The First Few Drops (1985​-​1989) [Revised Edition]

by The Whisky Priests

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Compilation album of all The Whisky Priests early (pre-debut album 'Nee Gud Luck') official releases. This revised edition, in chronological order from 1986-1989, features the band's first ever studio recording 'Danny's Hard Life' (recorded in December 1985, after playing only 2 gigs, for a local various artists compilation album of Durham City bands called 'Twelve Go Mad In Durham'), their 1987 debut 7" single 'The Colliery' (1000 copies on Teesbeat Records), two 1988 12" EP's 'No Chance' & 'Grandfatha's Fatha' (1500 copies each on the band's newly formed Whippet Records), rounded off with an early version of 'Shut Doon The Waggon Works (originally released in 1989 on a various artists double album called 'Volnitza', exclusively featuring bands who had performed at the '1 in 12 Club' in Bradford, England).

From CD liner notes to 1994 Reissue Version:

Together, the two of us formed The Whisky Priests in August 1985, after our final year at Gilesgate Comprehensive School in Durham, playing our first gig on 4th October 1985 at Fowlers Yard, Durham City.

Our mutual interest in music and our native North East England formed the initial basic template for our ideas and, in the years since, we have had to battle against a variety of set-backs just to keep that basic idea alive and kicking. Constant line-up changes have led to over thirty different members along the way, which has made things far from easy for us, plus we make no secret of the endless recording and publishing agreement disputes and the overall music media and industry apathy towards our cause. This has only made us more determined in the pursuance of our vision to its ultimate conclusion, through good times or bad, for better or worse. Perhaps one of the largest obstacles we have had to overcome has been the fact that we have been somehow forced into the position of achieving our goals almost totally unaided. It would have seemed inconceivable at the start that all these years down the line we would be running the band as a self-managed, self-financed, self-motivated and self-contained business, making all our own decisions as well as running our own fan club and mailing list, plus much more. And yet, here we are! And in spite of everything, we firmly believe we have got to this stage with our integrity and self-esteem intact.

Now that our four-year term with Celtic Music is finally at an end and ownership of all our own material has reverted back to us, we are proud to be able to reissue our first three albums on our own Whippet Records label, in special new editions, with repackaged booklets and bonus tracks.
We have always prided ourselves in our independence, as well as the special relationship we seem to share with our following. It is difficult to imagine that we could have reached this far without the enthusiasm and sheer loyalty of those who have stuck with us through it all and helped drive us on through all the difficult times. You have left us with many truly wonderful memories and experiences - long may they continue!
This special reissue is dedicated to you…

Thinking back now to the very early days of the band, recollections are somewhat hazy, although we do carry some fond memories of this time.
Early line-ups of the band consisted almost entirely of old school friends including, from the very beginning, Michael Stephenson and, later, Bill Bulmer, who had initially been the band’s ‘manager, roadie and confidant, before he replaced banjo player Mark Kelly. The four of us had been in the same year at school together and for a long time had been very close friends. Sticks, a few years older than the rest of us, turned up one night at a drummer-less gig at the Queen’s Head, Gilesgate, Durham (Whisky Priests gigs without a drummer had been common in the early days!) and offered his services during the two set interval as, he informed us, his drumkit was stored only a few doors away from the venue at his parents’ house. We tactfully turned down his offer to drum for us that night, with the promise of a full audition at a booked rehearsal a few days later, which he came along to, passed with flying colours, and was welcomed into the fold.

The line-up of the band on these recordings, although not the original line-up, was the first really solid line-up we ever had. These were, in a way, the band’s ‘halcyon days’. Full professionalism was still a few years away and there was a lot of naivety, freshness and youthful energy in our approach as well as a great spirit. Although aspirations tended to be limited to having a good time together, enjoying a basic camaraderie, we felt, even at this early stage, that The Whisky Priests had great potential and underneath this there was always a driving force and a belief in what we were doing.

