Category Archives: Irish-American

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

New York Irish Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy By Hook Or By Crook  CDbaby  Apple  Amazon

Contact The Narrowbacks  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube  Bandcamp

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

EP REVIEW: THE FIGHTING 69th- ‘FAMOUS FOR NOTHING. TRIBUTE TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS. VOLUME 2 (2019)

Back again for more it’s Celtic-Punk’s most prolific artist the Buffalo, New York based ‘One Man Band’ The Fighting 69th release their second tribute to Celtic-Punk’s #1 band this year. Five more songs given an affectionate twist and again available as a free download.

Was only in September we reviewed Volume 1 of the Fighting 69th tribute EP to the Dropkick Murphys and already hot on its heels lands Volume 2! Again the songs chosen are a mix of the more famous and perhaps some lesser known songs as well and give Raymond ample opportunity to show off his amazing musicianship for he plays every instrument here including piano, bagpipes, tin whistle, drums, bass guitar, electric guitar… all played by the man himself including vocals too!

We went into how the band first formed back in 2007 in our review of Volume one here and even a bit of history of who the original Fighting 69th were and where the band took their name from. So rather than repeat ourselves head over there and read up on some proud Irish-American history and also grab yourself the first Volume of this series for free. The EP starts with ‘Paying My Way’ from the rather cooly received last album 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory. On reflection the album has grown on me and ‘Paying My Way’ has gone onto become a staple of their live shows, as well as ‘Blood’, so perhaps it’s worthy of another listen. Next up is ‘Ten Years Of Service’ from the Murphs second studio album The Gang’s All Here (this is also the album that featured the Bhoys version of The Fighting 69th). It was Al Barr’s first album with the group and ‘Ten Years Of Service’ was the first big exposure of him as the new lead singer. I think Ray tries a bit too much punk rock snarl here on his version but there you go.

“Who’s gonna save us from this lonely picket line,
10 years of service but I’m still not worth your time.
And I’ve seen men give their lives,
and heard the stories that they tell of how they labored
for this company which sold it’s soul to hell”

Not strictly a Murphys song but they did record ‘The Green Fields Of France’ on their best selling album The Warriors Code from 2005. Graced by just about every Irish artist worth their salt it was actually written in 1976 by Scottish folk singer-songwriter Eric Bogle, reflecting on the grave of a young Irishman who had died fighting in the First World War. A sad song and suitably played here. Now to perhaps the fans most favourite Murphys song ‘Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced’. Played at every gig since they wrote it it’s usually the start of their encore and the beginning of bringing the curtain down on a sweaty night of Celtic-Punk rocking! Featuring on Blackout the fourth studio album released in 2003. The EP comes to an end with another song from their last album and its another live favourite in ‘Blood’ and it’s a pretty decent cover of the original with plenty of piping! The Fighting 69th show that none of the Murphys songs are beyond them and end on the EP on a glorious high!

(You can listen to Famous For Nothing below on the Bandcamp. It’s available as a  free download but chuck a price of the ‘Black Stuff’ over if you can afford it. Now get downloading!) 

Download the EP FromTheBand  Contact The Fighting 69th  Bandcamp  YouTube  Instagram

ALBUM REVIEW: DONNY ZUZULA- ‘Chemicals’ (2019)

Donny Zuzula has worn a lot of hats and walked a lot of miles.

Having spent a decade as the guitarist, singer, songwriter for the Michigan based Celtic-Punk trio The Tosspints, Donny Zuzula’s debut album takes us through every aspect of his life. Dark, sad, heartbroken tunes, poetically sung from the soul and layered with guitars and harmonies.

The Tosspints are a strange band within the Celtic-Punk scene. Not only are they the only trio in the scene, being made up by the Bros. Zuzula, Donny and Zak accompanied on drums by John Johnson, but they are also not really much of a Celtic-Punk band in that they have no Celtic instrumentation. It is true though that they somehow manage to convey the feel of a Celtic band better than most with just bass, electric guitar and drums. Donny who is the main writer for The Tosspints is a singer-songwriter in the old school meaning of the term. Not some pampered puppet singing achingly of experiences they have never or will ever know. Celtic-Punk is dominated by several themes that cross from continent to continent especially among the children of the diaspora- Loss and emigration, heavy drinking, heavy working and death, solidarity, religion, class pride, an gorta mór (the great hunger) all bleed into the modern day working class Irish-American experience. Donny had a knack back then (a must listen to album is The Tosspints excellent album The Privateer from 2015) of capturing this way of life and here on his debut solo album he continues in much the same way. Donny chose to record a solo album rather than another Tosspints album because

“this solo venture is more of an exercise in writing alone to explore more versatile styles that wouldn’t normally be courted along with the band. A little more folk influence and a little more explorative of personal topics than when writing is done with the band, this album is just different enough to be something new, but just familiar enough that fans of previous work should feel right at home.”

Donny served time in the military overseas and these experiences alongside growing and living in Saginaw, until recently the most dangerous places in America! Once a thriving and successful town by the late 20th century, industry and its once-strong manufacturing presence had collapsed leading to increasing unemployment and crime. This hard nosed, working class background runs through The Tosspints music. It’s also an area of America with long historical links to Irish emigration with Irish emigrants responsible for building the areas many canals and even the areas connection with Irish nationalism has always been closely linked with the Labour movement in which Irish-Americans were among the earliest organizers and leaders. As the band say about themselves

“living through the school of hard knocks, brought to bear from war, loss, degradation, and hard drinking. A band created entirely by a family who has had to make it through life the hard way and use their experience to create songs about the more distressed side of being human”

Donny Zuzula first album is Chemicals, the much anticipated follow up to The Privateer and as ever Donny draws from not from cliches but from the very life of a man who has seen and experienced things we can only dream about. From being a war veteran to fatherhood, Donny takes us on a ride that incorporates Folk-Rock and Punk as well as honest to goodness blue collar working man’s music. Introduced to music through his fathers love of Neil Young, Donny takes a harder edged route and while stopping short of Punk it has the same appeal as The Tosspints and will I am sure be welcomed by fans of that band.

The album begins with ‘Alive’ and the Neil Young comparison is still OK but also crossed with the great Bob Mould. Donny’s vocals still rock and his range is extraordinary and conveys the emotion of the songs perfectly. This is no guy going through the motions. The song is catchy as hell as can be expected and sets the scene for an album that continues to impress me on each play. ‘Another Shot’ veers into that 80’s Post-Punk sound that saw Punk’s not afraid of complicated guitar riffs and more elaborate set ups.

“I crossed a line today
I marched to battle and on my way
It’s just a memory
But feels like it’s all happening again”

The words here seem so personal that it kinda feels funny to attempt to make sense of them from the outside. They speak in such a way that I would recommend looking up the lyrics on Donny’s Bandcamp page. ‘Never Go Back’ slows things down akin to a rock ballad but no cheese while ‘Empty And Gone’ comes up with a delicate Country-rocker. ‘Nothing Left To Say’ takes us back to Mould territory and an excellent rocking tune that gives Donny amble opportunity to show off his vocal range.

Catchy as hell and a guaranteed favourite that leads nicely into ‘Any Other Day’ and if the words here don’t strike you in the gut then there is nay hope for you.

“It’s getting awful late
And my urge to medicate
Has surpassed my will to use the skills
That keep me from the bottom of the bottle”

The final three songs of Chemicals show Donny in reflective form as he turns again to the influence of Country music though wrapped up well in punk attitude. Slide guitar on ‘Turn Away’ makes it the more obvious tune but on ‘Sleep Is For The Weak’ the influence is just as great but more accessible.

“I tell that bottle
all my hopes and my dreams
I tell that bottle
all that’s happened to me
I tell that bottle
the way that I really feel
that bottle understands me
in a way you never will”

Leading the way to the albums closing tune and the albums standout song, ‘Chemicals’.

I would compare Donny in a lot of ways to Bryan MacPherson who has featured on London Celtic Punks pages perhaps more than any artist. Like Donny, Bryan’s life has seen ups and downs and his songwriting draws you right into his soul. We are not voyeurs in their life and they neither hold up their experiences as a vehicle for their music it is much more the other way round and the music becomes the way to express themselves. Where others may play up to events in their lives Donny, and Bryan too, has that ability to draw you into his life through their music. It is something incredible and a talent that very few have and many more think they have but don’t! Chemicals is many things. It is gritty and heartfelt as well as passionate and inspiring and the words are powerful. Chemicals deserves to be heard…

(You can stream Chemicals on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Chemicals  Vinyl/CD  Download

Contact Donny Zuzula  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp

EP REVIEW: JAY MOODY- ‘Pub Songs On Palafox’

FREE DOWNLOAD!

Roots Music with No Reservations.

Jay Moody is a Native American/Irish folksinger from Pensacola, Florida. He describes his eclectic sound as Creolized Roots Music. Irish folk influenced by swamp blues and pub-rock, with hints of Caribbean rhythms and Celtic melodies.

One of the things we set out to do with this site when we started was to promote new music. When I say new music I mean of course music that had just been released as one glimpse at ‘modern’ music shows it is nothing of the sort. Nothing is new anymore and anyway seeing as Celtic-Punk has one foot in the past anyway the idea of it being ‘new’ seems a little strange to me. So we have a sort of informal policy to only review releases that have recently come out. We have on the rare occasion gone against this policy but only a small handful of times and only when the release is new to us and worthy of a review as is the 2013 debut EP of Jay Moody. Jay has been performing as a singer-songwriter for most of his adult life. Raised in a large, Native American/ Irish family, he is a member of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Tribe, he learnt his first guitar chords at his father’s knee who was also a gigging musician having cut his teeth singing on city streets, beaches, and campfires throughout the Gulf-coast. Raised in a Navy family, Jay’s youth was spent moving around various maritime communities while always returning to his home in Florida

So it was that back in June, 2013 Jay released this small collection of songs Pub Songs On Palafox, a solo EP that was intended to capture the raw energy and sound from his time busking in the urban setting of his home in downtown Pensacola, Florida. Palafox is the name of the main strip in downtown Pensacola, and that’s why the EP is named as he was singing pub songs on Palafox. Simple really! Four songs recorded in the raw as a live-air production that captures the energy and sound of a solo performance busking downtown in competition with the sounds of a bustling city street. This EP may have been designed as a way to drum up some work but he soon found work getting in the way and so began a few years away from the music biz until recently and Jay has major plans going forward including new music and more releases to come. The EP begins with a couple of songs from the Great Irish Songbook with the great drinking song  ‘Dicey Reilly’ kicking things off. The fictional (though no doubt based upon real person!) account of a life ruined by the drink. A song about a alcoholic Dublin prostitute is probably not the sort of thing you’d be wanting children to sing along but I remember well singing along with this as a young nipper. Written by the great Irish patriot and writer Brendan Behan the songs jolliness belies its more serious subject matter and has long been a staple of the Irish folk scene and a firm audience favourite. Jay gives it plenty of ‘oompf’ and sings it straight but with power and no end of passion.

This is followed by another Irish favourite and again ‘Black Velvet Band’ is a dark song about infatuation, deceit and injustice that many would know but not realise the subject matter was so awful. In fact a mate of mine told me his Mammy used to sing this to him at bedtime! Telling of a young man who has the misfortune to fall in love with a thief who tricks him into holding a stolen watch. As this is a Irish folk song he is caught of course and sentenced to seven years penal servitude and sent away to Van Diemen’s Land now known as Tasmania. Again Jay plays it with a power and his strong vocals are the most stand out thing here. Though he sings loud and almost a shout it also a gentleness that keeps it’s feet firmly in Irish folk territory. The pub may be the venue to hear these songs and Jay has the kind of the voice that can cut through the rowdiness and the chatter that sometimes afflicts the solo performer in a Irish pub! Next up is the first of Jay’s compositions and ‘Looks Like Jesus’ shows Jay has a great talent for songwriter. Peppered with imagery from the Southern atmosphere he calls home the  rockabilly-blues influences fit perfectly and again its hard sometimes to think its just Jay and a guitar.

The EP comes to an end with the cheeky ‘Miss Constance’, a naughty Caribbean-styled tune about the perils of younger women. A style of music known in Jamaica as ‘mento’ it predates and has greatly influenced ska and reggae music. Known for topical lyrics with a humorous slant sexual innuendos were also common as they are here if you listen closely! So this EP may be an amazing six years old but seeing as Jay has made it available as a ‘Name Your Price/Free Download’ then their is no reason not to get yourself a copy. It may even inspire Jay to get his arse into gear and record some more. It may be six years since Pub Songs On Palafox came out but you can still find Jay performing in intimate venues throughout the Southeastern United States. Deeply influenced by both his Irish and native roots as well as folkfunkblues, pub rock and Country with more than a touch of Caribbean rhythms to keep the Irish/Celtic melodies company Jay is a original artist and anyone who can breathe new life into songs that are so familiar is a great talent.

(hear Pub Songs On Palafox on the Bandcamp player below!)

Download Pub Songs On Palafox  Bandcamp

Contact Jay  WebSite  Blog  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  Instagram

EP REVIEW: THE FIGHTING 69th- ‘Barroom Heroes. Tribute To The Dropkick Murphys’ (2019)

Buffalo, New York’s ‘One Man Band’ The Fighting 69th release their tribute to Celtic-Punk’s #1 band. Six songs given an affectionate twist and available as a free download.

