Tag Archives: Dropkick Murphys

THE HISTORY OF CELTIC-ROCK MUSIC

Today the 30492- London Celtic Punks web zine is four years old today so what better way to celebrate our birthday than to give you this small but perfectly formed potted history of Celtic-Rock. We have never just wanted to be a place that only reviews new records we want to celebrate everything that makes us celtic-punks. Our love of our roots and our history and our traditions and the love that those with no Celtic ancestry have as well. Celtic-Punk is for all that share our common values of friendship and solidarity and the love of a good time. Music cannot change the world but it can certainly make it a better place to live in and in these uncertain times that is something we all need. The roots of celtic-punk should be important to us as that is where we come from and we must never forget that.

The London Celtic Punks Admin Team

Celtic rock is a genre of folk rock, as well as a form of Celtic fusion which incorporates Celtic music, instrumentation and themes into a rock music context. It has been extremely prolific since the early 1970’s and can be seen as a key foundation of the development of highly successful mainstream Celtic bands and popular musical performers, as well as creating important derivatives through further fusions. It has played a major role in the maintenance and definition of regional and national identities and in fostering a pan-Celtic culture. It has also helped to communicate those cultures to external audiences.

Definition

The style of music is the hybrid of traditional Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton musical forms with rock music. This has been achieved by the playing of traditional music, particularly ballads, jigs and reels with rock instrumentation; by the addition of traditional Celtic instruments, including the Celtic harp, tin whistle, uilleann pipes (or Irish Bagpipes), fiddle, bodhrán, accordion, concertina, melodeon, and bagpipes (highland) to conventional rock formats; by the use of lyrics in Celtic languages and by the use of traditional rhythms and cadences in otherwise conventional rock music. Just as the validity of the term Celtic in general and as a musical label is disputed, the term Celtic rock cannot be taken to mean there was a unified Celtic musical culture between the Celtic nations. However, the term has remained useful as a means of describing the spread, adaptation and further development of the musical form in different but related contexts.

History

Origins

Celtic rock developed out of the (originally English) electric folk scene at the beginning of the 1970’s. The first recorded use of the term may have been by the Scottish singer Donovan to describe the folk rock he created for his Open Road album in 1970, which itself featured a song named ‘Celtic Rock’. However, the lack of a clear Celtic elements to the self-penned tracks mean that even if the name was taken from here, this is not the first example of the genre that was to develop.

Ireland

It was in Ireland that Celtic rock was first clearly evident as musicians attempted to apply the use of traditional and electric music to their own cultural context. By the end of the 1960’s Ireland already had perhaps the most flourishing folk music tradition and a growing blues and pop scene, which provided a basis for Irish rock. Perhaps the most successful product of this scene was the band Thin Lizzy. Formed in 1969 their first two albums were recognisably influenced by traditional Irish music and their first hit single ‘Whisky in the Jar’ in 1972, was a rock version of a traditional Irish song. From this point they began to move towards the hard rock that allowed them to gain a series of hit singles and albums, but retained some occasional elements of Celtic rock on later albums such as Jailbreak (1976). Formed in 1970, Horslips were the first Irish group to have the terms ‘Celtic rock’ applied to them, produced work that included traditional Irish/Celtic music and instrumentation, Celtic themes and imagery, concept albums based on Irish mythology in a way that entered the territory of progressive rock all powered by a hard rock sound. Horslips are considered important in the history of Irish rock as they were the first major band to enjoy success without having to leave their native country and can be seen as providing a template for Celtic rock in Ireland and elsewhere. These developments ran in parallel with the burgeoning folk revival in Ireland that included groups such as Planxty and the Bothy Band. It was from this tradition that Clannad, whose first album was released in 1973, adopted electric instruments and a more ‘new age’ sound at the beginning of the 1980s. Moving Hearts, formed in 1981 by former Planxty members Christy Moore and Donal Lunny, followed the pattern set by Horslips in combining Irish traditional music with rock, and also added elements of jazz to their sound.

  • THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY (here)

Scotland

There were already strong links between Irish and Scottish music by the 1960s, with Irish bands like the Chieftains touring and outselling the native artists in Scotland. The adoption of electric folk produced groups including the JSD Band and Spencer’s Feat. Out of the wreckage of the latter in 1974, was formed probably the most successful band in this genre, combining Irish and Scottish personnel to form Five Hand Reel. Two of the most successful groups of the 1980s emerged from the dance band circuit in Scotland. From 1978, when they began to release original albums, Runrig produced highly polished Scottish electric folk, including the first commercially successful album with the all Gaelic Play Gaelic in 1978. From the 1980s Capercaillie combined Scottish folk music, electric instruments and haunting vocals to considerable success. While bagpipes had become an essential element in Scottish folk bands they were much rarer in electric folk outfits, but were successfully integrated into their sound by Wolfstone from 1989, who focused on a combination of highland music and rock.

  • HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC (here)

Brittany

Brittany also made a major contribution to Celtic rock. The Breton cultural revival of the 1960s was exemplified by Alan Stivell who became the leading proponent of the Breton harp and other instruments from about 1960, he then adopted elements of Irish, Welsh and Scottish traditional music in an attempt to create a pan-Celtic folk music, which had considerable impact elsewhere, particularly in Wales and Cornwall. From 1972 he began to play electric folk with a band including guitarists Dan Ar Braz and Gabriel Yacoub. Yacoub went on to form Malicorne in 1974 one of the most successful electric folk band in France. After an extensive career that included a stint playing as part of Fairport Convention in 1976, Ar Braz formed the pan-Celtic band Heritage des Celtes, who managed to achieve mainstream success in France in the 1990’s. Probably the best known and most certainly the most enduring electric folk band in France were Tri Yann formed in 1971 and still recording and performing today. In 2017 celtic-punk band Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs fly the flag for Brittany singing in their native language and playing regularly and often accompanied on stage by Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Tan Ar Bobl’ (here)

Wales

By the end of the 1960’s Wales had produced some important individuals and bands that emerged as major British or international artists, this included power pop outfit Badfinger, psychedelic rockers Elastic Band and proto-heavy metal trio Budgie. But although folk groupings formed in the early 1970’s, including Y Tebot Piws, Ac Eraill, and Mynediad am Ddim, it was not until 1973 that the first significant Welsh language rock band Edward H Dafis, originally a belated rock n’ roll outfit, caused a sensation by electrifying and attempting to use rock instrumentation while retaining Welsh language lyrics. As a result, for one generation listening to Welsh language rock music could now become a statement of national identity. This opened the door for a new rock culture but inevitably most Welsh language acts were unable to breakthrough into the Anglophone dominated music industry. Anhrefn became the best known of these acts taking their pop-punk rock sound across Europe from the early-80’s to mid-90’s.

  • TRIBUTE TO WELSH PUNK ROCK LEGENDS ANHREFN (here)

Cornwall and the Isle of Man

Whereas other Celtic nations already had existing folk music cultures before the end of the 1960s this was less true in Cornwall and the Isle of Man, which were also relatively small in population and more integrated into English culture and (in the case of Cornwall) the British State. As a result, there was relatively little impact from the initial wave of folk electrification in the 1970’s. However, the pan-Celtic movement, with its musical and cultural festivals helped foster some reflections in Cornwall where a few bands from the 1980s onwards utilised the traditions of Cornish music with rock, including Moondragon and its successor Lordryk. More recently the bands Sacred Turf, Skwardya and Krena, have been performing in the Cornish language.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: BARRULE- ‘Manannans Cloak’ (here)

Subgenres

Celtic Punk

Ireland proved particularly fertile ground for punk bands in the mid-1970s, including Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, The Radiators From Space, The Boomtown Rats and The Virgin Prunes. As with electric folk in England, the advent of punk and other musical trends undermined the folk element of Celtic rock, but in the early 1980s London based Irish band The Pogues created the subgenre Celtic punk by combining structural elements of folk music with a punk attitude and delivery. The Pogues’ style of punked-up Irish music spawned and influenced a number of Celtic punk bands, including fellow London-Irish band Neck, Nyah Fearties from Scotland, Australia’s Roaring Jack and Norway’s Greenland Whalefishers.

  • FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK (here)

Diaspora Celtic Punk

One by-product of the Celtic diaspora has been the existence of large communities across the world that looked for their cultural roots and identity to their origins in the Celtic nations. While it seems young musicians from these communities usually chose between their folk culture and mainstream forms of music such as rock or pop, after the advent of Celtic punk large numbers of bands began to emerge styling themselves as Celtic rock. This is particularly noticeable in the USA and Canada, where there are large communities descended from Irish and Scottish immigrants. From the USA this includes the Irish bands Flogging Molly, The Tossers, Dropkick Murphys, The Young Dubliners, Black 47, The Killdares, The Drovers and Jackdaw, and for Scottish bands Prydein, Seven Nations and Flatfoot 56. From Canada are bands like The Mahones, Enter the Haggis, Great Big Sea, The Real McKenzies and Spirit of the West. These groups were naturally influenced by American forms of music, some containing members with no Celtic ancestry and commonly singing in English. In England we have The BibleCode Sundays, The Lagan and others.

  • THE EFFECTS OF NEW DIASPORA CELTIC PUNK: THE CREATION OF A PAN-CELTIC CULTURE (here)

Celtic Metal

Like Celtic rock in the 1970s, Celtic metal resulted from the application of a development in English music, when in the 1990s thrash metal band Skyclad added violins, and with them jigs and folk voicings, to their music on the album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth (1990). This inspired the Dublin based band Cruachan to mix traditional Irish music with black metal and to create the subgenre of Celtic metal. They were soon followed by bands such as Primordial and Waylander. Like Celtic punk, Celtic metal fuses the Celtic folk tradition with contemporary forms of music.

  • CELTIC-METAL’S TOP FIVE BANDS (here)

Influence

Whereas in England electric folk, after initial mainstream recognition, subsided into the status of a sub-cultural soundtrack, in many Celtic communities and nations it has remained at the forefront of musical production. The initial wave of Celtic rock in Ireland, although ultimately feeding into Anglo-American dominated progressive rock and hard rock provided a basis for Irish bands that would enjoy international success, including the Pogues and U2: one making use of the tradition of Celtic music in a new context and the other eschewing it for a distinctive but mainstream sound. Similar circumstances can be seen in Scotland albeit with a delay in time while Celtic rock culture developed, before bands like Runrig could achieve international recognition. Widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding voices in Celtic/rock is the Glasgow born Brian McCombe of The Brian McCombe Band, a pan Celtic group based in Brittany.

In other Celtic communities, and particularly where Celtic speakers or descendants are a minority, the function of Celtic rock has been less to create mainstream success, than to bolster cultural identity. A consequence of this has been the reinforcement of pan-Celtic culture and of particular national or regional identities between those with a shared heritage, but who are widely dispersed. However, the most significant consequence of Celtic rock has simply been as a general spur to immense musical and cultural creativity.

ALBUM REVIEW: FLOGGING MOLLY- ‘Life Is Good’ (2017)

“The one thing we are is a positive band. When people come and see our shows, it’s a celebration of life, of the good and of the bad. And we have to take the good and the bad for it to be a life”- Dave King

Life is Good!

It certainly is good for Celtic Punk fans around the globe. Here we have the release of yet another quality album in 2017. It comes from the third branch of the Holy Trinity of Celtic Punk, Flogging Molly. It follows on from outstanding albums from the other two branches this year, namely The Dropkick Murphys and Flatfoot 56. We really have been spoiled this year, especially when you consider that we’ve also had new albums from The Tossers, Damien Dempsey, Paddy and the Rats and so many more Celtic bands. Too many to mention here, especially as this meant to be a review of Flogging Molly’s Life is Good. So maybe just take a minute to think how lucky we all are to be part of such a dynamic and productive “scene”!!

Life is Good is the eighth album to have been released by Celtic Punk premier leaguers, Flogging Molly, and its class! That’s one of the things that went through my mind while I was listening to it, the class just stands out! It’s made up of 12 tracks and runs for three quarters of an hour.

That “class” is evident throughout all the tracks here, it shows how well the band works as a unit, complimenting each other. I suppose twenty years of performing together is going to give us that polished sound. Their last album “The Speed of Darkness” consisted of a, what some people might claim, more mainstream rock sound. I must admit it was one that grew on me, rather than hit me straight away, although now it is one of my favourites. Life is Good definitely sounds more Celtic influenced, with some beautiful fiddle work from Bridget and some rousing banjo from Bob. It is not as raw as Drunken Lullabies or Swagger, but the same feeling is still there, it’s just a bit more professionally produced.

It kicks off with There’s Nothing Left, setting a jaunty pace that is kept up throughout. The Hand of John L Sullivan is next. Many of you will have heard this one as it was a video released a few months ago. It shows how Dave King still has the knack for writing punchy and interesting songs to go along with his ballads and anthem like offerings. Welcome to Adamstown incorporates a great brass section to give some “oomph” to the baseline. It’s a tale of unfinished suburbia in King’s native Dublin. Next comes Reptiles (We Woke Up). Now this is one of those aforementioned anthems, I can picture the crowd at The Forum, at the end of June, having a great time with this one. A bit like the All of Our Boys / Oliver Boy singalong from Speed of Darkness.

Here it is:

The Days We’ve Yet To Meet is the next track, a good up tempo rock number. Then we have the title track, Life is Good. A bittersweet song dealing with death and illness, but also impressing upon us to live our lives and enjoy them. The Last Serenade comes next, it’s one that resonates with me, dealing with ailing fisheries that most of us who live on the coast have witnessed. It’s a slow tempoed ballad and might not really sit well with a Punk audience, but I love it! The slow pace continues with the intro to The Guns of Jericho which soon livens up to a foot stomper though!

Crushed (Hostile Nations) also starts slowly with some lovely pipes accompanying Dave’s opening lines, but it soon turns into a deep almost hypnotic heavy beat. There’s electric guitar solos and a pounding rhythm, I’m reminded of Horslips, but different! There seems to be a darkness to it, probably part of the “Hostility”. A great track!!After the angst of Crushed, we move into the optimism of Hope! Another one that will have the fans up and singing along to the chorus. The Bride Wore Black is a fine pacy tune that you could dance to. I don’t know who it’s about, but she sounds like a bit of craic anyway!! We finish with Until We Meet Again, another ballad with some lovely fiddle and accordion playing, that rounds off the album perfectly.

Flogging Molly have been together for twenty years now, having formed in 1997. Dave King, Bridget Regan, Bob Schmit, Denis Casey, Nathan Maxwell, Matt Hensley and Mike Alonso have combined to bring us six exceptional studio albums and two sublime live recordings. They have played some of the best live gigs that I’ve been to and I hope to see many more! What they bring to the music scene in general and the Celtic Punk scene in particular is an authenticity and intelligence. Let’s hope they (and me!) are around in another twenty years! Slainte.

Ger Mellon 2017.

Buy Life Is Good

iTunes  Amazon-Vinyl  Amazon-CD

Contact Flogging Molly

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  • On Thursday you lucky folk Flogging Molly play at The Forum in Kentish Town, north London. Ticket information here.

REVIEW: THE MOORINGS- ‘Unbowed’ (2017)

The Moorings. As recommended by The Dubliners!

An ultra-energetic French quintet delivering a fantastic mix somewhere in the middle between celtic folk and alternative rock.

So I was always told my auld fella that you should judge a man by the company he keeps. He used to say this to try and get me to stop hanging about with some rather unsavoury characters in my home town. If you can apply the same to bands then The Moorings are a band that any parent would be happy to see you associating with. They are basically the first port of call for any of the celtic-punk scenes major bands when they arrive in France and  are looking for supports. They have played with just about every decent sized band going and as says above recommended by The Dubliners. They have toured with just about all the greats of Irish punk from The Pogues to the Murphys to The Dubliners. Their last EP even had guest vocals from Frankie of The Rumjacks.

The Moorings (from left to right) : Anne Darrieumerlou- Violin/Vocal * Renaudet Matthieu- Bass/Vocal * D. Phil Jelly- Lead Vocal/Guitar * Didier Strub- (Ex-Drummer) * Nicky Sickboy- Banjo / Guitar / Vocal

Formed in 2011 in the small town of Sélestat in the north-west of France on the border with Germany The Moorings assent has been spectacularly quick and without even having released an album. Their debut EP ‘Pints And Pins’ from July 2011 introduced them to the wider celtic-punk world and received praise from all and sundry. Five mostly self penned tracks including the brilliant ‘Working Class’ which gave up plenty but promised so much more as well.

This was followed up with a live album La Cigale Unplugged. Again mainly self penned its eight tracks that show how good The Moorings are as both a band and as individual musicians as well. The superb production helps and on hearing the album it’s easy to see why they chose to release it. Their third and final release was another EP. This time ‘Nicky’s Detox’ EP from December 2014 really showed what they could do. Five tracks all written by the band that again received glowing tributes from all the regular celtic-punk press including ourselves here. The song that really raised interest in the band, ‘Shandon Bells’ features Frankie McLaughlin of The Rumjacks on guest vocals and made it onto just every celtic-punk podcast in existance.

So Unbowed is the band’s first proper studio album but will it live up to all the hype? The answer is of course most certainly. Twelve tracks that last over forty minutes and show The Moorings haven’t rested on their laurels and continue to make utterly brilliant music. The album kicks off with the hilarious ‘Another Drinking Wound’ and anyone whose ever had a, what we Irish call, a “very good night” can attest to waking up the next morning with unspecified bruising and a lack of memory of how you got them.

“Where does the pain in my butt come from?”

