Category Archives: Irish-American

ALBUM REVIEW: THE TAN AND SOBER GENTLEMEN – ‘ Regressive Folk Music’ (2022)

Celtic-Punk-Grass played by some Hillbilly Irish. The Tan And Sober Gentlemen explore the Gaelic roots of North Carolinian music, and to play it with as much energy as possible. Their new album out this week sees their sound developing into something really special.

Since we reviewed The Tan And Sober Gentlemen’s debut album Veracity four years ago I reckon we have received maybe 400+ releases here so I don’t get the chance to regularly revisit albums once they are reviewed. Veracity is one of a handful though that often gets a play. We described it back then as

” Raw and unfiltered, a blend of hard-driving, danceable roots delivered with a punk edge and whisky-fuelled abandon they call ‘Celtic-Punk-Grass’.”

Recorded in the woods of Chatham County, North Carolina, Veracity is a riotous take on ‘Scotch-Irish hillbilly music’. North Carolina has a rich history of Irish, Scotch and Scotch-Irish history going back generations and the Tan And Sober Gentlemen are rightly proud of their state’s Celtic musical heritage. Musically they embrace the glorious foot stomping sound of their home while welding to it Irish and Scots tunes and melodies. Totally acoustic this is the kind of wide-open-throttle, no-holds-barred band that could drown out most Punk bands with their passion, energy and sheer ruggedness.

So four years on and with just a couple of singles inbetween it’s hard to keep a track of bands over there from over here but they have kept plugging away and playing whenever they could do or were allowed to. Founded in Snow camp their music is Irish-folk-music-meets-the-American-South sound of the North Carolina backcountry where  they were born and raised. The State has over a quarter of a million people of Scotch-Irish ancestry (second only to Texas) and coupled with those of just Irish ancestry the number is almost a million residents. The States traditional Folk music can be traced right back to those who started arriving in North Carolina long before the ‘famine’ and to those who came in it’s aftermath. And The Tan And Sober gentlemen play it with as much energy as humanly possible!

Regressive meaning “returning to a former or less developed state; characterised by regression” kinda sums up the sound of The Tan And Sober Gentlemen and they even downplay what they do

“You know our deal-we ain’t lighting the world on fire with songwriting or anything, we’re just a bunch of rednecks that like playing fiddle music real dadgum fast.”
but the truth is that music is a major way for people to find their identity and to keep culture alive and their are times when I think the Yanks are doing a better job at doing it then modern Ireland is.
The fella’s raised the necessary to record and release Regressive Folk Music with a very successful Kickstarter campaign where they sailed past their target. The album kicks off with ‘Kelly Sullivan’ and bursts through the speakers at you. Fast and furious from the very start and utterly brilliant too! The fiddle work is amazing and being a bit of a auld rocker I really enjoyed the sound of the thump-thump of the double bass too. The Celticness of the tune is unmistakable while next they play the first of a handful of covers. They turn to their local roots for ‘Corn Likker’, also known as ‘Old Corn Liquor’, a song that’s roots are obscure but found favour in the early days of recording in the repertoire of African-American musicians. On ‘Happiness Ain’t Happening’ they get the first chance to properly combine both traditions and chuck in some great humour and the song infectious tune would see the stiffest Joe clapping along and stamping his feet. After three songs it’s time for a breather and ‘All The Time’ sees Courtney take on vocals with a tender and tuneful song. It’s fair to say that the best Celtic-Punk bands out there, no matter how Punky they are can also knock out some great slow songs and ballads and I’m always a bit disappointed to hear an album without one. I thought on first listen this was the album high point and while I have changed my mind a little I think it is still up there. Another cover is up next and the Irish war song ‘The Foggy Dew’ has become very popular these days on the Celtic-Punk scene and several band shave already recorded it this year already. Set during the 1916 Easter Rising when a small group of Irish rebels rose against the might of the British Empire. The rebellion was crushed and it’s leaders executed but the event lit a fire in the hearts of the Irish people that would see them rise again only a few years later.

Unusually the song is delivered with female vocals and the rather un-straight forward version is uplifted by Courtney’s beautiful and emotional vocals. As impossible as it would seem to breathe new life into a song you’ve heard a 1000 times it’s managed here. An outstanding version. ‘Banks Of The Roses’ is dates from 18th century Ireland and is an perfect opportunity for Eli Howells to really let fly on the fiddle. Eli was born and raised in the hills of Burke County, North Carolina, and learned from master fiddlers such as Jane Macmorren at an early age. Honing his skill at fiddlers’ conventions, barrooms, and back porches across the state. His distinctive Scotch-Irish fiddle stylings provide the core of the Tan and Sober sound. ‘Mickey’s Grave’ and ‘Heart Is Haunted’ highlight their two wings with the former a rowdy shouty Irish Larkin-esque riot while the latter is a jolly uplifting County-ish / Bluegrass romp. Along with the slow songs another thing I look for is a bit of trad Folk. ‘Miss Shephard’s / The High Drive’ is a chance for the whole band to flex their collective muscles and prove to detractors that Celtic-Punk does have some real musicians in it and is even helping keep trad music alive and relevant. ‘Barbed Wire’ takes the Country route again and some quite stunning banjo leading into Courtney’s delivery of the Rockabilly swing of ‘You’ll Never Know’. We nearing the end and next up is the popular ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’. Again it’s roots go back much further than the first time it was recorded but it has became part of Irish musical history. There’s no way of course it wouldn’t find favour in the Celtic-Punk scene as well with a chorus that has always cried out to be turned up to 11 and belted out at the top of your voice.

Played as expected with wild abandon and absolutely guaranteed to make you lose your voice with all the band getting a chance to solo their instruments, it really does rock your socks off!  Only a couple more left and ’30 Years Of Farming’ is up now. Written by Fred Eaglesmith, who as a teenager, hopped a freight train to western Canada and began his career as a musician. Specialising in ‘twist’ songs, where there’s a twist in the tale in the final verse ranging from “tear at your heartstrings” to tongue in cheek. This song is the former. A real tear jerker.  The curtain comes down on Regressive Folk Music with ‘Samhain’s March’ and a beautiful lament played led mainly by Eli on fiddle and Tucker’s banjo picking. The best album ‘outro’ I’ve heard in such a long time and with a album packed with so much energy a very clever way to end things.

Another triumph for The Tan And Sober Gentlemen and their legendarily rowdy live shows will be winging it back across the broad Atlantic, from whence their forefathers left, in the Summer with the band looking forward to playing some Irish festivals and club shows. We will include dates and infos in our month Odds ‘n’ Sods Celtic-Punk news round up so be sure to subscribe (you need to do this on a laptop).  A riotous encapsulation of the band’s Irish roots and it’s members ancestry. Hard- driving, danceable roots music delivered with Punk edge and wild abandon. They are quite simply the best drinking and dancing band in Celtic-Punk.

Buy Regressive Folk Music  Bandcamp   EverywhereElse

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THE BIG NASHVILLE STAR WHO WAS AN IRISH KID FROM BROOKLYN!

Famous for a string of hits during the 1970’s and early 80’s proud Irish-American Eddie Rabbitt was one of the most popular Country singers of his era. Here Kevin Rooney introduces us to his life and music.
Eddie Rabbitt was a popular Irish-American Country singer best known for a string of hits in the late ‘70’s-early ‘80’s like ‘I Love A Rainy Night’, ‘Drivin’ My Life Away’, ‘Step By Step’, ‘Every Which Way But Loose’ from the movie of the same name starring Clint Eastwood and ‘You and I’ with Crystal Gayle.
Edward Thomas Rabbitt was born in Brooklyn, New York on 27 November 1941 to Irish immigrant parents. He was raised in East Orange, New Jersey. His father, Thomas Michael Rabbitt worked in an oil refinery in Newark, NJ. He and Eddie’s mother Mae (née Joyce) emigrated from Co. Galway in 1924. His father played fiddle and accordion in Irish dances in New York City. Eddie followed in his musical footsteps. Although his genre of choice was Country music, Eddie once said:
“There were a lot of Irish immigrants who came and settled in the South. My father played fiddle and the accordion. Irish music got mixed in with old- time gospel and New Orleans blues to make up what country is today. A lot of country tunes have that old Irish folksy sound.”
Eddie later moved to Nashville, Tennessee and wrote songs for Elvis, and Ronnie Milsap, among others. He recorded ‘Song Of Ireland’ for his Variations album in 1978. The song is his expression of his yearning and feeling for Ireland, where he had never been. The fiddle part in the song is played by his father.

EDDIE RABBITT – ‘Song Of Ireland’

 

I remember daddy playing on the violin,
Jigs and reels that he brought from Ireland.
And I’m the first born in America, my friend.
*
I have never been there but someday I’ll take a trip.
I’ll cross the ocean on a big long silver ship.
Hear them sing those songs I learned from Mama’s knee
*
I just close my eyes and I can almost see,
Those shamrock hills and those forty shades of green.
And the roots that tie me to a land I’ve never known
Are calling me home, are calling me home.
*
Sun shines through my window here in Tennessee.
God sure made this a pretty place to be.
But sometimes it just don’t feel like home to me.
*
So I close my eyes and I can almost see
Those shamrock hills and those forty shades of green.
And the roots that tie me to a land I’ve never known
Are calling me home.
Are calling me home.
Are calling me home.
Eddie Rabbitt died on May 7, 1998, in Nashville, tragically young from lung cancer at only 56. So proud was he of his Irish heritage that his headstone at Calvary Cemetery in Nashville  was emblazoned with a shamrock and a guitar.
Our thanks go out to Kevin Rooney for this fascinating article. You can hear more from Kevin over at the Irish History 1916 through to 1923 and Everything Irish Facebook pages where he is an admin. Kevin also contributed to the Happy Birthday Mr Bob book, a celebration of Bob Dylan’s 80th Birthday, with submissions from Irish poets, writers, singers, songwriters, artists, photographers and an eclectic mix of admirers! Kevin is an excellent writer and earlier in the year we published Irish Born And Irish Americans : Separated By Common Heritage? about the sometimes troublesome relationship between the two.

EP REVIEW: IN FOR A PENNY – ‘In Memory Of’ (2022)

“It’s been a great ride. Thanks for coming along. So long and thanks for all the drinks”.

Savannah Rowdy Irish Music

Back in 2016 In For A Penny rode into the Celtic-Punk scene and really left their mark. All the Celtic-Punk media went ape over them and for a couple of years they released plenty of great music before a combination of events combined that left the various members dispersed and the lead singer in lurrve but the guys are back with one last hurrah – ironically also the name of the bands last album from 2017!

Founded by Irish-American Sean McNally and aided and abetted by old friends in Henny ‘da butcha’ on drums, Jeremy Riddle on guitar (replaced here by Matt Price) and Sean’s son Bryce on bass the boys came together in 2016 only two years after Sean first picked up a mandolin which he plays so masterful here. A handful of solo shows persuaded him that their home town of Savannah, Georgia needed a Celtic-Punk band to compliment the Irish-American bar scene. Their releases thus far (all available for download via Bandcamp) have followed much the same path of equal mix of trad Irish Folk classics and Sean’s original compositions. It is, of course, those original songs that made In For A Penny so special and ensures that they will live on within the scene.

The EP begins with the title song ‘In Memory Of’ and its great to hear Sean’s raspy vocals belting out across a lovely number sung for those who are no longer with us. Just Punk enough to keep everyone happy with sounding at all wimpy and plenty of Celtic-ness injected throughout. ‘Old Man Murphy’ tells of what we call here a ‘unlucky alf’. The archetypal In For A Penny sound of fantastic and intelligent lyrics and catchy and original Celtic-Punk music.

No trad covers this time but a fantastic cover of ‘Mad World’ by Tears For Fears follows and they stamp their name on it. If you going to make an attempt at covers like this then listen to this one and do it like this. The EP comes to an end with ‘To You My Friends’ and a sung very much in the spirit of ‘The Parting Glass’. A sung you can imagine being played at anything from funerals to weddings to the end of a night when the barman is trying to rid his pub of the last few remaining drunken stragglers!

In Memory Of is a very respectful fifteen minutes – not bad for just four songs. In typical In For A Penny style the EP was recorded live in just one night, with only a couple of vocal overdubs and some little tweaks added later, at The Wingmen, Savannah Motorcycle Club by Jody White a couple of days before St. Patrick’s Day and released last month. It’s a great way to end In For A Penny – if indeed it is the end. We shall see as the promise of more hometown St. Patrick’s gigs next year is surely to come but we are grateful whatever happens and that they gave us such great music that will go down in Celtic-Punk fame and I’ll be playing them for years to come I know that.

(Stream / download In Memory Of via the Bandcamp player below)

Download In Memory Of  Bandcamp

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ALBUM REVIEW: AFTER HOURS VOLUME TWO – BLACK 47 TRIBUTE COMPILATION (2022)

Thirty years on from the release of Black 47’s eponymous first album and a year after Volume One comes the second part of a trilogy of tribute albums celebrating this popular and most controversial of Celtic-Punk bands of whom Time magazine wrote in 1993

“the proletariat passion of Black 47’s songs that make the group stand out”.

Celebrating the songs of Larry Kirwan and Black 47 with Finbar Furey, Barleyjuice, Jonee Earthquake Band, Finny McConnell, Bangers And Mash, The PoguestrA and The Muckers and once again produced by Peter Walsh of The Gobshites and Larry Kirwan himself.

While not strictly a Celtic-Punk band their influence on Celtic-Punk, especially in the States, is immeasurable. A New York band made up of Irish expatriates playing a mixture of several genres but with traditional Celtic and Irish Folk music at its very core and led by the distinctive and talented songwriting of Larry Kirwan.

Taking their name from the year 1847 which was the worst period of An Gorta Mór / The Great Hunger when blight wiped out the potato crop the staple of the Irish working class diet. This blight caused famine in the land while all the time the British army escorted Irelkand’s numerous other crops, under armed guard, to the docks and away from Ireland. A conservative estimate puts the number killed between 1845 and 1850 as way more than the official figures of one million people and another two million forced into exile with most of them washing up to North America.

THE JONEE EARTHQUAKE BAND – ‘Who Killed Bobby Fuller?’

Punk-Rock pirates hailing from the  Boston, Massachusetts playing a crazy mix of Surf, Country-Punk and Rockabilly… and whatever else they feel like playing! ‘Who Killed Bobby Fuller?’ was originally released by Black 47 on their second album, Home of the Brave, in 1994. Bobby was an American singer-songwriter best known for ‘Let Her Dance’ and his cover of the Crickets’ ‘I Fought the Law’ who was found dead in his car in Los Angeles in 1966 at only 23. One of the great unsolved Rock’n’Roll mystery songs!

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FINBAR FUREY – ‘Mychal’

Finbar Furey needs no introduction except to reiterate what a true legend of Irish music he really is. His song is ‘Mychal’ perhaps the highest emotional peak Black 47 ever reached. Written as a tribute to Father Mychal Judge a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest, who served as chaplain of the New York City Fire Department. On September 11, 2001 Fr. Mychal entered the North Tower of the World Trade Centre alongside other firefighters and rescue personnel. As the South Tower collapsed, debris flew through the North Tower lobby killing many including Fr. Mychal.  Though many had perished before him, he was given the solemn honour of being designated Victim 0001 – the first recorded casualty of 9/11.

When Larry asked me if I would sing this song, I told him I  would be honoured. Mychal was a wonderful human being who did so much for the people of New York and never left their side in their darkest hour. A beautiful song for a beautiful man.

BARLEYJUICE – ‘Celtic Rocker’

Barleyjuice are a nationally-known Celtic Rock band from Philadelphia who play mainly original but also a few traditional Irish music. Their songs over seven albums have been heard in movies, TV and radio programmes for over twenty years.

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FINNY McCONNELL- ‘I Got Laid On James Joyce’s Grave’

Another legend of Irish music Finny has been making music with premier league Canadian Celtic-Punk knock-outs The Mahones since 1990 over a dozen studio albums plus several other full players. Finny finally branched out on his own last year recording his first solo album The Dark Streets Of Love.

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BANGERS AND MASH – ‘Izzy’s Irish Rose’

Formed in 2003 in Suffolk County, New York Bangers And Mash have a personal recommendation from Larry Kirwan- “If you’re looking for a band with strong songs who can rev up the party and get punters dancing, you should have Bangers and Mash on your menu. Guaranteed to go well with Guinness and good times!”

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THE POGUESTRA – ‘Green Suede Shoes’

The PoguestrA is a group of musically diverse musicians from across the world united by a love of The Pogues playing together remotely. Tending to usually only record Pogues related material here they branch out to take in another of Black 47’s more popular and well known songs. Always on the lookout for new members feel free to contact them and join the gang.

THE MUCKERS – ‘Five Points’

After Hours 2 comes to an end with another of the Celtic-Punk scene’s favourite bands The Muckers. A five-piece Celtic-Folk-Punk band from Atlanta. With a strong emphasis on Irish music, the band also blends influences of Gypsy music, sea shanties, Country, Rockabilly, and plenty more!

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Another top notch production from Valley Entertainment and we await Volume Three eagerly. Their are links included for a variety of places to order from but if possible get it from the label directly instead of funding vultures who make money out of other peoples hard work and risks.

Buy After Hours  Fanlink  ValleyEntertainent  Bandcamp

Released by Valley Entertainment. Independent record label based in New York City. The label includes an eclectic repertoire with focus on singer-songwriters, modern Irish musicians and World music.

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AFTER HOURS VOLUME ONE COMPILATION

Volume 1 of the trilogy featured 7 more songs from Larry Kirwan and Black 47 by Celtic Cross, Pat McGuire, Screaming Orphans, The Gobshites, Rory K, Gary Óg and Martin Furey. 

Further Recommended Reading:

Let Ireland Remember

Irish National Famine Memorial Day

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

Irish Holocaust –Not Famine: The Push To Educate In Facts

EP REVIEW: BOG IRON – ‘Star Of The County Down’ (2022)

California’s Bog Iron celebrate their 16th anniversary with their first studio release in years featuring a winning combination of classic Folk and hard rocking Trad!

We are ingratiated to you readers sometimes for your recommendations for that is how we came across today’s band Bog Iron. We do have writers far and wide but still need you to point us in the right direction sometimes and it really does show the wealth of bands in the USA that a gem like Bog Iron can lay undiscovered by us till they are in their 16th year!

The early days! from 2010 (left to right : Patrick Golden, Steve Lenard, John Michael, Peter Sheehan

This is in no small part due to them being a gigging band so recording hasn’t been a major priority till now it would seem with two releases in 2022 and it only being April! The first release wasn’t exactly new but a recently re-discovered recording of a gig from the Summer of 2019 at the Midsummer’s Fairytale Celtic Ren Faire in Plymouth, California and recently mixed and mastered by band guitarist Patrick R. Golden. It is a superb album that really gives you a shake. For a start their is no Celtic instruments but the music is unmistakably Irish and even at times when the music takes a harder Rock turn it could still considered totally accessible to even the most hardcore of finger-in-the-ear Folkie. Discovered in a Dropbox folder from the festival’s sound engineer in early March it took a marathon session of auditing, mixing, and mastering but 36 hours later the album was ready for Bandcamp Friday (when the vultures forego their usual massive cut!) and the album was out. It really is a mad mix of Irish Folk songs given the Hard Rock treatment with great vocals and the production is note perfect. The banter with the audience is also a treat showing a band in love with what they do. The highlight of the album is the final song ‘The NIght Pat Murphy Died’ a near nine minutes epic that drifts off into the stunning ‘Those Were People Who Died’ by f’ed up Irish-American writer Jim Carroll. Live Bog Iron ll is only available for download at the moment via Bandcamp but you can listen to it via the player below.

Formed in Monterey, California, Bog Iron have been together since early 2008 formed from the session players on Dún Laoghaire born lead singer John Michael’s solo album. John and Patrick are the remaining two founding members but are joined by Kerry native Peter Sheehan on bass and local Bhoy Keith Wieland on drums. So it was that in the search for inspiration for a new studio release that the tapes for Live Bog Iron ll were found so we can grateful they put in the work. Star Of The County Down remains, and always will, a firm favourite on the Irish music scene but also among Celtic-Punk bands too. A song like many Irish Folk classics that is perfect for adapting to something a bit harder. The EP begins with the title song and yeah it ‘s trad Irish but stripped right back and re-assembled as an aggressive gem of Hard Rock energy. Incredibly all instruments here are played by Patrick with only backing vocals on ‘Star’ provided by John Michael. He even produced it too at Blood Crow Studios. The remaining three songs are all instrumentals though all wildly different. I’m finding it hard to put into words (for the first time in nine years!) for this review as on the face of it ‘Maggie And The Priest’, ‘Kerns And The Gallowglasses’ and ‘The Jig Of Liam Fitzmurderhorse’ are all pretty similar. That hard Rock sound but that clear presence of the underlying Celtic tunes makes each a completely unique transporting Irish folk into the present—and beyond!

The band claim to “put on a fierce live show” and if our only evidence is their live album then we can completely agree. It’s a shame that even though both releases are very good they are also both quite different. I am such a fan of the live album that must admit to a bit of disappointment on first hearing the EP but several listens in and it has grown on me immensely and I’m only impressed with Patrick’s (virtually solo) work. Their may be no wild sing-along choruses as before but it is still a superb piece of work channelling rock giants of Sabbath, Quo and AC/DC but also the the Folk genius of Horslips and the sadly largely forgotten and little known English band You Slosh. With these releases the first since 2018’s Echos From The Cliffs Of Mohere, itself a re-master/re-release of their 2008 debut album, with eight previously unreleased tracks. It is hoped a reinvigorated Bog Iron is in the traps and raring to go and do some catching up on the recorded side of things!

(You can stream  / download Star Of The County Down below)

Buy Star Of The County Down  FromTheBand

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THE ROCKAWAY REBEL OF THE EASTER RISING – JOHN ‘THE YANK’ KILGALLON

“Of all the Irish-American towns in America, it had to be a Rockaway guy that wound up in the middle of the bloody battle at the Post Office” 

Often on these pages we have spoken of the Easter Rising. A somewhat mythical event doomed to failure when heavily outnumbered Irishmen and women rose up against the full might of the most powerful empire in the world. Even now over 100 years later it remains an event unparalleled in Irish history. The rebellion began on Easter Monday and the spark would soon ignite a nation and it’s people.

Here our friend ‘cross the broad Atlantic’ Kevin Rooney writes of the involvement in the Easter Rising of one John Kilgannon, better known as ‘The Yank’.

JOHN ‘THE YANK’ KILGALLON
The Rebel Of The Rising From Rockaway
John Aloysius Kilgallon was born in Queens, New York on September 5, 1891. His father Luke came from Coogue, Co. Mayo. His mother Nora (née) Walsh came from Knock, Co. Mayo. The family lived in Far Rockaway. His father ran a blacksmith shop, which became a successful auto repair shop on Beach 19th Street. He also owned Real Estate. John was their only son.
On 20 August, 1912 John attended a Chauffeur’s Ball in the Imperial Hotel in Far Rockaway. He took a customer’s car from his father’s garage without permission to give his friends a ride home on a rainy night. Ten young people were piled in the car when it struck a farm wagon in the Springfield Gardens neighbourhood in Queens at 2am. Seventeen year old Cecelia Wellstead was crippled after being thrown from the car. She initiated a lawsuit against John for $50,000 amid much publicity. She was awarded $20,000 by Justice Scudder of the Queens County Supreme Court. In the meantime between the accident and the judgement, John had gone to Ireland.

Patrick Pearce

It is believed the family attended a speech given by Pádraig Pearse at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on March 2, 1914. It was attended by about 2,500 people despite being in the midst of a terrible snowstorm. Pearse was on a speaking tour to raise much needed funds for Scoil Éanna/St. Enda’s School in Rathfarnham, Dublin. It was a secondary school for boys emphasising Irish cultural identity; particularly history, mythology, poetry, and most especially the Irish language. Pearse believed passionately that the existing system of education sought to eradicate Irish identity in favour of obedience to Britain.

(‘Easter Mourn’ by In For A Penny. Beginning with the words of Patrick Pearce)

Pearse’s speech was for an annual commemoration of Robert Emmet marking his birth on 4 March, 1778. The young, courageous and eloquent Irish rebel martyr, who was hanged in 1803; holds a place in the hearts of all Irish patriots, but especially that of Pearse. In fact, St. Enda’s site in Rathfarnham, Dublin was much associated with Emmet. The school was relocated there in 1910 from Ranelagh; where it was founded in 1908. Emmet walked its grounds as he courted Sarah Curran, and sat in the same room and was inspired by the same scenery as Pearse a century later. Along with much needed funds to keep the school running, he returned to Dublin with a young Irish-American student from Brooklyn named Eugene Cronin. Pearse wrote to a friend in July, 1914:
“I have got another Irish-American for next term. His name is Kilgallon, his father owns real estate in Far Rockaway and he is quite a young man. He will rank as a university resident.”
Kilgallon is said to have been well-liked and to have thrived in this environment, which included honor and discipline of an increasingly military nature; as well as academics.

Photograph of John ‘The Yank’ Kilgallon in what looks like a Fianna Eireann uniform at St. Enda’s, Maundy Thursday, 1916.

Kilgallon appears to have belonged to Na Fianna Éireann youth organization, and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), an oath-bound organization dedicated to establishing an Irish Republic by force. He was closely associated with many fellow students who shared this joint membership and was photographed in a Fianna uniform. He became a member of E Company, 4th Battalion, Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers. The company was called “Pearse’s Own” as it contained his former students. They made preparations for the Rising by making grenades, filling cartridges with shot, and making batons.

On Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, E Company arrived at the rebel headquarters at the General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell Street. Kilgallon, who was nicknamed ‘The Yank’ was quoted by Desmond Ryan to have exclaimed in his American accent:
“Holy Gee! This ain’t no half-arsed revolution! This is the business. Thousands of troops and siege guns outside. The whole country is ablaze. Twenty transports are coming in when the submarines have sunk the rest of the warships. We have our own mint. Light your pipes with Treasury notes and fling all but the gold away. When we do things, we do things.”

After reading the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, Pearse ordered them to take up positions on the roof; where they fired and were fired upon by British troops, and took artillery fire from the British gunboat Helga, positioned in the Liffey. Among his comrades there was Éamonn Bulfin, who was born and raised in Argentina. It was Bulfin who raised the green “Irish Republic” flag on the roof of the GPO. Bulfin later remembered: “One of the pictures that stands out in my mind, is seeing Kilgallon running round on the roof trying to stop fires.” Kilgallon was also said to have saved Bulfin’s life by pulling him from a window in the GPO, which was under heavy fire.

(The most famous of all the many Easter Rising songs ‘The Foggy Dew’ played here by The Chieftains with Sinead O’Connor. It was written by Father (later Canon) Charles O’Neill from Portglenone, County Antrim)

Kilgallon is also remembered for a humorous event that occurred during the week. E Company members crossed Henry Street into Henry Place and Moore Lane and battered an evacuation and escape route through the houses, so that they could access all the houses while remaining sheltered indoors. Bulfin said:
“Myself, Desmond Ryan, Kilgallon, and all of the St Enda’s boys proceeded to break the divisions between the houses for about half the length of the street. The walls were quite thin, and there was no bother breaking them. We reached as far as Price’s or O’Hanlon’s which was a fish shop”.
This included the Henry St. Waxworks, where Kilgallon; who stood 6’2 returned wearing a costume looted from a wax figure of Queen Elizabeth I!
When the order to surrender was given on Saturday 29 April, E Company was huddled together to the Rotunda Gardens. Sunday, they were marched to Richmond Barracks. Kilgallon was sent first to Stafford Jail in England, then to Frongoch internment Camp in Wales with many other rebel prisoners. He gave his address at Stafford as The Heritage, Rathfarnham, Dublin; St. Enda’s. He appears in a group photograph taken at Stafford with a young Michael Collins. He had written to his parents before the Rising that he saw that trouble was coming. When they heard no news from him for a while they feared he might have been killed in the fighting. Bulfin’s sister was able to smuggle out a letter from Frongoch for him which read:
“The authorities said they would release some of us if we would sign a form promising not to take arms against His Majesty’s forces and give bonds to that effect. You know there are none of us here who could do that without betraying the cause we fought for, so I suppose we will have to stay. But it is worth it after all for if we signed these forms they would say they were justified in shooting our leaders as we were only dupes who did not know what we were fighting for. But they will never get us to do that, if they keep us here until we rot.”
The US Consul in Dublin, Edward L. Adams inquired as to the treatment of American citizens Kilgallon, Diarmuid Lynch (who became a naturalised citizen) and Éamon de Valera, who was also born in New York City. How much influence this actually carried is still a matter of debate, particularly in the case of de Valera; who had actually been sentenced to be executed. He held a position of command at Boland’s Mill. Some believe his American birth did save him, on diplomatic grounds. Others believe by the time his turn had come, they had decided the executions had become counter-productive and finished with executing the last two signatories; Seán MacDiarmada and James Connolly. Tom Clarke was a naturalised US citizen, and no issue was raised on his behalf. He and Pearse were among the first to be executed.

