After three live CDs with the famous Irish blues-rock band Albatross, Barry McCabe has rediscovered his Irish roots. On his first studio album, the Celtic bluesman puts a strong dash of Irish into his blues. "England has always tried to ban the Irish language, that's why there is so much melancholy and fighting spirit in our songs."
"Rory Gallagher was in bad condition at the end of his exuberant blues life. We opened up for him in Paradiso, just before his death, and I was shocked by his physical condition. That made me think. I lived, just like him, from day to day, traveled with my band from hotel to hotel and also liked a Guinness or an Irish whiskey," says Barry McCabe with a laugh.
The slim and trim singer/guitarist from the rural village Virginia in Ireland spent half his life in hotels and stood on just about every stage in Europe with his band Albatross. The death of Irish blues phenomenon Rory Gallagher in 1995 caused a turning point in the life of McCabe.
"I didn't want to end the same way as Rory. After twenty years of playing non-stop I was looking instinctively for the peace of the Irish countryside. The Albatross period was being wound down. I didn't do anything, didn't touch my guitar and didn't even listen to music anymore," says the singer.
"After awhile I found that I wanted to put more of myself into the music. I re-discovered my Irish roots. My lyrics became more personal and I started to mix my blues songs with traditional Irish music. Blues is Irish. The melancholic feeling and the resistance against bad conditions under which you live connect the two music styles. To really capture the folk atmosphere properly I asked Davy Spillane's help."
The result of McCabe's efforts can be heard on his new CD "The Peace Within." Now working under his own name, the composer has made an atmospheric and original album. The CD is filled with heavy rockers, like the title song itself, touching blues songs such as "One Of These Days," and ballads with an Irish feel to them, which are all being mixed with the blues by McCabe in a natural way.
The contribution of Uilleann pipes player Davy Spillane was invaluable for the album. Spillane played before with artists such as Bryan Adams, Steve Winwood, Van Morrison and Kate Bush.
Barry: "Davy knows exactly what a song needs. His ideas are right straight away. You don't have to change anything. He's a thorough musician. Davy has always been busy with traditional music. However, in the latter years he has gotten more and more interested in the blues, whereas for me it was the other way around. I'm getting more interested in the folk element of music. Actually our roads cross each other on this album."
At first Barry didn't think much of old Celtic songs. McCabe: "I grew up with the radio. In the countryside there were, except for live concerts, no other musical sources. The whole day you heard nothing else but folk music. As a child it didn't do much to me. Thanks to the modern radio DJ P.J. Curtis I heard rock 'n' roll for the first time on the Irish national channel. I was sold and immediately built my own guitar out of cardboard. When I heard the album "Live in Europe" from Rory Gallagher I was definitely hooked on the blues. At first I thought it was rather strange music, but I kept listening to it as it sounded special to my ears. That was the kind of music I wanted to play."
At high school Barry founded his first band. Inspired by the famous Fleetwood Mac song from Peter Green, McCabe picked the name Albatross for the band. For twenty years this blues band from Barry McCabe stood on numerous stages throughout Europe. The band was famous for their loud blues-rock concerts, through which Barry got everybody's attention because of his flaming guitar work. The band released three live CDs. Two years ago, however, the music from Barry's younger years reared its head.
McCabe: "Even if I'm on tour a lot, of course I stay Irish. We are quite proud of our land and our culture because, as a nation, we had to fight against repressors such as the Normans and the English. The English even tried to ban the Irish language. That has only led to the fact that we think our native language and the songs that come along with it are very important. Because of this suppression there is a lot of fighting spirit and melancholy in the lyrics."
The recent peace talks in Northern Ireland don't leave the Irish blues man cold. McCabe: "I'm very happy about it and optimistic. On my CD I also refer to a solution, without wanting to tell people what to do. The only way to stop the fighting is to find inner peace. I don't give any answers. Everyone has to find peace in his or her own soul. I think now there's a big chance to come to a good peace agreement. I didn't pick the title "The Peace Within" for nothing."
The Peace Of A Fire-Eater