Fans of Flogging Molly love the band for their upbeat Celtic-Rock tempos. Songs like “What’s Left of the Flag,” “Tobacco Island” and “Salty Dog” leave the listener tapping their feet in rhythm, often without realizing it. But few of the tracks on FM’s new album, Speed of Darkness, leave the listener with anything but the desire to take a nap.

There are a few toe-tappers, such as “Oliver Boys” and “Revolution,” that call to mind the band’s classic style. But many of the other tracks leave much to be desired. Whereas their older albums like Swagger and Drunken Lullabies were high in energy with a few slower tunes to break them up, this one seems like the opposite. Even if the tempo is quicker at times, the songs seem to drag from frontman Dave King’s lack of usual intensity.

I will say that the tracks get more interesting and upbeat further into the album, but if you plan on listening to the tracks in order it may take some time to fall back into the Flogging Molly swagger. As much as I’m a fan of the band’s work, I’m going to have to give this album a B- on effort.

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If you’re planning on being around Kansas City in early August, you might want to check out the newest music festival to hit the Midwest.

“Kanrocksas” — two-day concert with a formidable line-up — will be August 5-6 in Kansas City, KS. The event will be held at the Kansas Speedway, with free parking and camping overnight. The list of performances is packed with big names: Eminem, Muse, The Black Keys, A Perfect Circle and Flogging Molly are just some of the acts listed.

Tickets are currently $89.50/day until June 4, when they’ll go up to $99. A two-day pass is $179 now, or $225 at the door. Buy them here with no service charges or facility fees.

For a full line-up, visit the Kanrocksas website here. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Flogging Molly, an L.A.-based Celtic-Rock group known for hits such as “Drunken Lullabies” and “Seven Deadly Sins,” is releasing their new album Speed of Darkness on May 31.

They’ve released five sample tracks on their Facebook page. For now, I’ll hold my review until the entire album is released. But let’s just say you can look forward to a review next week.

Now that I’ve graduated and have free time again, I needed to get my finger back on the pulse of the music industry.

While perusing Billboard’s weekly charts for Top 10 rock songs, I was surprised by the variety of bands sitting at the top. While the well-established Foo Fighters have taken the #1 seat with their new single “Rope,” other lesser-known contenders are giving them a fair amount of competition.

Take the new folk group Mumford & Sons. They came from seemingly nowhere (though actually from West London) and took over the U.S. last summer with their hit single “Little Lion Man.” This quartet has achieved a rare feat: they’ve brought banjos and mandolins back into mainstream pop culture. It seems farfetched to think Englishmen could do bluegrass well, let alone make it popular enough to compete with bands like Rise Against and Incubus. Their success has even paved the way for other folk groups such as The Avett Brothers and Noah and the Whale. This week they sit at #4 on the chart with their newest single, “The Cave.”

A surprising addition to the Top 10 is Foster the People. Coming in at #10 this week with their catchy “Pumped Up Kicks,” this psych-pop trio seems out of place next to other Billboard contenders like Sick Puppies and Seether. With simple synthesizers and whistling, this L.A.-based group sounds like a blend of Of Montreal and Scattered Trees.

It’s been awhile, but here’s a preview I wrote for the Music Coalition on this summer’s Nightfall on the River concert series, held at the Simon Estes Amphitheater in downtown Des Moines.

The season begins tomorrow night with Slightly Stoopid, a reggae-based band from San Diego. For a full season line-up, click here.

I recently spoke with pop diva Mavis Staples (previously of the Staples Singers) about her induction in the up-and-coming ‘Women Who Rock‘ exhibit at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Despite her recent Grammy win and busy touring schedule, the conversation was laid back and welcoming. Our chat soon turned from business to background. As a Chicago native, she was happy to talk to a fellow Midwesterner about how her roots have affected her songwriting.

KATE: How has your Midwest upbringing influenced you as a singer/songwriter?

MAVIS: The Midwest, especially Chicago, is a music city. We’re known for the blues, gospel and R&B. We have Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, Albertina Walker and the Caravans. Then we have Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler…and then for gospel, the Staples Singers. We just have lived music a lot in the Midwest.

K: What made you want to sing in the first place?

M: My father. I’m grateful for him that he chose to sing with his children after singing with an all-male group. Those guys wouldn’t come to rehearsal, so he just came home one night, disgusted, went in the closet and pulled out a little guitar he had bought at the pawn shop. He called us children into the living room and began giving us voices to sing. [Songs] that he and his brothers and sisters would sing. That’s been since I was like eight years old. I’ve just grown up with music. And I’m just grateful that I’m still here and I’ve had a chance to sing all kinds.

K: So what are you looking forward to in the upcoming Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibition?

M: I’ll see all of my friends again: Cindy Lauper and Betty Wright. And Wanda Jackson — I’ve never met her, and to know that someone like her is still here, I’m really excited to meet her. You know, I’m always excited. I still get excited over new things that are happening in music like this. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is so beautiful already, and for them to be opening a new exhibit honoring ladies…with everything that happens, I just stay happy. And for them to include me is just wonderful. I’m anxious to get there in May to see it and be a part of it. Thank God for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

Mavis will perform at the It’s Only Rock and Roll spring benefit concert on May 14, the day after the opening of the Women Who Rock exhibit. Tickets go on sale today on Ticketmaster for $20.

The new Dropkick Murphys album, Going Out In Style, retains that Celtic hardcore-punk feel that made the Boston band famous. Read my review of the album here.

As an added bonus: Dropkick will be playing at the Val-Air Ballroom in Des Moines on Friday, March 4. Tickets are $25 in advance/ $30 at the door (update: tickets sold out!), with opening act Against Me! starting at 8pm. You better believe I’ve had my ticket bought for months!