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 www.andyirvine.com