How many celtic bands can boast the fact that three of the members have played bagpipes for royalty - one at the New Year’s Eve 2000 extravaganza in London, two others in the Millenium Pipes March in Edinburgh for Prince Charles and his Marie Curie Cancer Fund? Barleyjuice, the Philly-based group with a penchant for all that is “trad-rock” can, and are presently garnering affection and respect in the New World. Formed by Staten Islander Keith “Swanny” Swanson after a memorable stint with the now legendary Flailin’ Shillelaghs, the ‘Juice have brought traditional sounds a long way from their Ellis Island predecessors.
“Why wouldn’t people love Barleyjuice?” muses frequent frontman Kyf Brewer, “We can dance with your daughter, mosh with your son, sing with your grandmother, and toast your dad under the table. And we’re so attractive and humble your mum’ll be cookin’ for us by night’s end..”
Humble, indeed. Within one performance, the individual members of the demonstrative sextet -Brewer, Keith “Swanny” Swanson, Ian Parker, Graham Ford, Julie Baker and Greg Schroeder pilot a barrage of instruments encompassing guitar, mandolin, fiddle, accordion, bouzouki, tinwhistle, bass, drums, and pipes in addition to physical antics, gruff and tumble vocals, and instrumental jawdroppers, all for seemingly as much their own amusement as any audience member. The bagpipes close one set with a high energy three-piper duel. Brewer even executes a mean highland fling. This is a Concord across the pond for any zealot of the dog-eared celtic-classic songbook.
Their sound having once been described as “the Rolling Pogues”, Barleyjuice is more inclined to dub themselves “a Lovely Little Drinking Band with a Serious Ceilidh Problem” - the word, “ceilidh”, gaelic term for “party”, fitting them as aptly as their kilts - suitable swatches of toggery that their rapidly widening fanbase has grown to expect, as well the subject of much curiosity and repartee along with knee-high hose, waist pouches called sporrans, and t-shirts bearing images of rockstars and beer. Only the lovely fiddler Baker breaks fashion with her ankle-length slitskirts and brooched fly-plaid.
“People are endlessly fascinated with the age-old mystery of what’s worn under the kilt,” says Brewer, “so we tease ‘em a bit. During the shows we’ve had women who’ll just wander up and boldly look for themselves..” “I feel so cheap,” quips Swanson, to which Ford japes, “Yeah, c’mon - you could at least buy him a drink first.”
So why do their accents seem to meander from Irish to Scottish to British cockney? Where are these guys from anyway? “We’re all yanks,” confesses Kyf. “Born and bred. That’s just how these songs sound when you’re singin’ with your tongue in your cheek. We love this music - it’s got such heart and wit that we can’t help but mock it and rock it up.”
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Individual BiographyKyf Brewer - vocals, guitar, accordion, harmonica, congas, bodhran, tinwhistle, bagpipes, haggis, jam butties. Because he is the Pipe Sergeant of the Loch Rannoch Pipe Band, Brewer's not shy when discussing sheep he has known and loved. He is the singer/songwriter for himself on Ryf Records, and was previously singer/songwriter for Company of Wolves, 1989-91 on Mercury/Polygram, and before that, the singer/songwriter for The Ravyns, 1980-86 on MCA. He was marching proudly along in 1995 when a director from VH1 tapped him to be narrative host for over 40 episodes of Before They Were Rock Stars. And boy did he then march ever so proudly in the Millenium Pipes March, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2000. Kyf doesn't much care for pretzels. His favorite colour is plaid.
Keith Swanson - vocals, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, tinwhistle,
bagpipes, bass, mutton kebobs. Though spurned at birth and subsequently raised by squirrels, Swanny has shown great adaptive skills. After leaving the security of his treetop home to rejoin the human world, he eschewed acorns in favor of guitars and bagpipes, and earned the rank of Pipe Major of the Loch Rannoch Pipe Band in 1997. He and they marched in the Millenium March in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2000. Swanny founded Barleyjuice with Kyf and others in 1998. His uncanny ability to pick an apropos jig is the stuff of celtic-rodent legend.
Greg Schroeder - drums, percussion, vocals, gas receipts. This is the first plunge into trad music for Greg the drummer of Barleyjuice. Along with Dennis, Greg also plays, sings and writes for Starbelly, who have released two albums - Lemon Fresh, and Everyday and Then Some for the NotLame label. Known intimately as "the Shredder", he's usually the first band member asked to turn down on any given occasion. Greg obliges by standing up behind his kit and exposing his ill-fitting kilt, which immediately deters most cranky venue managers into requesting that he please "sit down" as opposed to "turn down".
