Tag Archives: Planxty

THE HISTORY OF CELTIC-ROCK MUSIC

Today the 30492- London Celtic Punks web zine is four years old today so what better way to celebrate our birthday than to give you this small but perfectly formed potted history of Celtic-Rock. We have never just wanted to be a place that only reviews new records we want to celebrate everything that makes us celtic-punks. Our love of our roots and our history and our traditions and the love that those with no Celtic ancestry have as well. Celtic-Punk is for all that share our common values of friendship and solidarity and the love of a good time. Music cannot change the world but it can certainly make it a better place to live in and in these uncertain times that is something we all need. The roots of celtic-punk should be important to us as that is where we come from and we must never forget that.

The London Celtic Punks Admin Team

Celtic rock is a genre of folk rock, as well as a form of Celtic fusion which incorporates Celtic music, instrumentation and themes into a rock music context. It has been extremely prolific since the early 1970’s and can be seen as a key foundation of the development of highly successful mainstream Celtic bands and popular musical performers, as well as creating important derivatives through further fusions. It has played a major role in the maintenance and definition of regional and national identities and in fostering a pan-Celtic culture. It has also helped to communicate those cultures to external audiences.

Definition

The style of music is the hybrid of traditional Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton musical forms with rock music. This has been achieved by the playing of traditional music, particularly ballads, jigs and reels with rock instrumentation; by the addition of traditional Celtic instruments, including the Celtic harp, tin whistle, uilleann pipes (or Irish Bagpipes), fiddle, bodhrán, accordion, concertina, melodeon, and bagpipes (highland) to conventional rock formats; by the use of lyrics in Celtic languages and by the use of traditional rhythms and cadences in otherwise conventional rock music. Just as the validity of the term Celtic in general and as a musical label is disputed, the term Celtic rock cannot be taken to mean there was a unified Celtic musical culture between the Celtic nations. However, the term has remained useful as a means of describing the spread, adaptation and further development of the musical form in different but related contexts.

History

Origins

Celtic rock developed out of the (originally English) electric folk scene at the beginning of the 1970’s. The first recorded use of the term may have been by the Scottish singer Donovan to describe the folk rock he created for his Open Road album in 1970, which itself featured a song named ‘Celtic Rock’. However, the lack of a clear Celtic elements to the self-penned tracks mean that even if the name was taken from here, this is not the first example of the genre that was to develop.

Ireland

It was in Ireland that Celtic rock was first clearly evident as musicians attempted to apply the use of traditional and electric music to their own cultural context. By the end of the 1960’s Ireland already had perhaps the most flourishing folk music tradition and a growing blues and pop scene, which provided a basis for Irish rock. Perhaps the most successful product of this scene was the band Thin Lizzy. Formed in 1969 their first two albums were recognisably influenced by traditional Irish music and their first hit single ‘Whisky in the Jar’ in 1972, was a rock version of a traditional Irish song. From this point they began to move towards the hard rock that allowed them to gain a series of hit singles and albums, but retained some occasional elements of Celtic rock on later albums such as Jailbreak (1976). Formed in 1970, Horslips were the first Irish group to have the terms ‘Celtic rock’ applied to them, produced work that included traditional Irish/Celtic music and instrumentation, Celtic themes and imagery, concept albums based on Irish mythology in a way that entered the territory of progressive rock all powered by a hard rock sound. Horslips are considered important in the history of Irish rock as they were the first major band to enjoy success without having to leave their native country and can be seen as providing a template for Celtic rock in Ireland and elsewhere. These developments ran in parallel with the burgeoning folk revival in Ireland that included groups such as Planxty and the Bothy Band. It was from this tradition that Clannad, whose first album was released in 1973, adopted electric instruments and a more ‘new age’ sound at the beginning of the 1980s. Moving Hearts, formed in 1981 by former Planxty members Christy Moore and Donal Lunny, followed the pattern set by Horslips in combining Irish traditional music with rock, and also added elements of jazz to their sound.

  • THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY (here)

Scotland

There were already strong links between Irish and Scottish music by the 1960s, with Irish bands like the Chieftains touring and outselling the native artists in Scotland. The adoption of electric folk produced groups including the JSD Band and Spencer’s Feat. Out of the wreckage of the latter in 1974, was formed probably the most successful band in this genre, combining Irish and Scottish personnel to form Five Hand Reel. Two of the most successful groups of the 1980s emerged from the dance band circuit in Scotland. From 1978, when they began to release original albums, Runrig produced highly polished Scottish electric folk, including the first commercially successful album with the all Gaelic Play Gaelic in 1978. From the 1980s Capercaillie combined Scottish folk music, electric instruments and haunting vocals to considerable success. While bagpipes had become an essential element in Scottish folk bands they were much rarer in electric folk outfits, but were successfully integrated into their sound by Wolfstone from 1989, who focused on a combination of highland music and rock.

  • HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC (here)

Brittany

Brittany also made a major contribution to Celtic rock. The Breton cultural revival of the 1960s was exemplified by Alan Stivell who became the leading proponent of the Breton harp and other instruments from about 1960, he then adopted elements of Irish, Welsh and Scottish traditional music in an attempt to create a pan-Celtic folk music, which had considerable impact elsewhere, particularly in Wales and Cornwall. From 1972 he began to play electric folk with a band including guitarists Dan Ar Braz and Gabriel Yacoub. Yacoub went on to form Malicorne in 1974 one of the most successful electric folk band in France. After an extensive career that included a stint playing as part of Fairport Convention in 1976, Ar Braz formed the pan-Celtic band Heritage des Celtes, who managed to achieve mainstream success in France in the 1990’s. Probably the best known and most certainly the most enduring electric folk band in France were Tri Yann formed in 1971 and still recording and performing today. In 2017 celtic-punk band Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs fly the flag for Brittany singing in their native language and playing regularly and often accompanied on stage by Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Tan Ar Bobl’ (here)

Wales

By the end of the 1960’s Wales had produced some important individuals and bands that emerged as major British or international artists, this included power pop outfit Badfinger, psychedelic rockers Elastic Band and proto-heavy metal trio Budgie. But although folk groupings formed in the early 1970’s, including Y Tebot Piws, Ac Eraill, and Mynediad am Ddim, it was not until 1973 that the first significant Welsh language rock band Edward H Dafis, originally a belated rock n’ roll outfit, caused a sensation by electrifying and attempting to use rock instrumentation while retaining Welsh language lyrics. As a result, for one generation listening to Welsh language rock music could now become a statement of national identity. This opened the door for a new rock culture but inevitably most Welsh language acts were unable to breakthrough into the Anglophone dominated music industry. Anhrefn became the best known of these acts taking their pop-punk rock sound across Europe from the early-80’s to mid-90’s.

  • TRIBUTE TO WELSH PUNK ROCK LEGENDS ANHREFN (here)

Cornwall and the Isle of Man

Whereas other Celtic nations already had existing folk music cultures before the end of the 1960s this was less true in Cornwall and the Isle of Man, which were also relatively small in population and more integrated into English culture and (in the case of Cornwall) the British State. As a result, there was relatively little impact from the initial wave of folk electrification in the 1970’s. However, the pan-Celtic movement, with its musical and cultural festivals helped foster some reflections in Cornwall where a few bands from the 1980s onwards utilised the traditions of Cornish music with rock, including Moondragon and its successor Lordryk. More recently the bands Sacred Turf, Skwardya and Krena, have been performing in the Cornish language.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: BARRULE- ‘Manannans Cloak’ (here)

Subgenres

Celtic Punk

Ireland proved particularly fertile ground for punk bands in the mid-1970s, including Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, The Radiators From Space, The Boomtown Rats and The Virgin Prunes. As with electric folk in England, the advent of punk and other musical trends undermined the folk element of Celtic rock, but in the early 1980s London based Irish band The Pogues created the subgenre Celtic punk by combining structural elements of folk music with a punk attitude and delivery. The Pogues’ style of punked-up Irish music spawned and influenced a number of Celtic punk bands, including fellow London-Irish band Neck, Nyah Fearties from Scotland, Australia’s Roaring Jack and Norway’s Greenland Whalefishers.

  • FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK (here)

Diaspora Celtic Punk

One by-product of the Celtic diaspora has been the existence of large communities across the world that looked for their cultural roots and identity to their origins in the Celtic nations. While it seems young musicians from these communities usually chose between their folk culture and mainstream forms of music such as rock or pop, after the advent of Celtic punk large numbers of bands began to emerge styling themselves as Celtic rock. This is particularly noticeable in the USA and Canada, where there are large communities descended from Irish and Scottish immigrants. From the USA this includes the Irish bands Flogging Molly, The Tossers, Dropkick Murphys, The Young Dubliners, Black 47, The Killdares, The Drovers and Jackdaw, and for Scottish bands Prydein, Seven Nations and Flatfoot 56. From Canada are bands like The Mahones, Enter the Haggis, Great Big Sea, The Real McKenzies and Spirit of the West. These groups were naturally influenced by American forms of music, some containing members with no Celtic ancestry and commonly singing in English. In England we have The BibleCode Sundays, The Lagan and others.

  • THE EFFECTS OF NEW DIASPORA CELTIC PUNK: THE CREATION OF A PAN-CELTIC CULTURE (here)

Celtic Metal

Like Celtic rock in the 1970s, Celtic metal resulted from the application of a development in English music, when in the 1990s thrash metal band Skyclad added violins, and with them jigs and folk voicings, to their music on the album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth (1990). This inspired the Dublin based band Cruachan to mix traditional Irish music with black metal and to create the subgenre of Celtic metal. They were soon followed by bands such as Primordial and Waylander. Like Celtic punk, Celtic metal fuses the Celtic folk tradition with contemporary forms of music.

