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Archive for Thursday, March 19, 1998

DROVERS BLEND IRISH, POP BACKGROUNDS

March 19, 1998

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A Chicago rock band incorporates international influences into its music.

Mixing electric guitars with mandolins and a bodrhan, (traditional Irish drum), Chicago's Drovers creates a unique sound that has garnered scores of fans across the country in the eight years since its inception.

``We're not really an Irish band, but we do, in part, come from that background in Chicago,'' said fiddle player Sean Cleland, who began the band composed of Irish Americans in 1990. ``It was the kind of music I played until the Drovers began. I was playing for people dancing, for people celebrating -- a lot of the songs have elements of dance forms like jigs and reels.''

Though the band cherishes its Irish roots, it also cites other sounds of the city as influences, including Jazz, African, Middle Eastern, and even a little British invasion pop music.

``We come from Chicago and it's a pretty vibrant place to be in a band -- lots of creativity and originality there,'' Cleland explained.

The sounds are carefully incorporated and blended without appearing overt and result in a smooth, yet rooted new sound that has been captured on four albums in addition to a contribution on the benefit album, ``The Inner Flame,'' and the soundtrack to the movie ``Blink.''

Along the way, there have been several member changes throughout the years, with Cleland and guitarist/songwriter Mike Kirkpatrick remaining the constants. For Cleland, changes are a normal process.

``You meet people along the way. Part of the whole band thing is the kind of experiences you have, actually being in the band,'' Cleland said. ``That's when the songwriting gets interesting and that's when your perspective changes: when you start touring.''

The band is currently on tour, but somehow always manages to wind up in its hometown on St. Patrick's Day. Members have celebrated the Irish holiday by performing a concert every year for the past seven years. This year they have two back-to-back shows scheduled at Chicago's Vic Theater. This time they will be debuting new material that they plan to record for a new album in April. After that, they have an extensive summer tour planned.

``We'd like to go to Europe,'' Cleland said.

The band has performed in France once before but looks forward to one day visiting the Emerald Isle of its roots.

-- The Mag's phone message number is 832-7146. Send e-mail to biles@ljworld.com.

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