New single ‘Business As Usual’ by Catalonia-based Scottish singer Louis Rive tips its hat to hip-hop and cuts into the powers that be during the crisis with blistering lyrics that give voice to the anger of a generation.
When the powers-that-be looked at the ever-more distant European Union with its rising death tolls, unfamiliar looking police cars and panicked sound bites in languages that we don’t understand; they took a familiar and predictable line: It’s ‘business as usual’ here is the UK.
A few weeks later and we are reaping the seeds that we sowed, the leader who preached Blitz spirit, the importance of the economy and the certain loss of family members lies incapacitated by the virus. British spirit and stiff upper lips didn’t hold up against a pathogen that doesn’t discriminate between bank balance and social class. Still, the government’s negligence of our well being was evident and the damage had already been done. The message was clear; it’s better to be sick and working than to be poor and broke. Being ill has become preferable to being poor in a modern UK.
Louis Rive is no stranger to tackling social issues through music. His previous single ‘The State of the Nation’ pours scorn on the dual hypocrisy of both the Scottish and British governments in a post-Brexit UK. While such acerbic takes are unlikely to earn him a spot on breakfast radio, they remain more relevant than ever in a society which is currently under the microscope provided by the current crisis. This is what folk music was made for, protest and the highlighting of social issues. In a world where folk is often relegated to the immaculate dress code and unsubstantial lyrics that plague coffee shops and identikit bars, Louis’ fire puts more of the original punk attitude back into the genre.
It’s a loving tribute to the essential workers who are holding society together, and clear references to the shop workers and delivery workers who keep the nation fed and help those unable to leave their houses are interposed with the sense of powerlessness. At the same time visceral lyrics tear into the pillars of faceless capitalism, the stooges of ignorance and arrogance that have left the workers of this nation on their knees, frantically trying to keep it all together.
“Did you listen to the laughs, the cheers, the profiteers?
Bank balances embellished with an extra zero
You’re nothing but a number on a payslip given in the name of the minimum wage”
The corrupt ‘greased palms’ of politicians who put party donors before the folk that they are supposed to represent are joined by the convenient absence of organised religion in a time of crisis. Louis is unafraid of asking difficult questions, questions that deserve an immediate answer.
‘the money men, imitation Don Draper, sending out Deliveroo for toilet paper’
The bathroom with no window, mirror mirror on the wall
Who’s the fairest of them all, the undisputed belle of the ball?
Walking through the rain ‘cos the train’s on strike
But they had the gall, to label you ‘essential’
Against all common sense, now we sit on the fence
Waiting for someone just like me to take the fall
Did you think about the money men, imitation Don Draper?
Sending out Deliveroo for toilet paper
No contract means no consent about the wiping of a rich man’s arse
From ‘The Cheap Part of Town’ to this human zoo
A house made for seven that accommodates two
In splendid isolation, equality’s a farce
A murmur from the depths of hell grows louder every day
The economy is paralysed, the bill arrives and there no-one there to pay
We’ll remember next election who our friends are
Greased palms by example, champagne on standby
But in case you’ve forgotten the motto it’s never to late to be left at the bottom
When we hold all the cards
Did you listen to the laughs, the cheers, the profiteers
Bank balances embellished with an extra zero
You’re nothing but a number on a payslip given in the name of the minimum wage
The words of wisdom they spoke
Better to be sick and working than poor and broke
What’s the point in growing up? It’s time to act your age
Don’t turn to the clergy, don’t turn to organised religion
When the church door has been closed with lock and key
If you’re looking for solace in your fellow human
Now’s the time to drop the ten pound note for a shot of solidarity
Weights and measures, weekend pleasures, hidden treasures
It’s been too long
Interest rates mounting, advice from accounting, crying and shouting
It’s been too long
Too long, too long, far too long
Too long, too long, far too long
Did you imitate Cain and Abel to put food on the table
Starting at the grave and ending at the cradle
Stable living at the price of the thousands falling through the cracks
Paying off the jury, blood sweat and tears
Pound signs gleaming in the eyes of the overseers
Feeling the threat of the whip across your back
Nothing left to worry, nothing left to choose
Nothing, and when all’s said and done
Nothing left to lose
Rotten to the core, riven by disease
Learning how to walk again
From a life lived on my knees
Too long, too long, far too long
Too long, too long, far too long
There are plenty of traditional influences from his native Scotland in this, you can hear the bitterness of Dick Gaughan and the humour of Matt McGinn, but there is another edge evident in the single. Drawing from new influences in the world of hip-hop, Glasgow’s Darren McGarvey aka Loki, Belfast’s Jon Tsu and London’s Akala, Louis’ lyrics and musical delivery take on a new machine gun like delivery, dropping the buck squarely at the door of those who have left us in a situation that has brought to light the inherent inequality in the UK more than anything in this generation’s memory.
