Tag Archives: Silly Wizard

ALBUM REVIEW: ORTHODOX CELTS- ‘Many Mouths Shut’ (2017)

Sixth album from Serbia’s Orthodox Celts. The first and still one of the best Irish/Celtic bands from not just Eastern Europe but anywhere!

orthodox-celts-lp

There are so many bands in the celtic-punk scene that for one reason or another can be regarded as legendary. One of these bands well deserving of that word are the Orthodox Celts. They may not be a name very familiar to you but as the first band in Eastern Europe to play Irish music we can safely say that all who came after them owe them a debt for popularising Irish music and culture. Orthodox Celts hail from Belgrade in Serbia and celebrate a quarter of a century together this year with the release of their new album Many Mouths Shut. Over the last 25 years they toured right across Europe with their energetic and mesmerizing performances playing to packed houses wherever they go. I have never seen them live but a friend of a friend had a live DVD of the band and i can certainly attest to the amazing show they put on with a great and positive atmosphere for an army of fans that follows wherever the Celts play.

Despite Irish/Celtic music being unheard of in their home country the Celts have risen to become one of the biggest bands in the Serbian rock scene and have gone onto influence many, if not all, of the newer Celtic punk bands in the region. While we were getting all excited at ‘An Irtish Pub’ by The Rumjacks easing into the millions of views on You Tube Orthodox Celts version of ‘Star of the County Down’ recently racked up an incredible 10,000,000 (aye ten million) views and continues to grow.

orthodox-celts

Orthodox Celts left to right: – Dragan Gnjatović- Whistles * Dušan Živanović- Drums, Bodhran, Percussions, Accordion * Dejan Lalić- Octave Mandola, Mandolin, Guitar * Aleksandar Petrović- Vocals * Dejan Grujić- Bass * Vladan Jovković- Acoustic Guitar * Nikola Stanojević- Fiddle.

Many Mouths Shut begins with ‘One / Milk & Honey’ which was the first single from the album released last year and you can tell from this opening song pretty much what you going to hear for the next half hour. Put simply its energetic mostly acoustic Irish folk. The sort of stuff you use to only hear where the Irish gathered but bands like the Orthodox Saints have helped introduce it far and beyond almost anyone could ever have imagined.

“Many Are Drowned In This Sea That I Swim
Many Nailed To The Cross That I Bring
Many Are Burnt In The Flames That I Feel
But I’ll Never Be The Fallen One”

The first part of the song is followed by a beautiful Irish tune and shows right from the start that the standard of musicianship is outstanding and there’s more than a bit of a punk rock spirit in there too. These Bhoys play louder than Motorhead live! They follow this with the cracking ‘I Wish You The Very Worst’ with some great lyrics about someone who somebody doesn’t like.

“I’m So Sick Of Being The Lamb, In This Game I’ll Be The Wolf”

Wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of this! The first of the album’s rockier songs but again the song is interspersed with some brilliant Irish reels and has some great fist (or pint!) in the air chants to get the crowd going.

As I already said about the standard of musicianship here and with ‘Morrison’s Jig’ they take an old Irish traditional folk song named for the Sligo-born, Irish-American fiddler James Morrison from the 1930’s and breathe new life into the tune. They take it and make it almost unrecognisable while still keeping true to the song itself. We are back in more in more upbeat Celts territory next with one of the poppier songs on the album, ‘Save Me’, a song that would fit snugly into a set of The Saw Doctors or The Bible Code Sundays. They have come a long way since their debut album of all Irish standard covers.

Not one of my favourite songs here I have to say but great lyrics again and I never cease to be amazed how some celtic-punk songwriters who have English as a second and sometimes third or fourth language can write such great stuff. It is a talent I will be eternally jealous of.

