Tag Archives: Solas

ALBUM REVIEW: UNCLE BARD AND THE DIRTY BASTARDS- ‘Handmade’ (2017)

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!

Handmade 2017

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.

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Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards left to right: Silvano Ancellotti- Electric Guitar * Luca Crespi- Uilleann Pipes, Irish Flute, Tin Whistle * Luca Terlizzi- Drums * Guido Domingo- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Lorenzo Testa- Tenor Banjo, Mandolin. Seated: Rob Orlando / Uncle Bard- Bass Guitar.

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.

Discography

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

Buy The Album

FromTheBand  iTunes  Amazon      

Contact The Band 

Facebook  WebSite  Twitter  ReverbNation  YouTube

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LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2016!

Yes I know it only seems like five minutes since the last one but it’s that time of year again when we give you, for what it’s worth, our opinion on who made the best music in the celtic-punk scene over 2016. It’s been another outstanding year for the music that we all love and some truly fantastic records came out in the last twelve months. So read on to find out who came #1! Remember though this is only our opinion and these twenty-five album’s are only the tip of the iceberg of what was released last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…

bestof2016b

TOP 25 CELTIC PUNK ALBUMS

1. THE RUMJACKS (Australia)-‘Sleepin’Rough’  Review

2. THE NARROWBACKS (New York)- ‘Arrogance & Ignorance’  Review

3. THE CLOVES AND THE TOBACCO (Indonesia)- ‘Across The Horizon’  Review

4. MICKEY RICKSHAW (Boston)- ‘Behind The Eight Ball’  Review

5. THE WAKES (Glasgow)- ‘Venceremos!’  Review 

Absolutely no surprise here at all. For the first time we had an unanimous vote from all the admin’s that sees The Rumjacks sail away with the #1 spot for the second year running. It’s been an outstanding year for the Bhoys and with an American tour on the horizon they about to take another giant step in their campaign of world domination! Other notables were NYC’s Narrowbacks whose second album really showed the depth of their songwriting and could just have easily won the folk/trad best of too! The Cloves And The Tobacco deserve plaudits galore in another fantastic year for Indonesian celtic punk bands while Mickey Rickshaw could probably be said to have won the ‘unified title’ across all the various celtic-punk sites. In all we have twenty five bands from fourteen countries including USA x 6, Australia x 3, Indonesia x2, Germany x2, Netherlands x2, Catalonia x 2, Scotland, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, Spain, Czech Republic, Russia and Belarus with The Wakes being the only Celtic country based band which goes to show how international the scene has become.

6. THE CLAN (Italy)- ‘All In The Name Of Folk’  Review

7. HOIST THE COLORS (USA)- ‘Mourners’  Review

8. SIR REG (Sweden)- ‘Modern Day Disgrace’  Review

9. FOX n FIRKIN (Australia)- ‘No Vacancy’  Review

10. FIDDLER’S GREEN (Germany)- ‘Devil’s Dozen’  Review

11. LUGH (Brazil)- ‘Histórias Do Mar’  Review

12. JAY WARS AND THE HOWARD YOUTH (Australia)- ‘Love In The Time Of Fear’  Review

13. BUNCH OF BASTARDS (Netherlands)- ‘My Drinkin’ Ain’t Done’  Review

14. SIGELPA (Catalonia)- ‘Rabant Original’  Review

15. TENHOLES (Indonesia)- ‘Loyalty’  Review

16. THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS (Germany)- ‘Seven Hearts One Soul’  Review

17. 13KRAUSS (Spain)- TheEnd Is Nigh’  Review

18. DRINK HUNTERS (Catalonia)- ‘Shameless’  Review

19. PIRATES OF THE PUBS (Czech Republic)- ‘Drunken Forever’  Review

20. THE MUCKERS (USA)- ‘The Muckers’  Review

21. LQR (Netherlands)- ’10 Pinter’  Review

22. THE Пауки/THE PAUKI (Russia)- ‘La Isla Del Muerto’  Review

23. Всё CRAZY (Belarus)- ‘По Морям’  Review

24. RUSTY NAIL (USA)- ‘Bitter Ale, Bitter Heart’  Review

25. THE LANGER’S BALL (USA)- ‘Whiskey Outlaws’  Review

A special mention here to the ever prolific and always a pleasurable experience The Mahones who released a greatest hits entitled The Very Best: 25 Years Of Irish Punk which couldn’t be included in the Top 25 but if it did would have given The Rumjacks a run for their money!

