Category Archives: Live Album

ALBUM REVIEW: RUNA- ‘Live’ (2016)

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

RUNA Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUNA inside

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

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

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

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

Robert Dwyer Joyce

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

and Aoibhneas Eilís Ní Cheallaigh/ Filleadh An Bhadora

Discography

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: BRYAN McPHERSON- ‘Street Lights’ (2016)

Calling out the bullshit.

A fusion of Americana, folk, alternative and punk this Irish-American guy is a lot more than even this.

Bryan MacPherson-City Lights

Any new release from London Celtic Punks favourite Bryan McPherson is more than welcomed and so we are happy to get our mitts on Street Lights released just last week. Recorded live at the Right-Turn which is a drug and alcohol rehab centre in Bryan’s home town of Boston. Completely un-mastered and delivered as rough and raw and ready as it was heard first hand on that night back in 2009 it was recorded. Now this isn’t an album of completely new material as several of the songs eventually made it onto Bryan’s 2012 album American Boy / American Girl. Others were not so fortunate and fell by the wayside so its great to hear them now played in this way in a intimate show in a place that is obviously very close to his heart. When you buy Street Lights, as I’m sure you will, part of your hard earned will go to the centre to help them continue their great work. Right Turn describes itself as “a creative place for recovery” helping people to recover from the devastating effects of addiction.

The entire concert is included here and you can hear a pin drop throughout as Bryan shares his life with us. What can I say as I am a massive fan of Bryan and find myself when listening to his music feeling like I’m on a emotional roller coaster. His lyrics grab at you and shake you into a reaction. We were lucky to have had Bryan over in London last year and his performance, despite some initial sound problems, was every bit as intense and captivating as here. As Bryan says himself

“I see music as a means for change. It’s a powerful and beautiful force, and it’s my life”

Street Lights was engineered and mixed by Steve Friedman and all the songs were written and performed by Bryan. The last song is a special bonus studio track, a beautiful intimate acoustic version of ‘O.F.D. (Originally from Dorchester)’. Bryan’s birthplace and home to countless Irish-Americans including the original members, and lifelong friends of Bryan, The Dropkick Murphys. Here’s an idea maybe the Irish Government could fund the work that Right Turn do? As a thank you for all the money sent home by those Irish-Americans throughout the years. Maybe their children and grand-children deserve some payback for having helped keep Ireland afloat during the tough years?

With just a guitar and a harmonica and his voice it is passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting all at the same time. Bryan’s music is a very real journey through his own personal hell and is altogether mesmerising. Sometimes his words can chill you to the bone as he dissects American working class life and when those pampered and privileged members of the middle classes want to lecture us about so-called ‘white privilege’ then maybe they ought to have lived a moment in Bryan McPherson’s shoes. Just a moment. Street life, politics, addiction, the prison system, class disparity and the plight of the working class, broken dreams, and discrimination litter the alleys of McPherson’s songs. Their are also moments of beauty and clarity as this modern day  folk-punk troubadour hits the heights and even though it may not be a fun roller coaster ride the words are as honest as they are urgent. Come on every second counts!

(listen to the whole of City Lights on the Bandcamp player below . When you’ve done click the link below that to own a copy!)

Bryan MacPhersonBuy The Album

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For more on the work Right Turn do please check their web-site here

 

ALBUM REVIEW: THE KILMAINE SAINTS- ‘Live At The Abbey’ (2015)

Explosive, high-energy celtic-punk rock band from Pennsylvania will lift your hearts and your spirit…
and your pint when you’re not looking!
Kilmaine Saints Live At The Abbey

Formed in 2009 The Kilmaine Saints were the brainchild of two members of the Harrisburg Pipe And Drum Band (Pennsylvania). With celtic-punk taking off they decided to form a band that would get them free beer at St Patrick’s Day shows in the Central PA area. With the addition of  a couple of local musicians and a couple more Pipe band members The Kilmaine Saints took off and haven’t looked back since. Hundreds of gigs and festival appearances have seen them become one of the most popular celtic-punk bands in America. Two full length albums behind them,  ‘The Good, The Plaid And The Ugly’ and ‘Drunken Redemption’ as well as a mini-album ‘un-Traditonal’ from last year, their releases have all been a solid mix of ramped up celtic classics and some extremely good compositions of their own. After all it has to be said that you can be a great band playing covers, and especially if you do something with them rather than being just a standard cover, but to go further you need strong songs of your own and The Kilmaine Saints have them as well.

