Category Archives: Americana

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: WOODY GUTHRIE – ‘Dust Can’t Kill Me’

With the release of the new Woody Guthrie themed Dropkick Murphys album due in a couple of days we thought we would take a look at the life of this amazing artist and offer up the opportunity to download a great album of his for free. 

“A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it or it could be
who’s hungry and where their mouth is or
who’s out of work and where the job is or
who’s broke and where the money is or
who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is.” – Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was the most important American folk music artist of the first half of the 20th century, in part because he turned out to be such a major influence on the popular music of the second half of the 20th century, a period when he himself was largely inactive. His greatest significance lies in his songwriting, beginning with the standard ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and including such much-covered works as ‘Deportee’, ‘Do Re Mi’, ‘Grand Coulee Dam’, ‘Hard, Ain’t It Hard’, ‘Hard Travelin’, ‘I Ain’t Got No Home’, ‘1913 Massacre’, ‘Oklahoma Hills’, ‘Pastures of Plenty’, ‘Philadelphia Lawyer’, ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’, ‘Ramblin’ Round’, ‘So Long It’s Been Good to Know Yuh’, ‘Talking Dust Bowl’ and ‘Vigilante Man’. These and other songs have been performed and recorded by a wide range of artists.


With his guitar and harmonica, Guthrie sang in the hobo and migrant camps, developing into a musical spokesman for labour and other left-wing causes. These hardscrabble experiences would provide the bedrock for Guthrie’s songs and stories, as well as fodder for his future autobiography, “Bound for Glory.” It was also during these years that Guthrie developed a taste for the road that would never quite leave him.

This land is your land and this land is my landFrom California to the New York islandFrom the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream watersThis land was made for you and me
*
As I went walking that ribbon of highwayI saw above me that endless skywaySaw below me that golden valleyThis land was made for you and me
*
I roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footstepsTo the sparkling sands of her diamond desertsAll around me a voice was soundingThis land was made for you and me
*
When the sun come shining, then I was strollingAnd the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rollingThe voice was chanting as the fog was liftingThis land was made for you and me
*
This land is your land and this land is my landFrom California to the New York islandFrom the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream watersThis land was made for you and me
*
When the sun come shining, then I was strollingAnd the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rollingThe voice come a-chanting and the fog was liftingThis land was made for you and me

*

In 1937, Guthrie arrived in California, where he landed a job with partner Maxine ‘Lefty Lou’ Crissman as a radio performer of traditional folk music on KFVD in Los Angeles. The duo soon garnered a loyal following from the disenfranchised ‘Okies’ living in migrant camps across California and it wasn’t long before Guthrie’s populist sentiments found their way into his songs.

In 1940, Guthrie’s wanderlust led him to New York City, where he was warmly embraced by leftist artists, union organisers and folk musicians. Through fruitful collaboration with the likes of Alan Lomax, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger and Will Geer, Guthrie’s career blossomed. He took up social causes and helped establish folk music not only as a force for change, but also as a viable new commercial genre within the music business. Guthrie’s success as a songwriter with the Almanac Singers helped launch him into the popular consciousness, garnering him even greater critical acclaim. The ensuing fame and hardships of the road led to the end of Guthrie’s marriage in 1943. A year later, he would go on to record his most famous song, ‘This Land is Your Land’, an iconic populist anthem which remains popular today and is regarded by many as a kind of alternative national anthem.

That old dust storm killed my baby,But it can’t kill me, LordAnd it can’t kill me
*
That old dust storm killed my family,But it can’t kill me, LordAnd it can’t kill me
*
That old landlord got my homestead,But he can’t get me, Lord,And he can’t get me
*
That old dry spell killed my crop, boys,But it can’t kill me, LordAnd it can’t kill me
*
That old tractor got my home, boys,But it can’t get me, LordAnd it can’t get me
*
That old tractor run my house down,But it can’t get me down,And it can’t get me
*
That old pawn shop got my furniture,But it can’t get me, Lord,And it can’t get me
*
That old highway’s got my relatives,But it can’t get me, Lord,And it can’t get me
*
That old dust might kill my wheat, boys,But it can’t kill me, LordAnd it can’t kill me
*
I have weathered a-many a dust storm,But it can’t get me, boys,And it can’t kill me
*
That old dust storm, well, it blowed my barn down,But it can’t blow me down,And it can’t blow me down
*
That old wind might blow this world down,But it can’t blow me down,It can’t kill me
*
That old dust storm’s killed my baby,But it can’t kill me, LordAnd it can’t kill me
*
By the late 1940s, Guthrie began to show symptoms of the rare neurological disease Huntington’s Chorea, which had killed his mother. The extremely unpredictable physical and emotional symptoms Guthrie experienced shook him deeply, so he decided to leave his family to hit the road with his protégé, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Guthrie arrived in California, and began living in a compound owned by activist and actor Will Geer, populated largely by performers who had been blacklisted during the Red Scare of the early Cold War years. Soon, Guthrie met and married his third wife, Anneke Van Kirk, with whom he would have his eighth child, Lorina Lynn.
Woody’s health continued to deteriorate in the late 1950’s, and he was hospitalised until his death in 1967. His marriage to Van Kirk collapsed under the weight of his disease, and the couple eventually divorced. During the last years of his life, Guthrie’s second wife, Marjorie, and their children would visit him in the hospital regularly, as would Guthrie’s most famous heir in the world of folk music, Bob Dylan. Dylan moved to New York City to seek out his idol and eventually Guthrie warmed to the young singer, who would later say of Guthrie’s music,
“The songs themselves were really beyond category. They had the infinite sweep of humanity in them.”
While Guthrie passed away of complications from his Huntington’s Chorea on October 3, 1967, his musical legacy remains firmly cemented in American history. A generation of folk singers inspired by Guthrie in the 1950s and 1960s went on to fuel some of the most dramatic social change of the century. Despite his folk hero status, Guthrie was modest, and was known for playing down his own creative genius.
“I like to write about wherever I happen to be, I just happened to be in the Dust Bowl, and because I was there and the dust was there, I thought, well, I’ll write a song about it.”
Today’s free download is the compilation album Dust Can’t Kill Me. It comes with one link but features two discs of 23 and 25 songs. Disc 1 showcases Woody Guthrie as a solo artist while disc 2 features him in collaboration with his contemporaries such as the blues harp player Sonny Terry and fellow Folk rebel Pete Seeger, as well as tracks recorded with the Almanac Singers and many others. American Folk music wasn’t invented by Woody Guthrie. It’s been around for 100’s of years but he did invent modern American Folk music and everything since can be traced straight back to him and these songs.

DUST CAN’T KILL ME FREE DOWNLOAD

This is no bandwagon for London Celtic Punks and our interest and love for the music of Woody Guthrie pre-dates the start of this zine and you can find a wealth of more music by Woody and indeed his contempories and those he inspired over on the Steppin’ Stones page. Just click below to be redirected.

ALBUM REVIEW: PRONGHORN – ‘Welcome To Pronghorn Country’ (2022)

Undisputed Kings of Cowpunk and the hardest banjo/fiddle action you’ll ever come across. Pronghorn have been kicking around since 1992, and this summer the band celebrates 30 years of drinking warm Stella and eating late night garage food with a brand new album, Welcome To Pronghorn Country.

Those of you old enough to remember 1992 will recall that it was all about grunge. A few bands though went against the grain and 1992 was also the year Pronghorn emerged out of Dorset. Starting off busking outside Debenhams in Bournemouth leading to their first gig in Charminster and then onto more salubrious locations like busking at Amsterdam Central Station or in Copenhagen Homeless Hostels to name but two. As the band’s sound evolved with Punk, Country, Folk and Rockabilly they were soon labelled with their very own genre ‘Cowpunk’. In the States a fair more aggressive genre ‘Country Punk’ developed around the same time but it was the English version that was more true to it’s Country musical roots which lay in the southern English rootsy Folk movement of the 80’s. This was a time that spawned The Pogues along with the Boothill Foot Tappers, Cropdusters, Shilleagh Sisters and Men They Couldn’t Hang. Many could claim to be the Kings of Cowpunk but for me their is only Pronghorn. The line up has seen many changes over the years but founder members, Toni Viagra and Lamma are still there, along with newbies(!) Ffi, Krusty, Gypo, Aussie Mike and Andy Law- who’ve only done the last fifteen years or so.

As this year sees them doing 30 years on the road together and recording twelve albums you would imagine it would have taken it’s toll but as Fifi admits

“After all this time Pronghorn is still the same band, but now we have to get babysitters’”.

The album kicks off in great manner with the ‘Psycho Ceilidh’ and what a way to make a splash and exactly whet you would think a song called psycho ceilidh would sound like. An absolutely wonderful Country-Folk-Celtic hoedown that ought to be the genre’s anthem! Imagine a Punk Rock barn dance with folk clad in tartan work shirts swirling around smashing into each other with massive smiles on their faces and you’re in the right ball park.

‘Spud Face’ sees Lamma recalling the days when they put on one of the best festival’s Dorset had ever seen that the name of sadly escapes me (editor- EnDorset Festival… and it’s coming back!) but i intended to go every year it ran but never actually made it! Fiddler Joe takes over vocals for ‘Reubens Train’ while battling it out with the bands other fiddler Fifi. This is speed fiddling at it’s finest. It’s an old Folk song and I must admit I always love to see the words ‘trad. arr’ on a bands album sleeve. ‘Dead Wood’ sees them slow it down a bit for the first time and a dark and mysterious song is aided by some class accordion. The accordion giving it a Eastern flavour as they sing of cutting out unnecessary burdens. The popularity of acapella singing has been around in Celtic-Punk for quite a while and the old Folker ‘Shady Grove’ begins as such and even though the band kick in eventually it might have been a good opportunity for the band to test their vocal chords together. ‘Jed Jones 2’ is a sequel of sorts but as I’ve not heard part 1 it’s hard to tell you the story beyond it has a cowboy theme and maybe a song we could claim as Celtic-Punk(-ish)! ‘Devils Daughter’ continues in the same vein lyrically inspired by the blood and guts of spaghetti westerns. ‘Cuckoo’ is another trad. arr. song and the last of the albums three and sees the bhoys spilling over into jigs and sure I heard almost a reel in there too. ‘Dirty Motel Blues’ may start off with acoustic guitar but ends up an (almost) acoustic song that out Motorheads Motorhead! Joe returns for vocal duties on ‘Ghost Train’ the most TMTCH-ish song here on first listen though their is a lot more to them than that though even though that is far from an insult.

(Recorded at Barnstomper Festival, Cerne Abbas Brewery – 4th September 2021)

‘Soldiers Tale’ sees them delving into history and a saucy song that turns the catchy up to 11 and adds plenty of their trademark humour to boot. The album’s only instrumental ‘Swamp Winch’ sees Bayou styled fiddling accompanied by a dizzying amount of hollering and howling whipping the band up into a Country-frenzy. Outstanding and near impossible to keep your feet attached to the floor. The album wraps up with ‘Bone’ and another stand out track that sees them in contemplative mood but without letting up one bit. Superb! An outstanding album but again the bands honesty gets the better of them as Aussie Mike says

“These days, recording an album comes with a short shelf-life – record, release, tour, repeat. But for a band who has been around as long as Pronghorn have, Welcome to Pronghorn Country is more about documenting a chapter of the band. It’s also something different to sell to drunks after a gig”.

The beauty of a band like Pronghorn is the joy they bring to people with their live performances. Sometimes bands like that can find it difficult to transfer that sound and emotions onto record but Pronghorn are blessed here with a perfect sound engineered by David White and mastered by Stefan Krakovic. It’s over 20 years since I saw them play here in London and my overriding memory of that night was the fun we all had and coming out near a stone lighter. They haven’t lost it and just like me their all a bit older and a bit heavier so treat seeing them as the best exercise you will ever have! Welcome To Pronghorn County is out this week on the fantastic independent label Lunaria Records and if we did give marks out of ten then this a bloody 9 1/2 I’m telling you.

