Archive

Archive: Irvine and Brady, 30 years on – THE IRISH TIMES (2008)

Siobhan Long

Howling gales and blinding sleet aren’t everybody’s idea of ideal concert-going weather, but Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival, now in its 15th year, has managed to defy all things meteorological with a game plan that can lure diehard traditionalists, ravenous world music aficionados and avid roots music punters to its box office in the kind of numbers more usually be associated with big-budget summer productions elsewhere.

For this year’s festival, which finished last weekend, 120,000 tickets were sold. Steve Earle, Michelle Shocked, KD Lang and Teenage Fanclub jostled for attention alongside Capercaillie, Altan, the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, Bill Wyman and the Nedyalko Nedyalkov Quartet. And somewhere in the melee, Paul Brady and Andy Irvine reprised their eponymous 1976 album in the Celtic Connections classic-album concert slot.

The festival’s presence is tangible everywhere in Glasgow. Posters on shop windows, musicians lugging instruments through rain-soaked streets and the constant movement of players in and out of the festival hotel bear testament to the city’s intricate relationship with Celtic Connections.

Donald Shaw, festival director, is someone who knows a thing or two about this business. A founder member of Capercaillie, multi-instrumentalist and record producer, he’s quick to point out that although punters travel from across the UK, Europe and the US, 90 per cent of Celtic Connections punters are local Glaswegians, hungry for good music.

“We tend to concentrate on the word ‘connections’ rather than the word ‘Celtic’,” Shaw admits, with a typical Scottish mix of candour and pragmatism.

“We’ve broadened out the Americana, old-time music side of things, which is a huge pool of music to draw from. One of the ways we’ve grown is by building up audiences for certain acts, and bringing them back in subsequent years. A classic example of that would be [Galician piper] Carlos Nuñez, who came as a support act and within fours years was selling out the concert hall himself. We try to go with our instincts musically, rather than fashionably.”

Shaw’s penchant for luring old collaborators back together was the impetus behind Andy Irvine and Paul Brady’s reunion last week. Although the pair share a long and winding history, through their days with Planxty and as a duo, they hadn’t performed together as a duo for years.

Their 1976 album, Andy Irvine & Paul Brady, spawned Brady’s sublime version of what he calls “a deftly constructed drama”, Arthur McBride, a beautifully crafted tale of military arrogance pitted against local wile, alongside Irvine’s calculus-like Autumn Gold, a paean to his days travelling the highways and byways of eastern Europe. Produced by Donal Lunny, with Kevin Burke on fiddle, it was a masterpiece of restraint, a snapshot of two musicians in thrall to the music.

BRADY AND IRVINE make no secret of the fact that they embarked on this reunion with no small amount of trepidation and, at times, foreboding.

“We were, both of us, very apprehensive about this huge thing we took on,” Brady admits, post-concert, after the pair had stilled a rapt audience. Amid the occasional stray chord and the intermittent sound glitches, they summoned a rare magic as they tiptoed lightly across the Plains of Kildare, Bonny Woodhall and a pristine take on Lough Erne’s Shore.

After a first-half warm-up that included a visceral version of what Brady referred to as the politically incorrect Wearing the Britches and a blistering rendition of The Connaught Man’s Rambles, they loped off stage, to let the temperature rise further before kicking off with a strapping airing of Martinmas Time.

Irvine and Brady reignited a spark that’s been behind the conversion of more than its share of diehards to the intricate delights of folk music.

“We’re very, very happy tonight that it came together in a way that made sense,” Brady says, his relief at having survived the top billing of this reunion palpable. “I was very excited at the prospect of it, even though this is the first time I’m telling Andy that! We’d been asked to do it before, but we were never given enough notice. This time, when Donald Shaw approached us last September, we really couldn’t come up with any excuses.”

“Going back 32 years is never going to be perfect,” Irvine adds, his face etched with a mix of relief and exhaustion in the aftermath of the gig.

Having returned from Australia, where he escapes from the northern hemisphere’s winter darkness every year, Irvine had headlined the Temple Bar Trad Festival for four nights with Mozaik, then played two warm-up concerts with Brady in the Cherry Tree in Walkinstown, before sidling on stage in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall with his customary modesty not just intact, but defining his every note and lyric.

Brady makes no bones about the challenges that such a reunion poses for two musicians who’ve taken vastly different paths in the intervening period.

