ANDY IRVINE is one of the great Irish singers, his voice one of
a handful of truly great ones that gets to the very soul of Ireland. He
has been hailed as "a tradition in himself".
Musician, singer, songwriter, Andy has maintained his highly individual
performing skills throughout his 45 year career.
From Sweeney's Men in the mid 60s, to the enormous success of Planxty
in the 70s and then from Patrick Street to Andy Irvine &
Dónal Lunny's Mozaik, Andy has been a world music pioneer and an icon
for traditional music and musicians.
As a soloist, Andy fills the role of the archetypal troubadour with a show
and a travelling lifestyle that reflect his lifelong influence, Woody
To quote the Irish Times, "Often copied, never equalled", his
repertoire consists of Irish traditional songs, dexterous Balkan dances
and a compelling cannon of his own self-penned songs.
Andy's History :
Chapter 1: 21 Years
Chapter 2: Dublin in the Early 1960s
Chapter 3: Sweeney's Men
Chapter 4: The Balkans to Planxty
Chapter 5: End of Planxty, De Dannan, Paul Brady, Mick
Chapter 6: Planxty Reforms
Chapter 7: Planxty Postscript; Mosaic
Chapter 8: Birth of Patrick Street, Solo
Chapter 9: East Wind, Australia to
Andy's Instruments :
My main instruments have been made for some years by Stefan Sobell
Northumberland in the North of England.
After playing bouzoukis, mandolas and mandolins made by him, about twenty
five years ago, I decided I wanted a rounder, warmer sound for my bouzouki
and we came to the conclusion that a bigger body was the answer. Rather
than have a very large tear drop shaped body, I opted for the guitar shape
which is easier to hold. A lot of people who do not know me
think it's a guitar, unfortunately!
Well, I suppose it could be called an eight string guitar! (Maybe if I
called it that, I might get booked at Guitar Festivals...?)
Very little remains of the original Greek bouzouki but it has four courses
of double strings - like the modern Greek bouzouki and was originally
based on the Greek bouzouki, so we still call them bouzoukis (except when
Greeks are present...!). I tune it GDAD.
I also play a mandola made for me by Stefan about thirty years ago
(tuned DAEA). It has recently undergone a re-building programme. Namely, a
Any instrument takes a while to recover from such interference, especially
having a whole new sounding board. It has made a pretty quick recovery
though and is back at the head of the queue!
While I was waiting for it's repair which took nearly a year, I played
another Sobell mandola that I had traded a Sobell mandolin for, with Jimmy
Crowley. It filled in but I was always on the look out for a better
replacement and had mandolas made for me by Davy
Stuart in New Zealand, Fylde
instruments in UK and Trillium
Instruments in New Hampshire, USA. All very good and well made instruments
and if I'm playing near home, I bring one of them for the couple of songs
I still use DAEB tuning on, rather than tune my Sobell top strings up and
An instrument that I really love is my "bassouki". Made for me
by Davy Stuart in New Zealand, it's a regular bouzouki shaped bouzouki but
by stringing it .056/.042/.032/.018 (unwound). I am able to tune it down
to CGDG (or CGDA when playing "The West Coast of Clare"). I use
a Sunrise magnetic pick up on it and it has really great bass.
I also like to play an octave mandola made by Fylde. This is tuned GDAD,
the same as the bouzouki. I like to play it open for songs in G and D and
it has octave strings on it which give it a very different sound to the
Recently, following the lead of Dónal Lunny, Rens van der Zalm and Nikola
Parov, I commissioned a bouzouki-shaped bouzouki from the famous Japanese
guitar makers - K.Yairi.
Ogawa-san and his colleagues who built it, spared no effort to make it a brilliant
instrument. It is so beautiful to look at, I hardly can believe my eyes
when I take it out of it's case. It sounds great too and I am practicing
hard to get used to its slightly thinner neck.
I get my harmonicas specially built by Antony
Dannecker of Lincolnshire, UK. He uses Hohner parts and his own
ingenuity and I am currently using his Dannecker Blues harp, though I have
to ask him to put different cover plates on, so that it will fit into a
harmonica holder. I use a harmonica holder that I have had for over 50
years! God knows how I never lost it! It was given to me by Rambling Jack
Elliot at the time I was learning how to play. He also gave me the crucial
information that Woody Guthrie used to play the harp upside down!!
Apparently so did the southern blues players of that period. There is no
dis/advantage in this but I'm glad I learned to play it upside down like
Woody! Jack played it the normal way...
I also have a few old favourites like the Suzuki Pro Master 350V harmonica
I am currently using Highlander pick ups in my Sobell bouzouki and
mandola. The new Yairi has a Fishman Matrix. I have no idea which is
writes in October 2012-
Andy's journal :
- The Woody 100 Concert
June 2012 - Andy's 70th Birthday gig at Vicar St.
- Andy Irvine & Paul Brady
April - May 2005 -
December 2003 - Travel diary - Andy in Australia
- Travel diary of Andy and Rens' trip to South America
March 2002 - Notes from a
scrubby hotel: Mozaik in Australia
From the archives :
November 2009 Dónal Lunny's interview
Irish Times interview with Dónal Lunny about Mozaik tour
June 2008 ZoukFest follow-up
Interview with Roger Landes, director of ZoukFest
Blog entries from Chris Smith, a ZoukFest participant
January 2008 Classic Album Concert : Andy Irvine and Paul
review and set list from Celtic Connections
February 2004 Planxty re-union concert at Vicar Street, Dublin
Photos by Paul O'Grady and by
Audio archives :
segment (8 MB) -- Planxty performing "Yarmouth Town"
from a late 1970s BBC broadcast (thanks to Anselm Gaynor!)
(MP3 1.2MB) -- Andy performs "Arthur McBride" with
bouzouki and harmonica -- pulled from a video of a PBS broadcast
(MP3 1.6MB) -- Andy performs Nancy's Whiskey with hurdy gurdy and
harmonica (same PBS broadcast)
Want to contact Andy directly? You can use
this form to send a note straight to him.