Category Archives: Traditional

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 so find 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)

Contact The Wild Irish Roses  Bandcamp  Facebook  YouTube

Contact The Templars Of Doom  Facebook   Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram

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!!

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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

Contact Anto Morra Web-Site  Blog  Facebook  Reverbnation  Twitter  YouTube  Bandcamp

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!

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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

Contact Ferocious Dog  WebSite  FacebookPage  FacebookGroup  Twitter  YouTube

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

ALBUM REVIEW: CROCK OF BONES- ‘Celtic Crossbones’ (2019)

Alt Folk, Irish, Trad, Celtic.

Celtic Crossbones the debut album release from Crock Of Bones the hottest new band on the London Irish Folk and Trad circuit. 

Hot on the heels of their debut EP, Nasty, Brutal And Short, comes the debut album release from Crock Of Bones. Formed this year out of various members of other groups most notably LOCKS, Red Eye, Lost Revellers and rockabilly outfit The Obscuritones. So quite a diverse bunch of musicians but with links back to Celtic-Punk through the brothers Bryne and their band Pitfull Of Ugly who played energetic punked up versions of Irish folk songs through Hackney and North London in the early 90’s. Here they ply a much more traditional route though but with the same punk rock attitude they have always have. The five songs from Nasty, Brutal And Short are included on Celtic Crossbones alongside five new tracks of radical interpretations of Irish folk.

Crock Of Bones- (back) Mike Byrne, Marian McClenaghan, Jim Wharf (front) Hugh Byrne and Caitlin Roberts

Celtic Crossbones kicks off with the self penned number ‘Just One Of Them Things’ a slow swirling number with fiddle and accordion leading the way while Hugh sings of lost love. A great voice but his Dublin accent now has a wee bit of a Cockney twang about it! Next is one of the best songs ever written about the Irish on this side of the Irish sea, ‘Hot Asphalt’. Ewan MacColl (no stranger at all to these pages!) was famous for chronicling the life of the working classes and who better than the Irish road building gangs of the 50’s and 60’s. The camaraderie of these gangs of Irish workers is reflected in the comical goings on of a gang of poor Paddies digging up the road.  Somewhere along the way a policeman falls in a pot of boiling asphalt and the gang cover up his death!

“I’m thinking, says O’Reilly, that he’s lookin’ like old Nick
And burn me if I am not inclined to claim him with me pick
Now, says I, it would be easier to boil him till he melts
And to stir him nice and easy in the hot asphalt”

Played in the same style as the Dubliners famous version it’s the best version I have heard in a good while. ‘The Magnificent Eight’ is another self penned number Hugh wrote about one of his old bands Ella And The Blisters, a rootsy tootsy band of misfits that split up in 2016. The song is dedicated to all the jolly fine former members, Gabby, Sam, Luigi, Wayne, Caitlin, Richard, Sarah, Brian, Tom and Nathaniel and ‘The Magnificent Eight’ is a fine tribute to them. Banjo heavy and the tale of a band that almost nearly crossed the path into bigger times. ‘Ferry’ is a sad mournful song with great lyrics about a long distance relationship about a couple saying goodbye at the ferry terminal that comes to an end with the great line “waiting for a voice on a landline telephone”, long before the invention of mobile phones. Bands like Crock Of Bones don’t have to do much if they don’t want to. There is a huge market in London for Irish and traditional music but Crock Of Bones don’t want to be one of them bands that just churn out the covers and it’s the many self-penned numbers on Celtic Crossbones that interest me the most. Modern subjects wrapped up in auld music like on ‘Nothin Worse’ the best song on the album here. Great lyrics and accompaniment from the rest of the band. Neither fast nor slow but one of them foot tappers/thigh slappers that trad Irish folk is famous for. Grand stuff altogether! The instrumental ‘Swallowtail Jig’ is next and while there’s not an awful lot of choice on the Crock Of Bones You Tube channel (it’s the only video!!) pop along and have a look yourselves!

‘TASTHTGP’ is next up and TASTHTGP is a short way of saying ‘Talk about shit things happening to good people’ and a decent sense of humour is needed for anyone in a band. It’s a slight song but well intentioned. Next up is the song that alongside ‘Hot Asphalt’ chronicles best the life of a working class Irishman in Britain in the 50’s and 60’s, ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’. Of course not all dug the roads but many many did including my own Grandfather before he settled in on the railways with a shovel in his hand for 40 odd years. Most came from the countryside of Ireland to cross the Irish sea to work long and hard hours in tough jobs and their only respite came from a few beers after work. Written by Dominic Behan the title refers to the construction company of Sir Robert McAlpine who exploited employed mainly Irish workers.

“They sweated blood and they washed down mud
With pints and quarts of beer
And now we’re on the road again
With McAlpine’s fusiliers”

The song ends withe the refrain “And if you value your life, well, don’t join, by Christ with McAlpine’s Fusiliers” and judging by the broken bodies and bent backs of many of the ones who who use to while away the hours in the Irish pubs of my home town it was good advice. We are nearing the end and time for a real Irish legend of a song, ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’. We even wrote a recent article specifically about this and its origins and many covers. A very old song recounting the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580 where us Irish had a rare victory over the English invaders! Its a great rabble-rouser of a song and has a couple of lines that contain some of the most vitriolic of any rebel song. Crock Of Bones give it plenty of oompf and it’s a joy to belt out the words at the top of your lungs! The album comes to an end with the traditional instrumental songs ‘Cooleys Reel/ Mountain Road’. Cobbled together nicely and owing a lot to The Dubliners as catchy a tune as has ever been written and just the ticket if you’re looking to give the floor a good beating!

(You can stream Celtic Crossbones on the Bandcamp player below before you invest your hard earned in this great wee release)

You can catch Crock Of Bones playing very soon live for London Celtic Punks on Friday 22nd November with local lads The Disinclined at The Oak in Kingston-Upon-Thames. as usual our man GREENFORD BHOY will be spinning the discs and getting the mood in order playing all yer favourite Irish-Celtic-Folk-Punk-Rock’n’Rebel in between the bands and till the landlord kicks us out! The venue is only twenty minutes on the train out of London and just five minutes from Kingston station. The gig is **FREE** so expect a Friday night of hot Irish jigs, reels, foot stompers and lyrical folk. Not an opportunity to miss I tells you! 

Buy Celtic Crossbones  FromTheBand

Contact Crock Of Bones  Facebook  Soundcloud  YouTube  Bandcamp

OíCHE SHAMNA SHONA DAOIBH! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Halloween, aka Samhain, was first celebrated in Ireland, around a thousand years ago. It was regarded as ‘The Celtic New Year’ coming from the name of a month in the ancient Celtic calendar with the festival marking the end of the summer season and the end of the harvest. The Gaelic festival became associated with the Catholic All Souls’ Day, and has influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween.

To find the origin of Halloween, you have to look to the festival of Samhain in Ireland’s Celtic past. Samhain had three distinct elements. Firstly, it was an important fire festival, celebrated over the evening of 31 October and throughout the following day. The flames of old fires had to be extinguished and ceremonially re-lit by druids. It was also a festival not unlike the modern New Year’s Day in that it carried the notion of casting out the old and moving into the new. To our pagan ancestors it marked the end of the pastoral cycle – a time when all the crops would have been gathered and placed in storage for the long winter ahead and when livestock would be brought in from the fields and selected for slaughter or breeding. But it was also, as the last day of the year, the time when the souls of the departed would return to their former homes and when potentially malevolent spirits were released from the Otherworld and were visible to mankind.

‘Halloween’ taken from the recent Greenland Whalefishers album ‘Based On A True Story’.

SAMHAIN AND ITS PLACE IN THE CELTIC CALENDAR

The Celts celebrated four major festivals each year. None of them was connected in anyway to the sun’s cycle. The origin of Halloween lies in the Celt’s Autumn festival which was held on the first day of the 11th month, the month known as November in English but as Samhain in Irish.

The original Celtic year 

Imbolc: 1st February, Beltaine: 1st May, Lughnasa: 1st August, Samhain: 1st November

The festivals are known by other names in other Celtic countries but there is usually some similarity, if only in the translation. In Scottish Gaelic, the autumn festival is called Samhuinn. In Manx it is Sauin. The root of the word – sam – means summer, while fuin means end. And this signals the idea of a seasonal change rather than a notion of worship or ritual. The other group of Celtic languages (known as Q-Celtic) have very different words but a similar intention. In Welsh, the day is Calan Gaeaf, which means the first day of winter. In Brittany, the day is Kala Goanv, which means the beginning of November. The Celts believed that the passage of a day began with darkness and progressed into the light. The same notion explains why Winter – the season of long, dark nights – marked the beginning of the year and progressed into the lighter days of Spring, Summer and Autumn. So the 1st of November, Samhain, was the Celtic New Year, and the celebrations began at sunset of the day before its Eve.

THE ORIGIN OF HALLOWEEN’S SPOOKINESS

For Celts, Samhain was a spiritual time, but with a lot of confusion thrown into the mix. Being ‘between years’ or ‘in transition’, the usually fairly stable boundaries between the Otherworld and the human world became less secure so that puka, banshees, fairies and other spirits could come and go quite freely. There were also ‘shape shifters’ at large. This is where the dark side of Halloween originated.

Apples

Samhain marked the end of the final harvest of the summer, and all apples had to have been picked by the time the day’s feasting began. It was believed that on Samhain, the puca – Irish evil fairies (see right hand column) – spat on any unharvested apples to make them inedible.

To ward off the evil let loose at Samhain, huge bonfires were lit and people wore ugly masks and disguises to confuse the spirits and stop the dead identifying individuals who they had disliked during their own lifetime. They also deliberately made a lot of noise to unsettle the spirits and drive them away from their homes. The timid, however, would leave out food in their homes, or at the nearest hawthorn or whitethorn bush (where fairies were known to live), hoping that their generosity would appease the spirits. For some, the tradition of leaving food (and a spoon to eat it!) in the home – usually a plate of champ or Colcannon – was more about offering hospitality to their own ancestors. Just as spells and incantations of witches were especially powerful at Samhain, so the night was believed to be full of portents of the future.

The Dropkick Murphys performing a cover of The Misfits ‘Halloween’ live at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney on 20th October 2011.

DOWNLOAD A FREE BOOK ON HALLOWEEN

The National Folklore Collection, which is managed at University College Dublin, has published a free booklet for Halloween. It explains the origins of Halloween and explores old Irish tales, legends and customs. You can download it (pdf 950Kb) here: Dúchas – Halloween.

