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.
Rich McDuff is Northwest Florida’s most popular Irish folk music performer. With a loyal and regular fan base, Rich helped build and define the music scene at McGuire’s Irish Pub while performing there for more than twenty years.
Although the moose-kissing tradition at McGuire’s predates Rich’s arrival on scene, he is responsible for writing the accompanying, and now entrenched “Kiss the Moose” song. He explains “When I began playing here, asking a first-time patron of McGuire’s to kiss the moose might be met with a bit of confusion and resistance. The traditional aspect was lost on them. I figured if there was a song to go along with it, it would give the tradition a bit more validity for first-time visitors to the pub. And it has worked out pretty well.” Now every act that performs at McGuire’s plays this song, and the moose-kissing tradition has expanded to include not only the moose but a couple other McGuire’s fixtures as well.
Rich is also known or pushing the bounds of the debauchery which is naturally as part of McGuire’s slogan. His “Dirty Limerick” song, played to the classic mariachi tune of “Cielito Lindo” contains rhymes that could even surprise a hip-hop fan. Many of Rich’s regulars eagerly look forward to this point in the evening, awaiting their opportunity to share the stage with him and recite their own limerick specially prepared just for this song. The best and most classic limericks are written on a scroll and tucked away in the secret archives, only to be taken out upon the performance of this tune.
Even more entertaining, energetic, and amusing is Rich’s version of “Seven Drunken Nights,” with extended responses – a wee bit too naughty to be written down here. This point of the night is when you are likely to see the most crowd participation. This rendition of the classic Irish song is memorable, if not for the increasingly lengthy responses, but the reactions and looks on the faces of new comers to the McGuire’s scene.
Crowd interaction is a major part of Rich’s act. You never know just where the night will lead or how ridiculous the antics are likely to become.
Rich’s set also contains a set of American country, and acoustically played classic rock songs familiar to everyone. As a classically trained guitarist, Rich McDuff’s musical talent becomes most apparent when he plays a traditional jig or reel or the occasional classical guitar piece.
Rich’s revolving schedule alternates between the pubs in both Pensacola and Destin, Florida. While he is away, his regulars in Pensacola always look forward to his return. Some will even make the drive to Destin to see him when he is performing there.
The first time I ran into the Irish music duo Dun Aengus was at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida in March 2010. It was the last night of the Renaissance Faire and a handful of us met up at the pub for a drink. They were a great band that night, playing a lot of the classic Irish drinking songs I’ve known and loved. I would have gone up to the pub to see them again but they were on tour and leaving for south Florida the next day.
I caught up with them again the following St. Patrick’s Day, once again at McGuire’s. They were rocking the house with popular Irish and Scottish tunes and a few popular American classics for good measure. Just like last year, Dun Aengus had the crowd enraptured, gathered on the floor in front of the stage dancing with wild abandon to these classic sing-alongs. The Irish was certainly high that night.
Hailing from Sweden, Dun Aengus consists of Peter Andersson on banjo and vocals, and Martin Rahmberg on acoustic guitar and vocals. Martin’s gruff singing style contributes a real rootsy “beer and tobacco” quality while Peter’s smoother harmonies and verses compliment and broaden the sound. Peter’s banjo leads also carry the melodies that distinctly bring out the Celtic quality of the music. Their repertoire includes such classics as “Whiskey in the Jar,” “The Wild Rover,” and “All For Me Grog,” and a full night’s compliment of others.
Dun Aengus is an excellent Irish music duo worthy of some support. I’ll be keeping track of them so I can catch them again next time they‘re in town.
McGuire’s Irish Pub is a Pensacola landmark, rich in atmosphere and tradition. Located in the Old Firehouse at 600 E. Gregory St. Pensacola, Florida, McGuire’s boasts “Feasting, Imbibery, and Debauchery 7 nights a week.” Themed as “a turn of the century New York Irish Saloon” McGuire’s features nightly performances of traditional Irish Music and sing-along. Such artists of note include Rich McDuff, Dun Aengus, and JJ Smith playing a majority of classic and traditional Irish folk music.
Established by McGuire and Molly Martin in 1977, but only located at Gregory Street since 1982, this pub has a few traditions that have grown up with it. The ceiling and the walls are covered with over 1 million one dollar bills, signed and donated by the pub’s patrons. In the late night hours, as the debauchery gets a-going new comers and those overcome with that Irish spirit may be called up to kiss the moose as the featured artist sings the traditional moose-kissing song.
As a restaurant McGuire’s serves lunch during the day and dinner until the wee hours of the morning and employs some of the hardest working wait staff in Pensacola. Dining at McGuire’s is always fun and satisfying, with very large portions. The nacho plate alone is piled up the size of your head. And the quality is top of the line.
McGuire’s is a winner of numerous awards including Beef Backers “Best Steaks in Florida,” for their USDA Prime Beef steaks. Their Molly’s Cut is the best steak I’ve ever had. It is also an 11 time Golden Spoon Award Winner, and a Florida Trend Magazine Hall of Famer. McGuire’s has also been featured on the Food Network’s Outrageous Foods during which the “Big Daddy Burger” made with bacon, cheddar cheese and jalapeno peppers was created.
McGuire’s is also celebrated for its selection of beers. They proudly display a quote by Carrie Nation; “Life’s too short to drink cheap beer.” McGuire’s operates an onsite brewery where are created a selection of quality ales and porter. They include a light ale, Irish Red, Raspberry Wheat, Porter, Stout and root beer. They also brew and serve a rotating variety of seasonal ales. Visitors may tour the McGuire’s Brewery and home brewers are offered a sample of McGuire’s own brewing yeast for use.
The bartenders are very friendly, professional and offer quick service. They pour 1½ oz shots and double shot martinis. McGuire’s is the home of the aptly named Irish Wake, a green concoction served in a mason jar with a green and a red cherry, so potent that no more than three are allowed per customer per visit. Amongst its many awards, McGuires with its 8,000 bottle wine cellar is also the winner or the 2009 WineSpectator Award of Excellence.
To new folks, the McGuire’s layout may cause some initial consternation. Much like the TARDIS from Dr. Who, McGuire’s seems to be bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Like Disney World, much of McGuire’s is virtually unseen from ‘above ground,’ with 400 seats throughout several different themed rooms. Then there are the bones of Bridget McGuire.
McGuire’s is a regular stop for many celebrities and politicians who live in or pass through Pensacola, including 2008 Presidential candidate John McCain. This is a fantastic pub in which to be a visitor or a regular. With good food, good drink, and great atmosphere, you won’t be disappointed. Just be sure to pay close attention to the restroom signs when ye stop by.