The Mahones have had a horrible spate of luck over the past couple years. In May 1999, their bassist Joe Chithalen died of an allergic food reaction while the group was just beginning a tour of Europe. This followed on the heels of another death only a month earlier; the passing of Greg McConnell, a former bassist of the group due to a camping trip accident.
With so much tragedy in such a short period of time, one can be excused for speculating in the possibility that the band might not be able to survive this double dose of tragedy. After a decent interval, the Mahones went back to doing what they have always done best; giving a raucous live performance that resonates of dizzying debauchery. The type that the Mahones and their lyrics are traditionally known to produce. The arrival of Here Comes Lucky shows that the gang has been able to get beyond adversity and continue on creating music.
The Mahones emerged on the music scene in 1990 playing pubs and bars with their blend of celtic, punk and rock. They were likened to The Pogues but lead singer and guitarist Fintan McConnell claims that the Mahones “…are harder and punkier then they are [The Pogues]. Their songs are more like ballads and stuff if you listen to it carefully.” Their first CD, Dragging the Days, released in 1994, achieved a moderate level of success. 1996’s Rise Again capitalized on their prior success but lead to charges once again that they were mere copycats of the Pogues style of music.
In 1999, The Mahones released The Hellfire Club Sessions in which they merged as many different styles as possible. No one could no longer critique the group for not attempting new styles. One could hear country and even cabaret along with their rock and punk backbone. The fact that quasi-traditional Celtic music was peaking at the moment when the Mahones released their most different album goes to show that the Mahones always play the game to their own rules. McConnell says the so-called “Celtic movement” is what encouraged them to break their own mold. “The popularity of Irish music makes me happy and bothers me at the same time. I’m very happy for a group like Great Big Sea…On the other side of the coin, I don’t like over-saturation with 20 fiddle bands coming through.”
The Mahones need not to worry about over-saturation in their particular case. Their unique style of harder edged celtic rock/punk is something that is still not too common in Canada. There are any number of popular bands that use many elements of celtic music as pillars in their formula. There still is only one group; The Mahones, that are able to use it in their extremely rambunctious and fierce style. The arrival of Here Comes Lucky is; in a sense, a move back to their more familiar style of vigorous edged celtic rock and punk from their experimental last album. Having said that, there is the addition of some welcome new touches.
Co-produced by The Skydigger’s Ron Macey, the album shows signs of maturity that a successful band has. Lead singer/guitarist Fintan McConnell can now add proficient songwriter to his list of accomplishments. He constructed all of the lyrics to the songs on the CD. Instead of covering celtic drinking songs, The Mahones are now making their own distinctive form of music with their own stamp. Gone are the days when a Mahones album was solely loud, intense, machine-gun beat celtic laced music and lyrics. In Here Comes Lucky, there are instrumentals and even a ballad. The last track on the CD, “Looking at Life” is a soft accordion and tin whistle instrumental that would not be out of place on a Rawlins Cross CD. The addition of guests Mary Margaret O’Hara and Ian Thornley of Big Wreak add another dimension to the increasingly layered output of the Mahones. For fans of the traditional hard edged Mahones sound, the track “The Queen and Tequila” (named after an encounter with legendary Pogues frontman, Shane McGowen) show that the Mahones can still rock/celtic/ punk hard with the best of them. The cover art of the CD; a picture of a bull from the Running of the Bulls in Spain certainly catches the eye as well. All in all, Here Comes Lucky gives both fans of the traditional Mahone’s sound and new listeners an opportunity to explore the musicality of this unique Canadian group. In this case, the Mahones’ luck has changed and for the much better.