IRELAND’S TOP TROUBADOUR PAUL BRADY.
Ireland’s Top Troubadour Paul Brady.
When singer-songwriter Paul Brady celebrated his seventieth birthday on the ‘19th’ of May 2017, he was officially one of the elder statesmen of Irish music. He had spent fifty-two years as a professional musician, first with The Kull, then The Johnstons and Planxty. Then in 1976, Paul Brady and Andy Irvine formed a duet and released one influential album Andy Irvine/Paul Brady. Two years later, the pair went their separate ways, in 1978, Paul Brady decided to embark upon a solo career.
Later in 1978, Paul Brady released his debut solo album Welcome Here Kind Stranger. It was his final foray into the world of folk music. When Paul Brady returned in 1981 with Hard Station, his music had moved towards a much more mainstream rock sound. That has the case ever since.
Since the release of Hard Station, Paul Brady has released nine further studio albums, including his eleventh album Unfinished Business which was released earlier in 2017. It marked the welcome return of one of Ireland’s finest musical exports, who has spent a lifetime making music.
The Early Years.
The Paul Brady story began in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland on the ‘19th’ of May 1947. That was where Paul Joseph Brady was born. However, he grew up in Strabane, County Tyrone, where his father Seán Brady was a music teacher who taught the flute. By the age of six, Paul Brady was following in his father’s footsteps.
Paul Brady who was by then, a pupil at Sion Mills Primary School, started to take piano lessons. This would stand him in good stead for the future.
By the age of eleven, Paul Brady began to play the guitar and spent every spare minute of the school holidays practising and learning every song that The Shadows and The Ventures had committed to vinyl. This he eventually managed to do. Despite this, one of Paul Brady’s biggest influences was Chuck Berry. Already, music was dominating Paul Brady’s life
Not longer after starting to play the guitar, Paul Brady enrolled at St Columb’s College in Londonderry. This was where he spent the five years. However, by the time he was sixteen, Paul Brady had already dipped his toe into the musical waters.
In 1963, Paul Brady managed began playing the piano in a hotel in Bundoran, Donegal. For Paul Brady this was good experience and gave him a taste of life as a professional musician. He would taste that in the not too distant future. Before that, he was heading to University College Dublin.
The Dublin Years.
Despite enrolling at Dublin’s most prestigious university, Paul Brady was soon a familiar face on the city’s music scene. He joined the first of a string of Dublin-based R&B bands.
Paul Brady made his debut with The Inmates towards the end of 1964. However, The Inmates was a short-lived band and in April 1965, they split-up and became The Kult. They were together late-1965 when Paul Brady joined The Rootzgroup, who lasted until May 1996. While none of the bands enjoyed any sort of longevity, it was good experience for Paul Brady.
After leaving The Rootzgroup, Paul Brady joined one more band, Rockhouse. He joined the band in May 1966 and spent the best part of seven months playing with Rockhouse. Paul Brady parted company with Rockhouse in December 1966. This brought to an a two-year spell was invaluable, for Paul Brady. It was the equivalent to a musical apprenticeship, who was about to climb the musical ladder.
While Paul Brady had been at University College Dublin, there had been a resurgence of interest in traditional Irish music. As a result, many bands were formed and were cashing in on the sudden interest in traditional Irish music. One of the most successful of these bands were The Johnstons.
When Michael Johnston left The Johnstons. in May 1967, they approached Paul Brady about replacing him. He agreed and two years later, The Johnstons like many Irish bands made the journey across the water to London in 1969. Then three years later, in 1972, The Johnstons decided to move across the Atlantic and settle in New York where they hoped to expand their audience. While they enjoyed a degree of success, The Johnstons didn’t enjoy the commercial success that they had hoped. By 1974, Paul Brady was back in Ireland and was ready to join a another band.
This was the Irish folk band Planxty, which Paul Brady joined in September 1974. Planxty wasn’t a new band, and had been around since January 1972. Its initial lineup featured Andy Irvine, Christy Moore, Liam O’Flynn and Dónal Lunny. Since then, Planxty had released three albums and seemed to be touring constantly. By the time Paul Brady joined, Planxty were popular in Ireland, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Northern Europe. The only problem was the lineup was somewhat “fluid.”