We have to go back to 2007 to the origins of The Fighting 69th. Three seventeen year old mates in a friends basement were sick to death of playing pop punk covers and decided to go back to their collective Irish roots and try something radically different. Over the course of the next several years band members would come and go at regular interval, numerous shows were played and even one or two festivals.
(The first album from The Fighting 69th from October 2008 Dublin Calling. Re-released for its 10th anniversary. Eat, Drink, and listen to The Fighting 69th)
The Fighting 69th would eventually throw in the towel and call it a day in 2011. The boys taking a break from the music scene until original band member, and principle songwriter, Raymond Ball decided he missed all the fuss and decided to pick up the flag and carry on from where it fell. Since the bands resurrection Raymond has single handedly carried the band on numerous releases over the last few years including six (!) this year alone. All are available from The Fighting 69th Bandcamp page as Free Download/Pay What You Like donation. This means you can download them all for nothing but if you can afford it then do the decent thing and leave enough for a couple of pints. Among this years releases are tributed to The Pogues and to recently deceased Irish-American musician Joe Dady as well as this one to the Murphys. Six songs that avoid the Murphys greatest hits and see Raymond playing every instrument as he bashes and brawls his way through better known songs such as the title song and ‘Finnegans Wake’ as well as lesser known ones as ‘The Burden’ from 2005’s The Warrior’s Code and ‘Cruel’ from 2011’s Going Out In Style. The other songs are sort of inbetween with ‘Rose Tattoo’ and the Christmas themed ‘The Season’s Upon Us’. It’s all done in an affectionate way and it shines through that Raymond is an enormous fan. The music is definitely from the punky side of things and that will I am sure please DKM’s fans with several instruments on display showcasing Raymonds talent. Bagpipes, tin whistle, drums, bass guitar, electric guitar… and more all played by the man himself including vocals too!

THE FIGHTING 69th

The name The 69th Infantry Regiment, or the ‘Fighting 69th’  embodies the melding of Irish-American Culture, the precious preservation of heritage, the limitless abilities of immigrants and the preservation of a long and distinguished connection between Ireland and the United States. The name The Fighting 69th was bestowed on the Regiment by Confederate General Robert E Lee and embodies epic and legendary actions of the most famed military Regiment to grace the pages of our history books. Honouring the ideals of loyalty, honour and freedom.

The history and world famous achievements of The Fighting 69th illuminates the pages of Irish American history.

 

Initially an Irish Heritage Unit, comprised of Irish immigrants, who had escaped from an Ireland of vicious hunger, disease, injustices and failed rebellions. People who had lived under the Penal Laws which denied them their rights to freedom in their homeland. They set about a new life in The United States, a land of promise and freedom. These brave men set about supporting the ideals of freedom, a sense of passion for a cause defending the rights of others, an experience they were familiar with defending those who could not defend themselves. The Fighting 69th embodies a greatness of spirit and faith in each other that has forever insured their rightful place as one of the most historic military Regiments in US, and modern world, history. Their proud history is interwoven with that of Ireland, The Fighting 69th embodies its Irish Heritage but also the heritage of all immigrants. They have preserved some of the most wonderful Irish traditions, preserving the eternal bond that is forever enduring and unbreakable between Ireland and The United States. The Fighting 69th are at the tip of the spear of preserving Irish Heritage in the United States, the majority of their traditions and emblems holding a deep rooted connection to Ireland.

(you can listen to Barroom Heroes below on the Bandcamp player but don’t forget it’s a free download so get downloading!) 

Buy the EP FromTheBand  Contact The Fighting 69th  Bandcamp  YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

IRISH BY THE NUMBERS

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

AMERICAN IRISH POPULATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philadelphia Anti-Catholic Riots, 1844

HUDSON VALLEY: MUCH IN COMMON WITH LONDON IRISH

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

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

Stephen Gara

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

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

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

Firefighter McPadden Pipes and Drums

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

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

THE ULSTER COUNTY AOH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AOH Member “Gunny” at the Hooley

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

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

A CHANCE MEETING

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

The Wild Irish Roses at The Hooley

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

The Templars of Doom

Footnotes:

1. Eurostat via Google

2. Irish Diaspora Wikipedia

3. Washington Post, 3/17/2013

4. 2016 US Census.

5. Wikipedia

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

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

7C.  here

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

8. HudsonValleyOne.co

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

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

The Templars Of Doom  Facebook   Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Craic Agus Ceol

FromTheBand  iTunes

Contact Alternative Ulster

Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify

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

ALBUM REVIEW: BRYAN McPHERSON- ‘Kings Corner’ (2019)

Bryan McPherson, a fiery, folk-playing, a native of Boston Massachusetts was called west to Los Angeles, California back in July of 2010. Bringing blue collared incendiary working class folk music fusing Americana, folk, alternative and punk all over America and Europe.

There’s a very good reason why Bryan McPherson has featured on the pages of London Celtic Punks more than any other artist. This will be his sixth time, after three album and two singles. Kings Corner is in fact kind of old Bryan anyway in that it is a bunch of old songs from Bryan’s past that he never recorded and has only played the odd time at shows for friends so in a way it pre-dates all his previous reviews. Having recorded his last album Wedgewood in 2015 he returned to his home town of Boston, Mass. in 2018 with a plan. That plan was to polish up and record demos of all the songs I had written since Wedgewood and then launch a Kickstarter campaign to bankroll a big time studio record!

Well plans change.

The memories of home and his past kicked in and before he knew it a new completely different album was on the horizon. After tinkering with some old songs, so old in fact that Bryan didn’t even have a copy of them on their original demo!, he thought it would be good to re-record them to give them out at shows and on the internet. Early on in the project though he realised the songs needed some work and that a quick recording session was not going to be enough. Some had to be completely re-written as in Bryan’s own words

“You see most of these songs are well over 15 years old and come from the very early days of my journey into music and songwriting. They come from some of the best and worst days of my life – coming of age and plummeting into the depths of drug and alcohol addiction, while running the streets of Boston in reckless abandon and cutting my teeth as a performer in the open mic scene of Cambridge Massachusetts, a world away from my neighbourhood of Dorchester, at the time.”

Born and raised in the blue collar working-class Irish-American Catholic neighbourhood of Dorchester, in Boston, and inspired as a kid by the energy and angst of punk, as well as the lyrically driven American folk songs of the early 1960’s Bryan has continued to play and record some of the best original music we have had the pleasure to feature. On his arrival home Bryan witnessed again the shocking impact of the opioid epidemic in his hometown. Deaths from addiction have soared over the last twenty years in the Boston area with many blaming the rise on the over prescription of opioids by doctors and as one Dr. Sushrut Jangi said in the Boston Globe

“It took doctors 20 years to help create this epidemic — but if we wake up to changing how we treat pain, we can more quickly contain its toll.”

Inspired to share these songs and a piece of his story Bryan set up some modest home recording gear in his Dad’s attic and got to work. Exactly the same as he had done all those years ago when recording that original demo tape. After listening to a few mixes of the songs by the great Willie Samuels back home in California, and after they were received well by friends he decided these songs needed a proper release so a crowd-funder was organised that Bryan’s fans and supporters rallied round to.

This album is aptly titled Kings Corner, the street corner Bryan and his mates hung out on in their youth spending many a day and night. The album begins with an short intro of Bryan talking about the album to a background of distorted sounds and acoustic guitar that ends with the quizzical line “Where did everybody go?”. We, the listener, can only guess. Bryan McPherson’s music can by no means be described as Celtic-Punk in the traditional sense but does in fact fit our remit exactly. Interesting, alternative music played with a fiery passion by a son of Erin. But that is only half of it. On the real album opener ‘Where Is Jane’ it is just Bryan accompanied by acoustic guitar and the passion that his voice is most famed for spills out into the airwaves and brings you directly into his world. Sadness and grief and the tremendous sense of loss of a dear friend told in ‘Game Over’ make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. The addition of mournful harmonica only adding to the sadness felt. The songs here, as you could expect from such an eventful life littered with both tragedy and triumph, are gritty and beautiful as on the short ‘I Know How You Feel’ as Bryan explores the ghosts from his past and the rough road to recovery. These old songs from his old neighbourhood have come to life again and on ‘Everyday’ he tells of the everyday sometimes mundane life that went on in.
(Directed and edited by Bryan. Shot by Jason Stone and Bryan. Written and performed by Bryan and filmed in Dorchester, in Boston MA.)

The first single from Kings Corner was ‘Ghost Of My Hometown’ and a superb choice of song and the video too is inspired. Shot in plain and simple black and white Bryan takes us on a journey through the streets of his childhood and the ghosts of his hometown are not just the people but the city itself as gentrification has changed Boston making him a stranger and the communities that made Boston most famous have all but been dispersed to make way for the new order. A sad tale but told by all urban working class communities across the world. The horror of addiction is told again through ‘Mass Ave Story’ with just his guitar and a voice that is passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting all at the same time. His music is a very real journey through his own personal demons and is altogether mesmerising. Sometimes, as on ‘Living In The Red’ his words can chill you to the bone as he dissects American working class life. Never one to avoid difficult subjects Bryan tackles one of the most tragic episodes in American history next on ‘Jumper 9/11’ as he places himself in the shoes of someone on floor 102 of the Twin Towers on that terrible morning of 11th September, 2001. As the fire consumes the building and he has to make the stark choice of how he will perish. A song that could be in poor taste is anything but in the hands of Bryan McPherson as he portrays some of what may go through your head in those shoes. Beautiful. We nearing the end and the album’s longest song ‘See Me Fall’ with a lovely delicate guitar tune and harmonica and ends on a somewhat positive note as Bryan dedicates the song to all the friends and family that helped get him through to this point in his life. That’s not the end mind as ‘Chihuahua’ is tacked onto the end and a sly psychobilly-ish guitar track which despite the harshness of the previous thirty minutes will leave you smiling.
Street life, politics, addiction, prison, gentrification, the plight of the working class, broken dreams, discrimination litter the alleys of Bryan’s songs. Their are also moments of beauty and clarity as this modern day folk-punk troubadour brings us on the journey with him. Once again Bryan manages to come up with something that is gritty and heartfelt as well as beautiful, passionate and inspiring. As we have said before it may not be a fun roller coaster ride but the words are as honest as they are urgent. Come on every second counts!

(you can stream and listen to Kings Corner on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Kings Corner

Cd’s, Vinyl. Downloads- From Bryan  iTunes

Contact Bryan McPherson

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

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

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

NO IRISH NEED APPLY

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

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

NINA

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

THE SEARCH

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

BOSTON CELTICS

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

WTF TO DO WITH THEM?

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

Contact Billy Fitzpatrick

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

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE FIGHTING JAMESONS- ‘A Moment In California’ (2019)

The Fighting Jamesons deliver a live recording from last year’s Get Shamrocked Festival. Traditional style Irish music but with an aggressive and energetic modern-day approach.

With two solid studio album releases behind them The Fighting Jamesons have chosen their fantastic live set from Get Shamrocked 2018 as their next album to hit the stores. Hailing from the resort town of Virginia Beach in California they have quickly gained a strong presence on the East Coast with their constant touring and great relationship with their fans. Formed in 2010 they play a style of Celtic-Punk akin to Flogging Molly in that they are almost acoustic but still mange to kick up a racket. As we said in our review of Every Day Above Ground back in 2014

“Heads down and fast as humanly possible is how The Fighting Jamesons like it and we have to say we bloody love it too!”

and as they are a band that earns their bread and butter on the live circuit it’s no surprise that A Moment In California is more of the same in a extremely tight set of 50% well known and loved trad Irish folk covers and 50% of their own material.

The live set was recorded at Get Shamrocked Festival which, now in its seventh year, has the whole Celtic-Punk community salivating every year when it’s line up is released! Much like Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog festival it’s sadly something most of us will only ever watch via You Tube but with its mix of Celtic-Rock and Punk alongside Folk, contemporary and traditional music it’s definitely on my To-Do list when i win the lottery. Started in 2012 by second generation Irishman Paul Little the festival is held in California attracting thousands to watch some of the best bands around as well as international bands such as The Go-Set and Sir Reg in recent years.

The album begins with one of The Fighting Jamesons most famous of their own tracks ‘How I Ended Up This Way’ but starts with a touching tribute to the parents of 17 year old Irish-American Cullen Connolly who tragically died in a car crash in 2015 caused by a drunk driver. A huge baseball and Celtic-Punk fan who loved The Mahones, Gaelic Storm and The Young Dubliners among others. Cullen lived with neuro muscular disorder but never let it affect him and he lived a full and enjoyable life surrounded by loved ones before it was snatched away. One of the stages at the festival has been named after him. A really nice touch from the festivals organisers.

(the opening song from The Fighting Jamesons 2016 set at Get Shamrocked)

The album begins with the Jamesons original ‘How I Ended Up This Way’ telling of life in an Irish-American family and a day on the lash that gets out of hand! The Fighting Jamesons play hard and fast but in a completely accessible way and I’m sure half the audience would think they are Celtic-Punk while the other half Celtic-Rock! Great tune, catchy as hell with great lyrics and a band at the top of their game. Listening to this first song you can see why they chose to release it as the production (hats off to Chris Kendrick) and sound is absolutely perfect.  Plans are afoot for them to have their set at this years festival properly recorded and maybe released so keep an eye out for that among other things in The Fighting Jamesons camp. Next we have, without a doubt, the most overplayed cover in Irish history, Drunken Sailor! They do a good job of it is all I can say. The next couple of songs were my favourites off Every Day Above Ground starting with ‘What Does It Mean?’ and show what great songwriters they are. It remains a favourite again here in no small part to its absolutely fecking great chorus. Jeffrey’s fiddle and Miles accordion really come into their own here. Again the song is fastly played but still firmly with its feet in the folk camp despite George’s thrashy guitar and Justin and Vince on drums and bass giving it that extra ‘punky’ bite. ‘Year Gone By’ lulls you into the belief it’s going to a slow dirge of a sea shany before exploding in yer ears and we get more catchy full throttle Irish music that is made equally at home in the intimate pub or any big festival.  We earlier compared them to Flogging Molly but the comparison is to the Molly’s at their best.

