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Davis, Durkin help fans gear up for season

POSTED ON February 22nd  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Ashley Davis.

Ashley Davis grew up on the plains of Kansas where she drew inspiration from the bluegrass and folk music that surrounded her.  Andreas Durkin is a County Cavan native known for his Irish country pop sound and the musical talent he inherited from his mother, Kathy Durkin. Although Ashley Davis and Andreas Durkin have very different backgrounds and musical styles, the two have more in common than just their initials. For starters, they both have new albums out this year, and they’re both be in the Big Apple this week to celebrate their new projects and share their music with New Yorkers as we gear up for the St. Patrick’s Day season.

“Songs of The Celtic Winter” is the third album from Ashley Davis, featuring music that captures the tranquility and magic of the winter season. Davis’s lyrics are full of beautiful imagery as she paints pictures of moonlit gardens, frozen ponds and delicate snow falls. And her voice, sweet and delicate, adds to the dreamlike feeling of the album. Ashley Davis will celebrate the launch of “Songs of The Celtic Winter” at Joe’s Pub in New York on this Thursday evening with harpist Cormac De Barra and other guests. Her music will give you the taste of winter that us New Yorkers have been missing this year.

“Roll Back the Clouds” is the second solo album from Andreas Durkin. Recorded in Barna, Co. Galway, the album features songs that will most definitely strike a chord with Irish music fans. “Killbegs,” “The Irish Rover,” and “Homes of Donegal” are mixed with some not so familiar songs including “If I Should Fall Behind,” a duet with his mom, Kathy Durkin. For a night of dancing, singing, and mother–son duets, you should help Andreas celebrate the launch of “Roll Back the Cloud”s along with Kathy Durkin and other special guests at the Glenrowan in Yonkers on Saturday.

It’s not just the timing of their album releases that Davis and Durkin have in common. The two are both young and so full of such passion for Irish music that they have pursued it as a career.

Davis holds a Master’s degree in traditional Irish music from the University of Limerick, and Durkin gave up working in business to pursue his calling full time. When Andreas Durkin sings about making music in the title track of his new album he says: “I give my heart to every part.” Take one listen to the music of either of these talented and passionate musicians and you’ll see that both have given their hearts to listeners in their latest albums.

Two musicians, two new albums, two very different sounds, and one city that is lucky to have them both in town this week. Why not treat yourself to two nights of great live Irish music? Tis’ (almost) the season!


Solving recent murder, cold case in Boston

POSTED ON February 15th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Write about what you know, they say. Well, Tom MacDonald at least begins with where he knows. He runs a parish food panty, Harvest on Vine, in his capacity as director of social ministries for St. Mary–St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Charlestown, Mass. And so, in his debut crime novel “The Charlestown Connection” (Oceanview Publishing), the scene is dramatically set with a violent death in a parish food pantry.

Jeepster Hennessy stumbles in and dies at the feet of his godson Dermot Sparhawk, the half-Irish, half-Micmac Indian protagonist who is at the time stocking the shelves. There is a knife in Jeepster’s back.

“Before he dies, he hands Dermot a key with the name McSweeney written on it,” the author said. “and he utters one word: ‘Oswego.’ Dermot is compelled to solve the murder, but as the story unfolds, clues to an unsolved Boston crime from two decades earlier bubble up. Dermot, almost unknowingly, is on track to solve both the murder and the old crime.”


What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

I write notes on index cards––a word, or phrase, or piece of dialog I hear during the day––and attempt to cobble a scene from the notes. Other times a scene comes to me and I look for words, phrases, and dialog to fill it in. Finding ideas is the fun part, writing it is the tough part. There isn’t a sentence in “The Charlestown Connection” that wasn’t rewritten. As for ideal conditions? It comes down to sitting at the keyboard and typing. I find it daunting to stare at a blank page, and so I start typing. I don’t worry about the words or grammar––the craft of writing I handle later––I just get the ideas on the page. Once I have text to look at, then I have something to work with. I’ve deleted as many pages as I’ve written, so I’m used to it, and I view deletions as part of the story’s development, not mistakes.


