Tag Archives: Black Irish Texas

ALBUM REVIEW: BLACK IRISH TEXAS- ‘The Good, The Bad And The Indifferent’ (2017)

Black Irish Texas are not just another Irish punk band. They may be influenced by the giants of the scene but this seven piece brings plenty more to set them apart. With Guinness fueled lyricism Black Irish Texas navigate you between psychobilly and Texas two-step all in one show. With a new album to promote they are touring Europe later this year so I hope you’ll be lucky to catch them.

Now long, long ago before there was Facebook existed a thing called My Space. It was similar in many ways and took off in a way that nothing before it had ever done before. Music orientated it introduced us to bands across the globe who you would never knew even existed. Sadly it was bought by Rupert Murdoch and his massive media empire who from the go set about messing around with the format and ended up destroying it and so everyone left in dribs and drabs and migrated to Facebook which had stolen all the best bits of My Space and well the rest is history. I mention this because the first band I found on my first ever computer on my first visit onto My Space was Black Irish Texas. A bunch of songs that took in all my favourite genres of music and chewed them up and spat back out some of the best music I had ever heard. Psychobilly, punk, Irish, Americana, country all flow through their music and combined with the intelligent and thoughtful and often hilarious lyrics I knew this band was going to be a favourite of mine for a LONG time.

The band hail from the fastest growing city in the Unites States, Austin in Texas. It’s an area famed for it’s vibrant and exciting music scene that has spawned such luminaries as Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison in the 50’s and 60’s through to the hippie days and then punk bands like The Dicks and MDC in the 70’s. More recently it’s been mainly college rock and indie being churned out. In fact the official Austin slogan is ‘The Live Music Capital of the World’ and emerging out of that highly competitive music scene comes Black Irish Texas.

Formed in 2004 and with untold amount of line up changes and trials and tribulations. So many in fact that I have often thought the band were no more but again and again they kept cheering me up with their return. Their debut album To Hell With The King released in 2009 was just about the most perfect celtic-punk album I had heard at the time. Spaghetti western/Americana/punk infused Irish American music that still now feels completely fresh and original. A mixture of brilliant originals and some choice covers of The Pogues and a couple of trad songs, ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ and an outstanding ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans showed they were a force to be reckoned with. With a welcome (hic!) sponsorship from Jameson Irish whiskey and growing local support Black Irish Texas began to play further afield and within a few years they had covered most of America gaining devout followers everywhere they ventured.

To Hell With The King was followed by the six track EP An Ode To Saint Cecilia in 2013 and again was received with tremendous reviews. St Cecilia is of course the patron saint of musicians so who better to have on your side in the world’s most competitive music city. Another album followed with Lifetime Problems and Short Term Solutions but as i haven’t heard that one (hint hint) I cannot tell you anything about it!

(here’s the title track from An Ode To St. Cecilia)

Now with a settled line up of some of Austin’s best musicians and with a European tour on the horizon which will take them across Europe as well as back to their ancestral home in Ireland (but alas won’t see them coming to play here in the belly of the beast) things have never looked rosier.

So the new album hits the floor running and shows Black Irish Texas have lost none of their flair for interesting and original Irish music. After all it is Irish music that underpins everything they do. Whatever they throw in that mix at the base of it all is the music of Ireland but distilled through a bunch of Irish-Americans with a list of influences as long as your arm. The Good, The Bad And The Indifferent (great title by the way) begins with ‘G.B.U. Theme’ and is the Black Irish Texas take on the unofficial anthem of their home state. A spaghetti western tune played nice and slow but with tin whistle. They up the tempo next with ‘Ain’t Gonna Last’ and vocalist/guitarist James has a natural voice for celtic-punk and veers nicely between singing and shouting.

(the official video for ‘Ain’t Gonna Last’)

Over in a flash of just 102 seconds it’s fast and furious with the band going at full pelt. Black Irish Texas have never shied away from playing the odd rebel song and it’s no different here with one of the best appearing. ‘Join The British Army’ is a old trad Irish folk song dating right back to Victorian times and concerns a young Irishman who regrets his decision to volunteer for the British army.

“Too-ra loo-ra loo-ra loo,
Me curse upon the Labour blue,
That took me darlin’ boy from me,
To join the British army.

Corporal Sheen’s a turn o’ the ’bout,
Just give him a couple o’ jars o’ stout,
He’ll bate the enemy with his mouth,
And save the British army.

