Category Archives: Country

ALBUM REVIEW: PADDY MURPHY- ‘Rams Rebels Goats And Girls’ (2020)

If you want to indulge in Celtic Folk Rock, you will definitely take pleasure in Paddy Murphy. Homesickness, the struggle for freedom, sailor’s yarns, love of the odd drink and the rebellious Irish spirit coming together in a musical whirlwind from Austria!

With the popularity of Celtic-Punk in Germany second to none it’s perhaps no surprise that this love should have spread to their next door neighbours in Austria. Still it’s not a country particularly well endowed with bands with only Scotch from Weyer in Upper Austria making a mark upon the scene (their fantastic debut EP Last In The Bar is still available for free download). In common with the bands from Germany Paddy Murphy (a band not a fella!) don’t just perform straight up Celtic-Punk but rather their own interpretation. An individualist streak that flows through the scene that manages to stop bands being too samey.

In common with Scotch Paddy Murphy also hail from Upper Austria in particular the town of Steyr and though they not be particularly well known this side of the English channel in Europe they have a strong pedigree of touring going back well over a decade. Paddy Murphy have been taking their brand of Irish Speed ​​Folk Rock as they describe it themselves to a multitude of festivals across Germany, France and Switzerland in particular and headlined to tens of thousands at festivals in Italy in Padova and Rasa. Founded in 2008 Rams, Rebels, Goats & Girls is Paddy Murphy’s third studio album after 2012’s Dog’s Dinner and 2014’s Coffin Ship. Both of which you can hear on their Web-Site. They also released a handful of singles and EP’s over the last few years (all with absolutely stunning artwork most featuring their logo of a goat!) which has boosted their popularity with a great selection of covers and original material.

Paddy Murphy from left to right: Florian Aufreiter – Drums * Franz Höfler – Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin, Irish-Bouzouki, Harp, Vocals * Ingolf Wolfsegger – Bass, Vocals * Hermann Hartl – Fiddle, Vocals * Oliver Loy – Electric Guitar, Vocals

Rams, Rebels, Goats & Girls was released in early March and came out on ATS Records. It’s been sitting round LCP Towers ever since and due to a mix up over who was going to do it it never got the review it deserved at the time. Still hopefully this will make up for it! Fourteen songs (the CD has a extra two live tracks) in total that comes to just under a hour about that green island, women, whiskey and Guinness! The album begins with ‘We Hoist The Sail’ and bursts with energy out of the speakers and if its top quality Celtic-Punk you are after then you have come to the right place my friends. Echos of fellow German bands The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats and The Feelgood MacLouds but this band have their own style. A great opener and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Franz Höfler certainly knows his history of Ireland in a song that even uses the popular Irish term ‘Amerikay’. ‘My Dark Foamy Friend’ is a song that has a dual meaning of the sea or the pint but I know which one is preferred! Released as a single it reached over 20,000 listeners within a few weeks on Spotify. I have to say that the fiddle on this album is absolutely brilliant so hats off to Hermann Hartl for his incredible work. It is seriously some of the best fiddle I have ever heard on a Celtic-Punk album and i Happy to hear it used extensively throughout the thirteen tracks. ‘Black Ones Brown Ones Blond Redhead’ is another dual song meaning beer and this time women and this time they prefer women to beer! Fast and energetic and whats that I hear its the harmonica one of my favourite instruments and criminally underused in Celtic-Punk.  When I first played this album the next track stood out on its own. Paddy Murphy like their own stuff but are not averse to the odd cover and their ‘Basket Case’ by Green Day done Irish style and it is an absolute belter of a song! Give it a listen and be hooked.

Very clever and highly original it is a great choice of song and makes a change from ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’. If I’ve played this song once I’ve played it a 1,000 times. Another couple of drinking songs follow telling the different sides of life ‘Just One Drink’ is a jaunty wee number while ‘Time to Make Some Changes’ sees a life in turmoil on a visit to Ireland. Slow, sad and swirling in that traditional Irish way that makes you want to put your arms around a complete stranger (even in these strange times!). Who said Celtic-Punk can’t do emotional? We do it better than fecking anyone! Time for a famous song and they don’t come more famous than ‘The Irish Rover’. Known to everyone and covered by just about everyone too. They make a decent job of it nothing particularly special but you know if you heard this down the pub you’d be banging on tables and shouting your lungs out along to it. The Country influenced ‘At Least for Tonight’ is catchy as hell. What I call a thigh slapper.

“Get up and dance and drink all night”

‘American Dreams’ is the albums longest song heading towards six minutes and not for one second outlives its welcome. Franz again opens up and his aching vocals make for a great song. Irish themes abound and one of the standout things about this album is the quality of the lyrics. Pure poetry and proper story telling whether its a pub song’ or a Punk-Rock thrasher. We in Pop-Punk territory next with ‘You’ll Never Bring Us Down’ with the Celtic competing with the Punk. The song ends with being both and will be a real dance floor filler once we’re allowed back on the dance floor that is.

So we’ve had quite the album so far that has taken us around the Celtic-Punk scene and it’s many influences and they may have almost gone ballad in places they deliver it next with ‘The Cliffs of Grey’. A beautiful and touching yet haunting ballad whose depth will shock those here only for the drinking songs. After that the aptly titled ‘Gloomlifter Jig’ shows Paddy Murphy have even more left in their arsenal with a perfect traditional Irish that soon enough sees the electric side of the band coming in and we end up with a song that would have graced any Horslips album. Another catchy as hell number on a album where their is absolutely no filler at all. Each song is of an incredibly high standard and it’s no surprise why when you trawl their photos on Facebook their live gigs are always packed out. The work for Rams, Rebels, Goats & Girls began a whole year before its release and the hard work shows. ‘Epic Scene of Life’ is a perfect example of their sound.

Uplifting and bursting with energy and at all times refreshing in a scene that as I said can be a bit samey. The curtain comes down on the album with a amazing version of Scottish singer-songwriter Eric Bogle’s ‘No Man’s Land’, probably better known as ‘The Green Fields Of France Written in 1976 it’s message is ever lasting sadly and here Paddy Murphy perform one of the best versions I have ever heard. Bagpipes add to the songs emotional roller-coaster and is the perfect way to see the album out.

Irish and Celtic music appeals to people of all ages and nationalities. That is what is really special about it and Paddy Murphy are immersed in that sound and this Austrian Irish Folk-Rock Band is committed to continuing that tradition! Celtic-Punk is often derided or misunderstood by Irish Folk snobs purists who think the artists are more influenced by Sid Vicious than Matt Molloy but this is a direct descendant of the music played in Ireland 100’s of years ago. That they can keep that tradition while also throwing in the Punk/Rock sound they have is testament to the bands outstanding musical ability. Fiddle, banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar, bodhran, drums, electric bass, electric guitar and five male voices have made this album what it is and it would be a act of criminal negligence for the Irish music scene and its fans to pass it by.

Buy Rams Rebels Goats & Girls – CD- FromTheBand   ATS Records  Download- AppleMusic  

Contact Paddy Murphy – WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact The Jamestown Brothers  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

THE TOP TEN ANTI WAR SONGS

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

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

By

Starting at number ten we have….

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

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

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

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

9. ‘Jimmy Newman’ – Tom Paxton

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

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

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

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

“I never knew there were worse things than dying”

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

7. ‘Machine Gun’ – Jimi Hendrix

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

6. ‘Universal Soldier’ – Buffy Saint-Marie

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

5. ‘Between The Wars’ – Billy Bragg

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. ‘Masters Of War’ – Bob Dylan

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

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

2. ‘What’s Going On?’ – Marvin Gaye

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

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

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

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

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

First published on These Things Too. Thanks to Stan.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: SONGS FOR POLITICAL ACTION- FOLK MUSIC, TOPICAL SONGS AND THE AMERICAN LEFT

Long since out of reach for those that would most benefit from hearing it this 10 CD collection of near 300 rare political songs from between 1926-1953 is as perfect a package as could possibly be. Released on the German-based Bear Family label it features songs from folk singers Almanac Singers, Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Woody Guthrie and many others, and also bluesmen  like Josh White and Brownie McGhee.

