Tag Archives: The Dubliners

ALBUM REVIEW: RESTLESS FEET- ‘Homeward Bound’ (2017)

German celtic-punk band Restless Feet’s second studio album playing fast Irish folk from Traditionals to more asskickin‘ stuff about sailing far away and returning home.

In a genre that most music fans would probably think of as being extremely small its heartening when you come across a band that you think is new only to find out they have been around a while and this is not their debut album as originally thought. That after all is a sign of a very healthy scene and long may it continue that I don’t know every band out there!

Restless Feet originate from the beautiful old town of Freiburg in the south-west of Germany and were in fact formed back in November, 2011. Their debut album Almost Irish contained seven tracks of which but two were covers but did contain the amazing track ‘Empire Of Gold’. If I had come across this song back then then I can tell you with all certainty that I would have been following them ever since.

The mini-album also contained a couple of Breton songs showing that Restless Feet know their onions and were not content to just rattle out the old favourites. That’s not to say they can’t play the old faves as it also contained a couple of Irish folk standards but it set the pace for their following album, which was about to hit the streets over three years later, just in time for St Patrick’s Day 2017.

I have mentioned on this site before the special affinity that German’s hold for the Irish. Time and time again when I have met German folk I have been impressed by their knowledge of Irish culture, music and history. That Celtic are by far the most popular foreign team among German football supporters is testament to that affinity. There are several theories for this but my guess is that the Germans love a drink and a good party so it has got to be between us and the Mexicans aint it? Here Restless Feet offer up six self penned tracks and seven carefully chosen covers that go to show that the German love for Erin still shines strong and shows no signs of abating either.

Homeward Bound begins with ‘I Hold Sway’ and gets proceedings off to a great start. All acoustic but with a real punk rock feel. The Irish/celtic sound is supplied by the energetic fiddling of Marcy and Kai on tin whistle and banjo while the rest of the lads, Maggu, Arthur and Alex, supply a steady and sturdy back drop.

(the first single and official video released from Homeward Bound)

Fast and over in a flash and leads into ‘The Cabin’ a very short accordion number used as the intro to the following song ‘Wake’s Souvenir’. Slowish but still tuneful and catchy that speeds up in the middle and its not often you will hear an acoustic guitar being thrashed so loudly! Many Euro celtic-punk bands include flute and I was a late convert to the idea but here, as it usually does, it sounds fantastic.The first cover is ‘The Shores Of Botany Bay. First time I ever heard this was by the legendary Irish folk band The Wolfe Tones and Restless Feet do it justice with a wee Irish trad tune slapped into the middle making it extra bit special. Restless Feet have two main vocalists and they slip from song to song so forgive me for not which is Kai and which is Maggu. They both sing in a distinct German style with the accent strong but at the same time absolutely clear as crystal and while the CD does come with the lyrics included you don’t need them at all. ‘Sailor’s Yarn’ is a great tune with superb fiddle and backing gang vocals. In the search for the song that represents celtic-punk the following, ‘Waste My Throat (On Irish Folk)’, song is a worthy contender. A real footstomper and one for the crowd to join in with cries of “yeah” peppered throughout. Would have maybe perhaps benefited from some driving electric guitar but still a album high point. Restless Feet next show us that their is more to their band than just punked up folk songs with ‘Tuneset’ which is in fact two and a half minutes of full on Irish trad folk with three superb reels- ‘Irish Washerwoman’, ‘Cooley’s Reel’ and ‘Maid behind the Bar’. Banjo, fiddle and flute giving the impression that what you got here is a trad band not an actual celtic-punk one. Next we have ‘Greenland Whale Fisheries’ which I am sure most of you will know as it has been covered by most bands between The Dubliners and The Pogues and has even been taken as a name for one of the celtic-punk scene’s most popular bands. Now I love this song but would have preferred something a little more off the map but we have to remember that to audiences not accustomed to Irish music this is a song that will get people off their bar stools and up jigging. On that first album Restless Feet showed they weren’t adverse to playing the odd rebel song and here they serve up the glorious ‘The Boys Of Wexford’. The song commemorates the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and, more specifically, the rebellion in Wexford.

“We are the Boys from Wexford
Who fought with heart and hand
To burst in twain the galling chain
and free our native land”

Made famous by The Clancy Brothers and The Wolfe Tones its a great version and sure to get the blood pumping of any freedom loving patriot. The last self penned number is ‘The Ballad Of Johnny Doran’ and bejaysus it’s an absolute corker. Loved it. Slowish and catchy with the backing minimal and the fecking brilliant chorus telling of a traveller’s life.

“I’m the Everywhere Man, slán and I’m gone”

The album standout and not just for me either (see the review on Celtic Folk punk here). We are back in Pogues/Dubliners territory again next with version of ‘The Irish Rover’ and not much to add but its as good as you will hear and the Bhoys stick fairly close to that most famous version. We are shipping up to shore and I feel I really must take off my hat and salute Restless Feet for including ‘By Memory Inspired’ here. Growing up with Irish music I thought I had heard just about every rebel song but this had passed me by. Again it’s a song commemorating the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Slow and quiet and beautifully played and sung from the heart.

“By Memory inspired And love of country fired, The deeds of Men I love to dwell upon”

The tragic defeat of that rebellion is remembered and the brave men who gave their lives names are sung with a poignancy that many Irish bands could learn from. Daniel O’Connell, William Orr, John Mitchel, John McCann, John and Henry Sheares, Fr Thomas Maguire, Robert Emmet, and others are recalled. Homeward Bound comes to an end with ‘Rolling Down To Old Maui’ and I was actually dreading another acapello version of this but the Bhoys turn it into a great tune with brass instruments and superb fiddle turning it into one of the best versions I have heard straight up!

So forty minutes of class acoustic Irish folk punk from a bunch of Germans with a real feel for what they are playing. Whether it’s playing their own material, classic Irish standards or even lost and forgotten gems of Irish folk, Restless Legs are a great addition to the celtic-punk scene and to landlubbers everywhere. With recent gigs supporting some of the scene’s biggest bands, including our own Ferocious Dog, the future is looking very bright for them.

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REVIEW: THE MOORINGS- ‘Unbowed’ (2017)

The Moorings. As recommended by The Dubliners!

An ultra-energetic French quintet delivering a fantastic mix somewhere in the middle between celtic folk and alternative rock.

So I was always told my auld fella that you should judge a man by the company he keeps. He used to say this to try and get me to stop hanging about with some rather unsavoury characters in my home town. If you can apply the same to bands then The Moorings are a band that any parent would be happy to see you associating with. They are basically the first port of call for any of the celtic-punk scenes major bands when they arrive in France and  are looking for supports. They have played with just about every decent sized band going and as says above recommended by The Dubliners. They have toured with just about all the greats of Irish punk from The Pogues to the Murphys to The Dubliners. Their last EP even had guest vocals from Frankie of The Rumjacks.

The Moorings (from left to right) : Anne Darrieumerlou- Violin/Vocal * Renaudet Matthieu- Bass/Vocal * D. Phil Jelly- Lead Vocal/Guitar * Didier Strub- (Ex-Drummer) * Nicky Sickboy- Banjo / Guitar / Vocal

Formed in 2011 in the small town of Sélestat in the north-west of France on the border with Germany The Moorings assent has been spectacularly quick and without even having released an album. Their debut EP ‘Pints And Pins’ from July 2011 introduced them to the wider celtic-punk world and received praise from all and sundry. Five mostly self penned tracks including the brilliant ‘Working Class’ which gave up plenty but promised so much more as well.

This was followed up with a live album La Cigale Unplugged. Again mainly self penned its eight tracks that show how good The Moorings are as both a band and as individual musicians as well. The superb production helps and on hearing the album it’s easy to see why they chose to release it. Their third and final release was another EP. This time ‘Nicky’s Detox’ EP from December 2014 really showed what they could do. Five tracks all written by the band that again received glowing tributes from all the regular celtic-punk press including ourselves here. The song that really raised interest in the band, ‘Shandon Bells’ features Frankie McLaughlin of The Rumjacks on guest vocals and made it onto just every celtic-punk podcast in existance.

So Unbowed is the band’s first proper studio album but will it live up to all the hype? The answer is of course most certainly. Twelve tracks that last over forty minutes and show The Moorings haven’t rested on their laurels and continue to make utterly brilliant music. The album kicks off with the hilarious ‘Another Drinking Wound’ and anyone whose ever had a, what we Irish call, a “very good night” can attest to waking up the next morning with unspecified bruising and a lack of memory of how you got them.

“Where does the pain in my butt come from?”

The song starts with some great rock’n’roll guitar and a brilliant catchy start. D.Phil.Jelly sounds just like our Shane even including his cockney sneer! It’s fast and not particularly folky but ‘Captain Watson’s Gang’ introduces the first of that quieter numbers. Be moaning the turn of the world to the worship of money. I say quiet but not really. Great drumming here that keeps the song flowing along. They enter a world unbeknown to me next with ‘Amsterdam’. Originally recorded by the Belgian singer, songwriter, actor and director Jacques Brel. The song is in French and has that ‘Parisian’ feel to it due to the style of accordion playing. A lovely song and picked wisely as it would please both their audience at home and abroad who are jaded at hearing the same old covers over and over again. Delivered with The Moorings stamp it’s a great song and builds to a crescendo before the banjo slows it all down and takes us into a instrumental, ‘The Dancy Cargo Hold’s Dance/ Mermaid’s Jig’. As was showed with that live album the y can certainly turn their hand to a traditional folk song and I’m sure live this is a guarantee to get the audience on their feet. Both part’s are fiddle led with subdued quiet backing except for military style drumming. Great stuff! The Moorings like the name suggests like a sea bound song and here’s the first one, The Mariner I Used To Be’ begins with tin whistle and it’s a slow’ish’ ballad telling of a sailor whose had enough of the hardships of the sea and decides to settle down with his new love. Another song in French follows with ‘Les Bras Piqués’. Can’t tell you what it’s about but it’s a fair corker of a song moving at a fair old pace once it gets going. ‘Drink Up Fast’ was the first release from Unbowed and came accompanied by the brilliant video below.

It’s no wonder that celtic-punk gigs are so beloved and greedily anticipated by landlords with this amount of drinking going on! Shouty vocals and fiddle led folk-punk that’s a real thigh slapper.

“The road to destiny is just as empty
As the days passing by sloggin’ in a fact’ry
Turning around mostly going nowhere
Leaving the dreams for someone else to have
So as boredom sets in and wears me out
I cannot help but stand my ground
By filling up my glass to the very top
And drawn the little bastard in one single shot”
Most of the words here are written by banjo/guitarist Nicky Sickboy and they are clever, thoughtful and often hilarious and often within the same song so it’s good that the CD comes with lyrics included though the singing is very clear and easy to understand. ‘Brandy Bell’ is the highlight of the album for me. Not quite sure what the song is about. Honest. Sung half in English , half in French it’s a real catchy banjo number with the fiddle in the background exactly right. We are slowed right down again for ‘Posy Of Lily’ which is basically just D.Phil and acoustic guitar with fiddle. A lovely interlude between the punkier stuff and the words of a man desperate to make things right with his true love only add to the beauty of the song. Luca from the ever amazing Italian celtic-punk band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards takes up whistle duties next in ‘Mutins’ and it’s another French song and I have to say it never bothers me that bands play in their native language I think more should do it. What an amazing musician this man is and even greater to see two band helping each out this way. The chugging guitar is back and accompanied by lovely fiddle too and of course Luca’s top whistling! The pace is back up for ‘Ice Cold Jar Of Whiskey’
“Some people need to fight to let their anger out
Some might need to bribe to find an easy way out
Some people might get thrilled with anything crazy
When all it really takes is a ice cold jar of whiskey”

and then we are finally at the end and Unbowed comes to end with the album’s longest track ‘Invictus’, starring Marikala on guest vocals. A great song with positive life affirming lyrics that begins with tin whistle this time supplied by Lolc from fellow French celtic-punkers Celkilt. Mainly accordion led but as has been the way throughout D.Phil’s voice stands out in particular. Another album highlight here and a simply fantastic way to bring down the curtain on Unbowed. If this album has one lighter/ pint in the air moment then this it is.

Singer/guitarist D.Phil Jelly has done a great job on this album overseeing just about everything here and the sound is crisp and never once over produced. The biggest danger in celtic-punk is that the folk instruments are completely submerged or else turned up so high to compensate that all you can hear is the tin whistle. No danger of that here as the balance is perfect between the punk and the folk. the songs are never straight forward celtic-punk and there is plenty influence of their home countries indigenous music also. The Moorings have always been one of the more interesting bands in celtic-punk with their appeal overlapping several genre’s I am sure. This is a great album and one that will further cement there place as one of the best, and more innovative, bands in the scene.

(you can have a free listen to Unbowed by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Before you buy it of course!)

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EP REVIEW: IN FOR A PENNY- ‘Every Day Should be Saint Paddy’s Day’ (2016)

Rowdy Irish folk punk from Tybee Island, Georgia in the southeastern United States
everyday-cover
The first Irish may have rowed ashore in Savannah (Georgia’s largest city) way way back in 1734 but it has taken over 280 years for an Irish band to pop up. Fortunately the wait was worth it. There’s a rich and deeply held Irish-American heritage in the Savannah with the area holding one of the oldest, and second largest in the world!, St Patrick’s Day celebrations but until 2014 it was nigh on impossible to find some local rowdy live Irish music… that was until In For A Penny came around. 

savannah-irishThe original Irish that arrived in Georgia were descendants of the Calvinist Scots who had been planted in Ulster in the 1600’s. These Irish made their living trading, trapping and soldiering. They included Sergeant William Jasper who was mortally wounded leading the charge to retake Savannah from the British in 1779 but the main chapter in local Irish history began in the 1830’s like it did with so many other Irish towns across America. With the arrival of the railway the owners needed a plentiful supply of workers willing to do the back breaking hard labour required, and that is where the Irish came in. According to ‘Irish History in Savannah, Georgia’ here

“The story goes that Irish were employed on the railroad because, unlike slaves, their bodies had no commercial value and could be worked to exhaustion with impunity. A second wave of Irish immigration followed two decades later when the ‘potato famine’ in the old country forced many to seek new shores.”

savannah-irish-festThese Irish on arrival suffered prejudice and discrimination but it was that willingness to do the dirty, dangerous and low-paid work that made them important to Savannah’s economy. As in other parts of America the Irish soon realised the best way to raise their collective lot was with political clout and they soon became, and remain still, major players in Savannah society.

Sean McNally only began playing the mandolin in 2014 after taking a few years away from the music scene but a few open mic performances and a regular solo spot which was dubbed ‘Monday Mandolin Mayhem’ and after responding to an audience request to play the Dropkick Murphys Sean realised something. If he can get such a great audience reaction to a stripped down cover song on just mando and vocals the next step was to form a band. Gathering around him old friends in Henny ‘da butcha’ on drums and Jeremy Riddle on guitar and like a celtic-punk Van Halen the last member of the band is Sean’s son Bryce on bass.

in-for-a-penny
This is In For A Penny’s second release after last years debut album, The Guardian Angel Sessions. We missed that but the good folk at Celtic Folk Punk And More never miss anything so you can read their review of that here. This EP follows pretty much the same route as the album with a handful of Irish standards butting up against a handful of self -penned songs. Needless to say I much prefer their own songs though there is nothing like a song like ‘The Rare Auld Mountain Dew’ to get the blood pumping and the ales flowing. In For A Penny have that age old problem for Irish/Celtic-punk bands. They could quite easily just keep singing the standards and the bookings would still roll in and they would keep everyone happy but every musician must have the urge to get some of their own material out and when it’s as good as In For A Penny’s then I’m afraid it is a necessity!

in-for-a-penny-skullOn Every Day Should Be Saint Paddy’s Day you get five tracks, two covers and three originals that clock in at a very healthy sixteen minutes. Its basically a collection of drinking songs with a shed load of energy all done with enough of their own approach to stand it out. The EP begins with ‘The Rare Auld Mountain Dew’ which was around for years before The Pogues and The Dubliners collaborated back in 1987 for a Top Ten hit in Britain and re-introduced it to future generations. Dating from 1882 it has become fairly popular but you’ll not hear a pumped up version like this one too often. Sean has a real strong voice that suits the style of the band completely and errs more towards to the Drew/MacGowan style of singing than the O’Donnells! Another original Whiskey in Heaven’ is up next and Sean introduces the song to his Dad and Bryce’s Grandad who sadly passed away last year. He must be well proud sitting up there with a Jameson’s in hand looking down.

“I’m not ready to go / I’m having too much fun, I’m having too much fun / When it’s my time to go /I hope there’s whiskey in heaven”
The last time he saw the band play they played ‘Whiskey In Heaven’ so seems apt to dedicate this to him. Great songwriting and  I recently heard the phrase (from a non-Irish person) about drinking songs and “racial stereotyping”. Well I can think of no better words to reply than what a load of fecking bollocks. The Irish drink. Obviously not all but it is part of our culture and if you don’t get it then keep your opinions to yourself rather than try and score points off the celtic-punk scene.
(here’s a live version with the sound quite low so get it turned up!)

Another original up next which was the first release from the EP. ‘Stumblin’ Home’ is the standout for me here with a seriously great singalong chorus and the addition of some great fiddle from one of the bands mates. You need to get this fella signed up Sean. It’s the slowest of the songs so far, or so it seems, but Sean’s vocals keep the energy right up there.