NICK BURBRIDGE AND HIS TOP TEN INFLUENTIAL ALBUMS

To say we are overwhelmed to be able to publish this feature on his Top Ten Influential Albums by the the legendary Nick Burbridge is an understatement! Encompassing everything inbetween Folk to Celtic-Punk it’s a glorious ride through some famous and legendary artists and some little known outside the communities they hail from. Second gen Irish singer-songwriter, Nick has been playing Irish-influenced acoustic music since his teens influencing countless others, including in their own words, The Levellers. His band McDermott’s 2 Hours were among the first to ever think of combining punk and Irish folk so he is a trailblazer among the Celtic-Punk scene but also so much more as well. 

No time to waste so put the kettle on, crack open some biscuits and save the next couple of hours…

Andy Irvine & Paul Brady- ‘Self-Titled’ (1976)

When I was asked to name ten indispensable albums on Facebook some time ago, I decided to work from the late sixties to the millennium, and pick out those most influential on my development as a musician and songwriter, and end where I began, as it were. The first album I chose was this one. It’s a classic of its kind, melding yet never losing the distinctive characters of two of the most innovative and enduring musicians working in the Irish traditional idiom. There’s not a song on it I can’t still recall to memory, give or take a verse here or there, and the quality and range of the musicianship and arrangement, while capturing the essence of Planxty, somehow has an irresistible intimacy the full band doesn’t quite match, though they were perhaps the best of their kind.

(As Andy Irvine says this is Mr. Bradys classic. “Oh, me and my cousin, one Arthur McBride As we went a-walking down by the seaside Now, mark what followed and what did betide For it being on Christmas morning…” )

The Copper Family- ‘A Song For Every Season’ (1971)

This box set was, unexpectedly perhaps, essential listening for the punk-folk band I was in, when we lived in the red light district of Mainz one summer in the mid-seventies. We sang a few Copper songs a capella in our set – the Germans loved them. I spent fifteen years growing up in Rottingdean, Sussex, and I guess that’s as authentic a connection as you can get to this unique family who’ve kept alive a whole tradition on their own initiative, and are rightly recognised for it across the world. Their singing is rough, genuine, heartwarming, and eccentrically tuneful. I’m proud we introduced our audiences to their material, among chaotic jigs and reels and rebel songs. Once again, while I often forget what I’m meant to be doing these days, I can still remember almost every line, such was their influence on me.

(The whole Box-Set of four albums on You Tube. ‘Tater Beer Night- Spring’, ‘Black Ram- Summer’, ‘Hollerin’ Pot’- Fall’ and ‘Turn O’ The Year- Winter’. Nearly three hours long!)

The Bothy Band- ‘After Hours’ (1979)

There are so many unforgettable albums by Irish traditional bands who pushed the form in all directions in the 70s, and influenced countless more to follow suit. I guess The Bothy Band stand in the vanguard, and this album with its driving sets of tunes, and exquisitely sung ballads, live yet virtually faultless, is indispensable to anyone trying to understand just why this music is so effortlessly infectious, exhibiting a musical intensity few others come close to, always ready and able to form the soundtrack to a particular phase in someone’s life. It did mine. It has long been an immeasurable influence.

(You Tube seems to have started allowing whole albums on their site these days. While I’m not too sure of the legality lets just sit back and enjoy)

Dick Gaughan- ‘Handful Of Earth’ (1981)

Dick Gaughan made Handful of Earth on the way back from a major nervous breakdown. And there is something not working within ordinary tramlines here. His errant but extraordinary guitar accompaniments weave their way under an utterly compelling voice, as if to make a world turned upside down both inimitable and unforgettable. The choice of songs is faultless. Gaughan, whatever his fate, will always remain a mighty force. Those who do try to imitate him simply don’t have whatever it is that comes from wherever it does…

(Dick’s folk masterpiece album in full, unabridged on You Tube)

The Pogues- ‘Rum Sodomy & The Lash’ (1985)

By the mid-80s folk and punk had well and truly fused. Much as I think ‘Iron Masters’ by The Men They Couldn’t Hang May may well be my favourite track from the era, I don’t think any such album surpassed this one. Too much academic writing has attached itself to the formidable Shane MacGowan opus, and The Pogues’ irregular but compulsive sense of Irish identity. All I want to say is that I hope their influence on my work hasn’t been too obvious – I’ve tried to pay them the greatest compliment by sowing their seeds as deep as I could in wherever my songs take root, in the hope that what hybrid growth occurred would be as substantial and organic as possible, and not some hasty GM copy of their timeless and outstanding work.

(Which one to choose? How about ‘Sally MacLennane’ from British TV in 1986)

The Waterboys- ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ (1988)

This would probably appear on the all time list of anyone involved in folk-rock music. They call some albums seminal – Fishermen’s Blues epitomises what it means. Like Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks it simply has an originality, authority and impact reserved for those who find themselves, by design or accident, at the cutting edge, and who have the courage to take the task on without flinching. From the monumental to the simply made, tracks etch themselves into the memory. I keep them there, and bring them out from time to time. I always will.

(Absolutely cracking live version of the album’s title track)

Wolfestone- ‘Unleashed’ (1989)

I was travelling to play at Reading Festival when someone put this album on in the van and immediately I realised this band were truly fellow-travellers – and there was much to learn from their blending of traditional music with good original songwriting, where sensitive guitar playing had a central part. They weren’t The Waterboys, but they had the same sense of attack, and an obvious love of what they were doing. Perhaps the least known of the albums chosen, this should need no introduction – it is, in its own way, a classic.

(Nick is right. A band I hadn’t come across before but as this whole feature is about introducing us all to good music I’m glad I found it here. The opening track of ‘Unleashed’ from 1992)

Levellers- ‘Levellers’ (1993)

The band didn’t tell me they were putting my song ‘Dirty Davey’ on this album – but they were well aware of my attitude to ‘folk’ music: it’s common property, as far as I’m concerned, whatever the source. And that isn’t why I chose this record over, say, Levelling The Land. It seems to me a broader, more ambitious production, without losing its roots. It was released about the time my young son made a short film for a BBC Children’s television programme, about how much the band meant to him, and had seen him through some rough years. They were, you might say, at their height. Their legendary Glastonbury headline spot was soon to come. They had successfully entered the mainstream without squandering their gifts. And those gifts are abundant here. I should say I’ve always felt privileged that they cite me as a main initial influence. The fact that they’re still working now says it all.

(Nick Burbridge performing with the Levellers in 2004 live on stage at Buxton Opera House doing his own song!)

Eithne Ní Uallacháin- ‘Bilingua’ (Initial Recording 1999- Posthumous Release 2014)

While she was in the midst of putting down vocals for this album Eithne killed herself. Working with what they had, and eventually fighting through their grief and misgivings, the musicians in her family and others released it fifteen years after her death. It’s an irresistible recording, centred round the most evocative female Irish traditional singer I have ever heard. Whether tackling old Gaelic pieces or fronting tales of her own battles with darkness and her sharp visions of light, it’s impossible to listen to her without being deeply moved – especially if much of her inner torment feels as deeply shared. We should all be indebted to those who loved her at first hand, who have kept her memory alive. It’s not discourteous to say that, through her music, I have found my own love for her. It will not die.

(“But grief can be translated from the light into the darkness; In the belly of the shadow with all its shades digested. Its true colours will unfold.”

(In 1998, Eithne returned to Shaun ‘Mudd’ Wallace’s Homestead studios to record a solo album. Ní Uallacháin’s vocals were completed and much of the music was arranged, but the album was not released. Eithne died in 1999 and her son, Dónal, took residence at Wallace’s studio as an assistant engineer, and during times when the studio was not booked worked with Wallace on the album. Due to contractual issues with the original record label, the album was not released until 2014,15 years after its recording and 14 years after mixing was completed. The album was titled Bilingua and was released with Gael Linn, who released Eithne’s first album, Cosa Gan Bhróga.)

Finbar & Eddie Furey- ‘First And Last’ (1968)

If I’m sometimes cited as an influence on certain others, forced to pick one album that influenced me most, it’s this one. It marks the beginning of a fifty year long journey so far, and whenever I listen to it, even now, I find it impossible to skip through. It represents everything good about Irish music. The instrumental playing is (apart from one or two odd passages) fearless and full of guile; the singing has both a tender and a punkish edge; the arrangements are often ornate and yet always seem gritty and spontaneous; and of course Ted Furey’s sons were born into an authentic travelling family, and it’s immediately audible. I was glad to cross paths with the duo once upon a time in Germany, when side-stage at Ingelheim festival Finbar (rightly, I’m sure) called the band I was in ‘a pile o’ shite’…I took it as a compliment he’d bothered to listen… That a wider family group went on to make a big name covering more commercial, and sometimes questionable material is neither here nor there, in my opinion. Good luck to them. I’ve been fortunate enough to be recognised as a poet, and where songs are concerned, use the idiom of my grandfathers to carry as complex and penetrating a vision as I’ve been able to pursue. But, in contrast to what often seems to masquerade as what it’s not, this is the real thing. The 1968 recording also forms the first half of The Spanish Cloak: The Best of the Fureys (1998) – available on all the usual selling and streaming platforms. On we go…

(Eddie’s first song was written by Scottish TV producer Gordon Smith. The words are set to the traditional Irish air ‘Buchal an Eire’)

Nick continues to produce great music and his last album, under the name of his original band, McDermott’s 2 Hours – ‘Besieged’ was not just featured on these pages but positively drooled over by our man Francis! On the album he is accompanied by members of both The Levellers and the Oysterband and showcases his work as not just a musician but also, in the best Irish tradition, as a poet, playwright and novelist as well. Available as a limited edition two CD set including a Best of compilation, Anticlimactic but you can buy several versions including the download direct from Nick here and also available from all streaming services inc. Spotify, Amazon etc here. You can contact Nick Burbridge over at his WebSite and Facebook. Thanks to Nick for taking his time out to pen this great feature ‘Go raibh maith agat’.

SINGLE REVIEW: BATALLON DE SAN PATRICIO- ‘Familia/El último En Partir’ (2019)

The international flavour of Celtic-Punk continues apace with the first official release from Mexican Celtic punkers Batallón De San Patricio. Named after the famed St. Patrick’s Battalion of Irishmen who fought in the Mexican army during the Mexican–American War of 1846–48 this release further cements the friendly links between our nations.