Part of the legacy of John ‘The Yank’ Kilgallon’s participation in the Easter Rising was a series of photographs he took at St Enda’s of comrades the day before the Rising begun.

Kilgallon was released before Christmas of 1916 and returned back to the US as part of a general amnesty. The following poem was published in The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper 28 December 1916:
“Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village blacksmith stands
The Smith a mighty man is he
With strong and sinewy hands
Yet worried Luke Kilgallon felt
And mourned since Easter Day
His son, a fine uprising Celt
Was far from Rockaway
For John had been at school with Pearse
That Dublin patriot grim
And when Pearse led his outbreak fierce
The Lion seized on him
Since then poor John, locked up in Wales
And even wails suppressed
Had shared the fare of British jails
Not quite a merry jest
‘A Merry Christmas I am free’
Flashed ‘neath the ocean foam
The smith a jolly man is he
His John is coming home.”
On his return, Kilgallon joined the US Navy and served as a machinist during World War I; though he doesn’t appear to have served overseas. He lived a quiet, apparently uneventful life afterwards managing the family business on Beach 19th Street. He died on 30 January, 1972, coincidentally an important date in Irish history known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Derry. The Rockaway peninsula, with its long strip of beaches on the Atlantic Ocean has often been called ‘The Irish Riviera’ and maintains a strong Irish presence to this day.
John Kilgannon Commeration, St. Mary Star of the Sea Cemetery in Cedarhurst, New York.
Online Sources:

(‘Who Fears To Speak Of Easter Week’ written and sung by famed Irish writer Brendan Behan – ‘Ireland’s laughing boy and resident working-class Dublin genius’)

 *
Our thanks go out to Kevin Rooney for this fascinating article. You can hear more from Kevin over at the Irish History 1916 through to 1923 and Everything Irish Facebook pages where he is an admin. Kevin also contributed to the Happy Birthday Mr Bob book, a celebration of Bob Dylan’s 80th Birthday, with submissions from Irish poets, writers, singers, songwriters, artists, photographers and an eclectic mix of admirers! Kevin is an excellent writer and earlier in the year we published Irish Born And Irish Americans : Separated By Common Heritage? about the sometimes troublesome relationship between the two.

MOLLYS vs MURPHYS ST. PATRICK’S FACE OFF!

As usual it’s been impossible to keep up with the flow of new music over the St. Patrick’s day period. Not just singles but many EP’s and albums landed on our doorstep that we will get to over the following few weeks but we couldn’t let this years festivities go without a special mention for that oh-so rare occurrence a double release for both the most popular bands in Celtic-Punk – Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys. 

First off the mark on the 10th March were Flogging Molly with “These Time Have Got Me Drinking / Tripping Up The Stairs’. A solid return to form and if anything the classic FM sound of early Flogging Molly. The track is available for streaming and download.

“Morning starts with sunset
As the darkness fills my eye
It’s been so long since another soul,
Occupied this life”
This year the band have been busy with a tour leading up to a all day show at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles on the big day itself that was live streamed but was only online for 72 hours before being withdrawn ensuring I never got (and plenty of you too i suppose) to see it!
The Murphys followed this just a few days after with a tremendous cover of the auld Gospel religious song ‘We Shall Overcome’. Descended from a hymn that was first published in 1901 it has since been sung by strikers and protesters and famously civil rights activists in the United States and the north of Ireland. The song begins with the words of Bobby Kennedy as he calls for unity on the day of Martin Luther King’s assassination and they have never ever sounded so relevant. The Murphys belt it out of the ball park and their is surely no better band in the world at turning any song into a full blown anthem.

“Oh, deep in my heart
I know that I do believe
We shall overcome, someday”
The video sees footage of the band included along with historical photos and film of American protest movements – from striking workers and picket lines to the civil rights movement. No band stands up for the working class like the Dropkick Murphys do. As busy as ever too with a tour that went across the States accompanied by The Rumjacks among others that one of the gang was lucky to catch and review. They also managed a fantastic St. Patrick’s Day live stream from the House Of Blues in hometown Boston though theirs was free but in common with Flogging Mollys was also withdrawn after a couple of days. What’s that about I wonder?
Dropkick Murphys Fan Page By the fans – From the fans – Of the fans
Check back with us at the weekend for as comprehensive a round up of all the St. Patrick’s Celtic-Punk music that was released last week as possible!

ALBUM REVIEW: SLAINTE – ‘Up Down 95’ (2022)

Sláinte (slahn-chuh): Irish for cheers. 

Slainte offer a fresh take on trad Irish folk music, medlying classic ballads with modern favourites, and marrying traditional Folk instruments with Rock ‘n’ Roll electric guitar.

Boston, Boston, Boston, Boston but there’s a very good reason why its features so much on these pages. The Irish, Whitey and the Irish mob, Charlestown and South Boston, the Kennedys, the Celtics and finally our heroes of great fame the Dropkick Murphys. Sadly just like in London in recent years gentrification has all but wiped out the traditional working class Irish areas of Boston but the Boston Irish community lives on. Their are obvious reasons why yuppies prefer Irish areas of the city to others but like a virus everywhere they move they soon destroy the very reasons that made them want to move there in the first place.

One of the most important fronts in the battle against gentrification is culture. To keep alive the traditions, spirit and customs of where you come from. Of course this doesn’t just apply to the Irish but to everyone but for the Irish our biggest weapon is music. Where else could a band like the Dropkick Murphys have come from and then grown to become one of the biggest in the world?

Slainte from left to right: Andrew Rodriguez – Vocals, Electric Guitar * Mike Perillo – Vocals, Bass Guitar * Steve Smith – Vocals, Electric Guitar * Brady Conley – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * James Harrington – Harmonica, Tin Whistle * Jon Harrington – Fiddle * Zack Bolles – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Ed Cardenas – Percussion * Stephen Sunshine – Vocals, Tenor Banjo, Organ, Lap Steel Guitar * Not Picured (still inside the pub perhaps?) – Pat O’Donovan – Mandolin, Accordion * Kevin Smith * Percussion *

Last year the arrival of Shadows Of Boston dominated the Celtic-Punk scene and just this week the latest album to land on our doorstep is also from Boston from the band Sláinte. Formed at Boston college in 2013 the Bhoys have been a regular fixture on the Boston and New York pub scene ever since. Featuring 11 (eleven!) members making them the largest band in Irish history! While not strictly Celtic-Punk, their music owes much to the likes of well established bands like The Pogues, The Dubliners and The Saw Doctors as well as bands of today like The BibleCode Sundays and NY’s The Narrowbacks. When their founding member and lead singer moved to New York City in 2016, the remaining members decided that rather than fold or look for a new singer from then on the band would not only let everyone sing but they would cast their net further than Boston and Providence and start to play New York as well. In the years since they have added five new band mates, spent a fortune on petrol, played some untold amount of shows and shared a ton of laughs.

Nine years to make your debut release is a long time but not overly uncommon in a scene where playing live is the priority. Up Down 95 is the name given to their album and a tribute to the last few years together while looking forward to the future. Recorded by the lads themselves in various garages, basements, parking lots and fields throughout the Northeast, Up Down 95 is a completely independent DIY release and features original Sláinte material as well as some classic and contemporary Irish and American covers.

Beginning with the title song ‘Up Down 95′. It’s a rollicking rockin’ ‘country-ish’ number with lashings of harmonica.

“when the bar man asked for Galway Girl we said nay nay never no more”

The kind of song to get those with a bit more youth in their tank up on the bar while the rest of us be slapping our thighs and tapping our feet. The title of the song and album is the highway that connects NYC, Providence Rhode Island, and Boston, the three cities they have spent all their time traveling between over the last few years.

A nod to Celtic-Punk next with a straight up cover of the Molly’s ‘Drunken Lullabies’ which only goes to show how far Celtic-Punk has permeated Irish-American life. Next up is the stunning ‘Grace’ written by Sean And Frank O’Meara in 1985 it was first popularised by The Dubliners and sings of the doomed marriage of rebel leader Joseph Plunket and Grace Gifford just mere hours before Joseph was executed by the British for his part in the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin. An incredibly moving song it received a major boost in popularity when it was adopted by supporters at Celtic football club. Since then it became many a bands staple and was even recorded by life long Celtic supporter Rod Stewart. The phrase, “the blood upon the rose” comes from one of Joseph’s poems. Performed beautifully by the band they follow it up with a couple of their own compositions. ‘Ember’ is some classic-Rock and shows the bands ambitions go further than just playing other people’s songs. One of the album highlights, while on ‘Irish Whiskey’ Zack Bolles is joined by special guest Annie Cheevers on vocals for a simple yet boisterous song full of banjo, mandolin, fiddle and I’m sure plenty more. By now one of the bands I’m hearing being channelled here is London’s very own BibleCode Sundays. Not so much in sound but more in that they know people and more specifically their own people and what they want. A bit of an unusual cover next of ‘Atlantic City’ from Bruce’s acclaimed acoustic album Nebraska from 1982 (40 years!). Played straight tune wise they add plenty along the way giving it the Sláinte stamp. Now any Irish pub bands can just coast by with the covers but the real sign of a good band is the ability to knock out a good trad tune and (in common with both the Bible Code’s and the Narrowbacks) Sláinte come up with the goods on the excellent ‘The Musical Priest’ where they play it far from straight and inject a bit of Horslips styled meandering into the tune. Another highlight and another to get the young guns up on the bar! The Saw Doctors ‘Joyce Country Ceili Band’ is followed by an original song ‘Boston Girl Who Fled to New York’ and no idea if it’s autobiographical or not but a cracking ballad with some beautiful meaningful lyrics and a superb tune. Up Down 95 comes to an end with a cover of ‘Streams Of Whiskey’ where Shane MacGowan sings of going on the piss with legendary Irish drinker writer Brendan Behan and while no doubt a great version I would have liked them to have thrown caution to the wind a wee bit and gone out in proper wild abandon Pogues style but still a great version and way to wrap things up.

The album was produced, recorded, edited, and mixed by Zack Bolles and Stephen Sunshine of Slainte and mastered by Ian Blanton of Empirical Dynamics in Boston while the cover artwork was done by Bot Roda. A great album but it only goes to show that the best place to hear Irish music is in the pub and while they’ve done a brilliant job of transferring that sound onto disc it’s an eternal battle that Irish bands will always fight. Sláinte are playing all over Boston for St.Patrick’s week so be sure to check them out if you lucky enough to come from Boston!
(You can stream / download Up Down 95 via the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Up Down 95  Bandcamp (also itunes, apple, spotify, amazon, youtube)

Contact Slainte  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

BOOK REVIEW: MICHAEL CROLAND – ‘Celtic Punk Superfan’ (2022)

Anyone up for the history of Celtic Punk in 42 pages? We’re not kidding 🙂 We review a lot of albums, but sometimes books come our way too. This one is for die-hard fans, by a die-hard fan. Add in a dose of Judaism and Latin America, and you’ve got a unique take on Celtic punk. Check this out!

Celtic Punk Superfan by Michael Croland.. A must-read for any Celtic punk fan!

Celtic Punk Superfan is a neatly presented little chapbook (i.e. about 40 pages), and the title describes the author accurately ☘️ Though Michael started out writing about Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys for his college newspaper, the book’s preface carries a dedication to Neck – an early sign that Michael doesn’t just discuss the big names. “Every day’s St. Patrick’s Day”, the band once said. And if you’re Irish at heart, with an understanding and respect for the music, then the door’s open for you to discover more.

Neck get a mention in the book. Here’s their cracker of a tune “Always Upsettin’ Somebody”.

Introduction: Context

Celtic Punk Superfan starts by looking at the role Celtic punk has played in representing the Irish as a group of people. Shane and the Pogues get an early mention, and we’re happy to announce that a few webzines do too – including yours truly, London Celtic Punks 🙂☘️ So thanks for that, Michael!

The author explains how and why bands like Flogging Molly and the Dropkicks originated in the US, rather than in Ireland and Scotland. Their roots in the British Isles are obvious, but then so is the Irishness of Boston, for example. We’re reminded of how Celtic people throughout the world have put their voices and feelings into music. Plus, a lot of references from other literature are included here, proof that the author has definitely done his homework 👍

Foundation: The Two Heavyweights

Back in 2002, Michael was a student at Carnegie Mellon uni. He was as keen on writing Celtic punk articles as he was on writing assignments ☘️ He interviewed Bridget from Flogging Molly, and went to see the band live. The result was two articles that make up half of chapter 1. We look at Dave King’s exile from Ireland, the impact this had on Flogging Molly’s early music, and we’re treated to a quote by the man himself:

“Anyone who has a beating heart in their chest can relate to what I’m singing.”

– Dave King

We then move on to the Dropkick Murphys. Michael sees these guys as a different beast, one fuelled by working class pride and sport, e.g. the Boston Bruins (pictured below). The author was there in 2004 when the Murphys played to a sold-out Pittsburgh crowd, one that didn’t hesitate to rush the stage, if they weren’t just invited up by the band anyway.

Ice hockey team the Boston Bruins, supported by the Dropkick Murphys.

It’s always good to read about gigs where you can feel the energy coming off the page. Chapter 1 gives us plenty of that, and it reminds me fondly of the heart and soul I poured into Folk Springs Eternal. Now we move on to chapter 2…

JewIrish: Connections as a Jew

Now we all know that a book about Celtic punk is anything but boring. But chapter 2 gives us an angle that most people wouldn’t think of. Michael is Jewish, and he talks about the holy Yom Kippur and Purim holidays. But what about Celtic punk? Michael asked himself, “is there such thing as a Jewish-Irish music connection?”

Well, klezmer punk exists, so maybe yes. Michael looks at bands who’ve tried to blend the two influences. There’s Josh Lederman y Los Diablos and the White Shabbos, to name two examples. The Shabbos only recorded one album as far as I’m aware (2004’s Shabbos Holy Shabbos), and the production quality could have been a bit better. But these bands were capable of making a noise as good as any Celtic punk band, make no mistake about that.

The White Shabbos played a blend of Jewish, bluegrass and country music. Give this a listen!

Somehow, Celtic music seems to attract Jewish people. And if there really is a common thread, then two words sum it up: tradition and persecution. The former is something that both Jews and Celtic punks carry with them. The latter, sadly, is something that both have been victims of. And if they survived, they were often displaced, longing for their homelands.

But Saints and Tzadiks are another good example of a band who tried it. So are Black ’47 actually, with their song “Izzy’s Irish Rose” (see below). These guys aimed to mix klezmer with Irish folk. While it’s not quite Celtic punk, it does sometimes feature singing in both Yiddish and Irish. And it’s mixing the old with the new, which is exactly what Celtic punk does! Finally, Jem Finer from the Pogues (Jewish on his dad’s side) gets a mention as the chapter rounds out.

“Izzy’s Irish Rose” by Black ’47 takes an interesting turn from 3:08 onwards 🙂

This is a groundbreaking chapter by Michael, and one that I feel has postgraduate potential to it. Ian Prowse did a Master’s in Irish Studies, so why not? ☘️ But now for the rest of the book…

Ethnic Punk, Celtic Punk

The remaining chapters are a wee bit shorter, as we arrive at Michael’s blog. Michael ultimately draws the conclusion that he likes Celtic punk for its own sake, although there might be an aspect of his Jewish pride to it as well. He continues to discuss the different takes on the music, whether it’s Yidcore (punk first, Jewish second) or Golem (Jewish first, punk second).

Finally, we arrive in the year 2021, in the midst of that pesky COVID-19 pandemic. St. Patrick’s week is underway, bringing us livestreams across different continents, with the Dropkicks, Flogging Molly, the Real McKenzies, Flatfoot 56 and the Fighting Jamesons all checkin’ in. There was an online Latin American festival too, with South American bands using a lot of the instruments we’re used to seeing in Celtic punk. If the music has made it around the world, then so has the dress sense, clearly 😊

The last 2022 postscript brings us right up to date. Now people are starting to go to gigs again. Alas, some shows are still getting cancelled, and some people are still hesitant to go until we get further out of the woods. But the only way is up from here! Michael has the final word with a wee poem he penned for the Celtic punk fan. It contains tributes to various Celtic punk acts, including Vanilla Ice (okay I’m joking, but he does get a mention!)

So…

All in all, it was never just about The Pogues, or Flogging Molly, or the Dropkicks. Celtic punk has reached far and wide, and the scene remains healthy with different bands and fans springing up all over the world. Michael has put his heart and soul into a book about his love of the genre, and his own personal take on it. The book is also well edited and presented; as such, we wish Michael the best of luck with it!

Get your copy of Celtic Punk Superfan by Michael Croland from the author HERE.

Sláinte and l’chaim!

Andy x

LIVE REVIEW: DROPKICK MURPHYS ST. PATRICK’S TOUR WITH THE RUMJACKS AND MORE

The power of your example is far greater than what you say!

and their ain’t no band who set a better example than the Dropkick Murphys. Love, loyalty and friendship. Ray Ball was lucky enough to catch the Murphys on only the second leg of their St. Patrick’s tour in Rochester, New York. 

So, we all know this is a DKM show. And I’ll get into that later, but I wanted to get into a couple of the other groups that played.

Jesse Ahern

First on deck was Jesse Ahern. Before walking in the doors even, I was a big fan. I got turned on to him when he was supposed to see him on a tour that got cancelled opening for DKM. Admittedly I’ve got all the records on my phone and keep them going pretty steadily on rotation in my car.

    But he’s got a classic act down. One guitar, a harmonica and his vocals when he plays live. The records have more instrumental parts but it is bare bones, solid, working-class folk music. Solid solid set, early on and probably didn’t get the attention he deserves but I was definitely right up front and center.

  Next came on The Rumjacks. First and foremost, replacing a band member is hard. I don’t care if you’re playing in a garage or were AC/DC trying to replace Bon Scott. Obviously a singer can also make or break a band. A new one-well damn. Uncharted waters. But they did it well.

The Rumjacks

The sound has changed. Personally I love the newer material-yes the ended with “Irish Pub Song” but ironically I wasn’t to familiar with the rest of the set. The overall sound and vibe is definitely headed in a direction I like. It makes me think definitely of what I wanted to sound like on record-only much, much better. No frills, crazy lighting, etc.  On, straight Celtic punk, filled with whistles, bouzouki’s and a set of highland pipes, and go.

The Bombpops

  The Bombpops are not a group I would have bought headlining tickets for. Just not in my normal spectrum. That said, they had come cool music. Even though in my mind it shouldn’t be, it’s always unique to see two girls on stage. To me, in my own work I could really care less who you are as long as we have a good vibe and make good music. But it made me think of the bonus track on “Elgin Avenue Breakdown” by the 101ers. The track is a live cover of “Gloria” in which Joe Strummer goes into talking about women in the punk scene. “I’ve seen Patti Smith do it…” he says, and in a long tangent into how the whole idea of the punk movement was to break down those walls of convention.
  Have we since 1976 when that was recorded made that headway?  I’m not certain. I think we could argue both sides. I’m not entirely familiar with Bombpops repertoire. But I want to say, girls onstage in any act-punk or no-should not be a novelty. I personally don’t care if you’re a guy, a girl, black, white, purple-if you can play solid music and mean it I will listen. And damn, their guitarist played some of the most true punk palm-muting-all-downstroke machine gun sounding guitar playing I’ve seen in a very long time.
   Ok, onwards. Dkm. I don’t need to introduce anyone here. But there were a few key points. Al Barr is out of the current tour on account of family matters. Much much much respect. The first thing I thought of when I heard that news was “Do you think Mick Jagger took time off from the Stones to help his sister take care of their mom?”  Much respect to those who made it possible for him to do that. Frankly I don’t know much about Mick Jagger’s life, but I’m thinking I’m going to err on the side of probably not.
That leaves a hefty job for Ken to hold down. And he did it like an absolute champion. I’m willing to bet that everyone reading has at least seen them live on one of the Live Streams if not once or many times over the years. You know exactly what a good show you’re in for. But the one thing I will point out-the set list. “Do or Die”, “Caught in a Jar”, Caps and Bottles” and “Curse of a Fallen Soul” (some of which are mostly Al songs) came out of the vaults. The opened with “Cadence to Arms”. I’ve seen them every chance I get since 2004 and don’t think I’ve ever heard that done like that. They also did a mean cover of AC/DC’s “ Rock n’ Roll Singer ”. Old school my friends. A lot of us there were on the older side of the spectrum. There were even a few wee ones with their parents at the front.

So overall, some music I love, some fresh sounds, some impressive unexpected artists? Yes. Some serious nostalgia? Sort of. It got a bit rowdy and we were yelled at by two street preachers waiting on doors to open. It’s a crazy world, and it’s a punk show. Expect anything.

Set-List : Hang ‘Em High / The Fighting 69th / Sunday Hardcore Matinee / Deeds Not Words / Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya / Never Alone / Time to Go / Cruel / Going Out in Style / Take ‘Em Down / Echoes on A. Street / Devil’s Brigade / Boys on the Docks / The Dirty Glass / The State of Massachusetts / The Irish Rover / The Burden / Your Spirit’s Alive / 1953 / Barroom Hero / I’m Shipping Up to Boston / Encore / Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced / Skinhead on the MBTA / T.N.T. (AC/DC cover) /

Dropkick Murphys  WebSite  Facebook  Store

Dropkick Murphys – Fan Page

Now seems the perfect time to mention the #1 Dropkick Murphys group on Facebook. Ran by fans for fans. Simply click the link and join up and join in the Murphys related fun.

Thanks to Ray Ball for the great review and all photos. He has already featured on these pages as the driving force behind The Fighting 69th from Buffalo. The review of his 2-volume set of Dropkick Murphys covers was one of the most viewed of the year. One of the most prolific and diverse artists in the Celtic-Punk scene we are proud to have Raymond on board the London Celtic Punks team. Writer, artist, musician he is a credit to the American-Irish community and you can find a wealth of his material available at his Bandcamp site .

ALBUM REVIEW: BRYAN McPHERSON – ‘How To Draw Everything’ (2022)

Fiery, Folk-playing, Irish-American blue-collar Boston native Bryan McPherson is back aided by a ‘Molly’ and a ‘Murphy’ among others with a new album and bejaysus if it’s not one of his best ones yet!

I’ve often wondered at the word ‘fan’. As a longtime Leyton Orient supporter we don’t get many ‘fans’ down Brisbane Road. Over the years when we have had the odd moment of success some have drifted by before decamping to follow more media friendly teams that they can brag about on Facebook. See I think of ‘fan’ as opposed to ‘supporter’ as a rather trivial term for someone who isn’t really invested in what they follow. In that sense I don’t like to think of myself as a Bryan McPherson fan I think I’m more of a Bryan McPherson supporter! So with that in mind I’m a keen supporter of whatever he gets up. It’s been two years since Kings Corner was released and for Bryan believe me that’s quite a gap. A simple search for Bryan on this site will throw up reviews and articles reaching into double figures, a number reserved only for the likes of scene stalwarts like The Pogues or the Dropkick Murphys.

It doesn’t seem like two years that must be said as Bryan is one of those performers who keeps his audience, his supporters, close by him. Throughout the lockdowns Bryan was a regular face on our screens with his live streams and videos so it never seems he’s too far away and always there ready to connect with us. Perhaps it’s his Working Class background that keeps him so grounded, especially when all I ever see is huge amounts of praise and adulation for him! His ability to sing everything with passion imbued with a raw sense of emotion is second to none. An interesting anecdote here is (she’ll not be happy I told anyone) on hearing this album for the first time alone in the car my Mrs cried. She couldn’t put her finger on why but just a few snatched lines of lyrics and the mere sound of his voice seemed to be enough for the tears to flow.

Unusually for Bryan he has roped in some friends to aid on the recording of How To Draw Everything. Use to just voice, harmonica, acoustic guitar this album feels more fleshed out compared to much of his previous work with the ex- Dropkicks and current Walker Roader Marc Orrell on mandolin, Dustbowl Revival’s drummer Josh Heffernan, violinist Chris Murphy, who has worked with everyone from the Waterboys to Mike Watt, and Grammy Award-winning record producer and original guitarist for Flogging Molly, and also a Walker Roader, Ted Hutt on bass and percussion. Quite the roll call I’m sure readers, here especially, will agree. The album opens with ‘2 Birds’ which was also the first single/video released. With a rare opportunity to film outside his Mam and Dads house it’s a great video. Simple and effective and fits the song perfectly. I always get the impression that Bryan prefers the ‘home’ setting to set ups like this but he throws himself into and even manages to not look uncomfortable!

(Director of Photography: Eric Wagner * Production Assistant: Joe Bennett)

“There’s something about the sky that makes me grateful to be alive.”

A beautiful song with an unbelievably catchy chorus Bryan wraps so much round a simple tune. Lyrically there’s plenty to unwrap with Bryan triumphing over the demons in his life and coming out the other side. ‘Alameda St’ keeps it upbeat and tells of his move from Boston to Los Angeles and trying to figure out what to do with your life, and what lies deep in your heart. ‘Sweet Kari’ is more trad McPherson with a soft whisper cracking over a gentle folk song telling of moving on from lost love. The video here is from one of Bryan’s many live streams and is included here just for reference as like the video for ‘American Dream’ below many aspects of the song changed from these recordings to what eventually would appear on the album.

The harmonica is one of my favourite instruments and I think it’s a shame it doesn’t get used more in Celtic-Punk. It’s most definitely a folk instrument as you don’t need a music lesson to learn, making it the most working-class of all musical instruments! Here it gets an airing for both the upbeat and the gentler songs with ‘Hello, So Long And Goodbye’ a perfect example of the former. Catchy and tuneful but then the whole album is. How To Draw Everything has several anthems and ‘Lightning Lullaby’ is one such with several lines jumping out at you. “A bridge in England where everyone falls” and “going on tour with my depressing songs just like my Grandma use to sing to me” are just two as Bryan sings of the power of music in bringing people together. These are divided times and while each side thinks it’s because of the other their is always hope they are both wrong to think so. All the tracks here are written by Bryan except for ‘Shooting Star’ next up, where he was joined by Josiah Mazzaschi. A gentle beautiful song followed by another in ‘Troubled Times’. Bryan McPherson isn’t scared of an epic. My favourite of his songs is ‘I see A Flag’ check out the video from London where he performed to a small but adoring crowd back in 2015. Who would open their set with a eight minute song? Bryan McPherson that’s who. ‘American Dream’ is more than double that and it’s telling that it was several plays before I realised it’s length so gripping was it. Written in 2020 as tensions across the USA were greater than many even ever remember their was a need to remind ourselves that

“good outweighs the bad no matter how imperfect the country is, and there is power in recognizing our similarities.”

Chronicling his years on the road, playing and visiting every corner of the USA, meeting good and kind people everywhere he went. People with many differing views and experiences but still with the time to bond with this travelling musician living out of his car. A song full of optimism and a song I hope that looks to the future.

We are heading towards the end and ‘Home’ and on an album so strong while it is hard to pick this is my standout track. The word ‘beautiful’ has been overused in this review I’m sure you get my drift. ‘Bedroom Eyes’ is an optimistic love song and it’s just like Bryan to make some beautiful (groan..) out of something that on the face of is tragic.

“where I come from we grow up too tough”

After the first few plays I had insisted this was one of Bryan’s best albums but now while all the eleven songs are sitting at the top of my phones ‘most played’ list I would go so far as to say this is his best work to date. Each song is crafted with so much love and attention. This is what writing ‘musician’ on your passport really means. The album ends with the title song ‘How To Draw Everything’ and another standout track among the many. An amazing end to an amazing album.

