Dropkick Murphys bassist and main man Ken Casey is checking in with us from LA, where he's just handing in the group's forthcoming album, Blackout, due June 10 on Hellcat/Epitaph. The group's annual St. Patrick's Day weekend multi-night homestand at Avalon, March 14 through 17 ---which ballooned this year from three shows to four --- has just sold out. But if you're without tickets, Casey's got good news: the Dropkicks are playing a semi-secret benefit show at the Rack next Friday, February 28. Tickets are $25, or $100 for VIP tickets that include a spot in a celebrity pool tournament; call (617) 725-1051.
And the following afternoon, on March 1, Casey --- a long-time Bruins season-ticket holder who played classic B's footage before last year's Avalon concerts to get audiences riled up --- will lace up his skates alongside the Bruins Alumni team for the Microsoft Celebrity Hockey Challenge at the FleetCenter (the game immediately follows the 1 p.m. Bruins/Flyers match-up). "I'm in the process of shaking off a good bit of rust," Casey quips, "but hopefully I'll take a pass or two from Ray Borque." Proceeds from the show and the game benefit the Franciscan Children's Hospital and the Boston Bruins Alumni charities, and both will be attended by Bruins alumni as well as celebs, including Denis Leary, Mike O'Malley, and Alan Thicke.
As for Blackout, the band completed the 14-song disc over the past few months with Jim Siegel at the Outpost in Stoughton, the same set-up as with their last studio effort, 2001's Sing Loud, Sing Proud. Unlike that disc, though, this one has no guest appearances from Celt-rock royalty: "We're still scarred from working with Shane MacGowan the last time around," Casey laughs. But the disc's title song, "There's Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight," does feature an unlikely collaborator: their fellow working-class-radical populist, Woody Guthrie. Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter and the driving force behind the Guthrie archives (she spearheaded the Wilco/Billy Bragg Mermaid Avenue discs), contacted the Murphys a year ago about the possibility of the band's setting some of Woody's unpublished lyrics to music --- an opportunity that's been afforded to the very select few. (See "Performance," for our interview with Woody's granddaughter Sarah, who's in town this week.) The Guthrie archives were in the process of being transferred to microfilm, but Casey got there in time to put on the white gloves and pick through the actual scraps. "He wrote on so many different topics," Casey says, "and from the way he wrote them, you could see his state of mind. Some were neatly typed out, and some looked like they'd been scribbled in the dark on a boxcar: you can barely read them."
Casey picked through piles of Guthrie's lyrics, and hopes at some point to record an album's worth. The band has recorded two thus far. One, which may surface as a B-side, is called "Shipping Off to Boston." "I don't know what it's about," says Casey, "but it's very lighthearted. The lyrics are, 'I'm shipping off to Boston to find my wooden leg.' So it sounds like he lost a leg up here or something." "Blackout" will be the new disc's first single and video: "It's about air-raid stuff in London in World War II, where the man says to shut your lights out when the sirens go off, or someone's gonna get blown up." Any resonance with current events is purely coincidental, Casey says. "When we picked the lyrics it was almost a year ago, but yeah, it seems kinda ironic now."
Blackout will also contain a bonus disc with a trailer preview of the long-awaited Dropkick Murphys DVD. Originally planned as a live document of last year's St. Patty's shows, the DVD has blown up into a full-scale documentary, with footage stretching from the band's first US tour up to the making of the new album. And you can keep an eye out for at least one other Dropkick item soon: Epitaph has been circulating a limited-edition run of Chuck Taylor--model Converse sneakers with the Dropkick Murphys' shamrock logo on the side (full disclosure: we got a pair). Unlike the plaid Bosstones model Converse marketed during that band's heyday, the Dropkick model is currently promo-only. But keep your eyes peeled online. Says Casey: "I'm gonna wait and sell mine on eBay in a couple of years."
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