(Stream from Bandcamp. Business As Usual is available as a ‘Name Your Price’ download)
To say we are overwhelmed to be able to publish this feature on his Top Ten Influential Albums by the the legendary Nick Burbridge is an understatement! Encompassing everything inbetween Folk to Celtic-Punk it’s a glorious ride through some famous and legendary artists and some little known outside the communities they hail from. Second gen Irish singer-songwriter, Nick has been playing Irish-influenced acoustic music since his teens influencing countless others, including in their own words, The Levellers. His band McDermott’s 2 Hours were among the first to ever think of combining punk and Irish folk so he is a trailblazer among the Celtic-Punk scene but also so much more as well.
No time to waste so put the kettle on, crack open some biscuits and save the next couple of hours…
Andy Irvine & Paul Brady- ‘Self-Titled’ (1976)
When I was asked to name ten indispensable albums on Facebook some time ago, I decided to work from the late sixties to the millennium, and pick out those most influential on my development as a musician and songwriter, and end where I began, as it were. The first album I chose was this one. It’s a classic of its kind, melding yet never losing the distinctive characters of two of the most innovative and enduring musicians working in the Irish traditional idiom. There’s not a song on it I can’t still recall to memory, give or take a verse here or there, and the quality and range of the musicianship and arrangement, while capturing the essence of Planxty, somehow has an irresistible intimacy the full band doesn’t quite match, though they were perhaps the best of their kind.
(As Andy Irvine says this is Mr. Bradys classic. “Oh, me and my cousin, one Arthur McBride As we went a-walking down by the seaside Now, mark what followed and what did betide For it being on Christmas morning…” )
The Copper Family- ‘A Song For Every Season’ (1971)
This box set was, unexpectedly perhaps, essential listening for the punk-folk band I was in, when we lived in the red light district of Mainz one summer in the mid-seventies. We sang a few Copper songs a capella in our set – the Germans loved them. I spent fifteen years growing up in Rottingdean, Sussex, and I guess that’s as authentic a connection as you can get to this unique family who’ve kept alive a whole tradition on their own initiative, and are rightly recognised for it across the world. Their singing is rough, genuine, heartwarming, and eccentrically tuneful. I’m proud we introduced our audiences to their material, among chaotic jigs and reels and rebel songs. Once again, while I often forget what I’m meant to be doing these days, I can still remember almost every line, such was their influence on me.
(The whole Box-Set of four albums on You Tube. ‘Tater Beer Night- Spring’, ‘Black Ram- Summer’, ‘Hollerin’ Pot’- Fall’ and ‘Turn O’ The Year- Winter’. Nearly three hours long!)
The Bothy Band- ‘After Hours’ (1979)
There are so many unforgettable albums by Irish traditional bands who pushed the form in all directions in the 70s, and influenced countless more to follow suit. I guess The Bothy Band stand in the vanguard, and this album with its driving sets of tunes, and exquisitely sung ballads, live yet virtually faultless, is indispensable to anyone trying to understand just why this music is so effortlessly infectious, exhibiting a musical intensity few others come close to, always ready and able to form the soundtrack to a particular phase in someone’s life. It did mine. It has long been an immeasurable influence.
(You Tube seems to have started allowing whole albums on their site these days. While I’m not too sure of the legality lets just sit back and enjoy)
Dick Gaughan- ‘Handful Of Earth’ (1981)
Dick Gaughan made Handful of Earth on the way back from a major nervous breakdown. And there is something not working within ordinary tramlines here. His errant but extraordinary guitar accompaniments weave their way under an utterly compelling voice, as if to make a world turned upside down both inimitable and unforgettable. The choice of songs is faultless. Gaughan, whatever his fate, will always remain a mighty force. Those who do try to imitate him simply don’t have whatever it is that comes from wherever it does…
(Dick’s folk masterpiece album in full, unabridged on You Tube)
The Pogues- ‘Rum Sodomy & The Lash’ (1985)
By the mid-80s folk and punk had well and truly fused. Much as I think ‘Iron Masters’ by The Men They Couldn’t Hang May may well be my favourite track from the era, I don’t think any such album surpassed this one. Too much academic writing has attached itself to the formidable Shane MacGowan opus, and The Pogues’ irregular but compulsive sense of Irish identity. All I want to say is that I hope their influence on my work hasn’t been too obvious – I’ve tried to pay them the greatest compliment by sowing their seeds as deep as I could in wherever my songs take root, in the hope that what hybrid growth occurred would be as substantial and organic as possible, and not some hasty GM copy of their timeless and outstanding work.
