Texas Celtic-Punk band Blaggards (there is no ‘the’) play what they call Stout Irish Rock. Traditional Irish mixed with Rock’n’Roll, informed by everything from Johnny Cash and Elvis to Thin Lizzy and Sabbath. Their new album has just hit the shops
Unbelievably this is the fourth Celtic-Punk album out of Texas in just the last few months. The Real McCoys, The Dead Rabbits and Die Strömms have all released albums we have raved about and it will be bloody hard to separate them come the end of year best of 2021 polls. The band’s name is pronounced “bla’guards” and was a word used continuously by my Grandad back in the day.
“A scoundrel; an unprincipled contemptible person; an untrustworthy person. Usually, only used to refer to a male person.”
The band formed in July 2004 in Houston, Texas after Dublin born Patrick Devlin emigrated from Ireland in his early 20′s. Working as a jobbing musician for several years, Patrick saw the popularity of Celtic-Punk and that nobody was taking advantage of. So in 1996 he formed On The Dole who would go on to play with the likes of the Wolfe Tones and the Saw Doctors. It was in 2003 though that Patrick met Chad Smalley, a bassist and singer and veteran of the local music scene. Having just returned from New York Chad was looking for a new project they hit it off and the two of them soon began singing and performing together and a year later, Blaggards was born. Eric C. Hughes would later join on drums officially in January 2020 after several ‘unoffical’ performances. Blaggards have one of the busiest touring schedules of any band in the American Celtic-Punk scene. Playing constantly throughout Texas and nationally and also touring Ireland every year (except lockdown) since 2010. This busy schedule has perhaps hampered their recording output as Blagmatic is only the bands third album after Standards, an album of exuberant, irreverent Irish Folk covers from 2005 and Live In Texas, recorded at the Continental Club in Houston, in June 2009.
Blagmatic begins with the first of a handful of Irish trad covers. Some may be a bit overplayed and some are not but each and every one are injected with new life, given the Blaggards original stamp and played with a good healthy dose of irreverence. ‘The Moonshiner’ begins with a bit of guitar I can only describe as Horslips-ish before slipping straight into a good bit of headbanging Irish Folk-Rock. Maybe if AC/DC were Paddies and not Jocks this may be old hat but it all sounds pretty damn fresh to me. Following this is another Irish cover and ‘Spanish Lady’ is played a lot more traditional Celtic-Punk sounding. An old song I first heard it by the Dubliners when I was a kid but the song dates back a hundred years or so. Like a lot of Irish Folk songs it’s all a bit unclear.
‘Sweet 16’ is the first of the Blaggards compositions all written by Patrick. The Celtic instrumentation is kept at a bare minimum as they play another rocker that gets the toes tapping and the neck snapping! The irreverence continues with a fantastic cover of ‘Delilah’. Originally recorded by Welsh singing legend Tom Jones it’s great singalong chorus has for years disguised the true meaning of the song. A man discovers that Delilah has been cheating on him, so waiting outside for her lover to leave, he enters the house and stabs her to death. When the ‘cancellers’ find out they’ll be horrified!
“My, my, my, Delilah
Why, why, why, Delilah
So before they come to break down the door
Forgive me, Delilah, I just couldn’t take anymore”
A couple of Blaggards songs now beginning with ‘Rain Or Shine’ which starts off with a great hard rock guitar riff. No wonder Patrick wields a v-shaped guitar! The slips into some more Horslips style Rock before a wee Gaelic flourish and some lovely fiddle before returning to its metal origins.
‘PLFM’ is a modern sea-shanty with a nod to Alestorm. Catchy as feck as every song on Blagmatic is trust me. The Bhoys are not afraid to revisit some stone cold classic (some may say overdone!) but there’s a very good reason why people still want to hear songs like ‘The Wild Rover’. I always think of it is a real rabble rouser as at school this was one of only a small number of songs they could get the boys to sing. We loved as we could beat up the desks with our fists in the chorus! Needless to say Blaggards rip it to pieces and be sure to avert yer ears if you are a sensitive soul!
‘2nd Worse’ is a great song and a good old fashioned rocker in both style and subject matter. The 2nd worse of the title is an ex-girlfriend and the song bops along with some good laughs and a bit of mean fiddling. When I spotted the next song I must admit to cringing a little. I’m sure unbeknown to Blaggards were not to know that ‘Wagon Wheel’ has become a bit of a joke in the London Irish scene. Played so often that folk now call out for it and even one famous London Irish Celtic Punk band are known to have a go occasionally. Not that I would need to worry as the song is a total hard-rocker and f’all to do with a hitchhiker going to meet his girlfriend. We nearing the end and time for an emigration song. ‘Spancil Hill’ is without doubt one of the saddest (and let’s face it the competition is immense!) and beautiful of all Irish emigration songs. I can still clearly remember properly listening to this song for the first time. I had heard it plenty of times growing up but the first time I took care to listen to the words brought a tear to my eye the sadness of it all.
“Then the cock he crew in the morning, he crew both loud and shrill
I awoke in California, many miles from Spancil Hill”
The curtain comes down with another original ‘Lights Of El Paso’ and a touch of western Americana and tongue in cheek humour rounds the album off expertly.
As well as the three Blaggards they have been assisted on Blagmatic with some truly talented guest musicians. Jeff Duncan – fiddle, Patrick Brennan – keyboards, Willy T. Golden – pedal steel, Shane Farrell – mandolin and banjo and Paul Beebe on backing vocals, who also produced, engineered and mixed the album too. The album is available on CD, vinyl and download and although it’s available on all the various streaming sites we’d ask you to get it from the Blaggards themselves. There is even a option when you buy the album to ‘reforest Ireland’ by donating an extra $5 to CatchMyCarbon.ie who plant native Irish trees in new forest sites in the West of Ireland. A fantastic album and despite the hard rock at times I think it would still be totally accessible to even the folkiest of Folk fans. Not all of what is here can be described as Celtic-Punk or even Celtic-Rock but i feel I can say that everyone of you would still enjoy this great album and oh my God they must be fecking brilliant to watch live!
As well as working their arses off Blaggards also do a regular podcasts called SlapperCast: a weekly talk show where the guys share their experiences and occasionally chat with guests. The episodes passed #130 a good while ago and last anything from a few minutes to over a hour and have never failed to put a smile on me face.
Full live show recorded in their mates warehouse A & A Supply Company streamed live on You Tube on Sunday, April 26, 2020. In full HD with stereo sound the set includes many songs from Blagmatic.