TOP TEN CELTIC PUNK EP’S

1. MICK O’TOOLE (England)- ‘A Working Class Battalion’  Review

2. THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY (Australia)- ‘Whitewashed Graves’  Review

3. DRUNKEN FAIRY TALES (Russia) – ‘Пьяные Сказки’  Review

With The Rumjacks returning a year later to sweep the Album Of The Year it’s no surprise then that Wiltshire lads Mick O’Toole follow up last year’s win in the EP Of The Year awards to do the same thing. A great year for them that has seen them play less and less within the celtic-punk scene and really start to make waves outside of it. A foreign tour and more support slots to various punk rock legends than most bands play in a lifetime and all in the space of twelve months. The Ramshackle Army EP got lost in the post leaving us to do a rush-job review and given time I’m sure they may have given the O’Toole’s a run for their money. Drunken Fairy Tales impressed everyone and Matilda’s vinyl only release deserve a mention as well Mick O’Toole grabbing the 5th spot too.

4. MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS (England)- ‘Crowleys Curse’  Review

5. MICK O’TOOLE (England)- ‘False Flag Collapse’  Review

6. BAY STREET BASTARDS (Canada)- ‘Small Batch’  Review

7. LEXINGTON FIELD (USA)- ‘Redwood’  Review

8. HANDSOME YOUNG STRANGERS (Australia)- ‘Battle Of Broken Hill’  Review

9. MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS (England)- ‘The Organworks Recordings Session’  Review

10.  BALSALL HEATHENS (England)- ‘Life’s Too Short’  Review

TOP TEN FOLK/TRADITIONAL RELEASES

1. ANTO MORRA (London)-’16’  Review

2. THE LOGUES (Ireland)- ‘Comin’ Of Age’  Review

3. MICKEY RICKSHAW (Boston)- ‘Wild Atlantic’  Review

Possibly the hardest Best Of List of them all to do is this one as so many releases cross over the genres between rock and punk and folk and trad but our good friend Anto Morra, the ‘London Irish folk-punker’, just edging it from The Logues with his superb tribute to the 1916 Easter Rising. Mickey Rickshaw swept to third with their specially recorded acoustic EP that came out for their European tour and ShamRocks put out an album of high quality and original Irish folk with imagination galore. A special mention for Blackwater Banshee whose EP came out later in the year and shows enormous promise and one or two original songs would have seen a much higher position I am sure.

4. ShamRocks (Ukraine)- ‘Captain’s Log’  Review

5. LARKIN (USA)- ‘A Toast To St. Jude’  Review

6. FOLK THE SYSTEM (England)- Unrest In The Wolds’  Review

7. SHAMBOLICS (Australia)- ‘Riot On Race Day’  Review

8. CLEAR THE BATTLE FIELD (USA)- ‘Set Me Free’  Review

9. SOLAS (USA)- ‘All These Years’  Review

10. BLACKWATER BANSHEE (Bristol)- ‘Blackwater Banshee’  Review

TOP CELTIC PUNK WEB-SITE

Now this has over the years become the Celtic Folk Punk And More Top Celtic Punk Web-Site award so often has that esteemed site walked away with the top spot but there’s a new kid on the block and this year we are happy to award top spot to our good mates over at Mersey Celt Punks. They only kicked off the site a few months ago but super regular postings on all manner of celtic-punkness has seen them triumphant. You can join their fun over at Twitter and Facebook and we heartily recommend you do. A special mention here also for Viva La XV another new kid on the block which looks amazing but sadly as none of us can read Spanish we can’t tell if it’s as good as it looks! We’re sure it is and you can check it out for yourselves at the Blog or over on Facebook.

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Right now the details. The Best Of lists were cajoled and bullied out of the four admins on the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The various scraps of crumpled paper were received and then tallied up over several pints of Guinness in Mannions in north London while watching the football on the telly.

We are now in our fourth year of doing these Best Of lists so if you would like to have a look at the previous years best in celtic-punk then click the link below the relevant year.

all the major players in celtic-punk do Best Of lists so click below to check out what they thought

CELTIC FOLK PUNK AND MORE

PADDYROCK

MacSLONS IRISH RADIO

CELTIC-ROCK.DE

remember any views or comments we would love to hear them…

Only one more thing to mention about 2016 and that is to remember here Erik Petersen the lead singer of the influential folk-punk band Mischief Brew who sadly passed away earlier this year. I still find it hard to believe that he has gone but he will always be commemorated.

