Through nigh on 50 years Andy Irvine has been a constant star in the firmament of Irish music. Many of us first came to know the legendary musician through Planxty, but those of us of a certain age knew him well before that through his work with Sweeney’s Men.
In that unit, Andy’s comrades were Johnny Moynihan and Terry Woods. Both gentlemen feature on this lively recording of Andy’s celebratory nights at Vicar Street in 2012, when a gang of friends and guests in various combinations – LAPD, Mozaik, Paul Brady, Donal Lunny - performed with the legendary balladeer.
“Only thing missing here is the audience of 1,000 people singing Happy Birthday to me!“ writes Andy in the liner notes. “That was very touching. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better 70th birthday experience.”
The immortal West Coast of Clare – simply one of the greatest love songs ever written - is there towards the end of the set list, which concludes with a version of the always spirited A Blacksmith Courted Me. Many of us first heard these songs on that first Planxty album, sometimes known as `the black album.’ My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland is also in there, another Andy classic that is uniquely his, bearing the stratum of all his musical experience, by way of a deeply touching ode to his native land.
What is Andy’s gift? It can be best evoked in the listener’s sense of one who is at ease with the traditional songs he is singing, be they of English, American or Irish provenance. Central to the gift is that oak-smoked voice and that lyric gift resplendent in his own vivid songs.There is an accompanying DVD featuring five extra tracks from the Vicar St celebrations, which is available from Andy’s website.
As long as Andy Irvine sings about his youth in Eastern Europe and the Balkans where he was inclined to ramble, as long as he invokes precious nights in O’Donoghues on Merrion Row, or recalls that moment he sat down in a pub in Milltown, he has the secret of eternal youth.