The Irish Times – Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Andy Irvine and Paul Brady
Greek tragedy, Napoleonic wars, Louisiana bayous and kitchen sink dramas.
Such is the stuff of life in the worlds of Andy Irvine and Paul Brady.
Punters had waited 35 years to hear much of this repertoire, drawn from their landmark 1976 eponymous album.
And judging by the pair’s own delight in revisiting their picaresque past – and the warmth of the reception afforded them by a packed venue – the wait was more than worth it.
Irvine and Brady had ventured to test drive this album back in 2008 at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections.
Their tentative rendering of much of its more circuitous arrangements was an object lesson in the hazards and dangers of conjuring the past, particularly when that past contained such musically and technically complex material.
On Friday night, though, the pair had reacquainted themselves with every single chord change and hairpin bend rhythm, careening across each one with the supreme confidence and thrill of Olympian athletes whose long-held aptitude for brilliance was reignited.
Back in the day, Paul Brady admitted that Andy Irvine’s affection for calculus-like Balkan rhythms was a source of envy for many of his Planxty peers (including Brady), but these days, Baneasa’s Green Glade – with all its wild and errant pulses – was precisely the challenge that the pair relished, together.
Irvine’s hurdy gurdy wove a loose canvas beneath a sheaf of songs and Brady’s voice soared, belying his six-some decades on this planet.
Even his very occasional faltering steps were greeted by the pair with wry smiles, as they criss-crossed a musical landscape peppered by such gems as Bonny Woodhall, As I Roved Out and Arthur McBride .
A standout was The Plains Of Kildare , where the interplay on the bridge between guitar and bouzouki was more challenging than much of what has been produced by traditional musicians over the intervening three-and-a-half decades.
Still vibrant – and hungry for music whose rule book Irvine and Brady have re-written yet again.
‘Hooba Dooba’ **** 9th Mar 2010 Niall Stokes
Folk veteran returns with career-best album
How do we end up where we are? Can we be more or less than the sum of our experiences or is that thought just a conjuror’s illusion? Why is it that some people get better at what they do as they grow older and others shrink? Do we play a major part in shaping our destiny or is it all just luck and happenstance?
Well no and yes and yes and no. There is certainly an element of fluke to what becomes of us. Paul Brady says so himself in ‘Luck Of The Draw’, a song which will already be familiar to Brady-watchers from the Bonnie Raitt version. It concerns the lost souls, the wannabees that haven’t made it, but are still scratching around in hope, personified in the shape of a bar waitress, who’s writing screen plays on the side and dreaming still of the big break.
On one level, it is a tune of hope and defiance. There is nothing worse than giving in, nothing less edifying than resigning yourself to mediocrity – especially since the margin between success and failure is often so painfully thin. Everyone in Hollywood is an actor or a screenwriter and, given how many bad movies are made, it stands to reason that for every shit script that gets turned into a film, there’s a dozen better ones that have been passed over or ignored. Sometimes, after all, it really is just a question of getting a half decent break, of being in the right place at the right time. But what if you’re dealt nothing but bum hands? “These things we do to keep the flame burning,” the slightly world weary narrator observes, “And write our fire in the sky/ Another day could see the wheel turning/ Another avenue to try/ It’s in the luck of the draw, baby/ The natural law…”
But of course it is more than that. Forget about success or recognition for a minute. What you create as a writer or a musician is a function to some degree at least of the work that you put in, of how well you learn the ropes, and of the extent to which you successfully master your craft. It doesn’t mean that the graft is always going to be fully appreciated or feted. But if it is there in the work itself, there is no gainsaying it. This much Paul Brady understands. You can hear it in every choice of chord, in every melodic twist and turn, in the measured words, carefully considered and weighed for effect.
Hooba Dooba, his first album since 2005’s Say What You Feel, is an ambitious record. It deals in the big themes: love, faith, destiny, money, politics and death. But more than that, perhaps, it is a craftman’s tour de force, a vibrant statement of songwriterly intent from an artist who has achieved a mastery of the grammar of popular music and is capable of marrying that to fine lyric writing and superb musicianship. The result, with Brady’s hand written all over the instrumentation – variously playing acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keyboards, organ, harmonica, mandolin, bouzouki, percussion and loops – is at once deft, fascinating and hugely impressive.
The album opens on an upbeat note with ‘Cry It Out’, a soul-based rocker with a contagious riff, that gets things off to an impressive start. ‘Rainbow’ keeps the energy flowing, a superbly arranged, infectious Hawaiian flavoured pop song that only starts to really infiltrate the subconscious after ten spins, but is worth persisting with.
But it’s on the third song in ‘The Price of Fame’ that the bar is significantly raised. There’s a Dylan-esque feel to the delivery of the opening lines, which are most reminiscent of the maestro in his Street Legal era. Co-written with Ronan Keating, it is a fine song, with a great melody, superbly framed by an arrangement that draws the maximum drama from the story of a love that can’t survive the pressures of life lived under the spotlight. Garth Brooks could have a huge country hit with it.
‘One More Today’ is a beautiful love song. Listening to it, the first reaction, is to ask: who is that? Burt Bacharach, Randy Newman and David Ackles spring to mind, but of course it is Paul Brady singing what has all the hallmarks of a beautifully romantic black and white movie theme song, surrounded by well judged strings courtesy of Fiachra Trench, and musing contentedly on the good fortune that true love truly represents. “One more today,” he sings, “With your fingers in my hair/ One more today/ To hear your laughter in the air/ A miracle of love that moves me/ More than words can say/ Now and forever/ Now and forever.” Miracles do happen.
It’s back to a soul and funk groove for ‘The Winners Ball’, a track that confirms what many may feel is Brady’s unlikely mastery of the idioms of black music. ‘Follow That Star’ is swampy and Creedence-like, a bluesy howl of warning to those who are permanently in need of instant gratification. And, on a similar theme, ‘Money To Burn’ offers a jaundiced view of the machinations of the privileged elite, bankers among them perhaps, who are presumptuous enough to imagine that the world owes them a living. “When you gonna realise how lucky you are?” Brady demands. “You could be an infant junkie screamin’ for more/ Or clingin’ to a refugee boat waitin’ offshore/ Knowing that your owner keeps every penny you earn/ ‘n’ all the people you meet every day are the tricks that you turn/ All I hear is one white male with money to burn/ And a whole lot to learn.”
