Patrick Street is not an uncommon name in Ireland — it is the main street of Cork, and in the capital it is the street which runs alongside the Cathedral where it is rumoured St. Patrick made his first conversions to Christianity in the 4th Century AD. A little later, in 1985 to be precise, it was also to become the name of one of the most illustrious groups in recent history (alongside Planxty, The Bothy Band and De Dannan) to keep alive the traditional music that probably greeted St. Patrick on his arrival in Eire some 1500 years earlier!
Andy Irvine's contribution to Planxty has been slightly overshadowed by the presence of Christy Moore, and Christy's subsequent accomplishments. However, in traditional circles 'Andy was always known as a fine singer and instrumentalist, and had developed into a fine composer and collector of songs. As the only singer in Patrick Street he was responsible for a good part of the band's material, and as an instrumentalist, his contributions on mandolin, bouzouki and harmonica add texture and colour to the solid base of Arty McGlynn's guitar work. Together they provided the rhythmic foundation of the band.?
Jackie Daly, although a native of Cork, brought with him fluency in the Kerry style of accordion playing and over five years solid gigging as a member of De Dannan, where his reputation had grown alongside that of the band. A fiery soloist, his playing combined beautifully with Burke's fiddle and it was this instrumental pairing that gave the group its distinctive sound.
Kevin Burke had followed Tommy Peoples into the fiddler's seat of the Bothy Band. A tall, rangy man born in London of Sligo stock, Burke was not the obvious choice for the job, but by the time the Bothy Band was coming to a halt he was a top-notch performer. Later, Burke's physical stature and droll on-stage patter would lead to him becoming 'Mr. Pat Street' to hotel clerks and airport check-in desks around the world.
If the prospect of three such top line performers wasn't enough, they managed to tempt into their ranks guitarist Arty McGlynn, widely regarded as one of the most gifted and sensitive accompanyists around. A veteran of the Windmill Lane session crew and an occasional guest in Planxty, Arty had also toured regularly with Van Morrison.
When their first album was finally released in 1986, the critics; were overjoyed. Great singing from Andy Irvine, superb ensemble playing and fearsome soloing, especially from the Burke/Daly pairing, led to the inevitable acclaim as the next traditional supergroup. Significantly though, the album was released not by any of the Irish labels, but by independent US label Green Linnet. It seemed that the musicians had learned the lessons of the Bothy Band and Planxty, who had been revered in the USA but had never-toured there, burning themselves out in Europe instead. Much of Patrick Street's touring was done in the States, and European concerts, such as their appearance with the Silly Sisters at the Royal Festival Hall in September 1988, were rare.
For the third album, 'Irish Times', (which appeared here on the Topic Records subsidiary Special Delivery), the band had grown to a seven-piece, with the addition of ex-Moving Heart piper Declan Masterson, fiddler James Kelly and producer/guitarist Gerry O'Beirne. By this time Burke had relocated permanently to the States and Irvine had resumed making solo albums, and it was widely assumed that this album would be the band's swansong. However, to the delight of their fans, the original four members, plus producer/keyboard player Bill Whelan, got together one more time at Windmill Studio in 1993 to produce 'All In Good Time'.
As is the way in these things, Patrick Street have never officially split, but as Burke now has his own US-based outfit Open House, Irvine continues his solo career and McGlynn has returned to his Randalstown base (except for occasional outings with Four Men And A Dog), further recording and touring seems unlikely. Such a stellar combination of talent was probably never likely to stay together long, but the quality of their output is fully demonstrated by this selection. Enjoy.
Colin Jones 1995
Colin Jones is co-director of the annual SOLAS traditional music festival and a freelance journalist.