Tag Archives: Ballydowse


Rollicking, inspiring, group-singing, Pogues-inflected Punk with heavy multiple-world and Folk-genre borrowing thrown all around.

Plenty of bands have come and gone over the years. Ballydowse were one such band. An American Christian Celtic-Punk band (though the Chicago Reader calls it shit-kicking Celtic crunch Punk) active between 1998 and 2003 they recorded two albums that concentrated on social and economic issues.


Ballydowse were a Celtic-Punk rock band from Cook County, Chicago, Illinois with a rare mix (in Celtic-Punk anyway!) of both anarchist and religious ideas infused into their music. Formed from the ashes of Streetpunk / Oi! band Crashdog many of the group’s members were members of the Jesus People USA, a community seeking an alternative to the self-based standard of living. In addition to the group’s Mekons / Pogues-style Celtic-Punk influences, the group also drew influence from across the world music such as Klezmer and Tibetan throat singing. Ballydowse released two fantastic albums on Grrr Records  both engineered by the legendary producer Steve Albini, famous for his work with such diverse acts as Low, The Pixies, Neurosis, Bush and Mogwai.

Their debut album was entitled ‘The Land, the Bread, and the People’ and found a home for many who found common cause with certain elements of Christianity while rejecting the supposed American right wing bias so prominent in the church at the time. Their second album ‘Out Of The Fertile Crescent’ continued this trajectory with a growing Eastern European flavor. The group’s political activism over the economic sanctions on Iraq in the 2000s, prison reform, the death penalty and the short-comings of capitalism was unique among Christian bands of the time. As they are quoted

“hardcore punk rock, early British oi sounds, violins, didgeridoos, bagpipes, mandolins, old Yiddish music, and the idea of overthrowing the $government$ to form a more merciful and compassionate society.”

They may sound kinda preachy but they were far from it. They are credited with being at the forefront of the hardcore Christian music scene at the time. Sadly Ballydowse disbanded in 2003 but don’t let those cocky corporate music execs keep you from hearing quality music. Let’s prove them dead wrong, join the revolution, and turn the world upside down. A double dose of Ballydowse is a great place to start to get your motor running, heart pounding, brain thinking and your spirit soaring.

“Holy Father we all want bread,

Both from heaven and your fields so green.

I know your grace is man’s first need,

But I can no longer hold the pain I’ve seen.

I am my brother’s keeper and that I’ll always be.

I’ll not turn my back be he stranger of blood

And embrace a life of greed.

I am my sister’s keeper and that I’ve always been.

Every day I’ve left her out in the streets”

from ‘The Land, The Bread And The People’

(You can stream or download the albums through the Bandcamp player)


Released July 1, 1998. Recorded at: Tone Zone Recording in Chicago by Steve Albini. All music and lyrics by Ballydowse. Produced by: no one in particular.


Released July 1, 2000. Recorded at Wilson Warehouse, Tone Zone Recording, and Electrical Audio in Chicago by Steve Albini.

The band members who played on this album : Andrew Mandell – vocals, Robina Mandell – vocals, Nate Peters – vocals, guitar, mandolin, Darren Davick – guitar, vocals, bass, octave mandolin, Brian Grover – bass, singing bowls, didgeridoo, throat singing, Dan Kool – vocals, bodhrán, concertina, Levi Nerad – drums, Donnie Anderson – drums, Dave Baumgartner – violin with guest appearances from Tony Krogh – highland bagpipes and Hilde Bialach – cello

The Band  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

I recently discovered this live footage of Ballydowse that was uploaded in 2015 and hidden away on You Tube. The quality is fair but the sound is excellent. In the briefest of descriptions it just says ‘St. Petersburg, Florida’ but I worked out the gig was held at a homeless shelter in the town.

Read Ballydowse own words through Andrew and Brian from the band in an extensive interview with the Christian music site ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ from 2000 here. There’s another interview with Robin and Andrew and The Outcast here where they explain where the band name comes from. There’s not a lot of information out there on Christian Celtic-Punk but the now defunct and sadly missed web-zine Celtic Folk Punk And More has a big section on Christian Celtic-Punk here 

*This article originally came with free download links to the albums but as of July 2019 they are no more!


