Category Archives: Classic Album Reviews

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: DICK GAUGHAN- ‘Handful Of Earth’ (1981)

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Considered one of the great folk voices of our time and acknowledged as one of Scotland’s most outstanding musicians. Handful Of Earth is renowned as not only his best album but also as one of the best folk album’s of all time.

Dick 1

Though steeped in the traditions of folk and Celtic music, Scottish singer/songwriter Dick Gaughan has enjoyed a lengthy and far-reaching career in a variety of pursuits. The eldest of three children, he grew up surrounded by the music of both Scotland and Ireland. His mother, a Highland Scot who spoke Gaelic, had as a child won a silver medal for singing at a Gaelic Mòd and his Leith-born dad played guitar while his Irish grandad the fiddle and his Glaswegian grannie played button accordion.

The family experienced considerable poverty, but the area they lived in possessed a strong community and many of Gaughan’s songs celebrate his working-class roots. In his teens Gaughan served an apprenticeship at a local paper mill, but had wanted to be a musician since he first started playing guitar at the age of seven. Born in 1948, he first picked up the guitar at the age of seven, and released his debut solo album, No More Forever, in 1972. He then joined the Scots folk-rock group the Boys Of The Lough before returning to his solo career with 1976’s Kist o Gold. However, he soon formed a band named Five Hand Reel. Over the next two years, Gaughan issued four more records – two solo releases (1977’s Copper and Brass and 1978’s Gaughan) as well as two more Five Hand Reel outings (1977’s For a’ That and 1978’s Earl o’ Moray).

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he worked as a writer and in a theatre company but after a three-year absence from the studio, Dick returned to regular musical duty with the release of 1981’s Handful of Earth. The album has gone onto become one of the greatest recordings of traditional folk song’s ever made. His guitar playing is innovative, expressive and powerful and his voice is by turns tender, angry and passionate and even old songs sound new in his hands. The mixture of love songs, odes of parting and political commentaries such as ‘Worker’s Song’ and ‘World Turned Upside Down’ is Gaughan’s most complex and emotional work, and has come to be recognised as a masterpiece being named as Album of the Decade by Folk Roots magazine.

His version of ‘Song For Ireland’ is the album’s highlight capturing the sadness of emigration and evokes perfectly the feelings that those poor Irish must have felt when forced to leave their homes. Handful Of Earth is a brilliant album and features Brian McNeill, Phil Cunningham, and Stewart Isbister and is, without doubt, Gaughan’s best blend of traditional and contemporary songs.

In Dick Gaughan’s own words on Handful Of Earth

“This was the first album I had recorded in Scotland. For some reason, it seemed to strike a chord with people and it is the most successful recording I have made in terms of acclaim and sales.

It was Melody Maker’s Album of the Year in 1981 and in 1989 it was voted in the Critics’ Poll, and more important to me, the Readers’ Poll, in Folk Roots as Album of the Decade. I have had hundreds of reviews, good and bad, and I pay little attention to them. But when the actual people you’re playing to confer an honour like that upon you, you shed the odd tear of thanks that you’ve been privileged to be able to do something which means something to them.

Why they voted it such was a complete mystery to me then and still is today. As a friend of mine says, “Never ask one of the actors what they thought of the play”

A Different Kind of Love Song followed in 1983, and in 1985 he released a live album and a year later True and Bold. After 1988’s Call It Freedom, Gaughan again retreated from view devoting much of his time to his increasing interest in computer technology. In the mid-90’s he formed a new band, the short-lived Clan Alba, who disbanded after releasing a 1995 self-titled debut and he returned to making solo album’s and began to tour the country regularly to packed audiences everywhere. That was sadly until September 2016 when he announced that he was cancelling all public performances until further notice. This was because he believed that he had had a stroke, which was affecting his ability to perform. 

Statement from Dick Gaughan’s management

‘”This statement about Dick Gaughan’s health should be read before reading or believing anything else. Dick has now stated publicly at two recent gigs that, “In order to prevent rumours spreading, I think I have had a stroke”. It is untrue to say that he cannot sing or play guitar. However in saying what he has said, Dick is acknowledging that ‘something’, as yet unconfirmed, is not right. Dick has an appointment with a neurologist in early October 2016 when the situation will, it is hoped, be clarified. Until then “I think I have had stroke” is not an opinion based on medical fact”

London Celtic Punks send our best wishes to Dick wherever he may be laid up and look forward to seeing him performing again down here in the smoke. Get well soon Dick the scene needs you.

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Password: folkyourself.blogspot.com

Track-Listing
1 – Erin-Go-Bragh
2 – Now Westlin Winds
3 – Craigie Hill
4 – World Turned Upside Down
5 – The Snows They Melt the Soonest
6 – Lough Erne-First Kiss at Parting
7 – Scojun Waltz-Randers Hopsa
8 – Song for Ireland
9 – Workers’ Song
10 – Both Sides the Tweed

Dick Gaughan: Vocal, Guitars, Brian McNeill: Fiddle, acoustic bass, Stuart Isbister: Bass, Phil Cunningham: Keyboard, Whistle

All tracks trad. arr. Dick Gaughan except Track 4 Leon Rosselson; Tracks 6b, 7a Dick Gaughan; Track 8 Phil & June Colclough; Track 9 Ed Pickford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALBUM SLEEVE NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 THE PLAYERS

Louis

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

Gerret and Jeff

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

Fud

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

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

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

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

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM- ‘Come Fill Your Glass With Us ‘ (1959)

ST PATRICK’S DAY BLESSINGS BE UPON YOU

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh

(Byan-okht-ee nah Fay-leh Pawd-rig ur-iv)

May those who love us,
Love us.
And those who do not love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we’ll know them by their limping.

Irish Songs Of Drinking And Blackguarding

Sung By Patrick Clancy, Tom Clancy, Liam Clancy, Tommy Makem and Jack Keenan

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The Clancy Brothers were a group of brothers who, along with longtime companion Tommy Makem, are without a doubt among the most important figures in Irish music history. Still considered as one of the most internationally renowned Irish folk bands and some have even gone so far as to credit them as being among the main inspirations in the American folk revival of the ’50s and ’60s.

clancy

Bob Dylan claimed in the early 1960’s

“I’m going to be as big as the Clancy Brothers!”

With the Clancy Brothers dominating The Ed Sullivan Show and performing their sad Irish drinking tales and rebellious stories before thousands of people, Dylan’s declaration at the time seemed bold and impetuous. Its opposite came true, of course: Dylan submerged the Clancys’ pointed and poignant folk ballads into his stew of influences en route to rock ‘n’ roll superstardom while the Clancys peaked around 1964, then slowly drifted into a hodgepodge of break-ups, reunions, and greatest-hits CD collections. But in bringing Irish music into American mainstream culture, the Brothers were key figures in the 1960’s folk revival and helped Ireland rediscover its cultural traditions. Every Irish-music movement since then–from the Chieftains to Sean O’Riada, from Van Morrison to U2, from Enya to the Corrs–owes some of its success to the Clancys.

clancys-2

(Tommy and Liam)

Born in the small Irish market town Carrick-On-Suir, in County Tipperary, Tom and Patrick ‘Paddy’ Clancy were two of eleven children. Their parents, Robert, an insurance broker, and Joan, a housewife, sang Irish folk songs constantly, but neither Tom nor Paddy envisioned a professional music career when they were growing up. They served in both the Irish Republican Army and the Royal Air Force, Pat, a flight engineer in North India and Burma and Tom, an officer in Europe and North Africa. They left Ireland for Canada in 1947 and, after apparently hiding out in the back of a truck, immigrated to the United States three years later. Landing in Cleveland, Ohio, and then Manhattan, the duo pursued show-business careers. In addition to driving taxis and painting houses, they auditioned for acting roles by day and sang by night at clubs and coffeehouses such as the Lion’s Head and the White Horse Tavern. Tom had by far the most successful acting career, landing major Broadway roles and later on going on to appear in television’s Starsky And Hutch, Charlie’s Angels and The Incredible Hulk! Soon they were producing their own plays, at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village, but after three struggling years, they turned to midnight music concerts to pay the bills.

That was the beginning of the Clancy Brothers as they are commonly known. Drawing on their family singing background and their knowledge of Irish drinking ballads and rebellious folk songs, they began to build a small New York City audience. On-stage acting experience also helped. The Clancy’s told funny stories between songs and responded to applause with vaudevillian lines like

“You have very good taste, I must say”.

Soon their younger brother, Liam, and a friend, Tommy Makem, were joining them regularly on stage. Paddy Clancy created his own record label, Tradition, and put out albums of pointed but gentle folk harmonies, including 1956’s The Rising of the Moon, which was recorded around a kitchen table in the Bronx. Liam told CBSNews.com in 2002, promoting his memoir, The Mountain of the Woman.

“The crowds got so wild and they would hoist crates of beer up onto the stage and demand that we drink them. It was a wild and wonderful time… Greenwich Village was an island for people escaped from repressed backgrounds, who had swallowed the directive to be inferior, to know your place, to kowtow to royalty, to hierarchy, and all the other nonsense”

Their timing was impeccable. The Clancys’ Greenwich Village audiences at the time included young folk-music aficionados such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, who would later say, in the same article, of Liam Clancy

“For me, I never heard a singer as good as Liam. He was just the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life. Still is, probably. I can’t think of anyone who is a better ballad singer than Liam”

As legend has it, after hearing the Clancys’ version of Dominic Behan’s ‘Patriot Game’, Dylan tinkered with the lyrics and retooled the ballad into his own ‘With God on Our Side’. More than 30 years later, in 1992, the Clancy Brothers would reunite with Makem for Dylan’s recording-anniversary celebration at Madison Square Garden in New York City. They sang ‘When the Ship Comes In’, an Irish ballad Dylan recorded on The Times They Are A-Changing.

clancys

(left to right: Tommy Makem, Paddy Clancy, Tom Clancy and Liam Clancy)

Two major events in the Clancys’ career happened in 1961. First, they received a package from their mother as related by Paddy to the irishmusicweb website.

“It was a very cold winter in New York and my mother in Ireland read about the snow and the frost in New York. And her three sons were in America. So she knitted three Aran sweaters and she sent them out. We had a Jewish manager, Marty Erlichman. He saw them and said ‘That’s it. I’ve been looking for some identifiable costume for you. It’s perfect!'”

The thick, roped sweaters became their trademark–especially when, upon signing with Columbia Records, they wore them on the cover of 1961’s A Spontaneous Performance Recording. The second event was The Ed Sullivan Show, the influential television variety show that gave the Beatles their big break three years later. When a scheduled guest became sick, the Clancys sang for 18 minutes on the air. After that, they were international celebrities, playing ‘Fine Girl You Are’, ‘The Holy Ground’ and ‘The Rambler’ at Carnegie Hall and fancy venues everywhere. Dylan, jazz hero Stan Getz, and a promising young singer named Barbra Streisand were among their opening acts. The Clancys went on to record 55 albums and performed for luminaries such as President John F. Kennedy, a fan, at the White House.

As the 1960s wore on, with Dylan and the Beatles steering popular music away from traditional folk ballads and towards electric rock ‘n’ roll, the Clancys’ star power began to dim. They drifted from traditional signatures such as ‘The Old Orange Flute’ and ‘Whiskey Is the Life of Man’ and began writing and producing their own material. Makem left for a solo career in 1970; Liam left five years later. With Liam’s replacement, the Clancys’ youngest brother, Bobby, the group slowly devolved into a nostalgia act. Makem and Liam Clancy sometimes performed as a duet, and they came together on special occasions (including the Dylan thirtieth-anniversary show) in various singing configurations. But they never approached their early 1960’s star power again. Paddy returned to Carrick-on-Suir to raise cattle with his wife on a farm. Tom died in 1990; Paddy died in 1998. Liam and Tommy Makem continued to have successful solo careers before Tommy passed away on 1 August 2007, at the age of 74, after an extended fight with cancer. Two years later Liam died of pulmonary fibrosis, the same ailment that had taken his brother Bobby. He died on 4 December 2009 at the age of 74 in a hospital in Cork, Ireland.

This is the second album from the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and is among their most notable efforts. It undoubtedly helped launch the group to international success. As you can tell instantly from the album’s title, ‘Come Fill Your Glass with Us’, the album is a virtual soundtrack of Irish pub life. The recording perfectly evokes the hard-drinking, late-night atmosphere of a working man’s Irish pub.

Tracklist

Whisky You’re the Devil
The Maid of the Sweet Brown Knowe
The Moonshiner
Bold Thady Quill
Rosin the Bow
Finnigan’s Wake
The Real Old Mountain Dew
Courting in the Kitchen
Mick McGuire
A Jug of Punch
Johnny McEldoo
Cruiscin Lan
Portlairge
The Parting Glass

FREE DOWNLOAD FOR THE FIRST 100 PEOPLE. IT SAYS ‘NAME YOUR PRICE’ SO PUT 0p IF YOU LIKE. AFTER THAT IT’S ONLY AVAILABLE BY DONATION. ALL MONEY GOES DIRECT TO THE JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON 2 CAMPAIGN.