Next up is the Irish-American classic ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye’. Made most famous in Celtic-Punk by The Dropkick Murphys who never fail to play it in each live show. An anti-war anthem for each generation since it first appeared in 1867. Like the band the song’s roots are in Ireland but it’s only with the added American experience that it became a real American folk classic. They play the first half slow before the second half comes blasting out. Superb. ‘An Irish Medley’ is arranged by the band and is a bunch of well known Irish folk songs (‘Fields Of Athenry’, ‘Streams Of Whiskey’, Seven Drunken Nights etc.,)  bashed out in that certain Fighting Jamesons way. Next is ‘Tell Me Ma/The Last Thing I Remember’ and beginning with the famous folk song before morphing into their self penned tragic tale of alcohol abuse. The well known tale of a life lost in alcohol and oblivion. On the album this song is slow and angry but here is played with an urgency that tops the version off Every Day Above Ground.  There but for the grace of God…

“Every day not wasted is a wasted day”

Next up is a rather interesting cover of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by The Beatles. Now The Beatles were an Irish band without any doubt (check out our feature The Beatles And Ireland here for proof) but it’s still came as a bit of a shock to find this classic Lennon/McCartney song sat in the middle of The Fighting Jamesons set. The bhoys kick it off with a short rap with is no doubt from small massive worldwide smash that sold a billion copies but completely passed me by! It’s a spirited version and you can’t go wrong with such great material to start with though it does show the bands versatility. ‘One More Drink’ is the last of the original material and again and one to grab your mates and let loose at the end of the night. ‘A Moment In California’ is not a song but band vocalist and banjo player Mike Powers giving a nice shout out to the bands fans and hands out some goof plain old advice we could all do with listening to. The curtain comes down on A Moment In California with perhaps the traditional Irish folk song most suited to be turned into a Celtic-Punk rocker!! ‘The Irish Rover’ has been around for donkey’s years but most outside the Irish community will remember it for the brilliant Pogues and Dubliners collaboration back in 1987. That version still gets plenty of airtime and still earns the fella’s and their families a pretty penny I am sure! Here The Fighting Jamesons give it plenty of oompf go off road a couple of times before going out on a really energetic high and I can imagine on a line-up of memorable acts at last years festival The Fighting Jamesons were one on the most memorable!

The Fighting Jamesons left to right: Jeffrey McLaughlin- Backing Vocals, Fiddle * Miles Hoyle- Accordion * George Bauman- Lead Guitar * Mike Powers- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo * * Justin Conner- Drums * Vince Kafigian- Bass *

2019 will see the band hitting the studio again later this year to record their third full length studio album and even some distant plans to cross the broad Atlantic so keep an eye upon what they are up to. A Moment In California is officially released tomorrow, and will be available on almost all big music streaming outlets ie. iTunes, amazon music, Spotify Microsoft music etc. We don’t get a lot of live recordings to London Celtic Punks and on hearing this I can only regret their aren’t more. Nearly a hour of fantastically played fast Irish folk with very wide appeal from a band who though polished come across as sincere and heartfelt in all the right places and funny and ramshackle too. A great band and if they they ever come near where you live then move heaven and earth to go see them as on the evidence here you are guaranteed a night to remember.
Buy A Moment In California

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Contact The Fighting Jamesons

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Cullen’s Mam and Dad have set up a charity in honour of their son- Cullens Claddagh. You can check that out here and they would especially like to hear from any bands wishing to donate merchandise they could raffle off to raise money for the charity.

(raise a glass to Cullen this St. Patrick’s day. We’ll remember you in London mate)

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

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

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

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

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

DOWNLOAD Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers HERE

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

Marc Gunn- WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  CelticMusicPodcast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK HERE TO HEAR A PREVIEW OF THE ALBUM

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

Discography

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

Buy Ten: The Errant Night

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Contact Runa

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GIG REVIEW: BACKSEAT HOOLIGANS IN NEW YORK – 17th FEBRUARY 2019

“On the 1st day of March it was raining…” so sang yer man and if the Celtic nations ever do get more than a cursory glance then March would a perfect time to do Celtic History Month. With today being the feast of St. David of Cymru, the 5th for St. Piran of Kernow and the 17th Ireland’s for St. Patrick then we can safely say that March belongs to us. To get us in the right spirit we thought we’d give a shout out to one of the lesser known bands on the scene the Backseat Hooligans out of South Central Pennsylvania and Maryland. Good friend of the band Johnny Piper of brilliant fellow Celtic-Punkers Alternative Ulster popped along to their show a week or so ago to check out the competition and was suitably impressed.

February 17 in Poughkeepsie, NY saw the kick-off show of The Dropkick Murphys’ annual Spring tour culminating in their St. Paddy’s Day Boston bash. Central Pennsylvania’s Backseat Hooligans took the opportunity to stage a road trip and perform a pre-show party at Mahoney’s Irish Pub down the street from the concert venue. 

the Bhoys about to set sail…

Reminiscent of The Go Set and The Real McKenzies, their 90+ minute set kicked off with a bagpipe jig by Chris Spagnolo that built into a wall of sound as the rest of the band joined in. This lively tune morphed into an abbreviated DKM’sThe Boys are Back’, with multiple band members lending enthusiastic voice to the chorus. The six lads certainly seem to enjoy each others company, a necessity given how far they traveled together in drummer Johnny Sexx’s epic tour bus. The dedicated Johnny drove six hours one way from south of Baltimore to central PA to pick up the lads then on to Poughkeepsie. Ever gracious and supportive, The Hooligans stuck around for Alternative Ulster’s set prior to retracing their six hour odyssey. Next the bagpipes laid down the melody of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’. Speaking of rings, Mahoney’s 2nd floor dining level is open to the lower stage level through a giant circle decorated with the crests of all 32 Irish Counties. During the song, the circle was lined with the toddlers and children of diners above enthusiastically dancing their diapers off. The Hooligan’s sound is infectiously vivacious.
(‘Battered Mug’ from the Backseat Hooligans upcoming EP.
Due out soon so watch this space for more to come!)

The band moved smoothly and rapidly through well rendered versions of ‘Galway Girl’, The Real McKenzies’ ‘10000 Shots’, a bagpipe driven medley of ‘Itchy Fingers’ (a difficult reel well executed), ‘Scotland The Brave’ and ‘Willie Nae’, onto ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’, ‘I Fought The Law’, ‘Drunken Sailor’, and The Stanfields ‘Dirtiest Drunk’. Numerous songs were punctuated by excellent lead guitar riffs by Arik Trimmer.

the quiet before the storm…

The Hooligans have recently been recording new original material and the two original songs they performed at Mahoney’s were the highlights of the show for this writer. First off wasOld Battered Mug’, a tribute to their local speakeasy which starts quietly with front man Keith Kelly singing the chorus accompanied only by mandolinist Dave Garry, followed by four quick stick clicks and the full band launches into a mighty sound with the bagpipes carrying the melody and the guitar and rhythm section with A.J. Mitchell on bass delivering an energetic punker. Things mellowed briefly with a fine rendition of Mr. Irish Bastard’s ‘I Hope They Sell Beer In Hell’ only to be amped up again with the ubiquitous ‘Shipping up to Boston’, the familiar jig line played on mandolin and, rather uniquely, Chris Spagnolo’s saxophone. 
A ska version of ‘Kiss My Irish Ass’, ‘Fields Of Athenry’ with the melody carried by bagpipes, something that sounded like ‘Skinhead On The MTA’, ‘Tooraloo’ and ‘Not Your Stepping Stone’ (perhaps only a coincidence that Peter Tork died soon after) led to the second, excellent original, ‘Pints Of Whiskey’, the opening guitar riff of which had me looking to the bagpipes as the source of the fantastic sound. Both originals were total class and here’s hoping for many more. Like many an Irish punk band before them, the closer was AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’ and these lads do not suffer by comparison. The large (especially for 4 PM) crowd demanded an encore which was duly delivered with the bagpipe-centric traditional folk tune ‘Blooming Heather’ (a/k/a ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ a/k/a ‘Purple Heather’ a/k/a ‘Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?’). Unwilling to go was the piper, who played on as if only just getting started, a fabulous conclusion to a fabulous gig.
Contact the Backseat Hooligans-
As we have said a thousand times it’s not all about you know who (and you know who) its the little bands that makes a truly great scene and Backseat Hooligans are as important in it as anyone. We urge you all to continue to check out the lesser known bands in Celtic-Punk and never be put off by them being across a ocean or a continent as that means very little these days. Big thanks to Johnny for taking the time out to write the review and if you wish to see Backseat Hooligans they next take the stage at the Kingston Kilt Festival on March 9th and before anyone gets too excited this is Kingston in New York not Kingston on the outer edge of south-west London. A very easy mistake to make believe me! The festival is being held at Tony’s Pizzeria at 582 Broadway, Kingston, New York and you can find more details here at the Facebook event. 

ALBUM REVIEW: MICKEY RICKSHAW- ‘Home In Song’ (2019)

“Locations change, friends change, scenes change, but we always have a home in song”.

Boston’s Mickey Rickshaw have long been considered the future of Celtic-Punk by some (guilty!) so a couple of years on from Behind The Eight Ball could their third studio album live up to the weighty expectations we had put upon it? Well read on to see what our good man Marv thought of it.

For the uninitiated, according to their website, Mickey Rickshaw is a “high energy Celtic Punk band that plays fast and loud”. Hailing from Boston, home to so much great music, and with a couple of albums and EP’s under their collective belts (there are eight of them!), ‘Home In Song’ is their third and latest album, due for release soon.

With a heritage like that, and not ever coming across them before, I was excited to review this album. I mean they are from Boston, am I right?! But strangely, on first listen I didn’t take to it. I have no idea why that is. Perhaps I was tired or just feeling a bit odd, or perhaps it was because I was on the train on the way to work on a Monday morning. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t feeling the love. The first couple of tracks just didn’t work for me; the phrase “trying too hard” crossed my mind. Looking back now, I don’t understand it. I love the punkier end of the folk punk spectrum and these guys have raw folk punk oozing out of their pores. So I let the album run on, after all you can’t write off an album after a couple of tracks and it certainly wouldn’t make for a fair review. I am very glad that I did.

(The video for ‘Home In Song’ was shot in the very American Legion that the song was written about, which is now privately owned and operates as a recording studio, and venue, WAMLEG. Directed and edited by the bands own Mike Rivkees)

“And then the sun came up on another day and we found ourselves in time, abandoning a scene that we felt that we built together.
Disenfranchised kids who found a home in song.
Music with a fist- we played it for so long.
Best friends of our lives- formed the strongest bonds,
and now our heroes, they’re falling one by one.”

The sound is predominantly loud bass, overdriven electric guitars over manic drumming (their drummer sure does love his crash cymbals!), thrashy and powerful, with shouty vocals and mob-chorus harmonies. It’s hard to avoid comparisons with the Dropkicks, but these are no DKM wannabees. Think of ‘Buried Alive’ from the Dropkicks’ ‘Blackout’ crossed with some Stiff Little Fingers and you’ll be in the ballpark.

This album just builds and builds. It’s a bit like going to a gig on rainy wet Tuesday; it takes some time to forget about the water seeping in through your shoes. By track four, ‘Keep Afloat’ they take a deep breath, slow it down a tiny amount and say to themselves (I imagine) “Right boys, let’s get this done”. Because let me tell you, you soon forget about that downpour. From there on there is no let-up, no looking back; the power and the energy scream out of the speakers and by the time we get to track six, ‘Fang’, the boys are belting it out and taking no prisoners.

This is no fiddle-de-dee music, there is no shoegazing or worthy whistle solos here. This is hardcore and filthy folk-based punk make no mistake. The absolute artistry of these tracks though, is how every now and then they drop the guitars out for a bar or two and let the melody carry the music to remind you of its glorious roots. After the magnificent onslaught, it is a welcome and jarring break just for a second or two, then they hook you back in and bludgeon you into submission. I get the feeling the entire album is designed to soften you up for the final track, ‘Floodgates’. Even after all the preceding mayhem it takes the music on this magnificent album to a new level with a banshee of a pipes riff. It’s an absolute masterpiece, an exemplar for the genre and I keep going back to it time after time. I learnt something today; more traditional Celtic folk punk, dare I say more melodic folk punk, with its mandolins, banjos, fiddles and tin whistles may be a joy, but there is a place deep in my heart for the fast, dirty, uncompromising and brutal tunes of Mickey Rickshaw and their like.

    Mickey Rickshaw left to right: Jimmy Donovan – Guitar * Chris Campbell – Drums * Jake Sullivan – Fiddle * Mike Rivkees – Lead Singer * Kyle Goyette – Bazouki * Shane Welch – Bagipe/Tin Whistle * Tom Donnelly – Guitar * Derek Dooley – Bass

I have re-listened to this album many times now and after a while I think I finally got it. No more did the first couple of track sound forced, the fault had always been entirely mine. They were just the first hesitant steps on a journey to a different destination. You can pick up Mickey Rickshaw’s previous albums from their Bandcamp page on a pay-what-you-like basis for which they have my utmost respect. Today was a school day.

Buy Home In Song- Released March 1, 2019

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ALBUM REVIEW: T.C. COSTELLO- ‘Horizon Songs’ (2019)

Most American artists we only get to know from their record releases but it seems T.C. Costello drops over this side of the broad Atlantic often enough for him to develop quite the following for his anarchic accordion Folk-Punk!