The band released the class video for ‘Stumblin’ Home’ above, which was filmed over the course of two days at various pubs, Sean’s flat and on their home streets of Tybee Island, Georgia. Have a watch and tell me you not been there too… Love the tricolour and The Rumjacks t-shirt by the way Sean!
in-for-a-pennyNext up is the bhoys St Patrick’s Day anthem ‘Every Day Should Be Saint Paddy’s Day’ and you can breathe a sigh of relief as these guys know full on well it’s not St Patty’s! Now can you just tell the rest of America for us. A bit of tin whistle comes in here and adds to the sound and as anthems go its a good ‘un. We’d all love it to be true but our livers would disagree but whens the last time we gave them a word edgeways. A great riproaring trek through Irish-America’s good and bad bits about our patron Saints feast day in which they reveal the major reason they think ‘Every Day Should Be Saint Paddy’s Day’ is that they would never be short of a place to play! The EP comes to an end with the other standout for me. ‘The Parting Glass’ was made famous by The Clancy Brothers and is the perfect way to end any record. Sean plays mandolin and sings along and I don’t know why but I find it absolutely brilliant. We all have our own reasons to like this song and usually it’s to do with someone close to us and I’m no different. Sean’s reigns in the energy and instead lets emotion come out and his hoarse raspy vocals do indeed do the song perfect justice.
If I was local to these boys then I just know we would be great mates and no doubt great drinking buddies too. In For A Penny are not pretending to be anything they’re not it’s just good old fashioned Irish music with an injection of punk rock spirit that will keep the flames alive for the next generation of Irish down Savannah way.
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ALBUM REVIEW: THE LOGUES- ‘Comin’ of Age’ (2016)

The Logues are five culchies from Co. Tyrone who play music!

the-lougues-2016

Formed in 2006 in the sleepy small village of Castlederg (in Irish: Caisleán na Deirge, meaning ‘castle on the Derg’) in County Tyrone in the north of Ireland. It lies on the River Derg and is just across the border from County Donegal. The various members were keeping a drunken promise by having a informal jam session on St Patrick’s Day that went down so well that now ten years later it has seen the lads tour right across Ireland and Europe (and America in 2017!). The five piece folk-rock band is made up of drums, bass, acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, tin whistle and vocals and with plenty of talent, wit and charm too! the-logues-1They self released their debut album ‘Tough at the Bottom’ in July 2011. A semi-concept album of eleven original songs based on that great Irish activity- drinking! Part autobiographical, part satire, the album explores house parties, being in love with mentally unstable women, being a ‘culchie’ (an Irish word for country personand even the literature of Flann O’Brien. They followed this up with a bunch of single releases that kept them in the public domain receiving plenty of airplay and eventually helping them become one of Ireland’s most sought after bands. The band name is not as you probably imagined a tribute to the #1 celtic-punk band but is in fact the surname of vocalist and tin whistle player Justin Logue. The Logues did though begin by playing mainly songs from The Pogues/The Dubliners song book before taking the adventurous step to move beyond cover band status and into the realm of real music. The band have an unmistakable folk-rock sound and their music has drawn some interesting comparisons to, among others, Christy Moore, Goats Don’t Shave, The Waterboys and The Saw Doctors and they are all well deserved.

Comin’ Of Age sees The Logues at ten years old and if Tough at the Bottom was a superb, though unpolished, debut album then their follow up is certainly set to see them cross over into the big leagues. The album kicks off with ‘Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder’ and it’s a strong opener with the trad Irish butting up against electric guitar and making for a lovely racket. Short and sweet and over before you know it and next up is ‘Bless the Land’ which was released as a single back in August 2014.  An album standout with great vocals from all the band and a real catchy chorus. ‘Better Man’ is up next and slows it down for a lovely ballad of just vocals and acoustic guitar and banjo. The universal theme of trying to prove you can be a better person. The best celtic-punk bands can knock out a ballad or two and The Logues do it with ease while ‘I Don’t Love You at All’ is a short and sweet song lasting just over two minutes. Busting with humour and with the welcome sound of a trumpet too!

They follow this up with a cover of the Philip Phillips hit song ‘Home’. Not so much in love with this one sounding as it does like The Lumineers or one of them other ‘Posh Folk’ bands from this side of the water. I’m sure will be popular enough mind but for me it just sticks out a bit from the rest of the album.


The LP returns to Irish trad with ‘Yvonne John’ with a country/ folk/ rock romp with a song based around the mispronunciation of a brand of Dutch rolling tobacco. ‘Sirens Call’ is pure folk-rock with a loud and bombastic beat but never too far from their folky roots.


‘Fly Free’ begins with piano and was another song released as a single in the run-up to the albums release. Nice to hear a ballad that shows that their prowess as a band and even though it has no folkier touches it fits snugly into the album. After a non folky song they follow it up with the country tinged ‘Drinkin’ with God’ and the full on country themed ‘All I Want Is You’.


‘No Place Like Home’ originally appeared on that 2011 debut album but The Logues have re-recorded it and it’s slighty shorter but ten times the original with the much better production only emphasising how much better the production on that debut could have been. More of the country feel to it and great banjo and lyrics about well you don’t need me to tell you.

‘Paisley Pattern’ is banjo led and catchy enough and over fairly quickly before we get a real standout track with ‘Logan’s Lament’ and an instrumental that really shows the Bhoys can play their instruments and also know their stuff as well. Fast and furious with all the band getting stuck in it’s traditional Irish folk for now and as good as any you’ll hear.


Comin’ Of Age comes to an end with ‘I’m on Fire’ and yeah it’s The Boss tune and while it may seem a bit sad to say the album standout track is a cover please don’t take it that way. All the elements of the original song are here but what The Logues have done to it is truly make it their own. An absolutely brilliant way to wrap up the album and the live version below doesn’t quite do it justice so hunt down this album just to hear ‘I’m on Fire’.

Signed to one of Ireland’s most respected music agency’s the future looks extremely bright for The Logues and with their army of fans in Ireland now beginning to extend to over here and with that American tour set to launch them in the States things couldn’t look any better for them. In the scale of celtic-punk they may not be up their with the more punkier bands but it’s loud and it’s catchy with great intelligent lyrics and a punk spirit that carries them along and means that not only do The Logues love what they do but it’s obvious to anyone listening that they love what they do. Last year it was their friends from just across the border in Donegal O’Hanlons Horsebox that took the Irish music scene (and this web zine!) by storm with their infectious brand of trad-celtic-folk-rock so only fitting that it should be a band from just down the road in 2016!

the-logues-band

The Logues L-R: Logan MacCool- Vocals, Tin Whistle * Kiel Cathers- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar * Chris Speer- Banjo * Darrell Nelson- Drums * Jesse Darragh- Bass, Keyboards

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EP REVIEW: BLACKWATER BANSHEE- ‘Blackwater Banshee’ (2016)

 A cracking new Irish band from Bristol in South-West England and with bands like this the celtic-punk scene is in safe hands!

blackwater-banshee

I came across Blackwater Banshee on Soundcloud a few weeks back but didn’t listen to any of their recordings till last week and what an eejit I was to wait so long. The five piece band are based in Bristol in South-West England and formed earlier this year. The band is made up of Karin Gormley on banjo and tin-whistle who is originally from Derry in Ireland, Richard Chapman is the vocalist and also plays mandolin, Bryn Llewelyn is Welsh and is on guitar and backing vocals and then we have Nige Savage on bass and Richard Underhill on drums. Bryn and Nige played in a classic rock band together and were looking to form a celtic rock band so after seeing his profile on Bandmix showing his background in Irish music they approached Rich and gathered him in. They then found Karin playing in an Irish folk session in Bristol. They soon started rehearsing back in June and recorded the EP in October. With Karin and Rich’s background in Irish folk and Bryn and Nige’s in rock they got the right blend of Irish folkness and rock to fit right into the celtic-punk scene.

blackwater-banshee-2

The EP is only four songs and as such is just a taster really of what they are capable of. All the songs are pretty standard trad Irish covers and concentrate on showing their folkier side. It begins with ‘Nancy Whiskey’ an old trad song that is about the dangers of drink rather than the dangers of women!

“I bought her, I drank her, I had another
Ran out of money, so I did steal
She ran me ragged, Nancy Whiskey
For seven years, a rollin’ wheel”

it’s played straight up and if your looking for comparison try O’Hanlons Horsebox or even the Bible Code Sundays. Its folk-rock designed to be played in an Irish Centre or pub full of 1st, 2nd, 3rd generation Irish and their friends. Their are several different versions and this is the one favoured by Shane MacGowan. Up next is the classic ‘Dirty Old Town’. Written by Ewan MacColl who has featured many times on these pages (have a look here where you can still get some free Ewan album downloads) back in the 1950’s and recorded most famously by himself, The Dubliners and The Pogues. Ewan MacColl actually hated The Pogues version of his song. In an interview Ewan’s wife Peggy Seeger, a renowned folk artist in her own right, contends that when Ewan wrote the line

“We’ll chop you down like an old dead tree”

he was implying improvement of Salford rather than destroying it. While as writer Jeffrey T. Roesgen quite rightly saw it

“In the Pogues performance we have little trouble seeing Shane, with spite seething from his lips, wielding his axe like a banshee, hacking his dismal town to splinters”

Love the tin whistle here at the beginning and the Banshees certainly give it their all. ‘Spancil Hill’ follows and is famous as one of the saddest songs about Irish emigration, and as you can imagine there’s at lot of competition when it comes to that subject. Recorded by Christy Moore with Shane MacGowan, The Wolfe Tones, Johnny McEvoy I’d go so far as to say its been recorded by just about everyone. Written by Michael Considine who was born in Spancil Hill in County Clare and emigrated to America around 1870. He intended to bring his love out to join him but knowing it would not happen he wrote the poem and sent it back to Ireland to his nephew and in 1873 he was dead at only 23 years old. The tragic story of poor Michael’s life only adds to the sadness of the song.

“I dreamed I held and kissed her as in the days of yore
Ah Johnny, you’re only jokin’, as many’s the time before
Then the cock, he crew in the morning, he crew both loud and shrill
I awoke in California, many miles from Spancil Hill”

More than once with a drink in me I have found that last line a bit too much myself… Blackwater Banshee make this their most personal song of the four adding electric guitar and the wonderful mandolin while the drums keep up the beat giving it a real pint in the air feel with Richard belting it out with real conviction. The EP ends with ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’ and it’s one of the livliest of Irish folk songs. Liverpool was once one of the major sea ports in the world. It was collected by Richard Maitland, a resident of Sailor’s Snug Harbor a home for retired seamen on Staten Island, who learnt it on board The General Knox around 1885. Designed to be shouted at the top of your lungs while banging your pint on the table during the chorus. Here the tempo is high, the energy is up and just listening to it now has got me headbanging away.

So their you have it. Four songs sixteen minutes. Admittedly their is nothing unusual here but what you get is some expertly played Irish trad that promises much much more for the future. When playing live they feature tunes from The Pogues and Dropkick Murphys so there is definitely a punk element to their sound. They are certainly a band to watch as if they can play these standards so well we gotta look forward to some of their own material and soon I hope. For a new band its always hard to get going so give them a like on Facebook and have a listen to the EP and lets awake the world to Bklackwater Banshee!

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ALBUM REVIEW: FIDDLER’S GREEN- ‘Devil’s Dozen’ (2016)

Fiddlers Green. The band that invented their own genre- ‘Irish Speed Folk’ !!

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Fiddler’s Green celebrated their 25th anniversary last year with the release of the fantastic compilation album 25 Blarney Roses and was as about as good as anything released in 2015. They hail from the small Bavarian town of Erlangen, that is twinned with our very own Stoke. Famed for their live shows and the ability to transfer that live sound to disc their popularity has grown and grown to see them hailed as one of the major bands in the European celtic-punk scene. It’s always hard to capture the passion and excitement of a celtic-punk gig onto a studio album but when a band achieves it then that album surely becomes a must have and Fiddler’s Green have been doing exactly that for 25 years now. Beloved by their loyal following it was only the other day when talking about fellow German band The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats new album, that we remarked on how Germany has has always had a big love affair with Ireland. Despite competition from such great bands as the aforementioned Paddyhats as well as  Mr. Irish Bastard, The Porters, In Search of A Rose and The Ceili Family it has been Fiddlers Green’s consistency that has seen them become arguably Germany’s most popular celtic-punk band.

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‘Devil’s Dozen’, also known as a Bakers Dozen, is a term often used in them olden days to mean 13, one more than a standard dozen. The practice of baking 13 items for an intended dozen was insurance against the items being lower than the statutory weight, or of lower than usual quality, which could cause the baker to be fined. And so on ‘Devils Dozen’ we find thirteen songs of, as it says on the cover, “Finest Irish Speed Folk”. The album begins with the title song and its accordion led classic Irish themed folk-punk from the very off. This is pure good time party music and there’s no one better at supplying that then Fiddlers Green. You won’t find much social commentary here and so what if you don’t!

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Fiddlers Green (left to right): Tobi Heindl- violin, vocals * Steve Klug- accordion, bodhran * Ralf ‘Albi’ Albers- vocals, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo * Pat Prziwara- vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo * Rainer Schulz- bass * Frank Jooss- drums, percussion *

Music has the ability to unite us and celtic-punk should not just unite but have us all linking arms throwing our beers in the air and professing our love for each other at the top of our lungs. There’s plenty of time to worry about the result of the American Presidential election another day. A great song that is followed by ‘Bottoms Up’ and you guessed it. It’s an ale themed song but the most interesting thing is they have sound rather like The Kaiser Chiefs here. That is if The Kaiser Chiefs had a fiddle payer and a accordionist! Very catchy and pure folk-punk though not of the celtic-variety in fact it has a more Eastern European feel to it.

Nevertheless a class song and just shows that Fiddlers Green refuse to rest on their laurels and churn out what is expected of them. One of the album standouts for me.

“Loose girls standing by the backdoor
Hot legs stepping on the dance floor
Join in, get the mojo working
Movin’, groovin, you know what it’s good for…”

Couldn’t get this bloody song out of my head for days after listening to this album so I was glad when we moved on to ‘Down’. The first minute is a ramped up celtic -punk version of the Simon and Garfunkel hit ‘El Condor Pasa’ and just as your settling down to a rather nice cover version the Fiddlers turn it round and add their own song about going down to you know where…

“We’ll pay the ferryman a dime
So come along, you’ re dead and gone
The demon tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound
Its saddest sound…”

One of the most interesting things about Fiddlers Green is their outstanding videos so you would be well advised that after you finish this review to go make yourself a cup of tea (or something stronger) and hightail over to their You Tube channel (link below) for a hour or two. and enjoy your viewing!

They can’t keep the energy going for ever so they slow it down a little for next song, ‘Boat On The River’. Now this is a cover I have never heard before and surprisingly its not an auld Irish song its a metal ballad from old and nearly forgotten 70’s rockers Styx. I actually really like the original too which you can find here but its a great and highly unusual cover that pays tribute to Styx while taking it into celtic-punk territory. They add in a bucket full of country to ‘Perfect Gang’ with absolutely superb fiddle here and a real crowd pleaser I’m sure with the great chorus. The only traditional Irish folk cover here is up next with the famous ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’.

“I have sailed with Burgess once before, I think I know him well
If a man’s a sailor he will get along, if not then he’s sure in hell
So fare thee well my own true love
When I return united we will be
It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me
But my darling when I think of thee”

A brilliant rousing version of this great tune. Liverpool was once one of the world’s major sea ports and this song was collected from Richard Maitland, a resident of Sailor’s Snug Harbor a home for retired seamen on Staten Island. He told that he learned it while on board the sailing ship General Knox around 1885 and The Davy Crockett mentioned in the song was launched in 1853. Previously recorded by The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers and The Pogues its one of the standard Irish folk songs that pop up from time to time but great to hear a version that can stand alongside them here. ‘Johnny’ sees us back in ‘celtic-indie’ territory while ‘Bad Boys’ is there punkiest song here all the while the fiddle is still fiddling and the accordion pumping meaning we never stray too far from the Fiddlers Green sound. They slow it down again for ‘Blame It On Me’ and Ralf’s vocals are never better than here. A tale of bad luck and bad choices his voice fills with emotion while the band sweep and swirl around him and the gang chorus work brilliantly well. ‘All The Way’ switches it up again and we get a lovely slice of celtic-ska with the fiddle leading the track and pushing it along till the song speeds up into a great punk song before slipping back easily into ska. We are nearing the end so time for a silly one with ‘Mr. Tickle’ about everyone’s favourite Mr Men character (apart from Mr Messy that is). ‘Here We Go Again’ and ‘We Won’t Die Tonight’ bring the curtain down on this great album that proves Fiddlers Green are truly one of the best bands in celtic-punk. Solid reliable and innovative and always moving.

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Devils Dozen is thirteen songs of mostly self penned numbers with a smattering of unusual and well picked covers that comes in at just over 13 45 minutes long. The album is available on CD, with vinyl due in December, but also comes as various deluxe versions including things such as DVD’s and t-shirts. Fiddlers Green are a lot different from the band that released that debut album way back in 1992 but the core of the band has remained the same and they have as a unit never lost sight of the groups main principal that their fans are everything. They would never have become so popular if they had stood still and it is their ability to try new things and styles, but always in keeping with the Fiddlers Green ethos and sound, that has helped them achieve that popularity.

Discography

Fiddler’s Green (1992), Black Sheep (1993), Kings Shepherd (1995), Make Up Your Mind (EP 1996), On And On (1997), Spin Around (1998), Stage Box (Live 1999), Another Sky (2000), Folk Raider (2002), Nu Folk (2003), Celebrate (Live 2005), Drive Me Mad! (2007), Sports Day At Killaloe (2009), Folk’s Not Dead (Live 2009), Wall of Folk (2011), Acoustic Pub Crawl (2013), Winners and Boozers (2013), 25 Blarney Roses (Compilation 2015), 25 Blarney Roses Live In Cologne (Live 2016), Devil’s Dozen (2016).

