Tag Archives: Damien Dempsey

EP REVIEW: JAMES McGRATH- ‘Live At The Shed’ (2018)

What a fortnight for acclaimed Tipp born singer-songwriter James McGrath with both a new must-hear EP out this week and a must-see gig in London soon too!
My family come from Tipperary (shout out to Ballylooby and Clogheen Wilkinson’s) so at this time of year I would normally be hurting after our annual defeat to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Hurling Championship but with not even that to look back on I have had to cast my net a bit wider. Following the well trod route of many many Tipp people he has moved to London and with the release of his latest EP, Live At The Shed is hoping for the breakthrough that will see him reach the heights his talents deserve.

Ireland has no shortage of talented singer-songwriters, and never has had to be honest, and among the most talented the name James McGrath is up at the top of the list. Hailing from Nenagh in the north of Tipp James has a voice that has been compared to both Neil Young and Eddie Vedder and the songwriting skills of the legendary Shane MacGowan. Live At The Shed is his third EP release and showcases James live at Shed Studios in the once heavily Irish enclave of Enfield in north London. Just him and his guitar and no knobs twiddled or fiddled about with to change anything. James exciting and passionate live performance transfers onto this recording so well and his warmth shines through. He has already tasted success at home in Ireland when his track ‘8 Cans’ from The Cans EP hit the #1 spot in last years Irish Download charts.

Live At The Shed begins with ‘Can’t Get Out’ and the first thing you notice is James voice. Clear and precise and with a brogue as Irish as Damo Dempsey but without the over inflated ‘Dubb’ inflection. The shortest song here its a tale of having no cash and trying everything you can to make your life work. There’s only four songs here and ‘Bad Bends’ is up next. It’s much more laid back but far from a ballad again it’s no tale to eat popcorn too and despite it being a downbeat song it’s also full of hope and tender emotion. It’s certainly not what I am use to reviewing on these pages but I like to challenge myself and I got over the idea that I cannot like things that my Mammy would like years ago. Now i am not one to bander Ed Sheeran’s name around much but if you draw a line between the wee ginger billionaire and Shane MacGowan then you’d be right to put James on the Shane side of the middle. Third song is ‘Walk Away’ and not much to add here except its more of the same mid-tempo folk.  Extremely well played and James has stamped onto these songs his own brand. At times you can imagine the songs coming from Christy or Damo but young James has certainly developed his own style. The highlight of the EP for me is ‘Race To The Bottom’ which brings down the curtain after only eleven minutes.

One of James stated goals in moving to London was to write an album so here’s hoping he gets onto it as soon as possible. Things move fast in London so he needs to strike while he’s building up some momentum. One bad habit he seems to have picked up in London like the many before him is a love of the bookies. Did your Ma never tell you there’s no such thing as a poor bookmaker? It’s a downbeat song and its not unusual for any of us who arrive in London to find it too much and a combination of the capital’s excesses and homesickness often is too much for new arrivals. A real beauty of a song.

james mcgrath gigJames has released a fine EP and his humour, passion and sincerity shine through and if like me you can’t wait to see him live in concert we will get our chance in just a couple of weeks at the EP’s official launch night at The Swallow Bar in Uxbridge. James favourite venue a packed, fun, lively night is in store and to top it all off it’s free entry as well. He takes the stage at 9pm and you can find the FB event here. The Swallow Bar is a old fashioned Irish bar on Long Lane in Uxbridge, UB10 9NR and is situated right next to Hillingdon Station. It’s on the Picadilly and Metropolitan lines but bring a book if you coming from central London as its a bit of a slog but never let that put you off. Up to a hour on the tube may seem long in London but having just got back my home town I can honestly say it is not! It may  not be the raucous Irish music we are use to here in London Celtic Punks towers but man can’t live by that alone. It’s good for your soul to listen to someone like James occasionally. He has a very exciting future ahead of him and I think the dark streets of London will suit him well.
Buy Live At The Shed
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Contact James McGrath
(James McGrath singing his fantastic hit single ‘8 Cans’. Filmed at Fat Pigeon April 2016)

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2017!

Yes I know it only seems like five minutes since the last one but it’s that time of year again when we give you, for what it’s worth, our opinion on who made the best music in the celtic-punk scene over 2017. 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. So read on to find out who came #1! 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. We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…

1. FLATFOOT 56 (Chicago)- ‘Odd Boat’  here

2. THE TOSSERS (Chicago)- ‘Smash The Windows’  here

3. THE BIBLECODE SUNDAYS (London) – ‘Walk Like Kings’  here
4. THE PEELERS (Canada)- ‘Palace Of The Fiend’ here
5. FEROCIOUS DOG (England)- ‘Red’  here

6. BLACK WATER COUNTY (England)- ‘Taking Chances’  here

7. THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS (Germany)- ‘Sign of the Fighter’  here

8. IN FOR A PENNY (USA)- ‘One More Last Hurrah’ here

9. LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS (Brittany)- ‘Breizh Anok’  here

10. MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS (England)- ‘As The Tide Turns’  here

11. KILMAINE SAINTS (USA)- ‘Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos’  here

12. ORTHODOX CELTS (Serbia)- ‘Many Mouths Shut’  here

13. UNCLE BARD AND THE DIRTY BASTARDS (Italy)- ‘Handmade’  here

14. THE SILK ROAD (England)- ‘S/T’ here 

15. FLOGGING MOLLY (USA)- ‘Life Is Good’  here

16. THE LUCKY PISTOLS (USA)- ‘Where The Orioles Fly’  here

17. THE REAL McKENZIES (Canada)- ‘Two Devils Will Talk’  here

18. DRUNKEN DOLLY (Netherlands)- ‘Alcoholic Rhapsody’ here

19. CASSIDY’S BREWERY (Serbia)- ‘One Brew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’  here

20. CRAIC (USA)- ‘Sounds Of Vandemark’  here

21. THE MOORINGS (France)- ‘Unbowed’ here

22. JOLLY JACKERS (Hungary)- ‘Blood Sweat and Beer’ here

23. THE SCARLET (Hungary)- ‘Hardfolk Shanties’ here

24. THE DISTILLERY RATS (Germany)- ‘Tales From County Whiskey’ here

25. CELKILT (France)- ‘Stand’ here

26. DROPKICK MURPHYS (Boston)- ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’  here

27. O’HAMSTERS (Ukraine)- ‘Где бы мы ни бывали’  here

28. SONS OF O’FLAHERTY (Brittany)- ‘The Road Not Taken’  here

29. THE BABES (London)- ‘Greetings From London’  here

30. CHEERS! (Czech Republic)- ‘Daily Bread’ here

Just bubbling under:

THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM (USA), GHOSTTOWN COMPANY (Germany) McSCALLYWAG (Netherlands)

No surprise here at all as all four admins voted #1 for Flatfoot 56 and their utterly brilliant ninth album. Not only that but we also all gave second spot to The Tossers, making it a Chicago #1 and #2! The year began with news of two new Dropkick Murphys albums coming but we only got the one and it met with, well quite a muted response to be honest. Saying that they were fantastic live and they certainly added a new dimension to these new songs when played in the flesh. The list leans heavy towards the bands from these shores it has to be said but it was always going to be with bands we get to see live regularly. It’s especially fitting to see The Bible Code Sundays in there too. In a year when every ‘big’ celtic-punk band released an album the competition was great so well done to all. Keep them coming. If you are not here then it just means we didn’t all agree or even all hear it and maybe we didn’t receive it too. The amount of debut albums from loads of these bodes well for both the scene here and internationally with a great mix of bands from thirteen countries.

BLACK WATER COUNTY- ‘Taking Chances’

This was a very hard category to fill with so many new bands arriving on the celtic-punk scene this past year. Soooo many to choose from but in the end we pumped for our very own Black Water County who just pipped Cassidy’s Brewery and In For A Penny to the title!

1. BLACK ANEMONE (Sweden)- ‘In It For Life’  here

2. RAIN IN SUMMER (Indonesia)- ‘Discordant Anthem From The Gutter’  here

3. IN FOR A PENNY (USA)- ‘Every Day Should be Saint Paddy’s Day’  here

4. THE BOTTLERS (Australia)- ‘The Bottlers’  (here)

5. BLACK RAWK DOG (Indonesia)- ‘Suburban’s Folk Stories’  here

6. BogZH CELTIC CATS! (Brittany)- ‘Kazh al Lagenn’  here

7. THE CRAZY ROGUES (Hungary)- ‘Rebels’ Shanties’  here

8. THE McMINERS (Brazil)- ‘Tales of Betrayal and Deceit’  here

9. BORN AGAIN HEATHENS (USA)- ‘Born Again Heathens’  here

10. THE DEAD MAGGIES (Australia)- ‘Wild Dogs And Flannies’  here

Stand out winner here from Sweden’s Black Anemone which none of us were sure was either a big EP or a small album so we gave it the benefit of the doubt and placed it in here. Outstanding! Two representatives of Indonesia’s fantastic celtic-punk scene made up for no album releases from there last year and one band from a Celtic nation with the BogZH Celtic Cats! The Bottlers sneak in as they only sent it to us the week before Christmas. Glad they did though.

1. DECLAN O’ROURKE- ‘Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine’  (here)

2. ShamROCKS- ‘Ye Ould Chariot’ EP  (here)

3. CRIKWATER- ‘Crikwater’  (here)

4. BEOGA- ‘Before We Change Our Mind’

5. FOLLOW THE CROWS- ‘West is East’ EP  (here)

6. PLASTIC PADDY- ‘Lucky Enough’  (here)

7. DAMIEN DEMPSEY- ‘Soulson’

8. GALLEY BEGGAR- ‘Heathen Hymns’  (here)

9. I DRAW SLOW- ‘Turn Your Face To The Sun’

10. ANTO MORRA- ‘From The Vaults’

Absolutely no question who romped home here. from the first time I ever heard Declan O’Rourke’s monumental album Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine I was simply blown away. I simply cannot recommend it enough. Go and acquire a copy now. A mix of folk and trad makes up the rest of the list with a special mention for Ukrainian band ShamROCKS who play Irish folk as if they were naturals! We would like to feature more trad and folk on these pages in the future hopefully. Also Vince Cayo had a fecking brilliant album but was neither celtic-punk nor folk. Was tempted to make a separate list just for him!

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

This use to be the Celtic Folk Punk And More Best Celtic Punk Web-Site award so often did they use to win but last year it went to the new kid on the block, our good mates over at Mersey Celt Punks. Well we were in a bit of a quandary about who would win this week but then in the last few weeks of the year the Mersey Bhoys upped their game and won a unanimous vote. They finally started to use their Web-Site (here) and published a whole host of great reviews and things like a events/gig section. You can also join in their fun and games at Twitter and Facebook and we heartily recommend you do.

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 four admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The assorted scraps of paper and beer mats were then tallied up over several pints of Guinness in Mannions. Not all of us heard the same albums so like all Best Of’s ours is subjective.

CARLTON HUNT

Of course we cannot go any further without mention of the saddest news of the year. That of the passing of Carlton , the drummer of The Bible Code Sundays. A friend of London Celtic Punks and an absolute diamond stand up guy he will be forever sadly missed by all who met him. We are grateful To Ronan for penning a few words for him.

We lost Carlton on 3rd November 2017 unexpectedly and it has left a massive hole in our family. Carlton joined The BibleCode Sundays some twelve years ago when we were still called Slainte.

His work ethic was second to none, he even dragged us into the studio to record our first CD, he did a lot of pushing in the early days and the Lord knows we needed it!

He was always the first to say yes to any gig, whether it was a small Irish pub like The Old Crown in Hayes or The Shawl or whether it was some of our bigger gigs. Over the years we played some fantastic gigs and venues, such as The Royal Albert Hall, New York’s Beacon Theatre, The House of Blues in Boston, Shepherds Bush Empire, The Roundhouse, Glasgow Barrowlands, Indigo at The O2, Glastonbury Festival, Finsbury Park, London Irish, on the pitch at Twickenham Stadium and at Celtic Park (the night Celtic beat Barcelona). We’ve played with Elvis Costello, The Dropkick Murphys, The Wolfetones, John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd, the Saw Doctors and he even got to realise a dream when we shared a stage with Thin Lizzy. They were minus legends Phil Linnot and Gary Moore but this mattered not to Carlton, his hero Brian Downey was still behind the drums. Carlton got to meet his idol and even got some Thin Lizzy drumsticks as souvenir, he was like an excited little kid that night. We did TV appearances on Sky Sports, BT Sport and even a live St Patrick’s Day performance on BBC’s The One Show.

We got to travel around on trips and tours all around the UK and Ireland as well as Germany, Italy, Spain and the USA to mention a few. This was all just topping up the stamps on his passport that he had accrued in his days with Bad Manners, Feast of Fiddles and The Melody Fakers and many more as he spent so many years on the London Irish music scene.

Not many would know that he also wrote poetry and song lyrics, they are very clever with pun-tastic wordplay and generally came out sounding like Bernard Cribbins songs with titles like ‘Breakfast Epiphanies’ or the Brighton-themed song ‘All Things Brighton Beautiful’. He used to always say

“I try to be serious but the humour always takes over”

He did, however, manage to pen two of the best songs on our latest album, he was very proud of his songs ‘Disorganised Crime’ and the beautiful ‘Clouds’. Drummers writing songs?! Whatever next?! He truly was the engine room of the band, a quiet and gentle man off stage who turned into a one man wrecking ball when he was sat behind his drum kit.

Things will never be the same without him but he would want us to and we will carry on making music and playing his songs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, on drums.. Mr Carlton Hunt

This is the 5th 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.

We are not alone in doing these Best Of lists in fact all the major players in celtic-punk do them so click below to check out what they thought.

CELTIC FOLK PUNK AND MORE

FOLK’N’ROCK

PADDYROCK

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

SHITE’n’ONIONS

MacSLONS IRISH RADIO

CELTICPUNK.PL

remember any views or comments we would love to hear them…

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: DECLAN O’ROURKE- ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine’ (2017)

Declan O’Rourke delivers an amazing album of extraordinary true tales from the most tragic period in the history of Ireland. Fifteen years in the making he takes the best of traditional Irish music and the heart of modern song-writing for something truly special.

