Category Archives: Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy The Good, The Bad And The Indifferent

LittleClassRecords  iTunes  Microsoft

Contact Black Irish Texas

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

2017 LONDON MEMORIAL TO THE GREAT HUNGER

On Sunday 14th May 2017, it will be 170 years since the beginning of An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) in Ireland. This year there will be a memorial event outside TUC Congress House. This location has been chosen because the Parish of St. Giles was the first recorded ‘Little Ireland’ in London. Many Irish people who lived in this parish endured overcrowding, poverty and squalor and many died of typhus. For this reason, a number of us will be campaigning for a memorial statue to ‘An Gorta Mor’ in this part of London. Unlike Liverpool, no other such statue exists in the capital city. We like to seen the statue dedicated to all the Irish and other migrant workers who made Britain, the most industrialised nation in the world through their concentration of cheap labour!

LONDON REMEMBERS THE GREAT HUNGER

SUNDAY 14th MAY- 1pm SHARP

OUTSIDE TUC, CONGRESS HOUSE, GREAT RUSSELL STREET, LONDON WC1B 3LS

(nearest tube- Tottenham Court Road) 

The event will last for about 40 minutes. Invited speakers are as follows: Austin Harney will speak on the callous administration of Lord Trevelyan who was Head of the Treasury in 1847. This administration under its prime minister, Lord John Russell, denied the vital imports of grain supplies to Ireland, thus causing many Irish people to die of starvation. Niall Mulholland will speak on how An Gorta Mor devastated the people of the North of Ireland and Mick Gilgunn will speak on how the poverty stricken Irish immigrants in London built the British Trade Union movement and the prosperity of the capital of Britain since the days of An Gorta Mor! After the speakers, we will have a minute’s silence for all the Irish people who died and forced to flee from Ireland as a result of this “Great Hunger”.

THE GREAT FAMINE LIE

When I was a kid I grew up taught that the Irish famine was a natural catastrophe caused by crop failure. That I was taught this at a school in England where I’d guess well over 50 % of the children had Irish parents or Grandparents is quite simply wrong. The books I was given in History class of course didn’t tally with the accounts I was hearing at home and as has been the way with the Irish abroad it was that passed on history that won the day. While it is true that the main crop for the Irish and especially the working class Irish was the potatoes the truth as ever is far more startling.

Failure of the potato crop began in 1845 and this impacted on the Irish population as other crops had to be purchased at a very high price or forfeited to their landlords. Hence, the starvation took effect in 1846. During the following year, it was the beginning of more than a million deaths as Britain refused to supply grain to the starving Irish population. In addition, many workers on the roads contracted typhus and it led to the ‘Road Fever’, that spread as far as Belfast, killing many workers. It is estimated that of the British Empires 130 army regiments a staggering 67 were in Ireland during the time of The Great Hunger. Over 100,000 soldiers at any one time. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these soldiers were there on a charitable mission to help the poor beleagued Irish. they were there with only one purpose. Their job was to subdue any Irish resistance and to remove food by force. AT any one point forty shiploads of food, rising to double that some days, were removed from the island of Ireland at gunpoint. Ireland starved as its food was confiscated. The British police and soldiers seized tens of millions head of livestock, tens of millions of tons flour, grain and poultry and protected these shipments from the starving and dying Irish. All the while those in charge knew full well that these huge quantities were more than enough to feed those dying of starvation. When the quantity of exports leaving Ireland could no longer be concealed, George Bernard Shaw wrote in Man and Superman 1897:

“The Famine? No, the Starvation. When a country is full of food and exporting it, there can be no famine.”‘

In the best book ever written on the subject, The Great Hunger, British Historian Cecil-Woodham Smith exposed the removal of food to Britain and became a pariah in academia for the next 30 years. Historians and their books maintain the lie that only potato’s were cultivated and anyone bringing the genocide out in the open is smeared as a “republican sympathiser”.

While it is no surprise of an Irish politician it is still to her eternal shame that former Irish President Mary Robinson referred to the genocide as

“Ireland’s largest natural disaster”.

In 2005 while Prime Minister Tony Blair said,

“Britain stood by while the Irish starved to death”

but again did not acknowledge role of the British Army in forced food confiscations.

The official figures posit a two million drop from 1841-51 due to famine and emigration but it is believed the 1841 census wildly underestimated the real population of over Ireland meaning the figures for both the dead and emigration would be much much higher. The genocide was a deliberate attempt to exterminate the Irish people and their cultural and national identity. Queen Victoria’s economist, Nassau Senior, voiced his fear that existing policies

“will not kill more than one million Irish in 1848 and that will scarcely be enough to do much good”.

During the “famine” years, Irish foodstuff received high prices on the agricultural and commodity markets of the world. The British Empire covered half the globe; why else would it keep half its armies in Ireland at great expense? The Irish were an obstacle to Britain’s world power. They were Celtic, Catholic with their own rich culture and traditions, namely strong: National identity, Family, Culture and faith. The Irish have a strong Celtic consciousness giving the people the ability to think critically, morally and be self-sufficient. It’s in our DNA no one can ever extinguish it.

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 Facts

IN FOR A PENNY RELEASE NEW SONG ‘EASTER MOURN’ AND VIDEO

A new song and video from Irish-American celtic-punk band In For A Penny from Tybee Island, Georgia in the southeastern United States. We don’t often feature videos. In fact I can only remember us doing it a handful of times but as soon as I heard ‘Easter Mourn’ I knew it was worthy and on what better day than the Bobby Sands anniversary. It’s a taster from their upcoming album ‘One More Last Hurrah!’ to be released soon.

 EASTER MOURN

05-05-2017

“Easter mourn in the early light of Spring April 1916
Did a proclamation ring o’er Dublin town
From the GPO came the charge to go
Right proudly flew the flag of war o’er Dublin town
There’ll be no resurrection on this Easter mourn
The poets and the teachers, soldiers and the speaker
Pledged their lives to free her,
Oh Dublin town in the rubble fought the rabble,
Bravely to the battle while the long range guns did pound and rattle,
O’er Dublin town
Locked up by the foreigner in Kilmainham gaol”
Singer/ bouzouki player and songwriter Sean McNally was kind enough to write a few words about the track so without further ado over to him.
“The song was inspired by a story I read about Canon O’Neill who wrote the modern lyrics to Foggy Dew. Came up with my own arrangement for the upcoming release and read about how he wrote it after he attended the first sitting of the new Irish Parliament, known as the Dail. The names of the elected members were called out, but many were absent. Their names were answered by the reply “faoi ghlas ag na Gaill” which means “locked up by the foreigner”. the line just hit me and it call came from there… it’s an homage to Foggy Dew basically”

Contact In For A Penny

Facebook  WebSite  YouTube  ReverbNation

In For A Penny left to right: Jeremy Riddle- Guitar * Special Guest Appearance Ricardo Ochoa- violin * Sean McNally- Vocals and Bouzouki * Henny ‘Da Butcha’- Drums * Bryce McNally- Bass

you can support this great band by getting their latest EP ‘Every Day Should Be Saint Paddy’s Day’ for only $5 from here on CD or here on download. Read our review here.

Bobby Sands died in prison following a 66 day hunger strike on this day back in 1981. Bobby Sands would be the first of ten men to die in an effort to gain political status in a very public battle with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Born in 1954, Bobby Sands grew up in Belfast under the cloud of nationalist and loyalist divisions. He joined the Republican Movement when he was 18 and was soon arrested and imprisoned for possessing a firearm. A second arrest in 1976 led to a 14-year-sentence. In prison, Sands embarked on a 66 day hunger strike that led to his death. During the strike he was elected a Member of Parliament.

A hero among Irish nationalists, Robert Gerard ‘Bobby’ Sands was born in Belfast, 9 March 1954. Bobby was the oldest of four children born to John and Rosaleen Sands, and the couple’s first son. At an early age, Sands’s life was affected by the sharp divisions that shaped Northern Ireland. At the age of 10, he was forced to move with his family out of their neighborhood due to repeated intimidation by loyalists.

“I was only a working-class boy from a Nationalist ghetto, but it is repression that creates the revolutionary spirit of freedom.”

Loyalist intimidation proved to be a theme in Sands’s life. At the age of 18, he was forced out of his job as an apprentice car builder by a group of British supporters. Not long after, he and his family had to move again. Thatcher’s view of the prisoners and the IRA was that they were murderous thugs. Nationalist Ireland’s view the complete opposite.

The IRA played a very astute international campaign during the hunger strikes gaining widespread support and attention for their cause. The deaths of Sands and his colleagues boosted IRA recruitment. The support for the strike was evidenced by Sands winning the vacant House of Commons seat for MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in a by-election necessitated by the death of sitting MP Frank Maguire. In a hugely emotional campaign, Sands defeated Unionist candidate Harry West.

The demands of the prisoners included:

1. The right not to wear a prison uniform;

2. The right not to do prison work;

3. The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;

4. The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;

5. Full restoration of remission lost through the protest.

Britain never formally acceded to the strikers’ demands but three days after the hunger strikes finally came to an end on 3 October, Ulster Secretary James Prior announced a number of concessions including the right to wear civilian clothes and the restoration of partial remission for those who obeyed prison rules for three months.

LIVE REVIEW: FEROCIOUS DOG AND NECK AT THE GARAGE, NORTH LONDON LAST NIGHT!

We don’t hang about here and hot off the press here’s a review of last nights shenanigans. It all happened in the heart of Arsenal territory in North London but thankfully they weren’t at home and we had the Wetherspoons to ourselves pre-gig. Two of the greatest celtic-punk bands around combined for the perfect night and gave their London Hellhound following a night to remember.

Review by Chris Brown

Tonight’s gig was Ferocious Dog and Neck at The Garage in Highbury.

The Garage

An easy trip from Pimlico to Highbury and Islington on the Victoria line and the venue was opposite the tube station.

Ferocious Dog and Neck have been talking about doing this gig at The Garage for a year or two now and finally it’s happened.

I was there to do Neck’s merch and covered a couple of Leanne’s breaks too. Also had a Sea Shepherd stand next to us so I was able to talk to them about having a stall at my event raising funds for Hunt Sabs and Sea Shepherd in Derby on May 6th. 13 bands in 12 hours and free entry.

pre-gig

Neck’s set was superb. Playing favourite tracks like ‘Every Day Is Saint Patrick’s Day’, ‘Always Upsetting Somebody’, ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’, ‘Star Of The County Down’, ‘Everyone’s Welcome To The Hooley’ and ‘The Psycho-Ceilidh Mayhem Set’. A wonderful set of London-Irish Psycho-Ceilidh performed with the added bonus of Ruts DC’s Leigh Heggarty as guest guitarist.

And then, Ferocious Dog tore the fucking roof off. This is the first time I’ve seen Ferocious Dog with their new line-up after the departure of Scott Walters and Ellis Waring earlier this year.

Their more than capable replacements in the form of Hung Like Hanratty’s ex-drummer Alex Smith and multi-instrumentalist John Leonard of Seven Little Sisters have fitted in nicely and added their own thing to the mix that is Ferocious Dog.

From the atmospheric intro written and recorded by Hell Hound John James JJ Kirk to the opening notes of ‘Gallows Justice’ through to ‘Mairi’s Wedding Pt II’ and the encore of ‘Paddy On The Railway’ and ‘Slow Motion Suicide’ via ‘Poor, Angry and Young’, ‘Verse For Lee/The Glass/Lee’s Tune’, ‘Ruby Bridges’, ‘Crime and Punishment’, ‘I Stand’, ‘Unconditional’, ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, ‘Freeborn John’, ‘Hell Hounds’, ‘Criminal Justice’, Blind Leading The Blind’ and ‘Freethinker’ (not in order and a few missing but yeah) the set was non-stop foot-stomping, hand-clapping, Ferocious moshing, heel-to-heeling and toe-to-toeing punk folk at it’s best.

I love the fact that Blind Leading The Blind is reappearing in the set now and that the loss of two very accomplished band members hasn’t meant Ferocious Dog calling it a day. They survived three members leaving before so it was hardly a surprise but I am genuinely delighted that the new line-up sounds so feckin’ good.

There’s life in the old Dog yet.

Ferocious DogWebSite  FacebookPage  FacebookGroup  YouTube  Twitter

NeckWebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter

thanks to Chris for the review, Amy O’D for the photos.

HOW TO BECOME AN AUTHENTIC IRISH-PUNK BAND!

irish-instrument1The Irish are quite rightly famed for their music. Whether or not this would be so if the country and it’s inhabitants hadn’t had such a tragic past is debatable but traditional Irish music has been around centuries and has had an influence on many different forms of music, most notably in American bluegrass and country. By the High and Late Medieval era, the Irish annals were listing musicians and in County Wicklow a set of wooden pipes were discovered that date even further back to the Stone Age to prove it. There’s just something about the pipes and the melodies of an Irish song that brings out so many feelings and emotions in people.

So there you are sat at home thinking of starting up an authentic Irish folk-punk band but what instruments do you need to include. Sure you got your drums and guitar and bass but what about the ones that will transform you from just a run in the mill punk rock band into the next Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly. You may be surprised at actually how few of them originated in Ireland but here are the traditional folk instruments that you will find in celtic punk bands that Irish musicians have been blowing, strumming, picking, plucking and thumping for a very long time indeed.

