Releases > Releases October 2020

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On the Go
Own Label
Trio 02. 10 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Yes, Munnelly is back in Mayo and a return to the west sees him in the best of form and the most musical of company. An extended sojourn in the low countries resulted in a number of albums, tours and collaborations. It comes as a delight to spin On The Go on the old CD player. Pronounce the band’s name as Tri-Oh and you’ll get the pun in their title. There are visual jokes on the album’s sleeve too, with strings missing on an old fiddle and Spanish guitar.
This is their second album since their critically acclaimed debut in 2017. The band are David Munnelly, accordion; Joseph McNulty, fiddle / bodhrán; Shane McGowan, guitars with Anne Brennan on board for the songs. Those songs, are Oro Johnny, The Homes of Donegal and The Lowlands of Holland, all sparsely orchestrated, Anne’s voice paramount, instruments nestling behind the vocals, Shane picking out sensitive harmonics, Dave adding a pedal drone on The Lowlands of Holland.
What life there is in their tunes, Langstrom’s Pony canters like a yearling at the Curragh, The Flowing Bowl galloping on its heels. There’s an excursion to the music of the Ottawa valley with a French-Canadien Valse Clog Guilmette, pairing it with Fandango Kepa. The title track On The Go, has Hot Club De Paris taking a soft top tour of Connacht, Gallic virtuosity with a Gaelic smile on its face. Their Big Reel is light and airy, tripping and trading triplets on the box and fiddle, getting deeper as the bodhrán fills the lower register, adding muscle to Patsy Hanley’s. Shane bringing both harmonic punctuation and a flowing tempo on guitar on the resolving Paddy Taylor’s. Box and fiddle swinging and pendulous on the Battering Ram.
Typical of a Dave Munnelly adventure is the honesty of the recordings. You can hear his dextrous digits pushing the accordion buttons, we can feel the hammer-ons and pull offs from Shanes’s guitar playing, and the draw of bow across strings in Joseph’s fiddling, inspiring other players to emulate the vivacity of the moment. And this album is full of marvellous moments, but it would be from Munnelly, wouldn’t it?
Seán Laffey

Donegal Fiddle
SIF 001, 12 Tracks, 46 Minutes
SíFiddlers are a group of 13 of Donegal’s finest female fiddlers. Each are accomplished and talented solo players; as a group they encapsulate a unique, collective sound that can only be described as a fiddle heaven. They create a vibrant, energetic, radiant and rich sound-scape.
In the words of Caoimhín Mac Aoidh, “This is the soundtrack of the mountains, the ocean, the wind, the bogs, the towns and villages, the late nights, the folklore that explains the tunes, tunes captured from the Other World, legendary sessions until daybreak.”
Solely a fiddle album, the music is fresh and innovative showcasing the fiddle on melody, countermelody and accompaniment. There is a broad selection of tune types including the highland, barndance, strathspey, mazurkas and slip jigs. Many are sourced from the great legacy of Donegal fiddlers (predominated by male fiddlers once upon a time). There are compositions from the likes of Francie and Mickey Byrne. Lots of the ‘big’ Donegal tunes feature in this unique collection. The music is close-knit but still allows scope for individual expression and creativity. Donegal fiddle techniques are utilised to maximum effect; we hear drones, ‘reversing’ of octave playing throughout the album as well as a number of carefully arranged string parts, which really adds depth, soul and texture to the music. The modal feel is captured beautifully in The Pratie Apples (air). Rhythmic drive is to the fore especially in Kitty Seán’s Barndance.
The overall blend is a mix of various different styles merging West, South and East Donegal with Inishowen. The result is musically enriching, technically secure and polished. A solo from Bríd Harper also showcases her compositional flair coupled with Gráinne’s Jig, a Tommy Peoples favourite. An ambient drone sets the tone for Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh’s beautifully poignant rendition of A Tune for Frankie.
SíFiddlers, rest your bow and take a bow, this album is a true gem, an archival milestone to cherish, celebrating the fact that the Donegal female fiddle is now truly thriving in its natural habitat. Not to be missed!
Edel Mc Laughlin