Sometime around 1570 Spanish soldiers returned from their ‘adventures’ in South America with a tuberous vegetable that at the time was only native to the Andes. It didn’t take long before the potato as it became known became very popular and was found to grow extremely well from one end of the continent to the other as well as having a beneficial effect on the diets of those, mainly poor, Europeans that ate them. The potato grew especially well in Ireland and was grown in every space imaginable. Irish farmers were with very few exceptions tenant farmers and had no rights on the land they farmed. They also grew an abundance of wheat, barley, oats and cattle but this was sold by the farmers to their absentee landlords living in England and placed on ships for export. The food that maintained the British Empire was all produced in Ireland.

The nutritional value of potatoes was high because the skins could be fed to pigs and chickens and if a farmer was lucky enough to have a cow, their diet, based on the potato was highly nutritious. However, potatoes have predators. One is a fungus, blight, which destroys the entire plant from the leaves to the tubers below. Sometime in the mid-1840s, one ship sailing from South America introduced potato fungal spores into Ireland. The result was catastrophic, with every farm infected with the blight by 1846. With the primary food source cut off, the Irish began starving while exports of Irish produce (the so-called ‘English beef’) continued, sometimes by armed guard to protect it from the starving and dying. The so-called ‘famine’ became known instead as Án Gorta Mór, Irish for ‘The Great Hunger’. The blight did not just affect Ireland and all over Europe the potato crops failed but those countries stopped exporting food so they could feed their own people. This did not happen in Ireland. It took months during 1846 for the news of the condition of the Irish to reach the United States. There money was collected and aid shipped to the Ireland. Many of these ships were stopped and prevented from finishing their journey with the aid often going to feed horses.

So it can be clear and without doubt that the famine was no famine at all. An island famous for farming could easily have fed itself but an attempt was made to wipe the Irish Catholic from existence. The authorities claim the population of Ireland at the time was 8 million in an attempt to lessen what was done. It is widely acknowledged as an underestimate with some scholars imagining it was more like 11 million meaning over 5 million people starved to death, cutting the population almost in half. With very few exceptions, the response of English society was one of denial. The government and capitalist class in England viewed it as a superb opportunity to cleanse Ireland of their poor, ignorant tenant farmers. Absentee landlords stepped forward with offers to pay passage to any starving Irish willing to emigrate. The conditions aboard the ships that carried them to the United States were horrendous and when they arrived, the exploitation continued as soon as these poor souls stepped off the ships and their oppression continued but the Irish survived and now almost 170 years from the peak of Án Gorta Mór the Irish community continues to prosper in the USA.

Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine is the new album from Irish singer-songwriter Declan O’Rourke and tells the story of the ‘famine’ in a

“an attempt to bring fresh air to an unhealed wound, and to remind the Irish people of what we have overcome through an examination of what has lurked just below the surface of collective memory for so long”.

It was as an immigrant himself in Melbourne that he first learnt to play the guitar after moving there at 10 years old when his family upped sticks from Dublin. Trips back and forth from home to ‘home’ continued well into his mid-20’s and finally having settled in Dublin he released his acclaimed debut album Since Kyabram in 2004 and followed up this success with Big Bad Beautiful World three years later. A stint with a major label followed and led to more critical and commercially successful releases which brings us pretty much up to date and an admission here that before this album I had only heard the name Declan O’Rourke so had no idea what to expect from this album except having an 2nd-generation Irishman’s interest in the subject matter.

The album was inspired by a night spent in a old Irish workhouse with his Dad. These were the places that the poor and starving turned to as a last resort but many found no help due to the sheer numbers of desperate and dying seeking help. Many died and many more were turned away. While making this album Declan found out that his Grandfather was born in a workhouse giving himself a very real link to the people that illustrate this album.

The album begins with ‘Clogman’s Glen’ and a mournful fiddle and as soon as Declan’s voice comes in it instantly shines through strong and proud. Reminiscent of Damien Dempsey in tone and Christy in manor it’s a beautiful and moving song that tells of a husband singing to his wife of the time before the famine when life had been good to them. Now all that they had known had changed and was gone forever. Ireland was a extremely religious nation at the time of the famine and could be seen as the major reason why Protestant Britain wanted to wipe the Catholic Irish off the face of Ireland. In ‘Along The Western Seaboard’ a priest laments that

“When we need to feed so many, and there’s not even for the few”

and curses the British for their cruelty at letting the people die. In this song Án Gorta Mór is explained. The Damo comparisons continue with the passion literally seeping from Declan’s voice. ‘Buried In The Deep’ is the horrific story of the coffin ships that left Ireland with the sick and diseased crowded onto them. Emaciated, filthy and near dead the mortality rate aboard reached 20%. Many ships were lost at sea, and deaths were so common that the dead were simply thrown overboard without so much as a word of prayer or comfort said over them.

“When I die they’ll put me over

That’ll cure my broken heart

My dreams can go no further

We’re buried in the deep

Where hunger cannot find us”

A beautiful song with Declan accompanied by harp and pipes on this stunning lament to those poor souls. Emotion spilling out it brought a flush to my cheeks as the realisation of what happened hits home.

‘Poor Boy’s Shoes’ is next and its upbeat start belies the sad origins of the song. Inspired by a line from John O’Connor’s book ‘The Workhouses Of Ireland’ it was the first song Declan wrote of this collection

“The man who carried his wife from the workhouse to their old home, mile after weary mile, and was discovered next morning dead, his wife’s feet held to his breast as if he was trying to warm them…”

as Declan says “I had stumbled into a chapter of history I knew almost nothing about. I wanted to be a witness, to share these stories the best way I knew how, through music”. An ending that will bring a tear to your eye as it did to mine. A punch to the gut as life is suddenly turned upside down for a very real family, The Buckley’s, and it beggars belief how any survived at all. He brings the story vividly and heart wrenching alive to us.

And there he tried to warm her cold feet through, And they found him there, in poor boy’s shoes”.

The bodhrán kicks off ‘Indian Meal’ and its driving rhythm tells of the removal of food while at the same time…

“There’s ships leaving’ full of pigs, heifer, and lambs
Some transportin’ convicts to Van Diemen’s Land
We’re hemorrhagin’ barrels of butter and grain
And all that comes back in, and all that remains is…
Indian Meal, Indian Meal, Indian Meal”

The government and forced labour schemes fed the poor, if they were lucky, a tasteless and un-nutritious porridge that did little benefit. The British Government found wanting and unable to hide the stench of the dead creeping across the Irish Sea responded with feeble ‘relief’ in an attempt to conceal their guilt. The stunning beauty of the harp helps ‘Mary Kate’ on its way and sorrowful the pain at having to leave your beloved ones behind and heart-breaking doesn’t even begin to measure its words. The true story of Irish girls ‘saved’ by being sent overseas. In the song Mary Kate is chosen to leave to Australia while her younger sister is to remain.

She tells her sister at the dock that she will she see her again knowing full well that to stay means death. The harp remains for ‘Laissez Faire’ which was the name given by the British to the system that believed that the free market will solve everything. That it is unethical to intervene in nature and that helping the poor only makes them lazy and dependent. An experiment that would lead to millions of deaths. The song makes mention of the help and aid given by the Quakers, among others, in America while at home and in Britain help was reluctant and miserly. Catholics were offered soup but only on condition that they renounced their Catholicism which led to the derogatory term ‘soup taker’ for any Irish Catholic who betrays their religion and country.

