The Shillelagh Lads

local pickers put together traditional Irish music project

Kinzy Janssen

Irish-rocking Houligans to its knees.

Newsboy caps on and penny whistles in hand, the Shillelagh Lads have that “fresh off the boat from Ireland” appeal. The jigging whirlwind of authentic Irish pub music they serve up on stage acts as a “palate cleanser” for Michael Rambo, who is otherwise focused on his pop-rock project, The Michael Rambo Project. “I’m a tinkerer,” says Rambo. “I can get bored with one instrument.” He and his brothers Dan and David, expert plucker Jacob Henry, (from New North String Band) and itinerant member Michael Van Hemert diversify their skills among stringed instruments – mandolin, guitar, and banjo – plus accordions and percussion. But what makes the Irish sound most telltale is the penny whistle. “People hear it and say, ‘Oh, that’s Irish,’ ” says Rambo. Formed officially last St. Patrick’s Day, the lads have since embraced Houligans as their “home turf,” encouraging dancing within standing-room only crowds. “We wait until after dinner, though, so the waitresses don’t hate us,” Rambo laughs. Their repertoire includes adaptations of traditional pub style songs from the 1800s to early 1900s, mixed with some originals and some far more ancient tunes. They even turn up the accents. Rambo says it felt natural to internalize these inflections while listening to old recordings. This they accomplished despite their diluted drops of Irish blood. “We calculated it this week,” he says. “I think if we put all of our blood together, we’d be about 15 percent Irish.”

    The Shillelagh Lads • Clearwater Beer Fest on Sept. 11 • Hobbs Sports Center, 2300 Spooner Ave • 12:30-5pm • 894-0272 // Sept. 17 • 6:30pm • Houligan’s Steak & Seafood Pub, 415 S Barstow St •

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