A real Dubliner in every sense of the word, Patsy Watchorn came from a very musical family: His father Ernest and his father's brothers played piano, banjo, mandolin and fiddle, and his mother, Christina, who was one of the Rings of Abbeyleix, was a singer. They always had music in the house. He fondly remembers those early days:
"Friends and neighbours were coming around two, three times a week for the ceol agus craic. It was there that I heard songs about old Ireland; those I loved most were the songs about the men that truly loved and served their country, men like Padraig Pearce and Robert Emmett. It was; Kevin Barry that helped me win my first ever singing competition in school, by then I had caught the bug and I knew all I wanted to do in life was sing."
His dream came true: In the late 1960's, Patsy collected first experiences with a band named The Quare Fellas; after two albums, Patsy left the group to pursue new directions.
The beginning 70's saw him rehearsing in his own home with Mick Crotty and soon they formed a new group; two more band members were found and Mick, known for The Ramblers 2 with Johnny McEvoy, came up with the name Dublin City Ramblers. Patsy's characteristic and unique voice took him and his band to new heights: He was touring all over Ireland, playing ail the prestigious Irish festivals in the United States and worldwide (like the world's biggest Irish festival in Milwaukee several times), appearing on radio and TV countless times.
Album followed album and hit followed hit, many written for Patsy himself as songwriters quickly discovered the handsome singer with the unique voice: Pete St. John penned the eternal favourite Dublin In The Rare Auld Times (and many more) exclusively for Patsy; Pete still today boasts proudly, "I wrote this for Patsy Watchorn". Liam Reilly of Bagatelle wrote the emmigration anthem Flight Of Earls, Johnny McEvoy supplied ballads. Patsy collected gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards over the years and looks back at these years with pride: "I was the Ramblers, was responsible for the fame. I founded them, was their lead singer for decades, I was the voice and the sound. It's not my intention to ridicule the talent of anybody that worked with me — actually, over the years, I met and worked with several top-notch musicians. But it is my voice that is on 99% of the tracks, it's my voice that fills all the successful albums. Rare Auld Times, Ferryman, Flight Of Earls, all certified gold, Luke Kelly's Land, which became a #1 hit in the Irish Charts in the States, these are my songs, written for me, performed by me."
In 1995, Patsy decided it was time to change gear again and left the Ramblers to pursue his solo career. The Craic & The Porter Black album, released months after Patsy had already left his old band, still has the tag Ramblers on it but actually serves as his first solo album with only two tracks on it not sung by him.
As an solo artist, Patsy keeps on collecting awards, the last to date in November 2002 for his compilation album The Very Best Of Patsy Watchorn: It went gold by sales in Dublin alone through CarrolI's Irish Gifts. His live schedule is as busy as ever, taking him to continental Europe — recently appearing in Holland and headlining Austria's biggest folk music festival — as well as to Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the spring of 2003; the Vegas shows were attended by stars from Lord Of The Dance who got up on stage to dance with Patsy and his band. Also, TV audiences could see him several times lately, most prominently in the very first instalment of RTE's Ireland's Greatest Hits series and a TV crew from Belgium flew in last year. Patsy himself was honored by being invited to Aras an Uachtarain by President Mary McAleese to a reception to celebrate Irish entertainers in 2002.
Over the years, he has matured to nothing less than Ireland's most recognizable ballad singer today, or, as a fan puts it within the guestbook at his website: "To us, Patsy is Ireland".
If his proudness of being a Dubliner and of being Irish, his typical Liffeyside brogue and foremost his outstandingly sincere and exciting voice are the measures to deal with, then Patsy Watchorn will remain on top of the Irish ballad scene for a long time to come.
On the one hand, Patsy Watchorn's present album is a collection of songs which have been on his list for quite some time; on the other hand, those songs reflect very much what he stands for as a balladeer and therefore also gives you a glimpse into the man behind the legend. From the simple wish to add more songs about his beloved hometown like "Dublin Town In 1962" to his repertory, to the fact of being very much aware of today's world and expressing this awareness in a song like "Hearts On Fire", the CD blends nicely into a consistent work where every piece fits.
Considering the aforementioned consciousness of the world we live in, it is no wonder that Patsy picked "Hearts On Fire" as the title track and a few more songs to shift the weight of the album to a very contemporary statement about the state of this world.
The beautiful "Hearts On Fire" was written by Frank Hennessy, one of Wales' most prolific singer/songwriters, a couple of years ago. But, as you will detect while listening, it has lost no relevance ever since then — on the contrary! The lyrics are intense and up-to-date like they had been written weeks ago, inspired by current headlines in the world news. In our fast moving times, Patsy has always been careful not to forget the people and events that shaped Ireland's history through the centuries. So it is not astonishing that one of the tracks of the album, "Ann Devlin", perfectly fits to the 200th anniversary of Robert Emmet's execution in 1803. Ann Devlin was servant to Robert Emmet and loyal to her master and his vision, suffering at Kilmainham Jail as well. No one lesser than Padraic Pearce said about her: "Whenever the name of Robert Emmet is mentioned in history let the name of Ann Devlin never be forgotten."
Between these two corner marks, Patsy has managed to gather a collection of songs telling about life past and present, about emigration and memories of childhood, about love found and lost and about the love for his country.