Internationally-acclaimed Songwriter,
Performer and Recording Artist
from County Durham, England

Gary Miller Songs

"As a song poet there are few in the world today to match him"
Green Man Review, USA

The Whisky Priests - 'Life's Tapestry'

 

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Released: 1996

Label: Whippet Records / Musica Pangaea

Format: CD / Cassette

Cat. No.: WPTCD14 / WPTC14

 

Notes

The Whisky Priests fifth studio album.

 

Credits

Gary Miller – Lead Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Glenn Miller – Accordion, Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Paul Stipetic – Drums, Vocals
Thomas Fisk – Electric Guitars, Mandola, Mandolin, Euphonium, Vocals
Mick Howell – Bass Guitar, Vocals

 
Track Listing
1. Ranting Lads (3:28)
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2. This Village (5:39)
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3. Favourite Sons (4:22)
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5. Which Side Of Bedlam? (3:05)
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6. He's Still My Son (4:05)
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7. Workhorse (4:36)
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8. Silver For The Bairn (3:43)
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9. "Farewell Jobling!" (4:40)
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10. Forever In Our Hearts (5:17)
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11. Sweet Magpie (4:48)
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12. Quiet Angel (3:47)
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Reviews /Quotes

“With over a decade of hard work, hard gigging and total commitment to their musical vision, The Whisky Priests (in reality the core is founders and brothers Gary and Glenn Miller) have produced without a shadow of doubt their finest album to date.
Joined by their most impressive and solidly entertaining back-line to date – Paul Stipetic, Mick Howell and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Fisk – The Whisky Priests sound is revitalised with a new razor sharp storming edge where electric guitars jostle with accordion, mandolin and the powerfully expressive vocals of frontman Gary.
Their evolution has now seen them develop their sound, their packaging (a superb CD booklet) and their finest collection of songs to date. ‘Ranting Lads’, the opening, is destined to become a huge live favourite, with its stomping and hugely infectious chorus. With melodies and hook-lines a-plenty, the album goes from strength to strength. ‘Favourite Sons’, ‘Legacy Of The Lionheart’, ‘Which Side Of Bedlam?’, ‘Silver For The Bairn’, the historically intriguing political angle of ‘“Farewell Jobling!”’, and more, rank alongside anything any act within the whole folk-rock, punk-folk movement has ever produced.
If you’ve never sampled the delights of The Whisky Priests then ‘Life’s Tapestry’ is a brilliantly impressive starting point. Previous fans prepare to be astounded.”
(Sean McGhee, ‘Rock ‘N’ Reel’, UK, Issue 26, Autumn 1996) 


“The Miller brothers continue their prolific output with this their 11th [sic] album. Raw and untamed, they surge through a wonderful melange of sound that builds up like a rumbling explosion. I know it has been said many times before but surely The Whisky Priests must be ready for super stardom now with their pop star presence combining with excellent folk-dance musicianship. Gary Miller’s ‘Silver For The Bairn’ is a perfect illustration of the band’s musical abilities – they play with such a seemingly nonchalant ease, that it’s hard to understand how they can be so dynamic and yet so laid back. Miller has the glorious knack for penning irresistible choruses and coupled with a lyrical depth beyond the norm and a strong commercial ear, his worth as a composer ought to be worth its weight in gold. The Whisky Priests’ music is stirring and ‘Life’s Tapestry’ is a stunningly hyperventilating experience.”
(Geoff Wall, ‘Folk On Tap’, UK, Issue 70, 1st January – 31st March 1997)


“The North East of England’s favourite musical lads unleash their seventh album on an unsuspecting public. But is it up and running? In late ’95, founder members Gary and Glenn Miller were joined by three new members. Line-up changes have dogged the lads throughout their eleven-year history, possibly brought on by their mammoth touring schedule. Hailed as ‘the best ever line-up’, how does it transfer to the studio?
Thirty seconds into ‘Ranting Lads’, it’s obvious they’re still on the right track. The sound is fuller, rockier and loses none of the balls for which they’re rightly famous. Overall, the album has a quieter, more introspective pitch than the first track suggests, giving full rein to Thomas Fisk, on electric guitar and mandolins, to weave his musical talents around the melodies and songs of the Millers. The lyrics take on a broader subject matter.
A class album, from a classic live band.”
(Neil Pedder, ‘Taplas’, UK, Dec ’96 / Jan ’97) 


“The Whisky Priests is another hard-working band, averaging 150 gigs a year – many in continental Europe. Their music is amplified and their post-Pogues approach is neatly summarised in the title of the opening track of this, their sixth album, ‘Ranting Lads’. While The Whisky Priests instrumental approach places them in the same territory as the Oyster Band, the compositions of the group’s songwriter and lead vocalist, Gary Miller, share a deep sense of locality with Knightley. Miller has an enviable range which goes from the stark balladry of ‘“Farewell Jobling!’”, the tough tale of a Jarrow hanging, to the meditative ‘Sweet Magpie’”.
(‘Musician’, UK, December 1996)


“England’s Whisky Priests have been around for nearly a decade [sic]. This guitar-accordion-guitar/mandolin-bass-drums folk-rock quintet has always revolved around the creative juices of twin-brother founder members Gary (lead vocals, guitars) and Glenn (accordion, keyboards, vocals) Miller. From its inception, Gary Miller’s craggy, dynamic vocals, loud electric guitars, and up-tempo music played in a furious, full-steam-ahead fashion have been the hallmarks of this aggregation. Happily, little has changed. The Priests are still a passionate, energy-laden band that energizes the slower tracks such as the ballad-like ‘He’s Still My Son’ to the mid-tempo ‘Legacy of The Lionheart’ sporting a militaristic drum beat, to ‘Which Side of Bedlam?’ with its infectious sing-along as you drink-along chorus. And the feel of Gary Miller’s lyrics, which fit well with the instrumentation, carry traditional sensibilities; if English musicians used screaming electric guitars 150 or 200 years ago, songs like ‘Workhorse’ (about a plough horse that drops dead from overwork), ‘Ranting Lads’ (about colliers), and ‘“Farewell Jobling!”’ (about an innocent man hanged for another man’s crime) would have been the folk tunes of the day. The band is not as raw as it was in the late ’80’s, but it remains rough-edged, raucous and rowdy. And that’s just great; I wouldn’t want The Whisky Priests any other way. Highly recommended, especially when played at maximum volume.”
(Al Reiss, ‘Dirty Linen’, U.S.A., Issue 69, April/May 1997) 


“So at last The Whiskies get to write a serious album, an album of folk songs. This is justice of course, after all it’s eleven years coming and is exactly what they intended. This is where they begin to leave belt and braces behind and square up to a repertoire of thoughtful, considered material that belies their reputation as kings of raucous trad.
Gary Miller’s ability as a songwriter who captures folk sentiment and communal memory must now be unquestioned after ‘Ranting Lads’, ‘This Village’, ‘He’s Still My Son’ and ‘Forever In Our Hearts’, nor has the time spent hanging about with Joseph Porter been fallow. Ballads which nod and wink at history in much the same waggish manner as Blyth Power – ‘Which Side Of Bedlam?’, ‘Workhorse’, ‘“Farewell Jobling!”’ – are all successful snapshots within and without the tradition. Lyrically all this is clever stuff, settings are beefy yet less frantic – all credit to new recruit Thomas Fisk who fits the snuggest of the new 1996 Priests.
Despite a sometimes perplexing, often fraught, career this band have stuck to their guns and ‘Life’s Tapestry’ is its own reward. One more step along the road they go.”
(Simon Jones, ‘Folk Roots’, UK, Issue 163/164, Jan/Feb 1997)


“By and large this album sees The Whisky Priests in a more reflective and philosophical mood. They’ve always been men with a message; the music has been the vehicle for proclaiming that message which is now increasing in depth and complexity.
Tight musicianship and The Whisky Priests hallmark of thoughtful and creative arrangement makes this latest line-up the best yet. The Miller Brothers always achieve that unmistakable sound whoever is working with them. Echoes of certain melodic lines recur from earlier songs and there’s atmospheric harmony singing and enviably nifty riffs.
‘“Farewell Jobling!”’ and ‘Ranting Lads’ are recognisably following the Whisky Priest theme of the northeastern workingman past and present – observed with gritty realism rather than sentimental nostalgia. ‘Forever In Our Hearts’ is deeply moving and quietly anthemic. ‘Sweet Magpie’ is full of metaphor and imagery. Many of the songs seem to have the quality of carols and hymns, with biblical overtones and religious themes.
This may not sound like Whisky Priests territory on the surface of things, but read those lyrics and you’ll understand where it fits in. Gary Miller’s mind is in full spate with a vocabulary to match. The music is the means for presenting the poetry. I await the next album with interest, because this one is going to be hard to follow. It’s a disturbing and thought-provoking collection of superb songs performed with hard-edged and scalp-tingling thoroughness. Not for the faint-hearted!
The accompanying 16-page booklet of lyrics features the graphic design of Keith Lawrence Palmer; these are absolutely superb and each page deserves to be separately published as a broadsheet. Buy the CD, read the booklet first, then listen to the music.
(Jenny Coxon, ‘Folk Buzz’, UK) 


