Category Archives: Traditional

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2017!

Yes I know it only seems like five minutes since the last one but it’s that time of year again when we give you, for what it’s worth, our opinion on who made the best music in the celtic-punk scene over 2017. It’s been another outstanding year for the music that we all love and some truly fantastic records came out in the last twelve months. So read on to find out who came #1! Remember though this is only our opinion and these thirty album’s are only the tip of the iceberg of what was released last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…

1. FLATFOOT 56 (Chicago)- ‘Odd Boat’  here

2. THE TOSSERS (Chicago)- ‘Smash The Windows’  here

3. THE BIBLECODE SUNDAYS (London) – ‘Walk Like Kings’  here
4. THE PEELERS (Canada)- ‘Palace Of The Fiend’ here
5. FEROCIOUS DOG (England)- ‘Red’  here

6. BLACK WATER COUNTY (England)- ‘Taking Chances’  here

7. THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS (Germany)- ‘Sign of the Fighter’  here

8. IN FOR A PENNY (USA)- ‘One More Last Hurrah’ here

9. LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS (Brittany)- ‘Breizh Anok’  here

10. MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS (England)- ‘As The Tide Turns’  here

11. KILMAINE SAINTS (USA)- ‘Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos’  here

12. ORTHODOX CELTS (Serbia)- ‘Many Mouths Shut’  here

13. UNCLE BARD AND THE DIRTY BASTARDS (Italy)- ‘Handmade’  here

14. THE SILK ROAD (England)- ‘S/T’ here 

15. FLOGGING MOLLY (USA)- ‘Life Is Good’  here

16. THE LUCKY PISTOLS (USA)- ‘Where The Orioles Fly’  here

17. THE REAL McKENZIES (Canada)- ‘Two Devils Will Talk’  here

18. DRUNKEN DOLLY (Netherlands)- ‘Alcoholic Rhapsody’ here

19. CASSIDY’S BREWERY (Serbia)- ‘One Brew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’  here

20. CRAIC (USA)- ‘Sounds Of Vandemark’  here

21. THE MOORINGS (France)- ‘Unbowed’ here

22. JOLLY JACKERS (Hungary)- ‘Blood Sweat and Beer’ here

23. THE SCARLET (Hungary)- ‘Hardfolk Shanties’ here

24. THE DISTILLERY RATS (Germany)- ‘Tales From County Whiskey’ here

25. CELKILT (France)- ‘Stand’ here

26. DROPKICK MURPHYS (Boston)- ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’  here

27. O’HAMSTERS (Ukraine)- ‘Где бы мы ни бывали’  here

28. SONS OF O’FLAHERTY (Brittany)- ‘The Road Not Taken’  here

29. THE BABES (London)- ‘Greetings From London’  here

30. CHEERS! (Czech Republic)- ‘Daily Bread’ here

Just bubbling under:

THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM (USA), GHOSTTOWN COMPANY (Germany) McSCALLYWAG (Netherlands)

No surprise here at all as all four admins voted #1 for Flatfoot 56 and their utterly brilliant ninth album. Not only that but we also all gave second spot to The Tossers, making it a Chicago #1 and #2! The year began with news of two new Dropkick Murphys albums coming but we only got the one and it met with, well quite a muted response to be honest. Saying that they were fantastic live and they certainly added a new dimension to these new songs when played in the flesh. The list leans heavy towards the bands from these shores it has to be said but it was always going to be with bands we get to see live regularly. It’s especially fitting to see The Bible Code Sundays in there too. In a year when every ‘big’ celtic-punk band released an album the competition was great so well done to all. Keep them coming. If you are not here then it just means we didn’t all agree or even all hear it and maybe we didn’t receive it too. The amount of debut albums from loads of these bodes well for both the scene here and internationally with a great mix of bands from thirteen countries.

BLACK WATER COUNTY- ‘Taking Chances’

This was a very hard category to fill with so many new bands arriving on the celtic-punk scene this past year. Soooo many to choose from but in the end we pumped for our very own Black Water County who just pipped Cassidy’s Brewery and In For A Penny to the title!

1. BLACK ANEMONE (Sweden)- ‘In It For Life’  here

2. RAIN IN SUMMER (Indonesia)- ‘Discordant Anthem From The Gutter’  here

3. IN FOR A PENNY (USA)- ‘Every Day Should be Saint Paddy’s Day’  here

4. THE BOTTLERS (Australia)- ‘The Bottlers’  (here)

5. BLACK RAWK DOG (Indonesia)- ‘Suburban’s Folk Stories’  here

6. BogZH CELTIC CATS! (Brittany)- ‘Kazh al Lagenn’  here

7. THE CRAZY ROGUES (Hungary)- ‘Rebels’ Shanties’  here

8. THE McMINERS (Brazil)- ‘Tales of Betrayal and Deceit’  here

9. BORN AGAIN HEATHENS (USA)- ‘Born Again Heathens’  here

10. THE DEAD MAGGIES (Australia)- ‘Wild Dogs And Flannies’  here

Stand out winner here from Sweden’s Black Anemone which none of us were sure was either a big EP or a small album so we gave it the benefit of the doubt and placed it in here. Outstanding! Two representatives of Indonesia’s fantastic celtic-punk scene made up for no album releases from there last year and one band from a Celtic nation with the BogZH Celtic Cats! The Bottlers sneak in as they only sent it to us the week before Christmas. Glad they did though.

1. DECLAN O’ROURKE- ‘Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine’  (here)

2. ShamROCKS- ‘Ye Ould Chariot’ EP  (here)

3. CRIKWATER- ‘Crikwater’  (here)

4. BEOGA- ‘Before We Change Our Mind’

5. FOLLOW THE CROWS- ‘West is East’ EP  (here)

6. PLASTIC PADDY- ‘Lucky Enough’  (here)

7. DAMIEN DEMPSEY- ‘Soulson’

8. GALLEY BEGGAR- ‘Heathen Hymns’  (here)

9. I DRAW SLOW- ‘Turn Your Face To The Sun’

10. ANTO MORRA- ‘From The Vaults’

Absolutely no question who romped home here. from the first time I ever heard Declan O’Rourke’s monumental album Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine I was simply blown away. I simply cannot recommend it enough. Go and acquire a copy now. A mix of folk and trad makes up the rest of the list with a special mention for Ukrainian band ShamROCKS who play Irish folk as if they were naturals! We would like to feature more trad and folk on these pages in the future hopefully. Also Vince Cayo had a fecking brilliant album but was neither celtic-punk nor folk. Was tempted to make a separate list just for him!

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

This use to be the Celtic Folk Punk And More Best Celtic Punk Web-Site award so often did they use to win but last year it went to the new kid on the block, our good mates over at Mersey Celt Punks. Well we were in a bit of a quandary about who would win this week but then in the last few weeks of the year the Mersey Bhoys upped their game and won a unanimous vote. They finally started to use their Web-Site (here) and published a whole host of great reviews and things like a events/gig section. You can also join in their fun and games at Twitter and Facebook and we heartily recommend you do.

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 four admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The assorted scraps of paper and beer mats were then tallied up over several pints of Guinness in Mannions. Not all of us heard the same albums so like all Best Of’s ours is subjective.

CARLTON HUNT

Of course we cannot go any further without mention of the saddest news of the year. That of the passing of Carlton , the drummer of The Bible Code Sundays. A friend of London Celtic Punks and an absolute diamond stand up guy he will be forever sadly missed by all who met him. We are grateful To Ronan for penning a few words for him.

We lost Carlton on 3rd November 2017 unexpectedly and it has left a massive hole in our family. Carlton joined The BibleCode Sundays some twelve years ago when we were still called Slainte.

His work ethic was second to none, he even dragged us into the studio to record our first CD, he did a lot of pushing in the early days and the Lord knows we needed it!

He was always the first to say yes to any gig, whether it was a small Irish pub like The Old Crown in Hayes or The Shawl or whether it was some of our bigger gigs. Over the years we played some fantastic gigs and venues, such as The Royal Albert Hall, New York’s Beacon Theatre, The House of Blues in Boston, Shepherds Bush Empire, The Roundhouse, Glasgow Barrowlands, Indigo at The O2, Glastonbury Festival, Finsbury Park, London Irish, on the pitch at Twickenham Stadium and at Celtic Park (the night Celtic beat Barcelona). We’ve played with Elvis Costello, The Dropkick Murphys, The Wolfetones, John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd, the Saw Doctors and he even got to realise a dream when we shared a stage with Thin Lizzy. They were minus legends Phil Linnot and Gary Moore but this mattered not to Carlton, his hero Brian Downey was still behind the drums. Carlton got to meet his idol and even got some Thin Lizzy drumsticks as souvenir, he was like an excited little kid that night. We did TV appearances on Sky Sports, BT Sport and even a live St Patrick’s Day performance on BBC’s The One Show.

We got to travel around on trips and tours all around the UK and Ireland as well as Germany, Italy, Spain and the USA to mention a few. This was all just topping up the stamps on his passport that he had accrued in his days with Bad Manners, Feast of Fiddles and The Melody Fakers and many more as he spent so many years on the London Irish music scene.

Not many would know that he also wrote poetry and song lyrics, they are very clever with pun-tastic wordplay and generally came out sounding like Bernard Cribbins songs with titles like ‘Breakfast Epiphanies’ or the Brighton-themed song ‘All Things Brighton Beautiful’. He used to always say

“I try to be serious but the humour always takes over”

He did, however, manage to pen two of the best songs on our latest album, he was very proud of his songs ‘Disorganised Crime’ and the beautiful ‘Clouds’. Drummers writing songs?! Whatever next?! He truly was the engine room of the band, a quiet and gentle man off stage who turned into a one man wrecking ball when he was sat behind his drum kit.

Things will never be the same without him but he would want us to and we will carry on making music and playing his songs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, on drums.. Mr Carlton Hunt

This is the 5th year of us making these lists so if you would like to check out out who was where in our previous Best Of’s then just click on the link below the relevant year.

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

CELTIC FOLK PUNK AND MORE

FOLK’N’ROCK

PADDYROCK

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

SHITE’n’ONIONS

MacSLONS IRISH RADIO

CELTICPUNK.PL

remember any views or comments we would love to hear them…

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2018

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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: PAUL ROBESON- ‘Songs Of Struggle’

FREE DOWNLOAD
Paul Robeson was one hell of a man. Outstanding in so many areas- scholar, athlete, singer, actor, linguist – the list seems endless. He was also a fearless campaigner for human rights, which led to his persecution by the authorities. His powerful bass voice had an immense power but also a gentleness and a warm sincerity that made it special. A unique voice and a unique person and Songs Of Struggle is a great introduction.
We will never see his like again.
Born: April 9, 1898  Princeton, New Jersey
Died: January 23, 1976  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Paul Robeson was one of the greatest figures of the 20th century, but he has been almost written out of American history due to his fearless advocacy of the principles of civil rights, equality and democratic freedom. He was an athlete, a qualified lawyer, a professional singer and star actor, but above all he was a campaigner for human rights the world over. A giant of a man in all respects, perhaps his most notable single attribute was his fine bass voice, and that quality can now be enjoyed and appreciated again through this album of some of his best known songs, including many of the songs reflecting his political allegiances.

Robeson saw singing and acting as a part of political campaigning after a visit to Germany and the USSR in 1934. Two factors combined on that trip, his hatred of Nazi fascism, and his admiration for the Soviet Union’s legislation for racial equality. In 1937, he sang in Spain for the Republicans fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War. The following year he came to Wales to film The Proud Valley, a film which meant more to him than any other, and which introduced him to the miners of the Rhondda Valley, and they struck up a friendship which lasted for the rest of his life. Returning to America, his fame grew with the nationwide broadcast of ‘Ballad For Americans’ in 1939, a song which was at once a declaration of love for America and a strong demand for equality. He travelled the country enthralling audiences with his songs and speeches, refusing to perform to segregated audiences, and encouraging black support for the war effort to defeat fascism which

“would make slaves of us all”.

As America entered World War 2, Paul achieved massive success on Broadway and nationwide, from 1942 to 1944, and redoubled his political campaigning against fascism, racism and colonialism, espousing the right of black people to full equality, the right of African peoples to self-government, and the progressive labour movement. His support for the war effort shielded him from criticism at first, but after the war, his views regarding the Soviet Union and African independence brought him into conflict with President Truman’s policy of containment, and it also became evident that Truman was not going to move on human rights. A growing number of Americans were also turning against him, and attempts were made to curtail his public performances. In 1947, in total disgust at such attitudes, he announced he would take two years away from the theatre and concert stage, in order to

“talk up and down the nation against race hatred and prejudice. It seems that I must raise my voice, but not by singing pretty songs”.

In 1949 he made his most controversial speech at the World Peace Conference in Paris, in which he decried the concept of American Blacks’ participation in foreign wars on behalf of a government which treated them as second class citizens. He returned to an America which was rapidly turning against him, the FBI held an ongoing investigation into his alleged ‘communist ties’, their were riots outside his concerts, and all this culminated in the revoking of his passport in 1950. This attempt to silence Paul Robeson started a period of political resistance using songs as his weapons which is unparalleled in modern history. In 1952, Canadian union leaders organized a series of concerts at the Peace Arch Park on the US-Canadian border, and invitations flowed offering Professorships and performances of Othello at Stratford. He was also invited by the workers he had befriended during the filming of The Proud Valley to sing at the South Wales Miners’ Eisteddfod.

In 1957, with the laying of the transatlantic telephone cable, Robeson gave his first Transatlantic Concert to an audience in Manchester in May, and the second in October to the Grand Pavilion at Porthcawl. In his autobiography Here I Stand, Robeson said

“I cannot say how deeply I was moved on this occasion, for here was an audience that had adopted me as kin and though they were unseen by me, I never felt closer to them”.

His passport was returned to him in 1958, and Wales was one of his first destinations, where he appeared and spoke at both the National Eisteddfod at Ebbw Vale, and the South Wales Miners’ Eisteddfod at Porthcawl.

Paul Robeson singing with a choir in a scene from The Proud Valley.

He spent the last years of his performing life abroad, but returned to the US when ill-health led to his retirement in 1963. He lived the final years of his life in seclusion in Philadelphia and died there on January 23rd, 1976. On his tombstone is his personal statement that

“The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

Addressing the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Ebbw Vale, 1958.

Thus this particular compilation of music highlighting both Robeson’s voice as well as his strong convictions is extremely appropriately themed. Much of this music is about political struggle. Opening with ‘Joe Hill’ one of America’s most famous folk songs and finding time to support the Irish people

“the only people ever persecuted in their own country were the Irish”

by singing one of the most spectacular versions of ‘Kevin Barry’ ever recorded. There is a superb article here by the Dublin based Come Here To Me web-site on Paul’s visit to London and how he came to learn the song. Kevin Barry was 18 years old when he was hanged in Dublin on November 1st 1920. Arrested after a battle with the British Army reports of his torture in Mountjoy Jail soon circulated but Barry refused to name his comrades. He was given a death sentence but it was widely believed that this sentence would be commuted, and that the British authorities would not dare to execute such a young man. His death is possibly the most poignant in Irish history.

Other pieces concern the simple struggle to continue life in the face of tribulation. They all display a worldly strength and the understanding of a man that clearly was familiar with these emotions. The performances are often minimal, using only piano and voice. Highly appropriate to these works, as this lends a highly personal atmosphere. Additionally it brings solid focus to the incredible talent that Robeson possessed. He was well known for learning languages, and singing/recording in the original tongue and here we have songs in English, German, Russian and Spanish. The sound on these recordings is a revelation. No tape hiss and no noticeable album noise. The fidelity is bright and far better than many vintage recordings. The recordings are from 1927-1942 and his most famous song ‘Ol’ Man River’ is one of the earliest here and sounds fantastic. More than 70 minutes, including a surprise 1939 poetry reading to conclude, just listen to that diction and voice control! 