Too-ra loo-ra loo-ra loo,
I’ve made me mind up what to do,
Now I’ll work me ticket home to you,
And fuck the British army”

Now regular readers will know that as much as I love it speedy I’m now getting on a bit and slowing down. Those 8-hour gardening sessions are a thing of the past without a few days recovery so I loved ‘Richcreek’. A slow and ponderous celtic/country instrumental led by the banjo with very nice backing from the rest of the band until the fiddle comes in late on. I love this song, right up my street. The Bhoys turn it on its head next with ‘Yates’. Another top notch song, great guitar and thundering double bass and dynamite banjo and fiddle. One of only a few bands in celtic-punk who use a double bass and boy (or should that be Bhoy) does it work well. The sound is incredible and when played well as it is here by Shannon McMillan then it can make a mediocre song brilliant. Not that Black Irish Texas have to worry about that. James comes in at the end with some vocals but by then the Irish tune has got hold and it is flying. ‘No One’s Having Any Fun’ starts slow with that western feel to it again but soon speeds up and sets Trump in their sights. Most of the anti-Trump protest’s we see are usually of very rich people whining about white privilege (sorry idiots it doesn’t exist) but these guys are actually working class and their protest is sincere and real and not designed to upset their parents or assuage their guilt at being rich. They cover the famous anti-war track ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ next and play it with a gusto that I haven’t heard with this song before. Eric Bogle’s legendary tune takes in folk and rockabilly and while it does seem strange to hear this song in a way you could mosh to it’s still very respectful and James reciting of the lyrics are very clear throughout. The album ends with the imaginatively titled ‘Don’t Too Ra Li To Me’ and they save the best for last with every influence they ever picked up layered on top of an Irish/country tune. The bands famous sense of humour has been missing up till now and they more than make up for it here. Imagine a Irish folk punk  hoe down with James spitting out line upon line that will make you smile and/or shout yourself hoarse!

(here’s a stripped down concert at The Hideaway, Johnson City, Tennessee Aug 2016 of the band playing some old faves and some new album tracks)

So there you are. Eight songs that come in just short of a half hour and every single one a bona fide winner! Black Irish Texas are dead right when they say we should NOT try and pigeonhole them as an Irish pub band. And while it may be (!) possible you will hear them singing ‘Danny Boy’ one day i can guarantee it will be the best fecking version you will ever hear of it. In these times of uncertainty the Irish-American community is safe with bands like this at it’s forefront. Some of the most original celtic-punk music I have heard this year and as 2017 is shaping up as the scene’s busiest ever year that is some compliment.

Buy The Good, The Bad And The Indifferent

LittleClassRecords  iTunes  Microsoft

Contact Black Irish Texas

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  ReverbNation and of course MySpace where it all began for me!

ALBUM REVIEW: 1916- ‘Last Call For Heroes’ (2015)

SHAMROCKABILLY!

The hardest hitting Irish rock band this side of Dublin city!

1916 (2015)

With the sun about to set on 2015 and the end of year ‘Best Of’ polls pretty much settled no-one in the London Celtic Punks camp expected another album worthy of the list to come along. Let alone one to come along that would hit you so instantly in the gut that it would rocket up to be voted the third best Celtic Punk Album Of 2015 (here) by the LCP team. That album was by a band called 1916 from New York and was about to make BIG BIG waves in the celtic-punk scene. The roots of 1916 had been around for a few years now starting off as a duo back in 2006 before deciding to take things to another level with the addition of electric guitars, drums and traditional folk instruments. Soon they had become a staple of the celtic-punk/ Irish rock scene in New York and it wasn’t long before they released their debut album A Drop Of The Pure in 2012 and the follow up, Stand Up And Fight, released the following year. These were both great albums but, and I’m sure the Bhoys won’t mind me saying, it was all solid but still pretty standard celtic-punk rock fare. That debut album was full of the passion and wild fire of a bunch of young Irish-Americans while the follow up shared much the same path but was a much more polished version. Their new album Last Call For Heroes hit the streets in the USA at the beginning of December just gone but took a couple of weeks to reach us here across the broad Atlantic and it is fair to say that it blew everybody’s bloody brains out over here at London Celtic Punks and has since been causing quite a scene across the worldwide celtic-punk community!

1916 (2012)Over the years their have been several celtic punk bands who have included a double bass and combined Irish folk, punk rock and rock’n’roll/rockabilly to create something pretty amazing. Craic Haus are without doubt the kings of, what they term themselves, ‘shamrockabilly’ but other notable bands like Black Irish Texas, Black Water County and Kevin Flynn And The Avondale Ramblers also have a double bass player rather than a electric bass guitar to create that rocking sound you just don’t get from a normal bass guitar. The sound that Chris Van Cleve brings to 1916 is quite simply amazing and will leave you gobsmacked. If you thought that pretty much all celtic-punk bands sound alike then get your lug holes around this album and prepare to eat some humble pie as this band will blow any perceptions you may have of celtic-punk music out of the water.