This description from the Bear Family Records catalogue places the collection in a concise context:

“Maybe it didn’t bring about the social and economic equality that it strove for, but the American Left of the 1930’s and 1940’s did leave one lasting legacy: the urban folk song revival. The discs offer a comprehensive overview of this enduring music, from the labor choruses and New York’s socially conscious theatrical scene of the 1930’s, to the Almanac Singers postwar idealism of People’s Songs and ends with the disturbing anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era.”

This set is incredible. As simple as that. A treasure trove that contains historical recordings that could otherwise have been lost to posterity. If anyone has ever said a truer thing than “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it” then I’d like to hear it! While the Left failed to achieve any real lasting change in the States the one place they did have significant presence was in music. A band like the Almanac Singers’ politically charged influence still resonates through today’s singer-songwriters. The idealism and hope on these recordings came to an abrupt end with the anti-Left McCarthy era that silenced many of these talented, dedicated performers. Containing Folk music, of course, but their are also cowboy songs, country songs, blues and country-blues and if nothing else they destroy the stereotype of the dry and humourless political song.

(to find the download click on the Disc number highlighted in RED)

Disc One: The Leftist Roots Of The Folk Revival

Primarily given over to the oldest union songs and farm-related protest songs. The sound quality on most of the material in this set is astonishingly good

DISC 1

Disc Two: Theatre And Cabaret Performers: 1936-1941

DISC 2

Disc Three: The Almanac Singers: March 1941 – July 1941

Disc Four: Fighting The Fascists: 1942-1944

Disc Three is given over to the Almanac Singers; this body of work was recorded when the official Communist Party line (to which they adhered) was non-aggression against Nazi Germany. The music on Disc Four was surprisingly complex, given the spartan conditions under which a lot of it was done.

DISC 3 AND 4

Disc Five: World War II And The Folk Revival

Disc Six: The People’s Songs Era: 1945-1949

Disc 5 features artists like Earl Robinson, Sir Lancelot, Vern Partlow, Tom Glazer and Woody Guthrie while Disc 6 is dedicated to artists like Josh White, Lee Hays, Lord Invader, Malivna Reynolds and others.

DISC 5 AND 6

Disc Seven: Pete Seeger: 1946-1948

Disc Eight: Charter Records: 1946-1949

Disc seven is mostly made up of Seeger’s masterpieces Roll The Union On and Songs For Political Action. This collection is made up of many things from the personal archives of Pete Seeger, old recordings and photos not found anywhere else. Eight compiles songs from the famed folk and blues record label Charter Records.

DISC 7 AND 8

Disc Nine: Campaign Songs: 1944-1949

Disc Ten: An Era Closes: 1949-1953

Disc nine represents the last significant cohesive body of topical political songs to come from the American left while by the time of disc ten the Left couldn’t do more than snipe at the reactionaries setting the agenda and the passive moderates who stood by.

DISC 9 AND 10

The full package is not just the ten CD’s it is accompanied by a 200-page + hardcover book featuring historical and musical essays, photographs, session information and lyrics – one of the finest documents of the relationship between music and politics of the period that has ever been published.

Listen to little known, or remembered, songs like ‘I’m Going To Organize, Baby Mine’, ‘Commonwealth Of Toil’, ‘Write Me Out My Union Card’, ‘Bad Housing Blues’, ‘Swingin’ On A Scab’, ‘Talking Un-American Blues’, ‘Unemployment Compensation Blues’ through to more famous songs like ‘Which Side Are You On?’ and ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and what you are actually listening to is pure unadulterated American history. These days when the American Left is obsessed with identity politics that divides people rather than bring them together and is separated from the wider working class its hard to imagine a time when working people fought and died for simple things like a living wage, voting rights, the right to organize, and the dignity of the average American. The modern Left’s hatred for all things American is a far cry from the patriotism and passion and love for America found on these discs. It is fitting that the last song on the collection is Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’.  This passion for America, and a stubborn refusal to accept nothing less than America’s promise of a fundamental fairness, rests right on the surface of lyrics like:

“Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
This land was made for you and me.

