The Wages of Sin
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The Wages of Sin

Band World Celtic


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"Custom of the Sea"

Debut album of the year came from the Wages of Sin with the brilliant 'Custom of the Sea', mixing Celtic, country, Appalachian and bluegrass styles (amongst others), which produced classic sea shanty tales of pillaging, plundering and excess drinking. The end product being a highly catchy, full energy and extremely danceable record. that sounded inspired and fresh from start to finish and made a nice change from bands trying to sound like The Pogues. - Irish Post, January 21 2006

"Custom of the Sea"

Billed as delivering a treasure chest of "Punk Rock, Sea Shanties & Appalachian Death Polka", Seattle's Wages of Sin do not so much fuse disparate musical elements as revel in the direct lineage of their influences. Sharp tense '50's rock & roll hooks mesh with mountain fiddle stomps in a ballsy reminder that the two styles are just a short shuffle down the holler from each other; mountain music is the raw-handed grandfather of rock & roll after all. And, of course, bluegrass and Appalachian music are the frontier offspring of the Celtic and British ballad and dance music traditions. The Wages plunder these histories with total affinity and come up with a blend as clean and warm as a mouthful of Jamaican rum.

Steaming out of the yard with a version of the traditional 'Railway', complete with a chorus of navvies snarling and hollering in a shanty tent, the band are soon on a south-bound route with 'Lay Me Down' and its 'Devil Went Down To Georgia'-style barnyard swing. The bull fiddle snaps, the mandolin rings and the rain drives down. 'The Angel's Share' continues the singalong with a bottle of sly grog passed around the back pews of a lonesome Baptist church. And then we get to 'The Tyburn Jig'which tells the grim tale of villainous wife-slaying cads and their road to the end of a rope. If this song is not on the next Shite'n'Onions Best Of, I will eat my scally cap for breakfast.

Onto 'Baptized by Fire', which takes us back to that junction in the holler where rock'n'roll left home. The opening hook reminds us that for all the candy floss in the '50's hit 'Wake up Little Suzie', the Everly Brothers themselves were coming out of an old and often wild tradition. That sense of history through music runs like a thread here, not unlike Steve Earle's classic 'Copperhead Road'.

'Django' sees us in Sergio Leone territory; with a respectful nod to the vastly underrated Pogues (with Shane) swan song 'Hell's Ditch'. 'Buccaneers (of Elliott Bay)' has gotta be another S'n'O Best Of contender. 'Graveyard Blues' is virtually a tribute to the most desolate of Appalachian ballad forms, and a cover of the classic porch knees-up 'Salty Dog Blues' is one for the whole family. It sort of reminds me of the Muppets' Jug Band, and I mean that as a serious compliment! Despite the name, 'Heave Away' is a cool cat strut - you can just see the cigarette smoke pooling above the double bass and neon beer signs.

'Jolly Roger' is an album favourite, a fat cannonball of pure pirate punk. 'Dia de los Muertos' tells the wayward tale of a gringo's narrow escape in a way that brings to mind Shane MacGowan's 'Mexican Funeral in Paris'. 'Drinkin' Days' is a honky tonk classic, complete with a time-to-clean-up-my-act sentiment that is designed to make you want to drink even more.

The voyage - or was that railroad trip - ends with 'Saturday Saints', a good bonding pub song complete with some classy Irish fiddle work as a closer. And then you hit 'Replay' and do it all again.

Great stuff. Get it. - Shite n' Onions Webzine

"The Wages of Sin"

…Seattle's Wages of Sin, whose Appalachian death polka has been known to cure blindness. - The Vancouver Courier Dec. 03

"Drink & The Devil"

Skulls and crossbones, drinking rum, tropical islands and stealing from the rich is my fantasy life. I think for me pirates are right on par with zombies, certainly a step or two above run-of-the-mill superheroes. The "Drink and the Devil" demo by local band the Wages of Sin is f---ing pirate music—from the themes and lyrics, to the sorta-Celtic acoustic sound. It's certainly worthy of rising your pint in the air and yelling "Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr!" Bravo. - Tablet Magazine #92

"Gringo Mariachi"

Ornery (adj.): having a contrary disposition; cantankerous

Yosemite Sam is a prime example of an ornery character well known to all. And The Wages Of Sin play purely ornery music. By burning the sugar and gloss off the surface of rockabilly, they effectively reduce it to its folksy roots and then take it waltzing around the saloon floor while grizzled prospectors spit their ‘baccy and whoop it up. While their second album Gringo Mariachi has all the rustic bluster of Yosemite Sam on a goldfields rampage, it also showcases a particularly rich depth of musicianship rarely seen in punked-up folk. This milieu is male, all-the-way-male, and sepia-tinted at that. But the misadventures of messy, flawed men is bedrock material for country music. Long may it be so.