“So tattoo our arms and raise our glasses, call out your name at New Year’s Eve, maybe next time we kneel at a casket, we can say at least the story’s complete”

Read our obituary for Erik here and raise a glass the next time you get the chance to.

 Rest In Peace comrade.

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: RUNA- ‘Live’ (2016)

Timeless, flawless, innovative and award-winning Irish-American Celtic roots music.

RUNA Live

After four superb studio albums the brilliant Runa release a live album, imaginatively titled Live, that captures perfectly the sound of this amazing band. With a pedigree second to none, made up of vocalist and step-dancer, Shannon Lambert-Ryan of Philadelphia, Dublin-born guitarist, Fionán de Barra, Cheryl Prashker of Canada on percussion, Dave Curley of Galway on mandolin, vocals, bodhrán, and step-dancing, and Maggie Estes of Kentucky on the fiddle they are surely bound to hit the heights again with this album and they have deservedly earned their reputation as one of the most innovative and unique Irish bands of recent times.

Claude was a evangelical preacher, faith healer and singer-songwriter who helped popularise the music of the Appalachian mountains and was one of the fore-runners of the birth of rock’n’roll. Great percussion here keeping a fantastic beat while Shannon’s beautiful voice confers the greatest respect for Claude’s music. The opening song contains all those elements that make Runa such an interesting band. Based in the music of the celtic nations there is so much going on here that to simply call it celtic music does not give you anything like the full story. ‘

“Still I sing bonnie boys, bonnie mad boys,
Bedlam boys are bonnie
For they all go bare and they live by the air,
And they want no drink nor money”

In the 18th century it became a popular diversion to visit the hospital to watch the antics of the poor inmates. Admission was one penny and the hospital realized an income of four hundred pounds a year from visitors. The song Fionán de Barra takes over vocal duties and murderer. Excellent fiddle and a real thigh slapper that gets the audience here really involved and singing along.

“False Sir John’s a wooing gone
To a maid o’ beauty fair
May Colven was this lady’s name
Her faither’s only heir”

“Then myself and a hundred more to America sailed o’er
Our fortunes to be making we were thinking
When we landed in Yankeeland they shoved a gun intae our hand
Saying, Paddy you must go and fight for Lincoln

General Meagher to us said, If you get shot and lose your head
Every mother’s son of you will get a pension
In the war I lost my leg, all I’ve now is a wooden peg
By my soul it is the truth to you I mention

Now I think myself in luck to be fed on Indian buck
In old Ireland the country I delight in
And with the devil I do say, Oh Christ curse America
For I’m sure I’ve had enough of your hard fighting”

One of the saddest of the Irish emigration songs it is unusual in that songs of that time were written by the people escaping the ‘famine’ back home and extolling the virtues of the ‘land of liberty’. To put it glibly ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’. Truly not every man is a king in the US of A. Fionán takes over the lead vocals again and his whispered hushed tones fits perfecting the sadness in the song. ‘The stereotype of whale fishermen is a of a hairy chested, hard working, hard drinking, hard fighting men of the sea and while, no doubt the description fitted many of them, they often showed a strong liking for gentle ballads like these. The first parts tells the whalefishers story while part two tells of how closely we came to the extinction of this majestic animal.

“My soul has been torn from me and I am bleeding
My heart it has been rent and I am crying
For the beauty around me pales and I am screaming
I am the last of the Great Whales and I am dying”

1947 between a young boy and a false knight (the devil in disguise). The child gets the better of him and damns him back down to hell. Steeleye Span, Oysterband, The Blue Velvet Band have all recorded the song and here Runa give it as good as anyone with Shannon’s vocals shining out. So ends Set One and begins Set Two.

RUNA inside

All rested Runa return to rapturous applause and kick off their set with fiddler and composer born to a Irish musical family in Chicago, Illinois. next up is ‘

“Mhí mise lán den tsaoil is bhi cion amuigh is istigh orm
Nach mór a dáthraigh an saol nuair nach bhfuil eion ag duine ar
bith orm? / At one time in my life I was dearly loved by everyone
Haven’t times changed when no one cares a whit for me?”