  • CELTIC-METAL’S TOP FIVE BANDS (here)

Influence

Whereas in England electric folk, after initial mainstream recognition, subsided into the status of a sub-cultural soundtrack, in many Celtic communities and nations it has remained at the forefront of musical production. The initial wave of Celtic rock in Ireland, although ultimately feeding into Anglo-American dominated progressive rock and hard rock provided a basis for Irish bands that would enjoy international success, including the Pogues and U2: one making use of the tradition of Celtic music in a new context and the other eschewing it for a distinctive but mainstream sound. Similar circumstances can be seen in Scotland albeit with a delay in time while Celtic rock culture developed, before bands like Runrig could achieve international recognition. Widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding voices in Celtic/rock is the Glasgow born Brian McCombe of The Brian McCombe Band, a pan Celtic group based in Brittany.

In other Celtic communities, and particularly where Celtic speakers or descendants are a minority, the function of Celtic rock has been less to create mainstream success, than to bolster cultural identity. A consequence of this has been the reinforcement of pan-Celtic culture and of particular national or regional identities between those with a shared heritage, but who are widely dispersed. However, the most significant consequence of Celtic rock has simply been as a general spur to immense musical and cultural creativity.

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ALBUM REVIEW: PLANXTY- ‘Between The Jigs And The Reels: A Retrospective’ (2017)

The word ‘legend’ gets chucked around with wild abandon these days but no other word seems fit to accompany an article on a band that truly were ground breaking and have gone onto have an everlasting effect on Irish music. Put together by Planxty themselves this is the ultimate retrospective of their music coming, as it does, with a DVD featuring over two hours of previously unreleased performances.

planxty-between-jigs-reels

Forty five years after Planxty formed back in January 1972 comes Between The Jigs And The Reels – A Retrospective. The band was made up of Christy Moore (vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhrán), Andy Irvine (vocals, mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, hurdy-gurdy, harmonica), Dónal Lunny (bouzouki, guitars, bodhrán, keyboards) and Liam O’Flynn (uilleann pipes, tin whistle). They released six studio albums starting with Planxty in 1973 and following with The Well Below the Valley (1973), Cold Blow and the Rainy Night (1974), After the Break (1979), The Woman I Loved So Well (1980) and finally Words And Music in 1983. At the time of that debut album their music was quite simply revolutionary and they popularized Irish folk music like no other band from that era.

planxty2

Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn, Donal Lunny and Christy Moore

Back in 1972 Christy Moore who was already a star in both the Irish and British folk scene’s had begun work on his second album and grouped around him some of the best musicians Ireland had to offer. His old friend from school in Newbridge, County Kildare, Dónal Lunny was a gifted multi-instrumentalist who had taught Moore how to play both guitar and bodhrán while the London born Andy Irvine of late-60’s Irish folk group Sweeney’s Men was a prominent figure on the Dublin trad scene and who co-ran a folk club with Lunny. Finally came Liam O’Flynn a true master of the uileann pipes. This group gelled instantly and with Christy Moore returned from England Planxty were born. With their bedraggled hair and bohemian image their music they literally took Ireland by storm. For the first time uileann pipes were accompanied by guitar, mandolin and bouzouki while Christy and Andy were possibly the finest singers of their generation. Although labelled Jigs And Reels the scope of the songs on this album is simply breathtaking from stirring tunes of war to gentle balllads and haunting airs. Planxty didn’t just play they also collected these songs saving many from obscurity or even death. Their music bridged the gap between the developing rock music scene in Ireland and the new wave of folk music musician.

There are seventeen songs here and it all begins with the tragic love story of an Irish emigrant to New Mexico ‘True Love Knows No Season’ and Liam O’Fynn’s beautiful piping is sure to send a shiver down the spine of listeners. Andy Irvine belts out the glorious ‘Pat Reilly’ followed by the instrumental ‘Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór’ while Christy returns to the fore to do ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ a song that tells of the battles of the Gaels of Ireland fighting the English oppressors in the war that began hundreds of years ago.

‘Băneasă’s Green Glade / Mominsko Horo’ takes us back to Andy’s time living in Bucharest in the 1960’s swiftly followed by the instrumental ‘The Aconry Lasses / The Old Wheels Of The World / The Spike Island Lasses’ and then by ‘The Pursuit Of Farmer Michael Hayes’ as arranged by Christy Moore who still contends that their are several verses missing that he puts down to

“the realisation that it was opening time”

On ‘Accidentals / Aragon Mill’ the heartbreaking main song is preceded by a short acoustic guitar piece that he is joined together by Liam’s piping with ‘Aragon Mill’ which Andy learnt from the North Carolina singer songwriter Si Kahn.

“But there’s no smoke at all
Coming out of the stack
For the mill has closed down
And it’s not coming back”

In Si’s neck of the woods, cotton has always been of paramount importance and closing of a mill brings with it, not only unemployment, but also the end of a way of life, whether it be a cotton mill in North Carolina, Lancashire or Belfast.

