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Spotlights [Issue # 13 ]
Young Dubliners: Get Your Irish Up

By Peter Vouras

The Irish have produced some of the world’s greatest poets, writers, and musicians. From Yeats and Joyce to Bono and Morrison, the Emerald Isle has graced us with eloquent prose as clear as the ice-blue Irish sky and melodies as murky as a thick fog o’er the peat bogs. In that fine tradition come Young Dubliners headed by frontman Keith Roberts.

Roberts formed the band after moving to Los Angeles in the early nineties and although there have been various line-ups, the band has developed a strong, loyal following. Real World is their sixth album overall and their third on the OmTown/Higher Octave label. Combining his love of roots rock ‘n roll with his Celtic heritage, Roberts has come up with a gem. Asked about his approach to songwriting and if there is a concerted effort to make it sound Irish, Roberts responded, “Over the years we’ve tried to get some consistency in our sound because we’re drawn from two different countries with the Irish in the band and the Americans in the band. I try to make sure that I’m not writing purely Celtic stuff and to be a songwriter that’s just trying to write a song without any necessary restrictions. What I’ve found is that the Americans in the band, when they’re contributing to a song, tend to think in terms of Celtic sounds. A classic example is the song “Real World,” which came from a riff that Bob [Boulding] had heard from a buddy of his and the rest of the song grew out of the riff.”

Growing up in Ireland, Roberts was heavily influenced by The Boomtown Rats, The Undertones, and other punk bands at the time. The songs on the album clearly allude to this early influence. “Touch The Sky,” the first single, pays homage to Big Country with its driving beats and melodic chorus. “OK” is a hard rocker with an Undertones feel and “Say It’s So” conjures up Thin Lizzy.

All the songs have memorable hooks that will have the listener humming later in the day wondering where they heard it. “Come Back Home” is a genuine knee-slapper with incredible fiddle by Chas Waltz and uilleann pipe by Eric Rigler (Titanic, Braveheart), “Fade Away” conjures up the best of Paul McCartney, and “Confusion” tantalizes with a killer chorus.

When asked about his approach to songwriting in terms of lyrics versus melody, Roberts replied,“ Whenever I hear a song with a lyric I wish I’d written in a ‘hooky’ format I say, ‘Shit, killer idea,’ and I hear that all the time with that band Keane. One of my favorite albums is The Bends by Radiohead. That to me is great mix of lyrics and melody. Even U2 are the same way. I think Bono has come a long way. He used to take a lot of shit about his lyrics, but I actually think he’s a great lyricist and a great melody writer. I’m a fan of a four-minute song with some good hooks and lyrics and a strong melody. You could definitely have a hit with a great hook and some shite lyrics, but it wouldn’t be my cup of tea.”

The Young Dubliners were fortunate enough to tour with Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson became an instant fan. “He will probably go down in history, well in my history book, as one of the guys who truly, truly supported this band for no other reason than personal gratification,” says Roberts. “I thought it was a pipe dream to actually get him to play on an album. He wrote me and said he’d love to do it.”

Anderson is featured on the straight up Irish gig instrumental, “Banshee,” which should be turned up loud for full effect. You’ll be “Riverdancing” all over your living room.

Special note should be given to the incredible production of the album. Producer Tim Boland has done an amazing job. Raise a pint for Young Dubliners. Cheers!

Real World
Higher Octave

Get Your Irish Up Young Dubliners Real World

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