THE FENIANS Celtic band rewrites the genre
The group will put a contemporary take on an old tune.
By JOHN BENSON
Growing up in Southern California, The Fenians singer/mandolin player Terry Casey wasn't necessarily inspired by the Irish music he heard his dad singing around the house.
"It's kind of like one of those things you take for granted, like your mom is blond and your dad has blue eyes," said Casey, during a phone call from his home in Orange County. "We were Irish, and music was part of the house. But growing up, I played in all different types of bands, punk rock and some new wave stuff. Eventually it just kind of felt like I was banging my head against the wall; it was never much fun."
When his father passed and silence filled the void once occupied with Irish singing, Casey discovered the fun he sought in the form of performing Celtic tunes in local watering holes.
At The Cellar
Fast forward nearly 15 years, and the Fenians is a full-time outfit, performing more than 140 shows annually around the world. You can see the quintet make its Youngstown debut Feb. 16 at The Cellar.
"When we first started playing, we were more of a pub ballad group," Casey said. "We admired The Clancy Brothers and later on, people like The Saw Doctors and Luka Bloom. And we just wanted to go play for fun, covering traditional songs and kind of arranging them a little differently than most would."
With five albums to its credit, including the most recent release "Every Day's a Hooley," The Fenians have successfully ventured into original material, which wasn't without its own pressures.
"It's a fairly daunting task to get into a genre that's been around for centuries and start writing tunes," Casey said. "It's kind of like, 'Who are we?' We just discovered this. We love taking traditional nuggets that are pretty obscure, pretty rare and arranging those and making them our own."
Whereas most Celtic bands play their fair share of standards, such as "Whiskey in the Jar" or "The Black Velvet Band," The Fenians may oblige but don't expect a run-of-the-mill performance. This talented outfit may add drums, let a bass loose, throw in a saxophone solo or perform a unique time signature for what amounts to a decidedly contemporary take on your father's Celtic music.
Another tradition of The Fenians is soul classic "Mustang Sally," which Casey said became an official Irish song once it was heavily featured in the "The Commitments."
"We like to say we look out to the audience and see 8 to 80, blind, crippled or crazy," Casey said. "If they can't walk, we carry them. We're not as rocking as say Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys, but we're not exactly The Clancy Brothers. So it's really cool to look out and see three generations of one family all rocking out."