EP REVIEW: TULLAMORE- ‘Déš An Pr’i Strà, Déš An Int ál Bar’ (2018)

Italian Celtic-Punk from the swamp influenced by the Dropkick Murphy’s, Flogging Molly, The Tossers, beer and a certain brand of Irish whiskey!

Tullamore EP

Tullamore were founded in northern Italian city of Pavia in 2007 and this EP is released to celebrate their tenth anniversary together. The EP’s title translated to English means ‘Ten Years On The Streets, Ten Years At The Bar’ and is pretty apt for a band named after one of Ireland’s premier whiskeys! The original idea being to bring together the traditional folk of the Celtic nations with good old fashioned Italian punk rock. The first incarnation of the band were together three years and released their first demo in 2010. Four songs that included the first song the band ever wrote, ‘Sogno l’Irlanda’ (‘I Dream Of Ireland’), the first song that Tullamore ever wrote and which these days they end all their concerts. As is the way with most bands members come and go and with a few changes in personnel it was decided that the band should move towards a more powerful celtic-punk sound with Albe abandoning electric guitar in favour of the mandolin and Iora becoming the bands vocalist leaving the bass in the hands of Sandrone, and at the end of 2011 Perni joins the band on electric guitar. In January 2013 Tullamore released their first EP of seven songs that showed the band’s potential and hit the streets running. Fast celtic-punk sung in Italian that got a great reception on release and is now available as a Free Download/Pay What You Want on Tullamore’s Bandcamp page- link below.

More band members came and went and the band began to play and tour a bit more often and started to make a name for themselves outside their home area. In October 2016 the band released their debut album titled ‘Palude’ (-‘Swamp’) and again it received plaudits from across the celtic/folk-punk scene. Now with a fiddle player added to the mix and even the odd song in English the LP is a successful mix of fast but not too heavy punk rock and trad Irish tunes. With a strong anti-fascist sentiment throughout the album the band pay tribute to freedom fighters around the world and produced a very good album of celtic-punk with their own sound.

And so the Tullamore adventure continues and at the beginning of 2017 original member Misu leaves  leaving Perni on guitar and Bert is recruited on accordion. Today’s Tullamore are raring to go and to celebrate ten years on the road they have recorded this EP of five songs with three unreleased collaborations with friends, a cover and a re-recording of that first ever song.

Déš An Pr’i Strà, Déš An Int ál Bar begins with that original song ‘Sogno l’Irlanda’ and accordion kicks us off before the band jump in and its fast and furious music made for the dance floor. The balance between celtic and punk is just right and they are quite right to be proud of their first ever song. They follow this with the first of their collaborations with Bebe of Livorno based streetpunkers Urban Vietcong taking over on vocals but with a fantastic gang chorus of

“30 years old, another victim here’s to you, fire of freedom”

with the whole band singing along. The song is about the life of Mairéad Farrell. She was a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army who was executed in Gibralter in 1988 during a British Army operation aimed at preventing the bombing of the ceremonial changing of the guard. A fitting tribute. A documentary well worth checking out is Fourteen Days which examines the events that began with the SAS operation in Gibraltar that left three members of the IRA unit dead, including Mairéad and the chain of events that followed leaving a further nine people dead and more than 50 injured. The film is on YouTube here but for how long is anyone’s guess. The series of events would go on to define the war in Ireland for generations to come.

Next up is ‘Pronti ad Offendere’ (-‘Ready To Offend’) and features Alex Alesi on vocals and shows, like all the best celtic-punk bands, a more gentler side to Tullamore before the band launch into more spirited and manic celtic-punk. While the bands music has seen a softening Iora’s vocals remain firmly embedded in the punk scene giving Tullamore a much harder edge than many fellow celtic-punk bands. Rowing towards shore we have ‘Ribelle Senza un Perché’ (-‘Rebel Without a Why’) which again features a guest vocalist with Giulio from fellow Italian punk’n’Oi! band 5MDR. It’s all great fun and made for the dance floor before the Bhoys wrap it up with a cover of the auld Irish rebel song ‘Come Out You Black and Tans’. Sometimes it takes a non-Irish band to inject some life into a song and Tullamore certainly do that here. The song may be nearly 100 years old and covered by many in the folk scene but here its given a lift with Perni singing the verses with the band joining in the chorus over the snap of the drum to keep beat and get your Irish blood pumping! The lads have been over to Ireland countless times including last years celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising making friends young and old. A inspiring band!

Tullamore standing from the left: Fra (fiddle), Teo (bass), Santo (drums) and Perni (guitar). Crouched from the left: Bert (accordion), Iora (vocals) and Albe (mandolin)

Released last week this is a fantastic EP and a great way to celebrate your anniversary. As everywhere these days there are some fantastic Italian celtic-punk bands and the one thing I have noticed is that they all manage to bring their own sound to the genre and Tullamore are no different. Brilliant band with sound politics and one to mark out for greater things.

(you hear all of Tullamore’s great  EP for **FREE** before you buy by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy Déš an pr’i strà, déš an int ál bar

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ALBUM REVIEW: ANTO MORRA- ‘From The Vaults’ (2017)

London Irish Folk Punk

Somewhere between the Pogues and Ian Dury with perhaps a dash of Madness.

He’s back. Guess whose back? Aye it’s the all round Mr. Nice Guy Anto Morra to sort the English folk scene right out! Even more prolific than Matilda’s Scoundrels Anto presents his new album that came out at the arse end of last year giving us no time to get a review in so with things a little quiet on the celtic-punk scene it’s a perfect opportunity to revisit this great album and give it the review it deserves.

This is not quite a new album though it’s more of a concept album. Offered some free time at a recording studio near his adopted home in Norfolk he decided to revisit some of his older works that were either never recorded or recorded in bands that he was previously in. Having laid down the bones of this album on a hot summers day in July Anto realised this would be a fantastic opportunity to bring in some of his ex and present band mates and also some of the talented musicians that he had hooked up with since the start of his solo career. The songs here were all written between 1986 and 1996 during a time when Anto says

“my only ambitions were to have as much sex, drugs and rock’n’roll as a young man could handle”

Sadly three of Anto’s close friends passed during the time when he began recording From The Vaults to it’s finish. A strange coincidence was that they all had birthdays on the 19th the month, different months and different years so in tribute to them the album was released on the 19th December.

Regular readers will need no introduction as he has featured on these pages numerous times due to his more than abundant releases! Just in case though we’ll give you a wee run down before the review starts. Born Anthony Morrissey and raised in London by Irish parents, his formative years were as a punk rocker floating from band to band and dole cheque to dole cheque in Thatcher’s Britain. His Irish background provides the backbone for much of his music and focuses on the confusion of being brought up between two cultures that were so opposed to each other. Old animosities are thawing but the relationship remains an uneasy one. Flitting from punk band to band during these years he eventually washed up in the Norfolk countryside and he began to further explore his roots with Whirligig, a four-piece ceilidh dance Band. In 2013 he left the band after ten years deciding to concentrate on songwriting and solo performances.

Anto

From The Vaults is another of Anto trademark releases with a huge booklet packed with photos and information on all the songs including a very lovely mention of yours truly that I was very touched by (thanks Anto). The album is fifteen songs and as usual he has squeezed as much as possible in. Coming with a cover painted again by famed London Irish artist Brian Whelan (check out his wonderful art here). We kick of with ‘Lifting The Lid’ which sees Anto reminisce about his Catholic Irish background and the realisation that it wasn’t as restrictive and as he thought it was when he was young. Something that comes to most people of Irish backgrounds when they grow up I think. As stated it’s not just Anto here and to read out the list of collaborators would take up a whole page so suffice to say the backing he receives here is absolutely terrific and lifts the album into the premier league! ‘Bomb Alert’ looks back to the early 90’s a time when the Gulf War lit up our TV’s and the Boys were still blowing up parts of London. ‘Tall Story’ is my favourite track here a catchy upbeat punky number from his days as vocalist in indie-punk band Fountain Head in the mid-90’s. Anto gives his voice a good work out next in ‘Martyr’ with a tale living in a bedsit and seeing fellow members of the underclass finding themselves deeper and deeper in poverty. Acoustic guitar backed by mandolin as Anto gives us it straight from the heart, as he always does, while backed on vocals by his Mrs Julie. The song goes straight into ‘Dance’ and fiddle comes into play and the oldest song featured here at over twenty-five years old! Anto thinks its a bit Jimi Hendrix you’ll have to make up your own minds on that. 90’s insomniac plagued sleepless nights inspired ‘Fugitive’ based around the TV show of the same night fiddle, flute and banjo manage not to sound Celtic somehow! ‘Better Place’ and ‘High In The Night’ both tell the highly personal stories mental health and drug issues but done with panache and a lot of style. ‘Crazy Chris K-Hole Glasto’ is the only song on the album written this century and is about a trip to Glastonbury festival with his auld London Irish mate Chris. To K-Hole is to hallucinate while on drugs and sadly Chris was one of the friends who passed away during production of From The Vaults whilst battling addiction.

” His brutal honesty and wit made him such great company and fun to be around”.

A fantastic tribute to him which features Chris having a ‘episode’ outside Anto’s tent while he recorded him on a wee tape deck. RIP Chris. ‘Dragon Hide Away’ is slow and mournful just how a song with accordion should be.

There’s even brass out for ‘Changeless Angel’ a story of a burlesque dancer with a happy ending for a change. We in for some more heartbreak next with ‘Youre Not Here (Sadder Than Asda)’ from 1992 about a particularly tough relationship break-up. Most men can relate to the words here but as Anto says on the album notes “strange how returning to the song could become such a positive joy”.

Time is a great healer it is true. Just Anto and Kerry Selwin on piano it ends on a perfect bittersweet note as Anto sings the chorus repeating “You’re not here” until the final words “Thank the Lord!”. Typical Anto! ‘Wrecked On Love’ tells of the cycle of relationships we find ourselves on until we find the ‘one’. We coming rolling up towards the end and ‘Happy Ending’ is dedicated to all the musical geniuses that left before their time. Written on hearing the news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide Anto is backed here by John and Thim from Anto’s current collaborators in the folk-punk band The Punkfolkers. In the main its been a reflective album, obviously, but the curtain comes down with ‘Seen It All’ and a song to send you off into the dark with a wry smile and a bursting heart. The kind of song where the words will pop into your head at some random point and make you smile.

Yet another hit from one of the nicest people in celtic-punk and while this release is missing much of the trademark humour that has made Anto so popular and well received his warmth still spills over from the CD into us. A wordsmith and a modern day seanchaí his words have a sincerity about them that would make many so called artists weep in jealousy! That he can both keep up the output and the quality of his releases is outstanding and we have been promised another album soon in The Punkfolkers release Night Bus To Tombland. Forty years of protest, rebellion and punk and with records like this we can look forward to another forty as well!

Dedicated to

Chris McCormack * John (Ribsy) Vick * Tom Paley

Buy From The Vaults

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(‘The Blacksmith’ from the recent Folkpunkers single )

EP REVIEW: THE DREADNOUGHTS- ‘Foreign Skies B Sides’ (2018)

Four songs from one of the most original bands around that didn’t make it onto last years album but were still good enough to put out as an EP.

As their by line goes The Dreadnoughts are one part roaring sea shanty, one part haunting folk melody, and a solid chaser of gut-crunching street punk and that is as good a description of them as you could ask for! The Dreadnoughts are truly one of the biggest and most popular folk-punk bands in the world and they built up their audience and reputation from years of absolutely constant touring and four stunning album’s that only cemented their place in our hearts. Formed in the Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver,  British Columbia, Canada in 2016 from the ashes of popular Irish-punk band Siobhan they changed and adapted their range of influences and soon they had become one of the cities best live bands. After taking on their home town and then Canada it was then time to spread their wings and they soon became a regular feature on the European gig circuit playing everywhere from England to Russia and in between. They didn’t quite leave behind their Irish roots but as the albums flowed it became less of the focus on them and from Legends Never Die in 2007 to Foreign Skies last year they have added the traditional folk music of just about every European country they have visited to the mix and while they still play with the wild abandon of the old days their is much more to them now than just celtic-punk.

Foreign Skies came out at the beginning of last November and takes all those musical influences and again mixes them all up but this time presents them in a concept album about the First World War that is both moving and poignant but, dare I say, also great fun to listen to. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes acapello even with Irish, English and Eastern European folk and polka’s throughout. It could certainly be described as epic in my view.

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS REVIEW OF FOREIGN SKIES (DECEMBER 2017)

This year gave us the ambitious ‘concept’ album, Foreign Skies, from Canada’s own Dreadnoughts. It was released to mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war (yeah, I know, the Great War ran from 1914-1918, so that includes 1917!), and features twelve original tracks all based on events, people and places that were part of that war. There are a few standout tracks, notably; ‘Daughters of the Sun’, ‘Anna Maria’, ‘Jericho’ and ‘Black Letters’. The rest is all good with the usual fantastic musicianship we’ve come to expect from the Dreadnoughts. The subject matter does make it a rather sombre listening experience, and while the feeling/belief behind the album is admirable, there is no getting away from the subject matter. An interesting work, but it won’t get too many airings at parties over the festive season.

