Revenge

ALBUM REVIEW: THE LANGER’S BALL- ‘Hard Time In The Country’ (2018)

Irish-American Celtic-rockers The Langer’s Ball are back in town with their first release as just a duo in over eight years.Writing, touring and performing for over a decade The Langer’s Ball play their own brand of traditional drinking songs and original material with a thumping beat and a flurry of notes and harmonies. Hard-hitting and bigger than you’d expect a duo could ever be you’ll dash to refill your drink and cheer for more!


The Langer’s Ball have featured on these pages several times over the years with a multitude of releases and news and here they come again with the release of their fourth studio album Hard Time in the Country. As usual the album features a band that knows it way round an old fashioned tune and contains a fantastic mix of both American and Irish Folk-Punk. The last time they featured on these pages I had this to say and as I don’t think I will say it better I’ll repeat it here.

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.

Back in February, 2017 The Langer’s Ball announced they were making their entire (yes their entire) back catalogue available for free download via the band’s Bandcamp page so head over their soon as you finish reading this and get downloading.

The Langer’s Ball hail from Saint Paul in Minnesota and it’s a place where the Irish make up the second largest population of the city at a well decent 14%. The largest at over double that is people of German descent and despite being only half their number the Irish learnt very early on that power lays not just in numbers but in control of City Hall. These days, of course, the Irish are no longer running things but it’s still no surprise to find Irish surnames dominating among local government, the Police and the Fire Service. The Langer’s Ball have been together since 2007 starting off as a duo with Michael and Hannah releasing a couple of albums that were well received by the national, and international, celtic-punk community. Persuaded by this reception they decided to try and fill out their sound and so set out to recruit some musicians and it wasn’t too long before the full line up of The Langer’s Ball was born.

The band take their name from the Irish word ‘Langer’ which has three meanings one being a right eejit (-idiot), and the others being pissed or your dick! I can only hope you can guess which one the band want you to associate with them! Since those two early LP’s in 2007 and 2008 they have gone on to release ‘Drunk, Sick, Tired’, a live St Patrick’s day recording, in 2011 and ‘The Devil, Or The Barrel’ in 2012. They followed this with 2014’s ‘7 Year Itch’ which we reviewed here and was so called because it heralded the seventh anniversary of The Langer’s Ball’s existence. Then came 2016’s Whiskey Outlaws, here, 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. 

So a few years without a release but the band have by no means been quiet and as I have followed them from afar they have never seem to have stopped touring in all the years since Whiskey Outlaws. Hard Time In The Country captures The Langer’s Ball perfectly with a wide range of ballads, and acoustic Celtic-Punk taking in both modern and traditional songs with of course a ‘craicing’ drinking song! The album begins with a cover of the Billy Bragg penned number ‘Constitution Hill’ from his 2011 album ‘Fight Songs’. It showed a sort of return to form for Mr. Bragg away from his twee middle class stuff of recent years to angry polemic. Sung acapela with Michael leading the way joined by The Langer’s Ball choir of friends and misfits for the chorus. It’s a great song and Michael’s voice is strong and passionate and he sings with great conviction. This is followed by a rousing instrumental ‘Justin’s Favourite’ with Hannah on tin-whistle and it’s a lovely, jaunty wee Irish folk song that will surely get the foot a-tappin and the thigh a-slappin’! Next up is ‘No Irish Need Apply’ which is based upon the times that the Irish were discriminated against in the United States and signs and adverts were often posted with the words No Irish Need Apply. The song shares a few lines with the great Wolfe Tones song of the same name but The Langers’s Ball give it a new twist and even extol a nice bit of retribution for what these bastards did to our ancestors.

“Well I couldn’t stand it longer, so ahold of him I took
And I gave him such a beating as he’d get at Donnybrook
He hollered “Milia murther,” and to get away did try
And swore he’d never write again ‘No Irish Need Apply’
He made a big apology, I bid him then good-bye
Saying “next you want a beating, write ‘No Irish Need Apply'”

Next time the child of some millionaire decides to lecture you on so called ‘white privilege’ point them to here to learn about how the Irish suffered and were mistreated and abused on arrival on Amerikay’s shores. The songs come fast furious and ‘Meet Me Where You’re Going’ is again a nice twist on things and here Michael and Hannah sing a lovely Americana/Country twinged folk ballad together. Written by  Craig Minowa for fellow Minnesotan band Cloud Cult’s 2013 album Love. Its a beautiful love song and leads us nicely into the Celtic-Punk favourite ‘Dirty Old Town’.

The Langer’s Ball: Michael Sturm – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar and Percussion * Hannah Rediske – Accordion, Penny Whistle, Piano and Vocals

Covered and played by all and sundry I sometimes think it’s been done to death but every time I see it on a track listing I’m always curious to see what a band is going to do with it. Here Michael again voices it with passion and conviction and its basic background of only whistle and acoustic guitar lends it a power you don’t often hear with this song. Stripped of its ‘Irishness’ (it is in fact a English song written by a second generation Scot- Ewan MacColl) its a great piece of Americana and I always prefer to hear it sung in the singers original voice/accent. They delve further into the past next with ‘Penny’s Farm’. Their is no record of how long this song actual is except it was recorded by The Bentlys on their one and only record released in 1929. The song is about farmers protests and the mortgage mentioned in the song in the song was a so-called chattel mortgage, which was backed by the farmer’s few possessions as well as his next year’s crop. Five days after The Bentleys recorded this song the stock market’s Black Monday came and life out on Penny’s farm got a lot tougher with The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl.

“With their hands in their pockets and their head hanging down.
Go in the store and the merchant will say,
“Your mortgage is due and I’m looking for my pay.”
It’s a-hard times in the country,
Out on Penny’s farm.”

As mentioned already (several times!) Michael’s voice is brilliant at capturing the mood of these songs and Hannah’s accordion whisks you back to those dark days. We stay in the past but in a very modern way with ‘Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key’ a beautiful version of a song that appeared on the 1998 album Mermaid Avenue where previously unheard lyrics of Woody Guthrie were put to music and performed by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Known for his working class anthems its an incredibly beautiful  song and sure its done justice too here. Woody Guthrie was possibly the most important folk- music figure in American history. His influence on music is beyond measure and far too many have cited him as an influence to go into here. Michael and Hannah play it slightly more upbeat and again Hannah’s accordion is superb. A real nice surprise and just shows their was so much more to Woody than many of us give him  credit. The album is laid out very nicely and with so many diverse tunes on board its been designed to fit very well and despite shunting from upbeat to manic sometimes it flows very well and the same can be said here of ‘Beans, Bacon And Gravy’ which follows here. Fast and manic and again we are in the days of The Great Depression. A time so bad it demands its own capital letters! The singer is so sick of eating the same thing over and over again he even sees them in his dreams! The great Pete Seeger wrote that the song

“probably grew over the years being polished by any number of Depression-weary workers who could laugh the bitter laugh of irony—so often a man’s best friend when times are hard.”

And how true. It was often humour that got the poor and down trodden and dispossessed through the hard times (but its always good to hear of someone getting their just desserts too, as in ‘No Irish Need Apply). At first glance on the track listing I took the next song ‘1916’ to be about the tragic heroic rebellion of Dublin but then I noticed the credit to one Ian Kilmister and I realised the song was indeed a cover of Motorhead song as penned by Lemmy himself. May he rest in peace. The song, as you can imagine, is nothing like the original but is given the Folk-Punk treatment and you can finally take in Lemmys words about a young lad heading off to the trenches in the First World War in all its blood drenched glory. A simple accompaniment told with passion. So onto ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ and here just re-read what I said about ‘Dirty Old Town’. Its not exactly a rare song to hear but its sung and played with gusto and will have the crowds, young and old, joining in! Being a strong advocate of people joining their trade union its great to hear ‘Picket Line Song’. Written by Evan Greer for the 2009 album Some New Songs.

