Tag Archives: The Silk Road

ALBUM REVIEW: THE BLEEDING HEARTS- ‘The Rules Of Division’ (2018)

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. 
Buy The Rules Of Division
Compact Disc- FromTheBand  Download- iTunes  Amazon
Contact The Bleeding Hearts
Discography-
Fly In The Face Of Fashion (2001) * Anarcoustica (2002) * Merchants Of Propaganda (2003) * Politics & Love (2006) * Folk ‘n’ Glory (2011)
To hear tracks from each of their album visit the ‘Hearts Noize’ section of their Web Site.
(Re-recording of old song ‘Caravan Song’ for video release from a couple of years back)

EP REVIEW: THE SILK ROAD- ‘Justice For Daniel’ (2018)

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.

Buy The EP
CD only available from the band at the moment. £6-50 via PayPal from brianbuckberry@hotmail.com
Contact The Band
(great video of ‘I Don’t Care’ taken from our debut album)

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2017!

Yes I know it only seems like five minutes since the last one but it’s that time of year again when we give you, for what it’s worth, our opinion on who made the best music in the celtic-punk scene over 2017. It’s been another outstanding year for the music that we all love and some truly fantastic records came out in the last twelve months. So read on to find out who came #1! Remember though this is only our opinion and these thirty album’s are only the tip of the iceberg of what was released last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…

1. FLATFOOT 56 (Chicago)- ‘Odd Boat’  here

2. THE TOSSERS (Chicago)- ‘Smash The Windows’  here

3. THE BIBLECODE SUNDAYS (London) – ‘Walk Like Kings’  here
4. THE PEELERS (Canada)- ‘Palace Of The Fiend’ here
5. FEROCIOUS DOG (England)- ‘Red’  here

6. BLACK WATER COUNTY (England)- ‘Taking Chances’  here

7. THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS (Germany)- ‘Sign of the Fighter’  here

8. IN FOR A PENNY (USA)- ‘One More Last Hurrah’ here

9. LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS (Brittany)- ‘Breizh Anok’  here

10. MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS (England)- ‘As The Tide Turns’  here

11. KILMAINE SAINTS (USA)- ‘Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos’  here

12. ORTHODOX CELTS (Serbia)- ‘Many Mouths Shut’  here

13. UNCLE BARD AND THE DIRTY BASTARDS (Italy)- ‘Handmade’  here

14. THE SILK ROAD (England)- ‘S/T’ here 

15. FLOGGING MOLLY (USA)- ‘Life Is Good’  here

16. THE LUCKY PISTOLS (USA)- ‘Where The Orioles Fly’  here

17. THE REAL McKENZIES (Canada)- ‘Two Devils Will Talk’  here

18. DRUNKEN DOLLY (Netherlands)- ‘Alcoholic Rhapsody’ here

19. CASSIDY’S BREWERY (Serbia)- ‘One Brew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’  here

20. CRAIC (USA)- ‘Sounds Of Vandemark’  here

21. THE MOORINGS (France)- ‘Unbowed’ here

22. JOLLY JACKERS (Hungary)- ‘Blood Sweat and Beer’ here

23. THE SCARLET (Hungary)- ‘Hardfolk Shanties’ here

24. THE DISTILLERY RATS (Germany)- ‘Tales From County Whiskey’ here

25. CELKILT (France)- ‘Stand’ here

26. DROPKICK MURPHYS (Boston)- ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’  here

27. O’HAMSTERS (Ukraine)- ‘Где бы мы ни бывали’  here

28. SONS OF O’FLAHERTY (Brittany)- ‘The Road Not Taken’  here

29. THE BABES (London)- ‘Greetings From London’  here

30. CHEERS! (Czech Republic)- ‘Daily Bread’ here

Just bubbling under:

THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM (USA), GHOSTTOWN COMPANY (Germany) McSCALLYWAG (Netherlands)

No surprise here at all as all four admins voted #1 for Flatfoot 56 and their utterly brilliant ninth album. Not only that but we also all gave second spot to The Tossers, making it a Chicago #1 and #2! The year began with news of two new Dropkick Murphys albums coming but we only got the one and it met with, well quite a muted response to be honest. Saying that they were fantastic live and they certainly added a new dimension to these new songs when played in the flesh. The list leans heavy towards the bands from these shores it has to be said but it was always going to be with bands we get to see live regularly. It’s especially fitting to see The Bible Code Sundays in there too. In a year when every ‘big’ celtic-punk band released an album the competition was great so well done to all. Keep them coming. If you are not here then it just means we didn’t all agree or even all hear it and maybe we didn’t receive it too. The amount of debut albums from loads of these bodes well for both the scene here and internationally with a great mix of bands from thirteen countries.

