What happened when Shane MacGowan met Ronnie Drew back in the ’90s? Well, a few things happened, but here’s one thing ye might not know about. Let’s take a trip back through time, but not one that will bore you.
Back in the day, Ronnie Drew was makin’ a solo record called Dirty Rotten Shame. He was short of a few songs, so he contacted the ol’ legend himself, Shane MacGowan. Shane sent him a song he’d written, called The Dunes.
Like most of MacGowan’s work, it’s a beautiful piece of music, and it shines a light on the ugly side of life. On one of Ireland’s toughest times. The Famine of 1845-52.
The Great Hunger
I walked today on the cold grey shore Where I watched when I was much younger Where they built the dunes upon the sand For the dead from The Great Hunger.
Those are the first lines Ronnie sings in the song. It sets the scene of the terrible famine of 1845 to 1852, caused by a potato blight. The Irish, especially the working class, were heavily dependent on the potato, often eating 5 kilos a day. So the Famine struck right at the heart of their livelihood.
Ultimately, a quarter of Ireland’s population was either wiped out, or left to find a home elsewhere. This is what Shane writes and Ronnie sings about in the song, almost like they were there. More to the point, Shane was, when he was 18 or 19. “I was up near Louisburgh in Co. Mayo, and I heard the story about people burying their dead on the beach, during the Famine times,” the singer said once. “The place was eerie, all these bones lying about. I’ll never forget it.”
And Shane didn’t forget. Just listen to the line, “the children kicked the sand about, and the bones they are revealed, then”, and there’s your proof.
Shane at his best
Despite being about such a grim topic, The Dunes showcases MacGowan at his finest. While it’s hard to pick out the best lines Shane’s ever written, I particularly like the penultimate verse, which goes like this:
A crack of lightning split the sky The rain on the dunes, it poured I left them lying where I shot them down The bailiff and the landlord Then I went for a drink in Westport.
He’s had his problems, but Shane is a fucking genius. And the “Westport” line is the only moment of hope in the song. The only moment where the narrator seems to hint at a normal life, like going for a drink in the pub. Sadly, it’s also a strong reminder of the part of Ireland that was hit the hardest by the great hunger.
It was the West, and the South, that copped the worst of it. Many of those who died were Catholics, as referenced by the “rosary” line earlier in the song. And one of the truly tragic factors about it all was the soup kitchens. These were set up to provide relief to the starving poor, and it did help. But since the kitchens were Protestant, and Catholics were sometimes reluctant to go in case they got converted, we’ll never know how many people died out of fear of losing their religion.
Busting a myth
Most of what I know about the Famine was written in a book by Joseph Coohill. His father was an Irish-American, and Coohill is a respected academic. His book Ireland: A Short History is informative without being hard to follow. Also, to Coohill’s credit, the book is fair to the Nationalist and to the Unionist sides. It’s fair to the Irish, but portrays the British in a factual light too.
That brings me on to something. The myth you’ll sometimes hear is that the Famine was entirely the fault of the British. While it’s a popular myth, it’s not completely true. The Quakers, and even Queen Victoria, donated a shitload of money, to try and stem the impact of the Famine. Robert Peel was PM when the Famine started, and he genuinely tried to help, but was stabbed in the back by his own government. They didn’t want him importing cheap food from abroad, even though people in Ireland were already starving to death. Sometimes it was the rich Irish landlords and bailiffs who turfed the starving people out of their homes, and effectively “stole their grain”, like it says in The Dunes.
If you’re looking for people in Britain who cocked things right up, try the following:
Peel’s successor, PM John Russell. He believed in economics, rather than fixing an agricultural problem.
The scientists appointed by PM Peel to investigate the Famine. They disregarded a specialist’s opinion that the potato blight was caused by a fungus (which it was).
The arrogant people among the British, who believed the Famine was “sent by God to punish the Irish”. So much for love thy neighbour. Ireland was part of the UK at the time, so why didn’t more people look out for them?
Charles Trevelyan, treasurer to PM John Russell. Trevelyan was slow to give the Irish any kind of proper aid, and he also believed in the God-punishing-the-Irish crap. A poor treasurer and economist if ever there was one.
As Ronnie returns to the opening verse of The Dunes to finish, he sings about a man walking on the same shores where he witnessed the horrors of the Famine as a young boy. That implies that the Famine may have passed, but that it lives in the hearts and minds of the people connected with it. There’s a lesson to be learned in life, then. And that lesson is this: do what you can to help others. As human beings, we can’t work miracles. But we can all do something or other to make a difference.
It could be doing a Ferocious Dog and organising a food bank at a music venue. It could be raising money for, or donating money to the homeless, as I’ve done in the past and still do. It could even be as simple as looking out for folks during the terrible COVID-19 pandemic. In a world where ordinary people can feel powerless, let’s all do a little bit to make it a better, more humane place.
Listen to The DunesHERE. Or, you can watch an old video of Ronnie singing it HERE.
Little over a year ago a new Group appeared on Facebook called Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans and considering 2019 was a bad year for Celtic-Punk media with two of the biggest sites closing it has been an invaluable place for fans old and new to share and introduce music to each other. Despite the shortcomings of Facebook the group has grown and continues to and Mike the groups founder agreed to answer a few questions on all things Celtic-Punk and the Irish community in the States.
Hello Mike! You set up the Facebook group ‘Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans‘. What was your main purpose in doing that? How has it been? Has the scene got behind you? I did notice it exploded after the St. Patrick’s Day Dropkick Murphys live stream show.
