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MP3 The Volunteers - Whiskey, Love & Disaster - American Celtic

The first "all traditional" album from America''s most kick-ass Celtic Rock band, The Volunteers.

10 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Folk Rock, WORLD: Celtic

Liner Notes from The Vols'' CD "Whisky, Love & Disaster"
We were rehearsing a clutch of Scots/Irish traditional tunes for a gig on St. Patrick''s day, 2001. The band was cranking and sounded too good not to record. We laid the tracks down very fast over a long weekend and two long evenings at Miami Beach Recording Studios where the tunes were engineered, mixed, mastered, beaten into snarling submission and cast out into a cold dawn by Looch. This CD is the result ...

The Irish Rover
A 19th Century Irish tall tale of the wreck of the thirty-seven-masted schooner, "The Irish Rover," which sets sail for New York loaded to the gunwales with a jumble of rags, bones and odds-&-ends. In the seventh year of the crossing, while all of her motley crew - save the singer and the skipper''s old dog - lie helpless, struck down by the measles, she is wrecked in a fog. Henk''s sons, Alexander and Cameron, helped us out with much-needed barking and grunting on this one ...

Star of the County Down
A love-struck farmer vows to forswear his plough and even the comfort of his pipe until he has made the local beauty his wife. The words are probably 19th Century Irish, but the tune hails from 1650''s Scotland where, as "Gilderoy," the original lyrics celebrated the exploits of a Scottish bandit who crowned a string of murders by knifing his mistress, sister and mother - and hanging a judge for good measure. The compliment was returned on a gallows near Edinburgh in 1636. We take this old Scottish tune with its more familiar, modern Irish lyrics for a fine ranting gallop ....

The Mountains of Mourne
A letter from a lonely Irish country lad reporting the dubious wonders of London to his sweetheart back home. The lyrics were scribbled on a postcard by the Irish songwriter, Percy French, on seeing the Mountains of Mourne through the mist across the water in 1896. French sent the card to his musical collaborator, Houston Collisson, who set the words to an 18th Century traditional Irish air. We stick to the original waltz tempo on this one ...

I''ll Tell Me Ma
This is an Irish nursery rhyme - probably a skipping song - teasing the love-struck young swains of the "Belle of Belfast City" - some versions have her in "Dublin City" - which dates back to at least the 19th Century. The same tune with a wide assortment of other lyrics has been sung by children, jumping rope, all across Scotland, for just as long. That the tune works so effortlessly as a rock-shuffle is testimony to the deep Scots/Irish roots of modern American rock''n''roll ...

The Foggy Dew
On Easter Monday, 1916, while the Great War raged in Europe, a rag-tag coalition of Irish freedom fighters occupied the government buildings in Dublin and shook out the green flag of an Irish Republic. The rebels held out against the British army for five days of bitter fighting which left much of the city center in ruins and 1,400, all told, dead and wounded. The summary execution of the leaders and the savage reprisals that followed sparked a civil war and the troubles of an Ireland divided that continue to this day. These words were written in 1919 by a parish priest, Canon Charles O''Neill, to commemorate the rebellion and to exhort Irishmen to fight for Irish freedom rather than on the battlefields of a foreign war in the cause of a foreign power. The tune is much older ...

Whisky in The Jar
This perennially popular Irish tune dates from at least the 1840''s but the lyrics vary wildly between the many versions. They all tell the tale of a highwayman who robs a Captain - usually "Farrell" but sometimes "Everett" - at sword and pistol-point in the "Calvert," "Kilmagenny," "Cork and Kerry," "Western Kerry" or other real or imaginary mountains. He takes his plunder home to his drab - usually "Molly" though sometimes "Jenny" - and falls asleep, drunk on her bed. As he sleeps, the faithless hussy betrays his whereabouts to the Captain who bursts into the room at dawn. Depending on the version, the highwayman''s pistols then either misfire because Molly - or Jenny - has wet the charges, or he shoots the Captain dead. Either way, he is thrown in prison, which is where some versions leave him, while others allow him to escape, usually to join his brother in the army. You can basically mix-and-match lyrics to suit yer taste - and we did ...

A Man You Don''t Meet Everyday
The singer, James Stuart, bears the name of a Scottish king and drunkenly boasts of his lands, the many men at his beck and call and his great wealth. He bids his listeners fill their glasses with "brandy and wine" (heavily-taxed, expensive, fancy French tipple, rather than the whisky and porter that was the drink of the common man) and hang the expense! - For they are drinking with "A Man You Don''t Meet Everyday!" This timeless portrait of the unlovely nouveau riche probably came over to Ireland with the Scottish settlers of the Ulster Plantation of the 17th Century. The original lyric, which set the scene on "the banks of the Spey," were changed to place our hero hunting with his dog and gun "down in the County Kildare." We treat the song like the pub sing-along that it is ...

