Category Archives: USA

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS ARTISTS- Rebel Voices. Songs Of The Industrial Workers Of The World

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The Industrial Workers of the World blazed a path in American history and its influence is still felt widely today. The ‘Wobblies’ and music were interwoven helping to build morale, promote solidarity and lift the bleak spirits of the working-class during the bleakest days of American history. Here are twenty of those songs that can still lift our spirits decades later.

Welcoming into the union those that others shunned, the Wobblies from the start were the labour movement’s pioneers and innovators, unionising hundreds of thousands of workers previously regarded as “unorganizable”. The Wobblies, the name given to members of the IWW, at their peak in 1917, numbered near 200,000 but state repression, competition from other unions and the inevitable split led to a decline in membership that has seen this once great organisation become a mere shadow of itself. The IWW organised the first sit-down strike (Schenectady, 1906), the first major auto strike (Detroit, 1911), the first strike to shut down all three coalfields in Colorado (1927), and the first ‘no-fare’ transit-workers’ job-action (Cleveland, 1944). With their imaginative, colourful and world-famous strikes and free-speech fights, the IWW wrote many of the brightest pages in the annals of working class history.

Wobblies also made immense and invaluable contributions to workers’ culture. All but a few of America’s most popular labour songs are Wobbly songs and IWW cartoons have long been recognised as labour’s finest and funniest.

The IWW’s Use of Music

In their struggle to promote these politics, the IWW was a singing union. In the period between 1910-1960 the songbook ‘The Little Red Songbook’, which is still in print, was regarded by many workers as one of their most beloved possessions besides, of course, their red IWW membership cards. The songbook was one of the most important documents and its songs were sung in numerous situations: around hobo campfires, in boxcars, in Wobbly halls, in the streets, on picket lines, at strike rallies, in court, on the way to jail and in jail. The songs were a crucial aid in recruiting new members, and they were important in building a sense of fellowship and in keeping spirits up in hard situations. Paul Garon writes in his book ‘What’s The Use Of Walking If There’s A Freight Train Going Your Way? Black Hobos And Their Songs’ that a mixed group of hobos sitting around a campfire would be more likely to sing Wobbly songs than Blues, Country or Vaudeville songs. This tells us something about the popularity these songs enjoyed.

from ‘Music And The IWW: The Creation Of A Working Class Counterculture‘ by Rudolf TB

Rebel Voices. Songs Of The Industrial Workers Of The World was released on Flying Fish Records formed in the 70’s by Bruce Kaplan. Use to releasing left field folk music the label had split from the more famous Rounder Records who were more reluctant to release leftfield albums like this compilation. The presence of Utah Phillips looms large here. A combination of activist, organiser, songwriter, singer, and storyteller, there are few performers who can put across a song such as ‘The Two Bums’ as well as he could.

The album also combines its participants into various small groupings and a big ensemble finale, an idea that works just as well in an album sequence as it has on many folk festival stages. There are several numbers originating with Joe Hill, needless to say, but also a grand Malvina Reynolds cover by Faith Petric and a terrific take on the classic ‘Hallelujah, I’m a Bum’ by Bob Bovee. Besides delivering its intended messages, this collection also puts the spotlight on some fairly unknown performers in a context that brings welcome thematic strength and emotional power to their work.

Rebel Voices is an amazing collection of stories and songs, that gives a perfect history of working people. The songs call for solidarity is as relevant today as it was when the songs were originally written. The music provides a feeling of being connected, and makes you want to sing along. No matter what your interest, but especially if it’s the history of the labour movement, this is a wonderful and thought-provoking collection of music.

Tracks
1. Preamble to the IWW Constitution
2. Organizer – Jeff Cahill
3. Little Red Hen – Faith Petric
4. Which Side Are You On? – Bob Bovee
5. Two Bums – Utah Phillips
6. Banks of Marbles – Fred Holstein
7. Put It on the Ground – Marion Wade
8. Popular Wobbly – Eric Glatz
9. Song of the Rail – Mark Ross
10. Hold the Fort – Bruce Brackney
11. We Have Fed You All a Thousand Years – Bruce Brackney
12. Ain’t Done Nothing If You Ain’t Been Called a Red – Faith Petric
13. Hallelujah, I’m a Bum – Bob Bovee
14. Boss – Utah Phillips
15. Preacher and the Slave – Jeff Cahill
16. Mysteries of a Hobo’s Life – Mark Ross
17. Stung Right – Fred Holstein
18. Jo Hill’s Last Will – Kathy Taylor
19. Mr. Block – Utah Phillips
20. Power in the Union

The Wobblies impact has reverberated far beyond the ranks of organised labour. An important influence on the 60’s New Left, the theory and practice of direct action, solidarity and ‘Class-War’ humour have inspired several generations of activists and are a major source of ideas and inspiration for today’s too. Indeed, virtually every movement seeking to “make this planet a good place to live” (to quote an old Wobbly slogan), has drawn on the IWW’s incomparable experience. The songs here are from the twentieth century but their relevance to current times invites us to explore the conditions that inspired their creation. In the face of oppression, these songwriters bravely took a stand. Such courage and heroism is immortal, such heroes should be celebrated and their songs can and still do lift our spirits.

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* many many thanks to Zero G Sound for their invaluable help on this album and others in the Classic Album Review series. We have no rivals only friends so be sure to go check out their fantastic site here

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Where We Are  PhysicalCD  Download

Contact 6’10  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  Instagram

ALBUM REVIEW: SETH MARTIN AND THE MENDERS- ‘Live At No Country: An Introduction To Seth Mountain’ (2019)

Our close friend TC Costello has toured all over the world and spent quite some time in Korea so he was the perfect person to put pen to paper on the new album from Seth Martin that fuses Americana and American Folk with traditional Korean music. 

Singer, songwriter and folklorist based Seth Martin has been honing a rare sound for the last decade, travelling back and forth between between his native US and adoptive home of South Korea, absorbing Korean traditional music into his already rootsy American sound.  For some time, he’s been hosting shows throughout Korea where he’s strummed his banjo and guitar alongside musicians playing traditional Korean instruments, all while leading bi-lingual singalongs. He works for Seong Mun-Bakk Mountain school, a Korean traditional music school in the mountains nearby Seoul.   He’s even taken his primary school-aged students on a tour of America’s Pacific Northwest.
One of the most memorable nights of music I had in Korea was a concert he organised with his students and some local, mostly American, folk musicians in Seoul.  His students performed, Pansori, Korean drum-and-vocals storytelling music and and samul nori, Korean drum music, which sounds a bit like 100 bodhrans caught in a thunderstorm! We foreign folkies played songs from our backgrounds.  I did some American tunes, an Irish immigration ballad, and tried a Gypsy-Punk reworking of a Korean indie hit.  These shows he organised brought together people of different ages and backgrounds who would otherwise never meet, let alone end up performing alongside one another.  At these occasions, Martin created a melting pot of folk music that was unlike anything else in the massive capital city.

the great Pete Seeger

On the third of May this year, on what would have been Pete Seeger’s 100th birthday, Martin  released a live album, Live at No Country: An Introduction to Seth Martin, and I could imagine no better introduction to Martin nor a more fitting tribute to Mr. Seeger.
The album starts with the Korean folk song ‘Bird, Bird, Blue Bird,’ a lament on the death of Jeon Bung-Jun, a farmer who became a rebel leader in 1894 during  time of growing Japanese influence – though 16 years before Korean became a proper colony – It’s a complicated political situation that I don’t care to get into now. ‘Bird, Bird, Blue Bird’ is a song I’ve known for a few years, but had no idea it was about Mr. Jeon. That’s because much of Korean folk music is heavy in nature metaphors.  Martin fully embraces nature metaphors in his English songwriting on this album, too. The gentle lament features Martin on Banjo and Kim Jungeun on Janggu, an hourglass-shaped traditional Korean drum, as well as a chorus of vocalists. Contrasting with the mellow opening track is Martin’s jaunty rendition of ‘Motion of Love’, set to the tune of the American folk song, ‘Shady Grove’. It is mediation on wanting all the narrators actions to be fore the good of all mankind, a motion of love.  It’s originally by Bill Jolliff and is inspired by John Woolman, a 19th century Quaker, anti-consumer and abolitionist (someone who wanted to end slavery in America as soon as possible). For me, the highlight of the song is a nearly two-minute breakdown during which Martin only bashes out only one chord on banjo with with whooping and hollering that would put Shane MacGowan to shame.  The instrumentation features Kim Jungeun again on Janggu and Zoë Youngmi Blank on violin.

Next, Seth performs a medley of two introspective love songs: ‘I Still Love You’ and ‘Pushmipullyou’. After that, he grabs a another song from Korea’s tragic history with a rendition of ‘Mother, Sister (Let’s live by the River)’ – I added the brackets.  The song was by Kim Sowol, a famous – and famously hard-to-translate – Korean poet and journalist who worked during the Japanese occupation, and he seems to have taken his own life at the age 32. He follows Kim’s poem with the original anti-war song, ‘Feeling so Cold’, telling of a soldier returning home after seeing, and indeed committing, unspeakable wartime atrocities. While it seems to fit the narrative of an American soldier returning after the Korean War or a Japanese solider’s return after the occupation, Martin says it’s not specifically about Korea, though “it fits certainly in that narrative.” After the heavy subject matter, Martin follows with a an another song about returning home, though not without darkness. ‘Winding Down’, is a reflection upon return home and seeing familiar roads, mountains and rivers.

True to Mr. Seeger on his birthday, Martin provokes a full audience sing-a-long, both with ‘da da da’, and the simple refrain of

“I am winding down my old road again. I am winding down.”

True to the theme of nature metaphors, he speaks of the old river:

“And old river, old river, can you still make things new?

And old river, do you remember all the things i said I’d do?”

Next, on ‘Children of Sod’, Martin sings what he describes as “A love Song to the Tancheon River” in Korea.  He asks at the beginning and end of the song:

“Don’t we all feel better when

The smell of dirt clings to our skin

Pervades us, loves us

And waits for us to ask it to come in?”

‘The Ballad of Eric Gardner’ channels the likes of Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, and of course Pete Seeger with a song about Eric Garner, famously choked to death by a New York City police officer after he was allegedly selling cigarettes illegally.  In a hard-to-listen-to but powerful song, Martin sings:

“After Garner stopped resisting, well the cops just stood there watching

they picked his pockets and they rolled him on his side

Several minutes slowly passed

EMTs they came at last

No CPR, they said he still was breathing then

An hour later Garner’d never breathe again”

With ‘Looking for the Leatherwinged Bat’, in a shocking reversal of nature metaphors, Martin takes an old English Folk song about different species of birds’ courtship rituals, and takes most of the birds out of the song.  Instead it becomes a less-than-flattering walk through an America consumed by corruption poverty and pollution, replacing the birds with such characters a bigoted billionaire,  a police officer harassing kids and “the dog at the top of the pile.”

Martin follows this with ‘If I Had my Way’, by Blind Wille Johnson:

“If I had my way

If I had my way

If I had my way, oh lodry, lordy.

If I had my way, I’d tear the whole thing down.”

The closing number of the live show is medley of ‘Arirang’ and ‘Rooster’. ‘Arirang’ is by far the most popular folk song in Korea.  There are countless variations of the song, and Martin uses a version known as ‘Lonely Arirang’, which he describes as

“a celebration of the relationship between the Korean people and the Korean landscapes that have sustained them for millennia.”  But for a more global appeal, Martin calls the song “a challenge to all listeners to not forget this unity that comes from an ancient relationship to the land.”

‘Rooster’ is an original instrumental and, without getting too much into music theory,  has a melody that fits remarkably well with Korean traditional music. The jaunty banjo and “Yap-da badabum” singalong are hard to not smile to.

Following his live album are some songs recorded around Korea, and highlights include Utah Phillips’ ‘Trooper’s Lament’, based on Phillip’s time in the Korea, and ‘God Bless The Grass’, originally by Malvinia Reynolds, which keeps to the nature metaphors:

“God bless the grass that grows through cement.

It’s green and it’s tender and it’s easily bent.

But after a while it lifts up its head,

For the grass is living and the stone is dead,

And God bless the grass.”

Live At No Country: An Introduction To Seth Martin will easily be one of the most unique albums you’ll hear this year.  Many foreign musicians in Korea learn some Korean music while over there, myself included. But with me, It’d be a Korean folk song or a Korean punk cover in the middle of my more-Western set, and I’d describe as nothing more than a Westerner’s version of a Korean song. With Live At No Country, Martin fuses his command of American folk with his love of Korean folk to create something new. This album, while inspired by the old and traditional music, is truly a new and original experience.

(you can stream Live at No Country: An Introduction to Seth Mountain on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Live at No Country  Bandcamp

Contact Seth Martin  Facebook  LastFM  Bandcamp  YouTube

You can catch TC Costello live at the moment over here in the UK as he is doing a bunch of dates with his friends The Brandy Thieves as well as a load of solo dates including a special London Celtic Punks show at The Lamb in Surbiton in SW London. TC will be supported on the night by Suckin’ Diesel a new traditional Irish folk band featuring current and auld members of The Lagan and headed by Lagan front man the mega talented Brendan O’Prey. All happening on Monday 17th June live at the best boozer in the area The Lamb just a couple of minutes walk from Surbiton station which is only 20 minutes from Waterloo. Live music begins at 8pm and ends at 11pm. Entrance is **FREE** you lucky devil’s so you can spend more on the lovely beer on sale at The Lamb.

More details available over at the official Facebook event here.

For TC’s other dates then go check on his Facebook page here.

ALBUM REVIEW: BRADLEY PALERMO- ‘Volume 1’ (2019)

Los Angeles-based Folk-Punk Bradley Palermo has released his first album comprised of previously released singles, reworked and remastered to create Volume 1. Folk music doused in punk and Americana influences that bristles with dark humour.

We are certainly lucky to be friends with Bryan McPherson as it was that connection that led Bradley Palermo to chance his arm and dash a copy of his new album across the broad Atlantic to us in hope of a favourable review. When it is deserved we are happy to oblige and Bradley will be pleased to know it has done. Before setting out on his solo folk career, Bradley spent fifteen years fronting the bands The Sudden Passion and Femme Fatality. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri playing in local indie bands while developing an affinity for the alt-country bands that were emerging from the region at the time. Drawing inspiration from Americana his songs are often autobiographical with themes of the open road, free living and mortality. Volume 1 is a reworked and remastered collection of previously released singles and is a result of a successful crowdfunding campaign from last year. The album begins with ‘Tombstones’ and is the perfect balance of folk music and country music without any of the cheese often associated with both genres. Bradley’s voice is perfect for this as it’s just the right side of gravelly. Acoustic guitar is accompanied by a short synthesizer tune popping up throughout the song and some gang vocals towards the end as Bradley sings of life on the road as artist away from the grind of everyday life.

Bradley is joined by several friends on the album one being Reggie Duncan on steel guitar and on ‘I Like Things That Kill’ it hits the spot admirably in this (mainly) bitter song about a ex-lover.

My favourite track on the album is up next with ‘All My Friends (Have Died)’ and is a sober reminder that as we all get older we start to lose our mates along the way and here Bradley sings the praises of those closest to him. Musically its a slow burner with, again, wonderful steel guitar.

“Jeff never had a chance
the dope was there since day one
Tanya was probably murdered
but poor folks rarely see justice
Shane fell in love with himself
and finally died of a broken heart
Dominic lost his war with cancer
but goddamn he fought it hard
good goddamn son you fought that shit hard”

A beautiful song that is sure to get you thinking, as it did to me. After such a heartbreaking song the album takes a somewhat lighter turn with ‘2nd Wind’. Well musically anyway. A tale of redemption through meeting a women who could sort out the mess of a life.

‘The Long Way’ has more of a full band sound and tells of the breakup of Bradley’s first marriage beginning with the lines

“I should have never got married
that first time around
I made a fool of myself
more red flags than i could ever count “

and shows us that even at the worse of times some good can come through. After all it was this marriage that brought him from Missouri to Los Angeles. Again great harmonica here and a very undervalued instrument I think. It’s folk pedigree is enormous. The catchy ‘Deep Valley Blues’ is perhaps a bit too radio friendly for this misery guts ears but trots along at a nice pace and it’s not always a bad thing that you can imagine your Ma loving the same music as you.

‘Lost In August’ begins with the welcome understated sound of accordion from Solbodan Bobo Lekic and another unfashionable instrument the ukulele. It’s become too popular to bash the uke but you’ll not find any of that shite here. It’s got a great sound and is, fairly, easy to play so maybe that’s why musicians slag it off as it is so accessible to people. ‘The High Cost Of Free Living’ is another high point of Volume 1 and for an album that covers some fairly depressing themes its not devoid of humour though it tends to be as black as the hills!

“never amounted to much of nothing
but I’m still here and I still think that counts for something
and I ain’t starving for attention
boy I’ll gnaw your ear right off
about the high cost of free living”

Bradley has a great way of story telling as shown on ‘Trouble To Find’ where he tells of people he has met who have suffered from mental illnesses or have just been plain old aresholes (that’s assholes to you Americans!)

“I hope you get help or struck by a bus
you know something real quick and painless”

Volume 1 comes to an end with ‘Hollywood, Hollywood’ and closes things with another high point as Bradley tells of a place that is not all it’s cracked up to be.

“cause we found California but it’s far from paradise”

I’m glad Bradley Palermo thought to send us this album and while we may have a reputation for preferring the more rowdy side of Celtic-Punk I must also admit a fondness for albums like Volume 1. I have found myself playing it a lot more than necessary to review it which is quite the compliment if you realised the amount of music we receive. Lyrically it is superb and when accompanied by such soulful music I can only see Bradley’s career receiving the attention it most certainly deserves. One review stated that the album plays like a story he might tell you himself at a bar over some drinks and I can’t think of a better way to end this one review too.

(listen to Volume 1 for free before you buy on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Volume 1  Here  Contact Bradley Palermo WebSite  Facebook  Soundcloud  Instagram

ALBUM REVIEW: BRYAN McPHERSON- ‘Kings Corner’ (2019)

Bryan McPherson, a fiery, folk-playing, a native of Boston Massachusetts was called west to Los Angeles, California back in July of 2010. Bringing blue collared incendiary working class folk music fusing Americana, folk, alternative and punk all over America and Europe.

There’s a very good reason why Bryan McPherson has featured on the pages of London Celtic Punks more than any other artist. This will be his sixth time, after three album and two singles. Kings Corner is in fact kind of old Bryan anyway in that it is a bunch of old songs from Bryan’s past that he never recorded and has only played the odd time at shows for friends so in a way it pre-dates all his previous reviews. Having recorded his last album Wedgewood in 2015 he returned to his home town of Boston, Mass. in 2018 with a plan. That plan was to polish up and record demos of all the songs I had written since Wedgewood and then launch a Kickstarter campaign to bankroll a big time studio record!

Well plans change.

The memories of home and his past kicked in and before he knew it a new completely different album was on the horizon. After tinkering with some old songs, so old in fact that Bryan didn’t even have a copy of them on their original demo!, he thought it would be good to re-record them to give them out at shows and on the internet. Early on in the project though he realised the songs needed some work and that a quick recording session was not going to be enough. Some had to be completely re-written as in Bryan’s own words

“You see most of these songs are well over 15 years old and come from the very early days of my journey into music and songwriting. They come from some of the best and worst days of my life – coming of age and plummeting into the depths of drug and alcohol addiction, while running the streets of Boston in reckless abandon and cutting my teeth as a performer in the open mic scene of Cambridge Massachusetts, a world away from my neighbourhood of Dorchester, at the time.”

Born and raised in the blue collar working-class Irish-American Catholic neighbourhood of Dorchester, in Boston, and inspired as a kid by the energy and angst of punk, as well as the lyrically driven American folk songs of the early 1960’s Bryan has continued to play and record some of the best original music we have had the pleasure to feature. On his arrival home Bryan witnessed again the shocking impact of the opioid epidemic in his hometown. Deaths from addiction have soared over the last twenty years in the Boston area with many blaming the rise on the over prescription of opioids by doctors and as one Dr. Sushrut Jangi said in the Boston Globe

“It took doctors 20 years to help create this epidemic — but if we wake up to changing how we treat pain, we can more quickly contain its toll.”

Inspired to share these songs and a piece of his story Bryan set up some modest home recording gear in his Dad’s attic and got to work. Exactly the same as he had done all those years ago when recording that original demo tape. After listening to a few mixes of the songs by the great Willie Samuels back home in California, and after they were received well by friends he decided these songs needed a proper release so a crowd-funder was organised that Bryan’s fans and supporters rallied round to.

This album is aptly titled Kings Corner, the street corner Bryan and his mates hung out on in their youth spending many a day and night. The album begins with an short intro of Bryan talking about the album to a background of distorted sounds and acoustic guitar that ends with the quizzical line “Where did everybody go?”. We, the listener, can only guess. Bryan McPherson’s music can by no means be described as Celtic-Punk in the traditional sense but does in fact fit our remit exactly. Interesting, alternative music played with a fiery passion by a son of Erin. But that is only half of it. On the real album opener ‘Where Is Jane’ it is just Bryan accompanied by acoustic guitar and the passion that his voice is most famed for spills out into the airwaves and brings you directly into his world. Sadness and grief and the tremendous sense of loss of a dear friend told in ‘Game Over’ make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. The addition of mournful harmonica only adding to the sadness felt. The songs here, as you could expect from such an eventful life littered with both tragedy and triumph, are gritty and beautiful as on the short ‘I Know How You Feel’ as Bryan explores the ghosts from his past and the rough road to recovery. These old songs from his old neighbourhood have come to life again and on ‘Everyday’ he tells of the everyday sometimes mundane life that went on in.
(Directed and edited by Bryan. Shot by Jason Stone and Bryan. Written and performed by Bryan and filmed in Dorchester, in Boston MA.)

The first single from Kings Corner was ‘Ghost Of My Hometown’ and a superb choice of song and the video too is inspired. Shot in plain and simple black and white Bryan takes us on a journey through the streets of his childhood and the ghosts of his hometown are not just the people but the city itself as gentrification has changed Boston making him a stranger and the communities that made Boston most famous have all but been dispersed to make way for the new order. A sad tale but told by all urban working class communities across the world. The horror of addiction is told again through ‘Mass Ave Story’ with just his guitar and a voice that is passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting all at the same time. His music is a very real journey through his own personal demons and is altogether mesmerising. Sometimes, as on ‘Living In The Red’ his words can chill you to the bone as he dissects American working class life. Never one to avoid difficult subjects Bryan tackles one of the most tragic episodes in American history next on ‘Jumper 9/11’ as he places himself in the shoes of someone on floor 102 of the Twin Towers on that terrible morning of 11th September, 2001. As the fire consumes the building and he has to make the stark choice of how he will perish. A song that could be in poor taste is anything but in the hands of Bryan McPherson as he portrays some of what may go through your head in those shoes. Beautiful. We nearing the end and the album’s longest song ‘See Me Fall’ with a lovely delicate guitar tune and harmonica and ends on a somewhat positive note as Bryan dedicates the song to all the friends and family that helped get him through to this point in his life. That’s not the end mind as ‘Chihuahua’ is tacked onto the end and a sly psychobilly-ish guitar track which despite the harshness of the previous thirty minutes will leave you smiling.
Street life, politics, addiction, prison, gentrification, the plight of the working class, broken dreams, discrimination litter the alleys of Bryan’s songs. Their are also moments of beauty and clarity as this modern day folk-punk troubadour brings us on the journey with him. Once again Bryan manages to come up with something that is gritty and heartfelt as well as beautiful, passionate and inspiring. As we have said before it may not be a fun roller coaster ride but the words are as honest as they are urgent. Come on every second counts!

(you can stream and listen to Kings Corner on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Kings Corner

Cd’s, Vinyl. Downloads- From Bryan  iTunes

Contact Bryan McPherson

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FILM- NO IRISH NEED APPLY. INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR BILL FITZPATRICK

With St. Patrick’s Day a hazy blur here’s a timely reminder things weren’t always so rosy for the Irish. The acceptance today’s generation now, mainly, enjoy was fought for over many years. In the short film No Irish Need Apply director Bill Fitzpatrick exposes the anti-Irish bigotry of yesteryear in the classified pages of Boston’s daily newspapers.

In parts of America the month of March is known as Irish-American Heritage Month. A welcome development in that nations history and certainly something we would benefit from in Britain given the huge numbers of people with Irish ethnicity. One of the things that is taught these days is how the Irish were vilified, oppressed and discriminated against on arrival in the USA. It is important that knowledge of this is widely spread as some would deny it ever happened and would even have you believe that these poor souls had some sort of ‘privilege’. Working class Boston native Bill Fitzpatrick directed a short film about this and we gladly sent over a bunch of questions to him and he replied with this thoughtful and well written essay on the film and why he chose to make it. So thanks to Bill and a happy Irish-American Heritage Month to all Irish-Americans and their friends.

NO IRISH NEED APPLY

Thanks to The London Celtic Punks for the interest in my short. ‘No Irish Need Apply’ was created on my iMac desktop computer in my man cave,(tool shed) for approx $60. It’s basically a slideshow at nearly seven minutes. I spent $30 on a slideshow creator app and signed up for a historical newspaper archives database. The soundtrack budget was a whopping $1.98 courtesy of iTunes.

My name is Billy Fitzpatrick. I’m a 57-year-old Irish American (2nd gen.) born and raised in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the home of the Bunker Hill Monument and the battleground of June 17, 1775. As we say, “you won the battle, but we have the hill!” Believe it or not, there were Irish on both sides of the battlefield. The trickle of Irish at the beginning of the 19th century turned into a flood during the 1840’s and onward, and by the turn of the 20th century, Charlestown was Boston’s most Irish of enclaves. Over 90% of the 40,000 people crammed into the one square mile peninsula was of Irish descent. Dockworkers, freight handlers, saloon keepers, city workers. Tough, blue-collar, Irish Catholic to the core. Ben Affleck made a movie about Charlestown you may have seen. ‘The Town,’ is based on a group of Charlestown bank robbers, and we have more than our share of them.

NINA

Fast forward to 2016. I’m married with a son living in San Diego, California (long story.) I was reading an article one morning while getting ready for work, (I’m a house painter) on  Irish Central. It was the story of the 8th-grade school girl who debunked a University of Chicago professor’s claim published in the Oxford Journal of something or other, called, ‘The Myth Of Victimization’. The professor said stories passed down through the generations of Irish-Americans of discrimination, particularly the so-called NINA signs and newspaper advertisements, were more blarney than believable, sort of a “pity the Paddy,” tales of woe uncle Dan would mumble before passing out.
He scanned 75 years of New York Times newspapers, from 1850 to 1925, and found only a handful. All but one were aimed at women, approximately one per decade. He proudly pasted what he called, “the only NINA ad aimed at an Irish male.” It was actually for a boy to push a grocery cart in 1853. Somehow the published work gets into the hands of a girl named Rebecca Fried. She’s an 8th grader in Washington D.C. at an elite grammar school where presidents and other high ranking government officials send their children. Having been told of these signs by her grandfather as a child, she decided to investigate. With the help of a historical newspaper’s archive database, she entered the right keywords and cast a wide net, every newspaper in the country for as many years as possible and found dozens of examples. With the help of her father and another history professor named Kerby Miller, she crafted a well written, well-cited rebuttal. The author of the Oxford paper, Professor Richard Jenkins, wasn’t amused, and picked apart her work, stating that nearly all the ads came from one newspaper! Nonetheless, she was made famous for being the girl who debunked a mighty history professor. Several newspapers ran with the story before Irish Central wrote about it. When I read the article, I noticed Irish Central didn’t include any examples of the ads, so I  decided to try and find examples in Boston newspapers. My mother gets the Boston Globe delivered each day, so I was able to get free access,(only for home subscribers) It cost nearly 3 dollars per article if you don’t receive the Globe’s home delivery.

