Now with added Pogues goodness!
Here's a tiny St. Paddy's Day subgenre for you: Celtic punk, a genre arguably invented by The Pogues, though surely influenced by both the "British" folkrock invasion and the early punk music of The Clash.
To truly explore the broader implications of this musical form requires deep understanding of many factors: the Irish diaspora, the evolution of fusion forms in music, the confluence of post-punk folk and the adolescent mindset, the modern commercialism of St. Patrick's Day. Such scope is beyond the purview of any blog. But considering the genre as a form of folk sheds new light on what is increasingly a sound recognizable from Galway to Graceland.
Though genre originators The Pogues came at Celtic punk from the streetpunk movement of our parents' generation, Celtic punk is also legitimately a subset of folk punk, a category which also includes folk rockers The Weakerthans and the early work of Billy Bragg, and is characterized by a sneering, often politicized attitude, high-energy performance, and electrified speed, even in unplugged mode. To this, Celtic punk adds the traditional instruments of Celtic rock music -- guitar, pipes, fiddle, bodhran, and the occasional squeezebox -- and the song structure and lyrical trope of the traditional Irish folk form.
The result is as diverse as it is distinctive. The definable sonic sector that is Celtic punk includes everything from slightly lilted folk rock ballads to traditional jigs at moshpit speed. Yet despite the differences, the realm is still definable for its lyrical ground in the plight of the working class, and -- perhaps more obvious to the layperson -- its worldbeat sound, full of high pipes and the unmistakable trope of the Irish pubsong.
As a fusion of multiple small-scale subgenres itself, it is no surprise that it is hard to find pure examples of the form. But the small number of pure Celtic punk bands is balanced by the large number of musicians who combine the basic elements of the subgenre. These essential elements are, after all, indigenous to everywhere from Halifax to Boston to the Emerald Isle herself. Where you find political dissatisfaction, post-rock young folks, venues that serve Guinness, and a critical mass of Irish musicians, inevitably, you're going to get something a lot like Celtic punk.
Today, a short set of tunes from a few bands who define the genre cluster, capture the Celtic punk style, and display a folkpunk political sensibility. Those expecting thrashpunk may be surprised -- though some Celtic punk retains the hard edge of its forefathers, it is sensibility, not hardcore sound, that ultimately lends the punk moniker to the majority of the musical form in a post-Pogues world. Nonetheless, those who come to Cover Lay Down for mellow tradfolk might prefer to skip down to today's bonus song section, which includes a few sparser, slower covers of songs originally written and performed by The Pogues.
- Dropkick Murphys, Amazing Grace (trad.)
- Black 47, For What It's Worth (orig. Steven Stills)
- Larry Kirwan (Black 47), I Ain't Marchin' Anymore (orig. Phil Ochs)
- Young Dubliners, If I Should Fall From Grace With God (orig. The Pogues)
- Great Big Sea, Mari-Mac (trad.)
- The Pogues, Honkytonk Woman (orig. Rolling Stones)
- The Pogues, Jesse James (trad.)
(from The Gang's All Here)
(from Bittersweet Sixteen)
(from Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village in the 1960's)
(from With All Due Respect: The Irish Sessions)
(from The Rest of the Best)
(from Rum, Sodomy, and The Lash)
Today's bonus coversongs, for the more mellow among us:
- The Tami Show's lo-fi living room cover of The Pogues' The Fairy Tale of New York
- Stars cover Fairytale of New York a bit more indie-pop
- June Tabor and The Oysterband do a zydeco-celtic cover of The Pogues' Lullaby of London
- Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan of The Pogues cover What A Wonderful World
We'll be back Sunday with more music appropriate for a folk coverblog on St. Patrick's Day. In the meanwhile, click on links above to purchase the works of these artists direct from the source.
Folkfans looking for more Irish drinking songs should also head on over to the always-excellent Setting the Woods on Fire for more from The Pogues, The Dubliners, and The Clancy Brothers, plus some great tradfolk from the Emerald Isle!
Previous Subgenre Coverfolk Features: