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They call themselves a Celtic rock punk band. The Chicago Reader calls it shit-kicking Celtic crunch punk. That's a bit closer to the truth. Ballydowse isn't like anything you've heard before. The Celtic part is far from traditional; this is not a new age/envision green dewy hills sound. Instead it's a careful combination of the best of British punk and Irish jams Mekons-style.

The story gets more interesting from there. Ballydowse is a nine piece band of folks who "love hardcore punk rock, early British oi sounds, violins, didgeridoos, bagpipes, mandolins, old Yiddish music, and the idea of overthrowing the $government$ to form a more merciful and compassionate society."

What? The nine members belong to the Jesus People Commune USA in Chicago, a community seeking an alternative to the self-based standard of living. The lyrics (when they aren't jamming so hard you miss them) are intelligent and purposeful, as evident on the band's 1998 release, The Land, The Bread, And The People. They sing to Elie Wiesel, they sing against substance abuse, they sing that "another armchair economist playing our life into a mess, what you know about poverty you learned in a book." Be careful, though, not to label their tunes as oppressively didactic. The music is strong enough that the words are gentle suggestions, rather than force-fed ideologies.

Ballydowse is: Andrew Mandell (vocals), Robina Mandell (vocals), Nate Peters (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Craig Holland (guitar), Brian Grover (bass, didgeridoo, whirligig, bodhran, bullroarer), Dan Kool (vocals, moohran), Chris White (drums) and Dave Baumgartner (violin)


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