Bryan McPherson, a fiery, folk-playing, native of Boston Massachusetts was called west to Los Angeles in 2010. Bringing with him blue collared incendiary working class folk music fusing Americana, Folk, alternative and Punk.
One of the highlights of doing this here site is that you can push artists that really made a difference in your life. I first came across Bryan MacPherson when a fellow London Celtic Punk gave me a handful of bootleg CD’s to listen to. To be honest I didn’t give them much of a chance and dismissed them early on as a wee bit lame. How wrong I could be I would learn later. Bryan toured England in 2015 and eventually wound up in London playing at the Goth bar The Devonshire Arms in Camden. It was free so a bunch of us went along and wow I can honestly say I was blown away by both the power and the passion of Bryan’s music. The gig came along after some particularly bad news so it was also a timely reminder to pull my socks up, hold my head up high and get on with it. The night could have gone a lot better with ‘technical’ difficulties mucking up most of the set but I came away that night with a warm feeling of hope and a new favourite singer-songwriter!
“Bryan sings like, we’re lucky he doesn’t own a gun.” -Filter Magazine
Here on his new single Bryan digs into his distant past and releases three tracks from when he first arrived in California around 2010. A decade on they still sound as relevant as ever and incredibly up to date. The opening song ‘East Bay Train’ has never been released before and was recorded with the help of the great Willie Samuels in a session where they were just trying some stuff out. Bryan has the amazing ability to inject into every song his heart and his voice just exudes passion. The following two tracks were both recorded in the shed of Jason White from the Californian bands The Big Cats and Pinhead Gunpowder. He is also a touring guitarist in a little known pop combo called Green Day! Well he must have a better shed than me because both songs sound immaculate. The first of the songs is an early version of ‘Born Again American Blues’. Telling the tale of travelling across the States playing music
“I got a sleeping bag I take it with me wherever I go. I always got a bed. I always got a home. I got the sky for my sky light. Don’t worry mama I’m alright. ‘Cause I was born at night. I was born born born to fight with shadows on the wall.”
The single ends with ‘I See A Flag’ and it’s no exaggeration on my part to say this is one of my all-time favourite songs. At almost seven minutes it’s a song that perfectly captures Bryan McPherson it all his glory. A story told of life- both sordid and hopeful- and love and hate and politics. A world where something better is possible.
“There ain’t no easy way to end this song. I ain’t got no answers ‘cept mountains and fog cuz I seen the buildings built and I watched them crumble. I seen a nation of braggarts stumble humbled I seen money come and go, people live and die, people giving up, standing up to try and all I can hope for is a better today cuz life’s right now and its here I’ll stay. Its here I will sing and here I will pray to a billion gods I hope they all get their way. So lets just tear it all down we can start from scratch. Keep our faces forward don’t ever look back. A place where everybody’s clothed and everybody’s fed and nobody’s dying from a lack of medicine. I don’t understand. I see a flag lowered in the wind”
It don’t get much better than this. Bryan is attempting to survive on the meagre portion that a full time DIY musician makes so he occasionally comes up with novel ways to support himself. This time he has made up bootleg numbered tapes of the single with hand painted covers by Bryan. They are selling quickly and you can pick one up here.
(you can stream Berkeley Demos on the Bandcamp player below)
Well here we go again. It only seems like five minutes since I was compiling all the votes into last years Best Of that saw The Rumjacks romping home with Album Of The Year. This year has been a bit quieter on the Celtic-Punk front but as last year was so busy that is perhaps not surprising. That’s not to say their weren’t some fantastic releases as their were plenty and it was still really difficult to come up with the various lists below. Not so many big bands this year so it was left to the lesser known bands to shine but remember this is only our opinion and these releases are only the tip of the iceberg of what came out last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. As a bonus we are adding the Readers Poll again this year so you can even vote on your favourite release of 2019 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…
(click on the green link to go where you will find more information on the release)
How to compete with last year? Every single top band in the genre released an album so things were always going to be a bit quieter for 2019. Top spot this year unsurprisingly goes to The Walker Roaders Celtic-Punk super group! With Pogues, Mollys and Dropkicks making up the team how could they possibly go wrong! Everyone’s ‘next big thing’ Mickey Rickshaw came in a well deserved second and Ferocious Dog took third after releasing their best album, for me, since From Without. Greenland Whalefishers celebrated 25 years on the road with their best album for quite a while and what Best Of would be right without some bloody brilliant Irish-American bands challenging at the top too. Pipes And Pints new album with a new singer received acclaim from across the Punk media and The Rumjacks couldn’t follow up last years unanimous victory despite having two album releases (both sort of live) in the top thirteen. Fiddlers Green continue to make consistently great albums and go into 2020 celebrating thirty years together! Good to see homegrown bands The Whipjacks, The Tenbags, The Filthy Spectacula and Sons Of Clogger making it too. The top thirty was made up of thirteen countries from USA, England, Norway, Czech Republic, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, Japan, Quebec, Hungary, Spain and Japan.
The Lucky Trolls took #1 spot with their brilliant self-titled EP following on from fellow countrymen the Krakin’ Kellys multi award winning 2018. Trust me it would have taken an exceptionally good release to keep The Party by Drunken Dolly off the top spot but that is what happened. Dolly’s excursions over to these shores this year j=has seen them grown in stature and you can’t go to a Ferocious Dog gig without spotting at least a dozen of their shirts. Loretta Problem wowed us with their single ‘Waltz Of My Drunken Dream’ which took us right back back to The Pogues glory days and what about that accompanying videotoo!! If we had a award for best video then that would have walked it. The Kellys had a quiet year with comparison to ’18 but still managed a respectable #5 and great debut releases from The Placks our sole representative from a Celtic nation (big things are going to happen to this band in 2020 mark my words), Italian/Aussies The Cloverhearts and, from just down the road from my Mammy, Shanghai Treason from Sheffield who only put out one song… but what a song! Eight countries represented from Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Scotland, Argentina, Australia and Yorkshire!
