MP3 Monday: Irish Punk for St. Patrick’s Day

Matt Hensley of Flogging MollyAfter two weeks of shuffling boxes back and forth between our old and new homes, we’re back and ready to squeeze. And since we’ve left you high and dry for so long, we’ll make up for it with not one, but two tracks to add to your St. Patrick’s Day party playlist.

Metromix Denver put together a fun field guide to Irish punk bands and, of course, all such lists begin with the genre’s creators: The Pogues. Mixing traditional Irish instruments like the accordion and tin whistle with punk rock attitude and politically-charged lyrics, The Pogues are the blueprint that all other Irish/Celtic punk bands follow. This track features some nice accordion work by The Pogues’ accordionist, James Fearnley:

Flogging Molly approaches the Irish punk sound by melding old and new world — leader Dave King grew up in Dublin, but has spent most of his adulthood in Los Angeles. Named in honor of the L.A. club where the band cut its teeth, Flogging Molly have built a strong following over the years and their latest album, Float, cracked the top 5 in Billboard’s album chart last year. Skateboarder turned accordion player Matt Hensley squeezes the box for Flogging Molly:

25 Songs: The Pogues

For day #4 of our accordion advent calendar, we return to holiday music, but this isn’t your typical, cheery Christmas tune. Instead of Santa, Rudolph, or Jack Frost, we’ve got an alcoholic gambler and his heroin addict wife hurling insults at each other. And yet, year after year, The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” heads the lists of top holiday songs in the UK, as perhaps the ultimate seasonal ode to dysfunctional family. James Fearnley’s accordion takes a backseat to the sparring vocals of Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl on this one, but it’s hard to argue with the end result.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

They say everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day; at the very least, I hope everyone gets to hear a little Irish music today. If you aren’t headed to one of the Irish-themed events on our calendar or in your area, here are a few Irish accordionists who can provide the soundtrack to your day:

  • Joe Burke
    Hailing from East Galway, Burke sparked a revival of interest in Irish accordion music in the early 1960s. Influenced by early players like Paddy O’Brien and Joe Cooley, Burke’s masterful playing, live performances, and charm have established him as a living legend of Irish music.
    Joe Burke: The Morning Mist mp3
  • Sharon Shannon
    Sharon is a traditional musician in the loosest sense of the word; her influences are all ‘traditional’ but from various parts of the globe. Incorporating Portuguese, French Canadian, and Scottish influences, her 1991 debut album is the best-selling traditional Irish music album ever.
    Sharon Shannon: Blackbird mp3
  • Joe Derrane
    Born in Boston to Irish immigrant parents, Joe Derrane recorded a series of 78rpm records in the late 1940s that stunned the Irish music world with their unique styling, power, and flawless technique. After a 40-year hiatus from the button box, Derrane is again wowing audiences and received an NEA National Heritage Fellow award in 2004.

Dropkick Murphys on Letterman

You don’t see a lot of accordions on late-night TV (or any-time TV, unfortunately), so I was happily surprised to catch the Dropkick Murphys on the Late Show with David Letterman last Friday. With the band member Marc Orrell rocking a Roland accordion, they played a track (“The State of Massachusetts”) from their latest CD, The Meanest of Times. Here’s the video:

Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day

Seminal Irish punk band The Pogues are currently on a mini-tour of the East Coast, having just finished a series of shows in Boston. Unfortunately, an injury suffered by lead singer Shane MacGowan during Sunday’s show forced them to cancel tonight’s Roseland Ballroom show at the last minute. Given the fact that Shane has played gigs from a wheelchair, though, gives one hope that they’ll still make the tour’s final show: St. Patrick’s Day (Saturday) in New York City. (Update: Despite Shane being under “constant medical supervision and analgesic control,” he and the band will continue on with the tour.)

To get you ready for your own St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, here’s some excellent live Pogues footage from 1985 — nearly 20 minutes worth. (From the “Golden Age of YouTube”, before the 10-minute limit on videos.)