(Stream or download Welcome To Pronghorn County below on the Bandcamp player)

Buy Welcome To Pronghorn Country CD /Vinyl / Download

Contact Pronghorn  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram 

Lunaria Records  WebSite YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Regressive Folk Music  Bandcamp   EverywhereElse

Contact The Tan And Sober Gentlemen  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Bloodgrass Vol. 3 and 4  Bandcamp  OtherSites

Contact Heathen Apostles  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

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

Sláinte (slahn-chuh): Irish for cheers. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Slainte  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“where I come from we grow up too tough”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Bryan McPherson WebSite Facebook Instagram YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHRISTY MOORE – Flying Into Mystery   (Here)

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

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

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

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

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

JIM LINDBERG – Songs From The Elkhorn Trail (Here)       

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

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

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

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

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

DAN WALSH – Live at the Floodgate   (Here)

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

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

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

WATCH OUT FOR PART 2 COMING THIS WEEKEND!

NEW SINGLE ‘2 Birds’ FROM BRYAN McPHERSON

Not many folk have featured on these pages as much as Bryan McPherson has. To say we are fans is a massive understatement. Bryan’s new single landed yesterday and he celebrated after the video release with a ‘Live Stream’ show.

Been waiting for this for the last few weeks the new single from London Celtic Punks favourite Bryan McPherson. It’s two years now since fiery, Folk-playing, Irish-American blue-collar native of Boston Bryan put out the album Kings Corner and he has recently announced the release of a new album How To Draw Everything for early 2022. Produced by Ted Hutt (who makes another regular appearance on here!) and with several top-notch guest musicians including ex-Dropkick Murphys’ Marc Orrell on mandolin and a load of other instruments as well, Dustbowl Revival’s drummer Josh Heffernan, violinist Chris Murphy and Ted Hutt again on bass and percussion.

“How To Draw Everything isn’t just Bryan’s latest record; it’s a whole new beginning for him as an artist. On the meditative “2 Birds,” he muses, “There’s something about the sky that makes me grateful to be alive.” From the perspective of age comes a spiritual death of what was, and in its place, a re-discovering of peace, country, and self are found. Hope finally outweighs despair and can be reclaimed, like a child wondering at the seeds of a dandelion. Bryan defies us to admit hope was there all along.”  – Aaron Carnes

A simple search for Bryan through this site will throw up a list of reviews and other articles into the double digits. So where to start? With nearly every artist I can think of I would never dream of suggesting someone start with the new (let alone unreleased!) material but for Bryan I would. That’s about the highest compliment you could pay ant musician I think. Yeah go ahead and definitely check out his back catalogue (it’s brilliant!)  but be sure to keep a beady eye out for that new album when it comes out.

Pre-Save ‘2 Birds’ on Apple Music, Spotify, and More

Contact Bryan McPherson  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube 

How To Draw Everything – Digital Release, CD, and Double LP Coming in early 2022

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

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

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

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

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

The Phantom and Mather Louth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Time to take a vow and consecrate

Using skin and motion as my bait

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

Lucifer just don’t want to wait…”

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

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

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

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

Buy The Witch  Bandcamp (Download/CD)

Contact Phantom Of The Black Hills  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp

Ratchet Blade Records  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

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

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

PHANTOM OF THE BLACK HILLS

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE JOHNNY CASH SHOW (1970)

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

I was rather fortunate to grow up with The Man In Black in my ear. It was thanks to my Mum who kept up a steady stream of Johnny Cash, Rock’n’Roll and Irish-Folk that me and my siblings all developed huge interests in music. Johnny himself may have passed away sixteen years ago but interest in him and his life still hasn’t waned and as new material is periodically released it is snapped up eagerly by fans old and new. He still remains the coolest man ever in Rock’n’Roll.

The Johnny Cash Show was Johnny’s 35th album and was released to tie in with the TV series that he was hosting at the time. From the summer of 1969 through to spring 1971, pretty much the whole of America sat down together in front of the TV set waiting for the famous opening line “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”. The perfect gentleman with an indomitable spirit and down to earth grit the ever popular Johnny struck a chord with people right across the country. All creeds, classes and colours were united in their love for this great man. His willingness to take risks is what made his show incomparable. Johnny knew talent when he saw or heard it, and his word meant a lot. So, it was no small feat, nor beyond reasonable expectations, that many reclusive stars joined Cash on the pilot show. Though this album is one of Cash’s lesser-known records, it did spawn the highly successful single ‘Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down’, which helped kick start the career of singer-songwriter turned actor Kris Kristofferson with the song and album eventually both going on to reach #1.

This song is about the dreaded hangover, with Johnny singing about ‘coming down’ on a Sunday morning after being ‘stoned’ on a Saturday night. In the song, our hero puts on his cleanest dirty shirt, drinks a few beers, and heads out to face a lonely day.

Well I woke up Sunday mornin’, with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more, for dessert
Then I fumbled through my closet, for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt
And I shaved my face and combed my hair and, stumbled down the stairs to meet the day

I’d smoked my brain the night before on, cigarettes and songs that I’d been pickin’
But I lit my first and watched a small kid cussin’ at a can, that he was kickin’
Then I crossed the empty street and caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken
And it took me back to somethin’, that I’d lost somehow somewhere along the way

On the Sunday morning sidewalks, wishin’ Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’, half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city side walks, Sunday mornin’ comin’ down

In the park I saw a daddy, with a laughing little girl who he was swingin’
And I stopped beside a Sunday school and listened to the song that they were singin’
Then I headed back for home and somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin’
And it echoed through the canyons like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

On the Sunday morning sidewalks, wishin’ Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’, half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city side walks, Sunday mornin’ comin’ down

Before Johnny performed the song on The Johnny Cash Show, ABC censors asked him to change the lyric, “Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned” to “Wishing, Lord, that I was home” but never being one to accept being told what to do Johnny sang the song the way Kris Kristofferson wrote it, even stressing the word ‘stoned’!

( Sadly none of the series have been released officially so any that appear the sound and picture quality is definitely not DVD quality. What does appear are random performances some better than others. Here athough the possibility of a third season existed, Cash knew the writing was on the wall. The last twelve minutes of the last episode of the last Johnny Cash Show features Cash performing ‘I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen’, ‘He’ll Understand And Say Well Done’, The Statler Brothers singing ‘When You And I Were Young’, June Carter singing ‘Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes’, Carl Perkins playing ‘Your True Love’, the Carter Family singing ‘Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies’ and Cash’s final words to his television audience)

The ratings for the show were excellent (reaching #17 in the nationwide Nielsen ratings in 1970) and ABC extended the original 15 show run to a whopping 58 (fifty-eight!) episodes. The end of the series came in 1971 as the show was cancelled as part of the so-called ‘rural purge’ in which urban executives at all three major broadcast networks eliminated rural and older skewing programs. ABC viewing figures over all were in massive decline and so they cancelled one of their only successes a horrifying testimony to just how mismanaged the network was at the time. That the copies of all the shows still lay unreleased in the vaults is I think a terrible mistake and we can only hope someone pulls their finger out about it soon.

CLICK HERE FOR FREE DOWNLOAD

With the exception of the album’s obvious highlight, ‘Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down’, each of these songs sings of the history of the working man in the United States with the centerpieces of the album the two jaw dropping medleys: the first concerning truckers, the other concerning the cotton belt. Performed with backing vocals and music by the Tennessee Three, The Statler Brothers, and The Carter Family and Bill Walker’s Orchestra the closing performance of the spoken word ‘Here Was A Man” is a superb piece of Gospel and shows how easily Johnny could turn his hand to different styles.

To these ears though it sounds like classic Cash. His voice instantly taking me back to my childhood of sitting round the record player listening to my mammy’s Johnny Cash collection. All the adults I knew, especially the Irish ones, seemed to be a massive fan of his with their record collections bulging with his albums. it was impossible not to like him. The subject matter was so much darker than other country artists and lets face it he was as cool a fecker as ever there was in music! He was himself the quintessential Scotch-Irish American, with a bit of Native American too he use to say!

Johnny Cash  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  The Johnny Cash Trail  

(this amazing video popped up on my feed recently and it never takes much to set me off on The Man In Black so give it a twirl. Its great to hear Johnny just chatting away and the animation is top notch capturing Johnny perfectly)

for more like this…

ALBUM REVIEW: THE STUBBY SHILLELAGHS – ‘Glass To Mouth’ (2020)

High-Energy northern Colorado acoustic Celtic-Folk-Punk Band The Stubby Shillelaghs release their fifth studio album, Glass to Mouth, to celebrate the band’s tenth anniversary.

The Stubby Shillelaghs new album (out this week!!) is self-produced and self financed as well as being recorded and mixed as a result of quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a great risk to put out an album in these bleak times as their are no proper chances to promote any new releases but life must go on and for many music is one way to help get through the dark times. As Shaughnessy McDaniel, the bands songwriter and guitarist says

“I think this album really sums up what we are about, this year has been tough for everyone and I hope that a little of our band’s aggressively positive attitude and slapstick sensibilities can shine a little light on people’s days,”

Glass To Mouth celebrates the bands 10th anniversary together and you have to go back to June, 2010 to the very start when the small northern Colorado town of Greeley saw three long-time friends Andrew Mithun, Ryan Knaub, and Shaughnessy McDaniel looking to start a Celtic influenced band as a small side project. Later that year Greg Farnsworth, owner of local Irish bar Patrick’s, was looking for an act to play a Halloween show and took a chance on the as-yet unproven Stubbies. The success of this show led to what became known as ‘Stubby Tuesdays’, a weekly residency at the bar and in the process becoming a staple in Colorado nightlife with their four hour sets legendary. The following year saw the release of their debut album Stubbies Assemble! (available as a free download) and also the band gigging further afield into neighbouring states. They went on to release further studio albums Whiskey Business, Celtic American and Critical Fail in 2015, a live album Parental Advisory Live!, a Live DVD Uisce Beatha: The Water Of Life and a greatest hits release Bangerz! the Greatest Hits (2010-2019).

For Glass To Mouth the band continue on the DIY path setting up a Kickstarter appeal that raised all the necessary money to both the record Glass To Mouth and to also release it on vinyl, something that the band have always wanted to do, and with the growing popularity of vinyl among music fans who can blame them. Glass To Mouth kicks off with the instrumental ‘Butter Up That Jig’. A short acoustic fiddle led song to open proceedings that leads into ‘Buyer Beware’ and demonstrates the Stubby Shilleaghs eclectic nature, influences, and musical style perfectly. Laid back Folk music with an American-Irish flourish warning people against buying the CD as they are much better live. I don’t do the lyrics justice as they made laugh out loud on hearing this song! They continue along the same route with ‘Sails And Sorrow’ which features fellow Colorado band Bolonium an American comedy-rock band famous for their satirical style parodies and music soundtracks. Accordion and the fiddle led Pirate song and we’re only four in. Plenty of Aaaarrrrgggghhhh! but they do resist the urge to shout “Ahoy, Me Hearties!”.

Title track ‘Glass To Mouth’ is up next and begins with the band telling us

“People ask us, “Stubbies, How are you so positive and cheerful all the goddamn time?” Well here’s our secret. Now listen up, cuz this is some Mary Poppins-ass shit!”

Anyone out there remember Tenacious D? Well these guys are the Celtic-Punk equivalent of them! Not much serious shit so far on this album and sometimes that is exactly what we need. I mean life would drive you up the wall and as someone i knew once said ” We are here for a good time not a long time”.

After saying that they go and play a political number next which for me is the album’s standout song ‘Rebel Heart’. Catchy as hell and and a real footstomper to beat the floor up to.