Nuts & Bolts
Own Label MCGM01, 10 Tracks, 49 Minutes
It’s unusual for the guitarist to top the bill on an Irish box and guitar album, but Nuts & Bolts is a bit different and the order of names reflects the fact that Sligo’s Shane McGowan (the other one) does a lot more than provide accompaniment here. There’s some stellar strings work, from the opening De Ja Vu by Mayo man Munnelly, right to the final Tico Tico by choro maestro Zequinha de Abreu from County Brazil. Tico-Tico, which means a sparrow, has become a bit of a hit among Irish box-players, replacing earlier ornithological standards such as The Blackbird, Pigeon on the Gate, Geese in the Bog and even The Cuckoo’s Nest. John Doherty is responsible for preserving The Japanese Hornpipe, another exotic addition to the Irish repertoire, and this duo handle it with rare delicacy before charging into a medley of reels from Ireland, Shetland, and North America.
The middle section of this CD is a series of stand-alone compositions by Munnelly or McGowan. The Pearl is a charming continental waltz. Herfst is a more descriptive piece, ranging from slow air to polka tempo. Shane’s solo on Oudegracht has a hint of Kimmel’s Irish American hornpipes, while Dave’s Falling is pure contemporary button box, recalling O’Connor or Beoga. The haunting air Bothairin na Smaointe gets the Mark Knopfler treatment on electric guitar, not the only time McGowan plugs in to great effect here. Every one of these new compositions is satisfyingly arranged, and even on the freshest of material Munnelly and McGowan are completely together. The traditional side of Nuts & Bolts is boosted by a pair of punchy reels from Quebec and a couple of catchy Irish jigs including Fraher’s. It’s all good, fresh and varied, with surprising depth for a duo.
Alex Monaghan

The Great Southern Ocean
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 66 Minutes
On the cover, it says of Laura Flanagan’s first solo fiddle album, The Great Southern Ocean, that it is “A dynamic collection of traditional Irish tunes on fiddle accompanied by bouzouki and guitar”. And it does “just like it says on the tin”, so to speak. First of all, let me introduce you to Laura. She’s from Lubbock, Texas, and tells us that over the last 15 or more years, she has travelled widely in the United States and Ireland to study with fiddlers Randal Bays, John Carty, James Kelly, Martin Hayes, and Brendan Larrissey.
What we hear proves that she has learned well, and when she says that she “has a deep belief in the power of community in music, and a love of the fiddle playing of Irish masters like Bobby Casey, Paddy Canny, and Joe Ryan”, you know that having gone to the source, she has joined the masters. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Texas Tech University and was an orchestral director in the Lubbock, Texas public school system for fifteen years.
Laura is planning to pursue a Master’s in Music Education, also at Texas Tech. Some would say that having put in the hours and submitted her thesis – so to speak – as evident in this production, she has earned herself a higher degree in fiddle playing. Laura says that the “album was made with gratitude to mentors and friends who have graciously shared and passed on their love of the music” and I can hear their response, “Didn’t she do well and do us all proud?” She plays like she was born to it.
The accompanists are two of Australia’s most respected musicians, guitarist Peter Daffy and Luke Plumb bouzouki player. They provide just the right amount of backing support to give the extra ‘lift’ for Laura’s playing that makes for an altogether pleasing performance. Laura says of Luke, “His collaborations include the Scottish band Shooglenifty, the Irish singer and bouzouki great Andy Irvine, a longstanding musical partnership with Peter Daffy, as well as groups under his own name.” With these two musicians, Laura has chosen well.
The CD comes with a generous amount of background notes on the jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, an air and one waltz. We’ll leave the final word to Laura, a gifted musician and teacher: “When I began putting together sets I’d like to record, I gravitated towards tunes I love and which have been important to me as I’ve grown as a musician. Music is strongly linked in the brain to memory, and for me, each of these tunes marks cherished moments with my extended musical family.”
Aidan O’Hara

Bittersweet Crimson
Own label, 11 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Three seconds in and you know instantly this is a Luka Bloom album. There’s something intangibly familiar, call it an accent or an attitude, yet again Luka has created another classic album, his 22nd to date. His guitar playing is rich, the production bringing out the velvet tone of his acoustic guitar, his voice mellow, in perfect tandem with his playing.
Three core players, Steve Cooney, Robbie Harris, and Jon O’Connell join Luka on this recording. Recorded in 2 days in February 2020 at Dublin’s Windmill Lane studios, it was very much a spontaneous affair, the ensemble working their way into songs that Luka had written over the preceding two years. Delicate touches of post-production fiddle from Adam Shapiro. Niamh Farrell added her voice remotely when the Covid-19 lockdown came into play; they finally met when the record was launched in Hotel Doolin on August 8th.
Luka lives in Liscannor, almost as West as you can get in Clare, with the rest of the country at his back; this perspective permeates a collection that is considered and reflective, the album rooted in the everyday appreciation of what we have, right now on the ground. There are two songs about oak trees, symbols of longevity, witnesses to things that are only history to us, My Old Friend the Oak Tree and The Day The Great Oak Fell; a tribute to Seamus Heaney, written at the time of his passing. The melody of The Beauty of Everyday Things is easy going and catchy, he outshines this with the joyful simplicity of Love to Mali. Who Will Heal The Land, is inspired by the Australian Wildfires of 2019 and early 2020;  evocatively closing as the guitars play The Foggy Dew, fading to an echoed question, “could we heal the land?”
On the final track Vision for 2020, Luka sings, “hanging out with day dreams, far from the bump and grind”. It is a call for tea and conversation, the simplicity of friendship, something that has become a longed for commodity as we’ve become socially distanced. Recently and very publicly Luka has railed against streaming services, which pay a pittance per track to the music makers. Consequently you can only get the album directly from Luka. He and you will enjoy the personal touch; owning the album is owning a deeply emotional and humane body of work.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Fiachna is well known as a founder-member of the Hothouse Flowers and more recently as a media presenter; here he displays his considerable talents as a solo songwriter, singer, musician and producer. Recorded around ten years ago while living in France, this album is predominantly just Fiachna himself alone, multi-tracked, using just two guitars and a microphone as basic inputs to his laptop recording software. The wonders of digital recording are tastefully explored, as layers of sound underpin a collection of original compositions.
The results are impressive, as his songs showcase a range of musical influences from blues, funk, rock and soul. Hidden Soul is laid-back and funky with echoes of Sly Stone, while he’s well able to rock things up on tracks like Kissed You. He uses drums and percussion to great effect on tracks like Set Your Mind Free (joined by William Morrison on background vocals) and Paris Moon, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Billy Idol album.
But he also shines as a lyricist, with words written from the heart and based on personal life experiences; the title track illustrates this, and he even throws in a song in French called Quel Désastre. Elsewhere, Bottle Of Rum draws its inspiration from a Joseph O’Connor novel. Ghosts is an atmospheric cry of lost love and rejection, with some lovely melodic touches and a strong vocal. Texas Sky is another strong rock number, obviously influenced by his many trips to the USA, but he can move across genres effortlessly. On City Of Love, he uses keyboards and guitar voicings to create rich textures with nice harmonies.
Bougainvillea (the song) is a wonderful showcase for his often underrated guitar playing, and overall this album was an unexpected joy to listen to, as it explores a wide musical palette with taste and creativity.
Mark Lysaght

Born From Tradition
Own Label, 10 tracks, 52 Minutes
Dublin-born Shane Ó Fearghail first emerged as a member of a punk band called the Brand, post 2000, and following many years of travelling and performing as a solo artist, he Settled in Vienna, where he also tours with his own band Shane Ó Fearghail & The Host. This album is based on a recording session in Dublin late last year when he recorded 13 songs with just voice and guitar. It’s a mixture of original compositions and some well-known songs such as Raglan Road and Alive Alive O’ (a.k.a. Molly Malone). It’s a measure of the strength of his songs that they stand up very well indeed against the classics.
Shane describes songs as “diamonds made under pressure” and his lyrics and themes have a depth of meaning which draws in the listener; New England is a compelling critique of the excesses of capitalism and greed, while Anyway is a grim portrait of the horrors of addiction. Roll On The Wind is more upbeat and reflects on his life journeys, he also includes songs with Irish lyrics such as Trasna na gCianta, co-written with Róisín Ní Bhriain. He really understands the value of space in a song, and the arrangements are thoughtful and sparse, always underpinning the melody and embellishing the lyrics.
Shane has an attractive singing voice, and this enables him to tackle an anthem such as The Green Fields Of France with great aplomb. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, playing nine different instruments himself (including mandolin, keyboards, accordion and percussion) on this recording, and he’s augmented by bandmates from The Host and selected other musicians. There’s a lovely relaxed feel to the album, and the songs are delivered with warmth and emotion by a man who has devoted much care and craft to the art of setting these jewels.
Mark Lysaght

Midnight Mission
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Clonakilty-born Bill Shanley cut his musical teeth with Jimi Hendrix’s bass player Noel Redding, and has an enviable reputation as a guitarist, producer and arranger who has worked with such luminaries as Ray Davies, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Mary Black, Paul Brady and Eleanor McEvoy, but this album sees him coming into the spotlight with a homage to the instrumental guitar sound from the late 1950s and early 1960s, popularised by bands such as The Shadows. The title track immediately conjures an image of Hank Marvin, who was such a huge influence on a generation of British guitarists.
Shanley’s musical palette is more diverse, and he cleverly introduces a range of colours into the presentation of the ten self-penned compositions, essentially all instrumentals although Graceville (I’ll Take You There) does include whispered vocals from Ray Davies. Elsewhere Paul Brady plays mandolin on Curious About You, but the core of the album features Bill and a carefully assembled band of session players - the playing is exemplary throughout.
His guitar playing is lyrical and melodic, full of inventive embellishment and holds the interest via carefully-arranged variations on the instrumental themes. Each track is an exercise in creative composition and holds the interest delightfully, with additional nuances appearing on repeated listening. Keyboards and brass act as a backdrop to the guitar and occasionally come to the fore, conjuring up images of deserted dancehalls and long-forgotten romances.
We have tinges of rockabilly and jazz on Swinging Like New, while the opener Portrait fairly rocks along with a driving beat. Curious About You may be a candidate as the theme to a spy movie, while Lucky Strike might work for a daytime soap. Melodically, it’s always interesting, and coupled with first-class guitar playing, the album is a lovely tribute to the joys of instrumental electric music.
Mark Lysaght

Sunshine and Moss
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 41.44 Minutes
Covid-19 put touring on hold for all musicians over recent months. Donegal band, Screaming Orphans used the time to record a new album in their own home. Sunshine and Moss was recorded in their childhood home at Bundoran, County Donegal. All done on basic equipment during the spring/early summer lockdown: Sunshine is representative of all things positive that come from the dark times (Moss).
The first of eleven tracks, Every Woman’s Garden might well be a little taster of what other things the girls were doing during lockdown. The ‘seeds’ they planted were the songs for the album and they continue to grow as you listen throughout. The girls were however also doing a spot of gardening during lockdown (they told me themselves). So the seeds are quite literal too.
This album is very much one of love and fondness from their own family memories. Songs their parents both loved and sang. Songs that have meaning to the girls from times gone by. Each track has a personal story. Their Mammy sings Mary from Dungloe and so it is there; their Dad used to sing, You Jacobites by Name and it’s there too. A rather special one is My Grandfather’s Clock, which the girls used to sing as children. And also this track has both parents on backing vocals. Some of the songs they haven’t changed, others they’ve played around with a bit. But it’s perfect just the way it is.
This entire collection really is light out of darkness as the title suggests. It’s a bright, cheery collection of music recorded in a very dark time of this pandemic. The Diver sisters are very much rooted in their homeland and this made-at-home project reflects just how special their home, and their story is.
Grainne McCool

Leaving White Cedar
Own Label, 15 Tracks, 53 Minutes
What do you do if you are a musician locked down in rural Ireland? Well if you are Peter O’Toole who plays with the Hothouse Flowers, you get creative, very creative. This album is the result of Peter O’Toole making brand new music during lockdown in rural Roscrea, County Tipperary.
Peter’s idea, which he brings off with panache, was to write new pieces of music, each one on a different instrument. Now some of those instruments are really different, especially the Chinese round bodied guitar, the Zhong Ruan (borrowed from a friend). Peter also plays harmonica, tin whistle, bouzouki, piano, acoustic electric and bass guitars, mandolin and banjo.
Peter’s first instrument was the harmonica, which he had from his father, the harmonica is a fondly remembered escape back to happier innocent earlier times. The album opens with Red Tin Roof, a slow air solo on the harmonica shifting into a swamp stomp for the final half minute. Peter gets more electronic on his song I Wonder (What is going On) a love letter endorsing the now and looking to a different shared future. There are hand claps and drum loops on an industrial Wild Daffodils, a big surprise given the track’s title. Animals bring out the beat in his music, from the Two Horses to the Tipperary Cockerel to a very traditional sounding whistle on his jig Cows and Crows.
Not content with making new music, not content with having a blast on the ten instruments, Peter also recorded the songs as a movie on his Android phone, you can check them out on his YouTube channel, where he adds some candid autobiographical information.
This is a marker for a time we all lived through and a remarkable piece of musical creativity, and certainly one for the legion of Hothouse Flowers fans. It is available from:
Seán Laffey

Live Across Scotland
Tiree Records 2020, 15 Tracks, 69 Minutes
If sometime in the future historians wish to discover what the old normal was like, this album will shine a light on the power of music, pre-Covid, to bring people together. If you are not familiar with the nooks and crannies of Caledonia it might be a bit of fun to trace the route Skerryvore took from tune to tune, encountering enthusiastic fans at each venue, big and small, along the way. With dancing and dizziness, pop and polemics, music percolated by an independent Scottish spirit, Skerryvore were greeted with love wherever they went.
The concept was simple. Celebrate the band’s 15th anniversary with a tour around Scotland and record each gig, then sift through the audio-clinker and pick out the nuggets. For years Skerryvore has toured the world with its version of west coast folk rock. Forget the Valley in Los Angeles, this is west coast, Tiree style. Expect fiddles, accordions, bagpipes, foot stomping, screeching electric guitars, and a massive sound from eight musicians having a blast night after night.
They rail against the false promises of politicians on The Last Time, they bring a hint of country to Hold On, recorded at the live Glasgow show. Elsewhere the dance music becomes a call to party, no more so than with two sets of pipes on The Snowman,
Jigs a plenty, a waltz, tempered by Soraidh Slán a bagpipe lament recorded at Fort William, the crowd already in party mood, the track blends into a bagpipe blazing. The Rise, the party cranking up another level.
The final track Path to Home, was the last song of the night from their performance in Aberdeen, opening with an electric guitar solo straight from a ZZ Top playbook; its words resonating with anyone who lives in a place blighted by the prospect of becoming one of the Diaspora:
A bridge forever, a path to home. Wherever we may go, our bloodline flows, We’ll always find a path to home.
Take a rocky path around Scotland with Skerryvore, and make no mistake, their heart is still in the Hebrides.
Seán Laffey