WHISKY PRIESTS

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Nee Gud Luck

Released: November 1989

Label: Whippet Records

Formats: CD / Cassette / Vinyl LP

Cat. No.: WPTCD4 / WPTC4 / WPT4

 

Notes

The Whisky Priests debut studio album.

 
Track Listing
 
 
 
 
1. The Colliery
 Lyrics
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 2. Shut Doon the Waggon Works
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 3. The Rising of the North
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 4. Streets Paved With Gold
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 5. Jenny Grey
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 6. The Coal-Digger's Grave
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 7. Dol-Li-A
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 8. Halcyon Days
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 9. Death of the Shipyards
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 10. The Oakey Strike Evictions
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 11. Pressgang Medley: a) Captain Bover / b) Here's the Tender Comin' / c) Proudlock's Hornpipe / d) Harvest Home
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 12. The Durham Lockout
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 13. Spring-Heeled Jacks
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 14. Collier's Rant
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 15. The Recruited Collier
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 Bonus Tracks [CD Version] : -
 
 
 
 
 16. Bill Hartnell
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 17. Adam Buckham
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 18. Grandfatha's Fatha
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
 iTunes
 Amazon
 19. Geordie Black
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
iTunes
 Amazon
 20. The Clog Dancer
 Lyrics
 Bandcamp
 iTunes
 Amazon
 

Credits

Recorded at Cluny Studio, Byker, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, August 1989.
Produced by The Whisky Priests and Mickey Sweeney.
Engineered by Mickey Sweeney. 
Band Photography by Phil Neely.


The Whisky Priests line-up on this recording : -
Gary Miller - vocals, acoustic 6 & 12 string guitars, nylon-strung guitar, bouzouki, mandolin
Mick Tyas - bass, vocals
Glenn Miller - accordion, backing vocals
Pete French - fiddle, northumbrian smallpipes, spoons, mandolin, backing vocals
Steve Green - drums, percussion
Bill Bulmer - mandolin, harmonicas, bouzouki, jews harp, backing vocals

Guest Musicians : -
Members of Bearpark & Esh Colliery Band:
   Arranged by Dave Young
   Michael Evans - Cornet
   Garry Mitchell - Cornet
   Gareth Young - Trombone
   Alun Young - Euphonium
   Dave Young - Tuba

 

Reviews

“The long-awaited first album from County Durham’s finest ‘punk-thrash-folk’ outfit won’t disappoint those who have their 12” EP’s, and will win over others more traditionally-inclined and not previously attuned to The Whisky Priests’ loud and fast renderings of Durham mining songs and dance tunes.
The fifteen tracks on ‘Nee Gud Luck’ come from the same sources as before – old songs of Tommy Armstrong sit side by side with contemporary, locally and topically-based compositions from lead singer Gary Miller with help from brother Glenn. Since the brothers formed the band they have garnered a wide reputation for their raw Pogues-like treatment of ‘trad.’ material, but the recent addition of Northumbrian pipes and fiddle, alongside mandolin, harmonica and spoons has broadened the band’s scope and has resulted in a remarkable mature work of variety and vitality, rewarding attentive listening and inviting frenetic dancing.


Side one’s attractions include a new arrangement of the Priests’ first single ‘The Colliery’, complete with brass band, and a vibrant reworking of ‘Dol-Li-A’, an old Newcastle street song that contrasts with the haunting melody of ‘Jenny Grey’, accentuated by the pipes, accordion and mandolin – very Northumbrian-sounding but a Miller Brothers’ original. The second side finds the Priests in full flow. Glenn’s ‘Death of The Shipyards’, featuring his accordion with appropriate percussive clanks as background, suggests a Wearside equivalent of a Phil Cunningham air, and is followed by a raucous ‘Oakey Strike Evictions’ and a lively set of Pressgang songs and tunes. 


It was their arrangement of Tommy Armstrong’s poem ‘The Durham Lockout’ which made the greatest impact on this listener’s ears. Gary’s rough vocal, backed initially by solo pipes, and gradually by the group ensemble with accordion to the fore, emphasises the bitterness and harshness of the old colliery life. 


