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?
Resolved is the second outing of the partnership between McDermott’s Two Hours signer, songwriter (as well as novelist, poet, playwright and general smart guy) Nick Burbridge and fiddler, multi-instrumentalist and producer Tim Cotterell
(also of Scot’s Celtic-rockers The Electrics). Like the duo’s first outing, Gathered, Resolved is not an immediate collection of music in anyway but worth (well worth) the investment. Beautiful poetic lyrics of ordinary lives livedm, overlaid with sparse and haunting Celtic melodies in a Dylan meets Planxty style. The main songs on the album are inter-spaced with Tankas – short poems in Japanese style (had to look that up!). Check out a couple of samples from Resolved below and give’em a few listens.
And for good measure here is Nick with The Levellers
We’re big fans of Brighton based McDermotts 2 Hours here at Shite’n’Onions towers. Easily one of the best (though overlooked) Celtic/folk/rock bands evhaaa!, with one of the finest songwriters/lyricists the UK has every produced – Nick Burbridge. McDermotts 2 Hours have a long and influential relationship with UK heroes The Levellers, including The Levellers covering Dirty Davey from the first McDermotts album and essentially supplying the rhythm sections for numerous McDermotts albums. Anticlockwise is a 14 track compilation that documents the history of the band and celebrates the release of the their back-catalog via iTunes on The Levellers label On The Fiddle. haven’t heard McDermotts 2 Hours before then Anticlockwise is a great introduction and now they are on iTunes and the like there is no excuse. Highly recommended as is the entire back-catalog.
The wonderful McDermott’s 2 Hours have a “Best of” album out this week. I could say lot’s of great things ’bout this band but I’ll leave that to their press guy.
Anticlockwise – A Compilation (Digital release, 20th October 2013 on OTF Recordings)
Nick Burbridge, the mastermind behind legendary Brighton-based folk-punk-poetry pioneers McDermott’s 2 Hours has announced an extensive partnership with the Levellers’ On The Fiddle Recordings. In celebration, the McDermott’s back catalogue will be released digitally via iTunes and Spotify for the first time, alongside new material.
Nick has also signed past and future songwriting to Levellers’ On The Fiddle Publishing.
This marks the climax to a long and fruitful association between Nick, McDermott’s, and The Levellers dating back over twenty years, from the time the latter put out a CD version of the original 1989 vinyl classic, The Enemy Within – through several collaborations and other recordings – to Besieged, an album former Levellers and June Tabor/Oysterband producer, Al Scott, is busy arranging and producing, which will emerge early in 2014.
Their pre-existing two decade old musical relationship has previously seen Nick’s songs covered by The Levellers themselves, notably ‘Dirty Davey’ and ‘Prisoner’, as well as All Kinds of Disorder, a highly original set of compositions that Levellers fiddle player Jon Sevink came up with to accompany Nick’s reading of his own poetry.
Anticlockwise, a fourteen-track compilation that charts McDermott’s long musical history from The Enemy Within to the forthcoming Besieged, will be released on 20th October 2013. It includes tracks from their three collaborative albums alongside other previously unreleased works.
The selection was made to highlight McDermotts’ dynamism as a full band, while featuring acoustic tracks, to give the first-time listener a powerful and lasting impression of their versatility, and the seasoned enthusiast a single recording that best exemplifies the endeavors of the many different musicians involved over the years.
All those tempted to explore or rediscover the source albums will then be able to find them in digital form, along with the highly acclaimed 2012 acoustic album, Gathered, made with multi-instrumentalist and producer Tim Cotterell.
As the 2013 Spiral Earth Awards Best Songwriter – an award Nick won convincingly, despite obstinately remaining on the fringe of the music industry and, for the most part, eschewing live performances through a combination of ongoing mental disorder and unceasing work in other forms (he has been published or produced as a novelist, playwright, poet, short story writer and journalist) – he continues to compose songs prolifically, and these will now be part of the ongoing On The Fiddle publishing deal.
After so many years crossing paths, this seems a fitting trail to take now, on both sides.
Shite’n’Onions – Can you give Shite’n’Onions a brief background on who you are and who are McDermotts Two Hours? You have released albums first as “McDermotts Two Hours” in late 80’s then the band dissolved and reformed later in partnership with the Levellers as “McDermotts Two Hours Vs The Levellers” for 3 albums then you went back to the moniker “McDermotts Two Hours” for “Goodbye To The Madhouse” and now you have collaborated with Tim Cotterell as Nick Burbridge – what makes an album a McDermott’s and what make it a Nick Burbridge?