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.”

For more like this…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Classic Fadeout  FromTheBand

Contact The Stanfields  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

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

TEN OF THE BEST PERFORMANCES FROM THE JOHNNY CASH SHOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison – ‘Pretty Woman’

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

Johnny Cash – ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’

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

Ray Charles – ‘Ring Of Fire’

Creedence Clearwater Revival – ‘Bad Moon Rising’

Stevie Wonder – ‘Heaven Help Us All’

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

Johnny Cash – ‘Man In Black’

Johnny Cash  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  The Johnny Cash Trail  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Nowherebound  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

Buy Mourning Glory  Vinyl/T-Shirts DrunkenShipRecords  Download Bandcamp

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

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

ROSIER- ‘Self-Titled’ EP

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

THE LUCKY EEJITS- ‘Out Of Time’

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

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

Contact The Lucky Eejits-  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

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

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

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

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

HEATHEN APOSTLES- ‘Born By Lightning’ EP

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

Contact Heathen Apostles  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

So ends the first part of our 2019 Round-Up’s and again apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still missed some fantastic music I am sure so all the more reason to send us your releases to review. We are also always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. And finally if you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(You can stream Chemicals on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Chemicals  Vinyl/CD  Download

Contact Donny Zuzula  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show  Facebook

Musical Bear Records  WebSite  YouTube  Facebook  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Where We Are  PhysicalCD  Download

Contact 6’10  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Volume 1  Here  Contact Bradley Palermo WebSite  Facebook  Soundcloud  Instagram

EP REVIEW: THE CLAN- ‘Quattro Giorni Fuori Porta’ (2019)

Another release from one of the most productive and popular bands in Celtic-Punk. The Clan from Italy balance high tempo folk and country alongside Celtic-Punk to make one of the best records of the year so far.

It has been a funny week in the world of Celtic-Punk! Fresh from catching the superb Dropkick Murphys live in London last Friday two EP’s land on our doorstep on the same morning from very well respected Italian Celtic-Punk bands. The first was from this band, The Clan. One of the first bands heard and a band that has featured several times on these pages with previous album reviews. The second was a relatively new band The Rumpled who arrived on the scene properly in 2014 but it was with last years highly rated Ashes & Wishes album featuring guest vocals from The Rumjacks Frankie McLaughlin.

But more on The Rumpled later in the week for now we have The Clan. Probably the better known of the Italian bands in the scene. Along with bands like The Clan and The Rumpled, Modena City Ramblers, Kitchen Implosion, Dirty Artichokes and Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards all the Italian bands share a deep love for Ireland and it’s culture and musical traditions. If Celtic-Punk was about taking the folk tradition and the punk tradition , moulding them together but still staying true to those traditions then it is the Italians who do the job best. There is a sort of generic Celtic music that incorporates music from all the Celtic nations and though instantly recognisable as Celtic-Punk it doesn’t belong to one place in particular. The Italian bands are different and has produced a truly unique style of Irish music. The Clan hail from the small town of Muggiò in Lombardy which is in the north of Italy and have been together since 2013. With a bunch of fine albums behind them, three in five years, The Clan in 2014, All In The Name Of Folk in 2016 and last years Here To Stay, here on their new EP they have carried on their progression and taken a new direction to forsake English and decided to record the EP’s four songs in their native language. It’s understandable that bands think they need to sing in English, with the vast majority of Celtic-Punks fanbase in English speaking countries, but we have long been supporters of native languages so sing on Bhoys. We’ll still get it you know. 

