Category Archives: Traditional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIR NAN OG – Sing Ye Bastards (Album)

BARDS FROM YESTERDAY – Demia (EP) -See Reviews

YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS – Drawn and Quartered (EP)

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

TOXIC FROGS – My Lucky Own (EP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: THE NEW RUFFIANS – ‘Shenanigans’ (2020)

A heady mix of traditional Celtic music and Punk for late night pubs and afternoon garden parties alike!

The New Ruffians are the type of English band that usually comes from the rolling hills of Devon or Somerset. Alcohol loving folkies playing spirited covers at 110mph and totally enjoying themselves! Instead they come from the West Midlands town of Wolverhampton home of Wolves FC, the mighty Slade and the even mightier Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners. The New Ruffians were formed in 2015 by four multi-instrumentalist ‘Wulfrunians’, as natives are called, and have been playing a chaotic mix of traditional Irish, Celtic-Punk, vintage Ska and leftfield folk to inebriated locals since.

These are not yer typical Celtic-Punk band by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t just mean because they include a trombone player! A seasoned live band and popular on the local pub scene they recorded their first album ‘Shenanigans’ in early 2020 but thanks to you-know-what (!) wasn’t released till the end of November. Still it snuck into the London Celtic Punks Best Album list at #28.

The New Ruffians left to right: Dave Dunn – Guitar / Bass Guitar / Backing Vocals * Paul Dunn – Cajon / Bongos / Trombone / Vocals / Guitar /Banjo / Harmonica / Percussion * Daran Crook – Vocals / Guitar / Mandolin / Banjo / Cajon / Harmonica / Tin Whistle * Rich Harvey – Piano Accordion / Melodica *

Shenanigans is the bands debut release and features seventeen songs with the emphasis on covers and most of those Irish songs. Its a good selection but as usual we would have liked to have heard a few more originals but with the album lasting a 3/4’s of an hour there’s no denying you get great value for money but what about the music?

The album kicks off with ‘Wake Up’ and true to form it’s a song about being at a music festival (probably in Devon or Somerset!) and trying to get up despite a sore head. The music is acoustic guitar, accordion and thumping heavy bass line and that trombone! To say the mix is unusual is a understatement but somehow it works but it always helps to have a strong vocalist and Daran is that. Loud, perhaps a tad too loud in the mix, but if you’re looking for an album that will transport you mentally to the boozer then this is it and there is nothing wrong with that! This is followed by a bunch of covers, ‘Waxies Dargle’, the instrumental ‘Lark In The Morning’ and the lively ‘Courtin’ In The Kitchen’. These three songs pretty much sum up the band. Full of energy and passion and emphasise their link to Irish music and especially the kind made popular by The Pogues/ Dubliners.

Another new one ‘Tipsy’, a classic take on that staple of Celtic-Punk the drinking song witha unusual Ska-ish accordion beat and even featuring the gibberish chorus of

“fol deedah, fol deedah, fol deedah fol de hey fol de ho, fol de alley alley oh! Hey!”

‘Millionaires’ is a cover of Cornish buskers Phat Bollard and again is a lively song, easy to singalong to and next a bunch of Folk songs some better known than others, but all played with gusto. The Irish trad instrumentals ‘Father O’Flynn’ and Siege Of Ennis’ along with ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and the Scots tune ‘Come By The Hills’ before we are treated to a couple of originals. ‘The Parkdale Jig’ is short and sweet catchy instrumental while ‘Daddy Was’ my favourite song on the album is definitely the sort of song to get your feet moving despite its sparse arrangement. The spirit of Shane and Ronnie lives on in The New Ruffians final few songs with ‘Rare Old Mountain Dew’ leading into the original ‘Merry Hell’ with more tales of drinking and its effects. Matthew O’Reilly’s ‘To The Devil With Your License’ is the longest track here and the most elaborate. Another standout while the album closes with two Celtic-Punk staples ‘All For Me Grog’ and ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’.

Not a bad effort at all by The New Ruffians. Their debut album and you get the sense they tried to cram as many of their songs onto it as possible! I think the last two were probably not needed and it would have been better to finish on the great ‘To The Devil With Your License’ but I guess they wanted to leave the album exactly how they came in. With upbeat humour and plenty of shenanigans. There is no other genre of music that fits the pub quite as much as Celtic music does and The New Ruffians are made for the pub and treating everyday as St. Patrick’s Day. This is as faithful a copy of a pub set as I think any band has managed and I bet they can’t wait to get their raucous drunken table dancing mayhem back to the pub!

(You can stream or download Shenanigans on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Shenanigans  Bandcamp (also iTunes/Apple, YouTube Music, Amazon, Spotify)

Contact The New Ruffians  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

EP REVIEW: BARDS FROM YESTERDAY – (EP)DEMIA (2021)

The first review of 2021 features the new EP from Italian band Bards From Yesterday. Five young, capable and multi-talented musicians , originally from the areas of Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta, in northern Italy have chosen to embrace an ancient and distant culture, just as the bards did, Celtic minstrels who wandered from land to land, looking for as many incredible stories to retell and entertain.

And so 2021 carries on from where 2020 left off… Nevermind we get on with it and carry on the best we can don’t we? The Bards From Yesterday emerged over the last twelve months onto the Celtic-Punk scene despite being formed originally back in 2015. With 300+ gigs behind them and two official releases: Barney! their studio debut an EP with their favourite songs and Live In Brintaal! This was the culmination of over sixty gigs across northern Italy and Switzerland, ending at the Brintaal Celtic Folk Festival where the album was recorded. The album also contains the first song entirely written by the band, ‘Johnny Is Ainm Dom (Johnny Is My Name)’. So there you go this wee site carries just a drop in the ocean of all the bands out there and it is a battle we are more than happy to keep losing as it shows the scene is in a healthy state!

On (EP)Demia they have again recorded five songs and they are all covers bar the opening track. I was a bit disappointed initially as this is a band with undoubted talent and potential so it would be nice for them to take a risk and push their own material. I am sure they are more than capable of doing it and doing it extremely well. Still that disappointment subsided when I played the EP. Instantly a band we are very fond of’s influence can be found. That of fellow Italian Celtic-Punk band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards. Both bands strive for as authentic as possible Irish music. One of the most beautiful and powerful instruments in the world are the uileann pipes and similar to Uncle Bard they are used to tremendous effect here and they give the songs that authenticity missing from some Celtic bands. Giovanni (who also plays the flute and tin whistle here) really is an excellent player, as are all the members of this great band!

(the Bhoys blasting through three traditional polkas as recorded in their homes in quarantine during while they should have been on their St. Paddy’s Tour Of 2020. Titled ‘The Unlucky Paddy’s Set’. Enjoy)

The EP opens with the trad instrumental ‘Pali’s Jig’ and the sound of the uileann pipes is a truly wonderful thing. How their aren’t more players in the Celtic-Punk scene I don’t know as it adds so much to the songs. Here the band go ‘hell for leather’ and it just emphasises they they should try and branch out with their own material if they can write songs like this. Utterly brilliant. Next up are a couple of live favourites and Irish music staples ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ and ‘Star Of The County Down’. Both have almost been done to death but their is no denying they are fantastic songs and really when it comes down to it I never tire of hearing them. Especially of course when they are done with a bit of flair and individuality and Bards Of Yesterday give them plenty of both. Mattia’s vocals are clear and ‘Rocky Road’ is hard enough to keep up with in your native tongue so he does a great job not missing a beat while ‘Star’ starts off nice and slow before becoming exactly what you’d expect! A nice jolly upbeat romp to bump into people on the dance floor to. Next up is the pipe heavy Irish trad tune ‘Mick O’Connor’s Reels’. The song, written by north-west London based banjo playing Mick O’Connor, is quite simply superb and has an Horslips/Planxty feel to it. It also reminded me of the great late 80’s Yorkshire band You Slosh. Turning away from from Irish music for the EP’s final track with a song titled ‘Hector The Hero’. A beautiful song and one I first heard by The Bothy Band but the Bards Of Yesterday again give it their own stamp and refuse to just give us a straight cover but do their own thing. Which is exactly how it should be! It may also be familiar to any Mickey Rickshaw fans out there! Composed by Scots fiddler James Scott Skinner to honour Major-General Hector MacDonald, who had a distinguished career in the British Army, rising up the ranks from enlisted soldier. He tragically committed suicide in 1903 in Paris.

Bards Of Yesterday from top left to right: Mattia Gavin – Vocals, Guitar * Alessandro ‘Pali’ Lovisi – Greek Bouzouki, Mandolin * Glauco Guala – Drums * Giuseppe ‘Geppo’ Mastria – Bass, backing vocals * Giovanni Davoli – Low whistle, Tin Whistle, Uilleann Pipes *

So our first review of the year and already an absolute corker. Much more trad and less ‘punk’ than Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards but cut from the same cloth as regards how they treat and play Irish (and Celtic) music. One great thing the band do is a series of videos where they play a song like ‘Drunken Sailor’ or ‘The Parting Glass’ and tell of the history of the song and how to play it. Sadly for me it’s all in Italian! The friendly links between Ireland and Italy go back further than anyone can imagine and their have been many great Italian bands who play better Celtic music than the Celts do and Bards From Yesterday could just be another one.

“We’re storytellers that tell myths and legend about alcohol and shenanigans.
From the fairy tale of the drunken sailor till the mad dance of the premier bootleggers of Connemara.”

Buy (EP)Demia  Amazon  Apple

Contact Bards Of Yesterday  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

NEW CHRISTMASSY CELTIC-PUNK SONGS FROM IRELAND, CHINA, GERMANY, CANADA, LONDON AND MEXICO

Well that’s it. Christmas is over and done with and hopefully you all had a festively good time despite everything.  BUT if you are still in need of some good cheer though then wait no more as we here’s a selection of six brand new 2020 Christmas-ish Celtic-Punk songs for you to delight over.

Craic open what’s left of the Jamesons and enjoy!

ANTI-DEPRESANTS – ‘If It’s Gonna Be Cold’

Anti Depresants are four piece Rock‘n’ Roll band coming from the hills of Armagh in the north of Ireland with a lot of Punk attitude an’ a sprinklin’ of Ska to get your ass movin’, your heart beatin’ and your mind racin’ with their diverse sound embracing heavy rock, reggae, male and female vocals and blistering guitar work.

Contact Anti Depresants  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp

GRASS MUD HORSE – ‘Christmas Time In China’

Possibly the busiest band in Celtic-Punk this year (and definitely the busiest on these pages!!) Grass Mud Horse have been making, and releasing, music throughout the ‘clampdown’ to us lucky folk. Led by award-winning musician Chris Barry, a Scouser living in Qinhuangdao, China. They blend together the traditional Folk sound of Chris ancestors in Ireland with an distinctly raw and untamed Punk-Rock energy. 2020 while being quite the lame year has seen Grass Mud Horse become quite the name on the Celtic-Punk scene with their last single released dually across North America by Paddyrock and Europe by us! The song is available for download over on Bandcamp for next to nothing.

Contact Grass Mud Horse  WebSite  Facebook   YouTube

THE FEELGOOD McLOUDS – ‘Driving Home For Christmas’

St. Nicholas is on his way and The Feelgood McLouds have come up with a little present for you. Are you bored of long dark winter nights without pubs and concerts? Then here’s the solution the brand new Christmas song from these fantastic German Celtic-Punkers. Imagine if the Dubliners were only in their mid-twenties, very, very thirsty and had discovered punk for themselves. Then punk rock anthems would merge with bagpipes, banjo, tin whistle and accordion, there would be a good smell of beer and whiskey and sweat would drip from the ceiling. And that’s exactly what The Feelgood McLouds is all about. With their energetic punk rock show, the 6 Saarlanders make every concert room shake and everyone to empty their beer glass. In a nutshell: Sounding like NOFX and the Dropkick Murphys are meeting in an Irish pub for an endless party!

Contact The Feelgood McLeods  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

THE STANFIELDS – ‘(I’ll Stay Home) With Bells On

The Stanfields trod a well trodden path to 2020 from the Seahorse Tavern in their hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia to where they are now. Their trajectory from full on their Celtic-Punk to “the bastard child of AC/DC and Stan Rogers” where their music blends Working Class Hard-Rock with the many strands of Folk that make up traditional Canadian music with much of it heavily influenced by Scotland and Ireland. Here they massacre pay tribute to the great Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers song. Stanfields front man John is joined by his Mrs Shannon on this cheeky number that follows on from our review just a couple of weeks ago of their fantastic new album Welcome To The Ball.

Contact The Stanfields  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

CLAN OF CELTS- ‘A Christmas Quarantine’

Fusing together all their musical experiences & influences ranging from, Rock, Metal, Country, Punk, Classical and of course traditional Irish. Clan Of Celts have created a unique style and an unmistakable sound that is brought to you with Celtic pride, passion, commitment and respect for our traditional roots. The new team on the London Celtic-Punk scene bring you a classic cheesy Christmas song out now and available to download through Spotify and all decent streaming services. Will they ever complete the interview I sent them? Who knows what 2021 will bring!!!

Contact Clan Of Celts WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Soundcloud

BATALLON DE SAN PATRICIO – ‘F*ck Merry Christmas And F*ck You’

And finally the new single from Mexican Celtic-Punk newcomers Batallón De San Patricio. Why they got such a downer on Christmas is anyone’s guess but ding-dong merrily on high here it is anyway! It’s been a busy year for these guys with a hit album Hermanos de Guerra under their belts as well as making themselves known right across the Celtic-Punk world. The band’s name comes from the famed St. Patrick’s Battalion (see The Irish Soldiers Of Mexico In Film And Song). A group of immigrants, mainly of Irish descent, who deserted from the US Army because of anti-Catholic bigotry and went to fight for the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). It’s a tale of great adventure and heroic valour. Batallón de San Patricio were formed in 2017 in Guadalajara and right from the start the idea was to pay tribute to their namesakes. In many ways the name was a obvious choice for a band whose chief aim was to play Celtic-Punk mixing Irish and Mexican culture.

Contact Batallón De San Patricio  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

So that’s almost it for 2020. Tune in on Wednesday for our final post of the year. A fun packed Odd’n’Sods – Celtic Punk Round Up full of the most recent videos and news from around the scene.

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2020. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

Each December we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard that year to showcase in our end of year message. Their was a time when it was a easy choice but over the years its become quite common, so much so that we will have a special feature on 2020’s Celtic-Punk Christmas songs on St. Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day to you Brits!).

Celtic-Punk is about embracing the traditions of the past and bringing them to the present so you also get a chance to check out the Christmas customs from each of the Celtic nations. 

The PoguestrA – ‘Fairytale Of New York’

The PoguestrA have created a rendition of Fairytale of New York that includes an amazing 71 musicians from around the world. The PoguestrA community was established in May 2020 during the lockdown with musicians playing together remotely. While we agree with Shane with regards the changing of the words the song still packs a punch. If you are interested in joining the PoguestrA for future songs then get in touch with the gang viaYouTube orFacebook

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st. the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun. Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Christmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958. However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games. Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home. Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

An Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour. Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn. On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets. Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Music was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Carolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts! Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday. In older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

As a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Brittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britany, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Galicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats). The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

Nollaig Shona Dhuit agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise (Irish Gaelic)

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

CLICK HERE

Subscribe to the London Celtic Punks web-zine and receive notification of every post by filling in the box on the right or below depending on how you are viewing this article.

Now go have a drink…

DECEMBER EPISODE OF THE CELTIC PUNKCAST #43 OUT NOW! CHRISTMAS SPECIAL IV

“It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid, at Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade”
Yes ding dong merrily on high it’s Christmas and time for the new Celtic Punkcast and an hour of the best Celtic-Folk-Punk out there. Follow the link below and stream live or download to listen to later and enjoy!

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas ya punks! Welcome to the fourth annual Celtic Punkcast Christmas Special! I have some stuff I’ve never played and also some suggestions of some other stuff you may have heard in the past from some of you lovely people out there on the socials, so grab yourself some eggnog and unwrap this festive gift for your ears!

ALTERNATIVE ULSTER – ‘Ode To Joy’

CELKILT – ‘Christmas Would Never Be The Same If You Were Not Around’

THE LANGERS BALL – ‘A Christmas Lullaby’

THE RUMPLED – ‘Let It Snow!’

BLACK ANEMONE – ‘Christmas Day On First And Main’

DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE – ‘Whiskey Christmas’

GRASS MUD HORSE – ‘Christmas Time In China’

THE NARROWBACKS – ‘Prodigal Son (I’ll Be Home For Christmas)’

THE TOSSERS – ‘Merry Christmas’

BLAGGARDS – ‘Fairytale Of New York’

DROPKICK MURPHYS – ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’

THE RUFFIANS – ‘Christmas In Killarney’

NO MURDER NO MOUSTACHE – ‘Teimlad Nadolig’

FIDDLERS GREEN – ‘Auld Lang Syne’

THE CELTIC PUNKCAST #43

Contact The Celtic Punkcast  Facebook  WebSite  Shop  Twitter  E-Mail

Check out the London Celtic Punk interview with Gareth the ‘Podmaster’ here and find out what possessed him to join the #OneBigCelticPunkFamily. Also worth checking out was the special article written by Gareth for people who haven’t yet experienced the joys of Celtic-Punk- Bring Your Mates To The Hooley: A Starter’s Guide To Celtic-Punk here. In August 2010 they did a Special Edition to celebrate our tenth anniversary with a episode dedicated to the bands here that helped form and shape the London Celtic Punks from 2009-2019.

Merry Christmas all!

‘RETURN TO CAMDEN’  BY TERENCE O’FLAHERTY

Beautiful song from London based Irish singer/songwriter Terence O’Flaherty name checking memories of a bygone era in the north of London. This original recorded version is due to be released on Terence’s upcoming album Backtracks with the Claire Egan, Eoin O’Neill and John Kelly accompanying.

Terence is a traditional Irish singer and songwriter from Ennistimon, County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. He comes from a traditional music background learning his earliest songs from his family as well as local musicians and travelling storytellers and singers. Playing guitar and bouzouki in the early 1970’s, he emigrated to London and joined the thriving Irish music scene in the capital as part of the popular band Crusheen. He has spent many years involved in the traditional music scene in London playing with all of London’s leading musicians and touring across Britain, Europe, and America playing with everyone from the Chieftains, Planxty, The Pogues,The Fureys and De Danann. He has collaborated with musicians from a variety of other genres and from across the world playing at many major festivals including Cambridge Folk Festival. Terence has released three albums (Crosscurrents, Ghosts, Trace) with a fourth on it’s way soon titled Backtracks which will feature ‘Return To Camden’.

