Monday, 30 April 2012

How Paul Brady got cool again

Paul BradyCover of Paul BradyPaul Brady has been in music long enough to know it's never plain sailing but he remains impressively cheerful about the whole business.

The Tyrone-born singer-songwriter, will be 65 next month and his new compilation album reflects the range of his work as a writer and musician (he also plays guitar, piano and whistle).

Brady says: "I am seen as something of the elder statesman now. Looked at retrospectively, my career has had its ups and downs."

He adds, with a smile: "The Irish are the first to diss their own as someone who has gone out of fashion but, I'm happy to say, it seems I am cool again. Maybe it's age, a sort of 'Leonard Cohen effect'. The good thing for me is that I have always had an audience. I think it's hard for some young musicians to make headway nowadays, because a 'showbusiness' approach is seen as a bit of an anathema. It's not rocket science. You need to project yourself and the people who have spent money on seats deserve to be entertained. That doesn't have to mean selling out."

The main reason Brady has a loyal - and expanding - audience is the quality of his albums. The first one I heard, back in 1981, was Hard Station, which was a memorable piece of work. New then to Brady's solo work, I wasn't caught up in any debate about what a radical departure it was from the traditional 'folk' sound of 1978's Welcome Here Kind Stranger.



Brady says: "Most of my regular audience at the time were not amazingly surprised because they had heard me doing some of the new songs - but the folk police in the UK were a little less forgiving. And the media in Ireland just wanted to automatically compare it to the old stuff. I had spent most of the 1970s recording and performing traditional songs and my journey into a more rock sound at that point felt a bit like bouncing on hot coals.

"That's when I wrote the song Dancer In The Fire, about a character afraid to dance in the fire. I guess, subconsciously, I may have been articulating some nervousness about change. People were surprised but, with hindsight, my decade in traditional music was the anomaly - a side line - rather than the core of my work as a musician. Anyway, these days music lovers among the public don't have a locked-up mentality where everything strand has to be categorised."

It's worth pointing out that in the 1970s Brady made some marvellous folk recordings - with Planxty and on his own - and his versions of Lakes Of Ponchartrain and Arthur McBride remain timeless classics. But his work since has always been interesting and challenging. His background wasn't one of hard-core traditional Irish music. His parents, both general primary school teachers, loved music and he remembers his father singing Victorian parlour songs. The young Brady, growing up in Strabane in the 1950s, also recalls the thrill of discovering the music of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and then The Shadows, with the instrumental playing of Hank Marvin.

Brady adds: "I started off with a band called The Johnstons but I knew I was never going to be a folk virtuoso - it was more that it was a rich part of my heritage. It did teach me how to become a singer and gave me my voice and style."

That voice and style is evident on the 19 tracks on his new Anthology called Dancer In The Fire. The songs range from lovely traditional folk (I Am A Youth That's Inclined To Ramble, featuring Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny); a rock song called Steel Claw that was a hit for Tina Turner; and also a bouncy cover version of the Hank Williams classic You Win Again. "You can't be in Ireland and not hear country music," he says.

There is also a different version of Crazy Dreams, a hit from Hard Station. Brady, who had trouble naturally selecting from 16 solo albums, adds: "Back in 1981, I wanted to use this demo but at the time I thought it seemed a little light and that I needed more gravitas. But with the benefit of hindsight, I thought it actually sounded quite fresh. I'm glad I changed the original title, though, which was something maudlin like Another Day Without Her."

The album also shows off the strength of songwriting that has seen his work covered by artists of the calibre of Maura O'Connell, Art Garfunkel and Bonnie Raitt.

When did he start writing songs? "I wrote my first song back in the early 1970s when I was playing in Johnstons. One or two, at most, stand up but I think I was still a bit of a callow youth. Hopefully I got better."

He occasionally collaborates, as he did with Ronan Keating, yet one partnership that has always intrigued me is with the American master John Prine. How did that come about?

Brady explains: "My song with John is a rather strange story. I rarely collaborate on a song and sometimes it works out that it's 90-10, 50-50, or 10-90 in terms of the lyrics. In the song Beautiful World, the idea came when I was at a party in John's house in Nashville. He was humming and whistling a tune and said he had got the melody but not the lyrics. I'd always loved the obliqueness of his lyric-writing and I wanted to try to enter John Prine's world and see what would come. When I sent him the words, he said he'd forgotten about the idea but joked that it was very nice to get a co-written song in the post."

Prine recorded the song on his album Lucky 13 and, when I suggest the Irishman made himself sound like Prine the songwriter, Brady replies: "That's pleasing because that was precisely what I was trying to engineer."

Brady's pretty content with his world. He has a son and daughter (who work in computer engineering and IT) and two grandchildren, and the elder statesman of Irish music is still game for touring. He goes on the road for a UK tour with his talented old friend Eleanor McEvoy ("now that's one powerhouse singer who works really hard," says Brady) before doing a 70th birthday concert with Andy Irvine.

Folk. Rock. Irish. Pop. Traditional. Soul. Who cares about categories? Just enjoy the dance, especially when Paul Brady is involved.

