Wow is this really the sixth album from Sweden’s Sir Reg? They still seem like the spunky new guys on the block. Maybe it’s because they are still hammering out Celtic-punk at a neck-breaking speed with no sign of slowing down or ‘maturing’, just playing like that proverbial underdog’s bollox. The Underdogs is all everything we know and love Sir Reg for; the aforementioned fast as feck yet melodic Celtic-punk but also a lyrical wit so shape it could kick the eye out of a maggot that only a true Dub could produce.
Hard Time In The Country is a return to early form for The Langer’s Ball after the full band excursions of their most recent releases. Like the first couple of releases by TLB, Hard Time In The Country is a guy (Michael Strum) and girl (Hannah Rediske) acoustic duo doing contemporary interpretations of Irish folk, Americana, protest folk and Motorhead (really!).
Hard Time In The Country is a richly and beautifully performed album where each song seems to effortlessly gel together whether it’s a Billy Bragg cover (Constitution Hill), or an original (Hoist Your Cup High), or a traditional standard (Parting Glass) or even Motorhead’s 1916 (which really, really works a folk song)
LDR is a testament to the unrelenting spirit of Finny McConnell and The Mahones. Life sucks at times – health fails, relationships end, loved ones die, and all you can do is pick yourself up and keep going. Though sometimes moving forward involves revisiting the past as The Mahones have musically done on Love + Death + Redemption , moving back towards the classic Mahones sound of the mid 2000s and before i.e. not as punky as as The Hunger and The Fight (though stuff like, Win Some, Lose Some, show the Mahones can still pogo with the best of ‘em). Love + Death + Redemption is is the Mahones moving forward and hey it’s gonna be alright.
I’ve been a long time fan of Chicago’s (and formally Nashville’s) Pete Berwick’s bad attitude and cheap beer cowpunk. Island, Berwick’s sixth full length solo album in an almost 40 year career, backed by The Mugshot Saints, to these ears sounds like Pete has mellowed a wee bit. The Island is less cowpunk and more traditional outlaw country – Cash, Jennings and Haggard or even Steve Earle. While Pete’s previous albums could be described as the musical equivalent of a brawl at some rundown rural roadhouse, Island is more the older guy sitting on the porch, drinking that cheap beer and reminiscing of a life well live and battles well fought with not a single damn regret.
The now long running musical merger of McDermott’s 2 Hours, one of the forefathers of the whole Celtic-punk scene and their prodigy The Levellers has been joined by UK folk rock institution Oysterband on Nick Burbridge’s swansong for McDermott’s 2 Hours, Besieged.
If your not familiar with the work of singer, songwriter, playwright & poet Nick Burbridge, he is one of the finest Anglo-Irish songwriters and lyricists, a Beckett or Kavanagh to MacGowan’s Behan or even a Springsteen in his lyrical imaginary of the ordinary or downtrodden.
I’ve had a copy of Besieged since 2017, I listened continual to it though 2018 as I waited to be given the ok to review the advance copy. I can say it truly that Besieged is a great album, brilliantly crafted songs and lyrics and beautifully produced. An album that has passed the test of 12 months. The only question is Besieged the best album of 2017, 2018 or 2019?
The Road Not Taken is an impressive release from these Celtic son’s of France. The Road Not Taken is Sons of O’Flaherty first full length release following up on the band’s debut 5 track EP from a few years back. The Sons of O’Flaherty straddle the ground between the big boys of Celtic-punk, DropkIck Murphys and Flogging Molly. Closer to the Mollies then the Murphs but also reminiscent to the Swedish/Irish lads Sir Reg. Sons of O’Flaherty are tight, talented and a band to watch out for.
Personal favorites include “Saint or Sinner” and one of the best versions of “Fields of Athenry” I’ve ever heard.
I remember reading a quote about the original line-up of Motorhead (Lemmy, Larry Wallis and Lucas Fox). It went something like “If this band moved in next door to you, your lawn would die”. This quote comes to mind as I listen to Boobies, Banjos, Bagpipes & Beer the third full length by Kingston New York’s Alternative Ulster, however I’m thinking not only would your lawn die but your house would feckin fall down cos Alternative Ulster have bagpipes that go to 11.
It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything from Yonkers NY Shilelagh Law. Auld School is the band’s seventh album (I think the last one I heard was either the first or second release). Auld School according to the press release is a return to the bands Irish roots after moving to a more polished sound on recent releases. To me Auld School is reminiscent of those early releases – High energy, stripped down, sing-along interpretations of Irish-American standards that should be on everyone’s Paddy’s day playlist. Still New York’s finest.
The Arlington Arts centre is in the wilds of rural Berkshire, southern England. Not the most easily accessible of venues but one with great sound, lovely staff and one that isn’t shy of booking eclectic bands. Tonight was no exception; the Neil Brophy Band and Sweden’s finest, Sir Reg- both on the final night of their 11 date UK tour.
We’d taken our eleven year old son. He’s a veteran of the Celtic music scene for one so young; having seen Dropkick Murphys at Brixton Academy, Christy Moore, Tidelines and Ferocious Dog as well as having the Biblecode Sundays and the Lagan play in his living room! I mention this because he hates support acts. Hates ‘em. Just wants them to go away so the main act can hit the stage. He made an exception for the Neil Brophy Band who opened with Nice to Know, a tale of an emigre English troubadour returning to his home town after years abroad. Other stand outs from this Copenhagen based band included tales of Viking ghost ships, London boozers and the joys of being a musical gypsy. Drums, bass, mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo, whistles and pipes all made for a full sound married to catchy lyrics and infectious enthusiasm. A great opening act and one which we will try to catch in the future. Their new album, True Stories is definitely worth seeking out.
Sir Reg hit the stage with their trademark high energy- a full-on Celtic punk assault which might have un-nerved some of the more folksy patrons of Arlington Arts. But you can’t not love Sir Reg. Sing along choruses, a perfect mix of fast punky tunes like new track The Underdogs sitting alongside quiet, slower more heartfelt numbers such as the brilliant All Saints Day. It’s always interesting to see a band who have a new album to promote as sometimes the gig can be a load of songs with which the audience are unfamiliar. Sir Reg got the balance right. New tracks were given an airing, like instrumental Cairbre, an ode to the MGN lion but older tracks like Emigrate were also thrown into the mix. The band were also very tolerant of fans like us shouting song requests at them- a request that resulted in a spirited rendition of Drinking like a Dane. They even managed to get the crowd singing along to The Wrong Bar- their brilliant cautionary tale of being so smashed that you confuse a church for a pub that saw Sir Reg joined on stage by the Neil Brophy band.
All in all, a top night. Great songs from two great bands. Looking forward to seeing them both again in the near future.
Big Bad Bollocks – Big Bad Bollocks (Night On The Tiles)
Sons of O’Flaherty – Dead and Gone (The Road Not Taken)
The Muckers – Let’s All Go To The Bar (One More Stout)
1916 – Tear the Pub Down (Last Call For Heros)
Catgut Mary – Melbourne Tram Song (The Mahones Vs Catgut Mary)
Hudson Falcons – Monahan’s (Desperation and Revolution)
The Rumjacks – Les Darcy (Sleepin’ Rough)
Bleeding Hearts – The Devil’s Mosh (‘The Rules of Division)
The Pourmen – Whaling City (Too Old To Die Young)
Matilda’s Scoundrels – Burn It Down (As The Tide Turns)
James McGrath – Race To The Bottom (Live At The Shed)