Love, drinking, fighting, hope are the topics that occupy Celtic-Punk giants The Mahones on their brand new album Jameson Street. Their first studio album in three years.
Probably the most prolific of Celtic-Punk bands whether it comes to recording and releasing new material or indeed playing in your local neighbourhood it’s the welcome return of The Mahones. A while ago lead singer and main man Finny McConnell announced on Facebook that The Mahones were going to forego major touring and from now on only play prestige and local gigs. Well I thought who can bloody blame them. We have all recently seen the effects that constant touring can have on a band and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody so if a break was needed then they made the right decision… but the clamour to get back on stage was too great and soon enough the announcement came of another massive tour and the release of this album, Jameson Street.
What to say about The Mahones then? Well not a lot I suspect that the vast majority of you don’t already know. They are one of the world’s most popular and successful Celtic-Punk bands with a career stretching back over thirty years to the 17th March 1990. What once began as a one-off band for a St. Patrick’s Day party, quickly became a global touring phenomenon and a figure head for an entire genre. The Mahones have since gone on to release fifteen albums, including 2020’s 30th Anniversary double album This Is All We’ve Got To Show For It.
Jameson Street is their first studio album since 2019 and the list of friends and ex-band members who have popped by to take part is massive. The core of the band remains the same with Nicole Kaiser on fiddle, Finny on guitar, Michael O’Grady on tin whistle and Sean ‘Riot’ Ryan on bass but an astounding seventeen other musicians are listed on the sleeve notes so some of whom will have to forgive us for not mentioning them so here’s just a select few – Dave Barton of The Peelers, Nicholas Smyth of The Dreadnoughts and the Crash Test Dummies Stuart Cameron! With such a prolific output you may expect The Mahones to be running out of steam by now but low and behold this ranks up there with their very best albums from their early days.
The album begins with the title song and ‘Jameson Street’ takes the pub céilí sound out the pub and into your living room. The origins of this song can be found on a short You Tube video recorded live at Sir John Eh’z Nose Ring Circus two-day music festival in 1993. A couple of minutes of pure unadulterated speedy trad Irish Folk peppered with shouts and “yaarrrrs” before leading into a classic Mahones style song of ‘Rise Up (Be Strong)’. Finny has always used his writing to uplift folk and while he may have sometimes put his foot in it over on that damn Facebook he did say
“Jameson Street is meant to make you feel like you’re having a night out. No politics, no religion, just good times, and everybody having fun. Unity is the underlying message.”
Written with Greg from Husker Du who Finny has recently been playing, recording and touring with in the Punk band Ultrabomb , along with the UK Subs Jamie Oliver. A full-blooded rousing anthem of which their is one or two more to come!
“Let’s get along, no-one gets left behind, the healing has begun”
Now I don’t know who wrote the blueprint for Celtic-Punk but every album needs a drinking song or two and The Mahones open up with ‘A Devil In Every Bottle’ and are joined by Dave Barton of fellow Canadian-Irish Celtic-Punks The Peelers on vocals. It’s unmistakable Mahones, jolly and jig-worthy and a tribute (of sorts) to Irish whiskey. ‘Freeway Toll’ takes it down a bit with a more Folk-Rock approach that gives Finny a real chance to stretch them vocal chords. A song that you’d not be surprised to see picked up by someone of mega-star status later on. It’s a nice song that slots in well among the Irish-Punk and Trad. ‘Watch Me Fall’ steams past in 130 seconds before one of the album highlights the instrumental ‘Lonesome Boatman’. Now I think for most of us we first heard this song on a compilation album More Green Velvet that we bought for our Mums in the early 80’s. Hidden away in between Dana and Philomena Begley belting out the best of Irish in Country’n’Irish style was The Fureys And Davey Arthur playing ‘Lonesome Boatman’ and it fair blew my mind as a young angry Punk-Rocker. An incredible song that passed by unnoticed for many years until it finally began to receive its due plaudits. Picked up by the Dropkick Murphys after a couple of Euro Celtic-Punk bands had already recorded it The Mahones play a version that sits nicely in the middle of the Fureys and the Dropkicks. Holloway Road in north London use to be the epicentre of north London Irish life and it’s still called by many County Holloway. Not sure if ‘Holloway Jack’ has anything to do with that but it does feature lyrics by the late Paddy Cuncanon, an old friend of the band and they have turned his words into an evocative stirring sea shanty. ‘Fiddle On Fire’ is the albums second instrumental and unsurprisingly, from the title, Nicole lets her fiddle do the talking with a speedy fast as feck Irish hoe-down. We are coming up towards the end and there’s been no filler here as we continue with ‘She Comes For Love’. Finny has always worn his heart on his sleeve even when it’s perhaps been questionable but it’s one of the reasons we still love him. ‘Last Call At The Bar’ sees the sound drop into ‘Country-Irish’ and we just don’t mind. A singalong that will have bartenders across the world giving a wry smile.
“It’ is a song that bartenders can relate to – that feeling you get when you tell everybody to bug off and go home. It’s a fun song that sticks in your head, and it fits the Jameson Street theme.”
The album ends with a bonus track a boisterous live version of what Finny says is his favourite Pogues song ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’. Recorded live at the Horseshoe Tavern In Toronto 2003 The Mahones are joined on stage by the legendary Phil Chevron and Terry Woods of The Pogues. It’s the first time they have even recorded / released a Pogues track, astonishing considering how often they are compared to the Celtic-Punk pioneers.
Well if Jameson Street was meant to make you feel like you’re having a great night out then they have certainly achieved that. Like has been said it’s one of the best Mahones releases for a long time. From the start to the finish I love this album striking a chord with me that I’m sure will also with even the most casual of Celtic-Punk fans. The album has been released on True North Records as well as every streaming site you can think of but really you should order from the label to not only ensure they have the money to continue but to put out more Celtic-Punk releases and, especially, from The Mahones!
(Stream Jameson Street but don’t buy from vultures. Get it from the record label below)
So, Jameson Street awaits, and there’s a drink at the bar with your name on it. Go for it!
Buy Jameson Street True North Records (CD / Download)