Category Archives: Ireland

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

Contact Crock Of Bones  Facebook  Soundcloud  YouTube

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)

The Templars Of Doom  Facebook   Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram

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.

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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 !).

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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

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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

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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.

Contact Falperrys- Facebook YouTube Bandcamp

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.

Contact LOCKS-  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube  Soundcloud

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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 this song the stock market’s Black Monday came and life out on Penny’s farm got a lot tougher with The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Hard Time in the Country

CD/Vinyl- FromTheBand Download- Bandcamp

Contact The Langer’s Ball

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  ReverbNation  Bandcamp  Google+  Soundcloud

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

ALBUM REVIEW: CIARAN MURPHY- ‘Once Upon A Time In Ireland’ (2009)

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

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

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

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

Mickeybo 1991-2006 qui tacet consentire vidétur

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

FOR DOWNLOAD CLICK HERE

AVAILABLE FOR JUST £5. EVERY SINGLE PENNY GOES TO THE CAMPAIGN

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

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

JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON 2

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

Justice For The Craigavon 2
WebSite  Facebook  Twitter

thanks to Andy in NSW for help

ALBUM REVIEW: MEDUSA’S WAKE- ‘Rascals & Rogues’ (2018)

The eagerly awaited debut album from youngish Aussies Medusa’s Wake, founded in 2015 in Sydney! Playing a mixture of Celtic and Australian folk in the spirit of The Pogues and Roaring Jack, using accordion, mandolin, banjo and tin-whistle! 

If there was a world cup to determine the best country for Celtic Punk music, then Australia would win it hands down every time. Not sure what they put in the water down there, but this place continues to churn out the best Celtic Punk bands over and over again. The calibre of music is so good that we have actually kidnapped The Rumjacks and are currently holding them captive at a secret location in Europe. When we received the new album from Medusa’s Wake a few week ago we were expecting a good album. The debut offering from the Sydney 6 piece, Rascals & Rogues, didn’t disappoint. Formed in late 2015, Medusa’s Wake released a 7 song EP in 2016. They then hit the studio in 2017 to record the current album which was released in June 18. Two of the song from the 2016 EP ‘No Nay Never’ and ‘Gates Of Hell’ have been re-recorded and feature on the debut album.

(here’s their debut EP from January last year. it’s available as a Pay Whatever You Want download. Meaning nowt if you like but enough for a couple of pints if you can!

Medusa’s wake left to right: John Coote- Electric Guitar, Banjo * Ben Pattison- Accordion * Ron Clark- Drums * Ed Lawlor- Vocals, Mandolin, Bazouki * Frank Sallie- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica * Zane McRae- Bass *

The album kicks off with ‘Seldom Sober’ which is also the first track and video released off the album which is full of energy and a great introduction to the band.

“I’m a Rover Seldom Sober
Whiskey I have only eyes for you,
I’m a Rover Seldom Sober,
Darling I think this time we are through.”

This is followed up by ‘Hobart Sailor’ which has a very familiar sound which is unique to the Australian Celtic Punk scene. ‘Convicts Tale’, ‘Irish Sky’ and ‘Branxton’ (traditional instrumental) stand out as favourites on the album however I must say there isn’t a bad song on the album. 11 excellent songs for the band to be very proud of. The mandolin and vocals really make this album one of the top releases we’ve heard so far this year. That says quite a lot as it’s been a good year for Celtic Punk album releases so far.

(The first single from the album recorded at Norton’s Irish Bar, Sydney, Australia)

We have no doubt that this is a band who we will hear a lot more about in the coming years and no doubt will feature on here again. Hopefully some day we will have the pleasure of seeing them live however a word of warning to the band, if you come to visit us you might like it over here and stay!!

(have a listen to Rascals & Rogues before you buy on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Rascals & Rogues

FromTheBand  Amazon

Contact Medusa’s Wake

WebSite  Bandcamp   Facebook  YouTube

You can stay informed with all the best in Australian Celtic-Punk and Folk-Punk by joining these two excellent Aussie Facebook groups.

