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 Guthrie.
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 A-growin
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 Hanly
Chapter 6: Planxty Reforms
Chapter 7: Planxty Postscript; Mosaic
Chapter 8: Birth of Patrick Street, Solo Tours
Chapter 9: East Wind, Australia to Present Day
Andy's Instruments :
My main instruments have been made for some years by Stefan Sobell in 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 new "top".
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 down.
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 bouzouki.
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 in G.
I am currently using a Highlander pick up in one of my Sobell bouzoukis. In the other and in a Sobell mandola, I am using K&K pick ups. with many thanks to Dieter. The new Yairi has a Fishman Matrix. I have no idea which is better... -Andy writes in December 2013-
Andy's journal :
June 2012 - The Woody 100 Concert
June 2012 - Andy's 70th Birthday gig at Vicar St.
November 2011 - Andy Irvine & Paul Brady
April - May 2005 -
December 2003 - Travel diary - Andy in Australia
November 2003 - 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
The 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 Brady
Photos, review and set list from Celtic Connections
February 2004 Planxty re-union concert at Vicar Street, Dublin
Photos by Paul O'Grady and by Kate Akers
Audio archives :
Video segment (8 MB) -- Planxty performing "Yarmouth Town" from a late 1970s BBC broadcast (thanks to Anselm Gaynor!)
Audio (MP3 1.2MB) -- Andy performs "Arthur McBride" with bouzouki and harmonica -- pulled from a video of a PBS broadcast
Audio (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.