In short, ‘Nee Gud Luck’ is a cracker of a debut – a splendidly successful fusion of old and new in which The Whisky Priests simultaneously reveal a healthy respect for their own cultural past and considerable musical promise for the future.”



(Neil Hedgeland, ‘Folk Roots’, UK).



“The Whisky Priests on their early EP’s lead a ferocious punk thrash slam dance through traditional and original North-East music. Described then by Sounds as “compulsive dementia” and “accordions on acid”, with the energy and anger of Crass or The Exploited, with frantic tales from their very roots, of 200 years of toil and struggle by their own people. Slamming the exploitation of the colliery workers and tales of young Durham lads being butchered and slaughtered at war, mining accidents, old age and nostalgia and a scathing attack on the lager lout. 


With their long-awaited debut album ‘Nee Gud Luck’ they have surpassed ‘Rum, Sodomy and The Lash’ and produced the contemporary folk masterpiece as if they’ve ripped up their earlier vinyl and started again. Thankfully the thrash elements are still there but they have laid down some startling sad epitaphs for the death of the collieries and shipyards. ‘The Colliery’ bustles along with some great brass from the Bearpark & Esh Colliery Band’: “We laughed and cried, we prayed and died down at the colliery”! ‘The Durham Lockout' is a poem by the pit poet Tommy Armstrong set to music and features some exceptional work on the Northumberland small pipes. Gary Miller has pushed himself up with Bragg and MacGowan as a classic contemporary folk songwriter and in ‘Jenny Grey’ he has penned the most extraordinarily beautiful lament: 


“The factory gates have all closed down before me
And the lights are dimming on the edge of the town
And they’re singing a sad hymn in the church in our village
And your face looks so sad as the tears flow down
When they are drying the blood from my body
And the flowers and grieving are all for me
And when I am gone into Hell or to Heaven
Oh Jenny, Jenny Grey, cry for me” 


(Gillfish, ‘Rock ‘N’ Reel’, UK, Spring 1990).



“Almost a century after it was written, the classic miners’ song ‘The Durham Lockout’ has been brought back to life. The famous Tommy Armstrong song has been given the 1990’s treatment by the excellent Durham band The Whisky Priests. These six lads have been described as the North East’s answer to The Pogues.


But what they’ve really done is made popular the songs and struggles of the mining community – long after more trendy artists from the region have ditched their own culture. 


‘The Durham Lockout’ appears on the Priests’ first album ‘Nee Gud Luck’, along with that other Armstrong classic ‘The Oakey Strike Evictions’.

Most of the album is original material, but steeped in the tradition of the coalfield songwriters. 


The Priests upbeat, punk-folk sets both traditional and contemporary songs alight. 


All the feel of the region is here, played by serious young men with a mission. 


They are supported by Bearpark and Esh brass band on an excellent Gary Miller song, ‘The Colliery’


The Whisky Priests have taken the best of North East mining culture and brought it to a new audience. 


If you ever get the chance to see them live you will see what a fearsome following they have gathered. 


Every miner should have this record in their collection. 


We should wish the Priests well in their efforts to convince the rest of the world that the North East has more going for it than property development and Cathedrals to the consumer.” 


(‘The North East Miner’ magazine, UK, April 1990).



“The Whisky Priests have struggled up from the post-industrial wastelands of North-East England. They have now brought their unique culture to a whole new audience by singing about the workers and their families who have formed the traditions of the North-East. They have brought some pride back to us up here. It is not just around Britain but in West Germany too they have been building up a big reputation for themselves. The subjects The Whisky Priests sing about might be born out of the struggles with the heavy industries of coalmining and shipbuilding but poverty, greedy landlords and the human carnage of war are themes that we can all readily understand, they have no geographical boundaries. The very music itself, played on accordion, violin, pipes, mandolin, guitars and marching snare is irresistible. Dance, jig, reel, clap, tap or just listen thoughtfully but it is pretty damned difficult to ignore The Whisky Priests. 