THE SEARCH

After a day on the ladder, I would come home to my family, strap on the feed bag, and afterward head to the man cave for some research,(and a couple of cold ones!) I have a NINA sign in the man cave. I got it on eBay for twelve bucks. It’s about 18″ long by 7″ tall, stiff cardboard,  dingy tan color, complete with fake water stains and tack holes. An obvious reproduction but I found out later it was a fake. I needed a time frame to put in the parameters and 1873 was the first year the Globe was printed, so I was thinking of starting at the beginning when I noticed tiny print in the corner of the sign. I looked closely and it read, “Boston Printing Co, 1915.” I nearly spit my beer into the computer screen!. Perfect, I thought.  If there was a demand for these signs in 1915, then certainly the newspapers would be full of NINA ads. I entered 1910-1920 and put in every keyword I could think of, help, wanted, No, Irish, man, woman, work, situation, apply, etc. I hit the button and…nothing. I took out a few words, nothing again. I would get hits on those words, for example, Irish setters for sale, Irish linen, Irish whiskey, Irish tea, but no NINA. I finally narrowed it down to the word Irish, plenty of hits, but no discrimination.

BOSTON CELTICS

After a few nights of searching, I was thinking maybe the Prof was right. I got bored and started reading articles in the paper, the daily news in turn of the century Boston when I spotted an article about the mayor of Boston. Nothing special about it, but the name sounded familiar. James Michael Curley was the mayor of Boston, a colorful character, and one thing he was known for was his dislike of the Protestant, ‘Brahmins’, Yankee aristocrats who were descended from the Puritan’s, and ran Boston for centuries. Curley would have never tolerated such discrimination, and probably would have torn down any sign himself personally. It hit me. The Irish were running Boston by 1915, and it would be suicidal for a shopkeeper, factory owner, restaurant etc. to hang one. I had to go back in time. 1900-1910 nothing, 1890-1900 I got one NINA ad 1880-1890, several more, mostly domestic help. It was 1870-1880 when i hit the jackpot. Dozens and dozens of ads for men, women, boys and girls. Suddenly I had about 60 examples on my desktop.

WTF TO DO WITH THEM?

 The ads themselves were small. The average ad was 2 or 3 lines in the back pages of the newspaper, approx.  1.5″ x 1/4″. Often the font was faded and letters were faint. I took each one, expanded it, adjusted the contrast and colored the letters in wherever needed. I was thinking about making a movie, but they are words in rectangular blocks and a slideshow format made sense. I downloaded a slideshow app and got busy. I decided it needed visuals so I found some anti-Irish political cartoons from the 19th century. I opened a slideshow creator app on my iMac and started dragging and dropping them in place. I gave each frame 8 seconds of time on average, with some having just 2 lines, therefore taking less time for the viewer to read, and the longer ones having four lines or more needing a few more seconds
I downloaded the song ‘No Irish Need Apply’ from iTunes for 99 cents. The version was perfect although the voice sounded familiar. The singer’s name was Alan Lomax. Lomax wasn’t an Irish name as far as I knew, but that was the name attributed to the song. It’s a traditional ballad with an 18th-century feel. The only problem was the song was too short at 3 minutes 12 seconds. I tried to squeeze as many ads as possible, but I had to give the reader enough time to read each one. After cramming as many as possible in the timeline, I had dozens leftover. Employers looking for men, women, boys, girls, from domestics to carpenters. Opportunities for employment available to all except the Irish. I thought about finding a longer version of the song, but I loved the Alan Lomax version, so I added a second song. After searching I came upon the Wolfe Tone’s version. Derek Warfield’s version is totally different from the Vaudeville version of the 1880’s. It’s a livelier, clearer, modern spin on the original. Derek replied through email to my asking permission for the use of the song, he and his band mates wrote the song while on tour in New York City in the seventies. He found the lyrics in an old songbook he found. 
On a personal note, I added 2 frames of my grandparents. The first one is the team photo at the beginning of the 2nd song. Those lads are The Erin’s Hopes, 1907 Boston Gaelic Football champs. My grandfather, Michael Connolly, a Corkman, is standing top right. Later, towards the end of the short is his wedding announcement to my grandmother, Nellie Hurley. He, a labourer, and she, a domestic from Bantry,  They met in Boston at an Irish dance hall in 1917. My grandmother was working at the time for a family in Brookline Mass. While she was living with, and working for the family of her employer, less than 8 blocks away, another family was welcoming their newest member. They named him Jack, and he is in the last frame!
I sent the original version to Irish Central and they wrote a nice article on my video. it was there in the comment section I found the singer of the first song was in fact Tommy Makem and not Alan Lomax. Lomax was an archiver of folk music from around the world and recorded the version while in Ireland. So far, No Irish Need Apply has been selected and screened in 19 film festivals, including twice in Boston, Los Angeles, twice in Dublin, Donegal and Carlow.
Not bad for a house painter on a sixty dollar budget!

Contact Billy Fitzpatrick

Billy runs a very interesting Facebook page called Fitzgraphics which is Billy’s gallery for the old photos that he has found, plus newspaper clippings of Charlestown, Mass. as well as the film, No Irish Need Apply. As he says “Feel free to copy, share, download, or print anything (I Did !).

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE FIGHTING JAMESONS- ‘A Moment In California’ (2019)

The Fighting Jamesons deliver a live recording from last year’s Get Shamrocked Festival. Traditional style Irish music but with an aggressive and energetic modern-day approach.

With two solid studio album releases behind them The Fighting Jamesons have chosen their fantastic live set from Get Shamrocked 2018 as their next album to hit the stores. Hailing from the resort town of Virginia Beach in California they have quickly gained a strong presence on the East Coast with their constant touring and great relationship with their fans. Formed in 2010 they play a style of Celtic-Punk akin to Flogging Molly in that they are almost acoustic but still mange to kick up a racket. As we said in our review of Every Day Above Ground back in 2014

“Heads down and fast as humanly possible is how The Fighting Jamesons like it and we have to say we bloody love it too!”

and as they are a band that earns their bread and butter on the live circuit it’s no surprise that A Moment In California is more of the same in a extremely tight set of 50% well known and loved trad Irish folk covers and 50% of their own material.

The live set was recorded at Get Shamrocked Festival which, now in its seventh year, has the whole Celtic-Punk community salivating every year when it’s line up is released! Much like Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog festival it’s sadly something most of us will only ever watch via You Tube but with its mix of Celtic-Rock and Punk alongside Folk, contemporary and traditional music it’s definitely on my To-Do list when i win the lottery. Started in 2012 by second generation Irishman Paul Little the festival is held in California attracting thousands to watch some of the best bands around as well as international bands such as The Go-Set and Sir Reg in recent years.

The album begins with one of The Fighting Jamesons most famous of their own tracks ‘How I Ended Up This Way’ but starts with a touching tribute to the parents of 17 year old Irish-American Cullen Connolly who tragically died in a car crash in 2015 caused by a drunk driver. A huge baseball and Celtic-Punk fan who loved The Mahones, Gaelic Storm and The Young Dubliners among others. Cullen lived with neuro muscular disorder but never let it affect him and he lived a full and enjoyable life surrounded by loved ones before it was snatched away. One of the stages at the festival has been named after him. A really nice touch from the festivals organisers.

(the opening song from The Fighting Jamesons 2016 set at Get Shamrocked)

The album begins with the Jamesons original ‘How I Ended Up This Way’ telling of life in an Irish-American family and a day on the lash that gets out of hand! The Fighting Jamesons play hard and fast but in a completely accessible way and I’m sure half the audience would think they are Celtic-Punk while the other half Celtic-Rock! Great tune, catchy as hell with great lyrics and a band at the top of their game. Listening to this first song you can see why they chose to release it as the production (hats off to Chris Kendrick) and sound is absolutely perfect.  Plans are afoot for them to have their set at this years festival properly recorded and maybe released so keep an eye out for that among other things in The Fighting Jamesons camp. Next we have, without a doubt, the most overplayed cover in Irish history, Drunken Sailor! They do a good job of it is all I can say. The next couple of songs were my favourites off Every Day Above Ground starting with ‘What Does It Mean?’ and show what great songwriters they are. It remains a favourite again here in no small part to its absolutely fecking great chorus. Jeffrey’s fiddle and Miles accordion really come into their own here. Again the song is fastly played but still firmly with its feet in the folk camp despite George’s thrashy guitar and Justin and Vince on drums and bass giving it that extra ‘punky’ bite. ‘Year Gone By’ lulls you into the belief it’s going to a slow dirge of a sea shany before exploding in yer ears and we get more catchy full throttle Irish music that is made equally at home in the intimate pub or any big festival.  We earlier compared them to Flogging Molly but the comparison is to the Molly’s at their best.

Next up is the Irish-American classic ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye’. Made most famous in Celtic-Punk by The Dropkick Murphys who never fail to play it in each live show. An anti-war anthem for each generation since it first appeared in 1867. Like the band the song’s roots are in Ireland but it’s only with the added American experience that it became a real American folk classic. They play the first half slow before the second half comes blasting out. Superb. ‘An Irish Medley’ is arranged by the band and is a bunch of well known Irish folk songs (‘Fields Of Athenry’, ‘Streams Of Whiskey’, Seven Drunken Nights etc.,)  bashed out in that certain Fighting Jamesons way. Next is ‘Tell Me Ma/The Last Thing I Remember’ and beginning with the famous folk song before morphing into their self penned tragic tale of alcohol abuse. The well known tale of a life lost in alcohol and oblivion. On the album this song is slow and angry but here is played with an urgency that tops the version off Every Day Above Ground.  There but for the grace of God…

“Every day not wasted is a wasted day”

Next up is a rather interesting cover of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by The Beatles. Now The Beatles were an Irish band without any doubt (check out our feature The Beatles And Ireland here for proof) but it’s still came as a bit of a shock to find this classic Lennon/McCartney song sat in the middle of The Fighting Jamesons set. The bhoys kick it off with a short rap with is no doubt from small massive worldwide smash that sold a billion copies but completely passed me by! It’s a spirited version and you can’t go wrong with such great material to start with though it does show the bands versatility. ‘One More Drink’ is the last of the original material and again and one to grab your mates and let loose at the end of the night. ‘A Moment In California’ is not a song but band vocalist and banjo player Mike Powers giving a nice shout out to the bands fans and hands out some goof plain old advice we could all do with listening to. The curtain comes down on A Moment In California with perhaps the traditional Irish folk song most suited to be turned into a Celtic-Punk rocker!! ‘The Irish Rover’ has been around for donkey’s years but most outside the Irish community will remember it for the brilliant Pogues and Dubliners collaboration back in 1987. That version still gets plenty of airtime and still earns the fella’s and their families a pretty penny I am sure! Here The Fighting Jamesons give it plenty of oompf go off road a couple of times before going out on a really energetic high and I can imagine on a line-up of memorable acts at last years festival The Fighting Jamesons were one on the most memorable!

The Fighting Jamesons left to right: Jeffrey McLaughlin- Backing Vocals, Fiddle * Miles Hoyle- Accordion * George Bauman- Lead Guitar * Mike Powers- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo * * Justin Conner- Drums * Vince Kafigian- Bass *

2019 will see the band hitting the studio again later this year to record their third full length studio album and even some distant plans to cross the broad Atlantic so keep an eye upon what they are up to. A Moment In California is officially released tomorrow, and will be available on almost all big music streaming outlets ie. iTunes, amazon music, Spotify Microsoft music etc. We don’t get a lot of live recordings to London Celtic Punks and on hearing this I can only regret their aren’t more. Nearly a hour of fantastically played fast Irish folk with very wide appeal from a band who though polished come across as sincere and heartfelt in all the right places and funny and ramshackle too. A great band and if they they ever come near where you live then move heaven and earth to go see them as on the evidence here you are guaranteed a night to remember.
Buy A Moment In California

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Cullen’s Mam and Dad have set up a charity in honour of their son- Cullens Claddagh. You can check that out here and they would especially like to hear from any bands wishing to donate merchandise they could raffle off to raise money for the charity.

(raise a glass to Cullen this St. Patrick’s day. We’ll remember you in London mate)

GET YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD OF ‘IRISH DRINKING SONGS FOR CAT LOVERS’…

We are getting ever closer to ‘The Big Day’ and to celebrate Irish-American musician and cat-fan Marc Gunn has made his album Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers available to download for free until the day after St. Patricks Day. Yes that’s right there’s no cost to you. Just ‘adopt’ and download the album. You’ll find details through that link.

 So let’s celebrate St Patrick’s Day with Celtic music and cats.

What the hell is this about I hear you all saying? Well it’s exactly what it says on the cover. Celtic musician Marc Gunn has spent a lifetime in the Irish and Celtic music scene and while he’s not administering the Celtic Music podcast or recording and playing more ‘normal’ music he has released a whole bunch of CD’s in tribute to our feline friends- the cat. Now I’m a cat man myself and have two, with the rather predictable names of Molly and Murphy!, so a whole bunch of Irish songs re-written with lyrics about cats is right up my alley.
Imagine for a moment all of the crazy little things your cat does. Racing around your home. Climbing on door frames. Napping in the oddest positions. Nuzzling up to you. Waking you up in the morning. Begging for food. Having them rub their tail against your leg. The list goes on and on. These are just a few of the many pleasures of owning a cat. All the beauty, the sweetness, and all the madness, that’s what this album is all about.
As Marc says himself
“I wanted to share my experience with one of life’s most-amazing creatures. I wanted your mind to meld with mine, so you can experience my cats, and I can experience yours. This is just a small sample of the purr-fect world awaiting you when you purchase a copy of this album.”

This is one of a series of cat themed Gaelic albums so feel free to download Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers for a limited time only. It is available for free only until Sunday 18th March, 2019 no strings attached. Just follow the link below. Click ‘Buy the Album’ and in the pop up box name your price as ZERO and you can then download the album free!
Slainte! Meow!

DOWNLOAD Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers HERE

Marc Gunn is a rhythm and folk musician inspired by Celtic culture, science fiction, fantasy, and cats. He breathes new life into the autoharp, which continues to surprise musical veterans and fans a like for it’s unique sound and spirited energy. It’s like a satirical jam session between The Clancy Brothers and Weird Al Yankovic. It’s Celtic music, the traditional and the twisted.

Marc Gunn- WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  CelticMusicPodcast

ALBUM REVIEW: RUNA- ‘Ten: The Errant Night’ (2019)

Innovative and award-winning Celtic Roots band, Runa draw on the diverse musical backgrounds of its band members and offer a modern, referential and refreshing approach to traditional and more recently composed Celtic material. 

Hear the world premier of Ten: The Errant Years tonight, Sunday, March 10th, on the Live Ireland (here) radio station on The Bill And Imelda Show. The show will begin at 18:00 GMT. So be sure to tune in and join the ever growing ranks of RUNAtics!

Runa have graced these pages a couple of times before and though you won’t ever find them supporting the Dropkick Murphys (mores the pity as that would be one hell of a gig!) they are, and remain so after Ten: The Errant Years, one of the favourite bands over here at London Celtic Punk HQ. With four studio albums behind them Runa celebrate their tenth anniversary with their first release since 2016’s imaginatively titled live album Live. Over the years their prominence has risen and risen to the point now where the guests on Ten read like a who’s who of the Folk and Country scene in north America. With several Grammy award winning musicians on board for this album, including legendary Irish singer, Moya Brennan; nine-time All-Ireland Irish fiddle champion, Eileen Ivers; Nashville session musican, Jeff Taylor; and Nashville singer-songwriter and Harmonica player, Buddy Greene, and many more, then Ten already sets the bar high before you have even listened to it.
Traditional Irish folk music has never stood still. Ever. Change may have been slow at times but it always came and always despite those who would never accept any deviation to what had become before. As Ireland’s people spread reluctantly across the world they took with them their music and so Irish music evolved. From the 1940’s onward it was seen as the music of the farming communities and the working-class and held in low esteem until The Clancy Brothers shot to fame in the 1950’s and introduced it to an audience well outside of the Irish community and suddenly it become very popular. The Dubliners moved it further on with their Guinness soaked ballads of the 60’s with the Irish showbands and Celtic-Rock of the 70’s taking us up to The Pogues and their beer soaked ballads of the 80’s and the more modern development of Celtic-Punk. Outside the island of Ireland Irish music has soaked up the influences of wherever Irish people have washed up and fully embraced it. In the States that means pushing the boundaries of Irish folk into Country and Americana and Bluegrass. Runa do all this but in a much more subtle way than any Celtic-Punk would and it has been very successful too with them being awarded several honours including Top Group and Top Traditional Group in the Irish Music Awards and three Independent Music Awards including Best Live Album, Best World/Traditional Song, and Best Bluegrass Song. They even wound as #1 in the 2014 London Celtic Punks Best Trad/Folk Album of the year for Current Affairs.

Runa from left to right: Canadian Cheryl Prashker on percussion, Jake James of New York on the fiddle, vocalist and step-dancer, Shannon Lambert-Ryan of Philadelphia, Caleb Edwards of Nashville on mandolin and Dublin-born Fionán de Barra on guitar, bass, vocal and bodhran.

Together they have set the Irish folk music scene alight and will continue to I am sure with the release of Ten. The songs here represent the progression of Runa from a traditional Irish folk band to what they call themselves ‘Celtic Roots’. Music that not only takes in the other Celtic nations but also their adopted home on the other side of the Atlantic. Ten begins with Glasgow-Irishman Paul McKenna’s track ‘Again For Greenland’. It’s the usual story of an Irishman going off somewhere leaving his beloved back home on the shore.

“We leave our sweethearts and our wives,
All weeping on the pier;
Cheer up my dears, we’ll soon return,
‘Tis only half a year.”

The rumble of the bass at the beginning gives way to Caleb’s amazing mandolin and Shannon’s ever amazing vocals which lead everything along and adds so much to the music. It’s for albums like this and bands like Runa that the dictionary folk invented the word ‘catchy’ so to spare me repeating it for every song just assume that every song here is and bloody well is too!

Commemorative plaque in Mexico City unveiled in 1959: “In memory of the Irish soldiers of the heroic St. Patrick’s Battalion, martyrs who gave their lives to the Mexican cause in the United States’ unjust invasion of 1847”

‘John Riley’ tells of the Irish adventurer who left Galway during the famine years and winded up enrolled in the American army where he ends up fighting in the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848. Treated terribly by the US army and suffering from the common anti-Irish and anti-Catholic discrimination of the time John led a number of fellow Irish Catholics who decided to defect to the Mexicans, where they formed the Saint Patrick’s Battalion in the Mexican Army, fighting bravely in several battles though eventually being all but wiped out in the The Battle of Churubusco on the 20th August, 1847. Their memory is still celebrated widely in Mexico today. The song speeds along at a decent pace and Buddy Greene’s harmonica certainly livens it up along with the beat of Cheryl’s percussion. A sad story but one of many times through history the Irish proved themselves in battle. Though Shannon’s voice is intrinsic to Runa’s sound the band naturally excel with pure Irish trad and with the superb ‘Kelly Man Reels’ Jake plays amazing fiddle to the opening two reels written by Fionán before ending the track with the Scots reel ‘A Trip To Strathbogie’. ‘The Green Fields Of Canada’ sees Shannon tell another tale of Irish emigration though unusually as Andy Irvine, who recorded the song with Planxty, says
“Unlike most emigration songs, the émigré in this one appears to believe he has done the right thing”.
A beautiful song tinged with sadness as the Irishman promises to himself that when he makes it big
“If ever friendless Irishmen chances my way:
With the best in the house I will greet him and welcome”

Next up is the modern day Scottish folk song ‘Thaney’ written by Karine Polwart of Malinky. Upbeat and again Cheryl’s innovative use of percussion adds so much to the sound of the song. ‘Great Lakes Of Pontchartrain’ is an American ballad telling of a man who falls in love but the love is unrequited. Thought to have originated in the southern United States in the 19th century it is perhaps most famous for its recording by the legendary Planxty in 1974. ‘Firewood Set’ is another grand set of reels with the opening track written by fiddle player Jake and June Apple and finishing with the trad ‘Chinquapin Hunting’ and the switch from fiddle to mandolin is absolutely seamless. ‘The Banks Of Newfoundland/ Jerusalems Bridge/ Crowleys’ begins with the first of the three tracks with another sad tale of emigration. Written in 1820 the subject matter belies the tune in these songs and with two fantastic reels added onto the end it’s pure upfiting. More than half way through Runa now play a glorious cover of the David Francey penned track ‘Saints & Sinners’ which could almost have written for them. They follow this with the long forgotten Hoagy Carmichael and Jack Brooks penned ‘Ole Buttermilk Sky’. Written in 1946 for the Western movie ‘Canyon Passage’ it’s pure hokum and a welcome and jolly interlude. ‘Torn Screen Door’ is a beautiful song featured here in a stunning video below. Sung unaccompanied by music this style is known across the world as acapello but in Ireland it is called sean nós (Gaelic for ‘in the old style’) and is considered the ultimate expression of traditional singing. Usually sang as a solo but not always, here Runa tell the all too common story of hardworking working class folk losing it all.

In true sean-nós style the words are considered to have as much importance as the melody as in ‘Torn Screen Door’. With ten years under their belts it’s only natural that people have come and gone but Runa always welcome them back for more, as on their last album Live, and the following few songs have a handful of ex-members joining in, like on ‘Runa Alumni Set’ which flips from folk to jazz to trad Irish and back again all seamlessly and is an absolute pure joy to listen to. Just three songs to go and on ‘An Buachaillín Bán’ Runa are joined by Clannad’s Moya Brennan as well as Fionán’s brothers Cormac on harp and Eamonn on flute for a beautiful and gentle version of this Gaelic language song. ‘Dance In The Graveyards’ again shows the bands versatility with a cover of the North Carolina-based roots-rock band Delta Rae’s 2012 hit and the curtain comes slowly down on Ten: The Errant Years with the trad Appalachian spiritual ‘Bright Morning Stars’. Slow and mournful and a superb way to end things.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR A PREVIEW OF THE ALBUM

Runa have an amazing way of interpreting work and with the songs here ranging from centuries old to modern times the selection is as varied as you could wish for while still having Runa stamped all the way through it like a stick of seaside rock. There are no boundaries for Runa as they continue to expand on their Celtic sound and even throw in such gems/surprises as ‘Ole Buttermilk Sky’ among the sometimes haunting and tragic melodies and themes from Ireland and Scotland giving such a refreshing take on Celtic traditional music. It is no wonder that Runa are well received everywhere they go and their reputation as one of the best and inventive folk bands of this modern era is well deserved.

Discography

Jealousy (2009) * Stretched On Your Grave (2011) * Somewhere Along The Road (2012) * Current Affairs (2014) * Live (2016) *

Buy Ten: The Errant Night

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Contact Runa

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GIG REVIEW: BACKSEAT HOOLIGANS IN NEW YORK – 17th FEBRUARY 2019

“On the 1st day of March it was raining…” so sang yer man and if the Celtic nations ever do get more than a cursory glance then March would a perfect time to do Celtic History Month. With today being the feast of St. David of Cymru, the 5th for St. Piran of Kernow and the 17th Ireland’s for St. Patrick then we can safely say that March belongs to us. To get us in the right spirit we thought we’d give a shout out to one of the lesser known bands on the scene the Backseat Hooligans out of South Central Pennsylvania and Maryland. Good friend of the band Johnny Piper of brilliant fellow Celtic-Punkers Alternative Ulster popped along to their show a week or so ago to check out the competition and was suitably impressed.

February 17 in Poughkeepsie, NY saw the kick-off show of The Dropkick Murphys’ annual Spring tour culminating in their St. Paddy’s Day Boston bash. Central Pennsylvania’s Backseat Hooligans took the opportunity to stage a road trip and perform a pre-show party at Mahoney’s Irish Pub down the street from the concert venue. 

the Bhoys about to set sail…

Reminiscent of The Go Set and The Real McKenzies, their 90+ minute set kicked off with a bagpipe jig by Chris Spagnolo that built into a wall of sound as the rest of the band joined in. This lively tune morphed into an abbreviated DKM’sThe Boys are Back’, with multiple band members lending enthusiastic voice to the chorus. The six lads certainly seem to enjoy each others company, a necessity given how far they traveled together in drummer Johnny Sexx’s epic tour bus. The dedicated Johnny drove six hours one way from south of Baltimore to central PA to pick up the lads then on to Poughkeepsie. Ever gracious and supportive, The Hooligans stuck around for Alternative Ulster’s set prior to retracing their six hour odyssey. Next the bagpipes laid down the melody of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’. Speaking of rings, Mahoney’s 2nd floor dining level is open to the lower stage level through a giant circle decorated with the crests of all 32 Irish Counties. During the song, the circle was lined with the toddlers and children of diners above enthusiastically dancing their diapers off. The Hooligan’s sound is infectiously vivacious.
(‘Battered Mug’ from the Backseat Hooligans upcoming EP.
Due out soon so watch this space for more to come!)

The band moved smoothly and rapidly through well rendered versions of ‘Galway Girl’, The Real McKenzies’ ‘10000 Shots’, a bagpipe driven medley of ‘Itchy Fingers’ (a difficult reel well executed), ‘Scotland The Brave’ and ‘Willie Nae’, onto ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’, ‘I Fought The Law’, ‘Drunken Sailor’, and The Stanfields ‘Dirtiest Drunk’. Numerous songs were punctuated by excellent lead guitar riffs by Arik Trimmer.

the quiet before the storm…

The Hooligans have recently been recording new original material and the two original songs they performed at Mahoney’s were the highlights of the show for this writer. First off wasOld Battered Mug’, a tribute to their local speakeasy which starts quietly with front man Keith Kelly singing the chorus accompanied only by mandolinist Dave Garry, followed by four quick stick clicks and the full band launches into a mighty sound with the bagpipes carrying the melody and the guitar and rhythm section with A.J. Mitchell on bass delivering an energetic punker. Things mellowed briefly with a fine rendition of Mr. Irish Bastard’s ‘I Hope They Sell Beer In Hell’ only to be amped up again with the ubiquitous ‘Shipping up to Boston’, the familiar jig line played on mandolin and, rather uniquely, Chris Spagnolo’s saxophone. 
A ska version of ‘Kiss My Irish Ass’, ‘Fields Of Athenry’ with the melody carried by bagpipes, something that sounded like ‘Skinhead On The MTA’, ‘Tooraloo’ and ‘Not Your Stepping Stone’ (perhaps only a coincidence that Peter Tork died soon after) led to the second, excellent original, ‘Pints Of Whiskey’, the opening guitar riff of which had me looking to the bagpipes as the source of the fantastic sound. Both originals were total class and here’s hoping for many more. Like many an Irish punk band before them, the closer was AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’ and these lads do not suffer by comparison. The large (especially for 4 PM) crowd demanded an encore which was duly delivered with the bagpipe-centric traditional folk tune ‘Blooming Heather’ (a/k/a ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ a/k/a ‘Purple Heather’ a/k/a ‘Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?’). Unwilling to go was the piper, who played on as if only just getting started, a fabulous conclusion to a fabulous gig.
Contact the Backseat Hooligans-
As we have said a thousand times it’s not all about you know who (and you know who) its the little bands that makes a truly great scene and Backseat Hooligans are as important in it as anyone. We urge you all to continue to check out the lesser known bands in Celtic-Punk and never be put off by them being across a ocean or a continent as that means very little these days. Big thanks to Johnny for taking the time out to write the review and if you wish to see Backseat Hooligans they next take the stage at the Kingston Kilt Festival on March 9th and before anyone gets too excited this is Kingston in New York not Kingston on the outer edge of south-west London. A very easy mistake to make believe me! The festival is being held at Tony’s Pizzeria at 582 Broadway, Kingston, New York and you can find more details here at the Facebook event. 

