Category Archives: Folk

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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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: PHIL OCHS- ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ (1965)

The ultimate 60’s folk singing radical who put protest songs on the map and wrote the most sincere and provocative material of his day. I Ain’t Marching Anymore is Phil Ochs’ second LP and includes the awe inspiring title track that defined a generation.

There were those who fought and those who fought against the Vietnam War and Phil Ochs was the latter. He wrote the best song of the war, the title track of this album, which tells the tale of a soldier who has fought in all the wars throughout American history from 1812 to the Civil War right up to the World Wars of the 20th century but who now chooses to lay down his arms. The release of I Ain’t Marching Anymore became a defining moment during the War and catapulted Phil Ochs into the unofficial leadership of the anti-war movement.

“Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans
At the end of the early British war
The young land started growing
The young blood started flowing
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I’ve killed my share of Indians
In a thousand different fights
I was there at the Little Big Horn
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying
But I ain’t marching anymore

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes, I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh, I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain’t marching anymore

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning I knew that I was learning
That I ain’t marching anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
When they close the missile plants
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore
Call it, peace, or call it, treason
Call it, love, or call it, reason
But I ain’t marching anymore
No, I ain’t marching anymore”

Phil Ochs was born Philip David Ochs in El Paso, Texas, in 1940 to a New York doctor Dad and a Scottish Mammy. His father joined the army in WW2 treating soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge. His shocking experiences there would lead to mental health issues and in November 1945 he received an honorable medical. On returning home he would in later years suffer from bipolar disorder and depression, things that would later haunt his son too. Phil had dropped out of university and his interest in folk music and politics would see him move to New York in 1962 where he would become a fixture in the burgeoning Greenwich folk scene.

His debut release, 1964’s All the News That’s Fit to Sing, was the album that defined what he called his ‘singing journalist’ phase, strewn with songs whose roots were pulled from Newsweek. A year later Phil Ochs would release I Ain’t Marching Anymore, twelve original Ochs compositions plus a cover of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Ballad of the Carpenter and a version of ‘The Highwayman’ by the English poet Alfred Noyes set to music. The most notable was of course the title track but also ‘Here’s To The State Of Mississippi’, a six minute long biting attack on the states attitude to race relations. There is humour wrapped up in social commentary as on ‘Draft Dodger Rag’ where he rips a new one on those who cheer leaded the war while using any means necessary to get out of fighting themselves. ‘That Was The President’ is a loving tribute to John Kennedy written not long after his assassination. In the album’s liner notes he adds that his Marxist friends could not understand why he written this song and this was one of the reasons he couldn’t be a Marxist. His socialist sympathies showed with ‘The Men Behind The Guns’ but he also courted controversy among his left-wing fans when on ‘That’s What I Want to Hear’ he tells a jobless worker to stop moaning and fight. He also rails against the death penalty with ‘The Iron Lady’ with its memorable line

“And a rich man never died upon the chair”

but Phil Ochs had a way of softening the message and making it accessible and where some may have indeed be turned away by his politics many were charmed by him and the sentiment he would readily employ to great effect. We are happy to be able to bring you a free download of this landmark album that also includes an electric version of ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ which was originally released as a single in the UK. Simply skip to the bottom and follow the link.

In the early ’60s Phil was as well known as Bob Dylan but while his albums received critical attention he achieved little commercial success with only a string of minor hits behind him. By the early 70’s Ochs was still recording but his star had waned. His records weren’t selling and even the critical acclaim had dried up. Struggling with both alcoholism and bipolar disorder and distraught at the military coup in Chile, where the popularly elected government of communist president Salvador Allende had been crushed, he was in a downward spiral. He played a handful of shows in 1974 and by all accounts had lost none of his fire or his ability to move a crowd but on April 9th, 1976 aged just 35 Phil Ochs took his own life. As Congresswoman Bella Abzug said in the Congressional Record on April 29, 1976:

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, a young folksinger whose music personified the protest mood of the 1960s took his own life. Phil Ochs—whose original compositions were compelling moral statements against war in Southeast Asia—apparently felt that he had run out of words.

FOR YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD

CLICK HERE

(Phil Ochs appears on Phil appears on Come, Read To Me a Poem on April 12, 1967 in New York City performing two songs and a lengthy interview)

LINER NOTES FOR I AIN’T MARCHING ANYMORE RE-ISSUE

by Richie Unterberger

Phil Ochs’s debut album, 1964’s All the News That’s Fit to Sing (also reissued on CD by Collectors’ Choice Music), established him as one of the foremost folk musicians in the topical singer-songwriter movement. While Ochs would eventually broaden his vision to encompass just as much personal and poetic verse as political protest, 1965’s I Ain’t Marching Anymore contained perhaps his most issue-driven songwriting. Militarism, American imperialism, the Vietnam War, labor struggles, and the explosive conflicts of the Civil Rights movement — one or the other of these concerns were behind the messages of almost every song. If this ensured that some of the pieces would be more dated than Ochs’s subsequent, more diverse repertoire, they also provide something of a snapshot of the mid-1960s social turmoil that both enraged and inspired his generation.

“He was getting better in his writing,” says Elektra founder and president Jac Holzman, who (as he had been on Ochs’s debut) was credited as production supervisor for the LP, with Paul Rothchild billed as recording director. “He was extremely prolific, but there’s a big difference between craft and art. He was becoming much more of a craftsman. It was tough being a songwriter [in that era], because of this 800-pound gorilla, Bob Dylan, who could dash off stuff in no time that was superb.”

That wasn’t stopping, of course, a legion of young singer-songwriters such as Ochs from stepping onto the road that Dylan had done much to pave. “He was angrier,” responds Holzman when asked what set Phil apart from his competition. “But not a nasty anger. But you could hear it. He had more edge. Buffy Sainte-Marie had edge of a different kind; some of her edge was a shrillness. But I think he had righteous edge. [Tom] Paxton was a better songwriter in the strict song sense, and he took a much lighter view of things, which I think sometimes is very effective.”

There was certainly no shortage of topical material for Ochs and Paxton to draw upon, and both were doing a lot of recording for Elektra in the mid-’60s. “There’s another thing that’s important about topical songs, especially on Elektra,” continues Holzman. “We came out with records frequently. We didn’t wait three years, or two years, between releases. Phil Ochs, he could have one out every six months. I learned a lot about the frequency of interaction between an artist and their audience from most of my singer-songwriters. We kept them recording.” Certainly Ochs had plenty of material ready to lay down when he went back into the studio to cut his second album, comprised entirely of original compositions, with the exception of a cover of noted British folk musician Ewan MacColl’s “Ballad of the Carpenter.” (Phil did give co-writing credits to Alfred Noyes on his adaptation of the poem “The Highway Man,” and to John Rooney on another such adaptation, “The Men Behind the Guns.”)

Undoubtedly the song that reached the widest audience was the title cut — not just via Ochs’s recorded version and concerts, but also via its subsequent adaptation as one of the anthems of the anti-Vietnam War movement, sung by crowds at innumerable demonstrations (and still sung at some such events today). “Oh yeah, it was a natural,” laughs Holzman. “It was easy to remember, it was catchy, and it was singable. All of those are good things.” It’s still not well-known that Elektra also had Ochs record an electric folk-rock remake of the song, “hoping to see if we could get some radio on it,” according to Holzman. With backup by the Blues Project (whose Danny Kalb had played second guitar on All the News That’s Fit to Sing), the 1966 single was only issued in the United Kingdom (and also as a flexi-disc with Sing Out! magazine).

The two other tracks on I Ain’t Marching Anymore to make the greatest impact also took on the era’s most controversial outrages. “Draft Dodger Rag” was, like “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” also picked up at many anti-war rallies, demonstrating that Ochs could blast the military with satire as well as earnest declaration. “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” — at nearly six minutes, a very long track for 1965 — generated some controversy of its own, particularly in Ochs’s advice for the state to find another country to which to belong. Phil himself likely remained proud of the song, as he updated it for the Watergate era, retitling the number “Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon” on a 1974 single (the other side of which, incidentally, was an updated version of another number from his early career, “Power and the Glory”).

Though I Ain’t Marching Anymore helped Ochs continue to expand his fan base, it wasn’t the sort of thing that could enter the hit parade. Nonetheless, Holzman has recalled how Phil, rather surprisingly, would constantly inquire about how his records were selling, though at that point his sales were modest and dominated by pockets of enthusiasts in big cities in the Northeast. “I thought that was kind of charming, as a matter of fact,” says Holzman of Ochs’s commercial ambitions. “He was always interested in how he was doing, always comparing himself to somebody else, and that drove him nuts. I think the seeds of it were certainly there at Elektra. I think it was clear to all of us that this is not how you did it, but his illusions did not stop that material from coming. If he had tried to write pop songs or much more popular-oriented songs for Elektra, I wouldn’t have recorded ’em. That’s not where I saw him. I would have given him his release and let him go elsewhere.”

Ochs did actually dent the lower reaches of the Billboard charts for the first time with his third and final Elektra album, 1966’s In Concert. Yet this did indeed occasion his release from the label. As Holzman recalled in his autobiography Follow the Music (co-written with Gavan Daws), “We kept him on Elektra for three of the six albums we could contractually claim, and then he asked to be released because he felt we weren’t doing enough for him. In a way that was true, because by then…the whole music scene was shifting away from what Phil did, or at least what he did best, which was the topical political song. With fewer people listening, his personal devils took over.” I Ain’t Marching Anymore, however, captures him at a younger, fresher time, when he was reaching his peak as a master of topical song, even if his artistic restlessness would move him onto different fields as well in the future.

For more on Phil Ochs

PhilOchsHomePage  SonnyOchsHomePage (Phil’s brother)  Shadows That Shine  Wikipedia  AllMusic 

(The best documentary on Phil Ochs on the net. PBS American Masters- Phil Ochs There But For Fortune. Written and directed by Kenneth Bowser)

for more like this…

EP REVIEW AND EP RELEASE SHOW! THE BRANDY THIEVES- ‘The Devil’s Wine’ (2018)

Combining Gypsy rhythms and punk energy, ska grooves and folk storytelling, The Brandy Thieves have created a sound that is uniquely their own, a sound that has stolen the hearts of all of whom that have seen them perform. Stephen Francis Bourke was at the release party at the Soundhouse Leicester for London Celtic Punks.

Already renowned as one of the Midland’s best live acts, The Brandy Thieves gypsy rhythms and punk energy, ska grooves and folk storytelling create a sound that is uniquely their own. ‘Raucous’ ‘Infectious’ ‘Enthralling’ ‘Captivating’ and ‘Sweaty’ are just a few of the words that have been used to describe the alcohol stealing gypsy punks. Now they have taken a new direction, embracing grass roots Americana in the form of new EP ‘The Devil’s Wine’.

Chatting to the punters ahead of the EP, ‘The Devil’s Wine’ launch at the Soundhouse in Leicester it became clear that I was in for “a hellava good show!”. The Brandy Thieves have a varied local fan base from punks that are old enough to remember seeing The Clash at Granby Halls, now a car park for The Tigers Rugby ground, to ska fans who had been encapsulated by the Two Tone launch just up the M69, through to ex-ravers disillusioned by the commercialisation of the scene, bearded lovers of country folk and exuberant students.


In a week when the City had come together in grief following the tragic loss of the football club’s beloved chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha they needed something to celebrate, felt when Demarai Gray’s strike put the winner in for the club on Saturday, felt on this Friday night. In short, there was a lot of love in the room.
This was more than a gig. We had a magician compère, fortune telling, belly dancers and free shots of brandy. Having already appeared on Monday at a London Celtic Punks show TC Costello, self proclaimed punk folk accordion player and part time Brandy Thief entertained the crowd with his highly entertaining solo slot, The Splitters supported with their tight, edgy rock/ska sound with added sound effects, like the embodiment of Mick Jones’ mind somewhere between the Sandinista album and Big Audio Dynamite. They played their way right through a blown amp!

Then we had the main event.

The Brandy Thieves are a live band, first and foremost. They told me that when they write the songs Andrea and Cain bring the lyrics to the rehearsal and the arrangement is done by the whole group. The first album ‘Old Tattoos’ has that live feel, ‘ The Devil’s Wine’ demonstrates just how in tune with one another’s mood the Brandy Thieves must be.

Photos by Philip Vernon

So how does the collection of new songs fit in? – Well the lyrical themes of earlier songs continue. A folk lore devil is ever present, right down to the title of the EP. He’s a curse to the protagonists of the ballads and an ever present feeling that the ‘old one’ may well have the best tunes. ‘Down the River’ is a personal lament of battling demons inside. The track was an early taste of the forthcoming EP and works well as a bridge from the old ska/punk folk beats of the first album ‘Old Tattoos’ towards the new cooler sharper sound of ‘Devils Wine’ by providing a gospel blues feel with the more familiar reggae beats.

For the new EP marks the Brandy Thieves anew. Like they took the Chattanooga choo choo, picking the grapes and grain of Americana music on the way and distilling a spirit of their own into ‘The Devil’s Wine’.
Andrea’s vocals are just as powerful but smokier and melodic throughout. Listen to her scat on jazz blues inspired ‘Midnight Circus’ and all of their voices come through the intro of the EP, an untitled drinking song in the form of a spiritual for the 21st Century, reminding us, in Brandy Thieves style, of our own mortality.
Joe’s trumpet and Sebastion’s banjo have been let off the leash of the rhythm section to offer encapsulating melodies and freestyle solos. Hear the horn sing with TC Costello’s accordion on ‘Midnight Circus’and the hauntingly restrained banjo, echoing southern gothic on ‘ This Mountain’, while Chris’ tight drum beats and Cain’s waking bass riffs have taken up their rightful role as the heartbeat of the band, saying “keep cool, we’ve got this”. the aforementioned ‘Midnight Circus’ is as rhythmically rolling as a Stray Cat Strut.
Gone on ‘The Devil’s Wine’ are the runaway mixed tempos of ‘Old Tattoos’ although they still went down well during the show, taking the crowd from swaying folksy singalongs and then distinctively upping the tempo in a ‘1,2,3,4!’ punk/ska rhythm to get them jigging and pogoing with abandonment. Whether that was ‘Didikai Lee’; The hurdy-gurdiness of ‘Broken Record’ or title track of the first album itself; ‘Old Tattoos’ this was the case tonight. The exceptions are ‘Molly Malone’ a swaying murder ballad reminiscent of the classic traditional song ‘Rose Connelly’ and on the night an acoustic version of ‘Blackbird’ that had loyal fans singing along, both these tunes will, I imagine, be mainstays of the band whatever direction they take.
The Brandy Thieves have evolved away from ska. This was acknowledged midway through the gig when they covered Toots and the Maytals’ ’54-46 Was My Number’ saying that this would, probably, be the last time their Leicester faithful would hear it, and then playing it with the gusto of saying goodbye to an old friend.  Now we have a sound that is just as comfortable for the listener at home or played in the car as it is live. ‘Girl from the Black County’ with a clear acoustic guitar, plucking banjo and singing accordion wouldn’t sound out of place blasted on the eight track of a classic 1970’s Chevy pick up as it kicks up dust from the road on the way to see Billy Jo Spears at the Whiskey River.

(listen to the EP below on the Bandcamp player)

Buy The Devil’s Wine

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Contact The Brandy Thieves

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The Brandy Thieves are bringing their sweaty, dancing, skanking frenzy to London on Saturday 17th November at the Hootananny in Brixton. Plenty of bands on so check the Facebook event here for details. Its free to get in before 10pm and gig ends at 3am. Hootananny Brixton, 95 Effra Road, Brixton, London SW2 1DF.

ALBUM REVIEW: LANKUM- ‘Between Earth and Sky’ (2018)

Their new album has been called the most exciting album of traditional Irish song in decades and Dublin natives Lankum show how to perform old songs in new ways. Distinctive four-part vocal harmonies with arrangements of uilleann pipes, concertina, Russian accordion, fiddle and guitar. Their repertoire spans Dublin music-hall ditties and street-songs, ballads from the Traveller tradition, traditional Irish and American dance tunes and their own original material.

lankum.jp

There is only one thing I’d rather do more right now than listen to Lankum’s ‘Between Earth and Sky’ and that is go and see them live. Lankum bandGushing a bit I know, but as someone oft accused of having music tastes severely in the past, my favourite two albums being The Fureys, best of compilation ‘ The Spanish Cloak’ and The Pogues ‘Rum Sodomy and the Lash’, suddenly my taste is brought into the 21st century after going to see Lankum live and buying their CD ‘Between Earth and Sky’ at the gig.

 

Their powerful voices, guitar, uilleann pipes, harmonium, fiddle and accordion create a sound lit in the hearth of tradition and fired up with the sensibilities of injustice whether the tune be their own or one already owned by lovers of folk.

Radie Peat’s haunting voice on traveller traditional ‘What Will We Do When We Have No Money’ and original lament to women’s plight ‘Granite Gaze’ pleasantly weave into the fabric of your mind. Similarly Ian Lynch’s Déanta in Éireann, about Irish emigration is stoked with bitter indignation with a voiced end that has the power of Shane MacGowan’s finish to the ‘Old Main Drag’.

By contrast the Turkish Reville is played with the wildness of Tom Waits’ ‘Frank’s Wild Years’, ‘The Townie Polka’ had me whistling Cormac Mac Diarmada’s fiddle refrain all day at work to the extent that the lads thought I was on a promise and the wit of ‘Bad Luck to Rolling Water’ had me laughing out loud.

Seeing them live had the bonus of hearing Radie Peat and Daragh Lynch rendition of ‘Hares on the Mountain’ and the whole troop thoroughly enjoying themselves singing out ‘Fall Down Billy O’Shea’ that led us all stamping our feet and whooping.

Buy Between Earth and Sky

Here (iTunes, Google, Spotify etc.,)

Contact Lankum

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Named after the the child-murdering villain from the classic ballad, Lankum were originally named Lynched after brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch before changing their name. You can hear their debut album on the Bandcamp player below.

* Thanks to Stephen Francis Bourke for the review and you can check out his great web-zine, Midlife With Attitude here.

ALBUM REVIEW: SIR REG- The Underdogs’ (2018)

Traditional Irish folk music, unforgettable melodies, propelled by an driving, energetic punk rock backing.

Sir Reg are an energetic six piece from Sweden fronted by Irishman Brendan Sheehy who left Dublin to fulfil his dream of putting together the most amazing band possible. With songs about everything from the issues of modern day society to finding the right bar on a Saturday night, combined with strong melodies and explosive live shows. 

September 18 saw the release of the fifth album from the Swedish Celtic punk heavyweights Sir Reg. The new album The Underdogs comes two years after the last album Modern Day Disgrace and is released on Despotz Records. It was recorded between Sweden and Ireland and most definitely packs a punch from the first note right through to the last.

The first of the eleven tracks on the album is the title track ‘The Underdogs’. It sets the scene for the rest of the album with a high tempo beat. The song is about the ongoing working class struggle for equality in the modern world. This is followed up with a tribute to Conor McGregor. Unfortunately for Conor, the lyrics didn’t come through in his recent battle

“Conor Mc Gregor the lord of the fight, he’ll destroy anyone in his way, smacking the shite out of fools with delight…”.

Oh well, let’s move swiftly on…..

The album is packed full of good humored drinking tunes which is common place on a Sir Reg album. ‘Stereotypical Drunken Feckin’ Irish Song’ is a funny wee song which needs little explanation. When I heard the beginning first I thought it sounded like early year Wolfe Tones or The Dubliners. ‘FOOL (Fight Of Our Lives)’ is the first single to be released of the album and is excellent.

Other notable tracks from the album are ‘Cairbre’, which is a traditional instrumental and ‘The Stopover’. The album closes on a slower note with ‘Sinner Of The Century’ which is also very good.

Sir Reg is Brendan Sheehy – Vocals * Karin Ullvin – Fiddle * Chris Inoue – Electric guitar * Filip Burgman – Mandolin * Mattias Söderlund – Bass * Mattias Liss – Drums

Personally I think this is Sir Reg’s best album by far. This is a band which are continually improving and I have no doubt there’s lots more to come. They have just finished a successful tour of England and Scotland, earlier in the year they played in the USA and they are currently embarking on a European tour to promote The Underdogs so get out and support them if you get the chance. If, like me, you won’t get the chance to catch them live on this tour, be sure to do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of The Underdogs album. You won’t regret it.

Buy The Underdogs

FromTheBand  DespotzRecords  Amazon 

Contact Sir Reg

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram  Twitter

On 22nd August Sir Reg jetted in to play a special invite only gig at Waxy O’Connors in central London. The set contained songs old and new played acoustically by three of the band’s members. Here’s the entire set minus the encore. 

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

EP REVIEW: MOSCHE DI VELLUTO GRIGIO- ‘Of Pain And Glory’ (2018)

The untraditional Anti-Folk punk band.

Mosche Di Velluto Grigio are an Italian Celtic-punk band and while their name may not trip lightly off the tongue of anyone who cannot speak Italian it’s certainly more poetic and beautiful than the English translation, Gray Velvet Flies! The name appears to come from an old Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento. The band were founded in 2000 and hail from Canneto sull’Oglio in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, home of fellow Celtic rockers The Clan and Strawdaze. Celtic-Punk has always been popular in Italy and relations between their Irish and Italians have always in the main been friendly, except perhaps in the USA in the past where two poverty stricken immigrant communities lived side by side in ghettos.

Mosche Di Velluto Grigio from left to right: Matteo De Ieso aka Malle The Beaver: back vox, drums • Francesco Fornasari aka Frankye “The Baker” Squillace: electric guitar, double bass, back vox, harmonica • Andrea Cagnini aka TheKing Cagno: voice, folk guitar, bagpipe, irish bouzouki, harmonica • Christian José Cobos aka CJ: electric bass, acoustic bass, kahuna bass ukulele, back vox • Pietro Arfini aka Rapax: back vox, mandolin, banjo Font row: • Laura Cagnini aka Lalla: sax, flute, tin whistle, trombone • Fabio Dall’Aglio aka Phabius from Garlic: concertina, accordion, amon, sax, trumpet

Famous for their DIY ethos Mosche Di Velluto Grigio were first conceived in the late nineties when singer Andrea and his sister Laura were inspired by their love for NOFX and the 90s punk scene. Together they went on to recruit others and the first incarnation of the band was gathered around them. Collectively they have become one of the more successful Italian Folk-Punk bands and though influenced by the likes of The Pogues and Dubliners on one wing and Stiff Little Fingers on the other their is more than a ounce of the legend Johnny Cash in there as well. These days members of the band come from not just Lombardy but from all over Italy and even Mexico.

I first came across them on their 2016 album Old School. It never made the reviews here as it was a couple of years old by then but I was impressed and have kept up with them since waiting for a chance to make things right. That album was, as far as I am aware, all traditional folk songs from North America and back Ireland and home to Italy. Internationally renowned songs like ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ go up against classic Celtic songs like ‘The Foggy Dew’ and the ‘Fields Of Athenry’ and a rake of songs that I had never heard before. The new EP, Of Pain And Glory, carries on in the same vein except with one exception all the songs are penned by the band. Beginning with ‘A Whisper From My Cigarette’ and it’s classic Celtic-Punk. Loud and bombastic and massive. The song is not particularly fast but catchy and tuneful while Andrea sings out the lyrics, no doubt through a cloud of cigarette smoke! His voice is so raspy he makes Tom Waits sound like the singer in a boy-band. Accordion and tin-whistle grab you here until mid-way when the song suddenly shoots up in tempo. An excellent start that leads into ‘Glasgow Town’ and this is no ordinary Celtic-Punk band as witnessed by the sound of a saxophone wailing away in the background.

Again its catchy as hell and this time a much more straight forward punk rocker of a tune. They slow it down again next for ‘Seven Ships’ and even add in a bit of Country’n’Western twang. Balanced between country and folk it threatens to take off but stays a nice gentle folky foot-tapper with a couple of Celtic touches thrown in for good measure but… then it does go off for last few bars ensuring I’d say a messy dance floor when played live. ‘Pieces Of Glass’ begins as the most Celtic of the songs here with accordion at the forefront before the chugging guitars come in and lead the song on a right merry Celtic-Punk dance. The third single from the EP is ‘Laura’ and we couldn’t have timed this review any better as just three days ago they released the new video and its a great production as many of their videos seem to be.

The EP comes to an end with Mosche Di Velluto Grigio’s favourite song, ‘The Parting Glass’. I say favourite as it also featured on Old School and was released as a single inbetween that record and this. First heard in the late 1700’s the song has been recorded by far to many to mention here but the sad but defiant song has rarely sounded different here. Starting off as barroom ballad they soon up the ante and turn the song into a killer punk rock tribute. Love it.

Bands like Mosche Di Velluto Grigio don’t make covers in the traditional sense of the word. I would prefer to call them re-interpretations. They have taken some old traditional songs of their home, of the Celtic nations and further afield and have made them their own. Mosche Di Velluto Grigio are a utterly fantastic band and if you can get past the distinctive vocals then I’m sure they’ll gain a bit more recognition outside of Italy. While the music has crossover appeal Andrea’s vocals place it firmly in the Punk side of Celtic-Punk but also shows these lot will never be found watering it down.  

Buy Of Pain And Glory

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Contact Mosche Di Velluto Grigio 

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EXCLUSIVE VIDEO OF KRAKIN’ KELLYS NEW SONG

Celtic skate punk, beer and bar fight !

https://youtu.be/39nb8Mf4b68

Director : Matthieu HENDRICK & Stephan MOSSIAT   Shooting : Ludwig PINCHART
Editing and graphics : Matthieu HENDRICK  
Special thanks to Maxime Dechamps, Claire, Sarah Tennina & Rock’s Cool
Written by David Leroy. Composed by Pierre-Yves Berhin. Played by Krakin’ Kellys
Krakin’ Kellys released one of the years best albums so far and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if it went on to the top the Best Of 2018 polls it is that good. Full of energy, attitude and humour it’s good auld fashioned drinking music. No revelations about politics and no songs about nuclear war but the perfect music to take the pressure off. Its music to drink to, to dance to, meet folks and make friends and Krakin’ Kellys have delivered a must have album, Promised Land. Read our review here and have a listen on the Bandcamp player below before you part with your hard earned. Here on new track ‘Come And Get Some’, released today, the Bhoys show there’s a whole lot more to them than just fast and noisy Celtic-Punk.

Contact Krakin’ Kellys

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ALBUM REVIEW: LOUIS RIVE- ‘The Cheap Part Of Town’ (2018)

The debut album from Louis Rive a Scottish singer-songwriter drawing on all aspects of folk music from traditional to barroom ballad to modern day tale-tellers and poets. Influenced by The Pogues, Hamish Imlach, Michael Marra and The Corries Louis has set out to continue the grand tradition of the Celtic storytelling musician.

Funny sometimes the circumstances you first hear a new song or a new album. In the case of the new Louis Rive album I was trying to get to sleep one night but had such a pain in my knee I could not drop off so having the next day off work I got up in the middle of the night and went downstairs. The Cheap Part Of Town had been in my huge to-listen pile for a couple of weeks so on a whim I thought I’d give it a whirl and see what it was like. Well initially I thought it was the combination of a couple of beers and a handful of strong painkillers but I ended sitting up till the early hours with the the album on repeat so much did I love it!

The Cheap Part Of Town is just Louis on his own. Nothing else just him and his acoustic guitar. Plenty of thrills but no gimmicks, except for a wee bit of fiddle. Just straight up acoustic folk with tales of Louis life tacked onto it. Born in the Edinburgh you won’t see on the postcards in the centre of the city or on programmes about the Festival he later had the same ‘rite of passage’ as many Scots of his, and indeed many previous, generation and moved to London. It was in London he garnered many of the ideas of the songs on the album but three years grafting shitty odd jobs in London was three years too many and he fled to Spain where after two years getting pissed and stoned in a village in Andalusia before a cheap flight took him to Barcelona, basically because of a cheap flight. Not wanting to go back to that existence of badly paid jobs purely to cover the rent he decided to concentrate on his music and with a wealth of stories from the shiteholes he has lived and the interesting folk that he has met he began to put these stories to music. As Louis himself says

“Folk music is storytelling. Storytelling is poetry. Poetry is songwriting when you can’t play the guitar.”

The Cheap Part Of Town begins with ‘Francis Drake’s Last Trip’ and after all my talk about the album being full of his life experiences this I doubt does. The tale of Sir Francis Drake famed English sea captain, privateer, slave trader, naval officer and explorer of the Elizabethan era and his adventures fighting the Spanish whilst attempting to capture gold and silver and bring it home to London. Drake died of dysentery in January 1596 and while he is celebrated here he has always been labelled a pirate in Spanish quarters.

As stated their are no gimmicks just Louis and on this evidence he doesn’t need any. Blessed with a strong voice and a ear for a catchy tune as well as a way to tell an interesting story all wrapped up in just over four minutes. He follows this with ‘Streetlights Of London’ and the story of the N19 bus which use to take Louis from the working class Highbury Estate to the graveyard shift in posh hotels in the centre of London. The song tells of the life on that bus from cleaners in the morning to drunks in the evening with all of society’s excess and necessity reflected on the top deck of an out-of-hours mode of transport. The song is played faster than ‘Francis Drake’s Last Trip’ and still carries on the theme of catchy, tuneful and interesting story telling that flows throughout the album.

