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Genre: Celtic/Irish, Folk

Website: http://www.thelarkinbrigade.com


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Paddy Keys, Paulie Thunder, and Diesel Dennis have been playing together since the turn of the millennium. They've known each other since the early '80s, when they were wee tykes in Dorchester. And the music they play has roots considerably deeper than that.

Boston natives, the lads' forebears came from Ireland, an island with a musical tradition centuries old. Growing up, they learned the rebel songs, the drinking songs, the romantic ballads, and the jigs and reels of that tradition by accident. The music was one part of their real-life soundtrack as youngsters, heard on the Irish Hour on local radio, on record albums by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, and played live at church variety shows and family gatherings. (Brothers Paddy and Paulie, nee Patrick and Paul Kennedy, have a ton of musician relatives, including an uncle, Bob McCarthy, who has regularly toured with Tommy Makem.)

As adolescents in the Boston Public Schools, they naturally got into rap, soul, rock n' roll, metal, and punk rock. Dennis (last name Doherty) played drums in a memorable hip-hop/funk-rock band called Epileptic Disco. They were regulars at the Rat in old Kenmore Square, and played on bills with acts such as Shootyz Groove and the Lordz of Brooklyn.

Paddy eventually started a hardcore punk band called the Molly Maguires, who almost exclusively played VFW and church halls with bands like Darkbuster and the Explosion. At the same time, he was listening to more Irish folk than ever. He hosted the Celtic program on WZBC 90.3 FM and wrote music reviews for the Boston Irish Reporter.

One cold night in December 1999, with all that in the past, Dennis and Paddy rolled to BC to catch the Prodigals, an Irish rock band based in New York. Halfway through the set, a light bulb exploded over Dennis' head and he exclaimed: "We should start an Irish band." Before long, they recruited Paulie to play bass, formed a band called the Bogtrotters, and (despite Paulie being 19) wowed the crowds at downtown bars for months. With a ridiculous amount of energy and rawness, they covered songs by the Pogues, one of their favorite bands, and the Wolfe Tones, whom they regularly went to see at the IBEW hall in Dorchester. Good times were had. The drink flowed and so did the puke. (Well, once.)(We shan't name names, but he was only 19.)

For various reasons, that band came to a halt in early 2001. In 2002, another band came to a halt as well: Melee, an underground thrash act known for inspiring fans to mosh naked and spray paint "Melee Mosh Hogs" on buildings all over town. Now bandless and bored, their drummer, a friend of Paddy's named Dynamite Jack, talked Paddy into starting an Irish band once again. Paddy talked his brother into playing bass again -- perhaps "begged" is the best term -- and in 2003 the Larkin Brigade was born. They took their name in honor of Big Jim Larkin, a labor-union founder who took part in the fight for Irish freedom in 1916. This time, Paddy was not only playing piano, but singing lead -- an activity much more in keeping with his not inconsiderable ego. Furthermore, he began writing a few of his own songs for a change, rather than strictly ripping off the Pogues and the Wolfe Tones. The three-piece went through a series of fiddle players -- Smokin' Joe Kessler (whose claims to fame include a stint with Page & Plant, making the Larkin Brigade two degrees of separation to Led Zeppelin), Big Paul Harty, and Christie Catastrophe.

In spring 2005, Dynamite Jack was called into service to stick it to the Man as a negotiator for the UAW, headquartered in Detroit. The job required that Jack move to Motown. Things looked grim for the Larkin Brigade until their old friend Diesel Dennis blew the dust off his sticks and began pounding the bejeezus out of the drums once again.

Soon after, thanks to their hanging out in the local ska scene, the three old friends found a new fiddle player: Heavyset Joe. Nee Joseph Wyatt and raised on t