“Mom called him a dirty scab and gave him two pieces of her mind
she picked up and she threw every rock that she could find
and when he called the cops on her she kicked his behind
and said that’s what you get when you walk across a union’s picket line!”

We nearing the end and ‘Hoist Your Cup High’ is The Langers’s Ball at their best. As much as I love the songs that mean something nothing means more to me than a good drinking song! It has a feel of Ireland, Germany, Eastern Europe about it and Michael raises a glass to all his departed friends and family and hoists his cup high as when we are dead we may not drink at all! The album ends with an unusual version of ‘The Parting Glass’ usually sang as a slow ballad here its given an upbeat version and I have to say I absolutely love it. Its an old song some say from before 1770’s and recorded countless times but in the hands of musicians with pride, love and respect it can become almost new and original.

Hard Time in the Country shows the roots of The Langer’s Ball and it is their willingness to dip into the past that sets them apart from their contempories in the American Celtic-Punk scene. They can take songs from the likes of Billy Bragg, Woody Guthrie and Motorhead take them away and breathe new life into them. Not for The Langer’s the easy route of simply covering a song, they are determined to stamp their brand on everything they do and turn it into their own. It is this knowledge of the folk and rock scene which makes their choice of songs so interesting and adds so much to what they do then their is always something for everyone to enjoy. A band that sets the brain and the heart racing The Langer’s Ball are constantly evolving and constantly improving so get on board and join them on their journey.

(have a listen to Hard Time in the Country via The Langer’s Ball Bandcamp page before you buy (its only 4) but rememeber all (yes all!) their back catalogue is available as a free download but leave a donation if you can) 

Buy Hard Time in the Country

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POST-EDIT: The Langer’s Ball deemed it necessary to release a statement on their Bandcamp page with regard to the song ‘No Irish Need Apply’ so here it is.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: KICKIN’ HITLER’S BUTT: Vintage Anti-Fascist Songs 1940-1944

FREE DOWNLOAD

Yeah the title says it all! Eighteen anti-fascist anthems from WW2 (don’t tell the Americans the War actually started in 1939) including songs from seasoned bluesmen Leadbelly, Josh White and Son House alongside Spike Jones’ madcap ‘Der Fuhrer’s Face’ and the acappella Golden Gate Quartet’s sublime ‘Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE KIDDING MR. HITLER?

Now this is an American release so that means the theme tune from Dad’s Army is sadly missing but that is still no reason to not to indulge yourself with a free download of this collection of anti-fascist songs written, performed and released between 1940 and 1944. Its often thought that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour started the American involvement in the war but America had already made massive loans to the British war machine and having placed a oil embargo on Japan steps were being made to join the war before they were pre-emptied by the attack on Pearl Harbour. The US army for instance had grown massively from 267,767 in 1940 to 1,460,998 by mid-1941, an increase of 446%. Pearl Harbor was an American naval base in Hawaii, that was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Just before 8 a.m. hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan.
Knowledge coming out of Europe was slow but many in America, and not just on the left, realised the danger of Hitler’s rise to power and sought to agitate against it. It’s a little known fact that Germans made up the largest ethnic base in the States at around 17% which just happened to be the exact percentage of the American population who did not express support for Britain. Only 1% wished for a German victory suggesting that even this was inspired as much by pride in Germany as any dislike of Great Britain. The artists featured here contain such renowned figures as Woody Guthrie and The Almanac Singers folk singers from the from the protest movement all the way to bluesmen like the legendary Lead Belly and jazzmen like Spike Jones & His City Slickers. The album contains eighteen songs from fifteen diverse artists who in the main have disappeared from the air-waves but deserve to be known and studied and celebrated. Of course God is assumed to be solely on the Allies side, something I’m sure all in war believe.

Kickin’ Hitler’s Butt begins with a track from The Almanac Singers, a New York City-based group, active between 1940 and 1943 and formed by Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. They performed songs that were anti-war, anti-racist and pro-union. The Almanac Singers felt strongly , just like London Celtic Punks do, that music could help achieve these goals. Music is one of the great uniters and one of the areas of life where people of all races and religion mixed. A cappella gospel  group The Golden Gate Quartet’s contribution to the album, ‘Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’ wasn’t out of pace with it’s praise of Joseph Stalin with American public feeling at the time. Written in 1943 by Willie Johnson even Roosevelt had this to say
“The world has never seen greater devotion, determination, and self sacrifice, that have been displayed by the Russian people and their armies under the leadership of Marshall Joseph Stalin”
and it’s true that many of the most significant battles in the War were won by American and Russian forces co-operation. The Southern Sons Quartet’s ‘Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition’ is another gospel a capella song written in response to Pearl Harbour by Frank Loesser in 1942. The song tells of a Sunday morning in December 1941, and the chaplain is asked to say a prayer for say a prayer for sailors aboard a U.S. navy ship under attack by the enemy firing from all directions. The chaplain puts down his Bible, mans one of the ship’s gun turrets and begins firing back, saying “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”
“Praise the Lord and swing into position
Can’t afford to be a politician
Praise the Lord, we’re all between perdition
And the deep blue sea”
The Southern Sons remain the most successful African-American gospel quartet music groups. Next up is Jazz Gillum and ‘War Time Blues’. William McKinley ‘Jazz’ Gillum was an blues harmonica player whose recordings nearly all come from the 1940’s. Jazz was shot dead On March 29, 1966, during a street argument in Chicago.

The Florida Kid performs the simple but effective ‘Hitler Blues’ on piano while next up we have two collaborations between some real legendary figures. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee give us ‘Move Into Germany’ and Lead Belly and Josh White perform ‘Hitler Song’. Famous in their own rights they all became involved civil rights protests and recorded Piedmont blues, country blues, gospel music and social protest songs. Following is another absolute legend in Woody Guthrie. Woody has featured on these pages many times and it is no exaggeration to say he remains the most significant figures in American folk music inspiring several generations, both politically and musically, since his death from Huntington’s Disease in 1967. He performed with the slogan “This machine kills fascists” on his guitar and he is one of the few artists here who is still largely celebrated. Josh White performs solo next with the amazing ‘Fuehrer’. The song tells of a German soldier, on the Russian front, starving and freezing to death dreaming he could go back home to Berlin. A sad song and beautifully played but not devoid of humour too. 
“Tell me, my Führer, what can I do?
My hands are freezing and my nose is blue
I’m dying of cold but then you never can tell
‘Cause when the Russians come, they make it hotter than hell
I got a touch of pneumonia, I got a terrible cough
If I sneeze once more, it’s bound to carry me off
When the Russians come, they always take us by storm
And there’s nothing like running if you want to get warm”
Josh White grew up in the south during the 1920’s and 1930’s and his experience led him to spend his life agitating for a more fair and equal system. This led to him being caught up in the ‘Red Scare’ panic from 1947 through to the mid-1960s which saw him black-listed as a communist. His ban from the airwaves was broken in 1963 when JFK asked him to perform on national television. Josh passed away in 1967 in New York.

Classic bluesman Buster ‘Buzz’ Ezell gives up ‘Roosevelt And Hitler’ Parts 1 and 2 featuring the memorable lyric
“He’s treating us so mean with his dreadful submarines.”
Delta bluesman Eddie James ‘Son’ House, Jr., noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing, plays ‘American Defense’. Starting off as a preacher before turning to the blues his recording career was short, punctuated by time in jail before he was re-discovered in the 1960’s and performed at folk festivals and toured during the American folk music revival. He recorded several more albums before passing in 1988. Next is ‘Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer’ by The Four Vagabonds, an African-American vocal quartet. The song tells of an American plane on its way home on one engine.

