Columbia’s own Black Iron Gathering unleash their dynamic “party grass” on their “Summer” EP, a short but powerful dose of their Celtic-inspired folk punk. With a sound dominated by a lot of strings (guitar, mandolin, banjo, upright bass), they create a large folk assault that swirls around the listener until they are surrounded and must surrender to the boisterous sing-along charms. Owing allegiance to forebears like The Pogues and being firmly in the camp of modern Celt-punks like the Street Dogs or Flogging Molly, the band has a well-constructed punk basis underpinning its folk sound. Take away the traditional folk instrumentation and underneath it all are solid punk tunes that now-legendary punk rock singers like Fat Mike or Joey Cape could easily get behind.
The EP starts off with a bang, and “All the While” has a banjo attack that never lets up. All of the songs here are squarely in the sing-along category, with the undeniable catchiness of plenty of ‘whoa-oh-oh”s and “la-la-la”s making sure the band could hold sway or lead a riot over a bar full of tanked-up patrons; “A Friendly Reminder” is high evidence of this. The band shows a nice level of maturation on the record-closer, “Let’s Go In”, which is pretty poignant in its story of a soldier coming home. There is one cover in this bunch, a version of the Violent Femmes “I Held Her in My Arms” and its striking how close to the original they come. High energy with some great playing in the interlude part, it might seem like a strange song for the band to choose to redo, but when you think about it, the Femmes were an early version/ proponent of what is now called folk punk with their descendents being modern groups like Against Me!. With tons of instrumentation all competing wildly for your attention, its high adrenaline stuff no matter how you look at it.
Some might not see the South as a legit home for Celtic-punk, but the Black Iron Gathering takes this notion and turns it upside down. It’s obvious that the folk origins of the style have been rooted here since before the time of recorded music itself, and the incarnation that they bring to our state is just as relevant as any modern interpretations from the UK folk punk scene (think Frank Turner, Crazy Arm, Crowns). Both authentic and in your face, the torch is carried along with fine style by the Black Iron Gathering.
Recommended if you like: The Pogues, Street Dogs, Flogging Molly
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.