20: SAINT BUSHMILLS CHOIR – ‘S/T’ (2004)
Attending the Anarchist Bookfair back in 2004 an old mate Booksie sez get yourself to the Active stall and get this album. So off I trot and I find it and its got a lovely Celtic design on the front and an even lovelier Irish tricolour on the back. Not the sort of thing you’d expect to find at an Anarchist event! The song titles were all known to me and mostly Dubliners songs. Problem is it’s the last one so I have to buy it and lump it around for the rest of the day, and night!, trying not to lose it/break it/cover it in Skol Super. Any road I gets it home and play it and its f’king brilliant. Extremely well played Irish folk punk with great left politics and the only Anarchist Celtic-punk song I’ve ever heard. I find out later that Saint Bushmills Choir are a kind of punk-crusty supergroup and that’s why the label Profane Existence released it. I did wonder why as everything I’d ever heard from the label before was an unlistenable racket! And it’s on very nice green vinyl!
19: THE GENTLEMEN – ‘Stick To Your Guns’ (2009)
First time I came across these was a video on YouTube of them at a West Virginia American Football game racing around with a Irish flag to ‘Country Roads’ so when their album popped up on the now defunct Paddy Punx web-site I downloaded it immediately. For such a young band they really were very good, but nothing has been heard from them in a long time and there’s not much to be found on them on the internet either. Aggressive Celtic-punk but plenty of emphasis on traditional instruments too. ‘War Time in North London’ and ‘Under The Rowan Tree’ show their style at either end of the Celtic-punk spectrum.
18: CHARM CITY SAINTS – ‘Hooligans and Saints’ (2009)
Emerging from the seedy punk rock clubs of Baltimore the Charm City Saints were one of a bunch of American Celtic-punk bands inspired by the Dropkick Murphys. The LP begins with ‘Egans Polka’ which wouldn’t be out of place on one of your nanna’s records before blasting into the blistering ‘Night Paddy Murphy Died’. Catchy hooks and fist in the air choruses ensure the LP whizzes past as fast as anything. Blue-collar working class Irish American pride aplenty! Chuck in a couple of rebel songs and more trad punked up to 11 and you got yourself a classic of American Celtic-punk. Far from the polish of the Murphys and the Mollys and all the better for it.
17: KEVIN FLYNN AND THE AVONDALE RAMBLERS – Live At the Double Door
Till they released ‘Broken Pavements of Avondale’ last year all anyone had of these was a couple of EPs and this fantastic live album, which consists only of the songs on the EP’s. Once again, I came across it on the Paddy Punx blog and despite the name sounding like a old fogies band I thought I’d take a chance, and boy was I was not disappointed. I’m not normally a fan of live recordings but this is one of those rare occasions where the sound and music is immaculate. The bands mix of Celtic-Irish-Americana and Chicago folklore plus solid working-class roots and politics really hit the spot with me. Great sense of humour, as evident on crowd favourite ‘You Don’t Want Me’.
16: BETWEEN THE WARS – ‘Carried Away’ (2010)
Melbourne based Celtic-folk-punk band that have now sadly broken up. They’ve left us a discography of great records of which this, for me, is the pick of the crop. Great story-telling from lead singer Jay with dark and light themes battling it out with understated humour! A few trad songs ‘Ride On’ and ‘Come Out Ye Black And Tans’ are in turn beautiful and uplifting but it’s when Between the Wars play their own songs they come into their own. ‘Ciaran’ about the love of a father for his son and the son for his father is heart achingly good while ‘Superherosong’ and ‘You Were The One’ raise the roof with that distinct Aussie Celtic-punk sound but with a tinge of country.
15: CRAIC HAUS – ‘Whose Yer Paddy Now?’ (2009)
Now this was a first for me and for anyone else who has ever come across Craic Haus too I bet. What you get is a album of ‘shamrockabilly’ that’s right 12 songs of Celtic-rock’n’roll. They ought to be Imelda May’s backing band truth be told. Mostly self-penned titles like ‘Bottom of A Guinness’ and ‘Shilleagh Bop’ show the bands great sense of humour plus theirs two incredible covers of The Wild Rover and Danny Boy with the original words but to the tune of something equally as famous. Hard to explain. Great production too and quite incredible work considering that their only a trio!