Bodhrán

bodhran

Imelda May

Pronounced ‘bow-rawn’ this handheld goatskin drum is certainly easier to get around and less trouble than a drummer! The name ‘bodhran’ is an Irish word that derives from the word bodhar which means deaf or dull. Known as the heartbeat of trad music for good reason this large drum is covered with stretched animal skin and struck with a stick that was traditionally made from double-ended knucklebone to provide our music with a pulsating beat that turns listeners into dancers with ease. It’s speculated that the instrument served a double purpose as a husk sifter and grain tray. We prefer it as a drum. For a taster of what the bodhrán has to offer, re-watch Riverdance for the thousandth time.

Uilleann Pipes

uilleann-pipes

Liam O’Flynn

Now most celtic-punk bands that have pipes have the Highland bagpipes rather than the uilleann pipes. This is mainly down to the uilleann pipes, which means ‘pipes of the elbow’ because of their pump-operated bellows, taking years to master and that the Highland bagpipes are much much louder. The bag of the pipes is inflated thanks to a set of bellows fastened around the waist and right arm of the musician. The bellows are able to relieve the musician from putting in the extra effort required to blow into a bag to maintain its pressure. These ancient pipes have been mesmerising listeners with their haunting tones since the 5th Century but it was two County Louth brothers, William and Charles Taylor, who developed the modern version after emigrating with the instrument from post-Famine Ireland to the United States. The pipes are different from several other bagpipes with regards to their tone and wider range of notes. With a distinct structure, which sounds much sweeter and quieter than other bagpipes. The pipes are almost always played while sitting down and it is thought one of the reasons that the pipes were invented was to compose music for dancing.

Tin Whistle

Almost all primitive cultures had a type of tin whistle with a possible Neanderthal flute found in Slovenia dating from 81,000-53,000 B.C.,a German flute from 35,000 years ago and a flute made from sheep’s bone in West Yorkshire dating to the Iron Age. Known also as the penny whistle, since it could be bought for a mere penny, the tin whistle has six holes, a mouthpiece, and is played by blowing air into it and using your fingers to cover different holes to produce different notes. British entrepreneur Robert Clarke began manufacturing the modern tin whistle in the early 1900’s and it became extremely popular and soon made it’s way over to Ireland. Nowadays found in most celtic-punk bands it has and become indistinguishable from Celtic music and is a beloved instrument of Celtic musicians and fans alike.

fiddle

Fiddle

Arr now this is the classic debate that is had in all kinds of folk music circles! Is it the violin or is it the fiddle? Well looks can be deceiving as they both look absolutely identical. Take the Irish fiddle, for example, this essential traditional instrument may look the same as a violin, but its unique playing style and sound set’s the two apart. Probably the most common traditional instrument found in celtic-punk bands the high-pitched and expressive fiddle is often heard above all else, and can be both euphoric and heart-breaking in equal measure. In Ireland the counties of Sligo and Donegal in particular both have rich fiddling traditions and have been redefining the sound of this sweet instrument for centuries.

Irish Bouzouki

irish-bouzouki

Donal Lunny

Adapted from a Greek instrument and brought to Ireland in the 1960s, the Irish bouzouki is the latest addition to our traditional music arsenal. Looking not unlike a giant mandolin, the instrument was popularized by Irish folk legend Dónal Lunny from Tullamore, County Offaly, who used one in seminal trad folk band Planxty. With such a rich and bright sound its no surprise we stole the idea and made it our own.  Bouzoukis are now regulars at many a traditional music session. Another instrument we stole and is played with such regularity in celtic-punk band’s it second only to the banjo, originally brought to America by African slaves it was adopted by Celtic emigrants and became associated with country, folk, Irish traditional and bluegrass music.

Concertina

heaven-hellDeveloped in England and Germany in the early 18th century and spread to Ireland late in the 19th century. The concertina, also known as the squeeze box, was known in Germany as a lower-class instrument used mostly by workers to perform music on the streets while the English concertinas developed an air of bourgeois respectability with the upper classes enjoying the exact same melodies. The concertina has buttons and bellows on both ends and when pressed, the buttons move in the same direction as the bellows. The piano accordion became highly popular during the 1950’s and has flourished to the present day in céilí bands and for old time Irish dance music.

Celtic Harp

Now this is a long shot as I know of no celtic-punk band out there that has a harpist. If you do please let me know in the comments section. The only time I can remember seeing one played is at Wolfe Tones gigs in the 80’s. Anyhow you know an instrument has reached iconic status when it appears on the currency. The Celtic harp is that very instrument. Variations of the triangular, gut-stringed-instrument have been plucked in Ireland since as long ago as the 10th Century, when nomadic harpists would travel around Ireland performing songs for food or a warm bed. In 1792, the Belfast Harp Festival saw the best players competing for prizes. And today, the ornate and ancient Brian Boru harp can be viewed in Trinity College in Dublin. So if you are looking for something to set your celtic-punk band apart then why not get yourself a harpist!

Folk The System instruments

Folk The System

So there you go all you need to start a band. Finding the players you need is a different matter though but with Ireland’s trad music attracting more and more listeners and more and more people of all nationalities taking up the instruments it hopefully shouldn’t be too hard. With our music schools, concerts and pub sessions, there’s no shortage of opportunists to learn either so if you fancy taking up any of the instruments mentioned follow the links below.

Link1  Link2  Link3  Link4  Link5  Fiddle  TinWhistle  Guitar

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

ST PATRICK’S DAY BLESSINGS BE UPON YOU

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh

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

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

Irish Songs Of Drinking And Blackguarding

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

FREE DOWNLOAD

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

clancy

Bob Dylan claimed in the early 1960’s

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

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

clancys-2

(Tommy and Liam)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

clancys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracklist

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

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

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

(listen to the album below just press play!)

COME FILL YOUR DRINKS WITH US ALBUM SLEEVE NOTES

by Patrick Clancy

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

More Information On The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem

Wikipedia  WebSite  LastFM  Facebook  YouTubeLive

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

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

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: UNCLE BARD AND THE DIRTY BASTARDS- ‘Handmade’ (2017)

Italian celtic-punk band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards play fantastic celtic-punk but spice it up it with pure traditional Irish music. With uilleann pipes, tenor banjo and Irish flute no other band in the celtic punk scene can compete with these Bastards in their knowledge of Irish trad music…

as well as that they are a great bunch of lads!

Handmade 2017

It’s a long time now and in this modern age we are taught to have short memories but back before the now deceased ‘celtic tiger’ roared it’s last breath Ireland was a land of plenty. High wages, plenty of work and regular masses promised opportunities for all good Catholics that washed up on it’s shores. Plenty of Italians flocked to the dear auld sod and among those emigrants were members and friends of the band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards. These Bhoys weren’t tourists they were there to work and their love of Ireland was inspired from living, working, and visiting there. So in 2007 the celtic tiger having croaked and the work dried up many of those Italians returned home but a part of their hearts remained in Ireland.

Day by day we found there what we were searching for in our entire life, something that would change us forever. That’s how we fell in love with Irish music and how we learned it”

The boys got together and with a few songs learnt in the pubs and streets they began to practise what has gone on to become a real tour-de-force within the celtic-punk scene. From dingy wee backrooms in pubs to massive rock festivals to small mountain huts Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards have gone down an absolute storm wherever they have set foot.

(video filmed by our good mucker Rory over at This Drinking Life web-zine here which also included an extensive interview with the Bastards so click and go there.)

They released their debut album, Drinking Not Thinking, in 2011 and soon after set out on a busking tour of Ireland, Wales and England where they fine tuned their sound and began to write some of their own material. On their return home they were joined by Irish traditional folk musician Luca Crespi who added uilleann pipes, tin whistle and the Irish flute to the bands repertoire. ‘Up The Bastards’ EP followed before 2014’s absolute stunning Get The Folk Out! took us all by surprise. Not knowing them I opened up their e-mail and my first reaction was “not another band with Bastard in the name”. I sat down to listen and my bloody jaw hit the floor with amazement. Get The Folk Out! is a masterpiece. Straddling both the Irish trad sound and celtic-punk it easily fits into both genre’s. The addition of uilleann pipes moved the bands sound into something quite incredible. You can read our review of Get The Folk Out here. The album went on to walk away with the London Celtic Punks #1 Album of 2014 here, something unheard of for a ‘unknown’ band to do.

uncle-bard-and

Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards left to right: Silvano Ancellotti- Electric Guitar * Luca Crespi- Uilleann Pipes, Irish Flute, Tin Whistle * Luca Terlizzi- Drums * Guido Domingo- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Lorenzo Testa- Tenor Banjo, Mandolin. Seated: Rob Orlando / Uncle Bard- Bass Guitar.

So with such high praise and expectation it was with wonder i sat down to listen to their new album Handmade. Could they live up to what we now expected of them? Well within one listen I realised they were onto another surefire hit! Released a fortnight ago on February 9th, 2017 they have managed to squeeze more than a hour onto the CD and have done it without a single weak moment. Uncle Bard And The Bastards start the ball rolling with the album’s title song ‘Handmade’. A short refrain starring Guido and his perfectly raspy and hoarse vocals and that’s it. The words explain the bands philosophy to what they do. A beautiful song and the perfect start.

“For a labour of love, Makes a work built to last”

They swiftly turn to their more raucous sound next with ‘Gipsey Geezers’ and them uilleann pipes fill the speakers but don’t be thinking that they rely solely on them. The whole band is extremely talented but you still need the songs and these Bastards do have them. As catchy a song as any on Get The Folk Out! it’s been a couple of years and I realise how much I have missed them. Not that only that but they finish the song with a jig called ‘The Arses Of The Lasses’ written by Lorenzo the like of which you will NEVER hear a fellow celtic-punk band play.

‘Too Old To Stop Now’ explains being in a band these days is more a labour of love than anything. Fortunes are to be made but only if you do as you are told and sell your soul for success. Things the Bastards have never and will never do. Again the celtic-punk of the main tune contrasts nicely with a polka tacked seamlessly onto the end. ‘Stay Untamed!’ again shows the songwriting talents of this band. Shared between them all it amazes how people who have English as only their second language can write such brilliant words. Never be afraid to take chances is the thing here and wrapped around a real foot-tapper. The tin whistle and punky guitar leads on a right celtic-punk classic that slows and speeds up with the fastest banjo I have heard in ages. ‘The Man Who Spoke To The Earth’ speaks of the the rich man in his castle and the poor man and again the song is interspersed with some absolutely amazing Irish folk tunes.

“I am just a poor man, On his own. But they will never know, What I’ve known”

The Bogman again written by the talented Lorenzo starts the section that concludes with Séamus Egan of Solas ‘The Czar of Munster’ and the trad ‘Coleraine’s Jig’. All played as expertly as you will hear. They leave the celtic-punk behind next and present further evidence that this band can whip up a traditional celtic folk storm as good as anyone. ‘The Donegal Lass/Butler of Glen Avenue/Tell Me About You’ has the fiddle and pipes giving it all. Never afraid to dip their toes in another genre we get the first taste on Handmade with ‘The Ferryman’. Bluegrass and ‘proper’ country spice up a song written by the legendary Irish songwriter Pete St John. ‘The Ferryman’ tells of the closure of the Liffey Ferry service in 1984, the loss of jobs and the end of a 320 years-old tradition that perfectly pictures how Dublin was changing during the 70’s and 80’s. The pipes are out in force for ‘Anger’ while the short and gentle banjo and flute piece ‘The Clarenbridge Fair’ is dedicated to Fintan and Tom Cussen where Lorenzo spent time in their Galway workshop.

“I dedicate this banjo composition to both of them, with a sense of gratitude for the great instruments they build and for their unequalled kindness”

‘The Streets Of Dublin’ is Lorenzo’s ode to the city that forever captured his heart. It’s not the saccharine sweet version of Dublin presented for the tourists but the warts an’all kind. Having watched Dublin change during the years and get through the economic crisis with more homelessness and teenage drug problems than ever there is hope. The Home Sweet Home movement is occupying offices in the centre of Dublin, to give shelter to homeless people for the winter and raise awareness of the problem. The music is again superb the mix of old and new never better while the lyrics speak of the same.

“Dublin me darlin’, What’s left for those who will come?”

Lorenzo again excels as a singer-songwriter on ‘Lads From The Countryside’ where he tells of the benefits of being born in the country. That they can follow a serious song such as ‘the Streets Of Dublin’ with this speaks volumes of their talent. Their is a phrase much loved by the foreign born Irish, like myself, “More Irish than the Irish themselves” and on ‘The Luck Of The Irish’ Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards prove they are indeed.

“So tell me, oh dear Where’s our pot of gold? I stumbled ‘till West Clare, To find there was none. At the top of me lungs, Leaned out over the cliffs I shouted ye oversea “Lucky me arse!”

the title reminded me of the John Lennon song which had much the same theme but without any of the Bastards humour. With British occupation, war, genocide, immigration heaped upon the Irish race where is this f’ing luck I keep hearing about? Now obviously I am drawn to the next song like a moth to a flame. The phrase ‘Plastic Paddy’ is well known to us outside Ireland. We can never be Irish enough for some people, mostly those who never suffered the necessity of emigration to survive rather than as some kind of student gap year.

