The Dropkick Murphys and the Ryman Auditorium are two things I would never have expected to collide. Now, you all know who the Dropkick Murphys are if you are reading Shite’n’Onions. The Ryman, if you don’t know, is a former revival hall in Nashville, Tennessee that for the last 100 years or so has been the spiritual home of country music. The hall itself has two levels of church bench seating in a half circle around the stage with some of the best acoustics of any venue in the US. When I read the Dropkick Murphys were playing here I jumped on getting a ticket and a flight down. Being Nashville I was real curious to see who made up a Dropkick Murphys crowd – like most places its was the seven to 70 set and if Waldo had a bushy beard and scally cap you’d never find him, but being Nashville there were plenty of trucker caps and and more then a few cowboy hats.
So what brings a bunch of Boston Micks and the Mother Church of country music together? Legendary American folk icon Woody Guthrie is the catalyst. Shipping Up To Boston, Dropkick Murphys big breakthrough is of course a Woody Guthrie song. The Murphys were approached by the Guthrie family to put music to some of Woody’s original lyrics that had not previously been released leading to their new album, This Machine Still Kills Fascists, and an acoustic tour to support and this date at the Ryman.
Counting tonight I think this is my 10th time seeing Dropkick Murphys since 1999 and the first time in a few years. The line-up is very different, Ken Casey on vocals, Al Barr is not touring due to family commitments. A new bass player allows Ken to jump around the stage like a man half his age. Scruffy Wallace is gone but the main stays of Matt Kelly and James Lynch are still there.
Tonight’s set was rocking hard despite being an “acoustic” set with nine songs from the new album that went down really well despite being unfamiliar to most of the audience. The rest of the set were old favorites with songs you would of course expect them to play – Fields of Athenry, Boys on the Docks, and Rose Tattoo (which brought the house down) and a few you wouldn’t expect given the acoustic set – Citizen CIA, Barroom Hero and Skinhead on the MBTA. No stage invasion was allowed at the Ryman in case someone broke a hip as Casey quipped though this may have been directed at his mother who was in the first row.
The night had two openers, The Washington state raised but Nashville based Jaime Wyatt, who played to my ears authentic old school country (her guitarist looked like a reincarnation of Blaze Foley), she was really talented but not my thing.
Jesse Ahern from Boston was first on. Jesse was one man with an acoustic guitar that he occasionally swapped out for an electric. I’d best describe Jesse as what Springsteen would sound like if he had to work a real blue collar job for a living or Bob Dylan driving a Mac truck. Authentic blue-collar folk’n’punk with engine grease under his finger tips.