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 Mahones Angels & Devils Review

Typically before I do a review, I will eat, sleep, live and drive the album for about a week, completely immersing myself in the bands artistic endeavors. This time, I am going straight to the review because I don’t want my seeing The Mahones in concert this Friday in Urbana, IL to taint my impression of the songs. That being said, some of the songs have not had a chance to grow on me, though four of the songs were released earlier in October – so some of them have already had some introduction to me. Shakespeare Road, Angels & Devils, Angel Without Wings / Merry Christmas Baby and Past The Pint Of No Return were already familiar with me.

Warning! If you need to sit still and just have some music in the background, The Mahones newest release Angels & Devils is not what you should be listening to. You will not be able to sit still; instead you will be jumping up, tapping your feet, banging your desk to the hard driving punk tunes The Mahones are well known for! The Mahones have been busy between touring and just released The Black Irish last year, one wonders where they found the time to write and produce this new album, with a lot of special guests bringing their talents on the songs. There has been plenty written by Paddy Rock, Shite n Onions and Celtic Folk Punk and More about that, and since my reviews are more about the music on the emotional level than the technical level, I will leave it those excellent gentlemen to explore the musical guest on the album. One might think that with that much time pressure, quality may have been sacrificed, but I can assure this album is not lacking!

From the starting block, Shakespeare Road sets the mood with gritty vocals, driving beat and the exuberant energy The Mahones have built their reputation on. All the songs are clearly identifiable as The Mahones, with not a bad song in the bunch. I really enjoyed the Medley’s – hard rocking instrumentals the get the blood boiling and the feet stomping. Angel Without Wings / Merry Christmas Baby is a sweet song that brings things down a notch or two – thankfully because my cardiovascular system needed the break but The Waiting starts to ramp it right back up to start up the second half of the album and The King Of Copenhagen finishes that ramp and the rate zooms up through the end of the album. The fiddle work on Whiskey Train is outstanding, rapid and sets the ambience for the song. The album comes to a fun ending with a cover of the Stiff Little Fingers Tin Soldiers, hopefully this will bring some of the younger fans into exploring some the forerunners of The Mahones.

In all, The Mahones newest album does not disappoint and is a pure joy to listen to and highlights the years of experience of this hard rocking punk band. So you need to stop reading and go get yourself a copy, RIGHT NOW!

Track list:

  1. Shakespeare Road
  2. Angels & Devils
  3. Spanish Lady
  4. Medley: a. Cruel Of Turf b. The Pigeon On The Gate c. The Battle Of Aughrim
  5. Angel Without Wings / Merry Christmas Baby
  6. The Waiting
  7. The King Of Copenhagen
  8. Past The Pint Of No Return
  9. Medley: a. The Connaught Man’s Ramble b. Christmas Eve Reels c. Johnny’s On Fire
  10. Whiskey Train
  11. The Revolution Starts Now
  12. Makes No Sense At All
  13. Tin Soldiers

Slainte!

 

Free!! The Mahones Angels and Devils EP!!

Sunday afternoons and evenings tend to be a drag for me as the work week starts to rear its ugly head and thoughts go towards what needs to be accomplished for the week. So today’s gift from The Mahones really made my day today! Right now 4 tracks from the upcoming release of Angels and Devils is available for a free download – yes I said FREE! This preview releases have been getting rave reviews from Paddyrock, Shite ‘n’ Onions and Celtic Folk Punk and More. I have not had a chance to listen to the 4 tracks, but will be doing so on repeat most of the day tomorrow! This will need to tide me over till the release date of the full album on November 13th which will be on repeat as I drive to Urbana, IL to see The Mahones with Dropkick Murphys in just under 4 weeks!

The four tracks are:

  1. Shakespeare Road
  2. Angels & Devils
  3. Angel Without Wings/Merry Christmas Baby
  4. Past The Pint Of No Return

You can get your free download of The Mahones Angels and Devils EP at http://www.noisetrade.com/themahones.

And for all my fellow St Louisans without plans on Halloween night, The Mahones are a MUST SEE act you should not miss! The show will be at The Pageant on 10/31.

The Muck Savages – My New Years Gift To You

Happy New Year! 2011 has been a great year for me as a music fan. I started my blog earlier this year to try to help bands get more exposure and to hopefully be a resource for like-minded individuals wanting to find new bands in the Celtic Punk/Rock genre.

I have worked on helping out St. Louis locals Rusty Nail by going to more shows than I can count and have talked them up here and on Facebook. I also got to see Cutthroat Shamrock and The Dropkick Murphys twice this year in addition to my almost nonstop trip to Columbus, OH and back for the Shamrock N Roll Fest where I got to see The Mahones, The Bloody Irish Boys, Street Dogs, Stiff Little Fingers, Parkington Sisters, Chuck Ragan and my second experience of DKM. I also got to see Murder the Stout along with the Street Dogs for a second time. I have also made friends outside of the States with great bands like Between The Wars, Ramshackle Army, Sir Reg and Mr. Irish Bastard. I hope 2012 continues with the great support I have gotten and given and I wish all bands the greatest success.

