Category Archives: Country

EP REVIEW: THE CRAICHEADS- ‘Greetings From Another Land’ (2018)

One of the biggest pullers on the London Irish scene Celtic-folkers The Craicheads are back with an 4-track EP the follow up to their debut album and a taster for their new studio album due next year!

There are two Irish communities living in London. The Irish and the London-Irish. The Craicheads are London-Irish through and through. A product of their environment on the working-class streets of London where the Irish ran everything. Nowadays London is a multicultural place where every nation in the world has rocked up to and the presence of the Irish in it has diminished in a couple of ways. For decades the public face of the Irish was the pub. Only a decade ago Irish pubs dominated the high streets of the capital but gentrification and changing demographics and the ever increasing need to build flats for young yuppies professionals has seen 100’s and 100’s closed over the last few years. On top of that, the ageing population has sadly seen many of the Irish who arrived in the glory days of Irish emigration from the 50’s through to the 80’s either pass away or move back home in retirement. Nevertheless their is a rich vein of Irishness still alive and kicking in the capital and it wouldn’t be unusual to go to an Irish pub these days and find the Irish born well outnumbered by the Irish not born in Ireland!

Music has played an enormous part in this and yeah bands like The Pogues did truly represent us back in the day but more modern bands like The Bible Code Sundays continue the trend. All over London, and other parts of England, Wales and Scotland, the foreign born Irish celebrate their ancestors and their roots listening and singing along to fellow foreign born Irish bands and singers. Into this category we can add the wonderful Craicheads. Formed a decade ago the Bhoys are in constant demand playing in and around the capital and at functions and festivals throughout the UK and abroad. Performances on ITV’s This Morning, at Trafalgar Square for the 2016 St Patrick’s Day festivals, The Irish Post Awards and at The Rugby World Cup too, as well as a residency at one of London’s largest and most well known Irish bars, O’Neills in the west end. They have one release behind them, ‘Brewed In London’, which was basically an album of Irish folk and country tinged covers which was well played and enthusiastically received but it was the two original Craichead compositions on the album that stuck out for me. ‘Take Me Back To Harrow’ and ‘Sligo Shore’ showed exactly what they can do and I never stopped hinting to Mick the bands singer when I would see him that they ought to concentrate on some original material. Well I have gotten my wish!!

The Craicheads from left to right: Sean Douglas- Bass * Ben Gunnery- Fiddle/Whistle/Flute * Mick O’Beirne- Guitar/Lead Vocals * Martin Stewart- Drums * Tim Eyles: Lead Guitar/Mandolin *

It’s a wee bit of a change of direction for them and I can honestly say its for the better. Watching them in O’Neills, as I have done countless times, you come away knowing a couple of things. 1) That you have had a bloody great time and 2) that these guys are wasted on the London pub scene! The songs here are still tinged with folk, country, blues and even good old fashioned rock’n’roll but there’s a bite to these songs that was missing before. Maybe its a bit of punk attitude but as a taster for the upcoming Craicheads second album this will certainly get the juices flowing.

Greetings From Another Land was recorded many miles from London at the Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Cymru. The studio has in the past played host to such legends as Oasis, Joe Strummer, The Stone Rose’s and Queen. In fact it’s was here where Freddy Mercury wrote the epic song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’! The EP kicks off with the rousing title-track ‘Greetings From Another Land’ where Mick’s voice sits snugly between fellow London-Irishmen Johnny Rotten and Shane MacGowan but still completely tuneful! The song takes the form of a message from one generation to the next about their experiences and the struggles they faced in emigrating to these shores.

“No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish was the sign upon the wall, It’s hard now to believe it but it happened to us all”

Times were tough for those Paddies and Biddies we must never forget. The song itself takes in a ska/reggae beat, appropriately enough, alongside some fantastic fast trad Irish. The Irish lived side by side with the West Indian communities on arrival here in London’s poorest areas and many of their children still do.

A cracker of an opener with more than a hint of the Bible Code’s Celtic-Rock but lifted by the influences from around London. All the required instrumentation is here and played, as you’d expect, absolutely note perfect. They follow this up with ‘The Ballad Of John Joyce’, a song about vocalist Mick’s Grandad John Joyce from Connemara. Arriving in England from the Gaeltacht (where only Irish was spoken) with no English he got a job working down the coal mines in Wales, then to London and starting work and raising a family. It’s down to such legends in our lives that we are Irish. Here The Craicheads give it some Country’n’Irish with a snappy, catchy tune with Ben’s fantastic fiddle and tin-whistle moving it along nicely. It’s hard to imagine what he must have gone through to leave the green fields of home to go to work two miles underground. It literally must have seemed like another planet. On ‘Larry’s Song’ Mick tells the story of a man he worked with many moons ago. Like many of these long gone Irish over here, they all had a story to tell. A great hurler from Gort, Co Galway he helped the young Mick figure out what life was all about. His advice be sure to chase your dreams is truly good advice. The slowest song here though not quite a ballad but some lovely Irish folk played under Mick’s voice who proves he can still hit the notes when needed. A beautiful song with a strong and positive message. Class.

We’re rolling up to the end and the curtain comes down on Greetings From Another Land with ‘Leave Me Alone’ and The Craicheads go out in style with a knockabout Poguesy Celtic-Punk number. Telling the story of a man looking for a bit of peace and quiet away from it all down the boozer who won’t be left alone. Yeah there is still a trace of country still in there but its fast and furious and a great way to end things. Four new songs that are knocked out with power, passion and pride and it would be criminal if The Craicheads were confined to the pubs of London town. We will keep you posted as to when the full length album will be delivered but we must never forget that we built the roads, schools, hospitals (and staffed them too), tubes and plenty more besides in London and we have a not too shabby musical legacy to be proud of as well.

Buy The EP

iTunes

Contact The Craicheads

PHANTOM OF THE BLACK HILLS

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

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

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

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

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

Ghosts

Released January 1, 2009

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

(Part One of the ‘Government Demons’ trilogy)

(Listen to Ghosts below on the Bandcamp player)

Born To Gun

Released January 1, 2010

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

(Part Two of the ‘Government Demons’ trilogy)

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

Enemy!

Released January 1, 2012

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

(Listen to Enemy! below on the Bandcamp player)

Moonshine Bright

Released January 1, 2014

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

(Listen to Moonshine Bright below on the Bandcamp player)

Scalped

Released August 25, 2017

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

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

(Listen to Scalped below on the Bandcamp player)

Phantom Of The Black Hills

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Soundcloud  Bandcamp  POTBH Shop   Ratchet Blade Records

HEAR THE DEBUT SINGLE FROM TAN AND SOBER GENTLEMEN

The debut single from seven piece Scotch-Irish hillbilly music band Tan And Sober Gentlemen has arrived and this band from North Carolina have a bright future!

Irish-American Celtic-Folk-Punk band Tan And The Gentlemen have just released the first single off their upcoming album. It’s an amazing version of ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ and if anyone out there is missing the utterly fantastically brilliant Appalachian Celtic-Punk band Cutthroat Shamrock then put down the worry beads as The Tan And The Gentlemen will sate your appetite for good music!

Born and raised in Snow Camp in the North Carolina back country, Tan and Sober Gentlemen began taking in the songs, stories and tunes that make up their beloved state’s heritage before they could talk. Despite having played music together in some form or another for most of their lives, the current line up was formed in the summer of 2016. Since then, they’ve been in the saddle, playing stages from their hometown Cat’s Cradle and Shakori Hills to Galway’s legendary Roisin Dubh. The band aims to explore the Celtic roots of North Carolinian music and to play it with a fire and intensity that is lacking in much of today’s folk music. The full, as-yet-to-be-named record will be be released Dec. 1st, with the release party at the Cat’s Cradle in Orange County, N.C. The album was recorded largely live at BNB Studios in Chatham County, NC, featuring their high-octane take on Celtic and Appalachian traditionals along with a few of their own tunes. The record will be available on all platforms then, and is available for preorder by emailing tanandsober@gmail.com. Friends with the rest of the Southeast USA Celt-folk-punk crew in The Muckers, In For a Penny and Born Again Heathens who have all featured on these pages in the last couple of years. The result is Scotch-Irish hillbilly insanity they dub ‘Celtic punk-grass’. As far as folk music goes, they’re about the best drinking and dancing band I’ve found in a long time!
Download Follow Me To Carlow
Contact The Tan And Sober Gentlemen

FOLLOW ME UP TO CARLOW

I first heard ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’ on a old cassette called Irish Songs Of Freedom belonging to my Grandad. It differed from the rest of the tape of sad ballads as it was played so fast with the words coming so quickly it was hard to keep up. This must have appealed to the wee punk in me and so it has become one of my favourite songs. It’s also become the perfect song for adapting to a Celtic-Punk song and has been recorded and played by such diverse artists as Blood Or Whiskey, Mickey Rickshaw, Cruachan and The Young Dubliners. The song celebrates the defeat of an army of 3,000 English soldiers by Fiach Mac Aodh Ó Broin (anglicised Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne) at the Battle of Glenmalure, during the Second Desmond Rebellion in 1580 though events in the song cover more than twenty years after. The air is reputed to have been played as a marching tune by the pipers of Fiach MacHugh at the battle  in 1580 and the words were written by Patrick Joseph McCall (1861–1919) and appear in his Songs of Erinn (1899) under the title ‘Marching Song of Feagh MacHugh’.

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

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


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

The Langer’s Ball have long been hailed as one of the most interesting and innovative bands in the north American celtic-punk scene. They have never been afraid to mix in other genre’s of music while all the time keeping one toe firmly in the music of The Emerald Isle. It’s bands like The Langer’s Ball that keep the scene alive and fresh and bring new ideas to the celtic-punk table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Hard Time in the Country

CD/Vinyl- FromTheBand Download- Bandcamp

Contact The Langer’s Ball

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  ReverbNation  Bandcamp  Google+  Soundcloud

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

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

FREE DOWNLOAD

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

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE KIDDING MR. HITLER?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To download Kickin’ Hitler’s Butt click

HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get One More Stout

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ALBUM REVIEW- FINBAR FUREY- ‘Don’t Stop This Now’ (2018)

We rarely use the word legend on this site so when we do then it is only when it is well deserved. Multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter, storyteller and actor, Finbar Furey is celebrated around the world as one of the great folk icons and is a supreme storyteller as well as a versatile and multi-talented artist.

We have often spoken here on what Irish music and culture meant to the children of the Irish growing up in Britain in the 80’s. When The Fureys and Davey Arthur appeared (watch it here) in the middle of the 12th November 1981 edition of the popular music TV show Top Of The Pops featuring the likes of Kool & The Gang, Haircut 100 and Earth, Wind & Fire the effect it had on the Irish community here was gigantic. As Finbar said on the groups entry into the Top Of The Pops studio

When we walked in, people went ‘What in the name of Jaysus is this!’

There had been success for Irish bands but it was years before many of us were born. The Wolfe Tones played to thousands wherever they went and all without press or publicity so when these band of hirsute middle aged Irishmen took the stage playing ‘When You Were Sweet Sixteen’, a beautiful ballad that I’m sure over the years has brought a tear to most Irish peoples eye over a certain age! The band included brothers Finbar, Paul, George and Eddie as well as Davey Arthur. That day it became a defining moment in many a young 2nd and 3rd generation Irish person’s life. I remember it clearly how proud my family were at the bands achievement the smiles beaming across their faces. It would climb to #14 in the singles chart at a time when that meant selling 10’s of thousands a week. At a time with the war raging in the north of Ireland and spilling over onto English streets the Irish were having a bad time of it over here. Suspicion, aggression and bigotry against them was everywhere and countless Irish men and women were being jailed on very little evidence (all later to be cleared of any crime) with the effect that many Irish born people kept their heads down and put up with the abuse. But things were changing. There were around a million Irish born people in Britain in the early 80’s and their children were not going to be silent and act ashamed of our roots. We were still a few years away from The Pogues and Irish culture and accents were never seen on TV or the media except to be ridiculed so when Finbar Furey sang

“Come to me, and my
dreams of love adored
I love you as I loved you
when you were sweet
when you were sweet sixteen”

in front of watching millions it planted something in our minds that would later come to fruition just a few years later when The Pogues would erupt onto the music scene.

The Fureys And Davey Arthur

The band were no one hit wonder and several of their songs like The Green Fields of France and The Lonesome Boatman have gone on to become solid gold Irish classics. Go to any Irish pub on any day of the year in ant part of the world and there’s a very very good chance you’ll hear one of their tunes. Born in Dublin into a Irish traveller family on 28 September 1946 in Ballyfermot, Dublin Finbar came from a highly respected musical family and began playing the uilleann pipes as a child. By his teens he had won just about every medal he could win and his amazing ability had spread across Ireland. IN the late 60’s Finbar and brother Eddie were part of the legendary Irish folk group, The Clancy Brothers with Finbar playing the pipes, banjo, tin whistle, and guitar. The brothers left in 1970 and began to perform as a duo and in 1972 their single, a version of The Humblebums ‘Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway’, was enthusiastically received by John Peel becoming his favourite song of 1972. Peel like many over here fell in love with the glorious sound of the Uilleann pipes (listen to it here) and they more than played their part in the coming celtic-rock phenomenon that was about to shake the music industry at home and abroad. It was though when his other brothers joined the band and they teamed up with Davey Arthur that fame came a calling and they carved out a very fruitful and successful career until in 1997, after almost thirty years in The Fureys Finbar decided to pursue a solo career as a singer songwriter.

Finbar released his first solo album ‘Colours’ in 2013 with a powerful mix of contemporary originals and modern interpretations of classic Irish songs his status as one of Ireland’s most treasured performers was cemented further. The album featured Mary Black and the second-generation Irish Mancunian Shayne Ward and instantly brought Finbar to a whole new audience too young to remember The Fureys in their heyday. Alongside his solo career he also found time to take up acting, appearing in the Martin Scorsese directed feature film ‘Gangs Of New York’ as well as 2004’s ‘Adam And Paul’ and the RTÉ TV series ‘Love/Hate’. In 2014 Finbar was honoured by the City of Dublin with the Lord Mayor praising him for

“Bringing life and laughter to many homes in Ireland”.

He followed that album up with 2015’s The Slender Promise an instrumental album of pipes and flute which brings us bang up to date with Don’t Stop This Now. The album, unsurprisingly, made #1 in Ireland under it’s original name Paddy Dear. Obviously that title was deemed too sensitive for these politically correct times so a new name was chosen. The album begins with ‘Sweet Liberty Of Life’ and the first thing that sprung to my mind was how similar in both delivery and emotion it is to the late great Johnny Cash and his American recordings. The voice is unmistakably the same as one that lit up our TV screen in that tiny living room in England twenty-seven years ago except now its more weathered and one magazine’s description of him as a “played out Dublin born Tom Waits” fits admirably.

Finbar sings of freedom and peace on a song he wrote back in 2010

“Liberty, life and freedom are words that capture the true spirit of humankind in every imaginable way”

At 71 years young Finbar’s voice comes alive and after his near-fatal heart attack in late 2012 in a gentle country-folk number it’s no wonder emotion is evident in his voice. Next is title track ‘Don’t Stop This Now’ and again there’s a strong country feel to proceedings with a string section backing and the first appearance of the uilleann pipes. Finbar’s voice is strong and direct and the wonderful words all present a song that anyone could sing and make a maudlin mess out of it but in his capable hands it becomes the beauty it is. The only downside I found is the annoying ending where they fade Finbar’s voice out rather than just simply ending. We go back to 1994 now with ‘Annabelle’ and the first exercise of the auld tear duct’s. A true story of a homeless woman in the Dublin of the 1950’s. Having lost her love in the Irish War Of Independence Finbar’s auld Mammy befriended her

“I’d often be with them as they’d share a bar of chocolate sitting on the roadside”

It’s a beautiful and simple song and leads us into the tragic story of a family caught up in The Great Hunger in ‘We Built A Home’. Both songs songs show Finbar’s strength is in his storytelling. After the amazing recent release the album ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine’ by Declan O’Rourke (read our review here) this song could easily fit onto that album telling the fact of why The Great Hunger happened.

