I should say that Andy Irvine Paul Brady has been on my (very long) bucket list for many years. I saw Andy Irvine only once back in the 80s and I was bowled over. I bought several of his later albums but this was either unobtainable or too expensive back then. Now however, Compass Records have produced a deluxe edition and I have finally got my hands on it. This edition presents it faithfully, remastered from the original analogue tapes. It’s not been padded out with dubious outtakes and demos and all the original artwork is reproduced – including a facsimile of the original label decorating the CD – although the notes that were on the back cover are a bit of a strain for these old eyes. The only addition is a lengthy, informative essay on the making of the album by Gareth Murphy.
Irvine plays bouzouki, mandolin, hurdy-gurdy, guitar and harmonica while Brady plays guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, harmonium and whistle. If that’s not enough, Donal Lunny adds guitar, bouzouki and bodhran and Kevin Burke plays fiddle – that’s quite a band. Irvine and Brady share lead vocals.
It’s just possible that you are unaware of Andy Irvine Paul Brady, after all it’s forty-five years old now, but it’s inconceivable that you don’t know some of the songs and tunes. The album opens with ‘Plains Of Kildare’, a variant of ‘Skewball’, sung by Andy followed by ‘Lough Erne Shore’, a song of unrequited love at first sight with Paul taking the lead over hurdy-gurdy. I always feel that there should be a fifth verse to resolve the story but, sadly, there isn’t.
The band get together for the first instrumental set ‘Fred Finn’s Reel/Sailing Into Walpole’s Marsh’ followed by a song of love and soldiering, ‘Bonny Woodhall’, which originated in Scotland. There is a version in which the young soldier survives but this isn’t it. The song which originally closed the first side of the album is Paul Brady’s solo take on ‘Arthur McBride And The Sergeant’, which is rightly held to be pretty definitive – hear it for yourselves.
The second side opened with ‘The Jolly Soldier/The Blarney Pilgrim’ and then comes the album’s oddity; Andy Irvine’s ‘Autumn Gold’. It’s another song of unrequited love – at least on this occasion – but I know I invite opprobrium by saying that it feels out of place. In ‘Mary And The Soldier’, the soldier tries to persuade Mary not to follow him to the war and fails; in ‘The Streets Of Derry’ the heroine saves her lover from the gallows and in ‘Martinmas Time’ she gets the better of an entire troop of soldiers – a sort of mass ‘Broomfield Wager’. Who says feminism is a new concept?
Andy Irvine Paul Brady is one of the milestones of traditional music and I chastise myself for not acquiring a copy sooner. Old it may be but it’s still superb.
Label website: https://compassrecords.com/
‘Arthur McBride And The Sergeant’ – live: