Acoustic Alternative Folk Rock. Made in Bretagne. Inspired in Ireland.
Among the first reviews of 2020 is the new single from a relatively new favourite of ours Callum Houston. I say relatively as we have been big fans of his other band the Welsh Psychobilly band The Graveyard Johnnys for years. The last few years have seen Callum move from Cork to Bristol to Wales and then to Lorient in Brittany where he has become a much loved fixture on the Breton Irish music scene playing regularly around the country. His debut single from last year Gravities was a big hit reaching #5 in our recent Best Of 2019 poll. It led to a successful mini tour of England including a fantastic London Celtic Punks gig down at Frosty’s Bar in Kenton. His new single Once Upon A Time In Cardiff came out just last week and keeps up the high standard with a tale of a long forgotten love affair suddenly remembered.
From car to car and bar to bar, underneath the castle lights,
It was the time of year that brings good cheer, there was warmth in the city that night,
Though I talk some junk, I’m a romantic drunk and to you my words fell right,
So we cut the rope, we pushed the boat, set sail into the night
You don’t have to think about it,
Because it’s not for real,
Pay no attention to,
The things that I say or how I feel
From drunken chat in your student flat, the seeds of lust are sown,
Though I never really wanted it to be this way, I just hate to be alone,
Well these poster walls reflect your soul, all the books that you have read,
So I flick through the pages of a magazine, I found beside your bed,
The morning rain is falling down, clears my soul anew,
Cliches keep calling and most of them, most of them are true
And you roll a smoke, I toke, I choke, well never going to do it again,
And there’s hope in your eyes, there is no disguise, let’s leave it at that my friend,
Well you played me a song, I heard it wrong, the words didn’t get right through,
Six years from then, I hear it again, it makes me think of you, that life that I knew.
The track is available from the link below for a paltry Euro. Yes a single Euro! It was recorded at Sleeper Studio, Châteaubourg in Bretagne. Callum was vocals and acoustic guitar and Sleeper Bill was on everything else. Callum will be treading the boards again in London again soon with both The Graveyard Johnnys and as a solo artist so keep and ear out here for any developments.
Hailing from upstate NY, Celtic rockers 1916 are an explosive concoction of the modern Irish Punk movement with an original mix of psychobilly which gives 1916 a sound that stands apart from other bands of the genre.
Kicking off on New Years Day with a new EP big fan of 1916 Marv was among the first to buy it and has been listening to it ever since so here’s our first review of 2020!
A couple of years ago on these very pages I first came across the band 1916 from Rochester, New York, when praise was rightly heaped on their last album ‘Far Beyond The Pale’. I immediately ordered their entire back-catalogue on CD, which while talking a little while to cross the pond, has since never been far from my playlists. If you are not familiar with their work (unlikely I know!) then I advise you put that right as quickly as you can. Their cover of ‘I’ll Fly Away’ is one of my all-time favourite tracks along with ‘Ordinary Man’ and ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ from the 2016 album ‘Last Call for Heroes’
Roll forward to late 2019, just before Christmas, and welcome news was received via the auspices of Facebook that 1916 would soon be releasing a new single. True to their word it went live on all digital platforms on 1st January. Now that’s how you start off a new year!
So here we have the new three-track single, every note classic 1916 from first to last. The title track of the single is ‘Meant To Be’ – Full of everything we love from the raw overdriven guitar, the solid drumming driving the track along maniacally, and Billy Herring’s gravelly wistful voice snarling through the words and harmonies.
With hardly time to catch your breath the tempo knob is cranked up a notch and ‘Khaleesi’ follows. Yes it is THAT Khaleesi. This is the condensed story of the mother of dragons from Game of Thrones with a monumentally singalong chorus:
“And it is no, no, NO! Khaleesi
Run those dragons nice and easy!
Far away, when you go far away…
And you will go, go, GO! Khaleesi
Run those dragons nice and easy,
Through the towns of Westeros today.”
Bloody hell. This is a CRACKER of a song. The energy, like most everything 1916 produces, just explodes out of the speakers. It must be an absolute belter live.
The final track is a curious cover and mashup of the old standard ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’, a song I am only really familiar with due to my dear old mother singing it in a faux drunk slur to indicate she may be very slightly tipsy. Bless her. However, that being said, I prefer the 1916 version all day- thumping upright bass and frenetic drums with soaring guitar work and mob vocals for backing when needed.
(Check out The 1916 Shop for all their merchandise plus the chance to buy their complete discography for $35)
So there you have it, the best way to start a new year. Shake off the Christmas flab and the dire state of the political situation here in the UK. Press play on ‘Meant To Be’, crank the volume up to max lose yourself in a nine minute slab of rollicking psychobilly-tinged folk punk. Completely and undeniably 1916 on top form, I pray it heralds a new album in 2020 as much as I pray that the boys will somehow, sometime, make it across the pond to our shores so we can bask in their glory.
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.
The Gobshites hail from Foxboro in Massachusetts which is about 22 miles south of Boston and is part of the Greater Boston area making them part of celtic-punk folklore. Let’s face it everything Boston is worshipped in the scene and The Gobshites have certainly played their part in making Boston so. We have waxed lyrical about Boston before when we have reviewed albums form the Dropkick Murphys and Mickey Rickshaw but the story of Irish migration to the Boston area begins with those who were brought over unwillingly as indentured servants in the mid-17th Century. The first real migration of the Irish began in 1718 with the arrival of the Scot-Irish or the ‘Ulster Irish’. The Irish continued to arrive throughout with the slow pre-‘famine’ trickle of the 1820’s onward of Irish Catholic immigrants as well as the corresponding increase in anti-Irish/Catholic sentiment within Boston beginning with the notorious Pope’s Day celebrations and the burning of the Ursuline Convent in 1834 in Charlestown and the Broad Street Riot of 1837. Finally the massive wave of immigration into Boston after the so-called ‘Famine’ and the rise of the Irish from poverty and discrimination into their assimilation into Boston culture. Mind you, The Gobshites ignore all that and sing about boozing it up!
Way back inn 2002 Irish-American punk rocker Pete Walsh, then the lead singer and rhythm guitar player for punk band Meat Depressed, decided he wanted to start up an Irish band and within less than a month later The Gobshites were supporting New York Irish legends Black 47 in their first gig. The band have been through many many line up changes but have been lucky to have had several periods of stability through their career where they have been able to release some of the best records in celtic-punk history. Their debut album, When The Shite Hits The Fans, hit the streets running and instantly gained them a legion of fans and led to them playing all over the northeastern United States as well as the renowned Shamrockfest in Washington DC and having a float playing along the route of the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade. 2007 was a busy year with two albums released with Get Bombed and Another Round before 2011’s Songs Me Da Got Pissed To and the official live bootleg Poitin. It may have been six years without any new material but the lads had not disappeared and continued to play regularly around their home and further afield leading to The Whistle Before the Snap late last year which featured Ritchie Ramoneon drums and for the first time consisted of solely Gobshites penned songs.
All The Best is their new release and is typical of The Gobshites wicked sense of humour. The band are famed for taking unusual punk rock songs and turning them into Irish folk trad classics. In a scene where we are more used to folk songs being given a punk rock edge The Gobshites happened on something both really good and highly original. Transforming songs like Black Flag’s ‘Six Pack’ into good auld Irish Singalongs with The Ramones ‘Long Way Back to Germany’ becoming ‘Long Way Back to Ireland’ with fiddle jig incorporated.