ALBUM REVIEW: MICKEY RICKSHAW- ‘Home In Song’ (2019)

“Locations change, friends change, scenes change, but we always have a home in song”.

Boston’s Mickey Rickshaw have long been considered the future of Celtic-Punk by some (guilty!) so a couple of years on from Behind The Eight Ball could their third studio album live up to the weighty expectations we had put upon it? Well read on to see what our good man Marv thought of it.

For the uninitiated, according to their website, Mickey Rickshaw is a “high energy Celtic Punk band that plays fast and loud”. Hailing from Boston, home to so much great music, and with a couple of albums and EP’s under their collective belts (there are eight of them!), ‘Home In Song’ is their third and latest album, due for release soon.

With a heritage like that, and not ever coming across them before, I was excited to review this album. I mean they are from Boston, am I right?! But strangely, on first listen I didn’t take to it. I have no idea why that is. Perhaps I was tired or just feeling a bit odd, or perhaps it was because I was on the train on the way to work on a Monday morning. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t feeling the love. The first couple of tracks just didn’t work for me; the phrase “trying too hard” crossed my mind. Looking back now, I don’t understand it. I love the punkier end of the folk punk spectrum and these guys have raw folk punk oozing out of their pores. So I let the album run on, after all you can’t write off an album after a couple of tracks and it certainly wouldn’t make for a fair review. I am very glad that I did.

(The video for ‘Home In Song’ was shot in the very American Legion that the song was written about, which is now privately owned and operates as a recording studio, and venue, WAMLEG. Directed and edited by the bands own Mike Rivkees)

“And then the sun came up on another day and we found ourselves in time, abandoning a scene that we felt that we built together.
Disenfranchised kids who found a home in song.
Music with a fist- we played it for so long.
Best friends of our lives- formed the strongest bonds,
and now our heroes, they’re falling one by one.”

The sound is predominantly loud bass, overdriven electric guitars over manic drumming (their drummer sure does love his crash cymbals!), thrashy and powerful, with shouty vocals and mob-chorus harmonies. It’s hard to avoid comparisons with the Dropkicks, but these are no DKM wannabees. Think of ‘Buried Alive’ from the Dropkicks’ ‘Blackout’ crossed with some Stiff Little Fingers and you’ll be in the ballpark.

This album just builds and builds. It’s a bit like going to a gig on rainy wet Tuesday; it takes some time to forget about the water seeping in through your shoes. By track four, ‘Keep Afloat’ they take a deep breath, slow it down a tiny amount and say to themselves (I imagine) “Right boys, let’s get this done”. Because let me tell you, you soon forget about that downpour. From there on there is no let-up, no looking back; the power and the energy scream out of the speakers and by the time we get to track six, ‘Fang’, the boys are belting it out and taking no prisoners.

This is no fiddle-de-dee music, there is no shoegazing or worthy whistle solos here. This is hardcore and filthy folk-based punk make no mistake. The absolute artistry of these tracks though, is how every now and then they drop the guitars out for a bar or two and let the melody carry the music to remind you of its glorious roots. After the magnificent onslaught, it is a welcome and jarring break just for a second or two, then they hook you back in and bludgeon you into submission. I get the feeling the entire album is designed to soften you up for the final track, ‘Floodgates’. Even after all the preceding mayhem it takes the music on this magnificent album to a new level with a banshee of a pipes riff. It’s an absolute masterpiece, an exemplar for the genre and I keep going back to it time after time. I learnt something today; more traditional Celtic folk punk, dare I say more melodic folk punk, with its mandolins, banjos, fiddles and tin whistles may be a joy, but there is a place deep in my heart for the fast, dirty, uncompromising and brutal tunes of Mickey Rickshaw and their like.

    Mickey Rickshaw left to right: Jimmy Donovan – Guitar * Chris Campbell – Drums * Jake Sullivan – Fiddle * Mike Rivkees – Lead Singer * Kyle Goyette – Bazouki * Shane Welch – Bagipe/Tin Whistle * Tom Donnelly – Guitar * Derek Dooley – Bass

I have re-listened to this album many times now and after a while I think I finally got it. No more did the first couple of track sound forced, the fault had always been entirely mine. They were just the first hesitant steps on a journey to a different destination. You can pick up Mickey Rickshaw’s previous albums from their Bandcamp page on a pay-what-you-like basis for which they have my utmost respect. Today was a school day.

Buy Home In Song- Released March 1, 2019

Bandcamp   ArrestRecords (T-Shirt/Vinyl offer)

Contact Mickey Rickshaw

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ALBUM REVIEW: T.C. COSTELLO- ‘Horizon Songs’ (2019)

Most American artists we only get to know from their record releases but it seems T.C. Costello drops over this side of the broad Atlantic often enough for him to develop quite the following for his anarchic accordion Folk-Punk!

Horizon Songs is the sixth studio album from long time auld mucker of London Celtic Punks T.C. Costello. Though based in his adopted home town of Greenville, South Carolina he’s also a part time member of Leicester based folk-rockers The Brandy Thieves and is often found crossing the pond to join them here on stage in the summer months during festival season. During this time he also ventures across Europe and has always also found time to do a couple of shows for the London Celtic Punks, as well as spending the afternoon entertaining the auld folk residents at the Nursing home I work at! A visual tour de force its not many who can pull off a gig supporting punk bands or playing for the oldies but T.C. manages both with ease. The official release date for Horizon Songs was 28th December, 2018 but I am ignoring that and putting it down as a 2019 release. I actually did have a copy in my hand at TC’s successful gig at The Lamb in Surbiton at the end of last Summer but TC sold so many CD’s I had to give him my copy back so he’d have some for the later gigs on his tour!

T.C.’s roots, like many Irish-Americans, are lost in the midst of time and the chaotic nature of their ancestors arrival in America but cherished they are and though not entirely responsible for T.C.’s output they do play a large part. Among the ‘murder ballads’ and sea-shanties here are gems from Ireland’s musical history (except for ‘The Wild Rover’. He fecking hates ‘The Wild Rover’!) and his identity as descended from immigrants fleeing famine and oppression has played a large part in the songs he plays and writes.

“The tour I did this year took me to Italy, England, Scotland and Ireland,” Costello says. “And their traditional songs have a lot of influence on my songwriting, anyway. I just draw off the traditional sources, both musically and lyrically, and if you write in that style, you’re probably going to write about immigration or murder.”

T.C. Costello’s latest release, Horizon Songs is pretty much a one man Celtic-Folk-Punk album as T.C. is one of those talented bastards who can play a multitude of instruments from tin-whistle to accordion to the hulusi (sort of a Chinese bagpipe). The album opens with the darkly humorous ‘The Muse Of Mary Malloy’, a perfect example of a ‘Murder Ballad’ in which poor Mary gleefully goes about murdering any poor man who falls for her charms until she finally finds the man of her dreams and after accidentally bumping him off is sentenced to death. Originally penned by and for T.C’s English band mates in The Brandy Thieves T.C. plays a memorable version here.

Next on an album that is heavy on traditional immigration themes is the old trad Irish folk classic ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’. Played with gusto and for good reason this is a popular song among the punkier bands in the Celtic-Punk scene as it can be played at 110mph as T.C. shows here! It’s bittersweet tale of a Irish man saying goodbye to his beloved,

“so fare thee well my own true love; when I return united we shall be”

, to leave to mine for Gold in 1800’s America, The jocularity of the tune is tempered by our realisation that this journey ended in tragedy for most of these young men. T.C. gave his comments on this great ballad in his recent review on these pages of the new album from The Templars Of Doom, here, last week. With two toe-tappers so far it’s time for a slow one and ‘Dear Bonnie’ and T.C gives full vent on the accordion and his vocal range is impressive as well. Now no one would accuse him of ‘crooning’ his way through things but his is a voice that portrays emotions and feelings and fits snugly within his songs. No Celtic-Punk album is complete without a drink song and ‘The Ballad Of Being Born In A Bar’ does the job ably, complete with cautionary tale that absolutely none of us take any notice of! ‘Run Like Hell / See The World’ is not two songs but one I think he couldn’t decide to name. Played fast again with a gang chorus of friends its a ode to sailing across the oceans leading into ‘It Starts With A Funeral’ ,a short but sweet song lasting just eighty seconds that finishes with a heavily Irish influenced flourish at the end that I would have liked to have seen extended. Next up is one of the album highlights and the wonderful ‘May The Horizon Be Your Home’ sees T.C. accompany some utterly fantastic accordion here with equally good tin whistle, 12-string guitar, ukulele and clawhammer banjo. The words here are aimed at those that would deny sanctuary to those in desperate need.

One of the jobs that immigrants, especially the Irish as their farming skills were all but useless in the new country, found work in was the mining industry and not many jobs were more dangerous and badly paid than down the pit and ‘Murder In The Diamond Mine’ tells of the desperation of one poor soul to get out of the mine which he eventually succeeds in doing but at a great price to his soul. Another tragic traditional Irish song follows with ‘Botany Bay’, sung by many Irish bands including The Pogues and the Wolfe Tones it tells of an an Irish labourer dreaming of immigrating to Australia to make his fortune.

“Farewell to your bricks and mortar,
Farewell to your dirty lies.
Farewell to your gangways and your gang planks,
And to hell with your overtime.”

We coming towards the end and ‘Horizon Songs’ ends with three excellent songs, the first of which ‘Highlands of Afghanistan’ is a modern re-working of the traditional folk song ‘Lowlands of Holland’ while ‘Grine Kuzine’ (in English ‘My Green Cousin’) sees T.C. test out his Yiddish language skills. One of a group of songs known as ‘disillusionment songs’ as they deal with the disappointment felt by many Jewish-Americans that the streets in the USA were not ‘paved with gold’ and instead they carried the poverty and hard times across the ocean with them from Europe. Horizon Songs ends with the amazing ‘Over The Skies’ and a angry, but told beautifully, ballad again with excellent accordion. Thinking that was the end it came as a shock to find an, admittedly not too surprisingly, eccentric extra track hidden away at the end so be sure not to miss that…

Jens- Matilda’s Scoundrels, Johnny- gun for hire! and T.C. at The Lamb in Surbiton 2018.

Recorded in 2018 while T.C. was touring Ireland, Italy and England and in between gigs reflecting on his immigrant heritage while passing from country to country with ease. The news was filled with stories from home with hardly a day going by without the headlines being about border walls or people attempting to enter the US. For this reason the album he wrote leans heavily upon new and old stories of immigration alongside ones about drinking, murder, sailing and death. All online sales of Horizon Songs will be donated to the non-profit organisation familiesbelongtogether.org, helping families at the US-Mexico border. Admittedly like many in the Celtic-Punk scene T.C. is best captured live on stage but he always manage to capture the energy of his live shows admirably on his records and I defy you to find many more in the scene who are as entertaining.

(have a listen to Horizon Songs on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Horizon Songs

FromTC

Contact TC Costello

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(T.C. entertaining the crowd at The Gunners for the London Celtic Punks masses last Summer at the start of his European tour. Thanks to Anto Morra for filming.)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM- ‘Hovels Of The Holy’ (2019)

What to do when a mate releases a new album? To stave off any allegations of nepotism ye rope in a guest reviewer to do it instead! With Ulster county Celtic-Punks The Templars Of Doom second album out our favourite South Carolinan Folk-Punk accordion playing multi-instrumentalist TC Costello rode into town with some pen and paper and he got the job! 

Hanging out with a fellow multi-instrumentalist friend once, we came to the conclusion that we both played one or two instruments well, and were sloppy on about ten instruments.  ‘Good enough to be in a (expletive deleted) punk band’, I believe he summarized.  But how would sloppy mandolin and tin whistle fit into such a punk band?  Most Celtic-Punk bands are full of ace musicians. Ulster, New York’s Templars of Doom have that precise answer, though the band is far from (expletive deleted.)

(hear the first Templars Of Doom album Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist on the Bandcamp player below. Available to download at a knockdown price!)

The five-piece band features bagpipes, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bouzouki, banjo, mandolin, tin- whistle, bass and drums, often with members doubling up on instruments.  None of them show great virtuosity on their instruments, but therein lies the point, and with their powers combined, they form one of the most punkiest acts in all of Celtic punk.

The Templars Of Doom : Rory Quinn * Marty Shane * Josie Rose * Michael X. Rose * Eric Pomarico *

On ‘Hovels of the Holy’, the Templars approach Celtic-Punk in an non-obvious way, owing more to the sloppiness of The Clash and The Sex Pistols than the wall-of-sound distorted guitars of Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys.  

The opening instrumental, ‘Templars Rise From the Crypt’, works as a sort of overture and evokes background music in a pulpy adventure movie.   Indiana Jones, Perhaps?  Opening with a picked bass line that fits comfortably between Celtic and old-school punk, the song builds up with mandolin, bouzouki, tin whistle, electric guitar and, best-of-all, hellish screams.  It’s reminiscent of some of The Pogues’ early instrumental numbers like ‘Metropolis’ or ‘Wild Cats Of Kilkenny’.

The next track, ‘H-Block Escape’, sounds like the rebel song that The Clash never wrote, starting with the shout-along staccato chorus.  

’38 in ’83! H-block escapee! 38 IRA Free’!

and features some bagpipe work that’s oddly like of some the Clash’s unassuming lead guitar lines, backing up and strengthening the vocals. ‘H-Block Escape’ sets the tone for the album overall, establishing that the album is packed with strong choruses, brazen about its punk influences, and is full of lyrics that will send you to the history books. 

 Next comes ‘Black Friday On My Mind’, proudly continuing the the funny-but-sad aspect of Celtic-Folk, telling the story of a truly destitute individual looking forward to the US’s celebration of commercial decadence known as Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving.  It opens with the line:

Black Friday’s on my mind, waiting on the breadline

The rent money’s all been spent, and the children have no clothes.

In addition to sing-along Pogues-like chorus and bluesy lyrics, it has a jaunty 3-chord instrumental breakdown that I found hard not to mosh to.

The Templars’ rendition of ‘Leaving of Liverpool’, with it’s driving 4/4 rhythm and sloppy mandolin part is a good reminder that playing as fast as humanly possible isn’t the only way to make a traditional song punk, a reminder I myself probably need.  The Templars also include the rebel songs: ‘God Save Ireland’, ‘Wrap the Green Flag’, and the send-you-to-the-history-books ballad ‘Roddy McCorley’.  All three of these rebel songs involve the characters dying at the end.  

‘Beggar on the Road’, is one of the spookier songs on the album.  Starting with a tin-whistle and banjo intro, it tells the story of a drunk helping an impoverished and badly injured beggar.  The narrator gives him bread, clothes and whiskey (they are a Celtic-Punk band after all.)  ‘Jesus Christ!  what happened to you’? the shocked narrator asks the beggar.  The beggar responds, ‘How did you know my name’?  ‘You’re a bastard and a scoundrel, but this day you saved your soul’, concludes the final verse.

Also on the album a cover of Slade’s glam rock classic, ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’, which works surprisingly well as an all-acoustic drinking song, and the bawdy-but-frightening ‘Tattoo Covered Hag’, whose three-chord, and three-word, chorus is one of the strongest on the album.  

The album finishes with a bagpipe-and-lead-guitar-heavy rendition of the Ramones’ ‘Chinese Rocks’, a song about addiction ruining a life, but also, in classic Ramones style, a joy to listen to.  It proves a fitting way to conclude the album that deals with some dark themes, is a pleasure to hear and a celebration of the band’s old-school punk influences. 

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

Buy Hovels Of the Holy

FromTheBand  CDbaby  iTunes  (cheapest way to order the CD for Europe is via CD Baby)

Contact The Templars Of Doom

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Tune in again in just a few days time when its TC Costello’s turn under the London Celtic Punks microscope. In a perfect world we ought to have got one of The Templars Of Doom to review TC’s new album but there you go. TC has just released his sixth album of his career and the self released Horizon Songs is certainly one of his best and judging by the crowd that night down The Lamb in Surbiton were selling like hot cakes! So come join us again for that….

2018 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S. PART THREE: USA AND JAPAN- THE CHERRY COKE$, THE GODDAMN GALLOWS, RAILROAD EARTH

Here is Part 3 and the final part of our 2018 Round Up’s where we catch up with the releases that we couldn’t give a decent review to first time round. I would make it a new year resolution to do better in 2019 but feel I can’t as the amount of excellent releases we receive far exceeds our ability to review them in time, but we are getting better! We don’t want to dilute our reviews or hurry them so hopefully you will understand the thought and work that goes into our reviews and forgive us. Today we go to the north America and also fit in one of the best Celtic-Punk bands in the world from Asia. Each and every one are worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out and apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in like this. Part 1 was releases from the Celtic nations (here) and Part 2 was Europe (here) so today dive in!

THE CHERRY COKE$- ‘The Answer’  (Buy)

One of the most established bands in the Celtic-Punk scene and yet still widely unknown outside their home The Cherry Coke$ release their eighth studio album, The Answer. Now veterans of the scene since their humble beginnings back in 1999 they have gone onto become huge at home mixing traditional Irish folk music with fast and furious punk rock in the same way as Flogging Molly. They rose to prominence after the release of their debut album Beer my Friends which earned them nationwide attention and appearances on Japanese TV and their video being shown regularly on MTV. Twelve songs here lasting just under forty-five minutes and what you get is an eclectic mix of Irish, Punk, Rockabilly, Folk and more all blended together into The Cherry Coke$ very own style. Imagine a harder edged Mollys but with a bit more bite and dual male/female vocals and you’re on the right track and just to show these guys can play they knock out a couple of traditional Paddy’s Day cover songs in ‘The Irish Rover’ and a blazing traditional version of ‘John Ryan’s Polka’ but it’s their own compositions that really shine.

The single ‘Dong Chang Swag’, the Poguesy ‘A-Yo’ and the seven minute song ‘Lilac’, taking in the pomposity of Queen amongst everything else they pack in!, that are my standout track’s here. Another outstanding album and no surprise there!

Contact The Cherry Coke$-  Facebook  LastFM  YouTube

THE GODDAMN GALLOWS- The Trail  (Buy)

The sixth album from a band that is new to me but one I will be definitely checking out. The band formed in Portland, Oregon in 2004 later moving to Los Angeles, living, so they say, in squats and abandoned buildings before spending four solid years on the road dragging their asses from town to town defining their sound. They certainly are a novel band with hardly two songs on The Trail sounding the same. The band mix up a chaotic blend of rockabilly, psychobilly, punk rock, bluegrass, folk and metal to make what some have labelled as ‘hobo-core’. Kicking off with ‘Grassmuncher’ a mental instrumental which begins with the folk elements of the band coming together before the band unleash and metal guitar soon takes it far far away from the finger-in-the-ear folkies. The vocals and music here is gritty and hard and not for those of a gentle disposition. That is not to say that The Goddamn Gallows can’t knock out a quality tune and this album is full of them. Cut from the same cloth as one of my favourite bands Phantom Of The Black Hills (who we did a feature on recently here well worth checking out). Loads of great songs like ‘It’s Gonna Be Ok (no, It’s Not)’ a doom laden slow dirge of a song that also has its speedy bits and a wicked sense of humour, the title track with its folk-punk-metal xylophone (!), the Demented Are Go-esque psychobilly-country-metal of ‘Honeyhole’ and the epic closing track ‘Down With The Ship at over six minutes with dual vocalists and the catchiest song you’ll find here. The little I have heard of Goddamn Gallows gives me the impression that this album is a mixture of the old sound of the band and the new heavier direction they seem to be travelling in. They are on tour throughout Europe later this year, sharing shows with Gallows Bound and Koffin Kats, so I guess we’ll find out then won’t we?

(you can hear the whole of The Trail over on You Tube below)

Contact The Goddamn Gallows-  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Spotify

RAILROAD EARTH- Captain Nowhere EP  (Buy)

With some similarities to The Goddamn Gallows this is another release that is certainly not Celtic-Punk but interested me enough to give it a far few plays this year. This is The Goddamn Gallows with all their rough edges gone and a shave! That’s not to say it is in any way weak or wimpy just that its coming from a different angle. Beautifully played Americana with some of the best banjo of the year from a band that has been together for eighteen years! With six albums behind them Captain Nowhere was my first experience of Railroad Earth but carries on in the same tradition as that first album, The Black Bear Sessions, back in 2001. The EP kicks off with the marvelous banjo and mandolin laden ‘Blazin’ A Trail’ accompanied by the glorious sound of an upright bass its utterly fantastic and a surefire foot-tapper if not thigh-slapper!! The kind of song that is guaranteed to get you off your backside and jigging about.

Only six songs here on a record that lasts thirty-five minutes but eleven of those belong to the epic closing title track, ‘Captain Nowhere’. A slow countryfied ballad that ebbs and flows beautifully along that belies it’s length. ‘Only By The Light’ and ‘The Berkeley Flash’ also stand out for me on a release that is kind of hard to pigeonhole but fiddle player Tim says “We’re a Country & Eastern band!” and that may indeed be right.

(The band live in concert at Red Rocks Festival)

Contact Railroad Earth-  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Soundcloud

So ends the third and final part of our 2018 Round-Up’s. We are guaranteed to have still missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send us your releases to review. We are also always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending on how you are viewing.

DON’T MISS THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR YEAR ON MONDAY WHEN WE UNVEIL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS BEST ALBUM OF 2018!!

THE CELTIC PUNKCAST. BONUS EPISODE- TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2018

December is usually the time when all the various Celtic-Punk media begin to compile and release their Best Of charts. There’s already been a couple and we are no different with ours traditionally released in the first couple of weeks of January. Our stablemates over at The Celtic Punkcast have just put out a special episode featuring the best song from the ten best Celtic-Punk albums of 2018 and I can tell you it’s a good one. 

Hi everyone, I thought I’d drop a little something extra this year for December in addition to the Christmas Special, it’s my top 10 albums of 2018 as judged by me and my old kelpie Banji. Some fantastic music came out this year and I swapped a lot of these artists albums positions around many a time before settling on the final rankings. Rankings are always suggestive so if you disagree with my list then feel free to let me know yours. Here’s the rankings/playlist:

10: ALTERNATIVE ULSTER – ‘No Queen, No Crown’  from BOOBIES BANJOS BEER AND BAGPIPES

9: THE LANGERS BALL – ‘No Irish Need Apply’ from HARD TIMES IN THE COUNTRY

8: THE O’RIELLYS AND THE PADDYHATS – ‘Green Blood’  from GREEN BLOOD

7: BASTARD BEARDED IRISHMEN – ‘Pirates Of Three Rivers’ from DRINKIN’ TO THE DEAD

6: MR. IRISH BASTARD – ‘Oliver Cromwells Head’  from THE DESIRE FOR REVENGE

5: KRAKIN’ KELLYS – ‘Anarchy In The Double K’  from PROMISED LAND

4: SIR REG – ‘Don’t Let Go’  from THE UNDERDOGS

3: MEDUSAS WAKE – ‘Hobart Sailor’  from RASCALS AND ROGUES

2: THE RUMJACKS – ‘The Foreman O’Rourke’  from SAINTS PRESERVE US

1: THE MUCKERS – ‘Black Irish’  from ONE MORE STOUT

CLICK HERE

So there it is. Any thoughts send them to me on Twitter, Facebook or via email and I look forward to more great music in the new year.

Muer ras, Gareth & Banji

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  • The London Celtic Punks Best Of 2018 lists will appear in the next few weeks covering the best albums, EP’s, Folk/Trad releases, Celtic-Punk media and more so if you don’t want to miss it then be sure to subscribe to our E-Mail alert list. The box is on the right or below depending on how you are viewing this page.

ALBUM REVIEW: TAN AND SOBER GENTLEMEN- ‘Veracity’ (2018)

Their has been a few great debut Celtic-Punk albums during 2018 but here is one of the very best from North Carolina’s the Tan and Sober Gentlemen. Raw and unfiltered, a blend of hard-driving, danceable roots delivered with a punk edge and whisky-fuelled abandon they call ‘Celtic-Punk-Grass’.

Holy f*$%*£g shit this is a one hell of a great album!! If anyone out there is still mourning the loss of the great Cutthroat Shamrock then dry your eyes and sit yourselves up as grieve no more as the Tan And Sober Gentlemen are here to fill that big Celtic-Bluegrass-Punk gap in our hearts. We were lucky earlier in the year to be chosen to showcase their debut single a release of the auld Celtic rebel number ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ which, needless to say, was absolutely fantastic. This though just left me itching for more so I was doing cartwheels when they sent me their debut album last week and it’s not been out me lugholes ever since!

Recorded in the woods of Chatham County, North Carolina, the album is a riotous take on what the band calls ‘Scotch-Irish hillbilly music’. North Carolina has a rich history of Irish, Scotch and Scotch-Irish history going back generations and the Tan And Sober Gentlemen are rightly proud of their state’s Celtic musical heritage. Musically they embrace the glorious foot stomping sound of their home while welding to it irish and Scots tunes and melodies. Totally acoustic this is the kind of wide-open-throttle, no-holds-barred band that could drown out most Punk bands with their passion, energy and sheer ruggedness.