CLICK HERE!

although this album is available for free download if you wish we would appreciate it if you could spare a few pennys or cent’s to donate to the Justice For The Craigavon 2 campaign. Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton are two young Irishmen that have been unjustly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. We ask you to find out more information on the case by visiting
jftc2.com
www.facebook.com/JFTC2/

and please do all you can to publicise these poor men’s imprisonment.

(listen to the album below just press play!)

COME FILL YOUR DRINKS WITH US ALBUM SLEEVE NOTES

by Patrick Clancy

A group of workmen were tearing down a very old distillery in the south of Ireland. It had not been used for fifty years and was full of birds’ nests. When they reached the vat where the whisky had been stored, they found a small metal pipe leading from it and going into the ground. It had been well hidden. They dug down following it one foot underground till it ended in a small hollow under a tree two hundred yards from the distillery. No one could explain it. The facts end here, but they suggest strange stories of men long ago stealing to that hollow at night and draining off the whisky out of sight of the distillery.
There is no one to tell of the nights of drinking and song that came out of that pipe, But I’m sure some of the Irish drinking songs on this record were sung, as some of them are much older than that distillery. Drinking and singing have been enjoyed by men everywhere and always. As islands were discovered and jungles penetrated, all new found peoples had songs of some kind and had found a way of making intoxicating drink. If you hear a lot of singing from your neighbor’s home at midnight, you just know there is drinking going on.
In Ireland people would gather in the pubs on fair days and market days when their business of the day had ended, to “wet their whistle” and hear n song. A travelling piper, fiddler, singer or fluter would provide sweet music for pennies and a farmer could learn a new song or two. My grandmother kept one of these pubs and learned quite a few of the songs, one of them being ‘Whisky You’re the Devil’, which I have not heard elsewhere. Another one of her songs was ‘Portlairge’, which is a local Gaelic song, and all the place names mentioned are within twenty miles of her pub. The words translate as follows:
— 1 —
I was the day in Waterford.
Fol dow, fol dee, fol the dad I lum.
There was wine and pints on the table.
Fol dow . . .
There was the full of the house of women there,
Fol dow . . .
And myself drinking their health.
— 2 —
A woman from Rath came to visit me,
And three of them from Tipperary.
Their people weren’t satisfied.
They were only half satisfied.
— 3 —
I’ll set out from Carrick in the rooming,
And take a nice girl with me.
Off we’ll go thro’ “The Gap,”
And northwards to Tipperary.
Like Tom and Liam and I, Tommy Makem learned most of his songs from his family, particularly from his mother, Mrs. Sarah Makem, who still lives in County Armagh, Ireland and sings on Tradition Records The Lark In The Morning, TLP 1004. When Tommy sings ‘Bold Thady Quill’, he is singing about a champion hurler from County Cork, whom I understand is still alive. The song ‘Finnigan’s Wake’ gave the title to the famous novel by James Joyce, who was interested in Tim Finnigan’s resurrection from the dead by having whisky (water of life) poured on him during a fight at the wake. The Gaelic chorus of ‘Cruiscin Lan’ (My Little Full Jug) means:
Love of my heart, my little jug, Bright health, my darling.
Most of these songs tell their own story. They are not merely curiosity pieces or antiques; they are still very much alive and are as popular as the drink that inspired them.

More Information On The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem

Wikipedia  WebSite  LastFM  Facebook  YouTubeLive

(The story of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in their own words)

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

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

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

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

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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…

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

johnny-cash-christmas

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

cash-christmas

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

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

The Christmas Spirit by Johnny Cash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cash-and-june

Johnny and June

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

FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK HERE

cash-csc

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

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

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)  here

EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here

EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)  here

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)  here

GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)  here

EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ (1972)  here

THE DUBLINERS- ‘A Best Of The Dubliners’  here

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE DUBLINERS- ‘A Best Of The Dubliners’

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The Dubliners are without doubt the best known band in the Celtic music world. Formed in 1962 their first hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ launched them into international stardom. Non stop touring and a stint with The Pogues ensured that the popularity of their music never ebbed. Without them it is highly debatable whether or not celtic-punk would have ever come about as Shane McGowan himself has said.  The Dubliners- The first and original celtic-punk band.

dubs

The Dubliners, now one of the most legendary bands in the world, started off in O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin in 1962 under the name of The Ronnie Drew Folk Group. Then they were four, Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Luke Kelly (vocals and 5-string banjo), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon and vocals) and Ciaran Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica). In 1963, they played a gig in Edinburgh where they met the head of Transatlantic Records, Nathan Joseph, for whom they started recording. In 1964, Luke Kelly left, and Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar and vocals) were added. When Luke Kelly returned and Bobby Lynch left in 1965, we have what is considered as the original Dubliners, five individualists, five men whose talents were mixed together in a superb blend and just wanted to play and have a good craic. If they only knew what was awaiting them!

In 1967 their major breakthrough came as a result of a coincidence. Their song, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ which was recorded in one take, was snapped up by a pirate radio station which started playing it along with the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix. Suddenly, The Dubliners were a major band, playing all over the world, getting into the charts, and receiving gold discs. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who as Colin Irwin in the reissue of Live at the Albert Hall says

“looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height”

The seventies started like the sixties ended – wilder touring, drinking and playing. They started doing regular tours, and they were still recording, of course. Then, in 1974, Ciaran Bourke collapsed on stage with a brain hemorrhage, which eventually led to his death. He first, though, recovered remarkably and was back on stage with The Dubliners, but collapsed again. At the same time, Ronnie decided to take a break, and Jim McCann took his and Ciaran’s place in the group.

dubliners

In 1979, Ronnie decided to make a comeback as a member of the group, although he probably never really left it. In the five years, he had recorded two solo albums, and The Dubliners three albums. With Ronnie returning, Jim left, and The Dubs were almost back where they started. Then Luke Kelly became ill, he collapsed on stage with a brain tumor, for which he received surgery several times. He too, made remarkable recoveries, and went on touring with the Dubliners, at the same time continuing his wild and unhealthy lifestyle. Sean Cannon, a long time friend, stepped in for Luke, when he couldn’t be on stage. Sean’s appearance wasn’t that well received by the audiences at the beginning, but he has later turned out to be an important addition to The Dubliners, and their repertoire. In 1984, Luke Kelly died, but The Dubliners, now with Sean Cannon as a member, decided to keep on.

1987 turned out to be one of the best – and busiest – years for the Dubliners. Their long time friend, and guest musician, Eamonn Campbell, brought the group together with the Pogues on the hit single ‘The Irish Rover’. This single took the Dubliners back to the charts, and also gave them a completely new audience; people who weren’t even born when The Dubliners started off. And with Dublin celebrating its millennium in 1988, The Dubliners also received more attention than for years. Eamonn Campbell joined them on regular basis, a move that has turned out to be one of the most important in their history. In 1988 Ciaran Bourke died, after years of pain and difficulties. He always was, and still is very much remembered by The Dubliners, just like Luke Kelly is.

The eighties finished off with rumours that The Dubliners were to retire, probably something that’s always been following the group. However, they didn’t, and celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1992, with a double CD and extensive tour. The nineties brought a tour video from the German tour 1995, and the “shock” news that Ronnie Drew was leaving. He left in December 1995, after releasing a superb album, Dirty Rotten Shame a few months earlier.

dubliners2Now, even the most optimistic Dubliners fans thought it was the end, but the lads decided to convince Paddy Reilly to join them, and they continued their busy touring and recording schedule. This move has also turned out to be excellent. Paddy, not very well known in Europe, had never been touring there, so he too enjoyed the experience, as well as being part of a band. He still, though, does tours in the USA in the winter and summer months. In 2002, they temporarily reunited with Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann, for their 40th anniversary tour but sadly after the tour, Jim McCann was diagnosed with throat cancer and, though he fully recovered, his voice was severely damaged, and has not been able to peform since his illness. Despite this, he regularly acts as MC at folk gigs, notably at The Dubliners reunion shows, and at the 2006 ‘Legends of Irish Folk’ shows (where he also played guitar in the finale).

Leader and legend Ronnie Drew passed away in 2008 meaning the end of the original Dubliners. Before he passed though he recorded with The Dropkick Murphys in a memorable version of ‘Flannigan’s Ball’ therefore passing on the baton to the only group comparable to them in what they mean to the Irish diaspora.

It was The Dubliners (and The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem who will be next in our series) pioneered the way for untold number of bands from Ireland and for Celtic music, like the Chieftains, the Pogues, U2, the Fureys and so on. The artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols is endless. They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never otherwise have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the music, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and their characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again. The Dubliners brought Ireland to the world in a way that emigration hadn’t, they have brought the world to Ireland, and they have brought people all over the world closer together. When it ended, the world was never going to be the same again.

The Dubliners 1962-2012
Over the 50 years there were 12 people in The Dubliners.  Ronnie Drew (’62-2008), Luke Kelly (’62-84) , Barney McKenna (’62-2012), Ciaran Bourke (’62-74), John Sheahan (’64-2012), Bobby Lynch (’62-65), Jim McCann (’74-79), Sean Cannon (’82-2012), Eamonn Campbell (’88-2012), Paddy Reilly (’96-2005), Patsy Watchorn (2005-12) and Gerry O’Connor (2012).

The surviving members of the group – Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and Gerry O’Connor, except John Sheahan, are still touring in 2014 under the name The Dublin Legends.

The Dublin Legends 2012-

After the departure of John Sheahan and the official retirement of the name The Dubliners in late 2012, the remaining members of the group – Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and guest musician Gerry O’Connor – formed a folk band called The Dublin Legends to keep The Dubliners’ legacy alive. The band released their first live album entitled An Evening With The Dublin Legends: Live In Vienna in January 2014. They continue to perform extensively and you can find their web site here.

Tracklist:

1. The Wild Rover (2:50)
2. Medley: Doherty’s Reel / Down The Broom / The Honeymoon Reel (3:36)
3. The Holy Ground (2:26)
4. A Parcel Of Rogues (4:21)
5. God Save Ireland (1:57)
6. A Nation Once Again (1:31)
7. Spancil Hill (4:03)
8. Molly McGuires (2:01)
9. The Old Triangle (2:55)
10. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (6:16)
11. Johnston’s Motorcar (1:50)
12. Seven Drunken Nights (3:23)
13. Black Velvet Band (3:18)
14. Free The People (3:08)
15. Van Diemen’s Land (2:15)
16. Dirty Old Town (2:59)
17. Medley: The Maid Behind The Bar / Toss The Feathers (2:18)
18. Lord Of The Dance (2:27)
19. All For Me Grog (2:24)
20. Whiskey In The Jar (2:47)

(listen to the album below and follow the instructions to download for free)

The Dubliners On The Internet

OfficialDublinersSite  TheDubliners  It’sTheDubliners

“They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who were converted to their charm. That isn’t only because of the music, the instrumentals or the stories, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style, the drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards (I even tried to copy them in the 70’s), their extensive touring, their charisma and the enigmatic characters. It was a blend the world will never see again.  It was an entire package that invented the word unique. How do you top that?Every artist in the world is trying to achieve success by getting their ‘sound’ and being unique.  The Dubliners did it”  –Robert Tallent

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘Stepping Stones’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

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

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)  here

EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here

EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)  here

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)  here

GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)  here

EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ (1972)  here

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE GREATEST SONGS OF WOODY GUTHRIE (1972)

“I hate a song that makes you think you´re not any good! I hate a song that makes you think you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too fat or too thin or too that. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or your hard travelling”

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Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was the single most important American folk music artist 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. He performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’. His greatest significance lies in his songwriting. Songs like the standard ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and much-covered works as ‘Deportee’, ‘Do Re Mi’, ‘Hard, Ain’t It Hard’, ‘Hard Travelin’, ‘1913 Massacre’, ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ are all featured on ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ in one way or another.

Woody1Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in the oil boom town of Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912. He went on the road when only 13 years old after his mother was debilitated by Huntington´s Chorea, a incurable nerve disease which would eventually kill Woody himself in 1967. During the years leading up to the Second World War he was with the refugees of the Dust Bowl on their trail westward, with the migrant workers in the California orchards, in the factories and mines where workers struggled for union recognition to gain better pay and conditions, with the black Americans against the prejudice facing them and during the war he was in the navy. Throughout all these experiences and a life full of tragedy his faith in people and his belief that the ordinary person would win in the end never faltered.