Although we have to date toured all over Europe, visiting more than a dozen countries over the years, the line-up presented here never played outside the UK.

The band’s first ever recording session took place towards the end of 1985, after only two gigs had been performed, when we recorded our first original Whisky Priests song (written by Gary), the long-forgotten ‘Danny’s Hard Life’, for a compilation album of local Durham bands called ‘Twelve Go Mad In Durham’.

In January 1987, we received what for us in our naivety at the time seemed a major ‘break’, when we appeared on one of the very last editions of the now legendary Channel 4 music-based television programme ‘The Tube’. We opened the show, introduced by Paula Yates, performing what can best be described as a somewhat awkward and amateur, yet spirited, version of the North East of England traditional ‘standard’ ‘The Blaydon Races’, which at the time was an integral part of our live set. This led immediately to a would-be ‘manager’ taking us on and promising us the earth, and initially financing the recording of our debut 7” vinyl single ‘The Colliey’ b/w ‘Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny’/’The Clog Dancer’. The single was recorded and mixed over two days. Approximately 1000 copies (about 930 in fact) were pressed and these were all sold at gigs or given away as promotion.

We can remember the vocal tracks for the song ‘The Colliery’ requiring a seemingly endless amount of retakes because our ‘manager’ at the time and the studio in-house producer/engineer both took a severe dislike to the song being sung in our native dialect, and insisted on the vocals being redone again and again until the dialect had been toned down sufficiently for their wishes. Being naïve and young at the time, we went along with this and, as a result, the vocals on the final mix lack any of the real power, emotion and strength of delivery required to give the song the necessary effect. This was the first and last time we have allowed ourselves to be dictated to in this fashion and have always fiercely stuck to our own beliefs since. In addition, the fiddle and banjo on all three tracks are so obviously out of tune and regularly out of time.

Unfortunately, due to lack of care and foresight at the time, the original master tape of ‘The Colliery’ session was lost and the only source available for re-mastering was a copy of the original 7” vinyl pressing, which was not of particularly impressive quality.

Despite these various technical shortcomings, however, we decided it was important now to include these tracks, warts and all, in order to present a fuller account of our early career, bearing in mind that during this period we made very few studio recordings and, with the benefit of hindsight, we regret somewhat that we lacked the opportunity to have recorded more material at the time.

Shortly after the release of ‘The Colliery’, we parted company with the manager who had not quite given us the earth he had promised and, left completely to our own devices again, 1988 became our most active year up until that point. We played as many gigs in one year as we had played in the previous two years combined, plus we set up our own independent record label, ‘Whippet Records’, and self-financed, released and promoted two 12” EP’s, ‘No Chance’ and ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’, sowing the seeds for the future, when we would eventually become a totally self-contained business enterprise, in the form of a ‘cottage industry’. The EP’s were recorded and mixed less than four months apart, onto 8-track tape, in two days each. The studio costs were £175 for ‘No Chance’ and £145 for ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’. The recordings are therefore no more than basic ‘demo’ quality, but we feel they successfully captured the essence of the band at that time. Approximately 1500 of each were pressed.

When we listened to the playback of ‘Wise Man’ once it had been recorded, we noticed the sound of the crash cymbal was intruding heavily onto the rest of the music. Unfortunately, because the whole drum-kit had by then been mixed down onto only one track, this meant that drummer, Sticks, had to rerecord the drums in their entirety over everything else (in addition, we had not used a ‘click’ track, making this task even harder) and if you listen to the last instrumental section at the end of the song, you can hear the drums going slightly out of time with everything else!

The song ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ was inspired by a poem written by Sticks about the true-life experiences of his own grandfather, who had witnessed his father killed in a coalmining accident.

‘The Ghost of Geordie Jones’ was recorded and mixed as a last-minute decision in a spare half-hour. The song, by Glenn, was newly written and we had never even rehearsed it together before we recorded it. We gave this song its final title after we had recorded it.

When the ‘No Chance’ EP was released, it was reviewed in ‘Sounds’ magazine as ‘accordions on acid’ and ‘compulsive dementia’, and was also one of the Top 5 Singles of the Week, reaching the ‘Sounds’ Phone-in Play-list.

The initial idea had been to follow ‘No Chance’ with our debut album but we hurriedly decided to hold back recording the album until the New Year, in favour of a second EP, which would follow ‘hot on the heels’ of ‘No Chance’, in order to consolidate the first EP, and hopefully gain us further promotion in advance of the album. So we re-entered the same studio, the Pigpen in Trimdon, County Durham, at the earliest opportunity and recorded the six tracks which would make up the ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ 12” EP, and then things suddenly began to go wrong. Within a couple of days of the records reaching the shelves of our distributors, Red Rhino, they went bust and into liquidation, without our knowledge, while the records ended up collecting dust for weeks. We were blissfully unaware of the whole situation, until we received a ‘stroppy’ telephone call from someone at the offices of Rough Trade (the head company of the Cartel, of which Red Rhino had been a member) in London, informing us, in no uncertain terms, that if we failed to reclaim our records immediately from the Rough Trade warehouse, they would all be destroyed within two days. We acted quickly and rescued them and then sold them all at gigs and on mail order, but the damage had been done, leaving us without distribution of any kind for our product. To add insult to injury, Michael and Sticks simultaneously quit the band shortly afterwards, cutting us right down to a three-piece by the beginning of 1989.

With the demise of Red Rhino and the break up of our first truly solid line-up, the end of 1988 marked the end of the first major era of The Whisky Priests. What happened next is another story…

(Gary Miller & Glenn Miller, August 1994)

Reviews (1994 Re-Issue Version):

“‘The First Few Drops’ is a collection of EP’s, singles and demos that pre-date the first album. (The) songs on here show a band that although young and inexperienced were still capable of songs of great power and emotion. Some of the songs on here were re-recorded for ‘Nee Gud Luck’, as these were recorded with an earlier line-up. ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ is a brilliant song, telling at great pace the death of a man down the pit, witnessed by his own son. It is this song that typifies for me what The Whisky Priests are all about. There is loads pf emotion and passion, a real closeness to the subject matter (this is a true story, concerning the drummer Sticks) and energy and vigour.
The Whisky Priests are not laid back folkies with a finger in the ear but rather northerners capturing the power of their heritage and not compromising their ideals. It is either music that you will love or hate, there is no middle ground and there is not meant to be.”
(From joint review of ‘Nee Gud Luck, ‘The First Few Drops’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Kevin Rowland, ‘Feedback’, UK, Issue 29, 8th June 1995.

“‘The First Few Drops’ is perhaps the best CD to see where The Whisky Priests came from as it contains their early EP’s, singles and demos. Many of them are rough and ready and do show an eagerness and ability that anyone with any sense could tell would lead the way to a pretty impressive career. One or two traditional tunes such as ‘Dance To Yer Daddy’, ‘The Clog Dancer’ and ‘The Bonnie Pit Laddie’. If there was any doubt about where the lads came from, then this is the album that has more roots than the New Forest. Their first Instrumental Medley is here splendidly played like their lives depended on it. There are 18 tracks on here with even the demos sounding rather accomplished.”
(From joint review of ‘Bloody Well Live!’, ‘The Power And The Glory’, ‘When The Wind Blows, Billy Boy’, ‘The First Few Drops’, Nee Gud Luck’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Dave W. Hughes, ‘The Modern Dance’, UK.

“Having been brought up on the manic talents of The Pogues and The Saw Doctors I was delighted to discover another group who are able to impart in their music that special thing – the ability to make me feel exhausted when it is over. If you are ever in need of motivation and drive then these North Eastern lads will deliver.
However, if you like your tunes to be vocally perfect and predictable, then the tones of lead singer Gary Miller will upset you greatly. Despite several listenings I am still left thinking that it is ‘Rigsby’ up there belting out the words. But that is the beauty of this CD – its individuality. Who can honestly say that they have ever heard other voices like Shane MacGowan or Davey Carton? Likewise, Gary Miller is now able to join that select band of frontmen who transform average into excellence.
The underlying theme throughout this CD is the misery and hardship that was, and is still suffered down the Geordie-land pits. The way the tracks are presented though, lifts you up and out of any threatening doom and gloom, into great enjoyment.
Following the recession of The Pogues back into mainstream normality, lapsed fans of their culture surely must be taken over by this offering, with tracks such as ‘The Hard Men’, ‘Wise Man’ and the incomparable ‘No Chance’. It could be time to start jumping around again!!
Such obvious talent and enjoyment deserves the success that it will almost certainly achieve.” Martin Holden, ‘Folk North West’, UK, Spring 1995.

“The Whisky Priests now have their entire catalogue under their own control and these re-issues are a confident celebration of 9 years of hard work and determination to keep Gary and Glenn Miller’s basic idea of an English Northeast band on the road. So far there have been over 30 different band members as line-ups have changed and changed again. Gary Miller has written 32 of the recorded tracks, plus 4 further collaborations with Glenn Miller and one with Mick Tyas, and Glenn has written a further two. Also included are well-known ‘Trad’ songs and tunes from the N.E., which have been part of their repertoire from the beginning. They have also written many more songs, which are as yet unrecorded – a prolific outpouring of energy and creativity, which also characterises their live performances. All 3 re-issues include a 16-page insert booklet with words for all the songs, the story of The Whisky Priests so far, in three instalments, and a selection of archive photographs.
The twin ‘likely lads’ from Durham with a schoolboy vision in 1985 are now independent businessmen without losing their integrity and self esteem. An inspiration to all of us who attempt to create our own contribution to the global ceilidh. Enjoy the fruits of their labour at a bargain price!”
(Joint review of ‘The First Few Drops’, ‘Nee Gud Luck’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Jenny Coxon, ‘Folk Buzz’, UK, Spring 1995.

“Reading the sleeve-notes of these reissued early Priests albums, you find a tale of indie tenacity of the first order. To say that that tenacity and clarity of purpose fuels the music puts it mildly. Whether you like them or not, you have to admit that without the likes of this band, music would be a weaker-kneed constituency altogether.”
(Joint review of ‘The First Few Drops’, ‘Nee Gud Luck’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Steve Morris, ‘Brumbeat’, UK, 1995.

“Passionate in your face from the start to the finish, these CD’s show the early development and unique Priest style taking form. All three feature bonus tracks, sleeve notes and lyrics, making each excellent value for money. Hard driven folk rock with rare verve, it’s honest, hard music and ideal for foot to the floor motorway driving.” (Joint review of ‘The First Few Drops’, ‘Nee Gud Luck’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Mark Hughes, ‘First Hearing’, UK, 1995.

Reviews (Original 1991 Version):

“The Whisky Priests are massive party animals, out for a good time any way they can get it. Their beginnings lie in a confused mix of raw punk attitude, hard living industrial reality and folk memory. Documented here largely thanks to demand from a rabid live following who’ve taken rant ‘n’ reel to heart and must own every note produced. This is bloody exciting music regardless whether it moves you or not. At times melodically askew, you could OD on the atmosphere given off. You’re gonna dance ta thee daddy, there isn’t a choice, it’s an order. Priest philosophy is summed up pretty smartly in the sawn off treatment dispensed to ‘The Bonnie Pit Laddie’, its stop-start clattering reverbs around the speakers in a technique which lacks finesse but spits nails as well as much north east verbiage.
Their well known backyard agenda – fair play for Durham – raises a thoughtful eyebrow at management-inspired industrial sabotage of one form or another, following a thread from ‘The Row Between The Cages’ to the Whisky’s own ‘Shut Doon The Waggon Works’ – in a previously unavailable mix. The slices on ‘The First Few Drops’ are rough, ready, big, brawling music. They represent tracks from the folk process and the far side.”