FOR YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK

HERE

This is a collection that can be truly recommended.

(a tribute to Paul Robeson from the New York Irish rockers Black 47)

 with thanks to Zero G Sound- if you want music like this to light up your life then go find them here.

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPIN’ STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

(if any links are broken please leave a comment and we will try to fix it)

2017…THE STATISTICS!

a London Hun realises he will never beat the London Celtic Punks!

I know we say this every year but once again it’s been another absolutely fantastic year for both the celtic-punk scene in general and for us personally.  The amount of visits to the site exceeded last year by a whopping 10%! Far beyond anything we could have ever imagined. Once again we have been told by several bands that our reviews have a positive effect on music sales and things like Facebook Likes so we’re even more grateful that you seem to be listening and acting upon our recommendations.

TOP TEN COUNTRIES VIEWING

(2014/2015/2016 in brackets)

1. United Kingdom (!) (1/1/1 )

2. USA  (2/2//2)

3. Germany  (3/3/3)

4.  France  (5/5/5)

5. Ireland  (7/4/4)

6. Spain  (8/6/7)

7. Australia  (4/8/6)

8. Italy  (9/10/9)

9.Canada  (6/7/8)

10.Netherlands  (11/11/10)

We know from regular checks on our WordPress stats page that we have regular readers from all over the world and a big shout out to our fan in the Ivory Coast. We look forward to seeing Catalonia listed separately soon along with all the Celtic nations as well as the Basque country, Sardinia and Corsica (all countries we have regular viewers from). Until they gain independence they continue to be listed under the counties that occupy them. Not for much longer we hope…

TOP TEN ARTICLES VIEWED
(click to read)
So there you have it. Not particularly interesting to anyone but me but maybe there’s someone else out there who gives a feck!!! The next week will see the unveiling of the London Celtic Punks Best Of 2017 lists so be sure to check back and find out who rocked our odd boat the last twelve months.
Why not follow the blog and receive a e-mail every time we post by clicking on the logo at the top of the page and, depending how your viewing this, by clicking on the ‘Follow’ button either on the left hand side or scroll down after the posts.
* 2014 THE STATISTICS here
* 2015 THE STATISTICS here
* 2016 THE STATISTICS here

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2017. 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 and this year the runaway victors are from just up the road from us in Berkhamsted. We give you Flatcaps & Fisticuffs and their wicked version of ‘Good King Wenceslas’. The EP it’s from is availanble as a free download from here.

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 Britanny, 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 THIS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

Now go have a drink…

ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Breizh Anok’ (2017)

Proper authentic Celtic celtic-punk from the masters of the genre!

With more than 50,000 sales and over 600 gigs on the clock the Menhir Chimney Sweeps are one of the scene’s best and biggest bands, and they deserve that fame to spread beyond Brittany too.

There really is nothing like a Celtic celtic-punk band. By that I mean one from the celtic nations and I don’t just been anyone either but a campaigning radical Celtic celtic-punk band and their really is no one in the world to compare to Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs. Their are tonnes of great bands out there playing music inspired by their ancestors but their are only a tiny handful that sing in their native Celtic language and most of those come from Brittany. The north-west corner of what some know as France is in fact an ancient Celtic nation with its own customs, traditions and language. All of which the French government have for centuries tried to destroy. In common with all the other Celtic nations this has been resisted and in Brittany the Breton language is having a revival due in no small part to the wider community being so accepting of modern trends. Where as in Scotland the leaders of the Gaelic speaking community would rather it die out than mention that anarcho-punk band Oi Polloi sing in Gaelic. The reverse is true in Brittany as celtic-punk has been embraced and used as a weapon to push French away from the lips of Breton youth.

Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs with the incredible Louise Ebrel and the Bagad Bro Kemperle

Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs were founded in 2006 and its members include Éric on the bombard, Richard on the bagpipes, traditional vannetais singer Maurice Jouanno and Loran, famed guitarist from Bérurier Noir. Their first album Dañs an Diaoul (The Dance Of The Devil) came out the following year. The famous Breton singer Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician, guests on several songs on the album and has accompanied them throughout their career often playing with them live or on their records. We tried to get them over to these shores before but it was just too expensive sadly. If anyone out there fancies subsidising a wee tour drop us a line. They did play these shores before in early 2008 they played in Scotland with Oi Polloi and Na Gathan. Since then they have played 100’s of gigs and released two other album’s, Amzer An Dispac’h! in 2010 and Tan Ar Bobl in 2014. That LP was voted into 4th place in the 2014 London Celtic Punks Best Album list and deservedly so with it’s blend of hardcore punk accompanied by celtic instruments and shouty gang choruses and vocals. Guests from across the musical spectrum were asked to perform and did freely showing the lack of snobbery within the Breton folk/language scene. They choose to embrace Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs (not that it’s always been plain sailing) while as we have said Oi Polloi are put down and, even worse, ignored by their Scots compatriots despite all the positive work they are doing to promote Gaelic in Scotland.

Having got into them via a couple of Breton friends it really is amazing the sound that they can garner from trad Breton instruments and it was with no little shock and a wry smile that I only just found out what the band name means. It is Breton for chimney sweeps and a Menhir is the Breton equivalent of a Stonehenge style standing stone. These stones are found all over the Celtic nations as well as England and France. It is estimated that their are about 50,000 in these areas with over 1,200 in Brittany. The largest surviving menhir in the world is located in Locmariaquer, Brittany, and it is known as the Grand Menhir Brisé. Once nearly 68 foot high, today, it lies fractured into four pieces, but it weighed near 330 tons when intact. It is placed third as the heaviest object moved by humans without powered machinery. It seems apt that the band take their name from these ancient monuments as their music is so firmly rooted in Breton history and tradition.

To us the idea of a punk band playing with ancient instruments does not seem strange but outside our small but perfectly formed scene it is different but the Chimney Sweeps of Menhirs have won over everyone from young punks to their Grandad’s and Nannies and everyone in between. You may think it an exaggeration to say they are an institution but just about everyone in Brittany has seen or heard of this band that combines bombards and bagpipes with punk and is accompanied by and respected by some of the biggest names in traditional music.Using their music as a weapon to promote Breton independence it’s not too far fetched to say Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs are not just a band they are a movement and their new album Breizh Anok (Coop Breizh) is again a call to arms both literally and figuratively. You get ten songs clocking in at forty-six minutes that carries on their tradition of chugging, choppy guitar and Celtic pipes and whistles. They have always been a band that captures perfectly their live sound and here they have done it again. On Breizh Anok they are accompanied in part by the Bagad Bro Kemperle (a Breton traditional group comprising up to forty members). They joined the band on stage at Hellfest 2017 their whole performance is captured below but be careful it will bring out the Celtic warrior in you.

Now as much as it bugs me that I can’t understand what the songs are exactly about you can get a decent idea overall. Their is still no bassist and only a drum machine but by Christ can these Bhoys whip up a racket. Kicking off with ‘Dir Ha Tan’ the sound of the ocean is soon accompanied by the bombard, a sort of Celtic trumpet!, and soon we are off to that legendary Des Menhirs guitar sound and it’s fecking excellent. The drums are harsh as only a drum machine can be with its military style precision it makes sure you pay full attention. We get more like that until ‘Sucks’ rolls in and the band give the Crass song a real ear bashing with its anti-religion message. originally from the Feeding Of The 5000 album in 1978 its given a tweak here and there and

“Do you really believe in the system? Well O. K.
I believe in anarchy in Brittany.
Is it alright really? Is it alright really?
Is it working?”

The songs are given plenty of time to develop but they know when is enough as none drag on, despite a couple of songs lasting over six minutes and most well over four. Next up is the famous partisan song ‘Bello Ciao’ called here ‘Bell’ A.R.B.’. Written during the 1944/45 winter when Italians fought against German Nazis and fascists of their own country. Simple lyrics straight from the heart and more popular now than ever again it’s given a tweak and sang in part as a tribute to the ARB who were the Breton version of the IRA. I’m not afraid to say that a lot of this album has gone over my head and I have definitely, I’m sure, missed several really important bits but it’s far more important that they sing in their own language.  The album ends with a bunch of songs that nail their colours to the wall like ‘Fuck The System’ a straight up punk number. Their are no ballads here but the amazing Louise Ebrel pops up on ‘Pach Punk’ and shows that age don’t matter just so long as you got spirit. The album ends with ‘Oy! Oy! Oy!’ and goes out with a bang.

What to say here. It is powerful in music and I daresay in lyrics too. A band doesn’t get to where they are without meaning an awful lot to a lot of people. To be listened to with a free spirit as they will I promise you release that Celtic warrior inside us all. Now if only London Celtic Punks can find that sugar-Daddy (or Mammy! we not sexist) that will help us get them over here to play!

(you can listen to the whole album on You Tube below starting with ‘Dir Ha Tan’)

Buy Breizh Anok
Contact The Band
WebSite  Facebook-  Group  FanClub
email- contact@ramoneursdemenhirs.fr
 

here’s a list of YouTube videos here  well worth trawling through on a quiet night accompanied by a few beers!

easily the best English language web site check out THE BRETON CONNECTION “a portal to the Breton movement for self-determination and cultural rights”.

ALBUM REVIEW: DECLAN O’ROURKE- ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine’ (2017)

Declan O’Rourke delivers an amazing album of extraordinary true tales from the most tragic period in the history of Ireland. Fifteen years in the making he takes the best of traditional Irish music and the heart of modern song-writing for something truly special.

Sometime around 1570 Spanish soldiers returned from their ‘adventures’ in South America with a tuberous vegetable that at the time was only native to the Andes. It didn’t take long before the potato as it became known became very popular and was found to grow extremely well from one end of the continent to the other as well as having a beneficial effect on the diets of those, mainly poor, Europeans that ate them. The potato grew especially well in Ireland and was grown in every space imaginable. Irish farmers were with very few exceptions tenant farmers and had no rights on the land they farmed. They also grew an abundance of wheat, barley, oats and cattle but this was sold by the farmers to their absentee landlords living in England and placed on ships for export. The food that maintained the British Empire was all produced in Ireland.

The nutritional value of potatoes was high because the skins could be fed to pigs and chickens and if a farmer was lucky enough to have a cow, their diet, based on the potato was highly nutritious. However, potatoes have predators. One is a fungus, blight, which destroys the entire plant from the leaves to the tubers below. Sometime in the mid-1840s, one ship sailing from South America introduced potato fungal spores into Ireland. The result was catastrophic, with every farm infected with the blight by 1846. With the primary food source cut off, the Irish began starving while exports of Irish produce (the so-called ‘English beef’) continued, sometimes by armed guard to protect it from the starving and dying. The so-called ‘famine’ became known instead as Án Gorta Mór, Irish for ‘The Great Hunger’. The blight did not just affect Ireland and all over Europe the potato crops failed but those countries stopped exporting food so they could feed their own people. This did not happen in Ireland. It took months during 1846 for the news of the condition of the Irish to reach the United States. There money was collected and aid shipped to the Ireland. Many of these ships were stopped and prevented from finishing their journey with the aid often going to feed horses.

So it can be clear and without doubt that the famine was no famine at all. An island famous for farming could easily have fed itself but an attempt was made to wipe the Irish Catholic from existence. The authorities claim the population of Ireland at the time was 8 million in an attempt to lessen what was done. It is widely acknowledged as an underestimate with some scholars imagining it was more like 11 million meaning over 5 million people starved to death, cutting the population almost in half. With very few exceptions, the response of English society was one of denial. The government and capitalist class in England viewed it as a superb opportunity to cleanse Ireland of their poor, ignorant tenant farmers. Absentee landlords stepped forward with offers to pay passage to any starving Irish willing to emigrate. The conditions aboard the ships that carried them to the United States were horrendous and when they arrived, the exploitation continued as soon as these poor souls stepped off the ships and their oppression continued but the Irish survived and now almost 170 years from the peak of Án Gorta Mór the Irish community continues to prosper in the USA.

Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine is the new album from Irish singer-songwriter Declan O’Rourke and tells the story of the ‘famine’ in a

“an attempt to bring fresh air to an unhealed wound, and to remind the Irish people of what we have overcome through an examination of what has lurked just below the surface of collective memory for so long”.

It was as an immigrant himself in Melbourne that he first learnt to play the guitar after moving there at 10 years old when his family upped sticks from Dublin. Trips back and forth from home to ‘home’ continued well into his mid-20’s and finally having settled in Dublin he released his acclaimed debut album Since Kyabram in 2004 and followed up this success with Big Bad Beautiful World three years later. A stint with a major label followed and led to more critical and commercially successful releases which brings us pretty much up to date and an admission here that before this album I had only heard the name Declan O’Rourke so had no idea what to expect from this album except having an 2nd-generation Irishman’s interest in the subject matter.

The album was inspired by a night spent in a old Irish workhouse with his Dad. These were the places that the poor and starving turned to as a last resort but many found no help due to the sheer numbers of desperate and dying seeking help. Many died and many more were turned away. While making this album Declan found out that his Grandfather was born in a workhouse giving himself a very real link to the people that illustrate this album.

The album begins with ‘Clogman’s Glen’ and a mournful fiddle and as soon as Declan’s voice comes in it instantly shines through strong and proud. Reminiscent of Damien Dempsey in tone and Christy in manor it’s a beautiful and moving song that tells of a husband singing to his wife of the time before the famine when life had been good to them. Now all that they had known had changed and was gone forever. Ireland was a extremely religious nation at the time of the famine and could be seen as the major reason why Protestant Britain wanted to wipe the Catholic Irish off the face of Ireland. In ‘Along The Western Seaboard’ a priest laments that

“When we need to feed so many, and there’s not even for the few”

and curses the British for their cruelty at letting the people die. In this song Án Gorta Mór is explained. The Damo comparisons continue with the passion literally seeping from Declan’s voice. ‘Buried In The Deep’ is the horrific story of the coffin ships that left Ireland with the sick and diseased crowded onto them. Emaciated, filthy and near dead the mortality rate aboard reached 20%. Many ships were lost at sea, and deaths were so common that the dead were simply thrown overboard without so much as a word of prayer or comfort said over them.

“When I die they’ll put me over

That’ll cure my broken heart

My dreams can go no further

We’re buried in the deep

Where hunger cannot find us”

A beautiful song with Declan accompanied by harp and pipes on this stunning lament to those poor souls. Emotion spilling out it brought a flush to my cheeks as the realisation of what happened hits home.

‘Poor Boy’s Shoes’ is next and its upbeat start belies the sad origins of the song. Inspired by a line from John O’Connor’s book ‘The Workhouses Of Ireland’ it was the first song Declan wrote of this collection

“The man who carried his wife from the workhouse to their old home, mile after weary mile, and was discovered next morning dead, his wife’s feet held to his breast as if he was trying to warm them…”

as Declan says “I had stumbled into a chapter of history I knew almost nothing about. I wanted to be a witness, to share these stories the best way I knew how, through music”. An ending that will bring a tear to your eye as it did to mine. A punch to the gut as life is suddenly turned upside down for a very real family, The Buckley’s, and it beggars belief how any survived at all. He brings the story vividly and heart wrenching alive to us.

And there he tried to warm her cold feet through, And they found him there, in poor boy’s shoes”.