Most of those performances and recordings came after Guthrie’s enforced retirement due to illness in the early ’50s. During his heyday, in the 1940s, he was a major-label recording artist, a published author, and a nationally broadcast radio personality. But the impression this creates, that he was a multi-media star, is belied by his personality and his politics. Restlessly creative and prolific, he wrote, drew, sang, and played constantly, but his restlessness also expressed itself in a disinclination to stick consistently to any one endeavour, particularly if it involved a conventional, cooperative approach. Nor did he care to stay in any one place for long. This individualism was complemented by his left-wing political views. During his lifetime, much attention was given in the U.S. to whether left-wingers or even liberals were or had ever been members of the Communist party. No reliable evidence emerged that Guthrie was, but there can be little doubt where his sympathies lay!
Sadly it was as Woody’s health declined to the point of permanent hospitalization in the 1950’s that his career took off. His songs and his example served as inspiration for the folk revival in general and, in the early 1960’s, Bob Dylan in particular. By the mid-’60s, his songs were appearing on dozens of records, his own recordings were being reissued and, in some cases, released for the first time, and his writings were being edited into books. This resurgence was in no way slowed by his death in 1967; on the contrary, it has continued for decades afterwards. New books are published and the Guthrie estate has invited such artists as Billy Bragg and Wilco in to write music for Guthrie’s large collection of unpublished lyrics, creating new songs to record.

So now you know a little bit more about the man in question what’s the story with the album?Woody2

There are two reasons why calling this album ‘The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie’ rather than some variation on the greatest hits idea makes sense. First, Guthrie was out singing these songs before there ever were any Billboard charts to help defiine exactly what constituted a hit. Second, although this album starts with Guthrie himself singing ‘This Land Is Your Land’ clearly his most famous and most popular song, the track shifts to the song being sung by the Weavers. Guthrie sings a few songs and a few duets, but mostly his songs are sung by other artists. So what we have here is a tribute album, originally a double-album now on a single CD, that represents some of the best first and second generation folk singers who followed in the path blazed by America’s troubadour. The first generation would be those artists that actually got to play with Guthrie, which would be not only the Weavers with Pete Seeger (the artist who most closely followed in Guthrie’s footsteps), but also Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. The next generation is represented on the album by Odetta, Joan Baez, and Country Joe McDonald. Yes, there is an authenticity to hearing Guthrie sing his songs that nobody else can touch, but there is also something to be said for other artists replacing his rawness with more of the inherent beauty of his songs. Whichever you prefer there is a wealth of Woody material out there for you. Happy hunting!

Track Listing:
1. This Land Is Your Land- Woody Guthrie/The Weavers
2. Do Re Mi- Cisco Houston
3. So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh- The Weavers
4. Pastures Of Plenty- Odetta
5. Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)- Cisco Houston
6. 900 Miles- Cisco Houston
7. Roll On Columbia- Country Joe McDonald
8. Hard, Ain’t It Hard- Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston
9. Dirty Overhalls- Woody Guthrie
10. Riding In My Car (Take Me)- Woody Guthrie
11. Ship In The Sky- Cisco Houston
12. The Sinking Of The Reuben James- The Weavers
13. Rambling Round Your City- Odetta
14. Jesus Christ- Cisco Houston
15. When The Curfew Blows- Country Joe McDonald
16. 1913 Massacre- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
17. Talking Fishing Blues- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
18. Curly Headed Baby- Cisco Houston
19. Jackhammer John- The Weavers
20. The Great Historical Bum- Odetta
21. Pretty Boy Floyd- Joan Baez
22. Buffalo Skinners- Jim Kweskin
23. Hard Travelin’- Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry

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“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”

For More Information On Woody Guthrie:

best place to start is the OfficialWebSite * a selection of free music is available at LastFM * Wikipedia * the WoodyGuthrieCenter  is dedicated to celebrating Woody’s life and legacy * Woody100 * the quotes of Woody Wikiquote * The RollingStone articles on Woody * Gerry Adams on Woody Guthrie Léargas *

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘Stepping Stones’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

Part of the ‘Stepping Stones- Classic Album Reviews’ series (click here for the series) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: WOMEN FOLK- ‘Iconic Women Of American Folk’

This compilation explores four pioneers of the first wave of the American folk movement.

Women Folk

Today is ‘International Women’s Day’ so when better than to give you this excellent compilation featuring five of the greatest ever folk music artists to have ever lived. Sadly three of the five are no longer with us and only one is still performing but this music represents the pioneers of the folk music movement in America. These women went on to influence the likes of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Judy Collins directly as well as all who those who followed in their footsteps.

From Odetta considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century to Jean Ritchie the mother of Appalachian folk music, responsible for exposing us to a treasure trove of material passed down from her ancestors that have since become staples of the world-wide folk scene. Carolyn Hester invited Bob Dylan to play harmonica on her first Columbia record which led to him signing with the label while Barbara Dane raised the bar for all singers when she burst onto the scene in the early 1950’s and a little lady from the Southern Appalachians named Etta Baker set the standard for folk guitarists everywhere.

So five amazing artists that refused to compromise and became legends in their own lifetimes. We salute them and offer you a free download of this great introduction to their work. If you are interested in similar music then why not get yourself over to Zero G Sound (here) and check out the outstanding selection of free album downloads available.

ODETTA

Women Folk 1Odetta Holmes (1930–2008) was an American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a civil and human rights activist, often referred to as ‘The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement’. Born in Birmingham, Alabama she grew up in Los Angeles and her musical repertoire consisted largely of folk music, blues, jazz ans spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950’s and 1960’s, she influenced many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin. Time magazine included her song ‘Take This Hammer’ on its list of the All-Time 100 Songs, stating that “Rosa Parks was her number one fan” and that Martin Luther King Jr. called her the “queen of American folk music”. . Before Odetta no solo woman had ever toured the world singing. Known for her incredibly powerful stage presence and her ability to command the simplest instruments, from voice to clapping hands, as well as her mastery of acoustic guitar.

ETTA BAKER

Etta BakerBorn Etta Lucille Reid (1913–2006) she was an American Piedmont blues guitarist and singer from North Carolina. Piedmont blues (also known as East Coast or Southeastern blues) refers primarily to a guitar style, which is characterized by finger picking. She played both the 6-string and 12-string forms of the acoustic guitar, as well as the five-string banjo. Taught by her father, who was also a long time player of the Piedmont Blues on several instruments, Etta first recorded in the summer of 1956 and over the years shared her knowledge with many well known musical artists including Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Etta received multiple awards and went on to have nine children sadly a son was killed in the Vietnam War.

BARBARA DANE

Barbara DaneBorn in Detroit in 1927 but arrived in Arkansas soon after Barbara Dane is an American folk, blues and jazz legend. Time magazine said of her that “voice is pure, rich and rare as a 20 karat diamond”. At high school she began to sing regularly at demonstrations for racial equality and economic justice. While still in her teens, she got an offer to tour with Alvino Rey’s band, but turned it down in favour of singing at factory gates and union halls. Moving to San Francisco in 1949, Barbara began raising a family and performed regularly on radio and early TV. In 1966 she became the first American musician to tour post-revolutionary Cuba. She once said

“I was too stubborn to hire one of the greed-head managers, probably because I’m a woman who likes to speak for herself. I always made my own deals and contracts, and after figuring out the economics of it, I was free to choose when and where I worked, able to spend lots more time with my three children and doing political work, and even brought home more money in the end, by not going for the ‘bigtime’. I did make some really nice records, because I was able to choose and work with wonderfully gifted musicians.”

JEAN RITCHIE

Jean RitchieJean Ritchie (1922-2015) was an American folk music singer, songwriter, and Appalachian dulcimer player. Born in Perry County in the Cumberland Mountains of south eastern Kentucky Jean came from  one of the two ‘great ballad-singing families’ of Kentucky celebrated among folk song scholars. The youngest of 14 siblings Jean recalled later in life that when the family acquired a radio in the late 1940’s they discovered that what they had been singing all their lives was called hillbilly music, a word they had never heard before. Jean became known as ‘The Mother of Folk’ performing work songs and ballads as well as hymns. Some of her late 1950’s/early 60’s songs on mining she published under the pseudonym “‘Than Hall’ to avoid troubling her non-political mother. Her album ‘None But One’ was awarded the Rolling Stone Critics Award in 1977 and in 2002, Ritchie received the National Endowment For The Arts National Heritage Fellowship, America’s highest honour in folk and traditional arts.

CAROLYN HESTER

Carolyn HesterAmerican folk singer and songwriter born in 1937 in in Waco, Texas. She was a figure in the early 1960’s folk music revival. Her first LP was in 1957 and she made her second album for Tradition Records, run by the Clancy Brothers, in 1960. Dubbed ‘The Texas Songbird’ Carolyn was politically active, spearheading the controversial boycott of the television programme Hootenanny when Pete Seeger was blacklisted from it. She became famous for ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ and ‘She Moved Through the Fair’ as well as multiple albums and TV and radio appearances throughout the 1960’s and subsequent decades. She continues to perform regularly with her daughters.

Tracklist:

1. Sail Away Ladies- Odetta
2. Railroad Bill- Etta Baker
3. When I Was A Young Girl- Barbara Dane
4. The Bashful Courtship- Jean Ritchie
5. Go ‘way From My Window- Carolyn Hester
6. Midnight Special- Odetta
7. Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad- Etta Baker
8. Nine Hundred Miles- Barbara Dane
9. The Old Grey Goose Is Dead- Jean Ritchie
10. The Water Is Wide- Carolyn Hester
11. He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands- Odetta
12. John Henry- Etta Baker
13. The Danville Girl- Barbara Dane
14. The Blackest Crow- Jean Ritchie
15. House Of The Rising Sun- Carolyn Hester
16. Take This Hammer- Odetta
17. One Dime Blues- Etta Baker
18. Ramblin’- Barbara Dane
19. Wonderous Love- Jean Ritchie
20. Summertime- Carolyn Hester

DOWNLOAD ‘WOMEN FOLK- ICONS OF AMERICAN FOLK’ FOR FREE

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Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews- London Celtic Punks Steppin’ Stones’ series (click here for the entire series) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re use to. Lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

  • Interesting article appeared recently on ‘Come Here To Me!’ a fantastic web-site on Dublin life and culture. ‘Lonnie Donegan – My Only Son Was Killed in Dublin’ features some info on Odetta that has passed me by. Check it out here.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘JOY OF LIVING: A TRIBUTE TO EWAN MacCOLL’ (2016)

Fearless and uncompromising Ewan MacColl’s influence is still felt far beyond the folk world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Joy Of Living

Regular readers of the London Celtic Punks blog will all know how much we like Ewan MacColl and we have regularly featured him within these pages. Though long gone Ewan’s massive volume of work lives on and only the other day were we raving about the Irish-American celtic-punk band 1916 and their amazing version of another Ewan song (sadly not featured here) ‘Hot Asphalt’. Ewan’s songs were uplifting whether proclaiming love or war or peace. He wrote about things that would now be forgotten about and has kept their memory alive. He gave birth to a folk revival that continues to this day, many years after his passing, that remains in great health. The songs he wrote and championed are still being played and explored and adapted and still being made great. Ewan MacColl’s musical legacy is, to put it simply, just out of this world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Ewan was the Scots-born son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs and ballads. He worked as a garage hand, builders’ labourer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. After the end of World War II Ewan wrote and broadcast extensively in Britain about folk music. He was general editor of the BBC folk-music series, ‘Ballads and Blues’, and frequently took part in radio and television shows for the BBC.

Ewan MacColl 1His folk song publications included ‘Personal Choice’, a pocket book edition of Scots folk songs and ballads, and ‘The Shuttle and the Cage’, the first published collection of British industrial folk songs. Eventually he was ousted from the BBC due to his socialist beliefs. He wrote many songs that have become folk (and celtic-punk standards) the most famous of course being ‘Dirty Old Town’ popularised by The Dubliners and then The Pogues. It is wrongly assumed to be about Dublin but it is in fact about his home town of Salford in Manchester. He is also famous for writing one of the greatest ever love songs ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which he wrote for his second wife, the influential American folk singer, Peggy Seeger. He was also the father of Kirsty MacColl who of course guested on The Pogues enormous Christmas hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. After many years of poor health Ewan died on 22 October 1989 but it can be safely said of him that his songs and influence will live on forever. Comparable only to Woody Guthrie in more than one way.

This fantastic double album marks 100 years since Ewan MacColl’s birth and the album has been produced by two of Ewan’s sons, Calum and Neill, and features a wonderful bunch of diverse artists from right across folk, rock, pop and celtic music. Disc one begins with, for me, one of the stand out tracks with Damien Dempsey singing ‘Schooldays Over’. The only song here we have heard before nevertheless it is more than welcome. Made famous by the late great Luke Kelly’s version with The Dubliners Damien is no stranger to Ewan’s work and does him truly proud.

