Brand new single from one of our favourite artists the Catalonian based Scots singer-songwriter Louis Rive. Together ‘The State Of The Nation’ with the B-side ‘In The Shadows Of Big Ben’, takes a critical look at the double standards of living in Great Britain in an age defined by Brexit.
Scottish singer-songwriter, based in Barcelona, Louis draws on all aspects of folk music from the traditional ballads of the barroom to the modern day tale-tellers and poets. Influenced by The Pogues, Hamish Imlach, Matt McGinn and The Corries, to name but a few, Louis has set out to continue the grand tradition of the storytelling musician. His debut album, The Cheap Part Of Town, featured herelast year and even went as far as #2 in our Top Ten Folk And Trad releases of 2018. The album was a truly wonderful and original half hour plus in the company of a singer-songwriter that deserves to more widely heard. Telling tales of working class life in folk music is not unusual but what is unusual is for them to be told with such passion and feeling and the taste and smell of authenticity that fills your senses with the legends of Louis life across Europe.
“Folk music is storytelling. Storytelling is poetry. Poetry is songwriting when you can’t play the guitar. Collecting stories of people and places and putting them into song is what I do. I’ve met every type of person there is to meet, especially through my work over the last decade. These are their stories, the stories of the street.”
The new single is available across all digital platforms and ‘The State Of The Nation’ aims to capture one of modern life’s most mysterious of traits, that of being Scottish in the modern day, and what relevance, if any, that moniker has any more. It’s nostalgic in a pointless way, and fairly lacking in optimism, so at least analogous with the general experience of being from north of the border.
The ‘State of the Nation’ is about the UK. It’s about being Scottish and it’s about living in Europe during a time of uncertainty. It may not be feel-good, but it might make you think, something that’s been fairly absent in the UK of late, in the wake of the great Brexit divide. In the wake of his critically acclaimed debut album and fresh from a summer of festival appearances across the UK, including Black Deer Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe, Louis’ new single provides a soundtrack to a land at odds with itself.
THE STATE OF THE NATION
Two-hundred years being wrapped snug in tartan
Made to sing ‘God Save the Queen’
Your forefathers say ‘Be a proud son of Scotland’
But in this day and age what do they mean?
We’re all rebels and princes, fighters and lovers
Feeling on top of the world
Oh the few who will feature on the pages of schoolbooks
And the many who’ll never be heard
We’re solving the mystery without any proof
Oh enough of your lies, won’t you tell me the truth?
Are we up to our necks in the blood of old Jock Thompson’s bairns?
All the sugar, tobacco, cotton, molasses
Looking at history through rose tinted glasses
Nemo me impune lacessit, and other such joys
Be you Scottish or British or English or Irish
Tick the box for your colour or creed
Cultural appropriation on a packet of biscuits is the only real reference I need
From Ossian’s diaries to the Highland Societies
Inclusion behind padlocked doors
But the word ‘Caledonian’ was coined by the Romans
Just to mark out the mad bastards up north
Is it ‘yes’ is it ‘no’, is it getting beaten 3-0 at home?
Is it a pregnant teenager at the end of a phone?
But she hasn’t the time to read ‘Rob Roy’ nor ‘Ivanhoe’
Nothing to do so go out for a pint eh?
The blue-blooded bowler hats shout 1690 Next generation take heed and sharpen their swords
All suited and booted all dressed to the nines
In a Royal Stewart kilt from some factory line
‘Made in China’ hiding away under a plastic cockade Is it brains over brawn?
Is it link over lorne? Is it choosing the right football team?
The echoed frustrations in a half-empty Hampden With Gemmill, Dalgleish and Gordon McQueen
How do you feel about god or the devil? The ‘Flowers of the Forest’ for sale?