How To Draw Everything was recorded at Kingsize Soundlabs in Los Angeles, California and produced expertly by Ted Hutt and engineered by Ryan Mall. Bryan’s journey from his raw debut Fourteen Stories, released in 2007 (I recommend checking out his back catalogue at the Bandcamp link below) has been a roller coaster of emotions with us being allowed into every aspect of his life and his thoughts. With age does come understanding, As he puts it

“From the perspective of age comes a spiritual death of what was, and in its place, a re-discovering of peace, country, and self are found. Hope finally outweighs despair and can be reclaimed, like a child wondering at the seeds of a dandelion. Hope was there all along.”

It may be a peculiar to put it but I support Bryan McPherson.

(Stream/ download Buy How To Draw Everything on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy How To Draw Everything Stream/Download/Vinyl/CD

Contact Bryan McPherson WebSite Facebook Instagram YouTube

All Bryan’s previous studio releases are available via Bandcamp plus many interesting live concerts and tracks, many available for free download and all available to stream. You can also support Bryan by buying some merchandise including a brand new How To Draw Everything t-shirt.

ALBUM REVIEW: SYR- ‘Sentinel’ (2022)

Syr is a Celtic Folk Rock band from Columbia, South Carolina. Music inspired by Celtic history, mythology, and folklore… like what you would listen to just before smashing a Roman legion!

Our first ‘proper’ review of 2022 and it falls to Syr a Celtic-Rock band from South Carolina. Sentinel is the bands third studio album and comes after a series of predictable pandemic-related delays. Two years of canceled and postponed live shows, live streams and uncertainty about the future only seems to have amplified Syr (pronounced Sire) and their stories of Celtic history, stories and myths taking in themes like battle, love, and victory. Lead singer and founder Kyle MacCallum says

“The idea is to write about Celtic history, legends, and stories finding themes that would resonate with a modern audience.”

Taking the well trod route of humble beginnings of pubs and local venues, the band’s high-energy live performance has since received a welcome at regular performances at some of north America’s biggest Celtic events and festivals. Sentinel is their third album after the self-titled Syr in 2015 and The Winter King in 2017. These have been accompanied by a couple of singles all available via the band.

Syr is Kyle MacCallum – Lead Vocals, Guitar * Laurel MacCallum – Vocals, Percussion * Kelly and Greg Vance – Bass and Drums * Ben Campbell – Guitar * Worth Lewallen – Fiddle

Not a band I’m familiar with so fresh ground to be trod for the site and while Syr think of themselves as more a Celtic-Rock band

“While I wouldn’t characterize the band as “punk” you’ll definitely pick up on the metal influence, and the defiant tone that has always been a feature of us Celts!”

I couldn’t agree more! Sentinel begins with Isolation’ a short atmospheric intro that sounds like it could come from a movie that soon bursts into ‘Revenant’, a track that spans everywhere from trad Irish Folk to New Model Army to Euro Folk-Metal. This is the kind of Celtic music that is accessible to all. Tuneful, catchy, light hearted (in a serious way!) and 100% genuine. ‘Tir N’aill’ was the albums first single and here Laurel takes over from her brother Kyle on lead vocals. Kyle has more the ‘rock’ style vocals while Laurel is more folk orientated reminding me of the lovely Aoife O’Donovan.

Like the music the video is also atmospheric and features the lyrics above sweeping landscapes from the Celtic nations. The tribal sound of the drums is used to great effect in ‘Specters’ despite its slightly poppy sound (though that’s probably just by our standard!). Title track ‘Sentinel’ stands out with it’s unrestrained power even though it’s played little more than a ballad.

The music itself is played simply but effective with only Worth Lewallen’s constant fiddle (alongside the occasional whistle and mandolin) embracing Celtic instrumentation but then the voice is as powerful as any instrument especially in Folk music and in Kyle and Laurel both have the most expressive voices that seem to cross both ancient and modern. Of course the drumming adds a dimension to the music lost in the more ‘traditional’ style Celtic-Punk and nowhere on the album is this expressed better than on the instrumental ‘The Painted Ones’. ‘Baobhan Sith’ has shades of great trad crossover band Planxty. Slow, gentle and beautiful. ‘Lay of the Ashes’ kicks it up a notch with a lively song led into with some great fiddle. ‘Idistaviso’ gives us a positive slice of Celtic-Americana that wouldn’t be out of place being ruined by many a star (BS anyone?). It may sound funny that as editor of a Celtic-Punk site it is the slower more Folky Syr offerings I prefer especially this. ‘Oran Na Gaillinn’ is upbeat and catchy and also the longestvtrack here at almost six minutes. Known in the Celtic-Punk as either a head-nodder or a thigh-slapper. Kyle sings in Irish next on ‘Albion II’ and understand the meaning of that. Of a Irish-American who has taken the time to learn the language of his ancestors. It’s a shame more Irish musicians don’t follow him. A great rocking song with some super fiddle. We are almost at the end and ‘Legacy’ starts with what sounds like the feet of marching men off to wage war and fight to defend their homes. Stirring stuff alright. The curtain comes down on Sentinel with ‘To Avalon’ and an instrumental fit to see out the album. Great in scope and style and a rousing way to say goodbye.

Thirteen tracks that come in at just under a hour and absolutely note perfect production. Syr play the sort of music that bridges not just the gap between Celtic-Punk and the Trad/Folk scene but also the sounds of the 70’s and 80s Irish Folk scene and now while also embracing the better bits of the Folk-Metal scene too. This is a grand record and it’s easy to see why they are becoming so well known on the American Celtic circle. Music played with a passion but also a belief in it.

(You can listen to / steam/ download Sentinel from the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Sentinel  From The Band-CD  Download

Contact Syr  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

2021 CATCH UP REVIEWS. PART 2 – WILD COLONIAL BHOYS, THE POKES, HAWTHORN, SURFIN’ TURNIPS,

Our last post was an attempt to catch up with a few albums that we loved but had missed for reviewing during 2021. Part One wasn’t originally planned to be but they all ended up being ‘solo’ albums and so today we have a bunch of albums from bands. Apologies for not being able to do more detailed reviews but as we say each and every month “we can’t review what we don’t hear”. 

WILD COLONIAL BHOYS – Remote Ruaille Buaille

Not a band I’m particularly knowledgeable about bar coveting one of their great t-shirts but here goes. I’m pretty sure I had some stuff from them in the past but was all lost in the great external HD crash of a few years ago. Hailing from Minnesota the album was recorded remotely, hence the name, which makes the expert production even more impressive.

Things start with the self penned ‘Red haired Lass’ and a upbeat bouncy Country /Celtic number. The production here is maybe one of the best I’ve heard all year. The sound is so full with the many instruments here all complimenting each other. The talented band show their ability throughout the album able to switch from more rocking numbers even to trad Folk. Their harder edge comes out early on, on the first of a handful of covers and ‘Rocky Road’ never fails to disappoint. Their are several excellent covers like  Ewan MacColl’s ‘Homes of Donegal’, and Luke Kelly’s ‘Schooldays Over’ but as usual it’s the originals that I’m really interested in. The standout track here is the ‘Tragedy At Duffy’s Cut’ where the Bhoys tells the tragic story of the death of 57 Irish immigrants whilst working digging the railroad near Philadelphia in the 1830’s. The death and unmarked grave containing these men’s remains was hidden for decades and is a stark reminder that the lives of working-class Irish Catholics in those days were worthless. A fascinating story well worth reading more about but the story is well told here. The album ends with a great upbeat version of ‘The Auld Triangle’ and it all reminds me what I have been missing. A fantastic album that captures the spirit of Irish-America perfectly.

THE POKES – Another Toast  (Here)

The Pokes had quite a lengthy several year hiatus between this album and their last but have returned with an album that reminds me of them at their best. Another Toast is their fifth studio album and takes off from where Mayday ended. Their distinctive Folk-Punk sound is left intact as well as the humour they are famous for. Kicking off with an ode to their beloved Berlin wart’n’all. Accordion led with a real catchy beat chugging along. As I’ve said before The Pokes remind me a hell of a lot of the Geordie band The Whiskey Priests. Unafraid to venture into political commentary but it’s pure bold and absolute brazen entertainment that is the goal here and is achieved 100%. My personal favourite here is ‘Gambler’, now talk about bloody catchy! but several songs could all be described the same. With the album’s artwork it’s no surprise The Pokes take a deep look at death here but always with a jig in their heart and a beer glass being slammed into a table.

The CD album comes with the added bonus of the vinyl only Sail single from earlier this year and also with a extensive 16-page booklet. The album was released on the famous Mad Butcher Records and is available in all formats. This to me is Celtic-Punk without being particularly Celtic but it is nevertheless absolutely superb party music!

HAWTHORN – All The Light We Cannot See  (Download)

We have just literally done a review of another band from Arizona (the new album from Swainn) and his has been in the to-do pile for a few weeks without us giving it much of a chance. hawthorns roots began in another local Celtic-Punk West Winds and they have previously released a 6-track EP in 2017 before this. Hawthorn are, rather unbelievably, a duo with Sarah Elizabeth and Brent Anderson playing all the instruments. The band is rather mysterious with blurred videos and artsy photos never quite giving you a decent view of the band. Still we here for the music and that is damn good.

I didn’t know they were a duo for a good while after I heard this album and I still find it hard to believe now after several listens. The amount of instruments here is incredible with flute, tin-whistle, uileann pipes, upright bass, mandolin, banjo and plenty more all in the mix here. At times the music is aggressive Celtic-Punk and at other times gentle Celtic inspired Folk. Basically the perfect model for an album on these pages. Of the former the brilliant intro ‘Beltane’ that leads into the fast bagpipe led ‘A Green And Ancient Light’, ‘Gardner’s Ghost’ and the album’s closing song ‘Raven’ all rock along with Celtic intensity, while of the latter the Irish trad instrumental ‘Lughnasadh’, the atmospheric ‘Samhain’, with almost Gothic sounding uileann piping, and the gentle ‘Solstice’ all stand out. Overall it’s a great album with a bit extra than most Celtic-Punk albums. Definitely not yer typical American album with both it’s style and lyrics. The album is available at the link below for ‘name your price’ download so basically a £100, a pint of Guinness or bugger all. Up to you but make sure you do download it.

THE SURFIN’ TURNIPS – Down The Allotment  (Download)

The Surfin’ Turnips have been with us now a good few years and round their way (Bristol and the south-west of England) they have become quite the institution. Known primarily as a festival band they have a decent enough back catalogue too and their latest album Down The Allotment came out back in March.
These guys are the real deal when it comes to West country Cider Punk anthems and its all heads down Folk’n’Roll as on the album opener the Ramonesy ‘Mermaids Leg’ that leads into the Folky but Punky but still Folky ‘Windbound’. It’s all done in great spirit and with tongue lodged firmly in cheek with salty songs of the sea, some of the fields and some of the orchards too. There’s plenty here but maybe you have to be a local for it to really click with you. Some of the subjects sailing right over me head but I loved the uncomplicated Punk-Rock sound that is only improved by the addition of accordion. The kind of band that when asked your standout tracks it would change every listen. At the moment the spoken word ‘Evesham Wheel’, UK82 style ‘Cider Police’, the piss taking ‘You Are My Cider’ and the album’s closing song, and also one of my favourite songs, ‘The Bonnie Ship The Diamond’ all stand out though I can guarantee that will change. One for ‘turnip’ up loud and getting your dancing boots on!
 

IRISH-BORN AND IRISH-AMERICANS; SEPERATED BY COMMON HERITAGE?

by Kevin Rooney

Before I became active on social media; I had noticed a lot of hostility, even abuse directed toward Irish-Americans on Irish groups and pages. I even experienced a bit myself. Before that I suppose I was aware of how unpopular Americans are abroad, but had hoped the relationship of the Irish with their American cousins would somehow have overridden that.

      Here, I would like to sincerely and sensitively (as objectively as I can) examine what I have observed about Irish-American attitudes toward Ireland and native Irish attitudes toward Irish-Americans. My purpose is for understanding and bringing together the branches of our worldwide diaspora. In trying to see both sides of the issues, I am not trying to be patronising, derogatory or offensive. The opinions and observations here are mine alone. I speak for nobody else.
       More than blood, I believe the millions all over the world who love Ireland makes a worldwide family. I mention that for the sake of members of that family with no Irish blood. The blood thing really hit home for me, though when I visited my cousins in Yorkshire, England. There we were with our different accents; English-born Irish, American-born Irish, Irish-born Irish. The distinctions disappeared into the common denominator, our shared heritage. My cousin in England is a gifted musician. I make some noise myself. When we play Irish music together, we instantly can read each other’s minds. It’s an instinct. American or English birth doesn’t undo that.

DIASPORA

      Four out of five children born in Ireland in the 1930’s, emigrated in the 1950’s, including my parents who came to the US. Of course, untold numbers fled here from the genocide of the Great Hunger in the 1840’s and afterward and spread pretty thoroughly so that one isn’t surprised to hear anyone here say that they have Irish heritage. The US version of the show “Who Do You Think You Are” featured many US celebrities who had Irish heritage of which they didn’t even know. A big part of tourism to Ireland is genealogy from Americans wanting to trace their Irish roots. With the popularity of ancestral DNA, many people are discovering they have Irish ancestry.  I have seen much of this myself.

CONNECTION 

        There is a wide variance of connection to Ireland among the over 33 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry. Some, like myself; were born of Irish parents (first generation), have been to Ireland many times, keep up with current events there, and maintain close ties with relatives there. It’s important to know and remember that I grew up in New York, a city with a large Irish community.
        That community enabled me to grow up with a strong sense of what it was to have Irish heritage. Having spent summers in Ireland as kid made me fall in love with Ireland in my own personal way. This also made me take a strong interest in Irish history and what was then happening in the North. I read Irish-American newspapers such as The Irish Echo that kept its American readers well-informed on events there. We even got a Republican newspaper called The Irish People. I rubbed elbows in pubs drinking and singing with Irish immigrants. We had Gaelic Park in The Bronx where my dad took my brother and I to see hurling and Gaelic football played. I went to Irish fairs and festivals where I was able to hear lots of good live Irish music and buy lots of books and videos of historical interest.
       All these things I mention would not have been accessible years ago to probably most of the number in America who call themselves Irish, that did not live in places with large Irish communities. This information is all available to them now that we have the internet, and Facebook, which is the purpose of our pages; to promote Irish history and culture. I have known people who are several generations removed from Ireland that have an instinct, or a calling for their heritage that even they don’t understand.
       Their link may be only that they have an Irish last name, red hair, freckles, oral family tradition, or have recently discovered that an ancestor came from Ireland. My brother lives in a city in the southern US where there is no Irish community to speak of, nor many catholics. When I have gone to visit, I meet people who think or suspect they may have Irish heritage. I am amazed at how one wouldn’t know that, but this is what happened over the course of generations in the US. The people there know so little about Ireland that they would probably believe anything they heard about it.  I recently met a nurse here in New York named Megan who wore a shamrock on her name tag, identifying herself as Irish. When I asked where her family was from, she said “Cork, I think. Not sure.”

NATIONALITY/ETHNICITY 

         Why would she call herself Irish? Because in the States, many of us tend to define ourselves by whence our families came. Remember, the US is a nation made up of people who came from everywhere else. Every language on earth is spoken in my county of Queens, NY. American is a nationality, not an ethnicity. For a person of Irish heritage who is born in Ireland, his nationality and ethnicity are one and the same. One does not have “American” blood or an “American” family name (except Native Americans, of course. That’s a whole other story…).  Here in the states we tend to confuse the term nationality with ethnicity, which is ironic considering it is a nation of multiple ethnicities.
“What nationality are you?”
“Irish” (This is how an Irish-American would respond in the US.)
“Why? What are you?”
“Half Irish/half Italian”.
That’s another thing I think people in Ireland couldn’t understand; how someone could be “half Irish”.  My neighbourhood was full of such Irish-Italian and Irish-German kids.
          A bartender I knew was nicknamed Scotty for his Glasgow accent. The subject of nationalities came up and referring to himself he said; “You figure it out. I’m from Scotland. My parents were from Kerry, I was raised in Canada, and now I’m an American citizen.”
I saw it this way:
He was born in Scotland, with Irish blood.
He was raised in Canada, with Irish blood.
He will likely die in the USA, with Irish blood.
Your nationality can change, but your ethnicity doesn’t change. Ironically in Ireland now, because of the immigration that came from The Celtic Tiger, there are lots of people who are Irish by birth, but not by blood. I believe this serves well to expand the idea of an inclusive Irishness, “cherishing all children of the nation equally”.
       I hear people from Ireland say that they feel that their nationality is being watered down or cheapened by Americans calling themselves Irish, particularly those with only a remote connection. I must admit at times I have been disgusted with the ignorance of many of my fellow Americans who call themselves Irish, who know or care nothing about Ireland. That is, except for one day of the year. I have been accused of being arrogant in my attitude about my own Irishness. I have strong opinions on Irish things because of my familiarity with them. I have little tolerance for fools and bullshit in general, but most especially when it comes to Ireland. So I do understand the irritation.
      However, those who do care about Ireland (to varying degrees) see her as our Motherland, that instinct again. People from Ireland don’t seem to understand this feeling that’s widely felt all over the diaspora…until they leave Ireland. Just as one fails to see the forest for the trees. That’s who our parents and grandparents are, the ones who left and subconsciously passed along their homesickness. Christy Moore described this longing of which I speak quite beautifully:
“In the City of Chicago
As the evening shadows fall
There are people dreaming
Of the hills of Donegal.”
       I have a friend I have known for 30 years since he came to New York from Ireland. When he first met me, I don’t think he understood how I felt about Ireland. In the years since, he has married a woman from Ireland and had a son, whom they had baptised in Ireland. He totally gets it now. His son is an American, but I’m sure he will also know he is Irish and be proud of it.

KNOWLEDGE/PERCEPTION 

      As I mentioned earlier, people without close ties to Ireland or who have never been there may not know very much about Ireland. Something I would ask people to remember is that Ireland is a country you hear nearly nothing about in the US. No more than you’d hear about Finland. So, many Irish-Americans have never heard of Dáil Éireann, Fine Gael or Fianna  Fáil, etc. Contrast this to how much the Irish hear about US politics, quite a lot.
       Even during the conflict in the North, the mainstream media in the US reported little and it was one-sided. Proportionally very few Americans were knowledgeable about the North, though let it be said the few who were were active in taking a role in putting pressure on the US Government to get involved in the peace process. They were also very supportive of the Republican movement. This lead to another perception that Irish-Americans are naive and romantic on the subject. I have recently seen venomous hatred directed at Irish-Americans from Loyalists for their reputation of support for the Republicans, which actually made me quite proud.
        A lot of misconceptions about Ireland were put out by terrible Hollywood movies. Also a lot of misconceptions about Ireland survive because of folk memory; the Irish grandparents fill them with the image of the land they left, not as it is now. I have seen this with my own eyes. People who return after many years are total strangers in their own hometown and don’t recognise the place.
       The image of the backward, superstitious, strictly catholic country is dying hard. When I predicted confidently and correctly that the Gay Marriage referendum would pass in Ireland, Americans were astonished, could hardly believe it. Some  don’t realise, (or maybe don’t want to realise) that Ireland is no longer as it was depicted in “The Quiet Man”.

SOCIAL MEDIA 

         The invention of Social Media has definitely added a new dimension to this discussion. It has put Americans who would normally not interact with anyone from Ireland, let alone someone in Ireland; conversing with Irish people who only meet the Americans who go there, some of whom are just tourists. Of course, so many Irish have relatives here that return to visit. I would hope the Irish with a negative image of Americans make exceptions for or overlook their own cousins. I hope mine do. But even if not, they’re still my cousins.
        Social Media is where I first became aware of this hostility toward Irish-Americans and experienced it a bit myself. It was usually to the effect of that I’m not Irish because I wasn’t born there. Of course I wasn’t, but I feel that doesn’t negate my right to claim it as my heritage, to take an interest or contribute my knowledge where it is helpful or informative.
       I don’t claim to be Irish in the same way as someone who was born there, did live there or does live there, but I do claim to be Irish. How are you not what your parents are? One guy commented to me “You may have an Irish passport, but it doesn’t mean you’re an Irish citizen!” To which I responded “Actually, it does. One must be a citizen to obtain a passport.”
         I was well able for it, but who wants to subject themselves to that? I thought then about how discouraging that is to Americans who visit sites and pages to learn about their heritage who didn’t have access to the stuff I did. What bothers me is that I have heard more than one American tell me they have reconsidered going to Ireland because the abuse they get on some pages makes them feel that they wouldn’t be welcome. That’s the damage that does, and it is sad. That is something about which I have sought to do what I can, and why I’ve written this piece.
           Many Americans sometimes do also fail to appreciate or understand Irish humour, in which sometimes insults are terms of endearment. Many Irish also enjoy doing the “wind-up”; provoking an argument to flare tempers purely for entertainment. We see this especially on Social Media. Also, the word “Yank” applies to all Americans, even Americans from the South. Being called a Yank can be affectionate or insulting, depending how it’s used. Normally, no offense is meant. I take no offence to it. But if you choose to always take offense, then prepare to be constantly insulted. I say own it.
         To be honest, I never personally experienced any hostility about being an American in Ireland. But then, I have relatives all over and know my way around pretty well. I used to visit regularly until 2000. My next and last visit was in 2005. The political climate had changed a lot in those few years. After a few days, I had noticed that nobody said anything political pertaining to the US around me, which was unusual. I broke the ice by saying “Say what you will. You will not offend me.” There’s nothing so uncomfortable as feeling like you have to watch what you say. Once I said that, the hair came down, and shoes came off, so to speak. That being said, perhaps in general, a change in the political climate is a source of this gap.

WORLD VIEW 

        Here I will discuss politics in the general, historical sense. I will not comment on current US or Irish politics or personalities. I think there is a huge difference in how the US perceives itself as opposed to how it is perceived around the world, including Ireland. Americans believe their troops are protecting them, and keeping the world safe for democracy and from terrorism. Many people in Ireland see the US as an imperialist power that goes to war for oil and business in which thousands are being slaughtered. The Irish have suffered from occupation by an imperialist power, so their natural sympathy is for those who are occupied or oppressed. Many Irish see the Middle East, particularly the Palestinian/Israeli conflict very differently than Americans; sympathising with the Palestinians.  Many Irish, particularly Republicans admired Gaddafi of Libya, whereas Americans saw him an a crazy tyrant.
        Americans believe Communism was a great evil that was necessary to eradicate with great loss of life. Many Irish sympathised with the people of Vietnam during the war with the US. Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese leader was inspired by Irish revolutionaries, particularly Tom Barry; who commanded the Third (West) Cork Brigade of the IRA in the Irish War of Independence. Recently, we saw another example of the disparity of opinion about Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who now graces an Irish stamp. Americans couldn’t fathom that they would put Che on a stamp. Americans consider him an evil communist tyrant fanatic. The Irish consider him a freedom fighter (of Irish descent) who was killed by the CIA. Ireland was neutral during the Cold War and did not share American paranoia about communism.
       A key thing for Americans to remember about Ireland is that it is a small, peaceful European nation. It has a history of neutrality going back to World War II. Ireland did not join NATO. It does not have nuclear weapons nor does it want them. But, if huge world power nations like the US destroy the world with nuclear weapons, that would include Ireland. This is why they hear a lot about the US in Ireland, but very little vice versa. There is a certain amount of resentment about that as well as the fact that US military aircraft stop and refuel in Shannon Airport. I for one wish they would do so elsewhere, as I don’t want Ireland involved in any other nation’s disputes or to become a target for terrorism for this reason.

SUGGESTIONS

Irish-Americans: Go to Ireland. Don’t live up to negative expectations about Americans. Visit Irish sites and pages on-line. Let your love for Ireland be based on truth, not misconception. Learn about your roots. Learn especially about where your people are from in Ireland. Learn about the history and culture. Remember that people from Ireland have a very different view of the world. Don’t let anyone stop you.
Irish-born: Try to to understand why we call ourselves Irish. Try to understand how little we may know. When we do ask dumb questions, please try to educate or advise, rather than abuse. That way you will be strengthening the diaspora, spreading knowledge instead of misinformation, correcting misconceptions, contributing to her “exaltation among the nations”. These people have a calling for their Irish heritage Please don’t discourage them.

Our thanks go out to Kevin Rooney for this fascinating article. Hopefully it will help educate those that make disparaging remarks about the foreign born Irish. A 2nd generation Mayo American Irish writer and musician living in Queens, New York. You can hear more from Kevin over at the Irish History 1916 through to 1923 and Everything Irish Facebook pages where he is an admin. Kevin also contributed to the Happy Birthday Mr Bob book, a celebration of Bob Dylan’s 80th Birthday, with submissions from Irish poets, writers, singers, songwriters, artists, photographers and an eclectic mix of admirers!

ALBUM REVIEW: SWAINN – ‘Under A Willow Tree’ (2021)

The third album from Arizona based Swainn (also known as Cockswain). Sunburnt Celtic-Rock sealed by Punk-Rock energy and desert heat.

Sitting here in a big jumper with a icy droplet hanging off the end of me nose trying to escape the bitter cold it’s hard to imagine a world where people listen to Celtic-Punk all year round in t-shirts and shorts but we Irish are a travelling race and we are everywhere! What those first Irish settlers thought when they first washed up in Arizona we can only imagine but it may have been along the lines of “phew” ! So it is that wherever you go you’re always guaranteed to find a Irish pub and more than likely a band inside it.

Swainn left to right: Mandy LubkingFiddle, Backing Vocals * Neil Ward – Vocals, Acoustic / Electric Guitar * Brian DailyDrums * Wake LubkingBanjo, Backing Vocals *

It’s not uncommon for Celtic-Punk bands to trace their origins back to St. Patrick’s Day. The lure of a bit of cash (or free drinks!) must seem appealing and many seem to enjoy it so much so that one or two offs become four or five and eventually become permanent. Well nine years on from their humble openings around the pubs of Tucson and marathon three hour sets at packed pubs throughout the wider Phoenix area it’s now time for Swainn’s third album. They have appeared on these pages before back in 2017, when known as Cockswain, with a review of their second album ‘For The Whiskey’, a follow up to their debut album ‘Seamus’ in 2014. Taking the well worn route of mixing originals and Irish standards their audiences soon grew alongside many successful festival appearances but the appeal for a musician is always to play your own material and that is where they are now with Under A Willow Tree. As Neil says “we started out as a scruffy sea shanty Irish band who wrote drinking songs, and we’ve come so far”.

The title of the album Under A Willow Tree represents for the band symbolism, myth and history. As fiddle player Mandy explains

“The Willow itself has Celtic symbolic origins, the tree really represents a lot of synchronicity for us, because Neil regular references nature in the lyrics. When we were settling on the title, I was studying mandolin techniques online one night, and the video was set to none other than ‘Bury Me Beneath Willow’ by Woody Guthrie. It was meant to be.”

The album kicks off with ‘Voices’ and for those this side of the pond it has certain resonance with English band Mick O’Toole. Fast and heavy with the banjo pushed hard into the mix and Neil’s vocals growling out at you. A grand opening and while I may have made it sound like like some sort of Celtic Napalm Death it has that undeniable accessibility that any generation could warm to. Next up is the album’s lead single ‘Bag O’ Bones’ and sometimes a press release can get a wee bit too flowery

“I was reading a bunch of Ram Dass, he was a psychedelic Buddhist teacher who moved on to another plane. ‘Bag o’ Bones’ is basically your body in a sense. Your spirit is anchored down until you pass on. That’s what the song references.”

God alone knows how I would have described it otherwise! ‘In The Morning’ began life as a straight up drinking song before becoming about mental health and depression and sadly I’m not sure anyone knows more about the sad connection between the two as the Irish and yet ones of my generation still worship the grain. Great banjo from Wake here and a real thigh slapper before ‘Take Action’ whish begins in a trad Folk style before mixing in some bluegrass style while making a simple statement without ramming it home thank Heavens. The mention of Bluegrass is quite as apt as the acoustic  ‘Home’ takes it to the next level with a song that could almost come from another era. You know after that we are due a stormer and we get it in ‘Let’s Get Loose’. A quick and jaunty trip with lots of gang shouts and a right royal rowdy Celtic Folk knees up. ‘Sink Or Float’ is a bit more on the poppier side of things but still unquestionably just as catchy while telling us of the journey of outcasts.

