Artist: Flatfoot 56
CD/Album: Black Thorn
Old Shoe Records 2010
From one of the coolest cities in the States comes one of the hottest punk bands in recent memory. Hailing from Chicago, IL, Flatfoot 56 was started in 2000 by the brothers Bawinkel: Tobin (vocals/guitar), Justin (drums), and Kyle (bass). Originally a three-piece punk band, the group eventually expanded their genre to include Celtic, adding Josh Robieson to bring mandolin and bagpipes to the mix. Josh left the group last year, opening the door for Eric McMahon (bagpipes/guitar) and Brandon Good (mandolin/guitar), long time supporters and friends, to join.
It won't surprise you to know that Flatfoot 56 is not only a hard-hitting punk band, but because of the addition of the bagpipes, they are also considered a Celtic band. And you might not be surprised to find that they can also be categorized as hardcore and screamo. But it might shock you a bit to find out they are also a Christian band.
The fifth album from this incredibly talented multi-genre band, "Black Thorn" is the rare music set that you can listen to dozens of times and never get bored, although you might just find yourself a wee bit tired from all the foot-stomping and heart-pounding. If you think you're too old for this music, then it's time to drag out the Hoveround and take up residency in south Florida, because you're going to miss out on the chance to recapture that youth who is still head banging and crowd surfing in your memories.
Here are some song highlights:
The Escape -- A very short intro, from the very beginning you realize this is the type of eye-opening drum heavy music that can easily replace caffeine in your morning wake-up routine.
Black Thorn -- Reminiscent of "Rawhide", you can close your eyes and imagine yourself racing across the southwest desert on a sweaty black steed, the Texas Rangers hot on your trail.
The Hourglass -- Holy Hindu, Batman, is that a sitar? No, it's a mandolin! Sounds of the Middle East resonate throughout this happy foot-stomper. I can see belly dancers and taste the curry.
Courage -- A very emotional tribute to those who sacrifice greatly for their families, you can count on getting choked up with this one. "Not because of a movie or a magazine, but because of your example you inspired me. Sacrifice in the midst of pain, I get a tear in my eye when I hear your name." Although this is the longest song on the CD, it's one that will leave you wanting more. Hit replay. Then look for the moving video on YouTube.
Smoke Blower -- Justin belts out the hard-hitting lyrics, of standing strong and not being swayed by the "big bad wolf." Makes me want to go kick some… More bagpipes (which I happen to be particularly fond of) in this one.
We Grow Stronger -- Heavy bass and throaty vocals from Kyle, along with exotic strains from the mandolin, mark this one. Mid-way through, the band seems to take a breather, softening the melody a bit before slamming you once again with their power. With thought-provoking lyrics such as "through our weakness we grow stronger," this one is sure to get you thinking.
Son of Shame -- This starts out sounding like a "typical" lyric-based Irish story-telling song, but quickly the drums kick in, reminding us this is Celtic Punk, after all.
Way of the Sun -- While the instrumentation is, as expected, top-notch, it is the lyrics that make this one great, such as "My joy is my strength, I’ll ask for nothing more." This song brings a lot of joy. Can't ask for much more than that.
Shiny Eyes -- This showcases Tobin's vocal talents, with his wife, Jane, adding her sweet voice to the mix. This song is less punkish, leaning more toward a lover's ballad. It will leave you wondering why Jane doesn't sing more with the band. Warning: Expect shiny eyes while listening.
Stampede -- I would classify this as screamo Paddy punk with background pipes, edgy guitar and of course, heart-pounding drums. An awesome, well, stampede, thundering over your eardrums.
You Won Me Over -- This is one song on the CD you can definitely dance to. Great riffs. Justin pounding the drums. Lyrics that give you pause. Tobin's husky, sexy vocals. What more could you want?
Born For This -- If I could pick one as a favorite, it would be this one. It reminds me of my misspent youth (think "Breakfast Club"). Ah, I lift my glass to those good times.
Hot Head -- Justin belts this one, the hardest and last of the set. It mixes just about every one of the elements found in the other songs--smoking Mid-Eastern sounding mandolin, hardcore-punk drums, a bit of screamo, hard-hitting flaming guitar riffs. A fitting end to an amazing musical romp.
After listening to the entire CD in one sitting, I'm not sure if I want to go find a mosh pit to work off some of the energy I've absorbed, or if a nap would be better. Maybe both.
July 5, 2011 -- Burning Bridget Cleary joined the world of Celtic music on St. Patty's Day in 2006 when, by what I would like to think was divine intervention, a group scheduled to play at a house party was unable to make the gig and father/daughter duo Lou and Rose Baldino stepped up to the plate. The duo was joined by Genevieve (Genna) Gillespie, Rose's childhood friend. Funny enough, it was Genna's family's group, Gilly's Hedge, who couldn't make it to the gig that fateful night.