We back on more humorous ground next with ‘Shagnasty McHammerhands’ about the bands guitarist and songwriter. 2020 will go down as the ‘The Year With No St. Patrick’s Day’ and personally the first since I was a teenager that I went to bed sober. The song features another Colorado band, Keep Britain Irish, helping out on the chorus. One of the albums fastest songs it still keeps to the albums style that would see them being able to be enjoyed by all. Punk enough for the Punks, Celtic enough for the oldies and irreverent enough for the Dads!

We steering towards the albums end and we have the interesting Sobermen Trilogy up next. A three-part song set that tells the story of the meeting in 1783 of the great Irish alcohol suppliers Arthur Guinness and John Jameson. Part 1 is ‘Prophecy Conspiracy’ a Country influenced song that also takes in Irish and sea-shanty along the way as the tale is regaled. Part 2 is the Scots tinged ‘The Fall Of Speyside’ while the final epic part is ‘The Siege Of St. James Gate’, with St. James Gate being of course the home of delicious Guinness Stout, and the guys rock the hell out of it with a Celtic-Metal finale. Over ten minutes of brilliant storytelling with all the humour we have come to expect from The Stubby Shilleaghs. That’s not the end though as the final song of the album is ‘Merry Bards Of Metal’ and a gentle and tuneful way to bow out.

Glass To Mouth was recorded at Crunchtronic Studios in their home town and marks the Bhoys tenth anniversary of goofiness and irreverence that has made the band a popular feature on not just the Celtic scene in Colorado. An album with instant appeal to anyone and everyone who enjoys a laugh with their Folk music.

Buy Glass To Mouth  CD/Vinyl

Contact The Stubby Shillelaghs  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

EP REVIEW: LEXINGTON FIELD – ‘Win The Day’ (2020)

Formed in 2009, hundreds of shows, three national tours, five albums and a whole bunch of EP’s and singles, Lexington Field from San Diego, CA is Rock music but with an Irish fiddle right in the epicenter!!

“Don’t let the little things bring you down. Rise up, fight, and Win the Day!”

On a list of bands that have graced these pages the most Lexington Field would be high up on that list. Maybe even at the top. Now this is not just because they are a prolific band when it comes to recording but also because they are one of our favourites and while the music may not be strictly Celtic-Punk anymore, or even Celtic-Rock, it still fits on these pages absolutely perfect.

Lexington Field from top left to right: Bryan Hane – Electric Guitar * Cami Smith – Fiddle * Beau Gray – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Nick Freeling – Bass * Jon Berghouse -Drums, Percussion

Formed in 2009 the band from the sunny climes in California release their latest EP, Win The Day, in just a few days time and the record follows quickly the release of their greatest hits compilation Here’s To You- Ten Years Of Fiddle Rock (including a couple unreleased tracks!) earlier this year which gathered together the best songs from their five albums and four EP’s in one place. A busy band they spent 2018 recording the dual release of an album, Modern Times, and an EP, Dreamers, on the same day (#13 and #5 in 2018’s Best Of list). The band label what they do as Fiddle Rock and it’s a good moniker for them as the fiddle is integral to what they do and in Cami Smith they have one of the best players in the scene. While their early releases were full of Irish spirit and led the wave of American Celtic-Punk bands of their era subsequent releases have shown their progression to a band that is unafraid to bring in influences from across the board and unlike most bands around their message is always a positive one, even if I do sometimes hark back to the wild abandon of songs likeTracy Boys Fight The World’ from their debut album.

Here on, as on all their releases, the production is second to none with Sean Tolley down at Clarity Recordings in downtown San Diego in charge of all recording and mixing. The EP opens with the title track ‘Win The Day’ and as is the Lexington Field way it’s all incredibly tuneful and Beau and Bryan have written some fantastic lyrics that leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling but sometimes the lyrics have a much deeper and darker meaning than you would imagine from the joyous music accompanying them.

“I wonder if I’m right to question everything
I need a special someone to break it down to me
Tell me I am wrong
Give me a second chance
To face my inner demons and try to take a stand
This is my moment to shine”

‘Dear Sorrow’ is abit of a throwback to their olden days but with the ‘wild abandon’ reigned in somewhat. Chugging guitars and loud drums at first give the song a Punky feel but the influence of Folk and Americana loom large and you would be forgiven for considering that the song was Folk or Punk on alternate listens.

Not many can capture the true meaning of the phrase Folk-Punk. It is after all a hell of a lot more than music students playing acoustic guitar with fake working class accents. While on the surface it is held together by Beau’s distinctive vocals and Cami’s brilliant fiddling the whole band work seamlessly together. One must is to check out the video above. Recorded on iPhones and edited together by mate of the band Rick Romero. A true example of the DIY spirit. As someone once said “necessity breeds ingenuity” F**K Covid! ‘Turns’ is the EP’s first slow song but Bryans guitar gives it a heavier feel and needless to say they can’t help giving it  bit of pace after a while. Probably my favourite song here the catchiness is unbearable and had me tapping me toes while I tap away at the keyboard writing these words! ‘Steps’ is another rocker that will leave you with a glow and sore feet!!! 

“Alone in my thoughts once again
Anxieties are never the same
Turn up the music to ten
Depression will not win the day”

We coming up towards the end and one thing Lexington Field always supply and that is value for money. Here their six tracks last twenty-three minutes which is just as long as plenty of albums I have to listen to. ‘Fake Paper Money’ is another slow burner though it’s not quite what you would call a ballad. The song slowly builds up and Beau’s aching vocals giving it a real passion. At almost five minutes the EP’s closing song ‘Alive’ brings down the curtain on Win The Day and its countryfied opening leads us into classic Lexington Field territory with a song that sits nicely on the fence between rocker and ballad. A grand way to see things out with a especially poignant outro.

Beau says of the EP

“We spent 2019 writing a collection of songs as a follow-up to our uplifting, optimistic, double release Dreamers/Modern Times. We wanted to tap into the reality of our current lives, some past experiences, while still capturing that true fiddle rock sound. We kept with the catchy theme throughout the record, and found a really good balance throughout all six songs. We are so lucky to continue writing fiddle rock songs and performing them on stage for over 11 years. We are very proud of Win the Day and can’t wait to share it with the world!”

and it is heartwarming to hear a band who have lost none of their joy at playing together. The band has been a constant throughout the existence of this site and we look forward to them accompanying us into the future. As they say in ‘Steps’

“Embrace what is next, A new day has just begun”

(Stream or download Win The Day on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Win The Day  Bandcamp (released October 2nd)

Contact Lexington Field  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

Lexington Field performed a acoustic set during the Paddyrock ‘Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day’ Live Stream all-dayer on 19th September and despite some sound issues played an excellent set. It’s now available on You Tube and features the whole days line up. Eight hours in total of superb Celtic-Rock and Punk but if you just want to jump to Lexington Field they come on stage (!) at three hours seven minutes.

You can also catch Beau alone this time chatting to Timmy D on the recently aired Timmy D And The Industry pod-cast about the new EP.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE JAMESTOWN BROTHERS- ‘Rebels, Rogues and Regrets’ (2020)

Debut album full of Celtic tinged anthemic songs from Somerset based band The Jamestown Brothers. Soul stirring, foot stomping originals drawn from the well of Country, Blues and Celtic Folk.

Don’t know what they put in the water (or the cider!) down there in the South-East of England but when it comes to bands with a Celtic influence the counties of Devon, Dorset and Somerset can’t get enough. Bands like Black Water County, Mad Dog McCrea and Sinful Maggie have all reached headliner status across England playing a variation of Celtic-Rock/ Punk that is particularly popular down where the cider flows freely. The reasons for this I cannot really put my finger on. The Irish in England are numerous but outside urban areas they may still be found but they never settled in the countryside in any sort of numbers so I think we can discount Irish heritage so maybe its just the unabashed reckless abandon and fun of Celtic music that does it for them. After all in Folk music everywhere is sort of connected and these are also the areas where old English customs are not just maintained but flourishing too. Might not be connected but they also have had a reputation for many years of being a bit lawless with smuggling and the like years ago and even in the present day where unjust or unpopular laws are not fought and campaigned against just totally ignored!

So this is the part of England that the 9 (yes nine) piece band The Jamestown Brothers hail from, in particular Somerset. The area is these days best known for farming and agriculture, tourism and the manufacture (and drinking) of cider with several of the best known producers originating from here. The locals though much prefer ‘scrumpy’ a type of rough cider made from non-premium apples and significantly stronger in alcohol content. They were formed by lead singer and main songwriter Colin Batchelor in 2017 but it took them almost two years for their first release the EP Singing For Our Supper to come out. This EP gained them a large local following and saw them appearing on the plentiful local festival circuit of which their are many in the area the band come from, including the world famous Glastonbury festival.

The Jamestown Brothers from left to right: Simon Reilly – Bass * Del Walker – Drums * John Trimble – Fiddle/ Mandolin * Ian Burton – Guitar/ Vocals * Colin Batchelor – Guitar/ Vocals * Phil Price – Keyboards * Sharon Eastwood – Recorder/ Vocals * Andy Williams – Trumpet/ Flugelhorn * Charlie Fisher – Trombone *

Rebels, Rogues And Regrets is the bands debut album and was released just a couple of days ago and kicks up a right (un)royal storm from the first notes of the recorder till the last. ‘Cut ‘Em Down’ is a great start telling the stories of local rebellion as well as of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester on 16th August 1819. Cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000 demanding parliamentary representation causing 18 deaths and severe injuries to 100’s. Though acoustic you just know these guys could go louder than most Punk band’s. Catchy and tunesome and great vocals from Colin on the whole it reminds me of the folkier side of The Men They Couldn’t Hang.

“cut ’em down, the rebels are arising we’ll have no talk of reform or liberty

 cut ’em down, the cavalry came riding into the crowd of peace and harmony”

‘Rebel Rousing Few’ follows and TMTCH comparison continues with a song that starts as a ballad before becoming a jaunty Country influenced number based again on the local history of rebellion and transportation to Australia of men and woman from this beautiful part of England. Fiddle and recorder are the main stand out instruments but that’s not a disservice to the other seven members as the sound is deep and multi-varied and the production is immaculate.

Two songs in and they finally get around to a drinking song and ‘If You Can’t Have A Drink’ opens with brass and a humorous take on heaven hoping their favourite bar is open up there. Mind you with the death of so many boozers in the last few years I’m hoping Luke Nolan’s up there pulling pints in a heavenly Acton Arms. Piano gives the song a olde timey music hall feel with great lyrics set to give the stoniest face a smile. ‘Salvation Alley’ has a darker edge to it then previous songs with trombone giving it a sinister feel. ‘Please Let Me Go’ straddles the fence nicely between Folk and Country and sees Colin accompanied by Sharon on backing vocals. ‘Whitley Girl’ sees The Jamestown Brothers take on a love song to the local girls of South Somerset and the joys of alcohol.

(just released the promo video for the album featuring excerpts from each song)

‘Bring Your Moma Down’ has a Kinks thing going on and is a nice change of pace too with the brass instruments playing their part here. We steering up towards port now and another change of pace with the beautiful and personal ‘The One’. The curtain comes down on Rebels, Rogues And Regrets with ‘Long Walk Home’ with another jaunty Celtic number that sees them go out with a fight. Hard to pick a favourite but I’d say this or the equally as good ‘Salvation Alley’.

The album came out just a couple of days ago on the 31st August 2020 and will definitely gather them some new fans and plenty of attention. In fact with 2020 officially cancelled they have already been booked to play festival’s in Godney, Watchet, Exmouth, Wimborne, Sheppy, alongside Seth Lakeman, and a Saturday night headline slot at Home Farm where their reputation for high-energy live performances, equally at home in the pub or the festival stage, will steal the show from a lot more well known bands. So plenty of chances to catch them play, especially if you’re a fan of camping like me. Guitars, drums, mandolin, fiddle we are use to here but recorder, piano and a brass section we are not and it comes together brilliantly.  Throw in what the band actually has to say and their willingness to tell the stories of the past to us today and we have a band that is hopefully bound for bigger things. Definitely worth checking out especially if you like your acoustic music to dance to as well as ever-so-fecking-loud!