Horizon Songs is the sixth studio album from long time auld mucker of London Celtic Punks T.C. Costello. Though based in his adopted home town of Greenville, South Carolina he’s also a part time member of Leicester based folk-rockers The Brandy Thieves and is often found crossing the pond to join them here on stage in the summer months during festival season. During this time he also ventures across Europe and has always also found time to do a couple of shows for the London Celtic Punks, as well as spending the afternoon entertaining the auld folk residents at the Nursing home I work at! A visual tour de force its not many who can pull off a gig supporting punk bands or playing for the oldies but T.C. manages both with ease. The official release date for Horizon Songs was 28th December, 2018 but I am ignoring that and putting it down as a 2019 release. I actually did have a copy in my hand at TC’s successful gig at The Lamb in Surbiton at the end of last Summer but TC sold so many CD’s I had to give him my copy back so he’d have some for the later gigs on his tour!

T.C.’s roots, like many Irish-Americans, are lost in the midst of time and the chaotic nature of their ancestors arrival in America but cherished they are and though not entirely responsible for T.C.’s output they do play a large part. Among the ‘murder ballads’ and sea-shanties here are gems from Ireland’s musical history (except for ‘The Wild Rover’. He fecking hates ‘The Wild Rover’!) and his identity as descended from immigrants fleeing famine and oppression has played a large part in the songs he plays and writes.

“The tour I did this year took me to Italy, England, Scotland and Ireland,” Costello says. “And their traditional songs have a lot of influence on my songwriting, anyway. I just draw off the traditional sources, both musically and lyrically, and if you write in that style, you’re probably going to write about immigration or murder.”

T.C. Costello’s latest release, Horizon Songs is pretty much a one man Celtic-Folk-Punk album as T.C. is one of those talented bastards who can play a multitude of instruments from tin-whistle to accordion to the hulusi (sort of a Chinese bagpipe). The album opens with the darkly humorous ‘The Muse Of Mary Malloy’, a perfect example of a ‘Murder Ballad’ in which poor Mary gleefully goes about murdering any poor man who falls for her charms until she finally finds the man of her dreams and after accidentally bumping him off is sentenced to death. Originally penned by and for T.C’s English band mates in The Brandy Thieves T.C. plays a memorable version here.

Next on an album that is heavy on traditional immigration themes is the old trad Irish folk classic ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’. Played with gusto and for good reason this is a popular song among the punkier bands in the Celtic-Punk scene as it can be played at 110mph as T.C. shows here! It’s bittersweet tale of a Irish man saying goodbye to his beloved,

“so fare thee well my own true love; when I return united we shall be”

, to leave to mine for Gold in 1800’s America, The jocularity of the tune is tempered by our realisation that this journey ended in tragedy for most of these young men. T.C. gave his comments on this great ballad in his recent review on these pages of the new album from The Templars Of Doom, here, last week. With two toe-tappers so far it’s time for a slow one and ‘Dear Bonnie’ and T.C gives full vent on the accordion and his vocal range is impressive as well. Now no one would accuse him of ‘crooning’ his way through things but his is a voice that portrays emotions and feelings and fits snugly within his songs. No Celtic-Punk album is complete without a drink song and ‘The Ballad Of Being Born In A Bar’ does the job ably, complete with cautionary tale that absolutely none of us take any notice of! ‘Run Like Hell / See The World’ is not two songs but one I think he couldn’t decide to name. Played fast again with a gang chorus of friends its a ode to sailing across the oceans leading into ‘It Starts With A Funeral’ ,a short but sweet song lasting just eighty seconds that finishes with a heavily Irish influenced flourish at the end that I would have liked to have seen extended. Next up is one of the album highlights and the wonderful ‘May The Horizon Be Your Home’ sees T.C. accompany some utterly fantastic accordion here with equally good tin whistle, 12-string guitar, ukulele and clawhammer banjo. The words here are aimed at those that would deny sanctuary to those in desperate need.

One of the jobs that immigrants, especially the Irish as their farming skills were all but useless in the new country, found work in was the mining industry and not many jobs were more dangerous and badly paid than down the pit and ‘Murder In The Diamond Mine’ tells of the desperation of one poor soul to get out of the mine which he eventually succeeds in doing but at a great price to his soul. Another tragic traditional Irish song follows with ‘Botany Bay’, sung by many Irish bands including The Pogues and the Wolfe Tones it tells of an an Irish labourer dreaming of immigrating to Australia to make his fortune.

“Farewell to your bricks and mortar,
Farewell to your dirty lies.
Farewell to your gangways and your gang planks,
And to hell with your overtime.”

We coming towards the end and ‘Horizon Songs’ ends with three excellent songs, the first of which ‘Highlands of Afghanistan’ is a modern re-working of the traditional folk song ‘Lowlands of Holland’ while ‘Grine Kuzine’ (in English ‘My Green Cousin’) sees T.C. test out his Yiddish language skills. One of a group of songs known as ‘disillusionment songs’ as they deal with the disappointment felt by many Jewish-Americans that the streets in the USA were not ‘paved with gold’ and instead they carried the poverty and hard times across the ocean with them from Europe. Horizon Songs ends with the amazing ‘Over The Skies’ and a angry, but told beautifully, ballad again with excellent accordion. Thinking that was the end it came as a shock to find an, admittedly not too surprisingly, eccentric extra track hidden away at the end so be sure not to miss that…

Jens- Matilda’s Scoundrels, Johnny- gun for hire! and T.C. at The Lamb in Surbiton 2018.

Recorded in 2018 while T.C. was touring Ireland, Italy and England and in between gigs reflecting on his immigrant heritage while passing from country to country with ease. The news was filled with stories from home with hardly a day going by without the headlines being about border walls or people attempting to enter the US. For this reason the album he wrote leans heavily upon new and old stories of immigration alongside ones about drinking, murder, sailing and death. All online sales of Horizon Songs will be donated to the non-profit organisation familiesbelongtogether.org, helping families at the US-Mexico border. Admittedly like many in the Celtic-Punk scene T.C. is best captured live on stage but he always manage to capture the energy of his live shows admirably on his records and I defy you to find many more in the scene who are as entertaining.

(have a listen to Horizon Songs on the Bandcamp player below)

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(T.C. entertaining the crowd at The Gunners for the London Celtic Punks masses last Summer at the start of his European tour. Thanks to Anto Morra for filming.)

DING DONG MERRILY ON HIGH! THE TOSSERS CHRISTMAS SINGLE OUT TODAY!

Now plenty would say that Chicago’s The Tossers are the best Celtic-Punk band in the world and many would even say that they are the heirs to The Pogues crown. So it is that any new release is welcomed by the Celtic-Punk masses!

Ding dong indeed. With Christmas (we don’t go in for that Xmas shite) Day just around the corner blue-collar Irish-American Celtic-Punk living legends The Tossers have released their new single on Victory Records. Famous for their warts and all, gutsy, resolute working-class Irish anthems, The Tossers step out in a different direction with two songs celebrating that most wonderful time of the year. The two song single features one original composition, the biting ‘Merry Christmas’ and a recording of the Robbie Burns classic  ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

Merry Christmas to you
To all of the well heeled in your fancy clubs
To all my friends and cronies in the pubs
To all of the people and the kids down in the street
Who ain’t got nothin’ not a poxy thing to eat
Merry Christmas to you
To all of you thieves and men who have waged an endless war
While you were safe behind a bolted door
To those who have fought and to those who have died
And to every one of those who was on our side
Merry Christmas to you
Oh the hungry, thirsty, sick and cold and strangers now to you
And as you have done to the least of men
You have done this to me too
And may you all sleep warm at night
And may you all have all your hearts delight
And may God bring each one of you
Every God damned thing
That’s always been coming to you

The Tossers have been entertaining us and fighting the corner for Irish-America for 25 years so in the year of their 1/4 century they have been relatively quiet with last years brilliant ‘Smash The Windows’ album release only followed this year by the release of an official Tossers Stout that is also called Smash The Windows! A natural act you would think from ‘the world’s loudest drinking band’. Always amazing to hear new material from one of my favourite bands and even better that they will be announcing some major tour dates very shortly. Let’s pray they include some local to us as well!

The Tossers are more than just a band to their fans. They have inspired and promoted a love in your roots that is sadly missing for most people. They tell the tale of both Chicago and America’s Irish communities. Serious and piss-taking at the same time and joyful and sad and upbeat and maudlin The Tossers do it all and yes we Irish are all of these things… and The Tossers celebrate it all. In the words of Tony Duggins

“God Bless you all, and may each and every one of you have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year.”

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ALBUM REVIEW: CLOVERS REVENGE- ‘Gotta Get O’Raggednized’ (2018)

Based In Sarasota, West Florida, the Irish speed Folk trio Clover’s Revenge take a break from playing all of Florida’s best Irish pubs and festivals and have just released their debut full-length album!
One of the beauty’s of Irish music is that it is best heard in a certain setting. Not sure why but it is the live arena that Irish music, and all Celtic music too, really comes alive. Its not easily done but to transfer the sound of essentially a pub band onto a live recording is not easily done but here on Gotta Get O’Raggednized Irish speed Folk trio Clover’s Revenge have pulled it off. Formed on St.Paddy’s Day back in 2015 Clover’s revenge have been gaining fans and building excitement throughout their home state of Florida but also all along the Southeastern United States.

Clover’s Revenge are only a trio which is unusual in itself for Celtic-Punk/Rock bands but their sound certainly fills your ears and gives the illusion that their is a lot more of them! Made up of John Barron, the group’s frontman and mandolin player, Dr. Zachary Johnson, the band’s other frontman and guitarist, and Beau Wilberding, the sitting-down frontman who plays the cajon. Now until just a few years ago I had absolutely no idea what a cajon was but the last few years have seen both a reduction in the amount of drummers with drum-kits and the need for a type of percussion in bands that wouldn’t quite warrant the full on drum effect. The cajon has its roots in South America and is basically just a box that is played by slapping the front or rear faces with the hands, fingers or sticks. All three have very diverse musical backgrounds from rock to alternative right up to classical music.

Gotta Get O’Raggednized may only be eight songs but clocks in at a very reasonable twenty-six minutes long. When the band set out to release their debut album the aim was to convey the energy and drive of a Clover’s Revenge live show onto CD. Beginning with ‘Will We Ever Make It Home’ the album kicks off with a original composition and is a rousing Flogging Molly-ish ditty that is surefire footstomper. As I said you’d never believe their were only three of them and if the sound on the video is a bit rough ‘n’ ready then the guys have certainly smartened it up for the album but have lost none of the charm of the live version. At its heart a driving traditional Irish tune but played wild abandon and a punk rock soul. John’s Irish-American brogue is clear and precise and fits the music perfectly. An existentialist speed Folk tune that examines the Irish diaspora in all its faults and glories.

Now not only are they very much a pub band they also sing a lot about being in the pub and for my money those kind of songs embody what we all fell in love with Irish music in the first place. When I think of my Nanna singing in the kitchen it was these kind of songs even though she thoroughly disapproved of that kind of life! The first of the album’s covers is up next and they are a mix of both well known (or over used in other words) and lesser known traditional Irish tunes. ‘Little Beggar Man’ is most famous for The Clancy Brothers version back in the 1960’s but has been recorded several times since. Again the tune is a jaunty one and catchy too. The lyrics tell of a lowly beggar who despite his low station in life is happy with his lot. We all have a lot to learn from him. A much more well known song follows and ‘The Irish Rover’ is played fast and folky and is a solid version that no matter how often I heard it will always get me belting out the chorus at the top of me voice. The Bhoys sound like they had a great auld time recording the album and this transfers well into their sound. The album has thus far sounded as Irish as they come but on ‘Banish Misfortune’they really nail it. An absolutely stunning jig played to perfection here. First published back in 1873 it has had several different names over the years but its great hear such a fantastic trad Irish tune in the middle of this album. Influence from The Pogues rears its head again next with ‘Waxies Dargle’. Its again a solid version but Clover’s Revenge come into their own next with another original song ‘No Irish Need Apply’ about the struggles of the Irish in the USA and the hope that the Grandchildren of those Irish will never forget their struggles. It’s hear that Clover’s Revenge most sound like a Celtic-Punk band. With anger and passion the rousing anthem is the tale of Irish people and their children in those early days. Rooted in  traditional Irish folk music but with a very real punk rock soul. The Irish have more in common with modern day immigrants to the USA than perhaps many would like to think. The album ends with two traditional Scottish songs that have seen plenty of versions over the years both in Folk music and in Celtic-Punk. The ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ was first published in 1808 and ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ in 1821 bring the album to a close with one a rousing shoutalong and the other a beautifully played ballad.

Entirely acoustic these guys have the ability to rock up anywhere play and next Summer they will wash up on Ireland’s shore in a reverse of their ancestors with a shipload of their biggest fans to visit Dublin and Galway. The Bhoys are looking for venues and are available to play pubs, parties, fights, wakes, festivals, and any other venues that either defy definition. Taking traditional Irish pub songs and soaking in influences from scene legends The Pogues and Flogging Molly. Both of which you can hear within Gotta Get O’Raggednized’s eight tracks. Just drop them a line and get them on in your back garden if need be!
 Buy Gotta Get O’Raggednized
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HEAR THE DEBUT SINGLE FROM TAN AND SOBER GENTLEMEN

The debut single from seven piece Scotch-Irish hillbilly music band Tan And Sober Gentlemen has arrived and this band from North Carolina have a bright future!

Irish-American Celtic-Folk-Punk band Tan And The Gentlemen have just released the first single off their upcoming album. It’s an amazing version of ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ and if anyone out there is missing the utterly fantastically brilliant Appalachian Celtic-Punk band Cutthroat Shamrock then put down the worry beads as The Tan And The Gentlemen will sate your appetite for good music!

