Category Archives: Ireland

IRISH SOUL STEW- THE POGUES

One man’s thoughts on what the Pogues  Shane MacGowan were and are.

The original Celtic-Punk band, formally known as Pogue Mahone (from the Irish Gaelic ‘póg mo thóin’ meaning ‘kiss my arse’) who later became known as The Pogues. Formed in 1982 their inspired use of traditional Irish instruments and poetic, often politically tinged lyrics led them to reach a cult status where even now they are revered and loved as much as they ever were.

by Alan K. Crandall

IRISH SOUL STEW

A few years back there was a fairly popular movie around called The Commitments, about a bunch of Irish kids who form a band playing ’60’s soul music. It wasn’t a bad movie, actually — it painted a pleasant picture of small-town Irish life, and a pretty accurate picture of in a struggling band (blown gigs, equipment failures, getting ripped off by promoters, inane personal conflicts). What I didn’t like was the soundtrack — classic soul covers performed by contemporary studio goons. Not that it was all that bad; I suppose the performances were about as good as those you might get from a good cover band at any local bar, but nothing worth a moment of your time when the far superior originals are available. Unfortunately, the soundtrack went on to become a substantial hit (even generating a follow-up), which grated on me then and still does — I hate the image of all those Gen X’ers and yuppies shelling out for an album of watered-down soul covers when they wouldn’t be caught dead buying Otis Redding. Sigh. The music critic for the local newspaper agreed, and suggested in his review of the Commitments album, that if people really wanted to hear Irish soul music, they should pick up the latest album by The Pogues.

GOLDEN HITS OF THE 80’s

They say nostalgia runs in ten-to-twenty year patterns- that is, what was popular in one era will always enjoy a revival ten-to-twenty years later. Some truth there; the seventies were swamped in ’50’s nostalgia (‘Happy Days’, ‘Grease’), the late eighties brought in a wave of 60’s flashbacks (‘Big Chill’, ‘The Wonder Years’), and the 90’s have treated the ’70’s as the decade to look back on. That can only mean that a yearning for the Reagan era isn’t far behind (shudder!). It’s starting already- ‘Golden Hits Of The 80’s’ collections turning up on late-night TV. God help us.

I think I’ll make my own ‘Golden Hits Of The 80’s’ album. The stuff I was listening to. The last vestiges of 70’s punk, the first glimmerings and full flowerings of the American indie scene: The Gun Club, Green On Red, Black Flag, Husker Du, The Replacements, The Pontiac Brothers(!), Social Distortion.   Aah, those were the days. It won’t have a lot of British rock from that era, though. The 80’s were the end of the UK as far as Rock’n’Roll went, as far as I’m concerned. None of this is meant as any kind of chest-thumping ‘America-first’-ness… I just hated all that mopey Smiths/ Echo And The Bunnymen/ U2/ The Cure stuff; all burbling synths and treated guitars and strained attempts at soulfulness, all fashion and stance and not a shred of real feeling. But there was ONE band to come out of the UK in the 80’s who did understand what rock’n’roll music was supposed to be, what real ‘soulfulness’ sounded like. And that was The Pogues.

IRISH SOUL STEW (PART TWO)

The Pogues as Irish soul music. I like that. It sounds right. It fits, in the same way that Gram Parsons’ description of country as ‘white soul music’ fits. The Pogues music could be called soul; not in sound, but in feel, in sensibility, in emotional commitment. Or you could call it Rock’n’Roll music, or rock music. None of these would necessarily be inaccurate (or necessarily accurate either, if you want to split hairs). Of course, at the time, people often referred to them as ‘folk music’.

Superficially, I guess they were. Their music basically a sped-up, amplified and attituted-up take on Irish folk music of the Clancy Brothers/ Dubliners sort. Superficialities only go so far. They were never really a folk band in the purest sense. There was always too much Bo Diddley in their backbeat, too much Clash in their attack. Neither were they simply a parody of Irish music, a high-speed punk rock joke band with accordions. They used Irish music as a well to draw from, much as The Stones used Chicago blues; they took its form, its depth of feeling, its melodicism, its romance and longing and every other quality you want to hang on it, and wed it to their own roots in punk and high-powered pub rock, and came up with something uniquely their own. John Lennon once referred to the blues as ‘a chair’, in respect to its relationship to rock’n’roll music. Irish music was The Pogues’ chair.

Of course, the first ones to deny them a seat in the Folk Club would be the members themselves. Folkies reviled them. Folkies revile anyone who doesn’t play by their rules. It’s the most insular, tradition-bound faction of popular music, on both sides of the pond, as near as I can tell. There’s still grizzled old veterans’ wandering around Greenwich Village, anxious to tell anyone who’ll listen what a no-talent-asshole Bob Dylan was/is. Dylan was reviled for mimicking Woody Guthrie, then for not mimicking Woody Guthrie; for playing protest songs; for turning away from protest songs; for playing the electric guitar- for not playing by the damn rules! Of course, it’s the ones who break the rules who achieve greatness, and there’s no greater crime or surer ticket to condemnation by your peers than being the most talented and ambitious one around. Anyway, Dylan was never really a folkie anymore than The Pogues were.

So the folkies reviled them. Somewhere in the archives there’s a radio broadcast wherein a heated altercation between Noel Hill of the venerable folk band Planxty and several Pogues ensues. It apparently began with Hill’s assertion that The Pogues were “a terrible abortion of Irish music” and quickly slid downhill:

Noel Hill, however, laboured his case and it was at this stage that Andrew went for an unexpected Grundy, and said: “I think it just comes down to sex. I mean, are you a better fucker than me!” The session continued in similar style for another half-hour, and eventually ended with the contemptuous Cait being branded “a pig”. She replied with five seconds of suitable snorts.

Man, I wish I could get my hands on a tape of that! Meanwhile, others condemned them as being a kind of racist joke, perpetuating the stereotypical image of the Drunken Irishman. And Richard Thompson, ever the contrarian, dismissed them for being too reverent in their take on traditional music! None of this seems to have phased The Pogues any; in the UK, they became stars.

ZEN AND THE ART OF ROCK’n’ROLL FANDOM

The Pogues as Irish soul band. How do you justify that one? Maybe this way:

They regenerated into an all-time stupor at Hull Tiffany’s, on March 25, after being subject to the unlimited generosity of Nick Stewart – a Glaswegian whom they had first encountered at Manchester Hacienda just three weeks before. Being a terminal fan of John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, The Velvet Underground and Tom Waits, Nick felt an immediate affinity for The Pogues.

Does that last sentence make sense to you? It does to me. In fact, it makes so much sense to me that I was actually thrilled when I came across it. It articulates the inarticulate-able. What do The Pogues have in common with two of the most primitive, toughest of blues legends, the most celebrated avant-garde/ Rock`n’Roll band ever, and the poet-laureate of down-and-out street lunatics (okay, the Waits connection’s a bit easier to see)? For that matter, what do Hooker and Wolf have in common with The Velvets? Or The Velvets with Waits? Nothing and everything, I guess. It’s just that someone who likes Hooker and Wolf AND The Velvets probably like Waits and The Pogues, too.

I could, I suppose, sit up all night (and probably many other nights, too) trying to put my finger on what it is that links these things. Hell, I might even pull it off. Robert Pirsig asked what ‘quality’ was while teaching college English in Montana in the 60’s. He managed to pin it down to something that people recognized when they encountered it (his students almost unanimously concurred on when ranking papers in terms of which ones were “better”) but could not define. Well, Pirsig’s search for a definition of ‘quality’ led to mental breakdown, electroshock therapy, cross-country motorcycle trips and eventually the book Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig is a lot more educated than myself, and much more equipped for dealing with such questions, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t try to equal his achievement. But I will take a little stab at making sense of a statement like the quote above.

There is something I hear in traditional or tradition-rooted music; that is, specifically, blues, a lot of jazz, folk music (of any nationality but especially American or British, which I happen to be far, far more familiar with than that of any other cultures), country, gospel, reggae, rockabilly, ’60’s soul music, roots-rock or what the charts now refer to as ‘Americana’, traditional Mexican or Tex-Mex border music (which I’ve recently gotten heavily into) and other things. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s something that’s actually there or just something I put there in my mind, a validation because the music is (or is based on music that is) old and celebrated and “legendary” (and I’ve been accused of exactly that kind of psychological projection, especially for my penchant for preferring Lightnin’ Hopkins to hip-hop music), but I hear it all the same. Something like a deep well of feeling and emotional commitment (’emotional commitment’, now there’s some pretentious critic-speak if I ever heard it) that an artist can dip into and draw from. And when I hear it, especially in the context of something that I deem as ‘good’, it turns my head and makes me listen.

It’s a quality I don’t hear in a lot of avant-garde or ‘punk’ or what I think of as ‘white pop’ music (which in my mind would be things like NRBQ or The Hoodoo Gurus, just to name two), but the lack of it does not necessarily diminish those kinds of music (hey, I’m a big fan of NRBQ, and The Hoodoo Gurus, and lots of ‘punk’ and avant-garde-type music as well), but it’s a good quality to have. For me, it’s a kind of anchor to the music; it gives it staying power. For me, it means that while I am always up for hearing Richard Thompson, Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, The Stones, Otis Redding, Tom Waits, Southern Culture on The Skids or John Coltrane (all of whom have this something) I have to be in the right mood to want to listen to The Sex Pistols (who were great, but lack this aforementioned something).

In any case, if this something, this quality exists (and since I perceive it I guess it does- and others perceive it too, I think), it is something that can be found in Hooker and Wolf and The Velvets and Waits, and in The Pogues, too. And that makes sense out of the quote. At least, as much sense as I’m able to articulate about it.

MORE GOLDEN HITS OF THE 80’s

The Pogues were definitely a part of the 80’s for me. Even if the 80’s were a terrible decade for Top 40 music, underground music was a rich, fertile haul back then, and for me, The Pogues were superstars. The first I ever heard of them was a review of the Pair Of Brown Eyes single in Spin. Actually, it wasn’t the review that got my attention, but the photo of Shane MacGowan, dressed in Napoleonic pirate gear and showing off his infamous ghastly grin (later immortalized by Mojo Nixon in “Shane’s Dentist.”). The caption read

“Shane MacGowan comes from an ugly place, has an ugly face, and has recorded a great single with The Pogues,”

which makes it the finest piece of writing I ever encountered in the mostly execrable Spin.

Back then, the general line on The Pogues was that they played punked-up, sped-up versions of Irish traditional music. Actually, on their first album (Red Roses For Me), I suppose that’s not too inaccurate. I never got especially hot and bothered about Red Roses, which was hard to find and I never heard until its 1988 re-release. Despite their boundless energy and good humor (especially Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, which worked excellently for clearing out parties), it now sounds like demos for what would come later. By Rum, Sodomy And The Lash and the Poguetry In Motion EP, they’d found their true voice. The band had gelled into an endlessly inventive ensemble that could find each songs unique qualities and then make the most of them. MacGowan had turned into a brilliant, plainspoken songwriter and possibly even more brilliant singer, using his ragged voice and slurred phrasing as an instrument to express himself, much as any great blues or, yes, soul singer would. By If I Should Fall From Grace With God, they were even better; MacGowan’s writing became almost mythic, the band’s delivery almost cinematic in its sweep, building each number into a work of great drama and power; the sort of rare album without a single forgettable track.

But then things began to slip. I anxiously awaited the release of Peace And Love the following year, but when it arrived, I was disappointed. Something was missing. Part of it was that the other Pogues were contributing more in the way of material. Yet the songs by Terry Woods and Phil Chevron were largely consistent with MacGowan’s both lyrically and musically, and Woods’ Streets Of Sorrow and Chevron’s Thousands Are Sailing had been highlights of Grace. Meanwhile, MacGowan was still at full strength, delivering several fine songs, especially the overpowering USA. But somehow, the album failed to hang together… as good as most of it was, it never really added up to the sum of its parts.

Things went from bad to worse, as MacGowan simply went AWOL from the band’s US tour with Bob Dylan that fall. A Rolling Stone piece described MacGowan as a down-and-out drunk whose legendary habits had caught up with him. The Pogues seemed to fade from the scene.

Hell’s Ditch finally appeared the following year, with little fanfare (at least in the States). Conventional wisdom has it that Hell’s Ditch is a failure, but I myself thought of it as a fine return to form. Understated compared to their peak period of 1985-1988, but MacGowan seemed back on top again, contributing some of his best songs yet, from the grand drama of Lorca’s Novena to the (here we go again) ‘Irish soul’ of Ghost Of A Smile. Me, I was looking forward to more great music from The Pogues.

It didn’t happen. When The Pogues finally toured the States, close to a year after HD’s release, MacGowan was again not with them (“Shane MacGowan will not appear” read the newspaper ad for the show). Joe Strummer ostensibly stood in for the absent Shane, though in fact the entire band took turns at the mike. Strummer is one of my old heroes, but he couldn’t quite fill MacGowan’s shoes (amusingly enough, Strummer had also appeared with them at their SF debut in 1987, filling in for an injured Phil Chevron. Of the three times I saw The Pogues headline, only once did they have the full band). This time, Shane was gone for good. The Pogues soldiered on for a few more years, releasing two well-intentioned but less-than-classic albums. MacGowan duetted with Nick Cave on a hilarious version of Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World and plotted a solo career.

Finally, 1995 brought The Snake, MacGowan’s first solo album with his new band, the vengefully named Popes. While there was much to like about The Snake, it lacked the greatness of his old band. The Popes could imitate The Pogues, but not duplicate them. Great bands depend on gestalt. The Popes simply lacked the kind of imagination and ambition to turn simple songs into full-blown epics (and The Pogues needed MacGowan’s inspiration to produce great work). Also the switching from straight rock rocked-up Pogues imitations was jarring and gave the album an inconsistent feel. Still, MacGowan remained a popular figure in the UK. As the Pogues quietly folded, he released Crock Of Gold in 1998.

ROCK’n’ROLL PADDY

I attended the Guinness Fleadh Festival; a full day of music, almost all of it excellent, chock full of artists I liked. The evening ended (for me, anyway) with a performance by Shane MacGowan and the Popes. It had been ten years since I’d seen MacGowan, and I was excited but trepidatious. I’d been less than enthralled by his solo work and, by all accounts, his legendary abuses hadn’t abated (like their forbears, The Popes have taken to playing sans MacGowan when necessary).

MacGowan came on close to an hour late (Typical. It was close to 90 minutes the first time The Pogues played SF). He was led on by a roadie or assistant who stayed by his side throughout the show, passing him lit cigarettes. He clung to the mike stand just to stay vertical. He garbled out his songs and made his usual unintelligible introductions (which sound something like “thizzongscauldwarrgleemaffftaweebagrrf”). When he mysteriously vanished in mid-set, many of us wondered if he’d keeled over (he returned after a brief Popes instrumental, fresh drink in hand). The Popes, true to my expectations, played with enthusiasm but suffered from not being The Pogues (not an unfair criticism, I don’ think, when they’re clearly intended to stand in for the originals). Given how good The Pogues had been even when bad, it added up to a disappointment. MacGowan’s voice was ragged (even by MacGowan standards). None of this phased the mostly Irish (and mostly loaded) crowd, who tipped over a bleacher in honor of their hero.

Then, shortly after returning with his fresh drink and struggling through Lost Highway (not the Hank Williams song), MacGowan and the Popes jumped into a Pogues set with If I Should Fall From Grace With God, and as Shane slurred and snarled his way through the lyric, you could hear just a little bit of the old magic there, a hint of redemption, a sign of what drew you to him in the first place.

If I sound overly critical, it’s because I think MacGowan is a rare talent, a brilliant songwriter and outstanding singer, and it saddens me to see him lionized for his sad personal state. And he is. Drop by the Pogues Usenet group and make some comment about his unfortunate physical state and see how fast the flames fly. There appears to be a not inconsiderable faction of fans for whom MacGowan’s long out-of-control alcoholism is some kind of badge of honor, an inherent part of his ‘cool’. Just a few nights ago, I was killing time in a used bookstore. The young Deadhead-type behind the counter was blasting The Pogues. I heard him say to his girlfriend:

“It’s so cool to know this guy was really shitfaced drunk when he recorded this. Listen! You can totally hear him slurring his words!”

I used to think so too, I guess. I didn’t think it was ‘cool’, but I did think it was funny. Part of the pleasure of seeing The Pogues perform was watching MacGowan stumble around and slur his words. Just like I used to find Roky Erickson’s mental instability funny (when introducing a friend to his music, I always had to mention that Roky was ‘really insane’ and not just pulling an Alice Cooper act), and Johnny Thunders’ junkie-cool “I don’t give a fuck attitude.” Actually, I don’t think that kind of attitude is unusual for a guy in his 20’s, especially one who enjoyed his indulging in his own vices whenever possible.

So maybe it’s just a maturity thing. No, I didn’t become a teetotaler or enter a 12-step program; just settled down. At 33, getting loaded now seems like an inconvenience rather than anything to be happy or amused about. And Roky’s just a sad ghost of a man. And Thunders is dead. And MacGowan’s descent doesn’t strike me funny at all. Maybe someday we’ll be seeing his obituary. Or maybe not; he’s stuck around this long (well, Thunders lasted a lot longer than most of us expected, too). Or maybe he’ll pull himself out of it. All I know is, he’s a great talent and the price of living up to his shambling image has been a ton of brilliant music that he could have been making, and me, I think that’s too high a price to pay. Way too high.

Some Pogues-related links:

In The Wake Of The Medusa   Paddy Rolling Stone  The Parting Glass   Pogues Facebook Page

ALBUM REVIEW: CROCK OF BONES- ‘Celtic Crossbones’ (2019)

Alt Folk, Irish, Trad, Celtic.

Celtic Crossbones the debut album release from Crock Of Bones the hottest new band on the London Irish Folk and Trad circuit. 

Hot on the heels of their debut EP, Nasty, Brutal And Short, comes the debut album release from Crock Of Bones. Formed this year out of various members of other groups most notably LOCKS, Red Eye, Lost Revellers and rockabilly outfit The Obscuritones. So quite a diverse bunch of musicians but with links back to Celtic-Punk through the brothers Bryne and their band Pitfull Of Ugly who played energetic punked up versions of Irish folk songs through Hackney and North London in the early 90’s. Here they ply a much more traditional route though but with the same punk rock attitude they have always have. The five songs from Nasty, Brutal And Short are included on Celtic Crossbones alongside five new tracks of radical interpretations of Irish folk.

Crock Of Bones- (back) Mike Byrne, Marian McClenaghan, Jim Wharf (front) Hugh Byrne and Caitlin Roberts

Celtic Crossbones kicks off with the self penned number ‘Just One Of Them Things’ a slow swirling number with fiddle and accordion leading the way while Hugh sings of lost love. A great voice but his Dublin accent now has a wee bit of a Cockney twang about it! Next is one of the best songs ever written about the Irish on this side of the Irish sea, ‘Hot Asphalt’. Ewan MacColl (no stranger at all to these pages!) was famous for chronicling the life of the working classes and who better than the Irish road building gangs of the 50’s and 60’s. The camaraderie of these gangs of Irish workers is reflected in the comical goings on of a gang of poor Paddies digging up the road.  Somewhere along the way a policeman falls in a pot of boiling asphalt and the gang cover up his death!

“I’m thinking, says O’Reilly, that he’s lookin’ like old Nick
And burn me if I am not inclined to claim him with me pick
Now, says I, it would be easier to boil him till he melts
And to stir him nice and easy in the hot asphalt”

Played in the same style as the Dubliners famous version it’s the best version I have heard in a good while. ‘The Magnificent Eight’ is another self penned number Hugh wrote about one of his old bands Ella And The Blisters, a rootsy tootsy band of misfits that split up in 2016. The song is dedicated to all the jolly fine former members, Gabby, Sam, Luigi, Wayne, Caitlin, Richard, Sarah, Brian, Tom and Nathaniel and ‘The Magnificent Eight’ is a fine tribute to them. Banjo heavy and the tale of a band that almost nearly crossed the path into bigger times. ‘Ferry’ is a sad mournful song with great lyrics about a long distance relationship about a couple saying goodbye at the ferry terminal that comes to an end with the great line “waiting for a voice on a landline telephone”, long before the invention of mobile phones. Bands like Crock Of Bones don’t have to do much if they don’t want to. There is a huge market in London for Irish and traditional music but Crock Of Bones don’t want to be one of them bands that just churn out the covers and it’s the many self-penned numbers on Celtic Crossbones that interest me the most. Modern subjects wrapped up in auld music like on ‘Nothin Worse’ the best song on the album here. Great lyrics and accompaniment from the rest of the band. Neither fast nor slow but one of them foot tappers/thigh slappers that trad Irish folk is famous for. Grand stuff altogether! The instrumental ‘Swallowtail Jig’ is next and while there’s not an awful lot of choice on the Crock Of Bones You Tube channel (it’s the only video!!) pop along and have a look yourselves!

‘TASTHTGP’ is next up and TASTHTGP is a short way of saying ‘Talk about shit things happening to good people’ and a decent sense of humour is needed for anyone in a band. It’s a slight song but well intentioned. Next up is the song that alongside ‘Hot Asphalt’ chronicles best the life of a working class Irishman in Britain in the 50’s and 60’s, ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’. Of course not all dug the roads but many many did including my own Grandfather before he settled in on the railways with a shovel in his hand for 40 odd years. Most came from the countryside of Ireland to cross the Irish sea to work long and hard hours in tough jobs and their only respite came from a few beers after work. Written by Dominic Behan the title refers to the construction company of Sir Robert McAlpine who exploited employed mainly Irish workers.

“They sweated blood and they washed down mud
With pints and quarts of beer
And now we’re on the road again
With McAlpine’s fusiliers”

The song ends withe the refrain “And if you value your life, well, don’t join, by Christ with McAlpine’s Fusiliers” and judging by the broken bodies and bent backs of many of the ones who who use to while away the hours in the Irish pubs of my home town it was good advice. We are nearing the end and time for a real Irish legend of a song, ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’. We even wrote a recent article specifically about this and its origins and many covers. A very old song recounting the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580 where us Irish had a rare victory over the English invaders! Its a great rabble-rouser of a song and has a couple of lines that contain some of the most vitriolic of any rebel song. Crock Of Bones give it plenty of oompf and it’s a joy to belt out the words at the top of your lungs! The album comes to an end with the traditional instrumental songs ‘Cooleys Reel/ Mountain Road’. Cobbled together nicely and owing a lot to The Dubliners as catchy a tune as has ever been written and just the ticket if you’re looking to give the floor a good beating!

(You can stream Celtic Crossbones on the Bandcamp player below before you invest your hard earned in this great wee release)

You can catch Crock Of Bones playing very soon live for London Celtic Punks on Friday 22nd November with local lads The Disinclined at The Oak in Kingston-Upon-Thames. as usual our man GREENFORD BHOY will be spinning the discs and getting the mood in order playing all yer favourite Irish-Celtic-Folk-Punk-Rock’n’Rebel in between the bands and till the landlord kicks us out! The venue is only twenty minutes on the train out of London and just five minutes from Kingston station. The gig is **FREE** so expect a Friday night of hot Irish jigs, reels, foot stompers and lyrical folk. Not an opportunity to miss I tells you! 

Buy Celtic Crossbones  FromTheBand

Contact Crock Of Bones  Facebook  Soundcloud  YouTube  Bandcamp

ALBUM REVIEW: THE NARROWBACKS- ‘By Hook Or By Crook’ (2019)

New York Irish Music

The Narrowbacks are back with their third album of Irish-American Celtic-Rock and conceivably their best yet! If Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan and Bruce Springsteen survived a drinking session through the 5 boroughs, the hangover would be called The Narrowbacks. Fire it up!

nar·row·back /ˈnæroʊˌbæk/ [nar-oh-bak]
–noun Slang.
1. Disparaging. an Irish-American.
2. a person of slight build who is unfit for hard labor.

Across the major cities of the Irish diaspora you will find one (or two if your lucky!) band that comes to totally represent the Irish of that city. Like the Dropkicks in Boston, the Mollys in LA, The Wakes in Glasgow and The Bible Code Sundays and Neck in London these bands are a rallying point to the Irish community and help to keep alive the past, present and future of that community. The painful history of tragedy and hardship became a sense of pride and celebration that today across the world the Irish community is flourishing. Even though their are several bands that could lay claim to to the title of NYC’s most prominent Irish band and with competition from greats such as Shilelagh Law or Black 47 The Narrowbacks with this their third studio album By Hook Or By Crook have nailed the honour with this flying colours.

In a city where everyone is fighting for space the the working class Woodlawn area of the Bronx remains to this day a predominantly Irish area, the neighborhood is still referred to as ‘Little Ireland’. Young Irish still flock to the area on their arrival to the States due to the area hosting both the Emerald Isle Immigration Center and the Aisling Irish Community Centre as well untold amount of pubs and construction companies where many of these newly arrived Irish can find work. It was in Woodlawn that the Irish-Americans that form The Narrowbacks grew up. Formed in 2010 as the brain child of a future banker and a drop out bartender as a drunken joke that soon enough developed, under popular demand for them, into the next big thing on the New York Irish music scene. Taking their name from the slang name historically used to describe a Irish-American who was considered too soft to do hard physical labour.

The Narrowbacks left to right: Reilley Vegh – Fiddle * Fionn McElligott – Electric Guitar * Barry Walsh – Acoustic Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin * Seamus Keane – Lead Vocals * Anthony Chen – Bass * Chris Moran – Drums * Pat Keane – Button Accordion

The Narrowbacks pursuit to take over the NYC Irish music scene arguably began when Black 47 called it a day back in 2014. The undisputed ‘Kings Of NY’ were a Celtic-Rock band, formed in 1989 by Larry Kirwan and Chris Byrne taking their name from the the summer of 1847, the worst year of the ‘Great Famine’ in Ireland. With them out of the way the scene was set for some new blood and following their debut album, Fire It Up in 2013, they really came into their own with the EP After Hours and their second album release Arrogance And Ignorance in 2016 the year that also saw them opening for the likes of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. The album peaked at #2 in the London Celtic Punks Best Of 2016 album chart so much did the assorted wastrels here rate it!

So The Narrowbacks are back and they have a lot to live up to. Arrogance And Ignorance was one of my favourite albums and is still regularly given an airing over at London Celtic Punks towers. The Christmas themed ‘Prodigal Son’ is particularly glorious. An auld fashioned Christmas song about an Irish mammy waiting for her off-the-rails son to come home. Capable of bringing a tear to the eye its nay on impossible to make a truly unsentimental Christmas tune but The Pogues and The Narrowbacks have done it. Based in singer Seamus Keane’s pub in Woodlawn, Keane’s Bar And Restaurant, where music is supplied seven days a week by up-and-coming Irish and Irish-American musicians the band are not just leading the cities music scene but are also helping to make it flourish with their support of other artists.

Tribal drumming and distortion kicks off By Hook Or By Crook with the title track and soon, after only forty seconds, comes to an abrupt end and ‘Streets Of Woodlawn’ takes over and was the first single released in advance of the album. Instantly giving a sense of London’s own Bible Code Sundays due in no small part to the prominence of fiddle and accordion it’s a rip-roaring song the kind of track that gets you screaming at the top of your voice along with the band or a singalong down at the pub smacking your glass on the bar shouting along with the Bhoys “In the streets of Woodlawn”.

Over in a flash of under three minutes The Narrowbacks are not hanging about and the addition of the excellent fiddler Reilley Vegh has given the band that little bit extra buzz. Next up is ‘Tripping Up The Stairs’ and Reilley again shines and his contribution really rounds off the bands sound nicely. The song ticks along nicely with Seamus having perhaps reigned in the ‘gravelyness’ of his vocals. Maybe he’s given up smoking!?! The song ends with a fab trad fiddle solo showing their are no boundaries here and ‘On The Radio’ they have one ot the albums stand out tracks. As catchy as hell with a great chorus and infectiously fun the song gives the whole band to shine individually while not disturbing the flow of the song.