When I first arrived in Old London Town
Along Camden High Road I did walk down
Fell into the back of John Murphy’s van
Full of youth and vigour and white bread and ham
By ten that first morning I thought I’d expire
Stuck down a hole with Connemara Seán
Who for an extra ten bob a week
Set out a pace that would kill Hercules
*
Then the ganger man came and says ‘lads take a break’
Old Seánín jumped out with a ballerina’s grace
I felt I was climbing the Post Office Tower
My poor legs and arms like wilting flowers
He wolfed down his sandwich and before I did know
Old Seánín was back down in John Murphy’s hole
Diggin away like an Olympian
Twas with great reluctance that I rejoined him
*
I crawled out of the hole at the end of the day
All of my senses in terminal decay
Crawled into the back of John Murphy’s van
Too tired for talk or for white bread and ham
To the favourite in Holloway Seánín did go
To hear Bobby Casey, Con Curtin, John Bowe
Roger Sherlock, Brian Rooney or Finbar O’Dwyer
Danny Meehan, Raymond Roland or Brendan Mulkere
*
And as I was sleeping the sleep of the dead
Old Seánín was lilting to reels and to jigs
Firing back pints and singing Sean Nós
Where he got his energy God alone knows
And early next morning fresh as a rose
He’d be back down one of John Murphy’s holes
Lobbing up muck in his trousers and vest
Such was the life that the Irish possessed
*
And at the weekends we would all go
To The Forum, The Gresham, The Galtymore
The Harp and the Shamrock, the Garryowen
The Bamba, Hibernian or Buffalo
Waltzin and jiving and singing along
To Joe Dolan, Larry Cunningham or Big Tom
Or horsin’ out sets till too tired to stand
To the Tulla or Kilfenora Céilí Bands
*
When many years later I met poor Seánín
His energy spent and his back bent and lean
He smiled and he said ‘Ah sure times they were lean’
When we worked for the man from Caherciveen
For although times were tough, sure the craic it was good
In Camden, in Kilburn and Cricklewood
And we could escape for the nights they were long
Far away from the cruel, brutal Elephant John
*
But to work on the building sites now you and me
We’d almost need to have a degree
For with health and safety and the CSCS
You need method statements and assessments of risks
There’s not too much craic now in John Murphy’s vans
Albanians Poles and Lithuanians
Have taken the place of the likes of Séanin
*
The craic once was ninety but now it is lean
So here’s to the music we did enjoy
In the pubs and the clubs with a tear in our eye
And fair play to the players and the singers of songs
Who lifted our hearts when our hearts needed them
Tom O’Connell, Martin Byrnes, Andy Boyle, Lucy Farr,
Seán O’Shea, Julia Clifford and Tommy Maguire
Michael Hynes, Tom McCarthy, Jimmy Power and Reg Hall
Raise up your glasses now here’s to them all
*

EP REVIEW: PENNILESS TENANTS – ‘Lockdown Session’ (2020)

Traditional Irish scally Punk!

Penniless Tenants are a five-piece from Liverpool, playing traditional and Irish Folk music and probably the best Irish Music in Liverpool. No Folking About.

The Irish community in England is supposedly shrinking I hear but only just a couple of weeks after we reviewed the debut release of Luton Irish band Missing The Ferry we have the pleasure of doing the same for another new band to us Penniless Tenants. The band hail from another hotbed of Irishness in Liverpool. Their is plenty written on the history of the Irish in Liverpool and unsurprisingly immigration from Ireland to Liverpool has been ongoing since the year dot and the city could possibly even lay claim to being the most Irish city in England.

With no shortage of Irish bars in the city a band playing Irish music would be pretty damn busy except for this poxy clampdown but Penniless Tenants have responded perfectly with a EP of five self written songs (with a few varied influences!) unsurprisingly titled Lockdown Sessions. They did actually already release a few songs over on Soundcloud way back in 2013 called the Penniless Tenant Sessions of a few covers of Irish Folk standards made famous by The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, Christy Moore and The Dubliners among others. Their they keep it respectful and played the songs close to their origins so nice to her them let loose a bit on the recent release. Like all the best bands they are too proud to play anywhere and they have from Liverpool Anglican Cathedral to the Baltic Market and St George’s Hall to the corner of Pilgrim Street!

Lockdown Sessions begins with ‘The Hare And The Fainleog’ and a slow fiddle led mournful Irish tune which soon becomes a bit of a foot stamper and in Benjamin Hughes they certainly have a highly talented fiddler player. Superbly played leading us into ‘Green And Red Paper Planes’ which, while keeping in line with the Irish theme of the EP, expands beyond the opening few lines taken from another well known second-generation Irish band and takes us on a surprising, though bloomin’ brilliant, direction taking in modern Pop with a song that I must have heard a 100 times but I’ve no idea who sings it. It’ll probably come to me 10 minutes after this review is published. These Bhoys got a knack for an unusual cover in a way that reminds me of their London counterparts The Bible Code Sundays. ‘Jiggin’ Up To Boston’ is another fiddle led trad Irish tune until the half way point and BANG in comes the banjo and mandolin and we get the full Dropkicks style Folk version. This is followed by the Eric Bogle penned ‘My Youngest Son Came Home Today’. Eric is perhaps most famous for writing the well known anti-war ballads ‘The Green Fields Of France’ and ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ two absolutely stunning songs covered by The Pogues and the Dropkicks, among others, in their time. Here the theme is visited again except in a more modern setting in a tale of a young man killed during the war in the north of Ireland.

“My youngest son came home today
His friends marched with him all the way
The pipe and drum beat out the time
While in his box of polished pine
Like dead meat on a butcher’s tray
My youngest son came home today
And this time he’s home to stay”

Penniless Tenants play it slow and respectful and Billy Hughes voice portrays exactly the right amount of emotion this great song needs. The EP comes to an end with the Country/ Bluegrass influenced ‘Trouble In Yer Mind’. Fast and furious Banjo plucking and fiddling and more foot stampin’ to see the EP out the door.

Penniless Tenants: Benjamin Boo – Fiddle * Billy Skank – Laud and Vocals * Dr Rosa – Flute and Whistle * Jay G – Tenor Banjo * JDillon – Bass * Paulie O’Riley O’Hanrahan – Banjolele * Tom Jones (not that one) – Bodhran * REGFX – art *  (actual lineup may vary)

Lockdown Sessions was released on November 10th and was recorded live at the Liverpool Irish Centre (suitably social distanced of course!) a and mastered by Jeff Jepson. It’s available on Bandcamp and can be got as a ‘Name Your Price’ download meaning you can pay anything from a fiver to the cost of a couple of cans to sod all if you would like but with the way things are it would be nice to throw a few coppers their way. The music here is totally acoustic but just going from what I heard here I reckon they can tear it up when required too so lets not forget The Pogues were once called “the loudest acoustic band on the planet”. They have a new EP, A Penniless Christmas, out very soon in time for Christmas and they promise “festival mashups and winter warmers”.

(Stream or download Lockdown Sessions on the Bandcamp player below)

Download Lockdown Sessions  FromTheBand

Contact Penniless Tenants  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube

NOVEMBER EPISODE OF THE CELTIC PUNKCAST #42 OUT NOW

Cutting it fine again! With just one day to go here’s the November edition of The Celtic Punkcast with just over an hour of the best Celtic-Folk-Punk Podcast anywhere on the t’internet.

Follow the link below and stream live or download to listen to later and enjoy!

G’day again from Moyston here in the beautiful Grampians in Australia. I’m back with another show jammed full of some of the best Celtic Punk, Folk Punk and Celtic Rock from every corner of the globe, some new stuff and some old favourites. Let’s get into it!

THE CURRENCY – ‘Buckley’s Tattoo’

THE RUMPLED – ‘Grace O’Malley’

THE TOSSERS – ‘USA’

CLAN OF CELTS – ‘Clan Of Celts’

KRAKIN’ KELLYS – ‘Roots Radical’

THE CHERRY COKE$ – ‘Drunken Pirates’

THE STUBBY SHILLELAGHS – ‘The Year With No St. Patrick’s Day’

BEAVER SECRET HANDSHAKE – ‘Captain John’

DROPKICK MURPHYS – ‘Rose Tattoo’

PADDY AND THE RATS – ‘One Last Ale’

THE CUNDEEZ – ‘Bow To No One’

THE RUMJACKS – ‘Sainted Millions’

THE THINGAMA JIGS – ‘The Unforgiven IV’

BLACK RAWK DOG ‘Work Proud’

REDHILL RATS – ‘Sailing ’round The World’

FORGOTTEN GENERATION – ‘Drinking Team’

THE KREELERS – ‘Salvation’

THE CELTIC PUNKCAST #42

Contact The Celtic Punkcast  Facebook  WebSite  Shop  Twitter  E-Mail

Check out the London Celtic Punk interview with Gareth the ‘Podmaster’ here and find out what possessed him to join the #OneBigCelticPunkFamily. Also worth checking out was the special article written by Gareth for people who haven’t yet experienced the joys of Celtic-Punk- Bring Your Mates To The Hooley: A Starter’s Guide To Celtic-Punk here. In August 2010 they did a Special Edition to celebrate our tenth anniversary with a episode dedicated to the bands here that helped form and shape the London Celtic Punks from 2009-2019.

Be sure to tune in next month for The Celtic Punkcast Christmas Special!!!

THE POGUESTRA WITH **EXTRA SPECIAL GUESTS**

The PoguestrA is a flexible group of musicians from around the world who are also fans of The Pogues. It was established in May 2020 during the lockdown with musicians playing together remotely.
A community powered by passion, diversity and inclusion.

The PoguestrA is a flexible group of musicians from around the world who are also fans of The Pogues. It all started in May 2020, during the lockdown, when Daniele Rubertelli, an Italian fan who plays accordion, launched a ‘Call For Musicians’ to perform (remotely) Dirty Old Town within the Facebook community of Pogues fans. As a result, sixteen musicians from the UK, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands and USA contributed to the cover of the great Ewan MacColl track. The song even reached the ears of Peggy Seeger, the late Ewan’s wife and renowned singer/songwriter in her own right, who sent over words of appreciation. Since then The PoguestrA have covered other songs of The Pogues, always using “public calls” on Facebook to ensure inclusion for all the musicians moved by the same passion. They recently covered the Shane MacGowan penned ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’ with an amazing twenty-eight musicians from around the world and featuring Cisco, the founder and former frontman of the legendary Italian band Modena City Ramblers. Their latest video release is ‘Misty Morning Albert Bridge’ from The Pogues fourth album, Peace and Love. Written by banjo player Jem Finer about the famous Albert Bridge that connects Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea on the south and features scores of brilliant musicians from right across the world including Irish international Kevin McManamon on mandolin!!

For their new song the PoguestrA has recruited Celtic-Punk royalty to their ranks with Jem Finer and James Fearnley from the faraway shores of London and Los Angeles respectfully. Anyone interested in joining the gang then get in touch with them through their Facebook page.

Misty Morning Albert Bridge (Jem Finer) performed by The PoguestrA

Recorded in November 2020

I dreamt we were standing
By the banks of the Thames
Where the cold grey waters ripple
In the misty morning light
Held a match to your cigarette
Watched the smoke curl in the mist
Your eyes, blue as the ocean between us
Smiling at me
*
I awoke so cold and lonely
In a faraway place
The sun fell cold upon my face
The cracks in the ceiling spelt hell
Turned to the wall
Pulled the sheets around my head
Tried to sleep, and dream my way
Back to you again
*
Count the days
Slowly passing by
Step on a plane
And fly away
I’ll see you then
As the dawn birds sing
On a cold and misty morning
By the Albert Bridge
*

Jem Finer: Hurdy Gurdy (London) / James Fearnley: Accordion (Los Angeles) / Daniel Al-Ayoubi: Mandolin (Bonn, Germany) / Moisés Álvarez Rodríguez: Ukulele (Madrid, Spain) / Juan Brown: Vocals, Tin Whistle (Shetland Islands) / Brendan Burke: Tin Whistle (England) / Brandon Caylor: Mando-Guitar, Melodica (CaliforniA, USA)/ Dana Caylor & Samantha Caylor: Vocals (California, USA) / Helena Cooke: Renaissance Recorder (England) / Chris Cunningham: Banjo (Indiana/USA) / Tijl Delannoy: Vocals (Belgium) / John Dunne: Vocals, Trumpet (England) / Leigh Fowler: Fiddle (Chicago, USA) / Chris Goddard: Fiddle (England) / Matt Goddard: Drums (England) / Elizabeth Harman: Fiddle (California/USA) / Robin Hiermer: Vocals (Germany) / Dave Keating: Guitar, Vocals (Chicago, USA) / Jeff Ingarfield: Vocals (England) / Erwin Lemmens: Trumpet (The Netherlands) / Heather Macleod: Harp (Isle of Arran) / Mattia Malusardi: Bouzouki (Italy) / Vince Martini: Stand-Up Bass (California, USA) / Kevin McManamon: Mandolin (Dublin, Ireland) / Sean McManamy: Vocals (Chicago, USA) / Rick Nuttall: Vocals (England) / John O’Donnell: Guitar, Vocals (Chicago, USA)/ David O’Donoghue: Vocals (Ireland) / Daniele Rubertelli: Accordion, Vocals (Italy) / Frits Sieswerda: Vocals, Harmonica (The Netherlands) / Marcel van Bergen: Guitar (The Netherlands) / Tim van den Hombergh: Low Whistle (The Netherlands) / Paddy Vervoort: Vocals, Bodhran (The Netherlands) / Zac: Vocals (Italy). Dancers: Lian and Hans-Jürgen Klischat (Göttingen, Germany) / Rick and Heather Nuttall (England) / Jeff Ingarfield and Justine Stampton (England) / Daniele Rubertelli and Simona Rossi (Italy).

Audio & Video editing by Tim van den Hombergh.

If you are interested in joining the PoguestrA for future songs then get in touch with the gang viaYouTube orFacebook

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART THREE

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

GHOSTS OF OUR PAST

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

NOW WE’RE PRINCES

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

NIGHT CROSSING

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

THE PITTSBURG KID

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

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

RUNNING FROM OUR SHADOWS

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

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

OCTOBER EPISODE OF THE CELTIC PUNKCAST #41 OUT NOW

You may have thought he’d forgotten but Gareth over there in Australia just managed to slip the October Celtic Punkcast out in time! It was released on Halloween so we are a couple of days later bringing it to you ourselves so dig in and enjoy just under an hour of the best Celtic-Folk-Punk Podcast anywhere on the t’internet.

Follow the link below and stream live or download to listen to later and enjoy!

G’day all and Happy Halloween (although let’s face it, 2020 has been a nightmare all year). Here is the October show, featuring some great new tunes, a couple of Halloween tracks and of course the best Celtic Punk, Celtic Rock and Folk Punk from all over the world. Here’s what’s on this months show:

BRACE YOURSELF BRIDGET – ‘The Rovin’ Scotsman’

GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS – ‘Halloween’

FIDDLERS GREEN – ‘The Galway Girl’

McSCALLYWAG – Coming Home’

THE GRINNING BARRETTS – ‘Armstrong Ave’

BENNY MAYHEM – ‘Mother Nature Will Have Her Revenge On Old Fatty’

CHARM CITY SAINTS – ‘Half Past 10’

FOX N FIRKIN – ‘Get On The Boat’

HUNKY DORY – ‘Panjang Umur Pekerja Keras’

THE GROGGY DOGS – ‘All For Me Grog’

BLACK ANEMONE – ‘The Devils Merry Go Round’

DIAMONDS AND GUNS – ‘The Lonesome Man’

GRASS MUD HORSE – ‘Loser Back Home’

LEXINGTON FIELD – ‘Win The Day’

SELFISH MURPHY – ‘Break The Silence’

THE POGUES – ‘Rain Street’

NO MURDER NO MOUSTACHE – ‘(Serial) Killer Product Placement’

THE CELTIC PUNKCAST #41

Contact The Celtic Punkcast  Facebook  WebSite  Shop  Twitter  E-Mail

Check out the London Celtic Punk interview with Gareth the ‘Podmaster’ here and find out what possessed him to join the #OneBigCelticPunkFamily. Also worth checking out was the special article written by Gareth for people who haven’t yet experienced the joys of Celtic-Punk- Bring Your Mates To The Hooley: A Starter’s Guide To Celtic-Punk here. In August 2010 they did a Special Edition to celebrate our tenth anniversary with a episode dedicated to the bands here that helped form and shape the London Celtic Punks from 2009-2019.

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART TWO

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

McBRATNEY FROM THE KITCHEN

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

WHITEY

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

MY TOWN

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

THE BOYS OF QUEENS

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

THE LORDS OF WINTER HILL

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

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

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART ONE

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART ONE

Photo- Paul Gallagher

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

THE SWAMP RATS OF LOUISIANA

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

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

SEE YOU AT THE CROSSROADS

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

THEY BUILT PARADISE

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

THE KIDS FROM THE CITY OF NOWHERE

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

THE CINDERELLA MAN

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

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

DANNY SHEEHAN – AMERICAN IRISH WARRIOR

Sending our greetings to the wee American-Irish warrior young Danny Sheehan.

DANNY SHEEHAN #1

Their is nothing worse than the illness of a child, Something Dan and Natalie Sheehan know all about after they received the news that every parent dreads. Their young son Danny was only four when he was rushed to the hospital emergency Room to alleviate Danny’s sporadic vomiting and terrible headaches. Subsequent scans would show there was an abnormal mass on Danny’s brain. Transported to Boston Children’s Hospital, Danny immediately underwent surgery for hydrocephalus, swelling of the brain caused by what is now known to be Pineoblastoma, an aggressive and cancerous brain tumor.

Danny with his Mum and Dad at home in Marshfield, Massachusetts.

Danny has battled the disease since January 2017 and Officer Danny (yes, he was made an honorary police officer in by his hometown Police Department last year!) is a cheerful, energetic, funny, gregarious, and loving little boy who revels in making friends and mischief. Life has not dealt him a good hand but Danny continues to battle on and remains positive. The embodiment of the ‘warrior spirit’ and a inspiration to us.

You’re the fighter, you’ve got the fire
The spirit of a warrior, the champion’s heart
You fight for your life because the fighter never quits
You make the most of the hand you’re dealt
Because the quitter never wins
No!

You can keep up with Danny’s fight by connecting with the Facebook Page 4TheLoveOfDanny which regularly updates his progress to his legions of fans and admirers. Head over there and leave a message of support and join us and lend your hearts, prayers, and love to Danny as he, his family, and medical team fight his cancer.

GOFUNDME FUNDRAISER

Sending best wishes to our mate Vinny at this time too. All the best.

ODDS’N’SODS. CELTIC-PUNK ROUND UP SEPTEMBER 2020

We want to move away from just being ‘ReviewReviewReviewReview’ so we have started this monthly feature that comes out on the last day of each month. All news items that we otherwise miss will get a mention but I need YOU to be the eyes and ears if it’s going to work so send over to us any band news, record releases, videos, tours (not individual gigs though yet sadly), live streams, crowd funders etc., to us at londoncelticpunks@hotmail.co.uk or through the Contact Us page and it will go in here!

BRENDAN MULKERE -REST IN PEACE – 28th AUGUST 2020

Such sad news that the legend of Irish music in London, Brendan Mulkere passed away in the early hours of this morning.
Brendan’s all-consuming passion for traditional Irish music, his unfaltering determination to pass the culture on to the next generation and put Irish music on the London stage for the first time has left an indelible mark on London’s cultural landscape.
His epic work over decades produced countless fabulous second generation traditional Irish musicians and brought a wide audience to value and respect our music as much as any other genre in this city.

Deepest sympathies to Sharon, Claire, Sinéad, Collette, all of Brendan’s family, friends and to the huge number of his ‘jellybabies’ who will undoubtedly continue his legacy.

May he Rest in Peace.

DROPKICK MURPHYS are never ones to hide their political views when it is warranted and the Bhoys did a short but brilliant acoustic Live Stream to promote Joe Kennedy III in the Democratic primary for United States Senate. The vote takes place on Tuesday, September 1st so vote early and vote often as they say in the 6 counties! The music kicks in after ten minutes.

We put on THE DIRTY ARTICHOKES in London a couple of summers ago. Jeez The Fighting Cocks was hot that night. Maybe the hottest gig I ever been to! Glad to hear some new stuff from this massively multi-talented Italian band.

Godfather of Celtic-Punk SHANE MacGOWAN is looking better than he has done in years and he has even defied Covid-19 with two all-night sessions which continued into a third late one but the 62-year-old is recording — not boozing — into the small hours as he called band members back to work on his new solo album.

San Diego Fiddle Rock band LEXINGTON FIELD have graced these pages many times and have hit the jackpot again with their brand new video just out featuring ‘Dear Sorrow’ from their forthcoming new EP Win The Day due out later in the year and is previewed here.

Dutch band MAGGIES FLOCK continue with their plans to release a new song on the 23rd of every month during 2020. At the end of the year all twelve songs will become the album Party At The Cemetery. This months song is called ‘The Pogey Club’ and can be heard here but check out some of their previous songs ‘Battle Song‘,Bored Beyond Death‘ and ‘Maggie Of The Moor‘. To be kept in the loop like them on Facebook.

