Category Archives: Bagpipes

HOW TO BECOME AN AUTHENTIC IRISH-PUNK BAND!

irish-instrument1The Irish are quite rightly famed for their music. Whether or not this would be so if the country and it’s inhabitants hadn’t had such a tragic past is debatable but traditional Irish music has been around centuries and has had an influence on many different forms of music, most notably in American bluegrass and country. By the High and Late Medieval era, the Irish annals were listing musicians and in County Wicklow a set of wooden pipes were discovered that date even further back to the Stone Age to prove it. There’s just something about the pipes and the melodies of an Irish song that brings out so many feelings and emotions in people.

So there you are sat at home thinking of starting up an authentic Irish folk-punk band but what instruments do you need to include. Sure you got your drums and guitar and bass but what about the ones that will transform you from just a run in the mill punk rock band into the next Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly. You may be surprised at actually how few of them originated in Ireland but here are the traditional folk instruments that you will find in celtic punk bands that Irish musicians have been blowing, strumming, picking, plucking and thumping for a very long time indeed.

Bodhrán

bodhran

Imelda May

Pronounced ‘bow-rawn’ this handheld goatskin drum is certainly easier to get around and less trouble than a drummer! The name ‘bodhran’ is an Irish word that derives from the word bodhar which means deaf or dull. Known as the heartbeat of trad music for good reason this large drum is covered with stretched animal skin and struck with a stick that was traditionally made from double-ended knucklebone to provide our music with a pulsating beat that turns listeners into dancers with ease. It’s speculated that the instrument served a double purpose as a husk sifter and grain tray. We prefer it as a drum. For a taster of what the bodhrán has to offer, re-watch Riverdance for the thousandth time.

Uilleann Pipes

uilleann-pipes

Liam O’Flynn

Now most celtic-punk bands that have pipes have the Highland bagpipes rather than the uilleann pipes. This is mainly down to the uilleann pipes, which means ‘pipes of the elbow’ because of their pump-operated bellows, taking years to master and that the Highland bagpipes are much much louder. The bag of the pipes is inflated thanks to a set of bellows fastened around the waist and right arm of the musician. The bellows are able to relieve the musician from putting in the extra effort required to blow into a bag to maintain its pressure. These ancient pipes have been mesmerising listeners with their haunting tones since the 5th Century but it was two County Louth brothers, William and Charles Taylor, who developed the modern version after emigrating with the instrument from post-Famine Ireland to the United States. The pipes are different from several other bagpipes with regards to their tone and wider range of notes. With a distinct structure, which sounds much sweeter and quieter than other bagpipes. The pipes are almost always played while sitting down and it is thought one of the reasons that the pipes were invented was to compose music for dancing.

Tin Whistle

Almost all primitive cultures had a type of tin whistle with a possible Neanderthal flute found in Slovenia dating from 81,000-53,000 B.C.,a German flute from 35,000 years ago and a flute made from sheep’s bone in West Yorkshire dating to the Iron Age. Known also as the penny whistle, since it could be bought for a mere penny, the tin whistle has six holes, a mouthpiece, and is played by blowing air into it and using your fingers to cover different holes to produce different notes. British entrepreneur Robert Clarke began manufacturing the modern tin whistle in the early 1900’s and it became extremely popular and soon made it’s way over to Ireland. Nowadays found in most celtic-punk bands it has and become indistinguishable from Celtic music and is a beloved instrument of Celtic musicians and fans alike.

fiddle

Fiddle

Arr now this is the classic debate that is had in all kinds of folk music circles! Is it the violin or is it the fiddle? Well looks can be deceiving as they both look absolutely identical. Take the Irish fiddle, for example, this essential traditional instrument may look the same as a violin, but its unique playing style and sound set’s the two apart. Probably the most common traditional instrument found in celtic-punk bands the high-pitched and expressive fiddle is often heard above all else, and can be both euphoric and heart-breaking in equal measure. In Ireland the counties of Sligo and Donegal in particular both have rich fiddling traditions and have been redefining the sound of this sweet instrument for centuries.

Irish Bouzouki

irish-bouzouki

Donal Lunny

Adapted from a Greek instrument and brought to Ireland in the 1960s, the Irish bouzouki is the latest addition to our traditional music arsenal. Looking not unlike a giant mandolin, the instrument was popularized by Irish folk legend Dónal Lunny from Tullamore, County Offaly, who used one in seminal trad folk band Planxty. With such a rich and bright sound its no surprise we stole the idea and made it our own.  Bouzoukis are now regulars at many a traditional music session. Another instrument we stole and is played with such regularity in celtic-punk band’s it second only to the banjo, originally brought to America by African slaves it was adopted by Celtic emigrants and became associated with country, folk, Irish traditional and bluegrass music.

Concertina

heaven-hellDeveloped in England and Germany in the early 18th century and spread to Ireland late in the 19th century. The concertina, also known as the squeeze box, was known in Germany as a lower-class instrument used mostly by workers to perform music on the streets while the English concertinas developed an air of bourgeois respectability with the upper classes enjoying the exact same melodies. The concertina has buttons and bellows on both ends and when pressed, the buttons move in the same direction as the bellows. The piano accordion became highly popular during the 1950’s and has flourished to the present day in céilí bands and for old time Irish dance music.