The song starts with some great rock’n’roll guitar and a brilliant catchy start. D.Phil.Jelly sounds just like our Shane even including his cockney sneer! It’s fast and not particularly folky but ‘Captain Watson’s Gang’ introduces the first of that quieter numbers. Be moaning the turn of the world to the worship of money. I say quiet but not really. Great drumming here that keeps the song flowing along. They enter a world unbeknown to me next with ‘Amsterdam’. Originally recorded by the Belgian singer, songwriter, actor and director Jacques Brel. The song is in French and has that ‘Parisian’ feel to it due to the style of accordion playing. A lovely song and picked wisely as it would please both their audience at home and abroad who are jaded at hearing the same old covers over and over again. Delivered with The Moorings stamp it’s a great song and builds to a crescendo before the banjo slows it all down and takes us into a instrumental, ‘The Dancy Cargo Hold’s Dance/ Mermaid’s Jig’. As was showed with that live album the y can certainly turn their hand to a traditional folk song and I’m sure live this is a guarantee to get the audience on their feet. Both part’s are fiddle led with subdued quiet backing except for military style drumming. Great stuff! The Moorings like the name suggests like a sea bound song and here’s the first one, The Mariner I Used To Be’ begins with tin whistle and it’s a slow’ish’ ballad telling of a sailor whose had enough of the hardships of the sea and decides to settle down with his new love. Another song in French follows with ‘Les Bras Piqués’. Can’t tell you what it’s about but it’s a fair corker of a song moving at a fair old pace once it gets going. ‘Drink Up Fast’ was the first release from Unbowed and came accompanied by the brilliant video below.

It’s no wonder that celtic-punk gigs are so beloved and greedily anticipated by landlords with this amount of drinking going on! Shouty vocals and fiddle led folk-punk that’s a real thigh slapper.

“The road to destiny is just as empty
As the days passing by sloggin’ in a fact’ry
Turning around mostly going nowhere
Leaving the dreams for someone else to have
So as boredom sets in and wears me out
I cannot help but stand my ground
By filling up my glass to the very top
And drawn the little bastard in one single shot”
Most of the words here are written by banjo/guitarist Nicky Sickboy and they are clever, thoughtful and often hilarious and often within the same song so it’s good that the CD comes with lyrics included though the singing is very clear and easy to understand. ‘Brandy Bell’ is the highlight of the album for me. Not quite sure what the song is about. Honest. Sung half in English , half in French it’s a real catchy banjo number with the fiddle in the background exactly right. We are slowed right down again for ‘Posy Of Lily’ which is basically just D.Phil and acoustic guitar with fiddle. A lovely interlude between the punkier stuff and the words of a man desperate to make things right with his true love only add to the beauty of the song. Luca from the ever amazing Italian celtic-punk band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards takes up whistle duties next in ‘Mutins’ and it’s another French song and I have to say it never bothers me that bands play in their native language I think more should do it. What an amazing musician this man is and even greater to see two band helping each out this way. The chugging guitar is back and accompanied by lovely fiddle too and of course Luca’s top whistling! The pace is back up for ‘Ice Cold Jar Of Whiskey’
“Some people need to fight to let their anger out
Some might need to bribe to find an easy way out
Some people might get thrilled with anything crazy
When all it really takes is a ice cold jar of whiskey”

and then we are finally at the end and Unbowed comes to end with the album’s longest track ‘Invictus’, starring Marikala on guest vocals. A great song with positive life affirming lyrics that begins with tin whistle this time supplied by Lolc from fellow French celtic-punkers Celkilt. Mainly accordion led but as has been the way throughout D.Phil’s voice stands out in particular. Another album highlight here and a simply fantastic way to bring down the curtain on Unbowed. If this album has one lighter/ pint in the air moment then this it is.

Singer/guitarist D.Phil Jelly has done a great job on this album overseeing just about everything here and the sound is crisp and never once over produced. The biggest danger in celtic-punk is that the folk instruments are completely submerged or else turned up so high to compensate that all you can hear is the tin whistle. No danger of that here as the balance is perfect between the punk and the folk. the songs are never straight forward celtic-punk and there is plenty influence of their home countries indigenous music also. The Moorings have always been one of the more interesting bands in celtic-punk with their appeal overlapping several genre’s I am sure. This is a great album and one that will further cement there place as one of the best, and more innovative, bands in the scene.

(you can have a free listen to Unbowed by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Before you buy it of course!)

Buy The EP

FromTheBand

Contact The Moorings

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ALBUM REVIEW: CELKILT- ‘Stand’ (2017)

” …Then the Great Alchemist gathered Water, Air, Earth and Fire around the Muse.
He gave them the High Voltage Energy of Rock and the cheerful power of the Irish Jigs, gave them fiddle, drums, guitar, bass, whistles and bagpipes, and then told them:
” You shall be embodied, you shall live, you shall play and you shall discover the great power of the Kilt.”
And it was so, and so was CelKilt born, serving a bouncy, joyful and energetic music.
The Alchemist contemplated the Greatness of his Work and thought “This kicks ass “, then he went to the pub for a good old pint of Guinness”

Celkilt are a bloody brilliant five piece celtic-punk band from Roanne, near to Lyon, which is almost splat bang in the middle of France and have been together for it would seem about seven years. I say it would seem as all their web site is in French so if you speak French then good for you. I have come across them before but to be honest hadn’t given them much of a chance. Various YouTube videos and the odd song but until their On The Table album that was it and even then it had to be squeezed in as part of our end of year review round up’s. Silly really as on listening to Stand I have really been missing out on something good.

Stand is Celkilt’s sixth release and their third studio album but they began their recording history with a self-titled mini-album back in 2011 and have had pretty much a record release per year ever since. They followed Celkilt with another mini-album called Hey What’s Under your Kilt? in 2012, then their debut full lengther, Everyday’s St Patrick’s Day in 2013 and it’s follow up, On The Table in 2014. A year off in 2015 and their last release was the ten track Kiltmas Songs of spoofed up celtic-punk versions of Christmas carols and Christmas themed originals. In common with all their releases it was served up in only twenty five minutes. Fast, frantic and furious Celkilt are the ultimate good time band but, and I am glad to say, here they have taken a slightly more relaxed approach and have put out a record that, amazingly for them, even has two songs that last over five minutes!

Celkilt left to right: Ana- Fiddle * Titou- Guitar/Vocals * Loic- Bagpipes/Whistles * Rems- Drums * Drik- Bass

Stand begins with ‘Sometimes I Care’ and is as good an album kick-off as I have heard in years. The sound of pipes blasts straight out the speakers at you. First impression is of the legendary AC/DC track ‘Thunderstruck’ but is followed up with a great tune with an absolutely wonderful arrangement. Superb! This is a loud album and designed to be played LOUD so kick up the sound and get right into it. ‘Kilt Up!’ follows with more great piping and some fast paced melodic punk packed with celtic fiddle and pipes.

One thing we reviewers don’t like to be short of in any review is good videos and Celkilt have tonnes of them. Be sure to subscribe to their You Tube channel and put a hour or two away to one side to check them out you won’t be disappointed. ‘I Don’t Have a Brain’ is another celtic-pop punk blast with Titou’s voice leading us through. He may be French but sounds almost perfect American and is completely clear. You can make out everything he is singing despite the punky background to it. As we said before Celkilt are not a band for hanging about. Usually they like to get through things super fast but it’s good they have decided to take their time even if it didn’t mean slowing down. ‘Fall in Place’ may be five minutes plus but  certainly never drags and brings in plenty of Celkilt’s famous Breton influences. Here they also sound like one of my all-time favourite bands Seven Nations and believe me that is only a compliment.

So just as you are all relaxed and settling in they then bring out ‘Lost and Found’ and they step completely away from what we are expecting. A slow rock ballad number with a small fiddle part until the end when it begins to sound more like the Celkilt we know. Fear not though as we are back in classic celtic territory next with the amazing instrumental ‘Gavotte Party / Whipping Reel / Motherjigger’. Three tunes combined that show simply what top musicians they are. While I was expecting them to keep it trad’ they couldn’t help themselves and its more of the fast, frantic and furious style that they are famous for. Completely respectful of the tune but updated for the modern era. If anyone ever thought folk music was boring then play them this bugger and they will soon change their minds! A real change of pace next with the acapello sea shanty ‘All the Way’. All the band share vocals and the gang chorus makes this a good choice of song despite its brevity. My album highlight is up next and ‘I Gotta Run’ has it all. Fast, tuneful, celtic-punk that is so catchy you’ll be humming it for days I warns you. My only complaint is it’s too bloody short!!

The album’s second and last instrumental is up next and ‘Hornjig’ is done trad style this time. Nothing added, just the music of our forefathers. The song leads into ‘Superpower’ and has a much more traditional Irish punk sound to my ears. We back in Cali next and some more of their trademark celtic-pop-punk sound with ‘Better’. Catchy as hell and a real foot stomper. It may not sound exactly like a celtic version Of Green Day or NOFX but Celkilt have this sound absolutely nailed. We are coming up to the final bend and ‘The Last Day of My Life’ returns the LP to a more traditional folky sound. Stepping away from their usual style it still doesn’t sound out of place at all. Another great song.

The album ends with the outstanding ‘Stand’. Plenty of gang vocal “Woo Hooo Hooo’s” bring to mind the best tracks of the new Murphys album but once again Celkilt know exactly when to step it up and take their songs to another level. The fantastic production here manages to capture perfectly the various musicians at their best and though it is certainly well polished it is never overdone at all.

So there you go and I have to say on listening to Stand I’ve had to promote Celkilt up to the Premier League of top celtic-punk bands. As one of only a handful of European bands to tour the United States they surely deserve that place at the top table and this stunning album easily gives the likes of the Murphys, Mollys, Flatfoot, Tossers, Mahones, MacKenzies a run for their money. This album has it all. Both the folk and the punk sides of Celkilts music are good enough to keep either sides purists happy and the combination of the two will I am sure be converting many of them to celtic-punk. An absolute stunner of an album that I cannot recommend enough. Don’t be a fool like me and let this band pass you by for a moment longer.

Buy Stand

FromTheBand (available on CD, Download and Double Album)  iTunes  Amazon  GooglePlay

Contact Celkilt

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  • you can check out Celtic Folk Punk And More’s review of Stand here which also links you to reviews of all Celkilt’s previous releases.

ALBUM REVIEW: PITMEN- ‘Back To The Pit’ (2017)

 As we strive to introduce you to new music you must check out the German psychobilly band Pitmen. A real melting pot of influences. In amongst the classic psychobilly fare, you can also hear Irish folk with banjo and fiddle giving things a nice céilíbilly twist and all blended together in original Pitmen style!

When I was a young one the music that reverberated through my house growing up were the sound of Irish folk and American rockabilly. My Mammy was a bit of a one in her younger days and from photo’s I’ve seen had the most incredible beehive haircut and saw every decent band of her generation from The Kinks to the Rolling Stones to The Beatles and even Johnny Cash. So no surprise then that both me and the brother grew up with a love of both Irish folk and rock’n’roll and while he became a Goth and I found myself living off chips, lager and punk and living in a squat we never lost that love. So when this album from German band Pitmen landed on my doorstep I was well excited. All I knew of them was a live You tube video of the band performing an old Irish rebel song ‘Roddy McCorley’ at a Psychobilly festival and it stirred me enough to order their new album, Back To The Pit, that had just come out.

Pitmen were founded in the spring of 1995 and the following summer of 1996 they recorded a demo which led Crazy Love Records to release it as Pitmen’s debut EP Misfits. They followed this in 1997 with their debut album Listen To The Engine and in 2001 their follow up album Welcome To The Show. Then back in 2003 at the top of the game and headline appearances around Europe at all the major Psychobilly festivals they decided to take a break. The members of the band went on to form and join other bands of many different genres with front-man Christian even forming a Irish folk outfit called airím with Susanne Böhler. So it was after six years Pitmen began to rehearse again and the following year they played their first live show since 2003.

So it is that after a several-year recording hiatus, Pitmen are back and Back To The Pit is the result. Fourteen tracks of

“Equal parts psychobilly, folk from both sides of the Atlantic, hard-as-fuck neo rockabilly and Celtabilly”

as O’Prez of the Dublin based psychobilly Hellacious Harmonies, here, site called it.

Long time fans are sure to be joined by new recruits on hearing this album and Back to The Pit kicks off with some western style guitar that thundering double bass and Christian ‘s clear as a bell vocals for  ‘Always On The Run’. Great start to proceedings and from the very off you can tell this is an absolutely spotless production with the sound as perfect as it could possibly be. The music speeds up for the psychobilly anthem ‘Grab Life By the Balls’ but still sounds perfectly accessible.

‘You Are Not My Friend’ is next and even though the CD booklet is sparse to say the least it doesn’t matter too much as regards the lyrics as Christian’s vocals are very easy to understand. I guess that playing Irish folk songs has helped that and every now and then you can detect a slight Irish twang to his voice as in the catchy as hell ‘Fifteen Dead’ with its fantastic singalong chorus.

Now anyone with a slight interest in psychobilly will know that there is a zombie fixation throughout the scene and following song the rockin’ instrumental ‘Zombie Rumble’ keeps that going nicely. A right foot tapper and thigh-slapper which takes us nicely onto ‘Please Don’t Call Me Baby’, one of the album highlights which if it weren’t for the electric guitar harks back to the genre’s 50’s roots. The first sign of that Irish folk influence comes rolling in next with ‘Hot Rod Hotel’ which features the wonderful voice of Nina Heinrich on backing vocals and only whets the appetite for a bit more folk and a bit of her too. There’s more horror themed catchiness to follow in ‘Roadkill’ and they follow this up with the hilarious ‘You’re The Reason Mommy’s Drinks’ which is some sort of country-psychobilly mash up lullaby from a disappointed father to his stepchild! The banjo and fiddle are out and proud courtesy of Fran Urton on fiddle and Eduardo Ribeiro on banjo. Great sense of humour there lads. Love it. Next up now is the song I have been waiting for. With the Dropkick Murphys adopting of Finbar Furey’s legendary song ‘The Lonesome Boatman’ and their recording of it on this years new album 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory. I would even go so far to say it was the album highlight but how well would Pitmen stand up to it and would they be able to do it justice. Well I can report it is amazing. Simply amazing. It’s unlike any version you will have heard before I can guarantee and yet is still unmistakable. All the songs here are sang in English except for ‘Schnitzel mit Kartoffelsalat’ which is in German and from what I can gather a drinking song about a food fight! Singer and guitarist Christian has written the majority of the songs here albeit with help from both his wife and guitarist Holger so they take a break with a superb cover of The Animals ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’. Again its done in their own style and is yet unmistakable and as we near the end they follow it up with another cover, ‘Baltimore Fire’, of an old song about the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 which was originally recorded by Charlie Poole (1892-1931) and The North Carolina Ramblers. Nina Heinrich is back on backing vocals and you can find more of her great voice by checking out Christian and hers folk trio Sackville Street here. The fire raged for over thirty hours, spanning seventy city blocks, and destroying 1,545 buildings, doing an estimated $3.84 billion in damage in today’s money. A great choice of cover and shows the band know their onions and have plenty respect for the music that has influenced them. We are at the end of the album and another album highlight with the romantic ‘One More Day’. A real fifties feel here with the vocals accompanied by whistling, which you don’t hear much these days. The banjo is back and a really outstanding way to bring down the curtain on Back In The Pit.

Christian

So sixteen years on from their last album Pitmen are back with an almighty bang and I was gutted to find out that they played here only last month at the famed Bedlam Breakout festival where they went down a storm. Now as much as I love psychobilly it has to be said, and the same too could be said about celtic-punk, that many bands do sound the same so when you do hear something that you can say is unique its worth taking notice of. Twenty-two years on from getting together in their working class coal-mining home town of Essen Pitmen are still bringing something to the table that no other psychobilly bands can manage. This is a fine album of mainly foot stompin’ originals and a selection of instrumentals and covers that just enhance what they do. Be sure to keep an eye on Pitmen as they will be featured here again soon!!

Buy Back To The Pit

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EP REVIEW: UNION BLOOD- ‘Working Class Pride’ (2017)

From the land of pipes and drunx comes this new EP of streetpunk and Oi! from Galician band Union Blood.

union-blood-ep
Bit of a departure for London Celtic Punks with this EP from the newly formed Street punk band Union Blood. Formed last Summer in A Coruña in Galicia now that city may ring a bell for celtic-punk fans as it is the home town of famous celtic celtic-punk band Bastards On Parades. As it goes Union Blood began last year as a side project but as Bastards On Parade announced on their Facebook page
“Hey! We wanted to let you all know that we are taking a break for a while. Different circumstances don’t let us keep the rhythm of traveling and tours we used to, so we will wait for the right time to come back as this band deserves.
See you soon you bastards!! Cheers”
Now Bastards On Parade, who took their name from the Dropkick Murphys song and played with them numerous times, worked their collective arses off over the years with their touring and even washed up over here a couple of times including a short and not particularly well organised tour (by us!) with The Lagan. So they are deserving of a break but what has stepped into the breach in the meantime you ask? Well what we have here is Union Blood’s first release and it has all the influences of Oi! bands past and present that you would expect flowing through it. Now I never been a skinhead but use to be a big fan of Oi! and one of the things about Oi! is that it was/is the British sound that completely dominates. Bands like The 4-Skins, Cock Sparrer and the Rejects seem to influence every band no matter where they come from and Union Blood are no different.

from left to right: Ruper, Arenga, Dopi, David

The EP begins with ‘Working Class Pride’ and its straight forward skinhead rock with David’s welcome, and familiar, voice rasping his way through a fast and catchy as hell number about having pride in your background. In a world where the working classes are hated by the elites (to be fair they always have been) for not voting the way they are told or being coarse or unruly and for simply not doing as we are told we only have each other. With the left around the world hellbent on destroying itself by the adoption of lunatic and poisonous identity politics a new left is needed that in the words of someone who should know is a new left that is
“from the class, for the class, of the class”

‘Reckless And Bones’ is up next and the chugging guitars are still evident but also the catchy gang chorus and “whoa whoa” too. Traces of Bastards On Parade here and with a piper in there we would be away!
The best song on the EP for me is the anti-fascist anthem ‘Blood On The Streets’ and cor blimey guv’nor it is a cracker. I won’t stray in cockney rhyming slang I promise but this song is an almighty foot tapper and fist shaker. Slightly slower and a lot heavier than previous tracks but by God it’s a class song.

