Tag Archives: Tortilla Flat

ALBUM REVIEW: TORTILLA FLAT LIVE AT OLD CAPITOL (2019)

Full blooded Highland bagpipes and chugging punky guitars from one of Europe’s greatest Celtic-Punk bands. The new album from Switzerland’s Tortilla Flat is a special dual CD and DVD release of their concert in Langenthal at this refurbished beautiful old cinema.

A week after we reviewed our first live album in over a year lo and behold another one lands on our doorstep. While The Fighting Jamesons album was recorded at a outdoor festival Tortilla Flat have chosen their headlining gig at the exquisite Old Capitol music venue from 4th November, 2017. Taking their name from the John Steinbeck humorous novel of the same name about a bunch of Californian outsiders who want to own nothing and get drunk, Tortilla Flat formed in 1991 and have at their core Chris, Ritchie and Lexu who at various times are joined by the The Independent Pipers who keep up a steady supply of expert bagpipers whenever they are required. For a lot of bands in the Celtic-Punk scene the priority has always been the live show and so for a lot of bands their releases don’t quite tally up with how long they have been together but Tortilla Flat have never neglected the recording side of things and this will be their eighth album release during their eighteen years together. Their last release being 2018’s tribute to the vinyl single The 45rpm accompanied by garage-surf-punk legend Jorgen Red Westman which we featured here.

Here’s a band that easily sits slap bang on the line between Celtic and Punk and in a scene where most bands naturally try to sound like the two biggest bands in the scene, the Murphys and the Mollys, here though is a band that tries to steer their own path. Also rather unusually they take the Celticness of Scotland rather than Ireland as their major influence. That’s not to say that a few Irish tunes don’t show up but that it’s Scotland calling the shots here.

Tortilla Flat left to right: Ritchie: Bass, Harp * Tom MacFly- Bagpipes * Lexu- Drums, Acoustic Guitar * Violin- Christine * Accordion- Asi MacHasi * Rob Highlander- Bagpipes * Chris- Electric Guitar, Lead Vocals

The album kicks off in style with a duo of great songs with the traditional ‘Scotland The Brave’ and Tortilla Flat penned number ‘The Great Escape’ getting things started. It’s the roar of the pipes that gets you going here so if you’re one of that rare breed of Celtic-Punk fans who don’t like bagpipes then this band isn’t for you. On the other hand if you love bagpipes then you will bloody love Tortilla Flat! After all their are not many bands in the scene with two pipers at its core and sometimes they have been known to have even more!

Straight away it has to be noted that the sound here is absolutely perfect. No surprise I am sure after all why bother if it didn’t but it as well as the perfect sound it also manages to portray transfer their live in concert sound to disc. Live At Old Capitol is great value with twenty-three songs and a running time of a very impressive seventy-two minutes which is almost the maximum you can fit on a compact disc. Alongside a collection of great tracks from their back catalogue such as the brilliant ‘1946’  as well as ‘Don’t Ask Why’ and ‘Tough Love’ from their debut album. On a album that’s split roughly 50/50 between covers and originals it’s the self penned tracks that stand out for me but these lads know their way around a fair traditional tune tune too with a bunch of Scots and Irish tunes that the band have been playing since their early days. Rare Old Mountain Dew’, I’m A Rover’, ‘Dirty Old Town’, ‘The Rising Of The Moon’ are among the highlights and ‘Amazing Grace’ may only be ninety odd seconds long but would give the Dropkicks more than a good run for their money and even better as it morphs into the albums standout track, the wonderful, ‘F.U.C.K.U.’! The album ends with a great run of songs from last years tribute to the punk rock 7″ vinyl single ‘The 45 rpm’ to a spirited version of  ‘Auld Lang Syne’ that sounds more like Dropkick Murphys trying to sound like AC/Dc than you could ever imagine possible. The Hank Williams Country classic ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ sees the band cast their net further than the Celtic nations and a great version though I would recommend checking out the original as well (here) before the curtain comes down with the song that burst Celtic-Rock into the mainstream Whiskey In The Jar’. When Thin Lizzy stormed the charts with it back in 1973 they were one of a handful of bands that would begin the process that leads right up to where Tortilla Flat and contemporaries sit today.

So a whopping seventy odd minutes of full on classic bagpipe’n’roll that is full of warmth and absolutely great music. The sound as as we said is perfect so a big hats off to the band and Mauro Grossud who produced it. Tortilla Flat are a Celtic-Punk band that fully embraces the culture and sound of the Celtic nations and while their are moments when you can compare their sound to others on the whole they have ploughed their own furrow and managed to come up with something that stands on its own feet. Tortilla Flat’s sound has wide appeal and it’s completely in the spirit of Celtic-Punk that their music would appeal to both punks and traditional music fans alike.