“Running through the underground
with a carrier bag of sin
Constabulary absence opportune moment for another tin
The carriage was dark but there’s nobody there”

Another fascinating character in Louis life was the subject of the next track ‘Cider Al’. Drinking in the The King’s Arms, Tollcross back home in  Edinburgh the karaoke gave you a free shot of shit whiskey for entering so all the local pissheads would come down and do a song and get free booze.

One such fella was Cider Al who always sang the same song ‘Common People’ by Pulp. In life you come across these people who come and go in your life.

“We heard Pulp’s ‘Common People’ for the seventh time
You stumbled through the lyrics as you spilt your wine
And we all laughed and joked and said that you’d be fine,
we were wrong”

I am getting sick of using the word ‘Catchy’ but there yo go there’s no better word for what I’m listening to. A loving tribute but also a sad one. The sad songs pile up now with ‘Mulberry Mews’ up next and the stories of childhood and growing up, buying drink and fags, the boredom of the high street, visiting his great-aunt in an old people’s home and that you can never get away from where you came from.

“Oh mister barman pour me another
I know the night is drawing near
They’ll carry her body down to the churchyard,
Sunday morning
Where there’ll be no-one to shed a tear”

A bleak tale about a neighbourhood of Edinburgh that doesn’t exist. next up Louis writes about Hospitalet de Llobregat, a satellite town now merged into Greater Barcelona, in the title track  ‘The Cheap Part Of Town’. The forgotten part of Barcelona and the song speaks about all the folk on the street, the gypsies, drunks and prostitutes. It was a tough area with a incredibly rich array of characters but these places are always more interesting than the rich part of town, which is why the rich always want to live there but without the threat and danger. Give it a couple of years and I’m sure the yuppies will have turned Hospitalet de Llobregat into just another bland suburb. Gerry Denis adds some reserved fiddle here that fits just in. All the songs here are varied and original and from ballad to foot stomper’s like ‘House Of God’ and ‘Lowlife’ great tunes abound with great hooks. Every song tells a story. The failings of the church towards the poor or the awful memories of a life in service that a soldier attempts to block through drink. While the rite of passage for recent Scots was a journey down South to Kings Cross in times past it was Americas that the Scots went. Large-scale emigration began in the 1700’s, after the defeat of the Jacobite rising and the resulting breakup of Highland Clearances (the Scottish An Gorta Mór). Displaced Scots left in search of a better life and settled initially around South Carolina and Virginia and then further in successive generations. ‘Take Me To Virginia’ tells of one of these Scots working his hands to the very bone but refusing to give up on the land he works.

“They took me to Virginia
Four and twenty years ago today
I’m still working the land
Blood and stones with both my hands, Virginia”

The idea that there’s always something better over the horizon is something I can relate to. Being half Scottish and having left the frozen north back in 1990 I can testify the sight as you got off the train at Kings Cross back then would be enough to make you turn tale and head back to comfort of your Mammy’s bosom. The curtain comes down with the album highlight the beautiful ‘Alone’ and here Louis brings together all the strands of the previous songs and as with all the songs presented here it offers you the chance to enjoy the music wash over you as well as to listen to the words and dissect them.

A truly wonderful and original half hour plus in the company of a singer-songwriter that deserves to more widely heard. To tell tales of working class life in folk music is not unusual but what is unusual is for them to be told with such passion and feeling and the taste and smell of authenticity that fills your senses with the legends of Louis life across Europe. Louis has a grand future ahead of him and on listening to The Cheap Part Of The Town I want to come with him.

(have a free listen to The Cheap Part Of Town before you buy on the Bandcamp player below. It’s only a fiver so support independent artists and get your wallets out!)

Buy The Cheap Part Of Town

From Louis

Contact Louis Rive

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’.

EP REVIEW: THE SILK ROAD- ‘Justice For Daniel’ (2018)

Gritty, honest Celtic-Folk-Punk from the north of England’s The Silk Road and a tale of murder and corruption leading to the highest pillars of the British state.

Despite being one of the best bands in the Celtic-Punk scene on this island The Silk Road remain relatively unknown outside the north of England. Hailing from the Derbyshire town of Chesterfield, whose football team has suffered the same ignominy as my own, Leyton Orient, and dropped out the Football League, they are the unsung heroes of Celtic-Punk in England. It’s not unusual that bands from the main cities get all the glory and sometimes coming from an unfashionable place can even hold you back. It’s just a shame that whoever decides these things doesn’t value the history of a place like Chesterfield with its past steeped in traditions of coal mining and steel production and the accompanying militant trade unionism that goes with it.

The Silk Road left to right: Andy(Rosie)- Guitar/Backing Vocals * Brian- Drums * Tich- Vocals/Acoustic Guitar * Shaun- Bass * Jamie- Fiddle

The Silk Road have been together since 2015 formed by Tich, Andy and Shaun and going on later to recruit both Jamie and Brian. Taking some old demos singer/songwriter Tich had recorded in his studio and re-working them into something new and fresh The Silk Road began to take shape. They released Midnight in July of 2016 as a taster for their forthcoming self-titled debut album that was the light of day in July of last year. The album lit up the Celtic-Punk worlds media hitting their many Best Of’s including ours where it landed a very respectful #14. Infectious and catchy throughout the album had more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and plenty of folk to keep the oldies like me happy too. Owing a debt to the English folk-rock scene that has kept bands like The Levellers and New Model Army in clover The Silk Road have also added their own style of both Celtic and English folk melodies without losing any of the punk urgency that they started out with.

Here on their brand new EP Justice For Daniel The Silk Road have Andy has come in as a extra guitarist and they have added two instruments you don;t hear much in Celtic-Punk with Tom Wood on trumpet and Sarah Reaney-Wood on saxophone who join the band live on stage when time permits. The EP’s title refers to the tragic case of Daniel Morgan. Daniel was a private detective whose gruesome murder still lies unsolved despite being the most investigated murder in English legal history. Police corruption and criminal activity and the conduct of journalists with the British tabloid News of the World lie at the heart of this case. According to a Metropolitan Police investigation in 2007 his murder was because he

“was about to expose a south London drugs network possibly involving corrupt police officers”.

Daniel was 37 at the time of his death in a south London pub car park on 10 March 1987 and in the 30+ years since his death his family have never given up trying to find out what happened and to bring Daniel’s murderers to justice. Their are several excellent places to find out more about Daniel’s case but the best place is the ten-part podcast Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder which topped the UK iTunes chart here.

With family connections to the case and a desire to see justice done The Silk Road have released this EP in tribute to Daniel and in hope of keeping the case alive and it was with Daniel’s families blessing that they went ahead with the song. The EP begins with the title track and Tich tells the full tale of what went on. Its a jaunty and catchy wee number that belies its tragic subject matter. As is The Silk Road way Tich’s vocals are clear and easy on the ear while the music is basically upbeat folkyness with some excellent fiddle work from Jamie. As protest songs go its up their with the best I’ve heard in recent years and you can tell from the passion in Tich’s voice it’s a subject close to his heart. You can have a listen to this grand song over at Facebook here. A brilliant start and they continue with ‘No Reason’. The electric guitar is louder here giving them a bit more punch and gives them the sound that lies somewhere inbetween The Levs and NMA but with added Ferocious Dog too! As usual with The Silk Road its as catchy as hell as police corruption is again tackled. They let fly next with ‘Morgan’s Riot’ and if the Celtic-ness has been somewhat subdued so far they don’t hold back here. Proper pure top of the table Celtic-Punk that will get the auld feet tapping away. Its fast and furious and again Jamie’s fiddle is amazing. The only complaint is that its not longer as at under three minutes I don’t think it does it justice. The curtain comes down on the EP with an acoustic version of the title track ‘Justice For Daniel’. Just Tich and his acoustic guitar, Jamie and his fiddle and the wonderful sound of Sara Haley on backing vocals and the whole gang getting in on the chorus it is, not surprisingly quite an emotional and poignant song.

It may look Celtic but The Silk Road logo of three hares with interlocking ears is actually from the far east where the silk road was the ancient trade route linking Asia to the West.

Clocking in at near twenty minutes its all together a fantastic EP that warrants getting hold of. Brought out by the band themselves and financed in part from sponsorship from the Vape Domain shop in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire its always great to see a band taking their own route and sticking close to their principals, also good to get a dose of real politics into the scene. The Silk Road are not Irish or Scottish but are still most definitely a Celtic-Folk-Punk band and one of the best this island has to offer too. Year on they get bigger and more well known and despite several set-backs we are still going to see them in London town one day soon. It’s a shame the CD is not available as a download but drop the band a line at the e-mail address below and they will let you know how to get a proper CD. It’s worth it for lots of reasons.

Buy The EP
CD only available from the band at the moment. £6-50 via PayPal from brianbuckberry@hotmail.com
Contact The Band
(great video of ‘I Don’t Care’ taken from our debut album)

EP REVIEW: JAMES McGRATH- ‘Live At The Shed’ (2018)

What a fortnight for acclaimed Tipp born singer-songwriter James McGrath with both a new must-hear EP out this week and a must-see gig in London soon too!
My family come from Tipperary (shout out to Ballylooby and Clogheen Wilkinson’s) so at this time of year I would normally be hurting after our annual defeat to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Hurling Championship but with not even that to look back on I have had to cast my net a bit wider. Following the well trod route of many many Tipp people he has moved to London and with the release of his latest EP, Live At The Shed is hoping for the breakthrough that will see him reach the heights his talents deserve.

Ireland has no shortage of talented singer-songwriters, and never has had to be honest, and among the most talented the name James McGrath is up at the top of the list. Hailing from Nenagh in the north of Tipp James has a voice that has been compared to both Neil Young and Eddie Vedder and the songwriting skills of the legendary Shane MacGowan. Live At The Shed is his third EP release and showcases James live at Shed Studios in the once heavily Irish enclave of Enfield in north London. Just him and his guitar and no knobs twiddled or fiddled about with to change anything. James exciting and passionate live performance transfers onto this recording so well and his warmth shines through. He has already tasted success at home in Ireland when his track ‘8 Cans’ from The Cans EP hit the #1 spot in last years Irish Download charts.

Live At The Shed begins with ‘Can’t Get Out’ and the first thing you notice is James voice. Clear and precise and with a brogue as Irish as Damo Dempsey but without the over inflated ‘Dubb’ inflection. The shortest song here its a tale of having no cash and trying everything you can to make your life work. There’s only four songs here and ‘Bad Bends’ is up next. It’s much more laid back but far from a ballad again it’s no tale to eat popcorn too and despite it being a downbeat song it’s also full of hope and tender emotion. It’s certainly not what I am use to reviewing on these pages but I like to challenge myself and I got over the idea that I cannot like things that my Mammy would like years ago. Now i am not one to bander Ed Sheeran’s name around much but if you draw a line between the wee ginger billionaire and Shane MacGowan then you’d be right to put James on the Shane side of the middle. Third song is ‘Walk Away’ and not much to add here except its more of the same mid-tempo folk.  Extremely well played and James has stamped onto these songs his own brand. At times you can imagine the songs coming from Christy or Damo but young James has certainly developed his own style. The highlight of the EP for me is ‘Race To The Bottom’ which brings down the curtain after only eleven minutes.

One of James stated goals in moving to London was to write an album so here’s hoping he gets onto it as soon as possible. Things move fast in London so he needs to strike while he’s building up some momentum. One bad habit he seems to have picked up in London like the many before him is a love of the bookies. Did your Ma never tell you there’s no such thing as a poor bookmaker? It’s a downbeat song and its not unusual for any of us who arrive in London to find it too much and a combination of the capital’s excesses and homesickness often is too much for new arrivals. A real beauty of a song.

james mcgrath gigJames has released a fine EP and his humour, passion and sincerity shine through and if like me you can’t wait to see him live in concert we will get our chance in just a couple of weeks at the EP’s official launch night at The Swallow Bar in Uxbridge. James favourite venue a packed, fun, lively night is in store and to top it all off it’s free entry as well. He takes the stage at 9pm and you can find the FB event here. The Swallow Bar is a old fashioned Irish bar on Long Lane in Uxbridge, UB10 9NR and is situated right next to Hillingdon Station. It’s on the Picadilly and Metropolitan lines but bring a book if you coming from central London as its a bit of a slog but never let that put you off. Up to a hour on the tube may seem long in London but having just got back my home town I can honestly say it is not! It may  not be the raucous Irish music we are use to here in London Celtic Punks towers but man can’t live by that alone. It’s good for your soul to listen to someone like James occasionally. He has a very exciting future ahead of him and I think the dark streets of London will suit him well.
Buy Live At The Shed
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Contact James McGrath
(James McGrath singing his fantastic hit single ‘8 Cans’. Filmed at Fat Pigeon April 2016)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Hard Time in the Country

CD/Vinyl- FromTheBand Download- Bandcamp

Contact The Langer’s Ball

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  ReverbNation  Bandcamp  Google+  Soundcloud

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

ALBUM REVIEW: BODH’AKTAN- ‘Ride Out the Storm’ (2018)

Bodh’aktan feature seven characters from vastly different musical trends disembarking to forget the daily grind and all the hassle and leave only good times and a good mood behind them!

To fans of Celtic-Punk music traditional Irish music is part and parcel of why we love it so much. It is rather surprising then their are hardly any links between the ‘old’ world of trad Irish and Celtic music. Sure The Dropkick Murphys did a wonderful collaboration with Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners (see here) and Derek Warfield and his Young Wolfe Tones regularly play with the best Celtic-Punk bands but only in the States. So it was a shock, but a welcome one, to find the legendary uileann piper Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains collaborating with Bodh’aktan on their new album, Ride out the Storm. Many of the legends of Irish folk that we grew up with are no longer with us so its no exaggeration to say that Paddy is truly treasured by everyone and even at the tender of eighty (his birthday was just last week) he has lost none of his brilliance and his contribution here is both faultless and incredible. More on that to come but now on with the review!

Ride Out The Storm is sort of Bodh’aktan’s second album. I say sort of as they have also recorded an album Against Winds and Tides which was basically a collection of some of their own songs re-recorded in French. The band hail from Quebec, the French speaking semi-autonomous region in eastern Canada. The region has a totally different feel to the rest of Canada and French is the only officially recognised language. Within this French culture is also a large Breton influence and their are no shortage of Celtic influenced bands and music coming out of Quebec and to that merry band we can now add Bodh’aktan! The British never like to give up their colonies and in 1980 and 1995 referendums were held on whether or not to leave Canada. Sadly in 1995, the people of Quebec chose to stay in Canada by a 1% margin and so it is they remain subjects of the British crown.