The time has come and before too long if you ask me for the first official single from Batallón De San Patricio. Titled ‘Family’ it’s the first release from their upcoming debut album Brothers Of War that will be coming out later this year. They chose to call the song ‘Family’…

“because for us the Family is first. We invite you to enjoy our song with a beer in hand, whether you like it or not, help us share! So other people may like it or they may not… The idea is that the Battalion is heard wherever. ! Let the green wave grow!”

Batallón De San Patricio were formed in Guadalajara, the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Jalisco, very recently, back in July 2017 and are now beginning to come into their own. Formed in honour of a great friend of theirs Jorge who sadly passed away in 2017 they have one previous release a six-track Demo in September of last year which you can check out below on the Bandcamp player.

The band have a strict honour code and strongly believe in brotherhood, honesty, dignity and respect. Batallón De San Patricio’s slogan is and always will be ‘Family First’. The music is part of their lives and the people around them and to remember those no longer with us. Brothers Of War will be released on all main platforms so keep an eye on these pages for our review and the release date.

Lyrics (Spanish)

Somos la legión mas grande de la región, Somos los primeros de la generación Los piratas mas buscados de esta gran nación, Y por nuestras cabezas, ofrecen un millón.

Lyrics (English)

We’re from the land the biggest legion, The very first on this generation, The most wanted pirates on this big nation, So then for our heads, they offer a million.

The band have also just released their new video for ‘Last To Leave’ only a few days ago so here that is in all it’s glory. Taken from their imminent debut album Brothers Of War the song is dedicated to all those who have lost a loved one. To all who have gone through difficult times and despite all adversity have continued to keep their chins up.

 

The bands main goal is to spread the Folk-Punk genre, heavily influenced of course by both Irish and Celtic culture, mainly in Guadalajara and in the surrounding regions. Maybe one day overseas. These are the kind of bands that Flogging Molly should be getting to play the Salty Dog Cruise so if any of them are reading or anyone who has any influence then you know what to do folks!

Contact Batallón De San Patricio  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

To celebrate the imminent release of their debut album we will have a large feature on the history of the St. Patrick’s Battalion, who the band are named after, and their gallant history. Famous throughout Mexico and the Irish diaspora many songs have been written about them but we need to keep their history alive so our feature will include the background to their forming right up to their tragic end. Let’s face it there’s no need for a ‘spoiler alert’ when talking about tragic ends and Irish history!! Subscribe to the Blog or join the London Celtic Punks Facebook page to keep up to date.

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

FREE DOWNLOAD!

Roots Music with No Reservations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download Pub Songs On Palafox  Bandcamp

Contact Jay  WebSite  Blog  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  Instagram

SINGLE REVIEW: LORETTA PROBLEM (featuring Juha Lagström)- ‘The Waltz Of My Drunken Dream’ (2019)

Wow! What to say except that Finland’s Loretta Problem have hit the jackpot here with their new single. I think it’s  no exaggeration to say it’s a song that The Pogues would have been proud to record! Featuring Juha Lagström on vocals ‘The Waltz Of My Drunken Dream’ is perhaps Loretta Problem’s most influenced Irish folk song and I can’t wait to hear more of them! 

Loretta Problem have featured on these pages several times in their past with their Scandinavian/ Celtic flavoured punk rock and back in the beginning we even had them labelled as “not one of the most prolific bands in the celtic-punk scene but certainly one of the more interesting”. Well we will have to change that I think. They may still be one of the more interesting and innovative bands around in the scene but the last few years have seen more than regular releases hitting our doorstep/e-mail tray seeing them fit more in the last handful of years than the previous two decades!. Formed in the tiny Finish town of Vaasa in 1994 and yes Finland may be more famous for death-metal but such is the booming popularity of Celtic-Punk that you’ll always find one band representing everywhere and for Finland it is Loretta Problem. All the Nordic countries seem to have healthy alternative music scenes and appear to be much more open to each others music. Loretta Problem have released one album and a handful of singles in their time together which spread over those two decades plus may not be much but for well over a decade Loretta Problem took a back seat while the various band members were working on other projects like families or in other bands. Getting together to play every now and then at the odd gig or festival the band eventually regrouped and Loretta Problem have now become a permanent fixture on the music scene in their home country and, with every release, further afield too.

I sit and drink through rainy days
And after all what can I say?
Not sure ’bout God but when you pray
Pray for me too
Pray for me too

I lose out babe, reeled from the start
I’m lost, my love, somewhere in my heart
Please keep your faith, stay as you are
Shine like a star
Shine like a star

We waltz till the dawn under darkening skies
The steeples keep silent, the wind’s blowing by
Your eyes bring the light upon this falling night.
The ragged silver screen
of my drunken dream
…my drunken dream

One  for the road, one for yesterday
One more for hope and for this sad day
Not sure ’bout God but when you pray
Pray for me too
Pray for me too

We waltz till the dawn under darkening skies
The steeples keep silent, the wind’s blowing by
Your eyes bring the light upon this falling night.
The ragged silver screen
of my drunken dream
…   my drunken dream
….  my drunken dream
….. my drunken dream

One listen to ‘The Waltz Of My Drunken Dream’ will I am sure be more than enough for you all to fall in love with Loretta Problem though it is quite the departure from their usual fare. Punk rock with fiddle and the odd Celtic flourish is normal but here they try something new and by Christ it has worked! With the devilishly good looking Finish actor and singer (and former bandmate) Juha Lagström on vocals and aided by visiting musicians Lauri Kotamäki on accordion and Petri Judin on tin-whistle the song has an unmistakable Poguesy air to it but without any attempt at being a copy of them. Juha’s voice is strong and powerful and he cuts a more than menacing figure in the excellent accompanying video too.

Buy Download  Apple  iTunes

Contact Loretta Problem  WebSite  Facebook ReverbNation  YouTube

ALBUM REVIEW: THE WALKER ROADERS- ‘The Walker Roaders’ (2019)

The origins of Celtic-Punk go back to a handful of bands but without a doubt it was the seminal London-Irish band The Pogues that the whole genre owes most to. Here Graveyard Johnnys Callum Houston runs the rule over the most long awaited album in the scene of recent years. Pogues accordionist James Fearnley teams up with members of the only other two Celtic-Punk bands that have come close to The Pogues in both popularity and influence, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, to form The Walker Roaders. The pre-album release campaign was masterful but can the album live up to all the hype…

To anyone who is not aware of The Walker Roaders they are a new super group fronted by James Fearnley (accordionist of The Pogues) with Ted Hutt (founding member of Flogging Molly, producer for Gaslight Anthem, Tiger Army, Bouncing Souls etc etc), Marc Orrell (founding member of Dropkick Murphys) and additional musicians Kieran Mulroney (Low and Sweet Orchestra), Brad Wood (producer of Smashing Pumpkins) and Bryan Head (Dick Dale). It’s going to be hard to talk about The Walker Roaders without mentioning The Pogues.

The Walker Roaders were a street gang when James Fearnley was a kid growing up in Manchester who would slit your thumb with a knife if they came across you and felt like it.

The influence is clearly strong yet it is very much welcomed. It just goes to show how much of a contribution James’ playing had on The Pogues sound The album kicks off with “Lord Randalls Bastard Son”. This track is sure to win anyone over on the first listen. The pace is fast, the melodies strong and the words potent. James’ voice is sturdy, bold and northern as they come. He sings with strength and clarity giving every word importance and making sure not one is to be missed.

In the background I can hear what sounds to be the return of the beer tray, a subtle nod back to the early Pogues years. The second track “Seo Yun” is another fast paced number. The minor melody of the old Irish classic “The Foggy Dew” is tastefully borrowed for the verse but not before it jumps into a resolving singalong major chorus. The underlying Polka beat keeps the track turning and it’s heart pulsing. Following that is the first single from the album “Will You Go Lassie Go”. When I first saw the title I thought instantly it was going to be a cover of the traditional Scottish tune of the same name. It is however an original but has all the ingredients of a timeless ballad in it’s own right. The drums are huge, I can hear them echoing for miles through valleys with only the surging chorus of strumming guitars washing over them. This is a perfect festival song.

Before going any further I just want to state that the lyrical content, musical arrangement and production of this album is of an extremely high quality on each track, considering the members involved I would expect nothing less. “The Story” is a prime example of all those components. The accordion takes prominence and the song flows just as it’s title suggests. At “A Meteor at a Time” we reach the middle of the album and by now we are easing into mid tempo. I feel the momentum gets slightly lost here, although it is yet another great song I imagine it maybe more of a slow burner for some people. On my first few plays of the album “Old Tar Road to Sligo” was my first ear worm. It’s lively introduction and 6/8 swing takes me right back to the “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” glory days. The song structure meanders in some interesting directions but it is never far from returning to it’s source. I have to amid I did do a quick search on the price of Winnebago camper vans. “The Blackbird Only Knows One Song” stays in 6/8 timing which is proving to work very well. Here the vocals and lyrics take the helm held a float on waves of heavily reverbed banjo, accordion, guitar and crashing drums. “Here Comes The Ice” has to be my personal favourite. It bears a strong nostalgic feel with wit that will have you smiling and honesty that could almost bring you to tears. The song is joint together nicely with a repetitive catchy guitar riff.
To finish the album off on form we have “Turned out Nice Again”. Kicking straight in with a powerful melody played by the tightly combined accordion and whistle combination once again echoing back to that classic Pogues sound. Could there possibly be the additional of a special guest musician on this track? As a huge Pogues fan I have seen many similar bands pop up over the years but I have rarely been satisfied, there has always been something lacking. This album offers some kind of closure to that void. I really hope that this is just the beginning for The Walker Roaders, I would love to see the band take to the road. The album has been well worth the wait, the sound is timeless and the lyrics read like a novel. I’m sure lots of people will be looking for a hard copy of the album, I too want to keep this forever.
”Walker Roaders came together totally organically, A bit of fun really. The result of James, Marc and myself getting together to hang out and write songs. Then it became a mission to take Celtic music to another level!”- Ted Hutt on how the Walker Roaders came to be
Buy The Walker Riders  Stream or Download
Contact The Walker Riders  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram
Thanks to Callum Houston for the great review and who better to review a banjo heavy album than someone who knows his way round a banjo! Callum’s fantastic debut EP Gravities was released just last month and was reviewed on these pages here. As part of the wonderful Psycho/ R’n’R Welsh trio the Graveyard Johnnys he has played just about every corner of Europe and now resides in Brittany but will be over visiting in December anday d will be doing a select series of shows including a special London Celtic Punks date that you should definitely keep your ears open for!! December tour dates  Thursday 5th- The Anchor, Wingham * Friday 6th- Frosty’s Bar, Kenton, Harrow * Saturday 7th- Seamus O’Donnell’s Bristol * Sunday 8th The Star – Fishponds. Check Callum out on Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

EP REVIEW: THE TWO MAN TRAVELLING MEDICINE SHOW- ‘They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs’ (2019)

Back again it’s the band with the longest name in Folk-Punk (and possibly the most members) with another release of original music. Dorset’s finest Folky-Americana-Country-Punk band The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show’s new EP is out now on Musical Bear Records.