“What a show, what a fight
Yes, we really hit our target for tonight!
How we sing as we limp thru the air
Look below, there’s our field over there

With our full crew aboard and our trust in the Lord
We’re Comin’ In On A Wing And A Pray’r”

We move from such serious subject matter to the slapstick jazz of Spike Jones And His City Slickers with ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face’ where Spike tells us to blow raspberries in Adolf’s face. Spike was a bandleader famous in the 1940’s and 50’s for satirical arrangements of popular songs of the era. The jazz-swing of
Sam Browne And The Six Swingers follows with ‘Berlin Or Bust’.
“So it’s Berlin or bust!
Oh, we didn’t want to do it but we must”
Sam Browne was an English dance band singer who became one of the most popular British dance band vocalists of the pre-war era. US band leader Paul Baron And His Orchestra serve up the rousing ‘Up & At ‘Em, Yanks’ before Lead Belly returns with the only song here I had heard before the amazing Mr. Hitler. Now Lead Belly had one hell of a life (its well worth reading our biography of him here, you’ll not believe it!). Huddie William Ledbetter spent multiple spells in jail including a sentence for murder he was released early for. Passing away in 1949 he survived long enough to see Hitler in his grave. The album ends with the Rev. James A. Gates and ‘Hitler And Hell’. A preacher and Gospel music singer born in 1884, he was the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Atlanta from 1914 until his death. During this time he recorded over 200 tracks. Performed in the style of a dynamic old-school sermon.

So faced with the worse evil of their times these artists chose to take sides. With these songs they actively encouraged and inspired the bravest of the brave to liberate humanity from one of the most vile and dangerous phenomena – fascism. Many of the artists here also fought during the War putting their words into action. Even with Hitler’s death and the defeat of the Nazi’s the war with fascism has not ended. The war continues on every continent and among every race. If we are finally to bury this evil ideology then we must win the hearts and minds of the people and with that in mind I’ll leave you with a quote from the great Irish patriot James Connolly.

“No revolutionary movement is complete without its poetical expression. If such a movement has caught hold of the imagination of the masses they will seek a vent in song for the aspirations, the fears and the hopes, the loves and the hatreds engendered by the struggle. Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant, singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinctive marks of a popular revolutionary movement, it is the dogma of a few, and not the faith of the multitude.”

To download Kickin’ Hitler’s Butt click

HERE

for more like this…(only in researching the article to accompany Kickin’ Hilter’s Butt did I come across this amazing concert from Josh White. Do your soul a favour and take thirty minutes of your life and spend it in the company of this wonderful and remarkable human being)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE KILLIGANS- ‘Dance on Your Grave’ (2018)

The Killigans are a Celtic-Punk band from Lincoln, Nebraska. Now over a decade young, they are honed and steeled for action. Glass-raising anthems for tenacious underdogs, lonely vagabonds and anyone who’s just trying to make it in this world. 

Born in a filthy garage in 2004 The Killigans have gone through various personel changes in their time together but have kept at their core a set of foot-stomping beer-loving raucous anthemic numbers drawing from traditional Celtic music along with streetpunk, gritty rock’n’roll and working class country music. Having become one of the most popular bands in the Nebraskan music scene they have gained a rapidly growing army of fans across the States and overseas as well. One of the highlights of their early career came in 2010 when their song ‘Lessons from the Empty Glass’ was used on the soundtrack to the big budget Universal Studios hit move Robin Hood. Dance On Your Grave is The Killigans fifth album and their development over the years is plain for all to see. From the rough and ready Irish folk-punk of 2006’s Brown Bottle Hymnal to 2010’s Honor which saw them shift towards a more stripped down punk sound and then to their last album Another Round For The Strong Of Heart from October 2012 which saw them raise the bar with their best release to date with a collection of songs that took the catchy Irish Celtic-Punk of their early days and the anthemic punk of Honor and combined the two for something particularly special that will go down as one of the best album’s that the Celtic-Punk genre has ever produced. Not bad for a bunch of working-class blokes from flyover country!
Dance On Your Grave was five years in the making with some of these songs three or four years old. The Bhoys admit to having lost motivation and to having run of steam. After all their lives had changed from young raggamuffins to being middle aged family guys 
“We never meant for the music to stop, and it has shaped us and our families along the way.  Its just been a lot more difficult for us to make new music happen.  I like to think we have a lot more to offer in the way of songwriting than a couple 22 year old punks who have been on their own for a couple years.”
The Killigans have endured a lot of life and one thing that has always shone through with their releases is their utter honesty. A straight up band that has always played a straight deal. Dance On Your Grave carries on from where Another Round for the Strong of Heart left off. Hardly surprising as that era is from when many of the songs here were written or first imagined with old drummer Ben Swift starting the writing process that new drummer Mikey Elfers would help finish by coaxing the band into actually finishing the album! 

The Killigans left to right: Trevor- Bass * Brad- Vocals, Accoustic Guitar * Mikey- Drums * Pat-  Accordion, Mandolin, Trumpet, Organ * Greg- Guitar * Chris- Guitar, Vocals, Mandolin, Harmonica, Trombone *

The album saw the light of day on  April 28th this year and kicks off with Throw It Away’ and shows a maturity that comes with middle age but the Bhoys still play with a wild abandon that brings to mind early Flogging Molly. The era when they combined folk and punk perfectly and had their audiences both slam dancing and jigging away. It’s fast and furious and with lyrics that show The Killigans may not have stayed still but know what we love in the Celtic-Punk scene and are more than willing to give it us! Second song ‘Peducah’ was the first release of the album and begins with an accordion gypsy flourish before trumpet and trombone come in adding a somewhat ska’ish sound while the pace never slows. Even more surprising is that they are not guest musicians but brothers Chris and Pat who play a multitude of instruments for the band including mandolin and accordion. Third brother Trevor plays bass in the band. Its trad Celtic-Punk and it don’t get any better!

The songs are short and snappy and played at breakneck speed like ‘One Angry Voice’ which could easily fit in any punk rock play list. The words decry the way has become a fashion and the values and spirit of why it exists are fading. When punks would rather spend £30 to go to a gig or £100 to go to a festival rather than a local pub down the road then I’m afraid punk has a terminal disease. Putting on gigs here in London it is something I noticed get worse over the years as promoters and bands struggle to get people to come a gig for £3 or a fiver when everyone is up the road watching some reformed old fogie punks at £30+ a ticket.

“Fact is I’m getting older but if the honest truth be told

There’s something changed about punk rock

What does it stand for?

Is it a t-shirt and a drug scene? A hairdo and a piercing?

We think it’s more!

It’s the kid awake at midnight, living life how it feels right

Though his parents are concerned and think him strange

And at school the students shun him, and the teachers make fun of him

But he knows in the end he’s gonna make a change!”