 

Ride out the Storm came on the 1st of June and features fourteen brand new songs with three trad folk covers and a set of reels featuring three Irish trad instrumental tunes. It begins with ‘About Things To Come’ a short intro of just over a minute that starts off like Hell’s Ditch era Pogues with a Western feel to it and just as you expect the following song to explode out the speakers at you ‘Nothing But A Game’ is a soft and gentle Celtic number. With whistles and acoustic guitar it gallops along at a steady pace. Upbeat and friendly and alcohol infused it’s a cool start to things before it gets rocky with next track ‘Get Loud’. A while ago the AC/DC video for ‘Its A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock’n’ Roll (check it out here!) went viral across the Celtic-Punk world thanks to singer Bon Scott and his bag-piping. Well i had to look and check this wasn’t a AC/DC cover and it isn’t but Christ it could be. Showing the band can turn their hand to more rockier songs its as catchy as hell and I’m sure Bon is looking down with a smile on his approving face!

Again it’s as catchy as hell and leads us nicely onto ‘Heave Away’. A traditional sea shanty from Newfoundland it’s given an upbeat Celtic feel and while it is a complete contrast to the rocky ‘Get Loud’ it doesn’t for a second feel out of place.

“Sometimes we’re bound for Liverpool
Sometimes we’re bound for Spain
But now we’re bound for St. John’s town
To watch the girls a-dancing”

The album’s second cover is next and while ‘The Black Velvet Band’ is not exactly a rare song to be found on a Celtic-Punk bands album it is transferred to a different level by the inclusion of the fore-mentioned Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains. The song itself is as solid a rendition as you could expect but Paddy’s piping is truly remarkable. His contribution to the traditional Irish music scene is immeasurable so hopefully the album may make it into the ears of the folk music purists (or snobs as we call them) and they will see that Celtic-Punk music is a part of the same tradition. It’s a real stormer of a song and one for waving your pint int he air with your hands round your mates. The songs so far while all being fairly obviously Celtic influenced have all actually been quite diverse with everything covered, including Goth if you include the ‘gloomy’ opening intro.

More trad Bodh’aktan can be found next on ‘Ride Out The Storm’ another modern day sea shanty that has a Dropkicks feel to it for me but rocks along in a standard Celtic-Punk way although with perfectly executed vocals. ‘The Bridge’ is next and again that classic sound is there but the influences this time seem to be shared with 70’s era heavy (air?) metal and trad Irish folk. This is followed by a song simply titled ‘Reels’ and shows these guys can certainly turn their ear to a trad song or two. Three tunes are included showing how marvelous their musicianship is while not being afraid to ‘punk’ it up a little too. A song you could both Irish dance and mosh too is a rare thing indeed. It’s fast and furious and proof for those folk ‘purists’ we mentioned earlier that they are missing out on something good. They are cut from the same cloth as those who derided The Dubliners and The Pogues back in their day. They would be more happy if the music died that to have someone respectfully adapt and change it. We may never get through to them. It’s their loss. ‘You Are The Ones’ and ‘Chasing The Wind’ are again classic Bodh’aktan with the music at all times highly charged whether fast or slow. The final cover is of ‘Mick McGuire’, a song that no one really knows how old it is. Recorded by many greats over the years most notably The Clancy Brothers the song tells of a man who pisses away his marriage

 “Johnny, come up to the fire, come up, you’re sitting in the draft
Can’t you see it’s old McGuire and he nearly drives me daft
Ah, I don’t know what gets into him, for he’s always on the tare
Arragh, just sit where you are and never you dare to give old McGuire the chair”

The melody was used for the tune to ‘Hot Asphalt’ by Ewan MacColl. Shipping up to the end of Ride OUt The Storm and we get the first version of ‘We Cannot Fail’ recorded by Bodh’aktan. A real singalong with a great chorus, heavy bass line and catchy as feck tune with loads of band chants in the background. ‘While I’m Away’ is a modern day Irish folk song and a beaut of a song before we get the bonus second version of ‘We Cannot Fail’ and if I thought #1 was a belter then this version wipes the floor with it. Aided and abetted on the song by German Celtic-Punk legends Fiddler’s Green it brings down the curtain brilliantly and will get your leg pounding the floor as you listen to it!

So fourteen songs with a small smattering of trad covers all clocking in at literally just under fifty minutes that while tipping their hat to the bigger bands of the Celtic-Punk scene also showcases their original sound and their ability to ceaselessly drift in and out of different genre’s without you even noticing! Everything here is perfection personified with the production top notch without being overdone and in songs that veer from trad folk to heavy metal its quite a feat to capture Bodh’aktan’s sound and massive array of instruments so well. This is an energetic album that comes with thoughtful and thought provoking lyrics in the traditional story-telling way that, thankfully, is quite common in Celtic-Punk. The spotlight may be on Irish folk here and the punk elements more subdued but this is an album for all fans of Celtic music whether it be your Grandad or your young nephew!

Buy Ride Out The Storm

CD/Vinyl- FromTheBand  Download- iTunes

Contact Bodh’aktan

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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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: CIARAN MURPHY- ‘Once Upon A Time In Ireland’ (2009) *AVAILABLE AS A DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FOR THE FIRST TIME*

 Ciarán Murphy, ex-political prisoner, singer-songwriter and one man acoustic hand grenade from West Belfast. A protest singer in the finest Irish tradition and politically as sharp as a syringe needle hanging on razor wire. On this his debut album, available as a digital download for the very first time, he points out the often ugly truths of Irish life, asks difficult questions and never once pulls his punches. ciaran-once-upon
Ciarán Murphy seemed to come out of nowhere for us. One day on MySpace (remember that?!?!?) a long, long time ago I came across a few songs of his and its fair to say he fair done blew my mind. Having got a wee bit bored of hearing the same songs over and over again here was passionate, modern day, Irish rebel music with punk swagger and attitude that did all the things that good music is suppose to do. To educate, to inspire, to encourage, to dream. What was not to love? Later that year he went on to play the very first London Celtic Punks organised gig and it’s fair to say he stole the show and on top of that he was, as we say in London, a diamond geezer.

In these days of relative calm in the north-eastern section of Ireland the Police Service of Northern Ireland proudly claims to be ‘Making Northern Ireland Safer’. They’ll have you believe that they’ve moved on from the notorious days of the B-Specials and Royal Ulster Constabulary. The residents and Ciarán Murphy know differently and Once Upon A Time In Ireland opens with a angry blistering attack on Northern Ireland’s police force that is more punk rock than any punk song I ever heard.
“And they’re still a rich man’s police force,
they serve a rich man’s state.
They’ll baton charge the workers on the orders of the great,
they’ll use their fathers’ weapons to move against the free.
They’ll always be the RUC to me”
Armed only with an acoustic guitar, Ciarán comes across sometimes as a one-man punk army. His songs cover a multitude of topics relating to life in modern day Ireland (and to that north-eastern bit in particular). ‘A Word to the New Irish Racist’ damns those Irish people who suffered racist attitudes from British imperialists for decades, and who themselves now target new arrivals into Ireland:
“And every one of us were immigrants in our own time
And every patriot knows Irish is a state of mind
But you’re blind”
Ciarán understands because he comes from the same class as those left with no other option to survive than to leave Ireland in search of work over the years. Brilliant sentiments that could just as easily apply to any nation on the planet as to the Irish. Ciarán Murphy plays with such fury and ferocity that it’s no surprise he needs a box of plasters at the ready for when he leaves the stage. But folkies relax it’s not all full-on acoustic thrash, though. Some of the more impressive moments happen when the guitar assault slows down a little. Check out the gorgeous multi-tracked guitars on ‘Rebel Song’, while Ciarán spins a tale about a would-be revolutionary/terrorist having second thoughts while on the way to an attack. An amazing song that reminds us of the very real price that these soldiers paid for the cause.
(Ciarán playing live for London Celtic Punks in North London)

On ‘Che Guevara T-Shirts’ Ciarán takes aim at modern day politics and its clear here he foresaw the rise of the poison of identity politics. Divide and rule was once the tactic the state used to keep the left divided. Now its the ‘left’ that use it. He never leaves you unsure of where he stands. After all you get splinters in yer arse from sitting on the fence! The guitar picking on ‘You Cried for Ten Men Dead’ is simply outstanding. This track never fails to leave me in tears, as Ciaran sings to his father about the impact of Ireland’s struggle on the old man. From fighting for Great Britain in World War II, to joining a revolutionary army in Ireland, to crying for the ten hunger strikers who died in the Maze prison in 1981. The old man fell under the spell of whiskey and was unable to keep it together. Simply breathtaking. Played from the heart it’s followed by ‘State Of The Nation’ my favourite here where again modern day Irish politics is chastised.
“Kieran Doherty died as Irish TD (MP)
and not a word of condolence was passed
but for Lady Diana they lowered the flag to half mast.
Yeah they lowered our flag to half mast
so who’s taking us back to the past?”
The Irish government, so desperate to suck up to both the UK and the USA, are even willing to destroy national monuments to accommodate foreign interests and to degrade the ideals of the men whose acts they use to push an agenda these men fought (and many died) against. They have betrayed the people of Ireland but as a great man once said “our revenge will be the laughter of our children”.

‘Michael McIlveen’ is the tragic tale of a young 15-year old Catholic boy beaten to death on the streets of the north-eastern Irish town of Ballymena in 2006 by a Protestant gang. The teenager, known as ‘Mickeybo’ to his friends, was beaten with a baseball bat and kicked around 60 times in an alley after simply visiting a pizza shop. Ciarán reaches out to the Protestant community to remind them that some of the most revered and respected Irish revolutionary heroes have come from the Protestant faith.

Mickeybo 1991-2006 qui tacet consentire vidétur

‘Nine hours’ is again an incredible song where Ciaran, in jail for Republican activities, is given nine hours compassionate leave to attend the funeral of his father.  During the song Ciarán recalls childhood fishing trips with his Da and the history he taught him of the places they visited while he follows his Dads coffin in utter personal agony, regretting years of non contact. Nine hours later that day a steel door slams shut and that’s fucking it.
“I never thought that things would end like this,
not in my wildest dreams.
But life is cruel and sometimes twisted,
like their judges and it seems.
that nothing here is sacred and I know what that means.”
A song that will take your breathe away the beauty and sadness of it. On ‘Catholic Guilt’ Ciarán ponders his youth and faith and what the future will bring. The album is drawing to a close and ‘I Feel The Eyes Of British Spies’ is all about the very real technological war Britain declared on Republican communities but told with a sly humour and twinkling eye. The title track closes the album, with its multi-tracked guitar and one of Ciarán Murphy’s strongest vocal efforts. The song tells of Murphy’s quest for that elusive ‘once upon a time in Ireland’, of trying to come to terms with Ireland’s real and mythological past, and sifting through it all to find lessons that apply to Ireland today.

FOR DOWNLOAD CLICK HERE

AVAILABLE TILL THE END OF THE MONTH FOR JUST £5

While Ciarán Murphy’s 2008 debut release, The Verbal Hand Grenade EP, was a solid release, this one showed Ciarán had made infinite progress. Each song features just acoustic guitar and voice, but Ciarán creates so many different textures that no two songs sound alike. The beauty of the folk tradition – and it applies equally in punk rock – is that anybody can pick up an instrument and play the songs that strike a chord in them. We are almost a decade later yet Ciarán Murphy’s songs still need to be heard, and they need to be sung. In my opinion they are right up there with the songs of MacGowan, Kelly, Drew, Moore. You may think that’s an exaggeration, but hear this album and I’m sure you’ll agree. Sadly Ciarán has retired from the music scene and no amount of cajoling it seems (and we have tried, oh have we tried and tried!!!) will bring him back to the stage. That is a great shame as Ireland is in desperate need of its poets. There was a very good reason the British use to execute them you know.
Bandcamp
Previously only available on CD, this, Once Upon A Time In Ireland is now available via the London Celtic Punks Bandcamp page for digital download. A huge thanks to Ciarán for allowing us to  organise this. It was our pleasure Pip! Coming soon for first time as a digital download Ciarán’s debut release, Verbal Hand Grenade. Watch this space.

(you can hear the album for free here on the Bandcamp player)

JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON 2

Justice for the Craigavon TwoEvery single penny raised from this album goes directly to the Justice For The Craigavon 2 campaign. For Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, who were unjustly convicted of the murder of PSNI constable Stephen Carroll and sentenced to life imprisonment. The London Celtic Punks believe the case was corrupt and the ‘evidence’ inconclusive, contradictory and discredited. Both these poor guys find themselves victims of a system that sought to find suitable scapegoats in the wake of the political and media backlash following the killing. Over on our Bandcamp page you will find a bunch of downloads available mostly for donation. All the money goes to the Campaign and helps pay legal fees and to aid Brendan and John Paul’s families. You can make a real difference. Please send all donations to  justice4thetwo@gmail.com

Justice For The Craigavon 2
WebSite  Facebook  Twitter

thanks to Andy in NSW for help

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: EWAN MacCOLL and DOMINIC BEHAN- ‘Streets of Song. Childhood Memories of City Streets from Glasgow, Salford and Dublin’ (1959)

Scottish folksinger Ewan MacColl and Irish singer Dominic Behan delve into their childhoods to present the songs and chants of working-class neighborhoods in Dublin, Glasgow, and Salford. Unaccompanied—in keeping with tradition—the 100 songs include rhymes, ditties, counting games, skipping-rope pieces, jibes, taunts, oaths, street ballads, seasonal songs and insults. In between selections, Ewan and Dominic provide context by explaining the circumstances in which the songs were performed.

A fascinating real piece of working class history performed by two legendary figures who have featured on these pages many times. Some listeners may recognize songs from their own childhood their are certainly more than a few I recognise from my younger days on the streets and playgrounds of South Yorkshire. Both Dominic and Ewan spent their lives preserving and archiving music from days past and now almost sixty years later we can present this remarkable album to you. It comes as a free download so feel free to take a copy and enjoy and if you wish follow the link below to get the accompanying booklet that came with the album.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Ewan MacColl- January 1915-October 1989

For nearly 60 years, Ewan MacColl, an activist and left-wing socialist, expressed his views as a playwright, social activist, songwriter and performer. During the course of his lifetime he composed a body of work that ranks among the best in the folk genre. He was born in Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of a Lowland Scots father and a Gaelic-speaking mother. Both parents had an extensive repertoire of Scots folk songs and ballads, and a large part of MacColl’s tremendous repertory was learned from them. After leaving school at the age of 14, he spent the next 10 years working odd jobs between periods of unemployment and one day out busking, he was noticed by a BBC director and given his first radio broadcast in a programme called Music of the Streets. Soon MacColl began to devote an increasing amount of his time writing programmes for the BBC, including his first group of Folklore broadcasts. Included among his many folk music activities have been the collecting of folk songs for the BBC archives and in addition to being one of these island’s leading folk singers Ewan MacColl’s fame lives on in the songs that he both saved from extinction and those he wrote including ‘Dirty Old Town’, ‘Freeborn Man’ and his Grammy Award-winning song ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, a hit single for Roberta Flack in 1971, which he wrote for his longtime collaborator and life partner, Peggy Seeger. After many years of poor health (in 1979 he suffered the first of many heart attacks), MacColl died on 22 October 1989, in London, after complications following heart surgery

Dominic Behan- October 1928-August 1989

Dominic Behan was born in Dublin, Ireland, having a traditional Irish fiddler as a father and a folksinger as a mother. Born into a family of committed republicans, it was no surprise that even at the age of six he joined Na Fianna h-Eireann (republican Boy Scouts) and by sixteen was an active fighter for the IRA. His activities on behalf of his political convictions resulted in his being imprisoned, in Dublin and in London, four times between 1951 and 1954. Following in the footsteps of his uncle, the noted rebel song-writer Peadar Kearney (who wrote the Irish national anthem) he penned a number of rebel ballads, including the well-known ‘Patriot Game’. During the 60’s and 70’s he wrote almost twenty plays for British TV as well as writing several books though it was as a songwriter that he excelled and had more than 450 songs published during his lifetime. Dominic had well publicised spats with both Liam Clancy and Bob Dylan over use of his songs where lyrics were changed or omitted. He took the view that his work was written to make some form of social, historical or political statement and should either be used as an entire piece of work or not at all. Dominic died at home in Glasgow, aged 60, on 3 August 1989.