“I sing Danny Boy and the Rose Of Tralee cannot deny the rebel in me”

‘Fairwinds’ is more traditional Celtic-Punk sounding not so far off Flogging Molly at their best. A uplifting number with great banjo and fiddle. A “raucous fight song meant to kick everybody’s ass” according to Neil. One of the things here that makes Under A Willow Tree a cut above most Celtic-Punk albums is the quality of the songwriting and ‘Up On The Mountain’ is a perfect example. Celtic-Punk should, in common with Celtic-Folk, be about story telling. There is no other genre that could ever get you jigging about to a song about famine dying of hunger or alcoholism or despair! 

“I hope people have a good time when they listen to us or see us live, that’s always the goal for us.”

We washing up to the end and time for another slower number in ‘Brand New Day’ before the album ends with the fantastic piss taking ‘Another Drinking Song’ where the band take the mickey out of themselves in what could be described as ‘classic Celtic-Punk’.

(‘Another Drinking Song’ live at The Tucson Celtic Festival and Scottish Highland Games, Tucson, AZ in November 2018)

One thing I know is that whenever I have been anywhere hot I always get a urge to go sit somewhere cool where cold drinks are readily available so if the folks from Swainn are anything like me this is where they find their inspiration! On Under A Willow Tree we find Swainn moving away from the “scruffy sea shanty Irish drinking songs” that they began with but still staying true to the traditions they come from but trying something more sophisticated.

Buy Under A Willow Tree  Here

Contact Swainn  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

( A live stream from last St. Patrick’s Day direct from the Swainn garage for the Phoenix Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library Phoenix Virtual Concert)

NEW SINGLE ‘2 Birds’ FROM BRYAN McPHERSON

Not many folk have featured on these pages as much as Bryan McPherson has. To say we are fans is a massive understatement. Bryan’s new single landed yesterday and he celebrated after the video release with a ‘Live Stream’ show.

Been waiting for this for the last few weeks the new single from London Celtic Punks favourite Bryan McPherson. It’s two years now since fiery, Folk-playing, Irish-American blue-collar native of Boston Bryan put out the album Kings Corner and he has recently announced the release of a new album How To Draw Everything for early 2022. Produced by Ted Hutt (who makes another regular appearance on here!) and with several top-notch guest musicians including ex-Dropkick Murphys’ Marc Orrell on mandolin and a load of other instruments as well, Dustbowl Revival’s drummer Josh Heffernan, violinist Chris Murphy and Ted Hutt again on bass and percussion.

“How To Draw Everything isn’t just Bryan’s latest record; it’s a whole new beginning for him as an artist. On the meditative “2 Birds,” he muses, “There’s something about the sky that makes me grateful to be alive.” From the perspective of age comes a spiritual death of what was, and in its place, a re-discovering of peace, country, and self are found. Hope finally outweighs despair and can be reclaimed, like a child wondering at the seeds of a dandelion. Bryan defies us to admit hope was there all along.”  – Aaron Carnes

A simple search for Bryan through this site will throw up a list of reviews and other articles into the double digits. So where to start? With nearly every artist I can think of I would never dream of suggesting someone start with the new (let alone unreleased!) material but for Bryan I would. That’s about the highest compliment you could pay ant musician I think. Yeah go ahead and definitely check out his back catalogue (it’s brilliant!)  but be sure to keep a beady eye out for that new album when it comes out.

Pre-Save ‘2 Birds’ on Apple Music, Spotify, and More

Contact Bryan McPherson  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube 

How To Draw Everything – Digital Release, CD, and Double LP Coming in early 2022

COUNTRY ROADS: THE GENTLEMEN Vs. THE CLOVERHEARTS

Two bands from completely different places and era’s pay homage to the late great John Denver with their version of his classic track ‘Country Roads’ done Celtic-Punk.

Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze.
*
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home, country roads.

A long time ago now I came across a band on My Space (yes it was that long ago!) and even in the heyday of Celtic-Punk this really stood out. Fast, energetic, authentic Irish-American Celtic-Punk and while most bands talked up The Clash and The Pogues, The Gentlemen took their inspiration from Sham 69 and the Cockney Rejects and The Wolfe Tones! If I can be forgiven for saying they stood head and shoulders above everything the rest the scene had to offer. I think by then they had already split up but they did leave behind two fantastic records in a full length album Stick To Your Guns and an album of early recordings imaginative titled Greatest Hits.

(Both releases are compiled below on the Bandcamp player along with a couple of extra tracks for **FREE** download) 

A 9 (yes nine!) piece band from Morgantown in West Virgina it was perhaps inevitable they would turn their hand to John Denver’s classic song but it was with the video that people really sat up and took notice. Capturing the spirit of working class Irish-America they are a band that has never in the intervening years been off my stereo. Over the years we have tried to get in touch with The Gentlemen but to no avail so if anyone knows them send them over.

So it is that almost thirteen years later one of the current leading lights of the Celtic-Punk scene turns their hand to ‘Country Roads’ too. The Cloverhearts formed when Aussie Sam and Italian Chiara first met at a Rumjacks show in Manhattan, New York fresh from Chiara’s departure from fellow Italian Celtic-Punkers, The Clan. Soon joined by guitarist JJ, bassist Stefano and drummer Christian The Cloverhearts have not been slow at releasing new music onto the scene and along with some high profile support slots their rise has been meteorically and they have become one of the Celtic-Punk scenes bands to watch.

With a sound that veers off from Celtic to Ska to Punk and back to Ska again The Cloverhearts are that new breed of Celtic-Punk bands that don’t feel confined by trad Celtic / Irish Folk and just play the music that they want to. They have an new single out next week called ‘Thorn In My Side’ that you can pre-order from here: https://show.co/WHlE5cm

Ironically though the country roads in this song are set in West Virginia, John Denver had never ever set foot in West Virginia! Co-writers and married couple Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert were driving along Clopper Road in Montgomery County, Maryland when the song formed. Later that night they played with Denver and between the three of them wrote the song with Denver saying afterwards he instantly knew it was a hit. It  peaked at #2 in the Billboard US charts on release in 1971 and since has gone on to become John Denver’s most iconic song with it being adopted as one of the state anthems of West Virginia and is the theme song of West Virginia University where it has been played at every home football game since 1972.

EXCLUSIVE! FREE DOWNLOAD OF THE GOBSHITES NEW SINGLE ‘America’

The casual Celtic-Punk fan may not be aware of Boston Irish band The Gobshites but for obsessives like us they are one of the leading Celtic-Punk bands out there. Time to change that and get these Bhoys the love and respect they deserve.

FREE DOWNLOAD 

It was back in 2002 Boston Irish-American punk rocker Pete Walsh, then the lead singer and rhythm guitar player for punk band Meat Depressed, decided he wanted to start up an Irish band. Within a few weeks The Gobshites were up and running and were even supporting New York Irish legends Black 47 in their first gig. The band has seen many line up changes over the years but every now and then they manage to stick together long enough to release some of the best records in Celtic-Punk history. Debut album, When The Shite Hits The Fans, instantly struck a chord in the American-Irish community and led to them playing all over the northeastern United States as well as the renowned Shamrockfest in Washington DC. That year they even famously played on a float on the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade! Two more albums, Get Bombed and Another Round, came in quick succession then a wee gap before Songs Me Da Got Pissed To and the official live bootleg Poitin. They continued to play intermittently leading up to The Whistle Before the Snap in 2017 which featured Ritchie Ramone on drums and which, for the first time, consisted of solely Gobshites penned songs. Since then things have slowed down leading to the release of All The Best, a Gobshites greatest hits album that I never tire of recommending to anyone. The Gobshites never give up though and just recently we have seen a return to form with a cover of the House Of Pain classic ‘Jump Around’ (almost… yes almost, as good as the original!) and now a cover of the Neil Diamond classic ‘America’. Gobshites singer Pete Walsh has also turned his hand to producing and is responsible for the release earlier this year of what is planned to be a series of albums in tribute to seminal American-Irish band Black 47. The first After Hours compilation came out earlier this year and features several of the scenes best or upcoming bands. Well worth checking out.

Far
We’ve been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star
Free
Only want to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to a dream

On the boats and on the planes
They’re coming to America
Never looking back again
They’re coming to America

Home, don’t it seem so far away
Oh, we’re traveling light today
In the eye of the storm
In the eye of the storm

Home, to a new and a shiny place
Make our bed, and we’ll say our grace
Freedom’s light burning warm
Freedom’s light burning warm

Everywhere around the world
They’re coming to America
Every time that flag’s unfurled
They’re coming to America

Got a dream to take them there
They’re coming to America
Got a dream they’ve come to share
They’re coming to America

They’re coming to America
They’re coming to America
They’re coming to America
They’re coming to America
Today, today, today, today, today

My country ’tis of thee
Today
Sweet land of liberty
Today
Of thee I sing
Today
Of thee I sing
Today

‘America’ was written by Neil Diamond and first appeared in the movie musical The Jazz Singer in 1980 and tells the story of a young Jewish man played by Diamond who is torn between tradition and pursuing his dreams as a pop singer. The film ends with Diamonds character Yussel Rabinovitch now known as Jess Robin (“and they never even got so far that they could change our names”) performing ‘America’ in a spellbinding end to a rather unremarkable film. The song tells of the history of immigration to the United States and is no doubt a tribute to Brooklyn born Diamond’s own family who emigrated out of poverty and discrimination from Russia and Poland but also the untold thousands who came to America in similar circumstances to make a better life for themselves and their children.

Get your **FREE** download of America below. Only until November 18th.

HERE

Contact The Gobshites  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube  Twitter  LastFM

ALBUM REVIEW: HOLD FAST – ‘Last Of The Rebels’ (2021)

No easy task keeping the tricolour flying for Pennsylvania’s large Irish community but Hold Fast do just that. Whether tales of the sea, songs of whiskey, or lessons on love and life. Back with the follow up to their debut album three years ago Hold Fast provide more rowdy Celtic-Punk and Irish Folk.

Hold Fast can get a rebellion started and keep it going long into the early morning! 

In this day and age we have easy access to music of all kinds and as you can imagine we get plenty of new music here at London Celtic Punks. So much in fact that sometimes I can find myself listening to nothing but new releases for days on end. Saying that some ‘older’ album’s do stand out and one of them has been Hold Fast’s debut album, Black Irish Sons, which I have revisited many a time in the years since it came out.

“moments of fast punk rock and slow and gentle ballads mixed together to make an album that is laid out perfectly and at a ideal pace. The bands Irish roots are stamped all over things and they may look to the past of the Tones, Clancy’s and Dub’s but are not stuck there and have added their own stamp to everything they do.”

Black Irish Sons was universally well received at the time sitting just outside the London Celtic Punks Best Album Of 2018 top ten in #12 and finishing Top Ten for both Paddyrock and Celtic Folk Punk And More. So with the winds at their back they continued doing what they do playing regularly around their home state until the Covid lockdowns and things were put on hold. The recent appearance of Last Of the Rebels signifies two things to me. The triumphant return of Hold Fast and the return also of (even if just a little) a normal life.

Founded in 2016 in the state capital of Harrisburg Hold Fast are but part of a flourishing local Celtic-Punk scene along with the mighty Kilmaine Saints, Bastard Bearded Irishmen, Punkabillys, Lucky Lad Green and The Tradesmen the best known and all of whom have featured on these pages at one time or another. The Irish make up the State’s second biggest ancestry group at just under 20% (#1 is German) but in many places that rises to over 40% and so there’s a very good reason for such a wealth of Celtic-Punk bands alongside the State’s many traditional Irish Folk acts.

So can Last Of The Rebels compete with Black Irish Sons or not is the question? The first thing I noticed is the number of tracks on their debut was a bog standard ten but here the album stretches to fourteen songs and lasts just under a hour. That’s a risky thing with peoples attention spans not being what they were and especially in Celtic-Punk where we all accept that the best place to hear the music is down the pub in the company of others rather than sitting at home. The album kicks off with ‘Silver Shamrock’ and while I was expecting a ditty based around the unforgettable theme tune from Halloween 3 it turns out to be a rocking Paddy-Punk bagpipe heavy tribute to the Silver Shamrock tattoo parlour run by a horror mad Irishman. Not the blazing opener I was hoping for but a good toe-tapper singalong and anyway ‘Three Can Keep A Secret’ supplies the rowdiness next and it’s top quality Piratey Punk. Cole’s vocals are just the right side of raspy here, strong and powerful. Not quite Tom Waits but Shane-ish compared to most. Glad also to see our auld mate Mike McNaughton has joined the cast here since the album’s release on drums too.

Title track ‘Last Of The Rebels’ was the first single from the album and came out with a rather uninspiring video but these guys don’t have time to get all artsy-farty and the video did it’s job in letting us all know that Hold Fast had lost none of their spunk in the intervening years. Hold Fast keep the covers to a minimum and concentrate on their own material like ‘Magh Meall & Tir Nan Nog’ a Punky, fast and furious (the shortest song here) modern sea-shanty. On past experience the ballad holds no fear for Hold Fast and Cole’s vocal range can more than handle it and so they show on ‘Prodigal Sun’. A outstanding song with some great writing too. They follow this up with a dark and foreboding short instrumental ‘Gentlemen And Rogues’ which more than tips it’s cap at legendary Irish act Horslips. ‘The Sails Are On Fire’ takes us on another nautical voyage which even includes some nice brass instruments. The challenge from piper Jon was to find the Tuba and if I had to guess than I’d say it was here. Of all the American sports I think it is Baseball that we over this side of the Atlantic don’t get the most. As far as I’m aware its the sport of choice for the working-class American and especially the Irish-American working class. As an aside I live about a 20 minute walk from where the first ever Baseball game was played! Still I just don’t get it but I’m happy and willing to agree that it’s more than just a American version of Rounders! ‘The Ballad Of Joe Savery’ is next and when I looked up the name I found local Philadelphia sporting idol Joe Savery but on listening to the song it has bugger all to do with him and is another superb tribute to sailors.

‘To Davey Jones’ tells of the well worn metaphor (Davy Jones Locker) for the bottom of the sea where the souls of drowned sailors dwell and shipwrecks lay consigned to the depths of the ocean. Jon puts down the pipes to concentrate on accordion duties and another great song of the sea. When the Yuppies were doing their sea-shanty impersonations a while ago on Tik-Tok I never seen one that you could even compare to this. Time for another crowd pleaser and ‘Brody’s Lament’ gives them that. A great singalong chorus and plenty of thigh slapping Country infused elements here to enjoy. One thing missing so far has been a proper overt Irish rebeller and they don’t disappoint with a great version of the famed Wolfe Tones track ‘Erin Go Bragh’. On Black Irish Sons they performed another Tones song ‘Big Strong Man’ that they absolutely owned and is well worth checking out. Here named simply ‘The Erin Go Bragh Suite’

“I’ll sing you a song of a row in the town
When the Green flag went up and the Crown flag came down
Twas the neatest and sweetest thing ever you saw
And they played the great game they call Erin Go Bragh”

The song is about the events that took place during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and was written by Peadar Kearney, who also wrote the Irish national anthem. At almost 10 (ten!) minutes it can definitely be described as the album’s epic and as I hinted earlier never outlives it’s welcome. Played slow and purposeful before half way through a sudden surge into life and a Punky Celtic-Punk tale of the ‘boys’ taking on the Tans in county Cork and wiping out the whole ‘f**king lot’. Well worthy of being called epic it’s the album  standout track and shows Hold Fast cramming every element that makes up Celtic-Punk into one song. We are treated to another great cover next as the album comes to an end. ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ is a Scottish Folk song that is perhaps best known as played by Irish acts like The Pogues and The Dubliners ( and indeed The Pogues And The Dubliners) and this is a perfect example of how to play a popular standard. Take it and inject it with some energy and passion and some of yourselves too. ‘Raise Your Glass’ takes us back to where we all like to be- the pub before the curtain comes down with the final track and ‘Slán’. Irish for goodbye Hold Fast say goodbye with a gang-vocal cover of ‘Raise Your Glass’ accompanied on piano before a few seconds of silence before the bonus track and I’ll say no more and leave it to you to find out.

(The Hold Fast set from the Paddyrock Live Stream fiesta from this years St. Patrick’s Day)

So an absolutely outstanding album from the Hold Fast Bhoys. To be honest I was never in any doubt, These guys have the spirit of Irish-America flowing through them and seem to know exactly what the community (and it’s friends) want. This is a great record but sadly for many of us we will never get to experience it in it’s ideal environment. Why the public house of course!

(You can stream / download Last Of The Rebels on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Last Of The Rebels  FromTheBand  Bandcamp

Contact Hold Fast  WebSite  OfficialShop  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp

THE DUNES

What happened when Shane MacGowan met Ronnie Drew back in the ’90s? Well, a few things happened, but here’s one thing ye might not know about. Let’s take a trip back through time, but not one that will bore you.

Back in the day, Ronnie Drew was makin’ a solo record called Dirty Rotten Shame. He was short of a few songs, so he contacted the ol’ legend himself, Shane MacGowan. Shane sent him a song he’d written, called The Dunes.

Like most of MacGowan’s work, it’s a beautiful piece of music, and it shines a light on the ugly side of life. On one of Ireland’s toughest times. The Famine of 1845-52.

The Potato Famine. A terrible blow to the Irish population.

The Great Hunger

I walked today on the cold grey shore
Where I watched when I was much younger
Where they built the dunes upon the sand
For the dead from The Great Hunger.

Those are the first lines Ronnie sings in the song. It sets the scene of the terrible famine of 1845 to 1852, caused by a potato blight. The Irish, especially the working class, were heavily dependent on the potato, often eating 5 kilos a day. So the Famine struck right at the heart of their livelihood.

Ultimately, a quarter of Ireland’s population was either wiped out, or left to find a home elsewhere. This is what Shane writes and Ronnie sings about in the song, almost like they were there. More to the point, Shane was, when he was 18 or 19. “I was up near Louisburgh in Co. Mayo, and I heard the story about people burying their dead on the beach, during the Famine times,” the singer said once. “The place was eerie, all these bones lying about. I’ll never forget it.”

And Shane didn’t forget. Just listen to the line, “the children kicked the sand about, and the bones they are revealed, then”, and there’s your proof.

Shane at his best

  Despite being about such a grim topic, The Dunes showcases MacGowan at his finest. While it’s hard to pick out the best lines Shane’s ever written, I particularly like the penultimate verse, which goes like this: 

A crack of lightning split the sky 
The rain on the dunes, it poured 
I left them lying where I shot them down 
The bailiff and the landlord 
Then I went for a drink in Westport. 

  He’s had his problems, but Shane is a fucking genius. And the “Westport” line is the only moment of hope in the song. The only moment where the narrator seems to hint at a normal life, like going for a drink in the pub. Sadly, it’s also a strong reminder of the part of Ireland that was hit the hardest by the great hunger. 

  It was the West, and the South, that copped the worst of it. Many of those who died were Catholics, as referenced by the “rosary” line earlier in the song. And one of the truly tragic factors about it all was the soup kitchens. These were set up to provide relief to the starving poor, and it did help. But since the kitchens were Protestant, and Catholics were sometimes reluctant to go in case they got converted, we’ll never know how many people died out of fear of losing their religion.

Shane and Ronnie. A pair o’ legends.

Busting a myth

 Most of what I know about the Famine was written in a book by Joseph Coohill. His father was an Irish-American, and Coohill is a respected academic. His book Ireland: A Short History is informative without being hard to follow. Also, to Coohill’s credit, the book is fair to the Nationalist and to the Unionist sides. It’s fair to the Irish, but portrays the British in a factual light too. 

  That brings me on to something. The myth you’ll sometimes hear is that the Famine was entirely the fault of the British. While it’s a popular myth, it’s not completely true. The Quakers, and even Queen Victoria, donated a shitload of money, to try and stem the impact of the Famine. Robert Peel was PM when the Famine started, and he genuinely tried to help, but was stabbed in the back by his own government. They didn’t want him importing cheap food from abroad, even though people in Ireland were already starving to death. Sometimes it was the rich Irish landlords and bailiffs who turfed the starving people out of their homes, and effectively “stole their grain”, like it says in The Dunes

 If you’re looking for people in Britain who cocked things right up, try the following: 

  1. Peel’s successor, PM John Russell. He believed in economics, rather than fixing an agricultural problem. 
  1. The scientists appointed by PM Peel to investigate the Famine. They disregarded a specialist’s opinion that the potato blight was caused by a fungus (which it was). 
  1. The arrogant people among the British, who believed the Famine was “sent by God to punish the Irish”. So much for love thy neighbour. Ireland was part of the UK at the time, so why didn’t more people look out for them? 
  1. Charles Trevelyan, treasurer to PM John Russell. Trevelyan was slow to give the Irish any kind of proper aid, and he also believed in the God-punishing-the-Irish crap. A poor treasurer and economist if ever there was one. 

The takeaway

  As Ronnie returns to the opening verse of The Dunes to finish, he sings about a man walking on the same shores where he witnessed the horrors of the Famine as a young boy. That implies that the Famine may have passed, but that it lives in the hearts and minds of the people connected with it. There’s a lesson to be learned in life, then. And that lesson is this: do what you can to help others. As human beings, we can’t work miracles. But we can all do something or other to make a difference. 

  It could be doing a Ferocious Dog and organising a food bank at a music venue. It could be raising money for, or donating money to the homeless, as I’ve done in the past and still do. It could even be as simple as looking out for folks during the terrible COVID-19 pandemic. In a world where ordinary people can feel powerless, let’s all do a little bit to make it a better, more humane place. 

Listen to The Dunes HERE.  Or, you can watch an old video of Ronnie singing it HERE

R.I.P. Ronnie, we love ya x

Andy

1916’S BILL CHATS WITH LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ABOUT THE BANDS LATEST ALBUM

Upstate NY, Celtic rockers 1916 are an explosive concoction of modern Irish Folk, Punk and Psychobilly which makes 1916’s sound both highly original and at the same time traditional! A band that truly stands apart from other bands in the Celtic-Punk genre.

Our man Raymond Lloyd Ball caught up with lead singer and songwriter Bill Herring to talk about the band’s origins and their highly rated latest album Revolutions.

So here’s the story. 1916 is a band from Rochester, NY, about 45 minutes from where I am in Buffalo. We’ll touch on it, but this region of New York State was a place where, in the 1850s-1860s many Irish immigrants made their way from New York City or Boston. Obviously, the name “1916” needs no explanation. I was able to get an interview with Bill Herring, singer and guitarist in the band about the latest album “Revolutions” and the general gist of the scene as is.

Ray: First of all, we get the prominence of the name 1916, but what in the community in Rochester gave you guys both the incentive and the ability to put together the group and really make it work?

Bill: Well the “working” of 1916 is always something I consider to be a work in progress. Always evolving, changing with the times.

The name came about as a result of a healthy respect for Irish history and as a desire to get Americans interested in their own shared past. When we first started the group there were many many people who had no idea what “1916” stood for or what the significance of the name was. We always try to respect that history in our songs whenever we can-with undertones of revolution and forging your own path throughout the vibe of the music. That being said we do try to have some fun with it as well, with a songs like Ordinary Man and Khaleesi.

Rochester and most of central/western NY state is heavily steeped in a rich history of Irish culture. You’d be hard pressed to stumble through a post colonial churchyard west of Syracuse without finding Irish names on half the headstones. That rebel spirit has revealed itself in the existence of the Molly McGuires in the 1800’s and later on the Hibernians as time passed. I’m sure you even probably heard of the Fenian raids of post civil war Buffalo into British owned Canada in hopes of seizing a new Ireland. Now I’d be lying if I said we did name the band with all this in mind…but maybe it was all this history that led us to inevitably choose that name. I will say there is a quote from Dave King of Flogging Molly, where he talks on the Whiskey on a Sunday film they released several years ago. He mentions growing up in Ireland and seeing the young men of Dublin falling into a life of war with the IRA, and that there must be a higher form of communication to let people know what is happening over there. The only thought I had after hearing that was that-through intense, super fun music, you could engage people enough to get them interested in learning about this past…and how it affects the present day situation between Ireland and the USA.

Ray: Awesome answer, I’m AOH Myself.

Bill: As am I…

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is an Irish/Catholic fraternal group that does everything from charitable work to commemorations of things such, as Bill mentioned, the Fenian Raids from Buffalo to then British Canada. As a member from here, we hold an annual ceremony to the raids and to those who gave their lives for the cause of Irish independence.

Ray: So, given that history, how do you feel it’s important to incorporate modern music in a way that’s different then the traditional sessions you here at every other pub?  I know you incorporate modern instrumentation while still harkening to topics that are either old in premise, modern, or similar (I’m thinking of a man you don’t meet everyday) and make it fresh?

Bill: Yes I think it’s important, at least for 1916, to provide a bridge between Irish traditional music and American folk/rock music. Even early county music has its roots steeped in Irish and Scottish music. That’s really the sound we’re going for. An American band that pays tribute to our immigrant cultural heritage.

Ray: Lastly, in terms of Revolutions, that came out just at the end of last year if I’m not mistaken. How on earth did you cut a record, and a good one at that, during the pandemic?  How how did that effect the process 1916 has either writing or recording?  Obviously “When We Reopen” is directly about it, but did anything else about the pandemic change the record?

Bill: The record wasn’t really about the pandemic. We actually wrote all of those songs (except for When we Reopen) well before any of this craziness ever happened. If anything there was a palpable vibe that I felt during the writing of those songs that you could feel out on the streets. People were edgy…combative. It felt like something bad was about to happen. The song that most mirrors that I think is The Falling. I wanted to write a song about my observations on the devolution of humanity in the face of our own technological achievements. Then I saw how bad things really could get the following year with the plague and the riots.
We recorded that record, mostly, with Bob Schmidt – (formerly of Flogging Molly) at the engineers booth along with our trusted friend Doug White, owner of Watchmen Studios in Lockport NY.
Having missed two consecutive St Patrick’s Days now, we are still trying to save up enough money to release the album on disc. I think people don’t realize how hard the shutdowns were on bands like ours. It was a tough tough time and I hope this bullshit is over soon.

Ray: That said, “Revolutions” is a solid record. I’ve been listening to it on and off for some time now. It’s got the classic 1916 vibe, upright bass, classic (though I’m definitely biased) Gretsch guitars, and a handful of traditional instruments with a solid kit. Is it reinventing the wheel?  No. And better for it. We’ve all come a long way since The Pogues and earlier, more brash bagpipes-over-Minor Threat-style Celtic Punk. And there have been a number of bigger and smaller acts that have definitely left their mark upon the scene. They take some rockabilly, some punk, and a lot of Celt to make a fine Irish/American blend. Cheers to the guy from down the I-90.

Buy Revolutions  Amazon  Apple

Contact 1916  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  Bandcamp  YouTube

Thanks to Raymond Lloyd Ball. He has already featured on these pages as the driving force behind The Fighting 69th from Buffalo. The review of his 2-volume set of Dropkick Murphys covers was one of the most viewed of that year. One of the most prolific and diverse artists in the Celtic-Punk scene we are proud to have Raymond on board the London Celtic Punks team. Writer, artist, musician he is a credit to the American-Irish community and you can find a wealth of his material available at his Bandcamp site.

During the lockdown 1916 played several full concert live streams, as well as some great solo performances from Bill himself. Here’s just under two hours of 1916 from this years St. Patrick’s Day live stream performance. I can barely remember it through a fog of stouts and ales though I know I must have woke the neighbours! The music starts at nineteen minutes.

IT’S A NEW FLOGGING MOLLY SONG !

A band that need no introduction! 

FLOGGING MOLLY

We spotted a new song that appeared on You Tube a couple of days ago. Flogging Molly are one of the two BIG Celtic-Punk bands but do spend a lot of time in the Dropkick’s shadow due mainly to how busy the Murphys keep themselves. So it is that when we get a morsel we do tend to get over excited about it. Maybe that’s the same reason why Beth Schmit has labelled it ‘Coffee Boy’ rather than ‘Croppy Boy’! Only joking Beth thanks for uploading.

No other information on where / when it was recorded but they are currently on a co-headline tour in the States with the Violent Femmes so it must have been on one of them. Maybe someone can confirm?