Simon Jones, ‘Folk Roots’, UK, 1992.

“The hard men return! With consideration to all previous label hassles and frequent line-up changes, The Whisky Priests are still as potent as ever. After spending most of their career to date in the shadow of their contemporaries, they now have a solid label and distribution set up behind them.
Essentially a live band – in fact finding a harder working group would be no mean feat – they have often been criticised as being unable to transfer their stage sound onto record. Although I am sure that there are many, self included, would disagree vehemently. ‘The First Few Drops’ is primarily a collection of previous EP’s with an unreleased demo thrown in for good measure.
Anyone who has caught the Priests live will know of the instant image portrayed: cloth caps, pit boots, granddad shirts and braces, the lads could have leapt straight from the stage of a Durham working men’s club of the thirties. The songs deal with social and political issues as relevant today as they were to any other age.
With a penchant for thrash folk, Pogues comparisons are frequently levelled at them by some but, with a hard North Eastern dialect, their accordion-driven sound is, in all honesty, totally unique. The majority of songs are dedicated to everyday life in a pit community, but can readily be used as anthems for the plight of the working classes everywhere. Some of the highlights of the album are the live favourite ‘The Hard Men’, which would leave any sane, wise person scared of sharing a drink with The Whisky Priests. ‘Shut Doon The Waggon Works’, the unreleased demo, is perhaps their best song to date, and with the current state of the mining industry today, probably the most significant. ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ sees a reminiscence of sitting on Great Grandfather’s knee and hearing yarns of yesteryear. Also included is a five-part instrumental of blinding speed. These medleys play a great part in the live show, as any Whisky Priests follower will testify.
With a new studio album due for release in March and their debut album, ‘Nee Gud Luck’, now at last once again available, the future is looking bright for The Whisky Priests.”

John Sanders, ‘Northern Star’, UK, 5th-12th March 1992.

“Back in Issue #30 we had reviews of all of The Whisky Priests’ recordings. Now two of those EP’s, ‘No Chance’ [WPT 1] and ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ [WPT 2] have been issued on a CD called ‘The First Few Drops’ along with the obligatory ‘previously unreleased track’ (a demo version of ‘Shut Doon The Waggon Works’). This certainly makes life easier, no more turning over pieces of vinyl, no resetting the turntable to 45 RPM, better sound, etc. For those unfamiliar with The Whisky Priests, they are a straight ahead, no-holds-barred, roots rock band with folk overtones (i.e., accordion, mandolin, etc.) that has been favourably compared to the Pogues. They do like things short and sweet, the 12 tracks clock in at a little over 32 minutes. Thanks to the band for including lyric sheets as you’ll never comprehend singer Gary Miller’s accent. If you like your folk hard and fast, The Whisky Priests are for you.”

Al Reiss, ‘Dirty Linen’, U.S.A., Issue 40, June/July 1992.

Reviews ('Grandfatha's Fatha' 12" EP, 1988):

“They began as a five-piece band led by the Millers and Bulmer. ‘No Chance’, a five-track EP, is their second release and is quite raw, raucous and 100% folk-thrash fun. You can immediately sense the Whisky Priests are a kindred spirit to the Pogues and the unhangable ones. But here and on all the recordings, the Whisky Priests’ music is different. I think they have more traditional leanings than the other two groups; most of the Millers’ original compositions fit into the traditional style, many rooted in, and borrowing from, life in Durham County over the years. And although the following words from Graeme Anderson still ring true on ‘Nee Gud Luck’, they best describe ‘No Chance’ and the follow-up EP: “a brand of music which defies you not to dance… A good Priests song hits you full in the face with the force of a pit yacker’s shovel.” [‘Sunderland Echo’, UK, 22nd July 1989].
‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ is improved by a crisper and clearer production, but the band has lost none of its rough-edged charm. Gary Miller’s title track of hard-driving, upbeat music is a tale about someone’s grandfather, who watched as his father died in the mines. The Priests zoom through an instrumental medley of traditional tunes (‘Hexhamshire Lass’, etc.) accompanied by that “pit yacker’s shovel”. Glenn’s composition ‘Ghost of Geordie Jones’ is a fine song about a World War 1 soldier, performed with an air of sadness and anger on acoustic instruments.”
(From joint review of ‘No Chance’, ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’, ‘Halcyon Days’, Nee Gud Luck’), Al Reiss, ‘Dirty Linen’, U.S.A., Issue 30,

October/November 1990.

