Barry McCabe at the Celtic Cafe

The Celtic Cafe is grateful to Keltika Magazine of Italy for sharing some of the work of Alfredo De Pietra, its Music Column Editor, translated into English. Click here for Alfredo's bio page at the Celtic Cafe, with links to some of his other features available here at

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Barry McCabe and "The Peace Within" -- a CD of "Celtic Blues"

What do you get when you bring together Barry McCabe and Davy Spillane, one of the world's most famous uilleann pipers? Celtic Blues!

Davy contributed to over half of "The Peace Within" and co-wrote two of the tracks. It also gave him the chance to delve fully into the Blues/Celtic connection. He had just hinted at it on "Atlantic Bridge" and later on in "Out of the Air," an "electric blues" CD with many members of Davy’s former band "Moving Hearts" and Rory Gallagher, who was a huge musical influence on Barry. "The Emigrant" on "The Peace Within" CD is dedicated to Rory, and is absolutely brilliant.

Barry is as expressive on the classical guitar on this lovely instrumental as he is on the most rocking of blues tunes with his searing electric guitar. The passion and feeling comes through, complemented perfectly by Davy’s low whistle on this piece. Barry’s vocals and songwriting skills are also showcased on another terrific track, "Gotta Let It Go." This CD has a lot of variety, and all of it good! The version of Peter Green’s "Oh Well," a classic of the early Fleetwood Mac era, with Davy’s uilleann pipes added, is like icing on the cake!

Listen to sound samples of "The Peace Within" at CD Baby by clicking here, and learn more about Barry McCabe and his music in the following interview with Barry by Keltika Magazine's Music Column Editor, Alfredo De Pietra.

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Please tell us something about the title of the album: you insist very much on the concept of peace...

Well I don't know if your question loses something in the translation because I'm not insisting on anything, and I don't think peace is a concept, but yes, you are right the CD in general and the title song in particular are talking about peace. You see, I think people have been trying to find peace in the wrong way up until now - which is probably why many of them haven't found it. Bombing a country that you are fighting with and then calling it peace when the war is over or won has absolutely nothing to do with peace. In fact it's probably the exact opposite. True peace can only come from within. When you are at peace with yourself you will be at peace with the world, and then you'll have peace in the world. So the only person you can work on is yourself. That's what "The Peace Within" is all about.

You talk about "a new musical direction". How did you and your music meet Irish traditional music?

Well I am Irish, so even though I never played traditional music up until this CD I've been listening to it my whole life. So even if I didn't want it, it's there in my brain subconsciously. Like a lot of teenagers I got into rock music and fell in love with the music of Rory Gallagher and the blues in general. The power of it spoke to me. Traditional music at that time of my life didn't seem to have that. Of course I've realised in the meantime that it is indeed very powerful music, it just comes at you in a different way. I listen a lot to The Bothy Band now and I'm amazed that they recorded a live album in '72 (just like Rory did) but I was completely unaware of it at the time.

At one stage in my life I needed to really find out who I was inside - not what my family or country told me I was. Through that period of self-analysis I discovered that traditional music in fact held a lot of the same qualities as blues music. It could be very meloncholic and yet it could be upbeat as well. I think I really connected to the emotional content of the two styles. And then amazingly, I discovered that even musically the two styles were very close to each other. I suppose they are both roots music, born out of the desires and sadness of both races - the blacks living in slavery in America and the Irish being governed by somebody other than themselves.

And what about your musical experience with Davy Spillane?

Amazing really! Davy is a really sweet person and a super musician. That was the first time I'd been that close to a set of uilleann pipes. Can you believe that? In Co. Cavan (where I come from) traditional players favoured more the fiddle and accordion. Davy is really professional to work with, so from that point of view it was quite easy. In some cases he asked me beforehand what I wanted for the song and in other cases he just knew instinctively what the song needed. He wasn't big-headed about it at all. I mean can you imagine, here I am in Davy's own studio working with a man who is without doubt the most famous uilleann piper in the world! Before working on my CD he had played with the likes of Van Morrison and Chris Rea and right after my CD he played with Bryan Adams.

Another funny thing about the whole CD and mixing the blues with Irish traditional music is that I didn't know that the pipes work best in a limited number of keys and strangely enough the songs I wrote with Davy (and his pipes) in mind were all written in keys that suited the pipes. I think the Gods were leading me by the hand when I was working on that CD.

Is it easy put together Irish traditional and blues? Which are the common points, which (if there) the problems to join together these two musical genres?

I think I might have answered this question already in the other questions. I have to say that my marriage of blues and traditional on "The Peace Within" CD is quite a loose one. I think it's the overall thing that works. Some songs do marry the two styles a little closer and it's something I'd like to work further on for the next CD. I think songs like my version of "Istanbul Blues" mix the two styles together quite well. "One Of These Days" manages quite well to have that blues feel off it but then the pipes come in real nice at the end to take it of in a slightly different direction.

Please tell us something about your Italian experiences...

Well I just love Italy! I suppose I'm lucky in that I have a very good promoter in Italy, so ever since the first concert things have gone really well for me there - and happily the Italians seem to like my music, so it's a two-way thing. I like the fact that the Italian people are so outgoing, so emotional, so loud. I suppose it's all the things Irish people aren't. We tend to be more reserved, quieter, etc. so maybe it's also the difference that I like. I also love sunny weather (you know about our weather, right?) and I love the food! I've played all over Italy (not just the north) and in fact I remember playing way down south and the people were so happy we travelled all the way down there to play for them. Those were some of the most enjoyable concerts I've played there. I still have such great memories from that trip. In fact just writing about it now makes me feel like going back over there to play!

Finally, some words about Rory Gallagher and your dedication to him of "The Emigrant"

Well like I said earlier, I fell in love with Rory's music around the age of 14. That was the first record I ever bought and I remained a fan right up until the day he died. After working on "The Peace Within" CD (and adding the traditional music to it) I can now hear traces of Irish music in Rory's music as well. Perhaps it was a subconscious thing with him too, although he had a knowledge of traditional music and was recording more traditional stuff just before he died (working with The Furey Brothers, The Dubliners, etc.). After he died I wanted to write a song for him but I didn't want to end up writing some bad lyrics and that's when I decided to just write a piece of music for him. Davy is very much responsible for that track (it's co-written) and while we were recording it I was looking out through the window of his studio at the Atlantic ocean. Just as he finished I could hear his whistle waving on and on and it felt like the waves to me. It also triggered the realisation that a lot of Irish people left home and sailed across those very same waters to became emigrants in other countries, and that Rory in fact had had to do the same thing. That's when I came up with the name for the piece of music. Rory actually played on one of Davy's CDs, so in a way the circle had been completed.

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See the official Barry McCabe site at:

Davy Spillane site:

Take advantage of CD Baby's special $5 offer on Barry's CDs:

Click here for Alfredo De Pietra's section at the Celtic Cafe and click here to go directly to his own site.

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Interview: Alfredo De Pietra
Feature: Bernadette Price
Original Web Design: Alexander Servas

The Peace Within CD
The Making of the Peace Within Book
Absolutely Live Vol. 2
Davy Spillane
Barry McCabe
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