Tag Archives: The Punkfolkers

ALBUM REVIEW: ANTO MORRA- ‘From The Vaults’ (2017)

London Irish Folk Punk

Somewhere between the Pogues and Ian Dury with perhaps a dash of Madness.

He’s back. Guess whose back? Aye it’s the all round Mr. Nice Guy Anto Morra to sort the English folk scene right out! Even more prolific than Matilda’s Scoundrels Anto presents his new album that came out at the arse end of last year giving us no time to get a review in so with things a little quiet on the celtic-punk scene it’s a perfect opportunity to revisit this great album and give it the review it deserves.

This is not quite a new album though it’s more of a concept album. Offered some free time at a recording studio near his adopted home in Norfolk he decided to revisit some of his older works that were either never recorded or recorded in bands that he was previously in. Having laid down the bones of this album on a hot summers day in July Anto realised this would be a fantastic opportunity to bring in some of his ex and present band mates and also some of the talented musicians that he had hooked up with since the start of his solo career. The songs here were all written between 1986 and 1996 during a time when Anto says

“my only ambitions were to have as much sex, drugs and rock’n’roll as a young man could handle”

Sadly three of Anto’s close friends passed during the time when he began recording From The Vaults to it’s finish. A strange coincidence was that they all had birthdays on the 19th the month, different months and different years so in tribute to them the album was released on the 19th December.

Regular readers will need no introduction as he has featured on these pages numerous times due to his more than abundant releases! Just in case though we’ll give you a wee run down before the review starts. Born Anthony Morrissey and raised in London by Irish parents, his formative years were as a punk rocker floating from band to band and dole cheque to dole cheque in Thatcher’s Britain. His Irish background provides the backbone for much of his music and focuses on the confusion of being brought up between two cultures that were so opposed to each other. Old animosities are thawing but the relationship remains an uneasy one. Flitting from punk band to band during these years he eventually washed up in the Norfolk countryside and he began to further explore his roots with Whirligig, a four-piece ceilidh dance Band. In 2013 he left the band after ten years deciding to concentrate on songwriting and solo performances.

Anto

From The Vaults is another of Anto trademark releases with a huge booklet packed with photos and information on all the songs including a very lovely mention of yours truly that I was very touched by (thanks Anto). The album is fifteen songs and as usual he has squeezed as much as possible in. Coming with a cover painted again by famed London Irish artist Brian Whelan (check out his wonderful art here). We kick of with ‘Lifting The Lid’ which sees Anto reminisce about his Catholic Irish background and the realisation that it wasn’t as restrictive and as he thought it was when he was young. Something that comes to most people of Irish backgrounds when they grow up I think. As stated it’s not just Anto here and to read out the list of collaborators would take up a whole page so suffice to say the backing he receives here is absolutely terrific and lifts the album into the premier league! ‘Bomb Alert’ looks back to the early 90’s a time when the Gulf War lit up our TV’s and the Boys were still blowing up parts of London. ‘Tall Story’ is my favourite track here a catchy upbeat punky number from his days as vocalist in indie-punk band Fountain Head in the mid-90’s. Anto gives his voice a good work out next in ‘Martyr’ with a tale living in a bedsit and seeing fellow members of the underclass finding themselves deeper and deeper in poverty. Acoustic guitar backed by mandolin as Anto gives us it straight from the heart, as he always does, while backed on vocals by his Mrs Julie. The song goes straight into ‘Dance’ and fiddle comes into play and the oldest song featured here at over twenty-five years old! Anto thinks its a bit Jimi Hendrix you’ll have to make up your own minds on that. 90’s insomniac plagued sleepless nights inspired ‘Fugitive’ based around the TV show of the same night fiddle, flute and banjo manage not to sound Celtic somehow! ‘Better Place’ and ‘High In The Night’ both tell the highly personal stories mental health and drug issues but done with panache and a lot of style. ‘Crazy Chris K-Hole Glasto’ is the only song on the album written this century and is about a trip to Glastonbury festival with his auld London Irish mate Chris. To K-Hole is to hallucinate while on drugs and sadly Chris was one of the friends who passed away during production of From The Vaults whilst battling addiction.

” His brutal honesty and wit made him such great company and fun to be around”.

A fantastic tribute to him which features Chris having a ‘episode’ outside Anto’s tent while he recorded him on a wee tape deck. RIP Chris. ‘Dragon Hide Away’ is slow and mournful just how a song with accordion should be.

There’s even brass out for ‘Changeless Angel’ a story of a burlesque dancer with a happy ending for a change. We in for some more heartbreak next with ‘Youre Not Here (Sadder Than Asda)’ from 1992 about a particularly tough relationship break-up. Most men can relate to the words here but as Anto says on the album notes “strange how returning to the song could become such a positive joy”.