So far its been fun fun fun but as anyone will tell you its not all fun being Irish and ‘All I Know Is Woe’ is the song to bring down the mood, but only a wee bit as the music is still catchy as hell and completely uplifting. While the Bible Codes never really passed into Celtic-Punk remaining firmly embedded in the London Irish pub and trad scene it’s great to hear The Narrowbacks thrash out a bit and ‘Delirium’ is the track to do it in. Still with both feet firmly in Irish music the song has a bit more bite to it and even sounds louder than the other songs here!! The song even touches on that most Celtic-Punk of themes that of the pub and alcohol. On an album as strong as By Hook Or By Crook it seems a wee bit unfair to point out the better tracks but ‘Jackson Notes’ is certainly one of them. Again as catchy as a New York Yankees baseball mitt it’s a rollicking good ride with great vocals from Seamus alongside the whole band stepping up to the plate a great chorus to top it all off. We are nearing the end and nay sign of any ballad yet and ‘Sackcloth And Ash’ is not one either. A more folky approach here despite Fionn’s thrashy guitar, Chris’ drums and Anthony’s rumbling bass best attempts to keep it rocking. The longest song here at nearly five minutes it never outlives its welcome and is, here’s that word again… catchy! The folk instruments are supplied by Patrick on accordion and Barry on both banjo and mandolin as well as Fionn on fiddle. ‘Last Call’ carries on in similar vein with a folky base. Talking of life on the working class streets of NY and not everyone is a king in the US of A. Another great song giving the album a strong ending as ‘Bitter End’ brings down the curtain on By Hook Or By Crook. As Seamus rallies his friends together in a song about how friendship and family determines who we are and tells us to “hold our heads high”. A fantastic ending to an outstanding album.

Ten songs that, all penned by the band themselves, comes in at just over thirty minutes. With seven members the production could get a bit messy but it is as clear as crystal and all the various instruments from folk to rock are clearly balanced along with Seamus vocals. Whoever mixed and produced the album deserves a tip of the hat for such a fantastic job. While The Narrowbacks are probably not a ‘celtic-Punk’ in the traditional sense they are common among Irish-American bands in that they keep one foot in the trad folk scene and come across as a Folk band playing Punk/Rock songs. In these days with the Irish community in the States seemingly at last happy in it’s role in American life bands like those that inhabit the Celtic-Punk and Rock scenes play an important part in keeping the community grounded and to not to forget its past and what others went through to give them the confidence they have today. Seamus Keane sums up the Irish-American community in in his own inimitable way

“Irish America in 2019 is its own thing altogether. One part Donald Trump, two parts Civil Service, construction and pubs, mix in equal parts GAA and AOH, finish with three parts Wolfe Tones. A contradictory recipe for a terrible conversation at Thanksgiving Dinner.”

By Hook Or By Crook gives Arrogance And Ignorance more than a good run for its money and the songs fly past in an whirl and show a growing confidence The Narrowbacks have in themselves. How they are not more widely known is a mystery to me but the Irish around the world love Irish-America (we are all secretly obsessed with it!!) so hopefully this album will receive them the exposure they so greatly deserve. Destined to be at the higher end of this years Best Of Album chart By Hook Or By Crook takes you instantly to the smoke filled bars of Katonah Avenue. Places built on the blood, sweat and tears of generations of Irish and Irish-Americans who still keep a flame alive in their hearts for a place that many will never see.

Buy By Hook Or By Crook  CDbaby  Apple  Amazon

Contact The Narrowbacks  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube  Bandcamp

(The Narrowbacks live set opening for the Dropkick Murphys during their St. Patrick’s residency at The House of Blues in Boston in 2016)

EP REVIEW: KRAKIN’ KELLYS- ‘Irish Tribute’ (2019)

Celtic Skate Punk, beer and bar fight !

What happens when traditional Irish Rock n’Roll meets American Punk music? Here the Krakin’ Kellys take six Irish folk music classics and unite punk-rock riffs with Gaelic-inspired melodies. Angry microphones, greasy bass lines meet bagpipes, flutes and accordion for a drunken party which will leave everyone pumped up!

Since forming in 2017 Krakin’ Kellys have its fair to say taken the Celtic-Punk scene by storm. Their debut album from last year was a double winner in the London Celtic Punks Best Of 2018 lists romping home with the Best Debut Album and the Best Album Readers Pick as chosen by the readers of the Blog (nearly 39% of the total vote!). It was a breath of fresh air to the scene with its energetic blend of punk rock and accordions and bagpipes. Allied to this was a bunch of absolutely fantastic videos that the band released that showcase a band at the very top of their game. In fact we only said
“It’s not often I use the words this is a must have album but this is a must have album!”
about one album in 2018 and it was the Krakin’ Kellys Promised Land. Full of energy and bounce and humour. There’s no revelations about politics here and no songs about nuclear war and I can only say thank the heavens. Sometimes music needs to take our minds away from the daily grind. Music to drink to, to dance to, to meet folks and make friends and on Promised Land Krakin’ Kellys delivered us quite a unique Celtic-Punk album.
(You can download/stream Promised Land at the Bandcamp link below)

Krakin’ Kellys hail from the city of Namur in Belgium. The city is the capital of the self-governing Walloon Region which was created, largely along language lines. Wallonia consists of the French-speaking provinces of Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Walloon Brabant and Namur. There is a burgeoning independence movement in Wallonia that seeks to split Belgium into Dutch speaking Flanders in the north and French speaking Wallonia in the south. As is usually the history behind the conflict is complicated so I think I better go on with the review and leave the controversial stuff alone!

Krakin’ Kellys from left to the right : Olivier Drèze (Drum) * Stephan Mossiat (Bass) * Pierre-Yves Berhin (Accordion) * David Leroy (Lead Vocals) * Matthieu Hendrick (Guitar) * Rémi Decker (Bagpipes & Whistles )

The EP begins with possibly the best known Irish song of all time, ‘The Wild Rover’. The song is about a utter wastrel of a man who spends his life drinking and carousing before coming to the realisation he has wasted his life and returns to the home of his parents and promises to reform his ways. The origins of the song are vague and thought to originate via Ireland, Scotland or from the fishing industry but there’s no arguing that it is indeed the most popular Irish song of all time. The Kellys play it as a rock ballad with the amazing chorus the highlight. Pierre-Yves’s accordion and Rémi’s bagpipes supply the Celtic instrumentation while the rest of the band keep the heavy sound of their previous releases intact while still playing a glorious homage to this wonderful song.

As I have mentioned recently sometimes the best of videos are recorded in pubs (the natural home of all Celtic-Punk) with a crowd of friends enjoying themselves and ‘The Wild Rover’ fits the bill perfectly. Take a couple of minutes to check it out as it’s another in Krakin’ Kellys long line of great vids. See how many band t-shirts you can spot. I lost count at a dozen! Next up is ‘The Foggy Dew’ a song about the glorious 1916 Irish uprising against British rule in Ireland. The song has become pretty popular in the Celtic-Punk scene of late due in main to its Celtic-Punk friendly air. Again its done very much in the Krakin’ Kellys style and David’s vocals may divide people along the lines of those who are expecting someone crooning but KK are a Punk band at the heart and I think they fit perfectly. Raspy and semi-shouty they are nothing if not passionate. Time for a more ‘trad’ approach next as the Bhoys mix up three songs you may not know by their names but will from the airs. Of course Thin Lizzy made ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ a international smash hit back in 1973. The song morphs into ‘The Kesh Jig’, an old traditional Irish tune. It’s popularity is attributed to The Bothy Band who recorded the song on their debut album in 1975 and then another traditional song ‘Morrison’s Jig’. Here the band push their trad side to the limit while still remaining at heart the skate-punk band they are. Here again Pierre-Yves proves he’s one of the best accordion players in the business. Half way through now and it’s time for a couple of Dubliners songs starting with Free The People’. Although performed and released by The Dubiners the song was in fact written by Phil Coulter and relates to the struggle for racial equality in the USA and the struggle in the northern 6 counties of Ireland against British occupation and discrimination against Catholics.

“What does it profit him
The right to be born
If he suffers the loss of liberty?
Laws were made for people
And the law can never scorn
The right of a man to be free
We are the people
And we shall overcome”

The Kellys play the song as normal but with a heaviness that belies whatever version you have previously heard before. Next is a mention for a familiar name here on the London Celtic Punks site, that of Ewan MacColl the writer of  ‘Champion At Keeping Them Rolling’. The Dubliners recorded the song in 1972 and perhaps because it was the last recordings of the original line up the song is often thought to be written by them but Ewan was a master of songwriting and telling the story and tribulations of working class life.

“I am an old-timer, I travel the road, I sit in me wagon and lumber me load”

The song speaks of a long distance lorry driver and contains everything you need to know about Ewan. Humour, anger, social injustice and more humour. Again it’s not a song that needs much doing to change it to a Celtic-Punk song, none of the songs The Dubliners recorded do! So onto the last song and the second song from Phil Coulter. ‘The Town I Love So Well’ was written by Phil Coulter, renowned musician, songwriter and record producer about his childhood in Derry city, a place at the centre of Irish resistance to British rule. The song begins with the simple tale of his upbringing in a place filled with warmth and love before ‘The Troubles’ began and Derry became a place plagued with violence. The songs final verse includes a message of hope for a “bright, brand new day”, saying “They will not forget but their hearts are set / on tomorrow and peace once again”. Phil Coulter is also responsible for one of the most beautiful songs ever written, ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’ about the birth of his first daughter with Down’s Syndrome and later died aged four. Take another minute or two to check out the song here as sung by Luke Kelly. Anyway back to the Krakin’ Kellys and they go out on a high! Beginning as a acapello version with the band led by David bagpipes come in and it soon erupts into as class a Celtic-Punk song you will ever hear. Fast and furious and full of passion.

Six songs and over twenty minutes of one of the very best bands around in the scene at the moment. Krakin’ Kellys are an interesting band for a number of reasons. Their output is regular and of a very high standard alongside their videos which are always worth several viewings and here they show a love and respect for source material that you would not expect for a band from the heavier side of Celtic-Punk. One of the favourite (if not my actual favourite) bands of the assorted London Celtic Punks collective we are all gagging to see them live and hopefully appear alongside them in one of their fantastic videos!!

(You can stream Irish Tribute on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Irish Tribute  FromTheBand

Contact Krakin’ Kellys WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram  Twitter

OíCHE SHAMNA SHONA DAOIBH! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Halloween, aka Samhain, was first celebrated in Ireland, around a thousand years ago. It was regarded as ‘The Celtic New Year’ coming from the name of a month in the ancient Celtic calendar with the festival marking the end of the summer season and the end of the harvest. The Gaelic festival became associated with the Catholic All Souls’ Day, and has influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween.

To find the origin of Halloween, you have to look to the festival of Samhain in Ireland’s Celtic past. Samhain had three distinct elements. Firstly, it was an important fire festival, celebrated over the evening of 31 October and throughout the following day. The flames of old fires had to be extinguished and ceremonially re-lit by druids. It was also a festival not unlike the modern New Year’s Day in that it carried the notion of casting out the old and moving into the new. To our pagan ancestors it marked the end of the pastoral cycle – a time when all the crops would have been gathered and placed in storage for the long winter ahead and when livestock would be brought in from the fields and selected for slaughter or breeding. But it was also, as the last day of the year, the time when the souls of the departed would return to their former homes and when potentially malevolent spirits were released from the Otherworld and were visible to mankind.

‘Halloween’ taken from the recent Greenland Whalefishers album ‘Based On A True Story’.

SAMHAIN AND ITS PLACE IN THE CELTIC CALENDAR

The Celts celebrated four major festivals each year. None of them was connected in anyway to the sun’s cycle. The origin of Halloween lies in the Celt’s Autumn festival which was held on the first day of the 11th month, the month known as November in English but as Samhain in Irish.

The original Celtic year 

Imbolc: 1st February, Beltaine: 1st May, Lughnasa: 1st August, Samhain: 1st November

The festivals are known by other names in other Celtic countries but there is usually some similarity, if only in the translation. In Scottish Gaelic, the autumn festival is called Samhuinn. In Manx it is Sauin. The root of the word – sam – means summer, while fuin means end. And this signals the idea of a seasonal change rather than a notion of worship or ritual. The other group of Celtic languages (known as Q-Celtic) have very different words but a similar intention. In Welsh, the day is Calan Gaeaf, which means the first day of winter. In Brittany, the day is Kala Goanv, which means the beginning of November. The Celts believed that the passage of a day began with darkness and progressed into the light. The same notion explains why Winter – the season of long, dark nights – marked the beginning of the year and progressed into the lighter days of Spring, Summer and Autumn. So the 1st of November, Samhain, was the Celtic New Year, and the celebrations began at sunset of the day before its Eve.

THE ORIGIN OF HALLOWEEN’S SPOOKINESS

For Celts, Samhain was a spiritual time, but with a lot of confusion thrown into the mix. Being ‘between years’ or ‘in transition’, the usually fairly stable boundaries between the Otherworld and the human world became less secure so that puka, banshees, fairies and other spirits could come and go quite freely. There were also ‘shape shifters’ at large. This is where the dark side of Halloween originated.

Apples

Samhain marked the end of the final harvest of the summer, and all apples had to have been picked by the time the day’s feasting began. It was believed that on Samhain, the puca – Irish evil fairies (see right hand column) – spat on any unharvested apples to make them inedible.

To ward off the evil let loose at Samhain, huge bonfires were lit and people wore ugly masks and disguises to confuse the spirits and stop the dead identifying individuals who they had disliked during their own lifetime. They also deliberately made a lot of noise to unsettle the spirits and drive them away from their homes. The timid, however, would leave out food in their homes, or at the nearest hawthorn or whitethorn bush (where fairies were known to live), hoping that their generosity would appease the spirits. For some, the tradition of leaving food (and a spoon to eat it!) in the home – usually a plate of champ or Colcannon – was more about offering hospitality to their own ancestors. Just as spells and incantations of witches were especially powerful at Samhain, so the night was believed to be full of portents of the future.

The Dropkick Murphys performing a cover of The Misfits ‘Halloween’ live at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney on 20th October 2011.

DOWNLOAD A FREE BOOK ON HALLOWEEN

The National Folklore Collection, which is managed at University College Dublin, has published a free booklet for Halloween. It explains the origins of Halloween and explores old Irish tales, legends and customs. You can download it (pdf 950Kb) here: Dúchas – Halloween.

NICK BURBRIDGE AND HIS TOP TEN INFLUENTIAL ALBUMS

To say we are overwhelmed to be able to publish this feature on his Top Ten Influential Albums by the the legendary Nick Burbridge is an understatement! Encompassing everything inbetween Folk to Celtic-Punk it’s a glorious ride through some famous and legendary artists and some little known outside the communities they hail from. Second gen Irish singer-songwriter, Nick has been playing Irish-influenced acoustic music since his teens influencing countless others, including in their own words, The Levellers. His band McDermott’s 2 Hours were among the first to ever think of combining punk and Irish folk so he is a trailblazer among the Celtic-Punk scene but also so much more as well. 

No time to waste so put the kettle on, crack open some biscuits and save the next couple of hours…

Andy Irvine & Paul Brady- ‘Self-Titled’ (1976)

When I was asked to name ten indispensable albums on Facebook some time ago, I decided to work from the late sixties to the millennium, and pick out those most influential on my development as a musician and songwriter, and end where I began, as it were. The first album I chose was this one. It’s a classic of its kind, melding yet never losing the distinctive characters of two of the most innovative and enduring musicians working in the Irish traditional idiom. There’s not a song on it I can’t still recall to memory, give or take a verse here or there, and the quality and range of the musicianship and arrangement, while capturing the essence of Planxty, somehow has an irresistible intimacy the full band doesn’t quite match, though they were perhaps the best of their kind.

(As Andy Irvine says this is Mr. Bradys classic. “Oh, me and my cousin, one Arthur McBride As we went a-walking down by the seaside Now, mark what followed and what did betide For it being on Christmas morning…” )

The Copper Family- ‘A Song For Every Season’ (1971)

This box set was, unexpectedly perhaps, essential listening for the punk-folk band I was in, when we lived in the red light district of Mainz one summer in the mid-seventies. We sang a few Copper songs a capella in our set – the Germans loved them. I spent fifteen years growing up in Rottingdean, Sussex, and I guess that’s as authentic a connection as you can get to this unique family who’ve kept alive a whole tradition on their own initiative, and are rightly recognised for it across the world. Their singing is rough, genuine, heartwarming, and eccentrically tuneful. I’m proud we introduced our audiences to their material, among chaotic jigs and reels and rebel songs. Once again, while I often forget what I’m meant to be doing these days, I can still remember almost every line, such was their influence on me.

(The whole Box-Set of four albums on You Tube. ‘Tater Beer Night- Spring’, ‘Black Ram- Summer’, ‘Hollerin’ Pot’- Fall’ and ‘Turn O’ The Year- Winter’. Nearly three hours long!)

The Bothy Band- ‘After Hours’ (1979)

There are so many unforgettable albums by Irish traditional bands who pushed the form in all directions in the 70s, and influenced countless more to follow suit. I guess The Bothy Band stand in the vanguard, and this album with its driving sets of tunes, and exquisitely sung ballads, live yet virtually faultless, is indispensable to anyone trying to understand just why this music is so effortlessly infectious, exhibiting a musical intensity few others come close to, always ready and able to form the soundtrack to a particular phase in someone’s life. It did mine. It has long been an immeasurable influence.

(You Tube seems to have started allowing whole albums on their site these days. While I’m not too sure of the legality lets just sit back and enjoy)

Dick Gaughan- ‘Handful Of Earth’ (1981)

Dick Gaughan made Handful of Earth on the way back from a major nervous breakdown. And there is something not working within ordinary tramlines here. His errant but extraordinary guitar accompaniments weave their way under an utterly compelling voice, as if to make a world turned upside down both inimitable and unforgettable. The choice of songs is faultless. Gaughan, whatever his fate, will always remain a mighty force. Those who do try to imitate him simply don’t have whatever it is that comes from wherever it does…

(Dick’s folk masterpiece album in full, unabridged on You Tube)

The Pogues- ‘Rum Sodomy & The Lash’ (1985)

By the mid-80s folk and punk had well and truly fused. Much as I think ‘Iron Masters’ by The Men They Couldn’t Hang May may well be my favourite track from the era, I don’t think any such album surpassed this one. Too much academic writing has attached itself to the formidable Shane MacGowan opus, and The Pogues’ irregular but compulsive sense of Irish identity. All I want to say is that I hope their influence on my work hasn’t been too obvious – I’ve tried to pay them the greatest compliment by sowing their seeds as deep as I could in wherever my songs take root, in the hope that what hybrid growth occurred would be as substantial and organic as possible, and not some hasty GM copy of their timeless and outstanding work.

(Which one to choose? How about ‘Sally MacLennane’ from British TV in 1986)

The Waterboys- ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ (1988)

This would probably appear on the all time list of anyone involved in folk-rock music. They call some albums seminal – Fishermen’s Blues epitomises what it means. Like Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks it simply has an originality, authority and impact reserved for those who find themselves, by design or accident, at the cutting edge, and who have the courage to take the task on without flinching. From the monumental to the simply made, tracks etch themselves into the memory. I keep them there, and bring them out from time to time. I always will.

(Absolutely cracking live version of the album’s title track)

Wolfestone- ‘Unleashed’ (1989)

I was travelling to play at Reading Festival when someone put this album on in the van and immediately I realised this band were truly fellow-travellers – and there was much to learn from their blending of traditional music with good original songwriting, where sensitive guitar playing had a central part. They weren’t The Waterboys, but they had the same sense of attack, and an obvious love of what they were doing. Perhaps the least known of the albums chosen, this should need no introduction – it is, in its own way, a classic.

(Nick is right. A band I hadn’t come across before but as this whole feature is about introducing us all to good music I’m glad I found it here. The opening track of ‘Unleashed’ from 1992)

Levellers- ‘Levellers’ (1993)

The band didn’t tell me they were putting my song ‘Dirty Davey’ on this album – but they were well aware of my attitude to ‘folk’ music: it’s common property, as far as I’m concerned, whatever the source. And that isn’t why I chose this record over, say, Levelling The Land. It seems to me a broader, more ambitious production, without losing its roots. It was released about the time my young son made a short film for a BBC Children’s television programme, about how much the band meant to him, and had seen him through some rough years. They were, you might say, at their height. Their legendary Glastonbury headline spot was soon to come. They had successfully entered the mainstream without squandering their gifts. And those gifts are abundant here. I should say I’ve always felt privileged that they cite me as a main initial influence. The fact that they’re still working now says it all.

(Nick Burbridge performing with the Levellers in 2004 live on stage at Buxton Opera House doing his own song!)

Eithne Ní Uallacháin- ‘Bilingua’ (Initial Recording 1999- Posthumous Release 2014)

While she was in the midst of putting down vocals for this album Eithne killed herself. Working with what they had, and eventually fighting through their grief and misgivings, the musicians in her family and others released it fifteen years after her death. It’s an irresistible recording, centred round the most evocative female Irish traditional singer I have ever heard. Whether tackling old Gaelic pieces or fronting tales of her own battles with darkness and her sharp visions of light, it’s impossible to listen to her without being deeply moved – especially if much of her inner torment feels as deeply shared. We should all be indebted to those who loved her at first hand, who have kept her memory alive. It’s not discourteous to say that, through her music, I have found my own love for her. It will not die.

(“But grief can be translated from the light into the darkness; In the belly of the shadow with all its shades digested. Its true colours will unfold.”

(In 1998, Eithne returned to Shaun ‘Mudd’ Wallace’s Homestead studios to record a solo album. Ní Uallacháin’s vocals were completed and much of the music was arranged, but the album was not released. Eithne died in 1999 and her son, Dónal, took residence at Wallace’s studio as an assistant engineer, and during times when the studio was not booked worked with Wallace on the album. Due to contractual issues with the original record label, the album was not released until 2014,15 years after its recording and 14 years after mixing was completed. The album was titled Bilingua and was released with Gael Linn, who released Eithne’s first album, Cosa Gan Bhróga.)

Finbar & Eddie Furey- ‘First And Last’ (1968)

If I’m sometimes cited as an influence on certain others, forced to pick one album that influenced me most, it’s this one. It marks the beginning of a fifty year long journey so far, and whenever I listen to it, even now, I find it impossible to skip through. It represents everything good about Irish music. The instrumental playing is (apart from one or two odd passages) fearless and full of guile; the singing has both a tender and a punkish edge; the arrangements are often ornate and yet always seem gritty and spontaneous; and of course Ted Furey’s sons were born into an authentic travelling family, and it’s immediately audible. I was glad to cross paths with the duo once upon a time in Germany, when side-stage at Ingelheim festival Finbar (rightly, I’m sure) called the band I was in ‘a pile o’ shite’…I took it as a compliment he’d bothered to listen… That a wider family group went on to make a big name covering more commercial, and sometimes questionable material is neither here nor there, in my opinion. Good luck to them. I’ve been fortunate enough to be recognised as a poet, and where songs are concerned, use the idiom of my grandfathers to carry as complex and penetrating a vision as I’ve been able to pursue. But, in contrast to what often seems to masquerade as what it’s not, this is the real thing. The 1968 recording also forms the first half of The Spanish Cloak: The Best of the Fureys (1998) – available on all the usual selling and streaming platforms. On we go…

(Eddie’s first song was written by Scottish TV producer Gordon Smith. The words are set to the traditional Irish air ‘Buchal an Eire’)

Nick continues to produce great music and his last album, under the name of his original band, McDermott’s 2 Hours – ‘Besieged’ was not just featured on these pages but positively drooled over by our man Francis! On the album he is accompanied by members of both The Levellers and the Oysterband and showcases his work as not just a musician but also, in the best Irish tradition, as a poet, playwright and novelist as well. Available as a limited edition two CD set including a Best of compilation, Anticlimactic but you can buy several versions including the download direct from Nick here and also available from all streaming services inc. Spotify, Amazon etc here. You can contact Nick Burbridge over at his WebSite and Facebook. Thanks to Nick for taking his time out to pen this great feature ‘Go raibh maith agat’.

THE SOUND OF AN UNDERGROUND. REBEL MUSIC DOCUMENTARY

A short documentary film about rebel music in Ireland, directed by Declan McLaughlin and John Coyle featuring commentary and performances from Declan McLaughlin, Gary Óg, Eileen Webster, Terry ‘Cruncher’ O’Neill and Joe Mulhearn.

 

Throughout Ireland’s long history of struggle for independence, each of the various uprisings has generated its own collection of songs. The tradition of rebel music in Ireland dates back many centuries, dealing with historical events such as uprisings, describing the hardships of living under oppressive British rule, but also strong sentiments of solidarity, loyalty, determination and support the political dreams of the generations who sought an independent nation.

As well as a deep-rooted sense of tradition, rebel songs have nonetheless remained contemporary, and since 1922, the focus has moved onto the nationalist cause in the north of Ireland. However, the subject matter is not confined to Irish history, and includes the exploits of the Irish Brigades who fought for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and also those who fought during the American Civil War.

Irish rebel music has occasionally gained international attention. The Wolfe Tones’ version of ‘A Nation Once Again’ was voted the number one song in the world by BBC World Service listeners in 2002. Rebel music has often courted controversy with successive Irish governments banning it from the airwaves in the Republic of Ireland throughout the 1980’s. More recently, Derek Warfield’s music was banned from Aer Lingus flights, after an Ulster Unionist politician compared his songs to the speeches of Osama bin Laden. However, a central tenet of the justification for rebel music is that it represents a long-standing tradition of freedom from tyranny.

THE REBEL COLLECTIVE

Thanks for the The Rebel Collective for posting the video to You Tube. They run a monthly music based podcast that features various guests of a rebel nature. Getting to know some of their favourite songs and the songs that helped shape the artist they are today, and hopefully gaining a bit of insight into their background and influences.

Support The Rebel Collective. New badge £4 plus £1.50 orders via Pay Pal to: therebelcollective@hotmail.com

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REMEMBERING HUGH THE GREAT O’NEILL IN SONG

Concluding our short series on celebrated figures from Irish history immortalised in song. Today is the turn of Aodh Mór Ó Neill (anglicised as Hugh The Great O’Neill), 3rd Baron of Dungannon and 2nd Earl Of Tyrone.

For our third and final part of the series we have opted for a song that is an instrumental but one whose air is as well known as any in Irish history. The song was rediscovered by the great Seán Ó Riada who was the single most influential figure in the revival of Irish traditional music during the 1960’s before his untimely death at 40 in 1971. Subsequent investigation shows it first appeared in Edward Bunting’s A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland in 1809 and an earlier version titled ‘O’Neill’s Riding’ was included in Stanford’s Complete Collection Of Irish Music in 1787.

(the legendary Cork born composer and arranger of Irish traditional music Seán Ó Riada performs ‘O’Neills Cavalry March’)

Born in 1550, Hugh O’Neill (Aodh Mór Ó Neill) was the second son of Mathew Ceallaigh the illegitimate son of Conn Bacach O’Neill who had submitted to Henry VIII in 1542 and was regranted his lands with the English title 1st Earl of Tyrone.

Mathew Ceallaigh had been murdered by his half-brother Shane the Proud O’Neill who also drove the elderly Conn out of Tyrone and into the Pale in 1559 where he died not long after. Mathew had two sons, Brian, recognised by the crown as the next earl, and his younger brother Hugh. Shane the Proud had by now, in the tradition of his Gaelic ancestors, resumed the Celtic title The Ó Neill and is suspected of having Brian O’Neill murdered close to Newry whilst he was en route to London to assume the title of Earl. The English, fearing also for the life of the young Hugh removed him to the safety of London. Hugh was reared from the age of nine as an English noble in London until 1567, when he was returned to Ireland and placed in the safekeeping of the Lord Deputy of Ireland Sir Henry Sidney.

(the most ambitious project relating to Hugh O’Neill is the 2018 concept album Nine Years Of Blood released by Dublin folk-metal band Cruachan, pronounced ‘kroo-a-khawn’)

In 1568 Hugh was declared Baron of Dungannon and then in 1585 he was also declared 2nd Earl of Tyrone by Elizabeth I. He was to all intents and purposes a loyal and trusted servant of the Crown. He aided the English during 1580 in the suppression of the second Desmond rebellion and supported Sir John Perrot in his campaign against the Antrim MacDonnells in 1584. For this he was rewarded by Elizabeth I when in 1587 he was granted a patent to his grandfather’s Tyrone properties which were now controlled by his cousin Turlough Luineach who styled himself The Ó Neill.

