At a concert in Dublin a couple of years ago Bob Dylan was heard to
ask "is Andy Irvine in the audience?". There are
few people who can do what Irvine does with a set of strings.
|Andy far left at the Cornish Arms
Inspired by Woody Guthrie, Irvine's music sweeps across the internationalism
of the old working class anthems to the exhilarating dance music
of Europe quintessentially captured in Paidushko Horo (Rainy
Sundays...Windy Dreams 1980) a Rumanian song collected by Bela
Bartok and transformed into a dance-song.
Irvine's 1976 collaboration with Paul Brady on Andy Irvine
Paul Brady in which he plays bouzouki, harmonica and mandolin
is as good as it gets. From the Plains of Kildare that
rollicking epic 19th century saga of horse racing on the high plains,
through the lilting anti-conscription ballad Arthur McBride
to the poignant selfless love of Streets of Derry, Irvine
and Brady miss not a beat.
Although best known for his work with the Christy Moore fronted
Irish band Planxty in the early '70s, Irvine brings a rare
beauty and sophistication to every performance. Aficionados
continue to marvel at his role in bringing the bouzouki mandolin
duet to the forefront of Irish music in the late '60s. That
music of such purity and unrivalled quality can be experienced in
venues such as the East Brunswick Hotel is nothing short
of a miracle.
Andy in Brunswick. Among the highlights was an epic narrative
to the IWW and Tom Barker written by Andy after reading the late
Ian Turner's Sydney's Burning.
Prime Minister Billy Hughes that "Little Digger" sod
He was elected by the workers and he thought that he was God
Says he for the mines in Broken Hill and the Queensland shearing
We'll introduce Conscription and get rid of all these Reds
O Billy was astonished when the Referendum failed
He rounded up the Wobblies and he filled up all his jails
With all the wealth and all his might he made a pretty show
But he couldn't get away with it when the People voted NO.
A cartoon in the Wobbly paper it had it cut and dried
It showed the rich man raking in the loot and the soldier crucified
And the editor he was thrown in jail and the working folks agreed
That they'd kick up bloody murder till they saw Tom Barker freed.
And the Sydney Twelve stood trial when some buildings were burned
And the evidence it was stitched up by Detectives for the Crown
And the brainless brutal jury found them guilty with a leer
And the Judge says I'll be lenient and give you ten to fifteen
It's instructive that no Australian has written such a tribute.
|Tom Barker is third from the left in the front row of this
photo reprinted in Turner's book.
|Planxty - Lunny, Irvine, O'Flynn, Moore, - returns to Dublin
- February 2004
Dear Phil, (August 7/2001)
Sorry to have taken such a long time to get back to you. A combination
of hard work and utter indolence... Yes, I'd love to talk to you,
(on the radio) you know I have this 'big band' coming to Australia
Myself, Donal Lunny, Nikola Parov--the great Bulgarian musician,
Bruce Molsky who is the finest old timey fiddle player I ever heard
and my old mate, Rens van der Zalm from Holland. We're calling ourselves
I'll send you the publicity stuff and a CD I made up of various
bits that we have recorded--never all together unfortunately--most
of the guys have never met each other yet! It should be a bit of
I'm down in Cork at the moment and then to Tullamore and Belgium
before I have a bit of time from next Monday.
I'd love to have a link on my site to yours. I'll get round to
it soon, I hope. Ashes tour is a bit of a joke so far isn't it?
IN JULY 2004 I SPOKE WITH ANDY ABOUT HIS MUSIC
PHIL CLEARY: Andy, you're been a regular visitor to Australia since
we first met at the Brunswick Musical Festival in 1990. What do
you think of the Australian political scene?
ANDY IRVINE: Along with most thinking Australians, I would like
to see the back of John Howard. I can't imagine what deal he cut
with Bush over Iraq. These things are still a mystery. I don't really
want to go into the Australian political scene though. I probably
don't know enough about it to pontificate. I do however know that
Howard and his cronies are the type of people who should never be
let near a seat of power.
The world is run by huge conglomerate corporations fronted by professional,
career politicians. It's not the way towards Democracy.
Their motto or complaint would surely be 'Democracy would be great
if it wasn't for the people.'
PHIL CLEARY: How would you describe your politics?
I am an Industrial Worker of the World. I'm an anti Capitalist.
I believe the working people should be better represented in the
world. I think it obscene that a few clever bastards who have a
good way with business should own so much more than they could ever
need. I also detest the current lottery systems of the world where,
by sheer chance, you can become a multi-millionaire when half the
world is on starvation rations.
PHIL CLEARY: Which Australian musicians have you met over the years?
ANDY IRVINE: Many. I like the music of Shane Howard in particular.
Also like a lot of the musicians on the folk scene in Australia.
Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton are one of the best duos I have heard
in recent years and I will have the pleasure of playing with them
in Ireland this summer. Their band 'Trouble in the Kitchen' is also
tremendous. I'm also very partial to Kevin Carmody. And of course,
not to forget, Steve Cooney who now lives in Donegal. A guru if
ever there was one!
PHIL CLEARY: You recently wrote and recorded a song about First
World War union man Tom Barker, who went to gaol for printing an
ANDY IRVINE: I am very interested in IWW history as well as social
history. Tom Barker was a man born of working class parents in an
era where his sort really had no chance. I have huge respect for
people like him who tried to do something about it. Not for themselves,
necessarily but for all downtrodden, hungry, out of work people.
PHIL CLEARY: Have you recorded or sung many pro-trade union songs
over the years?
ANDY IRVINE: A few. It is my intention to bring out a CD for next
year of trade union and socialist songs pertaining to the Industrial
Workers of the World. It is the centenary year of IWW and I will
donate most of the profits to that Union.
PHIL CLEARY: Many young people wouldn't know much about Woodie
Guthrie, yet he inspired Bob Dylan, you and hundreds of other singers.
Why did you fall in love with his words and music?
ANDY IRVINE: I found an honesty in his music which grabbed me.
I was aware of the fact that I was interested in music from an early
age but could not find a special interest. Then one day, I bought
an album Of Woody's. In those days such things were rare. As soon
as the first notes sounded, I was hooked! Amazing. I spent the rest
of my childhood and early youth trying to emulate Woody's guitar
style and Oklahoma accent! I still feel his influence in my right
hand when I'm playing the bouzouki and still agree wholeheartedly
with his social and political attitudes.
PHIL CLEARY:· It's probably fair to say that your career
blossomed when you joined the Irish band Planxty in 1972. Why was
Planxty so successful?
ANDY IRVINE: I think we hit a spot in the Irish soul that was waiting
to be hit. We got together again earlier this year and had the same
effect - and not just on people who knew us from twenty years ago.
A new and younger audience was also apparent.
PHIL CLEARY: Planxty performed again in Dublin in February this
year after splitting up twenty years ago. How was it?
ANDY IRVINE: Twenty one years. It was a huge success. It was also
a very humbling and emotional experience. We played, in the main,
the material we were known for but it all seemed so fresh and new.
A lot of people said that we were even better than we had been 20
years ago and I would agree with that. We are older and more mature
and are all working musicians. We didn't come out of retirement
or anything like that. The response we got so was the most rewarding
I can ever remember. We were loved! We are doing more gigs in Ireland
PHIL CLEARY: When will we see you again in Australia?
ANDY IRVINE: I will be paying a flying visit
Andy will be playing on election night ..9th - Saturday - Melbourne,
87- 89 Moor St.,Fitzroy, Vic
Bookings: 03 9415 9200