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2023 Albums Thing 069 - Celtic Social Club “From Babylon To Avalon”

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The Celtic Social Club are a French/Celtic band playing the traditional Celtic musics of Breton, Scotland and Ireland mixed up with Rock, Reggae and Dance music. Originally formed in 2013 the original lineup featured singer Jimme O'Neill, best known as singer with Scottish band The Silencers but, of more interest to me, he had previously been the singer in New Wave band Fingerprintz who had made one of my very favourite singles of 1979, “Dancing With Myself” (not sure what’s going on with the picture here but it’s the right song https://youtu.be/yhR-e5uti0k).

Jimme O'Neill left the Celtic Social Club in 2018 to be replaced by my friend and top Irish singer/songwriter Dan Donnelly who had recently done a shift as guitarist with The Wonder Stuff. The connection with Dan is how I come to have crossed paths with the Celtic Social Club. The first thing I heard by them was via a joint single they did with Ian Prowse and Amsterdam as a tribute to Joe Strummer which had their “Remember Joe Strummer” on one side and Amsterdam’s “Joe’s Kiss” on t’other. “Remember Joe Strummer” turns up on this album in its original form and as one of the live bonus tracks recorded at the Beautiful Days Festival. 

I was expecting this album to kick into full on fiddley-diidley mode right from the off so “Sunshine” comes a quite a surprise, a gentle, grooving pop tune that could easily have come from any of Dan’s solo records. There’s a cool Uileann pipes solo toward the end but that’s it on the traditional front. “Dead End” is more of what I was expecting, a new-wave start with plenty of jigs/reels (I’m never sure of the difference) interjecting, but another that could easily have lived on a Dan Donnelly solo record. 

“Remember Joe Strummer” is a white-boy reggae lilt dedicated to to the great man himself.  One of my highlights on this record is up next “Pauper’s Grave” is an angry rant that (not that I’m an expert) sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place in a set by Flogging Molly or the Dropkick Murphy’s. That’s followed by another belter in “Santiago”, a big booming ballad concerned with finding your inner self on the Camino de Santiago (Pilgrimage of St James), it’s a beauty.

I really didn’t know what to expect from this album on first liston but I remember at the time being really surprised by it. It coulda disappeared into Celtic cliches but it doesn’t, I shoulda known better with Dan involved, well, it gets close on “OK Let’s Go” but one song in a whole album is forgivable. There’s a lot of styles in here and the band meld them fantastically into a whole that absolutely does it for me. If you're a fan of Flogging Molly and the Dropkicks I’d venture this is an album you want to lend an ear to.

Pauper’s Funeral - https://youtu.be/ruQaYRaHNxU

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