By Earle Hitchner
LIVE FROM PATRICK STREET, Green Linnet GL 1194
Do great musicians necessarily make a great group? Ask Blind Faith. Or Patrick Street.
For 13 years, this band of standout players has struggled to live up to the hype of "supergroup," and after seven albums, including this uneven one culled from their 1998 British tour, the impression remains the same: terrific parts, disappointing whole.
The parts are Kevin Burke on fiddle, Jackie Daly on button accordion, Andy Irvine on vocals and an assortment of instruments, and Ged Foley on guitar and fiddle. Yet this talented lineup still hasn’t approached the consistent excellence and diversity of Altan and, more recently, Solas.
The lead vocals of Andy Irvine, formerly of Sweeney’s Men and Planxty, sound thin and tired on "Br’s of Moneymore," "Wild Rover No More," and Gerry O’Beirne’s "Holy Ground," which nevertheless offers an appealing instrumental arrangement. Only on the humorous "My Son in Amerikay" and the hurdy gurdy-backed "Stewball and the Monaghan Grey Mare," a version of which Irvine recorded to far better effect on the 1976 classic "Andy Irvine/Paul Brady," does he seem to emerge from his languor.
"Music for a Found Harmonium," a tune penned by Simon Jeffes of Penguin Cafe Orchestra and first given an Irish traditional setting by Patrick Street, is driven along by Foley’s fine guitar picking. But the mix of guitar, fiddle, box, and harmonica sputters in spots and suggests why Sharon Shannon’s later rendition eclipsed Patrick Street’s to become the benchmark.
The instrumental heart of Patrick Street is Burke and Daly, and their joint playing is brilliant, harking back to their celebrated 1981 duet on "Eavesdropper." The changes between tunes that these two execute on "McDermott’s Reel/The Plough and the Stars/Miss McLeod’s Reel" are flawless, and each takes a dazzling solo within the medley. The years of their playing together have paid off in musical dividends anyone would relish.
Other noteworthy tracks on the recording include a medley of three slides, another of three polkas, and the jigs "Bring Back the Child/Paidin O’Rafferty."
"Live From Patrick Street" provides a number of these pleasurable moments. But it is a truly transforming "whole" sound that still eludes both band and album.