What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read, write, watch, listen. Don’t be afraid to emulate other writers. I imitated Raymond Chandler. Then I imitated George V. Higgins, the author of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” Imitation was a step toward finding my own voice. Join a writing workshop. Nothing is more humbling than putting your stuff out there for people to critique. The first workshop I was in, we were assigned a short story by Ernest Hemingway, and the workshop members ripped it to shreds. Later, I didn’t feel so bad when they ripped my story to shreds.


Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.

Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Higgins’s “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” and Camus’s “The Stranger.” Honorable mentions go to Kerouac’s “On the Road” and Lehane’s “Mystic River.”


What book are you currently reading?

“Experiencing Fiction,” by James Phelan, Humanities Distinguished Professor of English at Ohio State University.


Is there a book you wish you had written?

Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. The book’s complexity is matched by its clarity, and yet you never know what’s going on, except that a crazy captain is chasing a crazier whale. The first-person narrative told by Ishmael is a work of genius, similar to Nick Carraway’s telling in “Gatsby.” In both cases the first-person narrator is not the story’s protagonist––thus, the protagonist retains a sense of mystery.


Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

“Angela’s Ashes.”


If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

James Lee Burke, author of the Dave Robicheaux series set in New Orleans.


What book changed your life?

“All Souls” by Michael Patrick MacDonald (no relation, though I have a brother with the same name). I work in the Charlestown projects, and “All Souls” takes place in the South Boston projects. The overlap is huge. The people of Charlestown feel a kinship with the people of Southie. “All Souls” changed my life. After reading it I realized I had no idea what was going in public housing.


What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

I’ve never been to Ireland, I’m embarrassed to say. My wife Maribeth and I were planning a trip for my next book. Belfast, Dublin, Liverpool, but the trip fell through. Maribeth’s father came from Mayo, so we wanted to go there, too. My kin: Carney, Fitzgerald and Lally came from Cork and Kerry. Grampy MacDonald came from Glasgow, where he fought with the Highland Light Infantry in World War I, before coming to Boston to marry Catherine Fitzgerald of Roxbury.


You’re Irish if . . .

My wife, who is 100 percent Irish, says you’re Irish if you laugh at your husband’s not-so-funny jokes.

Chieftains mark 50 years with ‘Voice of Ages’

POSTED ON February 15th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Paddy Moloney pictured on a visit to WFUV’s “Ceol na nGael” studio.

Paddy Moloney is full of surprises. I learned that first hand back in March of 2010 when the Irish music legend and one of the founding members of the Chieftains visited WFUV radio for an interview on “Ceol na nGael.”

I was thrilled to have him in the studio for a chat, not at all expecting him to play live music for us. Then, mid-sentence during the interview, he pulled a tin whistle out of his pocket and gave the audience a live tune. I was surprised that he brought his instrument with him, that he concealed it so well, and that he played a tune so spontaneously without a sound check or the fancy microphone we would have provided had we known he was going to play. He quickly took note of the surprised looks coming from the show hosts and producers, held up his whistle and said: “She’s my mistress – I take her everywhere!”

Moloney’s whistles have traveled with him far and wide during the Chieftains’ 50 years of music making.  After decades of touring the world and recording over 40 albums, just when you start to think that the group might begin slowing down, the Chieftains pull something else out of their bag of tricks.

“Voice of Ages,” due out on Feb. 21, is the collaborative project from the Chieftains recorded to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The album features a superb line-up of guest artists described by the Chieftains as “a dazzling array of like-minded musical visionaries and kindred spirits.” The musical visionaries include the Decemberists, Bon Iver, Punch Brothers, the Civil Wars and more. If you’re not familiar with these artists, “Voice of Ages” is the introduction you need. If you are, I think you’ll be delighted to hear their take on Irish music. I sure was.