“To bear witness to heaven’s eye of cold,cold genocide”

Again its a beautiful song this time led by Finbar on the banjo. ‘The Galway Shawl’ follows and is the only cover on this album. Not much is known of the origins of this traditional Irish folk song but it has been covered widely over the years. Telling of a musician who meets the love of his life but has to leave her behind.

“Said she, “goodbye sir”; she cried and kissed me,
But my heart remain with the Galway shawl”

The string section is back for ‘Sarah Waits’ and is the tale of soldiers away at war while their love awaits their return. Linking World War One to today’s the wars continue… even as I write these words. My favourite song here is up next and it’s not even very Irishy! On ‘Co-Exist’ Finbar weaves an Eastern tune out of his banjo and the simple but effective words tell universal truth. Finbar’s daughter Aine Furey accompanies him on the two following songs, ‘The Taxi’s Waiting’ and ‘Hail, Rain Or Snow’, and her wonderful voice brings a sprightly youthfulness to the songs. The first is a catchy folky number while the second is bluesy folk number with a real foot-tapper with a lovely singalong chorus. Not surprisingly their voices are perfect together. On ‘Michael Power’ Finbar tells of a man at sea dreaming of his love at home in Dunmore. On ‘Paddy Dear’ Finbar’s voice is strong and powerful as the strings connect with the tin-whistle in a gentle tune later joined by the pipes.

We are washing up towards the end and for a man who spent so much of his life away from Ireland its a charming song about that scourge of the Irish nation- emigration. On ‘I Was Further Than I Thought I Was’ his voice cracks with emotion as the banjo and whistle lead us gently along with the story known to many of us of a old man thinking of a home he will never see before he dies. Now Irish lads and their Mammies is a story in itself and it’s kind of heartening to know that I’ll still be like this when I’m Finbar’s age! The tear ducts get another airing here and it just goes to show that his wonderful storytelling is a joy to behold.

The album ends with the haunting ‘Lament for John’ an instrumental starring Finbar on flute and uilleann pipes.

An outstanding album showcasing the amazing talent of Finbar Furey. Shane MacGowan had this to say about him recently

“proves he is not just a massive force in Irish music’s heritage, he is a massive force in shaping it’s future as well.”

It may be twenty seven years since he lit up our living room but Finbar has lost none of that sparkle and this album will please not only his own fans but will announce him to a whole new range of fans too. The album is packaged with a free DVD of Finbar in concert performing many of the songs from the album and his better known hits too making this a must have album. As stated at the beginning legend is a word far too often used in this day and age but it belongs far and squarely after the words Finbar Furey have been written.

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ALBUM REVIEW: MUIRSHEEN DURKIN AND FRIENDS- ’11 Pints & 3 Shots’ (2018)

And we all thought Muirsheen Durkin had gone off to mine gold in California but would seem he got lost on the way to Amerikay and ended up in Arnsberg and started playing some proper kick-arse Irish-Celtic-Folk-Punk-Rock!

I have a feeling we’ll still be reviewing celtic-punk releases from March well into the Summer at this rate! Here’s another that arrived in time for St. Patrick’s Day and has hardly been out of my ears since. The quality of what we received here at London Celtic Punks Towers has been amazing and when I said I thought Krakin’ Kellys new CD was already the album of the year I hadn’t heard 11 Pints & 3 Shots by this awesome German collective of musicians.

Having known each other for some thirty years it was only a few years back in 2009 that the idea to start something new came up. Wanting a band with its feet based firmly in traditional Irish music and with an emphasis on emigration songs Muirsheen Durkin & Friends was born. Their name comes from the auld song about a happy go lucky Irishman heading off to mine for gold in America during the  California Gold Rush of 1849. The song is unusual in that its a happy song and Muirsheen (a reference to the phonetic pronunciation of ‘Máirtín’ (in English Martin) in the West of Ireland.The feet may be in trad with mandolin, banjo, tin whistle, accordion and two pipers but with the addition of classic rock music instruments the band joined an ever growing scene

” set about re-voicing Irish traditional’s with pulsing bass runs, pumping beats and the use of relatively rare instruments, making it hard to recognize the contemplative shanty or seafaring vocation , Pure enjoyment and a little punk rock is still…”

Modern day celtic music and celtic-punk music has moved away from the areas well known for Irish/Celtic emigration and is now played throughout the world inspired by hundreds of bands throughout the globe. They no longer come from Ireland or London or New York but from Indonesia, Russia, Japan and even China. This is the proud legacy that the Pogues leaves to the world.

11 Pints & 3 Shots is the third release from Muirsheen Durkin with their debut album, Last Orders, hitting the streets back in 2012 and their follow up to that, Drink With The Irish, a four track EP, arriving in 2014 which features ‘The Pogues and Whiskey’ a stunningly great homage to Kings Cross finest. Each release came with mighty press from around the celtic-punk world with everyone from Celtic Folk Punk & More to Shite’n’Onions raving to the high heavens about how good they are.  Formed in the central German town of Arnsberg the band were first revealed to me when they played at the Celtic-St. Pauli football and music festival and loads of fellow Celtic supporters arrived back over here raving about a band they had seen. That was a couple of years ago and with 11 Pints & 3 Shots I finally had the chance to hear them for the first time.

What we have here is fourteen tracks that clock in at three quarters of an hour which includes three instrumentals and and a bunch of songs that you may have probably heard before but done in a style i’m sure not many are accustomed to outside these pages! Mix in some re-workings (updating?) of a couple of songs and a smattering of original compositions and you got yourself one hell of a an album!

So onto the actual review and the fun begins on 11 Pints & 3 Shots from the very off with a great album opener ‘Another Drunken Night’. Self penned by the band this was the song that announced the new release to the waiting public and needless to say it is a corker! Banjo and accordion led with nice drumming it has a definite Rumjacks feel to it but these Bhoys and Ghirls have been around long enough, and on another continent!, to come up with it themselves. A grand song and what a way to start.

The subject matter well have a gander at the video above and you’ll easily work it out. We stay in the pub next for ‘One Whiskey’, another band penned number. The song really evokes an Irish sound to me. This is the Gaelic music music that we grew up here but with plenty more bite to it. Its still folk music but played at a breakneck speed and with a real passion. Vocalist MacRünker was a member of the first Irish folk punk band in the area, Lady Godiva, who released four albums and his voice fits in superbly. Hoarse and raspy but never too much and totally in tune with the music. The bagpipes are out for ‘Itchy Fingers’ and it puts the mental into instrumental. It’s the same tune as The Kilmaine Saints signature tune which I am sure is well known but beyond my feeble memory. A killer of a song and you’d expect it to be from a band with two pipers and where half the rest of the band can pipe as well!

The first totally recognisable cover is the Scots classic ‘Donald Where Your Troosers’. Written by the great Andy Stewart in 1960 while sat on the toilet in a recording studio. The song tells the hilarious story of a kilted Scotsman travelling round London shocking the well heeled residents of London.

“I went down to London town
To have a little fun in the underground
All the Ladies turned their heads around, saying,
“Donald, where’s your troosers?”

This is followed up with another classic Scottish song in ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ and make no mistake I tells you this is the best bloody version of it I have ever heard in all my days! Folk music is put aside somewhat for a moment as the band punk it up with a thundering bass and MacRünker and acoustic guitarist Sonja and accordionist Mine kick up a real storm on vocals that captures Muirsheen Durkin perfectly. Talk about catchy this album sounds like there’s about twenty people playing and if i never thought I’d hear a better version than you-know-who’s then i was wrong. Another classic cover up next and its one perhaps made famous by The Dreadnoughts, ‘Old Maui’. The song can be traced to records going back to the mid 19th century and tells the story of a whaling ship returning to Maui in Hawaii after a long season of whaling.

“It’s a damn tough life full of toil and strife
We whalermen undergo”

The song is strong as any on the album but doesn’t add much to the Dreadnoughts version for me and for a band that really can stamp their brand onto any song maybe it might have been better to cast their net for a less known song. After a smattering of covers the next couple of songs are self-penned by the band and ‘Peggy The Waitress’takes us back to the auld sod of Ireland and a tin-whistle led instrumental that takes in a variety of tunes some sounding familiar and others not before the banjo takes over and leads us until the accordion takes over and then all kick in before we get ‘Land Of 1000 Mountains’ and its a country/Irish folk crossover and again MacRünker’s voice is exactly what is needed here. The song steams along at a steady pace and you know its gonna take off and when it does it lifts the roof. Another album standout here proving they are not just a brilliant covers band but a brilliant band in their own right. Next up we get another cover and Sonja and Mine again take up the vocals on ‘Botany Bay’ and again it’s a great version but perhaps a bit overdone. For a band so in touch with ‘Irishness’ this would be my only wee complaint here. ‘MacRunkers Junk’ is another belting Irish folk punk instrumental with what could easily pass for a ska interlude if they wanted. The tunes fly at you and once again some familiar and some not but they make for one hell of a song when they all put together. On ‘Drink With The Irish’ Muirsheen Durkin pay tribute to one of Ireland’s best ever bands and one that at times could have got you arrested for just listening to! The Wolfe Tones classic rebeler ‘Erin Go Bragh’ is chopped and changed and adapted with love and respect into a celtic-punk number.

“I’ll sing you a song of a row in the town,
When the green flag went up and the Crown flag came down,
‘Twas the neatest and sweetest thing ever you saw,
And they played that great game they called Erin Go Bragh”

Written and arranged by banjo/mandolin player Thomas ‘Lanze’ Landsknecht I bet the tones would whole heartily approve. With the King Of Celtic-Punk’s recent 60th birthday Muirsheen Durkin then pay tribute with ‘Last Of McGee’ written by Shane himself.

“Rope of hemp, around his neck
To hang from an old gum tree
And as he hung
The branch came down, and finished the last of McGee”

You may not have heard it as the song was unreleased and was recorded in 1990 during the recording sessions for the Hell’s Ditch album and produced by Joe Strummer. The song stays fairly true to the MacGowan version and is a timely reminder of the great mans talent. Fast and furious and how could it be anything other than absolutely fecking brilliant!! We are steering up towards the end and the quality hasn’t waned and in ‘When The Pipers Play’ we have what for me is the albums standout track. Originally played by the amazing Black Tartan Clan from Belguim the lyrics are by Muirsheen Durkin and leans heavily on songs as varied as ‘The Water Is Wide’, ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’. If you like bagpipes in yer celtic-punk then this is the song for you. Absolutely stunning pipes from Andre and Simon and arranged into a completely new song.

11 Pints & 3 Shots comes to a glorious end with the hilarious ‘Botany Bay Reggae’ and aye you guessed it is a reggae infused version of everyone’s favourite emigration song. Now I hate reggae but I love this so there! What a way to wrap up the album and the perfect way!

Overall the album has a fantastic sound. Quite a feat with the amount of musicians at work here and thanks are due to Sebastian Levermann of German progressive metal band Orden Ogan who along with the band members has managed to capture the band perfectly. The CD also comes with a very elaborate twenty page booklet with everything you need to know about the album and with some amazing cartoons of the band drawn by Sebastian Kempke. Last year was the year all the giants of celtic-punk released albums and this year may seem quieter because of that but so far we have a handful of albums that must have the giants quaking in their shoes and up at the top of that list is this one!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIP Carlton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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VINCE CAYO- ‘Bound For Glory’  (Buy)

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

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

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THE BOTTLERS- ‘The Bottlers’ EP  (Buy)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

craic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s a town for shots and beers

Steel mills and refineries

Our fathers’ broken dreams

Promises and fears

I’ve been around the world

But Cleveland’s always home to me

And when I need a friend

I’ll always find them here”

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: THE DISTILLERY RATS- ‘Tales From County Whiskey’ (2017)

You can hear drunks in the streets singing Irish folk songs? The peaty scent of whiskey is crawling up your nose? The maidens wear their best clothes? Be sure, the County Whiskey Folk Punk Crew is near.

Lock up your liquor and hold back your daughters the Distillery Rats are back in town

Formed in the German wine making area of Heilbronn the Distillery Rats have been celebrating their own successful brand of Irish folk punk since 2005. We have mentioned before our theories of why in Germany celtic-punk and Irish music are so widely celebrated but they love all things Irish over there and the Rats are another in a long line of bands who have managed to take punk rock and Irish folk and unify them together into what we all know to be the ultimate good time music.

(compilation of snippets from each song on the album)

Since forming as 4-piece originally called Commerzpank in  2005, The Distillery Rats have played all over Germany in pubs,clubs and festivals large and small. From that original 4 piece the band has grown to include two vocalists, guitars, drums and bass and the folk side of the band banjos, mandolin, accordion, piano, bouzouki, whistles and uilleann pipes. Before this release their only release has been a now sold out five-track EP Back On The Road in 2010. So a full lengther has been a long time coming and widely anticipated within the scene.

The Distillery Rats left to right: left to right: Marcy Mahoney- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Mr. Firebeard- Accordion, Drums * Matt O’Killian- Banjo, Mandolin, Whistles, Pipes * Phil McMorning- Vocals, Bass, Accordion, Banjo, Guitars * Josey DiCilento- Accordion, Piano * Toby McWire- Electric Guitar * Mike McMorning- Drums, Percussion * George McGorgeous- Guitars, Backing Vocals

While here in England the celtic part of celtic-punk is often underplayed in countries like Germany and Hungary they completely go for the Irish/Celtic part and here on their debut album The Distillery Rats are no different. This is full on Irish folk played with pace when needed but not afraid to slow it down too either. Fifty minutes, fourteen songs, eleven of which are originals with a range of songs about whiskey, beer, porter and even cider. They also play some drinking songs as well! The whole thing kicks off, appropriately,  with ‘County Whiskey’ and as catchy a tune as you’ll find on here with a more rock’n’roll thing going on led by accordion before the pipes kick in. The first thing you notice here though is the sheer amount of instruments playing. With eight band members and pretty much all of them playing at least two instruments the whole thing is crystal clear and you can hear everything going on, even in the punkier numbers.As second song ‘Poor Old Paddy O’ kicks in you can’t help but notice that they seem to be inhabiting the middle ground between the DKM’s and Flogging Molly. The accordion lends more to FM but the punky guitar is dead on DKM. A song that bridges the gap between celtic-punk’s two biggest bands. Quite an achievement but can they keep it up? The album’s first traditional cover is a brilliant song in its own right, ‘Johnny Jump Up’. An Irish drinking song written by Tadhg Jordan and first popularized by Jimmy Crowley, before being brought to a wider audience by Christy Moore. Johnny Jump Up was a strong cider, apparently made stronger by being stored in old whiskey barrels brewed in county Cork. The bhoys play it with typical gusto and keep the pace up nicely. A cool mostly acoustic punk number that is still as loud as hell! Country’n’folk combine with Phil’s great and deep vocals for ‘The Angel’s Share’ a lovely dark ballad with just acoustic guitar and faint mandolin in the background that builds up without speeding up. Next is the lead single for the album, ‘Shannon River Lady. They released a class video and the song itself also borrows a little from rock’n’roll, in both sound and for the video, without abandoning The Distillery Rats formula too much.

Follows is another cover and again it’s one that has been regularly done over the years but if that is true then their is always a reason. ‘Come Out Ye Black And Tans’ is one of the best Irish folk songs ever written and ripe for speeding up and playing celtic-punk stylee. Fast and punky but with the guitar giving it a bit of a ska beat at times. An Irish rebel song written by Dominic Behan, brother of famed Irish writer Brendan Behan that will get your Irish blood pumping! The song tells the story of Irish resistance and ties Irish nationalism to the struggles of other peoples against the British Empire across the world. As much as I love this kind of ‘fire in the belly’ rabble rousing I also love the slower stuff, especially when it’s done well and ‘Anchor, Harbour, Home’ hits the spot nicely. Slow and if they were aiming for the classic sea shanty sound then well done to them. Nothing too serious lyric wise on Tales From County Whiskey and I can tell you after watching the news of the last few days then that’s a massive relief. I’m a bit bored of punk bands radical sound bites and have long come to the conclusion we’d be better off singing a song like ‘Singin 1, 2, 3’ then about nuclear war!

Fast and upbeat and more about real life than any punk song I have heard recently.