“Swap your Catholic halo for a Protestant hoop and give up your place in heaven for bowl of soup”

‘Rattle My Bones’ is a moment of lightheartedness among the tragedy as Declan starts off acapello before joined by accordion and soon has the ‘bones’ of a sea-shanty going. ‘The Villain Curry Shaw’ tells of a family leaving for Nova Scotia on board the Hannah setting sail from Newry on 29th April 1849. This true story tells of the ships sinking and the captain and two officers who left the sinking ship aboard the only lifeboat, leaving passengers and the rest of the crew to fend for themselves. 49 died and 130 were rescued from the freezing ice. His cowardice has gone into the history books and is now immortalised by Declan for all. The laments over for a moment ‘Johnny And The Lantern’ is for me the best song here capturing both the tragic times as well as the famous irrepressible Irish shining through. The Irish always fought the invasion of their country and again the upbeat and cheerful tune belies the subject but surely the demise of an absentee landlord is a time for celebration is it not. The landlords that sucked the land dry that farmers farmed were quick to evict when rent became hard to pay as Án Gorta Mór began to bite. Well fed on the back of their peasant farmers they were despised from one end of Ireland to the other.

‘Johnny And The Lantern’ tells of an anonymous Irish farmer shooting to death one such landlord, Manning, on the road in Delvin, Westmeath and, as is further illustrated on the cover of the album by the band dressed in ‘famine’ clothing, his body is cut to pieces.

‘And the last thing they buried, Were the hands that took the rent’.

On an album filled with melancholy and calamity your heartstrings are in constant danger as on ‘The Connaught Orphan’. Declan’s voice pulls the emotion from the tale of a young 6 year old boy who starving and all alone is provided with a new set of clothes by an American Quaker women. She wonders why the young lad is unhappy at his new outfit.

“I’ll surely die of hunger now
If they see me with your nice new clothes
They’ll think I’m telling lies, and that
I have a mammy feeds me so”

The awfulness of the situation is captured perfectly.

The inscription on the cross reads: Cailleadh Clann na nGaedheal ina míltibh ar an Oileán so ar dteicheadh dhóibh ó dlíghthibh na dtíoránach ngallda agus ó ghorta tréarach isna bliadhantaibh 1847-48. Beannacht dílis Dé orra. Bíodh an leacht so i gcomhartha garma agus onóra dhóibh ó Ghaedhealaibh Ameriocá. Go saoraigh Dia Éire – Children of the Gael died in their thousands on this island having fled from the laws of foreign tyrants and an artificial famine in the years 1847-48. God’s blessing on them. Let this monument be a token to their name and honour from the Gaels of America. God Save Ireland.

The story of those coffin ships is told in ‘The Great Saint Lawrence River’. Between 1845 and 1851 over 1,500,000 people left Ireland on diseased and vermin-infested ships rampant with disease.

“When I die they’ll put me over, We’re buried in the deep, Where hunger cannot find us”.

In the midst of Án Gorta Mór the U.S placed restrictions on the amount of Irish flooding into the country so unable to land the ships sailed on to Canada but the extra weeks meant many more perished. A 46-foot high Celtic cross stands at the highest point in the St. Lawrence River, thirty miles from Quebec. Grosse Île served as the quarantine station for immigrant ships and boar witness to the terrible devastation that brought Ireland’s destitute to the New World. It is estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 are buried here. The largest mass grave of Án Gorta Mór victims outside of Ireland. The album ends with ‘Go Domhain i do Chuimhne’ a spoken word song.

Ach na dearmaid ar gcaithú, Cuimhnidh lámh ar an mead, A tháinigh muid tharais, Más féidir linn cuimhniú, is teacht ar an tuiscint, Más féidir linn tuiscint, maith (far an) croí.

(But don’t forget our sorrows, And all of our sadness, Reflect on all that we have overcome, If we can remember, we can try to understand, If we understand, we can learn to forgive).

Spoken first in the language of Ireland and then repeated in English it is a call to remember the tragedy of those times and of the loss that we suffer as a nation both collectively and personally. This winter marks the 170th anniversary of Án Gorta Mór reaching its peak. Events that haunt us yet. The island hasn’t recovered either with the population still far below what it was in the 1840’s. It saw the Irish scattered to the winds and their orphans are still with us today with over 80 million across the world claiming Irish heritage. It is a truly electrifying way to close this outstanding album.

Growing up in England we were never taught at school about Án Gorta Mór. Maybe they thought the reality of what happened and the obvious blame at whose door the dead should be laid to rest would be too much for us, instead we found out at home in hushed bedside stories and tales around fires. My own Great-Grandfather left Ireland and lost all four of his children and wife before returning to Ireland many, many years later to marry again and start a new family. Stories we all have if we look for them. This album covers Án Gorta Mór in a most sensitive and beautiful way. Never shying away from apportioning blame to the ‘richest nation on the earth’ and telling the story of real men, women and children. People from history who lived and died in those terrible times. During ‘Go Domhain i do Chuimhne’ Declan urges us to keep our heritage, traditions and language alive. The Irish people owe Declan a great service for what he has produced here and maybe its too much to ask for it to be put on the British school curriculum but it warrants it so. It’s an emotional ride alright with several songs the tears arriving. It has taken Declan 15 years to deliver Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine and on it he is ably assisted by a wealth of Irish musicians including John Sheahan on fiddle, Dermot Byrne on accordion, Gino Lupari on bodhran and Mike McGoldrick on pipes, whistle and flute and I can honestly say that in all my 47 years I have never heard anything that evokes Án Gorta Mór in such a moving and evocative way.

Buy Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine

SignedVinyl  SignedCD  Amazon

Contact Declan O’Rourke

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In writing this review I owe a huge debt to the following- my Grandfather, Michael Joesph Wilkinson. Missed every day. Dave McNally of Folk Radio UK here for his outstanding review here and Stair na hÉireann which provides invaluable help with articles on every aspect of Irish history here.

Further Recommended Reading:

Let Ireland Remember

Irish National Famine Memorial Day

but the most extensive resource on Facebook about this period is to be found at

Irish Holocaust –Not Famine: The Push To Educate In Fact’s

(Declan O’Rourke performs two tracks, ‘Indian Meal’ and ‘Poor Boy’s Shoes’ and talks about the album and his reasons for recording it)

ALBUM REVIEW: LARKIN- ‘A Toast To St. Jude’ (2016)

With traditional Irish folk music and some of their own originals Larkin rock it up while keeping it trad. Always a good yellin’, rebel song, drinkin’ song good time with Larkin!

Larkin

Larkin are a superb 6 piece trad Irish folk band from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the USA that play traditional working class Irish protest song’s. They are led by Chad Malone, formerly of the American crusty punk political hardcore racket Brother Inferior, he has swapped one kind of music that comes from the heart for another that will surely stir the emotions of even the most stony hearted punk rocker. Leaving the hardcore punk growling behind Chad sings in a vein that crosses both Luke Kelly and Shane MacGowan while the band follow in the much same way inspired by the likes of both The Dubliners and The Pogues as well.

