Tag Archives: Billy Bragg

ALBUM REVIEW: THE SILK ROAD’ ‘S/T’ (2017)

Infectious and catchy throughout the debut album from northern English celtic-folk-punkers The Silk Road has more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and plenty of folk to keep the oldies like me happy!

Here’s an album we have been waiting for here at London Celtic Punks with baited breath! Those with a good memory will remember way back last October we reviewed the four track pre-album sampler from The Silk Road and back then we were very impressed

“This kind of music lends itself more to the live experience so if they are able to capture that in the studio then by St George they will have cracked it”

and I am pleased to say they haven’t let us down either!

The Silk Road hail from Chesterfield in the north of England an area famed for it’s industry and for the militant trade unionism that goes with it. Their music reflects this. Their is no pretense or ‘virtue signalling’ here. Their beliefs were learnt at the knee of older generations who lived through times they did not want to see repeated. Formed in 2015 all the band have played music locally going back some twenty years ranging from folk to punk to ska so plenty of experience involved here. Taking some old demos that singer/songwriter Tich had recorded in his studio as a base The Silk Road began to take shape and after adding some new material The Silk Road’s debut album began it’s story.

Musically The Silk Road are cut from the same cloth as three bands who are still regularly packing them in at gigs across the country all year round. The Levellers, New Model Army and Ferocious Dog are the main bands that represent a broad mixture of scenes from folk-punk to celtic-punk to English-folk. The music while it may sound like celtic-punk to some is actually the music of the north of England. Their has always been a strong tradition of folk music among the working class and just as with celtic music it was in the early 80’s that young bands began to change, add and adapt it with hard rock and punk music. For me there is no better example of this than the first two album’s from Billy Bragg. He may be a bit of a wanker now on his farm in Devon lecturing us on how to vote and still pretending he lives in Barking but those albums are an incredible mix of politics and passion that captivated us and I still regularly play them. Armed only with a cheap electric guitar Bragg stormed the Singles charts of the day with his rough but passionate voice and a way of writing straight from the heart. His best songs were always about the mysterious interactions between men and women rather than his left-wing polemics but this was urban folk at it’s finest. Now some 20+ years later The Silk Road take their place on the same path and I’m sure they won’t be moving to Devon the first chance they get!

This self-titled album is thirteen original compositions by the band and though it’s very much a team effort it’s in no small part down to the vision and drive of lead vocalist Tich. A tattooist by trade it was his idea to use the symbol of the silk road as the bands logo. Yes it may look Celtic/Irish but the three hares with interlocking ears is actually from the far east where the silk road was the ancient trade route linking Asia to the West. The album cover itself was designed by no other than celtic-punk’s leading lady Katie ‘Kaboom’ McConnell of The Mahones.

The album begins with ‘No Revolution’ and it’s a loud start. I was expecting something a bit quieter so was pleasantly surprised. Quite a basic 80’s punk sound here which I absolutely love. The fiddle may have been worth turning up a bit but its got harmonica so that’s me happy for the next forty-eight minutes! Tich’s vocals are clear as crystal and so easy to understand, and get, that there is literally no point in putting them in the CD booklet. ‘Find A Cure’ follows the same road except with a short reggae interlude before a great punk rock Irish jig takes over. Great chorus here that will have you singing it in your head long after you’ve heard it. One of the highlights is ‘I Don’t Care’ with it’s snotty punk rock base but with the fiddle in charge and Tich’s great vocals laden over the top. It’s all been very punk rock orientated so far and just as i was settling in ‘Elizabeth Rose’ comes on and by Christ I’m in celtic-punk heaven with this Irish trad punk jig. The fiddle leads the way with the rest of the band pushed to the background and a real foot tapper that I’m sure is a live favourite and gives Tich a chance to rest his lungs. They slow it down next with ‘Scars’, the first song here that featured on that Pre-Album Sampler, and sounds to me not too far from The Levellers. Not a much of a fan of them myself but this is excellent stuff with slow acoustic guitar and fiddle and nice vocals. The welcome sound of the banjo kicks off ‘Master Race’ with what sounds like spoons! Harmonica is top dog here and I love it. A instrument I always feel suits celtic-punk but is criminally underused. ‘Still Breathing’ seems to me a bit out of place here. Hard to say why exactly but its upbeat and jaunty sound perhaps. Not to say it’s not a great song as its class fiddle led punk rock. ‘Breaking Down The Laws’ keeps the music flowing with Brian’s solid drumming. ‘Ancient Road’ leads directly into ‘Montagu’s Harrier’ and while the first three minutes are reminiscent of 80’s anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds the second half is an absolutely stunningly traditional Irish folk piece/reel dedicated to an endangered bird of prey.

The bodhran is out and it’s not long before the whole band have gate crashed the song and take it another level. These two songs are a perfect introduction to The Silk Road and showcase brilliantly whet they are capable of. We are coming towards the end of the album and it’s clear by now that the band wear their politics on their sleeves and no better than in ‘City Under Siege’. Back in October I wrote

“this kind of music is very much in vogue at the moment. Not played or favoured by fashionista’s or middle class hipsters it comes very much from that sort of old Labour background of trade unionism and old fashioned values like solidarity, compassion and the wish for a better world for all. Things sadly out of fashion at this moment in time”

and while ‘Corbyn’ and the Labour Party’s revival hasn’t completely convinced me I do see hope for my class where once I saw none. Another album high point up next with ‘Boats Come In At Midnight about modern day smuggling. Very catchy indeed and half way through the fiddle comes in giving it a real nice ending. The album ends with ‘On Ya Way’ and maybe it’s a sign of mellowing with age but I really love this song. My favourite track. Tich belts it out from his heart and harmonica and acoustic guitar steer it in a direction that reminds me of Ferocious Dog a little when they slow it down.

Overall this is a great debut from The Silk Road and will win them legions of fans from the trinity of bands I mentioned above. Infectious and catchy throughout with more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and folk to keep the oldies like me happy. Its always brilliant to welcome another celtic-punk band into the scene and even better when they have trodden their own path. Haven’t seen them yet but will be making it my mission to catch them over the summer and I really hope they play ‘On Ya Way’ when I do.

Buy The EP
Contact The Band
(full concert from last year)

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE GREATEST SONGS OF WOODY GUTHRIE (1972)

“I hate a song that makes you think you´re not any good! I hate a song that makes you think you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too fat or too thin or too that. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or your hard travelling”

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Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was the single most important American folk music artist of the 20th century, in part because he turned out to be such a major influence on the popular music of the second half of the 20th century, a period when he himself was largely inactive. He performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’. His greatest significance lies in his songwriting. Songs like the standard ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and much-covered works as ‘Deportee’, ‘Do Re Mi’, ‘Hard, Ain’t It Hard’, ‘Hard Travelin’, ‘1913 Massacre’, ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ are all featured on ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ in one way or another.

Woody1Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in the oil boom town of Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912. He went on the road when only 13 years old after his mother was debilitated by Huntington´s Chorea, a incurable nerve disease which would eventually kill Woody himself in 1967. During the years leading up to the Second World War he was with the refugees of the Dust Bowl on their trail westward, with the migrant workers in the California orchards, in the factories and mines where workers struggled for union recognition to gain better pay and conditions, with the black Americans against the prejudice facing them and during the war he was in the navy. Throughout all these experiences and a life full of tragedy his faith in people and his belief that the ordinary person would win in the end never faltered.

Most of those performances and recordings came after Guthrie’s enforced retirement due to illness in the early ’50s. During his heyday, in the 1940s, he was a major-label recording artist, a published author, and a nationally broadcast radio personality. But the impression this creates, that he was a multi-media star, is belied by his personality and his politics. Restlessly creative and prolific, he wrote, drew, sang, and played constantly, but his restlessness also expressed itself in a disinclination to stick consistently to any one endeavour, particularly if it involved a conventional, cooperative approach. Nor did he care to stay in any one place for long. This individualism was complemented by his left-wing political views. During his lifetime, much attention was given in the U.S. to whether left-wingers or even liberals were or had ever been members of the Communist party. No reliable evidence emerged that Guthrie was, but there can be little doubt where his sympathies lay!
Sadly it was as Woody’s health declined to the point of permanent hospitalization in the 1950’s that his career took off. His songs and his example served as inspiration for the folk revival in general and, in the early 1960’s, Bob Dylan in particular. By the mid-’60s, his songs were appearing on dozens of records, his own recordings were being reissued and, in some cases, released for the first time, and his writings were being edited into books. This resurgence was in no way slowed by his death in 1967; on the contrary, it has continued for decades afterwards. New books are published and the Guthrie estate has invited such artists as Billy Bragg and Wilco in to write music for Guthrie’s large collection of unpublished lyrics, creating new songs to record.

So now you know a little bit more about the man in question what’s the story with the album?Woody2

There are two reasons why calling this album ‘The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie’ rather than some variation on the greatest hits idea makes sense. First, Guthrie was out singing these songs before there ever were any Billboard charts to help defiine exactly what constituted a hit. Second, although this album starts with Guthrie himself singing ‘This Land Is Your Land’ clearly his most famous and most popular song, the track shifts to the song being sung by the Weavers. Guthrie sings a few songs and a few duets, but mostly his songs are sung by other artists. So what we have here is a tribute album, originally a double-album now on a single CD, that represents some of the best first and second generation folk singers who followed in the path blazed by America’s troubadour. The first generation would be those artists that actually got to play with Guthrie, which would be not only the Weavers with Pete Seeger (the artist who most closely followed in Guthrie’s footsteps), but also Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. The next generation is represented on the album by Odetta, Joan Baez, and Country Joe McDonald. Yes, there is an authenticity to hearing Guthrie sing his songs that nobody else can touch, but there is also something to be said for other artists replacing his rawness with more of the inherent beauty of his songs. Whichever you prefer there is a wealth of Woody material out there for you. Happy hunting!

