Category Archives: Finland

ALBUM REVIEW: ANGRY McFINN AND THE OLD YANK- ‘Songs of Whiskey, Women & War’ (2019)

Two Finns, A Yank and three Japanese making Irish flavoured tunes in the craziest city in the world.

A group of drunken musician from all over the world who met up in Tokyo to play aggressive Celtic-Folk-Rock telling tales of drinking, relationships and war.

Angry McFinn And The Old Yank were formed in the Japanese capital of Tokyo in May 2014 by Irish-American Dean Lewis. Dean had grown up listening to a sweet mixture of Appalachian country music and The Beatles. From the age of five he was writing poems and songs so fast forward to the adult Dean and he could be found in the famous bars and clubs of the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Then after a visit to Tokyo and falling in love with the city he turned his back on his old life and packed his bags and set off for a new life. Settling into his new life playing the occasional solo gig he had continued to write songs and so it meant to sense to start thinking of playing them so one night in 2014 near the famous Nihonbashi Bridge, Dean was chatting to an auld friend, a Finn named Petja Marttinen. Now despite knowing Petja for years he had never mentioned before that he was a classically trained musician who had even spent time in Ireland playing jigs and reels in local Irish bands. So as they chatted over a few pints of Guinness Dean asked Petja if he knew anyone interested in playing traditional Irish and American folk music with an attitude? Petja quietly said, “I know someone” and so Angry McFinn The The Old Yank was born that very night. Over the next few years the band grew quickly and with the the band now consisting of a stable and regular line up of Dean Lewis on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Petja Martinnen on mandolin and fiddle, Yosuke Iwanaga on fiddle, fellow Finn, Petteri Pussinen on electric guitar, Nobu Kimura on bass guitar and Giant Sakimura on drums and bodhran. Regular gigs around the city saw their reputation flourish and so it was time for them to get some recording done and the result has been their debut album Songs of Whiskey, Women And War.

(Opening their set at their spiritual home the What the Dickens pub in Tokyo. May 2018)

The album begins with ‘Seamus’ and from the very off you know what’s coming over the next three quarters of an hour. Gaelic fiddle over fast paced Irish tinged folk music that builds and builds and gives plenty of scope for some audience participation too. I bet this goes down well at live gigs. The song tells of Seamus T. O’Malley a brave son of Ireland from Boston who took his fight to the Germans in WW2 and kicked everyone’s arse but still ended up answering to a French girl in France. Another sad one next with ‘Bitter’ but wrapped again in a joyous romp of a song and told with a bit of black humour of a relationship breakdown. The fiddle is more reserved here leaving the mandolin to take the lead alongside Dean’s great vocals. His love of Appalachian country shines through and here on ‘Bitter’ where the music is clearly influenced by Country music it works absolutely perfectly which is not to say he can’t belt out a Celtic-Punker with the best of them!

The pace returns with ‘Making Whiskey’ and the tale of making the “water of life” again its influenced by Country but the Gaelic is never too far away. It’s catchy stuff and reminds me of fellow Japanese bands The Cherry Coke$ and Royal Shamrock and even though the style of music is different they all play with a wild abandon that is a joy to listen to. That said on ‘Burn’ they slow it right down and as we know no Celtic-Punk album is complete without a couple of sad ballads! Adding in some heavy guitar licks and some fantastic fiddle alongside Deans mournful voice keeps the toes tapping (or thigh slapping in my case) while the songs builds towards the end and ends loud and proud. One of the highlights of the album without a doubt. ‘Never Was Your Friend’ starts off slow but soon kicks into another Celtic knees-up with more bitter tale of life and the shite you have to put up with just to get by. The album’s only cover is up next and is a good choice in the wonderful anti-war song ‘Mrs. McGrath’ with its fantastic chorus. Recently made famous by The Boss himself (here on You Tube) on his 2006 roots album We Shall Overcome. Brought to the USA during an Gorta Mór (the great hunger) in the mid-19th century the song is soon adapted as a marching song by Irish soldiers fighting in the American Civil War.

The version here sails closely to both the Bruce Springsteen version and the more traditional folk standard. An excellent song that portrays the horror of war and its effects with Dean’s voice on the album never better than here. ‘1017’ is next and we are back into the Celtic/Country fusion that has worked so well for Angry McFinn And The Old Yank so far. The mystery of the opposite sex is explored while Dean plays in a bar wondering where all the years have gone. Again its a sad song wrapped up in a real stomper of a tune. One of the outstanding things about this album has been the songwriting and it’s clear that Dean’s experiences across continents has paid dividends. On ‘Sally’ while the song has more than a tinge of Flogging Molly about it to my ear it’s the lyrics that really got me so no excuses for re-printing them all here so you can sing along to the video.

