A scruffy looking CD popped through my mailbox this morning. After the initial surprise I remembered that before Christmas I’d donated some money to the Rail Yard Ghosts fundraising appeal, and they’d promised some merch. Here’s the promo video for the appeal :
The CD I received was Terrorist Union #63. This is a full length album released last year. The entire album can in fact be downloaded for free via the Dirty River website , along with all the other releases from the Rail Yard Ghosts and their stablemates that appear on the site.
Two other things that I learned which excited me. The Rail Yard Ghosts have a new album out this week on bandcamp called Blackgrass. And later this month they kick off that European tour which they’ve been raising funds for, and it will take in a date in Liverpool on April 20th.
The Rail Yard Ghosts are much more than just a band. They’re a freethinking DIY collective, an alternative lifestyle, an alternative world. They’ve got no home, they travel America, performing where they can, living on the road. How they manage it with no money is a mystery to me, but they’re not alone : Squat the Planet website declares itself to be “an online community exploring nomadic lifestyles through minimalist travel. That’s a fancy way of saying we’re a bunch of gypsies, migrant punks, hippies, and other ne’er do wells.”
I guess I should mention the music ! They play fast bluegrassy folk punk, and it sounds bloody great. There’s usually 7 or 8 of them all playing different instruments and making a very lively sound. I get the impression it’s not just one of them writing the songs, they’re all involved and contributing ideas, and their lyrics are always worth listening to.
I’m not proposing a new genre – there’s more than enough of them already. Last week’s list featured some of the best this year from American songwriters, so this week the spotlight is on the UK. It strikes me though that not many of these songs could be mistaken for being American, and it’s not just the accents which are different. An exception perhaps is Billy Bragg’s wonderful Tooth and Nail : although his accent is instantly recognisable, the album is steeped in Americana and has done exceptionally well in the American roots music charts. There’s a lot of female vocalists in this list, but maybe that just says something about me.
So that’s it : my songs of 2013 are now complete, and can all be viewed on this page.
The common factor this week is the songwriting. Fifteen magnificent songs from some of the top songwriters in the business. Most of these fall somewhere in the folk/country spectrum, there’s a bit of blues in here too.
Album titles are in brackets, with links where you can buy them.
You’ve heard about supporting the underdog. Well this is a celebration of the ants and flies who crawl on the belly of the underdog. Most of these bands have little means of promoting themselves other than playing loud music in bars. Their rejection of all the slick packaging and production values of the record industry is intrinsic to their appeal. Their biggest assets are a DIY ethic and plenty of raw energy and attitude, and lyrics that matter. Because this is my list after all there’s a lot of folk punk here, but hopefully there’s enough variety to satisfy all you punk heads. Finally please support the artists : buy the music and go see your local bands.
Bass Drum of Death – Crawling after you
Garage rock band from Oxford, Mississippi.
Bastards On Parade – Drunken Haze
“Based in A Coruña (Galicia), Bastards on Parade was born in late 2007 and the idea was to combine their celtic roots with their loved punk rock.”
The Dead Rabbits – Feelin’ Regret
Celtic punk from Houston. Facebook status : “March tour plans are now underway! We’re headin’ East! Drop us a line if you’re in the market to have your booze decimated and your women offended!”
Dead Subverts – Economic Genocide
UK hardcore. “In Dead Subverts we feel that politics and the way in which we live is as much (if not more) important than the music … We all have our own ethics, our own politics and cover various issues depending on who wrote the song, but we all agree on the fact that fascism has no place in any society. We will play anywhere whether it’s a pub, house, field, cave, rave etc but will not play for fasicst promoters.”
Disease – Mother Nature is dying
“Coming from the sinked, underground holes in Skopje (Macedonia) Disease started working in the middle of 2012 … At the moment the band is on hold, taking a break since Alex is serving prison sentence till February 2014.”
Foolish – Hangover
Skapunk from France.
Fur Blend – Pretty Good B-Side
Rhubarb Bomb : “While I failed to discover that elusive, original sound that popular music is crying out for, they succeeded in not being utter dogshit.” On the Wakefield label Philophobia Music.
Holiday – Missiles On The Roof
“Holiday are a new melodic punk band from the North West of England. They feature current and former members of bands such as The Autonomads, Grover, The Great St. Louis, Burn All Flags, etc etc and write happy songs about unhappy things.”
Hunx and His Punx – Mud in your Eyes
Seth Bogart called the new album Street Punk – “It’s exclusively for women and gay guys. I just think it’s funny to take something that exists and rebrand it … What I hope is that people who are really young and who don’t know what street punk is, will think that this is street punk.”
