The Whisky Priests,
Here Come the Ranting Lads -- Live!
(Whippet, 1999)

The Whiskey Priests were originally formed back in 1985. There have been a few additions to the line-up and over the years they have astounded audiences in live performances. This live CD gives the listener a taste of that invigorating performance style.

The title track opens the CD and it is definitely a good opener as it sets a scene of joyful playing and an audience already wanting more. This is folk music at breakneck speed and as such it is highly enjoyable.

"Widows of Hartley" is a fascinating track. The sentiments are sad and somber -- "our men and boys are dead, our lives cracked open" -- but the singing and music is manic. "Everybody's Got Love Bites But Me" is another high-speed tour of life that is great to listen to at high volume.

On first hearing this CD you might be forgiven for thinking that it is a merry and uncaring group but then you hit "This Village," a love song to a village that calls the singer home. Despite the rollicking tune, "Alice in Wonderland" is an excellent song with a real message. Here is life in the raw about a woman trying to cope with a bad marriage -- "she moved to Dead End Street from Opportunity Rise." The Whiskey Priests take us from this sentiment on to positive thinking and tells us to "think positive, think confidence, think I am in command." "Side by Side" is another excellent track telling us to stand together. The more we hear this band the better they sound and the quality of the self-penned material grows with each track.

It gets to track 8 before we get a gentler touch. "Song for Ewan" is all the more beautiful as the band sings it with an emotion that carries a hair-prickling feeling. It sounds like an anthem that brings tears to the eyes and lumps to the throats of live audiences. I would love to experience this live, but the recording can get to you equally well.

These are songs from the heart and they need to be heard whether it is "A Better Man than You" or "Workhorse." "Blackleg Mining Man" is a lovely song that is sung a cappella with the audience clapping. The coal-mining tradition comes through again as they sing about "Grandfatha's Fatha" and the band wears hearts on sleeves as they celebrate the great people who gave their lives to keep bosses rich and fires burning. "The Oakey Strike Evictions" is another powerful song concerning miners that should have a much wider audience.

Isn't it sad that some of our best music comes from suffering? This sad theme continues with "Mother, Waiting" as the lady waits "for her soldier boy son to come home." The CD concludes with a comic piece called "Car Boot Sale" (a sort of garage sale for U.S. readers). My fervent wish is that this CD never ends up in such a sale.

This is a CD of live music that will bring you alive -- even if you feel down. May the Ranting Lads rant on and get a much wider audience. They have a raucous sound but this often masks a very caring soul. The lyrics are sentiment made real and I can't wait to hear more.

You will miss a chapter in folk music and English history if you ignore this CD.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 29 March 2003