Tag Archives: The Fighting Jamesons

ALBUM REVIEW: THE FIGHTING JAMESONS- ‘A Moment In California’ (2019)

The Fighting Jamesons deliver a live recording from last year’s Get Shamrocked Festival. Traditional style Irish music but with an aggressive and energetic modern-day approach.

With two solid studio album releases behind them The Fighting Jamesons have chosen their fantastic live set from Get Shamrocked 2018 as their next album to hit the stores. Hailing from the resort town of Virginia Beach in California they have quickly gained a strong presence on the East Coast with their constant touring and great relationship with their fans. Formed in 2010 they play a style of Celtic-Punk akin to Flogging Molly in that they are almost acoustic but still mange to kick up a racket. As we said in our review of Every Day Above Ground back in 2014

“Heads down and fast as humanly possible is how The Fighting Jamesons like it and we have to say we bloody love it too!”

and as they are a band that earns their bread and butter on the live circuit it’s no surprise that A Moment In California is more of the same in a extremely tight set of 50% well known and loved trad Irish folk covers and 50% of their own material.

The live set was recorded at Get Shamrocked Festival which, now in its seventh year, has the whole Celtic-Punk community salivating every year when it’s line up is released! Much like Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog festival it’s sadly something most of us will only ever watch via You Tube but with its mix of Celtic-Rock and Punk alongside Folk, contemporary and traditional music it’s definitely on my To-Do list when i win the lottery. Started in 2012 by second generation Irishman Paul Little the festival is held in California attracting thousands to watch some of the best bands around as well as international bands such as The Go-Set and Sir Reg in recent years.

The album begins with one of The Fighting Jamesons most famous of their own tracks ‘How I Ended Up This Way’ but starts with a touching tribute to the parents of 17 year old Irish-American Cullen Connolly who tragically died in a car crash in 2015 caused by a drunk driver. A huge baseball and Celtic-Punk fan who loved The Mahones, Gaelic Storm and The Young Dubliners among others. Cullen lived with neuro muscular disorder but never let it affect him and he lived a full and enjoyable life surrounded by loved ones before it was snatched away. One of the stages at the festival has been named after him. A really nice touch from the festivals organisers.

(the opening song from The Fighting Jamesons 2016 set at Get Shamrocked)

The album begins with the Jamesons original ‘How I Ended Up This Way’ telling of life in an Irish-American family and a day on the lash that gets out of hand! The Fighting Jamesons play hard and fast but in a completely accessible way and I’m sure half the audience would think they are Celtic-Punk while the other half Celtic-Rock! Great tune, catchy as hell with great lyrics and a band at the top of their game. Listening to this first song you can see why they chose to release it as the production (hats off to Chris Kendrick) and sound is absolutely perfect.  Plans are afoot for them to have their set at this years festival properly recorded and maybe released so keep an eye out for that among other things in The Fighting Jamesons camp. Next we have, without a doubt, the most overplayed cover in Irish history, Drunken Sailor! They do a good job of it is all I can say. The next couple of songs were my favourites off Every Day Above Ground starting with ‘What Does It Mean?’ and show what great songwriters they are. It remains a favourite again here in no small part to its absolutely fecking great chorus. Jeffrey’s fiddle and Miles accordion really come into their own here. Again the song is fastly played but still firmly with its feet in the folk camp despite George’s thrashy guitar and Justin and Vince on drums and bass giving it that extra ‘punky’ bite. ‘Year Gone By’ lulls you into the belief it’s going to a slow dirge of a sea shany before exploding in yer ears and we get more catchy full throttle Irish music that is made equally at home in the intimate pub or any big festival.  We earlier compared them to Flogging Molly but the comparison is to the Molly’s at their best.

Next up is the Irish-American classic ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye’. Made most famous in Celtic-Punk by The Dropkick Murphys who never fail to play it in each live show. An anti-war anthem for each generation since it first appeared in 1867. Like the band the song’s roots are in Ireland but it’s only with the added American experience that it became a real American folk classic. They play the first half slow before the second half comes blasting out. Superb. ‘An Irish Medley’ is arranged by the band and is a bunch of well known Irish folk songs (‘Fields Of Athenry’, ‘Streams Of Whiskey’, Seven Drunken Nights etc.,)  bashed out in that certain Fighting Jamesons way. Next is ‘Tell Me Ma/The Last Thing I Remember’ and beginning with the famous folk song before morphing into their self penned tragic tale of alcohol abuse. The well known tale of a life lost in alcohol and oblivion. On the album this song is slow and angry but here is played with an urgency that tops the version off Every Day Above Ground.  There but for the grace of God…

“Every day not wasted is a wasted day”