“It’s not just about music. It’s about everything else,” he declares. “It’s about who we are and who we were and the 30 years in between. It’s also about what your energy flow is like and what his is like. When I was working with Andy, I was still trying to find out who I was, so you have to go back to that younger person and relate to that. I don’t think we see the music in a different light, but we see ourselves differently. Those arrangements are as valid now as they were then, and we didn’t see the need to reinvent them.

“So it was a case of going back to that thing, which we lovingly made, and bring ourselves to it now, and see how we feel.”

The pair are quick to scotch even the faintest impression that this concert marks a reunion on a bigger scale. “The truth is that we don’t know how we feel [ about this reunion], and we don’t know what we’re doing,” says Brady. “We’re quite different people, and we’ve become more different as we’ve grown older. The way we approach music is very different, but we had a meeting at a certain point in our lives when both our music sensibilities came together, and that created something really special. I was delighted to be able to revisit that part of ourselves, because it’s harder to find that sweet spot as the years move on.”

Having had the luxury of the contributions of Kevin Burke and Donal Lunny on the original recording, Irvine and Brady were faced with having to fill a blinding void with their own instruments: bouzouki, mandolin, mandola, guitar, harmonica and keyboards. As Brady pointed out on stage, it’s a lot tougher to get “match fit” when you’re revisiting a repertoire that’s more than three decades old. It’s tougher still when half the players are missing from the pitch, yet it was exactly that concentration of energy that propelled them into the belly of the music, Brady believes.

“That’s what I had fun with,” he laughs. “One minute I’m sitting, playing the guitar, and the next I’m twisting around to reach for the keyboards. That’s what I thought was great about tonight.”

Ignoring the Celtic Connections offer to provide them with an opening band, which would have absolved them of playing anything more than the 45-minute set that was the album, Brady and Irvine chose the road less travelled, the one with the unpredictable bumps and potholes. Why would they go through the rigours of rehearsal for a reunion that was so fleeting, when this was an opportunity to revive so much more of their intricate repertoire? Irvine laughs as he recounts the process of readying themselves for the limelight again, as a duo.

“There were moments in rehearsal where we thought ‘We’ve blown it’,” he says. “We went through virtually our entire repertoire tonight. That was two and a half hours out there. I’m not very objective, but we balanced ourselves very well, on stage, I think, with Paul’s energy and my romanticism.”

BRADY AND IRVINE’S yin and yang is indisputable on stage. Irvine sits stock still; Brady is a fireball, zigzagging across the stage with the pent-up energy of a prize fighter. Still, whatever of the triumph of the night’s performance, Brady is non-committal about his future plans.

“I’ve sort of retired, in a way, from struggling with all this forward motion stuff,” he says. “I’m kind of happy with where I am, and I’ve more time to do things I want to do. I have a bunch of songs which I want to record but I’ve no release date planned, and I’m just doing things at my own pace, although sometimes you do your best work when you’ve got a gun to your head. I’m at a stage in my life when I don’t have any deadlines – in fact I eschew them – and it’s interesting to see what I come up with in that gentle period.”

After the show, the pair jostle and jibe with one another, high on the relief that the show is over, that they’d met the challenge head on and enjoyed it so much. Despite their vast experience though, or perhaps because of it, they sweated long hours before bringing this music back into the daylight. Brady jokes that he cursed Irvine as he waded through the complexities of the chord structures on Autumn Gold. Andy did likewise as he struggled with Lough Erne’s Shore on the hurdy-gurdy, all of which suggests that music was, and never will be, an autopilot pursuit for either of them.

“There were a number of songs which we’d never performed live before,” Irvine recounts. “We were younger men last time we played together. Going back in time takes a lot more work than you’d expect or imagine, but it was great. It was more than worth all the worry.”

See also www.celticconnections.com

source: www.irishtimes.com

Advertisements

Archive Album Reviews: Patrick Street – On the Fly (2007)

Patrick Street – On the Fly – Loftus Music LM002; 47 minutes; 2007

A recent review of this album in the UK magazine Songlines referred to Patrick Street as a ‘Dublin band’, revealing not only the reviewer’s ignorance about a group which has never featured a Dublin-born member in its career of now twenty years and more, but a sheer lack of understanding of the derivation of the musical elements which have coloured this group’s recordings and performances since its inception.