Highlights for me include the song “Carolina Rua” featuring the Dublin rockabilly songstress, Imelda May, and the Grammy nominated duo, the Civil Wars singing “Lily Love,” a song they wrote specifically for the Chieftains project. I also love the purity of two beautifully sung traditional Irish songs on the album: “Lagan Love” by Irish singer, songwriter, Lisa Hannigan and “Peggy Gordon” by the Alabama duo, the Secret Sisters. While they have mastered the art of keeping their music current, the Chieftains have definitely maintained their signature, traditional sound, and the 11-minute “Chieftains Reunion” set on the album is a fine example of that.

Who knows what the Chieftains will pull out of their bag of tricks during their upcoming live performances in our area. You can find out on March 10 at NJPAC or on St. Patrick’s Day at Carnegie Hall. And you can look forward to the Chieftains’ 50th Anniversary Documentary featuring footage from the recording of the album, also due out on Feb. 21.

Meanwhile, here are some of my picks for some of the best Irish shows coming up around NYC: SongLives at the Irish Arts Center featuring Susan McKeown and Declan O’Rourke on 2/17, Flogging Molly at The Hammerstein Ballroom on 2/23, and Ashley Davis’s CD Release party at Joe’s Pub in NYC on 2/23. That’s the Sound Around this week!

Sgt. Gerry Boyle snubbed?

POSTED ON February 8th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Some eyebrows were raised recently when “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The 9/11-themed vehicle, starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, was not warmly greeted by the critics. Indeed, according to the review aggregator, 48 percent of North American critics gave it a not too enthusiastic thumb’s up. It’s reportedly the worst reviewed Best Picture nominee since Rotten Tomatoes began in 1999. There are 10 nominees these days, so we might expect a high-profile dud or two in there. But that’s no consolation for a movie like “The Guard,” which got a 95 percent favorability rating according to the website, the same as nominee “Moneyball” and just two percentage points behind red-hot favorite “The Artist.”

“Extremely Loud” did rather better in the website’s audience category with 67 percent, but the County Galway-set “The Guard” – directed by John Michael McDonagh and starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle and Fionnuala Flanagan – got 83 percent. Popular Oscar nominees “The Descendants,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Hugo” also received audience favorability ratings in the low 80s, while “War Horse” got 76 percent and “The Tree of Life” 61 percent.

Still, while there was no Oscar nod for first-time director McDonagh or its charismatic star Gleeson (Sgt. Gerry Boyle), one presumes they are still basking in the glow of the U.S. critical reception (and one hopes also plotting a return to the big screen).


Brunnock’s ‘The Orchard’ has much to pick from

POSTED ON February 8th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

County Meath’s Michael Brunnock has lived in New York for the past decade.

The lyrics of so many songs are engraved in the minds and hearts of Irish music lovers all over the world. The familiar words and melodies, the family traditions surrounding the songs, and the sentimental value attached to  them allow for universal recognition and love for songs like “The Fields of Athenry,” “Go Lassie Go” and “The Wild Rover,” to name a few.  And so the Irish are known for sing-alongs and sessions that inspire participation from all who are lucky enough to have grown up learning the quintessential Irish songs we love so much.

As many Irish musicians pay tribute to their homeland by recording the traditional songs of Ireland, we must not ignore some of the other music coming out of Ireland, specifically the original songs that are recorded by talented and soulful Irish singer-songwriters.  And while I’m a notorious sing-along starter, I also love to grab hold of an opportunity to shut the world out and listen closely to freshly crafted lyrics and melodies.  Michael Brunnock, a County Meath man now living in New York City, gave me that opportunity this week when his latest album, “The Orchard,” landed in my mailbox.

