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EP REVIEW: THE KILMAINE SAINTS- ‘Off The Wagon Acoustic Sessions’ (2020)

The Kilmaine Saints are back! One of the best Celtic-Rock bands Irish-America has ever produced with a seven track acoustic EP that includes two new songs and five re-imagined Saints classics.

This explosive, high-energy Celtic rock band from Central PA will lift your hearts, your spirits, and your pint when you’re not looking!

Well what to say about the Kilmaine Saints? One of my favourite bands and one that all the writers here would agree is and has been one of the best and not only that but it is widely agreed that when the definitive history of Celtic-Punk is put to paper then the Kilmaine Saints will have one or maybe two of the best Celtic-Punk albums and maybe even a third as well!
Formed in Central Pennsylvania when two members of the Harrisburg Pipe & Drum with a mutual love of the flourishing Irish-American Celtic-Punk scene decided to kick something off with the aim of getting them free beers at local St. Patrick’s Day shows. Well from small acorns they have blossomed into a band that has always stood just a small step away from Celtic-Punk stardom. One of only a few American bands whose fame has translated into overseas success and it’s no surprise to occasionally spot a Saints shirt at gigs over the years. Others in this league would be The Tossers, Mickey Rickshaw or Flatfoot 56. One of the scenes most consistently good bands they have released four albums, a live album and a couple of EP’s with the most outstanding of all being their debut in 2010 The Good, The Plaid, And The Ugly which Paddyrock called “the BEST Celtic Rock release of 2010 hands down!” and introduced me, and many others, to the Kilmaine Saints thanks to the now long gone Paddy Punx web site.
This was followed up  a couple of years later with Drunken Redemption which made the top ten of all four leading Celtic-Punk web-sites for 2012. Five years of intensive gigging led to the release of their last studio album and Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos really exploded the Saints back onto the national scene. With over seventeen songs they managed not a single duffer and from the first seconds to last dirge of the bagpipes it remains, along with The Good, The Plaid, And The Ugly, one of the albums any Celtic-Punk fan must seek out.
Now a band needs a good set of releases to achieve this level of attention but in their beginning it is their live shows that sees people coming back for more and even though separated by hundreds of miles of ocean one of the things I have consistently read about is the Saints and their high-octane, blistering, high-energy live sets that keep people singing along, stomping their feet, lifting their pints and shouting for more. So the two come together and top of that the people in the band have always taken an interest in the scene and not just in how it can help them which is something that we here appreciate especially.
So history lesson delivered and what does 2020 give us? Well another drawback to being so far away from the main home of Celtic-Punk is bands can go quiet on you and you don’t always get to realise why so with a couple of years of quiet I was delighted to receive Off The Wagon from band guitarist  Rich. Quickly adding it to my phone I played the EP’s seven songs about a dozen times and then sat through the whole Kilmaine Saints back catalogue at the weekend to remind me what a utterly fantastic band they are. Their albums have tended to be a solid mix of amped up Irish and Celtic classics with extremely good compositions of their own thrown in as well. It has to be said though you can be a great band playing covers, and especially if you do something with them rather than being just a standard cover, but to go further you need strong songs of your own and this is what sets The Kilmaine Saints apart. Here though on Off The Wagon they have gone for a acoustic setting. Not that it doesn’t still mean it can be as noisy and raucous as most thrash metal bands but that the progression of the Kilmaine Saints is far is far from over yet!

Kilmaine Saints left to right: Bill Brown- Pipes, Whistle, Bouzouki * Jon Heller- Bass/Pipes * Tommy Leanza- Drums * Liz Mallin- Fiddle * Rich Lipski- Mandolin, Banjo, Acoustic Guitar * Brendan Power- Vocals * Erich Arndt- Guitar *

