Ireland’s Traveling Son

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411


If you’re at all a fan of contemporary Irish music, then a trip to San Jose’s Espresso Garden this weekend or the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Tuesday will reap rich rewards for you, the reason being that Gerry O’Beirne will be playing there as part of his tour.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist O’Beirne was born in Ennis, County Clare, in Ireland. From an early age, he seemed destined to travel, spending part of his childhood in Ghana, West Africa. Since then, he has called several places home, including England, California and Mexico. Each of these, as well as his native Ireland, has had a profound influence on his music.

O’Beirne began playing guitar while he was living in London and working for a book publisher. Completely self-taught, he learned to play both 6- and 12-string guitars and, when he later returned to Ireland, found himself drawn to the traditional music scene there. He also began writing his own material, and in 1997 he independently released his debut CD “Half Moon Bay”.

“Half Moon Bay” has received much critical acclaim, deservedly so. Its 12 tracks include both songs and instrumentals. With minimal backing, O’Beirne displays both deft, sensitive musicianship and thoughtful lyrics delivered by a gentle yet highly expressive voice.

It comes as no surprise that O’Beirne’s work has been noticed by some of the top names in Irish music. Mary Black has recorded “The Holy Ground,” also on this CD, and used it as the title track for one of her own albums. Other artists who have recorded his songs include Maura O’Connell and Cathie Ryan.

“Half Moon Bay” was chosen as one of 1997’s best independent releases by Performing Songwriter magazine and also was on Folkworld’s top 10 albums for that year.

O’Beirne’s live performances have taken him around the world with many well-known bands and artists including the Waterboys, the Sharon Shannon Band, the Grateful Dead and Marianne Faithfull, for whom he played electric guitar. He also performed at the White House and last year appeared on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion.”

O’Beirne has several production credits to his name, including “Man in the Moon” and “Donegal Rain” for Andy M Stewart, and “Promenade” for Kevin Burke and Micheal O’Dhomhnaill. His most recent project has been composing and recording the score to “River Of Dreams,” an interactive DVD about the River Shannon.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, December 5, 2002

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