After performing with various bands in Ireland in the 1990s, Brunnock began his solo career when he moved to New York City a decade ago. “The Orchard,” Brunnock’s third solo album, features his original songs with guest performances from Glen Hansard of the Swell Season, Julia Stone, Ari Hest and Joe Sumner. With 13 tracks in total, there are at least three of them that gave me that “oh man, this is my new favorite song” kind of feeling.  The album opens with Circle, a track that nicely showcases Brunnock’s extraordinary voice. Five songs in he treats listeners to a guest performance by the Dublin born Academy-Award winning songwriter and vocalist Hansard with the most powerful song on the album “Untouchable.”             I was delighted to hear Brunnock close out the album with, “Down By The Araglin,” a song that paints the picture of a harvest moon and the courtship of a fair young Irish woman, demonstrating that Brunnock’s work is undeniably informed by his Irish roots.

I won’t lie: after listening to the album three or four times in its entirety, I still can’t tell you with confidence what many of the songs are about.  But I love the unpredictability of the lyrics and the opportunity for interpretation, and I can still say that Brunnock definitely has a way with words. In the midst of some of his most intricate lyrics he sings lines like “I believe in love” and “inspiration is free”, and who could argue with sentiments like those. Especially when they come from such a captivating voice and an Irish soul.

The Orchard is due out on Araglin records in early March, and you can look out for Brunner at The Irish Arts Center on March 23 where he’ll be performing as part of the new “SongLives” series which will feature Irish songwriters in an acoustic setting.

For some Celtic Sounds around town this week pencil in an evening with Cherish The Ladies at The Pollak Theater in NJ on 2/10 and at City Winery in NYC on 2/12, Shilelagh Law at Ulysses in NYC on 2/11, and Andreas Durkin at Katie’s Cottage in Yonkers on 2/12.


European bureaucrat or American as apple pie?

POSTED ON February 8th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Saul Alinsky’s name came up again recently, and again, and again.

Indeed, a Democratic Party activist told me that he heard Newt Gingrich mention him twice in a recent debate.

“It’s a dog whistle,” he said. “It’s an anti-Semitic dog whistle. Nobody knows who Saul Alinsky was, but people hear the name and they think ‘Jewish, foreign-born radical.’”

My Democratic friend is not Jewish; but the Times’ conservative columnist David Brooks, who is, joked that continually mentioning the “Rules for Radicals” author backfired in Florida because many elderly voters likely confused Saul Alinsky with someone they knew. The Jewish Forward, however, was more forthright in using the term “dog whistle.” And veteran African-American columnist Clarence Page commented “it is not what the Republican presidential candidate says that counts; it is what his audiences feel when he says it.”

So you can guess what they feel when the candidate says: “Obama believes in Saul Alinsky and secular European socialist bureaucracy.”

In the recent media commentary on this, much of it blasting Gingrich, at least two people wrote that Alinsky was “as American as apple pie.” It should be pointed out, though, that one of his closest allies in his campaign to organize marginalized people was a foreigner – Fr. John O’Grady who left Ireland in 1909, the year that the organizer was born in Chicago.

I mentioned all of this in a piece (in our pre-Labor Day issue) looking at Nicholas von Hoffman’s wonderfully entertaining memoir about working with Alinsky. But it’s worth repeating. The organizer’s biggest backers financially were Catholic charities and the church itself. He had other individual helpers in an Irish-American dominated church, like Fr. Jack Egan, another close personal friend, and Bishop Bernard Sheil of Chicago.

He was a radical; he described himself as such, but he adhered to no rigid ideological system, and he believed in the Bill of Rights and the open society.

Alinsky, who was born to Jewish immigrant parents, was an agnostic, yet his closest intellectual friendship, von Hoffman reveals, was with Jacques Maritain, arguably the most influential Catholic philosopher of the 20th century.

Former ad agency executive Myles Spicer wrote recently in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that when he was at college, from 1950 to 1954, Alinsky was widely respected by liberals and conservatives alike. He remembered, too, that in the wake of the devastating Detroit riots of the summer of 1967, Michigan’s Republican governor met with Alinsky to discuss the grievances of the urban black poor.