“The Whisky Priests’ third release, and second 12”, sees them going from strength to strength.
‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’, a tale of death down the pit and the effect on a son, is given a real ‘Whisky Priesting’. It’s played at a pretty fast pace and based around a particularly good accordion tune, proving these guys are no songwriting slouches.
‘The Instrumental Medley’ is a wonderful piece of North-Eastern nostalgia. All the traditional tunes here, including ‘Dance To Yer Daddy’ and ‘Keel Row’, are given a new angle, without loss of feeling for the originals.
‘Geordie Black’ is a great sing-along adaptation and sees the lads adopt a moderate speed and it all works real well.
‘The Row Between The Cages’, a manic rocker in a Men They Couldn’t Hang / Pogues vein, rushes along with Gary relating the tale of a pit-head fight.
But for me the standout track on this record is Glenn’s (accordion / bouzouki) first composition on vinyl, the simply classic ‘The Ghost of Geordie Jones’, a particularly sad tale relating to all the Geordies killed in WW1. To me it has the same spine-tingling something special that ‘Green Fields of France’ had when I first heard it. Quite simply, The Whisky Priests have come of age with this 12”. The last track, ‘Byker Hill / Elsie Marley’, reaffirming this totally. The first part a lovely slice of tradition, the second part they handle famously.
As a taster for their debut LP (which is now rescheduled for release in early ’89) it couldn’t be better. I’m now waiting in anticipation, but in the meantime this is one hell of a record to add to your collection, so go ahead and buy it – make their day, these lads deserve it.”

‘Rock ‘N’ Reel’, #2, UK, Winter 1988/9.

“From the mining villages of County Durham comes an unholy folk-thrash – from a gritty five-piece band called The Whisky Priests. They mix traditional North-East songs with their own compositions, rooted in their homeland.
“We try to get a blend between the historical and modern aspects of the North-East”, said accordionist Glenn Miller from Sherburn. Bleak collieries dominate their songs and their record sleeves. “Nobody should forget their roots”, said Glenn. “Your roots are what you are.”
Their new EP, ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’, is due out in three weeks on their own Whippet label. The speed-folk of their previous ‘No Chance’ EP is still very much at the forefront, but the boys seem to be mellowing a little with a couple of less raucous numbers. ‘Geordie Black’ in particular has a gorgeous lilt, a sad but romantic waltz. The title track is about the drummer’s father seeing his father killed in a pit accident. Another new song, ‘The Row Between The Cages’, is a poem by the late County Durham pit-poet Tommy Armstrong set to music.
In many ways the Priests are the North-East’s answer to The Pogues. Both bands recapture the atmosphere of traditional folk songs in their new works, and both bands use traditional instruments. The Pogues had to move to London to find real success, and the Priests feel almost forgotten about by the people of the North-East. In Cardiff they recently played to a crowd of 2,500, and their records are selling well in the South, in Europe and Australia.
The remnants of Hull’s Housemartins, The Gargoyles, asked them to play at their farewell gig last week, and after last Friday’s performance at The Angel, Durham, a film-maker approached them to write some music for him.
So grab a bottle, pull on your clogs and dance with these bonnie pit lads.”

‘Northern Echo’, UK, 11th November 1988.

