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Published: Friday, 1/17/2003

Traditional tunes with a twist

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Americans fell in love with Irish music and dance when such shows as Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, and Titanic brought them to the public's attention starting in 1996.

Nearly seven years later, the passion has yet to fade, according to John L. Sullivan, guitarist and singer with the Diggers, who perform tonight at Mickey Finn's Pub.

“There's no doubt that those shows brought Irish music to the masses,” Sullivan said in an interview this week.

“And then when Americans got interested in it, they began to check out all things Irish. I don't think the interest has leveled off since.”

The Diggers, who are based in Windsor, Ont., were formed six years ago by accordion player Len Wallace, bassist Bill Misiuk, and Sullivan.

“Since Riverdance and those shows caused a surge in interest, there have been many new pubs that opened over the last few years that their owners call Irish pubs,” Sullivan said.

The Diggers play traditional Irish folk tunes but give them a sound that is all their own.

The trio specializes in Irish marches and patriotic songs, music that is perfectly suited for the pubs, Sullivan said.

“We're probably as up-tempo as any of the Irish bands are,” he said. “We've all played other styles of music, which helps us to know what kind of songs the audience is going to like. We get them moving.”

Wallace, who released three solo CDs before the Diggers were formed, was the Canadian national accordion champion at age 15, Sullivan said.

All three members of the trio take turns singing lead vocals and enjoy adding their vocal harmony as well, he said.

The band took its name from a group of British rebels who in 1649 tried to overthrow the aristocracy, only to be crushed by Oliver Cromwell.

“Even though they weren't Irish, they were rebels and that's something we can definitely relate to,” said Sullivan.

The Diggers play frequently in Detroit and Ontario, with occasional forays to Toledo, Chicago, and other cities within a reasonable drive.

“We're not really a road band,” Sullivan said.

The group has released two CDs, a self-titled studio disc in 2001 and a newly released live album recorded at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in Detroit.

The Diggers will be featured at 9:30 tonight at Mickey Finn's Pub, 602 Lagrange St., for its monthly St. Patrick's celebration, held on the 17th of each month. The Heinzman Step Dancers will perform from 6 to 8 p.m. Cover charge is $5. Information: 419-246-3466.



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