In a pleasantly unexpected interlude, Brady dips into The Beatles’ back catalogue for ‘You Won’t See Me’, from the wonderful Rubber Soul. It starts as a folksy version, that
– brilliantly arranged and executed – revs up into something bigger that’s beautifully customised for radio play. With the right kind of support it could be a hit; the only question is are our programmers sufficiently alive to see it?
On ‘Over The Border’ Paul goes where so many others fear to tread. Mixing American, Irish and Arabic inflections in the music, he paints an idyllic picture of what life might be like in some Utopian future; perhaps, though, what he is really talking about is death. He carefully and powerfully rejects, equally, first US imperialism and its poisonous effect on world politics, and then the putrid Islamic extremes with which we have all become too familiar over the past twenty years. “You can keep your holy Jihad/ Your fatwa on the infidel,” he declares, “Fantasise the world will heed your call/ Segregate your men and women/ ‘scuse me while I sing this song/ None of that makes any sense at all…” Far too many others shirk from saying it.
The album closes with ‘Living The Mystery’, a beautiful thought and a wonderful title that is finely distilled in a Jackson Browne come Eagles-style West Coast country-rock ballad that evokes the effects of quietly sipping a mellow 18 year old whiskey.
But my favourite track right now is ‘Mother and Son’. In terms of the melody and the feel, it recalls Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s ‘Talk To Me Of Mendocino’. Rooted in folk music, it is a beautiful song that reflects on the journey from childhood to responsibility – and from responsibility back to a different kind of dependency. “Mother and son/ Who can foretell the mystery to come?” he asks.
And then he proceeds to unravel it as best can be done.
“Her dreams grow dimmer now,” he sings. “The years have claimed their toll/ A child once more, she waits/ For peace of mind to fall.” A pervasive sense of loss is evoked, an awareness of the terrible march of time and the inevitable command that mortality exerts over human affairs. He weaves the imagery till we know that we are snared, till we see ourselves finally “Tied to the beat of the ancestral drum/ Nowhere to run/ From mother and son.”
It’s one of those songs that makes you wonder: why did no one write it before?
Hoooba Dooba is packed with great songs. Which ones will still be being sung in fifty years times remains to be seen – for that is in the nature of things. But it is enough to speculate that some of them certainly will. This is by far Paul Brady’s most assured and deepest album since the seminal Hard Station. But give it time: we may yet conclude that he has finally eclipsed that extraordinary record.
Paul Brady, Hooba Dooba (Proper)
(Rated 4/ 5 )
Reviewed by Andy Gill
Friday, 12 March 2010
Paul Brady is the singer-songwriter’s singer-songwriter, arguably held in higher esteem by peers such as Dylan, Carole King and Van Morrison than by the general public. Hooba Dooba is a typically assured set, opening in surprisingly funky manner with the gurgling clavinet and soulful organ of “Cry It Out”, Brady advising blasphemy when dealing with the pain of failed love.
“Rainbow” continues the Little Feat-style country-funk progress, with Jerry Douglas’s lap steel gliding through its genial romance, before Brady essays the first of the album’s piano ballads with strings, “One More Today”. At the heart of the album is a sequence of songs about ambition and destiny, with “Luck Of The Draw”, the love-lottery rumination he wrote for Bonnie Raitt’s album of the same name, bookended by the rolling groove of “The Winner’s Ball” and the cautionary tableaux of gamblers, sex addicts and businessmen eager to realise their dreams in “Follow That Star”. Subsequently, “Money To Burn” chides wealthy white males for their churlish complaining, before “Over The Border” takes pot-shots at both sides of the current religious war, Brady yearning instead for peace and mutual respect, where right-thinking folk would surely join him.
Download this Cry It Out; Rainbow; Luck Of The Draw; Money To Burn
The Irish Times – Friday, March 19, 2010
Hooba Dooba, Proper ****
Apart from a bus pass, age has other compensations. The edge of ambition and the need to succeed take a back seat to more relaxed passions. As he heads towards his 63rd birthday, Paul Brady has never sounded more assured or at peace with his forever conflicting self. There are a few anthems on Hooba Dooba , classically big pop songs such as The Price of Fame (a collaboration with Ronan Keating), but this collection seems more a personal journey – and and not just the way he addresses Alzheimer’s in Mother and Son . As Brady says on his revealing blog, “I’ve arrived at a point where I’m really afraid of no one, and feel the equal of anyone at my game”. As such, his own measured production, the song selection, the playing and the pacing strike a balance between the ballad and the boisterous, between the sensitive and the commentary. I’d guess that Brady is very happy with Hooba Dooba – and he’s entitled to be. See paulbrady.com
Download tracks: The Winners’ Ball, Mother and Son, Money to Burn
SUNDAY 14th March 2010
Paul Brady (Proper Records)
For so long one of the “nearly” men of the
Dublin rock/folk scene, Brady’s 40 years of
songwriting expertise shines through here
in a clutch of quietly compelling songs. The
calypso-flavoured Rainbow could have been
lifted straight off Clapton’s ‘There’s One In
Every Crowd’, ‘The Price Of Fame’ is careworn
and oddly affecting and ‘One More Today’ the
sort of show-stopping piano ballad other
writers would die for. He’s a little too eager to
play the middle-aged troubadour at times but
at its best Hooba Dooba is outstanding.
Proper Records, 12 Tracks
On this album Paul Brady returns to his rootsy rock form, it’s a welcome home old friend recording. The album is due for an Irish release on March 12th, (it will be in UK distribution three days later).
Late last year he re-released Welcome Here Kind Stranger, which in the jigsaw of his career can be seen as the album that took him to the end of his traditional Irish ballads road in 1981 and from where he took the crossroads towards something more electric, more American in its outlook. Dig deep into Brady’ history, (he has mentioned Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Ray Charles as his favourite singers when he was growing up), you’ll see that 1981 turnpike was actually the road home. He started at 16 playing American blues in Hotel bars in Donegal and now he’s back with an album full of swamp stomp, slidey guitar and punchy toe tapping rhythms, chirpy on Rainbow, more melancholy on The Price of Fame (which is a big orchestral production), which is his retrospective look at what is lost when fame tears us from the friends and lovers who didn’t take the journey with us. Luck of the Draw considers the sacrifices artists have to go through before they hit a decent pay day, with a warning that the price of fame is dependent on the toss of a coin or a roll of the dice. I got the feeling that these are not just songs, but they contain a narrative truth that is wrought from Brady’s life story.
His interpretation of the Lennon and McCartney You Won’t See Me has an acoustic Wings feel to it. Fans will spot the influences of earlier work, track 11 Over the Border would not have been out of place on Hard Station. At 62 he sounds as fresh as he did when he sang Crazy Dreams almost thirty years ago. The full production CD looks like it will be a big music event in Ireland and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the full metal jacket.
Art of any kind doesn’t come easy, you have to put the time in to get this good or as he says himself in track 5, “you have to earn your invite to the winner’s ball.” No wonder Paul Brady has a permanent front row seat in the Irish music winner’s enclosure.
THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW
March 20th 2010
Paul Brady, one of Ireland’s most successful singer-songwriters, left his home town of Strabane in 1964, the first of many departures from his comfort zone. Since then, he has walked away from financial security, from the folk music scene, and from political orthodoxies. But he finally seems at ease
IT BEGAN when he was 11, and his father asked him whether he’d prefer a guitar or a harmonica for Christmas. He chose the guitar. Thus did Paul Brady step on to the path that would lead to him becoming one of Ireland’s most celebrated singer- songwriters. He has created more than his fair share of iconic songs – Hard Station, Get Back to the Centre, The Island, Nobody Knows, Crazy Dreams, Busted Loose and Steel Claw . Many have been covered by such stellar artists as Tina Turner, Cher, Carlos Santana, Art Garfunkel and Phil Collins. And he’s not done yet. This month sees the release of a new album, Hooba Dooba . A toe-tapping collection of strong tunes, smart lyrics and effortless hooks, it finds Brady in first-class form; and the title offers a clue as to his current state of mind, both in music and in life. You don’t go calling an album Hooba Dooba unless you’re at ease with the world and at ease in your own skin.
“It’s a total mish-mash of everything I’ve always loved,” says Brady of the album, as he removes the teabag from a mug, adds milk and hands over the resulting brew. It’s early in the day for a rock star to be up, let alone doing interviews, but he has already, he tells me with a serene smile, been for a swim. No slacking for this sixtysomething, clearly. In the spacious, well-equipped recording studio in the back garden of his house in south Co Dublin, guitars jostle with music stands and microphones. Behind the massive mixing desk I can see the winged shadow of an open grand piano.
On Hooba Dooba , Brady plays a dazzling array of instruments: acoustic and electric guitars, percussion, organ, mandolin, bouzouki, piano, electronic keyboards. He has come a long way since he and his father headed off to make that all-important first purchase in Strabane in the winter of 1957.
“Not many people had guitars in those days,” he observes with a bleak grin. “I was one of the first people in the town to have one. It was a steel-string guitar, but the tutor book we bought for it that day was for a Spanish gut-string guitar – and it was for classical playing. I struggled for weeks with this book and I just could not make head nor tail of it. So eventually, I just threw it in the corner and said: ‘Right, I’m gonna have to learn this myself.’ ”
He makes it sound almost ludicrously easy; and it becomes plain, as he talks, that his 30-year career has seen him negotiate one similarly vertiginous learning curve after another. Several of those new songs – including The Price of Fame , co-written with Ronan Keating, and Luck of the Draw , written for Bonnie Raitt – are rooted in the shifting realities of a life in music. But, as he points out, they apply to the changing dynamics at the heart of all human relationships.
“You could be working in an office with somebody, and then one person is plucked upstairs,” he says. “They’re suddenly in a different stratum entirely and, well, what happens there? I’m interested in that. I’ve always hated the notion of fame, in a way. But I know that you almost can’t have success in the music business unless you have a certain amount of fame.”
Another song, The Winner’s Ball, is a mischievous comment on the current pop-culture obsession with celebrity and overnight success. “Looking around at music at the moment – The X Factor , and the way people are prepared to sit up all night listening to someone sing a version of a song which isn’t nearly as good as the original version – it’s all a bit comical to me,” Brady says. “I’m not annoyed by it at all. It’s quite funny, actually. The idea that if you put on the right shirt, it’s gonna happen.”
He chuckles at the idea that clothes might make the musician. But then, he adds, he’s biased. “I was never fashionable anyway, in terms of image, or whatever. I had no image. When you see some of the early videos of me – the stuff on YouTube – the state of me! I mean, really. There’s one with me doing Busted Loose in RTÉ and I’m wearing this, kind of, striped jacket.” He shakes his head in mock-despair. “Visuals were never my strong point.”
Words are a different matter. The song Mother and Son explores the delicate theme of parent-child tension. Brady wrote the first few lines of the lyric nearly 15 years ago, but was able to finish it only after his mother died. Even now, he says, it’s a subject he finds hard to talk about. “I loved my mother. And I’m sure she loved me. I did not want the song to be full of pain or full of recriminations or anything – because whatever I might have felt at times in our relationship, I certainly don’t feel that now. I was trying to be as tender as I could be.
“But I also wanted to love the little person that I was, too. It wasn’t an easy relationship. It was just . . . difficult. I think we were both similar, in ways. And I suppose I needed a lot more than I got, there.”
BRADY GREW UP in a three-storey terraced house at 20 Church Street, Strabane. His parents were both primary-school teachers. “We lived in Strabane simply because the Border was there,” he says. “The river that flows through the town is the Border – and on the other side was Lifford .”
His father cycled to school in the Republic; his mother drove with young Paul to Sion Mills in her little Morris Eight. She taught in a mixed-religion, mixed-sex school founded by a local Quaker family. For Brady, the result was what he calls a “dual-culture upbringing”. “It was fundamentally different across the bridge, in the Republic. It felt different. Strabane was quite polarised at the time, politically and religious-wise. It still is.”
In 1956, following the IRA attack on the RUC barracks in Co Fermanagh in which Sean South was killed, the tanks moved in. “It was weird,” Brady says. “The Cyprus thing was still going on. And suddenly all these armoured cars arrived in the town square outside the police barracks – but they had desert camouflage on them. This was the funniest thing we kids had ever seen. But you weren’t allowed to get too close, in case you’d be spying for the Fenians. ‘Don’t let them fellas near them tanks now, or they’ll be telling the Fenians’ – that’s what the other kids would be saying.”
But he has plenty of happy memories too. Summers were spent in Bundoran, where his father would often be “called upon” to perform. “From a very early age I would watch my father holding a room totally in the palm of his hand. He loved big ballads like The West’s Awake and La Paloma – and he used to do monologues. But not the ‘dah-dah, dah-dah, dah-dah’ kind of thing that people would learn off by heart. He imbued them with such drama – I mean, you really believed everything he was saying. He had a repertoire of ‘turns’. It’s a bit like now I have a repertoire of songs, and there are some big ones that people want to hear all the time. With him, people wanted to hear Little Rosa or The Face on The Bar-Room Floor . When I perform now, or even when I write, I tend to put a character in a song, and then when I sing the song I try to become the character. And I definitely got that from my father.”