This is followed by a track from one of the most influential figures in folk music today, Martin Carthy and is the first of several and several individual contributions by the Waterson-Carthy family. He performs the unlikely tale of a fish delivery man in ‘I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling’. The Unthanks may sound like a rock band but are in fact two sisters (Unthank is their great surname) who perform a gentle lullaby ‘Cannily, Cannily’. Tracks from legends old and new follow from Seth Lakeman and Marry Waterson and Bombay Bicycle Club are up next, BBC famously include one of MacColl’s grandchildren, Jamie. They contribute a moving version of ‘The Young Birds’, a song written back in 1961 to commemorate a tragic plane crash that killed 34 London children of whom some were known to MacColl’s oldest son, Hamish. Another artist we are familiar with here is Dick Gaughan who contributes ‘Jamie Foyers’. Dick is an influential Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter who was a founding member of the famous celtic band Boys Of The Lough. Martin’s daughter Eliza Carthy, ‘Thirty-Foot Trailer’ and Chaim Tannenbaum, ‘My Old Man’, are up next before honorary Irishman Steve Earle presents a new take on a song that needs no introduction ‘Dirty Old Town’, except to say that it does sound like the spirit(s) of Shane MacGowan were present at its recording.

The first discs last song is from Jarvis Cocker and the erstwhile Pulp front man gives us a amazingly beautiful whispered version of  ‘The Battle Is Done With’. I am sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but its great to hear something that just isn’t a straight cover of Ewan’s work.

Ewan MacCollDisc two begins with the most famous of Ewan’s compositions and Paul Buchanan vocalist of 80/90’s Glasgow indie band The Blue Nile croons beautifully through the ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Ewan wrote the song for Peggy Seeger and it became an international smash hit in 1972 sung by Roberta Flack. On hearing this version it made me wonder how Shane MacGowan would have mastered it. Paul Brady will be a name known to many and his version of ‘Freeborn Man’ shows Paul to have lost none of his talent in a career that spans right across modern day Irish folk music. Another travellers song follows and Norma Waterson provides us with a fauntless rendition of the gypsy’s plight in ‘The Moving On Song’. Karine Polwart’s version of ‘The Terror Time’ is again beautiful, and Martin Simpson, The Father’s Song, is up next before the ultimate Irish living folk legend, and former band mate of Paul Brady in Planxty, Christy Moore appears with ‘The Companeros’. Again yer man has lost nothing and its a stunning version. Now there’s one name missing from this album so far and he’s up next. It must be written into law that Billy Bragg must appear on any folk compilation and whatever you think of him he gives us a really nice but angry copy of ‘Kilroy Was Here’ which strips Billy back to those early days when he was at his best. Folk siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright play the magnificent ‘Sweet Thames, Flow Softly’. A small gentle snapshot of life before Kathryn Williams, ‘Alone’, and David Gray brings the whole project to an end with one of Ewan’s best but sadly little known songs, and album title, The Joy of Living.

As you may expect traditionalists might not appreciate some of the versions here but this enhances, rather than detracts and all the various strands of Ewan’s political and musical life is represented here. This double album does not pretend to be the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ as with an artist with such a massive repertoire it would be impossible to please everyone but it does provide a gateway. Collections like this serve only one purpose. That is to steer listeners away from the modern day versions to the original source and with Ewan their is plenty to catch up on. We have included some links at the bottom where readers can find more information and free downloads so I hope you take the opportunity to. It is impossible to calculate the range and influence of this remarkable singer and song-writer but we can rest assured his memory lives and this album is a great testament to him.

“My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking”

Disc 1
1. Damien Dempsey – Schooldays Over
2. Martin Carthy – I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling
3. The Unthanks – Cannily, Cannily
4. Seth Lakeman – The Shoals of Herring
5. Marry Waterson – The Exile Song
6. Bombay Bicycle Club – The Young Birds
7. Dick Gaughan – Jamie Foyers
8. Eliza Carthy – Thirty-Foot Trailer
9. Chaim Tannenbaum – My Old Man
10. Steve Earle – Dirty Old Town
11. Jarvis Cocker – The Battle Is Done With

Disc 2
1. Paul Buchanan – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
2. Paul Brady – Freeborn Man
3. Norma Waterson  – Moving On Song
4. Karine Polwart – The Terror Time
5. Martin Simpson – The Father’s Song
6. Christy Moore – The Companeros
7. Billy Bragg – Kilroy Was Here
8. Rufus & Martha Wainwright – Sweet Thames, Flow Softly
9. Kathryn Williams – Alone
10. David Gray – The Joy of Living

Buy The Album

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Official Ewan MacColl Sites

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For more on Ewan MacColl the internet is awash with sites but trust us and head straight to the official sites but also to Wikipedia as well as this tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here. You can listen to some of his music for free here on LastFm.

We have a regular series ‘Classic Album Reviews’ where we feature records from the past that have had influence far beyond their years. Ewan (of course!!), Leadbelly and several compilations have featured so far and all come with links to free downloads. You can check out the full series here.

(Just to prove Ewan’s work lives on here’s the aforementioned 1916 from New York with their recent  version of the classic Ewan song ‘Hot Asphalt’)

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)

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Ewan

2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the legendary Ewan MacColl’s birth and although ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ and ‘Dirty Old Town’ remain his biggest ‘hits’ he also wrote and recorded hundreds of traditional songs baring the experience of the working class. A huge body of work that demands to be heard. We have often featured Ewan on these pages, much to the chagrin of some who don’t see what he has to do with celtic-punk, but here we like to introduce a bit of history and context into proceedings. Good old Wikipedia states

 “celtic punk is punk rock mixed with traditional celtic music”

so as much as the punk bands have influenced the music it is really the folk and traditional music of our parents and grandparents generation that have really  made celtic-punk what it is today. In this series of ‘Classic Album Reviews’ we have seen their have been musicians who would put Ozzy Osbourne to shame with tales of their excess, or dazzle you with their wordplay, stories of sadness and joy and of rebellion and death and of remembrance and much much more. All music that has had an untold influence on modern music. We would ask you to take a chance. Check out this music from another era and remember at the time this was the music that your parents AND the government did not want you to hear!

Ewan MacColl

EWAN MacCOLL was the Scots-born son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs. He worked as a garage hand, builder’s labourer, trade union organizer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. MacColl wrote and broadcast extensively about folk music and frequently took part in radio and TV shows.

Of the songs he included in this album, MacColl recalled

“I can remember as a child being allowed to stay up at Hogmanay parties when a dozen Scots iron-moulders and their wives would settle down to serious drinking. ‘A Wee Drappie O’T’ would be sung with everyone joining in the chorus with maybe a few English friends looking a bit embarrassed at this display of celtic emotion and the beer jugs would be circulating freely and whiskey bottles would empty at an alarming rate. In between the songs the company would argue the merits of Edward Clod’s ‘History of Creation’ and Volny’s ‘Ruins of Empires’ and then as the singing became more and more rough I would be sent off to bed. As these junketings often lasted for a whole week I had plenty of opportunities to learn the songs”

‘SCOTS DRINKING SONGS’ ALBUM LINER NOTES

It has been observed that the pattern of social drinking in Scotland corresponds roughly to the three movements which comprise a pibroch[1]. First, there is the leisurely philosophical discussion, argument or monologue during which the theme of the evening is stated. The second movement consists of a set of variations in the form of repeated patriotic utterances and the last movement is a scherzo in which amorousness and bawdiness are combined to show the national prowess in a sport which, as far as we are concerned, has all the competitive features of international football. The first movement is non-melodic; being confined to pure talk. The second movement is a synthesis of talk and patriotic song and the third and longest movement is wholly song.

Scots licensing laws have done their best to destroy this ancient pattern by making singing in pubs an offence and, wherever possible, by segregating the sexes. The legislators appear to have operated on the basis of the good old Calvinistic maxims that women are the root of all evil and that singing and licentiousness are interchangeable words. However, what is lost in the pubs is gained in the family circle and many a child who might otherwise have grown to ignorant maturity has learned some of the more interesting and pleasurable facts of life from listening to songs sung by Auntie Mag and Uncle Alec at a Hogmanay (New Year) party.

As in Italy, love is the great theme of Scots folk song but, unlike Italy, it is the act of love rather than the emotion which is celebrated. John Knox might rave against the sins of the flesh and numerous Holy Willies might rant against evildoers but the commons of Scotland had a healthy, realistic attitude on love which no amount of Calvinistic preaching could pervert. True, there were the prying elders and the cutty stool to be faced after the act but the joys of love and the body’s needs outweighed all such considerations.

The frank expression of physical desire in Scots folk song has been a subject for dismay with collectors and anthologists for more than two hundred years. Only David Herd’s collection (“The Ancient and Modern Scots Songs,” 1769) escaped the embalmer’s knife of polite hypocrisy. Bishop Thomas Percy, famed for the “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry,” offered to clean up Herd’s collection but Herd, being an honest man, refused and published the songs as he had found them.

Since that time, the majority of Scots collectors, apparently unaware of the fact that babies are not found under cabbage leaves, have divided their time between attempting to castrate the muse and apologizing for Herd and the lower classes’ capacity for lovemaking.

The fig leaf of Calvinism cannot disguise the virility and appetite of the Scots muse and under the influence of a few drinks the fig leaf disappears through the window and the muse, with a smacking of lips and a bellow of laughter, proceeds to celebrate the most universal of man’s pastimes.

SIDE ONE—

1. WE’RE A’ JOLLY FU’: This centuries-old song lends itself to interminable improvisations and is a great favorite at all-male drinking sessions where the fantasy tends to become exclusively sexual after a while.

2.  THE CALTON WEAVER: The linen mills of the Calton district of Glasgow have been gone these fifty years but this song is still well known among those who take their drinking seriously. Alf Edwards accompanies me on the concertina.

3.  WHEN SHE GAME BEN SHE BOBBIT: I learned this from William Miller of Stirling. The Laird of Cockpen, though largely a mythical figure, is the questionable hero of scores of Scots songs and ballads. A brushed up version of this song was made by Robert Burns but the folk song anthologists have, without exception, avoided the older and broader versions and made use of Lady Nairn’s admirable little song The Laird of Cockpen in which the original ribaldry is replaced by a rather pawky humor.

4.  THE LAIRD OF THE DAINTY DOON BYE: It is strange that Professor Child did not include a version of this traditional ballad in his collections for it was already of considerable age when it first appeared in print in Herd’s collection in 1776. It is still a prime favorite with good company. I learned it from Jeannie Robertson of Dundee.

5.  BLOW THE CANDLE OUT: Originally an English song, but now widely sung throughout lowland Scotland. It has been popular in various versions in the bothies for the best part of three quarters of a century. In this and all other numbers employing the guitar I am accompanied by Brian Daly.

6.  DONALD BLUE: The drunken wife is a popular subject in Scots folk song and, indeed, Scots classical literature, too. It was from songs such as this one and The Drunken Wife of Galloway that the 16th and 17th century poets like William Dunbar and Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount took their fabulous heroines.

7.  THE BREWER LADDIE: A ‘cornkister’, this song has been popular in the North East for at least the last hundred years. The forsaken and jilted heroes and heroines of the bothy ballads do not die for love; instead they meet their misfortunes head on and, with a good deal of sound sense, start looking around for another sweetheart.

8.  WE’RE GAYLY YET: This is sung at the height of the party, when the drink is flowing freely and all the barriers are down. I learned this from Samuel Wylie of Falkirk.

9.  A WEE DRAPPIE O’T: This is the work of Robert Tannahill (1774-1810), the cotton weaver bard of Paisley. Like many other Scots workers of his time, he was inspired by the example of Robert Burns to write poems and songs in the language of his workmates. At least three of his songs have become part of the. Scots tradition. This one belongs to that part of a drinking session which is characterized by the first glow of good fellowship and a good deal of philosophizing.

10.  THE CUCKOO’S NEST: The veneer of Calvinism is wafer-thin as far as the Scots working class is concerned. A few drinks are all that is needed to set the company singing songs like this one. I learned it from Jeannie Robertson.

SIDE TWO—

1. GREEN GROW THE RASHES, O: In spite of Burns’ remaking of this old song, the old version continues to be sung fairly widely. Both the original and Burns’ song would be likely to turn up at most any drinking session.

2.  THE DAY WE WENT TO ROTHESAY, O: In rural Scotland they still sing The Tinker’s Weddin’ O, but in the towns the tune has become fixed as part of Urban folklore and the saga of a rough weekend in Scotland’s most popular resort will bring down the house at any south Scots ceilidh.

3.  THE BONNIE LASSIE WHO NEVER SAID NO: This is a real song of low life, one of the great corpus of such songs which inspired Burns’ folk cantata, The Jolly Beggars. The scene is a drinking howff (part pub, part brothel). A man and a harlot make a night of it and when the woman passes out the man robs her. The choice of gin as the liquor suggests that the song is the product of the early eighteen hundreds when every town in Britain had its ‘Gin Alley’. It is unusual for any other drink than whiskey to be celebrated in a Scots song.

4.  THE MUCKIN’ O’ GEORDIE’S BYRE: This is probably the most well known song in Eastern Scotland and no “boose-up” is complete without at least one rendering. I know it from the singing of Jimmie MacBeth of Elgin.

5.  JOCK HAWK’S ADVENTURES IN GLASGOW: This is a bothy song set to a tune dear to all bothy singers, The Guise O’ Tough. The basic bothy theme of the ploughman being taken-in by the rich farmer is altered slightly and becomes the ploughman taken-in by smart city folk. The general bothy pattern is, however, the same; as always, the ploughman implies that nobody is to blame but himself.

