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An ode to the road

A band that plays 150 to 200 shows a year meets a fair share of "poets and patriots, saints and sinners," which is why the Young Dubliners decided to highlight these experiences and encounters in its most recent album. "Saints and Sinners," titled after an Irish proverb, was released in February 2009, featuring an original batch of the California band's "feisty" Celtic rock.

"The road is full of saints and sinners," says lead vocalist Keith Roberts, one of the original Dubliners. "We all have a double existence where sometimes we're great, and sometimes we're not so great."

The Dubliners are, since 2002, three American musicians — guitarist Bob Boulding, drummer Dave Ingraham and fiddler Chas Waltz — and two Irish musicians, bassist Brendan Holmes and Roberts, whose gritty, "worn-in" vocals and Irish accent give the band its Celtic front.

"We bring all of our backgrounds and musical tastes into it," says Roberts.

As part of the State Farm Concert Series, the rock band will perform a free concert at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 13, at the Bear Creek Amphitheater, Siskiyou Boulevard and Highland Avenue, Medford. For the concert, the band will draw from 18 years of original music and give a shout-out to past and present Irish songwriters.

"Saints and Sinners" is the band's eighth full-length album and its second for 429 Records.

"The records represent who we are, and hopefully it ('Saints and Sinners') shows a fun side and also an intelligent side," says Roberts.

The album features an erratic assemblage of songs, ranging from the swaying ballad "I Don't Think I'll Love Anymore" to "In the End," an acoustic commentary against the U.N. for not fulfilling its humanitarian obligations.

Other songs epitomize the band's tongue-in-cheek humor, such as "Rosie," a song about a guy trying to convince his girlfriend of 30 years why marriage is overrated, and the party-rocking "Howaya Girls," about a man picking up a woman in a pub.

"Chance" is a song that grew out of two chords and a drumbeat and shows "you can walk into a room with two chords and go out the door with a full song," says Roberts.

The Dubliners' 2008 release, "With All Due Respect — the Irish Sessions," is a collection of old and contemporary songs by Irish composers, poets, playwrights and vagabonds. However, the album also gave the band a reputation as an Irish cover band "so it was important for 'Saints and Sinners' to get us back on track again," says Roberts.

When it comes to songwriting, all the Dubliners contribute. One guy can only have so many ideas, says Roberts

"We naturally write with a rock mentality but Celticky-sounding instrumentation," he says.

Interestingly enough, it's often the Americans coming up with the Irish ideas, says Roberts. Once the idea is there, everyone collaborates on the riffs and chords.

"They are so good at playing their instruments, I don't have worry about how it will sound," he says.

"And when you see the whole crowd singing with you, you know you did something right."

The Young Dubliner's concert in the park is free. Call 541-774-2400 or see www.youngdubliners.com

The Young Dubliners formed in the early '90s as a pub band. The Celtic-rock band has toured internationally and performed on 'The Late Show With David Letterman' and 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' - Photo by Dave Safian