Larkin1

It has been eight years since Larkin’s last release and that is far too long. Their first release was The Curse of Our Fathers which was the first CD I had ever sent off for from America way back in 2003 when I had never even heard of the internet. Rustling up a bunch of dollars and posting them off not knowing if they’d ever get there! Lucky for me they did and a short while later the CD dropped out the letterbox and was ready for me to play constantly for months to come and tape for about at least fifty people! It was thirteen songs that included a smattering of old rebel songs and some brilliant original compositions that seriously marked them out as a band to watch. Irish-American life in song and Chad had obviously lost none of his songwriting ability’s when he made the dramatic (to some!) shift from hardcore punk to trad Irish. They followed this with Reckoning in 2005 and again it covered much the same track as their debut. More original songs this time but still a few rebs’s covering both the ‘auld days’ with ‘Broad Black Brimmer’ and the new with ‘Men Behind The Wire’. Again the music was exemplary and the energy through the roof. The following year they released a six track EP called Alexandra, named after the daughter of one of the band members, and again folks went bloody mad for it. Garnering great reviews from both folk and punk sites it seemed like Larkin were on the rise but whatever happened we this side of the pond were never to know and their international profile went down and we heard absolutely nothing till this their new album hit the streets running recently.

That new album A Toast To St. Jude has again been released, like all Larkin releases, on Know Records a punk rock and hardcore record label from Long Beach in Southern California. Available from the band on only vinyl for the moment on either orange (limited to 200) or green coloured vinyl, but that include’s a free digital download card. It is available as a download on other things like iTunes though so if you want one don’t be silly and delay… send off today.

A Toast To St. Jude begins with ‘The Ballad Of St. Patrick’s Battalion’ and straight from the off its a thigh slapping and merry fiddle led jaunty tribute to the famed battalion of up to several hundred mainly Irishmen who fought as part of the Mexican Army in the Mexican–American War of 1846–8. Famed in song already by the likes of Damien Dempsey (‘St Patrick’s Brave Brigade’) and The Street Dogs (‘San Patricios’) and countless others its a proud addition.

Larkin slow it down for ‘A Bottle And Two Days Later’ and it’s the tin whistle that dominates here aside from Chads vocals which shine out loud and proud over all. The music has a slight country twist to it but listen to the words and get carried away on the swell. ‘Row In The Town’ follows and is the first cover here and top marks for a song I have never heard covered in celtic punk before. Better known as ‘Erin Go Bragh’ it’s the story of 1916 and the brave leaders who fought and were executed in the Easter Uprising.

“God Bless gallant Pearse and his comrades who died
Tom Clark, MacDonagh, MacDiarmad, McBryde
And here’s to James Connolly who gave one Hurrah!
And faced the machine guns for Erin Go Bragh”

Written by the great Irish balladeer Peadar Kearney who also wrote the national anthem of Ireland ‘Amhrán Na BhFiann’ as well as a host of other well known and cherished Irish rebel songs. The song sticks to much the same tune as The Wolfe Tones version which is by far the most popular. ‘The Long Goodbye’ sees them back in thigh slapping mode again and despite it being almost entirely acoustic instruments they are giving it as good as any punk band and you can imagine the pit to this being pretty rigorous while ‘Shadows And Dust’ sees Chad giving it his best Shane as he sings of the evils of drink and drinking. Slow and mournful and the fiddle and whistle keep it moving on. A word here for the backline of non Irish instruments and the drumming and electric bass are both excellent additions and are as much of the sound as the others. Like all the best celtic-punk bands Larkin can switch it up and manage to follow a slow song with something like ‘The Wages Of Sin’ where Chad sings as fast as anything he managed in Brother Inferior. The beauty is though that you don’t notice that switch as it seems completely faultless. We are halfway through and they slip in ‘Lexy Slip Jig/Villain’s Octaves Jig/December Jig’ a collection of dance reels and jigs that prove Larkin are as an accomplished bunch of traditional musicians as exists in celtic-punk. Bloody superb is the only way to describe this and the fiddle playing of Karen Harmon is beyond brilliant. ‘Maybe Someday Outside Of Belfast’ slows it down again and Chad can turn his hand to much more than reb’s and rockers and he can give out a beautiful auld love song too. Of course it doesn’t have a happy ending but hey ho there you go! The longest track here and again I’m marvelling at this story teller’s words. ‘Midnight In The Fall Of Man’ ramps it up again with frantic acoustic guitar setting the pace with the band barely able to keep up. ‘A Wayward Lament’ again slows it down and Chad again hits a nerve with this my favourite song of the album. His voice may be a thousand miles from crooning but extols more emotion and feeling than anyone I have heard in a very long time.ST JUDE Album theme tune ‘A Toast To Saint Jude’ is exactly that a tribute to the apostle who is the patron saint of lost causes! He became associated with desperate situations because of a letter he wrote in which he says that the faithful must keep going even in harsh or difficult circumstances. Fast and utterly brilliant and over in just two minutes it sets up nicely for the album’s only other cover and poignant is not the word. ‘Back Home In Derry’ has been covered by a small handful of celtic punk bands and always sounds fantastic as it does here. Written by the peoples MP Bobby Sands while incarcerated in prison its an amazing song that never fails to move.

“Van Diemen’s land is a hell for a man
To end out his whole life in slavery
Where the climate is raw and the gun makes the law
Neither wind nor rain care for bravery
Twenty years have gone by, I’ve ended my bond
My comrades ghosts walk behind me
A rebel I came – I’m still the same
On the cold winters night you will find me”

A song about Irish freedom fighters sentenced to slavery in Australia by the British Government in the 1800’s the song was originally recorded by Christy Moore and Christy tells of the origins of his learning the song

“I was playing in Derry and staying with The Barrett Family. After my gig we were gathered in Chamberlain St having a banter and drinking tea when a bit of singing broke out. A lad, just home from The Blocks (prison), sang these verses and subsequently wrote out the words for me. At the time the name Bobby Sands was not known to the world as it is today.
He used the air of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald from Gordon Lightfoot, an air which I suspect has earlier origins.  My version of Bobby’s song is shorter than the original”

Finally A Toast To Saint Jude comes to an end with ‘Have Another Drink, Boys’ and its altogether thirteen of the best songs I have heard in a good while. I simply cannot say how much I loved this album.