“1, 2, 3 pretty girl come dance with me”

I wasn’t expecting ‘Chicks For The Rooster’ next and have to say it blew me away. Totally accordion led and could easily pass for a Pogues instrumental or even a Brendan Shine show band tune. A real Irish knees up song and proving, if you needed it, that these bhoys know how to play Irish music… and play it well. When I saw ‘The Foggy Jew’ on the track listing I had a little nod to myself and thought oh no spelling mistake but instead it’s possibly my favourite song here. Slipping into klezmer slightly with great accordion and subdued backing from the rest of the band with a fancy pants brilliant celtic-punk chorus and even time for a banjo led ska/reggae section leading us out. We back in the pub again for ‘Henry Won’t Be Sober’ about going to see The Distillery Rats play and ending up somewhat on the merry side. We’re speeding to the end and ‘How To Spend It’ keeps up both the pace and the humour about a man with the awful problem of having too much money! The addition of uileann pipes here is always a great thing and any band who uses them is always guaranteed a great welcome by the London Celtic Punks. ‘Nothing Else Matters’ reiterates the Distillery Rats philosophy and, increasingly mine too, with talk of all the world’s problems and the only solution!

“I’m drunk, I’m drunk, I’m drunk but what should I rather be?

A bottle of whiskey and some pints of beer and nothing matters to me”

Tales From County Whiskey comes to an end with one of the most popular (and it has to be said overdone) songs in celtic-punk with ‘Drunken Sailor’. Now if you gonna record this song you need to make it every bit special as while it may be a great song to play live and a real crowd favourite it has been recorded by pretty much everyone and not too many version’s of it stand out. Luckily for this reviewer The Distillery Rats manage it. The longest song on the album they open it as part ballad before punking it up before then drifting into ska and back into celtic-punk again. Again it’s the amount of instruments an that lifts it out of the ordinary and makes it that bit special and with the chugging guitar and clear and crisp it’s a solid end to a grand album.

Sometimes its fast and sometimes its slow, sometimes its sentimental and sometimes its  in-yer-face. The Distillery Rats don’t let the ‘issues’ of the world get in the way of what they do, fantastically well, which is to play a great set of songs that would have even the grumpiest of folk music traditionalists (better known as snobs) on their sandalled feet and bouncing around the dance floor spilling their real ale. As we mentioned before they somehow manage to sound like both Flogging Molly and the Dropkick’s at the same time while never aping either. This is pure unadulterated good time excellently played Irish music with both a nod to the present and a loving referential tip of the hat to to the past. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE LOGUES- ‘Comin’ of Age’ (2016)

The Logues are five culchies from Co. Tyrone who play music!

the-lougues-2016

Formed in 2006 in the sleepy small village of Castlederg (in Irish: Caisleán na Deirge, meaning ‘castle on the Derg’) in County Tyrone in the north of Ireland. It lies on the River Derg and is just across the border from County Donegal. The various members were keeping a drunken promise by having a informal jam session on St Patrick’s Day that went down so well that now ten years later it has seen the lads tour right across Ireland and Europe (and America in 2017!). The five piece folk-rock band is made up of drums, bass, acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, tin whistle and vocals and with plenty of talent, wit and charm too! the-logues-1They self released their debut album ‘Tough at the Bottom’ in July 2011. A semi-concept album of eleven original songs based on that great Irish activity- drinking! Part autobiographical, part satire, the album explores house parties, being in love with mentally unstable women, being a ‘culchie’ (an Irish word for country personand even the literature of Flann O’Brien. They followed this up with a bunch of single releases that kept them in the public domain receiving plenty of airplay and eventually helping them become one of Ireland’s most sought after bands. The band name is not as you probably imagined a tribute to the #1 celtic-punk band but is in fact the surname of vocalist and tin whistle player Justin Logue. The Logues did though begin by playing mainly songs from The Pogues/The Dubliners song book before taking the adventurous step to move beyond cover band status and into the realm of real music. The band have an unmistakable folk-rock sound and their music has drawn some interesting comparisons to, among others, Christy Moore, Goats Don’t Shave, The Waterboys and The Saw Doctors and they are all well deserved.

Comin’ Of Age sees The Logues at ten years old and if Tough at the Bottom was a superb, though unpolished, debut album then their follow up is certainly set to see them cross over into the big leagues. The album kicks off with ‘Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder’ and it’s a strong opener with the trad Irish butting up against electric guitar and making for a lovely racket. Short and sweet and over before you know it and next up is ‘Bless the Land’ which was released as a single back in August 2014.  An album standout with great vocals from all the band and a real catchy chorus. ‘Better Man’ is up next and slows it down for a lovely ballad of just vocals and acoustic guitar and banjo. The universal theme of trying to prove you can be a better person. The best celtic-punk bands can knock out a ballad or two and The Logues do it with ease while ‘I Don’t Love You at All’ is a short and sweet song lasting just over two minutes. Busting with humour and with the welcome sound of a trumpet too!

They follow this up with a cover of the Philip Phillips hit song ‘Home’. Not so much in love with this one sounding as it does like The Lumineers or one of them other ‘Posh Folk’ bands from this side of the water. I’m sure will be popular enough mind but for me it just sticks out a bit from the rest of the album.


The LP returns to Irish trad with ‘Yvonne John’ with a country/ folk/ rock romp with a song based around the mispronunciation of a brand of Dutch rolling tobacco. ‘Sirens Call’ is pure folk-rock with a loud and bombastic beat but never too far from their folky roots.


‘Fly Free’ begins with piano and was another song released as a single in the run-up to the albums release. Nice to hear a ballad that shows that their prowess as a band and even though it has no folkier touches it fits snugly into the album. After a non folky song they follow it up with the country tinged ‘Drinkin’ with God’ and the full on country themed ‘All I Want Is You’.


‘No Place Like Home’ originally appeared on that 2011 debut album but The Logues have re-recorded it and it’s slighty shorter but ten times the original with the much better production only emphasising how much better the production on that debut could have been. More of the country feel to it and great banjo and lyrics about well you don’t need me to tell you.

‘Paisley Pattern’ is banjo led and catchy enough and over fairly quickly before we get a real standout track with ‘Logan’s Lament’ and an instrumental that really shows the Bhoys can play their instruments and also know their stuff as well. Fast and furious with all the band getting stuck in it’s traditional Irish folk for now and as good as any you’ll hear.


Comin’ Of Age comes to an end with ‘I’m on Fire’ and yeah it’s The Boss tune and while it may seem a bit sad to say the album standout track is a cover please don’t take it that way. All the elements of the original song are here but what The Logues have done to it is truly make it their own. An absolutely brilliant way to wrap up the album and the live version below doesn’t quite do it justice so hunt down this album just to hear ‘I’m on Fire’.

Signed to one of Ireland’s most respected music agency’s the future looks extremely bright for The Logues and with their army of fans in Ireland now beginning to extend to over here and with that American tour set to launch them in the States things couldn’t look any better for them. In the scale of celtic-punk they may not be up their with the more punkier bands but it’s loud and it’s catchy with great intelligent lyrics and a punk spirit that carries them along and means that not only do The Logues love what they do but it’s obvious to anyone listening that they love what they do. Last year it was their friends from just across the border in Donegal O’Hanlons Horsebox that took the Irish music scene (and this web zine!) by storm with their infectious brand of trad-celtic-folk-rock so only fitting that it should be a band from just down the road in 2016!

the-logues-band

The Logues L-R: Logan MacCool- Vocals, Tin Whistle * Kiel Cathers- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Chris Speer- Banjo * Darrell Nelson- Drums * Jesse Darragh- Bass, Keyboards

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Band Interview here

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

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

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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..

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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 or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

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

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

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

If Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan and Bruce Springsteen survived a drinking session through the 5 boroughs, the hangover would be called The Narrowbacks.
narrowbacks
nar·row·back /ˈnæroʊˌbæk/ [nar-oh-bak]
–noun Slang.
1. Disparaging. an Irish-American.
2. a person of slight build who is unfit for hard labour
The Narrowbacks are from New York City and don’t they let us know us with their new album released this month Arrogance & Ignorance. Around the world Irish bands represent their city like The Wakes and Glasgow or The Bible Code Sundays and London and even though their are several absolutely brilliant New York Irish bands none are quite so linked to the city as The Narrowbacks are. They live and breathe their community and a listen to them brings alive the past, present and future of that community. With a sometimes painful history of tragedy and hardship that became a history of pride and celebration the Irish community today is again flourishing with increased emigration from Ireland and the way the Irish pass on that pride in their roots. One instance is the massive explosion in the playing of Gaelic Games in America and not just because of the newly arrived but those of Irish descent as well. With many of the old areas changing and other communities moving in, those places once known as Irish ghettos are no longer but the Irish still exist in vast numbers and their pubs and sporting venues are still reeling them in.
narrowbacks-band

The Narrowbacks from left to right: Anthony Chen – Bass (No Irish Ties) * Chris Moran – Drums (Irish American a few generations) * Seamus- Vocals and Patrick Keane- Accordion * (Father from Connemara Co. Galway, Mother’s family from Cork, Clare and Limerick) * Barry Walsh – Banjo, Mandolin (Father and Mother from Dublin) * Fionn McElligott – Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar (Father from Kerry, Mother from Kilkenny)

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

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

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

narrowback-jfkTwelve songs that, as we said, are all penned by the band that comes in just shy of three quarters of an hour. The Narrowbacks are the sons of Irish-immigrants who found each other at their local pub in the Bronx and for that we and the New York Irish can be grateful. We a expressive race and there is nothing we love better than a sing-song and with the Irish communities outside of Ireland changing and having to re-adapt bands like The Narrowbacks have never been so important . Our history needs to be remembered and passed down to the next generations. Those that sacrificed before us must never be forgotten.This six-piece group may propel itself with punk rock in its heart but it has the soul of an old Irish folk band and we are blessed that they do.
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ALBUM REVIEW: SISTERS OF MURPHY- ‘Working Stiffs Unite!’ (2016)

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

Sisters cover.indd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now it feels like home!

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

Oh oh oh, now it feels like home!

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

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

Now it feels like home!

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

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

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

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

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

sisters-of-murphy-celtic-topBuy The Album

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

ALBUM REVIEW: RUNA- ‘Live’ (2016)

Timeless, flawless, innovative and award-winning Irish-American Celtic roots music.

RUNA Live

After four superb studio albums the brilliant Runa release a live album, imaginatively titled Live, that captures perfectly the sound of this amazing band. With a pedigree second to none, made up of vocalist and step-dancer, Shannon Lambert-Ryan of Philadelphia, Dublin-born guitarist, Fionán de Barra, Cheryl Prashker of Canada on percussion, Dave Curley of Galway on mandolin, vocals, bodhrán, and step-dancing, and Maggie Estes of Kentucky on the fiddle they are surely bound to hit the heights again with this album and they have deservedly earned their reputation as one of the most innovative and unique Irish bands of recent times.

Claude was a evangelical preacher, faith healer and singer-songwriter who helped popularise the music of the Appalachian mountains and was one of the fore-runners of the birth of rock’n’roll. Great percussion here keeping a fantastic beat while Shannon’s beautiful voice confers the greatest respect for Claude’s music. The opening song contains all those elements that make Runa such an interesting band. Based in the music of the celtic nations there is so much going on here that to simply call it celtic music does not give you anything like the full story. ‘

“Still I sing bonnie boys, bonnie mad boys,
Bedlam boys are bonnie
For they all go bare and they live by the air,
And they want no drink nor money”

In the 18th century it became a popular diversion to visit the hospital to watch the antics of the poor inmates. Admission was one penny and the hospital realized an income of four hundred pounds a year from visitors. The song Fionán de Barra takes over vocal duties and murderer. Excellent fiddle and a real thigh slapper that gets the audience here really involved and singing along.

“False Sir John’s a wooing gone
To a maid o’ beauty fair
May Colven was this lady’s name
Her faither’s only heir”

“Then myself and a hundred more to America sailed o’er
Our fortunes to be making we were thinking
When we landed in Yankeeland they shoved a gun intae our hand
Saying, Paddy you must go and fight for Lincoln

General Meagher to us said, If you get shot and lose your head
Every mother’s son of you will get a pension
In the war I lost my leg, all I’ve now is a wooden peg
By my soul it is the truth to you I mention

Now I think myself in luck to be fed on Indian buck
In old Ireland the country I delight in
And with the devil I do say, Oh Christ curse America
For I’m sure I’ve had enough of your hard fighting”

One of the saddest of the Irish emigration songs it is unusual in that songs of that time were written by the people escaping the ‘famine’ back home and extolling the virtues of the ‘land of liberty’. To put it glibly ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’. Truly not every man is a king in the US of A. Fionán takes over the lead vocals again and his whispered hushed tones fits perfecting the sadness in the song. ‘The stereotype of whale fishermen is a of a hairy chested, hard working, hard drinking, hard fighting men of the sea and while, no doubt the description fitted many of them, they often showed a strong liking for gentle ballads like these. The first parts tells the whalefishers story while part two tells of how closely we came to the extinction of this majestic animal.

“My soul has been torn from me and I am bleeding
My heart it has been rent and I am crying
For the beauty around me pales and I am screaming
I am the last of the Great Whales and I am dying”

1947 between a young boy and a false knight (the devil in disguise). The child gets the better of him and damns him back down to hell. Steeleye Span, Oysterband, The Blue Velvet Band have all recorded the song and here Runa give it as good as anyone with Shannon’s vocals shining out. So ends Set One and begins Set Two.

RUNA inside

All rested Runa return to rapturous applause and kick off their set with fiddler and composer born to a Irish musical family in Chicago, Illinois. next up is ‘

“Mhí mise lán den tsaoil is bhi cion amuigh is istigh orm
Nach mór a dáthraigh an saol nuair nach bhfuil eion ag duine ar
bith orm? / At one time in my life I was dearly loved by everyone
Haven’t times changed when no one cares a whit for me?”

(“Fine girl you are!”) version beloved by Irish pub dwellers worldwide but another less well known song written by Gerry O’Beirne about a man who leaves Ireland and ends up in the America southwest, eventually dying fighting and dying for the Mexican Army in the San Patricio Battalion (St Patrick Brigade).

“There the winds of change they blew so far
Of liberty and revolution
And it seemed that each man heard in his breast
the drumming of a nation”

Robert Dwyer Joyce

“Twas hard the mournful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
Ah, but harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us
And so I said, ‘The mountain glen
I’ll seek at morning early
And join the brave united men’
While soft wind shook the barley”

and Aoibhneas Eilís Ní Cheallaigh/ Filleadh An Bhadora

Discography

Jealousy (2009) * Stretched On Your Grave (2011) * Somewhere Along The Road (2012) * Current Affairs (2014)

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  • For the review we published of the last Runa studio album Current Affairs check 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.

ALBUM REVIEW: DEXYS- ‘Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul’ (2016)

Let the record show that Dexys do Irish and country soul… and do it well too!

Dexys

For those of you not in the know Dexys is the name now used by the band once known as Dexys Midnight Runners who during the 1980’s were quite possibly one of the most popular English pop bands going, having a string of worldwide number one hits, most famously ‘Come On Eileen’ and ‘Geno’. Formed around the West Midlands of England they were together for the years 1978–1986 before reforming in 2003 and shortening their name to Dexys. Their first incarnation produced three classic albums- Searching for the Young Soul Rebels in 1980, Too-Rye-Ay in 1982 and Don’t Stand Me Down in 1985, while their last album as Dexys was called One Day I’m Going to Soar and was released in 2012 and despite the massive 27 year “break” was hailed by fans and critics alike as an outright classic. Two of the things the band became famous for was the never ending line up changes and also musical direction. Formed by Kevin Rowland he has been the only constant throughout the years and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that he is the main visionary and driving force behind the band.