“I think you ought to listen to Alinsky,” the governor reported back to his white allies. His name? George Romney.

Spicer concluded:  “As summed up by my own personal political hero, Adlai Stevenson, Alinsky’s aims ‘most faithfully reflect our ideals of brotherhood, tolerance, charity and dignity of the individual.’”



Dublin’s Tierney takes on the Big Easy

POSTED ON February 8th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

A scene featuring Mexican wrestlers in “Lucha Libre,” a film by Moira Tierney, which the Department of Foreign Affairs selected to represent Ireland at screenings of new European work at the American University/Katzen Arts Center in Washington DC in 2011.

The Irish are storytellers, they say. Moira Tierney, however, has built an artist’s career without bothering too much with that.

“Experimental in form and documentary in content” is how the Dubliner describes her films.

“Her work, shot in 16mm film and video, in color and/or black-and-white, dispenses with conventional form and narrative,” Louis Menashe, an editor at Cineaste Magazine, has written. “The effect is startlingly successful.”

The Village Voice, for its part, listed her “American Dreams” series as one of the best films of 2003.

Tierney has completed more than 20 short works, including “Matilda Tone,” about the life of Wolfe Tone’s widow.  Many of them will be shown at a retrospective and other programs connected with her work this month and next at New Orleans’ multi-disciplinary downtown arts center Zeitgeist.

The filmmaker, who co-founded the SOLUS Collective in Dublin, welcomed the opportunity to stay in the city for two months. “I was there for a long weekend a couple of years ago. I was intrigued by the city. There’s a lot going on,” she said by phone on Monday.  “I was keen to come back for a longer stretch.”

As Tierney’s method usually involves working on the street, she’ll likely have a few busy weeks in an unfamiliar city. Her artist’s statement says: “I prefer to observe, camera in hand, allowing my subject matter to reveal itself. My goal is to remain open and attentive to circumstance.”

Her work – which so far has been filmed, for example, in Ireland, New York, Mexico City, Moscow and Nouakchott, Mauritania – “is interested in capturing life on the fly and creating incisive portraits of people and neighborhoods who escape the glare of mainstream cinema.”

The Brooklyn-based Tierney graduated from University College Dublin in 1989 and studied in Paris for several years in the 1990s. She moved to New York on a Fulbright Scholarship to Anthology Film Archives.

An Irish Echo 40 Under 40 honoree in 2008, Tierney has been selected to represent Ireland at many international film festivals and gallery screenings.

The dates for the Culture Ireland-funded screenings at Zeitgeist are: Feb. 10: Moira Tierney retrospective: Feb. 11: SOLUS Collective program, featuring work by Irish, Senegalese, Mauritanian and Egyptian film-makers;  March 10: SOLUS Collective program of children’s workshop films; March 21: Performance art films shot by Moira Tierney at the Grace Exhibition Space in Brooklyn.

For more information go to

Entranced by wildly beautiful Great Blasket

POSTED ON February 8th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Robert Kanigel.

In his last book but one, Robert Kanigel looked at how Nice, in the south of France, has beguiled visitors for 2,000 years and became a byword for mass tourism in more recent times. On the face of it, his latest amounts to a radical shift of pace. It is about the Great Blasket,  “a tiny, wildly beautiful Gaelic-speaking island off the far west coast of Ireland.

“It’s about its people, about the pure Irish they spoke, and the rich communal lives they lived,” said Kanigel, an award-winning science writer and a Guggenheim Followship recipient.

However, like “High Season,” “On an Irish Island” is also about the impact a place has had those who went there.

“[I]t’s about the scholars and writers from London, Paris, Dublin and elsewhere in Europe who visited the island in the first half of the 20th century,” he said, “became entranced by it, came to love it and its people, encouraged the islanders to tell their stories, and left the island forever changed by their experiences there.  It is a book about the clash of culture between modern life and an older, sometimes sweeter world slipping away.”