14: THE MEN THEY COULDNT HANG – ‘How Green is the Valley’ (1986)
The day this came out I legged it back with the LP under me arm to me Nanna’s house in town. She had an old record player encased in a big massive cabinet about 5 foot long. The sound that came out was crystal clear but it was only ever use to playing country ’n’ western so how was it gonna handle ‘The Men’? Putting it on and the first song ‘Gold Strike’ came out and the guitar and mandolin giving it the impression of a folky LP she relaxed and then nearly fainted as it kicked into ‘Gold Rush’ a punky folky Celt rocker. Things got worse for her as anti-fascist anthem ‘Ghosts Of Cable Street’ advocated hitting fascists and then miners’ strike song ‘Shirt Of Blue’ advocated attacking the police…she also found some of the language appalling!! Looking back it was nowhere near as punk as I thought it was at the time but The Men are still rocking out and recently celebrated their 30th anniversary with a grand sell-out big London gig. Definitely one of the early pioneers of the Celtic-punk scene.
13: JASPER COAL – ‘Thousand Feet Closer To Hell’ (2010)
My dad was a coal-miner and so was his dad and his granddad too so coal-mining is in my blood you could say. Another album I came across via the Paddy Punx blog and it had a massive impact on me. Coming from the coalfields of Alabama these Irish-American lads sing a variety of mostly old standards and a few of their own songs. With very strong vocals and a banjo leading the way it’s a incredibly ‘full’ LP despite being acoustic and having no drums just the bodhran keeping the beat. It’s also notable for having a song, O Caide Sin, in Gaelic too.
12: FLATFOOT 56 – ‘Jungle of The Mid West Sea’ (2007)
Saw these the night after the only time I ever saw Blood or Whiskey. Can’t remember how I came across it as the London Celtic-punk scene was non-existent back then, but I did, and it was a weekend that went onto change my life forever! At the BorW gig I made a great friend without whom I doubt the whole London Celtic Punks thing would even exist and the following day at Flatfoot 56 I had my first date with the lady that was to become my future wife! The gig itself was outstanding. Fuck all people in a tiny wee cellar venue but great sound and those that were there were a enthusiastic lot. First on and all over before 9pm, we legged it when they finished playing and the rest is history. A short while after I got the album off another pal with ‘Knuckles Up’ on the same CD. I played it so damn much I cannot bear to put it on anymore but if it comes up on my I-Pod shuffle then I’m instantly reminded of why I love it!
11: BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS – ‘Boots or No Boots’ (2010)
The Bible Code’s are to London what The Tossers are to Chicago or The Murphy’s are to Boston. Probably more Celtic-rock than punk they gig relentlessly across London and have a massive and loyal fan base. Reading about them in The Irish Post every week I first saw them play at one of their fortnightly resident shows in London’s west end. Starting off with their own stuff and then returning after a break to play ‘Irish-ed’ up pop hits they certainly had the crowd in the palm of their hands. I got the album that night and bugger me but on listening to it, it seemed like it was autobiographical!! The perfect album for the second- generation Irishman. ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m a Irish Londoner’ is by far the fans stand out track but I prefer ‘Paddy Devil’ telling the story of the evil influence that makes us go on the lash instead of staying in and behaving ourselves…
10: SHANE MacGOWAN AND THE POPES – ‘Crock Of Gold’ (1997)
With Shane kicked out of The Pogues and supposedly spiraling off into oblivion he shocked us all by teaming up with County Holloway Celtic-rockers The Popes. Their first album together was ‘The Snake’ and was only so-so I thought but this album was something else. Freed from the confines of The Pogues Shane could let his pen do the talking. He calls it the Pogues fifth album. He doesn’t count anything The Pogues did after ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’. While hinting at nationalism with The Pogues for years this LP is defiantly pro-republican with stories of “burning London to the ground” and shooting coppers and soldiers. Received with glee by his fans and horror by the middle-class press both here and in Ireland. Dominated by jigs and reels The Popes prove themselves able to fill The Pogues shoes and even fit in a reggae song reminiscent of The Clash.
