Reviewed by Henry Raby
There was a blog called Paddy Punx, which has since been removed sometime over the past year, presumably because of its links to mediafire. But you could find literally hundreds of celtic-tinged bands, handily divided into celtic punk, celtic folk, celtic rock, celtic metal and even celtic ska, with all manner of folk in-between. Currently the UK scene boasts some impressive celtic punk acts, Roughneck Riot and Smokey Bastard valiantly leading the charge. However, as the Paddy Punx website proved, there are great swathes of celtic punk who simply sound like watered-down Dropkick Murphys.
Bootscraper are something unique in the sense their love for all manner of music filters through their gritty Leeds roots and into a cavalcade of fantastic musical mayhem. They resist the urge to simply be a Flogging Molly-esque band and carve their own, rich and layered sound.
First track Orphan Sailor Sings opens with the cautious strum of an acoustic guitar building with drums and accordion into a fantastic shanty, the traditional sound and lyrics but delivered with gruff charm. Resurrection Man follows suit in the same shanty pirate-style vibe, C. C. Langhourne using his gravelly voice for perfect effect to tell a grim tale. Who Are You really grabs the pace with an uplifting rocking thumping jive. Contrast this with Resurrection Man, where Tim Loud’s haunting vocals paint a delightfully fearful story.
Bootscraper’s sound maybe be traditional in the sense it sounds like whiskey-soaked folk not out-of-place as the soundtrack to a bloody mutiny. However for this album they have really stepped-up their song-writing skills lyrically. The traditional images re-appear, however they have managed to craft deeper and harrowing tales behind the music, which sounds as tight as the jaws of a shark.
Just when you think you’ve had enough of this shanty sound, they throw a curveball in the form of bluegrass-tinged track Catch Me If You Can, like a Yorkshire version of Old Crow Medicine Show with some tight Americana harmonica.
The Family comes directly afterwards, again shifting the tone to an Eastern European, even Turkish-influenced, sound echoing seedy mafia vibes. The song explodes halfway through, and I imagine coupled with the catchy chorus works incredibly well when played live.
What follows next is, for me, the highlight of the album. Snappy folk-punk tunes can be found in most corners of the world, but with the 11 minute long Spit Shine Joe, Bootscraper push the boundaries of what their band can accomplish. A bitter, angry, haunting scary tale which goes through a multitude of singers, styles and instruments with an interweaving structure you can’t help but feel this track is a whole album unto itself.
The great power of Bootscraper is they don’t simply create 3 minute quick songs for a drunken rabble of an audience to jig to while chanting lyrics about Guinness (though they wouldn’t be out of place at that gig either). They’re not afraid to slow the pace, delve into some darker regions and play with imagery, fuse genres but keep the pinpoint power of the specific musical style fresh and undiluted.