Category Archives: USA

ALBUM REVIEW: NEVER SAY DIE – ‘Punk Rock Pirates’ (2020)

Maryland Irish PUNK-ROCK band Never say Die release their third studio album of loud blaring noisy as hell Punk-Rock!! 

The journey of most Celtic-Punks (Particularly those of Irish descent and of a certain age) seems to be that you grew up listening to your parents music. This tended to be Irish Folk and Rock’n’Roll. This was replaced by Punk as they got a bit older and then at some point in their adult life the love of Irish Folk music came back to them and luckily their was a whole genre of music specifically for them! This was my journey anyway and for a solid twenty years inbetween the Folk/R’n’R of my childhood and my late thirties all I listened to was loud blaring noisy as hell Punk-Rock. Maybe its a mellowing but I’m as likely these days to listen to the Clancy Brothers as I am the Anti-Nowhere League but that’s not to say those days are completely behind me and so it is I love it when I hear a band playing that loud blaring noisy as hell Punk-Rock but with a Irish edge to it. Never Say Die are a band that does just that.

They hail from the strangely named Germantown in Maryland in the mid-Atlantic region of the South-Eastern United States. The town was founded in the early 19th century by European immigrants and was named Germantown due to the prominence of German businesses, even though most residents of the town were of English or Scottish descent. These days the Irish population of Maryland stands at just under 13% which is just above the national average and so no signs that the Irish are going anywhere and a good example of that is Never Say Die. They play good old fashioned Punk-Rock but with an Irish edge to it. You wouldn’t tell straight away as they have no Celtic instruments or any overt tunes but it’s there in the spirit of the band!

Punk Rock Pirates is the bands third album after Surrender Is Not An Option from 2010 and Convictions & Addictions in 2014. They also had six tracks on Live Your Gimmick from last year, a compilation from Tuna Forsushi Records featuring the classic ‘Irish Goodbye’. All their previous material is available on Soundcloud (link below).

The album kicks off with the band’s theme tune ‘Battlecry’ and it’s over in just sixty-five seconds. Gang vocals shouted over a fast and furious Punk number gives you all you need to know about where this album is going. It leads straight into Irish Folk and Celtic-Punk favourite ‘Drunken Sailor’ and Never Say Die play it dark and heavy. No great surprises here but its spirited and a nice nod to their Irish roots.

(Never Say Die live at Fishhead Cantina May 2019. Never Say Die performing ‘Battlecry’, ‘Drunken Sailor’ and ‘Saturday Night’)

They get into their stride with ‘I Hate Punk Rock’ and ‘Six Gun Lullaby’ mid=paced Punk but played with a heavyness making you imagine its lot faster. Vocalist and guitarist Captain Kelley has a great voice for this style of music with clear and distinctive ‘gruff’ vocals meaning you can hear every word he utters! Sadly though this as this album came out both bassist Thunderbilly and drummer Ziggy Bax both left the band. There’s never been a worse time to be in a band especially a DIY band but things are bound to get better so if you’re in or know some musicians near Never Say Die then send them their way.

(Never Say Die live at O’Gannigans Bar December 2019)

‘The Cursed Mariner’ is and to the pirates of the albums title while ‘I’ll Stand Strong’ slows it down with a Punk Rock ballad. Of course this means its nothing like your usual ballad but the same themes of standing strong in the face of daily life and keeping your chin up are present. The standout track for me here is the title song ‘Punk Rock Pirates’ and even those all the songs here are catchy dance floor fillers this is one that would even persuade the likes of me onto the pit. Never Say Die could, if they wanted, make a pretty damn decent Celtic-Punk if they went the acoustic route but I get the feeling that they make like the odd acoustic number like ‘The Legend Of Stingy Jack’ it’s not where their hearts lie and its songs like ‘Working Class Nobody’ where their full power comes into play that they prefer. Gang vocals and “Oi! Oi! Oi!” belted out alongside the important message of standing your ground and relying on you mates to get you through the bad times with the help of a beer or two. Like on many a Celtic-Punk album the theme of alcohol pops up regularly and ‘Raise Your Glass’ is another ode to that most wondrous of things! pretty much all the songs here hover around the two and a half minute mark which is on the short side of what we usually review but about average for Punk songs. ‘The Outlaw’ is the exception here and at three and a half minutes can be described as the Punk Rock Pirates ‘epic’ song. I like the extra length giving it a chance to develop and stray into both grunge and metal.

(Never Say Die live at Sparta Inn August 2019)

‘Breakaway’ is another great track. Well played, simple, no fuss, uncomplicated, no ego Punk. Chin up and chest out songs for simple, no fuss, working class people. The curtain comes down with another great number and ‘One More Time’ sees the album out admirably. Punk Rock Pirates was funded by the band and their fans through Kickstarter and they raised all the money for recording and printing the CD easily. The ‘clampdown’ over Covid came at the just the wrong time for Never Say Die and as their name suggests the show does go on and there’s a lot more to come from these guys I am sure.

Buy Punk Rock Pirates  FromTheBand

Contact Never Say Die  Facebook  Soundcloud  YouTube  Bandcamp

ALBUM REVIEW: THE KONA ROGUES- ‘Batten Down The Hatches’ (2020)

Debut release of Celtic Rock Rebels The Kona Rogues from Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Rock/Punk fueled music with Celtic roots taking rebellion to a whole new level making music for an insurrection we can all dance to. Among the many great original songs it takes a lot to give songs like ‘The Foggy Dew’ or ‘ Whiskey In The Jar’ something new but these Bhoys manage it.

Well here’s a first for the London Celtic Punks! We thought we had covered just about every corner of the world but then somewhere pops up that totally astounds you. Today’s review is of the band The Kono Rogues from the beautiful island of Hawaii right out there in the middle of the Pacific ocean. It is the only U.S. state located outside North America, the only island state, and the only state in the tropics encompassing 137 islands spread over 1,500 miles and just as you would imagine the Irish even washed up here with almost 5% of the island of proud Irish heritage.
So it is that the charismatic Irminsul a native musician of the island who has spent most of his life playing Celtic music and who was guesting on St. Patrick’s Day for the band Creacialtie on his Celtic harp (another first for London Celtic Punks. A Celtic-Punk band with a harp!!!) alongside fiddle player and island musical icon Joanie Collins, who was also guesting. Well a year on Irminsul calls Joanie and the end result has been The Kona Rogues. Kona for their home town on the island and Rogues because no one had ever tried to do what they were doing. They were literally smashing conventions. As Irminsul says
“Be open to what comes next, because this aint your granddaddy’s Celtic music.”
As I said Irminsul has spent years of his life playing in Celtic bands, both as a solo artist and singer/ songwriter. Joanie had a similar background in Celtic music while guitarist Seishi Saegusa is famous on the island for his musical ability and drummer Todd Oldham has played with some of the greats in the music world but their short time together hasn’t been without controversy.
“We got a fair amount of flack from traditionalists who just think it’s not possible to perform original, modern Celtic rock on this island but thanks to some ground breakers like Creacailtie and The Kilt Lifters, that was completely wrong.”
Batten Down The Hatches is the perfect title for an album representing both the island that is regularly hit by hurricanes and a style of music that most will never have come across before. The album kicks off with ‘The Pikes Will Be Together’ and if unabashed catchy as feck rebel music is your thing then we’re all in the right place! Music and lyrics are by Irminsul, like on most of this album, and based upon ‘The Rising Of The Moon’. A pike is a long pole used by infantry until the early 18th century when it was later replaced by the bayonet and was used extensively by Irish rebels during this time.
“The pikes will be together and the nation will be one.”
The music is as I said is very catchy with the fiddle and harp leading the way and Irminsul’s great and distinctive vocals while electric guitar and tribal drums give the tune a very modern twist to its ancient Celtic roots. Next up a couple of songs well known to readers with ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ and Celtic-Punk favourite ‘The Foggy Dew’. Not a lot to say except yeah, they are very good and are not just simple covers with ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ also including the famous traditional Irish jigs ‘Swallowtail’ and ‘Kesh’ showcasing Joanie’s amazing fiddle skills while ‘The Foggy Dew’ is played significantly different to any version I have heard before with the tribal beat of the drums and a great almost ballad like speed. Tremendous.

Next a bunch of more originals written by Irminsul beginning with an ode to the legendary Michael Collins. Collins was the driving force behind the Irish revolution during the War Of Independence (1917-1921). A soldier and politician who was was unafraid to get his hands dirty if you know what I mean! He was assassinated in August 1922 during the Irish Civil War.
“If I had a dime for every Irish hero
Taken in the height of all their fame
They would see his face, in every Irish hero
Laid into a dark and early grave”
Beautiful lyrics that make the hairs stand up on your neck. One thing sadly missing from Irish music these days is decent modern Rebel songs. Most tend to be pretty cheesy and predictable while The Kona Rogues have plenty of good ones that don’t follow the ‘Irish rebel song blueprint’ like most. ‘The Bairns Of The New Brigade’ even has Gothic pretensions while cheering the Bhoys home in a song that is quite poppy and accessible.
“What remains of the old Sinn Fein
A marketing charade
Now the Royal Fop sent a mob to stop The Bairns of The New Brigade’
‘Crofters Song’ is an amazing trad ballad that sounds 300 years old. Again stunning lyrics and Irminsul’s clear, distinctive and heart aching voice giving the lyrics a real passion.
“Now we sail for a strange land, we don’t know a soul
They’re telling us that now we’ll be harvesting coal”

Next is ‘Link Arms (Until Freedom Has Won)’ and a heart lifting song giving hope that one day injustice will be banished not just from Ireland but everywhere. For the first time we hear more traditional harp playing from Irminsul and it is indeed a beautiful instrument that adds much to this song that switches several melodies along the way. Definitely a standout song on the LP. ‘Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile’ is a traditional Irish song meaning ‘Oh, Welcome Home’ in English. It’s origins are unclear but it has become associated with Irish nationalism and recorded by many Irish Folk greats. Perhaps the most amazing thing here is Irminsul’s immaculate Irish in telling the songs story. At a time when most Irish bands know as much Irish as I do (basically nothing!) it’s great to hear. The song itself is quite unlike any version you’ve ever heard with a lengthy Prog-Rock interlude in the middle led by Seishi’s electric guitar work. The Kona Rogues take a much darker route next with ‘Yeah’ which just so happens to be my favourite song here. Clever and humorous lyrics (this man Irminsul is a true seanchaí) abound with a song that manages humour, revenge and bloodlust with ease with a song that encompasses The Cure, The Cult and Siouxsie And The Banshees!

We are steering up towards the end now and its about time for a love song and its delivered via ‘Whiskeys The One I Take Home’. Not yer traditional Irish love song it has to be said with the object of his desire not some lass- not for the want of trying though but that other well known subject of many a Irish song. Another class song bursting with humour so in a way it is a traditional Irish love song. Batten Down The Hatches comes to an end with ‘Lenadoon Lament’ a beautiful commemorative funeral air for all the battles lost by the Irish Republic. A quite amazing way to bring down the curtain.
Batten Down The Hatches is over forty minutes and eleven songs of mostly original material and even the few covers can be described as anything but covers really given The Kona Rogues treatment. To say I am surprised at this album is a MASSIVE understatement. From the lyrics to the musicianship displayed it is simply an outstanding piece of work. Added to all that is Irminsul leading the way (like someone said ‘Sid Vicious on electric harp’ !!) achingly re-telling and telling of the struggle that is still ongoing now to unite one island far away from it on another island known by many to be a paradise. Irish music that would make you believe it is from ancient times butting up against ‘electric high octane rock bordering on punk’ that even then seems to come from another era. From beginning to end I heartily loved this album and recommend it to all who love a good shout out to Ireland from across the world.

(you can stream and download Batten Down The Hatches from the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Batten Down The Hatches  Here  Amazon

Contact The Kona Rogues  Facebook  Soundcloud  

EP REVIEW: LUCKY LAD GREEN- ‘Get There Somehow’ (2020)

Hailing from a small town just east of Pittsburgh, PA, Lucky Lad Green take Punk Rock, Hardcore, and old school Rock’n’Roll and make into a Celtic jigger that’s best served straight on a Saturday night at the local pub!

Now technology ain’t my thing anyone can tell you and London Celtic Punks always arrived on a new social media platform a good while after everyone else has discovered it and got bored. So it was with Instagram but it was on that platform I first discovered Lucky Lad Green and their always interesting posts. So it was I had to wait a short while to see if their posts matched their music and they prove it amply with this short ten minute long three track EP.