The album takes a folky turn with ‘Burn It Down’ and I’m a bit of an old fogie myself as these days its the folkier songs that i like more than the punky ones. Not to say it don’t have a punk edge and it speeds up nicely mid-way. The accordion and brass instruments make for a great combination and Brad’s vocals fit perfectly beside the music. The Dropkicks rear their ugly heads for ‘Fight Today (Knock Them Down)’ with a killer chorus the Bostonians would die for. Over far too quickly its a beaut of a song loud and proud and aggressive. We back in Molly territory for the next bunch of songs with ‘The Best Words’ played like FM on speed and with ‘Bartender’ you get another song that plays like fast FM but are in fact two quite different songs. I don’t like to compare a band too much to others and you would be wrong to take away from this review that The Killigans are just a Flogging Molly band as their sound is completely their own and if you go back and trace their trajectory from their early days its easy to see where they have come to. For ‘Particle Board’ the band put their heads down and plough through a fast punk number and on ‘All Good Men’ they play to their strengths with fast paced Celtic influenced punk with Brads voice strong and clear. ‘Cracked Rear View’ is one of the songs they began after last album way back in 2012 and begins with a thundering bass before the band join in and we soon end up with my album favourite. Elements of pop-punk and it sure is catchy enough to call it that. A cracking song and the Celtic takes a back seat for a couple of minutes. We are nearing the end of the album and ‘Realty Bites’ is a right proper anthem for the American working class.

“This gentrification is necessary good

A complete revitalization of your neighbourhood

A lonely puddle in  a cracked brickmavenue

Throw up a LED street light it’s as good as new”

and ends with

“This district

You’re no longer part of it”

At a time when the American left have turned their backs on the working classes by adopting the poison of identity politics its a timely reminder that they are still here and still fighting. Its another speedy song and leads into ‘Artificial Hip’ where we get thirty-six seconds of punk rock oompf before we arrive at the final and title track ‘Dance on Your Grave’. This is the bands big sound with accordion and brass coming together to wrap things up wonderfully for a sure fire dance floor filler about everyone who wronged Brad including school bullies and ex-girlfriends getting their just deserts!

So The Killigans are back with a bang and maybe not one for the more folk inclined it certainly rocks along and if you miss the early days of Flogging Molly then this is the album for you. Sometimes maturity doesn’t make you a better band but here The Killigans have soaked in influences from all over and come up with something that will have you wearing out your shoe leather while also giving your heart and (Celtic) soul a workout too.

(you can have a *FREE* listen to Dance On Your Grave on the Bandcamp player below before you buy it!)

Buy Dance On Your Grave

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if you live in Europe then please check out MacSlons shop here for their new CD, back catalogue and other merchandise.

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EP REVIEW: FLATFOOT 56- ‘The Vancouver Sessions’ (2018)

Chicago’s Flatfoot 56 announce the release of their new EP featuring five songs old and new that blend the band’s mix of traditional Irish folk music and surging punk rock.

While the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly are undoubtedly the biggest band in Celtic-Punk I have no doubt who the best band in Celtic-Punk is and that is Flatfoot 56. Ever evolving and always innovative it only seems a few weeks ago that they managed to walk away with the London Celtic Punks album of the year for 2017 (here) for their superb album Odd Boat. It was an unanimous #1 vote from all four of us here and Gerry made it clear what he thought on the review of the album

“I honestly could have sat here and gone through each track individually and told you all how good they are, but that would be crazy and still wouldn’t do the album justice. The only way you’ll be able to see how right I am is by going out and buying it!”

The new EP released last month is completely acoustic and consists of five songs one new and four old ones that have been completely re-written and presented as basically new songs.  The band have never been adverse to using traditional instruments but here they bring out the Irish uileann pipes as well as whistles and accordion to produce a sound that is both melodic and gritty but thoroughly magnificent. To help achieve this the Bhoys enlisted the help of veteran producer Roy Salmond, the owner of White Water Productions near Vancouver, BC who has been working with artists for over 30 years.

The Vancouver Sessions begins with a song from the bands 2007 album Jungle of the Midwest Sea re-imagined as a classic slice of Delta Blues. Compared to the original it is barely recognisable and I even had to check it was the same song! On ‘Cain’ Flatfoot 56 head more in the direction of their folky offshoot 6’10 but still manage to keep the Flatfoot 56 energy and passion. As Tobin puts it

 “took on an entirely different feel than the original, loved the way this new take on an old song turned out. It’s low, its gruff and it’s us in a very weird way.”

Mandolin, fiddle and Tobin’s gruff rumbling voice ensure this song is the ultimate ear-worm designed never to leave you alone once you’ve heard it. The song comes accompanied by one hell of a video too of the band sitting around a campfire playing in the most natural settings for the song.

In fact for the video members of 6’10 accompany them and even bringing in original members and friends including Tobin’s good lady Vanessa.

“I see you coming, don’t do it
I know you and I see through it
Your parents curse made you work the fields
You gave God what grew but you didn’t yield
In your anger, you beat him dead
And his blood turned your field red”

The song tells of Cain and Abel the first sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was a farmer and his brother Abel a shepherd. The brothers made sacrifices to God but God favoured Abel’s sacrifice instead of Cain’s. Cain then murdered Abel, whereupon God punished Cain to a life of wandering. ‘Cain’ is followed by the EP’s only new song ‘How Long’. Tobin kicks it off with acoustic strumming and then his wonderful warm full vocals take over and with accordion and drums keeping the beat while Vanessa’s beautiful voice is a lovely counterpoise to Tobin’s. The song’s lyrics talk about the yearning for something more than all of the chaos the world seems to be throwing around. Consistent with many of Flatfoot 56’s lyrical themes, this one leaves the listener hoping and looking for something more. ‘I Believe It’ has already seen the light of day in an semi-acoustic version on 2012’s Toil but here they slow it right down in a song that strips the original right back to its barest bones before adding in some amazing uileann piping. The pipes drone only adding to the melancholy of the song.

“thoughtful—and tender, at times—reminders of what life can be if we slow down and take lyrics in”.

The song ends with a few lines from the Flatfoot favourite ‘I’ll Fly Away’ and slowly it ebbs away.   ‘Penny’ was the fastest and most punky song on last years Odd Boat so even more remarkable that they have managed to turn it into the song here. The tune remains but the addition of gentle mandolin takes it to another level while again Vanessa’s traditional style of folk vocals adds perfect balance. For the EP’s closing number Flatfoot again take one of their fastest tracks and adapt it into something stunning and while ‘Take Hold Again’ is the most recognisable of the songs here its still packs a punch in such a different way to the original. Elements of trad Irish folk, Country and Americana abound and while its not your usual F56 release for those of us who have softened to 6’10 its utterly perfect.

The album has been released on Sailors Grave Records and comes as a special edition etched vinyl disc in three different colors. It is also released on CD and digital formats but you can have a sneaky free listen via the bands Soundcloud account here.

The band have announced that it is important to remember that this is not a new direction for Flatfoot 56 but rather a temporary diversion and it won’t be long before they are back to their driving anthemic Celtic-Punk rock anthems before we know it. And anyway they do have 6’10 for this sort of thing. If their goal is to help introduce their punk fans to folk then they can sit back and relax as it is mission accomplished as The Vancouver Sessions may be calm and laid back but it still successfully transfers their aggressive punk rock sound into something that is real, raw and superbly beautiful.

Buy The Vancouver Sessions

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Discography

Rumble of 56- 2002 * Waves of War- 2003 * Knuckles Up- 2006 * Jungle of the Midwest Sea- 2007 * Black Thorn- 2010 * Toil- 2012 * Odd Boat- 2017*

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

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.

Buy The Album

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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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Contact Follow The Crows

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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

11-short-stories-of-pain-glory

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

cash-and-june

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.
narrowbacks-band

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

ALBUM REVIEW: SISTERS OF MURPHY- ‘Working Stiffs Unite!’ (2016)

Rochester New York State’s favorite celtic rock group sticking up for the working man and woman performing memorable self penned originals and the odd traditional cover!

