Dropkick Murphys make rowdy return after concept album

New record ‘Signed and Sealed in Blood’ is more fun than the title suggests


7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3 | House of Blues, 1490 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista | 407-934-2583 | hob.com/orlando | sold out

Wanted: a musician to join an established band that tours worldwide and has released six previous studio albums to play banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, guitar and keyboards. No prior experience playing those instruments required.

Dropkick Murphys didn’t actually place an ad like that when multi-instrumentalist Marc Orrell left the group in 2008. But the musician who got the gig, Jeff DaRosa, would have to meet those requirements. A bassist by trade, DaRosa, aside from guitar, had never played any of those instruments when Dropkick Murphys guitarist James Lynch contacted him about filling the vacancy in the lineup.

“He just said, ‘I don’t know if you want to learn any crazy instruments or not, but if you do, the job’s open,’” DaRosa says. He accepted the challenge and got to work expanding his instrumental arsenal. “That was the only concern,” he says. “‘Can you learn these wacky instruments?’ I wouldn’t say I’m amazing at any of them, but I can do it.”

Dropkick Murphys were willing to take a chance on DaRosa because he had a history with the Boston-based Irish-accented rockers; DaRosa’s an old friend of Lynch’s since childhood.

DaRosa joined the band in time to contribute to writing and recording their seventh studio album, 2011’s Going Out in Style. That album turned out to be a landmark release for the group. It became Dropkick Murphys’ highest charting CD whenit debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s album chart. It was also arguably the group’s most ambitious album to date, as a full-on concept record.

Going Out in Style told the story of fictional Irish immigrant Cornelius Larkin, as the songs looked back on the character’s lineage and life in his new homeland of the United States. In addition to the songs, the album’s liner notes include a short story about Larkin’s life, which was written by Irish-American activist and author Michael Patrick MacDonald.

“We didn’t set out to write a concept album, actually,” DaRosa says. “As we were looking at the list of songs, it kind of came out to us, and we were talking about [lead guitarist] James Lynch’s grandfather, who was Cornelius Lynch, and his story of coming to America. We kind of took from our families’ histories and made a fictional concept around it.”

Going Out in Style was well-received critically and helped Dropkick Murphys heighten their national profile beyond the borders of hometown Boston, where they are hugely popular. The group celebrates the city in many songs, most notably “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” which was featured in Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Academy Award-winning film, The Departed, and is currently used (in an acoustic version) as the theme song of the TNT drama Rizzoli & Isles.

The group’s local-hero status became blatantly apparent in summer 2011, when Dropkick Murphys played two shows at Boston’s Fenway Park. An 18-song live album from those shows was included in the deluxe edition of Going Out in Style when it was released this past March.

“It was amazing,” DaRosa says of the Fenway experience. “Just to say you walked on the grass of Fenway is one thing. But to be able to say you played there – the two nights were great.”

Now the band, which also includes drummer Matt Kelly, guitarist/accordion player Tim Brennan and bagpiper/tin whistle player Josh “Scruffy” Wallace, is back to playing their more customary mix of theaters and large clubs as they tour behind their eighth studio album, Signed and Sealed in Blood, released in January 2013.

Like Going Out in Style, the current CD was produced by Flogging Molly founding member Ted Hutt. But this time there isn’t a theme to the songs. Instead, the emphasis was simply on giving fans a collection of fun, rocking tunes.

“What are you going to do after a concept album like that? Let’s just go in the studio and have fun,” DaRosa says.

The album, though, required some intense work. To have the CD ready for the chosen release date, it had to be written and recorded over a brief period in June and August 2013.

“We had to just go in and schedule the studio and get it done and force ourselves to work every single day on it,” DaRosa says. “It was like having a day job: wake up, go to work every day.”

Of course, making the album was also fun, and DaRosa says that feeling translates to the music.

“The whole album is very uptempo compared to Going Out in Style,” he says. “They’re fun songs to play live, songs you don’t have to concentrate on so much, just have a good time playing.”


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