Like all bands it’s been a difficult time but that they ever recorded at all can be laid at the door of the fellow Pittsburgh-based Celtic-Rockers the Bastard Bearded Irishmen! Formed in early 2013 Metalheads Ryan and Eric were friends who had just been kicked out of left a local Rock band and were jamming a few songs celebrating Ryan’s Irish roots. Interest in what they were doing grew and before too long a band had fully developed and in November of 2013 after a summer full of writing, Lucky Lad Green landed their first show in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania at The Castle. Regular shows followed and they developed a decent following too leading to their debut release, a four track self titled EP. I can’t say much about it as I have just downloaded it myself but it is available as a ‘Name Your Price’ download so grab a copy yourselves at the link below.

It was after this release that things began to fall apart beginning with drummer Bret leaving and in 2016 after a show with the Real McKenzies the band called it a day. That was until the Bastard Bearded Irishmen rolled into Pittsburgh and saw the guys reunite for a photo that went viral and led to the reformation of Lucky Lad Green and the new EP. I say new but we are a bit late as the EP touched down at the beginning of March which unfortunately coincided soon after with the ‘clampdown’ as we call it here! So with a host cancelled gigs and festival appearances all cancelled we are very glad to hear that the Bhoys have performed a few intimate shows in the last couple of weeks.

(There’s nay videos out there of them performing songs from the EP so enjoy this one from St. Paddy’s Day which shows them pretty damn well!!)

Get There Somehow begins with the powerful ‘Through The Door’ and chugging electric guitar and accordion and we have ourselves a rather nifty little number here. Catchy as hell and superb musicianship and great vocal too from new band member Andrew.

“And I can’t hold on to you anymore, I’m moving on, I’ve got one foot through the door.”

The song stays at the same pace throughout thanks to that guitar chugging away but has a very interesting arrangement that is hidden slightly behind the guitar/accordion but adds to it magnificently. ‘Chase The Snakes’ takes a far more ‘rocky road’ but again Jim’s accordion is given a starring role in a song chock full of fist in the air moments and a guitar solo at the end. The song ends with ‘Irish Eyes’ and unsurprisingly the guys go Gaelic with a song that shows 2020 American Celtic-Punk still knows where its roots are. Love Shane’s drums on this song. I suspect he was allowed to whack ’em as hard as he liked so the song has a much more Rock feel to it than the song would have otherwise.

Lucky Lad Green from left to right: Shane Boyer – Drummer * (top middle) Ryan McDonald- Mandolin and Guitar * (bottom middle) Jim Vizzini – Accordionist, Jim Berkin – Bass * Andrew Roberts – Vocals and Rhythm Guitar *

All in all a great start to Lucky Lad Green Mk.2 and even though it s over in a flash things look pretty good for their future and with things getting back to normal the guys look to have the ability and drive to produce some fantastic music and I for one cannot wait.

(Hear the whole EP by streaming Get There Somehow on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Get There Somehow  Bandcamp

Contact Lucky Lad Green  Facebook  ReverbNation  SoundCloud  YouTube

THE TOP TEN ANTI WAR SONGS

There hasn’t been a day since the invention of the phonograph record when the world has not been at war someplace.

We are told that the world stands on the edge of a precipice, and there is very little we can do so instead of a fallout shelter I’ve built a list of the ten best anti-war songs ever.

By

Starting at number ten we have….

10. ‘The Ballad Of Penny Evans’ – Steve Goodman

The best ‘one guy with a guitar’ performer who ever lived, Goodman’s music was primarily in the ‘good times and more beer’ zone peppered with moments of genuine pathos but rarely political. On a 1973 album on the Buddha label he included a powerful acappella treatment of a song sung by a 21 year-old woman whose husband has been killed in Vietnam and whose rage against the government who sent him there can barely be contained:

“And now every month I get a check from an Army bureaucrat / And it’s every month I tear it up and I mail the damn thing back / Do you think that makes it all right, do you think I’d fall for that?”

In his clear voice, loud with anger, it’s an amazing performance.

9. ‘Jimmy Newman’ – Tom Paxton

Paxton’s ‘Talking Vietnam Pot Luck Blues’ about a young soldier’s discovery that everyone on both sides is smoking dynamite dope is almost as funny as this song about a hospitalized soldier’s slow realization that his friend has died during the night before they are scheduled to be shipped back home is emotionally devastating.

“Get up damn it Jimmy! They’re loading us next, and you’ve only to open your eyes.”

8. ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ – Eric Bogle

An Irish songwriter’s story about a soldier returning home from the battle of Gallipoli in 1915. The song is in the voice of a soldier whose legs have been blown off

“I never knew there were worse things than dying”

who watches as all the people who’ve come to greet the returning soldiers turn away in silence as the injured are brought off the boat. There are a million or more ways to ruin this kind of song and Bogle avoids every one. The song’s been done by many people including The Pogues but this version is beautiful and heartbreaking.

7. ‘Machine Gun’ – Jimi Hendrix

All the elements of a great screenplay are here. New York City, New Year’s Eve, hours from the end of the 1960’s, The Fillmore East and the greatest electric rock guitarist in history is a black man, a former US Army paratrooper. Pressured by a growing black militancy, he’s fired his white British backing band and has formed his ‘Band Of Gypsys’ with Billy Cox (bass) and Buddy Miles (drums). He knows he has to address Vietnam somehow, and in the twelve minutes and thirty-nine seconds of ‘Machine Gun’ Jimi says as much about the war as John Coltrane said about God in ‘A Love Supreme’. Here’s the audio footage from that New Years Eve Fillmore show.

6. ‘Universal Soldier’ – Buffy Saint-Marie

This is the anti-war song that speaks an awful truth that we would really prefer to ignore: while we can point fingers at the presidents and generals all we want, it is the individual soldiers who feed the war machine. The fact that these are our sons and brothers and sisters and daughters (and fathers and mothers) makes it a horrible and ugly truth (and, who knows, maybe some truths are best turned away from) but the Lysistrata solution offered here is a hard one to ignore.

5. ‘Between The Wars’ – Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg was to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s what Phil Ochs was to Richard Nixon in the 1960’s. Far from his most vitriolic political song, ‘Between The Wars’ examines the British working-class experience with verses like

“I kept the faith and I kept voting / Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand / For theirs is a land with a wall around it / And mine is a faith in my fellow man / Mine is the green field and the factory floor / Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers / And mine is the peace we knew / Between the wars.”

4. ‘I Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die’ – Country Joe And The Fish

The archetypal 1967-San Francisco-LSD-hippie-band led by a psychedelicized and politicized US army vet, ‘Country Joe’ McDonald. I remember in 1968 or 1969 sitting behind a row of guys in Navy uniforms either on their way to or back from Viet Nam at a Country Joe And The Fish show in Philadelphia as they played this song

“Be the first one on your block to have his boy come home in a box.”

Watching them cheer every line was around the time I began to suspect that the world was, well… complicated. Bring back the draft and we’d have this again in twenty minutes, half hour tops.

3. ‘Masters Of War’ – Bob Dylan

The studio version from 1963 is brilliant, but the live-in-Italy version on 1984’s ‘Real Live’ with former Rolling Stones’ guitarist, Mick Taylor, on a distorted, almost heavy metal, lead guitar is 1,000 times angrier than Johnny Rotten ever was or will be. There’s a talk that the critic Griel Marcus gave to the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley called ‘Stories Of A Bad Song’ that is really worth reading.

“Come you masters of war, you that build the big guns / You that build the death planes / You that build the big bombs / Not even Jesus would forgive what you do / I hope that you die”

2. ‘What’s Going On?’ – Marvin Gaye

“Father, father, father we don’t need to escalate / You see, war is not the answer / For only love can conquer hate”

wasn’t the kind of rhyme one expected to hear in 1971 from a million-selling soul artist who had earned the title ‘Prince Of Motown’. The title track from an album that his label flatly refused to release at first, calling it commercial suicide, became the crown jewel in what Smokey Robinson still calls ‘the greatest album of all time’. This version is all the evidence of his incredible power over audiences anyone should require.

1. ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ – Phil Ochs

In 1976 Phil Ochs, the best ‘Protest Folk’ songwriter of his (or maybe any) generation, hung himself at his sister’s home. The victim of the sort of clinical depression we now have the drugs to treat and feelings of despair in the aftermath of Watergate, the rise of disco and the failure of the 1960’s to live up to its grand promises of social change (let’s face it, if the 60’s had succeeded Nixon would have died in prison and Kissenger would have gone on trial). Put simply, any top-whatever-list of anti-war songs that doesn’t start with Phil isn’t worth the ether it’s printed on. The solo acoustic version on the 1965 album of the same name remains the finest two minute and thirty-two second lesson in the history of international conflict ever recorded on to a roll of magnetic tape.

To be honest, “best of” lists are almost always a bit of a sham and Bob Marley, Elvis Costello, The Clash, R.E.M., Edwin Starr, The Dead Kennedys, Sun Ra, Fred Small, Richie Havens, Neil Young and, OK, even the Sex Pistols are all absent here. But these ten songs collectively represent a diverse body of response to our shared history and any one you may not be familiar with is deserving of your time and attention.

First published on These Things Too. Thanks to Stan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Irish Goodbye  FromTheBand-CD

Contact The Muckers  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

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

ALBUM REVIEW: HUGH MORRISON- ‘The Other Side’ (2020)

Scottish-born Hugh Morrison has spent the couple of decades baking in Houston,Texas and playing and singing in a range of styles. As part of The Street Dogs and lead vocalist of Celtic-Rockers Murder The Stout he has toured the world and has released his second solo album of New Orleans influenced Folk-Rock.

After spending twelve years in the USA, the Scottish Highlands born Hugh Morrison returns to his homeland for inspiration on his latest project. His first solo album Robert Burns Rocks came out in 2010 taking his favorite Robert Burns’ work and adapting them for the present time. Burns work has been re-interpreted many times including by many Celtic-Punk bands and this album was designed to bring attention to Scotland’s Bard, opening up his material to a whole new and audience. Hugh Morrison has spent his time in the USA wisely fronting the popular Houston, Texas based Celtic-Punk band Murder The Stout and playing squeezebox in the sadly now no more Street Dogs. 

He released his second studio album in 2016 called Prison Ballads ten popular songs all with the theme of Prisons or going to jail! Songs from another age brought back to basics like ‘Banks O’ The Ohio’, ‘Down In The Valley’ and ‘The Auld Triangle’. His new album came out at the turn of the year and has been sitting in our to do list since being played sporadically but thoroughly enjoyed.

The album begins with ‘Passing Place’ and features only Louisiana musicians, mainly the Louisiana legend, Beth Patterson on backing vocals, bazouki and bass. With many friends and guests here its far from yer usual singer/songwriter type of thing. Hugh slightly ached vocals over a catchy acoustic guitar and female background vocals give it a feel of 1980’s UK indie bands. The albums title track is next and ‘The Other Side’ features some choice brass from the New Orleans Second Line Percussion. Be warned this isn’t the upbeat celtic-Rock of Murder The Stout and even with South Louisiana’s Cajun bursting through it’s a sad song about death and Hugh’s vocals and accordion works great here. In the article referenced at the bottom in The Ripple Hugh states that the two following songs are his most favourite ones he has ever written. On ‘Life Can Be Short’, a five minute epic with a definite Irish tinge to it, reminding us to enjoy every moment with the ones around us and ‘Old Scotland’, a ode to his faraway home.

The songs so far have a sadness attached to them that is specific to Celtic music. Death looms large here but without the sentimentalism even when on a song like ‘Old Scotland’ you can tell easily how much the words mean to him. The music is acoustic excepting the bass and while its possible to play really fecking loud with acoustic instruments here Hugh takes another approach with the music almost delicate but still coming out with plenty of fire and bite. ‘Sunshine’ is another folky indie number while ‘Ballad Of Thomas Higgins’ the air of which sounds remarkably like ‘The Patriot Game’ which in itself was stolen from ‘The Merry Month Of May’ and probably several songs pre that one too. Telling of whaling in New Bedford its a great track and shows pretty much all the albums guests in one place. ‘Dance Hall Girl’ is a gentle folky tale while ‘Ticket Out Of Here’ sees the drums pounding just that bit heavier than before with Hugh and Beth combining beautifully on a song whose subject is well known to many of us. I’m a big fan of the harmonica and it gets a good airing on ‘Not Hanging Here’, a catchy melancholic song while on ‘Edge Of The World’ the upbeat modernist Cajun / Country belies the songs serious side.

