Andy Irvine has been a major influence on traditional Irish music for more than three decades. A former member of Sweeny's Men and Planxty, the London-born multi-instrumentalist and vocalist has continued to extend the musical traditions of the Emerald Isle as a soloist, a duet partner of Dick Gaughan and Paul Brady, and a founding member of Irish supergroup Patrick Street.
The son of a Scottish father and an Irish mother, Irvine was inspired by his mother, an actress, to pursue a career in theater and appeared in numerous films and stage productions as a youngster. Music, however, had an even greater lure. After learning to play guitar, Irvine played in several teenaged skiffle bands, acquiring an interest in traditional folk and the songs of Woody Guthrie. Moving to Dublin, Ireland in the early '60s, Irvine became involved with the city's folk circuit, performing with Irish musicians including Johnny Moynihan, Luke Kelly, and Ronnie Drew. In 1966, after touring with Moynihan and Joe Dolan, Irvine helped to form the band, Sweeney's Men. Although they were together for only two years, the group sparked a revival in traditional Irish music and had two hits, "Waxies Dargle" and "Old Maid in the Garret."
Leaving Sweeney's Men in May 1968, Irvine spent a year-and-a-half as a street musician in Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia, developing an understanding of eastern European music. After returning to Ireland, Irvine played with Donal Lunny and Christy Moore. Following his participation in the recording of Moore's 1972 album, Prosperous, Irvine joined with Moore, Lunny, and Liam O'Flynn to form the trad rock band Planxty. Despite numerous personnel changes, the band continued to work together until late 1975.
In 1976 and 1977, Irvine worked with Paul Brady, with whom he recorded an album, and Mick Hanley. When the original lineup of Planxty reunited in 1978, Irvine rejoined the band. He remained with the group until 1983, when Lunny and Moore left to form Moving Hearts. With the breakup of Planxty, Irvine recorded his debut solo album, Rainy Sundays....Windy Dreams and a duo album with Dick Gaughan, Parallel Lines. In addition to performing briefly with De Danann, Irvine performed with Lunny and Declan Masterson in a multi-national band, Mosaic, that focused on traditional Eastern European music.
Irvine formed a duo with Gerry O'Beirne, which was enlarged with the addition of Kevin Burke and Jackie Daly of De Danann. After O'Beirne was replaced by Arty McGlynn, the band named itself Patrick Street and recorded three albums between 1986 and 1989. With the group taking a hiatus in 1989, Irvine recorded his second solo album, Rude Awakening, and the multi-artist compilation East Wind, a collection of Bulgarian and Macedonian tunes. In 1993, Irvine resumed his association with Patrick Street. ~ Craig Harris