Buy Rebels, Rogues And Regrets  CD- FromTheBand  Download- Apple  Spotify

Contact The Jamestown Brothers  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

THE TOP TEN ANTI WAR SONGS

There hasn’t been a day since the invention of the phonograph record when the world has not been at war someplace.

We are told that the world stands on the edge of a precipice, and there is very little we can do so instead of a fallout shelter I’ve built a list of the ten best anti-war songs ever.

By

Starting at number ten we have….

10. ‘The Ballad Of Penny Evans’ – Steve Goodman

The best ‘one guy with a guitar’ performer who ever lived, Goodman’s music was primarily in the ‘good times and more beer’ zone peppered with moments of genuine pathos but rarely political. On a 1973 album on the Buddha label he included a powerful acappella treatment of a song sung by a 21 year-old woman whose husband has been killed in Vietnam and whose rage against the government who sent him there can barely be contained:

“And now every month I get a check from an Army bureaucrat / And it’s every month I tear it up and I mail the damn thing back / Do you think that makes it all right, do you think I’d fall for that?”

In his clear voice, loud with anger, it’s an amazing performance.

9. ‘Jimmy Newman’ – Tom Paxton

Paxton’s ‘Talking Vietnam Pot Luck Blues’ about a young soldier’s discovery that everyone on both sides is smoking dynamite dope is almost as funny as this song about a hospitalized soldier’s slow realization that his friend has died during the night before they are scheduled to be shipped back home is emotionally devastating.

“Get up damn it Jimmy! They’re loading us next, and you’ve only to open your eyes.”

8. ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ – Eric Bogle

An Irish songwriter’s story about a soldier returning home from the battle of Gallipoli in 1915. The song is in the voice of a soldier whose legs have been blown off

“I never knew there were worse things than dying”

who watches as all the people who’ve come to greet the returning soldiers turn away in silence as the injured are brought off the boat. There are a million or more ways to ruin this kind of song and Bogle avoids every one. The song’s been done by many people including The Pogues but this version is beautiful and heartbreaking.

7. ‘Machine Gun’ – Jimi Hendrix

All the elements of a great screenplay are here. New York City, New Year’s Eve, hours from the end of the 1960’s, The Fillmore East and the greatest electric rock guitarist in history is a black man, a former US Army paratrooper. Pressured by a growing black militancy, he’s fired his white British backing band and has formed his ‘Band Of Gypsys’ with Billy Cox (bass) and Buddy Miles (drums). He knows he has to address Vietnam somehow, and in the twelve minutes and thirty-nine seconds of ‘Machine Gun’ Jimi says as much about the war as John Coltrane said about God in ‘A Love Supreme’. Here’s the audio footage from that New Years Eve Fillmore show.

6. ‘Universal Soldier’ – Buffy Saint-Marie

This is the anti-war song that speaks an awful truth that we would really prefer to ignore: while we can point fingers at the presidents and generals all we want, it is the individual soldiers who feed the war machine. The fact that these are our sons and brothers and sisters and daughters (and fathers and mothers) makes it a horrible and ugly truth (and, who knows, maybe some truths are best turned away from) but the Lysistrata solution offered here is a hard one to ignore.

5. ‘Between The Wars’ – Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg was to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s what Phil Ochs was to Richard Nixon in the 1960’s. Far from his most vitriolic political song, ‘Between The Wars’ examines the British working-class experience with verses like

“I kept the faith and I kept voting / Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand / For theirs is a land with a wall around it / And mine is a faith in my fellow man / Mine is the green field and the factory floor / Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers / And mine is the peace we knew / Between the wars.”

4. ‘I Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die’ – Country Joe And The Fish

The archetypal 1967-San Francisco-LSD-hippie-band led by a psychedelicized and politicized US army vet, ‘Country Joe’ McDonald. I remember in 1968 or 1969 sitting behind a row of guys in Navy uniforms either on their way to or back from Viet Nam at a Country Joe And The Fish show in Philadelphia as they played this song

“Be the first one on your block to have his boy come home in a box.”

Watching them cheer every line was around the time I began to suspect that the world was, well… complicated. Bring back the draft and we’d have this again in twenty minutes, half hour tops.

3. ‘Masters Of War’ – Bob Dylan

The studio version from 1963 is brilliant, but the live-in-Italy version on 1984’s ‘Real Live’ with former Rolling Stones’ guitarist, Mick Taylor, on a distorted, almost heavy metal, lead guitar is 1,000 times angrier than Johnny Rotten ever was or will be. There’s a talk that the critic Griel Marcus gave to the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley called ‘Stories Of A Bad Song’ that is really worth reading.

“Come you masters of war, you that build the big guns / You that build the death planes / You that build the big bombs / Not even Jesus would forgive what you do / I hope that you die”

2. ‘What’s Going On?’ – Marvin Gaye

“Father, father, father we don’t need to escalate / You see, war is not the answer / For only love can conquer hate”

wasn’t the kind of rhyme one expected to hear in 1971 from a million-selling soul artist who had earned the title ‘Prince Of Motown’. The title track from an album that his label flatly refused to release at first, calling it commercial suicide, became the crown jewel in what Smokey Robinson still calls ‘the greatest album of all time’. This version is all the evidence of his incredible power over audiences anyone should require.

1. ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ – Phil Ochs

In 1976 Phil Ochs, the best ‘Protest Folk’ songwriter of his (or maybe any) generation, hung himself at his sister’s home. The victim of the sort of clinical depression we now have the drugs to treat and feelings of despair in the aftermath of Watergate, the rise of disco and the failure of the 1960’s to live up to its grand promises of social change (let’s face it, if the 60’s had succeeded Nixon would have died in prison and Kissenger would have gone on trial). Put simply, any top-whatever-list of anti-war songs that doesn’t start with Phil isn’t worth the ether it’s printed on. The solo acoustic version on the 1965 album of the same name remains the finest two minute and thirty-two second lesson in the history of international conflict ever recorded on to a roll of magnetic tape.

To be honest, “best of” lists are almost always a bit of a sham and Bob Marley, Elvis Costello, The Clash, R.E.M., Edwin Starr, The Dead Kennedys, Sun Ra, Fred Small, Richie Havens, Neil Young and, OK, even the Sex Pistols are all absent here. But these ten songs collectively represent a diverse body of response to our shared history and any one you may not be familiar with is deserving of your time and attention.

First published on These Things Too. Thanks to Stan.

ALBUM REVIEW: 6’10- ‘Carried In Retrospect’ (2020)

The second full length release from Flatfoot 56 off-shoot band 6’10. Tobin Bawinkel began 6’10 to go back to his musical roots in Americana and Folk music. Life can’t be all circle pits and spitting on sweaty crowds! The groups first full length album since 2014 Gerard Mellon finds ten tracks of childhood memories, raising a family, love and social commentary about society toxicity documenting the progression of the 6’10 story. 

What with pandemics, despotic rulers and a lack of football, we almost let this one slip past us. Thankfully Eagle Eye Eddie wasn’t going to let that happen; and who can blame him, as it comes from one of this site’s favourite artists, Tobin from Flatfoot 56 fame. Obviously, it’s from his other project 6’10. The acoustic, more ‘folksy’ sounding group. I think the membership of 6’10 is quite a fluid thing, with different contributors at different times. What is a constant though is Tobin and his good lady wife Vanessa’s, contribution. In fact, this 10 track album features a number of what could be called duets.

The recent addition to Tobin and Vanessa’s family of a baby brings a much more mellow feel to Tobin’s song-writing. Fatherhood has definitely influenced the style and content of this offering. It still contains the clever sometimes whimsical offerings, along with the expert musicianship, but maybe now has an introspective slant. There are pleasant love-songs like ‘She’s the One’ and ‘Vanessa’s Song. There are also deeper songs like ‘Wither’ that somehow carry extra punch when one considers what the world is going through in the current climate. Flatfoot and Tobin could never be accused of lacking a social conscience. (In the traditions of all good Celtic Punk artists!) ‘Weight’ is a great example of this, especially these days when so many are questioning our roles in the new normal.


I think this is one of the great features of Tobin’s song-writing, that it makes the listener think; whether it be the large faith/religious aspects of some songs, or the intimate closeness of others. These are universal feelings that we all can relate to and perhaps share. Vanessa takes the lead in a couple of tracks, notably ‘Come Home’ and she plays a major role in the whole feel of the album.

(No ‘proper’ videos of any of the songs released yet so you’ll have to go on Gerry’s word but 6’10 did perform a couple of songs from Carried In Retrospect on their recent Live Stream set on Facebook)

The whole feel of this album is different to 6’10’s previous offerings, without calling it downbeat, it just feels slower, less impactful than the Humble Beginnings of a Roving Soul. Maybe it’s the post production or the recording process, but the “feel” is pared back, fewer instruments are involved in the final sound. It harkens back to the America of the dustbowl and the 30’s, when the content of a song seemed to be more important than production effects. You can imagine Tobin and Vanessa touring this album as a complete family unit, with no razzamatazz. Genuinely good music with honest emotions and good intentions. Perhaps this is what we’ve got to look forward to over the next few years.

Buy Carried In Retrospect  Download-Here  CD- Here

Contact 6’10  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

EP REVIEW: THE STANFIELDS- ‘Classic Fadeout’ (2020)

The Stanfields are a folk punk band from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. On Classic Fadeout they have released six original brand new sons for their sixth release all written and recorded within six months!

The Stanfields have been around now for well over a decade having been formed in 2008 and have a very impressive back catalogue with five very well received albums that each have troubled the top spots of the various Celtic and Folk-Punk end of year Best Of polls including ours. Never being one to accept the label of ‘Celtic’ The Stanfields have always travelled under the banner of Folk-Punk and thus far has served them well. Described rather well i think as “the bastard children of AC/DC and Stan Rogers” their music blends working class hard rock with the strands of folk that make up traditional Canadian music with much of it heavily influenced by Scotland and Ireland. The band started out playing cover songs during open mic performances at the Seahorse Tavern in Halifax, Nova Scotia quickly gained notoriety for their rowdy, entertaining performances and with the benefit of a relatively stable line up the boys few years together have seen them traversing the globe even washing up at the Tolpuddle Martyrs festival here in England  for a few years in a row.
Their new release Classic Fadeout is six original songs that span the history of The Stanfields throughout their illustrious career. Opening with ‘Southlands’ definitely the most Celtic influenced song here with a song evoking a long distant past. Next up is ‘Born On The Wrong Side Of Town’ is the kind of song that Bruce Springsteen is singing these days. A sort of Country/ Rock/ Folk mash up that streams along at a grand pace and has the feel that it could (does) appeal to a whole multitude of different genres. I love the idea that bands can make music that will reach the young and the old. After all that is how it use to be. When I was a young kid we use to beg Mum to put music on and now decades later I find myself still listening to that music she introduced me to. One subject I like to hear tackled is the scourge of drug addiction and The Stanfields sensitive and beautiful ‘Breakers In The Dark’ does it superbly.

(Shot at Churchill House in beautiful Hantsport, Nova Scotia)

Right across North America young people are falling foul to this terrible affliction and working class communities are suffering.

“Your eyes tonight are little pins
Looking for a friend
And tell a story locked inside of you
Your lips provide a different spin
One to be believed
If we were strangers on an avenue”

We are half way through and ‘Laser Beam’ may be many miles away from the fast folk and roll of their early days but it shows a maturity in their willingness to never to stand still and always keep moving and adapting. I mean who wants to be like The Queers still singing songs about your Mum finding your porno mags when your fifty! Slow and steady and perfectly balanced and accompanied by a video that I don’t think I have ever seen the like of it while writing for London Celtic Punks site.