“With song titles like ‘Weshin’ Day’, ‘Dance te yer Daddy’ and ‘The Row Between The Cages’, it is immediate that County Durham’s Whisky Priests have done little to discard their cloth cap and clogs – and that has to be good news. I call it up-tempo drinking music – not a million chords away from various efforts by The Pogues. Above all though, The Whisky Priests are a tight, professional team and bloody good fun.”

‘Sunderland Echo’, 4th February 1989.

“The Whisky Priests have released their third vinyl tribute to the people of the North East coalfield. Whilst everyone else seems to be masking Durham’s identity behind flowers or mediaeval pageantry, The Whisky Priests speak out for their culture and its more immediate roots, from two hundred years of toil and struggle. They are a folk band that has very firmly wrenched fingers from ears and not a whale in sight. Without any watering down of message or delivery, these Whisky Priests have taken their music out beyond the folk clubs and Arts Centres to a large enthusiastic audience. Make no mistake about it; this is a wonderful band both live and on record.
‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ is the finest of the Priests’ records to date and bodes well for the forthcoming LP. There is a welcome variance in tempo and humour. Old and new battles against advanced technology, there’s a spot of partying. The human tragedy of ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’. But the harrowing ‘Ghost of Geordie Jones’ opens up a whole new side to The Whisky Priests. The band’s sound is stripped to the bare bones for a brilliantly sad epitaph to a victim of the terrible Great War. This is so tenderly treated and yet undoubtedly the most powerful The Whisky Priests have ever been.
The Whisky Priests sing about real people, not just silly bland lovey stuff. So you really should go and see them play and hear the records, you might well enjoy yourselves immensely.”

‘Ket’, #5, UK, 1989.

Reviews ('No Chance 12" EP, 1988):

“The natural fad heirs to the jangle bands are the anarcho-folkies – among whose number I guess we can include The Men They Couldn’t Hang.
To say The Whisky Priests resemble The Pogues would be like saying a brick with two corners chipped off resembles a brick with one corner chipped off. Eh?
Truth be told, these accordions-on-acid boys are closer to the madcap mayhem of We Free Kings and, despite the folky pointlessness of it all (and probably because of it), this five-tracker is compulsive dementia.”

Joint ‘single of the week’, ‘Sounds’, UK, 30th June 1988.

“5 tracks in all on this 12” EP, and you know, there’s not a bad track in sight, why aye!
The first three songs are played at a fast ‘n’ furious break-neck speed akin to The Pogues thrashers, but musically they’re as tight as Thatcher and her cronies when someone mentions the N.H.S.!!!
Gary Miller (guitarist, vocalist and bouzouki) who writes their lyrics has managed to produce some excellent images of life in the working-class North-East in the past and the present day, the main theme being the pits, their social history and humour, much in evidence on ‘The Coal-Digger’s Grave’.
Musically their sound is based around some great Accordion work, with Bouzouki, Mandolin and Harmonica thrown in for good measure, with the rhythm battered out by Sticks on drums.
The last track, ‘The Bonnie Pit Laddie’, is a traditional song arranged by The Whisky Priests, which they do handsomely.
One band to watch out for; can’t wait for their LP!!”

Sean McGhee, ‘Rock ‘N’ Reel’, #1, UK, Autumn 1988.

“The Whisky Priests sound as if the Devil himself is after them, as they clatter and rattle through ‘No Chance’ – we’re firmly in new wave folk territory here, 85 m.p.h. and a vocalist who sounds like a Geordie gargling glass. All the Priests apparently love traditional music and let it affect their writing. Five tracks long, this EP proves that quite conclusively, with mandolin alongside standard punk back line. Songs about miners dying, getting beaten up by local hooligans and a roustabout version of ‘Bonnie Pit Laddie’ litter the vinyl. If there’s one fault, it’s that the whirlwind pace of everything does tend to tire you and The Whiskies could do to include a slow number or two on their forthcoming album, which, if it’s half as canny as this, will be worth a shifty.”

Simon Jones, ‘Folk Roots’, UK, 1988.