On the Fly is the band’s first album since 2003’s Street Life, the first to feature John Carty (on fiddle, flute and banjo – though he’s been performing live with the band for several years now) and the last to include accordionist Jackie Daly, who only appears on two tracks. Indeed, following Jackie’s departure, Patrick Street must be the only Irish ‘supergroup’ whose members were all born in England (three in London and guitarist Ged Foley in Durham)! A ‘Dublin band’, Songlines?

This latest album very much follows the standard Patrick Street format. There’s a wide mix of various dance tunes (three sets of reels, including wonderful interplay between Kevin and John on Down the Broom/The Gatehouse Maid/Mulvihill’s, plus hornpipes, jigs and slip jigs, as well as a set of polkas with Jackie Daly’s box to the fore) and John’s own composition the air/jig Seanamhac Tube Station. Indeed there can have been no more joyous sound on a recent recording than the sheer swing and sway of the twin fiddles on Martin Wynne’s.

Andy digs deep into his repertoire for three songs: The Rich Irish Lady, learnt from a Peggy Seeger LP in the late 1950s; plus Erin Go Bragh, first heard in a Hull pub in 1964; and, Sergeant Small, a depression song gleaned from his many visits to Australian. As has become a matter of course, but really needs reiteration, there are few singers in the English-speaking world able to tap so fundamentally into the wellsprings of a song than Andy and these three song outings tremendously reinforce that fact. Additionally, there’s a rare outing for Ged’s vocal cords on an engrossing version of The Galway Shawl.

Lastly, those two concluding tracks with Jackie Daly provide a gorgeous reminder of the accordionist’s ability to spur a tune ever onwards into the deepest regions of the imagination and provide some of the slickest ‘tips’ you’ll ever hear in your life.

Ever enthralling, On the Fly is an essential purchase.

Geoff Wallis - 5th March, 2008

For more information visit http://www.loftusmusic.com/.

source: www.irishmusicreview.com


CD Reviews: Patrick Street – On The Fly

‘On the fly’ usually denotes hurriedness, a quick-fix in a situation where time is limited. However, this On the Fly does not betray anything of moves made in-flight or constrained by time. On this, the eighth studio…

On the Fly – Loftus Music LM002

‘On the fly’ usually denotes hurriedness, a quick-fix in a situation where time is limited. However, this On the Fly does not betray anything of moves made in-flight or constrained by time. On this, the eighth studio album from Patrick Street, the music is measured out in a space which flows around, above and in-between the 47 minutes it takes to play through the twelve tracks.

More than being just another release, this album represents an important shift in the line-up of Patrick Street as it formally marks the departure of Jackie Daly. But in effect, Daly already recorded his last Patrick Street album with Street life (2002), featuring on just two tracks, quite appropriately.

As a replacement, John Carty adds a new dimension to the group’s sound. His fiddle, flute and banjo playing create interesting settings, counterparts and leads to Kevin Burke’s flowing bow.  In the tune selections Carty and Burke explore their shared musical background. While on well-roved paths – such as ‘Happy to meet Sorry to Part’, ‘Martin Wynne’s’ and ‘Down the Broom’ – their twin fiddles create a raw, direct sound that is often unnecessarily smoothed over in contemporary traditional recordings.

On the song front, Ged Foley makes a brave attempt at resuscitating the worn out ‘Galway Shawl’; it took a while, but it grew on me. As usual, Andy Irvine is reassuring in the regular consistency of his sound world. ‘The Rich Irish Lady’ is a fine example of his inventiveness with contrapuntal accompaniment. Indeed, on each of the four songs there is an interplay which makes full use of the four musicians.

Overall, the production creates a live feel. The studio is absent in that you only ever hear four musicians, albeit in an ideally balanced setting: it is a document of things as they are rather than a fiction created in the studio or on stage. Within Patrick Street is the present place of Irish traditional music as it is in the flesh; this music could happen in your house.

I don’t limit my enjoyment of the album to one track, but there is certainly one that stands out for me: the set of hornpipes, ‘The Long Acre/Cuz Tehans’. This is as good as it gets, temperately measured with notes falling into each other like dominoes, moving to form a design mapped out by the four individuals.Banjo and fiddle moving together forces a smile, but words only catch the sentiment on the fly: go and listen for yourself.