The EP ends with the song ‘Brawlers’ which is another great song and dedicated to the Bhoys football team Deportivo de La Coruña. So there you have it songs about brotherhood, football, drinking and fighting the good fight. All played in such a way that if you were a fan of Bastards On Parade you would love this too. Great songs with interesting and well thought out lyrics and, most importantly of all, extremely good and catchy songs!
(you can have a listen to the EP below but only two songs feature so to get the whole four tracks you will have to buy the vinyl single)
Get The EP
Download- FromTheBand (First two track)  For Vinyl- USA: CrowdControlMedia  Europe: Oi!-Punk  Spain/France: CROM Records
Contact Union Blood

ALBUM REVIEW: THE TOSSERS- ‘Smash The Windows’ (2017)

From the predominantly Irish neighborhoods of Southside Chicago The Tossers have been expanding the boundaries of contemporary Irish music since before much better known bands had even begun and have become one of the most popular and successful bands in the worldwide celtic-punk scene.

By Shane O’Neill

tossers

Only a few weeks into 2017 and we have already seen a whole host of fantastic album’s being released onto the scene. The Tossers are celtic-punk heavyweights and they hail from Chicago, Illinois. To be exact they hail from the South of Chicago. This is the part of Chicago that has housed the cities Irish Catholic community ever since they first started arriving from the ‘auld country’. The immigrant history of Chicago is rooted among untold amount of countries and people whose struggles and adversities have led them to the Midwest and to Chicago. From the cities founding in the 1830’s, Chicago has been the final destination for people journeying from all over the world looking for the famed land of opportunity that is the US of A.  It may surprise people to know that in a city known as ‘Chicago Polonia’, and also ‘Poletown’, that it is the Irish that constitute the city’s biggest ethnic community. While most Irish-American families in Chicago are three or four generations deep, plenty of Chicago’s Irish have landed fairly recently. Ireland’s economy in the 1980’s and 1990’s prompted many of its young people to go where many others had gone before them and Chicago with it’s strong Irish links was if not top of the list then very close to it.

tossers-erin

It’s hard to believe that the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Loudest Folk Band’ have been around for twenty-four years now, forming as they did in July, 1993. The six piece from south Chicago have been unleashing their brand of Celtic folk punk even before Dropkick Murphy’s (1996) and Flogging Molly (1997) hit the scene. Steeped in Irish tradition, The Tossers take their place as one of the finest Celtic punk bands on the planet. Like most bands of this genre you can clearly hear the influences of The Pogues and Tony Duggins style of delivering the vocals is frighteningly close to Shane McGowan. That said, The Tossers are not a tribute act – far from it. They have a very unique way of delivering a fine but hooligan like take on folk music. The band’s name though for us here in Britland is an unusual one and would I think effect their t-shirt sales here. Saying that one of the blog editor’s wears his Tossers t-shirt with pride and I must say it suits him fine! Rest assured though it’s not the rude meaning you lot think it is as it actually dates back to Shakespeare, and depending who you ask it also means commode, drunk, to agitate, disturb, or disquiet but the band chose their name for its meaning to “throw away”.

tossers-band

Smash The Windows is due for release early March 2017 and comes four years after their last album hit the streets, the astounding The Emerald City back in March 2013. You can read our review of The Emerald City here and I suggest you do as it is a fantastic album that i still play regularly. Smash The Windows is certainly value for money with a total of seventeen songs that clock in at just under one hour in length. That is definitely a well packed album and there’s something in there for everyone. The album pays tribute to the bands Irish roots and what it meant to be an Irish American.

The album begins with ‘Erin Ga Bragh’ which is of course Irish for Ireland For Ever and The Tossers nail their colours to the mast from the very off. Fast and furious Irish punk rock played on mainly acoustic instruments that would equally please the most devout punk or folky! ‘Smash The Windows’ and ‘The Horses’ are both full of energy and I can imagine them being a real hit live. There is a cracking cover of ‘The Foggy Dew’ which is always a crowd pleaser. I have never really been a fan of the song ‘Danny Boy’ (not sure why) but I must say I really like The Tossers version. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Celtic Punk without a tribute to our beloved alcohol. ‘Drinking All The Day’, ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Lots Of Drops Of Brandy’ ticks this box on the new album. ‘1969’ brings us back to a darker time in Ireland’s history during the Civil Rights campaign and serves as a reminder that we should never forget what the brave people of the time fought for on our behalf. In today’s world, we take too much for granted and forget that without the sacrifices of many back in the 60’s and 70’s things could have been very different today. There are too many good tunes on this album to pick a favourite. Not one of them have disappointed. The album is being released by Victory Records and will be a big hit.

The Tossers Logo

Again on this album one of the things that amazes me is the way that The Tossers can change tempo and go from a raucous Irish punk rock number to a solemn reflective Irish ballad or a full on trad folk piece without you even noticing. The Tossers are more than just a band to their fans. They inspire and promote a love in your roots that is sadly missing for most people. They tell the tale of both Chicago and America’s Irish communities. Serious and piss-taking and joyful and sad and upbeat and maudlin The Tossers do it all and yes we Irish are all of these things… and The Tossers celebrate it all.

Discography

The Pint of No Return (1994) * We’ll Never Be Sober Again (1996) * The Tossers/The Arrivals- split (1998) * Long Dim Road (2000) * Citizen Fish/The Tossers- split (2001) * The First League Out From Land-EP (2001) * Communication & Conviction: Last Seven Years (2001) * Purgatory (2003) * Live At The Metro ’04 (2004) * The Valley of the Shadow of Death (2005) * Agony (2007) Gloatin’ and Showboatin’: Live on St. Patrick’s Day (2008) On a Fine Spring Evening (2008) The Emerald City (2013)

Buy The Album

Here directs to several sites where the pre-order is available or VictoryRecords

Contact The Band

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HUNGARIAN CELTIC PUNK WEEK! EP REVIEW: FIRKIN- ‘Into The Night’ (2017)

Our Hungarian Celtic Punk week continues with the second of our three reviews and this time it stars the wonderful Firkin. As they say on their press “Firkin should not be seen, Firkin must be experienced! Firkin is good, firkin’ good!” and for once when talking about European celtic punk I can agree! For the final installment check back in a couple of days.

firkin-into-ep

Well here’s the second part of our Hungarian triple header. An EP released by one of the more prominent and internationally well known of the Hungarian celtic-punk bands. Firkin’s appeal doesn’t just stop with celtic-punk fans and they are one of the biggest bands in Hungary full stop and these days quite a draw across Europe too. Formed in 2008 in the Hungarian capital of Budapest they have released a bunch of albums and toured numerous times including playing an absolutely stunning one-off show in London on New Years Eve 2015. The gig drew in equal numbers of Hungarian ex-pats and London celtic punks that raised the bloody roof off the Dublin Castle! Certainly if putting in the hard work gets you the glory then Firkin have been working overtime to get the attention they deserve. Their original vocalist Barna left since recording their last album, which we reviewed here, but new singer Andy has stepped ably into his shoes and Firkin have carried on without pause or even catching breath!

firkin-band

Into The Night starts off with the title song ‘Into the Night’ and you can spot from the very off the different approach Firkin have to celtic-punk than The Crazy Rogues, who we reviewed the other day here. A far heavier sound erupts from the speakers and they manage to have both a trad Irish and punk sound going on at the same time. Their are some similarities though. The fiddle leads the way and also flute which is used a lot here to great effect. One of my favourite memories of that London NYE gig was PJ’s playing. You just couldn’t take your eyes off him so amazing was he to watch. For an instrument that sounds so Irish it does surprise me that not more bands use in it the scene especially when you hear bands like Firkin utilising it so well. Andy also sings in English and has a very strong and clear voice and again there is a very clear story telling way of writing song lyrics going on here. If they get off to a storming start to the EP they follow it up with the more Irish trad folk based ‘Flowers’. A beautiful song that shows Andy’s voice can easily manage both the folk and punk side to Firkin. Hey I tells you if your mammy wouldn’t like this this song then she got no taste! A song that swirls around Andy’s voice which is used another instrument alongside the flute here. Originally known as ‘The Flower of Magherally’ it has been recorded in the past mainly by the Irish trad community so was unknown to me but what a bloody good version this is I straight away thought.

We have a much more widely known cover up next with ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye’. Mainly famous in these circles I would have thought for the Dropkick Murphys recording that Firkin stick fairly close to. A fast paced punky song with shouty chorus and fiddle lead. First published in 1867 and written by Joseph B. Geoghegan it remained popular in Britain and Ireland and the United States into the early years of the 20th century but it was when it was recorded by The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem in 1961 that lead to a renewal of its popularity. An anti-war song that was used to great effect to stop Irishmen joining the British Army the story tells of an Irish woman who bumps into her former lover near Athy, Co. Kildare, Ireland. He is badly disfigured, losing his legs, his arms, his eyes and his nose and is now begging. The woman though is happy to see him and the implication is that she looks after him so for once a happy ending in an Irish song! The EP comes to an end with a bonus song that I have heard before. ‘Focimese’ was the song that Firkin wrote for the European Football Championship last year to support the Hungarian football team. It’s a rollicking great tune with plenty “La, La, La, La La’s” to keep the fans happy and a chugging guitar that accompanies the fiddle. A song that inspired the team to top their initial group before sadly losing to Belgium 4-0 in the Round Of 16. Four great tunes that show exactly why Firkin are so sought after across Europe. A absolutely perfect mix of Irish and punk rock with a real story telling way to them and on top of that a really good live show as well.

Buy The EP  FromTheBand  iTunes  Amazon

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So all in all our Hungarian celtic-punk week gets another thumbs up. Don’t forget to check back in a couple of days for our final installment. If you are interested in finding out more about the great celtic-punk scene in Hungary (and you better be) the best place to visit is the ‘Celtic Punk/ Irish Folk Hungary’ group on Facebook here.

ALBUM REVIEW: BLACK WATER COUNTY- ‘Taking Chances’ (2017)

Dorset based six-piece celtic-punk band Black Water County’s debut album for this reviewer is as good as ANYTHING to be released this year.  Music to proper “beat up the floor to” !!

bwc-chances

Sandwiched between album releases by such celtic-punk greats such as the Dropkick Murphys, The Real McKenzies, The Tossers and Flatfoot 56 is this wonderful album by one of the best bands in the English scene Black Water County. Truly it’s no exaggeration to say that Taking Chances will be neck and neck with the aforementioned bands come the end of the year Best Of poll’s. Formed in Dorset, on the English south-coast, back on St Patrick’s Day in 2013 they celebrate only their 4th anniversary this year and in that time they have the folk/celtic-punk scene here alight and with this album hopefully their popularity will spread beyond these shores. Dorset and the surrounding area has been a mecca for celtic style punk bands for well over a decade with a whole host of bands plying their trade. People may think that London is some hot bed of celtic-punk activity but truth be told the real powerhouse is down there on the south coast of England! Most of them are gone now but several fantastic bands are still playing in each others backyards and all support each other with a friendly rivalry that most music scene’s could only dream of.

(debut EP Welcome To The Black County)

With basically the same line up since day one it’s not just the music that holds these Bhoys and Ghirl together but also the bonds of friendship. Famed for their energetic live show and their stout quaffing, banjo breaking, tin whistle mangling music Black Water County ‘s busy schedule seems them gigging away all over the south of England and building up an army of fans that sees many sold out and packed out shows along the way. They have two releases under their belts thus far with their debut EP Welcome To The Black Water County coming out in 2013 and following it up in 2014 with The Fellowship Of The Craic. Both achieved a high level of critical success from the celtic-punk media and around Dorset and has left us all eagerly awaiting Taking Chances to see if it’s as good as we are hoping.

(follow up EP The Fellowship Of The Craic)

The album kicks off with ‘Start Something New’ and right from the very first seconds you know it’s Black Water County. Released as the second single from the album a couple of weeks ago it’s fast, it’s furious, it’s fun and it’s f’ing brilliant as well. Everyone in the band gets a chance to showcase what they do and they do in every single song. Tim’s vocals suit the music perfectly with a voice that can easily switch between the punkier tunes to the more subtle celtic songs with ease.

(video filmed and edited by Marriane Harris)

Andy’s drumming is loud but not obtrusive and keeps the music flowing while the rest of the band swirl around and in between it. ‘The Painful Truth’ is slower but still the drumming gives it that punky edge without being over the top. A track that on the face of it owes much to Flogging Molly but when i really listened to it sounds nothing like them but a whole lot like Black Water County. They definitely inhabit the Molly’s side of celtic-punk rather than the Dropkick Murphys but they have managed to carve out a sound of their own within a scene that does sometimes lack in originality. What have been the Irish musical influences that have seen them get here is a question for another day but BWC haven’t just downed the Flogging Molly songbook and regurgitated it that’s for sure. Shan gets her first chance on the album to shine vocally sharing vocals with Tim on ‘Way Down Low’ and Gavin’s mandolin is the other star of this song. Expertly played and one of the features of this band live is watching his fingers as he plays with steam coming off them!

They don’t let the speed drop off for a second and I can attest that they are like this live as well. No time to breathe as they sweep through. On ‘If Only You Were Here’ Shan sings alone while Bradley and Tim hammer their guitar and bass in the album’s punkest song. Well you think they gonna follow this up with a ballad but the slow start is just a con and before long their thrashing away again with tin whistle dominating ‘Rise and Fall’. We at the half way point now and no sign of ‘The Irish Rover’ either. ‘One More Beer Won’t Hurt’ was the first song to be released from Taking Chances and quite rightly takes it’s place as the standout track of the whole album. Not to say there is much in it as every song here could take that title at one time or another.

Again this is classic Black Water County and they are doing in without sounding like anyone else. Tim’s voice again stands out in this joyful song and the bands lyrics are told in that story telling way we love here in London Celtic Punks. The right mix of humour and seriousness certainly belies Tim’s youth though that beard does make him look older! Re-recorded from the single version I do think it misses Shan on backing vocals but that’s only a minor gripe. Finally we get a ballad with ‘Memories from Another Life’ and it’s long been established that the older celtic-punk fans get the more we like the ballads! Shan is back on lead vocals on the longest song here of five and a half minutes. A country tinged ballad of love and pain and loss. They can’t help themselves and the song speeds up at the end making it something you could imagine Bruce Springsteen 2017 singing. We get a brass section on following song ‘Rambling Johnny’ which chucks in an unexpected ska beat and we are away with what must be a live favourite I’m sure. Had me nodding the head listening to it anyway! ‘No Regrets’ continues with the brass section and the album is getting more and more rockier with a song that could easily get in the set of ska-punk legend’s the Voodoo Glow Skulls.

(not the album version but still great)

We are nearing the end of Taking Chances and it’s been one hell of a ride I can tells you. Penultimate song ‘Under Skies of Black and Blue’ slows it down for about five seconds and they seem to determined to go out fighting with another fast as hell country tinged celtic-punk song. The only band member here who so far hasn’t received a mention is fiddle player Russell and I hope I don’t embarrass him now by heaping ten tonnes of praise onto his shoulders. Simply fantastic playing all the way through this album. Where required the fiddle comes through loud and clear and those other times when it needs to step back again and let other instruments and voices shine it is just perfect. Taking Chances ends with ‘Seeing Is Believing’ and finally the auld fogies among us get that ballad we awaiting. Just Tim and acoustic guitar and some great positive lyrics about picking yourself up and carrying on. Some tin-whistle and understated fiddle joins in but its Tim here who leads.

BWC

Well what to say. Eleven songs that comes in at a very healthy forty-three minutes of original tunes played by a band who haven’t copied or aped anyone to get where they are. Coupled with the fact that these are some of the nicest people I have ever met through the music scene what we have here is the first installment of a band set to go onto legendary status. Yes this album is that good. From beginning to end not a bum note or a tiresome song. Each track is superb and shows a band that works together to achieve such a great sound. There are no leaders here just a bunch of friends working together to bring some of the best Irish/celtic-punk rock to your ears as is possible, despite that competition, in 2017!

Buy The Album

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EP REVIEW: IN FOR A PENNY- ‘Every Day Should be Saint Paddy’s Day’ (2016)

Rowdy Irish folk punk from Tybee Island, Georgia in the southeastern United States
everyday-cover
The first Irish may have rowed ashore in Savannah (Georgia’s largest city) way way back in 1734 but it has taken over 280 years for an Irish band to pop up. Fortunately the wait was worth it. There’s a rich and deeply held Irish-American heritage in the Savannah with the area holding one of the oldest, and second largest in the world!, St Patrick’s Day celebrations but until 2014 it was nigh on impossible to find some local rowdy live Irish music… that was until In For A Penny came around. 

savannah-irishThe original Irish that arrived in Georgia were descendants of the Calvinist Scots who had been planted in Ulster in the 1600’s. These Irish made their living trading, trapping and soldiering. They included Sergeant William Jasper who was mortally wounded leading the charge to retake Savannah from the British in 1779 but the main chapter in local Irish history began in the 1830’s like it did with so many other Irish towns across America. With the arrival of the railway the owners needed a plentiful supply of workers willing to do the back breaking hard labour required, and that is where the Irish came in. According to ‘Irish History in Savannah, Georgia’ here

“The story goes that Irish were employed on the railroad because, unlike slaves, their bodies had no commercial value and could be worked to exhaustion with impunity. A second wave of Irish immigration followed two decades later when the ‘potato famine’ in the old country forced many to seek new shores.”

savannah-irish-festThese Irish on arrival suffered prejudice and discrimination but it was that willingness to do the dirty, dangerous and low-paid work that made them important to Savannah’s economy. As in other parts of America the Irish soon realised the best way to raise their collective lot was with political clout and they soon became, and remain still, major players in Savannah society.

