A Rare Visit From Andy Irvine
Tuesday October 11, 2011
A Rare Visit From Andy Irvine
Photo by Brian Hartigan
By Gwen Orel
Andy Irvine (Planxty, Mozaik) is in town from his home in Fermanagh for a rare few days of concerts this week, promoting his latest album Abocurragh. We caught up with him on his way up to Maine.
Irish Examiner (IE): Phil Coulter went on and on about you. He says you are one of the great unsung heroes.
Andy: I wish I was one of the sung heroes. My singability could be higher.
IE: do you see yourself as a troubador?
Andy: I do, it’s a medieval word for people who went around singing stories and bringing the news.
IE: Your latest album seems in some ways old school, a return to your roots.
Andy: Well this is what we do… Donal Lunny produced it. Some people think music should evolve, but one does things differently within a certain parameter. I’m not about to get a rock drummer.
IE: You’ve recorded one of my favorite songs of all time on thie album, “Willie of Winsb
ury.” What made you choose to do that?
Andy: I was the first person that recorded that version back in 1968 with Sweeney’s Men. I’ve always thought of it as my version, because checking out the tunes in the back of Professor Child’s five volumes, I actually didn’t like the one that was connected with it and just for pig iron I tried on the one after it. And that’s the tune that I put to that. A lot of English folk-rock bands recorded it in the 70s and they probably didn’t realize that it came from me, so I recorded it again so I could have a go at them in the notes…. Annie Briggs recorded it after I’d recorded it and those people were more likely to have heard her version than mine. She knew well where the song came from.
IE: Your version of “The Three Huntsmen” is unusual.
Andy: That’s another early one. It’s a tune I learned from Willie Clancy. It’s actually a tune called “You Lie Next to the Wall.” It’s not really a song one would be prepared to sing in this day and age. It’s about a man asking a girl to go to bed with him and if he can answer these questions she’ll do it, and he does…
IE: Cathie Ryan just sang it! Maybe you have to be a woman to sing it.
Andy: That would definitely help. I felt it was a bit sleazy. It fitted that song very well, I found a new version, and there it is.
IE: What would you be if you weren’t a musician?
Andy: A truck driver!
IE: You just love being on the road! What song do you wish you had written?
Andy: I do love (English folk singer) Chris Wood. He came to the fore as a fiddle player. He wrote a song called “Hollow Point,” which starts out as if it’s going to be a traditional ballad, with “arise, arise you drowsy sleeper,” then gradually with the names of tube stations in London, you think is it a joke, and then you realize it’s about a Brazilian guy who came to London who fell into the radar of the special branch and they followed him. He ran, and they shot him, and he was totally innocent (Editor’s note: Jean Charles de Menezes, shot in the head seven times after being misidentified as an attempted bomber). It’s the name of the ammunition they used to shoot him.