The Standards – Dirty Old Town

A while ago I wrote that I was going to periodically write about bands covers of standard songs. I am finally writing up a follow to Come Out Ye Black and Tans. So, for my sequel, I bring to you Dirty Old Town. This past weekend, I have been listening heavily to Dirty Old Town. This song will always remind me of my oldest boy. I had a Pogues CD in the car and would listen to it, which contained the song, never realizing it was imprinting on him. One day, while in the car with his mom, he started singing a song, when asked what it was, he says in his tiny voice “I’m singing Dirty Old Town”. Today thinking about his little voice saying that makes me grin!

While one may think the song is Irish, given the popularity the Dubliners have given it, it is in fact an English song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949 about Salford, England. My first introduction to the song was through the Pogues and hearing it live by Eddie Delahunt, two different versions – rock vs. traditional. In the interest of brevity, I am focusing on the rock covers of the song, by bands in the Folk Punk and Folk Rock genre (sorry Rod Stewart fans, I just can’t bring myself to even try listening to his version.)

The bands I picked for my comparisons are:

  • Off Kilter
  • Cutthroat Shamrock
  • Hoist the Colors
  • Mudmen
  • The Dirges
  • The Tossers
  • American Wake

Each of these bands puts their own spin and touches on a song that has had a lasting impression. None of them play it in the style in the Pogues. Some are a bit more trad and others are much more rocked up. Off Kilters version is more jazzy than the others, starting out with piano, it has a faster tempo, but little emotional impact to me – the song is more fun than soulful. To me, surprisingly enough, The Tossers give it more of the traditional treatment, keeping with the slower pacing. The American Wake bring the tempo up more from The Tossers, starting slower till they explode with some energy. The speed is fun but the mournfulness and soul are lost in the joyful  playing of the song.

The Mudmen and The Dirges rock the song up the most, though The Mudmen make you wait for it, the bagpipes are the most unique feature of The Mudmen’s version and the vocals evoke more anger than mourning, but considering anger is a reactive emotion to pain, mourning, injustice and hurt, it works well. The Dirges don’t tease you with their hard rocking version, straight from th e gates, it is hard and fast, the music and lyrics much more raw.

This brings me to my two favorite versions – Hoist the Colors and Cutthroat Shamrock. Hoist the Colors is the more traditional of the two, easily capturing the evocative emotions of the song, not rushing through, the longing in the vocals. Cutthroat Shamrock’s version clearly belongs to them, with their Appalachian touch to the song that speeds up the tempo, but not too much. The vocals still capturing the emotion of the song while you are tapping your feet on the ground.

There is not a bad version in the bunch, but if I had to choose only one version to listen to, I would have to give it to the mountain men Cutthroat Shamrock, and that would even be over the Pogues version (some may consider that blasphemy, but just my humble ole opinion.)

Slainte!

Godspeed 2012, Joyful Welcome 2013

As many of my faithful readers know, 2012 was a turbulent year for me. This was a rock bottom year in which I had to make the choice of wallowing or rising above and forging myself into something new and better. I chose the latter route and while I am glad to see 2012 depart, I will always take the lessons learned with me. I look forward to 2013 being a stellar year – musically and personally.

My year started with a resolution of writing more and being more proactive. I had a great start of the year till I made a poor decision one evening and went out, had too much drink and on my way home, wrecked my poor Paddy Wagon and was arrested for a DWI. The morning after, sitting in the impound lot, waiting for AAA to tow my car home, while filled with regret for my poor decision, I was quite thankful I did not hurt physically hurt anyone. It was at that time I made the commitment to sobriety. I was very public with my ordeal, my pain and my decision. While it may have been uncomfortable reading for some, I gained many words of encouragement and support that I cannot even begin to express my gratitude of receiving. Much it was from people in the Celtic Rock and Punk scene, which as many of you know, is quite alcohol fuelled giving me encouragement in my commitment to sobriety.

For months my writing languished as I struggled to work on the demons that drove me to drink and other self-destructive behaviors that have not only hurt me, but those that I love. It was a constructive time for me – I learned much about myself, what drove me and my decisions, learning to trust in myself and gain the inner strength that I never knew was in me. Alcohol has always been a crutch for me. Something to hide behind, something to give me the false sense of strength. Once I stopped hiding who I was, channeling my inner strength, the decision of sobriety was easy.

Over the next few months, I had to miss a few shows that rolled through St Louis – Cutthroat Shamrock, Mighty Regis and Red Rebel County as I was still in severe emotional turmoil.

My first real test of my new life decision was going to a Whiskey of the Damned show. It was my first time in a bar since my fateful night. I went with my friend Ron, who I knew would have my back. My strategy that night was to bring my new camera and take pictures. As the night wore on and I watched some of the most inebriated patrons, I started to feel a strengthening of my conviction. At the end of the show, a quite drunk Eoin McCarthy was attempting to tempt me, to give up my choice and go back home with the band to go to college show full of nubile co-eds. Needless to say, I rejected the offer, knowing I was doing the right thing, not just for me, but for my kids. On my drive home, I drove with calm and peace with the knowledge that I had nothing to worry about it – as far as I am aware, there is nothing illegal with driving with excessive caffeine and nicotine.