On their debut album, ‘Nee Gud Luck’, traditional folk songs like ‘The Collier’s Rant’ and ‘Dol-Li-A’ are successfully interspersed between singer Gary Miller’s own works. ‘Death of The Shipyards’ is a moving instrumental with a spice of High Noon / Spaghetti Western gunfight tension. First the River Tees then the River Wear have been devastated by the ‘death of the shipyards’. ‘Coal-Digger’s Grave’ always gets the audience up dancing to the hilarious story of the miner who jumps up from his coffin to shout “Give Us Whisky!”. ‘Pressgang Medley’ contrasts the vocal styles of Gary and giant bass player Mick. Gary sings of the man desperately fleeing the navy pressgang that hunts for young men through the coastal towns and villages to fill their crews. The medley suddenly bursts into a lively instrumental called ‘Proudlock’s Hornpipe’ (I would like to believe that this is dedicated to ex-Middlesbrough Football Club striker Paul Proudlock, but then I am obviously wrong!). 


This is a great LP so go and buy it at once. The Whisky Priests have also released a 6-track cassette tape called ‘Halcyon Days’ featuring the riotous ‘Geordie Black’ and ‘Adam Buckham’. Some of the songs have an old-fashioned mono feel to them, which gives this tape an unusual and nostalgic atmosphere. 


The Whisky Priests completed an exceptionally successful tour of West Germany in December 1989. They will be returning for a much bigger tour in autumn so look out for them wherever you live, they will be appearing near you soon…” 


(Rob Nichols, ‘Ket’, UK, 1989).



“After establishing themselves so emphatically on the live music circuit, both locally and internationally, The Whisky Priests were always likely to face the problem of reproducing the frenetic power and energy to which most listeners have become accustomed. However, on ‘Nee Gud Luck’ their first LP, though it may lack some of the raw appeal of their live performances, they more than compensate for this with a collection of songs full of variety and offering plenty of promise for the future. 


The LP opens, in typical Whisky Priests style, with ‘The Colliery’, a song which builds up to a fast and furious pace, complemented by thoughtful lyrics which never trivialise the plight of the collier whilst, at the same time, painting a graphic picture of life underground. On top of this, the inclusion of the Bearpark and Esh Colliery Band is a nice touch to an already accomplished song. 


Other highlights include live favourite, ‘Streets Paved With Gold’, an indictment of the myth that there is fortune to be made in a certain capital city, including some excellent harmonica work from Bill Bulmer, ‘Shut Doon The Waggon Works’, a rousing tune on the effects of factory closures in a community with some fine accordion work from Glenn Miller, and my personal favourite, ‘Jenny Grey’ a touching lament on the eternal subject of unrequited love, allowing Pete French to use, to full effect, the hauntingly enchanting sound of the Northumbrian small pipes to convey the full poignancy of the lyrics. 


‘Death of The Shipyards’ will be new to the ears of anyone who has only ever heard the band live, and is a most evocative instrumental on the closure of the yards in Sunderland just over a year ago, whilst the other slower, more reflective track, ‘The Durham Lockout’, is another song, written by Tommy Armstrong, on the struggle of the working man in the industrial North-East in the face of oppressive colliery owners. 


You might be forgiven for getting the impression that ‘Nee Gud Luck’ is full of songs of doom and gloom, however, nothing could be further from the truth, the majority of the tracks being highly entertaining dance tunes like ‘The Rising of The North’, ‘Dol-Li-A’, and ‘Spring-Heeled Jacks’, whilst the anti-war number, ‘The Durham Light Infantry’, provides a stirring finish to an accomplished collection of songs, full of energy and variation, which promises much for the future, both live and on record.” 


(Steve Taylor, ‘S.R.T.’, UK, 1990).



