The Dark Streets Of Love is Mahones leader Finny McConnell’s first solo effort in his thirty plus years of taking Celtic-punk to the four corners of the earth. To most people, Finny is the Mahones, so why the solo project? While The Mahones have previously done an acoustic album, The Dark Streets Of Love, allows McConnell to step outside of The Mahones and the preconceived notions of what his songs should sound like and put a different (non-Mahones) touch on his music. I’ve said it before that McConnell is a very fine songwriter but often the sheer quality of the songs gets lost behind the force of nature that is The Mahones. Here, everything is stripped down to it’s raw essence. This is McConnell’s Nebraska – in fact a cover of Springsteen’s Atlantic City (from Nebraska) opens the album. Other influences are covered too, Shane MacGowans, A Pair of Brown Eyes and Pale Blue Eyes by Lou Reed. The real strength though is McConnell’s own material previously recorded with The Mahones such as the lament, So Far Away, and the sleazy lounge lizard, Cocktail Blues. The emotional tribute to his old mate, Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip in the cover of Fiddlers Green (for Gord) is stunningly good.
Gerard Smith’s day job is being the leader of Detroit Celtic rockers, Bill Grogan’s Goat. In his off time, he is a prog rock guitar monster. What we have here on Lullabies In An Ancient Tongue, Gerard’s latest solo effort is unashamed, 1970s style prog rock. So, apologies if my prog rock references are off as I’ve not really scratched below the source of the genre and would struggle to tell the difference between ELP and King Crimson. The guitars remind me of early Sabbath or even Soundgarden while the vibe at times is a folkie Led Zeppelin. Gerard, hasn’t forgotten his Celtic roots and weaves Celtic instrumentation into tracks like Standing Stones and The Storm. Lovers of Horslips will really enjoy Lullabies.
I came across Dan McCabe recently, on YouTube performing a stunning version of the old standard, Spancill Hill, recorded in his bedroom. That video took me down the YouTube rabbit hole and I discovered more and more videos he had put online as he waited out the pandemic lockdown in Ireland. The YouTube videos have led to Dan’s debut release, Songs for Ireland (The Lockdown Laments), a live acoustic album of mostly Irish traditional folk ballads and some more contemporary standards. The cover of Rainy Night in Soho is really great. While the album is fairly low budget (almost DIY), Dan McCabe has a powerful voice that seems to channel the sound and spirit of the late Dubliner, Luke Kelly.
While upstate NY based band, 1916, have been around a few years, I’m not overly familiar with them. Revolutions, is their fifth full-length release and the band actually started out way back in 2006 as a duo and expanded to full band by 2010. Musically, I hear fast punk’n’roll meets psychobilly overlaid with traditional Irish influences (tin whistle and mandolin) giving 1916 a strong sense of melody – I’d wager Social Distortion are an influence on top of the usual Celtic-punk suspects. There is a nice cover of the Irish ballad, Grace. In all, a very solid and original sounding release. I look forward to digging deeper into the 1916 back catalog.
Even though Dropkick Murphys may have rebranded to “The Dropkick Murphys” this is still the same band of Boston scally punks we know and love. Dropkick Murphys have kind of reached that AC/DC plateau when it comes to new releases – there are no surprises – you get what you expect and no matter what the Murphys put out the new release will always be compared (unfairly) to their genre defining early releases.
Turn Up That Dial is The Dropkick Murphys 10th studio album, in AC/DC terms it should be their Blow Up Your Video. I’m glad to say Turn Up That Dial is a much better release then AC/DCs 10th effort (except for the classic Heatseeker). In fact, Turn Up That Dial is a really solid release, it’s classic DKM sing along, chant it out, Celtic-punk – no surprises as expected (or wanted). Turn Up That Dial is a stronger release then 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory and holds itself well up against releases by the various young pretenders to the Celtic-punk crown.
