Tag Archives: Street Dogs

ALBUM REVIEW: LARKIN- ‘A Toast To St. Jude’ (2016)

With traditional Irish folk music and some of their own originals Larkin rock it up while keeping it trad. Always a good yellin’, rebel song, drinkin’ song good time with Larkin!

Larkin

Larkin are a superb 6 piece trad Irish folk band from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the USA that play traditional working class Irish protest song’s. They are led by Chad Malone, formerly of the American crusty punk political hardcore racket Brother Inferior, he has swapped one kind of music that comes from the heart for another that will surely stir the emotions of even the most stony hearted punk rocker. Leaving the hardcore punk growling behind Chad sings in a vein that crosses both Luke Kelly and Shane MacGowan while the band follow in the much same way inspired by the likes of both The Dubliners and The Pogues as well.

Larkin1

It has been eight years since Larkin’s last release and that is far too long. Their first release was The Curse of Our Fathers which was the first CD I had ever sent off for from America way back in 2003 when I had never even heard of the internet. Rustling up a bunch of dollars and posting them off not knowing if they’d ever get there! Lucky for me they did and a short while later the CD dropped out the letterbox and was ready for me to play constantly for months to come and tape for about at least fifty people! It was thirteen songs that included a smattering of old rebel songs and some brilliant original compositions that seriously marked them out as a band to watch. Irish-American life in song and Chad had obviously lost none of his songwriting ability’s when he made the dramatic (to some!) shift from hardcore punk to trad Irish. They followed this with Reckoning in 2005 and again it covered much the same track as their debut. More original songs this time but still a few rebs’s covering both the ‘auld days’ with ‘Broad Black Brimmer’ and the new with ‘Men Behind The Wire’. Again the music was exemplary and the energy through the roof. The following year they released a six track EP called Alexandra, named after the daughter of one of the band members, and again folks went bloody mad for it. Garnering great reviews from both folk and punk sites it seemed like Larkin were on the rise but whatever happened we this side of the pond were never to know and their international profile went down and we heard absolutely nothing till this their new album hit the streets running recently.

That new album A Toast To St. Jude has again been released, like all Larkin releases, on Know Records a punk rock and hardcore record label from Long Beach in Southern California. Available from the band on only vinyl for the moment on either orange (limited to 200) or green coloured vinyl, but that include’s a free digital download card. It is available as a download on other things like iTunes though so if you want one don’t be silly and delay… send off today.

A Toast To St. Jude begins with ‘The Ballad Of St. Patrick’s Battalion’ and straight from the off its a thigh slapping and merry fiddle led jaunty tribute to the famed battalion of up to several hundred mainly Irishmen who fought as part of the Mexican Army in the Mexican–American War of 1846–8. Famed in song already by the likes of Damien Dempsey (‘St Patrick’s Brave Brigade’) and The Street Dogs (‘San Patricios’) and countless others its a proud addition.

Larkin slow it down for ‘A Bottle And Two Days Later’ and it’s the tin whistle that dominates here aside from Chads vocals which shine out loud and proud over all. The music has a slight country twist to it but listen to the words and get carried away on the swell. ‘Row In The Town’ follows and is the first cover here and top marks for a song I have never heard covered in celtic punk before. Better known as ‘Erin Go Bragh’ it’s the story of 1916 and the brave leaders who fought and were executed in the Easter Uprising.

“God Bless gallant Pearse and his comrades who died
Tom Clark, MacDonagh, MacDiarmad, McBryde
And here’s to James Connolly who gave one Hurrah!
And faced the machine guns for Erin Go Bragh”

