Releases > Releases June 2017

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Own Label, No Catalogue Number, 9 Tracks, 37 Minutes
The Meath based traditional band Coscán celebrates the landscape and archaeology of their native county in their latest album Firedance. The multi–talented members, Gerry Doggett, Harry Long, John Shankey and David Nevin pay tribute to ancient tribes, mythology and folklore in celebration of the magnificence of landscape and in particular, county Meath’s prehistoric monuments, which predate the Egyptian pyramids.
A Reel Around the Sun and the Dowth Reels are outstanding tunes, the whistle playing is particularly captivating. A fitting tribute to a pre–technological age, where the spiritual and devotional power of the sun, aligned purposefully for solstices, manifests in the architecture of the ancient monuments at Loughcrew, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. The tune is aptly named, the tempo and arrangements flawless.
Millmont Morning and Mornington Dawn is a sweet set of tunes that progress from jig to march time. Millmont is associated with one of Ireland’s earliest poets Amhaigrhin Glúngheal. Mornington is where the renowned Boyne river enters the sea. It also has associations with St. Patrick, the Milesian people and the Tuatha De Danann. Harry Long’s fine lyrical ballad, Dark Liberty, is a poetic tribute to the tragic life of 13th Century bard, Muireadach Albanach O’Dálaigh.
Francis Ledwidge penned In a Cafe, a light hearted soldier’s song, a distraction from the brutalities of war. It is entirely fitting that Ledwidge be included here, another Meath native in whose work the ancient monuments also featured. Firedance is a fine album of refreshingly original and traditional sound, melodies, harmonies and arrangements.
Anne Marie Kennedy

An Rithim Réidh
Own Label, No Catalogue Number, 12 Tracks, 41 Minutes
New solo melodeon albums are a rare find in the body of traditional music nowadays. Mícheál Darby Ó’Fátharta hails from the rich Connemara Gaeltacht region. He was first introduced to the music via the box but soon opted to play melodeon as his instrument of choice. Indeed, this melodeon album exudes a natural air of musicality and a sense of being ‘at home’; the style is unique yet firmly rooted in the Connemara tradition and the repertoire reflects the many musical influences on Ó’Fátharta over the years.
The opening track of jigs reflects the simple, uncluttered style he plays in a strong, driving rhythmic tune sparsely ornamented to enhance the music. There’s a great variety of tune types here including a tasteful set of flings in the next track. There are some lovely selections of reels including The West Clare Reel set. A beautiful contrast is represented in the Waltz Midnight on the Water recorded by Máirtín Ó’Connor on his 1990 recording Perpetual Motion. There’s also a unique version of The Connaughtman’s Rambles as well as An Seanduine Dóite, and a haunting version of hornpipe Caisleáin an Óir stemming from the pen of the great Junior Crehan.
Ó’Fátharta sources the legendary Johnny Connolly as having a profound influence and inspiration on his playing. He dedicated this hornpipe track to the melodeon master. Other influences on his style are PJ Hernon and Bobby Gardiner. Cúirt Bhaile Nua is a gorgeous air known from a popular Connemara song associated with Treasa Ní Mhiolláin of the Aran Islands. Throughout this recording, there’s a great swing and a consistent, lilting rhythm.
The sleeve notes are detailed and are bi–lingual as one might expect. Recorded by Donogh Hennessy at his studio in Dingle, the CD was co–produced by both Mícheál Darby and Donogh, who also accompanies tastefully on guitar throughout.
Guest musicians include Trevor Hutchinson on bass, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh on flute and Dessie Kelleher on banjo. All tracks are played on a Castagnari D melodeon. A beautiful collection of tunes, a must for any Connemara music fan or indeed a melodeon lover! This is the real deal.
Edel Mc Laughlin

On The Lonesome Plain
Own Label, DCLPCD16 13 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Dónal released this album in late 2016, with just two guests, flute player Ciaráin Somers and whistle player David Power, both appearing only on one track, the Archie Fisher song Open the Door Softly. That gentle approach to folk songs seeps into the album as Dónal finds the melodic heart of each of seven songs and six instrumentals. His guitar rings out on Miss McDermott’sand is played at fair pace in Whiskey You’re the Devil; he introduces the album with an interesting version of the Lowlands of Holland. His guitar playing is musical, far beyond the poster paint of blocked chords, a model for any aspiring solo performer.
Dónal has composed two new tunes; Máirseáil Na Conrach, an homage to the beautiful scenery of the Dingle peninsula and his 1916 inspired Strike for Victory, with its chorus of: “Through the door and out the gate to join the fight for freedom’s sake…” A song which deserves a wider circulation.
Dónal’s mastery of the ballad is not unexpected. He comes from good stock and has been exposed to many forms of folk music. For example here there are passing reflections of American influences on Drill Ye Tarrier’s Drill. He plays the song The Green Fields of Canada as a slow air and moves it into Máirseáil na Conrach with its English folk guitar sound. On O’Carolan’s The Honourable Thomas Bourke, he summons up the spirit of 17th century lute playing, following it with The Waterford Waltz hopping along in mazurka time. On the Lonesome Plain, Dónal has come into his own, a master of song and music and a tasteful interpreter of both of those often divergent traditions.
Seán Laffey

