Happy St. Patrick’s Day from us here at Shite’n’Onions. On podcast #52 we got plenty of standards both old and new.
Neck – Every Day’s St Patrick’s Day
Big Bad Bollocks – Guinness
The Gobshites – I Only Drink Stout
Blaggard – Bog Songs
Blood Or Whiskey – Follow Me up to Carlow-Holt’s Way
Lexington Field – Galway Bay
Circle J – Marry Mcqueen
The Rumjacks – I’ll Tell Me Ma!
Black 47 – Vinegar Hill
The Skels – Young Roddy McCorley -Kelly the Boy from Killan
The Porters – The Rising Of The Moon
Auld Corn Brigade – Sean South from Garryowen
Smokey Bastards – My Son John
The Mahones – Give It All Ya Got (Or Forget About It)
Fiddler’s Green – Highland Road
Nogoodnix – Muirsheen Durkin
The Mighty Regis – Paddy Don’t Live In Hollywood
Devil’s Advocates – The Ones Behind the Wire
Luke Kelly – A Nation Once Again
Last summer, I was invited down to NYC to meet Jim Lockhart and Barry Devlin of Horslips fame. The boys were over making a documentary for Irish TV based on the travels of Mickey McGowan, whose 19th century autobiography Mór an tSaoil (“The Big Wheel of Life”) documents the hardships of Irish immigrants in the USA and Mickey’s travels from NYC, to the steel mills of Pennsylvania to the Klondike gold rush. Mór an tSaoil was a major inspiration to Horslips on the albums Aliens and The Man that Built America (ok, can anyone say Cornelius Larkin?)
Both Jim and Barry were fascinated to hear about the Celtic punk scene in the US and the ever expanding global scene and one thing lead to another and on St. Patrick’s day, Jim broadcasted a short documentary on Irish national radio on Celtic punk, interviewing yours truly.
I’ve been anticipating The Rumjacks debut full length for a wee while now – since the release of their last EP to be exact. The Rumjacks had set themselves a very high standard on their two EPs and were been loudly touted and not just by me as the future of Celtic punk. That high bar along with the loss of accordion player, songwriter and occasional Shite’n’Onions scribe, Will Swan had made me a tad nervous! I’m very glad to report that Gangs of New Holland is a very, very strong release and The Rumjacks firmly hold the ground between Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys and the Aussie twist to the excellently written lyrics give them their own identity that is rich in the image of Ned Kelly and The Eureka Stockade and imagery of Ali Hulett. The music if you haven’t heard ’em is like Shane MacGowan drinking with the boys from Rose Tattoo at a Clash gig in one of those infamous Aussie music halls where the bands have to play behind chicken wire to protect ’em from flying bottles and glasses.
14 great tracks in all and if I was to pick a few to highlight it would be:
Uncle Tommy – with it’s Flogging Molly-ish banjo intro leading to a full out moshpit floor invasion – Uncle Tommy BTW was a hell raising, rambling man.
McAlpines Fusiliers – done in the traditional ballad style with Frankie McLaughlin’s vocals rich in the authenticity of someone who knows how to sweat to make a living.
An Irish Pub song – a rowdy drinking, come brawling tune.
Green Ginger Wine – A boozie girl/guy duet in the vain of Fairytale, Living in America and Dirty Glass
Spit In The Street – “and all the posh kids roll to the soulless drivel of their pissy little mp3s “, nuff said.
A lot of effort has been made by many bands to evolve the sound of Celtic Folk-Punk music. Newer and newer bands are seeking to stand out and do something different to be the next big thing. And more often than not, the steps taken to achieve this goal are taken from the most current development in the genre.
This is where the Rumjacks differ. Their E.P., Sound as a Pound, seems to have started over. By that I mean that it is almost as if the band looked at the scene and decided to go back to the early days of the genre’s development and take their steps from there. Not surprisingly, the music here is very reminiscent of The Pogues, with a dash or two of Roaring Jack. This is not just in instrumentation, (with the inclusion of accordion and tin whistle, alongside the standard rock three-piece of guitar, bass, and drums,) but also in song structure, melody, and lyrics. And the top-notch production assures that every element here is crystal-clear.
For a collection of serious-looking, tattooed, flat-cappers, the music presented on Sound as a Pound is not what I would have expected. The attitude is not a tough-guy, “in-your-face” assault, but an attitude that seems generally respectful of the music. The end result is a refreshing and familiar reminder as to why the whole Celtic Folk-Punk sound is as great as it is.
The Rumjacks’ E.P., Sound as a Pound recently made the Number 1 position in the Shite ‘n’ Onions Ten Best of 2009. Give it a listen and you’ll know why.
