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Reelin' And A Rockin' Celtic Rockers Play Westchester Saturday

Celtic rockers Black 47 play Emelin Theatre

"I don't know if we've ever played The Emelin Theatre before. Which would make it unique. There aren't many places we haven't played. But, in any case, I'm delighted about it."

If you can imagine those words– enthusiastic, philosophical, a little bit punch-drunk– delivered with the faintest trace of an Irish accent, you'll understand the pleasure of talking to Larry Kirwan, leader of those mad Celtic rockers Black 47.

The New York-based band will be at The Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck, NY on Saturday at 8 p.m. And this writer can actually testify, that as pleasing as it is to talk to Kirwan, hearing him sing is even more of a rush. After all, most folks don't speak with bass, drums and uilleann pipes accompanying them. 

Still, Kirwan is a pretty terrific speaker. He begins by talking about Black 47's calling card, and perhaps most famous song, "Funky Ceili."

"That tune became so popular, it started sparking parents to naming their daughters Ceili (pronounced Kay-Lee)," Kirwan said recently. "I've had hundreds of them over the years come up to me and say, 'I got my name from your song. My parents are big fans.'"

When Kirwan expresses a bit of frustration over these mild interruptions, one feels the need to remind him that this could be worse. That, for instance, none of these claims are as bad as, say, paternity suits.

He laughs heartily.

Now, a wee bit of background.

Since starting in 1989, Black 47 (named after a particularly devastating year in The Great Famine in Ireland), has been mixing traditional Irish reels and ballads, with folk, punk and everything else that Kirwan and his bandmates can throw into the mix. They've been lauded (and helped), by the late, legendary Clash leader, Joe Strummer, had heavy rotation on MTV, been produced by the Cars' Ric Ocasek and toured like the tough working men they are. It all started at a place in Manhattan called Paddy O'Reilly's, a bar where founding members first made a splash playing to cops, construction workers and left-leaning kids with nose rings.

Everybody, no matter their affiliations, loved them. 

"My original idea was to play nothing but Irish bars in the New York area," said Kirwan, who is also well-regarded as a playwright and memoirist. "I figured, we'd make a living and spread the word about our eclectic music that way. But I have Joe to thank for pushing into the 'real' world."

Kirwan goes on to relate that Strummer, who the Black 47 guys met through Irish legends The Pogues, was adamant about the group (like The Clash) reaching beyond just the converted. And trying to play for the whole world.

"Joe was so great to me," said Kirwan. "He bugged the owner of (NY club) The Wetlands, so much that he hired us; partly just to get Joe off his back. He loved all kinds of music, Joe, and was such an incredibly loyal guy. I really miss him."

Expect to hear some of your favorites at The Emelin, as well as newer songs from the 2010 album "Bankers and Gangsters." Kirwan says the title of the album and its relevance to the meltdown in the housing market and on Wall Street a few years back, was not entirely an accident.

"I knew something bad was coming just from reading the news happening in Ireland," the singer said. "Before the housing bubble burst, virtual shacks there were going for a half-million dollars. You knew this insanity was going to spread until things got really bad."

Kirwan says he knows what people are going through, economically. As a result of all this fallout. And it's just another good reason to come see his band Saturday.

"Sometimes, all the troubles in the world seem to come from greed," he said. "It's, peripherally, one of the things Black 47 talks about. Now, as you know, we're a joyous band, but we're definitely made for hard times. Maybe that's why it's a good thing to do right now. I mean, to come see us. And despite your problems, to have a good night out."

Info: Black 47 plays The Emelin Theatre, 153 Library Lane, Mamaroneck, NY this Saturday, January 21 at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 914-698-3045 or go to www.emelin.org

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