“Save Me Girl
Give Me Shelter In Your Arms
Save Me Girl
And Blow Away My Harms
Save Me Girl
Arise Me From The Dead Tonight”

The second of the traditional Irish songs is next and again they come up trumps with ‘The Banshee’. A fast and furious reel that was thought to have been written by famed Monaghan tin-whistler James MacMahon (1893-1977). The sort of reel that at a session just gets louder and faster and faster till your head bursts!  Named after the female spirit in Irish mythology that heralded the death of a family member by shrieking. ‘King Of The Hill’ is next and is a bit more upbeat with a great drum back beat keeping the lot of them in time. Another traditional instrumental ‘Flowers Of Red Hill’ keeps the momentum flowing and the tin whistle playing here is exemplary with the only problem is that again it’s over in just over a minute. Recorded by many great Celtic bands like De Dannan, Bothy Band, Silly Wizard we can now add Orthodox Celts to that esteemed list. You can compare The Bothy Band here to the Orthodox Celts here. Been waiting on a ballad for half the album and with ‘Lone Wolf’ its arrived. A simple song that starts with just voice and acoustic guitar before the rest of the Celts team join in and takes us through to ‘Revolution’ where as usual the same old story comes out of politicians betraying the very people who put them into power.

“Hey You Are The Same As Those Who We Dethroned For You, You’re Spitting On The Faces Of Those Who Cleared Your Way
We Bled For You, We Fought For You, And Gave You All Those Years, You Became A Kind Of Master For Whom We’ll Never Be Obeyed”

The break up of Yugoslavia and the subsequent war that followed saw many innocent people killed and homes destroyed across the region. That the Serbian people deserve something better cannot be in dispute and I hope they get the politicians in power that will deliver it. ‘Banish Misfortune’ is another traditional instrumental folk song arranged by the Celts followed by ‘Double Cross’ which delivers an album standout of epic proportions. With an album that is roughly half and half Celts compositions and trad folk covers I love that they choose to avoid the better known tunes and delve deep into Irish folk history to find some tunes worthy of them. For the penultimate track they do come out with ‘The Parting Glass’ and as is their way the Celts turn it on it’s head and while 99% of the time bands play it as a slow ballad the Celts speed it up and deliver something as close to original as a cover can be.

“Goodnight and joy with you all”

Another old Irish trad song brings down the curtain on Many Mouths Shut and a rollicking version of the ‘Kesh Jig’, again made famous by, and I would say right up there with, The Bothy Band.

Orthodox Celts are that thing that raises shackles back in Ireland.  A band that plays Irish music as good and as great as any Irish band at home or abroad. Their love for the music and culture of our tiny island is evident in all they do. Band front man Alex said to me

“The Pogues were the only major influence when we talk about music as we didn’t want to sound like any other band so we sound very different from all the other bands in this genre. My definitive personal literary influences are Shane MacGowan and Alexandre Pushkin. Talking about the whole figure my major influence is Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners”

They have established themselves as unique ambassadors of the Emerald Island and have spread and continue to spread the very best of what we are to the entire world.

Discography
Orthodox Celts- 1994, The Celts Strike Again- 1997, Green Roses- 1999, A Moment Like The Longest Day- 2002, One, Two… Five- 2007

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(you can hear the whole album below by playing via You Tube)

EP REVIEW: ZUNAME- ‘Pipes Not Dead’ (2015)

Furious fast paced punk rock with bagpipes from Moscow.

Zuname- 'Pipes Not Dead' (2105)

The recent years have seen celtic-punk music pop up in very odd places that you wouldn’t imagine and it’s also true that it’s in some of these places that the celtic-punk scene is at its strongest. Russia may not spring to mind when you mention celtic-punk and this time last year I would have been in total agreement. Then I heard the fantastic Middle Class Bastards from St.Petersburg who romped away with the Best EP Of 2014 here and the absolutely brilliant compilation ‘Ex-USSR Tribute To The Dropkick Murphys’ which we reviewed here and also featured the band we are covering today Zuname from Moscow.

This is the fifth release from Zuname, three full albums and an EP have come before this their latest EP, ‘Pipes Not Dead’ and for anyone new to them they are in for a real treat. One of the earliest bands in Russia playing celtic music Zuname have pretty much influenced everyone that has come since and you can certainly see why on this recording.

Zuname band

Zuname left to right: Vadim – guitar, voxAndy – bagpipes, vox, Yarosh – guitar, vox, Santey – bass, vox, Simon – drums

Right from the off you get thrashy guitars, expertly played bagpipes and throaty rasping vocals. ‘Moscow’ begins this class EP and lets you know exactly where you’re standing. Band theme tune ‘Zuname’ is up next and is all over in just 90 seconds and is more of the same. Fast and furious and not unlike Middle Class Bastards in their approach to celtic-punk. The emphasis is on the punkier side of things but plenty here, if you got an open mind that is!, for your more folkier fans too. If most celtic-punk  bands aspire to be a combination of The Clash and The Dubliners then Zuname are more like a cross between The Exploited and Silly Wizard!!