The Jack Ratts – Muirshin Durkin
“Founded in the sunny sea side town of Bournemouth in 2009, this small group of friends dabbling in banjos, mandolins & accordions, eventually evolved in to a regularly gigging & fully focused six piece band.”
LochNesz – Have Another Whisky
From Hungary, my December 2013 BOTM. “LochNesz plays Celtic punk music following the footsteps of their great predecessors in the genre: in addition to the basic rock band formula, they also play the great highland bagpipe, the accordion, the banjo and the violin.”
Los Dos Hermanos – Don’t Talk to Me
“Los Dos Hermanos are a garage duo, formed by Billy Dorados on white Stratocaster guitar and Carole Tweedlady on drums, based in Bordeaux, France.”
Rail Yard Ghosts – Train 45
They’re a “folk/bluegrass/punk band from all over the place” and they want to tour UK/Europe next year. Here’s why you should support them do this, and how you can.
Sketchy – Better Days
Lo-fi Brooklyn band whose interests include beer and pizza.
Spirit Of John – Atrocities
“Influenced musically by folk, blues, country, skiffle and punk, and thematically by industry, crime, folklore and local heritage, the Leeds duo have crafted a raw, earthy sound, defined by double bass slapping, guitar chopping and raspy hollering.”
Stramash – The Stramashannach
“Stramash are a Celtic Folk Punk band with Heavy Guitar Riffs, Celtic/Punk Rhythms, Folk inspired Vocal Melodies and Bagpunk Pipes and Whistles. Stramash are determined to push the boundaries within the Folk genre and give it a major shot of adrenaline whilst keeping true to their Scottish roots. “
Teenanger – Surveillance
Now Toronto : “These days, straying by going electro has become de rigueur, with plenty of indie bands capitalizing on the popularity of dance music to court new fans. Teenanger’s going the other way – getting nastier, punkier, sounding more like themselves, whether or not it $ells. Even their album release show is free. ‘Sometimes money comes to you and sometimes it doesn’t,’ says guitarist Jon Schouten. ‘We’re not gonna be like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re making so much fucking money.’”
The Tossers – Slainte
“Formed in 1993, the six-piece Celtic punk band of Chicago, IL has been proudly spreading their Irish gospel across the globe, with no plans of slowing down.”
Turncoat Collective – Living by Example
“we are a collective of artists, musicians, freedom lovers, pacifists, love-mongers, and revolutionaries. we were formed in november 2011. we are a completely DIY band, from packaging our own discs, to making our own shirts and patches, to booking our own shows. members come and go, but comrades are forever.”
The Wakes – Never Again
“The Wakes are a Folk’n’Roll band from Glasgow, Scotland. Their ambition is to make music with a social conscience. Music that matters. Their songs are songs, born from political and social struggle, of protest and of heartache and of the joys of life.”
In Parts 1 and 2 I’ve included a lot of traditional sounds from North America and Ireland, so this is a European list. I’m not sure if all the songs are traditional, but the instrumentation and the inspiration certainly is. If these songs don’t make you a fan of traditional folk music then nothing will.
Mick Ryan & Paul Downes – The New York Trader
Lady Maisery – Lady Maisery
David Gibb & Elly Lucas – Lovely Molly
The Rheingans Sisters – Sorry the Day
Le Tre Sorelle – Figghia mia tu n’esci a balla
Matilde Politi & Compagnia Bella – Festa della Borgata
The Romleys were just formed in 2011 but their infectious 60s inspired brand of rock n roll is not to be missed.
The Romleys – Hey Diddle Diddle (It’s Alright)
Formed in 2013, The Vibes describe themselves as a rock & roll/rockabilly/blues/garage band. This is an awesome cover of the Clash song from London Calling.
The Vibes – Brand New Cadillac
Three piece band from the Wirral who keep getting better and better. Glam rock with heavy basslines and a touch of fuzz.
The Loud – He’s Killed A Swan
In football terms he’s a red – but he was hanging out with his mate Leighton Baines at Glastonbury this year. Radio friendly song with a big hook.
Miles Kane – Don’t forget who you are
Nadine came from Switzerland to study music at LIPA and plans to stick around. Electronic music with a textured, organic feel to it.
Nadine Carina – The Love
This haunting atmospheric track was off their Ophelia EP earlier this year – definitely a band to watch in 2014.
Bird – Pious
We’re very fortunate in Merseyside to have a singer songwriter of Alun’s quality, passion and principles. Like many songs on the album, this was written about a real person, London dockworker Harry Constable.
Alun Parry – If Harry Don’t Go
Pop punk trio who look from this video as though they’re having fun.
Sheepy – Little Chatterbox
From Belfast originally but now based in Liverpool. Gentle guitar strumming and great lyrics.
