BWW Review: The High Kings Keep the Tradition Alive in Glen Ellyn

The High Kings made their inaugural visit to College of DuPage as part of their tour to celebrate and promote their fourth studio album Grace & Glory. The band consists of four Irish men who perform folk music: some original compositions, some traditional songs that many Irish bands have covered over the years. Many songs during the performance were from the new album, which includes Irish standards like "Follow Me Up to Carlow" but also surprises like American folk song "Goodnight Irene" and even a charming arrangement of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town".

What separates The High Kings from other folksy bands is the incredible musical that Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey, and Darren Holden possess. Each member plays multiple instruments, including (but not limited to) guitar, mandolin, banjo, keys, accordion, wind instruments, and percussion. (Dunphy would even play an instrument with his hands while simultaneously beat a bass drum with a pedal beneath his foot!) Not only that, but when their voices come together, as they did in an a cappella "The Auld Triangle", they harmonize with better precision than a world champion Irish step dancer.

The evening was peppered with explanation of context to the songs' lyrics, which made them all the more meaningful once performed. The best example of this was the song "Grace", also on the new album, about a couple that was married the night before the newly-minted husband was to be executed for participating in an Irish revolution, which probably drew more than a few tears from concert-goers. Despite the occasional ballad, the evening was largely swashbuckling, old-country fun that left hearts dancing jigs.

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From This Author Katherine Damisch


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