Welcome to Part 1 of our special ‘Ferocious Dog Week’ of these Q and A’s with the guys from our favourite Celtic-Punk band – Ferocious Dog. It is based on the feature that use to appear in the football magazines of my youth (anyone remember Shoot! or Match Weekly?) where we got to know what car our favourite football player drove and of their undying love for the music of Billy Ocean!
Originally it was planned to just have whoever from the band got back to us first but with some recent changes to the line up i thought why not ask and see if they would each like to take part and being a band with a clear fan-based ethos they obliged. I’ve never known a band quite like them for having such a link to their fan base. One big family is how people often describe them and with a tour with Flogging Molly just around the corner taking in three countries that fan base is surely going to grow. So without further ado here is Part One and founder member of the band and Man United supporter, like meself, Dan Booth.
Name / Nickname : Dan Booth
Age (Estimate allowed!) : 42
Status : Violin player/co-founder/band manager
Birthplace / Nationality / Ancestry : Born in Nottinghamshire, England. Grandad was from Clydebank in Scotland
Where do you live : 4 miles south of Nottingham in a village called Ruddington
Occupation : Musician
First job : Stores Manager for an IT repair company
A job you would have loved to do : Footballer for Manchester United but unfortunately my body was never really designed for that job
What / Who makes you laugh : Great stand up comedy shows such as Live at the Apollo
Favourite movie star : Samuel L Jackson
Favourite film / TV show : Match of the Day, UFC & Pulp Fiction
Favourite band/s : Oasis, Arcade Fire, Levellers, The Wonder Stuff, James, Carter USM, NWA, Dr Dre
Favourite Celtic-Punk bands : Flogging Molly, The Pogues
Up and coming Celtic-Punk band to watch : Shanghai Treason
First and last record you bought : Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac and Yard Act
How many instruments can you play : Violin and guitar
How many bands have you been in : 2 Ferocious Dog & The Beetroot Kings
Favourite venue / gig attended : Idles at Rough Trade in Nottingham
Favourite gig : When we played Lowlands Festival in The Netherlands
Describe yourself in 5 words : A man of few words
Most embarrassing moment : When a may bug climbed my shirt during a show and I was bouncing round stage like an idiot I think the whole crowd was laughing Was funny
Favourite song and why : Laura by Flogging Molly I just think it’s perfectly structured and so beautiful yet powerful
Favourite album and why : NWA – Straight Outta Compton because not only is it well written but it tackles Police brutality on the black communities in America
Favourite song you’ve been involved in: Playjng What You Know with the Levellers on stage around 14 times when we toured with them Jon asked me if I’d like to do a fiddle off on that song to end the shows Was a lot of fun
Team/s supported as a kid : Mansfield Town FC and Manchester United
Favourite sportsperson : Paul Scholes & Valentina Schevchenko
Favourite sport : UFC & football
All time hero : Dr Dre
Favourite book : Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
Best friend : My fiancé Anna
Biggest influence on career : Jon Sevink and the Levellers
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given : Never eat yellow snow
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be : Nottingham where I live now it’s my favourite city in the world If I was forced to pick another then maybe Barcelona I loved spending time there, it’s a really chilled place
Your five dream dinner guests : Eric Cantona, Samuel L Jackson, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Isreal Adesanya
Your favourite quote: A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends
Anything to plug / promote : Our album The Hope is still flying high in the Official U.K. Folk Charts at number 16 since we released it last October. Any sales/streams are very much appreciated. We’re also off on tour in Europe and U.K. with Flogging Molly soon so we hope to see some of you there. We have our own U.K. and European dates too so look out for those on our website
(Dan guesting with up and coming Sheffield band Shanghai Treason)
Make way for a Celtic punk superduo! When the highly respected and prolific Nick Burbridge contacted Ferocious Dog’s Dan Booth, he suggested making an album together. Dan quickly agreed, and the project was on. The result is Icons, an unorthodox folk-punk album that showcases more fine work from these two men. Check it out!
As we all know, Celtic punk often boasts the crunch of an electric guitar and the crack of a drum head. That’s why Icons is not your typical Celtic punk record. The album is entirely acoustic, a stripped-back undertaking that sounds like it could be played at a spontaneous pub session. But don’t be fooled: Nick Burbridge has lost none of his musical competence from the days of McDermott’s Two Hours. His wit is as sharp as ever too, with an onslaught of clever, poetic and politically aware lyrics. The album launches us straight into the action with the title track. “Icons” points the finger at imperialist figures of the past, and the human rights atrocities that wouldn’t be tolerated today. If we all pull together, we can tear these figures down, begins the chorus. Together with the line We stand as one and take the knee, this song makes a clear statement for the current times. The use of the word “icons” is meant in a disdainful, rather than respectful manner.
Nick has struggled with depression over the years, and as such, he uses his work to call attention to people who feel (or simply are) rejected by mainstream society. This theme continues on “Soldier’s Heart”, a song that provides a grim insight into the day-to-day horrors of war, and its ugly brother, war crimes. This creates an atmosphere that only lets up during the mid-section, where a drop in pitch makes way for the warmer tones of Nick’s voice. Another track that provides a temporary break from the hard-hitting lyrics is “Judgement Day”. I had to smile at lyrics like My friend Flynn’s on the last train in, and the line about a sex worker who describes her male customer as “awful small”, to which he replies: I’m gettin’ old now, you’re lucky there’s anythin’ there at all.
Dan Booth, Ferocious Dog and The Levellers
So far, we’ve praised Nick’s contributions highly. But the other half of this record is Dan Booth, fiddler and founding member of Ferocious Dog, no strangers to the Celtic punk fan. Dan takes over the proceedings towards the end of “Cover Me”, which the Dog themselves recorded on 2019’s Fake News and Propaganda. It’s got working down the pit, it’s got prostitution, it’s got fighting. And it’s got wounded souls, who are longing for some protection from the world. As I listened to Dan’s jig, I was transported straight to a pub in Ireland, watching an evening session in an intimate setting. Dan regales us with more slick, fast-paced interludes in “Living on Thin Air”, another Dog number, and if ye’ve never seen the version where Dan, Ken and the lads were joined by Nick on stage, take a look ‘ere, ye ken:
“Dirty Davey” is another title you might recognise. None other than The Levellers covered this one way back in ’93, on their self-titled effort that went all the way to #2 in the UK. The band have cited Nick and McDermott’s Two Hours as a key influence, and the opening piss-take of English Country Garden here is sure to make you smirk. The song then continues in its verbal abuse of political corruption, and the associated treatment of suspects and prisoners.
Corruption and oppression
When Nick released War Without Honour, a collaborative non-fiction book from 1989, it kicked up a storm. This album might achieve the same, if the intended political targets were to listen to it (it’d be good music for a party). Sadly, it’s doubtful that they will, but the twelve tracks here are still fine examples of Nick’s poetic prowess and Dan’s signature fiddle runs. Icons is a protest album that relentlessly goes for the bollocks, but is sensitive at the same time, looking out for the oppressed and lamenting the corruption of the masters, whatever their various guises may be.
It’s clear that the main goal of the Nick’n’Dan project is not commercial success, but to remind people that corruption and greed are always present. And that it’s up to us individuals to keep them in check. In that sense, congratulations to Nick and Dan on conceiving this unique album, and an additional “thank you” goes to Sarah Huson-Whyte and Tim Cotterell, two more greatly skilled musicians who supplied additional instrumentation to the record.
You can get your copy of “Icons” by going HERE. You’ll also find A3 prints of the artwork that Jez from the Levellers produced for the album! Alternatively, if ye need to support the artists for free, the album is also available for streaming on YouTube, Spotify and the like.
With one foot in tradition and the other firmly in musical invention, The Celtic Social Club release a special edition of their 2019 album, From Babylon To Avalon, in the UK. Produced, recorded and mixed between France and the USA, their third album affirms the personal path between tradition, energy and songwriting.
The Celtic Social Club as their name suggest are a Celtic band. Not just a Celtic band but a Celtic Celtic band. Celtic music has always been popular outside of the Celtic nations, and not just among the Celtic diaspora, but it is heartening to find that the music is alive and flourishing where it was birthed. The Celtic Social Club hail from the small town of Carhaix in western Brittany between the Arrée Mountains to the north and the Black Mountains to the south. Breton culture and language flourishes in this version of Ireland’s ‘gaeltacht’ with over 20% of the areas children attending bilingual schools helping to ensure that the Breizh language not only survives but grows.
The band first surfaced in 2014 in front of a 50,000 + crowd at the French festival Les Vieilles Charrues in July and followed this up with their self-titled debut album the same year. Since then they have graced stages across the world from Europe to north America, Asia and Africa. They went on to put out a live album in 2015 and another studio album, A New Kind of Freedom, in 2017 but from the start this bunch of seven diverse musicians took traditional Celtic tunes and used that diversity to add elements of Rock, Folk, Blues, Reggae and even Hip-Hop to the mix making something contemporary and yet still traditional at the same time. From Babylon To Avalon was first released in May 2019 at home in Brittany and France but with their appearances over the last couple of years at some major British music festivals and a growing fan base here the band have decided to re-release the album complete with new artwork and added tracks. The UK version was released last month on Kitchen Disco Records and was produced, recorded and mixed at home and the United States, by drummer Manu Masko and respected NY producer, Ariel Borujow. The album will also be available on vinyl for the first time ever. The music of the Celtic Social Club knows no boundaries, taking genres from all over the world and making them their own as they continue their musical journey.
The Celtic Social Club boosts several amazing musicians and we couldn’t do them justice without a little piece on each of these tremendously talented musicians.
DAN DONNELLY – Lead Vocal, Guitars
Originally from Belfast, Dan was raised on Celtic music. His grandfather was a fiddle player and his father a guitarist. He gained some success with Irish band Watercress with whom he sang, played mandolin and didgeridoo amongst other things. In 2000 he moved to NYC where he started a solo career and played with Joy Zipper. Dan has supported Phoenix and Air and has been a touring member of The Levellers, The Oyster Band and The Wonder Stuff.
RONAN LE BARS – Uilleann Pipe, Whistles
Ronan is one of the world’s leading masters of Uillean Pipes. He fronts his own internationally renowned 5 piece group, however has been a member of Celtic Heritage with Dan Ar Bras that featured in Eurovision 1996. He has also been a recording artist with French legends Alan Stivell and Johnny Halliday.
MANU MASKO : Drums, Keyboard, Backing vocals, Musical director
Drummer and producer Manu calls himself a ‘Sound Maker’ and in this guise he has created music for radio, film and TV soundtracks. As a drummer he has enjoyed success with American rock Trio John Doe, Breton folk rock stalwarts Red Cardell and now Celtic Social Club, his own creation.
PIERRE STEPHAN : Fiddle
Pierre is a violinist steeped in the Breton Celtic tradition. He marries his years of experience in Fest Noz playing with a modern approach to the instrument that makes him one of the leading Breton players. A member of The Ronan Le Bars Group and he also plays with many in the most popular Breton bands.
Goulven is perhaps better known as a music journalist and novelist however he has a long spanning career as a rock guitarist. A one-time collaborator with Cathal Coughlan ( Micro Disney, The Fatima Mansions), Goulven was raised with Folk music both American and European; however he brings a rock element to anything he plays on.
Mathieu is one of the worlds masters of harmonica. He is personally endorsed by Lee Oskar who phoned him up to tell him he could have whatever Lee Oskar harmonica he wanted whenever. A member of French Breton institution Red Cardell, he also plays with the collective Uni.k which unites different artists.
RICHARD PUAUD : Bass, Backing vocals
Studio owner and sought after independent producer and engineer Richard is a recognized multi-instrumentalist and bass player. He has played on stage or in the studio with among others : Alexandre Varlet – African artists Mawndoé and Youss banda – Ibiza electro project La Caina
From Babylon To Avalon kicks off with ‘Sunshine’. A soft and gentle start to proceedings with a sort of dreaminess reminiscent of the UK’s 1990’s indie scene. There really is no more glorious instrument out there than the uilleann pipes and on ‘Dead End’ next Ronan’s playing is incredible and it really enhances this song. They recorded the track for Rolling Stone magazine for their ‘In My Room’ video series where the band recorded from their individual homes in support of caregivers.
Dan sings the trad influenced ballad ‘I’m Free’ next and what a great voice he has. A slow song that is perfectly balanced by the uplifting ‘Remember Joe Strummer’ a track dedicated to the memory of the sadly deceased Clash front-man who passed away in 2002. it was originally released as a single in August, 2019 and 50% of all royalties were donated to the Joe Strummer Foundation. The song features the words of Joe to kick it off “every generation must have its golden day” and is followed by a nice enough slice of reggae tinged pop. Not my favourite of genres I have to admit but I did like it and again Dan’s distinctive vocals giving it a great lift.
‘Pauper’s Funeral’ was the albums second single released just last June and yet again it’s Dan’s distinctive Irish brogue that stands out among the ‘Celtic Blues-Rock’ aided by some great harmonica (one of my favourite instruments) giving it a feel of a Celtic ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’ while Dan wanders the Paris graveyard where Oscar Wilde was buried in poverty while recalling other prominent figures who went to their grave without a pot to piss in! A fantastic song and accompanying video.
