Tag Archives: The Corries

EP REVIEW: BLACKBEARD’S TEA PARTY- ‘Leviathan!’ (2018)

The first new release from Blackbeard’s Tea Party in three years takes traditional songs and folk tunes about the whaling industry and gives them a heavy edge but with a playful arrangement and driving dance rhythms.

Blackbeard’s Tea Party have been together since 2009 and in that time became firm favourites on the English folk scene. An independent band with four albums to their name, Blackbeard’s Tea Party have also completed a number of successful UK headline tours. So it’s been a bit of a mystery as to why they went quiet on the recording front and this is their first release since Reprobates in 2015. They continued to tour and are still as popular as ever but in this game you have to have regular output otherwise there is always another new band waiting in the wings to take your place.

Anyroad they are back now and with this great EP celebrating the history of the whaling industry. Although whaling had existed for thousands of years it was in the 17th century that industrial whaling emerged with organised fleets that by the late 1930’s were killing more than 50,000 whales a year. Communities along the coast around the world have long histories of subsistence whaling and harvesting beached whales. On Leviathan! Blackbeard’s Tea Party play out the history of an industry that once made the fortunes of ports such as Hull, Whitby and Peterhead. Thousands relied upon the practise but it would eventually drive the species to the verge of extinction so much so that in the 1980’s it was banned though many countries still hunt whales under so called scientific purposes.

Blackbeards Tea Party from left to right: Liam ‘Yom’ Hardy – Drums * Dave Boston – Drums * Stuart Giddens – Lead Vocals, Melodeon * Laura Boston-Barber – Fiddle * Martin Coumbe – Guitar * Tim Yates – Bass

Leviathan! is the bands fifth studio release and even though only five songs its a mighty fine way to remind any fans who have lost touch that they are still around! The EP begins with the traditional folk song The Diamond’. Popularised by Scottish legends The Corries (check out their version here) the song first appeared on Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd’s 1957 album Thar She Blows! Lloyd recorded it again in 1967 for his album Leviathan! Ballads And Songs Of The Whaling Trade. I would guess these two releases have been very much influence on Blackbeard’s Tea Party.

On the song A.L. Lloyd commented on the Leviathan! album sleeve notes:

Sad events lie behind this most spirited of whaling songs. By the 1820s the relativity milder northern waters were fished clean, and whalemen were having to search in more distant corners of the Arctic, notably round the mighty and bitter Melville Bay in Northwest Greenland. In 1830, a fleet of fifty British whaleships reached the grounds in early June, a month before they expected. But the same winds that had helped them also crowded the Bay with ice floes and locked most of the fleet in, including the Diamond, the Resolution, the Rattler (not Battler) of Leigh (not Montrose), and the Eliza Swan. Twenty fine ships were crushed to splinters and many bold whalermen froze or drowned. The Eliza Swan was among those that got free and brought the sad news home. Our song must have been made only a season or two before that tragedy for the Diamond‘s maiden voyage was only in 1825. One wonders if the man who made the song was up in Melville Bay, the year of the disaster, and whether he was lost with his ship.

Blackbeard’s Tea Party have always been an innovative band and their version skates through English and Celtic folk music while adding some surprisingly modern touches while Stuart Giddens sumptuous (their description not mine!) vocals ably fit the music. His voice may not be that of a crooner but it is strong and versatile and reminiscent of folk singers of old but without the trademark finger in the ear. They follow this up with the first of two instrumentals and ‘DLFN’, written by the bands Laura Barber and Dave Boston is certainly a bit of a shock. With Blackbeard’s dark bite it chugs along with a real foot slamming beat. The fiddle shines throughout and only adds to the somber mood of the song. Next up is title track ‘Leviathan’, written by Giddens it’s a song that verges (or even passes!) on folk-punk and steams along at a mighty pace with Stuart telling the story of the albino sperm whale known as Mocha Dick that lived in the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century and went on to inspire the story of Moby Dick by American writer Herman Melville in 1851. This song shows Blackbeard’s Tea Party in all their glory as story-tellers as all the finest folk musicians truly are. The song plays out the excitement of the hunt while never shirking from the blood thirsty reality of a whalers life at sea where these mighty creatures may at any moment strike back and take the ship down. We now have another Boston/ Barber instrumental in The Lost Triangle’. Again the fiddle shines and the darkness of the song evokes the bloody reality of life out at sea. At nearly seven minutes long the song is loud and bombastic and ends with a real doffed cap to the early days of English folk before speeding up again and ending with a real flourish reminiscent of 70’s folk/prog rock.. Leviathan! comes to an end with another traditional folk song, ‘Weary Whaling Ground’. The song is about whaling in Greenland during 1840-50. Again A.L. Lloyd recorded it for Leviathan! Ballads And Songs Of The Whaling Trade and his album notes sum up the feeling of the poor souls aboard ship better than anyone.

“Three emotions dominated the old time whalerman: exultion in the chase, a longing for home, and disgust at the conditions of his trade. This latter mood descended heaviest upon him when the fishing was poor and he became “whalesick” (like homesick, only sick for whales). The man who made the complaint for The Weary Whaling Grounds must have been very whalesick.”

Having added a second drum kit to the band it has given the band a much rougher and tougher edge and with dark material like this it works a treat giving it a doom and maybe even Gothic touch they never had before. Their may be only one new song here with lyrics but the band have turned out two extremely good original instrumentals and have taken two songs from relatively ancient times and breathed new life into them. That new song ‘Leviathan!’ shows the new found power of the band and their flair for storytelling which places them in a direct line from the likes of Ewan MacColl to today. There was a time when the folk purists (or snobs as we call them!) would have approved of Blackbeard’s Tea Party but maybe they are trying to distance themselves from the ‘party approved’ AOR folk of the likes of the Mumford’s but the move into darker territory suits them well.

Discography

Leviathan (2018) * Reprobates (2015) * Whip Jamboree (2013) * Tomorrow We’ll Be Sober (2011) * Heavens to Betsy (2009)

Buy Leviathan!
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For more on the sea why not dip your toe into our Classic Album Series review of ‘Steady As She Goes. Songs And Chanties From The Days of Commercial Sail’. Released in 1976 the album is dedicated to the workers of the sea. Undoubtedly hard and very often tyrannical under many a vicious Captain’s rule. The workers said “a song is as good as ten men” and the songs were used in the manner of field work song’s. These shanties tell the tales of loneliness, the families these men left behind and the daily hardships of an unkind sea and nautical life.

Many of the albums featured in the series (here) come with free downloads.

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ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘For Freedom Alone – The Wars Of Independence’ (2014)

VARIOUS ARTISTS- 'For Freedom Alone - The Wars Of Independence' (2014)

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the historic Battle Of Bannockburn, a major victory in Scotland’s 1297-1328 struggle for independence from its neighbour to the south of the River Tweed. Greentrax Records marks one of the most important events in Scottish history by releasing this compilation album of Scots rebel songs, music, poems and spoken word pieces by many of Scotland’s finest musicians and artists. 2014 has also been the year of the Scottish Referendum where amazingly the Scots voted 55-45% in favour of remaining slaves to the British empire. Though those 45% may hold their heads high a combination of media scarmongering and lies and downright cowardice and selfishness prevented Scotland from becoming the first truly independent celtic country and taking their place amongst the nations of the world. Needless to say I reckon this record may have been enough to sway many of those 55% to vote ‘YES’ if they had heard it before they went off to vote.

The title of the album ‘for Freedom Alone’ is taken from The Declaration Of Arbroath, of which a portion is included on the album.

The Declaration Of Arbroath

The album contains eighteen tracks of which sixteen are relevant to historic period of the Wars Of Independence and the exploits of Wiliam Walace and Robert The Bruce. Wallace’s famous victory at Stirling Brig and his overwhelming defeat at Falkirk are the subjects of two songs, and of course The Battle of Bannockburn features in several. Nine of the tracks have been specifically written for inclusion on the album.

Tracks include readings of the humorous short story ‘The Spiders Legend Of Robert The Bruce’, which tells of The Bruce taking inspiration from watching a spider struggling and ultimatly succededing, and a abridged version of ‘The Declaration Of Arbroath’ by BBC Scotland radio presenter Iain Anderson who somewhat makes up a very tiny bit for the shameful pro-union propaganda/bullshit and lies his employers used during the Referendum. Both are stirring enough to move even a sassenach to take up arms!

Among the other tracks on this album folk legends The Corries sing the late Roy Williamson’s ‘Flower Of Scotland’ which has become the most famous Scots rebel song in existance and the unoffical national anthem.

“Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again”

The Corries also contribute ‘The Black Douglas’, of which included in the accompanying 24 page booklet  is a reproduction of the painting of The Black Douglas, James Douglas (1286-1330) was a Scottish knight who was one of the chief commanders during the Wars Of Independence. The booklet also contains sleeve notes written by Jim Paris and artwork from John Slavin and deserve special mention. Brief explainations of Scottish medieval history are included as well as telling the stories of each tracks background.

More Scots legends in The McCalmans offer up ‘The Lion Wallace Saw’. They toured from the early 60’s right up to 2010 and are sorely missed on the celtic/ Scots folk scene.

“Here I stand and watch for aye, roar the hour out day by day
Freedom strong to sound the sway, from far sea to sea
Freedom is the lion’s aim, freedom for the lion’s ain
Match the lion in his den, or let freedom be”

Arhur Johnstone sings the classic Robbie Burns song ‘Scots Wha Hae’most famous in these parts I would have thought for The Real McKenzies version. Alistair Fraser brings his ‘supergroup’ of traditional musicians, Skyedance, with the haunting instrumental ‘Bannockburn’ with Highland bagpipe and uilleann pipes combining beautifully. Scots republican and banjo player Alistair McDonald contributes an older song ‘The Battle Of Stirling Brig’ which sounds a wee bit like it could have been in a John Wayne 1950’s western and a newer song ‘William Wallace -Knight Of Elderslie’

“Then the noblest heart in Scotland was revealed for all to see,
when they hacked him into pieces underneath the gallows-tree
but the butchery and slaughter cannot scar the memory
of Wallace, the knight of Elderslie.

Once again the land’s in darkness as we hang our heads to mourn
and remember how the Wallace caused oppression’s time to turn.
But Scotsmen I stand ready and prepare for Bannockburn,
thanks to Wallace, the knight of Elderslie”

Specially recorded for the album are tracks by Robin Laing, Sylvia Barnes And Sandy Stanage.  Ian McCalmans influence looms large over many of the songs on this album and the quality of his writing shows. Alex Hodgson sings ‘The Sword Of Banockburn’ and an original Ian McCalman song ‘New Day’. Ian Bruce sings ‘De Bruce, De Bruce’ a poem also put to music and arranged by Ian and his last contribution is on George Archibalds version of ‘Bruces Address To His Captains’ part of John Barbour’s epic poem put to music by Ian.

The two bonus tracks bring the 14th-century struggle for freedom into the present. Alastair Fraser and Natalie Haas’s fine instrumental ‘The Referendum’ is followed by London Celtic Punks favourite Dick Gaughans ‘Both Sides Of The Tweed’ from his 1981 album ‘Handful Of Earth’ which explains in a way only Dick can that the independence movement in Scotland is not about hatred for the English but rather about the struggle for self-determination

“Let friendship and honor unite and flourish on both sides the Tweed.”

From old fashioned folk to traditional dance music this album will surely please both those traditionalists and those who have come to the album purely to top up their patrioic fervour after the disappointment of losing the Referendum. As shocking as that No vote was to those of us who would like to see freedom for Scotland and all the celtic nations it has to be said that it has only delayed the inevitable. The clock is ticking on the empire north of the border and when finally the day dawns over a independent Scotland these songs and the traditions they come from will be greatly cherished and truly recognised for keeping the flame alight.