Next up is a rather interesting cover of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by The Beatles. Now The Beatles were an Irish band without any doubt (check out our feature The Beatles And Ireland here for proof) but it’s still came as a bit of a shock to find this classic Lennon/McCartney song sat in the middle of The Fighting Jamesons set. The bhoys kick it off with a short rap with is no doubt from small massive worldwide smash that sold a billion copies but completely passed me by! It’s a spirited version and you can’t go wrong with such great material to start with though it does show the bands versatility. ‘One More Drink’ is the last of the original material and again and one to grab your mates and let loose at the end of the night. ‘A Moment In California’ is not a song but band vocalist and banjo player Mike Powers giving a nice shout out to the bands fans and hands out some goof plain old advice we could all do with listening to. The curtain comes down on A Moment In California with perhaps the traditional Irish folk song most suited to be turned into a Celtic-Punk rocker!! ‘The Irish Rover’ has been around for donkey’s years but most outside the Irish community will remember it for the brilliant Pogues and Dubliners collaboration back in 1987. That version still gets plenty of airtime and still earns the fella’s and their families a pretty penny I am sure! Here The Fighting Jamesons give it plenty of oompf go off road a couple of times before going out on a really energetic high and I can imagine on a line-up of memorable acts at last years festival The Fighting Jamesons were one on the most memorable!

The Fighting Jamesons left to right: Jeffrey McLaughlin- Backing Vocals, Fiddle * Miles Hoyle- Accordion * George Bauman- Lead Guitar * Mike Powers- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo * * Justin Conner- Drums * Vince Kafigian- Bass *

2019 will see the band hitting the studio again later this year to record their third full length studio album and even some distant plans to cross the broad Atlantic so keep an eye upon what they are up to. A Moment In California is officially released tomorrow, and will be available on almost all big music streaming outlets ie. iTunes, amazon music, Spotify Microsoft music etc. We don’t get a lot of live recordings to London Celtic Punks and on hearing this I can only regret their aren’t more. Nearly a hour of fantastically played fast Irish folk with very wide appeal from a band who though polished come across as sincere and heartfelt in all the right places and funny and ramshackle too. A great band and if they they ever come near where you live then move heaven and earth to go see them as on the evidence here you are guaranteed a night to remember.
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Cullen’s Mam and Dad have set up a charity in honour of their son- Cullens Claddagh. You can check that out here and they would especially like to hear from any bands wishing to donate merchandise they could raffle off to raise money for the charity.

(raise a glass to Cullen this St. Patrick’s day. We’ll remember you in London mate)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE FIGHTING JAMESONS- ‘Every Day Above Ground’ (2014)

traditional Irish music with an aggressive and energetic modern-day approach

The Fighting Jamesons- 'Every day Above Ground' (2014)

Every Day Above Ground was released way back in March but as I only just got to hear it I’m rushing it in before the year ends. Don’t want to break the rule of only reviewing albums in the year their released do I? The Fighting Jamesons come from the resort town of Virginia Beach in Virginia, the 39th most populous state in America, and they embrace their Irish roots with obvious relish. The band inhabit the folkier side of celtic-punk and play mostly acoustic but like the band they probably sound most alike, Flogging Molly, they can kick up a real storm and would leave plenty of punk bands in their wake. Heads down and fast as humanly possible is how The Fighting Jamesons like it and we have to say we bloody love it too!

The band members have an interesting history as lead guitarist Geo tells me

“we have always been an interesting mix of dudes when it comes to our musical backgrounds. Of course we have Irish and then it gets fun… punk, metal, hardcore, alternative, classic rock, classical, old time folk, new folk, reggae, world & Kiss. Hahaha”

The Fighting Jamesons

that first album

I got their first album last year and was suitably impressed. A eight track mini album with three covers and five original numbers that comes up just a few seconds short of half an hour. Have to say though it was a wee bit disappointing to hear so many covers that were the usual celtic-punk standards. This is no way a slur on the band as they’re no way on their own as virtually all celtic-punk bands seem to kick off their recording output by overdoing the most popular covers.

Geo again told me by explaining

“I’m originally from New York from a proud Irish family who loves this music! There is no better feeling than hearing Ronnie Drew, Shane MacGowan, Luke Kelly or Liam Clancy sing. So here we are playing our own form of Irish Music. We love to reconstruct the Irish classics. It’s always a challenge to come up with your very own version of these timeless songs”

So the feeling that I had was can The Fighting Jamesons produce the goods themselves. The signs were there on that first album and with the release of Every Day Above Ground we can safely say that the bhoys can take their place amongst the American celtic-punk greats!