Argentina is becoming a bit of a hot-spot for Celtic-Punk with not only some well established bands but also some new ones starting up too and with this release Aires Bastardos announced their arrival on the international scene too. Not afraid to dive straight into a folk number after a Cock Sparrer cover they veer from standard Celtic-Punk to Folk and back to fast as hell Punk but in that really accessible way that only Celtic-Punk (and maybe Ska-Punk) bands can do.
The Dreadnoughts don’t really think of themselves as Celtic-Punk so I reckon they’d be happier to win this than Celtic-Punk Album Of The Year. A superb collection of sea shanties that is a pleasure to listen to that was always going to be #1. Crock Of Bones representing the London Irish in 2nd with an album of trad folk with punk rock attitude and it’s especially good to hear some originals done in the style of the ‘auld ways’. 6’10 challenged for the top spot as they always do with everything they release and Bryan MacPherson and Callum Houston both produced great releases of singer-songwriter acoustic folk with Irish roots.
Sadly the Celtic-Punk world has shrunk a little regarding Web-Sites. Winners of the last two years the Mersey Celt Punks have been slacking (sort it out lads!) and enjoying their gigs too much to tell us while Shite’n’Onions have been too busy transferring everything onto a different platform and preparing for a bit of a re-launch I expect. Sadly celtic-rock.de have shut up shop after twelve years so it just makes it all the more clear how much we all miss Waldo and his fantastic Celtic-Folk-Punk And More site. As regular as clockwork and all the news that was ever fit (or not!) to print. Closing down the site in its 10th year in March must have been a tough decision to make and so this year we award best Website to Waldo and let it be known that no Celtic-Punk site will ever come close to replacing you. We would certainly not exist without his kind help and inspiration. All the best comrade enjoy your retirement! One welcome addition is Michu and his Celtic-Punk Encyclopediasite from Poland. Worth checking out especially if you are in a band.
We are not alone in doing these Best Of 2019 lists in fact all the major players in celtic-punk do them so click below to check out what they thought.
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 8th year of making these Best Of lists so if you would like to check out out who was where in our previous ones then just click on the link below the relevant year.
Last year we introduced a new feature THE READERS PICK. We had no idea if it would work or not but it was a raging success so we going to do it all again this year. With well over 500 votes cast you lot chose the debut album from the Krakin’ Kellys as a worthy winner. Only the Top Ten albums are listed but there is an option to write in your favourite release or just to send us love… or abuse!
You are allowed to vote twice but not for the same artist.
The Poll will close at midnight on Friday 31st January with the result announced soon after.
remember any views, comments or abuse or slander we would love to hear it…
Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2020
Donny Zuzula has worn a lot of hats and walked a lot of miles.
Having spent a decade as the guitarist, singer, songwriter for the Michigan based Celtic-Punk trio The Tosspints, Donny Zuzula’s debut album takes us through every aspect of his life. Dark, sad, heartbroken tunes, poetically sung from the soul and layered with guitars and harmonies.
The Tosspints are a strange band within the Celtic-Punk scene. Not only are they the only trio in the scene, being made up by the Bros. Zuzula, Donny and Zak accompanied on drums by John Johnson, but they are also not really much of a Celtic-Punk band in that they have no Celtic instrumentation. It is true though that they somehow manage to convey the feel of a Celtic band better than most with just bass, electric guitar and drums. Donny who is the main writer for The Tosspints is a singer-songwriter in the old school meaning of the term. Not some pampered puppet singing achingly of experiences they have never or will ever know. Celtic-Punk is dominated by several themes that cross from continent to continent especially among the children of the diaspora- Loss and emigration, heavy drinking, heavy working and death, solidarity, religion, class pride, an gorta mór (the great hunger) all bleed into the modern day working class Irish-American experience. Donny had a knack back then (a must listen to album is The Tosspints excellent album The Privateer from 2015) of capturing this way of life and here on his debut solo album he continues in much the same way. Donny chose to record a solo album rather than another Tosspints album because
“this solo venture is more of an exercise in writing alone to explore more versatile styles that wouldn’t normally be courted along with the band. A little more folk influence and a little more explorative of personal topics than when writing is done with the band, this album is just different enough to be something new, but just familiar enough that fans of previous work should feel right at home.”
Donny served time in the military overseas and these experiences alongside growing and living in Saginaw, until recently the most dangerous places in America! Once a thriving and successful town by the late 20th century, industry and its once-strong manufacturing presence had collapsed leading to increasing unemployment and crime. This hard nosed, working class background runs through The Tosspints music. It’s also an area of America with long historical links to Irish emigration with Irish emigrants responsible for building the areas many canals and even the areas connection with Irish nationalism has always been closely linked with the Labour movement in which Irish-Americans were among the earliest organizers and leaders. As the band say about themselves
“living through the school of hard knocks, brought to bear from war, loss, degradation, and hard drinking. A band created entirely by a family who has had to make it through life the hard way and use their experience to create songs about the more distressed side of being human”
Donny Zuzula first album is Chemicals, the much anticipated follow up to The Privateer and as ever Donny draws from not from cliches but from the very life of a man who has seen and experienced things we can only dream about. From being a war veteran to fatherhood, Donny takes us on a ride that incorporates Folk-Rock and Punk as well as honest to goodness blue collar working man’s music. Introduced to music through his fathers love of Neil Young, Donny takes a harder edged route and while stopping short of Punk it has the same appeal as The Tosspints and will I am sure be welcomed by fans of that band.