London Celtic Punks Facebook page put on two Live Streams during August. Both were very well ‘attended’ and seemed to have gone down a storm. CALLUM HOUSTON of Psychobilly legends The Graveyard Johnnys accompanied by Alban performed a wonderful set of Dubliners classics while TIM HOLEHOUSE did an interesting a varied set of his own material. Don’t forget to tune in on Monday 7th September for the next Live Stream starring THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM doing a full band live set.

CALLUM HOUSTON    TIM HOLEHOUSE

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

THE JAMESTOWN BROTHERS – Rebels, Rogues And Regrets

ASHPIPE – Sbandati (13 Years And Still Waiting For Wave)

THE WATERBOYS – Good Luck, Seeker (Deluxe Edition)

PADDY O’TURNER – Rocky Road To Wherever

LEVELLERS – Peace

CATGUT MARY hailed from Melbourne, Australia and released their one and only album Bourbon And Black Porter twelve years ago way back in June, 2008. Twelve songs of Australian Colonial Punk taking in a couple of Irish classics among the bands mainly own compositions. Catgut Mary received plenty of critical acclaim at the time and were famous for their high energy blend of ‘Folk’, ‘Punk’ and ‘Rock’ in a very Australian context. You can stream the album from the link above. It’s also available to download for only five Aussie dollars which works out around three quid or US $’s.

They may have abandoned progressed from Celtic-Punk but another great video for THE STANFIELDS came out last week and as to be expected its quality. These guys use to tour England regularly but haven’t seen them for a few years now.

It’s not Celtic-Punk but it sure is powerful and incredibly beautiful too. Check out the brand new album from Portland based duo KATE POWER AND STEVE EINHORN. If you’re a fan of traditional Irish Folk like Solas or Runa then you’ll love this album I guarantee.

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

… and finally some great news over at the London Celtic Punks Facebook page as we reached the fabled target of 5000 likes. Needless to say we were steaming along with likes coming in left, right and centre and then as we got closer it slowed right down dooooooowwwwwnnnnnnn and took forever to get over the line!! Still we have made it and though it may seem silly we are all very proud of ourselves and you all of course.

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

AUGUST EPISODE OF THE CELTIC PUNKCAST #40 OUT NOW

Its August and we even had a fortnight of sunshine over here which I personally spent hiding from indoors! It’s back to normal now of course and raining! Anyroad Gareth keeps on going ‘down under’ and is still knocking out the best Celtic-Folk-Punk Podcast anywhere on the t’internet.

Follow the link below and stream live or download to listen to later and enjoy!

Hi everyone, hope you’re all OK and staying healthy (and sane!) during this weird period of time we are living in. Hopefully this new episode of the show will help make your day a wee bit better. There’s plenty of new songs plus some old favourites, so lets jump in.

THE LANGERS BALL – ‘Drowsy Maggie-Fermoy Lassies-Cooleys

THE STANFIELDS – ‘Death And Taxes’

CHARM CITY SAINTS – ‘Bars And Scars’

KILMAINE SAINTS – ‘My Island’

OGRAS – ‘Running Wild’

THE BUTTON COLLECTIVE – ‘Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy’

THE NARROWBACKS – ‘Pope Delirium’

THE WHIPJACKS – ‘Farewell To The Ladies’

FRANK TURNER – ‘Perfect Government’

LEXINGTON FIELD – ‘Dear Sorrow’

RAGLAN ROAD – Mari Mac’

THE GALLOWGATE MURDERS – ‘Wreck Head Wedding’

THE REAL McKENZIES – ‘Big Foot Steps’

BACKSEAT HOOLIGANS – ‘Pints And Whiskey’

SMZB – ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Rebel’

JOLLY JACKERS – ‘Alone’

MEDUSA’S WAKE – War Of Independence’

THE CELTIC PUNKCAST #40

Contact The Celtic Punkcast  Facebook  WebSite  Shop  Twitter  E-Mail

Check out the London Celtic Punk interview with Gareth the ‘Podmaster’ here and find out what possessed him to join the #OneBigCelticPunkFamily. Also worth checking out was the special article written by Gareth for people who haven’t yet experienced the joys of Celtic-Punk- Bring Your Mates To The Hooley: A Starters Guide To Celtic-Punk here. In August they did a Special Edition to celebrate our tenth anniversary with a episode dedicated to the bands here that helped form and shape the London Celtic Punks from 2009-2019.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE MUCKERS- ‘Irish Goodbye’ (2020)

The Muckers are a five-piece Celtic-Folk-Punk band from Atlanta. With a strong emphasis on Irish music, the band also blends influences of Gypsy music, sea shanties, Country, Rockabilly, and anything else they can get their hands on. According to TC Costello their name doesn’t mean what you think it means.

A year ago I found myself at DragonCon, one of the largest sci fi and fantasy conventions in the galaxy. 85,000 fans descended upon the city of Atlanta in sweltering heat to celebrate their fandom with costumes, medieval fighting demonstrations, and panels featuring famous actors (not a bad a place busking, either) but when not playing the ‘Game Of Thrones’ intro or the underwater theme from ‘Super Mario Brothers’ on accordion, I was fortunate enough to catch The Muckers, an Atlanta Celtic-Punk band I had heard of for the last year or so, but had never seen live, and what a live show it was! Aside from the twirling of light sabers, passing around of warm beers, and Star-Trek-uniformed mosh pits, The Muckers proved to be one of the most fun Celtic bands I’ve ever seen. The entire audience had huge smiles on their faces, and when they kicked out a rendition of “Drunken Lullabies,” no one in the crowd could keep still.

Frontman Jeff Shaw switched between fiddle and mandolin while providing plenty of banter, and Dave Long played some very Pogues-influenced accordion, while Randall English, Brady Trulove and Steve Lingo provided a nonstop folk-rock rhythm section with electric bass, acoustic guitar, and drums. Their set even featured a rendition of “Seven Drunken Nights” where the pipe “was made of glass instead of wood and had a little hole in the side,” and it became apparent that Long was the one cuckolding his bandmate Shaw. Never trust an accordion player. The enjoyment was so pervasive that I felt like I had no choice but to see them three more times during the convention. I was a bit skeptical that they could recreate such an atmosphere with a recorded album, but they do that and more with their latest effort, “Irish Goodbye” while sneaking in some truly heartbreaking material as well. Before the bleakness though, the craic is 90 with the ska-influenced Celtic-riffing opener, “Queen of the Pit,” an ode to the band’s friend Meg, who proved herself adept at moshing during Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise. Shaw sings in the chorus:

“Throwing her elbows, swinging her hair
Don’t start a fight ‘cause she don’t fight fair
Running in circles, you know she won’t quit
Get out of the way! She’s the queen of the pit”

They follow with “Rock on Rockall,” an Irish Protest song regarding Rockall Island, which The Irish Government claims as Irish and the UK government says is part of Scotland. Given that The Wolfe Tones made the song famous, it shouldn’t be hard to guess which side The Muckers take.

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

A melancholy fiddle intro leads into the “Buzzard’s Bay” a tribute to Shaw’s friend Johnny Pike. Lyrically sparse, the song reflects on Pike’s tragic drowning in Buzzards Bay Massachusetts:

“A Boston boy named Johnny Pike
Disappeared on a summer night
Cold New England water took his life
Now he’ll never walk on land

23 is far too young to die
Unfinished life pulled out on the tide

John is gone we lost him to the sea
Left behind just washed out memories
Got in too deep, there’s nothing left to say
They found him floating out on Buzzards Bay”

Accordionist Dave Long takes the lead vocals next, with another protest song, “Building up and Tearing England Down.” With a vocal delivery somewhere between Shane McGowan and NOFX’s Fat Mike, this tale of fatalities in the English construction industry may be the perfect protest song to get people out of the pub and up to the barricades. In addition to accounts of falling off a hydro dam, death by concrete mixer, and one particularly gruesome incident with a high tension wire, this song features a blistering accordion solo that is just fantastic– and reminds me I should practice more.

They lighten the mood during a quartet of songs that seems to reclaim copyrighted material as folk songs. The songs present them as something to be changed and reinterpreted. The first is “Whale of a Tale,” a narration of nautical naughtiness that I only recently learned is from Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” Bassist Randall English takes the lead on this one, telling us of maritime romances that include:

“Typhoon Tessie
Met her on the coast of Java
When we kissed I,
Bubbled up like molten lava
Then she gave me, the scare of my young life
Blow me down and pick me up
She was the captain’s wife!”

Lead vocals on this track are a joint effort, as Jeff Shaw sneaks a version of “Rare Ould Mountain Dew” that’s not about whisky, but rather that “Keefy Stuff from California”: “If the police come, try to stop our fun and lock us all away/ Away we’ll go and smoke a bowl of the good green Mary Jane.” After that high note of bridge the band blazes through one final verse about Harpoon Hannah.

Next, drummer Steve Lingo takes over lead vocals on a faithful cover of the Rumjack’s reflection on other possible life stories, “My Time Again.” Guitarist Brady Trulove next sings The Pogues; wartime waltz “A Pair of Brown Eyes.” Then the band puts The Ramones classic, “Sheena is a punk Rocker,” through a Celtic-Punk filter. While the Ramones’ “Sheena” leaves the beach party life for New York city’s part scene, The Muckers’ “Saorise” and friends dress in Scallies (another word for a flat cap) kilts and go to Ri Ra– Irish pubs in Atlanta.

Following the band is all revved up and ready to go with the Rockabilly-inspired drinking song, “Out on My Ass.” Shaw says,

“While you could easily mistake that for one of our silly drinking songs, I consider that a tragic song. A man is throwing his life away for alcohol.” Indeed, during this song’s drunken hijinks, the narrator loses his marriage, his life’s savings, his home, and is possibly bound for eternal damnation.”

Next is a cover of George Gershwin’s bluesy classic “Summertime.” It starts pretty traditionally, with some jazzy accordion licks the mandolin emulating some high-on-the-neck jazz guitar. Little did i know Trulove, Lingo and English were biding their time before launching into a high-octane, almost hardcore punk second verse. When I first heard it live, I wasn’t totally enamored with the idea, but the Muckers won me over, and by the end of it, I was moshing alongside Trekkies. Closing the album is the country-tinged title track. While mysterious in its origins, the term “Irish Goodbye” means leaving without announcing your departure. Shaw uses this as a metaphor for his divorce: “While we were still together we had a fight, and when I woke up she was gone. That wasn’t the real end of the relationship, but that feeling of waking up and finding your partner has left is what I based the song on.”

“The halls echo empty, there’s a ghost that sleeps in my bed
My heartbeat has flatlined, the stoplights all turned green to red
I know deep inside must’ve been something I could’ve said
To keep her by my side instead of an Irish goodbye”

Buy Irish Goodbye  FromTheBand-CD

Contact The Muckers  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

(The Muckers full band Live Stream set from the PaddyRock Festival last month)

THE DAY THE FIGHTING IRISH TOOK ON THE KLU KLUX KLAN

The last few days have seen ‘cancel culture’ in full flow and with the cancelling of the Washington Redskins so it was only a matter of time before they came for The Fighting Irish too. It’s a fascinating story how a mid western college, with a French name, The University of Notre Dame du Lac, to give it it’s full title, became known as ‘The Fighting Irish’, and one of the biggest Irish sporting institutions outside of Ireland. The nickname dates back to a day in 1924 when Notre Dame students violently clashed with the Ku Klux Klan. A weekend of riots gave the Klan a bloody nose and brought to an end their rise to power in Indiana at a time when even the state’s governor was among its members.

These days the Ku Klux Klan are a joke. A small tiny insignificant group living on past glories of the days when they held the key to power in states throughout America and terrorised local populations through murder, lynching, arson, rape and bombings and of dreams of 1925 when they had upwards of 6,000,000 members. Nowadays membership is numbered in the 100’s but back in the 1920’s the organisation was extremely influential and in some places, such as Indiana, it operated as a political party, dominating both local government and police forces.

So on May 17, 1924 when a group of 500 university students banded together to disrupt a KKK rally planned for South Bend, The Fighting Irish left the racist organisation with more than just black eyes and bloody noses: its reputation had been left in tatters and it would never recover from the beating it received that day from The Fighting Irish. That these students were Catholic, from the University of Notre Dame, added insult to injury. With no black population to attack, the Indiana branch of the KKK aimed its hatred towards ‘Papists’. At this time, stereotypes and ethnic slurs were openly expressed against immigrants, Catholics and the Irish. Notre Dame was largely populated by the children of ethnic Catholic immigrants, many of them Irish and the press often referred to Notre Dame sporting teams as ‘The Catholics’ , or worse, ‘The Papists’ or ‘The Dirty Irish’.

According to Tod Tucker, author of Notre Dame Vs. The Klan, a book on the South Bend riots that took place exactly 95 years ago, this was a rare instance of civilians standing up to the Ku Klux Klan.

“Especially in terms of resistance in kind. People faced off against the Klan, for sure, the military and the police did, but as far as I could find this was really a unique occurrence in American history. It was really a perfect storm in a lot of ways.”

The rally was organised for a Saturday morning, with Klansmen coming in from several points of the State. The students’ response was more spontaneous.

“It seemed to happen organically, it wasn’t planned. The students started disrupting the Klan’s activities, the parade, all they had going on. It was all kind of low-level violence and disruption”.

Klan members were used to breezing into towns and taking them over without any opposition so when they were confronted by hordes of angry young men proud of their Catholicism they were to have no idea of the violence that would be unleashed upon them that day. Klansmen were led into alleys where they were beaten black and blue and had their KKK uniforms stolen. Students from the school’s legendary football team formed wedges and ploughed into groups of Klan members like they were challenging for the state title. The remaining Klu Klux Klan members were chased to their local HQ, where students began pelting a large “flaming cross” of red light-bulbs with potatoes from a nearby grocery store.

A student from Notre Dame shows off his battle won KKK uniform

A couple of days later, the students rallied again to go in aid of a colleague who had supposedly been caught by Klansmen and was being beaten. They rushed into an ambush laid by the KKK with the help of the local police.

“This time the Klan was waiting for them, and it was a much more violent affair, with broken bones, swinging clubs, gunshots fired. Nobody was killed, but there was potential for real violence.”

Only the personal intervention of the University president, Father Walsh, kept the students from seeking their revenge. Broken bones aside, though, it was the KKK that suffered most lasting damage. A second parade was planned but never materialised. Its reputation irreparably damaged, the Klan never managed to control South Bend. Among students, it was the initial success that became school legend. Tucker explains at the time, however, the board were unimpressed by their students’ victory.

“They were horrified! The Irish Catholic organisations in America, especially, were constantly fighting this notion that the Irish were an uncivilised violent mob, so to have the students of Notre Dame involved in a riot was the worst possible scenario.”

There was a dressing down of those involved but no students were disciplined. A native of Indiana himself, Todd Tucker explains that the incident would come to symbolise a more lasting issue.

“It is emblematic of a painful divide between Notre Dame and the locals, the people of the area, which both parties have worked hard to try and fix. So it’s not something the university brags about, because it represents something that has been an ongoing problem in the university’s history.”

Only three years later Father Walsh would give permission for the unofficial nickname of the university American Football Team to become the name they would become famous worldwide for- The Fighting Irish.

(with thanks to The Irish Echo, Filipe D’Avillez of The Catholic Herald and Todd Tucker)

Notre Dame vs. The Klan. How the Fighting Irish Defied the KKK

by Todd Tucker

In 1924, two uniquely American institutions clashed in northern Indiana: the University of Notre Dame and the Ku Klux Klan. Todd Tucker’s book, published for the first time in paperback, Notre Dame vs. The Klan tells the shocking story of the three-day confrontation in the streets of South Bend, Indiana, that would change both institutions forever.

When the Ku Klux Klan announced plans to stage a parade and rally in South Bend, hoping to target college campuses for recruitment starting with Notre Dame, a large group of students defied their leaders’ pleas to ignore the Klan and remain on campus. Tucker dramatically recounts the events as only a proficient storyteller can. Readers will find themselves drawn into the fray of these tumultuous times.

Tucker structures this compelling tale around three individuals: D.C. Stephenson, the leader of the KKK in Indiana, the state with the largest Klan membership in America; Fr. Matthew Walsh, the young and charismatic president of the University of Notre Dame; and a composite of a Notre Dame student at the time, represented by Bill Foohey, who was an actual participant in the clash.

This book will appeal not only to Notre Dame fans, but to those interested in South Bend and Indiana history and the history of the Klu Klux Klan, including modern-day Klan violence.

THE IRISH SOLDIERS OF MEXICO IN FILM AND IN SONG

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

by Michael Hogan

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

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

Hanging of the San Patricios as painted by Sam Chamberlain.

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

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

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

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

(left: the Batallón de San Patricio Memorial plaque placed at the San Jacinto Plaza in the district of San Ángel, Mexico City in 1959: “In memory of the Irish soldiers of the heroic St. Patrick’s Battalion, martyrs who gave their lives to the Mexican cause in the United States’ unjust invasion of 1847”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Director: Lance Hool  Writer: Milton S. Gelman

Stars: Tom BerengerJoaquim de AlmeidaDaniela Romo

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

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

EP REVIEW: 7 STOUT CLAN- ‘7 Stout Clan’ (2020)

Another EP release this time three original songs from Eastern Finland from a band that deserve a lot more recognition. I give you 7 Stout Clan.

I find it quite hard to fathom how a band that has been together since 2008 has only just released a small handful of recordings! I suppose its quite heartening as it means this is literally a band that are in it for the love of the music. This is the bands fourth release which includes their sold out debut Demo from 2009 and Too Drunk To Punk EP from 2010. Another EP from 2018, Alcohostility, is still available from the band. While this may not be exactly groundbreaking it is bloody great stuff and abso-bloody-lutely perfect music for the pub (especially at a time when the pubs are all closed!). There’s only three songs sadly but each is damn good and significantly different enough from each other to show a band with a great depth.

7 Stout Clan left to right: Elias – Drums * Juho – Vocals, Tenor Banjo, Mandolin * Julius – Guitar, Backing Vocals * Taavi – Vocals, Bagpipes, Tin-Whistle, Mandolin * Kalle – Bass, Backing Vocals *

7 Stout Clan were formed in 2008 in Savonlinna in Eastern Finland and take hard drivin’ Punk and team it with Celtic and Finnish Folk music influences and the result is pretty spectacular. The opening song is ‘Wretch Robert’s Grin’ and theirs a certain UK Punk sound going on here but with a catchy Celtic-Punk style chorus. The pounding bass and tin-whistle combined with Taavi’s breathless vocals make a great combination. Over in just three minutes it seems even shorter such is it’s style.

Like I said only three songs and ‘Good People’ showcases Taavi’s bagpipes well with another catchy as hell Punk Rock number with not just great piping but great use of the pipes within the songs framework also. The UK Punk sound is still evident and the energy here is overwhelming. Even just listening to it on the computer gets the blood racing and the foot tapping. The last song and the whole EP is done and dusted in just three minutes which is a great shame but they go out in style with ‘Pogo Stick’ and the Bhoys crank it up with a great singalonga gang chorus.

“Damn right you’re a lunatic bouncing ’round like a pogo stick
Get your feet off the ground for a while but it ain’t much fun, anyway
Damn right you’re a lunatic treating me like a pogo stick
You should get a new that’ll get you through from this little thing called life”

A fast Punky number that’s a surefire dance floor filler I’d say as all the songs here here. Catchy, Celtic-Punk that is heavy but still accessible but if you’re a fan of the Real McKenzies then 7 Stout Clan is a band you will really get.

“Staying still will get you killed”

The 7 Stout Clan single is only available in digital format at the moment from the links below but I’m hopeful the guys will get a Bandcamp account started soon and get their entire back catalogue uploaded. Hint- Hint!!!