Hi and thanks for asking me to do this. Hopefully I can give you what you were hoping for. I started the Facebook Page Celtic Punk Folk Rock first when I was doing a small online radio station thru live365.com, hoping to get more listeners and help to spread the word about all the great music being put out in the genre. I myself didn’t really get into it until 2006 when I started discovering the music thanks to the P2P programs that were popular at the time, like Limewire for instance. The first group I found was the Pogues, who I remembered hearing about back in the 80’s from an English guy I was working with at the time, although my musical tastes were in a different place at the time so I never really got into it then. From there I started discovering more Celt music thanks to John B of Paddy Rock and also Shite n Onions, and from there my love of the music began to grow. When I just had the FB Page there was some interest from fans, but it took almost 6 years or so to get 1000 followers, and then I saw something about making a group affiliated with the Page and got 1000 fans within 11 months. I’d say the scene has been getting behind the group, especially from like the end of February as you mentioned, ever since the post about the Murphys live stream on Paddy’s Day, and suddenly I was adding over 100 member requests a day, to where we are today with almost 5000 members, and there has been lots of participation by members which makes it more fun,discovering even more new bands than I’d known of previously.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? One glimpse at your FB page tells me you are a proud Irish-American but do you know much about your roots? Us non-Irish born Irish are often ridiculed by those whose ancestors were lucky not to be starved out of Ireland for having the most tenuous of links and sadly Irish-Americans seem to bear the brunt of it. What’s the community like where you live?
What I know of my roots I discovered on my own thru online ancestry sites, and I discovered my great great grandfather came to the States around 1850 or so, and the first American born member of my family was a great aunt who was born in NY in 1854. I found that my family was one of the first Irish families to settle in the town I grew up in which I thought was pretty cool. My mother’s family came here in 1888 and 1890 from Cork. I grew up in a mainly working class town whose main employer was the General Motors plant, so it was a landing point for lots of immigrants from Ireland as well as many other countries, so it was a real melting pot,not surprising since the town was only 25 miles from New York City.
Do you think most Irish in the States would consider themselves Irish, Irish-American or just plain auld American? Why do you think that affinity to Ireland has stayed so strong in people whose ancestors left Ireland in some cases generations ago?
I’d say most think of themselves the same as I do, as an American first with strong Irish heritage that we’re all proud of, sort of like ‘Emerald City’ by The Tossers. I’m 4th generation Irish American on my father’s side and I’ve known I had Irish blood since I was a kid, but like I said earlier, I never knew much until around 2005 or so when I got into finding out my ancestry history, and once a person knows and learns about the history and the culture of the Irish people, there’s no way you can’t be proud to be Irish.
It seems to me that the media have an obsession with Irish-Americans often showing them on TV as violent gangsters or drunken simpletons. The most obvious example is the disrespectful way that St.Patrick’s Day is now portrayed. It is still the most popular day in the worldwide Irish calendar but does it hurt when it is shown as just a gigantic piss-up and what ways are the community doing to combat this.
To tell you the truth, I don’t see or hear any of that type of negativity over here. NYC has the oldest and biggest Paddy’s Day parade in the world if i’m not mistaken and it’s the biggest parade of all of the parades in NYC. I’ve been down there three times on Paddy’s Day, two of those times to see The Pogues in 2007 and 2008, and all I saw was people having a blast and celebrating the day, with never any violence, so those people that think that way just don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about and even if anyone does say anything offensive we’re not pussies and we don’t get offended like a snowflake, we just deal with it. I’m not a PC person anyway. PC culture was created as a form of censorship in my opinion, but that’s neither hear nor there, so I’ll move on.
Which leads us onto this. Now us Irish are fond of a drink or two that much is true and there’s a current debate around the idea of cultural appropriation. Is it politically correct for non-Irish bands to sing about the Irish getting pissed and fighting and pubs and what have you. Personally I love it. The idea of the likes of Indonesian or Brazilian bands getting into The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones after listening to the Dropkick Murphys. I mean its not like The Dubliners ever wrote a song about getting pissed is it? I think its just a case of snobbery but do you think it’s ok?
Hell, I love the fact that there are Celtic bands all over the world, it just shows how far Irish culture is spread around the globe. Hell,there are forty million Americans who claim Irish ancestry to one degree or another. There are people in the FB group from places like Poland, Belgium, Germany, Mexico and on and on, places you wouldn’t really expect the music to be popular, and they post videos of bands people may not have heard of, so I’m all for it. Music connects everyone in one way or another so that’s a cool thing.
(we asked Mike for his three favourite Celtic-Punk videos. #1 our very own Neck)
How did you get into Celtic-Punk? For myself it was as a child growing up listening to Irish music (somewhat reluctantly it must be said!) and then later on after I had gotten into Punk both traditions met head on with The Pogues when I was 14 and that was that!
I was very late getting into it. In 2006 my son was reading the Bob Dylan book Chronicles Part One and it had a section on how he idolized the Clancy Brothers, especially Liam, so he asked me if I could find some Liam Clancy on Limewire, and that’s when I discovered the Pogues and downloaded a few songs and got hooked, and from there I just became totally obsessed with the Punk and the Trad genres.
Who were the bands who first got you into Celtic-Punk? Who are your all time favourite bands on the scene?
For me, everything started with The Pogues, and after joining the Medusa Forum (Pogues site) I learned more about them and found out about the Murphys and Flogging Molly, and thanks to Paddy Rock my Celt Punk horizons expanded. Right now I’d say my all time favorites would be the Pogues, Tossers, Mahones, DKM, Greenland Whalefishers and the Rumjacks.
Besides Celtic-Punk what other music do you like?