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Mad Maggies vs Black Donnellys

If you’ve been watching prime-time TV on NBC lately, you’ve seen their barrage of commercials for a new show called The Black Donnellys. The show follows four Irish-American brothers living in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and depicts their transformation from boys to mobsters. Now a show about rowdy Irish-American guys has to have some accordion in it, right?

As it turns out… it does! The pilot episode, airing next Monday at 10pm (after Heroes), features a tune by eclectic Bay Area band The Mad Maggies. Keep your ears open about seven minutes into the show as “Sleepy Maggie”, a Mad Maggiefied version of a traditional reel, plays over a slow-motion fight scene. You can hear more on their excellent new album, Magdalena’s Revenge. And don’t forget to set your Tivo!

Accordionist Leaves Flogging Molly

Matt Hensley, accordionist for the punk/Irish band Flogging Molly, announced today that he’s leaving the band to spend more time with his family. Matt, a professional skateboarder, will probably also spend more time at Innes Clothing, the skateboarding clothing company he founded with his brother in 1996. From his farewell letter to the band’s fans:

“I would have never thought that playing the accordion, an instrument that almost got me shot when I first was learning, would have led me down a road to Molly Malone’s, Dave King, and an extended family called Flogging Molly. I have been blessed to be so lucky.”

Flogging Molly starts a month-long tour on February 22nd; no word yet on whether they’ll be replacing Matt anytime soon.

The Fast Fingers of Liam O’Connor

Liam O'Connor photoRemember our post about last week’s attempt to set the Guinness World Record for fastest accordion player? Thanks to the Irish Post we’ve discovered that the accordionist was Irish button box virtuoso Liam O’Connor. Liam rose to fame as a featured musician with Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, and has also recorded three albums with vocalist Lisa Aherne.

According to his site, Liam set the record for “Fastest Fingers in the World” by playing an amazing 11.64 notes per second under the watchful eyes of Guinness judges. The record-breaking tune was the venerable classic, “Tico Tico”.

Unfortunately, Liam’s site doesn’t have any sound clips, so we can only wonder what his fast fingers sound like. Leave a comment if you know where we can find clips of Liam’s music online.

World’s Fastest Accordion Player?

Photo of man who attempted Guinness Record for fastest accordionWhen you were a kid, did you ever spend a Saturday trying to set the Guinness World Record for “Longest Time Balancing a Broom on Your Chin”? Okay, maybe that was just me. But this past Thursday, aspiring record holders around the world attempted everything from Largest Tea Party to Most Rattlesnakes Held in Mouth during Guinness World Records Day.

Buried deep in news stories about the event, though, was a line about someone in Dublin, Ireland, attempting to become the world’s fastest accordion player. I haven’t been able to track down much information about the attempt other than the photo above, and that the attempt took place at an Eason’s bookstore. Anyone know who this guy is? And how exactly do you measure such a feat? Most notes per minute? Do you have to play a particular song or can you just flail aimlessly? Is it easier to play fast on a button box or a piano accordion? So many questions!

St. Patrick’s Day Irish Accordion Links

Leprechaun w/accordionTop o’ the morning to ya! While you’re busy drinking green beer and making naughty leprechaun jokes, don’t forget that the accordion has an important role to play today, too. It’s a key element of traditional Irish music (and I’m not just talking about U2). In that spirit, here are a few links to explore on this St. Patrick’s Day:

  • Han’s Irish Squeezebox Page and RamblingHouse are good places for an overview of Irish button box playing, including history and biographies of its most famous performers. Han’s site even includes fingerings and charts for a handful of tunes.
  • Will Zarwell’s’s Irish Accordion Discography is a fantastic resource, with links to audio samples, reviews, and even videos of numerous performers, including Joe Derrane, Andrew MacNamara, and Billy McComiskey.
  • Joe Cooley only recorded one album, but his unique style of melodeon playing has been hugely influential. You can buy a CD of his album or listen to clips online at Amazon (just try to ignore that they’ve mislabeled his album as being by Clannad!).

Obviously this is just a starting point — share your own favorite Irish accordion links in the comments.