A product of County Offaly in the midlands of Ireland, Paddy O’Brien is regarded by serious players and collectors of Irish traditional music as one of the tradition’s most important repositories; in a musical career that spans nearly forty years, he has collected more than 3,000 compositions—jigs, reels, hornpipes, airs, and marches, including many rare and unusual tunes. His mastery of the two-row button accordion was also acknowledged through prestigious awards: he was named Oireachtas champion four times, and All-Ireland senior accordion champion in 1975.
In Ireland, he played and recorded with the famed Castle Ceili Band and Ceoltoiri Laighean. In 1978, Paddy began playing regularly in the United States, in Washington DC, Saint Louis, Saint Paul, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and many places between. He has been featured on six recordings with Shanachie Records since 1978, and in 1988 released his first solo album, Stranger at the Gate, on the Green Linnet label (and recently re-released by Compass Records). His most recent recordings include The Sailor’s Cravat, with fiddler Tom Schaefer, bouzouki player Paul Wehling, and singer Erin Hart (who happens to be his wife); and a new solo CD, Mixing the Punch. Both of these recent recordings are available from New Folk Records/Cló Iar-Chonnacht.
Paddy has taught at the prestigious Willie Clancy Summer School held in Milltown Malbay, County Clare, Goderich Celtic College, The Swannanoa Gathering, and the Catskills Irish Arts Week, and has served several times as a master artist in the Minnesota State Arts Board Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program. Since 1994, he has received a number of grants and fellowships to undertake an unprecedented project, recording and cataloging 1,000 tunes from his vast repertoire of traditional music; the result of that effort, The Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection: A Personal Treasury of Irish Traditional Music, has received accolades from players of Irish music around the world.