The album begins with ‘Alive’ and the Neil Young comparison is still OK but also crossed with the great Bob Mould. Donny’s vocals still rock and his range is extraordinary and conveys the emotion of the songs perfectly. This is no guy going through the motions. The song is catchy as hell as can be expected and sets the scene for an album that continues to impress me on each play. ‘Another Shot’ veers into that 80’s Post-Punk sound that saw Punk’s not afraid of complicated guitar riffs and more elaborate set ups.
“I crossed a line today
I marched to battle and on my way
It’s just a memory
But feels like it’s all happening again”
The words here seem so personal that it kinda feels funny to attempt to make sense of them from the outside. They speak in such a way that I would recommend looking up the lyrics on Donny’s Bandcamp page. ‘Never Go Back’ slows things down akin to a rock ballad but no cheese while ‘Empty And Gone’ comes up with a delicate Country-rocker. ‘Nothing Left To Say’ takes us back to Mould territory and an excellent rocking tune that gives Donny amble opportunity to show off his vocal range.
Catchy as hell and a guaranteed favourite that leads nicely into ‘Any Other Day’ and if the words here don’t strike you in the gut then there is nay hope for you.
“It’s getting awful late
And my urge to medicate
Has surpassed my will to use the skills
That keep me from the bottom of the bottle”
The final three songs of Chemicals show Donny in reflective form as he turns again to the influence of Country music though wrapped up well in punk attitude. Slide guitar on ‘Turn Away’ makes it the more obvious tune but on ‘Sleep Is For The Weak’ the influence is just as great but more accessible.
“I tell that bottle
all my hopes and my dreams
I tell that bottle
all that’s happened to me
I tell that bottle
the way that I really feel
that bottle understands me
in a way you never will”
Leading the way to the albums closing tune and the albums standout song, ‘Chemicals’.
I would compare Donny in a lot of ways to Bryan MacPherson who has featured on London Celtic Punks pages perhaps more than any artist. Like Donny, Bryan’s life has seen ups and downs and his songwriting draws you right into his soul. We are not voyeurs in their life and they neither hold up their experiences as a vehicle for their music it is much more the other way round and the music becomes the way to express themselves. Where others may play up to events in their lives Donny, and Bryan too, has that ability to draw you into his life through their music. It is something incredible and a talent that very few have and many more think they have but don’t! Chemicals is many things. It is gritty and heartfelt as well as passionate and inspiring and the words are powerful. Chemicals deserves to be heard…
(You can stream Chemicals on the Bandcamp player below)
Los Angeles-based Folk-Punk Bradley Palermo has released his first album comprised of previously released singles, reworked and remastered to create Volume 1. Folk music doused in punk and Americana influences that bristles with dark humour.
We are certainly lucky to be friends with Bryan McPherson as it was that connection that led Bradley Palermo to chance his arm and dash a copy of his new album across the broad Atlantic to us in hope of a favourable review. When it is deserved we are happy to oblige and Bradley will be pleased to know it has done. Before setting out on his solo folk career, Bradley spent fifteen years fronting the bands The Sudden Passion and Femme Fatality. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri playing in local indie bands while developing an affinity for the alt-country bands that were emerging from the region at the time. Drawing inspiration from Americana his songs are often autobiographical with themes of the open road, free living and mortality. Volume 1 is a reworked and remastered collection of previously released singles and is a result of a successful crowdfunding campaign from last year. The album begins with ‘Tombstones’ and is the perfect balance of folk music and country music without any of the cheese often associated with both genres. Bradley’s voice is perfect for this as it’s just the right side of gravelly. Acoustic guitar is accompanied by a short synthesizer tune popping up throughout the song and some gang vocals towards the end as Bradley sings of life on the road as artist away from the grind of everyday life.
Bradley is joined by several friends on the album one being Reggie Duncan on steel guitar and on ‘I Like Things That Kill’ it hits the spot admirably in this (mainly) bitter song about a ex-lover.
My favourite track on the album is up next with ‘All My Friends (Have Died)’ and is a sober reminder that as we all get older we start to lose our mates along the way and here Bradley sings the praises of those closest to him. Musically its a slow burner with, again, wonderful steel guitar.
“Jeff never had a chance
the dope was there since day one
Tanya was probably murdered
but poor folks rarely see justice
Shane fell in love with himself
and finally died of a broken heart
Dominic lost his war with cancer
but goddamn he fought it hard
good goddamn son you fought that shit hard”
A beautiful song that is sure to get you thinking, as it did to me. After such a heartbreaking song the album takes a somewhat lighter turn with ‘2nd Wind’. Well musically anyway. A tale of redemption through meeting a women who could sort out the mess of a life.
‘The Long Way’ has more of a full band sound and tells of the breakup of Bradley’s first marriage beginning with the lines
“I should have never got married
that first time around
I made a fool of myself
more red flags than i could ever count “
and shows us that even at the worse of times some good can come through. After all it was this marriage that brought him from Missouri to Los Angeles. Again great harmonica here and a very undervalued instrument I think. It’s folk pedigree is enormous. The catchy ‘Deep Valley Blues’ is perhaps a bit too radio friendly for this misery guts ears but trots along at a nice pace and it’s not always a bad thing that you can imagine your Ma loving the same music as you.
‘Lost In August’ begins with the welcome understated sound of accordion from Solbodan Bobo Lekic and another unfashionable instrument the ukulele. It’s become too popular to bash the uke but you’ll not find any of that shite here. It’s got a great sound and is, fairly, easy to play so maybe that’s why musicians slag it off as it is so accessible to people. ‘The High Cost Of Free Living’ is another high point of Volume 1 and for an album that covers some fairly depressing themes its not devoid of humour though it tends to be as black as the hills!