Celtic Harp

Now this is a long shot as I know of no celtic-punk band out there that has a harpist. If you do please let me know in the comments section. The only time I can remember seeing one played is at Wolfe Tones gigs in the 80’s. Anyhow you know an instrument has reached iconic status when it appears on the currency. The Celtic harp is that very instrument. Variations of the triangular, gut-stringed-instrument have been plucked in Ireland since as long ago as the 10th Century, when nomadic harpists would travel around Ireland performing songs for food or a warm bed. In 1792, the Belfast Harp Festival saw the best players competing for prizes. And today, the ornate and ancient Brian Boru harp can be viewed in Trinity College in Dublin. So if you are looking for something to set your celtic-punk band apart then why not get yourself a harpist!

Folk The System instruments

Folk The System

So there you go all you need to start a band. Finding the players you need is a different matter though but with Ireland’s trad music attracting more and more listeners and more and more people of all nationalities taking up the instruments it hopefully shouldn’t be too hard. With our music schools, concerts and pub sessions, there’s no shortage of opportunists to learn either so if you fancy taking up any of the instruments mentioned follow the links below.

Link1  Link2  Link3  Link4  Link5  Fiddle  TinWhistle  Guitar

EP REVIEW: BORN AGAIN HEATHENS- ‘Born Again Heathens’ (2017)

Celtic punk rock from Raleigh, NC bringing a swift kick in the pants to Celtic Music. Something different, something rude, something drunk, something crude!

Rocking away out of Raleighthe capital city of the state of North Carolina, Born Again Heathens play absolutely amazing kick-ass UK82 style punk rock with bagpipes. Born out of the ashes of the areas only celtic-rock band My Three Kilts the drummer and bassist from said band fancied something with a much heavier edge to it and so Born Again Heathens were delivered.

“Someone born into the world with no religion, who gets baptized as a child, learns about or experiments with other religions as an adult and then declares all region to be BS. This person may or may not still believe in a higher being”

Like most cities in the States the local Irish-American community is flourishing again after some rather lean years. The city boasts the popular Raleigh GAA Club which plays both football and hurling, a massive Irish festival, a branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irish dance and traditional music classes and enough Irish bars to give you blood poisoning if you attempted a pint in each one!

So it’s no surprise then that wherever you find the Irish community in America you will also find some top quality celtic punk bands and Born Again Heathens are one of the best I’ve heard of late. All the band are from Scots/Irish backgrounds like Andy the drummer whose Grandad came from the Shetland Islands. Now I do love my folk music and I love all kinds of celtic-punk from the more trad based to the hardcore versions, or you could say the Murphys to the Mollys even, but sometimes the folkier stuff just won’t cut it and your in the mood and need something to bang your head to. Well you can go ahead and place this EP in the latter section.

Kicking off with ‘Irish Goodbye’ it’s great old fashioned fast punk rock but just as you start to think what’s it doing in the celtic-punk section the pipes start up and you nod your head knowingly to yourself. That’s why. The pipes are played expertly as all the other instruments and the production here is quality too. Now a ‘Irish Goodbye’ is not something I knew much about before I saw it mentioned on an episode of The American Office. It means leaving a pub without saying goodbye. Now I’ve been known to do this myself but sadly without realising like the time I went to the toilet and came straight out the door and went home leaving my coat and bag behind me in the middle of winter!

Fast and furious with a real catchy feel to it with the bagpipes feeling really natural. This isn’t just a punk band with a bagpiper this is a band where the pipes are an integral part of what Born Again Heathens are doing. We are in for more of the same with ‘McIntyre’s Lament’ and the headbanging continues. More tales of the pub and a mate who can’t hold his drink. Even room for some fecking great metal guitar! ‘Wild In The Streets’ comes with a really well produced video and the songs sounds pretty damn good too. Most celtic-punk bands liken themselves to some sort of cross between The Clash and The Dubliners but here we have something a bit more different. Imagine if you would a hybrid of Manchester punk/Oi! trailblazers Blitz and Scots folk legends Silly Wizard and you’ll be much nearer the mark.

The vocals are sung in a sort of English accent which makes the Blitz comparison even more true. ‘Brass Tacks’ is the most traditional folk sounding song here. The pipes are pushed to the fore and lead the band along. I have rarely heard piping as good as this in celtic-punk and in ‘All My Friends Are Drunks’ the longest song here the Bhoys really get to drop the hammer. An absolutely superb song with influences washing in from metal and southern rock with chugging guitars and them wonderful pipes. The longer song really gives the band a chance to get into it and was I thought as good as it could get here till the even better ‘Stagger Alley’ came waltzing into my lugholes. Proving they aren’t just a two dimensional band they give us, for me anyway, the album standout. The catchiest of catchy choruses helps of course! The EP comes to an end with another great song ‘Sadie Hawkins Slam Dance’. In the states a ‘Sadie Hawkins’ dance is where a woman asks the man to dance with her, instead of the traditional way of man asking the woman. I found a hilarious explanation of the origins of the dance here.  This could become the Born Again Heathens anthem I think.

