Releases > January 2010 releases

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No Bird Sang
12 Tracks

John O’Reagn wrote “No Bird Sang – Ger Wolfe’s fifth album goes back to the acoustic roots of his music. Using a voice and guitar combination ably produced by Peadar O Riada, the result is immediately intimate and personal. It has trademark song writing and melodic depth his work has developed within the last decade.” He hit the nail on the head and he went on to say;

“In many ways the spared down acoustic approach of combining Ger Wolfe’s voice and nylon string guitar recalls the approach adopted by Leonard Cohen in his 60s albums Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs from a Room. The intimacy achieved by one voice and guitar telling its truths to the listener makes for a singular listening experience.” Some of the tracks are new , some re-workings from his previous albums as he told me in a recent IMM interview:

“I’ve had some of the songs for a long time, for instance ‘Take my hand’ and ‘lay me down’ were both written at the time of the Bosnian Serb/ Croat war of the mid to late 1990’s. Others are very new, including I have been loved, probably my newest from late 2008 and No bird sang from about 2 years ago. The Curra Road is a song I previously recorded in 2002 and similarly The Fallen Branches is from my debut album ‘Word and Rhyme” 1998. I re-recorded these to mark the passage of time.” And in doing sop he has given them new life and new meanings.

The city boy from Mayfield in Cork is happiest when he takes a decidedly bucolic rural ramble, his world and music have a surface quality that speaks of the open air and of the soft Irish country side, I could cite I have been loved’ and ‘Look At That Old Field’ as ones to listen to cartefully for their delicate haunting poetry, but there is a hard edge to his writing, that can take us to the margin of the precipice, where the familiar can fall into chaos, and for an example I can think of nothing better on this album than the The Grey Crow which on its surface is about a grey crow scavenging but deeper down was inspired by Christine Buckley’s work on exposing clerical abuse in institutions of the state over the last century especially.

Ger Wolfe’s music is Bardic in its perceptions, his prose is intelligent, witty and carefully crafted , in a nut shell this beautifully played modern Irish music.

Seán Laffey


Strawberry Town
Keltia Musique KM 318

Orion’s latest album Strawberry Town has been five years in the making. Since their last release 1999’s Restless Home the line up has changed significantly. In come John Faulkner on vocals/bouzouki and young Breton guitarist Erwan Berernguer now plucks the steel strings. The core of founder members fiddler Rudy Velghe and accordionist Raquel Gigot remains unchanged and keyboardist Gwenael Micualt makes a welcome return.

Based in Brussels – Orion’s musical palate incorporates a wider span than most with Irish traditional forms combining with Classical European, Jazz and ambient strains. Their sound is a cosmopolitan one rather than brimming with rustic flourishes and the result is an eloquent musical statement that is uniquely personalised and sounds like nobody else on earth. This time elements of Flemish traditional idioms and purely classical strains such as a Mozart minute flow as easily as Scottish Gaelic mouth music and Irish flavoured jigs and reels. The addition of John Faulkner emphasizes the importance of a vocal quotient. Faulkner’s contributions are commendable including the title track Strawberry Town an epic ballad of incest, lust and of course murder based on Bocaccio’s Decameron ) going all the way back to 1482) and learnt from his mentor Ewan McColl. He also includes some Scottish Gaelic mouth music. His voice flows easily among the ensemble’s sonic throng.

The opening piece Ton ar Liestalegou hits an almost ambient soundtrack while the closing The Open Café mixes traditional jigging and classical poise crossed with crisp Musette accordion ripping the sidewalks. Orion’s musical span is such that they incorporate a unique planet of sound that lifts them to a sophisticated stratosphere beyond their contemporaries. When superlatives are used as in this case they are deserved.

Where Orion and Strawberry Town is concerned the exclamation WOW seems appropriate.