In 1964, Brady headed south to study French and Irish at University College Dublin. The city was buzzing with rhythm and blues bands, all seeking to emulate the success of The Animals, The Rolling Stones and The Spencer Davis Group. “A whole rash of them came out all over Dublin,” Brady recalls. “Beat groups, they were called at the time.”
Within two years, he had moved in and out of three bands – The Inmates, The Kult and Rootzgroup – playing music by Chuck Berry, James Brown and Ray Charles. Then, in the final year of his college course, a letter arrived to his parents from the UCD registrar, revealing the awful truth about his lack of attendance at lectures.
“I went through this charade of leaving the bands,” Brady says. “But the folk boom had started, and folk clubs had opened up all over the place, so I started going to those and playing acoustic blues.”
He never did get his degree. But he got friendly with a musician called James Keane, brother of the fiddle player from The Chieftains, Seán Keane. “He was the one who opened the door to traditional music to me,” Brady says. “It was like opening a room inside myself that was always there but that I just wasn’t aware of. I felt instantly familiar with everything in there – and for the next 12 years, I didn’t come out of the room.”
He joined one of the most successful folk bands of the time, The Johnstons, and toured all over the UK and in the US. In 1978 he released a solo album called Welcome Here Kind Stranger , which won an award from Melody Maker magazine for Folk Album of the Year. Musically, it seemed he had found his niche. Not only that, but he was making a good living – enough to keep a wife, two small kids and a mortgage in reasonable comfort. And then he heard a song called Baker Street . “I knew the singer, Gerry Rafferty, very well,” says Brady. “He used to play with Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey in a folk group called The Humblebums. We’d meet them at festivals all the time.” With its languid sax intro, sophisticated production values and contemporary confessional lyrics, Rafferty’s hymn to urban disaffection threw Brady into a musical spin. “It was a huge development in popular music, as far as I saw it, and it just floored me,” he says.
He realised that rather than singing traditional songs such as The Lakes of Ponchartrain and Arthur McBride , he needed to be writing his own songs, which would express what was happening in contemporary Ireland, in a contemporary style.
It was a risky proposition. What was happening in Ireland in the 1980s was, in hindsight, a recession. “And muggins here decides he’s going to stop performing and follow his muse,” says Brady. “To give my long-suffering wife credit, she never once questioned what I was doing. Never once. Because what, in fact, I did was commit temporary professional suicide.”
HE RENTED A room in Dublin’s Mountjoy Square from a musician colleague and set to work on the eight songs that would make up his album, Hard Station. “Looking back on it now, I’m going ‘how did I do that, could I not have timed it better?’ – but I was just turning 30, and I just felt invincible.”
He began by dissecting Baker Street to find out what, musically, made it tick. “I took it apart, and I tried to figure out: what’s going on in here? You know, nobody has actually noticed this, but the introduction on my song Hard Station uses the exact same major ninth chord that Gerry Rafferty used for the start and end of Baker Street . I mean, I completely covered it up with other stuff, but I was determined to be able to do what excited me so much when I heard that song.”
Hard Station earned Brady a four-star review in Rolling Stone magazine and flattering comparisons to John Martyn, Van Morrison and, yes, Gerry Rafferty. At the same time, the reviewer noted that Brady had a “way all his own” of delivering a lyric. In the years since then, it has become apparent that it’s the lyrics themselves which are inimitable. Brady’s interest in social justice leads him to consistently question accepted socio-political dogmas – and he isn’t always thanked for it. For example, the sweet, simple melody of The Island conceals a lyrical sting – “Up here we sacrifice our children/ To feed the worn-out dreams of yesterday “ – which earned him a severe rap on the knuckles from Republican quarters. The searing anger of Nothing but the Same Old Story wasn’t calculated to endear him to unionist audiences. On the new album, he’s still rattling cages, with Over the Border putting “the war on terror” and “holy jihad” side by side. None of it, the song concludes, “makes any sense at all”.
Despite his fondness for mordant observation – which, being a bit of a born-again blogger these days, he also indulges on his website – Brady doesn’t consider himself a political animal. “No. I’m a lone wolf, I’m afraid. I’m not a person who likes to court controversy. I prefer to sneak through life – which is a huge liability if you want to be in the public eye. I don’t like being singled out with a view. But I’m quite happy to write a song about it and let people make their own mind up.”
He is also happy to turn the sharp edge of his lyrical pen on himself. The song Money to Burn takes a swipe at the financial sector, but also wags a finger at its creator.
“Like everybody else in this collapse in the last couple of years, I’ve been hit too,” he says. “I look around and I hear people arguing about pensions and I go, ‘What’s a pension?’. I don’t have a pension. So I’m as prone to worry about the future as the next person. Okay, I’m giving out about property developers whingeing about having lost three or four million. But at the same time I’m saying to myself, ‘Come on, stop worrying, you’re all right’.” He is, too.
Over the past 12 months universities have been queuing up to offer honours, “which, considering I never even got a degree in the first place, I’m very happy about”. The University of Ulster conferred an honorary degree last July; the Galway University Foundation chose him as its annual Irish-person-to-be-celebrated in New York in November; and he is currently working out, with Micheál Ó Sulleabháin, a Paul Brady scholarship programme at the University of Limerick. As he approaches his 63rd birthday, what is his artistic credo? Does he have one?
“Part of me believes in magic,” he says. “I believe that, having made a decision to work as a songwriter and a performing artist, I’m working with magic. And I realise that, if I give myself to this fully, then magic happens.
“But there’s a whole other side of me that’s fearful. So I’m constantly lurching between the artistic side and the . . . the other side. The dark side. I believe that one’s instinct is God. Intellect, on the other hand, needs to be watched very carefully. I’ve had to learn, to practice, talking my intellect down and stopping it being the inner critic. There’s enough outer critics out there.”
Paul Brady begins his UK and Ireland tour in Derry’s Millennium Theatre on April 3. He plays the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin on April 9 and 10. For a full listing of tour dates, see paulbrady.com
BORN Paul Joseph Brady, May 19th 1947, in Strabane, Co Tyrone
FAMILY Married to Mary. Daughter Sarah born 1977; son Colm born 1979. Now the proud grandfather of Lyra, aged one.