The Tin Fiddle, MCG 001
Own Label MCG001 12 Tracks, 43 Minutes
This is a strikingly unique album. It’s a full recording of solo fiddle playing on a tin fiddle, featuring a mixture of the unique Donegal style repertoire in addition to a number of newly–composed tunes from McGeehan himself.
The tin fiddle used to be a very popular instrument in the Donegal tradition; tinsmiths manufactured fiddles regularly and played them on their travels, probably the most famous being the great John Doherty. McGeehan was fortunate to borrow a tin fiddle from his neighbour Peter Oliver McNelis. The remarkable thing is that this entire album was recorded by multi tracking a single tin fiddle and the result is highly impressive.
The opening track sets the scene with a multi–tracked setting featuring plucked arpeggios, drones and effects resulting in a rhythmic build–up of sound. O’Rourke’s Highland emerges in the distinctive Donegal fiddle style sitting comfortably in a rich, layered string arrangement, which gradually gives way to a gentle improvisation. On track two we encounter McGeehan’s personal approach to the well–known reel The Gravel Walks to Grannie. Featuring lots of Donegal techniques, this track showcases ‘reversing’ or playing in double octaves. I particularly like the key choice of this tune in the setting of E minor.
Track 3 adds a nice modal sounding jig, whilst track 4 and 5 showcase a rich build of rhythmic layers. The Donegal repertoire is in plentiful supply here; there’s a beautiful waltz taken from the playing of John Doherty. The classic air Paddy’s Rambles Through the Park is presented in the key of E minor adding to this unique setting. He also borrows from the Scottish tradition in a march learned at the Blazin’ in Beauly fiddle festival.
Orchestration appears to be second nature to McGeehan who creates a fabulous string arrangement in track ten. Eleven Oaks is a stunning self–composed march in the key of F, this setting highlights the harmonic beauty of the lower strings. The final track highlights a more ethereal, earthy quality in the fiddle, inspired by a waterfall near his hometown of Ardara. Engineered, mixed and mastered by Terry Mc Ginty at Valley Music Studio in Ballybofey. To conclude, this is a really refreshing album of solid Donegal fiddle music with a modern twist on the tin fiddle. A must–have for all Donegal and fiddle aficionados.
Edel Mc Laughlin

Melodic Reflection
Own Label, No Catalogue Number, 13 Tracks, 69 minutes
The first thing that hits the listener of this CD is the sheer virtuosity of the playing. The opener The First Dance plunges us headlong into a frenetic display of energetic solo acoustic guitar playing at breakneck speed, followed in quick succession by another two instrumental tours de force, culminating in a delightful crossover take on the well known tune The Musical Priest.
Seamie O’Dowd would need little introduction to traditional Irish music lovers as a superbly gifted musician and singer, but here he has extended shoots of discovery into a predominantly jazz–influenced setting with the perhaps less well known, but very accomplished Kieran Quinn on piano and keyboards.
It seems inevitable that the obvious overlaps from other styles should stimulate legitimate creativity. In this case, the basic model is (mainly acoustic) guitar and keyboards, a sparse combination, which allows the musicians the space to play interactively. The results are stunning, mainly instrumental with a sprinkling of songs, including a rootsy version of Dirty Old Town.
The energy of the opening tracks is balanced by some thoughtful and reflective pieces, notably Rue Du Rory, a homage to the late Rory Gallagher, who was a particular favourite of Seamie’s. Gwlim is a beautifully delivered original piece composed by Quinn, featuring electric guitar. In contrast, O’Dowd contributes Spanish Busride, a delightful flamenco–tinged number, and a further illustration of the broad musical palette employed.
Both musicians contribute an original song each, further emphasising the magnitude of the talents on display. This is a remarkable CD, which deserves and rewards repeated listening. I’m left wondering about the possibilities presented by these two virtuosos developing this concept in an expanded line–up. Now there’s a thought!
Mark Lysaght