Definitely take a few minutes out of your time to watch this incredible video. After that we need a bit of a lift and ‘Rules Have All The Fun’ supplies it with another catchy folk-country-Americana blend.A real foot tapper here among a bunch of songs that are perhaps a bit too on the reserved side.

The EP comes to an end with ‘Good Night, So Long, Goodbye’ the longest track here and a real epic to see us out. The emphasis may have changed from Celtic to Americana but the fire in their belly is the same and music with passion and emotion is what we love here. Classic Fadeout is not yer typical Stanfields release (as they say in their press release “predictably-unpredictable”) but another step in the progression of a band that have achieved much more then most in their time together.

(you can stream Classic Fadeout on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Classic Fadeout  FromTheBand

Contact The Stanfields  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

Discography Vanguard of the Young & Reckless  (2010) * Death & Taxes (2012) * For King and Country (2013) * Modem Operandi (2015) * Limboland (2018)

TEN OF THE BEST PERFORMANCES FROM THE JOHNNY CASH SHOW

John R. ‘Johnny’ Cash February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003

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…

Today is the birthday of the ultimate Rock’n’Roll rebel the one and only Johnny Cash. We have covered Johnny’s life several times so much are we in awe of his life and his musical career so here we are going to concentrate on a short period of his life from June, 1969 to March, 1970.

In 1968 Johnny’s career came back with a bang following the success of his two live prison shows, 1968’s At Folsom Prison and 1969’s At San Quentin A. With his star firmly back in place he was rewarded with his own television show to be called quite simply The Johnny Cash Show. Earmarked as the Summertime replacement for The Hollywood Palace variety show it was short lived but has gone down in history thanks to Johnny and the way he ‘stepped outside the box’ by inviting some of the most interesting and influential artists of the time onto the show.

The first episode aired on June 7, 1969 taped at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN, the home to country music institution the Grand Ole Opry. It had been Johnny’s ambition to play there as a child and he had achieved that dream thirteen years earlier after his chart topping #1 ‘I Walk The Line’. That first episode featured performances by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, Cajun fiddler Dough Kershaw and to the shock of many, Bob Dylan. The Johnny Cash Show saw many memorable performances, from the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton to a segment of the show called ‘Country Gold’ which had guests as diverse as Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn and the Everly Brothers.

The ratings for The Johnny Cash Show were excellent (reaching #17 in the nationwide Nielsen ratings in 1970) and ABC extended the original run from 15 to 58 episodes but the end came early in 1971 after just 22 shows as part of the so-called ‘rural purge’ in which urban executives at all three major broadcast networks eliminated rural and older skewing programs. ABC viewing figures at the time were in massive decline and by cancelling one of their only successes it just goes to show how mismanaged the network was at the time. Never to be repeated it’s a disgrace that the copies of the shows lay unreleased in the vaults. A terrible mistake and we can only hope it is rectified soon. This is why the quality of some of the videos isn’t quite the best. 

To celebrate of Johnny Cash’s 88th birthday we have trawled through You Tube to find you the best performances from The Johnny Cash Show. From his rendition of ‘The Long Black Veil’ with Joni Mitchell to the debut performance of his classic (and possibly THE ultimate protest song) ‘The Man in Black’ every song that left this mans lips meant something to him and to us. A man whose popularity crossed all borders creed, class and colour and was truly loved and cherished by all.

Johnny Cash and Pete Seeger – ‘Cripple Creek’/’Worried Man Blues’

Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison – ‘Pretty Woman’

Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell – ‘The Long Black Veil’

Johnny Cash – ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’

Johnny Cash and Louis Armstrong  – ‘Blue Yodel #9’

Ray Charles – ‘Ring Of Fire’

Creedence Clearwater Revival – ‘Bad Moon Rising’

Stevie Wonder – ‘Heaven Help Us All’

Johnny Cash, John Hartford, Vassar Clements and Norman Blake – ‘Bill Monroe Medley’

Johnny Cash – ‘Man In Black’

Johnny Cash  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  The Johnny Cash Trail  

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2019!

Well here we go again. It only seems like five minutes since I was compiling all the votes into last years Best Of that saw The Rumjacks romping home with Album Of The Year. This year has been a bit quieter on the Celtic-Punk front but as last year was so busy that is perhaps not surprising. That’s not to say their weren’t some fantastic releases as their were plenty and it was still really difficult to come up with the various lists below. Not so many big bands this year so it was left to the lesser known bands to shine but remember this is only our opinion and these releases are only the tip of the iceberg of what came out last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. As a bonus we are adding the Readers Poll again this year so you can even vote on your favourite release of 2019 yourself. If it’s not listed then simply add your choice.

We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…

(click on the green link to go where you will find more information on the release)

1. THE WALKER ROADERS – Self Titled

2. MICKEY RICKSHAW – Home In Song

3. FEROCIOUS DOG – Fake News And Propaganda

4. GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS – Based On A True Story

5. BARLEYJUICE – The Old Speakeasy

6. THE NARROWBACKS – By Hook Or By Crook

7. McDERMOTTS TWO HOURS – Besieged

8. PIPES AND PINTS – The Second Chapter

9. THE RUMJACKS – Live In Athens

10. SELFISH MURPHY – After Crying

11. TORTILLA FLAT – Live At The Old Capitol

12. FIDDLERS GREEN – Heyday

13. THE RUMJACKS – Live In London Acoustic Sessions

14. THE WHIPJACKS – This Wicked World

15. 13 KRAUSS – Redención

16. ALTERNATIVE ULSTER – Craic Agus Ceol

17. AIRES BASTARDOS – Self Titled

18. THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM – Hovels Of The Holy

19. THE FIGHTING JAMESONS – A Moment In California

20. ANGRY McFINN AND THE OLD YANK – Songs of Whiskey, Women & War

21. THE SHILLELAGHS – Ripples In The Rye

22. HELLRAISERS AND BEERDRINKERS – Pub Crawl

23. BODH’AKTAN – De Temps Et De Vents

24. HEATHEN APOSTLES – Dust To Dust

25. SONS OF CLOGGER – Return To The Stones’

26. THE CHERRY COKE$ – Old Fox

27. THE FILTHY SPECTACULA – The Howl Of The Underclasses

28. THE POTATO PIRATES – Hymns For The Wayward

29. TC COSTELLO– Horizon Songs

30. THE TENBAGS – ‘Bags o’ Craic’

How to compete with last year? Every single top band in the genre released an album so things were always going to be a bit quieter for 2019. Top spot this year unsurprisingly goes to The Walker Roaders Celtic-Punk super group! With Pogues, Mollys and Dropkicks making up the team how could they possibly go wrong! Everyone’s ‘next big thing’ Mickey Rickshaw came in a well deserved second and Ferocious Dog took third after releasing their best album, for me, since From Without. Greenland Whalefishers celebrated 25 years on the road with their best album for quite a while and what Best Of would be right without some bloody brilliant Irish-American bands challenging at the top too. Pipes And Pints new album with a new singer received acclaim from across the Punk media and The Rumjacks couldn’t follow up last years unanimous victory despite having two album releases (both sort of live) in the top thirteen. Fiddlers Green continue to make consistently great albums and go into 2020 celebrating thirty years together! Good to see homegrown bands The Whipjacks, The Tenbags, The Filthy Spectacula and Sons Of Clogger making it too. The top thirty was made up of thirteen countries from USA, England, Norway, Czech Republic, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, Japan, Quebec, Hungary, Spain and Japan.

1. THE LUCKY TROLLS – Self Titled

2. DRUNKEN DOLLY – The Party

3. LORETTA PROBLEM – The Waltz Of My Drunken Dream

4. THE CLOVERHEARTS – Sick

5. KRAKIN’ KELLYS – Irish Tribute

6. THE PLACKS – Rebellious Sons

7. GYPSY VANNER – Five Distilled Celtic Punks

8. THE RUMPLED – Grace O’ Malley

9. FOX’N’FIRKIN – Hey Ho! We’re Fox n Firkin

10. SHANGHAI TREASON – Devil’s Basement

The Lucky Trolls took #1 spot with their brilliant self-titled EP following on from fellow countrymen the Krakin’ Kellys multi award winning 2018. Trust me it would have taken an exceptionally good release to keep The Party by Drunken Dolly off the top spot but that is what happened. Dolly’s excursions over to these shores this year j=has seen them grown in stature and you can’t go to a Ferocious Dog gig without spotting at least a dozen of their shirts. Loretta Problem wowed us with their single ‘Waltz Of My Drunken Dream’ which took us right back back to The Pogues glory days and what about that accompanying video too!! If we had a award for best video then that would have walked it. The Kellys had a quiet year with comparison to ’18 but still managed a respectable #5 and great debut releases from The Placks our sole representative from a Celtic nation (big things are going to happen to this band in 2020 mark my words), Italian/Aussies The Cloverhearts and, from just down the road from my Mammy, Shanghai Treason from Sheffield who only put out one song… but what a song! Eight countries represented from Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Scotland, Argentina, Australia and Yorkshire!

AIRES BASTARDOS– ‘Self-Titled’

Argentina is becoming a bit of a hot-spot for Celtic-Punk with not only some well established bands but also some new ones starting up too and with this release Aires Bastardos announced their arrival on the international scene too. Not afraid to dive straight into a folk number after a Cock Sparrer cover they veer from standard Celtic-Punk to Folk and back to fast as hell Punk but in that really accessible way that only Celtic-Punk (and maybe Ska-Punk) bands can do.

1. THE DREADNOUGHTS – Into The North

2. CROCK OF BONES – Celtic Crossbones

3. 6’10 – Where We Are

4. BRYAN McPHERSON – Kings Corner

5. CALLUM HOUSTON – Gravities

6. PYROLYSIS – Daylight Is Fading

7. SEAMUS EGAN – Early Bright

8. LE VENT DU NORD – Territoires

9. DONNY ZUZULA – Chemicals

10. DERVISH – Great Irish Songbook

The Dreadnoughts don’t really think of themselves as Celtic-Punk so I reckon they’d be happier to win this than Celtic-Punk Album Of The Year. A superb collection of sea shanties that is a pleasure to listen to that was always going to be #1. Crock Of Bones representing the London Irish in 2nd with an album of trad folk with punk rock attitude and it’s especially good to hear some originals done in the style of the ‘auld ways’. 6’10 challenged for the top spot as they always do with everything they release and Bryan MacPherson and Callum Houston both produced great releases of singer-songwriter acoustic folk with Irish roots.

Sadly the Celtic-Punk world has shrunk a little regarding Web-Sites. Winners of the last two years the Mersey Celt Punks have been slacking (sort it out lads!) and enjoying their gigs too much to tell us while Shite’n’Onions have been too busy transferring everything onto a different platform and preparing for a bit of a re-launch I expect. Sadly celtic-rock.de have shut up shop after twelve years so it just makes it all the more clear how much we all miss Waldo and his fantastic Celtic-Folk-Punk And More site. As regular as clockwork and all the news that was ever fit (or not!) to print. Closing down the site in its 10th year in March must have been a tough decision to make and so this year we award best Website to Waldo and let it be known that no Celtic-Punk site will ever come close to replacing you. We would certainly not exist without his kind help and inspiration. All the best comrade enjoy your retirement! One welcome addition is Michu and his Celtic-Punk Encyclopedia site from Poland. Worth checking out especially if you are in a band.

We are not alone in doing these Best Of 2019 lists in fact all the major players in celtic-punk do them so click below to check out what they thought.

THE CELTIC PUNKCAST

FOLK’N’ROCK

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

So there you go. Remember we don’t pretend to be the final word on things in fact if you check the other Celtic-Punk media I’m sure we’ve all come up with relatively different lists. Our Best Of’s are cajoled and bullied out of the admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The assorted scraps of paper and beer mats were then tallied up please remember not all of us heard the same albums so like all the various Best Of’s ours is also subjective.