‘Santiago’ slows it down again and this album seems to be balancing old and new rather splendidly with songs that start off as one thing but soon drift seamlessly into something else, often with it being the uilleann pipes that enable this to be so. ‘It’s Morning John’ is a pipes led instrumental with a offbeat Breton air. If you love the sound of the uilleann pipes it should go without saying this album is for you. On first listen it was true that you never quite knew what was coming and in ‘Black Is The Colour’ we get a really special song beginning as a acapella song before morphing into a reworked Celtic-Rock version ‘Black Lives’ with added lyrics featuring the harmonizing Israeli music troupe The Futureheads. A rather spaced out version but absolutely stunning its originality. ‘OK Let’s Go’ is performed live in the studio ‘pub style’ and the influence of Dand previous band The Wonderstuff is evident in the songs intro before it flies off the handle and turns into one almighty ceilidh! The short video here features Jon Sevink of The Levellers on fiddle and Roy Harter on accordion and the energy it absolutely tremendous.
They do the same with their song ‘Buffalo’ a ‘Celtic-Dub’ song to go along with their ‘Celtic-Blues’ of earlier. Pleasant enough and I’m not sure mant Dub songs have the uillean pipes driving them along! This leads into another version of ‘Buffalo’ but this time featuring the rapper TL. The final couple of songs are the live tracks ‘Remember Joe Strummer’ and ‘It’s Morning John’ recorded at last years Beautiful Days festival in southern England.
The sadly cancelled English tour which saw them set to play at some major festivals as well as several dates with The Levellers. All gone but set to return in 2021.
The Celtic Social Club as I have mentioned straddle the fence between old and new and trad and pop majestically and they do it in style and reverence. The perfect bridge between Celtic music, Rock music and Pop music. Taking melodies from Brittany, Ireland, Scotland and Asturias and giving them a modern edge is no easy feat especially if you want to avoid parody but it’s done with an ease here that will keep everyone happy from the Folk music snobs purists to yer average Celtic-Punker. Someone once said that “Celtic music is Folk music with drink” and no matter how grand or gigantic it should still manage to sound like The Celtic Social Club do as something best experienced in the pub.
When a new Folk-Punk band pops up somewhere in England we like to think we are on it straight away so we couldn’t wait for the third release from Derbyshire band 5 Hills Out to land on our doorstep! Two tracks of beautiful, infectious, foot-stomping folk-punk.
The Snug Sessions by 5 Hills Out is what use to be called a double A-side back in the day when vinyl truly ruled and it’s two songs will be officially released tomorrow on the 12th April but is available now on pre-release. The Snug Sessions is the bands third release and first on their own record label Culvert Collective Recordings. The single marks a step forward in the bands development after their debut acoustic EP No Way In from 2016 and the follow up Still Outside from Autumn 2017 which saw the band nominated for best folk act 2018 on Radio Wigwam. So they have tasted local success but if a band really wants to proceed they have to try untested waters and now is a good time for bands like 5 Hills Out with some other notable bands taking folk (and Celtic) punk to the masses.
5 Hills Out from left to right: Dave Coxon- Bass * Rebecca Liverman- Saxophone, Accordion * Ben Liverman- Guitar, Mandola, Vocals * Andy Gurney- Guitar, Mandola, Mandolin * Chris Clay- Drums.
The EP opens with ‘Cogs’ and sometimes you know straight from the off if you like it and within just a few seconds I had that feeling. It has that sort of 80’s Anarcho-Punk feel to it but much much better produced and a BIG sound that encompasses fiddle, mandolin, tin-whistle and saxophone. Its as catchy a tune as i heard in a while and has a nice Irish/Celtic interlude taking it firmly into Celtic-Punk territory and with Ben’s great vocals that are sung with passion and gusto whilst still sounding quite angsty (quite the feat I tell you) but as usual you need the songs to make all this work and ‘Cogs’ is just that. A rollicking belter of a track that as vocalist Ben explains
“aimed at a society that continues to undervalue and underpay its workers”.
On track two ‘The Divide’ the lyrics tell us that we must stick together despite the current political unrest and climate of division. Like many of the bands in the Ce;tic/Folk-Punk scene 5 Hills Out have never shied away from using their music to share their political and social views. In 2018 they took part in a protest march to protect a threatened local music venue and more recently shared and supported a campaign to protect the very same studio where they recorded in the past. ‘The Divide’ is another belter of a song. Faster than ‘Cogs’ but still tuneful and as catchy as feck! The accordion comes out here meaning they have now ticked all the boxes to become firm London Celtic Punks favourites. A great song that despite it’s power still has that folk melody unpinning it as Ben sings about us all coming together.
5 Hills out is quite the family affair, with Ben Liverman on mandola, guitar and vocals, which is complemented by Andy Gurney also on guitar, mandola and vocals. Ben’s wife. Beks contributes contrasting sounds to the band on accordion, saxophone and backing vocals, with Beks’ Dad, Dave Coxon on fretless bass and Chris Clay on drums. Shame there’s only two tracks here but 5 Hills Out are definitely a band to watch out for and one to add to that growing roster of bands that float in Ferocious Dog’s orbit. For fans of bands like The Silk Road, Folk The System, Under A Banner or huge stadium bands like The Levellers or New Model Army these two songs will strike a real chord and these infectious foot stomping folk-punk anthems really make us excited to see 5 Hills Out live in concert and hopefully a album won’t be too far behind either.
Second generation Irish singer-songwriter, Nick Burbridge, has been playing Irish-influenced acoustic music since his teens influencing countless others, including in their own words, The Levellers. His band McDermott’s 2 Hours were among the first to ever think of combining punk and Irish folk and his new album Besieged sees him accompanied by members of both The Levellers and the Oysterband and showcases his work as not just a musician but also, in the best Irish tradition, as a poet, playwright and novelist as well.
When writers wax lyrical about the rugged Celtic beauty that came to fruition with The Pogues and Shane MacGowan, they often seem to suggest that time has stood still and that Irish music had been sitting,waiting, since the mid-sixties ballad boom of The Dubliners et al for something suddenly to connect the urgency of punk with the heart and soul of traditional music. But out in the rough and ready bars of Hamburg and a hundred other German hostelries a band was carving out and whittling its own take on the beauty of Irish folk music; adding fire, vitality and punk-style energy while handling the travails of fights and frolics, women, dark streets and drink. The band morphed into McDermott’s 2 Hours in 1986 (named after a wonderfully unexpected happening on pirate radio during the Battle Of The Bogside as recalled in Eamonn McCann’s War And An Irish Town) ‘being Irish and in the wrong place and at the wrong time’ – to paraphrase MacGowan. In the pubs and clubs of Brighton and London they built a reputation for their incendiary live performances that have become legend. Among their wild and youthful admirers were a gaggle of friends who, a few years down the line, influenced by the spirit, fire and camaraderie of Nick Burbridge and McDermott’s 2 Hours, would strap on guitars and call themselves The Levellers. Those in the know realise that Nick Burbridge has been, and continues to be one of the best songwriters in the Anglo-Irish tradition. He fashions songs that, as well as perfectly capturing the gritty underbelly of the Irish experience in 60s/70s mainland UK, beautifully capture the longing for home and reality of the Troubles with all the evocative magnificence of Beckett or Joyce.
But that was then and this is now.
Besieged is not so much a final curtain as a magnificent encore, serving as the last instalment of a magnificent career. Singer, songwriter, poet, playwright and frontman with folk, rock, roots and punk outfit McDermott’s 2 Hours, Nick Burbridge has released his final album with the band. Besieged sees Nick again team up with members of The Levellers (Jeremy Cunningham and Simon Friend), Oysterband (Dil Davies and Al Scott), Ben Paley (son of the late folk music giant Tom Paley), plus Tim Cotterell and friends, for the album’s twelve tracks. Released via The Levellers On the Fiddle Recordings. Given the artists involved in this album it is of no surprise to hear contemporary folk music of the itinerant outsider, travelling through Europe delivering great tunes and hard hitting poetical lyrics that stand out and are clear. All this amongst the traditional melodies expertly delivered . Fans of the artists will be delighted with the blood sweat and tears gone into this production, but this is no compilation of hits gone by, but something new and fresh, so even if you come to’Besieged’ as an innocent abroad, looking for an anecdote to the monotony of apolitical electronica or a die hard folkster extending their collection, listen up and be inspired.
This album has everything you’d want from a folk album, laments of the itchy footed; murder ballads; the loss of young lives; drinking songs; anti establishment reeling and railing and a call to join the march of protest. Yet while the tunes are heavily rooted in tradition the lyrical content oft recounts tales of modern society, forgotten tales of the tragic loss of young life in contemporary Ireland. This theme is particularly stark in ‘This Child’, ‘Forlorn Hope’ and ‘All That Fall’.
‘This Child’ like so many a folk song laments the loss of young life, gunned down for being in “the wrong place at the wrong time.” But this is not a song of 17th century highway robbery or even a tune of the innocent Irish during the troubles. This is a song of South Manchester’s Moss Side in the 80s. The time is emphasised by electric jarring chords that blend so well with the rest of the strings, that, incidentally, give us a haunting solo in the middle eight, and a good old fashioned punky 4×4 drum beat. This is a song of a time when the press dubbed the area ‘Gunchester’ a killing field on our doorstep when young Jesse James, the lads rightly don’t dwell on the irony of this young kids name, was shot while innocently riding his bicycle across a piece of wasteland. All this told clearly and melodically with enough rock guitar to bring on a crescendo end of the echoing tones of feedback. ‘Forlorn Hope’ rocks us to Portadown and asks us to jig to the tale of a town divided by sectarian violence, where a night on the gear may be followed by a morning of throwing rocks at the Orange drumming bands, where any attempt at peace was thwarted by those whose interest it was to keep communities apart. The female protagonist of the piece seems to survive but could have easily met the fate of Alice McLoughlin, shot in the back of a Portadown police car or poor Catholic Bernadette Martin shot down while sleeping in bed with reformed Protestant Gordon Green. No wonder our song’s heroine here ends up high in Camden town. All this to growling guitars across the verses with singing violin instrumentals.
It is the first side of the album that is particularly steeped in modern day tales of tragedy and track 6 is no exception. ‘ All That Fall’ is an uplifting ballad told from the perspective of the victims of abuse that have risen to have a life now “looking back in hope, not in anger”. These “daughters of Mayo” stride history and geography and could be many a farm girl or boy abused in a barn with a sack upon their head or even daughter of Mayo, Mary Ann, kidnapped and abused with a pillowcase on her head in Reading 2005. The tune is acoustic and clear like a Christy Moore ballad that leads us to hum along, the chorus strong that anybody shaking the dust from their feet to live again will feel and the female vocals at the end soft on our ears and full of hope.
The opener of side one ‘Firebird’ gets us in a great mood and sets the tone with fiddle and guitar delivering a folk rock and reel of a Phoenix rising from the ashes with a strong vocal and sing along chorus. This is quickly, it seems, followed by ‘Erin Farewell’ a swaying anthem for the inevitability of the natural roamer leaving behind the toil of the fields of home and the bed of his marriage under the pretence of chasing a better life in the big smoke. It reminds us of many a navvie or brickie’s song whether that come from Ian Campbell, The Fureys or indeed The Pogues. The worker here admits that it is not just the money but the excitement and camaraderie of like minded men in a strange land he seeks. Like so many of us his yearning ping pongs him from ‘over there’ to the warmth of home, it is a lucky man who has an understanding wife. Side one also includes a rallying call to protest, ‘The Last Mile’ “Lets take it in the old style, that’s your arm through mine” they cry to an Anglo folk rhythm that has uplifting strings and drums that send a tingle right through you.
Side two content eases us into historical ground. ‘Warrior Monk’ with strong bass, marching guitar riff and somewhat Arabic strings, walks us to the time of Crusades from the fall of Jerusalem in the 12th century to its’ Moorish reinstatement under Saladin. The song has a crusader’s bastard Moor son of the east ending in battle with his other Christian son of the west. A timely reminder of the futility of war when many a brother fights with another, we are, after all, Christian, Jew or Muslim, sons of Abraham! The jarring electric chord at the end reminds us that this is a song of now as well as then. The songwriters knowledge of history and how it weaves its way through our DNA and indeed a curse upon all our houses continues with title track, ‘Besieged’ . A wonderful trip from fortresses of 17th century Rheinfels to monastery walls, Irish tenement houses right up to date through Cornish fisherman’s houses to the so easily kicked over castles in the Sand. A lyrical metaphorical trip through the history of life and love like Bob Dylan gave Al Stewart a large dram and they wrote a song together. ‘Crossed lovers’ brings us into a timeless familiar territory of a familiar lovers quarrel “How can you hear me if you won’t listen” brought to us by two voices in a slow melodical ballad. This is juxtaposed by the raucous drinking song of ‘Damned Man Polka’ backed with reels and military marching drums.
This wonderful album’s penultimate song is a kick in the teeth to the abuse that taints the Church with hard hitting ‘All in your Name’ a duel tempo choppy guitar with bouncing verse and drawled accusational chorus before once again calming us down with the final track, ‘ The Ring’. A traditional sound, a beautiful song of love, land and nationhood with string, flute and voice as crisp as snow underfoot reminding us who we are, “here, now and always”.
Every listen of ‘Besieged’ is indeed time well spent.
Limited edition two CD set released 8 February includes the Best of compilation, Anticlimactic but you can buy several versions including the download direct from Nick here
Also available from all streaming services inc. Spotify, Amazon etc here
The Bleeding Hearts from the West Midlands play Folk-Punk for punk folk that you can sing to, dance to and play very very loud. It’s classic Bleeders but with a new sweet and sour twist that will put a smile on anybody’s face.
