A Few Minutes With… Larry Kirwan of Black 47

September 11th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg
Black 47

Larry Kirwan (right) and Black 47

Interview and story by Don Wilcock
Photograph by Kirsten Ferguson

Facing death straight in the eye clears one’s head in a heartbeat. If it’s the possible death of your child, the focus is even sharper. “You think, holy shit, you make a wrong move, and your kids are gonna die. That’s a big one,” says Larry Kirwan, leader of the Celtic rock band Black 47 performing Saturday afternoon at the 18th annual Irish 2000 Festival of Music & Arts at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa.

Black 47 takes its name from the worst year of the Irish potato famine, 1847. Their instrumentation includes uillean pipes and bodhran, and they address issues relating to Irish as well as American politics. They are one of the few contemporary rock bands that don’t blink when it comes to the politics of war. “When we were doing the Iraq album and playing it during the war, we’d do a lot of colleges or a certain amount of them during the course of the year and for three years, 2003 to 2006, it was a nightmare in bars and everything. Even colleges didn’t give a fuck (as long as) they could dance to it. They really didn’t.

“The only way I used to get a rise out of them is I’d off-handedly say, ‘I’m sorry, but the draft is coming back in this afternoon. It’s gonna be tough on you guys.’ Then I’d go into the next song. And this rumor would spread through the crowd. It was wildfire. It was like everyone was listening to what you were gonna say on the next song.”

Black 47’s core audience includes those men and women who choose the military as an occupation at a time when facing death is a gamble they feel is worth the effort in a world of limited life options. Kirwan is not a war monger, but he separates his judgments towards our fighting men and women from those about politicians who make the decisions to go to war.

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LIVE: Black 47/Kevin McKrell @ Alive at 5, 7/9

July 10th, 2009, 1:55 pm by Greg

Let’s face it, Black 47 guitarist-bandleader Larry Kirwan isn’t really much of a vocalist. But what he lacks in the vocal nuance department, he more than makes up for with his sheer overpowering passion.

You can read my review of the Black 47/Kevin McKrell Alive at 5 show from Albany’s Riverfront Park in the Times Union.

Larry Kirwan

Larry Kirwan

Back in 1993 when Black 47 made their Nippertown debut at Bogie’s, they whipped up quite a swirling mosh pit in the crowd. On Thursday, the beer-soaked audience played it considerably cooler with only a bit of a jig or an occasional bout of step-dancing breaking out in front of the stage.

Which is not to say that Kirwan and company played it safe or toned it down any for their free, family-friendly performance. In fact, it was a bit of a surprise when they launched into their encore – the hilarious but definitely not G-rated “I Got Laid on James Joyce’s Grave.”

Meanwhile, Kevin McKrell – the Capital Region’s King of All Things Celtic – put together the Hard Road Ceili Band, a real all-star group of musicians featuring his daughter Katie on vocals and bodhran, exotic percussionist Brian Melick, bassmaster Rick Bedrosian, guitarist Brian Gibney and fab fiddler-vocalist Sara Milonovich.

Sara Milonovich and Kevin McKrell

Sara Milonovich and Kevin McKrell

They’ve all played with McKrell at various times over the years, but all six musicians had never actually played all together until this show. And as an opening act at a free outdoor concert, if you can get the crowd to sing along, as they did on “All of the Hard Days Are Gone” – an original song, no less – then you know you’ve got something special going on. Quite an auspicious debut, indeed. Expect to hear more from them in the coming months.

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