Track Listing:
1. This Land Is Your Land- Woody Guthrie/The Weavers
2. Do Re Mi- Cisco Houston
3. So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh- The Weavers
4. Pastures Of Plenty- Odetta
5. Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)- Cisco Houston
6. 900 Miles- Cisco Houston
7. Roll On Columbia- Country Joe McDonald
8. Hard, Ain’t It Hard- Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston
9. Dirty Overhalls- Woody Guthrie
10. Riding In My Car (Take Me)- Woody Guthrie
11. Ship In The Sky- Cisco Houston
12. The Sinking Of The Reuben James- The Weavers
13. Rambling Round Your City- Odetta
14. Jesus Christ- Cisco Houston
15. When The Curfew Blows- Country Joe McDonald
16. 1913 Massacre- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
17. Talking Fishing Blues- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
18. Curly Headed Baby- Cisco Houston
19. Jackhammer John- The Weavers
20. The Great Historical Bum- Odetta
21. Pretty Boy Floyd- Joan Baez
22. Buffalo Skinners- Jim Kweskin
23. Hard Travelin’- Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry

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“A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it or it could be
who’s hungry and where their mouth is or
who’s out of work and where the job is or
who’s broke and where the money is or
who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is”

For More Information On Woody Guthrie:

best place to start is the OfficialWebSite * a selection of free music is available at LastFM * Wikipedia * the WoodyGuthrieCenter  is dedicated to celebrating Woody’s life and legacy * Woody100 * the quotes of Woody Wikiquote * The RollingStone articles on Woody * Gerry Adams on Woody Guthrie Léargas *

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘Stepping Stones’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

Part of the ‘Stepping Stones- Classic Album Reviews’ series (click here for the series) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

THE RUMJACKS TOUR IRELAND, SCOTLAND, WALES AND ENGLAND

no Cornwall though…what happened there lads?

RumjackTour

Woohoo I am in clover and guess why? Yes the best celtic-punk band in the entire world THE RUMJACKS are bringing their raucous and spellbinding celtic-punk road show back to these shores for their biggest tour here yet. Taking in twelve cites across Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England and including two shows in London at the beginning and end of the tour. We are surely blessed!

(the first single off The Rumjacks 3rd full length album due later this year)

For those who are unaware of The Rumjacks I pity you but here is your chance to make amends and catch up with the rest of the celtic-punk scene. We are firm believers here that the best celtic-punk bands anywhere in the world are in Australia. Can’t put my finger on exactly why. It could be the brutal birth of the country under Britain’s glorious rule or the large celtic populations that left for there (some forced, some of their own accord) but Australia has always had a sort of outlaw rep to it and the celtic-punk they play is steeped in the bloody history of their land. Needless to say at the forefront of these bands are The Rumjacks from Sydney in New South Wales.

Born of a desire to make music in general and celtic-flavoured punk in particular, The Rumjacks are an entity rather askew, cast adrift of the mainstream and the industry as a whole, these five musical misfits from the cobbled streets of old Sydney town, a group unto themselves and the music they’ve made their own.

“Of the current line up, it’s only myself and Johnny (McKelvey, bass) who were there at the start,” muses frontman Frankie McLaughlin on the origins of the group. “He and I met and quickly realised we were after the very same thing”

This was towards the end of 2008, and the ‘same thing’ of which McLaughlin speaks was so strong, that the group’s debut release, the Hung, Drawn & Ported EP, was released not three months later. After some early line up changes, the group quickly settled to how we see them now: McLaughlin, McKelvey, drummer Anthony Matters, guitarist Gabriel Whitbourne and banjo / mandolin / bouzouki player Adam Kenny; as ragtag a group of virtuosi players as you’ll find in this day and age, milling about sticky-carpeted pubs across the land.

(17,000,000 (aye seventeen million) views and still counting!!!!!!!!)

Since the group’s inception, they’ve come to embrace the oddball world they’ve found themselves in, becoming part of the gnarled, handmade furniture you might say, drawing from a solid base and pushing, stretching, bullying it to their every whim, creating something of their own. You may make comparison to The Pogues, Billy Bragg, The Dropkick Murphys et al, and you’d be right to, but you’d be well advised to acknowledge the twist these five have put to their music themselves, making it something unique.

“Well it’s absolutely vital,” concurs McLaughlin on putting their own stamp on this music, something that has led to the band cultivating a marvellous versatility which sees them comfortable on any number of stages, in any number of situations. “And it means we can jump in on any line up in front of any crowd, and we’ve proven that. I think there are elements of what we do that appeal to everyone”

Indeed there are – from their heavy celtic roots to the driving punk rock rhythms, the cheeky lyrics and rampant, greased up bonhomie that drips from the stage whenever these five step up, this is what The Rumjacks bring. It’s been this versatility, not to mention the flat-out talent and drive they exude, that’s seen the band share stages with artists diverse artists from folk to 77 punk. It’s seen all their releases stand up as solid works, finding places amongst the collections of fans of rock, punk, folk, reggae, Irish and God knows what else.

“We could run mad with it, musically speaking” McLaughlin confides on what’s next – a new Rumjacks record, being pieced together as we speak for release later this year. “We draw on so many influences, but its important for us to force the bounds of what we already do, play good solid Punk rock with a fat smear of Celtic folk right through it, Hopefully contributing something substantial & new before the genre dies out as a novelty. There’s so much more energy this time around”

It almost seems impossible to suggest there’ll be more energy, for this isn’t something The Rumjacks have ever lacked before, either on stage or in the music itself. But these are five who have nothing to hide, they have no limit and there’s nothing to it but to make this music and make it loud, make it proud, add the extra energy and to hell with the consequences, for The Rumjacks and their slavering hordes will not be denied. They politely, but firmly, suggest you get on board.

(from second album Sober & Godless)

After last year when they managed to bring the house down at the Boomtown festival and even managed to take our minds off the £5 pints of water and early 9-30pm finish at the Garage I can heartily say to you all DO NOT MISS THEM ON THIS TOUR! Aye move heaven and earth to get to one of the gigs it will NOT disappoint I promises you. To find out more about the tour go to The Rumjacks web site here or the official Facebook event here or feel free to contact us at London Celtic Punks. 

(left to right) Anthony- drums Adam: banjo/mandolin Frankie: vocals/tin whistle/ Gabriel: guitars Johnny: bass

(left to right) Anthony- drums * Adam: banjo/mandolin * Frankie: vocals/tin whistle/guitar * Gabriel: guitars * Johnny: bass

Contact The Band

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  YouTube  Bandcamp  Soundcloud

Discography

Hung Drawn And Ported (EP) 2009 * Sound As A Pound (EP) 2009 * Gangs Of New Holland (Album) 2010 * Crosses For Eyes (Single) 2012 * Blows & Unkind Words (Single) 2014 * Plenty (Single) 2014 * Sober & Godless (Album) 2015

* the boys are not just coming here they are spreading their wings around Europe and will also be touring around most of Europe in Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Slovenia, Spain, Serbia, Austria, Czech Republic and the Netherlands so get over to their web site here to find a show near you!

Rumjacks Gig At The Garage 2015

PS- Watch out for some awesome support bands playing on this tour, the cream of our scene. The Cundeez, The Lagan, Matilda’s Scoundrels, Black Water County, East Town Pirates, Mick O’Toole. Many more to come as well!

 

ALBUM REVIEW: HEADSTICKS- ‘Feather And Flames’ (2016)

Where folk and punk collide to provide a passion infused commentary that is as raw and honest as it comes…

Headsticks F and F

Nothing particularly ‘celtic’ going on here but if you’re after some fantastic played and in-yer-face folk-punk then the second album from Headsticks is for you. That’s right Headsticks not The Headsticks and they may be familiar to readers as we gave their debut album, Muster, a glowing review back in August, 2014. Since that album they have concentrated on playing live taking the stage at some decent festivals including the anti-fascist 0161 Festival in Manchester. The band come from the once proud industrial town of Stoke. Famed for the manufacture of pottery (hence the reason the area is known as The Potteries) those days are long gone and along with coal mining and steel making all of the areas main industries have been decimated by successive governments of Labour and Tory who care little for the working classes while they chase the votes of the urban middle class.