Download 7 Stout Clan  Apple  Spotify

Contact 7 Stout Clan WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

LIVE STREAM

The hardest hitting bands of Finnish Celtic-Punk, 7 Stout Clan and Band Of Shysters are joining forces and this time the good times are brought to you right into your living room via live stream from restaurant Maxim!
7 Stout Clan are joined by Band Of Shysters. Pseudo-Celtic-Savonian folk orchestra from pre-historic fog to cyber punk. Showtime is Saturday 30th May at 8pm (which is 7pm UK time) and their is a Facebook event with all the details you need.

LOUIS RIVE NEW SINGLE ‘BUSINESS AS USUAL’

New single ‘Business As Usual’ by Catalonia-based Scottish singer Louis Rive tips its hat to hip-hop and cuts into the powers that be during the crisis with blistering lyrics that give voice to the anger of a generation.

When the powers-that-be looked at the ever-more distant European Union with its rising death tolls, unfamiliar looking police cars and panicked sound bites in languages that we don’t understand; they took a familiar and predictable line: It’s ‘business as usual’ here is the UK.

A few weeks later and we are reaping the seeds that we sowed, the leader who preached Blitz spirit, the importance of the economy and the certain loss of family members lies incapacitated by the virus. British spirit and stiff upper lips didn’t hold up against a pathogen that doesn’t discriminate between bank balance and social class. Still, the government’s negligence of our well being was evident and the damage had already been done. The message was clear; it’s better to be sick and working than to be poor and broke. Being ill has become preferable to being poor in a modern UK.

Louis Rive is no stranger to tackling social issues through music. His previous single ‘The State of the Nation’ pours scorn on the dual hypocrisy of both the Scottish and British governments in a post-Brexit UK. While such acerbic takes are unlikely to earn him a spot on breakfast radio, they remain more relevant than ever in a society which is currently under the microscope provided by the current crisis. This is what folk music was made for, protest and the highlighting of social issues. In a world where folk is often relegated to the immaculate dress code and unsubstantial lyrics that plague coffee shops and identikit bars, Louis’ fire puts more of the original punk attitude back into the genre.

It’s a loving tribute to the essential workers who are holding society together, and clear references to the shop workers and delivery workers who keep the nation fed and help those unable to leave their houses are interposed with the sense of powerlessness. At the same time visceral lyrics tear into the pillars of faceless capitalism, the stooges of ignorance and arrogance that have left the workers of this nation on their knees, frantically trying to keep it all together.

“Did you listen to the laughs, the cheers, the profiteers?
Bank balances embellished with an extra zero
You’re nothing but a number on a payslip given in the name of the minimum wage”

The corrupt ‘greased palms’ of politicians who put party donors before the folk that they are supposed to represent are joined by the convenient absence of organised religion in a time of crisis. Louis is unafraid of asking difficult questions, questions that deserve an immediate answer.

‘the money men, imitation Don Draper, sending out Deliveroo for toilet paper’

The bathroom with no window, mirror mirror on the wall
Who’s the fairest of them all, the undisputed belle of the ball?
Walking through the rain ‘cos the train’s on strike
But they had the gall, to label you ‘essential’
Against all common sense, now we sit on the fence
Waiting for someone just like me to take the fall

Did you think about the money men, imitation Don Draper?
Sending out Deliveroo for toilet paper
No contract means no consent about the wiping of a rich man’s arse
From ‘The Cheap Part of Town’ to this human zoo
A house made for seven that accommodates two
In splendid isolation, equality’s a farce

A murmur from the depths of hell grows louder every day
The economy is paralysed, the bill arrives and there no-one there to pay
We’ll remember next election who our friends are
Greased palms by example, champagne on standby
But in case you’ve forgotten the motto it’s never to late to be left at the bottom
When we hold all the cards

Did you listen to the laughs, the cheers, the profiteers
Bank balances embellished with an extra zero
You’re nothing but a number on a payslip given in the name of the minimum wage
The words of wisdom they spoke
Better to be sick and working than poor and broke
What’s the point in growing up? It’s time to act your age

Don’t turn to the clergy, don’t turn to organised religion
When the church door has been closed with lock and key
If you’re looking for solace in your fellow human
Now’s the time to drop the ten pound note for a shot of solidarity

Weights and measures, weekend pleasures, hidden treasures
It’s been too long
Interest rates mounting, advice from accounting, crying and shouting
It’s been too long

Too long, too long, far too long
Too long, too long, far too long

Did you imitate Cain and Abel to put food on the table
Starting at the grave and ending at the cradle
Stable living at the price of the thousands falling through the cracks
Paying off the jury, blood sweat and tears
Pound signs gleaming in the eyes of the overseers
Feeling the threat of the whip across your back

Nothing left to worry, nothing left to choose
Nothing, and when all’s said and done
Nothing left to lose
Rotten to the core, riven by disease
Learning how to walk again
From a life lived on my knees

Too long, too long, far too long
Too long, too long, far too long

There are plenty of traditional influences from his native Scotland in this, you can hear the bitterness of Dick Gaughan and the humour of Matt McGinn, but there is another edge evident in the single. Drawing from new influences in the world of hip-hop, Glasgow’s Darren McGarvey aka Loki, Belfast’s Jon Tsu and London’s Akala, Louis’ lyrics and musical delivery take on a new machine gun like delivery, dropping the buck squarely at the door of those who have left us in a situation that has brought to light the inherent inequality in the UK more than anything in this generation’s memory.

(Stream from Bandcamp. Business As Usual is available as a ‘Name Your Price’ download)

Download Business As Usual  Bandcamp

Contact Louis Rive  Facebook  Instagram  Spotify  Twitter  YouTube  Soundcloud

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: SONGS FOR POLITICAL ACTION- FOLK MUSIC, TOPICAL SONGS AND THE AMERICAN LEFT

Long since out of reach for those that would most benefit from hearing it this 10 CD collection of near 300 rare political songs from between 1926-1953 is as perfect a package as could possibly be. Released on the German-based Bear Family label it features songs from folk singers Almanac Singers, Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Woody Guthrie and many others, and also bluesmen  like Josh White and Brownie McGhee.

This description from the Bear Family Records catalogue places the collection in a concise context:

“Maybe it didn’t bring about the social and economic equality that it strove for, but the American Left of the 1930’s and 1940’s did leave one lasting legacy: the urban folk song revival. The discs offer a comprehensive overview of this enduring music, from the labor choruses and New York’s socially conscious theatrical scene of the 1930’s, to the Almanac Singers postwar idealism of People’s Songs and ends with the disturbing anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era.”

This set is incredible. As simple as that. A treasure trove that contains historical recordings that could otherwise have been lost to posterity. If anyone has ever said a truer thing than “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it” then I’d like to hear it! While the Left failed to achieve any real lasting change in the States the one place they did have significant presence was in music. A band like the Almanac Singers’ politically charged influence still resonates through today’s singer-songwriters. The idealism and hope on these recordings came to an abrupt end with the anti-Left McCarthy era that silenced many of these talented, dedicated performers. Containing Folk music, of course, but their are also cowboy songs, country songs, blues and country-blues and if nothing else they destroy the stereotype of the dry and humourless political song.

(to find the download click on the Disc number highlighted in RED)

Disc One: The Leftist Roots Of The Folk Revival

Primarily given over to the oldest union songs and farm-related protest songs. The sound quality on most of the material in this set is astonishingly good

DISC 1

Disc Two: Theatre And Cabaret Performers: 1936-1941

DISC 2

Disc Three: The Almanac Singers: March 1941 – July 1941

Disc Four: Fighting The Fascists: 1942-1944

Disc Three is given over to the Almanac Singers; this body of work was recorded when the official Communist Party line (to which they adhered) was non-aggression against Nazi Germany. The music on Disc Four was surprisingly complex, given the spartan conditions under which a lot of it was done.

DISC 3 AND 4

Disc Five: World War II And The Folk Revival

Disc Six: The People’s Songs Era: 1945-1949

Disc 5 features artists like Earl Robinson, Sir Lancelot, Vern Partlow, Tom Glazer and Woody Guthrie while Disc 6 is dedicated to artists like Josh White, Lee Hays, Lord Invader, Malivna Reynolds and others.

DISC 5 AND 6

Disc Seven: Pete Seeger: 1946-1948

Disc Eight: Charter Records: 1946-1949

Disc seven is mostly made up of Seeger’s masterpieces Roll The Union On and Songs For Political Action. This collection is made up of many things from the personal archives of Pete Seeger, old recordings and photos not found anywhere else. Eight compiles songs from the famed folk and blues record label Charter Records.

DISC 7 AND 8

Disc Nine: Campaign Songs: 1944-1949

Disc Ten: An Era Closes: 1949-1953

Disc nine represents the last significant cohesive body of topical political songs to come from the American left while by the time of disc ten the Left couldn’t do more than snipe at the reactionaries setting the agenda and the passive moderates who stood by.

DISC 9 AND 10

The full package is not just the ten CD’s it is accompanied by a 200-page + hardcover book featuring historical and musical essays, photographs, session information and lyrics – one of the finest documents of the relationship between music and politics of the period that has ever been published.

Listen to little known, or remembered, songs like ‘I’m Going To Organize, Baby Mine’, ‘Commonwealth Of Toil’, ‘Write Me Out My Union Card’, ‘Bad Housing Blues’, ‘Swingin’ On A Scab’, ‘Talking Un-American Blues’, ‘Unemployment Compensation Blues’ through to more famous songs like ‘Which Side Are You On?’ and ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and what you are actually listening to is pure unadulterated American history. These days when the American Left is obsessed with identity politics that divides people rather than bring them together and is separated from the wider working class its hard to imagine a time when working people fought and died for simple things like a living wage, voting rights, the right to organize, and the dignity of the average American. The modern Left’s hatred for all things American is a far cry from the patriotism and passion and love for America found on these discs. It is fitting that the last song on the collection is Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’.  This passion for America, and a stubborn refusal to accept nothing less than America’s promise of a fundamental fairness, rests right on the surface of lyrics like:

“Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
This land was made for you and me.

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.”

For more like this…

 

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

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

Now this is some band and also the perfect time to review them with St. Patrick’s Day just a few days off. Full Bloom is the fourth album release from The Wild Irish Roses an Irish-American family from New Paltz which is a small town in aptly named Ulster County located in the state of New York, about eighty  miles north of New York City. It’s a small place but with plenty of places to get a cold Guinness and even to learn Irish at the local school it’s a place where the Irish-American community have never forgotten their roots.
The base of the band is a group well known to readers here and that is The Templars Of Doom for it is the Templars singer /songwriter /bassist Mike whose five eldest (of eight!) children make up The Wild Irish Roses. His fellow Templar Scott Benson assists on bagpipes, tin-whistles and flute. Mam (Kristina) and Dad cut their teeth in Brooklyn based post-punk band The Astro-Zombies in the 90’s while during the 2000’s they were in The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment who released 8 albums up to 2010 so music is the blood of this prolific family. On the last Roses album, Fill Yer Boots, Man!, it featured an incredible twenty one songs while here they manage only a paltry seventeen but they continue in much the same vein with songs flying past you as faster than you can keep up with them. The album was recorded in the family’s home studio, their renovated barn, and released on Poe Records.
Full Bloom begins with ‘Garry Owen’ a famous Irish drinking song dating back to Limerick in the late 1700’s. It was adopted by the  7th Cavalry and is said to have been the favourite of General George Armstrong Custer who heard the song among the Irish troops and liked the beat so it was used as a marching song. Mike takes on vocals here giving it a Templars feel while the family supply backing vocals. The album sees three sisters take turns at singing lead and on ‘An Incident At Sea’ it is Josie, who also plays pipes in the Templars Of The Doom, who sings her own composition.

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Full Bloom  FromTheBand  (CD or Download)

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ALBUM REVIEW: PADDY WAGGIN- ‘Race To The Bottom’ (2020)

The debut release of seven originals and a Pogues cover from Paddy Waggin a new Celtic-Punk Rock outfit straight outta East Vancouver, BC.

Canadian music use to be a regular feature on these pages but has been relatively quiet the last couple of years so it’s great to be able to feature a band that is just setting sale! Paddy Waggin are a gang of Irish-Canadians hailing from Vancouver in British Columbia. East Van, as it is known, has traditionally been known as the first port of call for many immigrant communities from the Irish and Welsh in the early days of settlement right up to the modern day. Historically, it was a more affordable area and the home for mainly working class people thought the rapid increase in housing prices and gentrification that is affecting pretty much all cities is destroying much of the areas character. Still the auld world is still well represented with the WISE (Welsh, Irish, Scottish, English) Hall, The Celtic Connection newspaper and The Irish Sporting and Social Club all thriving alongside the Irish pub scene.

Paddy Waggin left to right: Andrew Whyte- Guitar * Aidan Carroll- Lead Vocals/ Songwriter * Rob Stewart- Percussion * Jonny ‘Needles’ Poliquin – Bass/shrieking *  Philip Meyer-  Accordion * Johnny ‘BBQ’ Jandara – Banjo/ Mandolin/ Harmonica * not pictured Bourton Scott- Fiddle and Lisa Ronald- Tin Whistle *

So a new band kicks off or so we thought. A debut release ought to signify that but Paddy Waggin have been playing on and off for more than twenty years, mainly as singer Aidan’s St Patrick’s day project. Aidan in fact was born in Dublin but grew up in Canada while others in the band come from Irish and Scottish backgrounds and, accordion player, Philip is of Dutch descent. So a long wait to get that debut release out but they have delivered a craicing album of eight songs, all but one an original and a cover of one of the best songs in Celtic-Punk. Race To The Bottom begins with ‘Gilding The Liffey’ a fiddle and banjo led song about an imaginary trip taken by the band to Dublin to play music and party. The music is upbeat and jolly and Aiden’s vocals slip perfectly in alongside.

The Bhoys keep it up with ‘Broken Teeth’ a song telling of the perils of getting old and about the joys of youth and partying till the early morn but those things soon catch up with you and “Now I’m getting on in years” those days are well behind them. The music is still fast paced and only two songs in and you get the impression that Paddy Waggin are a band to kick yer boots to. The video for ‘Broken Teeth’ is utterly fantastic too so be sure to check that out.

‘Davy Jones’ is not dedicated to the sadly missed singer from The Monkees but a tragic tale of lost love. Davy Jones is the name given to the mythical resting place of drowned mariners at the bottom of the sea. The first source that mentions Jones’ locker is in 1803

“…seamen would have met a watery grave; or, to use a seaman’s phrase, gone to Davy Jones’s locker.”

The longest song here at just over three minutes it’s what I would call a thigh slapper! Nice chorus and I’m wracking my mind to find a band to compare them to but I’m coming up short. The Pogues influence looms large but they don’t sound like them if that makes sense. ‘King Of The Faeries is one hell of a tune with a ‘piratey’ edge to it and shows that Paddy Waggin are not just in it for the free drinks with a spot of trad Irish though dedicated to the misfortunes of one of the bands mates who got caught on the wrong side of the law. Another trad influenced song is next up with ‘Paddy Traddy Rad’ about an Irish fella the life of the party. Proper acoustic Celtic-Punk with just Johnny ‘Needles’ bass amplified Paddy Waggin sound like they kick up a hell of a storm.  ‘Race To The Bottom’ is a Country influenced song that is super catchy and as the guys say a “tune for East Van people about East Van” leading into ‘Dirty Looking Up All Night’ which keeps the boots kickin’ about the so called ‘Walk Of Shame’ where people end up staying out (!) after a night on the lash and have to walk home in the morning in their evening finery the next day.

That Pogues influence shows up nicely on Race To The Bottom’s final song the Pogues standard ‘Streams Of Whiskey’. Written by Shane MacGowan about a night out with Brendan Behan the famed Irish writer and drinker… thinker. Paddy Waggin play an outstanding version very very close to the original and I’m sure if they ever need the money another life as a Pogues tribute band awaits them.  

The album’s official release is on St. Patrick’s Day- March 17 but it is already available on the band’s Bandcamp site (see below for link) but if you wish to avail of a hard copy of the CD then you’ll have to contact the band. The great artwork is by Fenix Ashborn and it was recorded at home in East Van by Larry Lich at Eagle Ears studios. Paddy Waggin are definitely a band to enjoy life to. Eight foot stomping songs, mainly original tracks too, to beat the floor up to. Checking out a few songs on You Tube they have a tremendous live show with their own catchy as feck original songs with the odd auld Irish tune thrown in alongside. Their sound is infectious and, I am sure,  more than able to get their audience dancing and singing along. Here on Race To The Bottom they have captured their live sound pretty well and though well rooted in traditional Irish folk their Rock and Punk influences keep them from becoming too safe. A welcome addition to the Canadian Celtic-Punk scene and a band I look forward to hearing a lot more from.

(you can stream Race To The Bottom on the Bandcamp player below)
Download Race To The BottomFromTheBand  DistroKid
Contact Paddy WagginWebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Soundcloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eddie MacGowan 1969-2018 RIP

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Off The Wagon Acoustic Sessions  FromTheBand

Contact The Kilmaine Saints WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  ReverbNation  YouTube

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: PATRICKS- ‘Rocky Road To Ireland’ (2020)

“When we need to escape from reality, and it’s not possible to take a trip to the green land, have a couple of glasses of mead instead and fly inside the head to the land we love so much”
Rocky Road to Ireland is the second full length album from Italian band Patricks does much the same thing!

When this album popped through the letterbox I took one look at the cover and thought “Oh, an Irish band” and on putting on the disc inside I was further impressed by this ‘Irish’ band. Came as quite the shock then to find out that Patricks may play top quality Irish Folk-Rock and have all the attributes of an actual Irish band but they hail many miles from the Emerald Isle in the Italian home of famed doomed lovers Romeo And Juliet- Verona. Formed in 2012 in no short time Patricks had played right across the north-east of Italy bringing their energy to both the big stages of festivals and their warmth and joy to intimate small pubs venues. In 2014 and 2015 they went down a storm at the ‘Ireland In Festivals’ in Bologna and Padua, opening for Cisco (formerly the legendary Modena City Ramblers). Their debut album, Tales From Irish Waves, hit the shops in June 2016 after eighteen months of hard work. Recorded at Verona’s Bass Department Studio the album was very well received and led to them being invited to headline the 2017 Triskell Celtic Festival in Trieste and for the last couple of years the main spot on St. Patrick’s Day evening in the centre of Verona making over 3,000 people dance for two hours! Tales From Irish Waves was a collection of Irish folk favourites like ‘The Rising Of The Moon’, ‘Star Of The County Down’ and ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’ all done in Patricks very own individual manner. With over 150 concert behind them, these Veronese continue to impress and with the release of Rocky Road To Ireland international growth beckons.
The Rocky Road To Ireland carries on from their debut album in much the same way. Ten tracks of popular Irish folk songs but this time the collection has a lot less emphasis on the more popular songs and includes instrumentals and even a couple of originals too. You actually get almost twenty here with songs mashed together in a incredibly seamless way taking it as far away from the realm of cover albums as you could possibly get. The album starts with ‘The Kesh Jig / Blarney Pilgrim’ and while it may not be only be Irish music that has songs instantly recognisable without words not many also come with the ability to cheer. As is common with a lot of Irish/Celtic bands in Europe the flute is to the fore here while the band cheerfully get through both songs in under three minutes. Next up we are introduced to Margot on vocals whose beautiful voice leads us through ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ a banjo heavy tune owing a lot to the Dubliners famous version though it sounds a little odd not having Ronnie Drew’s gravelly voice (or even Mike McColgan!) accompanying the song! Next is ‘Spancil Hill’ one of the saddest (and let’s face it the competition is immense!) of all the Irish emigration songs. The longest song here at over five minutes and played upbeat rather than its usual slow and maudlin. Margot’s voice dominates as is usually the case with Irish music (see bands like Runa and Solas). I still remember listening to this song for the first time. I had heard it 100’s 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”
Here though the famous last lines are missing and replaced with a different last chorus I had never heard before. Next a bunch of songs unfamiliar with me on paper, ‘ ‘The Butterfly / Golden Stud / The Man Of The House’, but ‘Golden Stud’ was recognisable at least. Accordion, fiddle and flute pushing the boundaries and while at times you do wish they would really really cut loose they still manage to beat up the floor. The Dubliners influence here is not just confined to the album’s title with ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’ played at a steady pace and seeing as i can never quite keep up with the lyrics here Margot does a wonderful job especially in the chorus about bashing up two Liverpudlians! Another song I wasn’t sure I had heard before was ‘P Stands For Paddy’ but on hearing realised i had heard a version of it by German Celtic-Punk band Fiddler’s Green but whether it was this version, a love song, or the one written by Gerry Carney, a bittersweet tribute to the Irish in England that never made it I can’t remember. Here the influences from English Folk-Rock scene of the 70’s are evident with Patricks sounding remarkably like Steeleye Span in places. The Dubs return with a rowdy pub setting performance of ‘Whiskey, You’re The Devil/The Silver Spear/The Mountain Road’ and a professional sets of reels and jigs ‘Glasgow Reel / Aaron’s Key / Banshee Reel’ before we settle down to a modern day Irish folk music classic. ‘The City Of Chicago’ was written by Barry Moore and made famous by Christy Moore the song is a tribute to those who battled all the odds and made it to relative safety across the oceans during the great Hunger.
“Some of them knew fortune
Some of them knew fame
More of them knew hardship
And died upon the plain
They spread throughout the nation
They rode the railroad cars
Brought their songs ant music to ease their lonely hearts”
A fantastic song that that brings the curtain down but NO that’s not it! For they have squeezed in a bonus track at the end!