This is our 8th year of making these Best Of lists so if you would like to check out out who was where in our previous ones then just click on the link below the relevant year.

Last year we introduced a new feature THE READERS PICK. We had no idea if it would work or not but it was a raging success so we going to do it all again this year. With well over 500 votes cast you lot chose the debut album from the Krakin’ Kellys as a worthy winner. Only the Top Ten albums are listed but there is an option to write in your favourite release or just to send us love… or abuse!

You are allowed to vote twice but not for the same artist.

The Poll will close at midnight on Friday 31st January with the result announced soon after.

remember any views, comments or abuse or slander we would love to hear it…

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: BARLEYJUICE- ‘The Old Speakeasy’ (2019)

Barleyjuice out of Philadelphia are back with their seventh studio album with fourteen never before released recordings featuring ‘Juice members old and new!

Drinking, singing about drinking, singing while drinking, drinking while singing. We never drive while drinking, but we do drive while singing drinking songs, which drives others to drink, giving our drinking songs more drive.

Six studio albums in, as well as a Best Of double CD collection, Barleyjuice have, i am reliably informed, become one of the most popular Celtic bands in the USA. As far as I am concerned though this is the first time I have heard one of their records even though I have come across the name of the band several times while writing reviews for this here site. Their music is of the Celtic-Rock variety but with enough bite for it to cross over into our territory at regular intervals! Such is their regard that they have had songs featured in two of my favourite TV programmes in The Office and King Of The Hill as well as the Sly Stallone film, Driven. Barleyjuice were founded in 1998 beginning as a side project for a couple of bagpipers in the Loch Rannoch Pipes & Drums of Pineville, Pennsylvania. The Bhoys are now into their third decade together and if the previous six albums are half as good as The Old Speakeasy then I have been missing out on something!

(a short promo film featuring American celtic rock band Barleyjuice celebrating 20 years of live performances. Edited by Hiu Yau)

The album itself is fourteen songs coming in at a very healthy fifty minutes and is a smattering of old and new songs including some classic Irish folk songs and some other inspired covers. Led by Kyf Brewer, who also produced and recorded the album, who plays a multitude of instruments here including guitars, mandola, bouzouki, bagpipes, piano and also lead vocals. Kyf started the band alongside Staten Island, NYC native Keith ‘Swanny’ Swanson as a side project having both been members of the same pipe band. Kyf has been playing music ever since his first band, The Ravyns, had ‘Raised On The Radio’ featured in the successful 1982 movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High. He also has a rather successful career in acting having appeared in VH1’s Before They Were Rock Stars as well as such cult films as Serial Mom and Fahrenheit 911 and also playing a cop in NBC’s Homicide and a sleazy photographer in CBS’ Hack.

Barleyjuice left to right: Eric Worthington- Vocals, Bass * Chris Shepherd- Guitar, Mandolin * Kyf Brewer- Lead Vocals, Guitar, Mandola, Bouzouki, Bagpipes, Piano, 
Harmonium, Garden Shears, Drums * Kyle Blessing- Fiddle * John Tracey- Drums

Backing Kyf and Swanny on this album is bassist Eric Worthington, fiddler Alice Marie and fellow ex-member of The Ravyns John Tracey on drums. As solid a team of Irish-Americans (and Irish/Scots American in Eric’s case) as can be found in American Celtic music. But the rota of musicians doesn’t end there as Barleyjuice have rounded up a staggering fifteen ex-members, including violinists Shelley Weiss and Billy Dominick, bassist Dennis Schocket, mandolinist Graham Ford, guitarist Dave Woodworth along with friends and family who had contributed over the years. Brewer’s daughter,  Scotlyn and wife Beth provided backing vocals while another daughter, Claire plays trumpet on The Old Speakeasy. By its time of The Old Speakeasy’s release, Keith Swanson and Alice had retired, replaced by guitarist/mandolinist Chris Shepherd and fiddle player Kyle Blessing. Now it’s not uncommon for a Celtic band to have a sort of revolving door policy but at a minimum of fifteen they may be pushing for the record here!

So the most obvious thing to ask about Barleyjuice is are all their songs about drinking and the answer is maybe not all but a good few are! Even the album’s title, The Old Speakeasy, gives it away with ‘Speakeasy’ being the name given to a saloon selling alcohol illegally, especially during the time of the American Prohibition when there was a nationwide ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. The album kicks off with the albums title song and from the off you get what they are about with Kyf’s laconic voice dragging itself along a song that has elements of The Beatles and Stones as well as an undeniable Celtic base. The many instruments here give it a layered effect used to great measure. An awesome start that only gets better when they follow it up with the classic Irish rebel song Join The British Army’. Played with passion and a great dose of black humour The Wolfe Tones may have made it famous but Barleyjuice make it their own as well with a brief interlude into ‘Some Say The Divil Is Dead’, another famous Tones track, while they are it. A real foot stomper and the line between Celtic-Rock and Punk is blurred at times and this is a classic example of that blurred line. Barleyjuice may have a serious side but here on The Old Speakeasy they go for your funny bone most of the time and on their tribute to Scots life ‘High On Highland Life’, away from shortbread box covers (or maybe not!) and ‘Don’t Call Me A Pirate’ they manage to combine genuine funny lyrics with some catchy as fecking hell Irish Rock’nFolk!

(a stripped down live version from the end of last year of ‘High On Highland Life’ featuring a rare performance from Swanny before he retired from the band)

Those 60’s influences pop up again on the lovely love song ‘Rose Of Garden City’ and we only five songs in and they manage to craic every boundary. A slowish song about Irish emigration sung from the heart and experience. This is a band with its finger on the pulse of Irish-America. They follow this with one of the album’s standout songs ‘A Fine Lass’. The famous ‘Maggie May’ follows and it’s not the version you may have expected as Barleyjuice give us a song about a sailor and a Irish lass who fall foul of both love and the law. The song takes in both Americana and Country as the band sound like they having a whale of a time. Most of the songs here are written by the band with most of the band members involved like on ‘State Of Desiree’ written by Kyf and Dave Woodworth  and the Irish trad influenced ‘A Winter Toast’ written by Swanny. A couple of serious ones sees the Bhoys need to return to a bit of daftness and on ‘Merry Queen Of Scotch’ they even venture into Ska sounding like a Celtic Mighty Mighty Bosstones with a fast and furious song about a whiskey loving lass that is utterly mad and while completely different to everything around it on this album somehow manages to slot in perfectly.

‘It Takes A Village (To Raise A Drunk)’ is the albums longest song at over five minutes and is the type of epic songwriting that Celtic-Punk is famous for. A grand song that slowly builds up and up and swirls round yer head and when played live I am sure is the kind of song perfect for wrapping your arms around a loved one and belting out the chorus at the top of your lungs. We coming up to the end and the standard so far has been exemplary and they keep it up over the whole album with the instrumental ‘Crackin’ Jenny’s Teacup’ a Horslips inspire Celtic-Rock/Trad Irish masterpiece. The albums opening track is revisited as ‘The Old Speakeasy (return)’ and Kfy leaves the Tom Waits/Shane vocals to one side to show he can croon as well as anyone in a slow ballad with the whole gang joining him in the background. The curtain comes down on the album with ‘Hail Ye Merry Maids’

It doesn’t take a genius to tell why I was desperate to fit this album review in before next weeks Best Of 2019 as it will definitely be bothering the top spot i can reveal. A pity it took the last couple of weeks before the end of the year for me to hear one of the years best albums. A utterly superb album that encompasses all of the different traditions and influences an Irish-American band could soak up. As I said a band with its finger on the pulse of the community that they hail from and not afraid to show their pride in what makes it both great and sometimes not so. A stunning album and every single song is a standout in it’s own right and someone tell me how this fecking great band managed to hide itself from me for so long???

Buy The Old Speakeasy  CD-Here  Download-Here
Contact Barleyjuice  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

Discography One Shilling (1999) * Another Round (2003) * Six Yanks (2006) * Bonny Prince Barley (2008) * The Barleyjuice Irish Collection (2009) * Skulduggery Street (2010) * This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (2013)

(Barleyjuice takes it to the streets and festivals, welcoming all weekend Irish to join them!)

ALBUM REVIEW: NOWHEREBOUND- ‘Mourning Glory’ (2019)

Just a couple more releases from last year before we publish our renowned (well to us anyway!) Best Of 2019 list. Here we have one of our favourite bands and though it’s by no means exclusively Celtic or Folk orientated it integrates traditional Punk with Rock’n’Roll while weaving in threads of gritty country and folk, I’m sure it will appeal to many of you.

Nowherebound’s sixth studio album, Mourning Glory, is an ambitious return to the DIY ethos the band was founded upon. A double album, this record showcases the prolific songwriting and expansive diverse spectrum of ‘Punk-Rock’ Nowherebound encompasses.

The album consists of all-new music but it plays like a greatest hits album already.

Nowherebound are a six-piece punk outfit based in Austin, Texas who have been rocking the scene since 2010 with their very unique sound. Having toured extensively they have managed to take time to get back to the studio and have recently released their latest studio album Mourning Glory. These guys don’t do things by half. The album has a total of nineteen tracks which spans almost eighty minutes. They have never been tied to any particular style of punk and have influences ranging from The Pogues, Joe Strummer, Rancid, Black Flag, The Rolling Stones and The Stooges.

That’s quite a span of influences and this is evident in their music. Their music varies widely, sometimes slower melodic such as ‘South Paw’ to the more hardcore explosive tune ‘Leap Of Faith’. There’s even a hint of Ska punk in the track Feather Fist. The album is a roller coaster ride which doesn’t disappoint from start to finish. Its difficult to pick the best tunes on the album but ‘Frankfurt AM’, ‘No Horse’ and the title track ‘Mourning Glory’ definitely stand out.

(the official video for ‘Mourning Glory’ directed by Jm McKay of JMK Pictures)

“And while roads less traveled were often gravel,
We made our case, gave mob the gavel, cause this was life, and we would not lose it…not yet anyway.
We’d choose to watch the glory fade,
as youth lost its war with time and age, but soldiers never were so brave
as when they made their great escape out of the yard…”

This is a very straight forward unapologetic punk rock album with something in there to please everyone. Get yourself a copy of Mourning Glory and try to catch them live if you get a chance!!

(you can stream Mourning Glory on the Bandcamp player below before you buy)

Contact Nowherebound  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

Buy Mourning Glory  Vinyl/T-Shirts DrunkenShipRecords  Download Bandcamp

2019 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S PART ONE: NORTH AMERICA- ROSIER, THE LUCKY EEJITS, WOMEN SING WAITS, HEATHEN APOSTLES

Each year the number of Celtic-Punk and related releases we receive here at 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS continues to amaze us. Now this is great news but it does mean that we cannot keep up with everything we receive. We simply don’t have time to give a review to everything. Each December we have a week to concentrate on catching up with anything we missed the first time round. We like to write detailed reviews so apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in this way. Each and every band featured here are worthy of your time so please be sure to check them out. To start with here in Part One we are concentrating on four releases from North America with the USA and Canada featuring. In a few days time we will head to Europe and then we will focus on the Rest Of The World so please be sure to check back soon.

