Italian celtic-punk band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards play fantastic celtic-punk but spice it up it with pure traditional Irish music. With uilleann pipes, tenor banjo and Irish flute no other band in the celtic punk scene can compete with these Bastards in their knowledge of Irish trad music…
as well as that they are a great bunch of lads!
It’s a long time now and in this modern age we are taught to have short memories but back before the now deceased ‘celtic tiger’ roared it’s last breath Ireland was a land of plenty. High wages, plenty of work and regular masses promised opportunities for all good Catholics that washed up on it’s shores. Plenty of Italians flocked to the dear auld sod and among those emigrants were members and friends of the band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards. These Bhoys weren’t tourists they were there to work and their love of Ireland was inspired from living, working, and visiting there. So in 2007 the celtic tiger having croaked and the work dried up many of those Italians returned home but a part of their hearts remained in Ireland.
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”
The boys got together and with a few songs learnt in the pubs and streets they began to practise what has gone on to become a real tour-de-force within the celtic-punk scene. From dingy wee backrooms in pubs to massive rock festivals to small mountain huts Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards have gone down an absolute storm wherever they have set foot.
(video filmed by our good mucker Rory over at This Drinking Life web-zine here which also included an extensive interview with the Bastards so click and go there.)
They released their debut album, Drinking Not Thinking, in 2011 and soon after set out on a busking tour of Ireland, Wales and England where they fine tuned their sound and began to write some of their own material. On their return home they were joined by Irish traditional folk musician Luca Crespi who added uilleann pipes, tin whistle and the Irish flute to the bands repertoire. ‘Up The Bastards’ EP followed before 2014’s absolute stunning Get The Folk Out! took us all by surprise. Not knowing them I opened up their e-mail and my first reaction was “not another band with Bastard in the name”. I sat down to listen and my bloody jaw hit the floor with amazement. Get The Folk Out! is a masterpiece. Straddling both the Irish trad sound and celtic-punk it easily fits into both genre’s. The addition of uilleann pipes moved the bands sound into something quite incredible. You can read our review of Get The Folk Out here. The album went on to walk away with the London Celtic Punks #1 Album of 2014 here, something unheard of for a ‘unknown’ band to do.
So with such high praise and expectation it was with wonder i sat down to listen to their new album Handmade. Could they live up to what we now expected of them? Well within one listen I realised they were onto another surefire hit! Released a fortnight ago on February 9th, 2017 they have managed to squeeze more than a hour onto the CD and have done it without a single weak moment. Uncle Bard And The Bastards start the ball rolling with the album’s title song ‘Handmade’. A short refrain starring Guido and his perfectly raspy and hoarse vocals and that’s it. The words explain the bands philosophy to what they do. A beautiful song and the perfect start.
“For a labour of love, Makes a work built to last”
They swiftly turn to their more raucous sound next with ‘Gipsey Geezers’ and them uilleann pipes fill the speakers but don’t be thinking that they rely solely on them. The whole band is extremely talented but you still need the songs and these Bastards do have them. As catchy a song as any on Get The Folk Out! it’s been a couple of years and I realise how much I have missed them. Not that only that but they finish the song with a jig called ‘The Arses Of The Lasses’ written by Lorenzo the like of which you will NEVER hear a fellow celtic-punk band play.
‘Too Old To Stop Now’ explains being in a band these days is more a labour of love than anything. Fortunes are to be made but only if you do as you are told and sell your soul for success. Things the Bastards have never and will never do. Again the celtic-punk of the main tune contrasts nicely with a polka tacked seamlessly onto the end. ‘Stay Untamed!’ again shows the songwriting talents of this band. Shared between them all it amazes how people who have English as only their second language can write such brilliant words. Never be afraid to take chances is the thing here and wrapped around a real foot-tapper. The tin whistle and punky guitar leads on a right celtic-punk classic that slows and speeds up with the fastest banjo I have heard in ages. ‘The Man Who Spoke To The Earth’ speaks of the the rich man in his castle and the poor man and again the song is interspersed with some absolutely amazing Irish folk tunes.
“I am just a poor man, On his own. But they will never know, What I’ve known”
The Bogman again written by the talented Lorenzo starts the section that concludes with Séamus Egan of Solas ‘The Czar of Munster’ and the trad ‘Coleraine’s Jig’. All played as expertly as you will hear. They leave the celtic-punk behind next and present further evidence that this band can whip up a traditional celtic folk storm as good as anyone. ‘The Donegal Lass/Butler of Glen Avenue/Tell Me About You’ has the fiddle and pipes giving it all. Never afraid to dip their toes in another genre we get the first taste on Handmade with ‘The Ferryman’. Bluegrass and ‘proper’ country spice up a song written by the legendary Irish songwriter Pete St John. ‘The Ferryman’ tells of the closure of the Liffey Ferry service in 1984, the loss of jobs and the end of a 320 years-old tradition that perfectly pictures how Dublin was changing during the 70’s and 80’s. The pipes are out in force for ‘Anger’ while the short and gentle banjo and flute piece ‘The Clarenbridge Fair’ is dedicated to Fintan and Tom Cussen where Lorenzo spent time in their Galway workshop.