‘They’re Taking The Hobbits To Isengard / The Fellowship / The Shire’ are songs recognisable from the Lord Of The Rings films and show a sense of humour that has is evident in all the best Irish folk music. So almost forty minutes of quality Irish folk music as interpreted bu one of Europe’s best Irish bands. The album was recorded, mixed and produced by Max Titi at Maxy Sound Studio in Verona for Maxy Sound and if I did have one mixed opinion on the album I would like the band to follow though it is that they should ‘rock out’ a bit more and really go for it but Rocky Road To Ireland is still a fine album and a great way to start March off which is always traditionally our busiest month at London Celtic Punk for obvious reasons!!

Contact Patricks  Facebook  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram

Buy Rocky Road To Ireland  FromTheBand

THE BEST SONG EVER WRITTEN!

The debate over what is the best song ever written will linger on and on and on and be debated well into the night by friends and foe alike. Here at London Celtic Punks we are unanimous in our view that it is a song that had been largely forgotten and unknown outside Ireland till the it’s first appearance on You Tube led to its well deserved modern day fame.
Back in 1976 while I was still listening to The Wombles (and a couple of years before I would discover Sham 69) the legendary Paul Brady released an album with the equally legendary Andy Irvine called Andy Irvine & Paul Brady. The whole album is simply outstanding, but there is one song that stands head and shoulder above even the best of the other tracks. Paul plays solo a song that closes the vinyl’s first side (remember ‘records’ and ‘sides’?) that I am yet to hear anyone who has heard it for the first time not comment on its utter brilliance. I am told it’s played in an Open G tuning and for me, someone with no musical talent, it is mesmerising watching Paul’s fingers “bounce on the surface of the strings like dragonflies on the surface of a pond” – guitar tabs for you budding musicians here. Paul’s voice is perfect for the song and the incredible lyrics that contain some serious threats of violence that are eventually acted upon! A Christmas song that is not your typical song! The song was also recorded by Bob Dylan on his Good As I Been To You album of 1992 opening up the opportunity for Pauls superior version to be heard all over again. Dylan had wanted to get out of a contract, but owed two albums so he recorded traditional songs that he liked.

Oh, me and my cousin, one Arthur McBride,
As we went a-walkin’ down by the seaside,
Mark now what followed and what did betide,
For it bein’ on Christmas mornin’
Now, for recreation, we went on a tramp,
And we met Sergeant Napper and Corporal Vamp
And a little wee drummer intending to camp,
For the day bein’ pleasant and charmin’.
*
“Good morning, good morning,” the Sergeant he cried.
“And the same to you, gentlemen,” we did reply,
Intending no harm but meant to pass by,
For it bein’ on Christmas mornin’
“But,” says he, “My fine fellows, if you will enlist,
Ten guineas in gold I’ll stick to your fist,
And a crown in the bargain for to kick up the dust,
And drink the king’s health in the morning.
*
“For a soldier, he leads a very fine life,
And he always is blessed with a charming young wife,
And he pays all his debts without sorrow or strife,
And he always lives pleasant and charmin’,
And a soldier, he always is decent and clean,
In the finest of clothing he’s constantly seen.
While other poor fellows go dirty and mean,
And sup on thin gruel in the morning.”
*
“But,” says Arthur, “I wouldn’t be proud of your clothes,
For you’ve only the lend of them, as I suppose,
But you dare not change them one night, for you know
If you do, you’ll be flogged in the morning,
And although that we’re single and free,
We take great delight in our own company,
We have no desire strange places to see,
Although that your offers are charming.
*
“And we have no desire to take your advance,
All hazards and dangers we barter on chance,
For you’d have no scruples for to send us to France,
Where we would get shot without warning,”
“Oh no,” says the Sergeant. “I’ll have no such chat,
And neither will I take it from snappy young brats,
For if you insult me with one other word,
I’ll cut off your heads in the morning.”
*
And Arthur and I, we soon drew our hogs,
And we scarce gave them time to draw their own blades
When a trusty shillelagh came over their head
And bid them take that as fair warning.
And their old rusty rapiers that hung by their sides,
We flung them as far as we could in the tide,
“Now take them up, devils!” cried Arthur McBride,
“And temper their edge in the mornin’!”
*
And the little wee drummer, we flattened his bow,
And we made a football of his rowdy-dow-dow,
Threw it in the tide for to rock and to roll,
And bade it a tedious returning,
And we havin’ no money, paid them off in cracks.
We paid no respect to their two bloody backs,
And we lathered them there like a pair of wet sacks,
And left them for dead in the morning.
*
And so, to conclude and to finish disputes,
We obligingly asked if they wanted recruits,
For we were the lads who would give them hard clouts
And bid them look sharp in the mornin’.
*
Oh, me and my cousin, one Arthur McBride,
As we went a-walkin’ down by the seaside,
Mark now what followed and what did betide,
For it bein’ on Christmas mornin’

The songs first appearance in print was around 1840 in Limerick as collected by Patrick Weston Joyce, but the roots of ‘Arthur McBride’, however, go right back further to the 17th century, and Ireland’s involvement in the Glorious Revolution (1688), the Nine Years War(1688-97), and especially the Williamite War in Ireland (1689-1691). The song refers to being “sent to France,” which would suggest the Flight of the Wild Geese: when the departure of the Patrick Sarsfield’s Irish Jacobite army were exiled from Ireland to France in 1691.

In the song, the singer and his cousin, Arthur McBride, were out walking when approached by recruiters for the British Army. They try to recruit them into service for the Crown extolling of all they will have both monetary and also the ‘finest of clothing’. Arthur McBride is having none of it and informs the recruiting sergeant that they would not be his clothes only loaned to him and why would they want to join up anyway only to die in France. The sergeant is angry at this and threatens both Arthur and his cousin but they defend themselves by attacking the recruiters with their shillelaghs (a walking stick made from blackthorn that was often used for ‘defending’ oneself!). The lyrics are so descriptive and even chilling- “And we lathered them there like a pair of wet sacks, and left them for dead in the morning.” They then steal their money and in a last show of defiance chuck the recruiters drum into the sea. The website Irish Music Daily has the best explanation for some of the colourful language used in the song.

The whole album is incredible and here from the same record is ‘The Plains Of Kildare’ an old traditional Irish song that with emigration made its way across the broad Atlantic and in the 19th century wound up in the mountains of Appalachia  to become ‘Old Stewball Was A Racehorse’.

ALBUM REVIEW: BODH’AKTAN- ‘De Temps Et De Vents’ (2019)

The seventh album of Bodh’aktan from Québec. Seven rogues fusing elements of Celtic, Rock, Trad, Pop and Punk and the music of the Celtic Nations, especially Brittany and Ireland. With bagpipes, flute, accordion, violin and bouzouki and vocals in both French and English they are a force to be reckoned with!

We are well into 2020 now but we couldn’t let last year go without paying homage to one of the best, and most active, bands in the Celtic-Punk scene. This will definitely be the last review from 2019 and what a great way to bid farewell then with a band that really encapsulates everything that Celtic-Punk should be about. A link from the traditions of the past to both the present and the future. On their last album, Ride Out The Storm, they were assisted by the legendary uileann piper Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains and it was not the first time Bodh’aktan have embraced the ‘old world’ of Celtic music.

Bodh’aktan formed in Québec in 2011 and they have released several acclaimed albums. Regular visitors to Europe, especially, of course, France they are yet to visit the Irish and British isles but as their fame spreads I’m sure it is only a matter of time. The vast majority of their releases have been in their native tongue but they have also had the novel idea of re-recording a couple of albums into English for their Anglo fans. Their new album De Temps Et De Vents has been recorded in French or as one reviewer hilariously described it as a

“return to the language of Molière after an incursion in Shakespeare”.

The Québec flag, the Fleurdelisé (Lily-flower)

Québec is a semi-autonomous region of eastern Canada and is home to 8,500,000 residents. The official language is French and is spoken by the vast majority of residents (78%). The region has a totally different feel to the rest of Canada and French dominates every aspect of life. Within this French culture is a strong Breton influence and their are no shortage of Celtic influenced bands both traditional and modern. The French population of Québec stands at around 30% with the Irish and the Scots making up a further 10% so the Celt identity there is very strong! Their have been referendums about independence in 1980 and 1995 that have been defeated (in 1995 by a margin of only 1%!) and so they remain, for the time being, subjects of the British crown. This led in 2006, to the House Of Commons of Canada passing a motion to recognise the “Québécois as a nation within a united Canada”.

So onto the actual album and De Temps Et De Vents is twelve original songs lasting nearly forty minutes that starts off where Ride Out The Storm left us. They have been moving away from the harder rock/punk sound of their earlier days into a much more Folk and trad style that is instantly recognisable in modern day Celtic-Punk. With all the lyrics in French and being a pupil of the English school system my knowledge of the language is pretty damn basic to non existent! With that in mind I can really only review the music here so please bear with me.

The album begins with the short ‘Ouverture’ a Celtic-Punk heavy intro which starts with drums but with the rest of the band joining in at intervals building up and up and leading straight into ‘Capitaine Deux-Cennes’. My first impression is that Alexandre Richard has a fine voice that really jollies the music along during the fast songs but can also wrap itself around a ballad too. The music is reminiscent of Flogging Molly with its high tempo danceable style. For the album Bodh’aktan added a fiddler and Marc-Etienne Richard’s work is pure excellent shining alongside the rest of the band. Hopefully he will become a permanent fixture. Only a couple of songs in and you are already left with the impression this is the type of album that is for celebrating along to. The tempo does change from time to time with ‘L’orage’ for example when the bagpipes add a sorrowful side to the song. It’s the first ‘slower’ song but played with a heaviness that belies its speed. ‘L’amer’ is a straight up rock number and also one of the highlights of the album with a ‘Wo-Ho-Oh’ chorus that is just ripe for roaring along to!

‘Le Jardinier Du Couvent’ (in English ‘The Gardener Of The Convent’) is a slow beautiful ballad which slowly builds into a wonderful song. Despite not knowing the words it seems full of sorrow and sadness with Alexandre wringing every bit of emotion out of it. Hidden away among the Breton/French influenced tunes is the Irish trad ‘Set Béquate’ played to absolute perfection and a great example of a band that can turn it’s hand to anything. From Celtic-Punk rockers to trad tunes like this they know how to fill up a dance floor and the song speeds along at such an intensity that i’m sure by the end many drinks will have been spilt and many ankles turned over!

‘La Tournée’ is a fast and furious (120 seconds) number that takes in bands like Neck and The Tossers. Banjo heavy and over in a flash before ‘Le Retour’, a bagpipe Celtic-Rock number with a definite Scots feel and not just because of the pipes while ‘Le Dernier Bateau’ is a slower number with very much a ‘epic’ feel to the song. We are nearing the end of our voyage and Bodh’aktan see us out with two of the longest songs on the album. ‘Dans Le Bois’ carries on in in the same vein with an acoustic Celtic jolly wee number while the curtain comes down on De Temps Et De Vents with the amazing ‘Tant Qu’il Restera Du Rhum’ (in English ‘As Long As There Is Rum’!). At over five minutes all Celtic-Punk fans will know the kind of song when i say that its the end of the night, drink has been taken and you find yourself in the middle of the dance floor holding onto a stranger with your fist (or pint) in the air belting out the words at the top of your lungs. A slow heavy swirling way to see things out.

There is literally something here to keep everyone happy. When they ‘punk’ it up they are brilliant and when they ‘folk’ it up they are as well. For an album that varies from genre to genre the album flows magnificently (something I have noticed on their previous albums too) and you barely notice that the last song was a punk or folk number. The music is a joy to listen and the band are absolutely fantastic musicians and although the obvious humour here is lost on me this is a band who put out consistently great music and have done it yet again.

Buy De Temps Et De Vents  FromTheBand  Coop Breizh France

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Disography Au Diable Les Remords (2011) * Against Winds And Tides (2013) * Tant Qu’il Restera Du Rhum… (2013) * Mixtape (2015) * Bodh’aktan (2016) * Ride Out The Storm (2018) *

(the brand new video for ‘Mick McGuire’ taken from 2018’s acclaimed album Ride Out The Storm just released on January 9th!)

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: LOUDEST WHISPER- ‘The Children of Lir’ (1974)

Loudest Whisper were an Irish folk rock/progressive folk group formed in the early 1970’s led by singer/songwriter Brian O’Reilly. Best known for their debut album, The Children Of Lir, a folk opera based on the Irish legend of the same name. The original LP release of the album has become one of the most sought after records in Ireland, and ranks among the most rare and sought after records in the world. A glorious mixture of catchy melodies, soaring harmonies and biting acid guitar.

A cult Celtic prog-folk rock band with a theatrical bent, Loudest Whisper started off as another sort of band altogether. Formed in the early 1960’s in the sleepy surroundings of Fermoy, County Cork,  Ireland, by Brian O’Reilly, Michael Clancey, John Aherne and drummer Jimmy Cotter, they were originally known as the Wizards. The Wizards played mostly covers of Beatles, Hollies and Spencer Davis songs and after Jimi Hendrix and Cream hit, the band took a turn into heavier blues territory, changing their name to Loudest Whisper as the 1970’s opened. The band also had some lineup changes, with Cotter leaving and Brendan “Bunny” Nelgian coming in as his replacement on drums. When guitarist Paud O’Reilly joined, he switched over to drums and Nelgian became the group’s lead singer.

Loudest Whisper- Brian O’Reilly, Brendan ‘Bunny’ Nelgian, Paud O’Reilly and John Aherne

It was here that the general direction of the band changed. Brian’s songwriting had always drawn heavily on American folk-rock groups, but he had also been working in amateur musicals staged by a local theater group and finding his attention increasingly drawn to traditional Irish folklore as well. He decided in 1973 to fuse all of these strands and interests together in a Celtic musical based on the legend of the Irish King Lir. The Children of Lir is a famous legend from the Irish Mythological Cycle about the Irish Gods of the Tuatha Dé Dannan. The four children in the tale represent the last of this generation, who are turned into swans by their wicked stepmother. After finally being lifted from the spell they are baptized as Christians before aging rapidly and dying. A sad tale about the love of one family, jealousy, magical spells and a curse of 900 years.

The resulting Children Of Lir premiered in Fermoy on January 7, 1973, as a full-blown stage production, with Ron Kavanagh, a singer and guitarist who had recently joined the band, taking the lead role. With nearly 60 performers involved, Children Of Lir it attracted a lot of attention, leading to the band signing a recording deal with Polydor Records and beginning to record a studio adaptation of Children Of Lir in 1974. Kavanagh left the band midway through the recording of the album version of Children Of Lir, followed by Nelgian’s departure shortly after the LP was released. The U.K. branch of Polydor rejected the LP, so Children Of Lir ended up being released only in Ireland in an extremely limited edition of 500 copies. Further lineup shuffles followed, with Brian taking over more of the singing and Dorgan officially joining as a guitarist and vocalist. Her voice was featured in O’Reilly’s musical, The Maiden of Sorrow, which was staged in 1975. Loudest Whisper toured throughout the late 70’s but recorded very little. Polydor released the band’s second album, Loudest Whisper in 1980, which had an accessible soft rock feel. Again, Polydor did little to support the album and the band issued its next project, Hard Times, which featured a second female vocalist, Bernadette Bowes, privately on the Fiona imprint in 1982.

Loudest Whisper began to dissolve when both Dorgan and Bowes left the group in 1985, although the O’Reilly brothers continued to gig under the name in a variety of configurations, even staging another musical, Buskin’, that same year. A couple of singles followed, but Loudest Whisper were barely active as a band as the 1980s closed. Brian released a cassette album, Spread Your Wings, as a solo project in 1990, with Dorgan helping out on background vocals, and the band was offered a recording deal with the Irish arm of K-Tel Records. Re-recording material from all phases of its career, the band came up with an album called The Collection. A reshuffling at the label led to the album being shelved, however, and it wasn’t officially issued until 1995 on Fiona.

Following the huge success of Riverdance, O’Reilly restaged The Children of Lir with a more folky and Celtic veneer, and a version of this was recorded and released, credited jointly to Brian O’Reilly and Donovan. The Kissing Spell label reissued the original recording of Children Of Lir on CD, following it with the group’s second album, retitled 2, and a near-bootleg quality version of The Maiden of Sorrow drawn from a 1975 live performance. Since the mid-1990’s, Loudest Whisper have been performing on and off with different musicians, including as a trio of Brian O’Reilly (guitar, keyboards, vocals), his brother Paud (drums, backing vocals) and Brian’s son, Oran (double bass). This version of the album is the  CD re-issue released by Sunbeam Records. Tracks 2-14 are the original album while the bonuses include various single B-sides and demos.

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The Band

Brian O’Reilly – Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Vocals * Geraldine Dorgan – Guitar, Vocals * Paud O’Reilly – Drums, Harmonies * Mike Russell – Bass * Producer – Leo O’Kelly * Engineer – Paul Waldron

Discography

The Children Of Lir (1974) * Loudest Whisper (1980) * Hard Times (1983) * Maiden Of Sorrow (live album recorded in 1975, released in !995) * Our World (2004) * Blue… Is The Colour of Time (2014)

The Children Of Lir

Information On Ireland * Connolly Cove * Irish Myths And Legends * Your Irish Culture

The full story of The Children Of Lir, as read by the late and great Ronnie Drew…

for more like this…

 

ANTO MORRA’S NEW ALBUM IN HIS OWN WORDS

Songwriter, performer and multi media artist that believes ‘Life is for laughing and fighting injustice’. Traditional folk songs and punk rock of his formative London years, along with his Irish roots and Norfolk home are the inspiration behind his work.

by ANTO MORRA

Twenty is a compilation of 20 songs taken from 7 CD releases. Late last year I had the idea to put this together to replace the 6 full albums that were available for download and streaming. The reason being that the way music is digitally consumed today is rarely in album form and more often in odd tracks on shuffle. I felt this was making my output very incoherent and so I chose a selection of songs and got them re-mastered to work together as an album and also as individual tracks.

