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Lillebjorn Nilsen and Andy Irvine - Live in Telemark

  by Nicky Crewe

published: 5 / 7 / 2021

Lillebjorn Nilsen and Andy Irvine - Live in Telemark
Label: Heilo Music
Format: CD


Recorded live in August 1994 at the Telemark Festival in Norway, in front of an appreciative audience, this album from Lillebjorn Nilsen and Andy Irvine is a great reminder that music is a universal language.

Andy Irvine and Lillebjorn Nilsen had first met and connected through their music in the late 1970s. It took them seventeen years to play a concert together, at the Telemark Festival in Norway in August 1994. Listening to this collection of songs, recorded in front of a live and enthusiastic audience, you would never know that they hadn’t collaborated on a regular basis over those years of friendship. Andy Irvine is quoted in the sleeve notes as being nervous before he got on stage because they had had so little time to rehearse together. You would never guess that was the case. Lillebjorn Nilsen is a Norwegian singer-songwriter and folk musician who spent time in New York in his younger years, as part of the Irish-American music scene. He also collaborated with Pete Seeger. He and Andy Irvine share an approach to traditional music and are both world class players of their chosen instruments. Andy Irvine has long been a family favourite. I have great memories of listening to Planxty and his band Mozaik, and of seeing him live in the Back Room of the Greystones pub in Sheffield on one of his solo tours. He was a huge inspiration to one of my children when he was learning to play mandolin as a youngster and he took time to talk to him about it. Andy Irvine pioneered using the Greek bouzouki with a new tuning in Irish folk music. His public life began as a child actor, but by his 20s he was concentrating on music. He studied classical guitar with Julian Bream and then discovered Woody Guthrie, a huge influence on him. He took up mandolin and harmonica as a result. They corresponded while Woody was in hospital. Irvine became part of the Dublin folk scene in the 1960s and worked with Christy Moore and Donal Lunny. He has been one of Sweeney’s Men and a member of the very successful Planxty. He has collaborated with some of the leading Irish musicians of the day, including Paul Brady, Mick Hanly and Dick Gaughan. As well as being a stalwart of the Irish music scene, he has followed a passion for Eastern European music, taking trips to the Balkans and Bulgaria and absorbing Hungarian influences. Back to the album. It sounds as fresh today as it must have been on those August nights in 1994. The tracks are like a conversation between Irvine and Nilsen, each singing in their own language but making links and connections through their playing, accompanying instruments and choice of song. Each song has a personal story behind it. It was a delight for me to hear the traditional song ‘Come to the Bower’ (which is political not romantic in intent) again and ‘My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland’ made me long for the opportunity to revisit. This album is both timeless and timely. It is a wonderful reminder of the enjoyment to be had from listening to a live concert performed by musicians who are amongst the very best. It is also a lovely introduction to Lillebjorn Nilsen and his music.

Track Listing:-
1 Jenta i Chicago
2 Come to the Bower
3 Alexander Kiellands plass
4 Stewball and the Monaghan Grey Mare
5 Hav og himmel
6 My Heart's Tonight in Ireland
7 Valle Auto og Bensin
8 A Prince Among Men
9 Danse ikke gråte nå
10 Fort gjort å glemme
11 Patrick Street/Jig: The Humours of Caherlistrane/Halling: The Girl with the Farm
12 Vidvinkel-stev
13 Håvar Hedde/Jig: Strike the Gay Harp
14 Martinmas Time/Hornpipe: The Little Stack of Wheat
15 Ola Tveiten

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