“never amounted to much of nothing
but I’m still here and I still think that counts for something
and I ain’t starving for attention
boy I’ll gnaw your ear right off
about the high cost of free living”
Bradley has a great way of story telling as shown on ‘Trouble To Find’ where he tells of people he has met who have suffered from mental illnesses or have just been plain old aresholes (that’s assholes to you Americans!)
“I hope you get help or struck by a bus
you know something real quick and painless”
Volume 1 comes to an end with ‘Hollywood, Hollywood’ and closes things with another high point as Bradley tells of a place that is not all it’s cracked up to be.
“cause we found California but it’s far from paradise”
I’m glad Bradley Palermo thought to send us this album and while we may have a reputation for preferring the more rowdy side of Celtic-Punk I must also admit a fondness for albums like Volume 1. I have found myself playing it a lot more than necessary to review it which is quite the compliment if you realised the amount of music we receive. Lyrically it is superb and when accompanied by such soulful music I can only see Bradley’s career receiving the attention it most certainly deserves. One review stated that the album plays like a story he might tell you himself at a bar over some drinks and I can’t think of a better way to end this one review too.
(listen to Volume 1 for free before you buy on the Bandcamp player below)
Bryan McPherson, a fiery, folk-playing, a native of Boston Massachusetts was called west to Los Angeles, California back in July of 2010. Bringing blue collared incendiary working class folk music fusing Americana, folk, alternative and punk all over America and Europe.
There’s a very good reason why Bryan McPherson has featured on the pages of London Celtic Punks more than any other artist. This will be his sixth time, after three album and two singles. Kings Corner is in fact kind of old Bryan anyway in that it is a bunch of old songs from Bryan’s past that he never recorded and has only played the odd time at shows for friends so in a way it pre-dates all his previous reviews. Having recorded his last album Wedgewood in 2015 he returned to his home town of Boston, Mass. in 2018 with a plan. That plan was to polish up and record demos of all the songs I had written since Wedgewood and then launch a Kickstarter campaign to bankroll a big time studio record!
Well plans change.
The memories of home and his past kicked in and before he knew it a new completely different album was on the horizon. After tinkering with some old songs, so old in fact that Bryan didn’t even have a copy of them on their original demo!, he thought it would be good to re-record them to give them out at shows and on the internet. Early on in the project though he realised the songs needed some work and that a quick recording session was not going to be enough. Some had to be completely re-written as in Bryan’s own words
“You see most of these songs are well over 15 years old and come from the very early days of my journey into music and songwriting. They come from some of the best and worst days of my life – coming of age and plummeting into the depths of drug and alcohol addiction, while running the streets of Boston in reckless abandon and cutting my teeth as a performer in the open mic scene of Cambridge Massachusetts, a world away from my neighbourhood of Dorchester, at the time.”
Born and raised in the blue collar working-class Irish-American Catholic neighbourhood of Dorchester, in Boston, and inspired as a kid by the energy and angst of punk, as well as the lyrically driven American folk songs of the early 1960’s Bryan has continued to play and record some of the best original music we have had the pleasure to feature. On his arrival home Bryan witnessed again the shocking impact of the opioid epidemic in his hometown. Deaths from addiction have soared over the last twenty years in the Boston area with many blaming the rise on the over prescription of opioids by doctors and as one Dr. Sushrut Jangi said in the Boston Globe
“It took doctors 20 years to help create this epidemic — but if we wake up to changing how we treat pain, we can more quickly contain its toll.”
Inspired to share these songs and a piece of his story Bryan set up some modest home recording gear in his Dad’s attic and got to work. Exactly the same as he had done all those years ago when recording that original demo tape. After listening to a few mixes of the songs by the great Willie Samuels back home in California, and after they were received well by friends he decided these songs needed a proper release so a crowd-funder was organised that Bryan’s fans and supporters rallied round to.
This album is aptly titled Kings Corner, the street corner Bryan and his mates hung out on in their youth spending many a day and night. The album begins with an short intro of Bryan talking about the album to a background of distorted sounds and acoustic guitar that ends with the quizzical line “Where did everybody go?”. We, the listener, can only guess. Bryan McPherson’s music can by no means be described as Celtic-Punk in the traditional sense but does in fact fit our remit exactly. Interesting, alternative music played with a fiery passion by a son of Erin. But that is only half of it. On the real album opener ‘Where Is Jane’ it is just Bryan accompanied by acoustic guitar and the passion that his voice is most famed for spills out into the airwaves and brings you directly into his world. Sadness and grief and the tremendous sense of loss of a dear friend told in ‘Game Over’ make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. The addition of mournful harmonica only adding to the sadness felt. The songs here, as you could expect from such an eventful life littered with both tragedy and triumph, are gritty and beautiful as on the short ‘I Know How You Feel’ as Bryan explores the ghosts from his past and the rough road to recovery. These old songs from his old neighbourhood have come to life again and on ‘Everyday’ he tells of the everyday sometimes mundane life that went on in.
(Directed and edited by Bryan. Shot by Jason Stone and Bryan. Written and performed by Bryan and filmed in Dorchester, in Boston MA.)
The first single from Kings Corner was ‘Ghost Of My Hometown’ and a superb choice of song and the video too is inspired. Shot in plain and simple black and white Bryan takes us on a journey through the streets of his childhood and the ghosts of his hometown are not just the people but the city itself as gentrification has changed Boston making him a stranger and the communities that made Boston most famous have all but been dispersed to make way for the new order. A sad tale but told by all urban working class communities across the world. The horror of addiction is told again through ‘Mass Ave Story’ with just his guitar and a voice that is passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting all at the same time. His music is a very real journey through his own personal demons and is altogether mesmerising. Sometimes, as on ‘Living In The Red’ his words can chill you to the bone as he dissects American working class life. Never one to avoid difficult subjects Bryan tackles one of the most tragic episodes in American history next on ‘Jumper 9/11’ as he places himself in the shoes of someone on floor 102 of the Twin Towers on that terrible morning of 11th September, 2001. As the fire consumes the building and he has to make the stark choice of how he will perish. A song that could be in poor taste is anything but in the hands of Bryan McPherson as he portrays some of what may go through your head in those shoes. Beautiful. We nearing the end and the album’s longest song ‘See Me Fall’ with a lovely delicate guitar tune and harmonica and ends on a somewhat positive note as Bryan dedicates the song to all the friends and family that helped get him through to this point in his life. That’s not the end mind as ‘Chihuahua’ is tacked onto the end and a sly psychobilly-ish guitar track which despite the harshness of the previous thirty minutes will leave you smiling.
