Tag Archives: Levellers

NICK BURBRIDGE AND HIS TOP TEN INFLUENTIAL ALBUMS

To say we are overwhelmed to be able to publish this feature on his Top Ten Influential Albums by the the legendary Nick Burbridge is an understatement! Encompassing everything inbetween Folk to Celtic-Punk it’s a glorious ride through some famous and legendary artists and some little known outside the communities they hail from. Second gen Irish singer-songwriter, Nick has been playing Irish-influenced acoustic music since his teens influencing countless others, including in their own words, The Levellers. His band McDermott’s 2 Hours were among the first to ever think of combining punk and Irish folk so he is a trailblazer among the Celtic-Punk scene but also so much more as well. 

No time to waste so put the kettle on, crack open some biscuits and save the next couple of hours…

Andy Irvine & Paul Brady- ‘Self-Titled’ (1976)

When I was asked to name ten indispensable albums on Facebook some time ago, I decided to work from the late sixties to the millennium, and pick out those most influential on my development as a musician and songwriter, and end where I began, as it were. The first album I chose was this one. It’s a classic of its kind, melding yet never losing the distinctive characters of two of the most innovative and enduring musicians working in the Irish traditional idiom. There’s not a song on it I can’t still recall to memory, give or take a verse here or there, and the quality and range of the musicianship and arrangement, while capturing the essence of Planxty, somehow has an irresistible intimacy the full band doesn’t quite match, though they were perhaps the best of their kind.

(As Andy Irvine says this is Mr. Bradys classic. “Oh, me and my cousin, one Arthur McBride As we went a-walking down by the seaside Now, mark what followed and what did betide For it being on Christmas morning…” )

The Copper Family- ‘A Song For Every Season’ (1971)

This box set was, unexpectedly perhaps, essential listening for the punk-folk band I was in, when we lived in the red light district of Mainz one summer in the mid-seventies. We sang a few Copper songs a capella in our set – the Germans loved them. I spent fifteen years growing up in Rottingdean, Sussex, and I guess that’s as authentic a connection as you can get to this unique family who’ve kept alive a whole tradition on their own initiative, and are rightly recognised for it across the world. Their singing is rough, genuine, heartwarming, and eccentrically tuneful. I’m proud we introduced our audiences to their material, among chaotic jigs and reels and rebel songs. Once again, while I often forget what I’m meant to be doing these days, I can still remember almost every line, such was their influence on me.

(The whole Box-Set of four albums on You Tube. ‘Tater Beer Night- Spring’, ‘Black Ram- Summer’, ‘Hollerin’ Pot’- Fall’ and ‘Turn O’ The Year- Winter’. Nearly three hours long!)

The Bothy Band- ‘After Hours’ (1979)

There are so many unforgettable albums by Irish traditional bands who pushed the form in all directions in the 70s, and influenced countless more to follow suit. I guess The Bothy Band stand in the vanguard, and this album with its driving sets of tunes, and exquisitely sung ballads, live yet virtually faultless, is indispensable to anyone trying to understand just why this music is so effortlessly infectious, exhibiting a musical intensity few others come close to, always ready and able to form the soundtrack to a particular phase in someone’s life. It did mine. It has long been an immeasurable influence.

(You Tube seems to have started allowing whole albums on their site these days. While I’m not too sure of the legality lets just sit back and enjoy)

Dick Gaughan- ‘Handful Of Earth’ (1981)

Dick Gaughan made Handful of Earth on the way back from a major nervous breakdown. And there is something not working within ordinary tramlines here. His errant but extraordinary guitar accompaniments weave their way under an utterly compelling voice, as if to make a world turned upside down both inimitable and unforgettable. The choice of songs is faultless. Gaughan, whatever his fate, will always remain a mighty force. Those who do try to imitate him simply don’t have whatever it is that comes from wherever it does…

(Dick’s folk masterpiece album in full, unabridged on You Tube)

The Pogues- ‘Rum Sodomy & The Lash’ (1985)