The EP’s seven songs consist of five older tracks re-imagined and two completely new ones. The EP begins with a new one the title track ‘Off The Wagon’. With a tune flitting from a Walt Disney favourite to an Irish jig the song flies through in just over two minutes and is typical Kilmaine Saints. These guys can write a serious song and have done many times but its the love of a good time that dominates and their sense of humour shines through here. Next up is a song where the serious nature of the lyrics (the poor Irish arriving in the USA during the Great Hunger and the prejudice they received) belies the jaunty tune that accompanies it. Something you often find in Irish music. ‘Painting Paradise Square’ first appeared on their debut album and was written by former band member and multi-instrumentalist (tenor banjo, bass, mandolin) Frank Aponte.
“I suffered to get here and I’m not going to leave
And if you knock me down, you’d best be sure I’m dead
‘Cause when I get back on me feet, and I promise you that I will
I’ll steal your life and use your blood to paint Paradise Square!”
‘With Regrets’ is next up from Drunken Redemption and while the original was a full throttle Celtic rocker about a wastrel of a man and attempting to make sure his son doesn’t follow the same roads as him. The song is a beautiful ballad with great mournful fiddle work from Liz. Great heartfelt lyrics and Mayo born vocalist Brendan’s great voice is accompanied by Liz to great effect. A real choker of a song. ‘MacGowans Wake’ is not a tribute as I had originally thought to the Godfather of Celtic-Punk but a loving salute to a friend of the band Eddie McGowan.

Eddie was a very proud Irish-American born in Baltimore, Maryland and was a founder member of Celtic-Rock band Dublin 5 who shared many’s a stage with the Kilmaine Saints. Eddie MacGowan was a

Eddie MacGowan 1969-2018 RIP

friend, musician and father who on February 5, 2018, lost his nearly four-year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). His energy, humor, generosity, love and friendship will be deeply missed by the multitude of people who have been lucky to know him. He made everyone he met feel like they mattered to him, and they truly did. He gave everything he had to family and friends. Those who loved him have set up a foundation the Eddie MacGowan Foundation so please take a look. Funds raised through their activities will be donated to organizations that supported Eddie through his illness and that continue to support patients with similar disabilities. A sad loss for the Irish in America. Another beautiful choker of a song and following this we are back again to their last album for ‘Pennsylvania’s Finest’ what you might call a ‘American Rebel Song’. Again the original was a barnstormer of a song fast, furious and full of righteous anger, rousing the masses to remember the War Of Independence.

“And all the world shall know, Americans are free
Nor slaves nor cowards we will prove, And England soon shall see
We’re Pennsylvania’s Finest,
And we will proudly fight our hearts are strong our aim is true,
We’ll stand up for our rights”
The English making friends wherever they go since 1776!! Played here with with an ever such slight ska-ish beat but with much the same tempo of the original. Their last album provides the last two tracks here with the marvellous ‘Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos’ leaping out at you as the standout track. A superb song carefully crafted and here presented in such a beautiful way. The lyrics are amazing and a positive call to sort ourselves out. 
“Don’t waste another night, getting lost in your pint
Wasted memories of wasted yesterdays
Get up off the bar stool Get your boots on the ground
You’ll never reach the top at the bottom of a round
‘Cuz age is just a number not the sum of our mistakes
Always search for new tomorrows Always hope for better days”

The EP ends with ‘Golden Pen’ and a perfect way to leave with another great song Liz wrote about the death of a friend’s Mother. A great EP that shows the amazing talent of a band that is not resting on its laurels and hopefully new material will be following soon. The Celtic-Punk scene needs The Kilmaine Saints.

(Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos- not the acoustic version as featured on Off The Wagon but what the hell you get the drift and I bloody love this song!)

The Kilmaine Saints are equal parts Irish swagger, Scottish pride and whiskey. Their usual explosive Celtic-Rock has taken a back seat for now but is sure to return. The scene in America is still standing strong and bands like the Saints have now begun to influence a new breed of band setting out and it’s fair to say that there’s not much better bands to take that influence from. The Kilmaine Saints have become over the years a focal point for not just their local Irish-American community but nationwide too. A band that captures what it is to be Irish in America today. A symbol for a community that isn’t just there so that TV executives can make gangster programmes about them or TV series taking the piss out of their religion. The Irish community is still very much alive just like, thank heavens, The Kilmaine Saints.

Buy Off The Wagon Acoustic Sessions  FromTheBand

Contact The Kilmaine Saints WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  ReverbNation  YouTube

The Kilmaine Saints cross the broad Atlantic later in the year to play a series of gigs in the auld country taking in some of Ireland’s biggest tourist attractions. Sadly they won’t be coming to Ireland’s 33rd county (London) so my wait to see them goes on. You can still join them as a fan if you’re in America I think but best to check with them and if you in Ireland or going to be there at the same time (April 18-25) then be sure to find out where they are playing and get along!

The Kilmaine Saints performed the whole of Off The Wagon EP live on Facebook on Saturday 29th February and its a wonderful hour+ of the Saints talking about all manner of stuff and playing the songs. Well worth the watch.

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