1975 – forerunners of Ireland’s dynamic trad-folk movement of the early 70s Planxty has imploded. Paul Brady had joined the band to replace the departing Christy Moore.
It was to be an exciting twist for Ireland’s most exciting band – a new powerful voice to bolster the ensemble’s incredible momentum. But sadly Brady never got to record with Planxty. Fatigue and financial difficulties brought the band to a standstill.
“It was a great relief,” admits Andy Irvine. “We adjourned to Madigan’s pub in Donnybrook. We drank to the demise of Planxty, looked at each other and said, ‘’So what do we do now? Since Paul and myself had struck up a particular friendship we decided to stick together and become a duo.”
Together Andy Irvine and Paul Brady made an eponymously-titled album, released in 1976 on the thriving Mulligan Records label. Today, nearly 40 years later, it stands as one of the most vital documents, not just of Irish music, but international folk music of any era. It is as close as perfection gets, a moment in time, beautifully captured, framed with a timelessness that still bewitches new listeners today. It is basically two of the greatest interpreters of the Irish folk song, side by side, relishing in this magical musical chemistry. They were accompanied by the great fiddler Kevin Burke and Dónal Lunny of Planxty and The Bothy Band, who also produced the album recorded in Wales.
“Paul and myself, with Dónal and Kevin Burke, made our only album in Rockfield Studios in August 1976. I think I can speak for both Paul and myself, when I say that we are very proud of this album. It takes a long time to be at a distance from something you recorded and listen to it dispassionately. When I hear that album, I can say it's good without fear of being thought of as conceited. I now hear it objectively, almost as if it was someone else. That was a great time and I look back at those days as being among my best musical experiences. Nobody who was at those Festivals, like say, on Sherkin Island in '76 and '77 will ever forget them.”
The album contained some of the songs and tunes which inevitably would have been recorded for the next Planxty album had they not disbanded. It opens with the fiery Plains of Kildare, fuelled on a galloping Bulgarian rachenitsa rhythm. Elsewhere they draw songs from the Sam Henry collection, Brady sings the beautiful Lough Erne Shore, learned from Paddy Tunney (son of the great Brigid Tunney), as well as reels, jigs and a hornpipe. Irvine contributes his self-penned Autumn Gold, a poignant recollection of his times spent in Eastern Europe in the late 60s.
Paul Brady’s version of Arthur McBride sits as a sort of centre-piece to the album, a monumental seven-minute folk ballad that can bring a room of any size to a standstill whenever it is performed. Even Andy Irvine, who had sung his own version of the song on Planxty’s seminal debut album had to hold his hands up! “I always remember the first time I heard it in a Donegal pub. I was blown away as everybody has been since!”
2017 marks the 40th Anniversary of this much loved document. The duo, accompanied by the musicians who helped them make the record back in 1976, will unite once again to bring this timeless magic to the folk connoisseurs of Ireland, young and old.
Paul Brady and Andy Irvine will be performing at the Millennium Forum on 25th May and tickets go on sale from the Box Office on Friday 18th November at 9am priced at £36.00