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ALBUM REVIEW: SISTERS OF MURPHY- ‘Working Stiffs Unite!’ (2016)

Rochester New York State’s favorite celtic rock group sticking up for the working man and woman performing memorable self penned originals and the odd traditional cover!

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Pouring out of the sometimes sunny Rochester area of New York state, about 300 miles from NYC, comes the brand new album from one of the areas favourite sons The Sisters Of Murphy. Released last Labor Day weekend Working Stiffs Unite! is their debut full length album after two EP’s, Holy Show in 2011 and On The Wrong Side Of The Road in 2013. Formed either nine or ten years ago, their memories are a bit sketchy, the band have been plugging away playing regularly since and have garnered great reviews and a multitude of fans of their solid working man (and woman) Irish rock’n’folk’n’roll. Those first two EP’s released on Silverdish Records were a great combination of folk, rock, pop and traditional Irish and unusually were pretty much made up entirely of the bands own compositions. Tight, well played celtic music and with this release they will surely get the recognition they deserve.

Some of Rochester’s earliest settlers were Irish, even before the dark days of the so called ‘famine’ and even today make up an astonishing 16% of the population. The Hibernian Benevolent Society was formed in 1828 and the Irish soon after founded St. Patrick’s church. There were at least 60 Irish families and an estimated 800 Irish-born men in Rochester by 1834. They built log cabins in an area that became known as Dublin and as only the most dirty and dangerous jobs were open to them many began work on the Erie Canal while others toiled in the flour and lumber mills. Many incidents of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish bigotry were reported and the local press attacked “popery” and these newly arrived immigrants but with the election of Henry O’Reilly as Postmaster in 1838, the long tradition of Irish involvement in politics in Rochester began. Of course the Rochester Irish were very active in sending aid back to Ireland as the ‘famine’ took hold and people were literally fleeing for their lives. Many sent money home to bring relatives over and by the early 1850s, the city’s population had grown by 7,500 with more than half coming from Ireland. In his 1957 book, Blake McKelvey wrote in Rochester History about the Irish

When Jeremiah O’Donovan, an Irish poet (and revolutionary!), reached Rochester in 1855, he characterized the city in his diary as the “promised land.” … One Irishman had risen to the head of the largest store in the city. He described another as the founder of a large clothing firm, and identified several more as grocers, meat merchants, furniture dealers and a variety of other tradesmen. O’Donovan found one Irish doctor in Rochester…

Gradually though anti-Irish feelings went away and just as in the the rest of America they helped shape all that was good and great about the places wherever they shipped into. The Irish population of Rochester may have shrunk in recent years somewhat but the community is still strong and flourishing and proud of their noble history! The Irish are still here and they are still fighting!!

Working Stiffs Unite! kicks right off from the very first bars with ‘L.O.V.E.’ and its full on Irish celtic rock coming out at ya. The fiddle and banjo mixing it up with the more traditional rock instruments and it all get’s the album off to a great start. ’40 Days At Sea’ starts off in an acapella style similar to something you could imagine Ronnie Drew doing before the band come in and again it’s as catchy as hell with the band combining perfectly and the production getting it just right too with all the bands instruments mixed just right. ‘One Word Of This Kiss’ begins with a thrashing guitar and while doesn’t scale the heights of the previous songs in speed it certainly makes up for it in energy. ‘Come Back To The Emerald Isle’ has a real country/Americana feel to it with the fiddle leading the way and Jonas voice giving just the right amount of honky tonk! ‘It’s A Shame’reminds me of London Irish bands like The Bible Code Sundays and The Craicheads. A poppy song that is as catchy enough but must say I prefer the harder edged songs here.

Next up is The Sisters Of Murphy’s epic song. Probably their signature track, ‘Green Over Red’. The song begins with the sound of an engine and soon uilleann pipes pipe us into a intro soon joined by acoustic guitar and the rest of the band join in this poignant song about emigration, fighting oppression and making your new home your own.

The year is 1925, and Tipperary Hill’s alive
With so many Celts who came across the sea
Listen to the children sing, dancing as the church bells ring
Laughing and finally feeling free

Now it feels like home!

Youth out marching in the street, stones in hand; there’s no defeat
No way in hell we’re going back again!
Huckle Ryan saves the day, says these boys won’t go away
There’ll be more than lights getting broke today

Oh oh oh, now it feels like home!

We knock it down, you build it up—we’ll tear it up again
You better get it right, man: green over red
Nothing you can say or do, ’cause this here is our avenue
You better get it right man: green over red!

We knock it down, you build it up—we’ll tear it up again
You better get it right, man: green over red
Nothing you can say or do; our flag is flying tried and true
You better get it right man: green over red!

Now it feels like home!

A real fist in the air singalong before the band ramp it right up for the second part and we are away with a reel that will get you beating up the dance floor. The standout track here that encapsulates all that is good about the Sisters. Following this they take a much more traditional folk route and it still works and ‘Jack Haggerty’ sounding a bit similar in style to Paul Brady version of ‘Arthur McBride’. On the title song ‘Working Stiffs Unite’ its the story of the struggling worker that the band bring to us.

They are quite right to be angry and dismissive of the current political machine that ignores everyone expect their friends in big business, the song does have a seething heart but the tune carries you along tapping your toes. ’17’ is a beautiful slow ballad that swirls in moments that build up to a crescendo before dying down again. This is followed by a live version of fan favourite ‘Katie Dear’ and fits in perfectly with the rest of the album with a great trad celtic folk sound and crowd singalongs. Now that’s your lot unless you get the version available below on Bandcamp where you get an extra free track. The ‘Green Over Red (Radio Mix)’ where to be honest it doesn’t sound that much different except its much more shorter and snappier.
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(left to right) Jona Chartrand: electric guitar, vocals * Haley Moore: fiddle * Mark Tichenor: concertina, vocals * Rick Elmer: drums, vocals * Cedric Young: whistles, mandolin, banjo, pipes, guitar, vocals * Scott Austin: acoustic guitar, vocals Bruce Lish: bass, vocals

The Sisters Of Murphy debut album captures perfectly that Irish-American celtic-punk sound that I love so much. Catchy and compelling and steering a fine line between humor and heartache and seriousness and piss-taking throughout all of the eleven songs. The album lasts nearly fifty minutes and is made up of all self penned tracks that tell the story of the Irish-American working man and woman. It’s election year in the States and with the choice in front of us are two enemies of the working class so as usual we have no one to rely on but ourselves. Their is loads to admire here and along with their fellow, brilliant, Rochester Irish band 1916, The Sisters Of Murphy are putting NY back on the celtic-punk map.

(you can have a listen or two to Working Stiffs Unite! for free by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Before you buy it that is!!)

sisters-of-murphy-celtic-topBuy The Album

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you can read Blake McKelvey’s 1957 pamphlet on the Irish immigrants in Rochester here.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE DUBLINERS- ‘A Best Of The Dubliners’

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The Dubliners are without doubt the best known band in the Celtic music world. Formed in 1962 their first hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ launched them into international stardom. Non stop touring and a stint with The Pogues ensured that the popularity of their music never ebbed. Without them it is highly debatable whether or not celtic-punk would have ever come about as Shane McGowan himself has said.  The Dubliners- The first and original celtic-punk band.

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The Dubliners, now one of the most legendary bands in the world, started off in O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin in 1962 under the name of The Ronnie Drew Folk Group. Then they were four, Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Luke Kelly (vocals and 5-string banjo), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon and vocals) and Ciaran Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica). In 1963, they played a gig in Edinburgh where they met the head of Transatlantic Records, Nathan Joseph, for whom they started recording. In 1964, Luke Kelly left, and Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar and vocals) were added. When Luke Kelly returned and Bobby Lynch left in 1965, we have what is considered as the original Dubliners, five individualists, five men whose talents were mixed together in a superb blend and just wanted to play and have a good craic. If they only knew what was awaiting them!

In 1967 their major breakthrough came as a result of a coincidence. Their song, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ which was recorded in one take, was snapped up by a pirate radio station which started playing it along with the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix. Suddenly, The Dubliners were a major band, playing all over the world, getting into the charts, and receiving gold discs. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who as Colin Irwin in the reissue of Live at the Albert Hall says

“looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height”

The seventies started like the sixties ended – wilder touring, drinking and playing. They started doing regular tours, and they were still recording, of course. Then, in 1974, Ciaran Bourke collapsed on stage with a brain hemorrhage, which eventually led to his death. He first, though, recovered remarkably and was back on stage with The Dubliners, but collapsed again. At the same time, Ronnie decided to take a break, and Jim McCann took his and Ciaran’s place in the group.

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In 1979, Ronnie decided to make a comeback as a member of the group, although he probably never really left it. In the five years, he had recorded two solo albums, and The Dubliners three albums. With Ronnie returning, Jim left, and The Dubs were almost back where they started. Then Luke Kelly became ill, he collapsed on stage with a brain tumor, for which he received surgery several times. He too, made remarkable recoveries, and went on touring with the Dubliners, at the same time continuing his wild and unhealthy lifestyle. Sean Cannon, a long time friend, stepped in for Luke, when he couldn’t be on stage. Sean’s appearance wasn’t that well received by the audiences at the beginning, but he has later turned out to be an important addition to The Dubliners, and their repertoire. In 1984, Luke Kelly died, but The Dubliners, now with Sean Cannon as a member, decided to keep on.

1987 turned out to be one of the best – and busiest – years for the Dubliners. Their long time friend, and guest musician, Eamonn Campbell, brought the group together with the Pogues on the hit single ‘The Irish Rover’. This single took the Dubliners back to the charts, and also gave them a completely new audience; people who weren’t even born when The Dubliners started off. And with Dublin celebrating its millennium in 1988, The Dubliners also received more attention than for years. Eamonn Campbell joined them on regular basis, a move that has turned out to be one of the most important in their history. In 1988 Ciaran Bourke died, after years of pain and difficulties. He always was, and still is very much remembered by The Dubliners, just like Luke Kelly is.

The eighties finished off with rumours that The Dubliners were to retire, probably something that’s always been following the group. However, they didn’t, and celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1992, with a double CD and extensive tour. The nineties brought a tour video from the German tour 1995, and the “shock” news that Ronnie Drew was leaving. He left in December 1995, after releasing a superb album, Dirty Rotten Shame a few months earlier.

dubliners2Now, even the most optimistic Dubliners fans thought it was the end, but the lads decided to convince Paddy Reilly to join them, and they continued their busy touring and recording schedule. This move has also turned out to be excellent. Paddy, not very well known in Europe, had never been touring there, so he too enjoyed the experience, as well as being part of a band. He still, though, does tours in the USA in the winter and summer months. In 2002, they temporarily reunited with Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann, for their 40th anniversary tour but sadly after the tour, Jim McCann was diagnosed with throat cancer and, though he fully recovered, his voice was severely damaged, and has not been able to peform since his illness. Despite this, he regularly acts as MC at folk gigs, notably at The Dubliners reunion shows, and at the 2006 ‘Legends of Irish Folk’ shows (where he also played guitar in the finale).

Leader and legend Ronnie Drew passed away in 2008 meaning the end of the original Dubliners. Before he passed though he recorded with The Dropkick Murphys in a memorable version of ‘Flannigan’s Ball’ therefore passing on the baton to the only group comparable to them in what they mean to the Irish diaspora.

It was The Dubliners (and The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem who will be next in our series) pioneered the way for untold number of bands from Ireland and for Celtic music, like the Chieftains, the Pogues, U2, the Fureys and so on. The artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols is endless. They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never otherwise have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the music, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and their characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again. The Dubliners brought Ireland to the world in a way that emigration hadn’t, they have brought the world to Ireland, and they have brought people all over the world closer together. When it ended, the world was never going to be the same again.

The Dubliners 1962-2012
Over the 50 years there were 12 people in The Dubliners.  Ronnie Drew (’62-2008), Luke Kelly (’62-84) , Barney McKenna (’62-2012), Ciaran Bourke (’62-74), John Sheahan (’64-2012), Bobby Lynch (’62-65), Jim McCann (’74-79), Sean Cannon (’82-2012), Eamonn Campbell (’88-2012), Paddy Reilly (’96-2005), Patsy Watchorn (2005-12) and Gerry O’Connor (2012).

The surviving members of the group – Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and Gerry O’Connor, except John Sheahan, are still touring in 2014 under the name The Dublin Legends.

The Dublin Legends 2012-

After the departure of John Sheahan and the official retirement of the name The Dubliners in late 2012, the remaining members of the group – Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and guest musician Gerry O’Connor – formed a folk band called The Dublin Legends to keep The Dubliners’ legacy alive. The band released their first live album entitled An Evening With The Dublin Legends: Live In Vienna in January 2014. They continue to perform extensively and you can find their web site here.

Tracklist:

1. The Wild Rover (2:50)
2. Medley: Doherty’s Reel / Down The Broom / The Honeymoon Reel (3:36)
3. The Holy Ground (2:26)
4. A Parcel Of Rogues (4:21)
5. God Save Ireland (1:57)
6. A Nation Once Again (1:31)
7. Spancil Hill (4:03)
8. Molly McGuires (2:01)
9. The Old Triangle (2:55)
10. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (6:16)
11. Johnston’s Motorcar (1:50)
12. Seven Drunken Nights (3:23)
13. Black Velvet Band (3:18)
14. Free The People (3:08)
15. Van Diemen’s Land (2:15)
16. Dirty Old Town (2:59)
17. Medley: The Maid Behind The Bar / Toss The Feathers (2:18)
18. Lord Of The Dance (2:27)
19. All For Me Grog (2:24)
20. Whiskey In The Jar (2:47)

(listen to the album below and follow the instructions to download for free)

The Dubliners On The Internet

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“They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who were converted to their charm. That isn’t only because of the music, the instrumentals or the stories, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style, the drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards (I even tried to copy them in the 70’s), their extensive touring, their charisma and the enigmatic characters. It was a blend the world will never see again.  It was an entire package that invented the word unique. How do you top that?Every artist in the world is trying to achieve success by getting their ‘sound’ and being unique.  The Dubliners did it”  –Robert Tallent

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘Stepping Stones’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost and hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)  here

EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here

EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)  here

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)  here

GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)  here

EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ (1972)  here

ALBUM REVIEW: CLEAR THE BATTLE FIELD- ‘Set Me Free’ (2016)

Armagh born multi instrumentalist Dominic Cromie and crew with a modern take on traditional Irish music that has something for bloody everyone!

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When talking about celtic-punk people sometimes think of a narrow genre situated somewhere between the two most famous bands to come out of it, The Pogues and The Dropkick Murphys, but when you also throw in Flogging Molly you begin to have a genre that stretches from traditional Irish folk all the way to hardcore punk. I also tend to think of other such diverse artists as Johnny Cash, Tom Waits and even Social Distortion as being an large influence on what we call celtic-punk today in 2016. Clear The Battlefield are no different. Taking Irish and celtic music and mixing it with all sorts of traditions, some old and some modern, all the while putting their own spin on it.

dominic1

Clear The Battlefield’s main instrumentalist, vocalist and lyricist is Dominic Cromie. Born in county Armagh in the north of Ireland he first began playing guitar at the age of ten and by eleven had written his first song. He played his first gig at fourteen with his sister Aine who was by then becoming a well know singer on the Irish show band scene. After touring Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Holland, Dominic left Ireland for the United States in 1991 to pursue his dream as a singer songwriter. Dominic formed Raglan Road, a Celtic rock band and has toured throughout the States performing with many of the nations best Irish-American bands. After these he formed Clear The Battlefield in 2008 and has been gigging solidly since leading up to this their debut album, Set Me Free.

dominic2The album begins, significantly perhaps, with the only cover on the album,’I Roved Out’. A old traditional folk song covered by all the great and the good in Irish musical history. Confusingly there are two versions of ‘I Roved Out’ but this is the one as popularised by Christy Moore telling the rather common tale of a young woman who is seduced by a soldier, only to find that he has abandoned her the next morning. The album kicks off with a sort of dancey backbeat and my first worry is that it is going to be like those awful techno rebel song medleys that get released every now and then and are used to whip up the drunks in nightclubs across the Irish diaspora. I need not have worried though as its not intrusive and (can I hear myself actually saying this) sounds pretty good.

Anyway pretty soon in the Irish instruments take over and expertly played tin whistle comes in and later the glorious sound of uileann pipes.

“With me too-ry-ay Fol-de-diddle-day
Di-rah fol-de-diddle, dai-rie oh”

Next up is ‘The Valley’ and a slow song but with Dominic’s voice bursting with emotion. He is blessed with a voice that sounds like those old crackly records our Grandparents owned but with the modern touches it easily straddles both worlds of old and new. ‘You’ follows and is a nice love song done as alternative sounding country while ‘Mary’ is back to more folkier territory. We are back next with ‘Set Me Free’. The instrument count rises as Dominic and crew rattle through a somewhat tribal tune. At any second we expect it to fly into complete trad but its just reined back enough. Accompanied by a great video that leaves us in no doubt where Dominic’s heart and passion lies.

The album’s longest track is the instrumental ‘The Rights Of Man’ at over six minutes and begins with an instrument we do not hear enough of in celtic punk those uileann pipes. With Black 47 no more and a long long time since Stephen Gara packed his bags for NYC and left London Irish rockers Neck only Italian band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards are giving us what we want. More pipes! The following songs follow a similar path in that they start off as just guitar and voice before flying off into something else. ‘Get Up’ benefits from a Irish ending while ‘Go’ returns the album to the unconventional country sound we heard earlier.