What is your writing

routine? Are there ideal conditions?

For the sorts of books I write, it’s research and travel for a year and a half, then writing for a year and a half.  When I’m writing, I’m usually up early, take a long break in the middle of the day, work through into the evening. Ideal conditions?  A long chunk of uninterrupted time, day after day.  And a head cleared, as much as possible, from the distractions of daily life.


What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Learn your craft.  Keep learning it.  Refine it.  Nurture it.  With this increasingly powerful tool at your disposal, apply it to the subjects that engage you the most.


Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.

“Barney’s Version,” by Mordechai Richler; “The Odyssey,” Homer (Robert Fagles translation); “Emma,” by Jane Austen


What book are you currently reading?

“Systems of Survival,” by Jane Jacobs; “The Best American Noir of the Century,” edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler.

Is there a book you wish you had written?

I’m happy to write the books I write and leave others to write theirs.


Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

“Freewheelin’,” by Suze Rotolo. About Bob Dylan in Greenwich Village during the early 1960s, but Rotolo, his girlfriend during that period, holds her own and makes it truly her book more than Dylan’s.


If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

Virginia Woolf, John Updike.


What book changed your life?

All of them.


What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

The back side of the Great Blasket, around the hill from the ruined village, the west wind blowing softly, birds above and below, the seas crashing beneath you.


You’re Irish if . . .

I’m not, so I’d best leave it to the Irish themselves to set the standards!


Robert Kanigel will read on this coming Friday at BookCourt, 163 Court St., Brooklyn. The event begins at 7 p.m. For more about the author, go to


Corporate greed, corruption and unaccountable financiers

POSTED ON February 1st  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Alan Glynn’s third novel is “Bloodland.”

Several Irish crimewriters have won critical acclaim internationally in recent years. Alan Glynn, though, has gotten the rave reviews and Hollywood success, too.

His first novel, “The Dark Fields” (2002), was turned into 2011 box office hit “Limitless,” which stars Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper. The 51-year-old Dubliner described the process as a “10-year odyssey that could have been a disaster but ended up being a lot of fun.”

The Irish Independent commented that “Winterland,” his second novel, “predicted the economic crash with uncanny accuracy.”

His third, “Bloodland” (2012), is an international political thriller set in Dublin, New York, where the novelist lived for several years, and the Congo.

“[It] deals with the far-reaching effects of corporate greed and corruption,” said Glynn, who lives in his native city with his wife and two sons. “A young Irish journalist, Jimmy Gilroy, uncovers a dark conspiracy involving private military contractors, African warlords, politicians and the seemingy unaccountable financiers who rule our increasingly globalized world.”


What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

I get up very early and do as much as I can before the day crashlands in on top of me. Ideal conditions are a quiet room, darkness outside, and slow hypnotic music in the background. And coffee. And the vague race-memory of something I think they used to call cigarettes.


What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write. Don’t put it off or find excuses to delay doing it. Oh, and another thing – stop talking about it. Stop thinking about it. Stop daydreaming. Stop logging on to Facebook and watching DVD boxsets. Write. (This advice doesn’t apply just to aspiring writers, by the way. And it has no expiration date.)


Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.

“The Long Goodbye” by Raymond Chandler, “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.


What book are you currently reading?

“Master of the Senate,” the third volume of Robert A. Caro’s amazing and utterly compelling biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. It was originally supposed to be three volumes, then four, and now, it appears, five. Volume four is out this year – covering Johnson’s years as veep and his first year as prez – and will be a major publishing event.


Is there a book you wish you had written?

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald — small, complex and perfectly formed, an eminently readable work of art.


Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

Not to repeat, but when I started volume 2 of Robert A. Caro’s Johnson biography, “Means of Ascent,” it was for research purposes. I had intended just to dip into the book, but I soon found myself engrossed in the drama that Caro was describing and in his muscular style and astonishing narrative powers.


