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ANDY IRVINE Abocurragh

AK Records  AK3

Despite the 10-year gap between this and his previous solo album, Abocurragh sounds like quintessential Andy Irvine, from the opening drone to the final fiddle flourish, neither of which of course have anything to do with him. With accompaniments by an international roster of Irvine’s friends from his other projects such as Planxty and Mozaik, and with Dónal Lunny producing, the album was recorded over 10 months in Dublin, Melbourne, Budapest, Brittany and Norway. The songs are of course a mix of the beautiful and the meaningful, Child Ballads snuggling alongside socio-political tracts, all sung in that delightful lilting tone and played with gusto.

The gorgeous Willy Of Winsbury is a nod to the past in more ways than one, as he played it on the first Sweeney’s Men album, a mere 42 years ago. The song never fails to enthral me and Irvine’s performance is excellent. George Papavgeris’s Emptyhanded, about the misfortunes of Australia’s convict settlers, the self-penned Victory At St Lawrence, which tells the tale of a US mill strike in 1912, and the trad arr James Magee alike benefit from sympathetic arrangements, passionate singing and virtuoso playing.

But Irvine is not complacent. The Demon Lover, with its appropriately haunting setting, has a mesmerising rhythm and textures that get right under the skin, is quite modern in its feel yet sits comfortably on the album.

Tracks 10 and 11 are identified in the informative sleeve notes as Encores 1 and 2, a nice touch to finish off a fine album.

Graham Gurrin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 87 of The Living Tradition magazine.