Irish Examiner

Irish Examiner Review – Andy Irvine at Cork Folk Festival 2017

Crowd soaks up sweet sounds at Cork Folk Festival opening night


THE two Irelands met a few hundred yards from each other near the South Main Street, Cork last night, where a 1,000-year-old Viking weaver’s sword was recently discovered by archaeologists at the historic site of the former Beamish and Crawford brewery.

But they might well have been thousands of miles apart.

The first gig of Féile Chorcaí saw the high king and high queens of Irish folk music, Andy Irvine, and Tríona and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill take to the stage at Triskel Christchurch for a classic opening to the 38th Cork Folk Festival.

The width of a street away, an altogether different cultural and musical experience was in full flow outside two of the city’s nightclubs. What a contrast. One venue oozing history, the other oozing histrionics. But life goes on, and so did the music.

Sitting in the balcony of a Triskel venue, also steeped in history, directly under a memorial to one Major Arthur Gibbins, Kings Dragoon Guards, of Glenburn Glanmire, who died on the march from Meerut to Agra in India on October 27, 1881, age 35, we were insulated from the outside world, transported away from Trump, Rocket Man, Syria, threatened strikes and a weary world as the Ní Dhomhnaill sisters took us on an altogether harmonious journey to Gaoth Domhair, Tory Island… and Cahersiveen for a beautiful rendition of a song their mother, from Doneraile, loved dearly, (The Boys of) Barr Na Sráide.

This was an opening act that filled you with the final rays of autumn warmth, enough to keep you ticking over ’til the approach of the tinsel and toasts of Christmas, with ‘The False Fly’ and my favourite, ‘Do You Love and Apple’, among the many songs to warm the cockles and muscles of the heart.

The old pews and creaking wooden floorboards were soaking up the sweet sounds. And so were we.

Then up stepped Andy Irvine: “It’s lovely to be here, lovely to be anywhere, said the 75-year-old as he launched into what appear like mini novels, ‘When The Boys Are On Parade’, ‘The Three Huntsmen’, ‘You Rambling Boys of Pleasure’, ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’, ‘Prince Among Men’ and ‘Houdini’, with guitar and bouzouki finger work that would still give anyone a run for their money.

Then came ‘that’ special song he wrote while in a hospital bed, following his near drowning accident in Australia. “Your life flashes before you. I was amazed how much I had forgotten… and out of that brilliant mind came ‘My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland (in the sweet County Clare). It brought tears to one American visitor’s eyes, it’s not hard to see why.

“The Close Shave’, drew howls of laughter for the lyrics about a gold digger in Down Under who gets off with woman, only to wake up the next morning to find all his gold gone. “Why did she need the wig? Why did she need to shave? It’s then the truth it struck me, in a fit of blinding rage. Her hair as yellow as the gold she stole from me and you’.

Then it was back to Cork to honour a woman of altogether different morals. “I can’t come here without singing this song”, he told us … and out came The Spirit of Mary Jones, about the Leeside-born woman who organised American union workers.

Irvine was on fire as the night drew to a close with The Blacksmith, which brought the house down. “My mother says I have to leave stage and then come back for the encore. I never had the confidence to do that,” he said as he finished up with ‘As I Roved Out’, aptly followed by the final song of the night from his all-time hero, Woodie Guthrie, ‘Never Tire Of The Road’.

Just like that Viking sword unearthed this summer, the Ní Dhomhnaills, Irvine, Cork Folk Festival organisers William Hammond and Jim Walsh, and a myriad of volunteers, proved once again what national treasures they are. And when it come to Irvine, you know what they say… the older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.

Friday, September 29, 2017 - Eoin Edwards

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Irish Examiner Review: Planxty – Between the Jigs and the Reels

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ed Power


Planxty are one of those seminal Irish acts doomed to bask in an aura of reverence while remaining essentially obscure to all but a tiny subset of the listening public.

