“An Irish Story: This Is My Home” is available from all major VOD providers.
Although they originally hail from Ireland, the members of the Black Donnellys (Dave Rooney and Dave Browne) have made Las Vegas their permanent home, performing as a resident act at Irish pub Ri Ra inside Mandalay Place. The concept of home is central to the new documentary “An Irish Story: This Is My Home,” which chronicles the Black Donnellys’ 2018 effort to set a Guinness World Record by performing 60 gigs in 50 states over 40 days. It’s a fun, fast-paced road movie, with footage of the hard-working musicians performing everywhere from a nursing home to a carpet cleaning company (along with, of course, plenty of Irish pubs). It’s also an upbeat meditation on what it means to be an immigrant in America, framed by Rooney’s wait to receive official confirmation of his green card.
The Black Donnellys are no strangers to Guinness World Record attempts: Previously, Browne broke the record for the longest continuous guitar solo, and in 2014 the band broke the record for the longest continuous concert (372 hours). So they are eager for this latest attempt, even though Guinness hasn’t officially recognized the effort as of the beginning of the movie (or as of now). These guys are jovial and genuine, and it’s easy to root for them as they set out on this logistical nightmare of a journey, undertaken mostly via a janky rented RV, but also by airplane in order to fit in gigs in Hawaii and Alaska.
Director Karl Nickoley takes a fairly straightforward, linear approach to presenting the band’s journey, framed by a retrospective interview with Rooney and Browne (sitting at a bar and drinking beers, of course). Although produced on presumably limited resources (there’s lots of talk of the band running out of money), the movie is visually polished and smartly edited to keep the story moving. The carefully planned trip goes off the rails quite a few times, thanks to natural disasters (a volcano eruption in Hawaii, a tropical storm in the southeastern United States), mechanical failures and gigs that get canceled at the last minute, but no matter what, Rooney and Browne persevere, whether they are playing for a packed bar full of hardcore fans or for a handful of bored, confused attendees at a hastily arranged show.
Nickoley intersperses the road-trip scenes with some historical material about immigrants in the U.S. and interviews with various immigrants who’ve found success in America (including noted Vegas restaurateur Jose Andres). Those interviews sometimes feel a bit haphazard, but Rooney and Browne themselves provide the strongest emotional connection to the immigrant experience, talking about the history of Irish-Americans and how they themselves have embraced and been embraced by the U.S. When they perform one of the tour’s final gigs at New York City’s oldest continuously operating bar, which has always been run by Irish-Americans, there’s a real feeling of pride and accomplishment.
Although the movie gives a strong sense of the chaos and excitement of the tour, and includes plenty of the band’s original music (which is somewhere around the intersection of U2, David Gray and Ed Sheeran), it’s surprisingly low on extensive concert footage. When Rooney presents a song he wrote for his late cousin, an employee at one of the bars where the band performs, it’s a powerful moment that the movie could have used a little more of, as it bounces from one state to the next. Still, that just makes “This Is My Home” an enticement for viewers to check out more of the Black Donnellys’ music online, and to see them perform in person, whenever that may happen again.
“An Irish Story: This Is My Home” is available now for digital rental and purchase from all major VOD providers.