Rock has always been my favorite, starting with seeing the Beatles on TV on Ed Sullivan as a young lad of 7 then getting into the Stones, then in ’72 a friend of mine turned me on to Bowie, Lou Reed and the V.U., Mott, Iggy and then came the Ramones and Punk and New Wave. I’ve also gotten into the Outlaw Country stuff with Waylon, Willie, Johnny Cash, Hank and Hank Jr, Steve Earle, who has a lot of Celtic influence in his music. I also loved the Motown sound of my youth and liked some of the original hardcore Hip-Hop.
(Mikes second song was the perfect mix of past and present)
I’m sure you get to hear a lot of modern day Celtic/Folk-Punk bands? Which bands would you recommend as the ‘next big thing’ on the scene?
I don’t see any live music. Most of what I hear as far as newer bands go I find in my group actually. I really like The Gallowgate Murders and The O’Reilly’s And The Paddyhats. Another couple of new favorites are Paddy Waggin and Grass Mud Horse.
Has Celtic-Punk been welcomed in the Irish-American community at all? I was recently reading about the explosion in young people wanting to learn bagpipes, banjo, mandolin and tin-whistle. Of course what the article failed to mention was that these are all instruments the Dropkick Murphys play!! Here in England the very mention of Celtic-Punk conjures up images of young men in Celtic tops smashing up bars and puking in the bogs so there is still a lot of fear and mistrust.
I’d say it probably all depends on what type of music people are into in the first place. If people are more into alternative type music they’d probably gravitate more to the Celt Punk. Even the Murphys and Flogging Molly aren’t filling the big arenas like a Madison Square Garden so it’s still a small loyal community, and none of the bands get played on the mainstream radio stations. I don’t really see the big explosion of young fans either. The numbers I get in my group data is that almost 70% of the members are between 35 and 54, which really surprised me.
(Mikes final video is Irish-American favourites The Tossers and their ode to their home city of Chicago)
To us in England it seems that Celtic-Punk over there is massive. It does seem there’s even more bands than ever before. Is this right is the scene bigger? If it is bigger has that made it more commercial / mainstream and is that a good thing? After the big 2 who are the next most popular US bands?
I don’t really know how big the scene here is, but it definitely isn’t mainstream or commercial, it’s still more of a subculture or cult type thing. The groups besides the Big 2 I like from here are the Tossers, Flatfoot 56, Black 47 were big when they were together. The Kilmaine Saints, Killigans, Shilelagh Law usually have big regional followings and are always popular on the summer Irish American Festival circuit. A new band I just discovered in the group is Black Irish Texas who I like a lot.
Do you think their is a particular American Celtic-Punk sound. Like the Australians their is a very strong working class ethos but also a mistrust of anything overtly political.
I think each band has their own sound, I mean nobody is gonna confuse the Tossers sound for the Murphys or Flogging Molly for Flatfoot 56. Some bands have more of the hard edged sound while others have the more trad sound just sped up a bit.
We Irish love our sport and it is football that is most dear to our hearts and we (nearly) all support the best team in the world but we all (mostly) have other (not so good) teams too. You into sport at all? Which teams do you support? Does learning the value of defeat and having pride in losing but trying your hardest teach you something that is missing in society?
I love sports,played them all the time as a kid. I played baseball and basketball and pickup football (American style) and I love watching NHL hockey even though I never played. My favorite teams are all New York teams, my favorite being the Yankees in baseball, Giants in the NFL, Knicks,even though they’ve sucked for 20 years now, in the NBA and the Islanders in the NHL. I think sports teach us how to win and lose, and nothing is handed to you, at least it used to be like that in youth sports when I was growing up, none of this participation trophy shite we see these days. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, words that still hold true today. I know one political party over here that never learned to lose gracefully, that’s not the way to lose. If you lose, it’s cool to be pissed, but lose with class and dedicate yourself to work on the mistakes you made that caused you to lose, and hopefully one day you’ll taste the thrill of victory.
Any final thoughts Mike? Anyone you would like to give a shout out to and any bands you would like to give a plug?
First, thanks for asking me to do this interview. Hopefully I gave you something you could use with my answers, and I’d like to give a shout-out to all the glorious bastards in my FB group for helping spread the word about this great music we love and participating and sharing their favorite music with everyone, and a shout out to your own London Celtic Punks which has kept fans in the loop about everything Celt Punk for so long.
Join the best Group on Facebook at the link below and why not share your most local band.
“When we need to escape from reality, and it’s not possible to take a trip to the green land, have a couple of glasses of mead instead and fly inside the head to the land we love so much” Rocky Road to Ireland is the second full length album from Italian band Patricks does much the same thing!
When this album popped through the letterbox I took one look at the cover and thought “Oh, an Irish band” and on putting on the disc inside I was further impressed by this ‘Irish’ band. Came as quite the shock then to find out that Patricks may play top quality Irish Folk-Rock and have all the attributes of an actual Irish band but they hail many miles from the Emerald Isle in the Italian home of famed doomed lovers Romeo And Juliet- Verona. Formed in 2012 in no short time Patricks had played right across the north-east of Italy bringing their energy to both the big stages of festivals and their warmth and joy to intimate small pubs venues. In 2014 and 2015 they went down a storm at the ‘Ireland In Festivals’ in Bologna and Padua, opening for Cisco (formerly the legendary Modena City Ramblers). Their debut album, Tales From Irish Waves, hit the shops in June 2016 after eighteen months of hard work. Recorded at Verona’s Bass Department Studio the album was very well received and led to them being invited to headline the 2017 Triskell Celtic Festival in Trieste and for the last couple of years the main spot on St. Patrick’s Day evening in the centre of Verona making over 3,000 people dance for two hours! Tales From Irish Waves was a collection of Irish folk favourites like ‘The Rising Of The Moon’, ‘Star Of The County Down’ and ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’ all done in Patricks very own individual manner. With over 150 concert behind them, these Veronese continue to impress and with the release of Rocky Road To Ireland international growth beckons.
