So there I was, the wind whipping through the cobblestone streets of Boston. I was wandering aimlessly, head down, trying to figure out how to pay for the enormous bill that I would be getting from any of the colleges that my daughter fell in love with up here during our tour of Beantown over the weekend.
I went into Mr. Dooley’s Irish Pub in the Financial District to drown some of my sorrows, and who did I see but our old pal Colm O’Brien!
The raspy raconteur who once graced the Prodigals has been a staple of the vibrant Irish pub scene here, and his set list was peppered tonight with songs from his excellent disc, "Back to Work."
“The craic is 90 in here, and I’m not talking about the price of drugs paid by Toronto’s mayor,” O’Brien joked from the small stage.
He mixed it up with “Uncle Arthur,” a tribute to Guinness from the Prodigals’ "Needs Must When the Devil Drives," which sat nicely next to “Sound as a Pound” from his new solo album. I can report that his raspy, rattled voice hasn’t lost an ounce of it’s charms!
The songs on "Back to Work," which made my Top 10 list when it was released a while back, make the disc a modern Irish folk classic, chronicling the hard times the working class have endured under the greedy thumb of bankers in recent years.
“It’s the same story down through the ages,” O’Brien says between sets. “You really can’t pay attention to history books because they were written by the winners of whatever conflict was going on. To get the truth, you have to pay attention to the poems and songs of the times.”
That explains the extensive and highly entertaining history lesson he offers alongside the old songs you know and love. He tells the story of Joseph Mary Plunkett, the Irish Nationalist, who married his love before being executed on “Grace,” the song made famous by the Wolfe Tones. It adds a new meaning to the love song when you hear it in that context.
Music fans will not want to miss O’Brien’s tour of Ireland, as you are sure to have a grand time learning the history behind the songs and the island itself – in between copious pints of stout, of course.
The tour runs April 4-13 and includes eight nights of hotels in Galway, Killarney, New Ross and Dublin.
O’Brien, easily one of the best balladeers working today, will have a song for every pub along the way! Bring your instrument for a once-in-a-lifetime jam session if you're so inclined.
You can catch O’Brien most Wednesdays at Durty Nelly’s Pub in Boston. Visit www.colmobrien.com.