Sunday 6 October 2013


Live Review

Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton

Folk and Irish music legend Andy Irvine, came to Wolverhampton before his next gig later this month as part of the LAPD tour which is (L)iam O'Flynn, (A)ndy Irvine, (P)addy Glackin and (D)onal Lunny in Sligo, Ireland.

Irvine, now in his 71st year, shows no signs of retiring which is great for those who enjoy his gentle and lyrical style of telling stories through his songs.
Right from the opening song, Creggan White Hare, Andy showed why he is a master of his craft when it comes to mandolin, guitar, mandola and harmonica.
Irvine's hands ride up and down the necks of his instruments with the enthusiasm of a child and the precision of a skilled engineer.
His distinctive and mellow voice which has that slight vulnerable warble in it carried off the many musical stories he brought for the set and if you weren't mesmerised by his hand movements then the gentle and mellow sound he creates would bring you under his spell. 
For You Rambling Boys of Pleasure there was more of his peaceful string play with his intricate and precise finger movements looking like one of those sped up, time lapse films of vines working their way up a trellis.
His wonderful voice, easy manner and luxurious playing brought stories from county Tyrone of characters such as Reynardine, who is half man, half fox with a particular eye for the young maidens, to life with his music.
It may seem obvious to say but, Irvine is at his best when he sings, which contrasts with his somewhat awkward, almost shy retelling of his exploits or the stories behind the songs as he sat surrounded by what looked like a mini Stonehenge made out of string instruments.
But his gentle and self-effacing humour comes across especially in songs such as Oslo, a story about his exploits in Norway which as you can imagine for an Irish folk singer who grew up around legends such as Ronnie Drew and "Banjo" Barney McKenna, involved a generous helping of booze.This time he produced a light hopping sound and the lyrics were loaded with his subtle humour.
His next song he had to restart after he realised he was in the wrong chord, which is reassuring for us mere mortals who are still coming to terms with their instruments, that even, after all this time of touring recording and playing, Andy Irvine can make mistakes.
Irvine makes no secret he is a massive admirer of  Woody Guthrie and spent many years almost as a tribute act singing Guthrie's songs with a spot-on American accent. What was even better, for the surprisingly sparse audience at the arts centre, was Andy's own distinctive voice put over The Rangers Command, while keeping Guthrie's dust bowl-style of playing.
One of the highlights of the night was O'Donoghue's, which not surprisingly is a pub in Dublin. It was an upbeat song which was almost like a history lesson of Irish folk music through the 60s where bands such as The Dubliners and of course Irvine, cut their musical teeth.
Another of the Guthrie-style songs was drawn from real life. 
The Spirit of Mother Jones was the story of an Irish immigrant from Cork who's life was blighted by tragedy and poverty. So she moved to America where she became one of the most feared women for her union and workers' rights activities.
Andy Irvine
Another emigration song was that of Edward Connors which gave Irvine another chance to impress and fascinate his audience with his intricate finger work along the neck of his mandola.
Without doubt the most amusing ditty was Close Shave, a cautionary tale for any man thinking of handing over his hard-earned cash to a woman of easy virtue. 
The wonderfully irreverent song was written by Bob Bickerton and Irvine used the opportunity to pull out a fantastic instrumental exit.
One of Irvine's staples, Sweet County Clare, is a homesick song which just showed how his soft tones harmonised perfectly with his fluid guitar playing.
There was more history and story telling with The Cumberland which was a ship which battled a Confederate iron-clad vessel during the American Civil War and was a song which just flowed like a musical poem and gave another opportunity for Irvine to show off his harmonica skills.
With Arthur McBride he really let loose with his harmonica and went for the big finish with his hands lashing at the strings of his mandola.

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