Run, Don’t Walk…

…to see Eileen Ivers the next time she plays a concert in your area.

I’ve seen her quite a few times in concert, and on September 1st I went with my mom to see her again because she was playing in Londonderry, NH with her band, Immigrant Soul. Her musicianship only gets better with age, and she’s been doing this a long time. She’s always taken the Irish fiddle to a different level… a different stratosphere. Yes, Natalie MacMaster is also good, but I can’t relate to Natalie on a personal level because she ain’t no Eileen — who’s exactly my age, grew up Irish-American in the Bronx, and plays Irish music with a NYC urban flair.

There were a few concert highlights for me… Eileen reading a poem written by her father-in-law, “My American Wake,” where he describes the night before he emigrated from Mayo, and her rendition of “Green Fields of America”… a song that Jim and I used in the DVD project. We talked to her afterward and she was thrilled to find that some of her “people” were in the audience from Brooklyn/Staten Island, and we chatted about Grandma also being from Mayo, and how close Crossmolina is to her own mother’s hometown of Belmullet. When I was working at RCA Victor I’d encounter her in social settings, usually in pubs for post-concert parties, and she’s always chatty. Last week I joked with her that I would give up my job to join them on tour and she said, “Hey, it can happen, give me a call.” But I could never be apart from Shawn and the kitties for any tour.

Thanks to RCA Victor, I had great moments at Chieftains concerts where they would announce a special surprise guest, and it would be the likes of Eileen Ivers, or Sinead O’Connor… and one night, both… anyone else remember that night at Carnegie Hall? And a really great surprise moment for me was at a Cherish the Ladies concert in early-2001. They were also signed to RCA Victor at the time, so I went to the show at Town Hall with a few colleagues, of course many years after Eileen had left the group to go solo, and also after she had finished her run with Riverdance (probably the most lucrative project she’s ever worked on). Halfway through the show, Joanie Madden announced they had a special surprise guest, and I thought, no way, can’t be, too good to be true… but yes, she introduced Eileen who came out and played a few sets with them. I think I was the only person in the audience who knew that Joanie and Eileen were two founding members of Cherish the Ladies and have been best friends since kindergarten. I seemed to be the only person who appreciated the moment and I let them know with my whooping and jumping out of my seat.

But I regret that I was never at Paddy Reilly’s when she was playing seisiúns there back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, either with Paddy A Go-Go or others. (Anytime I was there I only ran into crazy Black 47 shows.) And from what I can tell, the only CD that Paddy A Go-Go ever recorded (“Keep It Reel”) is no longer available. But I have all of Eileen’s solo CDs to keep me going and I listen to them regularly, to the point where I was one of only a handful of people in Londonderry who recognized songs (or “sawngs” in her Woodlawn accent) in the first few notes. It was a Name That Tune Céilí for me. I’ve uploaded photos to a Flickr set.


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