Headsticks 3

The band describe themselves as “where folk and punk collide” and remind these ears of classic British folk-rock acts like the New Model Army or a more punky Levellers or Billy Bragg (when he was good) and more recent bands like Ferocious Dog. Formed out of the ashes of two much loved, and long gone, celtic-punk bands ‘Tower Struck Down’ who were one of first English celtic-punk bands back in 1985 and Jugopunch. Gone are the celtic touches from those bands but what remains is the urgency and honesty and just plain good old folk’n’roll that made them popular first time round.
Headsticks1Feather And Flame kicks off, literally, with ‘What Do You Want?’ which bemoans the fact that the working classes have been conned into only aspiring to own the latest mobile phone or big screen TV rather than any control of their own lives. With a world to win its football that takes priority but why not.
“I’ve got tickets for the weekends match, for the boys in red and white,
It’s the third round of the cup you know, if I missed it well, it wouldn’t seem right,
We can meet up in the town tonight, and we can drink this world to rights,
We can raise a glass to liberty, and to the glory of the fight?”
We all need something to lift us from the gloom occasionaly! Quick, punchy and punky a great start and only enhances those folk-punk credentials. ‘Cold Grey English Skies’ tells of the desolation and depression of growing up (and old) in an post-industrial English town. The reality of the world far away and out of sight and out of mind of the cosmopolitan middle classes. ‘Go Move Shift’ is the Headsticks take on the famous Ewan MacColl penned song ‘The Moving On Song’ and it’s a version Ewan would most definitely have approved of. They extend the song, originally about travellers, to be about the police shooting of a homeless man sleeping rough in Los Angeles. The boys show their heritage, and a sly sense of humour, next in ‘Old Folk Songs’.
Never sounding more new wave than here the music harks back to an earlier age while the politics also hark back to a time when people were more united and willing to stand up and work together. I love a bit of harmonica and ‘Foxford Town’ supplies it. As with the whole album its catchy and Andrew’s vocals are to the fore standing out clear and strong. In recent years the city of Stoke has been blighted with the rise of the far-right. Betrayed by those they voted into power for the last God knows how long and a left that considers them ‘white trash’ the working class turned to groups like the fascist BNP in their droves. ‘Mississippi’s Burning’ tells this story eloquently
“There’s rumours in the pubs and bars, whispers on the streets,
The crooked cross is on the roll, hear the sound of marching feet,
Strange fruit growing on the trees, like in Billy Holiday’s song,
The years pass by, more old men die, those who stood and fought so strong…

The rise seems to have been checked but not won. The ‘victory’ was based on ‘if you vote BNP you are scum’ no way to win the working class over to the left so the people of Stoke simply retreated to apathy. I feel for Stoke as it reminds me of my home town. Another once proud industrial town with a strong left-wing ethos virtually destroyed by a corrupt (and criminal) Labour council. I don’t know why but the more harmonica led songs like ‘Pay The Price’ seem also to remind me a bit of The Housemartins.

“Like the fiercest fire burning through the night…
Everybody has their price to pay,it’s killing me to walk away…”

Another catchy as hell track with superb lyrics. Andrew, the vocalist, wrote all the songs and is one of those writers I’d describe as a story-songwriter.

The songs here are beautifully written and given the subject matter most of the time they are never sloganeering or badgering but just pure passion and compassion for other people. The plight of the common man is never far away her and ‘Tomorrow’s History’ tells of

“See the man who’s toil has built this land, a land they call great,
Reduced to bitter hatred, served their bile upon his plate”

but then hits us with

“Today we’ll write tomorrow’s history, so tomorrow we can live
So tomorrow we can live”

reminding us that our destiny is in our own hands we must only grasp it. ‘Every Single Day’ is about the media and the propaganda that spills out that if its not telling us that immigrants or travellers are responsible for the ills of society then its promoting the dumbest and most stupid to levels of fame unknown in the past. Politicians and the media don’t just lie to us they try to convince us we are worth nothing and our history and the hard (sometimes we won!) battles of the past were for nothing. Headsticks are here to remind us to take pride in those battles and to look forward to next one. ‘Burn The Sun’ gets all funky guitar while it puts the boot into The Sun newspaper. Read almost exclusively by the working classes while being written almost exclusively by middle class ex-public school children it has long left much of the authentic left amazed at its popularity amongst those it regularly abuses and victimises. Football, bingo, telly and tits have served it well and one of the benefits of the decline in printed media is that less and less people read this shitty paper all the time. The song ends with

“Where’s the justice for the ninety six?
Justice for the ninety six”

which refers to the lies pumped out by the Sun after the tragedy of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 where 96 Liverpool supporters went to a football match and thanks to the ineptitude and criminal failings of the police never made it home. The album ends with the ballad ‘Falling Out Of Love Song’ and Headsticks save the best till last. The longest song here and it gives them plenty of time to vent their spleen at the political correctness that the m/c have somehow managed to inject into the left. Where once the left were able to call a spade a spade now we cannot even question important issues as even the idea of bringing them up can see people labelled as racist or right wing.

Headsticks 2

Forty minutes of passionate punked up roots rock with a sense of history most bands could only dream of. Its not always fun to listen to what they are saying as Headsticks are a band forged by their environment. The England they once knew and loved is changing and sadly not in a good way. Their music is a rallying call to stop the erosion of our rights and our humanity and as heartfelt as it is it is also compelling. Headsticks are Andrew on vocals and that harmonica, Stephen on guitar, Nick on bass and Tom on drums.

you can read our review of Headsticks debut album Muster here

Contact The Band
Buy The Album
Tower Struck Down WebSite here

ALBUM REVIEW: THE LANGER’S BALL- ‘Whiskey Outlaws’ (2016)

Irish punk rock from the frozen Mid-West.

The Langer's Ball-Whiskey Outlaws (2016)

Whiskey Outlaws is the new album from American celtic-punks The Langer’s Ball and their first full-length studio album in 4 years. The band began playing as a Irish folk music duo in Saint Paul in Minnesota back in 2007 and released a couple of albums before taking the next big step and expanding from a duo into a full on band. After those two early albums back in 2007 and 2008 The Langer’s Ball went on to release ‘Drunk, Sick, Tired’, a live St Patrick’s day recording, in 2011 and ‘The Devil, Or The Barrel’ in 2012. We reviewed ‘7 Year Itch’ their last release from a couple of years ago here which was a eight track EP which the band have made available for free download so follow the link for your freeby!

The Langer's Ball

The first of Whiskey Outlaws twelve tracks is appropriately the title track ‘Whiskey Outlaws’ and is the first of five original songs penned by the band. From the very beginning you can hear a big dose of other influences alongside the Irish punk that they are famous for. Country, rockabilly, psychobilly are all in the mix alongside the celtic-punk and I tells you it certainly adds up to something very interesting.

“Give a sign of your contrition, step lightly on the ground
Lock up your sons and daughters, you dare not make a sound
Dim the lights and draw the drapes like no one is around
It’s far too late for an escape, the Whiskey Outlaws are in town”

Following is a superb version of the classic protest song ‘World Turned Upside Down’. Written by the legendary English folk artist Leon Rosselson in 1974 and made famous a decade later by Billy Bragg. As Leon said himself in a interview

“It’s the story of the Digger Commune of 1649 and their vision of the earth as ‘a common treasury’. It’s become a kind of anthem for various radical groups. The title is taken from a book about the English revolution”

As good a version as your ever likely to hear. Starting off with acoustic guitar and bursting with energy all over the place. ‘Jug Of This’ is a brilliant catchy as hell version of a very very old English folk song. From the early 18th century it’s perfect celtic-punk territory with it’s tale of a young man drinking turning to an old man drinking. Another beer themed but this time self penned number is ‘Drinking For Two’ and they don’t slow it down for a second with this song of a broken hearted drinker.

“Ever since you said we’re thru / Shattering my whole world view / I don’t know what else I should do / So I drink for me and I drink for you”

The Langer's Ball 3Tin whistle used to great effect and some great bass playing too. Another traditional folk/gospel song follows and ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ is probably most famous in our circles for being recorded by Johnny Cash in 2003. The Langer’s Ball probably steer closest to this version that is a warning to sinners that no matter how hard they try, they will not avoid God’s judgement. A really outstanding song and one of my favourites from the album. Recorded for the yet to be released Johnny Cash celtic punk tribute being compiled by The Grinning Beggar. ‘Bottoms Up (Hапиваться)’ is again a full on drinking song as if you hadn’t realised and as they say in the song “It’s time to don your party pants”. It would seem that the Irish are losing our rep as the hardest drinking race around as this is the third time recently that I’ve heard songs by celtic-punk bands using an eastern-European tune. The accordion here is a dead giveaway and the shouty chorus of “Hапиваться” is another clue. The band show their knowledge of Irish music next with a superb cover of the Horslips song ‘Sword Of Light’. Accordion led and great backing from the whole band. They do enough to claim this song as their own not always easy when dealing with legends and was originally recorded for the Shite’n’Onions Horslips celtic-punk tribute album. ‘The One’ is followed by ‘Mick McGuire’ and again The Langers Ball take on a classic from Irish music tradition and folk punk it up. Originally recorded by The Clancy Brothers and since by bands as diverse as the Orthodox Celts and The Irish Rovers it tells of of a young man who courts a woman and is initially well received by her mother because he owns a farm. He is given a seat of honour in the house but soon loses favour after their wedding due to his drinking and ends up losing his chair right by the fire! Next up is the first song I’ve ever heard extolling the virtues of ‘Cork Dry Gin’. Only having ever spotting the drink in duty free on the ferry over to Ireland when I was a kid I don’t think I’ve ever seen it outside of then and certainly none of my crowd ever drank the stuff but each to his or own and on hearing this it certainly paints it a pretty picture.