Dexys2

Rowland began his musical career in the short lived but popular (to me anyroad) punk rock band The Killjoys who were one of the first original punk bands around the Midlands but in 1978 he wrote a soul song called ‘Tell Me When My Light Turns Green’, which went on to become the first Dexy’s song. They got the band name from the nickname of Dexedrine which was popular as a recreational drug among Northern Soul fans at the time which gave you the ability to dance all night hence the midnight runners! Image has always been important to Rowland and he decreed the band buck the trend for the sharp suits that were popular in the ska scene at the time and band dressed in donkey jackets and wooly hats. A look described as

“straight out of De Niro’s Mean Streets”

The music was impeccable and played to absolute perfection and their debut album catapulted them into stardom. The album cover featured a photograph of a young northern Irish Catholic boy carrying his belongings after having had his home attacked during anti-Catholic riots in Belfast. When talking about the photo Kevin said

“I wanted a feeling of unrest. The photo could of been from anywhere but I was secretly glad it was Ireland”
The lad on the cover was working at the Royal Mail, Belfast, at the time of the album release. Kevin Rowland himself though born in Wolverhampton has always been extremely proud of his Irish roots. His parents came from Crossmolina in Co. Mayo and landed in post war England at a time when work was non-existent in Ireland and hundreds of Irish were leaving home. The cities of England became huge ghettos for the Irish and their children and with the war waging in the north of Ireland and occasionally spilling onto English streets Irish people enforced a code of silence. No outright show of support for the republican movement was shown while at home, in the pubs and churches and anywhere Irish people gathered they shared the songs and stories of home. For many of those second generation born here they couldn’t wait to get away from the Irishness of their parents but for some it was embraced and held dear and Kevin Rowland was one of the latter.

Dexys 3With Searching for the Young Soul Rebels soaring high in the charts suddenly, angered over continual personality problems with Rowland, five of the band members then quit leading to the second incarnation of Dexys Midnight Runners. With just Kevin and the Scots descended ‘Big’ Jim Paterson left they nicknamed themselves the ‘Celtic soul rebels’ and they set about recruiting a bunch of fiddle players that he called the ‘Emerald Express’. Out went the donkey jackets and a new look was adopted that included hooded tops, boxing boots, and long hair but just as quickly a new image was seized upon and leather waistcoats and dungarees were the order of the day. It was described as

“a raggle-taggle mixture of gypsy, rural Irish and Steinbeck Okie”

The first single of the second album was the title song ‘The Celtic Soul Brothers’ and the whole album was a mix of soul and celtic folk that again captured the public’s imagination and provided the band with their biggest hit ‘Come On Eileen’. Again though band politics were at play and again band members were to leave citing Kevin as the reason. On the release of  Don’t Stand Me Down in 1985 only Kevin remained of that first line up and this time wearing ties and pin-striped suits the album though popular with fans did not please their record company and eventually in 1987 with the band down to just three members, Kevin Rowland, Helen O’Hara and Kevin ‘Billy’ Adams, and with Rowland and O’Hara’s relationship ended and drug issues appearing the band finally disbanded in 1987.

Dexys4Kevin Rowland left the band and despite issues with depression as well as well publicised financial problems( including a spell on the dole) and drug addiction he released several solo albums though none were particularly well received he stayed well within the media glare remaining a well known public figure, though mainly for his perceived eccentricities like appearing on the cover of his solo album ‘My Beauty’ in women’s underwear! Reforming the band in 2003 Dexys Midnight Runners began to play and tour occasionally but it wasn’t till 2011 and with the band’s name now shortened to Dexys that they began to record new material leading to the release of their fourth and equally brilliant One Day I’m Going to Soar album.

Thus leading us on to here and on St Patrick’s Day this year Dexys announced they were to release an album of Irish songs. It’s an album which Kevin had always wanted to make saying

“We had the idea to do this album in 1984 or 1985. It was to be called Irish and was to feature songs like ‘Carrickfergus’, ‘Curragh of Kildare’ and ‘Women Of Ireland. Dexys broke up not too long afterwards, so it didn’t happen”

Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul features twelve songs and while only half are in fact Irish songs several more evoke ‘Irishness’ in some way and all showcase Kevin’s amazing voice which here is as strong as it has been in decades. This fine album begins with ‘Women Of Ireland’ and slow beautiful fiddle leads onto harmonica and the unmistakable Dexys sound shines through. The song originally titled ‘Mná na h-Éireann’ was written by Irish folk legend Seán Ó Riada (1931–1971) and though performed as a instrumental here does in fact have words. A truly beautiful version that is a great way to start proceedings. And as you will see from the video once again they have gone through a image change and one thing you can’t accuse them off is being sartorially challenged!!

Next up, and to add the country soul of the album title, is The Bee Gees ‘To Love Somebody’. Now for those of you not familiar with The Bee Gees body of work I can guarantee you actually know a lot more than you think. Dexys version begins with some sweeping strings before Kevin’s voice comes out loud and proud and I have to say surprisingly strong and powerful. Not straying far from the tune of the original it is the voice that carries it and carries it well. Another famous song follows in ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’. Written in 1933 by American composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Otto Harbach it has been covered numerous times but again here Dexys give it their treatment. The sweeping strings are back and a wonderful way to record this wonderful song. It builds up but never loses that swirling sound and again Kevin carries the song through and by now we getting an idea of how the album works. We are back in Ireland next for ‘The Curragh Of Kildare’ which starts with a wee spoken poem before Kevin’s soulful voice is joined by female vocals and the two of them work fantastically off each other.

“The winter it has passed
And the summer’s come at last
The small birds are singing in the trees
And their little hearts are glad
Ah, but mine is very sad
Since my true love is far away from me”

The original was written by Scotland’s poet laureate Robbie Burns.It tells the story of a young Scottish woman whose lover is away soldiering for the Queen in the Curragh of Kildare.

We stay in Ireland next with the Nanna’s favourite ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’. While I would have preferred some more less known covers their is no denying that Dexys have certainly stamped their brand onto these songs and it must be said this is a song I heard as a very young child so brings back some very happy memories for me and I suppose many of us. Though one of the most popular traditional Irish music ballads it was in fact written by an American of German descent, Thomas Paine Westendorf,  for his wife. Rod Stewart’s ‘You Wear It Well’ is next up for the Dexys treatment and although it didn’t ring any bells I soon realised I know it well (it pops up in the movie version of Porridge!). The only song here I feel that doesn’t stand up to the original but in saying that it still works it’s just that Celtic supporter Rod’s version is the best possible by a country mile. Find it on YouTube here and marvel at the Bhoys amazing voice. Word is it that Johnny Cash on wanting to write a song about his Irish roots stuck a pin in a map of Ireland and filled in the gaps around it. ’40 Shades Of Green’ was the result and provided Johnny with one of his biggest hits. Here Dexys play it straight and only the introduction of a trumpet in parts shows the Dexys influence. In all the review’s I have seen of this album so far it is ‘How Do I Live’ they has stood out for most reviewers and though not my favourite is a great version of Lee Ann Rimes country rock ballad from 1998. The only song here I did not know before so maybe that explains my indifference to it while the rest of the album fills me with warm memories and feelings of family and home this, while a strong version, leaves me a bit cold. ‘Grazing In The Grass’ was an instrumental composed by Philemon Hou and first released as a single in 1968 and the following year with words by The Friends of Distinction. By far the most upbeat track here it sticks closely to the soulful original. We are back with Kevin’s roots again with the important Irish ballad ‘The Town I Loved So Well’. Harp accompanies piano and Kevin’s wondrous voice on this personal lament about the war in the north of Ireland, specifically in Derry city, a republican stronghold. Written by Phil Coulter about his childhood in Derry the song begins by telling of the simple life he grew up with till he emigrated and then returned finding how his hometown had become a major British army outpost and become plagued with violence.

“Now the music’s gone but they carry on
For their spirit’s been bruised, never broken
They will not forget but their hearts are set
On tomorrow and peace once again
For what’s done is done and what’s won is won
And what’s lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright brand-new day
In the town I loved so well”

Recorded by many Irish music legends Kevin Rowland can now be added to the list and Phil Coulter while being one of the most important singer-songwriters in Irish history had this to say about The Town I Loved So Well’,

“Derry has a great tradition of music and a very proud history being one of the oldest cities in the country. In recent years it’s suffered more than its fair share of pain and heartache, but there’s something special about the place and the people that has helped them overcome the worst of times. Of all the songs I’ve written, this is the one I’d like to be remembered for. It’s my story but it’s also the story of Derry, the town I loved so well”

Another upbeat classic follows with a brilliant take on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’. Kevin’s voice is again let off the leash and allowed to flourish and the result is again fantastic.

Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish And Country Soul ends with ‘Carrickfergus’, another classic Irish folk song. Long one of Kevin’s favourite songs and he’s been performing it for years but finally gets it down on record here for the first time. Named after the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim in the north of Ireland Kevin’s version lasts near six and a half minutes and epic seems hardly the word to describe it. While the origins of the song are unclear  it has been traced to an Irish language song, ‘Do bhí bean uasal’ which is attributed to the poet Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna, who died in 1745. Recorded by acts as diverse as The Dubliners, Bryan Ferry and Van Morrison this is as good as it gets. Aye your right, quite possibly the best version I have ever heard. A song I have heard a thousand times but never really listened to. Kevin imparts a passion, sadness and sorrow like no other into this version. The feeling of remorse, the lost years is tangible, you can really sympathise with the narrator for the loss of his love (Ireland, as opposed to a partner?).

The first thought that pops into your head when hearing that a band you love have recorded a covers album is one of disappointment. Disappointment that they may have run out of ideas. Well that may or may not be true (I sense not) and here the choice of songs may not be as wild and as full of abandon as you’d expect them to be you can feel Kevin Rowland’s commitment to the songs in every breath he takes. He injects every track with his trademark intensity and what it may lack in originality, is more than made up for by his passionate and heartfelt voice. Growing up this side of the Irish sea we didn’t have many idols to admire. Many ‘famous’ people came from the same backgrounds as us but felt it better for their careers to gloss over it and don’t make a scene. Well Kevin has never stopped making a scene and here he, and Dexys, are right back on track.  He wears his heart on his sleeve and the passion for his ancestral homeland is infectious. A truly amazing album and not just for Dexys fans either.

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ALBUM REVIEW: SOLAS- ‘All These Years’ (2016)

Solas plant the flag for Irish-American music…

and it’s the best dang Irish music in the entire world! 

Solas All These Years

Its always been a bit fashionable for people in Ireland to look down their noses at those who find pride in their roots and especially Irish-Americans. A kind of horrible sneer that ranges from mocking the ‘paddy-whackery’ of some to the republicanism of others. Of laughing at their attempts to assert their Irishness to openly putting them down for it. To some in Ireland any attempt to find a sense of pride in their Irish roots is open season to be insulted. People from a certain class who made the Ireland that was the reason our ancestors left in the first place now laugh in the faces of the children of those forced to leave. People who never felt the hunger or cold or were never effected by the recessions or job loss or joblessness that have haunted our wee island. The thing is though that even though we are part of the wider Irish tribe we are NOT Irish per say. What I mean is that we know we were not born in Ireland and what we are is in face Irish-Americans, London-Irish, Scots-Irish, Irish-Australians… in fact anywhere we went we are from there AND Ireland. I know for full well that I was not born in Ireland and I have never pretended to be. I am a product of both my place of birth and my upbringing. I have never considered myself English. Why would I? I supported the same football teams, jockeys, snooker players, show-jumpers  (Eddie Macken rules!) as my friends and cousins in this country who all supported the same as their family. Our Irishness was natural to us. In fact the only ones who thought it unnatural were those lucky (more like privileged) enough not to be forced to emigrate over here as well! Saying that I have always found the Irish in England to have a fascination with Irish-America. After all we come from the same class the only difference being that those that made it to America were seen by those at ‘home’ to have made it. Those that only made it to England were thought to have gone from bad to worse!! Their may be some truth in that as the Irish here never wielded the political power they should have done despite their numbers while over in ‘Amerikay’ they discovered early on that power was everything and the Irish often out muscled other communities to take power.

Solas

We have discussed before the role of music and especially celtic-punk in giving a sense of pride and fitting in to those of Irish ancestry in north America and in the wake of The Pogues Irish-America took celtic-punk and injected it with a power and passion that nowhere else could and then handed it back to the Irish diaspora and wider Celtic diaspora. Its no surprise that celtic-punk is still tiny in Ireland as I’m sure they just don’t get it. It’s not just in celtic-punk though that Irish-America has led and they have also give the traditional folk world a decent kick up the backside too. Solas (pronounced Suh-less) celebrate their 20th anniversary this year and they have travelled the world as the very best band of their generation. Like their fellow countrymen The Dropkick Murphys they took something and pushed the boundaries of what was expectable and have ended up completely redefining how we all think of Irish music.

So here we are in 2016 and to celebrate their 20th anniversary Solas have brought every single person who has performed under the Solas banner together for an all-star, one-time line up. That they can manage to do this is incredible enough (you know what musicians are like!?!?!) but that they can do it and still turn out such a fantastic album as ‘All These Years’ is doubly incredible. The current line up of Solas includes founding members, multi-instrumentalist, Seamus Egan and, amazing fiddler, Winifred Horan. Other members include accordionist Mick McAuley, guitarist Eamon McElholm, and vocalist Moira Smiley. ‘All These Years’ sees the return of all of the vocalists who have starred for Solas over the years. Karan Casey, Deirdre Scanlan, Mairead Phelan, Niamh Varian Barry and Noriana Kennedy as well as early band members like accordionist John Williams, and guitarists John Doyle and Donal Clancy.

“We thought it was a way for us to celebrate the past with all of the people who had been important to us over the years, but we didn’t want use this as an exercise in nostalgia, because we weren’t interested in that at all. Even though we’ve been at it 20 years, I think creatively we’re still as excited about the possibilities as we were back then” ” explains Seamus Egan.

Founded in 1996 in the dark and smoky bars of New York Irish by Seamus Egan and Winifred Horan in Solas are still fuelled by their passion for Irish music and their passion means they refuse to stand still and repeat over and over again what they have already proven to be successful. From their first album, the self titled Solas back in 1996, you can still hear the same explosive energy that still drives them today but they have refused to stand still and it has proved to be the doing of Solas as they have consistently proved.

Solas

The first of the album’s sixteen tracks is ‘Roarie Bummlers’ a lively instrumental number that builds and builds. A roarie bummler is Scots for a fast-moving storm cloud. I will save you the bother of me having to repeat how outstanding each instrument is on each song by telling you that from beginning to end all the instruments are both played to perfection and mixed perfectly as well. This is followed by ‘Standing On The Shore’ and it features Moira Smiley on vocals. Demonstrating their global appeal the track that achieved well over 2,100 plays in under a week.

Solas- Moira Smiley

Moira Smiley

Moira Smiley sings vocals on a cover of Cork born Ger Wolfe’s gloriously understated ‘Lay Me Down’. A touch of Mumford And Sons but as them boys have never had an original thought in their lives it wouldn’t surprise me if it was indeed Solas who actually influenced them! Celtic tunes abound during ‘Lucy Lockets/The Quiet Pint/The Sleepy Sailors’ a foot tapping trip through the Celtic nations while on ‘Wandering Aengus’ Noriana Kennedy takes over vocal duties in another incredibly beautiful version of this epic poem from 1899 by Irish writer and poet William Butler Yeats.

“Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun”

(not the same version as on All These Years but still worth a listen)

Moira Smiley again takes on vocals for the great cover of 60’s/70’s American rockers The Youngbloods ‘Darkness Darkness’. A simple but effective tune accompanies ‘Lost In Quimper’ with Quimper being the ancient capital of Cornouaille in the Celtic nation of Brittany it seems Solas are determined to get around as far as possible on this great album. ‘Unnamed Shetland Reel/Da Full Rigged Ship’ goes beyond foot-tapping into full blown leg slapping head nodding fury and it may even get you up on your feet too if your not careful. This is swiftly followed by the magnificent but tragic republican ballad ‘Padraig Og Mo Chroi’ featuring Deirdre Scanlan on vocals and tells of the death of a young rebel. The title means simply ‘Young Patrick My Heart’.