(Which one to choose? How about ‘Sally MacLennane’ from British TV in 1986)
The Waterboys- ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ (1988)
This would probably appear on the all time list of anyone involved in folk-rock music. They call some albums seminal – Fishermen’s Blues epitomises what it means. Like Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks it simply has an originality, authority and impact reserved for those who find themselves, by design or accident, at the cutting edge, and who have the courage to take the task on without flinching. From the monumental to the simply made, tracks etch themselves into the memory. I keep them there, and bring them out from time to time. I always will.
(Absolutely cracking live version of the album’s title track)
Wolfestone- ‘Unleashed’ (1989)
I was travelling to play at Reading Festival when someone put this album on in the van and immediately I realised this band were truly fellow-travellers – and there was much to learn from their blending of traditional music with good original songwriting, where sensitive guitar playing had a central part. They weren’t The Waterboys, but they had the same sense of attack, and an obvious love of what they were doing. Perhaps the least known of the albums chosen, this should need no introduction – it is, in its own way, a classic.
(Nick is right. A band I hadn’t come across before but as this whole feature is about introducing us all to good music I’m glad I found it here. The opening track of ‘Unleashed’ from 1992)
Levellers- ‘Levellers’ (1993)
The band didn’t tell me they were putting my song ‘Dirty Davey’ on this album – but they were well aware of my attitude to ‘folk’ music: it’s common property, as far as I’m concerned, whatever the source. And that isn’t why I chose this record over, say, Levelling The Land. It seems to me a broader, more ambitious production, without losing its roots. It was released about the time my young son made a short film for a BBC Children’s television programme, about how much the band meant to him, and had seen him through some rough years. They were, you might say, at their height. Their legendary Glastonbury headline spot was soon to come. They had successfully entered the mainstream without squandering their gifts. And those gifts are abundant here. I should say I’ve always felt privileged that they cite me as a main initial influence. The fact that they’re still working now says it all.
(Nick Burbridge performing with the Levellers in 2004 live on stage at Buxton Opera House doing his own song!)
Eithne Ní Uallacháin- ‘Bilingua’ (Initial Recording 1999- Posthumous Release 2014)
While she was in the midst of putting down vocals for this album Eithne killed herself. Working with what they had, and eventually fighting through their grief and misgivings, the musicians in her family and others released it fifteen years after her death. It’s an irresistible recording, centred round the most evocative female Irish traditional singer I have ever heard. Whether tackling old Gaelic pieces or fronting tales of her own battles with darkness and her sharp visions of light, it’s impossible to listen to her without being deeply moved – especially if much of her inner torment feels as deeply shared. We should all be indebted to those who loved her at first hand, who have kept her memory alive. It’s not discourteous to say that, through her music, I have found my own love for her. It will not die.
(“But grief can be translated from the light into the darkness; In the belly of the shadow with all its shades digested. Its true colours will unfold.”
(In 1998, Eithne returned to Shaun ‘Mudd’ Wallace’s Homestead studios to record a solo album. Ní Uallacháin’s vocals were completed and much of the music was arranged, but the album was not released. Eithne died in 1999 and her son, Dónal, took residence at Wallace’s studio as an assistant engineer, and during times when the studio was not booked worked with Wallace on the album. Due to contractual issues with the original record label, the album was not released until 2014,15 years after its recording and 14 years after mixing was completed. The album was titled Bilingua and was released with Gael Linn, who released Eithne’s first album, Cosa Gan Bhróga.)