All The Best was released on June 1, 2017 and is sixteen of the best songs from The Gobshites back catalogue and is an absolutely fantastic album and the perfect introduction to the band if you have been unlucky not to have heard them yet! Beginning with a superbly ramshackle trad Irish folk tune ‘Anderson’s Reel’ showing that the lads can really play their instruments. A great version of celtic-punk fave ‘Star Of The Country Down’ follows and then ‘Cheers (Raise A Pint)’ which was the first song I ever heard by The Gobshites. It appeared on the famous celtic-punk compilation series What the Shite? Volume Two from 2006 which introduced the world to a whole load of new bands. Catchy is The Gobshites byword and though acoustic and folk its also punk as feck as well!
The Gobshites left to right: Stephen Feeney- Accordion * Corey Jobeau- Mandolin * Nina Ross- Fiddle * Peter (Peadar) Walsh- Vocals/ Guitar * Paddy O’Hare- Drums * Amanda McCue- Guitar/Vocals * Dave Vittone- Accordion/ Keyboards/ Hello Kitty Piano * Tom Hughes- Bass (various folk fill in on Whistle and Banjo but looking for full time applicants for both!)
Booze features heavily on the Gobshites play list and would come as no surprise seeing as they follow the two most beer friendly music scenes in Irish and punk. ’12 Steps’ has a “drink, drink. drink, drink, drink etc.,” chorus that must make it VERY popular at live gigs and again is a brilliantly catchy tune and has a Hello Kitty toy piano solo to boot! ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’ is a cover of the song banned by pretty much everyone on it’s release in 1972. Penned by Irish-scouser ex-Beatle Paul McCartney it was banned so thoroughly that its pretty much unknown in the UK despite it reaching number 16 in the Official Singles Chart.
“Tell me how would you like it
If on your way to work
You were stopped by Irish soldiers
Would you lie down do nothing
Would you give in or go berserk”
Written in response to Bloody Sunday when British soldiers ran amok in Derry in the north of Ireland murdering sixteen unarmed Catholic civilians. It’s a great song and we can’t imagine the bravery of McCartney to release it at that time. Again a brilliant version here with Pete’s voice giving it the right amount of emotion and The Gobshites stamp is all over it. Next up is possibly the album standout for me, ‘Friggin’ In The Riggin’. The Sex Pistols risque double-A side that reached No. 3 in the UK singles chart in 1979 and was actually the band’s biggest selling single and being three quarters sea shanty anyway it was ripe for covering. Over in a flash the celtic instruments rule and turn the Pistols song into the Irish standard it was always meant to be.
“It was on the good ship Venus
By Christ, ya shoulda seen us
The figurehead was a whore in bed
And the mast, a mammoth penis”
Not for the faint-hearted, or your Nan, but great fun. Two great drinking songs next with ‘I Only Drink Stout’, a piss take version of The Queers ‘I Only Drink Bud’, and the simply titled, and apt!, Gang Green song ‘Alcohol’ keep up the tempo until a good and solid ‘Dirty Old Town’ hits the decks and yeah I know you’ve heard it a million times but a good version is still a good version and even a shite one can still have you belting out your lungs! Has a very good Clash tribute at the end to ‘London Calling’. ‘Pubcrawling’ name checks the local bars of Foxboro (be interesting to know how many have survived the yuppie invasion) while ‘Pirates Life For Me’ begins with the sound of the ocean and sample galore as The Gobshites ham the theme tune to Pirates Of The Caribbean right up.
‘Trouble With Women’ is a funny wee ditty which slots in nicely with its slow and (yes!) catchy chorus. Another favourite of mine here is The Ramones track ‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’, though this live version owes as much to The Meteors psychobilly version as The Ramones.
Pete is joined on vocals by Ritchie Ramone and what sounds like a massive crowd. The aforementioned ‘Long Way Back’ features another Ramone in Tommy and begins with uileann pipes and is another bloody corker. Boston based musician and sometime actor Lenny Lashley of The Street Dogs gives us a song simply called ‘Irish’ and its as good a homage to the homeland as any. Written by Lenny for his old band Darkbuster we are nearing the end and its time for the abso-fecking-lutely hilarious ‘Shane’s Dentist’. Written by country/punkabilly legend Mojo Nixon just watch the video for the story but yes it’s about you know who. For the final song we leave where we came in with a short and extremely well played Irish traditional tune ‘The Sally Gardens’.
