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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: THE RATHMINES- ‘Ramblin With The Rats. Stolen Songs of Struggle’ (2015)

Berliner celtic-folk-punk band The Rathmines debut album is superb and done with a passion and a feeling and a joy for Irish music that very few Irish bands have. A must hear album.

The Rathmines 1

With Irish/ celtic music’s popularity blazing across Europe we must make a stop over in the country that has truly embraced the music like no other. For whatever reason celtic music and culture have taken off in Germany and they have produced some of the best celtic-punk bands in the scene as a result. The Rathmines are the latest in a line that includes Fiddlers Green, Mr Irish Bastard and, now sadly disbanded, Auld Corn Brigade.

CLICK HERE TO READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH THE RATHMINES

The thing that immediatly leaps out on you as you listen to this album is the degree of respect The Rathmines have for the music. This is no imperialist appropriating of the culture of others this is the joyous celebration of Irishness and inclusiveness. The boys all come from a punk rock background and was a Pogues gig in their home of Berlin that persuaded them to put away the electric instruments and get all folky. The music itself is of the kind our mam’s and dad’s use to listen to but done in such a way that the energy and spirit of punk comes shining through. The albums sixteen tracks come in at just a few seconds under a hour and its a hour well spent trust me.

The Rathmines

The album kicks off with celtic-punk standard ‘Drunken Sailor’ and it amazes me that you can get sick of hearing a song until you hear it done in a way that brings it back to life for you. Nothing particulary different but just a great version. ‘Hot Asphalt’ the Ewan MacColl penned song, made famous by The Dubliners ,follows and again theres nothing that should stand out but what you get is a enjoyable enthusiastic romp through the story of Irish immigrants to England digging the roads.

“Well, we laid it in a hollows and we laid it in the flat
And if it doesn’t last forever, sure I swear, I’ll eat me hat
Well, I’ve wandered up and down the world and sure I never felt
Any surface that was equal to the hot asphalt”

The first of the albums self-penned tracks is the Parisian style ‘How to Steal Horses’ with accordion drifting through and percussion keeping the beat while the vocals tell a story telling you exactly how to steal a horse and why. ‘Impossible’ is yer classic celtic-punk song about drinking and how missing your love can drive to further into the drink. Another self penned number from The Rathmines and again they hit the spot. The tune moves away slightly from traditional Irish and is all the better for it as it breaks the album up from being just a hour of trad. Hadn’t heard much of ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya’ since I was a kid until the Dropkick Murphys recorded it and The Rathmines give it a blast with a great version and follow it up with more songs made famous by The Dubliners ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’ and, made famous recently by its recording by The Boss, ‘Mrs. McGrath’. ‘Oró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile’ is a song originally written during the Jacobite rising in 1745-6 but was re-written by the great Irish patriot and leader of the 1916 Uprising in Dublin, Patrick Pearse. It was sung by Volunteers as a fast march during the Irish War of Independence.

“Óró, sé do bheatha ‘bhaile/ Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh

Oh-ro You’re welcome home…/ Now that summer’s coming!”

Sung in Irish by the bhoys and with guest vocals by Alexandra Arnsburg it is truly a remarkable song when you consider even how few Irish bands use their own language. Full marks for The Rathmines for this and for pulling off what is an acoustic-reggae-ska-trad Irish version that I am sure has Patrick smiling down from above.

(left to right) Marcus - Bass, Vocals; Rene - Cajon; Egidio - Accordion; Martin - Guitar, Vocals

(left to right) Marcus – Bass, Vocals; Rene – Cajon; Egidio – Accordion; Martin – Guitar, Vocals

‘Paddy’s Taksim Square’ is another Rathmines number and the albums highlight for me from the great lyrics to the catchy as hell tune.

Again it strays a little away from their usual traditional Irish sound but manages to keep within the celtic camp.

“Her yer Taksim, her yer Direniş’
Paddy has no difficulties ever understanding this
No matter if it’s Istanbul, Brazil or day or night
Everywhere is Taksim-Square and everywhere we fight”

With their love of The Pogues its perhaps a bit suprising that we get towards the end of the album before a more famous Pogues track surfaces. ‘Poor Paddy (Works On The Railway)’ yeah I know The Dubs did it first but it was The Pogues that I would say are more famous for playing it.  During the mid-19th century poor Irish immigrants worked almost exclusively to build railways in the United States. Untold thousands of Irish section crews worked as track layers, gaugers, spikers, and bolters and the song begins in 1841, during the time of the famine. ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ is another Dubs classic while ‘Sog Nischt Kejnmol’ is dedicated to

“all fighters who died in prisons, camps and on the battlefields against Fascism during the dark years when Fascists in Europe slaughtered the workers’ movement, Jews and all others”

It is an interpretation of a Yiddish partisan song written 1943 in the Vilnius ghetto by Hirsch Glik who joined the ‘Fareinikte Partisaner Organisatzije’ and participated in 1942 in an uprising in the Ghetto. He was caught by the German troops and deported to an Estonian concentration camp from where he escaped. After this he joined the fight against the German troops and died aged 22.

A worthy tribute to Hirsch.

“Sure the hour that we’re dreaming for will come/
We’ll arrive with steps pounding like a drum”

Talk of ‘The Boss’ earlier and on hearing the traitional murder ballad, Two Sisters, you can almost hear Bruce singing it. Made most famous by Clannad its truly a monstrous song not that you’d notice as its so beautifully done! ‘Whisky In The Jar’ and ‘The Wild Rover’ complete the ‘Stolen Songs of Struggle’ and the album ends with the last of The Rathmines self penned tracks ‘Years Of Depression’. Another standout song that rails agains the bankers and their kind

“All you boldholders, bankers and fuckheads in the firms”

 

and wishes upon them

“Years of depression will be yours”

From beginning to end this album is brilliant. Recorded, self produced, mastered and designed by the band themselves in the living room of their singer it surely deserves a wider audience and I have noticed they have began to make a few waves in the celtic-punk scene over in Europe so hopefuly that continue. The Rathmines are not trying anything particularly different but what they are doing is doing it superbly and with a passion and a feeling and a joy for Irish music that I wish more Irish bands had.

(to hear the entire album press play below)

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