Finbar & Eddie Furey- ‘First And Last’ (1968)
If I’m sometimes cited as an influence on certain others, forced to pick one album that influenced me most, it’s this one. It marks the beginning of a fifty year long journey so far, and whenever I listen to it, even now, I find it impossible to skip through. It represents everything good about Irish music. The instrumental playing is (apart from one or two odd passages) fearless and full of guile; the singing has both a tender and a punkish edge; the arrangements are often ornate and yet always seem gritty and spontaneous; and of course Ted Furey’s sons were born into an authentic travelling family, and it’s immediately audible. I was glad to cross paths with the duo once upon a time in Germany, when side-stage at Ingelheim festival Finbar (rightly, I’m sure) called the band I was in ‘a pile o’ shite’…I took it as a compliment he’d bothered to listen… That a wider family group went on to make a big name covering more commercial, and sometimes questionable material is neither here nor there, in my opinion. Good luck to them. I’ve been fortunate enough to be recognised as a poet, and where songs are concerned, use the idiom of my grandfathers to carry as complex and penetrating a vision as I’ve been able to pursue. But, in contrast to what often seems to masquerade as what it’s not, this is the real thing. The 1968 recording also forms the first half of The Spanish Cloak: The Best of the Fureys (1998) – available on all the usual selling and streaming platforms. On we go…
(Eddie’s first song was written by Scottish TV producer Gordon Smith. The words are set to the traditional Irish air ‘Buchal an Eire’)
Nick continues to produce great music and his last album, under the name of his original band, McDermott’s 2 Hours – ‘Besieged’ was not just featured on these pages but positively drooled over by our man Francis! On the album he is accompanied by members of both The Levellers and the Oysterband and showcases his work as not just a musician but also, in the best Irish tradition, as a poet, playwright and novelist as well. Available as a limited edition two CD set including a Best of compilation, Anticlimactic but you can buy several versions including the download direct from Nick here and also available from all streaming services inc. Spotify, Amazon etc here. You can contact Nick Burbridge over at his WebSiteandFacebook. Thanks to Nick for taking his time out to pen this great feature ‘Go raibh maith agat’.
Considered one of the great folk voices of our time and acknowledged as one of Scotland’s most outstanding musicians. Handful Of Earth is renowned as not only his best album but also as one of the best folk album’s of all time.
Though steeped in the traditions of folk and Celtic music, Scottish singer/songwriter Dick Gaughan has enjoyed a lengthy and far-reaching career in a variety of pursuits. The eldest of three children, he grew up surrounded by the music of both Scotland and Ireland. His mother, a Highland Scot who spoke Gaelic, had as a child won a silver medal for singing at a Gaelic Mòd and his Leith-born dad played guitar while his Irish grandad the fiddle and his Glaswegian grannie played button accordion.
The family experienced considerable poverty, but the area they lived in possessed a strong community and many of Gaughan’s songs celebrate his working-class roots. In his teens Gaughan served an apprenticeship at a local paper mill, but had wanted to be a musician since he first started playing guitar at the age of seven. Born in 1948, he first picked up the guitar at the age of seven, and released his debut solo album, No More Forever, in 1972. He then joined the Scots folk-rock group the Boys Of The Lough before returning to his solo career with 1976’s Kist o Gold. However, he soon formed a band named Five Hand Reel. Over the next two years, Gaughan issued four more records – two solo releases (1977’s Copper and Brass and 1978’s Gaughan) as well as two more Five Hand Reel outings (1977’s For a’ That and 1978’s Earl o’ Moray).
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he worked as a writer and in a theatre company but after a three-year absence from the studio, Dick returned to regular musical duty with the release of 1981’s Handful of Earth. The album has gone onto become one of the greatest recordings of traditional folk song’s ever made. His guitar playing is innovative, expressive and powerful and his voice is by turns tender, angry and passionate and even old songs sound new in his hands. The mixture of love songs, odes of parting and political commentaries such as ‘Worker’s Song’ and ‘World Turned Upside Down’ is Gaughan’s most complex and emotional work, and has come to be recognised as a masterpiece being named as Album of the Decade by Folk Roots magazine.
His version of ‘Song For Ireland’ is the album’s highlight capturing the sadness of emigration and evokes perfectly the feelings that those poor Irish must have felt when forced to leave their homes. Handful Of Earth is a brilliant album and features Brian McNeill, Phil Cunningham, and Stewart Isbister and is, without doubt, Gaughan’s best blend of traditional and contemporary songs.
In Dick Gaughan’s own words on Handful Of Earth
“This was the first album I had recorded in Scotland. For some reason, it seemed to strike a chord with people and it is the most successful recording I have made in terms of acclaim and sales.