6.  THE BRISK YOUNG LAD: Here is a song of rich, native humor. The boisterous chorus makes it a natural for a boozy gathering. I originally learned it from my mother and later collated the text with the one found in Herd’s collection.

7.  I WISH THAT YOU WERE DEAD, GUIDMAN: Here is another song that first appeared in print in Herd’s collection. It is still popular at masculine drinking sessions at which a number of verses are sung which never get into print.

8.  THE WIND BLEW THE BONNIE LASSIE’S PLAIDIE AWA’: A great favorite in the bothies, this ballad has appeared in a number of printed collections usually somewhat cleaned up for popular consumption. It is a typical example of the Scots’ genius for calling a spade a spade, Presbyterianism notwithstanding.

9.  ANDRO AND HIS CUTTY GUN: Burns described this as “one of the bonniest and certainly one of the most vigorous of our old songs.” As a record of a drinking party it is certainly unequaled in Scots national music.

1 The dictionary defines pibroch as: “A wild, irregular form of martial music played by Scottish Highlanders on the bagpipe, consisting usually of an air with profusely ornamented variations.”

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HERE

For more on Ewan MacColl the internet is awash with sites but trust us and head straight to Wikipedia for the basics as well as this tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here. You can listen to his music for free here on LastFm but for absolutely everything you need to know then check out the Official Ewan MacColl Website here.

“My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking.” – Ewan MacColl

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (here) where we bring you something a little bit different. Lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)

The godfather of rap and hip-hop and son of Celtic’s first black player

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Gil Heron

Gil Heron 1922-2008

Today we are giving you something well out of our loop as part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’. Whereas normally we’d give you some out of print folk album from the 30s/40s/50s here’s something a bit more recent (still its forty one years young) and, some would say the very first hip-hop/ rap album. Well, I hear you say, so what? Whats the connection to us? Well it’s a little known fact (though it has appeared here before) that Gil Scott Heron’s old man, Gil Heron was the first black player to play for Celtic. Known as ‘The Black Arrow’ the Jamaican-born Heron played one season, 1951-52, in the hoops and played five games and scored two goals. His son, also Gil, is who we celebrate here though. Known in recent years as the ‘Godfather Of Rap’ he was an articulate voice for change but despite being a well respected composer, musician, author and poet he remains best known for writing and performing the spoken-word track ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’. He wrote the song when he was just 21 years old and would go on to perform and release several re-workings of it in his lifetime. He once said

“The revolution takes place in your mind. Once you change your mind and decide that there’s something wrong that you want to effect that’s when the revolution takes place. But first you have to look at things and decide what you can do. ‘Something’s wrong and I have to do something about it. I can effect this change.’ Then you become a revolutionary person. It’s not all about fighting. It’s not all about going to war. It’s about going to war with the problem and deciding you can effect that problem. When you want to make things better you’re a revolutionary”

It was never a hit, which suggests that Gil’s point that attempts at revolution are always suppressed by those in power was completely right! It is said that fans would turn up to his gigs wearing Celtic shirts but the poet-singer was estranged from his father until adulthood. Still it is truly amazing that both father and son were such pioneers in their chosen fields. His own term for himself was ‘bluesologist’, which he defined as

“a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues”

GIL SCOTT-HERON- 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' (1974)

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You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag
And skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
Blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell
General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat hog maws
Confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theater and will not star Natalie Woods
And Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner
Because the revolution will not be televised, Brother

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
Pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run
Or trying to slide that color TV into a stolen ambulance
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
Or report from 29 districts
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
Brothers on the instant replay
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
Brothers on the instant replay

There will be no pictures of Whitney Young
Being run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy Wilkens
Strolling through Watts in a red, black and green
Liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and Hooter ville Junction
Will no longer be so damned relevant
And women will not care if Dick finally gets down with Jane
On search for tomorrow because black people
Will be in the street looking for a brighter day
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock news
And no pictures of hairy armed women liberationists
And Jackie Onassis blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom Jones
Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink or the Rare Earth
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be right back after a message
About a white tornado, white lightning, or white people
You will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom
The tiger in your tank or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised
Will not be televised, will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run brothers
The revolution will be live

I won’t pretend to be too knowledgeable here so I am just gonna put it out there and give you a bit of history about the guy and the album and impact it had and hopefully you will download it and make up your own minds. That after all is all we ever want.

If the people were to rise to rebellion, there will be no news coverage of the event. That is in a nutshell what Gil is getting at. The years preceding this album America was rocked with scandals and assassinations and political strife that had shaken the very foundations of the state. There was a feeling that revolution was on the cards, though looking back it now seems mad to have thought that. Nevertheless some things did change for the better and music was at the forefront of pushing for that change. Gil was known primarily as a jazz musician though ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ is more a collection of Rhythm and Blues and spoken poetry. While it would be hard to say that Gil invented rhyming there are definitely parallels between angry poems like ‘Whitey on the Moon’,

“Taxes takin’ my whole damn check
The junkies make me a nervous wreck
The price of food is goin up
And if all that crap wasn’t enough
A rat done bit my sister nell
With Whitey on the moon”

‘No Knock’ and ‘Brother’ and 1980s onwards hip hop. Poetry doesn’t dominate though and most of the selections illustrate his excellence as a singer, including ‘Home Is Where the Hatred Is’

“A junkie walking through the twilight
I’m on my way home
I left three days ago, but no one seems to know I’m gone
Home is where the hatred is
Home is filled with pain and it,
might not be such a bad idea if I never, never went home again”

‘Did You Hear What They Said?’ and the poignant ‘Save the Children’. One of the less political tracks is ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’, an R&B classic that articulates how easily jazz can lift a person’s spirits. ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ is  not the last word on Scott-Heron’s but it’s certainly one of the best places to start if you’re exploring his work for the first time. Besides influencing contemporary musicians, Gil remained active until his death in 2011. A memoir he had been working on for years up to the time of his death, ‘The Last Holiday’, was published, posthumously in January 2012.

“My father still keeps up with what Celtic are doing. You Scottish folk always mention that my Dad played for Celtic, it’s a blessing from the spirits! Like that’s two things that Scottish folks love the most; music and football and they got one representative from each of those from my family!”

Tracklist
1. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
2. Sex Education – Ghetto Style
3. The Get Out Of The Ghetto Blues
4. No Knock
5. Lady Day And John Coltrane
6. Pieces Of A Man
7. Home Is Where The Hatred Is
8. Brother
9. Save The Children
10. Whitey On The Moon
11. Did You Hear What They Said
12. When You Are Who You Are
13. I Think I’ll Call It Morning
14. A Sign Of The Ages
15. Or Down You Fall
16. The Needle’s Eye
17. The Prisoner

DEDICATED TO ROBERT KING

Robert King

Robert Hillary King, aka Robert King Wilkerson, was part of a trio of American political prisoners collectively known as The Angola Three. Robert became a Celtic supporter through the influence of Gil and recently appeared on worldwide televison wearing the hoops. Robert’s membership in the only prison-recognized chapter of the Black Panther Party, and his work organizing against prison injustices, resulted in his being targeted for retaliation by prison officials. Despite overwhelming evidence exonerating him, prison-snitch testimony alone convicted him and he received a life sentence for the death of a fellow inmate. Robert’s tenacity in proving his innocence came to fruition when a Federal Appeals Court finally found him “probably innocent.” In February 2001, after thirty-one years of imprisonment and twenty-nine continuous years of solitary confinement, King walked out of the gates of Angola Prison a free man. He has spoken at universities, conferences and other venues. He has made appearances on radio and television and addressed members of the European Parliament. He worked hard to win the release of his comrades, the release of all political prisoners, and an end to the new slavery that is the Prison Industrial Complex.

“I may be free from Angola, but Angola will never be free of me!”

find out more about the Angola Three case here.

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (here) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re use to. Lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)

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The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs is a truly outstanding release. A three CD box-set full of the finest protest folk music from the USA of the early 20th century. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first American protest song book, ‘The Little Red Song Book’ this collection traces the roots of protest song in the US from the first half of the last century up to the Fifties illustrating how the stage was set for the folk protest giants of the Sixties such as Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. Featuring classic performances by Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Leadbelly, The Almanac Singers, The Weavers and many many more.

VA - The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs

The usual suspects – Woody, Pete, Leadbelly, Josh White – are all present and politically correct (or not, depending on your ideological viewpoint!). The 60 tracks are mostly circa the Second World War – more than 60 years old, but all worth preserving and hearing. The best songs here – Leadbelly’s The Bourgeois Blues, Josh White’s Jim Crow Train, Brownie McGhee’s Black, Brown and White – are superb, but even the ones with less artistic value are historically significant.

Paying tribute to the Industrial Workers Of The World (or the Wobblie’s as they affectionately became known) publication, The Little Red Song Book. The book was a source of inspiration to many of the artists in this box set. In the folk tradition, the box set borrows the subtitle – To Fan the Flames of Discontent but this is where the similarity ends and the legacy is picked up. There’s no Internationale, no Red Flag and no Solidarity Forever. Compiler Russell Beecher acknowledges the path beaten by Joe Hill but instead turns his focus to both the blues men of Chicago and the New York folk scene of the 1940’s and those who gravitated there, most notably, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. People who were amongst folk singers and left wing intellectuals and who recognised the subversive power of the song and were themselves personally inspired by the IWW’s Little Red Book.

Wobblies1

Whereas the latter concentrated on union and labour songs, The New York scene broadened the catalogue of protest songs to reflect the changing times and politics. Bank crashes, miscarriages of justices, the rise of fascism, threat of atomic bombs, strikes, destitute farmers and hungry workers are all here against a backdrop of blues, country, hillbilly yodelling, banjo picking and hootenannies.

The sixty songs are divided into three cd’s, The House I Live In, Patriotic Diggers and We Shall Be Free. If not rarities, they are all treasures that paint a picture of this time in American history. Highlights of the first collection of songs include the Alfred Hayes poem set to music by Earl Robinson recounting the work of Joe Hill and the miscarriage of justice that resulted in his execution by firing squad.

'Wildcat'

‘Wildcat’

Then there’s Bob Miller’s ‘Bank Failures’, written in the 1930’s and sadly still relevant now.

“By skipping we saved a few dollars
Put ‘em in a big bank vault
Something is wrong
Cause the money is gone
And it certainly isn’t our fault
We gotta break our backs and continue paying tax
Good people we’re a bloat upset
Just why our money went bye bye no one seems to explain”

Play this back to back with Brownie McGhee’s, piano driven boogie, ‘High Price Blues’ from the second CD and it could easily be 2015.

Wobblies3Releases such as this set make the modern day listener feel uneasy, such is the convenience of purchasing a collection that encompasses such a breadth of human experience. Each of these songs stands tall and strong, could be, and have been, lived in and lived by. Though this is nominally referred to as folk music, it also covers jazz, blues and soul, with soul in particular permeating. It’s in the ghostly harmonies of The Union Boys, the humour of Carl Sandburg’s The Boll Weevil and the stand-up dignity of Woody Guthrie songs that pepper the set. This is an intense listen and perhaps best absorbed in short bursts given the amount of material collected. Such is the nature of the protest song…

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DISC ONE

DISC TWO

DISC THREE

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (here) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re use to. Lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)

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Huddie Ledbetter, known as Leadbelly, is a truly unique figure in American music of the 20th century. Often mistaken as a blues performer he was a profound influence on the folk stars of the 1940s such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, who in turn influenced the folk revival and the development of rock music from the 1960s onward, which made his induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 wholly appropriate.
Leadbelly- 'Easy Rider' (1999)

click on the album sleeve to be re-directed to your free download

Lead Belly was an old-school wrecking ball of folk-singing awesomeness who worked hard labour as a sharecropper in the Depression-era South, lived it up with hot chicks, stiff drinks and smoke-filled clubs in Harlem, kicked his enemies’ arses in at least five hardcore back-alley knife fights, escaped from jail once, convinced the governors of two states to pardon him from murder raps using nothing more than a guitar and his singing voice, and went on to basically help create modern music by influencing everyone from Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra to Kurt Cobain and Jack White. Tough as hell, built like a brick shithouse, he drank hard, fought harder, played the twelve-string guitar better than any man alive and once responded to being stabbed in the throat with a prison shank by pulling the shiv out of his own neck and almost murdering the chap with it.

Huddie William Ledbetter was born on a Louisiana bayou in January of 1888. One of five kids, Ledbetter’s dad was a sharecropper – a tough, calloused-handed wandering manual laborer who worked twelve-hour shifts in the hot Louisiana sun for basically zero pay. Huddie Ledbetter quickly realized that bouncing around the countryside with his dirt-poor family looking for backbreaking jobs wasn’t his thing, so he decided to get the hell out of there, beat the crappy hand that circumstance dealt him and become a superstar musician. By twelve he’d dropped out of schooland by fifteen he’d taught himself how to play the accordion and was playing shows in the St. Paul’s Bottom neighborhood of Shreveport, Louisiana – a hardcore red light district. Surrounded by drunken debauchery didn’t derail Lead Belly’s quest and by the age of sixteen he was married with two kids. By twenty he was divorced, out of Shreveport, wandering the South playing shows in any venue that would have him and working hard labor jobs when the music didn’t pay the bills.