Dónal Lunny had left Planxty a year earlier, in September 1973. He was tired of the constant touring. Despite this, he returned to play on Planxty’s third album Cold Blow and The Rainy Night in August 1974, which also featured temporary member Johnny Moynihan. By August 1974, the rest of Planxty knew that Christy Moore was leaving the band, to resume his solo career. Paul Brady joined in September 1974, and Christy Moore left a month later in October 1975.
Paul Brady spent much of the next fourteen months touring with Planxty, whose popularity continued to grow. However, in December 1975, Planxty split-up for the first time, and Paul Brady embarked upon a new chapter in his career.
Paul Brady and Andy Irvine.
With Planxty seemingly consigned to Ireland’s musical past, Paul Brady decided to form a folk duo with former bandmate Andy Irvine in 1976. The pair continued to sing the same Irish folk music that had proved so popular when they were members of Planxty. This looked like a winning formula for duo.
By December 1976, Paul Brady and Andy Irvine were ready to release their debut album. Paul Brady/Andy Irvine was released to critical acclaim in December 1976 and saw the duo work their way through ten traditional Irish folk songs. While the album proved popular, it was the only album they released.
Paul Brady and Andy Irvine continued to tour until 1978, when they decided to go their separate ways. They had been together for the best part of three years, and their partnership was popular. Now though, Paul Brady was ready to embark upon a solo career.
The Solo Years.
Welcome Here Kind Stranger.
Later in 1978, Paul Brady returned with his debut solo album Welcome Here Kind Stranger. This was another album of traditional folk music, and featured the ballad The Lakes of Pontchartrain. It was one of Paul Brady’s finest moments on Welcome Here Kind Stranger, which was released to critical acclaim. In late 1978, Melody Maker magazine named Welcome Here Kind Stranger their Folk Album of the Year. This was fitting as Welcome Here Kind Stranger was the final folk album Paul Brady would release.
Three years later, in 1981, and Paul Brady returned with his sophomore album Hard Station. By then, he was signed to Polygram Records and his music had moved towards mainstream rock. Gone also were cover versions.
By 1981, Paul Brady had also developed into a talented songwriter, and had written the eight songs that became Hard Station. This included future favourites like Crazy Dreams, The Road To The Promised Land, Hard Story and Nothing But The Same Old Story. They were part of a strong, cohesive album where one quality song followed hard on the heels of another on Hard Station, which was co-produced by Paul Brady and Hugh Murphy,
When critics heard Hard Station, they were won over by what was essentially Paul Brady’s mainstream rock debut, which received praise and plaudits. The future looked bright for Paul Brady.
True For You.
The Irish troubadour returned in 1983 with his third album True For You, which was produced by Paul Brady and Grammy Award winning sound engineer Neil Dorfsman. They produced an album that featured eight songs penned by Paul Brady, including the ballad Helpless Heart and Take Me Away, plus Steel Claw which was later covered by Tina Turner on her 1984 album Private Dancer. That was still to
True For You was well received by critics, but sonically was quite different album. Partly, this was because of the reliance on synths and eighties electronic drums. However, Paul Brady continued to mature as a songwriter on an album that was a mixture of rock and AOR.
Back To The Centre.
Paul Brady returned in 1985 with his fourth album Back To The Centre. It was produced by Ian Maidman and featured some familiar faces, including Eric Clapton, Loudon Wainwright and Larry Mullen of U2. They accompanied Paul Brady who had written eight new songs and covered The Homes Of Donegal on Back To The Centre.
The Paul Brady compositions saw the Irish troubadour continue his journey towards a more mainstream rock sound. That was apart from The Homes Of Donegal where Paul Brady enjoyed a brief dalliance with folk. The result was another accomplished album which found favour with critics. Especially songs like Walk The White Line, Deep In Your Heart, Soulbeat and The Island which were among the highlights of Back To The Centre. Despite the quality of Back To The Centre and his previous solo albums, Paul Brady was still one of music’s best kept secrets. That was until November 1985, when one of music’s biggest gave Paul Brady a helping hand.
In November 1985, Bob Dylan released his box set Biograph, and in the liner notes mentioned his admiration for Paul Brady’s music. This resulted in some of Bob Dylan’s fans investigating Paul Brady’s back-catalogue and his fan-base increasing.
The following year, 1986, Paul Brady released his first live album Full Moon. It was recorded live at The Half Moon, Putney, in London, on Friday the ‘6th’ April 1984 and found Paul Brady work his way through some of his best tracks. He opened his set with Hard Station, which had already been acknowledged as one of his finest songs. This he followed with favourites like Not The Only One, Busted Loose, Crazy Dreams and the Steel Claw which closed Full Moon. For those who hadn’t seen Paul Brady live, Full Moon featured eight reasons why they should.
