Tommy Byrnes
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Tommy Byrnes

Band World Celtic

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Music

The best kept secret in music

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Discography

Solo
2004-Alehouse Insurrections

With Ockham’s Razor
2000-Guys of the Loo
1997-One and One Sixth Takes with Sticky Tape and Rust
1991-Ockham’s Razor

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Tommy Byrnes is a multi-instrumentalist and composer whose muse has led him down some remarkable and varied musical paths. And he has his mother to thank for it. When he was asked what he wanted for his tenth birthday, he said he wanted a guitar. After some strong lobbying by the persistent youngster she capitulated.

Tommy worked hard to master his new hobby. But he soon realized that music was more than a pastime; it was a passion. Within a short period of time he understood that the plywood instrument he had would govern the rest of his life. He constantly practiced to learn the fundamentals, taking instruction from a 6 record home guitar course. His sisters would get a chuckle every time he played those lessons on the stereo. “Slow down you stupid record, I dropped my pick!” It was always a one-sided conversation but he kept at it anyway.

One of his classmates turned him on to the blues and he voraciously ate it up, listening to the likes of Big Bill Broonzy, Lightning Hopkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson, B.B. King and other players. It wasn’t long before the sounds of a certain fellow lefty player became the touchstone of his youthful musical endeavors. Jimi Hendrix. It was a short jump from the master’s music to the greats of the scene in the 70’s. Jimmy Page (he really liked Jimmys), Robin Trower, Steve Howe, Martin Barre of Jethro Tull and Eric Clapton were constantly showing off their 6-string prowess from his bedroom stereo. By the time he reached high school his chops were evolving and so were his ambitions.

Finding other rather obsessed players was easy. It seemed that nearly everyone played. Bands were formed, unending jams were the norm and soon playing was the only thing that really mattered. But the sensibilities of rock and roll were about to be knocked for a loop.

One summer Saturday night some friends called and asked if Tommy wanted to go to an outdoor concert by a band with the rather odd name, How To Change A Flat Tire. They played Celtic music, whatever that was. It was to be a turning point. During the show he had an epiphany. This was the music that he was meant to play all along. The next day he gave his best friend his Stratocaster and amp. He also gave his girlfriend his entire record collection, feeling he would never listen to those disks again. (Ahh, the exuberance of youth!) The next morning he headed down to his local music store and bought a Chieftains record and a tin whistle.

After graduation Tommy was off to live in Ireland, choosing not to go to music school. He felt that spending every night playing in sessions at pubs in Dublin was the only way to really learn the complexities and nuances of traditional music. The Guinness didn’t hurt either. After a return home to the States he headed back to Ireland again, making his living as a busker (street musician). He played on the street every day and played in sessions every night. It was a fairy tale existence that honed his chops and put him in contact with some of the finest musicians in all of Ireland.

Back in the U.S. Tommy formed the critically acclaimed band Ockham's Razor in 1989, with his buddy Sean Cowhig on bass, Brad Hurley on flute and tin whistle and Fraser Stowe on drums. The Razors incorporated Celtic, rock and folk musical influences into original compositions and highly original arrangements to traditional tunes. But after twelve years of being with the group he felt it was time to pursue a different dream. In 2001 he left the band to build a recording studio and release his own albums. After a long and circuitous route, he realized that goal, releasing his first solo album, Alehouse Insurrections in 2004. His music by now has become an amalgam of all the styles he has played over the years. The progressive rock movement of the 70s sits side by side with pure Celtic music. Loud, distorted guitars have conversations with bagpipes and tin whistles. And after all these years, Tommy wouldn’t have it any other way!