The trio has embraced what I like to think of as a North American phenomenon wherein the Irish Celtic groups on the west side of the pond sound "more Irish" than the Irish groups do. This is certainly not meant as an offense to any Irish groups playing Celtic music, but is just a personal observation. I believe this stems from the Yanks, et al, striving to stay true to their roots, whilst the Irish, their feet already planted firmly in the cultural soil of their homeland, feel they have more freedom to musically explore their musical fence lines.
BBC certainly makes excellent use of those Celtic roots, as "Totes for Goats" clearly proves in each track. From hauntingly vocal-sounding fiddles to the deep heartbeat of the bodhrán and soul-wrenching D whistle, the very best in musical Ireland is represented here. BBC also has a recent welcome percussive addition of Canadian Peter Trezzi, who is heard on about half of the songs on "Totes for Goats." In prior works, Lou had the added duty of providing percussion when featured artists weren't available. By adding the explosive talent of Peter, Lou is now a bit freer to compose and concentrate on exploring his considerable talent for the guitar.
Oh, and let's not forget that this is the group who won the 2009 Celtic Music Radio award for their album "Everything is Alright." I fully expect "Totes for Goats" to follow closely in the success of that album.
A few comments on each of the album's tracks:
1. Where's Pete, The New Copper Plate, The Old Copper Plate, The Scholar
(featuring Nate Godshall on the bodhrán)
The first track on the album is a dance set that grabs you and makes you realize you are going to have to set aside the next forty-five minutes to listen to the album in its entirety. Typical of the traditional Irish dance sets, each song effortlessly flows into the next so you really aren't sure where one ends and another begins. This set showcases the wonderful fiddling talents of Genna and Rose.
2. The Elfin Knight
A traditional Scots ballad, this updated rendition is a foot-tapping endeavor and you quickly find yourself singing along. Mid-song, the tempo picks up with a southern rock element being added with drums and electric guitar, offset by the lilting voices of Genna and Rose. This is one of my favorites.
3. SLOPPY SET: SLOPPY'S SLIP JIG, THE NIGHT POOR LARRY WAS STRETCHED, Booley House (featuring Nate Godshall on the bodhrán)
The second dance set on the album, this one includes a quiet jig. The set brings to mind lords and ladies dancing a quadrille in a gilded ballroom while the wallflowers sip punch on the sidelines, hoping for their chance at a spin around the floor.
4. The King and the Fair Maid, Moses the Goat
When Genevieve and Rose harmonize on this track, you feel like you've been transported to the edge of a faerie glen, peeking through the bushes to secretly witness a sacred celebration filled with twirling dances and foot-stomping joy. This is a hundreds-year-old song with such humorous lyrics as, "Farewell my king, you've been generous and fine. What has been between your legs is now between mine," and is sure to become a favorite.
5. The Unfortunate Rake Set, The Unfortunate Rake, The Boy in the Boat, Jimmy' Groove
Number three of the album's dance sets features acoustic guitar that seems to sing unwritten lyrics. The Unfortunate Rake truly highlights Lou's amazing talent. This is the most haunting of the dance contained in this album.
6. Nead Na Lachan Sa Mhuta ("The Duck's Nest In The Moat")
Nate Godshall earns his keep on this one with the necessary addition of his bodhran. Siddharth Bhaskar joins in with the haunting D whistle. With Lou's guitar, the fiddles and the girls' Gaelic harmonizations, this is a toe-tapper that makes you wish you could riverdance.
7. Jigs for the Gangly Sort: Cameron's Twinkle, Trip to Spektor
This dance set starts out with lilting fiddle with acoustic guitar accompaniment that is quietly unassuming in the background, yet the instruments trade off, with the guitar becoming the focus while the fiddle seems to relegate to the background. Joseph Plowman once again joins the group with his throaty bass. These jigs have an edge that make them something fun to dance to.
8. Lament for Emil
Haunting soul-filled fiddle from Genna and Rose impregnate this song with a depth that needs no lyrics. In listening to this heart-wrenching song, I could imagine a Jane Austen moment as the heroine stands upon a rocky overlook, her long skirts and hair whipping behind her, watching the sea hopelessly for signs of her long-lost love who will never return.
9. The Blacksmith
The edgy guitar melody at the beginning of The Blacksmith sets the stage for the haunting vocals that tell the age-old story of love found and then lost. Rose and Genna harmonize beautifully in this rendition of an old English folk song.
10. To My Wife, Short and Sweet
Very beautiful and, true to its name, short and sweet at only thirty-nine seconds. This tune says "I love you" in the best possible way. It definitely leaves you wanting more, so you'll have to put this one on repeat.