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show are back again with their brand new EP and four all new tracks recorded entirely in a barn in North Dorset! Now this being the Summer it’s a wonder they have found the time as this is most definitely their time and one look at their list of gigs past and present the last few weeks shows a band that has crisscrossed the South of England playing just about every festival imaginable! Formed in Dorset in 2016 The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show have steadily grown in stature and popularity over the following years due in no small part to their hectic touring(no mean feat for a band that sometimes has up to ten members!) and they have added to their great reputation as a live band with a well received album and several EP’s of their own original compositions. Their debut album, Weeding Out The Wicked, came out in 2017 and has been followed by three quality EP’s in the following couple of years, Float Your Boat, A Snake’s A Snake and Oh Me Oh Mi. Releases that all capture The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show sound perfectly. American bluegrass and Americana butting heads with quaint auld English folk. A quintessential English folk group that could have been born at the heyday of Folk-Rock in the mid-1970’s and takes in influences from those halcyon days before redefining them and bringing them bang up to date.

The first of the EP’s quintet of songs is the title track ‘They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs’ and follows on in what I now think of as the traditional The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show way. A catchy thigh slapping driving beat accompanied by the sounds of more instruments then you could possibly take in all at once though the duelling banjo and fiddle shine through. The vocals from Mark are as usual strong and powerful and the words talk about how love changes us. Theirs a a nice slow break in the middle which gives the song a chance to build up and come back strong and yeah I really love it!!! They follow this swiftly with the glorious ‘Raise My Glass’ and a hoedown country stomper that is guaranteed to get audiences up and doing that famous dance scene from Seven Brides For Several Brothers! A typical drinking anthem that sees the band really go for it and if I have ever had any criticism of The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show it is that they sometimes are too restrained and ought to just to bloody well go for it like on ‘Raise My Glass’. A heartfelt cry from the heart in praise of all that’s good in a difficult world. They move away from their usual Summery/bouncy style with ‘Hanging The Bells’ which has a much tougher bite to it and comparisons to New Model Army leap out at you with the acoustic guitar and fiddle pushed to the fore over a song about getting away from the drudgery of life, or as singer Mark says 

“a song about the impossible, wonderful dream of awakening from the nightmare of history; to a dog’s life away from the grinding forces of politics”.

The EP comes to an delicate end as fiddle player Alison Jay takes over on vocal duties for ‘Teenage Dreams’ for this slow paced number on the danger of surrounding yourselves in nostalgia. The song drifts along beautifully before speeding up ever so slightly towards the end and again the amazing banjo playing and a-plucking shines a light on all the band do.

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show left to right: Seb Hartley- Harmonica, Mandolin * Martin Giles- Guitar * Steve Wareham- Slapbox * Alison Jay- Violin * Chris Pearce- Keys (back of photo) * Rob Volves- Bass (back of photo) * Olly Hopper Pay- Guitar, Cello (back of photo) * Mark Lyons- Singer, Guitar * Jamie Lynch- Lyrics * Brad Watt- Banjo *

As already stated this band can sometimes reach up to double figures so getting them down on record so vibrantly is no mean feat I can assure you and here on They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs they have the talent of fellow Dorset musician Charlie Draper to thank. Having already featured here on the London Celtic Punks site as vocalist/guitarist of Sinful Maggie (we will be reviewing their new release in the next week or so) Charlie has done a utterly brilliant job of capturing the energy and passion of the band whilst losing none of their trademark knock out Folk-Punk choruses. Though they don’t make it particularly easy to hear them play outside the South-East it might be worth your while YOU seeking them out!

Buy They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs mark1lyons@icloud.com 

The EP is released on Friday 16th August and sadly there is no pre-order or links but as soon as they become available on release I will add them here.

Contact The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show  Facebook

Musical Bear Records  WebSite  YouTube  Facebook  

REMEMBERING HUGH THE GREAT O’NEILL IN SONG

Concluding our short series on celebrated figures from Irish history immortalised in song. Today is the turn of Aodh Mór Ó Neill (anglicised as Hugh The Great O’Neill), 3rd Baron of Dungannon and 2nd Earl Of Tyrone.

For our third and final part of the series we have opted for a song that is an instrumental but one whose air is as well known as any in Irish history. The song was rediscovered by the great Seán Ó Riada who was the single most influential figure in the revival of Irish traditional music during the 1960’s before his untimely death at 40 in 1971. Subsequent investigation shows it first appeared in Edward Bunting’s A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland in 1809 and an earlier version titled ‘O’Neill’s Riding’ was included in Stanford’s Complete Collection Of Irish Music in 1787.

(the legendary Cork born composer and arranger of Irish traditional music Seán Ó Riada performs ‘O’Neills Cavalry March’)

Born in 1550, Hugh O’Neill (Aodh Mór Ó Neill) was the second son of Mathew Ceallaigh the illegitimate son of Conn Bacach O’Neill who had submitted to Henry VIII in 1542 and was regranted his lands with the English title 1st Earl of Tyrone.

Mathew Ceallaigh had been murdered by his half-brother Shane the Proud O’Neill who also drove the elderly Conn out of Tyrone and into the Pale in 1559 where he died not long after. Mathew had two sons, Brian, recognised by the crown as the next earl, and his younger brother Hugh. Shane the Proud had by now, in the tradition of his Gaelic ancestors, resumed the Celtic title The Ó Neill and is suspected of having Brian O’Neill murdered close to Newry whilst he was en route to London to assume the title of Earl. The English, fearing also for the life of the young Hugh removed him to the safety of London. Hugh was reared from the age of nine as an English noble in London until 1567, when he was returned to Ireland and placed in the safekeeping of the Lord Deputy of Ireland Sir Henry Sidney.

(the most ambitious project relating to Hugh O’Neill is the 2018 concept album Nine Years Of Blood released by Dublin folk-metal band Cruachan, pronounced ‘kroo-a-khawn’)

In 1568 Hugh was declared Baron of Dungannon and then in 1585 he was also declared 2nd Earl of Tyrone by Elizabeth I. He was to all intents and purposes a loyal and trusted servant of the Crown. He aided the English during 1580 in the suppression of the second Desmond rebellion and supported Sir John Perrot in his campaign against the Antrim MacDonnells in 1584. For this he was rewarded by Elizabeth I when in 1587 he was granted a patent to his grandfather’s Tyrone properties which were now controlled by his cousin Turlough Luineach who styled himself The Ó Neill.

(Godfathers of Celtic-Punk Horslips took the tune and put it to their 197? hit ‘Dearg Doom’)

In 1593 Turlough stood down as the chief of the clan thereby allowing Hugh to be invested with the title The Ó Neill. The ceremony was performed in the traditional way and on the sacred stone at Tullaghogue in 1595 witnessed by all the major Ulster clans. For some years prior to his inauguration, Ó Neill had played a cat and mouse game with the English.

(One of the truly great exponents of the art of playing the Uilleann pipes Paddy Keenan on his 1983 album Poirt an Phíobaire)

In 1591 he had eloped with 20 year old Mabel Bagenal the sister of Sir Henry the Marshall of the queen’s army. He helped arrange the escape from prison of Red Hugh O’Donnell along with Art and Henry MacShane O’Neill. Unfortunately Art froze to death during the escape in the winter of 1591 and the others were led to safety by Feagh MacHugh O’Byrne. Ó Neill had at first aided the English in their 1593 campaign against the Maguires of Fermanagh. The English were led by Hugh’s resentful brother-in-law Bagenal. Hugh Maguire was Ó Neill’s son-in-law and when Ó Neill suddenly withdrew his support Bagel was left dangerously exposed.

By 1595 O’Neill was to commit his first act of resistance to the English when he overran the fort at Blackwater and destroyed the bridge. This is the first event in what is known as the nine year war. From this time O’Neill perfected a system of conscription that included the richest noble to the poorest peasant. This new force was known as bonnachts and he had them trained in modern warfare. Even his gallowglasses laid down their great axes in favour of the arquebus. Ó Neill then defeated English armies led by Bagenal at Clontibret in 1595 and at the Battle of The Yellow Ford in 1598 where Bagenal was killed. Queen Elizabeth sent over the biggest English army to enter Ireland. Though it numbered 17,000 men led by Robert Devereux the Earl of Essex, it was to prove ineffectual and in 1599 Essex made a treaty with O’ Neill which was not to Elizabeth’s liking and she replaced Devereux with Lord Mountjoy.

(Scottish legends Silly Wizard perform O’Neills Cavalry March from So Many Partings)

In 1601 Mountjoy was able to capture the Spanish army sent to help O’Neill at the town of Kinsale. After the Battle of Kinsale it was a turning point for O’Neill. English forces were spoiling the lands in Ulster and causing starvation there. Hugh O’Donnell had left for Spain to try for more help but died there suddenly. Recognising that his cause had failed O’Neill sought a pardon and in 1603 Elizabeth ordered Mountjoy to open negotiations with all the chiefs involved in the rebellion. She died in the interim but Mountjoy concealed this from O’Neill.

Accompanied by Rory O Donnell, brother of Red Hugh, O’Neill presented himself to the new King James I. The Irish were received graciously and O’Neill was confirmed in his title and estates. However, back in Ireland the government continued to challenge O’Neill’s authority, particularly over his feudal rights the principle dispute being over the O’Cathains. In 1607 he decided to take this to the King but was warned secretly that he was to be arrested. Instead of going to London, O’Neill and O’Donnell, along with their families and followers numbering around 99 people took ships from Rathmullan in Donegal and were driven by strong winds into the Seine. This event would become known as the Flight of the Earls. The Earls and their families made their way over land to Rome where they were welcomed in 1606 by the pope. King James saw this flight as treasonous and O’Neill was declared an outlaw in 1613 by the Irish parliament.

