by Judy Black

You have to stick with what's in your heart," says Irish guitar virtuoso Rory Gallagher.

 "We've gone through so many big changes musically without ever losing the basic roots - not the source of it. It's still emotionally bluesy. Rhythmically, it gets quite rocky. In 14 albums, we have gone off on certain tangents and tried certain things. I think we've progressed. I wouldn't say it's the same music as it was in the beginning, but I wouldn't like the spirit that was there at the start to be synthesized now or commercialized or hammered into something else."

In a career that has found him hailed as one of the greatest contemporary blues and rock artists, Rory Gallagher has acquired a fan base as broad as his touring schedule. He first came to notoriety with a three-piece group known as Taste. The blues rock band was the pioneer of the '60s rock trio sound, along with Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Leaving in 1971 to pursue a solo career, Gallagher has relied on the strength of his music, not an image to keep him in the concert clubs and recording studios for nearly two decades. Ironically, it has  been within the the last several years that Gallagher is rediscovering the essence of his music.

"I think with the last two albums, DEFENDER and FRESH EVIDENCE, because there was a  gap recording-wise and otherwise of a couple years. It me a chance to reassess what we were doing.. We weren't touring as hard as we were for a while which wasn't a bad thing because when you're doing constant touring you don't get a chance to assess what you're doing or what you could be doing ­ you- you can't get a third eye view of yourself."

"I'm basically a blues player, he continues. "If I'm playing at home, it's usually blues phrases and ideas. But I'm also quite proud to be a rocker. I like to excite an audience, and I'm not ashamed to rock and roll if necessary. There's a very thin line between where blues joins rock.Let's put it this way: If I'm doing a traditional blues number, I do it with reverence. I'm not a rocker doing a blues song. But then again, if I'm doing a song that is crossing into rock  and roll, I'm not going to make it too laid back,  I let it rock."

FRESH EVIDENCE contains 10 tracks, two of which are instrumental. Gallagher wrote nine of the tracks and produced the entire album. After 14 albums, and a catalog of hundreds of songs, choosing what to include on a new album is not always the easiest task.

"It's  quite  hard sometimes, to be honest with you" says Gallagher with a laugh. People expect the first track to be very obvious. I found that any one of  five or six  of the songs could have been the opener on either side. That would have cast a mood over the rest. I came up with the best blend I could think of at the time."

He is also currently working on new material. "For some reason, on this tour I'm writing a bit every day, and playing a lot more in the hotel rooms and at home. The next album, if it's not a live album, we'll probably hit the studio during the summer time and start laying down some tracks.There are some times when you don't write. I usually found when I was touring that I was so wrapped up in the night's performance that I didn't have time to write. Now I jot down a few things every day, and when I get home I'll sit down with my guitar and cassette player and just ramble through ideas.

"I think my songwriting had 3 boost about three or four years ago. before the DEFENDER album and on into this album. I got some new ideas, some new themes and new approaches. Also, I won't say that I rediscovered the blues roots, but I defined the blues roots a lot more  than some albums that were getting very hard rock sounding."

A longtime concert headliner, he has given such acts as Kiss, Rush and Free their first opening act slots. As an Irish musician he is especially proud or the fact that he has helped change the attitude towards Irish artists and paved the way for some of his fellow musicians.

"At the very start there was only Van Morrison and then myself and Taste. Everything was controlled from London then. The attitude towards Irish musicians wasn't very high; they thought we were all folk musicians. Once Van broke through, and then we broke through, it opened up the doors later on for Thin Lizzy and the Boomtown Rats, and then later on U2 and various other people. Things were so hard for us we had to go to Hamburg to play in the  clubs there. We couldn't even get work in England. Luckily we eventually got a couple of breaks in the Marquee club, which was a fantastic break for us."

"Unless you have really big commercial hits, people tend to forget what you did or didn't do", he continues. "Particularly with the huge success of U2. That over­shadowed everything else! that anyone has done, Good luck to them, they deserve it, but they really had the luck of the  gods if you like; everything came together for them at the right time internationally. I'm glad to open a few doors for a few people."

Rory Gallagher's present outing marks the 27th time he has toured the United States. It also is his first tour in nearly five years. He will be performing at the  Empire this Sunday, March 24 along with longtime bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Brendan O'Neill. Harmonica player Mark Feltham lends his talent to the live show as well. It is in trio form that Rory Gallagher feels most comfortable presenting his music.

"The rhythmic freedom of it and also you can improvise a lot with it",  states Gallagher with reference to performing as a three-piece band. "With four, five or six people, you generally have to stick with a set list,  where we change the repertoire every night. I actually like the open songs. Some people miss a rhythm guitar, but I play a lot of rhythm in between the lead. There's a certain distinct thing about a trio, although on this tour we have a harmonica player on some songs also. We have worked in the studios with keyboards. It is tempting at times to get another guy in on keyboards or guitar. I have auditioned people, but I haven't found someone who will leave enough room for me to play. I don't play strictly lead guitar; I do a lot of chords and chops and things. But do like the trio for some reason."

This article comes from the  3/91 issue of Cleveland Scene
Thanks to Mindbender Milo for allowing to use this article from his Shadowplays Rory web page
reformatted by roryfan
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added 6/21/09