It was Melody Maker’s Album of the Year in 1981 and in 1989 it was voted in the Critics’ Poll, and more important to me, the Readers’ Poll, in Folk Roots as Album of the Decade. I have had hundreds of reviews, good and bad, and I pay little attention to them. But when the actual people you’re playing to confer an honour like that upon you, you shed the odd tear of thanks that you’ve been privileged to be able to do something which means something to them.
Why they voted it such was a complete mystery to me then and still is today. As a friend of mine says, “Never ask one of the actors what they thought of the play”
A Different Kind of Love Song followed in 1983, and in 1985 he released a live album and a year later True and Bold. After 1988’s Call It Freedom, Gaughan again retreated from view devoting much of his time to his increasing interest in computer technology. In the mid-90’s he formed a new band, the short-lived Clan Alba, who disbanded after releasing a 1995 self-titled debut and he returned to making solo album’s and began to tour the country regularly to packed audiences everywhere. That was sadly until September 2016 when he announced that he was cancelling all public performances until further notice. This was because he believed that he had had a stroke, which was affecting his ability to perform.
Statement from Dick Gaughan’s management
‘”This statement about Dick Gaughan’s health should be read before reading or believing anything else. Dick has now stated publicly at two recent gigs that, “In order to prevent rumours spreading, I think I have had a stroke”. It is untrue to say that he cannot sing or play guitar. However in saying what he has said, Dick is acknowledging that ‘something’, as yet unconfirmed, is not right. Dick has an appointment with a neurologist in early October 2016 when the situation will, it is hoped, be clarified. Until then “I think I have had stroke” is not an opinion based on medical fact”
London Celtic Punks send our best wishes to Dick wherever he may be laid up and look forward to seeing him performing again down here in the smoke. Get well soon Dick the scene needs you.
1 – Erin-Go-Bragh
2 – Now Westlin Winds
3 – Craigie Hill
4 – World Turned Upside Down
5 – The Snows They Melt the Soonest
6 – Lough Erne-First Kiss at Parting
7 – Scojun Waltz-Randers Hopsa
8 – Song for Ireland
9 – Workers’ Song
10 – Both Sides the Tweed
Dick Gaughan: Vocal, Guitars, Brian McNeill: Fiddle, acoustic bass, Stuart Isbister: Bass, Phil Cunningham: Keyboard, Whistle
All tracks trad. arr. Dick Gaughan except Track 4 Leon Rosselson; Tracks 6b, 7a Dick Gaughan; Track 8 Phil & June Colclough; Track 9 Ed Pickford
THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPING STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES
This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.
You can find our Steppin’ Stones page herewith the full list of albums to choose from.
(if the links are broken please leave a comment and we will fix)
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.
The 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”
You 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 hereon 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.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the historic Battle Of Bannockburn, a major victory in Scotland’s 1297-1328 struggle for independence from its neighbour to the south of the River Tweed. Greentrax Records marks one of the most important events in Scottish history by releasing this compilation album of Scots rebel songs, music, poems and spoken word pieces by many of Scotland’s finest musicians and artists. 2014 has also been the year of the Scottish Referendum where amazingly the Scots voted 55-45% in favour of remaining slaves to the British empire. Though those 45% may hold their heads high a combination of media scarmongering and lies and downright cowardice and selfishness prevented Scotland from becoming the first truly independent celtic country and taking their place amongst the nations of the world. Needless to say I reckon this record may have been enough to sway many of those 55% to vote ‘YES’ if they had heard it before they went off to vote.
The title of the album ‘for Freedom Alone’ is taken from The Declaration Of Arbroath, of which a portion is included on the album.
The album contains eighteen tracks of which sixteen are relevant to historic period of the Wars Of Independence and the exploits of Wiliam Walace and Robert The Bruce. Wallace’s famous victory at Stirling Brig and his overwhelming defeat at Falkirk are the subjects of two songs, and of course The Battle of Bannockburn features in several. Nine of the tracks have been specifically written for inclusion on the album.
Tracks include readings of the humorous short story ‘The Spiders Legend Of Robert The Bruce’, which tells of The Bruce taking inspiration from watching a spider struggling and ultimatly succededing, and a abridged version of ‘The Declaration Of Arbroath’ by BBC Scotland radio presenter Iain Anderson who somewhat makes up a very tiny bit for the shameful pro-union propaganda/bullshit and lies his employers used during the Referendum. Both are stirring enough to move even a sassenach to take up arms!