(Godfathers of Celtic-Punk Horslips took the tune and put it to their 197? hit ‘Dearg Doom’)

In 1593 Turlough stood down as the chief of the clan thereby allowing Hugh to be invested with the title The Ó Neill. The ceremony was performed in the traditional way and on the sacred stone at Tullaghogue in 1595 witnessed by all the major Ulster clans. For some years prior to his inauguration, Ó Neill had played a cat and mouse game with the English.

(One of the truly great exponents of the art of playing the Uilleann pipes Paddy Keenan on his 1983 album Poirt an Phíobaire)

In 1591 he had eloped with 20 year old Mabel Bagenal the sister of Sir Henry the Marshall of the queen’s army. He helped arrange the escape from prison of Red Hugh O’Donnell along with Art and Henry MacShane O’Neill. Unfortunately Art froze to death during the escape in the winter of 1591 and the others were led to safety by Feagh MacHugh O’Byrne. Ó Neill had at first aided the English in their 1593 campaign against the Maguires of Fermanagh. The English were led by Hugh’s resentful brother-in-law Bagenal. Hugh Maguire was Ó Neill’s son-in-law and when Ó Neill suddenly withdrew his support Bagel was left dangerously exposed.

By 1595 O’Neill was to commit his first act of resistance to the English when he overran the fort at Blackwater and destroyed the bridge. This is the first event in what is known as the nine year war. From this time O’Neill perfected a system of conscription that included the richest noble to the poorest peasant. This new force was known as bonnachts and he had them trained in modern warfare. Even his gallowglasses laid down their great axes in favour of the arquebus. Ó Neill then defeated English armies led by Bagenal at Clontibret in 1595 and at the Battle of The Yellow Ford in 1598 where Bagenal was killed. Queen Elizabeth sent over the biggest English army to enter Ireland. Though it numbered 17,000 men led by Robert Devereux the Earl of Essex, it was to prove ineffectual and in 1599 Essex made a treaty with O’ Neill which was not to Elizabeth’s liking and she replaced Devereux with Lord Mountjoy.

(Scottish legends Silly Wizard perform O’Neills Cavalry March from So Many Partings)

In 1601 Mountjoy was able to capture the Spanish army sent to help O’Neill at the town of Kinsale. After the Battle of Kinsale it was a turning point for O’Neill. English forces were spoiling the lands in Ulster and causing starvation there. Hugh O’Donnell had left for Spain to try for more help but died there suddenly. Recognising that his cause had failed O’Neill sought a pardon and in 1603 Elizabeth ordered Mountjoy to open negotiations with all the chiefs involved in the rebellion. She died in the interim but Mountjoy concealed this from O’Neill.

Accompanied by Rory O Donnell, brother of Red Hugh, O’Neill presented himself to the new King James I. The Irish were received graciously and O’Neill was confirmed in his title and estates. However, back in Ireland the government continued to challenge O’Neill’s authority, particularly over his feudal rights the principle dispute being over the O’Cathains. In 1607 he decided to take this to the King but was warned secretly that he was to be arrested. Instead of going to London, O’Neill and O’Donnell, along with their families and followers numbering around 99 people took ships from Rathmullan in Donegal and were driven by strong winds into the Seine. This event would become known as the Flight of the Earls. The Earls and their families made their way over land to Rome where they were welcomed in 1606 by the pope. King James saw this flight as treasonous and O’Neill was declared an outlaw in 1613 by the Irish parliament.

A tablet set in the floor of the church of San Pietro, Montorio, marks the burial-place of the bones of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone.

The parliament of Ireland outlawed O’Neill in 1613 and he later died in Rome on 20 July 1616 leaving behind a large number of legitimate and illegitimate children. Hugh O’Neill was buried in the church of San Pietro in Montorio, beside his son, also Hugh, Baron of Dungannon, and his brothers-in-law, Rory and Cathbarr O’Donnell. The inscription on his tomb is brief and was recorded by the historian, Father C.P. Meehan in 1832. During renovations to the church in 1848 the tombstones bearing the epitaphs of the Baron and O Donnells were carefully set in place again but the flagstone bearing the inscription on O Neill’s tomb was lost and a replica set in place at the behest of His Eminence, the late Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich, bearing the original inscription, can now be seen. The inscription reads

“D.O.M. HIC QUIESCENT UGONIS PRINCIPIS O NEILL OSSA”

Translated, it reads, “HERE LIES THE BONES OF HUGH O’NEILL, PRINCE or CHIEF

  • If you are even just the tiniest bit interested in Irish history and culture then it is essential that you subscribe to Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland. An absolutely fantastic resource for all aspects of Irish history including the daily ‘What Happened On This Day’ and covering a wide range of Irish History, Irish language, Irish Diaspora, The Great Hunger, Arts & Music, Culture, Archaeology, Literature, Photography, Mythology & Folk Culture.
  • REMEMBERING FIACH MacHUGH O’BYRNE IN SONG  here
  • REMEMBERING RODDY McCORLEY IN SONG  here

REMEMBERING FIACH MacHUGH O’BYRNE IN SONG

The second in our series on celebrated figures from history immortalised in song and covered by both Folk and Celtic-Punk bands. Today we turn to the great Irish hero of Fiach MacHugh O’Bryne one of the greatest leaders in Irish history.

Memorial to Fiach McHugh O’Byrne, Glenmalure, County Wicklow

The song ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ recounts the struggle of Irish clan leaders against British rule in Ireland in the 16th century. The central figure in the song is Fiach MacHugh O’Bryne (1534 – 8 May, 1597) who fought the British army for thirty years during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The song celebrates his feats in battle and though thought to be from the time it was actually written 200 years later by famed Irish poet Patrick Joseph McCall, who also wrote the great patriotic ballads ‘Boolavogue’ and ‘Kelly The Boy From Killane’ among others. The song ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ is one of the most famous Irish folk songs and celebrates the defeat of the English army at the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580.

Lift MacCahir Óg your face brooding o’er the old disgrace
That black Fitzwilliam stormed your place, drove you to the Fern
Grey said victory was sure soon the firebrand he’d secure;
Until he met at Glenmalure with Fiach Mac Hugh O’Byrne.

Chorus:
Curse and swear Lord Kildare
Fiach will do what Fiach will dare
Now Fitzwilliam, have a care
Fallen is your star, low
Up with halbert out with sword
On we’ll go for by the Lord
Fiach MacHugh has given the word,
Follow me up to Carlow.

See the swords of Glen Imayle, flashing o’er the English Pale
See all the children of the Gael, beneath O’Byrne’s banners
Rooster of a fighting stock, would you let a Saxon cock
Crow out upon an Irish rock, fly up and teach him manners.

From Saggart to Clonmore, there flows a stream of Saxon gore
O, great is Rory Óg O’More, sending the loons to Hades.
White is sick and Lane is fled, now for black Fitzwilliam’s head
We’ll send it over dripping red, to Queen Liza and the ladies.

Fiach MacHugh O’Bryne (Fiach Mac Aodh ÓBroin) was the son of the chief of the O’Byrnes of the Gabhail Raghnaill. His sept, a minor one, claimed descent from the 11th century King of Leinster, Bran Mac Maolmordha, and was centred at Ballinacor in Glenmalure, a steep valley in the fastness of the Wicklow mountains. Their chiefs styled themselves as Lords of Ranalagh. The territory of the Gabhail Rabhnaill stretched from Glendalough south to the Forest of Shillelagh in Wexford and west to the borders of present day Co Carlow, an area of some 150,000 acres. Resenting the greed and cruelty of the Elizabethan adventurers and settlers, Fiach would raid their villages and kill or drive them out. He was appalled at the ruthless cruelty of the stewarts Thomas Masterson and Sir Henry Harrington and in 1580 went into open rebellion when Masterson summarily executed many Kavanagh clansmen.

(Perhaps the greatest ever version of ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ by the legendary Planxty included here with lyrics to sing along to)

Other clans joined with Fiach and when James Eustace, 3rd Lord Baltinglass, angered by the treatment of the Catholic Old English also rebelled and joined with him. The English were appalled at this, already Munster was in turmoil as the Earl of Desmond was in rebellion and in the north the O’Neills were moving also against the English.

(The song as covered by new north London Irish folk group Crock Of Bones on their debut EP ‘Nasty, Brutal And Short’. Incidentally the singer was named after Hugh O’Bryne)

An army of 3,000 men were sent into the Wicklow Mountains but O’Byrne and Eustace were waiting for them in Glenmalure. Over 800 English lost their lives at the Battle of Glenmalure and the rest fled back to Dublin. The following year the English offered terms, Eustace refused and fled to Spain but Fiach and the other clan chiefs accepted and were pardoned.

(Irish-American band The Young Dubliners from California performed one of the earliest Celtic-Punk versions of the song)

In 1592 Hugh Roe O’Donnell, with brothers Art and Henry MacShane O’Neill escaped from Dublin Castle. The breakout had been planned with the help of Hugh Mór O’Neill and the escapees fled to the safety of Glenmalure. It was a severe winter and Art died from exposure and was buried in O’Byrne land but Fiach was able to transport Hugh Roe and Henry away to safety.

(The Tan And Sober Gentlemen from Snow Camp, North Carolina)

The English spent a long time collecting heads and plundering, they spared few. In April, Russell again went hunting for Fiach who once again escaped. His wife Rose however was captured and sentenced to be burned to death. The sentence was not carried out.

(Jim McCann’s version was the first time I ever heard ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ when he bought me this album on tape when i was on holiday)

Lord Deputy Russell was to spend the next year unsuccessfully scouring the country for Fiach. However O’ Byrne’s luck was to run out. A traitor in his camp gave information to Russell that Fiach would be in Ballinacorr on 8th May 1597. The Lord Deputy was able to surprise him and captured him in a cave. There he was hacked to death and decapitated with his own sword.

(folk-metal version titled The Marching Song Of Fiach MacHugh from Irish band Cruachan)

Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne’s corpse was cut up, and for months hung on pike staffs on the wall over Dublin Castle drawbridge. Several months later, the pickled head was presented to the council secretary at London by an English adventurer, who was disappointed to find that the head-silver due on O’Byrne had already been paid in Ireland. The queen was said to have been greatly angered that

“the head of such a base Robin Hood was brought solemnly into England”.

(There’s no better way to end this article than with my own personal favourite and the version by Dublin Celtic-Punk band Blood Or Whiskey)

  • If you are even just the tiniest bit interested in Irish history and culture then it is essential that you subscribe to Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland. An absolutely fantastic resource for all aspects of Irish history including the daily ‘What Happened On This Day’ and covering a wide range of Irish History, Irish language, Irish Diaspora, The Great Hunger, Arts & Music, Culture, Archaeology, Literature, Photography, Mythology & Folk Culture.
  • REMEMBERING HUGH THE GREAT O’NEILL IN SONG  here
  • REMEMBERING RODDY McCORLEY IN SONG  here

REMEMBERING RODDY McCORLEY IN SONG

A short series exploring some of the figures from history immortalised in song and covered by all your favourite Folk and Celtic-Punk bands. You’ve sung the song but do you know the rich history behind the words? Today we celebrate Roddy McCorley, a young man executed back in 1800. He has been immortalised in both the written word and song and 200 + years after his death we are still here celebrating his life with the many versions of the great song written about him.  

The Rody McCorley Memorial, Toome. “I gcuimhne Ruairí Mhic Thoirealaigh, a chrochadh annseo as a bheith páirteach i nÉirigh-Amach 1798. Iad siúd a d’éag ar son na hÉireann go mairidh a gcliú go deo.” “In memory of Rody McCorley who was hung here for his part in the 1798 uprising. May the honour of those who died for Ireland last forever.”

Roddy McCorley was the son of a miller and was born near Toome in the parish of Duneane, Co Antrim. and was a participant in the 1798 rebellion led by the United Irishmen. A few years before the rebellion Roddy’s dad was executed for stealing sheep. These charges are believed to have been politically motivated in an attempt to remove a troublesome agitator at a time of great social unrest. Following his father’s execution, his family were evicted from their home. There is uncertainty as to whether McCorley was actually actively involved with the Presbyterian United Irishmen or the  Catholic Defenders.

(the version that brought the song back into Irish folklore)

After the rebellions defeat, he joined a notorious outlaw gang known as Archer’s Gang, made up of former rebels and led by Thomas Archer. Some of these men had been British soldiers (members of the Irish militia) who changed sides in the conflict, and as such were guilty of treason and thus exempt from the terms of amnesty offered to the rank and file of the United Irishmen. This meant that they were always on the run in an attempt to evade capture.

(The Dubliners version in their own inimitable style as sung by Ciaran Bourke) 

These were treacherous times and Roddy McCorley paid the price when betrayed by an informer he was arrested and tried by court martial in Ballymena on 20 February 1800. He was sentenced to be hanged “near the Bridge of Toome” in the parish of Duneane. His execution was carried out on 28 February 1800. His body was then dismembered and buried under the gallows, on the main Antrim to Derry road. A letter published in the Belfast Newsletter a few days after McCorley’s execution gave an account of the execution and how McCorley was viewed by some. In it he is called Roger McCorley, which may have been his proper Christian name.

“Upon Friday last, a most awful procession took place here, namely the execution of Roger McCorley who was lately convicted at a court-martial, to the place of execution, Toome Bridge, the unfortunate man having been born in that neighbourhood. As a warning to others, it is proper to observe that the whole of his life was devoted to disorderly proceedings of every kind, for many years past, scarcely a Quarter-sessions occurred but what the name of Roger McCorley appeared in a variety of criminal cases. His body was given up to dissection and afterwards buried under the gallows…thus of late we have got rid of six of those nefarious wretches who have kept this neighbourhood in the greatest misery for some time past, namely, Stewart, Dunn, Ryan, McCorley, Caskey and the notorious Dr. Linn. The noted Archer will soon be in our Guard-room.”

In 1852, McCorley’s nephew Hugh was foreman of the construction of a new bridge across the River Bann at Toome. Hugh recovered his uncle’s body and on 29 June 1852, buried him at Duneane parish graveyard.

(one of the best recorded versions of the song by American folk legends The Kingston Trio)

See the fleet foot host of men
That speed with faces wan,
From farmstead and from fishers cot
Along the banks of Bann,
They come with vengeance in their eyes
Too late too late are they.
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

Up narrow street he steps
Smiling, proud and young.
About the hemp rope on his neck
The golden ringlets clung
There was never a tear in his blue eye,
Both sad and bright are they,
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

When he last stepped up that street,
His shining pike in hand,
Behind him marched in grim array
A stalwart, earnest band.
For Antrim town, for Antrim town,
He led them to the fray,
And young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

There was never a one of all your dead
More bravely fell in fray
Than he who marches to his fate
On the bridge of Toome today.
True to the last, true to the last,
He treads the upward way,
And young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

Ethna Carbery

Roddy’s role in the 1798 rebellion was passed down by word of mouth and it was in a poem/song written 100 years after the rebellion by Ethna Carbery that he was claimed to have been one of the leaders at the Battle of Antrim. The song was published in 1904 two years after Ethna’s death as part of a collection of poems titled The Four Winds Of Erin. Despite this lack of evidence Roddy McCorley became a major figure in nationalist-republican martyrology due to this song. Recently evidence has been unearthed by historian Guy Beiner as to his involvement in the rebellion that had been hidden due to the change in the  Presbyterian faith from nationalist to unionist. 

(as with everything Irish music related their is always a link to the great Shane MacGowan)

The song was re-popularised in the 1950’s when it was recorded by giants of the Irish folk scene The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and The Dubliners. In the folk music revival of the 1960’s it was recorded by the The Kingston Trio and many more up until Shane MacGowan and The Popes recorded a version for The Snake in 1994 and it’s popularity has blossomed since then being recorded by several bands with in the Celtic-Punk scene with a knowledge of their history and roots.

(the latest version as recorded by Irish-American band The Templars of Doom on this years Hovels Of The Holy album)

The Roddy McCorley Society   Irish Music Daily  Irish Folk Songs

( there’s even a Psychobilly version from the great psycho German band Pitmen!)

  • If the tune is familiar but not the song that may be because the melody for Roddy McCorley was recycled in 1957 for the more familiar song ‘Sean South Of Garryowen’.
  • If you are even just the tiniest bit interested in Irish history and culture then it is essential that you subscribe to Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland. An absolutely fantastic resource for all aspects of Irish history including the daily ‘What Happened On This Day’ and covering a wide range of Irish History, Irish language, Irish Diaspora, The Great Hunger, Arts & Music, Culture, Archaeology, Literature, Photography, Mythology & Folk Culture.
  • REMEMBERING HUGH THE GREAT O’NEILL IN SONG  here
  • REMEMBERING FIACH MacHUGH O’BYRNE IN SONG  here

EP REVIEW: CALLUM HOUSTON- ‘Gravities’ (2019)

Acoustic Alternative Folk Rock.
Made in Bretagne. Inspired in Ireland.

I first became aware of Callum Houston a few years ago when I was spending another rainy day off work trawling through YouTube and settling again on a couple of hours of videos of my new favourite band The Graveyard Johnnies. Watching away further evidence if it was ever needed that I have indeed turned into my Grandad was my eyes were drawn to their awesome guitarist Callum’s tattoo of an Irish harp on his arm. Grandad could spot an Irish connection at 100 yards and could name any famous person with even the smallest of Irish roots. Not many will know this but my BIG love besides Celtic-Punk is Psychobilly which is the bastard love child of both Rockabilly and Punk and The Graveyard Johnnys are that rare thing in the Psycho scene of being a young band but also massively popular, headlining most of their gigs. Not one to keep this to myself I rushed off a message to the band and found out that indeed Callum was Irish but was also living in Brittany and allied to that The Graveyard Johnnys were based in south Wales it makes them probably the most Celtic band in existence!

Born in Bristol before his family washed up in Carrigaline in Cork when young Callum was the tender age of 4 his formative years were in Ireland before a move back to England at 15 and then a return back to Ireland to Dublin to study Irish music. As he says

“Cork will always be home, it’s not where your born it’s where you grow up and learn about life.”

Callum was back again in England when he read The Graveyard Johnnys were a guitarist down so Callum jacked in his job and moved to Wales, sleeping on the floor in the band practice room for five months till he found somewhere to live. These were wild times with the Johnnys touring non stop all over Europe and it was on one of these tours whilst playing in Paris that Callum met his partner. They would go on to have a child and he moved to Paris to join them. He began playing regular solo gigs in Paris many Irish bars as well as busking on the Metro to earn a living. Later on they moved to Brittany where the standard of living is better (and cheaper!) and the where the culture is very similar to that of Ireland. The Breton people are very proud of their Celtic roots and Callum felt at home. He now performs regularly throughout Brittany and France playing anywhere from Irish bars to Bistros to street corners as well as jetting back and fourth to Wales to play with the Graveyard Johnnys.

Gravities is Callum Houston’s debut release and the striking photo on the sleeve of the EP is not actually of a young Callum at all but of his Grandad on the Houston family farm in Donegal. The record begins with the title track and while their are only slight signs of the Rock’n’Roll and Irish folk that Callum usually plays you can hear in these original compositions how he manages to make his living playing Irish ballads around the bars of Brittany. Here he takes a more contemplative turn and the lyrics like the music are thoughtful and clever. Their may be none of the urgency associated with the music that Callum usually plays but that’s not to say its soft or throwaway. It may be gently played acoustic music but it comes with more than a edge of something a lot harder. Callums acoustic guitar is aided by banjo and what sounds like a cello making a great combination that would more than sound at home across both a busy pub or a quiet intimate bar. These are the kind of songs that cut across the noisy chatter of a pub and demand attention. ‘Sink Or Swim’ takes a similar route and again that menacing edge to it keeps it from sliding completely into the folk section. Callums voice with its gentle Cork lilt is perfect for this and you can see why he’s made a success of playing solo gigs. Catchy and upbeat and perfect for them toe-tapping moments.

On ‘Euroline’ the tale is of travelling back and forth across Europe, of times spent waiting and waiting for trains and coaches. Told with humour and played with gusto the song again hits the spot and over four minutes is allowed plenty time to develop. In fact at fifteen minutes the four songs here fly past much quicker than you may expect and on ‘City Of Lives’ the EP comes to an end with the records standout track. At times dark and slow and menacing before busting into life as a catchy foot stomper.

Gravities was mixed and mastered by Jacky Cadiou At The Movies Studio, Brest and was released at the end of last month. It’s available on download and also as a compact disc that comes with a few free gifts and is only €5. So about a quid a song! Having grown up listening to traditional Irish music and spending most of his adult life touring across the world with Punk and Country bands Callum has developed a unique and original style. A talented songwriter and musician and with fans spanning genres from punk to trad folk it would be a shame if this record somehow fell into the mid way ground between them.

(you can stream Gravities on the Bandcamp player below for free but it’s only £4 to download so put your hand in your pocket Celtic-Punkers!)

Buy Gravities  FromCallum

Contact Callum Houston  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

EP REVIEW: CROCK OF BONES- ‘Nasty, Brutal And Short’ (2019)

Alt Folk, Irish, Trad, Celtic.

The debut release from Crock Of Bones the newest band on the London Irish Folk and Trad circuit. 

I first met the Brothers Byrne oh maybe twenty odd years ago. Having not long moved to London from the northern wastelands I was surrounded by Irish at home but the only ‘proper’ Irish I knew were everyone’s Mam and Dads so I was in no way prepared for quite how Irish London was back in the early 90’s. Every pub and street corner seemed on loan from the Emerald Isle itself and as I slowly immersed myself into the London punk scene I found that was no different either. Every band seemed to have an Irish connection and with any Celtic-Punk scene years off it was down to the punk scene for this plastic paddy 2nd gen Irishman to get his kicks. Living in Hackney back then punks were ten’a’penny and it was impossible to just take a wander up to the shop without bumping into someone you knew and their was a good chance that person would be Irish! Among the bands active in north London at the time that were mixing up Irish folk and punk were The Daltons, Brassic Park and Under The Gun but the best of the bunch were Pitful Of Ugly. Featuring Hugh and Mike (the Brothers Bryne) and their drumming Kiwi bus driver mate Jason they played loads round Hackney, especially at the famed Acton Arms, home of punk rock in London for a few years around 1995. Pitful Of Ugly played a few of their own songs in among some classic Irish folk songs and tunes that the Bhoys speeded up and tampered with. It was great stuff (so it was!) and though very popular they didn’t quite get the breaks to take them out of the Hackney punk ghetto. Fast forward a few years and every now and then I’d bump into the Bros. and even bought a CD of Hugh’s new band The Obscuritones, a rockabilly group he was playing guitar in. Next thing I heard was recently when I received a email from a new band LOCKS and there was Mike with his double bass. Once again I was suitably impressed (they are well worth checking out by the way!) and we fell back in contact. So that was it until Mike starting dropping subtle hints about a new project I would be interested in and 2019 has seen it unveiled as the traditional Irish folk band Crock Of Bones and needless to say their record of being in bands I love shows no danger of being overturned!!!

So not having strayed far from Hackney in the intervening years Crock Of Bones were born this year in North London and Nasty, Brutal And Short is the bands debut release. The Bros call it “a description of the Irish we first made friends with when we emigrated to London”. The rest of the groups members, whose backgrounds stretch back to 90’s celtic-punk, gypsy jazz, dark folk and rock, include a fellow member of LOCKS, Marian McClenaghan on fiddle, Jim Wharf from the band Red Eye on banjo and guitar  and Lost Revellers Caitlin Roberts on accordion alongside Hugh on lead vocals, guitar and fiddle and Mike on double bass.

Crock Of Bones- Mike Byrne, Marian McClenaghan, Hugh Byrne, Caitlin Roberts, Jim Wharf.

So with a pretty diverse line up what is the new approach that Crock Of Bones can bring? Well as Hugh says

“This time we’re using traditional instruments, fiddle, accordion, banjo, guitar and double bass and three vocals to get the same energy and power as we used to get from distorted guitars.”

and their is a certain unpolished feel to it all and when I say that I in no way at all mean that in a bad way. What I mean is that it’s universally agreed that Irish music is best played down the pub and in that environment a certain amount of ‘ramshackleness’ is not just tolerated but actually required to give it that authentic feel. The five songs here swing from ballads to full-pelt foot-stompers and though their trad numbers are well played its their original numbers that that impressed me the most.

The Nasty, Brutal And Short EP kicks off with the first of the original numbers ‘Just One Of Those Things’ and its a slow swirling number with fiddle and accordion leading the way while Hugh sings of lost love. He’s got a great voice and the Dublin accent now also has a wee bit of a Cockney twang about it! Next up is one of the best songs ever about the Irish on this side of the Irish sea. Written by Ewan MacColl (no stranger at all to these pages!) and made massively popular among the Irish diaspora chiefly by The Dubliners and then The Wolfe Tones. The song tells of the comical goings on among a gang of Irishmen digging the road up in Glasgow and laying the ‘Hot Asphalt’. Somewhere along the way a policeman falls in a pot of boiling asphalt and the gang cover up his death! Played in the same style as the Dubs the song is quick and catchy and dare I say it as almost as good a version as I have heard but for the best version of all time then check out New York cities 1916 and their version here it’ll knock yer socks off!

“‘Tis twelve months come October since I left me native home
After helping them Killarney boys to bring the harvest down
But now I wear the gansey and around me waist a belt
I’m the gaffer of the squad that makes the hot asphalt”

Following this is the EP’s second original number ‘Ferry’ and anyone of a certain age will remember the trip back and forth to Ireland on the ferry from Fishguard or Holyhead over to Ireland in the Summer. Packed to the absolute rafters like cattle we ran around like maniacs till we collapsed on the floor and slept in corridors while our Mams and Dads sat in the bar drinking and, depending on whether we were coming or going, talked of Ireland in either glowing or disparaging terms. Hugh writes a great lyric here about a long distance relationship about a couple saying goodbye at the ferry terminal. It’s a sad mournful song that comes to an end with the great line “waiting for a voice on a landline telephone”. Next they kick up a bit of a storm with two tunes cobbled together nicely ‘Cooley’s Reel/Mountain Road’ and I love these kind of instrumentals. Owing a lot to The Dubliners they are as catchy a tune as has ever been written in music and if you’re looking for full-pelt foot-stompers then this and the EP’s closing track, ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’, are the ones for you. An old song celebrating the defeat of an army of 3,000 English soldiers by Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne (any relation?) at the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580. The air dates back to then and the words to Patrick Joseph McCall in 1899. Its a great rousing rebeller and Crock Of Bones give it plenty of oompf and i recommend looking up the words as theirs not many more… err… ‘descriptive’ Irish songs and it’s a glorious joy to be belting them out at the top of your lungs believe me!

(You can stream Nasty, Brutal And Short on the Bandcamp player below before you invest your hard earned in this great wee release)

So an amazing addition to the London Irish scene and well worth the cost of the download. The band have plenty of expertise about them but as I said it’s just the right side of being not too professional and it’s all the better for it. This is the same music our Mams and Dads once listened to in smoke filled boozers packed with fellow immigrants a generation or two back but Crock Of Bones have given it a subtle modern twist and the energy and passion is self evident. Be sure to check them out live in concert around London.

Buy Nasty, Brutal And Short  FromTheBand

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THE RUMJACKS LIVE IN LONDON- ACOUSTIC SESSIONS

In February 2019, The Rumjacks arrived in London town at the You Tube Space Studio in Kings Cross, and recorded a set of stripped back acoustic versions from their back catalogue. Where once the band would have been at home among the dirt and grime of Kings Cross station where untold amount of Scots disembarked over the years with little more than the clothes on their back it’s now a shiny gleaming soulless example of the new London. The songs were drip fed to us one at a time over the course of the next ten Fridays and here we present them all together. The recordings are now available for download across the usual platforms, links at the bottom.