The Rocky Road To Ireland carries on from their debut album in much the same way. Ten tracks of popular Irish folk songs but this time the collection has a lot less emphasis on the more popular songs and includes instrumentals and even a couple of originals too. You actually get almost twenty here with songs mashed together in a incredibly seamless way taking it as far away from the realm of cover albums as you could possibly get. The album starts with ‘The Kesh Jig / Blarney Pilgrim’ and while it may not be only be Irish music that has songs instantly recognisable without words not many also come with the ability to cheer. As is common with a lot of Irish/Celtic bands in Europe the flute is to the fore here while the band cheerfully get through both songs in under three minutes. Next up we are introduced to Margot on vocals whose beautiful voice leads us through ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ a banjo heavy tune owing a lot to the Dubliners famous version though it sounds a little odd not having Ronnie Drew’s gravelly voice (or even Mike McColgan!) accompanying the song! Next is ‘Spancil Hill’ one of the saddest (and let’s face it the competition is immense!) of all the Irish emigration songs. The longest song here at over five minutes and played upbeat rather than its usual slow and maudlin. Margot’s voice dominates as is usually the case with Irish music (see bands like Runa and Solas). I still remember listening to this song for the first time. I had heard it 100’s of times growing up but the first time I took care to listen to the words brought a tear to my eye the sadness of it all.
“Then the cock he crew in the morning, he crew both loud and shrill
I awoke in California, many miles from Spancil Hill”
Here though the famous last lines are missing and replaced with a different last chorus I had never heard before. Next a bunch of songs unfamiliar with me on paper, ‘ ‘The Butterfly / Golden Stud / The Man Of The House’, but ‘Golden Stud’ was recognisable at least. Accordion, fiddle and flute pushing the boundaries and while at times you do wish they would really really cut loose they still manage to beat up the floor. The Dubliners influence here is not just confined to the album’s title with ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’ played at a steady pace and seeing as i can never quite keep up with the lyrics here Margot does a wonderful job especially in the chorus about bashing up two Liverpudlians! Another song I wasn’t sure I had heard before was ‘P Stands For Paddy’ but on hearing realised i had heard a version of it by German Celtic-Punk band Fiddler’s Green but whether it was this version, a love song, or the one written by Gerry Carney, a bittersweet tribute to the Irish in England that never made it I can’t remember. Here the influences from English Folk-Rock scene of the 70’s are evident with Patricks sounding remarkably like Steeleye Span in places. The Dubs return with a rowdy pub setting performance of ‘Whiskey, You’re The Devil/The Silver Spear/The Mountain Road’ and a professional sets of reels and jigs ‘Glasgow Reel / Aaron’s Key / Banshee Reel’ before we settle down to a modern day Irish folk music classic. ‘The City Of Chicago’ was written by Barry Moore and made famous by Christy Moore the song is a tribute to those who battled all the odds and made it to relative safety across the oceans during the great Hunger.
“Some of them knew fortune
Some of them knew fame
More of them knew hardship
And died upon the plain
They spread throughout the nation
They rode the railroad cars
Brought their songs ant music to ease their lonely hearts”
A fantastic song that that brings the curtain down but NO that’s not it! For they have squeezed in a bonus track at the end!
‘They’re Taking The Hobbits To Isengard / The Fellowship / The Shire’ are songs recognisable from the Lord Of The Rings films and show a sense of humour that has is evident in all the best Irish folk music. So almost forty minutes of quality Irish folk music as interpreted bu one of Europe’s best Irish bands. The album was recorded, mixed and produced by Max Titi at Maxy Sound Studio in Verona for Maxy Sound and if I did have one mixed opinion on the album I would like the band to follow though it is that they should ‘rock out’ a bit more and really go for it but Rocky Road To Ireland is still a fine album and a great way to start March off which is always traditionally our busiest month at London Celtic Punk for obvious reasons!!
What happens when traditional Irish Rock n’Roll meets American Punk music? Here the Krakin’ Kellys take six Irish folk music classics and unite punk-rock riffs with Gaelic-inspired melodies. Angry microphones, greasy bass lines meet bagpipes, flutes and accordion for a drunken party which will leave everyone pumped up!
Since forming in 2017 Krakin’ Kellys have its fair to say taken the Celtic-Punk scene by storm. Their debut album from last year was a double winner in the London Celtic Punks Best Of 2018 lists romping home with the Best Debut Albumand the Best Album Readers Pickas chosen by the readers of the Blog (nearly 39% of the total vote!). It was a breath of fresh air to the scene with its energetic blend of punk rock and accordions and bagpipes. Allied to this was a bunch of absolutely fantastic videos that the band released that showcase a band at the very top of their game. In fact we only said
“It’s not often I use the words this is a must have album but this is a must have album!”
about one album in 2018 and it was the Krakin’ Kellys Promised Land. Full of energy and bounce and humour. There’s no revelations about politics here and no songs about nuclear war and I can only say thank the heavens. Sometimes music needs to take our minds away from the daily grind. Music to drink to, to dance to, to meet folks and make friends and on Promised Land Krakin’ Kellys delivered us quite a unique Celtic-Punk album.
(You can download/stream Promised Land at the Bandcamp link below)
Krakin’ Kellys hail from the city of Namur in Belgium. The city is the capital of the self-governing Walloon Region which was created, largely along language lines. Wallonia consists of the French-speaking provinces of Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Walloon Brabant and Namur. There is a burgeoning independence movement in Wallonia that seeks to split Belgium into Dutch speaking Flanders in the north and French speaking Wallonia in the south. As is usually the history behind the conflict is complicated so I think I better go on with the review and leave the controversial stuff alone!