11. The Fort: Are You Ready Yet, The Return to Miltown, The Fort of the Daft Woman
The last dance set on the album is probably the most fun. With acoustic guitar off-setting the fiddles, this one has a rock feel to it. Warning: With the addition of electric bass, this becomes a knee-slapping foot-stomper that could cause accidents if you listen to it while driving.
12. The Connemara Shore
This is the only song from "Totes" with Lou singing the lead. This track is reminiscent of sipping a pint in a quiet pub while being lulled by James Taylor in the background. Lou has a very pleasant voice, although it seems the melody is in a key a bit too high for him, lending a near-falsetto to his vocals. This is a beautiful song, however, and if you listen closely, you could swear you can hear the sea spray as it shatters against the crags along a lonely seashore.
13. The Cuckoo
When the song starts with the sweet notes of the fiddle, you might think it's a Celtic rendition of "How Great Thou Art," but the upright bass talents of Joseph Plowman intrude and catch you off-guard, and soon you find yourself swaying in your chair, eyes closed, wishing you had lyrics to sing along to.
No matter which song becomes your favorite, this album is certainly one you will do well to grace your Celtic collection with. Who can go wrong with fiery fiddlers, rocking guitar riffs, a percussion plethora and smoking vocals?
FAUN has finally released a new CD, and in this reviewer's humble opinion, it was well worth the wait.
Entitled "Eden", the composition is a collection of ballads, lullabies and dances that takes the listener on a romp through the Garden of Eden and beyond. The album is filled with poetry and joy as well as melancholy, taking you by the hand to lead you by cool waters, over green meadows and rolling hills, and even leads you to carefully tiptoe by a darker presence.
From the very beginning of the CD you are drawn in by the haunting melodies that permeate this musical story. Not only bringing their offerings of lilting, soulful harmonies, Oliver s. Tyr, Fiona Rüddeberg and Margareta Eibl also stun the listener with their multi-talented instrumental repertoire. Add to the mix the pounding beats from Latin-trained percussionist Rüdiger Maul, as well as the mixing and synthesizing genius of Niel Mitra, and Faun's "Eden" is a true tribute to the heavenly musical gifts that leave us mere mortals sitting in gaping appreciation.
Let me offer a brief song synopsis:
Lupercalia -- The perfect beginning to draw you in, Fiona and Margareta bring to the table a platter of tempting morsels sure to tempt you to stay for more.
Zeitgeist -- As Lupercalia drew you into the album, this one keeps you there. In Zeitgeist (loosely translated as "the tides and times"), Oliver lends his beautiful vocals as Rüdiger keeps the pace moving along with his percussive talents. This song is the only one on the album that has a more modern feel to it.
Iduna -- A joyful hand-clapper, "Iduna" is one of those rare songs that crosses cultures, bringing everyone to their feet to dance elatedly around the campfire.
The Butterfly -- As the name implies, this is an instrumental flutter through a meadow, darting from buttercup to orchid. It ends abruptly, though, leaving me with the impression the butterfly met up with a bullfrog.
Adam Lay Ybounden -- Along with amazing harmonizations, tambourines and flutes give this a renaissance faire flair. My favorite.
Hymn to Pan -- Oliver starts this one, his voice lulling you to join Pan and the nymphs in a twirl around the faerie glen. You can actually hear him smiling as he sings.
Pearl -- While this beauty has a Hebrew influence, it's quite amazing how well the bagpipes fit into this one. A real tribute to the instrumental talents of the group.
Oyneng Yar -- Rüdiger shines on this one with über-drums. Circle the wagons; this is going to be a wild Gypsy party.
Polska fran anderson -- Another talent-showcasing instrumental that leaves you breathlessly in awe of the group's amazing abilities.
Alba -- This gem is haunting. While no translation is necessary to understand the sadness and remorse evident in Oliver's storytelling, this one makes me wish I had taken German instead of conversational Spanish in school.
Ynis Avalach -- A montage of many of the different instruments the band members play, again the listener will be stunned by the group's plethora of talent.
Arcadia -- A bolder dance with a slight mid-east taste, Fiona and Rairda vocally skip through the meadow on this one as images of a storm brewing dart through the listener's mind.
The Market Song -- Oliver is joined by Fiona and Rairda to relate the sights and sounds of market day. Fiona's bagpipes take flight mid-song, switching to flute near the end, adding a real Celtic design to this.
Golden Apples -- If Arcadia reminds one of a pending storm, the first impression of Golden Apples is the cleansed earth after the after the storm. Beginning with birds sweetly chirping, the melody quickly changes to something darker. I could almost see the serpent slithering around the tree as he tempted Eve. A perfect ending to this treasure.