The bodhrán kicks off ‘Indian Meal’ and its driving rhythm tells of the removal of food while at the same time…

“There’s ships leaving’ full of pigs, heifer, and lambs
Some transportin’ convicts to Van Diemen’s Land
We’re hemorrhagin’ barrels of butter and grain
And all that comes back in, and all that remains is…
Indian Meal, Indian Meal, Indian Meal”

The government and forced labour schemes fed the poor, if they were lucky, a tasteless and un-nutritious porridge that did little benefit. The British Government found wanting and unable to hide the stench of the dead creeping across the Irish Sea responded with feeble ‘relief’ in an attempt to conceal their guilt. The stunning beauty of the harp helps ‘Mary Kate’ on its way and sorrowful the pain at having to leave your beloved ones behind and heart-breaking doesn’t even begin to measure its words. The true story of Irish girls ‘saved’ by being sent overseas. In the song Mary Kate is chosen to leave to Australia while her younger sister is to remain.

She tells her sister at the dock that she will she see her again knowing full well that to stay means death. The harp remains for ‘Laissez Faire’ which was the name given by the British to the system that believed that the free market will solve everything. That it is unethical to intervene in nature and that helping the poor only makes them lazy and dependent. An experiment that would lead to millions of deaths. The song makes mention of the help and aid given by the Quakers, among others, in America while at home and in Britain help was reluctant and miserly. Catholics were offered soup but only on condition that they renounced their Catholicism which led to the derogatory term ‘soup taker’ for any Irish Catholic who betrays their religion and country.

“Swap your Catholic halo for a Protestant hoop and give up your place in heaven for bowl of soup”

‘Rattle My Bones’ is a moment of lightheartedness among the tragedy as Declan starts off acapello before joined by accordion and soon has the ‘bones’ of a sea-shanty going. ‘The Villain Curry Shaw’ tells of a family leaving for Nova Scotia on board the Hannah setting sail from Newry on 29th April 1849. This true story tells of the ships sinking and the captain and two officers who left the sinking ship aboard the only lifeboat, leaving passengers and the rest of the crew to fend for themselves. 49 died and 130 were rescued from the freezing ice. His cowardice has gone into the history books and is now immortalised by Declan for all. The laments over for a moment ‘Johnny And The Lantern’ is for me the best song here capturing both the tragic times as well as the famous irrepressible Irish shining through. The Irish always fought the invasion of their country and again the upbeat and cheerful tune belies the subject but surely the demise of an absentee landlord is a time for celebration is it not. The landlords that sucked the land dry that farmers farmed were quick to evict when rent became hard to pay as Án Gorta Mór began to bite. Well fed on the back of their peasant farmers they were despised from one end of Ireland to the other.

‘Johnny And The Lantern’ tells of an anonymous Irish farmer shooting to death one such landlord, Manning, on the road in Delvin, Westmeath and, as is further illustrated on the cover of the album by the band dressed in ‘famine’ clothing, his body is cut to pieces.

‘And the last thing they buried, Were the hands that took the rent’.

On an album filled with melancholy and calamity your heartstrings are in constant danger as on ‘The Connaught Orphan’. Declan’s voice pulls the emotion from the tale of a young 6 year old boy who starving and all alone is provided with a new set of clothes by an American Quaker women. She wonders why the young lad is unhappy at his new outfit.

“I’ll surely die of hunger now
If they see me with your nice new clothes
They’ll think I’m telling lies, and that
I have a mammy feeds me so”

The awfulness of the situation is captured perfectly.

The inscription on the cross reads: Cailleadh Clann na nGaedheal ina míltibh ar an Oileán so ar dteicheadh dhóibh ó dlíghthibh na dtíoránach ngallda agus ó ghorta tréarach isna bliadhantaibh 1847-48. Beannacht dílis Dé orra. Bíodh an leacht so i gcomhartha garma agus onóra dhóibh ó Ghaedhealaibh Ameriocá. Go saoraigh Dia Éire – Children of the Gael died in their thousands on this island having fled from the laws of foreign tyrants and an artificial famine in the years 1847-48. God’s blessing on them. Let this monument be a token to their name and honour from the Gaels of America. God Save Ireland.

The story of those coffin ships is told in ‘The Great Saint Lawrence River’. Between 1845 and 1851 over 1,500,000 people left Ireland on diseased and vermin-infested ships rampant with disease.

“When I die they’ll put me over, We’re buried in the deep, Where hunger cannot find us”.

In the midst of Án Gorta Mór the U.S placed restrictions on the amount of Irish flooding into the country so unable to land the ships sailed on to Canada but the extra weeks meant many more perished. A 46-foot high Celtic cross stands at the highest point in the St. Lawrence River, thirty miles from Quebec. Grosse Île served as the quarantine station for immigrant ships and boar witness to the terrible devastation that brought Ireland’s destitute to the New World. It is estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 are buried here. The largest mass grave of Án Gorta Mór victims outside of Ireland. The album ends with ‘Go Domhain i do Chuimhne’ a spoken word song.

Ach na dearmaid ar gcaithú, Cuimhnidh lámh ar an mead, A tháinigh muid tharais, Más féidir linn cuimhniú, is teacht ar an tuiscint, Más féidir linn tuiscint, maith (far an) croí.

(But don’t forget our sorrows, And all of our sadness, Reflect on all that we have overcome, If we can remember, we can try to understand, If we understand, we can learn to forgive).

Spoken first in the language of Ireland and then repeated in English it is a call to remember the tragedy of those times and of the loss that we suffer as a nation both collectively and personally. This winter marks the 170th anniversary of Án Gorta Mór reaching its peak. Events that haunt us yet. The island hasn’t recovered either with the population still far below what it was in the 1840’s. It saw the Irish scattered to the winds and their orphans are still with us today with over 80 million across the world claiming Irish heritage. It is a truly electrifying way to close this outstanding album.

Growing up in England we were never taught at school about Án Gorta Mór. Maybe they thought the reality of what happened and the obvious blame at whose door the dead should be laid to rest would be too much for us, instead we found out at home in hushed bedside stories and tales around fires. My own Great-Grandfather left Ireland and lost all four of his children and wife before returning to Ireland many, many years later to marry again and start a new family. Stories we all have if we look for them. This album covers Án Gorta Mór in a most sensitive and beautiful way. Never shying away from apportioning blame to the ‘richest nation on the earth’ and telling the story of real men, women and children. People from history who lived and died in those terrible times. During ‘Go Domhain i do Chuimhne’ Declan urges us to keep our heritage, traditions and language alive. The Irish people owe Declan a great service for what he has produced here and maybe its too much to ask for it to be put on the British school curriculum but it warrants it so. It’s an emotional ride alright with several songs the tears arriving. It has taken Declan 15 years to deliver Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine and on it he is ably assisted by a wealth of Irish musicians including John Sheahan on fiddle, Dermot Byrne on accordion, Gino Lupari on bodhran and Mike McGoldrick on pipes, whistle and flute and I can honestly say that in all my 47 years I have never heard anything that evokes Án Gorta Mór in such a moving and evocative way.

Buy Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine

SignedVinyl  SignedCD  Amazon

Contact Declan O’Rourke

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Soundcloud

In writing this review I owe a huge debt to the following- my Grandfather, Michael Joesph Wilkinson. Missed every day. Dave McNally of Folk Radio UK here for his outstanding review here and Stair na hÉireann which provides invaluable help with articles on every aspect of Irish history here.

Further Recommended Reading:

Let Ireland Remember

Irish National Famine Memorial Day

but the most extensive resource on Facebook about this period is to be found at

Irish Holocaust –Not Famine: The Push To Educate In Fact’s

(Declan O’Rourke performs two tracks, ‘Indian Meal’ and ‘Poor Boy’s Shoes’ and talks about the album and his reasons for recording it)

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

It’s the first of December so let your pint glass be half full for a change and get into the festive spirit with what started as a Top Ten but but soon became the London Celtic Punk’s Top Twenty of the best kick-arse Christmas celtic-punk tunes ever written and absolutely no surprises at #1.

20. THE PRIESTS FEATURING SHANE MacGOWAN-  ‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth’

Yeah you read that right. It may not quite reach the heights of Bing’n’Bowie but feck it nothing this man does is anything short of brilliant!

19. THE RUFFIANS- ‘Christmas In Killarney’

The Ruffians cover the holiday classic Christmas in Killarney on their 2005 Christmas EP Together at Christmas.

18. REILLY- ‘Paddy’s Christmas’

Milwaukee Celtic punk band Reilly’s version of Snoopy’s Christmas, now called Paddy’s Christmas on their 2008 album Kick Ass Celtic Christmas.

17. THE GOBSHITES- ‘Christmas Eve in the Boozer’

Boston Celtic punk band The Gobshites’ cover of the Yobs’ Christmas Eve in the Boozer. On The Gobshites’ album When the Shite Hits the Fan.

16. IRISH ROVER – ‘Christmas Time In Hells’

Performed entirely by  Rover MacChroi and one for the miserablists out there. This guys glass is definitly half empty!

15. DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘AK47 [All I Want For Christmas Is An]’

Proof the Murphs can do no wrong…

14. THE REAL McKENZIES- ‘Auld Lang Syne’

Now not strictly a Christmas song but I’ve met Scots who actually enjoy Hogmaney (New Years Eve) more than Christmas!

13. THE MAHONES- ‘Angels Without Wings/Merry Christmas Baby’

From The Mahones 2012 album Angels & Devils here is their awesome Christmas song featuring Felicity Hamer.

12. SHANE MacGOWAN- ‘Christmas Lullaby’

Gotta love this tune. Irish blues with a punk rock edge. McGowan nails it again.

11. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS- ‘White Christmas’

Belfast punk rock legends, and still going from strength to strength, cause Bing to rotate in his grave with this which appeared on the B-side of ‘The Edge’ 7″ in 1979.

10. SHILELAGH LAW- ‘Christmas in New York’

Christmas is many things to many people. I will always remember that a good mate Steve died on Christmas Eve and so it’s also a good time to think of those who have passed and raise a glass to them. Here’s a tribute to the victims of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, by NY’ers Shilelagh Law.

9. MALASAÑERS- ‘Xmas Tree’

Rousing celtic-punk from Spain and available to download for free at: malasaners.bandcamp.com. Watch out for their new album due any day soon.

8. FINNEGAN’S HELL- ‘Drunken Christmas’

Sweden’s Finnegan’s Hell deliver an unorthodox Christmas anthem and yeah, yeah, yeah some Irish stereotyping sure but get over yourselves. What is it you think The Dubliners sang about? My house at Christmas was more like this than what you see on the BBC I can tell you. Anyway judge for yourself!

7. CelKILT- ‘Santa Santa!’

CeltKilt from France even released a full album of Christmas themed songs Kiltmas Songs! in 2015 and as they say themselves, and it sounds better in French I think, “festive celtic rock celtique festif”.

6. THE WAGES OF SIN- ‘Merry Christmas from the Wages’

Enjoy the festive sights, sounds, and smells of the season with Wages Of Sin and their first, and possibly last, holiday single!

5. DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE- ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’

Possibly a bit much for this Catholic Bhoy to bare so if you of a delicate disposition skip to #6. It is hilarious though from this Oregon band from their 2007 album Christmas Songs for Drunken Atheists.

4. THE GENTLEMEN- ‘Oi! To The World’

Oi to the world! so said old punkers The Vandals and this cover by The Gentlemen from West Virginia captures perfectly. One of the celtic-punk scenes most under rated bands does anyone know what became them? Any family opening up Christmas presents to this album is an top one in my book.

3. THE NARROWBACKS- Prodigal Son(I’ll be home for Christmas)

Part filmed at Paddy Reilly’s in New York this song actually brought a tear to my eye when I first heard it. After a couple of years of not speaking to my Mammy after a stupid argument we had only just made up. Kids look after your family. Keep them close and love them lots.

2. THE DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘The Seasons Upon Us’ (2016)

Unfortunate to go up against The Pogues this is The Murphys superb Christmas epic. Hilarious video of Irish-American life. Sure to lift the spirits.

1. THE POGUES FEATURING KIRSTY MacCOLL- Fairytale Of New York

When you see other Christmas best of list’s they always put ‘Arguably the greatest Christmas song of all time’ well we’ve no time for that bollocks. It is without a doubt THE greatest Christmas song of all time so there! R.I.P Kirsty

so there’s our Top Twenty. If you think we missed any post in the comments as is usually the way with these things we couldn’t stop there so bubbling under here’s one to play loud and proud!

…and so we end with some great words “let’s not fight tonight”. Just listen to The Ramones instead.

ALBUM REVIEW: CHRISTY MOORE- ‘On The Road’ (2017)

Christy Moore is one of a handful of people who brought Irish folk music out of the backroom sessions in pubs and homes and out in to the mainstream. With influences from rock, pop, and jazz music he is one of the architects of modern Irish folk music.

Released this very day is On The Road the new album from Irish music icon Christy Moore, a two-disc, 24-song set of classic tracks Christy has made his own in an incredible fifty years of touring and recording. The tracks have been recorded in seventeen live venues from London to Westport, Glasgow to Galway, over the past three years and is the first time Christy’s biggest tunes have been made available on one album. Of course with a career as long and successful as his not everyone will be happy and personally I would have liked to have seen some of the songs that gained him notoriety in the 1980’s when he was the bain of the Irish establishment recording tracks such as ‘They Never Came Home’ about 1981’s Stardust fire where 48 people died at a Dublin nightclub. Christy was hauled before the courts and fined and had his album withdrawn for suggesting, quite correctly, that the fire exits being chained was the reason for the disaster. ‘The Time Has Come’ described the last meeting of a hunger striker and his mother receiving regular plays on Irish Radio until it was revealed exactly what the song was about and it was subsequently banned. One song included here though banned at the time was ‘Mcllhatton’, which along with ‘Back Home in Derry’ was banned after it was discovered they were written by Bobby Sands whilst in prison. So there is no ’90 Miles From Dublin’ but what were we to expect. Much of the material here is of the leftfield kind and while ‘Viva La Quinte Brigada’ may have been the embodiment of everything the Irish government hated upon it’s release the years have been kind to this roll call of the brave Irishmen and women who left Ireland to fight Franco and the fascists in 1936 Spain. With his political output having ground to a halt, hopefully temporarily, it is Christy’s renowned sense of humour that takes centre stage. It is on songs such as ‘Joxer Goes To Stuttgart’ about Irish fans travelling to Euro 1988, in West Germany and, utilizing the same tune, ‘Delirium Tremens’ telling of his alcoholic demons, an idea later stolen by indie rock band Carter USM for ‘Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere’, that Christy’s music comes alive with the audience enthusiastically singing and clapping along.

“Goodbye to the Port and Brandy, to the Vodka and the Stag,
To the Schmiddick and the Harpic, the bottled draught and keg.
As I sat lookin’ up the Guinness ad I could never figure out
How your man stayed up on the surfboard after 14 pints of stout”

As much as I love the more raucous and lively tracks there is no denying the beauty of the slower songs here. Well known standards such as ‘Nancy Spain’ and ‘Cliffs Of Dooneen’ are putty in his hands extolling emotion that not many can squeeze out of a song heard countless times. One of the highlights of the album is his take on The Pogues ‘Fairytale Of New York’ and his half whispered voice and relaxed guitar adds another dimension to this amazing song. It ends with Christy whispering of a night on the lash with Shane in Tipp and it is breath-takingly beautiful. There is a new song in the shape of ‘Lingo Politico’ dedicated to politicians everywhere! The quality of these recordings is simply outstanding and they have been edited together superbly to make an album that flows and ebbs beautifully. Accompanied by a booklet that tells you every single thing you need to know about these recordings. Christy’s voice is strong and powerful when needed and gentle and kind at other times. Their can’t be many who need an introduction to his recordings but to those who love him and those looking for an introduction to his best work this can be recommended mainly because of that excellent production..

