Andy Irvine: Abocurragh

Irish singer and musician Andy Irvine has been a fairly regular visitor to Japan in the past few years, not least as a member of the eclectic world music band Mozaik which he founded together with another prominent name in Irish music, Donal Lunny. Now Irvine has a new album Abocurragh released on his own label, and it’s his first solo album since Way Out Yonder several years ago.

Now in his 60s, Irvine has been active on the music scene in Ireland for a long time and achieved fame as one of the original members of the band Planxty, reinvigorating Irish traditional music and introducing it to a wider audience many years ago. As well as the music he makes within the Irish tradition he also draws influences in his own songs from America, Australia and Eastern Europe. The new album includes an arrangement of the traditional song ‘The Demon Lover’ which has rightly been nominated in the ‘Best Traditional Track’ category at the BBC Folk Awards to be announced in February.

Other highlights of Abocurragh include Irvine’s version of the traditional ‘Willy of Winsbury’ which has been recorded by many others over the years, including by Irvine himself with Sweeney’s Men back in 1968. The tune was also used for Richard Thompson’s well-known ‘Farewell, Farewell’. ‘Emptyhanded’ is a heartbreaking song of exile and poverty which fits Irvine’s style perfectly but was in fact written by George Papavgeris. The album closes with ‘Oslo/Norwegian Mazurka’, the first part of which is an original song detailing the drunken exploits of our hero on a trip to Scandinavia. It features Annbjorg Lien on hardanger fiddles.

Fellow Planxty members Donal Lunny and Liam O’Flynn appear as musicians on the album. Lunny plays guitar, bouzouki, keyboards and bodhran, while O’Flynn adds uilleann pipes and tin whistle to great effect on a couple of tracks. Production was in the hands of Donal Lunny and his expertise contributes greatly to its success, allowing the musicians space to shine but never detracting from the warmth and expressiveness of Irvine’s vocals. At this late stage in the game Andy Irvine seems to have come up with one of his very best performances.

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