The Wakes are a six piece band from Glasgow, Scotland. A city formerly known as the “Workshop of the Empire.” A city of the working class and its heroes, of ups and downs, and where thousands of hungry Irish came looking for a better future.
From the 1960’s onward, Scotland’s thriving industries of steel, coal and shipbuilding, slumped into decline. Glasgow’s almost complete loss, of its once world renownedshipbuilding industry became a metaphor for the downfall of the city. The scars of which, are still visible today, in the empty shipyards which run along the River Clyde.
These are the surroundings where the band comes from. Inspired by the stories of their city, culture and love of music, The Wakes formed in 2007 with the ambition to make music with a social conscience. Music that matters. Their songs, born from political and social struggle, of protest and of heartache and of the joys of life are shaped by the history of Scotland, Ireland and beyond. Their fusion of traditional instrumentation, with a contemporary sound ensure that live shows are a sight to be seen, energetic, euphoric, and often unforgettable.
The musical style of The Wakes is influenced by those who have gone before. There are influences of Guthrie, Springsteen and Dylan dripping from every sonnet. From traditional folk groups like The Dubliners and The Corries to contemporary bands such as The Clash and The Poguescomes the Folk’n’Roll sound. The Wakes’ lyrics are honest, evocative and compassionate.
The spirit of this can be heard in the band’s earliest musical offering, “These Hands”. Released in the summer of 2007, this self-produced album is best known for its two original songs, “Cinderella Story”, which tells the tale of the Irish in Glasgow, from their arrival as hungry refugees in the 1800’s to the middle of the 20th Century. “No pledge to shelter our huddled masses/ No lady lies waiting in the bay/ but hunger is a great force in keeping down wages and we’re hungry enough to take any pay/. The title track “These Hands”, the story of James Maley, a Scottish veteran of the Spanish Civil War, was recorded the day before he died and is The Wakes’ tribute to those who fought, and continue to fight fascism. Among the other tracks on the album are Christy Moore’s “Viva La Quince Brigada”, Phil Chevron’s “Thousands are Sailing” as well as traditional songs such as “The Foggy Dew” and “The Galtee Mountain Boy”
In early 2009, the group released their single “Pirates of the League” on the album “Hort Fanraume”, a compilation album distributed by German football club F.C. St. Pauli. By now the group’s style had evolved into a rockier, folk-punk influenced sound which would continue to develop as the band worked towards completing their second album “No Irish Need Apply” on their own label, Big Hooley Records. Described as “where it’s at in Celtic Rock” by John Bowles of PaddyRockRadio.com, the album was awarded 4/5 stars by music magazine Rock and Reel. “No Irish Need Apply” is The Wakes’ masterpiece, a hard edged record, which deals with many of the social and historical issues the band have become synonymous with. The title track focuses on the racism endured by many Irish immigrants in Britain, picking up from where “Cinderella Story” left off. “There’s a sign that says no Irish need apply/ no chance for those men who chose to leave their world behind.” Some songs celebrate success and achievements, while others deal with the demon drink, football, war and oppression.
The constant touring across the channel and the intensified exposure to different styles helped in the continuous evolution of The Wakes’ sound. This is audible on the 2013 release, “The Red and the Green” where the band worked with a mix of punk and ska as well as the folk’n’roll style which the band are synonymous with. The anthemic, wall to wall sound of “Colours”, a song which deals with the sectarian divide of their home city “Bang your drum, Bang your drum/ you’re up to your knees in hate/who taught you to hate?”, and their warning of the dangers of fascism masked by a suit and a political party in the song “Never Again” are testament to that. The Wakes continued to push boundaries in their interpretation of German folk song “Moorsoldaten”,translated here as “Peat Bog Soldiers” and in the Hamish Henderson song “John MacLean’s March”. It was this album which brought them to the attention of Drakkar Records. Subsequently, the album has received a recent re-release on this label.
A change in line up to add to the live sound gives further options when playing and the energy can be felt in each performance. Conor Markey on mandolin and banjo, with Danny McGuinness on whistle, (replacing the departing James Ferrie), helped to lift the sound to a new level and complimented existing members Paul Sheridan, on guitars and vocals, Chris Cruickshank on bass, flute and saxophone, Christopher James on harmonica and Eamonn Maguire on drums.
This band’s reputation goes before them. Their passion for music is matched by their social conscience. Putting the finishing touches on their new work, “Venceremos”, and with a September 24th 2016 planned as the release date, The Wakes want to inject a bit of Folk’n’Roll into your soul.