‘Freedom’ is for me the standout track on the EP and shows that there is a lot more to Zuname than just just thrashing out. A real catchy tune with great piping and some fantastic vocals. With celtic-punk it’s sometimes those pint in the air moments that catch your attention and ‘Pipes Not Dead’ comes with plenty. ‘Music From The Heart’ is another classic and finally ‘Pirate Song’ brings the EP to a close with a modern day sea shanty that sails close to metal in places but we’ll not hold that against them! Over sixteen minutes long ‘Pipes Not Dead’ is also that rare creature in that it is a celtic-punk record that is not sung in English. We are anything but imperialist here at London Celtic Punks so it matters nothing to us what language bands sing in. Obviously for most bands to make any impact outside their home countries it’s understandable why bands would choose to sing in English but speaking for myself I would prefer it that bands sang in their native tongue BUT I also know that a lot of celtic-punk fans are fickle and sadly won’t give bands like Zuname a chance because of that.

Zuname logo

The EP was recorded thanks to three Russian DIY labels,including the bands own, Gigant Records, Distemper Records and Zuname Records and was produced by Denis Ivanov. Overall this album will greatly appeal to all fans of bagpipes in music and if you’re a fan of the popular Czech band Pipes And Pints then you will absolutely love this. Often the music in celtic-punk does struggle to get over the punk line in the sand but Zuname have no trouble and if it’s fast as hell, tuneful but hard punk rock with bagpipes that you like then you are going to love being a fan of these. The majority of their previous records are available for only a measly $1 or $2 only and even this their latest can be bought for just a single dollar… yes a single dollar it’s true! Bands like this deserve the fame and acclaim that normally gets heaped onto north American bands when all they have to do is pick up a mandolin let alone play it. I often find myself telling you to take a chance and step out of your comfort zone and try something new so let this month you check out the Russian band Zuname and I am even prepared to give them the London Celtic Punks seal of approval!

(you can listen to ‘Pipes Not Dead’ by simply clicking play on the Bandcamp player below)

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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)

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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: THE ALT- ‘Alt’ (2014)

The Alt- 'The Alt' (2014)
We don’t get to hear enough traditional music here at London Celtic Punks so we were blessed to receive this in the post from the good people over at Hearth Music. After all the roots of celtic-punk lay in traditional music every bit as much as punk so to ignore your roots is indeed a foolish thing.
On first glimpse I mistakenly took the Alt for the Irish pop supergroup of the mid-90’s of Tim Finn, Andy White and Liam Ó Maonlaí but no there’s a new Alt on the block and their pedigree could hardly be better and the word ‘supergroup’ could easily describe the new Alt as well. The three members of The Alt are John O’Doyle, Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O’Leary. John was born and raised in Dublin, lives in Asheville, NC, and is one of the pre-eminent guitarists and vocalists of his generation. He has twice been Grammy-nominated for his work with the fantastic groundbreaking Irish-American band, Solas, and also for his duo recordings with the great Chicago fiddler, Liz Carroll. John met flutist and singer Nuala at the Celtic Colors festival and while touring in Europe the two hit it off while exploring songs and tunes in common. Nuala is considered one of the finest traditional flute players and a singer of great depth and emotion and has herself recorded three highly regarded solo cd’s for the Nashville based Compass Records. Conversant in both Irish and Scots she has spent part of her life in the Scots highlands. Looking to add a third voice to the band, John suggested his long-time friend and fellow Dubliner Eamon, who also plays guitar and bouzouki. A great collector of traditional song and tunes Eamon has spent many years working with Mick Moloney, Green Fields of America, Patrick Orceau and has been a stalwart of the fine NYC traditional music scene for many years. Along with Jefferson Hamer he is the other half of The Murphy Beds, a guitar, bouzouki, and vocals duo who play a unique blend of Irish and Appalachian traditional music.
John, Nuala and Eamon