Sisters cover.indd

Pouring out of the sometimes sunny Rochester area of New York state, about 300 miles from NYC, comes the brand new album from one of the areas favourite sons The Sisters Of Murphy. Released last Labor Day weekend Working Stiffs Unite! is their debut full length album after two EP’s, Holy Show in 2011 and On The Wrong Side Of The Road in 2013. Formed either nine or ten years ago, their memories are a bit sketchy, the band have been plugging away playing regularly since and have garnered great reviews and a multitude of fans of their solid working man (and woman) Irish rock’n’folk’n’roll. Those first two EP’s released on Silverdish Records were a great combination of folk, rock, pop and traditional Irish and unusually were pretty much made up entirely of the bands own compositions. Tight, well played celtic music and with this release they will surely get the recognition they deserve.

Some of Rochester’s earliest settlers were Irish, even before the dark days of the so called ‘famine’ and even today make up an astonishing 16% of the population. The Hibernian Benevolent Society was formed in 1828 and the Irish soon after founded St. Patrick’s church. There were at least 60 Irish families and an estimated 800 Irish-born men in Rochester by 1834. They built log cabins in an area that became known as Dublin and as only the most dirty and dangerous jobs were open to them many began work on the Erie Canal while others toiled in the flour and lumber mills. Many incidents of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish bigotry were reported and the local press attacked “popery” and these newly arrived immigrants but with the election of Henry O’Reilly as Postmaster in 1838, the long tradition of Irish involvement in politics in Rochester began. Of course the Rochester Irish were very active in sending aid back to Ireland as the ‘famine’ took hold and people were literally fleeing for their lives. Many sent money home to bring relatives over and by the early 1850s, the city’s population had grown by 7,500 with more than half coming from Ireland. In his 1957 book, Blake McKelvey wrote in Rochester History about the Irish

When Jeremiah O’Donovan, an Irish poet (and revolutionary!), reached Rochester in 1855, he characterized the city in his diary as the “promised land.” … One Irishman had risen to the head of the largest store in the city. He described another as the founder of a large clothing firm, and identified several more as grocers, meat merchants, furniture dealers and a variety of other tradesmen. O’Donovan found one Irish doctor in Rochester…

Gradually though anti-Irish feelings went away and just as in the the rest of America they helped shape all that was good and great about the places wherever they shipped into. The Irish population of Rochester may have shrunk in recent years somewhat but the community is still strong and flourishing and proud of their noble history! The Irish are still here and they are still fighting!!

Working Stiffs Unite! kicks right off from the very first bars with ‘L.O.V.E.’ and its full on Irish celtic rock coming out at ya. The fiddle and banjo mixing it up with the more traditional rock instruments and it all get’s the album off to a great start. ’40 Days At Sea’ starts off in an acapella style similar to something you could imagine Ronnie Drew doing before the band come in and again it’s as catchy as hell with the band combining perfectly and the production getting it just right too with all the bands instruments mixed just right. ‘One Word Of This Kiss’ begins with a thrashing guitar and while doesn’t scale the heights of the previous songs in speed it certainly makes up for it in energy. ‘Come Back To The Emerald Isle’ has a real country/Americana feel to it with the fiddle leading the way and Jonas voice giving just the right amount of honky tonk! ‘It’s A Shame’reminds me of London Irish bands like The Bible Code Sundays and The Craicheads. A poppy song that is as catchy enough but must say I prefer the harder edged songs here.

Next up is The Sisters Of Murphy’s epic song. Probably their signature track, ‘Green Over Red’. The song begins with the sound of an engine and soon uilleann pipes pipe us into a intro soon joined by acoustic guitar and the rest of the band join in this poignant song about emigration, fighting oppression and making your new home your own.

The year is 1925, and Tipperary Hill’s alive
With so many Celts who came across the sea
Listen to the children sing, dancing as the church bells ring
Laughing and finally feeling free

Now it feels like home!

Youth out marching in the street, stones in hand; there’s no defeat
No way in hell we’re going back again!
Huckle Ryan saves the day, says these boys won’t go away
There’ll be more than lights getting broke today

Oh oh oh, now it feels like home!

We knock it down, you build it up—we’ll tear it up again
You better get it right, man: green over red
Nothing you can say or do, ’cause this here is our avenue
You better get it right man: green over red!

We knock it down, you build it up—we’ll tear it up again
You better get it right, man: green over red
Nothing you can say or do; our flag is flying tried and true
You better get it right man: green over red!

Now it feels like home!

A real fist in the air singalong before the band ramp it right up for the second part and we are away with a reel that will get you beating up the dance floor. The standout track here that encapsulates all that is good about the Sisters. Following this they take a much more traditional folk route and it still works and ‘Jack Haggerty’ sounding a bit similar in style to Paul Brady version of ‘Arthur McBride’. On the title song ‘Working Stiffs Unite’ its the story of the struggling worker that the band bring to us.

They are quite right to be angry and dismissive of the current political machine that ignores everyone expect their friends in big business, the song does have a seething heart but the tune carries you along tapping your toes. ’17’ is a beautiful slow ballad that swirls in moments that build up to a crescendo before dying down again. This is followed by a live version of fan favourite ‘Katie Dear’ and fits in perfectly with the rest of the album with a great trad celtic folk sound and crowd singalongs. Now that’s your lot unless you get the version available below on Bandcamp where you get an extra free track. The ‘Green Over Red (Radio Mix)’ where to be honest it doesn’t sound that much different except its much more shorter and snappier.
www.ssrphotography.com

(left to right) Jona Chartrand: electric guitar, vocals * Haley Moore: fiddle * Mark Tichenor: concertina, vocals * Rick Elmer: drums, vocals * Cedric Young: whistles, mandolin, banjo, pipes, guitar, vocals * Scott Austin: acoustic guitar, vocals Bruce Lish: bass, vocals

The Sisters Of Murphy debut album captures perfectly that Irish-American celtic-punk sound that I love so much. Catchy and compelling and steering a fine line between humor and heartache and seriousness and piss-taking throughout all of the eleven songs. The album lasts nearly fifty minutes and is made up of all self penned tracks that tell the story of the Irish-American working man and woman. It’s election year in the States and with the choice in front of us are two enemies of the working class so as usual we have no one to rely on but ourselves. Their is loads to admire here and along with their fellow, brilliant, Rochester Irish band 1916, The Sisters Of Murphy are putting NY back on the celtic-punk map.

(you can have a listen or two to Working Stiffs Unite! for free by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Before you buy it that is!!)

sisters-of-murphy-celtic-topBuy The Album

FromTheBand  cdBaby  Bandcamp iTunes

Contact The Band

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Soundcloud  ReverbNation

you can read Blake McKelvey’s 1957 pamphlet on the Irish immigrants in Rochester here.

ALBUM REVIEW: RUSTY NAIL- ‘Bitter Ale, Bitter Heart’ (2016)

If Liam Clancy grew up listening to Nirvana, it would sound like Rusty Nail.

St.Louis based Celtic-infused celtic-rock originals and traditional Irish Pub songs.