The phrase ‘Croppy Boy’ dates back to the late 1700’s and the fashion at the time among the aristocracy was to wear powdered wigs (think series 3 of Blackadder) and revolutionaries in Ireland followed the lead of their friends in France by shunning these wigs. These young men cropped their hair instead and were often found to be associated with the patriotic Society of United Irishmen. Because of this they were often picked up by the British authorities for interrogation. This interrogation was more akin to torture as the use of flogging, picketing and half-hanging was commonplace . As was the horrific use of pitchcapping, or An Caip Bháis in Irish, which was the act of pouring hot tar into a paper cap which was then placed onto the suspect’s head, let cool and then ripped off taking with it skin and tissue. This was used specifically against the Croppies but they retaliated by cropping the hair of their enemies making it harder to identify people and their sympathies.

ALBUM REVIEW: RAISE YOUR PINTS. CELTIC- PUNK SAMPLER. VOLUME 6 – VARIOUS ARTISTS (2021)

From the scene. For the scene.

After months of planning, organising and fund-raising the compilation album Raise Your Pints #6 has finally been delivered. Twenty bands from eleven countries celebrating (might be the wrong word- editor) the virus lockdowns in Celtic-Folk-Punk style. 

Anyone remember the original Celtic-Punk samplers from Shite’n’Onions? I think they stretched to three volumes and came at a time when I had never been on the internet. Yes I was one of the select few who never even had a MySpace account! So to come across these samplers with upwards of twenty  bands on and pretty much all new to me (even the English ones) was eye-opening… or should that be ear-opening? Them days are long ago and we can thank Shite’n’Onions for being early pioneers of the Celtic-Punk sampler though they have long passed the baton onto MacSlon’s Irish Radio. Now in their 11th year the radio station brings out the best in Celtic-Rock, Celtic-Punk and trad Irish Folk both modern and ancient(!). They have also for the last few years been a major player on the merchandise front organizing merch for a whole host of bands from across mainland Europe and even the United States.

This is the 6th in the Raise Your Pints series and all the songs have been written and recorded over the last 16 months while the Corona virus has done it’s best to wreck the music industry. We are yet to see what long term damage the lockdown have caused but already here in London, and across England, many music venues have closed their doors permanently and several bands have handed in their guitar straps. The thirst for live music though seems at a all time high but bands are still finding it difficult to book gigs and tours with so much uncertainty around about whether or not the lockdown will return.

So the arrival of Raise Your Pints #6 is to applauded for many reasons but chiefly among them is that the bands will directly benefit from the sales of the CD and with not much else going on it’s a chance for them to remind their fans and followers that they are still here and still fighting.

Reviewing a compilation album is hard enough but one made up of different bands is even harder so I will forego the usual review and just tell you a small bit about each artist and song and link to them so they can tell you more. Of course the best way to find out more is to buy the album!!!

RAISE YOUR PINTS VOLUME 6

THE MULLINS (France) – ‘Part Of Me’

The album kicks off with The Mullins. Hailing from the south of France their song began life before the lockdown but the band took the opportunity to perfect it and even managed to get together inbetween lockdowns to record the cracking video!

THE CEILI FAMILY (Germany) – ‘Corona Chesay’

The album is perhaps a bit top heavy with German bands but that is totally understandable. They do have the #1 scene in Europe you know. The Ceili Family are one of the better known established bands. The band first stirred back in 1996 and even had a great recommendation from the late Philip Chevron: “Enjoyed listening to the CD, by the way. Always good to see people doing something of their own with the basic idea we invented!”

THE FEELGOOD McLOUDS (Germany) – ‘Dirty Bastards’

More Germans here with The Feelgood McLouds formed in January 2015 southwestern Germany. More than any country in Europe the Germans have embraced Celtic-Punk with the number of bands, gigs and fans far outstripping anywhere else this side of the Atlantic. This track is taken from this years critically popular ‘Saints & Sinners’ EP.

GRASS MUD HORSE (China) ‘ Absent Friends’

Grass Mud Horse only seem to have around a year or two but already have more releases than many more well established bands. Formed when Scouse-Irish musician Chris Barry mover to China the band has had some set backs with members coming and going because of the virus (they are based in Wuhan) but luckily things have settled down and they recently recorded a single with yer man Frankie McLoughlin.

UNCLE BARD AND THE DIRTY BASTARDS (Italy) – ‘Back On Your Feet’

From playing with ALL the Celtic-Punk superstars to headlining festivals across Europe and even getting to the United States several times Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards are without a doubt one of the select few you could describe as ‘Premier League’ Celtic-Punk bands. ‘Back On Your Feet’ is one of the standout tracks from last years album Men Behind The Glass that the Bhoys have recorded an acoustic version for here. One of many great Celtic-Punk highlights during the lockdown was the Bastards hour long acoustic live stream. Brilliant!

JACK IN THE GREEN (Germany) – ‘Old Maui’

Yeah we may have all heard it a 100 times by now but popular covers are popular for a reason. That we never tire of hearing them! Hamburg’s Jack In The Green play a great acoustic version rather than the ‘choir/acapello’ type I’m more use to hearing. Vocals remind me a lot of from The Whisky Priests who in their day were massive so wonder if they were an influence here. 

THE MOORINGS (France) – ‘Champion At Keeping It Rolling’

Cracking version of the Ewan MacColl penned classic about lorry driving from French band The Moorings. Formed in 2011 the band have released several albums and EP’s a Folky version of this song appears on their debut EP Pints & Glory but they have re-recorded it in proper Celtic-PUNK style here. They have just completed a successful crowd-funding campaign for a new album so can’t wait for that.

JOHNNY HASH (Ireland) – ‘Ride On’

Johnny Hash is a bunch of people from various Belfast bands who got together during the lockdown and released a few videos of Irish Folk classics. Christy Moore’s ‘Ride On’ was their first attempt at a video. Still knocking them out months later let’s hope they develop into something more permanent.

THE RUMPLED (Italy) – ‘If I Should Fall from Grace With God’

The Pogues track gets an airing here from the Italian band The Rumpled. Hard to compete with the originals but gutsy to try and they give it a great go. A relatively new band having got together in 2013 in Trento, Italy. Known for fast paced Celtic-Punk, combining Irish Folk, Rock, Ska and Punk. They have a new album out at any moment so watch this space for news on that.

MEDUSAS WAKE (Australia) – War Of Independence

The debut album from Sydney based Celtic-Folk-Rockers Medusa’s Wake hit the top spots in all of 2018’s Celtic-Punk medias yearly ‘best of’s’ and since then they have gone from strength to strength. Writted by Tipperary born Eddie Lawlor, he sings from the heart of the war back home between 1919 and 1921 against the British. Much of that war took part in the fields and villages of the ‘Premier County’ and those of us with Tipp backgrounds grew up hearing of the tales of heroic activities of those ordinary men who took on the worlds strongest army.

HELLRAISERS AND BEERDRINKERS (Germany) – ‘Stay At Home’

Hellraisers And Beerdrinkers may just have the best name in Celtic-Punk but they are a pretty shit-hot band as well. They take their name from a song by rockers Motorhead so should give you an idea about them! Another band that hails from Germany from the small town of Schwäbisch Gemünd. ‘Stay At Home’ is a re-recorded re-jigged new version of a song from their debut album Folk’s Gaudi in 2016.

AN SPIORAD (Germany) – ‘Carry Me Home’

German band that began life as a two-piece band “The Plästik Päddies” in 1997 before changing name to the far more complicated An Spiorad (Scots Gaelic for The Spirit). ‘Carry me Home’ is taken from their recent album Album Dord Na Mara.

SONS OF O’FLAHERTY (Brittany) – ‘The Pack’

More Celtic Celtic-Punk now from Vannes in Brittany Sons Of O’Flaherty formed as a duo in 2010 they soon fleshed out to a whole band due in no small part to the popularity of Irish music in this Celtic nation. ‘The Pack’ is a new song and with it being four years since the release of their last album The Road Not Taken hopefully this signifies some new sounds on the way.

NEVERMIND NESSIE (Belgium) – ‘Lock Him Up’

Formed in Belgium in 2009 Nevermind Nessie‘s track comes from this years EP Another Six Pack Of Drinking Songs that came out in March. A fast, raucous song about Donald Trump.

KILKENNY BASTARDS (Germany) – ‘Be A Bastard’

More bastards!! This time from Iserlohn in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Like many German bands their emphasis is on playing live such is the demand for their music so their recording output sometimes doesn’t match up with the age of the band. Kilkenny Bastards are one such band and we look forward to them rectifying this soon!

ALL THOSE EMPTY PUBS (Switzerland) – ’40 Days’

Based up in the Swiss alps ’40 Days’ was the debut release from All Those Empty Pubs (what a great name!) earlier this year. We loved it so much we ran a feature and a small interview with Diego the genius behind this one-man-band. Diego utilises all his talents here with mandolin, flute, acoustic guitar and even Hammond organ alongside your more usual Rock band instruments. It just don’t get more DIY than this.

RAPPAREES (Germany) – ‘Las Vegas (In The Hills Of Donegal)’

Another band from Hamburg Rapparees kicked off thirty years ago in the dive bars before changing their name. A straight up acoustic cover of the Goats Don’t Shave song. A ‘raparee’ was the name given to Irish soldiers who survived the Williamite war with the British in the 1690’s and used guerilla tactics or became highwaymen after the war ended.

LA STOATS (Germany) – ‘Raise Your Pints’

German band La Stoats come from Essenbach in Bavaria in the south-east of Germany and incorporate the traditional tunes and melodies of their Bavarian home into their brand of Celtic-Punk. ‘Raise Your Pints’ is one of the standout songs here with chugging guitar and a real cool early 80’s Punk Rock sound with some superb bagpipes. Definitely a band worth checking out.

MUIRSHEEN DURKIN (Germany) – ‘Riot’

The last of nine German bands on Raise Your Pints features one of the best Muirsheen Durkin And Friends. ‘Riot’ is a bloomin’ brilliant Celtic-Punk cover of a UK Subs song from 1997. The original is superb but here it is mastered with the energy intact and growling vocals and a core of Celtic instruments chugging along.

SEAN TOBIN (USA) – ‘St. Patrick’s Day Forever’

The last of the 20th songs belongs to New Jersey Irish singer/ songwriter Sean Tobin. Theirs 2 versions of ‘St’ Patrick’s Day Forever’ and I guess you could call this the ‘radio edit’. Blue-collar, working-class Irish American Folk music and one of the standout tracks on the album to bring down the curtain.

So that’s yer lot. There’s bound to be a load of bands here that you have never heard of. Some are new even to us and the styles of music is varied from Folk and trad right across to Punk but the songs are all totally accessible at all times. This (like the previous five volumes) is essential listening to all fans of Celtic-Punk and we cannot put it any clearer than that! Raise Your Pints #6 is out on July 9th and is available for pre-release order from the link below.

https://macslons-shop.com/v-a-raise-your-pints-vol-6-cd

ALBUM REVIEW: DROPKICK MURPHYS – ‘Turn Up The Dial’ (2021)

Now the dust has settled and everyone else has had a go and published their reviews of the latest Dropkick Murphys album ‘Turn Up The Dial’ it is our turn. We see our role here as to promote the little known bands in the Celtic-Punk scene but we have always got time for the ‘big-hitters’ too. We are pleased to have guest reviewer Rory Quinn of New York-Irish-Celtic-Punk band The Templars Of Doom to give us a unique insight of the album from a American-Irish perspective. 

The Bastion Bhoys of Boston do it again!

After a year like 2020 you have two options for your fans: wallow in the suffering, or present the world a reprieve. Dropkick Murphys have (wisely I feel) opted for the latter. Not particularly a surprise from a band that spent the pandemic raising money for others and offering live-streamed performances to keep people entertained. So before you listen you have to ask yourself? Am I ready to say “forget the nonsense, let’s crank the music!”

Anyway, let’s dive in!

Arrangement wise this album has hooks and riffs for days between the multiple instrumental melodies to the gang vocal chant of chorus’s urging you to sing along before you’ve even finished the first listen! This band is tight, the parts fleshed out, the vocals good and snarky. Really what more could you want from classic Celtic-punk?

The Dropkick Murphy’s have had the means to create sonically fantastic worlds on record for a while now and ‘Turn Up That Dial’ is no exception. Every facet is crystal clear from the roar of the guitars to the lightest folk instruments. What really draws me in is their ability to match the intensity of their legendary live performances. At points I completely lost track of the fact I was listening home alone. I would have sworn I was in the middle of a crowd cheerfully chanting as I picked up the lyric!

Speaking of lyrics DKM are known for a combination of comedic and heartfelt songs with ’Turn Up That Dial’ continuing that tradition. You’ve got classic self deprecating “Middle Finger” vs the longing/sorrow of “I Wish You Were Here.” And of course, the occasional grateful power song as found with the albums namesake. Without explaining every song to you dear reader I believe you’ll get the idea, it’s the DKM, they have a style they love and we love ‘em for it!

We are blessed to be living in an age where the internet allows access to Celtic-Punk from throughout the globe. It’s easy to forget that not long ago this wasn’t so. My first experience with Dropkick Murphys came in the late 90’s. A cousin of mine HAD to show me this new record he got, one that combined Punk with our Irish heritage. I didn’t believe it until I heard it, and my life changed from the first riff. Being Irish was something that (as an American) was celebrated by my family and not much else. Sure the St. Patrick’s Day parade existed but it seemed more an excuse to party than to honor heritage. To hear in that music a shared sense of community opened my eyes to a world in which I firmly belonged, an understanding of family that exists from afar. Every year I hear more people dismiss DKM, maybe because they’re the easy target or because they’ve survived long enough to suffer “It’s not as good as their old stuff” syndrome. My retort is NONE OF THAT MATTERS. Love ‘em or hate them Dropkick Murphy’s opened the door for Celtic-Punk and a celebration of Irish culture all the world over, and for that I am eternally grateful. 

If you’re a Celtic-Punk fan lend this album your ear. It’s a prime example of what the DKM have been about for a while, story songs to improve your life from the sheer enjoyment of it all. This collection of 11 songs will have you moving, laughing, forgetting your problems, and most importantly turning up that dial!

Dropkick Murphys  WebSite  Facebook  Store

Now seems the perfect time to mention the #1 Dropkick Murphys group on Facebook. Ran by fans for fans. Simply click the link and join up and join in the Murphys related fun.

Dropkick Murphys – Fan Page

Thanks to Rory for the great review. The Templars Of Doom are soon to begin the recording of their third album but you can listen for free to both their previous albums at the link below.

https://templarsofdoom.bandcamp.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: THE DEAD RABBITS- ‘7 Ol’ Jerks’ (2021)

Fueled by cheap whiskey and Lone Star beer The Dead Rabbits have emerged out of Texas as one of the American Celtic-Punk scenes best bands. Charged by the ole songs of Irish rebellion and the speed and harmony of Punk, they combine a potent mix of Irish Folk, Bluegrass, Gypsy and Punk Rock.

Taking their name from the real life street gang of American-Irish criminals active in Lower Manhattan in the 1830s to 1850s The Dead Rabbits hail from Texas but these guys are from your typical Texans! These original Dead Rabbits took their name after a dead rabbit was thrown into a gang meeting, prompting some members to treat this as an omen, their battle symbol becoming a dead rabbit on a pike. Besides their criminal activities they often clashed with so-called ‘nativist’ groups and gangs who viewed Irish Catholics as threatening and dangerous.

Formed in mid-2009 with the band’s founder, Seamuis Strain, a guest of the state at Louisiana prison he returned to Houston and bagan to put together what would become known as the ‘Warren’. Since that day, as with all bands, members have come and gone but always Seamuis has led from the front pushing and promoting the band across social media and he has become a known face on the many Facebook groups and pages specialising in Celtic-Punk. Their debut release was the excellently titled ‘Tiocfaidh Ar La’ which went onto be voted one of the best releases of 2013 by both Paddyrock Radio and Celtic Folk Punk web-zine! As far as I can tell the band spent the next few years playing gigs and touring and it came as a suprise to me that it wasn’t till last year that they followed up ‘TAL’ with the sort of greatest hits self-titled album The Dead Rabbits. It was basically a re-release of TAL but with a handful of new tracks and covers.

The Dead Rabbits: Seamuis – Lead Vocals, Guitars * Banjovi – Vocals, Banjo * Danger Dave – Fiddle * General Woundwort – Vocals, Guitar * Bigwig – Drums and Vox

So a new album is long overdue and their is certainly no messing about here on 7 Ol’ Jerks with the nine tracks clocking in just short of twenty-one minutes it’s a fast and furious, blink and you’ll miss it rollercoaster ride through the angrier side of Celtic-Punk alternating between Discharge styled hardcore Punk and a just slightly more Celtic version of them. Not for the faint hearted these are not likely to turn at Renaissance fayre’s or family orientated Celtic festivals (mores the pity!). Laced with humour and Irish spirit(s) I bloody loved it but then again I am an aging auld anarcho-punk but these days with better politics and hair!

They follow this up with another quick blast through the Shane MacGowan penned ‘If I Should Fall From The Grace With God’. The title track of what is often thought to be the pinnacle of The Pogues career it is here given the full Punk-Rock treatement with some great fiddle work giving it that Irish feel. Played at breakneck speed Seamuis has a great voice for this style but the rest of the band too showing how good the production/mixing is. Another ‘quickie’ with ‘L-Elaine’ not even breaking the minute mark but still manages to tell a story of love and love of the bottle. ‘Father McGregor’ is a oldish song with the version below from Bandcamp a few years old now but has been reworked for 7 Ol’Jerks.

You might expect The Dead Rabbits to not be the kind of band to play the ‘auld favourites’. The kind of song that when your Mammy walks in while you’ve got Celtic-Punk turned up to 11 asks “do they play such and such?”. You reply of “don’t be daft. Of course not Mum, this is Celtic-Punk” and then the next song that comes on is ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ and she walks away smiling! Well here the Rabbits turn their ear to that most loved of all Irish songs, especially among the American-Irish, ‘Danny Boy Medley’ in which they stick in half-a-dozen classics before the clock strikes three minutes. ‘Train Song’ is a song about trains. Just that but with banjo and fiddle before we get another classic and  ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’ is one of many Irish Folk tunes that is perfectly suited for ‘punking up’. The sound of the Dubliners version is still intact and recogniseable while the Rabbits add a new dimension to the song. The album ends with two original tracks the short more trad Celtic-Punk sounding title track, ‘7 Ol’ Jerks’, and the epic 4 (four!!) minute ‘Dreams’, originally recorded by The Cranberries. I think it’s a shame they didn’t choose this as the opening single to promote the album as its is utterly brillliant!! They can do the hardcore stuff very well but this song lifts the album from just pretty good into album of the year material, yes it is that good. Seamuis voice aches and strains over a tune to die for that depsite being classic Celtic-Punk still has that harder edge than most bands which I’m sure is what they were striving here on 7 Ol’ Jerks.

Buy 7 Ol’ Jerks  Amazon  Apple  Spotify

(Pre sale orders for vinyl are available now from Grimace Records)

Contact The Dead Rabbits Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

*

Facebook has become an unlikeable monster with more and more good folk leaving. Can’t say I blames you. So we have set up a Telegram group. Similar but better (and easier to use) than Whats App and free from Facebook control. Join us on Telegram and you wont miss a beat!

BEANNACHTAÍ NA FÉILE PÁDRAIG ORAIBH

Shamrocks, leprechauns and gallons and gallons of Guinness must mean it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day. But who was St. Patrick and why has this Saint’s day become so popular?

Well it may surprise you to hear that St. Patrick (or Padraig to use the Irish spelling) wasn’t actually irish. He’s believed to have been born to Roman parents, in Scotland or Wales, in the 5th century AD. It is not known if his family were Celtic or from modern-day Italy. St. Patrick penned two surviving documents writing in Latin and signing his name ‘Patricius’, but it is thought by some his birth name was Maewyn Succat. At the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped in a raid by pirates and taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. For six years, he herded sheep on Slemish, historically called Slieve Mish, a small mountain in County Antrim. It lies a few miles east of Ballymena, in the townland of Carnstroan., until he managed to escape and flee Ireland. One night he had a vision a few years after returning home. Acting on his vision, Patrick decided to dedicate his life to converting people to Christianity. Saint Germanus of Auxerre, a bishop of the Western Church, ordained him to the priesthood and he returned to Ireland and began to spread his message. Today St. Patrick is regarded as the founder of Christianity in Ireland.

On his return around about 432 he set about converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. He founded schools, churches, and monasteries throughout the country but it wasn’t all plain sailing for Patrick and his life was littered with periods of imprisonment when his teachings upset local chieftains or Celtic Druids. For twenty years he travelled the length and breadth of the island, baptising people as he went. By the time of his death on the 17th March 461 he had left behind an island of Christians. It is thought his final resting place is at the Hill of Down where his gravestone is now situated. This area has historically been a centre of prayer and worship for thousands of years. Muirchu, who wrote of St Patrick’s soon after his death, described St Patrick’s body being brought to his burial place and on the site on which a Church would be built.  A memorial stone of Mourne Mountain Granite marks the spot of his burial. He is buried alongside Saint Brigid and Saint Columba.

However, it may surprise you to learn that he was never canonized as Saint by the Catholic Church. Nothing dodgy it just because of the time he lived in there was no formal canonization process. Calling him Saint Patrick caught on and stuck over time due to his popular acclaim. In 1631 the Catholic Church made the 17th March a feast honoring the Patron Saint of Ireland. Because St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, it became a day for Catholics to have a day off from the abstinent demands of the weeks leading up to Easter. It is believed that St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated back in the 17th century. Held to mark St. Patrick’s death, it was a humble, religious celebration up until the 1920’s . An annual military parade started in Dublin in 1931, but the day remained mainly a time for religious reflection, rather than painting yourself green and wearing a funny hat. Bars were even closed on St. Patrick’s Day right up until the 1960’s.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! – St. Patrick’s Day blessing upon you

(/ban-ock-tee na fay-lah paw-rig ur-iv/)

Across the broad Atlantic, it was a different matter. there St. Patrick’s Day became a day for Irish immigrants and their children to celebrate their heritage. By the mid-19th century, parades and festivities were held right across the United States. According to author Mike Cronin,

“St. Patrick’s Day was a public declaration of hybrid identity – a belief in the future of Ireland as a nation free from British rule, and a strict adherence to the values and liberties that the United States offered them.”

Mike McCormack, national historian for the Ancient Order of Hibernians says

“Many who were forced to leave Ireland during the Great Hunger brought a lot of memories, but they didn’t have their country, so it was a celebration of being Irish, but there was also a bit of defiance because of the bigotry against them.”

Boston, with its massive Irish population, held the first St. Patrick’s parade in 1737, with New York City following suit 25 years later. Today, along with Chicago which is famed for turning its river green since 1962, these cities are the most famous for its celebrations. In the 20th century, corporations started to pay attention, and figure out how to take advantage of the celebrations. Pretty soon, t-shirts with shamrocks, inflatable bottles of Guinness (and them hats!), green McDonalds milk shakes, started to become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day, initially in America but nowadays wherever St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated.

Though beware anyone who would tell you how to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and your Irish heritage. Dust off the auld Eire/GAA/Celtic top or even that bloody leprechaun outfit and be proud of your roots if you got ’em. If you ain’t got them then come join us anyway everyone is welcome at this hooley. If possible try and spend some of the day in the company of family and elder members of our community and raise a glass, whatever your poison, to the sky for those who you love who are no longer here with us. Sláinte.

EP REVIEW: SEAN TOBIN AND THE BOARDWALK FIRE- ‘St. Patrick’s Day Forever’ (2021)

Influenced by local hero Springsteen and countless other country troubadours, Sean Tobin grew up in the New Jersey bar scene and owes his high-energy performances to his time spent busking on the streets of Galway. With a handful of releases behind him his excellent new EP celebrates his Irish roots and St. Patrick’s Day.

Born and raised on the New Jersey shore, Sean Tobin was influenced by Folk-song troubadours like Guy Clark, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, as well as high-energy rockers like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and Tom Petty. Self-taught and trained by the New Jersey bar scene, Tobin owes much to his time spent busking on the streets of Galway, Ireland throughout 2015 and 2017. 
 After graduating college in 2017 and uncertain of which direction to take he undertook the El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trail through Spain, with his guitar tied to his pack. Upon completion, the future became obvious and on returning to New Jersey he worked hard to fund his music. He released his first album, This Midnight, in the summer of 2018, and in 2019 he played Frank Turner’s Lost Evenings III Festival at the House of Blues in Boston and soon after quit his day job.

In July 2019, Sean released ‘Dreams & Black Caffeine,’ a four-song EP recorded in Ocean, NJ with his band, The Boardwalk Fire. The group played several shows promoting the work, and had planned a tour for the summer of 2020, but were forced to cancel due to the Covid lockdown. The last year has seen the release of ‘East Coast Artifacts’, a compilation of his first EP, various tracks recorded through lockdown and three new songs.

“We’ve all played together as duos or trios in the past, but St. Patrick’s Day Forever really fortified us as a band,” said Tobin. “I just wish we could play live. That’s what we’re best at.”

Well he has a lot of catching up to do and on his new 4-track EP, accompanied by his band The Boardwalk Fire, he has made a pretty good start.

Released at the end of February, 2021 the EP features two originals and two covers and kicks off with the title track, a fast paced Irish trad influenced Celtic-Punk song about the lockdown and it’s first anniversary in New Jersey. It was after all the cancellations of St. Patrick’s Day events around the world that set the scene for what was going to follow. Lively, upbeat and catchy as hell Sean Tobin tells a great story with a brilliant accompanying video too!

‘St. Patrick’s Day Forever’ by Sean Tobin And The Boardwalk Fire

Directed by Jarrett Allen * Edited by Sean Tobin

It was winter 2020, we were playing on the roof,
Jack was slapping stand-up to another song by Bruce.
A mere twenty hours later, we heard it on the news:
the Jersey Shore’s in lockdown, so stock up on your booze!
*
Now it’s one, two, three fuckin’ months inside this house.
There’s not too much I need, but I need fuckin’ out.
So I make my way down Main Street, the flag’s on every door–
it’s St. Patrick’s Day forever on the Jersey Shore,
St. Patrick’s Day forever on the Jersey Shore.
*
Not long later it was Easter, I was sippin’ on some stout.
I’d horded fifty cases out of fear that they’d run out,
but I couldn’t taste a drop ’cause I gave it up for Lent.
So come Easter, fifty cases, up the field they went!
*
Now it’s one, two, three fuckin’ months inside this house.
There’s not too much I need, but I need fuckin’ out.
So I make my way down Main Street, the flag’s on every door–
it’s St. Patrick’s Day forever on the Jersey Shore,
St. Patrick’s Day forever on the Jersey Shore.
*
Murphy! Your laws are screwin’ me!
But frankly, I don’t blame you. If it’s what we gotta do,
to keep people from dyin’, then I’ll stay home for you.
I just miss my friends…and the bar…
*
So now it’s comin’ up on summer, and I’m still drinkin’ stout.
I would be switchin’ to Corona, but I don’t think that’s allowed…
So instead I’ve got a toucan on one can, three cans, five.
If Guinness makes you stronger, I’m the strongest man alive!
*
Now it’s one, two, three fuckin’ months inside this house.
There’s not too much I need, but I need fuckin’ out.
So I make my way down Main Street, the flag’s on every door–
it’s St. Patrick’s Day forever on the Jersey Shore,
St. Patrick’s Day forever on the Jersey Shore.
Now it’s one, two, three fuckin’ months inside this house.
There’s not too much I need, but I need fuckin’ out.
So I make my way down Main Street, the flag’s on every door–
it’s St. Patrick’s Day forever on the Jersey Shore,
St. Patrick’s Day forever on the Jersey Shore.
*

The EP’s other original song is titled ‘Ode to Anna Liffey’s’ a bittersweet love song to the now closed Irish bar Anna Liffey’s in New Haven, Connecticut. As with all of Sean’s songs and in common with Irish music in general the songs tell intricate stories and at over six minutes the song gives him plenty of scope in telling his story of days spent propping up the bar there. A swirling gentle song with Sean’s strong voice backed by accordion and percussion that soon enough gets faster and faster with Sean’s guitar and Sean-David’s fiddle smoking! A real Irish tinged bluegrass/country floor filler that ends on a sad note (especially for us Irish!) with the last chorus going out to all the bars that are forced to close but “go down swinging”.