AN ORDINARY MAN By Scott Feemster

Christopher Moore was born in Kildare, Ireland in May, 1945. His father owned a grocery shop while his mother was a keen music fan and was often caught singing around the house to Clancy Brothers records. Christy and two of his five siblings, Ailish and Barry, all went on to be notable singers, Barry adopting the stage name Luka Bloom later in life. When Christy was young, he became aware of the deep well of Irish folk songs, though, at the time, he was more impressed with rock’n’roll than folk tunes. Regardless of influence, he took up the guitar and bodhran and played briefly in a band with who would become his long-time collaborator, Donal Lunny. When he was out of school, Christy took a job as a bank clerk in Dublin and became fascinated by the local folk scene. Though he played a few gigs he couldn’t work his way into the Dublin scene as much as he wanted, and when a labour strike struck in the mid 60’s he decided to pack it in and move to England to find work. Christy spent the next few years gaining quite a reputation in England with his mix of traditional Irish and British songs and towards the end of the 60’s he decided to take the next logical step. Managing to get noted songwriter (and brother of Brendan) Dominic Behan to produce an album of traditional folk and political songs called Paddy On The Road (1969) and it has become something of a rarity in later years since only 500 copies were pressed. Though thrilled that he finally had an album to show for his efforts, he was disappointed that the English musicians backing him didn’t have the proper feel for the Irish material he was presenting. Christy moved back to Ireland and set upon finding some musicians who could play the fiery brand of politically-charged folk music he wanted to produce. Moore teamed up with his old friend guitarist/bouzouki player Donal Lunny, uillean piper and whistle player Liam O’Flynn, mandolinist Andy Irvine and bodhran player Kevin Conneff to produce Prosperous (1972), an album that marked a turning point in Irish folk music. Suddenly, younger Irish musicians were taking up traditional instruments and songs and injecting new urgency and fire into them. This combination worked so well together that they decided to carry on as a group, calling themselves Planxty. Touring relentlessly and recording the landmark Planxty (1973) and The Well Below The Valley (1973).

Moore set to work on a solo album that would show all of his strengths, and decided to split Whatever Tickles Your Fancy (1975) between an acoustic side and an electric side. The acoustic side featured Moore’s voice, guitar and bodhran playing, while the electric side was similar to the folk-rock style Fairport Convention were popularizing around the same time. Moore followed it up with his self-titled Christy Moore (1976), this time concentrating on acoustic-based narrative folk songs that were his strength. Moore took on a heavy schedule of touring and playing gigs but kept his connection with his former Planxty bandmates, and by late 1978 the original four members were keen to try the band again adding fifth member flutist Matt Molloy to the band and recording three further album’s between 1979 and 1983. Wanting to branch out from the traditional sound put forth by Planxty, Moore joined with Lunny in 1981 and formed Moving Hearts, who combined traditional Irish music with contemporary elements from rock and jazz. Other members of Moving Hearts included guitarist Declan Sinnott, saxophonist Keith Donald, bassist Eoghan O’Neill, drummer Brian Calnan and uillean piper Davy Spillane. Protests against internment, the ‘H Blocks’ and in support of the hunger strikers led to several bans and Christy’s outspoken opinions left him no friends in the establishment. Two politically-charged albums resulted, Moving Hearts (1981) and Dark End Of The Street (1982), before again Christy left to concentrate on his solo career.

To say that the 1980’s was a busy period would be an understatement, as Christy managed to be a member of Planxty, Moving Hearts and a solo artist all at the same time. He released a whole series of solo albums throughout the 80’s, including The Time Has Come (1983), the critically acclaimed Ride On (1984),  Ordinary Man (1985), Spirit Of Freedom (1985) Unfinished Revolution (1987) and Voyage (1989), with guests including Sinead O’Connor and Elvis Costello. If Christy wasn’t enough of an Irish national treasure with his work in the 70’s, his output during the 80’s combined with populist political commentary in his lyrics cemented his stature in Irish music as Ireland’s equivalent of America’s Woody Guthrie.

Moore entered the 90’s still touring and releasing albums, though slowing down a bit to near human levels. Releasing the over-produced Smoke & Strong Whiskey (1991) before a more traditional, stripped-down sound with King Puck (1993). The rousing Live At The Point(1994) followed but in 1997, Christy’s decades of constant touring, combined with his attraction to copious amounts of alcohol finally caught up with him. Told if he continued performing at the level he had been his heart would kill him he retired to take care of his health, but soon returned to the studio to make Traveller (1999), a giant left turn for Moore. The album was techno-pop utilizing synthesizers, drum machines and heavily effected electric guitar, along with the usual traditional Irish instrumentation. The album was greeted by surprise by Christy’s fans, but was generally well reviewed. He planned a return to performing live again in 1999, but his health still wasn’t up to it using the down time to his advantage writing his autobiography, One Voice (2000).

Though it looked like his days of heavy touring were over, he was not done recording getting together with Donal Lunny and Declan Sinnot for This Is The Day (2001), which, sound-wise, split the difference between his earlier stripped-down acoustic records and the sound captured on Traveller. Moore followed with a series of low-key appearances in Dublin, and after being profiled on an Irish TV special, renewed interest was shown towards Planxty, and Moore joined with Lunny, Irvine and O’Flynn for some reunion shows. Planxty kept their reunion open-ended, and did not rule out working together in the future but Christy returned to his solo career with the critically-acclaimed Burning Times (2006), which featured his own compositions mixed in with covers by such songwriters as Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan and Morrissey. Again, Moore took to playing some shows, although in a much more low-key manner, and put out the double album Live In Dublin (2006). Recent years have seen no let up but with his releases now tending to be of the tribute/live/greatest hits variety he is still a regular visitor to this side of the Irish sea and although recently the admission fee’s have been somewhat expensive he still remains one of Ireland’s most treasured performers and, dare I say it, now part of the establishment.

Buy On The Road- All links here

Christy Moore- WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  ChristyMooreForum  Twitter

SINGLE REVIEW: THE PUNKFOLKERS- ‘Angry Man/ The Blacksmith’ (2017)

London Celtic Punks favourite and London Irish folk punker Anto Morra is back with his new project The Punkfolkers. This isn’t the folk-punk of The Levellers or The Pogues but the punk of the Pistols, The Stranglers and SLF as filtered through some real story telling and traditional folk.

The Punkfolkers are a three piece band based in East Anglia, around Norwich. Their mission in life is to introduce folk music to to the punks and punk to the folkies. This is the band’s debut release and comes out tomorrow, forty years to the very day that the Sex Pistols released the seminal Never Mind The Bollocks album. That album that changed the face of Britain and more importantly the music industry if, only for a short time, from the stale and boring to something alive and exciting and challenging.

This release is an old school double A side in the tradition of those early punk singles. With ‘Angry Man’ an original Punkfolkers song and ‘The Blacksmith’ in keeping with the style of the single is an traditional English folk song. Formed back in 2013 and led by the incredibly talented Anto Morra the band got together when recording Anto’s debut album Never Had To Shout. Accompanied here by John Child on guitar and Thim Flaxman on bass they have so far played an handful of shows including the London Celtic Punks sponsored release show for Anto’s EP ‘The Patriot’ but have been in the studio of late putting some tracks together for this single and a forthcoming album due for release in early 2018. The band’s knowledge of the punk movement is vast and diverse with Anto well known to us at London Celtic Punks and the London punk scene. As said an incredibly talented individual who is also unburdened by any sort of ego and is as nice a fella as could be met within the music scene. Anto has the not only a indepth knowledge of the asthetic and cultural importance of the movement but also a love and understanding of traditional folk music. If you ever want to hear unabashed folk music played on a acoustic guitar with no frills but filtered through the imagination of a dyed in the wool punk rocker then Anto Morra is your man without a doubt. Joined by John and Thim who as ex-members of East Anglian punk band Stain have brought the ability to recreate the sound used in early punk rock with an authenticity rarely seen.

Side A is the punky ‘Angry Man’ and a real time warp taking you back to the days of Liverpool winning the league and industrial disputes! Anto has a great voice and his London Irish twang fits perfectly and when he drops his ‘Aitches’ you know its not done for effect like the public school Lily Allen and co. Anto takes angry swipes at the things that piss him off like fox-hunting and the empire of The Sun but with a great dollop of humour and satirical bite that many Anarcho-Punk bands could only dream of. Chugging guitar and and throbbing bass instantly reminds you of 70’s bands like The Killjoys or Eater and loads of those early bands were London Irish so great to know we’re still doing now! The AA side is ‘The Blacksmith’ and is a bit more like what us Anto fan’s are use to.

Not afraid to play both the more popular or the obscure songs Anto has chosen well here with a song that has been covered by some real legends and pioneers of folk-rock. Steeleye Span, Planxty, Pentangle have all recorded it while into more modern times Runa had a marvellous version on their debut album Jealousy. It is a traditional English folk song also known as ‘A Blacksmith Courted Me’ and was first noted back in 1909.

“Strange news is come to town
Strange news is carried
Strange news flies up and down
That my love is married.
I wish them both much joy
Though they can’t hear me
And may God reward him well
For the slighting of me”

The well worn tale of illicit love and deceit is played by The Punkfolkers with Anto’s voice pushed to the fore but the understated backing is superb and really grows as you notice it more and more each time you hear the song. Of course the banjo that drops in half way simply takes it to another level. Superb.

The Punkfolkers

So keep an eye out for The Punkfolkers album Night Bus To Tombland  due out sometime early 2018 and in the meantime enjoy this single from a band with a great pedigree and to say I am excited to hear it is an understatement I can tell you. Forty years of protest, rebellion and punk and with records like this we can look forward to another forty as well!

Buy The Punkfolkers debut single

iTunes  Amazon

Contact The Punkfolkers via Anto Morra

Facebook  Reverbnation  Twitter  YouTube  Bandcamp

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: DICK GAUGHAN- ‘Handful Of Earth’ (1981)

AND FREE DOWNLOAD

Considered one of the great folk voices of our time and acknowledged as one of Scotland’s most outstanding musicians. Handful Of Earth is renowned as not only his best album but also as one of the best folk album’s of all time.

Dick 1

Though steeped in the traditions of folk and Celtic music, Scottish singer/songwriter Dick Gaughan has enjoyed a lengthy and far-reaching career in a variety of pursuits. The eldest of three children, he grew up surrounded by the music of both Scotland and Ireland. His mother, a Highland Scot who spoke Gaelic, had as a child won a silver medal for singing at a Gaelic Mòd and his Leith-born dad played guitar while his Irish grandad the fiddle and his Glaswegian grannie played button accordion.

The family experienced considerable poverty, but the area they lived in possessed a strong community and many of Gaughan’s songs celebrate his working-class roots. In his teens Gaughan served an apprenticeship at a local paper mill, but had wanted to be a musician since he first started playing guitar at the age of seven. Born in 1948, he first picked up the guitar at the age of seven, and released his debut solo album, No More Forever, in 1972. He then joined the Scots folk-rock group the Boys Of The Lough before returning to his solo career with 1976’s Kist o Gold. However, he soon formed a band named Five Hand Reel. Over the next two years, Gaughan issued four more records – two solo releases (1977’s Copper and Brass and 1978’s Gaughan) as well as two more Five Hand Reel outings (1977’s For a’ That and 1978’s Earl o’ Moray).

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he worked as a writer and in a theatre company but after a three-year absence from the studio, Dick returned to regular musical duty with the release of 1981’s Handful of Earth. The album has gone onto become one of the greatest recordings of traditional folk song’s ever made. His guitar playing is innovative, expressive and powerful and his voice is by turns tender, angry and passionate and even old songs sound new in his hands. The mixture of love songs, odes of parting and political commentaries such as ‘Worker’s Song’ and ‘World Turned Upside Down’ is Gaughan’s most complex and emotional work, and has come to be recognised as a masterpiece being named as Album of the Decade by Folk Roots magazine.

His version of ‘Song For Ireland’ is the album’s highlight capturing the sadness of emigration and evokes perfectly the feelings that those poor Irish must have felt when forced to leave their homes. Handful Of Earth is a brilliant album and features Brian McNeill, Phil Cunningham, and Stewart Isbister and is, without doubt, Gaughan’s best blend of traditional and contemporary songs.

In Dick Gaughan’s own words on Handful Of Earth

“This was the first album I had recorded in Scotland. For some reason, it seemed to strike a chord with people and it is the most successful recording I have made in terms of acclaim and sales.

It was Melody Maker’s Album of the Year in 1981 and in 1989 it was voted in the Critics’ Poll, and more important to me, the Readers’ Poll, in Folk Roots as Album of the Decade. I have had hundreds of reviews, good and bad, and I pay little attention to them. But when the actual people you’re playing to confer an honour like that upon you, you shed the odd tear of thanks that you’ve been privileged to be able to do something which means something to them.

Why they voted it such was a complete mystery to me then and still is today. As a friend of mine says, “Never ask one of the actors what they thought of the play”

A Different Kind of Love Song followed in 1983, and in 1985 he released a live album and a year later True and Bold. After 1988’s Call It Freedom, Gaughan again retreated from view devoting much of his time to his increasing interest in computer technology. In the mid-90’s he formed a new band, the short-lived Clan Alba, who disbanded after releasing a 1995 self-titled debut and he returned to making solo album’s and began to tour the country regularly to packed audiences everywhere. That was sadly until September 2016 when he announced that he was cancelling all public performances until further notice. This was because he believed that he had had a stroke, which was affecting his ability to perform. 

Statement from Dick Gaughan’s management

‘”This statement about Dick Gaughan’s health should be read before reading or believing anything else. Dick has now stated publicly at two recent gigs that, “In order to prevent rumours spreading, I think I have had a stroke”. It is untrue to say that he cannot sing or play guitar. However in saying what he has said, Dick is acknowledging that ‘something’, as yet unconfirmed, is not right. Dick has an appointment with a neurologist in early October 2016 when the situation will, it is hoped, be clarified. Until then “I think I have had stroke” is not an opinion based on medical fact”

London Celtic Punks send our best wishes to Dick wherever he may be laid up and look forward to seeing him performing again down here in the smoke. Get well soon Dick the scene needs you.

FOR YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD PRESS

*HERE* or *HERE*

Password: folkyourself.blogspot.com

Track-Listing
1 – Erin-Go-Bragh
2 – Now Westlin Winds
3 – Craigie Hill
4 – World Turned Upside Down
5 – The Snows They Melt the Soonest
6 – Lough Erne-First Kiss at Parting
7 – Scojun Waltz-Randers Hopsa
8 – Song for Ireland
9 – Workers’ Song
10 – Both Sides the Tweed

Dick Gaughan: Vocal, Guitars, Brian McNeill: Fiddle, acoustic bass, Stuart Isbister: Bass, Phil Cunningham: Keyboard, Whistle

All tracks trad. arr. Dick Gaughan except Track 4 Leon Rosselson; Tracks 6b, 7a Dick Gaughan; Track 8 Phil & June Colclough; Track 9 Ed Pickford

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPING STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

(if the links are broken please leave a comment and we will fix)

BEYOND THE FIELDS NEW VIDEO AND TRIBUTE TO ALISTAIR HULETT

The new video from Swiss band Beyond The Fields is a fantastic cover of the Alistair Hulett penned classic ‘Blue Murder’.  Their fine homage to one of Scotland’s finest folk musicians was recorded live at this year’s traditional Grabenhalle Irish Night in St. Gallen, Switzerland on March 18th, 2017. Mixed by Eddy Sloof and filmed by Metunar.
By kind permission of The Alistair Hulett Memorial Trust.