ROSIER- ‘Self-Titled’ EP

Anyone expecting a pulsating Quebecios folk fusion, in the vein of La Bouttaine Souriante/ Genticorum and such like, will be in for quite a surprise here. Released to accompany a fall tour from  Montreal 5 piece Rosier this 4 track EP blends a very lush, dreamlike, multi -layered  indie folk organically together with strong Quebecois folk traditions- which while always having a sense of exploration and development, never loses its distinct lightness of touch.
Rosier features the band’s steadfast original lineup: front-woman Béatrix Méthé (lead vocals and fiddle), Colin Savoie-Levac (lap steel, banjo and foot percussion), Sarah Marchand (lead vocals and keys), Éléonore Pitre (acoustic and electric guitar) and Marie Savoie-Levac (bass) while everyone helps out on background vocals. All the songs adapted from traditional and arranged by Rosier, except You Behind, which was written by Béatrix. A very relaxing listen, maybe best as an accompaniment to a wee dram at the end of the night.
Contact Rosier- WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

THE LUCKY EEJITS- ‘Out Of Time’

Now I was first attracted to The Lucky Eejits thanks to their name and it’s ‘Gaelic’ meaning. Eejit of course being the way an working class Irish person would pronounce ‘idiot’. Playing straight forward punk rock this trio blast high speed and high energy upbeat punk music and their is simply no let up on Out Of Time with its catchy riffs in your face punk rock edge. Based in Oakland California the band began life as a Celtic-Punk outfit featuring six eccentric Irish-Americans but after a change in the bands line up The Lucky Eejits were reborn as a more than solid Punk-Rock band. The album is twelve songs long and lasts just over a half hour. Not bad for a album chockablock with songs played at breakneck speed. From the fast Pop-Punk of opener ‘Get Out’ to the final song, a nod to their Celtic-Punk days perhaps, ‘Warm Guinness’, about the perils of tour life, it’s an album that never lets up. Album highlights include ‘Champion’ and ‘So Far So Good’ which they released as singles with the latter as a pretty damn good official video.

Throughout Out Of Time it is packed with catchy melodies and is a fantastic follow up to 2016’s Do It Again. It’s definitely a fan friendly album with chances galore to join in the singing. This may make them more of a live band to follow but this album is certainly worth hearing too. The message here is one of hope and positivity and lets pray the guys get their hands on a cold Guinness soon!

Contact The Lucky Eejits-  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Come On Up To The House: Women Sing Waits’

The main problem with albums like this is that everyone on it treats their song as if it’s either the opening or finale of the whole thing and produces something incredibly over the top. A female only tribute to the legendary Tom Waits sounds great on paper but it is rather overblown and judging by Corinne Bailey Rae’s version of ‘Jersey Girl’ they’d have been well to invite Mariah Carey to perform here! Twelve artists of Tom Waits greatest ballads covered by Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin, Rosanne Cash, Phoebe Bridgers, Joseph, Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer, Corinne Baily Rae, Courtney Marie Andrews, Kat Edmonson, The Wild Reeds, Iris Dement and Angie McMahon and yet it’s the oldest artist here Rosanne Cash and ‘Time’ that steals the show for me though the jazz influenced Kat Edmonson’s ‘You Can Never Hold Back Spring’ and the Country and Western singer Iris DeMent’s ‘House Where Nobody Lives’ wring out every piece of emotion from Tom’s majestic words and the album’s final song ends with the overblown (and rightly so this time!) The Wild Reeds version of ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues’.

Tom Waits has just recently celebrated his 70th birthday though sadly this album adds very little to his canon of work. An opportunity to really re-interpret his work has got lost (largely) under some rather inflated ego’s. For Waits fanatics its worth buying for the Rosanne Cash song alone and also producer Warren Zanes who wrings as much out of the songs as possible and provides some excellent liner notes on his relationship with Tom Waits music.

“He kept writing those songs that burrowed into the broken places inside of us, Waits could regularly deliver that revelation that comes with only the best songs: you may be lonely, but you’re not alone. As the years rolled by, every Waits recording arrived like it had come just in time.”

HEATHEN APOSTLES- ‘Born By Lightning’ EP

So far here we have reviewed a Folk album, a Punk album and a sort of Bluesy compilation album so none of our usual uptake and that doesn’t change with this review of the latest EP from Heathen Apostles. They play a sort of Gothic Americana Blues crossed with alternative alternative country. Born By Lightning comes hot on the heels of their recently released album Dust To Dust, their fifth to date, and five new songs of what one reviewer described as “the bluegrass of Bill Monroe put into the woodshed with the Gothic tendencies of Siouxsie And The Banshees”. Label mates of one of my all time favourite bands Phantom Of The Black Hills they tread much the same path but definitely in a more accessible way to yer average Joe. Fiddle and banjo aplenty here while Mather Louth’s beautiful yet powerful voice shines above all else. Starting off with the slow Country styled Gothic ballad ‘Death Bell Blues’ a tribute to the legendary Howlin’ Wolf before leading into the dark ‘Chosen One’ which shows the Apostles at that catchiest best. The title track ‘Born By Lightning’ sees them back in darker country again with an intense ballad that builds on Mather’s voice with the rest of the band restrained before here. A million miles away from the Grand Ole Opry! The last two songs have a much harder edge, ‘Devil Comes For All Of Us’ is elf explanatory while ‘Scarecrow Blues’ take us far away from traditional Country and into the realm of the ‘murder ballad’ with its tale of a social misfit  being burned out of his house only for the vigilantes to burn down the entire town while it slinks and slithers to the beat of the blues! A Country-Bluesy-Punky affair the band have long wanted to do a Blues style release and with Born By Lightning they have managed to stay close to their roots and something that would also appeal to more traditional music fans too. Signed to Ratchet Blade Records which specialises in ‘Dark Roots Music’ where you can find out all you need to about this glorious genre.

Contact Heathen Apostles  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

So ends the first part of our 2019 Round-Up’s and again apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still missed some fantastic music I am sure 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. And finally 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.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE NARROWBACKS- ‘By Hook Or By Crook’ (2019)

New York Irish Music

The Narrowbacks are back with their third album of Irish-American Celtic-Rock and conceivably their best yet! If Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan and Bruce Springsteen survived a drinking session through the 5 boroughs, the hangover would be called The Narrowbacks. Fire it up!

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 labor.

Across the major cities of the Irish diaspora you will find one (or two if your lucky!) band that comes to totally represent the Irish of that city. Like the Dropkicks in Boston, the Mollys in LA, The Wakes in Glasgow and The Bible Code Sundays and Neck in London these bands are a rallying point to the Irish community and help to keep alive the past, present and future of that community. The painful history of tragedy and hardship became a sense of pride and celebration that today across the world the Irish community is flourishing. Even though their are several bands that could lay claim to to the title of NYC’s most prominent Irish band and with competition from greats such as Shilelagh Law or Black 47 The Narrowbacks with this their third studio album By Hook Or By Crook have nailed the honour with this flying colours.

In a city where everyone is fighting for space the the working class Woodlawn area of the Bronx remains to this day a predominantly Irish area, the neighborhood is still referred to as ‘Little Ireland’. Young Irish still flock to the area on their arrival to the States due to the area hosting both the Emerald Isle Immigration Center and the Aisling Irish Community Centre as well untold amount of pubs and construction companies where many of these newly arrived Irish can find work. It was in Woodlawn that the Irish-Americans that form The Narrowbacks grew up. Formed in 2010 as the brain child of a future banker and a drop out bartender as a drunken joke that soon enough developed, under popular demand for them, into the next big thing on the New York Irish music scene. Taking their name from the slang name historically used to describe a Irish-American who was considered too soft to do hard physical labour.

The Narrowbacks left to right: Reilley Vegh – Fiddle * Fionn McElligott – Electric Guitar * Barry Walsh – Acoustic Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin * Seamus Keane – Lead Vocals * Anthony Chen – Bass * Chris Moran – Drums * Pat Keane – Button Accordion

The Narrowbacks pursuit to take over the NYC Irish music scene arguably began when Black 47 called it a day back in 2014. The undisputed ‘Kings Of NY’ were a Celtic-Rock band, formed in 1989 by Larry Kirwan and Chris Byrne taking their name from the the summer of 1847, the worst year of the ‘Great Famine’ in Ireland. With them out of the way the scene was set for some new blood and following their debut album, Fire It Up in 2013, they really came into their own with the EP After Hours and their second album release Arrogance And Ignorance in 2016 the year that also saw them opening for the likes of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. The album peaked at #2 in the London Celtic Punks Best Of 2016 album chart so much did the assorted wastrels here rate it!

So The Narrowbacks are back and they have a lot to live up to. Arrogance And Ignorance was one of my favourite albums and is still regularly given an airing over at London Celtic Punks towers. The Christmas themed ‘Prodigal Son’ is particularly glorious. An auld fashioned Christmas song about an Irish mammy waiting for her off-the-rails son to come home. Capable of bringing a tear to the eye its nay on impossible to make a truly unsentimental Christmas tune but The Pogues and The Narrowbacks have done it. Based in singer Seamus Keane’s pub in Woodlawn, Keane’s Bar And Restaurant, where music is supplied seven days a week by up-and-coming Irish and Irish-American musicians the band are not just leading the cities music scene but are also helping to make it flourish with their support of other artists.

Tribal drumming and distortion kicks off By Hook Or By Crook with the title track and soon, after only forty seconds, comes to an abrupt end and ‘Streets Of Woodlawn’ takes over and was the first single released in advance of the album. Instantly giving a sense of London’s own Bible Code Sundays due in no small part to the prominence of fiddle and accordion it’s a rip-roaring song the kind of track that gets you screaming at the top of your voice along with the band or a singalong down at the pub smacking your glass on the bar shouting along with the Bhoys “In the streets of Woodlawn”.

Over in a flash of under three minutes The Narrowbacks are not hanging about and the addition of the excellent fiddler Reilley Vegh has given the band that little bit extra buzz. Next up is ‘Tripping Up The Stairs’ and Reilley again shines and his contribution really rounds off the bands sound nicely. The song ticks along nicely with Seamus having perhaps reigned in the ‘gravelyness’ of his vocals. Maybe he’s given up smoking!?! The song ends with a fab trad fiddle solo showing their are no boundaries here and ‘On The Radio’ they have one ot the albums stand out tracks. As catchy as hell with a great chorus and infectiously fun the song gives the whole band to shine individually while not disturbing the flow of the song.

So far its been fun fun fun but as anyone will tell you its not all fun being Irish and ‘All I Know Is Woe’ is the song to bring down the mood, but only a wee bit as the music is still catchy as hell and completely uplifting. While the Bible Codes never really passed into Celtic-Punk remaining firmly embedded in the London Irish pub and trad scene it’s great to hear The Narrowbacks thrash out a bit and ‘Delirium’ is the track to do it in. Still with both feet firmly in Irish music the song has a bit more bite to it and even sounds louder than the other songs here!! The song even touches on that most Celtic-Punk of themes that of the pub and alcohol. On an album as strong as By Hook Or By Crook it seems a wee bit unfair to point out the better tracks but ‘Jackson Notes’ is certainly one of them. Again as catchy as a New York Yankees baseball mitt it’s a rollicking good ride with great vocals from Seamus alongside the whole band stepping up to the plate a great chorus to top it all off. We are nearing the end and nay sign of any ballad yet and ‘Sackcloth And Ash’ is not one either. A more folky approach here despite Fionn’s thrashy guitar, Chris’ drums and Anthony’s rumbling bass best attempts to keep it rocking. The longest song here at nearly five minutes it never outlives its welcome and is, here’s that word again… catchy! The folk instruments are supplied by Patrick on accordion and Barry on both banjo and mandolin as well as Fionn on fiddle. ‘Last Call’ carries on in similar vein with a folky base. Talking of life on the working class streets of NY and not everyone is a king in the US of A. Another great song giving the album a strong ending as ‘Bitter End’ brings down the curtain on By Hook Or By Crook. As Seamus rallies his friends together in a song about how friendship and family determines who we are and tells us to “hold our heads high”. A fantastic ending to an outstanding album.