Published on 1 March 2008 - Rory McCabe

source: journalofmusic.com

Archive: Mozaik – Changing Trains (2007)

Changing Trains

Compass Records 7 4468 2; 53 minutes; 2007

This isn’t a review, but the unedited version of an article based upon interviews with the band.

It’s some ten thousand miles from Brooklyn to Blackheath, NSW, and six of the same mathematical breed from County Fermanagh to Okinawa, though neither the crows nor the various flight paths are likely to pass over Budapest on these journeys.

Once only a fool would ever consider forming a musical quintet whose members were drawn from these five locations, but the world is now a much smaller place than when Andy Irvine first embarked on his musical travels. Those initial ventures took place in the late 1960s, when he decided to quit Dublin and his successful part in the band Sweeney’s Men and head for Eastern Europe on a musical voyage whose import continues to impact upon his music today. As he would later write, ‘I hit the road for the Balkans and spent a year and a half travelling around, sleeping in orchards, taking in the sounds and falling in love with the music and the people. I hauled a bunch of records back to Ireland, locked myself away and tried to get the hang of the rhythms. Not only have I been trying to play the music ever since, but I’ve been trying to get half the musicians of Ireland to play it as well.’

One of those Irish musicians, and far more than a significant half in terms of his later career, was the guitarist (and later Irish bouzouki maestro) Dónal Lunny who’d learnt the music industry’s ropes as a member of the folk-pop Emmet Spiceland. As Dónal recalls, “Ever since Andy introduced me to Bulgarian music I had a desire to play it. I was already interested in different time signatures from listening to Dave Brubeck and other jazz players.” Though whether Brubeck would ever have considered combining the 9/8 rhythm of an Irish slip jig with the 9/16 of a Bulgarian daichovo horo, as Irvine and Lunny have found and enjoyed themselves doing is open to question.

On said Balkan travels, in Ljubljana Andy also bumped into a young musician from the Netherlands, Rens van der Zalm. The Dutch fiddler and guitarist Rens had become immersed in “the music of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, Pete Seeger and the New Lost City Ramblers and more..” in his teens and started to play this music in coffee houses with older mentors, though “his violin teacher was not very amused”.

Rens and Andy would meet up again during the 1970s when Planxty (formed with Dónal, uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn and Christy Moore) toured Europe. By which time the fascination Andy and Dónal shared for those Balkan rhythms had become a substantial element in the band’s repertoire.

Fast forward a few years to the early 1980s. Planxty’s career had stuttered after its genesis with Christy reinvigorating his solo career and Dónal embarking on the full-pelt sleighride also known as The Bothy Band. In the midst of this period Andy and Paul Brady formed a powerful duo, recording one of Ireland’s essential albums in the process. However, by 1979 the original members of Planxty were back together again (with the addition of Matt Molloy on flute) and the reincarnation’s first album included perhaps the best-known result of Andy’s and Dónal’s Balkan interests, the 9/16 Bulgarian dance tune ‘Smeceno Horo’.

A key moment came in 1981 when Dónal (by then involved in the nascent Moving Hearts) and the future Riverdance creator Bill Whelan combined to compose Timedance, the interval entertainment for that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. As Andy puts it, “It had dancers, it had a drum kit, a bass guitar. It had chord sequences in the last part that Planxty would never even have dreamed of ten years before! It even had a Bulgarian 9/16 rhythm at the beginning of the second tune. With its archaic unaccompanied flat set of uilleann pipes in the first section, it wasn’t a bad musical history of Planxty and the music its members had performed.”

By then Andy had also released his debut solo album, Rainy Sundays Windy Dreams and, after Planxty’s seemingly final demise (reformed for a short time this decade, but never likely to play again), he embarked upon his most ambitious project so far. This was the band Mosaic which resulted from further Balkan ventures and involved singer Márta Sebestyén from the Hungarian band Muzsikás who also played gardón , Hans Theesink (nowadays regarded as one of the world’s finest blues guitarists), singer/bassist Lissa (from Denmark) and, initially, Scotland’s Dougie MacLean.