By the mid-80s folk and punk had well and truly fused. Much as I think ‘Iron Masters’ by The Men They Couldn’t Hang May may well be my favourite track from the era, I don’t think any such album surpassed this one. Too much academic writing has attached itself to the formidable Shane MacGowan opus, and The Pogues’ irregular but compulsive sense of Irish identity. All I want to say is that I hope their influence on my work hasn’t been too obvious – I’ve tried to pay them the greatest compliment by sowing their seeds as deep as I could in wherever my songs take root, in the hope that what hybrid growth occurred would be as substantial and organic as possible, and not some hasty GM copy of their timeless and outstanding work.

(Which one to choose? How about ‘Sally MacLennane’ from British TV in 1986)

The Waterboys- ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ (1988)

This would probably appear on the all time list of anyone involved in folk-rock music. They call some albums seminal – Fishermen’s Blues epitomises what it means. Like Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks it simply has an originality, authority and impact reserved for those who find themselves, by design or accident, at the cutting edge, and who have the courage to take the task on without flinching. From the monumental to the simply made, tracks etch themselves into the memory. I keep them there, and bring them out from time to time. I always will.

(Absolutely cracking live version of the album’s title track)

Wolfestone- ‘Unleashed’ (1989)

I was travelling to play at Reading Festival when someone put this album on in the van and immediately I realised this band were truly fellow-travellers – and there was much to learn from their blending of traditional music with good original songwriting, where sensitive guitar playing had a central part. They weren’t The Waterboys, but they had the same sense of attack, and an obvious love of what they were doing. Perhaps the least known of the albums chosen, this should need no introduction – it is, in its own way, a classic.

(Nick is right. A band I hadn’t come across before but as this whole feature is about introducing us all to good music I’m glad I found it here. The opening track of ‘Unleashed’ from 1992)

Levellers- ‘Levellers’ (1993)

The band didn’t tell me they were putting my song ‘Dirty Davey’ on this album – but they were well aware of my attitude to ‘folk’ music: it’s common property, as far as I’m concerned, whatever the source. And that isn’t why I chose this record over, say, Levelling The Land. It seems to me a broader, more ambitious production, without losing its roots. It was released about the time my young son made a short film for a BBC Children’s television programme, about how much the band meant to him, and had seen him through some rough years. They were, you might say, at their height. Their legendary Glastonbury headline spot was soon to come. They had successfully entered the mainstream without squandering their gifts. And those gifts are abundant here. I should say I’ve always felt privileged that they cite me as a main initial influence. The fact that they’re still working now says it all.

(Nick Burbridge performing with the Levellers in 2004 live on stage at Buxton Opera House doing his own song!)

Eithne Ní Uallacháin- ‘Bilingua’ (Initial Recording 1999- Posthumous Release 2014)

While she was in the midst of putting down vocals for this album Eithne killed herself. Working with what they had, and eventually fighting through their grief and misgivings, the musicians in her family and others released it fifteen years after her death. It’s an irresistible recording, centred round the most evocative female Irish traditional singer I have ever heard. Whether tackling old Gaelic pieces or fronting tales of her own battles with darkness and her sharp visions of light, it’s impossible to listen to her without being deeply moved – especially if much of her inner torment feels as deeply shared. We should all be indebted to those who loved her at first hand, who have kept her memory alive. It’s not discourteous to say that, through her music, I have found my own love for her. It will not die.

(“But grief can be translated from the light into the darkness; In the belly of the shadow with all its shades digested. Its true colours will unfold.”

(In 1998, Eithne returned to Shaun ‘Mudd’ Wallace’s Homestead studios to record a solo album. Ní Uallacháin’s vocals were completed and much of the music was arranged, but the album was not released. Eithne died in 1999 and her son, Dónal, took residence at Wallace’s studio as an assistant engineer, and during times when the studio was not booked worked with Wallace on the album. Due to contractual issues with the original record label, the album was not released until 2014,15 years after its recording and 14 years after mixing was completed. The album was titled Bilingua and was released with Gael Linn, who released Eithne’s first album, Cosa Gan Bhróga.)