If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

Thomas Pynchon. He wouldn’t want to have the conversation, of course, and I wouldn’t blame him, but I’d just love to grill him about how he writes – how he constructs his sentences and paragraphs, how he layers them with such density of meaning and allusion. And how he wrote “Gravity’s Rainbow” without the help of the internet. I’d buy him dinner.


What book changed your life?

“The Third Policeman” by Flann O’Brien.  It made me realize that you could be funny and serious at the same time, and that you could also describe the real world and a fantasy world at the same time, and without compromising or diminishing either. Ultimately, it made me understand that good prose is a very real and pure form of magic.


What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

Walking down Dawson Street, in the direction of Trinity College, on a sunny Tuesday morning.


You’re Irish if . . .

you struggle for 200 years to throw off the shackles of an old-school empire, but barely make a squeak when a cabal of international bankers flies in, wielding cellphones and briefcases, and takes over every aspect of your life . . .


Moonshiners become Rogues after makeover

POSTED ON February 1st  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

WFUV staff members were present when officers of the NYPD Emerald Society encountered a Band of Rogues. Pictured are, from left, Maggie Dolan, Liz Noonan, Tara Cuzzi, Bobby Moller, Colleen Taylor, Joe O'Brien, Meredith Rachel, Sean Patterson, Tommy Burns, Frank Banafato Sean McNally, Rich Shields and Tom Sullivan.

As the producer of “Ceol na nGael,” one of WFUV’s Irish music programs, I’ve really enjoyed watching countless bands grace us with live music in our studios on Sunday afternoons. Through the years I’ve seen bands get together, break up, add members and lose members, change their managers, their websites, and their record labels. But the award for biggest band makeover goes to the Moonshiners Band.  Actually, call them a Band of Rogues. The transformation wouldn’t be complete without a shiny new name to go along with their fresh line-up and sound. If we had thrown in some fancy costumes, and a hair and make- up crew we may have had a new TV series on our hands, “Extreme Makeover: Band Edition”!

A Band of Rogues rambled into WFUV for a recent live broadcast on Ceol na nGael where they ripped through two lively tunes written by them, thereby treating listeners to a taste of their new sound.  While the core members have been making music together since the early 1990s, currently the band is a seven-piece with some new faces in the mix, including singer-songwriter Sean McNally and fiddler Meredith Rachel.  I’m happy to report that a Band of Rogues has a full schedule of shows up on their website,, for those of you who want to witness the Moonshiners make-over first hand.

Although the band is embracing many changes in 2012, one thing that remains the same is their affinity to the NYPD Emerald Society. It’s a relationship that was built on their shared interest in honoring their Irish heritage as well as their desire to help the Emerald Society raise funds for scholarship efforts.  A Band of Rogues has provided the music for various Emerald Society fundraisers over the years, and will continue to do so in 2012.  With a membership 5,000 strong working towards the preservation of Irish culture, and raising nearly $90,000 annually, that’s one fine Emerald Society. Check out to find out how you can contribute to their efforts.

In other news, I couldn’t leave you this week without telling you about one more Irish musician makeover. Black 47 uillean pipe and flute player Joseph Mulvanerty recently appeared as a soloist at Carnegie Hall playing the music of renowned Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. Fair play to you, Joseph!  When he’s not taking the stage at Carnegie Hall you can catch him rocking out with Black 47 all over the tri-state area, including an upcoming show at the Boulton Center in Bayshore, Long Island, on March 10 or on St. Patrick’s Day at B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill.

For some Celtic sounds around town this week head over to the Turning Point Café in Piermont, N.Y., to see Annalivia on 2/1. On 2/4 check out Jameson’s Revenge at the Quiet Man Public House in Peekskill, N.Y., or hit up a Saturday afternoon session at Lillie’s in Union Square with Dan Neely on 2/4.


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