To hear Andy Irvine describe it, he once was much maligned by the traditional Irish music community.
Despite his membership in groups that birthed the modern iteration of the genre, Irvine was not always the beloved songwriter he later became.
Irvine said he and his bandmates often were disparaged in the '60s and '70s by an older generation of musicians, who believed the genre should remain unchanged and who resisted the idea of young upstarts rocking the boat.
With the sole exception of Irish-born uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn, they all were viewed as ruffians and ne'er-do-wells, Irvine said.
"[At festivals] there would sometimes be a lot of trouble, and it wouldn't be our fault, but we always got the blame because we were sort of beatniks with guitars," he said. "A lot of the traditional musicians wouldn't listen to our music, although we listened to theirs assiduously."
That's not to say, however, that Irvine hadn't earned some part of his mischievous reputation. As a younger man in London, he once narrowly avoided "social disaster" after telling a plainclothes policeman that he was a visiting American named Woody Guthrie. Thankfully, he said, the officer bought the story and let him go.
With the influx of radio and TV into Ireland in later decades, opinions about Irish music were irrevocably altered, and artists such as Irvine became its new preeminent figures. Now 70, Irvine has earned the respect of traditional musicians the world over for his pioneering efforts in Planxty, Sweeney's Men and, later, groups such as Patrick Street and Mozaik.
Tonight, he will perform a solo concert at Barking Legs Theater with local traditional Irish band Pay the Reckoning opening.
Although he is a fan of traditional instrumental music, Irvine has always been a songwriter first and foremost. Like Guthrie, he writes music that is rooted in real people and real history, either his own or that of folk heroes he said weren't receiving the recognition they were due.
From a rebellious counter-culture figure in his youth, Irvine said he now sees concerts as an opportunity to educate his audiences as well as to entertain them.
"I'm not exactly doing the old troubadour thing and bringing the latest news in song, but I'm bringing news from the past," he said. "If I'm doing a song ... and someone comes up to me and says, 'I never knew about that. ... I'm going to looking into this,' that gives me a great, joyful lift."
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...