And the Boys Plowed On
Last Saturday night, to the cheers and applause of a large crowd, the Mighty Ploughboys celebrated the release of their newest self-titled CD, and the celebrated life of the recently departed founding member, Mike Smith. The festivities were held at the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Center, to the cheers of a packed house, full of family and friends. Smith passed away just one month ago at the age of 43 after battling cancer.
Smith, nicknamed “Iron Mike,” was the guitarist of the Mighty Ploughboys, and started the band in 2008 with his long-time friend Patrick Hearty. Explaining the start of the band and its genre Hearty said: “My dad always wanted to hear Irish music and we wanted to remake some traditional Irish songs for us and him.”
Hearty and Smith, both from New Fairfield, played in bands together such as Trooper Thorne and others. Their Irish roots were strong, as Hearty spent most summers growing up in his parents’ homeland of Northern Ireland, listening to songs and ballads in County Armagh.
On the band’s website they said about Smith’s passing: “Mike left us for the “Dream Gig” upstairs in January 2012 — but his music, inspiration and spirit will always be the driving force of this band. We’ll never forget you.”
The band collectively decided on the day of Smith’s funeral that the celebration of his life would coincide with the CD release on Smith’s birthday, February 11th, because “it seemed like the right thing to do,” Rich said.
Drummer Jim Lynch has been playing drums since the age of 10-years-old and played with Hearty and Smith in Firehouse Red and Trooper Thorne. He joined the Mighty Ploughboys in the spring of 2008 and hasn’t looked back. Speaking of the newest CD Lynch said: “Some of the songs were a long process. Just when it felt like things were falling apart, it was completed.”
“We have weathered a lot of storms and there have been a lot of challenges,” he said, “3 babies were born then there were storms Irene and Alfred, but we just keep going.”
Sean Finnerty plays bass in TMP and said the CD release is all about “the ties that bind and making sure you go through life not having any regrets.”
Renato Ghio, the newest Ploughboy, plays mandolin and guitar in TMP and said the band has been “very warm and welcoming” to him and he is privileged to play with the group.
John Rich sings and plays lead guitar. According to TMP’s website, his Celtic roots come from his mother’s side of the family who were immigrants from Milngavie, Scotland. John was born in New York City and moved to the band’s hometown of New Fairfield, CT when he was just 11 years old.
Rich began playing with the band when Smith became ill. “It was a lot of pressure at first because I wanted to make sure to keep Mike in mind always,” Rich said. “We were always hoping he would come back,” he said.
The brotherhood of the “ties that bind,” as Finnerty said, is apparent in the way they play together, support one another and treat each other like family. There are no egos here- just humble, exceptionally talented musicians who want Smith’s legacy to continue through his music.
For those who missed the Mighty Ploughboys on the 11th, they can come out to Molly Darcy’s on February 26th for a benefit concert for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. For more information about TMP, check out their website. Their latest release can be purchased on iTunes.