Karan Casey

Karan Casey

This is followed by two covers of American folk artists with Karan Casey singing on Patty Griffin’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ and Mairead Phelan featuring on Montana born Irish-American artist Martha Scanlon’s ‘Little Bird Of Heaven’. Solas again out do themselves with a fantastic instrumnetal ‘Mr. And Mrs. Walsh’. ‘As I Went Out Walking’ features Moira Smiley and the classic Appalachian song ‘Willie Moore’ is up next featuring Niamh Varian Barry on vocals. The song dates from the 1920’s and was written by Dick Burnett (1887-1977) who also composed the famous ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ in 1913. He lived in Kentucky and was blinded by a robber’s gunshot in 1907, and (like many blind people in the south) was forced to become an musician. The story of his life possibly contributed to his heartbroken lyrics and ‘Willie Moore’ is no different telling of the suicide of a young girl in love.

“Her parents now are left all alone,
One mourns while the other one weeps;
And in a grassy mound before the cottage door,
The body of sweet Anna still sleeps”

Grief stricken Willie Moore flees to Montreal where he dies of a broken heart. ‘Sixteen Come Next Sunday’ is a traditional song most famously recorded by The Bothy Band on their classic 1976 album Old Hag You Have Killed Me. It features Karan Casey on vocals.

“With my twadigan adigan antin aye
With my twadigan adigan aye do”

The Bothy Band were an outstanding 1970’s band who have gained a reputation as one of the most influential bands in the history of Irish traditional music. The significance of their impact on celtic-rock (and therefore celtic-punk) is unmeasurable. And so it is finally, with another slow and piano laden instrumental titled ‘All These Years’ the album comes to an end. 

Solas

‘All These Years’ lasts an incredible seventy minutes and soars and flows to heights I wouldn’t have imagined possible after the majesty of their previous album Shamrock City. While most bands celebrating an anniversary like this would opt for a safe option like releasing a Best of or a live album Solas have gone well beyond and are to be applauded for bringing back the entire Solas family and recording an album of almost entirely new material. Quite simply this is the best traditional Irish music as played by the best Irish traditional band in the world. Thank God for Irish-America!

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  • There’s a interesting interview with Solas founder member Seamus here from 67 Music web-site.

Discography

1996- Solas, 1997- Sunny Spells And Scattered Showers, 1998- The Words That Remain, 2000- The Hour Before Dawn 2002- The Edge Of Silence 2003- Another Day 2005- Waiting For An Echo 2006- Reunion: A Decade Of Solas 2008- For Love And Laughter 2010- The Turning Tide 2013- Shamrock City

(here is a full concert performance of Solas playing the entire ‘Shamrock City’ concept album. This was one of the first reviews to appear on this site (here) and is a joy to behold. Put the kettle on and sit back and enjoy this concert)

FILM REVIEW: THE REVENGE OF THE MEKONS (2013)

“the band that took punk ideology most seriously”

Directer: Joe Angio    Release Date: November, 2013  Running Time: 99 minutes

“A loving ode to an unsung band” – LA Times
“Marvelous” – New York Post
“Jubilant” – The Village Voice

Revenge-of-the-Mekons

Emerging soon after the first blasts of UK punk rock, the Mekons went from being a group of socialist art students with no musical skills to the prolific, raucous, rabble rousing progeny of country legend Hank Williams. Formed in Leeds by Jon Langford, Kevin Lycett, Mark White, Andy Corrigan and Tom Greenhalgh they were from the outset highly principled stating

”That anybody could do it; that we didn’t want to be stars; that there was no set group as such, anybody could get up and join in and instruments would be swapped around; that there’d be no distance between the audience and the band; that we were nobody special”

They took the band’s name from the Mekon, an evil character from the Dan Dare comic strip in the popular 1950’s comic The Eagle which briefly resurfaced when I was a kid in the 80’s. Their first single, released in 1978, was ‘Never Been in a Riot’, a piss take of The Clash’s ‘White Riot’ and was a masterpiece of simplistic DIY punk, rock and roll.

The band carried on for several years playing their noisy brand of post-punk rock releasing singles on a variety of labels and their first album, The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen, was recorded using a friends bands instruments. Due to an error by the record company art department the cover featured pictures of, fellow Leeds band, Gang of Four by mistake. After The Mekons Story compilation in 1982 the band called it a day, with Langford forming The Three Johns.

They soon returned and began pumping out album after album again on a multitude of labels and even at one time making it onto a major though the resulting album was a commercial flop and though it was loved by the fans they were soon dropped like the proverbial hot potato and cut adrift again.

mekons mekons mekons

click for download link

Over the years and as the band have learnt to play their instruments their musical style has transformed and The Mekons are now as famous for playing country and folk music as well as brief forays into rock and even dub reggae. With around twenty albums to their name plus untold amount of singles and EP’s as well appearances on dozens of compilations they have a massive discography so a good place to start would be Mekons, Mekons, Mekons which you can download by clicking on the record cover on the right. It covers the years 1987-1992 which includes both their punkier days and their transformation into a post-punk, cowpunk or alt-country band (or whatever label the press give them at that moment in time).

Around 1985’s brilliant Fear And Whiskey the first signs of a full on change in style began to show. Taking the outlaw country’n’western of Hank Williams/Johnny Cash rather than the cowboy hat and glitter of Nashville and The Mekons successfully reinvented themselves. Joe Angio’s exuberant film ‘Revenge Of The Mekons’ documents the unlikely career of this genre-defying collective. Following their improbable history- a surprising and influential embrace of folk and country music, forays into the art world and consistent bad luck with major record labels. Featuring interviews with fans, from musician Will Oldham, author Jonathan Franzen to film director Mary Harron and comedian Fred Armisen, ‘Revenge Of The Mekons’ reveals four decades into an ever-evolving career how The Mekons continue to make bold, unpredictable music while staying true to the punk roots.

Mekons at the Poetry Foundation July 2015

Mekons circa 2015 left to right: Lu Edmonds, Tom Greenhalgh, Steve Goulding, Sally Timms, Jon Langford, Susie Honeyman, Rico Bell (not pictured: Sarah Corina)

Critically and cultishly adored The Mekons deserve to be much more well known and this film reveals how, four decades into a still-evolving career, the Mekons continue to make original, genre-defying music while staying true to the punk ethos.

(Q&A and performance with band members Jon Langford and Lu Edmunds following the screening of Revenge of the Mekons in 2015)

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The Mekons On The Web

The 10 Best Mekons Songs here * LastFM * AllMusic * The Mekons Blog here * The Mekons discography reviews here  A Skeptic’s Guide To The Mekons here * Toppermost here

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

HERE

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.

HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC

By Erik Devaney

During the 19th-century, song-smiths in southern Appalachia, who had absorbed African rhythms from local slave populations, began fusing these rhythms with elements of celtic folk music, thus forming the basis of the country music genre.

The influence of Celtic folk music in the South began before the start of the American Revolution. As early as 1717, waves of Scots-Irish immigrants were pouring into North America. By 1790, 3 million of these immigrants called America home. The Scots-Irish, also known as Scotch-Irish or Ulster-Scots, were Presbyterian Scots who had previously settled in Ulster as a result of Britain’s plan for a Protestant plantation in Ireland.

Separate waves of Scottish immigration to North America occurred starting in 1725 as a result of the Highland Clearances, while Irish Catholics would not arrive on the scene in great numbers until 1847: a result of the so called ‘famine. Despite their ideological differences, these Scottish and Irish immigrants shared a Celtic musical tradition, which employed many of the same techniques for playing, composing and arranging music. These techniques had a profound influence on that ‘country sound’ we are familiar with today.

SOUND STRATEGIES
cap
The Vocal Harmony Hoe-Down
When two or more singers sing in harmony, or harmonize, the notes they sing are different, while the resulting sound they produce is unified and, typically, pleasing to the ears. Of course, the Irish and Scottish didn’t invent the concept of harmony, but they did have a tradition of using it in group sing-a-long settings. Gaelic-speakers in the Old World were distilling and drinking moonshine and crooning harmoniously, the perfect accompaniment for a bit of Poitín, well before Appalachian ‘hillbillies’ began carrying on the tradition in the New World.

Like their Celtic musician forefathers,  country musicians often employ vocal harmonies in the choruses, or repeated portions, of songs. This strategy helps stress the importance and increase the forcefulness of the choruses while also separating them sound-wise from the verses. Check out the use of vocal harmonies in the choruses of Okie from Muskogee by Merle Haggard and compare it to the use of harmonies in the choruses of the Celtic song, Mairi’s Wedding, as performed by The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem.

Enter The Drone
If you find that some country or Celtic songs have hypnotic qualities to them, mesmerizing you as you listen, this phenomenon could be the result of a drone. A drone is a note or chord that sounds continuously throughout most, if not all, of a song, providing an underlying, trance-like accompaniment for the song’s melody. Musicians can create drones vocally or with virtually any pitch-controlled instrument. Country musicians, such as  fiddlers and slide-guitarists, adopted droning from Scottish and Irish settlers, who were accustomed to producing drones with fiddles as well as bagpipes.
Listen for the drone in Fiddlin’ John Carson’s song, He Rambled, and compare it to the drone in the Scottish march, The Campbells Are Coming.
LYRICAL CONTENT
Scottish-Irish settlement in America

Scottish-Irish settlement in America

The Sob Story

Listen to a country music radio station long enough and you will hear a sob story: a song about a father abandoning his son (see Walk A Little Straighter Daddy by Billy Currington), a song about a woman abandoning her man (see When I Call Your Name by Vince Gill) or, worst of all, a song about a boyfriend dumping his girlfriend and then letting his new girlfriend drive his pick-up truck, something he never let the old girlfriend do (see Picture To Burn by Taylor Swift). The nerve of that guy, really, what a plum.
Singing sorrowfully about the heartbreaks we suffer in life may not have been a distinctively Irish or Scottish creation, but Irish and Scottish immigrants certainly brought a tradition of sob stories with them when they showed up on the shores of Amerikay. Subject matter included longing for love (see Black Is The Colour), losing children (see The Wife of Usher’s Well) and leaving behind a troubled home only to encounter new troubles abroad (see By The Hush).

The Drinking Song

Before Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet sang It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, before Tracy Byrd sang Ten Rounds With José Cuervo and before Brad Paisley sang the utilitarian-titled Alcohol, Celtic musicians were singing drinking songs that put forth similar, contradictory messages: alcohol is evil (see Whiskey, You’re The Devil), but drinking it can be comforting and a quite joyous experience (see Beer, Beer Beer). Homer Simpson summed up the lyrical style of Celtic/country drinking songs beautifully when he toasted
“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”
INSTRUMENTATION
The Fantastic Mr. Fiddle
fiddleThe use of the fiddle in country music pre-dates the use of the guitar. To clarify, a fiddle is, physically, the same instrument as a violin. The difference is perception: most classical violinists get offended when you call them fiddlers, as they consider fiddling to be an informal, inferior type of playing… what a bunch of jerks.
Scottish and Irish immigrants brought fiddles with them to North America and successive generations in the South morphed their Celtic jigs and reels into tunes of their own. Many of the founding fathers of country music, such as Fiddlin’ John Carson, mentioned above, and Eck Robertson, were solo fiddlers. Apart from bringing fiddles and fiddle music to the American South, the Scottish and Irish brought highly energetic and interactive dancing styles to accompany fiddling, which formed the basis for country square dancing.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Banjo
banjoThe banjo does not have Celtic origins.
African slaves brought the tradition of building banjos with them when they were transported to the New World; a tradition that required stretching strings across animal-skin drums.
However, when musically-inclined inhabitants of the Appalachians got their hands on banjos, they used them to play the fiddle tunes that they had learned from the Scottish and Irish.
The plot thickens: in the 19th century, banjos crossed the Atlantic, for a second time, and musicians in Ireland and Scotland began incorporating the African/American instruments into traditional Celtic music. The The Dubliners are a great example of a Celtic folk band that adopted the banjo.

Further Reading:
Ceolas: Celtic Music Instruments
Thanks For The Music: The Fiddle in Country Music
BluegrassBanjo.org: History of the Banjo
Who Are The Scotch Irish?

* Erik ran a fantastic web-site called ‘The Bard Of Boston’ which you can check out here even though he stopped publishing a few years back I hope you stick check it out  as some of the articles are extremely interesting and Erik is never dull. You can contact Erik here via his web-site.

ALBUM REVIEW: TOM O’REILLY AND THE SWAGGERS- ‘One Fine Day’ (2016)

SWAGGER, SWAMP AND SLIDE!

“Celebration of people and their homelands, loves desired and lost. West country original country folk songs with soul, conjuring images of landscapes, oceans and the haunts of both the living and dead. Guaranteed to take the listener on a magical journey”

Tom O'Reilly & The Swaggers

Just as I was planning on reviewing this great album from Tom O’Reilly And The Swaggers the news came in from Facebookland that the band had won the ‘Kan Rag Kernow/Song for Cornwall’ competition held in Redruth and will now go on to represent Kernow in the Pan Celtic Song Competition to be held in Ceatharlach, Co. Carlow, Eire/Ireland at the end of March. They won by performing the tin miners song ‘Lugh Glow’ in Cornish. The song appears on One Fine Day but is sang in English as ‘Black Lung’ and is accompanied by eleven more original folk songs tinged with country and celtic music.

Tom O'Reilly And The Swaggers

Tom O’Reilly And The Swaggers (from l to r) Tomo – Vocals and Acoustic Guitar, Sam – Fiddle, Helen – Double Bass and Bass Guitar, Dr Bod – Acoustic Guitar and Kick Drum

Tom O’Reilly And The Swaggers as you may have guessed hail from Kernow/Cornwall and feature four members of the notorious fellow Cornish celtic punk band Black Friday. Don’t worry though this is only a side project for the quartet and Black Friday continue to go from strength to strength both at home in Cornwall, and in England.

One Fine Day’s first of its dozen tracks is the short ‘Intro- On My Way Home’ before morphing into ‘Final Resting Place’ and you can hear Black Friday but it’s Black Friday playing their alternative country sound. A brooding song and like a lot of the songs here the subject matter is dark but it’s presented to us in a joyous way. Next up is title song ‘One Fine Day’ and great fiddling again and Tom’s vocals dominate and its more of that alto-country sound. Aye its country but not quite as you’d know it!

‘Black Lung’ is up next and if you’ve ever wondered why their doesn’t seem to be any happy miners songs then reflect on the tough, hard life of the miner both in the job and after he retires. My own father worked as a coal miner and didn’t see past 57. Like a lot of the people he worked with down the mine he never got to enjoy retirement as his lungs were fucked up by breathing in shit for year on end. Mining is just a distant memory in Cornwall now and sadly, recently, is in Yorkshire too. It’s a beautifully played song dripping with emotion and is followed by a spot of Cornish republicanism with ‘The King In The Crown’. A story of escaping your home to sail the sea.

“The king in the crown in London town you’re not the king of me”

Fiddle begins ‘Standing There’ and dominates ‘Good To Be Free’ as well. The album is tripping along really nicely. Real foot-tapping music and to be placed on the celtic folk side of things. Its mostly country influenced i would say but coloured by Black Friday and their music.

‘Watch Me Fall’ adds in a bit of calypso before ‘Scream Softly’ comes in and reminds me a lot of an old band I really loved called The 1926 Committee from South London (anyone know where they are now?) with acoustic guitar and Tom’s great distinctive vocals giving the song that bit of extra depth. ‘Sea Bound Sailors’ is as slow as it gets on One Fine Day and is also the closest they sail to celtic music. A real lovely song before they return to a more up tempo sound with ‘Country Boy Blues’. Now this will get your toes-a-tapping believe me!

One Fine Day ends with the short ‘Outro- Farewell And Adieu’ continuing on from that opening track. This is a fantastic album that like I said is more to the folkier side of celtic-punk and you’d recognise more of bands like The Levellers in it than The Pogues but they have taken something of The Pogues anarchic side to do what they have done. Think of of Cash and Strummer rather than the usual Shane and Strummer. Tom O’Reilly’s vocals suit the music 100% and his first class song-writing delivers with charisma and depth. What you get is refreshingly authentic music with raw folk energy, the attitude of punk and the rebel yells of country music. Yee Har!

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(here’s a snippet of their other band Black Friday)

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*you can catch Black Friday playing live in London on Thursday 12th March at the St. Moritz club in Soho. Go to our ‘What’s On’ page here for all the details of that and a whole host of other happening’s in London town!

