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Feature article about the band in the Citizen’s Voice

Here’s the original article online…

Storyteller finds musical outlet

Published: August 16, 2012

Tom Flannery is a storyteller. When an idea pops into his head, he has to find the words to get it out.

These days the Archbald resident is putting his tales to music, backed by three other performers. The group, called Tom Flannery and the Shillelaghs, recently released its first studio recording, “Teen Angst and Green Flannel.”

Inspired by musical greats Pete Townshend and Woody Guthrie, Flannery has been toying with songwriting since the ’80s, but it took a while before he was willing to share the tunes.

“The first time I noticed that what I was writing wasn’t terrible was the mid ’90s, and it took three years after that until the songs were good enough to let other people hear them. That was ‘Song About a Train’ in 1998, a record that I’m still very proud of,” Flannery said.

Though the creative process is different for everyone, for Flannery the lyrics always come first. He has an assortment of notebooks full of ideas, sometimes potential song titles, sometimes a verse or a chorus. For the most part though, he likes to let the full story pour out.

“Mostly I’ll sit down and try to write a complete lyric. From there I’ll either grab my guitar or sit at the piano and try to find a melody that fits. I may tweak the lyrics some, but for the most part the melody is created to fit the lyrics,” Flannery said. “But when the songs come, they come fast. Sometimes they don’t come, but when they do, I find that most of my records are written in short bursts of time, in a frenzy almost.”

Once the songs and lyrics are down, Flannery adds the band to the frenzy.

The Shillelaghs – Joseph “Wiggy” Wegleski (guitars and ukulele), Lenny Mecca (bass and background vocals) and Chris Condel (drums) – supplement Flannery’s lead vocals, guitar, and harmonica. After working as a solo artist for so long, Flannery is first to admit the band provides him with some necessary restraint.

“The songs are still mine, but I’ve got to discipline myself. It’s not just me and the guitar anymore, so I can’t veer off on tangents like I’m used to, four bars here instead of two, sing the chorus twice instead of once,” Flannery said. “I’ve got to remember there are three guys behind me expecting certain things in a certain way, and they’re all holding things they can and will throw at me. They’re all quite violent and don’t like surprises.”

All kidding aside, Flannery said he is thrilled to be part of the gang.

“I’d made all acoustic records for 10 years, not because the songs weren’t suited to a band, but because I couldn’t afford a band. So I’d write rock and roll songs and just adapt them to myself,” he said.

When Flannery could no longer control his impulse to “make loud noises,” he saved his pennies and called Wegleski. Wiggy agreed to the gig, and said he had two other musicians in mind.

“I had no idea they were Chris Condel and Lenny Mecca, probably the best rhythm section in the area,” Flannery said. “It was all sorts of surreal. I went from sitting in my basement writing 16 verse ballads about coal mining disasters to being stared at by the best pick-up band around with looks that said ‘You better show us something folk-boy.'”

The first thing Flannery showed them was “If Only I Knew,” the opening song on the band’s debut recording, “Teen Angst and Green Flannel.”

“It opens the record. It sets the table,” Flannery said. “It’s the first song I wrote for the record, and the first song we recorded. We did two takes. Done. I hadn’t even met the band yet. Chris was banging away and I didn’t even know his name. He scared me. I had no idea what I was doing. I played that riff so hard my finger started to bleed.”

The rest of the songs on the CD, including “I Don’t Want to Go Home Anymore,” and “Now She’s Gone” rock just as hard, and string together to tell the story of lost teen Jimmy, who is on the outside looking in.

“I used to be a teen, and now I’m the father of a teen. I could spend the next 20 years writing about teenagers. They fascinate me,” Flannery said.

The band’s upcoming gigs include a live recording session at WVIA in Pittston on Sept. 6 and a show at the V-Spot on Providence Road in Scranton on Sept. 29. Both shows are open to the public. CDs and downloads are available for purchase through the band’s website, http://www.theshillelaghs.com.

“My goal is not to have any copies left in my basement a year from now,” Flannery said. “And for it to replace Huckleberry Finn in schools.”

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