“I’m not the kind of person who enjoys listening to the meaningless, soft-edged lyrics of commercial music; I need something a little bit Avant Garde. Pretentious? Well, yes, I suppose, but I’m nothing if honest! That’s why I’m here to tell you about The Whisky Priests’ new album ‘Life’s Tapestry’. The Miller twins, Gary and Glenn, are undoubtedly in a class of their own when it comes to producing prolific amounts of Social Realist music, their unambiguous passion could only equate them with the likes of Billy Bragg and the lesser known cult band Blyth Power.
‘Life’s Tapestry’ is an anthemic type album, which captures the blood, sweat, and toil of the workingman’s existence.
“This old workhorse will work ‘til he drops / When his work is all done he refuses to stop / When he’s put out to pasture will he finally be free / Will his body and mind at last feel relief.” (‘Workhorse’).
Okay, so I’ve chosen one of the gloomier songs to express my point, and there are plenty of others which present a more positive outlook of life. From the raucous chanting of ‘The Ranting Lads’ to the melodic beauty of ‘This Village’.
There’s no doubt that you’ll either LOVE the strange bleating Milleresque singing and the powerful poetic lyrics or, like the stereotypical play it safe commercial music fan, you’ll switch your mind off after the first track and pick up the latest Simply Red album instead!! Don’t be a philistine, switch on to the gritty passion of ‘Life’s Tapestry’”.
(Charmaine O’Reilly, ‘The Edge’, UK, 14th October 1996) 


“The Priests have changed once more. I don’t think you will come across another band in the whole world whose line-up changes with such regularity. However, having said that, the line-ups may change but the quality of the music doesn’t.
This latest offering is in my opinion the very best combination that these North East lads have given us yet. All the music press and tabloid hacks have centred in this summer (and quite rightly too) on the huge talents of the Mancunian Gallagher brothers (Oasis), but believe me, in Gary and Glenn Miller there lies a comparable twosome when it comes to music that gives you that bit extra. Not Manchester v Newcastle again!!
The album, released by Whippet Records, comprises 13 energetic and vibrant tracks, which by any musical standards are excellent. If you have heard any previous releases of the lads from near the Toon you will already know of their strong links to the coal mining of previous years and once again there is a strong influence on this album.
I recommend that if you truly call yourself a music fan, whether it’s folk, rock or any other type and no matter from what generation, that you give this album a serious listening to.
It is my opinion that music doesn’t fall into any other categories than good or bad and I can assure you that this album is definitely in the good classification, so go out and check it out.”
(Martin Holden, ‘Folk North West’, UK, Autumn 1996)


“The latest album from the Durham folk rockers is a return to their roots, but a progression as well.
Their last album, ‘Bleeding Sketches’, was a collection of poems by Keith Armstrong set to the Priests music – mainly that of singer Gary Miller – but this sees Gary and, on a couple of tracks, brother Glenn back on writing duties.
It is also the first with their newest line-up, and the Priests have a splendid group of musicians for this album.
The music is in the tradition of high-energy folk-rock, with moving ballads and traditional laments thrown in for good measure.
Once again, the songs are consistently high quality: I’ve said it before, (and I’ll say it again) Gary Miller is one of the best composers in British Folk.
Evidence a-plenty on this 13-track album, from the kick-off ‘Ranting Lads’, the stirring ‘Legacy Of The Lionheart’, the moving ‘Silver For The Bairn’ and ‘When I’m Born Again / I Am Redeemed’.
Tight as a very tight thing, hard as nails and as beautiful as a Northumberland sunrise. Recommended.
(Richard Lewis, ‘Bury Times’ UK) 