So there you have it and there can be no surprise when I say that every song on this album is Premier League. The Gobshites have been at the forefront of the celtic-punk scene ever since they started and with a back catalogue to die for they could have made this Best Of thirty-two (or sixty-four!) tracks and the quality would still shine right through. They may not have toured Europe or even across America (yet!) but they have still managed to make quite the name for themselves. I haven’t played The Gobshites in quite a while but this is surely one of the most catchiest and cool as fk records I have heard in ages and not only that but they have made it a ‘Pay What You Want’ download meaning that it’s available for free if you so wish but get the Bhoys at least a Guinness won’t you? So drop what you doing, get downloading, get the beers in, only stout of course, sit back and relax and turn up the volume!
(listen to Some Of The Best for free below on the Bandcamp player)
New album from German based ex-member of The Pogues Jamie Clarke’s Perfect.
Pioneers and purveyors of Folkabilly Rock- rockabilly and punk mixed with a dash of Irish folk and a belly full of beer!
The name Jamie Clarke will be known to many of you due to his membership of a certain band in the 1990’s. Yes he was only a member of the bloody Pogues!!! Londoner Jamie grew up in London and happened to be in the right place at the right time being a teenager at the time of the original punk rock explosion in the capital sparking off a lifetime interest and involvement in music. Passing through many bands until he became Philip Chevron’s guitar technician while The Pogues were literally touring and conquering the world. In 1994 ill health forced Phil to leave the band and in the spirit of The Pogues they chose Jamie to replace him. Sadly this was also the time of Shane’s most wild excess and he soon left the band as well. Jamie played on the final Pogues album Pogue Mahone and wrote, what was always for me, the best song on the album ‘The Sun And The Moon’. On the break up of the band Jamie moved to Germany and formed Jamie Clarke’s Perfect, the band he’s been playing and recording with ever since.
Jamie Clarke’s Perfect left to right: Johnny Rebel- Bass * Pierre Lavendel- Banjo/ Mandolin * Jamie Clarke- Vocals/ Guitar * El Diablo- Drums. Accordion on the album- Andy Schnapps (not pictured)
With a slew of album releases behind them I have to make the confession that this is the first LP I have ever heard and I have been suitably impressed to want to check out the back catalogue as well. The last couple of years I have got bored with the seriousness of punk and started to listen to more and more rockabilly/psychobilly so I was more than pleasantly surprised to find Hell Hath No Fury laced with more than a little rockabilly alongside the folk, or as the band themselves call it- ‘folkabillie rock’.
The album begins with ‘Back From Hell’ and straight away one band popped into my head. With a very distinctive banjo and accordion sound it was early Blood Or Whiskey that leapt out the speakers at me. Even Jamie’s vocals reminded me of the original BOW vocalist Barney. Needless to say this ain’t a band that’s copying them as their sound is still incredibly original. Incredibly catchy opener and it don’t change throughout. This band got some real good tunes and considering how long they been going/how many releases they have that is some achievement. ‘Monster’ and the album’s first single ‘Change The World’ keep up the foot stamping and again excellent accordion/banjo stand out as well as Jamie himself.