John O’Regan

High Up Low Down
Myriad Media MMCD003
12 tracks

The fourth solo album from Gerry O’Connor and High Up Low Down kicks off with Gravel Walk, and a gentle introduction by Tony Byrne on guitar, with Gerry on banjo and also, in the background, on a faint brush of the mandolin. In what might be described as almost trancy; the Hammond organ flutters across the track, as the Gravel Walk moves into the Jolly Tinker, only to fade out in a more relaxed venture than we are used to with Gerry’s solo works. However, speed-freaks never fear, for the next track is his wonderful interpretation of the bluegrass hit, Foggy Mountain Breakdown. As his playing has evolved over the years into a hybrid of trad and bluegrass on the tenor banjo, it is here where we get the full scope of Gerry’s ability to convert 5-string banjo music to the tenor banjo. But, not only on banjo, he also breaks into fiddle, mandolin and guitar, virtually becoming a one man bluegrass band. He did admit that he had to slow it down from the usual bluegrass speed which the tune is used to, but it still possesses a madcap speed, as he must furiously accomplish with four strings what is normally done with five. Conor Brady fits in nicely too with slide guitar.
Songs and singers featured on the album are Mary J, written and sung by Kevin Doherty (Gerry’s partner in Four Men and a Dog), which runs into the American old-timey Sail Away Ladies, and Fran King comes in to sing Colours by Donovan. Mr O’Connor lends his backing vocals to both tracks.
Also featured on tunes are Sharon Shannon, Mick Kinsella, Brendan O’Regan, Tommy Hayes (who even plays jaw’s harp on Jenny’s Wedding) and Michael Buckley.
Overall, a well-packaged album, recorded at Vicar Street Studios by Michael Buckley and at Sombre Reptile Studio in Galway by Brendan O’Regan, with the actual CD emulating the head of Gerry’s banjo: “Why didn’t I think of that earlier?” he recently told IMM.
Derek Copley


A Star in the East,
Big Mamy Records
13 tracks

Celtic Christmas albums are evergreens: many beloved Christmas songs have Celtic roots, and sound wonderful in trad arrangements. Cherish the Ladies’ first Christmas CD “On Christmas Night” in 2004 was chosen by the New York Times as one of the top 5 Christmas albums of the year.
Their new CD “A Star in the East” is even better. For the first time, founding member and flute/whistle virtuoso Joanie Madden sings, what took so long? Her alto perfectly suits the country-flavoured Rise Up Shepherd and Follow, an African-American spiritual song she found in a collection called “American folk songs for Christmas by Pete Seeger.” The “ayeee” in the middle is irresistible! She also sensitively narrates Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “A Christmas Childhood,” over a delicate In the Bleak Midwinter.
Singer, Michelle Burke’s breathy yet strong vocals (her strong Cork accent, so that it sounds like “boy the fire”) add richness throughout. As expected, the instrumentalists are terrific throughout: Mary Coogan’s banjo particularly shines on The Frost Is All Over, oisin Dillon’s fiddle stands out on Road to Glountane, as does Mirella Murray’s accordion on The Maid I Ne’er Forgot, not to mention Madden’s fleet whistles and flute.
The Ladies dedicate the album to their fathers, particularly those who have departed, Joe Madden, Jim Coogan and John Joe Murray. Their dads must be beaming. Family and history link the tracks: the CD leads off with a happy tune by Madden, A Dash for the Presents, inspired by Madden’s nieces and nephews. Kathleen Boyle’s sweet piano on the melody The Homecoming was written for her parents’ first Christmas in Donegal after 50 years away. And each trad song and carol gets a short, useful historical gloss.
Cherish smartly interpret chestnuts, with a jazzy groove too God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, a lilting arrangement of The First Noel, and full harmonies that make the Hebridean Christ Child’s Lullaby less ethereal than inspiring. A set leading into Jingle Bells has such glee you have to laugh at the craic. They’ve often performed Robbie O’Connell’s All On a Christmas Morning, their arrangement with the barn dance The Carol of the Twelve Numbers has infectious merriment. ”
A Star in the East” will shine on any Christmas gathering.
Gwen Orel

RGNET1226CD 2009

This is a great addition to a series of CD’s highlighting the music of various countries. It is great to see this Irish version especially as it veers away from the more stereotypical Irish folk that adorns so many compilations, great as much of those songs and tunes are.
This collection will appeal to visitors and native alike because of the variety and the quality of the performers as well as the songs.
Having said that there are some well known tracks on offer but be warned the interpretations are not as you may know them. Seamie O’Dowd proves this with a spirited rendition of Ewan McColl’s Crooked Jack to open proceedings.
Rich Irish Lady from Patrick Street is a wonderful story song that will hold your attention to the last chord.
One of the best – and tongue in cheek truthful – tracks on offer has to be The Spoons Murder. This unaccompanied masterpiece of over five minutes by Con O’Drisceoil will appeal to every person of talent who has ever played a pub session. Bodhrán, accordion or any other instrument depending on what those semi-talented interlopers consider themselves virtuosos in will replace the spoons as singers adopt and adapt it. Robbie O’Connell gives us a spirited rendition of The Flower of Kilkenny, a song that might resound in Croker with a bit of a push.
Karan Casey, Cara Dillon, Arty McGlynn and a host of other big names in the business rub musical shoulders with a number of performers new to me over the seventeen tracks on the album.It closes with the marvellous Sean Tyrell singing The Rising of the Moon but be warned – in common with much of this album – it is not the familiar song but in fact a much stronger piece.
But as they say that is not all. This album comes with another bonus. No it’s not the usual DVD track it is an actual full commercial album all for free. Yes you get Karan Casey’s, ‘Ships in the Forest’ album absolutely free and that is an album worth buying just to get ‘The Rough Guide’ for free.
Nicky Rossiter