- Martin Chilton

© Telegraph.co.uk

How Paul Brady got cool again - Music, Entertainment - Independent.ie:

No comments:

Labels

accordion achill activities Affiliate Program Alan Kelly Alan Shatter Alasdair Roberts Alison Krauss All Ireland Fleadh Altan Andy Irvine antrim archive armagh Arthur McBride Arts Arts and Entertainment Arts Council Arty McGlynn Athlone Baltimore band banjo Bantry Barney McKenna Baroque music Bill Whelan Bluegrass music bodhran Bodhrán bouzouki brendan begley Brendan Dolan brian boru Brian Conway Brian Cunningham Brock McGuire Band bunsatty Caoimhin O Raghallaigh Cape Breton Castlebar Cathy Davey Cavan cd ceili Céilí Band Céilidh celtic Celtic music Celtic rock ceol charlie lennon Chicago chieftains christmas Christmas music Christy Moore ciorras clancy Clancy Brothers classes classical music comhaltas Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Compact Disc Compass Records concert concertina Concerts and Events Connemara Conradh na Gaeilge Cootehill cork Cork County Council Cork University Press Cormac De Barra County Clare County Leitrim Dáithí Sproule Damien Dempsey Dán Dance Dancing at Lughnasa Danny Boy danu Dave Swarbrick De Dannan Declan Sinnott Deezer Derry dervish dkit Dolores Keane Dónal Lunny Donegal Donegal Fiddle Tradition Donnacha Dennehy doolin drisheen Drogheda Drumkeeran drums Drumshanbo dublin Dubliners dun uladh Dundalk early music East Clare Ed Reavy Education Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin Eileen Ivers Eleanor McEvoy Electric Picnic emer mayock ennis European Union Fairytale of New York Feakle feis Feis Ceoil felix dolan festival Festivals fidde fiddle Fiddling Film festival Fleadh Fleadh Cheoil Fleadh Cheoil Competition Céilí Band Jig Comhaltas Fleadh Cheoil fleadh nua flute Folk music Folk music of Ireland folklore france outdoors Francis O'Neill Frank Harte Frankie Gavin frankie kennedy free download Gaeilge gael-linn Gaelic galway Galway Arts Festival galway bay George Bernard Shaw gig glor goodman manuscripts Grammy Award Green Linnet Records group Grouse Lodge Guinness guitar harp hinse history holidays hornpipe Iarla Ó Lionáird iPhone Ireland irish Irish American irish arts centre irish dance irish flute Irish language irish music Irish people Irish Recorded Music Association irish times irish traditional music Irish Traditional Music Archive irish whistle IrishCentral IrishTimes irishtune.info Israel itma Ivan Goff jack coen JAMES JOYCE James Joyce Centre Jig jigs Joanie Madden Joe Derrane John Carty John Doyle John McCusker John McKenna John McSherry john spillane John Wynne Julie Fowlis Junior Crehan Karan Casey Karen Matheson Kathleen MacInnes Kevin Crawford Kilfenora Kilfenora Céilí Band Latin America Le Vent du Nord learn Len Graham Leopold Bloom Lieutenant of Inishmore Literature Liz Carroll London London Irish Centre Lord of the Dance louisburgh lunasa Lúnasa MacTalla Mor Maggie MacInnes Máirtín Ó Direáin mairtin o'connor Máirtín O'Connor Malawi Mandolin Margaret Bennett Martin Carthy martin fay Martin Hayes Martin McDonagh Martin Quinn Mary Bergin Mary Black Maryland Massachusetts Matt Molloy mayo McMahon Merry Sisters of Fate Michael Flatley Michael Rooney Michael Tubridy Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin Micho Russell Mick Moloney mick o'brien milwaukee Monaghan Moya Brennan mp3 Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh music Music festival Music of Ireland Musical composition Natasha McShane Neil Young New York Noel Hill Northern Ireland npu NUIG o'carolan omagh Orkney Paddy Fahey paddy keenan paddy moloney paddy o'brien Padraig Rynne passionfruit theatre Paul Brady penny whistle pennywhistle Peter Horan Philadelphia Philip Duffy piano pipes Planxty podcast Poetry Pogues Quebec radio radisson Raidió Teilifís Éireann recording reel reels riverdance Robert Downey Jr Ronan Browne Ronnie Drew Roscommon rose of tralee rowsome Royal Irish Academy of Music RTÉ Concert Orchestra Ryan Molloy Saint Patrick's Day school scoil acla Scoil Éigse scotland Seachtain na Gaeilge Sean Nós Seán Ó Ríordáin Séan O'Riada séan potts sean tyrell Sean-nós song session Set dancing Shanachie Records shannon shannonside Sharon Shannon shetland show singer Singing Skara Brae Sliabh Luachra sligo solas Sorley MacLean st.patrick stephen ducke Streaming media Stuart MacRae summer school teada teetotallers tg4 the forge theatre Tin whistle Tommy McCarthy Tommy Peoples Tommy Sands Toner Quinn Town Hall Theatre trad trad music traditional Traditional Folk and Celtic Traditional music tradmusiconline.com tradschool trocaire Tulla Tulla Céilí Band tune makers tunepal tutorial tv uilleann pipes Ulysses University of Limerick vallely Van Morrison venue Vermont video Violin W. B. Yeats Waterford westmeath whistle willie Willie Clancy Willie Walsh workshop workshops world fleadh