- 22 Oct 21
Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny revisited their 1973 album Planxty on Tuesday night, as part of the Up Close and Personal series at the Grand Social. The Up Close and Personal series is run in partnership by Hot `Press and Aidan Shortall of Up Close and Personal promotions, and is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
In 1973, Irish folk group Planxty released their eponymous debut album. Musicians Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Christy Moore and Liam O'Flynn transformed the landscape of Irish music, representing a pivotal moment in the evolution of Irish traditional music.
As part of the Up Close and Personal series, Irvine and Lunny revisited their legendary album, speaking with Hot Press' Pat Carty about their lives and careers leading up to – and beyond – the creation of Planxty.
Produced by Phil Coulter, who had a bit of a laissez-faire approach since the Planxty musicians had a clear-cut vision for their eponymous album, Planxty was a revolutionary album, sparking a wave of excitement in the Irish folk and trad community. As described by Carty, the work of Irvine and Lunny – and their Planxty cohorts – represented a "seismic shift" in the Irish folk idiom, due to their innovative mixing of ballads and tunes. For the musicians, however, the process was an organic one, driven by a love and passion for the music itself.
"I'm not sure that any of us really understood the success we acquired," said Irvine. "It's what we did."
"It's not that we had no control of it," added Lunny, "but it's what we loved."
Throughout the night, Carty guided the musicians through their careers, talking about how they got to where they are now. For Lunny, he discovered music alongside fellow Irish folk icon (and Planxty man) Christy Moore. During sessions at Pat Downing's, he found a like-minded community – and a new obsession.
"That's really where I developed a passion for traditional music," said Lunny about his times at Pat Downing's.
Elsewhere, Irvine was an actor in London, where he was born and had spent much of his childhood.
"I was a child actor, and I was very good," he admitted with a laugh. "I say that without conceit because all child actors are good."
When he finally moved to Dublin, he said that he "found the niche in life [he] was looking for."
After listening to the album's opening track, 'Raggle Taggle Gypsy', Irvine and Lunny began their first live performance, 'Arthur McBride'. From their seats on stage, the two men exuded a commanding presence and showcased their powerful musicianship. The song – by now an Irish folk standard – which expresses an anti-war sentiment, was greeted by huge applause from the crowd.
In between listens to 'Planxty Irwin', 'Sweet Thames Flow Softly' and 'Junior Crehan's Favourite - Corney Is Coming', the musicians discussed their times on the road, the introduction of the bouzouki into Irish music, and where the name 'Planxty' came from – though it seems that both Irvine and Lunny were unsure of the origin of the latter word.
"It could have derived from the word 'sláinte'," Lunny started to explain. "You grow into the name, and the name becomes novel."
'The West Coast of Clare' was the second track performed live, featuring delicate and precise backing on the musicians' instruments. With the audience hanging on every note, the song's deep emotions could be felt throughout the venue.
This was followed by the recorded versions of 'The Jolly Beggar - Reel', 'Only Our Rivers' and 'Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór.'
Though Planxty's 'Follow Me Up To Carlow' and 'Merrily Kissed The Quaker' went unplayed for time reasons – there was so much great conversation, the night flew! – the duo finished the evening with a performance of 'The Blacksmith'. The Eastern European-influenced track is unique in its time signature and quirks, highlighting Irvine and Lunny's incredible musicianship. Fingers were flying on both bouzouki and mandolin, the music filled with a passion that clearly hasn't diminished since the original release of the album in 1973.
The final song was greeted by a standing ovation from a raucous crowd, who were whooping, hollering and cheering for the legendary musicians, capping off another excellent night of the Up Close and Personal series at The Grand Social.
See more pictures from Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny: Up Close and Personal here.
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