The Black Matilda

Plenty

A Fistful O’Roses

Bar The Door Casey

My Time Again

Cold London Rain

Kathleen

The Leaky Tub

The Bold Rumjacker

Barred For Life

Director / Producer – Phil MacDonald * Director of Photography – Archie Guinchard * Sound Engineer – Paddy Fitzgerald * Editor – Phil Macdonald

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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE CHIEFTAINS- ‘Celtic Harp’

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After 57 remarkable years as the world’s most influential and successful traditional Irish folk band, The Chieftains continue to explore new and unusual passageways for Irish music collaborating with some of modern music’s fastest rising artists, reinterpreting for old and new generations alike, what the music means today while hinting where it might lead tomorrow. Here on Celtic Harp they lead a tribute to the work of Edward Bunting with the Belfast Harp Orchestra.

The Chieftains are a traditional Irish band formed in Dublin in 1963, by Paddy Moloney, Sean Potts and Michael Tubridy. Their sound, which is almost entirely instrumental and largely built around uilleann pipes, has become synonymous with traditional Irish music and they are regarded as having helped popularise Irish music across the world. They have won six Grammys during their career and they were given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2002. Some music experts have credited The Chieftains with bringing traditional Irish music to a worldwide audience, so much so that the Irish government awarded them the honorary title of ‘Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors’ in 1989. The band’s name came from the book Death Of A Chieftain by Irish author John Montague. Assisted early on by Garech Browne, they signed with his company Claddagh Records. They needed financial success abroad, and succeeded in this, as within a few years their third album’s sleeve note section was printed in three languages.

Paddy Moloney came out of Ceoltóirí Chualann, a group of musicians who specialised in instrumentals, and sought to form a new band. They had their first rehearsals at Moloney’s house, with David Fallon and Martin Fay joining the original three. The group remained only semi-professional up until the 1970s and by then had achieved great success in Ireland and the United Kingdom. In 1973, their popularity began to spread to the United States when their previous albums were released there by Island Records. They received further acclaim when they worked on the Academy Award-winning soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon, which triggered their transition to the mainstream in the US. The group continued to release successful records throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and their work with Van Morrison in 1988 resulted in the critically acclaimed album Irish Heartbeat. They went on to collaborate with many other well-known musicians and singers; among them Pavarotti, the Rolling Stones, Sinéad O’Connor and Roger Daltrey.

In 2012, they celebrated their 50th anniversary with an ambitious album and tour. The album, Voice Of Ages, was produced by T-Bone Burnett and featured the Chieftains collaborating with many musicians including Bon Iver, Paolo Nutini and The Decemberists. It also included a collaboration with NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman playing the flute aboard the International Space Station as it orbited the earth.

The Chieftains- Kevin Conneff- Bodhrán, Vocals * Paddy Moloney- Uilleann Pipes, Tin-Whistle, Button Accordion, Bodhrán * Matt Molloy- Flute, Tin-Whistle *

Paddy Moloney is the band’s leader, and composes or arranges most of the band’s music. While the band’s members changed numerous times in the band’s early history, the membership solidified in 1979 when Matt Molloy replaced Michael Tubridy. From then until 2002, members included the current band of Paddy Moloney, Matt Molloy and Kevin Conneff and also Seán Keane (fiddle, tin whistle), Martin Fay (fiddle, bones) and Derek Bell (Irish harp, keyboard instruments, oboe). In 2002, Fay retired from active membership. In the same year, Bell died due to complications following a minor operation. Fay died on 14 November 2012. The band continue to play regularly around the world and are one of the headline acts at this years Liverpool Feis alongside such great and diverse acts as Shane MacGowan, Flogging Molly and The Undertones.

The Celtic Harp was released in 1993 and produced by head Chieftain Paddy Maloney. The Celtic Harp is essentially a showcase for the very talented harpist Derek Bell who handled all of the arrangements, as well as contributed harpsichord and tiompan to the proceedings. Fine solos from flute God Matt Malloy (‘Parting of Friends/Kerry Fling’), vocalist Kevin Conneff (‘Green Fields of America’), and pipe player Maloney (‘T’Aimse ‘Im Chodladh’) give the album a definite Chieftain feel, but The Celtic Harp belongs to Bell, who infuses each note with the subtlety and grace of a true master. Five of the tracks on this album were recorded in Frank Zappa’s home studio before he died with Kevin Conneff’s ‘The Green Fields of America’ being a personal favourite of his. Two months later, the album was completed in Windmill Lane Studios with The Belfast Harp Orchestra with whom they had played and recorded a very successful show in London’s Barbican Centre a few months previously. ‘The Celtic Harp’ won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Traditional Folk Album’ in 1994.

EDWARD BUNTING

Edward Bunting was born in February 1773 at Armagh, the youngest of the three children of a mining engineer at Dungannon colliery in Coalisland. In 1782 he went to live with his organist brother Anthony in Drogheda, continuing his musical education. In 1784 he moved to Belfast as apprentice to William Ware, organist at St Anne’s. There he rapidly demonstrated his musical talent, becoming deputy organist, and, although still a boy, coached many of Ware’s adult pupils.

Bunting lodged for the next thirty-five years in Donegall Street with the McCracken family. In 1792 a festival of the last of the great Irish harpers was held in Belfast in the Assembly Rooms (later Northern Bank), and Bunting was given the task of copying their music which he eventually published in three volumes. In the early years of the nineteenth century Bunting promoted several successful series of concerts in the town. St Anne’s was the only church in Belfast at that time with an organ, but in 1806 a second Presbyterian Church was built (demolished 1964) and, contrary to the usual practice in Presbyterian churches, an organ was installed. Bunting was appointed as the church’s organist. It was here that in 1813 he organised a great music festival at which a large portion of Messiah was performed for the first time in Belfast. In 1819 he married and moved with his wife to Dublin. He was organist at St Stephen’s, and later also a partner in a music warehouse. In 1827 he secured a well-paid position as organist at St George’s.

Although he was an intimate of the major figures in the Society of United Irishmen of the period, Henry Joy McCracken, Thomas Russell and Wolff Tone, Bunting avoided political entanglements. Without Bunting’s work our knowledge of tunes and techniques would be immeasurably poorer. Bunting’s own musical abilities were considerable. In 1795, on Wolfe Tone’s last night in Ireland, his rendition of ‘The parting of friends’ reduced Mrs Tone to tears. On 21 December 1843, mounting the stairs at home, he suffered a heart attack and died within an hour. He is buried at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin.

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THE HARP – NATIONAL EMBLEM OF IRELAND

The harp is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world and also the national emblem of Ireland.

It is believed the harp was introduced to pre-Christian Europe by the Phoenicians who brought it over from Egypt as one of their international trading goods. The oldest surviving Celtic harps date back to the 15th century but the music of the harp has been an important emblem to Ireland since the 10th century.

In the days of the old chieftains harpists were held in high regard. Stories were often told to the music of the harp and it encompassed the spirit of the country. Harpists used to travel the country of Ireland performing their folk songs and stories for the public.

The most famous of these was the blind harpist, Turlough O’Carolan. His compositions are still popular today through the work of groups like The Chieftains and Planxty.

In the 16th century the music of the harp was seen as such a threat that The British Crown attempted to crush the Irish Spirit by ordering all harps to be burnt and all harpists executed. It was almost 200 years before the music of the harp was freely enjoyed in Ireland once again.

In 1792, a festival was set up in an attempt to bring back the almost extinct tradition of the harp. Only 10 harpists attended. A young organist named Edward Bunting was hired to notate the harp music at the festival.

Bunting’s transcripts are the oldest records of traditional Celtic harp music in existence as it was the tradition to hand down the music orally through the generations. Sadly, with the harp being banned for so long, most of the music was lost.

Today the image of the harp as a national symbol of Ireland is almost as well recognised as the shamrock. It appears on the Irish Euro coins and is the logo for Guinness, considered by many to be Ireland’s national drink.

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“YOU’RE A ENGLISH BASTARD, YOU’RE A IRISH BASTARD”

“You’re a English Bastard, You’re a Irish Bastard”

is funny way to explain the situation of Irish folks born outside of Ireland. Stephen Gara, a friend, musician who plays in Neck, and who currently lives in the Hudson Valley was born in London to Irish parents. He told how the English referred to him as “the Irish Bastard.” But when he went back ‘home’ as they called Ireland, the folks there called him “the English Bastard.” But more on Stephen and his interesting story later!

While talking to Eddie of London Celtic Punks, we decided it might be interesting to write an article about the Irish who are outside of Ireland and their experience. Like the London Celtic Punks, we’ve also got the American Irish, world famous and well known now. New York and Boston are probably the most famous cities for their Irish immigrants. But New Orleans was the third most popular destination for Irish immigrants at one time.

This story will focus on where I live, the Hudson Valley, New York, USA and the Irish who live here. It is about 2 to 3 hours north of NYC up the Hudson River and would include the cities of Peekskill, Newburgh and Kingston.

IRISH BY THE NUMBERS

The population of Ireland is a grand 4.8 million or so as of 2017 (*1). The UK Irish Population is 869,00 as of 2001. 6 million people live in the UK who have an Irish Grandparent (10% of the population)(*2.)

AMERICAN IRISH POPULATION

Irish-Americans number 34.5 million, or 7 times the population of Ireland. Irish is the second most common ancestry of Americans, just behind German. (3.) 10% of the USA population is of Irish Descent (4.) The city of Boston has the highest Irish percentage, 21.5%, followed by Philadelphia at 14.5%. (5.) 126,000 people born in Ireland live in the USA.

The highest concentrations of Irish descent in America are the Mid-Atlantic States and New England. Mid- Atlantic includes Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. The New England region is Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine. By population they should rightfully call the region New Ireland, not ‘New England’.

New York has the highest sheer number of Irish by descent in the USA, 2.5 million excluding California which has 2.6 million. (6.)

And lest we forget, Ireland’s first president Eamon de Valera was born in NYC in 1882.

NYC’s SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL AND SAINT PATRICK’S DAY PARADE

The First New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was on March 17, 1762, 14 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Homesick Irish serving in the British Army organised it and played the pipes, wore green, and spoke Irish, all of which were forbidden at the time in their native homeland. (7A)

In 1837, John Joseph Hughes, nick-named ‘Dagger John’ because he signed his name beginning with a cross, was made Archbishop of the NYC Archdiocese. Born in County Tyrone in 1797, he emigrated with his family to America in 1816 to escape persecution by Orangemen. (7B)

In May and June of 1844, Nativist riots in Philadelphia led to Irish- American homes being attacked and burned. More than 30 homes were burned and the militia was called out. (7C) After 2 Catholic churches and a seminary in Philadelphia were torched by Anti-Catholic Protestant mobs, Archbishop Hughes put armed guards with brickbats at Catholic Churches and he invoked memories of Russia before Napoleon’s troops, saying “If a single Catholic church is burned in New York, the city would become a second Moscow.” (7C) New York City leaders believed him, and the Anti-Catholic Nativist Protestant march was not allowed to happen.

The land for the present Saint Patrick’s Cathedral had been acquired by the diocese in 1810. In 1853, Archbishop John Joseph Hughes intends to build the present day Cathedral on it. Building was begun in 1858 and completed in 1879. By then , Archbishop Hughes had died in 1864. (7D)

Philadelphia Anti-Catholic Riots, 1844

HUDSON VALLEY: MUCH IN COMMON WITH LONDON IRISH

I interviewed four people Stephen Gara, Terry McCann, Jim Carey and Bill Kearney to get their personal stories and unique points of view. They represent a broad assortment of Irish immigration waves. Stephen, Terry, and Sean are musicians and Jim and Bill are the President and Vice-President of the Ulster County AOH respectively. For those unfamiliar, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is a charitable fraternal organisation formed by Irish Catholics to protect churches from destruction by Protestant mobs and to aid widows and orphans.

Over a course of a coupla-three-four pints at a break in a T. McCann Band gig in Kingston, I spoke with Stephen Gara and Terry McCann.

Stephen Gara

First generation Stephen Gara is the newest Irish comer to the Hudson Valley. He played with the London Irish Punk band Neck for many years, recorded three albums with them, and toured Ireland with them opening for Black 47. When forced to pick, his favourite Neck album is Sod ‘Em & Begorrah. He is master musician on the tin whistles, uilleann pipes, and highland Bagpipes. He is the newest immigrant to the Hudson Valley coming here to live with his wife in Peekskill, NY. They met when she toured Ireland on a Black 47 tour that brought “busloads of Irish-Americans around Ireland” on their tour. They fell in love and the rest is history. He moved to Amerikay to be with her and they now have a young son named Paddy. His parents were born in Donegal. Though born in London, he proudly only has, and has only ever had, an Irish passport. He told me how he was surprised to see American flags hung with papal flags on the altars of Catholic churches in America. Yes, well they wouldn’t put the Union Jack up in a Catholic church in England!

Stephen points out that there are more bagpipe bands in New York State than in all of Scotland. He also marches with the Firefighter McPadden Pipes and Drums. The band is named after a fire fighter who lost his life on 9/11/01 in NYC. Many NYC firefighters live in the Hudson Valley as it is a relatively short one hour commute to NYC to work.

Stephen Gara now plays uilleann pipes and tin whistles with T. McCann in the Terry McCann Band.

Firefighter McPadden Pipes and Drums

Terry McCann is a multi-talented musician who’s alto voice can hit the highest of notes when he’s strumming his mandolin. The leader of the T.McCann Band, he often breaks out into a jig set on a special wooden stage when playing. This is a real treat. Terry lives in Red Hook , NY on the “other side” of the Hudson River (the Connecticut or east side). By day he teaches Math to surly Middle Schoolers in Kingston when not running Marathons. They have their first album out, a recording of Irish Trad songs called “All for the Grog.” Terry’s personal fave from the album is “The Curr of Kildare.” Third-generation Terry was born in Kingston NY and Grandparents came from County Derry but had first migrated to Glasgow, Scotland. There Terry’s grandfather met his grandmother and they ended up in the USA working in sand and gravel pits in Long Island. Terry’s Dad Dennis, is the youngest of 11 kids. Terrence is named after his uncle, Terrence Michael.

T. McCann Band, Stephen Gara- centre, Terry McCann- far right.

THE ULSTER COUNTY AOH

Jim Carey and Bill Kearney are the President and Vice-President respectively of the Ulster County AOH, Ancient Order of the Hibernians. They are both fifth generation or so Irish immigrants. They revitalised the organisation in about 2002 when, Jim says, everyone in the AOH at the time was “Older than dirt!” Jim and Bill were elected as officers and the first they did was start up a bagpipe band., The Ulster County AOH Pipe and Drums. This brought in lots of new and younger members, and lessons were and still are free. You get set up with a kilt and all the gear, and sometimes even a loaner set of pipes if there’s one left about. The first parade the pipe band did in 2002 they only knew 2 songs, The Minstrel Boy and the Marine Corp Hymn. They played those two songs over and over during the 3 mile parade. The laughingly said they were lucky cuz the crowd never knew as they just kept marching along to fresh audiences along the route.

Jim and Bill both tell that their relatives came over in the 1850’s straight to the Hudson Valley area to build the D&H Canal. The Delaware and Hudson Canal was a very big deal up here. It moved coal from deep in Pennsylvania to Kingston, NY where it was then shipped down the Hudson River to heat NYC.

The D&H Canal in its heyday. The Aqueduct in High Falls , NY.

Paddy worked on the Canal. Irish digging the D&H Canal.

The D&H Canal today, a graffiti strewn rubble hidden in the woods.

All that remains of the aqueduct in High Falls, NY on the D&H Canal. Hidden in the woods. Today it is used as a diving platform for brave drunken youth to jump in the Rondout Creek.

Later the canal was used to ship some of the best naturally occurring cement in the world, Rosendale Cement, from Rosendale, NY, which is just south of Kingston, down to NYC to build the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1860’s. The Canal was closed in 1898. Yet the D& H Canal was open for 60 years, starting in 1828. Kingston’s first Catholic Church, St. Mary’s on Broadway opened in 1835, and later St. Joseph’s in Kingston in 1868.(8) Today, St. Mary’s is the home of a large stone Celtic cross that is the basis of a memorial to the great hunger in Ireland. It was erected on the Church grounds by the Ulster County AOH.

The AOH Cross to the Great Hunger at St. Mary’s Church.

Jim Carey’s great-great paternal grandfathers Carey and Tully, came from County Tipperary in 1850’s. His maternal great-great grandfathers Cooney and Eagan came at the same time. Before the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Jim tried the Knights of Columbus but being run by Italians, they told him to ‘Beat it’! Since that time Jim says he’s

“swung over to the Olive Branch of the Family tree”

by marrying an Italian, the lovely and gracious Fran Carey, the first time a family member has left the Irish enclave since 1850! She puts up with the Pipe Band and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with charm!

Bill’s Great-grandfather James Kearney was one of eight children and came over in 1860 from County Meath. Bill’s wife’s uncle re-started the then defunct Ulster County AOH in 1969. Bill’s father wanted him to join as a young man, but it was only for the very old and a boring operation at that time.

AOH Member “Gunny” at the Hooley

Bill and Jim, besides starting the pipe band set up a great Irish Festival in 1998 with the help of Bill Yosh another AOH member and local legend. For many years Bill has hosted a famous local Irish music radio show. They started what is called the Hooley in Kingston and it draws about 20,000 people per year. It is always the Sunday before Labor Day, which in America is the first Monday on September and a National holiday. Sponsored and produced by the Ulster County AOH, The Hooley has hosted such acts as Black 47, and Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones. The Irish Ambassador, based in NYC, is normally in attendance. Guinness is a sponsor and the beer follows freely. The Ulster County AOH Pipe and Drum band performs several sets and there is a National Stage and a Local Talent Stage. Where I have been lucky enough to performed for several years with my family band, The Wild Irish Roses. They have recently added a Trad Stage which features performers from Ireland who perform mainly in the Irish Language.

The Ulster County AOH has broken ground on a grand Irish Cultural Center in Kingston New York, the county seat. Referred to as the ICCHV (Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley) It is to be a grand hall for the Irish overlooking the Hudson River access of Kingston. The concept for the ICCHV was born in 2011, when a group of well established residents and business leaders set their minds on creating and celebrating the passionate community that is the Irish-American experience.

A CHANCE MEETING

I first saw Blood or Whiskey when I did not know it or expect it. In 2001 I returned from a trip to Ireland with a great new CD in hand. Picked up in a music shop, The Record Room in Sligo, it was Blood or Whiskey’s first album, produced by Kim Fowley. Little did I expect to see them on the cover of the local Hudson Valley newspaper when I returned to the USA! They were actually playing near me that weekend in Middletown, NY at a punk rock fest at a bar called the Celtic Horse. The festival was organized by the guys in The Anti-Socials who were huge Blood or Whiskey fans, Los Jimbos and Jimmy Pogo, who I didn’t know at the time, but have become great friends with since. About 4 great punk bands played and BoW headlined the show. They were in the States touring , promoting the album No Time To Explain which was just out. The Anti-Socials, The Nogoodnix were two of the supporting bands opening up for BoW and they were great. Years later, about 2011, I met James Pogo again through his new band The Armedalite Rifles, who I now play bass for, when sharing the bill at a local club. I was fronting in a Heavy Psych band called The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment at the time.

The Wild Irish Roses at The Hooley

And me? I’m third generation, my grandfather Joseph Patrick Michael Mullally being born on St. Patrick’s Day in Kilross, County Tipperary. March 17, 1913. World War I broke out, and with German subs sinking neutral ships, he did not see his parents until he was 5 years old in 1918 when the war ended. At the age of 5, he emigrated through Ellis Island with an aunt and his name is on the wall there. Three of my daughters and me play bagpipes and march with the Ulster County AOH Pipe and Drum Band. My son Aenghus is a snare drummer. The Templars of Doom, my Irish Punk band has our second album out Hovels Of The Holy. We’re looking forward to travelling to Toronto to play our first ‘international’ gig in May and hope to make it over to London sometime soon. Say “Hello!” and we’ll share a pint if we meet! Slainte! – Michael X. Rose

The Templars of Doom

Footnotes:

1. Eurostat via Google

2. Irish Diaspora Wikipedia

3. Washington Post, 3/17/2013

4. 2016 US Census.

5. Wikipedia

6. US Census Bureau vis mongabay.com 7A. here

7B. NY Times , Don’t Mess with Dagger John, March 7, 2018

7C.  here

7D. Wikipedia, “John Hughes, Archbishop of New York

8. HudsonValleyOne.co

Huge thanks to Mike for writing this great article and with good folk like himself the Irish-American community will continue to go from strength to strength. Here’s a few links for you to check out his most excellent band The Templars Of Doom.

(you can hear the new Templars Of Doom album Hovels Of The Holy for free -before you buy it!- on the Bandcamp player below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: DANNY DIATRIBE- ‘Tales From The Down And Outs’ (2019)

Irish rap vagabond Danny Diatribe from Derry City releases his outstanding third album just a couple of weeks before his debut London gig celebrating the 10th anniversary of the London Celtic Punks. 

Intelligent conscious shit from a drunken Irish perspective!

In the last couple of years I have seen Boston-Irish rapper Slaine play and also went to the House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ 20th anniversary tour so I’m not exactly a stranger to the rap and Hip-Hop scene but at the same time I am definitely no expert! Saying that though I don’t believe you do need to know the ins and out of a music genre for it to appeal to you. For it to strike a chord and make you feel something for it. I had that feeling when I first heard Danny’s last album Elevation Illustrations. An album packed with catchy rap anthems that included a song that is still among my most played in the last three years since, the absolutely amazing ‘Paddy’s Cure’ with Manchester Irish rapper D’Lyfa Reilly.

Danny was born Danny Lynch in Derry city in the occupied north of Ireland but emigrated to Manchester as a young ‘un a few years back and it is this background that colours Danny’s work. Describing himself as ‘Hip-Hop, James Joyce style’ Tales From The Down And Outs is loosely based on Joyce’s most famous novel Dubliners. Danny may not have been 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 here in England! He has spent the intervening years performing among the thriving Manchester music scene being a regular in Hip-Hop circles and has collaborated with some of the biggest and best names in UK and Irish Hip-Hop. Since Elevation Illustrations Danny has kept busy with a constant supply of recordings and videos (made by himself) and the ambitious plan to record this album which has taken a couple of years from beginning to end. 

Tales From The Down And Outs is a concept album detailing the lives of working class characters based in and around the places where he has lived and still lives in Manchester and Derry. All the songs were written and produced by Danny Diatribe and DJ Cutterz, from the Taste The Diff’rence crew, who collaborated with Danny on the album.

Tales From The Down And Outs begins with a short foreboding intro before the title track comes along and ‘Tales From The Down And Outs’ is accompanied by a fantastic video showing Danny moving through life. The tune is slow and unhurried and Danny’s strong accent shines through.

The most standout thing about Danny is the videos that come with the songs. On Elevation Illustrations the whole album was accompanied by professionally shot and produced videos and he’s slowly working his way through this album too. On ‘Jimmy’s Bets’ it tells of the sad tale of a loser who suffers from what my Ma use to call the ‘Irish disease’, gambling.

On ‘Maggie’ Danny tells of the harmless, except to herself, auld crazy women that inhabit the streets where we live and we pass by in the street. Danny adds story to her life giving her a soul.

“Oh Maggie Oh Maggie Oh Maggie Oh maggie, God will never take you and the devil canny stand you, she’ll go to the grave cold bitter and defiant, the flames of hell wont make her bat an eyelid.”

It’s on ‘Maggie’ that you first get a real sense of why people say rappers are the modern day equivalent of the ancient Irish seanchaí (shan-a-key) who held the key to all Irish folklore, myth, and legend. They were the traditional storytellers and the custodians of history for centuries in Ireland.

The album is packed with soundbites from the likes of Monty Python, The Three Stooges, Noam Chomsky and many more I am sure I have missed. On ‘Compliments To The Chef’ and ‘Seven Oaks’ the tone is lighter thanks in part to the soulful tunes but still the dark underbelly of society comes through. On ‘Hangover On Repeat’ Danny revisits a subject close to his, and many immigrant Irish, that of alcohol abuse but told with more than a wee Irish twinkle in the eye.

Coming up towards the end of the album and ‘Miss Robinson’ and ‘Mrs Robinson’ are two tracks with a similar feel, with the film of the same name getting sound checked throughout them. Great soulful tunes combined with his usual gritty lyricism that leads us onto the final track ‘Pressure Creates Diamonds’. The song features the amazingly beautiful voice of fellow Manc rapper El Ay and I would recommend checking out the video as well. In fact get a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits and settle down to check the whole of Danny’s You Tube channel.

There is great news for London folk, and even further afield, and that is that Danny Diatribe is coming down South to perform for the very first time. Obviously it’s the combination of rude locals, expensive pints and sunny weather that has lured him down to London (it sure aint the money that’s for sure!) to play a special show in the east end of London for the London Celtic Punks 10th anniversary. When we set out on this road a decade ago we wanted to have as diverse gigs as possible and this could just about be the most diverse gig we have ever put on as performing alongside Danny will be the northern Celtic-Punk power house band The Silk Road, who are also making their London debut, and an auld mucker of ours Comrade X who will kick things off with a set of Woody Guthrie inspired Oi! tracks. The important date for your diary is Saturday 4th May at The Beehive in Bow. Literally the epi-centre of Cockney London! You can buy tickets in advance here for just a fiver and check the Facebook event here for any fresh news as it comes out.

So what to say about Tales From The Down And Outs? Well first off I doubt it’s going to make me a bigger fan of Hip-Hop than I already am but that’s hardly the point. Some albums just stand out and it’s Danny’s re-telling of stories from his life of a gritty existence on the war torn streets of Derry city to the grim post industrial working class streets of Manchester that make this album really special. Celtic-Punk as a genre is obsessed with working class life and culture and Danny has taken the ideas behind that, the good , the bad and the ugly, and brought them forward to today. Where as the heart of Celtic-Punk is naturally tapped in the past Danny Diatribe is here and now. If you cannot make the gig then buy the album and proudly boast to your friends that you’ve got your finger on the pulse of underground Irish immigrant Hip-Hop!

(listen to Tales From The Down And Outs on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Tales From The Down and Outs FromDannyDiatribe 

Contact Danny Diatribe WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

ALBUM REVIEW: ALTERNATIVE ULSTER- ‘Craic Agus Ceol’ (2019)

Energetic Irish-American Celtic-Punk experience fuelled by Irish whiskey, Irish History and Great Highland Bagpipes!

The roots of Alternative Ulster began in March 2015 in NY State’s Catskill’s region. Since then album’s have have been released at regular intervals starting with their debut album, Rebellion. Raw punk rock with Highland bagpipes or as piper John McGovern says ‘1916 meets 1977′. A reference to both the Irish Uprising and the year Punk Rock exploded onto the streets of London. An amazing three albums last year with Pog Mo Thoin, then Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer’ and finally the Christmas themed Merry Feckin’ Christmas kept their name in the air and so it is again with the release of Craic Agus Ceol last month which translates quite simply into Fun And Music.

The album starts off where all the other albums have left off. The guitars may not be fast but they are hard, heavy and loud and the same can be said about the pipes too! Though we are in for a shock as the singing starts and Wendy takes over the vocal duties. A strong voice that fits the music well and we not one of those sites that’s going to go mad just because its a women it is still a refreshing change. It was while recording their Christmas album the Bhoys thought it would be cool to get a female voice in for some vocals and so blown away were they that now Wendy has become a full member of the band. 

(hear Merry Feckin’ Christmas below on the Bandcamp player)

On ‘It Took A Lot Of Love (To Hate You The Way I Do)’ the band have a perfect vehicle for their sound in-between the rocking of AC/DC and the Celtic of the Dropkicks when they thrash it out. Next up is a song very close to our hearts. In fact we were the ones that suggested Alternative Ulster might cover it and cover it they have done. They took the simple acoustic folk of Pól MacAdaim’s ‘Justice For The Craigavon 2’ and have turned it into a proper punk rock anthem. Telling the story of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton two innocent guys who were convicted of the Murder of PSNI constable Stephen Carroll and sentenced to life imprisonment. London Celtic Punks firmly believe that the case was corrupt and the ‘evidence’ used inconclusive, contradictory and discredited. Both men found themselves victims of a system that sought to find scapegoats in the wake of the political and media backlash following the killing. We are doing our wee bit for the lads over on our Bandcamp page where every single penny raised goes direct to the #JFTC2 campaign. 