 

ALBUM REVIEW: THE LANGER’S BALL- ‘Whiskey Outlaws’ (2016)

Irish punk rock from the frozen Mid-West.

The Langer's Ball-Whiskey Outlaws (2016)

Whiskey Outlaws is the new album from American celtic-punks The Langer’s Ball and their first full-length studio album in 4 years. The band began playing as a Irish folk music duo in Saint Paul in Minnesota back in 2007 and released a couple of albums before taking the next big step and expanding from a duo into a full on band. After those two early albums back in 2007 and 2008 The Langer’s Ball went on to release ‘Drunk, Sick, Tired’, a live St Patrick’s day recording, in 2011 and ‘The Devil, Or The Barrel’ in 2012. We reviewed ‘7 Year Itch’ their last release from a couple of years ago here which was a eight track EP which the band have made available for free download so follow the link for your freeby!

The Langer's Ball

The first of Whiskey Outlaws twelve tracks is appropriately the title track ‘Whiskey Outlaws’ and is the first of five original songs penned by the band. From the very beginning you can hear a big dose of other influences alongside the Irish punk that they are famous for. Country, rockabilly, psychobilly are all in the mix alongside the celtic-punk and I tells you it certainly adds up to something very interesting.

“Give a sign of your contrition, step lightly on the ground
Lock up your sons and daughters, you dare not make a sound
Dim the lights and draw the drapes like no one is around
It’s far too late for an escape, the Whiskey Outlaws are in town”

Following is a superb version of the classic protest song ‘World Turned Upside Down’. Written by the legendary English folk artist Leon Rosselson in 1974 and made famous a decade later by Billy Bragg. As Leon said himself in a interview

“It’s the story of the Digger Commune of 1649 and their vision of the earth as ‘a common treasury’. It’s become a kind of anthem for various radical groups. The title is taken from a book about the English revolution”

As good a version as your ever likely to hear. Starting off with acoustic guitar and bursting with energy all over the place. ‘Jug Of This’ is a brilliant catchy as hell version of a very very old English folk song. From the early 18th century it’s perfect celtic-punk territory with it’s tale of a young man drinking turning to an old man drinking. Another beer themed but this time self penned number is ‘Drinking For Two’ and they don’t slow it down for a second with this song of a broken hearted drinker.

“Ever since you said we’re thru / Shattering my whole world view / I don’t know what else I should do / So I drink for me and I drink for you”

The Langer's Ball 3Tin whistle used to great effect and some great bass playing too. Another traditional folk/gospel song follows and ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ is probably most famous in our circles for being recorded by Johnny Cash in 2003. The Langer’s Ball probably steer closest to this version that is a warning to sinners that no matter how hard they try, they will not avoid God’s judgement. A really outstanding song and one of my favourites from the album. Recorded for the yet to be released Johnny Cash celtic punk tribute being compiled by The Grinning Beggar. ‘Bottoms Up (Hапиваться)’ is again a full on drinking song as if you hadn’t realised and as they say in the song “It’s time to don your party pants”. It would seem that the Irish are losing our rep as the hardest drinking race around as this is the third time recently that I’ve heard songs by celtic-punk bands using an eastern-European tune. The accordion here is a dead giveaway and the shouty chorus of “Hапиваться” is another clue. The band show their knowledge of Irish music next with a superb cover of the Horslips song ‘Sword Of Light’. Accordion led and great backing from the whole band. They do enough to claim this song as their own not always easy when dealing with legends and was originally recorded for the Shite’n’Onions Horslips celtic-punk tribute album. ‘The One’ is followed by ‘Mick McGuire’ and again The Langers Ball take on a classic from Irish music tradition and folk punk it up. Originally recorded by The Clancy Brothers and since by bands as diverse as the Orthodox Celts and The Irish Rovers it tells of of a young man who courts a woman and is initially well received by her mother because he owns a farm. He is given a seat of honour in the house but soon loses favour after their wedding due to his drinking and ends up losing his chair right by the fire! Next up is the first song I’ve ever heard extolling the virtues of ‘Cork Dry Gin’. Only having ever spotting the drink in duty free on the ferry over to Ireland when I was a kid I don’t think I’ve ever seen it outside of then and certainly none of my crowd ever drank the stuff but each to his or own and on hearing this it certainly paints it a pretty picture.

“I’m a hoarder of the porter; I’ll drink ‘em by the score
If you drop me in a lake of it, I’d never go for shore
But sometimes after pints & pints & pints & pints & galore
I wish to Christ & God above that someone would just pour

CORK DRY GIN With some Tonic and a lime
CORK DRY GIN It’s Martini time
I said CORK DRY GIN and I’ll be feelin’ fine
With some CORK DRY GIN”

One of the things I love about The Langer’s Ball is their sense of humour and its evident on every recording I have heard of theirs. ‘I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover/Bye Bye Blackbird’ just about sums them up. A three minute romp that is guaranteed to get you up and jigging about. The album ends with ‘Pigeon At The Gate’ a sort of Irish/Eastern Euro/Punk Rock mashup. Great whistle playing holds the song in celtic punk though and they go out in style with a fantastic band anthem that anyone would be proud of.

“So smash your skulls against the walls / Hordes are clamouring in the halls / Mighty Empires will fall / We play through it all… WE PLAY THROUGH IT ALL!”

So overall another masterpiece from The Langer’s Ball another great band innovative band in  the celtic-punk scene. Not scared to moved away in other styles of music but always keeping one toe in the music of The Emerald Isle. It’s bands like this that keep the scene alive and fresh and bring new ideas to the celtic-punk table. I can only hope that they get the recognition they so richly deserve,

(listen to the whole of Whiskey Outlaws on the Bandcamp player below . When you’ve done click the link below that to own a copy!)

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The Langer's Ball 2

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

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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’)

ALBUM REVIEW: LQR- ’10 Pinter’ (2016)

Six southern Dutch guys with a passion for Irish folk, steaming Americana, solid rock and Irish whiskey.

LQR-10Pinter

Back in 2014 we reviewed an early EP, ‘A Taste Of Liquor’, from these Dutch guys from the town of Bladel and we really loved it. Equal parts Irish folk and punk rock but it rocked a brand of celtic-punk that’s also tinged with country and bluegrass as well. A mish-mash of influences with ska and country mingling with celtic-punk but with the spotlight on the accordion and mandolin even though the rock’n’roll was pumped up to ten. With ’10 Pinter’ LQR follow much the same path and we are glad of it as they have delivered an extremely solid of album of ten songs that deserve to be heard.

LQR

from left to right: Wim van Doren: solo guitar, Mark Kremers: lead vocals, Martijn Cuypers: drums and backing vocals, Arjan Bogaerts: accordion, Paul van den Boomen: bass and backing vocals, Tim Maas: acoustic guitar and mandolin

Again its the accordion that dominates proceedings and straight from album opener ‘The Application’ you can hear those influences flowing in and out of the absolutely amazing accordion playing. A tale of arguing with the Grim Reaper and its not yer usual celtic-punk lyrics about fighting and drinking. You’ll have to wait to see if they come along! I’m a massive fan of the American band Calexico and following song ‘Mis Amigos’ has a touch of them but with an added touch of ska. Great lyrics about being in a band and the camaraderie of spending all that time together and the shared adventures.  The Bhoys head next to Ireland for a silly wee song dedicated to them mythical creatures out of mythology. Or are they? My Grandad swore blind they existed as did many of his generation.

‘Leprechauns’ take their place among vampires and zombies and the hilarious lyrics and country tinged country tune rattle this along very nicely indeed.
“He’s a riddle man, pranks and jokes,
Four leaf clover, pot of gold,
Crafty shoemaker, fairy or faun,
Hard to get, bastard leprechaun”
you may be surprised that a band that is called LQR that embraces the imagery of alcohol so much can actually have something meaningful to say and if your’re waiting for those songs about fighting and drinking let me save you the bother they never come. There is much more to LQR and like celtic-punk itself, there is no harm in those songs but it cannot be all about that. ‘Bully The Bullies’ stands up for those that society or at least the wankers in society deem different and its uplifting and hopeful words drift along with the song. Next up is ‘Gravy Train’, an album  standout and tales of band life. Great electric guitar work here and a catchy as hell tune combining. Love it! ‘Na Zdrowie’ is Polish/eastern European tinged folk punk but still with that unmistakeable LQR sound. Na Zdrowie meaning “Cheers” in Polish so I guess you can call this the drinking song!

A great foot tapping instrumental that starts off slower before going downright mental and more superb accordion and mandolin, though also backed superbly by the rest of the band, they kick up a right old storm. ‘The Flying Dutchman’ is begins as a Springsteen-ish ballad before launching into more LQR fast paced tune. The Flying Dutchman seems to pop up a lot in celtic-punk with several bands using the tale of the legendary ghost ship. A ship that can never make port and is doomed to sail the oceans forever. For sailors the sight of this phantom ship is a portent of doom.
“His last words echoed in the storm
Rain or shine, we’re sailing on
If we have to sail for eternity
we’ll leave today, onwards to sea”
LQR‘Misery Loves Company’ is the most celtic-punk tune and though not quite full throttle it steams ahead at a grand old pace and touches of cèilidh in there along with a stack of other influences. As with the rest of the album the lyrics are crystal clear and these lads can certainly write a good tune but not just that their lyrics are interesting and worth paying attention to as well. Some great bits of humour but also they are not afraid to touch on some sombre topics as well. ‘Silent Witnesses’ is the albums slowest track and its swirling accordion led dark tune fits the equally dark subject matter perfectly.
“Settle the score, An eye for an eye
There’s always someone
who pays the highest price”
10 Pinter comes to an end with ‘The Race’ dedicated to the joys of speedway. I had no idea how popular speedway was in Europe till a Polish mate told me it was bigger than football in some places in Poland. Fittingly the song carries a extremely catchy tune guaranteed to get that foot going at the very least and ends with some manic accordion. Taking us out just as we came in.
“Ride to live, Live to ride”
So ten great songs that last just over forty minutes and keeps up a relentless pace throughout. Some celtic-punk bands feel like they need to throw in a ballad or two just to prove they can play their instruments but LQR don’t feel they need to and bloody right too. A full on party band that I am sure would give you no time to rest your feet live. coming across sometimes as the most mental cèilidh band you’ll ever hear and other times as the most mental country band you’ll ever hear LQR certainly know their folk tunes and history. All wrapped up in a really really nice digipak with loads of band photos and lyrics and looking as nice as any CD I have ever seen. We don’t mind bands sending us downloads for review. I always figure their better off selling that copy rather than sending it me but LQR have produced sometimes really really special so you can forgive them for wanting everyone to know about it!
(you can listen to the album for free on the Soundcloud player below)
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ALBUM REVIEW: JOHNNY CAMPBELL- ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’ (2015)

Fast, ruthless and uncompromising traditional folk music and frantic bluegrass style picking with self penned songs of protest and debauchery!

Johnny Campbell

Johnny Campbell is a name that will be familiar to regular viewers of the London Celtic Punks blog-zine as we have been long time fans of pretty much everything Johnny has come up with over the years. We first crossed paths with Johnny when he played in the excellent Yorkshire celtic-punk band Three Sheets T’Wind but since those days Johnny has spreads his wings and has become a quite successful and well travelled solo artist. After numerous tours and gigs and a EP we now arrive at the release of Hook, Line And Sinker back at the arse end of last year.  We did a very interesting interview with Johnny in September just gone (here) so drop over there to have a read and find out lots more about Johnny and his various gig antics across Europe including how ISIS nearly screwed up his tour!

JohnnyHook, Line And Sinker is eight songs of stand out traditional folk music lasting just shy of half an hour with Johnny ably supported by Rosie Eade on backing vocals and an old bandmate of Shane MacGowan, Kieran O’Malley on the violin. A story of a journey from York to Middlesbrough begins the album with ‘Hills Of Cleveland’ and name checks places of outstanding beauty along the way. A sort of North Yorkshire national anthem that I am sure sounds mental to anyone who doesn’t know or appreciate ‘Gods own country’.

“Sneck Yate over Hambleton it’s where we made good time
The smog caresses Middlesbrough you could see it to the Tyne”

This is followed by ‘Johnny McGhee’ a  comedy song that came about after a night out on the lash and with a gut full of ale and arriving home and after listening to the great Irish balladeers like John McCormack and The Clancy Brothers Johnny decided to write a traditional old school folk song with the emphasis on the lyrics and using different volumes of the voice when singing. Play the song below and you’ll understand instantly  what I mean.

“Rambling and roving and smoking and courting
And drinking black Porter as fast as you feel
In all your days roving you’ll find none more jovial
As the wondrous wanderer Johnny McGhee”

‘Blue Mountains’ is a fast paced instrumental with great fiddle work from Kieran and as close as this album comes to the sound of Three Sheets T’Wind. Personally I think the album would have benefited from a few faster paced numbers but that is not Johnny’s shtick here. Waking up hungover on a boat to Denmark with no money, no phone, no bank card and no wallet was the inspiration for ‘Copenhagen’ and having to busk for three days for food and money just to get to the airport providing the background for the story. ‘Complaint’ was written in mind about those affected by the Bedroom Tax and forced out onto the street and put to a very old traditional Irish tune. The romanticism of tramping the high roads belies exactly how difficult and traumatic it can really me. Like anything it’s simple with a safety net but there’s not many of us who will ever find ourselves with no other option. There are too many songs in the folk genre romanticising the idea of living a homeless life and glamorising the idea of being a wanderer without commitment or troubles. The ‘roving minstrel’ image portrayed in folk song about travellers and gypsies having a carefree life just isn’t true when weighed up against all the daily shit and blatant discrimination traveller families have to put up. Next up is ‘The Death Of The Public House (skit)’ and that witch Maggot Thatcher snarls out at you from the speakers. Many of you will have no idea or will have forgotten what she was like so remind yourself with her spouting the miserable anti-human claptrap she was famous for. Hook, Line And Sinker’ was wrote with Woody Guthrie in mind and the legendary American folk pioneer will be smiling down from above on hearing this. The song steers clear of preaching and has a real catchy foot tapping way about it. References to the optimism of the radical movements in the US and UK that haven’t come to full fruition as well as religion and the two party political system.

‘Jock Stewart’ is the famous song made famous I suppose by The Pogues as sung by Cait O’Riordan. Originally an Irish ballad it was shortened and adapted to an Aberdeenshire drinking song. And what a song it is!

“So be easy and free,
When you’re drinkin’ wi’ me,
I’m a man you don’t meet every day”

If you’re a fan of traditional folk music and folk singer’s like Christy Moore and Paul Brady then you will love this record. Passionate and straight from the heart Johnny takes his music very seriously and his commitment is amazing. A record that is evocative of the past but is rooted very firmly in the here and now. Fans of celtic-punk music deserve to give artists like Johnny a go. The music he plays is where the music we all love comes from and is living proof that the soul of celtic-punk belongs firmly in the past.

(you can have a free listen to the whole of ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’ before buying by pressing Play on the Bandcamp player below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: JAY WARS AND THE HOWARD YOUTH- ‘Love In The Time Of Fear’ (2016)

simple acoustic music. passion, anger, heart and a sense of humour and absolutely nothing at all like James Blunt

Jay Wars

Love In The Time of Fear is the second release from Jay Wars And The Howard Youth. Jay was the lead singer of the sadly missed Australian celtic-punk band Between The Wars who split up in 2012 after a string of highly rated albums and singles. Among the things that stood out the most from their various recordings was Jay’s lyrical output so it was with relief that we heard he was going to carry on and keep recording. Last years first album Carry Me Home was pretty much Jay recording a solo version of a Between The Wars album but with guest appearances from half his old band giving the album that unmistakeable BTW sound. On Love In The Time of Fear Jay has expanded on that sound somewhat and though the album is much less celtic-punk it still has that BTW thing about it. The music may be less celtic and more punky but its still an absolute knockout and more than deserving of being our very first review of 2016.