Written by the great Irish balladeer Peadar Kearney who also wrote the national anthem of Ireland ‘Amhrán Na BhFiann’ as well as a host of other well known and cherished Irish rebel songs. The song sticks to much the same tune as The Wolfe Tones version which is by far the most popular. ‘The Long Goodbye’ sees them back in thigh slapping mode again and despite it being almost entirely acoustic instruments they are giving it as good as any punk band and you can imagine the pit to this being pretty rigorous while ‘Shadows And Dust’ sees Chad giving it his best Shane as he sings of the evils of drink and drinking. Slow and mournful and the fiddle and whistle keep it moving on. A word here for the backline of non Irish instruments and the drumming and electric bass are both excellent additions and are as much of the sound as the others. Like all the best celtic-punk bands Larkin can switch it up and manage to follow a slow song with something like ‘The Wages Of Sin’ where Chad sings as fast as anything he managed in Brother Inferior. The beauty is though that you don’t notice that switch as it seems completely faultless. We are halfway through and they slip in ‘Lexy Slip Jig/Villain’s Octaves Jig/December Jig’ a collection of dance reels and jigs that prove Larkin are as an accomplished bunch of traditional musicians as exists in celtic-punk. Bloody superb is the only way to describe this and the fiddle playing of Karen Harmon is beyond brilliant. ‘Maybe Someday Outside Of Belfast’ slows it down again and Chad can turn his hand to much more than reb’s and rockers and he can give out a beautiful auld love song too. Of course it doesn’t have a happy ending but hey ho there you go! The longest track here and again I’m marvelling at this story teller’s words. ‘Midnight In The Fall Of Man’ ramps it up again with frantic acoustic guitar setting the pace with the band barely able to keep up. ‘A Wayward Lament’ again slows it down and Chad again hits a nerve with this my favourite song of the album. His voice may be a thousand miles from crooning but extols more emotion and feeling than anyone I have heard in a very long time.ST JUDE Album theme tune ‘A Toast To Saint Jude’ is exactly that a tribute to the apostle who is the patron saint of lost causes! He became associated with desperate situations because of a letter he wrote in which he says that the faithful must keep going even in harsh or difficult circumstances. Fast and utterly brilliant and over in just two minutes it sets up nicely for the album’s only other cover and poignant is not the word. ‘Back Home In Derry’ has been covered by a small handful of celtic punk bands and always sounds fantastic as it does here. Written by the peoples MP Bobby Sands while incarcerated in prison its an amazing song that never fails to move.

“Van Diemen’s land is a hell for a man
To end out his whole life in slavery
Where the climate is raw and the gun makes the law
Neither wind nor rain care for bravery
Twenty years have gone by, I’ve ended my bond
My comrades ghosts walk behind me
A rebel I came – I’m still the same
On the cold winters night you will find me”

A song about Irish freedom fighters sentenced to slavery in Australia by the British Government in the 1800’s the song was originally recorded by Christy Moore and Christy tells of the origins of his learning the song

“I was playing in Derry and staying with The Barrett Family. After my gig we were gathered in Chamberlain St having a banter and drinking tea when a bit of singing broke out. A lad, just home from The Blocks (prison), sang these verses and subsequently wrote out the words for me. At the time the name Bobby Sands was not known to the world as it is today.
He used the air of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald from Gordon Lightfoot, an air which I suspect has earlier origins.  My version of Bobby’s song is shorter than the original”

Finally A Toast To Saint Jude comes to an end with ‘Have Another Drink, Boys’ and its altogether thirteen of the best songs I have heard in a good while. I simply cannot say how much I loved this album.

Team Larkin

Larkin from left to right: David Lawrence ~ whistle * Dalton Williams ~ guitar, bodhran * Chad Malone ~ vocals * Karen Naifeh Harmon ~ violin * Kelly Tuttle ~ bass Johnny Walker ~ drums

Larkin are almost the perfect band to symbolise celtic-punk. Heartfelt renditions of classic Irish songs that stir the emotions that will have you sobbing your heart out into your beer one minute and belting your lungs outs and thumping the table the next. That their own songs sound perfectly at home being sung right next to songs that are over a century old while at the same time giving off a very modern vibe is a fantastic achievement. Everything about Larkin is to be recommended right down to the artwork (once again done by the amazing Dublin punk artist Boz) and while some Irish-American’s may not know all that much of the history of Ireland that is not the case with Chad and the other bhoys and ghirls. History courses through the entire Larkin back catalogue and this is no exception. The band are named after the famed Dublin working class agitator and trade union leader James Larkin (1876 – 1947), a second generation Irish man born in Liverpool. He grew up in poverty and received little formal education but became a leader and a visionary whose influence still lives on today at home in Ireland and beyond. The hard life of the Irish who made the journey across the broad Atlantic and the sometimes hard life of their descendants (you see not every man is a king is in the US of A) is rarely better told and Chad sits comfortably up there with Tony from The Tossers or Leeson from Neck as a modern day celtic-punk story teller. The high praise doesn’t end there though and the music that accompanies is of the highest quality as well. Fast paced tunes with heaps and heaps of energy mix it up with soulful ballads and instrumentals that are all guaranteed to fill the dance floor with either swaying emotional mobs linking arms and pints in the air or a mosh pit you’d be taking your life in your hands to go near. With whistle, fiddle, acoustic guitar, electric bass, drums and vocals Larkin kick up an almighty storm and may just possibly be the world’s most punkiest folk band. No sod that… in fact make that definitely the world’s most punkiest folk band!

