Album Review: The Masterful Irish Craft of Usher’s Island

Usher’s Island – Usher’s Island (Vertical Records, 2017)

Usher’s Island is a new superband that brings together some of the greatest contemporary Irish folk music musicians. Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny, Paddy Glackin, Mike McGoldrick and John Doyle have played with the most iconic Irish and Irish American bands: Planxty, Bothy Band, Lunasa and Solas.

The majority of the compositions on Usher’s Island are traditional songs and tunes rearranged by the band, along with a handful of originals by Usher’s Island members.

The way the album was made connects with Irish tradition as well. Mike McGoldrick bought a cottage in County Galway, western Ireland that had been used by musicians in the past to hold sessions. McGoldrick turned it into a recording studio for three days.

Throughout Usher’s Island the listener is treated to fascinating storytelling songs and delightful ensemble pieces with superb instrumental interaction and superb solos weaved in. Irish music at its best.

Personnel: Andy Irvine on vocals, mandola and harmonica; Dónal Lunny on vocals, bouzouki, baritone bouzouki, bodhran and keyboards; Paddy Glackin on fiddle; Mike McGoldrick on wooden flute, low whistle and uileann pipes; and John Doyle on guitar, bouzouki and vocals.

Usher’s Island features masterfully-crafted Irish music with dazzling acoustic interplay and exceptionally expressive vocals.

Buy Usher’s Island in Europe

Buy Usher’s Island in the rest of the world


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Sad News: Uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn dies

Liam O’Flynn was born to a musical family in Kildare in 1945
The uilleann piper Liam Óg O’Flynn has died. He had been ill for some time.He was well known as a member of the traditional group Planxty with Christy Moore, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny.O’Flynn also played on a number of best-selling discs, including the Brendan Voyage and Grainne Mhaol.

He was regarded as a master piper and a global ambassador for traditional Irish music.

O’Flynn was born in Kildare in 1945 to a musical family.

He gravitated towards the uilleann pipes and by 11 he was taking classes with the renowned Leo Rowsome.

He formed Planxty alongside Moore, Lunny and Irvine and they became an influential and innovative group.

They toured extensively and O’Flynn was able to bring his skill with the uilleann pipes to a worldwide audience.

Planxty broke up in the mid 1980s, but O’Flynn’s career continued to flourish playing with several famous musicians, including Kate Bush, Emmy Lou Harris and Mark Knopfler.

He also worked with composer Shaun Davey on the Brendan Voyage.

His expertise was extensive and he worked with orchestras, on film soundtracks and with poet Seamus Heaney.

The Arts Council has expressed its regret at the passing of O’Flynn.

Chair of the Arts Council Sheila Pratschke said: “Liam O’Flynn has left behind him an incredible legacy of music through his recordings, his careful support of other musicians and artists and his dedication to transmission of the great heritage of Irish music to future generations.”

Ms Pratchske said he had a huge influence on the artistic life of Ireland and was well known for his artistic collaborations with artists from other traditions and practices.



Arts and Media Correspondent

source: www.rte.ie

Interview: Musical tribute to heroes

Irish folk legend Andy Irvine (Planxty, Sweeney’s Men, Patrick Street) is coming to our pocket of regional Victoria to launch his latest album. Made in collaboration with Australian Luke Plumb, Precious Heroes is a tribute to his musical and political heroes who ‘‘stood up for the working people’’.

While the album cover is littered with the faces of trade unionists, rabble-rousers and singers, Irvine’s greatest musical influence — Woody Guthrie — is an absentee.

Irvine said for the first 15 years of his life he was looking for an unknown type of music which he could call his own. At this time, he said, rhythm and blues was enjoying a period of dominance before rock and roll took over, coinciding with the development of the 45 RPM record.

‘‘My friends all thought it was great . . . but it wasn’t me,’’ Irvine said.

‘‘Then I discovered Lonnie Donegan . . . and on the back of one of his EPs, it said the song was written by Woody Guthrie. So one day I was walking down in the West End of London, and there in a small shop was More Songs by Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston.

‘‘I bought it, took it home and put it on, and pretty much halfway through the first bar of the first song, I thought . . . I’d finally discovered the music I’d been looking for.’’

Fast forward to 2016 and Irvine, already a fan of Luke Plumb’s work as a musician, decided to enlist the Australian’s help as producer after appreciating his work in fine-tuning Declaration — the latest album made by Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton.

Irvine said Plumb leaped at the opportunity to collaborate and the pair went on to transform the house of a friend travelling abroad into something of a DIY recording studio.

‘‘We put mattresses up against all the walls and windows to deaden the sound and Luke and his computer and his microphones were set up and I played and sang into it, which is the way it is these days,’’ Irvine said.

‘‘Recording studios are slightly out of date, because you can record it yourself . . . if you’ve got good microphones, all you need to do is deaden the sound and it’s as good as a studio, except you’re not paying for it.’’

‘‘We recorded the songs there . . . and later he put on his own instrument, and then a couple of other people in different countries were added onto it. So you couldn’t say it was recorded in one place — it was recorded all over the bloody world.’’

Irvine said while his greatest musical influence has always been Woody Guthrie, he has never been able to write contemporary political songs like the American singer-songwriter.

‘‘It’s a shame . . . but I can’t do it . . . because you don’t know all the facts,’’ Irvine said.

‘‘So the songs that I write are about things that happened in the past, where nearly all the evidence you’re ever going to have is there. And that’s what a lot of these are — the strike in the coal mines in County Kilkenny and the Spanish Civil War.

‘‘It’s the same mix as the last few albums in that there are traditional songs and songs that I have written. But I do feel it’s a little bit further to the left than other albums, as a concept. I have never changed . . . but I’ve evolved at my own speed. I still have the same attitude to music I had all those years ago.’’

Andy Irvine and Luke Plumb are performing at Under the Sun Café in Strathbogie on March 17.

For bookings phone 0427 317 694.

Precious Heroes is out now.

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