“I dedicate this banjo composition to both of them, with a sense of gratitude for the great instruments they build and for their unequalled kindness”
‘The Streets Of Dublin’ is Lorenzo’s ode to the city that forever captured his heart. It’s not the saccharine sweet version of Dublin presented for the tourists but the warts an’all kind. Having watched Dublin change during the years and get through the economic crisis with more homelessness and teenage drug problems than ever there is hope. The Home Sweet Home movement is occupying offices in the centre of Dublin, to give shelter to homeless people for the winter and raise awareness of the problem. The music is again superb the mix of old and new never better while the lyrics speak of the same.
“Dublin me darlin’, What’s left for those who will come?”
Lorenzo again excels as a singer-songwriter on ‘Lads From The Countryside’ where he tells of the benefits of being born in the country. That they can follow a serious song such as ‘the Streets Of Dublin’ with this speaks volumes of their talent. Their is a phrase much loved by the foreign born Irish, like myself, “More Irish than the Irish themselves” and on ‘The Luck Of The Irish’ Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards prove they are indeed.
“So tell me, oh dear Where’s our pot of gold? I stumbled ‘till West Clare, To find there was none. At the top of me lungs, Leaned out over the cliffs I shouted ye oversea “Lucky me arse!”
the title reminded me of the John Lennon song which had much the same theme but without any of the Bastards humour. With British occupation, war, genocide, immigration heaped upon the Irish race where is this f’ing luck I keep hearing about? Now obviously I am drawn to the next song like a moth to a flame. The phrase ‘Plastic Paddy’ is well known to us outside Ireland. We can never be Irish enough for some people, mostly those who never suffered the necessity of emigration to survive rather than as some kind of student gap year.
It was released as a single last year but has been re-recorded and tweaked for inclusion on Handmade to make it a whole lot better!
“I went back to Temple Bar in great haste and fear
since I wanted to preserve the teeth I had in me mouth
I paid my seven euro for an iced pint of stout
but as everyone knows Guinness here is not the same
thanks goodness I found a few americans there
so we went out singing aloud along Merchant’s Quay
First “Whiskey in the Jar” and then a Garth Brooks’ song
Could it be a better way to celebrate today?”
Told again with great humour and is the longest song here. Have a good read of the lyrics over at the YouTube video. The music as ever is catchy as hell and the Bhoys admit they’ll be contributing to the whole mess themselves on St Patrick’s/Paddy’s/Patty’s day! My favourite song on Handmade is up next. ‘Rust’ is a beautiful song that is more celtic-rock than punk but Guido’s great voice and his lyrics raise the song high. Superb banjo playing and the song has epic written all over it. Nearly at the end and ‘The Flat Above My Pub’ is Silvano’s turn at telling a tale. He reaches into his dark past and shares them with us in a happy-go-lucky song because
“when life hands me a lemon I just go to the pub and I ask for a pint or two. I don’t like lemonade too much”
Fast and furious and still catchy the song is possibly the best example of Uncle Bard And The Bastards on Handmade. Everything that makes them truly unique within the celtic-punk scene is here within this brilliant song. The album ends with the modern Irish folk classic ‘The Town I Love So Well’. Not much to say here except its a faithful version Phil Coulter’s classic personal lament about the war in the north of Ireland, specifically in Derry city, a republican stronghold. Written about his childhood the song begins by telling of the simple life he grew up with till he emigrated and then returned finding how his hometown become plagued with violence. Dennis Jelly, of the brilliant French celtic-punk band The Moorings, takes over on vocals and sends this album off triumphantly.
So there you go. It may not be up to Get The Folk Out! standards but fecking hell there’s only a small handful of celtic-punk albums EVER made they do. Handmade is absolutely brilliant in every way. Buy this and give it to any Irish folk/trad music fan and they will see celtic-punk in a completely different light. They don’t have producers, record labels, arrangers, lyricist’s or anyone backing them. Piece by piece Handmade was truly a labour of love. Every aspect of this album has been produced by this group of friends themselves not just from the lyrics and music arrangements and the recording but also the excellent ,and massive, CD booklet containing photos, lyrics and song explanations. This album is truly handmade and made with a genuine passion missing from most modern music. At a time when the most popular bands in celtic-punk are releasing album’s you should definitely not miss out on this album I have an inkling it will again be troubling them at the top of the Best Of charts again at the end of the year.
Drinking Not Thinking – 2011, Up the Bastards! EP – 2013, Get The Folk Out! – 2014
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