ALBUMS Back to the Centre; Full Moon; Hard Station; Hooba Dooba; Nobody Knows; Oh What a World; Primitive Dance; Say What You Feel; Spirits Colliding; The Liberty Tapes; The Paul Brady Songbook; Trick or Treat; True for You; Welcome Here Kind Stranger
Music man proves he’s a gripping variety act
Tuesday, April 20, 2010, 09:00
Paul Brady: Colston Hall
FROM an infant junkie screaming for more to the alienation of immigration – Paul Brady’s lyrics cover huge ground.
This is a man who has lived a full life and has the eloquence of great songwriting packed with emotion to convey a lot more than storytelling to his warmly enthusiastic audience.
This Irish singer/songwriter had a 30-year-old passionate, angry song on the experiences of the Irish in London in the 1960s and 1970s and a 10-year-old love song co-written with Ronan Keating to bring a wide variety to his set.
What’s most noticeable about this multi-instrumentalist is just how comfortable he is in his own skin. There are no airs and graces, just a laid-back, easygoing charm from someone who is so relaxed and assured you wouldn’t think he was on stage performing.
Dressed in black jeans with a black shirt, he let the lyrics do most of the talking with just a few introductions about what had inspired certain tracks.
The variety he shared was compelling and left the audience wondering quite what he’d be tackling next.
From the early Nobody Knows about searching for answers but never finding them, switching to the beautiful and heartrending The Long Goodbye he was anything but predictable. Brady has a sincerity that makes you feel the words are from raw experience and not just churned out.
Oh What A World injected an up tempo, toe-tapping, jovial feel to the evening, while immediately followed by The Price Of Fame which certainly had a bit of a bite to it.
Rainbow was a sensitive tale about making a new start which he then contrasted with Nothing But The Same Old Story –an angry description of hostility to immigrants.
His song Money To Burn emphasised how lucky many people are and how much others have to learn about life.
Overall it was a journey of emotion and stories from a no-nonsense, honest, upfront, sincere musician whose songs span generations and are incredibly rich in experience.
Brady’s Tenor Crosses The Ages
February 18, 2007
By THOMAS KINTNER, Special to the Courant
Paul Brady has spent his career crossing borders of style while holding fast to substance, developing a wide array of tunes that smartly traverse folk and rock over a span of more than 40 years. Friday night in a solo performance at Crowell Concert Hall at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts in Middletown, the Irish folk mainstay led listeners through a diverse range of material from that career.
His resonant tenor was an instrument of earthy character with a touch of grit trimming its edges, a source of full-bodied tone that complemented the acoustic guitar pulse he used to propel the firm folk of his opener, “Help Me to Believe.” Alongside the decorative strumming that formed the backdrop for “Blue World,” his voice was a strong vessel for thoughtful lyrics, etching sturdy soul into its steady pulse.
His songs traded on familiar tropes but frequently gave them careful turns away from the norm, whether sporting an edge in his voice as he issued the mellow charms of “Locked up in Heaven,” or capturing the probing, analytical qualities of his lyrics without sacrificing emotion as he shifted to keyboards and laid a fluid piano line into “Paradise Is Here.”
Subtle turns of phrase were a hallmark of the 59-year-old Irishman’s songs, but he was equally capable of sending direct messages, offering criticism without camouflage as he sized up unhealthy societal fascinations in “Marriage Made in Hollywood.” He wrapped equally strong statements in a deceptively mellow pulse, balancing an embrace of love and potently defined frustrations in the pointed “Living for the Corporation.”
Most of the ground Brady covered comfortably meshed folk and pop sensibilities, seamlessly combining an airy flow and a clear-eyed view of fortune into the engaging package of “Nobody Knows.” His textured treatments of traditional songs showed a different facet of his expertise, whether he was livening up the formally styled framework of “Arthur McBride and the Sergeant” or painting a supple portrait of bittersweet longing in the 19th-century American song “The Lakes of Pontchartrain.”
An examination of 1980s troubles in Brady’s home country was particularly resonant as he took to the piano again for an earnest trip through “The Island,” its desperate pairing of levelheaded observation and dreamy visions of a better place sounding like it belonged in contemporary political discourse. That penchant for mixing sensible thinking with emotional immersion was a hallmark of many tunes, from the smooth ballad “Helpless Heart” to the grounded yet needy perspective of “Follow On.”
Brady beefed up his voice and guitar playing to dig into the stout rock pulse of “Steel Claw,” and barked with equal brio as he closed his set with the brisk “The World Is What You Make It.” He made restraint a highlight of his three-song encore when he rolled lightly through the vibrant storytelling of “The Homes of Donegal,” broadening the palette of his show once more with bits of whistle and a synthesized tonal bed that enhanced the tune’s homespun Irish flavor.
16th annual Irish Connections Festival
By Earle Hitchner
[Published on June 21, 2006, in the IRISH ECHO newspaper, New York City. Copyright (c) Earle Hitchner. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of author.]
CANTON, Mass. — The region’s second-wettest May on record, delivering more than a foot of rain, was followed by another three inches in the week leading up to the 16th annual Irish Connections Festival from June 9 to 11 at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in this town situated 14 miles southwest of downtown Boston.
Rain also fell throughout the evening of June 9 and most of June 10, leaving the 46-acre site soggy and limiting the overall weekend paid attendance to about 18,000. That was “extraordinary under the circumstances,” observed festival organizer Brian O’Donovan. Amid difficult conditions, the audiences were troupers, as were the musicians and dancers who refused to let the dampness dampen their commitment to giving high-quality performances.
Saturday evening, switching between two acoustic guitars, Paul Brady held the stage as few solo performers can. In the Dancing at the Crossroads tent, the Strabane, Tyrone, native played guitar with dynamic, percussive-rhythmic force and sang with power, humor, poignancy, and social sting. He was electrifying in an all-acoustic set that deepened the impact of such studio-recorded songs as “Smile,” “Blue World,” and “The World Is What You Make It.” Early in the performance, someone from the audience shouted out, “Hey, Johnny,” part of the refrain to a classic Brady song, “Nothing but the Same Old Story.” Grinning, the singer said, “All things come to those who wait,” and went on with his set list.
In the quietly lacerating “Living for the Corporation,” Brady sang about worker lockstep and a workaholic drive that neglects self-growth, relationships, family, and community. Images from Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 film, “Modern Times,” sprang to this listener’s mind as Brady sang, “Someone tell me what we’re doing here / Stuck in the corporate gear / How can something that just bought up the world / Keep on growing?”
Ripples of audience excitement followed the opening notes on Brady’s guitar for such ageless songs as “Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore,” “Arthur McBride and the Recruiting Sergeant,” and “The Lakes of Pontchartrain,” the last of which he prefaced with a reference to Hurricane Katrina.