“we’re a Chicago-Irish band”

Kevin Flynn

A few years ago a website suddenly appeared out of nowhere called Paddy Punx. It was basically a download site and the poor guy doing it must have been a drug addict or something as he put up scores and scores of albums everyday at all hours of the day and night. The site is long gone now unfortunately thanks to one of the great many site culls the US government has every now and then.  I mention this because at the time you didn’t know how long it was going to last so you basically downloaded at every opportunity you had. Luckily (!) I was unemployed at the time so could do a bit more than most people. One of the bands I downloaded, amongst the many, was Kevin Flynn And The Avondale Ramblers. Never having heard of them and with a name that makes them sound like a Nashville country band I cant say why but I was certainly glad I did!

Paddy Punx

Their previous releases are two mini-albums and a live album, made up from songs from the two mini LPs, released in 2010. I was blown away by their distinctive sound and incredible lyrics and stories about their home town of Chicago and Irish-America. I thought, like many, that was it and they’d fallen by the wayside but then I heard they were bringing out a new album and my appetite was surely wetted. Chicago has an amazing musical reputation with music as diverse as Sam Cooke to Rise Against to Muddy Waters to err…Chicago, but nowhere has Chicago’s influence been more inspiring than with celtic-punk and bands like The Tossers, Flatfoot56, The Fisticuffs, Ballydowse have led the way in moulding American celtic-punk.

The Broken Pavement Of Avondale honours the Windy City, as Chicago is also known, in a way that makes you want to upsticks and move there(…if it wasn’t called the Windy City for nothing that is!)

The music itself is a superb mix of Americana, country, pop, rock, punk, and celtic/Irish folk put together in a totally accessible way that will appeal to all but, as is the way with the best celtic-punk bands, its the lyrics that stand out here. Kevin Flynn is like a historian putting the history of Chicago to music and passing it along or down to other generations. I defy you not to listen to this and not learn something new of interest.

The album kicks off with ‘The Road I Walk’,

“the road I walk is less than often travelled, never paved in gold- its always dirt or gravel, although its on the byway, it always will be my way, another road just aint for me”

If you get sick of me using the word catchy then don’t blame me as there’s no better word to describe the music here.

Kevin Flynn And The Avondale Ramblers

This is followed by the title song, probably the punkiest on the album, a catchy instrumental with chugging guitar backbone and mandolin and tin whistle driving it along. Subjects covered here include songs about the working-class, Catholicism and the drunken, sometimes violent aspects of their city. A forgotten maritime disaster is one of the stand out tracks, ‘The Eastland’, and the memories of those 844 poor souls will surely never be forgotten again once you’ve heard it. ‘The Pope Of The Windy City’ is the story of the infamous Richard J. Daley who ruled Chicago as Mayor from the 50’s through to 1976 and a listen to this song tells you a whole lot more than the Wikipedia entry will do!!!

“he was raised on the working class Southside, blue-collar Catholic Irish pride, workin’ for the town, he learned about it Holy See”

a beautiful love song ‘I Love Whiskey’ and a hilarious ride through the trials and tribulations of Lent called ‘5 Weeks 5 Days’ and finally the album comes to a end with ‘Don’t Bury Me Outside Chicago’ another magnificent ode to their home city. Kevin is joined by Tony Duggins of The Tossers and he and Tony have much in common in the way their lyrics are much more than just words accompanying a song.  Though the band’s sound is steeped in the influence of traditional Irish music, their songs are anything but traditional. When asked about this Kevin said in a interview

“There was no particular method. They were just the people and events whose stories we felt needed to be told if you’re going to be a true Chicago folk band. Mayor Daley? – that’s a no-brainer. The Daleys are to Chicago what the Kennedys are to Massachusetts. The Eastland? – more passengers died on that trip than on the Titanic.  It didn’t get a big movie made about it, but it got a great song”

You want this LP. You want this if you love your hometown or your family, your class or your religion or your Irish background or even your non-Irish background! Its twelve anthems that will inspire and affect you as well as raising a smile and a glass or two, whiskey of course, to those that this record remembers. quite simply easily one of the best releases of 2013 and I’m only sad that I heard it too late to vote for it in our ‘Top Five Albums Of 2013’.

Contact The Band  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube

Buy The Album  CD Baby  Amazon

Discography  Double Door 9-15-09 (2010)  The Murderer, The Thief, The Minstrels & The Rest (2009)  Don’t Count Me Out (2008)

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