Steve Cooney is an Australian guitar player, arranger, composer and poet who has been a towering influence on the contemporary Irish music scene ever since moving to Ireland from his native Melbourne in 1981. A rock and blues musician originally, Steve Cooney first joined seminal band Stockton’s Wing as a bass and didgeridoo player before immersing himself in the Irish scene. As a passionate musician and sideman, he has contributed to countless recordings over the years. Paradoxically, apart from his (legendary) collaboration with West-Kerry accordion player Séamus Begley (they recorded Meitheal in 1996) and a string of unreleased recordings, Steve Cooney has never recorded an album as a solo artist. Fortunately it seems, a long-awaited solo release is in the pipeline.

[update] Ceol Ársa Cláirsí Tunes of the Irish Harpers for Solo Guitar was released on CD in January 2020.

Master Cooney restores the ancient link between lyre and lyric, between poetry and performance, the rhapsody and rascality. (Séamus Heaney) *

“O’Farrell’s Welcome to Limerick” (also known as “An Phis Fhliuch” or “The Choice Wife”) is a traditional slip-jig usually associated with pipers. Steve Cooney probably learned the tune from piper Liam O’Flynn who recorded it in 1995 on The Given Note…with Steve Cooney on guitar, bass guitar and didgeridoo. Unless he learned it from British songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson who also recorded the tune on the guitar on his 1978 album First Light. Regardless, Steve Cooney’s (almost bluesy) version is a restrained and flawless master class on the Fender Stratocaster, an instrument which is of course rarely associated with traditional Irish music.

Steve Cooney
Steve Cooney, The Hague (2008)

photo credit: Haags Uitburo via photopin cc

* This Séamus Heaney quotation was mentioned in the preview of a concert held in Vicar Street, Dublin on 30th September 2012 last celebrating Steve Cooney’s contribution to the Irish Music scene.