With another Saint Patrick's Day almost upon us, we'll once again don the green, approximate some lame Irish accents, and prepare to ingest massive amounts of oddly tinted beer. They're all worthy pursuits, but why not add some music to the mayhem? We're not talking about sentimental sludge like "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," trad troubadours like the Clancy Brothers, or even overblown pop pundits like U2. Quite the contrary, the Irish music of today effectively merges irreverence and tradition. As proof, we present six cutting-edge Irish acts certain to shake your shamrocks.
The songs of the Saw Doctors revel in the joys of the Emerald Isle, specifically the innocence and exhilaration of their youth as spent in that idyllic environ. Their uptempo tunes will rouse the masses from their drunken stupor just as their sentimental ballads will put tears in their beer. Their latest album, That Takes the Biscuit, gathers various outtakes and rarities. "She's Got It," "Fortunately," and "Good News" offer an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.
Based in Brooklyn but born of Irish expatriates, Black 47 is dark indeed. Meshing fierce tenacity with stirring sentiment, its latest, Iraq, is the band's most affecting effort yet, voicing the fears and frustrations of troops serving in that faraway hellhole.
Anchored by Dublin-born Dave King, Flogging Molly call Los Angeles home, but laidback La-La Land hasn't muffled its fierce Irish invectives. Combining rugged anthems with double-time rhythms, new album Float typifies the group's ability to tout punk platitudes under the guise of Celtic tradition. Songs like "Paddy's Lament" and "Punch Drunk Grinning Soul" betray a wicked irreverence fueled by booze and bluster.
The same can be said of the Dropkick Murphys, another bunch of reckless rowdies whose music oozes spit and snarl. Bred in Boston, where Irish ancestry is important, they blend standard rock regalia with bagpipes, bodhran, and plenty of bluster. The Meanest of Times lives up to its title, tossing out songs that rant, rumble, and rail about angst, anger, and oppression.
His name betrays Irish origins, but the sweep of strings, Stax-style brass, and a soulful strut/sway suggests that young Paddy Casey has an American mantra. His previous album was a huge bestseller back home, and his latest, Addicted to Company, has enough easy, breezy melodies to repeat that feat over here.
Born into poverty, turbulent troubadour Damien Dempsey transforms his bitterness and frustration into a form of eloquent insurgency. Hailed in his native land — he's been named best male artist by the Irish press — he combines the over-the-top ferocity of Bono with the poetic intellect of Bob Dylan. Dempsey's fourth studio set, To Hell or Barbados, is as far-reaching as its name implies, and while there are various genres here that can be hard on the ears, it's also mesmerizing.
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