Tag Archives: Steve Earle

EP REVIEW: GYPSY VANNER- ‘Five Distilled Celtic Punks’ (2019)

The brilliant debut six track EP release from Argentinian Celtic-Punk band Gypsy Vanner. A band dedicated to the fusion of traditional Irish music and rock, with the aim of converting traditional songs to rock and vice versa.

The last couple of years have seen quite a decent Celtic-Punk scene kicking off in Argentina. At the forefront of the scene have been Raise My Kilt with a couple of extremely well received releases behind them as well as newer bands like Aires Bastards who have not long released their debut album and the band we are featuring today Gypsy Vanner. All three bands are located in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires and, as is typical in the Celtic-Punk scene, they often play and work together to make the scene a welcoming place. As we often say- #OneBigCelticPunkFamily.

Their are many historical links between the Celtic nations and South America but for the Irish it is often Argentina that is held closest to our hearts. It was the place that most Irish settled during the 19th and 20th centuries in a non-English speaking majority country. Added to this the vast amount of Welsh farmers who flocked to the country in the 1860’s. Encouraged by the Argentinian government up to 5,000 people arrived to populate the part of the country on the Southern tip now known as Patagonia. In the early 1800’s, heavy industry, coal, slate, iron and steel, were beginning to take over the Welsh heart lands and rural communities began to disappear. Many Welsh patriots believed Wales was being absorbed into England so many turned to the ‘New World’ in an attempt to preserve Welsh language, culture and traditions. At first these communities struggled to survive in conditions markedly different to those back home but soon the resilience of this remarkable Celtic nation within a nation began to succeed to such a point that the Argentinian authorities felt threatened enough to end the teaching of Welsh within their school system though it always remained, as at home in Wales, the language of the home therefore ensuring its survival. Even now

“Each year in late July and early August, flights arrive at London airports carrying folk from South America. Many of these visitors experience difficulty in understanding the English spoken to them at passport control, however once they have travelled along the M4 motorway and crossed the border into Wales, destined for wherever the National Eisteddfod is being held that particular year, they find that they can communicate fluently with the locals.

The visitors in question have travelled 8,000 miles from the Welsh speaking outpost of Patagonia, on the southern tip of Argentina. The fascinating history of how these visitors from an essentially Spanish speaking country, also come to speak the ‘language of heaven’ dates back to the first half of the 19th century.”

So Celtic traditions and music are not unheard of in Argentina and the Celtic-Punk scene is a vibrant and exciting part of that, especially in the capital. Here on their debut release Five Distilled Celtic Punks the band play a variety of well known Irish classics both old and new alongside a classic of Punk Rock! The EP kicks off with the much maligned, these days, ‘Galway Girl’. Written by alternative Country star Steve Earle in 2000 and tells of meeting a beautiful black-haired blue-eyed girl in Galway. In the intervening years the song has gone stratospheric and has become a regular fixture for every single bloody busker and singer-songwriter in Ireland and beyond! Of course despite being butchered by untold artists it is Steve Earle’s version that is the songs high point and I am glad to say that Gypsy Vanner’s version belongs with the latter  in the Celtic-Punk hall of fame. It’s given a real Punk-Rock boost but still manages to keep its Celtic roots intact. Silvio’s vocals are raspy and hoarse and the perfect foil for the music. He also plays the uillean pipes and as anyone into Celtic-Punk will know that always makes for a special kind of music. They follow this song up with a lesser known one ‘True Love Knows No Season’ about an Irish gunman inKansas City in the days of the old west. A beautiful ballad best known for Planxty’s recording but here Gypsy Vanner give it the Dropkick’s treatment and turn into a full blown Celtic-Punk classic. Absolutely brilliant!!! They give it a Country twist for ‘Colours’ with some excellent banjo from Guyon accompanying a pure full on thigh slapper!

We back in familiar territory next with a couple of Celtic-Punk classics beginning with ‘South Australia’ and as you can imagine form my review so far it is putty in their hands and they chuck us out a fantastic version that leads us nicely into ‘The Irish Rover’ and the Bhoys go for it as only this song deserves with the whole band having a good go at the vocals! A sure fire dance floor filler everywhere you go I am sure it’s no different in Argentina either.

