The Keltic Cowboys, an Arizona Irish Rock/Celtic Band, has been providing the tunes for people to pop tabs to for over a decade. Fronted by founding member Frank Mackey, who not only writes the songs but is skilled on multiple instruments including the Highland Pipes, Banjo, Mandolin and Accordion, the band also includes Patrick Flanagan on lead guitar, Paddy Broderick on Bass, Chase Maupin on Drums and Laura Russ on fiddle. Perhaps best known for their song “Kiss My Irish Ass” from their album “Songs of Longing and Debauchery,” with whiskey-written lyrics like “Oh me dad, he’d be drunk on the lawn/ Yelling and screaming like he do/But sometimes my old man felt what he was feeling/ Sometimes Mr. Mackey spoke the truth/We’re as stubborn as mules with our blood on fire/When we ain’t at Sunday mass/We’ll look any man straight in his eyes and say/Kiss my Irish ass,” they had a lot to live up to. Back with their latest CD “Pay For Our Sins Tomorrow,” the Keltic Cowboys exceeded expectations and satisfied with their sins, showing it’s not all wise ass and whiskey – their music is witty and worthwhile.
Listening to the Keltic Cowboys is like when you wake up to a phone call from your boss, expecting that you’re being called in early to work, only to be told you have the day off and the sun is shining and there is a case in the fridge and there’s a parade in town, a celebration in the streets. It’s motivational music – it makes you want to call up all your faithful friends and follow the sun wherever it leads, and when you get there pop open a tab and tell stories of remember when’s. It’s the last song you hear before you spill your drink on the bar and then pass out in the bathroom, the soundtrack to your Saturday nights. Some lyrics to their song “I Won My Wife in a Pissing Contest,” for example: “When we drink, we get drunk/When we get drunk, we pass out/When we pass out, we commit no sins/When we commit no sins, we go to heaven/So, let’s all get drunk and go to heaven,” prove my point
The Keltic Cowboys are the friend who never lets you down, who always has the answers and knows how to find the fun. “Girly Street,” another song from their CD, tells the tragic tale of losing a friend to marriage: “Yeah me and the boys/ Taking Murphy out tonight/ This could be the last time/ He went and found a wife/ But before he takes the plunge/Before he settles down/Let’s give him one more hell raising/Night on the town.” They not only make you laugh, but tell the truth, with lyrics like “Beggars, thieves knocking at my door/The bills are all paid, but they still want more/The wolves have been fed, but look at them teeth/Hard luck lessons, You get ’em for free…You gotta live to fight another day/Roll with the punches when they come your way/ If a train is a movin, get out of the way/You gotta live to fight another day,” from their song “Live to Fight Another Day.” In “Pay For Our Sins Tomorrow” they seduce you into sin: “Throw away the pain, all your misery and fear/Join in the revelry, the parade is here/For this day there’ll be no sorrows/We’ll pay for our sins tomorrow.”
The Keltic Cowboys are professionals of peer pressure. They can coerce me into debauchery any day of the week! You can willingly postpone your sin, but don’t procrastinate to get their CD! Lead guitarist Patrick Flanagan was kind enough to correspond with me for an interview:
Sara Fincham: It seems that lately a lot of musicians find success with one song and then quickly go away, or that there radio hits sound good but they just don’t do it justice live – being a fan favorite live band not necessarily caught up in the fame machine, how have you managed to keep such a loyal fan following?
Patrick Flanagan : By simply delivering the goods at our live shows. That is where we find out what works for a song. That’s what’s great about coming up with new stuff and performing it for crowds the next weekend, bringing something new for their ears. You quickly learn what the fans are going to like. It’s always a party wherever we play, we like to make music fun and entertaining. I believe that’s what keeps them coming back for more.
SF: (this is kind of a continuation of # 1, but) music is more than just what you put on a CD – you have to be able to deliver performance-aspect wise as well. What makes your live shows so entertaining and how are they different/better than your CD’s?
PF: The energy. It’s definitely all about the live performances for us. That is where the heart of the band is. Where we connect with the fans. It’s hard to capture that energy in the studio, and I know that many other artists feel the same. When we record, we try to make it as much of a “live” experience as possible so as much of that feels and sounds the same. This is accomplished by recording everything, or at least as much as possible at the same time. Sure, there are a few clams here and there but I think that adds a much more authentic flavor to the record. Much like a live performance. So many recordings made nowadays are so synthetic and overproduced. There is no life left in them by the time they have been run through hard drives and all of the processing that goes along with that. We prefer to keep it much simpler.
SF: First of all I want to thank you for bringing some personality and just plain fun back to music! Although writing can be a form of therapy and therefore songs can have a tendency to be very emotional or in general just not upbeat, you provide us with a lot of positive, party music. Is it hard for you to write happy songs? Is it easier to write about the good parts of life, the celebration songs, as opposed to the sad songs?
PF: Wow, thanks for the compliment! As far as writing happy or sad songs, we’re people just like everybody. Life brings joys and sorrow, the songwriting is a result of all our personal and maybe even not so personal experiences. Having said that, I personally think it’s easier to write the more upbeat happy stuff. Then again I’m in a good mood right now. Maybe ask after I do my tax returns next week!
SF: I was in Phoenix from August- October, and am sorry that I didn’t get to check out any shows while I was there. Being that you play a lot of gigs and therefore see a lot of different people – primarily drunk people I presume, do you have any funny fan encounters to share?
PF: Oh yes. Downtown Tempe is a great place for bringing out the crazy in people. I always love the drunken crowd reaction later in the night. Yeah, when the effects of the whiskey and Guinness have taken over and then we play a song that brings out the guys who think they can dance an Irish Jig in that condition, and you can see them coming from across the room fighting their way through the crowd. It’s easy to pick them out, you could almost do a countdown. What they don’t realize is how much beer has been spilled all over the dance floor, it’s all slippery, and they come out arms and legs flying….the next thing you know….that’s right….SPLAT! Flat on their asses! Sometimes I have to look the other way so I don’t laugh so hard I can’t play my guitar! It’s also funny to watch other band members get unwanted attention from over zealous admirers. It’s NOT so funny when it happens to you!
SF: What’s your favorite lyric that you’ve written?
PF: That’s like trying to pick which one of you’re pet’s or kid’s is your favorite! Because that’s what your songs kind of become, your children. I couldn’t choose, guess it depends what mood I’m in…..that question is much harder to answer than you’d think!
SF: What drink to you suggest I drown myself with on St. Patrick’s Day (please don’t say Irish Car Bombs, because bad experiences brew from that bad decision last year)!
PF: That’s an easy one to answer. Guinness. Stay away from the car bombs. Don’t mix it up. Stay with your game plan! Here’s mine: a couple shots of Bushmills early on (just to get things flowing, if you know what I mean) and then stick with the Guinness. We call it mother’s milk. It’s like a drink and a meal!