Ending with two covers, the first ‘Dirty Old Town’ has seen it’s fair share of Celtic-Punk records but here Sean strays from the well trodden Pogues/ Dubliners versions and keeps it upbeat and catchy even, in fact the perfect speed to be belting it out at the top of your lungs in the pub or Celtic Park or just your living room. The EP ends with the traditional Scottish ballad ‘The Parting Glass’ and Sean keeps it simple with just his voice and acoustic guitar. Two popular covers with new life breathed into them. Obviously a difficult thing to achieve with such popular songs. The record was recorded, mixed and mastered by David Patiño at Tannery Studios and, as with everything here, is absolutely perfect. Sean has severl live streams planned over March but you can still catch his most recent stream from Watermark in Asbury Park, NJ on February 20th to celebrate the EP’s release via Sean’s Facebook page. A fantastic start to the Celtic month of March and can only say we glad he went to Spain!!

Buy St’ Patrick’s Day Forever  Here

Contact Sean Tobin  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  Instagram

ODDS’N’SODS. CELTIC-PUNK ROUND UP FEBUARY 2021

Our regular monthly feature of all the Celtic-Punk news that’s fit to print. Band news, record releases, videos, tours (not individual gigs though yet sadly), live streams, crowd funders etc., send it into us at londoncelticpunks@hotmail.co.uk or through the Contact Us page. All will get a mention but I need YOU to help if it’s going to work.

We kick off this months Odds’n’Sods with two London-Irish bands. The first is the latest from CLAN OF CELTS and ‘My Eternal Tomb’. Their first single in three years a haunting tune of a strickened deportee ship leaving Ireland heading towards the penal colony in Australia, with a cargo of chained prisoners getting caught in a typhoon and being hauled to the bottom of the ocean and perishing. Available on all platforms to stream and download.

Next a new song/video from one of our most favourist bands CROCK OF BONES. ‘Nothin Worse’ is an original song and it’s mighty fine of course!

So nice to hear a band that you thought had split up is still active and one of my favourite bands KITCHEN IMPLOSION from Novara in Italy have indeed been constantly releasing music since the last I heard of them the brilliant ‘Pretty Work Brave Boys!’ album from 2014. They put out an EP Analfabeta Esistenziale in 2019 and the single ‘Coprifuoco’ last year available for download for a Euro.

Scots band THE CLELANDERS formed in 2017; with three brothers and a mate of theirs, bringing together a love of Irish and Scottish Folk music and throwing in a bit of Punk and Rock. All members grew up in the small mining village of Cleland in North Lanarkshire. They’ve a load of music up on their Facebook page but soon as they can are going to be recording more. They’ve a single out ‘Favourite Son’ about local Bhoy and Celtic (and Manchester United) legend Jimmy Delaney in benefit of their local Celtic Supporters Club Charity Fund named in honour of Jimmy. The song has been played at Celtic Park and is available for download for only 99p.

More from Scotland with the new video from THE CUNDEEZ of ‘Horo Gheallaidh’ one of the highlights of their recent album Teckle An Hide. A cover of a track by fellow Scots band Peat & Diesel. Fast, thrashy guitars telling the tale of a night out in the Highlands. Brilliant!

German band THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS have long become one of my favourite bands and they follow up last years cracking album Dogs On The Leash with a Christmas release for the single ‘Joy Of Life’ that passed us by at the time. The Bhoys kick out a ballad which they are equally good as the kick arse Celtic-Punk they more famous for.

Pogues legend Terry Woods has contributed banjo, mandolin and veillette to a new song ‘Wide Eyed Lady’ by Irish/singer songwriter LOU McMAHON. Originally released in 2010 it has been remixed, re-mastered and released as a single as part of an album release in 2021. ‘Wide Eyed Lady’ is a dark folktale that interweaves Goth-Rock with Folk, guided by mythology, folklore and fantasy.

The fantastic Texan Celtic-Punkers THE DEAD RABBITS have a new album out soon on Roach Guard Records. These guys have the best graphics in Celtic-Punk!

London based RANAGRI (pronounced Ra-na-grye) release their new single ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’, on February 8th. Pre-release here.

If you are looking for quality Celtic-Punk and for the bargain price of absolutely nothing then Oxford based LIDDINGTON HILL have only gone and made their last three singles free to download over on their web-site.

MICK McLOUGHLIN aka ‘Mick The Busker’ has been busking along Henry street in central Dublin for the last 10 years and has finally got some songs down on disc. The Busker is his third release but his first featuring his own material. It’s available on CD from him and download from Bandcamp.

TIR NAN OG – Sing Ye Bastards (Album)

BARDS FROM YESTERDAY – Demia (EP) -See Reviews

YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS – Drawn and Quartered (EP)

JASON STIRLING AND THE BLUE MOON BAND – Locked Doors And Lost Keys (EP)

TOXIC FROGS – My Lucky Own (EP)

Remember if you want your release featured then we have to have heard it first!

A new project out of Brittany with influences sometimes trad, sometimes rock. The BRETONS collective is 15 musicians on stage evolving on stage like a storm, ready to bewitch the halls of Europe!

More from the forthcoming new Rumjacks album with the release of title song ‘Hestia’ last week. Out in early March and available for pre-order here.

The debut studio album from Jay Terrestrial and the Firepit Collective dates back to 2014 and the band continues to play and record today. Recently they have had a string of sold out dates cancelled-rearranged-cancelled- rearranged-cancelled in London due to the ‘clampdown’. Jay is better known as the singer from London Punk/Dub band the Inner Terrestrials while the Firepit Collective has become his folky side project. This album combines new arrangements of trad songs and tunes along with original material. Here Jay and Chezney Newman are joined by friends Jess Cahill, Jez Hellard, David Garner, Rosie Nobbs, Chris Bowsher and Del Wilson.

German Celtic-Punkers MUIRSHEEN DURKIN have announced a St. Patrick’s Live Stream free on Facebook. Playing live from the Sauerland Theater in Arnsberg at 6pm on Saturday 20th March. Join the FB event to reminded nearer the time.

Canadians THE PEELERS have a new album out in March called Down And Out In The City Of Saints on Stomp Records.

MacSLONS IRISH PUB RADIO have announced the next installment of their Raise Your Pint compilation album series titled Corona Sessions. They are looking for 20 bands that have recorded songs during the course of the pandemic. If you want to take part in this please contact them at raise.your.pints@macslons.com

A plug for some good friends of ours over on Facebook. The Dropkick Murphys- Fan Page and the Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans are two of the best music forums on FB let alone Celtic-Punk. Ran By Fans For Fans. Just like and join in the fun!

All we need to do now is for you to help fill this page with news and remember if you are new to the London Celtic Punks blog it is easy to subscribe / follow and never miss a post. Also if anyone is interested in helping out on the reviews front then let us know via the Contact Us page.

REMEMBERING MICHAEL KILROE 1957-2021

It was with great sadness that on last Saturday morning I woke to the very sad and shocking news that Mike Kilroe had passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in New York state. At a time when the Celtic-Punk scene was floundering Mike started the Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans group on Facebook. Pleasing everyone in such a diverse scene would prove impossible but I doubt anyone else would have come as close as Mike did. His regular postings and light handed but firm management kept the group on track and would prove massively successful with the group growing to over 8,000 members. We chatted regularly about all sorts of things but what shone through our conversations was his passion and enthusiasm for music (not only Celtic-Punk) and his Irish heritage. Ireland has lost one of her own. Back in May last year I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike for this site where we talked about music, being Irish. the Irish community and sports. Besides music Mike was a massive sports fan particularly baseball and the NY Yankees. He was especially proud that his cousin pitched for them in the 1950’s. Mike was also a coach in the little leagues teaching kids for many years. He had a hard life losing his Mother as a teenager and struggled somewhat after that but found peace in nature and music and was incredibly gifted with numbers. When I did the interview he was absolutely adamant that he did not want a picture of himself to accommodate the interview. Instead he wanted the ‘My Nation My Heritage’ graphic as he thought that summed him up. This I found very endearing and yet another reason, if I needed one, to like the man! A very sad loss for the Celtic-Punk family and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d’aghaidh
Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

HARLEM VALLEY NEWS OBITUARY

Michael J. Kilroe, Sr passed away at his home in Millbrook, NY on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at the age of 63.

A resident of Millbrook for 28 years, he was born in Sleepy Hollow, NY on April 25, 1957 and was the son of John and Jean (Haines) Kilroe.  Mike attended and graduated from Roy C. Ketcham High School.

Mike was a groundskeeper for Hallmark Farm, a horse farm in Millbrook.  He had a great passion for music and baseball and was an avid amateur ham radio operator.

He is survived by his son Michael Kilroe and his wife Nina of North Adams, MA; his grandchildren, Mia Dillmann of Centereach, NY, Max Dillmann of Kenai, AK, and Dylan Nastasi of Marietta, GA; his brother John Kilroe of Highland, NY; his former wife and close friend, Marybeth Kilroe, and step-daughter Katie Nelson, both of Pawling.

“I’m glad that we met man, it really was nice talking and I really wish there was a little more time to speak” – Lou Reed.

Thanks to Mikes cousin Karen for the wonderful photo of Mike and his daughter-in-law Nina on her wedding day.

CELTIC PUNK, FOLK AND ROCK FANS

INTERVIEW WITH MIKE KILROE FROM THE ‘CELTIC PUNK, FOLK AND ROCK FANS’ GROUP

ALBUM REVIEW: THE STUBBY SHILLELAGHS – ‘Glass To Mouth’ (2020)

High-Energy northern Colorado acoustic Celtic-Folk-Punk Band The Stubby Shillelaghs release their fifth studio album, Glass to Mouth, to celebrate the band’s tenth anniversary.

The Stubby Shillelaghs new album (out this week!!) is self-produced and self financed as well as being recorded and mixed as a result of quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a great risk to put out an album in these bleak times as their are no proper chances to promote any new releases but life must go on and for many music is one way to help get through the dark times. As Shaughnessy McDaniel, the bands songwriter and guitarist says

“I think this album really sums up what we are about, this year has been tough for everyone and I hope that a little of our band’s aggressively positive attitude and slapstick sensibilities can shine a little light on people’s days,”

Glass To Mouth celebrates the bands 10th anniversary together and you have to go back to June, 2010 to the very start when the small northern Colorado town of Greeley saw three long-time friends Andrew Mithun, Ryan Knaub, and Shaughnessy McDaniel looking to start a Celtic influenced band as a small side project. Later that year Greg Farnsworth, owner of local Irish bar Patrick’s, was looking for an act to play a Halloween show and took a chance on the as-yet unproven Stubbies. The success of this show led to what became known as ‘Stubby Tuesdays’, a weekly residency at the bar and in the process becoming a staple in Colorado nightlife with their four hour sets legendary. The following year saw the release of their debut album Stubbies Assemble! (available as a free download) and also the band gigging further afield into neighbouring states. They went on to release further studio albums Whiskey Business, Celtic American and Critical Fail in 2015, a live album Parental Advisory Live!, a Live DVD Uisce Beatha: The Water Of Life and a greatest hits release Bangerz! the Greatest Hits (2010-2019).

For Glass To Mouth the band continue on the DIY path setting up a Kickstarter appeal that raised all the necessary money to both the record Glass To Mouth and to also release it on vinyl, something that the band have always wanted to do, and with the growing popularity of vinyl among music fans who can blame them. Glass To Mouth kicks off with the instrumental ‘Butter Up That Jig’. A short acoustic fiddle led song to open proceedings that leads into ‘Buyer Beware’ and demonstrates the Stubby Shilleaghs eclectic nature, influences, and musical style perfectly. Laid back Folk music with an American-Irish flourish warning people against buying the CD as they are much better live. I don’t do the lyrics justice as they made laugh out loud on hearing this song! They continue along the same route with ‘Sails And Sorrow’ which features fellow Colorado band Bolonium an American comedy-rock band famous for their satirical style parodies and music soundtracks. Accordion and the fiddle led Pirate song and we’re only four in. Plenty of Aaaarrrrgggghhhh! but they do resist the urge to shout “Ahoy, Me Hearties!”.

Title track ‘Glass To Mouth’ is up next and begins with the band telling us

“People ask us, “Stubbies, How are you so positive and cheerful all the goddamn time?” Well here’s our secret. Now listen up, cuz this is some Mary Poppins-ass shit!”

Anyone out there remember Tenacious D? Well these guys are the Celtic-Punk equivalent of them! Not much serious shit so far on this album and sometimes that is exactly what we need. I mean life would drive you up the wall and as someone i knew once said ” We are here for a good time not a long time”.

After saying that they go and play a political number next which for me is the album’s standout song ‘Rebel Heart’. Catchy as hell and and a real footstomper to beat the floor up to.

We back on more humorous ground next with ‘Shagnasty McHammerhands’ about the bands guitarist and songwriter. 2020 will go down as the ‘The Year With No St. Patrick’s Day’ and personally the first since I was a teenager that I went to bed sober. The song features another Colorado band, Keep Britain Irish, helping out on the chorus. One of the albums fastest songs it still keeps to the albums style that would see them being able to be enjoyed by all. Punk enough for the Punks, Celtic enough for the oldies and irreverent enough for the Dads!

We steering towards the albums end and we have the interesting Sobermen Trilogy up next. A three-part song set that tells the story of the meeting in 1783 of the great Irish alcohol suppliers Arthur Guinness and John Jameson. Part 1 is ‘Prophecy Conspiracy’ a Country influenced song that also takes in Irish and sea-shanty along the way as the tale is regaled. Part 2 is the Scots tinged ‘The Fall Of Speyside’ while the final epic part is ‘The Siege Of St. James Gate’, with St. James Gate being of course the home of delicious Guinness Stout, and the guys rock the hell out of it with a Celtic-Metal finale. Over ten minutes of brilliant storytelling with all the humour we have come to expect from The Stubby Shilleaghs. That’s not the end though as the final song of the album is ‘Merry Bards Of Metal’ and a gentle and tuneful way to bow out.

Glass To Mouth was recorded at Crunchtronic Studios in their home town and marks the Bhoys tenth anniversary of goofiness and irreverence that has made the band a popular feature on not just the Celtic scene in Colorado. An album with instant appeal to anyone and everyone who enjoys a laugh with their Folk music.

Buy Glass To Mouth  CD/Vinyl

Contact The Stubby Shillelaghs  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART THREE

Welcome to the final installment of Let The Music Keep Your Spirits high. Over the last three Sundays Andy Nolan of the most popular and influential Irish band in England over the last 20 years – the Bible Code Sundays – has shared with us the history and meaning behind some of his songs. A fascinating trip through the Irish diaspora in England, Ireland and the USA and their historical figures. So here is Part Three (links to the previous two are at the bottom) so get yourself a cup of tea (or maybe something stronger) and sit back and enjoy.

GHOSTS OF OUR PAST

I wrote this about growing up in Hammersmith, West London during the 1970s and 80s. Most of the pubs around Hammersmith, Fulham and Shepherds Bush were Irish back then – ‘The Hop Poles And Swan’.
“You’re not wanted here, stopped by the law, comin out of the station, just like before”.
My dad used to get stopped by the police all the time going to & from work simply because he was Irish. ‘What’s in the bag Paddy?’ they’d bark, referring to his work bag holding his sandwiches & tea. The truth was they were looking for guns and explosives or to fit someone up. But for the grace of God go I – look what happened to the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven. My dad and his mates sometimes worked seven days a week on the buildings back then and were in the pub every night sinking back 15 pints. They’d still be up for work in the morning of course and they worked their fingers to the bone rebuilding this country. The ‘riverside strolls’ refers to our walks by The Thames and Hammersmith Bridge when we were kids and all the down and out winos (who were mostly Irish or Scottish) we’d meet along the way –
“the broken old men, battered and down, down by the riverside falling around”.

NOW WE’RE PRINCES

I wrote this as the soundtrack for my crime drama feature film project Clan London, which unfortunately didn’t receive the industry funding it required to go into production. Looking back, it wasn’t the right time for that movie to be made for several reasons which I won’t go into now. Rest assured and God willing it will be made one day with a fantastic cast and crew on board! The money we did raise through crowdfunding was used instead to make my two short films Tax City (Steve Collins, Jon Campling, Razor Smith) and Jack Mulligan (Terri Dwyer, Steve Collins, Dean Smith, Ruth Adams). Both films were premiered at BAFTA, Piccadilly to sold out screenings. Jack Mulligan won Best Overall Film at the Ambassador Reel Film Festival in Cork, Ireland and was premiered on the London Live channel in 2019.
We filmed the music video itself with Darren S Cook around Ladbroke Grove, West London where the Clan London storyline is set and also at Under The Bridge, Chelsea and Roughrockers Studio, Uxbridge. The lovely Lorraine O’Reilly sang on this track too which featured on our album New Hazardous Design!

NIGHT CROSSING

Next up – Night Crossing. I wrote this about the Syrian refugee crisis & the photo of the little boy Alan Kurdi RIP washed up dead on the shores of Turkey after his boat capsized while trying to reach Greece with his parents. I wanted to open peoples minds with a song written from the viewpoint of a refugee family embarking on a desperate & perilous journey to Europe. All too often we witness deplorable comments on social media such as ‘good, that’s one less of them coming over here’ when these tragic stories break. Where’s your humanity? Where is your solidarity? Imagine if this was your family living in a war-zone trying to escape being blown to bits on a daily basis, what would you do? Of course, you would do exactly the same thing & try and escape to give them a better life. And who sells the weapons of war to these governments – making profit from innocent people’s heartbreak? Yes, quite probably your own government so think before you judge!
We got the brilliant Brian Kelly in to play banjo & mandolin on this track which featured on our most recent album Walk Like Kings. Enjoy, rethink, reflect X

THE PITTSBURG KID

Well I couldn’t just write one song about an Irish American fighter could I? There’s so many to chose from! Our good friend Gary McDonald was onto me for ages to write a song about his adopted home of Philadelphia. The nearest I could get was Pittsburg (sorry Gary) because of my love for one of its finest sons. My affection for Billy Conn goes back to when I was a kid and the boxing stories my dad RIP used to tell me. He’d always be raving about Conn, Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey, Gerry Quarry and Rocky Marciano:

‘My father told me when I was six
Of Billy Conn, the Pittsburg Kid
And as he spoke I wished that I had been there
To the Steel City his parents came
From Ireland’s shores in search of fame
The streets of S’Liberty became their home where –
William David Conn was born,
A tough street fighter, hands of stone
With film star looks and a left that fighters dream of….’
Conn really was a great looking dude and Morrissey even put a photo of him on the front cover of his 1995 single ‘Boxers’. He wasn’t just a pretty face though that’s for sure and in 1939 he met World Light Heavyweight Champion Melio Bettina in New York, outpointing him in 15 rounds and winning the World Light Heavyweight title. Conn defended his title against Bettina and twice against another World Light Heavyweight Champion, Gus Lesnevich. He also beat former World Middleweight Champion Al McCoy and heavyweights Bob Pastor, Lee Savold, Gunnar Barlund and Buddy Knox in non-title bouts during his run as World Light Heavyweight Champion.
But he will forever be remembered for coming so close to beating arguably one of the greatest fighters of all time – Joe Louis. In 1941, Conn gave up his World Light Heavyweight title to challenge the brilliant Louis who was now the World Heavyweight Champion. Conn wanted to be the first World Light Heavyweight Champion in boxing history to win the World Heavyweight Championship and to do so without going up in weight. The fight became part of boxing folklore because Conn held a secure lead on the scorecards going into Round 13 – unlucky for some! According to many experts and fans who watched the fight, Conn was outmaneuvering and outboxing Louis right up until that point. In a move that Conn would regret for the rest of his life, he tried to go for the knockout in Round 13 and instead ended up losing the fight himself by knockout in that very same round. Ten minutes after the fight, Conn told reporters ‘I lost my head and a million bucks.’
‘Of all sad words of tongue & pen
The saddest are ‘what might have been’
One night in ‘41 in New York City
For 13 rounds he outboxed Louis
Blew away The Bomber but his Irish pride for once was his undoing’
Sleep well Billy RIP.

RUNNING FROM OUR SHADOWS

This will be the final Bible Code Sundays track I’ll be posting written by myself with a brief description about the song. I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings on here over the last three Sundays. Thanks for all your very kind words and for taking the time to listen to the songs X
Next up – Running From Our Shadows. I wrote this as a submission for the movie Black Mass which starred Johnny Depp as the notorious, real life Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. Although they really liked the song, in the end the producers decided to go with one specific musical piece throughout the film. It is written from the perspective of a fugitive on the run from the law, his reflections on the life he has chosen, how it brought him to this point and how it has affected the ones he loves:
“I can hear the bells of home
As I whisper down the phone
It’s a Black Mass, baby
It’s that ancient Irish code
I will always be a part
Of your New England heart
So don’t stop lovin now the Feds are on us”
We shot the video for this with Adie Hardy at Panic Studios, Park Royal literally weeks before we lost our dear Carlton RIP. I couldn’t watch it for a very long time. It was hard to go back to that day when we were all together and having the craic as usual. Little did we know what the following few weeks and months would bring. We deliberately went for a dark, moody shoot to tie in with the film’s subject matter but it took on a whole new meaning when we lost Carlton. It’s like watching a moment in time now where darkness would soon descend on us all. Very surreal.
Once again we asked the brilliant Lorraine O’Reilly to sing on this track. Her beautiful vocals on here sound angelic. I wanted a female vocalist because the song is about the relationship between a fugitive on the run and the girl he left behind back in South Boston:
“I’m remembering the air
The colour of your hair
Those Old Colony girls
With their tough & friendly stare
The projects where we ran
Our dreams held in our hands
They were right from the heart
Letters written from my…”
We love and miss you always Carlton but we know you’re around us all the time. Until we meet again, save us a seat at the bar buddy.

The Bible Code Sundays have been regulars on the London Irish circuit for over a decade and continue to pack them in across London. You can catch the band or some variation of them on most days of the week somewhere in the capital. The best place to find out their gig dates is on their Facebook page. Their records are still available on Spotify above or Amazon and iTunes or at their gigs. Most recently they starred on the compilation album Quintessential Quarantunes featuring six bands, three from Ireland and three based in London and recorded during the lockdown.

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART TWO

Our short series on the songs of Andy Nolan continues today with another five of Andy’s masterpieces. As a past member of Shane MacGowan And The Popes and Spider Stacy’s Vendettas he has a great musical legacy but it’s as accordion player and songwriter for London Irish musical tour-de-force The Bible Code Sundays that Andy’s songs have defined a generation. The words to these songs are now known and sung by fans across the world and their influence is immeasurable with many bands trying to capture the Bible Codes sound. No band since The Pogues have helped define what it is to be London Irish and it is a common feeling on watching The Bible Code Sundays that these songs speak directly to the heart of the listener and encompass the same feelings and much of the same upbringing and beliefs that we had too! As we said before Andy is also a talented screenwriter, artist, producer and author. He was born in Hammersmith, West London surrounded by immigrants from across the world and, of course, a more than healthy contingent from Ireland but as you can see here from his songs about Irish-America he knows the Irish diaspora very well. Among his many achievements are the short films Tax City, and Jack Mulligan. And if anyone out there has spare few hundreds of thousands he is still raising funds for the feature film Clann London. So without further ado and again with Andy’s kind permission here is Part 2.

McBRATNEY FROM THE KITCHEN

About the notorious Westies gang that operated out of Hell’s Kitchen, NYC from the 1960s through to early 2000. There had always been dangerous Irish gangs on New York’s westside since the 1840s, going right back to the Gangs Of New York era but none were more ruthless than the Westies. A favourite pastime of these volatile Irish American hoods was kidnapping Mafia guys and holding them to ransom until they received payments of roughly $150,000 each time. On most occasions the ransom was paid and the wiseguys were released relatively unharmed. On one occasion however, James McBratney along with Eddie Maloney and John Kilcullen kidnapped Vincent D’Amore a capo in the Gambino crime family and during the commotion on the street someone noted their licence plate & handed it over to the Mafia who by this stage were at their wits end with the wild, uncontrollable Irish mob. On 22 May, 1973 John Gotti along with two henchmen entered Snoopes Bar on Staten Island where, after a furious struggle with the 6 foot 3” 250 pounds McBratney, they finally deposited three bullets into the Irishman’s body at close range killing him instantly. This did not spell the end for The Westies, far from it. A new breed of bloodthirsty Irishers in the form of Mickey Featherstone and Jimmy Coonan soon followed in their predecessors footsteps. Rudolph Giuliani, a federal prosecutor at the time who would later become the mayor of New York announced a devastating RICO indictment against Coonan & the gang for criminal activities going back twenty years. Featherstone testified in open court for four weeks in the trial that began in September 1987 and concluded with major convictions for the gang in 1988. Coonan was sentenced to sixty years in prison on assorted charges while Featherstone remains in the witness protection programme.
I remember Spider Stacy telling me about the time The Pogues played at the NYC launch of TJ English’s famous true crime book ‘The Westies’ and the Westies gang threatened to bomb the event! The movie State Of Grace starring Sean Penn, Ed Harris and Gary Oldman is based on Coonan and Featherstone.

WHITEY

This caused quite a stir when we released it back in 2006 especially in Whitey’s home city of Boston! Some people loved it while others viewed it as a glorification of Bulger who had recently been outed as an FBI informer. Being a rat in the criminal underworld is of course unforgivable. The truth is I wanted the song to be a raucous foot stomper laced in both glorification and hatred, so while Whitey’s meteoric rise through the Boston underworld is revealed, there is also a dark undercurrent of menace in the chorus from his associates who wish to lure him to his death:
“Whitey, Whitey where the hell are you?
There’s a barroom of poitín here waiting for you,
All the boys here in Southie with Tullamore Dew,
For the South Boston chieftain a right loyal crew”
Whitey was at one time second only to Osama Bin Laden on the FBI’s Most Wanted List after he fled Boston and went on the run for 16 years! Karma eventually caught up with Boston’s most infamous gangster when he was finally captured in Santa Monica, CA in 2011 then murdered in his Virginia prison cell in 2018. The movie Black Mass starring Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon and Benedict Cumberbatch is about Whitey and The Winter Hill Gang. Enjoy the song, or don’t fuckin enjoy it, the choice is yours!

MY TOWN

I originally wrote this for a Boston based mob movie called ‘Townies’ which was set in Charlestown MA and I wanted it to sound like The Rolling Stones with an Irish twist. The opening guitar riff is very ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and we deliberately went for that vibe from the outset. It is written from the perspective of a young street hood working his way up through the ranks of the Irish Mob to become top dog in the city. The path he has chosen is a very dangerous one as he negotiates his way through age old, bitter mob family feuds but his lust for money and power knows no bounds. This kid will take out anyone in his way in order to become the King of Charlestown. ‘The Town’ starring Ben Affleck is also set in Charlestown and had a similar storyline to Townies which unfortunately never went into production

THE BOYS OF QUEENS

A tribute to the FDNY, I wrote this song about an Irish American family steeped in the tradition of the Fire Department of New York – but from the words of one son, a US marine, who finds himself behind enemy lines during the Iraq war. Just before he dies he recalls how he lost his father and brothers in 9/11 and longs to be back with his wife and children in his native Queens. No one has a monopoly on grief, but 9/11 hit New York’s Irish community hard. The Irish were the rock on which the FDNY and NYPD were built during their inception many years ago and sons traditionally followed their fathers and grandfathers into the ranks of the fire department and police – a tradition still prevalent to this day. When everyone else was running out of the Twin Towers, these guys along with their Italian, Puerto Rican and black American brothers were running in.
May they rest in peace.
The song was used in the CBS TV show Unforgettable in 2012.

THE LORDS OF WINTER HILL

The Winter Hill district of Somerville MA has a long, bloody history of deadly Irish gang wars played out primarily between The Winter Hill Gang originally led by Buddy McLean, Howie Winter and Joe McDonald and the Charlestown Mob headed by brothers Bernie and Eddie McLoughlin. The bitter feud began in 1961 and lasted until 1967 resulting in the deaths of more than 60 people. The song also outlines the arrival of the Famine Irish into Boston during the 1840s and the dramatic rise and fall of their descendants including the Kennedys via bootlegging and politics and Whitey Bulger who eventually became leader of The Winter Hill Gang. In typical Boston Irish tradition, Whitey’s brother Billy was a former Democratic politician, lawyer and the President of the Massachusetts Senate for 18 years. The long tradition of war veterans from these working class neighborhoods is celebrated too:
“We gave to you our sons
For the Stars And Stripes they stand
They fought in North Korea and they died in Vietnam
Shot down on the beaches, butchered in the fields
Then carried home to Boston and their homes in Somerville’
The chorus then is an anthem of adoration for the city of Boston from the hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants who were forced to flee Ireland and make it their new home:
‘You opened your arms to me
We’re home from the sea
Boston, we love you still
Now forever the Lords of Winter Hill’
The outro details the age-old blood ties with the old country through Boston politics and gangsterism:
‘The Gustin Gang, the Mullens, The Provo’s and Killeens
Their blood ran down The Mystic and far across the sea,
Celtic cross and tombstones, a monument there still
To Ireland’s sons and daughters and The Lords of Winter Hill’
The reel featured throughout is written by the late, great Tommy McManamon who played with the legendary Shane MacGowan And The Popes. I swear I can hear his banjo on this track, can you hear it too? RIP Tommy.