A tablet set in the floor of the church of San Pietro, Montorio, marks the burial-place of the bones of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone.

The parliament of Ireland outlawed O’Neill in 1613 and he later died in Rome on 20 July 1616 leaving behind a large number of legitimate and illegitimate children. Hugh O’Neill was buried in the church of San Pietro in Montorio, beside his son, also Hugh, Baron of Dungannon, and his brothers-in-law, Rory and Cathbarr O’Donnell. The inscription on his tomb is brief and was recorded by the historian, Father C.P. Meehan in 1832. During renovations to the church in 1848 the tombstones bearing the epitaphs of the Baron and O Donnells were carefully set in place again but the flagstone bearing the inscription on O Neill’s tomb was lost and a replica set in place at the behest of His Eminence, the late Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich, bearing the original inscription, can now be seen. The inscription reads

“D.O.M. HIC QUIESCENT UGONIS PRINCIPIS O NEILL OSSA”

Translated, it reads, “HERE LIES THE BONES OF HUGH O’NEILL, PRINCE or CHIEF

  • If you are even just the tiniest bit interested in Irish history and culture then it is essential that you subscribe to Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland. An absolutely fantastic resource for all aspects of Irish history including the daily ‘What Happened On This Day’ and covering a wide range of Irish History, Irish language, Irish Diaspora, The Great Hunger, Arts & Music, Culture, Archaeology, Literature, Photography, Mythology & Folk Culture.
  • REMEMBERING FIACH MacHUGH O’BYRNE IN SONG  here
  • REMEMBERING RODDY McCORLEY IN SONG  here

REMEMBERING FIACH MacHUGH O’BYRNE IN SONG

The second in our series on celebrated figures from history immortalised in song and covered by both Folk and Celtic-Punk bands. Today we turn to the great Irish hero of Fiach MacHugh O’Bryne one of the greatest leaders in Irish history.

Memorial to Fiach McHugh O’Byrne, Glenmalure, County Wicklow

The song ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ recounts the struggle of Irish clan leaders against British rule in Ireland in the 16th century. The central figure in the song is Fiach MacHugh O’Bryne (1534 – 8 May, 1597) who fought the British army for thirty years during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The song celebrates his feats in battle and though thought to be from the time it was actually written 200 years later by famed Irish poet Patrick Joseph McCall, who also wrote the great patriotic ballads ‘Boolavogue’ and ‘Kelly The Boy From Killane’ among others. The song ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ is one of the most famous Irish folk songs and celebrates the defeat of the English army at the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580.

Lift MacCahir Óg your face brooding o’er the old disgrace
That black Fitzwilliam stormed your place, drove you to the Fern
Grey said victory was sure soon the firebrand he’d secure;
Until he met at Glenmalure with Fiach Mac Hugh O’Byrne.

Chorus:
Curse and swear Lord Kildare
Fiach will do what Fiach will dare
Now Fitzwilliam, have a care
Fallen is your star, low
Up with halbert out with sword
On we’ll go for by the Lord
Fiach MacHugh has given the word,
Follow me up to Carlow.

See the swords of Glen Imayle, flashing o’er the English Pale
See all the children of the Gael, beneath O’Byrne’s banners
Rooster of a fighting stock, would you let a Saxon cock
Crow out upon an Irish rock, fly up and teach him manners.

From Saggart to Clonmore, there flows a stream of Saxon gore
O, great is Rory Óg O’More, sending the loons to Hades.
White is sick and Lane is fled, now for black Fitzwilliam’s head
We’ll send it over dripping red, to Queen Liza and the ladies.

Fiach MacHugh O’Bryne (Fiach Mac Aodh ÓBroin) was the son of the chief of the O’Byrnes of the Gabhail Raghnaill. His sept, a minor one, claimed descent from the 11th century King of Leinster, Bran Mac Maolmordha, and was centred at Ballinacor in Glenmalure, a steep valley in the fastness of the Wicklow mountains. Their chiefs styled themselves as Lords of Ranalagh. The territory of the Gabhail Rabhnaill stretched from Glendalough south to the Forest of Shillelagh in Wexford and west to the borders of present day Co Carlow, an area of some 150,000 acres. Resenting the greed and cruelty of the Elizabethan adventurers and settlers, Fiach would raid their villages and kill or drive them out. He was appalled at the ruthless cruelty of the stewarts Thomas Masterson and Sir Henry Harrington and in 1580 went into open rebellion when Masterson summarily executed many Kavanagh clansmen.

(Perhaps the greatest ever version of ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ by the legendary Planxty included here with lyrics to sing along to)

Other clans joined with Fiach and when James Eustace, 3rd Lord Baltinglass, angered by the treatment of the Catholic Old English also rebelled and joined with him. The English were appalled at this, already Munster was in turmoil as the Earl of Desmond was in rebellion and in the north the O’Neills were moving also against the English.

(The song as covered by new north London Irish folk group Crock Of Bones on their debut EP ‘Nasty, Brutal And Short’. Incidentally the singer was named after Hugh O’Bryne)

An army of 3,000 men were sent into the Wicklow Mountains but O’Byrne and Eustace were waiting for them in Glenmalure. Over 800 English lost their lives at the Battle of Glenmalure and the rest fled back to Dublin. The following year the English offered terms, Eustace refused and fled to Spain but Fiach and the other clan chiefs accepted and were pardoned.

(Irish-American band The Young Dubliners from California performed one of the earliest Celtic-Punk versions of the song)

In 1592 Hugh Roe O’Donnell, with brothers Art and Henry MacShane O’Neill escaped from Dublin Castle. The breakout had been planned with the help of Hugh Mór O’Neill and the escapees fled to the safety of Glenmalure. It was a severe winter and Art died from exposure and was buried in O’Byrne land but Fiach was able to transport Hugh Roe and Henry away to safety.

(The Tan And Sober Gentlemen from Snow Camp, North Carolina)

The English spent a long time collecting heads and plundering, they spared few. In April, Russell again went hunting for Fiach who once again escaped. His wife Rose however was captured and sentenced to be burned to death. The sentence was not carried out.

(Jim McCann’s version was the first time I ever heard ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ when he bought me this album on tape when i was on holiday)

Lord Deputy Russell was to spend the next year unsuccessfully scouring the country for Fiach. However O’ Byrne’s luck was to run out. A traitor in his camp gave information to Russell that Fiach would be in Ballinacorr on 8th May 1597. The Lord Deputy was able to surprise him and captured him in a cave. There he was hacked to death and decapitated with his own sword.

(folk-metal version titled The Marching Song Of Fiach MacHugh from Irish band Cruachan)

Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne’s corpse was cut up, and for months hung on pike staffs on the wall over Dublin Castle drawbridge. Several months later, the pickled head was presented to the council secretary at London by an English adventurer, who was disappointed to find that the head-silver due on O’Byrne had already been paid in Ireland. The queen was said to have been greatly angered that

“the head of such a base Robin Hood was brought solemnly into England”.

(There’s no better way to end this article than with my own personal favourite and the version by Dublin Celtic-Punk band Blood Or Whiskey)

  • If you are even just the tiniest bit interested in Irish history and culture then it is essential that you subscribe to Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland. An absolutely fantastic resource for all aspects of Irish history including the daily ‘What Happened On This Day’ and covering a wide range of Irish History, Irish language, Irish Diaspora, The Great Hunger, Arts & Music, Culture, Archaeology, Literature, Photography, Mythology & Folk Culture.
  • REMEMBERING HUGH THE GREAT O’NEILL IN SONG  here
  • REMEMBERING RODDY McCORLEY IN SONG  here

REMEMBERING RODDY McCORLEY IN SONG

A short series exploring some of the figures from history immortalised in song and covered by all your favourite Folk and Celtic-Punk bands. You’ve sung the song but do you know the rich history behind the words? Today we celebrate Roddy McCorley, a young man executed back in 1800. He has been immortalised in both the written word and song and 200 + years after his death we are still here celebrating his life with the many versions of the great song written about him.  

The Rody McCorley Memorial, Toome. “I gcuimhne Ruairí Mhic Thoirealaigh, a chrochadh annseo as a bheith páirteach i nÉirigh-Amach 1798. Iad siúd a d’éag ar son na hÉireann go mairidh a gcliú go deo.” “In memory of Rody McCorley who was hung here for his part in the 1798 uprising. May the honour of those who died for Ireland last forever.”

Roddy McCorley was the son of a miller and was born near Toome in the parish of Duneane, Co Antrim. and was a participant in the 1798 rebellion led by the United Irishmen. A few years before the rebellion Roddy’s dad was executed for stealing sheep. These charges are believed to have been politically motivated in an attempt to remove a troublesome agitator at a time of great social unrest. Following his father’s execution, his family were evicted from their home. There is uncertainty as to whether McCorley was actually actively involved with the Presbyterian United Irishmen or the  Catholic Defenders.

(the version that brought the song back into Irish folklore)

After the rebellions defeat, he joined a notorious outlaw gang known as Archer’s Gang, made up of former rebels and led by Thomas Archer. Some of these men had been British soldiers (members of the Irish militia) who changed sides in the conflict, and as such were guilty of treason and thus exempt from the terms of amnesty offered to the rank and file of the United Irishmen. This meant that they were always on the run in an attempt to evade capture.

(The Dubliners version in their own inimitable style as sung by Ciaran Bourke) 

These were treacherous times and Roddy McCorley paid the price when betrayed by an informer he was arrested and tried by court martial in Ballymena on 20 February 1800. He was sentenced to be hanged “near the Bridge of Toome” in the parish of Duneane. His execution was carried out on 28 February 1800. His body was then dismembered and buried under the gallows, on the main Antrim to Derry road. A letter published in the Belfast Newsletter a few days after McCorley’s execution gave an account of the execution and how McCorley was viewed by some. In it he is called Roger McCorley, which may have been his proper Christian name.

“Upon Friday last, a most awful procession took place here, namely the execution of Roger McCorley who was lately convicted at a court-martial, to the place of execution, Toome Bridge, the unfortunate man having been born in that neighbourhood. As a warning to others, it is proper to observe that the whole of his life was devoted to disorderly proceedings of every kind, for many years past, scarcely a Quarter-sessions occurred but what the name of Roger McCorley appeared in a variety of criminal cases. His body was given up to dissection and afterwards buried under the gallows…thus of late we have got rid of six of those nefarious wretches who have kept this neighbourhood in the greatest misery for some time past, namely, Stewart, Dunn, Ryan, McCorley, Caskey and the notorious Dr. Linn. The noted Archer will soon be in our Guard-room.”

