Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing at the House of Henry Irish Pub in Panama City, FL. I like the place. It’s nice and new, only established in 2019. It has all of the hardwood, stained glass and bric-a-brac I’ve come to expect from a good Irish Pub. They have a full menu and two rooms with separate bars, a dining room and a pub area with a stage. It’s a cool spot and I’m looking forward to playing there often.
After a recent gig Jake, the booking manager met with me in the loft above the pub and we recorded an episode of House of Henry Loft Sessions.
The internationally touring Irish musical duo The Guinness Brothers have been spreading the craic* from pub to pub and festival to festival over two continents for the past seven years. Consisting of Colm Kelly on vocals, guitar, and harmonica, and Roddy Carreira on vocals, mandolin, banjo, and occasional percussion, The Guinness Brothers really are the life of the party.
Based out of Albufeira, Portugal (though Colm originally hails from Kildare, Ireland), they are consistent performers at Irish Pubs, weddings and events at a nearly non-stop pace throughout Europe and the United States.
I naturally met Colm on his first trip to Pensacola as a performer at McGuire’s Irish Pub. Sometime later Roddy came along with him and brought the full Guinness Brothers experience to McGuire’s. One of the most immediately noticeable features of a Guinness Brothers show, as well as a Colm Kelly solo performance is that Colm has a natural gift for working a room and amping up a crowd. With Roddy beside him, they create a power team of sarcasm and debauchery that will have any festival ground, reception hall, or bar entertained and actively involved with all the antics they bring with them.
A Guinness Brothers show is more than a musical performance; it really is a party. The boys don’t want the audience just sitting and listening as each songs fritters by, but instead in the age-old Irish tradition they want you to be a part of the show, to interact, dance, sing, shout out responses and play along for the fun, or the “craic” as is said in Ireland.
Their sets include a wide variety of musical styles from Irish Traditionals, pop, rock, country and more, all of it delivered in the distinct high energy fashion that is a staple of a Guinness Brothers show. On top of all that, the boys are also known to boldly take requests from the audience. Even if they haven’t rehearsed the requested tune before, they’re likely to give it a shot anyway, and fake their way through it, all for the craic. It’s a bit of game to them, a challenge to which they’re eager to rise.
Speaking of games, as an audience member you might find yourself drafted into any number of games such as “left-hand drinking” during which the audience is only allowed to drink with their left hand. If someone is caught drinking with their right hand they’ll be called out, asked to stand up and down their drink all in one. This becomes a lot of fun as the audience begins to call each other out as the night goes on, and of course all for the craic.
In 2019 The Guinness Brothers released a live album appropriately titled Live Craic, a twelve song set including Irish favorites such as Whiskey in the Jar, The Wild Rover, and Rocky Road to Dublin as well as classic rock and popular covers like Folsom Prison Blues, Thunderstruck and Take On Me, with a half dozen more.
The album does a great job at capturing the spirit and the vibe the duo produces with Colm’s signature fast, percussive acoustic guitar rhythms and Roddy’s bright and lighthearted mandolin standing out ontop of the mix. Their rendition of The Wild Rover especially gives a sense of the back and forth banter the two are known for engaging in between and even during songs.
Their interpretation of the traditional reel The Moving Cloud is particularly demonstrative of Roddy’s proficiency with playing Celtic melodies. That and his dynamite mandolin lead on Whiskey in the Jar really helps to ground the disk’s versatile song selection in the Irish musical tradition from which the duo emerges.
While Live Craic is a good listen its only drawback is that you don’t get the full experience of all the antics of a Guinness Brothers live show. How could it? So, the only way to rectify this is to download this album now and make sure you catch the Guinness Brothers live at one of the various venues in which they perform throughout Europe and the United States.
* In case you haven’t figured it out by now, “craic” is a traditional Irish word for fun, joviality, or living comedy. It’s derives front the same root from which we Americans get the idea of “cracking jokes.”
Pub Songs on Palafox is a four song, lo-fi EP recorded in the raw as a live-air production that captures the energy and sound of a Jay Moody solo performance while busking downtown Pensacola, Florida in competition with the various sounds of a bustling city street.
