The Mighty Regis - 21 (self-released, 2010)
Celtcore is a hard genre to be in if you don’t like being compared to other bands. No matter what a band sounds like, it will inevitably be compared to the Dropkick Murphys (if the band is on the punkier side), the Pogues (if it’s on the folkier side) or Flogging Molly (if it’s somewhere in between). A reviewer with more diverse tastes might even compare to the Tossers (for the folkier side) or the Real McKenzies (for bands that sway more Scottish than Irish). I’d be against these constant comparisons if most Celtcore bands didn’t fit so neatly into them.
Then I heard the Mighty Regis playing the Kevin Says stage at Warped Tour. If ordered at gunpoint to make a comparison, I would have to say they’re closest to Flogging Molly (with whom the Mighty Regis are friends, and in fact started at Molly Malone’s, the LA pub where Flogging Molly also got their start and their name). However, the Mighty Regis manage to cut a unique sound from the now widespread blending of Irish and Scottish folk with punk. I can’t quite explain what makes them so unique (I guess it’s an x-factor kinda thing), but you can hear it for yourself on the band’s latest release, 21.
The band doesn’t go for the diehard street punk vibe of Dropkick Murphys, staying more mellow and fun. The result is that this is a full-on party album instead of, well, whatever feeling the Murphys give people (for me, they just make me want to run around punching stuff). And unlike most albums by the Murphys or every album by their brethren Flogging Molly, there isn’t a single ballad on the album. The band never breaks down to just acoustic guitar and vocals with maybe some slight accordion or tin whistle. The closest the band gets is on the mid-tempo “Those That Gone Before” (to be fair, the song is just very light instrumentation and vocals for the first 45 seconds before the rest of the band kicks in) or the mostly instrumental closer “Jeni’s Whiskey.”
In only 3 albums, the band seem to have mastered the delicate blend of instruments involved in Celtcore faster than other bands of the genre. Dropkick Murphys are set apart from other punk bands by the non-traditional use of folk elements. Flogging Molly modernize Irish folk by adding electric guitars. The Real McKenzies started as a punk band and added bagpipes as revenge to their heritage loving parents that dressed them in kilts in their youth. By contrast, the Mighty Regis make acoustic guitars and mandolins sound perfectly natural next to electric guitars. For good examples, see “Paddy Don’t Live In Hollywood,” “Celtic Storm,” and “The Junkyard Dog And The Parlor Cat” (on that last one, I didn’t even notice the mandolin the first time through).
Overall, I think 21 straddles a fine line. Any previous fan of Celtcore should love the album, or at least fall on the more positive side of toleration. And I think most of my friends that don’t like Celtcore would be able to listen to it without wincing. Who knows, might even convert some of them to fans.
Just for fun, here’s a video of the band playing Flogging Molly’s “The Worse Day Since Yesterday” with Molly’s own Matt Hensley on accordion.
Side note: I didn’t mean to imply in that first paragraph that I don’t like Celtcore, but I feel like I came across as critical of the genre. I love Celtcore. I own several albums by the bands mentioned. I own both volumes of Shite & Onions and subscribe to the PaddyRock podcast. So I really do like Celtcore, I just feel like there’s not a lot of unique bands.
Side note 2: I do see the oddness of starting the post complaining about comparisons and then spending the rest of the post comparing. What I meant in the first paragraph was comparisons composed of “they sound like...” Later on, I mentioned the other bands to show the relative differences of the Mighty Regis. That may not be any better, but at least I didn’t just say “the Mighty Regis sound like Flogging Molly.”
This is the digital download version, for the physical CD click here: 21