(you can hear the original version of ‘Justice For The Craigavon 2’ by Pól MacAdaim below for free and download it for a pound)

A rousing and righteous track where this time it’s Todd that spits out the angry words while on ‘Port Of New York’ Wendy returns to vocal duties and again its that heavy rock/punk sound dominates while Johnny’s pipes wail along in the background on a song that tells of the ‘welcome’ the Irish received on arriving in the States.

“We were not welcome
But you feckin got us now!”

is but one of the excellent lines in this song. A fantastic song that really gets the blood pumping and easily as good as any modern day rebel song I have heard. That love of Irish history again rears its head during ‘Battle Lines’ a slower heavy number about Irish people forced to take part in the American Civil War. To fight or starve many were signed into the army as they disembarked ships not knowing what they agreeing to.

Alternative Ulster left to right: Todd Henry- Drums, Vocals) * John McGovern- Bagpipes, Banjo * Wendy Henry- Vocals * Jay Andersen- Guitars, Recording/Mixing/Mastering * Steve Hoelter- Bass *

One of the things I loved on previous albums was Alternative Ulsters choice of unusual covers and they don’t disappoint here either with the Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ with Wendy taking on the role of ‘Scots’ unionist Annie Lennox.

‘Drunken English Punk’ has Todd loudly reciting the angry words over a Celtic-PUNK tune while and ‘Swine Before Pearls’ also takes an different path to the rest of the album. While the rock element of the album has been self evident they take it to another level here with a slow(ish) rock ballad with Wendy’s powerful voice again dominating proceedings. Next up is ‘Punch A Nazi’ and a sentiment we can all agree with especially the band as they all had family members who fought actual Nazi’s in the 2nd World War.

“When I was a lad on grandpa’s knee
This is what he said to me
Because we live in the land of the free
It’s our duty to punch a nazi”

The only thing I would add is not to get carried away and start believing everyone you don’t like is a Nazi. Sadly a trait all too common in America and now stupid ‘identity politics’ are infesting politics over here as well. Short and sweet and to the point Alternative Ulster don’t go in for subtleties! Next up is probably the song that most divides the Irish communities around the world with it being the most popular song in North America but thought of as being among the corniest of Irish songs! Still, here ‘Danny Boy’ is given a face lift that would melt the hardest of faces with Todd and Wendy combining on vocals (something the band should experiment with a lot more as it sounds absolutely brilliant!) while Jay’s chugging guitar, Johnny’s wailing pipes making it one of the highlights of the album. Not something I ever thought i’d say about ‘Danny Boy’ ever. Alternative Ulster play music from both the heart and the head and occasionally the sleeve too as on ‘If It Ain’t Scottish It’s Crap’ which a good Catholic boy like myself cannot tell you what the song is about suffice to say its great craic and the piping here is amazing. We are nearing the end and the last of the self penned tracks ‘Drinking Tonight’ which again takes the rock road but is catchy and a with a great driving tune. All the Alternative Ulster lyrics were written by either piper Johnny or guitarist Jay and the tune put together by the band which leads us up to possibly the best known Celtic-Punk song of all time and well I couldn’t actual believe it when I saw it was a cover of a cover! I must have played and heard ‘Shipping Up To Boston’ 1000’s of times but never did i know it was written by Woody Guthrie!

“I’m sailor peg
And I’ve lost my leg
A climbing up the topsails
I’ve lost my leg”

Sadly I couldn’t find a video of Woody recording it so if you know of one please leave it in the comments. Alternative Ulster give it plenty of oompf and to be honest its as perfect a song as any written and would be impossible to play it any other way than utterly brilliantly!

They surely can’t keep up the pace of three albums a year but even one we’d be happy with! Plans are afoot to bring their raw rock’n’roll bagpipe Celtic-Punk rock over to these shores in the summer and London Celtic Punks will of course be heavily involved in helping out so keep your ear to the ground for more details of that as they come in.

(you can hear Craic Agus Ceol for *FREE* before you buy on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Craic Agus Ceol

FromTheBand  iTunes

Contact Alternative Ulster

Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify

To find out more on the Craigavon 2 case please visit either jftc2.com or on Facebook here. Offers of help or donations via PayPal are welcomed at justice4thetwo@gmail.com and check out the London Celtic Punks Bandcamp page here for a list of albums available for download for free or donation to the campaign.

ALBUM REVIEW: McDERMOTT’S 2 HOURS Vs. LEVELLERS & OYSTERBAND- ‘Besieged’ (2019)

Second generation Irish singer-songwriter, Nick Burbridge, has been playing Irish-influenced acoustic music since his teens influencing countless others, including in their own words, The Levellers. His band McDermott’s 2 Hours were among the first to ever think of combining punk and Irish folk and his new album Besieged sees him accompanied by members of both The Levellers and the Oysterband and showcases his work as not just a musician but also, in the best Irish tradition, as a poet, playwright and novelist as well.


When writers wax lyrical about the rugged Celtic beauty that came to fruition with The Pogues and Shane MacGowan, they often seem to suggest that time has stood still and that Irish music had been sitting,waiting, since the mid-sixties ballad boom of The Dubliners et al for something suddenly to connect the urgency of punk with the heart and soul of traditional music. But out in the rough and ready bars of Hamburg and a hundred other German hostelries a band was carving out and whittling its own take on the beauty of Irish folk music; adding fire, vitality and punk-style energy while handling the travails of fights and frolics, women, dark streets and drink.  The band morphed into McDermott’s 2 Hours in 1986 (named after a wonderfully unexpected happening on pirate radio during the Battle Of The Bogside as recalled in Eamonn McCann’s War And An Irish Town) ‘being Irish and in the wrong place and at the wrong time’ – to paraphrase MacGowan. In the pubs and clubs of Brighton and London they built a reputation for their incendiary live performances that have become legend. Among their wild and youthful admirers were a gaggle of friends who, a few years down the line, influenced by the spirit, fire and camaraderie of Nick Burbridge and McDermott’s 2 Hours, would strap on guitars and call themselves The Levellers. Those in the know realise that Nick Burbridge has been, and continues to be one of the best songwriters in the Anglo-Irish tradition. He fashions songs that, as well as perfectly capturing the gritty underbelly of the Irish experience in 60s/70s mainland UK, beautifully capture the longing for home and reality of the Troubles with all the evocative magnificence of Beckett or Joyce.

But that was then and this is now.

Besieged is not so much a final curtain as a magnificent encore, serving as the last instalment of a magnificent career. Singer, songwriter, poet, playwright and frontman with folk, rock, roots and punk outfit McDermott’s 2 Hours, Nick Burbridge has released his final album with the band. Besieged sees Nick again team up with members of The Levellers (Jeremy Cunningham and Simon Friend), Oysterband (Dil Davies and Al Scott), Ben Paley (son of the late folk music giant Tom Paley), plus Tim Cotterell and friends, for the album’s twelve tracks. Released via The Levellers On the Fiddle Recordings. Given the artists involved in this album it is of no surprise to hear contemporary folk music of the itinerant outsider, travelling through Europe delivering great tunes and hard hitting poetical lyrics that stand out and are clear. All this amongst the traditional melodies expertly delivered . Fans of the artists will be delighted with the blood sweat and tears gone into this production, but this is no compilation of hits gone by,  but something new and fresh, so even if you come to’Besieged’ as an innocent abroad, looking for an anecdote to the monotony of apolitical electronica or a die hard folkster extending their collection, listen up and be inspired.

This album has everything you’d want from a folk album, laments of the itchy footed; murder ballads; the loss of young lives; drinking songs; anti establishment reeling and railing and a call to join the march of protest. Yet while the tunes are heavily rooted in tradition the lyrical content oft recounts tales of modern society, forgotten tales of the tragic loss of young life in contemporary Ireland. This theme is particularly stark in ‘This Child’, ‘Forlorn Hope’ and ‘All That Fall’.

‘This Child’ like so many a folk song laments the loss of young life, gunned down for being in “the wrong place at the wrong time.” But this is not a song of 17th century highway robbery or even a tune of the innocent Irish during the troubles. This is a song of South Manchester’s Moss Side in the 80s. The time is emphasised by electric jarring chords that blend so well with the rest of the strings, that, incidentally, give us a haunting solo in the middle eight, and a good old fashioned punky 4×4 drum beat.  This is a song of a time when the press dubbed the area ‘Gunchester’ a killing field on our doorstep when young Jesse James, the lads rightly don’t dwell on the irony of this young kids name, was shot while innocently riding his bicycle across a piece of wasteland. All this told clearly and melodically with enough rock guitar to bring on  a crescendo end of the echoing tones of feedback. ‘Forlorn Hope’ rocks us to Portadown and asks us to jig to the tale of a town divided by sectarian violence, where a night on the gear  may be followed by a morning of throwing rocks at the Orange drumming bands, where any attempt at peace was thwarted by those whose interest it was to keep communities apart. The female protagonist of the piece seems to survive but could have easily met the fate of Alice McLoughlin, shot in the back of a Portadown police car or poor Catholic Bernadette Martin shot down while sleeping in bed with reformed Protestant Gordon Green. No wonder our song’s heroine here ends up  high in Camden town. All this to growling guitars across the verses with singing violin instrumentals.

It is the first side of the album that is particularly steeped in modern day tales of tragedy and track 6 is no exception. ‘ All That Fall’ is an uplifting ballad told from the perspective of the victims of abuse that have risen to have a life now “looking back in hope, not in anger”. These “daughters of Mayo” stride history and geography and could be many a farm girl or boy abused in a barn with a sack upon their head or even daughter of Mayo, Mary Ann, kidnapped and abused with a pillowcase on her head in Reading 2005. The tune is acoustic and clear like a Christy Moore ballad that leads us to hum along, the chorus strong that anybody shaking the dust from their feet to live again will feel and the female vocals at the end soft on our ears and full of hope.

The opener of side one ‘Firebird’ gets us in a great mood and sets the tone with fiddle and guitar delivering a folk rock and reel of a Phoenix rising from the ashes with a strong vocal and sing along chorus. This is quickly, it seems,  followed by ‘Erin Farewell’ a swaying anthem for the inevitability of the natural roamer leaving behind the toil of the fields of home and the bed of his marriage under the pretence of chasing a better life in the big smoke. It reminds us of many a navvie or brickie’s song whether that come from Ian Campbell, The Fureys or indeed The Pogues. The worker here admits that it is not just the money but  the excitement and camaraderie of like minded men in a strange land he seeks. Like so many of us his yearning ping pongs him from ‘over there’ to the warmth of home, it is a lucky man who has an understanding wife. Side one also includes a rallying call to protest, ‘The Last Mile’  “Lets take it in the old style, that’s your arm through mine” they cry to an Anglo folk rhythm that has uplifting strings and drums that send a tingle right through you.

Side two  content eases us into historical ground. ‘Warrior Monk’ with strong bass, marching guitar riff and somewhat Arabic strings, walks us to the time of Crusades from the fall of Jerusalem in the 12th century to its’ Moorish reinstatement under Saladin. The song has a crusader’s bastard Moor son of the east ending in battle with his other Christian son of the west. A timely reminder of the futility of war when many a brother fights with another, we are, after all, Christian, Jew or Muslim, sons of Abraham! The jarring electric chord at the end reminds us that this is a song of now as well as then. The songwriters knowledge of history and how it weaves its way through our DNA and indeed a curse upon all our houses continues with title track, ‘Besieged’ . A wonderful trip from fortresses of 17th century Rheinfels to monastery walls, Irish tenement houses right up to date through Cornish fisherman’s houses to the so easily kicked over castles in the Sand. A lyrical metaphorical trip through the history of life and love like Bob Dylan gave Al Stewart a large dram and they wrote a song together. ‘Crossed lovers’ brings us into a timeless familiar territory of a familiar lovers quarrel “How can you hear me if you won’t listen” brought to us by two voices in a slow melodical ballad.  This is juxtaposed by  the raucous drinking song of ‘Damned Man Polka’ backed with reels and military marching drums.

This wonderful album’s penultimate song is a kick in the teeth to the abuse that taints the Church with hard hitting ‘All in your Name’ a duel tempo choppy guitar with bouncing verse and drawled accusational chorus before once again calming us down with the final track, ‘ The Ring’. A traditional sound, a beautiful song of love, land and nationhood with string, flute and voice as crisp as snow underfoot reminding us who we are, “here, now and always”.
Every listen of ‘Besieged’ is indeed time well spent.

Buy Besieged 

Limited edition two CD set released 8 February includes the Best of compilation, Anticlimactic but you can buy several versions including the download direct from Nick here

Also available from all streaming services inc. Spotify, Amazon etc  here

Contact Nick Burbridge-  WebSite  Facebook

NEW FILM. A REBEL I CAME- THE STORY OF ÉIRE ÓG LIVE AT THE BRAZEN HEAD

In 1997 Éire Óg released their Live At The Brazen Head album, one of the most iconic rebel album of its generation. This film, produced by The Rebel Collective podcast, brings together some of the original members of the band and many other prominent musicians from the rebel/folk scene to discuss how the band and album came about, its impact and legacy more then twenty years later.

Many of the best rebel bands of the modern era hail from Glasgow. Among them Saoirse, Athenrye, Shebeen, Mise Éire and Pádraig Mór but the foremost was the legendary Éire Óg who led the way inspiring all around them. Formed in Glasgow, Scotland in the early 1990’s, they toured throughout Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Europe and the USA extensively during their time together.
What made them unique was their introduction of the marching drums to their music, a style that has subsequently been copied by many bands ever since. It gave them an unmistakable and uncompromising sound that became the soundtrack of an entire generation during a period of civil strife prior to the IRA ceasefire of the late nineties.
The band was led by Irish republican supporter, Glasgow-born folk rock singer Gary Og, who is now a successful solo artist and we recommend checking him out here.

The video is viewable for free but we would appreciate if you could donate to: 
https://angortamorglasgow.com

An Gorta Mór Glasgow

 We’re Building a Famine Memorial in Glasgow

Between 1845 and 1855 over one million people fled starvation conditions in Ireland. Around 100,000 made their way to Glasgow. Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór (Great Hunger Memorial Committee) has been formed to build a permanent memorial to those who died of starvation or were forced to emigrate, including those who came to our city during ‘An Gorta Mór’.

We need to have a monument worthy of the memory of our ancestors who were forced to leave Ireland and those who were starved to death by the British government and the British ruling class, so please give generously. There is an online shop where you can buy goods with the An Gorta Mor logo. All profits go to the fundraising plot. Thank you. We are building it!

THE REBEL COLLECTIVE

The Rebel Collective podcast is a monthly music based podcast that features various guests of a rebel nature. We will be getting to know some of their favourite songs and the songs that helped shape the artist they are today, and hopefully gaining a bit of insight into their background and influences.

Podcast  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter

BUY LIVE AT THE BRAZEN HEAD CD HERE

FILM- NO IRISH NEED APPLY. INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR BILL FITZPATRICK

With St. Patrick’s Day a hazy blur here’s a timely reminder things weren’t always so rosy for the Irish. The acceptance today’s generation now, mainly, enjoy was fought for over many years. In the short film No Irish Need Apply director Bill Fitzpatrick exposes the anti-Irish bigotry of yesteryear in the classified pages of Boston’s daily newspapers.

In parts of America the month of March is known as Irish-American Heritage Month. A welcome development in that nations history and certainly something we would benefit from in Britain given the huge numbers of people with Irish ethnicity. One of the things that is taught these days is how the Irish were vilified, oppressed and discriminated against on arrival in the USA. It is important that knowledge of this is widely spread as some would deny it ever happened and would even have you believe that these poor souls had some sort of ‘privilege’. Working class Boston native Bill Fitzpatrick directed a short film about this and we gladly sent over a bunch of questions to him and he replied with this thoughtful and well written essay on the film and why he chose to make it. So thanks to Bill and a happy Irish-American Heritage Month to all Irish-Americans and their friends.

NO IRISH NEED APPLY

Thanks to The London Celtic Punks for the interest in my short. ‘No Irish Need Apply’ was created on my iMac desktop computer in my man cave,(tool shed) for approx $60. It’s basically a slideshow at nearly seven minutes. I spent $30 on a slideshow creator app and signed up for a historical newspaper archives database. The soundtrack budget was a whopping $1.98 courtesy of iTunes.

My name is Billy Fitzpatrick. I’m a 57-year-old Irish American (2nd gen.) born and raised in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the home of the Bunker Hill Monument and the battleground of June 17, 1775. As we say, “you won the battle, but we have the hill!” Believe it or not, there were Irish on both sides of the battlefield. The trickle of Irish at the beginning of the 19th century turned into a flood during the 1840’s and onward, and by the turn of the 20th century, Charlestown was Boston’s most Irish of enclaves. Over 90% of the 40,000 people crammed into the one square mile peninsula was of Irish descent. Dockworkers, freight handlers, saloon keepers, city workers. Tough, blue-collar, Irish Catholic to the core. Ben Affleck made a movie about Charlestown you may have seen. ‘The Town,’ is based on a group of Charlestown bank robbers, and we have more than our share of them.

NINA

Fast forward to 2016. I’m married with a son living in San Diego, California (long story.) I was reading an article one morning while getting ready for work, (I’m a house painter) on  Irish Central. It was the story of the 8th-grade school girl who debunked a University of Chicago professor’s claim published in the Oxford Journal of something or other, called, ‘The Myth Of Victimization’. The professor said stories passed down through the generations of Irish-Americans of discrimination, particularly the so-called NINA signs and newspaper advertisements, were more blarney than believable, sort of a “pity the Paddy,” tales of woe uncle Dan would mumble before passing out.
He scanned 75 years of New York Times newspapers, from 1850 to 1925, and found only a handful. All but one were aimed at women, approximately one per decade. He proudly pasted what he called, “the only NINA ad aimed at an Irish male.” It was actually for a boy to push a grocery cart in 1853. Somehow the published work gets into the hands of a girl named Rebecca Fried. She’s an 8th grader in Washington D.C. at an elite grammar school where presidents and other high ranking government officials send their children. Having been told of these signs by her grandfather as a child, she decided to investigate. With the help of a historical newspaper’s archive database, she entered the right keywords and cast a wide net, every newspaper in the country for as many years as possible and found dozens of examples. With the help of her father and another history professor named Kerby Miller, she crafted a well written, well-cited rebuttal. The author of the Oxford paper, Professor Richard Jenkins, wasn’t amused, and picked apart her work, stating that nearly all the ads came from one newspaper! Nonetheless, she was made famous for being the girl who debunked a mighty history professor. Several newspapers ran with the story before Irish Central wrote about it. When I read the article, I noticed Irish Central didn’t include any examples of the ads, so I  decided to try and find examples in Boston newspapers. My mother gets the Boston Globe delivered each day, so I was able to get free access,(only for home subscribers) It cost nearly 3 dollars per article if you don’t receive the Globe’s home delivery.

THE SEARCH

After a day on the ladder, I would come home to my family, strap on the feed bag, and afterward head to the man cave for some research,(and a couple of cold ones!) I have a NINA sign in the man cave. I got it on eBay for twelve bucks. It’s about 18″ long by 7″ tall, stiff cardboard,  dingy tan color, complete with fake water stains and tack holes. An obvious reproduction but I found out later it was a fake. I needed a time frame to put in the parameters and 1873 was the first year the Globe was printed, so I was thinking of starting at the beginning when I noticed tiny print in the corner of the sign. I looked closely and it read, “Boston Printing Co, 1915.” I nearly spit my beer into the computer screen!. Perfect, I thought.  If there was a demand for these signs in 1915, then certainly the newspapers would be full of NINA ads. I entered 1910-1920 and put in every keyword I could think of, help, wanted, No, Irish, man, woman, work, situation, apply, etc. I hit the button and…nothing. I took out a few words, nothing again. I would get hits on those words, for example, Irish setters for sale, Irish linen, Irish whiskey, Irish tea, but no NINA. I finally narrowed it down to the word Irish, plenty of hits, but no discrimination.

BOSTON CELTICS

After a few nights of searching, I was thinking maybe the Prof was right. I got bored and started reading articles in the paper, the daily news in turn of the century Boston when I spotted an article about the mayor of Boston. Nothing special about it, but the name sounded familiar. James Michael Curley was the mayor of Boston, a colorful character, and one thing he was known for was his dislike of the Protestant, ‘Brahmins’, Yankee aristocrats who were descended from the Puritan’s, and ran Boston for centuries. Curley would have never tolerated such discrimination, and probably would have torn down any sign himself personally. It hit me. The Irish were running Boston by 1915, and it would be suicidal for a shopkeeper, factory owner, restaurant etc. to hang one. I had to go back in time. 1900-1910 nothing, 1890-1900 I got one NINA ad 1880-1890, several more, mostly domestic help. It was 1870-1880 when i hit the jackpot. Dozens and dozens of ads for men, women, boys and girls. Suddenly I had about 60 examples on my desktop.

WTF TO DO WITH THEM?

 The ads themselves were small. The average ad was 2 or 3 lines in the back pages of the newspaper, approx.  1.5″ x 1/4″. Often the font was faded and letters were faint. I took each one, expanded it, adjusted the contrast and colored the letters in wherever needed. I was thinking about making a movie, but they are words in rectangular blocks and a slideshow format made sense. I downloaded a slideshow app and got busy. I decided it needed visuals so I found some anti-Irish political cartoons from the 19th century. I opened a slideshow creator app on my iMac and started dragging and dropping them in place. I gave each frame 8 seconds of time on average, with some having just 2 lines, therefore taking less time for the viewer to read, and the longer ones having four lines or more needing a few more seconds
I downloaded the song ‘No Irish Need Apply’ from iTunes for 99 cents. The version was perfect although the voice sounded familiar. The singer’s name was Alan Lomax. Lomax wasn’t an Irish name as far as I knew, but that was the name attributed to the song. It’s a traditional ballad with an 18th-century feel. The only problem was the song was too short at 3 minutes 12 seconds. I tried to squeeze as many ads as possible, but I had to give the reader enough time to read each one. After cramming as many as possible in the timeline, I had dozens leftover. Employers looking for men, women, boys, girls, from domestics to carpenters. Opportunities for employment available to all except the Irish. I thought about finding a longer version of the song, but I loved the Alan Lomax version, so I added a second song. After searching I came upon the Wolfe Tone’s version. Derek Warfield’s version is totally different from the Vaudeville version of the 1880’s. It’s a livelier, clearer, modern spin on the original. Derek replied through email to my asking permission for the use of the song, he and his band mates wrote the song while on tour in New York City in the seventies. He found the lyrics in an old songbook he found. 
On a personal note, I added 2 frames of my grandparents. The first one is the team photo at the beginning of the 2nd song. Those lads are The Erin’s Hopes, 1907 Boston Gaelic Football champs. My grandfather, Michael Connolly, a Corkman, is standing top right. Later, towards the end of the short is his wedding announcement to my grandmother, Nellie Hurley. He, a labourer, and she, a domestic from Bantry,  They met in Boston at an Irish dance hall in 1917. My grandmother was working at the time for a family in Brookline Mass. While she was living with, and working for the family of her employer, less than 8 blocks away, another family was welcoming their newest member. They named him Jack, and he is in the last frame!
I sent the original version to Irish Central and they wrote a nice article on my video. it was there in the comment section I found the singer of the first song was in fact Tommy Makem and not Alan Lomax. Lomax was an archiver of folk music from around the world and recorded the version while in Ireland. So far, No Irish Need Apply has been selected and screened in 19 film festivals, including twice in Boston, Los Angeles, twice in Dublin, Donegal and Carlow.
Not bad for a house painter on a sixty dollar budget!

Contact Billy Fitzpatrick

Billy runs a very interesting Facebook page called Fitzgraphics which is Billy’s gallery for the old photos that he has found, plus newspaper clippings of Charlestown, Mass. as well as the film, No Irish Need Apply. As he says “Feel free to copy, share, download, or print anything (I Did !).

Facebook  YouTube

GET YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD OF ‘IRISH DRINKING SONGS FOR CAT LOVERS’…

We are getting ever closer to ‘The Big Day’ and to celebrate Irish-American musician and cat-fan Marc Gunn has made his album Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers available to download for free until the day after St. Patricks Day. Yes that’s right there’s no cost to you. Just ‘adopt’ and download the album. You’ll find details through that link.

 So let’s celebrate St Patrick’s Day with Celtic music and cats.

What the hell is this about I hear you all saying? Well it’s exactly what it says on the cover. Celtic musician Marc Gunn has spent a lifetime in the Irish and Celtic music scene and while he’s not administering the Celtic Music podcast or recording and playing more ‘normal’ music he has released a whole bunch of CD’s in tribute to our feline friends- the cat. Now I’m a cat man myself and have two, with the rather predictable names of Molly and Murphy!, so a whole bunch of Irish songs re-written with lyrics about cats is right up my alley.
Imagine for a moment all of the crazy little things your cat does. Racing around your home. Climbing on door frames. Napping in the oddest positions. Nuzzling up to you. Waking you up in the morning. Begging for food. Having them rub their tail against your leg. The list goes on and on. These are just a few of the many pleasures of owning a cat. All the beauty, the sweetness, and all the madness, that’s what this album is all about.
As Marc says himself
“I wanted to share my experience with one of life’s most-amazing creatures. I wanted your mind to meld with mine, so you can experience my cats, and I can experience yours. This is just a small sample of the purr-fect world awaiting you when you purchase a copy of this album.”

This is one of a series of cat themed Gaelic albums so feel free to download Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers for a limited time only. It is available for free only until Sunday 18th March, 2019 no strings attached. Just follow the link below. Click ‘Buy the Album’ and in the pop up box name your price as ZERO and you can then download the album free!
Slainte! Meow!

DOWNLOAD Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers HERE

Marc Gunn is a rhythm and folk musician inspired by Celtic culture, science fiction, fantasy, and cats. He breathes new life into the autoharp, which continues to surprise musical veterans and fans a like for it’s unique sound and spirited energy. It’s like a satirical jam session between The Clancy Brothers and Weird Al Yankovic. It’s Celtic music, the traditional and the twisted.

Marc Gunn- WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  CelticMusicPodcast

ALBUM REVIEW: RUNA- ‘Ten: The Errant Night’ (2019)

Innovative and award-winning Celtic Roots band, Runa draw on the diverse musical backgrounds of its band members and offer a modern, referential and refreshing approach to traditional and more recently composed Celtic material. 

Hear the world premier of Ten: The Errant Years tonight, Sunday, March 10th, on the Live Ireland (here) radio station on The Bill And Imelda Show. The show will begin at 18:00 GMT. So be sure to tune in and join the ever growing ranks of RUNAtics!

Runa have graced these pages a couple of times before and though you won’t ever find them supporting the Dropkick Murphys (mores the pity as that would be one hell of a gig!) they are, and remain so after Ten: The Errant Years, one of the favourite bands over here at London Celtic Punk HQ. With four studio albums behind them Runa celebrate their tenth anniversary with their first release since 2016’s imaginatively titled live album Live. Over the years their prominence has risen and risen to the point now where the guests on Ten read like a who’s who of the Folk and Country scene in north America. With several Grammy award winning musicians on board for this album, including legendary Irish singer, Moya Brennan; nine-time All-Ireland Irish fiddle champion, Eileen Ivers; Nashville session musican, Jeff Taylor; and Nashville singer-songwriter and Harmonica player, Buddy Greene, and many more, then Ten already sets the bar high before you have even listened to it.
Traditional Irish folk music has never stood still. Ever. Change may have been slow at times but it always came and always despite those who would never accept any deviation to what had become before. As Ireland’s people spread reluctantly across the world they took with them their music and so Irish music evolved. From the 1940’s onward it was seen as the music of the farming communities and the working-class and held in low esteem until The Clancy Brothers shot to fame in the 1950’s and introduced it to an audience well outside of the Irish community and suddenly it become very popular. The Dubliners moved it further on with their Guinness soaked ballads of the 60’s with the Irish showbands and Celtic-Rock of the 70’s taking us up to The Pogues and their beer soaked ballads of the 80’s and the more modern development of Celtic-Punk. Outside the island of Ireland Irish music has soaked up the influences of wherever Irish people have washed up and fully embraced it. In the States that means pushing the boundaries of Irish folk into Country and Americana and Bluegrass. Runa do all this but in a much more subtle way than any Celtic-Punk would and it has been very successful too with them being awarded several honours including Top Group and Top Traditional Group in the Irish Music Awards and three Independent Music Awards including Best Live Album, Best World/Traditional Song, and Best Bluegrass Song. They even wound as #1 in the 2014 London Celtic Punks Best Trad/Folk Album of the year for Current Affairs.