“The Durham lads take a backhander from The Pogues, and embark upon a crusade to popularise their native north eastern folk tradition, with accordion, mandolin and harmonica, and gritty booming vocals. With the hobnail boots, cloth caps, braces and mufflers, and bottles of Newcy Brown, they look the part too. Aye – but listen to the lyrics, if you can keep your feet still long enough, that is. The Whisky Priests put the boot in where needed, their feet are jigging in the 1980’s, not the thirties. They blast the lager-casual coward gangs that the Sun has just discovered terrorising every town and city in the land, and lament the crushing despair of unemployment, exploitation, and warmongering. But there’s a hell of a lot of humour here too – a drunken burial party begins to bury the coal-digger who jumps up to shout “Give us whisky!”. Well canny.”

‘Ket’, #1, UK, 1988.

“Those preachers of hard drink, hobnail boots, cloth caps and woollen mufflers are gracing vinyl again with their sermons.
The Whisky Priests have released a five-tracker on their own Whippet Records, distributed through the Cartel.
Again, the backdrop for their musical tapestries is the closed and crumbling factories, the lingering smell of a Woodbine, and pictures of the iron men who worked the pits and shipyards of yesteryear.
In true Priests fashion, it’s only a straitjacket or a good keelhauling that will prevent the listener from reaching for a bottle of Newcy Brown and dancing on a window ledge to this infectious sound.
The single, due in the shops in a fortnight, opens with ‘No Chance’, a sad lament of a young man growing old in the desperate search for work, killing time with visits, when he can afford it, to the cinema and watching the war-effort film and singing the final notes of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.
Next comes ‘The Coal-Digger’s Grave’, an hilarious account of a coal-digger caught in a cave-in. The burial party reaches Dead Man’s Hill (well after closing time) and begins the burial only for the deceased to jump up and shout, “Give us a whisky!”
The remaining songs, including a traditional arrangement of ‘The Bonnie Pit Laddie’, are in the same vein.
So next time there’s a man on a window-ledge, stay calm: it won’t be a stockbroker ending it all – it’ll be one of the Priests’ fans enjoying himself.”

‘Sunderland Echo’, UK, 2nd July 1988.

“With a whiff of Newcastle Brown, flat caps, ‘dance to thee Daddy’ and Players’ cigs, The Whisky Priests do a marvellous gravel-voiced stomp on Geordie folk songs. With all the delicacy of a sledgehammer, they rattle and roll through Tyneside life with muscley reality.”

‘City Life’, UK, 1988.

“The first song on the album is ‘No Chance’, a rather sad little tale about an unemployed youth, who spends his time hanging around the quayside waiting for his boat to come in and watching films at the local cinema.
‘The Coal-Digger’s Grave’ continues the North-East mining tradition, with a tale of a man caught in a cave-in.
The other side of the album is more traditional and raucous. ‘The Hard Men’ echoes the folky overtones of the record and it’s quite easy to imagine arms flailing and dancers rucking when they play this live.
‘Wise Man’ will get the feet of even the most miserable person dancing.”

‘Side Track’, UK, July 1988.


released July 22, 2016

The Whisky Priests line-up on these recordings:

Gary Miller – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bouzouki, Mandolin
Glenn Miller – Accordion, Backing Vocals, Bouzouki
Michael Stephenson – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Bill Bulmer – Mandolin, Harmonicas, Bouzouki, Washboard, Backing Vocals
Sticks – Drums (tracks 2-16)

Ian Daly - Electric Guitar (track 1)
Andrew Johnson - Drums (track 1)

Helen Charlton - Banjo (tracks 2-4)
Catherine Topliss - Fiddle (tracks 2-4)



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Gary Miller Scottish Borders, UK

Gary Miller first rose to prominence with internationally renowned folk-rock band The Whisky Priests (1985-2002), founded with his twin brother Glenn - “the Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of Folk Music". In 2010, following long-term illness, he released ‘Reflections on War’, his debut solo album and first CD of all new material in 10 years and returned to international touring. ... more

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