The Bible Code Sundays have been regulars on the London Irish circuit for over a decade and continue to pack them in across London. You can catch the band or some variation of them on most days of the week somewhere in the capital. The best place to find out their gig dates is on their Facebook page. Their records are still available on Spotify above or Amazon and iTunes or at their gigs. Most recently they starred on the compilation album Quintessential Quarantunes featuring six bands, three from Ireland and three based in London and recorded during the lockdown.

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART ONE

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART ONE

Photo- Paul Gallagher

Andy Nolan is best known on these pages as the accordion player and songwriter for the London Irish musical tour-de-force The Bible Code Sundays and as an ex-member of Shane MacGowan And The Popes and Spider Stacy’s Vendettas but there’s a lot more to him than just being an expert accordionist. Andy is also a talented screenwriter, producer and author. Born in Hammersmith, West London at a time when the Irish influence on London was at its greatest his songs speak not only of home in London and Ireland but stretch across the worldwide Irish diaspora with an special a focus on the United States. Among his many achievements he wrote and produced the short film Tax City, and the London Irish crime drama, Jack Mulligan, which premiered on London Live. Here over the last few weeks on his Facebook page he posted a brief description of a few of the standout songs he has written and the history behind the words. Well we thought it was too good not to share with you lot so with Andy’s kind permission here over the next couple of Sundays is Part 1 with Part 2 to follow next week.

THE SWAMP RATS OF LOUISIANA

A tribute to the 30,000 Irishmen who died in New Orleans digging out the New Basin Canal – a navigational waterway linking Lake Pontchartrain with the Mighty Mississippi. Over a four year period from 1832, thousands of Irishmen jumped into the swamps & dug in a straight line towards the lake. Many of them had been tricked by cotton brokers back in Liverpool that they were being transported to Philadelphia, Boston or New York which by now were already overflowing with poor Irish immigrants. Yellow fever and unforgiving heat ravaged workers in the swamps of Louisiana therefore the loss of black slaves doing such work was judged too expensive. As a result most of the work was carried out by Irish laborers who could easily be replaced at no cost with more and more now arriving by the boatload on a daily basis. Many were buried without a grave marker in the levee and roadway-fill beside the canal itself.

Abject poverty gave birth to New Orleans first criminal gangs such as the Corkonians, the United Irishmen and The Live Oaks. Sheehan, our hero in this song, becomes so demoralised at the hell-hole he now finds himself in that he throws down his work shovel for good and instead rises up through the ranks of the powerful Live Oaks Gang. I strongly recommend the book ‘Paddy Whacked’ by TJ English who covers this period in American history in greater depth!
A big thank you to Stephen Gara for his fantastic uilleann pipe playing on this track!

SEE YOU AT THE CROSSROADS

I wrote this song about my dear pal Noel Stephen Smith after reading his autobiography ‘A Few Kind Words And A Loaded Gun’ for the very first time many years ago. The title of the song was inspired by the opening pages where Noel dedicates the book to his son Joseph Stephen Smith RIP – ‘See you at the crossroads, kid’. Noel ‘Razor’ Smith was part of the notorious Laughing Bank Robbers gang from South London racking up 58 criminal convictions and spending the greater portion of his adult life behind bars. The dangerous outfit committed over 200 bank robberies but while serving a life sentence in prison Noel decided to turn his back on the life of crime teaching himself to read and write, gaining an Honours Diploma from the London School of Journalism and an A-level in law. Since then, Noel has been awarded a number of Koestler awards for his writing and has contributed articles to the Independent, the Guardian, Punch, the Big Issue, the New Statesman and the New Law Journal.
The melody instrumental throughout the song is taken from ‘My Lagan Love’ – an old traditional Irish song and I wanted the finished version to have that ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ vibe by The Cult – full of swagger and attitude!
“Racing through London in the pouring rain
I feel the rush go through my brain
Finger on the trigger, mask in my hand
Nothing can touch us, Butch & Sundance”
Noel has been a great friend & inspiration to me down through the years. We cast him in two of my short films Tax City & Jack Mulligan & he is now my literary agent for my own forthcoming true crime book Green Bloods. Keep marching on comrade & thank you for everything! Love ya mate!

THEY BUILT PARADISE

Our love for Celtic FC  is something we’re very proud of & the reason why I wrote this song. Formed in the east end of Glasgow in 1887 by poor Irish immigrants escaping genocide and famine back in Ireland, Celtic FC became a beacon of hope for those starving and penniless who made the short but urgent crossing over to Scotland. Andrew Kerins, also known as Brother Walfrid, was a Marist Brother from Ballymote, County Sligo who witnessed at first hand the plight of his own people in a very hostile and anti-Irish city of Glasgow. All soup kitchens in the city at the time were established by the Church of Scotland and in order to receive a meal there, the newly arrived, hungry Irish Catholics were ordered to denounce their own faith and convert to Protestantism before receiving it. Brother Walfrid, along with a group of fellow Irishmen including John McLaughlin, John Glass, John O’Hara and Willie Maley (and with the help of Hibernian FC who had already similarly been established in Edinburgh by Irish immigrants) immediately stepped in and formed a charitable football club in St. Mary’s Church in the Calton to stop this cruel exploitation of Irish refugees –
“A football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children and the unemployed”
The rest as they say is history!
We’ve been very fortunate and honoured to have been invited to play on the sacred pitch at Celtic Park on several occasions, including some unforgettable Champions League nights when we beat Barcelona 2-1 & also outside the Nou Camp itself! For me personally, supporting Celtic has taught me some invaluable lessons in life in regards to treating others with respect & offering both solidarity & charitable support to those who are still fighting their own injustices today – unity is strength

THE KIDS FROM THE CITY OF NOWHERE

Some of the stories here aren’t for the faint hearted, but they’re all true! I wrote this as a tribute to our London Irish community. For so long we were overlooked and dismissed like we didn’t exist but the truth was we were London’s oldest and biggest immigrant community who contributed so much in terms of rebuilding the UK’s decimated infrastructure after WW2. Musically too – John Lydon, Boy George, Kate Bush and Shane MacGowan are all born or raised in London of Irish parents, to name but a few. Chas Smash’s nutty dancing in Madness was heavily influenced by his own parents who were Irish dancing champions. I remember Chas and his ol fella used to come into our gigs in the Good Mixer in Camden Town many moons ago and they’d both be suppin Guinness and Irish dancing at the bar while we played. I reference the late, great Patsy Farrell too who was a singer in the James Connolly Folk Group. He was from Longford, as were my parents and Gavin Hayes dad Shay sang in the same group. They used to play all around Hammersmith (where I was born) when we were kids and on one occasion in The Salutation pub someone took exception to Patsy belting out the rebel songs and lobbed a penny at him. Patsy dived straight down off the stage on top of the culprit and made very short work of him – ‘down jumps Farrell on top of Thatcher’s man.’ The reference to the ‘high rise on the streets of Acton’ is when a group of my dads mates masked up and armed with hurley sticks dished out some sweet revenge on some bullies that were treating their wives and children like shit. They started on the bottom floor of the high rise flats and worked their way to the top until every culprit had been taken care of. Their families were never bothered again!
I remember us rehearsing this song for the first time in the back hall of the Adam And Eve pub in Hayes (thanks Anlon O’Brien). It wasn’t clicking and I was trying to explain to our dearly departed Carlton the drum feel I wanted but it wasn’t quite right. I jumped in my car, raced home and grabbed the B-side single of ‘Round Are Way’ by Oasis and drove back to the pub. I stuck it on the CD player & Carlton understood and got the rhythm straight away! Round Are Way is a big influence on this song. We even got Tony Rico Richardson and the brass boys in to record on the album version!

THE CINDERELLA MAN

I wrote this as a tribute to the incredible story of James J Braddock who defied all the odds to become Heavyweight Champion of the World back in 1935. The man he beat, Max Baer and nicknamed ‘The Killer’, had already killed Frankie Campbell in the ring while the mauling he dished out to Ernie Schaaf would contribute to his death five months later. Braddock was born in the Irish slum of Hells Kitchen, NYC until his family moved to Bergen, New Jersey. He came from a long line of fiercely tough Irish American boxers who at one stage ruled supreme in the early days of the noble art – John L Sullivan, Gene Tunney, Billy Conn, ‘Philadelphia’ Jack O’Brien, ‘Gentleman’ Jim Corbett, Tommy Loughran, ‘Terrible’ Terry McGovern and Jack Dempsey to name but a few. Forever the people’s champion but a huge underdog nonetheless, Braddock spectacularly beat Baer in a bruising 15 round battle to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. He held onto the crown until he was beaten by a young Joe Louis in 1937.
The Hollywood movie The Cinderella Man (featured in the video above) starring Russell Crowe is based on Braddock’s life story. Russell famously tweeted this video (made by Padraig Clarke, a fan of our band) to his 3 million fans on Twitter which brought our band to a whole new audience! He would later sing on our most recent album Walk Like Kings! Thank you Mr Crowe!
The Bible Code Sundays have been regulars on the London Irish circuit for over a decade and continue to pack them in across London. You can catch the band or some variation of them on most days of the week somewhere in the capital. The best place to find out their gig dates is on their Facebook page. Their records are still available on Spotify above or Amazon and iTunes or at their gigs. Most recently they starred on the compilation album Quintessential Quarantunes featuring six bands, three from Ireland and three based in London and recorded during the lockdown.

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART TWO (soon!)

EP REVIEW: LUCKY LAD GREEN- ‘Get There Somehow’ (2020)

Hailing from a small town just east of Pittsburgh, PA, Lucky Lad Green take Punk Rock, Hardcore, and old school Rock’n’Roll and make into a Celtic jigger that’s best served straight on a Saturday night at the local pub!

Now technology ain’t my thing anyone can tell you and London Celtic Punks always arrived on a new social media platform a good while after everyone else has discovered it and got bored. So it was with Instagram but it was on that platform I first discovered Lucky Lad Green and their always interesting posts. So it was I had to wait a short while to see if their posts matched their music and they prove it amply with this short ten minute long three track EP.

Like all bands it’s been a difficult time but that they ever recorded at all can be laid at the door of the fellow Pittsburgh-based Celtic-Rockers the Bastard Bearded Irishmen! Formed in early 2013 Metalheads Ryan and Eric were friends who had just been kicked out of left a local Rock band and were jamming a few songs celebrating Ryan’s Irish roots. Interest in what they were doing grew and before too long a band had fully developed and in November of 2013 after a summer full of writing, Lucky Lad Green landed their first show in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania at The Castle. Regular shows followed and they developed a decent following too leading to their debut release, a four track self titled EP. I can’t say much about it as I have just downloaded it myself but it is available as a ‘Name Your Price’ download so grab a copy yourselves at the link below.

It was after this release that things began to fall apart beginning with drummer Bret leaving and in 2016 after a show with the Real McKenzies the band called it a day. That was until the Bastard Bearded Irishmen rolled into Pittsburgh and saw the guys reunite for a photo that went viral and led to the reformation of Lucky Lad Green and the new EP. I say new but we are a bit late as the EP touched down at the beginning of March which unfortunately coincided soon after with the ‘clampdown’ as we call it here! So with a host cancelled gigs and festival appearances all cancelled we are very glad to hear that the Bhoys have performed a few intimate shows in the last couple of weeks.

(There’s nay videos out there of them performing songs from the EP so enjoy this one from St. Paddy’s Day which shows them pretty damn well!!)

Get There Somehow begins with the powerful ‘Through The Door’ and chugging electric guitar and accordion and we have ourselves a rather nifty little number here. Catchy as hell and superb musicianship and great vocal too from new band member Andrew.

“And I can’t hold on to you anymore, I’m moving on, I’ve got one foot through the door.”

The song stays at the same pace throughout thanks to that guitar chugging away but has a very interesting arrangement that is hidden slightly behind the guitar/accordion but adds to it magnificently. ‘Chase The Snakes’ takes a far more ‘rocky road’ but again Jim’s accordion is given a starring role in a song chock full of fist in the air moments and a guitar solo at the end. The song ends with ‘Irish Eyes’ and unsurprisingly the guys go Gaelic with a song that shows 2020 American Celtic-Punk still knows where its roots are. Love Shane’s drums on this song. I suspect he was allowed to whack ’em as hard as he liked so the song has a much more Rock feel to it than the song would have otherwise.

Lucky Lad Green from left to right: Shane Boyer – Drummer * (top middle) Ryan McDonald- Mandolin and Guitar * (bottom middle) Jim Vizzini – Accordionist, Jim Berkin – Bass * Andrew Roberts – Vocals and Rhythm Guitar *

All in all a great start to Lucky Lad Green Mk.2 and even though it s over in a flash things look pretty good for their future and with things getting back to normal the guys look to have the ability and drive to produce some fantastic music and I for one cannot wait.

(Hear the whole EP by streaming Get There Somehow on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Get There Somehow  Bandcamp

Contact Lucky Lad Green  Facebook  ReverbNation  SoundCloud  YouTube

THE IRISH SOLDIERS OF MEXICO IN FILM AND IN SONG

The story of the legendary San Patricios battalion and their legacy as told in film, books and song from bands as diverse as The Chieftains, Black 47, David Rovics, Larkin, The Fenians, The Wakes and others. 

by Michael Hogan

Next week sees the release of the debut album from Mexican Celtic-Punk band Batallón de San Patricio. Now not only does this show the truly international appeal of the scene these days but it also gives us an opportunity to look into one of the least-known stories of the Irish who came to America in the 1840’s, that of the Irish battalion that fought on the Mexican side in the America-Mexico War of 1846-1848. They came to Mexico and died, some gloriously in combat, others ignominiously on the gallows. United under a green banner, they participated in all the major battles of the war and were cited for bravery by General López de Santa Anna, the Mexican commander-in-chief and president.

At the penultimate battle of the war, these Irishmen fought until their ammunition was exhausted and even then tore down the white flag that was raised by their Mexican comrades in arms, preferring to struggle on with bayonets until finally being overwhelmed. Despite their brave resistance, however, 85 of the Irish battalion were captured and sentenced to bizarre tortures and deaths at the hands of the Americans, resulting in what is considered even today as the “largest hanging affair in North America.”

Hanging of the San Patricios as painted by Sam Chamberlain.

In the spring of 1846, the United States was poised to invade Mexico, its neighbour to the south. The ostensible reason was to collect on past-due loans and indemnities. The real reason was to provide the United States with control of the ports of San Francisco and San Diego, the trade route through the New Mexico Territory, and the rich mineral resources of the Nevada Territory – all of which at that time belonged to the Republic of Mexico. The United States had previously offered $5 million to purchase the New Mexico Territory and $25 million for California, but Mexico had refused.

Before the declaration of war by the United States, a group of Irish Catholics headed by a crack artilleryman named John Riley deserted from the American forces and joined the Mexicans. Born in Clifden, County Galway, Riley was an expert on artillery, and it was widely believed that he had served in the British army as an officer or a non-com in Canada before enlisting in the American army. Riley’s turned this new unit into a crack artillery arm of the Mexican defence. He is credited with changing the name of the group from the Legion of Foreigners and designing their distinctive flag. Within a year, the ranks of Riley’s men would be swelled by Catholic foreign residents in Mexico City, and Irish and German Catholics who deserted once the war broke out, into a battalion known as Los San Patricios, or ‘Those of Saint Patrick’.

The San Patricios fought under a green silk flag emblazoned with the Mexican coat of arms, an image of St. Patrick, and the words “Erin Go Bragh.” The battalion was made up of artillery and was observed in key positions during every major battle. Their aid was critical because the Mexicans had poor cannon with a range of 400 meters less than the Americans. In addition, Mexican cannoneers were inexperienced and poorly trained. The addition of veteran gunners to the Mexican side would result in at least two major battles being fought to a draw. Several Irishmen were awarded the Cross of Honor by the Mexican government for their bravery, and many received field promotions.

At the Battle of Churubusco, holed up in a Catholic monastery and surrounded by a superior force of American cavalry, artillery, and infantry, the San Patricios withstood three major assaults and inflicted heavy losses on the Yanks. Eventually, however, a shell struck their stored gunpowder, the ammunition park blew up, and the Irishmen, after a gallant counteroffensive with bayonets, were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. They were tried by a military court-martial and then scourged, branded, and hanged in a manner so brutal that it is still remembered in Mexico today.

(left: the Batallón de San Patricio Memorial plaque placed at the San Jacinto Plaza in the district of San Ángel, Mexico City 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”)

In September 1847, the Americans put the Irish soldiers captured at the Battle of Churubusco on trial. Forty-eight were sentenced to death by hanging. Those who had deserted before the declaration of war were sentenced to whipping at the stake, branding, and hard labour. Fuelled by Manifest Destiny, the American government dictated terms to the Mexicans in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. More than two-thirds of the Mexican Territory was taken, and out of it the United States would carve California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, and parts of Kansas and Colorado. Among all the major wars fought by the United States, the Mexican War is the least discussed in the classroom, the least written about, and the least known by the general public. Yet, it added more to the national treasury and to the land mass of the United States than all other wars combined.

After the conflict, so much new area was opened up, so many things had been accomplished, that a mood of self-congregation and enthusiasm took root in the United States. The deserters from the war were soon forgotten as they homesteaded and laboured in the gold fields of California or, as the 1860’s approached, put on the grey uniform of the Confederacy or the blue of the Union. Prejudice against the Irish waned, as the country was provided with a “pressure valve” to release many of its new immigrants westward. The story of the San Patricios disappeared from history.

For most Mexicans, solidarity with the Irish is part of a long tradition and they remembered the help they received from the Irish and their friendship. In the words of John Riley, written in 1847 but equally true today,

“A more hospitable and friendly people than the Mexican there exists not on the face of the earth… especially to an Irishman and a Catholic.”

Riley sums up what cannot be clearly documented in any history: the basic, gut-level affinity the Irishman had then, and still has today, for Mexico and its people. The decisions of the men who joined the San Patricios were probably not well-planned or thought out. They were impulsive and emotional, like many of Ireland’s own rebellions – including the Easter Uprising of 1916. Nevertheless, the courage of the San Patricios, their loyalty to their new cause, and their unquestioned bravery forged an indelible seal of honour on their sacrifice.

In 1997, on the 150th anniversary of the executions, then Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo stated:

“Members of the St. Patrick’s Battalion were executed for following their consciences. They were martyred for adhering to the highest ideals…we honour their memory. In the name of the people of Mexico, I salute today the people of Ireland and express my eternal gratitude”.

***

This article first featured on the Latino Rebels web-site here. Michael Hogan is the author of 20 books, including the Irish Soldiers of Mexico, one of the major historical works on the San Patricios Battalion which encompasses six years of research in the U.S., Mexico, and Ireland. As a permanent resident of Mexico, he was the first historian to be granted complete access to Mexican archives and military records. His home page is www.drmichaelhogan.com and the Facebook page for the book and related videos, photos, maps and stories about the San Patricios can be found at www.facebook.com/IrishMex.

The little-known 1999 feature film One Man’s Hero tells the (again!) little-known story of the San Patricios. The plot centres around the story of John Riley, as played by Tom Berenger, who  commands the battalion, as he bravely leads his men in battle, and struggles with authorities on both sides of the border.

Country: Spain / Mexico / USA  Language: English / Spanish  Release Date:  8 October 1999

Director: Lance Hool  Writer: Milton S. Gelman

Stars: Tom BerengerJoaquim de AlmeidaDaniela Romo

Despite being a decent film and an mostly enjoyable couple of hours parts of the film are pure blarney so for an accurate account of the San Patricios, read The Rogue’s March by Peter Stevens, and watch the San Patricios documentary starting here in several parts.

As we said at the beginning Celtic-Punk is no longer just confined to the Irish and Celtic diaspora it has become truly international with bands represented on every continent of the globe. In the next few days though we will be reviewing our very first band from Mexico, Batallón de San Patricio. Their debut album takes influences from both Ireland and their home country to make something truly wonderful as well as unique. I hope you revisit these pages to check them and their album out. You can subscribe to the London Celtic Punks Blog by filling in the ‘Follow Blog’ box that will be either on the left or below depending on how you are viewing us. Cheers!

ALBUM REVIEW: T.C. COSTELLO- ‘The Bluebird’ (2020)

With the imminent release of his seventh album next week London Irish Folk Punker Anto Morra gives his view on T.C. Costello’s The Bluebird.

The Bluebird will be launched live on Facebook on Thursday where T.C. will be debuting some new songs and a few auld favourites too no doubt.

The last time I graced a stage in London I had the pleasure of performing a song with T.C Costello so if you’re expecting an unbiased review you’re gonna be outta luck as when I took the second wave Punk oath back in 1978, I’ve been cursed into a life of artistic honesty.

T.C’s voice is a very acquired taste but what it lacks in melodic beauty, it more than makes up for in passion, expression and wild abandonment in a similar way to MacGowan and Strummer. As a musician he is quite remarkable and completely fearless, with strange instruments dropping in and out all over the place. Imaging the first Roxy Music album lead by an accordion with Ferry on a mixture of absinth and amphetamine, Eno tripping his bollocks off in a room full of chimes bells and whistles, and Manzanera’s strat replaced by a bunch of strange acoustic stringed instruments from the four corners of the earth, and you may have some idea of what you’re gonna get on his latest offering.

‘The Bluebird’ is quite a leap sonically from his previous ‘100 Years Ago’ album but has not lost any of the energy or joy. I am quite ashamed to admit I struggle with any singing that’s not in English (Even the French bit in The Beatles ‘Michelle’ gets on my nerves) and so the opening song ‘Saeya, Saeya Parang Saeya’ was quite a shock and most certainly a challenge for me, but when I applied the right head space and put aside my narrow little Englander prejudiced approach, I started to love it in a similar way I love these early Thompson Twins song’s ‘Vendredi Saint’ or ‘Animal Laugh’.

The term ‘World Music’ is always one I’ve hated (simply because all music is world music unless it’s been made in space) making it mean nothing along with ‘Fusion’ a fuckin’ bass and drum is a fuckin’ fusion!!! However Folk Punk, Celtic Punk does not seem to fully pigeonhole TC Costello’s music adequately so I’m gonna describe it as ‘World Punk’ as the influences here are from everywhere. The psychedelic 60’s india is pulled into Eastern European Klezmer moments and wrapped around the odd traditional and Irish songs and delivered in that authentic, warm, Greenville South Carolina USA accent. Traditional Irish standard ‘To The Begging I Will Go’ follows and is a song I easily relate too and this is a remarkable arrangement of it that seamlessly slides into Italian protest classic ‘Bella Ciao/Pizzicarella Mia’ the latter part sounding like a beautiful Italian love song delivered on Red Bull and Vodka.

The next two songs are very familiar on the Folk scene since the 60’s revival. ‘The Old Churchyard’ popularised by The Watersons and ‘Lord Randall’ a tale of a fool poisoned by the Fairies.

‘Malena’ is another I have to plead ignorance about but it’s full of emotion, passion and musical dexterity. This takes us into the exceptionally familiar ‘Matty Groves’ sticking lyrically close to the Fairport Convention version but musically much more adventurous. ‘Tramp Tramp Tramp’ is a great song about prejudice and discrimination that I think may have taken the melody from ‘God Save Ireland.’  ‘They’re Red Hot’ is a fantastic break neck folk Rag and before you know it, TC is informing us with great joy “who we can and canae throw off the bus”. I’ve heard more versions of ‘Haul Away Joe’ than you can shake a stick at, but the arrangement and performance is one of the best. It’s how I imagine someone like Nick Cave would approach it, very dark, very tortured passionate and authentic. ‘The Willow Garden’ closes this record appropriately, as it is a traditional murder ballad.

This is not a record for those who want a traditional song played the way they always have been, but for people that want possibilities stretched. It’s one of them you’ll listen to again and again and always hear something else going on, a complete acoustic psychedelic head fuck with all the discordant beauty of the world smashed together and made coherent by the passionately spewed lyrics and vocal delivery.
If you want to be taken from anxiety verging on a panic attack, to manic joy and laughter, then be dropped off at the nearest watering hole to cry in your beer? You better buy this album.

(The Bluebird is available for download from Bandcamp. Only $10 the album is set for release on June 1st and all Proceeds go to International Medical Corps, who provide medical and related services to 30 countries around the world)

Pre-Order The Bluebird From TC

Contact T.C. Costello  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

I’d like to leave you with this little clip from a couple of years ago, when I last played in my beloved home town and it really is the only way to put a band together; it features the great man himself as well as Brendan O’Prey of brilliant Celtic Punk outfit “The Lagan.”

ALBUM LAUNCH LIVE STREAM ANNOUNCEMENT

Par for the course and ages after everyone else has had a go we are doing a series of LiveStreams. We begin with the album launch for The Bluebird. We sadly had to cancel the TC Costello/Tim Holehouse gig but TC still wants to play for his UK based fans so he will be streaming live from South Carolina while hopefully Tim will fit in a show for us soon afterwards.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1150555188477972/

The 20th May was all set for his 5th triumphant return to The Lamb but fear not his UK and European fans T.C. will go live at 8pm (9pm- Europe) direct into our phones and computers via his page https://www.facebook.com/tccostello2/ and will play till his hands go sore… so that’s about a hour. Tune in there and then and we’ll see you in the comments section.

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INTERVIEW WITH MIKE KILROE FROM THE ‘CELTIC PUNK, FOLK AND ROCK FANS’ GROUP

Little over a year ago a new Group appeared on Facebook called Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans and considering 2019 was a bad year for Celtic-Punk media with two of the biggest sites closing it has been an invaluable place for fans old and new to share and introduce music to each other. Despite the shortcomings of Facebook the group has grown and continues to and Mike the groups founder agreed to answer a few questions on all things Celtic-Punk and the Irish community in the States.

Hello Mike! You set up the Facebook group ‘Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans‘. What was your main purpose in doing that? How has it been? Has the scene got behind you? I did notice it exploded after the St. Patrick’s Day Dropkick Murphys live stream show.

Hi and thanks for asking me to do this. Hopefully I can give you what you were hoping for. I started the Facebook Page Celtic Punk Folk Rock first when I was doing a small online radio station thru live365.com, hoping to get more listeners and help to spread the word about all the great music being put out in the genre. I myself didn’t really get into it until 2006 when I started discovering the music thanks to the P2P programs that were popular at the time, like Limewire for instance. The first group I found was the Pogues, who I remembered hearing about back in the 80’s from an English guy I was working with at the time, although my musical tastes were in a different place at the time so I never really got into it then. From there I started discovering more Celt music thanks to John B of Paddy Rock and also Shite n Onions, and from there my love of the music began to grow. When I just had the FB Page there was some interest from fans, but it took almost 6 years or so to get 1000 followers, and then I saw something about making a group affiliated with the Page and got 1000 fans within 11 months. I’d say the scene has been getting behind the group, especially from like the end of February as you mentioned, ever since the post about the Murphys live stream on Paddy’s Day, and suddenly I was adding over 100 member requests a day, to where we are today with almost 5000 members, and there has been lots of participation by members which makes it more fun,discovering even more new bands than I’d known of previously.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? One glimpse at your FB page tells me you are a proud Irish-American but do you know much about your roots? Us non-Irish born Irish are often ridiculed by those whose ancestors were lucky not to be starved out of Ireland for having the most tenuous of links and sadly Irish-Americans seem to bear the brunt of it. What’s the community like where you live?

What I know of my roots I discovered on my own thru online ancestry sites, and I discovered my great great grandfather came to the States around 1850 or so, and the first American born member of my family was a great aunt who was born in NY in 1854. I found that my family was one of the first Irish families to settle in the town I grew up in which I thought was pretty cool. My mother’s family came here in 1888 and 1890 from Cork. I grew up in a mainly working class town whose main employer was the General Motors plant, so it was a landing point for lots of immigrants from Ireland as well as many other countries, so it was a real melting pot,not surprising since the town was only 25 miles from New York City.