When Brady sang the stanza about “a brother in Boston” who has a “summer house way down on the Cape” in “Nothing but the Same Old Story,” it elicited a roar from the crowd. Written in 1980, this song depicting the plight of Irish immigrants in London still packs a wallop: “Living under suspicion / Putting up with the hatred and fear in their eyes / You can see that you’re nothing but a murderer / In their eyes, we’re nothing but a bunch of murderers.”
Paul Brady simply scorched the stage.
The Irish Examiner Wednesday 3rd May 2006
Trawling through a back catalogue of more than 25 years, Paul Brady brought to Ennis a stripped down ensemble featuring Graham Henderson on keyboards and Bill Shanley on guitar. The show opened with ‘I Want You To Want Me’ from Brady’s 1995 Spirits Colliding album, and it perfectly set the tone for the two hour set that followed. Many lesser known songs from the pen of the Strabane man got an airing as he made a conscious effort to mix the familiar with the more obscure.
Using his punchy acoustic guitar to propel his at times soaring vocals, Brady relied on his deft sidemen to give colour and shape to a set-list that combined the inspirational with the average. A trio of songs from last year’s Say What You Feel album connected less favourably than some of the more familiar fare on offer, though ‘Sail, Sail On’ stood out, if only for Shanley’s shimmering slide guitar. One of the highlights of the night, though, was ‘Trust In You’, also to be heard on Spirits Colliding.
As the show progressed, we were treated to sparse but enthusiastically vigorous arrangements of ‘Crazy Dreams’ and ‘Hard Station’, while ‘Oh What A World’ and ‘The World Is What You Make It’ both exhibited Brady’s fondness for what could be termed ‘good-time’ music. The three song encore began with a solo rendition of the classic ‘Lakes Of Pontchartrain’, and then Henderson and Shanley returned to ably assist on a stirring version of ‘Wheel Of Heartbreak’. They finished off in spectacular fashion with a rousing ‘Homes Of Donegal’.
Concert Review: Raitt, Brady offer full-course meal to hungry crowd
San Antonio ExpressNews Staff Writer Feb 23 2006
If Tuesday‘s concert at Freeman Coliseum offered a Taste of Chaos with its reaffirming youthful rock infusion, then Wednesday’s show at the Majestic Theatre with seasoned legends Bonnie Raitt and Paul Brady was nothing short of a full-course meal of mastery.
Raitt and her band performed to a rowdy, virtually sold-out house, playing a mix of signature hits, eclectic choice cuts and songs off her acclaimed new album, “Souls Alike.”
This was Raitt relaxed, confident and sometimes choked up by the emotional lyrics (her encore delivery of the mournful “I Can’t Make You Love Me” will be remembered for its beauty and the singer‘s muffled sobs). But she was mostly playful.
And there was even a near wardrobe malfunction when Raitt, who changes guitars almost every song, strapped on one a little too fast and it caught the front of her low-cut top. A flushed Raitt would call it her “little Janet Jackson moment.”
The show opened much more smoothly with two new songs, “Two Lights in the Nighttime” and the Grammy-nominated “I Will Not Be Broken.” Hammond B-3 organ underpinned Raitt‘s smooth electric slide guitar sound, which pushed beautifully dampened notes to the ceiling with nary a string squeak.
Next, because some of the proceeds from the concert are earmarked for New Orleans hurricane relief, Raitt and her crack four-man band played the haunting “God Was in the Water” in homage.
Raitt, 56, took her fans back to her coffeehouse days with acoustic blues “Mighty Tight Woman” from her first album. She even played James Taylor’s “Country Road” (she’s yet to record this but she should, as she hardens up the track with seventh-notes and blues flourishes).
The headliner was at her best and absolutely beaming when she was rollicking full-tilt on songs such as the new “Unnecessarily Mercenary7″ and the Fabulous Thunderbirds”I Believe I’m in Love.” Raitt seemed to take particular glee in changing up the set list just to keep her musicians on their toes.
Irish folk star Brady, a songwriter’s songwriter making his first appearance in San Antonio, delivered a jaw-dropping opening set on solo acoustic guitar and piano that is sure to send aspiring lyricists in a mad dash to buy as many of his records as possible.
Songs such as “Smile,” off his latest CD, and “Say What You Feel,” bounced with tempered enthusiasm, driven by his aggressive strumming over odd tunings. But the anti-fascist bent of “Blue World” was brilliant beyond Bob Dylan from this aging antihero.
Imagine a huskier, soulful Sting, and you’re in the ballpark of conjuring the tone of Brady’s voice, which at times hints at Gordon Lightfoot and even Ray Davies on the lovely “Nobody Knows.”
He is famous as an interpreter of traditional folk songs, and his commanding performance of “The Lakes of Pontchartrain” absolutely stunned the audience with its cooing beauty. But just as often he could give it the gas on his Tex-Mex “Crazy Dreams” and “The World Is What You Make It.” The latter could be a long-lost Kinks track.
Sarah Wardrop, WUMB
Say What You Feel sounds AMAZING on the air! I don’t know what it is about his voice, but it just works. It cuts right through and grabs you.
Jack Barton -FMQB
“Paul Brady’s Say What You Feel stirs the listener the same way David Gray’s White Ladder did on the first time through. Brady’s passionate vocals and musical textures draw you into the stories his songs tell – stories that relate to any walk of life.”
Top 5 Calls on this Song! – Ira Gordon, KBAC Santa Fe Brady has a soulful Van Morrison quality in his music, although he‘s more immediately accessible.
Acoustic Guitar Magazine
For the better part of 35 years, Paul Brady has succeeded in changing the face of Irish traditional and popular music.
The Wall Street Journal
Paul Brady is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of rare gifts, an artist who has made an indelible impression in both traditional and pop-rock genres.
The Irish Times
Brady‘s open unguarded singing-style gives the album an easygoing laid-back feel. Behind the apparent artlessness of Say What You Feel, however, lie the skills of a studio band whose combined musical talents are off the end of the scale.
Exclaim Toronto, Canada
Any Paul Brady release marks a special occasion – he represents the cream of Irish exports and a one-of-a-kind singer-songwriter who’s unflagging commitment to his craft has wielded untold influence on countless artists. There are few like him. Brady considers himself a white Irish soul singer and that’s the best way to assess his every release, no less so his 14th. Unlike so many of his other recordings, SWYF is decidedly off-the-cuff -recorded in Nashville but, despite the presence of Nashville’s finest sons, it sounds less painstakingly wrought – preferring spontaneity over production sheen. Like any Brady offering, his songwriting is his strongest suit. Individual songs don‘t bowl you over immediately but ultimately win you over with their intelligence and elaborately-textured construction. His knack for melody is stupefying.
