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Black 47 get funky at Asbury Park, NJ

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Larry Kirwan.
Larry Kirwan.

Black 47 planted seeds in Asbury Park for what will hopefully grow into a thriving annual St. Patrick’s Day parade last week.

“We want to be the all-inclusive parade so that all manner of Irish and Irish Americans are free to march proudly,” said Jacqueline Pappas, executive director of the Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce. I’ll drink to that!

The band descended on Johnny Mac’s, a deliciously gothic Irish bar with a funky New Orleans vibe.  There are tight quarters inside so the party got taken to the parking lot.

Under a starry yet chilly autumn night, the band barnstormed through their best hits and gave some hints at what their new CD, Last Call, might sound like.

Yes, in case you didn’t read our world exclusive announcement a few weeks back, leader Larry Kirwan has decided to pack it in this time next year, 25 years to the date that he started the band that single-handedly invented the New York Irish American rock scene. But he plans to take things out with a bang, as the batch of new songs suggest.

“I hadn’t written anything for the band in a couple of years,” he revealed to me last month. “Then once I made the decision to wind the band down, I wrote 10 songs in three weeks. I could hardly stop it!

“A lot of the songs are organic, very up, very New York, which would highlight the band a bit more. I wanted to make a more bluesy, driven Black 47 sound and then it just really flowed.”

The new songs, works in progress that are being hammered out in their live sets, are all over the map stylistically. An early favorite is “Salsa O’Keefe,” a track with seductive rhythms you might find on a Santana record.

Kirwan, a noted playwright, weaves a great story in the lyrics. The horns and pipes come in and suddenly, the Irish soda bread gets dunked into the “salsa mix!”

“That one is a blast to play live,” enthuses drummer Thomas Hamlin. “You can already tell that one is going to be a crowd pleaser when it hits the album.”

There’s also a touching, pensive romantic ditty called “The Night the Showbands” died that is evocative of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” in its cinematic flair.  The song was inspired by the Miami Massacre in 1975.

“It was a horrific accident just north of Newry that took these musicians in that showband,” Kirwan explains.  “I was an admirer of Fran O’Toole, the singer and keyboardist.  He was always very kind to me when opening for The Miami in Wexford as a youth.  I’ve always wondered why this story has never been told in song.”  

Before heading to the studio next month to work on the new music, Black 47 will be pulling into Rocky Sullivan’s in Brooklyn this Saturday to call on their old friend and founding member Chris Byrne, who owns the place. Count on a reunion for the record books!

You can catch them at Paddy Reilly’s on Second Avenue in New York on November 16, and you best not miss their last-ever annual New Year’s Eve gig in Times Square! For updates, visit www.black47.com.

 

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