Despite radio's hex,

Rory Gallagher's back to what he does best

 by Gary Weimer

"In a bar in Ireland, they can pass the violin around to six different guys, and the guy with the bad teeth, the bad suit and the torn shirt can probably whip the rest of them, but he gets the respect."

Rory Gallagher is sitting around drinking a Harp lager beer ("from the mainland") relating the "Irish peasant" attitude that is part of his roots and tradition.

Roots are something important to Gallagher. Growing up with early American blues and Irish folk music, he got his first taste of success with a blues band called Taste. That band folded after a U.S. tour with Blind Faith, and he went on to a solo career that has spanned the last dozen years or so, and gives no sign of weakening. Maintaining a solid blues foundation in his work, Rory has been able to keep the freedom to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it.

His latest Mercury Records release, Jinx, is a statement to that very end. Realizing that his last LP, the live Stage Struck, had taken on some "metallic" overtones, the staunch Irishman and his band (Gerry McAvoy on bass and Brendon O'Neil on drums) decided to record what they call a '60s R&B album. The stage was set in Germany, where the guys dug through an old radio truck assembling some old sound boards and microphones to record with.

A reaction against a sterile, computerized sound, Rory calls the final product an "attempt to get the sound that you used to hear in records before it was all computerized. . . new material with the best of the old sounds." Where Europe caught on to the warmth and vibrance of the record immediately, he notes that the American radio market has missed his intention and has not given him much consideration. His consolation to that fact is that the disc is selling quite well and he's being very well-received in concert (selling out the Park West on a night when the Who were at the easy task).

Now that R&B seems to be making a resurgence in the mainstream of music, Rory's music is suddenly becoming more in vogue. As would be expected, he has a strong opinion of the current trends. While he admits enjoying. artists like George Thorogood, and the first Stray Cats LP, he is a bit put off by some of the music coming out of the British Isles.

"None of (the British groups) give America credit for musical roots," he says. " It's supposed to be white rock 'n' roll, a strictly cold, Atlantic thing.... They've taken a sort of Ray Davies/George Orwell stance and made it more bitter. I don't like music for video's sake. If you can't cut it in a bar, you can't cut it anywhere else. I don't believe in this drum machine and one guy standing next to a synthesizer, and another guy looking at him."

Although he claims he's not a workaholic, the humble guitarist always seems to be working. He's presently dividing his time between doing his own dates and touring with Rush, whom he enjoys working with both professionally and personally. While he would rather play his own dates, Gallagher finds the experience challenging and rewarding: "When you find yourself in a huge arena in the middle of Boise, Idaho, you can't sit back on your past accomplishments or rest on your laurels." His attitude has been earning the band an encore a night opening up for Rush.

At the close of this latest tour, the band (which currently includes keyboardist John Cook) returns to England for some time off. Expressing a dislike for the sun, the spry Irishman would relish the opportunity to stop in and see friends like Buddy Guy and Junior Wells play or "do a Winnebago thing. Just pack an amp and my guitar in the back and drive around playing bars." He'll most likely do what he usually does, though, which is going to a few movies, drinking a little beer and finally staying up late with his old records and his guitar working on new material. As he puts it, "You always end up back close to what you do best."

One project he has on the books now is an album of acoustic music. Rather than just walk in and record a collection of old blues songs with his Martin six-string, Rory wants a blend of blues, original music and even some folk music (Irish, of course). And when he says acoustic he doesn't just mean guitar, but also piano, mandolin, dulcimer and double bass. He's looking forward to finishing the project, but is waiting for the right material to develop: "You only get the chance to do an album like this maybe once every 10 years, so it's got to be right."

Looking to the future, he has a positive outlook for music and life in general. "I think the '80's aren't going to be sensational in terms of innovations or craziness, but it's going to be like 'meat and potatoes'; get the job done, cause the '70s were so affected. Now that there's a recession, the '80's are really spanning out. You've got to be made to last nowadays. In the '70s, the more chic and the more disposable it was, the bigger it was. . . the boom can't go on. forever, so it's not bad for the human race to tighten its belt here and there. It's like anything. Everything can't be a total spree all the time, so it might not do us any harm. We might come out the other side of this decade in better shape."

The recession, which Gallagher says affects everyone to one degree or another, wasn't in evidence to the packed house at his recent performance here in town.

After an exhausting show, which included a pair of acoustic blues numbers, Gallagher fans coerced him into playing encores for an additional half hour. There were no smoke bombs, no paragons of decadence, and no fancy costumes - just a man and his battered Strat putting his heart and soul into playing some of the tastiest music around.

You couldn't ask for anything more.

This article comes from the December 1982 issue of Illinois Entertainer from Chicago
reformatted by roryfan.
background is a mutated photo from the article
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