Streets Of Song sleeve notes by Kenneth S. Goldstein

Childhood memories of City Streets from Glasgow, Salford and Dublin. The Oral Lore of Children

In listening to this recording, one will find three distinct types of oral children’s lore. First there are the items which have little or no restrictions of national boundary. Some of the pieces recited and sung in this recording are known throughout the English-speaking world, originating, perhaps, in the British Isles and spreading out from there to all of the many countries culturally and linguistically affected by the British and their far-flung empire. Who, in the English-speaking world, for example, has not heard one or another version of the singing-game The Farmer Wants a Wife (heard in a Dublin Irish version on this recording), or Poor Mary Sat A-Weeping (from Salford on this recording). You may know these pieces by other names, and in forms differing quite radically from those presented on this recording, but it will require little imagination or insight to realise the relationship of the versions you know to those presented here.
A second category of pieces found in this recording are those which appear to have strictly national boundaries, being known either only in the British Isles or, perhaps, only in a single country or national group. Such pieces are frequently related to festivals or events which are purely national in character and incidence, or are so dependent upon purely national events or references as to make them almost meaningless outside of the national boundary of the country in which, they may be found. Such pieces include the holiday song Christmas is Coming (item number 67, from Dublin, but known throughout the British Isles), and the Scottish jibe, Wha saw the tattle howkers (item number 62, from Glasgow, but known in other parts of Scotland) among numerous others.
The third category consists of those pieces of a purely local nature, existing almost exclusively in a single community, town or county, but rarely found elsewhere. The reasons for such limitation of tradition are similar to those given for the second category mentioned above, but with considerably more localised references or language. Such piece include Up The Mucky Mountains (item number 64) and Jessie Stockton (item number 68), both from Salford, and Cheer up, Russell Street (item number 56) from Dublin. Into this last category must also go those pieces which are the creative efforts of a moment, in use for only a short period of time, and fading into the world of lost traditions almost before they were born. Occasionally such-pieces fall into the collector’s lap, but the collector (at best, just an accident in time, in such instances) has no way of sorting out these pieces from those which are more than just mere ephemera.
The record contains an even 100 pieces of diverse examples of children’s lore. Here will be found game songs, nonsense rhymes and ditties, counting games, ball-bouncing games and rhymes, skipping-rope pieces, jibes, taunts, oaths, street ballads, seasonal songs, and insults. What is the origin of these pieces? For most of them we cannot even begin to speculate on the question of origins.
Some few can be pinpointed to historical occurrences and personages King Henry, King Henry (item number 12), tells of the affairs of love of a well-remembered English monarch. Others are the breakdown of older traditional ballads and tales; I know a woman, she lives in the woods (item number 23), obviously derives from the ballad The Cruel Mother (Child 20). Some like items 4, 56 and 59, are children’s parodies of recent creations, including music hall and popular songs. Most of the pieces are created out of happenings and sights of everyday life. Because of the universality of their subject matter they might arise anywhere or at almost any time so it is an impossible task to do much more than guess at their origins.
First, we are introduced to the cultural milieu with which we are dealing. Poverty, a proud working-class inheritance, slum conditions, and the everyday, mundane things and occurrences affecting the individuals concerned. Next, we are presented with the oral products of that environment, set off against a train of thought concerning those products, not of the children living, playing and reciting those pieces of lore, but of two adult bearers of this urban tradition whose sensitivity to the setting is expressed in terms of mature afterthought. The opportunity presented by this recording to study the whys and wherefores of urban childhood traditions is the next best thing to working in the field with the children themselves.
One fascinating problem suggested by working with children’s lore, and, even more specifically, with the lore of working-class children, is the question of class boundaries of such lore. Of this question, Dominic Behan has written:
“It can — so far as kids are concerned — be made only by children who own so little other rights to amusement that they must sing and make up songs about themselves and the places they inhabit; tenement house schools, neighbours, and, most and biggest of all, their playground — the streets. Maybe this is not quite true, maybe other classes of folks’ children make up other classes of songs. All I can say is if they do, I have never heard them.”
So much for the songs: what of the games? Are they ‘class’ bound? Do they belong to certain people or are they the property of all? Once again, I don’t know. Once again I will guess, and say all.
The challenge has been issued. It is the duty of folklorists, sociologists, and psychologists to take it up and answer the question. An attempt to do so from a library chair will prove futile; the data are insufficient and largely undocumented in most of the existing works on children’s lore. By utilizing the existing tools of each discipline we can expect to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. We are fortunate in dealing with children’s lore, to be working in an area which appears to have no beginning or end in time, and while some scholars have bemoaned the dying of oral tradition (such claims have been made for the past century, though I for one prefer to think of traditions changing and evolving rather than dying), none will be so rash as to deny the very vital nature of children’s songs and games. There is no question of the existence of sufficient material for study.

DOWNLOAD STREETS OF SONG

PRESS HERE!

DOWNLOAD THE 8-PAGE INSERT BOOKLET HERE!

Great article on the Life And Work Of Dominic Behan here

 with thanks to Zero G Sound- if you want music like this to light up your life then go find them here.

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

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’ll do our best to try and fix it)

EP REVIEW: BLACKBEARD’S TEA PARTY- ‘Leviathan!’ (2018)

The first new release from Blackbeard’s Tea Party in three years takes traditional songs and folk tunes about the whaling industry and gives them a heavy edge but with a playful arrangement and driving dance rhythms.

Blackbeard’s Tea Party have been together since 2009 and in that time became firm favourites on the English folk scene. An independent band with four albums to their name, Blackbeard’s Tea Party have also completed a number of successful UK headline tours. So it’s been a bit of a mystery as to why they went quiet on the recording front and this is their first release since Reprobates in 2015. They continued to tour and are still as popular as ever but in this game you have to have regular output otherwise there is always another new band waiting in the wings to take your place.

Anyroad they are back now and with this great EP celebrating the history of the whaling industry. Although whaling had existed for thousands of years it was in the 17th century that industrial whaling emerged with organised fleets that by the late 1930’s were killing more than 50,000 whales a year. Communities along the coast around the world have long histories of subsistence whaling and harvesting beached whales. On Leviathan! Blackbeard’s Tea Party play out the history of an industry that once made the fortunes of ports such as Hull, Whitby and Peterhead. Thousands relied upon the practise but it would eventually drive the species to the verge of extinction so much so that in the 1980’s it was banned though many countries still hunt whales under so called scientific purposes.

Blackbeards Tea Party from left to right: Liam ‘Yom’ Hardy – Drums * Dave Boston – Drums * Stuart Giddens – Lead Vocals, Melodeon * Laura Boston-Barber – Fiddle * Martin Coumbe – Guitar * Tim Yates – Bass

Leviathan! is the bands fifth studio release and even though only five songs its a mighty fine way to remind any fans who have lost touch that they are still around! The EP begins with the traditional folk song The Diamond’. Popularised by Scottish legends The Corries (check out their version here) the song first appeared on Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd’s 1957 album Thar She Blows! Lloyd recorded it again in 1967 for his album Leviathan! Ballads And Songs Of The Whaling Trade. I would guess these two releases have been very much influence on Blackbeard’s Tea Party.

On the song A.L. Lloyd commented on the Leviathan! album sleeve notes:

Sad events lie behind this most spirited of whaling songs. By the 1820s the relativity milder northern waters were fished clean, and whalemen were having to search in more distant corners of the Arctic, notably round the mighty and bitter Melville Bay in Northwest Greenland. In 1830, a fleet of fifty British whaleships reached the grounds in early June, a month before they expected. But the same winds that had helped them also crowded the Bay with ice floes and locked most of the fleet in, including the Diamond, the Resolution, the Rattler (not Battler) of Leigh (not Montrose), and the Eliza Swan. Twenty fine ships were crushed to splinters and many bold whalermen froze or drowned. The Eliza Swan was among those that got free and brought the sad news home. Our song must have been made only a season or two before that tragedy for the Diamond‘s maiden voyage was only in 1825. One wonders if the man who made the song was up in Melville Bay, the year of the disaster, and whether he was lost with his ship.

Blackbeard’s Tea Party have always been an innovative band and their version skates through English and Celtic folk music while adding some surprisingly modern touches while Stuart Giddens sumptuous (their description not mine!) vocals ably fit the music. His voice may not be that of a crooner but it is strong and versatile and reminiscent of folk singers of old but without the trademark finger in the ear. They follow this up with the first of two instrumentals and ‘DLFN’, written by the bands Laura Barber and Dave Boston is certainly a bit of a shock. With Blackbeard’s dark bite it chugs along with a real foot slamming beat. The fiddle shines throughout and only adds to the somber mood of the song. Next up is title track ‘Leviathan’, written by Giddens it’s a song that verges (or even passes!) on folk-punk and steams along at a mighty pace with Stuart telling the story of the albino sperm whale known as Mocha Dick that lived in the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century and went on to inspire the story of Moby Dick by American writer Herman Melville in 1851. This song shows Blackbeard’s Tea Party in all their glory as story-tellers as all the finest folk musicians truly are. The song plays out the excitement of the hunt while never shirking from the blood thirsty reality of a whalers life at sea where these mighty creatures may at any moment strike back and take the ship down. We now have another Boston/ Barber instrumental in The Lost Triangle’. Again the fiddle shines and the darkness of the song evokes the bloody reality of life out at sea. At nearly seven minutes long the song is loud and bombastic and ends with a real doffed cap to the early days of English folk before speeding up again and ending with a real flourish reminiscent of 70’s folk/prog rock.. Leviathan! comes to an end with another traditional folk song, ‘Weary Whaling Ground’. The song is about whaling in Greenland during 1840-50. Again A.L. Lloyd recorded it for Leviathan! Ballads And Songs Of The Whaling Trade and his album notes sum up the feeling of the poor souls aboard ship better than anyone.

“Three emotions dominated the old time whalerman: exultion in the chase, a longing for home, and disgust at the conditions of his trade. This latter mood descended heaviest upon him when the fishing was poor and he became “whalesick” (like homesick, only sick for whales). The man who made the complaint for The Weary Whaling Grounds must have been very whalesick.”

Having added a second drum kit to the band it has given the band a much rougher and tougher edge and with dark material like this it works a treat giving it a doom and maybe even Gothic touch they never had before. Their may be only one new song here with lyrics but the band have turned out two extremely good original instrumentals and have taken two songs from relatively ancient times and breathed new life into them. That new song ‘Leviathan!’ shows the new found power of the band and their flair for storytelling which places them in a direct line from the likes of Ewan MacColl to today. There was a time when the folk purists (or snobs as we call them!) would have approved of Blackbeard’s Tea Party but maybe they are trying to distance themselves from the ‘party approved’ AOR folk of the likes of the Mumford’s but the move into darker territory suits them well.

Discography

Leviathan (2018) * Reprobates (2015) * Whip Jamboree (2013) * Tomorrow We’ll Be Sober (2011) * Heavens to Betsy (2009)

Buy Leviathan!
FromTheBand (CD) Download

Contact Blackbeard’s Tea Party
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For more on the sea why not dip your toe into our Classic Album Series review of ‘Steady As She Goes. Songs And Chanties From The Days of Commercial Sail’. Released in 1976 the album is dedicated to the workers of the sea. Undoubtedly hard and very often tyrannical under many a vicious Captain’s rule. The workers said “a song is as good as ten men” and the songs were used in the manner of field work song’s. These shanties tell the tales of loneliness, the families these men left behind and the daily hardships of an unkind sea and nautical life.

Many of the albums featured in the series (here) come with free downloads.

THE CARDINAL SINS- ‘Straight Left Right Hook’ (2018)

It may sound a bit strange that over the years we have only featured a handful of ‘Irish’ Irish bands on this site but for whatever reason Celtic-Punk in Ireland has never seemed to take off band wise. So with that in mind we love it when a new band from the auld country appears and even though The Cardinal Sins have been going a few years we are sure they are new to most of us over this side of the water and hopefully it won’t be long before we get to see them in the raw!

STRAIGHT LEFT RIGHT HOOK

Write him off at peril, he’ll dance around at god’s free will
Rolling through the town like a steam train running late
He’ll settle all and put em down, take any man that glanced a frown
Line em up 1 to 10 and let them have their go
Chorus:
Straight left down he go’s (hey Ho!)
Right hook down he go’s (the crowd began to shout!)
Straight left down he go’s (man Down!)
Right Hook down he go’s (he knocked the fucker out!)
Jimmy said he’d give a try he’s 7ft tall and just as wide
The crowd were looking for a cheer so they took it to the square
In and out they danced about, and from the sides they bawled and shout
The honey-badger threw his fist, Jimmy’s on his ear
It was hard to see if he’d get back on his feet,
But jimmy bowed his head, he was taken by the best
And in the disbelief well the crowd took to their feet
And then they start to shout
HE KNOCKED THE FUCKER OUT!!!

The Cardinal Sins are a Celtic Rock group from Laois and Offaly in Ireland that formed in 2013 with six members making up the Holy Synod. The band come with a high pace, high tempo list of contemporary , traditional and original songs played in their high energy style with influences including The Pogues, Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s to name a few. Over the years The Cardinal Sins have enjoyed success at home which saw the band release their debut EP, release several music videos, play at various festivals in Europe as well as becoming a regular on the Irish festival circuit. 2016 saw their first ambitious tour, outside Ireland, of Italy taking in Milan, Bologna, Parma, Cuneo and Pesaro. The same year also saw concerts in Copenhagen along with trips to Germany to co-headline the Volmarstein Folk Festival with Irish music legends De Danann. Last year saw The Cardinal Sins concentrate on the Irish festival circuit and to start to write some original material that will see the light as an EP later this year. The lead single to this EP “’Straight Left Right Hook’ is out now and available on iTunes and Google.

Cardinal Sins left to right: Trisha Mulraney- Fiddle / Whistles * Stephen Murphy- Bass / Vocals * Wayne Brereton- Lead Vocals / Acoustic Guitar / Electric Guitar * John Tobin- Banjo / Mandolin / Vocals * Reece Wardrop- Drums / Percussion * Darren Cahill- Accordion / Vocals.

The song itself is a riotous romp pitched somewhere between the simple Irish folk of our childhoods and uplifting pounding fist in the air punky rock music. A tonne of passion and plenty of pride The Cardinal Sins have nailed it here and we look forward to hearing that EP when it lands. In the spirit of the Dropkick Murphys ‘Shipping Up’ being played at every rugby match everywhere The Cardinal Sins have adopted their very own sports star in local Portalington MMA fighter Philip ‘the honey badger‘ Mulpeter and Straight Left Right Hook has become his walk on tune. Its all a bit rough for this gentle soul but you can check out this up and coming Irish fighter here

Get Straight Left Right Hook
Contact The Cradinal Sins

EP REVIEW: STEVE WHITE- ‘Fake News From Nowhere’ (2018)

Local folk-punk hero Steve White is back but without The Protest Family this time to cement his reputation as one of East London’s finest sweary guitar playing lefties!

This EP had almost slipped my memory when I bumped into Steve in the Leyton Orient Supporters Club bar. Trust me you’d need a drink after watching us this season! Anyway it reminded me that Steve had released a five track solo release and I promised him I’d get my thoughts onto here soon as I could.  Steve is the vocalist of one of London Celtic Punks favourite bands Steve White & The Protest Family. They have featured here a couple of times with album reviews and having played a few of our gigs but its been well over a year since the release of Protest For Dummies so something has been long overdue for this prolific band. Since that review the left has further entrenched itself in the backwardness of identity politics and the divide between the left and the class it’s suppose to represent has never been bigger. As I said then “It’s hard to be left-wing at the moment and certainly there is no joy in being so…” but that was before Jeremy rode over the hill on his white horse to save us. I’m not convinced but there you go. It’s a small light at the end of the tunnel and any hope is better than no hope. In a scene characterised by too serious po-faced lefties and hand wringing earnestness it’s heartening to find Steve White and his merry band still kicking out against the powers than be with their very own brand of bawdy, satirical, revolutionary socialist punk-folk-folk-punk music!

Steve has a certain knack for hitting home his points without that earnestness that puts so many people off. Not to say that the songs on here don’t make serious points or are even told in a serious manner as most are but its the way they are delivered that makes the difference and Steve White knows it.

Fake News From Nowhere was released the week after St. Patrick’s Day on 22nd March and has been released as a ‘Name Your Price’ download, more on that later but what better incentive do you need to get this? With several releases as Steve White And The Protest Family and couple as a solo artist Steve has been active on the London scene for a good few years and somehow finds the time away from his job as a firefighter.

Only One Team In East London

Fake News From Nowhere begins with ‘The Death Of Facts’ and the new modern way of media that sees facts making way for feelings and rumours. If people can still lose the argument while using facts than something is seriously wrong. On ‘Don’t Look Down’ the lyrics tell of the ‘I’m alright Jack’ way society has been moving for decades. Steve’s accent is propa Cockney here while the music is gentle. Like a lot of the bands songs the gentle front often hides a passion and call to arms. ‘If The Queen Had A Hammer’ is I think a full band song. It certainly sounds like it. Again the music has a gentle side to it while Steve hammers home a anti-monarchy message while still acknowledging that the Queen is still a human being.

“If the Queen had a hammer, would she hammer in the morning?
Would she hammer on the rich or on the poor men?
Would she hammer for change or for the status quo?
Would she hammer to remain or hammer to go?
Would she hammer with her head or hammer with her arse?
Would she hammer for the patriotic working class?
Would she hammer with her head or hammer with her feet?
Would she hammer on the metropolitan elite?”

Steve is a wonderful songwriter and the high point here is ‘Children In The Crosshairs’ with lyrics dealing with school shootings but not in as direct a way as you would maybe imagine. An intelligent and sensitive song that makes it’s point loud and clear. The final whistle on EP is for ‘A Song For St. Patrick’s Day’ and absolutely no surprises that it’s my favourite track here. Round every 17th of March English people are found bemoaning the fact that the Irish here celebrate St. Patrick’s Day while St. George’s (the patron Saint of England) Day shuffles by without anyone really doing anything. It turns out that St. George was in fact from the Middle-East so was in fact a refugee from his homeland.

“Each year on this day of March seventeen
A bigot will make a complaint
That in England no man of Irish descent
Will honour his host’s patron saint”

A great wee ditty that sees Steve accompanied on mandolin and will raise a smile I am sure. So another fine disc out of East London and from supporters of the best team in East London too. Five tracks that come in at a rather good twenty minutes and buzzes along nicely sitting. While the folk-punk scene does have a habit of espousing politics in a kind of virtue signalling way you just know that Steve and his merry band both live and breathe their beliefs. Some may not agree with everything they say but I’m sure we can all admire a band that not only packs a punch but also tickles your funny bone while doing it.

(you can have a listen to Fake News From Nowhere below on the Bandcamp player but seeing as its’s ‘Name Your Price’ why not just download the bloody thing!)

Download Fake News From Nowhere

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You can catch Steve White And The Protest Family live in London this the weekend!

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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.

Buy Don’t Stop Me Now

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RAISING FUNDS FOR IRISH DRINKING SONGS FOR CATS, PAW’T 3!

Do you love cats? How about Sea Shanties? What about traditional Irish folk music? Then why not adopt a new CD of Sea Shanties for Cat Lovers!

Yeah you read that right it’s Irish Drinking Songs For Cat Lovers and if you think that’s a bit odd then where have you been? They already released two volume’s (or paw’t!) and they are ready to unleash a third but they need your help. I’m a bit of a cat fan myself with two of the most wonderful companions anyone who runs a mildly successful celtic-punk website could ever want. Here’s my beauties!

Murphy and Molly

HOW DID A CAT ALLERGY TURN INTO A SUCCESSFUL CAT SONG SERIES?

by Marc Gunn

I love cats. I currently have three in my household. Okay, four if you add in the stray ‘Orange Kitty’ living on our porch. I was not raised with cats. I thought I was allergic. (turns out I wasn’t). When I finally took the plunge after pressure from an ex, I fell in love… with cats. My relationship with my ex didn’t last, but my love of cats remains.

I adopted my boys Tiziano and Torre. They were educational to say the least. They tore up my couch. They peed in my bed. They yowled and played wildly as I tried to sleep. But they also sat in my lap. They rubbed their heads on my legs. They were a constant comfort and joy in my life. It was no surprise then when one day while singing the famed Irish drinking song ‘Wild Rover’, I started meowing in the middle of the song. PURRR! An idea was born. The idea turned into a three-song single. Then a website. It blossomed into a full-length CD. It bred into a second album. That launched into a live CD. It’s been ten years since I released my last cat album. Throughout that time, my Celtic Cats meowed for more. It’s time to see if we can make that happen.

Will you adopt a cat CD?

WHO ARE MARC GUNN AND THE DUBLINERS’ TABBY CATS?

My name is Marc Gunn. I sing drinking songs. It started with traditional Irish and Scottish songs at Renaissance festivals. But soon, I became a staple at science fiction conventions, like Gen Con and DragonCon. You’ll hear me beautifully fuse traditional Celtic songs with themes about Firefly, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, and yes, CATS! I’m not just a musician though. I’m also a podcaster. I host the largest Celtic podcast in the world. The Irish & Celtic Music Podcast has three times won the award for Best Podsafe Music. It’s been featured by Apple Podcasts numerous times. I tell you this because I love Irish music. When I decided to record these albums, I wanted to make an album that might’ve been recorded by The Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners, The Chieftains, The Wolfe Tones, or the Irish Rovers… but with cats. So I started a band–The Dubliners’ Tabby Cats. The original band was made up of a variety of traditional Irish musicians from Austin, Texas, where I lived. Plus cats of course. Together, we created a beautiful mix of Irish music along with meows, yowls, hisses, and purrs. Fourteen years later, it still sounds amazing!

SEA SHANTIES FOR CAT LOVERS

Each of my albums was themed. The first was a tribute to The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem and The Dubliners. It was Irish drinking songs, but with cats. The second was more like The Chieftains, Planxty, or Lunasa. It had an even more traditional Irish sound, but about cats. The third album is heading out to sea…again… with cats.

Sea Shanties are tremendous fun to sing. They’re easy and upbeat. They’re also fairly easy to parody. I want to share the cat versions of some of these incredible songs.

You can listen to previous albums when you follow Marc’s Cat Loving Spotify playlist here.

WHY I NEED YOUR HELP?

The music business has changed. I used to think I would one day retire on the 20+ albums that I released over the past 14 years. I used to be confident that I could have a thousand CDs adopted in a year. For better or worse, streaming music came along. Now I don’t know if I can afford to create an album with the same quality as my original CDs: Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers and Whiskers in the Jar. Please make a pledge to adopt this exciting new cat CD by Marc Gunn & The Dubliners’ Tabby Cats. I decided to reach out to the cat loving community. My hope is that you will adopt a CD and help me bring the third album in the series to life. And maybe, just maybe, I can keep recording and releasing new cat songs for years to come. Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers is more than just a pet project. It’s brought joy to thousands of cat lovers. I want to bring you even more happiness.

I’m gonna need every cat lovers help to spread the word about this album. I have a ton of videos and MP3s and old podcasts that people can share to help us reach the goal. But this will not succeed without your help. Please make a pledge and share on Forums, groups, mailing lists, social media and even at vet clinics and animal rescue shelters.

Visit Marc’s website to learn more and sign up to my mailing list here to be kept informed about what’s new and you get six free cat songs when you subscribe.

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)

Buy The Johnny Clash Project

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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.

ALBUM REVIEW: ANTO MORRA- ‘From The Vaults’ (2017)

London Irish Folk Punk

Somewhere between the Pogues and Ian Dury with perhaps a dash of Madness.

He’s back. Guess whose back? Aye it’s the all round Mr. Nice Guy Anto Morra to sort the English folk scene right out! Even more prolific than Matilda’s Scoundrels Anto presents his new album that came out at the arse end of last year giving us no time to get a review in so with things a little quiet on the celtic-punk scene it’s a perfect opportunity to revisit this great album and give it the review it deserves.

This is not quite a new album though it’s more of a concept album. Offered some free time at a recording studio near his adopted home in Norfolk he decided to revisit some of his older works that were either never recorded or recorded in bands that he was previously in. Having laid down the bones of this album on a hot summers day in July Anto realised this would be a fantastic opportunity to bring in some of his ex and present band mates and also some of the talented musicians that he had hooked up with since the start of his solo career. The songs here were all written between 1986 and 1996 during a time when Anto says

“my only ambitions were to have as much sex, drugs and rock’n’roll as a young man could handle”

Sadly three of Anto’s close friends passed during the time when he began recording From The Vaults to it’s finish. A strange coincidence was that they all had birthdays on the 19th the month, different months and different years so in tribute to them the album was released on the 19th December.

Regular readers will need no introduction as he has featured on these pages numerous times due to his more than abundant releases! Just in case though we’ll give you a wee run down before the review starts. Born Anthony Morrissey and raised in London by Irish parents, his formative years were as a punk rocker floating from band to band and dole cheque to dole cheque in Thatcher’s Britain. His Irish background provides the backbone for much of his music and focuses on the confusion of being brought up between two cultures that were so opposed to each other. Old animosities are thawing but the relationship remains an uneasy one. Flitting from punk band to band during these years he eventually washed up in the Norfolk countryside and he began to further explore his roots with Whirligig, a four-piece ceilidh dance Band. In 2013 he left the band after ten years deciding to concentrate on songwriting and solo performances.

Anto

From The Vaults is another of Anto trademark releases with a huge booklet packed with photos and information on all the songs including a very lovely mention of yours truly that I was very touched by (thanks Anto). The album is fifteen songs and as usual he has squeezed as much as possible in. Coming with a cover painted again by famed London Irish artist Brian Whelan (check out his wonderful art here). We kick of with ‘Lifting The Lid’ which sees Anto reminisce about his Catholic Irish background and the realisation that it wasn’t as restrictive and as he thought it was when he was young. Something that comes to most people of Irish backgrounds when they grow up I think. As stated it’s not just Anto here and to read out the list of collaborators would take up a whole page so suffice to say the backing he receives here is absolutely terrific and lifts the album into the premier league! ‘Bomb Alert’ looks back to the early 90’s a time when the Gulf War lit up our TV’s and the Boys were still blowing up parts of London. ‘Tall Story’ is my favourite track here a catchy upbeat punky number from his days as vocalist in indie-punk band Fountain Head in the mid-90’s. Anto gives his voice a good work out next in ‘Martyr’ with a tale living in a bedsit and seeing fellow members of the underclass finding themselves deeper and deeper in poverty. Acoustic guitar backed by mandolin as Anto gives us it straight from the heart, as he always does, while backed on vocals by his Mrs Julie. The song goes straight into ‘Dance’ and fiddle comes into play and the oldest song featured here at over twenty-five years old! Anto thinks its a bit Jimi Hendrix you’ll have to make up your own minds on that. 90’s insomniac plagued sleepless nights inspired ‘Fugitive’ based around the TV show of the same night fiddle, flute and banjo manage not to sound Celtic somehow! ‘Better Place’ and ‘High In The Night’ both tell the highly personal stories mental health and drug issues but done with panache and a lot of style. ‘Crazy Chris K-Hole Glasto’ is the only song on the album written this century and is about a trip to Glastonbury festival with his auld London Irish mate Chris. To K-Hole is to hallucinate while on drugs and sadly Chris was one of the friends who passed away during production of From The Vaults whilst battling addiction.

” His brutal honesty and wit made him such great company and fun to be around”.

A fantastic tribute to him which features Chris having a ‘episode’ outside Anto’s tent while he recorded him on a wee tape deck. RIP Chris. ‘Dragon Hide Away’ is slow and mournful just how a song with accordion should be.

There’s even brass out for ‘Changeless Angel’ a story of a burlesque dancer with a happy ending for a change. We in for some more heartbreak next with ‘Youre Not Here (Sadder Than Asda)’ from 1992 about a particularly tough relationship break-up. Most men can relate to the words here but as Anto says on the album notes “strange how returning to the song could become such a positive joy”.