Krakin’ Kellys from left to the right : Olivier Drèze (Drum) * Stephan Mossiat (Bass) * Pierre-Yves Berhin (Accordion) * David Leroy (Lead Vocals) * Matthieu Hendrick (Guitar) * Rémi Decker (Bagpipes & Whistles )
The EP begins with possibly the best known Irish song of all time, ‘The Wild Rover’. The song is about a utter wastrel of a man who spends his life drinking and carousing before coming to the realisation he has wasted his life and returns to the home of his parents and promises to reform his ways. The origins of the song are vague and thought to originate via Ireland, Scotland or from the fishing industry but there’s no arguing that it is indeed the most popular Irish song of all time. The Kellys play it as a rock ballad with the amazing chorus the highlight. Pierre-Yves’s accordion and Rémi’s bagpipes supply the Celtic instrumentation while the rest of the band keep the heavy sound of their previous releases intact while still playing a glorious homage to this wonderful song.
As I have mentioned recently sometimes the best of videos are recorded in pubs (the natural home of all Celtic-Punk) with a crowd of friends enjoying themselves and ‘The Wild Rover’ fits the bill perfectly. Take a couple of minutes to check it out as it’s another in Krakin’ Kellys long line of great vids. See how many band t-shirts you can spot. I lost count at a dozen! Next up is ‘The Foggy Dew’ a song about the glorious 1916 Irish uprising against British rule in Ireland. The song has become pretty popular in the Celtic-Punk scene of late due in main to its Celtic-Punk friendly air. Again its done very much in the Krakin’ Kellys style and David’s vocals may divide people along the lines of those who are expecting someone crooning but KK are a Punk band at the heart and I think they fit perfectly. Raspy and semi-shouty they are nothing if not passionate. Time for a more ‘trad’ approach next as the Bhoys mix up three songs you may not know by their names but will from the airs. Of course Thin Lizzy made ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ a international smash hit back in 1973. The song morphs into ‘The Kesh Jig’, an old traditional Irish tune. It’s popularity is attributed to The Bothy Band who recorded the song on their debut album in 1975 and then another traditional song ‘Morrison’s Jig’. Here the band push their trad side to the limit while still remaining at heart the skate-punk band they are. Here again Pierre-Yves proves he’s one of the best accordion players in the business. Half way through now and it’s time for a couple of Dubliners songs starting with ‘Free The People’. Although performed and released by The Dubiners the song was in fact written by Phil Coulter and relates to the struggle for racial equality in the USA and the struggle in the northern 6 counties of Ireland against British occupation and discrimination against Catholics.
“What does it profit him
The right to be born
If he suffers the loss of liberty?
Laws were made for people
And the law can never scorn
The right of a man to be free
We are the people
And we shall overcome”
The Kellys play the song as normal but with a heaviness that belies whatever version you have previously heard before. Next is a mention for a familiar name here on the London Celtic Punks site, that of Ewan MacColl the writer of ‘Champion At Keeping Them Rolling’. The Dubliners recorded the song in 1972 and perhaps because it was the last recordings of the original line up the song is often thought to be written by them but Ewan was a master of songwriting and telling the story and tribulations of working class life.
“I am an old-timer, I travel the road, I sit in me wagon and lumber me load”
The song speaks of a long distance lorry driver and contains everything you need to know about Ewan. Humour, anger, social injustice and more humour. Again it’s not a song that needs much doing to change it to a Celtic-Punk song, none of the songs The Dubliners recorded do! So onto the last song and the second song from Phil Coulter. ‘The Town I Love So Well’ was written by Phil Coulter, renowned musician, songwriter and record producer about his childhood in Derry city, a place at the centre of Irish resistance to British rule. The song begins with the simple tale of his upbringing in a place filled with warmth and love before ‘The Troubles’ began and Derry became a place plagued with violence. The songs final verse includes a message of hope for a “bright, brand new day”, saying “They will not forget but their hearts are set / on tomorrow and peace once again”. Phil Coulter is also responsible for one of the most beautiful songs ever written, ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’ about the birth of his first daughter with Down’s Syndrome and later died aged four. Take another minute or two to check out the song hereas sung by Luke Kelly. Anyway back to the Krakin’ Kellys and they go out on a high! Beginning as a acapello version with the band led by David bagpipes come in and it soon erupts into as class a Celtic-Punk song you will ever hear. Fast and furious and full of passion.
Six songs and over twenty minutes of one of the very best bands around in the scene at the moment. Krakin’ Kellys are an interesting band for a number of reasons. Their output is regular and of a very high standard alongside their videos which are always worth several viewings and here they show a love and respect for source material that you would not expect for a band from the heavier side of Celtic-Punk. One of the favourite (if not my actual favourite) bands of the assorted London Celtic Punks collective we are all gagging to see them live and hopefully appear alongside them in one of their fantastic videos!!
(You can stream Irish Tribute on the Bandcamp player below)
Well I never it’s actually an Irish band from Ireland! The Led Farmers hail from Dublin and their brand new EP features seven absolute Irish folk classics done of course in that special Led Farmers way!