In 1852, McCorley’s nephew Hugh was foreman of the construction of a new bridge across the River Bann at Toome. Hugh recovered his uncle’s body and on 29 June 1852, buried him at Duneane parish graveyard.

(one of the best recorded versions of the song by American folk legends The Kingston Trio)

See the fleet foot host of men
That speed with faces wan,
From farmstead and from fishers cot
Along the banks of Bann,
They come with vengeance in their eyes
Too late too late are they.
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

Up narrow street he steps
Smiling, proud and young.
About the hemp rope on his neck
The golden ringlets clung
There was never a tear in his blue eye,
Both sad and bright are they,
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

When he last stepped up that street,
His shining pike in hand,
Behind him marched in grim array
A stalwart, earnest band.
For Antrim town, for Antrim town,
He led them to the fray,
And young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

There was never a one of all your dead
More bravely fell in fray
Than he who marches to his fate
On the bridge of Toome today.
True to the last, true to the last,
He treads the upward way,
And young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

Ethna Carbery

Roddy’s role in the 1798 rebellion was passed down by word of mouth and it was in a poem/song written 100 years after the rebellion by Ethna Carbery that he was claimed to have been one of the leaders at the Battle of Antrim. The song was published in 1904 two years after Ethna’s death as part of a collection of poems titled The Four Winds Of Erin. Despite this lack of evidence Roddy McCorley became a major figure in nationalist-republican martyrology due to this song. Recently evidence has been unearthed by historian Guy Beiner as to his involvement in the rebellion that had been hidden due to the change in the  Presbyterian faith from nationalist to unionist. 

(as with everything Irish music related their is always a link to the great Shane MacGowan)

The song was re-popularised in the 1950’s when it was recorded by giants of the Irish folk scene The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and The Dubliners. In the folk music revival of the 1960’s it was recorded by the The Kingston Trio and many more up until Shane MacGowan and The Popes recorded a version for The Snake in 1994 and it’s popularity has blossomed since then being recorded by several bands with in the Celtic-Punk scene with a knowledge of their history and roots.

(the latest version as recorded by Irish-American band The Templars of Doom on this years Hovels Of The Holy album)

The Roddy McCorley Society   Irish Music Daily  Irish Folk Songs

( there’s even a Psychobilly version from the great psycho German band Pitmen!)

  • If the tune is familiar but not the song that may be because the melody for Roddy McCorley was recycled in 1957 for the more familiar song ‘Sean South Of Garryowen’.
  • If you are even just the tiniest bit interested in Irish history and culture then it is essential that you subscribe to Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland. An absolutely fantastic resource for all aspects of Irish history including the daily ‘What Happened On This Day’ and covering a wide range of Irish History, Irish language, Irish Diaspora, The Great Hunger, Arts & Music, Culture, Archaeology, Literature, Photography, Mythology & Folk Culture.
  • REMEMBERING HUGH THE GREAT O’NEILL IN SONG  here
  • REMEMBERING FIACH MacHUGH O’BYRNE IN SONG  here

EP REVIEW: CROCK OF BONES- ‘Nasty, Brutal And Short’ (2019)

Alt Folk, Irish, Trad, Celtic.

The debut release from Crock Of Bones the newest band on the London Irish Folk and Trad circuit. 

I first met the Brothers Byrne oh maybe twenty odd years ago. Having not long moved to London from the northern wastelands I was surrounded by Irish at home but the only ‘proper’ Irish I knew were everyone’s Mam and Dads so I was in no way prepared for quite how Irish London was back in the early 90’s. Every pub and street corner seemed on loan from the Emerald Isle itself and as I slowly immersed myself into the London punk scene I found that was no different either. Every band seemed to have an Irish connection and with any Celtic-Punk scene years off it was down to the punk scene for this plastic paddy 2nd gen Irishman to get his kicks. Living in Hackney back then punks were ten’a’penny and it was impossible to just take a wander up to the shop without bumping into someone you knew and their was a good chance that person would be Irish! Among the bands active in north London at the time that were mixing up Irish folk and punk were The Daltons, Brassic Park and Under The Gun but the best of the bunch were Pitful Of Ugly. Featuring Hugh and Mike (the Brothers Bryne) and their drumming Kiwi bus driver mate Jason they played loads round Hackney, especially at the famed Acton Arms, home of punk rock in London for a few years around 1995. Pitful Of Ugly played a few of their own songs in among some classic Irish folk songs and tunes that the Bhoys speeded up and tampered with. It was great stuff (so it was!) and though very popular they didn’t quite get the breaks to take them out of the Hackney punk ghetto. Fast forward a few years and every now and then I’d bump into the Bros. and even bought a CD of Hugh’s new band The Obscuritones, a rockabilly group he was playing guitar in. Next thing I heard was recently when I received a email from a new band LOCKS and there was Mike with his double bass. Once again I was suitably impressed (they are well worth checking out by the way!) and we fell back in contact. So that was it until Mike starting dropping subtle hints about a new project I would be interested in and 2019 has seen it unveiled as the traditional Irish folk band Crock Of Bones and needless to say their record of being in bands I love shows no danger of being overturned!!!

So not having strayed far from Hackney in the intervening years Crock Of Bones were born this year in North London and Nasty, Brutal And Short is the bands debut release. The Bros call it “a description of the Irish we first made friends with when we emigrated to London”. The rest of the groups members, whose backgrounds stretch back to 90’s celtic-punk, gypsy jazz, dark folk and rock, include a fellow member of LOCKS, Marian McClenaghan on fiddle, Jim Wharf from the band Red Eye on banjo and guitar  and Lost Revellers Caitlin Roberts on accordion alongside Hugh on lead vocals, guitar and fiddle and Mike on double bass.

Crock Of Bones- Mike Byrne, Marian McClenaghan, Hugh Byrne, Caitlin Roberts, Jim Wharf.

So with a pretty diverse line up what is the new approach that Crock Of Bones can bring? Well as Hugh says

“This time we’re using traditional instruments, fiddle, accordion, banjo, guitar and double bass and three vocals to get the same energy and power as we used to get from distorted guitars.”

and their is a certain unpolished feel to it all and when I say that I in no way at all mean that in a bad way. What I mean is that it’s universally agreed that Irish music is best played down the pub and in that environment a certain amount of ‘ramshackleness’ is not just tolerated but actually required to give it that authentic feel. The five songs here swing from ballads to full-pelt foot-stompers and though their trad numbers are well played its their original numbers that that impressed me the most.

The Nasty, Brutal And Short EP kicks off with the first of the original numbers ‘Just One Of Those Things’ and its a slow swirling number with fiddle and accordion leading the way while Hugh sings of lost love. He’s got a great voice and the Dublin accent now also has a wee bit of a Cockney twang about it! Next up is one of the best songs ever about the Irish on this side of the Irish sea. Written by Ewan MacColl (no stranger at all to these pages!) and made massively popular among the Irish diaspora chiefly by The Dubliners and then The Wolfe Tones. The song tells of the comical goings on among a gang of Irishmen digging the road up in Glasgow and laying the ‘Hot Asphalt’. Somewhere along the way a policeman falls in a pot of boiling asphalt and the gang cover up his death! Played in the same style as the Dubs the song is quick and catchy and dare I say it as almost as good a version as I have heard but for the best version of all time then check out New York cities 1916 and their version here it’ll knock yer socks off!

“‘Tis twelve months come October since I left me native home
After helping them Killarney boys to bring the harvest down
But now I wear the gansey and around me waist a belt
I’m the gaffer of the squad that makes the hot asphalt”

Following this is the EP’s second original number ‘Ferry’ and anyone of a certain age will remember the trip back and forth to Ireland on the ferry from Fishguard or Holyhead over to Ireland in the Summer. Packed to the absolute rafters like cattle we ran around like maniacs till we collapsed on the floor and slept in corridors while our Mams and Dads sat in the bar drinking and, depending on whether we were coming or going, talked of Ireland in either glowing or disparaging terms. Hugh writes a great lyric here about a long distance relationship about a couple saying goodbye at the ferry terminal. It’s a sad mournful song that comes to an end with the great line “waiting for a voice on a landline telephone”. Next they kick up a bit of a storm with two tunes cobbled together nicely ‘Cooley’s Reel/Mountain Road’ and I love these kind of instrumentals. Owing a lot to The Dubliners they are as catchy a tune as has ever been written in music and if you’re looking for full-pelt foot-stompers then this and the EP’s closing track, ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’, are the ones for you. An old song celebrating the defeat of an army of 3,000 English soldiers by Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne (any relation?) at the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580. The air dates back to then and the words to Patrick Joseph McCall in 1899. Its a great rousing rebeller and Crock Of Bones give it plenty of oompf and i recommend looking up the words as theirs not many more… err… ‘descriptive’ Irish songs and it’s a glorious joy to be belting them out at the top of your lungs believe me!

(You can stream Nasty, Brutal And Short on the Bandcamp player below before you invest your hard earned in this great wee release)

So an amazing addition to the London Irish scene and well worth the cost of the download. The band have plenty of expertise about them but as I said it’s just the right side of being not too professional and it’s all the better for it. This is the same music our Mams and Dads once listened to in smoke filled boozers packed with fellow immigrants a generation or two back but Crock Of Bones have given it a subtle modern twist and the energy and passion is self evident. Be sure to check them out live in concert around London.

Buy Nasty, Brutal And Short  FromTheBand

Contact Crock Of Bones  Facebook  Soundcloud  YouTube

THE RUMJACKS LIVE IN LONDON- ACOUSTIC SESSIONS

In February 2019, The Rumjacks arrived in London town at the You Tube Space Studio in Kings Cross, and recorded a set of stripped back acoustic versions from their back catalogue. Where once the band would have been at home among the dirt and grime of Kings Cross station where untold amount of Scots disembarked over the years with little more than the clothes on their back it’s now a shiny gleaming soulless example of the new London. The songs were drip fed to us one at a time over the course of the next ten Fridays and here we present them all together. The recordings are now available for download across the usual platforms, links at the bottom.