“But the only tune I hear
Is the sound of the wind
As it blows through the town
Weave and spin, weave and spin”

‘The Irish Marche’ is an English composition from the 16th century written by William Byrd while ‘The Rambling Siúler’ is from the early-19th century and tells the odd tale of an Irish colonel and the lengths he will go to win fair maid. Having heard a version of ‘The Well Below The Valley’ where Christy is only accompanied on bodhrán it was nice to hear a full band version of this beautiful song. Planxty are back in full on jaunty mood next with another instrumental ‘Junior Crehan’s Favourite / Corney Is Coming’ before Andy sings ‘Roger O’Hehir’, the story of an not very good petty criminal whose career leads to the gallows. Now for that Balkan tune that seems to have ruffled a few reviewers feathers with ‘Smeceno Horo’ Not knowing much about this I’ll just leave the video up for you to decide.

With the album nearing the end perhaps three of the widest heard and better known songs finish the album starting with the stunning Andy Irvine composition ‘The West Coast Of Clare’.

“Sorrow and sadness, bitterness, grief
Memories I have of you, won’t leave me in peace
My mind is running back, to the west coast of Clare
Thinking of you, the times we had there”

The sensitive and definitive version of ‘Nancy Spain’ keeps the momentum building and has since been made famous by Christy during his solo career. Written by Barney Rush who also wrote ‘The Crack was Ninety in the Isle of Man’, which Christy has also recorded. Sadly Barney passed away back in 2014 and this wonderful song brings us up nicely to the album’s end and ‘Timedance’. Commissioned back in 1981 for the Eurovision song contest back when it was big news and back when Ireland use to win it every year! This was, in many ways, a precursor to Riverdance and was for millions around the Europe the first time they had ever heard authentic traditional Irish music and can be said to have had a lasting effect on Irish music’s popularity.

Planxty Re-Union Show, Live at Vicar Street, Dublin. February 2004

Compiled and chosen by the band themselves they could literally not squeeze another minute onto the CD with it clocking in at seventy-nine minutes. The CD comes with a bonus DVD of previously unreleased performances from the RTÉ (Irish Televison) archives that lasts over two hours. The care and attention that has gone into this release is breath taking with an absolute goldmine of recordings, TV appearances and live sets that does the band the justice they deserve. Planxty ruffled a few ‘trad snobs’ feathers when they were around the first time and some of the modern day era trad snobs may find the inclusion of harmonies, compositions, English songs and Balkan tunes somewhat odd but for me it only adds to what is one of the best traditional album’s I ever heard. Planxty were one of the major reasons for the revitalisation of Irish music that led eventually to the development of celtic-rock and then celtic-punk so do yourself a favour and check out this album and find out where we came from.

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ChristyMoore  AndyIrvine

INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY CAMPBELL

A fast, ruthless, uncompromising sound with influences from far and wide. Material that embraces traditional music and sometimes frantic Bluegrass style picking with self penned songs of protest and debauchery.

Johnny2We are extremely happy that Johnny took time out from megabussing it around the country from gig to gig to do a little interview for us.

The obvious one to get us started so can you tell us how long you’ve been playing music and what bands you have been in before?

Johnny- I’ve been performing live for a decade now, and for the last couple of years as a solo performer. Before those ten years I was playing a battered classical guitar to Bad Religion live albums pretending I was in Bad Religion.

You have played in a celtic-punk band before with Three Sheets T’Wind so how do you see the celtic-punk scene here and abroad?

Johnny- I haven’t performed in other bands to any full-on level of commitment, apart from numerous and humorous side projects and filling in space for musicians who couldn’t make shows…and once trialing for The Popes as a fiddle player but that was a long time ago… I personally feel the scene in the UK is much broader, encompassing Anti-Folk, Alt-Folk and other offshoots. Though across the underground in The Netherlands for example, there are a number of fantastic ‘Folk-Punk’ bands using Banjos, Mandolins, Accordions that you couldn’t label as ‘Celtic-Punk’. It is great to see people’s horizons to ‘Punk’ don’t just start and end with an Electric Guitar.

I would like to think so but does it follow that celtic-punk fans also listen to folk from the past or present?

Johnny- For me yes. Right back to Planxty, Hank Williams or even contemporary folk like Julie Fowlis. The ‘Celtic-Punk’ fans I’ve come across like their fair share of Tom Waits and other artists that are hard to define by genre. I think if you’re into niche music, as in ‘Celtic-Punk’, you’re probably going to be listening to some other interesting styles!

Which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music?

Johnny- Obviously The Pogues…but I think we all know that. The Tossers are in my opinion, the logical progression from The Pogues taking influence from Behan and Joyce and managing to create it in their own American sound. Silly Wizard (possibly Scotland’s Planxty) manage to create an equally ‘rocky’ feel to their sound which leads neatly onto artists like The Horslips, Thin Lizzy and Moving Hearts.

Bit of an odd question this but how would you describe what you do on stage?

Johnny- I describe myself in my write up as an ‘Alt-folk’ musician. This is about as broad as I could make it. It isn’t a musical ‘style’ it is simply a way of saying ‘It is folk music…but a bit different.’ Some have said that shows can differentiate from stand-up comedy to thoughtful political song. I’ll do traditional Irish Anti-war songs like Arthur McBride to A Cappella songs about getting blind drunk and catching STDs from ladies of the night.

