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ALBUM REVIEW: THE JAMESTOWN BROTHERS- ‘Rebels, Rogues and Regrets’ (2020)

Debut album full of Celtic tinged anthemic songs from Somerset based band The Jamestown Brothers. Soul stirring, foot stomping originals drawn from the well of Country, Blues and Celtic Folk.

Don’t know what they put in the water (or the cider!) down there in the South-East of England but when it comes to bands with a Celtic influence the counties of Devon, Dorset and Somerset can’t get enough. Bands like Black Water County, Mad Dog McCrea and Sinful Maggie have all reached headliner status across England playing a variation of Celtic-Rock/ Punk that is particularly popular down where the cider flows freely. The reasons for this I cannot really put my finger on. The Irish in England are numerous but outside urban areas they may still be found but they never settled in the countryside in any sort of numbers so I think we can discount Irish heritage so maybe its just the unabashed reckless abandon and fun of Celtic music that does it for them. After all in Folk music everywhere is sort of connected and these are also the areas where old English customs are not just maintained but flourishing too. Might not be connected but they also have had a reputation for many years of being a bit lawless with smuggling and the like years ago and even in the present day where unjust or unpopular laws are not fought and campaigned against just totally ignored!

So this is the part of England that the 9 (yes nine) piece band The Jamestown Brothers hail from, in particular Somerset. The area is these days best known for farming and agriculture, tourism and the manufacture (and drinking) of cider with several of the best known producers originating from here. The locals though much prefer ‘scrumpy’ a type of rough cider made from non-premium apples and significantly stronger in alcohol content. They were formed by lead singer and main songwriter Colin Batchelor in 2017 but it took them almost two years for their first release the EP Singing For Our Supper to come out. This EP gained them a large local following and saw them appearing on the plentiful local festival circuit of which their are many in the area the band come from, including the world famous Glastonbury festival.

The Jamestown Brothers from left to right: Simon Reilly – Bass * Del Walker – Drums * John Trimble – Fiddle/ Mandolin * Ian Burton – Guitar/ Vocals * Colin Batchelor – Guitar/ Vocals * Phil Price – Keyboards * Sharon Eastwood – Recorder/ Vocals * Andy Williams – Trumpet/ Flugelhorn * Charlie Fisher – Trombone *

Rebels, Rogues And Regrets is the bands debut album and was released just a couple of days ago and kicks up a right (un)royal storm from the first notes of the recorder till the last. ‘Cut ‘Em Down’ is a great start telling the stories of local rebellion as well as of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester on 16th August 1819. Cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000 demanding parliamentary representation causing 18 deaths and severe injuries to 100’s. Though acoustic you just know these guys could go louder than most Punk band’s. Catchy and tunesome and great vocals from Colin on the whole it reminds me of the folkier side of The Men They Couldn’t Hang.

“cut ’em down, the rebels are arising we’ll have no talk of reform or liberty

 cut ’em down, the cavalry came riding into the crowd of peace and harmony”

‘Rebel Rousing Few’ follows and TMTCH comparison continues with a song that starts as a ballad before becoming a jaunty Country influenced number based again on the local history of rebellion and transportation to Australia of men and woman from this beautiful part of England. Fiddle and recorder are the main stand out instruments but that’s not a disservice to the other seven members as the sound is deep and multi-varied and the production is immaculate.

Two songs in and they finally get around to a drinking song and ‘If You Can’t Have A Drink’ opens with brass and a humorous take on heaven hoping their favourite bar is open up there. Mind you with the death of so many boozers in the last few years I’m hoping Luke Nolan’s up there pulling pints in a heavenly Acton Arms. Piano gives the song a olde timey music hall feel with great lyrics set to give the stoniest face a smile. ‘Salvation Alley’ has a darker edge to it then previous songs with trombone giving it a sinister feel. ‘Please Let Me Go’ straddles the fence nicely between Folk and Country and sees Colin accompanied by Sharon on backing vocals. ‘Whitley Girl’ sees The Jamestown Brothers take on a love song to the local girls of South Somerset and the joys of alcohol.

(just released the promo video for the album featuring excerpts from each song)

‘Bring Your Moma Down’ has a Kinks thing going on and is a nice change of pace too with the brass instruments playing their part here. We steering up towards port now and another change of pace with the beautiful and personal ‘The One’. The curtain comes down on Rebels, Rogues And Regrets with ‘Long Walk Home’ with another jaunty Celtic number that sees them go out with a fight. Hard to pick a favourite but I’d say this or the equally as good ‘Salvation Alley’.

The album came out just a couple of days ago on the 31st August 2020 and will definitely gather them some new fans and plenty of attention. In fact with 2020 officially cancelled they have already been booked to play festival’s in Godney, Watchet, Exmouth, Wimborne, Sheppy, alongside Seth Lakeman, and a Saturday night headline slot at Home Farm where their reputation for high-energy live performances, equally at home in the pub or the festival stage, will steal the show from a lot more well known bands. So plenty of chances to catch them play, especially if you’re a fan of camping like me. Guitars, drums, mandolin, fiddle we are use to here but recorder, piano and a brass section we are not and it comes together brilliantly.  Throw in what the band actually has to say and their willingness to tell the stories of the past to us today and we have a band that is hopefully bound for bigger things. Definitely worth checking out especially if you like your acoustic music to dance to as well as ever-so-fecking-loud!