BLACK WATER COUNTY- ‘Taking Chances’

This was a very hard category to fill with so many new bands arriving on the celtic-punk scene this past year. Soooo many to choose from but in the end we pumped for our very own Black Water County who just pipped Cassidy’s Brewery and In For A Penny to the title!

1. BLACK ANEMONE (Sweden)- ‘In It For Life’  here

2. RAIN IN SUMMER (Indonesia)- ‘Discordant Anthem From The Gutter’  here

3. IN FOR A PENNY (USA)- ‘Every Day Should be Saint Paddy’s Day’  here

4. THE BOTTLERS (Australia)- ‘The Bottlers’  (here)

5. BLACK RAWK DOG (Indonesia)- ‘Suburban’s Folk Stories’  here

6. BogZH CELTIC CATS! (Brittany)- ‘Kazh al Lagenn’  here

7. THE CRAZY ROGUES (Hungary)- ‘Rebels’ Shanties’  here

8. THE McMINERS (Brazil)- ‘Tales of Betrayal and Deceit’  here

9. BORN AGAIN HEATHENS (USA)- ‘Born Again Heathens’  here

10. THE DEAD MAGGIES (Australia)- ‘Wild Dogs And Flannies’  here

Stand out winner here from Sweden’s Black Anemone which none of us were sure was either a big EP or a small album so we gave it the benefit of the doubt and placed it in here. Outstanding! Two representatives of Indonesia’s fantastic celtic-punk scene made up for no album releases from there last year and one band from a Celtic nation with the BogZH Celtic Cats! The Bottlers sneak in as they only sent it to us the week before Christmas. Glad they did though.

1. DECLAN O’ROURKE- ‘Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine’  (here)

2. ShamROCKS- ‘Ye Ould Chariot’ EP  (here)

3. CRIKWATER- ‘Crikwater’  (here)

4. BEOGA- ‘Before We Change Our Mind’

5. FOLLOW THE CROWS- ‘West is East’ EP  (here)

6. PLASTIC PADDY- ‘Lucky Enough’  (here)

7. DAMIEN DEMPSEY- ‘Soulson’

8. GALLEY BEGGAR- ‘Heathen Hymns’  (here)

9. I DRAW SLOW- ‘Turn Your Face To The Sun’

10. ANTO MORRA- ‘From The Vaults’

Absolutely no question who romped home here. from the first time I ever heard Declan O’Rourke’s monumental album Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine I was simply blown away. I simply cannot recommend it enough. Go and acquire a copy now. A mix of folk and trad makes up the rest of the list with a special mention for Ukrainian band ShamROCKS who play Irish folk as if they were naturals! We would like to feature more trad and folk on these pages in the future hopefully. Also Vince Cayo had a fecking brilliant album but was neither celtic-punk nor folk. Was tempted to make a separate list just for him!

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

This use to be the Celtic Folk Punk And More Best Celtic Punk Web-Site award so often did they use to win but last year it went to the new kid on the block, our good mates over at Mersey Celt Punks. Well we were in a bit of a quandary about who would win this week but then in the last few weeks of the year the Mersey Bhoys upped their game and won a unanimous vote. They finally started to use their Web-Site (here) and published a whole host of great reviews and things like a events/gig section. You can also join in their fun and games at Twitter and Facebook and we heartily recommend you do.

So there you go. Remember we don’t pretend to be the final word on things in fact if you check the other celtic-punk media I’m sure we’ve all come up with relatively different lists. Our Best Of’s are cajoled and bullied out of the four admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The assorted scraps of paper and beer mats were then tallied up over several pints of Guinness in Mannions. Not all of us heard the same albums so like all Best Of’s ours is subjective.

CARLTON HUNT

Of course we cannot go any further without mention of the saddest news of the year. That of the passing of Carlton , the drummer of The Bible Code Sundays. A friend of London Celtic Punks and an absolute diamond stand up guy he will be forever sadly missed by all who met him. We are grateful To Ronan for penning a few words for him.