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Rusty Nail will be a name new to the vast majority I am sure but with this their new album they deserve a much wider audience and this just may be the one to get them it. Born and bred in the second biggest city of Missouri, St. Louis and when you find out the biggest city in Missouri is Kansas City you begin to realise exactly whereabouts in America you are. Famed through cinema history as the epi-centre of just about any decent cowboy film St Louis was a city founded by the French that transformed into a booming nineteenth-century industrial mecca. Experiencing a massive influx of people beginning in the 1840’s especially from Ireland and also from Germany, in forty years the population grew from 20,000 to 160,00 in 1860. Today the US Census Bureau gives the population of St. Louis as 318,416. Militant societies were formed, and an Irish nationalist rally at the Old Courthouse over 110 years ago filled the place to the rafters. Sadly in recent years the economy of the city has declined and St Louis has the highest percentage loss of residents of any city in the USA losing 62.7% since the 1950 census. It also has one of the highest murder rates in the USA (happily on the decline since 1993) but don’t despair as gentrification has given the business area lots of shiny new buildings for everyone to look at from across the city. Though as usual statistics don’t take into account the heart of a city and St. Louis has plenty of that. The city has also acknowledged their roots with those famine Irish who arrived all that time ago by twinning with both Galway and Donegal and while many of the Catholic churches those Irish built are gone and new residents live where they once lived the Irish community is still vibrant and strong with gaelic games and culture and tradition flourishing. The story of the St. Louis Irish is fascinating and I spent many a late night reading about them for this review. A great place to start is Bob Corbett’s Dogtown Homepage here. Dogtown is the Irish part of St. Louis and the name stems from the time of the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 when poor Irish squatters, living in makeshift shanties in Forest Park, were forced by the fair to move southward to the neighboring hill. As Bob himself says

“When they had to give up their squatters’ rights in the park, many of them moved over here. Most of them had space, so they kept hunting dogs. Quite a few of the people living over here descend from them”

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So out of this imperfect (tell me where is?) city comes the latest in a long line of Irish infused celtic-punk bands. Rusty Nail are a seven piece group formed in the winter of 2005 that plays music inspired by the likes of the ususal suspects of The Pogues, The Tossers and Flogging Molly but also of the Clancy Brothers, The Wolfe Tones and even Tom Waits. Their debut album, Ounce And A Half Of Whiskey, released in 2006 showed a band a long way from today’s incarnation. Played as a straight up four piece acoustic band the album stands up extremely well with its mix of mostly self penned ballads and a few trad covers and all with some surprisingly good country’n’western touches. They followed that up in 2011 with the release of Boozers, Bastards, and Bards. It saw the band move away from the acoustic more folkier music they had been playing. As Rusty Nail co-founder Alvan Caby says

“We always wanted to be a full rock band. So about a year into the band’s run, we added drum, bass and guitar slots to make a bigger sound”

With this ‘full sound’, as they put it, the album brought some great reviews and gained them massive exposure and they very soon became firm favourites among the St Louis Irish community and its friends. The album is again a  collection of mostly self penned tunes about drunks, unsavory characters and Irish poets chucked into a blender and mixed up with traditional folk sounds, rock and punk. The band take their name from an old-timey alcoholic beverage made with Whiskey and Drambuie Liqueur that gives a nod to the past while keeping it modern and helping along the booze-fueled festivity!

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Rusty Nail left to right: Pete McAvity- Electric Guitar * Chris Otto- Tin Whistle, Native American Flute * Dennis Frentzel- Drums * Kelly LaRussa- Violin * Alvan Caby- Mandolin, Guitar, Vocals * Chad Ross- Guitar, Banjo, Dulcimer, Accordion, Bouzouki, EBow, Organ * Mark Hochberg- Bass

So in the 10th anniversary year of the band they have come up trumps again with Bitter Ale, Bitter Heart. The album begins with ‘The Magician’ and fiddle and from the outset sets the tone. You can hear influence from The Tossers here but Rusty Nail are their own band and within the first few bars you can tell this band is something special. Alvan’s lyrics sound like they are ripped straight out from his heart and laid bare for us. He said in a recent interview that

“There’s lots of silly lyrics in our older songs. But for now it’s about the idea of honesty and true-story kind of stuff. I’m a big fan of sad lyrics with happy-sounding music. There are a lot of artists who do a similar sort of thing. It’s about being honest. I don’t know if it will mean as much to the next person as it does to me, but maybe it will. It helps me deal with feelings of failure, feelings of loneliness and feelings of disappointment. But there’s also feelings of love and hope. As dark as the songs get, then there’s still hope”

That thing Alvan said about sad lyrics with happy-sounding music nails the Rusty Nail sound perfectly. ‘Return To The Start’ the next track up gives off an triumphant air with the jolly sound of fiddle and this time the mandolin to the fore but again there’s much more to it.

(not the album version but I like it even more)

Alvan’s voice is not yer perfect croon, that much is true but I very much doubt it could be done any other way and it fits in like no ‘crooner’ ever could. ‘Giving Up’ gives it over to the tin whistle to shine and more lyrics maybe best not to listen to in the dark on your lonesome but by Christ it’d be enough to get you out yer chair and leaping around. As has been said before here on this blog the level of musicianship of some of these celtic-punk bands is incredible.

‘Less Than Angels’ is the first slower song of the album and tells of the Irish that left in those so called ‘famine’ years. Again a real and honest heartfelt song that tells the story in a way I have never quite heard before.

“The hunger drives you to do incredible things

To travel across oceans and cut off all our wings

And be less than angels with sin in our heart

Abandoning our nature, destroying all our art

 

They say that the famine was the cause for all of this

It’s a hell of a gamble, a swing and a miss

A perishable future amongst gravel and soot

The dust of our harvest is trampled under foot

 

Will the poor be poor always?

Zero hope and dream is killed

Will the classes and divisions

Become narrower still

No belief in myself

Erasing all our goals

The grave-digging starts tomorrow

Better start digging your hole

 

The hunger drives you to do unspeakable acts

To lie to your brother, exaggerate the facts

And be less than angels with blood on our hands

The hourglass is emptied of the last grains of sand

 

I’ll do anything for a job, anything for a life

I’ll suffer for the scraps, for child and for wife

Bill collectors have all taken the dignity I have left

Politicians and the banks are all guilty of theft”

The band are back rocking out with ‘It’s A Shame I Did Nothing’ and gives them the chance to show off their rock credentials but also chucks in a flute to keep it celtic and an acoustic guitar that shines through the rocking loud and clear. ‘Another Story of Unreturned Love’ is by far and away the catchiest song on this album of catchy songs. Telling of a failed relationship and its aftermath.

“I couldn’t talk to you

Standing in front of you

Holding my feelings and biting my tongue

And our “Little Ireland” is what we decided on

Things that I wish that I said when I’m young”

All the band come together in celtic-punk perfection and a wee mention for the superb drumming here too. ‘Hardscrabble Road’ is the tale of a loser told in a slow ballad that speeds up towards the end and the accordion drives it along till Alvan’s voice takes the lead.

Coming to the end and celtic-punks favourite subject pops up in ‘Liquid Miracles’ again telling of a loser who, like many, knows exactly what he’s doing but can’t help himself.

“the disease of the mind that I have caught”

Another slower song ‘Central West End’ and more misery and the common theme seems to be that the loser in Rusty Nail songs is trapped by addiction despite knowing all too well what he’s doing. Another catchy as feck number that is a great example of the excellent production here. All the instruments, electric and folk, are clear as them bells (what does that mean??) and despite the tune speeding right up in parts doesn’t lose that clarity so hats off to Chad for the excellent recording and mixing. Chad plays guitar, banjo, dulcimer, accordion, bouzouki, EBow and organ on the album so surely knows what he is doing! Next is the album’s longest song at well over five minutes.