Jay WarsThe album begins with ‘Pyne In The Closet’ and Jays chugging guitar and Hayley’s amazing fiddle work along with a more than solid backline with Dan on drums and Crow on bass give it a real foot tapping feel right from the off. The BTW sound is there but now mixed up and blended with the English punk sound of bands like the Newtown Neurotics. Jay wears his politics on his chest and its working class struggle that interests him. Not the pampered politics of the middle class left but the blood and guts of life at the bottom of the ladder. ‘Don’t Cross The Line’ is the eleventh commitment of the international working classes. The line in question being the picket line and a very special contempt is reserved for those that strike break and cross picket lines stabbing their fellow workers in the backs. In the words of this ancient Irish saying (curse!)

“May the lamb of God stir his hoof through the roof of heaven and kick you in the arse down to hell”

The song features special guest vocals from Ronan MacManus the lead singer of the London Irish celtic rockers The Bible Code Sundays. Fast and furious and fecking angry and quite rightly so. One to play before you leave the house to right a wrong I’d say… Another of the album’s highlights is the next track ‘A Girl Called Hope’ with Jays words like poetry to this ear, easily understood and crystal clear. The track has a kind of a frantic country feel to it with great wailing backing vocals and the story is classic Jay with a tale of love gone murderously wrong.

By now you can get a feel for where this album is going and ‘Done And Dusted’ continues in much the same vein with a catchy tune and more of Jay’s unmistakable lyrics. It really is worth getting the headphones on to catch it all. ‘Alive!’ brings out the banjo and is a simply effective punk song again with Hayley’s fiddle giving it that bit extra. ‘Let Me Start Again’ is the fastest song on the album though still keeping it acoustic. ‘The Ballad Of 1846’ is a story of a young Irishman arriving in Melbourne in 1846 and finding the promised land contained the same prejudice that he had left behind in Ireland. This prejudice is that of the Orange kind. The extreme Protestant anti-Catholic and anti-Irish bigotry that the British transported across the globe in order to keep the Irish down. Fascism under any other name the Orange bigots (named after the colours of a bisexual Dutch king who defeated the British king James II in 1690… yeah go figure!!) still strut their stuff around the north of Ireland as well as Scotland and a few dwindling places left in England. Around July 12 every year they demand the right to pass triumphantly through Catholic areas and every they are quite rightly resisted “by any means possible”.

“when I see you wave that Orange flag I see red instead”

The following song ‘Abraham Brown’ was a collaboration between Jay and Kevin Prested, an Englishman now based in Melbourne and is the tale of a young man transported to Australia back in the 1830’s. Social history told through the eyes of Jay who is a real master of songs like these. Beautiful and evocative you close your eyes and the image of Abraham’s voyage fills your mind. ‘Play Another Song’ keeps it upbeat and ‘One Last Love Song’ brings the album to an end. Jay’s songs range from stories of the sea and love gone wrong as well as heartfelt political songs that steer clear of browbeating and lecturing. His writing seems simple but is in way simple. I would say genius but knowing Jay I also know he is a humble and generous soul who would blush at such a epitaph chucked in his direction. Simply to say Jay is as good a writer that celtic-punk has and his music is truly soul music.

Over a year ago in November 2014 we wrote

“It may be another chapter but its not the end of the book for Jay and we look forward to hearing much more from him”

Well Love In The Time of Fear is a great 2nd chapter in Jay Wars history and we love the evolution of the sound into a full on band while keeping a toe firmly in the acoustic-celtic-folk of what has been before. The great news for us is that Jay will soon be joining us on these shores. What on earth has possessed him to leave Australia to come here to the doom and gloom and rain of northern England is anyone’s guess but we can count ourselves lucky that we will get to see a lot more of Jay in the near future. The album is out in just under a month on Whisk And Key Records in Australia and is available for pre-order at the link below. When more links come in we will add them.

Contact Jay

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Between The Wars

Between The Wars

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We got a load of related stuff here including an interview with Jay herea review of the first Jay Wars album Carry Me Home here and a review of the final Between The Wars album ‘Wont Go Quietly’ here.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE DEAD MAGGIES- ‘Well Hanged’ (2015)

Raucous cow punk and folk punk mixed with haunting murder ballads, timeless story telling and foot-stompin’, heart pounding rhythms from a bunch of beer swilling, shanty singing, flannle shirt wearing, mohawk-bearing musical peasants.

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The Dead Maggies come from Tasmania, the island at the bottom of Australia. As is the way with these kind of places a different kind of culture and existence develops to the ‘mother’ country. Found 240 km (150 mi) to the south of the Australian mainland almost half of the country is still in the same natural state it was when the British invaded back in 1803 and christened the island Van Diemons Land. At the time the land was populated by the native Aboriginal people but within thirty years, a time known as the ‘Black Wars’, they were wiped out by a combination of infectious diseases brought by the invaders, to which they had no immunity, and acts of genocide carried out by the British army. Martial law, disease and resistance to British rule saw the Aboriginal population fall to just 300 at one point from around 5,000. Historians have described it thus

“The colonial government from 1832 to 1838 ethnically cleansed the western half of Van Diemen’s Land and then callously left the exiled people to their fate”

Tassie, as its known to its residents, was used primarily as a natural prison state to house convicts brought from Britain and Ireland convicted of crimes that ranged from murder and assault to stealing sheep or even bread. These penal colonies were run on extremely harsh lines and many many convicts died or went mad at the barbaric hands of their jailers. It was in Tasmania that the government implemented a shift from the physical (i.e. whipping) to more psychological punishment. A structure of punishment called the ‘Silent System’ was implemented where prisoners were hooded and ordered silent. This was supposed to allow time for the prisoner to reflect upon the actions which had brought them there but instead resulted in many of the prisoners developing mental illness from the lack of light and sound. Eventually this led to an asylum being built right next to the Prison. Many prisoners, though also escaped and roamed the land as bandits and highwaymen. Giving rise to ballads and songs in their honour and it is to this tradition that The Dead Maggies get their inspiration from.

Dead MaggiesThe Dead Maggies already have one record behind them, the excellent , ‘The Dead Maggies Sing About Dead People’ in which they do indeed sing about dead people. Seven songs where they tell the history of the various sad endings of colourful characters from Tasmania’s history. Now this to me is what celtic-punk or folk-punk is all about. Now I love songs about getting pissed on Guinness as much as the next person but I need just a bit more sometimes and its bands like The Dead Maggies or, the sadly recently deceased, Chicago band Kevin Flynn And The Avondale Ramblers that are passing down and keeping our history alive and relevant. The history of the rich is there for all to see but the history of the poor and the downtrodden and the defeated in war or battle was passed down mainly in song and my oh my Tasmania is a well stocked pit for The Dead Maggies to mine from.

(you can have a listen to the whole of The Dead Maggies debut album here simply by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

Formed in 2013 shortly after the death of our beloved (!) despot Margaret Thatcher, The Dead Maggies have taken the scene by storm. The Australian celtic-punk scene is second to none and The Dead Maggies stand out proud amongst the many other brilliant bands in it. Mixing the fascinating folk story of Tasmania as well as the energy and the attitude of punk the band have come up with their own genre ‘Tasmanian Convict Punk’ and it suits them far better than calling it celtic or folk punk ever could!

‘Well Hanged’ kicks off with ‘Black Mary’ a rollicking great tune that from the first sounds of the ocean will have you bouncing on  your feet.

Great vocals atop of equally great music and a story that tells of open revolution in the early days of Van Diemons Land.

“No bush ranger we But guerrilla army. In open rebellion Against the machine”

It’s the story of Mary Cockerill, ‘Black Mary’, who along with her partner Michael Howe and an army of over one hundred bushrangers in the early 19th Century nearly brought down the Tasmanian government in open warfare. The interesting thing about The Dead Maggies is their ability to meld celtic, country, bluegrass, folk into something that very clearly defines themselves. ‘Tommy Pieman’ is a perfect example of all these influences coming together in a story of cannibalism that I’m sure you can pick up from the songs title! ‘Matthew Brady’ was a notorious 19th century bushranger born in Manchester in 1799. He was transported in 1820 and constantly rebelled while in Tasmania against the treatment meted out to the prisoners. He received over 400 lashes over time and eventually escaped but was captured two years later trying to sail to mainland Australia. He was executed in 1826 and was known as ‘Gentleman Brady’ due to his impeccable manners whilst robbing from the rich.

“Don’t rape any women, Don’t steal from the poor, But as for the rich… you can fuck them all”

A fantastic tune with lyrics really worthy of your time. In 1830 ‘Mary McLaughlin’ was the first woman to be executed in Tasmania. A convict, she was assigned as a servant and within two months she had been impregnated by

“a person of better education and higher rank in society than herself”

After her baby was born and found dead she was charged with murder. Pronounced guilty, she was sentenced to both death and dissection. Even in death she found no peace. The song introduces the clarinet into proceedings for the first time and though not yer typical folk punk instrument it certainly works and fits in well with what The Dead Maggies are up to. ‘Billy Hunt’ sees the band in full cow-punk territory with a country’n’western song that would put the shits up any Dolly Parton fans! Again the story told is both gripping and engaging and this time shows that its not all doom and darkness in the Maggies world. Billy Hunt was a convict who hit upon the great idea to disguise himself as a kangaroo and attempt to hop to freedom. His plan was brought to an abrupt end when a soldier decided to shoot the large boomer. Billy was then forced to reveal his true identity.

“We said you’ll just get caught again you stupid Billy Hunt”

‘Jørgen Jørgenson’ is the tale of a Danish adventurer who became the ruler of Iceland for a short time. He was accused of piracy, jailed for theft and eventually was transported to Tasmania after a death sentence was commuted.

He married an Irish convict in 1831 and died in the Colonial Hospital on 20 January 1841. A pirate, a convict, a king and a drunkard. The song is a riot of folk-punk instruments and as fast as you like. The great video was filmed aboard The Yukon, a fully restored Danish tall ship that sails upon the Huon Valley in Tasmania. As says vocalist/guitarist GT Mongrel

“He was an adventurer who wrote his own legends while drinking, gambling, spying and pirating, he took on armies. He took on whole countries. He faced the executioners block and survived. He lived life as hard as life can be lived. He was a punk.”

‘Ghost On The Hellfire Bluff’ steams past you in a frantic 90 seconds while ‘Tin Miner’ brings in a spot of celtic-ness with the banjo leading the first half of the song until accordion takes over and the song swirls and builds up into a angry pissed off polemic against the treatment of the miners. The albums shortest song ‘Snakebite’ starts off slowly but soon builds up and with the clarinet out of the box again and before you know it it is gone in just 76 seconds. ‘Truckdrivers Last Waltz’ reminds me somewhat of the great Paddy McHugh And The Goldminers (well worth checking out this fellow Aussie band. Writer of the saddest song EVER written here). A jazzy, accordion led mess of a song where all the bands influences clash together with both gang vocals and GT’s vocals as powerful as ever. ‘Savage River’ has the band in Tom Waits-y country and the album comes to a suitable sad end with ‘Bound In Chains’. A hauntingly beautiful tale telling of those poor convicts ripped from home and transported across to the other side of the world to a foreign environment to be treated worse than slaves and be worked to death.

“I would rather die than wear those chains”

The uileann pipes come together with the band’s usual fare and again The Dead Maggies hit just the right spot in this emotional ballad tribute to the losers in their countries past.

Twelve tracks that explore the lives, battles, deaths and loves of ordinary people. The people whose history is being written out of the books. The history children don’t learn at school. History that is an embarrassment to the people who rule us and who are scared stiff of the inspiration it could once again provide to the ancestors of the original folk these stories are written about. Music to dance to, love to, cry to and rejoice. The Dead Maggies provide all this in spades and by telling of the dark and oppressive past of Tasmania that history will never leave us. Bands like this should be an inspiration to us all in the celtic-punk scene. Story telling is at the very core of our music. We have a glorious past and if indeed our music has any connection to the past we are forced to retell it in song. Thanks to The Dead Maggies for doing that and doing it so well.
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you can find a host of other amazing Australian bands on the ‘Folk ’Til Ya Punk Records’ web site here.

Here’s the bands official video tour diary of their journey through Europe last year. Look closely and you’ll see quite a few London Celtic Punks cheering them on!

INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY CAMPBELL

A fast, ruthless, uncompromising sound with influences from far and wide. Material that embraces traditional music and sometimes frantic Bluegrass style picking with self penned songs of protest and debauchery.

Johnny2We are extremely happy that Johnny took time out from megabussing it around the country from gig to gig to do a little interview for us.

The obvious one to get us started so can you tell us how long you’ve been playing music and what bands you have been in before?

Johnny- I’ve been performing live for a decade now, and for the last couple of years as a solo performer. Before those ten years I was playing a battered classical guitar to Bad Religion live albums pretending I was in Bad Religion.

You have played in a celtic-punk band before with Three Sheets T’Wind so how do you see the celtic-punk scene here and abroad?

Johnny- I haven’t performed in other bands to any full-on level of commitment, apart from numerous and humorous side projects and filling in space for musicians who couldn’t make shows…and once trialing for The Popes as a fiddle player but that was a long time ago… I personally feel the scene in the UK is much broader, encompassing Anti-Folk, Alt-Folk and other offshoots. Though across the underground in The Netherlands for example, there are a number of fantastic ‘Folk-Punk’ bands using Banjos, Mandolins, Accordions that you couldn’t label as ‘Celtic-Punk’. It is great to see people’s horizons to ‘Punk’ don’t just start and end with an Electric Guitar.

I would like to think so but does it follow that celtic-punk fans also listen to folk from the past or present?

Johnny- For me yes. Right back to Planxty, Hank Williams or even contemporary folk like Julie Fowlis. The ‘Celtic-Punk’ fans I’ve come across like their fair share of Tom Waits and other artists that are hard to define by genre. I think if you’re into niche music, as in ‘Celtic-Punk’, you’re probably going to be listening to some other interesting styles!

Which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music?

Johnny- Obviously The Pogues…but I think we all know that. The Tossers are in my opinion, the logical progression from The Pogues taking influence from Behan and Joyce and managing to create it in their own American sound. Silly Wizard (possibly Scotland’s Planxty) manage to create an equally ‘rocky’ feel to their sound which leads neatly onto artists like The Horslips, Thin Lizzy and Moving Hearts.

Bit of an odd question this but how would you describe what you do on stage?

Johnny- I describe myself in my write up as an ‘Alt-folk’ musician. This is about as broad as I could make it. It isn’t a musical ‘style’ it is simply a way of saying ‘It is folk music…but a bit different.’ Some have said that shows can differentiate from stand-up comedy to thoughtful political song. I’ll do traditional Irish Anti-war songs like Arthur McBride to A Cappella songs about getting blind drunk and catching STDs from ladies of the night.

It has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone!

Johnny- There’s a certain amount of balls/ego in there to get up and ask people to listen to what you’ve got to say for an hour, definitely. If you manage to fuck up the set, then it really is your own fault. That’s something that is pretty daunting but a challenge to relish I suppose, as the credit (if there is any to give out) is all yours.

At the moment there is a big ‘folk-punk’ thing happening in the UK that seems to have a lot in common with celtic-punk like the politics and aspirations but without major celtic influences. Have you noticed this at all?

Johnny- Because the genres are getting broader and ‘Folk-Punk’ is the easiest umbrella to put yourself under if you perform anti-authoritarian/alternative Folk music… I think that is how it is coming about. Celtic/Irish music has transported well as there is a mythology built up around the Irish. But also the way we can consume music nowadays, we can search for Mongolian Political Folk Punk on Youtube and get an instant response. Which is broadening our intake very quickly. I speak for myself here when I say 10 years ago, when I was 18, the only Folk-Punk you could really find was Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, and anything else on a major label as you had to go to the local (if you had one) independent record shop. Now we are blessed with so much choice, which is generally free which brings its own negative impacts like de-valuing a product and other factors.

It would seem sometimes, and there is certainly a history of it in England (the band that must never be mentioned!), that bands who play Irish/celtic tunes won’t label the tunes as Irish/celtic and would instead categorise it as English folk (so as to not be seen as Irish I suppose) but do you see this as cultural appropriation or not? it sometimes reminds me of Prince Charles roaming round his billion acre estate in Kernow/ Cornwall wearing a kilt!

