Tag Archives: Saw Doctors

ALBUM REVIEW: O’HANLONS HORSEBOX- ‘Songs and Stories of the Border’ (2015)

A shower of hallions from the County Armagh!

O'Hanlons Horsebox LP

Ireland is the country that most celtic-punk revolves around if we going to be honest. It would be fair to say the majority of us are of Irish descent and its largely Irish tunes and instruments that get played so its always been a sort of annoyance that the Irish in Ireland have been slow to embrace celtic-punk as much as the Irish diaspora have. In fact I can’t help but feel that there’s a wee bit of snobbery involved. So it was with great pleasure that I sat down to listen to ‘Songs and Stories of the Border’ from a great new young band from Ireland called O’Hanlons Horsebox. They have been together since the end of 2011 and play a style somewhere between The Pogues and The Saw Doctors. They say of themselves

“It’s traditional Irish folk music with a kick in the arse!”

and although their is nothing overtly punk about the music the spirit of punk runs through the whole album and is an absolute joy to behold with exactly the right amounts of humour and seriousness coursing through it.

O'Hanlons Horsebox

left to right is Ryan, Ross, Micheal, Sean, Conor, Fintan and Declan.

‘Joe Coburn’ kicks off the album and accordion begins the song and soon enough it bursts into a tune about Joe who emigrated to America before the famine from the lads home town of Middletown in County Armagh and went on to become one of the first World Heavyweight Bare-knuckle Boxing Champions. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013 and from the start O’Hanlons Horsebox straddle that middle ground that would appeal to both yer casual listener while they play away in the back of the pub or your celtic-punk fanatic watching them up on the big stage.

“fight to live in the land of the free”

‘The Fighting Boys from Corofin’ is the first big nod to The Pogues complete with yelps and shouts and “Diddley” chorus. Splendid stuff. ‘The Ballad of Rachel Corrie’ follows and is a moving ballad telling the story of a young American peace activist who was killed back during the Palestinian uprising in 2003 by the Israeli army.

“Rachel Corrie was brave, much braver than me”

After that the Bhoys return to more humorous material and ‘The People from the Border’ tells of living the border in Ireland and

“we drink in the north we’re on the dole in the south”

At last a proper drinking song and ‘Drink It Up’ is my favourite album track and possibly the closest to a celtic-punk classic. Harmonica (which regular readers will know never fails to please me!) and a real catchy tune with touches of 80’s Indie pop legends The Housemartins in there. 

‘The Brave’ is accordion led and has a real American feel to it. ‘It’s All Been Worthwhile’ is a beautiful song that tells of the struggles of a working class man’s life of labour and the events that lead him to thinking back that

“It’s all been worthwhile”

‘Farewell to Thee’ is the classic story of no work at home so like many before them having to leave to find a better life in another country. This isnt the story of middle class university graduates leaving to find themselves but of the men and woman of the 50s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s Irish who left an Ireland through desperation not choice. People like mine who never settled here and never once called it home. As The Pogues said

“Did you count the months or years or did your teardrops quickly dry”

The characters that inhabit O’Hanlons Horsebox songs are still counting and as Fintan from the band reveals

“has been all too real for half of the band. I wrote this song before I had to leave for England in search for work, whilst thinking of the others who had travelled the same path before me and their stories”

What The Saw Doctors have done for Galway it looks like O’Hanlons Horsebox are going to do for Donegal and ‘Ballyliffin’ certainly sounds a grand place in this song. Not sponsered by the Donegal Tourist Board but feck it why not!

“Located against the backdrop of the hills of the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal, the village of Ballyliffin is a place of great natural beauty where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Glashedy Island and the Atlantic Ocean”

‘Sun Will Be Shining Again’ brings the album to a close and ends with a slow song that sums the band up completely.

Ten great songs of authentic Irish folk-punk. The music may be acoustic but, just like The Pogues could, O’Hanlons Horsebox sure can kick up a real racket. Catchy and well played and and plenty of charm and blarney and a mix of serious and fun that would make any evening go with a bang and when it comes to ‘Songs and Stories of the Border’ it is just over half an hour and all songs are self penned by the band themselves so a massive tip of the hat for that. The temptation to pad it out with a couple of folk standards must have been massive but well done to them for sticking to their own material and I’m glad they did as it stands up very well. They have already toured in Canada so we are awaiting a visit to this side of the Irish sea with bated breath as a great night is guaranteed I am positive. That none of the band have ever had traditional music lessons gives them that nice rough punk rock edge that we like so much here and we can’t wait to hear more.