‘Live At The Abbey’ is just over an hours worth of celtic-punk rock that is I reckon an exact replica of a Saints show. What I mean is it captures completely the feel, as well as the sound, of a Kilmaine Saints gig. The actual recording is clear and captures the various band members and their instruments perfectly. ‘Amazing Grace/Will The Circle Be Unbroken’ kicks off the album and straight away you can feel the energy busting out of the speakers. Blimey if every show is like this then they better keep a medic by the stage with a defibrillator! ‘Haul Away Joe/Tamlin’ is a typical song of what gives the Saints that special something. They take a song and just as you think its about to end will fly off into something even more manic not giving you pause for breath. Their background in the Harrisburg Pipe And Drum Band certainly gives them an edge on other bands when it comes to playing traditional songs and also shows that the music is literally in their blood too. The best Irish rebel song ever written is next and ‘Come Out Ye Black And Tans’ could be written as a celtic-punk song so easy to turn into one is it. Shane MacGowan’s classic’Streams Of Whiskey’ is punked up to heaven while ‘Long Walk To Sonnagh’ is my favourite track on the album with a celtic/country crossover sound while not losing any of its punk rock feel.
‘Black And Blue Jig’ tells of a Irish bare knuckle boxer follows the same musical path and ‘I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’ is the trad Irish song made famous by the Pogues but imagine the Pogues playing it with electric guitars and you know what I mean. Bagpipes kick off a thrash version of ‘The Wild Rover’ with chugging guitar a 77 punk band would be proud of! ‘Swallowtail Jig/Drunken Sailor’ and ‘Rattlin’ Bog’ everyone will be familiar with but again given that Saints twist that brings something new to them. Next up is the Kilmaine Saints anthem ‘Saints Are Up’ and its what every bands signature tune should be about. The lyrics say it all
“Raise the blue raise the green and all the colors in between
Sing along, sing it loud, ‘cuz we’re Celtic and we’re proud
Raise a shot, raise a pint, put your arms around your mate
‘cuz we’re the noisy drunken bastards called the Kilmaine Saints”
‘Devil’s Den (Painting Paradise Square Pt.2) is a hill where the Battle Of Gettysberg took place in the American civil war and tells of an Irish recruit forced to defend the hill against enormous odds.
“Born on the streets he grew up hard & mean
Raised in Paradise Square
But the blood and the gore of this cruel Civil War
Five Points cannot compare”
With Black And Tans covered the Saints bring the fight for Irish independence up to date with the modern day rebel song ‘Go On Home British Soldiers’ and they certainly put some oompf into it.

‘The Whiskey’s Calling’ is another great song with brilliant pint, and fist, in the air chorus of
“So raise a pint
and give a cheer
This one’s for friends
both far and near
Some are here
and some have fallen
Bottoms Up! The whiskey’s calling”
With the first half of the album given over to the classics the second half is mostly Kilmaine Saints songs and ‘Battle Cry’ is a great example. The pipes flow the guitars chug and Mayo born singer Brendan’s voice soars over the top of it all. The lyrics are inspiring and motivational
“All men have the strength inside to get up on their feet
I’d rather stand and fight than live my life down on my knees”
Following are  ‘Old Brown’s Daughter’ and ’10 Fathoms Deep’ and this is the first time I have ever heard ‘Old Rugged Cross’ on a celtic-punk band album but I soon realise that its quite a long way both musically and lyrically from my Nanna’s favourite song!
“Twenty five Hail Marys will absolve all my sins!
So don’t judge me son til you know where I’ve been
The Lord will have mercy on a man of the cloth
Who sometimes will stray from the old rugged cross”

The album ends with the amazing ‘Rakes Of Mallow/Jump Around’. Combining two of my favourite songs its no surprise its an absolute firm fan favourite and as you can see it the attached video it certainly gets the crowds going and even sitting at home listening to this with just cup of Barry’s on the go I feel the need to get up off me ass and jump around. A fecking brilliant way to close and I’m already searching for their first album to stick it on and have a listen. The Abbey is a music venue situated above a brewery in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, called the Appalachian Brewing Company so the absolutely perfect place to record a live album! With equal parts Irish swagger, Scottish pride, and whiskey The Kilmaine Saints have risen in such a short time to being one of the most popular and certainly one of the best American bands in the scene. If by chance you haven’t checked them out yet ‘Live At The Abbey’ is an excellent place to start.
(you can listen to ‘Live At The Abbey’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
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