The album shows a side of The Dreadnoughts we had never seen before. You wouldn’t think their last album was called Uncle Touchy Goes To College would you? Have they matured? Well on this certainly but I very much doubt we have seen the last Dreadnought song about apple love and cider drinking.

Here we have four songs released on January 10th that didn’t quite make the cut on Foreign Skies. The band give no explanation as to why except to say they “still think they are pretty good and so we are sharing them with you”. Having listened to them the one thing I can report is that they weren’t dropped because of their quality they are as good on anything on the finished article but I suppose they were dropped to not fitting the scope of the album.

We start of with ‘Top Of The Hill’ which is the follow up to ‘Bay of Suvla’ from the album. Written by guitarist Nicholas Smyth it’s a five minute epic of a song taking in many of those influences already mentioned. A driving forceful rock number that is breathlessly typical Dreadnought territory.

“Faces down, eyes to front
you’ll get what you need boys
You’ll get what you want
fingers hard on biting steel
till theirs nothing left to feel
Summer rain gonna set you free
bury the ashes under the sea
and the dawn will break across your skin
And wash away your sin”

It is set during the Battle of Gallipolli. The battle took place only a few miles from the site of the ancient city of Troy but the horrors unleashed in that battle rivalled anything seen then or since. Imagine spending eight months in a trench dug under some cliffs at constant risk from snipers, suffering from dysentery spread by flies hopping from decomposing bodies to your food. The battle was fought in modern-day Turkey but in 1915 it was part of the Ottoman Empire who were fighting alongside Germany. The plan was to land at Gallipolli and take the capital Istanbul. The plan did not work. In fact it was a disaster leaving over 200,000 Allied casualties with many deaths coming from disease. The number of Turkish deaths is not clear but it is generally accepted that they far exceeded 200,000. Next up is ‘Poor Michael’ a song about two blackbirds singing to a soldier ion France. The song is sung acapello without backing. This is something The Dreadnoughts can claim credit for within the celtic-punk scene with many bands now following their lead and including one or two tracks within their sets. As you can imagine it’s a beautiful song with strong voices and even more powerful words.

‘Cold Rain And Snow’ is up next and its a fast and catchy number written by the bands lead singer Drew Sexsmith who was always known as the Dread Pirate Druzil on previous albums. Like on the album the lyrics belie the upbeat music and I’m sure it will take a few listens for the words to penetrate. The EP comes to an end with ‘The Best Of ‘Em’ again written by Nicholas Smyth and its simply Drew accompanied by piano and a faint accordion. The song is a tribute to the best of them. Those that didn’t come home. I can certainly see why The Dreadnoughts put this EP out. They are four excellent songs that deserved a release but they must come accompanied by the album so if you haven’t got it yet then I suggest you get onto it as soon as possible!

(listen to the whole EP below on the Bandcamp player)

Discography

Legends Never Die- July 2007 (Golden Tee Record) * Victory Square- June 2009 (Stomp Records) * Polka’s Not Dead- October 2010 (Stomp Records) * Uncle Touchy Goes To College- 2011 (Bellydrop Records) * Foreign Skies- November 2017 (Self Released)

Buy Foreign Skies B Sides

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ALBUM REVIEW: RED OR DEAD- ‘Trotsky Waltz’ (2018)

The self-produced and self-financed debut album from a bunch of socialist folk-punkers from North Wales who will bring down the system or fall asleep trying!
So we can safely say we are into the new year in full swing with this our first review of 2018. Released on new year’s day it’s not yer typical celtic-punk but seeing as how Red Or Dead hail from the Celtic stronghold of north Wales it certainly justifies its place here. While musically its from the same sort of path as ‘festie’ bands like The Levellers, Folk The System or even Ferocious Dog it sticks pretty much to the more modern standard of what passes for folk-punk and while I think it could benefit from a few celtic flourishes it’s fine as it is! The band formed only a couple of years after meeting while protesting outside a UKIP conference. Folk has long been a way for people to push for change and in fact the folk scene could do with a real dose of it now.

Red Or Dead left to right: Dave Sunerton Burl- Bass, Guitar * Rob Murray- Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals * Gala Elvira- Vocals * Emma Sunerton Burl- Cajon/Percussion

Trotsky Waltz begins with ‘I Am The Fire’ and if they weren’t indeed Welsh then I would be bringing the names of some classic English folk-rock bands into the equation. The most stand out thing after first listen is the use of a cajon which is one of those wooden boxes that people sit on and tap and thump instead of having a drummer. This means that it doesn’t ever really fly off into punk remaining solidly within folk. It’s a rousing start to proceedings though and its always sensible to start with a standout track I think. Lyrically its all a bit right on but does at least manage not to fall into cliche, or even worse parody. Robs vocals are strong and with Gala’s backing the two of them work brilliantly together. The following two tracks first appeared on their debut EP from last year and both have been improved on significantly. ‘No One Is Innocent’ sees Gala take over on vocals and she has a certain anarcho-punk sound to her voice reminding me of early Chumba’s perhaps. Looking back I think lot of what we called anarcho-punk back in the day would now be classed as folk-punk. Back when I first going to pubs when I was just a young spotty punk rocker the pubs and clubs use to be full of socialist folky bands, or at least the ones I went to, and how Red Or Dead would have loved those days. 
(listen to their debut release below)
‘Watch It Burn’ is like the rest of the album a call to arms, or at least the street and I will try not to overuse the word ‘catchy’ here though it is going to be hard. Gala belts out the angry ‘In America’ and its on songs like these that the band could benefit from a drummer to give the songs a bit of extra bite. Nevertheless it still trips along nicely until Rob chimes in with
“Land of the free? Fuuuuuck Off!  Land of the rich white man”
bawled out and follows a rant about the state of the nation over there in the USA. I do wonder though how Obama fits into this narrative of the “rich white man” seeing how many dead bodies he was responsible for around the world? ‘Colin Cambridge’ slows it all down and chucks in something you don’t often hear in modern day music of any genre… whistling!
(here is ‘Colin Cambridge’… minus the whistling though!)

In a song that is crying out for tin whistle I suppose you got to go with what you got in a song about privileged people who go on to do nothing with their lives. The best song since the opener is up next with ‘Steeltown’ and is a simple track beginning with acoustic guitar and mandolin and Rob singing over the top about the decimation of the working class and their industries. Coming from a coal-mining family myself I can only agree that it was the Tories and Labour who share the blame for screwing the working class. Its often been said that the Conservatives defend their class and Labour hate theirs. Wales is owed a hell of a lot by the Labour Party for a loyalty that was never deserved. ‘A New Day’ is yer standard victory is in sight song but wishful thinking methinks. While the left is obsessed by poisonous identity politics we are going absolutely nowhere.

‘Never Again’ is a well cliched song title but the song manages to be both angry and gentle and I love that they name check Jimmy Reid the old Scots trade unionist.
“Never again will I bow down to a false ideal or a faded crown”
‘All The World’ plays more of the same and for once the politics take a bit of a back seat. With influences from across punk you can hear The Clash loud and proud within ‘Travel Home’ which comes over as a tribute to ‘Armagideon Time’ and in the following song, ‘Strummer And Burnel’, Rob pays his debt to the heroes who inspired him into a life of music. Bemoaning, and quite rightly, the quality of both today’s music and today’s protest.
Students they don’t march no more the middle class won that war”
Catchy and thoughtful and with a nice bit of electric guitar that threatens to rock out but just resists. We are coming up towards the final bend and ‘Living In A Life’ is another standout number here and I feel they could certainly rock out more on numbers like this. Would still be a real foot tapper live but just in need of a little extra oomft! The album comes to an end with ‘Make A Stand’ and is the perfect way to end things with a ‘lighter waving in the air’ song.
So a whopping thirteen songs that come in at a also whopping forty-five minutes and if I’m being honest then I would say the album may have benefited from being maybe two or three songs shorter. While the cajon is absolutely fine live it does get a wee bit thumpy on disc and dare I say it monotonous. The music is catchy and solid and lyrics are straight from the heart and sometimes burn with passion making you wish the music was a bit up there too. The major criticism people have of folk-punk is that it is boring but Red Or Dead steer well clear of that and the album is very well paced and recorded with a clear and crisp production too. Unashamedly left-wing and idealistic they are the sort of band that would appeal to fans of all the usual suspects of festival bands and may well pop up playing at a political benefit near you at anytime soon.
(you can listen to the entirety of Trotsky Waltz for *FREE* below on the Bandcamp player)
Buy Trotsky Waltz
Contact Red Or Dead

THE UNHOLY TRINITY- SHANE MacGOWAN, MARK E. SMITH AND NICK CAVE

We were saddened to hear about the death of Mark E.Smith grumpy front man of the influential Manchester post-punk band The Fall. So seems an apt time to remember the time, back in February 1989, that the British music paper the NME sent two of its journalists, James Brown and Sean O’Hagan, to the boozer with three of music’s wisest (and wildest) men- Shane MacGowan, Mark E.Smith and Nick Cave… and gave them all £10 each to have a drink!

It’s not often that we mere mortals find out what the personalities of our heroes are but in this interview we can almost see them lapping it up in the lounge bar down the Montague. Nick Cave keeps his cool and his answers short and sweet, maybe down to him being the only sober one there perhaps (he had just spent seven weeks in rehab), while Shane (“… done some Ecstasy and had drunk a bottle of whisky on the way down”) is the amiable drinking companion we would always assume he would be dipping in and out and taking the piss in between bouts of seriousness. Finally Mark, at times abusive and hostile and others friendly and warm. His views were certainly militant but maybe not in the way many would like them to be but no denying the influence he had inspiring a generation of musicians from Sonic Youth to The Pixies and beyond. I had the pleasure of meeting him once in a pub in Sheffield around 1988 and he was as sound as you could expect a music hero to be when you’re a awed teenager. With more than thirty album’s and more band members than you could ever possibly keep up with The Fall didn’t make it easy to follow them but there were always Mark E.Smith steering them and always around but no more now. He will be missed.

“a kind of Northern English magic realism that mixed industrial grime with the unearthly and uncanny, voiced through a unique, one-note delivery somewhere between amphetamine-spiked rant and alcohol-addled yarn.

FEBRUARY 25th 1989. NME TALKS TO

“So the NME thinks we’re the last three heroes of rock’n’roll, do they?” laughs Nick Cave. “Smarmy fuckers,” adds Shane McGowan, “what they actually mean is that we’re the three biggest brain damaged cases in rock’n’roll.”

“Apart from Nick”, jabs Mark Smith, “Nick’s cleaned up.”
“yeah”, drawls Cave, “my brains restored itself.”

A bottle’s throw from Millwall FC, The Montague Arms, a mock Gothic fun pub for morbid tourists, plays host to a bizarre summit meeting. Amidst stuffed horses’ heads, skeletons on bicycles and mocked up corpses, three of contemporary music’s most infamous individuals are gathered at the NME’s request.

Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, Mark E.Smith of the Fall and Nick Cave all share an outsider’s attitude that informs their respective musical output. Both championed and castigated for their obsessiveness and extremism, this unholy trio are dogged by reputations that precede them.

That they agreed to such a meeting is surprising. What ensues is inspired and insane by turns. The fractured and, often fractious, conversation sprawls between the amiable and the aggressive- Presley to Nietzsche, songwriting to psychology, football to fanatics.

In an afternoon of sheer psychotic hellishness, Cave plays the diplomat to Smith’s bursts of contentious rhetoric whilst MacGowan transmits his thoughts from his own singular, rarefied wavelength.

WHAT REALLY WENT ON THERE ? WE ONLY HAVE THIS EXCERPT

NME Do you think it’s accurate to describe the three of you as outsiders?
NC “I think we have all tended to create some kind of area where we can work without particularly having to worry about what’s fashionable.”
MES “Yes, fair enough. But I think there’s a lot of differences in this trio here. Nick was very rock’n’roll to me but he’s turned his back on it which was cool. Shane’s more, I dunno. To me the Pogues are the good bits from the Irish showband scene, like the Indians. You had that feel, probably lost that now. Your work’s good though.”
SM “Fuck it man. Who wants to work in a place where there’s all these people looking at you ?”
MES “Are you talking about your gigs ? You should stop doing them, then.”
SM “Can’t afford to.”
MES “Fuck it, you could fight not to if you don’t like it.”
SM “…and leave the rest of them in the lurch ?”
MES “Nah, the rest of your band will always complain about not working. If you’re paying them a wage tell them to stay at home and behave themselves.”
SM “It’s a democracy our band.”
MES “Why aren’t they here with you then ?”
SM “Cos the NME didn’t want to interview them.”
MES ‘Cos nobody’d recognise them.”
SM “That’s it ! They want to interview us because we’ve got distinctive characteristics. They just want to interview three high-brow loonies.”
MES “In that case you should have brought your mate Joe Strummer along.”
SM “I said high-brow loonies.”

HITS AND MYTHS

NME You must be aware that, consciously or otherwise, you’ve each created a particular myth that has arisen, in part, from your songs.
SM “Nobody created my mythology, I certainly didn’t.”
NC “No, you (the press) created it.”