Tan And Sober Gentlemen from left to right: Alan S. Best- Mandolin, Accordion, Penny Whistle *  Ben Noblit- Bass * William Maltbie- Singing * Jake Waits- Drums * Tucker Jackson Galloway- Banjo * Eli Howells- Fiddle * Courtney Raynor- Guitar

Since forming in the summer of 2016, Tan and Sober Gentlemen’s reputation has garnered them wide support at home in the Appalachians, across the East Coast and even back ‘home’ in Ireland. Veracity was released on 1st December this year and recorded and mixed at BNB Audio by Brett Scott and he has done an amazing job taking Tan And Sober Gentlemen’s live sound and transfering it successfully to record. Kicking off with ‘Rabbit’ and as ferocious banjo picking you ever gonna hear. It’s lively, catchy and totally awesome. The kind of song that almost forces you to onto the dancefloor to kick up the dust or as Black Water County would say “Beat up the floor!”. The song is based on a old black banjo tune from their home in the North Carolina Piedmont. First mentioned in 1913, it is thought to be much much older. Played at breakneck speed leaving the Country’n’Western me Mammy use to listen to in its dust. Mandolin, fiddle and Banjo are on fire while the rest of the band struggle I reckon to keep up. The pace doesn’t let up next with ‘The Day Has Come’ and neither does the catchyness! The first signs of the bands roots comes with an amazing cover of The Pogues classic tribute to Irish-America ‘The Body Of An American’. Beginning with Eli’s tender fiddle that almost stretches into the auld rebeller ‘Boolavogue’ before the band all come together as the song builds up and like the original bursts into life. Guitarist Courtney takes over ably on vocals and belts it out with gusto and heart. Yeah it maybe impossible to fuck up this song but it’s just as hard to impress with it too but a great version and a surefire way to get the dancefloor moving I am sure. ‘Waterbound’ is more traditional Hillbilly/Bluegrass fair but again played at a pace that’ll leave you out of breath just listening to it. A 20’s fiddle tune from Grayson County Virginia, though also thought to be much older. They slow it down slightly for ‘Deep Chatham’ but not by much! Courtney takes over from William on vocals again for ‘Knoxville Girl’, the albums longest song at just under six minutes. As far as I can tell it tells of a rather vicious fight but wrapped around a beautiful country and western ballad with some great fiddle. It’s the sort of song that would have fit perfectly on Nick Cave’s infamous Murder Ballads album. From the 17th century, the song was originally from Shropshire England, where the murder was commited, but it made its way across the broad atlantic to America by Irish immigrants, who sang it as ‘Wexford Girl’. It again took on new life when it was renamed ‘Knoxville Girl’ two centuries later after a second murder occurred. One of the album’s highlights is one of their own compositions and ‘Hold My Hand’ is what every country song should sound like. No mistaking the highlight of the album for me and it totally justifies them releasing it as the lead single for the album too. ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ is one of my favourite songs anyway but the Tan And Sober Gentlemen perform one hell of a good version of it. You can check out our review of it as a single here where we also dig into the interesting history of the song too. Veracity ends with ‘Going Home’ and it’s a song packed with history. Black churches in western North Carolina sang hymns in Gaelic well into the 20th century, and many Southern Baptist hymns are based on Scottish melodies. Antonin Dvorak was staying in the mountains of North Carolina when he stole the tune of two different bagpipe songs and wrote the 9th Symphony. It is thought the melodies of those two bagpipe tunes made their way into the repertoire of the black churches in Asheville NC, where Dvorak heard them and incorporated them into the Largo Theme. The song is now sung as the last song of every ceili. The band actually learnt it in Fort William!

So we’ve nine songs that clock in at thirty-three minutes and while they may be better known at home for their raucous, energetic live performances and with Veracity they have captured their wild abandon perfectly. With sold-out shows across the South, and, more interesting for us, international tours on the horizon, Tan And Sober Gentlemen are set for great things.

(you can have a free listen to Veracity before you spend your 10 bucks on it on the Bandcamp player below)

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DING DONG MERRILY ON HIGH! THE TOSSERS CHRISTMAS SINGLE OUT TODAY!

Now plenty would say that Chicago’s The Tossers are the best Celtic-Punk band in the world and many would even say that they are the heirs to The Pogues crown. So it is that any new release is welcomed by the Celtic-Punk masses!

Ding dong indeed. With Christmas (we don’t go in for that Xmas shite) Day just around the corner blue-collar Irish-American Celtic-Punk living legends The Tossers have released their new single on Victory Records. Famous for their warts and all, gutsy, resolute working-class Irish anthems, The Tossers step out in a different direction with two songs celebrating that most wonderful time of the year. The two song single features one original composition, the biting ‘Merry Christmas’ and a recording of the Robbie Burns classic  ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

Merry Christmas to you
To all of the well heeled in your fancy clubs
To all my friends and cronies in the pubs
To all of the people and the kids down in the street
Who ain’t got nothin’ not a poxy thing to eat
Merry Christmas to you
To all of you thieves and men who have waged an endless war
While you were safe behind a bolted door
To those who have fought and to those who have died
And to every one of those who was on our side
Merry Christmas to you
Oh the hungry, thirsty, sick and cold and strangers now to you
And as you have done to the least of men
You have done this to me too
And may you all sleep warm at night
And may you all have all your hearts delight
And may God bring each one of you
Every God damned thing
That’s always been coming to you

The Tossers have been entertaining us and fighting the corner for Irish-America for 25 years so in the year of their 1/4 century they have been relatively quiet with last years brilliant ‘Smash The Windows’ album release only followed this year by the release of an official Tossers Stout that is also called Smash The Windows! A natural act you would think from ‘the world’s loudest drinking band’. Always amazing to hear new material from one of my favourite bands and even better that they will be announcing some major tour dates very shortly. Let’s pray they include some local to us as well!

The Tossers are more than just a band to their fans. They have inspired and promoted a love in your roots that is sadly missing for most people. They tell the tale of both Chicago and America’s Irish communities. Serious and piss-taking at the same time and joyful and sad and upbeat and maudlin The Tossers do it all and yes we Irish are all of these things… and The Tossers celebrate it all. In the words of Tony Duggins

“God Bless you all, and may each and every one of you have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year.”

Buy Merry Christmas

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SINGLE REVIEW: SIX FOOT TEN- ‘Christmas Is Here’ (2018)

It’s the first of December and not long now till Christmas Day so here’s the new Christmas single from Premier League Celtic-Punkers Flatfoot 56 off-shoot 6’10.

Chicago based 6’10 is the acoustic project of Tobin Bawinkel, the lead singer of Flatfoot 56 whose critically acclaimed first full length album, The Humble Beginnings of a Roving Soul came out in December of 2014. 

Gather around the Table, I’ll tell you of a stable

A humble place, the birth of grace, the son of God is here

The fire will be going, the candles will be glowing

We’ll sing the midnight carol songs, proclaim the son is near, 

Christmas is here.

Peace on earth is spoken, its a mending of the broken 

A second chance a song and dance, to celebrate the year

Bells they will be tolling, like angels they are showing,

Peace on Earth, good will to men, the fathers plan appears 

Christmas is here.

Come gather around and see, The birth of the king 

swaddled in a manger, here the angel sing

Christmas is Here

Tobin started 6’10 to go back to his musical roots in Americana and folk music. Life can’t be all circle pits and spitting on sweaty crowds. Here is a side that is a little more laid back and thought provoking. He is joined by many talented musicians who bring much to the table as far as diversity and musical creativity. 

“When I was growing up, I remember playing folk and bluegrass music with my family in our living room. I always loved the story telling aspect of this style and the joy of playing with close friends and family. I loved it when songs would have a quirky and playful tone and theme. All of the pretentious elements that can sometimes find their way into music, were absent during these sessions with my family and friends. You would find seasoned players, playing right next to children who were just learning. This culture is what I wanted again. The idea was to return to a simpler and more earthy feel.”

Those who have grown to love Tobin’s raw punk aesthetic and candor will find much to cling to in this new endeavor. There is sorrow and yearning for a place far from here. But there is also joy abundant amidst the unexpected twists in life’s passage. 6’10 is close to the hearts of those who hunger and thirst for something more than an empty life following the American dream. You can check out their debut album here on the Bandcamp player below.

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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: PHIL OCHS- ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ (1965)

The ultimate 60’s folk singing radical who put protest songs on the map and wrote the most sincere and provocative material of his day. I Ain’t Marching Anymore is Phil Ochs’ second LP and includes the awe inspiring title track that defined a generation.

There were those who fought and those who fought against the Vietnam War and Phil Ochs was the latter. He wrote the best song of the war, the title track of this album, which tells the tale of a soldier who has fought in all the wars throughout American history from 1812 to the Civil War right up to the World Wars of the 20th century but who now chooses to lay down his arms. The release of I Ain’t Marching Anymore became a defining moment during the War and catapulted Phil Ochs into the unofficial leadership of the anti-war movement.

“Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans
At the end of the early British war
The young land started growing
The young blood started flowing
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I’ve killed my share of Indians
In a thousand different fights
I was there at the Little Big Horn
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying
But I ain’t marching anymore

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes, I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh, I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain’t marching anymore

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning I knew that I was learning
That I ain’t marching anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
When they close the missile plants
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore
Call it, peace, or call it, treason
Call it, love, or call it, reason
But I ain’t marching anymore
No, I ain’t marching anymore”

Phil Ochs was born Philip David Ochs in El Paso, Texas, in 1940 to a New York doctor Dad and a Scottish Mammy. His father joined the army in WW2 treating soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge. His shocking experiences there would lead to mental health issues and in November 1945 he received an honorable medical. On returning home he would in later years suffer from bipolar disorder and depression, things that would later haunt his son too. Phil had dropped out of university and his interest in folk music and politics would see him move to New York in 1962 where he would become a fixture in the burgeoning Greenwich folk scene.

His debut release, 1964’s All the News That’s Fit to Sing, was the album that defined what he called his ‘singing journalist’ phase, strewn with songs whose roots were pulled from Newsweek. A year later Phil Ochs would release I Ain’t Marching Anymore, twelve original Ochs compositions plus a cover of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Ballad of the Carpenter and a version of ‘The Highwayman’ by the English poet Alfred Noyes set to music. The most notable was of course the title track but also ‘Here’s To The State Of Mississippi’, a six minute long biting attack on the states attitude to race relations. There is humour wrapped up in social commentary as on ‘Draft Dodger Rag’ where he rips a new one on those who cheer leaded the war while using any means necessary to get out of fighting themselves. ‘That Was The President’ is a loving tribute to John Kennedy written not long after his assassination. In the album’s liner notes he adds that his Marxist friends could not understand why he written this song and this was one of the reasons he couldn’t be a Marxist. His socialist sympathies showed with ‘The Men Behind The Guns’ but he also courted controversy among his left-wing fans when on ‘That’s What I Want to Hear’ he tells a jobless worker to stop moaning and fight. He also rails against the death penalty with ‘The Iron Lady’ with its memorable line

“And a rich man never died upon the chair”

but Phil Ochs had a way of softening the message and making it accessible and where some may have indeed be turned away by his politics many were charmed by him and the sentiment he would readily employ to great effect. We are happy to be able to bring you a free download of this landmark album that also includes an electric version of ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ which was originally released as a single in the UK. Simply skip to the bottom and follow the link.

In the early ’60s Phil was as well known as Bob Dylan but while his albums received critical attention he achieved little commercial success with only a string of minor hits behind him. By the early 70’s Ochs was still recording but his star had waned. His records weren’t selling and even the critical acclaim had dried up. Struggling with both alcoholism and bipolar disorder and distraught at the military coup in Chile, where the popularly elected government of communist president Salvador Allende had been crushed, he was in a downward spiral. He played a handful of shows in 1974 and by all accounts had lost none of his fire or his ability to move a crowd but on April 9th, 1976 aged just 35 Phil Ochs took his own life. As Congresswoman Bella Abzug said in the Congressional Record on April 29, 1976:

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, a young folksinger whose music personified the protest mood of the 1960s took his own life. Phil Ochs—whose original compositions were compelling moral statements against war in Southeast Asia—apparently felt that he had run out of words.

FOR YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK

a) HERE or b) HERE

(Phil Ochs appears on Phil appears on Come, Read To Me a Poem on April 12, 1967 in New York City performing two songs and a lengthy interview)

LINER NOTES FOR I AIN’T MARCHING ANYMORE RE-ISSUE

by Richie Unterberger

Phil Ochs’s debut album, 1964’s All the News That’s Fit to Sing (also reissued on CD by Collectors’ Choice Music), established him as one of the foremost folk musicians in the topical singer-songwriter movement. While Ochs would eventually broaden his vision to encompass just as much personal and poetic verse as political protest, 1965’s I Ain’t Marching Anymore contained perhaps his most issue-driven songwriting. Militarism, American imperialism, the Vietnam War, labor struggles, and the explosive conflicts of the Civil Rights movement — one or the other of these concerns were behind the messages of almost every song. If this ensured that some of the pieces would be more dated than Ochs’s subsequent, more diverse repertoire, they also provide something of a snapshot of the mid-1960s social turmoil that both enraged and inspired his generation.

“He was getting better in his writing,” says Elektra founder and president Jac Holzman, who (as he had been on Ochs’s debut) was credited as production supervisor for the LP, with Paul Rothchild billed as recording director. “He was extremely prolific, but there’s a big difference between craft and art. He was becoming much more of a craftsman. It was tough being a songwriter [in that era], because of this 800-pound gorilla, Bob Dylan, who could dash off stuff in no time that was superb.”

That wasn’t stopping, of course, a legion of young singer-songwriters such as Ochs from stepping onto the road that Dylan had done much to pave. “He was angrier,” responds Holzman when asked what set Phil apart from his competition. “But not a nasty anger. But you could hear it. He had more edge. Buffy Sainte-Marie had edge of a different kind; some of her edge was a shrillness. But I think he had righteous edge. [Tom] Paxton was a better songwriter in the strict song sense, and he took a much lighter view of things, which I think sometimes is very effective.”

There was certainly no shortage of topical material for Ochs and Paxton to draw upon, and both were doing a lot of recording for Elektra in the mid-’60s. “There’s another thing that’s important about topical songs, especially on Elektra,” continues Holzman. “We came out with records frequently. We didn’t wait three years, or two years, between releases. Phil Ochs, he could have one out every six months. I learned a lot about the frequency of interaction between an artist and their audience from most of my singer-songwriters. We kept them recording.” Certainly Ochs had plenty of material ready to lay down when he went back into the studio to cut his second album, comprised entirely of original compositions, with the exception of a cover of noted British folk musician Ewan MacColl’s “Ballad of the Carpenter.” (Phil did give co-writing credits to Alfred Noyes on his adaptation of the poem “The Highway Man,” and to John Rooney on another such adaptation, “The Men Behind the Guns.”)

Undoubtedly the song that reached the widest audience was the title cut — not just via Ochs’s recorded version and concerts, but also via its subsequent adaptation as one of the anthems of the anti-Vietnam War movement, sung by crowds at innumerable demonstrations (and still sung at some such events today). “Oh yeah, it was a natural,” laughs Holzman. “It was easy to remember, it was catchy, and it was singable. All of those are good things.” It’s still not well-known that Elektra also had Ochs record an electric folk-rock remake of the song, “hoping to see if we could get some radio on it,” according to Holzman. With backup by the Blues Project (whose Danny Kalb had played second guitar on All the News That’s Fit to Sing), the 1966 single was only issued in the United Kingdom (and also as a flexi-disc with Sing Out! magazine).

The two other tracks on I Ain’t Marching Anymore to make the greatest impact also took on the era’s most controversial outrages. “Draft Dodger Rag” was, like “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” also picked up at many anti-war rallies, demonstrating that Ochs could blast the military with satire as well as earnest declaration. “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” — at nearly six minutes, a very long track for 1965 — generated some controversy of its own, particularly in Ochs’s advice for the state to find another country to which to belong. Phil himself likely remained proud of the song, as he updated it for the Watergate era, retitling the number “Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon” on a 1974 single (the other side of which, incidentally, was an updated version of another number from his early career, “Power and the Glory”).

Though I Ain’t Marching Anymore helped Ochs continue to expand his fan base, it wasn’t the sort of thing that could enter the hit parade. Nonetheless, Holzman has recalled how Phil, rather surprisingly, would constantly inquire about how his records were selling, though at that point his sales were modest and dominated by pockets of enthusiasts in big cities in the Northeast. “I thought that was kind of charming, as a matter of fact,” says Holzman of Ochs’s commercial ambitions. “He was always interested in how he was doing, always comparing himself to somebody else, and that drove him nuts. I think the seeds of it were certainly there at Elektra. I think it was clear to all of us that this is not how you did it, but his illusions did not stop that material from coming. If he had tried to write pop songs or much more popular-oriented songs for Elektra, I wouldn’t have recorded ’em. That’s not where I saw him. I would have given him his release and let him go elsewhere.”

Ochs did actually dent the lower reaches of the Billboard charts for the first time with his third and final Elektra album, 1966’s In Concert. Yet this did indeed occasion his release from the label. As Holzman recalled in his autobiography Follow the Music (co-written with Gavan Daws), “We kept him on Elektra for three of the six albums we could contractually claim, and then he asked to be released because he felt we weren’t doing enough for him. In a way that was true, because by then…the whole music scene was shifting away from what Phil did, or at least what he did best, which was the topical political song. With fewer people listening, his personal devils took over.” I Ain’t Marching Anymore, however, captures him at a younger, fresher time, when he was reaching his peak as a master of topical song, even if his artistic restlessness would move him onto different fields as well in the future.

For more on Phil Ochs

PhilOchsHomePage  SonnyOchsHomePage (Phil’s brother)  Shadows That Shine  Wikipedia  AllMusic 

(The best documentary on Phil Ochs on the net. PBS American Masters- Phil Ochs There But For Fortune. Written and directed by Kenneth Bowser)

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EP REVIEW: LEXINGTON FIELD- ‘Modern Times’ (2018)

Lexington Field is Fiddle Rock from San Diego, CA.

Back in the early early days of the London Celtic Punks one of the first bands to get in touch with us from overseas happily turned out to be a band that would go on to become one of my favourite all-time Celtic-Punk bands, Lexington Field. Born in San Diego, California in 2009 they are a straight up punk-rock band but with fiddle right slap bang in the middle of proceedings and one in which it’s the fiddle that calls the tune!

It’s been only two years since their last EP Redwood and three since their last full length album, Greenwood, appeared but they have kept busy touring and playing festivals around North America and now on November 1st they have a double release of an album and a EP, Modern Times, on the same day! Certainly very ambitious and it actually goes against the rock’n’pop guidebook and I honestly don’t remember any band ever doing it before. The reasoning behind the decision to have two releases seems to be that while the album is much more rounded musically, carrying on perhaps from their acoustic EP Redwood where they re-recorded several of their old tunes, here they let their hair down and let their pop-punk roots show.

Modern Times begins with ‘Side By Side’ and from the off you just know that Lexington Field are back with a bang. Fast, heads down Celtic-Punk with a shedload of attitude and Bhoy oh Bhoy that fiddle! Cami’s playing is breathtaking and such an integral part of the songs here. This is why some bands may be Folk-Punk but will never be Celtic-Punk. Not that it matters to them as they have christened what they do as ‘Fiddle Rock.

As is Lexington Fields way they are are also a story telling band and here Beau tells a simple tale of love and a message of hope for all singletons!

“I can’t believe that this is now real
I never thought I would find you my dear
I knew from the start If I opened my heart
We’d rock this love side by side”

It’s not just played fast its over pretty quickly too but the band don’t slow down on Modern Times at all. On ‘We Are Fearless’ its again the fiddle standing out but vocalist Beau has a great voice and his vocals fit in with the music perfectly. Pitched nicely between punk rock shouting and folky smoothness it’s easy to understand the words and the positive message springs forward. Next up is the track ‘Tracy Boys Know How To Party’ and the song is a follow up I’m sure to the 2011 song ‘Tracy Boys Fight The World’ which appeared on their album Old Dirt Road. The mythical (I think?) Irish family get another tribute to their hard drinking and hard living ways and what a life. Whiskey and pints are thrown back and the song has an unmistakable Irish air to it. A real mosh pit filler this one leading us into ‘Tip My Cap’ and they keep the speed up with Beau singing of friends and loyalty. Catchy as hell and so much energy I’m sure you’d be guaranteed a good time watching this motley crew. The EP ends with the title track ‘Modern Times’ and starting off with just Beau it soon becomes a loud affair. It’s got a rough edge to the recording of this song that only adds to the awesomeness of their sound. A great message as usual and a superb way to end the record. 

So we get five original songs coming in just short of fifteen minutes and for the initiated it’s a great place to start but for those of us who love Lexington Field I can’t say it’s a return to form as I’ve loved every single release from them! Each release is a real labour of love from them from the beautiful artwork to the heartfelt and positive lyrics. A fantastic taster for their new album Dreamers that we will review in the next few days, so be sure to come back and check that out. Rest assured it will receive glowing praise galore from us!

“We are very proud of all these songs and hope the positivity stands out and represents us as the artists we have become over this last decade. Our family, friends, and fans have supported us all these years, and both albums honor them. We are humbled, and very lucky to continue to create fiddle rock music in Lexington Field.”

Discography

Old Dirt Road (2011 LP) * Poor Troubled Life (2012 EP) * No Man’s War (2013 LP) * Greenwood (2015 LP) * Redwood (2016 EP)

Buy Modern Times

Pre-Sale for release on November 1st iTunes

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ALBUM REVIEW: CLOVERS REVENGE- ‘Gotta Get O’Raggednized’ (2018)

Based In Sarasota, West Florida, the Irish speed Folk trio Clover’s Revenge take a break from playing all of Florida’s best Irish pubs and festivals and have just released their debut full-length album!
One of the beauty’s of Irish music is that it is best heard in a certain setting. Not sure why but it is the live arena that Irish music, and all Celtic music too, really comes alive. Its not easily done but to transfer the sound of essentially a pub band onto a live recording is not easily done but here on Gotta Get O’Raggednized Irish speed Folk trio Clover’s Revenge have pulled it off. Formed on St.Paddy’s Day back in 2015 Clover’s revenge have been gaining fans and building excitement throughout their home state of Florida but also all along the Southeastern United States.

Clover’s Revenge are only a trio which is unusual in itself for Celtic-Punk/Rock bands but their sound certainly fills your ears and gives the illusion that their is a lot more of them! Made up of John Barron, the group’s frontman and mandolin player, Dr. Zachary Johnson, the band’s other frontman and guitarist, and Beau Wilberding, the sitting-down frontman who plays the cajon. Now until just a few years ago I had absolutely no idea what a cajon was but the last few years have seen both a reduction in the amount of drummers with drum-kits and the need for a type of percussion in bands that wouldn’t quite warrant the full on drum effect. The cajon has its roots in South America and is basically just a box that is played by slapping the front or rear faces with the hands, fingers or sticks. All three have very diverse musical backgrounds from rock to alternative right up to classical music.

Gotta Get O’Raggednized may only be eight songs but clocks in at a very reasonable twenty-six minutes long. When the band set out to release their debut album the aim was to convey the energy and drive of a Clover’s Revenge live show onto CD. Beginning with ‘Will We Ever Make It Home’ the album kicks off with a original composition and is a rousing Flogging Molly-ish ditty that is surefire footstomper. As I said you’d never believe their were only three of them and if the sound on the video is a bit rough ‘n’ ready then the guys have certainly smartened it up for the album but have lost none of the charm of the live version. At its heart a driving traditional Irish tune but played wild abandon and a punk rock soul. John’s Irish-American brogue is clear and precise and fits the music perfectly. An existentialist speed Folk tune that examines the Irish diaspora in all its faults and glories.

Now not only are they very much a pub band they also sing a lot about being in the pub and for my money those kind of songs embody what we all fell in love with Irish music in the first place. When I think of my Nanna singing in the kitchen it was these kind of songs even though she thoroughly disapproved of that kind of life! The first of the album’s covers is up next and they are a mix of both well known (or over used in other words) and lesser known traditional Irish tunes. ‘Little Beggar Man’ is most famous for The Clancy Brothers version back in the 1960’s but has been recorded several times since. Again the tune is a jaunty one and catchy too. The lyrics tell of a lowly beggar who despite his low station in life is happy with his lot. We all have a lot to learn from him. A much more well known song follows and ‘The Irish Rover’ is played fast and folky and is a solid version that no matter how often I heard it will always get me belting out the chorus at the top of me voice. The Bhoys sound like they had a great auld time recording the album and this transfers well into their sound. The album has thus far sounded as Irish as they come but on ‘Banish Misfortune’they really nail it. An absolutely stunning jig played to perfection here. First published back in 1873 it has had several different names over the years but its great hear such a fantastic trad Irish tune in the middle of this album. Influence from The Pogues rears its head again next with ‘Waxies Dargle’. Its again a solid version but Clover’s Revenge come into their own next with another original song ‘No Irish Need Apply’ about the struggles of the Irish in the USA and the hope that the Grandchildren of those Irish will never forget their struggles. It’s hear that Clover’s Revenge most sound like a Celtic-Punk band. With anger and passion the rousing anthem is the tale of Irish people and their children in those early days. Rooted in  traditional Irish folk music but with a very real punk rock soul. The Irish have more in common with modern day immigrants to the USA than perhaps many would like to think. The album ends with two traditional Scottish songs that have seen plenty of versions over the years both in Folk music and in Celtic-Punk. The ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ was first published in 1808 and ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ in 1821 bring the album to a close with one a rousing shoutalong and the other a beautifully played ballad.

Entirely acoustic these guys have the ability to rock up anywhere play and next Summer they will wash up on Ireland’s shore in a reverse of their ancestors with a shipload of their biggest fans to visit Dublin and Galway. The Bhoys are looking for venues and are available to play pubs, parties, fights, wakes, festivals, and any other venues that either defy definition. Taking traditional Irish pub songs and soaking in influences from scene legends The Pogues and Flogging Molly. Both of which you can hear within Gotta Get O’Raggednized’s eight tracks. Just drop them a line and get them on in your back garden if need be!
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HEAR THE DEBUT SINGLE FROM TAN AND SOBER GENTLEMEN

The debut single from seven piece Scotch-Irish hillbilly music band Tan And Sober Gentlemen has arrived and this band from North Carolina have a bright future!

Irish-American Celtic-Folk-Punk band Tan And The Gentlemen have just released the first single off their upcoming album. It’s an amazing version of ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ and if anyone out there is missing the utterly fantastically brilliant Appalachian Celtic-Punk band Cutthroat Shamrock then put down the worry beads as The Tan And The Gentlemen will sate your appetite for good music!

Born and raised in Snow Camp in the North Carolina back country, Tan and Sober Gentlemen began taking in the songs, stories and tunes that make up their beloved state’s heritage before they could talk. Despite having played music together in some form or another for most of their lives, the current line up was formed in the summer of 2016. Since then, they’ve been in the saddle, playing stages from their hometown Cat’s Cradle and Shakori Hills to Galway’s legendary Roisin Dubh. The band aims to explore the Celtic roots of North Carolinian music and to play it with a fire and intensity that is lacking in much of today’s folk music. The full, as-yet-to-be-named record will be be released Dec. 1st, with the release party at the Cat’s Cradle in Orange County, N.C. The album was recorded largely live at BNB Studios in Chatham County, NC, featuring their high-octane take on Celtic and Appalachian traditionals along with a few of their own tunes. The record will be available on all platforms then, and is available for preorder by emailing tanandsober@gmail.com. Friends with the rest of the Southeast USA Celt-folk-punk crew in The Muckers, In For a Penny and Born Again Heathens who have all featured on these pages in the last couple of years. The result is Scotch-Irish hillbilly insanity they dub ‘Celtic punk-grass’. As far as folk music goes, they’re about the best drinking and dancing band I’ve found in a long time!
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FOLLOW ME UP TO CARLOW

I first heard ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’ on a old cassette called Irish Songs Of Freedom belonging to my Grandad. It differed from the rest of the tape of sad ballads as it was played so fast with the words coming so quickly it was hard to keep up. This must have appealed to the wee punk in me and so it has become one of my favourite songs. It’s also become the perfect song for adapting to a Celtic-Punk song and has been recorded and played by such diverse artists as Blood Or Whiskey, Mickey Rickshaw, Cruachan and The Young Dubliners. The song celebrates the defeat of an army of 3,000 English soldiers by Fiach Mac Aodh Ó Broin (anglicised Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne) at the Battle of Glenmalure, during the Second Desmond Rebellion in 1580 though events in the song cover more than twenty years after. The air is reputed to have been played as a marching tune by the pipers of Fiach MacHugh at the battle  in 1580 and the words were written by Patrick Joseph McCall (1861–1919) and appear in his Songs of Erinn (1899) under the title ‘Marching Song of Feagh MacHugh’.