The card game opens with Skull Creek Logger, a folk punk bone-rattler as pleasingly gutsy as its name suggests. The rolling war drums are reminiscent of Rum, Sodomy & The Lash-era Pogues. Men fight the elements of the New World and shout back into the wind as they are decimated by forces beyond their control. Fury and fiddle music provide a terrific unholy union. Then onto the album’s prettiest firecracker The Drunkard’s Prayer; if anyone was ever in any doubt about the direct lineage shared by American folksong and rockabilly/rock & roll then this song settles all arguments. And best of all, it carries the wistful, lonesome and fatalistic essence of such roots music all within a hollered chorus of “tur-a-lur-a-laddie”. There are countless songs of rambling and alcoholism churned out by any band that dares to brand itself with the Jolly Roger but this one really stands out. Lead Sinner Jesse Stewart has delivered a classic traditional song which every greaser and Bettie Page girl from Seattle to Sydney will immediately appreciate. Hellcat grooves. And unsentimental, too: “I woke up in the street and all the birds were singing, so I went back to the bar while the church bells all were ringing”. Been there, drank that … Prayer just tells it like it is. Belly Of The Whale is 18th Century scurvy and bilge rats stewed and steeped in biblical prophecy. The imagery would not be out of place in an early Flogging Molly song and the minor key keeps it grim.

Black Lung Blues brings Steve Earle’s bare knuckled storytelling to mind, a bitter chronology of generations of mining men and their lives of battle and toil. A rich vein of subject material is tapped here. Haymarket opens with a neat gypsy banjo quick-waltz but soon surges into pure countrybilly. This one must be a live favourite. New Orleans Eulogy is country rock of sorts, crammed with swampy imagery and doomed sentiment; “a southern gothic tragedy, an angel’s grievous fall, Sin City got your money, liquor took your voice”. Bible & A Gun continues with Steve Earle’s vision of the ‘modern’ folk ballad, a tale of incessant drug running against a background of old time religion and military misadventure.

Razor In My Pocket is something straight out of that Irish folksong softback you keep stashed away with that cheap banjo you still haven’t got around to learning (LEARN IT, you lazy bastards). Razor is a ‘Gangs Of New York’ tale minus the ridiculous accents of that film (Day Lewis excepted). Portrait Of An Evangelist stands out on account of its stark Appalachian gospel introduction, unsettling and reeking of brimstone. Then it’s back on the salty decks with Ten Fathoms Deep, very much in keeping with the sound of The Wages’ first album, Custom Of The Sea. But there’s a theremin in here somewhere (!). The Righteous Stranger by mandolinist Marc Robben is a scalding political stream, totally contemporary and therefore something of a departure for the band. And then ... (here we go) … and then a banjo and mandolin-powered take on The Clash chestnut White Riot. You can’t really go wrong with that. The album ends with a no bullshit country death song – Stull – a solid and typical Wages broadside that serves to illustrate the fact that country death song lyrics sit happily alongside heavy metal lyrics; “I’d like to say I’m on the righteous path, but I’ve done things that might incur God’s wrath”. ‘Cept there’s a county sherriff in here, so you know it’s The Wages Of Sin.

The good folk of Seattle should be very proud of The Wages Of Sin. Great musicians to a man, they take roots music in their own direction with confidence and clout. And to all of us flawed gringos who have rambled, brawled and woken up in the street, they show that has always been thus. But also that redemption is always lurking in the wings. Manana, manana, a gringo’s life for me.

Will Swan November, Sydney 2008 - Shite n' Onions Webzine

"The Wages of Spin"

These Seattle punks draw on everything from traditional Celtic sounds to classic rockabilly for your St. Paddy's Day pleasure… - Spin Magazine March 2007

"Custom of the Sea"

If you like your Celt-Punk with a side order of rockabilly... then you will love "Custom Of The Sea". Imagine a Celt-punk band with admiration of Social Distortion while being brought up by a bunch of pirates. "Custom Of The Sea" tears down the walls of traditional folk, Celt, rockabilly, and other music styles and just throws them into a pot.... mixes it with a splash of bounty rum and sets the stage on fire. Hell... I've this CD playing in my car every time I'm getting ready to go out for a high-speed night of drinking and trouble making.

If you dig the sounds of The Black Irish, Blaggards, Tossers, or even 50's Rock N' Roll... you'll dig this disc. - Paddy Rock Radio Website


Gringo Mariachi
Full-length CD
My Checkbook Records, 2008

Custom of the Sea
Full-length CD
My Checkbook Records, 2005



The Wages of Sin have been playing traditional music for non-traditionalists since 2003. They mix Celtic with country with Appalachian with rockabilly with Tex-Mex with bluegrass, and follow the whole mess with a bracing shot of punk rock. Alternately rowdy and mournful, they're sure to get your feet tapping, your heart palpitating, and your liver crying for mercy.

They've released two CDs recorded with Producer/Engineer Johnny Sangster (The Briefs, Gas Huffer), who has called them "…an American version of the Pogues, with more murder." Amen.

The Wages draw consistently large and enthusiastic crowds as headliner at smaller Seattle venues, including a string of sold-out shows at the Sunset Tavern, while their recent St. Patrick's Day show packed the Tractor Tavern to capacity.

The Wages have also had an excellent response supporting national touring acts including Devotchka, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, and the Clumsy Lovers.

Regional touring has included Portland OR, Eugene OR, Olympia WA, and Vancouver BC.

The Wages have a strong web presence including a large mailing list and an active MySpace community They appeal to a wide variety of audiences - from fans of Celtic, country, and bluegrass all the way to rockabilly, ska, and punk.

RIYL: The Pogues/Shane MacGowan, The Waco Bros., Flogging Molly, Steve Earle, Tom Waits, Split Lip Rayfield, Devotchka, Rev. Horton Heat, Slim Cessna's Auto Club