“I’m a hoarder of the porter; I’ll drink ‘em by the score
If you drop me in a lake of it, I’d never go for shore
But sometimes after pints & pints & pints & pints & galore
I wish to Christ & God above that someone would just pour

CORK DRY GIN With some Tonic and a lime
CORK DRY GIN It’s Martini time
I said CORK DRY GIN and I’ll be feelin’ fine
With some CORK DRY GIN”

One of the things I love about The Langer’s Ball is their sense of humour and its evident on every recording I have heard of theirs. ‘I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover/Bye Bye Blackbird’ just about sums them up. A three minute romp that is guaranteed to get you up and jigging about. The album ends with ‘Pigeon At The Gate’ a sort of Irish/Eastern Euro/Punk Rock mashup. Great whistle playing holds the song in celtic punk though and they go out in style with a fantastic band anthem that anyone would be proud of.

“So smash your skulls against the walls / Hordes are clamouring in the halls / Mighty Empires will fall / We play through it all… WE PLAY THROUGH IT ALL!”

So overall another masterpiece from The Langer’s Ball another great band innovative band in  the celtic-punk scene. Not scared to moved away in other styles of music but always keeping one toe in the music of The Emerald Isle. It’s bands like this that keep the scene alive and fresh and bring new ideas to the celtic-punk table. I can only hope that they get the recognition they so richly deserve,

(listen to the whole of Whiskey Outlaws on the Bandcamp player below . When you’ve done click the link below that to own a copy!)

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The Langer's Ball 2

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘JOY OF LIVING: A TRIBUTE TO EWAN MacCOLL’ (2016)

Fearless and uncompromising Ewan MacColl’s influence is still felt far beyond the folk world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Joy Of Living

Regular readers of the London Celtic Punks blog will all know how much we like Ewan MacColl and we have regularly featured him within these pages. Though long gone Ewan’s massive volume of work lives on and only the other day were we raving about the Irish-American celtic-punk band 1916 and their amazing version of another Ewan song (sadly not featured here) ‘Hot Asphalt’. Ewan’s songs were uplifting whether proclaiming love or war or peace. He wrote about things that would now be forgotten about and has kept their memory alive. He gave birth to a folk revival that continues to this day, many years after his passing, that remains in great health. The songs he wrote and championed are still being played and explored and adapted and still being made great. Ewan MacColl’s musical legacy is, to put it simply, just out of this world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Ewan was the Scots-born son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs and ballads. He worked as a garage hand, builders’ labourer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. After the end of World War II Ewan wrote and broadcast extensively in Britain about folk music. He was general editor of the BBC folk-music series, ‘Ballads and Blues’, and frequently took part in radio and television shows for the BBC.

Ewan MacColl 1His folk song publications included ‘Personal Choice’, a pocket book edition of Scots folk songs and ballads, and ‘The Shuttle and the Cage’, the first published collection of British industrial folk songs. Eventually he was ousted from the BBC due to his socialist beliefs. He wrote many songs that have become folk (and celtic-punk standards) the most famous of course being ‘Dirty Old Town’ popularised by The Dubliners and then The Pogues. It is wrongly assumed to be about Dublin but it is in fact about his home town of Salford in Manchester. He is also famous for writing one of the greatest ever love songs ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which he wrote for his second wife, the influential American folk singer, Peggy Seeger. He was also the father of Kirsty MacColl who of course guested on The Pogues enormous Christmas hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. After many years of poor health Ewan died on 22 October 1989 but it can be safely said of him that his songs and influence will live on forever. Comparable only to Woody Guthrie in more than one way.

This fantastic double album marks 100 years since Ewan MacColl’s birth and the album has been produced by two of Ewan’s sons, Calum and Neill, and features a wonderful bunch of diverse artists from right across folk, rock, pop and celtic music. Disc one begins with, for me, one of the stand out tracks with Damien Dempsey singing ‘Schooldays Over’. The only song here we have heard before nevertheless it is more than welcome. Made famous by the late great Luke Kelly’s version with The Dubliners Damien is no stranger to Ewan’s work and does him truly proud.

This is followed by a track from one of the most influential figures in folk music today, Martin Carthy and is the first of several and several individual contributions by the Waterson-Carthy family. He performs the unlikely tale of a fish delivery man in ‘I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling’. The Unthanks may sound like a rock band but are in fact two sisters (Unthank is their great surname) who perform a gentle lullaby ‘Cannily, Cannily’. Tracks from legends old and new follow from Seth Lakeman and Marry Waterson and Bombay Bicycle Club are up next, BBC famously include one of MacColl’s grandchildren, Jamie. They contribute a moving version of ‘The Young Birds’, a song written back in 1961 to commemorate a tragic plane crash that killed 34 London children of whom some were known to MacColl’s oldest son, Hamish. Another artist we are familiar with here is Dick Gaughan who contributes ‘Jamie Foyers’. Dick is an influential Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter who was a founding member of the famous celtic band Boys Of The Lough. Martin’s daughter Eliza Carthy, ‘Thirty-Foot Trailer’ and Chaim Tannenbaum, ‘My Old Man’, are up next before honorary Irishman Steve Earle presents a new take on a song that needs no introduction ‘Dirty Old Town’, except to say that it does sound like the spirit(s) of Shane MacGowan were present at its recording.

The first discs last song is from Jarvis Cocker and the erstwhile Pulp front man gives us a amazingly beautiful whispered version of  ‘The Battle Is Done With’. I am sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but its great to hear something that just isn’t a straight cover of Ewan’s work.

Ewan MacCollDisc two begins with the most famous of Ewan’s compositions and Paul Buchanan vocalist of 80/90’s Glasgow indie band The Blue Nile croons beautifully through the ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Ewan wrote the song for Peggy Seeger and it became an international smash hit in 1972 sung by Roberta Flack. On hearing this version it made me wonder how Shane MacGowan would have mastered it. Paul Brady will be a name known to many and his version of ‘Freeborn Man’ shows Paul to have lost none of his talent in a career that spans right across modern day Irish folk music. Another travellers song follows and Norma Waterson provides us with a fauntless rendition of the gypsy’s plight in ‘The Moving On Song’. Karine Polwart’s version of ‘The Terror Time’ is again beautiful, and Martin Simpson, The Father’s Song, is up next before the ultimate Irish living folk legend, and former band mate of Paul Brady in Planxty, Christy Moore appears with ‘The Companeros’. Again yer man has lost nothing and its a stunning version. Now there’s one name missing from this album so far and he’s up next. It must be written into law that Billy Bragg must appear on any folk compilation and whatever you think of him he gives us a really nice but angry copy of ‘Kilroy Was Here’ which strips Billy back to those early days when he was at his best. Folk siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright play the magnificent ‘Sweet Thames, Flow Softly’. A small gentle snapshot of life before Kathryn Williams, ‘Alone’, and David Gray brings the whole project to an end with one of Ewan’s best but sadly little known songs, and album title, The Joy of Living.

As you may expect traditionalists might not appreciate some of the versions here but this enhances, rather than detracts and all the various strands of Ewan’s political and musical life is represented here. This double album does not pretend to be the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ as with an artist with such a massive repertoire it would be impossible to please everyone but it does provide a gateway. Collections like this serve only one purpose. That is to steer listeners away from the modern day versions to the original source and with Ewan their is plenty to catch up on. We have included some links at the bottom where readers can find more information and free downloads so I hope you take the opportunity to. It is impossible to calculate the range and influence of this remarkable singer and song-writer but we can rest assured his memory lives and this album is a great testament to him.

“My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking”

Disc 1
1. Damien Dempsey – Schooldays Over
2. Martin Carthy – I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling
3. The Unthanks – Cannily, Cannily
4. Seth Lakeman – The Shoals of Herring
5. Marry Waterson – The Exile Song
6. Bombay Bicycle Club – The Young Birds
7. Dick Gaughan – Jamie Foyers
8. Eliza Carthy – Thirty-Foot Trailer
9. Chaim Tannenbaum – My Old Man
10. Steve Earle – Dirty Old Town
11. Jarvis Cocker – The Battle Is Done With

Disc 2
1. Paul Buchanan – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
2. Paul Brady – Freeborn Man
3. Norma Waterson  – Moving On Song
4. Karine Polwart – The Terror Time
5. Martin Simpson – The Father’s Song
6. Christy Moore – The Companeros
7. Billy Bragg – Kilroy Was Here
8. Rufus & Martha Wainwright – Sweet Thames, Flow Softly
9. Kathryn Williams – Alone
10. David Gray – The Joy of Living

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For more on Ewan MacColl the internet is awash with sites but trust us and head straight to the official sites but also to Wikipedia as well as this tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here. You can listen to some of his music for free here on LastFm.

We have a regular series ‘Classic Album Reviews’ where we feature records from the past that have had influence far beyond their years. Ewan (of course!!), Leadbelly and several compilations have featured so far and all come with links to free downloads. You can check out the full series here.

(Just to prove Ewan’s work lives on here’s the aforementioned 1916 from New York with their recent  version of the classic Ewan song ‘Hot Asphalt’)

2015 REVIEWS ROUND UP PART TWO- WILL TUN AND THE WASTERS, SKONTRA, LOUISE DISTRAS, HAPPY OL McWEASEL, THE CUNDEEZ, ANTO MORRA

This year has been quite brilliant for celtic-punk releases. In fact it has been far the best year since we began doing this here thingy. Good news surely but it also sadly means we didn’t get a chance to review everything we received or heard. So after catching up with our North American cousins (here) last time in Part 1 this time round we catch up with some a wee bit closer to home.

