20,000 Things I Love: Paddy Casey

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“Starting on my long journey back to America I had gone for my last and favourite walk in Dublin as I had done so many evenings from my rooms at Trinity. Heading out along Tara Street where the opening words of The Ginger Man began, and past the baths where many a Dubliner repaired behind these dirty red bricks to get rid of his bodily grime in the big steaming hot tubs. At Butt Bridge turning down George’s Quay and City Quay past the Guinness boats, and the chug chug of their barges and the mountains of barrels stacked on the cobble stones. Gangways up to the moored ships. Always thinking the pubs looked bereft and lonely but knowing by their steamed over windows that inside they were alive with dock life. Past the church indented discreetly in from the quay where a Dubliner might go to confess the worst sins of impurity.”

J.P. Donleavy’s Ireland · In All of Her Sins and In Some of Her Graces

Paddy Casey’s Addicted to Company Pt. 1, released in Ireland in September 2007 and available in the United States on April 1st, slaps Irish folk and American post-Sixties soul together in one of the more satisfying records released so far this year.

Casey was born in Crumlin, outside Dublin, provenance of Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy and Morrissey’s mum. He taught himself to play guitar to Prince and Smiths sheet music and busked in cities across Ireland until the late Nineties, when an A&R scout from Sony heard him playing on Grafton Street, the Fifth Avenue or Third Street Promenade of Dublin. Casey is the winner of numerous Meteor Ireland Music Awards, including Best Irish Album in 2008, for Addicted to Company Pt. 1, Best Irish Male in 2005 and 2004.

“I just like writing songs. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was a teenager, busking on the streets. When I have a guitar in my hands I’m always trying to come up with a new melody, a new idea, the bones of a song I can take a run with. When it clicks, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Casey’s first album, Amen (So Be It), released in 1999, is urgent Irish folk music in the vein of the Levellers (of Brighton, UK), or Luka Bloom poured through a sieve made of the first few Alarm and the first few Billy Bragg albums. Casey’s second album, Living, released in 2004, went 11 times platinum in Ireland, selling more than 200,000 copies in 2004 and 2005 after spending over a year in the Top Ten, only to be dismissed from the top of the charts by U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Unlike his compatriots and fellow Dubliners in U2, however, Casey is unknown in the States.

 

Perhaps his efforts prior to Addicted to Company Pt. 1 were “too Irish?” Enter Casey fan and producer George Drakoulias, famed for his work with the Black Crowes, the Jayhawks, the Low Stars, Rhett Miller and Tom Petty. Casey had recorded some of the album in his kitchen with Pat Donne, his collaborator since Amen (So Be It) when Drakoulias invited him to L.A. to continue work on the record, where he soaked Paddy’s brogue with soul grooves and larded them with post-Revolver Beatles. On its way to the Seventies, Addicted to Company Pt. 1 nods toward Drake and Dylan, Womack and Robinson, Stevens and Mitchell. It’s Dublin (Kildare, actually), with stops in Detroit, Hampstead, Laurel Canyon, and a layover in St. John’s Wood.

“I have a house in Kildare. Because it’s near to Dublin, where my kid is, and it’s cheaper than Dublin. Sure you couldn’t afford a house in Dublin; not a house where you could make noise and make music. I did half of the album in the house, in the kitchen. I think this is my best album. It has a really good sound, and George helped me get this.”

The album opens with “Sound Barrier,” the funkiest song on the record, followed by “Addicted to Company,” a sweet soul number with background vocals that sound as if they were peeled from “What’s Going On.” “U’ll Get By” is straight-up guitar pop with one of the album’s biggest choruses, “maybe you’re an angel with enough room in your heart, for everyone…” “Fear,” a track from Amen (So Be It), is denser and more muscular and, unfortunately, as appropriate now, in these odious times, as it was in 1999: “I know upon this night another village is burning/child lose their life as their first sun is turning/leaders of holocausts stand so tall/man it looks like there ain’t no value on life at all.” It’s propulsive folk rock, reminiscent of the Levellers’ “Way of Life” or Billy Bragg’s “Greetings to the New Brunette.” “Become Apart” sounds like Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” or Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic,” then breaks into a more propulsive song, driven by thick, atmospheric percussion that reaches back to the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack” or the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.”

“City” is a stiff funk song that’s as gritty as Addicted to Company Pt. 1 gets, with brief squalls of fuzzy lead guitar. The chorus flirts with “Penny Lane,” especially at the bridge and in the later choruses, when the horns punch through the stomp. “Not Out to Get You,” with its banjo and piano, is the album’s riverboat cruise and a nod to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” There’s a bit of Billy Joel here and just a dash of Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing,” if you can believe it, with a beat lifted from Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Casey ends the song singing, “la, la, la, la…”

“Refugee” begins in a manner similar to Love’s “Alone Again Or,” then unfurls with flamenco percussion and a string section. “Tonight” is simple and direct, acoustic guitar and Casey’s gentle, earnest vocal its most salient components: “this shadow that’s hanging over you/makes you feel just like you won’t make it through/so please, just stay around/’cause where there’s life there’s hope/and a heart gets found.” It’s warm and hopeful, its message drawn from the music of Curtis Mayfield, the Staples Singers and Stevie Wonder (and the Beatles, of course):

“I love the title (Addicted to Company Pt. 1) and really wanted to use it this time out. For me, it just sums up the human condition, in that it’s a realization that sometimes maybe it’s enough to just be with the people you’re with.”

