Patrick Clifford is an Irish-American musician, songwriter, and producer.
His repertoire confidently straddles the Atlantic, broadening the Irish-traditional conversation– through both songs and arrangements– to include musical cousins from America.
He performs and records Irish traditional standards; skillfully crafted original songs and compositions; and discerning covers of contemporary Irish and American songwriters such as Pete St. John, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.
He was born to Irish immigrant parents in New York City in 1966 and lived in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan, until the age of 13. As a child, he received his first formal music instruction, on the piano accordion, from renowned and influential Irish musician Martin Mulvihill, who was also an early mentor to fiddler Eileen Ivers.
As a teen, Clifford taught himself to play the guitar. Over the next few years, he played rhythm guitar in various high-school and college rock bands.
After receiving a degree in English and American Literature from Brandeis University in Massachusetts in 1988, he arrived back in New York. For the next few years, he honed his skills in musicianship, songwriting, and production. He also began playing bass guitar; recorded and performed with a number of alternative-rock bands; and produced his first commercial release, Sky in My Hand, by fellow singer-songwriter Liz Dacey.
Four to the Bar
During the summer of 1991, a classified ad in the Irish Voice newspaper caught his attention: "Bass player needed for new Irish trad band." The band was Four to the Bar, and it was as a founding member of this group that Clifford would find his first significant success.
Coming from a group of twentysomething urbanites, Four to the Bar's unironic affection for Irish traditional folk was viewed as exciting and rare. The quartet performed selections from the Clancy Brothers and Dubliners songbooks with a unique combination of skill and abandon, and over time their repertoire would evolve to also embrace American roots, contemporary folk, and rock. Within a year of forming, the band was among the top draws in the New York Irish pub circuit.
In the ensuing years, the band toured the U.S. east coast from Massachusetts to Florida, and as far west as Chicago and St. Louis. They opened for Shannon Shannon, served as Pete Seeger's backing band, and shared billing with Trisha Yearwood and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Daytona International Music Festival.
Clifford spearheaded the production of the band's two releases: a live album, Craic on the Road, and a studio album, Another Son. Each was well received by the press, on both sides of the Atlantic. To the latter release, Clifford contributed two original compositions: "The Western Shore" and "The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water," a musical setting of a W.B. Yeats poem. The Daytona Beach News-Journal noted that his songs "conveyed the special heartache of immigrants" (for a U.S. native, high praise indeed).
Even years after the band's dissolution in 1996, Four to the Bar's shadow seemed to be lengthening, not fading: Customer reviews on Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby continue to describe the band as "legendary" and "wonderful."
Following his work with Four to the Bar, Clifford left the music business for nearly a decade, during which he relocated from New York City to western New Jersey and started a family.
He resumed performing publicly around 2005, with Hobnail and the Immortals, two regional bands. Hobnail released a five-song EP, To the Fray, in 2008. In addition to playing bass and singing on the recording, Clifford also recorded, mixed, and mastered it.
On August 25, 2010, he released American Wake, his first commercial work as a solo artist. The album's polished arrangements include hints of everything from the Beach Boys to hip-hop to jazz, and the eight vocal tracks highlight his warm, folky tenor. A notable highlight is a version of "Thousands Are Sailing," which recasts the Pogues' classic anthem as a stripped-down acoustic lament.
He currently performs in the New York/New Jersey area in support of American Wake, and continues to write and record new material.
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