Irish music group
The Young Dubliners are a hard-rocking Irish band that combine traditional Irish instruments such as the fiddle, tin whistle, bodhran, and harp with organ, electric and acoustic guitars, and saxophone, creating a multi-layered sound. Led by the vocals of Keith Roberts, they play with what Kira Schlechter called in World of Hibernia "a ragged, infectious, bar-band sound."
The band began in Los Angeles, where Keith Roberts and Paul O'Toole met. Roberts was born in Dublin, Ireland. His parents, Ann and Charlie, were both entertainers; his father was a stage manager for an Irish television station, and the Roberts home was often filled with actors, singers, and comedians. After graduating from college, Roberts emigrated from Ireland to America to pursue a career in journalism, but as he noted on the band's website, "Realizing I couldn't even write a letter home, I was dragged into the movie biz." He worked as a set dresser for five years, then decided to move on to something new. He had been composing some Irish ballads and was thinking of forming a band to play them. With O'Toole, who was also from Ireland, he assembled a mix of players both Irish and American, and in 1994 the band released its debut album, Rocky Road EP. Although the music was Irish, it had a strong rock sound that made the band a favorite in clubs.
The band soon added a key member, Chas Waltz. Waltz was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in a musical family; as a two-year-old he loved listening to his parents' stereo, and he began playing the piano when he was five. He started violin lessons when he was ten, and according to the band's website has been singing "as long as I can remember." His family moved to Philadelphia when he was 12; about that time, he became bored with playing classical violin and used the instrument in rock bands with his older brother Paul, who was a drummer. When he was 18 he moved back to Kansas City and has worked as a professional musician ever since. He played fiddle, keyboards, harmonica, and other instruments on the band's next release, Breathe, in 1995. By 2000 O'Toole had left the band, and they released their third album, Red, which got them so much attention that they were asked to write the theme song for the television show Madigan Men. They spent most of 2001 touring with Jethro Tull in Europe and with John Hiatt and Robert Cray in the United States. They also played at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
In 2002 the band became a five-man act, including Roberts, Brendan Holmes, Waltz, Bob Boulding, and David Ingraham. Waltz, who had left the band in 1995, returned during that year. He noted on the band's website that he had left mainly because he had other obligations to fulfill, and that he was glad to be back. He also wrote that the group was "without a doubt the most fun band I've ever played and been involved with! Let the wild ride continue."
The Young Dubliners' next album was Absolutely. On the band's website, Roberts wrote that the album had "the sense of humor of the band, along with the balls-y lyrics that maybe in the past I couldn't bring myself to write. You put it all together and you get this good-feeling, upbeat album." On the Ink 19 website Mary Ellen Gustafson wrote, "They've made a huge jump musically, vocally and lyrically since the release of Red."
The band toured as a headlining act and also co-headlined with Johnny Lang, Collective Soul, Great Big Sea, and others before recording Real World, an album that was inspired by their own experiences as a working band on the road. The album had a solid feel, because the members of the band had shared the experience of touring and had grown closer during that time, and also because it was their second album in a row that had the same members involved. In addition, Roberts had undergone surgery on his vocal cords that required months of recovery, and that slowed production of the album from the band's usual five weeks to five months. As Roberts noted on the group's website, "My surgery made us all aware of how close we came to losing it all. Our determination to succeed is even stronger than before." Reviewers also liked the album; in the Washington Post, Michael Deeds wrote that the band members sound "so crazy-happy … so fulfilled," and "so magically delicious." He also noted that the album "may be the commercial gold at the end of the rainbow for this criminally underappreciated rock band," adding, "They crafted an exceptionally charged, freewheeling Celtic-rock experience."
On Red, the Young Dubliners worked with Grammy winning producer Thom Panunzio, but as Kira Schlechter wrote in World of Hibernia, "It's the blazing chemistry between the six men that has fans breaking into spontaneous 'jig pits' whenever the band plays live, not any sort of endorsement from the rich and famous."
On the band's website Roberts wrote, "I like to think that our take on songwriting and performance makes the Young Dubliners sound unique and original. Our band is made up of Irish and American natives who draw influences from just about everywhere. Our strength is in the sum of our parts. We play as a band, as one."
Rocky Road EP, Volcano 3, 1994.
Alive, Alive O, Cargo Records, 1998.
Breathe, Volcano 3, 1995.
Red, Higher Octave, 2000.
Absolutely, Higher Octave, 2002.
Real World, Higher Octave, 2005.
Washington Post, February 20, 2005, p. N12.
World of Hibernia, Autumn 2000, p. 18.
"Young Dubliners," Ink 19, http://www.ink19.com/issues/december2003/interviews/youngDubliners.html (February 28, 2006).
Young Dubliners Official Website, http://www.youngdubliners.com/ (January 25, 2006).