Although Andy Irvine (ex-Sweeny’s Men, Planxty, Patrick Street, Mozaik) has been one of Ireland’s folk luminaries for quite a few decades his solo output has been relatively sparse, which would make his first new album in over ten years special even if it weren’t so impressive. The album title refers to Irvine’s place of residence in northern Ireland and it’s also the place where the album was produced by Donal Lunny, one of his partners from Planxty. Irvine is a very compelling singer and mandola and harmonica player and, he’s well served by Lunny (guitar and keyboard), Mairtin O’Connor (accordion), Liam O’Flynn (uilleann pipes and tin whistle) and various non-Irish guests, including Annbjorg Lien, Bruce Molsky, and others.
Although most of the songs are drawn from the traditional repertoire, Irvine also sings a plaintive “Emptyhanded,” a George Papavgeris song about the hardships faced by ex-convict farmers who were some of Australia’s early settlers. As befits a lifelong devotee of Woody Guthrie, Irvine has added two powerful new songs to the topical canon, namely “The Spirit of Mother Jones” and “Victory at Lawrence,” the first more or less self-explanatory, the latter a song about the Lawrence (Massachusetts) Woollen Mills strike of 1912 that nearly became a watershed event in the social history of the USA. Another standout track, “The Demon Lover,” received a nomination for Best Traditional Track at the recent BBC Folk Awards.
—Paul E. Comeau (Comeauville, NS, Canada)