(“Fine girl you are!”) version beloved by Irish pub dwellers worldwide but another less well known song written by Gerry O’Beirne about a man who leaves Ireland and ends up in the America southwest, eventually dying fighting and dying for the Mexican Army in the San Patricio Battalion (St Patrick Brigade).

“There the winds of change they blew so far
Of liberty and revolution
And it seemed that each man heard in his breast
the drumming of a nation”

Robert Dwyer Joyce

“Twas hard the mournful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
Ah, but harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us
And so I said, ‘The mountain glen
I’ll seek at morning early
And join the brave united men’
While soft wind shook the barley”

and Aoibhneas Eilís Ní Cheallaigh/ Filleadh An Bhadora

Discography

Jealousy (2009) * Stretched On Your Grave (2011) * Somewhere Along The Road (2012) * Current Affairs (2014)

Buy The Album

CDBaby  Amazon

Contact The Band

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  ReverbNation  YouTube  Soundcloud

  • For the review we published of the last Runa studio album Current Affairs check here

ALBUM REVIEW: SOLAS- ‘All These Years’ (2016)

Solas plant the flag for Irish-American music…

and it’s the best dang Irish music in the entire world! 

Solas All These Years

Its always been a bit fashionable for people in Ireland to look down their noses at those who find pride in their roots and especially Irish-Americans. A kind of horrible sneer that ranges from mocking the ‘paddy-whackery’ of some to the republicanism of others. Of laughing at their attempts to assert their Irishness to openly putting them down for it. To some in Ireland any attempt to find a sense of pride in their Irish roots is open season to be insulted. People from a certain class who made the Ireland that was the reason our ancestors left in the first place now laugh in the faces of the children of those forced to leave. People who never felt the hunger or cold or were never effected by the recessions or job loss or joblessness that have haunted our wee island. The thing is though that even though we are part of the wider Irish tribe we are NOT Irish per say. What I mean is that we know we were not born in Ireland and what we are is in face Irish-Americans, London-Irish, Scots-Irish, Irish-Australians… in fact anywhere we went we are from there AND Ireland. I know for full well that I was not born in Ireland and I have never pretended to be. I am a product of both my place of birth and my upbringing. I have never considered myself English. Why would I? I supported the same football teams, jockeys, snooker players, show-jumpers  (Eddie Macken rules!) as my friends and cousins in this country who all supported the same as their family. Our Irishness was natural to us. In fact the only ones who thought it unnatural were those lucky (more like privileged) enough not to be forced to emigrate over here as well! Saying that I have always found the Irish in England to have a fascination with Irish-America. After all we come from the same class the only difference being that those that made it to America were seen by those at ‘home’ to have made it. Those that only made it to England were thought to have gone from bad to worse!! Their may be some truth in that as the Irish here never wielded the political power they should have done despite their numbers while over in ‘Amerikay’ they discovered early on that power was everything and the Irish often out muscled other communities to take power.

Solas

We have discussed before the role of music and especially celtic-punk in giving a sense of pride and fitting in to those of Irish ancestry in north America and in the wake of The Pogues Irish-America took celtic-punk and injected it with a power and passion that nowhere else could and then handed it back to the Irish diaspora and wider Celtic diaspora. Its no surprise that celtic-punk is still tiny in Ireland as I’m sure they just don’t get it. It’s not just in celtic-punk though that Irish-America has led and they have also give the traditional folk world a decent kick up the backside too. Solas (pronounced Suh-less) celebrate their 20th anniversary this year and they have travelled the world as the very best band of their generation. Like their fellow countrymen The Dropkick Murphys they took something and pushed the boundaries of what was expectable and have ended up completely redefining how we all think of Irish music.

So here we are in 2016 and to celebrate their 20th anniversary Solas have brought every single person who has performed under the Solas banner together for an all-star, one-time line up. That they can manage to do this is incredible enough (you know what musicians are like!?!?!) but that they can do it and still turn out such a fantastic album as ‘All These Years’ is doubly incredible. The current line up of Solas includes founding members, multi-instrumentalist, Seamus Egan and, amazing fiddler, Winifred Horan. Other members include accordionist Mick McAuley, guitarist Eamon McElholm, and vocalist Moira Smiley. ‘All These Years’ sees the return of all of the vocalists who have starred for Solas over the years. Karan Casey, Deirdre Scanlan, Mairead Phelan, Niamh Varian Barry and Noriana Kennedy as well as early band members like accordionist John Williams, and guitarists John Doyle and Donal Clancy.