They say it’s easy money
A full page ad in the local rag,
Always nice and sunny.
Come on lad, and pack your bag.
It’s off to West Australia.
Leave the old hometown behind.
Be a winner, not a failure.
There’s money to be made in the Wittenoom Mine.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

They took me to my quarters,
A stinking bed in an old tin shed.
Got my working orders,
With a lamp, and tin hat on my head.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

My girl she’s a cook and a cleaner.
Works all day in the canteen hall.
Six days since I’ve seen her.
Some don’t have no girl at all.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

Sweeps the fine blue dust up.
Tips it into an old wool pack.
Never had a check-up.
If she did she’d get the sack

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

I feel my health is failing
Working down in the thick blue dust.
The kids play in the tailings.
The boss says work, and work I must.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

For those who aren’t too familiar with Alistair Hulett’s (1951 – 2010) life and work, he was born and raised in Scotland but spent half of his life in Australia. He made a name for himself both as a solo artist and as the lead singer of legendary Australian folk rock band Roaring Jack. Apart from being a gifted singer/songwriter, Alistair was a committed socialist and a dedicated political and community activist. He was indeed one of those artists who consequently used his art trying to make a difference, to fight injustice and exploitation wherever and whenever he could. Alistair wrote songs about crimes against indigenous people, whether it was the British nuclear tests in Australia (‘Plains of Maralinga’) or human rights violations in Papua New Guinea (‘Good Morning Bougainville’). He wrote songs about the Highland Clearances (‘Destitution Road’), detention centres (‘Behind Barbed Wire’), the mistreatment of workers, you name it. ‘Blue Murder’ was one of two songs he wrote about the suffering of those who worked in the blue asbestos mine in Wittenoom, Western Australia. Countless miners and their families who paid with their health and lives after being exposed to lethal asbestos fibres, a health hazard well known to those who ran the mine.
Alistair originally wrote the song for a play while still in Roaring Jack. He eventually recorded it for his third solo album “Saturday Johnny & Jimmy the Rat”, together with folk legend Dave Swarbrick on fiddle!
To find out more about Alistair Hulett and his amazing body of work, visit
http://www.alistairhulett.com

BEYOND THE FIELDS

Eva Wey (Fiddle) * André Bollier (Vocals and Acoustic Guitar) * Marcel Bollier (Bass) * Uwe Schaefer (Mandolin) * Eddy Sloof (Drums and Percussion)

A Celtic folk rock band from the Lake Constance area, playing both acoustic and electric shows. Founded by singer/songwriter Andre Bollier, and featuring classical, folk, jazz and rock musicians from both Switzerland and Germany, the band offers its own distinctive mix of Irish and American folk traditions with rock, punk and other elements.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE GOBSHITES- ‘All The Best’ (2017)

The Only Folk’n’Irish Band That Matters!

 

The Gobshites hail from Foxboro in Massachusetts which is about 22 miles south of Boston and is part of the Greater Boston area making them part of celtic-punk folklore. Let’s face it everything Boston is worshipped in the scene and The Gobshites have certainly played their part in making Boston so. We have waxed lyrical about Boston before when we have reviewed albums form the Dropkick Murphys and Mickey Rickshaw but the story of Irish migration to the Boston area begins with those who were brought over unwillingly as indentured servants in the mid-17th Century.  The first real migration of the Irish began in 1718 with the arrival of the Scot-Irish or the ‘Ulster Irish’. The Irish continued to arrive throughout with the slow pre-‘famine’ trickle of the 1820’s onward of Irish Catholic immigrants as well as the corresponding increase in anti-Irish/Catholic sentiment within Boston beginning with the notorious Pope’s Day celebrations and the burning of the Ursuline Convent in 1834 in Charlestown and the Broad Street Riot of 1837. Finally the massive wave of immigration into Boston after the so-called ‘Famine’ and the rise of the Irish from poverty and discrimination into their assimilation into Boston culture. Mind you, The Gobshites ignore all that and sing about boozing it up!

Way back inn 2002 Irish-American punk rocker Pete Walsh, then the lead singer and rhythm guitar player for punk band Meat Depressed, decided he wanted to start up an Irish band and within less than a month later The Gobshites were supporting New York Irish legends Black 47 in their first gig. The band have been through many many line up changes but have been lucky to have had several periods of stability through their career where they have been able to release some of the best records in celtic-punk history. Their debut album, When The Shite Hits The Fans, hit the streets running and instantly gained them a legion of fans and led to them playing all over  the northeastern United States as well as the renowned Shamrockfest in Washington DC and having a float playing along the route of the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade. 2007 was a busy year with two albums released with Get Bombed and Another Round before 2011’s Songs Me Da Got Pissed To and the official live bootleg Poitin. It may have been six years without any new material but the lads had not disappeared and continued to play regularly around their home and further afield leading to The Whistle Before the Snap late last year which featured Ritchie Ramone on drums and for the first time consisted of solely Gobshites penned songs.

All The Best is their new release and is typical of The Gobshites wicked sense of humour. The band are famed for taking unusual punk rock songs and turning them into Irish folk trad classics. In a scene where we are more used to folk songs being given a punk rock edge The Gobshites happened on something both really good and highly original. Transforming songs like Black Flag’s ‘Six Pack’ into good auld Irish Singalongs with The Ramones ‘Long Way Back to Germany’ becoming ‘Long Way Back to Ireland’ with fiddle jig incorporated.

All The Best was released on June 1, 2017 and is sixteen of the best songs from The Gobshites back catalogue and is an absolutely fantastic album and the perfect introduction to the band if you have been unlucky not to have heard them yet! Beginning with a superbly ramshackle trad Irish folk tune ‘Anderson’s Reel’ showing that the lads can really play their instruments. A great version of celtic-punk fave ‘Star Of The Country Down’ follows and then ‘Cheers (Raise A Pint)’ which was the first song I ever heard by The Gobshites. It appeared on the famous celtic-punk compilation series What the Shite? Volume Two from 2006 which introduced the world to a whole load of new bands. Catchy is The Gobshites byword and though acoustic and folk its also punk as feck as well!

The Gobshites left to right: Stephen Feeney- Accordion * Corey Jobeau- Mandolin * Nina Ross- Fiddle * Peter (Peadar) Walsh- Vocals/ Guitar * Paddy O’Hare- Drums * Amanda McCue- Guitar/Vocals * Dave Vittone- Accordion/ Keyboards/ Hello Kitty Piano * Tom Hughes- Bass (various folk fill in on Whistle and Banjo but looking for full time applicants for both!)

Booze features heavily on the Gobshites play list and would come as no surprise seeing as they follow the two most beer friendly music scenes in Irish and punk. ’12 Steps’ has a “drink, drink. drink, drink, drink etc.,” chorus that must make it VERY popular at live gigs and again is a brilliantly catchy tune and has a Hello Kitty toy piano solo to boot! ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’ is a cover of the song banned by pretty much everyone on it’s release in 1972. Penned by Irish-scouser ex-Beatle Paul McCartney it was banned so thoroughly that its pretty much unknown in the UK despite it reaching number 16 in the Official Singles Chart.

“Tell me how would you like it
If on your way to work
You were stopped by Irish soldiers
Would you lie down do nothing
Would you give in or go berserk”

Written in response to Bloody Sunday when British soldiers ran amok in Derry in the north of Ireland murdering sixteen unarmed Catholic civilians. It’s a great song and we can’t imagine the bravery of McCartney to release it at that time. Again a brilliant version here with Pete’s voice giving it the right amount of emotion and The Gobshites stamp is all over it. Next up is possibly the album standout for me, ‘Friggin’ In The Riggin’. The Sex Pistols risque double-A side that reached No. 3 in the UK singles chart in 1979 and was actually the band’s biggest selling single and being three quarters sea shanty anyway it was ripe for covering. Over in a flash the celtic instruments rule and turn the Pistols song into the Irish standard it was always meant to be.

“It was on the good ship Venus
By Christ, ya shoulda seen us
The figurehead was a whore in bed
And the mast, a mammoth penis”

Not for the faint-hearted, or your Nan, but great fun. Two great drinking songs next with ‘I Only Drink Stout’, a piss take version of The Queers ‘I Only Drink Bud’, and the simply titled, and apt!, Gang Green song ‘Alcohol’ keep up the tempo until a good and solid ‘Dirty Old Town’ hits the decks and yeah I know you’ve heard it a million times but a good version is still a good version and even a shite one can still have you belting out your lungs! Has a very good Clash tribute at the end to ‘London Calling’. ‘Pubcrawling’ name checks the local bars of Foxboro (be interesting to know how many have survived the yuppie invasion) while ‘Pirates Life For Me’ begins with the sound of the ocean and sample galore as The Gobshites ham the theme tune to Pirates Of The Caribbean right up.

‘Trouble With Women’ is a funny wee ditty which slots in nicely with its slow and (yes!) catchy chorus. Another favourite of mine here is The Ramones track ‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’, though this live version owes as much to The Meteors psychobilly version as The Ramones.

Pete is joined on vocals by Ritchie Ramone and what sounds like a massive crowd. The aforementioned ‘Long Way Back’ features another Ramone in Tommy and begins with uileann pipes and is another bloody corker. Boston based musician and sometime actor Lenny Lashley of The Street Dogs gives us a song simply called ‘Irish’ and its as good a homage to the homeland as any. Written by Lenny for his old band Darkbuster we are nearing the end and its time for the abso-fecking-lutely hilarious ‘Shane’s Dentist’. Written by country/punkabilly legend Mojo Nixon just watch the video for the story but yes it’s about you know who. For the final song we leave where we came in with a short and extremely well played Irish traditional tune ‘The Sally Gardens’.

So there you have it and there can be no surprise when I say that every song on this album is Premier League. The Gobshites have been at the forefront of the celtic-punk scene ever since they started and with a back catalogue to die for they could have made this Best Of thirty-two (or sixty-four!) tracks and the quality would still shine right through. They may not have toured Europe or even across America (yet!) but they have still managed to make quite the name for themselves. I haven’t played The Gobshites in quite a while but this is surely one of the most catchiest and cool as fk records I have heard in ages and not only that but they have made it a ‘Pay What You Want’ download meaning that it’s available for free if you so wish but get the Bhoys at least a Guinness won’t you? So drop what you doing, get downloading, get the beers in, only stout of course, sit back and relax and turn up the volume!

(listen to Some Of The Best for free below on the Bandcamp player)

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gob·shite  (gŏb′shīt′)

n. Chiefly Irish Slang  person regarded as mean or contemptible.

THE HISTORY OF CELTIC-ROCK MUSIC

Today the 30492- London Celtic Punks web zine is four years old today so what better way to celebrate our birthday than to give you this small but perfectly formed potted history of Celtic-Rock. We have never just wanted to be a place that only reviews new records we want to celebrate everything that makes us celtic-punks. Our love of our roots and our history and our traditions and the love that those with no Celtic ancestry have as well. Celtic-Punk is for all that share our common values of friendship and solidarity and the love of a good time. Music cannot change the world but it can certainly make it a better place to live in and in these uncertain times that is something we all need. The roots of celtic-punk should be important to us as that is where we come from and we must never forget that.

The London Celtic Punks Admin Team

Celtic rock is a genre of folk rock, as well as a form of Celtic fusion which incorporates Celtic music, instrumentation and themes into a rock music context. It has been extremely prolific since the early 1970’s and can be seen as a key foundation of the development of highly successful mainstream Celtic bands and popular musical performers, as well as creating important derivatives through further fusions. It has played a major role in the maintenance and definition of regional and national identities and in fostering a pan-Celtic culture. It has also helped to communicate those cultures to external audiences.

Definition

The style of music is the hybrid of traditional Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton musical forms with rock music. This has been achieved by the playing of traditional music, particularly ballads, jigs and reels with rock instrumentation; by the addition of traditional Celtic instruments, including the Celtic harp, tin whistle, uilleann pipes (or Irish Bagpipes), fiddle, bodhrán, accordion, concertina, melodeon, and bagpipes (highland) to conventional rock formats; by the use of lyrics in Celtic languages and by the use of traditional rhythms and cadences in otherwise conventional rock music. Just as the validity of the term Celtic in general and as a musical label is disputed, the term Celtic rock cannot be taken to mean there was a unified Celtic musical culture between the Celtic nations. However, the term has remained useful as a means of describing the spread, adaptation and further development of the musical form in different but related contexts.

History

Origins

Celtic rock developed out of the (originally English) electric folk scene at the beginning of the 1970’s. The first recorded use of the term may have been by the Scottish singer Donovan to describe the folk rock he created for his Open Road album in 1970, which itself featured a song named ‘Celtic Rock’. However, the lack of a clear Celtic elements to the self-penned tracks mean that even if the name was taken from here, this is not the first example of the genre that was to develop.

Ireland

It was in Ireland that Celtic rock was first clearly evident as musicians attempted to apply the use of traditional and electric music to their own cultural context. By the end of the 1960’s Ireland already had perhaps the most flourishing folk music tradition and a growing blues and pop scene, which provided a basis for Irish rock. Perhaps the most successful product of this scene was the band Thin Lizzy. Formed in 1969 their first two albums were recognisably influenced by traditional Irish music and their first hit single ‘Whisky in the Jar’ in 1972, was a rock version of a traditional Irish song. From this point they began to move towards the hard rock that allowed them to gain a series of hit singles and albums, but retained some occasional elements of Celtic rock on later albums such as Jailbreak (1976). Formed in 1970, Horslips were the first Irish group to have the terms ‘Celtic rock’ applied to them, produced work that included traditional Irish/Celtic music and instrumentation, Celtic themes and imagery, concept albums based on Irish mythology in a way that entered the territory of progressive rock all powered by a hard rock sound. Horslips are considered important in the history of Irish rock as they were the first major band to enjoy success without having to leave their native country and can be seen as providing a template for Celtic rock in Ireland and elsewhere. These developments ran in parallel with the burgeoning folk revival in Ireland that included groups such as Planxty and the Bothy Band. It was from this tradition that Clannad, whose first album was released in 1973, adopted electric instruments and a more ‘new age’ sound at the beginning of the 1980s. Moving Hearts, formed in 1981 by former Planxty members Christy Moore and Donal Lunny, followed the pattern set by Horslips in combining Irish traditional music with rock, and also added elements of jazz to their sound.

  • THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY (here)

Scotland

There were already strong links between Irish and Scottish music by the 1960s, with Irish bands like the Chieftains touring and outselling the native artists in Scotland. The adoption of electric folk produced groups including the JSD Band and Spencer’s Feat. Out of the wreckage of the latter in 1974, was formed probably the most successful band in this genre, combining Irish and Scottish personnel to form Five Hand Reel. Two of the most successful groups of the 1980s emerged from the dance band circuit in Scotland. From 1978, when they began to release original albums, Runrig produced highly polished Scottish electric folk, including the first commercially successful album with the all Gaelic Play Gaelic in 1978. From the 1980s Capercaillie combined Scottish folk music, electric instruments and haunting vocals to considerable success. While bagpipes had become an essential element in Scottish folk bands they were much rarer in electric folk outfits, but were successfully integrated into their sound by Wolfstone from 1989, who focused on a combination of highland music and rock.

  • HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC (here)

Brittany

Brittany also made a major contribution to Celtic rock. The Breton cultural revival of the 1960s was exemplified by Alan Stivell who became the leading proponent of the Breton harp and other instruments from about 1960, he then adopted elements of Irish, Welsh and Scottish traditional music in an attempt to create a pan-Celtic folk music, which had considerable impact elsewhere, particularly in Wales and Cornwall. From 1972 he began to play electric folk with a band including guitarists Dan Ar Braz and Gabriel Yacoub. Yacoub went on to form Malicorne in 1974 one of the most successful electric folk band in France. After an extensive career that included a stint playing as part of Fairport Convention in 1976, Ar Braz formed the pan-Celtic band Heritage des Celtes, who managed to achieve mainstream success in France in the 1990’s. Probably the best known and most certainly the most enduring electric folk band in France were Tri Yann formed in 1971 and still recording and performing today. In 2017 celtic-punk band Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs fly the flag for Brittany singing in their native language and playing regularly and often accompanied on stage by Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Tan Ar Bobl’ (here)

Wales

By the end of the 1960’s Wales had produced some important individuals and bands that emerged as major British or international artists, this included power pop outfit Badfinger, psychedelic rockers Elastic Band and proto-heavy metal trio Budgie. But although folk groupings formed in the early 1970’s, including Y Tebot Piws, Ac Eraill, and Mynediad am Ddim, it was not until 1973 that the first significant Welsh language rock band Edward H Dafis, originally a belated rock n’ roll outfit, caused a sensation by electrifying and attempting to use rock instrumentation while retaining Welsh language lyrics. As a result, for one generation listening to Welsh language rock music could now become a statement of national identity. This opened the door for a new rock culture but inevitably most Welsh language acts were unable to breakthrough into the Anglophone dominated music industry. Anhrefn became the best known of these acts taking their pop-punk rock sound across Europe from the early-80’s to mid-90’s.

  • TRIBUTE TO WELSH PUNK ROCK LEGENDS ANHREFN (here)

Cornwall and the Isle of Man

Whereas other Celtic nations already had existing folk music cultures before the end of the 1960s this was less true in Cornwall and the Isle of Man, which were also relatively small in population and more integrated into English culture and (in the case of Cornwall) the British State. As a result, there was relatively little impact from the initial wave of folk electrification in the 1970’s. However, the pan-Celtic movement, with its musical and cultural festivals helped foster some reflections in Cornwall where a few bands from the 1980s onwards utilised the traditions of Cornish music with rock, including Moondragon and its successor Lordryk. More recently the bands Sacred Turf, Skwardya and Krena, have been performing in the Cornish language.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: BARRULE- ‘Manannans Cloak’ (here)

Subgenres

Celtic Punk

Ireland proved particularly fertile ground for punk bands in the mid-1970s, including Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, The Radiators From Space, The Boomtown Rats and The Virgin Prunes. As with electric folk in England, the advent of punk and other musical trends undermined the folk element of Celtic rock, but in the early 1980s London based Irish band The Pogues created the subgenre Celtic punk by combining structural elements of folk music with a punk attitude and delivery. The Pogues’ style of punked-up Irish music spawned and influenced a number of Celtic punk bands, including fellow London-Irish band Neck, Nyah Fearties from Scotland, Australia’s Roaring Jack and Norway’s Greenland Whalefishers.

  • FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK (here)

Diaspora Celtic Punk

One by-product of the Celtic diaspora has been the existence of large communities across the world that looked for their cultural roots and identity to their origins in the Celtic nations. While it seems young musicians from these communities usually chose between their folk culture and mainstream forms of music such as rock or pop, after the advent of Celtic punk large numbers of bands began to emerge styling themselves as Celtic rock. This is particularly noticeable in the USA and Canada, where there are large communities descended from Irish and Scottish immigrants. From the USA this includes the Irish bands Flogging Molly, The Tossers, Dropkick Murphys, The Young Dubliners, Black 47, The Killdares, The Drovers and Jackdaw, and for Scottish bands Prydein, Seven Nations and Flatfoot 56. From Canada are bands like The Mahones, Enter the Haggis, Great Big Sea, The Real McKenzies and Spirit of the West. These groups were naturally influenced by American forms of music, some containing members with no Celtic ancestry and commonly singing in English. In England we have The BibleCode Sundays, The Lagan and others.

  • THE EFFECTS OF NEW DIASPORA CELTIC PUNK: THE CREATION OF A PAN-CELTIC CULTURE (here)

Celtic Metal

Like Celtic rock in the 1970s, Celtic metal resulted from the application of a development in English music, when in the 1990s thrash metal band Skyclad added violins, and with them jigs and folk voicings, to their music on the album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth (1990). This inspired the Dublin based band Cruachan to mix traditional Irish music with black metal and to create the subgenre of Celtic metal. They were soon followed by bands such as Primordial and Waylander. Like Celtic punk, Celtic metal fuses the Celtic folk tradition with contemporary forms of music.

  • CELTIC-METAL’S TOP FIVE BANDS (here)

Influence

Whereas in England electric folk, after initial mainstream recognition, subsided into the status of a sub-cultural soundtrack, in many Celtic communities and nations it has remained at the forefront of musical production. The initial wave of Celtic rock in Ireland, although ultimately feeding into Anglo-American dominated progressive rock and hard rock provided a basis for Irish bands that would enjoy international success, including the Pogues and U2: one making use of the tradition of Celtic music in a new context and the other eschewing it for a distinctive but mainstream sound. Similar circumstances can be seen in Scotland albeit with a delay in time while Celtic rock culture developed, before bands like Runrig could achieve international recognition. Widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding voices in Celtic/rock is the Glasgow born Brian McCombe of The Brian McCombe Band, a pan Celtic group based in Brittany.

In other Celtic communities, and particularly where Celtic speakers or descendants are a minority, the function of Celtic rock has been less to create mainstream success, than to bolster cultural identity. A consequence of this has been the reinforcement of pan-Celtic culture and of particular national or regional identities between those with a shared heritage, but who are widely dispersed. However, the most significant consequence of Celtic rock has simply been as a general spur to immense musical and cultural creativity.

ALBUM REVIEW: FLOGGING MOLLY- ‘Life Is Good’ (2017)

“The one thing we are is a positive band. When people come and see our shows, it’s a celebration of life, of the good and of the bad. And we have to take the good and the bad for it to be a life”- Dave King

Life is Good!

It certainly is good for Celtic Punk fans around the globe. Here we have the release of yet another quality album in 2017. It comes from the third branch of the Holy Trinity of Celtic Punk, Flogging Molly. It follows on from outstanding albums from the other two branches this year, namely The Dropkick Murphys and Flatfoot 56. We really have been spoiled this year, especially when you consider that we’ve also had new albums from The Tossers, Damien Dempsey, Paddy and the Rats and so many more Celtic bands. Too many to mention here, especially as this meant to be a review of Flogging Molly’s Life is Good. So maybe just take a minute to think how lucky we all are to be part of such a dynamic and productive “scene”!!

Life is Good is the eighth album to have been released by Celtic Punk premier leaguers, Flogging Molly, and its class! That’s one of the things that went through my mind while I was listening to it, the class just stands out! It’s made up of 12 tracks and runs for three quarters of an hour.

That “class” is evident throughout all the tracks here, it shows how well the band works as a unit, complimenting each other. I suppose twenty years of performing together is going to give us that polished sound. Their last album “The Speed of Darkness” consisted of a, what some people might claim, more mainstream rock sound. I must admit it was one that grew on me, rather than hit me straight away, although now it is one of my favourites. Life is Good definitely sounds more Celtic influenced, with some beautiful fiddle work from Bridget and some rousing banjo from Bob. It is not as raw as Drunken Lullabies or Swagger, but the same feeling is still there, it’s just a bit more professionally produced.

It kicks off with There’s Nothing Left, setting a jaunty pace that is kept up throughout. The Hand of John L Sullivan is next. Many of you will have heard this one as it was a video released a few months ago. It shows how Dave King still has the knack for writing punchy and interesting songs to go along with his ballads and anthem like offerings. Welcome to Adamstown incorporates a great brass section to give some “oomph” to the baseline. It’s a tale of unfinished suburbia in King’s native Dublin. Next comes Reptiles (We Woke Up). Now this is one of those aforementioned anthems, I can picture the crowd at The Forum, at the end of June, having a great time with this one. A bit like the All of Our Boys / Oliver Boy singalong from Speed of Darkness.

Here it is:

The Days We’ve Yet To Meet is the next track, a good up tempo rock number. Then we have the title track, Life is Good. A bittersweet song dealing with death and illness, but also impressing upon us to live our lives and enjoy them. The Last Serenade comes next, it’s one that resonates with me, dealing with ailing fisheries that most of us who live on the coast have witnessed. It’s a slow tempoed ballad and might not really sit well with a Punk audience, but I love it! The slow pace continues with the intro to The Guns of Jericho which soon livens up to a foot stomper though!

Crushed (Hostile Nations) also starts slowly with some lovely pipes accompanying Dave’s opening lines, but it soon turns into a deep almost hypnotic heavy beat. There’s electric guitar solos and a pounding rhythm, I’m reminded of Horslips, but different! There seems to be a darkness to it, probably part of the “Hostility”. A great track!!After the angst of Crushed, we move into the optimism of Hope! Another one that will have the fans up and singing along to the chorus. The Bride Wore Black is a fine pacy tune that you could dance to. I don’t know who it’s about, but she sounds like a bit of craic anyway!! We finish with Until We Meet Again, another ballad with some lovely fiddle and accordion playing, that rounds off the album perfectly.

Flogging Molly have been together for twenty years now, having formed in 1997. Dave King, Bridget Regan, Bob Schmit, Denis Casey, Nathan Maxwell, Matt Hensley and Mike Alonso have combined to bring us six exceptional studio albums and two sublime live recordings. They have played some of the best live gigs that I’ve been to and I hope to see many more! What they bring to the music scene in general and the Celtic Punk scene in particular is an authenticity and intelligence. Let’s hope they (and me!) are around in another twenty years! Slainte.

Ger Mellon 2017.

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  • On Thursday you lucky folk Flogging Molly play at The Forum in Kentish Town, north London. Ticket information here.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘THE HANGMAN’S BLUES: Prison Songs In Country Music 1956-1972 (2016)

Grim tales of jailbirds, cutthroats, cuckolds, executioners, murderers and escapees.  Prison ballads form part of the historic lifeblood of Country Music and saw a resurgence after the 1960 execution of controversial convict Caryl Chessman. Here are some of the very best, seldom heard since their original release. Running the gamut from smooth balladeers of woe to ramshackle and plaintive backyard rockabilly.

While these days your more likely to find your folk music heroes went to Eton with Prince William or all met at Cambridge/Oxford/insert other posh university it’s not always been so. While it’s always been true that the music of the working classes has always been adopted by the well-heeled and the image of the bearded Green Party, Real Ale drinking, middle class ‘leftie’ singing away with his finger in his ear still rings true around the folk clubs. This also explains their reluctance to accept other genre’s like celtic-punk as part of the folk scene as at it’s heart is a snobbery to keep others out at all costs. Folk music was never a static thing with bands and singers always finding ways to keep the music alive and relevant though always with a healthy respect for the past. That the celtic-punk scene can be said to be partly responsible for the popularity of bands long gone like The Dubliners, Clancy Brothers and The Pogues butters no onions with these people who just want to keep things as they were at all costs. Happy to be big fish in small pools! What the artists on this album would make of four faux-ploughboy, waistcoat wearing members of the aristocracy representing folk music I don’t know (have to admit here I DO actually love Mumford And Sons!) but one thing is for sure they wouldn’t last five minutes in the company of people featured here and long to be be forgotten while these days be writ high.

One things for sure it has always been, and always will be, the poor that go to jail. Whether for a crime they freely admit (or not!) or through bigotry and lack of decent representation the jails of the world are full of the poorest of our society. Folk and country music has never been a stranger to the inside of prison walls right from the very start and this stunning compilation covers just about every country music offshoot musically as well as covering just about every reason why you could end up inside. The album opens strongly with ‘The Wall’, written by Harlan Howard, given a powerful performance here by Freddie Hart. Born to a sharecropper family in Alabama Hart left school at 12 but still managed to become one of country music’s biggest stars of the 70’s. I love the sound of the harmonica and there’s plenty of it’s woeful sound to be found here to keep me happy.

“The years gone by since he made his try
But I can still recall how hard he tried and the way he died
But he never made that, wall he never made that wall”

All the tracks were recorded between 1956 and 1972 and although I have heard several prison -themed album’s in the past I seriously cannot remember one that came anywhere remotely close to the quality found here. I could wax lyrical about every artist but this review would then run for pages and pages. Suffice to say that all the artists here know what it means to be hungry and many indeed did cross swords with authorities and some others saw the other side of a prison gate. Tennessee born, early rockabilly star Jaycee Hill’s  fantastic ‘Crash-Out’, is typical of many here with the acceptance and regret of a life of crime. Most of the artists here are American but one of the album highlights is the London born Marty Robbins with his intense performance of ‘The Chair’. Inspired by the controversial execution of Caryl Chessman in 1960.

Chessman was an unsavoury character that much is true and something he was intelligent enough to recognise within himself but he was convicted and charged on a law that was later repealed though not retroactively meaning his death sentence still stood. He became the poster child for the anti-capital punishment cause and the most recognizable face on death row. In May 1960 Chessman choked to death in San Quentin Prison’s gas chamber while the phone outside rang, just too late, with his stay of execution. His story is also dealt with in songs on this album by Country Johnny Mathis, one of the album highlights with its sheer, haunting poetry, Ronnie Hawkins and Jimmy Minor. The full story of Caryl Chessman is also told in a fine performance from Hoyle Miller notable for the last line of his song

“you see I too Hoyle Miller was once too on death row”

Dirt farmer’s son Porter Wagoner gives us a compelling version of the Hank Williams penned ‘(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle’. Known for his flashy suits and for giving Dolly Parton her big break Wagoner never forgot his working class roots often touring in rural areas where many would not perform and was also famous for his friendly relationship with his fans mingly before, during and after gigs with them. The jauntyness of ‘I Always Did Like Leavenworth’ belies the subject George Kent is singing of. Eddie Noack was a honky tonk singer influenced by Hank Williams and his superb version of ‘Invisible Stripes’ tells of the stigma that jail carries throughout  the rest of your days. Named from the stripes of the uniform prisoners were made to wear. A subject also visited here by Howard Crockett who turned to singing after a shoulder injury ended a promising baseball career. He performs a excellent cover of the famous Johnny Cash penned song ‘I Got Stripes’. Artist jailbirds like Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe and Merle Haggard are notable by their absence but the music that inspired them more than makes up for it. There are simply too many great songs and artists here to give justice to and the album comes to an end with ‘A Prisoner’s Dream’ by Charles Lee Guy III. When he was 16 he was convicted of manslaughter and sent to jail. During his imprisonment he learnt to play guitar and started writing songs. He sent a tape to Capitol Records who were sufficiently impressed to bring their studio equipment to Vacaville Prison in December 1962 to record him. Charles’ album, The Prisoner’s Dream, was well-received and in October, 1963 Time Magazine reviewed the album:

“Charles Lee Guy III has been an inmate of California State Prison since he was 16. The songs he has learned to sing there all reflect his sorry circumstance – and among them is the latest composition of a prison chum, country music’s Spade Cooley [himself a wife killer]. Guy’s woeful voice and guitar accompaniment fit the spirit of his music, and in this remarkable album he has the power of a young white Leadbelly.”