Nick Burbridge – I’m, primarily, a writer. I work in different forms. As well as poetry, songs, short stories and plays, I’ve had a political thriller about The Troubles in Northern Ireland published under a pseudonym, and I was co-writer on the revelations of a military intelligence officer working there in the 70s; I also write somewhat eccentric articles and reviews for R2. This explains why I’ve dipped in and out of the music industry so much. McDermott’s Two Hours were born in Brighton U.K. out of the first folk-punk movement. I’d been playing guitar, mandolin, bodhran etc in Irish sessions, busking around Europe, and singing in folk clubs for many years; I hadn’t intended being the lead figure, but the bloke who wanted the job couldn’t sing in tune and had no sense of rhythm, so I was ‘volunteered’! The band were one of the Levellers’ main inspirations. The different collaborations have come about according to what, or who could be conveniently involved. For a long time I’ve written all the material – in that sense there’s no fundamental difference for me when it’s being conceived. But the albums can get heavy duty treatment, as on Goodbye To The Madhouse, or emerge as pure acoustic records, like the latest one, Gathered. It’s all down to what seems right. I’m glad I’ve managed to keep a foot in both camps as a result.
Shite’n’Onions – How did the collaboration with Tim (The Electrics) Cotterell on GATHERED come about? How has the album been received? What’s the story behind the cover art……its different to say the least. Any plans to tour to support the release?
Nick Burbridge – The current collaboration is a perfect example of how it goes. Al Scott (producer of albums from Levelling The Land to Ragged Kingdom) is still committed to bringing out a new full-on McDermotts’ record soon, involving members of The Levellers and the Oysterband, among others, but for different reasons it’s taking a long time to materialise. Meanwhile, I thought I’d write the stripped back acoustic album that’s been in me for some time, and so I turned to Tim, who’s played with the band on various instruments, a very good sound engineer and producer as well. The CD artwork? To keep it ‘in house’ I asked my son Ben (who once as a child sang a fragment of ‘Harry Brewer’ on The Enemy Within, but is now an Art History university lecturer) to bring in one of his favourite photographers. The front cover is a direct allusion to my song, ‘Fox On The Run’. It’s dark, as you say, but an apt image for someone who’s spent a lifetime battling with clinical depression, which as I get older, seems to be gaining the upper hand, and whose brutal demands probably account for my relative obscurity. When the band were playing big festivals, I had a publishing deal with Joe Boyd, and the Mean Fiddler organisation had taken us under their wing, by rights we should have hit the international folk-punk scene in a big way. Instead we’ve skirted the edges for decades. This leads directly to your other question: are we going to tour this album? No! Don’t get me wrong. I love playing live, and still do local sessions. It’s just getting out there and dealing with the industry that stand in my way! As it happens, I don’t think that’s so inappropriate when we’re talking about ethnic music, especially the Irish tradition, where the people who’ve kept it alive for centuries would hardly have been found on brightly lit stages with huge sound systems. And of course there’s always been a deep melancholic, even self-destructive strain running through the culture.
Shite’n’Onions – When I listen to your songs they are often focused on those who drew the short stick in life and often those who’s short stick seems to be getting shorter and in many cases like Shane MacGowan you write about the Irish in the Britain but your songs are like short stories – what influences you to write the lyrics you do and are the folks you sing about people you have know (like Johnny and the Jubilee) ….they seem so realistic?
Nick Burbridge – Most of the songs are based on real characters. And, yes, short sticks abound! Three of my grandparents were Irish, and moved over to England, so that explains many of my preoccupations. I do tend to think narratively – in short stories themselves – poems, or songs. ‘Johnny and the Jubilee’ is a good example: it concerns a mingling of characters I’ve known, with a dose of artistic licence. My favourite literary genre is what they call American Dirty Realism – Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates, Jayne Anne Phillips etc – so that’s a factor, too.
Shite’n’Onions – Have you ever had the inclination to write a happy song about someone who wins the lottery or say an Irish property developer who skips out on the banks and his debts and continues to live the good life in Mayfair or Chelsea?
Nick Burbridge – Unless it was a complete piss-take, I wouldn’t have any interest at all in either of those characters, would you? Happy songs, though, can be found on the albums, if you look hard! But, as you say, my purpose is to speak up for those in adversity, one way or another, though their stories may be set, ironically or otherwise, to upbeat traditional-type jigs, reels and hornpipes.
Shite’n’Onions – Finally, who was McDermott and what was he doing for his 2 hours?
Nick Burbridge – Tommy McDermott had his two hours of fame in the riots in Derry in 1968, as recorded in the book, War and an Irish Town, by Eamonn McCann. Left alone at the controls of Radio Free Derry for a couple of hours before he was hauled off, instead of playing the Falls Road hit parade, he put on the Incredible String Band etc and told people to “love one another an’ keep cool”. When we were looking for one of those macho folk-punk names beloved of most outfits, I came up with McDermott’s Two Hours. I think it betokens the different angle we were coming from, alludes to the politics we’ve always been concerned with, but at the same associates with someone who, in conventional terms, got it wrong. My kind of bloke…