We even dip into ‘C86’ sounding indie with ‘Even After The Drugs’ that takes in bands like The La’s or Teenage Fanclub. Finally Set Me Free comes to an end with ‘Days Days Days’ a short blast of upbeat jazzyness that is a way cool way to bring the curtain down.

The ten songs clock in at just under forty minutes and if I had a slight, and I mean slight, criticism with Set Me Free it would be that their is perhaps some unnecessary flourishes that don’t really add much to the music. It’s not your typical celtic-punk and sometimes it feels like the most un-celtic-punk celtic-punk album we have ever reviewed here. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed it. The playing here is truly to be marvelled at and regardless of whether it is punk or not will strike a chord with anyone with a love of traditionally played Irish music.

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THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY

BY PÁDRAIC GRANT

Shane MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

The Pogues Continuity Splash

The Pogues (formerly Pogue Mahone, Irish Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse’) were formed in 1982 by a group of London Irish musicians eager to drag Irish folk into a musical world that had been changed and redefined by the advent of punk. This mission was to be marked by success and failure, but by 1996 when they officially disbanded, they had permanently left their mark on both folk and mainstream music.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the band through those years was the extensive influence literature had on their lyrics. Rather than simply drawing on certain works for inspiration, almost every lyric in the Pogues extensive repertoire can be traced to a certain area of the written word.

Shane

Leading this literary charge was main songwriter and ideologue Shane MacGowan, who’d come through punk emboldened by its ideals, but distraught by its mainstream assimilation. The catalogue of songs penned by MacGowan regularly evokes previous writers and styles, often twisted and placed in new frameworks. Indeed, most of his lyrics are as intellectually stimulating when read as poems and stories as when performed as full songs.

From the moment he began penning songs, MacGowan was artistically indebted to his Irish homeland, a fact reflected in both music and lyrics. Literary touchstones spanned the Irish spectrum—Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, and James Stephens were drawn from and their influence incorporated into his burgeoning songbook. While the idea of the songwriter-as-poet is often evoked in a clichéd (even insulting) manner to give certain artists ‘credibility’, MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

As the band gained further success and the other members began to substantially contribute to the lyrics, concerted attempts were made to avoid stagnancy. Eventually, the collective focus fundamentally changed in ways that would have massive effects on the group. Extraneous reference points began to dominate, with the music switching to a menagerie of world music styles, and the lyrics drawing from non-Irish, less literary sources. This fragmentation would afterwards be cited by MacGowan as one of the biggest reasons for his estrangement from the other members of the band.

TRADITION REANIMATED

Going back to the band’s formative years, an important reason for the band’s very existence was a fervent desire to reiterate the aspects of Irish folk music that ran contrary to the sophisticate persona espoused by the dominant elements of ‘80s music. From the stale by-products of 70’s AOR who had somehow got through the post-punk safety net (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel) to the New Romantics with their synthetic music and lifestyle, the Pogues sought to challenge the status quo by injecting a sense of danger into Irish folk, thereby returning Irish folk to the mainstream. This was to be achieved through a heady mix of punk and folk, filtered through a coarse, unrefined aesthetic. And with virtually no electric instruments (Cait O’Riordan’s bass guitar was a notable exception) and a minimalist bass/snare drum kit, the contrast with mainstream instrumentation was glaring.

Despite this, perhaps the freshest aspect of the re-named Pogues was the literary quality of their original songs. Amongst volatile renditions of traditional standards nestled originals composed in the same style, infused with a punk-derived radicalism that brought the band beyond mere rehashed folk. The London-Irish composition of the group meant that its Irish influences were viewed through the lens of cosmopolitan London, and the city would go on to be the focus of numerous songs by the band.

Red Roses For Me

Gaining a reputation through relentless touring, they signed to the independent Stiff Records in 1984. The first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, was released in October of that year, and was an underground success despite its poor mainstream showing. Critical attention focused on the burgeoning lyrical talents of Shane MacGowan as much as on the music. Taking its title from a late-era Sean O’Casey play, the album offered a demonstration of MacGowan’s continuity with Irish writers past. The Irish identification was even carried onto the album art: A portrait of the band members seated around a painting of John F. Kennedy, a symbol of solidarity with the Irish diaspora across the world.

O’CASEY AND SOCIALISM

Aside from bestowing the album with a name, O’Casey was influential stylistically. The lyrics on ‘Red Roses for Me’ focused on the lives of the 1980s working class in the same way O’Casey portrayed the proletariat of the early 1900’s. A lifelong communist and Republican dissident, his portrayals were combined with his socialist beliefs to demonstrate the inherently political nature of working class life. Similarly, the debut Pogues LP illustrates the impact of wider political processes on mundane reality.

Sean O'Casey

Sean O’Casey

While avoiding overt left-wing sloganeering, the anti-authoritarian approach evident in certain tracks was intensified by the experience of Thatcherite Britain, where harsh monetarism had led to the working class feeling persecuted by the ruling Conservative Party. This sense of injustice was given credence by the Miner’s Strike occurring the same year the album was released, an event that embodied opposition to the implementation of profit-driven neo-liberalism. Under such circumstances, the sense of anger present in ‘Red Roses for Me’ is easily read as a reflection of the labour class’s embittered undercurrent, manifesting itself in several songs on the album.

The opening song, ‘Transmetropolitan’, is a conspicuous example of this attitude. Both tribute to and attack on the city of London, the composition is a contradiction. The music is frenetically gleeful, while the lyrics veer from a celebration of London life to a bitter attack on the pillars of the British establishment:

There’s leechers up in Whitehall
And queers in the GLC
And when we’ve done those bastards in
We’ll storm the BBC.

Whitehall (the home of the British government, the GLC (Greater London Council), and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) represented the stale powers-that-be, a focus for bitter resentment. That the enemy was the suitably vague “establishment” was a by-product of the band’s punk roots, a recurring and pervasive influence that sat comfortably alongside the anti-authority stance of the writers inspiring the group.

BEHAN AND BLACK COMEDY

Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Despite the O’Casey reference in the title and the similarities shared in the portrayal of working class existence, it is clear that Brendan Behan is the dominant influence on ‘Red Roses for Me’. ‘The Auld Triangle’, an Irish standard adapted from the introduction to the Behan play ‘The Quare Fellow’, is the third track on the album and a marked contrast to the rest of what is an ultimately raucous record.  It’s stark, skeletal, and relies primarily on MacGowan’s vocals. The mood is despondent and the lyrics wistful, but lightened by occasionally humourous lines (a literary technique MacGowan adopted in his own writing, which often includes comedic moments in the midst of squalor). This aspect of his songcraft would later be explored and refined on ‘Rum, Sodomy & the Lash’.

‘The Boys from the County Hell’ is the most precise example of punk’s influence on the album. Upping the ante on ‘Transmetropolitan’, it’s a vicious exploration of the alcohol-fuelled violence of the urban London lifestyle (the city termed ‘County Hell’ in a translation bearing the mark of Irish geographical terminology), and a further fleshing out of MacGowan’s songwriting, recalling the unflinching portrayal of violence in Irish tradition. Coming from that lineage, it contains one of his most blackly humourous couplets:

My daddy was a Blueshirt and my mother a madam.
My brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam.

‘Streams of Whiskey’ carries the Behan obsession to new heights, encapsulating MacGowan’s adoration of the man in one song. The lyrics depict a conversation held with Behan in a dream. When asked about his views on the “crux of life’s philosophies”, he answers: “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”. This ‘philosophy’ manages to make alcoholism sound almost idealistic—after all, it concerns a person who once quipped

“I’m a drinker with a writing problem”

Flann O'Brien

Flann O’Brien

‘Streams of Whiskey’ is also a buried reference to Flann O’Brien—a pseudonym for Brian O’Nolan, who MacGowan cited as one of his favourite authors in ‘A Drink with Shane MacGowan’.  O’Brien’s ‘The Poor Mouth’ (originally published in Gaelic as ‘An Beal Bocht’) includes a story regarding a mountain with two streams of whiskey flowing at its summit. A brilliant satire of Ireland’s victim mentality, the novel is built on, as with most of O’Brien’s works, an absurdly funny plot and writing style that Shane MacGowan emulated throughout his time in the Pogues.

NEW STRUCTURES

‘Red Roses for Me’ may have received praise for its literate lyrics, but the following year’s ‘Rum, Sodomy And the Lash’ was the moment where the Pogues songcraft truly blossomed. From post-modern character realignment to minutely-detailed narratives, the many facets of Irish literature are explored and amalgamated into a work that reads like an overview of the canon.

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

As the opening track for the album, ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ is a significant song in more than one respect. Not only does it demonstrate the cleaner production and more thought-out arrangements of the record as a whole, but most importantly the progression of MacGowan’s songwriting. As a character, Cúchulainn (a legendary Celtic warrior and son of the god Lugh) was a towering figure in Irish storytelling, regularly recurring in stories up to and including the Celtic Revival of the late 19th century. While The Pogues stick to this tradition, the song that bears his name is a sober modernisation of the monolith; a demonstration of the continuity held with preceding Irish literature, but a strong statement of realist rather than mythic characterisation.

This approach to the protagonist is similar to the proto-postmodernism of Flann O’Brien in novels such as ‘The Third Policeman’ and ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’, which dragged characters such as the mythic Fionn MacCumhaill into a contemporary setting. Thus ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ styles the character not as a demi-god, but in the flawed guise of the socialist IRA leader Frank Ryan. Appearing alongside the singers John McCormack and Richard Tauber, Cuchulainn is an unacknowledged hero, a participant on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War (as was Frank Ryan in reality.) Cuchulainn’s illustrious status in Celtic folklore is contrasted with the more human heroism of the unacknowledged Ryan, an anti-fascist who later faced the ignominy of death in a Nazi submarine. “You decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids” and “We’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks” serve as MacGowan’s tribute to a man whose heroism was to stand against the fascist tide in an Irish nation still in thrall to the Catholic Church.

That this depiction is in complete contrast to the Cúchulainn of William Butler Yeats may not be coincidental. MacGowan’s opinion of Yeats is derisory at best: “[Yeats wrote] a few classics…but there’s a mammoth amount of work…there’s like books and books and books of his stuff, and there’s about three or four good poems.” (A Drink with Shane MacGowan) The negative sentiments might also be inspired by Yeats’s championing of aristocratic ideas and (later retracted, as the Second World War approached) support for Irish and European fascism, something that was later also criticised by George Orwell.

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

Eerily slow-burning after the preceding frenzy, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is a torrid narrative recounting the struggles of a male prostitute in seedy London. MacGowan’s evolution as a lyricist may have been obvious on ‘The Sickbed of Cúchulainn’, but only a truly adept wordsmith could forge the themes of drugs, prostitution, and police brutality into such an easily engrossing story. Accompanied by almost hypnotic musical repetitions, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is replete with characteristic attention to detail:

One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag.

In later years, this song would be offered as ‘evidence’ that MacGowan had worked as a hustler. Although it may be a common assumption that realist first person narratives must be based on something experienced by the author, in MacGowan’s case the supposition could have been caused by the debt his style owed to writers like Frank O’Connor. A short story author of great magnitude, O’Connor wrote essentially autobiographical stories in the guise of characters like Larry Delaney, recounting childhood events rich in detail and evocative of the conservative Ireland of the early 20th century.

Frank O'Connor

Frank O’Connor

MacGowan similarly recounted stories heavy on minutia, but as far removed from bucolic rural Ireland as could be possible. When people read the lyrics of songs like “The Old Main Drag”, the easy interpretation was that due to the attention to detail inherited from writers like O’Connor, MacGowan was channelling his real life experiences through the characters in his writing. As with many issues surrounding the Pogues, though, there is no firm answer regarding the truth of these rumours. The sheer number of contradictions is similar to the fog around MacGowan’s eventual dismissal by the group.

BUILDING AN IDENTITY

Another highlight from the album is the quixotic ballad ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, one of the more sentimental songs performed by the band. However, like everything MacGowan wrote in this period, it is laced with the typical dark elements that prevent it from becoming merely saccharine. Therefore, while the song laments the “streams, the rolling hills, where his brown eyes were waiting” or “The birds whistling in the trees / Where the wind was gently laughing”, the protagonist is also “drunk to hell”, the setting filled with men who “prayed, cursed, and bled some more”.

In this moment, Shane MacGowan established an identity—one adapted from past writers (the contrast between sweet sentimentality and darker elements, humour intercepting both, a hallmark of Irish writing from Behan to Beckett), but an identity nonetheless. This proved a blessing and a curse, for while the positive comparisons were no doubt welcome, others were beginning to wonder if the Pogues, and Shane MacGowan in particular, had inherited the predisposition for alcohol held by the writers they admired. Press attention would lead to the stereotyping of the band as alcoholic Irishmen (particularly in an infamous Sounds’ article written around the release of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ as a single), a perception made even more believable by other songs, including ‘Sally MacLennane’.  Similar to older folk songs about the return of a person to their hometown (a theme also touched upon in ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, written by the Irish literature-influenced Phil Lynott), the song is an ode to the joys of alcohol with nearly every verse containing a reference to drinking.

Much of the band’s catalogue is the same, and with their love for writers who also enjoyed a drink (not forgetting their Irish background), it was inevitable that they would be included in the ‘drunken Irish artist’ stratum. In the ‘Sounds’ article mentioned above, Spider Stacy remarked, “I drink to blot out drunkenness”. A quick retort to an over-bearing journalist it may have been, but in the years to come such excesses would prove to be the undoing of the band. But before that point, there was much glory and still more ignominy to come.

‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ was a crucial step forward for the group. Moving on from the lyrically-constrained ‘Red Roses for Me’, which had been somewhat straightforward in its subject matter, the incorporation of differing stylistic approaches made this album a milestone for the incorporation of literary methods into modern Irish folk music. Over the coming years, the subjects would become more expansive, the music more extravagant. Here, the Pogues would achieve the perfect balance of tradition and innovation in their songwriting, the democratic ideal prominent since the beginning would finally flourish, and commercial success would be assured.

NEW DEPARTURES

This phase began with the release of the ‘Poguetry in Motion’ EP in 1986. Comprised of four wildly varying tracks, the EP worked as a bridge between the boisterous folk of before and a new, heavily-orchestrated style embodied by ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’ (significantly, in all respects a masterpiece). Both styles would be followed up on proceeding albums, but the EP is interesting as a microcosm of the band’s musical past and future, and their sense of humour, with the instrumental ‘Planxty Noel Hill’ a swipe at the eponymous musician and member of the folk aristocracy in Ireland.

Taking part in a radio debate with the Pogues, Hill had referred to their music as a “terrible abortion” and as disrespectful to traditional norms. The ‘planxty’ in the title is a traditionally honourific prefix dating back to the 1600s, and serves as a rejoinder to Hill, a tongue-in-cheek espousal of the ultimate traditionalist form. ‘London Girl’ and ‘Body Of An American’ rounded off the release and are notable because of their respective connotations of ‘Red Roses For Me’ and ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’-era material. Clamorous, intelligent, romantic, iconoclastic, the EP was a bookend for what had come before, and a torch-bearer for what was to come next.

Two years later, 1988 saw the release of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, a new departure in several areas. The lyrics are more far-reaching than ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’, yet remain within the realms of Irish tradition. From the pleasures of a win at the dog tracks to the laments of the Irish diaspora in America, and even the first overtly political songs of the band’s discography, the subjects expand far beyond the character studies and narratives of the first two releases. It even sounds more sprawling, the appearance of a full drum kit and session accompaniment seeming like sheer opulence compared to the thriftiness of before. Two new members make their debuts: multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods (formerly of the legendary folk-rock bands Sweeney’s Men and Steeleye Span) and Daryl Hunt (replacing the outgoing Cait O’Riordan). The inclusion of jazz and indigenous Spanish and Middle-Eastern folk would sound more shocking had they not been woven so brilliantly into Irish music forms, the mock-sitars of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ countered by ‘The Lark in the Morning’, a traditional jig that ended the song, and the faux-jazz ‘Metropolis’ and its prominent horns disarmed by mid-tempo folk verses.

J.P. Donleavy

J.P. Donleavy

Commercial success was confirmed with the release of ‘Fairytale of New York’. Written by MacGowan and Jem Finer, it shares both a title and subject with J.P. Donleavy’s novel ‘A Fairytale of New York’, both works regarding the pursuit of the American dream and, tentatively, the experiences of the Irish diaspora. The merits of the song lie in its exploration of relationships and their intricacies, how they span place and era and how external bickering can mask deep affection. MacGowan is accompanied on the track by Kirsty MacColl, in the guise of a woman whose hopes for a life of prosperity lie dead, shattered by the very person who embodied them. The duet examines the dreams, the shattering, and finally the redemption, like a short story where a monumental topic is condensed, and benefits as a result. A technicolour version of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, a romantic song that remains solidly realist (as the input of MacGowan ensured), the song was only kept off the top spot by the poor ‘Always on My Mind’ cover by the Pet Shop Boys. It has since become a Christmas standard, and the most well-known demonstration of the Pogues’ songwriting skill.

POLITICAL MILITANCY

The subject of Irish Republicanism and the conflict in Ireland was a popular focus for folk groups during the ‘80s, a contemporary issue of great importance socially and culturally. The Pogues explicitly explored this for the first time on ‘If I Should Fall’. Grounded in personal conviction and a long literary tradition, the Pogues were unashamedly Republican, and indeed at an early stage held the moniker the New Republicans. These beliefs manifest themselves in the medley ‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six’. Musically, little links the two songs, but the subject matter is related through its exploration of the ongoing war between the IRA and British forces in Ireland.

