Taking their musical cues from British Oi!, American hardcore, and traditional Irish music, Boston's Dropkick Murphys have built a reputation as one of America's most celebrated Celtic punk outfits. The group formed in the late 1990s as a fiery, though relatively straightforward punk outfit, but through the years began incorporating traditional Irish folk instrumentation and melody into their unruly sound. With songs about working-class troubles, street-tough solidarity, and the joys to be found at the bottom of a bottle, the Murphys won over both traditional punk fans and mainstream revelers, particularly after their song "Shipping Off to Boston'' was featured in Martin Scorsese's 2006 Oscar-winning film The Departed. In subsequent years, the band's audience increased significantly with albums like 2011's Going Out in Style and 2017's 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory consistently charting in the Top Ten. Also active in charitable causes and politics, they founded the Claddagh Fund to supports community-based non-profits and have essentially become regional heroes in their hometown. Twenty-five years into their career the Murphys delivered their tenth studio album, Turn Up That Dial, in 2021.
Dropkick Murphys formed in South Boston in 1996; vocalist Mike McColgan, guitarist Rick Barton, and bassist Ken Casey comprised the original nucleus of the group, with a series of drummers passing through the lineup before the addition of mainstay Matt Kelly in 1997. After a series of EPs, including Fire & Brimstone, Tattoos & Scally Caps, and Boys on the Docks, the Murphys signed to Hellcat Records to issue their 1998 full-length Do or Die, produced by Rancid's Lars Frederiksen. McColgan exited the group soon after (he later went on to form the like-minded Street Dogs) and was replaced by vocalist Al Barr for the follow-up, 1999's The Gang's All Here.
Mob Mentality, a split release with the Business, appeared in mid-2000, at the same time the band was going through an extensive redesign. Their five-piece arrangement expanded into a septet, as Marc Orrell stepped in after original guitarist Rick Barton left the band to get married. James Lynch joined as guitarist, with bagpiper Spicy McHaggis and mandolinist Ryan Foltz also coming aboard to enhance the band's increasingly Celtic-driven sound. For their third studio effort, 2001's Sing Loud, Sing Proud, bassist Ken Casey took over production duties, and the album featured collaborations with ex-Pogue Shane MacGowan and Cock Sparrer's Colin McFaull.
Their Irish pride shone through the next year, when Live on St. Patrick's Day from Boston, MA was released in the summer. Recorded at the biggest Irish-American celebration of the year in a town known for its widespread Irish heritage, the set was a blistering example of their intense and lively gigs. As the band prepped for the annual Vans Warped Tour in summer 2003, they released Blackout in June; the album featured new bagpipe player Scruffy Wallace and accordionist Tim Brennan (who further took over mandolin and tin whistle after Foltz left following some touring). The Murphys reworked the Boston Red Sox anthem "Tessie" on their mid-2004 EP Tessie, which subsequently became the theme song to the Sox's World Series run that year and was featured in the movie Fever Pitch. Warrior's Code followed in 2005, and one of its songs, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," was later used in the 2006 Martin Scorsese film The Departed, become their biggest hit. Soon after, the Murphys recorded The Meanest of Times, a collection of songs about family loyalty, featured guest appearances by Spider Stacy of the Pogues and Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners, and was released in mid-September 2007. With the 2008 departure of lead guitarist Orrell, the group welcome multi-instrumentalist Jeff DaRosa into the fold and promoted Brennan to lead guitar.
Live on Lansdowne, Boston MA, a CD/DVD of tracks culled from the week of St. Patrick's Day shows in Boston in 2009, was released in 2010. For their next studio effort, the band looked inward to create a concept album, combining their own experiences to create the fictional character Cornelius Larkin. The result was their seventh album, Going Out in Style, which was released in 2011 on their Born & Bred label. 2012 saw the band follow up with Live at Fenway before returning the next year with their eighth studio effort, Signed and Sealed in Blood. The Murphys returned in early 2017 with their ninth studio effort, 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory. The album was their first to be recorded outside of Massachusetts, with the band relocating to El Paso, Texas for the entire creative process. Inspired by the group’s work with the Claddagh Fund for recovering addicts, it was released once again through their own imprint, Born & Bred Records. Upon release, 11 Short Stories debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200. Following its release, the band headed out on an extensive world tour, including dates with Rancid in North America. Recording started on their tenth album in 2018, with a handful of tracks released in the interim, and by 2020, with COVID-19 putting tours on hold, the group focused on finishing the release. On it the band opted to move away from the enraged content of their previous albums, instead writing uplifting, singalong, feel-good anthems along with an ode to Barr's father and the numerous people lost to COVID-19. The resulting album, Turn Up That Dial, was issued at the beginning of 2021.
© Jason Ankeny /TiVo