The Fisticuffs - You'll Not Take Us Alive (self-released, 2011)
On first impressions, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is your garden variety run-of-the-mill Celtic-punk-by-numbers. All the crucial elements are present. Tough guitars? Check. Sean Moriarty has the noise guitar covered, that's for sure. Gruff vocals? Check. Bobby Baldwin possesses one of those classic rough-and-ready punk voices. Pogues cover? Check (in this case, a cracking version of 'Young Ned of the Hill' that sounds nothing like the original.) Sound knowledge of Irish music and culture? Check. Working-class consciousness? Double-check. (These guys sound like they've never set foot inside an office, let alone worked in one.) But it doesn't take long for the passion, warmth and humour of the Fisticuffs to take hold. In no time you find yourself shouting along to anthemic choruses like 'We Are the Workers' and 'Paddys Need Not Apply'. You are itching to learn more about the characters that populate these songs, like the dear departed grandpa in 'Missin' the Bus', and wondering what it's like to be an Irish emigrant on the south side of Chicago. Very endearing stuff. The musicianship is of a rare quality, too. Dave Beneventi's mandolin is pretty inventive, and the rhythm section of Neal Farrell (bass) and Tony Dellorto (drums) are tight-as. But the kicker here is the fiddle. Arcadia Kust is the most emotive fiddler I've heard in a long time. It's not very often that I'm moved to describe Celtic punk as 'beautiful', but the fiddle playing here adds incredible dimension and depth to the Fisticuffs' sound. If this release by the Fisticuffs and the new one by the Dropkick Murphys are anything to go by, 2011 is going to be a bumper year in the world of Celtic folk punk!