9: BLOOD OR WHISKEY – ‘Cashed Out on Culture’ (2005)
Straddling the Celtic-punk fence nicely between the Molly’s folk and the Murphy’s punk is Ireland’s Blood Or Whiskey. This is their third album and they’re best one yet. Fourteen tracks of pure Irish folk ska punk. This was the first recording’s with new singer Dugs taking over from Barney and guest vocals from Cait O’Riordan of The Pogues add that special touch. Blood Or Whiskey have a instantly recognizable sound but don’t be thinking they’re stuck in a rut as they stand out in the Celtic punk scene as a constantly evolving band. They are also the only band actually from a Celtic nation on our list. ‘They Say No’ ends the album and is the standout track with all the BorW elements coming together perfectly!
8: THE MAHONES – ‘Irish Punk Collection’ (2007)
Catchy and upbeat this is the must have album of Irish-Canadian band The Mahones. They’ve been around for twenty years and are one of the innovators and movers and shakers of the Celtic-punk world. There is plenty here for all fans of Celtic or punk music and the songs flow seamlessly from raucous punk to reflective ballad with ease. Dublin born singer Finny leads The Mahones and they are easily the hardest working band in the scene. ‘Queen and Tequila’ and ‘Drunken Lazy Bastard’ are still solid staples of the bands live set. Fourteen tracks and well over a hour long and not a single bad track. Scruffy from the Dropkicks pops up to show exactly how widely regarded The Mahones are.
7: DROPKICK MURPHYS – ‘Do Or Die’ (1998)
Seems like an age ago now (and it bloody is too) that a old skinhead mate from Belfast put me onto these and I got to see them on their first London gig before I’d actually heard anything by them. To say they blew me away is a understatement and my love affair with them only got worse on hearing this album. Yeah, the Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang were there first, but the Dropkicks were a proper punk band. Our families all liked what passed for Celtic-punk before this lot but the Dropkick Murphys? NO FACKING WAY! My moms heard them and thinks their awful racket! I used to call this album ‘Celtic-Oi!’ and if you’re a recent convert to the DKM’s there’s not a lot of what passes for the band now. For a start Mike McColgan, from the Street Dogs, was the bands original singer and there’s very little Celtic tunes and no instruments but plenty of references in the lyrics for those of us looking for them. By the time Finnegan’s Wake came on that was it for me!
6: FLOGGING MOLLY – ‘Drunken Lullabies’ (2002)
Their second album and easily their best yet. After ‘Swagger’ the band realized they didn’t need a new approach. Slow songs, fast songs and combinations of both was good enough to last them right up until their last album ‘Speed of Darkness’ when they changed it around a bit. Formed in a LA pub by Dublin native Dave King their sound is as authentic as it comes. Full on Irish folk played with the spirit of punk that captured the imagination of untold numbers of punk rock kids across the globe. Despite their success it’s as a live band Flogging Molly are at their best and they’ve released a handful of excellent live releases. The title track and the heart aching ‘The Sun Never Shines (On Closed Doors)’ show them at their fast and slow best. Listen side by side with the Murphy’s and you’ll see these are the Celtic side of Celtic-punk while the Murphy’s are more punk but both complement each other enormously.
5: THE TOSSERS – ‘The Valley of The Shadow Of Death’ (2005)
A mate worked in Reckless Records in the West End and one day down the pub he announced to me “you like all that Irish folk shit, here have these” and presented me with a 1960′s LP of rebel songs, a Wolfe Tones CD and this by The Tossers. Maybe not their best album (I actually prefer ‘Emerald City’) but this has The Tossers greatest song ‘Good Mornin Da’ and a host of other Chicago South Side Irish folk-punk classics. Older than the Murphy’s and the Molly’s they well deserve their place at the top table of Celtic-punk. More like the Pogues than the before mentioned bands they have The Pogues knack of playing lengthy songs that don’t bore the arse off you or go off into decadent meandering and keep your interest till the end! Saw them play once in London and they were every bit as good as I thought they would be.