Helping Hands,
Fiddlesticks Music FM 2009
18 tracks

“Helping Hands” is the late Jerry Holland’s last CD. That makes it a must for trad fans. But it’s much more than that. It pairs Holland with Irish guitarist John Doyle and it’s arguably the Cape Breton fiddler’s best ever. Recorded in June 2009, just before Holland passed away from cancer, the CD highlights Holland’s way with a beautiful melody, set off by Doyle’s sensitive harmonies and, when called for, driving rhythmic syncopation.
The two musicians fill out the sound, you can hear every note, including the pressure of the horsehair on the strings, for an effect that is spare, yet full; stripped down but not sparse.
The picture on the CD cover was taken at the Icons Festival 2008, where Doyle and Holland broke into spontaneous merry laughter as they played. It was unforgettable.
Holland has recorded many of the tunes before, but they sound brand new with these new settings. The title song is one of the last Holland composed, shortly before the CD was recorded. Holland describes it in his liner notes as referring to all the people who had helped him over the years. With Doyle’s delicate, playful accompaniment, it’s irresistibly joyous. The CD opens strongly with the first set, Angus MacIsaac/Alexander William MacDonnell/The Back Hoe/The Drover Lads, the first two by Holland and the last traditional. This set establishes a tone that is jaunty, upbeat, and exciting. You hear how Doyle’s guitar drives the rhythm and how Holland keeps the tempo steady yet builds with him. The marches are particularly sensitive. Holland’s Danish Cape Breton Society March, inspired by visiting the Denmark Tønder Festival in 2001, has a gentle, stately appeal, it’s a march in satin slippers, nicely decorated with Doyle’s sweetly sensitive mandola.
This CD is an instant classic, and how lucky we all are that Holland did find the strength to bring it to us, with the help of those loving hands.
Gwen Orel

Song for a Winter’s Night
13 tracks

Although Tommy Fleming admits that he was, at first, reluctant to record a Christmas album, he soon got into the swing of it and is now proud to put his name to Song for a Winter’s Night.
It was while he was out Christmas shopping that he got the urge to produce an album of Christmas songs that he would wish to listen to, and so it was into the studio with his long time musical partner, David Hayes, to get to work on it.
One of his personal highlights is Christmas 1915, written by Cathal McConnell, because of his arrangement of the song. However, apart from the effect of the orchestra, there would not be much separation between his recording and that of Jerry Lynch, from whom Tommy sourced the song, which tells the tale of the truce between German and Allied troops on No Man’s Land in World War I.
Regardless of the similarities of those versions, Tommy’s singing does fit naturally in the orchestral arrangements of the album, which is evident on the likes of Silent Night and Walking in the Air – first made a hit by the Welsh wonder kid, Aled Jones.
Other songs featured include some synonymous with Christmas time, like Angels We Have Heard on High and O Holy Night, while others were more handpicked by Tommy, like Bells Are Ringing, by Mary Chapin Carpenter and In the Bleak Mid Winter.
Despite the seasonal aspect of the album, there can be no doubt that, with Tommy’s worldwide fan base, the album is likely to become a big hit and, subsequently, a staple of the Christmas season in the future, beside the many classic yuletide favourites by the fireside.
Derek Copley


Compass Records 4522
13 tracks, 55 minutes

Okay, first the easy bit. This is an excellent CD of pure-drop tunes from the New York Irish community. Pride of New York is fronted by three icons of off-shore Connemara music: Joanie Madden on flutes, Billy McComiskey on button box, and Brian Conway on fiddle, backed up by Brendan “Felixson” Dolan on the old tin pan. Grand old melodies, many of them with New York associations, are joined by a few newer compositions. The album kicks off with Redican’s, and there are a couple more references to this great fiddler and composer before the end. Reels and jigs are interspersed with hornpipes, marches, and even a waltz. Joanie Madden plays an evocative version of the air Slán le Máigh on the high D whistle. Billy and Brian take their solos on reels and hornpipes respectively: a lovely measured pair of Martin Mulhaire compositions, and three challenging traditional favourites. Pride of New York finish up with a powerful and inventive set of reels: Considine’s Grove, The Trip to Durrow, the third of Martin Wynne’s famous trio, and Finbar Dwyer’s fine Bere Island Reel.
Pride of New York clearly deserve their name, and I hope to see them over here in the near future!
Alex Monaghan