Team Larkin

Larkin from left to right: David Lawrence ~ whistle * Dalton Williams ~ guitar, bodhran * Chad Malone ~ vocals * Karen Naifeh Harmon ~ violin * Kelly Tuttle ~ bass Johnny Walker ~ drums

Larkin are almost the perfect band to symbolise celtic-punk. Heartfelt renditions of classic Irish songs that stir the emotions that will have you sobbing your heart out into your beer one minute and belting your lungs outs and thumping the table the next. That their own songs sound perfectly at home being sung right next to songs that are over a century old while at the same time giving off a very modern vibe is a fantastic achievement. Everything about Larkin is to be recommended right down to the artwork (once again done by the amazing Dublin punk artist Boz) and while some Irish-American’s may not know all that much of the history of Ireland that is not the case with Chad and the other bhoys and ghirls. History courses through the entire Larkin back catalogue and this is no exception. The band are named after the famed Dublin working class agitator and trade union leader James Larkin (1876 – 1947), a second generation Irish man born in Liverpool. He grew up in poverty and received little formal education but became a leader and a visionary whose influence still lives on today at home in Ireland and beyond. The hard life of the Irish who made the journey across the broad Atlantic and the sometimes hard life of their descendants (you see not every man is a king is in the US of A) is rarely better told and Chad sits comfortably up there with Tony from The Tossers or Leeson from Neck as a modern day celtic-punk story teller. The high praise doesn’t end there though and the music that accompanies is of the highest quality as well. Fast paced tunes with heaps and heaps of energy mix it up with soulful ballads and instrumentals that are all guaranteed to fill the dance floor with either swaying emotional mobs linking arms and pints in the air or a mosh pit you’d be taking your life in your hands to go near. With whistle, fiddle, acoustic guitar, electric bass, drums and vocals Larkin kick up an almighty storm and may just possibly be the world’s most punkiest folk band. No sod that… in fact make that definitely the world’s most punkiest folk band!

Buy The Album

KnowRecords (available on green and orange vinyl with free download card)  Microsoft  iTunes

Contact The Band

Facebook  MySpace  Chad Malone Facebook page (Larkin singer)  Soundcloud

  • you can check the wonderful artwork of the chief Larkin illustrator, Boz here at his web-site
  • Know Records Facebook page is here.

ALBUM REVIEW: ANTO MORRA-’16’ (2016)

London Irish Folk Punk

Anto16

Somewhere between the Pogues and Ian Dury with perhaps a dash of Madness.
The ever prolific Anto Morra returns with this sixteen track album tribute to the 1916 Easter Rising. In the 100th Anniversary year of the Rising their have been many books and musical tributes paid to that heroic act and I have to say that ’16’ is up there with the best of them. For those that don’t know the Easter Rising took place in April 1916 in Dublin and is one of the most important events in Irish history. It was an attempt to win independence from the United Kingdom by force of arms. Lasting only a few days from April 24 to April 30 around 1500 members of the Irish Volunteers, led by school teacher Pádraig Pearse, joined by the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly, seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic independent of Britain. They called on the Irish people to rise up and follow them but their call fell on death ears and they were quickly crushed by the huge police and government forces sent against them. For nearly a week Dublin was paralysed by street fighting before British artillery bombardments finally compelled Pearse and his colleagues to surrender. Sixty-four rebels were killed during the fighting, along with 134 troops and policeman and at least 200 civilians were injured in the crossfire. James Connolly whilst dying from shrapnel in his chest was carried on a stretcher to the courtyard in the prison and after confessing his sins to a priest and receiving communion he was shot while tied to a chair to stop him falling out of it. When asked by the priest would he forgive the men who were about to shoot him, James Connolly replied
“I will pray for all men who do their duty according to their lights [conscience]. Forgive them father, for they know not what they do”.
After only six days the Rising was over and fifteen leaders were court-martialed and executed at Kilmainham Jail in Dublin. A sixteenth, Eamon de Valera, was saved from a death sentence because he was an American citizen. The executions caused a wave of revulsion against the British and turned the dead republican leaders into martyred heroes. Despite its military failure, the Rising was a significant stepping-stone in the eventual creation of the Irish Republic. These men would soon prove to become an inspiration to the next wave of freedom fighters in the War Of Independence who would eventually force the British Empire to it’s knees.

ProclamationThe tradition of rebel music in Ireland dates back many centuries, dealing with events such as the various uprisings over the years, the hardships of living under oppressive British rule, but also strong sentiments of solidarity, loyalty, determination, as well as praise of valiant heroes. Though not confined to Ireland it can be said that the Irish have mastered the art of oral history in song and rebel songs are a massive part of that history.

Anto’s album contains sixteen tracks that include some surprising inclusions as well as as some of his own compositions. He is accompanied on several songs by his great friend Tim Chipping on mandola and banjo but for the most part this is pure Anto. Pure London Irish folk punk as Anto puts it himself. Raised in west London by Irish parents his formative years were as a punk rocker floating from band to band and dole cheque to dole cheque in Thatcher’s Britain. Moving from the rat-race of London to the quiet of the Norfolk countryside Anto began to further explore his Irish roots by joining Whirligig, a four-piece ceilidh dance band. In 2013 he left the band after ten years and decided to concentrate on his songwriting and solo performances.

16 begins with the first of Anto’s compositions the ballad ‘Blood On The Shamrock And The Rose’ and is the story of the feelings that the war in Ireland evoked on both sides. Hatred is never a good thing and for the those of us would like to see a united Ireland sooner rather than later hate is not the way to achieve it. A truly great anti-sectarian anthem. This is followed by Kelly From Killane. Made famous in the past by The Dubliners and more recently Damien Dempsey and written by the influential poet Patrick Joseph McCall (1861–1919) about John Kelly who fought in the 1798 Rebellion. He was one of the leaders of the victory over the English at the Battle of New Ross, but was later captured from his bed and hanged and decapitated by British soldiers on June 22, 1798. A up tempo version more akin to Damo’s version. Anto is unaccompanied on ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ a ballad written by Robert Dwyer Joyce (1836–1883). A beautiful tragic song telling of a young man doomed to fight and die in the 1798 rebellion spending his last moments with his loved one. ‘The Rising Of The Moon’ follows and is one of the most covered of all Irish songs and is again based on the 1798 rebellion. One of my personal favourites is up next. hearing this for the first time on one of my Grandad’s old records. ‘Down By The Glenside’ tells of a old woman of around the time of the 1916 Rising recalling her youth.

“Some died by the glenside, some died near a stranger
And wise men have told us their cause was a failure
But they fought for old Ireland and never feared danger
Glory O, Glory O, to the bold Fenian men”

A somewhat modern classic is up next with ‘Back Home In Derry’. A song written by Bobby Sands who was the leader of the Irish Republican Army prisoners in the Maze Prison and led the infamous hunger strikes of both 1980 and 1981 which would eventually lead to his death on the 5th of May 1981. Before he died Bobby was elected as an MP to the British parliament gaining 30,492 votes which dwarfed the votes his many enemies (including Thatcher) had received in that parliament who called him a criminal. He borrowed the tune from Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ for his tale of a young Irish rebel being transported to Australia. Covered by many artists including Christy Moore and Neck it’s a beautiful song and all the more tragic that Bobby’s light was extinguished so early. ‘Wasted Life’ follows and its a brilliant version of the Belfast band Stiff Little Fingers punk rock hit from the late 70’s. Taken from what I think is the best punk rock album of all-time Inflammable Material.

Fast and emotion filled and over in a flash and Anto sings next of an emigrant thinking of his home in ‘Charleville’ in north Cork. ‘Song For Ireland’ is another classic beautiful song. Made a hit in the 70’s it was  written by an English couple, Phil and June Colclough, and was inspired by a trip they took to the Dingle Peninsula. It has been recorded by Mary Black, Dick Gaughan, Barleycorn and Clannad to name but a few.

“Dreaming in the night
I saw a land where no one had to fight
But waking in your dawn
I saw you crying in the morning light
While lying where the falcons fly
They twist and turn all in your air-blue sky”

‘Only Our Rivers Run Free’ is another personal favourite of mine and the title is self explanatory. Mickey MacConnell wrote the song in 1973 and it became a huge hit for both Christy Moore and Irish living legends The Wolfe Tones. Never has Anto sounded better but then straight away he goes one better with ‘Paddy’s Lamentation’. A song written during the American Civil War era about an injured Irish soldier fighting for the Union who dreams of returning to Ireland. ‘The Merry Ploughboy’ is known wherever you’ll ever find an Irish person from the terraces of Celtic Park to bars and clubs though out the world. It’s the first of two consecutive songs written by the great Dominic Behan (1928-1989), brother of writer Brendan. Both were committed socialist’s and republican’s and were among the most influential Irish artists of the 20th century. Anto gives it plenty of ‘ooompf’ and sings with gusto for one of the few, especially on this album(!), joyous and uplifting songs on this album.

“And when the war is over, and dear old Ireland is free
I’ll take her to the church to wed and a rebel’s wife she’ll be
Well some men fight for silver and some men fight for gold
But the I.R.A. are fighting for the land that the Saxons stole”

Definitely one of those songs that gets the blood racing and would get even yer most avid ‘west-brit’ up on a bar stool baring his chest and belting out his lungs. We are back to more serious matters next with ‘The Patriot Game’. One of the most tragic songs ever written about the war in Ireland and also contains some of the most savage put downs you’ll ever hear of the

“quislings who sold out the patriot game”

Telling of Fergal O’Hanlon, from Monaghan who was killed at the young age of just 20 in an attack on a British Army barracks on New Years Day in 1957. Another volunteer, Seán South, was also killed during the raid. ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ is an upbeat Irish classic, an incredibly fast-paced 19th century song about a Irish man’s experiences as he travels to Liverpool from his home in Tuam in Ireland. A live favourite of Anto’s he performs the song accompanied only on the bodhran. Written by D.K. Gavan, known as ‘The Galway Poet’, for the English music hall performer Harry Clifton who made the song famous.

Another live favourite of Anto’s is up next with ‘The Foggy Dew’ perhaps the best and most widely known, and covered, of songs about the 1916 Rising. It was written by a Catholic priest, Canon Charles O’Neill (1887-1963), sometime after 1919. The song encourages Irishmen to fight for the cause of Ireland, rather than for Britain, as so many young men were doing in World War 1. The most famous version of which is by the The Chieftains and Sinead O’Connor to which The Dropkick Murphys have been taking to the stage for the last decade. With nearly an hour on the clock 16 finally comes to an end with Anto’s song, his own ‘Green, White And Gold’. Anto’s take on the 1916 Rising is well worthy of its place here amongst some of the best Irish songs ever written.

16 is released next week as a limited edition digipack gatefold CD on St Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2016. The cover art, as on all Anto’s releases is by the famous London Irish artist Brian Whelan. It is more than refreshing to hear these songs sung in a London Irish accent as I noticed that even in my head I was singing along in a Irish accent! Anto is a unique talent with an ability to tell a story in a way that grabs you and forces you to listen. Famed for his wordplay and the way he manages to inject the spirit of punk rock into his acoustic folk he has taken these famous songs and re-told them in a way accessible to everyone. One of the most moving things about this album is surprisingly not one of the songs but the small tribute on the record sleeve that I will end the review with.

“This album is dedicated to my Dad Edward Anthony Morrissey and my Grandfather Daniel Forde. Both brave Irish men who fought for the British and survived World War 1, World War 2 and the Korean War and always dreamt of an united Ireland”

Buy The Album

E-Bay (CD)  FromAnto (Download)

Contact Anto Morra

Facebook  Reverbnation  Twitter  Bandcamp

Pogues at WRYou can pick up a copy of 16 at the official record release show on St Patrick’s Day at The Water Rats in Kings Cross where Anto will be supporting the #1 Pogues tribute band The Pogue Traders well into the early hours. This is the same venue where The Pogues played their first ever gig so come along and be part of history! Tickets are only £7 and are available in advance from here and you can find all the details including set times nearer the date here on the Facebook event page.

  • we have much much more musings in the Anto Morra vaults here if you would like to catch up with them.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘JOY OF LIVING: A TRIBUTE TO EWAN MacCOLL’ (2016)

Fearless and uncompromising Ewan MacColl’s influence is still felt far beyond the folk world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Joy Of Living

Regular readers of the London Celtic Punks blog will all know how much we like Ewan MacColl and we have regularly featured him within these pages. Though long gone Ewan’s massive volume of work lives on and only the other day were we raving about the Irish-American celtic-punk band 1916 and their amazing version of another Ewan song (sadly not featured here) ‘Hot Asphalt’. Ewan’s songs were uplifting whether proclaiming love or war or peace. He wrote about things that would now be forgotten about and has kept their memory alive. He gave birth to a folk revival that continues to this day, many years after his passing, that remains in great health. The songs he wrote and championed are still being played and explored and adapted and still being made great. Ewan MacColl’s musical legacy is, to put it simply, just out of this world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Ewan was the Scots-born son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs and ballads. He worked as a garage hand, builders’ labourer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. After the end of World War II Ewan wrote and broadcast extensively in Britain about folk music. He was general editor of the BBC folk-music series, ‘Ballads and Blues’, and frequently took part in radio and television shows for the BBC.

Ewan MacColl 1His folk song publications included ‘Personal Choice’, a pocket book edition of Scots folk songs and ballads, and ‘The Shuttle and the Cage’, the first published collection of British industrial folk songs. Eventually he was ousted from the BBC due to his socialist beliefs. He wrote many songs that have become folk (and celtic-punk standards) the most famous of course being ‘Dirty Old Town’ popularised by The Dubliners and then The Pogues. It is wrongly assumed to be about Dublin but it is in fact about his home town of Salford in Manchester. He is also famous for writing one of the greatest ever love songs ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which he wrote for his second wife, the influential American folk singer, Peggy Seeger. He was also the father of Kirsty MacColl who of course guested on The Pogues enormous Christmas hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. After many years of poor health Ewan died on 22 October 1989 but it can be safely said of him that his songs and influence will live on forever. Comparable only to Woody Guthrie in more than one way.

This fantastic double album marks 100 years since Ewan MacColl’s birth and the album has been produced by two of Ewan’s sons, Calum and Neill, and features a wonderful bunch of diverse artists from right across folk, rock, pop and celtic music. Disc one begins with, for me, one of the stand out tracks with Damien Dempsey singing ‘Schooldays Over’. The only song here we have heard before nevertheless it is more than welcome. Made famous by the late great Luke Kelly’s version with The Dubliners Damien is no stranger to Ewan’s work and does him truly proud.

