“Land of the free? Fuuuuuck Off! Land of the rich white man”
“Never again will I bow down to a false ideal or a faded crown”
“Students they don’t march no more the middle class won that war”
collective promoting celtic music especially celtic-punk and unofficial Celtic supporters club for drunx, punx 'n' vagabonds!
“Land of the free? Fuuuuuck Off! Land of the rich white man”
“Never again will I bow down to a false ideal or a faded crown”
“Students they don’t march no more the middle class won that war”
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.
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.
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.
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)
Contact Ferocious Dog
Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund
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”.
Buy Lies, Lies, Lies
Tower Struck Down WebSite here
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 the four 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.
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.
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.
Buy The Album
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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.
“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?”
“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 liveSo 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.
you can read our review of Headsticks debut album Muster here
SWAGGER, SWAMP AND SLIDE!
“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 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!
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(here’s a snippet of their other band Black Friday)
*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 BAY STREET BASTARDS- ‘Self/Titled’ (BUY)
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.
THE STANFIELDS- ‘Modem Operandi’ (BUY)
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!
THE WAXIES- ‘Down With The Ship’ (BUY)
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.
SEAMUS STOUT- ‘For Your Purchasing Pleasure’
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.
THE SHILLELAGHS- ‘Bury Me At Sea’ (BUY)
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 & More noticed 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.
pirate songs and punk polemics!
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.
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 (see here). Well the reason we bring that up here is their lead singer is from Dublin and Keltikon, despite hailing from Zurich in Switzerland, also have a celtic singer in Iain Duncan. That a 2nd generation Scot should wash up in Switzerland should come as no surprise as people from the celtic nations spread out in further directions than just the usual routes of the America’s or Australia/New Zealand and bring with them the knowledge and know-how and, lets face it, a extra bit of authenticity to celtic-punk bands out there in Europe.
Formed as late as March 2012 Keltikon have wasted no time in their short existence and their debut album hit the shelves in February of this year. The title of the album ‘Agenbite Of Inwit’ is an old-English phrase meaning ‘Again, a bite of inner wit’ or, put into modern terms, a crisis of conscience or remorse. Taking traditional Scottish and Irish jigs and reels, celtic songs and ballads Keltikon spice them up with their own recipe of punk and rock to come up with something relatively unique to these ears!
The album begins with the title track and with the bass thundering away it starts as any pop-punk record only for the bagpipes to kick in and once again i’m left marveling at the expert pipe playing involved. The band describe it as thus
“This is a song for anyone whose life has in some way been damaged by the decision of someone in ‘power’ that doesn’t give a jot for the consequences it causes us”
The song also has a jangly guitar feel to it reminding me of bands like The Wedding Present. They slow it right down for the following track with flute taking the lead on ‘Bonnie Ship The Diamond’, an old Scottish song popularized by Scots folk legends The Corries and more recently , the German celtic-punk band, Fiddlers Green. ‘Seven Ships’ comes next and has a real northern English folk feel to it. Traces of The Levellers too, at their best I hasten to add. ‘The Mariners Tale’ is a spoken word piece done in the style of old English TV programme Jackanory, telling the tale of a nuclear submarine called The Diving Dutchman. The story continues in the next track also called ‘The Diving Dutchman’ and steams along at a good old rate in the albums punkiest song. ‘Away To Fight’ is a beautifully slow acoustic ballad telling the tale of the WW2 invasion of Normandy beach in the words of a soldier about to disembark.
‘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.
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