AUSSIE CELTIC PUNK’S

here

AUSTRALIAN FOLK PUNK SCENE

here

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

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

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

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Ewan MacColl- January 1915-October 1989

For nearly 60 years, Ewan MacColl, an activist and left-wing socialist, expressed his views as a playwright, social activist, songwriter and performer. During the course of his lifetime he composed a body of work that ranks among the best in the folk genre. He was born was born as James Henry Miller at 4 Andrew Street, Broughton, Salford, Lancashire, the son of a Lowland Scots father and a Gaelic-speaking mother. Both parents had an extensive repertoire of Scots folk songs and ballads, and a large part of MacColl’s tremendous repertory was learned from them. After leaving school at the age of 14, he spent the next 10 years working odd jobs between periods of unemployment and one day out busking, he was noticed by a BBC director and given his first radio broadcast in a programme called Music of the Streets. Soon MacColl began to devote an increasing amount of his time writing programmes for the BBC, including his first group of Folklore broadcasts. Included among his many folk music activities have been the collecting of folk songs for the BBC archives and in addition to being one of these island’s leading folk singers Ewan MacColl’s fame lives on in the songs that he both saved from extinction and those he wrote including ‘Dirty Old Town’, ‘Freeborn Man’ and his Grammy Award-winning song ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, a hit single for Roberta Flack in 1971, which he wrote for his longtime collaborator and life partner, Peggy Seeger. After many years of poor health (in 1979 he suffered the first of many heart attacks), MacColl died on 22 October 1989, in London, after complications following heart surgery

Dominic Behan- October 1928-August 1989

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

Streets Of Song sleeve notes by Kenneth S. Goldstein

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

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

DOWNLOAD STREETS OF SONG

PRESS HERE!

DOWNLOAD THE 8-PAGE INSERT BOOKLET HERE!

Great article on the Life And Work Of Dominic Behan here

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

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

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

(if any links are broken please leave a comment and we’ll do our best to try and fix it)

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

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

STRAIGHT LEFT RIGHT HOOK

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

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

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

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

Get Straight Left Right Hook
Contact The Cradinal Sins

ALBUM REVIEW: MR. IRISH BASTARD- ‘The Desire For Revenge’ (2018)

Mr. Irish Bastard blend the drink infused energy of pure Irish folk with punk rock guitars and a bottle full of attitude. They have toured excessively, played with the Pogues and have graced stages from Tokyo all the way to Kiev.

The beginning of a band are usually quite ordinary and when in 2006 Mr. Irish Bastard set out to shake the world all their band members could hardly all fit on the stages they played on! Today, three studio albums and a good 700 gigs later, including tours of China, Japan, and alongside such celtic-punk giants as The Pogues, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and The Levellers, Mr. Irish Bastard have become an internationally renowned band and not just within the celtic/folk-punk scene.

The German Celtic punk giants, Mr. Irish Bastard, spring into 2018 with the release of their latest studio album The Desire For Revenge released on Reedo Records. This year so far has been extremely busy on the Celtic punk scene with many bands releasing new materials just before Paddy’s Day. It’s been tough keeping up with all that’s going on but have to say generally the quality of material coming out have been very good and Mr. Irish Bastard have landed us with another good one. The Desire for Revenge comes three years after the bands last album release and it kicks off with a (pre) Christmas themed tune ‘Black Eye Friday’. A high tempo opener paying homage to the traditional festive “bash”. This leads into ‘Oliver Cromwell’s Head’, a song which takes no explanation. This song pulls no punches in the hatred a lot of Irish have for the Cromwell following the cruelty he inflicted on our ancestors.

“and we’ll chop off his head and kill him twice just to make sure he’s blood dead, and we’ll dance around a burning spike around Oliver Cromwell’s head”

‘Darlinka’ (Darling Karlinka) has a very catchy Gypsy Folk beat. This one wouldn’t be out of place on a Gogol Bordello album. In total there are a total of 12 songs on the new album with a few like ‘Mike Malloy’ and ‘Poor Irish Billy’ standing out tunes. It also contains a cover of Cyndi Lauper single ‘Time after Time’. An unusual choice to cover but have to say it works well.

Mr. Irish Bastard are one of the stand out Celtic punk bands on the European stage and with the latest album it is easy to see why. The eight piece outfit continue to consistently churn out top notch material allowing them to go from strength to strength. Long may it continue. If you like your celtic punk fused in whiskey, banjo, mandolin and tin whistle then get your hand on The Desire for Revenge.