“We thought it was a way for us to celebrate the past with all of the people who had been important to us over the years, but we didn’t want use this as an exercise in nostalgia, because we weren’t interested in that at all. Even though we’ve been at it 20 years, I think creatively we’re still as excited about the possibilities as we were back then” ” explains Seamus Egan.

Founded in 1996 in the dark and smoky bars of New York Irish by Seamus Egan and Winifred Horan in Solas are still fuelled by their passion for Irish music and their passion means they refuse to stand still and repeat over and over again what they have already proven to be successful. From their first album, the self titled Solas back in 1996, you can still hear the same explosive energy that still drives them today but they have refused to stand still and it has proved to be the doing of Solas as they have consistently proved.

Solas

The first of the album’s sixteen tracks is ‘Roarie Bummlers’ a lively instrumental number that builds and builds. A roarie bummler is Scots for a fast-moving storm cloud. I will save you the bother of me having to repeat how outstanding each instrument is on each song by telling you that from beginning to end all the instruments are both played to perfection and mixed perfectly as well. This is followed by ‘Standing On The Shore’ and it features Moira Smiley on vocals. Demonstrating their global appeal the track that achieved well over 2,100 plays in under a week.

Solas- Moira Smiley

Moira Smiley

Moira Smiley sings vocals on a cover of Cork born Ger Wolfe’s gloriously understated ‘Lay Me Down’. A touch of Mumford And Sons but as them boys have never had an original thought in their lives it wouldn’t surprise me if it was indeed Solas who actually influenced them! Celtic tunes abound during ‘Lucy Lockets/The Quiet Pint/The Sleepy Sailors’ a foot tapping trip through the Celtic nations while on ‘Wandering Aengus’ Noriana Kennedy takes over vocal duties in another incredibly beautiful version of this epic poem from 1899 by Irish writer and poet William Butler Yeats.

“Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun”

(not the same version as on All These Years but still worth a listen)

Moira Smiley again takes on vocals for the great cover of 60’s/70’s American rockers The Youngbloods ‘Darkness Darkness’. A simple but effective tune accompanies ‘Lost In Quimper’ with Quimper being the ancient capital of Cornouaille in the Celtic nation of Brittany it seems Solas are determined to get around as far as possible on this great album. ‘Unnamed Shetland Reel/Da Full Rigged Ship’ goes beyond foot-tapping into full blown leg slapping head nodding fury and it may even get you up on your feet too if your not careful. This is swiftly followed by the magnificent but tragic republican ballad ‘Padraig Og Mo Chroi’ featuring Deirdre Scanlan on vocals and tells of the death of a young rebel. The title means simply ‘Young Patrick My Heart’.

Karan Casey

Karan Casey

This is followed by two covers of American folk artists with Karan Casey singing on Patty Griffin’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ and Mairead Phelan featuring on Montana born Irish-American artist Martha Scanlon’s ‘Little Bird Of Heaven’. Solas again out do themselves with a fantastic instrumnetal ‘Mr. And Mrs. Walsh’. ‘As I Went Out Walking’ features Moira Smiley and the classic Appalachian song ‘Willie Moore’ is up next featuring Niamh Varian Barry on vocals. The song dates from the 1920’s and was written by Dick Burnett (1887-1977) who also composed the famous ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ in 1913. He lived in Kentucky and was blinded by a robber’s gunshot in 1907, and (like many blind people in the south) was forced to become an musician. The story of his life possibly contributed to his heartbroken lyrics and ‘Willie Moore’ is no different telling of the suicide of a young girl in love.

“Her parents now are left all alone,
One mourns while the other one weeps;
And in a grassy mound before the cottage door,
The body of sweet Anna still sleeps”

Grief stricken Willie Moore flees to Montreal where he dies of a broken heart. ‘Sixteen Come Next Sunday’ is a traditional song most famously recorded by The Bothy Band on their classic 1976 album Old Hag You Have Killed Me. It features Karan Casey on vocals.

“With my twadigan adigan antin aye
With my twadigan adigan aye do”

The Bothy Band were an outstanding 1970’s band who have gained a reputation as one of the most influential bands in the history of Irish traditional music. The significance of their impact on celtic-rock (and therefore celtic-punk) is unmeasurable. And so it is finally, with another slow and piano laden instrumental titled ‘All These Years’ the album comes to an end. 