“Some may have read my previous reviews of the Durham-based Whisky Priests’ earlier 12” singles. If you liked those, you would certainly not be disappointed with ‘Nee Gud Luck’, which for all the polish in the production, helped along by the experienced Mickey Sweeney, still retains the basic loud raucousness of their earlier recordings and their live performances. At the same time it is enhanced immeasurably by the variety of material and change of pace throughout, which has come about from the addition of Pete French on Northumbrian pipes, fiddle, spoons and mandolin, and Bill Bulmer on mandolin, harmonicas, bouzouki and jaw harp. A new drummer, Steve Green, has joined the original trio of the two Miller brothers – Gary on vocals, Glenn on accordion, and Mick Tyas, on bass. 


The marathon value for money 15 tracks contain, as before, a mix of vamped-up versions of old Durham mining songs and tunes and new compositions, mostly by Gary Miller, influenced by aspects of social and political life in the North East of England today. Of those on the first side, the opening ‘The Colliery’ is a reworking of the group’s now deleted first single with the additional appearance of a local colliery brass band, and ‘Streets Paved With Gold’ is particularly adept in its depiction of a Northerner’s false hopes on leaving for London. ‘Shut Doon The Waggon Works’ confirms the usefulness of the enclosed lyric sheet for those having difficulty with the dialect. ‘Jenny Grey’ is one of my favourites – its haunting melody accentuated by the addition of pipes and fiddle makes this sound like a traditional song, but it is in fact a joint composition by Gary and Glenn. 


There are in fact too many riches in the collection to do everything justice in this review, but it is on the second side of the album that the true range of the Priests’ writing and arrangements are revealed. It opens with ‘Death of The Shipyards’, a lament composed by Glenn for the Wearside dockyards played on the squeezebox with clanking percussion backing, leading straight into a fast and furious rendering of Tommy Armstrong’s ‘The Oakey Strike Evictions’. A medley of pressgang songs and tunes follows – a firm live favourite set, which transposes well to vinyl, including the well-known ‘Here’s The Tender Coming’ and culminating in a hectic romping ‘Harvest Home’. The pace changes sharply for a stunning six-minute interpretation of Tommy Armstrong’s ‘The Durham Lockout’ – the brutality of the treatment of the miners being evoked by Gary’s vocals. Definitely one of the major high spots for these ears, but the feet are once more urged to get moving on ‘Spring-Heeled Jacks’, a self-penned instrumental, before the traditional ‘Collier’s Rant’ is cantered through at breakneck speed, and the album is completed with another of Gary’s songs ‘Durham Light Infantry’, conveying the futility of the First World War to the irresistible backing once more of accordion, drums and ensemble, signing off with a snatch from a popular First World War song. ‘Nee Gud Luck’ came out just before Christmas, too late to get into any critics’ top ten of 1989. There’s no doubt it would have a very high placing in this writer’s list, and certainly marks the arrival of The Whisky Priests as a name to reckon with.” 


(‘Broadbeat’, Scotland, UK, April 1990).



“The Whisky Priests have finally released their debut LP, ‘Nee Gud Luck’. They have been threatening it for a year but now it is finally here.
Coupled with a six-track cassingle, ‘Halcyon Days’, it is certainly worth the wait. 


The Priests have a rare ability to conjure up images of a couple of generations ago when men were miners and whippets were common. Such is the quality of their original material it is impossible to distinguish it from their arrangements of traditional folk songs.


The new compositions are much more listenable than previous releases. They have concentrated on better production and mixing and the lyrics are no longer shouted. Yet they still conjure up a raw, dirty and enthusiastic feel. 


Glenn Miller’s beautiful instrumental, ‘Death of The Shipyards’, illustrates this more reasoned approach. ‘The Colliery’ adds a new dimension with a brass band and the Priests step out of the Beamish-style sawdust-floored pubs into the market place. 


‘Halcyon Days’ incongruously includes a verse from ‘The Likely Lads’ theme. 


The Whisky Priests are the North-East’s music. They are the community spirit of the pit villages, and the social history behind them. But more than that, they are damned good fun.”


(Chris Lloyd, ‘Northern Echo’, UK).