It was released as a single last year but has been re-recorded and tweaked for inclusion on Handmade to make it a whole lot better!

“I went back to Temple Bar in great haste and fear
since I wanted to preserve the teeth I had in me mouth
I paid my seven euro for an iced pint of stout
but as everyone knows Guinness here is not the same
thanks goodness I found a few americans there
so we went out singing aloud along Merchant’s Quay
First “Whiskey in the Jar” and then a Garth Brooks’ song
Could it be a better way to celebrate today?”

Told again with great humour and is the longest song here. Have a good read of the lyrics over at the YouTube video. The music as ever is catchy as hell and the Bhoys admit they’ll be contributing to the whole mess themselves on St Patrick’s/Paddy’s/Patty’s day! My favourite song on Handmade is up next. ‘Rust’ is a beautiful song that  is more celtic-rock than punk but Guido’s great voice and his lyrics raise the song high. Superb banjo playing and the song has epic written all over it. Nearly at the end and ‘The Flat Above My Pub’ is Silvano’s turn at telling a tale. He reaches into his dark past and shares them with us in a happy-go-lucky song because

“when life hands me a lemon I just go to the pub and I ask for a pint or two. I don’t like lemonade too much”

Fast and furious and still catchy the song is possibly the best example of Uncle Bard And The Bastards on Handmade. Everything that makes them truly unique within the celtic-punk scene is here within this brilliant song. The album ends with the modern Irish folk classic ‘The Town I Love So Well’. Not much to say here except its a faithful version Phil Coulter’s classic personal lament about the war in the north of Ireland, specifically in Derry city, a republican stronghold. Written about his childhood the song begins by telling of the simple life he grew up with till he emigrated and then returned finding how his hometown become plagued with violence. Dennis Jelly, of the brilliant French celtic-punk band The Moorings, takes over on vocals and sends this album off triumphantly.

So there you go. It may not be up to Get The Folk Out! standards but fecking hell there’s only a small handful of celtic-punk albums EVER made they do. Handmade is absolutely brilliant in every way. Buy this and give it to any Irish folk/trad music fan and they will see celtic-punk in a completely different light. They don’t have producers, record labels, arrangers, lyricist’s or anyone backing them. Piece by piece Handmade was truly a labour of love. Every aspect of this album has been produced by this group of friends themselves not just from the lyrics and music arrangements and the recording but also the excellent ,and massive, CD booklet containing photos, lyrics and song explanations. This album is truly handmade and made with a genuine passion missing from most modern music. At a time when the most popular bands in celtic-punk are releasing album’s you should definitely not miss out on this album I have an inkling it will again be troubling them at the top of the Best Of charts again at the end of the year.

Discography

Drinking Not Thinking – 2011, Up the Bastards! EP – 2013, Get The Folk Out! – 2014

Buy The Album

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Contact The Band 

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ALBUM REVIEW: PLANXTY- ‘Between The Jigs And The Reels: A Retrospective’ (2017)

The word ‘legend’ gets chucked around with wild abandon these days but no other word seems fit to accompany an article on a band that truly were ground breaking and have gone onto have an everlasting effect on Irish music. Put together by Planxty themselves this is the ultimate retrospective of their music coming, as it does, with a DVD featuring over two hours of previously unreleased performances.

planxty-between-jigs-reels

Forty five years after Planxty formed back in January 1972 comes Between The Jigs And The Reels – A Retrospective. The band was made up of Christy Moore (vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhrán), Andy Irvine (vocals, mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, hurdy-gurdy, harmonica), Dónal Lunny (bouzouki, guitars, bodhrán, keyboards) and Liam O’Flynn (uilleann pipes, tin whistle). They released six studio albums starting with Planxty in 1973 and following with The Well Below the Valley (1973), Cold Blow and the Rainy Night (1974), After the Break (1979), The Woman I Loved So Well (1980) and finally Words And Music in 1983. At the time of that debut album their music was quite simply revolutionary and they popularized Irish folk music like no other band from that era.

planxty2

Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn, Donal Lunny and Christy Moore

Back in 1972 Christy Moore who was already a star in both the Irish and British folk scene’s had begun work on his second album and grouped around him some of the best musicians Ireland had to offer. His old friend from school in Newbridge, County Kildare, Dónal Lunny was a gifted multi-instrumentalist who had taught Moore how to play both guitar and bodhrán while the London born Andy Irvine of late-60’s Irish folk group Sweeney’s Men was a prominent figure on the Dublin trad scene and who co-ran a folk club with Lunny. Finally came Liam O’Flynn a true master of the uileann pipes. This group gelled instantly and with Christy Moore returned from England Planxty were born. With their bedraggled hair and bohemian image their music they literally took Ireland by storm. For the first time uileann pipes were accompanied by guitar, mandolin and bouzouki while Christy and Andy were possibly the finest singers of their generation. Although labelled Jigs And Reels the scope of the songs on this album is simply breathtaking from stirring tunes of war to gentle balllads and haunting airs. Planxty didn’t just play they also collected these songs saving many from obscurity or even death. Their music bridged the gap between the developing rock music scene in Ireland and the new wave of folk music musician.

There are seventeen songs here and it all begins with the tragic love story of an Irish emigrant to New Mexico ‘True Love Knows No Season’ and Liam O’Fynn’s beautiful piping is sure to send a shiver down the spine of listeners. Andy Irvine belts out the glorious ‘Pat Reilly’ followed by the instrumental ‘Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór’ while Christy returns to the fore to do ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ a song that tells of the battles of the Gaels of Ireland fighting the English oppressors in the war that began hundreds of years ago.

‘Băneasă’s Green Glade / Mominsko Horo’ takes us back to Andy’s time living in Bucharest in the 1960’s swiftly followed by the instrumental ‘The Aconry Lasses / The Old Wheels Of The World / The Spike Island Lasses’ and then by ‘The Pursuit Of Farmer Michael Hayes’ as arranged by Christy Moore who still contends that their are several verses missing that he puts down to

“the realisation that it was opening time”

On ‘Accidentals / Aragon Mill’ the heartbreaking main song is preceded by a short acoustic guitar piece that he is joined together by Liam’s piping with ‘Aragon Mill’ which Andy learnt from the North Carolina singer songwriter Si Kahn.

“But there’s no smoke at all
Coming out of the stack
For the mill has closed down
And it’s not coming back”

In Si’s neck of the woods, cotton has always been of paramount importance and closing of a mill brings with it, not only unemployment, but also the end of a way of life, whether it be a cotton mill in North Carolina, Lancashire or Belfast.

“But the only tune I hear
Is the sound of the wind
As it blows through the town
Weave and spin, weave and spin”

‘The Irish Marche’ is an English composition from the 16th century written by William Byrd while ‘The Rambling Siúler’ is from the early-19th century and tells the odd tale of an Irish colonel and the lengths he will go to win fair maid. Having heard a version of ‘The Well Below The Valley’ where Christy is only accompanied on bodhrán it was nice to hear a full band version of this beautiful song. Planxty are back in full on jaunty mood next with another instrumental ‘Junior Crehan’s Favourite / Corney Is Coming’ before Andy sings ‘Roger O’Hehir’, the story of an not very good petty criminal whose career leads to the gallows. Now for that Balkan tune that seems to have ruffled a few reviewers feathers with ‘Smeceno Horo’ Not knowing much about this I’ll just leave the video up for you to decide.

With the album nearing the end perhaps three of the widest heard and better known songs finish the album starting with the stunning Andy Irvine composition ‘The West Coast Of Clare’.

“Sorrow and sadness, bitterness, grief
Memories I have of you, won’t leave me in peace
My mind is running back, to the west coast of Clare
Thinking of you, the times we had there”

The sensitive and definitive version of ‘Nancy Spain’ keeps the momentum building and has since been made famous by Christy during his solo career. Written by Barney Rush who also wrote ‘The Crack was Ninety in the Isle of Man’, which Christy has also recorded. Sadly Barney passed away back in 2014 and this wonderful song brings us up nicely to the album’s end and ‘Timedance’. Commissioned back in 1981 for the Eurovision song contest back when it was big news and back when Ireland use to win it every year! This was, in many ways, a precursor to Riverdance and was for millions around the Europe the first time they had ever heard authentic traditional Irish music and can be said to have had a lasting effect on Irish music’s popularity.

Planxty Re-Union Show, Live at Vicar Street, Dublin. February 2004

Compiled and chosen by the band themselves they could literally not squeeze another minute onto the CD with it clocking in at seventy-nine minutes. The CD comes with a bonus DVD of previously unreleased performances from the RTÉ (Irish Televison) archives that lasts over two hours. The care and attention that has gone into this release is breath taking with an absolute goldmine of recordings, TV appearances and live sets that does the band the justice they deserve. Planxty ruffled a few ‘trad snobs’ feathers when they were around the first time and some of the modern day era trad snobs may find the inclusion of harmonies, compositions, English songs and Balkan tunes somewhat odd but for me it only adds to what is one of the best traditional album’s I ever heard. Planxty were one of the major reasons for the revitalisation of Irish music that led eventually to the development of celtic-rock and then celtic-punk so do yourself a favour and check out this album and find out where we came from.

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Contact The Band

ChristyMoore  AndyIrvine

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

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

the-lougues-2016

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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

the-logues-band

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

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2016 REVIEWS ROUND-UP PART TWO. KORRIGAN’S CELTIC ROCK, MICK FLANNERY, ACROSS THE BORDER, TENHOLES, THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY, KING OF THE TRAVELLERS

Every year we have been doing this has got better and better for celtic-punk releases. As happy as we are that this is so it also means that we just cannot keep up with everything out there. We haven’t had the chance to review everything we received or heard so here is Part 2 of our 2016 Round Up where we catch up with some of the releases that we missed first time round. Here at 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS blog we much prefer to do really detailed reviews but it has been impossible to keep up so here’s a few quick ones just to catch up and get 2016 out of the way. Each and every one are worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out. Last week we featured releases from the America’s (here) so this time we will try to fit in the entire rest of the world taking in Ireland, Indonesia, Germany, France and good auld Australia!

KORRIGAN’S CELTIC ROCK- ‘Tournée Générale!’ EP  (Bandcamp)

korrigansThere is quite a strong and vibrant celtic-punk scene happening in France at the moment and by France I mean France and not Brittany which as you should know is a completely different country! One of these bands are Korrigan’s Celtic Rock who were formed in 2007 in Franche-Comté in eastern France and released their debut EP, Tournée Générale!, earlier this year. They take their name from the mythical creatures who were opposed to Christianity when the Apostles came to convert Brittany. The EP kicks off with a rocking start with tin whistle that AC/DC would be proud of. Next up is ‘Hypocrisie’ with more of a ska beat and the bombarde is introduced. I love the sound of this instrument and will be familiar to fans of the Breton legends Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs. They add bagpipes too into ‘Putain De…’  and this is my favourite track of the EP. The title track ends the EP and is straight up celtic-punk rock. A quarter of a hour well spent. These guys cover all the angles and we are destined to hear much more from them in 2017.

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MICK FLANNERY- ‘I Own You’ LP (iTunes  TowerRecords)

mick-flannery-2016Mick Flannery comes from county Cork in the south of Ireland and funnily enough the artist he reminds me of the most is also from Cork, Cathal Coughlan of the excellent Microdisney/Fatima Mansions. This is Mick’s fifth album and the first I’ve heard properly. There may not be much here for the traditional celtic-punk fan except that if you love good music then you will also love this. From what I have read this album is much darker than his previous releases and the excellent Tom Wait-esque title track is based on the idea of class inequality and told as a poor man breaking into a rich man’s house. Dark and foreboding and downright bloody brilliant!

Thought you heard something on the way home, was that a rustle, was that my belly rumblin?”

Elements of rap and dance music alongside the dark folk and even darker pop here and the songwriting is compelling and worthy of hearing just on it’s own. On ‘Cameo’ Mick’s famous introspection comes out.

But if I’m so happy/ why do I lie awake at night?/ Why am I angry all the time?”

Though often found with an electric guitar its still very much based on folk melodies and the comparison to Bob Dylan and his change to electric guitar himself is not so odd.

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ACROSS THE BORDER- ‘Calling 999’ EP  (Bandcamp)
acrosstheborder
Formed in Remchingen in the South of Germany not far from the French border Calling 999 is their first release since they reformed having split up back in 2012 having been together since 1991! It sure is good to have them back as on the basis of this EP they right are back on form. With a stack of LP’s and EP’s behind them this stands up there with the best of them. A mainly accordion led band, very popular in their home country, this EP begins with the title track and its catchy punk folk throughout with distinctive vocals from Jochen with the lyrics sung in English. ‘Rob, The Man’ is a hilarious romp showing a good sense of humour with a good auld Irish twist with plenty of fiddle this time. The EP ends with the sad but lovely ‘Sometimes’ and your nine minutes is up with a real Tom Waits-esque bar-room ballad accompanied with piano and accordion. This is the song it would be worth getting your lighter out for! A great release but far too short. We want more!
TENHOLES- ‘Loyalty’  (Juno)
tenholesFormed in 2004 in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta Tenholes are a working class Oi! band with celtic music influences. Loyalty is their second album and their best yet. ten songs and thirty-five minutes of punk rock’n’roll from the streets that reminds me of those first couple of Flatfoot 56 albums for energy. An absolute stunner of an album. Great production and comes bursting out the speakers at you from Track One. We have featured Indonesian bands several times before when we reviewed Dirty Glass (here), the great Indonesian celtic-punk compilation Wind From The Foreign Land (here) and the review of The Cloves And The Tobacco last album (here) so go there to find out more about this fantastic scene. So much to recommend here but for certain if you favour the Dropkicks/Flatfoot then this album is for you. I give you a guarantee you WILL love it! You can hear plenty of music at their Facebook page under the Band Profile tab including some songs from Loyalty. Anthems for the working class with stories of urban life, stories about them and us!

KING OF THE TRAVELLERS- ‘Pros & Cons’  (Soundcloud)
king-of-the-travellers-2The third release from Fremantle seven-piece King of the Travellers. Blending elements of folk, punk, ska and gypsy music to create a hoe-down of epic proportions! With instruments as diverse as the French horn and clarinet they are not your run-of-the-mill folk punk band but there experimentation does remind me of fellow Aussies the Dead Maggies even if their music aint too similar. With a reputation as a raucous live music act how well did they manage to transfer their sound to disc? Well the answer is pretty damn well. First track ‘Another Day’ has brass and a catchy ska-ish beat to it and kicks off these six songs in style. They speed it up for ‘Travel Away’ and then slow it down for ‘First Thought’ and again its all catchy as hell with the many instruments blending very well together thanks to the spotless production. Gypsy/Eastern Europe flavours the next song ‘Curly’ and on ‘Trenches’ the mando is back in charge for this anti-war song which sounds to me like something Stiff Records may have come out back in the day.

The EP comes to an end with ‘Curly Reprise’ which is of course the earlier track ‘Curly’ slowed down but with extra flourish. The clarinet works surprisingly well and could maybe have done with popping up a bit more often. Overall a solid EP. Not a weak song here just catchy punky folk music with a stack of influences from all over the place and spat back out by a bunch of Aussie’s. Now that is recommendation enough surely!
THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY- ‘Whitewashed Graves’ (Bandcamp)
ramshackleAnd our final review of 2016 is also one of the best we reviewed and no surprises that it’s another Australian release! Just released earlier this month this is the first new record from The Ramshackle Army since the beginning of 2014 but they have certainly been busy if not recording then touring right across the globe! The band began in the pubs and bars of their home town Melbourne but The Ramshackle Army have gone on to become one of the leading lights in the Australian celtic-punk scene and in a scene that is chock-a-block with great bands then that ought to be recommendation enough. Hampered by line up changes they have now got a settled team so lets hope it leads to a new album soon. Here we get six songs and just under twenty minutes of high tempo, catchy as feck traditional celtic-punk. The standout track gotta be the single ‘Foreign Soil’ but it could easily have been any of them such is the quality of this fine EP.
“Imprisoned by our plight and desperate acts faith,
They enter battles in our name and battle cry our pain,
Just keep me sane and welcome my escape”
All the songs are self penned and its an absolute stunning return to the scene from one of the best bands in it. Heavily influenced by the story-telling style of the Aussie folk/celtic-punk tradition that bursts with  the live energy of an Ramshackle Army live gig. Highly recommended!

So ends Part 2 of our Round-Up’s and we are sorry we weren’t able to give each album the full on London Celtic Punks treatment. Apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full 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.

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

All the best for a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year for us all…

Every year we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard to showcase in our end of year message and this year the runaway victors is from NYC’s The Narrowbacks.

Starring Rigel Byrne as Santa Claus. Filmed by Tamara Lee and James Haag. Recorded at Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar, 519 Second Avenue, New York. The Narrowbacks music available on iTunes and Amazon.

Buy The New Album- iTunes  Amazon
Contact The Narrowbacks-

FIRE IT UP!!

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st. the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun. Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

Christmas

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958. However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games. Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home. Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour. Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn. On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets. Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts! Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday. In older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britanny, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats). The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

Nollaig Shona Dhuit agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise (Irish Gaelic)

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Now go have a drink…

ALBUM REVIEW: THE WAKES- ‘Venceremos!’ (2016)

by Pete Morgan

Glasgow Irish folk’n’roll hooligans.

They might all be Jock Tamson’s bairns but their Mammy is Roisin Dubh!

the-wakes

London Celtic Punks friends and favourites launched their fifth studio album at the end of September just gone with a fantastic hometown gig at the Classic Grand, Glasgow.  A gig that saw the band enhanced with a small brass section that added to the sound and showed how the boys are growing musically.

The CD, like the gig, doesn’t disappoint: Thirteen tracks over forty-five minutes show the band in top form and giving all and more that we’ve come to expect from Glasgow’s finest ‘punk, folk’n’rollers’. Building on and growing from previous CD’s including No Irish Need Apply and The Red and the Green, Venceremos shows a growth in musical maturity and songwriting while staying true to the bands fundamentals will have you hitting replay button time and time again.

wakes3

For this release the band have teamed up with Drakkar Records and the result is an all singing, all dancing package with a gatefold sleeve CD that includes a pullout booklet of photo’s and lyrics which can be bought from the band’s website below and also from the Glasgow independent radical bookshop Calton Books (link below).

Opening with an irresistible punk/new wave beat of ‘Within These Towns’ the gauntlet is thrown down: the song delivers up a crushing criticism of politicians  of the Thatcher era who turned their backs on those towns and people reliant on manufacturing as they allowed industry to fall into irreversible decline and communities abandoned. A bleak subject of towns

“where we are born to die, to live our lives …”

is nonetheless invested with defiance and pride in it’s delivery and any thought of being downbeat is erased with the upbeat, ska infused, Rise. A story that dances along and is bound to become a live favourite, telling a tale of Dublin, Easter 1916, and provided lots of opportunities for a sing-a-long while raising a clenched fist…

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‘No Human is Illegal’ as a song is a class apart. This song possibly best defines the ethos of the band: humanitarian, international, caring, willing to stand up, to wear those hearts on sleeves … A simple enough statement, but a statement that carries undeniable power, delivered almost in an understated manner. This song is impossible to resist and invites us into a quiet corner, the lyrics falling softly, yet challenging the scaremongers and those who use sensationalist headlines to turn a profit  … but we’re left in no doubt

“That old bullshit just don’t cut it any more”

There’s no time to sit around as ‘Whisky Afternoon’ has us back on our feet as the band ‘rock-out’ to an enjoyable wee number of an afternoons drinking that we’ll all be familiar with, same goes for this tune that has a solid back beat that moves it (too?) quickly to a conclusion and then it’s on into ‘The Battle of George Square’: Tanks on the streets of Glasgow to quell the red Clyde revolution. Again the music and lyrics invoke an atmosphere that’ll put on the ground, shoulder to shoulder with Glasgow’s working class.

wakes2The Wakes don’t do shying away and, just as with No Human, they address issues head-on: the turning of young men into state killing machines in ‘Kings Shilling’, (touch of Skids/Big Country?) the bloodshed  in the ‘Holyland’. The domestic home-grown issues of poor housing and rising rent are highlighted in ‘Nae Soft Touch’ (touch of Christy Moore about this one) telling the story of issues from Govan, 1915, that are just as relevant today.

Track 8, ‘I Believe’, a ‘up-beat’ cry of positivity , a rallying cry and affirmation of the power of people is driving along on the back of some beautiful brass that shows how the band, as musicians, have grown and the sound of the Wakes continues seeking out avenues to explore. While ‘Ramblin’ Man’ pays tribute to the great Woody Guthrie in a tune that will almost have you up on the floor square dancing! But wait, whats next, a fecking polka! ‘Freighter of the Dead’ sails us over choppy waters navigating the straits of Pogue Mahone and onto the shores of Gorgol Bordello in a rollickin’ rocking good time tune that shows the boys are well able to let their hair down (sorry Chris!) and this is another tune that will fill the dance floors. As we’ve come to expect there’s a track from the ‘homeland’ that’s given the Wakes unique and personalised  treatment: ‘Erin Go Bragh’ starts off familiar enough but the bass playing and thunderous drumming supported by the chants gives this a whole new life and the song feels ‘epic’, a TV shows turned into a blockbuster of a movie!

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The Wakes (left to right): Paul- Vocals/Guitar * Conor- Banjo/Mandolin * Chris- Vocals/Bass/Saxophone/Flute * Danny- Whistles * Eamonn- Drums * Christopher James- Harmonica/Guitar.

Closing on the title track, ‘Venceramos’ the song as well as the album as a whole, is a triumph: carried along on the back of a guitar sound that gets under the sink, drums & bass that get the heart pumping, the piercing harmonica, everything comes together with the united rising vocals in a song that is an affirmation of the power of truth against evil, the truth of those who struggle against the evil of corruption, greed, inhumanity … In an echo of Bobby Sands we’re told:

“You can try to kill the dreamer but the dream never dies’ and the heart grows huge with the refrain Venceremos! Venceremos! We Will Overcome …”

Venceremos is a must have, the Wakes a must see.

Discography

These Hands (2007) No Irish Need Apply (2009) Stripped Back Sessions Vol. 1 (2011) The Red and the Green (2013)

Buy The Album

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Contact The Wakes

WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  Twitter  Soundcloud  YouTube

(live in London last year at the Cock Tavern in association with London Celtic Punks and the Hayes Bhoys CSC- thanks to Deano for filming)

 

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

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

dubs

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

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

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

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

dubliners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dublin Legends 2012-

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

Tracklist:

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

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

The Dubliners On The Internet

OfficialDublinersSite  TheDubliners  It’sTheDubliners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: CLEAR THE BATTLE FIELD- ‘Set Me Free’ (2016)

Armagh born multi instrumentalist Dominic Cromie and crew with a modern take on traditional Irish music that has something for bloody everyone!

clear-the-battlefield

When talking about celtic-punk people sometimes think of a narrow genre situated somewhere between the two most famous bands to come out of it, The Pogues and The Dropkick Murphys, but when you also throw in Flogging Molly you begin to have a genre that stretches from traditional Irish folk all the way to hardcore punk. I also tend to think of other such diverse artists as Johnny Cash, Tom Waits and even Social Distortion as being an large influence on what we call celtic-punk today in 2016. Clear The Battlefield are no different. Taking Irish and celtic music and mixing it with all sorts of traditions, some old and some modern, all the while putting their own spin on it.

dominic1

Clear The Battlefield’s main instrumentalist, vocalist and lyricist is Dominic Cromie. Born in county Armagh in the north of Ireland he first began playing guitar at the age of ten and by eleven had written his first song. He played his first gig at fourteen with his sister Aine who was by then becoming a well know singer on the Irish show band scene. After touring Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Holland, Dominic left Ireland for the United States in 1991 to pursue his dream as a singer songwriter. Dominic formed Raglan Road, a Celtic rock band and has toured throughout the States performing with many of the nations best Irish-American bands. After these he formed Clear The Battlefield in 2008 and has been gigging solidly since leading up to this their debut album, Set Me Free.

dominic2The album begins, significantly perhaps, with the only cover on the album,’I Roved Out’. A old traditional folk song covered by all the great and the good in Irish musical history. Confusingly there are two versions of ‘I Roved Out’ but this is the one as popularised by Christy Moore telling the rather common tale of a young woman who is seduced by a soldier, only to find that he has abandoned her the next morning. The album kicks off with a sort of dancey backbeat and my first worry is that it is going to be like those awful techno rebel song medleys that get released every now and then and are used to whip up the drunks in nightclubs across the Irish diaspora. I need not have worried though as its not intrusive and (can I hear myself actually saying this) sounds pretty good.

Anyway pretty soon in the Irish instruments take over and expertly played tin whistle comes in and later the glorious sound of uileann pipes.

“With me too-ry-ay Fol-de-diddle-day
Di-rah fol-de-diddle, dai-rie oh”

Next up is ‘The Valley’ and a slow song but with Dominic’s voice bursting with emotion. He is blessed with a voice that sounds like those old crackly records our Grandparents owned but with the modern touches it easily straddles both worlds of old and new. ‘You’ follows and is a nice love song done as alternative sounding country while ‘Mary’ is back to more folkier territory. We are back next with ‘Set Me Free’. The instrument count rises as Dominic and crew rattle through a somewhat tribal tune. At any second we expect it to fly into complete trad but its just reined back enough. Accompanied by a great video that leaves us in no doubt where Dominic’s heart and passion lies.

The album’s longest track is the instrumental ‘The Rights Of Man’ at over six minutes and begins with an instrument we do not hear enough of in celtic punk those uileann pipes. With Black 47 no more and a long long time since Stephen Gara packed his bags for NYC and left London Irish rockers Neck only Italian band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards are giving us what we want. More pipes! The following songs follow a similar path in that they start off as just guitar and voice before flying off into something else. ‘Get Up’ benefits from a Irish ending while ‘Go’ returns the album to the unconventional country sound we heard earlier.

We even dip into ‘C86’ sounding indie with ‘Even After The Drugs’ that takes in bands like The La’s or Teenage Fanclub. Finally Set Me Free comes to an end with ‘Days Days Days’ a short blast of upbeat jazzyness that is a way cool way to bring the curtain down.