Sean McNally only began playing the mandolin in 2014 after taking a few years away from the music scene but a few open mic performances and a regular solo spot which was dubbed ‘Monday Mandolin Mayhem’ and after responding to an audience request to play the Dropkick Murphys Sean realised something. If he can get such a great audience reaction to a stripped down cover song on just mando and vocals the next step was to form a band. Gathering around him old friends in Henny ‘da butcha’ on drums and Jeremy Riddle on guitar and like a celtic-punk Van Halen the last member of the band is Sean’s son Bryce on bass.

in-for-a-penny
This is In For A Penny’s second release after last years debut album, The Guardian Angel Sessions. We missed that but the good folk at Celtic Folk Punk And More never miss anything so you can read their review of that here. This EP follows pretty much the same route as the album with a handful of Irish standards butting up against a handful of self -penned songs. Needless to say I much prefer their own songs though there is nothing like a song like ‘The Rare Auld Mountain Dew’ to get the blood pumping and the ales flowing. In For A Penny have that age old problem for Irish/Celtic-punk bands. They could quite easily just keep singing the standards and the bookings would still roll in and they would keep everyone happy but every musician must have the urge to get some of their own material out and when it’s as good as In For A Penny’s then I’m afraid it is a necessity!

in-for-a-penny-skullOn Every Day Should Be Saint Paddy’s Day you get five tracks, two covers and three originals that clock in at a very healthy sixteen minutes. Its basically a collection of drinking songs with a shed load of energy all done with enough of their own approach to stand it out. The EP begins with ‘The Rare Auld Mountain Dew’ which was around for years before The Pogues and The Dubliners collaborated back in 1987 for a Top Ten hit in Britain and re-introduced it to future generations. Dating from 1882 it has become fairly popular but you’ll not hear a pumped up version like this one too often. Sean has a real strong voice that suits the style of the band completely and errs more towards to the Drew/MacGowan style of singing than the O’Donnells! Another original Whiskey in Heaven’ is up next and Sean introduces the song to his Dad and Bryce’s Grandad who sadly passed away last year. He must be well proud sitting up there with a Jameson’s in hand looking down.

“I’m not ready to go / I’m having too much fun, I’m having too much fun / When it’s my time to go /I hope there’s whiskey in heaven”
The last time he saw the band play they played ‘Whiskey In Heaven’ so seems apt to dedicate this to him. Great songwriting and  I recently heard the phrase (from a non-Irish person) about drinking songs and “racial stereotyping”. Well I can think of no better words to reply than what a load of fecking bollocks. The Irish drink. Obviously not all but it is part of our culture and if you don’t get it then keep your opinions to yourself rather than try and score points off the celtic-punk scene.
(here’s a live version with the sound quite low so get it turned up!)

Another original up next which was the first release from the EP. ‘Stumblin’ Home’ is the standout for me here with a seriously great singalong chorus and the addition of some great fiddle from one of the bands mates. You need to get this fella signed up Sean. It’s the slowest of the songs so far, or so it seems, but Sean’s vocals keep the energy right up there.

The band released the class video for ‘Stumblin’ Home’ above, which was filmed over the course of two days at various pubs, Sean’s flat and on their home streets of Tybee Island, Georgia. Have a watch and tell me you not been there too… Love the tricolour and The Rumjacks t-shirt by the way Sean!
in-for-a-pennyNext up is the bhoys St Patrick’s Day anthem ‘Every Day Should Be Saint Paddy’s Day’ and you can breathe a sigh of relief as these guys know full on well it’s not St Patty’s! Now can you just tell the rest of America for us. A bit of tin whistle comes in here and adds to the sound and as anthems go its a good ‘un. We’d all love it to be true but our livers would disagree but whens the last time we gave them a word edgeways. A great riproaring trek through Irish-America’s good and bad bits about our patron Saints feast day in which they reveal the major reason they think ‘Every Day Should Be Saint Paddy’s Day’ is that they would never be short of a place to play! The EP comes to an end with the other standout for me. ‘The Parting Glass’ was made famous by The Clancy Brothers and is the perfect way to end any record. Sean plays mandolin and sings along and I don’t know why but I find it absolutely brilliant. We all have our own reasons to like this song and usually it’s to do with someone close to us and I’m no different. Sean’s reigns in the energy and instead lets emotion come out and his hoarse raspy vocals do indeed do the song perfect justice.
If I was local to these boys then I just know we would be great mates and no doubt great drinking buddies too. In For A Penny are not pretending to be anything they’re not it’s just good old fashioned Irish music with an injection of punk rock spirit that will keep the flames alive for the next generation of Irish down Savannah way.
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ALBUM REVIEW: DROPKICK MURPHYS- ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’ (2017)

as reviewed by special guest writer

Frankie MacLaughlin from The Rumjacks

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When I was tasked with reviewing the new offering from Dropkick Murphys ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’, I thought ‘shit!.. I wonder if I shouldn’t be half steamin’ in a pub with couple o’ pals in tow, instead of cooking dinner in preparation for a quiet night in, pet sitting for friends. Perhaps then I’d better appreciate the raucous, sudsy, barrage that has long been standard fare, down among its natural habitat.

I admit I was less than enthused by their early offerings, the singles ‘Blood’, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Paying My Way’. I don’t think I’m all that alone in saying I’d been disappointed in the past, so I decided I’d need to listen with fresh ears and not hold their finest moments against them as a yardstick.

It might surprise some to learn that I dont habitually listen to a great deal of Celt-Punk, whatever music finds its way in and out of my day does so of its own accord and on its own merits. This helped make listening to ’11 Short Stories’ as impartially as I could, a hell of a lot easier, and I’ll tell you now… I like it.
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I think its safe by now to say that the Murphy’s weren’t about to come kicking in doors and changing the world, but that’s fine, they already did that, arguably several times over. After first steaming in with some proper street punk clout, they went on to spearhead the modern age of Celtic punk rock. While many of us were still busy trying to be The Pogues, these guys gave us a whole new benchmark to work to.

While the album lacks some of the punch that we’ve been treated to previously, it still has its decent share of moments. Tunes like the lead single ‘Blood’ and ‘Paying My Way’ are unashamedly crafted to get everyone in on a singalong, big rolling chants with easy to latch onto lyrics sees them at their most accessible. So too with the albums opener ‘The Lonesome Boatman’, first recorded by The Fureys in ’69, its huge atmosphere & ‘whoa-oh-whoa’ vocals would make a great set opener in the big arena.

‘Rebels with a Cause’ is just a good, solid, punk rock tune that could sit just as easily with Al Barrs efforts as part of The Bruisers, for all its rapid fire delivery. ‘Kicked to the Curb’ strikes me as a ‘fun as f#%k classic rock & roll tune, that you could take the piss & do the twist to… without feeling like you’re taking the piss.

‘Sandlot’ is as nostalgic as it gets, its acoustic guitars and almost Motown beat are refreshing. I’m sure that no matter who we are we could relate pretty easily to the sentiments on show here, particularly…

“we were rich but no one told us, we didn’t know..”
‘4.15.13’ really stands out to me as a seriously honest moment from the band. Minus all the usual bells and flashing lights that normally draw us to a Murphys tune, its a humble and very human song, which I cant help think would’ve been right at home in a Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros set.

‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ similarly rocks a little of that Motown rhythm, and I like it a lot more than when I first heard it released. Though when you’ve been to Celtic Park a bunch of times to hear 70 odd thousand heads singing the classic tune, it was always going to be a tough comparison for me… it chugs away admirably enough nonetheless. ‘First Class Loser’ is folkie singalong Murphys at their best, while ‘I Had a Hat’ is a wild old calamitous affair. Here the tune written by James Mooney and made famous by the likes of Ray Perkins and The Andrews Sisters, sounds like the fight scene in a dodgy western,.. the kind where the barman expertly ducks a flying chair and carries on polishing the glassware.

All in all what I’m hearing on this record is a band enjoying what they do, making the music they feel like making right now. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest it was an exercise in ‘karaoke’ or ‘Dad-Rock’, although if they were to lean a little more that way, who’s going to hold it against ’em? It goes with the territory, these guys aren’t hungry young punks anymore, they’re family men, who work tirelessly and humbly in their community, a community they clearly love. I think they can be forgiven for being a little more nostalgic, or wanting to do their bit to lessen the impact of serious drugs, violence and hatred on that community. Something they’ve been particularly vocal about, especially of late, and very especially on this album.
When they finish the record with ‘Until Next Time’, singing
“We all had a good time and we’re sad to see it end…”
its nothing if not entirely believable. I think the Dropkick Murphys had a lot of fun making this record, they were as true to us all as they could be, and more importantly they were true to themselves. I for one wouldn’t be too offended if they stuck around and kept making music with that approach…
But that’s just my opinion. 
dkm-stpauliGet The Album

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frankieMajor thanks for Frankie to taking the time out to write this review and for those of you been living under a rock then that can be the only possible excuse to not know that Frankie is the singer/songwriter for Sydney celtic-punk legends THE RUMJACKS. Later this year they will be heading to the USA for a series of shows and they are intending to get back to Europe too so do yourselves a favour celtic-punk fans and get on board with The Rumjacks. It’s been one hell of a ride so far and there is no sign of it slowing down for a good while yet!

Read up on what we have had to say about The Rumjacks here. Our panel of pissheads experts even awarded them Best Celtic-Punk Album Of All Time here! Hunt them down at these- WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  YouTube  Soundcloud

SHIPPING UP TO LONDON! MICKEY RICKSHAW ON TOUR. 7th-9th JANUARY IN LONDON

Heading to these shores for the first time ever in January 2017. Ten days and counting! These awesome Boston celtic-punkers are coming to London, Kingston and Woking as part of their European tour.

We need your help in spreading the news of these gigs to anyone you know. Join the Events on Facebook and share and invite your mates. We know it’s hard trying to get people to watch relatively unknown bands but with your help lets make this tour a success for the Boston Bhoys!

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Well well well we all know that The Dropkick Murphys can’t go on for ever and with Boston’s place secured in celtic-punk folklore then who then will take on their mantle when they have retired to the great celtic-punk in the sky? Well I know a band that is more than capable and are ready and waiting in the wings to take over. That band are fellow Bostonians Mickey Rickshaw. A team of young fired up, blue collar, Irish Americans in touch with both their working class American lives and their roots back in the auld country. With Boston’s revered place in the history of punk, especially of the hardcore variety, and its massive, and vocal, Irish population its only natural that celtic-punk should have caught on so well among the Boston Irish community like nowhere else. Traditional celtic folk and punk rock aggression equals the 100% perfect sound for the Boston Irish and if the Murphys invented celtic-punk post Pogues then they have done their job well to hand the baton on to bands like Mickey Rickshaw that will take the sound on for the next generation.

With an Demo EP behind them from 2013, 16 Down and Back Again, it was their critically successful album, No Heaven For Heroes, from last year that saw Mickey Rickshaw’s name explode onto the celtic-punk scene with universal great reviews and plaudits heaped upon them from all corners of the globe. Reaching the top echelons of all the major celtic-punk Best Of lists, including #9 in the London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Of 2015 here.

So this brings onto that new album,  Behind The Eight Ball, again Mickey Rickshaw have hit the jackpot. Eleven tracks of blistering celtic-punk rock that I can’t honestly imagine anyone from yer finger in the ear folkie to yer crustie auld punk not loving the hell out of it. Whizzing past at you at just under half an hour it’s a frenetic sprint to the finish and bar a couple of moments is fast as hell celtic punk rock to be mentioned in the same breath as the Dropkick Murphys so good is this album. Celtic Folk Punk And More web site seem to have already crowned it album of the year here!

And so it is that Wild Atlantic lands across our desk. Indeed the Bhoys from Mickey Rickshaw will be crossing the said ‘wild’Atlantic’ very shortly and bringing their original and brand of celtic-punk to several cities across Europe during January 2016. With four songs, two taken from No Heaven for Heroes, one from Behind The Eight Ball and a new track all done in the stripped down acoustic style they shall be touring with it certainly loses none of its power by being acoustic and if anything proves the old adage right about you know a band is loud when they out punk an electric band with a banjo and a accordion! It’s available for free download at the link below but be warned. Once listened to you will not want to miss their gig/s I can guarantee it!!

MICKEY RICKSHAW TOUR 2017

rickshaw-stagsheadSaturday 7th January 2017 Opening night of the tour at The Stags Head, 55 Orsman Rd, Hoxton, London N1 5RA. Local bus routes include 149, 242, 243, 67. The pub borders Hoxton, Shoreditch, Dalston and Islington. 7-30pm start and admission is £5. Supports from Hastings folk-punkers MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS, local female fronted Anarcho’s REFUSE/ALL, that man again COMRADE X and GREENFORD BHOY- DJ  Venue here Facebook event here

lcp-kingstonSunday 8th January 2017 at The Cricketers, 20 Fairfield South, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2UL. An absolutely fantastic venue that is only ten minutes walk from the rail station and the music venue is upstairs. Support comes from MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS, post-punk band with a Celtic twist PHOENIX CHROI, a solo set from BRENDAN O’PREY from local celtic-punk legends The Lagan and GREENFORD BHOY- DJ. It’s a 7-30pm start and admission is just a paltry fiver. Venue here Facebook event here

lcp-wokingMonday 9th January 2016 at The Phoenix Cultural Centre, 27 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6JT. Just a very short walk from Woking bus and rail stations. Come and say goodbye to the Bhoys and send them on their way to Europe with a smile in their hearts and with raging hangover’s! No bar in the centre only tea and coffee. Only joking it’s BYOB. Yes that’s right it’s BRING YOUR OWN BOOZE… and on a school night too! Support from COMRADE X and one more to be confirmed as well as GREENFORD BHOY- DJ. Live music from 7-30 until 10-30pm and admission is £4. Venue here Facebook Event here

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS- ‘Seven Hearts One Soul’ (2016)

Imagine the foggy streets of long ago Dublin, crowded pubs ringing with laughter and singing, a time of sailing fishermen and people with stalwart beliefs. The past wrapped up in songs that make you want to dance and sing along till your throat demands another pint. This is what it’s like to listen to The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats!

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The O’Reillys and the Paddyhats played their debut gig at a wedding near Dortmund back in only June 2011 and since then have quickly shot to the top branches of the European celtic-punk tree. Germany has has always had a big love affair with Ireland. As a child it never ceased to amaze me that when i was over in the ‘auld country’ on my school holidays every other person seemed to be a German and their love of Ireland was clear. I remember well a conversation with some German tourist at a train station about The Wolfe Tones as a young teen while getting disapproving looks from my Grandad who though special branch were listening to every word anyone said! These Bhoys and Ghirl from the small town of Gevelsberg, just down the road from the city of Dortmund, are no different. Their love of Ireland is palpable and you can can feel it throughout this wonderful album that is sure to only improve their standing. The German celtic-punk scene is among the best in the world with bands such as Mr. Irish Bastard, Fiddler’s Green, The Porters, In Search of A Rose, The Ceili Family and the sadly deceased Auld Corn Brigade entertaining the world!

the oreillysThis is the bands follow up to their debut album Sound of Narrow Streets from September 2012 and they raised the funds for the release of Seven Hearts One Soul themselves and with the help of their loyal fans raised an incredible E8000 on crowdfunding to pay for its production in full. Recording the album in the famed Principal Studios home of legendary German punk band Die Toten Hosen just up the road from them the album is not simply your typical Irish folk punk record. All the elements are there sure and they straddle nicely the middle ground between scene giants The Murphys and the Mollys between the more folky and the more punky sides of celtic-punk but The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats have found their own niche within the scene and boy does it work well.

Seven Hearts One Soul begins with a short intro set aboard a sailing ship before ‘Black Sails’ bursts into your eardrums and we are off. Chugging guitar and great fiddle work with touches of country but firmly within the pirate tradition with a outstandingly catchy chorus. One of the things that the German celtic-punk bands don’t shy away from is Irish republicanism and I would even go so far as to say it’s one of the reasons why the Germans love us so much. ‘We All Know’ is not your standard rebel but the band give it plenty of oompf and its drives along at a great auld pace. Next is ‘Black and White’ and the banjo stands out here with a slightly slower song without losing any of the bands power. They return to pirate territory with ‘Chief of the Sea’ which starts slow before turning into a real thigh slapper. A solid backline accompanying the celtic instruments in this song about wanting rum!

The video is not the version from the album but if anything I much prefer it. Next up is the fantastic song ‘Barrels of Whiskey’ for which The Paddyhats put out a fecking brilliant video, below. Amazing fiddle here in this song, about illegally making whiskey, as throughout the album.

Follows is ‘Hey You’ and catchy as hell until the chorus kicks in and it manages to get a whole lot better and even has the tiniest bit of a ska beat chucked in there too. ‘Fair Old Lady’ is an ode to their home town of Gevelsberg and begins with acoustic guitar and has some great lyrics. ‘What I Am’ shows The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats in reflective mood with a slow ballad start that soon speeds up but could still be classed as a ballad. They have managed to record an album that captures their live sound well and if I ever get to see this band I expect to be on the receiving end of a sore throat screaming for an encore. ‘Hang By the Neck’ continues the catchyness of this album with more than a wee trace of country. The album ends with the only cover version here and ‘Black and Tans’ is a faithful version of the Dominic Behan penned Irish rebel song that is sure to get anyone’s blood pumping every time you hear it coming on!

“I was born on a Dublin street where the Royal drums do beat
And the loving English feet they tramped all over us,
And each and every night when me father’d come home tight
He’d invite the neighbors outside with this chorus

Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killashandra”

Tin whistle leads us into this song tells of the brutal paramilitary force the British government sent to Ireland in 1919 to smash resistance and the quell the rebellion that sought to end British rule and links that fight for freedom to others around the world. The nickname ‘Black and Tans’ came from the colours of their hastily put together uniform of mixed khaki of the British Army and rifle green from the Police. With the Irish leading the way and providing inspiration others took up the mantle and fought the British Empire across the world for their own independence. Due to their murderous activities and the atrocities they committed, feelings continue to run high and a ‘Black and Tan’ or just simply a ‘Tan’ remains a term of abuse and their very mention shows they are still despised by many in Ireland. It rocks out and has the best shouty chorus of any rebel song ever written.

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left to right: Fitzgerald O’Brien (Bass) ; Sean O’Reilly (Acoustic Guitar, Flutes, Lead Vocals) ; Emily O’Farrel (Fiddle) ; Dr. Bones (Drums) ; Ian Mac Fannigan (Backing Vocals, Washboard, Chain) ; Dwight O’Reilly (Banjo, Mandolin, Accordion, Backing Vocals) ; Ryan O Leary (Step Dancer) ; Connor O’Sullivan (Electric Guitar)

Released on the 9th of April earlier this year it has been slow in reaching us and then we were a bit late in getting this review done but it has been well worth the wait. Of the eleven songs all have been written by the band with the only exception that one excellently played cover. The CD comes with an excellent 16 page booklet with all song lyrics and any other information you could possibly need. The CD also comes in a special limited edition box-set with a whole host of goodies so check out the band web-site for that. Clocking in at 35 minutes the album is a quick and highly enjoyable blast that simply bursts with energy and atmosphere. Transporting you out of your living room and into the one place this kind of music was supposed to be heard. Yes, the pub! The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats play with an passion and pride in Irish music and culture that is a joy to behold. They take us on a journey (by sea of course!) full of tales of love and loss, of rebellion and comrades and friendship and, of course, drinking. The Paddyhats show what is possible in the celtic-punk scene. That it is still possible to come up with something fresh and unique and entertaining from beginning to end.

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ALBUM REVIEW: MICKEY RICKSHAW- ‘Behind The Eight Ball’ (2016)

BOSTON CELTIC-PUNK RULES OK!

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Well well well we all know that The Dropkick Murphys can’t go on for ever and with Boston’s place secured in celtic-punk folklore then who then will take on their mantle when they have retired to the great celtic-punk guest house in the sky? Well I know a band that is more than capable and are ready and waiting in the wings to take over. That band are fellow Bostonians Mickey Rickshaw. A team of young fired up, blue collar, Irish Americans in touch with both their working class American lives and their roots back in the auld country. With Boston’s revered place in the history of punk, especially of the hardcore variety, and its massive, and vocal, Irish population its only natural that celtic-punk should have caught on so well among the Boston Irish community like nowhere else. Traditional celtic folk and punk rock aggression equals the 100% perfect sound for the Boston Irish and if the Murphys invented celtic-punk post Pogues then they have done their job well to hand the baton on to bands like Mickey Rickshaw that will take the sound on for the next generation.

(follow the link to listen to their debut album and download as ‘Pay What You Want’)

With an Demo EP behind them from 2013, 16 Down and Back Again, it was their critically successful album, No Heaven For Heroes, from last year that saw Mickey Rickshaw’s name explode onto the celtic-punk scene with universal great reviews and plaudits heaped upon them from all corners of the globe. Reaching the top echelons of all the major celtic-punk Best Of lists, including #9 in the London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Of 2015 here.

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Behind The Eight Ball was released just the other week on October 13, 2016 and was recorded and mixed and all that other malarkey in their home state of Massachusetts. Now the first thing to say about Behind The Eight Ball is that it seems to be over in a flash. Whizzing past at you at just under half an hour it’s a frenetic sprint to the finish and bar a couple of moments is fast as hell celtic punk rock to be mentioned in the same breath as the Dropkick Murphys so good is this album. Celtic Folk Punk And More web site seem to have already crowned it album of the year here!

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Mickey Rickshaw left to right: Kyle Goyette- Mandolin * Jay Tea Marchant- Bass * Shane Welch- Whistle * Jake Sullivan- Fiddle * Mike Rivkees- Guitar/Vocals * Chris Campbell- Drums * Jimmy Donovan- Guitar * Tom Donnely- Guitar

The first song out of the bag is ‘Rats in Allston’ and is a ode to Allston a neighborhood in western Boston. To say the album starts with a bang would be to put it mildly with a multitude of instruments all bursting out the speakers at you. With shades of the Murphys and also The Rumjacks this is celtic-PUNK and not for the faint hearted.

“When the sun goes down on the west in a cold cold world that we’re lost in,
You’ll be sleeping in the gutter, face down with the rats in Allston”

Great lyrics and top vocals from singer Mike Rivkees and an absolutely superb production that manages to get all the folky instruments and all the punky instruments and manages to mix them up and yet get everything crystal clear even when they are all at it at the same time.

‘Robbed in Mariscal’ begins as a ska song before mutating into hardcore punk and then flamenco and then gypsy before ending with a flourish while all the time not straying too far from the celtic-punk Mickey Rickshaw blueprint. All the songs here are self penned except for two, the first of which is modern day Scottish rebel song ‘Destitution Road’. Written by the sadly missed Alistair Hulett of Australian celtic-punk legends Roaring Jack it’s a grand version that does the song and Alistair justice. You can check out the Roaring Jack version here. Comparing the two songs it’s pretty obvious that celtic-punk has evolved in the eighteen years since the song was written. Mickey Rickshaw steam through the song in just two and a half minutes barely pausing for breathe.

“The land was cleared and the deal was made
Now an English Lord in a tartan plaid
Struts and stares as the memories fade
Of the Gaels of Caledonia
And he hunts the deer in the lonely glen
That once was home to a thousand men
And the wind on the moor sings a sad refrain
For the Gaels of Caledonia”

The band must have some clever mates as one thing they are becoming famous for is their videos. All done with great lashings of humour and self depreciation and ‘Grey Water’ is no different. A cracking video that makes you want to be right there in the crowd spilling your drink and having someone spill their drink on you. A definite standout track so get listening.

‘Monday Warning’ is another sure fire hit and although I keep mentioning the Murphys the Bhoys have developed their own sound and even though they play tribute to the Murphys here they manage to do it without aping them. ‘Ivy’ is a fast punk number but with accordion blaring out as loud as the electric guitar. The quickest song on here is ’18 Minutes Down’ about the sinking of the Lusitania during the 1st World War and is ran through in just 1:52 minutes and again they punk it up and leave you breathless just listening to it. ‘Non-Profit Warfare’ slows it down just slightly and if anything is a great example of standard celtic-punk while ‘One Life’ ramps up the speed again and is another album highlight.

“Some fall too early, some fall too hard.
Some fall together, and some fall apart.
Some fall from the top, and some fall for heart.
Some have it unfair and fall from the start”

‘Albatross’ begins ala Dreadnoughts before slowly building into a hardcore finish that belies its short length! Behind The Eight Ball comes to an end with the second of the album’s cover versions with ‘The Gael’. Written by ex-Silly Wizard member and Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean, the original by Dougie can be viewed here. You may recognise this from the movie The Last Of The Mohicans and Mickey Rickshaw give it the celtic-punk treatment with pipes, crashing drums and thrashing guitars a simply brilliant way to end the album and the perfect reverential nod back to the past. 

LONG LIVE BOSTON CELTIC-PUNK!!!!

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(listen to Behind The Eight Ball for free on the Bandcamp player below)

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  • Mickey Rickshaw will be in London from 7-9th January and we are booking the dates as we type so keep in touch with all the details as they are released by joining the Facebook event here.

ALBUM REVIEW: SMZB- ‘The Chinese are Coming’ (2016)

The new album celebrating the twentieth anniversary of SMZB.

One of the scene’s best bands and the only celtic-punk band in China!

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yes.. look again!

Celtic-punk in 2016 is truly a global music genre. Gone are the days when it was the preserve of spotty second, third or fourth generation Irish kids and welcome now to the World Of Celtic-Punk! SMZB hail from Wuhan in mainland China and were one of the first original Chinese punk bands forming in 1996. The name SMZB means Sheng Ming Zhi Bing and in English is literally, ‘Bread of Life’. Unsurprisingly when you hear their music the Chinese authorities have never taken kindly to them and so three of their albums have been banned at home. Sometime around the mid-noughties they made the decision to move away from their original raw sound of early British punk, ska and ’80s hardcore and add bagpipes, flutes and fiddles to their sound. Sounding like a combination of The Pogues, the Murphy’s and Rancid they have deservedly become absolutely huge in their native country and their fame is growing outside China too. They have toured Europe a few times, including earlier this year though sadly never visiting these shores, as well as recording several acclaimed albums including a split with Norwegian celtic-punk legends Greenland Whalefishers.

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The Chinese Are Coming was released on Maybe Mars Records on September 30 this year and begins with the drone of bagpipes through the ‘Intro’ with pounding drums joining in and soon enough the album explodes in your earholes with some quality celtic-punk. SMZB may have been the first and still are arguably the best Chinese punk band but the video to the album’s real opener ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Rebel’ shows they are not alone and features several other local punk bands and is a tribute to Lei Jun China’s first skinhead and Beijing’s punk godfather, who passed away a year previous to this video being premiered this year on the 6th of May.

Reading through the lyrics and knowing the conditions they live in you can only marvel at how brave the band are for singing what they do. It certainly shows up some of the ‘revolutionary’ bands in the west who seem more concerned with getting on the bill at Rebellion festival and getting a huge payday.

“You cannot change anyone in the world,
The only one you can change is yourself.
When you find out the truth and their lies,
That’s when you should do something”

The band to be referenced most here is of course The Dropkick Murphys and SMZB have nailed their sound perfectly. It is all bagpipes and catchy as hell punk rock. Up next is ‘The Chinese Are Coming’ which was the first single off the album and begins with a Ramones-ish

“Hey, Ho! Where shall we go?”

and while on the accompanying video the lyrics are sung in English on the album its in their native language but the words show SMZB’s great sense of humour as well as adding in a great bit of Irish folk thanks to some expert tin whistle playing.

‘Born In The PRC’ is not a celtic-punk version of The Bosses song but an angry and vitriolic response to the nationalism of their government and what punk means to those who face real oppression on a daily basis not like the pampered students here in the west whose oppression is only inside their own imaginations.

“I was born in the P.R.C., it’s such a tragedy,
It’s a so-called nation, but really a fake nation.
I don’t want to living here, I don’t have any choice,
There’s only one party here, I want to be their enemy.
I was born in the P.R.C., the nation with autocracy,
Punx Rebellion of China, is what it means to me.
I was born in the P.R.C., in 2 years I’ll be 40,
Still can’t live freely, that’s why I’m still on stage”

SMZB keep up the pace with ‘Road To Petition’ which brings in the banjo to great effect while ‘Generation’ has a much more traditional folky feel to it showing that the lads can turn it up and down when required. The next song is ‘Flower Of The Socialism’ and is fast heads down, balls out, two fingers to the world, punk rock which slows down only briefly for a few seconds of tin whistle while band founder Wu Wei spits out the words that obviously come straight from his heart.

“You have to try to play your role well, or choose to be a bastard.
You have to try to forget your dream, and then into the arm of reality.
You can’t to extricate yourself from here, you are the one of scars.
Socialism already in bloomed here, you have also sprouted in this land”

smzb-logo-2The next couple of songs, ‘Sunny Speculation’ and ‘One Night In Prison’ are sung in their native language again. Fast tuneful Murphyesque punk is the order of the day. They may have started as a straight up punk band but its thanks to the fantastic abilities of Tang on bagpipes and tin whistle and Tu Dou on banjo that that transition has been so successful. ‘Welcome To China’ sees a return to English in a song that bites back against tourism and the attitude of tourists when they visit China. Now if you have heard ‘White Noise’ on the Stiff Little Fingers album Inflammable Material then you will get what the breakneck ‘The Chinese Are Coming Again’ is about. If you haven’t heard it then give it a quick blast here. Its fair to say their still enormous mistrust of Chinese immigrants and here SMZB expose the bigots that would treat people as a mass rather than individuals. ‘Colonial Trip’ features a guest female vocalist and is reminescent of The Dubliners/Pogues until an electric guitar bursts in and we are brought up to the present day. A great song that nicely straddles both the past and present and even ends with some trumpet playing thrown in to the mix. ‘Tattoo The Earth’ again is more Poguesy while ‘Redemption Song’ takes Bob Marley’s original song and turns it into a celtic-punk classic with the pipes playing loud and proud. The Chinese Are Coming comes to an end with the absolutely stunning ‘Song Of The Seagull’. The longest track on the album, at well over seven minutes, its a tribute to Lin Zhao. A Chinese student from Peking University who was jailed in 1960 for pro-democracy activities. The song is based on a poem she wrote in prison where, forbidden to use pens, she composed countless articles and poems using a hairpin dipped in her own blood. In 1968 she was executed and in 1981 Lin was officially exonerated though the Chinese government still to this day are reluctant to allow any mention of her or her writings. Find out more about the tragic life of Lin Zhao here.

Beginning with just piano, acoustic guitar and the beautiful voice of their guest vocalist (sorry but I couldn’t find her name anywhere) before the full band kicks in with their tribute and some angry celtic-punk rock brings the curtain down on the song and the album. I simply cannot imagine a better way to end this album. A song dripping with emotion and meaning and that symbolises everything that SMZB stand for.

smzb-band-2

Fifteen tracks and over fifty minutes to boot that gives you more than enough for your money and if there is ever a band in the celtic-punk scene that demands your support than it is SMZB. Being the only celtic-punk band in your state or city can be a lonely experience but SMZB have become an icon of Chinese music that deserve to be heard far beyond their own country. What they have to say is important and we can be grateful that they have chosen to wrap it some of the best celtic-punk music you will hear.

(listen to The Chinese Are Coming for free by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below before splashing out your $10 on buying it and supporting this awesome band!)

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(full concert of SMZB from their 15th Anniversary show back in 2011)

EP REVIEW: SLAINE- ‘Slaine Is Dead’ (2016)

Irish-American hip-hop artist, lyricist, famous actor, gambler, Bostonian and professional asshole!

slaine-is-dead

Life is hard for some. That much is clear. The story of Irish-America is one of success and how after years of toil and racism and bigotry against them the Irish finally lifted them selves from the ghetto’s and universal success became the order of the day. Well there are two Irish-America’s and Slaine’s, real name George Carroll, is definitly the most interesting. After all it is working class Irish-American life that Hollywood likes to make TV and movies about.

slaineSlaine’s life reads like a novel. Born in Dorchester, home of several past and present members of The Dropkick Murphys and a large Irish community, Slaine got into hip-hop at a early age

“I started writing rhymes when I was nine years old, I use to record on my boom box with a pair of headphones plugged into the microphone jack. I felt they were just words on a page because I didn’t have an outlet to perform them”

and recognising the path to stardom lay in a move to New York he later packed his bags and moved to New York City and enrolled in school. After only seven months, an unfortunate altercation between Slaine and a school employee resulted in his expulsion. He didn’t let this set him back and he remained determined and focused. Surviving on the hard lonely streets of New York City by doing anything he could lay his hand to and eventually it paid dividend and he was introduced to Danny Boy O’Connor of House of Pain. This led to him being signed to a production deal with DJ Lethal of House of Pain which led to the release of ‘The White Man is the Devil’ (‘white man’ being a reference to cocaine, not a declaration of self hate) and touring world-wide. In a very short time he had gone from living in absolute poverty with a drug habit to traveling the globe and working with hip-hop icons such as House of Pain, Cypress Hill and a whole host of others. He became part of the mostly Irish-American hip-hop collective La Coka Nostra alongside Ill Bill and all three members of House of Pain – Everlast, DJ Lethal and Danny Boy. La Coka Nostra’s debut album, A Brand You Can Trust went straight in at #84 in the American Top 200 showing that the group’s brand of blue collar hip-hop was exactly what fans were waiting for. Slaine’s name continued to grow far past his hometown of Boston due to the exposure he was receiving but as his music career grew, so did his personal battle with drugs. Overdoses, hospital visits and a spiral of drugs and violence, continued until he finally checked himself into rehab.