(The video for ‘Sally’ is a early versions of the track on the album. The song here represents the band before fiddle and electric guitar added to the mix)

“Sally, my lovely one, where have you gone? Fair thee well my chosen son, now here’s your gun. We marched all through the winter time. Summer has now come. But Sally, my lovely one is gone. Sally, my chosen one, you’ll not reckon’ me. I’d like to think when we were young that you’d have married me. But a hussar’s blade took away my smile and a dragoon my left eye. Sally, my lovely one, goodbye. Take me away, to the rolling hills of old. Take me away, to where the winter is never cold. Take me away, to the sunlight in her hair. Take me away, take me away from here. Sally, my broken one, I ask one thing of thee. If you’ll do me this one kindness, my soul will be set free. Tell my kin, tell all of them, to drink to me in Hell. Sally, my lovely one farewell. Take me away, to the cherry blossom spring. Take me away, to where my love, she wears my ring. Take me away, to where the guns they ring no more.. Take me away, to where she waits behind my bedroom door. The things I used to do with you, the summer rains, the morning dew. The long walks in the fields of green the way you used to dance and sing. They took away your soft caress, replaced it with a gun and death. They took away my light of day, now only pain and sin remain. So not the part I longed to play, a false flag led me far astray. They took my heart, took my name, and took away every damn thing that day. They took you away.”

We are sailing up to shore and the penultimate song ‘Whiskey & Blood’ is the album’s second ‘ballad’. A it of epic as at just over six minutes it’s the longest song on Whiskey, Women And War but the vast majority of songs here all hover around the four and half minute mark giving them plenty of scope to develop. A slow song that belies it’s length and seems over far too quickly leaving us with just ‘Pirate’s Life For Me’ to wrap the album up. Another one that’s a bit of a epic at five and a half minutes and winds proceedings up nicely with a lively and jolly sea bound number.

Angry McFinn And The Old Yank left to right: Yo Iwanaga – Fiddle * Petja Marttinen – Mandolin *  Dean Lewis – Vocals/Acoustic Guitar * G’ian Sakimura – Drums * Nobu Kimura – Bass * Hubert Benke – Electric Guitar * (electric guitar on album was – Petteri Pussinen)

Loud and brash but often quiet and reflective Angry McFinn And The Old Yank have produced an outstanding debut album and though it makes for an emotional ride it’s also played for fun with I am sure audiences cheerfully singing along and relating to the songs. Watch out for these Bhoys they are going places!

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SINGLE REVIEW: LORETTA PROBLEM (featuring Juha Lagström)- ‘The Waltz Of My Drunken Dream’ (2019)

Wow! What to say except that Finland’s Loretta Problem have hit the jackpot here with their new single. I think it’s  no exaggeration to say it’s a song that The Pogues would have been proud to record! Featuring Juha Lagström on vocals ‘The Waltz Of My Drunken Dream’ is perhaps Loretta Problem’s most influenced Irish folk song and I can’t wait to hear more of them! 

Loretta Problem have featured on these pages several times in their past with their Scandinavian/ Celtic flavoured punk rock and back in the beginning we even had them labelled as “not one of the most prolific bands in the celtic-punk scene but certainly one of the more interesting”. Well we will have to change that I think. They may still be one of the more interesting and innovative bands around in the scene but the last few years have seen more than regular releases hitting our doorstep/e-mail tray seeing them fit more in the last handful of years than the previous two decades!. Formed in the tiny Finish town of Vaasa in 1994 and yes Finland may be more famous for death-metal but such is the booming popularity of Celtic-Punk that you’ll always find one band representing everywhere and for Finland it is Loretta Problem. All the Nordic countries seem to have healthy alternative music scenes and appear to be much more open to each others music. Loretta Problem have released one album and a handful of singles in their time together which spread over those two decades plus may not be much but for well over a decade Loretta Problem took a back seat while the various band members were working on other projects like families or in other bands. Getting together to play every now and then at the odd gig or festival the band eventually regrouped and Loretta Problem have now become a permanent fixture on the music scene in their home country and, with every release, further afield too.

I sit and drink through rainy days
And after all what can I say?
Not sure ’bout God but when you pray
Pray for me too
Pray for me too

I lose out babe, reeled from the start
I’m lost, my love, somewhere in my heart
Please keep your faith, stay as you are
Shine like a star
Shine like a star

We waltz till the dawn under darkening skies
The steeples keep silent, the wind’s blowing by
Your eyes bring the light upon this falling night.
The ragged silver screen
of my drunken dream
…my drunken dream

One  for the road, one for yesterday
One more for hope and for this sad day
Not sure ’bout God but when you pray
Pray for me too
Pray for me too

We waltz till the dawn under darkening skies
The steeples keep silent, the wind’s blowing by
Your eyes bring the light upon this falling night.
The ragged silver screen
of my drunken dream
…   my drunken dream
….  my drunken dream
….. my drunken dream

One listen to ‘The Waltz Of My Drunken Dream’ will I am sure be more than enough for you all to fall in love with Loretta Problem though it is quite the departure from their usual fare. Punk rock with fiddle and the odd Celtic flourish is normal but here they try something new and by Christ it has worked! With the devilishly good looking Finish actor and singer (and former bandmate) Juha Lagström on vocals and aided by visiting musicians Lauri Kotamäki on accordion and Petri Judin on tin-whistle the song has an unmistakable Poguesy air to it but without any attempt at being a copy of them. Juha’s voice is strong and powerful and he cuts a more than menacing figure in the excellent accompanying video too.