‘Mad As Birds’ another standout track and evokes sadness upon sadness here as the song builds up and up and swirls round and round before ending on, for them, a rather positive note before coming to an end with ‘The Nightmare Will Prevail’

“It’s only fair, that you buy another round for all your friends

They’ve stuck around and stuck up for you

When the rest of us could not pretend

This bitter divide that you’ve caused for us is one that’s hard to defend

But I have faith in you,

Even though it may be hard for anyone to comprehend”

This is pure infectious dance music (proper dance music that is!) with enough fist in the air moments going on here to give you a bad shoulder in the morning! Like the best in celtic-punk its a roller coaster of emotions and the joyous music belies the seriousness of the words and though Alvin’s (and Chris) lyrics often inhabit a dark place it’s the story of Irish-America. It’s not all shamrocks and shenanigans you know. So whether you are looking for a band to get you off your feet and move and shout and scream and spill your drink to or just kick back and sit and listen to with a glass of the pure to warm you and take in every road these bhoys and ghirl have travelled then Rusty Nail are the band for you and whichever you choose you are guaranteed to find a great time.

(you can listen to Bitter Ale, Bitter Heart for free before you buy it by clicking play on the Bandcamp player above)

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  • for another view of the album check out Celtic Folk Punk And More here

(great video with music and band interviews)

EP REVIEW: LEXINGTON FIELD- ‘Redwood’ (2016)

It’s very simple. It’s called Fiddle-Rock.
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 Now I have been a fan of this band for a loooong time. Pretty much from their earliest days so don’t be expecting any sort of unbiased review here as impartiality goes out the window when Lexington Field release another record. On first hearing Redwood I wasn’t surprised or shocked at all. I just had that knowing smug feeling that I knew I was onto a winner when I first heard them many moons ago.
Lexington Field
Formed back in 2009 in San Diego, southern California the band have previously released four albums, Old Dirt Road, Poor Troubled Life, No Man’s War and Greenwood and all have came garnered the same critical praise from both the celtic-punk and wider punk/rock music media. They have played and toured solidly and to call what they do unique is no way giving them enough credit!
(1. Old Dirt Road- 0:00 2. Poor Troubled Life- 3:10 3. Rest of Our Days- 8:04 4. Duke of Green- 11:40 5. American Crow- 15:52 6. Pioneer- 18:21)

Lexington Field play a mixture of music blending genres from country and Americana as well as punk rock and not to be forgetting a massive dose of traditional Irish music with a expert fiddle player right slap bang in the middle. The band call what they do ‘fiddle rock’ and is as good a description as I could give in two words. We reviewed Greenwood last Christmas (check the review here) and had this to say

“Thirteen tracks and forty minutes gives the songs plenty of time to develop and Beau’s great vocals and lyrics stand out giving Lexington Field that extra bit more.”
So at risk of repeating myself I have to say that once again Lexington Field have hit the heights with this release. Seven tracks that sail in at just a few seconds under half an hour and is over far far too quickly. Over a couple of weekends in early 2016 the band went up to Anza in California to record at Matt Maulding’s (formerly of the brilliant celtic-punk band Brick Top Blaggers) Weathertop Studio. There the band took six songs from their history and stripped them right down and basically rewrote them and are presenting them back to us now.

Released on July 8, 2016 the EP begins with ‘Old Dirt Road’ from their debut album of the same name. Where as the original was the standout track of that album and is the song that I think of when I reach out to put that album on. The energy remains exactly the same but without the electric guitar thrashing away and that is some achievement I tells you.

“Time flies by so fast
It’s hard to stop and think
With all these peaks and valley, and all the sand that lets us sink
One thing’s for sure
I won’t give up on my end to be a fighter, be a fighter

I don’t mind traveling down that old dirt road again
Cause I’ve got time to waste to go back where it all began
Though some might say I’m holding on, I‘m holding on too long
Well,don‘t you mind. Just don’t you mind

I feel so wasted
Maybe time can make it right
Set the stage for a comeback
Set the stage for a fight
The best defense I can put up on my end is to be a fighter, be a fighter”

Lexington FieldFollowing this is ‘Poor Troubled Life’ which again is taken from the album of the same name and once again is possibly the stand out track from that record. The music is exemplary and though I can imagine a few punk rock snobs not quite getting it I always say man cannot live by punk rock alone! Usually on a Lexington Field record the upbeat music belies the often darkness of the lyrics but here in acoustic mood it seems to fit a lot more easily. The music may be slow but plenty to admire and love especially here on this song with the whistle that sounds great (and shhh don’t mention the electric guitar on their supposed acoustic record!!!).

“It’s been too long, I feel disconnected
Empty bottles numb my soul
There’s still a chance for me to come back around
A chance for me to mend my broken life

And I can taste all that glory
All the love, the love I have around
It lifts me up poor troubled life
It lifts me up

I found it so hard to breathe
Gonna throw it all away
Without this troubled life
Could I live another day”

Next up is ‘Rest Of Our Days’ which comes from No Man’s War and here takes one of Lexington’s most obvious celtic-punk songs and channels into a lovely slice of Americana/country folk. The superb fiddle playing from the original is still there and lifts the song to the heavens with Beau’s great voice giving it all he can.

“I won’t cry and show my weakness if I ain’t got one
No I can’t cry and let that pain back in again
I won’t lie my pain it’s not forgotten
And the weakness runs deep beneath my skin”

‘Duke Of Green’ is the opening track of that debut album Old Dirt Road and the song that introduced me, and countless other, to Lexington Field.

“Why would you want to come home?
Don’t you see our tears have run dry?
You’ve lost it all again
I can tell by your eyes

Tried to talk sense
Tried to mend this broken fence
But you, you didn’t care
You haven’t won a single race
Still hold on just in case that you will be there”

We’re nearly at the end and ‘American Crow’, taken from No Man’s War, continues in the same vein taking one of their more raucous tracks and stripping it bare.

“I’m not an angel, don’t call me a saint
I am just a face in the crowd
I follow my orders with no complaints
For a nation who stands tall and proud”

‘Pioneer’ follows and is also from No Man’s War but unlike the rest of this EP was a slowish ballad to start with that swirled and swirled with wave upon wave hitting you. Here though ‘Pioneer’ is slowed right down and proves my theory that the best celtic-punk bands are as good writing and playing ballads as punking out.

“Don’t call me pioneer
A grossly overstated misconception to all pioneers
I pick up my guitar
And write these stupid songs out of deception to mask my emptiness

But I should go and feel my new surroundings
Where I know I’ll find my solid ground
And I will show the world that I can fight again

I tried to hide my tears
But lost my words instead to a silent, muted pain
The cure for this disease
Was to find my inner song, a bittersweet melody

Maybe time will heal this fall
Into the next chapter of my life
I will open up my heart to this brand new start blessed to me

Don’t call me pioneer”

Redwood comes to an almighty end with the bonus track ‘Good Times’. Written in the studio on their first day there with the alcohol flowing it was recorded in a straight take with just a couple of mics and really captures the feeling that the band were at the top of their game and really (!!) enjoying themselves too.

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Lexington Field from left to right: Bryan Hane – Guitar, Tom Lazet – Bass, Vincent West – Drums, Beau Gray – Vocals, Guitar, Olivia Buscemi – Violin

The EP is available on download and CD and once again the bands great friend Jose Pimienta aka Joe Pi has done the amazing artwork (check out his work here) so here’s hoping for a physical release as well as that download. It would be far too simple to call this a Best Of or Greatest Hits as that’s well off the mark. What we have here, without wanting to sound too pretentious, are re-imagings of Lexington Field as perhaps they would have been 50 or maybe even 100 years ago. The music is as real and as raw as anything they have ever recorded and for that I am truly grateful. Here is a band that shows no sign of letting up and if ever their was a case of quality AND quantity then Lexington Field have it in spades!

(you can have a free listen to Redwood by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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SINGLE REVIEW: BRYAN McPHERSON- ‘Born Again American Blues’ (2016)

A fusion of Americana, folk, alternative and punk this Irish-American guy is a whole lot more than even this.