The Black Matilda

Plenty

A Fistful O’Roses

Bar The Door Casey

My Time Again

Cold London Rain

Kathleen

The Leaky Tub

The Bold Rumjacker

Barred For Life

Director / Producer – Phil MacDonald * Director of Photography – Archie Guinchard * Sound Engineer – Paddy Fitzgerald * Editor – Phil Macdonald

Buy Live In London  Spotify  Amazon  iTunes

Contact The Rumjacks WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  YouTube  Soundcloud

EP REVIEW: 6’10- ‘Where We Are’ (2019)

Chicago based 6’10 is the acoustic project of Tobin Bawinkel, the lead singer of Flatfoot 56 whose critically acclaimed first full length album, The Humble Beginnings of a Roving Soul came out back in 2014. Gerard Mellon discovers life isn’t just circle pits and spitting on sweaty crowds. Here’s a band that is a little more laid back and thought provoking.  

So here we have it, a new EP of six original tracks from Chicago’s 6’10. Many of you will know this band as Tobin from Flatfoot 56 ‘s side gig. This EP follows on from 2014’s The Humble Beginnings of a Roving Soul, and Flatfoot’s Vancouver Sessions where some of the band’s best tracks were reworked utilising traditional instruments and giving the tracks a more ‘folky’ sound. 6’10 were created by Tobin to explore the musical influences that he grew up with, folk, Americana, bluegrass and other ‘traditional’ styles of acoustic music. There aren’t really any other band members, more like regular collaborators and then specialist instrumentalists. This all leads to a more laid-back sound compared to Flatfoot, but still with the heart that we would expect from them.

 It kicks off with an ‘intro track’ of Tobin singing solo and with no instrumental backing called ‘The Old Man’. It’s a gentle introduction to the EP with the song being about an old man who wants an audience for his songs. Up next comes ‘Nam’, a livelier tune that probably would fit in on a Flatfoot album (and after all the waffle I spouted in the first paragraph!!!). It’s (obviously?) about Vietnam and tells the story of a nineteen-year-old getting drafted and sent out to fight; he wins a medal but is shunned when he comes home. (Dunno if his name is John Rambo!) Next up is ‘It’s All Been Said Before’, which has a very singalong catchy chorus, but this betrays the seriousness of its message, which basically is telling us to look at things from other people’s points of view instead of just repeating what’s been said before. Next up is ‘The Isle’, a cracking track which has religious undertones and gives Tobin’s voice a great work out. It’s very upbeat and the message (of redemption?) is very uplifting. For me personally, the next track ‘The Promise’ is the standout track of the six (don’t get me wrong they’re all top quality!) but this one is a real gem. It starts with a slide guitar sound that instantly brings you down south (think of the movie Southern Comfort), it’s very atmospheric as it builds up to the vocals first from Tobin and then Vanessa and then both together with the music gradually growing. It’s a love song that I can’t do justice to with writing, so I will just say listen to it! The final track is ‘Just Say Hi’ and it’s a two hander with Tobin and Vanessa singing a ballad about a man who needs to be more decisive if he is going to win a girl’s heart. It has a very intimate sound, just a guitar and the two singers as if it was recorded at home and not a studio, this adds to its appeal and is a warm sound to close out the disc.

This is a cracking little release from Tobin and his friends, that carries-on the great work from the first album. It’s a shame that it is only six tracks (including intro) because I’m sure we all would have welcomed more. I would definitely recommend buying it and encouraging a few live performances on this side of the pond. You can get it through the 6’10 Facebook page where you can also see what they’re up to.

(you can stream Where We Are before you buy it on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Where We Are  PhysicalCD  Download

Contact 6’10  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  Instagram

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE CHIEFTAINS- ‘Celtic Harp’

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After 57 remarkable years as the world’s most influential and successful traditional Irish folk band, The Chieftains continue to explore new and unusual passageways for Irish music collaborating with some of modern music’s fastest rising artists, reinterpreting for old and new generations alike, what the music means today while hinting where it might lead tomorrow. Here on Celtic Harp they lead a tribute to the work of Edward Bunting with the Belfast Harp Orchestra.

The Chieftains are a traditional Irish band formed in Dublin in 1963, by Paddy Moloney, Sean Potts and Michael Tubridy. Their sound, which is almost entirely instrumental and largely built around uilleann pipes, has become synonymous with traditional Irish music and they are regarded as having helped popularise Irish music across the world. They have won six Grammys during their career and they were given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2002. Some music experts have credited The Chieftains with bringing traditional Irish music to a worldwide audience, so much so that the Irish government awarded them the honorary title of ‘Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors’ in 1989. The band’s name came from the book Death Of A Chieftain by Irish author John Montague. Assisted early on by Garech Browne, they signed with his company Claddagh Records. They needed financial success abroad, and succeeded in this, as within a few years their third album’s sleeve note section was printed in three languages.

Paddy Moloney came out of Ceoltóirí Chualann, a group of musicians who specialised in instrumentals, and sought to form a new band. They had their first rehearsals at Moloney’s house, with David Fallon and Martin Fay joining the original three. The group remained only semi-professional up until the 1970s and by then had achieved great success in Ireland and the United Kingdom. In 1973, their popularity began to spread to the United States when their previous albums were released there by Island Records. They received further acclaim when they worked on the Academy Award-winning soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon, which triggered their transition to the mainstream in the US. The group continued to release successful records throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and their work with Van Morrison in 1988 resulted in the critically acclaimed album Irish Heartbeat. They went on to collaborate with many other well-known musicians and singers; among them Pavarotti, the Rolling Stones, Sinéad O’Connor and Roger Daltrey.

In 2012, they celebrated their 50th anniversary with an ambitious album and tour. The album, Voice Of Ages, was produced by T-Bone Burnett and featured the Chieftains collaborating with many musicians including Bon Iver, Paolo Nutini and The Decemberists. It also included a collaboration with NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman playing the flute aboard the International Space Station as it orbited the earth.

The Chieftains- Kevin Conneff- Bodhrán, Vocals * Paddy Moloney- Uilleann Pipes, Tin-Whistle, Button Accordion, Bodhrán * Matt Molloy- Flute, Tin-Whistle *

Paddy Moloney is the band’s leader, and composes or arranges most of the band’s music. While the band’s members changed numerous times in the band’s early history, the membership solidified in 1979 when Matt Molloy replaced Michael Tubridy. From then until 2002, members included the current band of Paddy Moloney, Matt Molloy and Kevin Conneff and also Seán Keane (fiddle, tin whistle), Martin Fay (fiddle, bones) and Derek Bell (Irish harp, keyboard instruments, oboe). In 2002, Fay retired from active membership. In the same year, Bell died due to complications following a minor operation. Fay died on 14 November 2012. The band continue to play regularly around the world and are one of the headline acts at this years Liverpool Feis alongside such great and diverse acts as Shane MacGowan, Flogging Molly and The Undertones.

The Celtic Harp was released in 1993 and produced by head Chieftain Paddy Maloney. The Celtic Harp is essentially a showcase for the very talented harpist Derek Bell who handled all of the arrangements, as well as contributed harpsichord and tiompan to the proceedings. Fine solos from flute God Matt Malloy (‘Parting of Friends/Kerry Fling’), vocalist Kevin Conneff (‘Green Fields of America’), and pipe player Maloney (‘T’Aimse ‘Im Chodladh’) give the album a definite Chieftain feel, but The Celtic Harp belongs to Bell, who infuses each note with the subtlety and grace of a true master. Five of the tracks on this album were recorded in Frank Zappa’s home studio before he died with Kevin Conneff’s ‘The Green Fields of America’ being a personal favourite of his. Two months later, the album was completed in Windmill Lane Studios with The Belfast Harp Orchestra with whom they had played and recorded a very successful show in London’s Barbican Centre a few months previously. ‘The Celtic Harp’ won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Traditional Folk Album’ in 1994.

EDWARD BUNTING

Edward Bunting was born in February 1773 at Armagh, the youngest of the three children of a mining engineer at Dungannon colliery in Coalisland. In 1782 he went to live with his organist brother Anthony in Drogheda, continuing his musical education. In 1784 he moved to Belfast as apprentice to William Ware, organist at St Anne’s. There he rapidly demonstrated his musical talent, becoming deputy organist, and, although still a boy, coached many of Ware’s adult pupils.

Bunting lodged for the next thirty-five years in Donegall Street with the McCracken family. In 1792 a festival of the last of the great Irish harpers was held in Belfast in the Assembly Rooms (later Northern Bank), and Bunting was given the task of copying their music which he eventually published in three volumes. In the early years of the nineteenth century Bunting promoted several successful series of concerts in the town. St Anne’s was the only church in Belfast at that time with an organ, but in 1806 a second Presbyterian Church was built (demolished 1964) and, contrary to the usual practice in Presbyterian churches, an organ was installed. Bunting was appointed as the church’s organist. It was here that in 1813 he organised a great music festival at which a large portion of Messiah was performed for the first time in Belfast. In 1819 he married and moved with his wife to Dublin. He was organist at St Stephen’s, and later also a partner in a music warehouse. In 1827 he secured a well-paid position as organist at St George’s.

Although he was an intimate of the major figures in the Society of United Irishmen of the period, Henry Joy McCracken, Thomas Russell and Wolff Tone, Bunting avoided political entanglements. Without Bunting’s work our knowledge of tunes and techniques would be immeasurably poorer. Bunting’s own musical abilities were considerable. In 1795, on Wolfe Tone’s last night in Ireland, his rendition of ‘The parting of friends’ reduced Mrs Tone to tears. On 21 December 1843, mounting the stairs at home, he suffered a heart attack and died within an hour. He is buried at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin.

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THE HARP – NATIONAL EMBLEM OF IRELAND

The harp is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world and also the national emblem of Ireland.

It is believed the harp was introduced to pre-Christian Europe by the Phoenicians who brought it over from Egypt as one of their international trading goods. The oldest surviving Celtic harps date back to the 15th century but the music of the harp has been an important emblem to Ireland since the 10th century.

In the days of the old chieftains harpists were held in high regard. Stories were often told to the music of the harp and it encompassed the spirit of the country. Harpists used to travel the country of Ireland performing their folk songs and stories for the public.

The most famous of these was the blind harpist, Turlough O’Carolan. His compositions are still popular today through the work of groups like The Chieftains and Planxty.

In the 16th century the music of the harp was seen as such a threat that The British Crown attempted to crush the Irish Spirit by ordering all harps to be burnt and all harpists executed. It was almost 200 years before the music of the harp was freely enjoyed in Ireland once again.

