The strip of asphalt known as McLean Avenue in Yonkers has always been a safe haven for Irish immigrants looking to find their way in a new land.
The McLean Avenue Band provides the soundtrack to that unique Irish experience, and are touring to support their newest album, Easy and Free.
It’s a rollicking set of tunes, including a take on a Charlie Daniels classic known as “The Devil Went Down to Yonkers.” The track “From Galway to Graceland” is a pub-pleasing, toe-tapping ditty punctuated by spirited fiddles and banjoes.
Easy and Free is a great companion to that St. Patrick’s Day party you know you’re going to throw in a few weeks!
The band is led by Padraig Allen, a name known to fans of the legendary band the Whole Shabang. I caught up with him over the weekend as he was gearing up for some green shenanigans. Here’s how it went.
How would you describe McLean Avenue Band to someone who has never heard your music?
An array of difference. Energetic, modern Irish style songs and tunes with a hint of bluegrass and American favorites.
How do you think that sound differs from The Whole Shabang and what was the Shabang fans' reaction to this new band?
The Whole Shabang was somewhat of an introduction to Celtic rock for me. Our music was original and in the same vein the Horslips music which was born in 1970.
McLean Avenue Band has an even newer take on the songs and tunes, leaning towards the new age folk and traditional sound, expanding our music to a different era.
The reaction from the listeners and fans from our first album Easy and Free is fantastic, with our friends from Fordham Radio (WFUV) often reporting us as being one of their favorite bands on the scene.
I see you play a number of different venues. Is there a difference between playing a cruise, a bar and a wedding?
Not really, except for when we play theaters we like to showcase our individual talents and create a more intimate atmosphere for the audience. We also have Emerald Fire with us, an Irish dance company, that are ready to leap into motion and give us another dimension to add to the show's overall excitement!
Entertaining is what we focus on. Our show has a unique charisma that makes us very relatable to more widespread audience.
Love your take on "Devil Went Down to Yonkers." How did that come about?
Thanks Mike, you’re not alone. Again it was reaching back to The Whole Shabang days. We had a take on the “Devil” and I felt that I needed to rock it up!
I share the vocals with fiddler Jessica and I added the lyrics “Yonkers” instead of “Georgia” and Irish tunes into it make it fun for our New York friends.
It felt right after the first rehearsal, so we ran with it for a show and tore the house down. It made the record and has definitely put its stamp on the band's sound.
McLean Avenue has always been a great Irish scene which I know ebbs and flows based on immigration from the motherland. What do you think of the Irish scene/culture/music vibe there now?
I think the answer is really in the question here, “ebbs and flows based on immigration from the motherland.”
That does have a certain impact on the show's turnout on McLean Avenue and the vibe in the Irish culture in the New York area.
We can’t forget that there are 44.5 million people living in America claiming Irish ancestry today. Irish people don't forget their heritage, music and dance.
With this in mind, it can overcome all doubt or sense of unwanted change, even on McLean Avenue and the Irish folk on the avenue would never let it happen. This year they will have their first St. Patrick’s parade and their second annual Irish festival. This says a lot about McLean, and that it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
What does 2012 hold for the band?
Lots of singing and playing our favorites in venues from Tacoma, Washington to Mineola, Long Island and a stop in Europe too. Complete our next album and meet and greet people like yourself that keep the Irish tradition alive.
The McLean Avenue Band will play as a duo at Pig and Whistle (47th Street off Seventh Ave, New York) on February 29 at 9:15 p.m., March 2, 8, and 14. On March 17 they will play at the Ciccone Theatre, Bergen Community College, Paramus with Emerald Fire from 2-4 p.m. For more information, log onto www.McleanAvenueBand.com.
The McLean Avenue Band - Wagon Wheel:
Three million people in the world are descended from one Irish High King