Summer 2018 saw England basking in the biggest heat-wave it’s seen since 1976, the year that Punk-Rock exploded onto the red hot and ladybird covered streets of this green and pleasant land. So with the anniversary of punk taking it well into middle age its only fitting that the new album from Midlands based The Bleeding Hearts takes in about every variety of punk you can imagine. Two years in the making the Bleeders may have been quiet on the recording front but they have always been kept busy with playing live and touring. The songs here have been ‘live tested’ over those couple of years and the fields and concert halls of Europe have taken a beating because of it!!
The Bleeding Hearts from left to right: Riley ‘The Destroyer’- Drums * Foxie ‘The Gob’- Lead Vocals, Guitar * Gel ‘The Steamtrain’- Bass, Vocals * Ewan ‘The Keeping It Very Nice’- Mandolin, Cittern, Guitar, Vocals *
This is the sixth studio album from The Bleeding Hearts and it may well be their best of all time. I say may be because I only own the last three. So you could say I’m a big fan and will be a bit biased. Well you are right but I have always thought they didn’t get the attention they deserved so if I can help them along that road I sure as hell will. Formed in 1995 around Birmingham in the West Midlands they have stayed true to their aim of delivering ‘alternative music for alternative people’ ever since and even more important for them they have done it all under their own steam and refused any offer of help from ‘The Man’ and have remained an unsigned D.I.Y. collective. To hear a band combining punk rock attitude and emotion with folk’s harmonies and rhythms is nothing new on these pages but every now and then a band comes along that is that little bit different and even rarer a LOT different. The fiddle from their earlier days has gone so also gone is their most obvious connection to Celtic-Punk but listening to the album their is still loads and loads that will appeal to even the most hardcore of Celtic-Punk fans. In keeping with what we like here at London Celtic Punks the emphasis is on ‘fun’ here whilst still keeping a distinctive message in the lyrics. They may have the bones of a classic punk band but chuck it those folk harmonies and some rousing mandolin and strong passionate vocals and you have a band that is bound for glory.
The Rules Of Division begins with one of the album’s highlights and also one of the first releases from it. ‘The Devil’s Mosh’ kicks off with Gel’s throbbing bass slowly building up into one hell of a opening tune. As soon as the song really gets underway the most distinctive thing I hear is Foxie and his vocals. He doesn’t shout or yell (well he does have his moments) and he possesses a great voice but at all times his voice fits perfectly the music may it be a punk rock stormer, a folky diddler or a ballad or even a Ceilidh foot stomping whiskey swigging rocker like ‘The Devil’s Mosh’.
At the start I said that this album takes in all sorts of punk rock genres and ‘Cool Cats’ is another standout tune here but to save me the bother of telling you the high points just assume every song is one. After all I don’t think their is a weak track on this album. Testament to them deciding to road test them I suppose. Its catchy and gives the impression that their is more than just four of them and they keep it up with ‘Common Man’ where they sort of slow it down a little and even sound quite a lot like one of my favourite bands The Zipheads. Once again its a catchy number with a 60’s feel at times as The Bleeding Hearts reach out to the everyday geezer and try to steer him straight. Lots of ‘la, la, la’ gang vocals in the chorus which I always go for that leads us into one of the albums slower songs. The Bleeding Hearts inhabit a place in the UK music scene that also encompass bands like The Levellers and New Model Army and also newer bands like Ferocious Dog and The Silk Road. On ‘Don’t call This Love’ its NMA that springs to mind but also more Goth tinged bands too. Its excellent and shows the range of the band that its not all about floor fillers and that now, like punk rock, we may have lost some of that youthful vigour that demanded every song be played at 110 mph. Being from the West Midlands and in a Folk-Punk you could bet your shirt that they’ll be some sort of anti-Tory song on here and you’d not be going out in the cold so relax as ‘Tory Attax’ sticks the boot into the government and chiefly their so called ‘Bedroom Tax’ where they charged people extra for living in council housing and having more rooms than the government decided they needed. Its got me thinking of the Newtown Neurotics this one on both sound and content. A great blast of punk rock and a clever way to follow the slower ‘Don’t Call This Love’. Another video release from the album was ‘Pleasure Hive’ and a more ‘La, La, La’s’ bodes well for me. Foxie’s chugging guitar keeps the song from completely disappearing into 70’s prog-rock parody in this tale of the golden bus to Marrakesh and free love, dope and lost days.
Not surprisingly for a band that has spent a huge proportion of its existence performing in fields their is a song about the environment though don’t worry it’s far from preachy and is in fact downright beautiful. I often roll my eyes when i hear this kind of song so ‘This Nature’ is a welcome relief from the moralizing and oft-times insincere type of song you normally hear. We are rocking up towards the end and its time for another punk rocker and ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ keeps it fast with defiant lyrics calling out the rich and corrupt for all their wrong doing in a rootsy punk rock folk style. ‘Down The Hatch’ is more standard Celtic-Punk in both style and lyrics with yer man Foxie proclaiming not another drop of alcohol will ever touch his lips. Will use a straw then I suppose! A cracker of a tune with the mandolin pushed out front for this one. A right foot tapper and one we can all sympathise with though in the end we always return as does Foxie on ‘Whiskey Is The One’ and the real reason why many of us like a drink (or two!) it does actually help you get through things and it would be silly to ignore that. Though I suppose I must add here ‘Drink Responsibly’ dear readers or some posh twat will report me to the Police! So far its been a brilliant romp and The Bleeding Hearts go out on a high with final song ‘All Fall Down’ and its the longest hear. On a album that stretches up to fifty minutes, not that you notice as it flies by in a flash, the five and a half minute ‘All Fall Down’ threatens at times to build into something bombastic but but they rein it in and let the song stand on it’s own. A glorious way to bring down the curtain.
With two EP’s and their five albums behind them The Bleeding Hearts popularity has never waned and in part that is due to their constant gigging which has seen them play right across the UK and Europe as well as North America. It’s bands like Ferocious Dog though that have reaped what The Bleeding Hearts have sowed having showed that it is possible to do things yourselves without the need for managers, promoters, PA’s and record industry leeches trying to separate you from your principals as well as your cash. They also showed that to make it in a world where relationships get harder and harder to make that you can treat your fans as family and not consumers there to pay for your livelihood. In this modern world of digital its heartening to find a band that still likes to get out there and write a song, gig it, record it, upload it, download it, do it all again. Keeping it true to their principals of ‘alternative music for alternative people The Bleeding Hearts remain in their twenty-third year a defiantly unsigned D.I.Y collective that the spirit of ’76 lives on in.
Gritty, honest Celtic-Folk-Punk from the north of England’s The Silk Road and a tale of murder and corruption leading to the highest pillars of the British state.
Despite being one of the best bands in the Celtic-Punk scene on this island The Silk Road remain relatively unknown outside the north of England. Hailing from the Derbyshire town of Chesterfield, whose football team has suffered the same ignominy as my own, Leyton Orient, and dropped out the Football League, they are the unsung heroes of Celtic-Punk in England. It’s not unusual that bands from the main cities get all the glory and sometimes coming from an unfashionable place can even hold you back. It’s just a shame that whoever decides these things doesn’t value the history of a place like Chesterfield with its past steeped in traditions of coal mining and steel production and the accompanying militant trade unionism that goes with it.
The Silk Road left to right: Andy(Rosie)- Guitar/Backing Vocals * Brian- Drums * Tich- Vocals/Acoustic Guitar * Shaun- Bass * Jamie- Fiddle
The Silk Road have been together since 2015 formed by Tich, Andy and Shaun and going on later to recruit both Jamie and Brian. Taking some old demos singer/songwriter Tich had recorded in his studio and re-working them into something new and fresh The Silk Road began to take shape. They released Midnight in July of 2016 as a taster for their forthcoming self-titled debut album that was the light of day in July of last year. The album lit up the Celtic-Punk worlds media hitting their many Best Of’s including ours where it landed a very respectful #14. Infectious and catchy throughout the album had more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and plenty of folk to keep the oldies like me happy too. Owing a debt to the English folk-rock scene that has kept bands like The Levellers and New Model Army in clover The Silk Road have also added their own style of both Celtic and English folk melodies without losing any of the punk urgency that they started out with.
Here on their brand new EP Justice For Daniel The Silk Road have Andy has come in as a extra guitarist and they have added two instruments you don;t hear much in Celtic-Punk with Tom Wood on trumpet and Sarah Reaney-Wood on saxophone who join the band live on stage when time permits. The EP’s title refers to the tragic case of Daniel Morgan. Daniel was a private detective whose gruesome murder still lies unsolved despite being the most investigated murder in English legal history. Police corruption and criminal activity and the conduct of journalists with the British tabloid News of the World lie at the heart of this case. According to a Metropolitan Police investigation in 2007 his murder was because he
“was about to expose a south London drugs network possibly involving corrupt police officers”.
Daniel was 37 at the time of his death in a south London pub car park on 10 March 1987 and in the 30+ years since his death his family have never given up trying to find out what happened and to bring Daniel’s murderers to justice. Their are several excellent places to find out more about Daniel’s case but the best place is the ten-part podcast Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder which topped the UK iTunes chart here.
With family connections to the case and a desire to see justice done The Silk Road have released this EP in tribute to Daniel and in hope of keeping the case alive and it was with Daniel’s families blessing that they went ahead with the song. The EP begins with the title track and Tich tells the full tale of what went on. Its a jaunty and catchy wee number that belies its tragic subject matter. As is The Silk Road way Tich’s vocals are clear and easy on the ear while the music is basically upbeat folkyness with some excellent fiddle work from Jamie. As protest songs go its up their with the best I’ve heard in recent years and you can tell from the passion in Tich’s voice it’s a subject close to his heart. You can have a listen to this grand song over at Facebook here. A brilliant start and they continue with ‘No Reason’. The electric guitar is louder here giving them a bit more punch and gives them the sound that lies somewhere inbetween The Levs and NMA but with added Ferocious Dog too! As usual with The Silk Road its as catchy as hell as police corruption is again tackled. They let fly next with ‘Morgan’s Riot’ and if the Celtic-ness has been somewhat subdued so far they don’t hold back here. Proper pure top of the table Celtic-Punk that will get the auld feet tapping away. Its fast and furious and again Jamie’s fiddle is amazing. The only complaint is that its not longer as at under three minutes I don’t think it does it justice. The curtain comes down on the EP with an acoustic version of the title track ‘Justice For Daniel’. Just Tich and his acoustic guitar, Jamie and his fiddle and the wonderful sound of Sara Haley on backing vocals and the whole gang getting in on the chorus it is, not surprisingly quite an emotional and poignant song.
It may look Celtic but The Silk Road logo of three hares with interlocking ears is actually from the far east where the silk road was the ancient trade route linking Asia to the West.
Clocking in at near twenty minutes its all together a fantastic EP that warrants getting hold of. Brought out by the band themselves and financed in part from sponsorship from the Vape Domain shop in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire its always great to see a band taking their own route and sticking close to their principals, also good to get a dose of real politics into the scene. The Silk Road are not Irish or Scottish but are still most definitely a Celtic-Folk-Punk band and one of the best this island has to offer too. Year on they get bigger and more well known and despite several set-backs we are still going to see them in London town one day soon. It’s a shame the CD is not available as a download but drop the band a line at the e-mail address below and they will let you know how to get a proper CD. It’s worth it for lots of reasons.
The self-produced and self-financed debut album from a bunch of socialist folk-punkers from North Wales who will bring down the system or fall asleep trying!
So we can safely say we are into the new year in full swing with this our first review of 2018. Released on new year’s day it’s not yer typical celtic-punk but seeing as how Red Or Dead hail from the Celtic stronghold of north Wales it certainly justifies its place here. While musically its from the same sort of path as ‘festie’ bands like The Levellers, Folk The System or even Ferocious Dog it sticks pretty much to the more modern standard of what passes for folk-punk and while I think it could benefit from a few celtic flourishes it’s fine as it is! The band formed only a couple of years after meeting while protesting outside a UKIP conference. Folk has long been a way for people to push for change and in fact the folk scene could do with a real dose of it now.
Red Or Dead left to right: Dave Sunerton Burl- Bass, Guitar * Rob Murray- Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals * Gala Elvira- Vocals * Emma Sunerton Burl- Cajon/Percussion
Trotsky Waltz begins with ‘I Am The Fire’ and if they weren’t indeed Welsh then I would be bringing the names of some classic English folk-rock bands into the equation. The most stand out thing after first listen is the use of a cajon which is one of those wooden boxes that people sit on and tap and thump instead of having a drummer. This means that it doesn’t ever really fly off into punk remaining solidly within folk. It’s a rousing start to proceedings though and its always sensible to start with a standout track I think. Lyrically its all a bit right on but does at least manage not to fall into cliche, or even worse parody. Robs vocals are strong and with Gala’s backing the two of them work brilliantly together. The following two tracks first appeared on their debut EP from last year and both have been improved on significantly. ‘No One Is Innocent’ sees Gala take over on vocals and she has a certain anarcho-punk sound to her voice reminding me of early Chumba’s perhaps. Looking back I think lot of what we called anarcho-punk back in the day would now be classed as folk-punk. Back when I first going to pubs when I was just a young spotty punk rocker the pubs and clubs use to be full of socialist folky bands, or at least the ones I went to, and how Red Or Dead would have loved those days.
(listen to their debut release below)
‘Watch It Burn’ is like the rest of the album a call to arms, or at least the street and I will try not to overuse the word ‘catchy’ here though it is going to be hard. Gala belts out the angry ‘In America’ and its on songs like these that the band could benefit from a drummer to give the songs a bit of extra bite. Nevertheless it still trips along nicely until Rob chimes in with
“Land of the free? Fuuuuuck Off! Land of the rich white man”
bawled out and follows a rant about the state of the nation over there in the USA. I do wonder though how Obama fits into this narrative of the “rich white man” seeing how many dead bodies he was responsible for around the world? ‘Colin Cambridge’ slows it all down and chucks in something you don’t often hear in modern day music of any genre… whistling!