Street life, politics, addiction, prison, gentrification, the plight of the working class, broken dreams, discrimination litter the alleys of Bryan’s songs. Their are also moments of beauty and clarity as this modern day folk-punk troubadour brings us on the journey with him. Once again Bryan manages to come up with something that is gritty and heartfelt as well as beautiful, passionate and inspiring. As we have said before it may not be a fun roller coaster ride but the words are as honest as they are urgent. Come on every second counts!
(you can stream and listen to Kings Corner on the Bandcamp player below)
A fusion of Americana, folk, alternative and punk this Irish-American guy is a whole lot more than even this.
Now I didn’t quite get the music of Bryan McPherson straight away I must admit. My fellow founding member of the London Celtic Punks had spent a couple of years previous trying to indoctrinate me and although I did really like what he did I was far from thinking he was the genius I now consider him. This all changed one summer evening in Camden last year when I saw Bryan perform live in a shitty rock venue with the crappiest PA ever and a even crappier sound man. Suddenly it all clicked into place and he has been a solid feature on my stereo ever since. Bryan was born and raised on the mean streets of Dorchester, a blue collar working-class Irish-American Catholic neighbourhood in Boston, that was also home to half the members of the original Dropkick Murphys. He was inspired as a kid by the energy and angst of punk, as well as the lyrically driven American folk songs of the early 1960’s. His first gigs were on street corners, at house parties and subway stations in Boston’s inner city. In 2001 he burst onto the acoustic music scene but then Bryan took a break from performing to address some personal issues and vanished from the scene. Since his return he has played the length and breadth of North America and more recently further afield as a solo artist. This is powerful passionate, acoustic-punk from the heart.
I got the born again american blues blues blues blues.
Playing another show down in Santa Cruz Cruz Cruz.
Up to Portland and Seattle, all the way from Syracuse.
And I’m playing like there’s nothing left to lose.
What do you want from me my lady of the sea?
You want to wash me toss me drag me wash me away.
I got the finger picking sticking love love love in my vein.
And I got an answer to all the other answers that will take your pain away.
I want to live forever on Friday.
When there’s always a check in the mail and I’m always paid.
What do you want from me my lady of the breeze?
I got a western wind blowing down on me.
I got a sleeping bag I take it with me wherever I go.
I always got a bed. I always got a home.
I got the sky for my sky light.
Don’t worry mama I’m alright.
‘Cause I was born at night.
I was born born born to fight with shadows on the wall.
7 years since last call, but there’s a soul dying somewhere tonight.
What do you want from me my lady of the street with your broken bottles and sewer caps forlorn?
I want 50,000 people to clap your hands right on time.
We can all sing in rhythm and we can all sing in rhyme.
The engineers will struggle to keep us all in time.
We’re all life-long prisoners of this time.
In these dark dark dark dark dark dark scary times.
We walk walk walk walk walk walk fine lines between ever present death and ever lasting life.
What do you want from me my lady of belief?
She says faith is a god damn motherfucker to keep.
She said she’s never coming back again.
She said she’s never coming back again.
She said I’m as gone gone as your western wind.
You’re never ever ever ever ever gonna see me here again.
But then baby baby baby baby baby baby please come home.
You left me left me left me left me left me left me all alone.
And these eastern winds are blowing so god damned cold.
Look at us we’re growing so god damn old.
What do you want from me boy of the breeze?
She said you’re blowing like a broken tornado.
Released on July 18th, 2016 and is performed and was written by the man himself Bryan MacPherson and recorded by Bryan Dobbs in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, California and mixed and mastered by Willy Samuels at Nutone in Pittsburgh California.
With just a guitar and a harmonica and a passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting voice. Bryan’s music can chill you to the very bone as he dissects American working class life. When those pampered and privileged members of the middle classes want to lecture us about so-called ‘white privilege’ then maybe they ought to have lived a moment in Bryan McPherson’s shoes. Just a moment. Street life, politics, addiction, the prison system, class war and discrimination litter the alleys of McPherson’s songs. Don’t despair though as amongst it all shining through are moments of beauty and clarity that are as beautiful as ever was committed to paper. The music of Bryan McPherson may not be an altogether fun roller coaster ride but you will get untold pleasure hearing it.
Bryan is a bit skint so if you are feeling generous you can get all ten of Bryan’s available previous releases for just $20.22 (that’s about £13). That’s Born Again American Blues (2015), Street Lights (2009), Live at Artaban Hall (2013), Wasted World- Live At A Campfire In Nedrow, NY. (2015), American Boy / American Girl (2012),Wedgewood (2015), Live at The Milestone (2014), Kelly Thomas (2014), Originally From Dorchester (2013) and Live at Club Passim 2004 (2004). That’s over 50% off so help a buddy out here.
A fusion of Americana, folk, alternative and punk this Irish-American guy is a lot more than even this.
