AN EVENING WITH PAUL BRADY
Friday May 14 Athenaeum Theatre - Melbourne 2004
Saturday May 15 Everest Theatre - Seymour Theatre Centre, Sydney
My Andy Irvine-Paul Brady vinyl dates back to the mid 70s. It remains
one of my most treasured records. Although it is a quintessentially
traditional music album, it's no old-style, sentimental compilation.
The strength of Brady is that he could team up with Irvine to produce
the most beautiful music and whimsical ballads - Plains of
Kildare - and the most beguiling love songs - The
Streets of Derry - then suddenly bob up doing rock anthems
like Steel Claw and Hard Station.
According to the publicity release, 'Paul Brady is one of Ireland's
most highly regarded and successful artists, a singer songwriter
with a career stretching back more than three decades and a catalogue
of songs that have touched the hearts and minds of several generations
of the Irish people at home and abroad. Paul Brady continues to
push the boundaries not only of his own talent but of Irish contemporary
music in the new millennium.' This is one time when the publicist
Devotees know Tina Turner made Steel Claw famous, and celebrity
singers everywhere gush over his beautifully crafted, power laden
lyrics. They also know that his Helpless Heart makes
grown men cry. Brady's music is all the more powerful because he
has a profound eye for the shortcomings of the violence and the
passion that has wracked Irish life. Jingoistic nationalists have
no place in his music. Nor do racists and bigots.
His rattling refrain 'you're nothing but a bunch of murderers'
- a damnation of those English racists who once belittled Irishmen
abroad - is as powerful as any chorus framed by the political minstrels.
It isn't just Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan or Billy Bragg who beat a
rebel heart or can find a rebel chorus. Rather than strike them
with a hammer or a burst of dogma Brady gently tilts a mirror before
If Brady's Homes of Donegal isn't a cure for the alienation
of modernity I don't know what is. I'm going home to play it right
|Brady, with the greatest guitarist of them all, the late
Rory Gallagher (1983).
Although Paul Brady isn't a household name in Australia, he's adored
in Ireland and the United States. In 2001 he performed 23 consecutive
sell-out concerts at Vicar Street, Dublin's best live music club.
He isn't however the stereo-typical Irish balladeer, and he doesn't
sing songs about the IRA or wear a political heart on his sleeve.
He was kind enough to talk about his work with me on Thursday morning
13 May 2004. Brady, who performs in Melbourne at the Athenaeum on
Friday night, was born in Northern Ireland. Despite coming from
one of the great political battle grounds he says he's 'not a political
animal', has 'little faith in politics' and has met the very famous
Gerry Adams only once. 'I met him backstage after a Riverdance performance.
I don't think he knows who I am,' he says, with no apparent rancour.
When IRA volunteer Bobby Sands was on his hunger strike in the
early 80s Brady took a bold stand. He chose not to perform at the
rallies that inflamed Irish politics. At subsequent gigs he was
verbally and physically abused. It prompted a song The Island
(1985) - a confronting, yet almost lyrical dirge as only Paul Brady
could produce - that challenged the orthodoxy.
They're raising banners over by the markets
Whitewashing slogans on the shipyard walls
Witchdoctors praying for a mighty showdown
No way our holy flag is gonna fall
Up here we sacrifice our children
To feed the worn-out dreams of yesterday
And teach them dying will lead us into glory...
Now I know us plain folks don't see all the story
And I know this peace and love's just copping out
And I guess these young boys dying in the ditches
Is just what being free is all about
And how this twisted wreckage down on main street
Will bring us all together in the end
As we go marching down the road to freedom...freedom
If that wasn't political enough, four years earlier he'd delivered
a broadside to the old enemy with a song titled Nothing
but the Same Old Story, that was based on his experiences
as an Irishman working in London. Although he says he's not a
political animal, the song is a biting satire of British attitudes
to the Irish. As the words confirm, an anti-colonialist anthem
is not beyond him:
I'm sick of watching them break up - Every time some bird brain
puts us down
Making jokes on the radio -Guess it helps them all drown out the
Of the crumbling foundations -Any fool can see the writing on
the wall- But they just don't believe that it's happening.
There's a crowd says I'm alright - Say they like my turn of phrase
Take me round to their parties - Like some dressed up monkey in
And I play my accordion Oh! - But when the wine seeps through
the facade - It's nothing but the same old story - Nothing but
the same old story
You can see that you're nothing but a murder - In their eyes,
we're nothing but a bunch of murderers
After making his name in the traditional scene more than thirty
years ago he suddenly went rock and roll. The result was that songs
such as Steel Claw and Paradise is Here
were recorded by Tina Turner, and luminaries such as Bonnie Raitt,
Art Garfunkel, Santana, Phil Collins, Cher and Joe Cocker grabbed
his songs and now sing his praises. Married to Mary with a daughter
Sarah, twenty-six, and a son Colm, Paul Brady is refreshingly honest
about his work. That he was quick to say he was still married and
that his wife is at university doing Women's Studies makes sense
once you talk with him.
I've met some prima donnas in my time. He isn't one of them. Sincere
and engaging, Paul Brady produces the most beautiful music. If you
want to put a poetic spark in your life or fall in love with some
words and music I'd suggest you head for the Athenaeum. Maybe he'll
dedicate that Irish anti war classic from the mists of time, Arthur
McBride, to the current war in Iraq, a war he says
'makes no sense.'
Believe me, you won't be disappointed.
Phil Cleary - May 2004
A CD and DVD, containing twelve of the standout songs from the
series are available in Australia. The Paul Brady Songbook CD is
on Little Big Music, distribution MRA Entertainment Group and the
DVD is through Shock Distribution.