Runa from left to right: Canadian Cheryl Prashker on percussion, Jake James of New York on the fiddle, vocalist and step-dancer, Shannon Lambert-Ryan of Philadelphia, Caleb Edwards of Nashville on mandolin and Dublin-born Fionán de Barra on guitar, bass, vocal and bodhran.

Together they have set the Irish folk music scene alight and will continue to I am sure with the release of Ten. The songs here represent the progression of Runa from a traditional Irish folk band to what they call themselves ‘Celtic Roots’. Music that not only takes in the other Celtic nations but also their adopted home on the other side of the Atlantic. Ten begins with Glasgow-Irishman Paul McKenna’s track ‘Again For Greenland’. It’s the usual story of an Irishman going off somewhere leaving his beloved back home on the shore.

“We leave our sweethearts and our wives,
All weeping on the pier;
Cheer up my dears, we’ll soon return,
‘Tis only half a year.”

The rumble of the bass at the beginning gives way to Caleb’s amazing mandolin and Shannon’s ever amazing vocals which lead everything along and adds so much to the music. It’s for albums like this and bands like Runa that the dictionary folk invented the word ‘catchy’ so to spare me repeating it for every song just assume that every song here is and bloody well is too!

Commemorative plaque in Mexico City unveiled in 1959: “In memory of the Irish soldiers of the heroic St. Patrick’s Battalion, martyrs who gave their lives to the Mexican cause in the United States’ unjust invasion of 1847”

‘John Riley’ tells of the Irish adventurer who left Galway during the famine years and winded up enrolled in the American army where he ends up fighting in the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848. Treated terribly by the US army and suffering from the common anti-Irish and anti-Catholic discrimination of the time John led a number of fellow Irish Catholics who decided to defect to the Mexicans, where they formed the Saint Patrick’s Battalion in the Mexican Army, fighting bravely in several battles though eventually being all but wiped out in the The Battle of Churubusco on the 20th August, 1847. Their memory is still celebrated widely in Mexico today. The song speeds along at a decent pace and Buddy Greene’s harmonica certainly livens it up along with the beat of Cheryl’s percussion. A sad story but one of many times through history the Irish proved themselves in battle. Though Shannon’s voice is intrinsic to Runa’s sound the band naturally excel with pure Irish trad and with the superb ‘Kelly Man Reels’ Jake plays amazing fiddle to the opening two reels written by Fionán before ending the track with the Scots reel ‘A Trip To Strathbogie’. ‘The Green Fields Of Canada’ sees Shannon tell another tale of Irish emigration though unusually as Andy Irvine, who recorded the song with Planxty, says
“Unlike most emigration songs, the émigré in this one appears to believe he has done the right thing”.
A beautiful song tinged with sadness as the Irishman promises to himself that when he makes it big
“If ever friendless Irishmen chances my way:
With the best in the house I will greet him and welcome”

Next up is the modern day Scottish folk song ‘Thaney’ written by Karine Polwart of Malinky. Upbeat and again Cheryl’s innovative use of percussion adds so much to the sound of the song. ‘Great Lakes Of Pontchartrain’ is an American ballad telling of a man who falls in love but the love is unrequited. Thought to have originated in the southern United States in the 19th century it is perhaps most famous for its recording by the legendary Planxty in 1974. ‘Firewood Set’ is another grand set of reels with the opening track written by fiddle player Jake and June Apple and finishing with the trad ‘Chinquapin Hunting’ and the switch from fiddle to mandolin is absolutely seamless. ‘The Banks Of Newfoundland/ Jerusalems Bridge/ Crowleys’ begins with the first of the three tracks with another sad tale of emigration. Written in 1820 the subject matter belies the tune in these songs and with two fantastic reels added onto the end it’s pure upfiting. More than half way through Runa now play a glorious cover of the David Francey penned track ‘Saints & Sinners’ which could almost have written for them. They follow this with the long forgotten Hoagy Carmichael and Jack Brooks penned ‘Ole Buttermilk Sky’. Written in 1946 for the Western movie ‘Canyon Passage’ it’s pure hokum and a welcome and jolly interlude. ‘Torn Screen Door’ is a beautiful song featured here in a stunning video below. Sung unaccompanied by music this style is known across the world as acapello but in Ireland it is called sean nós (Gaelic for ‘in the old style’) and is considered the ultimate expression of traditional singing. Usually sang as a solo but not always, here Runa tell the all too common story of hardworking working class folk losing it all.

In true sean-nós style the words are considered to have as much importance as the melody as in ‘Torn Screen Door’. With ten years under their belts it’s only natural that people have come and gone but Runa always welcome them back for more, as on their last album Live, and the following few songs have a handful of ex-members joining in, like on ‘Runa Alumni Set’ which flips from folk to jazz to trad Irish and back again all seamlessly and is an absolute pure joy to listen to. Just three songs to go and on ‘An Buachaillín Bán’ Runa are joined by Clannad’s Moya Brennan as well as Fionán’s brothers Cormac on harp and Eamonn on flute for a beautiful and gentle version of this Gaelic language song. ‘Dance In The Graveyards’ again shows the bands versatility with a cover of the North Carolina-based roots-rock band Delta Rae’s 2012 hit and the curtain comes slowly down on Ten: The Errant Years with the trad Appalachian spiritual ‘Bright Morning Stars’. Slow and mournful and a superb way to end things.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR A PREVIEW OF THE ALBUM

Runa have an amazing way of interpreting work and with the songs here ranging from centuries old to modern times the selection is as varied as you could wish for while still having Runa stamped all the way through it like a stick of seaside rock. There are no boundaries for Runa as they continue to expand on their Celtic sound and even throw in such gems/surprises as ‘Ole Buttermilk Sky’ among the sometimes haunting and tragic melodies and themes from Ireland and Scotland giving such a refreshing take on Celtic traditional music. It is no wonder that Runa are well received everywhere they go and their reputation as one of the best and inventive folk bands of this modern era is well deserved.

Discography

Jealousy (2009) * Stretched On Your Grave (2011) * Somewhere Along The Road (2012) * Current Affairs (2014) * Live (2016) *

Buy Ten: The Errant Night

CDbaby  -their is no pre-release order so the CD will be available here shortly

Contact Runa

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  Soundcloud  YouTube  ReverbNation

ALBUM REVIEW: GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS- ‘Based On A True Story’ (2019)

Long time thought of as ‘more like The Pogues than The Pogues are’ Norway’s unpolished Irish-Punk pioneers Greenland Whalefishers show they can also adapt to new sounds with their new album garnering applause from all over the internet. 

Now in their 25th anniversary year Greenland Whalefishers have done as much as anyone has to keep The Pogues flame burning bright. Beginning in the small bars around their home town of Bergen in Norway they played their very first concert on the 8th March, 1994 and haven’t looked back since. With album and single releases now well into double figures, gigs and tours across most of the world and appearances in several major films they have slowly, but surely, built up a global fan base and all done off their own backs. They were one of the first bands to develop the sound made popular by The Pogues taking British punk attitudes and sound and combining it with Celtic/Irish folk influences and from there all roads lead to what we call today Celtic-Punk.

One of the most striking things about The Pogues career was that though they are primarily known as a Irish folk band they often throughout their days strayed into other music. Whether that was Folk, Irish, Punk, Jazz, Reggae, Tex-Mex, Country, Ska and more they still managed to keep that unmistakable Gaelic tinge to everything and it gave traditional music the shot in the arm it needed (whether the folk snobs purists agreed or not they became irrelevant) and introduced Irish folk to a worldwide audience. Greenland Whalefishers have primarily been thought of as a band that sticks to The Pogues script pretty rigidly but here on Based On A True Story the true spirit of The Pogues is unleashed and the Whalefishers sound all the better for it!

 

The Whalefishers tenth album begins with ‘Over’ and for the initiated it kicks off just like Shane and the gang. Vocalist and band former Arvid’s laconic and laboured delivery is straight out the Pogues style book. Agnes on tin-whistle echo’s Spider’s important role and throughout the album her whistle can be heard laid gently on top of the more heavier instruments. ‘The Party’ begins with a speedy opening but soon settles down and comes with a traditional Poguesy anthemic chorus which leads us into the the first single released from Based On A True Story, ‘K Says’, and to say it went down well is an understatement. Across the internet Web-Sites that cover everything from Punk to Metal to Folk to Ska have gone mental for it! Arvid goes all Rude-Boy on us and we get as fine a slice of Celtic-Ska crossover since The Trojans (here) knocked us for six way back in 1987.

‘K Says’ is to the Greenland Whalefishers what ‘Fiesta’, ‘Metropolis’ or the whole of ‘Hell’s Ditch’ was to The Pogues. A chance to not move away from Irish folk but to take it with them into new and strange lands. They followi up with friend of the band Åse Britt Reme Jacobsen taking over on vocals for ‘Darkness’ before Arvid joins in to duet on a country tinged number. Time for a kick-arse track and ‘Friend-Enemy’ comes at just the right time. Sounding, despite his strong Norwegian accent, scarily like Mr. MacGowan at times Arvid carries the song and indeed a lot of the songs here with his voice, just as that band I keep mentioning did with Shane. ‘Joe’s Town’ is upbeat fast as feck Irish folk music. Nearly acoustic except for Jon-Erik’s electric guitar which at times is so subtle the album sounds like an acoustic one. ‘Halloween’ sees Arvid singing faster than any person ever should be able to along to a song that keeps the pace up as Odin’s fiddle and Ronny and his array of instruments, mandolin, banjo and bouzouki, keep the Irish turned up to 11! ‘Bad Match’ tells of a relationship gone bad and could easy fit upon If I Should Fall From Grace With God with its intelligent lyrics and punk rock styled folk music. One of the highlights here and my personal favourite after ‘K Says’. We are nearing the end and so far its the usual high standard from one of the Celtic-Punk scenes big hitters and ‘Together’ takes on a epic Punk ballad sound while ‘Ticket’ takes us back to the early days and a basic Irish folk rocker which takes us up to the last track.  Great choice of song to bring down the curtain and ‘Riverside’ is another standout track which has that country tinged Irish Fol-Punk feel to it. Again Agnes and her tin-whistle keeps the song on track.

Band from left to right: Ørjan Eikeland Risan- Drums * Ronny Terum- Mandolin, Banjo, Bouzouki * Atle-Hjørn Øien- Bass * Agnes Skollevoll- Tin Whistle, Harmonica, Vocals * Arvid Grov- Lead Vocals, Mandolin * Jon Erik Kvåle Øien * Alexander Bjotveit- Guitar * Odin Døssland- Fiddle * Photo- Lars Kristian Steen *

Forty minutes long and containing eleven tracks Based On A True Story has been released as limited edition vinyl with a free CD version of album inside the sleeve. The vinyl album will contain a free bonus 7″ single with two songs only available through this single and no digital version or streaming version of these tracks will be made available. The Celtic-Punk scene has a lot of bands out there that sound like The Pogues. After all they are/were the major influence for all Celtic-Punk bands in the beginning but none sound as much like them as the Greenland Whalefishers do but don’t go away thinking they are a tribute band as they are a million miles away from that and it is when they sing their own songs that they really shine as a band. Formed well before the two pillars of Celtic-Punk Greenland Whalefishers look set to outlast both the Murphys and the Mollys and their never ending World tour continues!

Buy Based On A True Story

You can Pre-Order the album from MacSlonsShop and receive Vinyl and CD together from 8th March.

Contact Greenland Whalefishers

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Spotify

ALBUM REVIEW: THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM- ‘Hovels Of The Holy’ (2019)

What to do when a mate releases a new album? To stave off any allegations of nepotism ye rope in a guest reviewer to do it instead! With Ulster county Celtic-Punks The Templars Of Doom second album out our favourite South Carolinan Folk-Punk accordion playing multi-instrumentalist TC Costello rode into town with some pen and paper and he got the job! 

Hanging out with a fellow multi-instrumentalist friend once, we came to the conclusion that we both played one or two instruments well, and were sloppy on about ten instruments.  ‘Good enough to be in a (expletive deleted) punk band’, I believe he summarized.  But how would sloppy mandolin and tin whistle fit into such a punk band?  Most Celtic-Punk bands are full of ace musicians. Ulster, New York’s Templars of Doom have that precise answer, though the band is far from (expletive deleted.)

(hear the first Templars Of Doom album Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist on the Bandcamp player below. Available to download at a knockdown price!)

The five-piece band features bagpipes, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bouzouki, banjo, mandolin, tin- whistle, bass and drums, often with members doubling up on instruments.  None of them show great virtuosity on their instruments, but therein lies the point, and with their powers combined, they form one of the most punkiest acts in all of Celtic punk.

The Templars Of Doom : Rory Quinn * Marty Shane * Josie Rose * Michael X. Rose * Eric Pomarico *

On ‘Hovels of the Holy’, the Templars approach Celtic-Punk in an non-obvious way, owing more to the sloppiness of The Clash and The Sex Pistols than the wall-of-sound distorted guitars of Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys.  

The opening instrumental, ‘Templars Rise From the Crypt’, works as a sort of overture and evokes background music in a pulpy adventure movie.   Indiana Jones, Perhaps?  Opening with a picked bass line that fits comfortably between Celtic and old-school punk, the song builds up with mandolin, bouzouki, tin whistle, electric guitar and, best-of-all, hellish screams.  It’s reminiscent of some of The Pogues’ early instrumental numbers like ‘Metropolis’ or ‘Wild Cats Of Kilkenny’.

The next track, ‘H-Block Escape’, sounds like the rebel song that The Clash never wrote, starting with the shout-along staccato chorus.  

’38 in ’83! H-block escapee! 38 IRA Free’!

and features some bagpipe work that’s oddly like of some the Clash’s unassuming lead guitar lines, backing up and strengthening the vocals. ‘H-Block Escape’ sets the tone for the album overall, establishing that the album is packed with strong choruses, brazen about its punk influences, and is full of lyrics that will send you to the history books. 

 Next comes ‘Black Friday On My Mind’, proudly continuing the the funny-but-sad aspect of Celtic-Folk, telling the story of a truly destitute individual looking forward to the US’s celebration of commercial decadence known as Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving.  It opens with the line:

Black Friday’s on my mind, waiting on the breadline

The rent money’s all been spent, and the children have no clothes.

In addition to sing-along Pogues-like chorus and bluesy lyrics, it has a jaunty 3-chord instrumental breakdown that I found hard not to mosh to.

The Templars’ rendition of ‘Leaving of Liverpool’, with it’s driving 4/4 rhythm and sloppy mandolin part is a good reminder that playing as fast as humanly possible isn’t the only way to make a traditional song punk, a reminder I myself probably need.  The Templars also include the rebel songs: ‘God Save Ireland’, ‘Wrap the Green Flag’, and the send-you-to-the-history-books ballad ‘Roddy McCorley’.  All three of these rebel songs involve the characters dying at the end.  

‘Beggar on the Road’, is one of the spookier songs on the album.  Starting with a tin-whistle and banjo intro, it tells the story of a drunk helping an impoverished and badly injured beggar.  The narrator gives him bread, clothes and whiskey (they are a Celtic-Punk band after all.)  ‘Jesus Christ!  what happened to you’? the shocked narrator asks the beggar.  The beggar responds, ‘How did you know my name’?  ‘You’re a bastard and a scoundrel, but this day you saved your soul’, concludes the final verse.

Also on the album a cover of Slade’s glam rock classic, ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’, which works surprisingly well as an all-acoustic drinking song, and the bawdy-but-frightening ‘Tattoo Covered Hag’, whose three-chord, and three-word, chorus is one of the strongest on the album.  

The album finishes with a bagpipe-and-lead-guitar-heavy rendition of the Ramones’ ‘Chinese Rocks’, a song about addiction ruining a life, but also, in classic Ramones style, a joy to listen to.  It proves a fitting way to conclude the album that deals with some dark themes, is a pleasure to hear and a celebration of the band’s old-school punk influences. 

(you can hear the new Templars Of Doom album Hovels Of The Holy for free -before you buy it!- on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Hovels Of the Holy

FromTheBand  CDbaby  iTunes  (cheapest way to order the CD for Europe is via CD Baby)

Contact The Templars Of Doom

Facebook   Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram

Tune in again in just a few days time when its TC Costello’s turn under the London Celtic Punks microscope. In a perfect world we ought to have got one of The Templars Of Doom to review TC’s new album but there you go. TC has just released his sixth album of his career and the self released Horizon Songs is certainly one of his best and judging by the crowd that night down The Lamb in Surbiton were selling like hot cakes! So come join us again for that….

EP REVIEW: THE PLACKS- ‘Rebellious Sons’ (2019)

The debut release from The Placks based in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. World champion Pipers and Punk-Rock legends combine to play a concoction of Celtic infused Punk-Rock and Trad-Folk, but with melody, mirth and a message!

One thing that is always levelled at the Celtic-Punk scene is that it is often inauthentic. There are two kinds of people who make this allegation usually. One is the folk music snobs purists who cannot stand to see their music ‘fiddled’ about with and updated. These people are usually happy for ‘folk’ music to remain isolated from the public within their own ghettos where they can remain ‘big fishes in little ponds’. The other kind is those that quite simply do not understand the Celtic diaspora. Many in Scotland and Ireland consider the children of those forced into exile as little more than a joke. I think this is mainly because we share the values and culture of those original exiled people and in modern day Ireland and Scotland this is seen as old fashioned and outdated. Where the children of Ireland may listen to the latest American ‘Grime’ artist those same children if born in Milwaukee or London or Memphis or Brisbane could be learning the traditional folk music of their ancestors or, even better, playing it. Celtic-Punk is a direct link for many of us to what we consider as ‘Home’ but it doesn’t worry me at all that folk back ‘home’ don’t get it. After all it was the same children of the Celtic diaspora at the forefront of the Punk revolution in the late 70’s.

Even so it is always a blessing to discover a Celtic-Punk band from one of the various Celtic nations. From Ramoneurs De Menhirs in Brittany, Ireland’s Blood Or Whiskey, from Wales Anhrefn, in Galicia the Bastards On Parade and Falperrys. All bands that have embraced their local languages and cultures and have, sometimes against the will of many of those snobs purists, dragged it kicking and screaming into a new era. In Scotland that is exactly what Oi Polloi have done with the Scottish language. It is undeniable that in the Celtic nations our languages are in desperate trouble. The tidal wave of globalisation threatens the Celtic nations and the possible damage could be greater than the British (and French) ever did to them. So it makes no sense for the Scottish language community to turn its back on a band that is helping promote the Scots language in a style never before attempted. A band that plays all over the world and sings and releases records in Scottish that is basically shunned by the people who are supposedly in place to help save it. Still they are getting through. From packed gigs in the Highlands of Scotland to having one of the best selling Scots language records of all time maybe the time has come for the Scottish nation to embrace Celtic-Punk and The Placks could be the band to make them do it!

For Oi Polloi it is uncompromising anti-fascist political hardcore-punk that gets the message across but for the The Placks it’s a dynamite mixture of Celtic infused melodic punk rock and folk music. The bands ranks include, alongside guitar, accordion and fiddle, Fraser and Black Jack Rees, two former world champion pipe band members in their ranks as well as vocalist Iain who spent his youth in various punk bands that both helped shape punk rock (Intensive Care) and toured worldwide and were very successful (Beerzone) so you know these guys are a perfect example of the overlap between traditional music and punk. This new EP came about as The Placks were offered a support slot on the recent Flogging Molly European tour. The original idea being to release a four track CD to sell at the concert. Sadly that gig had to be cancelled due to the recent political upheaval over in Paris so the Bhoys decided that the best thing to do would be to release them digitally instead and get the band’s name out there. It’s certainly done them no harm and offers have been flying in from all over the world for The Placks to play and record. The band’s name comes from the Gaelic Scots word Plack which was an ancient Scottish coin worth four Scottish pennies.

So the question is all this is well and good but are The Placks really deserving of the accolade ‘The future of Celtic-Punk comes from Scotland’ as our comrades over at the Celtic Folk Punk site suggest? Well the answer my friends, on the evidence of these four songs, is POSSIBLY! All the elements that float my boat are here. A pride in their country and it’s value and culture that is not hampered by prejudice and bigotry in any way. Joyous uplifting music that sweeps you away but is just ramshackle enough without being too polished. A style of music that would be at home in either the pub or the stadium. The opening track ‘Stealing Bread’ reminds me of 80’s Highlands punk rockers Toxic Ephex with the simple story of of someone being deported for stealing bread. Not much lyrically here to get your tongue round but its a great opening track before the blistering pro-independence ‘Nation In Chains’ erupts and fills your lugholes. Whilst the band are strong believers, as we are too, in Scottish freedom they make it clear they are not anti-English in any way and that it was/is the English ruling classes to blame for the crimes committed against Scotland and the Celtic nations and further afield. Next up is ‘The Mountain Men’ and definitely a trad air to this. Fiddle and accordion lead the way until the music speeds up and certainly gets the blood racing.

Rebellious Sons ends with my favourite track here ‘Let’s Pretend’ and its funky acoustic base tells of the wish for a perfect world away from the reality of what is really happening. Great meaningful lyrics with a novel way of getting them across… and a great tune as well. It bodes well for this great bands next release which is an album (out soon I am promised!). It’s a fantastic four minute history lesson through Scotland’s tragic history away from tartan trousers and shortbread and as I say promises much more of the same I hope. It can be guaranteed that we will be hearing much more from this great band and the chances are that if you live in the States or Canada you may well have the pleasure of seeing them well before me!!

Buy Rebellious Sons  iTunes  Amazon  Spotify

Contact The Placks  WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube

Read a interview with The Placks Clan Chief MacPlack here from Transceltic from last month.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE LED FARMERS- ‘Irish Folk Out Straight’ (2018)

Well I never it’s actually an Irish band from Ireland! The Led Farmers hail from Dublin and their brand new EP features seven absolute Irish folk classics done of course in that special Led Farmers way!


The Led Farmers are four Dublin fella’s who love what they do, playing upbeat Irish folk music and more. Boasting a two-time All Ireland music champion and members who have studied music at University level. Having performed throughout Europe and the U.S. they began their career in 2014 playing beloved Irish folk classics but soon after began to concentrate on writing their own material that may nod to the past but also moves folk along to the present and even the future. They take their name from a quote by Robert Downey Jr.’s character in the 2008 film Tropic Thunder. Recently having toured Italiy they went down a storm with their acoustic traditional folk played with passion and energy. They’ll not be a song here new to even the casual folk fan but these songs have become the mainstay of most pub singers for a very good reason. Speaking for myself I heard these songs at my Mammy’s knee and were among the first songs I ever knew the words to. Each song evokes a memory and experience I look back with fondness and I’m sure most people from the Irish diaspora can relate to that. Irish Folk Out Straight has been mixed and mastered by Eoin Withfield and is seven tracks of classic Irish folk done in their own energetic and fun Led Farmers style.

The Led Farmers left to right: Patrick Widmer- Drums * Ross O’ Farrell- Bass and Vocals * Brendan Walsh- Banjo and Vocals * Conor Buckley- Guitar

Now the songs here were originally and, in most cases, made famous by one or two bands but in the case of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ it’s a song that stepped out of folk music and actually became better known when recorded by Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. Anyone who hasn’t seen the TV recording of them miming away to it from 1973 had better get on it now (here) for it’s never been bettered. Recorded, of course, by both The Dubliners and The Pogues (they even released a version of it together!) it’s given a new lease of life here as The Led Farmers run through it with a jolly and energetic tune bordering on upbeat country and bluegrass at times with Brendan’s guitar aflame!

“With me ring dum a doodle um dah
Whack for the daddy o
Whack for the daddy o
Theres whiskey in the jar”

The song dates from the 17th century though no one is actually sure when and who wrote it but a cracking way to kick things. A very popular song which folk music historian Alan Lomax in his book The Folk Songs of North America, suggests was because

“The folk of seventeenth century Ireland (and Scotland) liked and admired their local highwaymen where the gentlemen of the roads robbed English landlords, they were regarded as national patriots.”

Now the next song has been recorded by just about every Celtic-Punk band in existence and if you haven’t heard it by at least a dozen bands then you need to seriously sort out your music collection! ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ is without doubt the most popular trad song in Celtic-Punk and with good reason too. It’s a beauty of a song that is perfect for speeding up and getting a crowd going as well as getting a good auld singsong on the go as well. Here it’s mucked about (in a good way) as the boys have fun with it diving in and out of several genres, including reggae, as its ploughed through in just over a couple of minutes. Originally a a children’s skipping song, it’s another song whose origins are a bit obscure but versions were found in parts of northern England and Ireland in the 19th century. Following now is ‘The Rattlin’ Bog’ and The Led Farmers demonstrate they can play a mean bit of trad Irish folk as well as a good party song. No one knows the exact origins of the song except that its about a bog on the grounds of Collon Monastery in county Louth. Traditionally the song gets faster and faster as the song comes to the end and audience participation is a must here with its easy to remember chorus. As with most folk songs it’s been passed on orally through generations and hence many different versions exist out there but the version as sung by The Dubliners seems to have become the standard.

(The first single from the EP and its great video as filmed by Ger O Donnell in the beautiful fields of county Clare. )

This time its given a bit more time to breathe and at over four minutes is the longest track here and with its’s trad folk flourishes it’s the standout song here and well deserving of the hilarious video that accompanies it.

“And in that bog there was a tree, a rare tree, a rattlin’ tree
With the tree in the bog
And the bog down in the valley-o.”

We get another popular Celtic-Punk cover next with ‘Star Of The County Down’ and for once we know it’s date of birth as it was written by Cathal McGarvey who passed away in 1927. The song is set near Banbridge in county Down and The Led Farmers take a rest and play it nice and slow. It’s beautifully played and the addition of some wonderful uilleann pipes from Roman Haller really lifts the song. Another Pogues/Dubs collaboration follows with ‘Rare Old Mountain Dew’ and they stick fairly close to the standard with Brendan’s banjo leading the show and the gang getting in on the “hi di-diddly-idle-um, diddly-doodle-idle-um, diddly-doo-ri-diddlum-deh” chorus! Written in 1882 the song celebrates poitin, the name for illegal Irish alcohol brewed from, what else but, the humble potato and this is what gets my goat (or in English- on my nerves) when people denounce Celtic-Punk with being obsessed with songs about alcohol when here you have a song that has been belted out for 130+ years doing just that. We shipping up towards the end and appropriately its the sea shanty ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’. Dating from the 1800’s it tells of a prospective Gold miner setting sail for California who pledges to his beloved “so fare thee well my own true love; when I return united we shall be”. Whether your man ever did is debatable. Certainly many didn’t giving this song perhaps a bitter sweet edge to its jocularity. So on a mini-album of seven songs the first six have been much loved and much played classic Irish folk tunes so when I saw ‘Drunken Sailor Odyessy’ was bringing down the curtain I expected the bog standard version but The Led Farmers turn the song on its head and deliver a song pitched somewhere between The Beach Boys and some white-bread Hip-Hop! Great fun as Brendan gives it a go rapping as Ross gets a chance to shine on the bass rumbling away while the band chip in and the whole thing is bloody marvellous and worth the price of the EP alone!