The first sign of that Folkabilly Rock start to appear next in ‘On Your Feet’. I literally could not keep me feet still listening to this. Catchy (there’s that word again…) as hell with a great chorus and some great rock’n’roll banjo from ex-Frantic Flintstones guitarist Pierre. Several songs here also take in The Pogues and ‘Waking Down The Road’ is one of them while title track ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ nails their sound completely. One of the album highlights and a word here for Jamie and his vocals. As I already said he may sound like he has a sore throat and I do wonder how many fags a day he’s on! He sings with a real passion that while not overstating does in fact stand right out without you really noticing. In the old Irish traditional the voice as an instrument. His lyrics help of course as they tend to take up most of the length of the song. I Would have liked to have seen the lyrics as even though they are clear it is hard to keep up. ‘Eve Champagne’leads us up to the first cover and ‘La Bamba’ the old Mexican folk song made famous first by Ritchie Valens in 1958 and Los Lobos in the summer of 1987. Another solid number ‘Gun In My Hand’ leads us into a great Irish trad/rockabilly instrumental ‘Un Hoyo Es Un Hoyo’. We coming up to the end of the LP and the final three songs fly past in a flash of brilliance starting with the frantic ‘Rollercoaster’ while ‘Rockabilly’, not surprisingly, takes that rock’n’roll sound and plays it right up before Hell Hath No Fury ends with another album high point, ‘Protest Song’.
Thirteen great songs. Unlucky for some but not for us! The album clocks in at a very healthy forty minutes and shows enough individuality and originality to make sure it never drags or sounds jaded. Germany has a real love of alternative music and has produced many many great celtic-punk band psychobilly bands so it should come as no surprise that they have embraced a mixture of the two. After all it was only a few weeks ago we reviewed the new album from another German band, Pitmen (here) who mix both genre’s to great acclaim. So with over twenty years behind them and thousand’s of gigs well done to them for putting out such a consistently great album that may veer off from celtic-punk in several directions but always keeps at it’s core the sound of celtic folk. Punk, rockabilly, psychobilly, celtic-punk and country all raise their heads here on an album I was completely taken aback from and I can’t understand why more isn’t known about this great band even within the celtic-punk scene.
Perfect Liar (1997) * Perfect Live (1998) * Sickly Men Of Thirty Or So (1999) * Live Too (2000) * Nobody’s Perfect (2002) * Live Free (20004) * Psychic TV- Single (2006) * You Drove Me To It (2007) * Fucking Folkabillie Rock (2010) * Beatboys (2011)
As we strive to introduce you to new music you must check out the German psychobilly band Pitmen. A real melting pot of influences. In amongst the classic psychobilly fare, you can also hear Irish folk with banjo and fiddle giving things a nice céilíbilly twist and all blended together in original Pitmen style!
When I was a young one the music that reverberated through my house growing up were the sound of Irish folk and American rockabilly. My Mammy was a bit of a one in her younger days and from photo’s I’ve seen had the most incredible beehive haircut and saw every decent band of her generation from The Kinks to the Rolling Stones to The Beatles and even Johnny Cash. So no surprise then that both me and the brother grew up with a love of both Irish folk and rock’n’roll and while he became a Goth and I found myself living off chips, lager and punk and living in a squat we never lost that love. So when this album from German band Pitmen landed on my doorstep I was well excited. All I knew of them was a live You tube video of the band performing an old Irish rebel song ‘Roddy McCorley’ at a Psychobilly festival and it stirred me enough to order their new album, Back To The Pit, that had just come out.
Pitmen were founded in the spring of 1995 and the following summer of 1996 they recorded a demo which led Crazy Love Records to release it as Pitmen’s debut EP Misfits. They followed this in 1997 with their debut album Listen To The Engine and in 2001 their follow up album Welcome To The Show. Then back in 2003 at the top of the game and headline appearances around Europe at all the major Psychobilly festivals they decided to take a break. The members of the band went on to form and join other bands of many different genres with front-man Christian even forming a Irish folk outfit called airím with Susanne Böhler. So it was after six years Pitmen began to rehearse again and the following year they played their first live show since 2003.
So it is that after a several-year recording hiatus, Pitmen are back and Back To The Pit is the result. Fourteen tracks of
“Equal parts psychobilly, folk from both sides of the Atlantic, hard-as-fuck neo rockabilly and Celtabilly”
as O’Prez of the Dublin based psychobilly Hellacious Harmonies, here, site called it.