‘Streets of Sorrow’, a stark, emotional lament for the war-torn streets of cities like Belfast and Derry, urban areas scarred by the trauma of ongoing war, is immediately followed by the passionate anger of ‘Birmingham Six’, despondency exploding into rage against a Government viewed as oppressive and racist:

There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there’s four,
They were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law.
And the filth got promotion,
But they’re still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time.

The Loughgall Martyrs

The Loughgall Martyrs

Naturally enough, the song was banned by the BBC, continuing a torrid relationship between the band and the corporation. As a medley, the song works perfectly: A distillation of the anguish caused by the Irish conflict and the unbridled anger at a British Government the Republicans viewed as the cause of their problems. That the Pogues held controversial opinions was not in doubt. At the time, the only mainstream voices were those of outright condemnation of the IRA on the one hand, or outright silence on the other. In that spirit, there is more than mere protest in ‘Birmingham Six’, with the final verse containing a reference to the Loughgall Martyrs, eight IRA volunteers killed while attacking a Royal Ulster Constabulary police barracks:

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads,
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head.

Again, there was a literary precedent for the group’s political views, with Brendan Behan, Frank O’Connor, and Ernie O’Malley among the writers who had actively participated in the IRA and expounded upon their views in writing. The theme would be taken up again in later songs like ‘Young Ned of the Hill’ and ‘Rainbow Man’.

POSTMODERN MYTHOLOGY

Another new topic for the band was the role of mythology in Irish life. ‘Sit Down by the Fire’ is a comic take on this tradition:

Sit down by the fire, and I’ll tell you a story
To send you away to your bed.
Of the things you hear creeping
When everyone’s sleeping
And you wish you were out here instead.

The Riders of the Sidhe, by John Duncan

‘The Riders of the Sidhe’ by John Duncan

Lyrically, the focus is on the fairies, or ‘sidhe’, that haunted Irish imagination for centuries, and still persist in popular superstition. MacGowan has long found the idea of parents telling these terrifying stories to children at bedtime as comical, an absurdity built into Irish life for centuries.

The song’s subject matter is interesting because it shows the group exploring the area of folklore (despite its monolithic status pre-20th century, folklore had never been a big concern for the band) while also stepping back from it. This separates such an exploration from the misty-eyed renderings of other more literal folk-rock acts like The Horslips, who had created concept albums based around Celtic mythology. It also continues the motif of postmodernism from MacGowan, the song being a meta-narrative about the telling of a folk tale rather than a simple rendition.

BEYOND IRELAND

While it may have been expected that the band would bask in the critical acclaim of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, this wasn’t to be the case. MacGowan’s alcoholism had progressed beyond being a mere nuisance, and the other members were becoming disgruntled. Worried that MacGowan was hitting the gutter, just as Behan had before, and more willing to take advantage of the democratic songwriting ideals the band had been founded upon, the songwriting representation from the rest of the band would increase on future albums.

This process was immediately visible on 1989’s ‘Peace And Love’. MacGowan’s declining influence was indicated by the (comparatively) paltry six songs he contributed to the 14-track record. The new songwriting arrangements made for instant change, the first surprise coming with the introductory instrumental ‘Gridlock’. An exploration of hard bop jazz and an uncompromising repudiation of folk, the song differs thematically from anything performed by the band before. However, the song that defines the negative side of this experimentation best is the bizarre Celtic-Caribbean fusion of ‘Blue Heaven’, a reprehensible song with the Calypso pretensions suffocating any melodic inventiveness; a situation that occurs with saddening periodicity in the band’s later catalogue. Even the Irish folk songs sound bland and enervated, an alarming regression from the band’s original desire to invigorate the style.

Despite portraying himself as the arch traditionalist during this era, Shane MacGowan was not, in fact, conducting a one man crusade against the pretentious designs of his fellow band members. He had likewise introduced extraneous influences into the pure folk of before. As noted by Simon Reynolds in ‘Generation Ecstasy’, rumours abound that, having become immersed in the acid house scene, he wished to include a 20-minute appropriation of the genre (titled ‘You’ve Got to Contact Yourself’) onto ‘Peace And Love’. Whether there is any truth to this is again unknown, but what is audible fact is the bizarre Motown stomp of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, released as an EP following ‘Peace And Love. While two collaborations with the legendary Dubliners are included, this appears to be an almost apologetic move. Unfortunately, the cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ would require much greater atonement than that.

ENGROSSED IN EUROPE

‘Hell’s Ditch’ seemed like the final break with the Pogues of before. Although containing some fine songs grounded in the same folk stylings (‘Sunnyside of the Street’, ‘Hell’s Ditch’), it sounds uninspiring and even conventional in parts—as pedestrian as the ‘celtic fusion’ peddled by acts like the Saw Doctors or The Waterboys, and not helped by the sterile production courtesy of Joe Strummer. Most substantially, the Irish element was downplayed massively; it was simply another amongst the other myriad styles of ‘world music’.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

This extended to the lyrical elements, too, but in a vastly more positive way. MacGowan’s contributions were fresh and informed by a different aesthetic from the Irish folk of before, transporting the narrative style to exotic characters and locales from further afield on the European continent. The title track’s debt to Jean Genet manifested itself in a snapshot narrative, stark prison imagery wrapped in an overtly-sexual veneer:

The killer’s hands are bound with chains
At six o’clock it starts to rain
He’ll never see the dawn again
Our lady of the flowers

Verses describing death and squalor (like those above) are juxtaposed with others like:

Genet’s feeling Ramon’s dick
The guy in the bunk above gets sick

This is a structural trick that jars the listener and underlines the debt to the novel ‘Our Lady Of The Flowers’. In common with the Irish influences of before, Genet celebrated the lowlife, the disenfranchised, and those who refused to conform to societal norms, but in a more explicit manner that questioned the values society encouraged and celebrated.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca

Aside from Jean Genet, the spectre of Federico Garcia Lorca also informed the album. Like ‘Sickbed of Cuchulainn’, ‘Lorca’s Novena’ deals with modern heroism against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Backed by an eerie, dread-inducing combination of heavy bass and martial drums, the song tells of how the homosexual poet met his death at the hands of Franco’s nationalists. It’s not only the horrific circumstances of the poet’s death that justify the sinister vibes, but the wider context of a fascist victory that would ensure the legitimisation of such reprehensible deeds.

The final song of ‘Hell’s Ditch’, ‘Six to Go’, is an aural tombstone to the MacGowan Pogues, a condensed form of all the musical and conceptual contradictions that would contribute to its demise. Concerned with the six counties of Ireland which remain under the political control of Britain, it includes what sounds alarmingly like clichéd tribal chanting, an Africa found by way of ‘The Lion King’ rather than anti-colonial solidarity. In common with other songs of this era (‘Blue Heaven’, ‘Summer in Siam’, ‘Five Green Queens And Jean’), the solid core ends up ruined rather than enhanced by its exotic trappings.

The positive impact of the international influences on ‘Hell’s Ditch’ is confined solely to the lyrics, which flourish and give the Hibernian focus of the first three albums a sense of context, placing Ireland amongst the other great literary nations of the world, rather than resorting to the Irish chauvinism jokingly played up (particularly by MacGowan) in interviews. If the music had gone the same way, perhaps the culmination of stylistic disparity and substance abuse wouldn’t have led to the decision to kick MacGowan from the band as a whole.

After the disintegration of the original line up, the remaining members regrouped to make two further albums: 1993’s ‘Waiting for Herb’ and 1996’s ‘Pogue Mahone’). Yet without MacGowan at the lyrical helm, the collective lacked the cutting edge they had once possessed. Hence, while the two discs have their moments, they lack charisma and the sense of energy that defines the earlier albums, not to mention that they continue the terrible world music flirtations that marred the last two MacGowan albums. However, by the time of the band’s official demise in 1996, their influence was beginning to be felt in a big way.

LANGUAGE AND CLASS

When evaluating their overall influence, the Pogues use of language cannot be ignored, and it betrayed more than a small debt to Irish literature. In his essay regarding Yeats, George Orwell points out the difficulty of equating ideology with a writer’s style. He notes that Yeats’s attempts at simplistic writing appear convoluted, giving the example of the following verse from ‘An Acre of Grass’

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Orwell calls attention to the word ‘that’ before William Blake’s name as an attempt at conveying familiarity by utilising forced prosody, a co-option of the language of the lower classes negated by the poet’s aristocratic tendencies. When the Pogues lyrics are analysed in a similar way, the opposite conclusion is clear: the lyrics are unforced and authentic, intelligent but unpretentious. ‘Dark Streets of London’ is an effortlessly figurative example of this

“I like to walk in the summer breeze
Down Dalling Road by the dead old trees
And drink with my friends
In the Hammersmith Broadway
Dear dirty delightful old drunken old days”

The quality of such writing is that it makes the quotidian seem otherworldly through common poetic methods like alliteration. The tongue-twisting last line reads like something written by Gerard Manley Hopkins rather than an extract from a popular music song. Coming at the dawn of their career, such examples would become commonplace for the band, a musical fulfilment of Orwell’s proletarian artistic vision.

IRISH POST-COLONIALISM

Interpreted through the lens of post-colonialism, the band offer an intriguing range of interpretations, and indeed contradictions. Firstly, the very fact that they were composed primarily of London-born musicians would seem to render their status as Irish music icons quite hollow, an easy target as ‘musical imperialists’ plundering the vaults of a rich tradition. This allegation is easily refuted, however, the band’s members were all of Irish heritage, some even born there and with strong connections to the island.

In a more elaborate sense, the very foundations of the group immunise them from such attacks. By attempting to modernise folk, adhering to its roots but emphasising areas neglected by other artists, such as attitude and literary merit, the Pogues (in their early stages at least) helped save Irish folk from becoming a marginal strand of the ‘world music’ scene. This was in marked contrast to other groups, such as Moving Hearts, who from the beginning merged folk with jazz and rock styles. If this interpretation is accepted, then consequently Shane MacGowan’s criticism of the post-‘If I Should Fall’ immersion in world music becomes easier to accept as well. After all, when the theoretical grounding they had started with began to dissolve, the songs became less distinguished and more conventional, consumed within the quagmire of the cultural buffet of world music and generic folk-rock.

The Pogues And The Dubliners

The Pogues And The Dubliners

Another barrier against such attacks is to take the opposite conclusion: the Pogues as the products of an Ireland that has throughout its history assimilated invaders and immigrants into the native society. While historically there had been fierce resistance to such absorption, at certain points the cultures of the native and colonial Irish inevitably coalesced. The greatest manifestation of this was in the Celtic dawn of the late 19th century, when a vast re-discovery of Gaelic Ireland was expressed through modern literary and performance techniques. Writers like Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory (despite the mockery afforded them from MacGowan) worked to create a distinctly Irish literature, not dependant on wider developments within Britain for inspiration.

Important as an explicitly nationalist rejection of cultural imperialism, the Irish literary revival’s reverberations continued throughout the 20th century. As the 21st century approached, there were intimations that the cultural dependency had been reversed to a certain extent. The post-colonial literary theorist Declan Kiberd writes:

“When Daniel Day-Lewis pronounced his win at the Oscars [for his portrayal of Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’] a triumph for Ireland, he effectively dismantled the English-when-they-win, Irish-when-they-lose equation. But he chose Irishness just as much as the Anglo-Normans did before him: in neither case was it forced upon a hapless victim”

This was but one example of the increasing prevalence of Irish (or faux-Irish) content in popular culture in the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, alongside films like ‘The Commitments’ and productions including ‘Riverdance’. The Pogues’ role in this reversal is interesting, because while in terms of location they were primarily English, they were possibly the most fervent purveyors of ‘Irishness’ amongst their Celtic cultural contemporaries, musically and in content. That it took a band located in England to re-assert Irish music’s place in popular music (rather than confined to the folk sidelines) says a lot about Ireland’s unusual place along the path of post-colonialism, the mass emigration that occurred mainly as a consequence of colonial exploitation has rendered its culture stronger in areas other than its origin. Following their artistic forebears, the Pogues contribution to post-colonialism has been to re-establish Irish identity (in the form of music and text) as having something to offer beyond novelty or the margins, as a vibrant player on the international stage.

CELTIC PUNK AND A WIDER INFLUENCE

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

The mid-90’s saw the emergence of a host of (primarily American) bands largely influenced by The Pogues musical, lyrical and conceptual qualities. The fact that this scene has grown so vast as to require an article (or a book) of its own is testament to the inspiration legions of acts have taken from the band, but the two most popular acts, critically and commercially, are undoubtedly Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphys.

The former takes their cue from all eras of the Pogues, while including conventional instrumentation like the electric guitar (‘Another Bag of Bricks’ even usurps the Middle-Eastern influences of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ in a garishly conspicuous way.) Albums including ‘Swagger’ and ‘Drunken Lullabies’ share thematic subjects with the Pogues, abundant in references to Irish history and politics, including the important role of the Catholic Church. Dropkick Murphys differ from Flogging Molly by mixing their folk with prominent ‘Oi!’ influences. This has led to a blatant espousal of working class socialism more explicit than that ever referred to in Pogues songs. Making visible their debt to the Pogues, the band even had MacGowan appear as a guest vocalist on ‘Good Rats’ from 2001’s ‘Sing Loud, Sing Proud’.

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

While Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys may be the most important bands deriving stylistic influences from the Pogues, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The celtic punk scene has spread from its main base in America all around the world, a common motif of the hybrid being Pogues covers, homages, and references, a musical movement equivalent to the Irish diaspora’s diffusion on a global scale. Beyond this scene, the group’s influence has extended to areas more mainstream than the largely underground punk circuit.

On a global level, Irish folk became a visible presence in popular culture by the early 90’s, albeit in watered-down forms like ‘Riverdance’ and ‘The Corrs’, which bore scant relation to the music or ethos of the Pogues. It’s hard to say whether such acts can even be considered as musically influenced by the Pogues, but it is certain that the Pogues chart success the laid the foundations for mainstream assimilation of Celtic music by popularising it in the first place. So while songs like ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ can’t be counted as direct influences upon mainstream exports, they can be considered torch bearers for their cultural phenomena.

MacGOWAN’S CURRENT STANDING

So where do the Pogues stand today? While other members of the band made vast contributions to the group and Irish folk, it is MacGowan who remains famous in the mainstream. Portrayed in the press as a stereotypical drunken Irish poet, a boozed-up bohemian associated with other artists known for their excesses (especially Pete Doherty of the Libertines and Babyshambles), he is also increasingly lauded as a genius songwriter by sources as mainstream as the NME and The Guardian.

Since the full reformation of the band in 2001, these laudatory sentiments have only increased, a result of the now-legendary status afforded to the band’s performances. Inevitably, the media has commented on the continuity between his ‘literary drunk’ status and artists of the same vintage who preceded him. MacGowan even doggedly champions Coleridge over Wordsworth, believing the latter’s work to be inferior on an artistic level, but his fondness for Coleridge also lies in the Romantic’s famous use of opium.

It’s a pattern that remains a constant through all the Pogues albums, the championing of the underdog cast aside by society, and that is the role MacGowan has taken for himself. Whether writing in the guise of a person experiencing the euphoria of winning a bet, the solitary child terrified by ghouls of their parent’s making, or the railway workers toiling and dying without recognition, he imparts a personal touch that is ultimately the real affinity he shares with the writers he admires. Frank O’Connor, Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Mannix Flynn, authors MacGowan maintains have lived; the same underclass he immortalises in his own writing. Ultimately, he has emulated them in his own life and gained similar recognition, hailed not only as a musician, but as a legitimate and important contributor to the continuing evolution of Irish writing.

PopMatters

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*originally published on the marvellous Pop Matters web site.

PopMatters is an international magazine of cultural criticism. Our scope is broadly cast on all things pop culture, and our content is updated daily. We provide intelligent reviews, engaging interviews, and in-depth essays on most cultural products and expressions in areas such as music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet.

* if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a stack of great articles on them-

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

‘Book Review: Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen’  here

‘The Pogues On Mastermind- The Questions’  here

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.

ALBUM REVIEW: BUNCH OF BASTARDS- ‘My Drinkin’ Ain’t Done’ (2016)

‘FULL FORCE FOLK’

from a Bunch Of Bastards from The Hague, Rotterdam and Dordrecht!

BOB2

I’m not sure quite what it is about the word Bastard in celtic-punk but their are a whole host of bloody brilliant bands about with it in their name. Think Mr Irish Bastard from Germany, Bastards On Parade (now shortened to just Bastards) from Galicia, Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards from Italy, Middle Class Bastards from Russia and Bastard Bearded Irishman from Pittsburgh in the United States. It’s just a shame we don’t have a decent band here in the UK to add! Well to this bunch of Bastards we can now add another Bunch Of Bastards from the Netherlands.

BOB

Bunch Of Bastards left to tight: Cor- vocals * Huib- electric guitar and mandolin * Dex- bass * Andries- accordion * John- drums * Peter- electric/acoustic guitar and banjo

Coming together in mid-2013 the main inspiration for the band was accordionist Andries (better known in the celtic punk scene as Mr Dutch Irish Bastard) who has graced the stage with many of the top European celtic punk bands like Circle J, Mr.Irish Bastard (and even The Mahones)  and recorded with the likes of Bastards On Parade, Sir Reg, Greenland Whalefishers and Firkin. Fed up of being a guest he decided it was time to form his own band and vision and this is what he did, over what seemed like a loooong time to those of us watching on Facebook!

Fey

perfect timing too as Feyenoord won the Dutch Cup yesterday beating Utrecht in the Final. well done from all your friends at Celtic.