The Desire For Revenge was recorded by  Mr. Irish Bastard, Gran.E.Smith on mandolin, banjo and  bouzouki), Beouf Strongenuff on bass and drummer Ivo K’Nivo, guitarists P and Moe Leicester, BB on the accordion and tin whistle expert Kate. A new dimension in sound is added by the violinists Laura Zimmermann and Mona Kaczmarczyk. As Mr. Irish Bastard explains

“The violin is a new timbre in our sound and carries emotions that have not played any obvious roles with us, we celebrate and define our previous history as a band on the new album. At the same time, we also refine our sound, because only those who change will ultimately remain true and remain honest with their listeners. In short, as in any folk interpretation, longings all over the world remain the same. People all need the same thing, friends, something to drink and eat, love. And some now and then also lust for revenge, retribution, guilt and atonement. ‘The Desire For Revenge’ could be their record”

Buy The Desire For Revenge

Amazon  GreenHellRecords  MacSlonsIrishShop

Contact Mr. Irish Bastard

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter

ALBUM REVIEW- FINBAR FUREY- ‘Don’t Stop This Now’ (2018)

We rarely use the word legend on this site so when we do then it is only when it is well deserved. Multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter, storyteller and actor, Finbar Furey is celebrated around the world as one of the great folk icons and is a supreme storyteller as well as a versatile and multi-talented artist.

We have often spoken here on what Irish music and culture meant to the children of the Irish growing up in Britain in the 80’s. When The Fureys and Davey Arthur appeared (watch it here) in the middle of the 12th November 1981 edition of the popular music TV show Top Of The Pops featuring the likes of Kool & The Gang, Haircut 100 and Earth, Wind & Fire the effect it had on the Irish community here was gigantic. As Finbar said on the groups entry into the Top Of The Pops studio

When we walked in, people went ‘What in the name of Jaysus is this!’

There had been success for Irish bands but it was years before many of us were born. The Wolfe Tones played to thousands wherever they went and all without press or publicity so when these band of hirsute middle aged Irishmen took the stage playing ‘When You Were Sweet Sixteen’, a beautiful ballad that I’m sure over the years has brought a tear to most Irish peoples eye over a certain age! The band included brothers Finbar, Paul, George and Eddie as well as Davey Arthur. That day it became a defining moment in many a young 2nd and 3rd generation Irish person’s life. I remember it clearly how proud my family were at the bands achievement the smiles beaming across their faces. It would climb to #14 in the singles chart at a time when that meant selling 10’s of thousands a week. At a time with the war raging in the north of Ireland and spilling over onto English streets the Irish were having a bad time of it over here. Suspicion, aggression and bigotry against them was everywhere and countless Irish men and women were being jailed on very little evidence (all later to be cleared of any crime) with the effect that many Irish born people kept their heads down and put up with the abuse. But things were changing. There were around a million Irish born people in Britain in the early 80’s and their children were not going to be silent and act ashamed of our roots. We were still a few years away from The Pogues and Irish culture and accents were never seen on TV or the media except to be ridiculed so when Finbar Furey sang

“Come to me, and my
dreams of love adored
I love you as I loved you
when you were sweet
when you were sweet sixteen”

in front of watching millions it planted something in our minds that would later come to fruition just a few years later when The Pogues would erupt onto the music scene.

The Fureys And Davey Arthur

The band were no one hit wonder and several of their songs like The Green Fields of France and The Lonesome Boatman have gone on to become solid gold Irish classics. Go to any Irish pub on any day of the year in ant part of the world and there’s a very very good chance you’ll hear one of their tunes. Born in Dublin into a Irish traveller family on 28 September 1946 in Ballyfermot, Dublin Finbar came from a highly respected musical family and began playing the uilleann pipes as a child. By his teens he had won just about every medal he could win and his amazing ability had spread across Ireland. IN the late 60’s Finbar and brother Eddie were part of the legendary Irish folk group, The Clancy Brothers with Finbar playing the pipes, banjo, tin whistle, and guitar. The brothers left in 1970 and began to perform as a duo and in 1972 their single, a version of The Humblebums ‘Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway’, was enthusiastically received by John Peel becoming his favourite song of 1972. Peel like many over here fell in love with the glorious sound of the Uilleann pipes (listen to it here) and they more than played their part in the coming celtic-rock phenomenon that was about to shake the music industry at home and abroad. It was though when his other brothers joined the band and they teamed up with Davey Arthur that fame came a calling and they carved out a very fruitful and successful career until in 1997, after almost thirty years in The Fureys Finbar decided to pursue a solo career as a singer songwriter.

