This might well be his best solo album to date and stands alongside classics such as his album with Paul Brady, the Planxty albums and his two recordings with Mozaik.
Andy Irvine’s longstanding journey through music has been well documented, from his early skiffle days to O’Donoghues pub, set in 1960s Dublin, and his through his work with Sweeney’s Men, Planxty, Paul Brady and Patrick Street, not to mention countless other collaborations and four solo albums. This album, his fifth solo, has been a long time coming but when you consider the distractions; a widely publicised Planxty get-together, an incredible adventure with his world-folk ensemble Mozaik, regular Patrick Street sojourns and that endless trek around the world, you can excuse the delay.
Abocurragh (a reference to his residence outside Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh) is not just one man’s album; it is a gathering of great musicians and a dramatic journey for the listener. That journey somehow involves murder, confidence tricks, cannibalism, and the divil himself. But fear not, such macabre themes are offset with the loveliest of music, not to mention a brilliant wit.
Liam O’Flynn and Dónal Lunny weave richly arranged skeins of light through Irvine’s eclectic song choices, and Máirtín O’Connor adds the subtlest of patterns on box. Willie of Winsbury, revived from Irvine’s days with Sweeney’s Men, is a pitch-perfect reading of an epic saga laden with medieval drama (milk white steeds, prisoner kings, errant lovers, infinite riches). Irvine’s ageless voice alights on every twist and turn of the tale with an agility that folk interpreters would do well to note.
He's in fine voice throughout, his mandola, bouzouki and harmonica are as virtuosic as ever and the song selection is superb. This is a wonderfully varied collection, moving from stirring union songs like his own epic "Victory At Lawrence" to the rustic whimsy of "The Girl Of Cushenden" and on to the vast and brooding re-telling of "The Demon Lover" complete with a time signature that defies analysis and a stunning arrangement (courtesy of the album's producer, Donal Lunny, one suspects) involving strings and even an orchestral bass drum which still manage to complement, rather than drown, Andy's own playing. - breathtaking! He has managed to break new ground yet again with this album, whilst still staying true to the music and the causes he believes in - a rare combination!
At the helm is producer Dónal Lunny, one of Andy’s longest running musical partners since Planxty. If anyone knows their way around the complex psyche of Irvine songs and arrangements it is Lunny and an album that has, for all intents and purposes, being brewing for a decade, it would seem almost inconceivable not to have this man at the controls pulling it altogether.
An Andy Irvine album wouldn’t be so without the inclusion of songs relating to political corruption and the socialist struggle for equality. There is a triumvirate of songs included here which very much relate to this side of the artist. “Emptyhanded”, written by Greek songwriter George Papavgeris, details the plight of poor Australian farmers battling droughts and unsympathetic banks. The line “My savings went to buy this land but all it’s good for is to bury me” evokes the pure sadness of the song, the pathos further enabled by the soft, elegiac arrangement. “The Spirit of Mother Jones” is an original song telling story of militant agitator Mary Harris who campaigned for the rights of American mining families from the late 19th century to her death in 1930. An American style folk song where Andy once again calls on the strength of spirit of his lifelong hero Woody Guthrie. “Victory at Lawrence”, another self-penned tune, is a tribute to the Lawrence Mills strike of 1912, “nearly a watershed in the social history of the USA” had it not been for the Depression of 1913, unemployment and the inability of Andy’s beloved Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World) to motivate a strong enough union.
Some of the tracks on the album were long awaited to be released as they are part of his live repertiore for many years now, like "The close shave" or "The spirit of Mother Jones". But there are also lots of new songs and a newly recorded "Willy of Winsbury" (Remember Sweeney's Men?).
Undoubtedly “Never Tired of The Road”, Andy Irvine is back again and kicking scores!
Produced by Dónal Lunny
Musicians are :
Dónal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn, Máirtín O'Connor, Annbjørg Lien, Lillebjørn Nilsen,
Nikola Parov, Jacky Molard, Bruce Molsky, Rens van der Zalm, Rick Epping,
Graham Henderson, Paul Moore, Liam Bradley, Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton
Track list: (click titles for 30-sec samples)
1. Three Huntsmen MP3
2. Willy of Winsbury MP3
3. Emptyhanded MP3
4. The Close Shave / East at Glendart
5. James Magee
6. The Girl from Cushendun / The Love of my Life
7. The Spirit of Mother Jones MP3
8. Victory at Lawrence
9. The Demon Lover
1. Banks of Newfoundland
2. Oslo / Norwegian Mazurka
Andy will be performing some Gigs through Europe and back in Ireland fro December
Further info at www.andyirvine.com