Eight years. One hundred condemned halls. Five hundred odious bars. Ten thousand miles of lonely highway. Two hundred thirty squalid parking lots. Eighty eight suspicious security guards. Fifty-six dubious police officers. Seven justified public drinking offences. Three showers. Ninety wistful phone calls to loved ones. Two visits to the emergency room. Eleven stitches in the head. One thousand broken strings. Four hundred broken bottles. Five broken hearts. Five shattered dreams. Five disenchanted personas. Five crestfallen vagabonds. Five unrepentant Calgarians. Five persevering outsiders.
Eight years. Thirty-eight taxing studio days. Dozens of idiomatic anthems. Two eclectic producers. Three aberrant seven-inch records. Six commendatory catalysts for ideas. Three dogmatically resplendent full-length records. Five tortured souls reprieved. Five proud artificers. One disdain towards the prevailing winds. One contempt towards musical definition. One perpetual propensity towards levity.
Eight years of respite. Eight years of camaraderie. Eight years of inspiration. Eight liters of blood. Eighteen liters of vomit. Eighty liters of sweat. Eighty thousand pints of Guinness. Five solar pessimists. Five romantic egotists. Five disheartened idealists. Five dipsomaniacal sentimentalists. Five steadfast traditionalists. One perpetual sense of apathy towards anybody else’s opinion on the matter.
- Derek Stevie, 2009
Autumn 2001. Harboring an increasingly heartless and suffocating music scene, Calgary, Alberta was becoming a punk rock ghost town. Musical regurgitation abounded as too many musicians listened to too few musicians, and too many acts emulated the same old act. Similarly to what was happening in other cities, a handful of musicians were tactful enough to abandon such practices for a blatant challenging of what had come before. Thereby, the passion of emotional music was flexed beyond standards that had been set previously and volume, velocity and veracity achieved new heights. But more importantly than this, an even smaller handful of musicians conceded that the real problem with punk rock was that it’s champions were always trying to usher it another step forward when it hadn’t actually been properly acquainted with the past. Forfeiting orthodoxy, these young gentlemen saw the potential for rebel music to meld harmoniously with some of the twentieth century’s most eclectic, if somewhat seedy, art forms. After all, why shouldn’t the grit of Delta blues, the street poetry of hardboiled fiction and the existentialism of film noir be embraced by a genre that was originally based on unorthodoxy itself? As there is no cogent answer to this question, Rum Runner was birthed out of absolute necessity. Drawing far more influence from Dashiell Hammett, John Huston and Arthur Guinness than from the Clash, the Sex Pistols or the Ramones, Calgary’s sons have been performing their musical discourse on other generation’s pop cultures all over North America since their inception. Of particular mention is the fact that their memorably anarchic live show has been welcome everywhere from the most deplorable dive to the most reputable folk festival. There’s also been an increasing propensity to assault living rooms worldwide with the Rum Runner sound via 2004’s Association (Longshot Music), 2005’s Dead Men are Heavier Than Broken Hearts 7” (Longshot Music) and 2006’s Rum Runner in Guns at Cyrano’s (Stumble Records / Longshot Music). As music around them continues to evolve, Rum Runner remains hellbent on satiating that niche craving for a sound that looks backwards for inspiration.
Al Drinkle - Vocals, Guitar
Mike Longfield - Guitar, Vocals
Kurt Jensen - Bass, Vocals
Carey Maillot - Drums
Spencer Jo - Guitar, Banjo, Vocals
A Tribute to the Pogues - 7"
Association LP 2004
Dead Men are Heavier than Broken Hearts - 7" 2005
Rum Runner in Guns at Cyrano's LP - 2006
Dead Men Picture Disc 7" 2006
What's the Music Mean to You? LP 2009
What's the Music Mean to You?
