Anti Depressants are a four piece Ska, Punk’n’Roll band from the hills of County Armagh. Going since 2008 they already have four albums behind them but the last one was in 2013. Now with a settled line up our man in South Carolina TC Costello ran the rule over their new single ‘Yer The One’.
Two years ago I went on my first tour through Ireland. The Brandy Thieves were booked as the headline act at the Summer Solstice Festival, a DIY festival at a remote house in County Armagh, and the organizers were nice enough to book me as the opening act, too. So with my less-than-trusty accordion in a state of disrepair, I took the stage at 2pm, bottle of Buckfast by my side, and got ready for a long day of craic that would end with a Brandy Thieves encore of ‘Zombie’ that I have no recollection of participating in – though video evidence says otherwise.
Of what I remember, though, one of the highlights of the festival was local Armagh punk band Anti Depresants.With their diverse sound embracing heavy rock, reggae, male and female vocals and blistering guitar work, they’d be a standout at this or any other festival.Their song ‘Legalize’, an angry anthem of marijuana legalization, may have been my favourite song of the 2018, and its video was shot at the same house as the festival, where bassist Lemmy lives, has band practice and can work away at building motorbikes without bothering anyone.
With the their upcoming single ‘Yer The One’, the lineup has changed, and this particular song is less angry, but the spirit, craic and eclectic influences are still pervasive. It starts with a heavy three-chord guitar riff then jolts the listener with some Specials-esque reggae for the verse.Back-and forth vocals between guitarists Becca McCaffrey and Ringotell the story of a happy couple’s journey through the week:
“Monday Might be raining, it don’t matter to us
Tuesday Might be the same, we don’t give a f-ck
Wednesday is coming and no matter what
Thursday is for learning but only if you want.”
And the pre-chorus:
“Oh, my love, don’t you know yer the one?”
For the chorus of simply, “yer the one,” the heavy distortion is back with an ascending guitar riff. The rest of the week consists of a drunken weekend, a Sunday hangover and the Mandatory Monday, where they can do it “again, and again and again,” which is anything but boring and repetitive for these two. Is the festival still happening this year?McCaffrey says the band is unsure due to Covid-19.
‘Yer The One’ is released today May 14th and is available for streaming or download from Bandcamp or the link below for just a lousy Pound. They also have their entire back catalogue available on Bandcamp, going right back to 2008, for ‘Name Your Price’ download.
Most American artists we only get to know from their record releases but it seems T.C. Costello drops over this side of the broad Atlantic often enough for him to develop quite the following for his anarchic accordion Folk-Punk!
Horizon Songs is the sixth studio album from long time auld mucker of London Celtic Punks T.C. Costello. Though based in his adopted home town of Greenville, South Carolina he’s also a part time member of Leicester based folk-rockers The Brandy Thieves and is often found crossing the pond to join them here on stage in the summer months during festival season. During this time he also ventures across Europe and has always also found time to do a couple of shows for the London Celtic Punks, as well as spending the afternoon entertaining the auld folk residents at the Nursing home I work at! A visual tour de force its not many who can pull off a gig supporting punk bands or playing for the oldies but T.C. manages both with ease. The official release date for Horizon Songs was 28th December, 2018 but I am ignoring that and putting it down as a 2019 release. I actually did have a copy in my hand at TC’s successful gig at The Lamb in Surbiton at the end of last Summer but TC sold so many CD’s I had to give him my copy back so he’d have some for the later gigs on his tour!
T.C.’s roots, like many Irish-Americans, are lost in the midst of time and the chaotic nature of their ancestors arrival in America but cherished they are and though not entirely responsible for T.C.’s output they do play a large part. Among the ‘murder ballads’ and sea-shanties here are gems from Ireland’s musical history (except for ‘The Wild Rover’. He fecking hates ‘The Wild Rover’!) and his identity as descended from immigrants fleeing famine and oppression has played a large part in the songs he plays and writes.
“The tour I did this year took me to Italy, England, Scotland and Ireland,” Costello says. “And their traditional songs have a lot of influence on my songwriting, anyway. I just draw off the traditional sources, both musically and lyrically, and if you write in that style, you’re probably going to write about immigration or murder.”
T.C. Costello’s latest release, Horizon Songs is pretty much a one man Celtic-Folk-Punk album as T.C. is one of those talented bastards who can play a multitude of instruments from tin-whistle to accordion to the hulusi (sort of a Chinese bagpipe). The album opens with the darkly humorous ‘The Muse Of Mary Malloy’, a perfect example of a ‘Murder Ballad’ in which poor Mary gleefully goes about murdering any poor man who falls for her charms until she finally finds the man of her dreams and after accidentally bumping him off is sentenced to death. Originally penned by and for T.C’s English band mates in The Brandy Thieves T.C. plays a memorable version here.