Solas

‘All These Years’ lasts an incredible seventy minutes and soars and flows to heights I wouldn’t have imagined possible after the majesty of their previous album Shamrock City. While most bands celebrating an anniversary like this would opt for a safe option like releasing a Best of or a live album Solas have gone well beyond and are to be applauded for bringing back the entire Solas family and recording an album of almost entirely new material. Quite simply this is the best traditional Irish music as played by the best Irish traditional band in the world. Thank God for Irish-America!

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  • There’s a interesting interview with Solas founder member Seamus here from 67 Music web-site.

Discography

1996- Solas, 1997- Sunny Spells And Scattered Showers, 1998- The Words That Remain, 2000- The Hour Before Dawn 2002- The Edge Of Silence 2003- Another Day 2005- Waiting For An Echo 2006- Reunion: A Decade Of Solas 2008- For Love And Laughter 2010- The Turning Tide 2013- Shamrock City

(here is a full concert performance of Solas playing the entire ‘Shamrock City’ concept album. This was one of the first reviews to appear on this site (here) and is a joy to behold. Put the kettle on and sit back and enjoy this concert)

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
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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

ALBUM REVIEW: RUNA- ‘Current Affairs’ (2014)

Runa- 'Current Affairs' (2014)
Runa were formed in Philadelphia in The USA in 2008 and consist of vocalist and step-dancer, Shannon Lambert-Ryan of Philadelphia, Dublin-born guitarist, Fionán de Barra, Cheryl Prashker of Canada on percussion, Dave Curley on mandolin, vocals, bodhrán, and step-dancing, and Maggie Estes of Kentucky on the fiddle. The band often performs with world-renowned, guest musicians, including Ross Holmes (Mumford & Sons, Cadillac Sky, Chessboxer) on fiddle, Matt Mancuso (Cathie Ryan Band) on fiddle, and Isaac Alderson (The Yanks, Comas) on the uilleann pipes, flutes, and whistles.
Runa1
‘Current Affairs’ is their fourth studio album and maintains the high standards they’ve set themselves. They play highly energetic and graceful, acoustic melodies with their fusion of music from Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the United States. Reminiscent of Irish-American legends Solas the bands Irish-American roots shine through drawing inspiration from the celtic tradition and the modern realities of being Irish in America today.

Thirteen tracks that come up just a few seconds short of a hour and if its class Irish music you want then this is the place. ‘Current Affairs’ begins with the track Pete Seeger made famous ‘The Banks Are Made Of Marble’, written by a New York apple farmer Les Rice in the 1930’s celebrating the struggles of the working class. Kicking off with acoustic guitar and harmonica before the band join in. Sadly the band recorded the song the night Pete Seeger died and it’s as good a tribute to him as would be possible. ‘The Wife Of Ushers Well’ is a sad song of a mother’s loss breaking into reels half way through before returning to the song. ‘The Hunters Set’ is a collection of tunes centred around hunting from across North America and begins with the fiddle before the whole band finish the song with a almighty racket! ‘Henry Lee’ is a tune with its roots in the celtic nations and their offspring in the Appalachians and is one of the album’s standout tracks telling the tale of a jilted lovers revenge. The guitar playing is exemplary and leads the song in a quite jazzy way. Amos Lee’s ‘Black River’ is a slow ballad capturing the simplicity of the human spirit. This is followed by a beautiful collection of songs with dual vocals in both Scots gaelic and Irish. Its great to hear our native languages and it’s a true testament to the band. ‘The False Knight Upon The Road’ is a traditional song about a young boy who meets someone who tries to trick him. Claude Ely’s gospel song ‘Ain’t No Grave’ has been covered by artists as diverse as Johnny Cash and Norah Jones but never quite like this. Starting as a mournful ballad, fiddle jumps in and the song becomes upbeat with its story of overcoming life’s trials. ‘Who Will Sing Me Lullabies’ was written by Kate Rusby who is already gaining legendary status on these shores so its great to see her influence spreading across the broad atlantic. The word beautiful crops up a awful lot in this review and I can frankly find no better word for what I’m hearing. Kate is I’m sure honoured to have Runa cover this song. ‘The Ruthless Wife’ is the story of the death of vocalist Shannon’s great-grandfather James Allen Lambert in Philadelphia back in 1922.  A proper murder ballad of a policeman (what else could he have been…) killed in the line of duty and a real ladies man. Instrumental ‘Land of The Sunshine Set’ is a set of reels and tunes that gives the whole band a chance to shine and shine they do with each instrument getting a good airing and is as perfect as they come. ‘Rairies Hill’ is a traditional Scots love song from Dundee and breaks into a lovely upbeat section in the middle. ‘The Last Trip Home’ brings the album to a close with a slow and, yes, beautiful song based on the plight of plough horses in the north of england when they had become ‘obsolete’. A truly horrible word used to describe us all when we are no longer needed and stand in the way of what they call progress.
Runa3
The CD comes in a gatefold sleeve with descriptions of all the songs and has had as much care and attention lavished on it as the music that’s inside. As mentioned Runa remind me of Solas but not in any sort of derivative way. They have their own sound and ways and this album would be a welcome addition to anyones collection. With its elements of Americana and bluegrass as well as celtic it’s perfect for those quiet times when all you want to do is relax and contemplate life and its tragedies and celebrations.