“The Whisky Priests have never forsaken their roots. This is their seventh album and they’re still mining their rich seam of traditional Durham music.
Once they were blood and guts folk-punk, occasionally letting their boisterous enthusiasm run away with their music – although it invariably made a great live show. ‘Life’s Tapestry’ manages to combine everything the Priests have stood for, and yet with three new faces in the five-man line-up, the album has a fresh and vigorous feel. Although there are plenty of thunderous rhythms and folk thrashes, the band channel their energy into capturing their rawness. And there are some lovely touches; swathes of jolly accordion and battlefield drums create an excellent backing for the song ‘Legacy Of The Lionheart’.
The Priests still revolve around Gary Miller, the vocalist and lyricist who formed the band with his twin brother Glenn in 1985. For such a wee ’un, his voice is now immense: powerful, rich and authentic.
Gary’s lyrics are as much a trademark as his voice. Last year the band recorded an album with Newcastle poet Keith Armstrong and Gary has learnt much from the experience: on ‘“Farewell Jobling!”’ he recounts the story of William Jobling who was unjustly hanged and tarred in Jarrow as a warning to striking miners.
The highpoint of the album is the opening track, ‘Ranting Lads’. It begins with perfectly pitched harmony vocals, explodes with a Sham 69-style guitar into a foot-stomping rhythm. The accordion picks up an instantly memorable tune and as the pace quickens you feel as if you’ve been swept up into an historical riot.
In their 11-year history, The Whisky Priests have played about 900 shows, once headlining to 20,000 Germans.”
(Chris Lloyd, ‘The Northern Echo’, UK, 23rd October 1996) 


“Latest album from The Whisky Priests and features 13 brand new songs, all bar one written by Gary Miller (who with his brother, Glenn, are the only remaining co-founders). The album kicks off with ‘Ranting Lads’, one hell of a sing-along with a few gallons on hand type song. ‘The Village’ [sic] (shades of The Prisoner here folks?), is actually a very evocative song and contains some superb lyrics, as indeed do most of Gary’s songs. The arrangement reminds me a bit of Tull. ‘Which Side Of Bedlam?’ is a very poignant song indeed, “Sometimes I feel like I’m tearing out my hair / Sometimes I’m not sure whose hair I even wear / Sometimes I feel like I’m going insane / But on which side of bedlam do I belong?” Band members helping make some sumptuous sounds are Paul Stipetic on drums and vocals, Thomas Fisk on electric guitars, mandolin and vocals, Mick Howell on bass and vocals, as well as the aforesaid Glenn and the poet extraordinaire, Gary Miller on vocals and guitars. Thirteen tracks, no duffers.”
(Dave W. Hughes, ‘The Modern Dance’, UK, Issue #21) 


“Minor details like losing all of the rest of the band (again) does nothing to stop the Miller brothers. Gary (vocals, acoustic & electric guitar) and Glenn (accordion, piano, keys, vocals) have now recruited Thomas Fisk (electric guitar, mandola, mandolin, euphonium, vocals). Mick Howell (bass, vocals) and Paul Stipetic (drums, vocals). After using someone else’s lyrics for the last album, Gary is back writing all of the material (apart from ‘“Farewell Jobling!”’, which was written with Glenn).
The album starts with ‘Ranting Lads’, which is a belting roots rock number. Who says that folk when mixed with rock has to be laid back and boring? Definite memories of The Pogues on this. It is one hell of an opener and proves that The Whisky Priests are always a force to be reckoned with. Live – this song must be a showstopper, with lots of bounce and balls with opportunities for a sing-along as well.
Gary’s lyrics are always thoughtful, and none more so than on ‘He’s Still My Son’, where he sings from the viewpoint of a mother whose son is a murderer. Although she realises what he has done and knows that he has no respect for her, she will still be waiting for him in paradise. Reflection gives way to ‘Workhorse’, which saw my three-year-old daughter dancing and reeling around the room.
Recorded again at Trinity Heights, Fred Purser has captured a rough and raw feel, giving a ‘live’ feel, while maintaining control of the production. Possibly this is their heaviest album to date with some strong axe-work and the result is just superb. If you want to discover roots rock at its finest, there is just none better than The Whisky Priests.”
(Kevin Rowland, ‘Feedback’, UK) 


“The Whisky Priests hail from Newcastle [sic] but, as one of the hardest working live bands in the world, have little time to watch Kevin Keegan’s Boys play!
Their gig list covers Europe from August to November followed curiously by a support tour to Kent’s own Oysterband.
The essence of their appeal is undoubtedly an exciting live act, which comes over on their latest studio recording ‘Life’s Tapestry’ – a CD on their own label, Whippet Records.
It’s an album full of urgent vocals and music, featuring the distinctive voice of Gary Miller. This is distinctive because there is an atonal quality to the vocals, but it is effectively captivating.
From the lead track, ‘Ranting Lads’, it is an album of original songs, written by Gary and something of a cross between Strawhead and the Pogues. Semi-historical and social themes are the name of the game here and sung and played with a passion that gives you some idea why they are big in countries like Slovenia and Italy.
The band has had a turbulent eleven-year history with over thirty different members and many legal wrangles, but their fans appear to accept the Miller brothers’ latest line-up as the best Whisky Priests yet.
If you like your music raucous and with plenty of guts, this is a band for you.”
(Doug Hudson, ‘Folk In Kent’, UK) 


“We find The Whisky Priests in raucous voice on ‘Life’s Tapestry’. These 13 songs spring from the pen of Gary Miller, who with twin brother Glenn are the only surviving original members, as the new incarnation tuck into the party fare with enthusiasm and gusto.”
(‘Top Magazine’, Tower Records, UK, February 1997)


“Probably the best album yet from the North East’s Whisky Priests, with their honest, earthy, raucous, wiry and very English folk storytelling.”
(‘Organ’, UK, Issue #49)


“The brothers Gallagher may be a-feudin’ and a-sulkin’ in the public eye, but the brothers Miller eschew such trivialities. Gary and Glenn Miller, passionately proud of their County Durham roots and traditions, formed THE WHISKY PRIESTS in Durham in 1985.
Since then they’ve gone on to be one of the most honest, hard working and powerfully entertaining bands on the folk/roots circuit. Gary’s the lead singer and guitarist, Glenn plays accordion, the current line-up also featuring Mick Howell (bass, vocals), Thomas Fisk on electrics guitars, mandola, mandolin and vocals, and Paul Stipetic on drums and vocals.
‘Life’s Tapestry’ is the Priests’ 7th album, and again includes songs from history like ‘“Farewell Jobling!”’ about the hanging of an innocent man “As long as we let politics rule the course of liberty / Scapegoats will be made while the guilty ones go free”, but also powerfully personal songs like ‘Quiet Angel’, matching Gary Miller’s lyrics (he’s been hailed as one of the best lyricists of our time) with storming music to match The Pogues or Oysterband.”
(‘Backline’, UK, Sept-Oct 1996) 


“Just when you thought your daughters were safe, along comes the in your face music of Newcastle’s [sic] wild boys of folk! This is vintage folk thrash as it should be performed and although the strident lead vocals of songwriter Gary Miller nay not be to everyone’s taste, it has to be admired for its exuberance. What would they do with a song by Jez Lowe? Now there’s a sobering thought.”
(‘Steppin’ Out’, UK, October 1995) 


“This folk band is a success across Europe with its raucous, fun spin on traditional English folk music. It must be the accordion sound that makes this music seem different from the folk music to which I’m more accustomed. In any case, ‘Legacy of The Lionheart’ is the most memorable track, with a cadence that reminds me of Detroit’s Mark Christopher.”
(‘Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter’, U.S.A., Oct-Dec 1996)


“As long as the founders remain, I suppose a group can still offer a link to their past but with over thirty members passing through the various formations, TWP can only claim continuity (via Gary and Glenn Miller) if their music also has that continuity. I’ve only heard a bit of their previous work so I’m only prepared to take their latest offering on its own merits.
Musically, it would be easy to write them off as noisy nonsense. There’s little surface subtlety about most of the arrangements; certainly none about Gary’s lead vocals. There is, however, an underlying care, which decries the overall ‘punk-folk’ feel. However much Gary shouts and yells his words (most of them are his) he can’t hide the really great lyrics, which make this an album worth careful examination. Ignore (if possible!) the 60’s rock drumming, play about with the tempi and any folky has a new selection for his ditty-bag. There’s a depth to the lyrics which cries out for a more subtle delivery, and a few mysteries too, such as who is discussed in ‘Favourite Sons’. The heart-rending ‘He’s Still My Son’ makes a welcome change from the frenetic, and we hear some of the instrumental skills of Thomas Fisk, Mick Howell and Paul Stipetic, but it’s soon back to crash and bash. Another less frantic arrangement with ‘Silver For The Bairn’ is still overpowered with Gary’s vocal. I’m sure it’s deliberate; he seems unwilling to be accused of any delicacy in his vocal and this has to be annoying to the general folk fan. The lyrics are far too clever for the rock fan so where do they stand? ‘“Farewell Jobling!”’ is another ‘innocent man hung’ story and the listener must make his own judgement on the details. They here stray into themes with which numerous other writers have dabbled, and unless their version is definitely true, they are on dangerous ground. ‘Forever In Our Hearts’ is delightful (dare I say that about TWP?) but again, who is it about? ‘Quiet Angel’ is anything but! They end with the slow tempo, almost prayer-like ‘When I’m Born Again / I Am Redeemed’.
I’m not a fan of this style of performance but I’m a GREAT fan of their lyrical abilities. This could have been a truly fabulous album had they chosen a more acceptable style – call me a BOF if you will: I know wot I like. DO NOT READ THEIR PUBLICITY: listen to their work!”
(Doug Porter, ‘Folk On!’, UK, November 1996)