“I Keep” is one of the strongest songs on the album, the bright soul blues of Bobby Womack and Smokey Robinson as sung by an ardent young Irish folksinger, and it would sound just right on a mix CD or an iPod playlist between Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” and Terence Trent D’Arby’s cover of “Who’s Lovin’ You.” Like the Jam’s “Beat Surrender,” Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” or Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” it’s a song that states its thesis in its lyrics: “well there’s you and there’s me and some old R&B/and we’re being as natural as people can be…well there’s you and there’s me and we run from the crowd/and we go to climb back on our own private crowd…” It’s Irish make out music, seductive in its sincerity and its sense of fun, right down to its big slow-motion finish. If Hall & Oates ever cover “I Keep,” they’ll tear it up, adorned in satin suits, crooning their hearts out beneath a mirror ball.

 

“Leaving” is a simple, gentle acoustic folk song in the spirit of Beatle ballads “She’s Leaving Home” and “Mother Nature’s Son,” as well as Paul Weller’s “Country” from Wild Wood. It’s the album’s flagship folk song, evocative of Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Cat Stevens and early James Taylor. “U and I” is modern folk rock song that recalls David Gray’s “White Ladder” and some of Peter Himmelman’s music from the mid-Nineties. “U and I, we’re on our own/we have to make our own way home…” Casey’s singing is restrained until the big chorus, which features a choir of backing vocals (one of them Casey’s school age daughter). The album closer, “It’s Over Now,” like “Fear,” originally appeared on Amen (So Be It). Casey, accompanied on this version by a string section, again sings with more force than on his earlier version of the song. Hidden track “Singing Bird,” is a lovely acoustic song reminiscent of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and “Girl From the North Country” – it’s the album’s “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.”

Addicted to Company Pt. 1, is an album Donleavy might describe as “played with all the warmth and exquisite tonalities alive in this gentleman’s heart and skill.” It belongs, for the most part, to the collection of records from white folk and rock singers and bands who love funk and soul. A brief list of these albums might include Van Morrison’s His Band and the Street Choir and Moondance, Kick (INXS), Paul Weller and Wild Wood, Born to Run and The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, Maria McKee’s You Gotta Sin to Get Saved and anything on which Greg Dulli appears (dark as it usually is). The horns and bass kick in, and everything changes…

“To smile suddenly at this city. The red faces of the men and white faces of the women…and the unsmiling scattering begging barefooted little children. Last night to peer out a window across the top of trees in St. Stephen’s Green…purple little mountains rising in the distance, set gently beyond the wispy fragrant smoke…all this strange cold nobility. A toy green tram squealing by. And floods of bicycles.”

–P. Donleavy · The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B

PADDY CASEY’S CONSUMMATE TOP TENS

Top Ten Things You Must Do in Dublin (“Why I Love Dublin”)

1. U should definitely take yourself down to Dave Murphy’s songwriter night in Bankers pub on Tuesday nights. Nearly every decent singer in Ireland has played in Dave’s gigs at some stage. Tell him I sent ya’.

2. You should get some fish and chips from Burdocks in Christ Church.

3. You should get drunk and climb into the pulpit in Christ Church Cathedral and play the organ.

4. You should go busking (street performing)…especially at 2 or 3 in the morning.

5. You should take your clothes off and climb to the top of the needle (a new monument in the middle of O’Connell Street).

6. You should drive up to the Wicklow Mountains and look down on the city at night.

7. You should eat a Coddle, which is a kind of stew made from boiled sausages, rashers, onions, potatoes, carrots and anything else you want to throw in.

8. Once you’ve eaten that, you should go find an ice-cream van and ask for a Screwball.

9. You should go to a hurling match, or better still, play in one – there is a saying that “football is for men, hurling is for heroes!”

10. You should go into Whelan’s bar in Wexford Street and tell Kevin your name is Jacynthia.

Top 10 Amazing Irish Bands You’ve Never Heard of

I’m not sure who the ten best are, but here are ten people who have great songs… in no particular order…

1.  Sinead Martin

2. Declan O’Rourke

 

 

3. Maeve Dunphy

4. Colin Scanlan

5. The Rags

6. Cathy Davey

7. Alice Djago

8. Kila

9. Mark Dignam

10.  Liam McDermott

The 10 Greatest Irish writers/novelists/poets

I don’t know that many…there are so many, and most of them have something to offer the world, so I’ll just name 10 I’ve read and liked…

1. Seamus Heaney

2. John B Keane

3. William Butler Yeats

4. Samuel Beckett

5. Neil Jordan

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6. Brendan Kennelly

7. Flann O’Brien

8. Patrick Kavanagh

9. Eoin Colfer

10. Sean O’Casey

The 5 Best clubs/shows I’ve ever played, etc. It’s too many gigs and too much drink to remember…

1. The first time they had the Witness festival (which is now the Oxygen festival)…the same year my first album came out (1999). I got there expecting a few people to be at my gig, but the place was rammed…about ten thousand people, and they seemed to all know the words. It was amazing! I laughed my head off all the way through the gig…I even did some break-dancing at the end, out of giddiness.

2. I got to support one of my all-time favourites, Richie Havens (he opened Woodstock) in a small club in Dublin called Whelan’s, and I even got to jam with him in the dressing room beforehand.

3. When I next played Oxygen, after my second album came out (2004). This time we played the main stage. It had been raining all day, and when we walked onstage the sun came out. There were bodies singing and dancing as far back as I could see. It was pretty spectacular.

 

4. When I did my one of my first headline gigs in Whelan’s. The place was rammed, and it was just great fun. I was working on a building site at the time – that was the last day I went into work. : )

5. To be honest with you I don’t really remember, with the exceptions getting to support U2 and R.E.M in stadiums. I reckon I enjoy most of my gigs equally – they all have something going for them. So I’ll leave it at five….

DISCOGRAPHY

Amen (So Be It) 1999

Living (2004)

Addicted to Company Pt. 1 (2008)

INTERNET

www.paddycasey.com