Time is a great healer it is true. Just Anto and Kerry Selwin on piano it ends on a perfect bittersweet note as Anto sings the chorus repeating “You’re not here” until the final words “Thank the Lord!”. Typical Anto! ‘Wrecked On Love’ tells of the cycle of relationships we find ourselves on until we find the ‘one’. We coming rolling up towards the end and ‘Happy Ending’ is dedicated to all the musical geniuses that left before their time. Written on hearing the news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide Anto is backed here by John and Thim from Anto’s current collaborators in the folk-punk band The Punkfolkers. In the main its been a reflective album, obviously, but the curtain comes down with ‘Seen It All’ and a song to send you off into the dark with a wry smile and a bursting heart. The kind of song where the words will pop into your head at some random point and make you smile.

Yet another hit from one of the nicest people in celtic-punk and while this release is missing much of the trademark humour that has made Anto so popular and well received his warmth still spills over from the CD into us. A wordsmith and a modern day seanchaí his words have a sincerity about them that would make many so called artists weep in jealousy! That he can both keep up the output and the quality of his releases is outstanding and we have been promised another album soon in The Punkfolkers release Night Bus To Tombland. Forty years of protest, rebellion and punk and with records like this we can look forward to another forty as well!

Dedicated to

Chris McCormack * John (Ribsy) Vick * Tom Paley

Buy From The Vaults

FromAnto

Contact Anto Morra

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(‘The Blacksmith’ from the recent Folkpunkers single )

SINGLE REVIEW: THE PUNKFOLKERS- ‘Angry Man/ The Blacksmith’ (2017)

London Celtic Punks favourite and London Irish folk punker Anto Morra is back with his new project The Punkfolkers. This isn’t the folk-punk of The Levellers or The Pogues but the punk of the Pistols, The Stranglers and SLF as filtered through some real story telling and traditional folk.

The Punkfolkers are a three piece band based in East Anglia, around Norwich. Their mission in life is to introduce folk music to to the punks and punk to the folkies. This is the band’s debut release and comes out tomorrow, forty years to the very day that the Sex Pistols released the seminal Never Mind The Bollocks album. That album that changed the face of Britain and more importantly the music industry if, only for a short time, from the stale and boring to something alive and exciting and challenging.

This release is an old school double A side in the tradition of those early punk singles. With ‘Angry Man’ an original Punkfolkers song and ‘The Blacksmith’ in keeping with the style of the single is an traditional English folk song. Formed back in 2013 and led by the incredibly talented Anto Morra the band got together when recording Anto’s debut album Never Had To Shout. Accompanied here by John Child on guitar and Thim Flaxman on bass they have so far played an handful of shows including the London Celtic Punks sponsored release show for Anto’s EP ‘The Patriot’ but have been in the studio of late putting some tracks together for this single and a forthcoming album due for release in early 2018. The band’s knowledge of the punk movement is vast and diverse with Anto well known to us at London Celtic Punks and the London punk scene. As said an incredibly talented individual who is also unburdened by any sort of ego and is as nice a fella as could be met within the music scene. Anto has the not only a indepth knowledge of the asthetic and cultural importance of the movement but also a love and understanding of traditional folk music. If you ever want to hear unabashed folk music played on a acoustic guitar with no frills but filtered through the imagination of a dyed in the wool punk rocker then Anto Morra is your man without a doubt. Joined by John and Thim who as ex-members of East Anglian punk band Stain have brought the ability to recreate the sound used in early punk rock with an authenticity rarely seen.

Side A is the punky ‘Angry Man’ and a real time warp taking you back to the days of Liverpool winning the league and industrial disputes! Anto has a great voice and his London Irish twang fits perfectly and when he drops his ‘Aitches’ you know its not done for effect like the public school Lily Allen and co. Anto takes angry swipes at the things that piss him off like fox-hunting and the empire of The Sun but with a great dollop of humour and satirical bite that many Anarcho-Punk bands could only dream of. Chugging guitar and and throbbing bass instantly reminds you of 70’s bands like The Killjoys or Eater and loads of those early bands were London Irish so great to know we’re still doing now! The AA side is ‘The Blacksmith’ and is a bit more like what us Anto fan’s are use to.

Not afraid to play both the more popular or the obscure songs Anto has chosen well here with a song that has been covered by some real legends and pioneers of folk-rock. Steeleye Span, Planxty, Pentangle have all recorded it while into more modern times Runa had a marvellous version on their debut album Jealousy. It is a traditional English folk song also known as ‘A Blacksmith Courted Me’ and was first noted back in 1909.

“Strange news is come to town
Strange news is carried
Strange news flies up and down
That my love is married.
I wish them both much joy
Though they can’t hear me
And may God reward him well
For the slighting of me”

The well worn tale of illicit love and deceit is played by The Punkfolkers with Anto’s voice pushed to the fore but the understated backing is superb and really grows as you notice it more and more each time you hear the song. Of course the banjo that drops in half way simply takes it to another level. Superb.

The Punkfolkers

So keep an eye out for The Punkfolkers album Night Bus To Tombland  due out sometime early 2018 and in the meantime enjoy this single from a band with a great pedigree and to say I am excited to hear it is an understatement I can tell you. Forty years of protest, rebellion and punk and with records like this we can look forward to another forty as well!

Buy The Punkfolkers debut single

iTunes  Amazon

Contact The Punkfolkers via Anto Morra

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