Johnny- Hmm, it is an interesting one. I don’t think anyone would get offended if you said a tune was English when it was an Irish tune if you believed it was initially. I think it is important to try and research a song or a tune and find out its origins and to recognise it. I can also see some cultural appropriation in there as it is a small way of denying heritage by simply taking is as your ‘own’. I think we must be more concerned with things like the far-right using traditional folk music and making a patriotic gesture with the songs.

Johnny CampbellYou have a new album due out soon I hear. What’s the latest on that? Is it purely yourself or will you be aided and abetted?

Johnny- It’s been a long process, I haven’t released something with new material for about three years. I’ve had writer’s block for a while and since I’ve been on the road the last couple of years I’ve picked up new influences which has come out on the record. I am aided by Kieran O’Malley, a violin player from Leeds who performs with Spirit of John and many other acts..he’s also performed on a Shane MacGowan’s release ‘Rockier Road To Poland’ and backing vocals from Exeter singer/songwriter Rosie Eade. http://www.rosieeade.co.uk/ It will be released early October.

You seem to be on a non-stop tour of anywhere and everywhere so where does the future take you and do you think you will be able to keep it up more importantly?

Johnny- I’m sure I’ll be able to carry on for a few more years as long as my legs still carry me. I only use public transport and we managed to get from Istanbul from Yorkshire in 28 days on public transport on the Summer European tour with James Bar Bowen and Cosmo. We hit squats and social centres through eight countries and the final show in Istanbul got cancelled as the promoter had left to go and fight against fascist ISIS and didn’t tell us! We had about five days to waste in Istanbul because of the cancellation. This was during Ramadan which is an amazing spectacle. We decided to imbibe the culture by visiting mosques, walking the streets and eating kebabs. As long as the gigs keep being interesting, I still have some life left!

Thanks Johnny for taking time out of your busy touring schedule (where are you as you write this?) so all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank?

Johnny- I’m currently in the South West for a week between shows and getting ready for the release of my album ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ which will be released on my website and Bandcamp in early October! I will be doing a UK and USA East Coast tour in March 2016 with Tim Holehouse www.timholehouse.com (UK tour) and James Bar Bowen https://jamesbarbowen2014.wordpress.com/ (USA tour) but in the meantime I have shows across the UK and The Netherlands with Rob Galloway http://www.theyallayallas.com/rob-galloway which can all be found on my website! Cheers and beers! x

(you can listen to Johnny Campbell’s debut solo EP below)

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  • keep your eyes peeled for a review in the next couple of weeks of ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’. I’m lucky to have had a sneak preview and can guarantee its an excellent debut record!

EP REVIEW: NOWHEREBOUND- ‘Til Death, For Life’ (2015)

Nowherebound are an acoustic band based out of Austin, Texas with twinges of punk, country and folk thrown together at a moment’s notice over a few beers and too much coffee.
Nowherebound
Formed in 2010 out of the ashes of local Texan punk bands Nowherebound have had a very busy 2015 plying their brand of folk-country-punk rock. Not only have they gigged across the States and Europe (unfortunately missing out on these shores) but also found time to release this EP as well as their fourth album, ‘All We Got Is Everything To Lose’.
‘Til Death, For Life’ was originally released as a 12″ split with German band Rock Shit Hot on Ring of Fire Records. A reworking of a couple of crowd favourite old songs and some new songs. From hard rock in-yer-face to pop punk melodies to raise-your-glass-and-sing-along-anthems Nowherebound hit you in the heart and head. On this EP though they concentrate on showcasing their acoustic side and it works… hell yes, it works!

Recorded and produced and mastered by the band themselves the production is top class and as clear as a bell. The EP kicks off with a new song ‘Bullet And A Tooth’ and shows the boys at their acoustic best. They can certainly rock out when want but they also a fantastic acoustic band too. Comparisons to Social Distortion are inescapable but Nowherebound plough their own field and if anything have taken that ‘country folk punk’ sound and took it in another direction from Mike Ness and crew while stamping it with their own Texan brand. Laid back acoustic punk with lovely banjo playing from Natchet while the raspy tortured vocals from Chris compliment the music perfectly. ‘California’ follows and is a real country masterpiece. It first appeared on their debut album ‘The Songs Of Broken Men’ back in 2011. Remixed and remastered  the song has been given a lift I hadn’t thought possible. A great song and I don’t hear enough harmonica in celtic-punk so loving hearing it here. Last years album ‘Mockingbirds’ is visited for ‘Here I Am’ and the band give it plenty of oomph with harmonica starting off the track before the band join in and prove once again that Nowhwerebound are masters of country-folk-punk. Great musicians with great songs.
from left to right...Chris Klinck, Natchet Taylor, Dylan Karn, Trevor Wiseman, Robert Williamson.

from left to right…Chris Klinck, Natchet Taylor, Dylan Karn, Trevor Wiseman, Robert Williamson.

The band standard ‘Nowherebound’ is another track from that debut album given the same treatment as ‘California’ and again the song is lifted up. Easy to see why its a fan favourite with a great chance to get that pint in the air and shout the heartbroken words at the top of your voice. Not much joy here but hey isn’t that just the band sticking close to their country roots? ‘That Was Yesterday’ is another track from ‘Mockingbirds’ and is done in the same style as the other ‘Mockingbirds’ song. Stripped down from the original and started again. The EP ends with another new song ‘Wander Round’ and has a Street Dogs feel to it. I say that though it seems to me that its the Street Dogs who sound like Nowherebound to be honest. A great EP and as I’ve loved everything Nowherebound have recorded I’m off to get the new album now so expect a review of that hitting these pages soon too!
2015

2015

Six tracks coming in at just under twenty five minutes and if you’re a fan like me you’ll be wanting to get it. If you’re new to the band then this is a perfect as place to start as you can get. The band have managed to capture all six songs with that classic Nowherebound sound. I love them and i love the way they can change tempo form slow to fast in a way that you hardly notice. Superb and I would mark them the best band going that plays this style of music. Tales of love, loss brotherhood and life on the road except next time though lads make sure that road leads you to London England!

(you can listen to the whole EP by pressing play on the Bandcamp box below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE PROCLAIMERS- ‘Let’s Hear It For The Dogs’ (2015)

not celtic-punk but at least they’re Hibernian!

The Proclaimers - Let’s Hear It For The Dogs (2015)

The Proclaimers have been around now for nearly thirty years and they have built up a massive following across the world, and not just of Scottish exiles and within the Scots diaspora. They first hit the charts with the wonderful ‘Letter From America’ way back in 1987 and they followed this up with a stack of hits that made them popular on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. Being one of the first bands to sing in their natural Scots accents rather than effect an English or American one might have held them back but their powerful songs and their leftfield politics hit a chord where pop, folk, new wave and punk all collide and though their star did wane somewhat they never went away and continued to plug away making their music and occasionaly troubling the charts and appearing on our television screens.

The Proclaimers

Born in Leith in Scotland in 1962 identical twin brothers Charlie and Craig Reid played in a host of punk bands at school before forming The Proclaimers. They rose to fame supporting The Housemartins on their UK tour in 1986 and an appearance on famed music show The Tube brought them to a nations attention and with the release of ‘Letter From America’ the rest is history. The brothers are fans of Hibernian Football Club and their 1988 hit ‘Sunshine on Leith’ has become the club anthem. Hibernian were the original Irish team in Scotland, based in Edinburgh, and their is more than a bone of contention on how Celtic who appeared some years later came to be the dominant force for the Scots-Irish. They have been life-long supporters of Scottish independence and donated £10,000 to the Yes campaign and threw all their weight behind the campaign last September and still continue to agitate for Scottish freedom. As the boys explain.

“The lyrics in Letter From America are about the job losses and closures that flow from Scotland not having control over her destiny — that is what happened in the 1980s, and that is why Scotland needs independence now.”

‘Let’s Hear It For The Dogs’ is the boys tenth studio album and from the first track ‘You Built Me Up’ the twins and their band rattle up a great rock’n’roll racket. Accompanied by their live band: Stevie Christie (keyboards), Garry John Kane (bass), Zac Ware (electric guitar) and Clive Jenner (drums) with additional guitars by Sean Genockey and an appearance by the Vulcan String Quartet, The Proclaimers sound as powerful as they havent done in years and producer Dave Eringa (whose past work has included The Who, Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey and The Manic Street Preachers) has done an excellent job capturing them and their differing styles of music but always keeping it within The Proclaimers broader sound.

‘Be With Me’ is another shorter number and Craig and Charlie’s band classic rock is still based around a folkish sound and the electric guitars do not diminish this. ‘In My Home’ has an orchestral sound that no doubt Dave Eringa had more than a wee bit to do with reminiscent as it is of the Manic Street Preachers. With the Independence referendum defeat its hardly suprising that their is a feeling in some of the songs of what might have been. ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ speaks of a love rekindled and of their love for Scotland and nostalgia for their beloved Edinburgh. They ramp it back up to eleven with ‘Then Again’, the shortest track on the album which sticks the boot into both the celebrity culture that allowed people on the television to commit sexual abuse and the untold amount of MP’s and person’s of power who seemingly unhindered got away with literally murder. Witty in a way that does not belittle the serious subject matter. Album standout track ‘What School?’ is a phrase many of us have heard but not in the way that some of you would think. As a kid I went to the only Catholic school in my town and if I ever did hear the words ‘What school do you go to?’ then it might sometimes be a good idea to be on your toes. How the boys bring their love of dogs into this is pure brilliance.

“I know he’s a big Wolves fan, but does he favour rebel songs or marching flute bands?”

Religious bigotry is alive and definitly kicking in the west of Scotland but like their beloved empire is surely on the way out and before long will hopefully be a thing of the past.

‘If I’m Still Around’ has the boys singing of love accompanied by a slow piano before the music builds to a climax. ‘The Other Side (Of Me)’ shows the Proclaimers singing of selfish men that make women cry. A good singalong that will have concert goers shouting along I am sure. ‘Forever Young’ has them rocking out again and has the twins voices working perfectly together. Country music is not unknown to The Proclaimers and the slow and moving ‘Ten Tiny Fingers’ a lovely song about fatherhood has a relaxed country feel to it that lulls you away. The church organ is a welcome touch. ‘Through Him’ is about religion while ‘Rainbows and Happy Regrets’ is set to become another firm fan favourite with the catchy tune and lyrics and its refrain of

“Scotland Forever- Erin Go Bragh”

The last of the albums thirteen tracks is ‘Moral Compass’ and as they sing

“your moral compass is not mine”

Witty, sharp and cutting this is a grand album and even though it contains no real suprises its a solid slice of Proclaimers life that covering subjects from silly to serious that will have you thinking as well as enjoying the music. Forged in Scotland there’s not a single weak song on this record it must be said and the boys continue to go from strength to strength and long may they do so.

The Proclaimers

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ALBUM REVIEW: DARIUS KOSKI- ‘Sisu’ (2015)

Created over the course of over a decade Darius Koski, frontman of US punk legends the Swingin’ Utters, uses an arsenal of traditional, acoustic-based instruments to create a hodgepodge of styles and blend that includes bluegrass, country, blues and American and Irish folk.

Darius Koski -Sisu' (2015)

Darius Koski is a family man with a day job as a plumber but its in his other life as songwriter, lead guitarist and vocalist for the now legendary Californian punk band The Swingin’ Utters that peaks our interest.

Darius Koski

Formed back in 1987 the Utters had a traditional punk rock sound in the early days which soon incorporated elements of folk, country and celtic in their sound. Darius described their music as

“I’ve always thought of our songs as just loud, aggressive and fast folk or country songs”

About a decade ago The Swingin’ Utters looked to be coming to a abrupt end and Darius and Johnny Bonnel went off to form the excellent Filthy Thieving Bastards a Pogues inspired celtic-punk band that went to record three albums and a EP.

Swingin' UttersDarius Koski  abilities as a song writer and musician are undeniable and though fans of the band will mainly associate him with the streetpunk of the Swingin’ Utters he has an uncanny knack of picking up and being able to play a whole multiude of instruments. Guitar, piano, banjo, accordion, violin, glockenspiel, vibraphone, melodica, ukulele and even percussion are all within his grasp and a talent for playing several genres combine to make this, his first solo album, an absolute pleasure to review.

Filty Thieving BastardsFor someone so skilled in playing celtic music it should come as no suprise, in this day and age of musics globalisation and celtic musics popularity around the world, that Darius Koski has no celtic heritage and he is in fact half Persian through his Mammy (‘Darius’ was an old Persian king) while his father is from Finland (‘Koski’ meaning ‘rapids’ in Finnish). The title of the album ‘Sisu’ is a Finnish word without an English translation, but is considered to represent the idea of perseverance in the face of adversity.

“my parents didn’t give me cars or expensive things like that but they gave me work ethic. It’s almost a cliche. Your parents are immigrants, they have work ethic, but it’s true, absolutely”

Some of these songs have been swimming around in Darius head for over ten years so with a Utters tour just finished he found the time between crawling under houses in his 9-5 job and his other projects to get ‘Sisu’ recorded. It seems that every punk rock band vocalist fancies himself as a country singer at the moment ( must say though I’m a big fan of the majority of them) and while I’m sure for most its a way to pay the bills with the workrate that the Swingin’ Utters keep up and holding down a day job I’m amazed Darius has found the time.

The first of the albums tracks is ‘Fond Of, Lost To’ and sees Darius start off with one of the albums most standout tracks with fast strumming acoustic guitar and a country twang. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the whole album is full of foot tappers though as he follows up with ‘Empty Thing’, a 50s inspired croon, while ‘On Leaving’ comes across as a 40’s inspired folk number.
No musical stone is left unturned and ‘Listen!’ is over virtually as soon as it begins with a jaunty wee tune while ‘The Sound Of Waves’ slows it down and is one of the first tracks on this album that was written back in 1999. Darius only got the inspiration to finally record the track when he realised he had enough songs and the motivation to record an album.
“I’ve been seriously really frustrated and tortured about this for a really long time, and I was procrastinating to the point where it really got depressing, I’ve been meaning to do something for the last seven or eight years”
‘Paper Tigers, Plastic Lions’ is another standout track in the sense that yes its a great song but also because of the violin, organ and piano make up of the track and the haunting gothic-folk undertones that reminded me of English folk-pop group The Band Of Holy Joy.  ‘Howls From The Gale’ livens up again with the foot tapping back again and this time head nodding added!   At last the accordian gets an airing in the flyaway ‘Sidewalk Serenade’ and the celticness is not far away. A beautiful instrumental backed by a gently strummed guitar. It could explode any minute into celtic punk but I suppose we’ll have to wait for the next Dirty Thieving Bastards album for that.
Finland
‘Bells’ is possibly the albums first foray into what could be described as a traditional country song. Even then there’s enough going on to mix in several genres as well. ‘Do Nothin’ is a speedy folky number about doing anything rather that go to work. ‘Contacts And Contracts’ is another song that was originally written back in 1999 and shows that things haven’t changed much in the years since. I have to say even though I like the whole album its the faster tracks that really got to me and ‘Show Me The Way’ is a perfect example. Fast guitar, tuneful and catchy chorus and a country twang that doesn’t go too far but far enough you could still squeeze the phrase ‘Honky Tonk’ in there somewhere! ‘So Help Me’ slows it all down with just the guitar and voice before another class song jumps out and the Sun Records era ‘Tension Tank’ comes fast and furious at you and The Man In Black will I am sure be tapping his toes with a huge grin. The final track is ‘Everybody Leaves’ and brings down the curtain with a slow and beautifully heartfelt song that is the standout of the LP’s slower paced songs.
“I’m always just passing through, I’m always on the move”
This record stands as a tribute to Darius versatility. ‘Sisu’ boasts all the hallmarks of a Swingin’ Utters record but laid out in a style which can be appreciated by both fans of his punk band and his celtic-punk band and also people who had never heard of him. Highly original while at the same time showing a respect to the traditions that came before. Encompassing country, blues, acoustic, indie, bluegrass and both American and Irish folk music its his sincere approach to music coupled with him being an amazingly talented musician and his wonderful poetic lyrics that make this album a must have.
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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

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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.