The pre-release single, Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding is a great fighting piece of Celtic street punk as is Smash Shit Up. Chosen Few, a call to unity, reminds me of a punkie version of Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions. L-EE-B-O-Y is a lot of foot stomping piping fun (and a better song about a piper then “The Spicy McHaggis Jig)
What’s missing though is that one outstanding track, Shipping Up to Boston or Rose Tattoo or even a Heatseeker to make this a classic. Still a fine album.
The Rumjacks new release, Hestia, is easily the most anticipated Celtic-punk release of 2021. After the drama of original vocalist, Frankie McLaughlin, being booted in April, twelve months ago and his replacement by American, Mike Rivkees, of Mickey Rickshaw fame, the entire Celtic-punk world has been waiting to hear this album.
I’ve been listening to Hestia a lot since it dropped last month as I wanted to give it a fair and not rushed review. So, how does it sound? Like The Rumjacks of old – aggressive Celtic-punk, though maybe a slightly cleaner sound then before. The album burst out of the gate, with the speedy, Naysayer and continues in a fast paced, aggressive style (with more than the occasional Ska undertone) that we are accustomed to from The Rumjacks.
And how about Mike? He is stepping into big doc martens. Now, I’ve seen Mike live fronting Mickey Rickshaw and he’s a great front man. His vocals aren’t as distinctively hard lived as Frankie’s (which I really liked) but they fit right into the songs on Hestia. Mike is a fine replacement for Frankie and hopefully he can get them to the next level – whatever that means.
Palace Of The Fiend, the 2017 release by The Peelers was an absolute masterpiece, one of the best Celtic-punk albums ever made. Having played Palace Of The Fiend almost daily over the last three years it makes it difficult for me to objectively review Down and out in the City of Saints. So to be fair, I’m going to pretend I’ve never heard the Peelers before and review Down and out in the City of Saints like it’s a debut release.
Down and out in the City of Saints is an album full of big dirty-fuzzy guitars, thumping bass, growling vocals, fast and powerful street punk with great hooks and Celtic undertones. This is relentless, fighting music – both bare-knuckle and Queensbury rules. Lead single, Prizefight, grabs you hard and beats you around the head into submission. The bagpipe laden, Spirits Seldom Sober, is an ode to the hard-drinking life. Stick and Move (Spike O’Sullivan), packs a punch as hard as anything the Celtic Warrior, Spike O’Sullivan, can throw. The Last Glass, slows things down (just a little) before The Peelers are back to full force Celtic-punk with, Harder They Fall, and no matter how hard they fall The Peelers, pick themselves back up and keep swinging.
Down and out in the City of Saints is a really great piece of Celtic-punk rock. As good as Palace Of The Fiend? Maybe. I need to live with, Down and out in the City of Saints, for a while before I can really judge – I’ll let you know next year.
Long running, two piece, Minnesota based Irish folk-punk band, The Langer’s Ball, always manages to surprise. Fortunately on, Appetite for Tradition, they don’t “surprise” us with an album of Guns’n’Roses covers given a Celtic twist but surprise us with a collection of pure Irish traditional music, Airs, Jigs and Reels, and they do this very, very well. Maybe the most authentic traditional Irish music west of the Mississippi (assuming they are actually west of the Mississippi). In all there are 34 different tunes broken down into 14 tracks. Very enjoyable.
I didn’t put out a best of 2019 list on St. Patrick’s Day 2020 and the whole world went to shite. So, in my attempt to fix the strange vortex we have been in since, here with no further ado is the Shite’n’Onions best of 2020 (and 2019)
The Top 6:
#1 The Go Set: Of Bright Futures….and Broken Pasts
#2 Greenland Whalefishers: Based on a True Story
#3 The Walker Roaders: The Walker Roaders
#4 The Real McKenzies: Beer & Loathing
#5 The Tan & Sober Gentlemen: Veracity
#6 Bodh’aktan: Ride Out The Storm
Best 30 Year Retrospective:
The Mahones: This Is All We Got To Show For It (Best Of 1990 – 2020)