So absolutely nothing original here (except the rap version of ‘Drunken Sailor’ I suppose) but that’s hardly the point of a record like this. Maybe it’s to keep their fans happy in between ‘proper’ releases or maybe they know it’s guaranteed press coverage but whats in it for the casual fan or those like me new to the band. Well hard to say exactly but these songs are extremely well played and the fun is utterly infectious and it’s brilliant to hear a band having such great fun playing songs that are sometimes over a couple of hundred years old. The Led Farmers have a back catalogue of great songs of their own so relish the chance to freshen up these classics and it’s worked out well for them.

Buy Irish Folk Out Straight

iTunes  Spotify

Contact The Led Farmers

WebSite  Facebook  Soundcloud  YouTube  Instagram

(in concerto al Bundan Celtic Festival in Stellata di Bondeno (FE).)

Read a great interview with vocalist and banjo maestro Brendan on the 67 Music site here.

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2018!

Well it seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in Mannions in north London totting up the votes for the Best Album Of 2017 over a couple of pints and so here we are again. Everyone loves to give out there opinions and we are no different so for what it’s worth, here’s who we think made the best music in the celtic-punk scene over the last year. It’s been another outstanding year for the music that we all love and some truly fantastic records came out in the last twelve months. 2017 saw just about every major player in the scene release an album while in 2018 they left it to many of the lesser known bands to dominate! Remember though this is only our opinion and these thirty album’s are only the tip of the iceberg of what was released last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. As a bonus we figured out how to attach a poll at the end so you can even vote on your favourite release of 2018 yourself. If it’s not listed then simply add your choice.

We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…

1. THE RUMJACKS- Saints Preserve Us  here

2. 1916- Far Beyond The Pale  here

3. CLAN OF CELTS- Beggars, Celts & Madmen  here

4. KRAKIN’ KELLYS- Promised Land  here

5. THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS- Green Blood  here

6. SIR REG- The Underdogs  here

7. TIR NA OG- From The Gallows  here

8. FIRKIN- We Are The Ones  here

9. THE MAHONES- Love + Death + Redemption  here

10. THE MUCKERS- One More Stout  here

11. BASTARD BEARDED IRISHMEN- Drinkin’ To The Dead  here

12. HOLD FAST- Black Irish Sons  here

13. LEXINGTON FIELD- Dreamers  here

14. THE RUMPLED- Ashes & Wishes  here

15. TAN AND SOBER GENTLEMEN- Veracity  here

16.THE KILLIGANS- Dance On Your Grave  here

17. ALTERNATIVE ULSTER- Pog Mo Thoin  here

18. PADDY AND THE RATS- Riot City Outlaws  here

19. IRISH MOUTARDE- Perdition  here

20. BASTARDS ON PARADE- Cara a Liberdade  here

21. MR. IRISH BASTARD- The Desire for Revenge  here

22. PIRATE COPY- Swashbuckle & Swagger  here

23. SINFUL MAGGIE- S/T

24. JOLLY JACKERS- Out Of The Blue  here

25. MUIRSHEEN DURKIN AND FRIENDS- 11 Pints And 3 Shots  here

26. THE CHERRY COKE$- The Answer

27. THE CLAN- Here To Stay  here

28. KINGS & BOOZERS- Still Got The Booze  here

29. FALPERRYS- Nova Abordagem  here

30. AIRS & GRACES- Voting At The Hall  here

bubbling under: MALASANERS- Footprints  here

So absolutely no surprises here at all. In fact The Rumjacks have pretty much swept the board across the Celtic-Punk scene with what we even thought was their best release since their groundbreaking debut album Gangs Of New Holland. The Bhoys are going from strength to strength and are set to go through the roof in 2019. They remain as humble as ever and downright lovely folk to know which reminds me, congrats from us all here to Frankie and LCP’er Anna on their engagement. Other notables were Sir Reg who even flew over to London to premier their new album The Underdogs before later returning to embark on a successful nationwide tour… while I was on holiday! London-Irish band Clan Of Celts, despite a few teething problems, delivered a fantastic debut album as well as, my personal favourite of the year, Belgium’s Krakin’ Kellys. A dual release of an album and a EP on the same day is a novel approach but it paid dividends for Lexington Field as they were both brilliant. Sinful Maggie have just been getting bigger and bigger all year and we expect this to continue into 2019. Three albums from the Celtic nations with two from Galicia from Falperrys and Bastards On Parade and Cornwall’s Pirate Copy. All together we have bands from twelve countries with Germany with the most placings alongside  Australia, USA, England, Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, Canada, Italy, Galicia, Cornwall and Japan.

KRAKIN’ KELLYS- Promised Land  here

I was not the only one at London Celtic Punks Towers to be abso-fecking-lutely blown away by the Krakin’ Kellys debut album. Fast and melodic skater style punk rock with bagpipes that will blow the cobwebs away off off anyone! They made quite a wave in the scene thanks to their brilliant videos so go check them out here. This section was the easiest one to award by far!

1. THE LAGAN- Let’s Do It Again

2. MEDUSA’S WAKE- Rascals & Rogues  here

2. HANDSOME YOUNG STRANGERS- The Bleeding Bridge  here

4. THE DANGEROUS FOLK- One  here

5. LEXINGTON FIELD- Modern Times  here

6. SCOTCH- Last In The Bar  here

7. TULLAMORE- Déš An Pr’i Strà, Déš An Int ál Bar  here

8. THE GRINNING BARRETTS- The St. Padraigs  here

9. IN FOR A PENNY- Sometimes Its Better To Not  here

10. THE ROYAL SPUDS- Unforgotten Lore  here

bubbling under…

MOSCHE DI VELLUTO GRIGIO- Of Pain And Glory here and RAISE MY KILT- A New Tartan  here

At one point this was heading towards being an Australian #1, #2 and #3 but at the last minute our local favourites The Lagan released Let’s Do It Again at the end of December and wrestled it away from Medusa’s Wake. Their first studio release in a hell of a long time it came out too late to trouble many of our friends ‘Best Of’ lists but their loss is our gain! Besides them and our Aussie friends the list was made up from bands from the USA, Holland, Italy and Austria which goes to show the international nature of the scene. As an aside you can get the brilliant bagpipe punk debut EP from Scotch for free by following the link to their review. For lovers of the McKenzies you’ll not be disappointed!

1. MARYS LANE- Wild Unknown  here

2. LOUIS RIVE- The Cheap Part Of Town  here

3. THE CRAICHEADS- S/T  here

4. LANKUM-  Between Earth and Sky here

5. MAN THE LIFEBOATS- Man The Lifeboats  here

6. SLIOTAR- Voyage

7. CLOVER’S REVENGE- Gotta Get O’Raggednized  here

8. BLACKBEARDS TEA PARTY- Leviathan  here

9. THE LED FARMERS- Irish Folk Out Straight

10. FINBAR FUREY- Don’t Stop This Now  here

bubbling under: THE BRANDY THIEVES- The Devil’s Wine  here

Always the hardest to do this section as our scope has become fairly wide over the years and gone beyond Celtic-Punk but Irish-American’s Marys Lane managed at once to be a record both me and my Mammy love! Even better the Cleveland based band have made it available to download for free/donation so follow the link above. Scot Louis Rive’s debut album really impressed me and was one of my most played albums of the year and The Craicheads capped a great year with a fantastic single and their lead singer Mick making the papers and the telly for saving a Mum and her babies lives (here). Good on yer Mick. It’s a privilege to know you. More local talent at #4 which ended a year where Man The Lifeboats have gone from first band on to headline shows and a mention for the amazing Finbar Furey who put a most excellent LP at the tender age of only 72.

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

We may be a wee bit biased here but last years winners take it again this year too. 2018 saw them continue to develop the site into an all-round resource for Liverpudlians and further afield. Yeah these guys are always blowing our trumpet we know and we have shared a good few scoops with them, and will again not long after this is published, but we enjoy what they write and it’s all done with an enthusiasm that us auld hacks are constantly jealous of. Plus you are not a major player in the Celtic-Punk scene unless you had your picture took with Elliot! You can also join in their fun and games on their Twitter and Facebook and their Web-Zine. Be sure to subscribe.

So there you go. Remember we don’t pretend to be the final word on things in fact if you check the other celtic-punk media I’m sure we’ve all come up with relatively different lists. Our Best Of’s are cajoled and bullied out of the admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The assorted scraps of paper and beer mats were then tallied up please remember not all of us heard the same albums so like all the various Best Of’s ours is also subjective.

This is our 6th year of us making these lists so if you would like to check out out who was where in our previous Best Of’s then just click on the link below the relevant year.

We are not alone in doing these Best Of lists in fact all the major players in celtic-punk do them so click below to check out what they thought.

THE CELTIC PUNKCAST

CELTIC FOLK PUNK AND MORE

FOLK’N’ROCK

PADDYROCK

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

MacSLONS IRISH RADIO

Now here’s a new feature. Pick your own favourite below! The Poll will end on the final day of the month!

remember any views, comments or abuse or slander we would love to hear it…

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2019

EP REVIEW: THE LAGAN- ‘Let’s Do It Again’ (2018)

Sneaked in just before the end of last year was this new EP from local beer-soaked Celtic folk-punk favourites The Lagan and with the Best Of lists due next week no way could we miss out on reviewing it so off went Marv to chat to Brendan and find out what’s what.  
Just after Christmas the shiny new and aptly named EP from The Lagan, ‘Let’s Do It Again’, popped through my letterbox with an excited thud. Released in the dying embers of 2018, it  concludes five long years since their magnificent debut album ‘Where’s Your Messiah Now?’. The song ‘Same Shite, Different Night’ from that album was responsible, almost singlehandedly, for changing my life. But that’s another (and probably very tedious) story.

I asked Brendan O’Prey, main vocalist and guitarist in the Kingston-on-Thames based band, why they had decided to go for an EP release after so long, instead of a full album.

“I just thought it was time to get something out!”, replied Brendan,  “when we started recording the EP it had been five years since we released WYMN. We had to get something out there, but didn’t have the money or material to release a new album. We’re not prolific songwriters and we didn’t have a lot of time in the studio”.
The EP, contains five stunning new recordings, three written by O’Prey, one traditional and one, ‘Home For A Rest’, a masterful cover of song by Canadian folk band Spirit of the West. I was not familiar with the original and was stunned to find it is actually a cover. The lyrics are so perfectly suited to The Lagan lads and lass I was convinced it was written by them!

All five of the tracks are absolute classic Lagan in full flight. With Brendan’s distinctive voice and the signature combination of driving whistle, fiddle, guitar and bass, these could simply not have been anyone else! With one exception they are rip-roaring beer-soaked 100 miles-an-hour glory tunes. If you loved ‘Where’s Your Messiah Now?’ (and if you didn’t then what is wrong with you?!), then you will love all of these. Their one and only flaw is that they are over too soon.
Said Brendan when I asked him about plans for another full album,
“that’s the next step. I’ve never sat down  to write an album as one piece of work, but I’d like to. Life gets in the way though, none of us do this for a living and we are always so busy gigging.”
‘A Song For Jim’, the penultimate song of this magnificent EP,  isn’t quite as manic as the others. It’s not that it’s slow, it’s just slower by comparison! Written by O’Prey, musically and thematically a recognisable child of ‘Work Away’ from Messiah (my fave track off that album), it is a heartfelt and sorrowful bittersweet requiem for Jim. I don’t know if it’s written from personal experience, the CD liner notes suggests it might be, but my word this is written and sung from the heart. It makes me wish I had known Jim, clearly a singularly special human being. I cannot wait to see this done live, the entire audience will go crazy.

The Lagan: Alex Kidd – Drums * Big George – Bass * Our Morgan – Fiddle/keeping the lads in check * Brendan – Guitar, vocals and anger issues * Andy Mac – Tin Whistles/Hype Man.

Speaking of which, when can we get our next Lagan fix?

“We’re gonna try to hit the festival circuit a bit harder this year, hopefully get out to Europe a bit more. Our first gig of 2019 is at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston on 2nd February. It’s a free show and it’s always a good time down there. so ‘mon down and have a sing-song with us.”
As Brendan says the next Lagan is Saturday 2nd Feb at their favourite haunt The Fighting Cocks in Kingston-Upon-Thames. It’s about twenty minutes from Waterloo on the train and the gig is **FREE** so no excuses especially with a stellar line up of  Blues/ Folk/ Country/ RagTime/ Jazz/ Swing from the  Swamp Stomp String Band and fellow Kingstonites acoustic folk-punkers Boogedy Smak. All the details are here on the Facebook event. See thee in the moshpit!
Buy Let’s Do It Again
Compact Disc- BanquetRecords
Contact The Lagan
(if you missed it (may God have pity on you) then have a listen to The Lagan debut album Where’s Your Messiah Now? here on the Bandcamp player below)
London Celtic Punks have a small (but utterly amazing) selection of CD’s available from Celtic-Punk bands around the world so check them out here.

EP REVIEW: THE ROYAL SPUDS- ‘Unforgotten Lore’ (2018)

They may have the strangest name in Celtic-Punk but Dutch band The Royal Spuds can also play a mean tune as evidenced on their fourth studio production, a brand new EP, titled Unforgotten Lore.

Wherever these guys got their name from I do not know but since their formation back in 2012 The royal Spuds have been pushing their version of Spud-Rock to the masses. It is certainly true that growing up in a Irish household you do come to the conclusion that the potato is king! Both their debut album Wanted Drunk and Alive and It’s A Feckin’ Freakshow were voted into the Top 10 and 20 over at Irish Pub Radio as well as reaching the heights in the Celtic-Folk-Punk site lists as well.

(have a listen to It’s A Feckin’ Freakshow on the Bandcamp player below)

The boys have toured the length and breadth of the Netherlands and played most of the alternative festivals the country has to offer. They have even managed a tour of Ireland in 2015 and in 2017 ventured further afield across Europe and as they say

“just like any salty spud, once you have had a taste of their powerful music, you will be left craving for more”.

The Royal Spuds are of course available for gigs, festivals and concerts in the Netherlands and abroad.

Coming out in the gap between Christmas Day and New Years Day Forgotten Lore may not have been blessed the most perfect release date but they celebrated it well with a bumper sell-out gig in their home town. The EP begins with ‘The Arrival’ one of several songs here penned by lead singer Maarten. It is cut from the same cloth as the recent upsurge in acapello singing of songs like ‘Old Maui’. The sound of chains and the ocean with the boys belting out the chorus of “Unforgotten Lore”. The song comes to an abrupt end and we are straight into ‘I’m Too Old For This’ and some fast paced melodic Celtic-Punk. The bends in Europe certainly love their flute and though I was late to realise that I actually liked it in Celtic-Punk I am most definitely a convert to it now and Mickey’s playing is superb. Chuck in a guitar solo as well as accordion, banjo and mandolin and we off to an absolute flyer. Needless to say Maarten’s vocals are as clear as the proverbial bell and his English as good (indeed better!) as any English speaking band you’ll find. Next up is the EP’s first cover song. The band have chosen well with ‘Johnny Jump Up’, a lively energetic trad Irish folk song that may surprise some in that it only dates from the 70’s. The song tells of an Cork man who gets in a whole load of trouble thanks to drinking too much extra-extra-strong cider. It’s a popular song on the circuit and deservedly so and The Royal Spuds do it justice.

“So if ever you go down to Cork by the sea
Stay out of the ale house and take it from me
If you want to stay sane don’t you dare take a sup
Of that devil drink cider called Johnny Jump Up”

Its played fast but with a style that would impress both folkies and punkers. ‘The Man’ is one of my favourites here and exposes in me what it is so good about Celtic-Punk generally. I find myself drawn to both the folky ballads and fast punk songs and ‘The Man’ is the closest they come to a ballad here, though not really that close really. Catchy and based somewhat, but no means exclusively, on the auld Pogues number ‘I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday’ it’s a great wee number with all the Celtic instruments coming together beautifully with the vocal chords of the band getting a nice work out with the ‘OOOOOhhhhh’ chorus. The song speeds up at the end with a really nice Irish folk flourish showing these guys know wht they about. A more traditional Celtic-Punker follows with ‘Alley In Killarney’ a drinking song about getting lashed in Kerry. Mickey is back with accordion this time, the talented bastard!, and Maarten gives it a bit extra with the vocals. A cracker of a tune.

Too often Celtic-Punk is though to be only about the music of Irealnd and Scotland but their are seven Celtic nations and The Royal Spuds visit there next with the ‘Tri Martolod’. A traditional Breton song dated back to the 1800’s in Lower Brittany. Made famous by it’s recording by the famous Breton harpist Alan Stivell in the 1970’s. The Royal Spuds version is utterly fantastic and the highlight of the album for me. At a whopping six and a half minutes the song is given time to develop and not once do you start to tire of it. Beginning with a 70’s Folk-Rock vibe the song twists and turns even with time to inject a touch of ska into it. All the songs on Unforgotten Lore are sung in perfect in English and while we don’t mind that it’s not something that matters so was nice to hear the story of three young sailors who leave Brittany for Newfoundland and find love sung in it’s absolutely perfect native Breton! The EP ends with the jolly ‘The Last Wild Haggis’ and they go out on another high with a song about that elusive Scots creature the haggis. While the song almost punks out the band rein it in a bit stopping just short but another cracking song and given over five minutes to evolve.

Their has always been a fantastic scene in the Netherlands and while the bands there do share some similarities they are all different enough to survive independently. The Royal Spuds are on the folkier side of things while still having more than enough punk to keep us all happy. An excellent EP that impressed me no end and to have a song in a Celtic language has even impressed me that bit more!

Discography

Start Your Engines EP (2012) * Wanted: Drunk ‘n’ Alive (2013) * It’s a Feckin’ Freakshow (2015)

Buy Unforgotten Lore

Download (-Apple/Spotify/Google/Deezer etc.,) For physical CD’s contact the band

Contact The Royal Spuds

2018 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S. PART ONE: THE CELTIC NATIONS- CRAIC’n’ROLL, DAMIEN DEMPSEY, PIRATE COPY, FALPERRYS

Every year we are completely shocked by the sheer number of Celtic-Punk releases we receive here at 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS. As happy as this makes us it unfortunately means that we cannot keep up with everything out there. Sometimes we will receive music that we simply don’t have time to give a review to and others just simply get lost in the ether so every year we have a week at the end of the year to catch up with the ones we missed first time round. We prefer to do detailed reviews so apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in this way. Each and every band featured here are worthy of your time so please be sure to check them out. To start with in Part One we will be concentrating on releases from the Celtic nations. In a few days time we will head to Europe and then we will focus on the America’s so please be sure to check back.

CRAIC’n’ROLL- ‘The Early House’ (BUY)

The older I get the more and more I get back into Rockabilly I have to tell you. Having grown up listening to Elvis and The Dubliners at my Mammy’s knee this hasn’t been too much of a shock to anyone in my family as they are all rock’n’rollers. My Mammy would definitly approve of Craic’n’Roll. Basically a duo of fantastic Irish singer Donna Dunne and London based psychobilly legend Phil Doyle once of legendary Dublin psychos the Klingonz. The Early House is ten songs of mostly gentle rockin’ acoustic rock’n’roll with the odd flash of something a bit harder. Donna’s voice is utterly fantastic and although she is probably sick and tired of being compared to Imelda May its a very favourable comparison I think. The album is a lovely mix of a few well chosen covers and their own compositions of which the Guinness tinged title track about a pub called The Early House, the 50’s style ‘Treat Me Nice’ and the bonus track ‘Arizona Sky’ with full band backing are the highlights.

Donna released one of my favourite albums of last year called Voodoo that I heartily recommend and still play all the time. She’s got one hell of a voice and it gets a good workout here. Donna seems to be always busy juggling several different projects at once and hopefully Craic’n’Roll won’t be put on a back burner and will be back again soon.

Contact Craic’n’Roll- WebSite Bandcamp Facebook YouTube

DAMIEN DEMPSEY- ‘Union’ (BUY)

Having already milked the Greatest Hits market a couple of Christmasses ago Damien Dempsey has released this unashamed Christmas cash-in album but unlike the sweet and sickly Christmas album’s that we’re use to this does have some redeeming features. Damo hails from the north of Dublin and is, I suppose, as famous for his affected vocals as any song he has written. A renowned singer-songwriter his last couple of albums have left me fairly cold bar one or two songs and here on his latest their are no new compositions just a selection of fourteen of his better known songs or ones he has performed and given a bit of spit’n’polish and recorded with some of the bigger names in the Irish and folk scenes. So we have Damo collaborating with the likes of John Grant on ‘Soulsun’, Kate Tempest on ‘A Child is An Open Book’, Imelda May on ‘Big Big Love’, and even rapper Maverick Sabre on ‘You’re Like the Water’. It’s all strong stuff and each collaboration is worthy of further experimentation as Damo continues his quest to wrap Irish folk around every kind of music possible though we still waiting on that Celtic-Punk number mate! The highlights for me are ‘Singing Bird’ with the legend that is Finbar Furey and as amazing a version of the rebel ballad ‘Kevin Barry’ with Damo accompanied by an understated Seamus Begley.

Back in the early days of his career the Dublin intelligensee scoffed at Damo and his mainly working class audience who not only got what he was singing about but also liked the idea of someone with their accent singing it. He’s become part of the furniture in Ireland now, reluctantly I would guess, but he’s still with the ability to turn a head and if you can release an album like this and have no one question your integrity then that definitly means something.

Damien Dempsey- WebSite Facebook YouTube Twitter

PIRATE COPY- ‘Swashbuckle And Swagger’ (BUY)

Proper authentic Celtic Celtic-Punk from the ancient kingdom of Kernow and the small fishing village of Portreath. Pirate Copy were formed in December, 2011 and have featured on these pages a couple of time before with a couple of EP previous releases but now is time for their debut album. Swashbuckle And Swagger is released on the appropriatly named Black Sail Records and is twelve songs of over forty minutes of high octane shouty punk rock about pirates. They may have no Celtic instruments in the band and Pirate Copy are most certainly a punk band but they make use of Celtic/Pirate tunes and arrangements and as it’s as catchy as anything you’ll hear with a mandolin I think its fair enough to grab them for our wee scene!

Pirate Copy: The Admiral – Bass * Ashtiki The Caveman – Drums * Johnny ‘Danger’ Danger – Guitar, Vocals and being crushed underfoot The Captain – Vocals.

Several highlights here including the first single release from the album ‘Reckless Alice’ based on a true story about a drunken lass called Alice who after a night on the lash in Torquay, nicked a ferry, declared herself a pirate then crashed the ferry, trashing everything in sight, and got arrested. Hilarious! The rest of the album veers from songs based on stories from the rich history of the south-west coast of England steeped in smuggling, rebellion and general buccaneering to more modern day tracks like ‘Somalian Pirates Suck’ and ‘Kicked Out The Pub’ all done with tongue firmly in cheek and with bottles of Rum on standby. Vocalist Cap’n Kernow has a strong growl that fits the music superbly and the rest of the band chugg away to their hearts content and while some of the songs may go on a tad too long this is the kind of punk rock that come’s into it’s own live on stage which is where they shine. Feel good punk rock with a wide appeal and hopefully 2019 promises to be a special year for Pirate Copy which will see them come busting out of Kernow over the English border and with appearances at many a festival coming up be sure to keep an eye out for them on the circuit. A dirty dozen ditties that clocks in at forty-two minutes all marinated in rum and ready to pillage your eardrums!

Contact Pirate Copy- Facebook Bandcamp YouTube

FALPERRYS- ‘Nova Abordagem’ (BUY)

More traditional Celtic-Punk from a somewhat lesser known Celtic nation with the Falperrys second album Nova Abordagem. The Falperrys were formed in 2010 and hail from Vigo in seventh Celtic nation of Galicia. Released in June we only got a copy when one of the band sent us one just like the others here fully deserved a more detailed review but with time was against us. The albums title in English is New Approach but they sound just the old brilliant Falperrys to me! A seven piece fast as feck accordion led Celtic-Punk band. In fact it is the dual sound of Manolo’s accordion and Don Xosé’s thrashy guitar that gives Falperrys their sound. Thirteen tracks here packed with energy and all expertly played. Mostly Falpeerrys own composiotions but with a handful of covers like ‘Nove Crozes’ which is a cover of Irish folk legends ‘Go On Home British Soldiers’ while The Pogues Streams of Whiskey’ and ‘The Irish Rover get a Galician make-over along with the famous instrumental ‘John Ryan’s Polka’. Well known musicians Rubén de Donramiro, Suso Soak, Sime Keltoi!, María de Gaioso, Kg o Boticario and María de Gaioso from the Galician folk and rock scene guest on this brilliant album.

Falperrys know their way round a cover but as is usual it is with their own material they are the strongest with opening track ‘O Meu Alento’, ‘Aboiado’ and ‘Taberneiro’ standing out but my absolute fave here is the album closer ‘Arousa’ which is just pure traditional folk heaven. The lads show they can play their instruments here and knock out one hell of a tune. We nearly brought them over to play in LOndon a few years ago with a friend of ours who was living in London but he returned home to Vigo and the plan never came to fruitition. It is said that Galicia and Ireland in particular have much in common with the weather and music being just two things and their is no mistaking the Galician love of Celtic music and culture. Located Occupied in the green and lush north-west corner of Spain and faces out towards the Atlantic ocean it is also known as ‘the land of the 1000 rivers’. They have their own language which we are proud to say that the Falperrys are one of a small group of Celtic Celtic-Punk bands to use regularly. Celtic customs are embedded in Galician culture with the bagpipesthe national symbol of the country. Gaitas, as the pipes are called locally, rule Galician music and the city of Ourense alone has over 5,000 registered bagpipers. A fantastic album and I am sure they are a belting band to see live too. The album is available as a Pay Whatever You Want download which means the band would like you to have it for free if you don’t have much money but please leave enough for a Guinness or two if you do.

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So ends the first part of our 2018 Round-Up’s and apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have probably still missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send us your releases to review. We are also always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. And finally if you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2018. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

Each December we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard that year to showcase in our end of year message. This year we went with something a little different. LOCKS come from North London and while they may not be your typical Celtic-Punk band they have plenty of pedigree within their ranks. Their debut album Skeletal Blues came out earlier this year which we will be featuring in the second of our 2018 Review Round-Up’s due after Christmas Day. Subscribe to the London Celtic Punks web-zine and receive notification of every post by filling in the box on the right or below depending on how you are viewing this article. ‘The Hangover Song’ came out today and is available from here.

You can catch LOCKS live in concert next at The Bedford in Balham, South London on 8th January.

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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 Britany, 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)

Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

CLICK HERE

Now go have a drink…

ALBUM REVIEW: THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS- ‘Green Blood’ (2018)

Here’s a German band that makes authentic Irish music with their third album release Green Blood. That may sound all a bit strange to yer average Joe but not to London Celtic Punks favourite Anto MorraThe O’Reillys and the Paddyhats are by no means a goose that thinks it’s a fox though they are much more fox and goose in one. This is an album that builds the bridge to those who carry green blood and those who want it. Because the yearning for Green Blood is insatiable.

There’s a London Celtic Punk sticker that reads ‘It’s not blood that makes you Irish but a willingness to be part of the Irish nation’ and The Paddyhats are most certainly proof of that. Their latest offering ‘Green Blood’ must surely be a contender for best Celtic Punk album of 2018.
The cover art is exceptional and could even double as an advertisment for Peaky Blinders! Like all their albums to date, this is available on vinyl and appropiately limited edition green vinyl, so definately one for those vinyl junkies and collectors like myself. This is what more records should sound like these days. The mix and production here are second to none. It does baffle me how a singer that is not singing in his first language, is so much easier to understand than the majority of those singing this type of Celtic Punk in their own language. It’s very refreshing. Here’s the running order and little about each song.

The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats from left to right: Tom O’Shaugnessy- Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals * Dr. Bones- Drums * Ian McFlannigan- Show, Backing Vocals * Sean O’Reilly- Vocals, Guitar, Tin and Low Whistle * Dwight O’Reilly- Vocals, Banjo, Mandolin, Accordion * Mia Callaghan- Fiddle, Vocals * Connor O’Sullivan- Electric guitar *

Green Blood
Pulled in by the tribal sound of the pounding drum and Celtic mysticism of the uilleann pipes & fiddle, with distorted guitar and bass feedback threateningly hiding down low in the mix and within 30 seconds you know what you’re getting! Green Blood, Green Blood, Green Blood is the chanting war cry and it’s powerful, aggessive and blissful. More Irish than Brennans Bread or Barry’s Tea and a true and honest celebration of the things that make people glad to be Irish and those that aren’t, wishing they were.

