Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane


The EastWind album (TARACD 3027) by Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane is a complex interaction of Celtic Musicians and instruments with World Music rhythms which was revolutionary at the time of recording. Subsequently, this album has been acknowledged as one of the key building blocks to the current Riverdance sound.

Andy Irvine & Davy SpillaneEastWind has justifiably been described as the precursor album to Riverdance. However it has to be said that the idea of combining Eastern European music (Bulgarian-Macedonian-Balkan) with Irish and Celtic musicians and instruments has been the idea of Andy Irvine’s since he first visited these countries in the late 60’s. The music had such impact and influence on Andy that he returned to Ireland with new musical ideas soon to be introduced and played by the ground breaking band Planxty of which he was a founder member. This innovative music had an immediate and positive audience response and thus found its way on to virtually all the Planxty recordings.

Bill Whelan

Although a much discussed project over many years it was not until the early 90’s that the album was finally recorded. Bill Whelan was the Producer and Arranger. The multi-instrumentalist Nikola Parov contributed to the Bulgarian element together with Marta Sebestyen (of Muzsikas fame) giving her wonderful vocal talent to the project. The lead Irish players featured Davy Spillane, Máirtín O’Connor and of course Andy Irvine who had the vision to bring the EastWind project to fruition.

The influence of this recording was profound. It was no coincidence that the intricate time signatures and influences of this music were to reappear in Riverdance whose Composer and Producer was again Bill Whelan. Both the Riverdance recording and show featured the EastWind musicians Davy Spillane, Nikola Parov, Máirtín O’Connor, Noel Eccles & Kenneth Edge.

The title and the vaguely Oriental-looking cover of this CD might make you think that you're looking at an album of Asian jazz fusion. Fear not -- the East in this case is a lot further West, in the Balkans. Though many Celtic musicians have been interested by the exotic rhythms of Bulgarian and Macedonian music, this CD is one of the only instances in which the fusion sounds both natural and exciting. Davy Spillane's Irish pipes sound marvelous on parts originally written for the more shrill Balkan bagpipes, and his playing here is inventive and expressive enough to silence anyone who thinks of the pipes as a limited instrument. The decision to invite Marta Sebestyen as a guest vocalist was inspired; she is one of the great interpreters and innovators of Eastern European music, and she shines in this setting. The ensemble work throughout this album is stunning, making for dynamic performances of spirited and emotional material. Kudos to Andy Irvine for making these sessions happen, and to everyone concerned for making them sound so good. Highly recommended. -- Richard Foss All Music Guide

"You've heard of folk-rock and jazz-fusions. Well this is folk-folk, the elements being Irish and Balkan musics. Interestingly, in Irish music outside influences and instruments have always been introduced, and have become part of the tradition - like the flute and the concertina. Andy Irvine is credited with importing the bazouki to Irish music, and it's now a common Irish 'traditional' instrument. The project is a difficult one to bring off because the Bulgarian rhythms are extremely odd to Celtic folk singers. Other attempts at this kind of thing have sounded stilted and stiff, as the musicians hang on grimly, counting like mad to make sure they keep the rhythm going. But here they all make it sound so smooth and natural. There are Eastern European guests who make it sound authentic, but the Irish are not hiding behind them. The end result is something which sounds Balkan and Irish at the same time - and to my ears that's very attractive music."
Ken Hyder - Hi-Fi News & Record Review (Sept '92)