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NEW SINGLE FROM FINLAND FOLK-PUNKERS LORETTA PROBLEM

 Finnish celtic-punks Loretta Problem have been together for over twenty years and are happy to offer up London Celtic Punks readers a free download of their fabulous new single ‘Welcome To The Circus’.

Not one of the most prolific bands in the celtic-punk scene but certainly one of the more interesting. Loretta Problem hail from the death-metal loving fjord’s of Finland and are the sole representative’s of celtic-punk in their country. Like the other Nordic countries there are well established and popular punk and metal scene’s so should come as no surprise that celtic-punk would make an appearance. Loretta Problem have released one album and two singles in their time together which admittedly is not a lot to show for over twenty years together but for over a decade Loretta Problem took a back seat while the various band members were working on other projects like families or in other bands. They still got together to play at a select handful of gigs and festivals every year but regrouped about 2-3 years ago, and have reached the point now where they are ready to fully relaunch the band.

Their new single ‘Welcome To The Circus’ was released a few weeks back but we were waiting on the accompanying video to give it a well deserved plug so here it it. Sounding better than ever the single moves away slightly from their earlier stuff which had a certain metal influence toward a more folky sound akin to what I use to call festival folk. These days that sound is represented by the likes of The Levellers, New Model Army and Ferocious Dog. Well played anthemic punk rock with great fiddle from Tarja throughout. Clear vocals sung in English that completely suit the music but don’t waste time listening to me just have a listen I’m sure you won’t be disappointed! The celtic tone still remains, as well as big hearted punk attitude with fistful of middle fingers!

Loretta Problem have been together now since 1994 and have never stood still but instead have had constant development as a band. You won’t hear the Fields Of Athenry here but instead you will get some great folk’n’punk which takes Celtic music and even celtic-punk and puts a different spin on it. A fantastic single catchy and full of energy and life that leaves us only wanting more. You can hear their back catalogue over at their Spotify account here but follow the link below to get a free download of Welcome To The Circus.

Download The Single FromTheBand

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  • We reviewed an earlier single from Loretta Problem back in 2015 which you can find here.

SINGLE REVIEW: LORETTA PROBLEM- ‘Justice Or Crime’ (2015)

A bunch of Finnish punks and hippies mixing celtic tunes with punk-rock since 1994.

Loretta Problem- 'Justice Or Crime' (2015)

Peace, love and a fistful of middle fingers when needed!

Doing this blog has certainly opened my eyes to the spread of celtic music across the world. Not only with the celtic diaspora re-connecting with their roots but among people with none of those roots in the celtic nations. One country that I had never come across in celtic-punk though was Finland. That changed a month ago when the new single from Loretta Problem turned up in London Celtic Punks HQ. Finland is a music loving country but perhaps is best known here for their Eurovision winners back in 2006 when death metal band Lordi stormed to victory. There is a renowned punk and metal scene much like the other Nordic countries so it should come as no surprise that celtic-punk would make an appearance.What is surprising though is that that band should have been around for over twenty years!

Loretta Problem have only had three releases in all that time with an album and two singles, not much to show admittedly but then Loretta Problem have always prided themselves on being primarily a live band. Their most active period was between 1994 and 1997 and these days they play for fun at a select handful of gigs and festivals every year.

The music itself is well played celtic-punk with with some celtic metal influences thrown in as well. Their sound has adapted and changed over the years and you can hear that development yourselves as the band have kindly put all their releases on Spotify for you to listen for free.

“Once a man ran away from the army
I’m so tired of killing that’s all
I found it so unnecessary cause there’s no winner in war

Judges were noble and fair
War heroes with medals and tails
they put him away without glory and forgot that man in jail

He met her on the street and raped her
laughing all the time just like that
that girl was so young and pretty and the man he was rich and fat

So she cut off his balls and put knife through her heart
oh yes she wanted to die
she was lying in a grave of her own and people wondered why

Justice or crime, what’s right and what’s wrong
justice or crime, well just sing along
the drums are banging so lets start the hanging
and justice wins once again

Justice or crime, who deserves hell
justice or crime, the jury members yell
the drums are banging so lets start the hanging
and justice wins once again

Hey this was only another song of unfairness of life
where everything’s already lost and pens are weaker than knives
Sometimes I hope there would be God waiting for the judgement day
but I’m afraid the winner’s the devil who has taken us all the way

Justice or crime…”

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So click above to hear everything Loretta Problem have ever released.

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