(you can listen to the whole of ‘Songs and Stories of the Border’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. To buy the album follow the link below the player)

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ALBUM REVIEW: BEYOND THE FIELDS- ‘The Falcon Lives’ (2014)

Beyond The Fields- 'The Falcon Lives (2014)

Bordered by three countries the area of Lake Constance in Switzerland is not only one of the most beautiful spots in Europe but also home to one of Europe’s hardest working celtic bands. Beyond The Fields were formed in 1998 by Swiss singer-songwriter Andre Bollier. Within a year the band had released their first record, a 3 track CD of original numbers titled ‘Home’. And that my friends was that. For the next decade or so Beyond The Fields continued to tour and play gigs until only after being harassed by fans for some new recordings they finally buckled and have come up with ‘The Falcon Lives’ only 15 years after that single!

Beyond The Fields

The Falcon Lives’ was produced by the bands drummer Eddy Sloof and I have to say that the mix is great. All the various instruments are as clear as day and all combine perfectly, capturing the live sound of the band accurately. Coming in at over 45 minutes long the album is great value and eleven of the twelve songs are the bands own compositions. That other track ‘Blue Murder’ was written by Alistair Hulett, Scots born singer of Aussie celtic-punk legends Roaring Jack. Sadly Alistair passed away back in 2010 but I’m sure he’s up there smiling proudly away at this version.

left to right Eva Wey (Fiddle) André Bollier (Vocals and Acoustic Guitar) Marcel Bollier (Bass) Uwe Schaefer (Mandolin) and Eddy Sloof (Drums and Percussion)

left to right Eva Wey (Fiddle) André Bollier (Vocals and Acoustic Guitar) Marcel Bollier (Bass) Uwe Schaefer (Mandolin) Eddy Sloof (Drums and Percussion)

The album kicks off with ‘Perfect’ and straight away its the acoustic folky side of celtic-punk that Beyond The Fields inhabit. A song about being in love with someone your friends don’t like mixes in country sounds and some absolutely amazing fiddling from Eva and straight away its bands like The Waterboys and The Saw Doctors that comes to mind. Not in any copycat way and maybe its Andre’s rasping vocals but its hugely impressive. ‘One of Those Days’ is about well one of them days you should have stayed in bed and is classic celtic-punk in the folk rock  vein of bands like the Mollys or The Tossers, though not so obviously Irish. Beyond The Fields are more of a punk folk band rather than a folk punk band if you know what I mean. ‘The Artists Song’ is a slow ballad becrying the lack of proper music these days and the plastic clones that make up the ‘industry’ these days

“who needs Britpop when we’ve got The Beatles”

‘The Canterbury Tales’ certainly raised a smile with one of the albums more lively tracks and shows they got a black sense of humour with this tale of living in England and supermarket queues, snooker and gardening on the telly, shit food, expensive rents and

“they love their football

they even think that English teams rule

get real”

‘Blue Murder’ is the aforementioned cover of Alistair Hulett and tells of moving to western Australia to work down the Wittenoom mine digging blue asbestos where everyday the bosses get away with the ‘Blue Murder’ of the poor sods who worked the pit. A beautifully played track with the drums keeping the beat as Andre repeats the simple but effective lines of the song.  ‘Dark Waters’ is another black song but ultimately the message is of survival. ‘Beyond The Fields’ has a celtic-rock feel to it with once again Eva’s fiddle soaring high over the music. Title track ‘The Falcon Lives’ is a slower track with great heartfelt lyrics of a long gone friend that bursts into life before dying down again.

“There’s nothing I cant take

I am too strong to break

There’s nothing I can’t be

As long as you live on in me”

‘Home’ is a re-recording of that early track with great mandolin playing from German born Uwe and is the simple tale of returning home after years away. ‘I Wonder If You’re The one (Guess I’ll Never Know)’ is another dark love story. The band combine perfect on this track with a simple tune with the emphasis on the great lyrics. ‘All I Really Need’ keeps up the darkness before ‘Any Time’ brings the album to a close with another of the album’s standout tracks. A big sound again with again the band combining well and is a great way to end things.

There really is some amazing music out there and I find it really heartening that the celtic-punk scene is producing such diverse music. Even though much more to the folkier side of things there’s plenty here to keep everyone happy. Elements of American folk sit side by side with Irish traditional music and if I had one quibble it would be that I would have liked to hear a bit of a Swiss influence in there too. Andre’s vocal style is very distinctive and if anything turns Beyond The Fields into much more of a celtic-punk band than they would be otherwise. A word here on Andre’s song writing and I have to say how refreshing it is to hear a celtic album that steers clear of all the usual celtic-punk subjects and instead opts for a different approach. Although there’s no obvious celtic themes within the songs that idea of story telling is very much there and I would recommend getting the actual CD rather than the download as those lyrics will bear repeated reading. The actual CD is an amazing digipak with an incredible 20 page booklet with band photos and the lyrics. Great stores but I do worry that Andre’s heart must have been broken a few times to keep coming up with this!