ALBUM REVIEW: ALTERNATIVE ULSTER- ‘Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer’ (2018)

Back again with their third album it’s New York’s Alternative Ulster with another, lucky for us, thirteen songs of punk rock driven energetic Celtic pride, humor and downright defiance.

Almost six months to the day that previous album, Pog Mo Thoin, hit the streets New York’s Alternative Ulster are back again with another album of rough’n’ready Irish-American Celtic-Punk to stir the spirits and drink them too! Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer follows on from that album with more of the same humour, politics and fun that made Pog Mo Thoin such a hit.

Alternative Ulster left to right- Jay Andersen (Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals) * Todd Henry (Vocals, Drums) * John McGovern (Bagpipes, Bass, Banjo, Tin-Whistle, Backing Vocals)

Alternative Ulster sprung into action in March 2015 in New York State’s Catskill’s region releasing their debut album, Rebellion, in February 2016. That album received unanimous praise from across the worlds Celtic-Punk media but sadly soon after the band split into two factions with one continuing as Alternative Ulster and the other becoming the excellent Templars Of Doom. Both bands can be best described in the words of band bagpiper John as ‘1916 meets 1977’ and tread similar paths in the Celtic-Punk scene.

So have Alternative Ulster changed at all in the six months since their last album? Well the answer is a resounding NO! Why change a winning formula and while it may still be a tad too punky for some traditional Celtic-Punk fans it still sits nicely within the scene. Todd is again bashing bloody hell out of the drums while barking the lyrics over Jay’s fantastic guitar work and the superb bagpipes of scene celebrity John McGovern drones loud and proud. The album kicks off with the punk rebel song ‘No Queen, No Crown’ and is in defence of the kilt and its history.

“Don’t call it a dress,
or you’ll be a mess.

You call it a kilt,
to honor blood spilt”.

These Bhoys take their Celticness very seriously!

Yeah its more of the same and ‘Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer’ kicks off with a ‘Duelling Banjos’ style intro between bagpipes and banjo before breaking off into a song celebrating the things that real men love! If anything the music has gotten even more punk rock than previously. Its the sound of UK punk from around 1977. Think Sex Pistols rather than The Clash. On ‘The Sheep Pretend’ John also weighs in with a thundering bass that gives the song a post-punk feel while Todd still shouts the words in a eighty cigarettes a day rasp. Next up is the song that inspired their name all that time ago. On St. Paddy’s Day 2015, original guitarist Jerry came up with the idea inspired by The Stiff Little Finger’s classic song. Their version of ‘Alternative Ulster’ is straight up two fingers in the air punk rock. Played at breakneck speed and with bagpipes its a class song.

‘Sail Home British Soldiers’ is up next and is a American civil war rebel song. The first time the British Empire ever had its arse kicked was by the Americans and feelings still run high even though Alternative Ulsters ancestors were still living in Ireland at the time. The song has a real bite that makes The Wolfe Tones sound like Foster And Allen and a thumping beat that’s a sure fire mosh pit filler.

“Neither collar nor crown,
shall this patriot wear.
You can’t have my musket,
You’ll die if you dare.
So fuck off you fucking fucks,
and fuck you as well.
Before I bow once,
I’ll see you in hell”.

In part inspired by Ted Nugent’s ‘Homebound’ and if you like that then you’ll recognise the beginning of ‘Bonnie Little Scott’ up next. The song is a tribute to Bon Scott of every punk rockers favourite Heavy Metal band AC/CD and borrows heavily from their hit ‘Thunderstruck’. The story of Bon’s short life is told in song by Jay and with Alternative Ulsters usual humour. More of that next in ‘Dudelsack’ and while I don’t know what a dudelsack is I resisted the urge to look it up and can only assume it is part of a Bagpipe. Next is my album highlight and you’d have to be a right misery not to find ‘Spilt Upon Me Kilt’ absolutely hilarious. Set on St. Patrrick’s Day or actually the aftermath of St. Paddy’s Day and where the stains on their kilts tell the story of debauchery, alcohol and many bad decisions. All set to the traditional Christmas Carol tune ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. Catchy and a song to really involve the crowd it made me spit my tea out when I first heard it.

‘Chuck It In The Fuck-It Bucket’ and ‘Counting Other’s Sins’ show Alternative Ulster at two different angles with the straight punk morphing into a punky-reggae tune while both songs are still dominated by the pipes of John. Another album standout is up next with the autobiographical ‘McGoverns Bar And Grill’ telling of John’s Mam and Dad and the working class Irish pub they ran in Tolentine Hill. Opened by John’s Grandad when he arrived in the States from America the pub was by the Tolentine cathedral at the heart of the big Irish parish in the Bronx.

“While on the bar sat a can for NorAid,
not to buy books, but guns and grenade.
My pint of black stuff was really just Coke,
all the old men laughed, it was a fine joke”.

The McGovern Clan with John in the red.

The song gives just a sense of what it means to be Irish-American and for this album at least is as close to a ballad as they come. A tremendous song full of passion and if  ‘McGoverns Bar And Grill’ showed the trio have got more in them than just rowdy punk rock then the album’s second version of ‘Alternative Ulster’ proves it. With John joining in with Todd’s shouty growl with banjo, shuttle pipes and tin-whistle while mate of the band Scott Benson rocks up with the bodhran. The album comes to an end with ‘Crawl Back In Your Shithole’ and the boot is suck firmly into President Trump and his ilk. Seemingly over in a flash its a great way to end the album and bring things to an end.

Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer came out last week and was recorded, mixed and mastered by band maestro Jay Andersen at Operation-Audio/ Bohemosphere in Saugerties, NY. The amazing album cover art was by the talented Gail Benson. Now it would be absolutely pointless telling you that this album will appeal to everyone as it quite obviously won’t. My Mammy may love most forms of music but I guarantee that she’d think this is one Unholy mess!! Still I don’t think that will matter much to the Alternative Ulster bhoys. The music keeps flowing out of them as they take their rightful place on the punkier side of Celtic-Punk. Alternative Ulster are happy to keep it lit and as they say somewhere on here

“When the day is done, we just want to have fun,
And we will for year after year”.

Buy Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer

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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: KICKIN’ HITLER’S BUTT: Vintage Anti-Fascist Songs 1940-1944

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Yeah the title says it all! Eighteen anti-fascist anthems from WW2 (don’t tell the Americans the War actually started in 1939) including songs from seasoned bluesmen Leadbelly, Josh White and Son House alongside Spike Jones’ madcap ‘Der Fuhrer’s Face’ and the acappella Golden Gate Quartet’s sublime ‘Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE KIDDING MR. HITLER?

Now this is an American release so that means the theme tune from Dad’s Army is sadly missing but that is still no reason to not to indulge yourself with a free download of this collection of anti-fascist songs written, performed and released between 1940 and 1944. Its often thought that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour started the American involvement in the war but America had already made massive loans to the British war machine and having placed a oil embargo on Japan steps were being made to join the war before they were pre-emptied by the attack on Pearl Harbour. The US army for instance had grown massively from 267,767 in 1940 to 1,460,998 by mid-1941, an increase of 446%. Pearl Harbor was an American naval base in Hawaii, that was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Just before 8 a.m. hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan.
Knowledge coming out of Europe was slow but many in America, and not just on the left, realised the danger of Hitler’s rise to power and sought to agitate against it. It’s a little known fact that Germans made up the largest ethnic base in the States at around 17% which just happened to be the exact percentage of the American population who did not express support for Britain. Only 1% wished for a German victory suggesting that even this was inspired as much by pride in Germany as any dislike of Great Britain. The artists featured here contain such renowned figures as Woody Guthrie and The Almanac Singers folk singers from the from the protest movement all the way to bluesmen like the legendary Lead Belly and jazzmen like Spike Jones & His City Slickers. The album contains eighteen songs from fifteen diverse artists who in the main have disappeared from the air-waves but deserve to be known and studied and celebrated. Of course God is assumed to be solely on the Allies side, something I’m sure all in war believe.

Kickin’ Hitler’s Butt begins with a track from The Almanac Singers, a New York City-based group, active between 1940 and 1943 and formed by Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. They performed songs that were anti-war, anti-racist and pro-union. The Almanac Singers felt strongly , just like London Celtic Punks do, that music could help achieve these goals. Music is one of the great uniters and one of the areas of life where people of all races and religion mixed. A cappella gospel  group The Golden Gate Quartet’s contribution to the album, ‘Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’ wasn’t out of pace with it’s praise of Joseph Stalin with American public feeling at the time. Written in 1943 by Willie Johnson even Roosevelt had this to say
“The world has never seen greater devotion, determination, and self sacrifice, that have been displayed by the Russian people and their armies under the leadership of Marshall Joseph Stalin”
and it’s true that many of the most significant battles in the War were won by American and Russian forces co-operation. The Southern Sons Quartet’s ‘Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition’ is another gospel a capella song written in response to Pearl Harbour by Frank Loesser in 1942. The song tells of a Sunday morning in December 1941, and the chaplain is asked to say a prayer for say a prayer for sailors aboard a U.S. navy ship under attack by the enemy firing from all directions. The chaplain puts down his Bible, mans one of the ship’s gun turrets and begins firing back, saying “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”
“Praise the Lord and swing into position
Can’t afford to be a politician
Praise the Lord, we’re all between perdition
And the deep blue sea”
The Southern Sons remain the most successful African-American gospel quartet music groups. Next up is Jazz Gillum and ‘War Time Blues’. William McKinley ‘Jazz’ Gillum was an blues harmonica player whose recordings nearly all come from the 1940’s. Jazz was shot dead On March 29, 1966, during a street argument in Chicago.

The Florida Kid performs the simple but effective ‘Hitler Blues’ on piano while next up we have two collaborations between some real legendary figures. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee give us ‘Move Into Germany’ and Lead Belly and Josh White perform ‘Hitler Song’. Famous in their own rights they all became involved civil rights protests and recorded Piedmont blues, country blues, gospel music and social protest songs. Following is another absolute legend in Woody Guthrie. Woody has featured on these pages many times and it is no exaggeration to say he remains the most significant figures in American folk music inspiring several generations, both politically and musically, since his death from Huntington’s Disease in 1967. He performed with the slogan “This machine kills fascists” on his guitar and he is one of the few artists here who is still largely celebrated. Josh White performs solo next with the amazing ‘Fuehrer’. The song tells of a German soldier, on the Russian front, starving and freezing to death dreaming he could go back home to Berlin. A sad song and beautifully played but not devoid of humour too. 
“Tell me, my Führer, what can I do?
My hands are freezing and my nose is blue
I’m dying of cold but then you never can tell
‘Cause when the Russians come, they make it hotter than hell
I got a touch of pneumonia, I got a terrible cough
If I sneeze once more, it’s bound to carry me off
When the Russians come, they always take us by storm
And there’s nothing like running if you want to get warm”
Josh White grew up in the south during the 1920’s and 1930’s and his experience led him to spend his life agitating for a more fair and equal system. This led to him being caught up in the ‘Red Scare’ panic from 1947 through to the mid-1960s which saw him black-listed as a communist. His ban from the airwaves was broken in 1963 when JFK asked him to perform on national television. Josh passed away in 1967 in New York.

Classic bluesman Buster ‘Buzz’ Ezell gives up ‘Roosevelt And Hitler’ Parts 1 and 2 featuring the memorable lyric
“He’s treating us so mean with his dreadful submarines.”
Delta bluesman Eddie James ‘Son’ House, Jr., noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing, plays ‘American Defense’. Starting off as a preacher before turning to the blues his recording career was short, punctuated by time in jail before he was re-discovered in the 1960’s and performed at folk festivals and toured during the American folk music revival. He recorded several more albums before passing in 1988. Next is ‘Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer’ by The Four Vagabonds, an African-American vocal quartet. The song tells of an American plane on its way home on one engine.

“What a show, what a fight
Yes, we really hit our target for tonight!
How we sing as we limp thru the air
Look below, there’s our field over there

With our full crew aboard and our trust in the Lord
We’re Comin’ In On A Wing And A Pray’r”

We move from such serious subject matter to the slapstick jazz of Spike Jones And His City Slickers with ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face’ where Spike tells us to blow raspberries in Adolf’s face. Spike was a bandleader famous in the 1940’s and 50’s for satirical arrangements of popular songs of the era. The jazz-swing of
Sam Browne And The Six Swingers follows with ‘Berlin Or Bust’.
“So it’s Berlin or bust!
Oh, we didn’t want to do it but we must”
Sam Browne was an English dance band singer who became one of the most popular British dance band vocalists of the pre-war era. US band leader Paul Baron And His Orchestra serve up the rousing ‘Up & At ‘Em, Yanks’ before Lead Belly returns with the only song here I had heard before the amazing Mr. Hitler. Now Lead Belly had one hell of a life (its well worth reading our biography of him here, you’ll not believe it!). Huddie William Ledbetter spent multiple spells in jail including a sentence for murder he was released early for. Passing away in 1949 he survived long enough to see Hitler in his grave. The album ends with the Rev. James A. Gates and ‘Hitler And Hell’. A preacher and Gospel music singer born in 1884, he was the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Atlanta from 1914 until his death. During this time he recorded over 200 tracks. Performed in the style of a dynamic old-school sermon.

So faced with the worse evil of their times these artists chose to take sides. With these songs they actively encouraged and inspired the bravest of the brave to liberate humanity from one of the most vile and dangerous phenomena – fascism. Many of the artists here also fought during the War putting their words into action. Even with Hitler’s death and the defeat of the Nazi’s the war with fascism has not ended. The war continues on every continent and among every race. If we are finally to bury this evil ideology then we must win the hearts and minds of the people and with that in mind I’ll leave you with a quote from the great Irish patriot James Connolly.

“No revolutionary movement is complete without its poetical expression. If such a movement has caught hold of the imagination of the masses they will seek a vent in song for the aspirations, the fears and the hopes, the loves and the hatreds engendered by the struggle. Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant, singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinctive marks of a popular revolutionary movement, it is the dogma of a few, and not the faith of the multitude.”

To download Kickin’ Hitler’s Butt click

HERE

for more like this…(only in researching the article to accompany Kickin’ Hilter’s Butt did I come across this amazing concert from Josh White. Do your soul a favour and take thirty minutes of your life and spend it in the company of this wonderful and remarkable human being)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE KILLIGANS- ‘Dance on Your Grave’ (2018)

The Killigans are a Celtic-Punk band from Lincoln, Nebraska. Now over a decade young, they are honed and steeled for action. Glass-raising anthems for tenacious underdogs, lonely vagabonds and anyone who’s just trying to make it in this world. 

Born in a filthy garage in 2004 The Killigans have gone through various personel changes in their time together but have kept at their core a set of foot-stomping beer-loving raucous anthemic numbers drawing from traditional Celtic music along with streetpunk, gritty rock’n’roll and working class country music. Having become one of the most popular bands in the Nebraskan music scene they have gained a rapidly growing army of fans across the States and overseas as well. One of the highlights of their early career came in 2010 when their song ‘Lessons from the Empty Glass’ was used on the soundtrack to the big budget Universal Studios hit move Robin Hood. Dance On Your Grave is The Killigans fifth album and their development over the years is plain for all to see. From the rough and ready Irish folk-punk of 2006’s Brown Bottle Hymnal to 2010’s Honor which saw them shift towards a more stripped down punk sound and then to their last album Another Round For The Strong Of Heart from October 2012 which saw them raise the bar with their best release to date with a collection of songs that took the catchy Irish Celtic-Punk of their early days and the anthemic punk of Honor and combined the two for something particularly special that will go down as one of the best album’s that the Celtic-Punk genre has ever produced. Not bad for a bunch of working-class blokes from flyover country!
Dance On Your Grave was five years in the making with some of these songs three or four years old. The Bhoys admit to having lost motivation and to having run of steam. After all their lives had changed from young raggamuffins to being middle aged family guys 
“We never meant for the music to stop, and it has shaped us and our families along the way.  Its just been a lot more difficult for us to make new music happen.  I like to think we have a lot more to offer in the way of songwriting than a couple 22 year old punks who have been on their own for a couple years.”
The Killigans have endured a lot of life and one thing that has always shone through with their releases is their utter honesty. A straight up band that has always played a straight deal. Dance On Your Grave carries on from where Another Round for the Strong of Heart left off. Hardly surprising as that era is from when many of the songs here were written or first imagined with old drummer Ben Swift starting the writing process that new drummer Mikey Elfers would help finish by coaxing the band into actually finishing the album! 

The Killigans left to right: Trevor- Bass * Brad- Vocals, Accoustic Guitar * Mikey- Drums * Pat-  Accordion, Mandolin, Trumpet, Organ * Greg- Guitar * Chris- Guitar, Vocals, Mandolin, Harmonica, Trombone *

The album saw the light of day on  April 28th this year and kicks off with Throw It Away’ and shows a maturity that comes with middle age but the Bhoys still play with a wild abandon that brings to mind early Flogging Molly. The era when they combined folk and punk perfectly and had their audiences both slam dancing and jigging away. It’s fast and furious and with lyrics that show The Killigans may not have stayed still but know what we love in the Celtic-Punk scene and are more than willing to give it us! Second song ‘Peducah’ was the first release of the album and begins with an accordion gypsy flourish before trumpet and trombone come in adding a somewhat ska’ish sound while the pace never slows. Even more surprising is that they are not guest musicians but brothers Chris and Pat who play a multitude of instruments for the band including mandolin and accordion. Third brother Trevor plays bass in the band. Its trad Celtic-Punk and it don’t get any better!

The songs are short and snappy and played at breakneck speed like ‘One Angry Voice’ which could easily fit in any punk rock play list. The words decry the way has become a fashion and the values and spirit of why it exists are fading. When punks would rather spend £30 to go to a gig or £100 to go to a festival rather than a local pub down the road then I’m afraid punk has a terminal disease. Putting on gigs here in London it is something I noticed get worse over the years as promoters and bands struggle to get people to come a gig for £3 or a fiver when everyone is up the road watching some reformed old fogie punks at £30+ a ticket.

“Fact is I’m getting older but if the honest truth be told

There’s something changed about punk rock

What does it stand for?

Is it a t-shirt and a drug scene? A hairdo and a piercing?

We think it’s more!

It’s the kid awake at midnight, living life how it feels right

Though his parents are concerned and think him strange

And at school the students shun him, and the teachers make fun of him

But he knows in the end he’s gonna make a change!”

The album takes a folky turn with ‘Burn It Down’ and I’m a bit of an old fogie myself as these days its the folkier songs that i like more than the punky ones. Not to say it don’t have a punk edge and it speeds up nicely mid-way. The accordion and brass instruments make for a great combination and Brad’s vocals fit perfectly beside the music. The Dropkicks rear their ugly heads for ‘Fight Today (Knock Them Down)’ with a killer chorus the Bostonians would die for. Over far too quickly its a beaut of a song loud and proud and aggressive. We back in Molly territory for the next bunch of songs with ‘The Best Words’ played like FM on speed and with ‘Bartender’ you get another song that plays like fast FM but are in fact two quite different songs. I don’t like to compare a band too much to others and you would be wrong to take away from this review that The Killigans are just a Flogging Molly band as their sound is completely their own and if you go back and trace their trajectory from their early days its easy to see where they have come to. For ‘Particle Board’ the band put their heads down and plough through a fast punk number and on ‘All Good Men’ they play to their strengths with fast paced Celtic influenced punk with Brads voice strong and clear. ‘Cracked Rear View’ is one of the songs they began after last album way back in 2012 and begins with a thundering bass before the band join in and we soon end up with my album favourite. Elements of pop-punk and it sure is catchy enough to call it that. A cracking song and the Celtic takes a back seat for a couple of minutes. We are nearing the end of the album and ‘Realty Bites’ is a right proper anthem for the American working class.

“This gentrification is necessary good

A complete revitalization of your neighbourhood

A lonely puddle in  a cracked brickmavenue

Throw up a LED street light it’s as good as new”

and ends with

“This district

You’re no longer part of it”

At a time when the American left have turned their backs on the working classes by adopting the poison of identity politics its a timely reminder that they are still here and still fighting. Its another speedy song and leads into ‘Artificial Hip’ where we get thirty-six seconds of punk rock oompf before we arrive at the final and title track ‘Dance on Your Grave’. This is the bands big sound with accordion and brass coming together to wrap things up wonderfully for a sure fire dance floor filler about everyone who wronged Brad including school bullies and ex-girlfriends getting their just deserts!

So The Killigans are back with a bang and maybe not one for the more folk inclined it certainly rocks along and if you miss the early days of Flogging Molly then this is the album for you. Sometimes maturity doesn’t make you a better band but here The Killigans have soaked in influences from all over and come up with something that will have you wearing out your shoe leather while also giving your heart and (Celtic) soul a workout too.

(you can have a *FREE* listen to Dance On Your Grave on the Bandcamp player below before you buy it!)

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if you live in Europe then please check out MacSlons shop here for their new CD, back catalogue and other merchandise.

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ALBUM REVIEW: HOLD FAST- ‘Black Irish Sons’ (2018)

 The debut album from Pennsylvania-Irish band Hold Fast takes both traditional Irish and original material in a blend of Celtic, punk and rock.
Hold tight, hold steady, Hold Fast! 
The term Black Irish is thought by many to originate back in Ireland for the offspring of Spanish sailors shipwrecked on the west coast of Ireland back in 1588. Far more likely is it became a term of abuse for poor Irish immigrants in the latter half of the nineteenth-century. The necessity for these immigrants to take the lowest and most dangerous jobs thought by the more well off classes to be the preserve of Blacks came to see them labelled Black Irish. It came about as a result of English/Protestant prejudices imported to the USA by the early colonists who saw the Irish as uncivilised and Catholicism as anti-everything for which Protestantism stood. In recent years the term has been reclaimed and is now worn as a badge of honour by working-class Irish-Americans who sometimes ‘cross the line’.

Hold Fast left to right: Buzz Klinger- Bass, Harmonica * Michael Parks- Drums, Percussion * Dave Thompson- Tenor Banjo, 5-String banjo, Mandolin, Acoustic Guitar, Piano * Cole Brown- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Jon Heller- Accordion, Bagpipes * Kayla Rosencrans- Tin-Whistle *

Formed only a couple of years back by Cole and Drunk Dave Hold Fast hail from Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, home of a flourishing Irish rock and punk scene with the The Kilmaine Saints at the very top of it ably supported by other local bands in the Bastard Bearded Irishmen, Punkabillys , Lucky Lad Green and The Tradesmen. In fact piper Jon also pipes for the Kilmaine Saints. The Saints have been very instrumental in helping Hold Fast get on the scene and get their name out there.

Black Irish Sons is their debut album and features ten tracks, eight original tunes and two covers, one rather overexposed and one that is much less well known. The album begins with ‘Gangway’ and the sound of bagpipes fills the air and then the sound of a pub before the band join in and when the banjo comes out the song instantly reminds you of a rather famous Dropkick Murphys song. They follow this up with ‘Drunken Irish Bastard’ and lead singer Cole has that unmistakable Irish-American twang to his vocals and a clear voice that sounds like he smokes 60 a day! The band cite trad Irish ballad bands like The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones as influences and they do sound quite a lot like a punked up version of these bands rather than The Pogues folkier version of them.

Cole’s voice is very much to the fore throughout the album and on crowd favorite ‘The Banshee Wail’ it is given full reign to go from shouty to soft but always tuneful. An album standout the music veers from hard to gentle with Cole accompanied by a understated mandolin most of the time until the song comes to a tremendous end with the music not getting faster just louder. Any Celtic-Punk worth a sniff these days needs a few ingredients to make the correct mix and one of these is a decent sense of humour which Hold Fast certainly have and ‘My Girl Is A Singer In A Punk Rock Band’ is evidence. Played as a straight up punk song with tin-whistle its got energy and bite and gives Cole a good opportunity to test those vocal chords. We love our Celtic-Punk here but we also love a good auld ballad and Hold Fast deliver a beauty with ‘Cthulhu’. Named after the monster created by writer H. P. Lovecraft that would drive any sailor who looked upon it insane. Never read any of his books though I did try once and found it a heavy going with very very tiny print but the song conveys the terror of the being quite admirably. The album’s first cover is titled ‘Belle of Belfast’ here but is much better known as ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ and is rapidly heading to the #1 spot of covered classic Irish tunes. Have to say I do roll my eyes soon as I see the song listed on a new album but there’s a great reason for it being covered by so many and that’s because it’s such a fantastic song and perfect for a Celtic-Punk re-tune. Done and dusted in seventy-five seconds Hold Fast certainly don’t hang about! Next up is the rowdy title track and ‘Black Irish Sons’ takes the Black Irish theme onwards and chugging guitar and loud vocals makes for a perfect singalong.

“Because all day long whiskey and shenanigans

Every bastard that we meet turns out to be another friend

You can pour another round and we’ll raise a pint again

Cuz we’re the Black Irish sons of Erin”

You get the feeling that the band play their instruments with one hand while the other holds a beer! We are back in ballad territory again next and it’s another Hold Fast beauty with  ‘Curse of the Drinking Class’ with Cole’s voice nicely reigned in and sounding never better. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and restrained accordion and tin-whistle it’s a great song. We get another alcohol laden track now and it’s to the seas me Bhoys as ‘Pour Me Grog’ hits the deck. A great banjo sound and gang vocals make this one of my favourites here. The album ends with one of my all-time favourite sons ‘Big Strong Man’. The writer of the song remains unknown but if not for the Wolfe Tones I fear the song would have been lost for forever. The date the song was written can be guessed from the references to the actress Mae West, the ‘Jeffries-Johnson’ boxing match of 1910, the famous Irish-American boxer Jack Dempsey, whose career began in 1914 and to the RMS Lusitania briefly the world’s largest passenger ship, the ship was sunk on 7 May 1915 by a German U-Boat off the southern coast of Ireland at the cost of almost 1,200 lives. The Hold Fast version punk up The Wolfe Tones version (check out the Tones version here) somewhat but keeps the tune intact and the hilarious lyrics keep the tune afloat. One for the crowd to go wild too and a cracking way to bring the curtain down on the album.

At only twenty-eight minutes long it’s over far too quickly but that’s what makes Black Irish Sons such an interesting album. Moments of fast punk rock and slow and gentle ballads mixed together to make an album that is laid out perfectly and at a ideal pace. The bands Irish roots are stamped all over things and they may look to the past of the Tones, Clancy’s and Dub’s but are not stuck there and have added their own stamp to everything they do. The more I hear of bands like Hold Fast I begin to realise the importance of Celtic-Punk to the Irish-American community.

Hold tight, hold steady, Hold Fast!

(listen to the whole of Black Irish Sons for free before you buy by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Enjoy!)

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EP REVIEW: FLATFOOT 56- ‘The Vancouver Sessions’ (2018)

Chicago’s Flatfoot 56 announce the release of their new EP featuring five songs old and new that blend the band’s mix of traditional Irish folk music and surging punk rock.