4: CUTTHROAT SHAMROCK – ‘Dark Luck’ (2011)
Coming from the hills of Tennessee they mix Irish and Scots folk with their native Appalachian music. Dark themes abound on this all the way through and the vocals and music really capture the emotions of the lyrics. Completely acoustic with superb banjo playing to the fore they would in fact go down well absolutely anywhere and with anyone I’d say. ‘Rich Insteada Pretty’ is a brief interlude of humour before ‘Dark Hallow’ takes us back to some more misery. A superb album with all the best bits of Celtic-punk but with enough of Cutthroat Shamrock’s own definitive stamp to single them out as real innovators of the scene. ‘Fly Away’ would easily make my Top Ten Songs of all time.
3: THE POGUES – ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ (1988)
You simply cannot underestimate the influence The Pogues had on this nation when they came racing out of the blocks in the mid-80′s. To put it simply the amount of Irish born people in Britain was massive but few of their offspring felt in anyway Irish. Hardly surprising when the rest of the nation was stacked up against them and to be Irish meant to be either a bomber or be thick or an alkie or feckless or violent or many other number of racist epitaphs. Who then could find pride in those roots when it was something we ought to be ashamed of? Well The Pogues could. Their first two albums were met with amazement and relief that we could actually be proud of our backgrounds and shout it out as well. By the time of this their third album The Pogues had started to agitate and their song ‘The Birmingham 6′, while only reinforcing what our families had already told us, brought the issue of the many innocent Irish jailed in Britain to a wider audience. That to be in possession of an Irish accent could land you in jail for a very long time. This is the record that saw them move away from being a band only Irish people could like and includes their mega-mega hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. Though I can’t stand ‘Fiesta’ the rest are pure brilliance and Shane’s lyrics are sublime. I especially loved the Tipperary themed ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’. But even despite all of Shane’s brilliance it’s the late Phil Chevron song ‘Thousands Are Sailing’ that stands out and gets you on every single level. Possibly the best song about Irish emigration of all time…and that’s a pretty congested subject. More from us on The Pogues here.
2: NECK – ‘Sod `Em & Begorrah!’ (2005)
Neck has been a solid fixture on the London punk scene for donkeys years now and this LP is their masterpiece. All 12 tracks are fully imbibed with the spirit of the two London bands that have inspired them the most- The Pogues and The Clash. I’ve been a major fan of Neck since the very beginning and no matter how often I’ve seen them play they never fail to give it their all and put on a great show. Lead singer and lyricist Leeson is up there with yer Shane’s and yer Christy’s and your Luke’s in the songwriting stakes and portrays perfectly what it feels to be a, so called, ‘plastic paddy’ or as Neck put it, much better, ‘PLASTIC AND PROUD’. The album has two expertly played trad songs and the rest are pure self-penned Celtic-punk Neck classics. As impossible as it is to pick out a standout track, ‘Blood On The Streets’ about the racist murders of two young men in Ireland and London deserves a nod. The CD comes with a huge booklet with the lyrics and background story to each song which alone makes this a must have.
- THE RUMJACKS – ‘Gangs Of New Holland’ (2010)
Bejaysus I really wish I had heard this when I was a young gun, I would have definitely picked up a mandolin instead of untold tinnies and done something with me life! From start to finish this debut album from Sydney, Australia’s The Rumjacks kicks you squarely in the teeth. Whether it’s the full on Celtic-punk rock of ‘Green Ginger Wine’ or the sadness of, nearly a ballad, ‘Bar The Door Casey’ The Rumjacks blue-collar stories of working class immigrant life really hits home. It isn’t without humour mind, check out their enormous (5,500,000 hits and counting!) internet hit ‘An Irish Pub’ which puts the boot firmly into fake plastic Irish pubs. The band is a mix of Scottish immigrants and others from descended from the various Celtic nations which gives them a very definite authentic feel. This knocked the flaming socks off me when I first heard it and its still doing it now. Australian Celtic-punk bands rule the planet and The Rumjacks rule Australian Celtic-punk…that should tell you all you need to know.