SM “The media has a lot to answer for, you’re all a bunch of bastards however friendly you are.”
NC “Let’s not talk about the media. Why the hell are you talking about mythologies ? That tends to suggest it’s somehow unreal.”
SM “It seems to me that in your songs, Nick, you’re doing a Jung-style trip of examining your shadow, all the dark things you don’t want to be. A lot of your songs are like trips into the subconscious and are therefore nightmarish.”
NC “Possibly.”
SM “You’re exploring the world through the subconscious. I’ve done that on occasions for various reasons, whether it be illness or self abuse, or whatever. Once things start to look grotesque I don’t write them or sing them. I couldn’t write them the way you do, I couldn’t-making nightmares into living daylight…”
NC “I think you do a pretty good job of it in some of your songs.”
SM “The minute it gets dark I shoot back, retreat. I haven;’t always but I do now ‘cos…”
MES “Don’t give too much away Shane, don’t tell them. Hold a bit back.”
SM “I haven’t told them anything yet.”

NME “How do each of you approach the actual mechanics of songwriting ?”
MES “When you ask that you induce fear in a songwriter. I just go blank.”
NC “It’s not a cut and dried process.”
SM “For a start I’ve got to be out of my head to write. For a lot of the time it’s automatic writing. ‘Rainy day in Soho’ was automatic.”
MES “Its gotta be subconscious and off the wall. He says he’s got to be out of his head, and a lot of the time I have too. Sometimes, I just wake up and do it. It’s one of the hardest questions you ever get asked. For instance, you sometimes hear things that would make a great idea for a song but you never carry them out.”
SM “I do. Like the “Turkish Song of the Damned” was a Kraut trying to tell me something and I misheard him. He said, “Have you heard ‘The Turkish Song’ by the Damned”. Then I woke up.
MES “My German song’s better than your yours, I bet. This is like one of those night-time discussions on Channel 4.”
NC “I write songs in batches then record them and then can’t write again for ages. I try and build one song upon another, they may not look obviously inter-related but often one song acts as a springboard into another.”
SM “You haven’t been back to the swamps for a while, have you ?”
NC “The swamps ? Heh,heh. I’ve written a novel about that.”
MES “Nick thinks a novel’s two pages long. Very novel, heh, heh.”
NC “What’s it called ?”
MES “It’s called ‘It’ll Be Ready in Another Five Years’. You should write more aggressive songs, Nick, you’re getting too slow.”
NC “I haven’t sat down and thought about the mood before I wrote them.”
MES “I find your work almost English Lit oriented, like Beckett, things crop up again and again.”
NC “And your songs are very deceptive Mark, in the way they’re sung. They might appear at times like streams of consciousness but that’s deceptive.”
MES “One thing that eally annoys me is that stream of consciousness thing. I wouldn’t let on to it normally, but it annoys the shit out of me. I put a lot of hard sweat into them, I think about them. They have an inner logic to me so I don’t really care who understands them or not. I see writing and singing as two very different things. My attitude is if you can’t deliver it like a garage band, fuck it. That’s one thing that’s never been explored, delivering complex things in a very straightforward rock’n’roll way. My old excuse is if I’d wanted to be a poet, I’d have been a poet.”
SM “And starved.”
MES “I can write, boy, I can write. That’s what I do. People like you sit around moaning about the state of pop music…The trouble is it’s too bloody easy for people, that’s why music is in the sorry state it is. Any idiot, actors mainly, can go in there, sing a chord, bang on a machine…I’m not objecting to that but when people get at me for trying to say something in a rock’n’roll mode it’s as if I’m a freak.”
SM “All this talk about the state of music, rock’n’roll, Irish music, soul, funk.”
MES “Salsa.”
SM “Its been proved by Acid House that anyone can make a record.”
MES “We’re not thick, we all know that.”
SM “Look, I’m talking about the implications of Acid House”
MES “There’s nothing new in Acid House for me, pal. I’ve been using that process for years. Bloody years. It might be new for you but don’t assume it’s new for anyone else, because you’re fucking wrong, pal.
SM “What the fuck are you talking about ? Have you made an Acid House record ?
MES “It’s the same process, right. Have you had some sort of bloody revelation about Acid House ?”
SM “Hah ! It’s obvious if you listen they put Eastern melodies over it, bits of this and that…”
MES “That’s what music should always have been like.”
SM “It always was.”
MES “Why haven’t you been doing it for years then pal ?”
NC “I think they have been doing it. I’ve heard zithers and so on. Eastern stuff and Turkish stuff.”
MES “We had jazz arrangements in ’82 when the rest of those tossers were playing cocktail lounge music and fucking pseudo new wave, so don’t talk to me about it because I know what I’m talking about pal.”
SM “Fucking hell, what’s he on about ?”

CONTAINER DRIVERS

MES “The trouble with the music biz is that its become so bourgeois. A middle class executive business like the police force.”
SM “A middle class executive police force ? You must be mad ! They’re stormtroopers nowadays, thicker than they ever were.”
MES “Can we drop the cop talk ? It’s the same with everything else, like lurries…” SM “Lurries ? What are lurries ?”
MES “Lurries. Containers that deliver your fucking food to your fucking house, alright ?”
SM “Lorries ! Yeah right.”
MES “The drivers are paid the lowest wages because everyone wants to sit in the office and be a ponce. You can’t just go into a hotel and write your name, you’ve got to fuck around on a bloody computer. Nobody wants to work anymore.”
SM “Oh God ! You make me wanna puke sometimes, you do. Of course nobody wants to work. Who in their right mind wants to work ?”
MES “Alright, alright, that’s obvious, the sky’s fucking blue. Soccer’s the same. None of the fuckers want to hit the ball in the back of the net. They’re all too fucking muscley. And thick. Running up and down the field like bloody morons. The England team are all bloody minor executives who can’t kick the ball in the back of the net, can’t do the bloody job they’re hired to do. I do loads of gigs, that’s my job to play loads of gigs, I’m not an executive, I don’t mind playing in front of a load of sweaty people.”

NME “Do you two still enjoy playing live ?”
NC “I don’t know if I do. The first Kilburn show was a nightmare.”
MES “What’s new with The Bad Seeds ?”
NC “I used to hate playing live totally, just the whole physical exhaustion was too much for me.”
MES “Bleeding workshy Australian. Australians never do any work.”
NC “The last tour, going on stage was a release.”
MES “Sexually ?”
NC “As my life gets more constipated and cramped going on stage I’m able to purge myself in some way.”
MES “A bowel release.”
NC “I feel more relaxed.”
MES “With Mick Harvey behnd you with the vaseline.”
NC “Put a muzzle on this guy.”
SM “The gigs I enjoy are the ones where I am so angry and paranoid, and I hate the audience so much, that I put everything into it to feed off the aggressive side of it. I don’t actually hate the fans but when I’m feeling angry, pissed off and full of hate, it’s a good gig for me.”
NC “An audience is the perfect thing to unleash that hate and venom on. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you hate everyone in the audience but when you’ve got a so-called adoring mass in front of you, it’s a perfect target for that kind of disgust. Sometimes you find yourself in a position where you’re venting your disgust on an audience and a lot of them keep coming back because they actually like that aspect. In a way that diffuses the feeling and you don’t get the same release.”
MES “You gotta reassess your audience, make sure they aren’t just coming to throw ashtrays at your head for fun. Shane says he goes on full of twist, you’ve got to. If you don’t you’re fucking fucked, that’s whats wrong with a lot of acts these days, they do fucking yoga before and go on all fucking relaxed. I’ve been with Fad Gadget and he was doing incense and headstands. The English soccer players could do with a lot of twist, they should be put in a room and made to go round in circles, and told “if you don’t do a good gig tonight then you’re not getting paid.”

NME “Shane, you obviously don’t enjoy playing live anymore, is that through being on the road too much ?”
SM “I feel like I’ve spent the last five years of my life on the road. It hasn’t affected my songs but it has probably affected everything else about me. Obviously, the more you travel, the wilder the things that keep happening to you, the more likely it is that complete strangers will knock on your hotel room door.”
MES “Nick and I don’t related to that ‘cos the people who come up to us either hate our guts or wouldn’t really want to be alone in a room with us. You’re a very amiable guy, Shane.”
NC “I’m not sure what you’re talking about here but the way people related to me in the dressing rooms and so on was incredibly aggressive. They know every record and they seem to think they should nudge me or bump into me as they go past.It was this incredible performance that used to amuse me. I think we share something in common on that level ‘cos, like, in the early days, people were drawn towards us like they’d be drawn towards a car smash…”
SM “I read about the fan mail that Freddie Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies gets-real sicko stuff, loads of letters from genuine corpse freaks and child killer types. It frightens him shitless. That sorta thing freaks me out.”
NC “There is a definite relationship between that fanaticism and the fact that, as a performer, you expose more of yourself, of the undercurrents of your personality. Most rock personalities subdue that or chose not to explore it.”

“It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them.” (Cave)

HEROES AND VILLAINS

NME “Mark, of the three of you, would you admit to being the professional cynic ?”

MES “No, cynicism and defensiveness are two things constantly levelled at me. Look, I’ve got time for people, I’m good mannered. I usually find that when you are down, nobody has a bloody minute for you. If I was a nobody, you wouldn’t even talk to me.”
SM “You are nobody.”
MES “Fuck off. It’s bloody true. Neither would you, Nick.”
NC “Bullshit! That’s bullshit I take offence at that.”
MES “I’m not levelling anything at you. People, in general, don’t like being upfront and civil. They hate you for it. They label you a cynic ‘cos you’re reasonable.”
SM “You’re no reasonable though. You’re a rude bastard. That’s fair enough.”
SO’H “Ok I’m cynical. But I’m not defensive. I’m slightly paranoid which is healthy.”
NME “Slightly?”
MES “Listen, Sean, do you walk around London embracing everybody? If I was in the bleeding gutter you wouldn’t piss on me.
SO’H “I would.”
NC “Your reaction is becoming very defensive, Mark.”
MES “You’re a failed psychiatrist.”
NC “I’ve analysed you, alright-defensive paranoid with delusions of grandeur.”
MES “I’ve had discussions like this all the time in pubs. I end up beaten half to death on the floor. I try to be civil and people assume I’m attacking them.”
SM “You attack people all the time. In the press.”
MES “I used to. It became too routine so I gave it up. Nietzsche said ‘Embrace your enemies’. You two aren’t my enemies so I won’t embrace you.
SM “Read a lot of Nietzsche, have you?”
MES “All his stuff. I can’t quote him. I’m not into him anymore, gave up three years ago. He taught me a lot, though. We’re not all born public school boys like you.”
SM “I’m not a born public school boy.”
MES “Do you like Brendan Behan, he’s good.”
SM “Yeah, he’s not a fascist maniac posing as a philosopher.”
MES “If we’re gonna talk philosophy, that’s a load of crap ! The Nazis adopted his creed and distorted it, they misquoted him all the time.”
SM “‘The Will to Power’? Try re-interpreting that statement. You can’t. It says what it says.”
MES “He wasn’t a Nazi-you’re only saying that because some polytechnic fucking lecturer told you he was.”
SM “I’m saying it ‘cos I read two of his books where he dismissed the weak, the ugly, the radically impure, Christianity, Socrates, Plato. He was anti anyone who hadn’t a strong body, perfect features…”
MES “That’s the coffee table analysis. He was the most anti-German pro-Semitic person…”
SM “His books were full of hate.”
MES “You’ve just said you’re full of hate when you go onstage.”
SM “I don’t go around saying Socrates was a cunt, Jesus Christ was an idiot, do I ?”
MES “Jesus Christ was the biggest blight on the human race, he was. And all of them Socialists and Communists- second rate Christianity. It’s alright for you Catholics. I was brought up with Irish Catholics. Some of my best friends are Irish Catholics.”
SM “listen to him.”
MES “Hitler was a Catholic vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker. The way you’re talking about Nietzsche is that anyone who’s a non-smoker, non-drinker is a Nazi. That’s the level of your debate, pal. You don’t know fuck all about Nietzsche, pal.”
SM “You’re anti-socialist, too, aren’t you ?”
MES “Yeah. I’m an extreme anti-socialist. You don’t live on a housing estate where there’s been socialism for thirty years and they keep saying it’s gonna get better all the time and it never does. Thirty fucking years of it getting worse and worse. You obviously haven’t experienced that, living in London.”
SM “What’s the alternative ?”
MES “I don’t have to worry about that. I’m an adult. I’m working class, me. I come from a generation that fucking created this nation pal. You lot, you just sit around and talk about socialism, you’re the bloody problem. Eighty percent of this country are white trash, working class. How come they don’t vote Labour? ‘Cos the Labour Party are a fucking disgrace, that’s why. Engels- he was a factory owner in Manchester exploiting 13 year old girls. Learn your history, pal, learn your history. I suppose you blame all Ireland’s problems on the British. All the problems of the world are down to Britain. That’s what you think, why don’t you say it? You can’t tell me anything about oppression ‘cos, I’ll tell you something pal, if you’d been part of Germany, you’d have been liquidated. If you were part of Russia, you wouldn’t even exist. Don’t tell me about oppression, my parents and grand-parents were exploited to the hilt. Sent to wars, they had gangrene in their teeth. My grandfather was at Dunkirk and all you can see is Margaret Thatcher on my face when, actually, She’s on Nick’s face. Isn’t she Nick ? Come on Nick, help me out. Basically, I like to discuss things right down the line and I don’t agree with anybody…”

KING INC

NME “This is getting a bit out of order, can we talk about something less acrimonious. Heroes ?

