Profile: Andy Irvine


Andy Irvine has been at the core of many of the great Irish traditional groups, from the groundbreaking Sweeney's Men to the classic Planxty and more recently in Patrick Street. He has also had an extensive solo career and collaborated with Dick Gaughan, Paul Brady, Davy Spillane and others. He was born June 14, 1942 in London to a Scottish father and Irish mother. He followed his mother into acting at an early age, appeared both on stage and in a number of films and continued acting until 1964. His early musical interest included stage music from his mother's work and jazz. He learned to play classical guitar and joined the skiffle wave at about 15, then got interested in Woody Guthrie and traditional music in general.

In 1962 he entered into the emerging folk scene in Dublin, playing with the likes of Ronnie Drew, Johnny Moynihan and Luke Kelly. In 1966, after a summer of touring together, Andy, Johnny Moynihan and Joe Dolan formed Sweeney's Men. Their first release, the single "Old Maid in the Garret" went to number two in the Irish charts. Terry Woods (later of Steeleye Span and The Pogues) replaced Joe Dolan in 1967 and the new lineup recorded their one album, "Sweeney's Men".

He left Sweeney's Men in May 1968 to explore Eastern Europe. His classic "West Coast of Clare" was started just after their last gig, in Quilty, Co. Clare, the day before leaving Ireland, and was finished in Ljubljana. He busked around Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia for a year and a half, with mandolin and harmonica, picking up Balkan folk music and style along the way.

Returning to Ireland, he played solo and with Donal Lunny for the next few years. In 1972 he played with Christy Moore on his album "Prosperous". Four of the seven musicians on that album - Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Liam O' Flynn - went ahead to form Planxty, one of the most celebrated of Irish folk groupings. Planxty lasted until late 1975, with some changes: Donal Lunny left after "The Well Below the Valley" in July 1973 to be replaced by Johnny Moynihan and Paul Brady came in after Christy Moore left in 1974.

After Planxty broke up, he played and toured with Paul Brady from early 1976 to the end of 1977, recording one widely acclaimed album. He also toured Europe with Mick Hanly and continued his solo career.

Planxty reformed with its original lineup in late 1978, and recorded another three albums; by 1983 Donal Lunny and Christy Moore had left to concentrate on Moving Hearts, and after one final tour, Planxty broke up for the second and final time.

During this time he was also active in other projects. His first solo album "Rainy Sundays... Windy Dreams" was a critical and success, containing a mix of traditional Irish and eastern tunes, along with his own compositions. He also recorded an album with Dick Gaughan ("Parallel Lines") and was involved in other recordings (see above).

After Planxty's final demise, Andy briefly joined De Dannan before heading off to Eastern Europe again, founding a new multinational band, Mosaic, with members from Ireland, (Donal Lunny and Declan Masterson), Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Holand and Scotland. Despite a successful tour, Mosaic folded due to logistical problems, leaving Andy back on the solo life again. As well as his solo work, he toured with guitarist Gerry O'Beirne, the duo adding Kevin Burke and later Jackie Daly from De Dannan; with the replacement of Gerry O'Beirne by Arty McGlynn, this quartet became Patrick Street, which toured and recorded three albums between 1986 and 1989. That group was then put to sleep for a while, as it's members went off in separate directions.

For Andy, that time off gave him the chance to bring out another solo album, "Rude Awakening", full of his own songs celebrating various heroes and anti- heroes. He also went back to his Eastern European past in "East Wind" with Davy Spillane and both Eastern European and Irish musicians, playing folk music of Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Patrick Street reformed to produce "All in good time" in 1993 and toured in support of it, and are due to have a new album and tour in 1996.


Sweeney's Men:
1967    Old Maid in the Garret          Pye 
1968    Sweeney's Men                   Transatlantic 
1972    Planxty                         Polydor / Shanachie 79009
1973    The Well Below the Valley       Polydor / Shanachie 79010
1974    Cold Blow & the Rainy Night     Polydor / Shanachie 79011
1976    The Planxty Collection          Polydor / Shanachie 79012
1979    After the Break                 Tara 3001 / Shanachie (unlisted)
1980    The Woman I Loved So Well       Tara 3005 / Shanachie (unlisted)
1983    Words & Music                   WEA Ireland / Shanachie 79035
Patrick Street:
1987    Patrick Street                  Green Linnet 1071 
1988    No. 2 Patrick St                Green Linnet 1088
1989    Irish Times                     Green Linnet 1105
1993    All in Good Time                Green Linnet 1125

1972    Prosperous                      Tara
        (with Christy Moore and others) 
1976    Andy Irvine/Paul Brady          Mulligan / Green Linnet 3006
1980    Rainy Sundays...Windy Dreams    Tara / Shanachie  (unlisted)
1980    High Kinds of Tara              Tara / Shanachie (unlisted)
1981    The Gathering                   Greenhays
1981    Folk Friends II                 Folk Freak
1982    Parallel Lines                  Folk Freak
        (with Dick Gaughan)             Green Linnet 3201 (Cassette only)
1991    East Wind                       Tara 3027
        (with Davy Spillane and others) Green Linnet 3027?
1991    Rude Awakening (solo)           Green Linnet 1114
1998    Rain on the Roof                AK-1 (private label)



Some of his solo albums and all of his Planxty work are available online from CD Universe.

Copyright (c) 1993-1998 Ceolas.

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