Born and raised in Snow Camp in the North Carolina back country, Tan and Sober Gentlemen began taking in the songs, stories and tunes that make up their beloved state’s heritage before they could talk. Despite having played music together in some form or another for most of their lives, the current line up was formed in the summer of 2016. Since then, they’ve been in the saddle, playing stages from their hometown Cat’s Cradle and Shakori Hills to Galway’s legendary Roisin Dubh. The band aims to explore the Celtic roots of North Carolinian music and to play it with a fire and intensity that is lacking in much of today’s folk music. The full, as-yet-to-be-named record will be be released Dec. 1st, with the release party at the Cat’s Cradle in Orange County, N.C. The album was recorded largely live at BNB Studios in Chatham County, NC, featuring their high-octane take on Celtic and Appalachian traditionals along with a few of their own tunes. The record will be available on all platforms then, and is available for preorder by emailing tanandsober@gmail.com. Friends with the rest of the Southeast USA Celt-folk-punk crew in The Muckers, In For a Penny and Born Again Heathens who have all featured on these pages in the last couple of years. The result is Scotch-Irish hillbilly insanity they dub ‘Celtic punk-grass’. As far as folk music goes, they’re about the best drinking and dancing band I’ve found in a long time!
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FOLLOW ME UP TO CARLOW

I first heard ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’ on a old cassette called Irish Songs Of Freedom belonging to my Grandad. It differed from the rest of the tape of sad ballads as it was played so fast with the words coming so quickly it was hard to keep up. This must have appealed to the wee punk in me and so it has become one of my favourite songs. It’s also become the perfect song for adapting to a Celtic-Punk song and has been recorded and played by such diverse artists as Blood Or Whiskey, Mickey Rickshaw, Cruachan and The Young Dubliners. The song celebrates the defeat of an army of 3,000 English soldiers by Fiach Mac Aodh Ó Broin (anglicised Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne) at the Battle of Glenmalure, during the Second Desmond Rebellion in 1580 though events in the song cover more than twenty years after. The air is reputed to have been played as a marching tune by the pipers of Fiach MacHugh at the battle  in 1580 and the words were written by Patrick Joseph McCall (1861–1919) and appear in his Songs of Erinn (1899) under the title ‘Marching Song of Feagh MacHugh’.

ALBUM REVIEW: ALTERNATIVE ULSTER- ‘Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer’ (2018)

Back again with their third album it’s New York’s Alternative Ulster with another, lucky for us, thirteen songs of punk rock driven energetic Celtic pride, humor and downright defiance.

Almost six months to the day that previous album, Pog Mo Thoin, hit the streets New York’s Alternative Ulster are back again with another album of rough’n’ready Irish-American Celtic-Punk to stir the spirits and drink them too! Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer follows on from that album with more of the same humour, politics and fun that made Pog Mo Thoin such a hit.

Alternative Ulster left to right- Jay Andersen (Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals) * Todd Henry (Vocals, Drums) * John McGovern (Bagpipes, Bass, Banjo, Tin-Whistle, Backing Vocals)

Alternative Ulster sprung into action in March 2015 in New York State’s Catskill’s region releasing their debut album, Rebellion, in February 2016. That album received unanimous praise from across the worlds Celtic-Punk media but sadly soon after the band split into two factions with one continuing as Alternative Ulster and the other becoming the excellent Templars Of Doom. Both bands can be best described in the words of band bagpiper John as ‘1916 meets 1977’ and tread similar paths in the Celtic-Punk scene.

So have Alternative Ulster changed at all in the six months since their last album? Well the answer is a resounding NO! Why change a winning formula and while it may still be a tad too punky for some traditional Celtic-Punk fans it still sits nicely within the scene. Todd is again bashing bloody hell out of the drums while barking the lyrics over Jay’s fantastic guitar work and the superb bagpipes of scene celebrity John McGovern drones loud and proud. The album kicks off with the punk rebel song ‘No Queen, No Crown’ and is in defence of the kilt and its history.

“Don’t call it a dress,
or you’ll be a mess.

You call it a kilt,
to honor blood spilt”.

These Bhoys take their Celticness very seriously!

Yeah its more of the same and ‘Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer’ kicks off with a ‘Duelling Banjos’ style intro between bagpipes and banjo before breaking off into a song celebrating the things that real men love! If anything the music has gotten even more punk rock than previously. Its the sound of UK punk from around 1977. Think Sex Pistols rather than The Clash. On ‘The Sheep Pretend’ John also weighs in with a thundering bass that gives the song a post-punk feel while Todd still shouts the words in a eighty cigarettes a day rasp. Next up is the song that inspired their name all that time ago. On St. Paddy’s Day 2015, original guitarist Jerry came up with the idea inspired by The Stiff Little Finger’s classic song. Their version of ‘Alternative Ulster’ is straight up two fingers in the air punk rock. Played at breakneck speed and with bagpipes its a class song.

‘Sail Home British Soldiers’ is up next and is a American civil war rebel song. The first time the British Empire ever had its arse kicked was by the Americans and feelings still run high even though Alternative Ulsters ancestors were still living in Ireland at the time. The song has a real bite that makes The Wolfe Tones sound like Foster And Allen and a thumping beat that’s a sure fire mosh pit filler.

“Neither collar nor crown,
shall this patriot wear.
You can’t have my musket,
You’ll die if you dare.
So fuck off you fucking fucks,
and fuck you as well.
Before I bow once,
I’ll see you in hell”.

In part inspired by Ted Nugent’s ‘Homebound’ and if you like that then you’ll recognise the beginning of ‘Bonnie Little Scott’ up next. The song is a tribute to Bon Scott of every punk rockers favourite Heavy Metal band AC/CD and borrows heavily from their hit ‘Thunderstruck’. The story of Bon’s short life is told in song by Jay and with Alternative Ulsters usual humour. More of that next in ‘Dudelsack’ and while I don’t know what a dudelsack is I resisted the urge to look it up and can only assume it is part of a Bagpipe. Next is my album highlight and you’d have to be a right misery not to find ‘Spilt Upon Me Kilt’ absolutely hilarious. Set on St. Patrrick’s Day or actually the aftermath of St. Paddy’s Day and where the stains on their kilts tell the story of debauchery, alcohol and many bad decisions. All set to the traditional Christmas Carol tune ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. Catchy and a song to really involve the crowd it made me spit my tea out when I first heard it.

‘Chuck It In The Fuck-It Bucket’ and ‘Counting Other’s Sins’ show Alternative Ulster at two different angles with the straight punk morphing into a punky-reggae tune while both songs are still dominated by the pipes of John. Another album standout is up next with the autobiographical ‘McGoverns Bar And Grill’ telling of John’s Mam and Dad and the working class Irish pub they ran in Tolentine Hill. Opened by John’s Grandad when he arrived in the States from America the pub was by the Tolentine cathedral at the heart of the big Irish parish in the Bronx.

“While on the bar sat a can for NorAid,
not to buy books, but guns and grenade.
My pint of black stuff was really just Coke,
all the old men laughed, it was a fine joke”.

The McGovern Clan with John in the red.

The song gives just a sense of what it means to be Irish-American and for this album at least is as close to a ballad as they come. A tremendous song full of passion and if  ‘McGoverns Bar And Grill’ showed the trio have got more in them than just rowdy punk rock then the album’s second version of ‘Alternative Ulster’ proves it. With John joining in with Todd’s shouty growl with banjo, shuttle pipes and tin-whistle while mate of the band Scott Benson rocks up with the bodhran. The album comes to an end with ‘Crawl Back In Your Shithole’ and the boot is suck firmly into President Trump and his ilk. Seemingly over in a flash its a great way to end the album and bring things to an end.

Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer came out last week and was recorded, mixed and mastered by band maestro Jay Andersen at Operation-Audio/ Bohemosphere in Saugerties, NY. The amazing album cover art was by the talented Gail Benson. Now it would be absolutely pointless telling you that this album will appeal to everyone as it quite obviously won’t. My Mammy may love most forms of music but I guarantee that she’d think this is one Unholy mess!! Still I don’t think that will matter much to the Alternative Ulster bhoys. The music keeps flowing out of them as they take their rightful place on the punkier side of Celtic-Punk. Alternative Ulster are happy to keep it lit and as they say somewhere on here

“When the day is done, we just want to have fun,
And we will for year after year”.

Buy Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: THE KILLIGANS- ‘Dance on Your Grave’ (2018)

The Killigans are a Celtic-Punk band from Lincoln, Nebraska. Now over a decade young, they are honed and steeled for action. Glass-raising anthems for tenacious underdogs, lonely vagabonds and anyone who’s just trying to make it in this world. 

Born in a filthy garage in 2004 The Killigans have gone through various personel changes in their time together but have kept at their core a set of foot-stomping beer-loving raucous anthemic numbers drawing from traditional Celtic music along with streetpunk, gritty rock’n’roll and working class country music. Having become one of the most popular bands in the Nebraskan music scene they have gained a rapidly growing army of fans across the States and overseas as well. One of the highlights of their early career came in 2010 when their song ‘Lessons from the Empty Glass’ was used on the soundtrack to the big budget Universal Studios hit move Robin Hood. Dance On Your Grave is The Killigans fifth album and their development over the years is plain for all to see. From the rough and ready Irish folk-punk of 2006’s Brown Bottle Hymnal to 2010’s Honor which saw them shift towards a more stripped down punk sound and then to their last album Another Round For The Strong Of Heart from October 2012 which saw them raise the bar with their best release to date with a collection of songs that took the catchy Irish Celtic-Punk of their early days and the anthemic punk of Honor and combined the two for something particularly special that will go down as one of the best album’s that the Celtic-Punk genre has ever produced. Not bad for a bunch of working-class blokes from flyover country!
Dance On Your Grave was five years in the making with some of these songs three or four years old. The Bhoys admit to having lost motivation and to having run of steam. After all their lives had changed from young raggamuffins to being middle aged family guys 
“We never meant for the music to stop, and it has shaped us and our families along the way.  Its just been a lot more difficult for us to make new music happen.  I like to think we have a lot more to offer in the way of songwriting than a couple 22 year old punks who have been on their own for a couple years.”
The Killigans have endured a lot of life and one thing that has always shone through with their releases is their utter honesty. A straight up band that has always played a straight deal. Dance On Your Grave carries on from where Another Round for the Strong of Heart left off. Hardly surprising as that era is from when many of the songs here were written or first imagined with old drummer Ben Swift starting the writing process that new drummer Mikey Elfers would help finish by coaxing the band into actually finishing the album! 

The Killigans left to right: Trevor- Bass * Brad- Vocals, Accoustic Guitar * Mikey- Drums * Pat-  Accordion, Mandolin, Trumpet, Organ * Greg- Guitar * Chris- Guitar, Vocals, Mandolin, Harmonica, Trombone *

The album saw the light of day on  April 28th this year and kicks off with Throw It Away’ and shows a maturity that comes with middle age but the Bhoys still play with a wild abandon that brings to mind early Flogging Molly. The era when they combined folk and punk perfectly and had their audiences both slam dancing and jigging away. It’s fast and furious and with lyrics that show The Killigans may not have stayed still but know what we love in the Celtic-Punk scene and are more than willing to give it us! Second song ‘Peducah’ was the first release of the album and begins with an accordion gypsy flourish before trumpet and trombone come in adding a somewhat ska’ish sound while the pace never slows. Even more surprising is that they are not guest musicians but brothers Chris and Pat who play a multitude of instruments for the band including mandolin and accordion. Third brother Trevor plays bass in the band. Its trad Celtic-Punk and it don’t get any better!

The songs are short and snappy and played at breakneck speed like ‘One Angry Voice’ which could easily fit in any punk rock play list. The words decry the way has become a fashion and the values and spirit of why it exists are fading. When punks would rather spend £30 to go to a gig or £100 to go to a festival rather than a local pub down the road then I’m afraid punk has a terminal disease. Putting on gigs here in London it is something I noticed get worse over the years as promoters and bands struggle to get people to come a gig for £3 or a fiver when everyone is up the road watching some reformed old fogie punks at £30+ a ticket.

“Fact is I’m getting older but if the honest truth be told

There’s something changed about punk rock

What does it stand for?

Is it a t-shirt and a drug scene? A hairdo and a piercing?

We think it’s more!

It’s the kid awake at midnight, living life how it feels right

Though his parents are concerned and think him strange

And at school the students shun him, and the teachers make fun of him

But he knows in the end he’s gonna make a change!”

The album takes a folky turn with ‘Burn It Down’ and I’m a bit of an old fogie myself as these days its the folkier songs that i like more than the punky ones. Not to say it don’t have a punk edge and it speeds up nicely mid-way. The accordion and brass instruments make for a great combination and Brad’s vocals fit perfectly beside the music. The Dropkicks rear their ugly heads for ‘Fight Today (Knock Them Down)’ with a killer chorus the Bostonians would die for. Over far too quickly its a beaut of a song loud and proud and aggressive. We back in Molly territory for the next bunch of songs with ‘The Best Words’ played like FM on speed and with ‘Bartender’ you get another song that plays like fast FM but are in fact two quite different songs. I don’t like to compare a band too much to others and you would be wrong to take away from this review that The Killigans are just a Flogging Molly band as their sound is completely their own and if you go back and trace their trajectory from their early days its easy to see where they have come to. For ‘Particle Board’ the band put their heads down and plough through a fast punk number and on ‘All Good Men’ they play to their strengths with fast paced Celtic influenced punk with Brads voice strong and clear. ‘Cracked Rear View’ is one of the songs they began after last album way back in 2012 and begins with a thundering bass before the band join in and we soon end up with my album favourite. Elements of pop-punk and it sure is catchy enough to call it that. A cracking song and the Celtic takes a back seat for a couple of minutes. We are nearing the end of the album and ‘Realty Bites’ is a right proper anthem for the American working class.

