New Year's resolutions are coming up, but often these are, in the words of one accomplisher of missions, "aspirational goals." Few Pittsburgh musicians would resolve to journey overseas to pay tribute to a life-long influence, and even fewer would actually go -- like Mark Dignam.
In January, the Irish-born singer-songwriter will play "A Vibe for Philo" in Dublin, a tribute to Phil Lynott of Irish band Thin Lizzy, on the 25th anniversary of his death. Joining Dignam on the short tour are guitarist Nathan Zoob and percussionist Eric George.
"It's their first time in Ireland, so that will be fun!" says Dignam.
Dignam started out busking in Dublin, and played the early Vibes, soon after Lynott's 1986 death at the age of 36. Dignam's heard this may be the last Vibe. "If this is even remotely the last one they're going to do, I want to be on it."
Ten years ago, Dignam was passing through Pittsburgh when his Irish record company "went bust in the middle of [my] project." His friend Karl Mullen, then-talent buyer for Club Café, invited him to stay over the summer and regroup. Dignam soon met a girl; they're now married with a family.
He tours regionally and, periodically, in Ireland. His newly-named band, The House of Song, consists of George, Zoob and bassist Jessie Prentiss, with others sitting in. Dignam likes "the idea of everyone joining in and singing along and taking part," he says, joking, "it's almost the 'halfway house of song.'"
His latest album, the restrained, poetic Box Heart Man, doesn't immediately suggest Lynott's musical influence, but Dignam says Lynott's rise above humble circumstances inspired him early on.
While known for Thin Lizzy rockers like "The Boys are Back in Town," Lynott was also "an incredibly poetic writer," Dignam says. "Probably the first concert I went to was when Phil quit Thin Lizzy and started his solo career. I saw this big guy from a working-class neighborhood in Dublin" -- much like his own -- "looking like a rock star."
Live, Dignam is capable of real fire, especially on songs like the guitar-jam "Fable." He also takes the stage with a little effort, a legacy from cerebral palsy in childhood. "Dragged myself through life," Dignam says, simply; perhaps the extra physical effort to play any stage makes one overseas no unusual obstacle.
The band has raised travel funds through several concerts; the last, with guests Paul Luc, Morgan Erina and Ben Shannon, is 8 p.m. Tue., Dec. 21 at Club Café.
"We've been pretty bowled over by the support" from fans and friends, says Dignam. "I think everybody likes the sight of someone pushing a cart uphill."