Bringing Ireland's Past To Life

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Planxty was one of the top Irish folk bands of the 1970s and launched the solo careers of several of today's premier Irish performers. Christy Moore, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny started as members, as did Paul Brady, who plays two dates locally this week.

Although he is best known for his contribution to the world of Irish music, Brady's personal musical roots carry a much more diverse flavor. Brady was born in the 1950s in Strabane, Northern Ireland, and his first introduction to music other than traditional Irish was through his parents' enthusiasm for jazz and swing.

Then, as rock and roll developed in the '50s, giving way to the burgeoning pop music scene in the 1960s, the young Brady was exposed to a huge variety of musical styles. His heroes included Jerry Lee Lewis and~Fats Domino, and by age 11 he was teaching himself to play piano and guitar by ear, learning the popular hits of the time.

At age 16, Brady took a summer job playing piano at a hotel in Bundoran, a seaside resort town in nearby County Donegal. By the time he went off to college in Dublin in 1965, he was singing and playing guitar in rhythm and blues bands, performing cover versions of James Brown, Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry hits.

At this time in Dub1in, the first resurgence of public interest in Irish traditional music was happening, and bands such as The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners were gaining prominence. Brady ended up joining The Johnstons, with whom he recorded seven albums and lived in both London and New York. In 1974, he left The Johnstons and returned to Dublin, where he joined Planxty. It was in this band that he met Andy Irvine, and the pair recorded an album titled "Andy Irvine and Paul Brady" which Brady personally regards as his finest work. Irvine and Brady played for two years as a duo before going their Separate ways in 1978.

As a solo performer, Brady gained a reputation as one of Ireland's best interpreters of traditional songs. His version of "Lakes Of Ponchartrain" is still considered by many to be the definitive one. His 1978 solo album, "Welcome Here Kind Stranger," was voted Folk Album Of The Year by readers of the UK's "Melody Maker" magazine. Even after this achievement, Brady continued to develop his scope as a musician by venturing back into rock music for his 1980 album "Hard Station."

More than 20 years after going solo, Brady continues to delight and surprise his fans. His songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Santana and Tina Turner, and he has collaborated with such highly respected songwriters as Bonnie Raitt and Richard Thompson.

His most recent album, 2000's "Oh What A Wor1d," has been hailed by critics as one of his best. He still tours extensively and attracts a dedicated, worldwide following.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, January 23, 2003

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