Oh my God, I really loved this album. I just want to say that at the very start! Frankly, after listening to this, I wanted to run around the house dressed as a pirate, eat haggis, and then run off to sea for a life of adventure with an old sea dog. I’m English, but it made me look for that kilt in the back cupboard that I last wore to a gig at Glasgow Arena.
It was totally unexpected as well, an album of sea shanties, fine tracks that they are, is not entirely my usual bag. But this time they are treated to a blast of fresh punk attitude that still remains true to the originals. Look, I never knew that I wanted to be a pirate, but after listening to “Dead Man’s Chest,” I am there with the bottle of rum, playing air guitar, and being annoyed that the volume won’t go up higher. Just wait until I am next on the motorway in the car, this one will blast through the journey.
Equally I have always known what to do with a drunken sailor early in the morning, but I’ve never heard it played with such gusto as this, do we actually shave his belly with a rusty razor?
Some of these have to be heard to be believed! There are plenty of bagpipes if you are in the mood (and surprisingly, I found I was). They open the album “Scotland the Brave,” an album that is a dual celebration of Scottishness and the band, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, “Songs Of The Highland, Songs Of The Sea” drops on Fat Wreck Chords on November 18th and is comprised entirely of famous traditional sea shanties that are roughly divided, as the record’s title suggests, between land and sea. And even though the idea for the album was initially proposed by guitarist Mario Nieva, these songs speak to frontman Paul McKenzie’s heritage as well as who he is, and who he always has been. Some might have been written long before he was born, but these are still his stories, wound inextricably into his life experiences.
“Mario thought we should attempt to do this,” he explains. “It wouldn’t take a lot of time in terms of writing, because all the songs were already written. In fact, most of the songs are ancient. They’re really old. I myself, being completely nautical, unfortunately, had to sell my ship due to the pandemic because I just couldn’t afford it, much like Angus Walters, who sold The Bluenose. That ship is on the Canadian 10-cent piece, so every Canadian can have reference to that piece of history, although a lot of Canadians now don’t give a shit or don’t know.”
Some of you out there may remember The Beach Boys doing a version of “Sloop John B,” now The Beach Boys do a sanitised version, nothing is sanitised here.
“They made a Californian pretty boy version of it,” says McKenzie, “but it’s not supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be a fucking hard ass sailor singing it.”
Also one of our favourites here at the magazine, Brenna Red of The Last Gang, joins as a guest vocalist on “Swansea Town” and absolutely nails it. The early-twentieth-century folk song “Swansea Town,” is a song so dear to McKenzie that he couldn’t bring himself to sing it. “Swansea Town,” like all of these songs, helped shape him and remains at the very core of who he is all these years later.
“At that point in time,” he explains, “I just couldn’t do it. I was at an emotional stress point at that time in my life. I am a sailor, and I’ve been sailing since 1963, when I had my first sailing adventure with my grandfather. He was way more of an asshole fucking c*nt than I am. He was renowned for this. My parents used to say ‘If you misbehave you’ll have to go spend the summer with your grandfather!’ They used it as a point of contention and as a threat for me. But unbeknownst to them, my grandfather and I got along great. He taught me everything I know about boats and sailing. It’s because of him that I’ve been a sailor my whole life, so when Mario suggested we do this I had to say yes. I have a feeling for all these songs. They mean so much to me.”
The love and devotion to the songs and material is there throughout. We do not give star ratings here, and I am told not to as it becomes subjective. The line at the magazine is that we review material we like and think our readers will too.
So I will finish by saying that I liked this a whole lot. There is so much shit in the world happening at the moment, and just losing yourself in these classic sea shanty tracks, with a melodic punk twist made my day. It was released on November 18th and is available through the links attached here, along with other suppliers, on general release.
“Blow this man down,” but he will get up again and fight even harder, all the way back to Liverpool town!
It is all about friendship, and once you dip in the official videos below, (“The Bonnie Ship the Diamond” I like a lot) you may like to catch the Real McKenzies on tour. I’ve put the tour dates at the end of this piece.
By Lorraine Foley
- 2 Jan 2023 in Barcelona, Spain @ DeskomunalCoop
- 3 Jan 2023 in Valencia, Spain @ Loco Club
- 5 Jan 2023 in Madrid, Spain @ Gruta 77
- 6 Jan 2023 in Bilbao, Spain @ Santana 27 Sala
- 7 Jan 2023 in Zaragoza, Spain @ Teatro De Las Esquinas
- 9 Jan 2023 in Saint Jean De Vedas, France @ Secret Place
- 10 Jan 2023 in Marseille, France @ Le Molotov
- 11 Jan 2023 in Lyon, France @ Rock’n’Eat
- 12 Jan 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland @ L’Usine
- 13 Jan 2023 in Dijon, France @ Les Tanneries
- 14 Jan 2023 in Ensisheim, France @ Woodstock Guitars
- 15 Jan 2023 in Brussels, Belgium @ Le Lac
- 17 Jan 2023 in Lindau, Germany @ Club Vaudeville
- 18 Jan 2023 in Nuremberg, Germany @ Z-Bau
- 19 Jan 2023 in Vienna, Austria @ Arena Wien
- 20 Jan 2023 in Ostrava, Czech Republic @ Barrak Music Club
- 21 Jan 2023 in Warsaw, Poland @ Progesja
- 23 Jan 2023 in Blackpool, UK @ Waterloo Music Bar
- 24 Jan 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland @ Bannersman
- 25 Jan 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland @ Bannersman
- 26 Jan 2023 in Huddersfield, UK @ The Parish
- 27 Jan 2023 in Derby, UK @ The Hairy Dog
- 28 Jan 2023 in London, United Kingdom @ New Cross Inn