WILL TUN AND THE WASTERS- ‘The Anachronist’s Handbook’  (BUY)

Will Tun And The WastersThis album release came accompanied with the sad news that lead singer Will Tun was leaving the band. An amicable split and the rest of The Wasters have decided to carry on without him and so this is the swansong of Will Tun’s Wasters. Formed in 2010 by a gang of students based all over southern England Will Tun And The Wasters released a smattering of EP’s and singles and managed to get pretty popular so it was only a matter of time before an album was due. I suppose losing your lead singer would also also help lose a big slice of momentum as this album sneaked out rather than be unleashed and that was a mighty shame as this is a album deserving of being unleashed! Impossible to pigeonhole they were a hard working bunch ready to arrive from several starting points to play gigs at a drop of a hat. Though starting off more as a folk/celtic/ska-punk band they never stopped evolving and traces of hip-hop, Balkan and Latin found a home and nowhere more so than on The Anachronist’s Handbook. Twelve songs and over fifty minutes long the album takes you on a roller-coaster ride of musical styles but its the accordion and fiddle that stand out for me as well as Will’s great distinctive vocals. The energy is infectious and ‘Red & Black’ and ‘A Criminal’s Waltz’ could be The Pogues but whatever genre they turn their hand to they master it. The album ends with ‘Downtime’ another album highlight but this time a reggae/ska beat dominates. I really hope The Wasters can regroup and carry on (as they do intend to) as they would be sorely missed.

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SKONTRA- ‘Foguera’  (DONATE/FREE DOWNLOAD)

SkontraHere’s some authentic celtic-punk for you played by Skontra from the city of Gijón in the celtic region of Asturias currently under Spanish control. There is a school of thought amongst celtic scholars that to be a true authentic celtic nation you must have your own language but if to be truly celtic is based on culture then we must instead expand our thinking to include both Asturias and their neighbours Galicia as well. Celtic culture is alive and kicking and the people are especially proud of their celtic roots. Formed in 1991 Skontra this is their fourth full length album and the thirteen songs are mingled with elements of punk, hardcore, ska and reggae but always with a celtic base and with the traditional Asturian bagpipes leading the way. Seven of Foguera’s songs are in their native Asturian and the rest in Spanish so can’t tell you what the songs are about but its all dead catchy and if you’re looking for a comparison then this would please all you Real McKenzies fans but its very well played celtic-punk that ought to get you all moving your feet. Typical of Skontra is the fantastic title track which includes just about everything that makes them tick. They have made the album available for free for download so you’d be a mug not to get this fantastic album.

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LOUISE DISTRAS- ‘Dreams From The Factory Floor’  (BUY)

Louise DistrasMaybe not a celtic-punk album but Louise has popped up supporting both The Mahones and Bryan McPherson in the last year and her folky-punk solo set is right up our alley. She has been called the next Frank Turner but as I don’t think she went to the poshest most exclusive school in Britain I reckon we can ignore that. There’s no style over substance here, what you see and what you hear is what you get. ‘Dreams From The Factory Floor’ is twelve songs of over half an hour of folky punk that sometimes veer into almost poppy tunes like the great ‘Bullets’ but then the album goes in a direction that (very) early Bragg or Springsteen at his best would approve of. Plenty of harmonica (I love that) and great politics too. The politics of the working class and its struggles in every day. The spoken word title song is amazing and delivered in Louise’s broad Yorkshire accent sounds about as authentic as some others don’t. The use of both acoustic and electric guitar and the poetic lyrics and every song is both catchy and meaningful. No filler or fluff here and though not as punk rock as Louise is with her full band this album certainly shows an artist who is on her way to stardom.

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HAPPY OL’ McWEASEL- ‘Heard Ya Say!’  (BUY)

Happy Ol McWeaselFrom the first moment I heard this album I fell in love with Happy Ol’ McWeasel’s brand of joyous uplifting celtic punk rawk! Formed in 2007 in the Slovenian town of Maribor this is their second album and while on No Offence they relied maybe a little too much on traditional folk covers on this album they decided to take the more risky route and play only their own songs and I tells you it works… and it works well! All the usual instruments are here as well as accordion, fiddle, and banjo making as authentic a celtic sound as you are likely to hear in celtic-punk in 2015. Most important of all through the album’s twelve tracks you get the feeling that the band really love doing what they are doing. Their is a real sense of enjoyment running through this album and though you could bracket it with Flogging Molly style celtic punk it certainly ploughs its own trough too though it certainly could compare with bands like Rancid as well. Well played instruments, clear vocals and these fun-loving tunes are a definite hit. Its criminal that bands like Happy Ol’ McWeasel don’t get the applause they deserve but they are definitely one of the scenes best bands. They have given us an album that doesn’t just pump out standard celtic-punk rock but something with a whole lot more substance. One of the best productions on a album I have heard helps a lot but this innovative band will go far I am sure.

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THE CUNDEEZ- ‘Sehturday Night Weaver’  (BUY)

The CundeezIf their was a prize for best pun in a album title then Dundee band The Cundeez would walk it. Do you get it? Anyway this is their third album and with each one the band have got more polished and accomplished. Saying that it’s still ramshackle punk rock in all its glory. The lyrics are mostly either political or a bit daft and shouted in a raw Dundee dialect and combined with the punching guitars, pounding drums and occasional bagpipe The Cundeez certainly offer something well different to yer usual punk rock fare. The opening song is pure bagpipes and well played they are too but with the next song ‘Scaffie Radio’ the album steers away from celtic-punk into more standard (but still very good) punk. Elements of ska too especially on the brilliant ‘Rooota’ The pipes return occasionally and the album ends with a cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’ where the pipes return again to great effect. The rest of the album rocks by and can’t wait to catch them live from what I have heard they put on a great show.

The Cundeez unashamedly Dundonian working class band promotin the culture an havin a laugh!

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ANTO MORRA- ‘Patriotism Is Not Enough’ EP  (BUY)

Anto MorraNow this EP from London Celtic Punks favourite Anto Morra sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb here. I can say that freely as it was Anto himself who said it first! Those coming along to this EP expecting more of the same as Anto’s previous releases will get a shock as what you get here is hardcore ‘finger in the ear’ folk music that brings back reminiscences of people like Ewan MacColl and Pete Seeger. Famed for his wordplay and the way he somehow manages to inject the spirit of punk  rock into his London Irish acoustic folk Anto has come up here with something very novel and you can listen to the whole EP below on the Bandcamp player first before you buy. Again the amazing fellow London Irishman and artist Brian Whelan has provided the artwork and the whole EP is a tribute to Edith Cavell. Edith was a nurse and is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides during the First World War. She aided some 200 Allied soldiers to escape from German occupied Belguim and it was for this that she was arrested and accused of treason. Edith was found guilty and sentenced to death and despite international calls for mercy, she was executed by firing squad with her execution receiving worldwide condemnation. She is well known for her statement that “patriotism is not enough” and it was her strong Anglican beliefs that compelled her to help all those who needed it. She was quoted as saying, “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved”. Edith, who was 49 at the time of her execution, was already notable as a pioneer of modern nursing in Belgium and this EP tells of her glorious life. Five tracks of Anto recorded in a church in Norfolk last Summer including ‘Edith Louise Cavell’ which was performed and broadcast live at the Edith Cavell’s centenary memorial service on BBC Radio 4. So a lot different to what Anto has previously done and I doubt we’ll get to hear any of these songs at a London Celtic Punks gig but full marks for producing this beautiful tribute to Edith and I do hope you will give it a chance.

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So ends Part 2 and again we’re sorry we weren’t able to give each album the full-on London Celtic Punks treatment but it was just not possible with work and family commitments. Soooo only one more part to come and in Part 3 we will checking out some cracking releases from across the other side of the world. Yes from Japan, China and Australia. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

ALBUM REVIEW: BLACKBEARDS TEA PARTY- ‘Reprobates’ (2015)

Traditional folk tunes with a heavy rock edge, playful arrangements and driving dance rhythm!

6_PANEL_DVP_1_TRAY_RIGHT_DBXXX3XX AW Outlined v2

I first came across Blackbeard’s Tea Party a good few years back. At the time I had just found out that The Lagan existed and was going to every gig they played, so off to Kilburn to see them supporting Blackbeard’s Tea Party. The Lagan were as amazing as ever, but I was also blown away by the headline band who happened to be Blackbeard’s Tea Party. Sadly for me I never actually followed this up or bought any records, but I have kept a sly eye out for them since then. Their name has flashed in and out of my life since as they have risen up the ranks and become more and more popular so when I seen they had a new album out I decided it was about time I checked them out.

Formed in 2009, in York, Blackbeard’s Tea Party have managed to become of the most popular bands in the English folk scene, having released two full length albums and one mini-album plus untold tours as well as festival appearances (indeed at Cropedy festival last year audience members voted them the best band) . They have remained thoroughly independent throughout this time, though why some decent sized label hasn’t picked them up is a complete mystery! Blackbeard’s Tea Party manage to do that thing that celtic/folk-punk bands manage to do so well, in that they could and I am sure do, appeal to all generations and I am sure somewhere there is a family where from the grandparents to the grandchildren they are all getting down to their new album ‘Reprobates’.

Blackbeards Tea Party

The album’s twelve songs begins with ‘The Steam Arm Man’ and from the first few bars you can tell they have nailed it. The vocals are the first thing to hit you and Stuart’s vocals are particularly distinctive. As Northern as anything and clear as the proverbial bell. Hard to describe as he doesn’t quite sound like anyone else in the folk/punk world, rather his sound in totally embedded in the folk music. Not only is Stuart the vocalist but he also plays melodeon and is the bands chief writer. The song is a  dark trip with every instrument that the band can muster along the way. ‘The Steam Arm Man’ tells of a soldier in the Napoleonic wars who loses his arm and builds himself an artificial one powered by steam.