“This gentrification is necessary good

A complete revitalization of your neighbourhood

A lonely puddle in  a cracked brickmavenue

Throw up a LED street light it’s as good as new”

and ends with

“This district

You’re no longer part of it”

At a time when the American left have turned their backs on the working classes by adopting the poison of identity politics its a timely reminder that they are still here and still fighting. Its another speedy song and leads into ‘Artificial Hip’ where we get thirty-six seconds of punk rock oompf before we arrive at the final and title track ‘Dance on Your Grave’. This is the bands big sound with accordion and brass coming together to wrap things up wonderfully for a sure fire dance floor filler about everyone who wronged Brad including school bullies and ex-girlfriends getting their just deserts!

So The Killigans are back with a bang and maybe not one for the more folk inclined it certainly rocks along and if you miss the early days of Flogging Molly then this is the album for you. Sometimes maturity doesn’t make you a better band but here The Killigans have soaked in influences from all over and come up with something that will have you wearing out your shoe leather while also giving your heart and (Celtic) soul a workout too.

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ALBUM REVIEW: HOLD FAST- ‘Black Irish Sons’ (2018)

 The debut album from Pennsylvania-Irish band Hold Fast takes both traditional Irish and original material in a blend of Celtic, punk and rock.
Hold tight, hold steady, Hold Fast! 
The term Black Irish is thought by many to originate back in Ireland for the offspring of Spanish sailors shipwrecked on the west coast of Ireland back in 1588. Far more likely is it became a term of abuse for poor Irish immigrants in the latter half of the nineteenth-century. The necessity for these immigrants to take the lowest and most dangerous jobs thought by the more well off classes to be the preserve of Blacks came to see them labelled Black Irish. It came about as a result of English/Protestant prejudices imported to the USA by the early colonists who saw the Irish as uncivilised and Catholicism as anti-everything for which Protestantism stood. In recent years the term has been reclaimed and is now worn as a badge of honour by working-class Irish-Americans who sometimes ‘cross the line’.

Hold Fast left to right: Buzz Klinger- Bass, Harmonica * Michael Parks- Drums, Percussion * Dave Thompson- Tenor Banjo, 5-String banjo, Mandolin, Acoustic Guitar, Piano * Cole Brown- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Jon Heller- Accordion, Bagpipes * Kayla Rosencrans- Tin-Whistle *

Formed only a couple of years back by Cole and Drunk Dave Hold Fast hail from Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, home of a flourishing Irish rock and punk scene with the The Kilmaine Saints at the very top of it ably supported by other local bands in the Bastard Bearded Irishmen, Punkabillys , Lucky Lad Green and The Tradesmen. In fact piper Jon also pipes for the Kilmaine Saints. The Saints have been very instrumental in helping Hold Fast get on the scene and get their name out there.

Black Irish Sons is their debut album and features ten tracks, eight original tunes and two covers, one rather overexposed and one that is much less well known. The album begins with ‘Gangway’ and the sound of bagpipes fills the air and then the sound of a pub before the band join in and when the banjo comes out the song instantly reminds you of a rather famous Dropkick Murphys song. They follow this up with ‘Drunken Irish Bastard’ and lead singer Cole has that unmistakable Irish-American twang to his vocals and a clear voice that sounds like he smokes 60 a day! The band cite trad Irish ballad bands like The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones as influences and they do sound quite a lot like a punked up version of these bands rather than The Pogues folkier version of them.

Cole’s voice is very much to the fore throughout the album and on crowd favorite ‘The Banshee Wail’ it is given full reign to go from shouty to soft but always tuneful. An album standout the music veers from hard to gentle with Cole accompanied by a understated mandolin most of the time until the song comes to a tremendous end with the music not getting faster just louder. Any Celtic-Punk worth a sniff these days needs a few ingredients to make the correct mix and one of these is a decent sense of humour which Hold Fast certainly have and ‘My Girl Is A Singer In A Punk Rock Band’ is evidence. Played as a straight up punk song with tin-whistle its got energy and bite and gives Cole a good opportunity to test those vocal chords. We love our Celtic-Punk here but we also love a good auld ballad and Hold Fast deliver a beauty with ‘Cthulhu’. Named after the monster created by writer H. P. Lovecraft that would drive any sailor who looked upon it insane. Never read any of his books though I did try once and found it a heavy going with very very tiny print but the song conveys the terror of the being quite admirably. The album’s first cover is titled ‘Belle of Belfast’ here but is much better known as ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ and is rapidly heading to the #1 spot of covered classic Irish tunes. Have to say I do roll my eyes soon as I see the song listed on a new album but there’s a great reason for it being covered by so many and that’s because it’s such a fantastic song and perfect for a Celtic-Punk re-tune. Done and dusted in seventy-five seconds Hold Fast certainly don’t hang about! Next up is the rowdy title track and ‘Black Irish Sons’ takes the Black Irish theme onwards and chugging guitar and loud vocals makes for a perfect singalong.

“Because all day long whiskey and shenanigans

Every bastard that we meet turns out to be another friend

You can pour another round and we’ll raise a pint again

Cuz we’re the Black Irish sons of Erin”

You get the feeling that the band play their instruments with one hand while the other holds a beer! We are back in ballad territory again next and it’s another Hold Fast beauty with  ‘Curse of the Drinking Class’ with Cole’s voice nicely reigned in and sounding never better. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and restrained accordion and tin-whistle it’s a great song. We get another alcohol laden track now and it’s to the seas me Bhoys as ‘Pour Me Grog’ hits the deck. A great banjo sound and gang vocals make this one of my favourites here. The album ends with one of my all-time favourite sons ‘Big Strong Man’. The writer of the song remains unknown but if not for the Wolfe Tones I fear the song would have been lost for forever. The date the song was written can be guessed from the references to the actress Mae West, the ‘Jeffries-Johnson’ boxing match of 1910, the famous Irish-American boxer Jack Dempsey, whose career began in 1914 and to the RMS Lusitania briefly the world’s largest passenger ship, the ship was sunk on 7 May 1915 by a German U-Boat off the southern coast of Ireland at the cost of almost 1,200 lives. The Hold Fast version punk up The Wolfe Tones version (check out the Tones version here) somewhat but keeps the tune intact and the hilarious lyrics keep the tune afloat. One for the crowd to go wild too and a cracking way to bring the curtain down on the album.

At only twenty-eight minutes long it’s over far too quickly but that’s what makes Black Irish Sons such an interesting album. 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. The more I hear of bands like Hold Fast I begin to realise the importance of Celtic-Punk to the Irish-American community.

Hold tight, hold steady, Hold Fast!

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ALBUM REVIEW: 1916- ‘Far Beyond The Pale’ (2018)

The fourth studio album from one of the best bands in Celtic-Punk, the Rochester, NY based Irish-American band 1916. An explosive concoction of modern day Irish Punk and psychobilly with an original sound all of their very own.

You may scoff at the idea that their is a Celtic-Punk band out there that has an original sound all to themselves! In a scene where the comfort comes from all the bands mining from the same sources of history it is true believe me that one band has managed the seemingly impossible. To stand apart from the crowd but to still be a part of the Irish-American Celtic-Punk scene. Hailing from upstate NY, 1916 take influence from the traditional Irish folk of bygone days and mix in the modern Irish Punk movement but also add in elements from both psychobilly and rockabilly giving them the sound which sets them apart from other bands of the genre.

1916 left to right: Ryan Hurley- Upright Bass * Jon Kane- Mandolin * Steve LaDue- Drums * Billy Herring- Vocals, Guitar *

Their days began as an acoustic duo in back in 2006 with singer Billy Herring and drummer Steve La Due playing the trad Irish ballads of the Dubliners and Wolfe Tones in local pubs in and around their hometown of Rochester. Deciding to name themselves 1916, after the year the uprising in Dublin against British rule took place, to get people interested in Irish history it was in 2010 they took the decision to attempt to turn 1916 into a ‘proper’ band and called in electric guitars, trad instruments and drums. It wasn’t long before they were supporting the Dropkick Murphys and so began a new chapter in 1916 history. 2012 St. Patrick’s Day saw the release of their first studio album, A Drop of the Pure while the following year saw the release of Stand Up & Fight. Each album containing a selection of Celtic/Irish covers and originals that saw the bands sound evolving but it wasn’t until the release of Last Call For Heroes at Christmastime 2015 that the critics went ape. Named in the top half of all the various Celtic-Punk media’s Best Of lists (including our very own one here peaking at #3) 1916 had found their niche and bigger and better things were around the corner for them. As an aside I’ve had their amazing version of ‘Hot Asphalt’ as my ringtone ever since!

Far Beyond The Pale begins with a short instrumental dirge ‘The Risen People’. The sound of chains and a beating drum symbolising stamping feet and the struggle of the Irish race while a mandolin plays a delicate Irish tune. A great start to proceedings as the song becomes the pathway to ‘Some Songs’ and that classic and original 1916 sound is back. Fast and as catchy as hell with bass rumbling away and thrashy guitar nicely understated while Bill tests his lungs with his raspy shouting, though always tuneful, and a great “Woooohh-Woooohhhhhh” bit for us fans to sing along to. 1916 have a knack also for writing some great lyrics too and follow in the tradition of Irish story telling through song. The song tells of the day he fell in love with the music of

“Luke and Ronnie Drew”

and how he has come full circle and I hope Bill realises that he is a direct descendant of these legends and through his music he passes the torch onto the younger generations. Luke and Ronnie would be proud. Next up is the lead single from the album ‘Ophelia’. Bill’s Irish-American brogue and Jon’s mandolin keep the song firmly within Celtic-Punk but it would only take turning up the guitar to take it another level. Saying that I love the guitar on this album. It’s loud and ever present but understated in a way that means it never dominates.

The album title track follows and ‘Far Beyond The Pale’ brings in a slight country influence here but the 1916 rumblin’ is still there. They slow it down slightly but give full reign to Ryan and his upright bass. The phrase ‘beyond the pale’ is well known but what is not so well known is that has a specific Irish meaning. The phrase dates back to the 14th century, when the area around Dublin under English rule was marked by a boundary made of stakes and fences. This became known as the English Pale and to travel outside of that boundary, beyond the pale, was to leave behind all the rules and institutions of English society, which the English modestly considered synonymous with civilization itself. I’m happy to say my family come from many miles Beyond The Pale in Tipperary. They slow it down even further with ‘Guns Of 16’ and maybe I’m getting on a bit but it’s one of my favourite tracks here. A brilliant tune and Bill rolls out the words almost laconically

“Guns of 16 are here
Never have they gone away
Into your deeds they have moved
Keeping the butchers away”

Utterly brilliant. Well so far you have heard a lot about the psychobilly/rockabilly side of 1916 but having stuck fairly closely to the Celtic side of things so far they unleash things for ‘Shake And Roll’ and Ryan’s bass goes into overdrive! There is a saying that “Old punks don’t die they just become rock’n’rollers” and I actually think theirs a bit of truth in that. Having grown up with Rock’n’Roll and Irish music from my Mammy I’ve found myself getting more and more back into over the last few years. I have come to the conclusion its because I’m rather happy in life so don’t want to listen to noisy songs about nuclear war anymore!!!

“We hit the floor together as legion till the end”

Bill shouts out as Jon, Steve and Ryan belt out a real mosh pit filler. The psychobilly influence becomes more of a rockabilly influence for the following song ‘All Outta Whiskey’ and it is absolutely amazing the difference in sound having a upright bass makes when compared to a normal bass. This song is what I would describe as the traditional 1916 sound. First the subject matter (!) then rumbling bass and buzzing guitar with a gang chorus to sing along to and Bill’s laid back vocal style, which is both punky and shouty and trad and folky at the same time, all encompassing a song that straddles punk and folk that is a catchy as feck! The sea features heavily amongst 1916’s repertoire of songs as well as their imagery and no surprise if you read up on how the Irish washed up in north America and the terrible conditions they suffered on board coffin ships supposed to bring them to safety. At least 30% of all Irish immigrants perished on board the ships while many more passed away on arrival. ‘Sticks And Stones’ is another great punky number that rattles along at a fair old pace

“Come all you captains and sailors so bold
and take us through the raging seas of old
Arm yourselves men with your sticks and your stones
and fight against the tide that calls us home”

before taking us into a superb version of ‘Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’. Made famous of course by Cait O’Riordans version on The Pogues second album Rum, Sodomy And The Lash but the song dates right back to the 1880’s and has both Scots and Irish versions. Bills plays with the words a little introducing the line “A tattooer by trade I’m a roving young blade” into the song that speeds up the Pogues version and they nail it by turning it into a 1916 song rather than a Pogues/Dubliners cover. It’s fast, furious, frantic and catchy! We steering up towards the final bend and with ‘Christmas In The Canal’ they have the album standout. The sound is traditional 1916 and is a tribute to those original Irish who fell out of coffin ships and went to work doing the jobs no one else would do. Bill begins the song with the short exclamation

“it was the early 1800’s and the Irish were at the forefront of digging one of the great wonders of the world out of New York state for the Erie canal and despite the harsh conditions they were still able to celebrate”

before the rest of the Bhoys join in with the tale of the Irish digging out the 363 mile canal from the Hudson River near Albany, New York to the Niagara River near Buffalo. Armed with pick axes and shovels, it was backbreaking work, from sunrise to sundown for little pay but it was acknowledged that the Irish were a hard working and hard drinking crew. Not only did the Irish lend their unique work ethic to the canal, they also put their stamp on it in many other ways, including ‘canal songs’, fashioned after popular tunes from home but with new words to fit the environment. And of course, they settled in towns all along the canal route, where today you still find them proud of their Irish roots. The song celebrates them in song just as they sang back in the day and we are still singing now!! A cracking song and one of the elements I have always loved about 1916 is that they do pay homage to those dark days when the Irish in America were on the bottom rung. The album’s second and final cover is up next and the hymn ‘I’ll Fly Away’ is played as a fast folky number. Written by Albert E. Brumley in 1929 it is thought to be the most recorded gospel song of all time and I remember singing it with gusto in my Catholic school days, after all the only way to get the boys to sing was to give them a song that they could shout along to at the top of their voices! It’s already been given the Celtic-Punk treatment on 2012’s Toil by Flatfoot 56 but again 1916 give it their all and come up with something original rather than copied.