Jay begins with a rowdy Irish pub tune, Dicey Reilly, about a lush of a woman who spends her life crawling from pub to pub; a sailor’s favorite. The Black Velvet Band is another classic Irish ballad about infatuation, deceit and injustice which takes us out of the pub and away from the Emerald Isle to a penal colony in Australia. Following up is Looks Like Jesus, a rockabilly-blues styled piece and a Jay Moody original tells the story illustrating the conflict between despair and ambition, shroud with esoteric imagery, set in the Southern atmosphere he calls home. Miss Constance concludes the record, a naughty Caribbean-styled tune about the perils of running with younger women.
Jay’s Creolized Swamp-Roots Music is a style deeply influenced by Caribbean rhythms, Celtic melodies, and blues.
Death is a popular theme in Irish Music. Emblematic of this is the Irish Wake, an often rowdy gathering of mourners around the body of the departed, traditionally held in a family member’s home. McGuire’s Irish Pub and Rich McDuff have drawn upon this theme in the production of The Irish Wake, CD of popular Irish tunes.
Proclaimed as “music for and about an Irish Wake that includes solemn to lighthearted and humorous tunes,” the Irish Wake delivers upon its promise. These are high-quality musical arrangements making use of traditional Irish instruments, and with a few tunes characterized by layers of vocal harmonies. This is most noticeably heard on “Amazing Grace,” sung by Molly McGuire, making for a creatively unique and interesting rendition of the song. Some of the other highlights include “Rosin the Beau,” and “Isn’t it Grand Boys” (featuring the Boston Boys, a group of young McGuire’s patrons), and the title track – a Rich McDuff original.
This is a somber disk containing 14 tracks, each one another variation on the theme of death, and in some cases resurrection. Packaged in the standard CD jewel case, the cover photo is quite fitting for the music on this disk; an old Irish cemetery marked by generations-old Celtic crosses enduring the turn of the centuries, reaching grimly toward a grey sky.
Produced by Rich McDuff, and featuring Molly McGuire, the McGuire’s Pipe Band, and many local singers and musicians who frequent the pub, The Irish Wake is a great choice for fans of Irish music looking for a mellower listening experience. Entitled to compliment the Irish Wake, a green, rum-based drink popularized by McGuire’s Irish Pub, this CD is a clever bit of marketing as well as a pleasant journey through Irish music. A patron can enjoy an Irish Wake at the bar or in the restaurant, and before exiting the pub, stop in the gift shop and pick up a copy of this disk to remember his experience at McGuire’s.
It can also be ordered at the link below.
The Irish have produced some of the best drinking songs ever written. Characterized by their catchy melodies, comical lyrics, and their tendency toward tragic endings; a good night of pub-singing is a communal activity with much crowd interaction and participation. The following is a list of my top nine Irish Drinking Songs, in no particular order. Why nine? If you must ask, perhaps you need to learn more about the Irish.
1- Beer, Beer, Beer
This is a straight forward song in praise of the fictionalized inventor of beer, Charlie Mopps. The name is meant to rhyme with barley and hops. The lyrics mostly describe how beer is made, where it is sold and how much better life is now that it has been invented. As far as creativity is concerned, lyrically this song is not the best. But it’s a great sing along tune the best thing about this song is its catchiness for group singing.
2- Waxies Dargle
The singer tells us of his woman and his friend’s woman going about
trying to get money in order to go to the “Waxies Dargle,” a popular vacation spot on the bank of the River Dargle. Like so many other Irish drinking songs, the two women go about selling personal possessions, even some belonging to the singer himself in order to afford drinking money. The catchy hooks ends each round with the words “”What’ll ye have? Will ye have a pint? I’ll have a pint with you, sir. And if one of us doesn’t order soon we’ll be thrown out of the boozer.”
3- Whiskey You’re the Devil
A bit of a counterpart to “Whisky in the Jar,” this song is about the hazards of drinking heavy spirits. “Whiskey You’re the Devil” contains one of the wittiest verses in Irish drinking music; “Said the mother ‘Do not wrong me. Don’t take me daughter from me. For if you do I will torment you and after death, me ghost will haunt you.’” The chorus of this tune is the kind that just urges one to sing along.