Next on an album that is heavy on traditional immigration themes is the old trad Irish folk classic ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’. Played with gusto and for good reason this is a popular song among the punkier bands in the Celtic-Punk scene as it can be played at 110mph as T.C. shows here! It’s bittersweet tale of a Irish man saying goodbye to his beloved,
“so fare thee well my own true love; when I return united we shall be”
, to leave to mine for Gold in 1800’s America, The jocularity of the tune is tempered by our realisation that this journey ended in tragedy for most of these young men. T.C. gave his comments on this great ballad in his recent review on these pages of the new album from The Templars Of Doom, here, last week. With two toe-tappers so far it’s time for a slow one and ‘Dear Bonnie’ and T.C gives full vent on the accordion and his vocal range is impressive as well. Now no one would accuse him of ‘crooning’ his way through things but his is a voice that portrays emotions and feelings and fits snugly within his songs. No Celtic-Punk album is complete without a drink song and ‘The Ballad Of Being Born In A Bar’ does the job ably, complete with cautionary tale that absolutely none of us take any notice of! ‘Run Like Hell / See The World’ is not two songs but one I think he couldn’t decide to name. Played fast again with a gang chorus of friends its a ode to sailing across the oceans leading into ‘It Starts With A Funeral’ ,a short but sweet song lasting just eighty seconds that finishes with a heavily Irish influenced flourish at the end that I would have liked to have seen extended. Next up is one of the album highlights and the wonderful ‘May The Horizon Be Your Home’ sees T.C. accompany some utterly fantastic accordion here with equally good tin whistle, 12-string guitar, ukulele and clawhammer banjo. The words here are aimed at those that would deny sanctuary to those in desperate need.
One of the jobs that immigrants, especially the Irish as their farming skills were all but useless in the new country, found work in was the mining industry and not many jobs were more dangerous and badly paid than down the pit and ‘Murder In The Diamond Mine’ tells of the desperation of one poor soul to get out of the mine which he eventually succeeds in doing but at a great price to his soul. Another tragic traditional Irish song follows with ‘Botany Bay’, sung by many Irish bands including The Pogues and the Wolfe Tones it tells of an an Irish labourer dreaming of immigrating to Australia to make his fortune.
“Farewell to your bricks and mortar,
Farewell to your dirty lies.
Farewell to your gangways and your gang planks,
And to hell with your overtime.”
We coming towards the end and ‘Horizon Songs’ ends with three excellent songs, the first of which ‘Highlands of Afghanistan’ is a modern re-working of the traditional folk song ‘Lowlands of Holland’ while ‘Grine Kuzine’ (in English ‘My Green Cousin’) sees T.C. test out his Yiddish language skills. One of a group of songs known as ‘disillusionment songs’ as they deal with the disappointment felt by many Jewish-Americans that the streets in the USA were not ‘paved with gold’ and instead they carried the poverty and hard times across the ocean with them from Europe. Horizon Songs ends with the amazing ‘Over The Skies’ and a angry, but told beautifully, ballad again with excellent accordion. Thinking that was the end it came as a shock to find an, admittedly not too surprisingly, eccentric extra track hidden away at the end so be sure not to miss that…
Jens- Matilda’s Scoundrels, Johnny- gun for hire! and T.C. at The Lamb in Surbiton 2018.
Recorded in 2018 while T.C. was touring Ireland, Italy and England and in between gigs reflecting on his immigrant heritage while passing from country to country with ease. The news was filled with stories from home with hardly a day going by without the headlines being about border walls or people attempting to enter the US. For this reason the album he wrote leans heavily upon new and old stories of immigration alongside ones about drinking, murder, sailing and death. All online sales of Horizon Songs will be donated to the non-profit organisation familiesbelongtogether.org, helping families at the US-Mexico border. Admittedly like many in the Celtic-Punk scene T.C. is best captured live on stage but he always manage to capture the energy of his live shows admirably on his records and I defy you to find many more in the scene who are as entertaining.
(have a listen to Horizon Songs on the Bandcamp player below)
Well it seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in Mannions in north London totting up the votes for the Best Album Of 2017 over a couple of pints and so here we are again. Everyone loves to give out there opinions and we are no different so for what it’s worth, here’s who we think made the best music in the celtic-punk scene over the last year. It’s been another outstanding year for the music that we all love and some truly fantastic records came out in the last twelve months. 2017 saw just about every major player in the scene release an album while in 2018 they left it to many of the lesser known bands to dominate! Remember though this is only our opinion and these thirty album’s are only the tip of the iceberg of what was released last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. As a bonus we figured out how to attach a poll at the end so you can even vote on your favourite release of 2018 yourself. If it’s not listed then simply add your choice.