Do you think most Irish in the States would consider themselves Irish, Irish-American or just plain auld American? Why do you think that affinity to Ireland has stayed so strong in people whose ancestors left Ireland in some cases generations ago?

I’d say most think of themselves the same as I do, as an American first with strong Irish heritage that we’re all proud of, sort of like ‘Emerald City’ by The Tossers. I’m 4th generation Irish American on my father’s side and I’ve known I had Irish blood since I was a kid, but like I said earlier, I never knew much until around 2005 or so when I got into finding out my ancestry history, and once a person knows and learns about the history and the culture of the Irish people, there’s no way you can’t be proud to be Irish.

It seems to me that the media have an obsession with Irish-Americans often showing them on TV as violent gangsters or drunken simpletons. The most obvious example is the disrespectful way that St.Patrick’s Day is now portrayed. It is still the most popular day in the worldwide Irish calendar but does it hurt when it is shown as just a gigantic piss-up and what ways are the community doing to combat this.

To tell you the truth, I don’t see or hear any of that type of negativity over here. NYC has the oldest and biggest Paddy’s Day parade in the world if i’m not mistaken and it’s the biggest parade of all of the parades in NYC. I’ve been down there three times on Paddy’s Day, two of those times to see The Pogues in 2007 and 2008, and all I saw was people having a blast and celebrating the day, with never any violence, so those people that think that way just don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about and even if anyone does say anything offensive we’re not pussies and we don’t get offended like a snowflake, we just deal with it. I’m not a PC person anyway. PC culture was created as a form of censorship in my opinion, but that’s neither hear nor there, so I’ll move on.

Which leads us onto this. Now us Irish are fond of a drink or two that much is true and there’s a current debate around the idea of cultural appropriation. Is it politically correct for non-Irish bands to sing about the Irish getting pissed and fighting and pubs and what have you. Personally I love it. The idea of the likes of Indonesian or Brazilian bands getting into The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones after listening to the Dropkick Murphys. I mean its not like The Dubliners ever wrote a song about getting pissed is it? I think its just a case of snobbery but do you think it’s ok?

Hell, I love the fact that there are Celtic bands all over the world, it just shows how far Irish culture is spread around the globe. Hell,there are forty million Americans who claim Irish ancestry to one degree or another. There are people in the FB group from places like Poland, Belgium, Germany, Mexico and on and on, places you wouldn’t really expect the music to be popular, and they post videos of bands people may not have heard of, so I’m all for it. Music connects everyone in one way or another so that’s a cool thing.

(we asked Mike for his three favourite Celtic-Punk videos. #1 our very own Neck)

How did you get into Celtic-Punk? For myself it was as a child growing up listening to Irish music (somewhat reluctantly it must be said!) and then later on after I had gotten into Punk both traditions met head on with The Pogues when I was 14 and that was that!

I was very late getting into it. In 2006 my son was reading the Bob Dylan book Chronicles Part One and it had a section on how he idolized the Clancy Brothers, especially Liam, so he asked me if I could find some Liam Clancy on Limewire, and that’s when I discovered the Pogues and downloaded a few songs and got hooked, and from there I just became totally obsessed with the Punk and the Trad genres.

Who were the bands who first got you into Celtic-Punk? Who are your all time favourite bands on the scene?

For me, everything started with The Pogues, and after joining the Medusa Forum (Pogues site) I learned more about them and found out about the Murphys and Flogging Molly, and thanks to Paddy Rock my Celt Punk horizons expanded. Right now I’d say my all time favorites would be the Pogues, Tossers, Mahones, DKM, Greenland Whalefishers and the Rumjacks.

Besides Celtic-Punk what other music do you like?

Rock has always been my favorite, starting with seeing the Beatles on TV on Ed Sullivan as a young lad of 7 then getting into the Stones, then in ’72 a friend of mine turned me on to Bowie, Lou Reed and the V.U., Mott, Iggy and then came the Ramones and Punk and New Wave. I’ve also gotten into the Outlaw Country stuff with Waylon, Willie, Johnny Cash, Hank and Hank Jr, Steve Earle, who has a lot of Celtic influence in his music. I also loved the Motown sound of my youth and liked some of the original hardcore Hip-Hop.

(Mikes second song was the perfect mix of past and present)

I’m sure you get to hear a lot of modern day Celtic/Folk-Punk bands? Which bands would you recommend as the ‘next big thing’ on the scene?

I don’t see any live music. Most of what I hear as far as newer bands go I find in my group actually. I really like The Gallowgate Murders and The O’Reilly’s And The Paddyhats. Another couple of new favorites are Paddy Waggin and Grass Mud Horse.

Has Celtic-Punk been welcomed in the Irish-American community at all? I was recently reading about the explosion in young people wanting to learn bagpipes, banjo, mandolin and tin-whistle. Of course what the article failed to mention was that these are all instruments the Dropkick Murphys play!! Here in England the very mention of Celtic-Punk conjures up images of young men in Celtic tops smashing up bars and puking in the bogs so there is still a lot of fear and mistrust.

I’d say it probably all depends on what type of music people are into in the first place. If people are more into alternative type music they’d probably gravitate more to the Celt Punk. Even the Murphys and Flogging Molly aren’t filling the big arenas like a Madison Square Garden so it’s still a small loyal community, and none of the bands get played on the mainstream radio stations. I don’t really see the big explosion of young fans either. The numbers I get in my group data is that almost 70% of the members are between 35 and 54, which really surprised me.

(Mikes final video is Irish-American favourites The Tossers and their ode to their home city of Chicago)

To us in England it seems that Celtic-Punk over there is massive. It does seem there’s even more bands than ever before. Is this right is the scene bigger? If it is bigger has that made it more commercial / mainstream and is that a good thing? After the big 2 who are the next most popular US bands?

I don’t really know how big the scene here is, but it definitely isn’t mainstream or commercial, it’s still more of a subculture or cult type thing. The groups besides the Big 2 I like from here are the Tossers, Flatfoot 56, Black 47 were big when they were together. The Kilmaine Saints, Killigans, Shilelagh Law usually have big regional followings and are always popular on the summer Irish American Festival circuit. A new band I just discovered in the group is Black Irish Texas who I like a lot.

Do you think their is a particular American Celtic-Punk sound. Like the Australians their is a very strong working class ethos but also a mistrust of anything overtly political.

I think each band has their own sound, I mean nobody is gonna confuse the Tossers sound for the Murphys or Flogging Molly for Flatfoot 56. Some bands have more of the hard edged sound while others have the more trad sound just sped up a bit.

We Irish love our sport and it is football that is most dear to our hearts and we (nearly) all support the best team in the world but we all (mostly) have other (not so good) teams too. You into sport at all? Which teams do you support? Does learning the value of defeat and having pride in losing but trying your hardest teach you something that is missing in society?

I love sports,played them all the time as a kid. I played baseball and basketball and pickup football (American style) and I love watching NHL hockey even though I never played. My favorite teams are all New York teams, my favorite being the Yankees in baseball, Giants in the NFL, Knicks,even though they’ve sucked for 20 years now, in the NBA and the Islanders in the NHL. I think sports teach us how to win and lose, and nothing is handed to you, at least it used to be like that in youth sports when I was growing up, none of this participation trophy shite we see these days. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, words that still hold true today. I know one political party over here that never learned to lose gracefully, that’s not the way to lose. If you lose, it’s cool to be pissed, but lose with class and dedicate yourself to work on the mistakes you made that caused you to lose, and hopefully one day you’ll taste the thrill of victory.

Any final thoughts Mike? Anyone you would like to give a shout out to and any bands you would like to give a plug?

First, thanks for asking me to do this interview. Hopefully I gave you something you could use with my answers, and I’d like to give a shout-out to all the glorious bastards in my FB group for helping spread the word about this great music we love and participating and sharing their favorite music with everyone, and a shout out to your own London Celtic Punks which has kept fans in the loop about everything Celt Punk for so long.

Join the best Group on Facebook at the link below and why not share your most local band. 

CELTIC PUNK, FOLK AND ROCK FANS

ALBUM REVIEW: CLOVER’S REVENGE- ‘Truants And Absolution’ (2020)

Based In Sarasota, Florida, Irish Speed Folk trio Clover’s Revenge exist at the dangerous intersection of two great Irish musical traditions: Acoustic pub music and Celtic-Punk-Rock. Their second full length release, Truants And Absolution, came out on Paddy’s Day.

The new album from Clover’s Revenge carries on in much the same vein as their debut release Gotta Get O’Raggednized. Very simple instrumentation with an emphasis on traditional Irish music but done with barrel loads of humour and charm. The review for their debut album declared them very much a pub band and I can still find no disagreement with that after listening to Truants and Absolution as well and just like their debut it is restricted to eight songs and while that may feel a bit on the short side at twenty-four minutes it’s not too bad. The songs are a mixture of well known classic trad and folk songs and some not so well known (but I wouldn’t quite say obscure) and the odd original track.

Clover’s Revenge left to right: Beau Wilberding- Cajon Drum * John Barron- Mandolin * Zach Johnson- Guitar *

Based in Florida I had always thought the area was largely untouched by Irish immigration but a staggering one-in-nine Florida residents are of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry. That works out at over two million folks!!! The Florida Irish claim to fame is that Father Richard Arthur, St. Augustine parish priest, started the first public school in America in 1606. Open to children of both sexes and of all races!  Since that time, the Irish in Florida have proudly played and continue to play key roles in the history and heritage of the state. So it is that wherever you find the Irish you will find several bands of hearty folks willing to entertain them and in Florida they don’t come any bigger, or better, than Clover’s Revenge.

Debuting, like many other bands, on St. Patrick’s Day Clovers Revenge first saw the light of day in 2015 and have performed all over the State as well as regular trips back to the ‘homeland’ while 2020 was set to be a BIG year for the Bhoys with a Northeast/Midwest tour booked in June and then in July a series of gigs in Scotland which was also going to see them perform a one-off London date organised by us. As time has ticked on these dates have looked increasingly unlikely to happen sadly but we can but hope. The band were formed by frontman, lead singer and mandolin player John Barron and he is ably backed up by Dr. Zachary Johnson, on vocals and guitar and Beau Wilberding, who also sings and plays the cajon, a box-shaped percussion instrument played with the hands. Taking influence from modern day Irish-American bands as well as the irreverence of The Pogues they manage while not bringing anything particularly new to Irish music certainly they make music that is fresh and appealing and in the right setting (guess where!!) is most definitely enjoyable.

Labelled ‘Irish Speed Folk’ Truants and Absolution kicks off with a song much loved in Irish Folk and Celtic-Punk and no matter how often I hear it I never tire of ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’, especially when it’s played well like it is here. The song has a natural energy and a great tempo for ‘punking’ it up and Clover’s Revenge give it plenty of oompf. I also love the harmonica at the beginning (a much underused instrument in folk these days) and the song also has a touch of bluegrass/ country at times. Next is the first original and ‘The Maid Behind The Bar’ and John certainly has a voice that fits in perfectly with the sound of the band. It may not be Frank Sinatra but its slightly rough edges are perfect for Irish music. The song is dedicated to the priestesses of fun at the altars of our joy and in particular one Danae Chiaudano from McCabes Irish Pub in Bradenton, Florida who has kept the Bhoys beer glasses over-flowing through the years. It is set to be the albums second single release.

The following is a mashup of two jigs ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me / Dinny Delaney’ and is absolutely stunning. Amazing in its simplicity and yet sounding like several more people were plucking away rather than just John and Zach. That big sound continues next with another original Clover’s Revenge song, this time written by Zachary and instrumental called ‘The Ahdmor Jig’ which soon morphs into a loud and rowdy version of ‘Tell Me Ma’ and if Leaving Of Liverpool is popular in Celtic-Punk then this has to be the #1 song of all time. Played with reckless abandon the song is irresistible played by most but Clover’s Revenge nail it. The first single from the album was another original and one the lads may go to hell for! ‘The Merry Misadventures Of Sister Mary Margaret’ is fast approaching a healthy 10,000  streams on Spotify and has seen plenty of airplay both within and outside the Celtic scene. Composed by John and arranged by the band it’s a great auld romp about a gambling obsessed Nun. My Mum went to convent school and we had plenty of Nuns teaching at my secondary school and so its hard to get offended ‘cos if you ever actually knew any nuns and while they did have their fair share of hard nosed task-masters their were also ones who loved music and football and the horses!

‘Big Strong Man’ is best known to us as one of the signature tunes of the great Wolfe Tones and with no record of who or when it was written it was the Tones version that claimed it as an Irish-American song helped no doubt by the reference to Irish-American boxer Jack Dempsey. Another well chosen track and in keeping with the high tempo sound of the album and no doubt a live favourite with its catchy as feck singalong chorus.

“He was my brother Sylvest (What’s he got?)
A row of forty medals on his chest (Big Chest!)
Well, he killed fifty badmen in the west
He knows no rest, thinkin’ a man’s hell fire
Don’t push, just shove, plenty of room for you and me
He’s got an arm like a leg
And a punch that can sick a battle ship (Big Ship!)
Well it takes all the army and the navy to put the wind up Sylvest”

The album comes to an end with a epic version of the great American traditional folk ballad, ‘The Lakes of Pontchartrain’. At over six minutes long its quite the departure on an album of short, fast and friskey numbers but I needn’t have worried as the band have interpreted the song into a musical tour-de-force. Again the origins of the song are unknown, though it is thought to have originated in the southern US in the 19th century. The story tells of a man who is sheltered by a Louisiana Creole woman who he falls in love with but when he asks her for her hand in marriage she declines as she is already engaged. The course of true love never runs smooth in Folk music! The highlight of the album for me its a great song owing much to Paul Brady’s version and a utterly superb way to close down the album.

So eight songs (or is it more like ten?) of simple Irish Folk music that the lads don’t mind admitting are heavily influenced by ‘more talented Irish musicians from history’ and their is absolutely no shame in that at all. Like their debut Truants And Absolution is best heard live but they’ve done a wonderful job transferring that live sound onto disc and the album reflects their live performance pretty damn well. A sound we were looking forward to hearing in auld London town in July and while we are still hopeful there’s no guarantees of bloody anything in 2020!

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE WILD IRISH ROSES- ‘Full Bloom’ (2020)

The Wild Irish Roses are a true family band.
Mom, Dad and 8 kids. They live in New Paltz, NY
Josie Rose (21) sings, plays banjo
, mandolin, penny whistle, viola. Michael X. (dad) plays guitar. Kristi (mom) sings, plays bass. Hanna (23) plays bodhran. Evelyn(18) sings, plays concertina, accordion,viola. Penelope (16) sings,plays Guitar, and tambourine. Aenghus (13) drums. Lazarus (11) harmonica.

Now this is some band and also the perfect time to review them with St. Patrick’s Day just a few days off. Full Bloom is the fourth album release from The Wild Irish Roses an Irish-American family from New Paltz which is a small town in aptly named Ulster County located in the state of New York, about eighty  miles north of New York City. It’s a small place but with plenty of places to get a cold Guinness and even to learn Irish at the local school it’s a place where the Irish-American community have never forgotten their roots.

The base of the band is a group well known to readers here and that is The Templars Of Doom for it is the Templars singer /songwriter /bassist Mike whose five eldest (of eight!) children make up The Wild Irish Roses. His fellow Templar Scott Benson assists on bagpipes, tin-whistles and flute. Mam (Kristina) and Dad cut their teeth in Brooklyn based post-punk band The Astro-Zombies in the 90’s while during the 2000’s they were in The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment who released 8 albums up to 2010 so music is the blood of this prolific family. On the last Roses album, Fill Yer Boots, Man!, it featured an incredible twenty one songs while here they manage only a paltry seventeen but they continue in much the same vein with songs flying past you as faster than you can keep up with them. The album was recorded in the family’s home studio, their renovated barn, and released on Poe Records.
Full Bloom begins with ‘Garry Owen’ a famous Irish drinking song dating back to Limerick in the late 1700’s. It was adopted by the  7th Cavalry and is said to have been the favourite of General George Armstrong Custer who heard the song among the Irish troops and liked the beat so it was used as a marching song. Mike takes on vocals here giving it a Templars feel while the family supply backing vocals. The album sees three sisters take turns at singing lead and on ‘An Incident At Sea’ it is Josie, who also plays pipes in the Templars Of The Doom, who sings her own composition.

Her voice reminds me of Jacqui McShee from Pentangle while the song also has that 1970’s British folk feel to it. This is followed by a brief tin whistle and flute interlude before we are treated to the song that I feel has given Pentangle a place in music history. ‘Will O’Winsbury’, a traditional Scots ballad dating from 1775, is sung by Evelyn-Marie and while much different to the Pentangle version in fact I think it even improves on it. In conversation with Mike though he says they came to the song through Anne Briggs who in turn got it from Johnny Moynihan of the legendary Sweeneys Men. With three bagpipers in the family it’s no surprise to find the pipes featuring heavily here and the first of three bagpipe reels ‘The Atholl Highlanders’ is next and no wonder it use to put the fear of God into people! Evelyn-Marie returns to sing a beautiful acapella version of ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’, a a traditional folk ballad used to warn young people of the dangers in taking false lovers. First documented in 1689 it’s another link to the wonderful Pentangle’s appearing on their debut album in 1968. ‘The Adventures Of A Young Rose’ is an interesting track sounding in part like an Aussie western song as wellas a Celtic foot stomper. Now their previous albums have been significant (as have the Templars Of Doom) for their use of covers that you just wouldn’t expect and here they throw in Sweet’s ‘Fox On The Run’ sung brilliantly by Penelope Ann (only 15!). I LOVE Sweet and this versions sure does them justice.

Another instrumental ‘The Gael’ follows. The song written by Dougie Maclean featured in the 1992 blockbuster film ‘Last of the Mohicans’ and is adapted from fiddle to bagpipes and again stirs the blood like no other instrument on earth can. ‘Rumple- Pye The Troll’ sees Mike taking vocals over a silly song about an imaginary (?) friend. ‘Jenny Nettles’ is another pipes instrumental and has a punky feel to it despite is being purely acoustic (the true mark for a LOUD band if you ask me!). ‘A Rogues March’ like most here has an interesting back story being the song played in camp when  dishonoured soldiers were drummed out of camp on their way to punishment. Here the entire Rose family of ten combine to sing accompanied only by the beat of the bodhran. We are back in Celtic-Punk territory next with ‘ICC Home (Hudson Valley Irish Cultural Center)’. The battle to build an Irish centre was a long one but in the end a successful one and here the Roses pay tribute to a place that will provide a warm and welcoming place for all who want to share in the great Irish-American experience. Polly Vaughn’ is an old Irish folk song about a boy out hunting who accidentally kills his true love. We are rounding the bend now and Armstrong’s Last Goodbye’ is better known these days as ‘The Parting Glass’ and contrary to popular opinion is in fact a Scots song. Sung at the end of a gathering of friends and more recently at funerals it’s been recorded by just about every decent Irish artist.

The album (sort of) ends with a cover of the Velvet Undergrounds ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’. Bagpipe heavy and with Josie and Evelyn on vocals it doesn’t disappoint. Well that should be it except for a bonus track which is basically the family Rose three bagpipe players going to town on ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ which also turns out to be one of the album’s highlights.

Well what to say. Besides the obvious achievement of it being so special thanks to it being such a family endeavour it does also stand on its own two feet as well. The music sometimes has the feel of Prog-Rock at times alongside the utter abashed Celtic/ Irishness of the music. Always interesting The Wild Irish Roses have a very unique take on Irish music and on an album full of maudlin sad ballads sat next to full on Irish foot stompers they carry it off with ease. I have revisited this album several times since i first sat down and listened to it and each time I hear something different and I have no doubt that if I was to write this review again in a year it would be completely different.

(you can stream Full Bloom on the Bandcamp player below)

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EP REVIEW: THE KILMAINE SAINTS- ‘Off The Wagon Acoustic Sessions’ (2020)

The Kilmaine Saints are back! One of the best Celtic-Rock bands Irish-America has ever produced with a seven track acoustic EP that includes two new songs and five re-imagined Saints classics.

This explosive, high-energy Celtic rock band from Central PA will lift your hearts, your spirits, and your pint when you’re not looking!

Well what to say about the Kilmaine Saints? One of my favourite bands and one that all the writers here would agree is and has been one of the best and not only that but it is widely agreed that when the definitive history of Celtic-Punk is put to paper then the Kilmaine Saints will have one or maybe two of the best Celtic-Punk albums and maybe even a third as well!
Formed in Central Pennsylvania when two members of the Harrisburg Pipe & Drum with a mutual love of the flourishing Irish-American Celtic-Punk scene decided to kick something off with the aim of getting them free beers at local St. Patrick’s Day shows. Well from small acorns they have blossomed into a band that has always stood just a small step away from Celtic-Punk stardom. One of only a few American bands whose fame has translated into overseas success and it’s no surprise to occasionally spot a Saints shirt at gigs over the years. Others in this league would be The Tossers, Mickey Rickshaw or Flatfoot 56. One of the scenes most consistently good bands they have released four albums, a live album and a couple of EP’s with the most outstanding of all being their debut in 2010 The Good, The Plaid, And The Ugly which Paddyrock called “the BEST Celtic Rock release of 2010 hands down!” and introduced me, and many others, to the Kilmaine Saints thanks to the now long gone Paddy Punx web site.
This was followed up  a couple of years later with Drunken Redemption which made the top ten of all four leading Celtic-Punk web-sites for 2012. Five years of intensive gigging led to the release of their last studio album and Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos really exploded the Saints back onto the national scene. With over seventeen songs they managed not a single duffer and from the first seconds to last dirge of the bagpipes it remains, along with The Good, The Plaid, And The Ugly, one of the albums any Celtic-Punk fan must seek out.
Now a band needs a good set of releases to achieve this level of attention but in their beginning it is their live shows that sees people coming back for more and even though separated by hundreds of miles of ocean one of the things I have consistently read about is the Saints and their high-octane, blistering, high-energy live sets that keep people singing along, stomping their feet, lifting their pints and shouting for more. So the two come together and top of that the people in the band have always taken an interest in the scene and not just in how it can help them which is something that we here appreciate especially.
So history lesson delivered and what does 2020 give us? Well another drawback to being so far away from the main home of Celtic-Punk is bands can go quiet on you and you don’t always get to realise why so with a couple of years of quiet I was delighted to receive Off The Wagon from band guitarist  Rich. Quickly adding it to my phone I played the EP’s seven songs about a dozen times and then sat through the whole Kilmaine Saints back catalogue at the weekend to remind me what a utterly fantastic band they are. Their albums have tended to be a solid mix of amped up Irish and Celtic classics with extremely good compositions of their own thrown in as well. It has to be said though you can be a great band playing covers, and especially if you do something with them rather than being just a standard cover, but to go further you need strong songs of your own and this is what sets The Kilmaine Saints apart. Here though on Off The Wagon they have gone for a acoustic setting. Not that it doesn’t still mean it can be as noisy and raucous as most thrash metal bands but that the progression of the Kilmaine Saints is far is far from over yet!

Kilmaine Saints left to right: Bill Brown- Pipes, Whistle, Bouzouki * Jon Heller- Bass/Pipes * Tommy Leanza- Drums * Liz Mallin- Fiddle * Rich Lipski- Mandolin, Banjo, Acoustic Guitar * Brendan Power- Vocals * Erich Arndt- Guitar *

The EP’s seven songs consist of five older tracks re-imagined and two completely new ones. The EP begins with a new one the title track ‘Off The Wagon’. With a tune flitting from a Walt Disney favourite to an Irish jig the song flies through in just over two minutes and is typical Kilmaine Saints. These guys can write a serious song and have done many times but its the love of a good time that dominates and their sense of humour shines through here. Next up is a song where the serious nature of the lyrics (the poor Irish arriving in the USA during the Great Hunger and the prejudice they received) belies the jaunty tune that accompanies it. Something you often find in Irish music. ‘Painting Paradise Square’ first appeared on their debut album and was written by former band member and multi-instrumentalist (tenor banjo, bass, mandolin) Frank Aponte.
“I suffered to get here and I’m not going to leave
And if you knock me down, you’d best be sure I’m dead
‘Cause when I get back on me feet, and I promise you that I will
I’ll steal your life and use your blood to paint Paradise Square!”
‘With Regrets’ is next up from Drunken Redemption and while the original was a full throttle Celtic rocker about a wastrel of a man and attempting to make sure his son doesn’t follow the same roads as him. The song is a beautiful ballad with great mournful fiddle work from Liz. Great heartfelt lyrics and Mayo born vocalist Brendan’s great voice is accompanied by Liz to great effect. A real choker of a song. ‘MacGowans Wake’ is not a tribute as I had originally thought to the Godfather of Celtic-Punk but a loving salute to a friend of the band Eddie McGowan.

Eddie was a very proud Irish-American born in Baltimore, Maryland and was a founder member of Celtic-Rock band Dublin 5 who shared many’s a stage with the Kilmaine Saints. Eddie MacGowan was a

Eddie MacGowan 1969-2018 RIP

friend, musician and father who on February 5, 2018, lost his nearly four-year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). His energy, humor, generosity, love and friendship will be deeply missed by the multitude of people who have been lucky to know him. He made everyone he met feel like they mattered to him, and they truly did. He gave everything he had to family and friends. Those who loved him have set up a foundation the Eddie MacGowan Foundation so please take a look. Funds raised through their activities will be donated to organizations that supported Eddie through his illness and that continue to support patients with similar disabilities. A sad loss for the Irish in America. Another beautiful choker of a song and following this we are back again to their last album for ‘Pennsylvania’s Finest’ what you might call a ‘American Rebel Song’. Again the original was a barnstormer of a song fast, furious and full of righteous anger, rousing the masses to remember the War Of Independence.

“And all the world shall know, Americans are free
Nor slaves nor cowards we will prove, And England soon shall see
We’re Pennsylvania’s Finest,
And we will proudly fight our hearts are strong our aim is true,
We’ll stand up for our rights”
The English making friends wherever they go since 1776!! Played here with with an ever such slight ska-ish beat but with much the same tempo of the original. Their last album provides the last two tracks here with the marvellous ‘Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos’ leaping out at you as the standout track. A superb song carefully crafted and here presented in such a beautiful way. The lyrics are amazing and a positive call to sort ourselves out. 
“Don’t waste another night, getting lost in your pint
Wasted memories of wasted yesterdays
Get up off the bar stool Get your boots on the ground
You’ll never reach the top at the bottom of a round
‘Cuz age is just a number not the sum of our mistakes
Always search for new tomorrows Always hope for better days”

The EP ends with ‘Golden Pen’ and a perfect way to leave with another great song Liz wrote about the death of a friend’s Mother. A great EP that shows the amazing talent of a band that is not resting on its laurels and hopefully new material will be following soon. The Celtic-Punk scene needs The Kilmaine Saints.

(Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos- not the acoustic version as featured on Off The Wagon but what the hell you get the drift and I bloody love this song!)

The Kilmaine Saints are equal parts Irish swagger, Scottish pride and whiskey. Their usual explosive Celtic-Rock has taken a back seat for now but is sure to return. The scene in America is still standing strong and bands like the Saints have now begun to influence a new breed of band setting out and it’s fair to say that there’s not much better bands to take that influence from. The Kilmaine Saints have become over the years a focal point for not just their local Irish-American community but nationwide too. A band that captures what it is to be Irish in America today. A symbol for a community that isn’t just there so that TV executives can make gangster programmes about them or TV series taking the piss out of their religion. The Irish community is still very much alive just like, thank heavens, The Kilmaine Saints.

Buy Off The Wagon Acoustic Sessions  FromTheBand

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The Kilmaine Saints cross the broad Atlantic later in the year to play a series of gigs in the auld country taking in some of Ireland’s biggest tourist attractions. Sadly they won’t be coming to Ireland’s 33rd county (London) so my wait to see them goes on. You can still join them as a fan if you’re in America I think but best to check with them and if you in Ireland or going to be there at the same time (April 18-25) then be sure to find out where they are playing and get along!

The Kilmaine Saints performed the whole of Off The Wagon EP live on Facebook on Saturday 29th February and its a wonderful hour+ of the Saints talking about all manner of stuff and playing the songs. Well worth the watch.