Any new release from London Celtic Punks favourite Bryan McPherson is more than welcomed and so we are happy to get our mitts on Street Lights released just last week. Recorded live at the Right-Turn which is a drug and alcohol rehab centre in Bryan’s home town of Boston. Completely un-mastered and delivered as rough and raw and ready as it was heard first hand on that night back in 2009 it was recorded. Now this isn’t an album of completely new material as several of the songs eventually made it onto Bryan’s 2012 album American Boy / American Girl. Others were not so fortunate and fell by the wayside so its great to hear them now played in this way in a intimate show in a place that is obviously very close to his heart. When you buy Street Lights, as I’m sure you will, part of your hard earned will go to the centre to help them continue their great work. Right Turn describes itself as “a creative place for recovery” helping people to recover from the devastating effects of addiction.
The entire concert is included here and you can hear a pin drop throughout as Bryan shares his life with us. What can I say as I am a massive fan of Bryan and find myself when listening to his music feeling like I’m on a emotional roller coaster. His lyrics grab at you and shake you into a reaction. We were lucky to have had Bryan over in London last year and his performance, despite some initial sound problems, was every bit as intense and captivating as here. As Bryan says himself
“I see music as a means for change. It’s a powerful and beautiful force, and it’s my life”
Street Lights was engineered and mixed by Steve Friedman and all the songs were written and performed by Bryan. The last song is a special bonus studio track, a beautiful intimate acoustic version of ‘O.F.D. (Originally from Dorchester)’. Bryan’s birthplace and home to countless Irish-Americans including the original members, and lifelong friends of Bryan, The Dropkick Murphys. Here’s an idea maybe the Irish Government could fund the work that Right Turn do? As a thank you for all the money sent home by those Irish-Americans throughout the years. Maybe their children and grand-children deserve some payback for having helped keep Ireland afloat during the tough years?
With just a guitar and a harmonica and his voice it is passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting all at the same time. Bryan’s music is a very real journey through his own personal hell and is altogether mesmerising. Sometimes his words can chill you to the bone as he dissects American working class life and when those pampered and privileged members of the middle classes want to lecture us about so-called ‘white privilege’ then maybe they ought to have lived a moment in Bryan McPherson’s shoes. Just a moment. Street life, politics, addiction, the prison system, class disparity and the plight of the working class, broken dreams, and discrimination litter the alleys of McPherson’s songs. Their are also moments of beauty and clarity as this modern day folk-punk troubadour hits the heights and even though it may not be a fun roller coaster ride the words are as honest as they are urgent. Come on every second counts!
(listen to the whole of City Lights on the Bandcamp player below . When you’ve done click the link below that to own a copy!)
One of the best things about doing this here blog-zine is the end of year ‘Best Of’s’. This is our chance to reward, for what it’s worth, and recommend those releases that tickled our collective fancies over the last twelve months. Where as in 2013 the Best Of’s were dominated by local bands and releases and in 2014 it was international bands that stole the show this years is more of a mix of the two. No shocks at the top I’m afraid. It was always going to be a slug out between the big hitters of celtic-punk with The Rumjacks just shading it from the The Mahones by the slightest of margins. One of the team commented that the only difference was that ‘The Hunger And The Fight Part 1’ was slightly better than Part 2. In third place came 1916 out of New York who only just sneaked in with the December release of ‘Last Call For Heroes’. The album came out so late we didn’t even get a chance to mention it let alone review it nevertheless it blew us all away with their brilliant combination of rockabilly and celtic-punk. Another one to file in the ‘shamrockabilly’ category. Overall no major surprises and all four admins lists pretty much tallied up with each other but it’s especially great to see some non-English speaking bands in there as well as some bands that were new to us in the last twelve months. I was particularly happy to see Skontra and The Cundeez make the grade representing celtic-punk as played in the celtic nations. As ever we have reviewed some, though not all of these albums, so click (here) after the title and you will be re-directed to our review. If your album is not here do not be downhearted. These twenty album’s are the tip of the iceberg of what was released last year in what was an outstanding year for celtic-punk. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…
Now onto the EP’s. These are classed as shorter usually four to six songs long and around anything right up to 15-20 minutes long. No shock here at number one as a unanimous vote saw this years new band of the year Mick O’Toole walk away with the title. They have been a solid fixture during the year building up quite a reputation and following. At number two it’s long been a well known secret that Indonesia is a hotbed of celtic-punk and Dirty Glass are one of the best bands in their flourishing scene and ‘Drunken Summer Nights’ ran O’Toole very close while another English band came in third. Matilda’s Scoundrels really hit the heights in 2015 and just like Mick O’Toole bigger and better things await them in 2016. The rest of the list is made up from bands from across the globe with Slovenia, South Africa, Hungary, Catalonia, Russia, Holland, France and Yorkshire all making the list.
As the blog is for (mostly) celtic punk so it is that we only review stuff that isn’t celtic punk if we really really (really!!) like it. All these rocked our boat and we loved each of them all to bits. If you like celtic-punk then you should not be afraid to give traditional folk a listen. Most of it is more punk than punk these days you know. It’s a direct link to the music that inspired celtic punk music and their are some amazing bands and performers out there. Hard to decide which order they should go in especially as O’Hanlons Horsebox could have just as easily won this years Best Celtic Punk Album as well! This is how the Top Ten ended up.
1. O’HANLONS HORSEBOX- ‘Songs And Stories From The Border’ (here)
8. JOHNNY CAMPBELL- ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’ (here)
9. FFR CELTIC FIESTA- ‘Fresh Blood’
10. THE PROCLAIMERS- ‘Let’s Hear It For The Dogs’ (here)
11. SKWARDYA- ‘Domhwelyans/ Revolution’
TOP CELTIC PUNK WEB-SITE
Again Waldo over at Celtic Folk Punk And More walks away with this award. There is simply no better site on the internet. Everything you would possibly need to know is here with a HUGE range of bands covered and there is no doubt in my mind that the site you are reading here now would not exist without the inspiration of Celtic Folk Punk And More. Sadly Waldo published a post on January 3rd titled ‘New Year, New Life’ (here) announcing the suspension of the site for a while. We wish Waldo well and look forward to his, and his fantastic web site’s, return.