After the Whiskey show, I had to face my punishment and accept my loss of driving privileges. I unfortunately missed The Real McKenzies but accepted it with grace as I chose to make my whole experience a learning tool. Not something to bemoan my luck, the cops, the legal institution but to accept my failings and stand tall. Over the years, I had become disconnected from the person I was. I gave up not only my will, but my personality and my voice. I reached back to the last time I was alcohol free – my high school self. I held nothing back, I did not hide myself or my quirks. And during that time, as many of you know by reading (and may be tired of hearing of) “Poor Troubled Life” became the song that  got me through the rough days, the song spoke to me like no other song had before.

Come June/July, I got a message from Beau of Lexington Field they were going to be playing in St Louis in August, during the last two weeks of my restricted driving, which only allowed me to drive for employment or community service. So I could see the band, Beau agreed to hire me as a photographer for the show, so I could have a legal reason to drive. I wrote up a contract, had business cards made and included a pre-shoot consult the day before the show which was conducted at the Cardinals game. That night, Beau really encouraged me to get back to writing, that my voice was being heard. His words that night still help give me the drive to write.

Since that night, I have worked to become more proactive – instead of waiting for bands to contact me and send me their stuff, I have utilized my Xbox Music subscription to find albums to review. I have written a few things to help spread the word about upcoming works. In all, as I have rediscovered myself and become more comfortable in my sobriety I have found my ease in talking to bands has not diminished. I no longer need the social lubricant, I just need to be myself.

So after boring you all, here are some of my top moments of the year

  1. Hanging out Lexington Field on their night off with Chad Ross of Rusty Nail. They are wonderfully down to earth, funny a joy to spend time with
  2. Going to the Weston Irish Festival – yes it was a long day, but it was a blast seeing Flannigans Right Hook up close when the rain ran them off stage. In addition, it brought back some good memories seeing Eddie Delahunt play. Third, it was great to see The Langers Ball play live and meet with the band and get some more grief over my views of their version of “Fields of Anthery” – I still stand by my point of view though!
  3. Yes another road trip – this time going to Urbana, IL to see The Mahones and meeting Finny and Katie. The gratitude of their words about my review of Angels & Devils has been a great motivation to keep writing. I look forward to seeing them play again (they told me they are planning an US tour in 2013 and said St Louis would be a stop!)
  4. In general, the music community of this genre is outstanding! All the friends I have made, even virtually has been fantastic – I hope some day to meet you all in person!
  5. Some of my favorite albums this year, in no order of preference has Hoist the Colors, the Kilmaine Saints, the Killigans, Lexington Field, Flatfoot 56 and Celkilt.

This year has been filled with great music and new friendships. I cannot even place a value on what has meant to me and the reforging of myself into something new and better. So with that I say Godspeed 2012 – you were rough on me, but you have taught me some invaluable lessons.

To 2013, I give a heartfelt and joyful welcome to 2013! This upcoming year should hold many new reviews, with many great bands releasing new albums this year, I am anxious to hear them and write about them. New concerts to see and new bands to discover and new road trips to take. Personally, I look forward to continuing with my personal growth and making new friends (hopefully some that will take said road trips with me, lol.)

So to all my readers and friends, I bid you a happy new year and slainte!

Forged anew, the Red Wolf rises!

Hoist the Colors – Miles To Go Before We Can Sleep Review

Hailing from LA, Hoist the Colors brings more attention to the West Coast Celtic Punk family that includes some great acts like Flogging Molly, Lexington Field, The Mighty Regis, Bricktop Blaggers and many more. They have just released a new album, Miles To Go Before We Sleep. I have to say, they have made this review very hard for me! Usually I can find a few songs that really stand out that grab and hold my attention, however on Miles To Go Before We Sleep, I cannot pick any standouts – and I mean that in a great way! Every song has something truly unique and special about it. There are no songs that sound somewhat familiar to another one, they range from mournful, spine tingling songs to feet stomping, rocking songs. From the opening of Dance Through the Days, the pulse quickening rhythms and melodic vocals, I was quickly captured and press ganged into enjoying this genre bending group of talented musicians. From there, it nicely transitions to Gordie Lachance with more rocking beats. From there, it moves to the slow intro into The Curse of Blackbeard Lavoy, which picks up into a rolling song, in which made me feel my old sea legs, rolling on the waves. Atwood moves into a mournful song of love, loss and heartbreak. Hoist the Colors quickly picks up the pieces and ramps it back up into Shackles and Chains. Signs and Symbols slows things down a bit (but not too much) letting me catch my breath – by this time, my feet are getting sore from all the stamping! Curse Hoist the Colors – they sure know how to make for a hard review! I can keep on but honestly I am starting to run out of adjectives without being repetitious. Gold continues the hard rocking, moving into the infectious Silence and Loss. Sail on Sweet Soul is another rolling tune, with fast and slow elements that is constructed beautifully. The Line on the Map is a spine chilling song, mournful and gorgeous in the rich sounds. California, a song of longing from a long distance relationship, brings it up musically. Deuces Wild and A Simple Promise continue with the quicker rhythms that finally ends by rolling into the slower yet uplifting KCT, a song that hits a bit close to home, but as the song says, “but I will carry on.”

Overall, Hoist the Colors, creates an exquisite tapestry with the wonderful vocals, songwriting and music that is a roller coaster ride from beginning to end. This is definitely an album that will be getting a lot of play from me!

The track list is:

  1. Dance Through the Days
  2. Gordie Lachance
  3. The Curse of Blackbeard Lavoy
  4. Atwood
  5. Shackles and Chains
  6. Signs and Symbols
  7. Gold
  8. Silence and Loss
  9. Sail on Sweet Soul
  10. The Line on the Map
  11. California
  12. Deuces Wild
  13. A Simple Promise
  14. KCT

Slainte!