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ALBUM REVIEW: CREEDS CROSS- ‘Gods And Fighting Men’ (2014)‏

Creeds Cross- 'Gods And Fighting Men' (2014)

Its always great to hear about a new band on the London scene but when that band is super-bloody-fantastic its even better! Creed’s Cross are a relatively new band formed by internationaly celebrated musician Bart Foley. He’s accompanied by some stella fellow performers in Pat McManus of The Mamas Boys and Brian Kelly of The Popes.

Creeds CrossBased in the celtic-punk heartlands of North London and hailing from Cork, Dublin, Kerry, Mayo and London these lads are certainly kicking up a storm with their superb debut album ‘Gods And Fighting Men’. Self released on the bands own independent label Fiachra Records the CD itself is a nice wee package that comes with all the lyrics included so for those two reasons alone its well worth purchasing the disc. The name of the band comes from the crossroads from where Bart is from in Ireland and also to symbolise

“that our music welcomes all creeds and colours”

Eleven tracks and just under forty minutes is what you get and its as good a fusion of good old fashioned Irish traditional music and rock/punk/rock’n’roll as you’ll get. Now I’m sure the band won’t mind me saying this but they’re all pretty seasoned muso’s so don’t be coming here if you want your celtic-punk wrapped up with modern influences like a bit of ska here or a bit of dance there as Creeds Cross plough a far more classic route with influences of Irish legends The Horslips to the fore and much more celtic-rock than punk. That does not distract I hope that the band could not cross over into the celtic-punk scene as I am sure they could, and can, hold their own against any of the scene’s finest.

The album begins with the intro titled ‘An Irish Air’ a short slow pipes led piece that soon bounces into ‘The Harvest’ about bringing in the harvest back home. A subject close to every Irish mans heart, unless they come from Dublin. It also rings many a bell to those of us who were taken to Ireland for our summer holidays under the pretense of a holiday only to spend the whole bloody time bailing hay!
Creeds CrossA great fiddle led song with a colossal chorus with a shout of “Hay, Hay”, instead perhaps of “Oi!, Oi!”.  Third track is ‘The Irish Band’ perhaps the most punkiest on the album with a great story
“We sang our songs and we played our fiddles,
To London town and the gathering clans,
Both North and South and all in the middle,
will join together for the Irish band”
Being a band made up almost exclusively of emigrants Creeds Cross know what they’re taking about next on ‘One By One’ which talks of that ever present scourge of the Irish, emigration. Betrayed by the politicians at home the rate of emigration from Ireland is again up to new record levels and the parishes of Ireland are emptying of the young once more. The blame lies fair and squarely with the lawmakers who as usual care nothing for the people and are only interested in feathering their own nests. Heartening to see those days could be at an end, with recent election results these charlatans could soon be on the dole themselves. ‘The Sam Maguire Cup’ is a song about the fever that grips Ireland in the run up to the final. The cup is presented to the winners of Ireland’s biggest, but not greatest as that’s the Liam McCarthy Cup, sporting event the All-Ireland Senior Gaelic Football Championship. Being a Tipperary fan its not something I’m very familiar with I must admit… ‘Good Enough’ is a slow song about broken love but with a positive message of reconciliation and coming to terms with what happens and making peace with yourself. The title track ‘Gods And Fighting Men’ is another punky song about drinking it up on a Friday night
“Fridays are for Gods and fighting men”
A great story and clearly sung by Bart with a shitload of gusto. ‘I’m Coming Home’ is the split song to ‘One By One’ with its story of returning home from working away to feed your family. A song that sounds not unlike The Saw Doctors just much much better! The band capture perfectly how it must have felt for the generations who left and were lucky enough to return. Brian Kelly’s banjo playing is top notch and makes a change from the mostly fiddle led songs. ‘The Virgin Mary’ is a droll song about Catholicism and the pressures of being a RC. Growing up is hard when you’re told you’re being watched ALL the time. Great craic this song and told again with great relish by Bart. ‘Half A Chance’ is the story of asking a lass out for the first time. All us Catholic boys remember this with horror… The album finishes with the lovely ballad ‘A Lullabye’ which begins with the piano and is a great way to wind up the album.
Creeds Cross
An album full to the brim with modern Irish folk and rock anthems that will surely appeal to everyone from trad fans to your absolute most hardcore of celtic-punk rockers. The tunes and the storytelling gel perfectly and are both superb. Feel good music with a message Creeds Cross are not The Pogues or Blood Or Whiskey or The Saw Doctors but a band you can now add to those just mentioned at the top table in Irish music.

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