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Sweeney's Men

Coming after the Clancy Brothers and before groups like Planxty and the Bothy Band, Sweeney's Men occupy a pivotal place in the history of Irish music, in addition to introducing the Greek bouzouki to the tradition, since which time it's become a staple instrument in so many bands. The original trio came together in Galway in 1966: Andy Irvine, Johnny Moynihan, and Joe Dolan. They picked up on the challenge thrown down by artists like Sean O'Riada and the early Chieftains by blending traditional song with exquisite harmonies and some trickily arranged instrumentals. They also, in time, became the first of the Irish folk bands to use electric instruments, putting themselves very much at the forefront of what would become folk-rock.

Their name derived from the book At Swim Two Birds by Flann O'Brien and they soon began touring Ireland under the management of Des Kelly. They released two singles for Pye, "Old Maid in the Garret" and "Waxie's Dargle," both of which made the Irish Top Ten. In 1967, Dolan left for Israel and was replaced by banjo player Terry Woods. Their sound changed, as documented on their first album, 1968's Sweeney's Men, recorded for Transatlantic, the signing was helped by prodding from Moynihan's girlfriend, English folk singer Anne Briggs. While the record wasn't strictly Irish -- its source material came from all over the British Isles -- its feel was very Irish. And it marked the first time the bouzouki had appeared in Irish traditional music -- an instrument mandolinist Moynihan had borrowed from a friend and adapted to the style. Following the appearance of the record, Irvine quit the group to travel in Eastern Europe and his replacement was electric guitarist Henry McCullough from Portstewart in Northern Ireland. He'd been in showbands and also a member of Eire Apparent, which had toured with Jimi Hendrix. While he hadn't been exposed to traditional music before, it came naturally to him, and the rest of the band met him halfway by going electric. However, although this lineup gigged, they never recorded before McCullough left the fold to join Joe Cocker. Woods and Moynihan continued as a duo. For a brief period they were joined by Al O'Donnell, but it was the twosome who recorded The Tracks of Sweeney in 1969, a mix of traditional and original pieces which wasn't as well-received as their debut. Shortly after, Sweeney's Men came to an end, Woods forming Orphanage with Thin Lizzy members Brian Downey and Phil Lynott, before moving to the English folk scene with wife Gay and joining the fledgling Steeleye Span. Moynihan took a little time off, then formed the seminal Planxty. The two albums from Sweeney's Men were collected on Time Was Never Here 1968-1969, issued in 1992 on Transatlantic. ~ Chris Nickson
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Anthems In Eden A Midsummer Night's Happenning

Disc 1

1. Hard Times Of Old England

2. Jack O' Diamonds

3. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

5. Sally Free And Easy

6. Anji

7. The Recruited Collier

8. Dirty Old Town

9. Three Ravens

10. Lyke Wake Dirge

11. Down On The Barge

12. Lord Randall

13. Who's The Fool Now

16. Coorie Doon

17. Socialism In Our Time

18. Girl From The North Country

19. Been On The Road So Long

20. The Wild Rover

22. Clive's Song

23. Reynardine

24. Bluesleeves

25. A Man's Man

Disc 2

2. Needle Of Death

3. The Summer Day Reflection Song

4. Think She Knows Me Now

5. Michael In The Garden

7. Children Of Hiroshima

8. I'm So Confused

9. My Name Is Carnival

10. Arctic City

11. Milk And Honey

12. Come Join My Orchestra

13. We Can Swing Together

14. One Man Band

15. Country Joe

16. Life And Life Only

18. The Fawn

19. Ophelia's Song

20. I've Seen The Movie

21. Northern Sky

Disc 3

1. Here We Come A-Wassailing

2. Cruel Sister

3. Dreams For Me

4. After The Goldrush

5. Fotheringay

7. It's Dark In Here

8. Marcie

10. January Snows

11. Rattlin' Roarin' Willie

12. The Astrologer

13. Meet Me On The Corner (Live)

14. Never Going Back

15. Knowing The Game

17. Late On Lady Day

18. Rain

20. Wanderer

22. When I Was On Horseback

Disc 4

2. God Dog

4. Winter Is Blue

5. Chloe In The Garden

6. The Tale Of The Spider And The Fly

7. Just Anyone

8. Luke That Never Was

9. Mr. Fox

11. Song To Comus

12. Captain's Log

14. A Witch's Guide To The Underground

15. Sun Symphonica

x

Track List: Anthologythe Legend Of Sweeney's Men - Anthology

Disc 1

1. Old Maid In A Garret

3. Waxie's Dargle

4. Old Woman In Cotton

6. Sullivan's John

7. Sally Brown

8. My Dearest Dear

9. The Exile's Jig

10. The Handsome Cabin Boy

11. Dicey Riley

12. Tom Dooley

14. Dance To Your Daddy

15. The House Carpenter

17. Reynard The Fox

Disc 2

2. Dreams For Me

3. The Pipe On The Hob

4. Brain Jam

5. Pretty Polly

6. Standing On The Shore

7. A Mistake No Doubt

8. Go By Brooks

9. When You Don't Care For Me

10. Afterthoughts

11. Hiram Hubbard

12. Hall Of Mirrors

14. The Dark-Eyed Sailor

15. Lowlands Of Holland

16. Dreams For Me

17. Sullivan's John

x

Track List: Troubadours Of Folk: The 60's Acoustic Explosion

Disc 1

1. 500 Miles Away From Home

2. The Wild Rover

4. Universal Soldier

5. Blues Run The Game

6. Farewell (Fare Thee Well)

7. Car Car (Riding In My Car)

8. I'm So Confused

9. Needle Of Death

10. Kimbie

11. Catch The Wind

12. I'm Not Sayin'

13. Cod Liver Oil And Orange Juice

14. Blowin' In The Wind

15. Goldfish Bowl

16. Long Ago Far Away

17. John Henry

18. Dirty Old Town

19. Blackwaterside

20. Girl From The North Country

21. Ev'ry Time (When We Are Gone)

Disc 2

1. Big Fat Silver Aeroplane

2. Frutch

3. The Gallowgate Calypso

4. This Train

5. Yesterday's Dream

7. In The Shade

8. Don't You Feel Good

9. Dwarf In A Tree ( A Cautionary Tale)

10. Blind Blake's Rag

12. Reynardine

13. Why Don't They Come Back To Dunoon?

14. Goodbye Booze

15. Eternity Will Soon Be Over

18. When You Don't Care For Me

19. William Taplin

20. Streets Of London

Comments

Report as inappropriate
"A wee fat man" .... Love this song! Nice to smile this morning.
Report as inappropriate
Need some whiskey
Report as inappropriate
good band
Report as inappropriate
Excellent band. Anything with Terry Woods is great.
Report as inappropriate
This is a good cover I prefer Gram Parson's though.

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