(Listen to one of the tracks from the album here but it was recorded at their 5th gig sometime ago so they have moved on and got much tighter as a band since then. Just to give you an idea!)

And so the trials and tribulations sorted The Bunch Of Bastards began to play live and picked up some nice support slots along the way before they released My Drinkin’ Ain’ Done their debut long player to an eager and awaiting public. Now Holland has some amazing bands like Circle J and LQR both of whom we have featured recently and the Dutch celtic-punk scene is famous for not solely sticking to celtic music allowing other genres and influences to seep in. Bunch Of Bastards keep it mainly celtic and punk though and is no poorer for it.

BOB3We get fourteen songs lasting exactly fifty minutes and like all the aforementioned bands its all brilliant stuff alright. From the first bars of opening song ‘Lucky Break’ the mandolin kicks it all off before the whole band join in and its great joyous sounding music even though the story is about one of life’s losers. ‘Back In The Day’ follows and ‘Middle of Nowhere’ and the pattern is forming. The music is fast and definitley on the folky side without being any less punk. Shouty vocals that fit in perfectly with gang choruses (that I especially loved) and the production is amazing. All the instruments are clear as crystal with Cor’s vocals over the top they have got everything just right here. We all here in England never cease to be amazed how well the Dutch speak English and here they sing in it as well as one or two English bands I could mention! The lyrics are all pretty damn cool as well. Mostly dealing with the downside of life but the music is never less than uplifting even if the tales sometimes aren’t! The first signs of that famous Dutch style is, unsurprisingly, next on ‘Katuska Kalashnikova’ where Andries lets his accordion do the talking and some great Russian/eastern European music seeps in. ‘Hey Barkeeper’. next and from the off its as catchy as hell, accordion and vocal led. The mix is great with the balance just right and fitting the Bunch Of Bastards sound perfectly. This is followed by ‘Sky Over Rotterdam’ which tells the moving and emotional story of the bombardment of Rotterdam by German planes during World War 2. Desperate to destroy the city and its manufacturing base hundreds of people per week starved to death or were killed in the bombing.

“The sky over Rotterdam is so peaceful now
But my old man, he still remembers how
That war made that sky such a restless place
And airplanes were never hard to trace
First them planes brought war, then they raised hopes high
And in the end, they dropped food from the sky
The sky, the sky, the sky, over Rotterdam”

The song celebrates the ending of the blockade and the allied food drops into the city that saved countless lives. The song is Andries Dad’s war time memories as a kid in Rotterdam. He wrote them down and Andries made them into first a booklet and later into this song so when I said it was moving and emotional you can bet it is. ‘Sing With Us Bastards’ sounds like a celtic-punk Toy Dolls and the humour is self evident. Not much of a story to this one but

“we are part time punks but full time folkies”

its a happy pint in the air moment before ‘Michael Malloy’ tells the true story of a homeless Irish man in New York who is famous for surviving a number of murder attempts on his life by five friends, who were attempting to commit life insurance fraud. Iron Mike (or Durable Mike) was originally from Donegal and was a fire fighter till he fell on hard times. After several attempts he was finally finished off but his murderers were caught and all bar one went to the electric chair.

“not easy to kill Michael Malloy, this tough Irish bloke was hard to destroy”

‘Run’n’Drink’ is another ode to the pint and the Bunch punk it up for this but you still get plenty of accordion for your ear holes. Not remembered much these days but Holland was very much a colonial power back in the day and like most of the European countries that dabbled in imperialism they have lots to be ashamed of. Don’t get me wrong though pretty much every country in the world has something that they are embarrassed to teach in schools. ‘The Dutch’ tells of their role in slavery in times past and smuggling in modern times. AS usual the Ruling Classes have a lot to answer for. They slow it right down for ‘Live Again’ and a beautiful song about a loved one slipping away. ‘Let’s Call It A Day’ again has a strong and positive message like a lot of the lyrics on My Drinkin’ Ain’t Done. We have all got pissed, nicked, left, beaten up etc., haven’t we but the pain soon goes and what better advice than

“head’s up tomorrow and you will be okay”

Catchy is not the word for ‘Many a Good Reason’ as again the Bunch give us a brilliant drinking song. The Dutch know plenty about the pleasures of alcohol and its celebrated here in song and ‘Many a Good Reason’ is as good as they get. Definitly one of the album highlights!

So fourteen songs and fifty minutes worth of quality celtic-punk comes to an end with the only cover and it’s a good one in both choice and execution. Traced back to the 17th century and made most famous by The Dubliners and later Thin Lizzy ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ is a classic Irish folk song and well deserving of its place too. Bunch Of Bastards give it plenty of oompf and bring the curtain down on the album very nicely indeed.

BOB UK TourWell what to say except we are not even half way through 2016 and already we have a tonne of fantastic album’s challenging for that coveted Album Of The Year award. Here is fifty minutes of some of the best celtic-punk you are going to hear this year I promise you. Now for the good (and bad) news. Bunch Of Bastards are heading over to England in early May but the bad news is they are sadly not coming to London. You can still catch them playing three gigs around Hampshire and Shropshire. They play 5th May at The Vaults in Bishops Castle, 6th May at Percys in Whitchurch and 7th May at The Bear in Bridgnorth. The support for all gigs will be Paul Henshaw and friends so if you fancy a few days away in a lovely part of the country then there’s your chance. I just might join you! 

Buy The Album

FromTheBand (merchandise page) or e-mail info@bunchofbastards.nl

Contact The Band

Facebook  WebSite  Soundcloud  YouTube

(great and very interesting interview with Andries and Peter from the band here)

ALBUM REVIEW: ANTO MORRA-’16’ (2016)

London Irish Folk Punk

Anto16

Somewhere between the Pogues and Ian Dury with perhaps a dash of Madness.
The ever prolific Anto Morra returns with this sixteen track album tribute to the 1916 Easter Rising. In the 100th Anniversary year of the Rising their have been many books and musical tributes paid to that heroic act and I have to say that ’16’ is up there with the best of them. For those that don’t know the Easter Rising took place in April 1916 in Dublin and is one of the most important events in Irish history. It was an attempt to win independence from the United Kingdom by force of arms. Lasting only a few days from April 24 to April 30 around 1500 members of the Irish Volunteers, led by school teacher Pádraig Pearse, joined by the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly, seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic independent of Britain. They called on the Irish people to rise up and follow them but their call fell on death ears and they were quickly crushed by the huge police and government forces sent against them. For nearly a week Dublin was paralysed by street fighting before British artillery bombardments finally compelled Pearse and his colleagues to surrender. Sixty-four rebels were killed during the fighting, along with 134 troops and policeman and at least 200 civilians were injured in the crossfire. James Connolly whilst dying from shrapnel in his chest was carried on a stretcher to the courtyard in the prison and after confessing his sins to a priest and receiving communion he was shot while tied to a chair to stop him falling out of it. When asked by the priest would he forgive the men who were about to shoot him, James Connolly replied
“I will pray for all men who do their duty according to their lights [conscience]. Forgive them father, for they know not what they do”.
After only six days the Rising was over and fifteen leaders were court-martialed and executed at Kilmainham Jail in Dublin. A sixteenth, Eamon de Valera, was saved from a death sentence because he was an American citizen. The executions caused a wave of revulsion against the British and turned the dead republican leaders into martyred heroes. Despite its military failure, the Rising was a significant stepping-stone in the eventual creation of the Irish Republic. These men would soon prove to become an inspiration to the next wave of freedom fighters in the War Of Independence who would eventually force the British Empire to it’s knees.

ProclamationThe tradition of rebel music in Ireland dates back many centuries, dealing with events such as the various uprisings over the years, the hardships of living under oppressive British rule, but also strong sentiments of solidarity, loyalty, determination, as well as praise of valiant heroes. Though not confined to Ireland it can be said that the Irish have mastered the art of oral history in song and rebel songs are a massive part of that history.

Anto’s album contains sixteen tracks that include some surprising inclusions as well as as some of his own compositions. He is accompanied on several songs by his great friend Tim Chipping on mandola and banjo but for the most part this is pure Anto. Pure London Irish folk punk as Anto puts it himself. Raised in west London by Irish parents his formative years were as a punk rocker floating from band to band and dole cheque to dole cheque in Thatcher’s Britain. Moving from the rat-race of London to the quiet of the Norfolk countryside Anto began to further explore his Irish roots by joining Whirligig, a four-piece ceilidh dance band. In 2013 he left the band after ten years and decided to concentrate on his songwriting and solo performances.

16 begins with the first of Anto’s compositions the ballad ‘Blood On The Shamrock And The Rose’ and is the story of the feelings that the war in Ireland evoked on both sides. Hatred is never a good thing and for the those of us would like to see a united Ireland sooner rather than later hate is not the way to achieve it. A truly great anti-sectarian anthem. This is followed by Kelly From Killane. Made famous in the past by The Dubliners and more recently Damien Dempsey and written by the influential poet Patrick Joseph McCall (1861–1919) about John Kelly who fought in the 1798 Rebellion. He was one of the leaders of the victory over the English at the Battle of New Ross, but was later captured from his bed and hanged and decapitated by British soldiers on June 22, 1798. A up tempo version more akin to Damo’s version. Anto is unaccompanied on ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ a ballad written by Robert Dwyer Joyce (1836–1883). A beautiful tragic song telling of a young man doomed to fight and die in the 1798 rebellion spending his last moments with his loved one. ‘The Rising Of The Moon’ follows and is one of the most covered of all Irish songs and is again based on the 1798 rebellion. One of my personal favourites is up next. hearing this for the first time on one of my Grandad’s old records. ‘Down By The Glenside’ tells of a old woman of around the time of the 1916 Rising recalling her youth.

“Some died by the glenside, some died near a stranger
And wise men have told us their cause was a failure
But they fought for old Ireland and never feared danger
Glory O, Glory O, to the bold Fenian men”

A somewhat modern classic is up next with ‘Back Home In Derry’. A song written by Bobby Sands who was the leader of the Irish Republican Army prisoners in the Maze Prison and led the infamous hunger strikes of both 1980 and 1981 which would eventually lead to his death on the 5th of May 1981. Before he died Bobby was elected as an MP to the British parliament gaining 30,492 votes which dwarfed the votes his many enemies (including Thatcher) had received in that parliament who called him a criminal. He borrowed the tune from Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ for his tale of a young Irish rebel being transported to Australia. Covered by many artists including Christy Moore and Neck it’s a beautiful song and all the more tragic that Bobby’s light was extinguished so early. ‘Wasted Life’ follows and its a brilliant version of the Belfast band Stiff Little Fingers punk rock hit from the late 70’s. Taken from what I think is the best punk rock album of all-time Inflammable Material.

Fast and emotion filled and over in a flash and Anto sings next of an emigrant thinking of his home in ‘Charleville’ in north Cork. ‘Song For Ireland’ is another classic beautiful song. Made a hit in the 70’s it was  written by an English couple, Phil and June Colclough, and was inspired by a trip they took to the Dingle Peninsula. It has been recorded by Mary Black, Dick Gaughan, Barleycorn and Clannad to name but a few.

“Dreaming in the night
I saw a land where no one had to fight
But waking in your dawn
I saw you crying in the morning light
While lying where the falcons fly
They twist and turn all in your air-blue sky”

‘Only Our Rivers Run Free’ is another personal favourite of mine and the title is self explanatory. Mickey MacConnell wrote the song in 1973 and it became a huge hit for both Christy Moore and Irish living legends The Wolfe Tones. Never has Anto sounded better but then straight away he goes one better with ‘Paddy’s Lamentation’. A song written during the American Civil War era about an injured Irish soldier fighting for the Union who dreams of returning to Ireland. ‘The Merry Ploughboy’ is known wherever you’ll ever find an Irish person from the terraces of Celtic Park to bars and clubs though out the world. It’s the first of two consecutive songs written by the great Dominic Behan (1928-1989), brother of writer Brendan. Both were committed socialist’s and republican’s and were among the most influential Irish artists of the 20th century. Anto gives it plenty of ‘ooompf’ and sings with gusto for one of the few, especially on this album(!), joyous and uplifting songs on this album.

“And when the war is over, and dear old Ireland is free
I’ll take her to the church to wed and a rebel’s wife she’ll be
Well some men fight for silver and some men fight for gold
But the I.R.A. are fighting for the land that the Saxons stole”

Definitely one of those songs that gets the blood racing and would get even yer most avid ‘west-brit’ up on a bar stool baring his chest and belting out his lungs. We are back to more serious matters next with ‘The Patriot Game’. One of the most tragic songs ever written about the war in Ireland and also contains some of the most savage put downs you’ll ever hear of the

“quislings who sold out the patriot game”

Telling of Fergal O’Hanlon, from Monaghan who was killed at the young age of just 20 in an attack on a British Army barracks on New Years Day in 1957. Another volunteer, Seán South, was also killed during the raid. ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ is an upbeat Irish classic, an incredibly fast-paced 19th century song about a Irish man’s experiences as he travels to Liverpool from his home in Tuam in Ireland. A live favourite of Anto’s he performs the song accompanied only on the bodhran. Written by D.K. Gavan, known as ‘The Galway Poet’, for the English music hall performer Harry Clifton who made the song famous.

Another live favourite of Anto’s is up next with ‘The Foggy Dew’ perhaps the best and most widely known, and covered, of songs about the 1916 Rising. It was written by a Catholic priest, Canon Charles O’Neill (1887-1963), sometime after 1919. The song encourages Irishmen to fight for the cause of Ireland, rather than for Britain, as so many young men were doing in World War 1. The most famous version of which is by the The Chieftains and Sinead O’Connor to which The Dropkick Murphys have been taking to the stage for the last decade. With nearly an hour on the clock 16 finally comes to an end with Anto’s song, his own ‘Green, White And Gold’. Anto’s take on the 1916 Rising is well worthy of its place here amongst some of the best Irish songs ever written.

16 is released next week as a limited edition digipack gatefold CD on St Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2016. The cover art, as on all Anto’s releases is by the famous London Irish artist Brian Whelan. It is more than refreshing to hear these songs sung in a London Irish accent as I noticed that even in my head I was singing along in a Irish accent! Anto is a unique talent with an ability to tell a story in a way that grabs you and forces you to listen. Famed for his wordplay and the way he manages to inject the spirit of punk rock into his acoustic folk he has taken these famous songs and re-told them in a way accessible to everyone. One of the most moving things about this album is surprisingly not one of the songs but the small tribute on the record sleeve that I will end the review with.

“This album is dedicated to my Dad Edward Anthony Morrissey and my Grandfather Daniel Forde. Both brave Irish men who fought for the British and survived World War 1, World War 2 and the Korean War and always dreamt of an united Ireland”

Buy The Album

E-Bay (CD)  FromAnto (Download)

Contact Anto Morra

Facebook  Reverbnation  Twitter  Bandcamp

Pogues at WRYou can pick up a copy of 16 at the official record release show on St Patrick’s Day at The Water Rats in Kings Cross where Anto will be supporting the #1 Pogues tribute band The Pogue Traders well into the early hours. This is the same venue where The Pogues played their first ever gig so come along and be part of history! Tickets are only £7 and are available in advance from here and you can find all the details including set times nearer the date here on the Facebook event page.

  • we have much much more musings in the Anto Morra vaults here if you would like to catch up with them.

HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC

By Erik Devaney

During the 19th-century, song-smiths in southern Appalachia, who had absorbed African rhythms from local slave populations, began fusing these rhythms with elements of celtic folk music, thus forming the basis of the country music genre.

The influence of Celtic folk music in the South began before the start of the American Revolution. As early as 1717, waves of Scots-Irish immigrants were pouring into North America. By 1790, 3 million of these immigrants called America home. The Scots-Irish, also known as Scotch-Irish or Ulster-Scots, were Presbyterian Scots who had previously settled in Ulster as a result of Britain’s plan for a Protestant plantation in Ireland.

Separate waves of Scottish immigration to North America occurred starting in 1725 as a result of the Highland Clearances, while Irish Catholics would not arrive on the scene in great numbers until 1847: a result of the so called ‘famine. Despite their ideological differences, these Scottish and Irish immigrants shared a Celtic musical tradition, which employed many of the same techniques for playing, composing and arranging music. These techniques had a profound influence on that ‘country sound’ we are familiar with today.

SOUND STRATEGIES
cap
The Vocal Harmony Hoe-Down
When two or more singers sing in harmony, or harmonize, the notes they sing are different, while the resulting sound they produce is unified and, typically, pleasing to the ears. Of course, the Irish and Scottish didn’t invent the concept of harmony, but they did have a tradition of using it in group sing-a-long settings. Gaelic-speakers in the Old World were distilling and drinking moonshine and crooning harmoniously, the perfect accompaniment for a bit of Poitín, well before Appalachian ‘hillbillies’ began carrying on the tradition in the New World.

Like their Celtic musician forefathers,  country musicians often employ vocal harmonies in the choruses, or repeated portions, of songs. This strategy helps stress the importance and increase the forcefulness of the choruses while also separating them sound-wise from the verses. Check out the use of vocal harmonies in the choruses of Okie from Muskogee by Merle Haggard and compare it to the use of harmonies in the choruses of the Celtic song, Mairi’s Wedding, as performed by The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem.