1. NEVER HAD TO SHOUT

The title track of my debut album. Very much in the story telling folk tradition but with 1977 punk sensibilities. Inspired by my love of British and Irish Gangster films, West London and the Clash. The main character is called Jimmy. I used this name because I had an Uncle Jimmy that lived around the Ladbrooke Grove area and had a market stall on Golbourne Road. On one occasion I performed the song at Cecil Sharp House (home of the English folk song and dance society in London) after Thomas McCarthy (an amazing singer of Irish Traditional songs passed on to him by his Irish Traveller family) approached me and questioned me (in a really strong Irish brogue) about who Jimmy was, as he had grown up around the Grove. I explained that I’d used my uncle’s name and even though my Uncle had been dead about 20 years, it soon became very apparent that Thomas had known him. You could have knocked me down with a feather. I don’t use the term ‘amazing singer’ lightly judge for yourself.

2. LONDON IRISH

It’s quite hard to imagine when I wrote this declaration of my nationality, I’d heard of neither the London Celtic Punks or The Biblecode Sundays. Unlike my elder sisters and many of my peers that moved from Catholic primary school onto Catholic secondary (High) School, my Irish identity never really developed. As many of my best school friends were English protestant, Jewish or Black, and one of my best out of school friends was a Turkish Muslim, so I always just felt like everyone was from somewhere else. Dyslexia was not really a recognised condition back then and although I wasn’t a severe case, I was always bottom of the class, angry and disruptive. Inside I thought I’d inherited my stupidity from my Irish parents, who were anything but stupid! The relentless stream of jokes about the ‘Thick Mick’ and my father fitting the stereotype of hard drinking builder, I was always emotionally conflicted about my nationality. It took a long time to confront it but I’m sure a diagnosis of dyslexia in the mid 90’s was a great help!

3. TALE OF THE SLIGO WIDOW

I spent an awful lot of wasted years drinking heavily and smoking cannabis on a daily basis, which made me adore folklore and those acoustic hippy kings like Marc Bolan, Donovan and Syd Barrett , but detest that over produced whispy Irish celtic mystic sound of people like Clannad and Enya. Although by the time I wrote this I thought I was done with writing that sort of weird hippy shit, like the cannabis it hadn’t entirely left my system! I’d like to site two songs that were the inspiration for this the first is Marc Bolan’s ‘One Inch Rock’ and the second is the Donovan’s ‘Widow with a Shawl’ .

4. TIME

I’ve always struggled with anti-social media, I’ve got accounts with the most well known platforms but never got my head around any other than Facebook. I’m still not sure how to fully utilise that to my advantage but sometimes I enjoy just screaming into that void! Some years ago there was a question posed by a FB user asking ‘If you could give your 10 year old self one piece of advice what would it be?’ Of course being dyslexic I never read the part that said ‘one piece’ and so I managed to get a full four verses out of it.

5. WRONG PATH

Like the four previous songs this is from my 2013 debut album and is in the storytelling tradition. Originally titled ‘Sealing fate’ when I started writing it in about 1990 and a song that remained really quite shite for at least 20 years, but following the 2011 London riots it finally became the song I was trying to write. I like to think of it as a re working of ‘In the Ghetto’ by Elvis but with a modern London twist. When recording it I had sung it unintentionally in a mid-Atlantic accent which sounded fine until Percy Paradise put down his slide guitar making my vocals sound hideously American. Rerecording my vocals was easy enough until it came to the chorus where The Woodland Creatures had followed the original ‘Path’ vocal line forcing me to use the American, Irish or Northern pronunciation rather than the London/southern pronunciation ‘Paath’.

6. POETS DAY

Is a working song for a lazy bastard! When I started work on building sites in the early 1980’s, Friday was known as Poets day an acronym for ‘Piss Of Early Tomorrow’s Saturday!’ This is still remembered by people of a certain age and I’m sure applied a lot more occupations than just in the building trade. Workers were paid weekly in cash back then and often on a Friday. Once you had your money in your pocket work was over and the weekend had begun and it was straight into the pub for a few pints and a game of pool or darts. Happy days!

7. WHERE’S DADDY GONE?

Written not long after my father died so consequently my mother hated it, as the Daddy in the song was nothing like my father who never hit any of us or chased other women once married, though he did occasionally stay out drinking. The inspiration for this comes from my love of those Kitchen Sink dramas of the 1960’s combined with all the rhythm and pace of a Leonard Cohen song. It does resonate close to the bone with some people, a friend of mine was quite taken aback by it and how it reflected his home life as a child.

8. CHARLEVILLE (RICKY’S SONG)

This recording is taken from a 2013 compilation cd featuring performers based in East Anglia. Some years ago while tidying stuff at my Mum & Dads house in London, I came across a piece of paper with a poem called Charleville scrawled in biro on it. Charleville is a town on the Cork, Limerick border in the Republic Of Ireland where my mother’s family are from. I asked her about it and she nonchalantly replied ‘Oh Ricky (her brother) wrote that.’ I was astounded not by the poem by just by the fact that one of my Irish relatives had been brave enough to attempt some creative writing. That sort of thing wasn’t for the likes of them! They were as Patrick Kavanagh would say ‘fog dwellers’ – rural types without need for self expression or showing off. I took the poem chopped some out, added an Irish cliché or two, pinch a traditional tune from somewhere and my work was done. There is a different version of the song on my album 16, but I chose this one because I love the understated banjo of Pete Alison and mandolin of Terry Saunders.

9. BLOOD ON THE SHAMROCK AND THE ROSE

This is the song that changed everything for me! I wrote this in the mid 00’s and by the reactions I got performing it in folk clubs, I knew I had to start taking my song writing more seriously and do some proper recordings of my songs. Growing up in London when it wasn’t great being Irish and narrowly escaping two IRA bombings- first in Selfridges 1974 and then the Wimpy Bar in 1981. I lived a mile from Marble Arch and so Oxford Street was where my mate Sean and I would go to play out on a Saturday. On both of the above occasions, we had got home to see the devastation on the News! Not only had we walked passed the Wimpy Bar on that day, but we had actually been inside Selfridges, just before we got the bus home. I could never relate the lovely kind Irish people that I had met and was related too, with the kind of people that could commit these acts of cruel violence. As I got older I started to understand it a little better and was finally able to articulate how I felt about it in a song. I have to credit my Sister Anne for verse three. When she was visiting a friend in Ulster at the height of the Troubles, she was advised if anyone asked her religion she was just to reply ‘I’m not one of them’ in order to stay safe and neutral.

10. GREEN, WHITE AND GOLD

On holiday in Ireland as a child I remember my dad pointing to a flag and saying ‘That is the Irish flag- it’s green, white and gold.’ To which I replied ‘That’s orange Dad.’ ‘No it’s gold, son!’ This contradiction went on for quite sometime until I think I just gave up. Years later I was reliably informed, that despite it representing the protestant William of Orange and his influence on the population of Ireland, Orange is not an Heraldic Colour and so my Dad was right! I wrote this not long after he died, so sadly he never got to hear it.

11. EDITH LOUISA CAVELL

Written and released as an EP in time for the centenary of her execution in October 1915. I was chosen by Norwich Cathedral Chaplin to be included in the Cathedral memorial service, where I performed it live, and the service was broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 to about 1.5 million listeners. A scary but enjoyable experience!

12. BALLAD OF EDITH CAVELL

In early 2014 I started to work with a very over educated man called Gareth Calway. A novelist, poet, playwright and historian who was staging a medieval morality play that he wanted me to be part of. When I had a very informal reading for a part, he told me of another project he was working on which was a book of ballads all based on people and places in the East of England. He was looking for musicians that could take his words and make them songs. I wasn’t keen at first as I hate reading and some of these ballads were really high brow wordy stuff but once I started it became like a runaway train and before I knew it we had an album to record.

13. PATRIOTISM IS NOT ENOUGH

The title track of The Edith Cavell Story EP released for the centenary commemoration. The EP was written on the advice of my good friend and London Irish artist Brian Whelan, who had been commissioned by Norwich Cathedral to do a number of paintings depicting her life and so suggested I write something for the planned events. The songs on the EP are all unaccompanied and linked with concertina and harmonica tunes played by my friend Percy Paradise. The reason for this was not only to respect the folk tradition of unaccompanied singing but also for a feel authenticity as there weren’t many guitars about during the First World War. I have sequenced the three Edith Songs this way because this is how I perform them live.

14. HALF GOD HALF NELSON

I always thought that I was not able to sing harmonies as when I have tried at Folk Clubs it has never been a good experience for anyone, but when recording this the harmonies came quite naturally to me. I’m not sure where I stole the shanty melody but I think it works perfectly when telling Gareth Calway’s tale of Norfolk’s Lord Admiral Nelson.

15. BALLAD OF ANN BOLEYN AND THE BURGLAR

Another from the pen of Gareth Calway. Blickling Hall in Norfolk was once the home of Ann Boleyn and it has been reported that she still haunts the place. In this song her ghost mistakes a burglar for her true love Thomas Wyatt, yet again I’m not sure where I pinched this very traditional sounding melody. My wife Julie’s harmony really pulls this together and it’s one I really love to sing when we are at folk clubs together.

16. ENGLAND

Some years ago I was booked to play in a local Norfolk bar on St. Patrick’s Day and St. Georges Day. As you can imagine St Pat’s was a walk in the park while St. Georges was a struggle, as there are hardly any English songs about how great the country is that aren’t slagging off some other country or praising the Monarchy. I stuck to things like The Jam, The Clash, The Kinks with a few great English Folk songs and got through the evening quite well I’d thought until someone came up after and said he still thought I’d been doing Irish stuff all night, but that’s pub gigs for ya! Shortly after I wrote this song to express what I love about the place. When performing it live I often explain before that it’s about place and you don’t even have to like the English to sing along with it.

17. YOU’RE NOT HERE

Originally called ‘Sadder Than Asda’ was written in the mid 90’s when I was on a painting and drawing course to get an extra £10 benefit on my giro. To get out of the studio on the outskirts of Norwich and get a bit of lunch, we’d visit a huge Asda superstore opposite. I had also started working on music with a band and we were considering names for the band. While chatting with my fellow Art students and shopping in Asda, one of my friends suggested that I should call the band Fountain Head after the cheap fizzy water sold in Asda. I put it to the band and they loved it, so that’s what we were called for our 2 year existance. When I wanted an interesting title for a song I’d written and I played the tearjerker to them some one suggested ‘Sadder Than Asda’, and like the band name, it stuck until I recorded and renamed it ‘You’re Not Here’ in 2017. Originally, recorded on a 12 string acoustic guitar that was removed completely when Kerry Selwin sprinkled her magic on the ivories. I spent a bit of time making this little video for it which is filmed in Balham, South West London where my parents rented a flat and lived for 20 years until my dad died. The shots of me watching TV and sitting by the window were done just before the TV and furniture were sold and the flat was handed back to the landlord.

18. DRAGON

When I first settled in Norwich I ran a record stall in St Benedict Street indoor market, it was a great little place which is sadly no longer there, next to my stall was a tiny hippy kiosk that sold a few ‘spiritual’ things and did tarot card readings. The owner of this kiosk was a bit of a weasley little shit but harmless enough, when he had days off there was another chap that did tarot reading who was a lovely fella that played a mean guitar and had great taste in music. One day when it was quiet one of the stall holders had brought her little boy in and he was chatting to the nice tarot reader who was trying to explain to this 5 year old what Dragons were. It proved to be fascinating listening, together with my love of T-Rex (Futuristic Dragon) and the fact that I was born in the Chinese year of the Dragon all came together in this song.

19. WRECKED ON LOVE

Another song written in the early 90’s and originally performed with Fountain Head. At this point in my life I’d been through several doomed relationships and was searching for some stability, but seemed destined to flit from bedsit to squat to family sofa. Far too many drugs and/or booze was being consumed and much too much early Marc Bolan and hippy shit was being listened too, but it was all worthwhile when a song like this came out of it. It was the first song I ever wrote that had a very folk feel to it. I particularly love the intro my talented friends did on this with flute, harp, cello and fiddle.

20. THE CONSCIENTIOUS ODD DRINKER

The closing song of my debut album was inspired by British soldier Joe Guyton, who refused to fight in the Gulf War, when it had been declared illegal. Also a story my father told me about his time in the Korean War, when one of his regiment in the royal artillery got blown up when a gun jammed. This got me thinking about PTSD and how many returning soldiers can’t deal with civilian life after the horrors they have witnessed. It’s a very sad song but in the Irish tradition of sounding good fun & having a knees up.

Buy Twenty  Vinyl/CD’sFromAnto

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LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2019!

Well here we go again. It only seems like five minutes since I was compiling all the votes into last years Best Of that saw The Rumjacks romping home with Album Of The Year. This year has been a bit quieter on the Celtic-Punk front but as last year was so busy that is perhaps not surprising. That’s not to say their weren’t some fantastic releases as their were plenty and it was still really difficult to come up with the various lists below. Not so many big bands this year so it was left to the lesser known bands to shine but remember this is only our opinion and these releases are only the tip of the iceberg of what came out last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. As a bonus we are adding the Readers Poll again this year so you can even vote on your favourite release of 2019 yourself. If it’s not listed then simply add your choice.

We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…

(click on the green link to go where you will find more information on the release)

1. THE WALKER ROADERS – Self Titled

2. MICKEY RICKSHAW – Home In Song

3. FEROCIOUS DOG – Fake News And Propaganda

4. GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS – Based On A True Story

5. BARLEYJUICE – The Old Speakeasy

6. THE NARROWBACKS – By Hook Or By Crook

7. McDERMOTTS TWO HOURS – Besieged

8. PIPES AND PINTS – The Second Chapter

9. THE RUMJACKS – Live In Athens

10. SELFISH MURPHY – After Crying

11. TORTILLA FLAT – Live At The Old Capitol

12. FIDDLERS GREEN – Heyday

13. THE RUMJACKS – Live In London Acoustic Sessions

14. THE WHIPJACKS – This Wicked World

15. 13 KRAUSS – Redención

16. ALTERNATIVE ULSTER – Craic Agus Ceol

17. AIRES BASTARDOS – Self Titled

18. THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM – Hovels Of The Holy

19. THE FIGHTING JAMESONS – A Moment In California

20. ANGRY McFINN AND THE OLD YANK – Songs of Whiskey, Women & War

21. THE SHILLELAGHS – Ripples In The Rye

22. HELLRAISERS AND BEERDRINKERS – Pub Crawl

23. BODH’AKTAN – De Temps Et De Vents

24. HEATHEN APOSTLES – Dust To Dust

25. SONS OF CLOGGER – Return To The Stones’

26. THE CHERRY COKE$ – Old Fox

27. THE FILTHY SPECTACULA – The Howl Of The Underclasses

28. THE POTATO PIRATES – Hymns For The Wayward

29. TC COSTELLO– Horizon Songs

30. THE TENBAGS – ‘Bags o’ Craic’

How to compete with last year? Every single top band in the genre released an album so things were always going to be a bit quieter for 2019. Top spot this year unsurprisingly goes to The Walker Roaders Celtic-Punk super group! With Pogues, Mollys and Dropkicks making up the team how could they possibly go wrong! Everyone’s ‘next big thing’ Mickey Rickshaw came in a well deserved second and Ferocious Dog took third after releasing their best album, for me, since From Without. Greenland Whalefishers celebrated 25 years on the road with their best album for quite a while and what Best Of would be right without some bloody brilliant Irish-American bands challenging at the top too. Pipes And Pints new album with a new singer received acclaim from across the Punk media and The Rumjacks couldn’t follow up last years unanimous victory despite having two album releases (both sort of live) in the top thirteen. Fiddlers Green continue to make consistently great albums and go into 2020 celebrating thirty years together! Good to see homegrown bands The Whipjacks, The Tenbags, The Filthy Spectacula and Sons Of Clogger making it too. The top thirty was made up of thirteen countries from USA, England, Norway, Czech Republic, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, Japan, Quebec, Hungary, Spain and Japan.

1. THE LUCKY TROLLS – Self Titled

2. DRUNKEN DOLLY – The Party

3. LORETTA PROBLEM – The Waltz Of My Drunken Dream

4. THE CLOVERHEARTS – Sick

5. KRAKIN’ KELLYS – Irish Tribute

6. THE PLACKS – Rebellious Sons

7. GYPSY VANNER – Five Distilled Celtic Punks

8. THE RUMPLED – Grace O’ Malley

9. FOX’N’FIRKIN – Hey Ho! We’re Fox n Firkin

10. SHANGHAI TREASON – Devil’s Basement

The Lucky Trolls took #1 spot with their brilliant self-titled EP following on from fellow countrymen the Krakin’ Kellys multi award winning 2018. Trust me it would have taken an exceptionally good release to keep The Party by Drunken Dolly off the top spot but that is what happened. Dolly’s excursions over to these shores this year j=has seen them grown in stature and you can’t go to a Ferocious Dog gig without spotting at least a dozen of their shirts. Loretta Problem wowed us with their single ‘Waltz Of My Drunken Dream’ which took us right back back to The Pogues glory days and what about that accompanying video too!! If we had a award for best video then that would have walked it. The Kellys had a quiet year with comparison to ’18 but still managed a respectable #5 and great debut releases from The Placks our sole representative from a Celtic nation (big things are going to happen to this band in 2020 mark my words), Italian/Aussies The Cloverhearts and, from just down the road from my Mammy, Shanghai Treason from Sheffield who only put out one song… but what a song! Eight countries represented from Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Scotland, Argentina, Australia and Yorkshire!

AIRES BASTARDOS– ‘Self-Titled’

Argentina is becoming a bit of a hot-spot for Celtic-Punk with not only some well established bands but also some new ones starting up too and with this release Aires Bastardos announced their arrival on the international scene too. Not afraid to dive straight into a folk number after a Cock Sparrer cover they veer from standard Celtic-Punk to Folk and back to fast as hell Punk but in that really accessible way that only Celtic-Punk (and maybe Ska-Punk) bands can do.

1. THE DREADNOUGHTS – Into The North

2. CROCK OF BONES – Celtic Crossbones

3. 6’10 – Where We Are

4. BRYAN McPHERSON – Kings Corner

5. CALLUM HOUSTON – Gravities

6. PYROLYSIS – Daylight Is Fading

7. SEAMUS EGAN – Early Bright

8. LE VENT DU NORD – Territoires

9. DONNY ZUZULA – Chemicals

10. DERVISH – Great Irish Songbook

The Dreadnoughts don’t really think of themselves as Celtic-Punk so I reckon they’d be happier to win this than Celtic-Punk Album Of The Year. A superb collection of sea shanties that is a pleasure to listen to that was always going to be #1. Crock Of Bones representing the London Irish in 2nd with an album of trad folk with punk rock attitude and it’s especially good to hear some originals done in the style of the ‘auld ways’. 6’10 challenged for the top spot as they always do with everything they release and Bryan MacPherson and Callum Houston both produced great releases of singer-songwriter acoustic folk with Irish roots.

Sadly the Celtic-Punk world has shrunk a little regarding Web-Sites. Winners of the last two years the Mersey Celt Punks have been slacking (sort it out lads!) and enjoying their gigs too much to tell us while Shite’n’Onions have been too busy transferring everything onto a different platform and preparing for a bit of a re-launch I expect. Sadly celtic-rock.de have shut up shop after twelve years so it just makes it all the more clear how much we all miss Waldo and his fantastic Celtic-Folk-Punk And More site. As regular as clockwork and all the news that was ever fit (or not!) to print. Closing down the site in its 10th year in March must have been a tough decision to make and so this year we award best Website to Waldo and let it be known that no Celtic-Punk site will ever come close to replacing you. We would certainly not exist without his kind help and inspiration. All the best comrade enjoy your retirement! One welcome addition is Michu and his Celtic-Punk Encyclopedia site from Poland. Worth checking out especially if you are in a band.