Finbar & Eddie Furey- ‘First And Last’ (1968)

If I’m sometimes cited as an influence on certain others, forced to pick one album that influenced me most, it’s this one. It marks the beginning of a fifty year long journey so far, and whenever I listen to it, even now, I find it impossible to skip through. It represents everything good about Irish music. The instrumental playing is (apart from one or two odd passages) fearless and full of guile; the singing has both a tender and a punkish edge; the arrangements are often ornate and yet always seem gritty and spontaneous; and of course Ted Furey’s sons were born into an authentic travelling family, and it’s immediately audible. I was glad to cross paths with the duo once upon a time in Germany, when side-stage at Ingelheim festival Finbar (rightly, I’m sure) called the band I was in ‘a pile o’ shite’…I took it as a compliment he’d bothered to listen… That a wider family group went on to make a big name covering more commercial, and sometimes questionable material is neither here nor there, in my opinion. Good luck to them. I’ve been fortunate enough to be recognised as a poet, and where songs are concerned, use the idiom of my grandfathers to carry as complex and penetrating a vision as I’ve been able to pursue. But, in contrast to what often seems to masquerade as what it’s not, this is the real thing. The 1968 recording also forms the first half of The Spanish Cloak: The Best of the Fureys (1998) – available on all the usual selling and streaming platforms. On we go…

(Eddie’s first song was written by Scottish TV producer Gordon Smith. The words are set to the traditional Irish air ‘Buchal an Eire’)

Nick continues to produce great music and his last album, under the name of his original band, McDermott’s 2 Hours – ‘Besieged’ was not just featured on these pages but positively drooled over by our man Francis! On the album he is accompanied by members of both The Levellers and the Oysterband and showcases his work as not just a musician but also, in the best Irish tradition, as a poet, playwright and novelist as well. Available as a limited edition two CD set including a Best of compilation, Anticlimactic but you can buy several versions including the download direct from Nick here and also available from all streaming services inc. Spotify, Amazon etc here. You can contact Nick Burbridge over at his WebSite and Facebook. Thanks to Nick for taking his time out to pen this great feature ‘Go raibh maith agat’.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE WHIPJACKS- ‘This Wicked World’ (2019)

“We’re The Whipjacks and we’re just having fun”

This Wicked world is the brilliant debut album from a relatively new band to the Celtic-Punk scene. Based in Worcester in the English Midlands and heavily influenced by the major scene greats they are more though than just following others as here they deliver an album of quality high tempo Celtic Folk’n’Punk. 

Pounding drums, driving bass, screeching guitar, melodic mandolin and partial nudity. These are the things that energetic Midlands based five-piece The Whipjacks intend to bring to venues around England and based on their debut album they should be entertaining crowds for quite some time. If they aren’t near you right now, you can be damn sure they are coming… soon!

Their debut release was Scoundrels And Rogues, a 4-track EP, including a radio edit of the title song, which came out in early 2017. Original compositions of high tempo Celtic-Punk with catchy tunes that belies that The Whipjacks are basically a punk band but with a  mandolin player but in the right hands and with the right tunes a folk instrument can transform any band into something much greater. Here Arran’s playing makes that difference.

So just over a year later saw the release of This Wicked World and a catalogue of mishaps here at London Celtic Punks that saw it filed in our spam folder for ages and then lost, along with 100’s of hours of music when my laptop went bonkers. Finally though we are ready to deliver our verdict and I’m guessing that most will have already decided which way I have gone from the over enthusiastic opening paragraph!! Well yes it’s true I absolutely love it and I’m not ashamed to announce it from the rooftops!

Again, as on Scoundrels And Rogues all the tracks here are original compositions. No room for ‘The Wild Rover’ here I am glad to say. The shadow of the ‘Big Bands’ does loom over them somewhat and partly it’s because of their name and similar style to one band in particular but The Whipjacks plough their own furrow and it helps I suppose to be tucked away in a quiet backwater like Worcester to develop their own style and sound. The album opens with ‘Forever Free’ and from the off it grabs you with Tim wielding his guitar in a similar style to how The Skids once did while Dean’s strong vocals are both tuneful and punk rock. It’s a well chosen start to the album with a catchy beat and a song that leads directly into one of the albums highlights with Arran getting his first chance to shine on the mandolin and  ‘Sundown Devil’ has tinges of good auld fashioned country’n’western mixed into proceedings and a great chorus and a nice sense of cheeky humour too.

“She’s a devil when the sun goes down, my friend, I love it when she goes down,

Innocent and sweet when you pass her on the street but a devil when the sun goes down”

‘Push On’ is a short piratey number that still embraces The Whipjacks sound coming across like a punk sea shanty before the album’s title song ‘This Wicked World’ and a real Celtic-Punk epic. Lasting over five minutes the song dives and lifts and swirls throughout and while not quite a ballad it certainly slows the pace nicely. So far it’s been a sort of generic ‘Celtic’ sound The Whipjacks have employed but finally on ‘Hero’ we can nail down a ‘Gaelige’ influence and what a song. Nowhere on This Wicked World does Dean’s voice sound so good as on here and its a mark of the band that my favourite tracks from the album are so diverse but then the Bhoys go for it and finish the song with a real CeltPunk flourish. The next song is the one they chose to release as the album’s single and is without a doubt the #1 song here. I may love a ballad or a trad folk reel or two but give me a foot-stomping fist in the air dance floor filler any day of the week and I’m in heaven. ‘All My Pains (Are Self Inflicted)’ is that song! Catchy as hell and a guaranteed audience favourite I am sure.

With ‘The Ballad Of Jack Cade’ we are set for a bit of a history lesson and I must say how impressed I am with the current trend of bands singing sings like this that don’t just entertain but also tell a tale too. English history is full of such stories and while many of the ‘middle-class left’ would have us self-flagellating ourselves over slavery or some such event from the past they are more than happy to ignore the history of the ordinary people of this island of rebellion and struggle. Jack Cade was the Irish born leader of the 1450 rebellion against King Henry VI. Although put down ruthlessly it led to the War Of The Roses which in turn led to the breakdown of Royal authority. Having been accused of murder and fled to France he returned in 1450 emerging as the leader of a Kentish rebellion. His forces defeated the royal army at Sevenoaks in June and two weeks later he entered London, where he executed the hated Lord Treasurer. Eventually run from the city the government persuaded most of the rebels to disperse by offering them a pardon, but Cade continued his resistance. Wounded and captured near Lewes on July 12, 1450 he died while being transported to London. The song itself is a catchy folk led number that The Levellers would be proud of. One thing the Celtic-Punk scene can’t get enough of is more rap style numbers and on ‘L.S.D’ The Whipjacks deliver. It’s not quite the House Of Pain but again their sense of humour shines through before ‘Song For A Swine’ and a quick barroom ballad played out to the sound of a pub piano with Dean and gang crooning along before the album’s curtain comes down with the energetic  ‘Farewell To The Ladies’ and a song that again raises both a smile and a fist!

So having made themselves a firm fixture on their local music scene and with a ever growing list of gigs further afield it’s now time for them to come to the attention of the wide Celtic-Punk community. With a scene as partisan as the Celtic-Punk scene it’s hard to get people in this country to look beyond the likes of the Murphys and the Mollys but all the time their are bands like The Whipjacks flying the flag for Celtic infused Folk-Punk with shedloads of both attitude and really good songs. This Wicked World is thirty-five minutes of infectious sea bound anthems. Music to forget your vows and bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart as well as pain to the soles of your feet!

Buy This Wicked World  cdBaby  iTunes

Contact The Whipjacks  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Bandcamp  Soundcloud

Join the crew of local favourite Roderick the Rambunctious as he looks back on his wrestling career to date.

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