Among the other tracks on this album folk legends The Corries sing the late Roy Williamson’s ‘Flower Of Scotland’ which has become the most famous Scots rebel song in existance and the unoffical national anthem.
“Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again”
The Corries also contribute ‘The Black Douglas’, of which included in the accompanying 24 page booklet is a reproduction of the painting of The Black Douglas, James Douglas (1286-1330) was a Scottish knight who was one of the chief commanders during the Wars Of Independence. The booklet also contains sleeve notes written by Jim Paris and artwork from John Slavin and deserve special mention. Brief explainations of Scottish medieval history are included as well as telling the stories of each tracks background.
More Scots legends in The McCalmans offer up ‘The Lion Wallace Saw’. They toured from the early 60’s right up to 2010 and are sorely missed on the celtic/ Scots folk scene.
“Here I stand and watch for aye, roar the hour out day by day
Freedom strong to sound the sway, from far sea to sea
Freedom is the lion’s aim, freedom for the lion’s ain
Match the lion in his den, or let freedom be”
Arhur Johnstone sings the classic Robbie Burns song ‘Scots Wha Hae’, most famous in these parts I would have thought for The Real McKenzies version. Alistair Fraser brings his ‘supergroup’ of traditional musicians, Skyedance, with the haunting instrumental ‘Bannockburn’ with Highland bagpipe and uilleann pipes combining beautifully. Scots republican and banjo player Alistair McDonald contributes an older song ‘The Battle Of Stirling Brig’ which sounds a wee bit like it could have been in a John Wayne 1950’s western and a newer song ‘William Wallace -Knight Of Elderslie’
“Then the noblest heart in Scotland was revealed for all to see,
when they hacked him into pieces underneath the gallows-tree
but the butchery and slaughter cannot scar the memory
of Wallace, the knight of Elderslie.
Once again the land’s in darkness as we hang our heads to mourn
and remember how the Wallace caused oppression’s time to turn.
But Scotsmen I stand ready and prepare for Bannockburn,
thanks to Wallace, the knight of Elderslie”
Specially recorded for the album are tracks by Robin Laing, Sylvia Barnes And Sandy Stanage. Ian McCalmans influence looms large over many of the songs on this album and the quality of his writing shows. Alex Hodgson sings ‘The Sword Of Banockburn’ and an original Ian McCalman song ‘New Day’. Ian Bruce sings ‘De Bruce, De Bruce’ a poem also put to music and arranged by Ian and his last contribution is on George Archibalds version of ‘Bruces Address To His Captains’ part of John Barbour’s epic poem put to music by Ian.
The two bonus tracks bring the 14th-century struggle for freedom into the present. Alastair Fraser and Natalie Haas’s fine instrumental ‘The Referendum’ is followed by London Celtic Punks favourite Dick Gaughans ‘Both Sides Of The Tweed’ from his 1981 album ‘Handful Of Earth’ which explains in a way only Dick can that the independence movement in Scotland is not about hatred for the English but rather about the struggle for self-determination
“Let friendship and honor unite and flourish on both sides the Tweed.”
From old fashioned folk to traditional dance music this album will surely please both those traditionalists and those who have come to the album purely to top up their patrioic fervour after the disappointment of losing the Referendum. As shocking as that No vote was to those of us who would like to see freedom for Scotland and all the celtic nations it has to be said that it has only delayed the inevitable. The clock is ticking on the empire north of the border and when finally the day dawns over a independent Scotland these songs and the traditions they come from will be greatly cherished and truly recognised for keeping the flame alight.
Buy The Album
direct from Greentrax Records herecelebrating nearly thirty years of supplying Scottish music worldwide. only £10 for a limited time.
‘Thaim wi a guid Scots tongue in their heid are fit tae gang ower the warld.’