The Led Farmers are four Dublin fella’s who love what they do, playing upbeat Irish folk music and more. Boasting a two-time All Ireland music champion and members who have studied music at University level. Having performed throughout Europe and the U.S. they began their career in 2014 playing beloved Irish folk classics but soon after began to concentrate on writing their own material that may nod to the past but also moves folk along to the present and even the future. They take their name from a quote by Robert Downey Jr.’s character in the 2008 film Tropic Thunder. Recently having toured Italiy they went down a storm with their acoustic traditional folk played with passion and energy. They’ll not be a song here new to even the casual folk fan but these songs have become the mainstay of most pub singers for a very good reason. Speaking for myself I heard these songs at my Mammy’s knee and were among the first songs I ever knew the words to. Each song evokes a memory and experience I look back with fondness and I’m sure most people from the Irish diaspora can relate to that. Irish Folk Out Straight has been mixed and mastered by Eoin Withfield and is seven tracks of classic Irish folk done in their own energetic and fun Led Farmers style.
The Led Farmers left to right: Patrick Widmer- Drums * Ross O’ Farrell- Bass and Vocals * Brendan Walsh- Banjo and Vocals * Conor Buckley- Guitar
Now the songs here were originally and, in most cases, made famous by one or two bands but in the case of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ it’s a song that stepped out of folk music and actually became better known when recorded by Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. Anyone who hasn’t seen the TV recording of them miming away to it from 1973 had better get on it now (here) for it’s never been bettered. Recorded, of course, by both The Dubliners and The Pogues (they even released a version of it together!) it’s given a new lease of life here as The Led Farmers run through it with a jolly and energetic tune bordering on upbeat country and bluegrass at times with Brendan’s guitar aflame!
“With me ring dum a doodle um dah
Whack for the daddy o
Whack for the daddy o
Theres whiskey in the jar”
The song dates from the 17th century though no one is actually sure when and who wrote it but a cracking way to kick things. A very popular song which folk music historian Alan Lomax in his book The Folk Songs of North America, suggests was because
“The folk of seventeenth century Ireland (and Scotland) liked and admired their local highwaymen where the gentlemen of the roads robbed English landlords, they were regarded as national patriots.”
Now the next song has been recorded by just about every Celtic-Punk band in existence and if you haven’t heard it by at least a dozen bands then you need to seriously sort out your music collection! ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ is without doubt the most popular trad song in Celtic-Punk and with good reason too. It’s a beauty of a song that is perfect for speeding up and getting a crowd going as well as getting a good auld singsong on the go as well. Here it’s mucked about (in a good way) as the boys have fun with it diving in and out of several genres, including reggae, as its ploughed through in just over a couple of minutes. Originally a a children’s skipping song, it’s another song whose origins are a bit obscure but versions were found in parts of northern England and Ireland in the 19th century. Following now is ‘The Rattlin’ Bog’ and The Led Farmers demonstrate they can play a mean bit of trad Irish folk as well as a good party song. No one knows the exact origins of the song except that its about a bog on the grounds of Collon Monastery in county Louth. Traditionally the song gets faster and faster as the song comes to the end and audience participation is a must here with its easy to remember chorus. As with most folk songs it’s been passed on orally through generations and hence many different versions exist out there but the version as sung by The Dubliners seems to have become the standard.
(The first single from the EP and its great video as filmed by Ger O Donnell in the beautiful fields of county Clare. )
This time its given a bit more time to breathe and at over four minutes is the longest track here and with its’s trad folk flourishes it’s the standout song here and well deserving of the hilarious video that accompanies it.
“And in that bog there was a tree, a rare tree, a rattlin’ tree
With the tree in the bog
And the bog down in the valley-o.”
We get another popular Celtic-Punk cover next with ‘Star Of The County Down’ and for once we know it’s date of birth as it was written by Cathal McGarvey who passed away in 1927. The song is set near Banbridge in county Down and The Led Farmers take a rest and play it nice and slow. It’s beautifully played and the addition of some wonderful uilleann pipes from Roman Haller really lifts the song. Another Pogues/Dubs collaboration follows with ‘Rare Old Mountain Dew’ and they stick fairly close to the standard with Brendan’s banjo leading the show and the gang getting in on the “hi di-diddly-idle-um, diddly-doodle-idle-um, diddly-doo-ri-diddlum-deh” chorus! Written in 1882 the song celebrates poitin, the name for illegal Irish alcohol brewed from, what else but, the humble potato and this is what gets my goat (or in English- on my nerves) when people denounce Celtic-Punk with being obsessed with songs about alcohol when here you have a song that has been belted out for 130+ years doing just that. We shipping up towards the end and appropriately its the sea shanty ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’. Dating from the 1800’s it tells of a prospective Gold miner setting sail for California who pledges to his beloved “so fare thee well my own true love; when I return united we shall be”. Whether your man ever did is debatable. Certainly many didn’t giving this song perhaps a bitter sweet edge to its jocularity. So on a mini-album of seven songs the first six have been much loved and much played classic Irish folk tunes so when I saw ‘Drunken Sailor Odyessy’ was bringing down the curtain I expected the bog standard version but The Led Farmers turn the song on its head and deliver a song pitched somewhere between The Beach Boys and some white-bread Hip-Hop! Great fun as Brendan gives it a go rapping as Ross gets a chance to shine on the bass rumbling away while the band chip in and the whole thing is bloody marvellous and worth the price of the EP alone!
So absolutely nothing original here (except the rap version of ‘Drunken Sailor’ I suppose) but that’s hardly the point of a record like this. Maybe it’s to keep their fans happy in between ‘proper’ releases or maybe they know it’s guaranteed press coverage but whats in it for the casual fan or those like me new to the band. Well hard to say exactly but these songs are extremely well played and the fun is utterly infectious and it’s brilliant to hear a band having such great fun playing songs that are sometimes over a couple of hundred years old. The Led Farmers have a back catalogue of great songs of their own so relish the chance to freshen up these classics and it’s worked out well for them.