As singer-songwriter Michael Powers puts it

“the new album is darker than the first one. I feel as if we built off the first album, arranged better songs with a lot more depth. I wanted to make a real honest record. I had been writing the album every day of my life for about two years. If I had an idea or inspiration I stopped and wrote it down or played/hummed the melody into my phone. Sometimes life throws you a giant curve ball and everyone deals with it differently. I wrote my way out of it with this album”

The album starts of with ‘Year Gone By’ and its a manic start with the accordion to the fore and the rest of the band rocking out alongside. It has a slight ‘gypsy’ touch to it and is one of the most celtic-punk tracks of the entire album. In fact those comparisons to Flogging Molly are undeniable but its the Molly’s as trapped between 2000 and 2005 which lets face it was easily their best years. ‘What Does It Mean’ follows and the quality of the lyrics hits you hard as their mostly downbeat despite the music so they demand a proper listen. This is the albums standout song but hard to choose believe me. The albums first cover is ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ a 19th century song about a immigrants experiences as he travels to Liverpool in England from his home in Ireland. Made most famous by The Dubliners, the lads certainly give it a good seeing to and whip up quite a frenzy that will leave you unable to keep up with the words by the end.

“The boys of Liverpool, when we safely landed
Called myself a fool, I could no longer stand it
Blood began to boil, temper I was losing
Poor Old Erin’s Isle they began abusing

Hooray me soul, says I, me Shillelagh I let fly
Galway boys were by and saw I was a hobble in
With a loud hurray, they joined me in the affray
Quickly cleared the way on the rocky road to Dublin”

‘Mid The Green Fields Of Virginia’ comes next and starts off with a real country feel to it before going off on one and the guitars come in and kick off. A great mixture of Irish, country and punk rock its a song over eighty years old from The Carter Family and pays tribute to the place they all call home now. ‘Last Thing I Remember’ keeps up the pace and even more darkness envelops ‘Every Day Not Wasted’ the well known story of a life lost in alcohol and oblivion. Slow and angry this song is for wrapping your arm round your mates and swaying with your beer held high. There but for the grace of God…

“Every day not wasted is a wasted day”

‘How I Ended Up This Way’ tells of drinking with your family and how it can get out of hand. ‘Around The Bend’ is a banjo led fury of a song and once again Michael’s great voice dominates. The Fighting Jamesons are one of a select group of bands (fortunately we have most of them in celtic-punk) whose lyrics are as important as the music wrapped around them. Each song is a story worth telling and hearing and lucky for us the musics just as good too. Next up is another Irish classic ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew You’. Made most famous in celtic-punk by The Dropkick Murphys who play a version in each live show. An anti-war anthem for each generation since it first appeared in 1867.

“You haven’t an arm, you haven’t a leg,
Hurroo Hurroo
You hadn’t an arm, you hadn’t a leg
You’re a armless, boneless, chickenless egg
You’ll have to be put with the bowl to beg
Johnny I hardly knew ya”

‘A Song For Letting Go’ swiftly follows the whispered last words of ‘Johnny’ and banjo begins the familiar story of a selfish man and his wife/girlfriend. The song again moves at a grand old pace and it would be interesting to see if the bhoys can keep it up live as its wearing me out just listening to the fecker! ‘Isn’t It Grand’ slows things down and its in right proper traditional country’n’Irish territory but still with that punk twist on it. Originally recorded by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem there’s a nice bit of dark humour here before ‘The Ramble Home’ brings the album to a close with a rather jolly uplifting fiddle led tune that draws you in before punky guitars leap out of nowhere and before we know it we’re listening to a song Flogging Molly would have loved to have written back in their Swagger/Drunken Lullabies days.

Every Day Above Ground is twelve tracks lasting a staggering fifty minutes that barely pauses for breath for a minute. Even the ballads have a sort of haste to them and as soon as their finished there’s another blistering track of full on Irish following straight away. Bands like The Fighting Jamesons earn their bread and butter on the live circuit and its there that they are best experienced so to be able to even capture a small bit of that on record is a great achievement and this they have managed. Their hybrid sound of American and Irish really hits the spot but if i could redefine them even further I’d guess I’d call it Irish-country-punk as even at their most punky or most Irish there’s still a wee something underneath that anchors it down. Once again Geo tells us

“I’m really not sure how I would categorize the band anymore. We have a ton of punk elements especially live. We tend to play a bit faster when we get out on the road (never a bad thing) but, I know we are a band that plays Irish music…. after that it’s up to the individual listing to put us in their own Irish category. The Pogues are a great example of this…. they play Irish music and then mesh it with so many different styles. As a songwriter I love that and hope people checking out the new album can hear it. So if someone hears Irish Punk when listening…awesome. If someone else hears Irish gypsy music that’s awesome too”

This is a fantastic album and will send you into uncontrollable foot tapping if you’re anything like me and if you’re a bit more normal you’ll be jigging round yer living room! The Fighting Jamesons are made for a good time plain and simple.

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