“Everybody had a story to tell. That was where the idea and the hunger for ‘The White Man is the Devil’ was born”

On conquering his addiction, fellow Bostonian Ben Affleck presented Slaine with the chance of a lifetime to make his acting debut playing Bubba Rogowski in the gritty portrayal of Boston-Irish life in Gone Baby Gone. Both a critical and financial success this led to Slaine going on to star in, among others, The Town, The Crack Down and Bad Blood alongside such famed actors as  Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini. While scaling the heights in the acting world he returned again and again to his hip-hop roots releasing several album’s of hard hitting lyrical content and vicious delivery. His last official release was The King Of Everything Else album back in 2014 so we have have awaiting his return with baited breathe.
slaine-king

The EP kicks off with ‘Slaine Is Dead (Intro)’ which is in fact part of the beautiful ‘The Ballad Of Mairead Farrell’ which tells of an IRA volunteer gunned down on active service in Gibralter in 1988. One of the saddest of all rebel songs and nails Slaine’s colours to the mast from the first few seconds. I first heard this song as played by Irish-American band Seanchai and The Unity Squad and you can find their great version here . Slaine Is Dead really starts with the title song next and Slaine’s lyrics come busting straight out of his heart into the speakers at you.

“So many dark days they have ruptured my patience
I’d like to part ways but I’m stuck in the matrix
See I’ve been out of luck, so corrupted and faithless
And now without a buck I’m like fuck it I hate this
So many close calls, all these brushes with greatness
But not enough to power my spaceship
Not enough to persuade the gods right and face where they sit
As they parade the dogs of war off fake cliff
And that’s how It felt from grace, through the winds of sin
I had to go and find my wings again
While the angel of death goes and sings the hymn
As he strangle my breath, tore me limb from limb
Well you let your soul slip to the other side
Will the caterpillar turn into the butterfly?
I can see the pain falling from my mothers eyes
But I keep on falling for these fucking lies
So my mind holding on to the liquor and coke
In my fire room it’s out but there’s a flicker of hope
In these institution walls where they kickin’ the dope
I’m reminded of the power of that shit that I wrote
I walk with the devil, talking to God
Murder stories in this purgatory, coughing up blood
But I will not break, I will not fall
This is just another rhyme that I wrote on my wall

It’s been so long, you see my face
While I come back to plead my case
When I’m gone and time comes to make a leap of faith
There’s no way to keep the secret safe
That Slaine is dead”

In a career where Slaine has achieved heights that others can only dream of his music career has been mostly based on confronting both his demons and his failures. The EP sleeve features the dates 1977-2014. That is the year he was born and the year Slaine finally threw the monkey of addiction off his back and went sober. After years of dependency he was free and music and acting became his way of ensuring he was never going to return to those days. That Slaine is dead.

His life as an addict is depicted further on ‘Nobody Prays For Me’ which features Demrick and this lyrical masterpiece continues. The dictionary definition of an ‘seanchaí’ is of a storyteller

“…were servants to the chiefs of the tribe and kept track of important information for their clan. They were very well respected and they made use of a range of storytelling conventions, styles of speech and gestures that were peculiar to the Irish folk tradition and characterized them as practitioners of their art”

and Slaine is certainly a modern age equivalent of that ancient art. In the first single from the EP ‘Pusher’ Slaine takes us into the dark and dangerous world of the drug dealer. These weren’t the times that he is proud of but he’s presenting them here as a warning to others not to follow the path he trod.

‘Just The Way You Are’ features guest vocals from fellow Mass. rapper Termanology and chronicles both his battles with addiction and the effect it had upon his family and friends. ‘Knocked Down’ features Rite Hook guesting. Rite Hook is a lost son of Massachusetts himself. Years of hard living defined his early career and in 2012, he overdosed and died. His heart stopped completely, and paramedics had to revive him. A survivor in the truest sense of the word he returned to music and like Slaine it came with a newfound focus. On ‘Legendary’ (featuring Ill Bill, Vinnie Paz and Jared Evan) we can begin to see the light, for want of a better word. He’s been to rock bottom and is starting to fight back. His drive to become ‘Legendary’ has been finally achieved so we can witness his salvation on the final track ‘Coming Home’.

slaine-is-dead3

Slaine’s music is hard, dark and aggressive. It always has been. Irish-American life is not always ‘Shamrocks And Shenanigans’. Sometimes its hard. We Irish come from a complicated race and it’s always been true that our worse enemy is within ourselves. Our struggles with alcoholism and drugs are well documented and often are hidden behind closed doors and though the working class life that Slaine and others come from may not be one you are familiar with but it exists. Slaine has fought hard but has never walked away from his roots. He deserves his salvation.

“I love making music that means something to me, I am grateful for all the experiences that I have had- good and bad. I am lucky to be alive, but my past also made me who I am today”

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SINGLE REVIEW: THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY- ‘Foreign Soil’ (2106)

The new release from The Ramshackle Army proves again the high quality of Aussie celtic-punk. Influenced by the punk they grew up with, the Celtic traditions of their families history and the colonial heritage of Australia the band come up trumps again.

ramshackle

With The Rumjacks just landing back home in Australia after a God alone knows how many months European tour which saw them ship up in London twice and The Go-Set set to follow them into town a week today Australian celtic-punk is spreading across the globe like cane-toads (remember The Simpsons versus Australia?). Anyhow last Wednesday saw the first new release from The Ramshackle Army since their early 2014 album Letters From The Road Less Travelled hit the shops to great applause and its another belter.

ramshackle3

The Ramshackle Army began plying their trade in the pubs and bars of their home town Melbourne before making the leap to a wider Australian punk and celtic-punk audience and then they were handpicked by The Dropkick Murphys themselves to support them on their 2011 Australian tour. After this the Murphys asked the Army to join them for their 2012 St Patricks Tour of the USA. So in March they embarked on their first tour of the US playing a handful of warm up shows with some of the best American celtic-punk bands going before joining the Murphys for a run of shows which ended with the massive 6,000 Tsongas Arena on St Patrick’s Day. Their adventures in America ended with the Ramshackle Army headlining the Guinness stage at the Shamrock Fest in Washington before 15,000 eager celtic-punk fans.

ramshackle2In 2014 the band joined the prestigious independent record company East Grand and released Life Lessons And Drunken Sessions following it up with their first full length release Letters From The Road Less Travelled. In 2015 and with the band on the verge of world domination they were hampered by line up changes but ended the year in the USA again in September and October of 2015, playing California’s Get Shamrocked festival and going on to join scene legends The Tossers for their Halfway To St Patricks Day tour. This year has seen them playing across Australia and seen their welcome return to the studio with the new EP Whitewashed Grave set for release later in the year.

ramshackle-1As with all their previous recordings Foreign Soil is heavily influenced by the story-telling style in the old folk tradition but comes wrapped up with a boatload of high energy punk rock that does the sometimes impossible act of transferring the live energy of an Ramshackle Army live gig onto disc. So after just six years and countless shows across two continents The Ramshackle Army are back and for just a lousy American dollar (that’s only about 75p or 89c!) you can own their new single and give the bhoys and ghirl a hand up in taking over the world!

In search of solace land of hopes and dreams was sought.
In waters treacherous and in storms that we were caught,
A 9 to 5 with pride and life for sons and daughters.Though through tales of hope and what awaits on foreign shore,
No those broken dreams can’t mend when greeted by closed doors.Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, When will you heed my plea.
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, Will someone rescue me
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, I’ll never ask for more than peace on foreign shore.

Imprisoned by our plight and desperate acts faith,
They enter battles in our name and battle cry our pain,
Just keep me sane and welcome my escape.

Though through tales of hope and what awaits on foreign shore,
No those broken dreams can’t mend when greeted by closed doors.

Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh

Though through tales of hope and what awaits on foreign shore,
No those broken dreams can’t mend when greeted by closed doors.

Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, When will you heed my plea.
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, Will someone rescue me
Whoah oh oh whoah oh oh, I’ll never ask for more than peace on foreign shore.

When will you heed my plea
Will someone rescue me
I’ll never ask for more than peace on foreign…

Buy The Single

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go-set

If you fancy a spot of live Australian celtic-punk then you are in luck! Fellow Melbourne celtic-punkers The Go-Set sail into London town a week today Friday 30th September at The Veg Bar in South London. Playing alongside London Irish favourites The Lagan and Hastings folk-punkers Matilda’s Scoundrels, fresh from supporting The Levellers last week. Kicking off the night is internet sensation (look up ‘I’ll Dance On Your Grave Mrs. Thatcher’) John McCullagh who may, or may not, be joined on the night by some extra special guests from South London’s favourite band Alabama 3. It’s an expensive business touring from Oz so tickets are £8 and available from WeGotTickets. You can keep up with the gig at the Facebook event here. The rest of the tour takes in Brighton 29th September, Derby 1st October and Leicester 2nd. Details from their Facebook page here.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE DUBLINERS- ‘A Best Of The Dubliners’

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The Dubliners are without doubt the best known band in the Celtic music world. Formed in 1962 their first hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ launched them into international stardom. Non stop touring and a stint with The Pogues ensured that the popularity of their music never ebbed. Without them it is highly debatable whether or not celtic-punk would have ever come about as Shane McGowan himself has said.  The Dubliners- The first and original celtic-punk band.

dubs

The Dubliners, now one of the most legendary bands in the world, started off in O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin in 1962 under the name of The Ronnie Drew Folk Group. Then they were four, Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Luke Kelly (vocals and 5-string banjo), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon and vocals) and Ciaran Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica). In 1963, they played a gig in Edinburgh where they met the head of Transatlantic Records, Nathan Joseph, for whom they started recording. In 1964, Luke Kelly left, and Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar and vocals) were added. When Luke Kelly returned and Bobby Lynch left in 1965, we have what is considered as the original Dubliners, five individualists, five men whose talents were mixed together in a superb blend and just wanted to play and have a good craic. If they only knew what was awaiting them!

In 1967 their major breakthrough came as a result of a coincidence. Their song, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ which was recorded in one take, was snapped up by a pirate radio station which started playing it along with the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix. Suddenly, The Dubliners were a major band, playing all over the world, getting into the charts, and receiving gold discs. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who as Colin Irwin in the reissue of Live at the Albert Hall says

“looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height”

The seventies started like the sixties ended – wilder touring, drinking and playing. They started doing regular tours, and they were still recording, of course. Then, in 1974, Ciaran Bourke collapsed on stage with a brain hemorrhage, which eventually led to his death. He first, though, recovered remarkably and was back on stage with The Dubliners, but collapsed again. At the same time, Ronnie decided to take a break, and Jim McCann took his and Ciaran’s place in the group.

dubliners

In 1979, Ronnie decided to make a comeback as a member of the group, although he probably never really left it. In the five years, he had recorded two solo albums, and The Dubliners three albums. With Ronnie returning, Jim left, and The Dubs were almost back where they started. Then Luke Kelly became ill, he collapsed on stage with a brain tumor, for which he received surgery several times. He too, made remarkable recoveries, and went on touring with the Dubliners, at the same time continuing his wild and unhealthy lifestyle. Sean Cannon, a long time friend, stepped in for Luke, when he couldn’t be on stage. Sean’s appearance wasn’t that well received by the audiences at the beginning, but he has later turned out to be an important addition to The Dubliners, and their repertoire. In 1984, Luke Kelly died, but The Dubliners, now with Sean Cannon as a member, decided to keep on.

1987 turned out to be one of the best – and busiest – years for the Dubliners. Their long time friend, and guest musician, Eamonn Campbell, brought the group together with the Pogues on the hit single ‘The Irish Rover’. This single took the Dubliners back to the charts, and also gave them a completely new audience; people who weren’t even born when The Dubliners started off. And with Dublin celebrating its millennium in 1988, The Dubliners also received more attention than for years. Eamonn Campbell joined them on regular basis, a move that has turned out to be one of the most important in their history. In 1988 Ciaran Bourke died, after years of pain and difficulties. He always was, and still is very much remembered by The Dubliners, just like Luke Kelly is.

The eighties finished off with rumours that The Dubliners were to retire, probably something that’s always been following the group. However, they didn’t, and celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1992, with a double CD and extensive tour. The nineties brought a tour video from the German tour 1995, and the “shock” news that Ronnie Drew was leaving. He left in December 1995, after releasing a superb album, Dirty Rotten Shame a few months earlier.

dubliners2Now, even the most optimistic Dubliners fans thought it was the end, but the lads decided to convince Paddy Reilly to join them, and they continued their busy touring and recording schedule. This move has also turned out to be excellent. Paddy, not very well known in Europe, had never been touring there, so he too enjoyed the experience, as well as being part of a band. He still, though, does tours in the USA in the winter and summer months. In 2002, they temporarily reunited with Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann, for their 40th anniversary tour but sadly after the tour, Jim McCann was diagnosed with throat cancer and, though he fully recovered, his voice was severely damaged, and has not been able to peform since his illness. Despite this, he regularly acts as MC at folk gigs, notably at The Dubliners reunion shows, and at the 2006 ‘Legends of Irish Folk’ shows (where he also played guitar in the finale).

Leader and legend Ronnie Drew passed away in 2008 meaning the end of the original Dubliners. Before he passed though he recorded with The Dropkick Murphys in a memorable version of ‘Flannigan’s Ball’ therefore passing on the baton to the only group comparable to them in what they mean to the Irish diaspora.

It was The Dubliners (and The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem who will be next in our series) pioneered the way for untold number of bands from Ireland and for Celtic music, like the Chieftains, the Pogues, U2, the Fureys and so on. The artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols is endless. They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never otherwise have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the music, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and their characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again. The Dubliners brought Ireland to the world in a way that emigration hadn’t, they have brought the world to Ireland, and they have brought people all over the world closer together. When it ended, the world was never going to be the same again.

The Dubliners 1962-2012
Over the 50 years there were 12 people in The Dubliners.  Ronnie Drew (’62-2008), Luke Kelly (’62-84) , Barney McKenna (’62-2012), Ciaran Bourke (’62-74), John Sheahan (’64-2012), Bobby Lynch (’62-65), Jim McCann (’74-79), Sean Cannon (’82-2012), Eamonn Campbell (’88-2012), Paddy Reilly (’96-2005), Patsy Watchorn (2005-12) and Gerry O’Connor (2012).

The surviving members of the group – Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and Gerry O’Connor, except John Sheahan, are still touring in 2014 under the name The Dublin Legends.

The Dublin Legends 2012-

After the departure of John Sheahan and the official retirement of the name The Dubliners in late 2012, the remaining members of the group – Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and guest musician Gerry O’Connor – formed a folk band called The Dublin Legends to keep The Dubliners’ legacy alive. The band released their first live album entitled An Evening With The Dublin Legends: Live In Vienna in January 2014. They continue to perform extensively and you can find their web site here.

Tracklist:

1. The Wild Rover (2:50)
2. Medley: Doherty’s Reel / Down The Broom / The Honeymoon Reel (3:36)
3. The Holy Ground (2:26)
4. A Parcel Of Rogues (4:21)
5. God Save Ireland (1:57)
6. A Nation Once Again (1:31)
7. Spancil Hill (4:03)
8. Molly McGuires (2:01)
9. The Old Triangle (2:55)
10. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (6:16)
11. Johnston’s Motorcar (1:50)
12. Seven Drunken Nights (3:23)
13. Black Velvet Band (3:18)
14. Free The People (3:08)
15. Van Diemen’s Land (2:15)
16. Dirty Old Town (2:59)
17. Medley: The Maid Behind The Bar / Toss The Feathers (2:18)
18. Lord Of The Dance (2:27)
19. All For Me Grog (2:24)
20. Whiskey In The Jar (2:47)

(listen to the album below and follow the instructions to download for free)

The Dubliners On The Internet

OfficialDublinersSite  TheDubliners  It’sTheDubliners

“They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who were converted to their charm. That isn’t only because of the music, the instrumentals or the stories, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style, the drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards (I even tried to copy them in the 70’s), their extensive touring, their charisma and the enigmatic characters. It was a blend the world will never see again.  It was an entire package that invented the word unique. How do you top that?Every artist in the world is trying to achieve success by getting their ‘sound’ and being unique.  The Dubliners did it”  –Robert Tallent

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 and hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)  here

EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here

EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)  here

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)  here

GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)  here

EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ (1972)  here

THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY

BY PÁDRAIC GRANT

Shane MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

The Pogues Continuity Splash

The Pogues (formerly Pogue Mahone, Irish Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse’) were formed in 1982 by a group of London Irish musicians eager to drag Irish folk into a musical world that had been changed and redefined by the advent of punk. This mission was to be marked by success and failure, but by 1996 when they officially disbanded, they had permanently left their mark on both folk and mainstream music.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the band through those years was the extensive influence literature had on their lyrics. Rather than simply drawing on certain works for inspiration, almost every lyric in the Pogues extensive repertoire can be traced to a certain area of the written word.

Shane

Leading this literary charge was main songwriter and ideologue Shane MacGowan, who’d come through punk emboldened by its ideals, but distraught by its mainstream assimilation. The catalogue of songs penned by MacGowan regularly evokes previous writers and styles, often twisted and placed in new frameworks. Indeed, most of his lyrics are as intellectually stimulating when read as poems and stories as when performed as full songs.

From the moment he began penning songs, MacGowan was artistically indebted to his Irish homeland, a fact reflected in both music and lyrics. Literary touchstones spanned the Irish spectrum—Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, and James Stephens were drawn from and their influence incorporated into his burgeoning songbook. While the idea of the songwriter-as-poet is often evoked in a clichéd (even insulting) manner to give certain artists ‘credibility’, MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

As the band gained further success and the other members began to substantially contribute to the lyrics, concerted attempts were made to avoid stagnancy. Eventually, the collective focus fundamentally changed in ways that would have massive effects on the group. Extraneous reference points began to dominate, with the music switching to a menagerie of world music styles, and the lyrics drawing from non-Irish, less literary sources. This fragmentation would afterwards be cited by MacGowan as one of the biggest reasons for his estrangement from the other members of the band.

