Welcome Here Kind Stranger

I think that the whole experience of Irish music and the falling in love with songs made me want to become a songwriter, and when I saw people in America, like Bob Dylan, were also coming out of that tradition … that made me feel that I could start to do that, too (Paul Brady quoted in Bringing It All Back Home by Nuala O’Connor)

One of Ireland’s most prolific singer-songwriters has just released his first new album in five years. Hooba Dooba is the unusual title that Paul Brady has given to his tenth solo album. On his nifty new website, he reveals its origins:

It’s a phrase i’ve used for years to celebrate life. When something difficult works out in the end, when a gig is reaching its climax and you’re in full flight….hey! what else can you shout but …Hooba Dooba!

The album contains a dozen songs including four that he’s co-written and a cover of You Won’t See Me by The Beatles. It also includes Paul’s version of a song that he wrote for Bonnie Raitt that she used as the title track of her 1991 album Luck of the Draw. You can listen to songs from the new album by navigating through the Media & Shop tab situated on the right-hand side of the main page. You can also listen to and purchase any of Paul’s previous albums there as well

In the last week, it was announced that Paul will provide €20,000 worth of scholarships to the Blás Summer School at the University of Limerick. According to Irish Music Magazine

The Paul Brady Blas Scholarship will provide €20,000 in endowment funds over three years, providing 25 places for deserving musicians on the Blas programme where they will benefit from master classes and tuition from some of Ireland’s most respected traditional musicians and dancers. This summer, the Blas Summer School will take place in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, a world-class centre of academic and performance excellence housed at the University of Limerick.

It is fitting that Brady should return to his roots with this generous gesture. Even though he has become one of the most respected and successful figures in Irish rock music, Paul Brady first experienced success in the world of traditional Irish music

When Brady moved to Dublin in the sixties to study Irish and French, he also played in a few rhythm & blues bands around the capital. Later, he began playing folk clubs on his own and this brought him to the attention of The Johnstons, a successful Irish folk group at the time. They asked him to join in 1967 and decided to base themselves in the UK and then the USA. In 1974, uileann piper Liam Óg O’Flynn wrote to him inviting him to join Planxty. The group split a year later and Brady formed a duo with fellow member Andy Irvine. They released the album Andy Irvine and Paul Brady (1976) and it included traditional songs from Ireland and the UK that the duo collected from the oral tradition. The album featured what would then have been considered an unusual range of instruments in trad music such as the harmonium, bouzouki, mandolin, cittern and the hurdy-gurdy

Brady released Welcome Here Kind Stranger in 1978, another collection of traditional songs including his version of The Lakes of Pontchartrain. Following this, and like Dylan before him, he decided to return to rock ‘n’ roll. As he told Mark J Prendergast in Irish Rock: Roots, Personalities, Directions:

I was always a musician who was going to work through the medium of rock music to express myself, but for a long period in the seventies I took a left turn up a whole side-road of folk music. When I came out of that I carried with me a whole experience which I could incorporate into rock.

The album that Brady released in 1981 must have caused as big a shock for Irish folk fans as Dylan’s decision to go electric did for folk fans in the sixties. Hard Station was the resulting album and it contained eight original compositions that combined hard, driving rock numbers with slower-paced ballads. The album was successful at home but less so in Britain, while the record company never gave it a chance to make a breakthrough in the States. Even though Brady continued to write and record many more albums over the next few decades, he began to achieve fame when other performers started to record his songs. I’m going to look at the most well-known and successful interpretations of his songs below, but before that I’m going to start with a man who knows a thing or two about songwriting

In 1992, Bob Dylan released his first new album of non-original material since Dylan (1973). However, whereas that album contained Dylan’s versions of contemporary songs (plus one of his own) Good As I Been To You (1992) contained thirteen songs that went back a lot longer. Most of the songs came from North America and included such folk-blues numbers as Frankie & Albert and Sittin’ On Top of the World. He also included a few songs from the British Isles including Arthur McBride, the (uncredited) arrangement of which he took from Paul Brady. The song originates from the middle of the nineteenth century and tells the tale of two Irishmen, Arthur and his cousin, who meet three British army recruiters while out for a stroll on Christmas Day. Following a spot of banter between the men, the Irishmen beat the soldiers with their shillelaghs, steal their money and throw their weapons into the ocean. Paul Brady’s version appears on the album he did with Andy Irvine and it is most likely that this is Dylan’s source for the song. He would certainly have been aware of Brady because when he was asked about his favourite songwriters he said: “Some guys got it down – Leonard Cohen, Paul Brady, Lou Reed. Secret heroes”

Arthur McBride (trad arr Paul Brady) – Bob Dylan

The first artist to record a cover of a Paul Brady song was Santana on his 1982 album Shango with the vocals provided by Scottish singer Alex Ligertwood. Night Hunting Time originally appeared on Hard Station

Night Hunting Time (Paul Brady cover) – Santana

In 1984, Tina Turner included a version of Steel Claw on her Private Dancer album. The album went on to sell over 11 million copies worldwide. For the follow up album, Break Every Rule (1986), Turner included another Brady composition, the unreleased Paradise Is Here. That album almost matched the commercial success of its predecessor and the Mark Knopfler-produced track was released as a Europe-only single. Brady’s version of the song appeared on his Primitive Dance album the following year. The song was also recorded by Cher and released as a single in 1996