The albums penultimate song is ‘Kitty’ a sad traditional Irish love song about a Fenian saying goodbye to his sweetheart. Shane MacGowan said he recalled hearing his Mother singing it often which would explain its appearance on Rum, Sodomy & The Lash where The Pogues injected new life into the song. Here Hugh takes the gentle approach with Hugh’s Scots brogue floating over an arrangement similar to The Pogues. The album ends with the upbeat ‘Everything’s Gonna Be OK’ where we get as close to a full band as the album allows. Even the words here are upbeat as Hugh reassures us everything’s gonna be OK.

So a grand album and at this moment in time its the kind of singer/songwriter album with guests we are seeing a lot of but this came out before the ‘clampdown’ so the originality is all Hugh Morrison’s. He proves here what an excellent frontman he is and how adept he is at taking influences and welding them to traditional Scots Folk sentiments and emotions. It may not be in the same league as Murder The Stout but among its peers in Folk music yeah it’s pretty damn bloody good.

(you can stream The Other Side on the Bandcamp player below before you buy)

Buy The Other Side  FromHugh  CDbaby

Contact Hugh Morrison  YouTube  Twitter  YouTube  Instagram  Facebook

Keep an eye on these pages for a further Hugh project in Iron Roux. Scottish highlands meet Louisiana swamp as Hugh and Beth Patterson combine forces resulting in driving guitar, subversive bass solos, and tight vocal harmonies. We’re here for the ballads, but will stay for the accordion and bouzouki thrown into the mix too! A EP is slated for release very shortly…

Hugh had a very interesting interview The Ripple that is well worth a look.

ALBUM REVIEW: 6’10- ‘Carried In Retrospect’ (2020)

The second full length release from Flatfoot 56 off-shoot band 6’10. Tobin Bawinkel began 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! The groups first full length album since 2014 Gerard Mellon finds ten tracks of childhood memories, raising a family, love and social commentary about society toxicity documenting the progression of the 6’10 story. 

What with pandemics, despotic rulers and a lack of football, we almost let this one slip past us. Thankfully Eagle Eye Eddie wasn’t going to let that happen; and who can blame him, as it comes from one of this site’s favourite artists, Tobin from Flatfoot 56 fame. Obviously, it’s from his other project 6’10. The acoustic, more ‘folksy’ sounding group. I think the membership of 6’10 is quite a fluid thing, with different contributors at different times. What is a constant though is Tobin and his good lady wife Vanessa’s, contribution. In fact, this 10 track album features a number of what could be called duets.

The recent addition to Tobin and Vanessa’s family of a baby brings a much more mellow feel to Tobin’s song-writing. Fatherhood has definitely influenced the style and content of this offering. It still contains the clever sometimes whimsical offerings, along with the expert musicianship, but maybe now has an introspective slant. There are pleasant love-songs like ‘She’s the One’ and ‘Vanessa’s Song. There are also deeper songs like ‘Wither’ that somehow carry extra punch when one considers what the world is going through in the current climate. Flatfoot and Tobin could never be accused of lacking a social conscience. (In the traditions of all good Celtic Punk artists!) ‘Weight’ is a great example of this, especially these days when so many are questioning our roles in the new normal.


I think this is one of the great features of Tobin’s song-writing, that it makes the listener think; whether it be the large faith/religious aspects of some songs, or the intimate closeness of others. These are universal feelings that we all can relate to and perhaps share. Vanessa takes the lead in a couple of tracks, notably ‘Come Home’ and she plays a major role in the whole feel of the album.

(No ‘proper’ videos of any of the songs released yet so you’ll have to go on Gerry’s word but 6’10 did perform a couple of songs from Carried In Retrospect on their recent Live Stream set on Facebook)

The whole feel of this album is different to 6’10’s previous offerings, without calling it downbeat, it just feels slower, less impactful than the Humble Beginnings of a Roving Soul. Maybe it’s the post production or the recording process, but the “feel” is pared back, fewer instruments are involved in the final sound. It harkens back to the America of the dustbowl and the 30’s, when the content of a song seemed to be more important than production effects. You can imagine Tobin and Vanessa touring this album as a complete family unit, with no razzamatazz. Genuinely good music with honest emotions and good intentions. Perhaps this is what we’ve got to look forward to over the next few years.

Buy Carried In Retrospect  Download-Here  CD- Here

Contact 6’10  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

THE IRISH SOLDIERS OF MEXICO IN FILM AND IN SONG

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

by Michael Hogan

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

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

Hanging of the San Patricios as painted by Sam Chamberlain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Director: Lance Hool  Writer: Milton S. Gelman

Stars: Tom BerengerJoaquim de AlmeidaDaniela Romo

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: T.C. COSTELLO- ‘The Bluebird’ (2020)

With the imminent release of his seventh album next week London Irish Folk Punker Anto Morra gives his view on T.C. Costello’s The Bluebird.

The Bluebird will be launched live on Facebook on Thursday where T.C. will be debuting some new songs and a few auld favourites too no doubt.

The last time I graced a stage in London I had the pleasure of performing a song with T.C Costello so if you’re expecting an unbiased review you’re gonna be outta luck as when I took the second wave Punk oath back in 1978, I’ve been cursed into a life of artistic honesty.

T.C’s voice is a very acquired taste but what it lacks in melodic beauty, it more than makes up for in passion, expression and wild abandonment in a similar way to MacGowan and Strummer. As a musician he is quite remarkable and completely fearless, with strange instruments dropping in and out all over the place. Imaging the first Roxy Music album lead by an accordion with Ferry on a mixture of absinth and amphetamine, Eno tripping his bollocks off in a room full of chimes bells and whistles, and Manzanera’s strat replaced by a bunch of strange acoustic stringed instruments from the four corners of the earth, and you may have some idea of what you’re gonna get on his latest offering.

‘The Bluebird’ is quite a leap sonically from his previous ‘100 Years Ago’ album but has not lost any of the energy or joy. I am quite ashamed to admit I struggle with any singing that’s not in English (Even the French bit in The Beatles ‘Michelle’ gets on my nerves) and so the opening song ‘Saeya, Saeya Parang Saeya’ was quite a shock and most certainly a challenge for me, but when I applied the right head space and put aside my narrow little Englander prejudiced approach, I started to love it in a similar way I love these early Thompson Twins song’s ‘Vendredi Saint’ or ‘Animal Laugh’.

The term ‘World Music’ is always one I’ve hated (simply because all music is world music unless it’s been made in space) making it mean nothing along with ‘Fusion’ a fuckin’ bass and drum is a fuckin’ fusion!!! However Folk Punk, Celtic Punk does not seem to fully pigeonhole TC Costello’s music adequately so I’m gonna describe it as ‘World Punk’ as the influences here are from everywhere. The psychedelic 60’s india is pulled into Eastern European Klezmer moments and wrapped around the odd traditional and Irish songs and delivered in that authentic, warm, Greenville South Carolina USA accent. Traditional Irish standard ‘To The Begging I Will Go’ follows and is a song I easily relate too and this is a remarkable arrangement of it that seamlessly slides into Italian protest classic ‘Bella Ciao/Pizzicarella Mia’ the latter part sounding like a beautiful Italian love song delivered on Red Bull and Vodka.

The next two songs are very familiar on the Folk scene since the 60’s revival. ‘The Old Churchyard’ popularised by The Watersons and ‘Lord Randall’ a tale of a fool poisoned by the Fairies.

‘Malena’ is another I have to plead ignorance about but it’s full of emotion, passion and musical dexterity. This takes us into the exceptionally familiar ‘Matty Groves’ sticking lyrically close to the Fairport Convention version but musically much more adventurous. ‘Tramp Tramp Tramp’ is a great song about prejudice and discrimination that I think may have taken the melody from ‘God Save Ireland.’  ‘They’re Red Hot’ is a fantastic break neck folk Rag and before you know it, TC is informing us with great joy “who we can and canae throw off the bus”. I’ve heard more versions of ‘Haul Away Joe’ than you can shake a stick at, but the arrangement and performance is one of the best. It’s how I imagine someone like Nick Cave would approach it, very dark, very tortured passionate and authentic. ‘The Willow Garden’ closes this record appropriately, as it is a traditional murder ballad.

This is not a record for those who want a traditional song played the way they always have been, but for people that want possibilities stretched. It’s one of them you’ll listen to again and again and always hear something else going on, a complete acoustic psychedelic head fuck with all the discordant beauty of the world smashed together and made coherent by the passionately spewed lyrics and vocal delivery.
If you want to be taken from anxiety verging on a panic attack, to manic joy and laughter, then be dropped off at the nearest watering hole to cry in your beer? You better buy this album.

(The Bluebird is available for download from Bandcamp. Only $10 the album is set for release on June 1st and all Proceeds go to International Medical Corps, who provide medical and related services to 30 countries around the world)

Pre-Order The Bluebird From TC

Contact T.C. Costello  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

I’d like to leave you with this little clip from a couple of years ago, when I last played in my beloved home town and it really is the only way to put a band together; it features the great man himself as well as Brendan O’Prey of brilliant Celtic Punk outfit “The Lagan.”

ALBUM LAUNCH LIVE STREAM ANNOUNCEMENT

Par for the course and ages after everyone else has had a go we are doing a series of LiveStreams. We begin with the album launch for The Bluebird. We sadly had to cancel the TC Costello/Tim Holehouse gig but TC still wants to play for his UK based fans so he will be streaming live from South Carolina while hopefully Tim will fit in a show for us soon afterwards.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1150555188477972/

The 20th May was all set for his 5th triumphant return to The Lamb but fear not his UK and European fans T.C. will go live at 8pm (9pm- Europe) direct into our phones and computers via his page https://www.facebook.com/tccostello2/ and will play till his hands go sore… so that’s about a hour. Tune in there and then and we’ll see you in the comments section.

For more details on our exclusive Live Streams check out here

ALBUM REVIEW: CLOVER’S REVENGE- ‘Truants And Absolution’ (2020)

Based In Sarasota, Florida, Irish Speed Folk trio Clover’s Revenge exist at the dangerous intersection of two great Irish musical traditions: Acoustic pub music and Celtic-Punk-Rock. Their second full length release, Truants And Absolution, came out on Paddy’s Day.

The new album from Clover’s Revenge carries on in much the same vein as their debut release Gotta Get O’Raggednized. Very simple instrumentation with an emphasis on traditional Irish music but done with barrel loads of humour and charm. The review for their debut album declared them very much a pub band and I can still find no disagreement with that after listening to Truants and Absolution as well and just like their debut it is restricted to eight songs and while that may feel a bit on the short side at twenty-four minutes it’s not too bad. The songs are a mixture of well known classic trad and folk songs and some not so well known (but I wouldn’t quite say obscure) and the odd original track.

Clover’s Revenge left to right: Beau Wilberding- Cajon Drum * John Barron- Mandolin * Zach Johnson- Guitar *

Based in Florida I had always thought the area was largely untouched by Irish immigration but a staggering one-in-nine Florida residents are of Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry. That works out at over two million folks!!! The Florida Irish claim to fame is that Father Richard Arthur, St. Augustine parish priest, started the first public school in America in 1606. Open to children of both sexes and of all races!  Since that time, the Irish in Florida have proudly played and continue to play key roles in the history and heritage of the state. So it is that wherever you find the Irish you will find several bands of hearty folks willing to entertain them and in Florida they don’t come any bigger, or better, than Clover’s Revenge.

Debuting, like many other bands, on St. Patrick’s Day Clovers Revenge first saw the light of day in 2015 and have performed all over the State as well as regular trips back to the ‘homeland’ while 2020 was set to be a BIG year for the Bhoys with a Northeast/Midwest tour booked in June and then in July a series of gigs in Scotland which was also going to see them perform a one-off London date organised by us. As time has ticked on these dates have looked increasingly unlikely to happen sadly but we can but hope. The band were formed by frontman, lead singer and mandolin player John Barron and he is ably backed up by Dr. Zachary Johnson, on vocals and guitar and Beau Wilberding, who also sings and plays the cajon, a box-shaped percussion instrument played with the hands. Taking influence from modern day Irish-American bands as well as the irreverence of The Pogues they manage while not bringing anything particularly new to Irish music certainly they make music that is fresh and appealing and in the right setting (guess where!!) is most definitely enjoyable.