You may be forgiven if on coming across this blog that we are solely interested in Irish things, admittedly the blog logo above doesn’t help!, but we are a pan-celtic group and even though it sometimes doesn’t look like it we’re interested in all aspects of the celtic family. With that in mind, and in the absence of a new Real McKenzies LP we give you this double CD, selling for the price of a single album. It’s a companion to The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry which is being embroidered by Scottish communities all over the world to reflect the global influence of Scottish culture over the centuries. The Tapestry was designed by the artist Andrew Crummy and stitched by numerous volunteers. The album consists of 39 tracks selected from Greentrax Records back-catalogue, others licensed from various record companies around the world and several recorded specially for this compilation. Scotland’s diaspora across the globe was predominantly created by warriors, traders, missionaries, medical experts and farmers. And of course there were also the tens of thousands that were driven off the Highlands by landlords or by the rigours of unemployment to seek jobs and new homes. Their descendants today number 30 million and more, not counting England where the impact has been enormous. This diverse mix results in a quite unique collection. Highlight tracks are the Canadian song ‘Scarborough Settlers Lament’ by the late Stan Rogers; an Australian aboriginal recording of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ (titled ‘Waljim Bat Matilda’, sung in Kriol); a Bengali version of Auld Lang Syne; The Corby Song (written by an unemployed Scotsman who followed employment to the steelworks in Corby) and sung by George Galbraith; newly recorded tracks include River Of Steel by Siobhan Miller, General Tam Dalyell by Robin Lainga; a specially composed and recorded piece Le Campagne di Barga (The Bells of Barga) played by Hamish Moore on the Scottish smallpipes and the Dominic Behan song Connolly Was There, specially recorded by one of this blogs favourite folk artists Dick Gaughan.
If you’ve a interest in celtic-punk then don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons. You’ll often find that folk music and the people who sing it are a thousand times more punk then the punks are! There’s a wealth of music out there waiting to be discovered and I hope you will take a chance to discover it.
SOLAS have risen to become one of Irish-America’s most popular bands over the last few years. Formed in 1996 and with many members coming and going over the years, its been the backbone of Seamus Egan and Winnifred Horan, that has kept Solas at the very top of their game. They mix their celtic roots with americana and country and other influences too numerous to mention but on this album keep those influences in the background to make ‘Shamrock City’ the Irish folk album of the year already.
It is unimaginable for us now to think of the horrors immigrants from Ireland faced when they arrived in the USA back in the dark days of the ‘famine’ and immediately after. Escaping a country which could but was not allowed to support them and having to leave the green of Ireland, only to find the only jobs available to them were the dirty and dangerous and low paid ones and yet still suffer prejudice and discrimination on top of it.
The story of ‘Shamrock City’, their 11th album, is a story of all these things but also of the hope, resistance and humour that those immigrants had and is the band’s most ambitious project to date. The album tells the story of Michael Conway, the great-great-uncle of Seamus Egan. Having left Ireland in 1910 he arrived in Butte, Montana aka Shamrock City (named so for the influx of Irish immigrants).5000 miles from home in Roscommon only to find work in the copper mines. A family story of immigration, mining and murder.
Most of Butte’s Irish came directly or indirectly from West Ireland, predominately County Cork, but in large numbers from Mayo and Donegal as well. Six years after arriving in Butte Michael aged 25 was beaten to death by local policemen rumoured to be because of a row over fixing a boxing match.
An impressive list of musicians guest with Aoife O’Donovan singing the beautiful ‘Arbor Day’ and then fiery Irish-Scot folk veteran Dick Gaughan true to form on the angry ‘Labour Song’. Highly impressive fiddle work on the emotional ballads ‘Far Americay’ and ‘Welcome The Unknown’ by Horan and some fine instrumentals as well as the bluegrass influenced ‘Tell God And The Devil’, the LP’s standout track, and ‘No Forgotten Man’ make this outstanding album a must have for anyone with a interest in Irish music and history. Filled to the brim with stories its beauty is that it doesn’t stand as just one song or two but as a whole. As a testament to those 1000s of Irish who came to Butte. For many it was a death sentence and a sentence that came to them as young men. That sadness extends through Shamrock City but ends with the ‘No Forgotten Man’ and truly we shall remember them with pride. The live show is an interactive multi-media stage show featuring stories from and projected images of Butte that is receiving rave reviews so we can only hope that it wings ‘across the broad atlantic’…
One hundred years later, it’s their story, but the struggles of the working class and immigrants are the same.
Shamrock City is for those then and now that believe in a better life, and are willing to risk it all for a chance at something more. It is to the credit of Irish-America that many are able to trace their ancestors right back to places like those copper tunnels of Butte or the hotels and hospitals of the great cities. It is only to be hoped that they can also sympathise and support those that have today taken the place of the Irish in those dirty, dangerous and low paid jobs that once only Irish need apply.