Fast, ruthless and uncompromising traditional folk music and frantic bluegrass style picking with self penned songs of protest and debauchery!
Johnny Campbell is a name that will be familiar to regular viewers of the London Celtic Punks blog-zine as we have been long time fans of pretty much everything Johnny has come up with over the years. We first crossed paths with Johnny when he played in the excellent Yorkshire celtic-punk band Three Sheets T’Wind but since those days Johnny has spreads his wings and has become a quite successful and well travelled solo artist. After numerous tours and gigs and a EP we now arrive at the release of Hook, Line And Sinker back at the arse end of last year. We did a very interesting interview with Johnny in September just gone (here) so drop over there to have a read and find out lots more about Johnny and his various gig antics across Europe including how ISIS nearly screwed up his tour!
Hook, Line And Sinker is eight songs of stand out traditional folk music lasting just shy of half an hour with Johnny ably supported by Rosie Eade on backing vocals and an old bandmate of Shane MacGowan, Kieran O’Malley on the violin. A story of a journey from York to Middlesbrough begins the album with ‘Hills Of Cleveland’ and name checks places of outstanding beauty along the way. A sort of North Yorkshire national anthem that I am sure sounds mental to anyone who doesn’t know or appreciate ‘Gods own country’.
“Sneck Yate over Hambleton it’s where we made good time
The smog caresses Middlesbrough you could see it to the Tyne”
This is followed by ‘Johnny McGhee’ a comedy song that came about after a night out on the lash and with a gut full of ale and arriving home and after listening to the great Irish balladeers like John McCormack and The Clancy Brothers Johnny decided to write a traditional old school folk song with the emphasis on the lyrics and using different volumes of the voice when singing. Play the song below and you’ll understand instantly what I mean.
“Rambling and roving and smoking and courting
And drinking black Porter as fast as you feel
In all your days roving you’ll find none more jovial
As the wondrous wanderer Johnny McGhee”
‘Blue Mountains’ is a fast paced instrumental with great fiddle work from Kieran and as close as this album comes to the sound of Three Sheets T’Wind. Personally I think the album would have benefited from a few faster paced numbers but that is not Johnny’s shtick here. Waking up hungover on a boat to Denmark with no money, no phone, no bank card and no wallet was the inspiration for ‘Copenhagen’ and having to busk for three days for food and money just to get to the airport providing the background for the story. ‘Complaint’ was written in mind about those affected by the Bedroom Tax and forced out onto the street and put to a very old traditional Irish tune. The romanticism of tramping the high roads belies exactly how difficult and traumatic it can really me. Like anything it’s simple with a safety net but there’s not many of us who will ever find ourselves with no other option. There are too many songs in the folk genre romanticising the idea of living a homeless life and glamorising the idea of being a wanderer without commitment or troubles. The ‘roving minstrel’ image portrayed in folk song about travellers and gypsies having a carefree life just isn’t true when weighed up against all the daily shit and blatant discrimination traveller families have to put up. Next up is ‘The Death Of The Public House (skit)’ and that witch Maggot Thatcher snarls out at you from the speakers. Many of you will have no idea or will have forgotten what she was like so remind yourself with her spouting the miserable anti-human claptrap she was famous for. Hook, Line And Sinker’ was wrote with Woody Guthrie in mind and the legendary American folk pioneer will be smiling down from above on hearing this. The song steers clear of preaching and has a real catchy foot tapping way about it. References to the optimism of the radical movements in the US and UK that haven’t come to full fruition as well as religion and the two party political system.
‘Jock Stewart’ is the famous song made famous I suppose by The Pogues as sung by Cait O’Riordan. Originally an Irish ballad it was shortened and adapted to an Aberdeenshire drinking song. And what a song it is!
“So be easy and free,
When you’re drinkin’ wi’ me,
I’m a man you don’t meet every day”
If you’re a fan of traditional folk music and folk singer’s like Christy Moore and Paul Brady then you will love this record. Passionate and straight from the heart Johnny takes his music very seriously and his commitment is amazing. A record that is evocative of the past but is rooted very firmly in the here and now. Fans of celtic-punk music deserve to give artists like Johnny a go. The music he plays is where the music we all love comes from and is living proof that the soul of celtic-punk belongs firmly in the past.
(you can have a free listen to the whole of ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’ before buying by pressing Play on the Bandcamp player below)
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