The Drovers

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The Drovers
The Drovers, 1998 at Chicago's Annoyance Theatre L to R: David Callahan, Paul Bradley, Mike Kirkpatrick and Merritt Lear
The Drovers, 1998 at Chicago's Annoyance Theatre
L to R: David Callahan, Paul Bradley, Mike Kirkpatrick and Merritt Lear
Background information
GenresCeltic music, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, folk
Years active1988–2002
LabelsTantrum Records/Thermometer Sound Surface
Associated actsBig Hat, Black 47, Big Buildings, Fairport Convention, Poi Dog Pondering, Susan McKeown, Pentangle (band), Boiled in Lead, Joker's Wild, Steve Wynn (musician), Marzuki, Brendan O'Shea, Owner Operators, Tower Crane, Poi Dog Bohola, Half Sky,
  • Mike Kirkpatrick
  • Dave Callahan
Past members
  • Sean Cleland
  • Tim Larson
  • Kathleen Keane
  • Jackie Moran
  • Ike Reilly
  • Chris Bain
  • Todd Allison
  • Merritt Lear
  • Winston Damon
  • Paul Bradley
  • Liam Moore
  • Brendan O'Shea
  • Emily Pitcher

The Drovers are a Chicago-based rock band whose original songs are influenced by Irish traditional dance music.

Founded by Irish traditional fiddler Sean Cleland in 1988, the group recorded four albums and soundtrack music for the motion pictures, Backdraft[1] and Blink.[2] Songwriters Mike Kirkpatrick (guitar) and Dave Callahan (bass, vocals) drew from Irish rhythms to craft songs that became increasingly psychedelic over a 12-year period until the band ceased performing in September 2002. Kirkpatrick, in particular, composed songs that featured traditional Irish reels jigs of his own. Callahan's songs, while obviously influenced by Celtic/American folk music, tended toward a less ethnic-sounding psychedelia.[3][4]


The band was founded in Chicago by Irish fiddler Sean Cleland. The Drovers' 1991 first studio album, World of Monsters,[5] featured Keane on flute, vocals and button accordion, Jackie Moran drums, Dave Callahan lead vocals and bass and Mike Kirkpatrick guitar. "Book of Songs" brought the Drovers their first commercial radio exposure on WXRT in Chicago. The songs, "Boys and the Babies" and "When Fortune Turns Her Wheel", would later be re-recorded on the Blink soundtrack.[6][7]

The Drovers were awarded Illinois Entertainer's Best Unsigned Band award in 1991.[8]

The next decade was spent touring the college rock circuit, while they gained worldwide exposure through the release of 'Blink (1993), in which they appear onscreen as themselves,[9] the band toured exclusively in North America.

The follow-up to Monsters was the 1993 EP Kill Mice Elf, the centerpiece of which is the cut, "She's as Pretty as Brian Jones Was". The disc includes contributions from vocalists Yvonne Bruner (Big Hat), Atalee Judy and Chantal Wentworth, and cellist Eric Remschneider.[10]

In 1995 the Drovers released the Steve Albini-produced Little High Sky Show, and their increasingly psychedelic sound took many fans by surprise. The album includes Minneapolis musicians Robin Anders (Boiled in Lead) and Linda Pitmon (Steve Wynn and the Miracle Three, Baseball Project), plus Chicago percussionist Doug Brush.[11]

While critically acknowledged and never officially dissolving, the Drovers eventually stopped performing and Callahan formed the Stroby Alliance with former Drover Tim Larson ([12] He also sat in frequently as bassist/mandolinist with Chicago rock band, Big Buildings. In 2015 he released a new single under the name Half Sky (

Bradley co-founded Eventric, a provider of concert tour logistics support solutions.[buzzword][13][14]

Keane, Bain and Moran continue to tour and record as solo artists in the Irish traditional music world.

Cleland started the band bohola ( with piano accordion player Jimmy Keane and released four albums on the Shanachie label. He is now the director of The Irish Music School of Chicago ( and teaches and performs throughout North America and Ireland.[15]

The Drovers are featured in the suspense film, Blink (1993), which stars Madeleine Stowe as a blind woman who plays fiddle for the group, and becomes entangled in a murder investigation where her blindness and subsequent surgery to correct it are at the forefront of the storyline. The film co-stars Aidan Quinn and Laurie Metcalf. The Drovers' music comprises the vast majority of the film's soundtrack.[16]

In addition to the core six musicians: Cleland, Keane, Kirkpatrick, Callahan, Moran and Bain, the group also recorded and toured with Stone Damon, Ike Reilly, Emily Pitcher, Todd Allison, Merritt Lear and Tim Larson.

Mike Kirkpatrick, The Drovers guitarist, passed away at his home in Chicago on August 27, 2020 after battling colon cancer. He was 65.[17]



  1. ^ "Backdraft Soundtrack 1991". IMDB.
  2. ^ "Bink Soundtrack". IMDB.
  3. ^ Gary, Hill. "Little High Sky Show review". All Music Guide.
  4. ^ Gary, Hill. "Review Little High Sky Show". Music Street Journal.
  5. ^ "World of Monsters". All Music Guide.
  6. ^ . Chicago Reader. 22 April 1993 Retrieved 8 October 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ "Popular Uprisings". Billboard. April 30, 1994.
  8. ^ Kot, Greg (July 17, 1992). "Honor Roll for Local Acts, Smashing Night For Pumpkins". Chicago Tribune.
  9. ^ "Blink". Austin Chronicle.
  10. ^ "Kill Mice Elf". All Music Guide.
  11. ^ "Little High Sky Show". All Music Guide.
  12. ^ "Dave Callahan profile". Soundcloud.
  13. ^ T., Newyear. "Master Tour: Putting Tour Managers In The Data Driver's Seat". Hypebot. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  14. ^ Jackson, Cheryl (March 8, 2017). "Chicago's Eventric helps some of the world's biggest musicians tour". Chicago Tribune.
  15. ^ "Cleland Teaches Music With A Chicago Twist". Irish Echo. Oct 3–9, 2012.
  16. ^ "Cast of Blink". IMDB.
  17. ^ "Mike Kirkpatrick, who transformed popular Chicago band The Drovers, has died at 65".

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