While the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly are undoubtedly the biggest band in Celtic-Punk I have no doubt who the best band in Celtic-Punk is and that is Flatfoot 56. Ever evolving and always innovative it only seems a few weeks ago that they managed to walk away with the London Celtic Punks album of the year for 2017 (here) for their superb album Odd Boat. It was an unanimous #1 vote from all four of us here and Gerry made it clear what he thought on the review of the album

“I honestly could have sat here and gone through each track individually and told you all how good they are, but that would be crazy and still wouldn’t do the album justice. The only way you’ll be able to see how right I am is by going out and buying it!”

The new EP released last month is completely acoustic and consists of five songs one new and four old ones that have been completely re-written and presented as basically new songs.  The band have never been adverse to using traditional instruments but here they bring out the Irish uileann pipes as well as whistles and accordion to produce a sound that is both melodic and gritty but thoroughly magnificent. To help achieve this the Bhoys enlisted the help of veteran producer Roy Salmond, the owner of White Water Productions near Vancouver, BC who has been working with artists for over 30 years.

The Vancouver Sessions begins with a song from the bands 2007 album Jungle of the Midwest Sea re-imagined as a classic slice of Delta Blues. Compared to the original it is barely recognisable and I even had to check it was the same song! On ‘Cain’ Flatfoot 56 head more in the direction of their folky offshoot 6’10 but still manage to keep the Flatfoot 56 energy and passion. As Tobin puts it

 “took on an entirely different feel than the original, loved the way this new take on an old song turned out. It’s low, its gruff and it’s us in a very weird way.”

Mandolin, fiddle and Tobin’s gruff rumbling voice ensure this song is the ultimate ear-worm designed never to leave you alone once you’ve heard it. The song comes accompanied by one hell of a video too of the band sitting around a campfire playing in the most natural settings for the song.

In fact for the video members of 6’10 accompany them and even bringing in original members and friends including Tobin’s good lady Vanessa.

“I see you coming, don’t do it
I know you and I see through it
Your parents curse made you work the fields
You gave God what grew but you didn’t yield
In your anger, you beat him dead
And his blood turned your field red”

The song tells of Cain and Abel the first sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was a farmer and his brother Abel a shepherd. The brothers made sacrifices to God but God favoured Abel’s sacrifice instead of Cain’s. Cain then murdered Abel, whereupon God punished Cain to a life of wandering. ‘Cain’ is followed by the EP’s only new song ‘How Long’. Tobin kicks it off with acoustic strumming and then his wonderful warm full vocals take over and with accordion and drums keeping the beat while Vanessa’s beautiful voice is a lovely counterpoise to Tobin’s. The song’s lyrics talk about the yearning for something more than all of the chaos the world seems to be throwing around. Consistent with many of Flatfoot 56’s lyrical themes, this one leaves the listener hoping and looking for something more. ‘I Believe It’ has already seen the light of day in an semi-acoustic version on 2012’s Toil but here they slow it right down in a song that strips the original right back to its barest bones before adding in some amazing uileann piping. The pipes drone only adding to the melancholy of the song.

“thoughtful—and tender, at times—reminders of what life can be if we slow down and take lyrics in”.

The song ends with a few lines from the Flatfoot favourite ‘I’ll Fly Away’ and slowly it ebbs away.   ‘Penny’ was the fastest and most punky song on last years Odd Boat so even more remarkable that they have managed to turn it into the song here. The tune remains but the addition of gentle mandolin takes it to another level while again Vanessa’s traditional style of folk vocals adds perfect balance. For the EP’s closing number Flatfoot again take one of their fastest tracks and adapt it into something stunning and while ‘Take Hold Again’ is the most recognisable of the songs here its still packs a punch in such a different way to the original. Elements of trad Irish folk, Country and Americana abound and while its not your usual F56 release for those of us who have softened to 6’10 its utterly perfect.

The album has been released on Sailors Grave Records and comes as a special edition etched vinyl disc in three different colors. It is also released on CD and digital formats but you can have a sneaky free listen via the bands Soundcloud account here.

The band have announced that it is important to remember that this is not a new direction for Flatfoot 56 but rather a temporary diversion and it won’t be long before they are back to their driving anthemic Celtic-Punk rock anthems before we know it. And anyway they do have 6’10 for this sort of thing. If their goal is to help introduce their punk fans to folk then they can sit back and relax as it is mission accomplished as The Vancouver Sessions may be calm and laid back but it still successfully transfers their aggressive punk rock sound into something that is real, raw and superbly beautiful.

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Discography

Rumble of 56- 2002 * Waves of War- 2003 * Knuckles Up- 2006 * Jungle of the Midwest Sea- 2007 * Black Thorn- 2010 * Toil- 2012 * Odd Boat- 2017*

ALBUM REVIEW: 1916- ‘Far Beyond The Pale’ (2018)

The fourth studio album from one of the best bands in Celtic-Punk, the Rochester, NY based Irish-American band 1916. An explosive concoction of modern day Irish Punk and psychobilly with an original sound all of their very own.

You may scoff at the idea that their is a Celtic-Punk band out there that has an original sound all to themselves! In a scene where the comfort comes from all the bands mining from the same sources of history it is true believe me that one band has managed the seemingly impossible. To stand apart from the crowd but to still be a part of the Irish-American Celtic-Punk scene. Hailing from upstate NY, 1916 take influence from the traditional Irish folk of bygone days and mix in the modern Irish Punk movement but also add in elements from both psychobilly and rockabilly giving them the sound which sets them apart from other bands of the genre.

1916 left to right: Ryan Hurley- Upright Bass * Jon Kane- Mandolin * Steve LaDue- Drums * Billy Herring- Vocals, Guitar *

Their days began as an acoustic duo in back in 2006 with singer Billy Herring and drummer Steve La Due playing the trad Irish ballads of the Dubliners and Wolfe Tones in local pubs in and around their hometown of Rochester. Deciding to name themselves 1916, after the year the uprising in Dublin against British rule took place, to get people interested in Irish history it was in 2010 they took the decision to attempt to turn 1916 into a ‘proper’ band and called in electric guitars, trad instruments and drums. It wasn’t long before they were supporting the Dropkick Murphys and so began a new chapter in 1916 history. 2012 St. Patrick’s Day saw the release of their first studio album, A Drop of the Pure while the following year saw the release of Stand Up & Fight. Each album containing a selection of Celtic/Irish covers and originals that saw the bands sound evolving but it wasn’t until the release of Last Call For Heroes at Christmastime 2015 that the critics went ape. Named in the top half of all the various Celtic-Punk media’s Best Of lists (including our very own one here peaking at #3) 1916 had found their niche and bigger and better things were around the corner for them. As an aside I’ve had their amazing version of ‘Hot Asphalt’ as my ringtone ever since!

Far Beyond The Pale begins with a short instrumental dirge ‘The Risen People’. The sound of chains and a beating drum symbolising stamping feet and the struggle of the Irish race while a mandolin plays a delicate Irish tune. A great start to proceedings as the song becomes the pathway to ‘Some Songs’ and that classic and original 1916 sound is back. Fast and as catchy as hell with bass rumbling away and thrashy guitar nicely understated while Bill tests his lungs with his raspy shouting, though always tuneful, and a great “Woooohh-Woooohhhhhh” bit for us fans to sing along to. 1916 have a knack also for writing some great lyrics too and follow in the tradition of Irish story telling through song. The song tells of the day he fell in love with the music of

“Luke and Ronnie Drew”

and how he has come full circle and I hope Bill realises that he is a direct descendant of these legends and through his music he passes the torch onto the younger generations. Luke and Ronnie would be proud. Next up is the lead single from the album ‘Ophelia’. Bill’s Irish-American brogue and Jon’s mandolin keep the song firmly within Celtic-Punk but it would only take turning up the guitar to take it another level. Saying that I love the guitar on this album. It’s loud and ever present but understated in a way that means it never dominates.

The album title track follows and ‘Far Beyond The Pale’ brings in a slight country influence here but the 1916 rumblin’ is still there. They slow it down slightly but give full reign to Ryan and his upright bass. The phrase ‘beyond the pale’ is well known but what is not so well known is that has a specific Irish meaning. The phrase dates back to the 14th century, when the area around Dublin under English rule was marked by a boundary made of stakes and fences. This became known as the English Pale and to travel outside of that boundary, beyond the pale, was to leave behind all the rules and institutions of English society, which the English modestly considered synonymous with civilization itself. I’m happy to say my family come from many miles Beyond The Pale in Tipperary. They slow it down even further with ‘Guns Of 16’ and maybe I’m getting on a bit but it’s one of my favourite tracks here. A brilliant tune and Bill rolls out the words almost laconically

“Guns of 16 are here
Never have they gone away
Into your deeds they have moved
Keeping the butchers away”

Utterly brilliant. Well so far you have heard a lot about the psychobilly/rockabilly side of 1916 but having stuck fairly closely to the Celtic side of things so far they unleash things for ‘Shake And Roll’ and Ryan’s bass goes into overdrive! There is a saying that “Old punks don’t die they just become rock’n’rollers” and I actually think theirs a bit of truth in that. Having grown up with Rock’n’Roll and Irish music from my Mammy I’ve found myself getting more and more back into over the last few years. I have come to the conclusion its because I’m rather happy in life so don’t want to listen to noisy songs about nuclear war anymore!!!

“We hit the floor together as legion till the end”

Bill shouts out as Jon, Steve and Ryan belt out a real mosh pit filler. The psychobilly influence becomes more of a rockabilly influence for the following song ‘All Outta Whiskey’ and it is absolutely amazing the difference in sound having a upright bass makes when compared to a normal bass. This song is what I would describe as the traditional 1916 sound. First the subject matter (!) then rumbling bass and buzzing guitar with a gang chorus to sing along to and Bill’s laid back vocal style, which is both punky and shouty and trad and folky at the same time, all encompassing a song that straddles punk and folk that is a catchy as feck! The sea features heavily amongst 1916’s repertoire of songs as well as their imagery and no surprise if you read up on how the Irish washed up in north America and the terrible conditions they suffered on board coffin ships supposed to bring them to safety. At least 30% of all Irish immigrants perished on board the ships while many more passed away on arrival. ‘Sticks And Stones’ is another great punky number that rattles along at a fair old pace

“Come all you captains and sailors so bold
and take us through the raging seas of old
Arm yourselves men with your sticks and your stones
and fight against the tide that calls us home”

before taking us into a superb version of ‘Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’. Made famous of course by Cait O’Riordans version on The Pogues second album Rum, Sodomy And The Lash but the song dates right back to the 1880’s and has both Scots and Irish versions. Bills plays with the words a little introducing the line “A tattooer by trade I’m a roving young blade” into the song that speeds up the Pogues version and they nail it by turning it into a 1916 song rather than a Pogues/Dubliners cover. It’s fast, furious, frantic and catchy! We steering up towards the final bend and with ‘Christmas In The Canal’ they have the album standout. The sound is traditional 1916 and is a tribute to those original Irish who fell out of coffin ships and went to work doing the jobs no one else would do. Bill begins the song with the short exclamation

“it was the early 1800’s and the Irish were at the forefront of digging one of the great wonders of the world out of New York state for the Erie canal and despite the harsh conditions they were still able to celebrate”

before the rest of the Bhoys join in with the tale of the Irish digging out the 363 mile canal from the Hudson River near Albany, New York to the Niagara River near Buffalo. Armed with pick axes and shovels, it was backbreaking work, from sunrise to sundown for little pay but it was acknowledged that the Irish were a hard working and hard drinking crew. Not only did the Irish lend their unique work ethic to the canal, they also put their stamp on it in many other ways, including ‘canal songs’, fashioned after popular tunes from home but with new words to fit the environment. And of course, they settled in towns all along the canal route, where today you still find them proud of their Irish roots. The song celebrates them in song just as they sang back in the day and we are still singing now!! A cracking song and one of the elements I have always loved about 1916 is that they do pay homage to those dark days when the Irish in America were on the bottom rung. The album’s second and final cover is up next and the hymn ‘I’ll Fly Away’ is played as a fast folky number. Written by Albert E. Brumley in 1929 it is thought to be the most recorded gospel song of all time and I remember singing it with gusto in my Catholic school days, after all the only way to get the boys to sing was to give them a song that they could shout along to at the top of their voices! It’s already been given the Celtic-Punk treatment on 2012’s Toil by Flatfoot 56 but again 1916 give it their all and come up with something original rather than copied.

“When the shadows of this life are gone,
I’ll fly away.
Like a bird from prison bars has flown
I’ll fly away.”

The curtain comes down on Far Beyond The Pane with the wonderful ‘Going Home’. At over five minutes its by far the album’s longest song and though it starts off plaintive and on the slow side the Bhoys can’t help but go out on a flourish and Jon’s mandolin must have smoke coming off it by the time the end of the songs comes!

This is an album full of life. A celebration of Irish-American identity that is open and accepting to all and is packed to the rafters with passion and energy. The album is available on CD from the band as well as all the usual download sites and the CD comes with a massive booklet entitled Ships Log done in the style of a olde day ships log containing the lyrics of the songs. Mind you Bill’s vocal style renders it useless as you can understand every single word he sings over the album’s forty minutes. 1916’s star is rising all the time and with tours having taken them right across the States and Europe (though sadly not England) and back again and having become an integral part of the #1 event in Celtic-Punk, the  Flogging Molly Salty Dog Cruise, theirs no sign of it dying down just yet. 1916 are easily in my favourite, say, five bands in Celtic-Punk and I defy anyone to not enjoy this band and this fantastic album. With equal measures of humour and seriousness and whiskey it sure is a unique blend alright.

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  • You can read more about the ‘coffin ships’ and The Great Hunger here
  • The history of the Irish and the Erie canal here and here

ALBUM REVIEW: THE MUCKERS- ‘One More Stout’ (2018)

While they do play Irish music Atlanta based celtic-punkers The Muckers blend in  influences from gypsy music, sea shanties, country, rockabilly and anything else they can get their hands on.

One More Stout is The Muckers second album and if their debut was a helluva lot of fun then they have gone and topped it with this one. Their self titled debut album came out in September 2016 and even though they had only recently formed it received excellent reviews from right across the celtic/folk-punk scene and entered the end of year charts of all the ones who did one including ours. We described it back then as

“A great knees up of an album with a grand sense of humour and infectiously good fun and well played”.

and to be perfectly honest we could easily re-use that comment to describe their new album One More Stout as well!

Based in the deep South of America in the city of Atlanta in Georgia they are the only local Celtic-Punk band and had gathered a massive following around them in the city and state among the Irish and their friends. That was back then and it would be safe to say that these days The Muckers are rapidly becoming one of Americas better known ‘new’ Celtic-Punk bands. They are on the face of it a straight up Irish band but dig a little deeper into their sound and you will discover a host of influences from at home and overseas. This is a very real American Irish music that takes the spirit of Ireland and adds in a little something from gypsy, country or even rockabilly to produce something that is an absolute joy to listen to, and I am positive a joy to catch live as well.

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

One More Stout kicks off with the opener ‘Let’s All Go to the Bar’ and it has a kind of Gobshites feel to it. A real happy-go-lucky bounce to it accompanied by a feel-good vibe that would be sure to fire any gig/party/barmitzvah off! The Gobshites comparison may be a good one as I later found out vocalist Jeff was an auld Gobshite himself for a couple of years and played mandolin work on their album The Whistle Before the Snap.

Originally penned by Rhode Island roots-punk quintet Deer Tick the song stays fairly close to the original but with a huge injection of celtic-punk attitude with some excellent accordion and mandolin.

“Forget if you’ll regret when the morning comes
We’ll have a heart attack, we’re having too much fun
If the coops show up we ought run, run, run
But we’ll laugh in their faces when they tell us we’re done”

At nearly four minutes it’s the perfect length and a great start to proceedings. Jeff Shaw has a great full voice that belies his wee frame and fits snug into The Muckers style of music. The Bhoys have an obsession with alcohol (fancy that!) and keep it up with their first self-penned number ‘Hellbound’ and Jeff puts down the mandolin to play some pretty damn amazing country style fiddle over this fantastic number. The song ends with a very nice Irish trad flourish and they back this straight up with another original ‘Day Drinking’ and it’s hard to believe they are only a five piece band so large is the sound here.

Not only that but they are almost acoustic except for Randall’s bass. I’m still looking for a word I can use instead of catchy (If you know please tell me!) but that is the word that is stamped all over The Muckers music. This song is again accordion led (even with a tinge of ska!) but with such a fantastic production it never over dominates things and blends right in. Next up is another cover and again they stay fairly close to the original by Californian country/American group The Devil Makes Three. They do of course speed ‘Black Irish’ right up and add some bollocks to it.

“Cuz I, I wanna feel that blood rushin in my veins
I don’t want this night to ever turn into day
If I could only do all them things I wanted to
While that spirit’s rushin now in my veins
Yes If I could only do all them things I wanted to
While that spirit’s rushin in my veins”

At least musically anyway as the lyrics speak for themselves! The fiddle kicks it off before accordion joins in and low and behold there’s an electric guitar thrashing away there! Now this is Celtic-PUNK I tells you. Now its the title track and ‘One More Stout’ is an ode to the famous Black Stuff. Following this is a cover by one of my all-time favourite Celtic-Punk bands the glorious Cutthroat Shamrock. Criminally under-rated they split up last year but I was delighted to see that they had reformed this St. Patrick’s weekend to play some local gigs around Tennessee. ‘Long Gravel Road’ is one of their best songs and I would heartily recommend checking their original version out here from their 2009 album Blood Rust Whisky. The Muckers do the song perfect justice and keep the country-Irish feel of the original intact while still putting their own stamp on it. We take a trip out East now with the Bhoys version of the old Russian traditional folk song ‘Limonchiki’. Of course the accordion is in favour here and Jeff hams it up a bit in a real nice number that is guaranteed to get feet moving! Next is a cover by Canadian Celtic-Rock legends Great Big Sea. You know when a band has reached legendary status when ‘ordinary folk’ start to take notice. In this case it was when my sister-in-law asked me if I knew Great Big Sea and did I have any of their stuff. Yeah only about six hours worth! Anyway The Muckers give ‘Old Black Rum’ a real going over and make it their own while ‘God Save Ireland’ is a old song. Very old. it was written to commemorate the Manchester Martyrs, three members of the Fenian Brotherhood executed in England in 1867 after a successful mission to free a comrade from arrest ended with the death of a policeman. It served as the unofficial Irish national anthem from the 1870s to the 1910s and has been recorded by a multitude of artists. In particular I always remember it raising the roof when The Wolfe Tones play it. Its catchy tune and singalong chorus make it perfect Celtic-Punk fodder and needless to say (but say it I will) Its gets a bloody good airing here. We back in the bar for ‘Whiskey’ and the on-off love affair we have with alcohol. Catchy in a sort of hoe-down country way which leads us nicely onto ‘Drunker’n Cooter Brown’ which takes it a bit further with elements of bluegrass and zydeco sneaking in.

One of the album highlights for me and if the dance floor aint filled up for this then there’s something wrong with the audience! ‘Molly, Pt. 2’ is the sequel to ‘Molly’ that appeared on their debut album and that was one of the standout tracks then so only fitting the sequel is here. The mandolin shines here showing what a great instrument it is in Celtic-Punk. Its delicate, beautiful sound butting up against the rougher edges of the other instruments really does sound wonderful. Finally we have reached the end of One More Stout and we wrap things up with an absolutely stunning instrumental traditional Irish folk reel called ‘Castle Kelly’. The tune is very old and also known The Dark Haired Maid’ when recorded by the Bothy Band, or ‘Mo Nighean Dubh’ if you speak Irish. The Muckers version is a s good as any I have heard. An amazing way to finish things.

As we have stated The Muckers are riding a wave which has seen them take the stage at Shamrock Fest and Dragon Con and they were invited to play the welcome party for what is rapidly becoming the most important event in the worlds Celtic-Punk calendar the famed Salty Dog cruise organised by Flogging Molly. Lucky bastards!! This band is set for the top table of celtic-punk embracing everything that’s great about celtic-punk. Passion and pride in the land of their ancestors but also a willingness to experiment a bit and step away from the confines of Irish folk and inject other cultures and music into what they do. And all the time with a smile plastered across their faces. The obvious fun they have is infectious and if the only thing Celtic-Punk achieves is to make people happy then The Muckers have got a surefire hit on their hands. Get on board before they become massive!

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ALBUM REVIEW: BASTARD BEARDED IRISHMEN- ‘Drinkin’ To The Dead’ (2018)

Pittsburgh celtic-rockers the Bastard Bearded Irishmen deliver an original, ferocious blend of traditional and contemporary Celtic music, mixed with punk, gypsy and high-energy rock n’ roll on their third album out this week.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen are one of the hardest working bands ON the Irish-American celtic-rock scene and their hard work has paid off with the band now known right across the States and even beyond. Formed back in 2008 the band celebrate ten years together with the release of their third studio album, Drinkin’ To The Dead. Originally planned as a one off tribute for a friend’s funeral, George H. Evans IV, a friend of the band and guitarist who died in a car accident in 2004. George was a big Irish-American guy who loved the Dropkick Murphys and during that one-off show Jimmy Bastard and Ben Jaber decided their passion for Irish music needed a further outlet so after recruiting a couple more local guys and gaining a rather nice sponsorship deal from Jameson’s Irish whiskey the Bastard Bearded Irishmen were born.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen left to right: Jimmy Bastard- Lead Vocals, Acoustic/Electric Guitar, Banjo *  Paul Dvorchak- Fiddle * Danny Rectenwald- Mandolin, Banjo, Vocals * Ryan Warmbrodt- Rhythm Guitar * Dan Stocker- Drums/Percussion * Ben Jaber- Bass, Vocals (Ben has since left amicably and the new Bastard bassist is Sean-Paul Williams)

This is the band’s third album behind their self-titled debut of 2011 and ‘Rise Of The Bastard’ in 2014. That debut trod the well worn path of mostly auld Irish standards and though an excellent album it only left their fans wanting to hear more of their own stuff. They got their wish with Rise Of The… which was an album of solid self penned songs with just three covers chucked in. One of the most pleasing things about the Bastards was their ability to switch from Irish punk to folky trad and though on their new album the rougher edges have been smoothed down this ability still shines through.

Bastard Bearded Irishmen hail from Pennsylvania’s second largest city Pittsburgh located in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The city is known as ‘The Steel City’ due to its history of steel production and way back in the 1830’s, many Welsh people from the Merthyr steelworks immigrated to the city following the aftermath of the Merthyr Rising. By the 1840’s, Pittsburgh was one of the largest cities west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Great Fire of Pittsburgh destroyed over a thousand buildings in 1845 and the city was rebuilt by Irish immigrants who had arrived in the area escaping The Great Hunger back home. By the end of the century Pittsburgh’s 1,000 factories were consuming 22 million coal bushels yearly with coal mining and iron manufacturing attracting waves of European immigrants to the area, increasingly from southern and eastern Europe, and including many Catholics and Jews fleeing injustice and poverty in their homelands. Today the Irish still number 16% of the cities population and the Saint Patrick’s Day parade is second only to New York in the whole of the USA.

(the Bastard Bearded Irishmen bhoys discuss their upcoming 2018 album, Drinkin’ to the Dead and the evolution of the group)

So coming from an area with a rich working class history and confident in it’s Irishness the Bastard Bearded Irishmen found much work around the city playing to their fellow Irish-Americans but as has been said hard work and solid graft has seen them voted ‘Best Rock Band in Pittsburgh’ for four years in a row, ‘Best Bar Band’ twice, opening for the Dropkick Murphy’s and Stiff Little Fingers and a whole host of major folk and rock bands while, of course, playing just about every decent Irish music festival including last years mega Shamrockfest. Their third album Drinkin’ To The Dead came out on that most special of days for sc-fi fans, May the 4th, kicks off with ‘Salutations, Memoirs, Denouements’ which was their first single from the album released last February. They seem to have lost none of their bite since 2014’s Rise Of The Bastard and despite promising to have moved away from the Irish punk of the first two album’s I can tell you there’s plenty here to keep fans old and new very happy indeed. As is the way the opener is always one of the strongest songs and no different here with Jimmy Bastard belting out the lyrics about remembering close lost friends and comrades.

” But through the tears (we arise) as we honour the lives of the ones we left behind”

Fast and furious and tuneful with great fiddle work its a brilliant way to start things and I can tell I’m in for a good time here! Drinkin’ To The Dead also sees mando player Danny Rectenwald step up to the plate vocals wise and him and take the lead on a handful of songs here that gives some nice balance to Jimmy.

So if the opener made me think we were in for more of the same ‘No Problems, No Drama’ took me by surprise with its combination of celtic, reggae, klezmer and eastern European tunes all bashing up against each other. At over six minutes long it’s a bit risky but the risk was worth it as the lads take time to build up the song layering each others instruments on top of each other and building the song up to a climax. Maybe not one for live shows but it certainly works here and shows that there is a lot more to the Bastards than drinking songs… though they are pretty fecking good at them too as in next track ‘Let’s Have A Party’. It’s straight up Irish folk-punk though perhaps with just a tinge of country and again Paul’s fiddle is on fire as the band bash through the song as quickly as they can.

It may be overplayed as hell and appeared on every Celtic-Punk band’s play list but lets face it you can’t beat ‘Dirty Old Town’ can you. We have gone into this song so many times here but Ewan MacColl’s song is played so often for a reason and that is because it is such an amazing song. The Bastards play it Dubliners style. Nice and slow with Jimmy showing he’s got a decent set of lungs on him and the band with a nicely subdued backing but then half way through they kick it off and bring it in fast as yer like. Ewan was a bit touchy about this song especially about how Shane MacGowan sang it (apparently putting the emphasis in the wrong place) but sure wouldn’t he happy hearing it still blaring away sixty-nine years after he wrote it. Next up is a solid Irish folk instrumental ‘Harvest’ before the gypsy-punk of  ‘Ya, Ya, Ya’ begins with the familiar sound of a can of beer opening! It’s not all as expected and they can still bring out a few surprises and ‘Moscato’ is a nicely understated gentle tune dedicated to the delights of drinking wine. Just Jimmy’s voice, acoustic guitar, bass and mandolin lead us into another nice drinking song but more in keeping with the Irish tradition. The bittersweet tale of ‘Another Bottle Of Booze’ of realising what the stuff does to you but not be able, or wanting, to stop. A slow song but played tough and a real foot stomper. This is the quieter section of the album and ‘Green Side Of The Hill’ may start off as a ballad before incorporating reggae and gypsy into it. Great words too reinforcing what I have always said about them that their story-telling is an integral part of what they do. Eventually the song bursts out at you and the quiet section is no more and the band whip through the ending. The song is another long one at five and half minutes and never drags and the extra length of some of the songs on Drinkin’ With The Dead is evidence of a maturity that the band have faith in themselves to deliver songs that keep the listeners interest. ‘Drunken’ Drinkin’ is about being drunk and still drinking and the song again doesn’t stick to the Celtic-Punk blueprint and neither does it stick to just keeping it fast either.

We have a lovely Irish folk tune next in ‘Slip (the) Jig’ and a song that’s been around a couple of years now, ‘Pirates Of Three Rivers’ that is classic Celtic-Punk territory. The three rivers, the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio, converge in the city and Pittsburgh owes its existence to them.

