This week, Irish culture is on grand display as we eye St. Patrick’s Day 2019. Music is a big and fascinating part of the culture and several Houston bands help preserve and advance music styles with Irish roots. This week, we've asked a few of the city’s best and best-loved Celtic-flavored bands to help piece together a playlist of integral St. Paddy’s Day songs. Once we’re done, you’ll have a solid list of tunes and at least a few ideas of where to celebrate this weekend.
Blaggards is one of Houston’s veteran rock acts. Front man Patrick Devlin recently said the group can’t really be pigeon-holed as a Celtic rock act. But, the music is informed by Devlin’s Irish roots, which reach back to his boyhood on the Emerald Isle.
Because the band has been together 15-plus years, it’s become a reliable ambassador of Houston music and the Irish culture. The group gigs frequently, hitting stages locally, regionally, nationally and abroad. For instance, this week, you can catch Blaggards at Mo’s Irish Pub in Vintage Park on Friday. They’ll play shows in Corpus Christi and College Station over the weekend. In June, they’ll do a set of dates in Las Vegas at the North American Celtic Supporters Federation Convention. And, in late October, the band returns to Ireland for an annual tour which invites fans to tag along for all the fun.
Devlin and bassist Chad Smalley recently unveiled SlapperCast, the official podcast of all things Blaggards. Found on all major pod platforms and delivered weekly, it’s a behind-the-music view of the band, with tidbits for new fans (it’s just Blaggards, not The Blaggards, newbs) and cool stuff for longtime followers (Episode 5 discusses how the band’s music has been used in films like How to Be Single and TV shows like The Good Wife). Its engaging hosts are smart and funny. An interesting aside is the podcast also offers occasional glimpses back at Houston’s music community.
So, there’s hardly a better band in Houston to help start your St. Patrick’s Day playlist than Blaggards. The band tabbed drummer Mike McAloon with the task of selecting and commenting on its choices. McAloon studied music at University of North Texas, but he may have missed a music journalism calling. Here are the picks and his reasons why they’ll help you celebrate the day properly:
"Sally MacLennane," The Pogues
"You can't have St. Patrick's Day without the Pogues," McAloon decrees, "and 'Sally' is the perfect soundtrack to any pub. It's a lively jig with tin whistle, pumping accordion and a chorus you can learn the first time around. The poet laureate of Irish music, Shane MacGowan, opens the song with 'Jimmy played harmonica in the pub where I was born.' Pure genius."
"Emerald," Thin Lizzy
"One of the most Irish songs Thin Lizzy ever did, telling an epic story of warring clans with dueling guitar solos from Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham. This one of the best songs off their 1976 Jailbreak album."
"Foggy Dew," Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones
"Living legend Derek Warfield has been evangelizing Irish rebel music for over 50 years," says McAloon. "I particularly like their version of 'Foggy Dew' because of the beautiful uilleann pipes, rolling banjo, concertina and tin whistle."
"Finnegan's Wake," the Dubliners
This traditional Irish ballad, circa mid-1800s, has been recorded by acts like The Clancy Brothers and Dropkick Murphys, but "The Dubliners' version of this song is the best," according to McAloon. "Ronnie Drew's voice can cut through any rowdy pub as he punches through the story of Tim Finnegan's wake."
"Jump Around," House of Pain
"There are two ways to end St. Patrick's Day - crying in your green beer or partying all the way 'til two in the morning," says McAloon, who has likely seen both (and everything in between) from his drummer's throne. "Put on House of Pain and end it the right way."
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.