(here is ‘Colin Cambridge’… minus the whistling though!)
In a song that is crying out for tin whistle I suppose you got to go with what you got in a song about privileged people who go on to do nothing with their lives. The best song since the opener is up next with ‘Steeltown’ and is a simple track beginning with acoustic guitar and mandolin and Rob singing over the top about the decimation of the working class and their industries. Coming from a coal-mining family myself I can only agree that it was the Tories and Labour who share the blame for screwing the working class. Its often been said that the Conservatives defend their class and Labour hate theirs. Wales is owed a hell of a lot by the Labour Party for a loyalty that was never deserved. ‘A New Day’ is yer standard victory is in sight song but wishful thinking methinks. While the left is obsessed by poisonous identity politics we are going absolutely nowhere.
‘Never Again’ is a well cliched song title but the song manages to be both angry and gentle and I love that they name check Jimmy Reid the old Scots trade unionist.
“Never again will I bow down to a false ideal or a faded crown”
‘All The World’ plays more of the same and for once the politics take a bit of a back seat. With influences from across punk you can hear The Clash loud and proud within ‘Travel Home’ which comes over as a tribute to ‘Armagideon Time’ and in the following song, ‘Strummer And Burnel’, Rob pays his debt to the heroes who inspired him into a life of music. Bemoaning, and quite rightly, the quality of both today’s music and today’s protest.
“Students they don’t march no more the middle class won that war”
Catchy and thoughtful and with a nice bit of electric guitar that threatens to rock out but just resists. We are coming up towards the final bend and ‘Living In A Life’ is another standout number here and I feel they could certainly rock out more on numbers like this. Would still be a real foot tapper live but just in need of a little extra oomft! The album comes to an end with ‘Make A Stand’ and is the perfect way to end things with a ‘lighter waving in the air’ song.
So a whopping thirteen songs that come in at a also whopping forty-five minutes and if I’m being honest then I would say the album may have benefited from being maybe two or three songs shorter. While the cajon is absolutely fine live it does get a wee bit thumpy on disc and dare I say it monotonous. The music is catchy and solid and lyrics are straight from the heart and sometimes burn with passion making you wish the music was a bit up there too. The major criticism people have of folk-punk is that it is boring but Red Or Dead steer well clear of that and the album is very well paced and recorded with a clear and crisp production too. Unashamedly left-wing and idealistic they are the sort of band that would appeal to fans of all the usual suspects of festival bands and may well pop up playing at a political benefit near you at anytime soon.
(you can listen to the entirety of Trotsky Waltz for *FREE* below on the Bandcamp player)
In every musical scene every now and then a band comes along that is so good they threaten to break out and become the next big thing. That band is Ferocious Dog and that they have got to where they are solely on their own merits and without any sort of backing is simply incredible. Ferocious Dog are on the brink of something special and their new album Red will only speed them there.
Where to start with Ferocious Dog? I first came upon their name a few years ago whispered quietly upon the internet. They were formed way back in the day but for some reason they raised few eyebrows on the celtic-punk scene despite playing some of the best kick-arse celtic-punk rock you are ever likely to hear. Maybe they were missed because they were tucked away up north or we had them pigeonholed as a punky Levellers or a folky New Model Army and while those comparisons may be true there’s a whole lot more to the Ferocious Dog phenomenon than that. Originally formed back in 1988 as a duo with Ken on vocals and acoustic guitar and Dan on fiddle it wasn’t until 2010 that they took the step to becoming a full band.
It was the famed, and sadly now defunct, Paddy Punx website that first brought FD to my ears. The web site that upset every Celtic band in history by providing free links to pretty much every release by anyone that ever called themselves celtic-punk. Their description of the band as ‘English celtic-punk’ is not an oxymoron trust me and was enough to get me scurrying to my laptop and start downloading their self-titled debut album. From the very first play I knew I had to track this band down. That was back in early 2013 and you knew you were listening to something special straight away. Here was a band that bridged perfectly the folk and punk/rock scene’s perfectly. Since those days their star has risen higher and higher with the release of their acclaimed second album From Without and a bunch of absolutely brilliant EP’s and singles.
For Ferocious Dog it was the year 2015 that saw their promotion to the Premier League of alternative music. The release of From Without accompanied by two awe inspiring singles, ‘Ruby Bridges’ and ‘Slow Motion Suicide’, and a near sell out tour that went from one end of this sceptred isle to the other and across again culminated in a sell out performance in their, near, home town of Nottingham at the famed Rock City venue. The first time in that esteemed venues 35 year history that a unsigned band had sold out the venue in advance! One fan explained
“For me it felt like a real watershed moment for a band I’ve had the pleasure of following for the last few years. It feels like this gig was the moment things might change, they have integrity and strength and a loyal following”
Headline spots at Glastonbury followed and in the years since they have become a de-facto headliner for festivals to fight over. Any festie appearance guaranteeing bums in wigwams. Constant touring has helped to cement their position even if it did mean saying goodbye to two of the original Hounds who helped them on their way, Scott Walters and Ellis Waring.
Ferocious Dog: John Leonard- Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar, Bouzouki, Tin-Whistle, Uilleann Pipes, Accordion and shouting! * Ken Bonsall- Lead Singer/Acoustic Guitar * Les Carter- Lead Guitar * Dan Booth – Fiddle * John Alexander- Bass * Scott Walters- Drums
All this and without even a tiny bit of support from the record industry… and not for the want of either. Ferocious Dog are that rare thing. A band with integrity and belief. Yeah you read that right these guys have been courted by the industry and they have chosen the DIY route. No one controls the bark of this dog! The punk scene is notorious for having bands within it making all the right (on) sounds but the moment any interest is shown they are off like a shot with any principals and convictions left chucked to the floor in the haste to get on board the gravy train. None of that holds any sway for Ferocious Dog and they continue to plough their way through the alternative music scene gathering up more and more fans as they take England (and now the Netherlands!) by storm.
With new members on board, Les Carter, from indie Gods, Carter USM, multi-instrumentalist John Leonard and drummer Alex Smith, and all now firmly bedded in, Ferocious Dog have just released their third and latest album to the world. Titled Red it continues where From Without left off with more of their punk rock infused folk/Celtic sounds but with a more mature feel to it. Everything seems a progression in the FD camp from their gigs to their records and even their merchandise! The six piece band take in elements of punk, rock and reggae and mix it up with Irish and Celtic folk music and biting social commentary that comes from the ‘shop-floor’ not university lectures. The band hail from around Nottinghamshire, a working class area that once was famed for its industry and among the areas most important was coal-mining. In the famed 1984-85 miners strike the majority of Nottinghamshire’s miners sided with the government against their own trade union causing splits among friends, family and work-mates and it’s no exaggeration to say that civil war was breaking out in many mining communities across Britain. My own father worked at a coal mine across the border from Notts in South Yorkshire and never spoke to his strike-breaking brother again, not even attending his funeral. Real life experiences that shape and change minds and whole communities. The politics on Red are from the heart and from the working class. From where real politics come from.
One of the things that has enabled Ferocious Dog to achieve what they have done is the high degree of loyalty they bring out of their fans. Known as ‘Hell Hounds’, taking their name from a song from their debut album, its not unknown for fans to follow the band around the country from gig to gig and its a loyalty that is well deserved. A friendly bunch who make every gig an event and their lively mosh pits are welcome to all. Having seen them play now countless times I can assure you that the Hell Hounds make sure every gig is different and while it is, and always will be, better to see them in a small venue it doesn’t get better than seeing this wonderful bunch live! The first time I saw the band in a packed Half Moon in South London I still managed to have a quick chat with two of the band members after the gig they seemed to know the entire audience by name! Always accessible and available and with a real interest in what’s going on in the scene few bands have the following that Ferocious Dog deserve to have.
Ken and Dan- original Hell Hounds
Red begins with ‘Black Gold’ and there’s no holds barred from the very beginning with this song telling of the role of the British Empire in slavery. Kicking off with some amazing mandolin before fiddle and electric guitar announce the arrival of the whole band into the fray. Ken has a very strong voice that is clear and precise and his northern accent shines through. I’ll try not to mention that word (catchy) too much in this review but as that word could have Ferocious Dog next to it in the dictionary it may be hard! This is followed by ‘American Dream’ and a bit of a first here in that I think it may be the first song that a proper video was shot for.
This is where the real celtic-punk kicks in. The first few songs remind me of San Diego celtic-rockers Lexington Field and it comes together perfect with superb fiddle driving the song along. ‘Spin’ is up next and begins as a straight up Irish trad tune with tin whistle and fiddle and is a real lyrics heavy track about the state of the country as Ken puts the boot into the Tories. One of the things that Ferocious Dog are famous for is their own compositions but they always throw in a couple of well placed covers and the first here is a version of Steeleye Span’s ‘Black Leg Miner’ that fair raises the roof. It first appeared on their album Hark! The Village Wait back in 1970 and the lyrics spit bile and give an insight into the contempt felt by striking miners and their communities to the weasels who stabbed them in the back.
“Across the way they stretch a line
To catch the throat, to break the spine
Of the dirty blackleg miner.
They grabbed his duds, his picks as well,
And they hoy them down the pit of hell,
Down you go, we pay you well”
The songs origins lay in the Durham coalfields of the 19th century and Ferocious Dog with a sense of their own history have certainly chosen well here. It’s perfect FD fodder with its slowly sung verses and frantic and manic chorus giving the audience plenty of chance to singalong before the moshing starts!
The next track up is ‘Together we are Strong’ and will soon I am sure become a firm live favourite. Catchy as hell and a real fist in the air shoutalong rather than singalong. Pleading for unity among the poor and dispossessed it’s not one of my favourites here but I’m sure the Hell Hounds will lap it up. It just seems a bit formulaic for me still it’s an upbeat number that is designed for the dance floor not critics tapping away on their laptops! So five songs in and the pace has been relentless with the band refusing to let up for a second so we were due a slower song but ‘A & B’ still came as a bit of a surprise. The change in pace is not unexpected but what a song! Up there with the best that they have ever recorded. Fiddle player Dan takes over on the vocals with simple but effective backing from John on acoustic guitar in a beautiful song about “the hardest story to be told”. Inspired by visits to Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps in Poland the song has few lyrics but packs more in than any on this album. Ending with mournful fiddle that brings the song to an end.
We are back in proper FD territory again with the next song ‘The Enemy Within’ and again its a song dedicated to the miners and the strike. For a year the miners held out against a government determined to not only break them but to smash them. The miners went from “saviours of a nation” to, as Thatcher christened them, The Enemy Within. In France as the last coal mine close the miners were lauded as they rose from the depths of the earth. They were feted on live TV and the whole French nation paid tribute to these brave hard working men who faced death every time they left home for work. Here as the pits closed they simply threw the miners and their families onto the scrapheap and did absolutely nothing for the communities that relied so heavily on the industry.
I look around and all the mines are gone, I felt the need to put my feelings into song, You dare to tell me now the miners were all wrong and yes I am your enemy”
So yes a lot of anger and rightly so. Starting with military drumming it soon turns into a potted history of mining over a typical FD mosh friendly Celtic rocker. We are rolling up towards the end now and ‘A Place I Want To Be’ is a bit of a shocker with Les taking on lead vocals and having always been a huge fan of Carter USM it really made my day when they first announced he was joining the band. The song begins slow and gentle with Les picking away on an acoustic guitar before it explodes into action and any tale of a relationship breakdown deserves a bit of passion before it returns to just Les and his guitar. Now many seasoned celtic-punk fans may give a little sigh at seeing ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya’ on the track listing but to be fair it’s possibly not a song that well known to the FD fan base. While many celtic-punk bands have given it a whirl (none have bettered the ‘rebel’ version by Easterhouse by the way here) it’s not particularly well known outside our circles. I’ve a tonne of family in Athy and spent many a summers day there escaping farm work and trust me they never shut up about this song! Here they start off gentle with the Celtic instruments to the fore but its not long before the band have all joined in and turned it into the celtic-punk dance fest its always destined to be. This is followed by ‘Small Town Hero’ and by Christ it’s the album standout for me. A chugging bouncy punk rocker with some lovely fiddle work. Despite Ken’s accent it has a feel of early Dropkicks to me. Maybe its the gang chorus of ‘Heys’ but it’s a real belter of a song and sure to be another live favourite with pints and fist thrust to the air. We have arrived at the end and the curtain comes down on Red with a real surprise number. FD have often flirted with reggae but here they go for a seven minute epic bastard of a song titled ‘Class War’. Now I’m not the biggest reggae fan. Twenty-five years of living in Hackney and listening to selfish bastards playing it out their windows at 3am has turned me right against it but I can appreciate it here and the change of pace is nice but the laid back vibe doesn’t last for long as FD can’t help themselves and before long it speeds up out of the blue and we are off again. Class war is indeed raging on the streets of England but it is not a war between the classes but a war against the working class and our very identity and culture. A great way to finish the album and so ends forty minutes of pure unabashed celtic-punk fun.