Review by Christopher P. Toler, THE Blathering Gommel http://www.myspace.com/therumjacks
With The Rumjacks’ second EP ‘Sound As A Pound’ available this month, we’re talking here with Will Swan from the band.
S’n’O: Like your debut EP ‘Hung, Drawn and Portered’, this one has a well-known traditional song on it.With ‘Marie’s Wedding’, you’ve chosen to record a real standard, a very popular song that has been covered by several bands.Did you hope to bring any particular Rumjacks quality to it?
Will: ‘Marie’s’ was an offhand suggestion made by Johnny, just a good energetic song to throw into the set, we never thought we’d bother recording it.But, you know, Frankie was more than happy to lay on the ’20 Golden Scottish Favourites’ treatment, but with the volume right up.And we gathered whoever was around that day and got some gang vocals happening.Isolated within the mix, some of them are truly dreadful – wonderfully bad singing –but all in there together they make for a good ol’ hooley!
S’n’O: Tell us about Katoomba, of the song’s title.
Will: Katoomba is a big mountain town about two hours train ride from the centre of Sydney city.Although I lived in various places around the state – city and country – I had cousins there so I’ve always been familiar with it.Katoomba is a distinctive place in that it is a sort of nexus for drunken hillbillies AND New Age types AND artists, etc, etc.It is very cold in winter and often shrouded in mist and fog.There’s a lot of 1920s architecture up there and the whole place is set amongst lookouts and cliffs.
S’n’O: What’s the story within the song ‘Katoomba’?
Will: I was walking around the steep streets on the fringes of Katoomba and I came across these 1950s houses that were perfectly preserved.I think I actually said to my companion “it could be 1963, it might as well be”.From there I found a character, a melancholy barfly, and by the time I’d got to the train station I’d written the song in my head.I made it a distant love-gone-wrong story, as viewed through the bottom of a beer glass.You find all these postcards in the antique shops up there, really personal stuff, and you wonder what happened to the people who wrote and received them.So I fused a few ideas together and set it where I found those ideas.
S’n’O: ‘Katoomba’ and especially ‘My Time Again’ are more ‘serious’ songs than most Rumjacks songs so far …
Will: ‘My Time Again’ is one of Frankie’s, we put it together very quickly.Like ‘The Bold Rumjacker’ before it, ‘My Time Again’ is an acapella but it is the opposite of the swaggering and fanciful ‘Rumjacker’.‘Time Again’ is somehow both dreary and epic and I think it achieves a very stark sentiment.It blurs the lines between three generations of characters who are locked in the cycle of working the pits and drinking on Friday nights, etc., and the narrator and his father both carry the terrible burden of wondering if they could have been more than what they are.
S’n’O: ‘My Time Again’ has a different sound to the other songs.Was this deliberate?
Will: We were going to make it pretty reggae but that wasn’t really in keeping with the sentiment of the song, so I threw in a vaguely European minor-key accordion loop and Johnny put a lot of mood in with the guitars and bass (Gabriel joined the band after we’d recorded it). We like to consider it an ‘original folk song’ because we didn’t derive it from any one particular folk idiom.
S’n’O: ‘Kirkintilloch’ also seems to be about working in the pits and drinking!
Will: Exactly!And also the hereditary tradition therein.‘Time Again’ is another take on the same world.‘Kirk’ is a Scottish song, Frankie attributes its survival to one Geordie Hamilton.
S’n’O: So, you’ve got an overt Scottish influence happening on ‘Sound As A Pound’, and yet you are an Australian band.Other than ‘Katoomba’, is there anything particularly Australian in any of the songs on the EP?
Will: ‘Shadrach Hannigan’ is about riding the rails around Australia.The protagonist is one of those arseholes who bangs on about settling down with a wife and clothesline but nobody is buying it, least of all himself.By the end of the first verse, he’s already ‘jumped the rattler’ and taken off to the sunny north with a bottle of rum in his hand.The ‘Boxcar Willie’ side of things is romatic and sepia-toned but Shadrach is a timeless figure.I wrote ‘Shadrach’ before Brisbane became our regular port of call but I’m pleased to say it does pay tribute to the area of Brisbane where we usually play.
There used to be a commercial when I was a kid for an electric razor and basically the premise was that the razor gave such a good shave that the old American geezer in the commercial “bought the company”.
Hung, Drawn and Portered is the musical equivalent of that 1970s razor – so good the I was willing to put down the cash to finance the release of the EP. 5 tracks in all: 3 fast folk/punkers with strong Australian roots, an incredible cover of the old Belfast skipping rhyme, “I’ll Tell Me Ma” and the amazing ska/reggie meets Irish of the appropriately titled “Paddy goes to Babylon”
Buy this EP. You won’t hear a better new band this year and I’m not saying that because I put my own hard earned cash down but because it’s good enough for me to put my cash down on.