Labelled ‘Irish Speed Folk’ Truants and Absolution kicks off with a song much loved in Irish Folk and Celtic-Punk and no matter how often I hear it I never tire of ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’, especially when it’s played well like it is here. The song has a natural energy and a great tempo for ‘punking’ it up and Clover’s Revenge give it plenty of oompf. I also love the harmonica at the beginning (a much underused instrument in folk these days) and the song also has a touch of bluegrass/ country at times. Next is the first original and ‘The Maid Behind The Bar’ and John certainly has a voice that fits in perfectly with the sound of the band. It may not be Frank Sinatra but its slightly rough edges are perfect for Irish music. The song is dedicated to the priestesses of fun at the altars of our joy and in particular one Danae Chiaudano from McCabes Irish Pub in Bradenton, Florida who has kept the Bhoys beer glasses over-flowing through the years. It is set to be the albums second single release.

The following is a mashup of two jigs ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me / Dinny Delaney’ and is absolutely stunning. Amazing in its simplicity and yet sounding like several more people were plucking away rather than just John and Zach. That big sound continues next with another original Clover’s Revenge song, this time written by Zachary and instrumental called ‘The Ahdmor Jig’ which soon morphs into a loud and rowdy version of ‘Tell Me Ma’ and if Leaving Of Liverpool is popular in Celtic-Punk then this has to be the #1 song of all time. Played with reckless abandon the song is irresistible played by most but Clover’s Revenge nail it. The first single from the album was another original and one the lads may go to hell for! ‘The Merry Misadventures Of Sister Mary Margaret’ is fast approaching a healthy 10,000  streams on Spotify and has seen plenty of airplay both within and outside the Celtic scene. Composed by John and arranged by the band it’s a great auld romp about a gambling obsessed Nun. My Mum went to convent school and we had plenty of Nuns teaching at my secondary school and so its hard to get offended ‘cos if you ever actually knew any nuns and while they did have their fair share of hard nosed task-masters their were also ones who loved music and football and the horses!

‘Big Strong Man’ is best known to us as one of the signature tunes of the great Wolfe Tones and with no record of who or when it was written it was the Tones version that claimed it as an Irish-American song helped no doubt by the reference to Irish-American boxer Jack Dempsey. Another well chosen track and in keeping with the high tempo sound of the album and no doubt a live favourite with its catchy as feck singalong chorus.

“He was my brother Sylvest (What’s he got?)
A row of forty medals on his chest (Big Chest!)
Well, he killed fifty badmen in the west
He knows no rest, thinkin’ a man’s hell fire
Don’t push, just shove, plenty of room for you and me
He’s got an arm like a leg
And a punch that can sick a battle ship (Big Ship!)
Well it takes all the army and the navy to put the wind up Sylvest”

The album comes to an end with a epic version of the great American traditional folk ballad, ‘The Lakes of Pontchartrain’. At over six minutes long its quite the departure on an album of short, fast and friskey numbers but I needn’t have worried as the band have interpreted the song into a musical tour-de-force. Again the origins of the song are unknown, though it is thought to have originated in the southern US in the 19th century. The story tells of a man who is sheltered by a Louisiana Creole woman who he falls in love with but when he asks her for her hand in marriage she declines as she is already engaged. The course of true love never runs smooth in Folk music! The highlight of the album for me its a great song owing much to Paul Brady’s version and a utterly superb way to close down the album.

So eight songs (or is it more like ten?) of simple Irish Folk music that the lads don’t mind admitting are heavily influenced by ‘more talented Irish musicians from history’ and their is absolutely no shame in that at all. Like their debut Truants And Absolution is best heard live but they’ve done a wonderful job transferring that live sound onto disc and the album reflects their live performance pretty damn well. A sound we were looking forward to hearing in auld London town in July and while we are still hopeful there’s no guarantees of bloody anything in 2020!

Buy Truants And Absolution  FromTheBand  iTunes  Amazon

Contact Clover’s Revenge  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

NEW SINGLE FROM TC COSTELLO ‘THE PANDEMIC’ AND LIVE STREAM ANNOUNCEMENT

Irish-American multi-instrumentalist TC Costello is back with a new album in the Summer but to keep us happy he’s released a 2-track single available as a ‘Pay What You Like’ download.

TC Costello is no stranger to these shores (in fact he’s spent more time in my spare room than me!) and was due over here in a months time for a series of dates across England before returning back to South Carolina. So then coronavirus and blah blah blah and everything is off until further notice. Luckily the Celtic-Punk scene has been well served with a bunch of shows live streamed over Facebook. The pick of the bunch so far have to have been the Dropkick Murphys, 1916 and the Brick Top Blaggers shows (all still available to view on their FB pages) so today is a double hitter for TC with the release of ‘The Pandemic’ and a Live Stream announcement for his UK and Euro fans but more on that later.

Now I’m not a big fan of The Misfits. Not that I don’t like them I just never heard much by them so the opening title track is a cover of them with TC doing his best Punky vocals. Its a fast thrashy number which TC wrote with his brother Daniel and is followed by a much more typical TC song a cover of Dexys ‘Come On Eileen’ with the lyrics suitably adapted for a song called ‘Covid19’. Armed with his trusty accordion it’s a spirited version and with TC having lost both his jobs as a musician and driver you are invited to donate to his ‘Broke Musician’ fund. This song is available as a ‘Pay What You Like’ download which as TC himself says also includes nothing.

So look after each other and wash your hands and we are all in the same boat but if you can afford it send a beer or two TC’s way.

LIVE STREAM ANNOUNCEMENT

Par for the course and ages after everyone else has had a go we are doing a LiveStream. We sadly had to cancel the TC Costello/Tim Holehouse gig next month but TC still wants to play for his UK based fans so he will be streaming from South Carolina while hopefully Tim will fit in a show for us soon afterwards.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1150555188477972/

So the 20th May was all set for his 5th triumphant return to The Lamb but fear not his UK and European fans London Celtic Punks and The Lamb Surbiton will be presenting TC playing live from South Carolina direct into our phones and computers.
He will go live at 8pm on his page https://www.facebook.com/tccostello2/ and will play till his hands go sore… so that’s about a hour. Tune in there and then and we’ll see you in the comments section.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disc One: The Leftist Roots Of The Folk Revival

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

DISC 1

Disc Two: Theatre And Cabaret Performers: 1936-1941

DISC 2

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

Disc Four: Fighting The Fascists: 1942-1944

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

DISC 3 AND 4

Disc Five: World War II And The Folk Revival

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

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

DISC 5 AND 6

Disc Seven: Pete Seeger: 1946-1948

Disc Eight: Charter Records: 1946-1949

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

DISC 7 AND 8

Disc Nine: Campaign Songs: 1944-1949

Disc Ten: An Era Closes: 1949-1953

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

DISC 9 AND 10

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

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

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

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

For more like this…

 

EP REVIEW: BRAVE THE SEA- ‘The Murders Three’ (2020)

The brand new E.P from Newark, OH Celtic Punk band, Brave The Sea sees them take on three traditional folk tunes or as they say “murder them” in the classic Brave The Sea style.

Now the first thing to note is that Brave The Sea don’t actually come from near they sea. That’s not to say they don’t have saltwater running through their veins though. We have to go back to the Summer of 2015 when four friends in the small industrial town of Newark, Ohio decided to get together and form a band with the aim to cover everything from trad Irish tunes to well chosen covers of the more famous Celtic-Punk bands. Originally called A Pirate’s Life and unsurprisingly they played it Pirate style! A year later they had enough material under their belt to release an album and decided to shift course and become Brave The Sea. That album titled A Pirate’s Life in homage to their original roots as a band saw the light of day in 2017. This was followed last year with The Kraken and again highlighted their unique sound and Celtic-Rock riffs.

The state of Ohio, like everywhere in North America, has strong links back to the auld country and their are over 1,500,000 people of Irish descent there. The Irish in Newark are served well by Ohio Irish-American News and the towns multiple Irish bars (the oldest surviving being McGovern’s Tavern opened in 1936 and still thriving) present the most obvious connection. Irish culture and traditions have played an important role in Newark since the Irish first came to the city escaping An Gorta Mór in the mid-nineteenth century settling for its burgeoning industrial connections.

Brave The Sea from left to right: Dennis B.- Drums * Mattie T.- Mandolin/ Guitar/ Vocals *  Will John- Accordion * Vito G.- Vocals * Matt B.- Guitar * R. Boggs- Bass *

The boys were set for a great series of St. Patrick’s shows, including three in the Celtic-Punk capital of Boston, till you-know-what reared it’s ugly head and forced them to cancel everything so the EP’s release has been a bit subdued. Hopefully this wee review will help rectify that, if only in a small way. On their previous releases they have concentrated on their own material but here on The Murders Three they take on (“murder”) three well known traditional songs kicking off with ‘Old Maui’. This has become a bit of a staple among the Celtic-Punk community with it often sung acapello. The song can be traced to records going back to the mid-19th century and tells the story of a whaling ship returning to Maui in Hawaii after a long season of whaling. To be honest I was dreading another acapello version but Brave The Sea steam straight into

“once more we sail with a northerly gale through the ice and wind and rain”

it and its a fast and furious ride through 180 seconds of fast Celtic-Punk/Metal that sticks closely to the tune despite the furious drumming and Vito’s gruff shouty vocals. Tremendous and a guaranteed floor filler I would imagine. Next up is ‘Bully Boys’ and at first hear it sounds like another mid-19th century sea shanty but is in fact a song written by the Newfie Bros. of Great Big Sea, for the 2010 Russell Crow film Robin Hood. Again the melody remains the same but Brave The Sea throw their all into the song and make it a real foot stamper. The EP ends with the famous Irish rebel song ‘Come Out You Black And Tans’. Normally this the song that the band walk out to at live gigs and here they play a great rabble rousing version with the beautiful voice of local singer/songwriter Bonnie Humble kicking things off and some great mandolin plucking from Mattie. This song has seen a renaissance recently especially in Ireland, reaching #1 in the music charts, as it became the focal point for the campaign against the traitorous Irish government’s bold (!) idea to commemorate both the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police two forces famed for their brutality during the Irish War of Independence. The very idea was soon put to the sword and ‘Come Out Ye Black And Tans’ gained a very welcome second lease of life.

The songs were recorded and mastered by: Tim Waters at Radio City Records and as usual for Brave The Sea the amazing artwork was supplied by Omnigraphicon. In common with a lot of bands with intended releases this month their plans have had to be radically altered and with no gigs to promote the single its up to us and you to help the fella’s out. Send them a couple of quid for the EP and lets keep Celtic-Punk on the one road!

Buy The Murders Three CD’s- Here  Download- Amazon

Contact Brave The Sea  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

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

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

Now this is some band and also the perfect time to review them with St. Patrick’s Day just a few days off. Full Bloom is the fourth album release from The Wild Irish Roses an Irish-American family from New Paltz which is a small town in aptly named Ulster County located in the state of New York, about eighty  miles north of New York City. It’s a small place but with plenty of places to get a cold Guinness and even to learn Irish at the local school it’s a place where the Irish-American community have never forgotten their roots.

The base of the band is a group well known to readers here and that is The Templars Of Doom for it is the Templars singer /songwriter /bassist Mike whose five eldest (of eight!) children make up The Wild Irish Roses. His fellow Templar Scott Benson assists on bagpipes, tin-whistles and flute. Mam (Kristina) and Dad cut their teeth in Brooklyn based post-punk band The Astro-Zombies in the 90’s while during the 2000’s they were in The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment who released 8 albums up to 2010 so music is the blood of this prolific family. On the last Roses album, Fill Yer Boots, Man!, it featured an incredible twenty one songs while here they manage only a paltry seventeen but they continue in much the same vein with songs flying past you as faster than you can keep up with them. The album was recorded in the family’s home studio, their renovated barn, and released on Poe Records.
Full Bloom begins with ‘Garry Owen’ a famous Irish drinking song dating back to Limerick in the late 1700’s. It was adopted by the  7th Cavalry and is said to have been the favourite of General George Armstrong Custer who heard the song among the Irish troops and liked the beat so it was used as a marching song. Mike takes on vocals here giving it a Templars feel while the family supply backing vocals. The album sees three sisters take turns at singing lead and on ‘An Incident At Sea’ it is Josie, who also plays pipes in the Templars Of The Doom, who sings her own composition.