So there you have it and this is the longest album review to have ever appeared on these pages and all written in just a couple of go’s with no notes. Obviously the inspiration flows out of Ken and the Bhoys into us all! The production on Red deserves a mention and Phil Wilbraham at the Electric Bear Studios in Mansfield has done an exemplary job here capturing the sound and feel of FD perfectly. The release comes in both vinyl and CD and the CD comes with a massive 28 page booklet featuring photos and lyrics. As is usual with all FD releases is has been recorded in tribute to Ken’s son Lee Bonsall.
Pivotal to the ethos and drive of Ferocious Dog is the sad fate of Ken’s son Lee. Lee served in Afghanistan from the age of 18, and upon rejoining civilian life took his own life in 2012 at the age of just 24, unable to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from seeing one of his friends being shot dead by a sniper. Lee is commemorated in the Ferocious Dog songs ‘The Glass’, ‘Lee’s Tune’ and ‘A Verse For Lee’. This gave rise to The Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund which raises money and awareness for various causes close to the bands heart. Lee’s story was featured in a BBC documentary Broken By Battle in 2013. It was Lee that actually named the band as a child.
This third studio album from Ferocious Dog shows a band at the top of their game but they seem to have been at the top of their game for so long now that you could regard it as a usual state of affairs for them. It’s hard to see where their progression has come from as they haven’t radically altered their sound from their debut album but the difference from other bands comes from the quality of their songwriting and lyrics. Here three different members of the band take the mic and each excel on songs that range from full on fast celtic-punk rock to soft and gentle tear jerkers while all the time playing with a sincerity that would alien to most bands. I simply cannot state how much respect and love I have for this band and to prove it I am even giving up the heady delights of St Patrick’s Day in the capital with the London Irish to go see them in Oxford so see you there. I’ll be in the middle of the dance floor!
Ferocious Dog (2013) * Ferocious Dog 3 Piece Acoustic (2014) * From Without (2015) * From Without Acoustic (2017) * Red (2017)
If you are at all interested in the world of Ferocious Dog, and why wouldn’t you be?, then a very good place to hook into is the Ferocious Blog. A fans eye view of everything a potential Hell Hound would want to know in the FD orbit. Here!
The new four track EP from northern England folk-punk powerhouse Headsticks featuring the legendary voice of Mr. Crass Steve Ignorant.
On first listen to this you may wonder why its being reviewed on these pages. After all we pride ourselves on being celtic-punk and covering (or trying to cover) every aspect of the Celtic music diaspora. While this has seen us feature everything from trad to metal to hip-hop the one kind of music that we haven’t really gone into is what I use to describe as ‘festival music’. The sort of alternative folk-rock pumped out for the last few decades by the likes of New Model Army or The Levellers. But they do own, much like everyone in England!, some rather special Celtic credentials too with the bands roots firmly in the ashes of two much loved, and sadly long gone, celtic-punk bands ‘Tower Struck Down’, who were one of first English celtic-punk bands back in 1985, and Jugopunch.
Headsticks (not The Headsticks) hail from the once proud industrial town of Stoke once amed for the manufacture of pottery (the area is known as The Potteries), coal mining and steel making. All of the areas main industries are long gone having been decimated by successive governments of Labour and Tory who care nothing for the working class while they chase the votes and follow the whims of the urban ‘chattering’ classes. They have featured on this site before with reviews of their debut album, Muster and their follow up Feather And Flames. Both albums were very well received and have seen the bands star rise with each release and having graced the 0161 Festival in Manchester among others and even reached London several times, each time with a growing number of fans.
While there is nothing particularly ‘Celtic’ going on within this EP what you do get is four songs of expertly played catchy as hell and in-yer-face folk-punk with a biting and still humorous at times social commentary which takes well aimed strikes at those who blight our lives with their misrule while all the time knowing exactly who their music is aimed at.
“It’s a social commentary that the working classes can easily relate to…..we aim to make people stop and think with our songs and it does seem to do that! It’s not so much about smashing the statues and setting fire to the government buildings, but more of asking people to look outside their own bubble, basically to start giving a shit before it’s too late!”
The band describe themselves as “where folk and punk collide” and is as perfect a way to sum them up in five words as could be imagined. The songs start side 1 and ‘Big Game Hunter’ and features the unmistakable dulcet tones of the one and only Steve Ignorant of seminal English anarcho-punk band Crass. We have all seen the photos on Facebook of these utter shits standing next and smiling over the corpse of some amazingly beautiful animal they have shot from safety while on safari. While our hope is that they turn the tables on these monsters it rarely happens and ‘trophy hunting’ only seems to be getting more and more popular among the rich and powerful. Maybe one day they will doing it to us? The song has managed to catch both the typical sound of Headsticks and a couple of Steve’s better previous bands pitched somewhere between Schwartzeneggar and the Stratford Mercenaries.
“Arrogance personified, the abuse of wealth and power”
Side 1 comes to an end with ‘Dying For A Lie’ which gives its name to the record. The sad tale of war criminal Tony Blair and the lies. lies, lies that he told to bring us to war in Iraq. The song is catchy and a real head nodder for those of us well past our moshing days. Like a lot of their previous stuff there are touches of country music here and there and it all makes for an enjoyable romp with a nice fist in the air chorus to shout along to.
Flipping over we have side 2 and we are off with the fantastic folk-punk anthem ‘Soaps & Costume Drama’. The recent fad of fancy BBC dramas is a world away from the lives of most people and nowhere on this EP do the words resonate so powerful.
“She escapes into another costume drama, as she waits for her knight in shining armour”
Absolutely classic Headsticks and it sees the welcome introduction of one of my favourite instruments the harmonica too. The disc comes to an end with ‘You’re Killing Me America’, both a band and a crowd favourite re-recorded from the Muster album. It’s brought slap bang up to date beginning with Donald Trump’s voice starting the song off and I would say the rough edges are gone but I don’t think the old version had any but they have added something to it besides a few samples but its kind of hard to put your finger on it. It may have only acoustic guitar and harmonica as ‘folk’ instruments but Headsticks have an unmistakable traditional English folk sound that I’m sure would appeal to all fans of celtic-punk.
(a live version and without the samples and harmonica and extra flourish of the version on the EP but just to give you a wee taster!)
The whole thing comes in a package of a 10″ record on red vinyl that is quite possibly the most beautiful package we have ever received at London Celtic Punks towers. You don’t just get the record either with a whole bunch of stickers, postcards, lyric sheet and download code included. Having been around a bit I’m more than happy to see the resurgence of vinyl even if I do personally listen to most of music on my mobile! The band have also released a live album recently and we will be getting round to that soon but the urgency and honesty and just plain good old fashioned folk’n’roll from their album’s is still very much in evidence and while they may be heavy on the mind they are also light on their feet. An EP of four superbly crafted songs that reflect perfectly what the band represent- the place “where folk and punk collide”.
Infectious and catchy throughout the debut album from northern English celtic-folk-punkers The Silk Road has more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and plenty of folk to keep the oldies like me happy!
Here’s an album we have been waiting for here at London Celtic Punks with baited breath! Those with a good memory will remember way back last October we reviewed thefour track pre-album sampler from The Silk Road and back then we were very impressed
“This kind of music lends itself more to the live experience so if they are able to capture that in the studio then by St George they will have cracked it”
and I am pleased to say they haven’t let us down either!
The Silk Road hail from Chesterfield in the north of England an area famed for it’s industry and for the militant trade unionism that goes with it. Their music reflects this. Their is no pretense or ‘virtue signalling’ here. Their beliefs were learnt at the knee of older generations who lived through times they did not want to see repeated. Formed in 2015 all the band have played music locally going back some twenty years ranging from folk to punk to ska so plenty of experience involved here. Taking some old demos that singer/songwriter Tich had recorded in his studio as a base The Silk Road began to take shape and after adding some new material The Silk Road’s debut album began it’s story.
Musically The Silk Road are cut from the same cloth as three bands who are still regularly packing them in at gigs across the country all year round. The Levellers, New Model Army and Ferocious Dog are the main bands that represent a broad mixture of scenes from folk-punk to celtic-punk to English-folk. The music while it may sound like celtic-punk to some is actually the music of the north of England. Their has always been a strong tradition of folk music among the working class and just as with celtic music it was in the early 80’s that young bands began to change, add and adapt it with hard rock and punk music. For me there is no better example of this than the first two album’s from Billy Bragg. He may be a bit of a wanker now on his farm in Devon lecturing us on how to vote and still pretending he lives in Barking but those albums are an incredible mix of politics and passion that captivated us and I still regularly play them. Armed only with a cheap electric guitar Bragg stormed the Singles charts of the day with his rough but passionate voice and a way of writing straight from the heart. His best songs were always about the mysterious interactions between men and women rather than his left-wing polemics but this was urban folk at it’s finest. Now some 20+ years later The Silk Road take their place on the same path and I’m sure they won’t be moving to Devon the first chance they get!
This self-titled album is thirteen original compositions by the band and though it’s very much a team effort it’s in no small part down to the vision and drive of lead vocalist Tich. A tattooist by trade it was his idea to use the symbol of the silk road as the bands logo. Yes it may look Celtic/Irish but the three hares with interlocking ears is actually from the far east where the silk road was the ancient trade route linking Asia to the West. The album cover itself was designed by no other than celtic-punk’s leading lady Katie ‘Kaboom’ McConnell of The Mahones.
The album begins with ‘No Revolution’ and it’s a loud start. I was expecting something a bit quieter so was pleasantly surprised. Quite a basic 80’s punk sound here which I absolutely love. The fiddle may have been worth turning up a bit but its got harmonica so that’s me happy for the next forty-eight minutes! Tich’s vocals are clear as crystal and so easy to understand, and get, that there is literally no point in putting them in the CD booklet. ‘Find A Cure’ follows the same road except with a short reggae interlude before a great punk rock Irish jig takes over. Great chorus here that will have you singing it in your head long after you’ve heard it. One of the highlights is ‘I Don’t Care’ with it’s snotty punk rock base but with the fiddle in charge and Tich’s great vocals laden over the top. It’s all been very punk rock orientated so far and just as i was settling in ‘Elizabeth Rose’ comes on and by Christ I’m in celtic-punk heaven with this Irish trad punk jig. The fiddle leads the way with the rest of the band pushed to the background and a real foot tapper that I’m sure is a live favourite and gives Tich a chance to rest his lungs. They slow it down next with ‘Scars’, the first song here that featured on that Pre-Album Sampler, and sounds to me not too far from The Levellers. Not a much of a fan of them myself but this is excellent stuff with slow acoustic guitar and fiddle and nice vocals. The welcome sound of the banjo kicks off ‘Master Race’ with what sounds like spoons! Harmonica is top dog here and I love it. A instrument I always feel suits celtic-punk but is criminally underused. ‘Still Breathing’ seems to me a bit out of place here. Hard to say why exactly but its upbeat and jaunty sound perhaps. Not to say it’s not a great song as its class fiddle led punk rock. ‘Breaking Down The Laws’ keeps the music flowing with Brian’s solid drumming. ‘Ancient Road’ leads directly into ‘Montagu’s Harrier’ and while the first three minutes are reminiscent of 80’s anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds the second half is an absolutely stunningly traditional Irish folk piece/reel dedicated to an endangered bird of prey.
The bodhran is out and it’s not long before the whole band have gate crashed the song and take it another level. These two songs are a perfect introduction to The Silk Road and showcase brilliantly whet they are capable of. We are coming towards the end of the album and it’s clear by now that the band wear their politics on their sleeves and no better than in ‘City Under Siege’. Back in October I wrote
“this kind of music is very much in vogue at the moment. Not played or favoured by fashionista’s or middle class hipsters it comes very much from that sort of old Labour background of trade unionism and old fashioned values like solidarity, compassion and the wish for a better world for all. Things sadly out of fashion at this moment in time”
and while ‘Corbyn’ and the Labour Party’s revival hasn’t completely convinced me I do see hope for my class where once I saw none. Another album high point up next with ‘Boats Come In At Midnight about modern day smuggling. Very catchy indeed and half way through the fiddle comes in giving it a real nice ending. The album ends with ‘On Ya Way’ and maybe it’s a sign of mellowing with age but I really love this song. My favourite track. Tich belts it out from his heart and harmonica and acoustic guitar steer it in a direction that reminds me of Ferocious Dog a little when they slow it down.
Overall this is a great debut from The Silk Road and will win them legions of fans from the trinity of bands I mentioned above. Infectious and catchy throughout with more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and folk to keep the oldies like me happy. Its always brilliant to welcome another celtic-punk band into the scene and even better when they have trodden their own path. Haven’t seen them yet but will be making it my mission to catch them over the summer and I really hope they play ‘On Ya Way’ when I do.
With just over a week to go before their biggest ever London date London Celtic Punks interviews Under A Banner. Purveyors of passionate, powerful and poetic folk-rock and with a new album to plug and a headline tour we wanted to find out a bit more about them.
First things first can you give us a history of the band? The who, what, why and how? Were any of you in any other bands previously and what happened to suddenly make the leap to forming Under A Banner?
Under A Banner began as a duo around 6 years ago and other musicians were steadily gathered to fill out the sound and make the band a more viable proposition for recording and performing the music I always envisaged the band making. I am the only original member of the band now. I started the whole thing as I desperately wanted to return to performing original music live. I’d previously played in a fairly short-lived band called Approach and have also played acoustic covers in pubs; the termination of the latter course of action triggered a visceral response to what I saw as virtually non-existent local scene for original music. Although I hail from Wolverhampton, the five of us live in three different counties.
You’re from Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. Can you tell us a bit about what its like there to be in a band round there. Is there much of a music scene? What about for celtic music?