In 1792, a festival was set up in an attempt to bring back the almost extinct tradition of the harp. Only 10 harpists attended. A young organist named Edward Bunting was hired to notate the harp music at the festival.

Bunting’s transcripts are the oldest records of traditional Celtic harp music in existence as it was the tradition to hand down the music orally through the generations. Sadly, with the harp being banned for so long, most of the music was lost.

Today the image of the harp as a national symbol of Ireland is almost as well recognised as the shamrock. It appears on the Irish Euro coins and is the logo for Guinness, considered by many to be Ireland’s national drink.

The Chieftains  WebSite  Facebook  LastFM  YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

IRISH BY THE NUMBERS

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

AMERICAN IRISH POPULATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philadelphia Anti-Catholic Riots, 1844

HUDSON VALLEY: MUCH IN COMMON WITH LONDON IRISH

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

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

Stephen Gara

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

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

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

Firefighter McPadden Pipes and Drums

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

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

THE ULSTER COUNTY AOH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AOH Member “Gunny” at the Hooley

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

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

A CHANCE MEETING

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

The Wild Irish Roses at The Hooley

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

The Templars of Doom

Footnotes:

1. Eurostat via Google

2. Irish Diaspora Wikipedia

3. Washington Post, 3/17/2013

4. 2016 US Census.

5. Wikipedia

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

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

7C.  here

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

8. HudsonValleyOne.co

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

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

The Templars Of Doom  Facebook   Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Craic Agus Ceol

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

ALBUM REVIEW: McDERMOTT’S 2 HOURS Vs. LEVELLERS & OYSTERBAND- ‘Besieged’ (2019)

Second generation Irish singer-songwriter, Nick Burbridge, has been playing Irish-influenced acoustic music since his teens influencing countless others, including in their own words, The Levellers. His band McDermott’s 2 Hours were among the first to ever think of combining punk and Irish folk and his new album Besieged sees him accompanied by members of both The Levellers and the Oysterband and showcases his work as not just a musician but also, in the best Irish tradition, as a poet, playwright and novelist as well.


When writers wax lyrical about the rugged Celtic beauty that came to fruition with The Pogues and Shane MacGowan, they often seem to suggest that time has stood still and that Irish music had been sitting,waiting, since the mid-sixties ballad boom of The Dubliners et al for something suddenly to connect the urgency of punk with the heart and soul of traditional music. But out in the rough and ready bars of Hamburg and a hundred other German hostelries a band was carving out and whittling its own take on the beauty of Irish folk music; adding fire, vitality and punk-style energy while handling the travails of fights and frolics, women, dark streets and drink.  The band morphed into McDermott’s 2 Hours in 1986 (named after a wonderfully unexpected happening on pirate radio during the Battle Of The Bogside as recalled in Eamonn McCann’s War And An Irish Town) ‘being Irish and in the wrong place and at the wrong time’ – to paraphrase MacGowan. In the pubs and clubs of Brighton and London they built a reputation for their incendiary live performances that have become legend. Among their wild and youthful admirers were a gaggle of friends who, a few years down the line, influenced by the spirit, fire and camaraderie of Nick Burbridge and McDermott’s 2 Hours, would strap on guitars and call themselves The Levellers. Those in the know realise that Nick Burbridge has been, and continues to be one of the best songwriters in the Anglo-Irish tradition. He fashions songs that, as well as perfectly capturing the gritty underbelly of the Irish experience in 60s/70s mainland UK, beautifully capture the longing for home and reality of the Troubles with all the evocative magnificence of Beckett or Joyce.

But that was then and this is now.

Besieged is not so much a final curtain as a magnificent encore, serving as the last instalment of a magnificent career. Singer, songwriter, poet, playwright and frontman with folk, rock, roots and punk outfit McDermott’s 2 Hours, Nick Burbridge has released his final album with the band. Besieged sees Nick again team up with members of The Levellers (Jeremy Cunningham and Simon Friend), Oysterband (Dil Davies and Al Scott), Ben Paley (son of the late folk music giant Tom Paley), plus Tim Cotterell and friends, for the album’s twelve tracks. Released via The Levellers On the Fiddle Recordings. Given the artists involved in this album it is of no surprise to hear contemporary folk music of the itinerant outsider, travelling through Europe delivering great tunes and hard hitting poetical lyrics that stand out and are clear. All this amongst the traditional melodies expertly delivered . Fans of the artists will be delighted with the blood sweat and tears gone into this production, but this is no compilation of hits gone by,  but something new and fresh, so even if you come to’Besieged’ as an innocent abroad, looking for an anecdote to the monotony of apolitical electronica or a die hard folkster extending their collection, listen up and be inspired.

This album has everything you’d want from a folk album, laments of the itchy footed; murder ballads; the loss of young lives; drinking songs; anti establishment reeling and railing and a call to join the march of protest. Yet while the tunes are heavily rooted in tradition the lyrical content oft recounts tales of modern society, forgotten tales of the tragic loss of young life in contemporary Ireland. This theme is particularly stark in ‘This Child’, ‘Forlorn Hope’ and ‘All That Fall’.

‘This Child’ like so many a folk song laments the loss of young life, gunned down for being in “the wrong place at the wrong time.” But this is not a song of 17th century highway robbery or even a tune of the innocent Irish during the troubles. This is a song of South Manchester’s Moss Side in the 80s. The time is emphasised by electric jarring chords that blend so well with the rest of the strings, that, incidentally, give us a haunting solo in the middle eight, and a good old fashioned punky 4×4 drum beat.  This is a song of a time when the press dubbed the area ‘Gunchester’ a killing field on our doorstep when young Jesse James, the lads rightly don’t dwell on the irony of this young kids name, was shot while innocently riding his bicycle across a piece of wasteland. All this told clearly and melodically with enough rock guitar to bring on  a crescendo end of the echoing tones of feedback. ‘Forlorn Hope’ rocks us to Portadown and asks us to jig to the tale of a town divided by sectarian violence, where a night on the gear  may be followed by a morning of throwing rocks at the Orange drumming bands, where any attempt at peace was thwarted by those whose interest it was to keep communities apart. The female protagonist of the piece seems to survive but could have easily met the fate of Alice McLoughlin, shot in the back of a Portadown police car or poor Catholic Bernadette Martin shot down while sleeping in bed with reformed Protestant Gordon Green. No wonder our song’s heroine here ends up  high in Camden town. All this to growling guitars across the verses with singing violin instrumentals.

It is the first side of the album that is particularly steeped in modern day tales of tragedy and track 6 is no exception. ‘ All That Fall’ is an uplifting ballad told from the perspective of the victims of abuse that have risen to have a life now “looking back in hope, not in anger”. These “daughters of Mayo” stride history and geography and could be many a farm girl or boy abused in a barn with a sack upon their head or even daughter of Mayo, Mary Ann, kidnapped and abused with a pillowcase on her head in Reading 2005. The tune is acoustic and clear like a Christy Moore ballad that leads us to hum along, the chorus strong that anybody shaking the dust from their feet to live again will feel and the female vocals at the end soft on our ears and full of hope.

The opener of side one ‘Firebird’ gets us in a great mood and sets the tone with fiddle and guitar delivering a folk rock and reel of a Phoenix rising from the ashes with a strong vocal and sing along chorus. This is quickly, it seems,  followed by ‘Erin Farewell’ a swaying anthem for the inevitability of the natural roamer leaving behind the toil of the fields of home and the bed of his marriage under the pretence of chasing a better life in the big smoke. It reminds us of many a navvie or brickie’s song whether that come from Ian Campbell, The Fureys or indeed The Pogues. The worker here admits that it is not just the money but  the excitement and camaraderie of like minded men in a strange land he seeks. Like so many of us his yearning ping pongs him from ‘over there’ to the warmth of home, it is a lucky man who has an understanding wife. Side one also includes a rallying call to protest, ‘The Last Mile’  “Lets take it in the old style, that’s your arm through mine” they cry to an Anglo folk rhythm that has uplifting strings and drums that send a tingle right through you.

Side two  content eases us into historical ground. ‘Warrior Monk’ with strong bass, marching guitar riff and somewhat Arabic strings, walks us to the time of Crusades from the fall of Jerusalem in the 12th century to its’ Moorish reinstatement under Saladin. The song has a crusader’s bastard Moor son of the east ending in battle with his other Christian son of the west. A timely reminder of the futility of war when many a brother fights with another, we are, after all, Christian, Jew or Muslim, sons of Abraham! The jarring electric chord at the end reminds us that this is a song of now as well as then. The songwriters knowledge of history and how it weaves its way through our DNA and indeed a curse upon all our houses continues with title track, ‘Besieged’ . A wonderful trip from fortresses of 17th century Rheinfels to monastery walls, Irish tenement houses right up to date through Cornish fisherman’s houses to the so easily kicked over castles in the Sand. A lyrical metaphorical trip through the history of life and love like Bob Dylan gave Al Stewart a large dram and they wrote a song together. ‘Crossed lovers’ brings us into a timeless familiar territory of a familiar lovers quarrel “How can you hear me if you won’t listen” brought to us by two voices in a slow melodical ballad.  This is juxtaposed by  the raucous drinking song of ‘Damned Man Polka’ backed with reels and military marching drums.

This wonderful album’s penultimate song is a kick in the teeth to the abuse that taints the Church with hard hitting ‘All in your Name’ a duel tempo choppy guitar with bouncing verse and drawled accusational chorus before once again calming us down with the final track, ‘ The Ring’. A traditional sound, a beautiful song of love, land and nationhood with string, flute and voice as crisp as snow underfoot reminding us who we are, “here, now and always”.
Every listen of ‘Besieged’ is indeed time well spent.

Buy Besieged 

Limited edition two CD set released 8 February includes the Best of compilation, Anticlimactic but you can buy several versions including the download direct from Nick here

Also available from all streaming services inc. Spotify, Amazon etc  here

Contact Nick Burbridge-  WebSite  Facebook

NEW FILM. A REBEL I CAME- THE STORY OF ÉIRE ÓG LIVE AT THE BRAZEN HEAD

In 1997 Éire Óg released their Live At The Brazen Head album, one of the most iconic rebel album of its generation. This film, produced by The Rebel Collective podcast, brings together some of the original members of the band and many other prominent musicians from the rebel/folk scene to discuss how the band and album came about, its impact and legacy more then twenty years later.

Many of the best rebel bands of the moder