Enter The Drone
If you find that some country or Celtic songs have hypnotic qualities to them, mesmerizing you as you listen, this phenomenon could be the result of a drone. A drone is a note or chord that sounds continuously throughout most, if not all, of a song, providing an underlying, trance-like accompaniment for the song’s melody. Musicians can create drones vocally or with virtually any pitch-controlled instrument. Country musicians, such as  fiddlers and slide-guitarists, adopted droning from Scottish and Irish settlers, who were accustomed to producing drones with fiddles as well as bagpipes.
Listen for the drone in Fiddlin’ John Carson’s song, He Rambled, and compare it to the drone in the Scottish march, The Campbells Are Coming.
LYRICAL CONTENT
Scottish-Irish settlement in America

Scottish-Irish settlement in America

The Sob Story

Listen to a country music radio station long enough and you will hear a sob story: a song about a father abandoning his son (see Walk A Little Straighter Daddy by Billy Currington), a song about a woman abandoning her man (see When I Call Your Name by Vince Gill) or, worst of all, a song about a boyfriend dumping his girlfriend and then letting his new girlfriend drive his pick-up truck, something he never let the old girlfriend do (see Picture To Burn by Taylor Swift). The nerve of that guy, really, what a plum.
Singing sorrowfully about the heartbreaks we suffer in life may not have been a distinctively Irish or Scottish creation, but Irish and Scottish immigrants certainly brought a tradition of sob stories with them when they showed up on the shores of Amerikay. Subject matter included longing for love (see Black Is The Colour), losing children (see The Wife of Usher’s Well) and leaving behind a troubled home only to encounter new troubles abroad (see By The Hush).

The Drinking Song

Before Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet sang It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, before Tracy Byrd sang Ten Rounds With José Cuervo and before Brad Paisley sang the utilitarian-titled Alcohol, Celtic musicians were singing drinking songs that put forth similar, contradictory messages: alcohol is evil (see Whiskey, You’re The Devil), but drinking it can be comforting and a quite joyous experience (see Beer, Beer Beer). Homer Simpson summed up the lyrical style of Celtic/country drinking songs beautifully when he toasted
“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”
INSTRUMENTATION
The Fantastic Mr. Fiddle
fiddleThe use of the fiddle in country music pre-dates the use of the guitar. To clarify, a fiddle is, physically, the same instrument as a violin. The difference is perception: most classical violinists get offended when you call them fiddlers, as they consider fiddling to be an informal, inferior type of playing… what a bunch of jerks.
Scottish and Irish immigrants brought fiddles with them to North America and successive generations in the South morphed their Celtic jigs and reels into tunes of their own. Many of the founding fathers of country music, such as Fiddlin’ John Carson, mentioned above, and Eck Robertson, were solo fiddlers. Apart from bringing fiddles and fiddle music to the American South, the Scottish and Irish brought highly energetic and interactive dancing styles to accompany fiddling, which formed the basis for country square dancing.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Banjo
banjoThe banjo does not have Celtic origins.
African slaves brought the tradition of building banjos with them when they were transported to the New World; a tradition that required stretching strings across animal-skin drums.
However, when musically-inclined inhabitants of the Appalachians got their hands on banjos, they used them to play the fiddle tunes that they had learned from the Scottish and Irish.
The plot thickens: in the 19th century, banjos crossed the Atlantic, for a second time, and musicians in Ireland and Scotland began incorporating the African/American instruments into traditional Celtic music. The The Dubliners are a great example of a Celtic folk band that adopted the banjo.

Further Reading:
Ceolas: Celtic Music Instruments
Thanks For The Music: The Fiddle in Country Music
BluegrassBanjo.org: History of the Banjo
Who Are The Scotch Irish?

* Erik ran a fantastic web-site called ‘The Bard Of Boston’ which you can check out here even though he stopped publishing a few years back I hope you stick check it out  as some of the articles are extremely interesting and Erik is never dull. You can contact Erik here via his web-site.

EP REVIEW: THE NARROWBACKS- ‘After Hours’ (2015)

New York Irish music.
THE NARROWBACKS- 'After Hours' (2015)

(left to right) Seamus Keane- Vocals, Barry Walsh- Banjo/Mandolin, Pat Keane- Button Accordion, Chris Moran- Drums, Fionn Mcelligott- Guitar. Anthony Chen Bass

nar·row·back /ˈnæroʊˌbæk/ [nar-oh-bak]
–noun Slang.
1. Disparaging. an Irish-American.
2. a person of slight build who is unfit for hard labour
I’ve had the chance to go into the history of the American Irish plenty of times and in a country built on immigration it is the Irish in particular that built the foundations of that great country in spite of racism, intimidation and oppression. In the years following the Irish community stayed true to their roots and still exist in numerous pockets (though you would be hard pressed to call them ghettos these days!) and in every city, town and village in the United States. Just like the Irish elsewhere one of the main things that has kept the community strong has been the role of the pub and the most important aspect of the pub after the obvious one is of course music. It has been music that has kept our traditions flowing from generation to generation. The Irish in America have never felt the need to apologise for their beliefs and what they believe and The Narrowbacks are the latest in a long line of bands that have contributed to passing on those traditions to the next generation. Lead singer Seamus Keane explains the bands heritage.
“My father is one of 11 from Connemara, from the Irish speaking section, My mom was born in Queens and moved back to Clare. They met in the Bronx, moved up to Pearl River, and had six kids, including my brother Pat on the button accordion. Chris Moran on drums and Mike Moran (since left the band) on bass are Irish American brothers as well”
Formed in 2010 The Narrowbacks were the brainchild of a bartender and banker who wanted to inject a punk rock attitude into an old-time Irish folk group. They released a stand out album back in 2013 called ‘Fire It Up’ which contained a host of original compositions and a smattering of covers. Their choice of covers ranged from the popular to the less than well known and show a band in touch with their and their communities history. Like so many of us it was Shane and The Pogues that inspired us to dig into our family’s record collections and find the original recordings of those Pogues songs.
“Obviously, we come from the tradition of the Pogues. So many of us hated Irish music growing up until you hear Shane, and it creates this gateway to Irish music. Then you reach back into things like The Clancy Brothers and Luke Kelly to see what influenced Shane.”
Having shared the stage with just about al the big hitters in celtic-punk, the Molly’s, the Murphy’s, Black 47, Gogol Bordello, Mahones, Tossers and even The Rubberbandits when they washed up in New York!
IrishAmerica
In a music scene where its not uncommon for celtic-punk bands to include All-Ireland medal winners in their ranks those early days must have been intimidating for The Narrowbacks but over the years they have matured into a band that can comfortably take its place on any stage and in front of any audience. Currently on tour promoting their recently released EP ‘After Hours’ and in preparation to begin recording for their follow up album due out in the next few months. The EP’s five songs were recorded at Audio Pilot Studios in Boonton, NJ with Rob Freeman and a quick glance at the list of musicians who guested on the EP speaks volumes for how highly thought off they are. Joe Mulvanerty of the sadly missed NYC legends Black 47 on uilleann pipes, Andrew McCarrick of Jamesons Revenge on tin whistle and flute and Katie Linnane of Broken Banjo Strings on fiddle all contribute greatly to proceedings.

What you get is four punked up takes of Irish ballads and one recording of a pissed up drunken after hours sing song in a bar in the Bronx. The EP begins with ‘Star of the County Down’ one of the more common trad covers you are likely to hear but given The Narrowbacks superb treatment it comes up shiny and fresh. Simply brilliant from the first note and I’m sitting here listening to it imagining myself going off my head in some New York hostelry. The band have nailed a sound that is as home in the pub or the home. There is simply not enough uilleann piping in celtic punk and Joe is on fire here with his superb playing. This is followed swiftly by the ‘Rising of the Moon’. The song recounts a battle between the United Irishmen and the British Army in the rebellion of 1798.
“Death to every foe and traitor
Whistle loud the marching tune
And hurrah, me boys for freedom
‘Tis the rising of the moon”
Following is perhaps the most famous song in Irish history the ‘Fields of Athenry’. It wasn’t always so and I remember this song most for being on an album called ‘Irish Songs Of Freedom’ belonging to the auld fella. Over the years this beautiful song has been adopted by Irish sports fans as well as Celtic supporters and if I tell you that the version The Narrowbacks play is the one you’re most likely to hear at Celtic Park then I am sure there’s a good few of you will know what I mean!!
“By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters Mary when you’re free,
Against the Famine and the Crown
I rebelled they ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity”
The song tells of a young man transported to Australia for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. It is only fitting that this song should become a national treasure but what does come as a suprise to most people is that it was written in the 1970’s by Pete St.John. The last ‘proper’ song is ‘The Patriot Game’ and is sang as a rousing ballad rather than the bands usual fired up celtic-punk. The history of Ireland in song and the heroic death of Fergal O’Hanlon. Written by Dominic Behan and made popular by The Dubliners.
“And now as I lie here, my body all holes,
I think of those traitors who bargained in souls,
And I wish that my rifle had given the same,
To those Quislings who sold out the patriot game”
Certainly one of the most hitting rebel songs ever wrote. The EP ends with ‘Aqueduct, 4:15am’ which is the band and their mates raving it up after a night on the lash. The sort of track you’d give your wages to get on! Can’t wait to hear the new album and if it continues in the same vein as ‘Fire It Up’ and ‘After Hours’ then the bhoys will have a surefire hit on their hands. With the sad retirement of Black 47 it certainly looks like the NYC Irish have found the band to represent them.
The Narrowbacks: American First, Irish Always.
(you can have a listen to the bhoys official bootleg ‘Live At The Stone Pony’ in New York city below by pressing play on the Bandcamp player)
Buy The EP
FromTheBand  iTunes  Amazon  cdBaby
Contact The Band

PREPARE YOUR LIVERS FOR THE WORSE LONDON! COMING SOON…

Sorry if you don’t live in London but if you do you lucky souls are in for a cracking weekend from December 11th to the 13th!

2nights

FRIDAY 11th DECEMBER 2015

NECKHennesseysIRISH MUSIC FOR PALESTINE
BENEFIT CONCERT FOR ‘VOICE OF GAZA’
We are proud to announce a benefit gig in aid of the Palestinian charity ‘Voices For Gaza’
We have lined up some of the best Irish acts around for you with the marvellous BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS set to headline. They are simply the best band in the Irish scene in London.Best described as “The Clash on Irish steroids”. NECK are the original celtic-punk band. Taking The Pogues and The Clash and The Dubliners as a starting point they invented their own genre ‘Psycho-Ceilidh’ and have toured the world spreading the London Irish message to the masses and ANTO MORRA a singer-songwriter of great standing. Anto (real name Anthony Morrissey) was raised in London by Irish parents, and this background provides a theme that runs throughout his fantastic music. Three fantastic acts representing the London Irish community and Neck and The Bible Codes haven’t taken the stage together since the days of The Galtymore so you’rein for a rare treat.
Tickets are £10 in advance with no extra fees. All money going to ‘Voices For Gaza’. Get your ticket from here. Official Facebook event here.

The gig is being held at Hennesseys Bar, 399 Northolt Road, South Harrow, HA2 8JE. Nearest tube is South Harrow on the Picadilly line so come out of the train station and turn left and walk approx 500 metres.
Buses galore but 140, 487, 258 stop directly outside the bar. Live music is from 7-30pm till 11-15pm and last tube is around 11-45pm so people can get back to central London.
…but for those that stay our special guest DJ MR GREENFORD BHOY will be spinning the best in Irish rebel folk rock and more till the early hours.

Voice Of Gaza (VOG) project, is helping young Gazan female students to overcome trauma through writing about their experiences. They will participate in a 2 year programme learning all aspects of English, so their voices can reach out into the world. VOG has no tuition fees, to enable any student access to the project. Abedalrahman Elderawi has established an Educational Non-Profit Center in Gaza. This programme will give these young people:
The tools they need to become more effective writers and speakers
The platform to help their expressions reach the larger world
Build their character as future leaders able to speak eloquently for the Palestinian people
Enhancing their spiritual side through music and arts, while also helping them cope with the trauma of war and occupation.
Voice Of Gaza Facebook page here.
If you can’t make the gig feel free to still buy a ticket to support the great work ‘Voice Of Gaza’ are doing or go to the Go Fund Me page here and leave a donation.

SUNDAY 13TH DECEMBER 2015

POGUETHE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS /URBANKELT CHRISTMAS PISSUP BASH

On October 4th back in 1982 something happened that would forever change peoples lives and perceptions. A band called THE POGUES took the stage in an iconic old venue in Kings Cross and the rest as they say is history!
with THE POGUES run of yearly Christmas shows seemingly ended we know you all miss a good auld Pogues yuletide pissup so hows about the UK’s Number One Pogues tribute band THE POGUE TRADERS live at the very venue that The Pogues actually had their first ever gig!
And its not just a marketing ploy to describe them as the UK’s best Pogues tribute band – that’s what The Pogues own drummer Andrew Ranken said about THE POGUE TRADERS ably supported by COMRADE X one man whirlwind of numerous influences and traditions best described as “Woody Guthrie meets Oi!”. One geezer, one guitar, three chords and the truth. ANTO MORRA is back again. A singer-songwriter of great standing. Anto (real name Anthony Morrissey) was raised in London by Irish parents, and this background provides a theme that runs throughout his music. In the best tradition Luke Kelly, Brendan Behan and Shane himself.
and all at the historic music venue The Water Rats at 328 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8BZ. Situated just a couple of minutes walk from Kings Cross station so perfect for loads of rail and tube links and with the music set to finish around 11-30pm you will be able to get back to anywhere in London or further afield.
The bar will stay open a little longer and we will have MR GREENFORD BHOY dj’ing all your favourite celtic-punk, Irish, Punk and rebel tunes until we are shown the door.
Admission is only a fiver so you’ll already be saving £30 on the real band! Tickets are available from here. Official Facebook event here.

So prepare your livers… and your wallets and see you there!

P.S we will have the new London Celtic Punks t-shirts (and Badges) available so bring plenty of cash wont you. They will make great Christmas presents.

EP REVIEW: THE MOORINGS- ‘Nicky’s Detox’ (2014)

Five piece celtic-punk band from Sélestat in France.

As recommended by Eamon Campbell of The Dubliners!

The Moorings

Now while not quite a ‘Classic’ we only just came across this excellent EP recently. Released last December so its been out almost a year but as they say “good things come to those that wait” and we are delighted to have found it eventually. Been fans of The Moorings for a couple of years and they released a brilliant album, ‘Pints And Glory’, back in 2011 that was a great mix of mostly Irish traditional songs and a smattering of original compositions. Here though the band have released an EP of five original tracks that clock in at over sixteen minutes and each and every song is a absolute belter!

In case you are wondering about that ‘as recommended by The Dubliners’ bit here is what the great and legendary Eamon Campbell had to say about The Moorings.

The Moorings

“Since we 1st played a festival with The Moorings last Summer 12 months I’ve been a huge fan.
They’re like a cross between The Pogues, The Dubliners and themselves.
In other words they’re unique they’ve got their own individual sound whilst incorporating other influences of an Irish/punk style.
I’m’ gonna let y’all in on a”secret” it’s been my great wish to produce a CD for them-well we all have dreams don’t we?”

The EP begins with ‘A Lush On A Lash’ (complete with superb video below) that shows the band at their catchiest with great fiddle from Ann and vocals that fit the music perfectly from DPhil. In fact you could easily mistake The Moorings for a North American band as both the music and the vocals have that feel. ‘A Lush On The Lash’ is the tale of a woman and her descent into alcoholism.

“A lush on the lash
Every night in Neala’s life is just like a Saturday night
Under snow or rain to her it’s never vain to crawl to the clubs in town
At first a bar fly by the local bar to start the evenin’ on the right foot
Then a mess on the street straining at the leash to carry on the bash ‘til dawn”

‘Marie D’la Madeleine’ follows and is sung in French so I can’t tell you what it’s about but the bands home influences come out in this accordion led track. Dphils vocals seem more gruff singing in his native language and the electric guitar sounds great. Another real toe tapper. Now to the song that really raised interest in the band. ‘Shandon Bells’ which features Frankie McLaughlin of The Rumjacks on joint vocals. With The Rumjacks leading the way in the scene and on the verge of breaking through its fantastic to see the Bhoys helping out other bands in the scene. Having met Frankie at their London gig I can confirm what a decent fella he and the rest of the Rumjacks are. The song itself is classic celtic-punk with all yer usual instruments clashing together. Not a cover as first thought but, and I may be committing sacrilege here, it wipes the floor with the old traditional song. A great sound not unlike The Dropkick Murphys with fiddle, electric guitar and gang vocals and lyrics about Irish emigration to America.

‘Encore’ is another song sung in French so I guess you’ll have to find out yourselves what it’s about but a good guess would be drinking or women or maybe both. A sea shanty(ish) accordion led ballad with, again, Dphil’s great vocals standing out. To be a true great in the celtic-punk scene bands need to master the ballad as well as the ‘rock-out’ and this beautiful song shows clearly The Moorings have mastered it.

The EP ends with ‘Nicky’s Detox’ a brilliant instrumental that takes in influences as diverse as bluegrass and country alongside Irish folk and an absolutely brilliant song and a brilliant way to end the record. My only complaint would be that the song comes to a bit of an abrupt end and is over way too soon.

Sadly this EP can’t be entered into the ‘Best EP OF 2015’ but I am certain if I had heard it in time it would easily made the Top Five of last year. Five powerful songs all written by the band that show the range of styles in their repertoire and with an album due out at the beginning of 2016 it looks like next year will already be a good year for celtic-punk!

(you can listen to the whole of ‘Nickys Detox’ for free before buying by simply clicking play on the Bandcamp player below)

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INTERVIEW WITH THE RATHMINES FROM BERLIN

The Rathmines

Firstly, can you tell how you guys decided on your name?