Traditional Irish folk music, unforgettable melodies, propelled by an driving, energetic punk rock backing.
Sir Reg are an energetic six piece from Sweden fronted by Irishman Brendan Sheehy who left Dublin to fulfil his dream of putting together the most amazing band possible. With songs about everything from the issues of modern day society to finding the right bar on a Saturday night, combined with strong melodies and explosive live shows.
September 18 saw the release of the fifth album from the Swedish Celtic punk heavyweights Sir Reg. The new album The Underdogs comes two years after the last album Modern Day Disgrace and is released on Despotz Records. It was recorded between Sweden and Ireland and most definitely packs a punch from the first note right through to the last.
The first of the eleven tracks on the album is the title track ‘The Underdogs’. It sets the scene for the rest of the album with a high tempo beat. The song is about the ongoing working class struggle for equality in the modern world. This is followed up with a tribute to Conor McGregor. Unfortunately for Conor, the lyrics didn’t come through in his recent battle
“Conor Mc Gregor the lord of the fight, he’ll destroy anyone in his way, smacking the shite out of fools with delight…”.
Oh well, let’s move swiftly on…..
The album is packed full of good humored drinking tunes which is common place on a Sir Reg album. ‘Stereotypical Drunken Feckin’ Irish Song’ is a funny wee song which needs little explanation. When I heard the beginning first I thought it sounded like early year Wolfe Tones or The Dubliners. ‘FOOL (Fight Of Our Lives)’ is the first single to be released of the album and is excellent.
Other notable tracks from the album are ‘Cairbre’, which is a traditional instrumental and ‘The Stopover’. The album closes on a slower note with ‘Sinner Of The Century’ which is also very good.
Sir Reg is Brendan Sheehy – Vocals * Karin Ullvin – Fiddle * Chris Inoue – Electric guitar * Filip Burgman – Mandolin * Mattias Söderlund – Bass * Mattias Liss – Drums
Personally I think this is Sir Reg’s best album by far. This is a band which are continually improving and I have no doubt there’s lots more to come. They have just finished a successful tour of England and Scotland, earlier in the year they played in the USA and they are currently embarking on a European tour to promote The Underdogs so get out and support them if you get the chance. If, like me, you won’t get the chance to catch them live on this tour, be sure to do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of The Underdogs album. You won’t regret it.
On 22nd August Sir Reg jetted in to play a special invite only gig at Waxy O’Connors in central London. The set contained songs old and new played acoustically by three of the band’s members. Here’s the entire set minus the encore.
We rarely use the word legend on this site so when we do then it is only when it is well deserved. Multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter, storyteller and actor, Finbar Furey is celebrated around the world as one of the great folk icons and is a supreme storyteller as well as a versatile and multi-talented artist.
We have often spoken here on what Irish music and culture meant to the children of the Irish growing up in Britain in the 80’s. When The Fureys and Davey Arthur appeared (watch it here) in the middle of the 12th November 1981 edition of the popular music TV show Top Of The Pops featuring the likes of Kool & The Gang, Haircut 100 and Earth, Wind & Fire the effect it had on the Irish community here was gigantic. As Finbar said on the groups entry into the Top Of The Pops studio
When we walked in, people went ‘What in the name of Jaysus is this!’
There had been success for Irish bands but it was years before many of us were born. The Wolfe Tones played to thousands wherever they went and all without press or publicity so when these band of hirsute middle aged Irishmen took the stage playing ‘When You Were Sweet Sixteen’, a beautiful ballad that I’m sure over the years has brought a tear to most Irish peoples eye over a certain age! The band included brothers Finbar, Paul, George and Eddie as well as Davey Arthur. That day it became a defining moment in many a young 2nd and 3rd generation Irish person’s life. I remember it clearly how proud my family were at the bands achievement the smiles beaming across their faces. It would climb to #14 in the singles chart at a time when that meant selling 10’s of thousands a week. At a time with the war raging in the north of Ireland and spilling over onto English streets the Irish were having a bad time of it over here. Suspicion, aggression and bigotry against them was everywhere and countless Irish men and women were being jailed on very little evidence (all later to be cleared of any crime) with the effect that many Irish born people kept their heads down and put up with the abuse. But things were changing. There were around a million Irish born people in Britain in the early 80’s and their children were not going to be silent and act ashamed of our roots. We were still a few years away from The Pogues and Irish culture and accents were never seen on TV or the media except to be ridiculed so when Finbar Furey sang
“Come to me, and my
dreams of love adored
I love you as I loved you
when you were sweet
when you were sweet sixteen”
in front of watching millions it planted something in our minds that would later come to fruition just a few years later when The Pogues would erupt onto the music scene.
The Fureys And Davey Arthur
The band were no one hit wonder and several of their songs like The Green Fields of France and The Lonesome Boatman have gone on to become solid gold Irish classics. Go to any Irish pub on any day of the year in ant part of the world and there’s a very very good chance you’ll hear one of their tunes. Born in Dublin into a Irish traveller family on 28 September 1946 in Ballyfermot, Dublin Finbar came from a highly respected musical family and began playing the uilleann pipes as a child. By his teens he had won just about every medal he could win and his amazing ability had spread across Ireland. IN the late 60’s Finbar and brother Eddie were part of the legendary Irish folk group, The Clancy Brothers with Finbar playing the pipes, banjo, tin whistle, and guitar. The brothers left in 1970 and began to perform as a duo and in 1972 their single, a version of The Humblebums ‘Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway’, was enthusiastically received by John Peel becoming his favourite song of 1972. Peel like many over here fell in love with the glorious sound of the Uilleann pipes (listen to it here) and they more than played their part in the coming celtic-rock phenomenon that was about to shake the music industry at home and abroad. It was though when his other brothers joined the band and they teamed up with Davey Arthur that fame came a calling and they carved out a very fruitful and successful career until in 1997, after almost thirty years in The Fureys Finbar decided to pursue a solo career as a singer songwriter.