“When the shadows of this life are gone,
I’ll fly away.
Like a bird from prison bars has flown
I’ll fly away.”

The curtain comes down on Far Beyond The Pane with the wonderful ‘Going Home’. At over five minutes its by far the album’s longest song and though it starts off plaintive and on the slow side the Bhoys can’t help but go out on a flourish and Jon’s mandolin must have smoke coming off it by the time the end of the songs comes!

This is an album full of life. A celebration of Irish-American identity that is open and accepting to all and is packed to the rafters with passion and energy. The album is available on CD from the band as well as all the usual download sites and the CD comes with a massive booklet entitled Ships Log done in the style of a olde day ships log containing the lyrics of the songs. Mind you Bill’s vocal style renders it useless as you can understand every single word he sings over the album’s forty minutes. 1916’s star is rising all the time and with tours having taken them right across the States and Europe (though sadly not England) and back again and having become an integral part of the #1 event in Celtic-Punk, the  Flogging Molly Salty Dog Cruise, theirs no sign of it dying down just yet. 1916 are easily in my favourite, say, five bands in Celtic-Punk and I defy anyone to not enjoy this band and this fantastic album. With equal measures of humour and seriousness and whiskey it sure is a unique blend alright.

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  • You can read more about the ‘coffin ships’ and The Great Hunger here
  • The history of the Irish and the Erie canal here and here

LIVE REVIEW: TC COSTELLO/ ANTO MORRA/ BRENDAN O’PREY AT THE GUNNERS 17th MAY 2018

A very nice review by the talented Anto Morra of the recent London Celtic Punks gig held in north London that saw the start of TC Costello’s European tour. Accompanied by Anto and Brendan O’Prey (literally at times!) the night saw Irish artists from three different countries perform and they will all, I am sure, go on to play much better attended gigs than this one! 

A GREAT NIGHT WITH THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS

by Anto Morra

THE GUNNERS  LONDON N5 – TC Costello, Anto Morra, Brendan O’Prey  Despite a poor audience turn out for the gig it was quality not quantity that made the evening so great.   London visits are much more gruelling  for me as I get older and to avoid traffic congestion, parking tickets (or any of the other unjustifyable things they can charge you £60 for 3 days after the event) I have to travel in on public transport from my safe parking base in Woolwich, ironically the gig was in Arsenal / Finsbury Park quite a trek on public transport with instruments, leads & Merch.  I was as usual unfashionably early, the first there but was able to sound check my Bodhran and fill the sound man Andy in on the evenings proceedings.

As the small posse gathered I was reminded how lucky I am to know this motley crew,  a nicer bunch of people you couldn’t wish to meet and it was great to catch up with them again.  Established in 2009 The London Celtic Punks webzine has been putting on gigs, promoting bands and reviewing albums that fit the ever growing Celtic Punk genre.

Since The Pogues in the early 1980’s, Celtic Punk has grown beyond anyones expectations with the top names today being the likes of The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, The Mahones and The Rumjacks.  The term Celtic is used very loosely I think as a replacement for the ‘Folk’ terminology to distinguish it from those finger in the ear, woolly jumper wearing acts I love so much as there is very little that is Celtic about The Levellers or Ferocious Dog but their names will always crop up when the genre is being analysed.  Three of the best Celtic Punk bands on the London circuit I’ve come across are the Bible Code Sundays, Neck and The Lagan.  Recently The Lagan front man Brendan O’Prey has started to venture out as a solo performer and he was the opening turn this evening and a very fine one it was too, packed with Christy Moore classics but unlike Christy these days performed with personality and passion.

After a bit of insistence he finally gave Me and the Bhoys the classic Lagan song we wanted.

Next up was myself I thought I’d start with my new revised ‘Ballad Of Margaret Thatcher’ and I nearly got through it without fault but still not quite!   As I never write a set list and try to work of the audience TC Costello had told me he had been listening to Gypsy Smile and London Irish a lot, so I thought I’d play that for him until I thought this might be better with a band.

I rattled through a few more including requests from the Merch King Chris Brown and Mr LCP himself- Mark, but slung this bit of Irish Trad in towards the end of my set, sticking to my only performance rule that is to start and finish with my own songs.

My Complete Set List:   Guardian Of The West (Ballad Of Margaret Thatcher). Gypsy Smile. London Irish, Wasted Life (Stiff Little Fingers Cover).  Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (The Jam Cover). Finnegans Wake (Trad). Rocky Road To Dublin (Trad).  Ballad Of Anto Morra.

Finally the star turn all the way from South Carolina and jet lagged from a gig in Brooklyn New York the night before (but you’d never know) a one man Celtic Punk machine….. TC Costello.

(Performing Waxies Dargle, Rose Connolly, Blow The Man Down, Mafia Punk)

To conclude: Brendan O’Prey’s pure Irish passion comes across in a genuine way.  As a solo performer myself I love to hear things stripped bare and hearing him without the band was a real joy.  His vocal style reminded me a little of Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers also from the North of Ireland and also with a rasp to die for.

I’m never happier than when I’m in performance mode and so had a thoroughly fun time and to be joined by Brendan and TC was a privilege.  I’ve no more plans to play in London so this may have been my last gig there and if so I’m happy it was a memorable one.

TC Costello is remarkable.  Pure Energy, Pure Punk, Pure Entertainment.  If he comes to a town near you don’t miss him- his warmth and charm is infectious and when he hits those high notes there is a vibrato reminiscent of John Lydon himself.  Let’s never forget John Lydon was the very first London Irish Punk.

You can catch Brendan O’Prey and TC Costello along with Matilda’s Scoundrels at another London Celtic Punks show on Thursday 5th of July at The Lamb in Surrey KT6 5NF. It is TC’s last gig before he heads back to the States so lets send him off with a rousing goodbye. The Lamb is just a couple of minutes walk from Surbiton station which is only 20 odd minutes from London by train and walking distance from Kingston and promises to be a fantastic night. Entry is **FREE** and the evening will start around 7-30pm but check the FB event here for set times and running order nearer the date.

The Lamb 18

Check out these great artists and buy all their records and merchandise!

Brendan O’Prey Twitter The Lagan- WebSite  Facebook  Twitter

Anto Morra  Facebook  Reverbnation  Twitter  YouTube  Bandcamp

TC Costello  Facebook  Bandcamp  Tumbler  ReverbNation  Twitter  YouTube

TC is probably pogoing around the Europe, as we speak, at a tremendous rate, so be sure to see if he is popping up in your town. It’s more than possible!

ALBUM REVIEW: THE MUCKERS- ‘One More Stout’ (2018)

While they do play Irish music Atlanta based celtic-punkers The Muckers blend in  influences from gypsy music, sea shanties, country, rockabilly and anything else they can get their hands on.

One More Stout is The Muckers second album and if their debut was a helluva lot of fun then they have gone and topped it with this one. Their self titled debut album came out in September 2016 and even though they had only recently formed it received excellent reviews from right across the celtic/folk-punk scene and entered the end of year charts of all the ones who did one including ours. We described it back then as

“A great knees up of an album with a grand sense of humour and infectiously good fun and well played”.

and to be perfectly honest we could easily re-use that comment to describe their new album One More Stout as well!

Based in the deep South of America in the city of Atlanta in Georgia they are the only local Celtic-Punk band and had gathered a massive following around them in the city and state among the Irish and their friends. That was back then and it would be safe to say that these days The Muckers are rapidly becoming one of Americas better known ‘new’ Celtic-Punk bands. They are on the face of it a straight up Irish band but dig a little deeper into their sound and you will discover a host of influences from at home and overseas. This is a very real American Irish music that takes the spirit of Ireland and adds in a little something from gypsy, country or even rockabilly to produce something that is an absolute joy to listen to, and I am positive a joy to catch live as well.

The Muckers left to right: Steve Lingo- Drums * Brady Trulove- Guitar * Jeff Shaw- Fiddle/Mandolin * Dave Long- Accordion * Randall English- Bass.

One More Stout kicks off with the opener ‘Let’s All Go to the Bar’ and it has a kind of Gobshites feel to it. A real happy-go-lucky bounce to it accompanied by a feel-good vibe that would be sure to fire any gig/party/barmitzvah off! The Gobshites comparison may be a good one as I later found out vocalist Jeff was an auld Gobshite himself for a couple of years and played mandolin work on their album The Whistle Before the Snap.

Originally penned by Rhode Island roots-punk quintet Deer Tick the song stays fairly close to the original but with a huge injection of celtic-punk attitude with some excellent accordion and mandolin.

“Forget if you’ll regret when the morning comes
We’ll have a heart attack, we’re having too much fun
If the coops show up we ought run, run, run
But we’ll laugh in their faces when they tell us we’re done”

At nearly four minutes it’s the perfect length and a great start to proceedings. Jeff Shaw has a great full voice that belies his wee frame and fits snug into The Muckers style of music. The Bhoys have an obsession with alcohol (fancy that!) and keep it up with their first self-penned number ‘Hellbound’ and Jeff puts down the mandolin to play some pretty damn amazing country style fiddle over this fantastic number. The song ends with a very nice Irish trad flourish and they back this straight up with another original ‘Day Drinking’ and it’s hard to believe they are only a five piece band so large is the sound here.

Not only that but they are almost acoustic except for Randall’s bass. I’m still looking for a word I can use instead of catchy (If you know please tell me!) but that is the word that is stamped all over The Muckers music. This song is again accordion led (even with a tinge of ska!) but with such a fantastic production it never over dominates things and blends right in. Next up is another cover and again they stay fairly close to the original by Californian country/American group The Devil Makes Three. They do of course speed ‘Black Irish’ right up and add some bollocks to it.

“Cuz I, I wanna feel that blood rushin in my veins
I don’t want this night to ever turn into day
If I could only do all them things I wanted to
While that spirit’s rushin now in my veins
Yes If I could only do all them things I wanted to
While that spirit’s rushin in my veins”

At least musically anyway as the lyrics speak for themselves! The fiddle kicks it off before accordion joins in and low and behold there’s an electric guitar thrashing away there! Now this is Celtic-PUNK I tells you. Now its the title track and ‘One More Stout’ is an ode to the famous Black Stuff. Following this is a cover by one of my all-time favourite Celtic-Punk bands the glorious Cutthroat Shamrock. Criminally under-rated they split up last year but I was delighted to see that they had reformed this St. Patrick’s weekend to play some local gigs around Tennessee. ‘Long Gravel Road’ is one of their best songs and I would heartily recommend checking their original version out here from their 2009 album Blood Rust Whisky. The Muckers do the song perfect justice and keep the country-Irish feel of the original intact while still putting their own stamp on it. We take a trip out East now with the Bhoys version of the old Russian traditional folk song ‘Limonchiki’. Of course the accordion is in favour here and Jeff hams it up a bit in a real nice number that is guaranteed to get feet moving! Next is a cover by Canadian Celtic-Rock legends Great Big Sea. You know when a band has reached legendary status when ‘ordinary folk’ start to take notice. In this case it was when my sister-in-law asked me if I knew Great Big Sea and did I have any of their stuff. Yeah only about six hours worth! Anyway The Muckers give ‘Old Black Rum’ a real going over and make it their own while ‘God Save Ireland’ is a old song. Very old. it was written to commemorate the Manchester Martyrs, three members of the Fenian Brotherhood executed in England in 1867 after a successful mission to free a comrade from arrest ended with the death of a policeman. It served as the unofficial Irish national anthem from the 1870s to the 1910s and has been recorded by a multitude of artists. In particular I always remember it raising the roof when The Wolfe Tones play it. Its catchy tune and singalong chorus make it perfect Celtic-Punk fodder and needless to say (but say it I will) Its gets a bloody good airing here. We back in the bar for ‘Whiskey’ and the on-off love affair we have with alcohol. Catchy in a sort of hoe-down country way which leads us nicely onto ‘Drunker’n Cooter Brown’ which takes it a bit further with elements of bluegrass and zydeco sneaking in.

One of the album highlights for me and if the dance floor aint filled up for this then there’s something wrong with the audience! ‘Molly, Pt. 2’ is the sequel to ‘Molly’ that appeared on their debut album and that was one of the standout tracks then so only fitting the sequel is here. The mandolin shines here showing what a great instrument it is in Celtic-Punk. Its delicate, beautiful sound butting up against the rougher edges of the other instruments really does sound wonderful. Finally we have reached the end of One More Stout and we wrap things up with an absolutely stunning instrumental traditional Irish folk reel called ‘Castle Kelly’. The tune is very old and also known The Dark Haired Maid’ when recorded by the Bothy Band, or ‘Mo Nighean Dubh’ if you speak Irish. The Muckers version is a s good as any I have heard. An amazing way to finish things.

As we have stated The Muckers are riding a wave which has seen them take the stage at Shamrock Fest and Dragon Con and they were invited to play the welcome party for what is rapidly becoming the most important event in the worlds Celtic-Punk calendar the famed Salty Dog cruise organised by Flogging Molly. Lucky bastards!! This band is set for the top table of celtic-punk embracing everything that’s great about celtic-punk. Passion and pride in the land of their ancestors but also a willingness to experiment a bit and step away from the confines of Irish folk and inject other cultures and music into what they do. And all the time with a smile plastered across their faces. The obvious fun they have is infectious and if the only thing Celtic-Punk achieves is to make people happy then The Muckers have got a surefire hit on their hands. Get on board before they become massive!