It has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone!

Johnny- There’s a certain amount of balls/ego in there to get up and ask people to listen to what you’ve got to say for an hour, definitely. If you manage to fuck up the set, then it really is your own fault. That’s something that is pretty daunting but a challenge to relish I suppose, as the credit (if there is any to give out) is all yours.

At the moment there is a big ‘folk-punk’ thing happening in the UK that seems to have a lot in common with celtic-punk like the politics and aspirations but without major celtic influences. Have you noticed this at all?

Johnny- Because the genres are getting broader and ‘Folk-Punk’ is the easiest umbrella to put yourself under if you perform anti-authoritarian/alternative Folk music… I think that is how it is coming about. Celtic/Irish music has transported well as there is a mythology built up around the Irish. But also the way we can consume music nowadays, we can search for Mongolian Political Folk Punk on Youtube and get an instant response. Which is broadening our intake very quickly. I speak for myself here when I say 10 years ago, when I was 18, the only Folk-Punk you could really find was Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, and anything else on a major label as you had to go to the local (if you had one) independent record shop. Now we are blessed with so much choice, which is generally free which brings its own negative impacts like de-valuing a product and other factors.

It would seem sometimes, and there is certainly a history of it in England (the band that must never be mentioned!), that bands who play Irish/celtic tunes won’t label the tunes as Irish/celtic and would instead categorise it as English folk (so as to not be seen as Irish I suppose) but do you see this as cultural appropriation or not? it sometimes reminds me of Prince Charles roaming round his billion acre estate in Kernow/ Cornwall wearing a kilt!

Johnny- Hmm, it is an interesting one. I don’t think anyone would get offended if you said a tune was English when it was an Irish tune if you believed it was initially. I think it is important to try and research a song or a tune and find out its origins and to recognise it. I can also see some cultural appropriation in there as it is a small way of denying heritage by simply taking is as your ‘own’. I think we must be more concerned with things like the far-right using traditional folk music and making a patriotic gesture with the songs.

Johnny CampbellYou have a new album due out soon I hear. What’s the latest on that? Is it purely yourself or will you be aided and abetted?

Johnny- It’s been a long process, I haven’t released something with new material for about three years. I’ve had writer’s block for a while and since I’ve been on the road the last couple of years I’ve picked up new influences which has come out on the record. I am aided by Kieran O’Malley, a violin player from Leeds who performs with Spirit of John and many other acts..he’s also performed on a Shane MacGowan’s release ‘Rockier Road To Poland’ and backing vocals from Exeter singer/songwriter Rosie Eade. http://www.rosieeade.co.uk/ It will be released early October.

You seem to be on a non-stop tour of anywhere and everywhere so where does the future take you and do you think you will be able to keep it up more importantly?

Johnny- I’m sure I’ll be able to carry on for a few more years as long as my legs still carry me. I only use public transport and we managed to get from Istanbul from Yorkshire in 28 days on public transport on the Summer European tour with James Bar Bowen and Cosmo. We hit squats and social centres through eight countries and the final show in Istanbul got cancelled as the promoter had left to go and fight against fascist ISIS and didn’t tell us! We had about five days to waste in Istanbul because of the cancellation. This was during Ramadan which is an amazing spectacle. We decided to imbibe the culture by visiting mosques, walking the streets and eating kebabs. As long as the gigs keep being interesting, I still have some life left!

Thanks Johnny for taking time out of your busy touring schedule (where are you as you write this?) so all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank?

Johnny- I’m currently in the South West for a week between shows and getting ready for the release of my album ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ which will be released on my website and Bandcamp in early October! I will be doing a UK and USA East Coast tour in March 2016 with Tim Holehouse www.timholehouse.com (UK tour) and James Bar Bowen https://jamesbarbowen2014.wordpress.com/ (USA tour) but in the meantime I have shows across the UK and The Netherlands with Rob Galloway http://www.theyallayallas.com/rob-galloway which can all be found on my website! Cheers and beers! x

(you can listen to Johnny Campbell’s debut solo EP below)

Contact Johnny

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  • keep your eyes peeled for a review in the next couple of weeks of ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’. I’m lucky to have had a sneak preview and can guarantee its an excellent debut record!

ALBUM REVIEW: IRON MOUNTAIN- ‘Unum’ (2015)

celtic acid rock?

Iron Mountain- 'Unum' (2015)

Iron Mountain are an highly original instrumental group based in Limerick City in Ireland. On ‘Unum’ they have created a unique debut album of five sprawling tracks that although reminisent of bands like Mogwai, Low and Planxty actually don’t really sound like them at all. Now I can’t pretend to know much about this style of music so I just have to go on my gut instinct and see how it goes. Iron Mountain themselves describe their music as

“taking elements of post-rock, Irish folk music and kraut-rock to form an energetic sound that is all their own and an embellishment on the members varied musical backgrounds”

The band consists of your usual rock instruments of bass, drums, guitar but they wouldn’t be appearing on 30492-London Celtic Punks if they weren’t accompanied by the uilleann pipes, flute and violin, as well as a whole host of guest appearances ranging from the saxophone to synthesizers to the native American Indian flute. Matt Bashford and Ronan Ryan hold ten All-Ireland medals for their respective instruments on uilleann pipes and flute and their expertise shines through throughout ‘Unum’. The album was written, produced and recorded in Limerick and the production is crystal clear.