We coming up towards the end and ‘What A Life That Would Be’ is a song that maybe shouldn’t work but by hell it does. Shift changes all over the shop and packed with influences from all over the place it on the face of it is all over the place but yeah it still gets you there! Down to the last two songs and they are both called ‘Drinkin’ With The Dead’ and as Jimmy Bastard says

“It’s kind of funny because the name of the album has been around for two years, we just had to get it done. And on the same day Danny said he wrote a song called ‘Drinkin’ to the Dead’ (the second version), I told him I wrote one, too. We thought we couldn’t have two song called ‘Drinkin’ to the Dead’ on the album, but then thought, ‘Yes we can. We can do whatever we want.’”

‘Drinkin’ To The Dead (Prelude)’ is a sad but glorious, thought provoking piano driven ballad dedicated to the friends they have lost. Danny’s voice achingly recalls loved ones.

“Raise a glass to tomorrow and the past
to the ones that we love
down here or above
for this may or may not be the last time we can.”

They follow it up with the second version of ‘Drinkin’ To The Dead’. At near eight minutes long you can bet your arse it’s an epic and rousing way to bring the curtain down on things. Solidly based on Irish folk the words speak of respecting the dead and moving on with your life and making those you loved proud of you. We Irish are obsessed with death though I have always found in a good way. A damn fine way to end things.

Bastard Bearded irishmen logo.jpg

As a band whose whole existence was to commemorate fallen friends and family Drinkin’ With The Dead is a more than just a couple of steps forward for the band. Proof if it was needed that Irish-American music is both inventive and innovative and willing to push the boundaries of what we think of as Irish music. Bastard Bearded Irishmen have stepped it up a notch and though still well grounded in celtic-punk the extra touches they have introduced will I am sure gain them recognition and friends far beyond our narrow little scene and Good Luck to them while they do it!

Buy Drinkin’ With The Dead

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(A mini-documentary on the Pittsburgh based band, Bastard Bearded Irishmen. Created as a senior class project by Rachael Hower. Recorded September 2014-February 2015)

EP REVIEW : IN FOR A PENNY ‘Sometimes It’s Better To Not’ (2018)

We called In For A Penny the hottest new Celtic-punk band of 2017 and with their new EP that came out for St. Patrick’s week they only cement that view in our eyes!

One of the highlights of 2017 amongst all the album releases from the ‘superstars’ of celtic-punk was the discovery of a new band out of Savannah in Georgia in the USA. In For A Penny hadn’t been going very long and both their releases of 2017 both featured high in the upper echelons of our Best Of Albums and EP’s of the year.

So it was then could they keep it up? Well on the evidence of their EP which hit the streets of Georgia last week then the answer is a resounding yes. With their previous release they have trodden a similar path with sometimes an equal amount of Irish standards and self -penned songs. Needless to say I much prefer their own songs. While they do play the standards in their indomitable way I much prefer to hear bands play and record their own material. A perfect example is their last album One More Last Hurrah! which has the perfect mix of covers and originals. You can still download the album for free or as the lads put it

“Don’t wanna pay nuthin? Cool, download it and enjoy. Think you wanna toss us a couple of bucks to help support our Irish punk habit, great. Want to give us one million dollars… well, you get the idea”.

A fantastic album recorded in just 7 (seven!) hours in in the back room of The Sand Bar on Tybee Island, GA. Not that you’d notice mind as the sound is fantastic and if you need to know anything just think that in a year of album release from the Murphys, Mollys, Flatfoot, Tossers, McKenzies and many more established and well known bands we placed it as #8 in the years album releases.

Here on Sometimes It’s Better To Not the band do not disappoint and all the songs are written by the band themselves. Irish-American Sean McNally is both songwriter and lyricist for In For A Penny and in him they have found someone who has his finger right on the nations Irish-American community. Hard to believe he first picked up a mandolin in anger in 2014 but after only a few open mic performances Sean soon realised that the response he was getting to stripped down cover’s of The Dubliners and The Dropkick Murphys on just mandolin and vocals was so great then the next step must be to form a band. Roping in old friends in Henny ‘da butcha’ on drums and Jeremy Riddle on guitar and Sean’s son Bryce on bass In For A Penny took their home state by storm and judging by the wider celtic-punk media they have taken everywhere else by storm too.

This EP, Sometimes It’s Better To Not, is only four tracks long but sails in at nearly twenty minutes long. In For A Penny while they don’t go in for short songs they also know when to bring the curtain down so the EP never drags on. Sean’s gravelly yet distinctive voice again shines through and it’s incredible to think that the whole thing started off as just a jam but within a few days the band had taken Sean’s melodies and turned them into what we have here. The EP begins with ‘Before The Devil’ and it’s unmistakable In For A Penny. For a band with such a short time span they have really nailed their sound. With Bryce, bassist and Sean’s son, having moved to Colorado Matthew Price has been filling in and opens the EP off nicely before the band join in and it’s a fast, danceable number catchy as hell and as pretty the template for celtic-punk to these big ears. A story of redemption and trying to steer clear of you know.

(the bands submission for last years The Salty Dog Cruise)

On ‘Broken’ Bryce returns for a song with him recording his bass bits at home and then sending it on to Sean to mix. Bryce played their recent St. Patrick’s shows so maybe they could go all Ned’S Atomic Dustbin and have two bassists! With a opening that sounds like a Irish rebel song it soon changes to into a track telling the tale of ‘every man’. The homeless, lost and broken in society. A brilliant track that ends on a positive note of hope. Great words and music. The EP’s epic is ‘Dancing With The Stars’ at not far off six minutes! A slower song than usual but with an intensity that makes it seem faster. The song builds and builds and amazing to think theirs only four fella’s playing here. A real foot-tapper and at times could veer off in metal but they keep it subdued and in my opinion just right.

The EP ends with the standout track next ‘Your Claddagh Heart’. Johnny Piper of London Celtic Punks faves Alternative Ulster guests on bagpipes on this one and really makes the song shine. Sending his pipe track over to Sean from New York like Bryce did making this EP certainly wasn’t a easy process.  Dedicated to Sean’s Mrs it’s a lovely song and though it’s sentimental as feck it’s not gushing and I reckon the kind of song we’d all secretly like to write for our loved ones.

“when I said I love you, I meant forever”.

Johnny’s pipes are perfect and again it’s a fairly lengthy (for celtic-punk anyway) song at just a few seconds under five minutes but still the only thing i got left to say is the EP ends all to quickly. So there you go, yet another contender for our Best Of charts from these extremely talented Bhoys from Georgia. Sadly Sean is working away from home for a few months after St Patrick’s is over so this will be the last we hear of them for a while but plenty of plans are afoot on their return so don’t let this great band slip from your thoughts. They will be back!

(you can listen to the whole of Sometimes It’s Better To Not before you buy on the Bandcamp player player before you buy. G’wan it’s only 5 bucks!)

Buy Sometimes It’s Better To Not

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The Bhoys over at Mersey Celt Punks beat everyone to the first review of Sometimes It’s Better To Not and is well worth looking at for another opinion. It’s a great site and well worth subscribing to so check it out here

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY TO ALL. CELEBRATE WITH A FREE TEMPLARS OF DOOM DOWNLOAD!

It’s here again. The day when everyone is just a little bit Irish, except for the gays and the Italians obviously (©Simpsons!). St. Patrick’s Day a day of wearing the green and celebrating the land of your birth or of your ancestors in whichever way you see fit. For some it’s a religious holiday that may make you want to attend Mass while for others it’s a time to have a few drinks and party. After all today all Lenten restrictions are eased and so I will be personally celebrating with the biggest bar of chocolate known to man!

When we were young ‘uns we knew St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t far off when bunches of pre-paid postcards from relatives in Ireland would appear on the doorstep and then as the day got closer a strange bulky package containing strange green leaves would arrive.  Some would pinned to your coat and you’d be sent off to Catholic school which would be a sea of green for the day. The one day of the year we were allowed to be Irish in a country that if not hostile just ignored us. You see I’ve always thought of St Patrick’s Day as a day for the Irish overseas. It’s our day. A day to remember our roots and while we may have been airbrushed out of history and school curriculum’s and our contributions ignored it was a day to assert ourselves and say We Are Irish! We are still here and still fighting as the sticker goes. It was in the United States that Saint Patrick became the symbol of Irish heritage and culture that he is today. As more Irish came across the Atlantic, the Feast Day celebration slowly grew in popularity. In fact the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade was in Boston in 1737. Celebrated around the world wherever an Irish person has ever set foot or settled it is celebrated on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, which was believed to be March 17, 461 AD.

So you won’t find anyone sneering at you condescendingly from the London Celtic Punks for whichever way you choose to celebrate. Get to mass or the pub (or like me both!). Dust off the auld Eire/GAA/Celtic top or even your leprechaun outfit and whatever you choose to do be proud of your roots if you got ’em. In amongst all the fun why not spare a moment to remember those who passed that pride onto us and are not here anymore so raise a glass to the sky for them.

Sláinte.

As our gift to you on this grand day we are happy to offer you a **FREE DOWNLOAD** of the new Templars Of Doom track ‘Saint Patrick Saved Ireland’, written especially for St. Patrick’s Day 2018. Templars Of Doom are a Irish-American band out of New York that have not long released their debut album which you can read all about here. Thanks to Michael X. Rose, Rory Quinn, Eric Pomarico, Marty Shane and Josie Rose for sharing.

Saint Patrick saved Ireland
Ireland saved the World
He drove out the snakes, (He) drove out the Druids,
the Pagans and Satan

The Vikings captured Patrick
Christ saved Patrick
Patrick saved Ireland
Ireland saved the World

Voices of the Irish cried out
We beg you holy youth,
come home and walk once more among us
Patrick answered the call

The Druid priests mocked Patrick
And were thrown in the air and died
On Easter’s eve Patrick lit the Fire
The Druid priests did not survive

Released last week the single is available free to all London Celtic Punks for the month of March so click here and follow the link to your free download! Simply click on ‘Buy Now’ button and put in 0.00 to get it for free or leave a donation if you wish.

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Today’s a good time of year to remember those we love who are no longer around. This year we want to dedicate our St. Patrick’s Day post to Joseph Patrick Michael Mullally the Grandfather of Michael of the Templars Of Doom and whose birthday it would have been today. Like many who crossed the broad Atlantic he never knew what he would find but through hard work and endeavour he made a success of his life and never forgot his roots in the auld country.

The Mullally family with Joseph in the gold shirt and tie and Michael the little boy who’s ear he’s twisting!

Born in Born in Kilross, Tipperary on March 17th, 1913. His mother had returned home from Boston to have the baby in a convent, which was standard back then. His Dad stayed working as a butler in Boston and didn’t see my Grandfather til the War ended, when he was 5 years old. He entered the United States at the age of 5 with his Aunt. Their names are on the wall at Ellis Island. He became a Doctor of Philosophy, (Thomas) via Columbia University, one of the youngest in the US. He taught at Notre Dame and then was the chairman of the Philosophy Dept. at Queens College NY, CUNY, for about 40 years. Loved and respected by all.

Raise a glass to him and yours today.

NEW MOVIE- THE BLOODLUST OF THE DRUID OVERLORDS

Here’s the new short film from singer/vocalist of Irish-American celtic-punk band the Templars Of Doom, Michael X. Rose. Thanks to Michael for sharing. Heaven knows how he keeps up the level of activity he does. I’m jealous! So sit back put your feet on the coffee table pour yourself a drink and break out the hob-knobs for a classic Hammer Horror style movie featuring ritual virgin sacrifices,visions of the Virgin Mary, a giant burning Wicker man, bloodthirsty Druids and a swashbuckling St. Patrick!

THE BLOODLUST OF THE DRUID OVERLORDS

Written, Produced, and Directed by Michael X. Rose.

Assistant Producer James Pogo Lo Rubbio | Edited by Dr. Jeff Burns | 30 Minutes 

Music by the Brian Wilson Shock Treatment

Starring Mary Urban | Michael X. Rose | Suzanne Schubert | Steve Scibelli | James Pogo LoRubbio | Gala Scibelli

Ireland. 428 A.D. Bloodthirsty Druids overrun the land seeking Virginal Maidens to Sacrifice to their Dark, Insatiable gods. They emerge from dark caves carrying torches, wearing white robes and hideous animal masks. Soon Saint Patrick arrives from Britain sent by a dream. He is rowed by two fellow monks to the wooded shores of Ancient Ireland. While praying in his hut, the Virgin Mary appears to St. Patrick, telling him to “go and save my maidens.” Meanwhile the young girls are brought by land and water to the unspeakable place of sacrifice by the Druid Overlords. Victim after victim is slaughtered in bloody worship to Belinus. Half-naked nymphs drink human blood and eat the human flesh that they crave. Can St. Patrick find the Druid orgy in time? As the most pure virgin is prepared to be burnt alive in a forty-foot tall wicker man, see him battle the Druids to save the last virgin in a life or death climax in this thrilling blood-soaked tale.

You can contact Michael via the Templars Of Doom Facebook page here or his Web Site here

ALBUM REVIEW: MARYS LANE- ‘Wild Unknown’ (2018)

FREE DOWNLOAD

Marys Lanes hail from Cleveland, Ohio and their new album is a diverse collection covering themes of love, life and death, trials and tribulations, religion and of course drinking. Never straying too far from their Irish roots it adds Celtic instincts into an mix of sounds that crash-land somewhere in between rock, pop, bluegrass, Americana and honky-tonk.

Marys Lane.jpg

America is, maybe unsurprisingly, and always has been a hotbed of innovative and original Irish music. Away from the native land Irish musicians in the USA have soaked up influences galore from other cultures and mixed them up with the music of their ancestors to come up with something that is always impressive. Marys Lane are no different and the six-piece band take their inspiration from their Irish and Celtic backgrounds and their musical histories have all been way of the various pubs, clubs, pipe bands around Cleveland. The band met at the Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival but it wasn’t until a year later, they met again, and realized waiting was no longer an option. they needed to start a band.
Last Summer they pulled off a ten date tour of Ireland which saw them play many of Ireland’s famous folk venues including Matt Molloy of The Chieftains at his venue in Westport. With a rake of releases behind them their most successful to date was their collaboration with Martin Furey of the High Kings having met at an Irish Festival in the States. After hearing Marys Lane perform a song called ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ and after being introduced through a friend of a friend the plan was made to hit the studio and record it the next day and so the Furey Sessions EP was born.

Cleveland St Patrick’s Parade 1935

The story of the Irish in Cleveland has parallels with many other major Irish-American areas. A small number arriving around 1818 they began to arrive in large numbers during the 1820’s during the building of the Ohio Canal starting in 1825.  It was mainly Irish labour that built both the Ohio and Erie Canal. They made their homes on what became known as Whiskey Island. Considered outcasts by fellow immigrants the Irish began to build shanties and saloons and churches there. The Irish population of Cleveland remained around 1,000 until the years of the ‘famine’ and the Irish flocked to many cities across America. Many of these immigrants came from Mayo in the west of Ireland. They did not farm in the Cleveland area, instead becoming labourers who unloaded ships or worked in the steel mills. At the end of the 1800’s, the Irish had a terrible time with Shantytown an open sewer of industrial and human waste.  The area was home to cholera, diphtheria, and scarlet fever and because of continuing Irish immigration, there was simply not enough homes for everyone. The Irish population grew to over 10% of Cleveland’s total population and as the city grew, Irish families moved from the slums into the suburbs and began to build lives for themselves and their descendants.

Danny Greene

The Irish throughout America are famous for fighting their way out of the slums through the clever use of politics although in Cleveland they never quite attained the control they wielded in other places they still managed to have much bigger representation then other larger immigrant groups. The diverse ethnic composition of the city was reflected on the city council, and while certain districts elected Irish representatives, city council never had an unusually large proportion of Irish. Nowadays they say the Irish have assimilated into society but one in six Clevelanders claim Irish ancestry, more than 9%, and Cleveland has one of the longest running and largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in America regularly attracting more than 500,000 people. The Cleveland Irish were catapulted into fame in recent years thanks to the release of Rick Porrello’s book To Kill The Irishman. In the 1970’s proud Irish-American and local folk-hero Danny Greene became one of the most powerful crime figures in Cleveland. Literally a living legend all the stories about Danny you ever heard are all true. He looked after those in his neighborhood who were in most need. A church going, God fearing Irish gangster whose goal in life was to look after his own. The book led to several documentaries and a feature film about him and the many failed attempts on his life. Needless to say it was inevitable Marys Lane would write a song about this most famous of their fellow city men and what a song it is! Danny still has family in the city and ‘Robin Hood Of Collinwood’ has become an anthem for the cities Irish community to rally behind.

So with a decent back catalogue behind them it’s time for their latest release to hit the streets and a couple of weeks back Wild Unknown popped through the letterbox at London Celtic Punks towers. Eleven songs that take in pretty much every variation of modern day Irish music in their own indomitable way. The album starts with a great folk/Irish/country mashup ‘Dead Man Walking’ and its lively, jaunty fast paced acoustic music with a real catchy feel to it. At once the sound of a wee Irish pub and at the same time a massive festival fill yer ears. Vocals on the album are shared between Patrick Mulloy and Michael Crawley and here Patrick shines with a voice perfectly suited to the sound.

‘Rain On My Parade’ slows it down a little and reminds me of a couple of other Irish-American bands I came across at the arse (or should that be ass?) end of last year, Crikwater and Plastic Paddy. Next up is ‘Petronilla’ and again it’s a slowish song but don’t mistake that for dull or boring with an interesting bass line line and drums. While so far the album has shown the multitude of influences that Marys Lane have soaked up on ‘Last Gift’ they give us their first full blown Irish track and blew me away. That word ‘catchy’ pops up again and its a real foot-tapper that you could imagine the dance floor filling up at your local Irish hostelry. We stay firmly on our native shore with ‘Road Less Traveled / Harvest Home’ which brings back the country feel to it with some exquisite fiddle work dominating proceedings. ‘Smoke’ has a feel of another Irish-American band The Young Dubliners and I’m starting to hear a common sound amongst a whole host of bands from across the broad Atlantic. On the blurb that accompanied the album Marys Lane compare their sound to that of the Irish kitchen session.

“Cleveland rock roots but knee deep in the ghosts of Ireland – not maudlin mind you, but in the typical Kitchen Party made so famous by the Irish – everyone comes, everyone joins in, one way or another, and everyone leaves wishing the night would never end”

It’s a great description and better than anything I could say about them.

Not that it will stop me trying! More than halfway through and its time for one them good auld Irish drinking songs and its a belter. We Irish, mostly!, love a drink and ‘Another Round’ can be added to the long list of loving tributes. ‘Box Of Roses’ is their most country song here and yet still has the Irish feel to it and I don’t mean the dreaded Country’n’Irish thing that scared many a young 2nd and 3rd generation Irish kid off music when they were young. If you could imagine a (more) Irish Bruce Springsteen then this is the kind of music he’d serve up, especially in these days when he’s rediscovering his roots. ‘Whiskeytown’ is an ode to their home town and is a beautiful tribute to a city that may have seen better days but like most working-class cities it has heart and a will that will see it return to its days as an American powerhouse. So far the only thing missing has been a jig or two and for the penultimate song we get them both served up in ‘Gypsys Dance / The Kesh Jig’. Now I don’t have much of an ear for remembering trad jigs but ‘The Kesh’ Jig may be an old Bothy Band song and if so the band certainly do justice to it. Wild Unknown comes to an end with the album’s best song I think. The epic sounding  ‘Between The Darkness And The Light’. We are back in ‘Irish Bruce’ territory here and it may again be on the slower side of things but that does not diminish its power and it’s a swirling, twirling monster of a song and a fantastic way to bring down the curtain.

Wild Unknown is that exceedingly rare thing on these pages. An album of all original songs written by the band themselves. Their are four songwriters within the band and all band members contribute to everything they produce. A real team effort. The album was recorded with multi platinum award winning producer Michael Seifert and it certainly shows as the sound is absolute perfection and clear as the proverbial bell without being over produced or ‘fiddle’ with too much. A great album all round and this Irish-American sound is well worth checking out especially if you like your celtic-punk a bit more on the gentler side.

Celtic rock- hard to define, hard to resist, much like Marys Lane.

(you can listen to the whole of Wild Unknown before you download by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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Find out more about the legend that was Danny Greene, an impoverished but charismatic young Irish-American who rises to power as president of the longshoreman’s local union and is charged with corruption but evades serious jail time by becoming an FBI informant. With fearless nerve he joins forces with a Mafia gangster to rise to power in Cleveland’s underworld, gaining the reputation of a Robin Hood-like figure with nine lives as he escapes countless assassination attempts.

Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman

USA | 2011 | 60 min.

Genre: Documentary Director: Tommy Reid

Photographs that have never been seen before and exclusive interviews with the family members of Danny Greene, officials from the Federal government, associates of the Mafia and representatives of Cleveland Police Enforcement make up this documentary examining the life of the legendary infamous Irish-American gangster Danny Greene.

Clint O’Connor of The Plain Dealer writes

“Feeding America’s appetite for mob stories with a grisly slice of Cleveland’s criminal past, spotlights the gangster whose life was famously extinguished by a car bomb in a Lyndhurst parking lot. A fearless hood who grabbed headlines for years in the 1970s, Greene was a colorful character. He dressed in green, drove green cars, and embraced Irish history and Celtic lore. Alternately a union troubleshooter, embezzler, and enforcer, Greene dabbled in racketeering, gambling, and loan-sharking. He excelled at beating the rap, which may have been attributed to his other occupation: FBI informant. Police have long assumed that Greene conspired to take out Shondor Birns, a rival in Cleveland’s numbers racket, and later mafia underboss Leo ‘Lips’ Moceri, whose body was never found”

Kill The Irishman

USA | 2011 | 1hr 42mins

Genre: Action | Biography | Thriller Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Starring: Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken, Vincent D’Onofrio

ALBUM REVIEW: ALTERNATIVE ULSTER- ‘Pog Mo Thoin’ (2018)

The second full length album from New York’s Alternative Ulster is thirteen songs of Celtic pride, humor and defiance. Powerful and raw and driven by Great Highland Pipes!

The roots of Alternative Ulster begin in March 2015 in NY State’s Catskill’s region. Their debut album, Rebellion, came out in February 2016 and our review ended with

an excellent first attempt by Alternative Ulster. With almost fifty minutes of raw bagpipe punk you won’t be disappointed. I have no doubt that we will be hearing much more from these guys in the future”.

After the release of Rebellion the band sadly split with the excellent Templars Of Doom forming on one side and a new version of Alternative Ulster emerging on the other. The sound of both bands is not too different and can be best described in the words of band bagpiper John McGovern when he said “1916 meets 1977” a reference to both the Irish Uprising and the year Punk Rock exploded onto the streets of London. While it is sad to see bands split at least we now have two excellent celtic-punk bands now instead of one.

Alternative Ulster left to right- Jay Andersen (Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals) * Todd Henry (Vocals, Drums) * John McGovern (Bagpipes, Bass, Backing Vocals)

Pog Mo Thoin begins with the title track and for many of us that only know the wee snippet of our native language I’d like to bet that this phrase is one of them. Originally chosen by Shane MacGowan as the name for The Pogues he was forced to change it when it became known it was the Irish for Kiss My Arse! The song begins with rousing (what other word could apply?) bagpipes filling the air while Todd spits out a angry and defiant ‘Pog Mo Thoin’ to the Vikings, the Brits, the Yanks and anyone else who crossed the Irish over the years. A thundering bass line kicks in for ‘Drunk As Fuck’ a ramshackle punk rocker with Alternative Ulster paying homage to their mates in the celtic-punk scene with The Go-Set, The Mahones and several others encountered on a pub crawl around their home town. ‘This We Will Defend’ is straight up punk rock with bagpipes and the album is starting to take shape. So far all the songs have come in under two minutes and while the songs aren’t particularly fast they certainly have a punk rock edge to them. The first of the album’s two covers is up next and it happens to be one of my favourites. ‘Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore’ tells the common story of a Irishman forced to leave Ireland and seek a better life in Amerikay. The origin’s of the song are unclear but it’s popularity struck a chord  amongst the Irish diaspora. Here it is played slow and Todd’s haunting slightly off-key vocals giving it the Alternative Ulster stamp. Now over here I doubt many had heard of the Krampus until the recent movie but in the States, thanks to Eastern European immigration, he’s much more wildly known.

A horned, half-goat, half-demon who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved. Here in ‘Krampus’ Alternative Ulster take us back to their childhood

“If you’ve been a little prick,
you’ll get no gifts from Old St. Nick.
If all you do is bitch and fuss,
best beware of old Krampus”

We back in more trad territory next with ‘Ghetto Piper’. Beginning with the pipes belting out the Irish football tune ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’ while Todd sings

“I am the ghetto piper
I’m loud, I’m proud, I’m drunk
my mighty drones will rock your bones
when I play Irish punk”

in a tribute to the man who taught John the bagpipes who made no bones about his style of piping. Anyone who has ever been to an Irish funeral will recognise the events in ‘Irish Wake’. It is of course the send off that all Irish people would want and while globalisation wipes out many of our customs some will defiantly survive, the ‘wake’ being one. Funerals in Ireland and in Irish communities abroad tend to be huge social events and it’s not unusual for people to joke and laugh and hug and slap backs. Life goes on. We have wept. We have prayed. We have laid our friend and loved one in the ground. Now we eat. We keep up our strength. We go on. In essence, that is the Irish wake.

The drone of the pipes starts ‘Free Beer Tomorrow’ and the title will be familiar to any barflys out there and celebrates the times we seized upon something too good to be true, and it was. We’re steering towards the end and time for a Scots tune in ‘Haggis’ celebrating that most wondrous of their grub and their resistance to English tyranny. In a album often interspersed with near the knuckle humour it don’t get any nearer than on ‘Self Appointed Kilt Inspector’ on which Jay and Todd tell of the trials and tribulations of wearing a kilt and that the lassie most likely to check if you’re regimental is actually the last one you’d want checking if you’re regimental. ‘Stairway To Reason’ is a Irish punk rock bagpipe racket inspired by the Led Zeppelin song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and the references in it to The Piper. Almost at the end and ‘Ladies From Hell’ is a rousing memorial to the Highland regiments of World War One. The German soldiers were so terrified of kilted soldiers that they christened them ‘ladies from Hell’ or ‘devils in skirts’. The song begins with a pipe and drum tune over the sound of mortars. Pog Mo Thoin comes to an end with the album’s second cover, ‘Sgt. McKenzie’ and is sung in honour of all first responders and defenders of freedom that will bring a chill to the bone. Joseph MacKenzie wrote the haunting lament in memory of his great-grandfather, Charles Stuart MacKenzie who along with hundreds more from the Elgin-Rothes area went to fight in World War I. Sergeant MacKenzie was bayoneted to death at age 33, while defending one of his badly injured fellow soldiers during hand-to-hand trench warfare.

So we have an album of thirteen tracks that clocks in at just over half an hour and it has to be said this ain’t yer average celtic-punk release. It’s heart is firmly within the Irish/Celtic community of the USA but whether it will appeal to many of them is debatable. While it’s heart may be green its body is firmly punk rock and their unique punk sound is the result of Jay running his guitars through effects pedals of his own design and manufacture. At its core I think this is music designed for the pub and for those looking for a good night out to raise the rafters and their voices. Its raw and ready and maybe a bit rough round the edges but it’s overflowing with a passion I wish a few more celtic-punk bands could reproduce.