SM “You’re into Presley, Nick.”
MES “A lot of Presley’s good stuff was overlooked. Like the NME viewpoint that he died when he came out of the army. I think the opposite, his best stuff came after the army.”
SM “That figures. He was a pile of shit when he came out of the army compared to before he went in. His mother died when he was in the army. That was one of the causes. Anyway, he did some good stuff in the late ’60′s after the army- ‘Kentucky Rain’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘In the Ghetto’ as opposed to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’, ‘That’s alright Mama’. I suppose that’s all shit to you , is it ?”
MES “I’m not saying that but everybody writes the later stuff off…”
SM “Who ever writes off Elvis ?”
MES “Look, pal, Elvis was the king, right? To me, Elvis were king. He was only the king ‘cos he sustained it. You probably think he’s some kind of criminal ‘cos he went in the army for a few years. You’re insinuating that I’m pro-army and if you have anything to say on that score, say it now, pal and I’ll fucking argue right through you !”
SM “What ! He’s off again.”
MES “I’m into Mersey Beat at the minute- The Searchers. I respect Dylan. The only good thing I’ve heard of his is that LP he did with George Harrison and Roy Orbison.”

NME “You seem to prefer older music, is there nothing contemporary that appeals ?”

NC “It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them. Rock’n’Roll history isn’t long enough. There’s three or four blues people that I like after filtering through loads of blues. There’s about three gospel bands, a handful of country ones. I have to draw on the….what are you laughing at, Mark ?”
MES “Oh nothing, heh heh, I’m really into John Lee Hooker myself. He’s great solo without a band. His bands are crap. I was always into more experimental bands- Can, Faust. I won’t say German ‘cos Shane’ll have an epileptic fit. I think Nick’s more traditional and I respect that but, I’m into things like Stockhausen, The United States of America and Gene Vincent and rockabilly. That’s my influences. And I always preferred Lou Reed to the Velvet Underground.”

NME “What do you think of the blanket critical approval of Morrissey ?”

MES “Morrissey’s another Paddy! A South Manchester Paddy. Shane’s got more to say than Morrissey.”
SM “I think you guys are encouraging Mark to be like this. You journalists love it.”
MES “Of course they do. That’s the NME policy, they love a good argument. Don’t you lads ?”

Things fall apart. The unholy trinity climb on the pubstage. MacGowan on drums, Smith on guitar and Cave on the organ. A jam of sorts ensues- The Velvets meets Hammer Horror with a hint of Acid House. Totally wired. Summit mental.

(Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan and Kylie Minogue sing Bob Dylan’s ‘Death Is Not The End’)

What became of them after the tape finished we can only guess but I doubt they just got up and went their separate ways! These days its hard to imagine any publication with any influence doing something like this but we learn a lot about all three gents and though acerbic and argumentative Mark E.Smith certainly gets his point of view over and is heard. Gone before his time but he lived his life hard and wild and is one of a small bunch of working class musicians of which we can truly say that when they pass we will never see their like again.

MARK E.SMITH- 5 MARCH 1957 – 24 JANUARY 2018

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2017!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25. CELKILT (France)- ‘Stand’ here

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

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

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

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

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

Just bubbling under:

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

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

BLACK WATER COUNTY- ‘Taking Chances’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. CRIKWATER- ‘Crikwater’  (here)

4. BEOGA- ‘Before We Change Our Mind’

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

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

7. DAMIEN DEMPSEY- ‘Soulson’

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

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

10. ANTO MORRA- ‘From The Vaults’

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

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

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

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

CARLTON HUNT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ladies and Gentlemen, on drums.. Mr Carlton Hunt

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

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

CELTIC FOLK PUNK AND MORE

FOLK’N’ROCK

PADDYROCK

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

SHITE’n’ONIONS

MacSLONS IRISH RADIO

CELTICPUNK.PL

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

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2018

INTERVIEW WITH GARETH OLVER FROM THE AUSTRALIAN RADIO SHOW ‘THE CELTIC PUNKCAST’

We never shut the feck up about how brilliant Australian celtic-punk is so we are pleased as punch to present to you this interview with Gareth from the Celtic Punkcast radio show. He gives the lowdown on who the movers and shakers are over there, what its like living in the bush and a whole lot more.

“The best Celtic punk, Celtic rock & folk punk from around the world on this podcast”

Right we have always said that the Australian celtic-punk scene is the best in the world and that the bands in it are as well. When any idea how the celtic-punk scene started in Oz? Who were the first bands, the first concerts or festivals. Who from overseas made the biggest impact?  It’s a pretty good scene over here that’s for sure. We definitely have some world class acts here in Australia. When it comes to Celtic Punk I guess it’d be artists like Roaring Jack who got the scene going here, they were contemporaries of bands like The Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. There’s always been a strong folk and celtic scene here, bands such as Claymore who wouldn’t necessarily slot into that Celtic punk pigeonhole have been playing trad influenced music at places like the Port Fairy Folk Festival for years and they help introduce Celtic music to larger audiences. As for overseas bands that have made big impacts, obviously The Pogues were and still are really well known and popular and bands like the Dropkick Murphys are massive worldwide. The Murphys have had a couple of tunes used by the Australian Football League as well. Most people know Flogging Molly as well. In terms of influence, I’d say The Dubliners had just as bigger influence as anyone though, especially when it came to people staying in touch with their roots via music.

(We asked Gareth to pick the three best videos to represent Aussie celtic-punk and his first choice was ‘Riot On Race Day by Shambolics)

Who are the main players in the scene at the moment? Are you all missing The Rumjacks?  Oh yeah, we definitely are missing them! Honestly I didn’t realise how big The Rumjacks are outside of Australia. Probably after them would be The Go Set, The Ramshackle Army and even artists like The Dead Maggies do a great job holding down their part of the world. It’s been great to see some Oz bands get over to the states in recent years as well as over here too. In fact we see more of you then we do American bands!

The massive distances between cities in Australia must cause lots of problems for touring and networking but does this also mean that you have developed a certain sound or way for each area independent of each other?  Interesting question and one I probably don’t have the knowledge to answer. I think that social media and the internet in general makes networking so much easier. Anyone can find bands in any part of the world which is very cool. As for touring, I don’t really know, might have to ask Benny Mayhem about that one, he’s a Perth lad! Funny enough it was Benny himself who told me that when he was over in the summer!

You run a Celtic-punk radio show? Whats the deal behind that? How does it work? Give us an idiot proof way to listen to it.  Well the easiest way to listen is to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or follow on Podbean. Most podcast catchers have it on there though. Podcasts are great because of the convenience of them, you can listen whenever and wherever you want. The other way to catch the show is the weekly show on Blues & Roots Radio, which is a fairly large online radio network. Putting together a one hour podcast/weekly radio show usually takes me a couple of hours, between getting music sorted, the actual recording, editing and post production. Once I’ve done all that the podcast gets uploaded which can take about 30 minutes to an hour depending on whether Podbean is being cooperative or not. The weekly radio show when it’s done gets sent to Stevie Conner, who’s the head of BRR in Toronto and he slots it into the schedule. My show is meant to merely be a showcase for the bands who make such great music and there was a bit of an opening for another Celtic punk podcast. There was already some awesome shows like Paddy Rock, Irish Power Hour and the Shite’n’Onions podcast, so if I could complement them I’d be stoked. 

How did you get into celtic-punk? Do you have Celtic ancestors. A hell of a lot of Aussies do so do they make up the bulk of your audience?  Like most people my age it was probably the Dropkick Murphys who were my gateway band to the genre. First song I heard was The Warriors Code on a compilation CD and it just pumped me right up. From there I discovered bands like Flogging Molly, Flatfoot 56, Blood Or Whiskey and The Tossers who are probably my favourite band. I do have Celtic ancestry, my family came to Australia from Kernow (Cornwall) and I also have Welsh in there too. My wife’s heritage is Irish and Scottish so my kids almost have the Celtic crescent covered! As for the audience, it’s really a mixed bag, some from Australia, a lot in North America and some from the UK & Europe. Anyone who wants to listen is more than welcome wherever they’re from.

You’re based in Victoria but is there much of an Irish community there? People say that the Irish diaspora is smaller but has there been a noticeable decline, especially with emigration from Ireland still at peak levels? It does seem to me that here in London the new arrivals are not interested in Irish music. They seem to be wealthier and emigrating for ‘fun’ and in their gaps year rather than to escape poverty like in the past.  I am a Victorian, I live on a property about 200km west of Melbourne, in the Grampians. Spectacular part of the world. Where I live has a population of between 350-500 people, so only a wee place. Some parts of the state like the south west you really notice the Irish influence, especially in towns like Koroit, Casterton and Killarney. Koroit and Killarney both have yearly Irish festivals. We still see a lot of Irish people come to Australia, but mainly backpackers or students. The Irish mates I have for the most part are fans of Celtic punk, and they all still have that appreciation for the trad stuff too which is cool. It’s when it comes to shite like Ed Sheeran I call them out!

Gareth’s back garden!

I would like to think so but does it follow that celtic-punk fans also listen to folk from the past or present?  Honestly, I reckon it depends on the individual. If they come from families that played that sort of music when they were growing up then they probably do, but perhaps people who were punk fans first may not necessarily listen to folk or trad. But if they don’t then I’d encourage them to give it a go, there’s some great bands out there playing folk and trad.

Which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music?  I think the standard answer would be The Pogues, who no doubt have been extremely influential on a number of bands, but I’d say you’d be looking at bands like The Dubliners, The Wolfe Tones etc who were the ones that bands like The Pogues were listening to. Even bands like The Clash that embraced different styles of music and had success with it. There’s probably plenty of unsung heroes as well, like the venues that gave some of the bands that become legends in the Celtic Punk scene starts when they were just beginning.

(Gareth’s second Aussie celt-punk BIG hitter is a new song from The Bottlers)

There’s always been a big debate about celtic-punk and whether or not it is cultural appropriation and politically correct for non-Irish bands singing about the Irish getting pissed and fighting and pubs and what have you. Personally I love it. The idea of the likes of Indonesian or Brazilian bands getting into The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones after listening to the Dropkick Murphys. I mean its not like The Dubliners ever wrote a song about getting pissed is it? I think its just a case of snobbery but do you think it’s ok?  It doesn’t bother me too much at all, especially if it teaches people a bit about the history of the Celtic nations and Celtic people. It also helps keep the culture alive, if people from South America or Eastern Europe for example are inspired to take up the pipes or tin whistle after listening to the Murphys or Flogging Molly then that’s great. I get some people’s issues if all they see is the drink and fight stereotypes getting perpetuated or if it comes off like that faux Celtic Irish pub stuff that The Rumjacks described so perfectly but for me if people are respectful of the music and culture and they learn a thing or two then great. Honestly I’d love more people to know the Celtic history of my Cornish heritage, so if people dive in further and expand their knowledge how could that be a bad thing? Totally agree. The ideas behind ‘cultural appropriation is bad’ can be dangerous. That people cannot share cultures or even haircuts is absurd or maybe it’s just that we Celts have thicker skins?

Gareth with Jimmy from Shambolics

As we said many times we really love the Aussie take on celtic-punk. What do you think sets it apart from the celtic-punk of say the North America or Britain? It seems to have a very strong working class ethos and a Aussie slant that I can’t quite put my finger on but involves having fun and being serious at the same time, being full of mischief and after all any country that calls mates cunts and cunts mates is not half bad!  Interestingly enough I spoke a bit about this with Jimmy from the Shambolics not too long ago, he’s an Irishman who has lived in Australia for a long time and played in bush bands when he was living in rural areas. Australia has a long Celtic history, we the Celts were the ones brought out here after English colonisation and built the framework of what became Australia. They didn’t have the musical instruments from home, so they had to make do and create instruments like the bottle cap stick. They created a fusion of traditional style music with instruments created from necessity which became the bush bands that still survive in a small way today. The Australian way was we were a people who always kind of thumbed our nose at authority, enjoyed a laugh but would stand up for our mates and believed in the fair go. That spirit lives on in in the Celtic and folk punk music that comes out of this country. We as Australian people have had different experiences to people in North America and Europe and it shows in the music. When my wife was in Australia in her teens she said that she saw parliament on the TV and the MP’s were swearing at each other. That tells you what kind of place it is. My kind of place!

Celtic-punk nowadays. It seems to us that the scene over there is massive. There does seem to be more bands than before. Is this right is the scene bigger? If it is bigger has that made it more commercial/mainstream?  No I don’t think it has. Outside a couple of bands like the Dropkick Murphys and The Pogues you get blank responses to other bands. Outside the Celtic Punk scene in Australia a band like The Rumjacks are pretty well unheard of by the mainstream. Although I did hear a Go Set song on an ad the other night during the cricket so who knows?

the friendly neighbourhood wallaby

Who do you think are the best Australian bands and their best records? The ‘essential’ place to start in Aussie celtic-punk?  Well for me, I really like The Rumjacks, The Go Set, Shambolics, The Currency, The Bottlers, The Ramshackle Army, The Dead Maggies and Benny Mayhem. If people were looking for some Australian Celtic Punk albums I’d start with the Rumjacks debut ‘Gangs Of New Holland’, man that is a fecking fantastic album. Also, ‘Rising’ by The Go Set, ‘Riot On Raceday’ by The Shambolics and the new album from The Bottlers. My three year old daughter also told me to mention the Pogue Mahone album by the Shambos too, she has a meltdown if that CD gets changed in the car!

Any Aussie links you would recommend?  Honestly the best thing to do would be to check out the websites, twitter feeds and Facebook pages of some of the bands. The Triple J Unearthed site also has some good unsigned artists, just search for Celtic Punk on there and discover something new.

(Gareth’s third video this time from The Go Set who have darkened these shores many a time and each time with a growing fan base)

We are just about to publish our Best Of list for 2017 so what were your favourite releases of the year? Any you looking forward to in the coming months?  Man last year was a great year for albums in these genres, any year you have new albums from most of the big guns like the Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, The Tossers, The Real Mackenzies, Flatfoot 56 etc is a bloody good year, but my  favourite release for 2017 was ‘In It For Life’ by Black Anemone. That was a kick arse album. Loved the new Tossers album as well as the ones released by The Kilmaine Saints, The Peelers, Matilda’s Scoundrels, Craic, Dreadnoughts and The Bottlers. The new Real McKenzies album was great too. For 2018 I’m looking forward to the new album from 1916 and the new stuff The Mahones are releasing. Four new albums this year apparently! Yeah plenty of bands there that feature in our Best Of 2017. Stay tuned!

Thanks for taking time out of your schedule so all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug the Radio show and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank? Been my pleasure chatting to you guys, thanks for your support of the show, I really appreciate it. So subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave a review or hit me up on Twitter, Facebook or email me. Check out the schedule on Blues And Roots Radio as well to see the weekly shows schedule. I’d love to thank anyone who’s listened, chatted, shared the show and supported it, especially the bands who’ve supported the show as well as Stevie, Annie and Neil from BRR for giving the show a bigger audience and of course London Celtic Punks, Waldo from the Celtic & Folk Punk blog, the Mersey Celtic Punks, shout out to big fans Peter, Erin and Jennie and to anyone I’ve forgotten sorry. Oh and of course my wife and two girls. Can’t forget them.

You can listen to the latest January edition of the Celtic Punkcast at the link below. Simply cli for just over an hour of the best Celtic-Punk of the past and the present.

To find previous editions visit the web-site click the link

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If you as interested as I am in Australian celtic-punk then two sites worth checking out on Facebook are Aussie Celtic Punks and Australian Folk Punk Scene.

ALBUM REVIEW: FEROCIOUS DOG- ‘Red’ (2017)

In every musical scene every now and then a band comes along that is so good they threaten to break out and become the next big thing. That band is Ferocious Dog and that they have got to where they are solely on their own merits and without any sort of backing is simply incredible. Ferocious Dog are on the brink of something special and their new album Red will only speed them there.

Where to start with Ferocious Dog? I first came upon their name a few years ago whispered quietly upon the internet. They were formed way back in the day but for some reason they raised few eyebrows on the celtic-punk scene despite playing some of the best kick-arse celtic-punk rock you are ever likely to hear. Maybe they were missed because they were tucked away up north or we had them pigeonholed as a punky Levellers or a folky New Model Army and while those comparisons may be true there’s a whole lot more to the Ferocious Dog phenomenon than that. Originally formed back in 1988 as a duo with Ken on vocals and acoustic guitar and Dan on fiddle it wasn’t until 2010 that they took the step to becoming a full band.

It was the famed, and sadly now defunct, Paddy Punx website that first brought FD to my ears. The web site that upset every Celtic band in history by providing free links to pretty much every release by anyone that ever called themselves celtic-punk. Their description of the band as ‘English celtic-punk’ is not an oxymoron trust me and was enough to get me scurrying to my laptop and start downloading their self-titled debut album. From the very first play I knew I had to track this band down. That was back in early 2013 and you knew you were listening to something special straight away. Here was a band that bridged perfectly the folk and punk/rock scene’s perfectly. Since those days their star has risen higher and higher with the release of their acclaimed second album From Without and a bunch of absolutely brilliant EP’s and singles.

For Ferocious Dog it was the year 2015 that saw their promotion to the Premier League of alternative music. The release of From Without accompanied by two awe inspiring singles, ‘Ruby Bridges’ and ‘Slow Motion Suicide’, and a near sell out tour that went from one end of this sceptred isle to the other and across again culminated in a sell out performance in their, near, home town of Nottingham at the famed Rock City venue. The first time in that esteemed venues 35 year history that a unsigned band had sold out the venue in advance! One fan explained

“For me it felt like a real watershed moment for a band I’ve had the pleasure of following for the last few years. It feels like this gig was the moment things might change, they have integrity and strength and a loyal following”

Headline spots at Glastonbury followed and in the years since they have become a de-facto headliner for festivals to fight over. Any festie appearance guaranteeing bums in wigwams. Constant touring has helped to cement their position even if it did mean saying goodbye to two of the original Hounds who helped them on their way, Scott Walters and Ellis Waring.

Ferocious Dog: John Leonard- Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar, Bouzouki, Tin-Whistle, Uilleann Pipes, Accordion and shouting! * Ken Bonsall- Lead Singer/Acoustic Guitar * Les Carter- Lead Guitar * Dan Booth – Fiddle * John Alexander- Bass * Scott Walters- Drums

All this and without even a tiny bit of support from the record industry… and not for the want of either. Ferocious Dog are that rare thing. A band with integrity and belief. Yeah you read that right these guys have been courted by the industry and they have chosen the DIY route. No one controls the bark of this dog! The punk scene is notorious for having bands within it making all the right (on) sounds but the moment any interest is shown they are off like a shot with any principals and convictions left chucked to the floor in the haste to get on board the gravy train. None of that holds any sway for Ferocious Dog and they continue to plough their way through the alternative music scene gathering up more and more fans as they take England (and now the Netherlands!) by storm.

With new members on board, Les Carter, from indie Gods, Carter USM, multi-instrumentalist John Leonard and drummer Alex Smith, and all now firmly bedded in, Ferocious Dog have just released their third and latest album to the world. Titled Red it continues where From Without left off with more of their punk rock infused folk/Celtic sounds but with a more mature feel to it. Everything seems a progression in the FD camp from their gigs to their records and even their merchandise! The six piece band take in elements of punk, rock and reggae and mix it up with Irish and Celtic folk music and biting social commentary that comes from the ‘shop-floor’ not university lectures. The band hail from around Nottinghamshire, a working class area that once was famed for its industry and among the areas most important was coal-mining. In the famed 1984-85 miners strike the majority of Nottinghamshire’s miners sided with the government against their own trade union causing splits among friends, family and work-mates and it’s no exaggeration to say that civil war was breaking out in many mining communities across Britain. My own father worked at a coal mine across the border from Notts in South Yorkshire and never spoke to his strike-breaking brother again, not even attending his funeral. Real life experiences that shape and change minds and whole communities. The politics on Red are from the heart and from the working class. From where real politics come from.

One of the things that has enabled Ferocious Dog to achieve what they have done is the high degree of loyalty they bring out of their fans. Known as ‘Hell Hounds’, taking their name from a song from their debut album, its not unknown for fans to follow the band around the country from gig to gig and its a loyalty that is well deserved. A friendly bunch who make every gig an event and their lively mosh pits are welcome to all. Having seen them play now countless times I can assure you that the Hell Hounds make sure every gig is different and while it is, and always will be, better to see them in a small venue it doesn’t get better than seeing this wonderful bunch live! The first time I saw the band in a packed Half Moon in South London I still managed to have a quick chat with two of the band members after the gig they seemed to know the entire audience by name! Always accessible and available and with a real interest in what’s going on in the scene few bands have the following that Ferocious Dog deserve to have. 

Ken and Dan- original Hell Hounds

Red begins with ‘Black Gold’ and there’s no holds barred from the very beginning with this song telling of the role of the British Empire in slavery. Kicking off with some amazing mandolin before fiddle and electric guitar announce the arrival of the whole band into the fray. Ken has a very strong voice that is clear and precise and his northern accent shines through. I’ll try not to mention that word (catchy) too much in this review but as that word could have Ferocious Dog next to it in the dictionary it may be hard! This is followed by ‘American Dream’ and a bit of a first here in that I think it may be the first song that a proper video was shot for.

This is where the real celtic-punk kicks in. The first few songs remind me of San Diego celtic-rockers Lexington Field and it comes together perfect with superb fiddle driving the song along. ‘Spin’ is up next and begins as a straight up Irish trad tune with tin whistle and fiddle and is a real lyrics heavy track about the state of the country as Ken puts the boot into the Tories. One of the things that Ferocious Dog are famous for is their own compositions but they always throw in a couple of well placed covers and the first here is a version of Steeleye Span’s ‘Black Leg Miner’ that fair raises the roof. It first appeared on their album Hark! The Village Wait back in 1970 and the lyrics spit bile and give an insight into the contempt felt by striking miners and their communities to the weasels who stabbed them in the back.

“Across the way they stretch a line
To catch the throat, to break the spine
Of the dirty blackleg miner.
They grabbed his duds, his picks as well,
And they hoy them down the pit of hell,
Down you go, we pay you well”

The songs origins lay in the Durham coalfields of the 19th century and Ferocious Dog with a sense of their own history have certainly chosen well here. It’s perfect FD fodder with its slowly sung verses and frantic and manic chorus giving the audience plenty of chance to singalong before the moshing starts!

The next track up is ‘Together we are Strong’ and will soon I am sure become a firm live favourite. Catchy as hell and a real fist in the air shoutalong rather than singalong. Pleading for unity among the poor and dispossessed it’s not one of my favourites here but I’m sure the Hell Hounds will lap it up. It just seems a bit formulaic for me still it’s an upbeat number that is designed for the dance floor not critics tapping away on their laptops! So five songs in and the pace has been relentless with the band refusing to let up for a second so we were due a slower song but ‘A & B’ still came as a bit of a surprise. The change in pace is not unexpected but what a song! Up there with the best that they have ever recorded. Fiddle player Dan takes over on the vocals with simple but effective backing from John on acoustic guitar in a beautiful song about “the hardest story to be told”Inspired by visits to Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps in Poland the song has few lyrics but packs more in than any on this album. Ending with mournful fiddle that brings the song to an end.

We are back in proper FD territory again with the next song ‘The Enemy Within’ and again its a song dedicated to the miners and the strike. For a year the miners held out against a government determined to not only break them but to smash them. The miners went from “saviours of a nation” to, as Thatcher christened them, The Enemy Within. In France as the last coal mine close the miners were lauded as they rose from the depths of the earth. They were feted on live TV and the whole French nation paid tribute to these brave hard working men who faced death every time they left home for work. Here as the pits closed they simply threw the miners and their families onto the scrapheap and did absolutely nothing for the communities that relied so heavily on the industry.

I look around and all the mines are gone, I felt the need to put my feelings into song, You dare to tell me now the miners were all wrong and yes I am your enemy”

So yes a lot of anger and rightly so. Starting with military drumming it soon turns into a potted history of mining over a typical FD mosh friendly Celtic rocker. We are rolling up towards the end now and ‘A Place I Want To Be’ is a bit of a shocker with Les taking on lead vocals and having always been a huge fan of Carter USM it really made my day when they first announced he was joining the band. The song begins slow and gentle with Les picking away on an acoustic guitar before it explodes into action and any tale of a relationship breakdown deserves a bit of passion before it returns to just Les and his guitar. Now many seasoned celtic-punk fans may give a little sigh at seeing ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya’ on the track listing but to be fair it’s possibly not a song that well known to the FD fan base. While many celtic-punk bands have given it a whirl (none have bettered the ‘rebel’ version by Easterhouse by the way here) it’s not particularly well known outside our circles. I’ve a tonne of family in Athy and spent many a summers day there escaping farm work and trust me they never shut up about this song! Here they start off gentle with the Celtic instruments to the fore but its not long before the band have all joined in and turned it into the celtic-punk dance fest its always destined to be. This is followed by ‘Small Town Hero’ and by Christ it’s the album standout for me. A chugging bouncy punk rocker with some lovely fiddle work. Despite Ken’s accent it has a feel of early Dropkicks to me. Maybe its the gang chorus of ‘Heys’ but it’s a real belter of a song and sure to be another live favourite with pints and fist thrust to the air. We have arrived at the end and the curtain comes down on Red with a real surprise number. FD have often flirted with reggae but here they go for a seven minute epic bastard of a song titled ‘Class War’. Now I’m not the biggest reggae fan. Twenty-five years of living in Hackney and listening to selfish bastards playing it out their windows at 3am has turned me right against it but I can appreciate it here and the change of pace is nice but the laid back vibe doesn’t last for long as FD can’t help themselves and before long it speeds up out of the blue and we are off again. Class war is indeed raging on the streets of England but it is not a war between the classes but a war against the working class and our very identity and culture. A great way to finish the album and so ends forty minutes of pure unabashed celtic-punk fun.