Finbar released his first solo album ‘Colours’ in 2013 with a powerful mix of contemporary originals and modern interpretations of classic Irish songs his status as one of Ireland’s most treasured performers was cemented further. The album featured Mary Black and the second-generation Irish Mancunian Shayne Ward and instantly brought Finbar to a whole new audience too young to remember The Fureys in their heyday. Alongside his solo career he also found time to take up acting, appearing in the Martin Scorsese directed feature film ‘Gangs Of New York’ as well as 2004’s ‘Adam And Paul’ and the RTÉ TV series ‘Love/Hate’. In 2014 Finbar was honoured by the City of Dublin with the Lord Mayor praising him for

“Bringing life and laughter to many homes in Ireland”.

He followed that album up with 2015’s The Slender Promise an instrumental album of pipes and flute which brings us bang up to date with Don’t Stop This Now. The album, unsurprisingly, made #1 in Ireland under it’s original name Paddy Dear. Obviously that title was deemed too sensitive for these politically correct times so a new name was chosen. The album begins with ‘Sweet Liberty Of Life’ and the first thing that sprung to my mind was how similar in both delivery and emotion it is to the late great Johnny Cash and his American recordings. The voice is unmistakably the same as one that lit up our TV screen in that tiny living room in England twenty-seven years ago except now its more weathered and one magazine’s description of him as a “played out Dublin born Tom Waits” fits admirably.

Finbar sings of freedom and peace on a song he wrote back in 2010

“Liberty, life and freedom are words that capture the true spirit of humankind in every imaginable way”

At 71 years young Finbar’s voice comes alive and after his near-fatal heart attack in late 2012 in a gentle country-folk number it’s no wonder emotion is evident in his voice. Next is title track ‘Don’t Stop This Now’ and again there’s a strong country feel to proceedings with a string section backing and the first appearance of the uilleann pipes. Finbar’s voice is strong and direct and the wonderful words all present a song that anyone could sing and make a maudlin mess out of it but in his capable hands it becomes the beauty it is. The only downside I found is the annoying ending where they fade Finbar’s voice out rather than just simply ending. We go back to 1994 now with ‘Annabelle’ and the first exercise of the auld tear duct’s. A true story of a homeless woman in the Dublin of the 1950’s. Having lost her love in the Irish War Of Independence Finbar’s auld Mammy befriended her

“I’d often be with them as they’d share a bar of chocolate sitting on the roadside”

It’s a beautiful and simple song and leads us into the tragic story of a family caught up in The Great Hunger in ‘We Built A Home’. Both songs songs show Finbar’s strength is in his storytelling. After the amazing recent release the album ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine’ by Declan O’Rourke (read our review here) this song could easily fit onto that album telling the fact of why The Great Hunger happened.

“To bear witness to heaven’s eye of cold,cold genocide”

Again its a beautiful song this time led by Finbar on the banjo. ‘The Galway Shawl’ follows and is the only cover on this album. Not much is known of the origins of this traditional Irish folk song but it has been covered widely over the years. Telling of a musician who meets the love of his life but has to leave her behind.

“Said she, “goodbye sir”; she cried and kissed me,
But my heart remain with the Galway shawl”

The string section is back for ‘Sarah Waits’ and is the tale of soldiers away at war while their love awaits their return. Linking World War One to today’s the wars continue… even as I write these words. My favourite song here is up next and it’s not even very Irishy! On ‘Co-Exist’ Finbar weaves an Eastern tune out of his banjo and the simple but effective words tell universal truth. Finbar’s daughter Aine Furey accompanies him on the two following songs, ‘The Taxi’s Waiting’ and ‘Hail, Rain Or Snow’, and her wonderful voice brings a sprightly youthfulness to the songs. The first is a catchy folky number while the second is bluesy folk number with a real foot-tapper with a lovely singalong chorus. Not surprisingly their voices are perfect together. On ‘Michael Power’ Finbar tells of a man at sea dreaming of his love at home in Dunmore. On ‘Paddy Dear’ Finbar’s voice is strong and powerful as the strings connect with the tin-whistle in a gentle tune later joined by the pipes.