The ten songs clock in at just under forty minutes and if I had a slight, and I mean slight, criticism with Set Me Free it would be that their is perhaps some unnecessary flourishes that don’t really add much to the music. It’s not your typical celtic-punk and sometimes it feels like the most un-celtic-punk celtic-punk album we have ever reviewed here. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed it. The playing here is truly to be marvelled at and regardless of whether it is punk or not will strike a chord with anyone with a love of traditionally played Irish music.

Buy The Album

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“A CURSE UPON YOU OLIVER CROMWELL…”- PROTEST THE LONDON CROMWELL CELEBRATION

Every year there is a celebration of the life and achievements of the tyrant Oliver Cromwell here in London. This year, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, we will be taking part in a demonstration to say that Oliver Cromwell was a genocidal religious fanatic and butcher of the innocent. A vicious war criminal, a bigot and a man guilty of the worst ethnic cleansing and sex trafficking of unknown amounts of Irish women and children. May his history be re-written and his crimes be writ large for all to see and to remember for all time.

Join us by his statue right next to the Houses Of Parliament (Westminster tube is just a couple of minutes walk) at 1-30pm on Saturday 3rd September and bring flags, banners and placards. A special guest known to many of you will be performing!!

Protest Cromwell

Cromwell and Irish Slavery

The term ‘slavery’ is rarely associated with the white race, although during the 1600’s this was the most significant portion of the market. More specifically, the Irish were targeted the most and the fact that the population of Ireland fell by 850,000 in the space of one decade highlights just how brutal things were.

cromwellhanging

the execution of Cromwell’s dead body

Oliver Cromwell was one of the main reasons why the situation got to this point. His fanatical anti-Catholic views meant that any action he took over the Irish was brutal to say the least and as well as utilising the conquest of Ireland for religious and political means, he was bidding to cleanse the country of Catholics. In achieving this, selling the Irish off as slaves was one of his biggest weapons, but he also made sure life was as difficult as possible for those that did stay by burning off their crops, removing them from their land and sending them to Connacht. Anyone who did not agree with such policies were to be dealt with in the harshest means possible and in most cases, this either resulted in death or being sold to the West Indies as a slave. The fact that the drop in population was so drastic highlights how successful he was with these tactics. Cromwell is most notorious for the victims he burnt alive in St. Peters church in Drogheda, and the civilian and military massacres there, but also the civilian massacres at Wexford. We also have to remember he was responsible for ethnic cleaning that resulted in 50% of the population dying or sold off as slaves in the ten years after his invasion. In 1641, Ireland’s population was 1,466,000 and in 1652, 616,000. According to Sir William Petty (who served Cromwell in Ireland), 850,000 were wasted by the sword, plague, deliberate crop burning, hardship and banishment during the Irish catholic ethnic cleansing between 1641-1652

The main question that is generally posed at this point is why Irish slaves were in demand, when the African slavery market had been the primary ‘sector’, so to speak, for so many years. The answer was simple; money. Even though one could argue that the African’s were much more suited to working in the hot climates of the Caribbean, they still had to be purchased. The Irish on the other hand simply had to be caught or sentenced for transportation and it was therefore much more cost effective. Instead, they were captured before a payment was collected at their destination. The African’s on the other hand usually required two sets of payment, one for the initial purchase and the second for their next sale. Considering the fact that this could bring the total cost of an African slave up to £50, as opposed to the £5 that was generally demanded for white slaves, there was certainly reasoning behind the rise of this ‘sector’. It also meant that Cromwell was well and truly encouraged to adapt his harsh approach, with demand for white slaves clearly evident.

Cromwell’s Influence

child-images

The fact that Cromwell was the mastermind of the vast majority of advances that Britain made into Ireland obviously holds a lot of significance. One of the most notable sieges of Cromwell’s career was the Battle of Drogheda, which resulted in approximately 3,000 Irish being killed. Unfortunately, this was just the start of the ruthlessness and any men that were not killed, were immediately sold to planters in the Barbados. Things were only to get worse though and it’s understood that one of his most ‘fruitful’ achievements during this time was selling 25,000 captured Irish to planters in St. Kitt in 1650. However, most will remember is his brutal disregard for children and it’s thought that through the 1650s he orchestrated the sale of over 100,000 Irish children, some as young as 10, to sell to the Americas. Unsurprisingly, there was a deep religious motive behind this and all of these children were from Catholic families – something that we have already established that Cromwell detested.

While many are under the belief that a lot of Cromwell’s military decision-making was to attempt to gain an upper political hand for Parliament, there are large parts that still revolved purely around white slavery. One of the main reasons he commissioned wars against Holland in 1651 was to monopolize the industry, as Britain were mainly competing with the Dutch. The seizure of Jamaica from Spain in 1655 was performed just as strategically and meant that the English slave trade could become dominant in Jamaica from this point onwards.

Ethnic Cleansing Of Ireland

irish-slavery-boxs4

However, the biggest move of all concerning white slavery came on 14 August 1652 – the start of Cromwell’s Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland.

Cromwell’s first task was to sell 12,000 Irish prisoners to Barbados although incredibly, this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Upon Cromwell’s ‘To hell or Connaught’ proclamation, the Irish were issued a horrific ultimatum. On 1 May 1654 they were told that they would have to surrender and move to the west of the Shannon, or face the alternative of being sent to the West Indies. The fact that the former was nothing like habitable meant that Irish landowners were put in an impossible situation and many decided to ignore the orders until they were forced to do otherwise.

The reason why Cromwell had opted for such ruthless tactics was because of the value of the Irish land. Soldiers had been told that they would be rewarded with land for their services to the army, while Cromwell had made similar promises to investors who had ultimately funded his exploits in Ireland. Therefore, the country’s failure to respond to his proclamation meant that he must respond in even sterner form. A law was passed on 26 June 1657 declaring that anyone who refused to relocate to the specified location would be sent to the Americas, while anyone who had already banished but was planning on returning would be threatened with death.

Cromwell’s White Slavery Legacy

The above highlights how deep the white slavery problem was becoming, although there’s no doubt that it was the Irish who were mainly affected. Records suggest that Cromwell was behind the sale of approximately 100,000 Irish people including 52,000 women and children, to Barbados and Virginia. It was proving to be a lucrative market for Cromwell to dabble in, but his tenure was absolutely loathed by Ireland. As such, upon his death in 1660, there was great relief – even though the problem of white slavery was certainly not over. In fact, it wasn’t until 1839 when a resolution was sought, and this was only when Britain decided to end slavery once and for all. However, few would disagree that Cromwell’s policies were at the pinnacle of white slavery and this is why his legacy is intensely defended by the English establishment and continues to be reviled by the Irish, Scottish and Catholic communities.

Have you ever walked the lonesome hills
And heard the curlews cry
Or seen the raven black as night
Upon a windswept sky
To walk the purple heather
And hear the westwind cry
To know that’s where the rapparee must die

Since Cromwell pushed us westward
To live our lowly lives
There’s some of us have deemed to fight
From Tipperary mountains high
Noble men with wills of iron
Who are not afraid to die
Who’ll fight with gaelic honour held on high

A curse upon you Oliver Cromwell
You who raped our Motherland
I hope you’re rotting down in hell
For the horrors that you sent
To our misfortunate forefathers
Whom you robbed of their birthright
“To hell or Connaught” may you burn in hell tonight

Of one such man I’d like to speak
A rapparee by name and deed
His family dispossessed and slaughtered
They put a price upon his head
His name is know in song and story
His deeds are legends still
And murdered for blood money
Was young Ned of the hill

You have robbed our homes and fortunes
Even drove us from our land
You tried to break our spirit
But you’ll never understand
The love of dear old Ireland
That will forge and iron will
As long as there are gallant men
Like young Ned of the hill

CundeezVegBarColour (2)

After the demonstration we will of course adjourn to a nearby hostelry for a medicinal or two and then head off to the official aftershow at The Veg Bar in Brixton. A celebration of Irish and Scottish culture with The Cundeez coming down to play their debut London show all the way from Dundee with firm celtic-punk favourites Black Water County also on the bill supported by Kilburn Bomb Squad, the legendary Comrade X and new boys Dissent. No tickets its first in first served fiver on the door. Facebook event page here.

See you at Parliament!

ALBUM REVIEW: THE RUMJACKS-‘Sleepin’Rough’ (2016)

Bloody ‘ell! Close the Best Of 2016 poll we have a winner already! The Bhoys have only pulled it off again. 

By Shane O’Neill

Rumjacks

Wow!!! These guys never fail to impress. 2016 should be renamed The Year of The Rumjacks. Firstly, they hit us with a mammoth 5-month European tour and then they release the 12 song masterpiece that is “Sleepin’ Rough” in early August. If that’s not enough they have also just announced that they will be ending the year with a 4-month tour of Australia once they return from Europe. Impressive or what?? Nobody can question them on their hard work this year. This band is going from strength to strength.

LCP Frankie

Frankie with Andy Mac of The Lagan

When I first heard The Rumjacks I never dreamed I would ever see them live, however they toured Europe in 2015 and again in 2016. I have to say they do not disappoint live either. I was lucky enough to share a few beers with The Rumjacks during their current tour. I have to say they are a really down to earth and humble bunch of really talented punks. None of the Bono type rock star bulls@#t from these guys. They are happy to mingle with the crowd and share stories about their music and tour. It is evident that these guys love what they are doing and we love it too so keep it coming….

Now where do I start with ‘Sleepin’ Rough’? One of the guys said to me it gets better every time you listen to it and I agree. I was a bit dubious when I heard the album was being released so soon after Sober & Godless (2015). Releasing back to back albums so soon after each other doesn’t always work but this is The Rumjacks – of course it works and has exceeded all expectations. ‘Patron Saint O’ Thieves’ is a crackin’ album intro to get you warmed up for what’s to follow.

“…..burn it bhoys…..”

The album has some fine tin whistle solos. This really brings out the best in tunes like ‘Murder Shanty’ and ‘Eight Beers McGee’. Personally my 3 favourite tunes are (in no particular order) ‘The Pot And Kettle’, ‘Fact’ry Jack’ and ‘A Fistful O’ Roses’.

‘Fistful O’ Roses’ was released as a single a few months back to give us a taste of the album. It a mighty fine offering about the dying pub / club scene in Sydney. As Frankie relates

“An agenda of sweeping law reforms and increasingly heavy tactics by our state government have crushed the city’s nightlife, the livelihood, and in many cases even the lives of many of its inhabitants. Iconic pubs, bars & restaurants are forced to close their doors, elderly residents are driven from their homes and Sydney is growing more desperate & hostile with every passing day.
This is a city under siege by those who rule her, set to become a playground for the elite, while the people who made it the treasure it was are squeezed out to wherever they hell they may venture.
We performed the video for the song as a macabre ‘dry wake’, set among the decay, in a derelict pub, one of many to fall victim to the states new order. Historic footage flits across the screen like memories of a life flashing before one’s eyes. ‘A Fistful O’ Roses’ is one last great send-off for the old girl, but make no mistake…”

This is an unfortunate theme which applies to most major cities and towns where we see traditional pubs, clubs and live music venues being closed down by developers. It really is such a shame to see the heart of cities and towns being ripped out not to mention the impact it has on the live music scene and new up & coming acts.

“Oh, this boozer is a wreck, all up & down the deck,
Like a tired old sinner off her game,
Wi’ her blood red lips, and her youth about her hips,
Still the regulars all love her just the same,
Where the mud-spat boots cut their way among the suits,
And the Sally’s come to rattle the can for Jesus,
‘Til they chain up all the doors & toss out all the whores,
Wi’ a fistful o’ half dead roses”

Be warned, before you press play on ‘Dead to me’ make sure you’re firmly strapped in. This tune will pick you up, spin you around and drop you flat on you’re a#$e before you know it – hard hitting or what? Throughout the album you can pick up many different influences from traditional Irish, Scottish and Aussie to sea shanty to hardcore punk. All this blended together give us the unique blend of Celtic punk that is The Rumjacks which others aspire to. Lyrically the album gets 10 out of 10 and no better man to pelt them out than Frankie with a mixture of Aussie / Glaswegian dialect. For me The Rumjacks are by far the best Celtic punk band on the scene at the moment and ‘Sleepin’ Rough’ is a fine example of what they are capable of. Not much more I can say other than go get yourself a copy of ‘Sleepin’ Rough’ and if you get half a chance go and see them live. I would personally donate body parts for a chance to see them again.

(left to right) Anthony- drums Adam: banjo/mandolin Frankie: vocals/tin whistle/ Gabriel: guitars Johnny: bass

(The Rumjacks left to right) Anthony- drums Adam: banjo/mandolin Frankie: vocals/tin whistle Gabriel: guitars Johnny: bass

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for more on The Rumjacks check out the following articles

Album Review: ‘Sober And Godless’ (2015)  here

Single Review: ‘Blows And Unkind Words’ here

30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time here

The Rumjacks And Irish Pubs here

ALBUM REVIEW: RUNA- ‘Live’ (2016)

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

RUNA Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUNA inside

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

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

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

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

Robert Dwyer Joyce

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

and Aoibhneas Eilís Ní Cheallaigh/ Filleadh An Bhadora

Discography

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

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

THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY

BY PÁDRAIC GRANT

Shane MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

The Pogues Continuity Splash

The Pogues (formerly Pogue Mahone, Irish Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse’) were formed in 1982 by a group of London Irish musicians eager to drag Irish folk into a musical world that had been changed and redefined by the advent of punk. This mission was to be marked by success and failure, but by 1996 when they officially disbanded, they had permanently left their mark on both folk and mainstream music.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the band through those years was the extensive influence literature had on their lyrics. Rather than simply drawing on certain works for inspiration, almost every lyric in the Pogues extensive repertoire can be traced to a certain area of the written word.