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Full Bloom  FromTheBand  (CD or Download)

Contact The Wild Irish Roses  Bandcamp  Facebook  YouTube

Contact The Templars Of Doom  Facebook   Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eddie MacGowan 1969-2018 RIP

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Off The Wagon Acoustic Sessions  FromTheBand

Contact The Kilmaine Saints WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  ReverbNation  YouTube

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

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

TEN OF THE BEST PERFORMANCES FROM THE JOHNNY CASH SHOW

John R. ‘Johnny’ Cash February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003

Songwriter. Six-string strummer. Storyteller. Country boy. Rock star. Folk hero. Preacher. Poet. Drug addict. Rebel. Saint AND sinner. Victim. Survivor. Home wrecker. Husband. Father. Son. and more…

Today is the birthday of the ultimate Rock’n’Roll rebel the one and only Johnny Cash. We have covered Johnny’s life several times so much are we in awe of his life and his musical career so here we are going to concentrate on a short period of his life from June, 1969 to March, 1970.

In 1968 Johnny’s career came back with a bang following the success of his two live prison shows, 1968’s At Folsom Prison and 1969’s At San Quentin A. With his star firmly back in place he was rewarded with his own television show to be called quite simply The Johnny Cash Show. Earmarked as the Summertime replacement for The Hollywood Palace variety show it was short lived but has gone down in history thanks to Johnny and the way he ‘stepped outside the box’ by inviting some of the most interesting and influential artists of the time onto the show.

The first episode aired on June 7, 1969 taped at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN, the home to country music institution the Grand Ole Opry. It had been Johnny’s ambition to play there as a child and he had achieved that dream thirteen years earlier after his chart topping #1 ‘I Walk The Line’. That first episode featured performances by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, Cajun fiddler Dough Kershaw and to the shock of many, Bob Dylan. The Johnny Cash Show saw many memorable performances, from the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton to a segment of the show called ‘Country Gold’ which had guests as diverse as Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn and the Everly Brothers.

The ratings for The Johnny Cash Show were excellent (reaching #17 in the nationwide Nielsen ratings in 1970) and ABC extended the original run from 15 to 58 episodes but the end came early in 1971 after just 22 shows as part of the so-called ‘rural purge’ in which urban executives at all three major broadcast networks eliminated rural and older skewing programs. ABC viewing figures at the time were in massive decline and by cancelling one of their only successes it just goes to show how mismanaged the network was at the time. Never to be repeated it’s a disgrace that the copies of the shows lay unreleased in the vaults. A terrible mistake and we can only hope it is rectified soon. This is why the quality of some of the videos isn’t quite the best. 

To celebrate of Johnny Cash’s 88th birthday we have trawled through You Tube to find you the best performances from The Johnny Cash Show. From his rendition of ‘The Long Black Veil’ with Joni Mitchell to the debut performance of his classic (and possibly THE ultimate protest song) ‘The Man in Black’ every song that left this mans lips meant something to him and to us. A man whose popularity crossed all borders creed, class and colour and was truly loved and cherished by all.

Johnny Cash and Pete Seeger – ‘Cripple Creek’/’Worried Man Blues’

Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison – ‘Pretty Woman’

Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell – ‘The Long Black Veil’

Johnny Cash – ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’

Johnny Cash and Louis Armstrong  – ‘Blue Yodel #9’

Ray Charles – ‘Ring Of Fire’

Creedence Clearwater Revival – ‘Bad Moon Rising’

Stevie Wonder – ‘Heaven Help Us All’

Johnny Cash, John Hartford, Vassar Clements and Norman Blake – ‘Bill Monroe Medley’

Johnny Cash – ‘Man In Black’

Johnny Cash  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  The Johnny Cash Trail  

SINGLE REVIEW: BRYAN McPHERSON- ‘Berkeley Demos’ (2020)

Bryan McPherson, a fiery, folk-playing, native of Boston Massachusetts was called west to Los Angeles in 2010. Bringing with him blue collared incendiary working class folk music fusing Americana, Folk, alternative and Punk.

One of the highlights of doing this here site is that you can push artists that really made a difference in your life. I first came across Bryan MacPherson when a fellow London Celtic Punk gave me a handful of bootleg CD’s to listen to. To be honest I didn’t give them much of a chance and dismissed them early on as a wee bit lame. How wrong I could be I would learn later. Bryan toured England in 2015 and eventually wound up in London playing at the Goth bar The Devonshire Arms in Camden. It was free so a bunch of us went along and wow I can honestly say I was blown away by both the power and the passion of Bryan’s music. The gig came along after some particularly bad news so it was also a timely reminder to pull my socks up, hold my head up high and get on with it. The night could have gone a lot better with ‘technical’ difficulties mucking up most of the set but I came away that night with a warm feeling of hope and a new favourite singer-songwriter!

“Bryan sings like, we’re lucky he doesn’t own a gun.” -Filter Magazine

Here on his new single Bryan digs into his distant past and releases three tracks from when he first arrived in California around 2010. A decade on they still sound as relevant as ever and incredibly up to date. The opening song ‘East Bay Train’ has never been released before and was recorded with the help of the great Willie Samuels in a session where they were just trying some stuff out. Bryan has the amazing ability to inject into every song his heart and his voice just exudes passion. The following two tracks were both recorded in the shed of Jason White from the Californian bands The Big Cats and Pinhead Gunpowder. He is also a touring guitarist in a little known pop combo called Green Day! Well he must have a better shed than me because both songs sound immaculate. The first of the songs is an early version of ‘Born Again American Blues’. Telling the tale of travelling across the States playing music

“I got a sleeping bag I take it with me wherever I go. I always got a bed. I always got a home. I got the sky for my sky light. Don’t worry mama I’m alright. ‘Cause I was born at night. I was born born born to fight with shadows on the wall.”

The single ends with ‘I See A Flag’ and it’s no exaggeration on my part to say this is one of my all-time favourite songs. At almost seven minutes it’s a song that perfectly captures Bryan McPherson it all his glory. A story told of life- both sordid and hopeful- and love and hate and politics. A world where something better is possible.

“There ain’t no easy way to end this song. I ain’t got no answers ‘cept mountains and fog cuz I seen the buildings built and I watched them crumble. I seen a nation of braggarts stumble humbled I seen money come and go, people live and die, people giving up, standing up to try and all I can hope for is a better today cuz life’s right now and its here I’ll stay. Its here I will sing and here I will pray to a billion gods I hope they all get their way. So lets just tear it all down we can start from scratch. Keep our faces forward don’t ever look back. A place where everybody’s clothed and everybody’s fed and nobody’s dying from a lack of medicine. I don’t understand. I see a flag lowered in the wind”

It don’t get much better than this. Bryan is attempting to survive on the meagre portion that a full time DIY musician makes so he occasionally comes up with novel ways to support himself. This time he has made up bootleg numbered tapes of the single with hand painted covers by Bryan. They are selling quickly and you can pick one up here.

(you can stream Berkeley Demos on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Berkeley Demos  Bandcamp

Contact Bryan McPherson  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube  Spotify

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS 2019 READERS POLL WINNER ANNOUNCED!

The votes are in and have been counted and although it’s just a bit of fun really a champion has been declared the 2019 Readers Poll winner!

One of most popular releases of the year and it showed as they romped home as champions quite safely in the end. In true Mickey Rickshaw style they didn’t ask their fans to vote for them and even agreed with us that the #1 Celtic-Punk album of the year was The Walker Roaders. A very talented yet humble bunch of guys with a great future ahead of them. Well done fellas.

You can stream Home In Song on the Bandcamp below before you part with your hard earned. We promise you it is well worth it.

Buy Home In Song- Bandcamp   ArrestRecords (T-Shirt/Vinyl offer)

Contact Mickey Rickshaw  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  Twitter  YouTube  Instagram

A special edition of Home In Song is available from MacSlons Irish Shop featuring seven (!) bonus tracks from their acclaimed 16 Down And Back Again demo from 2013 previously only available as a download.

With nearly 500 votes cast for thirty (plus three that came out in 2018!) different releases from 2019 it’s been a much more interesting Poll than 2018’s for a variety of reasons.The vote was slightly down on the previous year but was spread among a much wider selection of releases and a lot more votes were cast in the ‘Other’ section than ever before too. Early on it looked likely to be a four horse race between early leaders Ferocious Dog, Mickey Rickshaw, Greenland Whalefishers and Pipes And Pints. As time went by The Rumjacks made it a five horse race but Mickey Rickshaw slowly but surely overtook Ferocious Dog at the top and in the end romped home comfortably by over thirty votes.

In fact the actual winner of the Poll was the ‘other’ section with 20% of all votes. They were spread among twenty-one releases but with Ny’ers The Templars Of Doom hitting 19 votes which lifted them into joint 9th place with McDermotts 2 Hours overall and Seth Mountain not far behind on 17 votes giving him 10th position pushing out The Narrowbacks with The Whipjacks, The Rumjacks and Tortilla Flat all just behind.

So onto 2020 we go and several ‘big’ bands are promising new albums so it all seems set to be another exciting year ahead of us in the Celtic-Punk scene so if you are in a band and have something planned be sure to let us know. We can’t review what we don’t hear of and why not consider subscribing (the form is on the left or below depending how you are viewing this page) and you won’t miss any posts.

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS READERS POLL 2018

EP REVIEW: 1916- ‘Meant To Be’ (2020)

Hailing from upstate NY, Celtic rockers 1916 are an explosive concoction of the modern Irish Punk movement with an original mix of psychobilly which gives 1916 a sound that stands apart from other bands of the genre.

Kicking off on New Years Day with a new EP big fan of 1916 Marv was among the first to buy it and has been listening to it ever since so here’s our first review of 2020!

A couple of years ago on these very pages I first came across the band 1916 from Rochester, New York, when praise was rightly heaped on their last album ‘Far Beyond The Pale’. I immediately ordered their entire back-catalogue on CD, which while talking a little while to cross the pond, has since never been far from my playlists. If you are not familiar with their work (unlikely I know!) then I advise you put that right as quickly as you can. Their cover of ‘I’ll Fly Away’ is one of my all-time favourite tracks along with ‘Ordinary Man’ and ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ from the 2016 album ‘Last Call for Heroes’

Roll forward to late 2019, just before Christmas, and welcome news was received via the auspices of Facebook that 1916 would soon be releasing a new single. True to their word it went live on all digital platforms on 1st January. Now that’s how you start off a new year!

So here we have the new three-track single, every note classic 1916 from first to last. The title track of the single is ‘Meant To Be’ – Full of everything we love from the raw overdriven guitar, the solid drumming driving the track along maniacally, and Billy Herring’s gravelly wistful voice snarling through the words and harmonies.

With hardly time to catch your breath the tempo knob is cranked up a notch and ‘Khaleesi’ follows. Yes it is THAT Khaleesi. This is the condensed story of the mother of dragons from Game of Thrones with a monumentally singalong chorus:

“And it is no, no, NO! Khaleesi

Run those dragons nice and easy!

Far away, when you go far away…

And you will go, go, GO! Khaleesi

Run those dragons nice and easy,

Through the towns of Westeros today.”

Bloody hell. This is a CRACKER of a song. The energy, like most everything 1916 produces, just explodes out of the speakers. It must be an absolute belter live.

The final track is a curious cover and mashup of the old standard ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’, a song I am only really familiar with due to my dear old mother singing it in a faux drunk slur to indicate she may be very slightly tipsy. Bless her. However, that being said, I prefer the 1916 version all day- thumping upright bass and frenetic drums with soaring guitar work and mob vocals for backing when needed.

(Check out The 1916 Shop for all their merchandise plus the chance to buy their complete discography for $35)

So there you have it, the best way to start a new year. Shake off the Christmas flab and the dire state of the political situation here in the UK. Press play on ‘Meant To Be’, crank the volume up to max lose yourself in a nine minute slab of rollicking psychobilly-tinged folk punk. Completely and undeniably 1916 on top form, I pray it heralds a new album in 2020 as much as I pray that the boys will somehow, sometime, make it across the pond to our shores so we can bask in their glory.

Buy Meant To Be  Amazon  CDbaby

Contact 1916  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  Bandcamp  YouTube

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2019!

