Donegal X-Press

Since its inception in 1997 as a combination of Towson University student musicians and dramaturges getting together for what Tinney describes as Irish vaudeville-cum-cabaret, DXP has evolved into an idiosyncratic act with a solid regional reputation. (It was voted Best Band in Baltimore by City Paper readers last year.

What exactly DXP is, however, is hard to pin down. Sure, Tinney admits that lyrically the band frequently delves into those staples of Hibernian song, "love, loss, and dead Irish rebels," but it mixes traditional Gaelic music with contemporary country, rock, and blues song structures. As such, it's created a genre for itself. And that is not necessarily a great place to be.

DXP's album, 2001's Translations, reveals songwriting skills unconstrained by any particular national or genre loyalty. Whiskey-fueled rockers such as "Sportin' in the Kitchen" alternate with straight-up honky-tonk stompers ("Everywhere") and Gram Parsons-esque sun-baked electric country ("Off to C alifornia"). And with "San Patricios," DXP lassos a pulsating Latin rhythm that recalls the Southwestern plains of Calexico.

That multicolored musical morass is probably what keeps people coming back. "One nice thing about the band is that usually, once we do get our foot in the door, people do respond to us," Dunnells says. "There are other artists who have walked that line between genres and have succeeded. Steve Earle: Is he country? Is he rock? I don't know. Lucinda Williams: Is she country? Is she pop? Those are two people who I've always enjoyed, and nobody ever really knew what to do with them. But they stuck around long enough to make it."

Donegal X-Press, the locomotive Baltimore band that has made their name with punked-up jigs and reels that snagged them CD of the year with the Irish Voice back in 2001, has cast their eye on this side of the Atlantic for inspiration.

Listen to a track from Donegal X-Press

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