Dennis Shocket - guitar, bass, ciggies, vocals. Dennis Shocket is half Irish. Hey, it's the good half, the half that sings, the half that plays guitar and the half that makes sweet love! Alright, three halves Irish, then. Dennis has toured the U.S. with his band Starbelly and the likes of Pat DiNizio (Smithereens) and Warren Zanes (Del Fuegos) as well as the U.K. and Spain while a member of Myracle Brah. Dennis loves a good pint of Bass Ale if you're buyin' (he does after all play bass) and enjoys Kyf's living room amenities.
Billy Dominick - fiddle, violin, vocals. Billy started playing violin in the womb through a groundbreaking technology developed by The Suzuki Foundation and Boeing called "Strings in Utero". The program was stopped however because of the discomfort many expectant mothers experienced during insertion of the tiny violins through the birth canal.
Once born, Billy began his music studies in earnest by running around the house at full speed to the soundtrack of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This quickly progressed to actually playing an instrument.
Billy's first instrument was glockenspiel. Because of this he was despised by the folk music community. His second instrument was violin. Unsatisfied, however, with the traditional styles of playing, a protesting young Billy would paint himself purple during concerts and throw doorknobs at the audience, which resulted in being banned from most stages both at home and abroad. After a long stint in rehab and many years of "re-education", Billy joined Barleyjuice as part of his work-release program. If crowd response is any indication, it looks as if Billy may have finally found a home. He has stopped painting himself primary colors and has progressed to pastels. And he no longer throws hardware at his fans.
Jimmy Carbomb - The Whistler. Jimmy originates from "regions unknown". Formal training in music is not an option in the Irish Pubs, so we'll chalk it up to absorption. Once a kiltmaker, he now prefers to travel the world and educate the people in the "ways of the tartans". Our song "What's Up Yours?" is more than just a performance piece... it's his mantra. Favorite colors include Irish National Tartan green, and Guinness brown. Any and all complaints should be handled delicately through the band management team.
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Listener CommentsMember Name:
We of the McGuires Pipe Band of Pensacola, FL are devotees of the boys (and girls) of Barleyjuice. In fact, for three years running at our annual ceilidh and at weddings and other gathrerings we perform favs such as "What's up yours", "Nancy Drinks Tequilla" and "Whisky to the Sea" (my personal favorite). Slàinte!
Member Name: Celtic Radio
Date Posted: 04-Jan-2008
A new CD by Barleyjuice is in the works - will have it on Highlander Radio as soon as it is released which I understand will be very soon!
Member Name: Rindy
Date Posted: 18-Feb-2007
I would love to see this band live Macfive. Thanks for posting this I will pass it on.SlainteMacfive posted:Word comes to us that the Fabulous Barleyjuice is offering a free download of a never before released track "Mull of Kintyre" in conjunction with their upcoming gig on March 1st, 2007 at the Iron Horse in Northampton Massachusetts (78 Main Street; 8:00 pm; 413-586-2632). Listen, if you live anywhere near Northamptom you need to see one of the finest Celtic Rock groups perform. These boys sure can put on a show - ask anyone on our Community forums about Barleyjuice and you will hear a resounding "hell ya - go see them."Tickets at the door are $13, but you can buy a ticket directly from Barleyjuice for the reduced price of $10 by emailing Barleyjuice at firstname.lastname@example.org - plus they will hook you up with the free music download "Mull of Kintyre." This track was performed on the Linda McCartney tribute album and is a definite must additional to your music library for any Barleyjuice fan.Pass this note on to anyone you know that lives in the area and might be interested in this show. Thanks so much from all of Celtic Radio!
Member Name: Jimmy Carbomb
Date Posted: 09-Sep-2006
If you would really like the tabs or anything else from the band, feel free to email. Whenever possible, you'll get back exactly what you're looking for. Let them know that I directed you to the email and it may help for a response.
Member Name: Roberto Phoenix
Date Posted: 03-Sep-2006
Guitar tabs, sheet music, anybody know if anything is posted anywhere. I know the lyics are on the website but I would like to find some tablature for What's Up Yours and Pretty Wild Bride
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