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!

The Killigans Another Round For The Strong Of Heart Review

The Killigans newest release Another Round For The Strong Of Heart is a like a rollicking wood roller coaster! From start to finish the album is thrill ride that rocks and sways you, giving you moments of respite before dropping of the thrilling edge and jerking you through the turns, your adrenaline and heart pounding, your body being slammed to and fro! It starts off Hit the Deck, with its discordant feedback, much like going up the first incline, building your excitement, wondering what lies ahead and before you know it you are lifted out of you seat as the ride plunges towards the ground, you can’t help but smile as the endorphins kick in. It is followed by Empty Streets, it starts slowly, bringing you up a large incline, just as you think this song will be a slower pace, boom! Another drop into a heart pounding song that contains the lyric of the album’s title. Empty Streets is a song that keeps the pace up and down, hitting the banks, your body rocking along before it moves into the Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, a rolling song, going side to side quickly and lyrics that get stuck in your head. Salt Of The Earth is a flat straight, giving you some time to catch your breath and enjoy the sights around you, the song is touching and has sent chills down my spine when I take the time to
really listen to great song writing by these rocking bards from Lincoln. Hey Sergio is the last of the big hills, again starting with a slower pace before the resulting acceleration – another song with lyrics that get stuck in your head and retain their grip all day long. Ghost Of Our Fathers is a slow piece of straight instrumentation, another moment of heart beating respite but emotionally tugging in ghostly chords. The Killigans quickly ramp it up again with The Throes Of Misery, a head banging song that stirs the primal beast within. The Bottoms is a thumping, fast number. From The Underground is a great homage to the punk rock of the past, channeling the energy and the beats of the past. Take Me Back brings this fast and exciting ride to a great close.

Another Round For The Strong Of Heart shows the maturity of The Killigans, hence the reference to wood roller coasters. The songs are
introspective yet unapologetic. I would highly recommend this album to anyone, this album transcends genre booking. Any fan of Celtic punk, folk punk, punk or just hard driving rock music should love this album. My only complaint is that just like a roller coaster, the ride is over way too fast and you wonder how it was over so quickly so you quickly run back to the front just to ride it again!

The track list is:
1.    Hit The Deck
2.    Empty Streets
3.    Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
4.    Salt Of The Earth
5.    Hey Sergio
6.    Ghosts Of Our Fathers
7.    The Throes of Misery
8.    The Bottoms
9.    From The Underground
10.   Take Me Back

Slainte!

Thank you Last.fm

This is my first foray into the blogging and social media space.  For a long time, I did not feel I had anything to share of interest to other people, but this last year I have become addicted to Celtic Rock/Punk and I want to share my enthusiasm for the genre and the great bands that exist – many of which are local and regional.  Without the Internet, I never would have heard of them.

To start, way back when in the 90’s, I had been a big fan of The Pogues and Black 47. If I had only known of the some of the bands at that time!  As with most of us, the real world intrudes in our lives and music took a backseat to other things in my life.  Recently, I have felt something was missing from enjoyment in life, but I could not find any music that revved me up – that is until I started listening to Last.fm at work.

One day I was listening to the Flogging Molly radio, and BAM! What a great day – for the first time I was hearing The Mahones, The Tossers, Flatfoot 56 and many others.  As I would hear a band that caught my attention, I would switch to their radio and found even more!  The Killigans and Killmaine Saints, American Wake, Bollox, Real McKenzies!  A fire was lit that day!  I found what I was missing!  Music that combined the power and frustration of Punk with the melodies, themes and anger of the great Irish songs!  The combination of rock with the soulful rebellion songs, the hard emotion of punk mixed with the songs of exile and anger.  My playlists kept growing and still grow daily.

It drove me to find more and wonderful blogs like Paddyrock, Shite n Onions and Celtic Folk Punk helped me found more.  On my last birthday, my wife got us tickets to go see Dropkick Murphys and what a blast! I had forgotten how much fun live music is.  That drove me to find bands to listen to live.  So many of the bands I have really enjoyed are regional and don’t make it St Louis.  But I was encouraged – St Louis has a large population of Irish ancestry, so surely there had to be something here.  If Lincoln, NE could have the wonderful band The Killigans or Rockport, IL with their powerful Screw City Saints, why not St. Louis?

After much searching the internet, I found a band called Rusty Nail.  That got me thinking that I want to help people find a band in a genre that is so much more than Flogging Molly, DKM or The Pogues.  After much deliberation and soul-searching for a name for the blog, here it is Rocking the Craic (pronounced as crack.)  Craic is an Irish term for fun, entertainment and enjoyable conversation.  Very appropriate, I think!

I doubt I will ever be able to even be a tenth of what Paddyrock, Shite n Onions and Celtic Folk Punk are, and I am not trying to be them.  This blog is about my journeys and explorations of a much overlooked genre of music and if I can help a few people find a band or two near them, then I have succeeded in what I want to do.  Slainte!