Hailing from my home state of Virginia, The Fighting Jamesons is a five-piece band that performs numerous Irish favorites, some originals, and even a Carter Family cover. Whether they’re playing a tune of their own, or something that gained popularity in aÂ pub many decades ago, each song is infused with a bold flair. At times, tempos climb to such intense heights that it seems as if things could unravel at any moment. However, with rapid rhythms anchored by the capable talents of Ryan Ware on bass and Drew Orton on drums, the members boldly progress through sets with vigorous enthusiasm and the unspoken onstage communication that all serious musical groups speak fluently.
The band has a funny way of tricking an audience into thinking they’re about to slow down, and then whipping things up into the furious fervor that they do so well. At times, the songs have a rough-edged characteristic and mischievous attitude that makes you think they’d be ideally sung on a pirate ship.
Mike Powers handles lead vocals and also switches between guitar, banjo and mandolin. With a raspy voice that lends itself perfectly to this genre, he has a natural command over the audience, and always encourages crowd participation. It’s hard to cover Irish tunes without a fiddle, so fortunately, Jeffrey McLaughlinÂ tackles those duties with ease, playing with a beautiful blend of accuracy and fluidity. Â As Geo Bauman skillfully strums the lead guitar, he’ll often start things off with a simple-sounding riff that builds momentum for the song that’s to come.
The first time I saw the band, in Charlottesville, VA, Mike mentioned that the Fighting Jamesons’ goal is to recreate the authentic Irish pub experience. As someone who goes to Ireland frequently, and has definitely been in a lion’s share of pubs, I’m thrilled that they’ve succeeded on that front. Impressively, they nimbly avoid the trap of simply rehashing what other bands have already done. (Where else, but a Fighting Jamesons show, would you have the pleasure of hearing an Irish-rock version of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song?!) Instead, each selection is stamped with the band’s distinctive personality, so although they faithfully delve into an oft-covered genre, the path they walk is all their own.