Buy The Album

KnowRecords (available on green and orange vinyl with free download card)  Microsoft  iTunes

Contact The Band

Facebook  MySpace  Chad Malone Facebook page (Larkin singer)  Soundcloud

  • you can check the wonderful artwork of the chief Larkin illustrator, Boz here at his web-site
  • Know Records Facebook page is here.
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ALBUM REVIEW: TIN CAN HOOLEY- ‘ Racket In The Parlor’ (2015)

folk that rocks… not folk rock!

Featuring over 75 years of artistry in Boston punk and hardcore bands playing old time Celtic pub music

Tin Can

Tin Can Hooley are a Boston Irish band right out of the Boston Irish community. Despite never having set foot there I feel I know Boston well what with the Dropkick Murphys and films like The Departed or TV shows like The Black Donnellys or Cheers and a multitude of factual programmes raking over the Irish mafia/ mob that have ruled in Boston up to the present day. Therefore it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Irish do indeed run Boston. Perhaps not as blatantly as in years gone by, and certainly no longer with guns and muscle, but Boston is still to this day an Irish city with over 20% proclaiming their Irishness. The Irish first arrived in the early 17th century as indentured servants, merchants, sailors or tradesmen. Catholicism was still illegal so many hid their religion but it was the years of The Great Hunger that saw the Irish population explode. Between 1845 and 1849, 100,000 Irish refugees arrived in Boston, fleeing starvation and pestilence. They transformed Boston into a distinctly Irish city and by the end of the 19th century, Boston’s core neighbourhoods had become enclaves of ethnically distinct immigrants with the Irish dominating, for example, the whole of South Boston. It wasn’t all plain sailing though and the Irish were met with considerable discrimination. From the first moment of their arrival, the Irish occupied the basement of American society. Much of this discrimination was the result of anti-Catholic sentiment. Catholicism was extremely important to the Irish community. Attending church was mandatory and defined what made a good citizen. No single group of individuals did more to change the face of Irish-Americans than the Kennedy family. Through their military service and political careers, Joe Kennedy and his sons became American royalty. The entrance of the Irish into politics marked the turning point and the end of blatant Irish discrimination. Famous actors and TV stars- Denis Leary, Ben and Casey Affleck, Mark Wahlberg, Mike O’Malley, Conan O’Brien, Politicians- The Kennedy’s, Tip O’Neal, and sportsman like John L.Sullivan, Micky ‘Irish’ Ward, Kevin McHale, and its basketball team- The Boston Celtics, and its infamous gangsters like James J ‘Whitey’ Bulger and James ‘Spike’ O’Toole all show the pride that Bostonians have in their Irish roots. A walk around the working class Irish areas of Boston and you could be back in Ireland or even Kilburn of the 70’s/ 80’s and you can see why Boston is known as America’s most Irish town. Added to these is perhaps the reason we are here at all, The Dropkick Murphys! I am sure they need no introduction other than to say that it was their Irish-American background growing up that inspired them to become a band fusing punk and Oi! and traditional Irish music and lyrics.

CAC down May 2014

(photo credit Billy Calmovita)

With all this in mind it’s no surprise then music has figured high in the culture of the Boston Irish. As well as the celtic-punk bands that have emerged from the city from the Murphys and The Street Dogs to bands like The Larkin Brigade and The Gobshites who took over and newer bands like Mickey Rickshaw and The Welch Boys, Boston has been at the very forefront of blending traditional Irish music and rock and punk and other music too. Punk bands like Negative FX, Death Before Dishonor and Gang Green have also all given a fair nod to their celtic roots while playing the uncompromising music you would associate with ‘Boston Hardcore’.

Left to right: Will

Left to right: Will “Sully” Toxic (guitars, bouzouki, vocals), Heavyset Joe (fiddle, vocals), Dynamite Jack (drums), Paddy Keys (piano, vocals), Benny the Fireman (accordion, vocals, tin whistle, harmonica, bagpipes)

So with all that history behind them how can a relatively new band make a name for themselves? Well one way is to make a shit-kicking album of traditional folk standards, jigs and reels that is high on energy and expertly played instruments with enough of a punk rock edge to prevent it going into ‘finger-in-the-ear’ folk territory. This is what Tin Can Hooley have managed to do with ‘Racket In The Parlor’. Fifteen songs clocking in at just under an hour’s worth of top notch punky Irish folk music.