This is followed by a track from one of the most influential figures in folk music today, Martin Carthy and is the first of several and several individual contributions by the Waterson-Carthy family. He performs the unlikely tale of a fish delivery man in ‘I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling’. The Unthanks may sound like a rock band but are in fact two sisters (Unthank is their great surname) who perform a gentle lullaby ‘Cannily, Cannily’. Tracks from legends old and new follow from Seth Lakeman and Marry Waterson and Bombay Bicycle Club are up next, BBC famously include one of MacColl’s grandchildren, Jamie. They contribute a moving version of ‘The Young Birds’, a song written back in 1961 to commemorate a tragic plane crash that killed 34 London children of whom some were known to MacColl’s oldest son, Hamish. Another artist we are familiar with here is Dick Gaughan who contributes ‘Jamie Foyers’. Dick is an influential Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter who was a founding member of the famous celtic band Boys Of The Lough. Martin’s daughter Eliza Carthy, ‘Thirty-Foot Trailer’ and Chaim Tannenbaum, ‘My Old Man’, are up next before honorary Irishman Steve Earle presents a new take on a song that needs no introduction ‘Dirty Old Town’, except to say that it does sound like the spirit(s) of Shane MacGowan were present at its recording.

The first discs last song is from Jarvis Cocker and the erstwhile Pulp front man gives us a amazingly beautiful whispered version of  ‘The Battle Is Done With’. I am sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but its great to hear something that just isn’t a straight cover of Ewan’s work.

Ewan MacCollDisc two begins with the most famous of Ewan’s compositions and Paul Buchanan vocalist of 80/90’s Glasgow indie band The Blue Nile croons beautifully through the ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Ewan wrote the song for Peggy Seeger and it became an international smash hit in 1972 sung by Roberta Flack. On hearing this version it made me wonder how Shane MacGowan would have mastered it. Paul Brady will be a name known to many and his version of ‘Freeborn Man’ shows Paul to have lost none of his talent in a career that spans right across modern day Irish folk music. Another travellers song follows and Norma Waterson provides us with a fauntless rendition of the gypsy’s plight in ‘The Moving On Song’. Karine Polwart’s version of ‘The Terror Time’ is again beautiful, and Martin Simpson, The Father’s Song, is up next before the ultimate Irish living folk legend, and former band mate of Paul Brady in Planxty, Christy Moore appears with ‘The Companeros’. Again yer man has lost nothing and its a stunning version. Now there’s one name missing from this album so far and he’s up next. It must be written into law that Billy Bragg must appear on any folk compilation and whatever you think of him he gives us a really nice but angry copy of ‘Kilroy Was Here’ which strips Billy back to those early days when he was at his best. Folk siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright play the magnificent ‘Sweet Thames, Flow Softly’. A small gentle snapshot of life before Kathryn Williams, ‘Alone’, and David Gray brings the whole project to an end with one of Ewan’s best but sadly little known songs, and album title, The Joy of Living.

As you may expect traditionalists might not appreciate some of the versions here but this enhances, rather than detracts and all the various strands of Ewan’s political and musical life is represented here. This double album does not pretend to be the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ as with an artist with such a massive repertoire it would be impossible to please everyone but it does provide a gateway. Collections like this serve only one purpose. That is to steer listeners away from the modern day versions to the original source and with Ewan their is plenty to catch up on. We have included some links at the bottom where readers can find more information and free downloads so I hope you take the opportunity to. It is impossible to calculate the range and influence of this remarkable singer and song-writer but we can rest assured his memory lives and this album is a great testament to him.

“My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking”

Disc 1
1. Damien Dempsey – Schooldays Over
2. Martin Carthy – I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling
3. The Unthanks – Cannily, Cannily
4. Seth Lakeman – The Shoals of Herring
5. Marry Waterson – The Exile Song
6. Bombay Bicycle Club – The Young Birds
7. Dick Gaughan – Jamie Foyers
8. Eliza Carthy – Thirty-Foot Trailer
9. Chaim Tannenbaum – My Old Man
10. Steve Earle – Dirty Old Town
11. Jarvis Cocker – The Battle Is Done With

Disc 2
1. Paul Buchanan – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
2. Paul Brady – Freeborn Man
3. Norma Waterson  – Moving On Song
4. Karine Polwart – The Terror Time
5. Martin Simpson – The Father’s Song
6. Christy Moore – The Companeros
7. Billy Bragg – Kilroy Was Here
8. Rufus & Martha Wainwright – Sweet Thames, Flow Softly
9. Kathryn Williams – Alone
10. David Gray – The Joy of Living

Buy The Album

Here   CookingVinylRecords  Amazon

Official Ewan MacColl Sites

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube

For more on Ewan MacColl the internet is awash with sites but trust us and head straight to the official sites but also to Wikipedia as well as this tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here. You can listen to some of his music for free here on LastFm.

We have a regular series ‘Classic Album Reviews’ where we feature records from the past that have had influence far beyond their years. Ewan (of course!!), Leadbelly and several compilations have featured so far and all come with links to free downloads. You can check out the full series here.

(Just to prove Ewan’s work lives on here’s the aforementioned 1916 from New York with their recent  version of the classic Ewan song ‘Hot Asphalt’)

CIARAN MURPHY

Here’s the superb CIARAN MURPHY playing an Antifa gig we organised back in July 2010. The gig was the first night of the Emirates Cup at Arsenal in north London and the Bhoys were playing Lyon. So we booked the famous Mannions in Tottenham for a benefit gig. A great turnout meant we managed to raise some much needed money for Antifa mates of ours who had recently had their collars felt!

CIARAN MURHY

Ciaran played for London Celtic Punks a few times and was always a ‘pleasure to do business with’! Musically he was just yer simple folk singer with an acoustic guitar but it was his amazing songwriting that won him his legion of fans. How many times have we heard people sing of revolution knowing full well that that was the last thing on that persons mind? That it was all talk and no action?  Well Ciaran had done it. He put his life on the line for his beliefs and ended up doing time for them. On his return to civilian life he continued to help the cause as best as he could by travelling the length and breadth of Ireland to raise funds for other prisoners. We were saddened at his recent announcement that he was retiring from music. It  is a great shame and will be felt across Ireland but also here where he had built up quite a following. He had a glorious future ahead of him but this gives him more time to continue his political work towards a united Ireland and to concentrate more on his young family.

So there you have it. A man of great conviction and political belief but what about his music. Within a single song you will get anger and cynicism and republicanism and socialism but slow down there it ain’t all negative. There is plenty enough warmth and love and passion here as well to keep you toasty. Nothing he sings about is halfhearted and those that remember him leaving the stage at Mannions with blood pouring from his fingers will know how much of himself he put into his music. When I first put Ciaran on I described him as a “more pissed off version of Damien Dempsey” and I still think that description fits him just about right!

The original Celtic-Punk web-site Shite’n’Onions had this to say about him

“A protest singer in the finest tradition and politically sharp as a syringe needle hanging on razor wire. He points out the often ugly truths of Irish life, asks difficult questions and never pulls his punches. Akin to Damien Dempsey with pin pulled out”

God alone only knows if we will ever be able to tempt Ciaran out of retirement to see him strutting his stuff again but if you want a bit more after viewing these videos then his 3 releases are available here.

STOP-PRESS 16/12/2016

Sad to say we have tried and failed on numerous occasions to get Ciaran back on the road again but to no avail. He’s a very humble man and appreciates the support he has had from fans of his music but there aint no more. Also the link to get his albums above has gone walkabout so we found this one where you can get both Ciaran Murphy albums and the EP for £19-99 here.

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