Over the years Andy Irvine, a stalwart on the Irish folk scene, has written great songs about historical figures ranging from James Connolly to Emiliano Zapata to Raoul Wallenberg. At the same time, as a recent concert at the Irish Arts Center reminded us, he's become a part of the history of Irish music.
It was the great idea of the folklorist and musician Mick Moloney to present Irvine in concert with the younger guitarist and singer John Doyle in a series that pairs older and younger players in the Irish tradition. The concert, last Friday at the Irish Arts Center, came off splendidly.
Irvine sang and performed some of his best songs on a variety of stringed instruments and reminisced about his years on the Dublin folk scene in the Sixties. As ever, his instrumental work incorporates the complex time signatures that he picked up from the Balkans.
Doyle sang with a mellow voice and played guitar with the tremendous chord changes and rhythms that have become the hallmark of more recent Irish guitar styles. Together, they were a tuneful reminder that Irish music has a great past and an exciting future.
For me, the most moving moment of the show came when Irvine and Doyle performed "Never Tire of the Road," Irvine's tribute to Woodie Guthrie. (Irvine also does a superb, driving version of Guthrie's "Tom Joad," the ballad version of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath.")
Irvine inserted to last Friday's performance of "Never Tire of the Road" a verse about the time when Guthrie led a below-decks singalong on a troop ship during World War II to keep up morale during a torpedo attack. To complement the verse, Irvine injected a chorus that went something like, "Bound to lose, bound to lose, all you fascists bound to lose." I was one of a few voices on the chorus the first time it came around, but by the end of the song he had us all roaring along.
From the Guthrie song to the great musical pubs of Dublin in the Sixties to guitar playing that connects the past and the future, it was a very fine night of music.