Lead BellyI imagine Lead Belly’s early life being kind of like Tommy Johnson in ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’, only with more face-shanking brutality. Lead rode the rails, traveling the land from the beer-soaked streets of Shreveport’s seediest neighborhoods to the hottest clubs in Deep Ellum, Texas, hanging out at every bar, saloon and music venue along the way. But Lead wasn’t just there to party. He made it his life’s mission to listen to every musician he could find and absorb all the musical knowledge he could. He learned to play the piano, guitar, harmonica, mandolin and violin, became the undisputed master of the twelve-string guitar, and spoke to so many famous blues and folk musicians that he became a walking encyclopedia of American folk tunes. Before long he could play basically every folk song there was and when he wasn’t putting a new spin on old standards he was writing badass songs about cowboys, sailors, women, booze, prison and God. And Hitler. Along the line he worked hard jobs to earn enough cash to put food on the table, hammering railroad spikes, picking cotton, herding cattle as a cowboy, and hammering fence posts. Real work and work he was damn good at thanks to his being basically gigantic and stronger than a team of oxen.

Leadbelly’s budding music career hit a slight hitch in 1915, when the folk guitarist was arrested for punching a dude in the face, pulling a gun in the middle of a barroom brawl, then pummeling someone with it. He was sentenced to serve an unspecified period of hard labour on a chain gang in Texas, hard work that paid even worse than sharecropping. Two days into his mandatory community service whacking rocks with a pickaxe Lead slipped off when the shotgun-toting guards weren’t looking, bolted out of there on foot, escaped the prison work patrol, fled to the next county, changed his name, and went right back to work as a manual laborer by day and an aspiring musician by night.

Lead Belly

He managed to lay low long enough for the heat to die down, but this stone-cold, two-fisted badass was a hot-blooded man whose profession required that he frequent a lot of divey bars populated by a fair number of douchebags, and trouble found him once again a few years later. The details of this particular story are a little sketchy, but apparently in 1918 Lead’s cousin’s husband was doing some fucked-up bullshit, so Lead decided that the best way to resolve the situation was to show up at the dude’s house with a knife and a pistol and beat the shit out of him and all of his friends. In the ensuing battle Lead Belly shot the husband dead and knocked another guy unconscious, a feat of badassitude that earned our hero a sentence of 7-to-35 years in the Texas State Penitentiary.

During his stay in the clink, Lead Belly made a hell of a name for himself by smuggling in a guitar and spending all of his free time singing songs and playing music for the guards and prisoners. Eventually, the Governor of Texas got word of what was going on and decided he needed to see this ‘Singing Convict’ for himself, and he was so goddamned impressed that he ended up bringing his entire family and friends back a couple times just to hear Lead Belly shred the twelve-string. Six years into his sentence, Lead Belly wrote a song asking the Governor for a pardon.

He got it.

Most music historians agree that it was in prison that Huddie Ledbetter got his now-famous nickname. There are tons of theories as to why ‘Lead Belly’ is the name that stuck, and I dare say all of them are awesome. Some folks claim it’s because he was tough as hell, built like a wall of iron and muscle and capable of swinging an axe or shovel with twice the strength of any other inmate. Some say it’s because he could drink even the nastiest fucking bathtub moonshine and show no ill effects. Others claim that he once took a bullet (in some versions a full-on blast of shotgun buckshot) to the abdomen and survived. We will probably never know for sure, but we do know that from this point on Huddie Ledbetter was only known as Lead Belly.

Lead spent the next five years playing shows and working hard shitty day jobs, but trouble found him once again in 1930 when he and some friends got into a back alley New Orleans knife fight with a gang of white guys who were presumably looking for trouble and found a hell of a lot more of it then they’d bargained for. Lead was arrested for stabbing one of those fucks, and was sentenced to another lengthy stay, this time in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Just like before, Lead Belly entertained the guards, inmates, and wardens with his music, but it turns out there are asshole critics everywhere – a couple years into his stay, some inmate jumped Lead Belly from behind and drove a prison shank into the side of his neck. Lead responded by throwing the dude down, pulling the fucking knife out of his own neck, and almost killing the guy with it. For the rest of his life he had a hardcore scar that spanned several inches across his throat.Lead Belly

Just like before, Lead Belly’s ‘singing convict’ thing began to draw some local attention, and it was in 1934 that a historian and folklorist named John Lomax showed up at the Lousiana State Pen to see what was up with this guy. He was so blown away that he had Lead record some tracks on a phonograph disc (this would mark the first time he was ever recorded). Lead recorded a song called ‘Goodnight, Irene’ that he’d learned from his uncle, as well as a couple other tracks. Lomax played them for the Governor of Louisiana, asking for a pardon, and once again, Lead Belly was let out of jail solely on account of his singing voice and musical prowess. The two men then spent the entirety of 1934 driving around the Depression-Era American South working together to collect and archive priceless samples of American folk music.

By 1936 Lead Belly found himself playing twice a night at the famous Apollo Theatre during the Harlem Renaissance, being recorded for TIMEnewsreels, having a bunch of awesome shit written about him in the People’s Daily (the official newspaper of the American Communist Party, which is slightly interesting considering he was not actually a communist) and getting his songs recorded by Columbia Records. His new-found fame was slightly derailed in 1939 when he was arrested for stabbing a guy during a knife-fight in Manhattan (this is documented knife-fight number five, for those of you keeping track at home), but once he got out of jail he jumped right back into action, getting a regular spot on a weekly CBS radio show where he played songs with guys like Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

Lead Belly was known as the ‘King of the Twelve-String’. Using a thumb pick to play the walking base line and finger-picking the rest, Lead accentuated his songs by stomping his foot and shouting out calls and cadences that he learned while working hard labor on the railroad line. His songs are interesting because Lead just tuned his guitar strings with one another rather than to the standard E, then adjusting his voice accordingly. He played shows every single day of his life, recorded a definitive collection of folk and blues songs, took requests at his shows and could instantaneously recall any of the 500 songs he knew from memory, and played whatever the hell he wanted whenever he felt like it. He never really saw any of the money he made, and lived basically in poverty in Harlem with his fourth wife, but I guess he was just happy doing what he liked to do- play music.

At the age of 53 Lead Belly registered for the Draft to enter World War II, but was never called up. He continued living it up and playing music, but during a European tour in 1949 (he was one of the first American folk artists to become popular in Europe) he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and forced to return home to the States. He died of ALS in December 1949 at the age of 61. One year after his death, Pete Seeger’s band, The Weavers, recorded a cover of Lead Belly’s ‘Goodnight, Irene’. The song that got Lead Belly out of prison became a number one hit in 1950, earning the Weavers millions of dollars. A decade after that, Lead Belly’s arrangement of ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ would be covered by some Brit band who are still living off the royalties of that one song.

There’s a life-sized statue of Lead Belly across from the courthouse in Shreveport, Louisiana and the state erected a marker at his grave site. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame early in the Hall’s life, and his music, which became insanely more popular after his death, has been covered by dozens of bands, all of whom cite the hard-drinking, hard-fighting Leadbelly as a major influence on their careers.

 Leadbelly Information

Leadbelly Foundation

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (here) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re use to. To lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)

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Joe Hill’s powerful words have moved countless artists to blend politics and song and this dramatic tribute to the Industrial Workers of the World songwriter and activist Joe Hill, features songs by and about Hill performed by Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, Earl Robinson, Paul Robeson and others. An absolute treasure for anyone interested in American folk and labour music.

for your free download click on the album sleeve

for your free download click on the album sleeve

Joe Hill, poet, songwriter, and organizer is arguably the most popular working class artist in American culture. This album, named after Joe Hill’s famous last words before he was executed by the State of Utah, is a testament to his power as a musical and cultural figure. It also attempts to secure his place in our memory. The album consists of two elements, Joe Hill songs performed by important interpreters and songs about him, again in historically important performances. Among the former, number Harry McClintock singing ‘The Preacher and the Slave’, Pete Seeger doing ‘Casey Jones (The Union Scab)’ and Cisco Houston’s version of ‘The Tramp’. The latter category contains the more varied and more interesting contributions. Among these are poet Kenneth Patchen’s spoken word piece ‘Joe Hill Listens to the Praying’, Billy Bragg singing Phil Ochs ‘The Ballad Of Joe Hill’ and both Paul Robeson and Earl Robinson performing the Robinson-penned number Joan Baez made her own, ‘Joe Hill’ with its immortal lines

“I dreamed I saw, I dreamed I saw, Joe Hill last night
Alive as you and me
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” says he, “I never died” says he
“I never died” says he”

He was born Joel Emmanuel Haggland in Sweden, the ninth son of a railroad worker. His father died when he was eight years old, and he went to work in order to help support his mother and six siblings. When Hill’s mother died in 1902, he emigrated to the United States. Until 1910 practically nothing is known of Joe Hill’s life. It is known that he was in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake, as he sent back an eyewitness account of the horror and devastation caused by this disaster to Sweden, where it was published in a local newspaper. Somewhere along the line he changed his name to Joseph Hillstrom and this was shortened by work mates to Joe Hill. By the time he finally surfaces in San Pedro, CA, in 1910, it is clear that he had been working a long time as a migrant laborer, and was on intimate terms with the suffering and misery experienced by the families of his fellow workers under the conditions of this era.
Joe Hill
In San Pedro, he joined the International Workers of the World, or as popular slang had it the ‘Wobblies’, a Chicago-based labour organization which set itself up as a worldwide advocate and agitator for the cause of worker’s rights and the unionization of industries. Towards the end of 1910, Hill published a letter in the IWW’s in-house publication International Worker, identifying himself as a member of the Portland chapter of the IWW. At the beginning of 1911, Hill is found in Tijuana, attempting to mobilize an IWW offensive to assist the overthrow of the Mexican government. From then until January 1914, Hill’s trail once again runs cold, this time not due to a lack of information, but to an impossible wealth of Joe Hill sightings; Hill became such a legendary ‘wobbly’ that he is accredited as being present at practically all IWW functions nationwide.
Joe HillIt was during this time that Hill established himself as the main event of IWW rallies, singing songs he had written that pilloried capitalist bosses, scabs, glorified the ordinary American worker, and urged on the creation of unions. The lyrics to these songs were published in the IWW’s ‘Little Red Song Book’ and achieved wide distribution therein, but most of the thousands who got to know such songs as ‘Union Maid’, ‘The Preacher And The Slave’, ‘There Is A Power In The Union’ and ‘Workers of the World, Awaken!’ heard them sung by Joe Hill in person. The lyrics were usually simple, easily memorized and set to tunes that were already known to the assembly at the IWW meetings. As Joe once said
“A song is learned by heart and repeated over and over and if a person can put a few common sense facts into a song and dress them up in a cloak of humor, he will succeed in reaching a great number of workers who are too unintelligent or too indifferent to read.”
In January 1914, Joe was apprehended in Salt Lake City on a entirely circumstantial charge of murdering a local grocer who also happened to be a retired law enforcement officer. During the trial he offered little to no evidence in his own defense, and was more openly hostile to the volunteer attorneys representing him than he was to the prosecution, who sought the death penalty. Hill was convicted and executed by a firing squad on November 19, 1915, despite the protestations of the Swedish Ambassador to the United States, Helen Keller, and President Woodrow Wilson himself, all of whom had pleaded with the governor of Utah for a new trial for Joe. His own unexplainable behavior under these dire circumstances suggests that, though innocent of the charge, he had resigned himself to the notion of becoming a martyr for the cause of the unions. After his execution, the coffin containing Joe’s body was hastily transported to Chicago, where it was joined by a crowd of 30,000 mourners in a massive IWW funeral procession through the city streets.
Joe HillThe thirty or so songs that Joe Hill wrote were once thought so dangerous that many would dare not sing them in public or risk arrest. To this repertoire was added an additional powerful anthem of the left, entitled ‘Joe Hill’ and written in 1925 by the poet Alfred Hayes and set to music by Earl Robinson. This was sung at workers’ rallies in the 1930s and 1940s, when millions were in attendance. Although the red-baiting of the 1950s would eventually decimate the American left, by this time, Joe’s work had already left its mark on such singers as Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Pete Seeger and other left-leaning folk singers who would further influence Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and those who would become leading voices in the 1960s protests against the Vietnam War. Famously Baez began her appearance at the 1969 Woodstock Festival by singing ‘Joe Hill’ as her first number.
“If the workers took a notion they could stop all speeding trains; Every ship upon the ocean they can tie with mighty chains. Every wheel in the creation, every mine and every mill; Fleets and armies of the nation, will at their command stand still”
Unfortunatly Joe Hill never found himself in a situation where he could be recorded and his influence was mainly spread from singer to singer. Only in the late ’90s did historians take much interest in Joe Hill as a performer and artist and the study has already revealed much about the origins of politically oriented folk songs in America. It appears that Joe Hill was truly the first protest singer in America and certain of his specific metaphors, such as his notion of ‘pie in the sky when you die’ are encountered repeatedly in subsequent generations of folk songs that deal with social and political change.