The unfortunate demise and subsequent closure of Wolverhampton’s Varsity venue hit the local live scene quite hard. We still have the Newhampton Arts Centre, The Slade Rooms and, a little further down the road, Bilston’s popular Robin 2 venue. Each of these regularly play host to both tribute/cover and original music. Without deriding the former too much, it seems that original music (in particular folk infused genres) is once again spearheading a palpable fight back against the nostalgia or copycat music market in the Midlands.
How would you describe yourselves. Folk-punk, English-folk, celtic-punk? Do you think it matters in particular. Who has been your biggest inspiration for Under A Banner?
When asked about Under A Banner’s genre we normally plump for ‘alternative folk-ish hard rock’. This is because we fit into a number of brackets and exist outside of them simultaneously. We draw our inspiration from a very far-ranging and eclectic pot of music. The single unifying genre is metal, which presumably explains the heaviness of a lot of our material, but my own personal influences include New Model Army, Tori Amos, Loreena Mckennitt, Tool, Ambrozijn and Alestorm – to name but a few. Other sources for inspiration include Opeth, Rush, Iron Maiden, Clannad, The Stranglers and Thin Lizzy. A number of these bands and artists have made significant contributions to the continuing popularity of music with a Celtic flavour.
I think it’s fair to say that you are a part of the same scene of big ‘folk-punk’ bands like New Model Army and The Levellers and more recently Ferocious Dog but do you think it’s more important to connect with their fans or get away from the folk-punk ‘ghetto’ altogether and get your music out to new people? What has been the reaction from their fans so far when you have played with them? Do they give you a fair crack of the whip or are they only interested in seeing the headliners?
We were fortunate recently to support TV Smith (formerly of punk heroes The Adverts) and a week later New Model Army. It’s often been noted by fans, reviewers and bloggers that we belong in the ‘Celtic folk/punk’ ‘club’. However, we’ve picked up as many new fans playing to rock and metal crowds. We went down well with the New Model Army crowd, in spite of an incipient chest infection which had begun to weaken my voice a couple of days before the gig. I managed to sing over and through the congestion and got the audience- quite a number of whom at least knew who we were- singing along. I have always known that followers of long standing cult bands like NMA are very devoted to their favourite bands, so, under the circumstances I think we did rather well.
Traditional folk music obviously influences Under A Banner so which individuals or bands do you think have been the important links between rock and traditional folk music in the past?
In my opinion bands like Steeleye Span and Oysterband did wonders for the synthesis between folk and rock. Speaking personally, I prefer it when bands step out of genre boundaries so frequently that critics can’t pigeonhole them.
What themes do you write about for Under A Banner? Do any of you have backgrounds in folk music and if so does this influence your writing and performing? The folk music scene is very stuck in the mud in my opinion and not very open to change so how has the folk scene been towards Under A Banner?
When writing new songs (I pen the lyrics and chordal skeletons of our songs) we draw upon a number of themes. Not all of our songs are agit-socio-political commentary, and not all are angry. I suppose we write about the same things (life, the universe and everything) as a lot of other bands do; the trick is in being able to express these ideas and abstractions in new and original ways. We at least try. Regarding the repetition of themes on the folk or folk-rock ‘circuit’, there’s something of a tradition within these genres to rage against the system, whatever that actually means.
One thing I have been very impressed with is the connection the band has with it’s fans. Do you think its important to foster a sort of family relationship?
It would appear that in today’s musical climate, the most successful of bands – especially those without significant financial backing of major labels or other benefactors – are those who foster an ongoing two-way conversational relationship with their fans. This is something that we are acutely aware of and happy to participate in. We make regular use of both a Facebook band page and a gig group as well as Twitter (which appears to be on the decline actually) and a mailing list. The maintenance of each of these is key keeping people abreast of the band’s plans. We have made quite a few friends this way, so it doesn’t feel too arduous.
Now Wolverhampton is a very working class town and like most of the industrial parts of England outside the south-east has suffered under both Labour and Tory governments over the last few decades. How has this changed the town. It’s still massively pro-Labour and was pro-Brexit but what is the town like. Has regeneration achieved anything for the ordinary man and woman in the street. What is their that makes you proud to be from Wolves?
As I previously touched upon, being from Wolverhampton is a mixed blessing. The city doesn’t have such an active and enthusiastic live scene for original music as other places we’ve played, although metal bands seem to have plenty of opportunities to combine forces and work with local promoters. Having said this, Wolverhampton is far from a cultural dead zone. The resurgence in the popularity of real ale and craft beer here has begun to improve the city’s nightlife experience, with several new real ale bars and micropubs springing up in and around the city centre. When these venues host open mic nights at least some small gesture is made to revive part of the live music scene. The recent regeneration projects in the heart of the city’s shopping complex are also beginning to gentrify my hometown. The expected and ubiquitous giants of commerce are still very much the major players, but while some smaller independent retailers have given up their long-held plots under the hammer of ever increasing ground rent, some have clung on and continue to flourish. Metamorphosis has to happen in cities, whatever their size; there are of course winners and losers in this process. On the whole I’m happy to be part of it all. If we, as a band, can make more of a mark with what we do then I could definitively say that Wolverhampton has played its part; it is, after all, where we draw our largest crowds outside of festivals and big support slots.
Now the question that’s caused more rows on the London Celtic Punks Facebook page than the “who hates Maggie Thatcher the most” one. What do you think of Frank Turner? Folk-punk troubadour or spoiled posh brat who hangs around with the royal family?
In answer to your Frank Turner question, from what I’ve heard he’s done quite a lot to give less wealthy musicians a platform. I do like some of his music too. I think it would be churlish to dislike someone on the grounds that they may or may not have had a ‘leg up’ in their chosen cultural or artistic field, that is, if their own brand of art is worth taking heed of. I do, however, have a problem with vapid and vacuous celebrity, especially when its derived from equally facile junk TV shows. Now there’s something to kick against!
That’s it then Under A Banner. Anything you would like to add and people you would like to thank…
Under A Banner have just embarked on a Spring tour with folk/punk comrades Headsticks. We are also playing festivals right up to Autumn and will continue to write new material. As ever, massive thanks to all the people who’ve connected with us and travelled to see us play live. See you out there.
(have a listen to the latest album from Under A Banner ‘The Wild Places’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
Pre-album four track sampler EP from northern English fiddle punk band The Silk Road.
The Silk Road are another new band to us here in England playing folk-punk and are coming out of the same sort of scene as older bands like The Levellers and New Model Army and newer ones like Ferocious Dog. All of whom are still packing them in across the country at regular intervals. They come from Chesterfield in northern England an area famous for coal mining and the accompanying militant trade unionism that goes with it. The scene for this kind of music is very much in vogue at the moment. Not played or favoured by fashionista’s or middle class hipsters it comes very much from that sort of old Labour background of trade unionism and old fashioned values like solidarity, compassion and the wish for a better world for all. Things sadly out of fashion at this moment in time. Formed in the summer of 2015 by Tich, Andy and Shaun and going on later to recruit both Jamie and Brian. All the member’s of The Silk Road had extensive histories in local bands going back over twenty years playing a range of traditional folk, punk, ska and metal/rock. The band started from some old demos and some newer recordings that singer/songwriter Tich had recorded in his studio. Working on these as well as adding some new material together, The Silk Road began to take shape. Midnight was released last July and this EP is pretty much a taster for their forthcoming debut album. In fact the boys are in Chesterfields Foundry Studios with Paul Hopkinson at the moment with the album’s release slated for November/December this year.
Andy Hardwick- guitars/banjo * Brian Buckberry- drums * Tich Vango- guitars/vocals * Jamie Burney- fiddle/violin * Shaun Haley- bass * Jim Fisher- Harmonica player on EP (not pictured)
The EP begins with ‘Boats Come In At Midnight’ which is about modern day smuggling. Like the band they have been most likened to, Folk The System, much of what they play can be traced back to 1980’s anarcho-punk. Very catchy indeed and half way through the fiddle comes in giving it a real nice ending. Track two is ‘Ancient Road / Montagu’s Harrier’ and introduces harmonica into the mix. A instrument I love to hear as it is much neglected in folk/celtic-punk. Over six minutes long with the first half a solid and catchy enough punk tune which is reminiscent of anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds while the second half has an absolutely stunning traditional folk piece/reel dedicated to endangered bird’s of prey. The Silk Road play English folk here. Not Irish or Scottish folk and labelled English like some bands do but this is the folk music of northern England and will surely get them onto the radar of the band who excel at playing this kind of music and are taking it to the masses, Ferocious Dog. ‘Scars That Remain’ is track three and if The Levellers are the main inspiration for The Silk Road then this is their tribute to them. I’m not a massive fan of The Levellers myself this is excellent stuff. Slow acoustic guitar and fiddle and nice vocals atop brings up to final track, ‘I Don’t Care’ which raises the bar again with some brilliantly catchy fiddle led punk.
Clocking in at just over seventeen minutes its a great EP and I cannot wait to hear more from The Silk Road. This kind of music lends itself more to the live experience so if they are able to capture that in the studio then by St George they will have cracked it.
(Crap sound and not on the EP but here they are in all their glory!)
(you can listen to Midnight by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
Thatcher may be gone but the people still need a voice and FOLK THE SYSTEM are back. They’re older, got less hair and slightly cleaner clothes but still folking angry!
Last year we received a CD in the post from deepest darkest Oxfordshire, otherwise known as the Cotswolds and here on this CD as just plain Wolds. Taking in parts of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Warwickshire and Worcestershire the word Wold comes from the old English meaning ‘forest’. It’s basically what is left of the English countryside and parts of it would rival anywhere in England as the most beautiful spots in the entire country.
Folk Th System left to right: Maty Tustian – Bodhran/ Vocals * Tony Partner – 6 String Acoustic/ Bass * Johnny Tims – Fiddle * Simon Hill (Pil) – Vocals/ 12 String Acoustic/ Electric Guitar/ Tin Whistle
Based in, and from, the old Oxfordshire town of Banbury Folk The System got together in the early 1990’s and toured the length and breadth of this island from the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall and played with all the folk-punk scene’s big hitters of the day before sadly, after years of drinking, dancing and general chaos, deciding to call it a day back in 1996. (The band have put their 1994 demo up for free download here if you want it!) The boys though remained good friends throughout the years and in 2013 all the original members of the band decided to give it another crack. 2014 saw Folk The System return to the stage for the first time in nearly 20 years and this brings us nicely up to date and the release of Unrest In The Wolds. The album is available on download and CD and the the CD comes with a 4 page booklet with the lyrics printed so small you’ll need a magnifying glass to read them!
Though the album came out last year we are finally getting around to reviewing it now due to two things. First off an unreliable mate who said he would write it and secondly I was planning to catch them live on home turf in Banbury supporting Ferocious Dog which I thought would help me write this. Well as they say better late than never and looking at their stall last weekend they still have a few copies of the album left so follow the link at the bottom to get your mitts on one.
Folk The System- ‘Witchfinder Generals’
Bringing together some tracks from the past with some new and unreleased material, the album is ten tracks that clock in at a very respectful forty minutes and just like their live set is over far far too early for my liking. The first impression you get from listening to the album is that their are no drums (they must be followers of the Steve White And The Protest Family philosophy that ‘Drums Ruin Everything’) only a bodhrán and that all the instruments are acoustic. Don’t be dismayed though celtic-punk fans they kick up a right storm and can easily be compared to early 80’s English anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds. The album begins with ‘Witchfinder Generals’ and its a very familiar Irish/English hybrid folk sound crossed with Simon’s punky vocals and hardcore lyrics about the social services and the power they wield. Starting off slowly it begins to build up and with some bitter and angry vocals its a great start to the album. Next up is ‘Civilisation’ and you may not think it but I found the bodhrán dominating here as the excellently played fiddle flies off the scale. Two songs in and I’m getting a sort of harder version of The Levellers here both musically and politically. Yeah they cover much the same ground as B-right-on’s favourites but I always found them a bit lame so it’s refreshing to hear the anger and passion I always found missing from The Levellers. ‘Lost Land’ again hits the spot with gang vocals and superb fiddling. ‘Death of a Nation’ follows much the same path with the whole band coming together even though the mix could have been a bit louder here. The next song is probably their most popular and if the band had a signature tune then I am sure it would be ‘Enviromentally Friendly’. It got the largest cheers live and also the most audience participation as the crowd sang along to the words about the hypocrites who tell us to recycle while continuing to ruin the environment themselves. Like those green charities who spend your hard earned on massive wages for their bosses or office furniture. Simon spits out the words with a bile that comes from truly believing in what your singing about. A very catchy fiddle tune accompanies this and for certain one of the standout tracks here. ‘To No End’ again hits you in the heart and brain and further confirms the album as one of the best I have heard this year. All the songs here are written by the band and the only instrumental is up next and called ‘Murphy’s Logic’ I suppose in tribute to its Irish sounding tune. While the album is, as I already said a hybrid of Irish and English tunes ‘Murphy’s Logic’ is unashamedly Irish and will leave you breathless as it swirls around you with the band combining on this the albums most trad song perfectly with the occasional shout from Simon it certainly gets the auld feet tapping. It featured on that old demo mentioned earlier and like an old wine has matured and got better with age. Following on and getting towards the end of the album ‘Street Corner People’ takes in the cuts on the National Health Services especially in regard to mental health. Again strong bodhrán and the introduction of tin whistle keep the song going at a healthy pace and at nearly five minutes is the longest on the album. ‘Vanity’ was my favourite song when they played live and here they are at their most anarcho-punk with a song about animal rights and animal liberation. Another song that has survived from that old demo from twenty two years ago and has only got better in time. Unrest In The Wolds come to a sad end with ‘Least You Deserve’ and Simon’s heartfelt vocals are never better. An extremely strong and dark end to the album that only leaves you wanting to listen to it all again.