We are not alone in doing these Best Of 2019 lists in fact all the major players in celtic-punk do them so click below to check out what they thought.

THE CELTIC PUNKCAST

FOLK’N’ROCK

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

So there you go. Remember we don’t pretend to be the final word on things in fact if you check the other Celtic-Punk media I’m sure we’ve all come up with relatively different lists. Our Best Of’s are cajoled and bullied out of the admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The assorted scraps of paper and beer mats were then tallied up please remember not all of us heard the same albums so like all the various Best Of’s ours is also subjective.

This is our 8th year of making these Best Of lists so if you would like to check out out who was where in our previous ones then just click on the link below the relevant year.

Last year we introduced a new feature THE READERS PICK. We had no idea if it would work or not but it was a raging success so we going to do it all again this year. With well over 500 votes cast you lot chose the debut album from the Krakin’ Kellys as a worthy winner. Only the Top Ten albums are listed but there is an option to write in your favourite release or just to send us love… or abuse!

You are allowed to vote twice but not for the same artist.

The Poll will close at midnight on Friday 31st January with the result announced soon after.

remember any views, comments or abuse or slander we would love to hear it…

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: BARLEYJUICE- ‘The Old Speakeasy’ (2019)

Barleyjuice out of Philadelphia are back with their seventh studio album with fourteen never before released recordings featuring ‘Juice members old and new!

Drinking, singing about drinking, singing while drinking, drinking while singing. We never drive while drinking, but we do drive while singing drinking songs, which drives others to drink, giving our drinking songs more drive.

Six studio albums in, as well as a Best Of double CD collection, Barleyjuice have, i am reliably informed, become one of the most popular Celtic bands in the USA. As far as I am concerned though this is the first time I have heard one of their records even though I have come across the name of the band several times while writing reviews for this here site. Their music is of the Celtic-Rock variety but with enough bite for it to cross over into our territory at regular intervals! Such is their regard that they have had songs featured in two of my favourite TV programmes in The Office and King Of The Hill as well as the Sly Stallone film, Driven. Barleyjuice were founded in 1998 beginning as a side project for a couple of bagpipers in the Loch Rannoch Pipes & Drums of Pineville, Pennsylvania. The Bhoys are now into their third decade together and if the previous six albums are half as good as The Old Speakeasy then I have been missing out on something!

(a short promo film featuring American celtic rock band Barleyjuice celebrating 20 years of live performances. Edited by Hiu Yau)

The album itself is fourteen songs coming in at a very healthy fifty minutes and is a smattering of old and new songs including some classic Irish folk songs and some other inspired covers. Led by Kyf Brewer, who also produced and recorded the album, who plays a multitude of instruments here including guitars, mandola, bouzouki, bagpipes, piano and also lead vocals. Kyf started the band alongside Staten Island, NYC native Keith ‘Swanny’ Swanson as a side project having both been members of the same pipe band. Kyf has been playing music ever since his first band, The Ravyns, had ‘Raised On The Radio’ featured in the successful 1982 movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High. He also has a rather successful career in acting having appeared in VH1’s Before They Were Rock Stars as well as such cult films as Serial Mom and Fahrenheit 911 and also playing a cop in NBC’s Homicide and a sleazy photographer in CBS’ Hack.

Barleyjuice left to right: Eric Worthington- Vocals, Bass * Chris Shepherd- Guitar, Mandolin * Kyf Brewer- Lead Vocals, Guitar, Mandola, Bouzouki, Bagpipes, Piano, 
Harmonium, Garden Shears, Drums * Kyle Blessing- Fiddle * John Tracey- Drums

Backing Kyf and Swanny on this album is bassist Eric Worthington, fiddler Alice Marie and fellow ex-member of The Ravyns John Tracey on drums. As solid a team of Irish-Americans (and Irish/Scots American in Eric’s case) as can be found in American Celtic music. But the rota of musicians doesn’t end there as Barleyjuice have rounded up a staggering fifteen ex-members, including violinists Shelley Weiss and Billy Dominick, bassist Dennis Schocket, mandolinist Graham Ford, guitarist Dave Woodworth along with friends and family who had contributed over the years. Brewer’s daughter,  Scotlyn and wife Beth provided backing vocals while another daughter, Claire plays trumpet on The Old Speakeasy. By its time of The Old Speakeasy’s release, Keith Swanson and Alice had retired, replaced by guitarist/mandolinist Chris Shepherd and fiddle player Kyle Blessing. Now it’s not uncommon for a Celtic band to have a sort of revolving door policy but at a minimum of fifteen they may be pushing for the record here!

So the most obvious thing to ask about Barleyjuice is are all their songs about drinking and the answer is maybe not all but a good few are! Even the album’s title, The Old Speakeasy, gives it away with ‘Speakeasy’ being the name given to a saloon selling alcohol illegally, especially during the time of the American Prohibition when there was a nationwide ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. The album kicks off with the albums title song and from the off you get what they are about with Kyf’s laconic voice dragging itself along a song that has elements of The Beatles and Stones as well as an undeniable Celtic base. The many instruments here give it a layered effect used to great measure. An awesome start that only gets better when they follow it up with the classic Irish rebel song Join The British Army’. Played with passion and a great dose of black humour The Wolfe Tones may have made it famous but Barleyjuice make it their own as well with a brief interlude into ‘Some Say The Divil Is Dead’, another famous Tones track, while they are it. A real foot stomper and the line between Celtic-Rock and Punk is blurred at times and this is a classic example of that blurred line. Barleyjuice may have a serious side but here on The Old Speakeasy they go for your funny bone most of the time and on their tribute to Scots life ‘High On Highland Life’, away from shortbread box covers (or maybe not!) and ‘Don’t Call Me A Pirate’ they manage to combine genuine funny lyrics with some catchy as fecking hell Irish Rock’nFolk!

(a stripped down live version from the end of last year of ‘High On Highland Life’ featuring a rare performance from Swanny before he retired from the band)

Those 60’s influences pop up again on the lovely love song ‘Rose Of Garden City’ and we only five songs in and they manage to craic every boundary. A slowish song about Irish emigration sung from the heart and experience. This is a band with its finger on the pulse of Irish-America. They follow this with one of the album’s standout songs ‘A Fine Lass’. The famous ‘Maggie May’ follows and it’s not the version you may have expected as Barleyjuice give us a song about a sailor and a Irish lass who fall foul of both love and the law. The song takes in both Americana and Country as the band sound like they having a whale of a time. Most of the songs here are written by the band with most of the band members involved like on ‘State Of Desiree’ written by Kyf and Dave Woodworth  and the Irish trad influenced ‘A Winter Toast’ written by Swanny. A couple of serious ones sees the Bhoys need to return to a bit of daftness and on ‘Merry Queen Of Scotch’ they even venture into Ska sounding like a Celtic Mighty Mighty Bosstones with a fast and furious song about a whiskey loving lass that is utterly mad and while completely different to everything around it on this album somehow manages to slot in perfectly.

‘It Takes A Village (To Raise A Drunk)’ is the albums longest song at over five minutes and is the type of epic songwriting that Celtic-Punk is famous for. A grand song that slowly builds up and up and swirls round yer head and when played live I am sure is the kind of song perfect for wrapping your arms around a loved one and belting out the chorus at the top of your lungs. We coming up to the end and the standard so far has been exemplary and they keep it up over the whole album with the instrumental ‘Crackin’ Jenny’s Teacup’ a Horslips inspire Celtic-Rock/Trad Irish masterpiece. The albums opening track is revisited as ‘The Old Speakeasy (return)’ and Kfy leaves the Tom Waits/Shane vocals to one side to show he can croon as well as anyone in a slow ballad with the whole gang joining him in the background. The curtain comes down on the album with ‘Hail Ye Merry Maids’

It doesn’t take a genius to tell why I was desperate to fit this album review in before next weeks Best Of 2019 as it will definitely be bothering the top spot i can reveal. A pity it took the last couple of weeks before the end of the year for me to hear one of the years best albums. A utterly superb album that encompasses all of the different traditions and influences an Irish-American band could soak up. As I said a band with its finger on the pulse of the community that they hail from and not afraid to show their pride in what makes it both great and sometimes not so. A stunning album and every single song is a standout in it’s own right and someone tell me how this fecking great band managed to hide itself from me for so long???

Buy The Old Speakeasy  CD-Here  Download-Here
Contact Barleyjuice  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

Discography One Shilling (1999) * Another Round (2003) * Six Yanks (2006) * Bonny Prince Barley (2008) * The Barleyjuice Irish Collection (2009) * Skulduggery Street (2010) * This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (2013)

(Barleyjuice takes it to the streets and festivals, welcoming all weekend Irish to join them!)

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2019. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

Each December we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard that year to showcase in our end of year message. This year we are going to cheat a little and include two songs. The first is a song from last year which was too late to feature so here’s a band whose rise to to the top table of Celtic-Punk has been a rapid one- Krakin’ Kellys. Only formed in 2017 these Belgian rockers have taken the scene by storm and their Christmas themed track ‘Christmas In Kelly Green’ is here in its entirety with yet another of the Krakin’ Kellys famously fantastic videos.

You can download the track and support the band for just a single pound below.

Contact Krakin’ Kellys WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram  Twitter

Our second Christmas track appears out of the coastal fog of Huntington Beach in California. A rough, rowdy and ready bunch of musicians playing a rather unique blend of Irish Folk and Pirate Pub Rock. A mix of upbeat traditional and current Irish Folk-Rock tunes and reels, spiced with acapella shanties and pirate songs of the sea! Bringing jigs and laughs to any party, special event, or scummy dockside tavern, their rousin’ music and bawdy tales are guaranteed to keep any crowd happy. Starting slow and respectful and ending up rowdy and happy, which is just how it should be!

You can download the track and support the band for just 99 cents below.

Contact Bilge Rats  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st. the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun. Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

Christmas

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958. However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games. Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home. Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour. Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn. On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets. Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts! Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday. In older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britany, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats). The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

Nollaig Shona Dhuit agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise (Irish Gaelic)

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

CLICK HERE

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Now go have a drink…

ALBUM REVIEW: THE DREADNOUGHTS- ‘Into the North’ (2019)

Ever since 2007 The Dreadnoughts have been an ‘tour-de-force’ upon the Celtic/Folk-Punk scene. Thrashing their way around the world blending Punk-Rock with a bunch of European Folk traditions with a power and range that few others can match. Now though they have returned to their roots with their fifth studio album Into The North, a collection of traditional and original sea shanties recorded deep in the Canadian hinterland.

Its been a long road for The Dreadnoughts. Not only because they have probably played in more countries than any other Folk-Punk band but that they have a come along way since their singer’s early days in the famed Ontario, Canadian band Siobhan. I say famed but at the time the Celtic-Punk scene was tiny but they still managed to make a name for themselves with their two studio albums The Patron Saints of Debauchery and Welfare State and legendary stage shows. When Siobhan split a couple of years went by before they dived straight back in with The Dreadnoughts. Those early days spent playing in Vancouver’s notoriously seedy Ivanhoe Hotel saw them build up a large and loyal following and later they would be recognized as one of the best live bands in the city. Embracing the old-school destructive chaos of live Punk, their gigs were hot and sweaty and full of joy and went on till the audience was exhausted, happy and pissed to the gills. Fast forward to 2019 and with a host of critically claimed studio albums behind them The Dreadnoughts have again taken us by surprise and have stripped their sound right back and when I say right back I mean right back!!

Always with a fondness for sea-shanties their version of ‘Roll The Woodpile Down’ can be credited for starting a trend amongst the scene for bands in the middle of their sets to lay down their instruments and test their harmonies with an acapello song. The haunting thunder of sea shanties has long been the backbone for The Dreadnoughts sound and on their new album here they have fully embraced the genre for a whole album that is the greatest collection of original and reworked traditional sea-shanties in modern times! Tasked with recording the songs the band decided early on in the process that they didn’t want to go for that slick produced ‘studio’ sound so they

Holed up for a week in a small wooden cabin with nothing but whiskey in our glasses, four microphones in front of us, and hordes of mosquitoes outside singing along, we belted these damn songs over and over until we had them just right, and the result is the album we’ve always wanted to make.

With their last album, 2017’s a multi-genre, historically themed concept album Foreign Skies also stepping outside the box, being a raw and emotional ride through the horrors of the First World War it only shows that The Dreadnoughts are without a doubt both a band that is unafraid to take risks and the most innovative bands in our or any other scene. Stories of love and loss, war and strife, redemption and sorrow from a band that up till then only sang songs about gin and scrumpy cider… this was new territory and also a massive success with fans and critics alike.

(see for yourselves by streaming/downloading Foreign Skies on Bandcamp below)

Now first off I have to say that bar a few of the more obvious ones I know not what, if any, of the songs here are originals. You can never be too sure with anything The Dreadnoughts do as their mischievousness could always have you believing the opposite! The album opens with ‘Rosibella’ and considering I was expecting some Folk-Punk fury I was shocked to find in its place a stripped down sea-shanty with only occasional squeezebox to accompany the words. ‘Fire Marengo’ was found by The Young Traditions Royston Wood in an old book called Shanties From The Seven Seas, where a few of the songs here were first documented, and after changing some verses and adding the tune went on to release it on their 1967 EP Chicken On A Raft. Most of the songs here hover around the two minute mark as without the padding of music it’s mainly the vocal harmonies, and a bit of foot stompin’, that rule here. ‘Pique La Baleine’ is a traditional Breton whaling song sung in French and dates back to the early 19th century. Again it is accompanied only by squeezebox while mournful fiddle makes an appearance on the relatively modern ‘Roll Northumbria’ a song about the building of a war ship in the Tyne in 1965. ‘Joli Rouge’ is an Dreadnought original devoted to Cidre Joli Rouge, a company dedicated to the production of real cider not the syrupy, corporate, mass-produced, prison wine that passes for it in most pubs. The company has even made a Dreadnought Cider!

“she’s called the Dreadnought cider
she’s proper and she’s fine
and when the day is over how I wish that she were mine
or in the dark of winter, or on a summer’s eve
one hand giveth while the other doth receive

So you can have a Mangers and pour it over ice
or you can have a Strongbow if it’s sadness that you like
or join us up the river and we’ll set your heart aglow
and how you’ll feel when the real cider starts to flow”

One of the album’s highlights without a doubt! Anyone who has seen them play over the last couple of years will recognise a couple of the songs here and if not then will be familiar with the style of the songs. I’m not sure if I saw them giving ‘Lifeboat Man’ a run through at their outstanding gig at the Cursus Festival last year or not but its familiarity is nice even if they didn’t play it! ‘Shallow Brown’ is pure sea shanty at its best. A typical call and response song with The Fang, otherwise known as Nicholas Smyth, singing the verses while the rest of the band sing the chorus. The song is a sad tale of a man leaving a woman on shore, pretty much a standard subject for a shanty, though this time its the story of a man being sold into slavery.

Sad and mournful and perfect for a good bass voice like Nicholas’. ‘Whup! Jamboree’ is an auld song and like most here no one is sure quite how old. It’s a cheeky number and shows workers at their most risque!

“And soon we’ll see old Holyhead
No more salt beef, no salt bread
I catch my Jinny and it’s off to bed
Come and get your oats me son”

Accompanied by very low key squeezebox and the solitary slow beat of a drum it’s another highlight. A.L. Lloyd sang ‘Whup Jamboree’ in 1957 on his and the great Ewan MacColl’s album Blow Boys Blow. He commented in the sleeve notes:

Whup Jamboree is one of the wildest and most exultant of homeward-bound shanties. The progress through the English Channel and into London River goes as a fast clip, and all hand are looking forward eagerly to what the girls ashore have to offer. From its references to Blackwell Dock, this shanty, used for work at the capstan, apparently rose among sailors in the Far East run.”

‘Paddy Lay Back’ is probably the best known of the songs here as it has been recorded by many famous Irish artists including The Wolfe Tones (here) and the Dublin City Ramblers (here). It’s earliest date is 1898 and tells of a poor Irish lad who goes to sea to earn his fortune but suffers at the hands of foreign sailors, poor conditions and the long voyage. ‘Dear Old Stan’ is dedicated to the memory of Stan Rogers the acclaimed Canadian Folk singer-songwriter who passed away in 1983 but is till remembered fondly for his Celtic influenced Folk songs many telling of his parents days working off the sea and tales of the lives of ordinary working people.

Some really wonderful lyrics here that fair bring a tear to the eye and explain the high esteem that Stan Rogers is held in Canada and around the world.

“The Yanks have Woodie Guthrie, The British Ralph McTell
The Celts have got the Corries, aye and Ronnie Drew as well
Adge Cuter sings of cider out in the west country
but I am a Canadian, and so I say to thee

Arise and be merry
and sing out while you can
The world will never see the likes
of dear old Stan”

Following this tribute is ‘Northwest Passage’ one of Stan Rogers best-known songs and my favourite song on Into The North. An acappella song, originally released in 1981 it is now considered one of the best songs in Canadian music history.

Take a moment also to watch this tribute to Stan Rogers version here. ‘Sacramento’ is a catchy foot stomper while the only song here that gives a hint of what The Dreadnoughts are famous here are the instrumental trad songs ‘Harper’s Frolic / Bonny Kate’. Showing the bands mastery of traditional Folk and how easily the Bhoys can turn their hand to anything while still be able to give it a distinctive Dreadnoughts stamp. We are near the end of Into The Norths forty-two minutes and ‘Shiloh’ is another up lifting foot stomper while the curtain comes down with ‘Starbuck’s Complaint’, a great song to end with as Drew’s voice and harmony brings the album to a melancholy close and how else could an album of sea shanties end. The work was without a doubt hard and often tyrannical under many a vicious Captain’s rule. The workers would say that “a song is as good as ten men”. The songs were used in the manner of field work song’s and these shanties tell the tales of loneliness, the families these men left behind, the daily hardships of an unkind sea and adventure on the seven seas.

Celtic-Punk is more than just getting your girlfriend to play fiddle over a punk song (just as Folk-Punk is more than a trendy hipster achingly singing over an acoustic guitar). It has a past and that link to the past has to be explored and celebrated. There are certain values I think to be associated to whatever it is that passes as a Celtic-Punk scene and to celebrate the music that inspired it is surely at the top of the list. Here The Dreadnoughts do just that. If you are expecting their breakneck Punk-Folk then you may be disappointed on first listen but by the second or third you’ll come to really appreciate what it is they have done here. In fact I look forward to seeing them placed in our Top Ten Folk and Trad releases of the year rather than their usual spot in the  Celtic-Punk Top Ten! Celtic folk music and Punk can form a perfect union and while on Into The North they take a more traditional route with these wonderful songs I’m sure it won’t be long before they’re back breaking stages around the world, scoffing down the ciders and spreading their gospel to anyone and everyone who will listen.

(stream Into The North from Bandcamp below before you buy!)

Buy Into The North  FromTheBand

Contact The Dreadnoughts  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

Stoked. A documentary about The Dreadnoughts by Adam PW Smith

|  | 17 November 2017 (Canada)

Vancouver legends The Dreadnought returned from a six year hiatus in 2017 to record a new album. Filmed in the recording studio, and drawing from an archive of photos and film clips that go right back to their second ever live show, this low budget documentary rises above its station with great characters and stories that range from enlightening to hilarious (and occasionally dubious). These liquor soaked musical heroes prove themselves to be thoughtful, as well as entertaining. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Vancouver-based Celtic-Punk band – and perhaps things you didn’t – can now be found in Stoked: The Dreadnoughts Return. Watch the film here.

IRISH SOUL STEW- THE POGUES

One man’s thoughts on what the Pogues  Shane MacGowan were and are.