Shane

Leading this literary charge was main songwriter and ideologue Shane MacGowan, who’d come through punk emboldened by its ideals, but distraught by its mainstream assimilation. The catalogue of songs penned by MacGowan regularly evokes previous writers and styles, often twisted and placed in new frameworks. Indeed, most of his lyrics are as intellectually stimulating when read as poems and stories as when performed as full songs.

From the moment he began penning songs, MacGowan was artistically indebted to his Irish homeland, a fact reflected in both music and lyrics. Literary touchstones spanned the Irish spectrum—Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, and James Stephens were drawn from and their influence incorporated into his burgeoning songbook. While the idea of the songwriter-as-poet is often evoked in a clichéd (even insulting) manner to give certain artists ‘credibility’, MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

As the band gained further success and the other members began to substantially contribute to the lyrics, concerted attempts were made to avoid stagnancy. Eventually, the collective focus fundamentally changed in ways that would have massive effects on the group. Extraneous reference points began to dominate, with the music switching to a menagerie of world music styles, and the lyrics drawing from non-Irish, less literary sources. This fragmentation would afterwards be cited by MacGowan as one of the biggest reasons for his estrangement from the other members of the band.

TRADITION REANIMATED

Going back to the band’s formative years, an important reason for the band’s very existence was a fervent desire to reiterate the aspects of Irish folk music that ran contrary to the sophisticate persona espoused by the dominant elements of ‘80s music. From the stale by-products of 70’s AOR who had somehow got through the post-punk safety net (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel) to the New Romantics with their synthetic music and lifestyle, the Pogues sought to challenge the status quo by injecting a sense of danger into Irish folk, thereby returning Irish folk to the mainstream. This was to be achieved through a heady mix of punk and folk, filtered through a coarse, unrefined aesthetic. And with virtually no electric instruments (Cait O’Riordan’s bass guitar was a notable exception) and a minimalist bass/snare drum kit, the contrast with mainstream instrumentation was glaring.

Despite this, perhaps the freshest aspect of the re-named Pogues was the literary quality of their original songs. Amongst volatile renditions of traditional standards nestled originals composed in the same style, infused with a punk-derived radicalism that brought the band beyond mere rehashed folk. The London-Irish composition of the group meant that its Irish influences were viewed through the lens of cosmopolitan London, and the city would go on to be the focus of numerous songs by the band.

Red Roses For Me

Gaining a reputation through relentless touring, they signed to the independent Stiff Records in 1984. The first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, was released in October of that year, and was an underground success despite its poor mainstream showing. Critical attention focused on the burgeoning lyrical talents of Shane MacGowan as much as on the music. Taking its title from a late-era Sean O’Casey play, the album offered a demonstration of MacGowan’s continuity with Irish writers past. The Irish identification was even carried onto the album art: A portrait of the band members seated around a painting of John F. Kennedy, a symbol of solidarity with the Irish diaspora across the world.

O’CASEY AND SOCIALISM

Aside from bestowing the album with a name, O’Casey was influential stylistically. The lyrics on ‘Red Roses for Me’ focused on the lives of the 1980s working class in the same way O’Casey portrayed the proletariat of the early 1900’s. A lifelong communist and Republican dissident, his portrayals were combined with his socialist beliefs to demonstrate the inherently political nature of working class life. Similarly, the debut Pogues LP illustrates the impact of wider political processes on mundane reality.

Sean O'Casey

Sean O’Casey

While avoiding overt left-wing sloganeering, the anti-authoritarian approach evident in certain tracks was intensified by the experience of Thatcherite Britain, where harsh monetarism had led to the working class feeling persecuted by the ruling Conservative Party. This sense of injustice was given credence by the Miner’s Strike occurring the same year the album was released, an event that embodied opposition to the implementation of profit-driven neo-liberalism. Under such circumstances, the sense of anger present in ‘Red Roses for Me’ is easily read as a reflection of the labour class’s embittered undercurrent, manifesting itself in several songs on the album.

The opening song, ‘Transmetropolitan’, is a conspicuous example of this attitude. Both tribute to and attack on the city of London, the composition is a contradiction. The music is frenetically gleeful, while the lyrics veer from a celebration of London life to a bitter attack on the pillars of the British establishment:

There’s leechers up in Whitehall
And queers in the GLC
And when we’ve done those bastards in
We’ll storm the BBC.

Whitehall (the home of the British government, the GLC (Greater London Council), and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) represented the stale powers-that-be, a focus for bitter resentment. That the enemy was the suitably vague “establishment” was a by-product of the band’s punk roots, a recurring and pervasive influence that sat comfortably alongside the anti-authority stance of the writers inspiring the group.

BEHAN AND BLACK COMEDY

Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Despite the O’Casey reference in the title and the similarities shared in the portrayal of working class existence, it is clear that Brendan Behan is the dominant influence on ‘Red Roses for Me’. ‘The Auld Triangle’, an Irish standard adapted from the introduction to the Behan play ‘The Quare Fellow’, is the third track on the album and a marked contrast to the rest of what is an ultimately raucous record.  It’s stark, skeletal, and relies primarily on MacGowan’s vocals. The mood is despondent and the lyrics wistful, but lightened by occasionally humourous lines (a literary technique MacGowan adopted in his own writing, which often includes comedic moments in the midst of squalor). This aspect of his songcraft would later be explored and refined on ‘Rum, Sodomy & the Lash’.

‘The Boys from the County Hell’ is the most precise example of punk’s influence on the album. Upping the ante on ‘Transmetropolitan’, it’s a vicious exploration of the alcohol-fuelled violence of the urban London lifestyle (the city termed ‘County Hell’ in a translation bearing the mark of Irish geographical terminology), and a further fleshing out of MacGowan’s songwriting, recalling the unflinching portrayal of violence in Irish tradition. Coming from that lineage, it contains one of his most blackly humourous couplets:

My daddy was a Blueshirt and my mother a madam.
My brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam.

‘Streams of Whiskey’ carries the Behan obsession to new heights, encapsulating MacGowan’s adoration of the man in one song. The lyrics depict a conversation held with Behan in a dream. When asked about his views on the “crux of life’s philosophies”, he answers: “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”. This ‘philosophy’ manages to make alcoholism sound almost idealistic—after all, it concerns a person who once quipped

“I’m a drinker with a writing problem”

Flann O'Brien

Flann O’Brien

‘Streams of Whiskey’ is also a buried reference to Flann O’Brien—a pseudonym for Brian O’Nolan, who MacGowan cited as one of his favourite authors in ‘A Drink with Shane MacGowan’.  O’Brien’s ‘The Poor Mouth’ (originally published in Gaelic as ‘An Beal Bocht’) includes a story regarding a mountain with two streams of whiskey flowing at its summit. A brilliant satire of Ireland’s victim mentality, the novel is built on, as with most of O’Brien’s works, an absurdly funny plot and writing style that Shane MacGowan emulated throughout his time in the Pogues.

NEW STRUCTURES

‘Red Roses for Me’ may have received praise for its literate lyrics, but the following year’s ‘Rum, Sodomy And the Lash’ was the moment where the Pogues songcraft truly blossomed. From post-modern character realignment to minutely-detailed narratives, the many facets of Irish literature are explored and amalgamated into a work that reads like an overview of the canon.

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

As the opening track for the album, ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ is a significant song in more than one respect. Not only does it demonstrate the cleaner production and more thought-out arrangements of the record as a whole, but most importantly the progression of MacGowan’s songwriting. As a character, Cúchulainn (a legendary Celtic warrior and son of the god Lugh) was a towering figure in Irish storytelling, regularly recurring in stories up to and including the Celtic Revival of the late 19th century. While The Pogues stick to this tradition, the song that bears his name is a sober modernisation of the monolith; a demonstration of the continuity held with preceding Irish literature, but a strong statement of realist rather than mythic characterisation.

This approach to the protagonist is similar to the proto-postmodernism of Flann O’Brien in novels such as ‘The Third Policeman’ and ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’, which dragged characters such as the mythic Fionn MacCumhaill into a contemporary setting. Thus ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ styles the character not as a demi-god, but in the flawed guise of the socialist IRA leader Frank Ryan. Appearing alongside the singers John McCormack and Richard Tauber, Cuchulainn is an unacknowledged hero, a participant on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War (as was Frank Ryan in reality.) Cuchulainn’s illustrious status in Celtic folklore is contrasted with the more human heroism of the unacknowledged Ryan, an anti-fascist who later faced the ignominy of death in a Nazi submarine. “You decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids” and “We’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks” serve as MacGowan’s tribute to a man whose heroism was to stand against the fascist tide in an Irish nation still in thrall to the Catholic Church.

That this depiction is in complete contrast to the Cúchulainn of William Butler Yeats may not be coincidental. MacGowan’s opinion of Yeats is derisory at best: “[Yeats wrote] a few classics…but there’s a mammoth amount of work…there’s like books and books and books of his stuff, and there’s about three or four good poems.” (A Drink with Shane MacGowan) The negative sentiments might also be inspired by Yeats’s championing of aristocratic ideas and (later retracted, as the Second World War approached) support for Irish and European fascism, something that was later also criticised by George Orwell.

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

Eerily slow-burning after the preceding frenzy, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is a torrid narrative recounting the struggles of a male prostitute in seedy London. MacGowan’s evolution as a lyricist may have been obvious on ‘The Sickbed of Cúchulainn’, but only a truly adept wordsmith could forge the themes of drugs, prostitution, and police brutality into such an easily engrossing story. Accompanied by almost hypnotic musical repetitions, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is replete with characteristic attention to detail:

One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag.

In later years, this song would be offered as ‘evidence’ that MacGowan had worked as a hustler. Although it may be a common assumption that realist first person narratives must be based on something experienced by the author, in MacGowan’s case the supposition could have been caused by the debt his style owed to writers like Frank O’Connor. A short story author of great magnitude, O’Connor wrote essentially autobiographical stories in the guise of characters like Larry Delaney, recounting childhood events rich in detail and evocative of the conservative Ireland of the early 20th century.

Frank O'Connor

Frank O’Connor

MacGowan similarly recounted stories heavy on minutia, but as far removed from bucolic rural Ireland as could be possible. When people read the lyrics of songs like “The Old Main Drag”, the easy interpretation was that due to the attention to detail inherited from writers like O’Connor, MacGowan was channelling his real life experiences through the characters in his writing. As with many issues surrounding the Pogues, though, there is no firm answer regarding the truth of these rumours. The sheer number of contradictions is similar to the fog around MacGowan’s eventual dismissal by the group.

BUILDING AN IDENTITY

Another highlight from the album is the quixotic ballad ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, one of the more sentimental songs performed by the band. However, like everything MacGowan wrote in this period, it is laced with the typical dark elements that prevent it from becoming merely saccharine. Therefore, while the song laments the “streams, the rolling hills, where his brown eyes were waiting” or “The birds whistling in the trees / Where the wind was gently laughing”, the protagonist is also “drunk to hell”, the setting filled with men who “prayed, cursed, and bled some more”.

In this moment, Shane MacGowan established an identity—one adapted from past writers (the contrast between sweet sentimentality and darker elements, humour intercepting both, a hallmark of Irish writing from Behan to Beckett), but an identity nonetheless. This proved a blessing and a curse, for while the positive comparisons were no doubt welcome, others were beginning to wonder if the Pogues, and Shane MacGowan in particular, had inherited the predisposition for alcohol held by the writers they admired. Press attention would lead to the stereotyping of the band as alcoholic Irishmen (particularly in an infamous Sounds’ article written around the release of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ as a single), a perception made even more believable by other songs, including ‘Sally MacLennane’.  Similar to older folk songs about the return of a person to their hometown (a theme also touched upon in ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, written by the Irish literature-influenced Phil Lynott), the song is an ode to the joys of alcohol with nearly every verse containing a reference to drinking.

Much of the band’s catalogue is the same, and with their love for writers who also enjoyed a drink (not forgetting their Irish background), it was inevitable that they would be included in the ‘drunken Irish artist’ stratum. In the ‘Sounds’ article mentioned above, Spider Stacy remarked, “I drink to blot out drunkenness”. A quick retort to an over-bearing journalist it may have been, but in the years to come such excesses would prove to be the undoing of the band. But before that point, there was much glory and still more ignominy to come.

‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ was a crucial step forward for the group. Moving on from the lyrically-constrained ‘Red Roses for Me’, which had been somewhat straightforward in its subject matter, the incorporation of differing stylistic approaches made this album a milestone for the incorporation of literary methods into modern Irish folk music. Over the coming years, the subjects would become more expansive, the music more extravagant. Here, the Pogues would achieve the perfect balance of tradition and innovation in their songwriting, the democratic ideal prominent since the beginning would finally flourish, and commercial success would be assured.