Unfortunately the said arm takes him on a murderous rampage that eventually leads him to the highest court known to man. ‘Hangman’s Noose’ is the first of the albums traditional songs and is based around ‘The Hangman’s Reel’. Starting off with fiddle it is soon joined by electric guitar and before long it’s heading firmly into celtic-punk territory. Superb fiddle by Laura Barber leads the song which must surely be a favourite live.

Despite the multitude of celtic influences I would stop short of calling Blackbeards Tea Party a celtic band as their Englishness is definitely what defines them the most. To be filed together with The Men They Couldn’t Hang or (early) Billy Bragg they seek to challenge the patriotism of the right and return it to the left. A patriotism where English people don’t have to feel ashamed but can take pride in the true and heroic things that the working class have managed to achieve against the odds. Only two songs in and it’s taken over ten minutes, not that you’d think that as the songs rattle along at a fair old pace. They are a band that knows their history and the album’s first slower track ‘The Ballad of William Kidd’ comes next telling the tale of William Kidd, a Scottish sailor who was executed for piracy. He was hanged on 23 May 1701, in Wapping in London. During the execution, the hangman’s rope broke and Kidd was hanged on the second attempt. Next up is another instrumental ‘Punter’s Graveyard’ is a mashup of two traditional songs, ‘Tommy’s Tarbukas’ and ‘Punter’s Graveyard’ and again Blackbeard’s Tea Party’s folk roots are showing. The fiddle drives the tune along and superb as it is, a special mention for the bands percussionists Liam and Dave who certainly add something novel and highly original to the bands sound. ‘The Slave Chase’ is another trad song re-arranged by the band and they give it plenty of welly in this tune about the Royal Navy chasing down an illegal slave trader in the mid 1800’s.

“hoist up the flag and let it wave this ship shall never trade a slave”

‘The Devil’s Doorbell’ is led by the bass guitar and on further examination is written by the bands bass player, Tim – so he can be forgiven for that! Another distinctive instrumental that showcases exactly not just how good they are at playing their instruments, but how tight they are together and their ability to play alongside each other rather than competing with each other. The excellent production deserves a tip of the hat to Dave Boothroyd for the great job he has done. The song slowly morphs into, for me the the album’s standout track, ‘Jack Ketch’. The song is based on the infamous English executioner employed by King Charles II. Famous for his sloppy executions where the poor victims suffered immeasurable suffering before he managed to behead them, the name ‘Jack Ketch’ is used as a proverbial name for death or Satan. We are back in trad heaven again next with ‘Star of Munster’ which again takes the original folk tune and adds layers and layers of sound unto it. The album’s longest song at over six minutes but not that you’d notice. ‘Roll Down’ tells of the 165,00 criminals transported from England to Australia between 1788 and 1868.

‘Stand Up Now’ was the rallying cry of The Diggers who were the most radical of the groups that sprung up in the aftermath of the English civil war. Whereas other groups sought political reform or religious freedom, they called for restructuring of land ownership. The overthrow of the monarchy and the declaration of a free Commonwealth in 1649 was seen as a first step towards the abolition of private property rights in favour of the communal ownership of land. They are seen as forerunners to modern anarchism and the rapid spread provoked a fierce reaction by local gentry and the state who responded with legal action, economic boycott and violence. ‘Reprobates’ penultimate song ‘Loose Shoulder’ is another extremely fine instrumental penned by Laura and brings us up to the final song  ‘Close the Coalhouse Door’.  A beautiful and poignant song written by the late and much loved Alex Glasgow, a passionate socialist and a great singer in his own right.

“Close the coalhouse door, lad
There’s blood inside
Blood from broken hands and feet
Blood that’s dried of pitblack meat
Blood from hearts that know no beat
Close the coalhouse door, lad
There’s blood inside

Close the coalhouse door, lad
There’s bones inside
Mangled, splintered piles of bones
Buried ‘neath a mile of stones
Not a soul to hear the groans
Close the coalhouse door, lad
There’s bones inside

Close the coalhouse door, lad
There’s bairns inside
Bairns that had no time to hide

Bairns who saw the blackness slide
Bairns beneath the mountainside
Close the coalhouse door, lad
There’s bairns inside”

The songs tells us of the terrible events of Aberfan near Merthyr Tydfil on 21 October 1966 in Wales in 1966. The mining community suffered the loss of 116 children and 28 adults when the colliery’s slag heap slid down the mountain onto Pantglas Junior School. As tragic a loss as has ever happened in Britain. Anger at the inquest into the deaths of the children led to shouts of “murderers” as the children’s names were read out. When one child’s name was read out and the cause of death was given as asphyxia and multiple injuries, the father said

“No, sir, buried alive by the National Coal Board”.

The coroner replied

“I know your grief is much that you may not be realising what you are saying”.

but the father repeated

“I want it recorded – “Buried alive by the National Coal Board.” That is what I want to see on the record. That is the feeling of those present. Those are the words we want to go on the certificate”.

The song is a perfect way to end the record. Working class history and tragedy wrapped up in a song worthy of the memory of those poor children. We must be grateful for Blackbeard’s Tea Party for their love of the history of ‘This Sceptred Isle’.  Overall a superb album that lovers of celtic-punk will completely fall for as well as yer oft mentioned ‘folk purists’ as well. Definitely a band worth checking out live too and they are halfway through a UK tour as I write this, but have a look here to see if you are lucky to catch the end of it. An engaging and fun band with sometimes a serious message with amazing musicians and a frontman that most bands could only dream of having. We will be hearing a lot more from Blackbeard’s Tea Party I am certain and it is certain to be good!

Blackbeard's Tea Party

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EP REVIEW: JACK OF ALL- ‘Bindle Punk’ (2015)

pirate songs and punk polemics!

Jack Of All- Bindle Punk

Another great new band from England has arrived on the London Celtic Punks doorstep with their cracking debut EP ‘Bindle Punk’. Formed only in April last year Jack Of All began gigging locally but soon they spread their wings out to Yorkshire across the Midlands and even ‘dahn’ here in London. Good things lie ahead of Jack Of All and don’t be a fool and miss out. They have a long list of gigs coming up (here) but they are playing London at The Gunners, 204 Blackstock Road, North London N5 1EN, nearest tube Finsbury Park, on Saturday 4th July so get along and catch them in the flesh. They take the stage at approx. 8pm and its an all day event and completely free for a ton of bands. Keep an eye on the FB Event page here.

Jack Of All

Anna Clifton (violin) and Laurence Aldridge (guitar/vocals)

The Jack Of All sound is of classic English folk but with a few punky chunks added. You can make out obvious influences coming from bands as diverse as Ferocious Dog, New Model Army, Billy Bragg and The Levellers but Jack Of All follow no-one. The first thing that strikes you on listening to the EP is Laurence’s vocals and and how good they actually are. You can forget sometimes that in a genre where Shane MacGowan is king it is actually possible to still sing ‘properly’ and also fit in. Added to this is Anna’s superb fiddle playing and the concoction is pretty sweet. Nothing too manic here and its possibly stretching things by calling it punk but the spirit is there and the spirit is willing. They play mostly original material and I’m sure they would make a fortune if they decided to go the ‘pub route’ but with Laurence being a professional actor and Anna an ethical jeweller they can happily steer clear of that route and go their own way. Thank God I say! The EP’s name was I thought a odd one so I looked it up and came up with

‘a hobo or derelict hired to do rough or unpleasant work’

which seems to fit Jack Of All pretty nicely. I mean even though there’s no Tom Waits style growling its still very much the music of outlaws and vagabonds. They have some pretty amazing lyrics too and by the sound of them they fit in ever so nicely with ourselves, with a sample from Paul Kenny, head of the GMB Union talking to Mark Thomas, the icing on the cake!

The EP starts off with ‘Definitions’ and a bit of celtic sounding fiddle and the tempo is up and Jack Of All are off. From the very start Jack Of All let you know where they stand. Even though they are usually a 2-piece band the added drums on this EP give them a extra bit of bite. ‘Home’ follows and begins acapella style

“if home is where the heart is why is my heart not home”

before it becomes a folky-celticy-rockabilly number and as catchy a chorus as I heard in a long time. A guaranteed foot tapper. ‘Thank You For Your Application’ is the EP’s slowest track but stills keeps up that God-damn catchiness! With ‘Home’ and now this one my foot is going like the bloody clappers! Beginning slow the song builds to a crescendo and what I originally thought was an electric guitar, but turns out to be Anna’s electric violin through a distortion pedal, coming in is a great move. Simply brilliant. ‘On Top Of The Hills’ continues and is still more of the same but how are they keeping up the quality. Absolutely impossible to pick a stand out track as the whole EP is fantastic. If we did marks out of ten it would be 10/10 all round. The final track is ‘All About The Money’ and it reminded me a bit of 50’s style crooning Germans The Baseballs but was a great way to end the EP. Capitalism is a disease and Jack Of All know the cure… They funded the EP themselves through the Pledge music web-site and of each sale 10% goes to charity through Parkinson’s UK, which is the charity which helped the late father of Laurence while he suffered from a life-threatening illness. So there you have a great EP and a chance to help others too so don’t delay! Over twenty minutes and every song is a strong self-penned number well worth your measly few quid. When you do reviews one of the words you find yourself using the most (if you’re lucky) is ‘catchy’. I’m sick of the fecking word but sometimes it explains everything. This EP has it all catchy songs, expertly played fiddle and great vocals and lyrics and all without being over produced. I reckon this EP has captured Jack Of All’s live sound so be sure to catch them somewhere soon. Can’t recommend this enough.