We lost Carlton on 3rd November 2017 unexpectedly and it has left a massive hole in our family. Carlton joined The BibleCode Sundays some twelve years ago when we were still called Slainte.

His work ethic was second to none, he even dragged us into the studio to record our first CD, he did a lot of pushing in the early days and the Lord knows we needed it!

He was always the first to say yes to any gig, whether it was a small Irish pub like The Old Crown in Hayes or The Shawl or whether it was some of our bigger gigs. Over the years we played some fantastic gigs and venues, such as The Royal Albert Hall, New York’s Beacon Theatre, The House of Blues in Boston, Shepherds Bush Empire, The Roundhouse, Glasgow Barrowlands, Indigo at The O2, Glastonbury Festival, Finsbury Park, London Irish, on the pitch at Twickenham Stadium and at Celtic Park (the night Celtic beat Barcelona). We’ve played with Elvis Costello, The Dropkick Murphys, The Wolfetones, John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd, the Saw Doctors and he even got to realise a dream when we shared a stage with Thin Lizzy. They were minus legends Phil Linnot and Gary Moore but this mattered not to Carlton, his hero Brian Downey was still behind the drums. Carlton got to meet his idol and even got some Thin Lizzy drumsticks as souvenir, he was like an excited little kid that night. We did TV appearances on Sky Sports, BT Sport and even a live St Patrick’s Day performance on BBC’s The One Show.

We got to travel around on trips and tours all around the UK and Ireland as well as Germany, Italy, Spain and the USA to mention a few. This was all just topping up the stamps on his passport that he had accrued in his days with Bad Manners, Feast of Fiddles and The Melody Fakers and many more as he spent so many years on the London Irish music scene.

Not many would know that he also wrote poetry and song lyrics, they are very clever with pun-tastic wordplay and generally came out sounding like Bernard Cribbins songs with titles like ‘Breakfast Epiphanies’ or the Brighton-themed song ‘All Things Brighton Beautiful’. He used to always say

“I try to be serious but the humour always takes over”

He did, however, manage to pen two of the best songs on our latest album, he was very proud of his songs ‘Disorganised Crime’ and the beautiful ‘Clouds’. Drummers writing songs?! Whatever next?! He truly was the engine room of the band, a quiet and gentle man off stage who turned into a one man wrecking ball when he was sat behind his drum kit.

Things will never be the same without him but he would want us to and we will carry on making music and playing his songs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, on drums.. Mr Carlton Hunt

This is the 5th year of us making these lists so if you would like to check out out who was where in our previous Best Of’s then just click on the link below the relevant year.

We are not alone in doing these Best Of lists in fact all the major players in celtic-punk do them so click below to check out what they thought.

CELTIC FOLK PUNK AND MORE

FOLK’N’ROCK

PADDYROCK

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

SHITE’n’ONIONS

MacSLONS IRISH RADIO

CELTICPUNK.PL

remember any views or comments we would love to hear them…

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: THE SILK ROAD’ ‘S/T’ (2017)

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.

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(full concert from last year)

ALBUM REVIEW: UNDER A BANNER- ‘The Wild Places’ (2016)

Passionate, powerful and poetic Midlands folk-rock band Under A Banner release their superb third studio album.

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Under A Banner have been on our radar for a couple of years now and apart from an appearance at a free music festival in Croydon they have as yet, as far as I know, not managed to get a gig in London town. This is something we hope to remedy soon and on the strength of this album it will be an absolute pleasure. They are one of a bunch of Midlands bands playing political folk-punk that straddles everything from the celtic-punk of Ferocious Dog to the anarcho-folk of The Silk Road. Under A Banner play an infectiously catchy brand of folk-punk caught somewhere between The Levellers at their softest and New Model Army at their punkest with a smidgeon of Ferocious Dog and youthful Billy Bragg, before he fled Barking to live in Dorset in a massive mansion and vote Lib-Dem.

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Under A Banner left to right Kat Davis- Keysboards * Jake Brooks- Guitars/ Backing Vocals * Si Hill- Bass * Adam Broadhurst- Vocals/ Guitars * Tim Wilson- Drums/ Percussion/ Backing Vocals

Based in Wolverhampton and formed only four years ago they are mostly most famous for their close relationship with their fans and their constant gigging around the country, though not London as we said! The Wild Places came out September 30, 2016 on Bad Elephant Records and has already garnered some pretty amazing reviews across the internet so hopefully they won’t mind another positive one!

