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!

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The Kilmaine Saints – Drunken Redemption Review

This past week my music selection as primarily been the Kilmaine Saints new album Drunken Redemption. This sophomore album is an excellent follow-up to their rollicking The Good, The Plaid and the Ugly. On the surface, the album is a great piece of fun music, sure to get you singing along and tapping your feet. But after you scratch the surface, there is a lot of depth in the lyrics of the original songs.

From the start, with the Quick March starts the blood boiling with a fast intro to get you warmed up for the rest of the album that rolls nicely into Battle Cry. Battle Cry is great hard rocking piece with some great lyrics about standing up for your beliefs and fighting for them.

Devil’s Den, listed as Paradise Square Pt 2, is a lovely companion piece to Paradise Square from The Good, The Plaid and The Ugly (one of favorite songs from that album) and this song did not let me down. Rolling into 57, a song that had me searching the internet to learn about the 57 Irish immigrants hired to work on building a railroad in Pennsylvania.The song is haunting as is fitting as the 57 are believed by some to haunt Duffy’s Cut.

The other song that tops my list is With Regrets. At this stage in my life, it holds some deep meanings for me, in looking back at my past mistakes and making the changes so I can live my life with no more regrets. To quote the song “I pray it’s not too late / To right the wrongs I’ve done / and the man that I’ve become.” I can go on all day and cover each song in detail but eventually it will start to sound repetitive about how great each song is.

Amoung the covers, Go On Home British Soldiers tops the list there. And as I have stated in prior posts, in my own humble opinion, I could do without Fields of Anthery – my issue is not with how they covered it, just that it is perhaps one of the most overdone covers done next to Whiskey in the Jar and Finnegan’s Wake. I understand that bands need those songs in their playbook and they are good songs, hence them being covered so much. It is the creativity of the bands creating original songs, in the style and influence that is really fun to listen to. Ok, off my personal soap box now.

So stop reading, find a website (plenty of choices from Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes, not to mention Zune and Google Play Store) to buy it from and start listening!

And of course, here is the track list:

1. Quick March
2. Battle Cry
3. Haul Away Joe
4. Go On Home British Soldiers
5. Devil’s Den (Paradise Square Part 2)
6. 57
7. When We Come To Town
8. The Fields Of Anthery
9. Swallowtail Jig
10. With Regrets
11. The Whiskey’s Calling
12. Black & Blue Jig
13. Brave Yankee Boys
14. All For One
15. Old Rugged Cross

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!