Tim Finnegan was a construction worker who had a bit of a drinking problem. He had a drink every morning before going to work. One day he had a bit too much and fell off a ladder and broke his skull. After everyone arrived at his wake, Finnegan’s widow served lunch followed by whisky punch. In short order some one said the wrong thing to another and a fight breaks out. Bottles of whisky are hurled through the air until the liquor platters over Tim’s corps. The whiskey magically revives him. Tim Finnegan stands up from the bed cursing the waste of good liquor and asking if they really thought he was dead.
5- All For Me Grog
Grog is a combination of liquors popular especially amongst sailors in the 18th and 19th centuries. Essentially it was a mixture of whatever was left over. The lyrics of this song tell us of what appears to be a pirate coming ashore with his plunder. He spends all his money on wild nights with gin drinking women. The poor fellow parties his way through several days until he is “sick in the head” and “full of pains and aches.” He eventually sells everything from his boots to his shirt for money to buy beer and tobacco and decides to head back out to sea in order to get away from all the trouble he has caused for himself in port.
6- Jug of Punch
Whiskey Punch is made with sugar, lemon, and water … and of course whiskey. This song begins with a man sitting peacefully in his room. Before long he is overcome with the desire to go out and have a drink. We next meet him in the pub with a “pretty wench” on his knee, but before long he finds himself in a bad way. The song traditionally ends with the singer proclaiming that upon his death; “just lay me down in my native peat with a jug of punch at my head and feet.”
7- Dicey Riley
One of the catchiest tunes in the Irish Drinking repertoire; Dicey Riley is about one hard drinking woman. She starts each day with a few drinks and continues on throughout the rest of the day. Each night she closes down the pubs, trashed and if she doesn’t have a friend to see her safely home she’ll sleep off her drink on a local park bench, only to do it all again the next day.
8- Whiskey in the Jar
Perhaps one of the most over played Irish drinking tunes, this one is a standard that has even been performed by the heavy metal band Metallica. The song is really about a robbery. The singer tells how he encounters one Captain Farrell in the mountains and demands his money at the point of pistol and rapier. He is eventually betrayed by his beloved Jenny, arrested and taken away by the very same Captain Farrell.
9- The Wild Rover
Actually a song written for the Temperance Movement, it is ironic that this song has been so lovingly embraced as a drinking tune. Simply put, the song is about a roving man who has decided to repent of his rambling and drinking ways. Along with “Whiskey in the Jar,” “The Wild Rover” is one of the most well known Irish drinking songs, so when it is played it is sure to get some crowd interaction.
The tavern is an intrinsic feature of Western society. Contrary to the reputation commonly associated with drinking establishments as dens of debauchery, locations inappropriate to delve into subjects of religion or politics, the whole of Western civilization in fact owes much of it existence to the local pub. The roots of this tradition run back through the centuries and helped bring Europe out of the dark ages toward the Age of Enlightenment.
The historic progenitor of the bar or nightclub in the West is the Germanic and Nordic mead hall, popular especially during the European Dark Ages. Originating in the Germanic and European longhouses, from around the fifth century onward the mead hall was the primary residence of the king or chief and his theigns or other retainers. Often the most well fortified structure in the Anglo-Saxon village, the mead hall served a similar purpose as did the keep in later medieval cities. As the preeminent building of the Dark Age kingdom, the mead hall hosted the stately ceremonies and celebrations of the community.
As Western Europe became steadily more Christianized, amongst the aristocratic classes the Germanic mead hall along with its social and ceremonial focus was transformed into the banquet hall. But amongst the working classes and the poor, the social and ceremonial significance of the mead hall was transferred to the taverns and workhouses. In fact the word tavern is derived from the Latin taberna which was a workhouse or retail center for craftsmen as well as an apartment style lodging, housing freedmen and travelers. This is the origin of the public house or pub that is so common in Western Europe and her colonial nations.