All Around My Hat
Some may know this tune with Irish rebel lyrics in which a girl laments the death of her gallant soldier boy in Dublin''s Easter Rising of 1916. Others may know the quite different Steeleye Span UK hit version of the early 1970''s. The melody is, in fact, early 19th Century English. The Steeleye version adopted the lyrics of a different early 19th Century tune - "Farewell He" - which turned the song into a sermon to young girls on the inconstancy of young men. In the original 1820''s version, however, done here, a London barrow-boy vows to be true to his girl, sentenced to seven years transportation to the Colonies for theft and to mourn his loss by wearing green willow sprigs in his hatband for "a twelve-month and a day." (The "weeping willow" has been a symbol of mourning since the Israelites hung their harps on the willow trees and wept by the waters of Babylon, as recorded in Psalm 137). The original lyric is interspersed with Cockney costermongers'' cries which we leave out. (We also doubt that it was played as a rock-shuffle back in 1826) ...

The Black Velvet Band
The tale of a hapless Belfast apprentice who falls for a pretty young pickpocket in a bar, gets drunk, is arrested for possession of stolen property and is sentenced to seven year''s transportation to the prison colony at Van Diemen''s Land - modern-day Tasmania. The song ends with our hero warning against the dangers of pretty girls and strong liquor - "Whisky, Love & Disaster," indeed. The tune is actually an early 19th Century English seafaring song - "The Tars of the Blanch" - and the earliest versions of this story are written in London thieves'' cant in which a "flash cull" is nabbed for "faking a cly" in the English town of Barking. We, though, follow the familiar Irish lyrics to the conventional waltz tempo ...

The Parting Glass
There are manuscript versions of this tune dating from the early 1600''s in Scotland and - as "Over the Hills to my Nanny-O" - it appeared in Scottish broadsides by the 1650''s. As "The Parting Glass," with up to three more verses than the "canonical" three that appear here, the song began to appear in broadsides throughout the British Isles by the 1770''s. The majority of surviving copies were printed in Cork and Dublin in the 1850''s. We took the usual liberties allowed by the folk tradition in stretching a line or two and changing a couple of notes, but this straight-ahead rocker is, otherwise, a set of 200-year-old lyrics from Ireland set to a 400-year-old tune from the Scottish Highlands ...

And To America ...

These tunes are still sung in the lands of their birth, but they also became truly "American" almost as soon as they were borne. They came with the many "Scotch-Irish" - the Scots of the Ulster Plantation - who settled the Eastern Seaboard in the waves of immigration of the 17th and 18th Centuries. They came with the millions who fled Ireland after the famines of the 1840''s and the steady stream of Scottish and Irish immigrants before and after. These tunes were played on fiddles and banjos, on harmonicas and penny whistles, in logging camps in Canada, on porches of cabins down the Appalachians, around campfires on the long cattle-trails, on the wagon trains west, in the taverns of the seaports and in every bustling new settlement of the young country. This is the music which formed the foundation of what we now know as "Country" and "Bluegrass." This is the music which clashed and melded with the Blues to form Rock-a-Billy. This is the music of the Celtic Diaspora - and the roots of Rock''n''Roll.

We hope you enjoy listening to these tunes as much as we enjoyed laying them down!


The Volunteers
This excerpt from page 153 of "Drone On!: The High History of Celtic Music," Winnie Czulinski, (available on https://www.tradebit.com)

". . . a lot of Americans would argue their own kind, through that Scots-Irish influx, has dragged on Celtic musical traditions longer than the homeland. As well, Irish beats mixed with African rhythms to become rock music. The bodhran backbeat of jigs and reels also morphed into the train-beat of rockabilly, and hence to rock ''n'' roll. That''s the thinking of American longtime folk-rocker Henk Milne, known as the "big voice" of The Volunteers, a band equally inspired by the Volunteers who held Dublin against the British Army in 1916 and an LP by 1960s California acid-rockers Jefferson Airplane who held the age of psychedelia against the PTA. This folk-rock progression is why Milne and his crew have happily embarked on what purists would scream sacrilege, writing lyrics to Turlough O''Carolan''s 17th- and 18th-century tunes, and rocking them out. O''Carolan, it seems, was a bawdy old jokester who actually penned words to a lot of his tunes, so welcome to keeping tradition alive in the new land. Milne''s band Voluntarily takes time-honored Celtic themes into LPs like Whiskey, Love and Disaster, not a bad reference to Celtic history as a whole. They''re also something of an anomaly in a south-Florida scene that''s always gone for the Latin dance-flavored stuff, but as The Vols are called a full-throttle runaway locomotive of a band, that may have changed by now."