Excellent both as an album and as a cultural document, we will not forget the important legacy Joe Hill bequeathed to us. It’s a beautiful album for a beautiful man.  This is REAL subversion, from real people, native Americans and immigrants like Joe, who weren’t playing games or striking poses, but who really saw things as they are and really wanted to change the world. Joe Hill was a hard core working class true American hero.
“I will die like a true-blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning – organize”
International Workers Of The World

 JOIN THE INTERNATIONAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD 

Facebook  WebSite  Twitter  YouTube

IWW in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales

in Joe’s words “good luck to all of you”…

for an excellent piece on Joe Hill go to the Black 47 Blog here where New Yorks finest celtic-punk band give you there spin on the life and death of Joe. Well worth reading…

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (here) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re use to. To lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)

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Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger - The Jacobite Rebellions (1962)

to get your free download of this great album simply click on the album sleeve

It has certainly been a year of contrasts for the proud nation of Alba/ Scotland. With the loss of the Independence vote I’m sure I was not alone to slump into a form of depression but the wave of proud and non-sectarian nationalism that has swept Scotland since has been a joy to behold. With the red tories of the Labour Party about to swept into oblivion things have never looked beter and that election loss can be seen for what it is. A small blip on the way to a fully independent Scottish republic.

The Jacobite Rebellions

This review is another in our series of ‘Classic Album Reviews’ (here) where we aim to introduce you to lost gems that have inspired and provoked music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Here we have the legendary Ewan MacCool with an album from over fifty years ago dedicated to the memory of the Jacobite Rebellions. They were a series of uprisings, rebellions, and wars across Scotland, Ireland and England between 1688 and 1746. They ended in failure and the repression that the english rained down on the Scots after their victory would end with untold thousands leaving Scotland to make better lives in the America’s.

In these Jacobite songs every battle became a cry against oppression, and every soldier exhibites ideal courage, boldness and strength, without blemish. The songs are glorious. Through them the Jacobites have won their rebellions, for the songs live on, moving us who are so far removed from the events, the causes, the feelings of the Fifteen and the Forty-Five; who live in other countries and pursue other destinies. As Ewan MacColl writes

“To a world which has become familiar with the concept of genocide, which has known fascism and two world wars, the Jacobite rebellions appear as no more than cases of mild unrest. They have grown dusty in history’s lumber room along with all the other lost causes. The Stuart cause is forgotten and nothing, remains of it except the songs. And what songs they are”

As with everything Ewan put his hand, and voice, to it is witty, tender, proud, bitter, ribald, delicate and passionate. Genius is a word easily matched with his name. These are the songs of the Scottish people. People with a great zest and appetite for life. The songs of a people who after all these centuries are optimistic again. Freedom is in sight and we can see it. Let these songs inspire us all to make that push towards it.

“What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro’ many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station;
But English gold has been our bane –
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!”

Such A Parcel Of Rogues In A Nation. Robert Burns. 1791

the following essay is taken from the original album’s sleeve notes

After centuries of conflict, the kingdoms of Scotland and England had been brought together in 1603 when the Stuart King James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Although united in the person of their ruler the two states retained quite different governments and institutions. They remained separate until the Act of Union in 1707 established a single government for the ‘United Kingdom’. By this time the Stuart dynasty had been deposed in the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, when the Roman Catholic James II (VII of Scotland) was replaced by the Dutch ruler William of Orange, who had married James’ elder daughter Mary. This had been a victory for the powerful landowning and commercial classes which had been rapidly increasing in strength during the preceding century. They were strongly Protestant in religion and they were, moreover, determined to restrict the power of the monarchy permanently.

The Jacobite RebellionsScotland benefited materially from the Union with England. Its trade and manufacturing industry increased enormously and, thanks to the superiority of Scottish education over anything, existing south of the Border in the eighteenth century, Scottish businessmen, inventors and intellectual leaders figured amongst the giants of the Industrial Revolution. Adam Smith, the economist; James Watt, inventor of the improved steam engine; and Macadam and Telford, the famous road builders, were amongst the most outstanding.
The real increase in the prosperity of Scotland as a result of this important contribution to the processes of industrialisation was, however, unevenly spread. It was concentrated in the Lowlands and in particular in Glasgow, which was rapidly becoming a large commercial centre. The Highlands were scarcely affected by it. In this extensive mountainous area an ancient feudal system based on subsistence farming remained dominant. The clans which maintained it were cut off from both the material developments and currents of thought of the outside world. Personal loyalty was highly valued; the old religion of Roman Catholicism was still strongly entrenched; and with it affection for the exiled ‘King across the water’ and a romantic attachment to the ‘auld alliance” with France against England. In view of this dour resistance to all the forces of innovation which were beginning to transform England and the Lowlands in the eighteenth century, it was natural that the Stuarts should look to the Highlands as their main hope for a revival of their fortunes.
James II had gone into exile in France, where he died in 1701. His son James, the ‘Old Pretender’, inherited the claim to the thrones of England and Scotland, and it was in support of him that the Jacobite Risings occurred. The Act of Settlement of 1701 had ensured that the crown would pass to the Protestant House of Hanover. This happened in 1714, and the first Rising was thus timed to take advantage of the unpopularity of George I. But as it was inadequately planned and badly led, the Rising of 1715 never presented a serious challenge to the new regime. Apart from an abortive expedition in 1719, thirty years passed before the Stuarts made their next and final bid to recover power.
On the 25th July 1745, the 25 year old Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the ‘Young Pretender’, set foot on the Scottish mainland. Less than a month later he raised the standard of his father at Glenfinnan, and the clansmen began to rally to him. By a daring march on Edinburgh the Jacobites captured the city and repulsed an effort to dislodge them at the Battle of Prestonpans. The Prince then led his army southwards towards London, hoping that support would come to him from the inhabitants of the northern English counties. He was disappointed. Although he reached the River Trent just south of Derby on 4th December, he received an extremely cool welcome from the towns and countryside through which he passed. And his clansmen became increasingly disgruntled the further they moved from their native glens.
Meanwhile, the government had been desperately raising an army, and although hampered by incredibly bad communications a force was now ready to take the field under the generalship of the Duke of Cumberland.
The Prince was forced to retreat, and his forces fell back into Scotland and then into the Highlands, Cumberland pursued them towards the inevitable engagement. This took place on the morning of 16th April 1746, when the clansmen were mown down by the superior armaments of the government forces on Culloden Moor.The Jacobite Rebellions
The Battle of Culloden marked the extinction of the last Jacobite hope of recovering the British crown, and Prince Charles spent many hunted weeks as a fugitive before he managed narrowly to escape to France. But it marked more than that — it was also the end of an ancient social order. The government determined that there should never be another rising in the Highlands, and Cumberland earned himself the nickname of ‘The Butcher’ by ruthlessly carrying out the policy of breaking the clan system. Estates of the leading Jacobites were confiscated, and the wearing of the tartan prohibited. Even more important, the feudal powers of the clan chieftains, with their own law courts and the right of claiming military service from their tenants, were abolished.
These measures were effective. Law and order was imposed on the Highlands. Roads, bridges and harbours were built and improved. The introduction of English practices of land ownership led in time to the establishment of large estates as deer parks, and resulted in large scale depopulation. By 1759 Pitt was able to remove the ban on tartan wearing and to recruit regiments of Highlanders to assist in the conquest of Canada. In 1784, the government felt able to restore most of the forfeited estates to their original owners. Meanwhile, the whole country had begun to show signs of the rapid acceleration in the processes of industrialisation which brought greater prosperity to the nation. Industrial and commercial success in the eighteenth century did more than Cumberland’s troops to cement the political foundations of Hanoverian Britain.
With the pacification of the Highlands, the Stuart cause was dead. But like many lost causes, that of the Jacobites has retained its attraction and its power to move the spirit. More than most, the Jacobite cause, though lost, has been won in the persistent appeal of the songs which it evoked. These songs recall a social order which has long since passed away under the wheels of the locomotive, the arterial road, the factory, and the hydroelectric power station. They recall the bravery of men who died for a cause in which they believed. And above all, they recall the loyalty felt towards the young prince who, with grace and charm, came to lead the clansmen in his fathers’ cause; and who, though doomed to failure, won the hearts and devotion of men and women in his own generation and in those which have followed.
– ANGUS BUCHANAN
for more on the Jacobite uprisings you can do worse than going to Wikipedia for a start before heading to The Jacobite Rebellions or Scottish Warriors.
Greentrax Records recently released a compilation album ‘For Freedom Alone- The Wars Of Independence’ and you can read our review here and order it too!
more information on the wonderful Robert Burns can be had from this great web site here.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959)

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Ewan MacColl - Bad Lads And Hard Cases (1959)

for your free download click on the above album sleeve

Man cannot live on celtic-punk alone and its long been one of the purposes of this blog to introduce you to music and bands/singers from the past who have inspired us, as well as celtic-punk to become what it has. A fine addition to any decent folk collection would be this extremely influential album ‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ by the legendary Ewan MacColl. Charting the penal history of these Isles in song it has stood the test of time as have many of the songs and as criminality and criminals have long been a subject matter for celtic punk bands then this album fully deserves a listen.

Ewan was the Scots-born son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs and ballads. He worked as a garage hand, builders’ laborer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. Since the end of World War II Ewan wrote and broadcast extensively in Britain about folk music. He was general editor of the BBC folk-music series, ‘Ballads and Blues’, and frequently took part in radio and television shows for BBC. Ewan MacColl 1His folksong publications include ‘Personal Choice’, a pocket edition of Scots folk songs and ballads, and ‘The Shuttle and the Cage’, the first published collection of British industrial folk songs. Eventually he was ousted from the BBC due to his socialist beliefs. He wrote many songs that have become folk (and celtic-punk standards) the most famous of course being ‘Dirty Old Town’ popularised by The Dubliners and then The Pogues its wrongly assumed to be about Dublin but it is in fact about his home town of Salford in Manchester. He is also famous for writing one of the greatest ever love songs ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which he wrote for his second wife, the influential American folk singer, Peggy Seeger. He was also the father of Kirsty MacColl who of course guested on The Pogues enormous Christmas hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. After many years of poor health Ewan died on 22 October 1989 but it can be safely said of him that he was these islands Woody Guthrie and his songs and influence will live on forever.

On this album Ewan is accompanied on the guitar and banjo by Peggy Seeger. A real classic of folk that you all need to hear.

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger

Here’s the actual sleeve notes from ‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ as written by Ewan himself

TURPIN HERO
According to Chappell’s ”Popular Music of the Olden Time’, this ballad was written in 1739. just before Turpin was executed. There are several broadside versions of it, the oldest of which is contained in a pamphlet entitled ‘The Dunghill Cock; or Turpin’s valiant exploits’ it is fairly widely known among south country traditional singers, but only in this version.

SPENCE BROUGHTON
This confession from the gallows tells of a Sheffield robber who was executed at York on April 14, 1752, for the robbing of the Rotherham postman on Attercliffe Common. After the hanging. his body was strung up on a gibbet post near the scene of the robbery. This song is still fairly widely sung by country singers to a variety of tunes. The version recorded here was learned from Harold Sladen of Manchester.

IVOR
The hero of this ballad is said to be a lately deceased matinee idol and writer of musical plays. The ballad had a great vogue in the middle ’40s and is said to be the work of a trusty doing time in Wormwood Scrubs prison. American listeners will recognize the tune as that of The Gal I Left Behind Me. The ‘sky-rocket diver’ referred to in the first stanza is rather elaborate slang for a pick-pocket.

THE BONNIE BANKS OF AIRDRIE (Child #14) —
This ballad is also known as Babylon, The Bonnie Banks of Fordie, and The Duke of Perth’s Three Daughters. In other versions, the crime is not only murder but sororicide. for the robber finds out, all too late, that it is his own sisters that he has slain. I learned this version from my mother.

SUPERINTENDENT BARRAT, and BARRATTY-PARRATTY
These are but two of the many songs which swept Scotland after the ‘lifting’ of the Stone of Scone from West-minster Abbey. So popular did these songs become that they even penetrated the dance halls where they were sung by crooners until such time as the police stepped in and put an end to this dreadful flouting of authority in public places. Both songs are the work of Thurso Berwick, a young Glasgow school-teacher and poet who has played a leading part in the Scottish folksong renaissance.

GO DOWN YOU MURDERER
In 1953. Timothy John Evans was sentenced and executed for the murder of his wife and child. He died protesting his innocence to the last. Later  John Christie, the mass murderer of Notting Hill Gate, confessed to having murdered Evans’ wife and child. The case made a profound impression on British public opinion and is quoted frequently in the campaign to abolish capital punishment.

VAN DIEMEN’S LAND
This is probably the most circumstantial and certainly the most detailed of all the known versions of Van Diemen’s Land. The tune is a variant of the widespread Banks of Sweet Dundee. I learned this version from the singing of Harry Cox, farm laborer of Dorset and probably the greatest traditional singer of that region.

WHISKEY IN THE JAR
A favorite Irish street song, this ballad appears to have been introduced into Scotland by Irish sheep herders during the 19th century. It has been collected widely throughout the English-speaking world, several versions having been recorded in Canada, the United States, and Australia. I learned this version from Hughie Graham of Galloway.

BILL BROWN
In 1769, a poacher by the name of Bill Brown was shot by a gamekeeper in the village of Brightside, near Sheffield. Various broadsides told of his unhappy death and carried the ballad into the southern English counties where it became widely known by traditional singers. This version comes from Kidson’s ‘Traditional Tunes’ (1891).

THE BANKS OF THE ROYAL CANAL
I learned this unusual prison song from the singing of Brendan Behan of Dublin. When I asked him where he had learned it, he answered: “In Mountjoy” “And what were you doing there?”, I asked him. “Eight years,” he said, “for shooting some detective sergeant or other, but praise be to God he was no countryman of ours.”

THE BLACK VELVET BAND
According to Harry Cox, this was a popular pub song among farm workers more than half a century ago. It has been collected as far away as Australia, and in the United States was a favorite hobo ballad — both as recitative and song. It still survives in England. Its history is rather obscure, but it appears to have originated in the last half of the 19th century.

HARD CASE
I wrote this song in 1933 while in prison awaiting trial for breach of the peace, i.e. for ‘resisting the police while carrying out their duty’. Actually I was on a hunger march and resisted being batoned by a couple of cops. The song has achieved fairly wide currency in the past 20 years; indeed, an old man who had just finished a stretch in Walton Jail, Liverpool, told me he had known it all his life.

THE BALLAD OF BENTLEY AND CRAIG
The title characters of this ballad were two teenage youths who shot a policeman in Croydon, Surrey, in 1951. The 17 year old Craig, who actually fired the shot, was considered too young to meet the hangman. Bentley, just turned 18, was not so fortunate. The trial and execution created widespread public indignation and. to some extent, resulted in a government ban on the importation of the more lurid type of American comics. This ballad, the work of Carl Dallas, a young Newcastle newspaper reporter, is one of half a dozen songs which the trial produced.

TREADMILL SONG
This song, from Sussex, is an unusually detailed account of life in stir in the early 19th century. Prisoners attitudes about incarceration have apparently changed but little since that time.

GILDEROY
In James Johnson’s ‘Scots Musical Museum’, we are told that ‘Gilderoy was a notorious freebooter in the highlands of Perthshire, who, with his gang, for a considerable time infested the country, committing the most barbarous outrages on the inhabitants’. He was finally apprehended and died on the gallows in July, 1638. The ballad is said to have been composed by a young woman ‘who unfortunately became attached to this daring robber, and had cohabited with him for some time before his being apprehended’. The version sung here is from a broadside published by Harkness of Preston, in the British Museum.

Here are Ewan’s sleeve notes from the original album insert

The mammoth sales of tabloid newspapers specializing in the gory and sensational, the popularity of detective novels and ‘thrillers’, the countless films and TV features dealing with acts of violence, all point to public interest in crime and criminals.

This somewhat morbid fascination with underworld activity is no new phenomenon. A glance through Professor Child’s collection of “The English and Scottish Popular Ballads” shows that rather more than one in three of the traditional texts assembled there deal with assorted acts of violence. Theft, treachery, assault, rape, kidnapping, cattle-rustling, piracy, murder in all its forms … there isn’t a crime in the police gazette that hasn’t been put to music.

Broadly speaking, the treatment of crime and criminals in our popular music falls into five main categories:

  1. Ballads about outlaw heroes;
  2. Ballads about crimes of passion;
  3. Songs of confession and remorse;
  4. Transportation ballads;
  5. Songs describing prison life.

The hard core of the real popular heroes of the traditional ballads is that swaggering band of hard-living, hard-riding and hard-fighting outlaws — Johnny Armstrong, Jock o’ the Side, Johnny o’ Breadislie, Hughie the Graeme — the moss troopers who ranged the debatable lands of the Scots lowland borders and refused to acknowledge the laws and proscriptions of Kings.

These guerillas of the border peasantry inherited the mantle of Robin Hood. Their qualities are the qualities of all the heroes of folk poetry. They were strong, courageous, skillful with weapons, scornful of authority, witty, fair-minded; they were loyal to their friends and just to their enemies, and they could face death with a jest on their lips. Though they were hunted men, they were the living embodiment of the peasantry concept of freedom, and this at a time when freedom was only a dream.

They were the progenitors of all the ‘bad men’ heroes of the English-speaking world: of Dick Turpin, Claude Duval, Brennan of the Moor, Jesse James, Sam Bass, Billy the Kid, Bold Jack Donahue and Pretty Boy Floyd.

Where crimes of passion are the themes of traditional ballads, the events move towards the violent climax with all the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. And, as with the characters in the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, the protagonists are larger than life, filling the landscape so that there is no room left for irrelevant detail. Here there is no moralizing on the evils of murder. It is sufficient to state the act of violence and the events which led up to it; the rest is silence.

The ‘Confession from the Gallows’ type of ballad belongs, both in feeling and in structure, with the ‘broadsides’ which flourished from 1500 to 1800, though confessional ballads continued to be made until such time as public executions were discontinued. For the most part the ‘broadsides’ deserve professor Child’s characterization as ‘veritable dunghills’ and yet, here and there, one comes upon flashes of pure feeling. And traditional singers, who always have the last word, have kept a surprisingly large number of them alive.

The element of protest, almost entirely absent in the confession songs, is a distinct feature of the ‘Transportation Ballads.’ Though these songs are generally cast in the same mold as the confession songs, they display fewer traits of Grubb Street construction and, on the whole, the poetry, though often crude, is not without vigor. As a body they represent the most recent and perhaps the last great impulse towards song-making on the part of the English peasantry.

Prison life in Britain has produced few genuine folk songs. Parodies exist in plenty, but they are generally of an ephemeral nature and rarely outlive a prison sentence. The only British songs which can compare with the convict group songs of U.S. southern prisons and state-farms are those which came out of the late 17th and 18th century treadmills. Several of these are still current with English south country singers. They represent an important part of our prison literature.

The present folksong revival in Britain has made many thousands of young people familiar with these old songs; it has, in addition, produced a growing number of new ballads about crime and criminals, ballads characterized by an understanding of the social causes of crime. In every city between Dundee and London, there may be found groups of young people who sing songs like The Ballad of Bentley and Craig and Go Down You Murderer.

Ewan MacColl

Find Out More On Ewan MacColl

Wikipedia 

listen to his music for free here on LastFm

tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here

many thanks to ‘Celtic Born And Bred‘ facebook page where I first heard this great album. Go and join them here and you’ll find a treasure chest of similar great music.

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (here) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re use to. To lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)

AND FREE DOWNLOAD

people are always drawn to the scene of an accident and it was no different in the past either…

A simply stunning 3 x CD box set that is now out of print and unavailable unless you’re willing to pay an absolute fortune. It’s the real deal of authentic folk and country from black and white performers from the dawn of the roots of America’s musical traditions. Seventy  beautifully remastered recordings with over half on CD for the first time. So here’s your chance to download it but be quick and if you have any problems leave a comment.

VARIOUS ARTISTS People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913-1938 (2007)

Close your eyes and hear the suffering through the ages, as disasters both great and small are relived in song by roving musicians with only a fiddle or a guitar to stake their claim on history.

Close your eyes and see the carnage reenacted. In Frank Hutchison’s ‘Last Scene of the Titanic’, see all the pretty ladies in their evening gowns and all of the tuxedoed gentlemen plummet over the deck of the great juggernaut as it collides with a massive iceberg, sending them wailing and flailing and thrashing in a demonic ballet into the icy Atlantic waters.

Open your ears and hear the plaintive cry of a child in the night, who wakes from a portentous dream in which his daddy is trapped in the interminable blackness of the coal mine, Blind Alfred Reed’s ‘Explosion in the Fairmount Mine’, only to discover that dear daddy was indeed trapped in a mine explosion and is one of 200 unrecovered miners never to see the light of day again.

True-life scenes such as these are the subject of this massive box-set, in which seemingly congenial-sounding folk and blues songs from the early twentieth century document disasters and real-life tragedies with a quiet intensity that disturbs the casual listener far more than any contemporary death metal band could. This is not Sturm und Drang, this is real pain and suffering devoid of fantasy or romanticism. These are songs for the legions of anonymous dead, musical coffin markers for the ones who were lost along the way.

Highlights range from the grim to the funny. In ‘Mississippi Heavy Water Blues’, Robert ‘Barbecue Bob’ Hicks complains that the murky brown flood waters have washed all the wimmenfolk away. The original version of ‘When the Levee Breaks’ by Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie remains a haunting testament to the 1927 Mississippi Flood. Charlie Poole’s ‘Baltimore Fire’ is spectral in its account of hundreds consumed by the flames of a raging inferno. Then there’s my personal favourite, Bob Miller’s ‘Ohio Prison Fire’, in which a distraught mother is asked to identify the charred remains of her late lamented son:

“I’ll take my boy back now.

The state’s finished with him.

The state’s finished with all of these bodies.

These poor, charred bodies!”

Disc Three switches the focus to murder ballads, showcasing songs of cold-blooded homicide that have clearly influenced the work of such hard boiled musical greats as Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits, the latter providing the eloquent introduction to this set. Early versions of such blood-soaked ballads as ‘Billy Lyons and Stack O’Lee’, the legend of Stack O’Lee or “Stagger Lee” exists in many forms, and ‘Darling Cora’, also known as ‘Darling Corey’, stand alongside lesser-known death row oddities like ‘The Trial of Richard Bruno Hauptmann, Pts. I & II’ an ode to the murderer of the Lindbergh baby. True crime buffs may favor this disc as much as musicologists.


Special mention should be made to the impeccable sonic reproduction by Christopher King, who understands the mystical power inherent in the snap, crackle and pop of old 78 records and faithfully reproduces the elusive sound of the victrola, cranked up and wailing away like a banshee in a tin can. The static of these old grooves perfectly encases the sadness of bygone eras like ancient beetles trapped in amber. Timeless and lifeless.

In today’s post-9/11 world, the fear of arbitrary annihilation is almost taken for granted, yet this collection serves as a moving reminder that tragedies of every kind have always lived on in the music of American folk musicians, perhaps to serve as a talisman for future generations.

CLICK BELOW FOR FREE DOWNLOAD

DISC ONE- MAN v MACHINE

DISC TWO- MAN v NATURE

DISC THREE- MAN v MAN 

ARTWORK AND LINER NOTES

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (here) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re use to. To lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS OUR BEST OF 2013!

well here they are. after two solid weeks of harassing and cajoling people into getting their lists back we’ve totted them up and came up with this.

for more information on each record/ band simply click on the number and you’ll be re-directed. Must say there’s no real surprises here except it seems we’re quite the parochial  lot looking at the number of ‘local’ bands in each list…

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS BEST ALBUM OF 2013

BCS

1. THE BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS- ‘New Hazardous Design’

2. THE LAGAN- ‘Where’s Your Messiah Now?’

3. THE TOSSERS- ‘Emerald City’ (review here)

4. THE WAKES- ‘The Red And The Green’ (review here)

5. DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘Signed And Sealed In Blood’

a couple that almost made it were Between The Wars and Old Man Markley.

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS BEST BAND OF 2013

BCS2

1. THE LAGAN

2. THE BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS

3. DROPKICK MURPHYS/ 3. THE ROUGHNECK RIOT

5. THE WAKES

just bubbling under were The Pogues, Neck, Bootscraper, Between The Wars, Larry And His Flask, Jack Ratts, Firkin. The Ramshackle Army

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS BEST TRADITIONAL ALBUM

1.SOLAS- ‘Shamrock City’ (review here)

Solas

LONDON CELTIC-PUNKS BEST WEBSITE

BCS3

1. SHITE’n’ONIONS

some stuff about the poll- the people who took part in the poll were the moderators of the London Celtic Punks Facebook group page and a few other regular contributors. They were asked for their Top 3 Albums, Top 3 Bands and Favourite Web-Based Site. Scores were awarded Number 1=5 Points, 2= 3 points and 3=1 point. Twenty people took part… interestingly their were only three albums nominated number one! and best of all we came second in our own poll for Best Web-Site!! so all the best from us all here to you all no matter where and hopes for a dacent 2014 for us everyone.

click on the blog logo at the top of the page to find out more…

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