Ten songs that, all penned by the band themselves, comes in at just over thirty minutes. With seven members the production could get a bit messy but it is as clear as crystal and all the various instruments from folk to rock are clearly balanced along with Seamus vocals. Whoever mixed and produced the album deserves a tip of the hat for such a fantastic job. While The Narrowbacks are probably not a ‘celtic-Punk’ in the traditional sense they are common among Irish-American bands in that they keep one foot in the trad folk scene and come across as a Folk band playing Punk/Rock songs. In these days with the Irish community in the States seemingly at last happy in it’s role in American life bands like those that inhabit the Celtic-Punk and Rock scenes play an important part in keeping the community grounded and to not to forget its past and what others went through to give them the confidence they have today. Seamus Keane sums up the Irish-American community in in his own inimitable way

“Irish America in 2019 is its own thing altogether. One part Donald Trump, two parts Civil Service, construction and pubs, mix in equal parts GAA and AOH, finish with three parts Wolfe Tones. A contradictory recipe for a terrible conversation at Thanksgiving Dinner.”

By Hook Or By Crook gives Arrogance And Ignorance more than a good run for its money and the songs fly past in an whirl and show a growing confidence The Narrowbacks have in themselves. How they are not more widely known is a mystery to me but the Irish around the world love Irish-America (we are all secretly obsessed with it!!) so hopefully this album will receive them the exposure they so greatly deserve. Destined to be at the higher end of this years Best Of Album chart By Hook Or By Crook takes you instantly to the smoke filled bars of Katonah Avenue. Places built on the blood, sweat and tears of generations of Irish and Irish-Americans who still keep a flame alive in their hearts for a place that many will never see.

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(The Narrowbacks live set opening for the Dropkick Murphys during their St. Patrick’s residency at The House of Blues in Boston in 2016)

ALBUM REVIEW: DONNY ZUZULA- ‘Chemicals’ (2019)

Donny Zuzula has worn a lot of hats and walked a lot of miles.

Having spent a decade as the guitarist, singer, songwriter for the Michigan based Celtic-Punk trio The Tosspints, Donny Zuzula’s debut album takes us through every aspect of his life. Dark, sad, heartbroken tunes, poetically sung from the soul and layered with guitars and harmonies.

The Tosspints are a strange band within the Celtic-Punk scene. Not only are they the only trio in the scene, being made up by the Bros. Zuzula, Donny and Zak accompanied on drums by John Johnson, but they are also not really much of a Celtic-Punk band in that they have no Celtic instrumentation. It is true though that they somehow manage to convey the feel of a Celtic band better than most with just bass, electric guitar and drums. Donny who is the main writer for The Tosspints is a singer-songwriter in the old school meaning of the term. Not some pampered puppet singing achingly of experiences they have never or will ever know. Celtic-Punk is dominated by several themes that cross from continent to continent especially among the children of the diaspora- Loss and emigration, heavy drinking, heavy working and death, solidarity, religion, class pride, an gorta mór (the great hunger) all bleed into the modern day working class Irish-American experience. Donny had a knack back then (a must listen to album is The Tosspints excellent album The Privateer from 2015) of capturing this way of life and here on his debut solo album he continues in much the same way. Donny chose to record a solo album rather than another Tosspints album because

“this solo venture is more of an exercise in writing alone to explore more versatile styles that wouldn’t normally be courted along with the band. A little more folk influence and a little more explorative of personal topics than when writing is done with the band, this album is just different enough to be something new, but just familiar enough that fans of previous work should feel right at home.”

Donny served time in the military overseas and these experiences alongside growing and living in Saginaw, until recently the most dangerous places in America! Once a thriving and successful town by the late 20th century, industry and its once-strong manufacturing presence had collapsed leading to increasing unemployment and crime. This hard nosed, working class background runs through The Tosspints music. It’s also an area of America with long historical links to Irish emigration with Irish emigrants responsible for building the areas many canals and even the areas connection with Irish nationalism has always been closely linked with the Labour movement in which Irish-Americans were among the earliest organizers and leaders. As the band say about themselves

“living through the school of hard knocks, brought to bear from war, loss, degradation, and hard drinking. A band created entirely by a family who has had to make it through life the hard way and use their experience to create songs about the more distressed side of being human”

Donny Zuzula first album is Chemicals, the much anticipated follow up to The Privateer and as ever Donny draws from not from cliches but from the very life of a man who has seen and experienced things we can only dream about. From being a war veteran to fatherhood, Donny takes us on a ride that incorporates Folk-Rock and Punk as well as honest to goodness blue collar working man’s music. Introduced to music through his fathers love of Neil Young, Donny takes a harder edged route and while stopping short of Punk it has the same appeal as The Tosspints and will I am sure be welcomed by fans of that band.

The album begins with ‘Alive’ and the Neil Young comparison is still OK but also crossed with the great Bob Mould. Donny’s vocals still rock and his range is extraordinary and conveys the emotion of the songs perfectly. This is no guy going through the motions. The song is catchy as hell as can be expected and sets the scene for an album that continues to impress me on each play. ‘Another Shot’ veers into that 80’s Post-Punk sound that saw Punk’s not afraid of complicated guitar riffs and more elaborate set ups.

“I crossed a line today
I marched to battle and on my way
It’s just a memory
But feels like it’s all happening again”

The words here seem so personal that it kinda feels funny to attempt to make sense of them from the outside. They speak in such a way that I would recommend looking up the lyrics on Donny’s Bandcamp page. ‘Never Go Back’ slows things down akin to a rock ballad but no cheese while ‘Empty And Gone’ comes up with a delicate Country-rocker. ‘Nothing Left To Say’ takes us back to Mould territory and an excellent rocking tune that gives Donny amble opportunity to show off his vocal range.

Catchy as hell and a guaranteed favourite that leads nicely into ‘Any Other Day’ and if the words here don’t strike you in the gut then there is nay hope for you.

“It’s getting awful late
And my urge to medicate
Has surpassed my will to use the skills
That keep me from the bottom of the bottle”

The final three songs of Chemicals show Donny in reflective form as he turns again to the influence of Country music though wrapped up well in punk attitude. Slide guitar on ‘Turn Away’ makes it the more obvious tune but on ‘Sleep Is For The Weak’ the influence is just as great but more accessible.

“I tell that bottle
all my hopes and my dreams
I tell that bottle
all that’s happened to me
I tell that bottle
the way that I really feel
that bottle understands me
in a way you never will”

Leading the way to the albums closing tune and the albums standout song, ‘Chemicals’.

I would compare Donny in a lot of ways to Bryan MacPherson who has featured on London Celtic Punks pages perhaps more than any artist. Like Donny, Bryan’s life has seen ups and downs and his songwriting draws you right into his soul. We are not voyeurs in their life and they neither hold up their experiences as a vehicle for their music it is much more the other way round and the music becomes the way to express themselves. Where others may play up to events in their lives Donny, and Bryan too, has that ability to draw you into his life through their music. It is something incredible and a talent that very few have and many more think they have but don’t! Chemicals is many things. It is gritty and heartfelt as well as passionate and inspiring and the words are powerful. Chemicals deserves to be heard…

(You can stream Chemicals on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Chemicals  Vinyl/CD  Download

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE WALKER ROADERS- ‘The Walker Roaders’ (2019)

The origins of Celtic-Punk go back to a handful of bands but without a doubt it was the seminal London-Irish band The Pogues that the whole genre owes most to. Here Graveyard Johnnys Callum Houston runs the rule over the most long awaited album in the scene of recent years. Pogues accordionist James Fearnley teams up with members of the only other two Celtic-Punk bands that have come close to The Pogues in both popularity and influence, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, to form The Walker Roaders. The pre-album release campaign was masterful but can the album live up to all the hype…

To anyone who is not aware of The Walker Roaders they are a new super group fronted by James Fearnley (accordionist of The Pogues) with Ted Hutt (founding member of Flogging Molly, producer for Gaslight Anthem, Tiger Army, Bouncing Souls etc etc), Marc Orrell (founding member of Dropkick Murphys) and additional musicians Kieran Mulroney (Low and Sweet Orchestra), Brad Wood (producer of Smashing Pumpkins) and Bryan Head (Dick Dale). It’s going to be hard to talk about The Walker Roaders without mentioning The Pogues.

The Walker Roaders were a street gang when James Fearnley was a kid growing up in Manchester who would slit your thumb with a knife if they came across you and felt like it.

The influence is clearly strong yet it is very much welcomed. It just goes to show how much of a contribution James’ playing had on The Pogues sound The album kicks off with “Lord Randalls Bastard Son”. This track is sure to win anyone over on the first listen. The pace is fast, the melodies strong and the words potent. James’ voice is sturdy, bold and northern as they come. He sings with strength and clarity giving every word importance and making sure not one is to be missed.

In the background I can hear what sounds to be the return of the beer tray, a subtle nod back to the early Pogues years. The second track “Seo Yun” is another fast paced number. The minor melody of the old Irish classic “The Foggy Dew” is tastefully borrowed for the verse but not before it jumps into a resolving singalong major chorus. The underlying Polka beat keeps the track turning and it’s heart pulsing. Following that is the first single from the album “Will You Go Lassie Go”. When I first saw the title I thought instantly it was going to be a cover of the traditional Scottish tune of the same name. It is however an original but has all the ingredients of a timeless ballad in it’s own right. The drums are huge, I can hear them echoing for miles through valleys with only the surging chorus of strumming guitars washing over them. This is a perfect festival song.

Before going any further I just want to state that the lyrical content, musical arrangement and production of this album is of an extremely high quality on each track, considering the members involved I would expect nothing less. “The Story” is a prime example of all those components. The accordion takes prominence and the song flows just as it’s title suggests. At “A Meteor at a Time” we reach the middle of the album and by now we are easing into mid tempo. I feel the momentum gets slightly lost here, although it is yet another great song I imagine it maybe more of a slow burner for some people. On my first few plays of the album “Old Tar Road to Sligo” was my first ear worm. It’s lively introduction and 6/8 swing takes me right back to the “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” glory days. The song structure meanders in some interesting directions but it is never far from returning to it’s source. I have to amid I did do a quick search on the price of Winnebago camper vans. “The Blackbird Only Knows One Song” stays in 6/8 timing which is proving to work very well. Here the vocals and lyrics take the helm held a float on waves of heavily reverbed banjo, accordion, guitar and crashing drums. “Here Comes The Ice” has to be my personal favourite. It bears a strong nostalgic feel with wit that will have you smiling and honesty that could almost bring you to tears. The song is joint together nicely with a repetitive catchy guitar riff.
To finish the album off on form we have “Turned out Nice Again”. Kicking straight in with a powerful melody played by the tightly combined accordion and whistle combination once again echoing back to that classic Pogues sound. Could there possibly be the additional of a special guest musician on this track? As a huge Pogues fan I have seen many similar bands pop up over the years but I have rarely been satisfied, there has always been something lacking. This album offers some kind of closure to that void. I really hope that this is just the beginning for The Walker Roaders, I would love to see the band take to the road. The album has been well worth the wait, the sound is timeless and the lyrics read like a novel. I’m sure lots of people will be looking for a hard copy of the album, I too want to keep this forever.
”Walker Roaders came together totally organically, A bit of fun really. The result of James, Marc and myself getting together to hang out and write songs. Then it became a mission to take Celtic music to another level!”- Ted Hutt on how the Walker Roaders came to be
Buy The Walker Riders  Stream or Download
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Thanks to Callum Houston for the great review and who better to review a banjo heavy album than someone who knows his way round a banjo! Callum’s fantastic debut EP Gravities was released just last month and was reviewed on these pages here. As part of the wonderful Psycho/ R’n’R Welsh trio the Graveyard Johnnys he has played just about every corner of Europe and now resides in Brittany but will be over visiting in December anday d will be doing a select series of shows including a special London Celtic Punks date that you should definitely keep your ears open for!! December tour dates  Thursday 5th- The Anchor, Wingham * Friday 6th- Frosty’s Bar, Kenton, Harrow * Saturday 7th- Seamus O’Donnell’s Bristol * Sunday 8th The Star – Fishponds. Check Callum out on Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

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

Musical Bear Records  WebSite  YouTube  Facebook  

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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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 Mellon 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

Contact 6’10  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  Instagram

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

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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

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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
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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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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  OR 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)

Any download link problems leave a comment

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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