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

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

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

1. THE WALKER ROADERS – Self Titled

2. MICKEY RICKSHAW – Home In Song

3. FEROCIOUS DOG – Fake News And Propaganda

4. GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS – Based On A True Story

5. BARLEYJUICE – The Old Speakeasy

6. THE NARROWBACKS – By Hook Or By Crook

7. McDERMOTTS TWO HOURS – Besieged

8. PIPES AND PINTS – The Second Chapter

9. THE RUMJACKS – Live In Athens

10. SELFISH MURPHY – After Crying

11. TORTILLA FLAT – Live At The Old Capitol

12. FIDDLERS GREEN – Heyday

13. THE RUMJACKS – Live In London Acoustic Sessions

14. THE WHIPJACKS – This Wicked World

15. 13 KRAUSS – Redención

16. ALTERNATIVE ULSTER – Craic Agus Ceol

17. AIRES BASTARDOS – Self Titled

18. THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM – Hovels Of The Holy

19. THE FIGHTING JAMESONS – A Moment In California

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

21. THE SHILLELAGHS – Ripples In The Rye

22. HELLRAISERS AND BEERDRINKERS – Pub Crawl

23. BODH’AKTAN – De Temps Et De Vents

24. HEATHEN APOSTLES – Dust To Dust

25. SONS OF CLOGGER – Return To The Stones’

26. THE CHERRY COKE$ – Old Fox

27. THE FILTHY SPECTACULA – The Howl Of The Underclasses

28. THE POTATO PIRATES – Hymns For The Wayward

29. TC COSTELLO– Horizon Songs

30. THE TENBAGS – ‘Bags o’ Craic’

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

1. THE LUCKY TROLLS – Self Titled

2. DRUNKEN DOLLY – The Party

3. LORETTA PROBLEM – The Waltz Of My Drunken Dream

4. THE CLOVERHEARTS – Sick

5. KRAKIN’ KELLYS – Irish Tribute

6. THE PLACKS – Rebellious Sons

7. GYPSY VANNER – Five Distilled Celtic Punks

8. THE RUMPLED – Grace O’ Malley

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

10. SHANGHAI TREASON – Devil’s Basement

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

AIRES BASTARDOS– ‘Self-Titled’

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

1. THE DREADNOUGHTS – Into The North

2. CROCK OF BONES – Celtic Crossbones

3. 6’10 – Where We Are

4. BRYAN McPHERSON – Kings Corner

5. CALLUM HOUSTON – Gravities

6. PYROLYSIS – Daylight Is Fading

7. SEAMUS EGAN – Early Bright

8. LE VENT DU NORD – Territoires

9. DONNY ZUZULA – Chemicals

10. DERVISH – Great Irish Songbook

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

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

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

THE CELTIC PUNKCAST

FOLK’N’ROCK

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: NOWHEREBOUND- ‘Mourning Glory’ (2019)

Just a couple more releases from last year before we publish our renowned (well to us anyway!) Best Of 2019 list. Here we have one of our favourite bands and though it’s by no means exclusively Celtic or Folk orientated it integrates traditional Punk with Rock’n’Roll while weaving in threads of gritty country and folk, I’m sure it will appeal to many of you.

Nowherebound’s sixth studio album, Mourning Glory, is an ambitious return to the DIY ethos the band was founded upon. A double album, this record showcases the prolific songwriting and expansive diverse spectrum of ‘Punk-Rock’ Nowherebound encompasses.

The album consists of all-new music but it plays like a greatest hits album already.

Nowherebound are a six-piece punk outfit based in Austin, Texas who have been rocking the scene since 2010 with their very unique sound. Having toured extensively they have managed to take time to get back to the studio and have recently released their latest studio album Mourning Glory. These guys don’t do things by half. The album has a total of nineteen tracks which spans almost eighty minutes. They have never been tied to any particular style of punk and have influences ranging from The Pogues, Joe Strummer, Rancid, Black Flag, The Rolling Stones and The Stooges.

That’s quite a span of influences and this is evident in their music. Their music varies widely, sometimes slower melodic such as ‘South Paw’ to the more hardcore explosive tune ‘Leap Of Faith’. There’s even a hint of Ska punk in the track Feather Fist. The album is a roller coaster ride which doesn’t disappoint from start to finish. Its difficult to pick the best tunes on the album but ‘Frankfurt AM’, ‘No Horse’ and the title track ‘Mourning Glory’ definitely stand out.

(the official video for ‘Mourning Glory’ directed by Jm McKay of JMK Pictures)

“And while roads less traveled were often gravel,
We made our case, gave mob the gavel, cause this was life, and we would not lose it…not yet anyway.
We’d choose to watch the glory fade,
as youth lost its war with time and age, but soldiers never were so brave
as when they made their great escape out of the yard…”

This is a very straight forward unapologetic punk rock album with something in there to please everyone. Get yourself a copy of Mourning Glory and try to catch them live if you get a chance!!

(you can stream Mourning Glory on the Bandcamp player below before you buy)

Contact Nowherebound  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

Buy Mourning Glory  Vinyl/T-Shirts DrunkenShipRecords  Download Bandcamp

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

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

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

Contact Krakin’ Kellys WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram  Twitter

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

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

Contact Bilge Rats  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

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

Christmas

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

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

SCOTLAND

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

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

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

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

IRELAND

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

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

WALES

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

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

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

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

ISLE OF MAN

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

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

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

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

CORNWALL

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

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

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

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

BRITTANY

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

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

GALICIA

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

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

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

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

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

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

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Now go have a drink…

2019 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S PART ONE: NORTH AMERICA- ROSIER, THE LUCKY EEJITS, WOMEN SING WAITS, HEATHEN APOSTLES

Each year the number of Celtic-Punk and related releases we receive here at 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS continues to amaze us. Now this is great news but it does mean that we cannot keep up with everything we receive. We simply don’t have time to give a review to everything. Each December we have a week to concentrate on catching up with anything we missed the first time round. We like to write detailed reviews so apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in this way. Each and every band featured here are worthy of your time so please be sure to check them out. To start with here in Part One we are concentrating on four releases from North America with the USA and Canada featuring. In a few days time we will head to Europe and then we will focus on the Rest Of The World so please be sure to check back soon.

ROSIER- ‘Self-Titled’ EP

Anyone expecting a pulsating Quebecios folk fusion, in the vein of La Bouttaine Souriante/ Genticorum and such like, will be in for quite a surprise here. Released to accompany a fall tour from  Montreal 5 piece Rosier this 4 track EP blends a very lush, dreamlike, multi -layered  indie folk organically together with strong Quebecois folk traditions- which while always having a sense of exploration and development, never loses its distinct lightness of touch.
Rosier features the band’s steadfast original lineup: front-woman Béatrix Méthé (lead vocals and fiddle), Colin Savoie-Levac (lap steel, banjo and foot percussion), Sarah Marchand (lead vocals and keys), Éléonore Pitre (acoustic and electric guitar) and Marie Savoie-Levac (bass) while everyone helps out on background vocals. All the songs adapted from traditional and arranged by Rosier, except You Behind, which was written by Béatrix. A very relaxing listen, maybe best as an accompaniment to a wee dram at the end of the night.
Contact Rosier- WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

THE LUCKY EEJITS- ‘Out Of Time’

Now I was first attracted to The Lucky Eejits thanks to their name and it’s ‘Gaelic’ meaning. Eejit of course being the way an working class Irish person would pronounce ‘idiot’. Playing straight forward punk rock this trio blast high speed and high energy upbeat punk music and their is simply no let up on Out Of Time with its catchy riffs in your face punk rock edge. Based in Oakland California the band began life as a Celtic-Punk outfit featuring six eccentric Irish-Americans but after a change in the bands line up The Lucky Eejits were reborn as a more than solid Punk-Rock band. The album is twelve songs long and lasts just over a half hour. Not bad for a album chockablock with songs played at breakneck speed. From the fast Pop-Punk of opener ‘Get Out’ to the final song, a nod to their Celtic-Punk days perhaps, ‘Warm Guinness’, about the perils of tour life, it’s an album that never lets up. Album highlights include ‘Champion’ and ‘So Far So Good’ which they released as singles with the latter as a pretty damn good official video.

Throughout Out Of Time it is packed with catchy melodies and is a fantastic follow up to 2016’s Do It Again. It’s definitely a fan friendly album with chances galore to join in the singing. This may make them more of a live band to follow but this album is certainly worth hearing too. The message here is one of hope and positivity and lets pray the guys get their hands on a cold Guinness soon!

Contact The Lucky Eejits-  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Come On Up To The House: Women Sing Waits’

The main problem with albums like this is that everyone on it treats their song as if it’s either the opening or finale of the whole thing and produces something incredibly over the top. A female only tribute to the legendary Tom Waits sounds great on paper but it is rather overblown and judging by Corinne Bailey Rae’s version of ‘Jersey Girl’ they’d have been well to invite Mariah Carey to perform here! Twelve artists of Tom Waits greatest ballads covered by Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin, Rosanne Cash, Phoebe Bridgers, Joseph, Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer, Corinne Baily Rae, Courtney Marie Andrews, Kat Edmonson, The Wild Reeds, Iris Dement and Angie McMahon and yet it’s the oldest artist here Rosanne Cash and ‘Time’ that steals the show for me though the jazz influenced Kat Edmonson’s ‘You Can Never Hold Back Spring’ and the Country and Western singer Iris DeMent’s ‘House Where Nobody Lives’ wring out every piece of emotion from Tom’s majestic words and the album’s final song ends with the overblown (and rightly so this time!) The Wild Reeds version of ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues’.

Tom Waits has just recently celebrated his 70th birthday though sadly this album adds very little to his canon of work. An opportunity to really re-interpret his work has got lost (largely) under some rather inflated ego’s. For Waits fanatics its worth buying for the Rosanne Cash song alone and also producer Warren Zanes who wrings as much out of the songs as possible and provides some excellent liner notes on his relationship with Tom Waits music.

“He kept writing those songs that burrowed into the broken places inside of us, Waits could regularly deliver that revelation that comes with only the best songs: you may be lonely, but you’re not alone. As the years rolled by, every Waits recording arrived like it had come just in time.”

HEATHEN APOSTLES- ‘Born By Lightning’ EP

So far here we have reviewed a Folk album, a Punk album and a sort of Bluesy compilation album so none of our usual uptake and that doesn’t change with this review of the latest EP from Heathen Apostles. They play a sort of Gothic Americana Blues crossed with alternative alternative country. Born By Lightning comes hot on the heels of their recently released album Dust To Dust, their fifth to date, and five new songs of what one reviewer described as “the bluegrass of Bill Monroe put into the woodshed with the Gothic tendencies of Siouxsie And The Banshees”. Label mates of one of my all time favourite bands Phantom Of The Black Hills they tread much the same path but definitely in a more accessible way to yer average Joe. Fiddle and banjo aplenty here while Mather Louth’s beautiful yet powerful voice shines above all else. Starting off with the slow Country styled Gothic ballad ‘Death Bell Blues’ a tribute to the legendary Howlin’ Wolf before leading into the dark ‘Chosen One’ which shows the Apostles at that catchiest best. The title track ‘Born By Lightning’ sees them back in darker country again with an intense ballad that builds on Mather’s voice with the rest of the band restrained before here. A million miles away from the Grand Ole Opry! The last two songs have a much harder edge, ‘Devil Comes For All Of Us’ is elf explanatory while ‘Scarecrow Blues’ take us far away from traditional Country and into the realm of the ‘murder ballad’ with its tale of a social misfit  being burned out of his house only for the vigilantes to burn down the entire town while it slinks and slithers to the beat of the blues! A Country-Bluesy-Punky affair the band have long wanted to do a Blues style release and with Born By Lightning they have managed to stay close to their roots and something that would also appeal to more traditional music fans too. Signed to Ratchet Blade Records which specialises in ‘Dark Roots Music’ where you can find out all you need to about this glorious genre.

Contact Heathen Apostles  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

So ends the first part of our 2019 Round-Up’s and again apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still missed some fantastic music I am sure 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. And finally if you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE NARROWBACKS- ‘By Hook Or By Crook’ (2019)

New York Irish Music

The Narrowbacks are back with their third album of Irish-American Celtic-Rock and conceivably their best yet! If Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan and Bruce Springsteen survived a drinking session through the 5 boroughs, the hangover would be called The Narrowbacks. Fire it up!

nar·row·back /ˈnæroʊˌbæk/ [nar-oh-bak]
–noun Slang.
1. Disparaging. an Irish-American.
2. a person of slight build who is unfit for hard labor.