“The utterly brilliant Whisky Priests, formed back in the mid ’80’s in Durham, have developed a big following for their raw and passionate folk/thrash tunes, which have also brought them richly deserved critical acclaim. 


The music is powerful foot-tapping stuff, from the heart of the Durham coalfields, which has drawn parallels with The Pogues – but they definitely have their own sound. 


From their early days playing the Queen’s Head at Sherburn Road Ends, the group have gone on to national tours (including one supporting ‘The Bhundu Boys’ way back when) and being the “unequivocal stars” of this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival. Their LP ‘Nee Gud Luck’ stormed the folk charts, and got songwriter Gary Miller the title: ‘classic contemporary folk songwriter’. 


Gary Miller has proved himself an excellent songwriter – evidence borne out by listening to ‘Nee Gud Luck’. I would rank him along with the MacGowans and MacColls of this world and it is surely only a matter of time before they are as big as The Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang – they certainly deserve to be.” 


(Richard Lewis, ‘The Bury Times’, UK, December 1990.



“Six-piece folk rockers with more bite than a coal-miner’s whippet. The Whisky Priests are not just being noticed for their flat caps, pit boots, braces and severe haircuts. 


Although The Whisky Priests have existed for a number of years through many changes of line-up, it was in 1990 that the band’s profile suddenly increased dramatically. With the success of their debut LP ‘Nee Gud Luck' they have built up a massive following and have played over 100 gigs this year – including 4 tours to Europe. 


Gary Miller has been described as a ‘classic contemporary folk songwriter’ who is up there with the much-revered Bragg and MacGowan. An acoustic roots ensemble of the most fervent northern traditions, they are proud and pragmatic in their outlook on life, in their music and about their origins.
They sing rousing songs gritted with ingrained coal dust, about real people, two centuries of sweat and tears of the struggle of their kinfolk in the troubled North-East. And after the social history lesson The Whisky Priests are an excellent dance band, whether or not your native clogs lay in County Durham or Dewsbury.” 


(Rosy O’Sullivan, ‘Leeds Other Paper’, UK, December 1990). 



“Someone once told me that The Whisky Priests are: (1) a folk-thrash band, (2) similar to The Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang’, (3) a one-dimensional group. After listening to these recordings, my response is: (1) Yes indeed! (2) in spirit more than in sound, and (3) if they ever were, they’re not anymore! 


The Whisky Priests are a sextet: Gary Miller (vocals, 12 & 6 string guitars), his twin brother Glenn (accordion), Bill Bulmer (mandolin, bouzouki, harmonica), Mick Tyas (bass, vocals), Pete French (Northumbrian pipes, fiddle), and Steve Green (drums). They hail from Durham County in the northeast of England. Much of Durham County’s industry was based on coalmining and shipbuilding, both of which have greatly declined in the past decades. This historical background is important, for it plays a vital role in the Priests’ music. 


After ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ was recorded, a couple of guys dropped out, the two Millers and Bulmer carried on as a trio for a time, and then they ordained three new Priests to reach the current roster. This line-up is the best yet and the inclusion of Pete French’s Northumbrian pipes and fiddle is a great move for the band. The addition of French fills out and enhances the Priests’ sound and makes it a bit more traditional in nature, but the band still keeps its wildness and raucousness intact. The new chemistry could draw more fans to the band, while enabling the Priests to keep their original followers. 


The six-track cassette ‘Halcyon Days’ is the initial release with the new line-up, and it’s the best of the three EP’s. They re-recorded ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ with pipes in the mix, and include a speedy, powerful instrumental ‘Bill Hartnell’ that demonstrates the whisky hasn’t been diluted at all! The title track, written by Gary Miller and included on ‘Nee Gud Luck’, is a song about the lost days of youth that everyone can relate to – the theme is universal but the ‘action’ is in Durham County. 