* The lists were compiled from the scraps of crumpled paper, and one beermat, handed to me by the other three admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page and tallied up over several pints of beer in a seedy working man’s Irish boozer in north London.
Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- 2015
all the major players in celtic-punk do Best Of lists so click below to check out what they thought
Under A Banner are a folk-punk band that are passionate, powerful, poetic and rock hard!
We planned to review Under A Banner as soon as we came across them early last year but unfortunately it went in the ‘To Do’ pile and just stayed there and got no further. Thankfully this prolific band had another record release just around the corner and it has given us the chance to put things right. Just recently we seem to have been inundated with folk-punk bands. From the solo acoustic of Bryan McPherson to the punky Mischief Brew to the beautiful Jack Of All it seems that ths is the folk-punk moment in time! As with the before mentioned bands there’s not possibly a great deal if all you’re interested in is solely celtic music but London Celtic Punks blog is not just about celtic-punk and if we like something we cannot wait to share it with you. Which brings us back to Under A Banner.
Under A Banner Left to right : Kat Davis – keyboards. Tim Wilson – Drums and backing vox. Adam Broadhurst – lead vox and guitars . Jake Brooks – guitars and backing vox. Si Hill – bass
Based in Wolverhampton in the Midlands Under A Banner play an infectious and catchy brand of folk-punk caught somewhere between The Levellers at their softest, New Model Army at their punkest and a smidgeon of Ferocious Dog and a wee bit of the youthful Billy Bragg before he fled to Dorset and started voting Lib-Dem. The tunes are quintessentially English with both the folk and the punk influences. They gig relentlessly and its easy to tell that they have honed their skill as a live band with this perfect release.
Under A Banner have done the near impossible for any band and have managed to transfer that great live sound onto record. They have even released a free five track live album so you can sample them doing what they do best for yourselves. I don’t know exactly why it is but it always seems hard to genuinely capture celtic (or folk) -punk bands energy on record. One of the problems I suppose is that we are a genre that is best experienced live in concert with good friends, a lively appreciative crowd and with one or two (or more!) drinks with you. Anyhow download it by clicking on the record sleeve and you will see for yourself what I mean. Needless to say you will end up hooked like I did.
With one release at least every year since they formed Under A Banner have kept up an incredibly high standard of songwriting and they have surpassed themselves again with ‘Victory Time’. From the opening bars of ‘The Network’ the EP punches you in the gut and leaves you reeling. Kicking off with the sound of an accordion and some fast paced drumming and Adams vocals driving the tune along and a song about how things like facebook and television leaves us all isolated from each other.
“this network wastes my bloody time”
The second track is title song ‘Victory Time’ and is as good a drinking song you will hear. Its a real pint in the air moment with a raucous catchy tune and real singalonga chorus. The title refers I think to when you get a lock-in in the pub. It certainly feels like a victory to me when it happens anyway!
‘Leaving Here’ doesn’t slow things down and with the organ pushing things along the New Model Armyish tune will have you feeling the need to leap about in your living room. Next up is firm fan favourite ‘Summer Skies’ and it is the only song that on the EP that isn’t brand spanking new and is a re-working of the track that first appeared on their 2012 LP ‘The Ragged Rhythm Of Rain’.
The EP ends with ‘Magic Is Real’ and Under A Banner pull out all the stops with a multitude of instruments on the go and although it never gets going in the same way as the EP’s other songs its a real grower. At just under twenty minutes you definitely get your hard earned worth and the EP is available for Download or on an actual CD from the band themselves below.
Of course by far the best way to experience Under A Banner is to see them live and if you live in or near London you will have the perfect opportunity coming up soon at the Ambition Festival in Croydon. The band are playing this free festival on Saturday 25th July headlining on the ‘Queens Garden- No Rubbish Stage’. So stock up on beer and sun-cream and join us at the front of the stage at 7pm. The following day, on the Sunday, London-Irish psycho-ceilidh celtic-punkers Neck are also playing the festival so looks like being a full on South London weekender! The full festival line-up, maps and any other details you will need can be found here. This looks a really good event and, for what we like, its completely free too so we all doff our scally caps to the organisers. So have a listen and then check out Under A Banner and come see them live you will have no better excuse I tells you!
(you can listen to the whole EP by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
Americana, folk, alternative and punk melded into one incendiary, incisive sound!
With just a guitar and a harmonica you may well be excused for thinking that Bryan McPherson is just another run of the mill solo folk artist and the music does remind you a bit of Bob Dylan but with the intensity of Bruce Springsteen at his very best. Passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting Bryan’s music is sometimes a very real journey through his own personal hell and is altogether mesmerising.
We had the pleasure of seeing Bryan playing live recently at The Devonshire Arms in London. He opened up for Louise Distras and her band and despite atrocious sound problems and a well noisy bar he played a brilliantly frantic set of acoustic punk folk. Luckily for you ten minutes of it has been immortalised for life…
In the afternoon he played a small intimate show at the local punk record shop ‘All Ages Records’ and I had hoped to make it and get to say hello. Sadly problems at work were compounded by both transport trouble and the Mrs taking her time getting ready so had to miss out on that. Did get a chance to grab a quick hello after the main gig though and thought Bryan was an absolute gent.
This is Bryan’s third album after ‘Fourteen Stories’ and ‘American Boy / American Girl’, but he has also released a few EP’s and singles and ‘Wedgewood’ follows much the same pattern as his previous ones. He funded the record himself through various fundraising campaigns and the sale of pre-orders so it is completely DIY. Mind you I can’t see Bryan McPherson bending to any record label executive’s latest whim. His music and lyrics provide a roller-coaster of emotions that certainly leaves you drained by the end.