The young ones will pays for their parents’ transgressions
While the old ones rehash the old tales
Night by 15:30, cold mince and tatties
A wink to the lads and a toast to the lassies
A night at ‘Her Majesty’s Pleasure’ to round it all off
The blue and the white on a sky of slate grey
The grovelling politicos with nothing to say
But it’s hard getting by given neither the time nor the day
Hey for ‘Bobbin’ John’, hey for cockolorum
Tha tighin fodham, fodham, fodham
Oh well you take the high road and I’ll take the low
The ‘Skyscraper Wean’s’ got nowhere to go
Now the blue paint’s all smudged on the face
Of the star of the show
(you can stream/download State Of The Nation below for just £2)
Well it seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in Mannions in north London totting up the votes for the Best Album Of 2017 over a couple of pints and so here we are again. Everyone loves to give out there opinions and we are no different so for what it’s worth, here’s who we think made the best music in the celtic-punk scene over the last year. It’s been another outstanding year for the music that we all love and some truly fantastic records came out in the last twelve months. 2017 saw just about every major player in the scene release an album while in 2018 they left it to many of the lesser known bands to dominate! Remember though this is only our opinion and these thirty album’s are only the tip of the iceberg of what was released last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. As a bonus we figured out how to attach a poll at the end so you can even vote on your favourite release of 2018 yourself. If it’s not listed then simply add your choice.
We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…
So absolutely no surprises here at all. In fact The Rumjacks have pretty much swept the board across the Celtic-Punk scene with what we even thought was their best release since their groundbreaking debut album Gangs Of New Holland. The Bhoys are going from strength to strength and are set to go through the roof in 2019. They remain as humble as ever and downright lovely folk to know which reminds me, congrats from us all here to Frankie and LCP’er Anna on their engagement. Other notables were Sir Reg who even flew over to London to premier their new album The Underdogs before later returning to embark on a successful nationwide tour… while I was on holiday! London-Irish band Clan Of Celts, despite a few teething problems, delivered a fantastic debut album as well as, my personal favourite of the year, Belgium’s Krakin’ Kellys. A dual release of an album and a EP on the same day is a novel approach but it paid dividends for Lexington Field as they were both brilliant. Sinful Maggie have just been getting bigger and bigger all year and we expect this to continue into 2019. Three albums from the Celtic nations with two from Galicia from Falperrys and Bastards On Parade and Cornwall’s Pirate Copy. All together we have bands from twelve countries with Germany with the most placings alongside Australia, USA, England, Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, Canada, Italy, Galicia, Cornwall and Japan.
I was not the only one at London Celtic Punks Towers to be abso-fecking-lutely blown away by the Krakin’ Kellys debut album. Fast and melodic skater style punk rock with bagpipes that will blow the cobwebs away off off anyone! They made quite a wave in the scene thanks to their brilliant videos so go check them outhere. This section was the easiest one to award by far!
MOSCHE DI VELLUTO GRIGIO- Of Pain And Glory hereand RAISE MY KILT- A New Tartan here
At one point this was heading towards being an Australian #1, #2 and #3 but at the last minute our local favourites The Lagan released Let’s Do It Again at the end of December and wrestled it away from Medusa’s Wake. Their first studio release in a hell of a long time it came out too late to trouble many of our friends ‘Best Of’ lists but their loss is our gain! Besides them and our Aussie friends the list was made up from bands from the USA, Holland, Italy and Austria which goes to show the international nature of the scene. As an aside you can get the brilliant bagpipe punk debut EP from Scotch for free by following the link to their review. For lovers of the McKenzies you’ll not be disappointed!
bubbling under: THE BRANDY THIEVES- The Devil’s Wine here
Always the hardest to do this section as our scope has become fairly wide over the years and gone beyond Celtic-Punk but Irish-American’s Marys Lane managed at once to be a record both me and my Mammy love! Even better the Cleveland based band have made it available to download for free/donation so follow the link above. Scot Louis Rive’s debut album really impressed me and was one of my most played albums of the year and The Craicheads capped a great year with a fantastic single and their lead singer Mick making the papers and the telly for saving a Mum and her babies lives (here). Good on yer Mick. It’s a privilege to know you. More local talent at #4 which ended a year where Man The Lifeboats have gone from first band on to headline shows and a mention for the amazing Finbar Furey who put a most excellent LP at the tender age of only 72.