One of the songs on that album was titled ‘Wishin’ She Was Here (Instead of Me)’ thought to refer to his mother who many thought had committed the murder that Charles had been found guilty of. A moving, emotional and chilling way for this album to close.

All the tracks here were first issued on long forgotten 45’s often on obscure, tiny or private-press labels. All are incredibly rare and many are reissued here for the first time since release and are remastered from the original master tapes giving the album a sound that is as clear as crystal. Their are twenty-eight tracks here and just under eighty minutes of music. Pretty much all of the songs come in around the two minute mark and the pacing on the album is also well thought out. Available on vinyl and CD the amount of care put into this album is to be applauded including the incredibly handsome twenty page, full colour booklet that comes with informative liner notes by Alvin Lucia and rare photos and label shots. This amazing package has been put together by Bear Family Records who also gave us Hillbillies In Hell- Country Music’s Tormented Testament, another timeless compilation telling of Satan, drugs, murder, suicide, demonic visions, infanticide and redemption. Their were plenty of prison songs before the era (1956-1972) chosen here on The Hangman’s Blues but these songs begin from the early days of rock’n’roll and though most are straight up country songs all have a dark edge to them, of course, and some have that raw rock’n’roll sound that many of you will love I am sure.

Declarations of innocence, profound diatribes on capital punishment and mournful odes to the Last Mile. The Hangman’s Blues will chill, thrill and bedevil the dreams of all who hear it. Feel the penal pain. Like the album liner notes say…we are all prisoners in one way or another.

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EP REVIEW: FOLLOW THE CROWS- ‘West is East’ (2017)

London based Celtic folk rock/Irish/bluegrass band with hard-driven vocals fused with guitar and mandolin mayhem, underpinned by riotous folk rhythms of rebellion, redemption and downright recklessness!

Formed in August, 2012 Follow The Crows are the latest in a growing line of bands playing in the London Irish-folk scene that have embraced some of celtic-punk’s harder edges. They have been playing regularly around London for a good while but so far apart from coming across them on Facebook we haven’t had the opportunity to check them out live in person as it were. Then this arrived on the doorstep, their new EP released last January and after just a couple of listens they have swiftly risen to the top of the list of bands I want to see.

Follow The Crows (left to right): James Cannon- Vocals, Guitar * Ben Sumner- Mandolin, Banjo, Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals * Dan Ferguson- Fiddle * Lawrence McNamara- Bass, Backing Vocals * Karl Hussey- Drums, Percussion

East Is West is Follow The Crows debut release and begins with the kind of song that our description at the top of this review fits exactly. ‘Lay It Down’ starts with the sounds of the ocean before slowing morphing into a song combining elements of trad Irish, bluegrass and Americana that makes this EP a real winner. Catchy as hell and a real foot tapper.

Extremely well played by very good musicians and while there are no thrashy guitars, or even drums, it’s given that bit of edge by singer, James raspy vocals.

“Freedom songs don’t say anything
When you’re out on you’re own
With those big wheels turning
Those bridges burning
West is east high is low”

They follow this with the soft rock edged ‘As The Night Comes Falling’. Threatening at any minute to go flat out, and part of me does wish they would, but they reign it in and keep it nicely subdued. Coming off here as part Tom Waits- part Mumford with a dash of rock’n’roll it’s another great number. Third track here is ‘Black For The Crows’ and if you’ve ever heard the Murder Ballads album by Nick Cave then that’s the territory we are in here. Great song and though underpinned by Irish/celtic music influences seep in from everywhere.

“They rose up their banners for glory on high
Sounded the bugle beneath the blue sky
‘Freedom will follow when the day is o’er”

The EP comes to an end with ‘Quiet Land Of Erin II’ and for me they save the best for last. Ever so reminiscent of The Waterboys here I think. With James sounding a real ringer for Mike Scott. The vocals are almost whispered while the Crows get plenty of guests in to give the song a real full band sound once it gets going. More proof that Follow The Crows are fantastic musicians and with the songs to match to bring the curtain down.

“Oh father now she said
The curlew and the cuckoo’s fled
Troubled is the heart that you’re hearin’
Oh father now she said
They buried you among the dead
On the quiet, quiet land of Erin”

At the moment East Is West is only available as a digital download for now and priced at a very reasonable £3. It’s a great introduction to the band and if they want to stray away from the London pub circuit then a follow up album of more like this is a necessity and will surely achieve it.

(listen to East Is West by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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HOW TO BECOME AN AUTHENTIC IRISH-PUNK BAND!

irish-instrument1The Irish are quite rightly famed for their music. Whether or not this would be so if the country and it’s inhabitants hadn’t had such a tragic past is debatable but traditional Irish music has been around centuries and has had an influence on many different forms of music, most notably in American bluegrass and country. By the High and Late Medieval era, the Irish annals were listing musicians and in County Wicklow a set of wooden pipes were discovered that date even further back to the Stone Age to prove it. There’s just something about the pipes and the melodies of an Irish song that brings out so many feelings and emotions in people.

So there you are sat at home thinking of starting up an authentic Irish folk-punk band but what instruments do you need to include. Sure you got your drums and guitar and bass but what about the ones that will transform you from just a run in the mill punk rock band into the next Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly. You may be surprised at actually how few of them originated in Ireland but here are the traditional folk instruments that you will find in celtic punk bands that Irish musicians have been blowing, strumming, picking, plucking and thumping for a very long time indeed.

Bodhrán

bodhran

Imelda May

Pronounced ‘bow-rawn’ this handheld goatskin drum is certainly easier to get around and less trouble than a drummer! The name ‘bodhran’ is an Irish word that derives from the word bodhar which means deaf or dull. Known as the heartbeat of trad music for good reason this large drum is covered with stretched animal skin and struck with a stick that was traditionally made from double-ended knucklebone to provide our music with a pulsating beat that turns listeners into dancers with ease. It’s speculated that the instrument served a double purpose as a husk sifter and grain tray. We prefer it as a drum. For a taster of what the bodhrán has to offer, re-watch Riverdance for the thousandth time.

Uilleann Pipes

uilleann-pipes

Liam O’Flynn

Now most celtic-punk bands that have pipes have the Highland bagpipes rather than the uilleann pipes. This is mainly down to the uilleann pipes, which means ‘pipes of the elbow’ because of their pump-operated bellows, taking years to master and that the Highland bagpipes are much much louder. The bag of the pipes is inflated thanks to a set of bellows fastened around the waist and right arm of the musician. The bellows are able to relieve the musician from putting in the extra effort required to blow into a bag to maintain its pressure. These ancient pipes have been mesmerising listeners with their haunting tones since the 5th Century but it was two County Louth brothers, William and Charles Taylor, who developed the modern version after emigrating with the instrument from post-Famine Ireland to the United States. The pipes are different from several other bagpipes with regards to their tone and wider range of notes. With a distinct structure, which sounds much sweeter and quieter than other bagpipes. The pipes are almost always played while sitting down and it is thought one of the reasons that the pipes were invented was to compose music for dancing.

Tin Whistle

Almost all primitive cultures had a type of tin whistle with a possible Neanderthal flute found in Slovenia dating from 81,000-53,000 B.C.,a German flute from 35,000 years ago and a flute made from sheep’s bone in West Yorkshire dating to the Iron Age. Known also as the penny whistle, since it could be bought for a mere penny, the tin whistle has six holes, a mouthpiece, and is played by blowing air into it and using your fingers to cover different holes to produce different notes. British entrepreneur Robert Clarke began manufacturing the modern tin whistle in the early 1900’s and it became extremely popular and soon made it’s way over to Ireland. Nowadays found in most celtic-punk bands it has and become indistinguishable from Celtic music and is a beloved instrument of Celtic musicians and fans alike.

fiddle

Fiddle

Arr now this is the classic debate that is had in all kinds of folk music circles! Is it the violin or is it the fiddle? Well looks can be deceiving as they both look absolutely identical. Take the Irish fiddle, for example, this essential traditional instrument may look the same as a violin, but its unique playing style and sound set’s the two apart. Probably the most common traditional instrument found in celtic-punk bands the high-pitched and expressive fiddle is often heard above all else, and can be both euphoric and heart-breaking in equal measure. In Ireland the counties of Sligo and Donegal in particular both have rich fiddling traditions and have been redefining the sound of this sweet instrument for centuries.

Irish Bouzouki

irish-bouzouki

Donal Lunny

Adapted from a Greek instrument and brought to Ireland in the 1960s, the Irish bouzouki is the latest addition to our traditional music arsenal. Looking not unlike a giant mandolin, the instrument was popularized by Irish folk legend Dónal Lunny from Tullamore, County Offaly, who used one in seminal trad folk band Planxty. With such a rich and bright sound its no surprise we stole the idea and made it our own.  Bouzoukis are now regulars at many a traditional music session. Another instrument we stole and is played with such regularity in celtic-punk band’s it second only to the banjo, originally brought to America by African slaves it was adopted by Celtic emigrants and became associated with country, folk, Irish traditional and bluegrass music.

Concertina

heaven-hellDeveloped in England and Germany in the early 18th century and spread to Ireland late in the 19th century. The concertina, also known as the squeeze box, was known in Germany as a lower-class instrument used mostly by workers to perform music on the streets while the English concertinas developed an air of bourgeois respectability with the upper classes enjoying the exact same melodies. The concertina has buttons and bellows on both ends and when pressed, the buttons move in the same direction as the bellows. The piano accordion became highly popular during the 1950’s and has flourished to the present day in céilí bands and for old time Irish dance music.

Celtic Harp

Now this is a long shot as I know of no celtic-punk band out there that has a harpist. If you do please let me know in the comments section. The only time I can remember seeing one played is at Wolfe Tones gigs in the 80’s. Anyhow you know an instrument has reached iconic status when it appears on the currency. The Celtic harp is that very instrument. Variations of the triangular, gut-stringed-instrument have been plucked in Ireland since as long ago as the 10th Century, when nomadic harpists would travel around Ireland performing songs for food or a warm bed. In 1792, the Belfast Harp Festival saw the best players competing for prizes. And today, the ornate and ancient Brian Boru harp can be viewed in Trinity College in Dublin. So if you are looking for something to set your celtic-punk band apart then why not get yourself a harpist!

Folk The System instruments

Folk The System

So there you go all you need to start a band. Finding the players you need is a different matter though but with Ireland’s trad music attracting more and more listeners and more and more people of all nationalities taking up the instruments it hopefully shouldn’t be too hard. With our music schools, concerts and pub sessions, there’s no shortage of opportunists to learn either so if you fancy taking up any of the instruments mentioned follow the links below.

Link1  Link2  Link3  Link4  Link5  Fiddle  TinWhistle  Guitar

EP REVIEW: TOXIC FROGS- ‘The Mermaid’s Song’ (2017)

French celtic-punk chicks band!
Four Girls Two Fiddles

Toxic Frogs are quite the anomaly within celtic-punk circles it has to be said. As much as i hate the idea of segregating bands into male and female it is refreshing to see a all-female band in the scene and standing tall too. Most of the time it seems to me that when ‘female’ music is brought up we are suppose to like it whether or not we do actually like it or not. The failed and discredited identity politics that handed the American election to Trump have ensured that people can no longer have an opinion on ‘certain’ things without being shouted at and labelled by hysterical bigots with no actually basis in fact. Anyway rant over and my point is that as a music reviewer my job is review music not ‘virtue signal’ to you all how right on I am by giving good reviews to bad or mediocre music just because the band fit someone else’s ideological pigeonhole. I don’t not have to worry about any of that shite here mind you as The Mermaids Song is abso-fecking-lutely fantastic!

I have heard plenty about Toxic Frogs in the short time they have been together without actually hearing an awful lot of what they have put out so far. Always on my list of bands to find out more about I just had never gotten round to it. Their 2015 album Kill The Devil somehow passed me by except for this review from Celtic Punk Folk And More here but they have kept up a steady stream of excellent videos that have at least introduced them to the wider celtic-punk scene if not me personally!

Toxic Frogs left to right: Lucianne Wallace- Guitar * Elvina Lynn- Bass/ Fiddle * Lydie Dupuy- Drums * Ella Beccaria- Fiddle/ Lead Vocals

Formed in the east-central French city of Lyon in September 2014 Ella came up with the idea of staring an all girl celtic-punk band so started to advertise the idea and soon enough the team of girls was ready. Having already played fiddle for French celtic-punk legends Celkilt she knew the scene and as soon as they hit the practise rooms something gelled. Taking their name from the not so friendly nickname the English give to French people they began to make waves in the celtic-punk scene almost straight away but the question everyone wanted to know was did the band deserve the hype and the answer listening to The Mermaid’s Tale is undoubtedly a resounding yes!

The EP begins with the instrumental ‘Scott Is Back’ and what a start to proceedings. The band consists of electric guitar, bass and drums and some almighty fiddle playing. The music sits nicely on the fence between celtic-rock and celtic-punk and many a time could fall into each within a single song and the standout here is that amazing fiddle playing though that’s not to say the rest of the band don’t play their part equally as well. The song begins with a Scottish feel to it I think because of the Scottish style drumming before a more traditional Irish sound comes in. The songs builds to a breakneck speed and ends with a fantastic flourish. There are a couple of bands in the scene that have female singers like Irish Moutarde and Brutus Daughter but most of the the ladies are confined to backing vocals or taking the lead on ‘Fairytale Of New York’! The band sing in English and ‘Criminal’s Heart’ is pure pop-punk heaven. Much more of a folk-punk number until near the end when the celtic fiddle kicks in and leads the song until the end.

Title track ‘The Mermaid’s Song’ is up next and there’s some blatant metal overtones here which remind me of all girl punk legends L7. Again the fiddle comes in well after the song has established itself showing that Toxic Frogs could easily get away with being just a run of the mill rock band as well. Again the fiddle brings the last curtain down on the last couple of minutes. We are in celtic-punk territory with ‘Toxic War’ and the girls go about their job with a frantic fast paced song with plenty of gang vocal “Hey, Hey” going on.

Last year Katie out of The Mahone put down her accordion for five minutes to record the now infamous ‘F*** You’ for the Hunger And The Fight Part Two album and now Toxic Frogs can add to that with their own ‘F**k You’. At just over six minutes long its a bit of an epic and begins with a slow and soaring guitar rock solo. Ella comes in with her vocals and the music lifts and then all of a sudden we back with the more trad Toxic Frogs sound. A great song that never drags and a brave song to record knowing that celtic-punk fans much prefer short n snappy songs …unless they are ballads and then you can go for as long as you like. Shades of grunge are back in ‘Go!’ with the chugging guitar and the EP ends with the majestic ‘Violins and Hammers for Ever’. Yeah they save the best for last in my humble opinion. Like I said just a few lines ago I am a absolute sucker for a well played ballad and here Toxic Frogs manage it in spades. A beautiful song where Ella’s voice on this EP never sounds better. The best way to bring the curtain down at the end of a celtic-punk record without a doubt.

So an excellent record and good enough for me to leave you in a minute to go and check out their back catalogue as well. Seven great songs that clock in at over thirty minutes so probably long enough for us to call it a album seeing as it is longer than a few other 2017 album’s. Their is talk from our fellow London celt’s Urbankelt about bringing Toxic Frogs over to play so hopefully that will come off as they deserve to be seen far and wide.