The Wild Places was recorded at Park Studios in Birmingham, between March and June 2016 and was produced by Alastair Jamieson and the band themselves and a very nice job they have done as well. The album kicks off with ‘In The End’ and it’s a simple start. Just singer-songwriter Adam above an acoustic guitar and cello from guest Isaac Collier. Adam’s passion flows through the song and out through it into you. This track captures Under A Banner perfectly showing off their folky roots while title track ‘The Wild Places’ has them rocking out and is a perfect example of their rockier side. Two songs in and already their range is staggering. Catchy is a very overblown word used during album reviews and if anyone knows a better one can they please let me know it! Up next is ‘Birdsong’ and a song that slows it down again that soars with an almost Gothic feel to it that reminds me of miserable Leeds sods The Mission. There’s an epic feel not just on next song ‘Sunburst’ but throughout the album due in no small part to the excellent mastering and the aural wizardry of Jon Astley who has famously worked with Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Who among others. The albums longest track is ‘Snow Song and was The Wild Place’s first release. One of the album’s standouts mixing the acoustic and the electric together.

“What a perfect time to celebrate!

Love in a silent world creates another rush of hope;

something is coming”

It’s easy to see why they chose Snow Song as that first release seeing how it showcases everything that Under A Banner do so well. From the catchy (their we go again!) and simply effective tune to the outstanding lyrics this is them. The second release was the following song ‘Nothing’s Ever Really Gone’ and again the folk-rock shines with a briliant chorus that is a sure fire toe tapper at the very least!

The second half of the album begins with ‘About Love’ and is certainly different from the rest of the album but Adam’s voice and lyrics keep it interesting. I maybe didn’t much care for it on first listen but its grown to be one of my favourites.

“There’s nothing wrong with love songs”

Adam sings and the word that springs up here is ‘Hope’ even though it’s not mentioned once within the song! One of the things I hate most in reviewing albums is that if a band isn’t too well known you are forced to bring up better known, not necessarily better though!, bands as points of reference. For instance the band Under A banner are most likend to are New Model Army and on ‘Kill It All’ they sound most like them on this album. From the lyrics attacking consumersism and false religion to the music this is the sort of stuff NMA fans would go potty for. That is not to say of course that Under A banner are merely copying NMA or any of the bands mentioned before. They can proudly stand on their own or alongside any of the bands coming in or out of the folk-rock scene. They proclaim

“There’s more of us than their are of you”

while calling us to the barracades on ‘Legion’ and they continue the rockier momentum with ‘On Top of This Mountain’. Penultimate song ‘Already There’ sees another thing that the band revel in. A simple tune on acoustic guitar while Adam’s voice cracks with passion and the return of the stunningly beautiful cello only adds to the effect.

 “The beauty was already there”

under-a-bannerIf I had a small, tiny in fact, issue with The Wild Places it’s that they don’t quite unleash their power and go for it a little more. That is not to detract from the quality here mind you, it’s just that maybe one or two of the songs could have done with a slightly harder edge to them. It all comes to an end with ‘World of Hope’ and nowhere on else on the album does Adam sound so pissed off and angry. Looking back and wondering what happened to those chances we had to change things. Nostalgia is not only about ancient rockers at Rebellion, long given up on anything they once believed in but the times we had.

Under A Banner’s third studio album certainly hits the spot and will appeal to anyone who likes any of the bands mentioned in this review. They would be only a fiddle player away from being able to call themselves a celtic-punk band so I’m sure it will appeal to our more regular readers as well. With a blend of influences from right across the musical scene while incorporating folk and rock to wrap around Adam’s clever and intelligent lyrics they play with a passion missing from a lot of bands these days. Their is defeat and loss but always with hope and they manage it all with a sincerity that makes you believe they play these songs from the heart and soul and not out of some songbook.

(listen to The Wild Places by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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EP REVIEW – THE SILK ROAD ‘Midnight’ (2016)

Pre-album four track sampler EP from northern English fiddle punk band The Silk Road.
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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.
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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)

silk-road-tattThe 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)
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