Originally published on London Celtic Punks Dec 6, 2020
The Stanfields trod a well trodden path to 2020 by beginning their career back in 2008 playing cover songs during open mic performances at the Seahorse Tavern in their hometown of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. As the years rolled by The Stanfields may sound like have taken some dramatic turns but to any long turn fan (ahem!) it’s been easy to follow their trajectory from full on their Celtic-Punk to where they are now. Influenced by the many many strands that make Canada and the description of them as “the bastard children of AC/DC and Stan Rogers” their music blends Working Class Hard-Rock with the strands of Folk that make up traditional Canadian music with much of it heavily influenced by Scotland and Ireland.
“Since Covid-19 has effectively made it impossible for us to play live shows safely, and on our own terms, we thought that the time was right to release a live album. Luckily, we had this performance in the can, it’s fun to see how much the songs have evolved over the years, although it’s been a stark reminder to us of how much we miss our natural habitat.”
Welcome To The Ball documents The Stanfields performance at the 2019 Blacktop Ball and includes tracks from across their career along with an added bonus track. Welcome To The Ball begins with the aptly titled ‘Blacktop Blues’ from their 2012 album Death And Taxes, as do the first three songs.
The first thing to say is that the songs here are well chosen and include not just the fan favourites but also some important songs from the bands history. The other thing is that many of these songs are quite lengthy (notice I said lengthy NOT boring!) with three over seven minutes long! The sound recorded, mixed and mastered by Darren van Niekerk (hats off!!) and is absolutely fecking brilliant. Taking you right into the heart of the mosh pit! Nothing is spared as the band steam along at full pelt with the traditional anti-war Folk ballad ‘Mrs. McGrath’ given the epic Stanfields treatment next followed by ‘The Road to Guysborough’. Now I’ve never been much a fan of live records but when they are done well like here they can be explosive, capturing the very essence of a band. Next up are firm fan favourites ‘Fight Song’, taken from 2015’s Modem Operandi, and ‘Hard Miles’ from 2013’s For King And Country. Both songs saw the band tweak their original Celtic sound and bring in more harder Rock elements.
‘Dagger Woods’ is the first of three tracks here from debut album ‘Vanguard Of The Young And Reckless’ from 2010 and is over eight minutes long and while that may displease the Dead Kennedys it fully deserves the word epic. A fantastic song that literally spills emotion and while it’s not just worthy it’s catchy as hell too. ‘Ship To Shore’ is relatively short at just four minutes while ‘Ghost Of The Eastern Seaboard’ at almost eight returns us to epic territory along with the final song from their set that night, the outstanding ‘Fox in The Heather’ at over eight.
“Take a look at the one beside you
Let the power of us provide you
The means to guide you, right beside you
Welcome to the Ball”