The original Celtic-Punk band, formally known as Pogue Mahone (from the Irish Gaelic ‘póg mo thóin’ meaning ‘kiss my arse’) who later became known as The Pogues. Formed in 1982 their inspired use of traditional Irish instruments and poetic, often politically tinged lyrics led them to reach a cult status where even now they are revered and loved as much as they ever were.

by Alan K. Crandall

IRISH SOUL STEW

A few years back there was a fairly popular movie around called The Commitments, about a bunch of Irish kids who form a band playing ’60’s soul music. It wasn’t a bad movie, actually — it painted a pleasant picture of small-town Irish life, and a pretty accurate picture of in a struggling band (blown gigs, equipment failures, getting ripped off by promoters, inane personal conflicts). What I didn’t like was the soundtrack — classic soul covers performed by contemporary studio goons. Not that it was all that bad; I suppose the performances were about as good as those you might get from a good cover band at any local bar, but nothing worth a moment of your time when the far superior originals are available. Unfortunately, the soundtrack went on to become a substantial hit (even generating a follow-up), which grated on me then and still does — I hate the image of all those Gen X’ers and yuppies shelling out for an album of watered-down soul covers when they wouldn’t be caught dead buying Otis Redding. Sigh. The music critic for the local newspaper agreed, and suggested in his review of the Commitments album, that if people really wanted to hear Irish soul music, they should pick up the latest album by The Pogues.

GOLDEN HITS OF THE 80’s

They say nostalgia runs in ten-to-twenty year patterns- that is, what was popular in one era will always enjoy a revival ten-to-twenty years later. Some truth there; the seventies were swamped in ’50’s nostalgia (‘Happy Days’, ‘Grease’), the late eighties brought in a wave of 60’s flashbacks (‘Big Chill’, ‘The Wonder Years’), and the 90’s have treated the ’70’s as the decade to look back on. That can only mean that a yearning for the Reagan era isn’t far behind (shudder!). It’s starting already- ‘Golden Hits Of The 80’s’ collections turning up on late-night TV. God help us.

I think I’ll make my own ‘Golden Hits Of The 80’s’ album. The stuff I was listening to. The last vestiges of 70’s punk, the first glimmerings and full flowerings of the American indie scene: The Gun Club, Green On Red, Black Flag, Husker Du, The Replacements, The Pontiac Brothers(!), Social Distortion.   Aah, those were the days. It won’t have a lot of British rock from that era, though. The 80’s were the end of the UK as far as Rock’n’Roll went, as far as I’m concerned. None of this is meant as any kind of chest-thumping ‘America-first’-ness… I just hated all that mopey Smiths/ Echo And The Bunnymen/ U2/ The Cure stuff; all burbling synths and treated guitars and strained attempts at soulfulness, all fashion and stance and not a shred of real feeling. But there was ONE band to come out of the UK in the 80’s who did understand what rock’n’roll music was supposed to be, what real ‘soulfulness’ sounded like. And that was The Pogues.

IRISH SOUL STEW (PART TWO)

The Pogues as Irish soul music. I like that. It sounds right. It fits, in the same way that Gram Parsons’ description of country as ‘white soul music’ fits. The Pogues music could be called soul; not in sound, but in feel, in sensibility, in emotional commitment. Or you could call it Rock’n’Roll music, or rock music. None of these would necessarily be inaccurate (or necessarily accurate either, if you want to split hairs). Of course, at the time, people often referred to them as ‘folk music’.

Superficially, I guess they were. Their music basically a sped-up, amplified and attituted-up take on Irish folk music of the Clancy Brothers/ Dubliners sort. Superficialities only go so far. They were never really a folk band in the purest sense. There was always too much Bo Diddley in their backbeat, too much Clash in their attack. Neither were they simply a parody of Irish music, a high-speed punk rock joke band with accordions. They used Irish music as a well to draw from, much as The Stones used Chicago blues; they took its form, its depth of feeling, its melodicism, its romance and longing and every other quality you want to hang on it, and wed it to their own roots in punk and high-powered pub rock, and came up with something uniquely their own. John Lennon once referred to the blues as ‘a chair’, in respect to its relationship to rock’n’roll music. Irish music was The Pogues’ chair.

Of course, the first ones to deny them a seat in the Folk Club would be the members themselves. Folkies reviled them. Folkies revile anyone who doesn’t play by their rules. It’s the most insular, tradition-bound faction of popular music, on both sides of the pond, as near as I can tell. There’s still grizzled old veterans’ wandering around Greenwich Village, anxious to tell anyone who’ll listen what a no-talent-asshole Bob Dylan was/is. Dylan was reviled for mimicking Woody Guthrie, then for not mimicking Woody Guthrie; for playing protest songs; for turning away from protest songs; for playing the electric guitar- for not playing by the damn rules! Of course, it’s the ones who break the rules who achieve greatness, and there’s no greater crime or surer ticket to condemnation by your peers than being the most talented and ambitious one around. Anyway, Dylan was never really a folkie anymore than The Pogues were.

So the folkies reviled them. Somewhere in the archives there’s a radio broadcast wherein a heated altercation between Noel Hill of the venerable folk band Planxty and several Pogues ensues. It apparently began with Hill’s assertion that The Pogues were “a terrible abortion of Irish music” and quickly slid downhill:

Noel Hill, however, laboured his case and it was at this stage that Andrew went for an unexpected Grundy, and said: “I think it just comes down to sex. I mean, are you a better fucker than me!” The session continued in similar style for another half-hour, and eventually ended with the contemptuous Cait being branded “a pig”. She replied with five seconds of suitable snorts.

Man, I wish I could get my hands on a tape of that! Meanwhile, others condemned them as being a kind of racist joke, perpetuating the stereotypical image of the Drunken Irishman. And Richard Thompson, ever the contrarian, dismissed them for being too reverent in their take on traditional music! None of this seems to have phased The Pogues any; in the UK, they became stars.

ZEN AND THE ART OF ROCK’n’ROLL FANDOM

The Pogues as Irish soul band. How do you justify that one? Maybe this way:

They regenerated into an all-time stupor at Hull Tiffany’s, on March 25, after being subject to the unlimited generosity of Nick Stewart – a Glaswegian whom they had first encountered at Manchester Hacienda just three weeks before. Being a terminal fan of John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, The Velvet Underground and Tom Waits, Nick felt an immediate affinity for The Pogues.

Does that last sentence make sense to you? It does to me. In fact, it makes so much sense to me that I was actually thrilled when I came across it. It articulates the inarticulate-able. What do The Pogues have in common with two of the most primitive, toughest of blues legends, the most celebrated avant-garde/ Rock`n’Roll band ever, and the poet-laureate of down-and-out street lunatics (okay, the Waits connection’s a bit easier to see)? For that matter, what do Hooker and Wolf have in common with The Velvets? Or The Velvets with Waits? Nothing and everything, I guess. It’s just that someone who likes Hooker and Wolf AND The Velvets probably like Waits and The Pogues, too.

I could, I suppose, sit up all night (and probably many other nights, too) trying to put my finger on what it is that links these things. Hell, I might even pull it off. Robert Pirsig asked what ‘quality’ was while teaching college English in Montana in the 60’s. He managed to pin it down to something that people recognized when they encountered it (his students almost unanimously concurred on when ranking papers in terms of which ones were “better”) but could not define. Well, Pirsig’s search for a definition of ‘quality’ led to mental breakdown, electroshock therapy, cross-country motorcycle trips and eventually the book Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig is a lot more educated than myself, and much more equipped for dealing with such questions, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t try to equal his achievement. But I will take a little stab at making sense of a statement like the quote above.

There is something I hear in traditional or tradition-rooted music; that is, specifically, blues, a lot of jazz, folk music (of any nationality but especially American or British, which I happen to be far, far more familiar with than that of any other cultures), country, gospel, reggae, rockabilly, ’60’s soul music, roots-rock or what the charts now refer to as ‘Americana’, traditional Mexican or Tex-Mex border music (which I’ve recently gotten heavily into) and other things. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s something that’s actually there or just something I put there in my mind, a validation because the music is (or is based on music that is) old and celebrated and “legendary” (and I’ve been accused of exactly that kind of psychological projection, especially for my penchant for preferring Lightnin’ Hopkins to hip-hop music), but I hear it all the same. Something like a deep well of feeling and emotional commitment (’emotional commitment’, now there’s some pretentious critic-speak if I ever heard it) that an artist can dip into and draw from. And when I hear it, especially in the context of something that I deem as ‘good’, it turns my head and makes me listen.

It’s a quality I don’t hear in a lot of avant-garde or ‘punk’ or what I think of as ‘white pop’ music (which in my mind would be things like NRBQ or The Hoodoo Gurus, just to name two), but the lack of it does not necessarily diminish those kinds of music (hey, I’m a big fan of NRBQ, and The Hoodoo Gurus, and lots of ‘punk’ and avant-garde-type music as well), but it’s a good quality to have. For me, it’s a kind of anchor to the music; it gives it staying power. For me, it means that while I am always up for hearing Richard Thompson, Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, The Stones, Otis Redding, Tom Waits, Southern Culture on The Skids or John Coltrane (all of whom have this something) I have to be in the right mood to want to listen to The Sex Pistols (who were great, but lack this aforementioned something).

In any case, if this something, this quality exists (and since I perceive it I guess it does- and others perceive it too, I think), it is something that can be found in Hooker and Wolf and The Velvets and Waits, and in The Pogues, too. And that makes sense out of the quote. At least, as much sense as I’m able to articulate about it.

MORE GOLDEN HITS OF THE 80’s

The Pogues were definitely a part of the 80’s for me. Even if the 80’s were a terrible decade for Top 40 music, underground music was a rich, fertile haul back then, and for me, The Pogues were superstars. The first I ever heard of them was a review of the Pair Of Brown Eyes single in Spin. Actually, it wasn’t the review that got my attention, but the photo of Shane MacGowan, dressed in Napoleonic pirate gear and showing off his infamous ghastly grin (later immortalized by Mojo Nixon in “Shane’s Dentist.”). The caption read

“Shane MacGowan comes from an ugly place, has an ugly face, and has recorded a great single with The Pogues,”

which makes it the finest piece of writing I ever encountered in the mostly execrable Spin.

Back then, the general line on The Pogues was that they played punked-up, sped-up versions of Irish traditional music. Actually, on their first album (Red Roses For Me), I suppose that’s not too inaccurate. I never got especially hot and bothered about Red Roses, which was hard to find and I never heard until its 1988 re-release. Despite their boundless energy and good humor (especially Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, which worked excellently for clearing out parties), it now sounds like demos for what would come later. By Rum, Sodomy And The Lash and the Poguetry In Motion EP, they’d found their true voice. The band had gelled into an endlessly inventive ensemble that could find each songs unique qualities and then make the most of them. MacGowan had turned into a brilliant, plainspoken songwriter and possibly even more brilliant singer, using his ragged voice and slurred phrasing as an instrument to express himself, much as any great blues or, yes, soul singer would. By If I Should Fall From Grace With God, they were even better; MacGowan’s writing became almost mythic, the band’s delivery almost cinematic in its sweep, building each number into a work of great drama and power; the sort of rare album without a single forgettable track.

But then things began to slip. I anxiously awaited the release of Peace And Love the following year, but when it arrived, I was disappointed. Something was missing. Part of it was that the other Pogues were contributing more in the way of material. Yet the songs by Terry Woods and Phil Chevron were largely consistent with MacGowan’s both lyrically and musically, and Woods’ Streets Of Sorrow and Chevron’s Thousands Are Sailing had been highlights of Grace. Meanwhile, MacGowan was still at full strength, delivering several fine songs, especially the overpowering USA. But somehow, the album failed to hang together… as good as most of it was, it never really added up to the sum of its parts.

Things went from bad to worse, as MacGowan simply went AWOL from the band’s US tour with Bob Dylan that fall. A Rolling Stone piece described MacGowan as a down-and-out drunk whose legendary habits had caught up with him. The Pogues seemed to fade from the scene.

Hell’s Ditch finally appeared the following year, with little fanfare (at least in the States). Conventional wisdom has it that Hell’s Ditch is a failure, but I myself thought of it as a fine return to form. Understated compared to their peak period of 1985-1988, but MacGowan seemed back on top again, contributing some of his best songs yet, from the grand drama of Lorca’s Novena to the (here we go again) ‘Irish soul’ of Ghost Of A Smile. Me, I was looking forward to more great music from The Pogues.

It didn’t happen. When The Pogues finally toured the States, close to a year after HD’s release, MacGowan was again not with them (“Shane MacGowan will not appear” read the newspaper ad for the show). Joe Strummer ostensibly stood in for the absent Shane, though in fact the entire band took turns at the mike. Strummer is one of my old heroes, but he couldn’t quite fill MacGowan’s shoes (amusingly enough, Strummer had also appeared with them at their SF debut in 1987, filling in for an injured Phil Chevron. Of the three times I saw The Pogues headline, only once did they have the full band). This time, Shane was gone for good. The Pogues soldiered on for a few more years, releasing two well-intentioned but less-than-classic albums. MacGowan duetted with Nick Cave on a hilarious version of Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World and plotted a solo career.

Finally, 1995 brought The Snake, MacGowan’s first solo album with his new band, the vengefully named Popes. While there was much to like about The Snake, it lacked the greatness of his old band. The Popes could imitate The Pogues, but not duplicate them. Great bands depend on gestalt. The Popes simply lacked the kind of imagination and ambition to turn simple songs into full-blown epics (and The Pogues needed MacGowan’s inspiration to produce great work). Also the switching from straight rock rocked-up Pogues imitations was jarring and gave the album an inconsistent feel. Still, MacGowan remained a popular figure in the UK. As the Pogues quietly folded, he released Crock Of Gold in 1998.

ROCK’n’ROLL PADDY

I attended the Guinness Fleadh Festival; a full day of music, almost all of it excellent, chock full of artists I liked. The evening ended (for me, anyway) with a performance by Shane MacGowan and the Popes. It had been ten years since I’d seen MacGowan, and I was excited but trepidatious. I’d been less than enthralled by his solo work and, by all accounts, his legendary abuses hadn’t abated (like their forbears, The Popes have taken to playing sans MacGowan when necessary).

MacGowan came on close to an hour late (Typical. It was close to 90 minutes the first time The Pogues played SF). He was led on by a roadie or assistant who stayed by his side throughout the show, passing him lit cigarettes. He clung to the mike stand just to stay vertical. He garbled out his songs and made his usual unintelligible introductions (which sound something like “thizzongscauldwarrgleemaffftaweebagrrf”). When he mysteriously vanished in mid-set, many of us wondered if he’d keeled over (he returned after a brief Popes instrumental, fresh drink in hand). The Popes, true to my expectations, played with enthusiasm but suffered from not being The Pogues (not an unfair criticism, I don’ think, when they’re clearly intended to stand in for the originals). Given how good The Pogues had been even when bad, it added up to a disappointment. MacGowan’s voice was ragged (even by MacGowan standards). None of this phased the mostly Irish (and mostly loaded) crowd, who tipped over a bleacher in honor of their hero.

Then, shortly after returning with his fresh drink and struggling through Lost Highway (not the Hank Williams song), MacGowan and the Popes jumped into a Pogues set with If I Should Fall From Grace With God, and as Shane slurred and snarled his way through the lyric, you could hear just a little bit of the old magic there, a hint of redemption, a sign of what drew you to him in the first place.

If I sound overly critical, it’s because I think MacGowan is a rare talent, a brilliant songwriter and outstanding singer, and it saddens me to see him lionized for his sad personal state. And he is. Drop by the Pogues Usenet group and make some comment about his unfortunate physical state and see how fast the flames fly. There appears to be a not inconsiderable faction of fans for whom MacGowan’s long out-of-control alcoholism is some kind of badge of honor, an inherent part of his ‘cool’. Just a few nights ago, I was killing time in a used bookstore. The young Deadhead-type behind the counter was blasting The Pogues. I heard him say to his girlfriend:

“It’s so cool to know this guy was really shitfaced drunk when he recorded this. Listen! You can totally hear him slurring his words!”

I used to think so too, I guess. I didn’t think it was ‘cool’, but I did think it was funny. Part of the pleasure of seeing The Pogues perform was watching MacGowan stumble around and slur his words. Just like I used to find Roky Erickson’s mental instability funny (when introducing a friend to his music, I always had to mention that Roky was ‘really insane’ and not just pulling an Alice Cooper act), and Johnny Thunders’ junkie-cool “I don’t give a fuck attitude.” Actually, I don’t think that kind of attitude is unusual for a guy in his 20’s, especially one who enjoyed his indulging in his own vices whenever possible.

So maybe it’s just a maturity thing. No, I didn’t become a teetotaler or enter a 12-step program; just settled down. At 33, getting loaded now seems like an inconvenience rather than anything to be happy or amused about. And Roky’s just a sad ghost of a man. And Thunders is dead. And MacGowan’s descent doesn’t strike me funny at all. Maybe someday we’ll be seeing his obituary. Or maybe not; he’s stuck around this long (well, Thunders lasted a lot longer than most of us expected, too). Or maybe he’ll pull himself out of it. All I know is, he’s a great talent and the price of living up to his shambling image has been a ton of brilliant music that he could have been making, and me, I think that’s too high a price to pay. Way too high.

Some Pogues-related links:

In The Wake Of The Medusa   Paddy Rolling Stone  The Parting Glass   Pogues Facebook Page

SINGLE REVIEW: FEROCIOUS DOG- ‘You?!’ (2019)

English working class Celtic-Folk-Punk. The Levellers meets Billy Bragg meets The Pogues.

One of the most down to earth bands you are ever likely to encounter Ferocious Dog are the band most likely to break out of the scene and go onto bigger things. That they have achieved it all without any sort of backing and all on their own merits is simply incredible and their journey continues to bigger and better things and we are all invited along for the ride. Strap yourselves in!

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Ferocious Dog with two long time members with guitarist Les Carter and the multi talented John Leonard (who played an array of instruments like the 5-String banjo, tenor banjo, mandolin, guitar (of course!), bouzouki, tin-whistle, uilleann pipes and accordion!) both announcing they would be leaving the band in the same week. No doubt it was the Dogs ferocious touring schedule that helped contribute and I find it incredible the amount of gigs they play. It truly takes some dedication and a hell of a lot of energy to keep up with them. Not the best news but they have been here before and with the right replacements the band should be able to continue where they left off. As ever with FD they love to keep their fans involved and no sooner had Les and John said they were off then the guys who were coming in were announced. Ryan Brooks joining on electric guitar as well as our good friend, and a man who has featured on these pages several times, Johnny Edwards joining on the several instruments he plays.

You?! is the first track to be released off their forthcoming new studio album due in early 2020. Released on 11th November 2019 the song peaked at #7 in the iTunes Singer/Songwriter Charts and almost made the Top 100 in the overall charts too. The video for the song explains the close relationship between the band and their fans and it is true that no matter how often you see them (and i have seen them a lot!) they put their all into every show. All the elements that make the band special are here with fast and furious fiddle thrashy guitars and a solid folk base while Ken’s lyrics are incendiary and as ever on point politically. About staying true to your beliefs and standing up for what you believe in! If you have never seen or heard this band then leave your cave and check them out on either record or live. They are that rare breed where they capture their live sound perfectly on disc.

Buy You?!  Google  Apple

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Discography  Ferocious Dog (2013) * Ferocious Dog 3 Piece Acoustic (2014) * From Without (2015) * From Without Acoustic (2017) * Red (2017) * Fake News And Propaganda (2019) *

Pivotal to the ethos and drive of Ferocious Dog is the sad fate of Ken’s son Lee. Lee served in Afghanistan from the age of 18, and upon rejoining civilian life took his own life in 2012 at the age of just 24, unable to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from seeing one of his friends being shot dead by a sniper. Lee is commemorated in the Ferocious Dog songs ‘The Glass’, ‘Lee’s Tune’ and ‘A Verse For Lee’. This gave rise to The Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund which raises money and awareness for various causes close to the bands heart. Lee’s story was featured in a BBC documentary Broken By Battle in 2013. It was Lee that actually named the band as a child.

Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund  Facebook