We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…
So absolutely no surprises here at all. In fact The Rumjacks have pretty much swept the board across the Celtic-Punk scene with what we even thought was their best release since their groundbreaking debut album Gangs Of New Holland. The Bhoys are going from strength to strength and are set to go through the roof in 2019. They remain as humble as ever and downright lovely folk to know which reminds me, congrats from us all here to Frankie and LCP’er Anna on their engagement. Other notables were Sir Reg who even flew over to London to premier their new album The Underdogs before later returning to embark on a successful nationwide tour… while I was on holiday! London-Irish band Clan Of Celts, despite a few teething problems, delivered a fantastic debut album as well as, my personal favourite of the year, Belgium’s Krakin’ Kellys. A dual release of an album and a EP on the same day is a novel approach but it paid dividends for Lexington Field as they were both brilliant. Sinful Maggie have just been getting bigger and bigger all year and we expect this to continue into 2019. Three albums from the Celtic nations with two from Galicia from Falperrys and Bastards On Parade and Cornwall’s Pirate Copy. All together we have bands from twelve countries with Germany with the most placings alongside Australia, USA, England, Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, Canada, Italy, Galicia, Cornwall and Japan.
I was not the only one at London Celtic Punks Towers to be abso-fecking-lutely blown away by the Krakin’ Kellys debut album. Fast and melodic skater style punk rock with bagpipes that will blow the cobwebs away off off anyone! They made quite a wave in the scene thanks to their brilliant videos so go check them outhere. This section was the easiest one to award by far!
MOSCHE DI VELLUTO GRIGIO- Of Pain And Glory hereand RAISE MY KILT- A New Tartan here
At one point this was heading towards being an Australian #1, #2 and #3 but at the last minute our local favourites The Lagan released Let’s Do It Again at the end of December and wrestled it away from Medusa’s Wake. Their first studio release in a hell of a long time it came out too late to trouble many of our friends ‘Best Of’ lists but their loss is our gain! Besides them and our Aussie friends the list was made up from bands from the USA, Holland, Italy and Austria which goes to show the international nature of the scene. As an aside you can get the brilliant bagpipe punk debut EP from Scotch for free by following the link to their review. For lovers of the McKenzies you’ll not be disappointed!
bubbling under: THE BRANDY THIEVES- The Devil’s Wine here
Always the hardest to do this section as our scope has become fairly wide over the years and gone beyond Celtic-Punk but Irish-American’s Marys Lane managed at once to be a record both me and my Mammy love! Even better the Cleveland based band have made it available to download for free/donation so follow the link above. Scot Louis Rive’s debut album really impressed me and was one of my most played albums of the year and The Craicheads capped a great year with a fantastic single and their lead singer Mick making the papers and the telly for saving a Mum and her babies lives (here). Good on yer Mick. It’s a privilege to know you. More local talent at #4 which ended a year where Man The Lifeboats have gone from first band on to headline shows and a mention for the amazing Finbar Furey who put a most excellent LP at the tender age of only 72.
MERSEY CELT PUNKS
We may be a wee bit biased here but last years winners take it again this year too. 2018 saw them continue to develop the site into an all-round resource for Liverpudlians and further afield. Yeah these guys are always blowing our trumpet we know and we have shared a good few scoops with them, and will again not long after this is published, but we enjoy what they write and it’s all done with an enthusiasm that us auld hacks are constantly jealous of. Plus you are not a major player in the Celtic-Punk scene unless you had your picture took with Elliot! You can also join in their fun and games on their Twitterand Facebookand their Web-Zine. Be sure to subscribe.
So there you go. Remember we don’t pretend to be the final word on things in fact if you check the other celtic-punk media I’m sure we’ve all come up with relatively different lists. Our Best Of’s are cajoled and bullied out of the admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The assorted scraps of paper and beer mats were then tallied up please remember not all of us heard the same albums so like all the various Best Of’s ours is also subjective.
This is our 6th year of us making these lists so if you would like to check out out who was where in our previous Best Of’s then just click on the link below the relevant year.
Combining Gypsy rhythms and punk energy, ska grooves and folk storytelling, The Brandy Thieves have created a sound that is uniquely their own, a sound that has stolen the hearts of all of whom that have seen them perform. Stephen Francis Bourke was at the release party at the Soundhouse Leicester for London Celtic Punks.
Already renowned as one of the Midland’s best live acts, The Brandy Thieves gypsy rhythms and punk energy, ska grooves and folk storytelling create a sound that is uniquely their own. ‘Raucous’ ‘Infectious’ ‘Enthralling’ ‘Captivating’ and ‘Sweaty’ are just a few of the words that have been used to describe the alcohol stealing gypsy punks. Now they have taken a new direction, embracing grass roots Americana in the form of new EP ‘The Devil’s Wine’.
Chatting to the punters ahead of the EP, ‘The Devil’s Wine’ launch at the Soundhouse in Leicester it became clear that I was in for “a hellava good show!”. The Brandy Thieves have a varied local fan base from punks that are old enough to remember seeing The Clash at Granby Halls, now a car park for The Tigers Rugby ground, to ska fans who had been encapsulated by the Two Tone launch just up the M69, through to ex-ravers disillusioned by the commercialisation of the scene, bearded lovers of country folk and exuberant students.
In a week when the City had come together in grief following the tragic loss of the football club’s beloved chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha they needed something to celebrate, felt when Demarai Gray’s strike put the winner in for the club on Saturday, felt on this Friday night. In short, there was a lot of love in the room.
This was more than a gig. We had a magician compère, fortune telling, belly dancers and free shots of brandy. Having already appeared on Monday at a London Celtic Punks show TC Costello, self proclaimed punk folk accordion player and part time Brandy Thief entertained the crowd with his highly entertaining solo slot, The Splitters supported with their tight, edgy rock/ska sound with added sound effects, like the embodiment of Mick Jones’ mind somewhere between the Sandinista album and Big Audio Dynamite. They played their way right through a blown amp!
Then we had the main event.
The Brandy Thieves are a live band, first and foremost. They told me that when they write the songs Andrea and Cain bring the lyrics to the rehearsal and the arrangement is done by the whole group. The first album ‘Old Tattoos’ has that live feel, ‘ The Devil’s Wine’ demonstrates just how in tune with one another’s mood the Brandy Thieves must be.
Photos by Philip Vernon
So how does the collection of new songs fit in? – Well the lyrical themes of earlier songs continue. A folk lore devil is ever present, right down to the title of the EP. He’s a curse to the protagonists of the ballads and an ever present feeling that the ‘old one’ may well have the best tunes. ‘Down the River’ is a personal lament of battling demons inside. The track was an early taste of the forthcoming EP and works well as a bridge from the old ska/punk folk beats of the first album ‘Old Tattoos’ towards the new cooler sharper sound of ‘Devils Wine’ by providing a gospel blues feel with the more familiar reggae beats.
For the new EP marks the Brandy Thieves anew. Like they took the Chattanooga choo choo, picking the grapes and grain of Americana music on the way and distilling a spirit of their own into ‘The Devil’s Wine’.
Andrea’s vocals are just as powerful but smokier and melodic throughout. Listen to her scat on jazz blues inspired ‘Midnight Circus’ and all of their voices come through the intro of the EP, an untitled drinking song in the form of a spiritual for the 21st Century, reminding us, in Brandy Thieves style, of our own mortality.
Joe’s trumpet and Sebastion’s banjo have been let off the leash of the rhythm section to offer encapsulating melodies and freestyle solos. Hear the horn sing with TC Costello’s accordion on ‘Midnight Circus’and the hauntingly restrained banjo, echoing southern gothic on ‘ This Mountain’, while Chris’ tight drum beats and Cain’s waking bass riffs have taken up their rightful role as the heartbeat of the band, saying “keep cool, we’ve got this”. the aforementioned ‘Midnight Circus’ is as rhythmically rolling as a Stray Cat Strut.
Gone on ‘The Devil’s Wine’ are the runaway mixed tempos of ‘Old Tattoos’ although they still went down well during the show, taking the crowd from swaying folksy singalongs and then distinctively upping the tempo in a ‘1,2,3,4!’ punk/ska rhythm to get them jigging and pogoing with abandonment. Whether that was ‘Didikai Lee’; The hurdy-gurdiness of ‘Broken Record’ or title track of the first album itself; ‘Old Tattoos’ this was the case tonight. The exceptions are ‘Molly Malone’ a swaying murder ballad reminiscent of the classic traditional song ‘Rose Connelly’ and on the night an acoustic version of ‘Blackbird’ that had loyal fans singing along, both these tunes will, I imagine, be mainstays of the band whatever direction they take.
The Brandy Thieves have evolved away from ska. This was acknowledged midway through the gig when they covered Toots and the Maytals’ ’54-46 Was My Number’ saying that this would, probably, be the last time their Leicester faithful would hear it, and then playing it with the gusto of saying goodbye to an old friend. Now we have a sound that is just as comfortable for the listener at home or played in the car as it is live. ‘Girl from the Black County’ with a clear acoustic guitar, plucking banjo and singing accordion wouldn’t sound out of place blasted on the eight track of a classic 1970’s Chevy pick up as it kicks up dust from the road on the way to see Billy Jo Spears at the Whiskey River.
The Brandy Thieves are bringing their sweaty, dancing, skanking frenzy to London on Saturday 17th November at the Hootananny in Brixton. Plenty of bands on so check the Facebook event herefor details. Its free to get in before 10pm and gig ends at 3am. Hootananny Brixton, 95 Effra Road, Brixton, London SW2 1DF.