So there you are. Seven songs that fly past at breakneck speed in just twenty three minutes. I think any longer and we, the listener, may not make it through! I been listening to a lot of folk music recently and after playing this two dozen times I’ve decided its time to dig out the punk music again. Seven songs written by the Born Again Heathens that have plenty of scope and influences from outside celtic-punk that only add to the sound. They are starting to make a name for themselves outside of North Carolina and they certainly deserve to if they can keep songs like these coming. Now wheres that album Bhoys?

Born Again Heathens left to right: Scott Ervin- bass,vocals * Mōg- bagpipes, whistles, vocals * Bryan Swinson- guitar, vocals * Andy Pacheco- drums, vocals

Get The EP

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North Carolinian’s pride themselves on their knowledge of the history and culture of ‘North Cackalacky’ but when it comes to this unusual nickname no one seems to know where in the world it came from!

ALBUM REVIEW: FLATFOOT 56- ‘Odd Boat’ (2017)

Playing positive-natured hardcore-tinged celtic-punk Chicago heavyweights Flatfoot 56 released their new album, Odd Boat, last week with Sailor’s Grave Records. Produced by Matt Allison in Chicago and featuring twelve songs that blend their unique blend of traditional Irish folk music and surging punk rock.

by  Gerard Mellon, 03/2017.

flatfoot-56-odd-boat

So, it’s been five long years since we had a new album from Flatfoot 56, although in that period we had an acoustic album from 6’10, a punk/oi album from Brick Assassin (both bands featuring members of Flatfoot 56), and an EP, featuring a couple of new tracks, split between 6’10 and Flatfoot 56. But a new release from the Chicago Celtic punkers, has been a long time coming! It is called Odd Boat, and comprises a dozen tracks, it runs for 37 minutes.

(Justin has since been replaced on drums by Conrad)

And what a cracking half an hour or so it is! The punk and folk factions in the band blend so well together, giving us a sound so unique to Flatfoot 56 that places them right at the heart of Celtic Punk. These lads get it, they really do! Their last offering Toil was a superb album and this follow up is equally as good. Although it’s not a clone of Toil, far from it! The production on Odd Boat gives it a rawer sound, maybe it’s a bit more punk influenced. There is still the musicality and excellent instrumentation there, but it’s a bit like aggression or power has been added. Perhaps this disc is more related to the wonderful Jungle of the Midwest Sea album from 2007. Anyway, whatever tweaks that have been made over the past five years, they work very well.

Flatfoot 56 formed in the summer of 2000 as a three-piece punk band. The three original members, who are brothers (Tobin, Justin and Kyle), started writing songs in mid-2000 and by the Christmas they were playing their first gig. The following January they band added Josh Robieson to the lineup and the band began including the Highland bagpipes into its sound and Flatfoot 56 had began their rise as one of America’s most popular celtic-punk bands. Countless TV appearances and remember that series of Sons Of Anarchy involving the IRA that played them throughout the whole series! We even had the pleasure of seeing them live in London back in 2010 I think it was. They were first band on at 8pm and maybe twenty people tops there in the Hope And Anchor basement. Didn’t realise it at the time but this gig was the direct inspiration to start the London Celtic Punks! 

f56-band

Flatfoot 56 from left to right: Kyle Bawinkel – Bass, Vocals * Brandon Good – Mandolin, Guitar, Vocals * Conrad – Drums, Vocals * Eric McMahon – Bagpipes, Guitar, Bass Drum * Tobin Bawinkel – Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar

The opening ‘Ty Cobb’, is about a famous Detroit baseball player who was renowned for diving in (“studs up” in our London parlance!) at the bases, is a fast paced, up-beat intro that draws you in and lets you know that you’re in for something special. From the following track ‘Stutter’ through ‘Penny,’ ‘Odd Boat’, ‘Englewood’, ‘Forward’, ‘The Crippled’, ‘Curtains’, ‘KPM’, ‘PS’, ‘The Trap’ to the final track, ‘A Voice’, you feel that you have heard something special! ‘KPM’ is a ballad like track that leans toward acoustic. ‘The Trap’ goes the other way and is a much more punk/oi sounding track. Many people will have heard ‘Penny’ already and so will know just how good this new material is. The final track ‘A Voice’ is a mid-tempo spiritual song that signs off the album beautifully.

(the first single off Odd Boat featuring guest vocals from an artist named IL Neige)

I honestly could have sat here and gone through each track individually and told you all how good they are, but that would be crazy and still wouldn’t do the album justice. The only way you’ll be able to see how right I am is by going out and buying it! Then if you’re anything like me you’ll play it, then play it again and again. It’s an absolute pleasure having to review albums like this, but what I’d like to do and what many more people would like, would be an opportunity to review a live show! It must be time for the band to come over and play a few gigs in the Ireland and Britain!! I mean, even if they have to sail over in an Odd Boat!!!

Buy Odd Boat

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Contact Flatfoot 56

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Discography

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

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