"STREET MAGAZINE," Miami, March 15, 2002 : BY RENE ALVAREZ


When one says the word ''''Irish,'''' most people think of beer-soaked pubs, large women and sad, mournful tragedies set to music that make even men cry. I can''t remember a good St. Paddy''s Day that didn''t end in a tearful sing-along with glasses held loftily in the air as spilled beer baptized all below. Only one band brings that species of drinking-joy to Miami venues year-round wherever they play, and that band is the Volunteers.

Put together in the early ''90s by singer/songwriter Henk Milne, this loud, rowdy Irish band -- Miami''s only band of the sort -- wreaks havoc in local venues with their drink-inspiring performances. So rowdy, in fact, that the local police once raided a Volunteers show for being too loud. This week the Volunteers follow up their 1999 self-titled album of original tunes with a collection of traditional Irish songs done a la 21st Century. The ''''Vols'''' took folk songs a couple hundred years old and gave them the veneer of the Americanized Irishman, and the album was christened Whiskey, Love and Disaster: American Celtic. ''''It was the music of the immigrants from Celtic cultures, predominantly Scotland and Ireland, that formed the backbone of American folk music forms such as country and bluegrass,'''' Milne explains. ''These musical styles, in turn, clashed and melded with blues and gospel to form rockabilly and rock ''n'' roll, and all these musical styles form part of the American Celtic heritage.'''' Underbelly speaks with Milne about the album, Irish history and the roots of rock n'' roll.

Underbelly: The Volunteers are a great all-original Celtic rock band in their own right. Why put out a record of traditional music?

HM: Most traditional players try to replicate the old tunes exactly the way that they have always been played. This has resulted in a body of music that is not really a living ''''folk'''' music anymore but has become pretty much frozen into a classical form. This ''''reverent'''' approach to the music is valid and the result is often very enjoyable, but it is not ours.

While we have always played traditional tunes in our shows, we approach them as modern American musicians. You can hear country and rockabilly references on this CD and -- despite the fact that we only used acoustic instruments -- a lot of it sounds like straight-out rock. Next CD up will probably be an original one.

Underbelly: Of all the songs you did for the album, is there any in particular that really goes way back for you? A song that brings back a certain time in your life?

HM: Yes, there are two which I first heard and loved, not as folk tunes, but as pop-chart-toppers when I was a teenager growing up in London back in the early ''70s. The Irish rock band Thin Lizzie, had a U.K. hit with ''''Whiskey in the Jar'''' and the penny whistle and fiddle turnarounds between the verses on our take on the tune are a sly reference to Phil Lynott''s guitar riff on that version. The other tune is ''''All Around My Hat,'''' which -- with different words -- was an early ''70s U.K. hit for the excellent folk-rock band, Steeleye Span. Their treatment was also a rock-shuffle.

Underbelly: These are the words of other men from another time. Was it hard to place yourself in their shoes? How much of this album is Irish and how much of it is Miami''s Volunteers?

HM: Most of what I had to sing about on Whiskey, Love & Disaster dealt with the universal themes of love and loss, often in powerful words, conjuring up striking imagery. It was not hard to put myself in the singers'' shoes. As for the balance of the question, these are strong tunes with well-crafted lyrics, which is why they have stood the test of time. So, I guess that while they are all Irish -- or Scottish -- they are also very much a product of Miami''s Volunteers.

Underbelly: On several listens on the album, I can''t shake how much Celtic music has influenced American bluegrass and country. What are your thoughts on the American bastardizations?

HM: I am glad that the American Celtic flavor came through loud and clear! I have always liked basic roots country music and have always loved bluegrass. And of course, country has been a tremendous influence on the development of rock music from bands like the Grateful Dead and CSN & Y, onward. However, I have about the same respect for the formulaic, ersatz-cowboy saccharine that is churned out as country nowadays as I do for the TV evangelists who form part of the same cultural continuum.

Underbelly: You gave each song a little history in the liner note of the CD? Why did you think that was important to do?

HM: I wanted to show that, although we may think of these tunes as Irish, many are originally Scottish or even English and that they arrived here almost as soon as they were created, with immigrants who came here from those countries and continued their native folk traditions here. I wanted people to understand that this is, and has been for centuries, our music, too. Hence, American Celtic.

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