Wild Winds
LoLa Records LL007, 13 Tracks, 53 Minutes
Something a little out of the ordinary here, as four of London’s leading Irish traditional musicians break out of their usual personas and let loose a little jazz, a little Eastern European music, and a little retro Irish dancehall blues. Ryan, Quinn and McElligott regularly performed as half of The London Lasses, although Pete Quinn has relinquished his accompanist’s piano stool in recent years to focus on other projects. Karen Ryan’s fiddle and Elma McElligott’s flute are still mainstays of the group, but here we hear more of their alter–ego performances on banjo and sax. Conor Doherty, hiding his Derry accent well, sings mainstream folk songs from a few traditions, and picks a mean guitar.
From the relatively straight trad of Bean Pháidín and The Red Haired Lass, Artisan Row bend to encompass Bulgarian and Macedonian dance tunes on sax and mandola, conjuring the spirit of Andy Irvine and Davy Spillane’s great East Wind album of 1992. Vincent Broderick’s jig Whistler at the Wake moves up to Eb for a sax and banjo romp, and Helvic Head shifts to Bb and then to C for a big band bash with drums, trumpet, bass, and some scrumptious long rolls on saxophone. The songs are equally varied: Mary and the Soldier from Irvine’s work with Paul Brady, Sleep Now and Dear Heart setting James Joyce poems to music, and the traditional Farewell to Articlave mentioning both Derry and Pete’s native Liverpool in a tale of 1840’s emigration.
This eclectic feast finishes with another rake of reels on sax and banjo, plus first class accompaniment of course: compositions by McElligott and Ryan, followed by the old Pigeon on the Gate. No need to sit on the fence with this CD – Wild Winds is a fine first album from a fresh new force on the London Irish scene.
Alex Monaghan

Cover The Buckle: A collection of Irish Set Dances for listening or dancing.
Own Label, No Catalogue Number, 15 Tracks, 44 minutes
Dancing at the crossroads is one thing, but in this luminous CD, Kieran Jordan offers a more interesting radical slant, stepping across the crucial intersections of music and dance in this melodic collaboration between herself, button–accordion player Sean McComiskey, and fiddle–player Seán Clohessy, all distinguished artists in peak musical form.
The beauty of this music gleams with a very precise acoustic quality, elegant and refined, but also in Jordan’s deep–rooted artistic assurance, it’s also spirited and free. Acclaimed teacher, choreographer and dancer, Boston– based Kieran upholds the solo set dances as precious gems of tradition: “marriage of footwork and melody.” Indeed. The artistic collaboration here perfectly illuminates the links between dancer and musician. The two Seáns, so deeply in tune with each other that there’s a rich almost languorous sensuality in their playing. Add the magnificent tone in Kieran’s dance, subtlety, grace and connection, culminating in a deeply satisfying magnetism between feet, fiddle, box, piano and guitar.
On The Humours of Bandon no surprise when Philadelphia born Kieran credits Derry fiddle–player and step–dancer Eugene O’Donnell & Mick Moloney’s legendary Slow Airs & Set Dances. For me, an almost surreal pleasure in The Three Sea Captains where the buoyancy between McComiskey and Clohessy feels so apt, astonishing fluidity in Kieran’s step, like she’s dancing on water!
Crossroads, intersections, Kieran also steps across a musical paradox where only an artist steeped in tradition can shake the boundaries with assurance; freedom and freshness in tempo and rhythm, while showcasing how set dance music survives intact with choreography as taught by the early dance masters.
Entirely delightful and satisfying listening experience.
Deirdre Cronin

Celtic Colours International Festival, 13 Tracks, 60 Minutes
For me this album has two important qualities; it helps me recall some wonderful performances, such as The Tune Back Set from Liz Carroll, Troy MacGillivray and Trevor Hutchinson, fine Chicago Irish fiddling in Mabou. Then there is the stuff I missed, the festival is so big it is impossible to see everything. The tracks stand–alone, free from any nostalgia.
Finale from The Unusual Suspects Of Celtic Colours at over 8 minutes, it’s a tour de force of Irish, Cape Breton and Scottish influences, a huge piece of music. It would have made a rousing ending to the album, but the concert came early in the Festival’s schedule. The opening track March of the Iroquois and Papineau from Le Vent Du Nord is Quebec mouth music and foot percussion. If this is new to you, then you are in for a treat. The final track from Sláinte Mhaith is more familiar territory for Irish listeners, with a set of reels Congress, The Congress and Farewell to Erin.
The most contemporary song here is Gonna Get Good by Newfoundland’s The Once; it comes with an apt tag line. “Baby it’s never going to be easy, but it’s going to get good.” There is a song from Scotland’s Dougie MacLean backed by Tony McManus, two fine guitarists who weave delicately across the sentiments of Talking With My Father. Cyril McPhee and Archie Fisher’s version of We Remember You Well by local songwriter Buddy MacDonald, recalls the long line of musicians who have entertained their communities. The chorus is a gentle thank you, “We remember you well, of you to our children will tell. Thank you for picking us up when we fell, go happy now and farewell.”
A great live CD, and a treasure whether you were on the island in October 2016 or not.
Seán Laffey

The Henry Girls
Own Label, No Catalogue Number, 13 Tracks, 45 Minutes
The confidence and control of musicianship comes at you straight away, through a blending of instrumentation, harmonies and striking lyrics. Banjo, vamping fiddle, dobro, drums and the wonderful vocals of Donegal sisters The Henry Girls adorn the opening track Oh Why of their new album Far Beyond the Stars, and continue along the 13 track production.
This is the sixth recording from the trio Karen, Lorna and Joleen McLaughlin (they’re named after their grandfather Henry) and offers up catchy melodies and thoughtful lyrics dressed up in their trademark roots sound, with drums adding more of a rock edge on some of the tracks, particularly Oh Why and Don’t Call Me Honey.
Their ability to blend Irish tones with Americana sounds will delight the fanbase they have built up over the past decade and more. Also known for their harmony singing, this comes through on the ethereal title track Far Beyond the Stars, ethereal for its lyrics and generous use of effects. With lyrics weaving through themes of love, peace, frustration and feminism, The Henry Girls are out on an emotional ledge with this new album, which can be felt upon listening, to the heart in the voices and the careful arrangements and the words, all of which bar two songs were penned by the trio.
Rebel Girl by legendary trade union figure Joe Hill about union organiser Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, celebrates the important, equal role of women in the working class struggle, while Joe “Red” Hayes and Jack Rhodes’s Satisfied Mind makes up the other cover on the album of 13 songs.
Derek Copley

Own Label, No Catalogue Number, 6 Tracks, 26 Minutes
East features Iona Fyfe on vocals, piano, shruti box; Charlie Grey on fiddle, tenor and guitar; Chris Ferrie on guitar and bodhrán; Callum Cronin on double bass, and Ross Miller on border pipes.
East is the new EP from Iona Fyfe. With a distinct modern sound, Iona’s stunning voice sings melodies guided along by fiddle, bodhrán, guitar, piano, bass and the border pipes creating a particular Scottish sound to the work. Sleeptytoon opens this new collection and is the ballad of a farm labourer’s encounter with a ruthless employer. Iona’s voice is exquisite on this track and is then followed by fiddle and guitar.
Throughout this EP, Iona showcases exceptional competence and growth and the second tune is the lively lament Pride of Aberdeen. With the presence of the fiddle, this really is a hearty one. Queen Amang The Heather follows and is a song with close associations with the north–east of Scotland. Although a little eerie at times, the piano and fiddle lift the mood and Iona tells the tale perfectly with clarity and a haunting voice.
Iona’s definitively tuned voice is eminent in Cairn o’Mount. She succeeds in holding us spellbound throughout its entirety. Her portrayal of the accent throughout this song is spectacular. “If ye’ll gie me yer hand…” Earl Richard quickly follows and is the only direct representative of the Child Ballads on East. The collection is then brought to a close with Bonny Udny. The song opens with Iona’s vocals and piano, followed by the fiddle and then guitar. It finally bursts with pipes nearing the end. A very fitting ending to an equally fitting collection.
Iona is working on the album for 2018 release.
Grainne McCool

SAIN Records SCD2749, 12 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Welsh folk band Calan brings together the remarkable talents of 5 young musicians who provide a fresh and vibrant sound to traditional Welsh music. Known for carefully researching traditional music, they are bringing to life melodies that have lain silent for centuries in University manuscripts, then shaking that music up for 21st century tastes.
I laid eyes on them at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention some years ago and was impressed with their youthful vibrancy combined with a colourful, attractive and eye catching stage presentation. The band is steeped in the traditional music of Wales with familial connections going back into generations of folk and revival music.
On Solomon the band blasts their way through some favourite reels, jigs and hornpipes, with fast paced and uplifting arrangements on numbers such as Ryan Jigs and Deportation Selfie, which rocks with the wild energy of youth, while Big D includes a clog dance sequence. Pe Cawn I Hon and Apparition are beautiful and haunting songs, the latter a strident jig laced classic.
Calan has proven that Welsh traditional music can be fresh and exciting and Solomon offers further proof of their continual greatness.
John O’Regan

The Tinker’s Dream
Teahouse Records, 12 Tracks, 50 Minutes
This is Chris’s 9th album. He’s New York born but based in Santa Monica, California, and he’s played in 40 States of the US, in several genres. He has albums in bluegrass, swing, punk and electronic styles as well as Irish. Seeing as he has 14 musicians assembled for the 12 tracks, you might well think that this should be called the Producer’s Nightmare, but you see, Chris owns the record company, and he’s dedicated to following in the steps of dedicated trailblazers like Rounder Records. The output is catholic in the original meaning of the word; to emphasise the point there is a picture of a Gothic cathedral on the cover.  Musically, there’s very good and confident playing all round: in some cases his fiddle tone is almost too good to be claimed as ours. The opening track Connemara Ponies is a big production, a reel, which would fit nicely with any modern Irish dance company. The title track is a similarly modern jig.
There is skilful writing in the three songs in the collection. Cape Horn is a Celtic rock belter, Small Wonder changes the dynamics from Chris’s solo voice to anthemic Small Wonder chorus all driven along by a piano and mandolin.
Wicklow could easily be picked up by Nathan Carter, it has the potential to be as infectious as Wagon Wheel. Gibraltar 1988 is a slow air commemorating the SAS assassination of IRA volunteers Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage, and Daniel McCann.
For something more jolly why not have a listen to the jaunty Artful Dodger Hornpipe. Murphy is at his most American on his new reel Thistlewood Bridge, a pulsing fiddle and guitar melody, his folk music at its purest here. In these PC times the title could be revised to The Itinerant Fantasy, and even that would be stretching it. Meanwhile, just listen to some enjoyable new music.
John Brophy

Own Label, No Catalogue Number, 12 Tracks, 42 Minutes
It might seem ironic that just when Kilkenny’s hurling fortunes have taken a little dip, along comes Mick Walsh with Henry The Great, a song in praise of their great star Henry Shefflin. I know that Cork has long been singing about Bould Thady Quill, but it was Henry who topped the precious record of Christy Ring. This is the essence of Kilkenny in a collection, including the Bridge a protest song against driving a new road through the heart of the medieval city that was for a while the capital of Ireland.
Like many a balladeer before him, he rises to comment on the state of the times. Mick shows that the cittern can be sweet and sprightly, a little lighter toned than the mandola, and it fits in naturally in the jig set Munster Buttermilk / Behind the Haystack and very well in the final unnamed polkas. The Boys And Girls Of The Comeraghs shares some melodic DNA with The Boys from Barr na Sráide but it’s four–square in the folk tradition, in praise of the Sheep farmers and Gaelic Footballers of the Comeraghs.
Lismore opens with the plaintive fiddle of Lotta Virkkunen and cello playing of Eva Phelan in a song that is a fond memory of his growing up in 1960’s Waterford. There’s a touch of a jug band beat on his Crazy Bubble a funny song about trying to contact someone on a mobile phone. His cittern sounds especially melodic on The Sally Gardens, which is sung by his daughter Bronagh Walsh.
The other cover on the album is Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now.
Mick not only is a powerful advocate for his instrument, in his eight original songs he shows himself as the authentic voice of an ancient city and its people, and on songs like Lismore he doesn’t forget his Waterford roots. Mighty hurling, Mick!
John Brophy

Lucky Enough
Own Label, No Catalogue Number, 12 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Plastic Paddy are based in California. The members were all born in the U.S.A and their home base is the San Francisco Bay Area, where they are regular performers at pubs and festivals. The line–up is Erin Bloom (vocals), Robin DeMartini (flute, piccolo, vocals), Matt Faris (Bass, Vocals), John Gomes (guitar & vocals), Patrick Russ (guitar, mandolin, banjo, & vocals), and Jules Wolley (drums).
Their first album Lucky Enough crosses several styles from the Pub Thumping Irish American styles beloved at Irish bars and festivals to more conventional rock and country idioms. They give two sprightly takes on Whiskey You’re the Devil and Mursheen Durkin, true to the spirit of the Clancys to please any festival crowd.
Their own material veers from the sub–Pogues paean to alcohol Rundlets and Kilderkins, to the folk–rock treatment metered to Scali Li. Here, Erin Bloom’s emotive lead vocals recall Ann Wilson of rock band Heart.
Greg Trooper’s Ireland gets an all–out country treatment while the Mumford and Sons twang of London after Midnight jangles along nicely. John Gomes’ guitars and Robin DeMartini’s flutes contribute instrumental leads, the latter excelling on Biscuits to a Bear. This is Celtic Rock California style and it holds a promise that is encouraging and worth watching.
John O’Regan