Finbar released his first solo album ‘Colours’ in 2013 with a powerful mix of contemporary originals and modern interpretations of classic Irish songs his status as one of Ireland’s most treasured performers was cemented further. The album featured Mary Black and the second-generation Irish Mancunian Shayne Ward and instantly brought Finbar to a whole new audience too young to remember The Fureys in their heyday. Alongside his solo career he also found time to take up acting, appearing in the Martin Scorsese directed feature film ‘Gangs Of New York’ as well as 2004’s ‘Adam And Paul’ and the RTÉ TV series ‘Love/Hate’. In 2014 Finbar was honoured by the City of Dublin with the Lord Mayor praising him for
“Bringing life and laughter to many homes in Ireland”.
He followed that album up with 2015’s The Slender Promise an instrumental album of pipes and flute which brings us bang up to date with Don’t Stop This Now. The album, unsurprisingly, made #1 in Ireland under it’s original name Paddy Dear. Obviously that title was deemed too sensitive for these politically correct times so a new name was chosen. The album begins with ‘Sweet Liberty Of Life’ and the first thing that sprung to my mind was how similar in both delivery and emotion it is to the late great Johnny Cash and his American recordings. The voice is unmistakably the same as one that lit up our TV screen in that tiny living room in England twenty-seven years ago except now its more weathered and one magazine’s description of him as a “played out Dublin born Tom Waits” fits admirably.
Finbar sings of freedom and peace on a song he wrote back in 2010
“Liberty, life and freedom are words that capture the true spirit of humankind in every imaginable way”
At 71 years young Finbar’s voice comes alive and after his near-fatal heart attack in late 2012 in a gentle country-folk number it’s no wonder emotion is evident in his voice. Next is title track ‘Don’t Stop This Now’ and again there’s a strong country feel to proceedings with a string section backing and the first appearance of the uilleann pipes. Finbar’s voice is strong and direct and the wonderful words all present a song that anyone could sing and make a maudlin mess out of it but in his capable hands it becomes the beauty it is. The only downside I found is the annoying ending where they fade Finbar’s voice out rather than just simply ending. We go back to 1994 now with ‘Annabelle’ and the first exercise of the auld tear duct’s. A true story of a homeless woman in the Dublin of the 1950’s. Having lost her love in the Irish War Of Independence Finbar’s auld Mammy befriended her
“I’d often be with them as they’d share a bar of chocolate sitting on the roadside”
It’s a beautiful and simple song and leads us into the tragic story of a family caught up in The Great Hunger in ‘We Built A Home’. Both songs songs show Finbar’s strength is in his storytelling. After the amazing recent release the album ‘Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine’ by Declan O’Rourke (read our reviewhere) this song could easily fit onto that album telling the fact of why The Great Hunger happened.
“To bear witness to heaven’s eye of cold,cold genocide”
Again its a beautiful song this time led by Finbar on the banjo. ‘The Galway Shawl’ follows and is the only cover on this album. Not much is known of the origins of this traditional Irish folk song but it has been covered widely over the years. Telling of a musician who meets the love of his life but has to leave her behind.
“Said she, “goodbye sir”; she cried and kissed me,
But my heart remain with the Galway shawl”
The string section is back for ‘Sarah Waits’ and is the tale of soldiers away at war while their love awaits their return. Linking World War One to today’s the wars continue… even as I write these words. My favourite song here is up next and it’s not even very Irishy! On ‘Co-Exist’ Finbar weaves an Eastern tune out of his banjo and the simple but effective words tell universal truth. Finbar’s daughter Aine Furey accompanies him on the two following songs, ‘The Taxi’s Waiting’ and ‘Hail, Rain Or Snow’, and her wonderful voice brings a sprightly youthfulness to the songs. The first is a catchy folky number while the second is bluesy folk number with a real foot-tapper with a lovely singalong chorus. Not surprisingly their voices are perfect together. On ‘Michael Power’ Finbar tells of a man at sea dreaming of his love at home in Dunmore. On ‘Paddy Dear’ Finbar’s voice is strong and powerful as the strings connect with the tin-whistle in a gentle tune later joined by the pipes.
We are washing up towards the end and for a man who spent so much of his life away from Ireland its a charming song about that scourge of the Irish nation- emigration. On ‘I Was Further Than I Thought I Was’ his voice cracks with emotion as the banjo and whistle lead us gently along with the story known to many of us of a old man thinking of a home he will never see before he dies. Now Irish lads and their Mammies is a story in itself and it’s kind of heartening to know that I’ll still be like this when I’m Finbar’s age! The tear ducts get another airing here and it just goes to show that his wonderful storytelling is a joy to behold.
The album ends with the haunting ‘Lament for John’ an instrumental starring Finbar on flute and uilleann pipes.
An outstanding album showcasing the amazing talent of Finbar Furey. Shane MacGowan had this to say about him recently
“proves he is not just a massive force in Irish music’s heritage, he is a massive force in shaping it’s future as well.”
It may be twenty seven years since he lit up our living room but Finbar has lost none of that sparkle and this album will please not only his own fans but will announce him to a whole new range of fans too. The album is packaged with a free DVD of Finbar in concert performing many of the songs from the album and his better known hits too making this a must have album. As stated at the beginning legend is a word far too often used in this day and age but it belongs far and squarely after the words Finbar Furey have been written.