Patrick Street was something of an Irish supergroup when they first saw the light of day in 1986. Then as now they were a four piece group, all of them musicians with a sound reputation and an impressive history. Three of the original members — Kevin Burke on fiddle, Andy Irvine on vocals, bouzouki, mandolin, hurdy-gurdy and harmonica, and Jack Daly on accordion — are still in the group. Burke was formerly of the legendary Bothy Band; Irvine was in Sweeney´s Men, one of the first groups to meddle into folk-rock territory, and Planxty, one of the most successful Irish folk groups ever; and Daly had a past involvement with De Dannan, another legendary group. Arty McGlynn, ace guitar player, was in the original line up as well. He was replaced in 1996 by Ged Foley — guitar and fiddle — who long ago was in Battlefield Band and later formed The House Band. To date, they have released six studio albums, two of which feature Foley. There is a Best of-collection in circulation as well.
Live from Patrick Street was recorded in 1998 during a tour of Great Britain and Ireland. It is an unusual live album due to the fact that more than half of the tracks are previously unreleased. In that respect, it should be treated as a new album, not as a greatest hits-collection performed live. As usual, there is a mixture of songs (five) and instrumental tracks (seven); and, as usual, it is played with all the expertise you would expect from these gentlemen. We are talking the creme de la creme here. Unlike on their last two albums, Irvine takes all the vocals, leaving Foley with playing the guitar and the fiddle.
Does it work? Oh yes, this is every bit as good as any of their studio albums. This is soft, gentle Irish music at its best, far from the bombastic reel and jig-playing or loud pub songs you sometimes get. Patrick Street dare not to be loud, and they dare not to fill out all the gaps. Instead, they weave a thin airy web which allows you to examine every detail of what is being played. No walls of sound here. They trust their listeners to be attentive and interested, and they do not underestimate them neither. This is clever music for clever listerners.
While still appreciating the instrumentals, I love the songs more. Irvine´s voice is something very special. On one hand, it can sound feeble and weak, almost searching, but, on the other, it is always spot on, delivering both tune and words with exact timing and pitch.
Old friends of Patrick Street will recognize both “Braes of Moneymore” and “The Holy Ground.” There are also three new songs included. “My Son in Amerikay” is about a mother in Ireland writing a letter to her son in the States without knowing the right address. It is a lovely story, accompanied by dual fiddles and accordion. “Wild Rover No More” is a different version of “The Wild Rover,” both lyrically and tunewise. Gone is the shoutable chorus; instead we get a slow air to which Irvine dusts off his hurdy-gurdy. (Ged Foley has another version of this song titled “Wild Roving” on the House Band album Word Of Mouth.)
“Stewball and the Monaghan Grey Mare” is the story once told by such diverse acts as Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, Steeleye Span and Hollies. It is the most lively of the new songs, with the mandolin and the guitar bubbling behind the vocals in the great Planxty-tradition, and containing some intriguing rhythm work.
Now for the instrumentals… Well you get it all: jigs, reels and polkas. You also get them very well played. Some may think, a bit subdued; but, once you get into the music, your feet are bound to be tapping. Patrick Street don’t just play the tunes, they interpret them brilliantly.
All in all, an exciting album, well worth purchasing, both for the already converted and those interested in making a first acquaintance with one of the finest forces in Irish music today. As they say on the sleeve: “I don´t know this guy Patrick Street but, I tell you, the boys in his band are r-e-a-l-l-y good.”
(Green Linnet, 1999)