John, Nuala and Eamon

Together The Alt have taken the Irish folk music world by storm with their debut album and there’s plenty more to come!
As John explains “Nuala and Eamon have been my friends for many, many years, and we’re all interested in songs and the idea of harmony singing, we felt that there was this huge emphasis [in Irish music] just on tunes and melody playing, so we wanted to get together and have a tour and an album just of lovely songs. We started working on that in Sligo a couple of years ago.”
John Doyle’s family hail from County Sligo and the shadow of the Knocknarea mountain. In Irish folklore it is said to be the final resting place of the ancient Irish warrior-queen Maeve. The ‘Alt’ is a storied glen on the side of Knocknarea. It was in this glen in the little village of Coolaney that The Alt first gathered to rehearse. Each member of the group is a avid collector of folk songs and the songs they played  reflect some of the songs they grew up hearing and others they have collected along the road, from friends and mentors, from archival recordings and written collections. With rehearsals over plans were made to record an album. They chose the quiet isolation of a small cabin in North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains. A part of the world with long historical roots back in the auld country, as well as Scotland, the Appalachian’s have long been associated with old-time music. It was in fact those immigrant communities that settled there that brought us the music that slowly evolved into country and bluegrass. The Alt are well aware of this history.
Recorded in just three days this album shows The Alt’s ease with their native music and at once delicate, deliberate and always in deference to the song at its core. On first listen to the album you are instantly reminded of  the classic Irish sounds of The Bothy Band and Planxty. It was in the 70’s that these bands were the first to create a fusion of the traditional unaccompanied solo singer and pipes, guitar and bouzouki.
“Eamon and I do a lot of two bouzouki stuff. We’re harkening back to what we listened to as kids, to what Andy [Irvine] and Dónal [Lunny] did in Planxty”
The Alt focus on songs  from the celtic nations of Ireland and Scotland as well as both Britain and America but it is from Ireland their main inspiration comes from. The first of the albums eleven tracks is ‘Lovely Nancy’ a low key, laid back version of this magnificent song which drifts long only to be interrupted by Nuala’s superb flute playing.  Despite the band members all being very capable of writing original material this album takes the traditional route and even though I am not particularly well versed in that world I did recognise a couple of tunes from my youth.

‘One Morning In May’ is one of the  album standouts. Gentle vocal music with Nuala’s voice soaring ably backed by John in the chorus. ‘Geese In The Bog/ Covering Ground’ is the first of two instrumentals and rattles along at a grand pace led by the flute and guitar. ‘Willie Angler’, a tune made most famous by 70’s Irish legends Silly Wizard, tells of a rogue attempting to seduce a young girl but who turns out to be not so bad after all. A story of a lad off to fight overseas is  behind ‘Going For A Soldier Jenny/ The Chandelier’ with a fine instrumental tune bringing it to a end. ‘Finn Waterside’ continues with Nuala singing of a girl saying goodbye to her home and her true love before she is exiled to America. Next up is ‘The Eighteen Of June’, as in 1815 the day of the beginning of the Battle Of Waterloo. A rare recording and beautifully arranged. ‘The Green Gowned Lass/ Danger Mouse/ Dan Breen’s’ is the albums other instrumental and, similar to the other, rattles along but leaves me unsure whether or not the middle tune is any sort of ode to the 80’s childhood cartoon rodent or indeed if the ending is a tribute to the south Tipperary born hero of the War Of Independence. With the album drawing to a close Nuala sings the beautiful ‘Cha Tig Mor Mo Bhean Dhachaigh’ a stunning and mournful song in Scots gaelic. Finally the album ends with ‘The Letter Song’ a choral version of an old song featuring John, Nuala and Eamon that tells the sad tale  based on a letter written by a preacher in Kentucky to his wife in New England, warning her not to join him because of the rough conditions there. Yet again beautifully presented.
So there you have it. A fantastic first offering from The Alt. Perfection in both music and vocals and then melded together.  As they’ve already said it’s the first album that surely implies more from this super group and I for one cannot wait!
 
Contact The Band
John Doyle  WebSite   Facebook   YouTube
Nuala Kennedy  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  Myspace
Eamon O’Leary  Bandcamp
Order The Album
you can read our review of John’s other band Solas and their masterpiece album ‘Shamrock City’ which won the 2013 LONDON CELTIC PUNKS TRAD ALBUM OF THE YEAR here
A wealth of trad and roots music can be found at Hearth Music here

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