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The Young Dubliners Arrive Early for St. Patty’s

Patrick Griffin | Friday, February 27, 2009

Just over two weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, Legends of Notre Dame will offer an early indulgence as one of America’s foremost Celtic rock bands comes to South Bend. The Young Dubliners, veterans of the hybrid music genre, arrive tonight at Legends for an exclusive performance.

The Young Dubs’ latest effort, “Saints and Sinners,” was released earlier this month. Following their 2007 release, “With All Due Respect,” The Irish Sessions – the Young Dubliners’ rendition of a handful of traditional Irish songs – Saints is the band’s first batch of original work since 2005. Mixing traditional Celtic melodies with pop hooks, the Dubliners’ songs reflect the band’s experiences following several intense years of international touring. Tracks such as “Howaya Girls,” “Backseat Driver,” and “Saints and Sinners” showcase the bands knack for melodic anthems. At the same time, the band displays its socially conscious mindset with tracks such as “This Time” and “My Town,” which discuss the political unrest of the past few years and the current economic hopelessness that grips the nation. The acoustic ballad “In the End” even discusses the problem of global poverty and negligence in place such as Darfur.

Though the band has been busy touring with the likes of Johnny Lang, Collective Soul and Jethro Tull, completing anywhere between 180 to 250 shows a year, they understand the importance of providing fans with new original offerings.

“We live on the road, but were aware that if every few years we don’t give our fans the highest quality songs we can, that level of excitement and anticipation may not last forever,” comments lead guitarist and vocalist Keith Roberts on the Young Dubs (as they are affectionately referred to by fans) Web site, yougdubliners.com.

Hailing from Los Angeles, Calif. the quintet has been active since 1988. In their steady careers, the members of the Young Dubliners have remained true to their musical passions while producing eight full-length albums. “We’ve never been about hit singles, but we have always been focused on making the 12 tracks per project the best they could be,” Roberts said. While the musical production of the band has been rather consistent, the band’s lineup has undergone several rearrangements throughout their 20-plus year reign.

Founded by Dublin natives Roberts and former mandolin and harmonica player Paul O’Toole, the band planted its roots in the formidable pub scene in California. Bassist Brendan Holmes soon joined the duo, and the band’s first recorded tracks came from their live performances. Several original cassettes and additional members later, the Young Dubliners jettisoned themselves from the limited pub scene to explore more expansive opportunities.

Today, the Young Dubliners boast a diverse international fan base and a set band roster including Roberts, Holmes, guitarist Bob Boulding, violinist and keyboardist Chas Waltz, and percussionist Dave Ingraham. Additionally, Eric Rigler, a pipe and whistle player famous for his work on the “Titanic” and “Braveheart” soundtracks, has appeared on the band’s three latest albums and is a touring stalwart.

Comprised of typical rock instruments such as the guitar, bass and drums, as well as traditional Irish instrument like the violin, harp, mandolin, Uillean pipe and pennywhistle, the Young Dubliners fuse traditional Irish folk music with contemporary alternative rock and pop. The musical results are quite dynamic. At times, the Young Dubs yank the listener to faraway Ireland with the dancing musicality of the violin and whistle.

Don’t label the band as traditional just yet. Their tracks can take the form of gutsy anthemic rock ballads, as well as vivacious pub songs, and anything in between. The Young Dubs seem to perform outside of a strict musical formula. The variety between songs is refreshing and keeps listeners blindly anticipating each track. The band’s versatility makes it an act unlike any other that has graced the stage of Legends this year.

Grab your shillelaghs and prepare to rock for Friday night’s performance by the Young Dubliners at Legends. The show begins at 10 p.m. and is free to all ND, SMC and HCC students.