Fiddle stuck

Kevin Burke brings his pure tone and affable charm to Chico

LUCKY CHARM<br>Master violinist Kevin Burke brings more great Irish music to Chico.

Master violinist Kevin Burke brings more great Irish music to Chico.

Photo by Owen Carey

Kevin Burke
Blue Room Theater, Sunday, April 8, 3:00 p.m. $10

Twenty-two years ago, I heard an album that changed my life. My friend Bob, who knew of my infatuation with Portland, gave me a record titled Portland, recorded by some fella by the name of Kevin Burke. That fella (Kevin Burke, not my friend Bob) apparently had the same effect on a large number of Americans, either through his various solo recordings, his Bothy Band releases, albums with Irish supergroup Patrick Street, or his work with the eclectic band Open House.

For decades now, Burke has been lauded for his superb purity of tone, studied voraciously by those seeking the perfect bowing technique and venerated by fans for his affable charm and humor. Yet he remains a modest, simple man intent on his original goal: To make a living doing what he loves best, playing the fiddle.

Burke began playing at the age of 8 and plodded along well enough until he started paying closer attention to the musicians who played at his home, as well as the musicians played most frequently on the record player: expatriate Irish fiddlers Michael Coleman and James “The Professor” Morrison. Their playing captured him, and he became deeply involved in the Irish music scene by the age of 12. Between his time in London (where his Sligo-born parents had relocated) and his frequent visits back to the Sligo countryside, Burke was able to soak up the best of Irish traditional players.

One auspicious day, Burke walked into a pub in Miltown Malbay, County Clare, and sat in on a session with some visiting American musicians, one of whom turned out to be Arlo Guthrie. After hearing Burke’s fiddling, Guthrie invited him to come to the U.S. and play on his album Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys. Burke did so, coming away with the idea that maybe instead of getting a job and spending off time on music, he might actually be able to make this music business work.

Luckily for us he gave it a try and not only succeeded in making his life goal work, but also in bringing true Irish music (rather than the more sentimental Irish-American music) to the forefront. Burke has subsequently played a huge part in the current popularity of Irish music worldwide.

He currently divides his touring time between Patrick Street and the Celtic Fiddle Festival, though he takes time out for a bit of solo work here and there. Fiddle fans will have the opportunity to see this master at work on Sunday, April 8, at The Blue Room at 3:00 p.m. for a mere $10.

Fiddle players will have the added opportunity to take a workshop with the master on Monday morning. Call 897-3613 for more information on both.