Another Town Another Girl
This is the Only Ones ‘Another Girl Another Planet’ meets Donegal Danny. The age old tale of the womanizing blaggard only in this case the man knows he is gonna get his comeuppance when he will ‘Drown in his self made crown’. It’s all very shanty until the stunning guitar solo reminds you that these aren’t a beardy, finger in the ear, woolly jumper and craft beer band. They’re very much Punk Rock.

Circus Of Fools
This one is a belter! The opening verse I can’t help but guess is aimed at the Trump administration but as the song progresses you know it’s a much broader reflection of the sickness of those in power. We are treated to almost Eastern European rhythmic chops on this and it’s two a half mins of no nonsence.

Gamble With The Devil
A perfect folk love song warning us not to gamble, especially with the devil. I don’t want to give too much away in a spoiler alert way, all I will say is that it is a craicin’ little story.

Swing Your Hammer
Starting like an Enio Moricone spaghetti western theme before leaping into a Ska-Punk dance beat and the big chorus in the work song tradition. Wonderfully tight banjo and fiddle instrumental breaks tie this catchy song together.

Promise
Now this is refreshing. A drinking song about abstinence! There’s an old country song that drones on about ‘One day at a time sweet Jesus’ well this is kind of that; but for people that fight instead of pray for the strength to stay sober and look forward to the day they can throw the towel in and get stocious again.

Boys On The Green
A celebration of the beautiful game and the ritual that surrounds it. No mention of fighting, just the pride in your club colours, the comaraderie of meeting before the match for a pint and singing song together on the terraces.

Greg O’Donovan
This one takes us away from terrafirma and puts us in the charge of an heroic captain, as he slaughters Spanish and drowns in the worship of women after. This has a great low whistle or flute hook, that sounds a little like the Fury’s ‘Lonesome Boatman’ on amphetamine suphate.

Roasie Lou
A beautiful bit of fiddle playing helps us feel the heartbreak in this love ballad and lament dedicated to a true love and criminal partner.

This is Our Time
…”To right the wrongs because failure is part of our lives” is the general message I get from this pounding, Poguesesque four minutes of fun.

Rockstar
This is the familiar sentiment for anyone who aspires to make a living in the music industry today. A fabulous female vocal performance and guitar solo puts this forward as one of the best tracks on this record in my opinion.

Where Your Heart Is
A joyus stomper “Your feet will take you where your heart is” and that’s down the boozer where you can see your mates and “blow the ladies a kiss”

Yesterday’s Rebel
Craicin’ closing song about an IRA man finding himself in hell after killing a policeman.

LIVE AT FOLK IN A FIELD IN THE SUMMER

Back in July I had the pleasure to witness their live show when the played my local festival in Norfolk. ‘Folk In A Field’ has been going about 4 years now and have had some great acts so far including Ferocious Dog, Punkfolkers, LongShore Drift and the Nobel Jacks – the latter due to headline in 2019 but The Paddyhats topped the bill and nailed it this year.
Their set as well as including songs from their first two albums

there was also time to throw in the odd Irish standard

and the most unexpected.

As well as playing each year, I also run the merchandise stall at ‘Folk in a Field’, so when The Paddyhats turned up, they took over my stall for the last couple of hours. I can honestly say a nicer bunch of people you couldn’t wish to meet. They came all the way from Germany for one show, with a small road crew and giant merch man

all of which were really easy going, friendly and a pleasure to have at the festival. I just hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.

Buy Green Blood

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Thanks to London Celtic Punks favourite Anto Morra for the review. Songwriter, performer and multi media artist that believes ‘Life is for laughing and fighting injustice’. Traditional folk songs and punk rock of his formative London years, along with his Irish roots and Norfolk home are the inspiration behind his work. You can catch up with Anto here or just look through the pages here to find several of his releases.

Web-Site  Blog  Facebook  Reverbnation  Twitter  YouTube  Bandcamp

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy The EP

iTunes

Contact The Craicheads

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

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

lankum.jp

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

 

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

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

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

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

Buy Between Earth and Sky

Here (iTunes, Google, Spotify etc.,)

Contact Lankum

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: THE RUMJACKS- ‘Saints Preserve Us’

The new album from the undisputed Kings Of Celtic-Punk hits the decks right across every corner of the globe. I never thought they’d ever come close to their out of this world debut album but as Shane O’Neill shows they have not only made an album to compete with Gangs Of New Holland but possibly even surpassed it!!!

To say we’ve been excited and eagerly awaiting the release of The Rumjacks new album is a major understatement. It’s no secret that we’re big Rumjacks fans (if not a little obsessed) over here at London Celtic Punks. True to form, The Rumjacks didn’t disappoint. This is another absolute crackin’ album – 42 minutes of pure brilliance. I haven’t been able to turn it off since I got my hands on it. Totally addictive! The album, Saints Preserve Us, is released on the tenth anniversary year of the band and what a way to mark the occasion. Originally formed in Sydney in 2008, the band recently set up camp in Europe and have been touring rigorously over the past few years. They have just kicked off their tenth anniversary tour which will be ripping through Europe and Asia over the next few months. The crowds and venues are getting bigger which is down to their hard work and of course the exceptional tunes they continue to churn out. This is their fourth studio album and the third to be released in the last three years. Over the past few weeks the band have been drip feeding with a few tracks to wet our appetite. First up was the title track and video, ‘Saints Preserve Us’.

This track is full of the energy we’ve become used to from the band. There’s also a hint of ska-punk on the track. This was followed up with ‘Bus Floor Bottles’, ‘The Foreman O’Rourke’ and ‘Cold London Rain’. All of this within a week!!! ‘The Foreman O’Rourke’ is a cover of Matt McGinn’s folk tune. It features Paul McKenzie and Troy Zak from Canadian punks The Real McKenzies. And bhoy have they transformed this song…It’s been given a boost a speed with bagpipes thrown in for good measure.

The album features a host of guest appearances from the Celtic-Punk world with Mike Reeves of Mickey Rickshaw popping up again, after a recent spot on German band Kings & Boozers debut album, doing a spot of vocals on the second track ‘Billy McKinley’. The combination of vocals between Mike and Frankie on this track works wonders making this one hell of a tune. Other guests include Maurizio Cardullo (Folkstone – Whistle & bagpipes), Robert Collins (Blood Or Whiskey – Trumpet & accordion), Angelo Roccato (The Clan – Guitar), Francesco Moneti (Modena City Ramblers – Fiddle), Denis Dowling (Clan of Celts – Guitar and backing vocals) and last, but definitely not least, our very own Shelby Colt (London Celtic Punks – backing vocals). Beat that!! The fourth track on the album is a rendition of ‘An poc ar Buile’ (The Mad Puck Goat). I’ve heard some of the traditional versions of this tune before but nothing anything quite like this. The song is almost entirely in Gaelic and played at a high tempo with bagpipes, which works well. I had trouble getting it out of my head a few nights.

It’s difficult to pick the best songs on this album. They’re all feckin’ brilliant. If I was pushed I’d have to say ‘A Smugglers Song’, ‘Bus Floor Bottles’, ‘Billy McKinley’ and ‘Cupcake’ would be the favourites. ‘A Smugglers Song’ is a revisit to The Rumjack’s roots and you’d be forgiven for thinking it had been plucked from one of their early days EP’s. We’ve listened to quite a few Celtic-Punk bands here at London Celtic Punks and The Rumjacks are a tough act to follow. Everything they’ve released to date has been highly acclaimed throughout the Celtic-Punk world and they’re going from strength to strength. It’s widely accepted that their debut album Gangs of New Holland is probably the best Celtic Punk album to have even been released. I never thought another album would get anywhere close to it, however I have to say, Saints Preserve Us is most definitely a contender to knock it off the top spot. So there you go… Drop whatever you are doing and get your hands on a copy of Saints Preserve Us now.

Rumjacks band

The Rumjacks left to right: Top: Gabriel Whitbourne- Guitars, Vocals * Adam Kenny- Mandolin, Banjo, Bouzouki, Bodhran, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals. Bottom: Johnny McKelvey- Bass, Vocals * Frankie McLaughlin- Vocals, Tin-Whistle, Guitar * Pietro Della Sala- Drums, Vocals.

Also make sure you try to catch The Rumjacks in a town near you.

Buy Saints Preserve Us  FromTheBand  Here  (iTunes, Google, Apple etc.,)

Contact The Rumjacks  WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  YouTube  Soundcloud

For more on The Rumjacks check out the following articles Album Review: ‘Sleepin’ Rough’ (2016)  here

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

FILM REVIEW: BLACK ’47

Famine was quite deliberately employed as an instrument of national policy, as the last means of breaking the resistance of the peasantry to the new system where they are divorced from personal ownership of the land and obligated to work on the conditions which the state may demand from them… This famine may fairly be called political because it was not the result of any overwhelming natural catastrophe or such complete exhaustion of the country’s resources in foreign and civil wars

– William Henry Chamberlin

BLACK 47

Directed by: Lance Daly

Written by: Lance Daly, P.J. Dillon, Eugene O’Brien and Pierce Ryan

Starring: Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea, Freddie Fox, Barry Keoghan,  Moe Dunford, Sarah Greene and Jim Broadbent

Runtime: 1 hour 39 minutes

Despite being a huge film fanatic it’s fair to say I haven’t anticipated a film like Black ’47 since the release of the Irish War Of Independence drama The Wind That Shakes The Barley back in 2006. At that film a whole bunch of us went to the cinema sneaking in beer and crisps and cheered every time a British soldier was dispatched, much to the annoyance of the metropolitan elites watching it with us in snooty Islington. Black ’47 was going to be a whole different film. We have made no secret here that we don’t actually believe there was a famine in Ireland. Their were adequate supplies of food being grown in Ireland but these were needed to feed the British empire and so were taken at gunpoint from the country. Ireland was transformed into

“an extended grazing land to raise cattle for a hungry consumer market [in Britain]… and the British taste for beef had a devastating impact on the impoverished and disenfranchised people of Ireland” and “pushed off the best pasture land and forced to farm smaller plots of marginal land, the Irish turned to the potato, a crop that could be grown abundantly in less favourable soil.” (Rifkin, ‘Beyond Beef’ 1993)

Make no mistake it was the ethnic cleansing of the Irish Gael that was the goal here.

Set in the west of Ireland in 1847 at the very height of An Gorta Mór, the story begins with Feeney, played by James Frecheville having returned from Afghanistan after fighting with the British army. He deserts and makes his way back home only to find the potato crop has failed and disease, emigration and famine has touched many of his neighbours and also claimed the life of his devoted mother while his brother has been hanged. The film tells of Feeney and his attempt to avenge the deaths of his nearest and dearest. Lance Daly directs the film as Rambo meets Fionn MacCumhaill and the story unfolds, in a way as many people have said, like a traditional western and while it’s not the first Celtic action film, that honour belongs to Braveheart and then maybe Michael Collins, it certainly brings the chilling horror of the times to our screens very well. Unlike Braveheart’s William Wallace our hero here is strong and silent. Like Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name, from Sergio Leone’s ‘spaghetti’ westerns, Feeney is a quiet grim faced executioner who dispatches his foes with finesse.

The film begins as a history lesson about the relationship between Ireland and the British Empire. A history lesson sorely needed in these times about the horrors of the ‘famine’. Those of with the inclination will take a certain amusement from watching Feeney taking his revenge against members of the British authorities after all he kills with a style only found in feature films. One curious aspect to the film is that the Gaelic subtitles appear in the centre of the screen instead of along the bottom and their is a lot of our native language in the film. It is shot in the same style as films based in the Arctic with a sort of white glow that gives it a sense of bleak apprehension. One aspect that should ruffle feathers among the Irish establishment is the portrayal of those who ‘took the King’s shilling’ to save their skins. The ‘sleeveen’ mentality of the Royal Irish Rangers who assisted the British Army to help murder their countrymen. The sleeveens are still around. Look no further than the Dáil and the Gards facilitating the evictions of families from their homes if you wish to find them.

James Frecheville as Feeney in Black 47

At times it seems that Feeny has the entire British Army on his back but at every turn he escapes their clutches and even when he is eventually caught he escapes easily using his wiles. By now it gets more than a little far-fetched as David takes on Goliath in some fairly improbable situations. Towards the end of the film Feeney’s former comrade in the British Army, Hannah, played by Hugo Weaving, arrives in Ireland to help capture him. A much more rounded character than Feeney we see eventually a shift in the loyalties of Hannah towards sympathy for the Irish cause.

Black 47 is a great film and while its detractors (more sleeveens!) moan that it will re-open ‘famine’ wounds these are wounds that have not healed and will not heal until it is finally excepted that the potato blight did not kill the Irish or send them into exile but a callous British regime bringing ruination to the Irish people, language and culture. Feeney’s avenging angel of death struggles to have his revenge while at the same time representing the fight against the wretched British landlord system. The tension mounts throughout the film and at the climax of the film emotions will run riot at the realisation that both natural disaster and a kind of fascism butchered our people. Black 47 may be implausible in parts but it does go someway to laying the ghosts of An Gorta Mór to rest.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING:

At this point can I point you in the direction of last years London Celtic Punks #1 album Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine by Declan O’Rourke. Fifteen years in the making Declan has taken the best of traditional Irish music and the heart of modern song-writing for something truly special. He has taken true stories that will melt your heart and put them into something that I believe every school child would be given a copy of. It is quite simply outstanding and a more than worthy companion to the film. Read our review here which includes various places to buy or download the CD and a link to listen to the album. assisted by a wealth of Irish musicians including John Sheahan on fiddle, Dermot Byrne on accordion, Gino Lupari on bodhran and Mike McGoldrick on pipes, whistle and flute and I can honestly say that in all my 47 years I have never heard anything that evokes Án Gorta Mór in such a moving and evocative way.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Coogan, Tim Pat (2012), The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy, Palgrave MacMillan

Crowley, John (ed) (2012) Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, Cork University Press

Kinealy, Christine (1997) A Death-Dealing Famine: The Great Hunger in Ireland, Pluto Press

Fogerty, Chris (2017) Ireland 1845-1850: The Perfect Holocaust And Who Kept ‘It’ Perfect, Fogarty Press. Available here.

On Facebook:

Let Ireland Remember  Remembering An Gorta Mór  National Famine Memorial Day

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

The Great Hunger- Ireland 1845/1850

RECOMMENDED WATCHING:

When Ireland Starved Part 1  Part 2  Part 3 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh well, let’s move swiftly on…..

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

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

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

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

Buy The Underdogs

FromTheBand  DespotzRecords  Amazon 

Contact Sir Reg

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram  Twitter

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

AN ARGUMENT THAT THE IRISH FAMINE WAS GENOCIDE

With the release of Black 47, a movie about the ‘Great Potato Famine’ of Ireland in the 19th century out in the next week, we take a timely but controversial look at how the famine wasn’t a famine at all and the British government stood idly by and let millions of Irish die in what is now being called genocide.
A blight upon the potatoes of Ireland forever changed the histories of Ireland, England, and the United States of America. The blight that we now know was a water mold (and not a fungus as originally believed), Phytophthora infestans, attacked the cash crop of the Irish Catholic peasant farmer. This was the crop with which the Irish paid their rent to the English and Protestant landlords.

The Irish ‘Famine’ Memorial situated on Custom House Quay, Dublin

Starving Irish peasants tried to eat the rotten potatoes and fell ill to cholera and typhus and whole villages were struck down. Many landlords evicted the starving tenants who could be found dying on sides of roads with mouths green from eating grass to fill their bellies. Other families were sent to workhouses where the overcrowding and poor conditions led to more starvation, sickness, and ultimately death. Going to a workhouse was akin to marching to one’s own death. Some more sympathetic landlords paid the passage for their tenants to emigrate to America, Canada, and Australia. Ship owners took advantage of the situation and wedged hundreds of diseased and desperate Irish into ships that were hardly sea-worthy for the Trans-Atlantic trip. These ships became known as “coffin ships” as more than one-third of the passengers died on the voyage.
The Irish that did survive the trip to America, Canada, or Australia on the coffin ships drummed up awareness and more importantly, aid in the form of food. But for every one ship sailing into Ireland with food, more were exporting grain-based alcohol, wool and flax, and other necessities such as wheat, oats, barley, butter, eggs, beef, and pork that could have helped feed the Irish people. The Irish themselves were accused of bringing the famine on themselves as they were viewed as a lazy, overpopulated race of people – never mind that they were not legally able to fish or hunt under British law. They starved in the midst of plenty because they were not allowed to provide for themselves and their families by any means other than agriculture.
The Famine, or An Górta Mór, the Great Hunger, took more than one million lives, between those that died of starvation and those that left Ireland for a better life in America or elsewhere in the world. Those who were left behind in Ireland experienced a desperation that led to a massive change in politics and nationalism – it was only a few years later, in 1858 that the Irish Republican Brotherhood was founded. The British government and the British and Irish Protestant landowners still required the Irish peasants and laborers to pay their rent for the land they could not work due to the blight and the hunger upon them. In a lush island surrounded by water teaming with fish and land that fattened pig and cattle alike, how could one failed crop cause a Famine? According to British law, Irish Catholics could not apply for fishing or hunting licenses. Their pigs and cattle were sent to England to feed the British and to export for trade, while the landlords kept the fine cuts for themselves. Ireland was part of the British Empire, the most powerful empire in the world at that time – yet the British government stood by and did nothing to help their subjects overcome this hardship. In our time, an enforced famine such as this would be labeled genocide yet in the 1800s it was merely an unfortunate tragedy. As defined in the United Nation’s 1948 Genocide Convention and the 1987 Genocide Convention Implementation Act, the legal definition of genocide is any of the acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including by killing its members; causing them serious bodily or mental harm; deliberately inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. The British policy of mass starvation inflicted on Ireland from 1845 to 1850 constituted “genocide” against the Irish People as legally defined by the United Nations. A quote by John Mitchell (who published The United Irishman) states that
“The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight, but the English created the Famine”.
 From the Greek word for tribe (or race), genos, and the Latin term -cide, the word genocide refers to the extermination of the peoples of a nation (or religious group) carried out by an organization, usually a government. Such is the case when discussing the British treatment of Ireland during the potato blight; treatment which was based in the history of Ireland.
William Makepiece Thackcray wrote: “…It is a frightful document against ourselves…one of the most melancholy stories in the whole world of insolence, rapine, brutal, endless slaughter and persecution on the part of the English master…There is no crime ever invented by eastern or western barbarians, no torture or Roman persecution or Spanish Inquisition, no tyranny of Nero or Alva but can be matched in the history of England in Ireland.” (Metress, 2)
A famine did not truly exist. There was no food shortage in Ireland evidenced by the fact that the British landowners continued to have a varied diet and food stuffs were exported. This was not the first failure of the potato crop in the history of Ireland. The starvation (and genocide) occurred as the British carried on their historical exploitation of the Irish people, failed to take appropriate action in the face of the failure of the potato crop, and maintained their racist attitude toward the Irish.
The Penal Laws, first passed in 1695. were strictly enforced. These laws made it illegal for Catholics (Irish) to own land, and required the transfer of property from Catholics to Protestants; to have access to an education, and eliminated Gaelic as a language while preventing the development of an educated class; to enter professions, forcing the Irish to remain as sharecropping farmers; or to practice their religion. In addition, Catholics (Irish) could not vote, hold an office, purchase land, join the army, or engage in commerce. Simply put, the British turned the Irish into nothing better than slaves, subsisting on their small rented farms. The exportation of wheat, oats, barley, and rye did nothing to help the financial status of the poor farmer. The produce was used to pay taxes and rents to the English landlords, who then sold the farm products for great profit. These profits did nothing for the economy of Ireland, but did help the English landlords to prosper. The Irish farmer was forced to remain in poverty, and reliant on one crop, potato, for his subsistence. The potato became the dominant crop for the poor of Ireland as it was able to provide the greatest amount of food for the least acreage. Farming required a large family to tend the crops and the population grew as a result of need. Poverty forced the Irish to rely upon the potato and the potato kept the Irish impoverished.
As the economic situation worsened, landlords who had the legal power to do so, evicted their Irish tenant farmers, filling the workhouses with poor, underfed, and diseased human beings who were destined to die. A caption under a picture shown in The Pictorial Times, October 10, 1846, best describes the circumstances of the great starvation, and the nature of the genocide:
 “Around them is plenty; rickyards, in full contempt, stand under their snug thatch, calculating the chances of advancing prices; or, the thrashed grain safely stored awaits only the opportunity of conveyance to be taken far away to feed strangers…But a strong arm interposes to hold the maddened infuriates away. Property laws supersede those of Nature. Grain is of more value than blood. And if they attempt to take of the fatness of the land that belongs to their lords, death by musketry, is a cheap government measure to provide for the wants of a starving and incensed people.”(Food Riots, 2)
It is time for the world to stop referring to this disastrous period in Irish history as the Great Famine, and to fully realize, and to acknowledge, the magnitude of the crime that systematically destroyed Irish nationalism, the Irish economy, the Irish culture, and the Irish people.

HOW GUINNESS SAVED IRELAND!

Today use to be Arthur’s Day. A day thought up as a marketing ploy by a multinational company to promote Guinness. It was an annual series of music events worldwide, originally organised in 2009 to promote the 250th anniversary of Guinness. it was scrapped in 2014 and despite the somewhat dodgy political tendency’s of the original Guinness family today is still a good day to celebrate that most Irish of drinks.

WHEN GUINNESS SAVED IRELAND

By Brighid O’Sullivan

Guinness? Seriously? As my grand daughter would say. How did that happen.

With  the history of the Great Hunger barely hundred years before, I was surprised by this trivia fact. England wrought what some would call heartless vengeance onto her own people once again.

Belfast Air Raids, WWII

During the Second World War, Ireland remained neutral, despite the fact Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. The mother country was deeply engaged in mortal combat with Germany.

This decision did not bode well with England. In fact, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England was furious and resented Ireland’s neutrality. In an effort to bring Ireland into the war, he implemented several strategic actions by controlling ports and shipping supplies to Ireland. These strategies had disastrous consequences, hitting the Irish population at its poorest.

With the European conflict raging, Churchill prepared to deliver several embargoes that would devastate Ireland; that is until she brought out her secret weapon to defend herself. Check out the facts below.

England ceased to transport the necessary supplies of fertilizer to Ireland. 100,000 tons remained in ports, a devastating blow to Ireland to be sure. Also the British supply of feeding stuff was slashed from six million to zero as well as petrol supplies. Trains stopped running as British coal remained in England as well.

It was even reported that several animals disappeared from Dublin Zoo!

Children felt it the quickest. With no wheat to be had, Ireland introduced a new kind of bread, the 100 Percent Black Loaves, made with ground bone or lime powder in the place of wheat flour. Does this sound familiar? During the Great Hunger the British substituted corn for potatoes, also a poor substitute  Besides being a poor substitute, there was a more serious problem. The ingredients used to make the bread inhibited calcium absorption, leading to widespread cases of childhood rickets across the land. Rickets is caused by a Vitamin D deficiency and symptoms can include brittle bones, dental problems, muscle weakness, skeletal deformities and failure to thrive.

Ireland relied on exports for most of her existence. The Irish writer, George Bernard Shaw, stated, “the Irish are a powerless little cabbage garden.

Though on the surface this may have seemed true, Shaw underestimated Ireland as did the British. Ireland did not lose her Irish spirit nor her ingenuity and determination to survive. She learned this lesson from the British, beginning with the Reformation right down to the Great Hunger.

This time, Ireland had a secret weapon. Guinness!

In March 1942 the Irish government banned the export of  beer to England! At the time England was consuming near a million barrels of Guinness beer annually.

Allied troops and the British army felt the sudden beer shortage the most and England’s elite commanders complained to Whitehall of their recruits’ disparities. A short time later an agreement was made between England and Ireland. Ireland would again receive coal, wheat, and fertilizers in exchange for Guinness beer. How’s that for hitting the British where it hurts?

  • Brighid is the author of several books and a great Irish-American blog Celtic Thoughts here but you can get a free download of her e-book Ten Irish Heroines, The Women of the Rising by clicking here and following the simple instructions. Women played an active role in the Easter Rebellion of 1916. They were courageous, self-sacrificing, giving up everything for Ireland. This is a short book about ten of these extraordinary women.

RELEASE DATES FOR NEW MOVIE ABOUT THE IRISH HOLOCAUST- BLACK 47

The land of song was no longer tuneful; or, if a human sound met the traveler’s ear, it was only that of a feeble and despairing wail for the dead.

Black 47 Trailer & Clip

Directed by: Lance Daly

Written by: Lance Daly, P.J. Dillon, Eugene O’Brien and Pierce Ryan

Starring: Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea, Freddie Fox, Barry Keoghan,  Moe Dunford, Sarah Greene and Jim Broadbent

Runtime: 1 hour 39 minutes

The much-anticipated film, Black 47, is set to be released in Ireland, the UK and the United States in September. We will keep everyone posted with further release dates in their respective countries.

It’s 1847 and Ireland is in the grip of the Great Hunger that has ravaged the country for two long years. Feeney, a hardened Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad, abandons his post to return home and reunite with his family. He’s seen more than his share of horrors, but nothing prepares him for the hopeless destruction of his homeland that has brutalised his people and where there seems to be no law and order. He discovers his mother starved to death and his brother hanged by the brutal hand of the English. With little else to live for, he sets a destructive path to avenge his family.

Ireland | 5 Sep 2018
UK | 28 Sep 2018
US | 28 Sep 2018

Further Recommended Reading:

Coogan, Tim Pat (2012), The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy, Palgrave MacMillan

Crowley, John (ed) (2012) Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, Cork University Press

Kinealy, Christine (1997) A Death-Dealing Famine: The Great Hunger in Ireland, Pluto Press

On Facebook:

Let Ireland Remember  Remembering An Gorta Mór  National Famine Memorial Day

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

The Great Hunger- Ireland 1845/1850

On You-Tube:

When Ireland Starved Part 1  Part 2  Part 3 

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS EXCLUSIVE STREAM OF THE NEW SIR REG SINGLE!

PRESENTS

OUT FRIDAY 24th AUGUST 2018

Taken from the storming new album of the same name, the new single from Swedish Celtic-Punk band Sir Reg ‘The Underdogs’ is a wonderfully anthemic tune, encapsulating everything that makes them such an unmissable act. Hear it here on the London Celtic Punks web-zine first!

SIR REG is an energetic six piece from Sweden fronted by Irishman Brendan Sheehy on vocals, who left his home-town of Dublin to come to Sweden to fulfil his dream – to put together the most amazing band possible. With songs about everything from the issues of modern day society to finding the right bar on a Saturday night, combined with strong melodies and explosive live shows, SIR REG have made a name for themselves in the Celtic punk and rock scene. Since the birth of the band in 2009 they have released four critically acclaimed albums and have performed on many of Europe’s biggest stages alongside bands like The Mahones, The Misfits, Thin Lizzy and The Real McKenzies.

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

‘The Underdogs’, the band’s latest album, captures the raw essence of the Sir Reg raucous live show. From the chaotic first single ‘F.O.O.L (Fight of our Lives)’, through the infectious title track and onto their tribute to UFC legend ‘Conor McGregor’, Sir Reg embrace traditional Irish folk music, unforgettable melodies, propelled by an driving, energetic punk rock backing.

STREAM ‘THE UNDERDOGS’

HERE

Discography- Sir Reg (2010) * A Sign of the Times (2011) * 21st Century Loser (2013) * Modern Day Disgrace (2016)

Contact Sir Reg- WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram  Twitter

Sir Reg have announced a lengthy tour of England and Scotland this coming October starting in Stowmarket on the 4th before taking in They will also be taking in Stowmarket, Aldershot, Sheffield, London, Glasgow, Newbury with many more dates to be added as they come in. Check for venue details, support acts and tickets here. Hopefully all London Celtic Punks and supporters will go out of their way to help support them on their tour. See you all at the bar!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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