Acoustic Alternative Folk Rock. Made in Bretagne. Inspired in Ireland.
Among the first reviews of 2020 is the new single from a relatively new favourite of ours Callum Houston. I say relatively as we have been big fans of his other band the Welsh Psychobilly band The Graveyard Johnnys for years. The last few years have seen Callum move from Cork to Bristol to Wales and then to Lorient in Brittany where he has become a much loved fixture on the Breton Irish music scene playing regularly around the country. His debut single from last year Gravities was a big hit reaching #5 in our recent Best Of 2019 poll. It led to a successful mini tour of England including a fantastic London Celtic Punks gig down at Frosty’s Bar in Kenton. His new single Once Upon A Time In Cardiff came out just last week and keeps up the high standard with a tale of a long forgotten love affair suddenly remembered.
From car to car and bar to bar, underneath the castle lights,
It was the time of year that brings good cheer, there was warmth in the city that night,
Though I talk some junk, I’m a romantic drunk and to you my words fell right,
So we cut the rope, we pushed the boat, set sail into the night
You don’t have to think about it,
Because it’s not for real,
Pay no attention to,
The things that I say or how I feel
From drunken chat in your student flat, the seeds of lust are sown,
Though I never really wanted it to be this way, I just hate to be alone,
Well these poster walls reflect your soul, all the books that you have read,
So I flick through the pages of a magazine, I found beside your bed,
The morning rain is falling down, clears my soul anew,
Cliches keep calling and most of them, most of them are true
And you roll a smoke, I toke, I choke, well never going to do it again,
And there’s hope in your eyes, there is no disguise, let’s leave it at that my friend,
Well you played me a song, I heard it wrong, the words didn’t get right through,
Six years from then, I hear it again, it makes me think of you, that life that I knew.
The track is available from the link below for a paltry Euro. Yes a single Euro! It was recorded at Sleeper Studio, Châteaubourg in Bretagne. Callum was vocals and acoustic guitar and Sleeper Bill was on everything else. Callum will be treading the boards again in London again soon with both The Graveyard Johnnys and as a solo artist so keep and ear out here for any developments.
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
Acoustic Alternative Folk Rock. Made in Bretagne. Inspired in Ireland.
I first became aware of Callum Houston a few years ago when I was spending another rainy day off work trawling through YouTube and settling again on a couple of hours of videos of my new favourite band The Graveyard Johnnies. Watching away further evidence if it was ever needed that I have indeed turned into my Grandad was my eyes were drawn to their awesome guitarist Callum’s tattoo of an Irish harp on his arm. Grandad could spot an Irish connection at 100 yards and could name any famous person with even the smallest of Irish roots. Not many will know this but my BIG love besides Celtic-Punk is Psychobilly which is the bastard love child of both Rockabilly and Punk and The Graveyard Johnnys are that rare thing in the Psycho scene of being a young band but also massively popular, headlining most of their gigs. Not one to keep this to myself I rushed off a message to the band and found out that indeed Callum was Irish but was also living in Brittany and allied to that The Graveyard Johnnys were based in south Wales it makes them probably the most Celtic band in existence!
Born in Bristol before his family washed up in Carrigaline in Cork when young Callum was the tender age of 4 his formative years were in Ireland before a move back to England at 15 and then a return back to Ireland to Dublin to study Irish music. As he says
“Cork will always be home, it’s not where your born it’s where you grow up and learn about life.”
Callum was back again in England when he read The Graveyard Johnnys were a guitarist down so Callum jacked in his job and moved to Wales, sleeping on the floor in the band practice room for five months till he found somewhere to live. These were wild times with the Johnnys touring non stop all over Europe and it was on one of these tours whilst playing in Paris that Callum met his partner. They would go on to have a child and he moved to Paris to join them. He began playing regular solo gigs in Paris many Irish bars as well as busking on the Metro to earn a living. Later on they moved to Brittany where the standard of living is better (and cheaper!) and the where the culture is very similar to that of Ireland. The Breton people are very proud of their Celtic roots and Callum felt at home. He now performs regularly throughout Brittany and France playing anywhere from Irish bars to Bistros to street corners as well as jetting back and fourth to Wales to play with the Graveyard Johnnys.
Gravities is Callum Houston’s debut release and the striking photo on the sleeve of the EP is not actually of a young Callum at all but of his Grandad on the Houston family farm in Donegal. The record begins with the title track and while their are only slight signs of the Rock’n’Roll and Irish folk that Callum usually plays you can hear in these original compositions how he manages to make his living playing Irish ballads around the bars of Brittany. Here he takes a more contemplative turn and the lyrics like the music are thoughtful and clever. Their may be none of the urgency associated with the music that Callum usually plays but that’s not to say its soft or throwaway. It may be gently played acoustic music but it comes with more than a edge of something a lot harder. Callums acoustic guitar is aided by banjo and what sounds like a cello making a great combination that would more than sound at home across both a busy pub or a quiet intimate bar. These are the kind of songs that cut across the noisy chatter of a pub and demand attention. ‘Sink Or Swim’ takes a similar route and again that menacing edge to it keeps it from sliding completely into the folk section. Callums voice with its gentle Cork lilt is perfect for this and you can see why he’s made a success of playing solo gigs. Catchy and upbeat and perfect for them toe-tapping moments.
On ‘Euroline’ the tale is of travelling back and forth across Europe, of times spent waiting and waiting for trains and coaches. Told with humour and played with gusto the song again hits the spot and over four minutes is allowed plenty time to develop. In fact at fifteen minutes the four songs here fly past much quicker than you may expect and on ‘City Of Lives’ the EP comes to an end with the records standout track. At times dark and slow and menacing before busting into life as a catchy foot stomper.
Gravities was mixed and mastered by Jacky Cadiou At The Movies Studio, Brest and was released at the end of last month. It’s available on download and also as a compact disc that comes with a few free gifts and is only €5. So about a quid a song! Having grown up listening to traditional Irish music and spending most of his adult life touring across the world with Punk and Country bands Callum has developed a unique and original style. A talented songwriter and musician and with fans spanning genres from punk to trad folk it would be a shame if this record somehow fell into the mid way ground between them.
(you can stream Gravities on the Bandcamp player below for free but it’s only £4 to download so put your hand in your pocket Celtic-Punkers!)