Buy The Mermaid’s Song

CDbaby  iTunes  Amazon 

Contact Toxic Frogs

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  Google+

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM- ‘Come Fill Your Glass With Us ‘ (1959)

ST PATRICK’S DAY BLESSINGS BE UPON YOU

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh

(Byan-okht-ee nah Fay-leh Pawd-rig ur-iv)

May those who love us,
Love us.
And those who do not love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we’ll know them by their limping.

Irish Songs Of Drinking And Blackguarding

Sung By Patrick Clancy, Tom Clancy, Liam Clancy, Tommy Makem and Jack Keenan

FREE DOWNLOAD

The Clancy Brothers were a group of brothers who, along with longtime companion Tommy Makem, are without a doubt among the most important figures in Irish music history. Still considered as one of the most internationally renowned Irish folk bands and some have even gone so far as to credit them as being among the main inspirations in the American folk revival of the ’50s and ’60s.

clancy

Bob Dylan claimed in the early 1960’s

“I’m going to be as big as the Clancy Brothers!”

With the Clancy Brothers dominating The Ed Sullivan Show and performing their sad Irish drinking tales and rebellious stories before thousands of people, Dylan’s declaration at the time seemed bold and impetuous. Its opposite came true, of course: Dylan submerged the Clancys’ pointed and poignant folk ballads into his stew of influences en route to rock ‘n’ roll superstardom while the Clancys peaked around 1964, then slowly drifted into a hodgepodge of break-ups, reunions, and greatest-hits CD collections. But in bringing Irish music into American mainstream culture, the Brothers were key figures in the 1960’s folk revival and helped Ireland rediscover its cultural traditions. Every Irish-music movement since then–from the Chieftains to Sean O’Riada, from Van Morrison to U2, from Enya to the Corrs–owes some of its success to the Clancys.

clancys-2

(Tommy and Liam)

Born in the small Irish market town Carrick-On-Suir, in County Tipperary, Tom and Patrick ‘Paddy’ Clancy were two of eleven children. Their parents, Robert, an insurance broker, and Joan, a housewife, sang Irish folk songs constantly, but neither Tom nor Paddy envisioned a professional music career when they were growing up. They served in both the Irish Republican Army and the Royal Air Force, Pat, a flight engineer in North India and Burma and Tom, an officer in Europe and North Africa. They left Ireland for Canada in 1947 and, after apparently hiding out in the back of a truck, immigrated to the United States three years later. Landing in Cleveland, Ohio, and then Manhattan, the duo pursued show-business careers. In addition to driving taxis and painting houses, they auditioned for acting roles by day and sang by night at clubs and coffeehouses such as the Lion’s Head and the White Horse Tavern. Tom had by far the most successful acting career, landing major Broadway roles and later on going on to appear in television’s Starsky And Hutch, Charlie’s Angels and The Incredible Hulk! Soon they were producing their own plays, at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village, but after three struggling years, they turned to midnight music concerts to pay the bills.

That was the beginning of the Clancy Brothers as they are commonly known. Drawing on their family singing background and their knowledge of Irish drinking ballads and rebellious folk songs, they began to build a small New York City audience. On-stage acting experience also helped. The Clancy’s told funny stories between songs and responded to applause with vaudevillian lines like

“You have very good taste, I must say”.

Soon their younger brother, Liam, and a friend, Tommy Makem, were joining them regularly on stage. Paddy Clancy created his own record label, Tradition, and put out albums of pointed but gentle folk harmonies, including 1956’s The Rising of the Moon, which was recorded around a kitchen table in the Bronx. Liam told CBSNews.com in 2002, promoting his memoir, The Mountain of the Woman.

“The crowds got so wild and they would hoist crates of beer up onto the stage and demand that we drink them. It was a wild and wonderful time… Greenwich Village was an island for people escaped from repressed backgrounds, who had swallowed the directive to be inferior, to know your place, to kowtow to royalty, to hierarchy, and all the other nonsense”

Their timing was impeccable. The Clancys’ Greenwich Village audiences at the time included young folk-music aficionados such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, who would later say, in the same article, of Liam Clancy

“For me, I never heard a singer as good as Liam. He was just the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life. Still is, probably. I can’t think of anyone who is a better ballad singer than Liam”

As legend has it, after hearing the Clancys’ version of Dominic Behan’s ‘Patriot Game’, Dylan tinkered with the lyrics and retooled the ballad into his own ‘With God on Our Side’. More than 30 years later, in 1992, the Clancy Brothers would reunite with Makem for Dylan’s recording-anniversary celebration at Madison Square Garden in New York City. They sang ‘When the Ship Comes In’, an Irish ballad Dylan recorded on The Times They Are A-Changing.

clancys

(left to right: Tommy Makem, Paddy Clancy, Tom Clancy and Liam Clancy)

Two major events in the Clancys’ career happened in 1961. First, they received a package from their mother as related by Paddy to the irishmusicweb website.

“It was a very cold winter in New York and my mother in Ireland read about the snow and the frost in New York. And her three sons were in America. So she knitted three Aran sweaters and she sent them out. We had a Jewish manager, Marty Erlichman. He saw them and said ‘That’s it. I’ve been looking for some identifiable costume for you. It’s perfect!'”

The thick, roped sweaters became their trademark–especially when, upon signing with Columbia Records, they wore them on the cover of 1961’s A Spontaneous Performance Recording. The second event was The Ed Sullivan Show, the influential television variety show that gave the Beatles their big break three years later. When a scheduled guest became sick, the Clancys sang for 18 minutes on the air. After that, they were international celebrities, playing ‘Fine Girl You Are’, ‘The Holy Ground’ and ‘The Rambler’ at Carnegie Hall and fancy venues everywhere. Dylan, jazz hero Stan Getz, and a promising young singer named Barbra Streisand were among their opening acts. The Clancys went on to record 55 albums and performed for luminaries such as President John F. Kennedy, a fan, at the White House.

As the 1960s wore on, with Dylan and the Beatles steering popular music away from traditional folk ballads and towards electric rock ‘n’ roll, the Clancys’ star power began to dim. They drifted from traditional signatures such as ‘The Old Orange Flute’ and ‘Whiskey Is the Life of Man’ and began writing and producing their own material. Makem left for a solo career in 1970; Liam left five years later. With Liam’s replacement, the Clancys’ youngest brother, Bobby, the group slowly devolved into a nostalgia act. Makem and Liam Clancy sometimes performed as a duet, and they came together on special occasions (including the Dylan thirtieth-anniversary show) in various singing configurations. But they never approached their early 1960’s star power again. Paddy returned to Carrick-on-Suir to raise cattle with his wife on a farm. Tom died in 1990; Paddy died in 1998. Liam and Tommy Makem continued to have successful solo careers before Tommy passed away on 1 August 2007, at the age of 74, after an extended fight with cancer. Two years later Liam died of pulmonary fibrosis, the same ailment that had taken his brother Bobby. He died on 4 December 2009 at the age of 74 in a hospital in Cork, Ireland.

This is the second album from the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and is among their most notable efforts. It undoubtedly helped launch the group to international success. As you can tell instantly from the album’s title, ‘Come Fill Your Glass with Us’, the album is a virtual soundtrack of Irish pub life. The recording perfectly evokes the hard-drinking, late-night atmosphere of a working man’s Irish pub.

Tracklist

Whisky You’re the Devil
The Maid of the Sweet Brown Knowe
The Moonshiner
Bold Thady Quill
Rosin the Bow
Finnigan’s Wake
The Real Old Mountain Dew
Courting in the Kitchen
Mick McGuire
A Jug of Punch
Johnny McEldoo
Cruiscin Lan
Portlairge
The Parting Glass

FREE DOWNLOAD FOR THE FIRST 100 PEOPLE. IT SAYS ‘NAME YOUR PRICE’ SO PUT 0p IF YOU LIKE. AFTER THAT IT’S ONLY AVAILABLE BY DONATION. ALL MONEY GOES DIRECT TO THE JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON 2 CAMPAIGN.

CLICK HERE!

although this album is available for free download if you wish we would appreciate it if you could spare a few pennys or cent’s to donate to the Justice For The Craigavon 2 campaign. Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton are two young Irishmen that have been unjustly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. We ask you to find out more information on the case by visiting
jftc2.com
www.facebook.com/JFTC2/

and please do all you can to publicise these poor men’s imprisonment.

(listen to the album below just press play!)

COME FILL YOUR DRINKS WITH US ALBUM SLEEVE NOTES

by Patrick Clancy

A group of workmen were tearing down a very old distillery in the south of Ireland. It had not been used for fifty years and was full of birds’ nests. When they reached the vat where the whisky had been stored, they found a small metal pipe leading from it and going into the ground. It had been well hidden. They dug down following it one foot underground till it ended in a small hollow under a tree two hundred yards from the distillery. No one could explain it. The facts end here, but they suggest strange stories of men long ago stealing to that hollow at night and draining off the whisky out of sight of the distillery.
There is no one to tell of the nights of drinking and song that came out of that pipe, But I’m sure some of the Irish drinking songs on this record were sung, as some of them are much older than that distillery. Drinking and singing have been enjoyed by men everywhere and always. As islands were discovered and jungles penetrated, all new found peoples had songs of some kind and had found a way of making intoxicating drink. If you hear a lot of singing from your neighbor’s home at midnight, you just know there is drinking going on.
In Ireland people would gather in the pubs on fair days and market days when their business of the day had ended, to “wet their whistle” and hear n song. A travelling piper, fiddler, singer or fluter would provide sweet music for pennies and a farmer could learn a new song or two. My grandmother kept one of these pubs and learned quite a few of the songs, one of them being ‘Whisky You’re the Devil’, which I have not heard elsewhere. Another one of her songs was ‘Portlairge’, which is a local Gaelic song, and all the place names mentioned are within twenty miles of her pub. The words translate as follows:
— 1 —
I was the day in Waterford.
Fol dow, fol dee, fol the dad I lum.
There was wine and pints on the table.
Fol dow . . .
There was the full of the house of women there,
Fol dow . . .
And myself drinking their health.
— 2 —
A woman from Rath came to visit me,
And three of them from Tipperary.
Their people weren’t satisfied.
They were only half satisfied.
— 3 —
I’ll set out from Carrick in the rooming,
And take a nice girl with me.
Off we’ll go thro’ “The Gap,”
And northwards to Tipperary.
Like Tom and Liam and I, Tommy Makem learned most of his songs from his family, particularly from his mother, Mrs. Sarah Makem, who still lives in County Armagh, Ireland and sings on Tradition Records The Lark In The Morning, TLP 1004. When Tommy sings ‘Bold Thady Quill’, he is singing about a champion hurler from County Cork, whom I understand is still alive. The song ‘Finnigan’s Wake’ gave the title to the famous novel by James Joyce, who was interested in Tim Finnigan’s resurrection from the dead by having whisky (water of life) poured on him during a fight at the wake. The Gaelic chorus of ‘Cruiscin Lan’ (My Little Full Jug) means:
Love of my heart, my little jug, Bright health, my darling.
Most of these songs tell their own story. They are not merely curiosity pieces or antiques; they are still very much alive and are as popular as the drink that inspired them.

More Information On The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem

Wikipedia  WebSite  LastFM  Facebook  YouTubeLive

(The story of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in their own words)

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPING STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

THE LANGER’S BALL FROM MINNESOTA ANNOUNCE DISCOGRAPHY AVAILABLE FOR FREE DOWNLOAD!

Straight up, no-frills Irish ballads from the frozen Mid-West with just a hint of razor blades, safety pins and American rock ‘n’ roll!

The Langer's Ball 2

The Langer’s Ball have long been hailed as one of the most interesting and innovative bands in the north American celtic-punk scene. They have never been afraid to mix in other genre’s of music while all the time keeping one toe firmly in the music of The Emerald Isle. It’s bands like The Langer’s Ball that keep the scene alive and fresh and bring new ideas to the celtic-punk table. Just recently they took the unusual step of releasing their entire Bandcamp back catalogue for free download,a move that will I am sure get them the recognition they so richly deserve.

The Langer’s Ball two studio albums

Hailing from Saint Paul in Minnesota in the frozen mid-west of the USA have long been at the forefront of the celtic music scene in the area and now their fame reaches right across the America’s and it’s time us over this side of the Atlantic tuned into what they have to offer. The story of the Irish in Minnesota is remarkably similar to many other states across the States. They may only be the second largest population of the city at 14% but despite being only half the number of those of German descent they managed to somehow (I wonder how they managed that?!?!) control all facets of government for decades. Of course the days when the Irish ran the city are long gone now but still many of those in local government, the Police and Fire Service come from typical Irish backgrounds.

The Langer’s Ball began life as a duo back in 2007 and the release by Michael and Hannah of a couple of low key album’s that were well received by the celtic-punk community. This persuaded them to fill out the sound somewhat and so they recruited a few local musicians expanding from a duo into a full on band and so The Langer’s Ball were born. Taking their name from the Irish word ‘Langer’ which has its origins in county Cork and can mean up to three things. A right eejit, being pissed or your dick! After those two early albums back in 2007 and 2008 The Langer’s Ball went on to release ‘Drunk, Sick, Tired’, a live St Patrick’s day recording, in 2011 and ‘The Devil, Or The Barrel’ in 2012. Their first studio album went on to garner #1 Rock/Trad Album Of The Year by Grinning Beggar, #2 Album of The Year 2012 for Shite’n’Onions and #3 Album of The Year for Paddy Rock as well numerous outstanding reviews across the board and not solely from the celtic-punk media.

They followed this with 2014’s ‘7 Year Itch’ their last release from a couple of years ago which we reviewed here and described it as

“The title of the EP refers to this being the bands seventh year together and with a bunch of new songs they were itching to release and with the success of the session it all came together perfectly to release this to The Langer’s Ball growing army of fans at home and abroad. The music itself is reminiscent of the more folkier side of celtic-punk but with plenty of bite with the extremely well played accordion to the fore throughout the EP”

They followed this up last year with the stunning Whiskey Outlaws, their first full-length studio album in 4 years. An absolute killer of an album which made all the Best Of lists of the major celtic-punk media and confirmed their place as one of the best bands in the scene.

Brilliant originals and a superb choice of covers complement each other well. When we reviewed it here we thought

“One of the things I love about The Langer’s Ball is their sense of humour and its evident on every recording I have heard of theirs. ‘I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover/Bye Bye Blackbird’ just about sums them up. A three minute romp that is guaranteed to get you up and jigging about”

From the band’s interesting and knowledgeable choice of traditional folk covers to their incorporation of Americana, country, rockabilly, hardcore, baroque, klezmer and even psychobilly alongside the Irish punk The Langer’s Ball are constantly evolving and constantly improving and you can get on board and check out that from begiinning to present with their very generous decision to make it all *FREE!!!!* So don’t delay you never know how long these offers are going to last do you?

Contact The Langer’s Ball

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  ReverbNation  Bandcamp  Google+  Soundcloud

The band have made their entire Bandcamp discography ‘Pay What You Like’ which means you can download for free. Just click the ‘Buy Now’ option, which will ask you to ‘name your price’ but there is no minimum price, so just have it, the band want people to share their music.

“The music business is an odd one, especially when you love to make music and have people enjoy it. We have worked for nearly 10 years to better ourselves as musicians and play as often as we can. We are still trying to make the transition to full-time musicians, and are of the mind that if people love what we do, we can do it! That said, people have to hear what we do before they can love it, so we want to afford them the opportunity to do just that”

So what are you waiting for?? BUT if you’re feeling generous then chuck them a few bucks and if you like what you hear then why not visit their store here and get the  physical CD’s.

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