1916 (2013)Coming out of the once solidly Irish area of Rochester in New York, 1916 may have seen the Irish population of their home town shrink somewhat but it has only hardened their determination to both sing loud and sing proud about the NY Irish community and their noble history! The Irish are still here and they are still fighting!!NYI (2)

The album starts with an absolute cracker of a song with ‘Tear The Pub Down’. Thrashy guitars and singer Bill dives straight into in a song that deserves to be played while the Ireland team (only one team in Ireland!) walk out on the pitch at the European Championships in the summer. If this song wouldn’t swell their hearts and heads we’ve no chance. Next up is ‘For Whiskey’ which was the first release from the album and is clearly the band’s favourite track. Certainly it shows the band at their most rocking and if there’s one song on this album that could be the 1916 signature tune then this is the one.

Smuggling whiskey into America during prohibition made many a Irishman plenty of money and even better for the Irish community at large it gave the Irish a taste of power that they learnt to hang onto.

“It’s row, ye bastards row
We can see the beach and the pickup harbor
It’s go ye bastards go
To the speakeasies with your whiskey cargo
And now we’re headed back
For the smuggling life we’re living now
It’s whiskey we’re on our way”

This is followed by ‘Long Street Bop’ and is more than a passing nod towards Shane MacGowan’s first band The Nipple Erectors (later The Nips) with a short but sweet blast of rockabilly. 1916 are certainly no covers band belting out Danny Boy and their wonderful choice of covers proves they have both a great taste in music and a good knowledge of their Irish roots. ‘Hot Asphalt’ is up next and is as good a version as I have heard in my entire life. 1916 bounce along with a tonne of energy and turn this well known song into their very own.

“You may talk about yer sailor lads, ballad singers and the rest
Your shoemakers and your tailors but we please the ladies best
The only ones who know the way their flinty hearts to melt
Are the lads around the boiler making hot asphalt

With rubbing and with scrubbing, sure I caught me death of cold
For scientific purposes, me body it was sold
In the Kelvin grove museum, me boys, I’m hangin’ in me pelt
As a monument to the Irish, making hot asphalt”

Made famous by The Dubliners and for once we have a classic traditional folk song not written by Ewan MacColl… I jest of course as yet again its another in Ewan’s armoury of amazing songs that celebrate working class life. This time about Irishmen digging the roads in England. One of those men was my Grandad incidentally. Ewan was a genius pure and simple (check back in a few days time for a review of the recently released Ewan MacColl tribute double album ‘The Joy Of Living’). It’s quite hard to describe how 1916 breath new life into this classic song but by God they do so. I love this version and hats off for achieving something more than just a simple cover version. ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ is one of the albums slower tracks but still kicks it up with the chorus while ‘The Traveller’ has a country/rockabilly feel while still rooted firmly in Ireland. ‘Ordinary Man’ is not the famed Christy Moore song but does travel much the same road lyrically and is dedicated to all those

“worker bees who are buzzing around with you and me”
‘Tomorrow’ is classic celtic-punk territory. Guitar and banjo clash producing yet another fantastic song but with front man Bill and his sometimes gravelly and sometimes almost crooning vocals 1916 prove they can rattle out top class song after top class song. Another great cover that the band properly claim is ‘Mursheen Durkin’. It tells the story of an Irish emigrant who goes to mine for gold during the Californian gold rush during the 1840’s and unusually in tales of Irish emigration for once it’s an upbeat song where yer man revels in leaving.
“Goodbye to all the boys at home, l’m sailing far across the foam
To try to make me fortune in far America,
For there’s s gold and money plenty for the poor and gentry
And when I come back again I never more will stray”
Again it’s a song made famous by the band that influenced The Pogues like no other The Dubliners. If by chance you are one of those rare souls that has never checked out The Dubliners do so immediately. It has to said that if celtic-punk wouldn’t exist without The Pogues then The Pogues would not exist without The Dubliners.
1916
‘Last Call For The Heroes’ is the last self-penned number and again the boys nail it. A swirling tribute to their Irish ancestors in New York. Again its a superb song and one of many fist/pint in the air moments on this album and sadly we come to an end with the final track, ‘The Parting Glass’. Again a Dubliners favourite and though this is the third song on the album popularised by this great band 1916 do something incredible and breathe new life into each song and make it their own. ‘The Parting Glass’ is sung wherever the Irish are throughout the world. First appearing in the 1770’s it is sung wherever Irish friends gather at the end of the night.

“Oh, all the comrades that e’er I had
They’re sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They’d wish me one more day to stay

But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be with you all”

Bill sings with the very barest of accompaniment and comes out with something both beautiful and poignant. I can see this song being played at a good few funerals in the future!!
So here’s a blend of rockabilly with Irish punk rock that will leave you reeling while Bill spits out the songs with a venom that will have you belting your lung’s out while bouncing off the walls. Following 1916 through their three albums its clear to see how this talented bunch have continued to grow and evolve as musicians and artists and you get the feeling that they will only continue to get better and better as well. I can honestly say that their has been no better album in celtic-punk since The Rumjacks debut album kicked our teeth out back in 2010. What we are looking at here is the early days of a band that is destined for the top table of celtic-punk and who knows where after that…
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