TRADITION REANIMATED

Going back to the band’s formative years, an important reason for the band’s very existence was a fervent desire to reiterate the aspects of Irish folk music that ran contrary to the sophisticate persona espoused by the dominant elements of ‘80s music. From the stale by-products of 70’s AOR who had somehow got through the post-punk safety net (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel) to the New Romantics with their synthetic music and lifestyle, the Pogues sought to challenge the status quo by injecting a sense of danger into Irish folk, thereby returning Irish folk to the mainstream. This was to be achieved through a heady mix of punk and folk, filtered through a coarse, unrefined aesthetic. And with virtually no electric instruments (Cait O’Riordan’s bass guitar was a notable exception) and a minimalist bass/snare drum kit, the contrast with mainstream instrumentation was glaring.

Despite this, perhaps the freshest aspect of the re-named Pogues was the literary quality of their original songs. Amongst volatile renditions of traditional standards nestled originals composed in the same style, infused with a punk-derived radicalism that brought the band beyond mere rehashed folk. The London-Irish composition of the group meant that its Irish influences were viewed through the lens of cosmopolitan London, and the city would go on to be the focus of numerous songs by the band.

Red Roses For Me

Gaining a reputation through relentless touring, they signed to the independent Stiff Records in 1984. The first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, was released in October of that year, and was an underground success despite its poor mainstream showing. Critical attention focused on the burgeoning lyrical talents of Shane MacGowan as much as on the music. Taking its title from a late-era Sean O’Casey play, the album offered a demonstration of MacGowan’s continuity with Irish writers past. The Irish identification was even carried onto the album art: A portrait of the band members seated around a painting of John F. Kennedy, a symbol of solidarity with the Irish diaspora across the world.

O’CASEY AND SOCIALISM

Aside from bestowing the album with a name, O’Casey was influential stylistically. The lyrics on ‘Red Roses for Me’ focused on the lives of the 1980s working class in the same way O’Casey portrayed the proletariat of the early 1900’s. A lifelong communist and Republican dissident, his portrayals were combined with his socialist beliefs to demonstrate the inherently political nature of working class life. Similarly, the debut Pogues LP illustrates the impact of wider political processes on mundane reality.

Sean O'Casey

Sean O’Casey

While avoiding overt left-wing sloganeering, the anti-authoritarian approach evident in certain tracks was intensified by the experience of Thatcherite Britain, where harsh monetarism had led to the working class feeling persecuted by the ruling Conservative Party. This sense of injustice was given credence by the Miner’s Strike occurring the same year the album was released, an event that embodied opposition to the implementation of profit-driven neo-liberalism. Under such circumstances, the sense of anger present in ‘Red Roses for Me’ is easily read as a reflection of the labour class’s embittered undercurrent, manifesting itself in several songs on the album.

The opening song, ‘Transmetropolitan’, is a conspicuous example of this attitude. Both tribute to and attack on the city of London, the composition is a contradiction. The music is frenetically gleeful, while the lyrics veer from a celebration of London life to a bitter attack on the pillars of the British establishment:

There’s leechers up in Whitehall
And queers in the GLC
And when we’ve done those bastards in
We’ll storm the BBC.

Whitehall (the home of the British government, the GLC (Greater London Council), and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) represented the stale powers-that-be, a focus for bitter resentment. That the enemy was the suitably vague “establishment” was a by-product of the band’s punk roots, a recurring and pervasive influence that sat comfortably alongside the anti-authority stance of the writers inspiring the group.

BEHAN AND BLACK COMEDY

Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Despite the O’Casey reference in the title and the similarities shared in the portrayal of working class existence, it is clear that Brendan Behan is the dominant influence on ‘Red Roses for Me’. ‘The Auld Triangle’, an Irish standard adapted from the introduction to the Behan play ‘The Quare Fellow’, is the third track on the album and a marked contrast to the rest of what is an ultimately raucous record.  It’s stark, skeletal, and relies primarily on MacGowan’s vocals. The mood is despondent and the lyrics wistful, but lightened by occasionally humourous lines (a literary technique MacGowan adopted in his own writing, which often includes comedic moments in the midst of squalor). This aspect of his songcraft would later be explored and refined on ‘Rum, Sodomy & the Lash’.

‘The Boys from the County Hell’ is the most precise example of punk’s influence on the album. Upping the ante on ‘Transmetropolitan’, it’s a vicious exploration of the alcohol-fuelled violence of the urban London lifestyle (the city termed ‘County Hell’ in a translation bearing the mark of Irish geographical terminology), and a further fleshing out of MacGowan’s songwriting, recalling the unflinching portrayal of violence in Irish tradition. Coming from that lineage, it contains one of his most blackly humourous couplets:

My daddy was a Blueshirt and my mother a madam.
My brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam.

‘Streams of Whiskey’ carries the Behan obsession to new heights, encapsulating MacGowan’s adoration of the man in one song. The lyrics depict a conversation held with Behan in a dream. When asked about his views on the “crux of life’s philosophies”, he answers: “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”. This ‘philosophy’ manages to make alcoholism sound almost idealistic—after all, it concerns a person who once quipped

“I’m a drinker with a writing problem”

Flann O'Brien

Flann O’Brien

‘Streams of Whiskey’ is also a buried reference to Flann O’Brien—a pseudonym for Brian O’Nolan, who MacGowan cited as one of his favourite authors in ‘A Drink with Shane MacGowan’.  O’Brien’s ‘The Poor Mouth’ (originally published in Gaelic as ‘An Beal Bocht’) includes a story regarding a mountain with two streams of whiskey flowing at its summit. A brilliant satire of Ireland’s victim mentality, the novel is built on, as with most of O’Brien’s works, an absurdly funny plot and writing style that Shane MacGowan emulated throughout his time in the Pogues.

NEW STRUCTURES

‘Red Roses for Me’ may have received praise for its literate lyrics, but the following year’s ‘Rum, Sodomy And the Lash’ was the moment where the Pogues songcraft truly blossomed. From post-modern character realignment to minutely-detailed narratives, the many facets of Irish literature are explored and amalgamated into a work that reads like an overview of the canon.

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

As the opening track for the album, ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ is a significant song in more than one respect. Not only does it demonstrate the cleaner production and more thought-out arrangements of the record as a whole, but most importantly the progression of MacGowan’s songwriting. As a character, Cúchulainn (a legendary Celtic warrior and son of the god Lugh) was a towering figure in Irish storytelling, regularly recurring in stories up to and including the Celtic Revival of the late 19th century. While The Pogues stick to this tradition, the song that bears his name is a sober modernisation of the monolith; a demonstration of the continuity held with preceding Irish literature, but a strong statement of realist rather than mythic characterisation.

This approach to the protagonist is similar to the proto-postmodernism of Flann O’Brien in novels such as ‘The Third Policeman’ and ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’, which dragged characters such as the mythic Fionn MacCumhaill into a contemporary setting. Thus ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ styles the character not as a demi-god, but in the flawed guise of the socialist IRA leader Frank Ryan. Appearing alongside the singers John McCormack and Richard Tauber, Cuchulainn is an unacknowledged hero, a participant on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War (as was Frank Ryan in reality.) Cuchulainn’s illustrious status in Celtic folklore is contrasted with the more human heroism of the unacknowledged Ryan, an anti-fascist who later faced the ignominy of death in a Nazi submarine. “You decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids” and “We’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks” serve as MacGowan’s tribute to a man whose heroism was to stand against the fascist tide in an Irish nation still in thrall to the Catholic Church.

That this depiction is in complete contrast to the Cúchulainn of William Butler Yeats may not be coincidental. MacGowan’s opinion of Yeats is derisory at best: “[Yeats wrote] a few classics…but there’s a mammoth amount of work…there’s like books and books and books of his stuff, and there’s about three or four good poems.” (A Drink with Shane MacGowan) The negative sentiments might also be inspired by Yeats’s championing of aristocratic ideas and (later retracted, as the Second World War approached) support for Irish and European fascism, something that was later also criticised by George Orwell.

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

Eerily slow-burning after the preceding frenzy, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is a torrid narrative recounting the struggles of a male prostitute in seedy London. MacGowan’s evolution as a lyricist may have been obvious on ‘The Sickbed of Cúchulainn’, but only a truly adept wordsmith could forge the themes of drugs, prostitution, and police brutality into such an easily engrossing story. Accompanied by almost hypnotic musical repetitions, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is replete with characteristic attention to detail:

One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag.

In later years, this song would be offered as ‘evidence’ that MacGowan had worked as a hustler. Although it may be a common assumption that realist first person narratives must be based on something experienced by the author, in MacGowan’s case the supposition could have been caused by the debt his style owed to writers like Frank O’Connor. A short story author of great magnitude, O’Connor wrote essentially autobiographical stories in the guise of characters like Larry Delaney, recounting childhood events rich in detail and evocative of the conservative Ireland of the early 20th century.

Frank O'Connor

Frank O’Connor

MacGowan similarly recounted stories heavy on minutia, but as far removed from bucolic rural Ireland as could be possible. When people read the lyrics of songs like “The Old Main Drag”, the easy interpretation was that due to the attention to detail inherited from writers like O’Connor, MacGowan was channelling his real life experiences through the characters in his writing. As with many issues surrounding the Pogues, though, there is no firm answer regarding the truth of these rumours. The sheer number of contradictions is similar to the fog around MacGowan’s eventual dismissal by the group.

BUILDING AN IDENTITY

Another highlight from the album is the quixotic ballad ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, one of the more sentimental songs performed by the band. However, like everything MacGowan wrote in this period, it is laced with the typical dark elements that prevent it from becoming merely saccharine. Therefore, while the song laments the “streams, the rolling hills, where his brown eyes were waiting” or “The birds whistling in the trees / Where the wind was gently laughing”, the protagonist is also “drunk to hell”, the setting filled with men who “prayed, cursed, and bled some more”.

In this moment, Shane MacGowan established an identity—one adapted from past writers (the contrast between sweet sentimentality and darker elements, humour intercepting both, a hallmark of Irish writing from Behan to Beckett), but an identity nonetheless. This proved a blessing and a curse, for while the positive comparisons were no doubt welcome, others were beginning to wonder if the Pogues, and Shane MacGowan in particular, had inherited the predisposition for alcohol held by the writers they admired. Press attention would lead to the stereotyping of the band as alcoholic Irishmen (particularly in an infamous Sounds’ article written around the release of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ as a single), a perception made even more believable by other songs, including ‘Sally MacLennane’.  Similar to older folk songs about the return of a person to their hometown (a theme also touched upon in ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, written by the Irish literature-influenced Phil Lynott), the song is an ode to the joys of alcohol with nearly every verse containing a reference to drinking.

Much of the band’s catalogue is the same, and with their love for writers who also enjoyed a drink (not forgetting their Irish background), it was inevitable that they would be included in the ‘drunken Irish artist’ stratum. In the ‘Sounds’ article mentioned above, Spider Stacy remarked, “I drink to blot out drunkenness”. A quick retort to an over-bearing journalist it may have been, but in the years to come such excesses would prove to be the undoing of the band. But before that point, there was much glory and still more ignominy to come.

‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ was a crucial step forward for the group. Moving on from the lyrically-constrained ‘Red Roses for Me’, which had been somewhat straightforward in its subject matter, the incorporation of differing stylistic approaches made this album a milestone for the incorporation of literary methods into modern Irish folk music. Over the coming years, the subjects would become more expansive, the music more extravagant. Here, the Pogues would achieve the perfect balance of tradition and innovation in their songwriting, the democratic ideal prominent since the beginning would finally flourish, and commercial success would be assured.

NEW DEPARTURES

This phase began with the release of the ‘Poguetry in Motion’ EP in 1986. Comprised of four wildly varying tracks, the EP worked as a bridge between the boisterous folk of before and a new, heavily-orchestrated style embodied by ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’ (significantly, in all respects a masterpiece). Both styles would be followed up on proceeding albums, but the EP is interesting as a microcosm of the band’s musical past and future, and their sense of humour, with the instrumental ‘Planxty Noel Hill’ a swipe at the eponymous musician and member of the folk aristocracy in Ireland.

Taking part in a radio debate with the Pogues, Hill had referred to their music as a “terrible abortion” and as disrespectful to traditional norms. The ‘planxty’ in the title is a traditionally honourific prefix dating back to the 1600s, and serves as a rejoinder to Hill, a tongue-in-cheek espousal of the ultimate traditionalist form. ‘London Girl’ and ‘Body Of An American’ rounded off the release and are notable because of their respective connotations of ‘Red Roses For Me’ and ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’-era material. Clamorous, intelligent, romantic, iconoclastic, the EP was a bookend for what had come before, and a torch-bearer for what was to come next.

Two years later, 1988 saw the release of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, a new departure in several areas. The lyrics are more far-reaching than ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’, yet remain within the realms of Irish tradition. From the pleasures of a win at the dog tracks to the laments of the Irish diaspora in America, and even the first overtly political songs of the band’s discography, the subjects expand far beyond the character studies and narratives of the first two releases. It even sounds more sprawling, the appearance of a full drum kit and session accompaniment seeming like sheer opulence compared to the thriftiness of before. Two new members make their debuts: multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods (formerly of the legendary folk-rock bands Sweeney’s Men and Steeleye Span) and Daryl Hunt (replacing the outgoing Cait O’Riordan). The inclusion of jazz and indigenous Spanish and Middle-Eastern folk would sound more shocking had they not been woven so brilliantly into Irish music forms, the mock-sitars of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ countered by ‘The Lark in the Morning’, a traditional jig that ended the song, and the faux-jazz ‘Metropolis’ and its prominent horns disarmed by mid-tempo folk verses.

J.P. Donleavy

J.P. Donleavy

Commercial success was confirmed with the release of ‘Fairytale of New York’. Written by MacGowan and Jem Finer, it shares both a title and subject with J.P. Donleavy’s novel ‘A Fairytale of New York’, both works regarding the pursuit of the American dream and, tentatively, the experiences of the Irish diaspora. The merits of the song lie in its exploration of relationships and their intricacies, how they span place and era and how external bickering can mask deep affection. MacGowan is accompanied on the track by Kirsty MacColl, in the guise of a woman whose hopes for a life of prosperity lie dead, shattered by the very person who embodied them. The duet examines the dreams, the shattering, and finally the redemption, like a short story where a monumental topic is condensed, and benefits as a result. A technicolour version of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, a romantic song that remains solidly realist (as the input of MacGowan ensured), the song was only kept off the top spot by the poor ‘Always on My Mind’ cover by the Pet Shop Boys. It has since become a Christmas standard, and the most well-known demonstration of the Pogues’ songwriting skill.

POLITICAL MILITANCY

The subject of Irish Republicanism and the conflict in Ireland was a popular focus for folk groups during the ‘80s, a contemporary issue of great importance socially and culturally. The Pogues explicitly explored this for the first time on ‘If I Should Fall’. Grounded in personal conviction and a long literary tradition, the Pogues were unashamedly Republican, and indeed at an early stage held the moniker the New Republicans. These beliefs manifest themselves in the medley ‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six’. Musically, little links the two songs, but the subject matter is related through its exploration of the ongoing war between the IRA and British forces in Ireland.

‘Streets of Sorrow’, a stark, emotional lament for the war-torn streets of cities like Belfast and Derry, urban areas scarred by the trauma of ongoing war, is immediately followed by the passionate anger of ‘Birmingham Six’, despondency exploding into rage against a Government viewed as oppressive and racist:

There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there’s four,
They were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law.
And the filth got promotion,
But they’re still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time.

The Loughgall Martyrs

The Loughgall Martyrs

Naturally enough, the song was banned by the BBC, continuing a torrid relationship between the band and the corporation. As a medley, the song works perfectly: A distillation of the anguish caused by the Irish conflict and the unbridled anger at a British Government the Republicans viewed as the cause of their problems. That the Pogues held controversial opinions was not in doubt. At the time, the only mainstream voices were those of outright condemnation of the IRA on the one hand, or outright silence on the other. In that spirit, there is more than mere protest in ‘Birmingham Six’, with the final verse containing a reference to the Loughgall Martyrs, eight IRA volunteers killed while attacking a Royal Ulster Constabulary police barracks:

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads,
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head.

Again, there was a literary precedent for the group’s political views, with Brendan Behan, Frank O’Connor, and Ernie O’Malley among the writers who had actively participated in the IRA and expounded upon their views in writing. The theme would be taken up again in later songs like ‘Young Ned of the Hill’ and ‘Rainbow Man’.

POSTMODERN MYTHOLOGY

Another new topic for the band was the role of mythology in Irish life. ‘Sit Down by the Fire’ is a comic take on this tradition:

Sit down by the fire, and I’ll tell you a story
To send you away to your bed.
Of the things you hear creeping
When everyone’s sleeping
And you wish you were out here instead.

The Riders of the Sidhe, by John Duncan

‘The Riders of the Sidhe’ by John Duncan

Lyrically, the focus is on the fairies, or ‘sidhe’, that haunted Irish imagination for centuries, and still persist in popular superstition. MacGowan has long found the idea of parents telling these terrifying stories to children at bedtime as comical, an absurdity built into Irish life for centuries.

The song’s subject matter is interesting because it shows the group exploring the area of folklore (despite its monolithic status pre-20th century, folklore had never been a big concern for the band) while also stepping back from it. This separates such an exploration from the misty-eyed renderings of other more literal folk-rock acts like The Horslips, who had created concept albums based around Celtic mythology. It also continues the motif of postmodernism from MacGowan, the song being a meta-narrative about the telling of a folk tale rather than a simple rendition.