Paradise Is Here (Paul Brady cover) – Tina Turner

Also in 1984, the Welsh singer and guitarist Dave Edmunds featured two of Paul’s songs on his Jeff Lynne-produced album, Riff Raff. One was his take on Steel Claw and the other was his version of Busted Loose that originally appeared on Hard Station. Busted Loose was also recorded in 1984 by former Family lead singer Roger Chapman on his album, The Shadow Knows

Steel Claw (Paul Brady cover) – Dave Edmunds

Busted Loose (Paul Brady cover) – Roger Chapman

Irish singer Maura O’Connell released Crazy Dreams, the first of her five Paul Brady covers, on her Just In Time (1988) album. She subsequently named two of her albums after songs by Paul: Helpless Heart (1989) and Stories (1995). The other songs she has done are Follow On and To Be the Only One. Paul has yet to give his version of Stories an official release, but you can check out a couple of demos of the track at his website

Stories (Paul Brady cover) – Maura O’Connell

To Be the One (Paul Brady cover) – Maura O’Connell

Dolores Keane is another Irish singer who took on one of Paul’s most well-known and popular songs for her Lion in a Cage (1990) album. The Island originally appeared on his Back to the Centre album from 1985

The Island (Paul Brady cover) – Dolores Keane

After many years in the music wilderness the American singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt achieved significant commercial and critical success with her multiple Grammy-winning album, Nick of Time (1989). She continued this level of success with her next two releases, Luck of the Draw (1991) and Longing in Their Hearts (1994). Luck of the Draw contained two Brady numbers, the title track and Not the Only One while Longing in Their Hearts contained Steal Your Heart Away. Brady also wrote two songs for her Fundamental (1998) album: Blue For No Reason and One Belief Away (written with with Dillon O’Brian and Oliver Mutikudzi). The two also duetted on the title track of Paul’s Trick or Treat (1991) album

Steal Your Heart Away (Paul Brady cover) – Bonnie Raitt

Not The Only One (Paul Brady cover) – Bonnie Raitt

Luck Of The Draw (Paul Brady cover) – Bonnie Raitt

David Crosby was a founder member of The Byrds and also Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young). He included Helpless Heart on his Thousand Roads (1993) album. It is one of Paul’s most covered songs and it originally appeared on his True For You album

Helpless Heart (Paul Brady cover) – David Crosby

Johnny Hallyday is a French singer and actor whose success in the French-speaking world has not been matched elsewhere. Rough Town (1994) was an album of songs sung in English and includes his version of Paul’s Can’t Stop Wanting You from the Trick or Treat album

Can’t Stop Wanting You (Paul Brady cover) – Johnny Hallyday

The Long Goodbye originally appeared on Paul’s Oh What a World (2000) album and was co-written with fellow Irish singer Ronan Keating (!). It was covered the following year by US country duo Brooks and Dunn and appears on their Steers & Stripes album. It was subsequently released as a single and made it to number one on the Billboard country charts and number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100. Keating’s version made it to number three in the UK charts in 2003

The Long Goodbye (Paul Brady cover) – Brooks & Dunn

Lucy Kaplansky is an American folk musician who formed the trio Cry Cry Cry with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell in 1998. She has also released half a dozen solo albums and her version of Paul’s Crazy Dreams is included on her Every Single Day (2001) album. She probably knows a bit about crazy dreams as she has a PhD in clinical psychology from Yeshiva University. You can check out loads more of her wonderful covers at Cover Lay Down, including this post here that features over a dozen covers of other writers’ work

Crazy Dreams (Paul Brady cover) – Lucy Kaplansky

As well as being covered by the great and the good, Paul’s songs have also been taken on by loads of Irish artists who would be unknown outside of Ireland. Many of these singers would have come through the Irish showband scene or would have been practitioners of the Irish country and western style. One is a multi-Eurovision winner and another is a former contestant in one of those televised talent contests. Over the years, the likes of Joe Dolan, Brendan Bowyer, Johnny Logan, Mickey Harte and Tommy Fleming have seen fit to include one of Paul’s tunes in their repertoire. In 2007, Dickie Rock, a former showband singer born in 1928, released an album called Dickie Rock Sings Contemporary Irish Classic Hits. Amongst the songs by U2, Van Morrison, The Pogues and Snow Patrol was his version of Paul’s single from 1991, Nobody Knows

Nobody Knows (Paul Brady cover) – Dickie Rock

Another one of Paul Brady’s most covered songs is Follow On from Back to the Centre. The late Liam Clancy included it on his last studio album, The Wheels of Life (2008). This version is taken from the filmed concert at The Bitter End in New York two years ago. This moving rendition from one of Bob Dylan’s favourite ballad singers is one of the few songs on this list that improves upon the original

Follow on
For the open road is waiting,
Like the song,
We will welcome what tomorrow has to bring

Follow On (Paul Brady cover) – Liam Clancy


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