Buy The Album

direct from Greentrax Records here celebrating nearly thirty years of supplying Scottish music worldwide. only £10 for a limited time.

Learn Yer History

The Battle Of Bannockburn  here

Robert The Bruce  here

William Wallace  here

memorial to William Wallace on the north wall of St. Bart's Hospital in London.

memorial to William Wallace on the north wall of St. Bart’s Hospital in London.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: KELTIKON- ‘Agenbite of Inwit’ (2014)

Celtic Boogie, Folk’n’Roll, Pipes-Punk
KELTIKON- 'Agenbite of Inwit' (2014)

Just recently we reviewed the debut album from Rovers Ahead , who are an  amazing celtic-punk band from Denmark (see here). Well the reason we bring that up here is their lead singer is from Dublin and Keltikon, despite hailing from Zurich in Switzerland, also have a celtic singer in Iain Duncan. That a 2nd generation Scot should wash up in Switzerland should come as no surprise as people from the celtic nations spread out in further directions than just the usual routes of the America’s or Australia/New Zealand and bring with them the knowledge and know-how and, lets face it, a extra bit of authenticity to celtic-punk bands out there in Europe.

Keltikon

Formed as late as March 2012 Keltikon have wasted no time in their short existence and their debut album hit the shelves in February of this year. The title of the album ‘Agenbite Of Inwit’ is an old-English phrase meaning ‘Again, a bite of inner wit’ or, put into modern terms, a crisis of conscience or remorse. Taking traditional Scottish and Irish jigs and reels, celtic songs and ballads Keltikon spice them up with their own recipe of punk and rock to come up with something relatively unique to these ears!

The album begins with the title track and with the bass thundering away it starts as any pop-punk record only for the bagpipes to kick in and once again i’m left marveling at the expert pipe playing involved. The band describe it as thus

“This is a song for anyone whose life has in some way been damaged by the decision of someone in ‘power’ that doesn’t give a jot for the consequences it causes us”

The song also has a jangly guitar feel to it reminding me of bands like The Wedding Present. They slow it right down for the following track with flute taking the lead on ‘Bonnie Ship The Diamond’, an old Scottish song popularized by Scots folk legends The Corries and more recently , the German celtic-punk band, Fiddlers Green. ‘Seven Ships’ comes next and has a real northern English folk feel to it. Traces of The Levellers too, at their best I hasten to add. ‘The Mariners Tale’ is a spoken word piece done in the style of old English TV programme Jackanory, telling the tale of a nuclear submarine called The Diving Dutchman. The story continues in the next track also called ‘The Diving Dutchman’ and steams along at a good old rate in the albums punkiest song. ‘Away To Fight’ is a beautifully slow acoustic ballad telling the tale of the WW2 invasion of Normandy beach in the words of a soldier about to disembark.

Keltikon

‘The Blackbird’ a traditional Irish reel whizzes past with the band not missing a beat and the pipes in truly outstanding form. That we have returned to feudal times is the theme of ‘Hold On Tight’ another slow acoustic ballad, the female backing vocals a nice touch. The fiddle is to the fore in ‘Each Others Dreams’ a rather poppy song that never really gets going in the way you’d expect it to leaving  the epic ‘Taliesin’ to close the album. At nearly ten minutes long its pretty risky but completely works as all the band members get a chance to show what they can do and none come up short. Taliesin was a renowned Welsh bard who is believed to have sung at the courts of at least three Brythonic kings and lived during the 6th century. It has a bit of a prog-rock feel to it and comes in waves getting louder and louder building up to a crescendo and despite its length does not outstay its welcome.

With ten tracks and clocking in at just under a hours worth of music it’s great value and even though the tracks are quite lengthy it never drags for a second. The various elements of celtic music are all represented so this album will appeal to anyone with even the slightest interest in celtic music.

Contact The Band

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Buy The Album

here

 

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