MERSEY CELT PUNKS
We may be a wee bit biased here but last years winners take it again this year too. 2018 saw them continue to develop the site into an all-round resource for Liverpudlians and further afield. Yeah these guys are always blowing our trumpet we know and we have shared a good few scoops with them, and will again not long after this is published, but we enjoy what they write and it’s all done with an enthusiasm that us auld hacks are constantly jealous of. Plus you are not a major player in the Celtic-Punk scene unless you had your picture took with Elliot! You can also join in their fun and games on their Twitterand Facebookand their Web-Zine. Be sure to subscribe.
So there you go. Remember we don’t pretend to be the final word on things in fact if you check the other celtic-punk media I’m sure we’ve all come up with relatively different lists. Our Best Of’s are cajoled and bullied out of the admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The assorted scraps of paper and beer mats were then tallied up please remember not all of us heard the same albums so like all the various Best Of’s ours is also subjective.
This is our 6th year of us making these lists so if you would like to check out out who was where in our previous Best Of’s then just click on the link below the relevant year.
The debut album from Louis Rive a Scottish singer-songwriter drawing on all aspects of folk music from traditional to barroom ballad to modern day tale-tellers and poets. Influenced by The Pogues, Hamish Imlach, Michael Marra and The Corries Louis has set out to continue the grand tradition of the Celtic storytelling musician.
Funny sometimes the circumstances you first hear a new song or a new album. In the case of the new Louis Rive album I was trying to get to sleep one night but had such a pain in my knee I could not drop off so having the next day off work I got up in the middle of the night and went downstairs. The Cheap Part Of Town had been in my huge to-listen pile for a couple of weeks so on a whim I thought I’d give it a whirl and see what it was like. Well initially I thought it was the combination of a couple of beers and a handful of strong painkillers but I ended sitting up till the early hours with the the album on repeat so much did I love it!
The Cheap Part Of Town is just Louis on his own. Nothing else just him and his acoustic guitar. Plenty of thrills but no gimmicks, except for a wee bit of fiddle. Just straight up acoustic folk with tales of Louis life tacked onto it. Born in the Edinburgh you won’t see on the postcards in the centre of the city or on programmes about the Festival he later had the same ‘rite of passage’ as many Scots of his, and indeed many previous, generation and moved to London. It was in London he garnered many of the ideas of the songs on the album but three years grafting shitty odd jobs in London was three years too many and he fled to Spain where after two years getting pissed and stoned in a village in Andalusia before a cheap flight took him to Barcelona, basically because of a cheap flight. Not wanting to go back to that existence of badly paid jobs purely to cover the rent he decided to concentrate on his music and with a wealth of stories from the shiteholes he has lived and the interesting folk that he has met he began to put these stories to music. As Louis himself says
“Folk music is storytelling. Storytelling is poetry. Poetry is songwriting when you can’t play the guitar.”
The Cheap Part Of Town begins with ‘Francis Drake’s Last Trip’ and after all my talk about the album being full of his life experiences this I doubt does. The tale of Sir Francis Drake famed English sea captain, privateer, slave trader, naval officer and explorer of the Elizabethan era and his adventures fighting the Spanish whilst attempting to capture gold and silver and bring it home to London. Drake died of dysentery in January 1596 and while he is celebrated here he has always been labelled a pirate in Spanish quarters.
As stated their are no gimmicks just Louis and on this evidence he doesn’t need any. Blessed with a strong voice and a ear for a catchy tune as well as a way to tell an interesting story all wrapped up in just over four minutes. He follows this with ‘Streetlights Of London’ and the story of the N19 bus which use to take Louis from the working class Highbury Estate to the graveyard shift in posh hotels in the centre of London. The song tells of the life on that bus from cleaners in the morning to drunks in the evening with all of society’s excess and necessity reflected on the top deck of an out-of-hours mode of transport. The song is played faster than ‘Francis Drake’s Last Trip’ and still carries on the theme of catchy, tuneful and interesting story telling that flows throughout the album.
