Founded by Irish singer Patrick Murphy and English guitarist Steve Twigger in the mid-1990s, popular party band Gaelic Storm earned notoriety after appearing as the steerage band in the James Cameron blockbuster Titanic. A string of well-regarded CDs in the 1990s showcased their penchant for plying traditional Irish and Scottish music (bodhran, pipes, whistles) with streetwise stories and humorous lyrics, but Gaelic Storm cemented their reputation with uproarious pub shows in and around Santa Monica.
The net just kept getting bigger. Early albums Gaelic Storm (1998), Herding Cats (1999), and Tree (2001) were supported by lengthy tours around the globe and saw Murphy, Twigger, and friends become regulars on the festival and outdoors circuits. Lacking major label support, they cultivated audiences with one memorable gig after another—and by meeting their fans after the shows for pictures and autographs.
Word got around fast about Gaelic Storm’s good-time music and personal touch.
The quintet still plays over a hundred shows a year, with much of their “downtime” given to writing and recording new material. Each member has uprooted or relocated at least once to make the whole shebang work (former fiddler Jessie Burns resigned in 2012 after becoming a mother), and each does his or her part both onstage and off to keep the Storm cycle spinning.
While its roster changed slightly moving into the 2000’s (particularly in the fiddle department), Gaelic Storm’s passion for acoustic ballads, rambunctious reels, and Guinness-juiced jigs never wavered. These guys (and gals) just have a way of transforming big theatres and concert halls into cozy corner pubs with their spirited craic and boisterous bonhomie: Murphy and Twigger are like the Jimmy Buffett and Sammy Hagar of the Irish set.
The multinational act also features prizewinning Highlands bagpiper Peter Purvis (from Ontario, Canada), fiddler Kiana June Weber (of Chelsea, Michigan), and percussionist Ryan Lacey—who mostly plays with his hands instead of drum sticks.
They’ve rocked the Telluride Bluegrass Fest and Milwaukee Summerfest, and are mainstays at the Dayton and Dublin Irish Festivals in Ohio. Gaelic Storm appears regularly at House of Blues Cleveland (they’ve also played Kent Stage and Cain Park), continues wowing crowds on cruise ships like “Rock Boat” and “Celtic Thunder,” and routinely sell out shows across the continental United States.
Gaelic Storm has had three consecutive albums debut in the #1 slot of Billboard’s World Album Chart since the lineup solidification: What’s the Rumpus? (2008), Cabbage (2010), and Chicken Boxer (2012). In 2013, they released the nautical-themed Boathouse CD on their own Lost Again record label.
The band’s first-ever compilation, 2003’s Special Reserve, collected early gems like “Johnny Tarr,” “Beggarman,” and “Drink the Night Away” onto a single disc—making for a convenient point-of-entry for Gaelic Storm “virgins” eager to catch up.
Now, with Full Irish, Gaelic Storm updates their best.
Where Special Reserve drew from the first three albums, Full Irish cherry-picks from the last five, culling concert staples and fan favorites from 2004’s How Are We Getting Home? up through last year’s Boathouse. The running order also includes the previously unreleased “Irish Party in Third Class” (from Titanic) and two new songs—the lively instrumental “Spider Bite” and a fresh take on timeless drinking paean “Whiskey In The Jar”—making for fifteen new “greatest hits.”
Wayfaring anthem “Scalliwag” and mama’s boy ballad “Born to Be a Bachelor” make for a spirited start.
Occasioned in concert with dramatic fiddle / bagpipe duels and showdowns, the instrumental “Buzzards of Bourbon Street” offers a taste of the group’s titillating jigs / reels (a la “Storks of Guadalajara,” “Floating the Flambeau,” and “Samurai Set”). Likewise, “Me and The Moon” is often used during the audience participation parts of Gaelic’s live shows, with Murphy and Twigger dividing crowds between the bringers of the whiskey and light.
“The Night I Punched Russell Crowe” recounts the time Murphy squared off with the abrasive actor while working as a bar owner / bouncer. Murphy’s raconteur prowess rides high on “Darcy’s Donkey” (which chronicles the day a drunken ass won a Donegal horse race—and boasts a spoon solo), but Twigger handles lead vocals on “I Miss My Home” and “Slim Jim and The Seven Eleven Girl.”
“Raised on Black and Tans” pokes fun at those who exaggerate their emerald isle ancestry, while carpe diem ditty “One More Day Above the Roses” encourages everyone—Irish or not—to “give your all but take your breaks.”
We clocked the disc in at just shy of 57 minutes, which means you can tack on extra latter-day Gaelic fare like “Rum Runners,” “Don’t Go For the One,” or maybe “Pina Colada in a Pint Class” when ripping a CD for the car.
But Full Irish makes for a fitting companion / addendum to Special Reserve as is—and will tide listeners over until the next concert.
Full Irish is available for download now on iTunes. Physical CD copies can be purchased at Gaelic Storm concerts or ordered through their web store at www.gaelicstorm.com .