(listen to the whole EP by pressing play on the Soundcloud player below)

 
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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)

AND FREE DOWNLOAD

Joe Hill’s powerful words have moved countless artists to blend politics and song and this dramatic tribute to the Industrial Workers of the World songwriter and activist Joe Hill, features songs by and about Hill performed by Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, Earl Robinson, Paul Robeson and others. An absolute treasure for anyone interested in American folk and labour music.

for your free download click on the album sleeve

for your free download click on the album sleeve

Joe Hill, poet, songwriter, and organizer is arguably the most popular working class artist in American culture. This album, named after Joe Hill’s famous last words before he was executed by the State of Utah, is a testament to his power as a musical and cultural figure. It also attempts to secure his place in our memory. The album consists of two elements, Joe Hill songs performed by important interpreters and songs about him, again in historically important performances. Among the former, number Harry McClintock singing ‘The Preacher and the Slave’, Pete Seeger doing ‘Casey Jones (The Union Scab)’ and Cisco Houston’s version of ‘The Tramp’. The latter category contains the more varied and more interesting contributions. Among these are poet Kenneth Patchen’s spoken word piece ‘Joe Hill Listens to the Praying’, Billy Bragg singing Phil Ochs ‘The Ballad Of Joe Hill’ and both Paul Robeson and Earl Robinson performing the Robinson-penned number Joan Baez made her own, ‘Joe Hill’ with its immortal lines

“I dreamed I saw, I dreamed I saw, Joe Hill last night
Alive as you and me
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” says he, “I never died” says he
“I never died” says he”

He was born Joel Emmanuel Haggland in Sweden, the ninth son of a railroad worker. His father died when he was eight years old, and he went to work in order to help support his mother and six siblings. When Hill’s mother died in 1902, he emigrated to the United States. Until 1910 practically nothing is known of Joe Hill’s life. It is known that he was in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake, as he sent back an eyewitness account of the horror and devastation caused by this disaster to Sweden, where it was published in a local newspaper. Somewhere along the line he changed his name to Joseph Hillstrom and this was shortened by work mates to Joe Hill. By the time he finally surfaces in San Pedro, CA, in 1910, it is clear that he had been working a long time as a migrant laborer, and was on intimate terms with the suffering and misery experienced by the families of his fellow workers under the conditions of this era.
Joe Hill
In San Pedro, he joined the International Workers of the World, or as popular slang had it the ‘Wobblies’, a Chicago-based labour organization which set itself up as a worldwide advocate and agitator for the cause of worker’s rights and the unionization of industries. Towards the end of 1910, Hill published a letter in the IWW’s in-house publication International Worker, identifying himself as a member of the Portland chapter of the IWW. At the beginning of 1911, Hill is found in Tijuana, attempting to mobilize an IWW offensive to assist the overthrow of the Mexican government. From then until January 1914, Hill’s trail once again runs cold, this time not due to a lack of information, but to an impossible wealth of Joe Hill sightings; Hill became such a legendary ‘wobbly’ that he is accredited as being present at practically all IWW functions nationwide.
Joe HillIt was during this time that Hill established himself as the main event of IWW rallies, singing songs he had written that pilloried capitalist bosses, scabs, glorified the ordinary American worker, and urged on the creation of unions. The lyrics to these songs were published in the IWW’s ‘Little Red Song Book’ and achieved wide distribution therein, but most of the thousands who got to know such songs as ‘Union Maid’, ‘The Preacher And The Slave’, ‘There Is A Power In The Union’ and ‘Workers of the World, Awaken!’ heard them sung by Joe Hill in person. The lyrics were usually simple, easily memorized and set to tunes that were already known to the assembly at the IWW meetings. As Joe once said
“A song is learned by heart and repeated over and over and if a person can put a few common sense facts into a song and dress them up in a cloak of humor, he will succeed in reaching a great number of workers who are too unintelligent or too indifferent to read.”
In January 1914, Joe was apprehended in Salt Lake City on a entirely circumstantial charge of murdering a local grocer who also happened to be a retired law enforcement officer. During the trial he offered little to no evidence in his own defense, and was more openly hostile to the volunteer attorneys representing him than he was to the prosecution, who sought the death penalty. Hill was convicted and executed by a firing squad on November 19, 1915, despite the protestations of the Swedish Ambassador to the United States, Helen Keller, and President Woodrow Wilson himself, all of whom had pleaded with the governor of Utah for a new trial for Joe. His own unexplainable behavior under these dire circumstances suggests that, though innocent of the charge, he had resigned himself to the notion of becoming a martyr for the cause of the unions. After his execution, the coffin containing Joe’s body was hastily transported to Chicago, where it was joined by a crowd of 30,000 mourners in a massive IWW funeral procession through the city streets.
Joe HillThe thirty or so songs that Joe Hill wrote were once thought so dangerous that many would dare not sing them in public or risk arrest. To this repertoire was added an additional powerful anthem of the left, entitled ‘Joe Hill’ and written in 1925 by the poet Alfred Hayes and set to music by Earl Robinson. This was sung at workers’ rallies in the 1930s and 1940s, when millions were in attendance. Although the red-baiting of the 1950s would eventually decimate the American left, by this time, Joe’s work had already left its mark on such singers as Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Pete Seeger and other left-leaning folk singers who would further influence Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and those who would become leading voices in the 1960s protests against the Vietnam War. Famously Baez began her appearance at the 1969 Woodstock Festival by singing ‘Joe Hill’ as her first number.
“If the workers took a notion they could stop all speeding trains; Every ship upon the ocean they can tie with mighty chains. Every wheel in the creation, every mine and every mill; Fleets and armies of the nation, will at their command stand still”
Unfortunatly Joe Hill never found himself in a situation where he could be recorded and his influence was mainly spread from singer to singer. Only in the late ’90s did historians take much interest in Joe Hill as a performer and artist and the study has already revealed much about the origins of politically oriented folk songs in America. It appears that Joe Hill was truly the first protest singer in America and certain of his specific metaphors, such as his notion of ‘pie in the sky when you die’ are encountered repeatedly in subsequent generations of folk songs that deal with social and political change.

Excellent both as an album and as a cultural document, we will not forget the important legacy Joe Hill bequeathed to us. It’s a beautiful album for a beautiful man.  This is REAL subversion, from real people, native Americans and immigrants like Joe, who weren’t playing games or striking poses, but who really saw things as they are and really wanted to change the world. Joe Hill was a hard core working class true American hero.
“I will die like a true-blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning – organize”
International Workers Of The World

 JOIN THE INTERNATIONAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD 

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IWW in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales

in Joe’s words “good luck to all of you”…

for an excellent piece on Joe Hill go to the Black 47 Blog here where New Yorks finest celtic-punk band give you there spin on the life and death of Joe. Well worth reading…

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (here) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re use to. To lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

ALBUM REVIEW: STEVE WHITE AND THE PROTEST FAMILY- ‘This Band Is Sick’ (2014)

The world’s favourite east London semi-acoustic singalong political folk punk group

Steve White And The Protest Family- 'This Band Is Sick' (2014)

Similar to them Tories who end up investigating companies that they have in fact got £100,000 worth of shares in, I feel I must own up to something before my review begins. Arriving in London 24 years ago I did my best to follow my home team but it just wasn’t enough for this football addict so I began to cast my net out for someone else to go to watch. Without going into all the details (but it did all start with free tickets!!!) I began going to see Leyton Orient. Back then they were in Division Three and in the years since they’ve had a couple of promotions and relegation’s but have never risen above that third tier of english footy. Standing on the terraces back then I never imagined that eventually they would become my first team, eclipsing both my home team and Celtic. There’s been ups and down. Few more of one than the other but that’s football for you. We can’t all support Chelsea or Manchester City. One of the many things that drew me to Orient was the supporters (I save the term ‘fans’ for yer barstoolers or schoolkids who support teams hundreds of miles away from them that they’ll never get to see). On the terraces back then were people from all over England in the same boat as me. Miles from home and washed up at the at a not so wee ground in London E10. Punks, hippies and metallers were dotted about the ground as were lefties everywhere. Once I said hello to a young lad wearing a James Connolly t-shirt. That’s how I was sucked in and the O’s are a part of me now…

Steve White And The Protest familySo why the hell am I waxing on about a lower league football team that can’t even get 5,000 in to watch them when they were (briefly) top of the league? Well the reason my friends is Steve White And The Protest Family. A quick glance at the band logo will give some of you the answer. These boys are full on Leyton Orient supporters and can be found propping up the bar in the Supporters Club at the ground before and after O’s games and even away games too, though whether or not they went to Bradford City that time I do not know. Meeting Steve many times and having checked out their videos I determined to draw them into London Celtic Punks orbit. We booked them for a couple of gigs and they went down a storm with their distinctive brand of English folk-punk and socialist and football anthems.

