Top Irish-American albums of the decade
Top Irish albums of the decade
“I do have certain very specific feelings connected with that album,” says Prodigals leader Gregory Grene when asked to reflect on "Needs Must When the Devil Drives," the band’s album from 2003.
“In some ways, as a whole, I find 'Dreaming In Hell's Kitchen' may be the album I reach for soonest; but the particular time that 'Needs Must' happened meant that there are elements and songs on there that have a unique resonance for me. This album was recorded immediately following two seminal events in my life; one was the passing of my father, and the other was the birth of my daughter.
“Belturbet Churchyard” is a beautiful song that reflects poignantly on that passage of time.
“I remember vividly recording that track, and feeling so intensely personally about it, and playing it back for Kieran Ryan, who was our soundman at the time, to ask if I should layer more into it,” Grene recalls. “He listened in the intent way that he had, and said, ‘thank you, Gregory. Don't touch it.’ The high point, for sure, was laying down that track. There wasn't really a low point per se, but I felt so exposed on that track that it bled into a lot of the rest of the album — I definitely felt particularly personally about it. ”
There was also another set of lineup changes in store for the band that bled into the recording process.
Singer Colm O’Brien added a hoarse and gritty barroom feel to the tidy sodabread soul of the band; if Grene was the jig, Colm was the punk in this jig-punk outfit at the time.
“We just found out that Colm was going to be leaving the band, to have his own lovely kid, and that lent a poignant resonance to the recording as well.”
He didn’t leave before creating some Prodigals classics, including “Uncle Arthur,” a drunken singalong to the founder of the famous Guinness Brewery and “Ball of Alcohol,” a ferocious rave-up in which he screams, “I can’t get drunk enough.”
"Needs Must" is balanced with great Irish storytelling. Grene’s “there’s nothing I believe in / there’s nothing left to say / see you at the table and I’ll drink the night away,” he sings as he describes a night at the pub on “Chelsea 3AM.” Bassist Andrew Harkin’s hyperactive funky bass drives many of the tracks on the album, adding a layer of muscle on the track.
“You listen so constantly to an album, that by the time you get it in your hands, all you can hear are the imperfections,” Grene says as he recalls hearing the finished product for the first time.
“You can be satisfied with the writing, but just fixated on the execution. It literally takes a couple of years, at the least, before I can listen to an album with anything approaching pleasure. Of course, the exception to that would be tracks that are less focused on myself — I found myself enjoying Colm's "Alright Son," and Andrew's extraordinary bass on that track, relatively quickly.”
The band is consistently an Irish festival favorite, yet they never seem to stray far from their devoted fans at Paddy Reilly’s most weekends. For Grene, the need to support a local pub is more than business: it's personal.
It's a tricky time right now in the music business,” he muses. “The economy is in the toilet, and the gig scene is having problems. Just for one example is in Boston. We used to sell out the House of Blues there, and then the bean-counters at the HOB headquarters in Nevada decided they needed a larger 'profit center,' and closed the place down. The whole Boston scene went to pieces along with it — the Irish pub scene isn't in the same universe as it used to be. Same with Connecticut. Same for that matter with NYC — the whole vibe where folks used to go to bars to have a pint, a smoke, and meet up is under huge challenge — a lot of folks don't have money for a pint, there's no smoking now, and it's cheaper and less vulnerable to 'meet' online.”
When you hook up with that special someone online, take them to a great date of pints and jig punk!
To find out where the Prodigals play next, log onto www.prodigals.com.