Playing together on and off since 1999 Tin Can Hooley are a combination of two distinct Boston Irish bands. Firstly the legendary punk band Toxic Narcotic, who played a style of hardcore punk known as crust who were not for the sensitive or faint hearted. They were the real deal, working class anarchist punk rock with a ‘F’The World’ attitude and absolutely no compromises. The other band was The Larkin Brigade, who actually happen to be one of my all time favourite celtic-punk bands, and who would, I am sure, have gone onto much better and bigger things if they had managed a follow up to the brilliant ‘Paddy Keys For Mayor!’ album and managed to tour a bit more. They were described, brilliantly, as

“if the Wolfe Tones had sex with Ben Folds Five, and then, nine months later, a tearful Ben Folds Five left a bassinet on the doorstep of a bewildered Minor Threat, who, after attempting to raise the little bundle itself, passed the kid off into the social services system, where it went through a series of foster homes including the Pogues and Blood for Blood, before it was taken under the wing of the Rolling Stones, who paid for it to take piano lessons from Scott Joplin and then Jerry Lee Lewis, each of whom in turn kicked the kid out of class for not practising, and finally the kid ran away and worked in an Irish pub, where it osmotically memorized every song in the book while mopping puke off the floor, until one day the Wolfe Tones walked in to order a pint and recognized its own offspring running cases of Magner’s behind the bar, and, after a brawl that caused thousands of dollars in damage and a bar tab that cost hundreds, bestowed upon the kid a lucky Claddagh ring with special powers, then that kid would grow up to be the Larkin Brigade”

So Tin Can Hooley come from quite a musical heritage themselves and boy they don’t let Boston down one bit as these Bhoys can certainly play! ‘Racket In The Parlor’ clocks in at just under one hour and kicks off with the Irish air/Scots barn dance ‘Loch Na gCaor/Killiecrankie’ and is instantly reminiscent of The Larkin Brigade and that feeling gets stronger when Paddy sings in the next song, ‘Johnsons Motorcar’.

“Well we put that car in motion and filled it to the brim
With guns and bayonets shining which made old Johnston grim
And Barney hoisted a Sinn Fein flag and it fluttered like a star
And we gave three cheers for the IRA and Johnston’s Motor Car”

Based on a real event in 1920 during the Irish War Of Independence when a IRA flying column desperately needed transport to a town over fifty miles away. They called out Henry Johnston, the local doctor, and then ambushed him and his car at a railway bridge and commandeered the car. Humour and real history captured in a great song. A selection of more reels and jigs follow and the wonderful fiddle work drives it along with piano, accordion, bagpipes, bouzouki, tin whistle and harmonica all popping up again and again giving the album a well rounded and full sound. The piano gives it all a music hall feel but there is a respect for the people and musicians who sang these songs first while Tin Can Hooley add to and adapt so these songs can be passed onto the next generation who will perform them and celebrate them.

The usual standards are also here with ‘Tell Me Ma’, McAlpines Fusiliers’ and ‘The Fields Of Athenry’ all getting an airing and though you may have heard them a thousand times don’t be letting that put you off as Tin Can Hooley perform everything with their own personal flair and touch. ‘The Moonshiner’ again shows the bands great sense of humour

“I’m a rambler, I’m a gambler,
I’m a long way from home
And if you don’t like me,
Well, leave me alone
I’ll eat when I’m hungry,
I’ll drink when I’m dry
And if moonshine don’t kill me,
I’ll live till I die”

Tin Can Hooley must go down an absolute storm in the pubs and clubs of Boston and they have transferred their fun and raucous sound onto ‘Racket In The Parlor’ and it doesn’t fail to surprise. There is so much here within the fifteen songs with excerpts of countless songs slotted in unannounced to shock you. Its a brilliant album and chock-a-block with energy and fire to fill your hearts and stomachs. ‘John Ryans Polka/ Wild Colonial Boy’ leads you on a merry dance and this reminds me of The Pogues with their ability to make folk instruments sound as loud and as punk as any punk band. A slow version of ‘Fields Of Athenry’ features the beautiful voice of twelve year old Siobhan Hayes. It seems Tin Can Hooley are already aiding that next generation of Boston Irish. ‘Derry Air/ Gravel Work’ shows the serious traditional side to the band and if anyone would ever accuse them of not being able to play then I’d suggest they shove this in the accuser’s face! ‘Its A Long Way To Tipperary’ ends the album and the music hall favourite written by 2nd generation Irish Brummie Jack Judge in 1912 has never sounded such fun. A great finale and this song shows everything great about Tin Can Hooley.

All in all a wonderful album and one to be filed among the more trad side of celtic-punk. The assortment of punk rockers playing gives it an definite feel of a punk rock record while the music stays within the confines of a folk record. Superb musicianship and some really great adaptations of some classic, and not so, songs from Ireland, Scotland, Cape Breton and America. Would love to hear some originals from this band but with their pedigree it shouldn’t be too long I am sure.

Tin Can HooleyContact The Band

Facebook  ReverbNation  Spotify

Buy The Album

CDBaby  Amazon

*interview with Tin Can Hooley here from the excellent celtic-punk web site Shite’n’Onions

ALBUM REVIEW: FM359- ‘Truth, Love And Liberty’ (2014)

FM359

The first album of 2014 hits my doorstep and have to say it is a corker! For a while there last year it looked like trouble was abrewing in Street Dog town and it seemed they may be splitting up. Looking back they like just needed a break from the constant touring and as a consequence they came up with this in their spare time.

Two members of the Street Dogs, Mike McColgan and Johnny Rioux, Murder The Stouts Hugh Morrison, original Dropkick Murphy guitarist Rick Barton and a few mates came up with this album of country, gospel inspired, mostly, acoustic punk rock. I suppose you could call this as a side-project but for Johnny Rioux he’s already got this here, Rick Barton has Continental, who only just toured the UK with their country tinged punk, and Hugh Morrison, who is also playing in loads of bands, so for some this is a side-side-side-project so gotta have your doubts we’ll see them in britland anytime soon!

FM359

They’ve described it themselves as having ‘a humanitarian (non-religious) GOSPEL Americana (punk) rock sound’ and that’s as good a description as anyone could make. Vocal duties are split around the various members with Johnny Rioux particularly impressing on ‘I Saw The Light’ the albums most country song.

“I travelled far from sea to sea, to see if I could find my heart of gold.  And when I found the one that I loved, I fucked it up and now I’m all alone”

Topics seem to revolve around the struggle of the American everyman and the politics are a lot more subdued than previously but still ramped up higher than 99% of most American bands. It all seems a bit personal and autobiographical as on Mike McColgan’s ‘It Stay’s With Me’

“Remember cold Tuttle Street days, just to run down Grampian Way. Dreamers sprung loose by Catholic cages, come take a walk with me, I’ll read my pages”

There’s plenty of touches of celtic-punk here but the various members are to be congratulated on making a superb album containing so many disparate strands of music and yet marrying them together to make something pretty much unique as well as perfect!

Out on Pirate Press Records

Contact The Band:  Facebook

ALBUM REVIEW- JOHNNY RIOUX ‘CowbOi!’ (2013)

many of us who come from Irish backgrounds will have had the misfortune to have heard a quite a lot of country’n’western music…and when I say a lot I mean a LOT. although what we grew up listening to was not strictly country’n’western it was country’n’Irish a hybrid of the worse in country music AND the worse in Irish music! names like Big Tom, Margo and that giant of c’n’I Daniel O’Donnell an still bring me out in cold sweats and nightmares of sitting in our local Irish club with a coke and crisps being forced to listen to 4 middle aged Irishmen from Derby wearing cowboy hats singing Take Me Home Country Roads!

well what a surprise I got this morning…

I had’nt heard of Johnny Rioux until very recently and it turns out that not only is the Boston based musician in The Street Dogs but he’s also part of Texan celtic-punk band Murder the Stout (along with fellow Street Dogs guitarist Marcus Hollar) and he’s been in and also worked with a shed load of other bands including record producing for Flatfoot 56, the Street Dogs and Roger Miret and the Disasters.

Cowboi!

The album itself is a mix of ‘country-fied’ punk and Oi! standards (and a few less so) but more in keeping of Johnny Cash than Jim Reeves! This fits in easily with the recent wave of alternative (punk?) country bands like Old Man Markley and Banjoey Ramone. As a offshoot of celtic-punk its great to hear old fashioned music given a new twist and like celtic-punk it may hopefully inspire people to delve into the back catalogues of some of the best country artists…just as long as they stay the hell away from country’n’Irish!!

Here’s a 30 minute set from YouTube to whet your appetite for buying the album!

Johnny Rioux’s Facebook page is here

Track Listings:

01 – Working (Cock Sparrer)
02 – If The Kids Are United (Sham 69)
03 – Voice Of Generation (Blitz)
04 – Someones Gonna Die (Blitz)
05 – Societies Fools (The Bruisers)
06 – Crucified (Iron Cross)
07 – A.C.A.B (The 4Skins)
08 – Oi! Oi! Oi! (Cockney Rejects)
09 – Police Oppression (Angelic Upstarts)
10 – Evil In Brain (Blood For Blood)

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