When writers wax lyrical about the rugged Celtic beauty that came to fruition with The Pogues and Shane MacGowan, they often seem to suggest that time has stood still and that Irish music had been sitting, waiting since the mid sixties ballad boom of The Dubliners et al for something suddenly to connect the urgency of punk with the heart and soul of traditional music. But out in the rough and ready bars of Hamburg and a hundred other German hostelries a band was carving out and whittling its own take on the beauty of Irish folk music; adding fire, vitality and punk-style energy while handling the travails of fights and frolics, women, dark streets and the drink.
This was before it was trendy or cool to take Irish folk music and add a rock edge, long before Pogue Mahone turned it all upside down. The band morphed into McDermotts 2 Hours in 1986 (named after a wonderfully unexpected happening on pirate radio during the Battle Of The Bogside as recalled in Eamonn McCann’s War And An Irish Town) ‘being Irish and in the wrong place and at the wrong time’ – to paraphrase MacGowan. In the pubs and clubs of Brighton and London they built a reputation for their incendiary live performances that have become legend.
Among their wild and youthful admirers were a gaggle of friends who, a few years down the line, influenced by the spirit, fire and camaraderie of Nick Burbridge and McDermott’s 2 Hours, would strap on guitars and call themselves The Levellers. Those in the know realise that Nick Burbridge has been, and continues to be one of the best songwriters in the Anglo-Irish tradition. He fashions songs that as well as perfectly capturing the gritty underbelly of the Irish experience in 60s/70s mainland UK, they beautifully capture the longing for home and reality of the Troubles with all the evocative magnificence of Beckett or Joyce.
But that was then and this is now.
Besieged is not so much a final curtain as a magnificent encore.
Serving as the last installment of a magnificent career singer, songwriter, poet, playwright and frontman with folk, rock, roots and punk outfit McDermott’s 2 Hours, Nick Burbridge releases his final album with the band on 8 February. Besieged sees Nick again team up with members of The Levellers (Jeremy Cunningham and Simon Friend), Oysterband (Dil Davies and Al Scott), Ben Paley (son of the late folk music giant Tom Paley), plus Tim Cotterell and friends for the album’s twelve tracks. Released via The Levellers’ On The Fiddle Recordings, advance orders will also secure a bonus CD, Anticlockwise, featuring a fourteen-track ‘best of’ McDermott’s 2 Hours.
I left in the autumn and settled in Camden, Two in a room with a flute and accordion, Site-work was hard and the foreman a bastard, But we’d rakes in our pocket and hours our own, At the end of a long day we’d wander round Archway, Fit for the tunes and the women as well, When I called home I lied for now I knew why, I always believed I’d bid Erin farewell – ‘Erin Farewell’ – McDermott’s 2 Hours
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‘Dirty Davey’ – one of the tracks on Anticlockwise:
Last but not least,’Fox on the Run’ – one of our favourites from The folking Archive: