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Wild Willy Barrett’s French Connection
Biography

Wild Willy Barrett’s French Connection – about the band

For John, a master of the Uilleann pipes, this has been an interesting couple of years, having also played at Buckingham Palace in the presence of the Queen.

“I was invited to play at the palace as part of the Irish State visit – it’s very, very posh and there were lots of celebrities around. I missed the opportunity to see Van Morrison, but I saw Niall from One Direction.”

Speaking on Wild Willy Barrett’s French Connection, he says: “It is unlike anything you will ever see or hear with the range of music and musicianship. Willy holds it all together. He’s one of the most overlooked musicians in the country.”

From a cafe in Paris, via a hoolie in Dublin, to a night out in New Orleans with rip-roaring fiddle and banjo – this band does it all!

Imagine stumbling across a smoky back street bar, late night jam: Django Reinhardt and The Pogues; Robert Johnson accompanies Edith Piaf; Bob Marley’s jammin’ with Stéphane Grappelli; Tom Waits joins in. This is French Connection.

At the ensemble’s heart are the undisputed talents of multi-instrumentalist, erstwhile Godfather of grunge folk, Wild Willy Barrett.

Featuring an original melange of French, Irish and English acoustic arrangements, using everything from a guitar and cello, to Irish pipes and banjo, there really is nothing else quite like them.

The group was born during a chance encounter in 2002, when Willy approached a cellist he saw performing with a belly-dancing troupe.

“Willy was living on the Grand Union canal near Tring, Herts. He saw and heard me playing and dancing in the garden of a pub close to where his boat was moored and came rushing over with the immortal words ‘would you like to join my band?’

“I knew who he was, but I must confess to being a bit suspicious as to whether it was the cello playing or me he was interested in, so it took several phone calls and lots of persuading for me to audition for the band.  Turns out, he was interested in both – we are now married.”

The Willy that Mary refers to is Wild Willy Barrett, known as the Godfather of Grunge Folk, a highly respected musician whose styles include folk, blues, gypsy jazz, reggae, bluegrass and punk.

Having recorded Rasta Communication with Sly and Robbie, toured with U2, Police, Madness and many more, been guitarist for George Hamilton IV, considered for Brian Jones’ replacement in the Rolling Stones, recorded ‘The Contemporary Folk Guitar’ album with Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Gordon Giltrap & Ralph McTell, Willy has had a long and varied career.  But it is the gentler side of Wild that emerges with French Connection.

“Having worked with Mary and John for more than ten years, I am delighted to be able to add French to the Irish/English mix. It has given us the chance to work on some interesting new arrangements, utilising the range of instruments at our disposal to their full advantage, testing their scope to the limit. It has definitely widened our horizons.”

For John, a master of the Uilleann pipes, this has been an interesting couple of years, having also played at Buckingham Palace in the presence of the Queen.

“I was invited to play at the palace as part of the Irish State visit – it’s very, very posh and there were lots of celebrities around. I missed the opportunity to see Van Morrison, but I saw Niall from One Direction.”

Speaking on Wild Willy Barrett’s French Connection, he says: “It is unlike anything you will ever see or hear with the range of music and musicianship. Willy holds it all together. He’s one of the most overlooked musicians in the country.”

Originally from Nancy in France, Aurora’s lively personality fits in perfectly with the quirkiness of the other musicians, and she is already wowing audiences both French and English alike with her beautiful vocals.

“I was always interested in music while I was growing up – singing all the time, playing a little keyboard as a pre-teen, grabbing opportunities to play my dad’s drum kit when I was a teenager. I also discovered the old songs by Charles Trénet, Yves Montand, Édith Piaf and others that my grandparents were playing on their radios – I just loved these.”

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