Bryan cut himself off from the outside world for four months to self-produce the album. He holed up in a small hut on a friend’s ranch in the mountains just as winter began, and found that the rugged, isolated setting immensely impacted the music. In fact the album title reflects the brand of the stove in the hut: Wedgewood. Bryan tells us in a recent interview
“Since it was freezing, I lit the wood-burning stove every day, which brought smoke, fire, and warmth into the recording process. Resultantly there’s a recurring theme of fire on the record. Wedgewood has a buildup, a climax, and a resolution – much like a fire. What happens when wood rubs against wood? It creates friction, and that friction creates fire”
The album kicks off with ‘Born on a Highway’ and its the voices of Bryan’s young nieces that starts the song off. In his own words
“It’s about the journey as a singer and travelling. It discusses where the road takes you, and what it means to be a human being”
It’s a beautifully slow ballad while the following ‘Days Of Rage’ is more of yer usual McPherson fare. A faster paced strummed guitar and lyrics taking in all sorts of American staples that ends with the hard-hitting
“There’s no freedom of speech in the land of the sheep
And if you really want the news then look to the streets
In the sidewalk and the sand, the cracks and disasters
Pawns in the hand of the propaganda of the masters
And we bleed the blood of the workers of the world
We toil and labor and hand over the pearls
In a broken system the snake will eat itself
How can I go to heaven if I’m living in hell”
‘Dark Hearts’ is a dark story of his past on the streets of Dorchester an Irish-American neighbourhood in Boston, Massachusetts. Working class life without any romanticism by someone who has lived it.
“I don’t know why I’m alive
and my friends had to die”
Sadness features heavily and the strained love song ‘Hearts In Boxcars’ is no different. Another slowish song that drifts along with the odd tinkle of a piano accompanying Bryan and his acoustic guitar. The epic ‘Song From The Moon’ (at nearly eight minutes long) is one of the albums highlights and fiddle joins in with Bryan’s voice searing.
“Try running when they come for you
They’re never taking me
And ‘you’ll only kill a man’
The idea will just live on
In an oral tradition
Of poetry and song”
‘Here We Go’ is the first song on the album that hits you square in the folk-punk jaw. The harmonica is out and Bryan rattles through a overtly political masterpiece that calls us all to arms. ‘Kelly Thomas’ that follows will simply leave you speechless. We did a piece on this song a while back when it was released and I said then that it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and it still does. Bryan rages at a system that allows the police to murder an innocent man and get away with it (read the review here and get the background on Kelly’s murder and a free download too). A simply effective song that will leave you shaken I swear.
“And Kelly Thomas lays cold in the ground
Silent nights make no sound
Not Guilty they found
In Fullerton town”
Bryan at his most revolutionary best. Kelly will never be forgotten now. ‘Bullets And Blues’ and ‘Wasted World’ continue the desolate themes. You can tell Bryan means business when the harmonica comes out. The guitar seems to be strummed that much harder and ‘Burn It Down’ is everything you would expect from the title.
Rivers of blood
Jesus Christ was the God of Sun
Are you getting high
Can you give me some
I need some bullets for my love
Let’s kill ’em all and make them bleed
Scratch their eyes so they can’t see
We are all one destiny
‘Wedgewood’ finishes with ‘Oh Darlin’. Ending fifty minutes of excellent acoustic folk music that will please everyone from yer average punk rocker to yer finger in the ear folkie. The non-stop touring has served Bryan well gaining him fans as diverse as Slash, The Dropkick Murphys (half of the original band he grew up with in Dorchester), Chuck Berry and the London Celtic Punks! Bringing originality to a sometimes tired genre and blasting it into 2015 Bryan has many years left in him and I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more of him on this side of the Atlantic in the years to come. Street life, politics, addiction, and moments of beauty, anguish, clarity, and dissent litter the alleys of McPherson’s songs. The words are as honest as they are urgent…every second counts!
“I see music as a means for change. It’s a powerful and beautiful force, and it’s my life. I’m here to remind you with Wedgewood that we’re all stronger than we know”
(you can listen to the whole album for free by pressing play on the Bandcamp box below)
Kelly Thomas was a mentally ill, homeless man beaten to death by the police in Fullerton, California. The police were found “Not Guilty”, despite having the obvious crime on video and audio. Kelly can be heard pleading for his last breaths and screaming out that he was sorry.
Here’s the shocking audio and video of one of the most obvious cases of police brutality and murder I have ever seen. Be warned though it is very graphic. Bryan McPherson wrote this song the day after seeing the above video. You can listen and get a free download below.
Rest in peace Kelly Thomas.
“Bryan sings like, we’re lucky he doesn’t own a gun.” -Filter Magazine
Bryan was born and raised on the mean streets of Dorchester, a blue collar working-class Irish-American Catholic neighbourhood in Boston, that was also home to half the members of the original Dropkick Murphys. He was inspired at a young age by the raw energy and angst of Punk Rock, as well as the lyrically driven American folk songs of the early 1960’s. His first performances were street corners, house parties, and subway stations in Boston’s inner city. In 2001 he burst onto the acoustic music scene. Bryan took a break from performing to address his issue with addiction and vanished from the scene.
On his return he has played the length and breadth of North America and was recently spotted opening up for the Dropkick Murphys’ at their famed St. Patrick’s shows in Boston. This is Passionate, acoustic-punk from the heart.
Street life, politics, addiction, and moments of beauty, anguish, clarity, and dissent litter the alleys of McPherson’s songs. The words are as honest as they are urgent…every second counts!
from Bandcamp here. Downloads of Bryans other records here