Although Savannah will be famously painted green for most of this week, anyone in search of true, honest and traditional Irish music would do well to head over to Kevin Barry's Irish Pub, which will celebrate its 31st year on River Street come the fall.
On St. Patrick's Day - that'd be Thursday - Barry's two stages will be occupied by troubadour Carroll Brown and the duo Seldom Sober (music starts at 1 p.m. and continues throughout the day).
Brown, a resident of Charleston, is in demand nationwide as a pub performer. He's also been playing Kevin Barry's regularly since the early 1990s.
He cites Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers - fuse-lighters of the 1960s Irish-music revolution in the U.S.A. - as the gold standard for Irish performance. "They literally were playing for Irish immigrants and their children, and Irish transplants and deportees," Brown explained in a 2010 Connect interview.
"And onstage, the songs would just be rambunctious and fun. Some of them, of course, would bring a tear to your eye, and then they'd go back to another fun one."
Michael Corbett, who sings and plays guitar, banjo and other instruments in Seldom Sober, agrees.
"I started, basically, by watching and listening to the Clancy Brothers," says the Massachusetts native, who relocated to Savannah six years ago. "I was fortunate enough to become very close friends with Liam Clancy. He was actually supposed to be the best man at my wedding, but he was under the weather and couldn't make it over at the time. But I really look at Liam, and the Clancy Brothers, as being my mentors."
(Liam Clancy died in 2009, at 74, in his native County Cork.)
Although they're occasionally joined onstage by other musicians, Seldom Sober is at its core a duo, consisting of Corbett and fiddler Colleen Settle.
"I didn't start playing guitar until I was almost 18 years old," explains Corbett. "Colleen is the complete opposite. She comes from a large family, and every child in the family was forced to learn an instrument! So they were kind of like their own little family Irish band in the suburbs of New York City."
Corbett and Settle met during the then-weekly Irish jam sessions at Murphy's Law Pub (the sessions have since moved to Kevin Barry's, where they take place Sundays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.).
They're also part of a larger group, the Savannah Cieli Band, which plays for the annual Irish Festival, the Scottish games and other old-country events.
"It's really kind of a part-time thing," Corbett says. "There's just not enough demand in the area to do much more than we have done. We do get some private functions and things like that."
Since playing traditional Irish music is kind of a specialized gig, the audience tends to ebb and flow.
"Most of the interest that we get comes from the tourists," explains Corbett, "especially the tourists from the north - although there is a core group of people in town that really enjoy Irish music, and can be found at all of the functions. And they're very loyal, and very devoted. But I wouldn't say that it's a large group of people."
Ah, but St. Paddy's Day is something else again. The biggest audience of the year.
"We'll have more of a heavier focus on the pub songs," he says. "Because that's what people really seem to enjoy on St. Patrick's Day. Colleen's a great fiddle player, and she plays a lot of the traditional tunes, so we mix those in as well."
More of Moira
‘Tis always lovely when Celtic fiddler and vocalist Moira Nelligan returns to her hometown for a show (she was last here in December for "A Celtic Christmas"). Nelligan, who lives with her family in Atlanta and has been central to the city's Irish music scene for many years, is bringing her guitar and harmonica-playing son, Mickey, along for Thursday's St. Patrick's show at the Sentient Bean. Along with mandolin master George Norman, the group is called the Dixie Jigs (Nelligan, a Southerner to the core, first suggested the band be called "Hot Grits in Me Pratie Hole").
Mickey Nelligan, 18, has won three competitive scholarships to study Irish music with internationally renowned Irish guitarists, including Daithi Sproule.
Trad veteran Norman lived and played in Ireland for years, and was part of the Cork County band Lazik. In the old country he learning tangos, musettes, Balkan, and klezmer tunes, and according to Nelligan he's likely to lead the Dixie Jigs into musical excursions to Eastern Europe and South America. Alongside the jigs and reels.
Champion Irish dancer Jacquie Berger is also part of the free show, which Nelligan promotes thusly: "Something a little different than the green beer at the pub!"
On the river
Of course, St. Patrick's Celebration on the River is Thursday, Friday and Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. each day, and since there'll be no wristbands this year, it might be a touch, um, crowded ...
Here's the live music schedule. All of this stuff will be at centrally-located Rousakis Plaza, with free admission:
Thursday: 2 p.m., Hot Chelle Rae; 4 p.m., Batafada Band; 7 p.m., the Rattlers; 10 p.m., Homemade Wine.
Friday: 4 p.m., Derogatory; 7 p.m. High Velocity; 10 p.m., Damon & the Shitkickers.
Saturday: 4 p.m., High Velocity; 7 p.m., Damon & the Shitkickers; 10 p.m., Liquid.
@ Wednesday at Molly McPherson's: Several pipe and drum units will be performing on the street out front, starting at 6 p.m. It's the third annual "Bagpipe Tattoo."
@ At the Crab Shack, the annual appearance by the New York Shields Pipe & Drum Band is set for 7 p.m. Friday, the 18th. This group, pipers et cetera in full kilt and Scottish regalia is made up of members of the Big Apple police department. They're in town to March in Thursday's parade, don't y'know.