BEYOND IRELAND

While it may have been expected that the band would bask in the critical acclaim of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, this wasn’t to be the case. MacGowan’s alcoholism had progressed beyond being a mere nuisance, and the other members were becoming disgruntled. Worried that MacGowan was hitting the gutter, just as Behan had before, and more willing to take advantage of the democratic songwriting ideals the band had been founded upon, the songwriting representation from the rest of the band would increase on future albums.

This process was immediately visible on 1989’s ‘Peace And Love’. MacGowan’s declining influence was indicated by the (comparatively) paltry six songs he contributed to the 14-track record. The new songwriting arrangements made for instant change, the first surprise coming with the introductory instrumental ‘Gridlock’. An exploration of hard bop jazz and an uncompromising repudiation of folk, the song differs thematically from anything performed by the band before. However, the song that defines the negative side of this experimentation best is the bizarre Celtic-Caribbean fusion of ‘Blue Heaven’, a reprehensible song with the Calypso pretensions suffocating any melodic inventiveness; a situation that occurs with saddening periodicity in the band’s later catalogue. Even the Irish folk songs sound bland and enervated, an alarming regression from the band’s original desire to invigorate the style.

Despite portraying himself as the arch traditionalist during this era, Shane MacGowan was not, in fact, conducting a one man crusade against the pretentious designs of his fellow band members. He had likewise introduced extraneous influences into the pure folk of before. As noted by Simon Reynolds in ‘Generation Ecstasy’, rumours abound that, having become immersed in the acid house scene, he wished to include a 20-minute appropriation of the genre (titled ‘You’ve Got to Contact Yourself’) onto ‘Peace And Love’. Whether there is any truth to this is again unknown, but what is audible fact is the bizarre Motown stomp of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, released as an EP following ‘Peace And Love. While two collaborations with the legendary Dubliners are included, this appears to be an almost apologetic move. Unfortunately, the cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ would require much greater atonement than that.

ENGROSSED IN EUROPE

‘Hell’s Ditch’ seemed like the final break with the Pogues of before. Although containing some fine songs grounded in the same folk stylings (‘Sunnyside of the Street’, ‘Hell’s Ditch’), it sounds uninspiring and even conventional in parts—as pedestrian as the ‘celtic fusion’ peddled by acts like the Saw Doctors or The Waterboys, and not helped by the sterile production courtesy of Joe Strummer. Most substantially, the Irish element was downplayed massively; it was simply another amongst the other myriad styles of ‘world music’.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

This extended to the lyrical elements, too, but in a vastly more positive way. MacGowan’s contributions were fresh and informed by a different aesthetic from the Irish folk of before, transporting the narrative style to exotic characters and locales from further afield on the European continent. The title track’s debt to Jean Genet manifested itself in a snapshot narrative, stark prison imagery wrapped in an overtly-sexual veneer:

The killer’s hands are bound with chains
At six o’clock it starts to rain
He’ll never see the dawn again
Our lady of the flowers

Verses describing death and squalor (like those above) are juxtaposed with others like:

Genet’s feeling Ramon’s dick
The guy in the bunk above gets sick

This is a structural trick that jars the listener and underlines the debt to the novel ‘Our Lady Of The Flowers’. In common with the Irish influences of before, Genet celebrated the lowlife, the disenfranchised, and those who refused to conform to societal norms, but in a more explicit manner that questioned the values society encouraged and celebrated.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca

Aside from Jean Genet, the spectre of Federico Garcia Lorca also informed the album. Like ‘Sickbed of Cuchulainn’, ‘Lorca’s Novena’ deals with modern heroism against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Backed by an eerie, dread-inducing combination of heavy bass and martial drums, the song tells of how the homosexual poet met his death at the hands of Franco’s nationalists. It’s not only the horrific circumstances of the poet’s death that justify the sinister vibes, but the wider context of a fascist victory that would ensure the legitimisation of such reprehensible deeds.

The final song of ‘Hell’s Ditch’, ‘Six to Go’, is an aural tombstone to the MacGowan Pogues, a condensed form of all the musical and conceptual contradictions that would contribute to its demise. Concerned with the six counties of Ireland which remain under the political control of Britain, it includes what sounds alarmingly like clichéd tribal chanting, an Africa found by way of ‘The Lion King’ rather than anti-colonial solidarity. In common with other songs of this era (‘Blue Heaven’, ‘Summer in Siam’, ‘Five Green Queens And Jean’), the solid core ends up ruined rather than enhanced by its exotic trappings.

The positive impact of the international influences on ‘Hell’s Ditch’ is confined solely to the lyrics, which flourish and give the Hibernian focus of the first three albums a sense of context, placing Ireland amongst the other great literary nations of the world, rather than resorting to the Irish chauvinism jokingly played up (particularly by MacGowan) in interviews. If the music had gone the same way, perhaps the culmination of stylistic disparity and substance abuse wouldn’t have led to the decision to kick MacGowan from the band as a whole.

After the disintegration of the original line up, the remaining members regrouped to make two further albums: 1993’s ‘Waiting for Herb’ and 1996’s ‘Pogue Mahone’). Yet without MacGowan at the lyrical helm, the collective lacked the cutting edge they had once possessed. Hence, while the two discs have their moments, they lack charisma and the sense of energy that defines the earlier albums, not to mention that they continue the terrible world music flirtations that marred the last two MacGowan albums. However, by the time of the band’s official demise in 1996, their influence was beginning to be felt in a big way.

LANGUAGE AND CLASS

When evaluating their overall influence, the Pogues use of language cannot be ignored, and it betrayed more than a small debt to Irish literature. In his essay regarding Yeats, George Orwell points out the difficulty of equating ideology with a writer’s style. He notes that Yeats’s attempts at simplistic writing appear convoluted, giving the example of the following verse from ‘An Acre of Grass’

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Orwell calls attention to the word ‘that’ before William Blake’s name as an attempt at conveying familiarity by utilising forced prosody, a co-option of the language of the lower classes negated by the poet’s aristocratic tendencies. When the Pogues lyrics are analysed in a similar way, the opposite conclusion is clear: the lyrics are unforced and authentic, intelligent but unpretentious. ‘Dark Streets of London’ is an effortlessly figurative example of this

“I like to walk in the summer breeze
Down Dalling Road by the dead old trees
And drink with my friends
In the Hammersmith Broadway
Dear dirty delightful old drunken old days”

The quality of such writing is that it makes the quotidian seem otherworldly through common poetic methods like alliteration. The tongue-twisting last line reads like something written by Gerard Manley Hopkins rather than an extract from a popular music song. Coming at the dawn of their career, such examples would become commonplace for the band, a musical fulfilment of Orwell’s proletarian artistic vision.

IRISH POST-COLONIALISM

Interpreted through the lens of post-colonialism, the band offer an intriguing range of interpretations, and indeed contradictions. Firstly, the very fact that they were composed primarily of London-born musicians would seem to render their status as Irish music icons quite hollow, an easy target as ‘musical imperialists’ plundering the vaults of a rich tradition. This allegation is easily refuted, however, the band’s members were all of Irish heritage, some even born there and with strong connections to the island.

In a more elaborate sense, the very foundations of the group immunise them from such attacks. By attempting to modernise folk, adhering to its roots but emphasising areas neglected by other artists, such as attitude and literary merit, the Pogues (in their early stages at least) helped save Irish folk from becoming a marginal strand of the ‘world music’ scene. This was in marked contrast to other groups, such as Moving Hearts, who from the beginning merged folk with jazz and rock styles. If this interpretation is accepted, then consequently Shane MacGowan’s criticism of the post-‘If I Should Fall’ immersion in world music becomes easier to accept as well. After all, when the theoretical grounding they had started with began to dissolve, the songs became less distinguished and more conventional, consumed within the quagmire of the cultural buffet of world music and generic folk-rock.

The Pogues And The Dubliners

The Pogues And The Dubliners

Another barrier against such attacks is to take the opposite conclusion: the Pogues as the products of an Ireland that has throughout its history assimilated invaders and immigrants into the native society. While historically there had been fierce resistance to such absorption, at certain points the cultures of the native and colonial Irish inevitably coalesced. The greatest manifestation of this was in the Celtic dawn of the late 19th century, when a vast re-discovery of Gaelic Ireland was expressed through modern literary and performance techniques. Writers like Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory (despite the mockery afforded them from MacGowan) worked to create a distinctly Irish literature, not dependant on wider developments within Britain for inspiration.

Important as an explicitly nationalist rejection of cultural imperialism, the Irish literary revival’s reverberations continued throughout the 20th century. As the 21st century approached, there were intimations that the cultural dependency had been reversed to a certain extent. The post-colonial literary theorist Declan Kiberd writes:

“When Daniel Day-Lewis pronounced his win at the Oscars [for his portrayal of Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’] a triumph for Ireland, he effectively dismantled the English-when-they-win, Irish-when-they-lose equation. But he chose Irishness just as much as the Anglo-Normans did before him: in neither case was it forced upon a hapless victim”

This was but one example of the increasing prevalence of Irish (or faux-Irish) content in popular culture in the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, alongside films like ‘The Commitments’ and productions including ‘Riverdance’. The Pogues’ role in this reversal is interesting, because while in terms of location they were primarily English, they were possibly the most fervent purveyors of ‘Irishness’ amongst their Celtic cultural contemporaries, musically and in content. That it took a band located in England to re-assert Irish music’s place in popular music (rather than confined to the folk sidelines) says a lot about Ireland’s unusual place along the path of post-colonialism, the mass emigration that occurred mainly as a consequence of colonial exploitation has rendered its culture stronger in areas other than its origin. Following their artistic forebears, the Pogues contribution to post-colonialism has been to re-establish Irish identity (in the form of music and text) as having something to offer beyond novelty or the margins, as a vibrant player on the international stage.

CELTIC PUNK AND A WIDER INFLUENCE

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

The mid-90’s saw the emergence of a host of (primarily American) bands largely influenced by The Pogues musical, lyrical and conceptual qualities. The fact that this scene has grown so vast as to require an article (or a book) of its own is testament to the inspiration legions of acts have taken from the band, but the two most popular acts, critically and commercially, are undoubtedly Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphys.

The former takes their cue from all eras of the Pogues, while including conventional instrumentation like the electric guitar (‘Another Bag of Bricks’ even usurps the Middle-Eastern influences of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ in a garishly conspicuous way.) Albums including ‘Swagger’ and ‘Drunken Lullabies’ share thematic subjects with the Pogues, abundant in references to Irish history and politics, including the important role of the Catholic Church. Dropkick Murphys differ from Flogging Molly by mixing their folk with prominent ‘Oi!’ influences. This has led to a blatant espousal of working class socialism more explicit than that ever referred to in Pogues songs. Making visible their debt to the Pogues, the band even had MacGowan appear as a guest vocalist on ‘Good Rats’ from 2001’s ‘Sing Loud, Sing Proud’.

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

While Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys may be the most important bands deriving stylistic influences from the Pogues, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The celtic punk scene has spread from its main base in America all around the world, a common motif of the hybrid being Pogues covers, homages, and references, a musical movement equivalent to the Irish diaspora’s diffusion on a global scale. Beyond this scene, the group’s influence has extended to areas more mainstream than the largely underground punk circuit.

On a global level, Irish folk became a visible presence in popular culture by the early 90’s, albeit in watered-down forms like ‘Riverdance’ and ‘The Corrs’, which bore scant relation to the music or ethos of the Pogues. It’s hard to say whether such acts can even be considered as musically influenced by the Pogues, but it is certain that the Pogues chart success the laid the foundations for mainstream assimilation of Celtic music by popularising it in the first place. So while songs like ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ can’t be counted as direct influences upon mainstream exports, they can be considered torch bearers for their cultural phenomena.

MacGOWAN’S CURRENT STANDING

So where do the Pogues stand today? While other members of the band made vast contributions to the group and Irish folk, it is MacGowan who remains famous in the mainstream. Portrayed in the press as a stereotypical drunken Irish poet, a boozed-up bohemian associated with other artists known for their excesses (especially Pete Doherty of the Libertines and Babyshambles), he is also increasingly lauded as a genius songwriter by sources as mainstream as the NME and The Guardian.

Since the full reformation of the band in 2001, these laudatory sentiments have only increased, a result of the now-legendary status afforded to the band’s performances. Inevitably, the media has commented on the continuity between his ‘literary drunk’ status and artists of the same vintage who preceded him. MacGowan even doggedly champions Coleridge over Wordsworth, believing the latter’s work to be inferior on an artistic level, but his fondness for Coleridge also lies in the Romantic’s famous use of opium.

It’s a pattern that remains a constant through all the Pogues albums, the championing of the underdog cast aside by society, and that is the role MacGowan has taken for himself. Whether writing in the guise of a person experiencing the euphoria of winning a bet, the solitary child terrified by ghouls of their parent’s making, or the railway workers toiling and dying without recognition, he imparts a personal touch that is ultimately the real affinity he shares with the writers he admires. Frank O’Connor, Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Mannix Flynn, authors MacGowan maintains have lived; the same underclass he immortalises in his own writing. Ultimately, he has emulated them in his own life and gained similar recognition, hailed not only as a musician, but as a legitimate and important contributor to the continuing evolution of Irish writing.

PopMatters

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*originally published on the marvellous Pop Matters web site.

PopMatters is an international magazine of cultural criticism. Our scope is broadly cast on all things pop culture, and our content is updated daily. We provide intelligent reviews, engaging interviews, and in-depth essays on most cultural products and expressions in areas such as music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet.

* if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a stack of great articles on them-

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

‘Book Review: Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen’  here

‘The Pogues On Mastermind- The Questions’  here

ALBUM REVIEW: 13KRAUSS- TheEnd Is Nigh’ (2016)

Part Dropkicks, a wee part Molly’s but always 100% celtic-folk-punk!

13Krauss

The End is Nigh is the follow up album from 13Krauss  to their excellent debut album, Seguir En Pie, which was released to great acclaim back in 2014. For our review of that grand album then check out here. Originally forming up as a straight up, no frills punk rock band but after a Real McKenzies show in their home town they were inspired to change direction and take the celtic-punk high road. So the boys went on to add an accordion player and a bagpiper and 13Krauss the celtic punk band were born! Hailing from Zaragoza in what is basically the dead centre of Spain they have become firm favourites on the Spanish scene, and further afield as well, and on the basis of these two albums it is no surprise why either.

The album begins with ‘Reza Por Tu Vida’ and the sound of an ocean and a toiling bell adds some nice touches to this blistering slab of fast and furious celtic-punk. One of only three songs sung in Spanish, the rest are in English, except for the one instrumental. Its a brilliant start with shouty gang vocals atop of acoustic guitar and bagpipes and its very Dropkicks sounding indeed. ‘Doomsday’ follows and reminds me of my current scene fave’s Ferocious Dog with the fiddle looming large and cranked up electric guitar and mandolin. Bodi vocal style is excellent. Shouty and strained but never unintelligible and you know that if pushed he could give it a real ‘croon’ with the best of them. The bagpipes are back out for ‘Flying Broken Chairs’, a catchy as hell track telling of a wicked and wild night down the boozer. They literally just released the video for ‘Flying Broken Chairs’ just yesterday featuring footage from this years St Patrick’s Day gig in Sala López in their home town of Zaragoza.

The best celtic-punk bands have the ability to slow it down and with the aptly named ‘Slow Down’ 13Krauss prove they can do it too. The story is of looking for leprauchauns and has quite the polka sound to it. Much like The Dreadnoughts use to play. Another thing a lot of non-celtic in origin celtic-punk bands are very good at is bringing new sounds and influences into their music and again ‘En Mi Ataúd’ has a sort of polka /Russian thing going on and its great. ‘Don’t Feed The Goblin’ is the only instrumental here and instrumental by name MENTAL by nature. A fast as hell ride through Dropkick Murphy’s style bagpipe punk rock. 13Krauss switch it up again and ‘Miserable Bridges’ has a skate-punk feel to it while again David’s bagpiping is absolutely superb. We are nearing the end now and ‘The Smitting Blow’ changes it up again with a country folk punk number that is unlike anything else here but equally as good and then finally we have ‘El Mañana No Espera’ and the end of the album. The bagpipes are loud and proud and the curtain comes down on this fantastic album with another piece of Murphy’s influenced celtic-punk rock.

The album was recorded and mixed in their home town and the nine tracks clock in at a very healthy thirty minutes. It was released just after St Patrick’s Day earlier in the year and is available for download as ‘name your price’ and only €9 for the actual physical compact disc which comes in a rather nice jewel case with all the song lyrics, credits and pictures in a extensive twelve page booklet. That there’s not a single cover version here is the first thing that struck me on hearing The End is Nigh. Just nine great slabs of celtic-punk that show the influence of other bands in the scene but always with the 13Krauss stamp of individuality on it. They have a great knack of switching it up and just as you feel your in for a ride of Dropkick Murphys expectations your off in another completely different direction. There are some outstanding celtic-punk bands from the region with Catalan bands The Drink Hunters and Sigelpa due to release new albums very soon, Bastards from Galicia still touring Europe relentlessly and The Fatty Farmers having also recently released a excellent new album too. 13Krauss deserve to be heard beyond Spain but also beyond Dropkick Murphys fans too as this album will appeal to all fans of the genre whether you prefer the punky or the folkier side of celtic-punk. 

(You can have a free listen to The End Is Nigh by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Follow the link below to buy)

13Krauss logo (2)

Buy The Album

FromTheBand

Contact The Band

Bandcamp  Facebook  Twitter   MySpace   YouTube

* the guys from 13Krauss have also set up the ZARAGOZA CELTIC PUNKS group on Facebook so trot along there and join up here

(Check out this full concert from 13Krauss. a unusual camera angle but you can see how much the crowd gets into as the gig goes along. Brilliant!)

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