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Taking much of its influence from the likes of the Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, et al., folk-influenced...Taking much of its influence from the likes of the Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, et al., folk-influenced punk rock (twangy electric guitars, lots of acoustic sing-alongs and more vocals than killer riffs) is vastly divergent from, say, psychobilly. But the two are victims of similar issues because as each genre has become so specialized, there are very few ways in which a band can grow, experiment or even blossom without losing their status in the scene, or become a train wreck. Calgary's Rum Runner have been avoiding this issue for the past eight years by ensuring they scavenge any possible elements of street punk, rock and upbeat country that haven't been run into a rut by their particular scene, a process they manage to maintain with this 12-track tertiary effort. Strong, enthusiastic and upbeat, it rolls along like a flat-black '20s hi-boy: loud, proud and kind of retro in a kitschy way. And while this album isn't going to overwhelm the unwitting into embracing folk punk, at least it gives those mired in the centre of it something fresh to enjoy. (Stumble)
Rum Runner in Guns at Cyrano's
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“I can’t say for sure whether there was ever such a time beyond the realm of film noir cinema, but I...“I can’t say for sure whether there was ever such a time beyond the realm of film noir cinema, but I truly do wish that I was born amidst an age when women were ‘dames’ (complete with satin gloves, cigarette filters, and thick black mascara) and any respectable man wouldn’t be caught dead without their pinstripe suits and Tommy guns. Though Calgary’s Rum Runner find themselves smack dab in the Canadian capital of modernity-gone-right, you can quite easily tell that they too long for a ‘simpler’ time we’ve not experienced since the days when prohibition was the greatest evil of the day.
Hence, Guns At Cyrano’s sounds remarkably faithful to the type of folkish rock you’d be likely to hear amidst the barren belly of any of Capone’s seedier joints; a feat made all the more commendable when considering the fact that it is also one of the best punk records to have been crammed into my mailbox this year. Though any half-intelligent person would cite The Pogues as an obvious primary influence and drop the names Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys into any sentence begging suitable referents, I personally find Guns At Cyrano’s evoking a sound and a mindset perhaps adequately described as a composite between Against Me!’s Reinventing Axl Rose and the Swingin’ Utters Five Lessons Learned (the former primarily in execution, the latter in modus operandi and spirit). When furthermore considering the fact that Against Me! are heading in a questionable direction and the Utters have quite literally disappeared, this twelve-track slice of stripped down gravel-tongued punk only stands as an even more necessary breath of fresh air. And when a band can splice modern-day attacks on celebrity culture with gangster narratives and pub-ready sing-alongs together while going about their business…well, that’s just magic.
The Verdict: Well, take a listen to "Dead Men Are Heavier Than Broken Hearts"…this album quite honestly speaks for itself, and I hope you might wish to take the time to listen.”
Dead Men are Heavier than Broken Hearts 7"
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“I usually hate this brand of Celtic style punk rock, but fortunately for my listening pleasure, RUM...“I usually hate this brand of Celtic style punk rock, but fortunately for my listening pleasure, RUM RUNNER has that something special that elevates them above all the other Flogging Mollys and Dropkick Murphys of the world. Maybe it’s the rough and tumble feel of honesty and not forcing it, or the fact that they can write a damn good tune. It’s the closest thing to the Pogues that I’ve heard that hasn’t made me cringe. Even their cover of the aforementioned shines all the way through. Finally, a bunch of Paddied-up punk that I can raise a glass to.”
- Maximum Rock n’ Roll
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“Walking the same side of the street as other Celtic-punks like Flogging Molly, the Dropkick Murphys...“Walking the same side of the street as other Celtic-punks like Flogging Molly, the Dropkick Murphys and the Swingin' Utters, Canada's Rum Runner offer up a lively and energetic blend of punk rock and traditional Irish folk. With Association, the band's erstwhile debut, Rum Runner genuflects at the altar of Shane MacGowan, tearing through a dozen 3-minute tales of heartbreak, poverty and alcohol. Singer/guitarist Al Drinkle has a guttural, whiskey-soaked voice that is not all that different from any other Irish gutterpunk, but his songwriting chops are quite impressive.
Songs like "Torn Ten Dollar Bill" and "Dragonflies" illustrate Drinkle's skillful wordplay and story-telling ability, while the spry "Whiskey and Wisdom" belies a world-weary perspective that attempts to reach beyond the typical Celtic-punk fare of, well, whiskey and women. Bassist Kurt Jensen and drummer Mike Longfield make a lot of noise while holding down the bottom line, the three-piece Rum Runner sounding more like the traditional five or six-piece Celtic-punk band. The band seals the deal on Association with an inspired, swaggering reading of the Pogues' classic "Streams of Whiskey." Much like the Canadian jetstream brings ice-cold Arctic air to middle America during the winter, Rum Runner's Association provides a fresh breeze... hell, more like a raging windstorm, really....to blow away the stale punk rock fare we've been saddled with lately. Keep your eyes on these guys 'cause methinks you'll be hearing more from Rum Runner.”
- Alt Culture Guide
20-30 minutes of blistering rootsy punk rock.
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