Oh, we had a short phase in which we brainstormed about naming our band, shouting out names at random. Somebody suggested The Sporting Jennies, another said: Let’s search the lyrics of the songs for something. But our accordion-player remained silent – and when we finally stopped shouting he said: The Rathmines. Why? ‘Cause he had lived there a while ago while in Dublin. He liked it there very much and had heard stories about it being the artist’s borough and so on… So we said: Okay, even Berlin has bands naming themselves after boroughs of the city (like Pankow for instance). Why shouldn’t we? With that we’re paying respect to a part of Dublin, the past of one of our band members – and we have all the people in Germany constantly asking: What does that mean? How do you pronounce it? What is this? – And it sounds sooooo cool, don’t you think?

(left to right) Marcus - Bass, Vocals; Rene - Cajon; Egidio - Accordion; Martin - Guitar, Vocals

(left to right) Marcus – Bass, Vocals; Rene – Cajon; Egidio – Accordion; Martin – Guitar, Vocals

When did the band form and what inspired you to start the band?

Text?

The bass-player, Marcus, and the singer/guitar-player Martin had a band called Stainless Bones, which kind of broke apart in 2011. We two attended a Pogues-concert in August 2012 , wanting to see Shane for at least one time before he kicked the bucket. Afterwards we sang (or maybe: growled) Irish Folk in the underground on our way home. As we got off the train, a guy approached us asking: You guys make music? So we met our accordion-player, Egidio. He had attended the same concert and rode the same train. The three of us exchanged numbers and decided to focus on Irish Folk which we all liked very much. Some obstacles had to be overcome (Egidio forgot his cell in a cab that very night, so for a while we heard nothing of him and he couldn’t be reached), but we managed to play some small gigs in Berlin. On a gig in January 2013 we found out that a friend of ours, René, had played punk drums years ago. We offered him a Cajon and he agreed. Hence: The Rathmines completed.

Describe your music in three words?

Stolen Songs (of) Struggle

There’s so very much to say right here. We kind of ‘stole’ our material for the most from The Dubliners, The Pogues, Clancy Brothers – from your rich and colourful history and culture. And even when we produce our own stuff, it’s assembled with bits and parts of the tradition of folk, country, rock, blues and punk that already exists. What we do is mostly songs, telling stories of tragedies, wishes, longings, achievements, fights and fates. And struggle? We struggle with the instruments, stages, lights, electricity, audiences, landlords, bartenders, pints, cigarettes, ashtrays, cabs, each other… the audiences struggles with us and among themselves… and the material speaks of struggles way across centuries, ringing on to this very day, and we try to connect them with present struggles. For still the oppressed are fighting their state of existence. You see them when you open the news… We’d like to be one of their voices.

Have you guys ever played in Rathmines, and if the answer is no, why the hell not?

Egidio has. The rest of us? Well, frankly, we lack the means and, yet, the courage. Although we once played ‘The Fields Of Athenry’ in a very small venue in Berlin and afterwards a guy walked up and said: “Hi, I’m David, I’m from Athenry. Can I get you something to drink?” That was kind of the knightly accolade for us, you know? We’re slowly building up the confidence (and band fund) to come. In fact, we were planning a trip to Dublin this summer, but due to money problems we had to put it on ice for now. Would you like to invite us? We’d love to put in the travel costs, if Rathmines offered beds and meals and drinks. 😉

Tell us who are all the members of the band and where are you all from?

Okay, who we have here?

– Marcus – plays bass, acoustic as well as electric, and sings the second voice in many of the songs. He was born and raised in Eastern Berlin (GDR) and works as a nursery school teacher.

– Egidio – plays the accordion. He’s from Italy, was raised partly in Kassel, Germany, and travelled a lot more than the rest of us Europe-wide. He’s currently jobbing his way around Berlin for the summer but usually works in sales.

– René – plays the Cajon – he regularly gets the most attention for doing what he does. Everybody is astonished by what he can do with his hands on a box. He’s also from the GDR, Brandenburg – that’s kind of the landscape surrounding the city limits of Berlin (we tease him by calling him peasant). He works in an Internet Gaming Company.

– Martin – does the singing and plays the guitars. Occasionally he tries to tin-whistle some tunes. He’s the third born and raised in the GDR, Eastern-Berlin, and works as an accountant and employee representative.

The Rathmines

What was it about The Pogues that got you guys inspired??

Who told you that we got inspired by… oh, okay, got us there, we did. Well, looking at the folk scene in Germany it becomes obvious that it’s not very – vivid in the area of Irish Folk. Something like The Pogues have been missing since the eighties. They were very big around these parts… I personally got to know them by my obsession with Tom Waits. His biography stated that he was a big fan of The Pogues and used to hang out with them. So naturally I thought, hey, might be worth it to look these guys up. The rest’s history… And since we got together after a Pogues concert – that’s fate, right? And their ‘Streams of Whiskey’ comes in handy when we decide to arouse the audience, shake the house, break the floorboards and tear the roof down on our heads… Let’s face it: Shane MacGowan is one of the best songwriters in history – and it’s doing his songs a favour singing them yourself rather them hear them be sung by him nowadays…

What is the biggest and smallest gig you guys have played??

Oh we never did small gigs, you know? It’s all about the attitude… In fact our biggest gig was just the other weekend in a little town south of Berlin called Jüterbog. We had been there a couple of times playing so called Pub Nights – 6 hours of playing for an audience that was barely listening the first 3 hours and kept yelling for more and louder and faster songs the other 3. This time we were invited to do the music to accompany an open air communal drinking orgy called ‘Irre Irisch’. We entertained roughly 250 people in a farm yard over 4 hours or so. A little concerned about the weather – but the only time a little rain fell was while we played ‘Rainy Night in Soho’. Lovely coincidence. The hardest gig lately was our trip to a pretrial detention jail to play for a hundred inmates – sitting there with folded arms and frowns on their faces for 45 minutes and freaking out during the last 2 or 3 songs for no special reason. Just before the concert two guards got in a fight and one lost a tooth. You can imagine the mood and the vibes in that place. The smallest gigs are usually the little private party concerts we do for friends or colleagues. Birthdays, weddings, divorces, anniversaries of any kind – we’re not too shy to get close and acoustic and intimate. Our best shows we naturally do in pubs of course. Last year we did a tour through the middle of Germany and played in Weimar in a shed called the Smugglers Pub. Really nice. So we played a couple of hours, had a couple of drinks and decided to lift the mood with the wonderful song about the British Army. You know? “When I was young I used to be…” And this song ends of course with a hearty “Fuck The British Army!!!” So we do it and afterwards a guy arises in the back of the pub, comes up to us, reaches in his pocket and holds a military ID in front of our gin-soaked eyes and says in a low-down intimidating voice: “British army.” – – – Silence. – – – We kind of apologized and laughed insecurely. He sat down with his friend and stayed for the rest of the night, sometime glancing at us with unfriendly eyes. Lucky there weren’t a dozen of them that night…

Have you ever played in Ireland at all?

No, except for Egidio. See question 4. But since this is the second time you ask, we consider that a serious invitation now. So expect to see us soon. No, sincerely, we’d love to as soon as we can manage. After all it’s kind of our Mecca, you know?

Favourite song to play at a gig and why?

Oh, depends on what you are trying to do. To get them stomping? ‘Drunken Sailor’. To get them dancing? ‘The Irish Washerwoman’. To shake down the house? ‘Streams of Whiskey’. To get them to sway to and fro? ‘The Wild Rover’. To show off? Our own stuff. To get them drinking? All of them. But you have to know that every song requires the right timing and moment to work as intended. It’s a guess every night. And fortunately every band member has his own little secret favourite he tries to push to a prominent place on the set list. Now that I think about it, ‘Leaving of Liverpool’ must be the one song that very close to a hundred percent of the times worked, was well received by every audience and was welcomed to be played by every member of the band on every occasion. It just has something to it… and not many popular bands have done it since The Dubliners.

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ALBUM REVIEW: MALASAÑERS- ‘Spanish Eyes’ (2015)

a collection of working class madrileño musicians with the requisite Irish soul needed to bring traditional Irish folk music with modern influences to life.

Malasaners- 'Spanish Eyes' (2015)

This debut album from Malasañers is as good a debut album as you’re ever likely to hear or have heard in celtic-punk circles.The band are named after a district of Madrid in Spain and while two of the band are from Spain the rest are German and the whole band now reside’s in Germany completely. From the very first spin this album hit the spot for me. With thirteen tracks and clocking in at just under forty minutes Wolverine Records have released an excellent record here. The album was recorded in both Germany and Spain and the production is crystal clear and everything from the vocals to the various instruments in play are all combined to produce a perfect sound.

Malasaners

I first came across them on the superb four-band compilation double album ‘Welcome To The Folk Punk Show’  (review here) that was also released by Wolverine Records last year featuring as well as Malasaners, The Judas Bunch and celtic punk legends The Mahones and The Porters.

From left to right: -Arturo Reyes (he didn´t record the drums, but he mixed the album with  us) -Carlos del Pino: banjo and singer -Elena MissBassplayer: guitar -Miguel Fernández: fiddle -Javier Vicius Cano: bass Photo: Jose Luis Frias

from left to right: * Arturo Reyes (he didnt play the drums on the LP but he mixed the album with us) * Carlos del Pino: Banjo and Vocals * Elena MissBassplayer: Guitar * Miguel Fernández: Fiddle * Javier Vicius Cano: Bass * Photo: Jose Luis Frias

The album’s first track is the title song ‘Spanish Eyes’ and is about those brave men and women who fought against fascism in the 1936 Spanish civil war, especially those who came from Ireland. A beautiful song and fitting tribute-

“They came from North, South, and East
From Dublin, Clare and from Kildare
Their mission here was all too clear
To halt the evil beast”

From the first few chords you get a feel for exactly what this album has in store for you. This is celtic-punk with the story telling spirit of bands like The Wolfe Tones or The Dubliners looming large. All the songs on ‘Spanish Eyes’ are the composed by the band themselves and there really are no weak tracks here at all.

The Spanish Civil War is behind the following song ‘Kings Shilling’ as well, which has moments that remind me of the great Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, before the speed folk kicks in and we are in familiar territory. Putting the lyrical boot into the forces that take an Irishman into exile to fight in one of the bloodiest battles in Spain on the side of the fascist forces. The lyrics throughout the album are outstanding and are no different here

“To fight for those who have enslaved me/ To wave their flags and spill my blood/ To turn my back on my own country/ To leave my bones in foreign mud”

This album could quite easily fit in with both sides of the celtic-punk fan base. ‘Still Alive’ is one of the folkier songs but still comes with a feeling behind it that carries the album along with great energy. ‘Drunk And Single In Madrid’ ramps up that energy to tell of a young Irish emigrant to Madrid and his escapades. The music is fast and furious with the banjo played at breakneck speed and the song ends with the great line

“They say Ireland is the place/ But I’m better broke, drunk and single in Madrid”

‘Listen’ rattles along with a country feel to it while ‘Rights’ is one of the albums highlight’s and is also accompanied by a great video. The banjo leads the way and Malasaners nail their political convictions to the wall again with a song trying to rouse the people from their slumber and take back their rights.

“It’s not fair the way we’re feeling
So abandoned, so unsafe, so insecure
They smile watching us bleeding
Let’s stand up, fight for our rights”

Not enough bands in celtic-punk use the harmonica so always cheers me to hear it, as in ‘The Price Of A Memory’, and its an instrument that even though not celtic does fit the celtic folk sound very well. ‘Tell Why’ again has a country feel to it and is the tale of broken love. ‘Lucky Duckies’ is a catchy number and one of my favourites with the fiddle blazing away while ‘Siege Of Drogheda’ has a sound not too disimilar to the ballads of the Murphys or the Mollys. Slowish but with the accordion out front and lyrics again touching on the tragic past. The ‘Siege Of Drogheda’ took place in September 1649 when the English forces of Cromwell besieged the Irish Catholic forces and committed what was said to have been

“unparalleled savagery and treachery beyond any slaughterhouse”

towards the captured soldiers and civilian population. ‘Walking Towards The Waves’ returns Malasaners back to what they are best at and another standout track which brings this great album to an end with the superb ‘Too Many Fools’ and the punky ‘Stoneheart’.

Malasaners

from left to right: Carlos, Arturo, Elena, Miguel, Javier Photo: Jose Luis Frias

Malasaners have a very feel for their punk roots as well as a respect for Irish music and the Irish story telling tradition and have managed to meld them together in such a way that I can only see the band going on to much bigger and better things.

(press play below to hear the entire album)

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RED ROSES FOR ME AND ME

by John McNally

Red Roses For Me

There is certain things that are so momentous in life we remember the exact moment they happened, where we were, who you were with , the colour of our underwear. For a great number of people of a certain age it was “Where were you when Kennedy was shot ?” it sounds a little like having to provide an alibi but the truth is that people do remember as it was a big deal. Now it might not just be something so international as that,  it’s personal stuff too. Do you remember your first kiss ? your first day at school ? when you popped your cherry ? these things matter and they are worth remembering. I remember a lot of that kind of stuff and I also remember the soundtrack to things.

Red Roses For Me

You know that thing when you hear a tune on the radio and you connect it to something in your life ? all the memories come flooding back because they are what you associate with it. Well my soundtrack runs to the Pogues and a lot of the good the bad and the ugly times have a song that corresponds and yeah I can actually remember where I was and who was with me the first time I heard them. I want to talk about the Pogues now and why they are the soundtrack to my life and why I love them now as much as I did when I heard them first.

My favourite childhood memory is of Sunday mornings. My mother would play her vinyl collection on her record player and it’s sounds would fill my bedroom up and tear me from my sleep. The playlist varied a bit but usually included music by The Wolfe Tones, The Dubliners, Count John McCormack , Percy French , Paddy Reilly and The Furey brothers. In an odd twist as Christmas approached Mario Lanza would be added to the playlist in stark contrast to everything else. So I would be roused and make my way to the kitchen, the wonderful odour of sausages and eggs filling my nostrils as my mother cooked up a storm in the frying pan. But in anycase among the vinyl was a collection of Irish folk songs and one of the tracks was a version of  ‘The Auld Triangle’ by The Pogues. So this is where Shane MacGowan and I met for the first time. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight but there was a definite attraction. That wonderful distinctive voice, the understated piano, the rolling percussion oh I was a young lad but my ears worked quite well and it was as if Shane had served his time in that cell with Behan so well did that song translate I had a feeling there was more to these Pogues and to this bucko MacGowan. So I requested that my mother add  ‘Red Roses For Me’ to her vinyl collection and eventually she did and that’s when this attraction I had to the Pogues turned into a full on love affair.

“In the rosy parks of England
We’ll sit and have a drink
Of VP wine and cider ’till we can hardly think
And we’ll go where the spirits take us
To heaven or to hell
And kick up bloody murder in the town we love so well”

Transmetropolitan hit me like train coming out of a dark tunnel. The line was cast and I was reeled in. That album crept in through your ears and nose and occupied your brain. The songs that you heard before were reworked into such away they sounded new and different and exciting. Waxies dargle came in like a hurricane ripping and tearing at you as it was sung and screamed like an assault on you this wasn’t music to sit and listen to, this was a force of nature you danced and found something to batter the table with to keep time with the beer tray that served as an instrument in the song you were a part of the experience not just a spectator.. There was no time for drawing breath because ‘Boys from the County Hell’ let rip next, it always put me to thinking that mean faced gunslinger from the spaghetti westerns Clint Eastwood would have had it as his theme tune if he had been riding the plains of Tipperary rather than the wild west of America. My mother never approved of the wee bit of profanity and mention of ‘hoors’ as she is a good Catholic woman but she turned a deaf ear to it all the same and I was allowed to bring my own family and all the neighbours in hearing distance with me on my journey through the dark streets of London to that wonderful place Brendan Behan had made his home where streams of whiskey flowed. It was magical.

The music was familiar yet new, it walked a tightrope between sheer chaos and awkward control. It was Irish music but by God it was more, it was evolved and alive and although there was the misty eyed beauty of Kitty that you could imagine a Sean nos singer giving an encouraging nod too if you were by the fireside in your local pub it was in the organised chaos of the upbeat songs that the true beauty was the unbridled joy of drinking and shagging and living hard was layed at your feet it was raucous and untamed and bloody primal it made you want to drink those 15 pints of beer and howl at the moon with the guttural roars of ‘down in the ground’ but mostly it made you feel alive and pretty happy you were as it happened no matter how bad things were. A lot of Irish folk music was of the dead patriot strain which pulled on the heartstrings and tear ducts with equal vigour and made you cry and curse the blasted tyrants who hung our heroes this music skipped the funeral and went to the wake have a drink and a dance and worry about it tomorrow it was fucking magic.

So this life long love and obsession was born and strengthened with every song I heard and concert I went to. No other band would ever put a spark in me like the Pogues have and how could they ? MacGowan’s imagery and poetry set to the music I grew up hearing and loving was unequalled by anyone else, he remains an unequalled raconteur and all the other pretenders to his crown merely fell by the wayside. So I can answer where I was when I first heard Shane serenade me and who was with me and what happened next and clear as a bell I can remember that day right down to the delicious smell of my breakfast the moment the first chord of ‘Auld Triangle’ rings the air. That’s the first song in the soundtrack to my life but as the years have gone by Shane and the Pogues have added many more and I can only pray there is more to come.

Red Roses For Me back cover

a big BIG thank you for the article to Jim McNally. John has his own blog ‘BrainFarts’ on which you can find pretty much more of the same as this (here) so go and have a look.

The Best Pogues Related Sites

In The Wake Of The Medusa  Paddy Rolling Stone  The Parting Glass  Pogues Facebook Page

More Information

Red Roses Wikipedia  Red Roses Lyrics  

we’ve had plenty of articles on The Pogues so check out the following 

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’ here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

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