Paul Brady returned with his fifth studio album Primitive Dance, in 1987. Again, it was produced by Ian Maidman and found Paul Brady maturing as a singer and songwriter.
Primitive Dance featured nine new songs penned by Paul Brady and was, without doubt, one of the strongest albums of Paul Brady’s career. It featured a mixture of soul-baring ballads like Steal Your Heart Away, Paradise Is Here, Just in Case of Accidents and The Game of Love, and uptempo tracks that included The Soul Commotion and It’s Gonna Work Out Fine. With its mixture of AOR, rock and folk, Primitive Dance was an almost flawless album with one quality song gave way to the next. Critics hailed Primitive Dance as one of Paul Brady’s finest albums.
Trick Or Treat.
Surpassing the quality of Primitive Dance wasn’t going to be easy, but when Paul Brady returned in 1991 with Trick Or Treat, it was another carefully crafted and critically acclaimed album. Paul Brady had continued to mature as songwriter and had penned a collection of ten tracks that oozed quality.
These he brought to life when he entered the studio with Gary Katz, who had worked with The Mamas and the Papas, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Jim Croce and Steely Dan. With such an impressive CV, Gary Katz was seen as the producer who could help Paul Brady make a commercial breakthrough. Everything was in place. Paul Brady had the talent, and had written ten new songs, that once again, oozed quality. Joining Paul Brady was a tight talented band and Bonnie Raitt who duets on the title-track Trick Or Treat. Surely, this was the album that introduced Paul Brady to a wider audience?
Trick Or Treat was one of the strongest and most accomplished albums of Paul Brady’s career. From the opening bars of Soul Child, through Blue World, Nobody Knows, You and I, Trick Or Treat to Don’t Keep Pretending, Solid Love and the album closer Dreams Will Come Paul Brady with the help of Gary Katz reached new heights as he combined AOR, folk and rock.
Some critics called Trick Or Treat a career defining album, while others thought Primitive Dance was still his finest hour. However, Trick Or Treat was released to critical acclaim in 1991, and became Paul Brady’s most successful album. While Trick Or Treat sold well, it wasn’t a huge selling album. However, it was a case of building on Trick Or Treat.
Despite having just enjoyed the most successful album of his career, Paul Brady seemed in no hurry to release the followup to Trick Or Treat. Eventually, four years later in 1995 he returned with Spirits Colliding. By then, Paul Brady had left Fontana and was now signed to Nashville based Compass Records. This was the start of a new chapter for him.
Spirits Colliding featured eleven new songs, including I Want You To Want Me, World Is What You Make It, Help Me To Believe, You’re the One and Beautiful World. They were among the highlights of Spirits Colliding which was produced by Paul Brady and Arty McGlynn. When the album was released in 1995, it was well received by critics. However, Paul Brady was no nearer to joining music’s top division. He was still to some extent, one of music’s best kept secrets.
Oh What A World.
It was another five years before Paul Brady returned with his eight album Oh What A World in 2000. It featured eleven songs, including two songs penned by Paul Brady. He wrote the other nine songs with a variety of different songwriting partners. This included Carole King who cowrote Believe In Me. These songs were produced by Paul Brady and Alastair McMillan and became Oh What A World.
When Oh What A World was released in 2000, Paul Brady’s eighth studio album was well received by critics. They were won over by songs of the quality of Sea Of Love, Love Hurts and Believe In Me. Oh What A World was a powerful and poignant album from one of Ireland’s leading troubadours. While his music was popular in Britain, America and Europe, it looked like Paul Brady was never going to reach the height of his fellow countryman Van Morrison.
Say What You Feel.
In February 2005, Paul Brady returned with his first album in nearly five years. Gone were the days when Paul Brady released an album every other year. Now albums were released every four or five years.
There was a reason for this. Many artists had discovered that albums were no longer selling in the same quantities that they once had. That had been the case for a number of years, and gone were the days when albums were seen as cash cows. Now artists were looking for alternative revenue streams, and many were selling their albums through their own websites and after gigs. Still, though, Paul Brady continued to record and release albums, including Say What You Feel in 2005.
Say What You Feel featured twelve new songs that showcased Paul Brady’s skills as singer and songwriter. Among the albums highlights were Try To Please Me, I Only Want You, Say What You Feel and the poignant The Man I Used To Be. It closed Say What You Feel, which was well received by critics. It marked the welcome return of Paul Brady.