Five Distilled Celtic Punks comes to an end with a song from one of my favourite bands, Social Distortion’s ‘Prison Bound’. SD have literally just finished an extensive tour in the States with Flogging Molly and their ‘Country-Punk’ sound has always been popular in the scene. Here Gypsy Vanner save the best for last and turn the song into another full blown Celtic-Punk classic. A utterly brilliant ending and played at much the same speed as the original it has plenty of Gypsy Vanner stamped on it to make it their own.

So there’s my thoughts and I am only gutted to have come across the EP so late considering it was released back in March on St. Patrick’s eve. The production here is absolutely exemplary across the whole EP though no information on who was responsible but I tip my hat! There is at the moment some quite incredible music coming out of the continent of South America and beyond the bands from Argentina we mentioned earlier we are eagerly awaiting the new album from Mexican Celtic punkers Batallón De San Patricio and absolutely anything that Brazil’s The McMiners or Lugh put out so be sure to stay tuned and check them all out soon.

(You can listen to Five Distilled Celtic Punks on Bandcamp before you hopefully buy it!)

Buy Five Distilled Celtic Punks  FromTheBand  CDbaby  Amazon

Contact Gypsy Vanner  Facebook  YouTube  Spotify  Instagram  Bandcamp

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘JOY OF LIVING: A TRIBUTE TO EWAN MacCOLL’ (2016)

Fearless and uncompromising Ewan MacColl’s influence is still felt far beyond the folk world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Joy Of Living

Regular readers of the London Celtic Punks blog will all know how much we like Ewan MacColl and we have regularly featured him within these pages. Though long gone Ewan’s massive volume of work lives on and only the other day were we raving about the Irish-American celtic-punk band 1916 and their amazing version of another Ewan song (sadly not featured here) ‘Hot Asphalt’. Ewan’s songs were uplifting whether proclaiming love or war or peace. He wrote about things that would now be forgotten about and has kept their memory alive. He gave birth to a folk revival that continues to this day, many years after his passing, that remains in great health. The songs he wrote and championed are still being played and explored and adapted and still being made great. Ewan MacColl’s musical legacy is, to put it simply, just out of this world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Ewan was the Salford born son of Scotish parents. A Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs and ballads. He worked as a garage hand, builders’ labourer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. After the end of World War II Ewan wrote and broadcast extensively in Britain about folk music. He was general editor of the BBC folk-music series, ‘Ballads and Blues’, and frequently took part in radio and television shows for the BBC.

Ewan MacColl 1His folk song publications included ‘Personal Choice’, a pocket book edition of Scots folk songs and ballads, and ‘The Shuttle and the Cage’, the first published collection of British industrial folk songs. Eventually he was ousted from the BBC due to his socialist beliefs. He wrote many songs that have become folk (and celtic-punk standards) the most famous of course being ‘Dirty Old Town’ popularised by The Dubliners and then The Pogues. It is wrongly assumed to be about Dublin but it is in fact about his home town of Salford in Manchester. He is also famous for writing one of the greatest ever love songs ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which he wrote for his second wife, the influential American folk singer, Peggy Seeger. He was also the father of Kirsty MacColl who of course guested on The Pogues enormous Christmas hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. After many years of poor health Ewan died on 22 October 1989 but it can be safely said of him that his songs and influence will live on forever. Comparable only to Woody Guthrie in more than one way.

This fantastic double album marks 100 years since Ewan MacColl’s birth and the album has been produced by two of Ewan’s sons, Calum and Neill, and features a wonderful bunch of diverse artists from right across folk, rock, pop and celtic music. Disc one begins with, for me, one of the stand out tracks with Damien Dempsey singing ‘Schooldays Over’. The only song here we have heard before nevertheless it is more than welcome. Made famous by the late great Luke Kelly’s version with The Dubliners Damien is no stranger to Ewan’s work and does him truly proud.

This is followed by a track from one of the most influential figures in folk music today, Martin Carthy and is the first of several and several individual contributions by the Waterson-Carthy family. He performs the unlikely tale of a fish delivery man in ‘I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling’. The Unthanks may sound like a rock band but are in fact two sisters (Unthank is their great surname) who perform a gentle lullaby ‘Cannily, Cannily’. Tracks from legends old and new follow from Seth Lakeman and Marry Waterson and Bombay Bicycle Club are up next, BBC famously include one of MacColl’s grandchildren, Jamie. They contribute a moving version of ‘The Young Birds’, a song written back in 1961 to commemorate a tragic plane crash that killed 34 London children of whom some were known to MacColl’s oldest son, Hamish. Another artist we are familiar with here is Dick Gaughan who contributes ‘Jamie Foyers’. Dick is an influential Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter who was a founding member of the famous celtic band Boys Of The Lough. Martin’s daughter Eliza Carthy, ‘Thirty-Foot Trailer’ and Chaim Tannenbaum, ‘My Old Man’, are up next before honorary Irishman Steve Earle presents a new take on a song that needs no introduction ‘Dirty Old Town’, except to say that it does sound like the spirit(s) of Shane MacGowan were present at its recording.

