Members from The Pogues, Flogging Molly & Dropkick Murphys join forces, with a self-titled debut set out Aug. 23.
With members from The Pogues, Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, the Walker Roaders are certainly steeped in a bit of Anglo and Celtic history. So it's no surprise the group opens its upcoming debut album by visiting the world of "Lord Randall" with the lively "Lord Randall's Bastard Son," premiering exclusively below.
The track takes its inspiration from the 17th century British ballad Bob Dylan tapped for "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" in 1962. And not unlike Dylan, the Walker Roaders song moves beyond a folksy mystery into the realm of socio-political commentary. "In 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' the hero comes from a place where unimaginable things are happening and how bad things have become," Pogues co-founder and accordionist James Fearnley -- who's joined in the band by former Flogging Molly guitarist Ted Hutt and ex-Dropkick Murphys guitarist Marc Orrell -- tells Billboard.
"I kind of ramped it up a bit because of circumstances one comes across living in the United States now -- and in the world too. I wanted to pour on image after image of things that are just not right, from lynchings to overpopulation and climate change and everything that's just going to reduce us to f---ing cinder -- much sooner than I think people realize. It's just listing things I find frightening and make my blood boil about living in the world today, and especially America."
Astute listeners will find references to the Dylan song in the Walker Roaders' track, as well as to The Clash's "London Calling" and the Bible. "I'm having fun with the form as well," Fearnley notes. And he also plays a bit with the ostensibly sympathetic character of the mother. "He wants to tell his mum about all these terrible things he's seen and she wants him to come inside and supposedly look after him -- but it turns out at the end of the song she's part of all the horrors as well and is part of the whole conspiracy," he says. "That's a bit of a twist there."
"Lord Randall's Bastard Son" will be featured on Walker Roaders' self-titled set, nine tracks of full-bodied Celtic anthemry due Aug. 23. Produced by Hutt, it also includes instrumental contributions from bassist Brad Wood, fiddler Kieran Mulroney and drummer Bryan Head. The band is an outgrowth of the friendship between Fernley, Hutt and Orrell -- "We all have a lot in common and used to hang out a lot at shows," Fearnley notes -- and began with some songwriting sessions between Fearnley and Hutt, later bringing Orrell into the mix. Orrell accompanied Fearnley as part of the "orchestra" on a short 2016 tour workshopping song for an upcoming Pogues musical, and opening for Dropkick Murphys; Hutt and Wood joined the troupe in Los Angeles, which further solidified the Walker Roaders' union -- named after a street Fearnley grew up near in Manchester, England.
"I'd never been the front guy at a gig of that size -- and found out I really enjoyed it," Fearnley says. "To sing songs I was part of writing and be able to play accordion and sing at the same time was really rewarding." He had, in fact, been training himself during Pogues shows to play without watching his fingers. "I realized how useful that would be when it came to being on stage in front of my own band. It was like I was putting myself through this unconscious training for being in the Roaders."
The Walker Roaders have no tour plans at the moment, but Fearnley and company are chomping at the bit to take the group around the world. "It's been a lark for a bit, but it's beyond that now," Fearnley says. "I think it's good, all-inclusive music. I sent a copy of the album to Steve Lillywhite, who produced a couple of Pogues albums, and he said it's like 'stadium Pogues' -- which isn't a bad thing. I would love to do those things, particularly festivals. I'll play anywhere. I've still got a few years left, I think."
The Pogues musical, meanwhile, is waiting for a final rewrite from "The Wire's" David Simon, a big fan, according to Fearnley -- who adds that the Public Theater in New York is onboard and a musical director has just been hired. "The plan is to do one last workshop with the new edit of the script around Christmas time and then take it into full production," Fearnley, who's predicting a 2020 premiere, notes. "You can never say it's definitely going to happen until it does, but all the major players and creatives are on board, so it's feeling good. St. Patrick's Day would be too soon, but the end of the year and the holidays would be good as well."