This type of ‘local but universal’ song appears a few times on ‘Nee Gud Luck’, the Priests’ impressive first full-length LP. Anyone who listens to this album and still calls The Whisky Priests a one-dimensional folk-thrash band just isn’t paying attention. Sure, they still crank it up a lot – and when they do they’re great – but that’s not all they can do. There’s ‘Jenny Grey’ (penned by Gary and Glenn), a superb traditional-type song of lost love performed with a slow and even tempo, and Glenn’s soothing instrumental ‘Death of The Shipyards’ featuring acoustic guitar and accordion. On the other hand they operate at full throttle on a pair of no-holds-barred instrumentals and the rousing ‘Coal-Digger’s Grave’ with some gruff, shouting vocals. Two more outstanding tracks are the rocking ‘Streets Paved With Gold’ (a 1990’s Durham County emigree meets ‘The Grapes of Wrath’), and ‘Durham Lockout’, about a lengthy lockout of coal miners. This track begins with just Northumbrian pipes and vocals, and gradually builds as more instruments are added with each verse. Lead vocalist Gary Miller’s voice is rough-hewn – more like rough-chiselled – but it works nicely within the Priests’ format. The songs are sung in a sometimes impenetrable regional dialect, but ‘Nee Gud Luck’ has a lyric sheet, which is essential reading. 


The Whisky Priests have come a long way from ‘No Chance’ to ‘Nee Gud Luck’; they sound better and are more versatile, yet have a firm grasp of their regional, traditional, and folk-thrash roots. For those of you who like ‘progression’ in bands, The Whisky Priests have taken a solid first step forward.” 


(Al Reiss, ‘Dirty Linen’, U.S.A., Issue 30, October/November 1990). 

[From joint review of ‘No Chance’, ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’, ‘Halcyon Days’, Nee Gud Luck’]



“My friends, Rob and Julie, tell me that a member of Fairport Convention says that this is the band that ‘makes the Pogues sound like Weather Report.’
Hmm, pretty strong stuff. Normally, I’d answer that sort of blather with a gruff, obscene retort. Like ‘piss off!’ But I’ll restrain myself… maybe because the guy could be half right. 


Okay, enough of the preliminaries. The Whisky Priests are a sextet from Durham who unleash a torrent of thrash folk that, well, reminds one of The Pogues. Except that where The Pogues show definite rock ‘n’ roll tendencies, The Whisky Priests toe a more traditional line. Then again, don’t make the mistake of equating ‘traditional’ with staid or conventional. 


Led by the brothers Miller, Gary on lead vocals and guitar / bouzouki / mandolin, and Glenn, accordion and backing vocals, the Priests employ traditional instruments such as fiddles and pipes, as well as an electric bass and drums to provide the band with that extra ‘oomph’, which really makes their songs kick ass. 


Just listen to songs like the rousing instrumentals ‘Rising of The North’ and ‘Spring-Heeled Jacks’ or ‘Streets Paved With Gold’, ‘Collier’s Rant’, ‘Dol-Li-A’, ‘Halcyon Days’ and ‘The Durham Light Infantry’. And ‘Jenny Grey’ is the best song Shane MacGowan never wrote. 


Songs about the mines, shipyards, pressgangs, soldiers that never came back and pining for a woman’s love. Gary Miller’s voice is appropriately rough-hewn, sounding like he spent a lifetime in the coalmines of Blighty. 


The only complaint has to do with the production, it’s a bit tinny and Miller’s vocals could have been turned up a bit. But those are the only complaints. The playing’s hot, tight and the songs are delivered with great élan. 


The Whisky Priests have all the earmarks of being ‘The Next Big Thing’ folk/rock-wise. They deserve to be heard by millions.”

(Brian Greenlee, ‘B-Side’ U.S.A., August/September 1991).



“This band of Celtic rogues from the North of England takes a raw, acoustic approach to pub rock. Their album, ‘Nee Gud Luck’, has no rural pretences – in fact, no pretence at all. Both original songs and traditional tunes are given the same thrashing with bagpipes, strings of every description, harmonica, guitars and drums. More fun than a barrel of colliers!” 


(‘CMJ New Music Report’, U.S.A., 25th May 1990).