Time is a great healer it is true. Just Anto and Kerry Selwin on piano it ends on a perfect bittersweet note as Anto sings the chorus repeating “You’re not here” until the final words “Thank the Lord!”. Typical Anto! ‘Wrecked On Love’ tells of the cycle of relationships we find ourselves on until we find the ‘one’. We coming rolling up towards the end and ‘Happy Ending’ is dedicated to all the musical geniuses that left before their time. Written on hearing the news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide Anto is backed here by John and Thim from Anto’s current collaborators in the folk-punk band The Punkfolkers. In the main its been a reflective album, obviously, but the curtain comes down with ‘Seen It All’ and a song to send you off into the dark with a wry smile and a bursting heart. The kind of song where the words will pop into your head at some random point and make you smile.

Yet another hit from one of the nicest people in celtic-punk and while this release is missing much of the trademark humour that has made Anto so popular and well received his warmth still spills over from the CD into us. A wordsmith and a modern day seanchaí his words have a sincerity about them that would make many so called artists weep in jealousy! That he can both keep up the output and the quality of his releases is outstanding and we have been promised another album soon in The Punkfolkers release Night Bus To Tombland. Forty years of protest, rebellion and punk and with records like this we can look forward to another forty as well!

Dedicated to

Chris McCormack * John (Ribsy) Vick * Tom Paley

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(‘The Blacksmith’ from the recent Folkpunkers single )

ALBUM REVIEW: RED OR DEAD- ‘Trotsky Waltz’ (2018)

The self-produced and self-financed debut album from a bunch of socialist folk-punkers from North Wales who will bring down the system or fall asleep trying!
So we can safely say we are into the new year in full swing with this our first review of 2018. Released on new year’s day it’s not yer typical celtic-punk but seeing as how Red Or Dead hail from the Celtic stronghold of north Wales it certainly justifies its place here. While musically its from the same sort of path as ‘festie’ bands like The Levellers, Folk The System or even Ferocious Dog it sticks pretty much to the more modern standard of what passes for folk-punk and while I think it could benefit from a few celtic flourishes it’s fine as it is! The band formed only a couple of years after meeting while protesting outside a UKIP conference. Folk has long been a way for people to push for change and in fact the folk scene could do with a real dose of it now.

Red Or Dead left to right: Dave Sunerton Burl- Bass, Guitar * Rob Murray- Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals * Gala Elvira- Vocals * Emma Sunerton Burl- Cajon/Percussion

Trotsky Waltz begins with ‘I Am The Fire’ and if they weren’t indeed Welsh then I would be bringing the names of some classic English folk-rock bands into the equation. The most stand out thing after first listen is the use of a cajon which is one of those wooden boxes that people sit on and tap and thump instead of having a drummer. This means that it doesn’t ever really fly off into punk remaining solidly within folk. It’s a rousing start to proceedings though and its always sensible to start with a standout track I think. Lyrically its all a bit right on but does at least manage not to fall into cliche, or even worse parody. Robs vocals are strong and with Gala’s backing the two of them work brilliantly together. The following two tracks first appeared on their debut EP from last year and both have been improved on significantly. ‘No One Is Innocent’ sees Gala take over on vocals and she has a certain anarcho-punk sound to her voice reminding me of early Chumba’s perhaps. Looking back I think lot of what we called anarcho-punk back in the day would now be classed as folk-punk. Back when I first going to pubs when I was just a young spotty punk rocker the pubs and clubs use to be full of socialist folky bands, or at least the ones I went to, and how Red Or Dead would have loved those days. 
(listen to their debut release below)
‘Watch It Burn’ is like the rest of the album a call to arms, or at least the street and I will try not to overuse the word ‘catchy’ here though it is going to be hard. Gala belts out the angry ‘In America’ and its on songs like these that the band could benefit from a drummer to give the songs a bit of extra bite. Nevertheless it still trips along nicely until Rob chimes in with
“Land of the free? Fuuuuuck Off!  Land of the rich white man”
bawled out and follows a rant about the state of the nation over there in the USA. I do wonder though how Obama fits into this narrative of the “rich white man” seeing how many dead bodies he was responsible for around the world? ‘Colin Cambridge’ slows it all down and chucks in something you don’t often hear in modern day music of any genre… whistling!
(here is ‘Colin Cambridge’… minus the whistling though!)

In a song that is crying out for tin whistle I suppose you got to go with what you got in a song about privileged people who go on to do nothing with their lives. The best song since the opener is up next with ‘Steeltown’ and is a simple track beginning with acoustic guitar and mandolin and Rob singing over the top about the decimation of the working class and their industries. Coming from a coal-mining family myself I can only agree that it was the Tories and Labour who share the blame for screwing the working class. Its often been said that the Conservatives defend their class and Labour hate theirs. Wales is owed a hell of a lot by the Labour Party for a loyalty that was never deserved. ‘A New Day’ is yer standard victory is in sight song but wishful thinking methinks. While the left is obsessed by poisonous identity politics we are going absolutely nowhere.

‘Never Again’ is a well cliched song title but the song manages to be both angry and gentle and I love that they name check Jimmy Reid the old Scots trade unionist.
“Never again will I bow down to a false ideal or a faded crown”
‘All The World’ plays more of the same and for once the politics take a bit of a back seat. With influences from across punk you can hear The Clash loud and proud within ‘Travel Home’ which comes over as a tribute to ‘Armagideon Time’ and in the following song, ‘Strummer And Burnel’, Rob pays his debt to the heroes who inspired him into a life of music. Bemoaning, and quite rightly, the quality of both today’s music and today’s protest.
Students they don’t march no more the middle class won that war”
Catchy and thoughtful and with a nice bit of electric guitar that threatens to rock out but just resists. We are coming up towards the final bend and ‘Living In A Life’ is another standout number here and I feel they could certainly rock out more on numbers like this. Would still be a real foot tapper live but just in need of a little extra oomft! The album comes to an end with ‘Make A Stand’ and is the perfect way to end things with a ‘lighter waving in the air’ song.
So a whopping thirteen songs that come in at a also whopping forty-five minutes and if I’m being honest then I would say the album may have benefited from being maybe two or three songs shorter. While the cajon is absolutely fine live it does get a wee bit thumpy on disc and dare I say it monotonous. The music is catchy and solid and lyrics are straight from the heart and sometimes burn with passion making you wish the music was a bit up there too. The major criticism people have of folk-punk is that it is boring but Red Or Dead steer well clear of that and the album is very well paced and recorded with a clear and crisp production too. Unashamedly left-wing and idealistic they are the sort of band that would appeal to fans of all the usual suspects of festival bands and may well pop up playing at a political benefit near you at anytime soon.
(you can listen to the entirety of Trotsky Waltz for *FREE* below on the Bandcamp player)
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Contact Red Or Dead

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: DECLAN O’ROURKE- ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine’ (2017)

Declan O’Rourke delivers an amazing album of extraordinary true tales from the most tragic period in the history of Ireland. Fifteen years in the making he takes the best of traditional Irish music and the heart of modern song-writing for something truly special.

Sometime around 1570 Spanish soldiers returned from their ‘adventures’ in South America with a tuberous vegetable that at the time was only native to the Andes. It didn’t take long before the potato as it became known became very popular and was found to grow extremely well from one end of the continent to the other as well as having a beneficial effect on the diets of those, mainly poor, Europeans that ate them. The potato grew especially well in Ireland and was grown in every space imaginable. Irish farmers were with very few exceptions tenant farmers and had no rights on the land they farmed. They also grew an abundance of wheat, barley, oats and cattle but this was sold by the farmers to their absentee landlords living in England and placed on ships for export. The food that maintained the British Empire was all produced in Ireland.

The nutritional value of potatoes was high because the skins could be fed to pigs and chickens and if a farmer was lucky enough to have a cow, their diet, based on the potato was highly nutritious. However, potatoes have predators. One is a fungus, blight, which destroys the entire plant from the leaves to the tubers below. Sometime in the mid-1840s, one ship sailing from South America introduced potato fungal spores into Ireland. The result was catastrophic, with every farm infected with the blight by 1846. With the primary food source cut off, the Irish began starving while exports of Irish produce (the so-called ‘English beef’) continued, sometimes by armed guard to protect it from the starving and dying. The so-called ‘famine’ became known instead as Án Gorta Mór, Irish for ‘The Great Hunger’. The blight did not just affect Ireland and all over Europe the potato crops failed but those countries stopped exporting food so they could feed their own people. This did not happen in Ireland. It took months during 1846 for the news of the condition of the Irish to reach the United States. There money was collected and aid shipped to the Ireland. Many of these ships were stopped and prevented from finishing their journey with the aid often going to feed horses.

So it can be clear and without doubt that the famine was no famine at all. An island famous for farming could easily have fed itself but an attempt was made to wipe the Irish Catholic from existence. The authorities claim the population of Ireland at the time was 8 million in an attempt to lessen what was done. It is widely acknowledged as an underestimate with some scholars imagining it was more like 11 million meaning over 5 million people starved to death, cutting the population almost in half. With very few exceptions, the response of English society was one of denial. The government and capitalist class in England viewed it as a superb opportunity to cleanse Ireland of their poor, ignorant tenant farmers. Absentee landlords stepped forward with offers to pay passage to any starving Irish willing to emigrate. The conditions aboard the ships that carried them to the United States were horrendous and when they arrived, the exploitation continued as soon as these poor souls stepped off the ships and their oppression continued but the Irish survived and now almost 170 years from the peak of Án Gorta Mór the Irish community continues to prosper in the USA.

Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine is the new album from Irish singer-songwriter Declan O’Rourke and tells the story of the ‘famine’ in a

“an attempt to bring fresh air to an unhealed wound, and to remind the Irish people of what we have overcome through an examination of what has lurked just below the surface of collective memory for so long”.

It was as an immigrant himself in Melbourne that he first learnt to play the guitar after moving there at 10 years old when his family upped sticks from Dublin. Trips back and forth from home to ‘home’ continued well into his mid-20’s and finally having settled in Dublin he released his acclaimed debut album Since Kyabram in 2004 and followed up this success with Big Bad Beautiful World three years later. A stint with a major label followed and led to more critical and commercially successful releases which brings us pretty much up to date and an admission here that before this album I had only heard the name Declan O’Rourke so had no idea what to expect from this album except having an 2nd-generation Irishman’s interest in the subject matter.

The album was inspired by a night spent in a old Irish workhouse with his Dad. These were the places that the poor and starving turned to as a last resort but many found no help due to the sheer numbers of desperate and dying seeking help. Many died and many more were turned away. While making this album Declan found out that his Grandfather was born in a workhouse giving himself a very real link to the people that illustrate this album.

The album begins with ‘Clogman’s Glen’ and a mournful fiddle and as soon as Declan’s voice comes in it instantly shines through strong and proud. Reminiscent of Damien Dempsey in tone and Christy in manor it’s a beautiful and moving song that tells of a husband singing to his wife of the time before the famine when life had been good to them. Now all that they had known had changed and was gone forever. Ireland was a extremely religious nation at the time of the famine and could be seen as the major reason why Protestant Britain wanted to wipe the Catholic Irish off the face of Ireland. In ‘Along The Western Seaboard’ a priest laments that

“When we need to feed so many, and there’s not even for the few”

and curses the British for their cruelty at letting the people die. In this song Án Gorta Mór is explained. The Damo comparisons continue with the passion literally seeping from Declan’s voice. ‘Buried In The Deep’ is the horrific story of the coffin ships that left Ireland with the sick and diseased crowded onto them. Emaciated, filthy and near dead the mortality rate aboard reached 20%. Many ships were lost at sea, and deaths were so common that the dead were simply thrown overboard without so much as a word of prayer or comfort said over them.

“When I die they’ll put me over

That’ll cure my broken heart

My dreams can go no further

We’re buried in the deep

Where hunger cannot find us”

A beautiful song with Declan accompanied by harp and pipes on this stunning lament to those poor souls. Emotion spilling out it brought a flush to my cheeks as the realisation of what happened hits home.

‘Poor Boy’s Shoes’ is next and its upbeat start belies the sad origins of the song. Inspired by a line from John O’Connor’s book ‘The Workhouses Of Ireland’ it was the first song Declan wrote of this collection

“The man who carried his wife from the workhouse to their old home, mile after weary mile, and was discovered next morning dead, his wife’s feet held to his breast as if he was trying to warm them…”

as Declan says “I had stumbled into a chapter of history I knew almost nothing about. I wanted to be a witness, to share these stories the best way I knew how, through music”. An ending that will bring a tear to your eye as it did to mine. A punch to the gut as life is suddenly turned upside down for a very real family, The Buckley’s, and it beggars belief how any survived at all. He brings the story vividly and heart wrenching alive to us.

And there he tried to warm her cold feet through, And they found him there, in poor boy’s shoes”.

The bodhrán kicks off ‘Indian Meal’ and its driving rhythm tells of the removal of food while at the same time…

“There’s ships leaving’ full of pigs, heifer, and lambs
Some transportin’ convicts to Van Diemen’s Land
We’re hemorrhagin’ barrels of butter and grain
And all that comes back in, and all that remains is…
Indian Meal, Indian Meal, Indian Meal”

The government and forced labour schemes fed the poor, if they were lucky, a tasteless and un-nutritious porridge that did little benefit. The British Government found wanting and unable to hide the stench of the dead creeping across the Irish Sea responded with feeble ‘relief’ in an attempt to conceal their guilt. The stunning beauty of the harp helps ‘Mary Kate’ on its way and sorrowful the pain at having to leave your beloved ones behind and heart-breaking doesn’t even begin to measure its words. The true story of Irish girls ‘saved’ by being sent overseas. In the song Mary Kate is chosen to leave to Australia while her younger sister is to remain.

She tells her sister at the dock that she will she see her again knowing full well that to stay means death. The harp remains for ‘Laissez Faire’ which was the name given by the British to the system that believed that the free market will solve everything. That it is unethical to intervene in nature and that helping the poor only makes them lazy and dependent. An experiment that would lead to millions of deaths. The song makes mention of the help and aid given by the Quakers, among others, in America while at home and in Britain help was reluctant and miserly. Catholics were offered soup but only on condition that they renounced their Catholicism which led to the derogatory term ‘soup taker’ for any Irish Catholic who betrays their religion and country.