As a result, there is much to fall for here: from the stripped down Locked Up In Heaven – his effective voice alone with his Fender Rhodes, to the more elaborate Doing It In The Dark, which grants him his soul jones, delivered with a kick in his step and some mighty B3 organ from Reese Wynans. In the Timeless Spent-Love Song Dept., there’s Beyond The Reach of Love for a kick in the guts worth remembering. When it comes to Paul Brady, everything fits like a well-worn cardigan and nobody needs to impress anyone. Brady feels more than most and says it better than anybody.
The Hot Press Dublin, Ireland
Feb 3 2005
According to my calculations, Paul Brady celebrates forty years as a professional musician this year. You certainly wouldn‘t think so- looking at the fresh-faced (and decidedly blonder than usual) chap staring out from the cover of his first album since 2001‘s Oh What A World. And if his gruelling touring schedule is anything to go by (he treks around the US in Feb followed by an Irish/UK tour) the man from Strabane shows little sign of slowing down.
On first listen, Say What You Feel appears to be a more subdued collection with a higher proportion of slow-burners than of yore. And to my limited musical ears, there are a lot more minor and major 7th chords here than we‘re used to from Brady-hence a sweeter, more melodically accessible sound. This is no bad thing and it certainly opens on a strong note with ’Smile‘- a classic Brady ballad in the mould of ’Nobody Knows‘. With a gorgeous melody and “think-positive” lyrics, recalling James Taylor‘s ’Secret O‘ Life‘ it‘s a dead cert for a slew of future cover versions. A straight-forward love song ’I Only Want You‘ rolls along at a similarly mellow pace setting the template for much of the overall sound on the album.
As with his last collection, most of the songs here are collaborations with various (mostly American-based) songwriters, though curiously a few are co–written with one John Kelly. ’Living For The Corporation‘ is their joint take on the Working –For –The-Man theme, as explored in the past on songs as diverse as Springsteen‘s ’Factory‘ and Dolly Parton‘s ’Nine To Five‘.
’The You That‘s Really You‘ might have an unwieldy title but it‘s another strong song and the nearest thing to a country tune here, while the funky ’Love In A Bubble‘ boasts more of a Memphis soul/blues feel than anything you might associate with Music City. ’Locked Up In Heaven‘ has a Broadway musical atmosphere about it—not quite sure if it works but Brady‘s musical ideas have a habit of growing on you over time. No such question marks hang over the smoulderingly soulful title track-an instantly impressive number and yet another standout on an album chock-full of memorable gems.
Without question his most satisfying collection in a long while.
What‘s On In London UK
Jan 26th 2005
A mighty talent, legendary Irish singer songwriter Paul Brady‘s popularity has soared as the years have passed. Either solo or in collaboration with artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Carole King, Brady has amassed a body of work that stands comparison with that of either Van Morrison or Jackson Browne. Following on from his recent superb Paul Brady Songbook CD/DVD career retrospective comes a collection of brand new songs, Say What You Feel, which mark a significant departure from previous outings. The differences are two-fold. The first is in the album‘s production values. More stripped-back and spontaneous than his 80‘s and 90‘s records (which Brady now describes as over-produced), Say What You Feel is closer to the organic vibrancy of 1981‘s Hard Station. The second change concerns Brady‘s vocals. Singing in a lower register than usual Brady imbues each song with even greater soulful resonance. The result is a superbly crated album choc-full of great songs and sublime performances: a record for all seasons. ****1/2 stars
Uncut London, UK
Nashville Recorded career high-point from skilled Irish songwriter.
Nobody has ever doubted Brady’s ability as a writer: Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner and Cher have all covered him. But although Dylan was impressed enough to pinch his arrangement of the trad “Arthur McBride”, Brady’s own recordings have disappointed. Until now.. Glorious songs delivered with a laid-back freedom we’ve seldom heard before makes “Say What You Feel” the most satisfying album of his 25-year solo career. Anyone who admired Ray LaMontagne’s debut album should investigate Brady’s work immediately
Performing Songwriter USA Jan 2005
A songwriter’s songwriter if ever there was one, Paul Brady has seen his work covered by artists as diverse as Bonnie Raitt, Lucy Kaplansky and Carlos Santana. This latest CD in a career that has spanned more than 30 years ranks among his finest. Recorded, mostly live-in-the-studio, Say What You Feel throws off an understated glow with its intimate sound and sparse production. Brady ranges from lounge-y, brushed-drum acoustic balladry (‘I Only Want You’), soulful pop excursions (the title song), and, in the case of ‘The You That’s Really You’, a slice of gospel-inflected perfection that evokes sugar plum memories of Joe South’s ‘Games People Play’. On occasion Brady lapses into the pedestrian, such as the soft-rock ‘Love In a Bubble’, but all-in-all this set should further his already-stellar reputation among his peers.
Daily Express UK
The Irish singer-songwriter flew to Nashville to pick up an award for writing The Long Goodbye for Brooks & Dunn, and ended up staying to make this album. The intoxicating blend of Irish intensity and southern hospitality combined to produce a classic album. Brady’s compatriot Bono describes him as “the iron fist in the velvet glove of Irish music”. Brady’s pure vocals allied to soulful songwriting, first displayed on albums like Trick Or Treat and Spirits Colliding, shines brightly through this Tennessean-Celtic mist with a passion
BBC Radio 2 Folk and Acoustic website
Seems to me there used to be a certain kind of artist whose calling card was the inclination to give more than the job demanded: to provide an especially dense, layered experience for the audience, full of passion, surprise, detail and nuance which compelled us to go back again and again to the work. Examples might include Lowell George’s best work with Little Feat (ref. ‘Rock’n’Roll Doctor’), the prose poetry of E. Annie Proulx, and the intense, fiery playing and muscular lyrics on Paul Brady’s first move from the traditional repertoire into the world of contemporary song, Hard Station. Now, a dozen or so albums on, via the sanctioning of his work by no less than Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and other such, we have Paul’s new CD, Say What You Feel. It’s recorded almost live in a Nashville studio with a spare, acoustic sound and a relaxed, intimate feel.