So there you have it and this is the longest album review to have ever appeared on these pages and  all written in just a couple of go’s with no notes. Obviously the inspiration flows out of Ken and the Bhoys into us all! The production on Red deserves a mention and Phil Wilbraham at the Electric Bear Studios in Mansfield has done an exemplary job here capturing the sound and feel of FD perfectly. The release comes in both vinyl and CD and the CD comes with a massive 28 page booklet featuring photos and lyrics. As is usual with all FD releases is has been recorded in tribute to Ken’s son Lee Bonsall.

LEE BONSALL

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

This third studio album from Ferocious Dog shows a band at the top of their game but they seem to have been at the top of their game for so long now that you could regard it as a usual state of affairs for them. It’s hard to see where their progression has come from as they haven’t radically altered their sound from their debut album but the difference from other bands comes from the quality of their songwriting and lyrics. Here three different members of the band take the mic and each excel on songs that range from full on fast celtic-punk rock to soft and gentle tear jerkers while all the time playing with a sincerity that would alien to most bands. I simply cannot state how much respect and love I have for this band and to prove it I am even giving up the heady delights of St Patrick’s Day in the capital with the London Irish to go see them in Oxford so see you there. I’ll be in the middle of the dance floor!

Discography

Ferocious Dog (2013) * Ferocious Dog 3 Piece Acoustic (2014) * From Without (2015) * From Without Acoustic (2017) * Red (2017)

Buy Red

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Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund

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  • If you are at all interested in the world of Ferocious Dog, and why wouldn’t you be?, then a very good place to hook into is the Ferocious Blog. A fans eye view of everything a potential Hell Hound would want to know in the FD orbit. Here!

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

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

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

“would make slaves of us all”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOR YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK

HERE

This is a collection that can be truly recommended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S PART THREE: THE CELTIC NATIONS- BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS, THE DECLINE!, BRUTUS’ DAUGHTERS, REAL McKENZIES, VINCE CAYO, THE BOTTLERS

So welcome to 2018 and the first post of the year and the last of our round-ups from 2017. We simply could not keep up with the volume of releases we keep receiving so rather than completely neglect them here’s some much shorter reviews that will at least give you a taste of what they are about. We much prefer to do really detailed reviews but these are still 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. This week we concentrate on bands hailing from the Celtic nations or the Celtic diaspora. You can still catch up with our North America (here) and European (here) round-up’s.

BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS- ‘Walk Like Kings’  (Buy)

Described by the band as being made by accident we, and they, should be thankful for such unexpected delights. This is an album of thirteen glorious tracks covering themes of loss and longing and hope that show the Bhoys reaching new heights, musically and lyrically. Tracks, such as the fun filled ska beat ‘Disorganised Crime’ leap out of the speakers in a joyous racket that simply defies not being danced to and then there’s ‘Stand Up And Fight’, a collaboration with New Yorks finest Da Ded Rabbits, that punches it’s way through in a hard hitting pounding track that will be a surprise to some fans. Never fear the Bible Code sound is still evident as are other influences including an Oasis tinged ‘You Got Me On The Run’ but the title track, ‘Walk Like King’s’, is pure Bible Codes, a majestic thumping track full of defiance and pride for 2nd and 3rd generation Irish immigrants who weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths. Guests abound on this release – Elvis Costello, Matt McManamon, Brian Kelly… All adding to an eclectic mix of an album on which every track is worthy of your attention, be it the ethereal ‘America’

“Why we leave behind family, to a foreign land for to roam”

or the haunting beauty of ‘Snow Falling On Fire Escapes’ or the MacManus family collaboration ‘Willie Redmonds Volunteers’ all the tracks show a band at the top of their game and this is one that all London Celtic Punkers will want to check out. It has been a tough year for the band but this album is one thing that they can look look back on with fond memories and pride, let’s hope for more, someone once sang ‘accidents can happen, but only once…’ may the Bible Code Sundays fall into more.

“We face out, chest proud, In this town we walk like kings”

RIP Carlton.

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THE DECLINE!- ‘Heroes On Empty Streets’  (Buy)

More celtic-punk for you now but in the sense that this is a punk and from the Celtic nation of Brittany! The music scene in Brittany is very strong and is reflected in the growth of ‘Celticness’ and the resurgence in the Breton language. The Decline! are a five piece punk rock band from Rennes who formed in 2009. Their first EP, ‘An Old Indian Cemetery’, was released in the middle of 2010, and showed what proper genuine music today should be all about. They followed this up with their debut album ‘Broken Hymns For Beating Hearts’ the following year and was a mix of punk rock and acoustic folk tunes. 2014 saw the release of ’12a Calgary Road’ which saw the and branching out into celtic melodies but ploughing much the same furrow while taking on varying tempos with ease. This new album released in May may not have the asolute urgency of previous releases but more than makes up for it with it’s catchy singalonga punk rock. Kevin’s strong and distinctive voice and rumbling rhythm section certainly gets your blood pumping and while ‘Someday Somehow’ could pass for bleak post-punk maybe even Gothic in places the following track ‘Joyfull Thrill’ would make the early Dropkicks jealous.

We have to wait till track seven for the first signs of anything acoustic and it’s well worth the wait ‘We Love Our Scars’ hits the spot both lyrically and musically too. Its all very well done and very well produced too and while it may be possible to mistake this for an American punk release The Decline! are proud members of the Breton music scene. If catchy as feck melodic punk rock is yer thing then here’s the band for you.

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BRUTUS’ DAUGHTERS- ‘Hueso y Madera’  (Free Download)

Formed in November 2008 in Carabanchel, a suburb of Madrid as a straight forward punk rock band before they added Asturian bagpipe and fiddle and one of the most original bands in celtic-punk was born. This is the bands third album and, as usual, comes with songs written in Castilian, English and Asturian. As one of only a tiny handful of bands in the scene with female vocals they certainly stand out and with a defiantly anti-fascist message to boot. The music is fast and loud and punky but there is an undeniable hardcore traditional folk edge to it as well. Elements of their own countries as well as Celtic are merged together very successfully. As said I don’t understand much of the album but the sleeve notes speak of the endangered languages of the Celts, Celtic mythology and defending the underprivileged. The punk side of this reminds me of the Spanish punk music I use to hear in Hackney squats over the years but the folk influence is strong and comes out in reels and jigs throughout the album.

Only nine songs and twenty-eight minutes long but played at breakneck speed from the opening bars of the instrumental punky trad folk of ‘De Hueso Y Madera’ to the English language ‘Brazen’, the album moves at a great pace and its them pipes that really dominate here, holding it all altogether. Vocals are shared around the band and the standard gang chorus works very well especially on tracks like ‘Carretera’, for me the high point here with its catchy chorus while ‘Unidad’ is bass heavy and rumbles along nicely while the fiddle and pipes work overtime. ‘Carcel’ is another high energy number that offers up more of the same. Here’s a real Celtic band that is something quite apart from the herd. Alex voice is harsh and strong and fits the music perfectly. They are a lyrics heavy band so it’s a shame I can’t catch most of it as I am sure they have something important to say. Here’s a proper punk band playing proper punk rock songs that are littered with jigs and reels and a sea shanty about to break out at any moment. The hidden song here is the real folk gem though proving they can really play their instruments and you can find out yourselves for *FREE* yes you read that correct the album is available for sweet F.A from the link above.

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THE REAL McKENZIES- ‘Two Devils Will Talk’  (Canada / RestOfTheWorld )

Well what to say about Two Devils Will Talk? How it managed to escape a decent review is beyond me seeing how popular this awesome and is. Up there with The Mollys and the Murphs the Real McKenzies have been going an amazing 25 years and this, their tenth, is up there with the est I kid you not. I wasn’t overly enamoured with 2015’s Rats In The Burlap but here they have returned with fourteen rousing tracks of pure, unabashed Canadian-Scots celtic-punk mayhem. From the opening anthemic ‘Due West’ to a fantastic re-working of early McK song ‘Scots Wha Ha’e’ its absolutely brilliant. Once again they missed out of playing here so we never got to see them live but we can’t wait till they do darken these shores again. Punk, folk, acoustic, electric with pipes throughout weaving in the Celtic influence for which the band is best known. ‘Seafarers’ is one hell of a stand out tune. You can’t change how the waves roll only how you roll through them. The sense of humour they are famous for is riddled throughout the album and nowhere better than on the laugh out loud ‘Fuck The Real McKenzies’ where the band take the piss out of themselves, and everyone else too! They find room for a cover of Stan Rogers ‘Northwest Passage’ that only adds to this great song. Originally sang as an acapella song the McKenzies do it justice as you would expect. The album ends with my favourite McK song of all and plenty of rebellious, Scottish charm and wit here on an album that shows a band who are still capable of hitting the high notes even after a quarter of a century. A defiant return to form for one of the Premier League bands of celtic-punk.

The Real McKenzies on 25 years of Canadian Celtic punk rock here.

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VINCE CAYO- ‘Bound For Glory’  (Buy)

This debut album from talented multi-instrumentalist Vince Cayo has been bouncing around London Celtic Punks towers for a good six months now without making much of an impact until I decided to revisit a few albums for these round-ups and I can only think I didn’t listen to it properly as it is absolutely fecking brilliant. Not so much celtic-punk but def in the country-punk realm of things and Vince has a very strong voice that growls out at you like Tom Waits lashing it up with McGowan backed by The Street Dogs. Opening track ‘Wasteland Blues’ is a great start to proceedings with fast rock’n’roll country and harmonica shining out and Vince putting McGowan to shame! Vince says his influences range from the cream the celtic-punk but most importantly Flogging Molly, and the title track takes this adulteration to epic proportions, alongside such luminaries as Social Distortion, Billy Bragg, The Gits, Tim Barry, Bob and Dylan and they are all in there but with a bit of good auld Yorkshire grit and determination.

Not afraid to take a risk either with the epic ‘Folk The World’ seven+ minutes of heavy and hard hitting folk music that builds up and up into a real anthem of a tune with fiddle and mandolin taking it recklessly close to celtic-punk territory Vince! ‘Turn It Up’ is classic catchy punk rock that doesn’t seem out of place here at all and in fact slots in nicely among the folkier tunes. ON hearing this properly I though I could imagine him sharing a stage with the likes of Matilda’s Scoundrels so was no surprise to read after that he already had done. When I hear album’s like this I wonder if this is the start of something new. Well I say new but what I mean is a resurgence of folk and country music but with a modern interpretation. The album’s dozen songs wraps up the absolutely awesome country rock’n’roller ‘The Garbageman’ and ‘You Wont Be Marching Alone’. Great songs and a great production make Bound For Glory as good a debut album I heard in 2017  and I will be looking him up for any London dates I can tell you.

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THE BOTTLERS- ‘The Bottlers’ EP  (Buy)

Our final review comes from the land of Oz. A place I am constantly telling you and telling you is where the best Celtic-punk scene is and where the best Celtic-punk bands hail from. Why this is so is anyone’s guess. Perhaps one of these great Aussie bands would like to give us over here on the other side of the world a bit of an insight? The Bottlers come from that world and are a hard playing, nine piece (yes, nine!) celtic-punk band hailing from the capital city, Sydney. They may be city dwellers but you get the feel of the country off these Bhoys and Ghirl. Kicking off with ‘Hades Way’ its a rollicking good stroll through Irish folk-punk as filtered through the Aussie experience. Drawing from not only the vast rural reaches of the Australian nation but also the city and suburban streets with a solid tip of the hat to the folk, punk and folk punk pioneers that have traipsed and trekked the trails well before them.

This is both Australiana AND celtic-punk so intertwined are the two. ‘Take Back The Streets’ is a call to arms to the nations poor in a swirling waltz of anger and beauty. Only three songs on this EP and the curtain comes down with ‘Up She Rises’ and The Bottlers go out with a song that has a nod toward to 70’s English folk-rock in there somewhere amongst the rabble.

“The Bottlers believe folk based music should progressively speak of the times it exists in whilst hearkening back to it’s past, to the true heart of folk music, people. Because you truly can’t get where you’re going till you know where you’ve been”

and you can’t get better than that. In fact we may put it on a London Celtic Punk sticker.

  • yeah yeah I been reliably informed that Canberra is indeed the capital city not Sydney so congrats to Celtic Punkcast for spotting out deliberate mistake! Australia’s finest celtic-punk podcast. Check them out here or here.

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So ends Part 3 and our final part of the 2017 Round-Up’s. Again apologies to all the bands as each and every release fully deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still probably missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send in your stuff to us to review. We are always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by 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.

  • COMING SOON- THE BEST OF 2017! What we thought were the best releases of the year covering Albums, EP’s, Celtic/Folk-Punk, Traditional and more.

2017…THE STATISTICS!

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

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

TOP TEN COUNTRIES VIEWING

(2014/2015/2016 in brackets)

1. United Kingdom (!) (1/1/1 )

2. USA  (2/2//2)

3. Germany  (3/3/3)

4.  France  (5/5/5)

5. Ireland  (7/4/4)

6. Spain  (8/6/7)

7. Australia  (4/8/6)

8. Italy  (9/10/9)

9.Canada  (6/7/8)

10.Netherlands  (11/11/10)

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

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

2017 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S PART TWO: EUROPE- CASSIDY’S BREWERY, GALLEY BEGGAR, MAD MAN’S CREW, YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS, THE BLACK CLOVER

Every year that we have been doing this has got better and better for celtic-punk releases. As happy as we are that this is so it also means that we just simply cannot keep up with everything out there. We haven’t had the chance to review everything we received or heard so here is Part 2 of our 2017 Round Up where we catch up with some of the releases that we missed first time round. Here at 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS blog we much prefer to do really detailed reviews but there’s been no way we could keep up so here’s a few quick ones just to get 2017 out of the way. 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. This week we concentrate on European bands while last time we visited North America (here) and next time we will review bands from the Celtic regions so join us in a few days.