Gary Maginnis & The Like – Blood
Jo spent derby day shooting a video for this song – where are her priorities ?? One of those rare musicians who other guitarists can only hope to learn from.
Jo Bywater – Chopping Wood
If you’ve wandered down Peter Kavanagh’s of a Tuesday night in the last 4 years you may well have seen these two wonderful bands – Sidney Bailey’s No Good Punchin’ Clowns and their sister band The Flamin’ Mamies – who bring old time music to life and make it sizzle. Sadly both bands have now played their last gig.
Sidney Bailey’s No Good Punchin’ Clowns – He’s In The Jailhouse Now
The Flamin’ Mamies – Sadie Green (The Vamp Of New Orleans)
Garage surf rock as it should be played.
El Toro! – Creatures
Graham Holland summed it up nicely when he wrote that R Peter Davies writes “original songs that feel instantly familiar”. Quality country music from the Liverpool Midwest.
The Good Intentions – I dreamed about you
This though is my favourite of the lot – I love singing along to it – come to think of it, it wouldn’t make a bad football song ! Their album Songs of the Sea is well recommended and can be ordered via their website.
Liverpool Shanty Kings – Roll the old Chariot along
I’ve been playing a few of these songs on my radio show, and I wanted to showcase some of this beautiful music which won’t be featuring in many end of year lists. For those who want to keep up to date with Irish traditional music, I recommend the Irish Music Magazine and tradconnect.com.
Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson – Smecano
Jarlath’s Uilleann pipes meet Ross’s border pipes on this Irish – Scottish collaboration.
Christy Moore - Arthur’s Day (live at Whelans)
Drinks giant Diageo are trying to establish a day devoted to drinking Guinness. This is the great bard’s scathing riposte.
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh - The Bold Fenian Men
Muireann is best known as lead singer of Danú. This is a rebel song written by Peadar Kearney.
Sean O Fearghail, Caoimhin O Fearghail & Tomás Ó Gealbháin - Humours of Tuamgreany / The Mountain Groves
On the album Seán Ó Fearghail plays fiddle, concertina and bouzouki, Caoimhín Ó Fearghail uilleann pipes, flute and guitar, and Tomas Ó Gealbháin the accordion. All three musicians have been playing together since their childhood.
Gavin Whelan - Limerick’s Lamentation
From a collection of slow airs by the tin whistle player from Dublin.
Roving Crows – God on Demand
UK based folk rock band fronted by Paul O’Neill from County Kildare, who’s also the band’s songwriter.
Niamh Dunne - Jimmy Mo Mhíle Stór
Niamh’s a singer and fiddler from County Limerick, and a member of the band Beoga. This is from her debut solo album.
Bernadette Morris – All the Ways You Wander
From the North this one : Bernadette’s a fluent Irish speaker from County Tyrone with a beautifully clear singing voice. After releasing her debut album in May she took time out to get married.
The Whileaways - Dear My Maker
The Whileaways are Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce and Noelie Mc Donnell and their debut album was recorded in a log cabin in County Galway. Noriana has now joined Solas.
Solas – High, Wide, and Handsome
Irish American band whose album Shamrock City explores the experience of Irish emigrants to the US. Since the release of the album, County Cork singer Niamh Varian-Barry has got married and left the band, to be replaced by Dubliner Noriana Kennedy.
Dervish - Baba Chonraoi
Cathy Jordan learned this song from Peter Crann who got it from Antaine O’Faracháin. It tells the story of a young girl farmed out to another family who treated her badly and left her with no choice but to run off with the English soldiers – “The Sappers” down in Tralee – a decision that wouldn’t have been taken lightly.
Edel Fox & Neill Byrne - Jigs: The Hill of Bruff/The One That Was Lost/Australian Waters
Edel is a concertina and fiddle player from County Clare. She’s joined by Waterford men Neill Byrne on fiddle, Caoimhín Ó Fearghail on guitar and bouzouki, and County Cavan’s Richie Lyons on bodhrán.
Fionn Regan – The Bunkhouse
Fionn gets back to basics : recorded in his bunkhouse studio with a 4 track, a mic, and an acoustic guitar.
Enda Seery - It’s a Working Man I Am
Westmeath man Enda on whistles, flute, keyboard and vocals is supported by John Byrne on guitar, James Hughes on fiddle, Eoghan MacAogáin on whistle and Tom Delany on guitar.
Yvonne Bolton & Alan Jordan - The Dreamer
Featuring Yvonne from County Laois on concertina and fiddle, and Alan from Mayo on guitar, low whistle and electric bass, with Joe O Dubhghaill cello, Dermot Sheedy bodhrán and Matteo Cullen piano.