The bands official beginning was at Tommy Flynn’s in Camden on the 3rd December 2009 and ‘This Band Is Sick’ is their third release after a live album ‘One Night In Walthamstow’ recorded in 2010 at the Rose And Crown the day after the 2010 general election. With the Tories about to wage war on the working classes and finish off what Thatcher had started its a great record full of bile and humour and anger. Sadly they’ve been proved right about everything they predicted…

‘One Night’ was followed by the studio mini-album  ‘Drums Ruin Everything’ from 2012. ‘Drums Ruin Everything’ gets it title because they don’t and never have had a drummer. Eight tracks that set the style for this new album. Football, politics, football, politics and politics. All done with lashings of humour and personality. To download either album click on the links below the respective album covers above. Its £1 for both and one of them is free!!!

The band consists of Steve- Guitar, Irish bouzouki, harmonica, vocals, Doug- Bass, vocals, Russ- Banjo, vocals, Funky Lol- Mandolin, guitars, violin, piano, vocals. Though you’d never really be sure as they have people guesting for them regularly and even though there’s officially only four members I’ve seen them play with more than double that!

L-R: Steve, Doug, Russ, Funky Lol

L-R: Steve, Doug, Russ, Funky Lol

So now I’ve come clean on my connection to the band I cannot be accused of bias when I tell you that ‘This Band Is Sick’ is the proverbial bee’s knees! It kicks off, literally, with ‘No Pasaran In E17’ which tells the story of the far-right English Defence League’s ill fated trip to Walthamstow to hold a demonstration. The vast majority of EDL members made the sensible decision to bottle it and never come but those that did were met with a huge force of locals determined to prevent them from marching and they were harried and harassed at every turn and afterwards slunk off back to where they came from having had been well and truly embarrassed. As with all the following tracks the vocals are extremely clear and as east London (or should that be “east east east London”?) as you can get with the bands up front and forthright views.

“you can stick your racist hatred up your arse”

Acoustic guitar and mandolin lead the music but really its Steve voice that really dominates proceedings. ‘Do Something About It’ name checks the bands influences and is a plea for the left to stop its sectarianism and work together. A lovely thought but something the left is incapable of doing unfortunately. Who knows what we could achieve if we were united and all worked as equals together. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians is the phrase that fits the Brit Left perfectly with all the various groups and sects putting themselves above the class they pretend to serve. ‘Home Rule For Awesomestow’ brings in the harmonica and is lovely wee ditty about the home of the band, even bigging up their local Labour MP. ‘Ecstasy Death Girl’ proves the band can do serious with Lol taking over vocal duties for the story of a young lass who had died and the medias portrayal of her death and the prejudices they hold against the working classes in general. Quite rightly the song tells us not to buy the Daily Mail and ends with the sad and poignant line “poor Isabelle”.  Two whispered words more poignant than the 100’s of acres of news coverage the Daily Mail printed on the subject. Electric guitars pop in ‘Smash It Up (And Start Again)’ a song that tries to tell explain what we’ll do when the revolution comes. ‘Bad Day For Bojo’ is about the RMT, unions and everyone’s least favourite Eton boy (after Frank Turner that is!). A upbeat tune it’s banjo led and a real toe tapper. ‘Funky Lol’s Picket Line’ is about the necessity of NEVER crossing picket lines…EVER! ‘Never Mind Your Bollocks’ is that unusual song subject of testicular cancer and extolling the virtues of

“having a quick feel it aint worth ignoring”

‘(When An) Anarchist (Helps You Across The Road)’ begins with loud punky guitars and soon racks up the volume with a typical Family tune and lyrics. The stand out track of the album for me. Very funny with brilliant lyrics and music. Next is ‘Which Side Are You On?’, a song readers of this blog will be most familiar with due to the likes of The Dropkick Murphys and Billy Bragg , among others, covering it over the years. Written back in 1931 by Florence Reece and made most popular by the late and great Pete Seeger its a song bursting with both class hatred and class pride.  Steve’s updated lyrics are in the tradition of those mentioned and are a welcome addition to the song’s grand history

“I’m on the side of the unions,

on the side of the strikers

On the side of the bloggers,

the protest song writers

On the side of the disabled,

fighting against ATOS

On the side of the worker,

not the side of the boss

I’m on the side of the sick,

the benefits claimants

The folk who can’t make their Wonga repayments

I’m on the side of the kids on zero hours contracts

On the side of council workers who had their jobs axed

On the side of Uncut,

I’m on the side of Occupy

It’s rich versus poor if you just open your eyes

I hear people say a change is gonna come

So ask yourself which side are you on”

The final track (and hidden track- sorry for spoiling the surprise!) is The Family’s legendary anthem ‘Brisbane Road’. A story of love, unrequited love, hatred, dreams, dashed dreams and football. Yeah Brisbane Road is of course the home of Leyton Orient and close your eyes and a listen to this song will whisk you over to East London at 2-45pm running across Coronation Gardens. Whether its the drinks with no lids or getting The Orientear fanzine and a pint in the South Stand Bar at half-time and then missing the first five minutes of the second half but its that thing of praying to hear Status Quo at quarter to five that brings a smile to this face.

Twelve tracks in all and only a few seconds short of forty minutes. ‘This Band Is Sick’ may not have instant appeal for many of our European readers but you’d be wise to give it a chance. The lyrics are multi-layered in the same way Half Man Half Biscuit’s are in that you may listen as close as you can to the words but you’ll always discover a line you never heard before that will raise a smile or two. Shame the CD comes in a pretty basic cardboard cover but thats a small gripe as i already mentioned there’s no need for the lyrics as its very easy to understand Steve even when he really gets going! The album is released today so hightail it over to their Bandcamp page (link below) and get ‘This Band Is Sick’ as this band may be sick but they are fecking brilliant too!

here’s the recently released double-A side with Graham Larkbey And The Escapers. It’s all free but limited to 200 copies so when their gone contact the band…

Contact The Band

Facebook  Bandcamp  Reverbnation

Buy The Album (released 13th October 2014)

Physical copies from FourDogsMusic  Bookmarks and the Leyton Orient Supporters Club!

Download from Bandcamp

here’s the band recorded just a couple of weeks ago with some John Otway at the end you lucky things!

ALBUM REVIEW: HEADSTICKS- ‘Muster’ (2014)

“shoulders back boys

hold your heads up high…

don’t ever let them bastards see you cry”

Headsticks- 'Muster' 2014
Headsticks are a relatively new band to me coming from Stoke-On-Trent in the northern Midlands of England. The area is named The Potteries after its main industry of pottery. Sadly those days are long gone and along with coal mining and steel making all of the areas main industries have been decimated. Headsticks prove though that in an area where fascists until recently made up the official opposition in the local council that their is hope for the left, and by that I mean the real left not the trendy middle classes who helped destroy Stoke and its communities.
The band describe themselves as inhabiting the place
“where folk and punk collide”
and is very reminiscent of classic British folk-rock acts like the New Model Army, Billy Bragg (when he was good) and Blyth Power. Formed out of the ashes of two much loved celtic-punk bands ‘Tower Struck Down’ from Crewe in Cheshire who were one of the original scene bands formed way back in 1985 and the band that came out of them Jugopunch who featured on the Shite’n’Onions 2nd Volume Compilation CD.
Headsticks
Headsticks have been kicking up a bit of a fuss around their home and now further afield as well with the release of this their debut album. Last year they released a 3-track demo which was pretty well received but the reception to ‘Muster’ has been universally impressive.

Twelve tracks and an impressive 45 minutes long ‘Muster’ pulls you in from the first seconds of brilliant opening track ‘Flatline Town’ telling the well known story of what happens to places when you systematically set out to destroy them by closing down the industries that those places were built on. Its worth remembering though its not the towns but the people in them the rulers of this land wanted to destroy and ‘Muster’ is testament to the resistance to that. Despite only having acoustic guitar and harmonica as ‘folk’ instruments the album has a traditional british folk sound to it but despite not being celtic at all I’m absolutely 100% sure it would appeal to all fans of celtic-punk. ‘Youre Killing Me America’ is an anti-imperialist anthem that is particularly apt at the moment while the USA funds the Israeli’s attempted genocide of the Palestinians. ‘Cold’ takes Headsticks over to Mullingar and is me fave album track about love gone wrong. A slight C’n’W feel due to the great guitar playing. ‘Two Sides’ slows it right down and the harmonica (which regular readers will know I love!) is to the fore and again in the next song ‘Wishing’ which to these ears reminded me of The Housemartins. They speed it up again with ‘Fanatics’ and the social commentary is flowing and we’re glad to see these boys plant themselves firmly on the left. ‘Ghost’ sees the Headsticks heading back to Ireland to Achill Island. ‘World Away’ and ‘Teenage Widow’ continue the theme of trying to find out what happened to the working class of the northern cities and ‘Every Dog Will Have Its Day’ shows the gritty dark humour of the band
“You’re standing outside Wilkinson’s
Strumming on your guitar
To buy a liquid lunch and another pack of ten”
‘Paper Flowers’ tells of young men being sent away to kill and be killed in wars that we shouldn’t be involved in. ‘I Love The Way’ ends the disc with another great anthem and fist in the air chorus.

A great album and recommended for all here. Despite only being formed in 2012 I can see these boys shortly becoming firm favourites on the festival scene. Their music will appeal to all from the teeny punk bopper to the grizzled old folkie and with sound politics and even sounder ethics this is a band we can all put our trust in.
Contact The Band
Tower Struck Down WebSite
Buy The Album
there’s a nice review of the album here on Louder Than War

 

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