Slainte and Pog Mo Thoin!

(treat yourselves to a free listen to Pog Mo Thoin by simply pressing play on the Alternative Ulster Bandcamp player below)

Buy Pog Mo Thoin

FromTheBand

Contact Alternative Ulster

Facebook  Bandcamp

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

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

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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

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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)

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: FLOYD WESTERMAN- Custer Died For Your Sins (1969)

Floyd Westerman was a Dakota Sioux musician, political activist, and actor. After establishing a career as a country music singer he later in his life became the leading actor depicting Native Americans in American films and TV. He worked as a political activist for Native American causes and released two full-length albums, one of which features here, Custer Died For Your Sins, which took its title from a popular book.
Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman
August 17, 1936 – December 13, 2007 
On the tenth anniversary of his sad passing (or entering the spirit world as he would himself put it) we offer up Floyd Westerman’s debut album as part of our Classic Album Review series. It comes with a free download which you can find further down the page and we hope you will take us up on this. Floyd was an engaging singer-songwriter and it’s a shame he never got around to making another dozen albums of protest songs. After all his people and their sad and tragic history could certainly supply the material to fill them.

CUSTER DIED FOR YOUR SINS

For the lies that were spoken
For the blood we have spilled
For the treaties that we broken
For the leaders you have stilled
Custer died for your sin
Custer died for your sin
Now a new day must begin
Custer died for your sin
For the tribes you terminated
For the myth you keep alive
For the land you confiscated
For our freedom you deprived
Custer died for your sin
Custer died for your sin
Now a new day must begin
Custer died for your sin

Now A new day must begin
Custer died for your sin
For the truth that you pollute
For the life that you have cost
For the good you prostitute
And for all that we have lost
Custer died for your sin
Custer died for your sin
Now a new day must begin

Custer died for you sin
Now a new day must begin

SLEEVE NOTES

From our hearts thank you by Vine Deloria Jr.

By a thousand campfires, traveling the endless miles of reservation frustration, huddling in the desolate urban centers and Indian bars, the soul of the American Indian cries out to his gods for justification.

Until now there has been no answer, no joyous cry of freedom. With this album. Floyd Westerman takes the giant step across cultures to bring the anguish and unquenchable pride of the American Indian to the forefront.

Raised in government boarding schools, supporting himself since he was fourteen, victim and conqueror of the society that betrayed his ancestors, Floyd is the only person who could have done these songs.

A veteran of the contemporary Indian movement, his rendition of Where Were You When? reflects the bitterness of those who have fought too hard only to be shunted aside in favor of newly arrived “Indian experts” who have all the answers.

The defiant title song, Custer Died For Your Sins, could only be sung by one who has glimpsed the Indian renaissance in the reservation backwash of American society.

Thirty-five More Miles, the story of Floyd’s mother represents the senseless waste of Indian lives by a society that does not understand and could not learn to care.

Red, White and Black and Missionaries tell of the struggle against hopeless odds which seeks to create in American society new sense of the dimensions of cultures.

Floyd was born to sing these songs and they were written in search of a singer like Floyd. Like the eyapaha, the cryer of old who summoned the camp to action, Floyd will provide the spark, the badly needed war songs that thousands have waited to hear. Hear him well.

The songs, brilliantly penned by Jimmy Curtiss, are a testimony to Jimmy’s ability to transcend time and space and live with the people in their sorrow and triumphs, to understand their sense of hopelessness and yet to see their vision.

With this album the continental divide of oppression is crossed and a new day begins. Remember it as the years pass and a new history for the American Indian is forged out of the decades. Remember how the world was before the songs were heard. The day is corning when you will not remember how it started — that it started with this record.

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Floyd Westerman was born on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe. It is one of the tribes of the Eastern Dakota subgroup of the Great Sioux Nation, living within the U.S. state of South Dakota. At the age of 10, Floyd was forced to go to the Wahpeton Boarding School, where he met Dennis Banks, who would later become a leader of the American Indian Movement. There Westerman and other boys were forced to cut their traditionally long hair and forbidden to speak their native tongue. This experience would profoundly impact his later life and as an adult he would champion his own heritage. He graduated from Northern State University with a B.A. degree in secondary education and also served two years in the US Marines, before beginning his career as a singer.

Custer Died For Your Sins was his debut release and is one of his few. He never created a large body of work throughout his career, but the tricks he had up his sleeve were good ones. Whilst playing in Colorado he met and became friends with the author Vine Deloria Jr., also a songwriter. They talked about the lack of Native American issues and traditions in song and a collaboration began. Floyd took sections of Deloria’s book, Custer Died for Your Sins, and created profound, sometimes humorous songs from the subjects. This led to the release of his debut album, titled after his friend’s book. The album has a strong country flavor that suited Westerman’s voice and has remained a sought-after classic ever since. The title song is tough and to the point, while other songs such as ‘Here Come the Anthros’ reveal a stinging satirical sense of humor. Two anthems on Side Two are particularly hard-hitting: ‘Missionaries’, certainly a well-deserved jab and ‘Where Were You When’ which takes a poke at Native American pride of the opportunistic sort. He established a solid reputation as a country-western music singer and his recordings offer a probing analysis of European influences in Native American communities. In addition to his solo recordings he collaborated with Willie Nelson, Harry Belafonte, Joni Mitchell and Kris Kristofferson among others.

After years of performing as a singer Floyd became interested in acting and he debuted his film career in Renegades (1989) alongside Lou Diamond Phillips. Additional film roles included Dances with Wolves (1990), The Doors (1991) and numerous others. His television roles included Walker, Texas Ranger, Northern Exposure and multiple appearances as Albert Hosteen on The X-Files. Westerman was recognized for his political advocacy for Native American causes and at times he participated in and supported the American Indian Movement. Floyd Westerman died on December 13, 2007, at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California after an extended illness and complications from leukemia.

MISSIONARIES

Spread the word of your religions
Convert the whole world if you can
Kill and slaughter those who oppose you
Its worth it if you save one man

Take the land to build your churches
A sin to tax the house of god
Take the child while he is supple
Spoil the mind and spare the rod

Go and tell the savage native
That he must be christianized
Tell him end his heathen worship
And you will make him civilized

Shove your gospel, force your values
Down his throat until he’s raw
And after he is crippled
Turn your back and lock the door

Like an ever circling vulture
You descend upon your prey
Then you pick the soul to pieces
And you watch as it decays

‘Cause religion is big business
As your bank account will show
And Christ died to save all mankind
But that was long ago

Missionaries, missionaries go and leave us all alone
Take your white god to your white men
We’ve a God of our own

Musicians: Floyd Westerman: Vocals, Rythm Guitar *John Palmer Trivers: Bass * Bob Abrahams: Acoustic Lead Guitar * Jerry Shook: Harp, Dobro * Barry Lazarowitz: Drums * J.C. (Jim Curtiss): Rhythm Guitar * Pete Drake: Steel Guitar

Produced by Jimmy Curtis & Terry Philips

Recorded at Al Studios, New York City and Music City Recorders, Nashville, Tennessee

More On Floyd Westerman

Wikipedia  WebSite  Obituary  JohnKatsMusic

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)

 

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 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: THE LUCKY PISTOLS- ‘Where The Orioles Fly’ (2017)

FREE DOWNLOAD

To put it as simply as we possibly can The Lucky Pistols are an Irish folk punk band based out of Baltimore, Maryland. There.

Back in the year 1816 only 6,000 Irish people immigrated to America but within just two short years tragedy and an deliberate attempt to wipe out an entire race this number would double and would sadly continue to grow for the foreseeable future.  The greatest spike in the number of Irish who immigrated to America came during 1845-1853 the time of The Great Hunger which completely devastated Ireland.  In 1846, 92,484 immigrated and by 1850 that number had grown to 206,041. By the end of 1854 over two million had immigrated to America, astonishingly this was over one quarter of the population of Ireland. These were the lucky ones with the dead left by the roadside at home and many more dying on what became known as ‘Coffin Ships’ on the long torturous journey to what they hoped was a better life. It was during this dramatic exodus that Baltimore experienced it’s boom in its Irish population with close to 70,000 arriving in the city in the 1850’s and 60’s. Those who arrived in Baltimore settled in the southwestern part of the city with the men working for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the women finding work usually as domestics. The work was hard and dirty and dangerous but as employment opportunities were scarce and these Irish immigrants were mainly farmers so due to their lack of skilled labour, they faced a great deal of discrimination and were viewed as inferior people. They lived in tiny crowded and subdivided homes. Unable to afford better housing they were still better off than if they had stayed in Ireland and despite the low wages they were still were five times more than the eight pence a day that a farmer back home earned.

Baltimore became the third most common point of entry for European immigrants, behind New York and Boston.  In 1867, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad entered into a partnership with the North German Lloy Stemship Line to build immigration piers at Locust Point.  The ships landing at Locust Point would drop off German, Irish and English immigrants.  From there, immigrants could immediately go and work for the railroad or board a train and continue westward. The Irish experience in Baltimore was not a happy one but one of hardship and challenge.

Their children are The Lucky Pistols.

The Lucky Pistols left to right: Tony Graham- Bass, Backup Vocals * Sean Suttell- Guitar, Mandolin, Harmonica, Lead Vocals * Jay D’Annunzio- Drums (joined after release of the album. Drummer on the album is Matt Toronto) Victoria Renee Grier- Fiddle (Joined after release of the album)

The roots of The Lucky Pistols rather surprisingly begin in the German town of Heidelberg in a band called The Cold Shots. Pistols and good mates Sean and Tony spent five years ago playing Irish folk punk supporting many great Irish punk bands like Paddy And The Rats and The Mahones. As is the way with many immigrants the lure of home became too great and on the break up of The Cold Shots Sean and Tony moved back to the United States in 2013. After a short break Sean began playing solo gigs on the Irish pub scene in Baltimore and Annapolis and it wasn’t long before the Bhoys got the bug and decided to give it another shot and have been trying out their style of Irish folk punk on the east coast ever since.

Where The Orioles Fly is The Lucky Pistols debut album and to their absolute credit have made it available a free download so regardless of what you are about to read you ought to download it straight away. After all who is to say our opinion is worth anything anyway? The album begins with ‘Songs Of Ireland’ and straight from the off its fast paced acoustic Irish folk-punk. Yeah my favourite! I get off on this stuff I really do. A tale of drinking with mates and belting out Irish songs is, I am sure, familiar to many of you. My own brother when he was younger and hadn’t embraced his Irish roots as much as some in the family (ahem…) still knew the words to the entire Irish emigrant songbook. Catchy as hell and that north American celtic-punk sound that definitely has crossover appeal in that it is basically folk music for punks.  I love the harmonica and it is sadly underused in celtic-punk but used to great effect in ‘Girl At The Gallows’. Two songs in and you get a feel for what The Lucky Pistols are about and it’s good. The album’s title song, ‘Where The Orioles Fly’, rolls in next and the oriole is the official state bird of Maryland and the name of the local major league baseball team and tells of Sean and his journey home from across the sea.

Sean’s voice leads the band along and is the more stronger for it. The songs tell stories in that Irish tradition and also in the tradition of Ireland a few drinking songs wouldn’t go amiss and more importantly those warning of the perils of the demon drink and ‘Moonshine (Howlin’ At The Moon)’ is the first here. Country influence especially strong here but not of Nashville but of working men and women far away from rhinestones and glamour. There follows a group of songs with much in common. ‘Downtrodden’, ‘Back In The Harbour’, ‘Walls Of Misery’ all tell of the various struggles of those at the bottom of the ladder. Sad to say not everyone is a “king in the US of A”.

It’s not all doom though as ‘Regrets Are A Waste Of Time’ tells of dusting yourself off when life drags you through the dirt. Great sentiments and not many know the truth of that as much as the Irish do. The music so far has been fast and flowing steady but what I have been waiting for has been a kick-arse ballad and finally I am rewarded with the wait with the penultimate song ‘Drink With You’. Every celtic-punk album needs one and as it the way they usually revolve around a drink or two and The Lucky Pistols don’t buck the trend. Mind you I wouldn’t say its completely a ballad but it still rolls along beautifully and you can class it as the album’s epic. Where The Orioles Fly ends with the classic Irish standard ‘God Save Ireland’ and a song that is very rarely covered which is a shame as both the words and the tune I’ve always thought would make it the perfect song to ‘punk’ right up. Written back in 1867 it was the unofficial Irish national anthem up to the 1920’s and tells the story of three Irishmen executed in Manchester, England for their part in the ambush of a Police transport. The ambush achieved it’s goal of the release of two of their comrades but a shot fired at the lock of the van inadvertently caused the death of the police guard. In the ensuing weeks many local Irish were rounded up and eventually three men were sentenced to death. Despite none of them having fired the fatal shot Michael Larkin, William Phillip Allen, and Michael O’Brien were put to death and became known as the Manchester Martyrs. The songs lyrics were released the day before their execution on 23rd November 1867.

“Climbed they up the rugged stair, rang their voices out in prayer,
Then with England’s fatal cord around them cast,
Close beside the gallows tree kissed like brothers lovingly,
True to home and faith and freedom to the last”

The Lucky Pistols turn in an utterly fantastic version what is without a doubt the highlight of the album. Fast and catchy and thigh slappingly brilliant. A song that is built to last and no better tribute to those people mentioned at the beginning of this article. Sean the vocalist and songwriter of the band takes his inspiration from his Irish nannie (like a true Irish grandson!) and Maryland has a rich Irish culture which is celebrated throughout the year. Throughout the USA Irish culture is holding firm against globalisation and ‘mono-culture’ and bands like The Lucky Pistols play more than their fair share in aiding that. That their music speaks to the grandchildren of those brave Irish souls who settled in Baltimore many years ago is undeniable but their feisty mix of acoustic folk-punk laded with plenty of Irish ‘oompf’ with gather many friends of the Irish around the hearth too.

(you can download for free this fantastic album but if you can spare a dime or enough for a Guinness even then follow the link but listen first here)

Download Where The Orioles Fly

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TEN YEARS WAITING FOR FLATFOOT 56 AND NEARLY OVER!

I can’t believe it but yes it’s been a decade since they first stepped foot on our shores and Chicago’s Flatfoot 56 are back! That gig inspired the setting up of the London Celtic Punks so we are as happy as Larry to be able to present their gigs in North and South London at the end of this month. This is a band with severe crossover appeal from the most hardcore of punk rockers to all lovers of fiddly-diddly and trad. With a support bill of the best in celtic and folk-punk that this island has to offer be sure not to miss them on their tour.

By Gerard Mellon

They say good things come to those who wait. Well this time that saying has proved true, because, after a 10 year wait, Flatfoot 56 are returning to these shores. Regarded by experts as being true heavyweights of the Celtic Punk scene, these gigs are not to be missed. They come, showcasing their ‘Album of the Year’ contender “Odd Boat”, along with a back catalogue of truly awesome proportions. These fellas are the real deal.

Formed in 2000 on the South Side of Chicago, FF56 was originally a three-piece family punk band featuring the Bawinkel brothers, Tobin (Vocals Guitar), Justin (Drums), and Kyle (Bass). A year later it was the addition of Josh Robieson (Pipes, Mandolin & Guitar), that gave the band it’s distinct Celtic flavour. The following year saw their first album released, “Rumble of 56”, a raw mix of punk and spirituality that displays some fantastic musicianship. It is clear to see that these guys were brought up in very musical surroundings! The pipes play an integral part in making the overall sound of the album quite unique. Their second release “Waves of War” followed in 2003. Very similar to “Rumble”, it still has that raw edge mixed with spiritual lyrics and dynamic rhythms. 2006 brought us “Knuckles Up”, with some rousing tracks that seem to make you want to join in. The dynamic rhythm of drums and bass is still there, joined by some wonderful mandolin and guitar playing and of course the pipes still sounding out a clarion call. It would be great if we got to hear some of these tracks while they’re here!

2007 saw the release of “Jungle of the Midwest Sea” and I don’t know if it was a change of record label or if their own personal circumstances changed, but this album, for me anyway, marked a change for the band. It is a subtle change, but noticeable all the same. The raw edge seems to be polished a bit, the song writing appeals to a broader audience. Maybe it was just a natural growth, but it took the guys up a notch or two. The classic “Warriors” is on this disc along with a dozen other gems! It wasn’t until 2010 that we got another album, but like I said at the beginning, good things are worth waiting for! “Blackthorn” is an absolute powerhouse of an album, there isn’t a duff track on it! From the anthemic ‘Born for This’ to the ballad ‘Shiny Eyes’, it is a masterpiece. If they just performed this album live at the end of the month, we would be the luckiest punters out there!! 2012’s “Toil” comes along and it is equally as good, more outstanding music from a band that has become a five-piece. Josh Robieson departing with Brandon Good (Mandolin, Harmonica, Guitar & Vocals) and Eric McMahon (Bagpipes, Guitar & Vocals) joining. Perhaps these additions improved upon an already outstanding formula. I am so looking forward to ‘Winter in Chicago’ being performed live.

And so, we come to 2017’s “Odd Boat”, and it is superb, sublime and sensational. In a year when Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and The Tossers all brought out albums, this one stands head and shoulders above them all. If only to hear ‘Ty Cobb’ performed, you should go to see them. There was another personnel change for this album, with Justin departing and Conrad Allsworth (Drums) joining. Take a look at some of the FF56 You Tube vids from the Cornerstone festival in America if you want to see why everyone is so excited about this band arriving here. I, along with others, am travelling from the west coast of Ireland specifically to see them. Because not only are they one of the most original and exciting bands producing records at the moment, they are also one of the top live acts performing right now. Spurs are playing at Wembley and FF56 are playing in Tottenham, surely that should be the other way around!! We are so lucky to be able to see them perform live and hopefully, if everything goes well, it won’t be another 10 years before we see them again.

FLATFOOT 56

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(you can have a listen to the new album Odd Boat in it’s entirety by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below you luck sods)

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS FLATFOOT 56 LIVE IN KINGSTON AND LONDON

Yes a decade after their only London show stars of the Celtic-Punk scene FLATFOOT 56 are back in London. All the way from South Chicago, Illinois they are comparable to the Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly in the same breadth! Will we see the awe-inspiring crowd participation “wall of death” mosh pit? Who knows but their grab bag of musical influences from Oi! and punk to folk and traditional Irish Celtic sounds is sure to stir the emotions and get your feet moving.
Support acts for the Kingston and London gigs are THE LAGAN and MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS and two solo acts ANDREW PALEY from PAPER AND PLASTICK and WARSHY from CRAZY ARM with DJ GREENFORD BHOY taking us into the night playing all yer favourite Irish, rock, rebel and folk. For the running order for each night check the Facebook event page below.

Sunday 26th November 2017

Flatfoot 56 arrive in Heathrow from Chicago and hightail across to Kingston in sorta South London (but don’t say that to anyone in K-Town!) to grace the stage at one of our favourite venues The Cricketers in Kingston. Doors at 7pm sharp. The Cricketers, 20 Fairfield South, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2UL. Tel. 0208 549 4394. Venue web site here. Plenty of parking in front of the venue and it’s only a short walk from the rail station. The music venue is upstairs and the sound here is quite simply superb! It’s £6 in and it’s PAY ON THE DOOR so we recommend an early arrival. Join the Facebook event here.

Monday 27th November 2017

Yeah I know it’s a bloody school night but you gonna miss it so you don’t feel a bit knackered at work on the Tuesday? Don’t be mental! Live at TChances in North London, 399 Tottenham High Road, London, N17 6QN it’s just a short walk from Seven Sisters tube on the Victoria line or White Hart Lane/ Tottenham Hale rail stations. Buses galore. The venue is opposite Tottenham Police Station if you get lost and has ample free parking. Facebook event here. Tickets are £7 in advance more on the door and

LONDON TICKET’S AVAILABLE FROM HERE

ALBUM REVIEW: THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM- ‘Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist’ (2017)

Drinking Guinness from the Holy Grail!

These lads are as Irish as they fecking come so check out the new album of mighty celtic-punk rock from The Templars of Doom coming out of Ulster county, New York.

The Templars of Doom hail from the aptly named Ulster County in upstate New York and play punked-up Irish music inspired more by the Sex Pistols and the Ramones than by The Dubliners. Originally formed as Alternative Ulster they released an album, Rebellion,  in 2016. A raucous celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising with a total of sixteen tunes, including six covers of the like of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ (The Ramones), ‘Supernaut’ (Black Sabbath) and ‘Seventeen’ (The Sex Pistols) all of which have been blended with bagpipes to give them a new and exciting celtic punk edge. Sadly the band met with some trouble and a year later they emerged with pretty much the same line up and a new name- The Templars Of Doom. While they may sound like a death metal band rest assured it’s still very much “1977-meets-1916″ with traditional Irish ballads and themes played at punk speed with bagpipes and kilts.

Michael (Bass/Vocals ) Josie (Pipes)

The album begins pretty much where Alternative Ulster left off with ‘The Oliver Cromwell Twist’ and as the band say themselves

“hits the English overlord and executioner of the Irish with a Chubby Checker-esque slam dance”

Marty Shane (Mandolin)

Rory Quinn (Guitarist, Co-Lead Vocals)

and indeed they give it to the murderous scourge of the Irish with both barrels. The Last four words, Drogheda, Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny are the four cities in order Cromwell sacked and gave no quarter to the Irish Catholic inhabitants. At Drogheda and Wexford at least 4,000 were massacred mainly women and children. The music may be standard 70’s punk rock with bagpipes but to say it is catchy and infectious at the same time would be a massive understatement. Within a few seconds of playing my mind had gone to wild punk rock nights in New York with Irish-Americans bashing each other up on the while sliding about on a beer drenched dance floor. There though lies the rub with a band like The Templars Of Doom. They are very much a live act and though they have done a great job at capturing that here on disc they are still very much a band to be experienced live. A look down the album song titles reveals these lads are very much an Irish band and when people say that Irish-Americans aren’t Irish then get this album and shove it down their throat. At the moment, as there has always been but perhaps not as great, their is a tendency to deny ‘Irishness’ to those children of Ireland if they were born in America.  More often its from people who never left Ireland except for expensive holidays and gap years and find Irish traditions of music, dance, family and faith embarrassing and wish for Ireland a sort of globalisation where these thing are left in the past. Thank God for Irish communities around the globe who keep Irish culture alive.

The album continues with ‘Saint Patrick Saved Ireland’ and follows in much the same vein and aye you could be listening to a live track here with it’s wild abandon! The bagpipes start before the band kicks in with gang vocals and a tune, and vocals, straight out of late 70’s London. Classic rough and ready tuneful and tuneless at the same time celtic-PUNK to shake the cob-webs away with chants, reels and a punk rock mosh in the middle. 

Left to right: Rory Quinn (guitar, vocals), Eric Pomarico (drums), Michael X. Rose (Bass,Vocals), Josie Rose (Pipes), Brendan Merrit in hat(sitting in on gang vocals, pub style) at Snug Harbor, New Paltz, NY

Next up we have a song that is another embarrassment to those millennials who seem to care more about what happens on a distant shore 1000’s of miles away than just ninety miles from their parents swanky homes in Dublin. ‘A Nation Once Again’ is one of the most famous Irish rebel songs and even went so far as winning a 2002 BBC World Service poll of listeners to be crowned the world’s most popular song of all time, as performed by the kings of Irish rebel music the wonderful Wolfe Tones. Written in 1844 by the great Thomas Davis who proclaimed

“Music is the first faculty of the Irish… we will endeavour to teach the people to sing the songs of their country that they may keep alive in their minds the love of the fatherland”

So there you have it straight from Thomas mouth and I doubt very much whether or not he would care much that a band of Irish-Americans would adapt the tune and speed it up into a Irish punk rock jig  just as long as it was being played and past down to the younger generations. I swear I think trapped between the ‘West Brit’ millennials and the trad Irish folk snobs I think both would rather songs like this not be played rather than have a band of Irish descended punk rockers have a go on them! The song dreams of a time when Ireland will be a free land, and exhorts Irishmen and women to stand up and fight for their land.

“And righteous men must make our land a nation once again”

The Templars Of Doom’s version starts with bagpipe and sneering punky vocals and while its much slower than previous songs its still very much in the punk vein. It reminds me of drunken nights in Mannions in Tottenham belting out this classic with a bunch of 2nd generation Irish losers and boozers before annoying the neighbours on the way home! The album takes an unusual turn next with ‘Eyes’ and it’s a bit of country’n’western tinged Irish folk that peaks our interest. The beautiful sound of uilleann pipes as played by Scott Benson takes this song to another level and shows these Bhoys can play their instruments and belt out as good a song as anyone on the Irish circuit. ‘The Minstrel Boy’ is the shortest song here, just tipping over two minutes, and as you would expect it’s played at breakneck speed and has more in common with The Ramones than Planxty. Turn it up to 11 and get your Doc’s on, it don’t get wilder than this! The album’s title song follows and ‘Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist’ doesn’t disappoint with more of the ramshackle UK 70’s punk rock sound that has served them well so far.

‘The Templars Erupt’ has the feel of The Pogues all over it with the setting of a bar and barroom chatter in the background while bodhrán and tin whistle fill the air. To me it sounds like it escaped from Hell’s Ditch and rightly deserved it’s place as the longest track here. We are nearing the end and they not going out gracefully and ‘Suicide Bomb’ is one of my favourites here harking back to London bands like Alternative TV and Menace while the album draws the curtains with ‘Michael Collins Ghost’ and just a couple of weeks after his birthday The Big Fellow must be looking down with pride that he still evokes such passion among the Irish and their friends. Sung and co-written by Mike O’Leary, along with Rory Quinn, the song is the highlight of the album and we will indeed

“Raise a glass to Michael Collins ghost”

The band come together perfectly here and it may have veered away slightly from celtic-punk into celtic-rock territory but who cares about that wee thing. The song is a masterpiece and great words and performance ends the album on the highest note possible.

The band have release Bring Me The Head Of St John The Baptist on their own label Poe Records which has also released CD’s from the side project of bassist and band artist Michael X. Rose, The Wild Irish Roses, which is Michael his Mrs and their 8 (eight!!) kids. Yep a true family band and also well worth checking out. This album may not get them on the bill at Get Shamrocked or even the local Celtic or Irish festival as it may induce heart attacks and fainting spells on some of the more lily livered members of our community. The Bhoys could have called it a day after Alternative Ulster but they have persevered and kept at it so if you want fast, punky, tuneful/tuneless Irish music that you can mosh pit down to with songs about the Templars, Ireland, the Holy Grail, saints and ghosts then The Templars Of Doom are your band and also the band for legions of green, spiky haired, young Paddys and Biddies across the United States!

( have a free listen to Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist on Bandcamp before you buy on the player below)

Buy Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist

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(For a week from now. Yes for the following seven days you can download the album for *FREE* as a special gift for all London Celtic Punks readers. Just follow this link here and download away but be quick. Where it says ‘Name Your Price’ simply put 0.00 or if you feeling generous send them a few bucks for Guinness. It will end soon but feel free to tell your mates!)

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(Vocalist and guitarist Michael made a movie about St. Patrick versus the Druid overlords. It’s called Bloodlust of the Druid Overlords and here for your delight is the trailer. Watch this space for the full movie coming soon!

please support this film by pledging to the Kickstarter fundraising here)