As my present to you, I want to introduce you to The Muck Savages. A raw, hard rocking band from Oklahoma City, OK. I hope 2012 brings me the opportunity to see these guys live. If you go their website, you can download their 4 track demo and 7 track EP Golden Molly for FREE! That is right, these have their music up for free, so grab some tracks and enjoy! Once you are on their website, just click on the Music link.

From their Demo, they have a great version of Come Out Ye Black and Tans along with my favorite We The People that starts with the preamble and quickly ramps into a great Irish inspired song with drive and energy.

From the Golden Molly EP, the stand out for me is Michael O’Malley. While not has hard-driving as some their other songs, the story of Michael O’Malley even touches my cynical heart. Fighting Man is another song that I have enjoyed – it is one of those great songs when you are in a “fuck you” mood and have the music burn your anger off after a long hard day.

But don’t take my word for it, you have nothing to lose since these guys are giving their music away. Give em a listen and enjoy! Hopefully I will be able to get myself down to OKC or they can get up to St. Louis so I can support them in person and buy some swag from them – I think the Paddy Wagon is in need of a Muck Savages sticker if I can find the room.

 

 

30 Days Later…Shamrock N Roll Fest!

Wow, what a busy and hectic last month! (Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the details.) As some of you who have been following my erratic postings know, last month I made a road trip from St. Louis, MO to Columbus, OH to go the Shamrock N Roll Fest. It was a trip that involved about 15 hours of total driving, 7 hours of great music, an hour picking up some Great Lakes beer (sadly, not sold in Missouri) and about 3 hours sleeping in a rest area.

The trip was a solo experience as I was unable to find a companion that could go with me. My day started with taking my daughter and her friend to school – which involved me leaving an hour later than I had wanted to, but I thought it would be ok; I just would not have much wiggle room (and that was before I realized I was going to lose an hour for time zone differences!) For the most part, the trip was pretty uneventful. It gave me time to listen to the new Bloody Irish Boys who I had learned the day before were going to be playing. That meant I would be able to scratch off two bands from my “I would love to see them play live, but I most likely won’t” list.

After dealing with construction through most of Illinois and parts of Indiana, I arrived into Columbus about 2:30, with the gates opening at 4:30. So thanks to the wonderful invention of gps and smartphones, I was able to make a trip to Whole Foods (my wife works at the one near our house and they have a great employee discount) to pick up some Great Lakes beer. I picked up some Dortmunder for the wife and the Octoberfest to try something new (their Christmas Ale is out of this world, by the way!) As I went to check out, I learned that the state of Ohio does not allow employee discounts on booze. Had I known that, I probably could have saved myself some time.

From Whole Foods, I then hauled tail to Lifestyles Community Pavillion, parked and headed to the gate where I was about 10th in line. 30 minutes later we were inside and I got a look at where I would be spending the next 7 hours. The venue has no seats, just an open-pit in front of the stage and lawn seating. They had set up a second stage for the evening so they could get the seven acts in with minimal downtime between if you did not mind shuffling between the two (yeah, guess who didn’t mind?!).

Right near the entrance they had the merchandise tents which I quickly dropped some hard-earned cash. Being the efficient man (read: lazy bastard) I am, I went straight down the line. I picked up some Street Dogs stickers for the back of the PaddyWagon (which had been looking a bit bare), then onto the Dropkick Murphys tent to get a Shamrock N Roll Festival t-shirt. I was sad to learn they had no stickers since I had lost the one I got when they played in St. Lou back in March. Undeterred, I moved next in line for the Bloody Irish Boys where I picked up 2 square stickers, and, after I told Shayne Underwood that I was going to be put them on my car, he let me have an actual bumper sticker for free! Thank you again, Shayne!

Next to them was The Mahones. I already knew I was getting one of their t-shirts. Their tent had shirts and CD’s, but no stickers – it looked the PaddyWagon was going to remain bare! By this time I had dropped $43 bucks and I had the choice of eating some dinner or picking up a Bloody Irish Boys t-shirt. Man does not live on food alone. Plus it would be a great exercise in mind over body.

By the time I had finished my shopping and figuring out how to haul all my swag (glad I wore cargo pants, that’s for sure), The Bloody Irish Boys were up on their stage getting themselves situated. At that point, due to some issues with sound, they did not play long. Meanwhile, The Mahones were set up and the first of many shuffles began.

At this point the venue was not very packed, so I was able to get a great spot in the pit while staying away from those wanting to mosh. From the first notes, my smile must have been huge – the energy from The Mahones was awesome! This is a band that is great recorded but AWESOME live! Their set blew me away and I was drunk on the vibrations and sounds assaulting me.

Their set list for the evening was:

  1. Drunken Night In Dublin
  2. Paint The Town Red
  3. A Great Night On The Lash
  4. County Down Whistle Solo
  5. Wild Rover
  6. A Pain From Yesterday
  7. One Last Shot
  8. Is This Bar Open ‘Til Tomorrow
  9. Drunken Lazy Bastard/Teenage Kicks

Once The Mahones were done, I headed back over to the side stage where The Bloody Irish Boys had apparently fixed the sound problem and were setting up again. Still on my high from The Mahones, I was even further elevated for the evening. At this point, I could have left and gone home and the trip would have been worth every minute and dime! The Bloody Irish Boys are a band that reminds me why I am enjoying the indies and regional bands – while maybe a bit raw and not polished and flashy, their music is attainable and is performed for themselves and their audience, not for the almighty buck (though I am quite sure they appreciate every buck they get!). Thank you Shayne and company for a great night.