CASSIDY’S BREWERY- ‘One Brew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’  (Free Download)

The lads from Cassidy’s Brewery sent me the link to their debut album just a couple of weeks ago so they sneak into our round-up’s but they are one of many featured here that I would have liked to do a full review of. They are a six-piece band hailing from Belgrade, Serbia. Formed in 2008 the current line-up has been together now for a couple of years. The band started like most European celtic-punk bands I suspect playing covers from the mainstays of celtic-punk plus local legends, in their case the awesome Orthodox Celts, before setting out with their own material. Here they give us a ten track album split 50/50 with covers and originals and while the covers are faithful punked up versions of Irish standards like ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and ‘Drunken Sailor’ it is their own songs that really shine on this album. Lyrically they are very strong with the words to album opener ‘Sail Away’ particularly sticking in my head. If you going to play celtic-punk and have no celtic roots then you need to know your history and this is where Cassidy’s Brewery come over well. With a accent that is easy to understand in fact you don’t need the lyrics as Uroš vocals are as clear as a bell throughout. Irish and Scottish history is covered and no better than on ‘Heroes’ where William Wallace and Finn MacCool go for a beer and end up meeting Prince Edward!

“We’ll slap you silly, so please come out!”
“This one’s for Culloden, and this one’s for Boyne, and this one’s for the pissy-ass stout!”

Absolutely brilliant and I love my celtic-punk with a sense of humour and Cassidy’s Brewery give it us. Musically it’s pretty damn good as well. Fiddle, tin whistle and accordion supply the folk instrumentation and the rest is yer basic punk rock quintet of two guitars, drums and bass. Its melodic punk with metally overtones but it never strays too far away from celtic-punk and they mix it up with folk songs and a superb version of ‘Rolling Down To Old Maui’ that is as good as any I have heard. It may say above that is free but that just means it is available as a ‘Name Your Price’ so it’s free if you like but if you value the celtic-punk scene and bands like Cassidy’s Brewery then stick them enough for a Guinness in there!

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GALLEY BEGGAR- ‘Heathen Hymns’  (Buy)

Here’s a band that you wouldn’t categorise as celtic-punk at all. Or folk-punk either but they certainly do have some crossover appeal to fans of London Celtic Punks I am sure. Heathen Hymns is their fourth album after  Reformation House (2010), Galley Beggar (2012) and Silence & Tears (2014) and the band have got stronger with each release. Hailing from Kent and London Galley Beggar are a band of six musicians that grew up obsessed with an old sound. You could I suppose pigeonhole them among bands like  Fairport Convention, Pentangle or Steeleye Span and while their may have been a time in my spikey haired punk rock youth I would have scoffed at that I can say that the sheer quality of their music has won me over. With their folk-rock sound quite in vogue at the moment they have been steadily building a huge fan-base and even huger reputation  and they have successfully merged the traditional folk sound of England with the psychedelic folk rock sound of the 70’s and nowhere better than on the hypnotic ‘Moon & Tide’ and its fantastic video.

Of course it’s the originals here that are the real jewels but the way they handle the covers of traditional standards ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’,  first heard in 1689!, and featuring guest vocals from Celia Drummond of UK acid folk legends Trees, and ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ also impresses. Having recently signed to Rise Above Records they are set to kick on and move beyond their ‘festival fame’ and with bands like Ferocious Dog already on the way up its bands liken Galley Beggar who are set to join them.

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MAD MAN’S CREW- ‘Riot Without Weapons’  (Buy/Buy)

Hungary, Hungary, Hungary bloody Hungary. That’s how it seems this site goes sometimes. I won’t bore you with another list of absolutely brilliant Hungarian celtic-punk bands but will just say that I would swap all ours for theirs in a shot! Formed in June 2015 in Veszprém Mad Man’s Crew mix up a variety of styles with folk and punk colliding with ska via some rather nifty trumpet that slots in super nice. Kicking off with the brilliant ‘Leave Behind’ that takes melodic punk and throws in tin whistle and accordion and some band Oi! Oi!’s to great effect. As with Cassidy’s Brewery above the production here is superb and again the vocals are clear and Molnár is perfectly understandable. Eleven songs clocking in at forty minutes that very rarely strays from celtic-punk but when it does it explodes in your ears like a bomb going off. Fast paced punk rock with accordion is how I would best describe this. They have taken a different approach from the majority of Hungarian celtic-punk bands by concentrating more on the punk side of things though not to say the folk side is neglected it’s just that you wouldn’t automatically think of Irish folk music when you hear them. Other highlights here are the amazing ‘Anthem Of The Anarchists’ which takes all the elements and strands that make up celtic-punk and injects real life into them. I love this song so much it would make my Top Ten songs of the year!

Far as I can tell theirs no covers here but there is one song in Hungarian so maybe that’s one but a great debut album and yet another Hungarian band to go doolally about!

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YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS- ‘First Night Back in Port’  (Buy)

Hoist the Jolly Roger Ye Banished Privateers take no prisoners since launching in September 2012 and have a list of crew mates longer than yer arm with over thirty (!) members of the band and over a dozen on stage at gigs it makes for a rum do indeed. First Night Back In Port is the band/collective’s third album and is a staggering seventy-five minutes and fifteen songs of pure unabashed bastardized Irish folk an’ 17th century sea-shanty punk rock. The music takes you back to the 18th century a rough time when pirates dominated the seven seas and Ye Banished Privateers while they could easily become parody they mange to steer well clear of that thanks to great songs. At times it sounds like Tom Waits on the lash with fiddle, banjo and accordion while at others times its soft and gentle.

The album opener the emotional ‘Annabel’ is for me the best track here, a gentle introduction of a harrowing tale before plenty of opportunities galore to

“Let’s drink, let’s fight! Let’s fornicate by the harbour lights! Let’s fuck, let’s bite! Let’s dance away the night!”

leap out at you. The music is all acoustic and the vocals are shared around the band and while the music is strictly folk the spirit of punk is stamped throughout. One thing I did notice is that it is so full, with thirty members all battling for your attention, that it’s hard to pick out any elements in particular that impress. The sound is very authentic and not at all what I am use to listening to but i really enjoyed this wee time travel back to simple, honest and moving music.

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THE BLACK CLOVER- ‘From Sailor To Hobo’ EP (Buy)

Another release that sneaked in at the last minute this time from France and the debut release from a band that came from the ashes of Seagulls Are Drunk who featured on these pages a long, long time ago. The Black Clover celebrate their first anniversary with the release of this EP and again like with SAD it has a very particular French sound to it while also incorporating celtic-punk and traditional French folk music. Beginning with ‘A Road To Galway’ the song builds up and up and while not quite hitting punk rock levels it certainly rocks along and has a very catchy feel to it. Driving bass and drums and all the time fiddle and accordion keep it moving. They mix it up with ‘Black Tot Day’ a slightly jazzy sound but losing none of the celtic-punk bite and catchiness. Slowing it down for the saddest song you’ll hear today ‘The Lost Beer’, the tragic ballad of a lost love. As with Seagulls Are Drunk I thought then they had a real Tom Waits thing about them and the same here and not just because of Seb and his low and gruffled vocals. Imagine Tom fronting a celtic-punk band and you basically got it but then they go and throw out ‘La Baffe’ a Celtic/Breton bastard of a punk rocker and you realise that all four songs here are all different and then the EP ends with ‘The Sea Is Behind Me’ a beautiful ballad. Great release and bodes well for the future from a band who sound both innovative and fresh while having their roots planted firmly in the past.

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So ends Part 2 of our Round-Up’s and apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still probably missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send in your stuff to us to review. We are always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by 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.

2017 REVIEWS ROUND-UP’S PART ONE: THE AMERICA’S- THE DREADNOUGHTS, CRIKWATER, PLASTIC PADDY, THE WILD IRISH ROSES, LA FIESTA DEL DIABLO, COCKSWAIN

Every single year that we have been doing this has got better and better for celtic-punk releases. As happy as we are that this is so it also means that we just simply cannot keep up with everything that get’s released. We haven’t had the chance to review everything we received or heard so here is Part 1 of our 2017 Round Up where we catch up with some of the releases that we missed first time round. Here at 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS blog we much prefer to do really detailed reviews but it has been impossible to keep up so here’s a few quick ones just to catch up and get 2017 out of the way. 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. This week we visit not just North America as originally planned but further afield as well. Read on and find out where and shortly we’ll head to Europe so join us in a few days.

THE DREADNOUGHTS- ‘Foreign Skies’  (Buy)

This year gave us the ambitious ‘concept’ album, Foreign Skies, from Canada’s own Dreadnoughts. It was released to mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war (yeah, I know, the Great War ran from 1914-1918, so that includes 1917!), and features 12 original tracks all based on events, people and places that were part of that war. There are a few standout tracks, notably; ‘Daughters of the Sun’, ‘Anna Maria’, ‘Jericho’ and ‘Black Letters’. The rest is all good with the usual fantastic musicianship we’ve come to expect from the Dreadnoughts. The subject matter does make it a rather sombre listening experience, and while the feeling/belief behind the album is admirable, there is no getting away from the subject matter. An interesting work, but it won’t get too many airings at parties over the festive season.

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CRIKWATER- ‘Crikwater’  (Buy)

Now on first listen to this album from Crikwater you may wonder why they are appearing on a celtic-punk site and you may be right. They are here for the sole reason I love them! Formed in 2010 round the rust-belt in the Irish-American neighbourhood of South Buffalo, NY in 2010, Crikwater play beautiful but rowdy, country tinged Irish American traditional folk. No hint of an electric guitar on this their second album instead the band offer up 74 minutes and fourteen songs of classic Irish ballads that we all know and love like ‘Dicey Riley’ and ‘Long Black Veil’ and a few lesser known as well as some lively as hell polka’s, jigs and reels accompanied by some fantastic red-hot fiddle from Charlie Coughlin. The highlight for me was ‘Bruach Na Carraige Baine’ and words can’t explain the beauty of hearing the Irish language sung by someone born outside Ireland. Outstanding and you hear it below on the Soundcloud player. Recorded live in the studio in Orchard Park, NY. their long awaited follow up to 2012’s Don’t Stop ‘Til The Ship Goes Down showcases the bands amazing musicianship and their sound which encapsulates the modern Irish American experience laden with Americana, folk and country influences while all the time being steered by their Irish roots. Having grown from a humble quartet to a versatile sextet their mix of elegant ballads and rowdy pub songs is certainly among the best I have heard in recent years and they are almost certainly ready to give the big hitters of the Irish folk scene in America a run for their money. This is music for the pub to be heard with the drink flowing and the good times occurring and a tear in your eye for the auld place you left behind.

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PLASTIC PADDY- ‘Lucky Enough’  (Buy)

“A person who retains a strong sense of Irish identity despite not been born in Ireland or being of only partial Irish descent; used in reference to Irish-English or Irish-Americans. Perceived as irritating by Irish nationals”

Arriving in the same week as Crikwater this is as similar a album as you could find though separated by 1000’s of miles away from NY on the east coast of the US in sunny California. Though all born many miles away from Ireland this bunch of Irish-Americans have taken a similar, though much less trad, route as Crikwater distilling their own version of Irish music through country, Americana and folk and yet it still lives and breathes the atmosphere of yer old fashioned Irish boozer. Formed out of Pladdohg who disbanded in 2014 the music here again we would be hard pressed to describe as celtic-punk but I like it, a lot, so here it is! Their debut album Lucky Enough is 12 songs and 42 minutes long and consists of mostly original Plastic Paddy songs but with a small smattering of well loved standard Irish tunes including ‘Whisky You’re The Devil’ and ‘Dicey Riley’ popping up again. Highlights include an amazing version of Greg Trooper’s ‘Ireland’, a song with truly amazing words and I was saddened to read that Greg Trooper passed away in January this year just after his 61st birthday. R.I.P.

“With your mandolins, fill up the hall
not a dry eye left, you killed them all
Its just like you
just like you, Ireland”

Drawing on influences of Californian rock and country with Erin Bloom’s wonderful voice it also evokes late 60’s and 70’s British folk-rock and not many album’s featured here have slide guitar that much is true. Still it’s a polished album without being over produced album that captures their catchy sound and while they are home in the local pub I get the feeling that they could slide into the arena side of things as well with their music having appeal to anyone interested in Irish music.