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ALBUM REVIEW: BASTARD BEARDED IRISHMEN- ‘Drinkin’ To The Dead’ (2018)

Pittsburgh celtic-rockers the Bastard Bearded Irishmen deliver an original, ferocious blend of traditional and contemporary Celtic music, mixed with punk, gypsy and high-energy rock n’ roll on their third album out this week.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen are one of the hardest working bands ON the Irish-American celtic-rock scene and their hard work has paid off with the band now known right across the States and even beyond. Formed back in 2008 the band celebrate ten years together with the release of their third studio album, Drinkin’ To The Dead. Originally planned as a one off tribute for a friend’s funeral, George H. Evans IV, a friend of the band and guitarist who died in a car accident in 2004. George was a big Irish-American guy who loved the Dropkick Murphys and during that one-off show Jimmy Bastard and Ben Jaber decided their passion for Irish music needed a further outlet so after recruiting a couple more local guys and gaining a rather nice sponsorship deal from Jameson’s Irish whiskey the Bastard Bearded Irishmen were born.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen left to right: Jimmy Bastard- Lead Vocals, Acoustic/Electric Guitar, Banjo *  Paul Dvorchak- Fiddle * Danny Rectenwald- Mandolin, Banjo, Vocals * Ryan Warmbrodt- Rhythm Guitar * Dan Stocker- Drums/Percussion * Ben Jaber- Bass, Vocals (Ben has since left amicably and the new Bastard bassist is Sean-Paul Williams)

This is the band’s third album behind their self-titled debut of 2011 and ‘Rise Of The Bastard’ in 2014. That debut trod the well worn path of mostly auld Irish standards and though an excellent album it only left their fans wanting to hear more of their own stuff. They got their wish with Rise Of The… which was an album of solid self penned songs with just three covers chucked in. One of the most pleasing things about the Bastards was their ability to switch from Irish punk to folky trad and though on their new album the rougher edges have been smoothed down this ability still shines through.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen hail from Pennsylvania’s second largest city Pittsburgh located in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The city is known as ‘The Steel City’ due to its history of steel production and way back in the 1830’s, many Welsh people from the Merthyr steelworks immigrated to the city following the aftermath of the Merthyr Rising. By the 1840’s, Pittsburgh was one of the largest cities west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Great Fire of Pittsburgh destroyed over a thousand buildings in 1845 and the city was rebuilt by Irish immigrants who had arrived in the area escaping The Great Hunger back home. By the end of the century Pittsburgh’s 1,000 factories were consuming 22 million coal bushels yearly with coal mining and iron manufacturing attracting waves of European immigrants to the area, increasingly from southern and eastern Europe, and including many Catholics and Jews fleeing injustice and poverty in their homelands. Today the Irish still number 16% of the cities population and the Saint Patrick’s Day parade is second only to New York in the whole of the USA.

(the Bastard Bearded Irishmen bhoys discuss their upcoming 2018 album, Drinkin’ to the Dead and the evolution of the group)

So coming from an area with a rich working class history and confident in it’s Irishness the Bastard Bearded Irishmen found much work around the city playing to their fellow Irish-Americans but as has been said hard work and solid graft has seen them voted ‘Best Rock Band in Pittsburgh’ for four years in a row, ‘Best Bar Band’ twice, opening for the Dropkick Murphy’s and Stiff Little Fingers and a whole host of major folk and rock bands while, of course, playing just about every decent Irish music festival including last years mega Shamrockfest. Their third album Drinkin’ To The Dead came out on that most special of days for sc-fi fans, May the 4th, kicks off with ‘Salutations, Memoirs, Denouements’ which was their first single from the album released last February. They seem to have lost none of their bite since 2014’s Rise Of The Bastard and despite promising to have moved away from the Irish punk of the first two album’s I can tell you there’s plenty here to keep fans old and new very happy indeed. As is the way the opener is always one of the strongest songs and no different here with Jimmy Bastard belting out the lyrics about remembering close lost friends and comrades.

” But through the tears (we arise) as we honour the lives of the ones we left behind”

Fast and furious and tuneful with great fiddle work its a brilliant way to start things and I can tell I’m in for a good time here! Drinkin’ To The Dead also sees mando player Danny Rectenwald step up to the plate vocals wise and him and take the lead on a handful of songs here that gives some nice balance to Jimmy.

So if the opener made me think we were in for more of the same ‘No Problems, No Drama’ took me by surprise with its combination of celtic, reggae, klezmer and eastern European tunes all bashing up against each other. At over six minutes long it’s a bit risky but the risk was worth it as the lads take time to build up the song layering each others instruments on top of each other and building the song up to a climax. Maybe not one for live shows but it certainly works here and shows that there is a lot more to the Bastards than drinking songs… though they are pretty fecking good at them too as in next track ‘Let’s Have A Party’. It’s straight up Irish folk-punk though perhaps with just a tinge of country and again Paul’s fiddle is on fire as the band bash through the song as quickly as they can.

It may be overplayed as hell and appeared on every Celtic-Punk band’s play list but lets face it you can’t beat ‘Dirty Old Town’ can you. We have gone into this song so many times here but Ewan MacColl’s song is played so often for a reason and that is because it is such an amazing song. The Bastards play it Dubliners style. Nice and slow with Jimmy showing he’s got a decent set of lungs on him and the band with a nicely subdued backing but then half way through they kick it off and bring it in fast as yer like. Ewan was a bit touchy about this song especially about how Shane MacGowan sang it (apparently putting the emphasis in the wrong place) but sure wouldn’t he happy hearing it still blaring away sixty-nine years after he wrote it. Next up is a solid Irish folk instrumental ‘Harvest’ before the gypsy-punk of  ‘Ya, Ya, Ya’ begins with the familiar sound of a can of beer opening! It’s not all as expected and they can still bring out a few surprises and ‘Moscato’ is a nicely understated gentle tune dedicated to the delights of drinking wine. Just Jimmy’s voice, acoustic guitar, bass and mandolin lead us into another nice drinking song but more in keeping with the Irish tradition. The bittersweet tale of ‘Another Bottle Of Booze’ of realising what the stuff does to you but not be able, or wanting, to stop. A slow song but played tough and a real foot stomper. This is the quieter section of the album and ‘Green Side Of The Hill’ may start off as a ballad before incorporating reggae and gypsy into it. Great words too reinforcing what I have always said about them that their story-telling is an integral part of what they do. Eventually the song bursts out at you and the quiet section is no more and the band whip through the ending. The song is another long one at five and half minutes and never drags and the extra length of some of the songs on Drinkin’ With The Dead is evidence of a maturity that the band have faith in themselves to deliver songs that keep the listeners interest. ‘Drunken’ Drinkin’ is about being drunk and still drinking and the song again doesn’t stick to the Celtic-Punk blueprint and neither does it stick to just keeping it fast either.

We have a lovely Irish folk tune next in ‘Slip (the) Jig’ and a song that’s been around a couple of years now, ‘Pirates Of Three Rivers’ that is classic Celtic-Punk territory. The three rivers, the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio, converge in the city and Pittsburgh owes its existence to them.

We coming up towards the end and ‘What A Life That Would Be’ is a song that maybe shouldn’t work but by hell it does. Shift changes all over the shop and packed with influences from all over the place it on the face of it is all over the place but yeah it still gets you there! Down to the last two songs and they are both called ‘Drinkin’ With The Dead’ and as Jimmy Bastard says

“It’s kind of funny because the name of the album has been around for two years, we just had to get it done. And on the same day Danny said he wrote a song called ‘Drinkin’ to the Dead’ (the second version), I told him I wrote one, too. We thought we couldn’t have two song called ‘Drinkin’ to the Dead’ on the album, but then thought, ‘Yes we can. We can do whatever we want.’”

‘Drinkin’ To The Dead (Prelude)’ is a sad but glorious, thought provoking piano driven ballad dedicated to the friends they have lost. Danny’s voice achingly recalls loved ones.

“Raise a glass to tomorrow and the past
to the ones that we love
down here or above
for this may or may not be the last time we can.”

They follow it up with the second version of ‘Drinkin’ To The Dead’. At near eight minutes long you can bet your arse it’s an epic and rousing way to bring the curtain down on things. Solidly based on Irish folk the words speak of respecting the dead and moving on with your life and making those you loved proud of you. We Irish are obsessed with death though I have always found in a good way. A damn fine way to end things.

Bastard Bearded irishmen logo.jpg

As a band whose whole existence was to commemorate fallen friends and family Drinkin’ With The Dead is a more than just a couple of steps forward for the band. Proof if it was needed that Irish-American music is both inventive and innovative and willing to push the boundaries of what we think of as Irish music. Bastard Bearded Irishmen have stepped it up a notch and though still well grounded in celtic-punk the extra touches they have introduced will I am sure gain them recognition and friends far beyond our narrow little scene and Good Luck to them while they do it!

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(A mini-documentary on the Pittsburgh based band, Bastard Bearded Irishmen. Created as a senior class project by Rachael Hower. Recorded September 2014-February 2015)

EP REVIEW : IN FOR A PENNY ‘Sometimes It’s Better To Not’ (2018)

We called In For A Penny the hottest new Celtic-punk band of 2017 and with their new EP that came out for St. Patrick’s week they only cement that view in our eyes!

One of the highlights of 2017 amongst all the album releases from the ‘superstars’ of celtic-punk was the discovery of a new band out of Savannah in Georgia in the USA. In For A Penny hadn’t been going very long and both their releases of 2017 both featured high in the upper echelons of our Best Of Albums and EP’s of the year.

So it was then could they keep it up? Well on the evidence of their EP which hit the streets of Georgia last week then the answer is a resounding yes. With their previous release they have trodden a similar path with sometimes an equal amount of Irish standards and self -penned songs. Needless to say I much prefer their own songs. While they do play the standards in their indomitable way I much prefer to hear bands play and record their own material. A perfect example is their last album One More Last Hurrah! which has the perfect mix of covers and originals. You can still download the album for free or as the lads put it

“Don’t wanna pay nuthin? Cool, download it and enjoy. Think you wanna toss us a couple of bucks to help support our Irish punk habit, great. Want to give us one million dollars… well, you get the idea”.

A fantastic album recorded in just 7 (seven!) hours in in the back room of The Sand Bar on Tybee Island, GA. Not that you’d notice mind as the sound is fantastic and if you need to know anything just think that in a year of album release from the Murphys, Mollys, Flatfoot, Tossers, McKenzies and many more established and well known bands we placed it as #8 in the years album releases.

Here on Sometimes It’s Better To Not the band do not disappoint and all the songs are written by the band themselves. Irish-American Sean McNally is both songwriter and lyricist for In For A Penny and in him they have found someone who has his finger right on the nations Irish-American community. Hard to believe he first picked up a mandolin in anger in 2014 but after only a few open mic performances Sean soon realised that the response he was getting to stripped down cover’s of The Dubliners and The Dropkick Murphys on just mandolin and vocals was so great then the next step must be to form a band. Roping in old friends in Henny ‘da butcha’ on drums and Jeremy Riddle on guitar and Sean’s son Bryce on bass In For A Penny took their home state by storm and judging by the wider celtic-punk media they have taken everywhere else by storm too.

This EP, Sometimes It’s Better To Not, is only four tracks long but sails in at nearly twenty minutes long. In For A Penny while they don’t go in for short songs they also know when to bring the curtain down so the EP never drags on. Sean’s gravelly yet distinctive voice again shines through and it’s incredible to think that the whole thing started off as just a jam but within a few days the band had taken Sean’s melodies and turned them into what we have here. The EP begins with ‘Before The Devil’ and it’s unmistakable In For A Penny. For a band with such a short time span they have really nailed their sound. With Bryce, bassist and Sean’s son, having moved to Colorado Matthew Price has been filling in and opens the EP off nicely before the band join in and it’s a fast, danceable number catchy as hell and as pretty the template for celtic-punk to these big ears. A story of redemption and trying to steer clear of you know.

(the bands submission for last years The Salty Dog Cruise)

On ‘Broken’ Bryce returns for a song with him recording his bass bits at home and then sending it on to Sean to mix. Bryce played their recent St. Patrick’s shows so maybe they could go all Ned’S Atomic Dustbin and have two bassists! With a opening that sounds like a Irish rebel song it soon changes to into a track telling the tale of ‘every man’. The homeless, lost and broken in society. A brilliant track that ends on a positive note of hope. Great words and music. The EP’s epic is ‘Dancing With The Stars’ at not far off six minutes! A slower song than usual but with an intensity that makes it seem faster. The song builds and builds and amazing to think theirs only four fella’s playing here. A real foot-tapper and at times could veer off in metal but they keep it subdued and in my opinion just right.

The EP ends with the standout track next ‘Your Claddagh Heart’. Johnny Piper of London Celtic Punks faves Alternative Ulster guests on bagpipes on this one and really makes the song shine. Sending his pipe track over to Sean from New York like Bryce did making this EP certainly wasn’t a easy process.  Dedicated to Sean’s Mrs it’s a lovely song and though it’s sentimental as feck it’s not gushing and I reckon the kind of song we’d all secretly like to write for our loved ones.

“when I said I love you, I meant forever”.

Johnny’s pipes are perfect and again it’s a fairly lengthy (for celtic-punk anyway) song at just a few seconds under five minutes but still the only thing i got left to say is the EP ends all to quickly. So there you go, yet another contender for our Best Of charts from these extremely talented Bhoys from Georgia. Sadly Sean is working away from home for a few months after St Patrick’s is over so this will be the last we hear of them for a while but plenty of plans are afoot on their return so don’t let this great band slip from your thoughts. They will be back!

(you can listen to the whole of Sometimes It’s Better To Not before you buy on the Bandcamp player player before you buy. G’wan it’s only 5 bucks!)

Buy Sometimes It’s Better To Not

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The Bhoys over at Mersey Celt Punks beat everyone to the first review of Sometimes It’s Better To Not and is well worth looking at for another opinion. It’s a great site and well worth subscribing to so check it out here

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