Next up for the evening was the Street Dogs. By this time, the venue was starting to get fuller as more people started to flow in, but still not too bad for someone who gets claustrophobic in the press of mass humanity. The Street Dogs played with great energy but with a heavy political message and pro-union sentiment. Now before any unionists start to get up in arms and calling for a picket of me, in fair disclosure, I am a member of the CWA and have been for the last 8 years. I believe that the time for unions is past – they did serve a wonderful purpose but now they primarily serve to protect the incompetent, lazy and frauds. I have seen too many abuses of the negotiated benefits that make it difficult for aperson who has real need and they have to jump through hoops to get those benefits. OK, enough of my soapbox, back to the replay. At this point in the evening, my experience plateaued – while still enjoyable, it was not anywhere near the first two acts.

After the Street Dogs came the Parkington Sisters. I am at a loss who to describe their style except to say find some songs and give them a listen. The instruments are all acoustic, but the way the sounds blend is something indeed and they display a vicious sense of humor with each other that’s unique to siblings.  They also had a helping hand in their songs from Ken Casey and Chuck Ragan.

From here on out the night begins to blur for me as it became more and more crowded. By the time Stiff Little Fingers was on the main stage, I could no longer get into the pit and other than the diehards, most people had stopped shuffling between stages. People were camping out in the pit waiting for the Murphys and for Chuck Ragan on the side stage. Even though we were outside, the mass of humanity was starting to feel stifling to me. I did manage to bear it to hear Chuck Ragan. The growling vocals and rockabilly influence reminded me a lot of Cuthroat Shamrock.

Finally it was time for Dropkick Murphys to start. By now, I had moved up to the top of the lawn seat area so my vantage point was not that great, but since I saw them live 6 months ago with a great view, I did not mind. Once again, for those that have seen them, the Murphys put on a great show with lots of production and lighting. It makes me wish I could have seen them years ago before they had a budget for big shows and been able to see them raw.

Overall, it was a great night and I loved how members of other bands would hop in and out. Shayne Underwood singing with The Mahones, Ken Casey and Chuck Ragan with the Parkington Sisters, The Parkington sisters playing accordion for the Murphys and Nora Parkington singing the female lead of The Dirty Glass -it felt like everyone on the road was truly enjoying their time with the other bands.

All in all, I would say it was well worth the almost 26 hours on the go, the carb loading and caffeine highs and lows and I wish you were there with me. Below are some pictures I tried taking from my phone, I hope you enjoy!

Slainte!

p.s. I will try to work better on future posts – I have some albums to review, one of which will be the new Rusty Nail CD I will hopefully be able to pick up tomorrow.

 

 

Christmas in July

Since last Friday, I have been like a kid waiting for Christmas!  The Dropkick Murphys announced their Shamrock Roll ‘N Roll Fest in which The Mahones and Street Dogs are going to be playing.  Ever since I heard The Mahones were going to be playing in the States, I have been anxious to find out when and where.  So when DKM posted the news of The Mahones playing with them, I got excited and quickly told my wonderful wife (who is my enabler with my musical addiction), and when I told her the closest venue was in Columbus, OH (416 miles away) she did not shoot me down.

The concert is going to be on a Tuesday, so the first thing I had to do in order to make this dream a reality was to find out if vacation time is open for me to take at work for Tuesday and Wednesday.  I sent a message to a co-worker asking if I could have the time, and during the hours waiting to hear back managed my giddy nervous anticipation by trying to think about what the wife can do with our kids and our dog while being gone for 2 days.  The moment I got the news that vacation was available, I went into my work to request those 2 days off, lest they got stolen from me!

So as it stands, I have my days off, I bought my tickets on Saturday and now I have to be patient and wait.  This concert will be several firsts for me, it will be the first time for me to see The Mahones and Street Dogs, in addition this will be my first road trip JUST to see a concert.

In other news, Friday night I also saw The Irish Xiles, a St Louis Irish Rock band at Nick’s Pub.  Other than there having been a fair number of bar patrons being loud and not paying attention to the band, the night was enjoyable.  The Irish Xiles are a 3 piece band that utilizes a keyboard to synthesis the wind instruments, the lead singer was the guitar player and a drummer.  The most amusing thing I found during the night was seeing the Bodhran being played with an empty Budweiser bottle.  The band is still rough around the edges and not quite as hard-driving as I generally like, but it was a fun evening.  Rusty Nail is still at the tops of my local Irish Rock bands.

Speaking of Rusty Nail, to further add to my September anticipation, their new CD will be coming out which I will be receiving as I helped in their Kickstarter campaign.  You can catch some of their songs on the Celtic Folk Punk Sampler, it is a free download, so enjoy and check them out along with the other great bands included.

Well enough blathering, back to watching the clock and waiting for September 13th to get here.  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!