Buy Rebels, Rogues And Regrets  CD- FromTheBand  Download- Apple  Spotify

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ALBUM REVIEW: TIR NAN OG- ‘From The Gallows’ (2018)

From The Gallows is the fourth album from German Celtic folk punk band Tir Nan Og. Released in January 2018 according to Marvey Mills it delivers an instant slab of authentic folk punk loveliness from the opening song to the very last drop of the fourteenth track.

It is necessary, when reviewing an album, to draw comparisons with others of the genre in order to locate it in the broad and diverse spectrum, for the delight and delectation of the reader. I have found that many European Celtic folk punk bands tend to focus on a few keys themes; drinking, fighting and wenching, wrapped up in fast aggressive tunes with the distorted guitar turned up to 11 and the drummer beating out a rhythm like a runaway train. Songs you might imagine singing along with at the top of your voice, pint of booze in one hand and the other clenched in a fist punching the air in defiance of the oppressive overlords of the past. From the Gallows is not one of those albums. Think of a combination of Black Water County, The Biblecode Sundays and Mad Dog Mcrea with a little of the whimsy of Merry Hell thrown in for good measure and you will get somewhere close. Don’t get me wrong, all those good old familiar party themes are well represented here, but the musical underpinning is layered, sophisticated, varied, skilfully delivered and occasionally surprising.

The opening track, “O’ Hanlon’s Last Words”, sets out the stall for the album and I knew by twenty seconds in that I would love the whole album. Leading from the front with some capering-pace solid fiddle licks and acoustic strums it melds seamlessly into the opening lyrics. Robert Meyer, the most Irish sounding German voice I have ever heard, delivers “Bless me Father for I have sinned done quite an evil deed”. His gravelly tones supported by dancing flute riffs, you know instantly where this track is going. He is joined on vocals by Sarah Kucharek, sounding for all the world like Shannon from Black Water County, in some fabulous backing harmonies as the song build pace.

Tir Nan Og left to right: Sarah Kucharek- Vocals, Traverse Flute * Robert Mayer- Guitars, Vocals * Andreas Fingas- Backing Vocals, Bagpipes, Whistles * Volker Katzki- Drums, Bodhran * Joachim ‘Joggi’ Fink- Bass * MatthiasPracht- Fiddle, Nyckelharpa

Loosely themed, naturally enough, around the struggles of life and death with the shadow of the gallows ever-present, the album keeps up a blistering pace, throwing in the ubiquitous tin whistle, flute and some alternative percussion I could not quite identify, as it romps from song to song. By  track three, Sarah takes over on lead vocals on the excellent “Firestorm” with scaffolding ably provided by some growling fiddle, droning pipes (maybe!) and backing harmonies from the rest of the band. The thoughtful fourth track “Monster (In My Mind)” dials down the pace a little and is pushed along by interwoven flute and whistle harmonies, with a beautiful flute and fiddle breakdown towards the end.

Sarah returns on haunting lead vocals for my personal favourite track on the album, ‘Last Farewell’, telling the sorry tale of Myles Joyce, one of three men wrongfully convicted and hanged in 1882 for the murder of a local family on the border between Mayo and Galway after a shameful trial by British authorities. “Toll for me the Angelus bell, let it ring let it sing my last farewell”.

The pathos is punctured admirably by the next two tracks “Three Nights in Town” and “Shaun O’Malley”. Riotous and ribald romps documenting the misfortunes of drinking too much when seeking romance and of being mistaken for the ne’er-do-well Mr O’Malley wherever the author turns. The latter being the perfect song for spinning and reeling audience participation at any whiskey-fuelled gig at a certain point in the evening! I am looking forward to being in that crowd one day, screaming “Who the fuck is Shaun O’Malley” along with the band onstage.

The fun doesn’t end there though. Seven more tracks complete the album, including two bonus tracks, with the instrumental “Bastard Reel” being a standout joyous and fiddle-driven reel, with one of the final songs sung in the band’s native tongue. The final track “Johnny Pirate”, with alternating English and German verses, is happy pirate rock documenting the life and times of Johnny Depp!

Tir Nan Og’s music is familiar, even on the first listen. Authentic and eclectic in its influences it draws on a pantheon of instantly recognisable themes. This absorbs you, quickly and completely. But just when you think you know where it is going, the band changes tempo, drops in a change, adds a different instrument or goes in a new direction. That is one of things I really enjoyed about this album, it never seems to get complacent or relies on regurgitating that which has gone before. Skilled and layered musicianship expertly woven together with glorious vocals and harmonies create dynamism and energy exhibited by the best that Celtic folk punk has to offer. I like this band so much I am off to purchase their first three albums and I will be looking out for them eagerly on the gig and festival circuit.

Discography

Ardacris (2016) * Jack Of Folk (2015) * Bitter Brew (2012) * After Work (2019) *

Buy From The Gallows

FromTheBand  Amazon

Contact Tir Nan Og

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