They placed a rocket under the trad scene in the 1970s, imbuing their old-timey sound with psychedelic and British folk revival influences. Yet their accomplishments were quickly overshadowed as frontman Christy Moore went solo (his singer-songwriter incarnation actually predated Planxty, assembled to provide backing for his second album).

Dónal Lunny and Andy Irvine, the band’s instrumental engine room, would meanwhile go on to rewarding careers of their own (most prominently with Moving Hearts), and Liam O’Flynn would also become the most famous uileann piper on the planet.

A new overview of their accomplishments, may go towards restoring the group to the prominence folk purists agree they deserve.

What’s immediately striking is that tension that defined with work, with whipsmart instrumental pieces such as ‘The Blacksmith/Blacksmithereens’ and ‘Timedance’ suggesting a fusion of session music and progressive rock, and the more direct ‘The Cliffs Of Dooneen’ foreshadowing Moore’s subsequent incarnation.

There were excursions, too, into Dubliners-style urban folk, as best demonstrated by the hard-bitten, pipe-driven ‘Pat Reilly’. Between the Jigs and the Reels is a fascinating collection, by turns melancholy and rambunctious and, 40 years on, the music’s rebellious swagger endures.

This was the sound of four young men deconstructing a genre and rebuilding it from the ground up — and sounding as if they were enjoying every moment of their unlikely and tragically short lived odyssey.


Andy Irvine is still going strong into his seventies | Irish Examiner

Thursday, February 05, 2015

By Gerry Quinn

HE MAY have been 72 by the time it hit the record stores, but Gerry Quinn says musician Andy Irvine is justifiably proud of the CD and DVD of his 70th birthday concerts in Dublin’s Vicar St.

For the recording, the indomitable folk-singer brought together, over two nights, bands and performers with whom he has been associated to perform a pair of remarkable gigs.

The concept was to gather the various bands of which Irvine has been a member, starting with Sweeney’s Men. This was a trio that comprised Andy, Johnny Moynihan and Terry Woods. “Next up was one of my favourite bands, Mozaik, featuring Dónal Lunny, Rens van der Zalm, Bruce Molsky and Nikola Parov. Then, we had the incomparable Paul Brady, who was in fantastic form over the two nights,” says Irvine. “I’ve never seen him as ebullient. Paul is ebullient at the best of times, but he was super-ebullient on those nights.”

Featured on the Vicar St recordings are rousing versions of ‘Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore’ and ‘Mary and the Soldier’, both originally heard on Irvine and Brady’s seminal album from 1976, Andy Irvine and Paul Brady. LAPD, a quartet of Irvine, Lunny, Paddy Glackin and Liam O’Flynn closed out the concerts on both evenings.

“Unfortunately, LAPD is no more,” says Irvine. “We have changed into Usher’s Island, which is a new band that Dónal, Paddy and myself have formed with Mike McGoldrick and John Doyle — I might even have a 75th birthday bash,” he laughs.

Brought up in London, with an Irish mother from Co Antrim, Irvine began as an actor with the BBC Radio Rep, before coming to Dublin in 1962. “When I came to Ireland, I discovered a whole bunch of people — a whole kind of society of people who were into the same kind of music I was into. But, also, they had the same attitude as me to society and life. I hadn’t come across anything like that before. In London, there weren’t many people I could feel that content with, the way O’Donoghue’s became the centre of my world.”

Irvine is referring to the famed music pub on Dublin’s Merrion Row. On the album’s liner notes, he writes: “It was my epiphany and I spent my days and nights there, following the musical track that has led me onwards ever since.”

His epic song, ‘O’Donoghue’s’, is one of the many fine tracks featured. “But I’m not sure it conveys the excitement and the thrill of almost discovering a new planet,” he says. “When I came over first, I hung out in Neary’s on Chatham Street. I was an actor and that’s where the actors were to be found. But when I went to O’Donoghue’s, I immediately abandoned Neary’s. I continued to act, because it was the only way I had of making a living.

