- 19 Dec 19
A man who mixed traditional music with rock 'n' roll to often stunning effect, Arty McGlynn was one of the finest guitar players of his generation in Ireland. He will be sadly missed.
The death of the great Irish guitar player Arty McGlynn (pictured with Nollaig Casey) was announced today, at the age of 75.
Arty McGlynn was born in Omaha, Co. Tyrone in 1945. His family was a musical one, and so it was natural that young Arty was encouraged to play by his parents. Like his father, he played accordion until – at the age of eleven – his mother bought him his first guitar. He never looked back.
He played jazz and rock ’n’ roll, learning how to play steel guitar along hte way,before returning to his first love, traditional music. He made his reputation mainly as a side-man and accompanist but in 1975 he released McGlynn’s Fancy, which was widely acclaimed. He worked with almost all of the leading figures on the Irish folk and trad scene, including on the seminal Paul Brady album Hard Station. He played on three Van Morrison records, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, Avalon Sunset and Days Like This, and on Enya’s The Celts.
He was a member, variously, of Planxty and of Patrick Street – the latter alongside Kevin Burke, Andy Irvine and John Carty. And he also worked with his wife, the revered fiddle player Nollaig Casey, on four albums Lead The Knave (1989), Causeway (1995), The Music of What Happened (2004) and Traditional Irish Jigs, Reels and Airs (2005) – the latter a re-release of the 1989 album. They also worked on music for films together, featuring notably on both Hear My Song (1991) and Moondance (1995), for which they performed a traditional version of the eponymous Van Morrison classic.
Other artists he worked with include Liam Og O’Flynn, Christy Moore, Frankie Gavin, Four Men and a Dog, Christy Moore, Fiachra Trench – and far too many more to list in full here!
He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from TG4 in 2016. Arty is survived by Nollaig Casey and their five children.
The Causeway album, by Arty and Nollaig, was reviewed in Hot Press by Colm O’Hare. This is what he had to say:
Reflecting the disparate backgrounds of these two exceptionally able players, Causeway is evenly divided between up-tempo instrumental pieces with a full rock backing and more conventional, traditionally arranged tunes and songs.
Guitar player McGlynn's jazz and R&B leanings are reflected in the title track, a rollicking instrumental with guitar, fiddle and Hammond organ, laid over a propulsive rockabilly rhythm. 'Cabbage and Cale' is a Neville Brothers-style funky blues with a similar instrumental overlay - plus the addition of Brendan Power's adept harmonica-playing to create a thrilling effect. A lazy JJ Cale groove permeates 'Commanche Moon', while 'Jack Palance's Reel' sees McGlynn plucking his Telecaster like a demented Nashville picker - on Guinness!
Offering a complete change of pace, 'Seo Leo Tholl' is an enchanting lullaby sung by Casey and showcasing her colourful, resonant voice. Likewise with the treatment given to the popular emigration ballad 'A Stór Mo Chroí' and 'Dún Na Sead', a more atmospheric piece with a fuller orchestral effect.
The cinematic 'Rainy Summer' could easily be from a Neil Simon film soundtrack, while the closing track 'Fort of the Fairy Queen' reveals Casey's richly expressive fiddle-playing on an uplifting, dynamic and highly satisfying piece. An album of two parts – and one that might upset some of the purists (if any still exist) – Causeway succeeds in taking a refreshingly loose interpretation of Irish music and blending it with outside, mainly American influences. Very effectively too."