“Running through the underground
with a carrier bag of sin
Constabulary absence opportune moment for another tin
The carriage was dark but there’s nobody there”
Another fascinating character in Louis life was the subject of the next track ‘Cider Al’. Drinking in the The King’s Arms, Tollcross back home in Edinburgh the karaoke gave you a free shot of shit whiskey for entering so all the local pissheads would come down and do a song and get free booze.
One such fella was Cider Al who always sang the same song ‘Common People’ by Pulp. In life you come across these people who come and go in your life.
“We heard Pulp’s ‘Common People’ for the seventh time
You stumbled through the lyrics as you spilt your wine
And we all laughed and joked and said that you’d be fine,
we were wrong”
I am getting sick of using the word ‘Catchy’ but there yo go there’s no better word for what I’m listening to. A loving tribute but also a sad one. The sad songs pile up now with ‘Mulberry Mews’ up next and the stories of childhood and growing up, buying drink and fags, the boredom of the high street, visiting his great-aunt in an old people’s home and that you can never get away from where you came from.
“Oh mister barman pour me another
I know the night is drawing near
They’ll carry her body down to the churchyard,
Where there’ll be no-one to shed a tear”
A bleak tale about a neighbourhood of Edinburgh that doesn’t exist. next up Louis writes about Hospitalet de Llobregat, a satellite town now merged into Greater Barcelona, in the title track ‘The Cheap Part Of Town’. The forgotten part of Barcelona and the song speaks about all the folk on the street, the gypsies, drunks and prostitutes. It was a tough area with a incredibly rich array of characters but these places are always more interesting than the rich part of town, which is why the rich always want to live there but without the threat and danger. Give it a couple of years and I’m sure the yuppies will have turned Hospitalet de Llobregat into just another bland suburb. Gerry Denis adds some reserved fiddle here that fits just in. All the songs here are varied and original and from ballad to foot stomper’s like ‘House Of God’ and ‘Lowlife’ great tunes abound with great hooks. Every song tells a story. The failings of the church towards the poor or the awful memories of a life in service that a soldier attempts to block through drink. While the rite of passage for recent Scots was a journey down South to Kings Cross in times past it was Americas that the Scots went. Large-scale emigration began in the 1700’s, after the defeat of the Jacobite rising and the resulting breakup of Highland Clearances (the Scottish An Gorta Mór). Displaced Scots left in search of a better life and settled initially around South Carolina and Virginia and then further in successive generations. ‘Take Me To Virginia’ tells of one of these Scots working his hands to the very bone but refusing to give up on the land he works.
“They took me to Virginia
Four and twenty years ago today
I’m still working the land
Blood and stones with both my hands, Virginia”
The idea that there’s always something better over the horizon is something I can relate to. Being half Scottish and having left the frozen north back in 1990 I can testify the sight as you got off the train at Kings Cross back then would be enough to make you turn tale and head back to comfort of your Mammy’s bosom. The curtain comes down with the album highlight the beautiful ‘Alone’ and here Louis brings together all the strands of the previous songs and as with all the songs presented here it offers you the chance to enjoy the music wash over you as well as to listen to the words and dissect them.
A truly wonderful and original half hour plus in the company of a singer-songwriter that deserves to more widely heard. To tell tales of working class life in folk music is not unusual but what is unusual is for them to be told with such passion and feeling and the taste and smell of authenticity that fills your senses with the legends of Louis life across Europe. Louis has a grand future ahead of him and on listening to The Cheap Part Of The Town I want to come with him.
(have a free listen to The Cheap Part Of Town before you buy on the Bandcamp player below. It’s only a fiver so support independent artists and get your wallets out!)