Throughout the medieval period the public houses or taverns became centers for lodging travelers and merchants. They became the central gathering points of craftsmen seeking safety from bandits and highwaymen and thereby became the focus of trade meetings. It was within these taverns that the medieval guilds were established whereby craftsmen and artisans could share and protect the secrets of their trade such as architecture, glassmaking and other crafts. For this reason taverns and lodges became the few places in the intellectually oppressive medieval European society where freedom of speech, especially of a religious, philosophical and political nature could be exercised and protected, if only clandestinely.
There should be no wonder that during the Enlightenment era of European society that the tavern or lodge is where Freemasonry and other secretive societies emerged from the shadows. Freemasonry is the inheritor of the European architectural guilds transformed into a philosophical society complete with ancient rituals and respect for religious and political diversity. The four primary lodges upon which modern Freemasonry is established originally met at four respective taverns; the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse in London in St. Paul’s Churchyard, the Apple Tree Tavern, the Crown Alehouse, and the Rummer and Grapes Tavern.
In 1716 these four lodges gathered at London’s Apple-Tree Tavern where the first pro Tempore Grand Lodge was established, the eldest Master Mason was instituted as Grandmaster and an agreement was made to hold annual meetings amongst themselves to formalize and regularize the Craft. The following year; June 24, 1717 the four lodges met at London’s Goose and Gridiron Alehouse where the Grand Master was elected and the founding of the first regular Grand Lodge of Freemasonry was finalized.
Like Freemasonry briefly before it representatives from all over England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Brittany met at the Apple Tree Tavern on September 22, 1717 to form the Revivalist Druid order An Druidh Uileach Braithreachas (The British Circle of the Universal Bond).
The ancient tradition of the Tavern acting as meeting house for gathering warriors, the discussion of philosophy and politics continued in the American colonies. In the absence of a national media the Tavern was the primary place where early Americans heard the news and discussed their political opinions. The Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, like the Apple Tree Tavern before it was used by multiple groups and organizations. The St. Georges Society, a charitable organization devoted to assisting newly arriving poor Englishmen to the colonies was established here in 1720.
Hailed as the birthplace of American Freemasonry, in 1732 St. John’s Lodge No. 1 of the Grand Lodge of the Masonic Temple was established in the Tun Tavern. And like the St. George Society before, in 1747 the St. Andrew’s Society was founded here as another charitable organization, this time assisting newly arriving Scottish immigrants.
In 1756 Benjamin Franklin used the Tun Tavern as a recruiting station for the Pennsylvania Militia. In 1768 the New York Chamber of Commerce was founded in the Tun Tavern’s Long Room where its officers continued to meet until 1770. This same Tun Tavern Long Room was also used by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson for the meeting house of the Continental Congress and as the recruiting station for the Continental Marines, now known as the United States Marine Corps.
Fraunces Tavern in New York played a central role in the organizing of the American Revolutionary War. The Son’s of Liberty used this tavern as a meeting place to discuss their revolutionary activities. In 1774 Fraunces Tavern hosted a tea party much like the Boston Tea Party before it, in which the patriots dressed as Indians and dumped British tea into New York harbor. And in 1776 the New York Provincial Congress met at Fraunces Tavern.
According to the Memoirs of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge; at the end of the Revolutionary War on December 4, 1783, Fraunces Tavern hosted George Washington’s victory banquet in the Long Room where this iconic general said farewell to his officers as he resigned his post in order to insure that the newly established United States did not become a military dictatorship. After the ratification of the United States Constitution, Fraunces Tavern was used to house the departments of the Treasury, War and Foreign Affairs.
Bars, pubs and taverns are the traditional establishments where the freedom to speak one’s mind and offer challenging and revolutionary ideas has been protected. Concepts like liberty, republicanism, democracy and rebellion emerged from these establishments throughout the centuries. The United States’ First Amendment freedoms owe their existence to freethinkers exercising their philosophical muscles over a pint of beer or a glass of wine. From its roots as a tribal ceremonial house to its later adaptations as a place of revolutionary thought and activism, the tavern has been the lifeblood of Western civilization.
Lojah is a Native American-Irish folksinger from Pensacola, Florida. He describes his eclectic sound as Creolized Roots Music, influenced by Caribbean rhythms, Celtic melodies, and Southern American blues. His music is immersed in social realism, and arcane insight woven together with tongue-in-cheek witticism and a festive vibe. He is currently performing acoustic sets along the Gulf Coast.