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ALBUM REVIEW: SOLAS ‘Shamrock City’ (2013)

shamrock city cover
SOLAS have risen to become one of Irish-America’s most popular bands over the last few years. Formed in 1996 and with many members coming and going over the years, its been the backbone of Seamus Egan and Winnifred  Horan, that has kept Solas at the very top of their game. They mix their celtic roots with americana and country and other influences too numerous to mention but on this album keep those influences in the background to make ‘Shamrock City’ the Irish folk album of the year already.
solas4It is unimaginable for us now to think of the horrors immigrants from Ireland faced when they arrived in the USA back in the dark days of the ‘famine’ and immediately after. Escaping a country which could but was not allowed to support them and having to leave the green of Ireland, only to find the only jobs available to them were the dirty and dangerous and low paid ones and yet still suffer prejudice and discrimination on top of it.
The story of ‘Shamrock City’, their 11th album, is a story of all these things but also of the hope, resistance and humour that those immigrants had and is the band’s most ambitious project to date. The album tells the story of Michael Conway, the great-great-uncle of Seamus Egan. Having left Ireland in 1910 he arrived in Butte, Montana aka Shamrock City (named so for the influx of Irish immigrants). 5000 miles from home in Roscommon only to find work in the copper mines. A family story of immigration, mining and murder.
solasMost of Butte’s Irish came directly or indirectly from West Ireland, predominately County Cork, but in large numbers from Mayo and Donegal as well. Six years after arriving in Butte Michael aged 25 was beaten to death by local policemen rumoured to be because of a row over fixing a boxing match.
An impressive list of musicians guest with Aoife O’Donovan singing the beautiful ‘Arbor Day’ and then fiery Irish-Scot folk veteran Dick Gaughan true to form on the angry ‘Labour Song’. Highly impressive fiddle work on the emotional ballads ‘Far Americay’ and ‘Welcome The Unknown’ by Horan and some fine instrumentals as well as the bluegrass influenced ‘Tell God And The Devil’, the LP’s standout track, and ‘No Forgotten Man’ make this outstanding album a must have for anyone with a interest in Irish music and history. Filled to the brim with stories its beauty is that it doesn’t stand as just one song or two but as a whole. As a testament to those 1000s of Irish who came to Butte. For many it was a death sentence and a sentence that came to them as young men. That sadness extends through Shamrock City but ends with the ‘No Forgotten Man’ and truly we shall remember them with pride. The live show is an interactive multi-media stage show featuring stories from and projected images of Butte that is receiving rave reviews so we can only hope that it wings ‘across the broad atlantic’…
solasOne hundred years later, it’s their story, but the struggles of the working class and immigrants are the same.
Shamrock City is for those then and now that believe in a better life, and are willing to risk it all for a chance at something more. It is to the credit of Irish-America that many are able to trace their ancestors right back to places like those copper tunnels of Butte or the hotels and hospitals of the great cities.  It is only to be hoped that they can also sympathise and support those that have today taken the place of the Irish in those dirty, dangerous and low paid jobs that once only Irish need apply.
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Buy The Album
here Amazon or CD Baby and even listen to a few tracks.
Discography:
solas1996 — Solas
1997 — Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers
1998 — The Words That Remain
2000 — The Hour Before Dawn
2002 — The Edge of Silence
2003 — Another Day
2005 — Waiting for an Echo
2006 — Reunion: A Decade of Solas
2008 — For Love and Laughter
2010 — The Turning Tide
2013 — Shamrock City

more information on the Irish miners in Butte here and here
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