“But in O’Donoghue’s I was immediately made welcome by Paddy O’Donoghue. There were lovely people there, who welcomed me and excited me and entertained me. I was never made to feel happier in my whole life that in that bar in the early 1960s,” says Irvine.

Irvine’s proclivity for touring and travelling is legendary. But has his wanderlust diminished in recent years?“I would love to say it has, but it hasn’t,” he says. Recent gigs with Sweeney’s Men have been followed by more rehearsing and gigging with Usher’s Island. There are also plans for a new album by Mozaik, followed by further concerts.

“All this stuff is happening and it’s fantastic. I’m 72 and I’m still right in the middle of some of the best music available,” says Irvine.

Andy Irvine’s 70th Birthday Concert At Vicar Street 2012, featuring Sweeney’s Men, Mozaik, LAPD, Andy Irvine and Paul Brady, is out now. See

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Archive: Interview – 2011 – Irish Examiner USA

A Rare Visit From Andy Irvine

Tuesday October 11, 2011
A Rare Visit From Andy Irvine

andy's web promo photo

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. (more…)

Irish Examiner Interview

Andy Irvine’s soundtrack to a road trip

Andy Irvine recorded his new album while camping in the Outback, says Gerry Quinn.

FOLK musician, Andy Irvine, has called his latest album Parachilna, after a country town in south Australia. It is a collaboration with Rens Van Der Zalm, of the band, Mozaik, and was recorded during a road-trip through the Outback in the bitter winter of July 2012. 

The ten tracks were recorded in historic woolsheds, shearers’ quarters and abandoned schoolhouses. 

Irvine, the founding member of seminal folk bands such as Sweeney’s Men, Planxty, Patrick Street and Mozaik, is touring Australia and New Zealand until March. He says of the record’s genesis. “We made a decision, Rens and myself, to travel to the Outback and make the album. And it is what it is,” he says. “I’ve been playing with Rens for about 30 years or so, and we had a repertoire and we learned a few more songs. The album is half-and-half (Irish and Australian songs) and we recorded 15 or 16 tracks. So we still have four or five out there, so maybe we’ll make another album next year. But the actual journey was more important that the recording.” 

Despite a career spanning 50 years, Irvine is not slowing down. He loves the road and the travelling. “I’ve been coming to Australia for about 30 years and I really love it, because of its size. I have this mad thing about driving long distances. I should have been a long-distance driver really,” he says. “I enjoy the travel, the journey, the change of scenery — just the whole thing of travelling is so important to me. I’m lucky I can do it. I bought a Land Cruiser some years ago, in Perth, and I drove it back to Melbourne. It took me a week and I just loved it.” 

While recording Parachilna in the wilderness, Irvine and Van Der Zalm camped, and kept warm by building fires out of old railway sleepers. 

Luxury was not an option on this trip and Irvine reveals some of the hardships. “The days were rarely warm and the nights were bitterly cold. ‘Dressing for bed’ involved putting on a thermal vest, thermal leggings, thick socks, being fully dressed with a woollen coat, woolly hat and warm gloves,” he says. 

Even so, Irvine is preparing to explore Australia’s vastness once more, in the near future. 

“We’re planning another trip later this year,” he says excitedly, in the manner of a schoolboy about to embark on a lifetime adventure. “I was just sitting here with a couple of friends, wondering where we will go. It’s such a big country that it takes you a week to get to the place you want to be and another week to get back.” 

As part of this antipodean tour, which began in December and continues until mid-March, Irvine has played to audiences big and small. 

“I’ve just done a festival in Illawarra, which is about 80km south of Sydney. It was great,” he says. 

“It’s such a lovely festival. I have a following and they come to my gigs and that’s good enough for me. If I had a few more thousand people, I’d be a bit richer,” he laughs, “but I love the people who love me.” 

When the musical troubadour returns in the spring, he has a full schedule of gigs in Ireland, the UK and the US, before returning to Australia once more. 

Andy Irvine’s new CD, Parachilna, is out now and he plays a series of solo Irish gigs in March to promote it. Further information:

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