NEW DEPARTURES

This phase began with the release of the ‘Poguetry in Motion’ EP in 1986. Comprised of four wildly varying tracks, the EP worked as a bridge between the boisterous folk of before and a new, heavily-orchestrated style embodied by ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’ (significantly, in all respects a masterpiece). Both styles would be followed up on proceeding albums, but the EP is interesting as a microcosm of the band’s musical past and future, and their sense of humour, with the instrumental ‘Planxty Noel Hill’ a swipe at the eponymous musician and member of the folk aristocracy in Ireland.

Taking part in a radio debate with the Pogues, Hill had referred to their music as a “terrible abortion” and as disrespectful to traditional norms. The ‘planxty’ in the title is a traditionally honourific prefix dating back to the 1600s, and serves as a rejoinder to Hill, a tongue-in-cheek espousal of the ultimate traditionalist form. ‘London Girl’ and ‘Body Of An American’ rounded off the release and are notable because of their respective connotations of ‘Red Roses For Me’ and ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’-era material. Clamorous, intelligent, romantic, iconoclastic, the EP was a bookend for what had come before, and a torch-bearer for what was to come next.

Two years later, 1988 saw the release of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, a new departure in several areas. The lyrics are more far-reaching than ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’, yet remain within the realms of Irish tradition. From the pleasures of a win at the dog tracks to the laments of the Irish diaspora in America, and even the first overtly political songs of the band’s discography, the subjects expand far beyond the character studies and narratives of the first two releases. It even sounds more sprawling, the appearance of a full drum kit and session accompaniment seeming like sheer opulence compared to the thriftiness of before. Two new members make their debuts: multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods (formerly of the legendary folk-rock bands Sweeney’s Men and Steeleye Span) and Daryl Hunt (replacing the outgoing Cait O’Riordan). The inclusion of jazz and indigenous Spanish and Middle-Eastern folk would sound more shocking had they not been woven so brilliantly into Irish music forms, the mock-sitars of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ countered by ‘The Lark in the Morning’, a traditional jig that ended the song, and the faux-jazz ‘Metropolis’ and its prominent horns disarmed by mid-tempo folk verses.

J.P. Donleavy

J.P. Donleavy

Commercial success was confirmed with the release of ‘Fairytale of New York’. Written by MacGowan and Jem Finer, it shares both a title and subject with J.P. Donleavy’s novel ‘A Fairytale of New York’, both works regarding the pursuit of the American dream and, tentatively, the experiences of the Irish diaspora. The merits of the song lie in its exploration of relationships and their intricacies, how they span place and era and how external bickering can mask deep affection. MacGowan is accompanied on the track by Kirsty MacColl, in the guise of a woman whose hopes for a life of prosperity lie dead, shattered by the very person who embodied them. The duet examines the dreams, the shattering, and finally the redemption, like a short story where a monumental topic is condensed, and benefits as a result. A technicolour version of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, a romantic song that remains solidly realist (as the input of MacGowan ensured), the song was only kept off the top spot by the poor ‘Always on My Mind’ cover by the Pet Shop Boys. It has since become a Christmas standard, and the most well-known demonstration of the Pogues’ songwriting skill.

POLITICAL MILITANCY

The subject of Irish Republicanism and the conflict in Ireland was a popular focus for folk groups during the ‘80s, a contemporary issue of great importance socially and culturally. The Pogues explicitly explored this for the first time on ‘If I Should Fall’. Grounded in personal conviction and a long literary tradition, the Pogues were unashamedly Republican, and indeed at an early stage held the moniker the New Republicans. These beliefs manifest themselves in the medley ‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six’. Musically, little links the two songs, but the subject matter is related through its exploration of the ongoing war between the IRA and British forces in Ireland.

‘Streets of Sorrow’, a stark, emotional lament for the war-torn streets of cities like Belfast and Derry, urban areas scarred by the trauma of ongoing war, is immediately followed by the passionate anger of ‘Birmingham Six’, despondency exploding into rage against a Government viewed as oppressive and racist:

There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there’s four,
They were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law.
And the filth got promotion,
But they’re still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time.

The Loughgall Martyrs

The Loughgall Martyrs

Naturally enough, the song was banned by the BBC, continuing a torrid relationship between the band and the corporation. As a medley, the song works perfectly: A distillation of the anguish caused by the Irish conflict and the unbridled anger at a British Government the Republicans viewed as the cause of their problems. That the Pogues held controversial opinions was not in doubt. At the time, the only mainstream voices were those of outright condemnation of the IRA on the one hand, or outright silence on the other. In that spirit, there is more than mere protest in ‘Birmingham Six’, with the final verse containing a reference to the Loughgall Martyrs, eight IRA volunteers killed while attacking a Royal Ulster Constabulary police barracks:

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads,
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head.

Again, there was a literary precedent for the group’s political views, with Brendan Behan, Frank O’Connor, and Ernie O’Malley among the writers who had actively participated in the IRA and expounded upon their views in writing. The theme would be taken up again in later songs like ‘Young Ned of the Hill’ and ‘Rainbow Man’.

POSTMODERN MYTHOLOGY

Another new topic for the band was the role of mythology in Irish life. ‘Sit Down by the Fire’ is a comic take on this tradition:

Sit down by the fire, and I’ll tell you a story
To send you away to your bed.
Of the things you hear creeping
When everyone’s sleeping
And you wish you were out here instead.

The Riders of the Sidhe, by John Duncan

‘The Riders of the Sidhe’ by John Duncan

Lyrically, the focus is on the fairies, or ‘sidhe’, that haunted Irish imagination for centuries, and still persist in popular superstition. MacGowan has long found the idea of parents telling these terrifying stories to children at bedtime as comical, an absurdity built into Irish life for centuries.

The song’s subject matter is interesting because it shows the group exploring the area of folklore (despite its monolithic status pre-20th century, folklore had never been a big concern for the band) while also stepping back from it. This separates such an exploration from the misty-eyed renderings of other more literal folk-rock acts like The Horslips, who had created concept albums based around Celtic mythology. It also continues the motif of postmodernism from MacGowan, the song being a meta-narrative about the telling of a folk tale rather than a simple rendition.

BEYOND IRELAND

While it may have been expected that the band would bask in the critical acclaim of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, this wasn’t to be the case. MacGowan’s alcoholism had progressed beyond being a mere nuisance, and the other members were becoming disgruntled. Worried that MacGowan was hitting the gutter, just as Behan had before, and more willing to take advantage of the democratic songwriting ideals the band had been founded upon, the songwriting representation from the rest of the band would increase on future albums.

This process was immediately visible on 1989’s ‘Peace And Love’. MacGowan’s declining influence was indicated by the (comparatively) paltry six songs he contributed to the 14-track record. The new songwriting arrangements made for instant change, the first surprise coming with the introductory instrumental ‘Gridlock’. An exploration of hard bop jazz and an uncompromising repudiation of folk, the song differs thematically from anything performed by the band before. However, the song that defines the negative side of this experimentation best is the bizarre Celtic-Caribbean fusion of ‘Blue Heaven’, a reprehensible song with the Calypso pretensions suffocating any melodic inventiveness; a situation that occurs with saddening periodicity in the band’s later catalogue. Even the Irish folk songs sound bland and enervated, an alarming regression from the band’s original desire to invigorate the style.

Despite portraying himself as the arch traditionalist during this era, Shane MacGowan was not, in fact, conducting a one man crusade against the pretentious designs of his fellow band members. He had likewise introduced extraneous influences into the pure folk of before. As noted by Simon Reynolds in ‘Generation Ecstasy’, rumours abound that, having become immersed in the acid house scene, he wished to include a 20-minute appropriation of the genre (titled ‘You’ve Got to Contact Yourself’) onto ‘Peace And Love’. Whether there is any truth to this is again unknown, but what is audible fact is the bizarre Motown stomp of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, released as an EP following ‘Peace And Love. While two collaborations with the legendary Dubliners are included, this appears to be an almost apologetic move. Unfortunately, the cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ would require much greater atonement than that.

ENGROSSED IN EUROPE

‘Hell’s Ditch’ seemed like the final break with the Pogues of before. Although containing some fine songs grounded in the same folk stylings (‘Sunnyside of the Street’, ‘Hell’s Ditch’), it sounds uninspiring and even conventional in parts—as pedestrian as the ‘celtic fusion’ peddled by acts like the Saw Doctors or The Waterboys, and not helped by the sterile production courtesy of Joe Strummer. Most substantially, the Irish element was downplayed massively; it was simply another amongst the other myriad styles of ‘world music’.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

This extended to the lyrical elements, too, but in a vastly more positive way. MacGowan’s contributions were fresh and informed by a different aesthetic from the Irish folk of before, transporting the narrative style to exotic characters and locales from further afield on the European continent. The title track’s debt to Jean Genet manifested itself in a snapshot narrative, stark prison imagery wrapped in an overtly-sexual veneer:

The killer’s hands are bound with chains
At six o’clock it starts to rain
He’ll never see the dawn again
Our lady of the flowers

Verses describing death and squalor (like those above) are juxtaposed with others like:

Genet’s feeling Ramon’s dick
The guy in the bunk above gets sick

This is a structural trick that jars the listener and underlines the debt to the novel ‘Our Lady Of The Flowers’. In common with the Irish influences of before, Genet celebrated the lowlife, the disenfranchised, and those who refused to conform to societal norms, but in a more explicit manner that questioned the values society encouraged and celebrated.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca

Aside from Jean Genet, the spectre of Federico Garcia Lorca also informed the album. Like ‘Sickbed of Cuchulainn’, ‘Lorca’s Novena’ deals with modern heroism against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Backed by an eerie, dread-inducing combination of heavy bass and martial drums, the song tells of how the homosexual poet met his death at the hands of Franco’s nationalists. It’s not only the horrific circumstances of the poet’s death that justify the sinister vibes, but the wider context of a fascist victory that would ensure the legitimisation of such reprehensible deeds.

The final song of ‘Hell’s Ditch’, ‘Six to Go’, is an aural tombstone to the MacGowan Pogues, a condensed form of all the musical and conceptual contradictions that would contribute to its demise. Concerned with the six counties of Ireland which remain under the political control of Britain, it includes what sounds alarmingly like clichéd tribal chanting, an Africa found by way of ‘The Lion King’ rather than anti-colonial solidarity. In common with other songs of this era (‘Blue Heaven’, ‘Summer in Siam’, ‘Five Green Queens And Jean’), the solid core ends up ruined rather than enhanced by its exotic trappings.

The positive impact of the international influences on ‘Hell’s Ditch’ is confined solely to the lyrics, which flourish and give the Hibernian focus of the first three albums a sense of context, placing Ireland amongst the other great literary nations of the world, rather than resorting to the Irish chauvinism jokingly played up (particularly by MacGowan) in interviews. If the music had gone the same way, perhaps the culmination of stylistic disparity and substance abuse wouldn’t have led to the decision to kick MacGowan from the band as a whole.

After the disintegration of the original line up, the remaining members regrouped to make two further albums: 1993’s ‘Waiting for Herb’ and 1996’s ‘Pogue Mahone’). Yet without MacGowan at the lyrical helm, the collective lacked the cutting edge they had once possessed. Hence, while the two discs have their moments, they lack charisma and the sense of energy that defines the earlier albums, not to mention that they continue the terrible world music flirtations that marred the last two MacGowan albums. However, by the time of the band’s official demise in 1996, their influence was beginning to be felt in a big way.

LANGUAGE AND CLASS

When evaluating their overall influence, the Pogues use of language cannot be ignored, and it betrayed more than a small debt to Irish literature. In his essay regarding Yeats, George Orwell points out the difficulty of equating ideology with a writer’s style. He notes that Yeats’s attempts at simplistic writing appear convoluted, giving the example of the following verse from ‘An Acre of Grass’

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Orwell calls attention to the word ‘that’ before William Blake’s name as an attempt at conveying familiarity by utilising forced prosody, a co-option of the language of the lower classes negated by the poet’s aristocratic tendencies. When the Pogues lyrics are analysed in a similar way, the opposite conclusion is clear: the lyrics are unforced and authentic, intelligent but unpretentious. ‘Dark Streets of London’ is an effortlessly figurative example of this

“I like to walk in the summer breeze
Down Dalling Road by the dead old trees
And drink with my friends
In the Hammersmith Broadway
Dear dirty delightful old drunken old days”

The quality of such writing is that it makes the quotidian seem otherworldly through common poetic methods like alliteration. The tongue-twisting last line reads like something written by Gerard Manley Hopkins rather than an extract from a popular music song. Coming at the dawn of their career, such examples would become commonplace for the band, a musical fulfilment of Orwell’s proletarian artistic vision.

IRISH POST-COLONIALISM

Interpreted through the lens of post-colonialism, the band offer an intriguing range of interpretations, and indeed contradictions. Firstly, the very fact that they were composed primarily of London-born musicians would seem to render their status as Irish music icons quite hollow, an easy target as ‘musical imperialists’ plundering the vaults of a rich tradition. This allegation is easily refuted, however, the band’s members were all of Irish heritage, some even born there and with strong connections to the island.

