ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 9, 2006
By Steve Newton
When the Straight tracks down Mahones singer-songwriter Finny McConnell on his cellphone in Toronto, he’s at the corner of Bloor and Yonge, on his way to pick up a van for some weekend gigs in Quebec. He’s just back from hanging out with his pals the Pogues in Las Vegas, where the rowdy English/Irish act was booked into the House of Blues.
Original singer Shane MacGowan is back in the fold, and McConnell was particularly psyched to hear “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”, the MacGowan-penned title track from the Pogues’ quintessential 1988 release.
“That’s the second track they played,” enthuses McConnell, whose band plays Limerick Junction on Friday and Saturday (November 10 and 11). “I actually wrote the set list on my arm, and if you go to our MySpace site right now, my girlfriend posted it up on the front page. It’s pretty funny-lookin’.”
If you’re guessing the Irish whiskey flowed freely in the HOB VIP booths when the Dublin-born McConnell hooked up with the Pogues in Sin City, you guessed right. His fondness for the golden throat-charmer is evident in the revved-up arrangements of the Irish folksongs “Nancy Whiskey” and “Whiskey in the Jar” that grace the Mahones’ latest CD, Take No Prisoners. It’s the first time the band has recorded traditional material since its debut, seven albums ago.
“I decided we should do some before the Dropkick Murphys do them all,” quips McConnell.
The Mahones’ take on “Whiskey in the Jar” isn’t at all like the mid-tempo version Thin Lizzy scored a hit with in ’72, or the rugged ’98 rendition by Metallica. McConnell has sped things up and does a vocal duet with Psycho Dave, singer for thrash-metal act Brass Knuckle Therapy.
The new CD also features guest appearances by some of McConnell’s other “drinking buddies”, including Scruffy Wallace of the Dropkick Murphys, Ian D’Sa of Billy Talent, and Kevin Hearn of the Barenaked Ladies (“He’s the Irish one”).
McConnell dedicated Take No Prisoners to two of his musical mentors—the Clash’s Joe Strummer and original Mahones drummer Barry Williams, who died of cancer last year.
“Barry Williams is the guy who inspired me to start the Mahones and got it off the ground with me,” he explains. “Whenever I did something that sucked he’d come and tell me, ‘That sucks, Finny.’ He’s from Dublin too, and he kinda got me into Thin Lizzy and the Pogues and all that kinda stuff.”
The Mahones haven’t managed to achieve the same level of popularity as the Pogues or fellow Celtic punks the Dropkick Murphys, but McConnell figures he’s doin’ alright.
“I could always be happier,” he says with a laugh, “but, I mean, we played Australia this year, we played Europe, Scandinavia, America. We’re getting all around the world on a regular basis, so that’s nice.”