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THE WILD IRISH ROSES- ‘Fill Yer Boots, Man!’  (Buy)

Now The Wild Irish Roses are your absolute true family band with Mom, Dad and all eight kids involved it doesn’t get more family than this! Again in common with the two previous bands Irish blood courses through the music and The Wild Irish Roses have a bright future ahead of them. Josie (15) sings and plays banjo, mandolin, penny whistle, viola while sisters Hanna (17) plays bodhran, Evelyn (13) plays concertina and viola, Penelope (10) sings and plays tambourine while the two youngest of the clan brothers Aengus (8) plays drums and Lazarus (5) plays harmonica. Father and guitarist of The Wild Irish Roses is Michael X. who also stars in recent London Celtic Punks featured band TheTemplars Of Doom while the Mammy Kristi plays bass. They cut their teeth in Brooklyn 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. Fill Yer Boots, Man! is an incredible 21 songs lasting 42 minutes and their is no let up throughout with the songs over as swiftly as they arrive. Kicking off with ‘Margaret Thatcher’s Death Song’ one of many self-penned numbers from the band including Evelyn’s ballads ‘Dancing Widowed Fool’ and ‘Blind Marianne’ and Josie’s contribution ‘Haunting Highland Laddie’, a tale of a piper who drunkenly fell from a castle tower and will haunt you to your grave- unless you pay him in pints of beer! Their is though a London connection here and that is from ex-Neck piping maestro Stephen Gara. Now happily settled in the States he made a special four foot bodhran called a Bodhran Mohr (Great Drum)which led to the song of the same title. It can be heard booming out throughout the album. The album closes with what for me was the absolute album highlight ‘Christmas in Kingston’, a sordid tale of lost love and redemption set in the former state capital of NY. Its rousing chorus of

“It’s Christmas in Kingston You Basterds, Every Junkie and Whore will be saved”

is up there with “You scumbag, you maggot, You cheap lousy faggot” and is sure to make it a surefire holiday favorite. It’s a bit of a mish-mash of an album but there is NO denying it’s originality and it’s an album that you’ll find yourself singing along to after a couple of plays. An incredible feat and a perfect example of ‘The family that plays together stays together’.

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LA FIESTA DEL DIABLO- ‘Mis Colegas, La Barra y Satán’ (Buy)

Proof that we are now a truly international scene comes in the shape of La Fiesta del Diablo. They are the very first band from Chile to appear on these pages and though celtic-punk is alive and kicking in Brazil we had never heard of it existing elsewhere. This is the bands second album having formed in November, 2015 in the capital of Chile, Santiago. They play what they call what they call themselves ‘multicultural noise’. On this album they take us on a journey through folk music with Celtic, Irish, gypsy, klezmer, tangos, rancheras and Russian, among others although with its roots firmly in punk rock. Whatever it is, one thing I feel that it’s got in common with celtic-punk is that La Fiesta del Diablo would be fantastic in a live setting.

(Video filmed in Bar Badalu in Santiago’s Italia neighborhood)

Twelve songs of which all but a small handful are written by the band. Kicking off with the brilliant energetic ‘Manifesto’ and its bouncy Russian trad folk sure to make your feet dance and get your head nodding away. Fast paced throughout and here the accordion is king with it’s sound dominating and nowt wrong with that. The songs are in Spanish and the vocals are nice’n’easy on the ear. A real mixed bag of an album and quite an eye opener as maybe it’s not celtic-punk but so much in common it deserves its spot here. Available for only $4 so take a punt and put it on on New Years Eve to get the party flowing. Brilliant.

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COCKSWAIN- ‘For the Whiskey’  (Buy)

Was only going to do five album’s per Round-Up but just had to give this one a quick mention. From Phoenix, Arizona this bunch of Irish-American’s must suffer in that local heat maybe that’s why they spend so much time in the pub! Rounded up in 2012 this is the bands second album after ‘Seamus’ in 2015. For The Whiskey is a fantastic release that I loved from the very first play. Their are hints of many of the scene’s big hitters from Blood Or Whiskey to DKM’s or the Molly’s but all played with plenty of individualism too. Ten songs that veer from full on Irish folk punk, ‘For The Whiskey’ (free song download here), to sober maudlin ballad ‘When I Die’ and all in between. All played with a fiery temperament and a real love of trad Irish folk music.

If you think you’ve heard just about everything a band can do it with ‘Dirty Old Town’ then Cockswain have a shock for you. An very interesting and surprising version. ‘Johnny Be Fair’ mixes in some female vocals and the curtain comes down with ‘Whiskey, Love and War’ utterly brilliant and a fine example of the celtic-punk genre. this came out around St.Patrick’s day and I can’t believe it took us so long to catch up with it.

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…and so ends Part 1 of our Round-Up’s and apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full epic London Celtic Punks review treatment. We have still probably missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send in your stuff to us to review. For details how use the Contact Us section. We are always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by 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.

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2017. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

Each December we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard that year to showcase in our end of year message and this year the runaway victors are from just up the road from us in Berkhamsted. We give you Flatcaps & Fisticuffs and their wicked version of ‘Good King Wenceslas’. The EP it’s from is availanble as a free download from here.

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

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

Christmas

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

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

SCOTLAND

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

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

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

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

IRELAND

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

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

WALES

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

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

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

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

ISLE OF MAN

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

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

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

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

CORNWALL

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

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

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

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

BRITTANY

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

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

GALICIA

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

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

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

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

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

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

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

Now go have a drink…

EP REVIEW: FLATCAPS & FISTICUFFS- ‘Candy Cane’ (2017)

Twas only a couple of weeks ago that we reviewed Flatcaps & Fisticuffs debut EP and low and behold straight after another one lands on our doorstep. This time it’s a Christmas themed romp and it’s also available as a *FREE* download!

We kind of compared them to Matilda’s Scoundrels in our review of their debut EP Raspberry Cheesecake (here) but releases in a month is even beyond Matilda’s level of prolificness! Poor Bing will be rotating in his grave as the Bhoys annihilate the old-school Christmas banger ‘White Christmas’ as your starter, lay into ‘Good King Wenceslas’ as the chicken-in-turkey mains and then shock us all, especially me, with a cover of Run-D.M.C.’s ‘Christmas In Hollis’ bringing down the curtain as the classic Christmas Pudding dessert. A trio of tunes that will be sure to get your nan swinging from a low-hanging branch of the Christmas tree!

(as filmed in one take!)

You can download Candy Cane for free from SoundCloud or the Flatcaps & Fisticuffs website but you can play it using the Soundcloud player below.

Download Candy Cane

*FREE* FromTheBand *FREE*

Contact Fisticuffs & Flatcaps

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Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Breizh Anok
Contact The Band
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email- contact@ramoneursdemenhirs.fr
 

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: THE PEELERS- ‘Palace Of The Fiend’ (2017)

Formed way back in 1999 in a small farmhouse kitchen in North Glengarry County in Eastern Ontario and now based in Montreal The Peelers have long become one of the more famous and popular celtic-punk bands in Canada. Glengarry holds a special place in Canadian Irish history being separated from New York State by the St. Lawrence river it was originally settled by Irish immigrants who chose the name Glengarry in memory of their home. It was the place that the coffin ships during Án Gorta Mór, otherwise known as the Irish ‘famine’, sailed when turned away from America. The major quarantine station for immigrant ships was on the St. Lawrence river and it is thought up to 15,000 Irish people are buried on the small island of Grosse Île where a huge Celtic cross now stands as a memorial to their souls. We recently covered this subject on our review Of Declan O’Rourke’s new album Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine here.

The Peelers have, over their long existence, played at just about everywhere you can think of right across North America. From your small town dive to snowboarding championships,  cocktail lounges, festivals and just about every other kind of place a bunch of guys can fit a drum kit. Their debut album, Boots And Suits, hit the streets in 2002 before second album Liquordale a couple of years later. That release was named as Album Of The Year by the Boston based Shite n’ Onions web-site.

They started recording the new album in 2013 but like they say ‘good things come to those who wait’. For me this album is one of the best releases of 2017 and there has been some cracking albums released this year. It has thirteen songs and features guest performances by Finny McConnell (The Mahones) on the third track ‘Going Down Swingin’. Palace Of The Fiend was recorded in five different studios, located in Montreal, Toronto and Casablanca, Morocco and was one of the first releases of 2017, coming out on January 3rd so apologies to the band for taking so long to get the review done.

(The first video released from Palace of the Fiend)

This is a great upbeat tune to put you in the mood for a pint or two. The album opens with ‘New York’ which sets the scene nicely for the fifty+ minutes that follow. Stand out tune for me are ‘Five Roses’, ‘A1a Fla’, ‘Stand Down Clearly’ and ‘The Black Eye Blonde’. The curtain comes down with an amazing version of ‘Cúnla’ and illustrates the link to the past that The Peelers are so proud of. A ‘sean-nós’ (style of unaccompanied traditional Irish singing) children’s song believed written in the 14th century. The album is definitely more in The Flogging Molly school of celtic punk than Dropkick Murphys. I’d highly recommend Palace of the fiend to anyone who likes their Irish music with a twist of punk. – Shane

Buy Palace of The Fiend

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Contact The Peelers

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

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

CUSTER DIED FOR YOUR SINS

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

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

Custer died for you sin
Now a new day must begin

SLEEVE NOTES

From our hearts thank you by Vine Deloria Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MISSIONARIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Produced by Jimmy Curtis & Terry Philips

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

More On Floyd Westerman

Wikipedia  WebSite  Obituary  JohnKatsMusic

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

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

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

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

 

EP REVIEW: FLATCAPS & FISTICUFFS- ‘Raspberry Cheesecake’ (2017)

*FREE* download of the debut release of delicious country Folk-Punk from Flatcaps & Fisticuffs from the town of Berkhamsted!
Ukulele, mandolin, guitar, cajon, trumpet and a fragrant hint of rap!
You know when you have made it as a band when you find other bands being compared to you and so it is with Matilda’s Scoundrels and Flatcaps & Fisticuffs. They are by no means clones but I think you could easily bracket them in the the same style of folk-punk with a bit of celtic-ness! I literally found out about them this week so made the short leap to the free download and bloody loved it so thought I’d get in touch with the guys and find out what’s the score with them. Long, long ago is how it usually starts but not this time! Duncan the mandolin player had just arrived in England from South Africa and on meeting Ben the guitar player in a pub and over a few (!) beers it was suggested they start a band. The hardest thing about starting a band, I’m reliably informed, is to find a drummer but they already knew one so it wasn’t too long before they progressed from playing open mic gigs in pubs around Hertfordshire to making their own folk punk sound with uke, mando and other standard band instruments.
The band hail from Berkhamsted, a historic market town in Hertfordshire in the south of England. Now any new appearance of a band in England even remotely sounding just a little celtic-punk is a joyous event to us and so we were more than a little excited to press play and see if they warranted all this excitement.
…well I am glad to say it’s a blooming excellent EP and you’d have to be a right mug not to take them up on their fantastic offer of a free download of it.

Flatcaps & Fisticuffs left to right: Ben- Guitar / Backing vocals * Duncan- Mandolin / Vocals * Adam- Uke / Vocals * Ben- Drums * Will- Percussion / Vocals * Tom- Bass

Raspberry Cheesecake begins with ‘Socks’ and it’s right up my alley with this ode to yer man’s socks hitting all the right notes for me.

“My socks, my socks, without them I’d be lost”

Fast paced with plenty of slow bits and a lovely gang chorus that’s easy to singalong to. It’s a bit daft but hey-ho give me the Toy Dolls over The Subhumans any day of the week. As stated already it has a tinge of Matilda’s Scoundrels about it with classic English folk and punk colliding and almost very nearly spilling over into celtic-punk.

On ‘Capo On A Jew Harp’ it’s more of the same if not punked up a bit but just as accessible and as catchy. The lyrics take a harder edge while still keeping the fun element. Politically directed lyrics but with a good sense of humour thrown into the mix is always going to be a winner. Bland virtue signalling has had its day and with the world seemingly on the brink every couple of months we want our politics to lift us don’t we? The final song here is a cover of the, frankly annoying, New Zealander Lorde’s debut single ‘Royals’. While her version is ok Flatcaps & Fisticuffs blow her away with the cobwebs with the catchiest little number here. The uke stands out loud and proud and it all has a bit of a celtic-ska thing going on. Seriously a fantastic number and enough here to keep fans of about five different genres delighted!

Raspberry Cheescake (where on earth did they pluck that name out of??) was released only last month and so we have been lucky to have found it so quickly. Flatcaps & Fisticuffs have made it available for free so just follow the link at the bottom of this review and I am absolutely certain you will be extremely glad you did. In this country we don’t have a wealth of bands playing this style of music so when one comes along its always a bit of an event and even better when they deliver something so special. So now that we have found them our next step is to get them on the short road to a London Celtic Punks gig. So here’s what to do… download the EP, find them and then like them on Facebook (link below) and lastly keep an eye out for them playing very, very soon. Enjoy!

Download Raspberry Cheesecake

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Contact Fisticuffs & Flatcaps

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While plans are afoot to bring Fisticuffs & Flatcaps for a London Celtic Punks show you can catch them at The Horn in St Albans on 18th of January, Nottingham on the 27th of January for a Homeless charity fundraising gig (TBC) and in London for somebody else at the Finborough Arms in Kensington on the 3rd of February. See you at the bar!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When I die they’ll put me over

That’ll cure my broken heart

My dreams can go no further

We’re buried in the deep

Where hunger cannot find us”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The awfulness of the situation is captured perfectly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine

SignedVinyl  SignedCD  Amazon

Contact Declan O’Rourke

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Soundcloud

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

Further Recommended Reading:

Let Ireland Remember

Irish National Famine Memorial Day

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

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

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

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