Despite being only five tracks long ‘Unum’ clocks in at fifty minutes and ‘Bonfires’ the opening song is a perfect example of the Iron Mountain sound. At just under ten minutes long the slow build up has you thinking where is it going and waiting for the crash and when it comes you will be blown away. The brilliant piping is accompanied by the whole band and ‘Bonfires’ eventually builds to a full-on celtic-rock climax that wil have you on the edge of your seat. ‘Enthralldom’ carries on in much the same way, as does in fact the whole album, and again at just under ten minutes builds to a cresendo of celticness riding atop some quality stoner rock.

‘Blitz’ is Iron Mountains shortest song at just under six minutes and flute dominates while heads down thrashing guitar and distortion also compete. Penultimate song ‘Pow Pow’ has a much slower start and throughout the flute also soars until guitar kicks in and half way through the song takes off before slowing right down again at the end. The final track ‘Opium’ is another epic at nearly  a quarter of an hour long and shows Iron Moutain at their absolute best with the music soaring and their Irish influence dictating the pace of the song.

The video for ‘Opium’ was filmed at the Franciscan Friary in their home town of Limerick and the beautiful setting fits perfectly with the mammoth sound of Iron Mountain’s music.

Iron Mountain

The heavy sound of the rock instruments doesn’t hide their folk tradition and its fantastic to hear Irish/celtic music being adapted and changed to fit in with modern times. As I stated before I don’t know too much about this style of music but I do know what I like and I like Iron Mountain. Each and every play will find you bewitched and finding more and more inside the music to love and enjoy.

Contact The Band

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Buy The Album

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE CLAN- ‘The Clan’ (2014)

as influenced by AC/DC , punk rock and Irish folk music!

The Clan- 'The Clan' (2014)

From the small town of Muggiò in the province of Lombardy in the north of Italy comes another great Italian celtic-punk band The Clan. Formed only last year their recently released self titled album has gone down an absolute storm across Europe with its punk energy and Irish spirit. Coming along at roughly the same time as another Italian bands latest album The Clan have a lot of similarities with Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards (album review here) so maybe there’s something of an Italian thing going on . For sure theres always been a lot of traffic between Ireland and Italy and so only natural some will find solace in Irish music.

The Clan

It’s clear that Italy’s top celtic bands The Clan, Kitchen Implosion, Dirty Artichokes and Uncle Bard all have the same deep love for Ireland and it’s musical traditions. What we have is twelve tracks of which half are covers. Their choice of covers is pretty basic with plenty of celtic-punk’s standard songs- ‘The Wild Rover’, ‘Fields Of Athenry’, ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ etc.,- but all are done with appropriate gusto and superb musicianship. Still would have been nice to hear some less covered covers but I can understand their choice as the album is for the Italian market primarily and these songs won’t be so well known. These are all great songs which is why they get covered so much. Hopefully on their next album they can change it up a wee bit.

The Clan

Left To Right: Stefano ‘Cione’ Becce- Bass, Backing Vocals  Laura Brancorsini- Irish Fiddle  Angelo Roccato- Guitar, Lead Vocals  Chiara De Sio- Tin Whistle, Bagpipes, Backing Vocals  Pietro Della Sala- Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

The band have all your usual instruments plus fiddle , tin whistle and bagpipes and as is usual the playing is absolutely superb. The band do not miss a note and the production is spotless with the band guiding each other perfectly with nothing too high or too low and nothing over dominating. A haunting pipes and drums intro leads into ‘We Are The Clan’ a DKMish shoutalong introducing themselves to us with a loud punk rock song accompanied by just as loud fiddle and tin whistle! The first of the covers ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ comes next and even though it has been played pretty much to death it still sounds pretty damn fresh here and The Clan get away with it by giving it enough of their own stamp to carry it along. ‘Irish Rock Jigs’ follows and really does show The Clan’s influences stretch a lot further than AC/DC! With the reels spilling out you can close your eyes and imagine you’re in Ireland listening to the ‘real deal’. The addition of uilleann pipes really sets it aside and images of The Bothy Band and Moving Hearts come to mind.