“Swap your Catholic halo for a Protestant hoop and give up your place in heaven for bowl of soup”

‘Rattle My Bones’ is a moment of lightheartedness among the tragedy as Declan starts off acapello before joined by accordion and soon has the ‘bones’ of a sea-shanty going. ‘The Villain Curry Shaw’ tells of a family leaving for Nova Scotia on board the Hannah setting sail from Newry on 29th April 1849. This true story tells of the ships sinking and the captain and two officers who left the sinking ship aboard the only lifeboat, leaving passengers and the rest of the crew to fend for themselves. 49 died and 130 were rescued from the freezing ice. His cowardice has gone into the history books and is now immortalised by Declan for all. The laments over for a moment ‘Johnny And The Lantern’ is for me the best song here capturing both the tragic times as well as the famous irrepressible Irish shining through. The Irish always fought the invasion of their country and again the upbeat and cheerful tune belies the subject but surely the demise of an absentee landlord is a time for celebration is it not. The landlords that sucked the land dry that farmers farmed were quick to evict when rent became hard to pay as Án Gorta Mór began to bite. Well fed on the back of their peasant farmers they were despised from one end of Ireland to the other.

‘Johnny And The Lantern’ tells of an anonymous Irish farmer shooting to death one such landlord, Manning, on the road in Delvin, Westmeath and, as is further illustrated on the cover of the album by the band dressed in ‘famine’ clothing, his body is cut to pieces.

‘And the last thing they buried, Were the hands that took the rent’.

On an album filled with melancholy and calamity your heartstrings are in constant danger as on ‘The Connaught Orphan’. Declan’s voice pulls the emotion from the tale of a young 6 year old boy who starving and all alone is provided with a new set of clothes by an American Quaker women. She wonders why the young lad is unhappy at his new outfit.

“I’ll surely die of hunger now
If they see me with your nice new clothes
They’ll think I’m telling lies, and that
I have a mammy feeds me so”

The awfulness of the situation is captured perfectly.

The inscription on the cross reads: Cailleadh Clann na nGaedheal ina míltibh ar an Oileán so ar dteicheadh dhóibh ó dlíghthibh na dtíoránach ngallda agus ó ghorta tréarach isna bliadhantaibh 1847-48. Beannacht dílis Dé orra. Bíodh an leacht so i gcomhartha garma agus onóra dhóibh ó Ghaedhealaibh Ameriocá. Go saoraigh Dia Éire – Children of the Gael died in their thousands on this island having fled from the laws of foreign tyrants and an artificial famine in the years 1847-48. God’s blessing on them. Let this monument be a token to their name and honour from the Gaels of America. God Save Ireland.

The story of those coffin ships is told in ‘The Great Saint Lawrence River’. Between 1845 and 1851 over 1,500,000 people left Ireland on diseased and vermin-infested ships rampant with disease.

“When I die they’ll put me over, We’re buried in the deep, Where hunger cannot find us”.

In the midst of Án Gorta Mór the U.S placed restrictions on the amount of Irish flooding into the country so unable to land the ships sailed on to Canada but the extra weeks meant many more perished. A 46-foot high Celtic cross stands at the highest point in the St. Lawrence River, thirty miles from Quebec. Grosse Île served as the quarantine station for immigrant ships and boar witness to the terrible devastation that brought Ireland’s destitute to the New World. It is estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 are buried here. The largest mass grave of Án Gorta Mór victims outside of Ireland. The album ends with ‘Go Domhain i do Chuimhne’ a spoken word song.

Ach na dearmaid ar gcaithú, Cuimhnidh lámh ar an mead, A tháinigh muid tharais, Más féidir linn cuimhniú, is teacht ar an tuiscint, Más féidir linn tuiscint, maith (far an) croí.

(But don’t forget our sorrows, And all of our sadness, Reflect on all that we have overcome, If we can remember, we can try to understand, If we understand, we can learn to forgive).

Spoken first in the language of Ireland and then repeated in English it is a call to remember the tragedy of those times and of the loss that we suffer as a nation both collectively and personally. This winter marks the 170th anniversary of Án Gorta Mór reaching its peak. Events that haunt us yet. The island hasn’t recovered either with the population still far below what it was in the 1840’s. It saw the Irish scattered to the winds and their orphans are still with us today with over 80 million across the world claiming Irish heritage. It is a truly electrifying way to close this outstanding album.

Growing up in England we were never taught at school about Án Gorta Mór. Maybe they thought the reality of what happened and the obvious blame at whose door the dead should be laid to rest would be too much for us, instead we found out at home in hushed bedside stories and tales around fires. My own Great-Grandfather left Ireland and lost all four of his children and wife before returning to Ireland many, many years later to marry again and start a new family. Stories we all have if we look for them. This album covers Án Gorta Mór in a most sensitive and beautiful way. Never shying away from apportioning blame to the ‘richest nation on the earth’ and telling the story of real men, women and children. People from history who lived and died in those terrible times. During ‘Go Domhain i do Chuimhne’ Declan urges us to keep our heritage, traditions and language alive. The Irish people owe Declan a great service for what he has produced here and maybe its too much to ask for it to be put on the British school curriculum but it warrants it so. It’s an emotional ride alright with several songs the tears arriving. It has taken Declan 15 years to deliver Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine and on it he is ably assisted by a wealth of Irish musicians including John Sheahan on fiddle, Dermot Byrne on accordion, Gino Lupari on bodhran and Mike McGoldrick on pipes, whistle and flute and I can honestly say that in all my 47 years I have never heard anything that evokes Án Gorta Mór in such a moving and evocative way.

Buy Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine

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Contact Declan O’Rourke

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In writing this review I owe a huge debt to the following- my Grandfather, Michael Joesph Wilkinson. Missed every day. Dave McNally of Folk Radio UK here for his outstanding review here and Stair na hÉireann which provides invaluable help with articles on every aspect of Irish history here.

Further Recommended Reading:

Let Ireland Remember

Irish National Famine Memorial Day

but the most extensive resource on Facebook about this period is to be found at

Irish Holocaust –Not Famine: The Push To Educate In Fact’s

(Declan O’Rourke performs two tracks, ‘Indian Meal’ and ‘Poor Boy’s Shoes’ and talks about the album and his reasons for recording it)

ALBUM REVIEW: CHRISTY MOORE- ‘On The Road’ (2017)

Christy Moore is one of a handful of people who brought Irish folk music out of the backroom sessions in pubs and homes and out in to the mainstream. With influences from rock, pop, and jazz music he is one of the architects of modern Irish folk music.

Released this very day is On The Road the new album from Irish music icon Christy Moore, a two-disc, 24-song set of classic tracks Christy has made his own in an incredible fifty years of touring and recording. The tracks have been recorded in seventeen live venues from London to Westport, Glasgow to Galway, over the past three years and is the first time Christy’s biggest tunes have been made available on one album. Of course with a career as long and successful as his not everyone will be happy and personally I would have liked to have seen some of the songs that gained him notoriety in the 1980’s when he was the bain of the Irish establishment recording tracks such as ‘They Never Came Home’ about 1981’s Stardust fire where 48 people died at a Dublin nightclub. Christy was hauled before the courts and fined and had his album withdrawn for suggesting, quite correctly, that the fire exits being chained was the reason for the disaster. ‘The Time Has Come’ described the last meeting of a hunger striker and his mother receiving regular plays on Irish Radio until it was revealed exactly what the song was about and it was subsequently banned. One song included here though banned at the time was ‘Mcllhatton’, which along with ‘Back Home in Derry’ was banned after it was discovered they were written by Bobby Sands whilst in prison. So there is no ’90 Miles From Dublin’ but what were we to expect. Much of the material here is of the leftfield kind and while ‘Viva La Quinte Brigada’ may have been the embodiment of everything the Irish government hated upon it’s release the years have been kind to this roll call of the brave Irishmen and women who left Ireland to fight Franco and the fascists in 1936 Spain. With his political output having ground to a halt, hopefully temporarily, it is Christy’s renowned sense of humour that takes centre stage. It is on songs such as ‘Joxer Goes To Stuttgart’ about Irish fans travelling to Euro 1988, in West Germany and, utilizing the same tune, ‘Delirium Tremens’ telling of his alcoholic demons, an idea later stolen by indie rock band Carter USM for ‘Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere’, that Christy’s music comes alive with the audience enthusiastically singing and clapping along.

“Goodbye to the Port and Brandy, to the Vodka and the Stag,
To the Schmiddick and the Harpic, the bottled draught and keg.
As I sat lookin’ up the Guinness ad I could never figure out
How your man stayed up on the surfboard after 14 pints of stout”

As much as I love the more raucous and lively tracks there is no denying the beauty of the slower songs here. Well known standards such as ‘Nancy Spain’ and ‘Cliffs Of Dooneen’ are putty in his hands extolling emotion that not many can squeeze out of a song heard countless times. One of the highlights of the album is his take on The Pogues ‘Fairytale Of New York’ and his half whispered voice and relaxed guitar adds another dimension to this amazing song. It ends with Christy whispering of a night on the lash with Shane in Tipp and it is breath-takingly beautiful. There is a new song in the shape of ‘Lingo Politico’ dedicated to politicians everywhere! The quality of these recordings is simply outstanding and they have been edited together superbly to make an album that flows and ebbs beautifully. Accompanied by a booklet that tells you every single thing you need to know about these recordings. Christy’s voice is strong and powerful when needed and gentle and kind at other times. Their can’t be many who need an introduction to his recordings but to those who love him and those looking for an introduction to his best work this can be recommended mainly because of that excellent production..

AN ORDINARY MAN By Scott Feemster

Christopher Moore was born in Kildare, Ireland in May, 1945. His father owned a grocery shop while his mother was a keen music fan and was often caught singing around the house to Clancy Brothers records. Christy and two of his five siblings, Ailish and Barry, all went on to be notable singers, Barry adopting the stage name Luka Bloom later in life. When Christy was young, he became aware of the deep well of Irish folk songs, though, at the time, he was more impressed with rock’n’roll than folk tunes. Regardless of influence, he took up the guitar and bodhran and played briefly in a band with who would become his long-time collaborator, Donal Lunny. When he was out of school, Christy took a job as a bank clerk in Dublin and became fascinated by the local folk scene. Though he played a few gigs he couldn’t work his way into the Dublin scene as much as he wanted, and when a labour strike struck in the mid 60’s he decided to pack it in and move to England to find work. Christy spent the next few years gaining quite a reputation in England with his mix of traditional Irish and British songs and towards the end of the 60’s he decided to take the next logical step. Managing to get noted songwriter (and brother of Brendan) Dominic Behan to produce an album of traditional folk and political songs called Paddy On The Road (1969) and it has become something of a rarity in later years since only 500 copies were pressed. Though thrilled that he finally had an album to show for his efforts, he was disappointed that the English musicians backing him didn’t have the proper feel for the Irish material he was presenting. Christy moved back to Ireland and set upon finding some musicians who could play the fiery brand of politically-charged folk music he wanted to produce. Moore teamed up with his old friend guitarist/bouzouki player Donal Lunny, uillean piper and whistle player Liam O’Flynn, mandolinist Andy Irvine and bodhran player Kevin Conneff to produce Prosperous (1972), an album that marked a turning point in Irish folk music. Suddenly, younger Irish musicians were taking up traditional instruments and songs and injecting new urgency and fire into them. This combination worked so well together that they decided to carry on as a group, calling themselves Planxty. Touring relentlessly and recording the landmark Planxty (1973) and The Well Below The Valley (1973).

Moore set to work on a solo album that would show all of his strengths, and decided to split Whatever Tickles Your Fancy (1975) between an acoustic side and an electric side. The acoustic side featured Moore’s voice, guitar and bodhran playing, while the electric side was similar to the folk-rock style Fairport Convention were popularizing around the same time. Moore followed it up with his self-titled Christy Moore (1976), this time concentrating on acoustic-based narrative folk songs that were his strength. Moore took on a heavy schedule of touring and playing gigs but kept his connection with his former Planxty bandmates, and by late 1978 the original four members were keen to try the band again adding fifth member flutist Matt Molloy to the band and recording three further album’s between 1979 and 1983. Wanting to branch out from the traditional sound put forth by Planxty, Moore joined with Lunny in 1981 and formed Moving Hearts, who combined traditional Irish music with contemporary elements from rock and jazz. Other members of Moving Hearts included guitarist Declan Sinnott, saxophonist Keith Donald, bassist Eoghan O’Neill, drummer Brian Calnan and uillean piper Davy Spillane. Protests against internment, the ‘H Blocks’ and in support of the hunger strikers led to several bans and Christy’s outspoken opinions left him no friends in the establishment. Two politically-charged albums resulted, Moving Hearts (1981) and Dark End Of The Street (1982), before again Christy left to concentrate on his solo career.

To say that the 1980’s was a busy period would be an understatement, as Christy managed to be a member of Planxty, Moving Hearts and a solo artist all at the same time. He released a whole series of solo albums throughout the 80’s, including The Time Has Come (1983), the critically acclaimed Ride On (1984),  Ordinary Man (1985), Spirit Of Freedom (1985) Unfinished Revolution (1987) and Voyage (1989), with guests including Sinead O’Connor and Elvis Costello. If Christy wasn’t enough of an Irish national treasure with his work in the 70’s, his output during the 80’s combined with populist political commentary in his lyrics cemented his stature in Irish music as Ireland’s equivalent of America’s Woody Guthrie.

Moore entered the 90’s still touring and releasing albums, though slowing down a bit to near human levels. Releasing the over-produced Smoke & Strong Whiskey (1991) before a more traditional, stripped-down sound with King Puck (1993). The rousing Live At The Point(1994) followed but in 1997, Christy’s decades of constant touring, combined with his attraction to copious amounts of alcohol finally caught up with him. Told if he continued performing at the level he had been his heart would kill him he retired to take care of his health, but soon returned to the studio to make Traveller (1999), a giant left turn for Moore. The album was techno-pop utilizing synthesizers, drum machines and heavily effected electric guitar, along with the usual traditional Irish instrumentation. The album was greeted by surprise by Christy’s fans, but was generally well reviewed. He planned a return to performing live again in 1999, but his health still wasn’t up to it using the down time to his advantage writing his autobiography, One Voice (2000).

Though it looked like his days of heavy touring were over, he was not done recording getting together with Donal Lunny and Declan Sinnot for This Is The Day (2001), which, sound-wise, split the difference between his earlier stripped-down acoustic records and the sound captured on Traveller. Moore followed with a series of low-key appearances in Dublin, and after being profiled on an Irish TV special, renewed interest was shown towards Planxty, and Moore joined with Lunny, Irvine and O’Flynn for some reunion shows. Planxty kept their reunion open-ended, and did not rule out working together in the future but Christy returned to his solo career with the critically-acclaimed Burning Times (2006), which featured his own compositions mixed in with covers by such songwriters as Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan and Morrissey. Again, Moore took to playing some shows, although in a much more low-key manner, and put out the double album Live In Dublin (2006). Recent years have seen no let up but with his releases now tending to be of the tribute/live/greatest hits variety he is still a regular visitor to this side of the Irish sea and although recently the admission fee’s have been somewhat expensive he still remains one of Ireland’s most treasured performers and, dare I say it, now part of the establishment.

Buy On The Road- All links here

Christy Moore- WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  ChristyMooreForum  Twitter

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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