• A decade of challenge and change in Irish and Irish-American music

Top Irish-American albums of the decade

• Black 47: 'Trouble in the Land'

• Prodigals: 'Needs Must When the Devil Drives'

• Pierce Turner’s '3 Minute World'

• Enter the Haggis: 'Casualties of Retail'

• Dropkick Murphys: 'Blackout'

Top Irish albums of the decade

• U2’s 'All that you can’t Leave Behind'

• Afro Celt Sound System’s 'Volume 3: Further in Time'

• Saw Doctors 'The Cure'

• Sinead O’Connor’s 'Throw Down your Arms'

• 'VH1 Presents The Corrs: Live from Dublin'

Dropkick Murphys formed in 1996 in Boston when a few friends gathered, looking to play music for fun. They started playing in the basement of a friend’s barbershop, and their goal was to blend the musical influences they had grown up on, which include punk, Irish folk, rock, and hardcore. By the time they released "Blackout" in 2003, they had fashioned those influences into one loud, raucous, chaotic mix that stood in its own genre.

“So you say you fell in love and you're gonna get married/raise yourself a family, how simple life can be / somewhere it all went wrong and your plans just fell apart / and you ain't got the heart to finish what you started,” screams lead singer Al Barr on the albums opener, “Walk Away.”  The track shoots sparks with shooting guitars and thundering drums as Barr lends an angry voice to “the ones that you loved and left behind.”

Dropkick Murphys honor the ancient art of storytelling with some wicked covers of traditional classics. “Fields of Athenry” plays up the Irish defiance in the face of starvation and famine, while “Black Velvet Band” is a hopped-up jig of molten lava. There are plenty of punk bands out there that make a living knocking off the Pogues (The Tossers come to mind), but the Dropkicks stick a flag on a piece of musical greenery that is uniquely theirs. If this band is not in the jukebox of your Irish bar, you are well-advised to find another Irish bar!

Every album we do encapsulates a time and place, how we were thinking and feeling at the time,” reflects drummer Matt Kelly. "'Blackout' is definitely no different.  Also, having been given access to the unpublished lyrics of Woody Guthrie, we had the unique opportunity to be a part of the American folk tradition. The lyrics to the title track, 'Gonna be a Blackout Tonight,' were gleaned from that horde!  So the opportunity was a true honor to us, and it set the tone of the album right there."

Like most good Irish bands, their songs tell stories, and there is plenty of inspiration on the gritty Boston streets. “Time to Go” is an aggressive fight song dedicated to their beloved Boston Bruins. And of course, they wouldn’t be a punk rock band if they didn’t rail against the system. "Blackout" aims venom at the white-haired Knights of Columbus types that organize Irish parades. In the band’s view, they look at these upstanding St. Patrick’s Day citizens as being phony during the other 364 days of the year when they sing, “so come all you losers, you bastards and cheats / vagrants and barflies down on the street / follow this path to salvation, vindication awaits / we're marching on East Broadway tonight.”

Irish humor fits into the mix on “Kiss Me, I’m Sh***faced” and as the name implies, it is a drunken anthem propped up by a bagpipe that plays a funeral dirge for the last hours of a dying night.

Their live show has all the thrills and dangers you’d expect to find in a punk rock show. I found myself on the losing end of a fist in the mosh pits during one of their shows when they played Times Square’s Nokia Theater a while back. In recent years, the band has taken them out of their native Boston as they have built a cult status in the punk rock scene on the back of having a song placed on "The Departed" soundtrack.

“We recently got back from a NW and Canadian tour just in time for Thanksgiving, and we are taking Christmas and New Year's to chill,” says Kelly of the band’s plans. “We'll be heading to Europe with Sick Of It All and the Mahones in January, doing some southern US dates into the Ides of March, where we'll have our stint in Boston for St. Patrick's Day and the week surrounding it.  In between all that, we've put together a live album and DVD, and are currently writing for a new studio album to be recorded in 2010.  More to come after that.”

This is a tireless touring outfit that routinely sells out House of Blues in Dallas, Orlando, and Atlantic City as wells as gigs across the pond to Ireland and Scandinavia.

For more information, log onto www.dropkickmurphys.com.