1996 Outstanding Band Performance
The Young Dubliners (sometimes shortened to the Young Dubs) is an American rock band, formed in Los Angeles, California in 1988. Their style of music has come to be called Celtic Rock, for the fusion of Irish traditional instruments and music with modern rock. They have released ten albums, starting with Rocky Road in 1993, and most recently 9 in 2013. They have toured the United States and Europe since 1994, and have supported Jethro Tull, John Hiatt, Chris Isaak, Jonny Lang, Great Big Sea, and Collective Soul. All Music.com states, “Their live shows (have) a jam-like appeal, similar to the vibes of Phish and the Dave Matthews Band.” Members include lead vocalist and guitarist Keith Roberts, bassist Brendan Holmes, violinist Chas Waltz, guitarist Bob Boulding, and drummer David Ingraham. Their repertoire consists largely of original rock compositions and Irish folk songs with a rock twist. Their influences include Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, The Waterboys and U2.
The Young Dubliners were founded in 1988 by Dublin native Keith Roberts and Paul O’ Toole. The two had been tweaking some Irish ballads of original music and decided that it was time to put a band together. The band consisted of Roberts, O’ Toole and Brendan Holmes (bass), Randy Woolford (electric and acoustic guitar) and Douglas James (drums). Based on early recordings, the Young Dubliners produced their first cassette tape of Irish folk and pop songs recorded live at the Irish Rover entitled “The Young Dubliners”.
After this recording, the line-up of the band changed continuously. The only constant band members during this time were bassist Brendan Holmes, guitarist Randy Woolford and drummer Douglas James. Holmes grew up near Roberts in the Dublin suburb of Dún Laoghaire. Songs like “Dirty Old Town”, “Fisherman’s Blues” and “Rocky Road to Dublin” became essential songs.
After having been directly influenced by Celtic musician Christy Moore and Irish band The Fureys, The Young Dubliners released their second original song “Home”, on an eponymously titled second cassette. Unlike their first cassette, their second cassette was recorded in a studio and featured additional musicians and overdubs, but otherwise had a similar mix of Irish folk and pop songs. After this, they stopped playing at The Irish Rover exclusively and branched out to other venues.
Rocky Road to Alive, Alive’O
In 1993, Roberts became part owner and operator of Fair City Dublin, an Irish pub and live music venue in Santa Monica. By this time the lineup of the band consisted of Roberts, Holmes, lead guitarist Randy Woolford, violinist Lovely Previn (daughter of celebrated conductor André Previn ), woodwinds player Jeff Dellisanti, and drummer Jon Mattox, who replaced Douglas James. By now the band had played various venues throughout California, and as they became the house band at Fair City, their popularity increased dramatically. In 1994, the act was signed to the Scotti Brothers record label, and they were teamed with producer Micheal Blum to record their debut album, the EP Rocky Road.
Rocky Road featured mostly original material, save for the band’s version on the title track, “Rocky Road to Dublin”. The single “Last House on the Street”, became a hit nationally on the Adult Album Alternative radio format, and immediately the group began to tour the US in support. Many of the areas the band found the most popularity – Colorado, Utah, the Northeast, in addition to California – remain the biggest selling shows for the Young Dubliners to this day. They sold out many shows during this period at the Hollywood, House Of Blues.
In 1995, the group recorded and released its first full-length album, Breathe. While the line-up remained the same, the personnel had changed; violinist Lovely Previn was replaced by Kansas City-native Chas Waltz, formerly of the group Shooting Star. Like Rocky Road, Breathe featured mostly original material, but also included the band’s reworkings of traditional Irish songs such as “Foggy Dew” and “Follow Me Up to Carlow”, both of which are live concert favorites still. The singles from this album included “Mary” and “Change the World”. In the early part of 1995, the band also guest starred in a episode of the popular VR Troopers t.v. show that was called “Fiddler on the Loose”.
During the next two years, the Young Dubs continued to tour the US, all the while building a solid following throughout the United States. Although their contract with Scotti Brothers records ended, Roberts, Woolford and O’Toole were working on new songs. Chas Waltz exited the band to form his own band Judy Judy Judy; he was replaced by Mark Epting.
In 1997, the group signed with Cargo Music, Inc. and recorded a live album at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA. The recording was produced by Steve Albini. Although the live tracks were mixed at Abbey Road Studios in London, the mixes were rejected by Cargo Music; the finished album was mixed in Track Star Studio in San Diego by Josquin Des Pres and Tour Manager/FOH engineer Don Tartaro. Titled Alive Alive’O, the album featured seven live songs. Most of the cuts were new original compositions; one was a cover of the Waterboy’s “Fisherman’s Blues”, and two were live versions of previously recorded songs. The original song “Blink” was added as a bonus studio track to finish the running order, and a video for the song was produced in Los Angeles and directed by Aaron A. Goffman. Link to official video: BLINK
Alive Alive’O was released on February 10, 1998, and gathered warm reviews. Daily Vault said “(the album) shows that they are not a product of the producer’s skills, but instead, can thrive in the challenging live environment.”
Just prior to the release of Alive Alive’O, backing vocalist and mandolinist Paul O’Toole quit the band. In his place, Keith Roberts began to sing lead on the traditional Irish ballads the band covered live (songs that Paul O’ Toole had previously sung). Violinist Epting began to double on mandolin and harmonica, and the Young Dubliners carried on as a six piece group while touring to support the new CD release.
In 1999, lead guitarist Randy Woolford, announced his retirement from touring and left the band. Woolford had been in the band for 9 years and had co-written most of the band’s songs. Woolford had been a big part in creating the Dubs Irish Rock sound/style. He was replaced by Southern California native Bob Boulding, who joined the band during the summer tour of that year. After the conclusion of that national tour, drummer Jon Mattox followed suit and also gave notice that he would leave the band. However, Mattox stayed on as a studio musician for the production of their next album, Red. Red was the Young Dubliner’s first release for their new record label, Higher Octave and was produced by Thom Pununzio. At the request of the label, many of the songs on Red were new, studio-recorded versions of the songs from Alive Alive’O. Included was the live barnstormer medley “Rising / Change The World”. Additionally, four new originals were featured, including the instrumental “Bodhran” (named after the Irish drum which starts out the track), and the title track “Red”, cowritten with Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin.
After the recording of the album, it was time to fill drummer Jon Mattox’s shoes; after a brief run with former Lord of the Dance drummer Gary Sullivan, the order was filled when the band enlisted David Ingraham, formerly of Bruce Dickinson’s band and Tribe of Gypsys. Soon, the Young Dubliners were touring in support of Red which was released in June, 2000.
Starting in June, the group was booked as the support act for Jethro Tull on their summer tour of the United States. Early on it became apparent that the Young Dubs’ blend of hard rock and Celtic styles was a perfect compliment to Tull’s style of progressive rock, and band gathered many new fans during the tour. Later that summer the group played dates opening for John Hiatt and the Goners. This drove sales of Red to the highest in the band’s career.
Absolutely to Saints And Sinners
During 2001, the Young Dubliners continued to tour seasonally throughout the US. In the spring of that year, violinist Mark Epting announced his retirement from the group to pursue writing screenplays. Chas Waltz returned to the band after a five-year absence.
During the summer the band was booked as the support act for Jethro Tull on their tour of Europe, playing 30 shows throughout Germany, Italy, Holland, France, Belgium, and Switzerland.
After the fall tour, the group began writing material for their next album. During preproduction, multi-instrumentalist Jeff Dellisanti announced he would leave the band to retire from touring. He did stay on as a studio musician to add tin whistle, woodwinds, and keyboards to the tracks for the new album, which became Absolutely.
Absolutely, produced by John Wooler and engineered by Sally Browder, had a generally newer sound for the Young Dubliners. The production was sparser, influenced by the wave of new garage rock bands like the Strokes. Most of the material was cowritten by the entire band, another first for the act. The singles released off the album were “Scream” and “Knickers”, the latter being used as the soundtrack for a national TV ad campaign for the Killian’s Red beer brand.
Absolutely was released in June 2002, and again the Young Dubliners toured in the US supporting Jethro Tull. After the conclusion of that tour, the band joined with Canadian band Great Big Sea and American Celtic rock band Seven Nations and played as the Uprooted package tour. As the tour commenced throughout the US, the nightly order of the bands was determined by which group was the biggest draw in the area – thus GBS headlined shows in the Northeast, Seven Nations headlined in the Southeast, and the Young Dubs headlined in the western States.
During 2003, the band negotiated to record a third album for Higher Octave. Unlike their previous albums, the group was afforded a lengthy time to write and record the songs during 2004. Titled Real World, the album was produced by Dublin-native Tim Boland in Los Angeles.
During the recording of Real World, Keith Roberts underwent surgery to remove nodes from his vocal cords, which resulted in a slight delay in recording and touring during 2004.
In the summer of ’04, the band opened for Jonny Lang.
The album was released on February 15, 2005, and received glowing national reviews. The Washington Post published, “‘Real World’ might finally be the commercial gold at the end of the rainbow for this criminally under-appreciated rock band.” Amazon.com stated, “(the songs) range from stadium-friendly extravaganzas to more intimate but equally outspoken pub-sized opuses. Lead singer Keith Roberts’ powerhouse vocals front a maelstrom of fiddle vamps, howling guitars and frenzied drums. But even so, the hint of rueful melancholy that lies at the heart of traditional Celtic music survives, transformed yet triumphant.”
The band toured Ireland in November, 2005. In November 2006, they returned to Ireland, and toured Denmark for the first time.
2006 saw the group’s contract with Higher Octave come to a close; they subsequently signed with their current label, 429 Records. The seventh release the Young Dubliners recorded was titled With All Due Respect – The Irish Sessions; this was an album filled entirely with covers of Irish ballads and shanteys – reworked in the group’s trademark style. Released in February 2007, With All Due Respect was the fastest selling CD for the band to date, with much publicity hitting nationally during their March Madness tour which climaxed with the sold-out Shamrocker festival in San Diego.
In the summer of 2007, the Young Dubliners toured Denmark, appearing at many large festivals, including Tunoe Island, where a live recording of their entire show was produced. Also, they performed a handful of shows in Norway, and at the G! Festival in the Faroe Islands.
On March 15, 2008, the group appeared live on the CBS Early Show. During March and April, 2008, they toured the United States, Ireland, and Denmark.
Beginning in early 2008, the band recorded their latest album. Titled Saints and Sinners, the CD was released on February 3, 2009, on 429 Records. The single, “Rosie”, went on to become the top added new song in the AAA radio format during March 2009. On March 17, 2009, the band appeared on ABC-TV’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and performed Rosie and the new album’s title track, Saint And Sinners.
Jimmy Kimmel Live! featured the group a second time on March 17, 2011. This performance was actually taped on March 16 because the band was booked to play in San Diego on the night of the 17th.
On July 13, 2013, the band released their ninth album, titled 9.
Keith Roberts – lead vocals and acoustic guitar
Brendan Holmes – bass and vocals
Bob Boulding – guitar and vocals
Chas Waltz – violin, keyboard, harp, mandolin and vocals
Dave Ingraham – drums and percussion
Rocky Road (1993)
Alive Alive’O (1998, live)
Home Movies (2003, DVD)
Real World (2005)
With All Due Respect – The Irish Sessions (2007)
Saints and Sinners (2009)