‘Whiskey In The Jar’ we’ve all heard before but the bagpipes and punky guitars drive it along nicely. ‘Paddys Day’ is the first of The Clans originals and is a fine ole song. Tin whistle is to the fore in a song celebrating that best of days! ‘Throat Of Devil’ has Lorenzo Marchesi of folk-metal legends Folkstone guesting on medieval pipes. Certainly the fastest of the albums songs and the standout track for me. The bands quality shines through and is as catchy a song as you will find on any celtic-punk album of 2014. ‘The Irish Rover’ is punked right up and led by the fiddle. Angelo’s vocals are crystal clear and completely suits the music with just enough anguish and shoutyness. ‘Joseph, Mary And Son’ has a sort of bluegrass feel to it due mainly to Laura’s excellent fiddle. The story of the immaculate conception put together with great gusto and backing.  ‘Fields Of Athenry’ begins quietly and as impossible as I would think it would be to give it any sense of originality The Clan give it a go and come as close as any to manage it. As amazing as it is this song was only written in 1970’s by Pete St.John and contrary to popular believe is not 150 years old. I once went to Ireland as a kid for the summer holidays and Paddy Reilly was #1 in the charts  with it. I went home and came back the following summer and he was still #1! ‘More Than A Lie’ shows the band can do and write some downright brilliant celtic-punk material of their own. The bagpipes rule loudest on ‘The Wild Rover’ bringing a great shouty end to the album.

Twelve tracks at just under forty minutes and not a single duff one among them. I will never cease to be amazed at the quality of the writing, the vocals and the musicianship of the bands within celtic-punk. The CD comes in a nice wee digipak with an illustration of the band by The Rumjacks lead singer Frankie. Altogether a fantastic first album from The Clan though I look forward to hearing their second album with more original material though do not think this is purely an album of covers. Their own material is great and the covers they do do have The Clans stamp all over them and believe me well thats good enough for anyone.

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you can read another review of The Clan’s album at Celtic Folk Punk & More here

ALBUM REVIEW: I DRAW SLOW- ‘White Wave Chapel’ (2014)

dark tales of debauchery and trouble swinging from melodies that survive. 

I Draw Slow
Born in Dublin in 2008 I Draw Slow have released their third album to both critical and fan acclaim. An acoustic five-piece outfit comprising vocals, guitar, fiddle, banjo and double bass. Brother and sister Dave and Louise Holden have been writing together for two decades beginning with Dublin band Tabularasa. Joined by violinist Adrian Hart , claw hammer banjo player Colin Derham and double bassist Konrad Liddy.
I Draw Slow have managed to create a sound that incorporates elements of alternative-country, Americana, bluegrass, folk and Irish to create a new sound that is rooted in the Appalachian mountains of  the eastern United States. Traditionally Appalachian music is derived from various European and African influences. Irish and Scottish traditional music, especially fiddle music, English ballads and religious hymns all contributed to what we now recognise as country and bluegrass. Immigrants from all the celtic nations ended their trek in the Appalachians and with them came the musical traditions of their homes. The most iconic symbol of Appalachian culture, the banjo, was brought to the region by slaves in the 18th century and was soon picked up by local musicians and the transformation had begun.
Debut album ‘Downside’ slipped out relatively unnoticed but it was their 2011 album ‘Redhills’ that garnered them untold awards and plaudits. It was instantly awarded RTE Album Of The Week and by the end of the year they had been signed by the top Bluegrass label in the United States, Pinecastle Records. With the applause came sell out tours of America which has kept them busy until this years ‘White Wave Chapel’. Engineered and mastered by veteran Irish producer Brian Masterson (Planxty, The Chieftains, Van Morrison, Christy Moore) White Wave Chapel has again won them RTE Album Of The Week and garnered amazing reviews from the mainstream Irish press and the worldwide folk and roots scene. The new album expands on the bands characteristic sound and the mix of Americana, bluegrass and traditional Irish music certainly has a lot of appeal. Of course the storytelling style of lyric writing also deserves a mention and is fast becoming the element that I Draw Slow are most well known for.
I Draw Slow

I Draw Slow

Thirteen tracks clocking in at just over forty minutes and the music is quite frankly wonderful. ‘All Souls’ begins the album perfectly and all those wonderful influences combine again on ‘Dont She Run’ one of the albums standout tracks and the rest of the album continues in the same vein with the Bluegrass influence looming large but Irish music still there in the mix. Great vocals and also a great vocalist contribute massively to this albums appeal. I Draw Slow sound like they love and enjoy playing this music and that spills over and infects the listener too. Though this may not appeal too much to the hardest of hardcore celtic punk rockers anyone with only a modicum of interest in the history, the roots and the development of what became celtic-punk (or even celtic-rock) will love this LP as much as I do. An album full of toe-tappers and if you’re a bit more adventurous than me you’ll be swinging your partners around the living room soon as you hit that play button!

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Bluegrass in Ireland blog here

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ALBUM REVIEW: UNCLE BARD AND THE DIRTY BASTARDS- ‘Get The Folk Out’ (2014)

Italian celtic folk n’ roll from Büsti Grandi (Craggy Island)

Uncle Bard And The Bastards- 'Get The Folk Out!' (2014)

Long, long, long before hordes of Polish workers settled in Ireland it was the turn of the Italians who flocked to the dear auld sod. High wages, plenty of regular masses and the, now long deceased, ‘celtic tiger’ promised good opportunities for all that came. Among those Italians were members and friends of the band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards. With good mates in Ireland they saved the money and began to visit them regularly. Here’s how they put it

“Anyway, during those years we started collecting money and traveling once a month to Ireland, to meet old friends living there and spending the weekends rambling around and enjoying Irish music, culture and people. 