Now after seeing them live and listening to this album I can tell you two things. They may be an acoustic band but they kick up more of a storm than most full on punk bands that I know. Loud and shouty but never preachy with a sound that may remind you of the aforementioned Levellers or more modern bands like Ferocious Dog and I suppose it is a familiar sound but don’t be misled into thinking theirs nothing original here. Folk The System far out date most of the bands in the scene so give them credit for coming up with it in the first place. While bands like The Levellers continue to garner the applause and pundits and sell out venues with their soppy mish-mash of hippyfied folk and punk its bands like Folk The System, and Ferocious Dog, that deserve to sweep them away as the passion here is more than most of The Levellers tie-dyed crowd could probably ever contemplate. The monster that was Thatcher may be gone but the evils of the system that spewed her out are still here and though they be a bit older and cleaner, and have less hair, Folk The System are still folking angry about it. Far be it for us to want to perpetuate the unfair system we are in bu let them remain so if it means they keep playing fantastic music like this.
Where folk and punk collide to provide a passion infused commentary that is as raw and honest as it comes…
Nothing particularly ‘celtic’ going on here but if you’re after some fantastic played and in-yer-face folk-punk then the second album from Headsticks is for you. That’s right Headsticks not The Headsticks and they may be familiar to readers as we gave their debut album, Muster, a glowing review back in August, 2014. Since that album they have concentrated on playing live taking the stage at some decent festivals including the anti-fascist 0161 Festival in Manchester. The band come from the once proud industrial town of Stoke. Famed for the manufacture of pottery (hence the reason the area is known as The Potteries) those days are long gone and along with coal mining and steel making all of the areas main industries have been decimated by successive governments of Labour and Tory who care little for the working classes while they chase the votes of the urban middle class.
The band describe themselves as “where folk and punk collide” and remind these ears of classic British folk-rock acts like the New Model Army or a more punky Levellers or Billy Bragg (when he was good) and more recent bands like Ferocious Dog. Formed out of the ashes of two much loved, and long gone, celtic-punk bands ‘Tower Struck Down’ who were one of first English celtic-punk bands back in 1985 and Jugopunch. Gone are the celtic touches from those bands but what remains is the urgency and honesty and just plain good old folk’n’roll that made them popular first time round.
Feather And Flame kicks off, literally, with ‘What Do You Want?’ which bemoans the fact that the working classes have been conned into only aspiring to own the latest mobile phone or big screen TV rather than any control of their own lives. With a world to win its football that takes priority but why not.
“I’ve got tickets for the weekends match, for the boys in red and white,
It’s the third round of the cup you know, if I missed it well, it wouldn’t seem right,
We can meet up in the town tonight, and we can drink this world to rights,
We can raise a glass to liberty, and to the glory of the fight?”
We all need something to lift us from the gloom occasionaly! Quick, punchy and punky a great start and only enhances those folk-punk credentials. ‘Cold Grey English Skies’ tells of the desolation and depression of growing up (and old) in an post-industrial English town. The reality of the world far away and out of sight and out of mind of the cosmopolitan middle classes. ‘Go Move Shift’ is the Headsticks take on the famous Ewan MacColl penned song ‘The Moving On Song’ and it’s a version Ewan would most definitely have approved of. They extend the song, originally about travellers, to be about the police shooting of a homeless man sleeping rough in Los Angeles. The boys show their heritage, and a sly sense of humour, next in ‘Old Folk Songs’.
Never sounding more new wave than here the music harks back to an earlier age while the politics also hark back to a time when people were more united and willing to stand up and work together. I love a bit of harmonica and ‘Foxford Town’ supplies it. As with the whole album its catchy and Andrew’s vocals are to the fore standing out clear and strong. In recent years the city of Stoke has been blighted with the rise of the far-right. Betrayed by those they voted into power for the last God knows how long and a left that considers them ‘white trash’ the working class turned to groups like the fascist BNP in their droves. ‘Mississippi’s Burning’ tells this story eloquently
“There’s rumours in the pubs and bars, whispers on the streets,
The crooked cross is on the roll, hear the sound of marching feet,
Strange fruit growing on the trees, like in Billy Holiday’s song,
The years pass by, more old men die, those who stood and fought so strong…
The rise seems to have been checked but not won. The ‘victory’ was based on ‘if you vote BNP you are scum’ no way to win the working class over to the left so the people of Stoke simply retreated to apathy. I feel for Stoke as it reminds me of my home town. Another once proud industrial town with a strong left-wing ethos virtually destroyed by a corrupt (and criminal) Labour council. I don’t know why but the more harmonica led songs like ‘Pay The Price’ seem also to remind me a bit of The Housemartins.
“Like the fiercest fire burning through the night…
Everybody has their price to pay,it’s killing me to walk away…”
Another catchy as hell track with superb lyrics. Andrew, the vocalist, wrote all the songs and is one of those writers I’d describe as a story-songwriter.
The songs here are beautifully written and given the subject matter most of the time they are never sloganeering or badgering but just pure passion and compassion for other people. The plight of the common man is never far away her and ‘Tomorrow’s History’ tells of
“See the man who’s toil has built this land, a land they call great,
Reduced to bitter hatred, served their bile upon his plate”
but then hits us with
“Today we’ll write tomorrow’s history, so tomorrow we can live
So tomorrow we can live”
reminding us that our destiny is in our own hands we must only grasp it. ‘Every Single Day’ is about the media and the propaganda that spills out that if its not telling us that immigrants or travellers are responsible for the ills of society then its promoting the dumbest and most stupid to levels of fame unknown in the past. Politicians and the media don’t just lie to us they try to convince us we are worth nothing and our history and the hard (sometimes we won!) battles of the past were for nothing. Headsticks are here to remind us to take pride in those battles and to look forward to next one. ‘Burn The Sun’ gets all funky guitar while it puts the boot into The Sun newspaper. Read almost exclusively by the working classes while being written almost exclusively by middle class ex-public school children it has long left much of the authentic left amazed at its popularity amongst those it regularly abuses and victimises. Football, bingo, telly and tits have served it well and one of the benefits of the decline in printed media is that less and less people read this shitty paper all the time. The song ends with
“Where’s the justice for the ninety six?
Justice for the ninety six”
which refers to the lies pumped out by the Sun after the tragedy of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 where 96 Liverpool supporters went to a football match and thanks to the ineptitude and criminal failings of the police never made it home. The album ends with the ballad ‘Falling Out Of Love Song’ and Headsticks save the best till last. The longest song here and it gives them plenty of time to vent their spleen at the political correctness that the m/c have somehow managed to inject into the left. Where once the left were able to call a spade a spade now we cannot even question important issues as even the idea of bringing them up can see people labelled as racist or right wing.
Forty minutes of passionate punked up roots rock with a sense of history most bands could only dream of. Its not always fun to listen to what they are saying as Headsticks are a band forged by their environment. The England they once knew and loved is changing and sadly not in a good way. Their music is a rallying call to stop the erosion of our rights and our humanity and as heartfelt as it is it is also compelling. Headsticks are Andrew on vocals and that harmonica, Stephen on guitar, Nick on bass and Tom on drums.
you can read our review of Headsticks debut album Muster here
“Celebration of people and their homelands, loves desired and lost. West country original country folk songs with soul, conjuring images of landscapes, oceans and the haunts of both the living and dead. Guaranteed to take the listener on a magical journey”
Just as I was planning on reviewing this great album from Tom O’Reilly And The Swaggers the news came in from Facebookland that the band had won the ‘Kan Rag Kernow/Song for Cornwall’ competition held in Redruth and will now go on to represent Kernow in the Pan Celtic Song Competition to be held in Ceatharlach, Co. Carlow, Eire/Ireland at the end of March. They won by performing the tin miners song ‘Lugh Glow’ in Cornish. The song appears on One Fine Day but is sang in English as ‘Black Lung’ and is accompanied by eleven more original folk songs tinged with country and celtic music.
Tom O’Reilly And The Swaggers (from l to r) Tomo – Vocals and Acoustic Guitar, Sam – Fiddle, Helen – Double Bass and Bass Guitar, Dr Bod – Acoustic Guitar and Kick Drum
Tom O’Reilly And The Swaggers as you may have guessed hail from Kernow/Cornwall and feature four members of the notorious fellow Cornish celtic punk band Black Friday. Don’t worry though this is only a side project for the quartet and Black Friday continue to go from strength to strength both at home in Cornwall, and in England.
One Fine Day’s first of its dozen tracks is the short ‘Intro- On My Way Home’ before morphing into ‘Final Resting Place’ and you can hear Black Friday but it’s Black Friday playing their alternative country sound. A brooding song and like a lot of the songs here the subject matter is dark but it’s presented to us in a joyous way. Next up is title song ‘One Fine Day’ and great fiddling again and Tom’s vocals dominate and its more of that alto-country sound. Aye its country but not quite as you’d know it!
‘Black Lung’ is up next and if you’ve ever wondered why their doesn’t seem to be any happy miners songs then reflect on the tough, hard life of the miner both in the job and after he retires. My own father worked as a coal miner and didn’t see past 57. Like a lot of the people he worked with down the mine he never got to enjoy retirement as his lungs were fucked up by breathing in shit for year on end. Mining is just a distant memory in Cornwall now and sadly, recently, is in Yorkshire too. It’s a beautifully played song dripping with emotion and is followed by a spot of Cornish republicanism with ‘The King In The Crown’. A story of escaping your home to sail the sea.
“The king in the crown in London town you’re not the king of me”
Fiddle begins ‘Standing There’ and dominates ‘Good To Be Free’ as well. The album is tripping along really nicely. Real foot-tapping music and to be placed on the celtic folk side of things. Its mostly country influenced i would say but coloured by Black Friday and their music.
‘Watch Me Fall’ adds in a bit of calypso before ‘Scream Softly’ comes in and reminds me a lot of an old band I really loved called The 1926 Committee from South London (anyone know where they are now?) with acoustic guitar and Tom’s great distinctive vocals giving the song that bit of extra depth. ‘Sea Bound Sailors’ is as slow as it gets on One Fine Day and is also the closest they sail to celtic music. A real lovely song before they return to a more up tempo sound with ‘Country Boy Blues’. Now this will get your toes-a-tapping believe me!
One Fine Day ends with the short ‘Outro- Farewell And Adieu’ continuing on from that opening track. This is a fantastic album that like I said is more to the folkier side of celtic-punk and you’d recognise more of bands like The Levellers in it than The Pogues but they have taken something of The Pogues anarchic side to do what they have done. Think of of Cash and Strummer rather than the usual Shane and Strummer. Tom O’Reilly’s vocals suit the music 100% and his first class song-writing delivers with charisma and depth. What you get is refreshingly authentic music with raw folk energy, the attitude of punk and the rebel yells of country music. Yee Har!
*you can catch Black Friday playing live in London on Thursday 12th March at the St. Moritz club in Soho. Go to our ‘What’s On’ page here for all the details of that and a whole host of other happening’s in London town!
This year has been quite brilliant for celtic-punk releases, and they haven’t all been Hungarian either, but sadly we haven’t had the chance to review everything we received or heard so here is Part 1 of our 2015 Round Up where we catch up with all the bands we missed first time round. This time two American and three Canadian bands.
The debut release from this seven piece celtic-punk band, and devotees of Ice Hockey, from Ontario in Canada. This seven track, half an hour long mini album came out in May and is typical of a lot of Canadian celtic-punk. A strong working class ethos runs through the lyrics while the music is fast and furious and hard to compare. They certainly know what they are doing and there are plenty twists and turns on this album with instruments like cello appearing. The music veers from straight up celtic-punk to Tom Waits style ‘pissed-up’ ballads to even a sort of psychobilly number. All the tracks are quite lengthy and despite that don’t outlive their welcome due to the speed at which they are played. Stand out track is probably ‘Slappywags’ where the fiddle holds court in a song about the Bastards favourite boozer. Just a bunch of beer swillin’, foot stompin’, mosh pittin’ Canadians.
Another cracking Canadian band who play a similar style of celtic punk to the Bay Street Bastards but mainly concentrate on thrashing out some brilliant fast as hell punk rock. They have toured over here a couple of times and even played the prestigious trade union music Tolpuddle Martyrs festival last year. Catchy hooks galore and some proper toe tappers and mosh pit favourites but The Stanfields can give it the celtic treatment too and the album’s influences are plenty. So much more to this band than just thrashing out. Again that working class ethic beats strong in their hearts and dominates what they do. Only eight songs but over half an hour and a couple of real epics here too. ‘Fight Song’ stands out especially and the band chose it, quite rightly, to be the first single from the album.
The album ends with ‘Will The Circuit Be Unbroken’ that takes through a trawl of pretty much every style of music that The Stanfields have in their arsenal. A great album and we look forward to seeing them back in London again though hopefully this time with a better promoter!