Across the major cities of the Irish diaspora you will find one (or two if your lucky!) band that comes to totally represent the Irish of that city. Like the Dropkicks in Boston, the Mollys in LA, The Wakes in Glasgow and The Bible Code Sundays and Neck in London these bands are a rallying point to the Irish community and help to keep alive the past, present and future of that community. The painful history of tragedy and hardship became a sense of pride and celebration that today across the world the Irish community is flourishing. Even though their are several bands that could lay claim to to the title of NYC’s most prominent Irish band and with competition from greats such as Shilelagh Law or Black 47 The Narrowbacks with this their third studio album By Hook Or By Crook have nailed the honour with this flying colours.

In a city where everyone is fighting for space the the working class Woodlawn area of the Bronx remains to this day a predominantly Irish area, the neighborhood is still referred to as ‘Little Ireland’. Young Irish still flock to the area on their arrival to the States due to the area hosting both the Emerald Isle Immigration Center and the Aisling Irish Community Centre as well untold amount of pubs and construction companies where many of these newly arrived Irish can find work. It was in Woodlawn that the Irish-Americans that form The Narrowbacks grew up. Formed in 2010 as the brain child of a future banker and a drop out bartender as a drunken joke that soon enough developed, under popular demand for them, into the next big thing on the New York Irish music scene. Taking their name from the slang name historically used to describe a Irish-American who was considered too soft to do hard physical labour.

The Narrowbacks left to right: Reilley Vegh – Fiddle * Fionn McElligott – Electric Guitar * Barry Walsh – Acoustic Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin * Seamus Keane – Lead Vocals * Anthony Chen – Bass * Chris Moran – Drums * Pat Keane – Button Accordion

The Narrowbacks pursuit to take over the NYC Irish music scene arguably began when Black 47 called it a day back in 2014. The undisputed ‘Kings Of NY’ were a Celtic-Rock band, formed in 1989 by Larry Kirwan and Chris Byrne taking their name from the the summer of 1847, the worst year of the ‘Great Famine’ in Ireland. With them out of the way the scene was set for some new blood and following their debut album, Fire It Up in 2013, they really came into their own with the EP After Hours and their second album release Arrogance And Ignorance in 2016 the year that also saw them opening for the likes of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. The album peaked at #2 in the London Celtic Punks Best Of 2016 album chart so much did the assorted wastrels here rate it!

So The Narrowbacks are back and they have a lot to live up to. Arrogance And Ignorance was one of my favourite albums and is still regularly given an airing over at London Celtic Punks towers. The Christmas themed ‘Prodigal Son’ is particularly glorious. An auld fashioned Christmas song about an Irish mammy waiting for her off-the-rails son to come home. Capable of bringing a tear to the eye its nay on impossible to make a truly unsentimental Christmas tune but The Pogues and The Narrowbacks have done it. Based in singer Seamus Keane’s pub in Woodlawn, Keane’s Bar And Restaurant, where music is supplied seven days a week by up-and-coming Irish and Irish-American musicians the band are not just leading the cities music scene but are also helping to make it flourish with their support of other artists.

Tribal drumming and distortion kicks off By Hook Or By Crook with the title track and soon, after only forty seconds, comes to an abrupt end and ‘Streets Of Woodlawn’ takes over and was the first single released in advance of the album. Instantly giving a sense of London’s own Bible Code Sundays due in no small part to the prominence of fiddle and accordion it’s a rip-roaring song the kind of track that gets you screaming at the top of your voice along with the band or a singalong down at the pub smacking your glass on the bar shouting along with the Bhoys “In the streets of Woodlawn”.

Over in a flash of under three minutes The Narrowbacks are not hanging about and the addition of the excellent fiddler Reilley Vegh has given the band that little bit extra buzz. Next up is ‘Tripping Up The Stairs’ and Reilley again shines and his contribution really rounds off the bands sound nicely. The song ticks along nicely with Seamus having perhaps reigned in the ‘gravelyness’ of his vocals. Maybe he’s given up smoking!?! The song ends with a fab trad fiddle solo showing their are no boundaries here and ‘On The Radio’ they have one ot the albums stand out tracks. As catchy as hell with a great chorus and infectiously fun the song gives the whole band to shine individually while not disturbing the flow of the song.

So far its been fun fun fun but as anyone will tell you its not all fun being Irish and ‘All I Know Is Woe’ is the song to bring down the mood, but only a wee bit as the music is still catchy as hell and completely uplifting. While the Bible Codes never really passed into Celtic-Punk remaining firmly embedded in the London Irish pub and trad scene it’s great to hear The Narrowbacks thrash out a bit and ‘Delirium’ is the track to do it in. Still with both feet firmly in Irish music the song has a bit more bite to it and even sounds louder than the other songs here!! The song even touches on that most Celtic-Punk of themes that of the pub and alcohol. On an album as strong as By Hook Or By Crook it seems a wee bit unfair to point out the better tracks but ‘Jackson Notes’ is certainly one of them. Again as catchy as a New York Yankees baseball mitt it’s a rollicking good ride with great vocals from Seamus alongside the whole band stepping up to the plate a great chorus to top it all off. We are nearing the end and nay sign of any ballad yet and ‘Sackcloth And Ash’ is not one either. A more folky approach here despite Fionn’s thrashy guitar, Chris’ drums and Anthony’s rumbling bass best attempts to keep it rocking. The longest song here at nearly five minutes it never outlives its welcome and is, here’s that word again… catchy! The folk instruments are supplied by Patrick on accordion and Barry on both banjo and mandolin as well as Fionn on fiddle. ‘Last Call’ carries on in similar vein with a folky base. Talking of life on the working class streets of NY and not everyone is a king in the US of A. Another great song giving the album a strong ending as ‘Bitter End’ brings down the curtain on By Hook Or By Crook. As Seamus rallies his friends together in a song about how friendship and family determines who we are and tells us to “hold our heads high”. A fantastic ending to an outstanding album.

Ten songs that, all penned by the band themselves, comes in at just over thirty minutes. With seven members the production could get a bit messy but it is as clear as crystal and all the various instruments from folk to rock are clearly balanced along with Seamus vocals. Whoever mixed and produced the album deserves a tip of the hat for such a fantastic job. While The Narrowbacks are probably not a ‘celtic-Punk’ in the traditional sense they are common among Irish-American bands in that they keep one foot in the trad folk scene and come across as a Folk band playing Punk/Rock songs. In these days with the Irish community in the States seemingly at last happy in it’s role in American life bands like those that inhabit the Celtic-Punk and Rock scenes play an important part in keeping the community grounded and to not to forget its past and what others went through to give them the confidence they have today. Seamus Keane sums up the Irish-American community in in his own inimitable way

“Irish America in 2019 is its own thing altogether. One part Donald Trump, two parts Civil Service, construction and pubs, mix in equal parts GAA and AOH, finish with three parts Wolfe Tones. A contradictory recipe for a terrible conversation at Thanksgiving Dinner.”

By Hook Or By Crook gives Arrogance And Ignorance more than a good run for its money and the songs fly past in an whirl and show a growing confidence The Narrowbacks have in themselves. How they are not more widely known is a mystery to me but the Irish around the world love Irish-America (we are all secretly obsessed with it!!) so hopefully this album will receive them the exposure they so greatly deserve. Destined to be at the higher end of this years Best Of Album chart By Hook Or By Crook takes you instantly to the smoke filled bars of Katonah Avenue. Places built on the blood, sweat and tears of generations of Irish and Irish-Americans who still keep a flame alive in their hearts for a place that many will never see.

Buy By Hook Or By Crook  CDbaby  Apple  Amazon

Contact The Narrowbacks  WebSite  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube  Bandcamp

(The Narrowbacks live set opening for the Dropkick Murphys during their St. Patrick’s residency at The House of Blues in Boston in 2016)

ALBUM REVIEW: DONNY ZUZULA- ‘Chemicals’ (2019)

Donny Zuzula has worn a lot of hats and walked a lot of miles.

Having spent a decade as the guitarist, singer, songwriter for the Michigan based Celtic-Punk trio The Tosspints, Donny Zuzula’s debut album takes us through every aspect of his life. Dark, sad, heartbroken tunes, poetically sung from the soul and layered with guitars and harmonies.

The Tosspints are a strange band within the Celtic-Punk scene. Not only are they the only trio in the scene, being made up by the Bros. Zuzula, Donny and Zak accompanied on drums by John Johnson, but they are also not really much of a Celtic-Punk band in that they have no Celtic instrumentation. It is true though that they somehow manage to convey the feel of a Celtic band better than most with just bass, electric guitar and drums. Donny who is the main writer for The Tosspints is a singer-songwriter in the old school meaning of the term. Not some pampered puppet singing achingly of experiences they have never or will ever know. Celtic-Punk is dominated by several themes that cross from continent to continent especially among the children of the diaspora- Loss and emigration, heavy drinking, heavy working and death, solidarity, religion, class pride, an gorta mór (the great hunger) all bleed into the modern day working class Irish-American experience. Donny had a knack back then (a must listen to album is The Tosspints excellent album The Privateer from 2015) of capturing this way of life and here on his debut solo album he continues in much the same way. Donny chose to record a solo album rather than another Tosspints album because

“this solo venture is more of an exercise in writing alone to explore more versatile styles that wouldn’t normally be courted along with the band. A little more folk influence and a little more explorative of personal topics than when writing is done with the band, this album is just different enough to be something new, but just familiar enough that fans of previous work should feel right at home.”

Donny served time in the military overseas and these experiences alongside growing and living in Saginaw, until recently the most dangerous places in America! Once a thriving and successful town by the late 20th century, industry and its once-strong manufacturing presence had collapsed leading to increasing unemployment and crime. This hard nosed, working class background runs through The Tosspints music. It’s also an area of America with long historical links to Irish emigration with Irish emigrants responsible for building the areas many canals and even the areas connection with Irish nationalism has always been closely linked with the Labour movement in which Irish-Americans were among the earliest organizers and leaders. As the band say about themselves

“living through the school of hard knocks, brought to bear from war, loss, degradation, and hard drinking. A band created entirely by a family who has had to make it through life the hard way and use their experience to create songs about the more distressed side of being human”

Donny Zuzula first album is Chemicals, the much anticipated follow up to The Privateer and as ever Donny draws from not from cliches but from the very life of a man who has seen and experienced things we can only dream about. From being a war veteran to fatherhood, Donny takes us on a ride that incorporates Folk-Rock and Punk as well as honest to goodness blue collar working man’s music. Introduced to music through his fathers love of Neil Young, Donny takes a harder edged route and while stopping short of Punk it has the same appeal as The Tosspints and will I am sure be welcomed by fans of that band.

The album begins with ‘Alive’ and the Neil Young comparison is still OK but also crossed with the great Bob Mould. Donny’s vocals still rock and his range is extraordinary and conveys the emotion of the songs perfectly. This is no guy going through the motions. The song is catchy as hell as can be expected and sets the scene for an album that continues to impress me on each play. ‘Another Shot’ veers into that 80’s Post-Punk sound that saw Punk’s not afraid of complicated guitar riffs and more elaborate set ups.

“I crossed a line today
I marched to battle and on my way
It’s just a memory
But feels like it’s all happening again”

The words here seem so personal that it kinda feels funny to attempt to make sense of them from the outside. They speak in such a way that I would recommend looking up the lyrics on Donny’s Bandcamp page. ‘Never Go Back’ slows things down akin to a rock ballad but no cheese while ‘Empty And Gone’ comes up with a delicate Country-rocker. ‘Nothing Left To Say’ takes us back to Mould territory and an excellent rocking tune that gives Donny amble opportunity to show off his vocal range.

Catchy as hell and a guaranteed favourite that leads nicely into ‘Any Other Day’ and if the words here don’t strike you in the gut then there is nay hope for you.

“It’s getting awful late
And my urge to medicate
Has surpassed my will to use the skills
That keep me from the bottom of the bottle”

The final three songs of Chemicals show Donny in reflective form as he turns again to the influence of Country music though wrapped up well in punk attitude. Slide guitar on ‘Turn Away’ makes it the more obvious tune but on ‘Sleep Is For The Weak’ the influence is just as great but more accessible.

“I tell that bottle
all my hopes and my dreams
I tell that bottle
all that’s happened to me
I tell that bottle
the way that I really feel
that bottle understands me
in a way you never will”

Leading the way to the albums closing tune and the albums standout song, ‘Chemicals’.