The title of the EP is Quattro Giorni Fuori Porta which translated into English means Four Days Out Of Door and though it only has four songs they are sung and played with the same passion that The Clan are renowned for. To this par of big Irish ears the words, sung by guitarist/mandolin player Angelo, sound great. Italian is famous for being a beautiful language and it fits the music here perfectly. The music itself flits from Celtic to upbeat Country and Folk and sounds jolly and fun though the subjects contained in the songs are not always! The EP begins with ‘Il Giorno Più Freddo Dell’anno’ (The Coldest Day Of The Year’) which is a song about animal-rights, a subject The Clan have visited before and a cause close to their hearts. The longest song here at over four minutes its sound leans heavily on Francesco’s fiddle and is against hunting as it tells of a day spent with a mother and her puppies out in the wild. The sound sits fairly perfectly between Country and Celtic but as with The Clan they don’t make music to stand still to! They follow this up with ‘Il Giorno Con Te’ (‘The Day With You’) and the bands sound is perfect with Francisco’s fiddle again leading but venturing from manic to melancholy and while it is annoying not to know what the words are about this is only because The Clan have nailed it on their lyrics in the past and I have always enjoyed reading them. Still it’s a small price to pay to hear the songs sung as they should be. ‘Il Giorno Prima Di Morire’ (‘The Day Before Dying’) keeps the tempo right up and is a hymn to freedom. The time we have here on earth is fleeting and we must each make the most of all we have. Catchy, fast and passionate it’s another corker and leads us nicely onto the final track ‘Il Giorno Migliore’ (‘The Best Day’) which, for me, is the standout track here with its upbeat  sound that would move even the shyest mans feet!

The Clan have announced their may well be an English version of this EP but for now this is to show their appreciation to their Italian fan base and why not? The balance they have between genres is quite the feat and yet they still remain at heart a Celtic-Punk band more in the acoustic tradition say of Flogging Molly but with a sound all of their own making. The Clan have carved out quite the movement behind them thanks to intelligent lyrics, well made videos, respect for folk tradition and the love of a bloody good time! In common with those previous releases it’s been excellently produced and the whole band shine through. This is a great EP and though part of me is looking forward to hearing the English versions another part wants to leave it like this.

Buy Quattro Giorni Fuori Porta  Spotify  iTunes  Amazon  Deezer

Contact The Clan  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram  Twitter  ReverbNation

There’s an interview with The Clan here at Traks magazine where you can play the whole EP. I couldn’t work out how to embed the EP from Spotify! Remember to translate from Italian though!!

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

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

THE CHERRY COKE$- ‘The Answer’  (Buy)

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

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

Contact The Cherry Coke$-  Facebook  LastFM  YouTube

THE GODDAMN GALLOWS- The Trail  (Buy)

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

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

Contact The Goddamn Gallows-  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Spotify

RAILROAD EARTH- Captain Nowhere EP  (Buy)

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

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

(The band live in concert at Red Rocks Festival)

Contact Railroad Earth-  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Soundcloud

So ends the third and final part of our 2018 Round-Up’s. We are guaranteed to have still missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send us your releases to review. We are also always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending on how you are viewing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Veracity

FromTheBand

Contact Tan And Sober Gentlemen

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

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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

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

FREE DOWNLOAD

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

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE KIDDING MR. HITLER?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To download Kickin’ Hitler’s Butt click

HERE  OR HERE

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

Any download link problems leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ALBUM REVIEW- 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.

Buy The Good, The Bad And The Indifferent

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Contact Black Irish Texas

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  ReverbNation and of course MySpace where it all began for me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get West Is East

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Contact Follow The Crows

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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

Buy The Album

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Contact The Band

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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…

WITH FREE DOWNLOAD!!

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

johnny-cash-christmas

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

cash-christmas

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

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

The Christmas Spirit by Johnny Cash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cash-and-june

Johnny and June

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

FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK HERE

cash-csc

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

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

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

(if any links are broken please leave a comment and we will try and 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.
Buy The EP
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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)

WATCH REVENGE OF THE MEKONS

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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’