In a more elaborate sense, the very foundations of the group immunise them from such attacks. By attempting to modernise folk, adhering to its roots but emphasising areas neglected by other artists, such as attitude and literary merit, the Pogues (in their early stages at least) helped save Irish folk from becoming a marginal strand of the ‘world music’ scene. This was in marked contrast to other groups, such as Moving Hearts, who from the beginning merged folk with jazz and rock styles. If this interpretation is accepted, then consequently Shane MacGowan’s criticism of the post-‘If I Should Fall’ immersion in world music becomes easier to accept as well. After all, when the theoretical grounding they had started with began to dissolve, the songs became less distinguished and more conventional, consumed within the quagmire of the cultural buffet of world music and generic folk-rock.

The Pogues And The Dubliners

The Pogues And The Dubliners

Another barrier against such attacks is to take the opposite conclusion: the Pogues as the products of an Ireland that has throughout its history assimilated invaders and immigrants into the native society. While historically there had been fierce resistance to such absorption, at certain points the cultures of the native and colonial Irish inevitably coalesced. The greatest manifestation of this was in the Celtic dawn of the late 19th century, when a vast re-discovery of Gaelic Ireland was expressed through modern literary and performance techniques. Writers like Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory (despite the mockery afforded them from MacGowan) worked to create a distinctly Irish literature, not dependant on wider developments within Britain for inspiration.

Important as an explicitly nationalist rejection of cultural imperialism, the Irish literary revival’s reverberations continued throughout the 20th century. As the 21st century approached, there were intimations that the cultural dependency had been reversed to a certain extent. The post-colonial literary theorist Declan Kiberd writes:

“When Daniel Day-Lewis pronounced his win at the Oscars [for his portrayal of Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’] a triumph for Ireland, he effectively dismantled the English-when-they-win, Irish-when-they-lose equation. But he chose Irishness just as much as the Anglo-Normans did before him: in neither case was it forced upon a hapless victim”

This was but one example of the increasing prevalence of Irish (or faux-Irish) content in popular culture in the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, alongside films like ‘The Commitments’ and productions including ‘Riverdance’. The Pogues’ role in this reversal is interesting, because while in terms of location they were primarily English, they were possibly the most fervent purveyors of ‘Irishness’ amongst their Celtic cultural contemporaries, musically and in content. That it took a band located in England to re-assert Irish music’s place in popular music (rather than confined to the folk sidelines) says a lot about Ireland’s unusual place along the path of post-colonialism, the mass emigration that occurred mainly as a consequence of colonial exploitation has rendered its culture stronger in areas other than its origin. Following their artistic forebears, the Pogues contribution to post-colonialism has been to re-establish Irish identity (in the form of music and text) as having something to offer beyond novelty or the margins, as a vibrant player on the international stage.

CELTIC PUNK AND A WIDER INFLUENCE

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

The mid-90’s saw the emergence of a host of (primarily American) bands largely influenced by The Pogues musical, lyrical and conceptual qualities. The fact that this scene has grown so vast as to require an article (or a book) of its own is testament to the inspiration legions of acts have taken from the band, but the two most popular acts, critically and commercially, are undoubtedly Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphys.

The former takes their cue from all eras of the Pogues, while including conventional instrumentation like the electric guitar (‘Another Bag of Bricks’ even usurps the Middle-Eastern influences of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ in a garishly conspicuous way.) Albums including ‘Swagger’ and ‘Drunken Lullabies’ share thematic subjects with the Pogues, abundant in references to Irish history and politics, including the important role of the Catholic Church. Dropkick Murphys differ from Flogging Molly by mixing their folk with prominent ‘Oi!’ influences. This has led to a blatant espousal of working class socialism more explicit than that ever referred to in Pogues songs. Making visible their debt to the Pogues, the band even had MacGowan appear as a guest vocalist on ‘Good Rats’ from 2001’s ‘Sing Loud, Sing Proud’.

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

While Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys may be the most important bands deriving stylistic influences from the Pogues, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The celtic punk scene has spread from its main base in America all around the world, a common motif of the hybrid being Pogues covers, homages, and references, a musical movement equivalent to the Irish diaspora’s diffusion on a global scale. Beyond this scene, the group’s influence has extended to areas more mainstream than the largely underground punk circuit.

On a global level, Irish folk became a visible presence in popular culture by the early 90’s, albeit in watered-down forms like ‘Riverdance’ and ‘The Corrs’, which bore scant relation to the music or ethos of the Pogues. It’s hard to say whether such acts can even be considered as musically influenced by the Pogues, but it is certain that the Pogues chart success the laid the foundations for mainstream assimilation of Celtic music by popularising it in the first place. So while songs like ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ can’t be counted as direct influences upon mainstream exports, they can be considered torch bearers for their cultural phenomena.

MacGOWAN’S CURRENT STANDING

So where do the Pogues stand today? While other members of the band made vast contributions to the group and Irish folk, it is MacGowan who remains famous in the mainstream. Portrayed in the press as a stereotypical drunken Irish poet, a boozed-up bohemian associated with other artists known for their excesses (especially Pete Doherty of the Libertines and Babyshambles), he is also increasingly lauded as a genius songwriter by sources as mainstream as the NME and The Guardian.

Since the full reformation of the band in 2001, these laudatory sentiments have only increased, a result of the now-legendary status afforded to the band’s performances. Inevitably, the media has commented on the continuity between his ‘literary drunk’ status and artists of the same vintage who preceded him. MacGowan even doggedly champions Coleridge over Wordsworth, believing the latter’s work to be inferior on an artistic level, but his fondness for Coleridge also lies in the Romantic’s famous use of opium.

It’s a pattern that remains a constant through all the Pogues albums, the championing of the underdog cast aside by society, and that is the role MacGowan has taken for himself. Whether writing in the guise of a person experiencing the euphoria of winning a bet, the solitary child terrified by ghouls of their parent’s making, or the railway workers toiling and dying without recognition, he imparts a personal touch that is ultimately the real affinity he shares with the writers he admires. Frank O’Connor, Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Mannix Flynn, authors MacGowan maintains have lived; the same underclass he immortalises in his own writing. Ultimately, he has emulated them in his own life and gained similar recognition, hailed not only as a musician, but as a legitimate and important contributor to the continuing evolution of Irish writing.

PopMatters

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*originally published on the marvellous Pop Matters web site.

PopMatters is an international magazine of cultural criticism. Our scope is broadly cast on all things pop culture, and our content is updated daily. We provide intelligent reviews, engaging interviews, and in-depth essays on most cultural products and expressions in areas such as music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet.

* if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a stack of great articles on them-

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

‘Book Review: Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen’  here

‘The Pogues On Mastermind- The Questions’  here

ALBUM REVIEW: DANNY DIATRIBE- ‘Elevation Illustrations’ (2016)

Elevation Illustrations is the second album release from Danny Diatribe aka Irish rapper Danny Lynch originally from Derry City but based in Manchester.

Danny Diatribe

Now first things first. What I know about hip-hop you could write on the back of a postage stamp to be honest but I do like music of the Irish diaspora and I do own the House Of Pain discography and that has made me the most qualified out of all the London Celtic Punks reviewers to take on the new Danny Diatribe album for you! Danny was born Danny Lynch in Derry city in the occupied north of Ireland but emigrated to Manchester as a young ‘un ten years back. Danny may not be the first celtic-rapper (see our article The Top Seven Celtic Hip-Hop Artists And Bands here) but he is one of only a small handful waving the tricolour in England!

Danny Diatribe 3

Elevation Illustrations is Danny’s follow up album to 2013’s Information Age and though musically a hundred miles away from what I usually listen to I found myself getting proper into it… so i did! With a whole host of guest artists appearing Elevation Illustrations is like a who’s-who of the Manchester rap scene but is most definitely Danny’s work. Kicking off with ‘Towards Balance’ which was released as a single from the album.

Followed by ‘Encounter Philosophical’ and another great video goes with the song this time filmed in Reykjavik, Iceland. In fact one of the things most impressive things about Danny Diatribe is the quality videos that accompany pretty much all of Danny’s songs. ‘Magum Opus’ features Conor McGregor giving out on what is the Irish way while ‘Roses’ features Wile Man. The nightmare of alcoholism is the feature of ‘Ten Green Bottles’
“Emerge from buried history, i never speak in novel tones,
Never do I grovel thrones, I hobble down the cobble stones,
Sunken in the drunkin groans, my thoughts are dim lit alleyways,
Drown my screaming ego, I escape from my reality.Fall into the gutter on theses doom stilts,
Calls for help turns into a spludder as the room tilts,
This is the life for me, cos there is no life for me,
I drown the fuckin sight i see”

and more nightmarish visions follow in title song ‘Elevation Illustrations’ featuring Herrotics and Misc Jockey. ‘South Manchester’ is a gritty slowed down diatribe on an area of Manchester that goes from the footballer-belt right up to the inner-city. ‘Boneshakers’ features Dubbul O and ‘The Vagabond of Babylon’ features Danny in the video wandering round his native Derry.

‘Paddys Cure’ follows and begins with a blast of the Dubliners and is as good a song about Irish emigration as you’ll hear. The song is featuring fellow Manchester Irish rapper D’Lyfa Reilly and the pride and the sadness of leaving Ireland and being Irish is clear.

‘The Void’ features Tony Skank, ‘Bun The System’ features Bill Sykes, Black Josh & Cheech and we’re coming to the end of the album and the last two songs sum up the album perfectly. ‘The Fractal Mind Of Diatribe’ is an extended rant giving Danny’s main philosophies on life.

“I’m Danny Diatribe, chillin on a manny vibe,
The chillin Irish guy that keeps it lit just like a fire fly,
Got more juice than 5alive, but never on the flyer I
Think promoters sleep they’re counting sheep and rapid eye
movement, showing improvement, I’ve been rhyming for a decade,
from mind to pen to tongue my lungs expand under my chest plate,
the Derry native gets creative with his intake
breath controls the central role for meditating stressed states
rippin the microphone cos its the dopest thing i know
gathering up my thoughts and then express it in a flow
I’m academic when i said it and it shows
I kick enlightened poems if you don’t know well now ye know,
but some dont comprehend so they need to be told again
the universe extends every time i hold a pen
don’t follow trends but ye can catch me at the bar with cats
spittin raps till another celebrity star collapse
off the beaten track, only reaching those that’s seeking facts,
leave that heathen chat, your teeth’s in that and what you speak is wack,
no-one believes in your mc-ing get your reason back,
im a seasoned cat, your a cell inside a semen sack,
must be fuckin dreamin, black Irish and we’re up north
the catechism causes craniums to contort,
futuristic, my target market’s unborn,
I speak the celtic flow that makes you want more,

cause an uproar”

The song ends with the great line

“so thanks for listenin, grab a tin with me next of kin,
grippin them and sippin them up on a roof in Withington”

and finally ‘Elevation Illustrations’ comes to an end with ‘Astral Journey’ featuring Legion and the curtain comes down.

The album was produced by Pro P who has been tipped as one of the top 10 UK hip hop producers to look out for in 2016 by the highly influential web site UKHH.COM. Fourteen tracks that nicely bring up both The Clash and Public Enemy in describing Irish immigrant life while raging on the attacks on our civil liberties, Palestine, imperialism, the working class and the gritty side of Manchester life. All are in his cross-hairs and the execution is pure brilliant. Backed by a varied and excellent sets of beats from trip-hop to jungle, to electronica and back again Danny has delivered something that takes the idea of celtic-punk and brings it much much closer to modern culture than we could ever do. Sharp tongued and finely distilled Danny Diatribe is set for important things. Buy the album and tell your friends you got your finger on the pulse of underground Irish immigrant hip hop. You will sound cool as anything!

(you can listen to  by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below before you buy. Go on it’s only a fiver!)

Danny Diatribe 2Buy The Album

FromDanny

Contact Danny Diatribe

Facebook  Bandcamp  Soundcloud  YouTube  Google+  Twitter

Interesting story regards the old fashioned gent on the album cover. It is not as originally thought Danny pre-beard but his Great-Grandad James Lynch in 1890. He was a protestant that converted to Catholicism to marry and had to be sneaked into church on the quiet. Both him and his brother played football for Ireland and he was given an award by the Royal Humane Society for saving a drowning woman’s life by jumping in the water, punching her unconscious, swimming back to shore with her and resuscitating her on land!

JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON TWO!

The 14th March 2016 saw the 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six. Perhaps the most famous ‘miscarriage of justice’ in legal history. They were not alone then and they are not alone now. There are many innocent men and women languishing in prison who urgently need our help to turn the excruciatingly slow wheels of justice in their favour. The case of the Craigavon 2, Brendan McConville and John-Paul Wootton, is one such case and their conviction must be overturned. We at London Celtic Punks are fully behind the Justice For The Craigavon 2 campaign. We cannot let a miscarriage of justice to this scale ever happen again.

Justice 1

Justice 2

“Hopefully this miscarriage of justice can be over turned and this nightmare of suffering for us and our families ended. However, after the experience we have already had we do not have a great deal of confidence in the criminal justice system, hence, we are asking you, the public, to follow the course of our appeal and to see for yourself the manner in which information is dealt with and how ‘justice’ is being administered in your name. Let’s not wait 15 – 20 years to deal with a miscarriage of justice, let us do so now”

Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton.

Maghaberry Jail Co. Antrim

Help the campaign. Join the Facebook page. Spread word of Brendan and John Paul’s innocense. Find out more here- WebSite  Twitter  Facebook

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