Day by day we found there what we were searching for in our entire life, something that would change us forever. That’s how we fell in love with Irish music and how we learned it”

So in 2007 the boys got together and with just a handful of songs set out on the path that would lead them all over Europe playing with not just the celtic-punk scene’s best bands but also some of the traditional scene’s as well. From dingy wee pub backrooms to rock festivals to mountain huts the bands brand of Italian celtic-punk has gone down an absolute storm everywhere they have set foot.

Back in 2012 after the release of their first album ‘Drinking Not Thinking’ they set out on a busking tour of Ireland, Wales and England  joining local musicians singing old-time stories on street corners. Returning home they were joined by world renowned Irish folk musician Luca Crespi who added uilleann pipes, tin whistle and the Irish flute to the bands repertoire. ‘Up The Bastards’ EP followed last year which brings us nicely up to date with the recently released album ‘Get The Folk Out!’.

The band members are Guido Domingo- vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhrán Lorenzo Testa- tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals, spoons Luca Crespi- tin whistle, uilleann pipes, Irish flute Silvano Ancellotti- electric and acoustic guitar, coarse vocals Uncle Bard- bass guitar, lamenting vocals and Francesco Fabris on drums. Lorenzo is the band’s main songwriter but most of the group have also written a song or two and all contributed to the songwriting process.

UncleBardTheDirtyBastards - Live pic

(from left to right): LUCA, LORENZO, FRANCESCO, GUIDO, SILVANO, ROB ‘Uncle Bard’.

The album is in fact a masterpiece. It straddles nicely both Irish trad and celtic-punk and easily fits into both genre’s. The addition of uilleann pipes moves the bands sound into something quite incredible. From the very start of the album as soon as ‘The Road’ kicks in with tin whistle and vocals soon joined by a whole host of Irish instruments showing that Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards surely know their onions. The following ‘Black Sheep’ is a bit more celtic-punk and more reminiscent of the Molly’s or The Tossers.

Normally we would try to give you a real feel for the album by going through all the tracks and giving you a wee description of each one but there’s not much point with this as it would just say “absolutely fecking brilliant” after each track title. As hard as it is to pick a few standout tracks on this amazing album ‘Green Shamrock Shore’, is one of them, about the death of the celtic tiger and the beginning of the end of Ireland’s boom years and sadly the end of Rob’s time in Ireland. A track laced with sadness but sung in that pint in the air way that fills both yer heart and yer ears. Even more incredible than the high standard of the music is that its mostly their own work too. Only two tracks are covers ‘The Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and the Man In Black’s ‘Ring Of Fire’, both of which are suitably twisted and turned by the band into something new and fresh and as far away from bog standard covers as could be possible without changing both the words AND the tune! Influences abound from Planxty to The Chieftains to the aforementioned Tossers and Flogging Molly but Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards are pretty well unique in the Euro celtic-punk scene and deserve to be fecking huge worldwide. Hopefully this album will achieve that. ‘Blue Velvet Glove’ showcases Luca and his haunting expertly played pipes. The songs last only two or three minutes each but there’s so much going on its hard for this reviewer to keep up. ‘The Rambling Bhoys’ is typical of the album with a lovely tune, clear and well sung vocals with lyrics you can easily understand.

‘Skedaddle’ is another great example, fast- slow- fast- slow the perfect song for having a breather and catching your breathe on the dance floor in between going nuts, spilling yer pint and bashing into people. ‘I Only Got One Pint’ is another Uncle Bards classic as is the following ‘Off In The Jacks’. The album ends with ‘Be’ the longest track on the album and begins with just vocals and mandolin before the band kick in and fill the air with the swirling sound of brilliantly played slow tempo Irish folk.

Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards

With fifteen songs that come in at just under a hour, the CD also comes in a very nice digipak with a whopping 16 page booklet including the song lyrics, pictures of every band member and some excellent liner notes containing introductions to all the songs. Do yourself a favour and fork out the bit extra hard earned for the CD copy of the album, you’ll not be disappointed.

Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards

Been playing this on repeat and from that very first moment it stills sounds as fresh as it did on that very first play. From the first few bars I realised I had come across something special. This is already my celtic-punk album of the year and I doubt they’ll be one better along anytime soon. The boys have an extraordinary feel for playing Irish music and I can honestly say I have never heard a non-Irish band sound so authentically Irish. I will be playing this for a long time yet and i simply cannot recommend enough that you get yer mitts on this album. If you don’t think it is “absolutely fecking brilliant” as well then you really have no place coming here!

So there they are, seven years and counting… still roving, still playing. And surely we can be grateful… too old to stop now!

Discography

Drinking Not Thinking – 2011, Up the Bastards! EP – 2013, Get The Folk Out! – 2014

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the ever always excellent Spanish blog ‘Celtic Folk Punk And More’ also wrote a review of the album here.

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