The first discs last song is from Jarvis Cocker and the erstwhile Pulp front man gives us a amazingly beautiful whispered version of  ‘The Battle Is Done With’. I am sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but its great to hear something that just isn’t a straight cover of Ewan’s work.

Ewan MacCollDisc two begins with the most famous of Ewan’s compositions and Paul Buchanan vocalist of 80/90’s Glasgow indie band The Blue Nile croons beautifully through the ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Ewan wrote the song for Peggy Seeger and it became an international smash hit in 1972 sung by Roberta Flack. On hearing this version it made me wonder how Shane MacGowan would have mastered it. Paul Brady will be a name known to many and his version of ‘Freeborn Man’ shows Paul to have lost none of his talent in a career that spans right across modern day Irish folk music. Another travellers song follows and Norma Waterson provides us with a fauntless rendition of the gypsy’s plight in ‘The Moving On Song’. Karine Polwart’s version of ‘The Terror Time’ is again beautiful, and Martin Simpson, The Father’s Song, is up next before the ultimate Irish living folk legend, and former band mate of Paul Brady in Planxty, Christy Moore appears with ‘The Companeros’. Again yer man has lost nothing and its a stunning version. Now there’s one name missing from this album so far and he’s up next. It must be written into law that Billy Bragg must appear on any folk compilation and whatever you think of him he gives us a really nice but angry copy of ‘Kilroy Was Here’ which strips Billy back to those early days when he was at his best. Folk siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright play the magnificent ‘Sweet Thames, Flow Softly’. A small gentle snapshot of life before Kathryn Williams, ‘Alone’, and David Gray brings the whole project to an end with one of Ewan’s best but sadly little known songs, and album title, The Joy of Living.

As you may expect traditionalists might not appreciate some of the versions here but this enhances, rather than detracts and all the various strands of Ewan’s political and musical life is represented here. This double album does not pretend to be the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ as with an artist with such a massive repertoire it would be impossible to please everyone but it does provide a gateway. Collections like this serve only one purpose. That is to steer listeners away from the modern day versions to the original source and with Ewan their is plenty to catch up on. We have included some links at the bottom where readers can find more information and free downloads so I hope you take the opportunity to. It is impossible to calculate the range and influence of this remarkable singer and song-writer but we can rest assured his memory lives and this album is a great testament to him.

“My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking”

Disc 1
1. Damien Dempsey – Schooldays Over
2. Martin Carthy – I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling
3. The Unthanks – Cannily, Cannily
4. Seth Lakeman – The Shoals of Herring
5. Marry Waterson – The Exile Song
6. Bombay Bicycle Club – The Young Birds
7. Dick Gaughan – Jamie Foyers
8. Eliza Carthy – Thirty-Foot Trailer
9. Chaim Tannenbaum – My Old Man
10. Steve Earle – Dirty Old Town
11. Jarvis Cocker – The Battle Is Done With

Disc 2
1. Paul Buchanan – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
2. Paul Brady – Freeborn Man
3. Norma Waterson  – Moving On Song
4. Karine Polwart – The Terror Time
5. Martin Simpson – The Father’s Song
6. Christy Moore – The Companeros
7. Billy Bragg – Kilroy Was Here
8. Rufus & Martha Wainwright – Sweet Thames, Flow Softly
9. Kathryn Williams – Alone
10. David Gray – The Joy of Living

Buy The Album

Here   CookingVinylRecords  Amazon

Official Ewan MacColl Sites

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For more on Ewan MacColl the internet is awash with sites but trust us and head straight to the official sites but also to Wikipedia as well as this tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here. You can listen to some of his music for free here on LastFm.

We have a regular series ‘Classic Album Reviews’ where we feature records from the past that have had influence far beyond their years. Ewan (of course!!), Leadbelly and several compilations have featured so far and all come with links to free downloads. You can check out the full series here.

(Just to prove Ewan’s work lives on here’s the aforementioned 1916 from New York with their recent  version of the classic Ewan song ‘Hot Asphalt’)

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