However, Dougie decided that the project wasn’t for him so, after an abortive attempt to involve Dolores Keane and John Faulkner, Dónal Lunny arrived on the scene, bringing with him the young uilleann piper Declan Masterson. The newly-fledged band embarked on a tour whose English segment resulted in fabulous reviews, but, in Andy’s words, ‘we were a very happy band but we had the sense to leave it at just the one summer! Still, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Márta playing the gárdon, a Translvanian percussion instrument that looks like a stone age cello, on sets of Irish reels!’.

While Andy’s solo career progressed during the latter half of the 1980s, a key musical moment occurred in 1992 with the release of the East Wind album, a collaboration with uilleann piper Davy Spillane. Produced by Bill Whelan, and featuring a feast of cross-cultural musicanship, this was undoubtedly the first (and probably the last) attempt to meld Bulgarian, Macedonian and Irish music together. Its cast included Nikola Parov, a multi-instrumentalist from Sofia (proficient on gadulka, kaval, gaida and bouzouki) whom Andy had previously met at a festival in Hungary. The album was critically acclaimed, but poorly bought. Subsequently, Andy, Nikola and Rens (who had played on Andy’s second solo LP Rude Awakening) toured Europe together as the East Wind trio.

During his solo career in the 1990s Andy often toured the US and it was during one of these trips that he met Bruce Molsky, a Bronx-born fiddler with an insatiable appetite for Appalachian music.

Little immediately accrued, but while touring Australia in the dwindling years of the last millennium, an idea suddenly struck Andy. “I do a lot of driving in Australia – I own a Land Cruiser out there. Driving really makes me use my brain and it suddenly came into my head that it would be great to do a tour of Australia with a band and that led to the question ‘What kind of a band?’. That thought led in turn on to Irish, Old Timey and Balkan music and then the people more or less picked themselves.

So, there was Bruce, Dónal, Nikola and Rens and Andy’s impetus to bring them all together – “I was the common link and knew everybody. I’d played with all of them in the past and had them kind of earmarked.”

The emails began to flow. As Bruce puts it “Andy contacted me with a very simple email in 2001, and asked pretty much ‘Hey, want to come to Australia and make a band?’ Well it was a bit more descriptive than that; the whole idea sounded mysterious and pretty exotic.“ Dónal, Rens and Nikola were equally receptive and the newly-formed band, henceforth known as Mozaik, first convened in Australia in March 2002. After just several days of rehearsal it embarked on a short tour whose results can be heard in the form of the album Live at the Powerhouse which, as all the bands’ members would probably agree, only partly encapsulates the unique instrumental configuration which trod the boards on those nights.

Subsequently, there was another Australian tour, one of the US and a couple of visits to the UK, but it was 2005 before this band of musical itinerants actually spent time in the recording studio. The result was the album Changing Trains, whose title relates only partly to two of its tracks, which was released only in Australia that year. Subsequently remixed, it’s now more generally available, though it’s an absolute mystery why a band of such calibre has to self-finance its own album.

The album’s ten tracks incorporate all the disparate elements that Mozaik’s members bring to the melting pot. There’s Andy’s self-composed songs (including ‘O’Donoghue’s’, his wonderful paean to the glories of Dublin’s most famed session pub in all its 1960s pomp and prime). Then there’s Bruce’s ‘Reuben’s Transatlantic Express’, reinvigorated by Nikola’s input of Rumanian rhythms. Add to that the eclectic ‘Pig Farm Suite’, first played at an Italian venue which was once a piggery, and the exceedingly rare sounding of a lead vocal from Dónal Lunny on the Donegal song ‘Siún ní Dhuibír’. The last time the Lunny larynx was heard on record was on ‘Bean Phaidín’ on the Planxty album The Well Below the Valley. Additionally, there’s ‘Sail Away Ladies’, first recorded by ‘Uncle Bunt’ Stephens in the 1920s and a wonderfully resonant version of the song ‘Reynardine’.

Nowadays Rens lives in Australia, Nikola in Budapest, Dónal in Okinawa and Bruce in Brooklyn, not forgetting Andy in Ireland. Bringing together all these disparate talents for a tour of whatever kind is a feat in itself, but, as Nikola comments ‘That’s the most exciting part of it, I think. From a practical point of view it’s hell. I mean, to organize a tour, schedule times and flights, it’s really difficult. But the freshness and the flash of creativity when we meet compensates for all the inconvenience. I can assure you I’m never bored.’

And neither should we be.

This article by Geoff Wallis originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2008 edition of fRoots magazine.