Long time fans are sure to be joined by new recruits on hearing this album and Back to The Pit kicks off with some western style guitar that thundering double bass and Christian ‘s clear as a bell vocals for ‘Always On The Run’. Great start to proceedings and from the very off you can tell this is an absolutely spotless production with the sound as perfect as it could possibly be. The music speeds up for the psychobilly anthem ‘Grab Life By the Balls’ but still sounds perfectly accessible.
‘You Are Not My Friend’ is next and even though the CD booklet is sparse to say the least it doesn’t matter too much as regards the lyrics as Christian’s vocals are very easy to understand. I guess that playing Irish folk songs has helped that and every now and then you can detect a slight Irish twang to his voice as in the catchy as hell ‘Fifteen Dead’ with its fantastic singalong chorus.
Now anyone with a slight interest in psychobilly will know that there is a zombie fixation throughout the scene and following song the rockin’ instrumental ‘Zombie Rumble’ keeps that going nicely. A right foot tapper and thigh-slapper which takes us nicely onto ‘Please Don’t Call Me Baby’, one of the album highlights which if it weren’t for the electric guitar harks back to the genre’s 50’s roots. The first sign of that Irish folk influence comes rolling in next with ‘Hot Rod Hotel’ which features the wonderful voice of Nina Heinrich on backing vocals and only whets the appetite for a bit more folk and a bit of her too. There’s more horror themed catchiness to follow in ‘Roadkill’ and they follow this up with the hilarious ‘You’re The Reason Mommy’s Drinks’ which is some sort of country-psychobilly mash up lullaby from a disappointed father to his stepchild! The banjo and fiddle are out and proud courtesy of Fran Urton on fiddle and Eduardo Ribeiro on banjo. Great sense of humour there lads. Love it. Next up now is the song I have been waiting for. With the Dropkick Murphys adopting of Finbar Furey’s legendary song ‘The Lonesome Boatman’ and their recording of it on this years new album 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory. I would even go so far to say it was the album highlight but how well would Pitmen stand up to it and would they be able to do it justice. Well I can report it is amazing. Simply amazing. It’s unlike any version you will have heard before I can guarantee and yet is still unmistakable. All the songs here are sang in English except for ‘Schnitzel mit Kartoffelsalat’ which is in German and from what I can gather a drinking song about a food fight! Singer and guitarist Christian has written the majority of the songs here albeit with help from both his wife and guitarist Holger so they take a break with a superb cover of The Animals ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’. Again its done in their own style and is yet unmistakable and as we near the end they follow it up with another cover, ‘Baltimore Fire’, of an old song about the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 which was originally recorded by Charlie Poole (1892-1931) and The North Carolina Ramblers. Nina Heinrich is back on backing vocals and you can find more of her great voice by checking out Christian and hers folk trio Sackville Street here. The fire raged for over thirty hours, spanning seventy city blocks, and destroying 1,545 buildings, doing an estimated $3.84 billion in damage in today’s money. A great choice of cover and shows the band know their onions and have plenty respect for the music that has influenced them. We are at the end of the album and another album highlight with the romantic ‘One More Day’. A real fifties feel here with the vocals accompanied by whistling, which you don’t hear much these days. The banjo is back and a really outstanding way to bring down the curtain on Back In The Pit.
So sixteen years on from their last album Pitmen are back with an almighty bang and I was gutted to find out that they played here only last month at the famed Bedlam Breakout festival where they went down a storm. Now as much as I love psychobilly it has to be said, and the same too could be said about celtic-punk, that many bands do sound the same so when you do hear something that you can say is unique its worth taking notice of. Twenty-two years on from getting together in their working class coal-mining home town of Essen Pitmen are still bringing something to the table that no other psychobilly bands can manage. This is a fine album of mainly foot stompin’ originals and a selection of instrumentals and covers that just enhance what they do. Be sure to keep an eye on Pitmen as they will be featured here again soon!!