Bryan

Now I didn’t quite get the music of Bryan McPherson straight away I must admit. My fellow founding member of the London Celtic Punks had spent a couple of years previous trying to indoctrinate me and although I did really like what he did I was far from thinking he was the genius I now consider him. This all changed one summer Bryan MacPhersonevening in Camden last year when I saw Bryan perform live in a shitty rock venue with the crappiest PA ever and a even crappier sound man. Suddenly it all clicked into place and he has been a solid feature on my stereo ever since. Bryan was born and raised on the mean streets of Dorchester, a blue collar working-class Irish-American Catholic neighbourhood in Boston, that was also home to half the members of the original Dropkick Murphys. He was inspired as a kid by the energy and angst of punk, as well as the lyrically driven American folk songs of the early 1960’s. His first gigs were on street corners, at house parties and subway stations in Boston’s inner city. In 2001 he burst onto the acoustic music scene but then Bryan took a break from performing to address some personal issues and vanished from the scene. Since his return he has played the length and breadth of North America and more recently further afield as a solo artist. This is powerful passionate, acoustic-punk from the heart.

I got the born again american blues blues blues blues.

Playing another show down in Santa Cruz Cruz Cruz.
Up to Portland and Seattle, all the way from Syracuse.
And I’m playing like there’s nothing left to lose.
What do you want from me my lady of the sea?
You want to wash me toss me drag me wash me away.
I got the finger picking sticking love love love in my vein.
And I got an answer to all the other answers that will take your pain away.
I want to live forever on Friday.
When there’s always a check in the mail and I’m always paid.
What do you want from me my lady of the breeze?
I got a western wind blowing down on me.
I got a sleeping bag I take it with me wherever I go.
I always got a bed. I always got a home.
I got the sky for my sky light.
Don’t worry mama I’m alright.
‘Cause I was born at night.
I was born born born to fight with shadows on the wall.
7 years since last call, but there’s a soul dying somewhere tonight.
What do you want from me my lady of the street with your broken bottles and sewer caps forlorn?
I want 50,000 people to clap your hands right on time.
We can all sing in rhythm and we can all sing in rhyme.
The engineers will struggle to keep us all in time.
We’re all life-long prisoners of this time.
In these dark dark dark dark dark dark scary times.
We walk walk walk walk walk walk fine lines between ever present death and ever lasting life.
What do you want from me my lady of belief?
She says faith is a god damn motherfucker to keep.
Harmonica.
She said she’s never coming back again.
She said she’s never coming back again.
She said I’m as gone gone as your western wind.
You’re never ever ever ever ever gonna see me here again.
But then baby baby baby baby baby baby please come home.
You left me left me left me left me left me left me all alone.
And these eastern winds are blowing so god damned cold.
Look at us we’re growing so god damn old.
What do you want from me boy of the breeze?
She said you’re blowing like a broken tornado.
The End.

Released on July 18th, 2016 and is performed and was written by the man himself Bryan MacPherson and recorded by Bryan Dobbs in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, California and mixed and mastered by Willy Samuels at Nutone in Pittsburgh California.

Bryan McPherson

With just a guitar and a harmonica and a passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting voice. Bryan’s music can chill you to the very bone as he dissects American working class life. When those pampered and privileged members of the middle classes want to lecture us about so-called ‘white privilege’ then maybe they ought to have lived a moment in Bryan McPherson’s shoes. Just a moment. Street life, politics, addiction, the prison system, class war and discrimination litter the alleys of McPherson’s songs. Don’t despair though as amongst it all shining through are moments of beauty and clarity that are as beautiful as ever was committed to paper. The music of Bryan McPherson may not be an altogether fun roller coaster ride but you will get untold pleasure hearing it.

Download The Single

Bandcamp (only $1!!)

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  • Bryan is a bit skint so if you are feeling generous you can get all ten of Bryan’s available previous releases for just $20.22 (that’s about £13). That’s Born Again American Blues (2015), Street Lights (2009), Live at Artaban Hall (2013), Wasted World- Live At A Campfire In Nedrow, NY. (2015), American Boy / American Girl (2012),Wedgewood (2015), Live at The Milestone (2014), Kelly Thomas (2014), Originally From Dorchester (2013) and Live at Club Passim 2004 (2004). That’s over 50% off so help a buddy out here.

OBITUARY: REMEMBERING ERIK PETERSEN

by Dave Hughes

“So tattoo our arms and raise our glasses, call out your name at New Year’s Eve, maybe next time we kneel at a casket, we can say at least the story’s complete”

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Folk punk can get a bad rap. Out on the internet there are thousands of bad recordings of badly sung and badly played songs about Things That Are Bad (™). Songs that lack nuance, metaphor and melody. Then there was Erik Petersen. He was different, he was the master of crafting a song around an ancient melody, turning a phrase, and constructing a tale full of metaphor, life, death and everything in between. It breaks my heart to be writing an obituary for Erik, he was one of my heros, he was a friend, and above everything else he was a genius.

Erik was a long time player in the Philadelphia punk scene. His band The Orphans split up in 2000, but not before writing some amazing slices of hardcore (check out The Government Stole My Germs CD from their Raise The Youth anthology). Near the end of The Orphans, a shut down show might mean Erik grabbing an acoustic guitar and playing some unplugged songs instead. There is a show on Youtube from a veterans hall, a young Erik sits on a chair in the middle of a room of punks playing early versions of songs that would go on to be Mischief Brew. Erik, himself, had commented that this scratchy footage was the start of Mischief Brew.

Erik 1Between The Orphans and Mischief Brew there was the Kettle Rebellion. The Kettle Rebellion was a tight three piece of Erik, Jon Foy on Bass and Chris Doc Kulp on drums. They played a style that could be described as Medieval Folk Punk, the kind of hardcore that you’d hear while you strolled through a renaissance fair. An eight track LP was recorded in 2002, but before it could be released, the master tapes were stolen and leaked to archaic MP3 sharing sight Soulseek. In response, Erik scrapped the project. Years later, he stumbled across a version of the master tapes and decided to put it out. In 2013, the Kettle Rebellion LP was finally released through Fistolo on Vinyl, and my own record label, Different Circle Records, on CD.

Erik and Mischief Brew were DIY to the core, and before going on with the story, I have to introduce Denise. Denise was Erik’s wife and partner in crime for over 20 years. Emails sent through to Fistolo would invariably be responded by Denise. She’s a wonderful small package of vibrancy, smiles and energy. There’s also the Pugs, a Mischief Brew article is not complete without bringing up the Pugs. The Petersens rehomed many pugs through the years, and they were a common feature at their American shows. Check out the early recording of Erik playing at a PunX Picnic and you’ll hear one of them, perhaps Garcia, yelping along to Erik’s genius. Up the Pugs.

Erik 4In 2003, Erik released a split record with Robert Blake entitled Bellingham/Philadelphia, and also a more electric EP known as Bakenal. These were the start of the Mischief Brew sound that the underground world would associate with Petersen. It was on the Bakenal EP that the anthem “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell” first appeared, with it’s rally cry of “I am a leader but you will not follow me” providing the spit and sawdust that anarcho-folk had been looking for. Lyrics from this song would be sprayed across walls around the world, most prominently across the outer wall of the Squat-cum-Social-Centre Knoflook in Den Bosch, Netherlands. Footage of Erik standing on the bar at Knoflook (during their last Europe Tour in 2008) singing Jawbreaker’s Boxcar can be found on YouTube. It’s a moment of pure joy, and testament to how he could command a room with hi