WATCH THE FULL VIDEO OF THE CONCERT

HERE

Discography

In The Grip Of The Grape (LP- 1996) * As Usual (LP- 1999) * All Hail (7″- 2002) * Dirty Old Town (EP- 2004) * At The Tavern (LP- 2005) * From Vine To Wine (LP- 2008) * A Trainload Full Of Stout (LP- 2009) * The Great Escape (LP- 2013) * Today (Single- 2013) * Forward To The Past (LP- 2017) * The 45rpm (7″-2018)

Buy Tortilla Flat Live At Old Capitol

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If all the dew were diamonds”, Pablo said, “we would be very rich. We would be drunk all our lives”. But Pilon, on whom the curse of realism lay uneasily, added: “Everybody would have too many diamonds. There would be no price for them, but wine always costs money. If only it would rain for a day, now, and we had a tank to catch it in”. “But good wine”, interjected Pablo, “not rotgut swill like the last you got”. “I didn’t pay for it”, said Pilon. “Someone hid it in the grass by the dance hall. What can you expect of wine you find ?”

dialogue from “TORTILLA FLAT” by John Steinbeck, 1935

SINGLE REVIEW: TORTILLA FLAT featuring JORGEN RED WESTMAN- ‘THE 45rpm’ (2018)

With the Swiss taking the World Cup by storm here’s a band that’s been around for quite a while and have released a bunch of cracking Celtic-Punk records. ‘The 45rpm’ is a vinyl 7″ release of chugging punk rock with full blooded bagpipes roaring throughout.

Taking their name from John Steinbeck’s novel of the same title Tortilla Flat are from Langenthal in Switzerland and play Celtic-Punk heavily influenced by both Scottish and Irish melodies. This is a band that easily sits slap bang on the line between Celtic and Punk/ A band that anyone with the slightest interest in either would love I am sure. Therefore it’s a mystery to me why they don’t get a bit more press. They thoroughly deserve to. We are at fault as any as despite owning a couple of Tortilla Flat CD’s they have never properly graced these pages despite having a total of seven album releases and a couple of singles in their back catalogue. Well hopefully this will go some way to redressing the balance with the release of a vinyl only 7″ single. I have noticed vinyl making a bit of a comeback generally but more importantly there has been a good few recent Celtic-Punk releases too.

Tortilla Flat as featured on the single from left to right: Tom MacFly- Bagpipe * Rob Highlander- Bagpipes * Chris- Guitar & Vocals * Jorgen Red Westman- Vocals * Ritchie- Bass * Lord Peter of Lochaber- Bagpipes * Lexu- Drums *

Where folklore meets stirring punk attitude, there’s something for everybody. An invitation to dance and sing, or maybe just to shout along but these Bhoys are enjoying the ride

“because it’s both a soundtrack for party nights and comfortable evenings with friends; because it makes rainy days sunnier and brings you a holiday on the islands within reach during the summer heat.”

Tortilla Flat have at their core three good friends in Chris, Ritchie and Lexu and are supported at various times by the The Independent Pipers who supply a good dose of Celt whenever it’s needed. The music you hear first maybe punk rock but there is no denying that it’s Celtic melodies, mainly Scots, that run things here with the pipes always leading the way.

The single kicks off with the title song ‘The 45rpm’ and its a 1977 Brit punk style number with some wonderful bagpipes. The song features Jorgen Red Westman on vocals and he has a great voice, hardly surprising as he has just celebrated thirty years as the frontman of the legendary Swedish garage-surf-punk band Psychotic Youth. The song moves at a great pace with a catchy beat akin to those early punk bands. Not too fast but miles away from slow!!! The song first appeared, in a different version, on their seventh album from last year Forward To The Past.

Next up we have classic Tortilla Flat fodder where they take the song ‘A Man’s A Man For A’That’ written over 220 years ago by the great Scottish poet and nationalist Robbie Burns. A poem that promoted Burns political and moral views. Published anonymously in The Glasgow Magazine for fear of arrest, it is thought the song is proof of his support for the Revolution in France. The song was recorded live in concert at the stunning Klostersommer Rueggisberg, not that you would know it as the quality is far and above any live recording I have heard in years!

The guitars chug, the bass thumps and drums beat while the pipes pipe. A bloody brilliant song and a real foot stomper too. Originally recorded for The Great Escape from 2013 the brilliant video was recorded, filmed and mixed by Benny Wyder of Swiss Music Service

“Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that”

This is followed up with the Irish folk classic ‘The Wild Rover’recorded during the same set again it is clear as crystal and could almost pass for a studio recording of not for the clapping and cheering from the audience. Played by everyone at some point there is no denying its popularity among the punters at gigs and I remember it being one of only a small handful of songs we (the boys) use to really enjoy singing at school as we were allowed to stamp our feet and clap our hands during the chorus. It makes for a perfect Celtic-Punk song with plenty of punk rock attitude and Folk history. Tortilla Flat do a grand job keeping it fast and catchy. The single comes to an end with a alternative version of ‘The 45rpm’ again featuring Jorgen and also Chris on vocals. The lyrics tell of how much better music on vinyl is than on CD or download. I’m afraid people I have to concur. I have never quite given up on vinyl in all my years and it is true when Jorgen sings

“you were born too late and you will never understand”

what it meant to you when you had saved up enough money to go and buy a record. A feeling that modern day music just doesn’t, and won’t ever, compare to. The single is released at the end of this week but you can pre-order the single via mail-order from MacSlon’s and Outsider at the links below. The 7″ vinyl version is limited to just 300 copies but will be available as a digital download as well.

Buy The Single

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Contact Tortilla Flat

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If all the dew were diamonds”, Pablo said, “we would be very rich. We would be drunk all our lives”. But Pilon, on whom the curse of realism lay uneasily, added: “Everybody would have too many diamonds. There would be no price for them, but wine always costs money. If only it would rain for a day, now, and we had a tank to catch it in”. “But good wine”, interjected Pablo, “not rotgut swill like the last you got”. “I didn’t pay for it”, said Pilon. “Someone hid it in the grass by the dance hall. What can you expect of wine you find ?”

dialogue from “TORTILLA FLAT” by John Steinbeck, 1935

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