“Pub Songs on Palafox” is a four song, lo-fi, EP recorded in the raw as a live-air production that captures the energy and sound of a Lojah solo performance as executed while busking downtown in competition with the various sounds of a bustling city street.
Lojah begins with a rowdy Irish pub tune, “Dicey Reilly“, about a lush of a woman who spends her life crawling from pub to pub; a sailor’s favorite. “The Black Velvet Band” is another classic Irish ballad about infatuation, deceit and injustice which takes us out of the pub and away from the Emerald Isle to a penal colony in Australia. Following up is “Looks Like Jesus“, a rockabilly-blues styled piece and a Lojah original that tells the story illustrating the conflict between despair and ambition, shroud with esoteric imagery, set in the Southern atmosphere he calls home. “Miss Constance” concludes the record, a naughty Caribbean-styled tune about the perils of younger women.
I naturally met JJ Smith at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola a couple years back. Kilted in the tartan of the Lamont clan, JJ runs a show that is not just a folk music performance but a bit comedic shtick as well. His crowd-interactions make for some of the evening’s high points.
JJ’s style stands out from the majority of the singers I’ve met on the Irish pub tour in several ways. To begin with, his personalized renditions of the classics reveal significant blues, and American country music influences, which bring the Celtic style home to the American South. Live, JJ makes use of a lot of bass runs on his guitar which often helps to add a subtlety and a sense of motion outside of the songs’ basic chord structures.
JJ hails from Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, Scotland, but has resided in St. Petersburg, Florida for the past several years. While in the States, he has steadily toured the southeast and managed to produce two album releases: Druid Roots Going Home, and his solo album JJ The Balladeer. They’re both great and very distinct from each other.
Druid Roots was a trio JJ was a part of, a rather eclectic mix of folksy styles. The album projects a heavy Celtic theme with very noticeable elements of East-Indian drumming, country-western music, and a hint of rock and roll. My favorite track is Stonehaven Waltz, a traditional sounding Celtic ballad, but the whole album is worth the listen.
The Balladeer contains 15 tracks of excellently produced Celtic ballads. JJ’s resounding baritone voice coupled with the full and sometimes booming open strings of his guitar create layers of richness within each song. The songs are mostly mellow, somewhat nostalgic pieces. The highlights include Galway Shawl (my personal favorite); a cover of the classic U2 hit I Still Haven’t Found what I’m looking For; and Whiskey on a Sunday.
Larry Kernagis is distinguished as the Chief Leprechaun of the Nashville based Celtic band cleverly named Def Leprechaun. With a full repertoire of classic Irish folk and drinking songs, Larry also tours as a solo act. I was fortunate enough to meet Larry at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida during this summer.
As a skilled performer, Larry’s rich personality shines through his stage show. He’s friendly and personable, and interacts with the crowd brilliantly, accepting requests or limericks from the audience, bringing them into the show rather than keeping them as simple observers. I’ve even been fortunate enough to sit in with him on a couple different occasions.
Since many newcomers to the Irish music scene may not be familiar with the well known or regionally adapted responses to the classic ballads, Larry often takes a moment to bring them up to speed, making the evening a truly interactive experience. He also brings with him a set of “The Viking Pirate Captain’s DL Songbooks,” with the lyrics to over 100 of the world’s favorite Irish pub songs for use by the audience.
Larry is fluent on both banjo and guitar, switching between the two instruments frequently throughout the night, adding to the diversity of his style. He plays to his crowd, and as the night progresses Larry might incorporate other well known American classics in the spirit of Jimmy Buffet and Elvis Presley, but he otherwise keeps the set tight with Irish tunes.
Larry Kernagis is originally from Chicago, but relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where he formed his band Def Leprechaun. His performances make for an evening of ruckus and revelry. Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to think of him not only as a great performer, but as a friend.
Don’t miss Larry Kernagis, whether he is in Pensacola, Nashville, or Las Vegas. If you’re a little Irish or even just a fan, you’ll love Larry’s show.