Hair flying everywhere, Blaggard Patrick Devlin revels in the group's restless approach to music. Photo by Phil Houseal
by Phil Houseal
You think you have heard the Irish ditty "What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?" Well, you have never heard it pounded out by a rock band thrashing electric guitar, thumping bass, pumping drums and screaming. Yes, there actually is an album credit for "violins and screaming."
Welcome to the new sound of world music, courtesy of a wave of Irish rockers such as Blaggards (they will appear at the Roots Music concert this weekend... arrrrrgh).
Good-bye to harps, fifes, and penny whistles. The fiddle endures, along with some salty lyrics, to create a whole new sound that is attracting kiddos who never would have been caught listening to Irish music.
The Irish rock movement began in Ireland in the 1970s, but seems to be more popular than ever.
Front man, guitarist and singer Patrick Devlin came over from Dublin while in his early 20's. He worked the Houston club scene, and noticed no one was filling the demand for Irish rock music. He started several versions himself, finally teaming up with bass player Chad Smalley in 2003 in a group that became Blaggards (there is no "the" - just "Blaggards").
They filled the Irish rock niche admirably. "Within weeks of forming, we found ourselves in high demand and were gigging constantly across Texas," Devlin said. They soon landed in Austin, where they added Chris Buckley to create their current setup. They tour and gig steadily. When I reached Devlin on the phone, he was in the middle of a 15-hour drive across the Midwest, where the band was returning from a tour. This will be their first appearance in Fredericksburg.
It is fair to say that a Blaggards show may not be for the faint of heart. On their CD, they meld traditional folk and country songs with straight rock, turning familiar tunes into frenzied anthems. Imagine the lilting Big Strong Man in a medley with Yakety Sax. Or a frenetic version of Elvis's Suspicious Minds, punctuated with screaming fiddle? They even take Folsom Prison Blues and morph it into The Fields of Athenry.
"My mother listened to Elvis, Johnny Cash, and rockabilly," Devlin said. "My dad listened to traditional Irish music. I blame my A.D.D. for jumping around with the genre mixes. All of us in the band like to take left turns, and especially to do stuff people are not expecting."
Audiences may not expect it, but they like it. Blaggards fans range from their 20s to past 50. "When we do pub shows, the youngsters bring their parents for the early shows."
So, Blaggard Devlin, what can the Fredericksburg audience expect this weekend? Should they be scared?
"They don't need to be warned, just be ready," he said. "We don't take kindly to people sitting down and politely clapping. They have to get up."
After hearing Blaggards, you will never listen to Drunken Sailor in quite the same way.
But you'll never forget it, either.Hey ho and up she rises.