Hailing out of Michigan these Irish-American lads have a stack of releases behind them and I intend to get round to hearing the lot of them so impressed I was with this album. Released in September with twelve tracks and over forty minutes of music The Waxies keep it acoustic but they also keep it loud and in fitting with the way they describe themselves- Irish Gypsy Punk. The music though firmly with both feet in Irish music does take in influences from the sea as you will see from the album cover. Catchy as hell once again and with great vocals and lyrics. The lyrics are all included on the Bandcamp page by the way and theres a poignant song in tribute to fellow Irish-American musician and Grand Rapids resident Nate Carey who passed away last year. Only two covers and The Waxies have a real feel for their community with plenty here for anyone who is proud of their Irish roots but they also can play and the instrumental ‘The Silver Spear’ shows that they can play a pretty fantastic reel as well. Another cracking album and I know there’s some ‘electric’ bands out there that wish they could kick up a storm like the The Waxies! The album ends with a good a version of ‘The Parting Glass’ as I have ever heard… seriously.
Formed in 1999 Seamus Stout have been around a good while and have built up a healthy following around their home state of Texas playing their local hostelries with a grand assortment of irish and Scottish classics. Of course they don’t confine themselves to covers and with five previous full length albums under their belts they sure do have a healthy amount of songs to choose from. Musically its straight up celtic music well played and with a shitload of gusto. Again its purely acoustic but kicking up a real racket. ‘For Your Purchasing Pleasure’ is a live album that has a perfect production that ensures all the instruments are clear as a bell and the vocals come out nice and strong too. Sixteen songs officially squeezed onto this CD but its actually a load more as they play some pretty damn good reels as well. There’s a whole host of instruments at play here giving the impression that this four piece band is more akin to a troope so busy are they. Can’t find a link for this album but you can find Seamus Stout’s previous releases here and here.
Here’s another Canadian band to end our North American round up. The Shillelaghs hail from Calgary in Alberta and despite being founded in 2005 ‘Bury Me At Sea’ is the bands first release and even though its been a long time coming its certainly been worth the wait. Twelve tracks and 3/4’s of an hour long and only one cover means The Shillelaghs sound is stamped all over ‘Bury Me At Sea’. Fiercely independent the music is fast, well played and mostly acoustic with raspy vocals and tales of the sea, drinking and other dark themes. Our comrades over at Celtic Folk Punk & Morenoticed that the singer sounds like an angrier Mark Chadwick from The Levellers and by George that’s amazingly accurate. There’s quite a Poguesy sound going on here but the electric guitar steers it just away while also keeping it firmly in celtic-punk country. Album opener ‘Shillelagh Justice’ lets you know exactly where the album is going but there’s some real suprises here with the beautiful ballad ‘Dark The Days’ with dual male/female vocals and the closing number the acoustic ‘Better To Bleed’ which begins with just Dave’s voice and acoustic guitar before the band join in. It is though the heavier numbers I prefer and it’s the title track that grabs you by the throat and rocks your socks off. If you like this song then you simply MUST get this album!
So ends Part 1 and we are sorry we weren’t able to give each album the full London Celtic Punks treatment but just not possible with time on our backs. Anyhow more to come in Part 2 so check back in a few days and catch up with some European releases. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.
Under A Banner are a folk-punk band that are passionate, powerful, poetic and rock hard!
We planned to review Under A Banner as soon as we came across them early last year but unfortunately it went in the ‘To Do’ pile and just stayed there and got no further. Thankfully this prolific band had another record release just around the corner and it has given us the chance to put things right. Just recently we seem to have been inundated with folk-punk bands. From the solo acoustic of Bryan McPherson to the punky Mischief Brew to the beautiful Jack Of All it seems that ths is the folk-punk moment in time! As with the before mentioned bands there’s not possibly a great deal if all you’re interested in is solely celtic music but London Celtic Punks blog is not just about celtic-punk and if we like something we cannot wait to share it with you. Which brings us back to Under A Banner.
Under A Banner Left to right : Kat Davis – keyboards. Tim Wilson – Drums and backing vox. Adam Broadhurst – lead vox and guitars . Jake Brooks – guitars and backing vox. Si Hill – bass
Based in Wolverhampton in the Midlands Under A Banner play an infectious and catchy brand of folk-punk caught somewhere between The Levellers at their softest, New Model Army at their punkest and a smidgeon of Ferocious Dog and a wee bit of the youthful Billy Bragg before he fled to Dorset and started voting Lib-Dem. The tunes are quintessentially English with both the folk and the punk influences. They gig relentlessly and its easy to tell that they have honed their skill as a live band with this perfect release.
Under A Banner have done the near impossible for any band and have managed to transfer that great live sound onto record. They have even released a free five track live album so you can sample them doing what they do best for yourselves. I don’t know exactly why it is but it always seems hard to genuinely capture celtic (or folk) -punk bands energy on record. One of the problems I suppose is that we are a genre that is best experienced live in concert with good friends, a lively appreciative crowd and with one or two (or more!) drinks with you. Anyhow download it by clicking on the record sleeve and you will see for yourself what I mean. Needless to say you will end up hooked like I did.
With one release at least every year since they formed Under A Banner have kept up an incredibly high standard of songwriting and they have surpassed themselves again with ‘Victory Time’. From the opening bars of ‘The Network’ the EP punches you in the gut and leaves you reeling. Kicking off with the sound of an accordion and some fast paced drumming and Adams vocals driving the tune along and a song about how things like facebook and television leaves us all isolated from each other.
“this network wastes my bloody time”
The second track is title song ‘Victory Time’ and is as good a drinking song you will hear. Its a real pint in the air moment with a raucous catchy tune and real singalonga chorus. The title refers I think to when you get a lock-in in the pub. It certainly feels like a victory to me when it happens anyway!
‘Leaving Here’ doesn’t slow things down and with the organ pushing things along the New Model Armyish tune will have you feeling the need to leap about in your living room. Next up is firm fan favourite ‘Summer Skies’ and it is the only song that on the EP that isn’t brand spanking new and is a re-working of the track that first appeared on their 2012 LP ‘The Ragged Rhythm Of Rain’.
The EP ends with ‘Magic Is Real’ and Under A Banner pull out all the stops with a multitude of instruments on the go and although it never gets going in the same way as the EP’s other songs its a real grower. At just under twenty minutes you definitely get your hard earned worth and the EP is available for Download or on an actual CD from the band themselves below.
Of course by far the best way to experience Under A Banner is to see them live and if you live in or near London you will have the perfect opportunity coming up soon at the Ambition Festival in Croydon. The band are playing this free festival on Saturday 25th July headlining on the ‘Queens Garden- No Rubbish Stage’. So stock up on beer and sun-cream and join us at the front of the stage at 7pm. The following day, on the Sunday, London-Irish psycho-ceilidh celtic-punkers Neck are also playing the festival so looks like being a full on South London weekender! The full festival line-up, maps and any other details you will need can be found here. This looks a really good event and, for what we like, its completely free too so we all doff our scally caps to the organisers. So have a listen and then check out Under A Banner and come see them live you will have no better excuse I tells you!
(you can listen to the whole EP by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
Another great new band from England has arrived on the London Celtic Punks doorstep with their cracking debut EP ‘Bindle Punk’. Formed only in April last year Jack Of All began gigging locally but soon they spread their wings out to Yorkshire across the Midlands and even ‘dahn’ here in London. Good things lie ahead of Jack Of All and don’t be a fool and miss out. They have a long list of gigs coming up (here) but they are playing London at The Gunners, 204 Blackstock Road, North London N5 1EN, nearest tube Finsbury Park, on Saturday 4th July so get along and catch them in the flesh. They take the stage at approx. 8pm and its an all day event and completely free for a ton of bands. Keep an eye on the FB Event page here.
Anna Clifton (violin) and Laurence Aldridge (guitar/vocals)
The Jack Of All sound is of classic English folk but with a few punky chunks added. You can make out obvious influences coming from bands as diverse as Ferocious Dog, New Model Army, Billy Bragg and The Levellers but Jack Of All follow no-one. The first thing that strikes you on listening to the EP is Laurence’s vocals and and how good they actually are. You can forget sometimes that in a genre where Shane MacGowan is king it is actually possible to still sing ‘properly’ and also fit in. Added to this is Anna’s superb fiddle playing and the concoction is pretty sweet. Nothing too manic here and its possibly stretching things by calling it punk but the spirit is there and the spirit is willing. They play mostly original material and I’m sure they would make a fortune if they decided to go the ‘pub route’ but with Laurence being a professional actor and Anna an ethical jeweller they can happily steer clear of that route and go their own way. Thank God I say! The EP’s name was I thought a odd one so I looked it up and came up with
‘a hobo or derelict hired to do rough or unpleasant work’
which seems to fit Jack Of All pretty nicely. I mean even though there’s no Tom Waits style growling its still very much the music of outlaws and vagabonds. They have some pretty amazing lyrics too and by the sound of them they fit in ever so nicely with ourselves, with a sample from Paul Kenny, head of the GMB Union talking to Mark Thomas, the icing on the cake!
The EP starts off with ‘Definitions’ and a bit of celtic sounding fiddle and the tempo is up and Jack Of All are off. From the very start Jack Of All let you know where they stand. Even though they are usually a 2-piece band the added drums on this EP give them a extra bit of bite. ‘Home’ follows and begins acapella style
“if home is where the heart is why is my heart not home”
before it becomes a folky-celticy-rockabilly number and as catchy a chorus as I heard in a long time. A guaranteed foot tapper. ‘Thank You For Your Application’ is the EP’s slowest track but stills keeps up that God-damn catchiness! With ‘Home’ and now this one my foot is going like the bloody clappers! Beginning slow the song builds to a crescendo and what I originally thought was an electric guitar, but turns out to be Anna’s electric violin through a distortion pedal, coming in is a great move. Simply brilliant. ‘On Top Of The Hills’ continues and is still more of the same but how are they keeping up the quality. Absolutely impossible to pick a stand out track as the whole EP is fantastic. If we did marks out of ten it would be 10/10 all round. The final track is ‘All About The Money’ and it reminded me a bit of 50’s style crooning Germans The Baseballs but was a great way to end the EP. Capitalism is a disease and Jack Of All know the cure… They funded the EP themselves through the Pledge music web-site and of each sale 10% goes to charity through Parkinson’s UK, which is the charity which helped the late father of Laurence while he suffered from a life-threatening illness. So there you have a great EP and a chance to help others too so don’t delay! Over twenty minutes and every song is a strong self-penned number well worth your measly few quid. When you do reviews one of the words you find yourself using the most (if you’re lucky) is ‘catchy’. I’m sick of the fecking word but sometimes it explains everything. This EP has it all catchy songs, expertly played fiddle and great vocals and lyrics and all without being over produced. I reckon this EP has captured Jack Of All’s live sound so be sure to catch them somewhere soon. Can’t recommend this enough.
(listen to the whole EP by pressing play on the Soundcloud player below)
Just recently we reviewed the debut album from Rovers Ahead , who are an amazing celtic-punk band from Denmark (seehere). Well the reason we bring that up here is their lead singer is from Dublin and Keltikon, despite hailing from Zurich in Switzerland, also have a celtic singer in Iain Duncan. That a 2nd generation Scot should wash up in Switzerland should come as no surprise as people from the celtic nations spread out in further directions than just the usual routes of the America’s or Australia/New Zealand and bring with them the knowledge and know-how and, lets face it, a extra bit of authenticity to celtic-punk bands out there in Europe.
Formed in March 2012 Keltikon have wasted no time in their short existence and their debut album hit the shelves in February of this year. The title of the album ‘Agenbite Of Inwit’ is an old-English phrase meaning ‘Again, a bite of inner wit’ or, put into modern terms, a crisis of conscience or remorse. Taking traditional Scottish and Irish jigs and reels, celtic songs and ballads Keltikon spice them up with their own recipe of punk and rock to come up with something relatively unique to these ears!
The album begins with the title track and with the bass thundering away it starts as any pop-punk record only for the bagpipes to kick in and once again i’m left marveling at the expert pipe playing involved. The band describe it as thus
“This is a song for anyone whose life has in some way been damaged by the decision of someone in ‘power’ that doesn’t give a jot for the consequences it causes us”
The song also has a jangly guitar feel to it reminding me of bands like The Wedding Present. They slow it right down for the following track with flute taking the lead on ‘Bonnie Ship The Diamond’, an old Scottish song popularized by Scots folk legends The Corries and more recently , the German celtic-punk band, Fiddlers Green. ‘Seven Ships’ comes next and has a real northern English folk feel to it. Traces of The Levellers too, at their best I hasten to add. ‘The Mariners Tale’ is a spoken word piece done in the style of old English TV programme Jackanory, telling the tale of a nuclear submarine called The Diving Dutchman. The story continues in the next track also called ‘The Diving Dutchman’ and steams along at a good old rate in the albums punkiest song. ‘Away To Fight’ is a beautifully slow acoustic ballad telling the tale of the WW2 invasion of Normandy beach in the words of a soldier about to disembark.
‘The Blackbird’ a traditional Irish reel whizzes past with the band not missing a beat and the pipes in truly outstanding form. That we have returned to feudal times is the theme of ‘Hold On Tight’ another slow acoustic ballad, the female backing vocals a nice touch. The fiddle is to the fore in ‘Each Others Dreams’ a rather poppy song that never really gets going in the way you’d expect it to leaving the epic ‘Taliesin’ to close the album. At nearly ten minutes long its pretty risky but completely works as all the band members get a chance to show what they can do and none come up short. Taliesin was a renowned Welsh bard who is believed to have sung at the courts of at least three Brythonic kings and lived during the 6th century. It has a bit of a prog-rock feel to it and comes in waves getting louder and louder building up to a crescendo and despite its length does not outstay its welcome.
With ten tracks and clocking in at just under a hours worth of music it’s great value and even though the tracks are quite lengthy it never drags for a second. The various elements of celtic music are all represented so this album will appeal to anyone with even the slightest interest in celtic music.