Brady’s songwriting has evolved a sometimes deceptively soft focus, affairs of the heart and bistro romances cropping up constantly (“we ordered pizza, and the waiter was gay”, recalling Joni Mitchell at her most anecdotal). Paul’s singing here seems to have dropped a musical interval or two, sacrificing that old keening edge in favour of the warm, toasty sound of a man seemingly at ease with his world and certainly comfortably within his considerable musical range. The musical texture, all strummed acoustic guitar, plummy double bass lines and lightly brushed percussion, further suggest to this listener the soundtrack of the next Richard Curtis Britcom movie, woven seamlessly into the clink and chatter of life among the liberal, educated young-ish professionals of North London. And maybe that’s the idea.
Say What You Feel is, of course, shot through with class: it’s impeccably recorded, sporting the occasional arresting phrase (both verbal and musical), and it’s tuneful and warming to the ear. Exactly what the job requires, I suppose: no more, and no less.
Sydney Morning Herald May 17th 2004
In with the new as a master craftsman refines his art
Seymour Centre, Sydney
May 15 2004
By John Shand
It’s one thing to request, recognise and cheer the old songs, but another to be spellbound by the new ones. Paul Brady unveiled several from a forthcoming album on Saturday, including Living For The Corporation, and they drove home just how exceptional this man’s lyrics, melodies and craftsmanship really are.
This has been appreciated by a host of popular artists from Tina Turner to Mary Black, Bonnie Raitt to Cher. What sets him apart is that a background in Irish folk has been mated with pop sensibilities, spawning catchy songs of real substance.
Many writers might get a flicker of an idea for a verse or a chorus, for a lyric or melody, and then beaver away building that up with additional parts.
Few songs are written more or less straight through. Brady’s probably aren’t either, although the point is they sound like they are. His transitions – so often where lesser writers reveal their clumsy stitching for all to see – are logical, seamless and very musical.
Then there are his lyrics. Like everyone else he mostly writes love songs but his are moving grown-up love songs like I Will Be There, where the notion of friendship can count for more than the puerile sexual metaphors and innuendos that spatter our ears so often.
In performance what really hits you, however, is his voice. It sounds like it has been forged and toughened in raucous pubs – a priceless apprenticeship lost to those who slide straight from bedroom the recording studio. On the more impassioned songs such as Nothing but The Same Old Story, Brady uses it with the urgency of a man pulling a friend from a burning car.
There was a touching reading of The Long Goodbye (about the slow-burn disintegration of a relationship) and a cooking The World Is What You Make It, both to be found on his wonderful Songbook CD.
His accompaniment moves from guitar to piano to keyboard, the former being his instrument of choice for the grittiest songs. If he is no virtuoso, the combination of innate musical sense and pronounced dynamics do ample justice to the material.
To hear him with a band would be even mightier because, despite the beauty of the tunes and the perspicacity of the words, many of these songs also want to rock. The legend grows.
Paul Brady and The Liberty Belles
Vicar Street, Dublin
To the traditional singing devotee, King Tut’s tomb swinging open was nothing to Paul Brady’s excavating The Missing Liberty Tapes in his attic last November. There under some old LPs was the recording of a concert Brady had played in Liberty Hall in 1978. The recording marks the high point of his career as a traditional singer – soon after that he moved into the folk /rock idiom and never again performed many of the songs on the playlist.
Brady’s traditional voice was arguably the finest male voice of the folk revival.Since he abandoned the traditional repertoire, he has had the allure of an extravagantly talented dead singer for traditional fans. The Missing Liberty Tapes magically catch his voice at its peak – there is no finer recording of Arthur McBride. Listening to the CD over and over, listening to Paul Brady perform his contemporary repertoire, and then going along to see the revival of the concert he played in 1978 at the weekend, there was much to learn about the essence of traditional singing.
Brady’s Liberty Tapes voice is clear, as rhythmically regular as an instrument, rich with ornamentation – but it has that quality of distance which often marks traditional music, as if the performer is visiting the work, not making it his own.
On Sunday night at Vicar Street, Brady’s folk/rock-influenced voice made songs such as The Lakes Of Pontchartrain and Arthur McBride more personal – less ornamented but more idiosyncratic.
He can’t revisit the voice of his youth, partly because he’s older, but also because he has moved on. (Interestingly Andy Irvine’s voice sounded like it always did). Instruments have longer memories, and it was wonderful to see the line-up almost reformed (Matt Molloy was missing). Donal Lunny, Noel Hill, Paddy Glackin, Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn. They are dazzlingly talentedmulti-instrumentalists, as is Brady.
It was breathtaking to see Brady, Lunny and Irvine jumping like rodeo riders from mandolin to guitar, Lunny from guitar to bouzouki and mandolin on the Balkan jam which follows The Creel.
In some ways the concert was a private trip for the boys down Memory Lane. The rigid following of the original playlist meant there was little space for invention, only for send-up.
It was a privilege to see those Titans at play, but the real find of the season has been that missing recording, which fell into Brady’s hands, it seems, when he was ready to live again at peace with his silver-voice youth.
The Irish Times October 9th 2001
The Paul Brady Songbook
Vicar Street, Dublin
For all his prestige and credibility as a songwriter, Paul Brady seems to need continually to prove himself – no bad thing for any artist. Hence The Paul Brady Songbook, an umbrella title for 23 shows he is staging this month at one of Dublin’s best music venues,
It’s a risky undertaking, but Brady is nothing if not ambitious, even if he does occasionally have the haunted look of a person who would be far happier watching someone else’s gig.
Throughout the month, Brady will be joined by guests from the trad, bluegrass, jazz and blues fields, with backing from various musicians.
For the first show of his tenure, he was backed by his regular band, with Leslie Dowdall providing backing vocals. Brady’s guest was Curtis Stigers, who proffered a sweet, soulful line in sax playing and a couple of songs that included I Wonder Why, his UK top 5 hit.
Despite the trimmings – not to mention excellent sound, ultra smooth light show, comfortable seating and air conditioning – it was clear that people were there to see Brady himself.
It’s a testament to the man’s staying power that he has been able to use this unprecedented series of concerts to delve into his back catalogue like never before. No new ‘product’ to plug means no standard one-off gig of a few new songs peppered with greatest hits.
Brady measured the tone of the gig with a loose, leisurely pacing of songs, some of which hadn’t seen the light of day for years. More fair-weather fans, lured to the gig by the possibility of seeing Brady up close and personal, were treated to classic tracks such as Crazy Dreams, Follow On, The Long Goodbye and Nobody knows, the latter as perfect an AOR song as you’re likely to hear. Although not a dazzling display of Brady’s strengths, this was a thorough, effective show, highlighting one of the finest songwriting talents in adult-oriented rock.
The Irish Times, October 4th 2001