Just over five years later, Paul Brady returned in March 2010 with his long-awaited tenth album, Hooba Dooba. It was the first album that Paul Brady had released since he signed to Proper Records.
Just like Say What You Feel, Hooba Dooba was another accomplished album, and found Paul Brady switching between and combining rock, folk and country on Hooba Dooba. It featured twelve new tracks, including Cry It Out, Luck Of The Draw, Money To Burn and Over The Border. They were recorded at Kinine, Sandyford, Dublin, and were a reminder of one of Irish music’s best kept secrets.
Paul Brady had matured as a singer and songwriter since he released his debut album Welcome Here Kind Stranger thirty-two years earlier in 1978. Since then, much had changed, including music and the music industry. What hadn’t changed was critics appreciation of Paul Brady’s music as he celebrated the release of his tenth album, Hooba Dooba. It was by some critics hailed as one of Paul Brady’s best albums. However, the question on many lips was when would Paul Brady return with a new album?
Seven-and-a-half years later and Paul Brady, who had recently turned seventy, returned with his eleventh album Unfinished Business. This was a fitting title, as Paul Brady more than most singer-songwriters has Unfinished Business to attend to.
Ever since he changed direction musically and released Hard Station in 1981, many critics and music fans felt it was only a matter of time before Paul Brady made a breakthrough. Comparisons were drawn to Chris Rea, whose music slipped under the radar until he eventually made a breakthrough. Sadly, Paul Brady never made a breakthrough. The nearest he came was with Trick Or Treat in 1991. Even then, the album never sold in vast quantities. For Paul Brady, it was a case of what might have been?
With Unfinished Business on his mind, Paul Brady decided the time was right to return with a new album. He had written nine new songs with a variety of songwriting partners over the last few years. This Paul Brady augmented them covers of two traditional songs The Cocks Are Crowing and Lord Thomas And Fair Ellender. The majority of these songs were recorded by Paul Brady at Kinine, Sandyford, Dublin.
For the recording of Unfinished Business at Kinine, Sandyford, Dublin, Paul Brady played many of the instruments himself. He played drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, tin whistle and programmed the percussion that features on the album. Occasionally, Paul Brady drafted in musicians when it came to record a song. This included his old friend Andy Irvine who played harmonica and mandolin on a couple of songs. This small, tight and talented band accompanied Paul Brady on his comeback album Unfinished Business.
After seven years away, Irish troubadour Paul Brady made a welcome return with Unfinished Business. It finds Paul Brady combing his classic sound that he honed between 1981 and 1991 with blues, country, folk and pop roc on a mixture of ballads and uptempo tracks. It’s potent and heady brew and sometimes, is a reminder of the ten-year period between Paul Brady releasing Hard Station in 1981 and Trick Or Treat in 1991. That was when Paul Brady released the best music of a career that has spanned seven decades.
Paul Brady has spent a lifetime making music, and is regarded by some as one of best British songwriters of his generation. That is why some of the biggest names have recorded songs penned by Paul Brady. This includes Tina Turner, Bonnie Riatt, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Roger Chapman and Dan Seals. They all recognise Paul Brady’s skills as a songwriter, while luminaries like Bob Dylan hold Paul Brady in the highest esteem. He’s come a long way since he got his first break playing the piano in a hotel in Bundoran, Donegal. Since then, he’s never looked back and has spent the last fifty-four years touring and recording eleven studio albums.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, whose best days are behind them, Paul Brady is still capable of writing poignant, emotive and beautiful ballads. These he brings to life with a voice that sounds as if it’s lived, loved and survived the lyrics. That is no surprise, as balladry is what Paul Brady has always done best since he reinvented himself on Hard Station in 1981. Thirty-six years and ten albums later, and Paul Brady is still one Ireland’s top troubadours.
Ireland’s Top Troubadour Paul Brady.
- Posted in: Blues ♦ Country ♦ Country Rock ♦ Folk ♦ Folk Rock ♦ Pop ♦ Rock
- Tagged: Back to the Centre, Full Moon, Hard Station, Hooba Dooba, Oh What A World, Paul Brady, Paul Brady and Andy Irvine, Planxty, Primitive Dance, Say What You Feel, Spirits Colliding, The Johnstons, Trick Or Treat, True for You, Unfinished Business, Welcome Here Kind Stranger