I would compare Donny in a lot of ways to Bryan MacPherson who has featured on London Celtic Punks pages perhaps more than any artist. Like Donny, Bryan’s life has seen ups and downs and his songwriting draws you right into his soul. We are not voyeurs in their life and they neither hold up their experiences as a vehicle for their music it is much more the other way round and the music becomes the way to express themselves. Where others may play up to events in their lives Donny, and Bryan too, has that ability to draw you into his life through their music. It is something incredible and a talent that very few have and many more think they have but don’t! Chemicals is many things. It is gritty and heartfelt as well as passionate and inspiring and the words are powerful. Chemicals deserves to be heard…

(You can stream Chemicals on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Chemicals  Vinyl/CD  Download

Contact Donny Zuzula  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp

ALBUM REVIEW: ANGRY McFINN AND THE OLD YANK- ‘Songs of Whiskey, Women & War’ (2019)

Two Finns, A Yank and three Japanese making Irish flavoured tunes in the craziest city in the world.

A group of drunken musician from all over the world who met up in Tokyo to play aggressive Celtic-Folk-Rock telling tales of drinking, relationships and war.

Angry McFinn And The Old Yank were formed in the Japanese capital of Tokyo in May 2014 by Irish-American Dean Lewis. Dean had grown up listening to a sweet mixture of Appalachian country music and The Beatles. From the age of five he was writing poems and songs so fast forward to the adult Dean and he could be found in the famous bars and clubs of the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Then after a visit to Tokyo and falling in love with the city he turned his back on his old life and packed his bags and set off for a new life. Settling into his new life playing the occasional solo gig he had continued to write songs and so it meant to sense to start thinking of playing them so one night in 2014 near the famous Nihonbashi Bridge, Dean was chatting to an auld friend, a Finn named Petja Marttinen. Now despite knowing Petja for years he had never mentioned before that he was a classically trained musician who had even spent time in Ireland playing jigs and reels in local Irish bands. So as they chatted over a few pints of Guinness Dean asked Petja if he knew anyone interested in playing traditional Irish and American folk music with an attitude? Petja quietly said, “I know someone” and so Angry McFinn The The Old Yank was born that very night. Over the next few years the band grew quickly and with the the band now consisting of a stable and regular line up of Dean Lewis on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Petja Martinnen on mandolin and fiddle, Yosuke Iwanaga on fiddle, fellow Finn, Petteri Pussinen on electric guitar, Nobu Kimura on bass guitar and Giant Sakimura on drums and bodhran. Regular gigs around the city saw their reputation flourish and so it was time for them to get some recording done and the result has been their debut album Songs of Whiskey, Women And War.

(Opening their set at their spiritual home the What the Dickens pub in Tokyo. May 2018)

The album begins with ‘Seamus’ and from the very off you know what’s coming over the next three quarters of an hour. Gaelic fiddle over fast paced Irish tinged folk music that builds and builds and gives plenty of scope for some audience participation too. I bet this goes down well at live gigs. The song tells of Seamus T. O’Malley a brave son of Ireland from Boston who took his fight to the Germans in WW2 and kicked everyone’s arse but still ended up answering to a French girl in France. Another sad one next with ‘Bitter’ but wrapped again in a joyous romp of a song and told with a bit of black humour of a relationship breakdown. The fiddle is more reserved here leaving the mandolin to take the lead alongside Dean’s great vocals. His love of Appalachian country shines through and here on ‘Bitter’ where the music is clearly influenced by Country music it works absolutely perfectly which is not to say he can’t belt out a Celtic-Punker with the best of them!

The pace returns with ‘Making Whiskey’ and the tale of making the “water of life” again its influenced by Country but the Gaelic is never too far away. It’s catchy stuff and reminds me of fellow Japanese bands The Cherry Coke$ and Royal Shamrock and even though the style of music is different they all play with a wild abandon that is a joy to listen to. That said on ‘Burn’ they slow it right down and as we know no Celtic-Punk album is complete without a couple of sad ballads! Adding in some heavy guitar licks and some fantastic fiddle alongside Deans mournful voice keeps the toes tapping (or thigh slapping in my case) while the songs builds towards the end and ends loud and proud. One of the highlights of the album without a doubt. ‘Never Was Your Friend’ starts off slow but soon kicks into another Celtic knees-up with more bitter tale of life and the shite you have to put up with just to get by. The album’s only cover is up next and is a good choice in the wonderful anti-war song ‘Mrs. McGrath’ with its fantastic chorus. Recently made famous by The Boss himself (here on You Tube) on his 2006 roots album We Shall Overcome. Brought to the USA during an Gorta Mór (the great hunger) in the mid-19th century the song is soon adapted as a marching song by Irish soldiers fighting in the American Civil War.

The version here sails closely to both the Bruce Springsteen version and the more traditional folk standard. An excellent song that portrays the horror of war and its effects with Dean’s voice on the album never better than here. ‘1017’ is next and we are back into the Celtic/Country fusion that has worked so well for Angry McFinn And The Old Yank so far. The mystery of the opposite sex is explored while Dean plays in a bar wondering where all the years have gone. Again its a sad song wrapped up in a real stomper of a tune. One of the outstanding things about this album has been the songwriting and it’s clear that Dean’s experiences across continents has paid dividends. On ‘Sally’ while the song has more than a tinge of Flogging Molly about it to my ear it’s the lyrics that really got me so no excuses for re-printing them all here so you can sing along to the video.

(The video for ‘Sally’ is a early versions of the track on the album. The song here represents the band before fiddle and electric guitar added to the mix)

“Sally, my lovely one, where have you gone? Fair thee well my chosen son, now here’s your gun. We marched all through the winter time. Summer has now come. But Sally, my lovely one is gone. Sally, my chosen one, you’ll not reckon’ me. I’d like to think when we were young that you’d have married me. But a hussar’s blade took away my smile and a dragoon my left eye. Sally, my lovely one, goodbye. Take me away, to the rolling hills of old. Take me away, to where the winter is never cold. Take me away, to the sunlight in her hair. Take me away, take me away from here. Sally, my broken one, I ask one thing of thee. If you’ll do me this one kindness, my soul will be set free. Tell my kin, tell all of them, to drink to me in Hell. Sally, my lovely one farewell. Take me away, to the cherry blossom spring. Take me away, to where my love, she wears my ring. Take me away, to where the guns they ring no more.. Take me away, to where she waits behind my bedroom door. The things I used to do with you, the summer rains, the morning dew. The long walks in the fields of green the way you used to dance and sing. They took away your soft caress, replaced it with a gun and death. They took away my light of day, now only pain and sin remain. So not the part I longed to play, a false flag led me far astray. They took my heart, took my name, and took away every damn thing that day. They took you away.”

We are sailing up to shore and the penultimate song ‘Whiskey & Blood’ is the album’s second ‘ballad’. A it of epic as at just over six minutes it’s the longest song on Whiskey, Women And War but the vast majority of songs here all hover around the four and half minute mark giving them plenty of scope to develop. A slow song that belies it’s length and seems over far too quickly leaving us with just ‘Pirate’s Life For Me’ to wrap the album up. Another one that’s a bit of a epic at five and a half minutes and winds proceedings up nicely with a lively and jolly sea bound number.

Angry McFinn And The Old Yank left to right: Yo Iwanaga – Fiddle * Petja Marttinen – Mandolin *  Dean Lewis – Vocals/Acoustic Guitar * G’ian Sakimura – Drums * Nobu Kimura – Bass * Hubert Benke – Electric Guitar * (electric guitar on album was – Petteri Pussinen)

Loud and brash but often quiet and reflective Angry McFinn And The Old Yank have produced an outstanding debut album and though it makes for an emotional ride it’s also played for fun with I am sure audiences cheerfully singing along and relating to the songs. Watch out for these Bhoys they are going places!

Buy Songs of Whiskey, Women And War  CDbaby

Contact Angry McFinn And The Old Yank  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

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

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Roots Music with No Reservations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download Pub Songs On Palafox  Bandcamp

Contact Jay  WebSite  Blog  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EP REVIEW: THE FIGHTING 69th- ‘Barroom Heroes. Tribute To The Dropkick Murphys’ (2019)

Buffalo, New York’s ‘One Man Band’ The Fighting 69th release their tribute to Celtic-Punk’s #1 band. Six songs given an affectionate twist and available as a free download.

We have to go back to 2007 to the origins of The Fighting 69th. Three seventeen year old mates in a friends basement were sick to death of playing pop punk covers and decided to go back to their collective Irish roots and try something radically different. Over the course of the next several years band members would come and go at regular interval, numerous shows were played and even one or two festivals.
(The first album from The Fighting 69th from October 2008 Dublin Calling. Re-released for its 10th anniversary. Eat, Drink, and listen to The Fighting 69th)
The Fighting 69th would eventually throw in the towel and call it a day in 2011. The boys taking a break from the music scene until original band member, and principle songwriter, Raymond Ball decided he missed all the fuss and decided to pick up the flag and carry on from where it fell. Since the bands resurrection Raymond has single handedly carried the band on numerous releases over the last few years including six (!) this year alone. All are available from The Fighting 69th Bandcamp page as Free Download/Pay What You Like donation. This means you can download them all for nothing but if you can afford it then do the decent thing and leave enough for a couple of pints. Among this years releases are tributed to The Pogues and to recently deceased Irish-American musician Joe Dady as well as this one to the Murphys. Six songs that avoid the Murphys greatest hits and see Raymond playing every instrument as he bashes and brawls his way through better known songs such as the title song and ‘Finnegans Wake’ as well as lesser known ones as ‘The Burden’ from 2005’s The Warrior’s Code and ‘Cruel’ from 2011’s Going Out In Style. The other songs are sort of inbetween with ‘Rose Tattoo’ and the Christmas themed ‘The Season’s Upon Us’. It’s all done in an affectionate way and it shines through that Raymond is an enormous fan. The music is definitely from the punky side of things and that will I am sure please DKM’s fans with several instruments on display showcasing Raymonds talent. Bagpipes, tin whistle, drums, bass guitar, electric guitar… and more all played by the man himself including vocals too!

THE FIGHTING 69th

The name The 69th Infantry Regiment, or the ‘Fighting 69th’  embodies the melding of Irish-American Culture, the precious preservation of heritage, the limitless abilities of immigrants and the preservation of a long and distinguished connection between Ireland and the United States. The name The Fighting 69th was bestowed on the Regiment by Confederate General Robert E Lee and embodies epic and legendary actions of the most famed military Regiment to grace the pages of our history books. Honouring the ideals of loyalty, honour and freedom.

The history and world famous achievements of The Fighting 69th illuminates the pages of Irish American history.

 

Initially an Irish Heritage Unit, comprised of Irish immigrants, who had escaped from an Ireland of vicious hunger, disease, injustices and failed rebellions. People who had lived under the Penal Laws which denied them their rights to freedom in their homeland. They set about a new life in The United States, a land of promise and freedom. These brave men set about supporting the ideals of freedom, a sense of passion for a cause defending the rights of others, an experience they were familiar with defending those who could not defend themselves. The Fighting 69th embodies a greatness of spirit and faith in each other that has forever insured their rightful place as one of the most historic military Regiments in US, and modern world, history. Their proud history is interwoven with that of Ireland, The Fighting 69th embodies its Irish Heritage but also the heritage of all immigrants. They have preserved some of the most wonderful Irish traditions, preserving the eternal bond that is forever enduring and unbreakable between Ireland and The United States. The Fighting 69th are at the tip of the spear of preserving Irish Heritage in the United States, the majority of their traditions and emblems holding a deep rooted connection to Ireland.

(you can listen to Barroom Heroes below on the Bandcamp player but don’t forget it’s a free download so get downloading!) 

Buy the EP FromTheBand  Contact The Fighting 69th  Bandcamp  YouTube

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 Mellon discovers life isn’t just circle pits and spitting on sweaty crowds. Here’s a band that is a little more laid back and thought provoking.  

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

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

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

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

Buy Where We Are  PhysicalCD  Download

Contact 6’10  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  Instagram

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 WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube Twitter Instagram

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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Contact The Fighting Jamesons

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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- Bandcamp   ArrestRecords (T-Shirt/Vinyl offer)

Contact Mickey Rickshaw  WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  Twitter  YouTube  Instagram   Merch

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  Facebook  Bandcamp  Tumbler  ReverbNation  Twitter  YouTube

(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

Facebook   Bandcamp  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram

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.