Singled Out
MOSCD406 2009

In the words of the “philosopher”, Kristofferson, paraphrased, “She’s a walking contradiction (her music) partly truth and partly fiction”. But the trick is that she is such a great performer on disc as well as live that you cannot tell the truth from the fiction. The major contradiction is that in an era of homogenous, packaged artists who find a niche and cling on for dear life, McEvoy is constantly changing, genre, style and delivery.
This album is sub-titled “The Independent Singles” but could just as easily be called “From Yola to Uganda” or “The Greatest Should Be Hits”. Over 15 vocal tracks plus a bonus DVD performance of one song you get a showcase of a major singer/songwriter and a collection of tracks that will amuse, delight and often make you think.
Maybe it’s my age but for some reason I was drawn more to the slower offerings on the album. In particular I loved the track Make Mine a Small One. This is a song that you cannot hear without some emotion. Is it telling the tale of lost life or lost love? In either case it will move you in its lyrics and in its beautiful rendition.
Eleanor has a wicked sense of humour in her live shows and in a way it is reflected in a track title called You’ll Hear Better Songs Than This. The song is a beautiful love song that again will make you think and to be honest Ms McEvoy whether you are “codding us or not” with the title I disagree with that name.
Part of Eleanor McEvoy’s infinite “street cred” is that she can get away with a wonderful song like ‘Love Must be Tough’ telling a tale of a somewhat turbulent relationship that might have many up in arms if not delivered in her inimitable style.
Listening to this CD one tries to classify the unclassifiable. She strides across styles with ease. At time you think of Mary Chapin Carpenter and then you say it’s deep down blues or rocking country. If this were an imported CD the critics and airplay gurus would be going wild but being home grown it may never get the audience it deserves so it’s up to you to go out and get it.
Nicky Rossiter

Shoogle 09010
15 tracks, 76 minutes

A double album from these tweedy iconoclasts is a welcome treat, full of stomping string-band music with Shooglenifty’s defining fiddle and mandolin frontline.

Murmichan is mostly a little less earthy than their previous CDs, but the Shoogles have enlisted DJ Dolphin Boy to beef up a couple of remixes: Up All Night takes Angus M Grant’s tune Glenfinnan Dawn on a stroll through the bright lights and dark alleys of an unknown city, while Dolphin Delta Dotteral is full of the familiar sounds of Mississippi blues and drunken Shoogle fans. Two more remixes grace Disc 2, bass player Quee McArthur’s reworked First to Sleep, heavy on bass riffs and just generally very bassy, and the big finish track taken from a live recording with Ensemble Kaboul which draws Western and Eastern strands together into a hypnotic nine-minute tapestry.
Named after a malicious faerie, boggart or bogle in Celtic myth, this album is playful and serious by turns. The Road to Bled picks up the serious vibe from the end of Shooglenifty’s Troots CD, but is soon in party mood. The Dancing Goose is a return to the cheeky swagger hallmarks of this group, and Ham in the Boiler Room is wickedly good. The Vague Rant is precisely that. The Wing and Johnny Cope show a softer side of Shooglenifty, contrasting with the punch of Chicken Devil and the wonderfully named Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station. Lots of good stuff here: Murmichan is available from and almost everywhere else where great acoustic music is appreciated.
Alex Monaghan

Sharon Isbin guitar With Mark O’Connor, violinAnd Joan Baez
Sony Classical 88697 454562, 29 tracks

A rather special offering, this. If you haven’t heard of her before this (as is likely in Ireland) Sharon Isbin is a power on the guitar with a formidable discography. She was taught by a string of big names, including the great Segovia himself, and she’s now professor of guitar at the Julliard School. It doesn’t come much better.
Mark O’Connor, too, has a formidable reputation as a classical violinist, but he’s into other fiddle genres too. I haven’t heard of him coming to visit the land of his ancestors (very likely Sliabh Luachra) but it would be one to watch. Mark is also dedicated to the idea of collecting learners in summer camps – he has sessions planned for New York City and Tennessee for next year – on the basis that music is about people and enjoyment. And, mark yez all, he has a new fiddle method published, using tunes like Soldier’s Joy and Boil the cabbage down.
The present CD features two songs sung by Joan Baez and two suites of tunes. The first is an arrangement of eight songs, all from Joan Baez’s repertoire, and composed/arranged by the famed John Duarte (who was also a pupil of Segovia). The second suite features 13 tunes written by Mark O’Connor in 2006. This is the world premiere recording for both suites.
Sadly, I have a special nark. Like, if a sean-nos singer were to take on a piece of opera or a Schubert song, they would probably get curious glances. It wouldn’t happen because they have far too much good sense and artistic integrity. But all too often you can find academic/ classical heads arranging folk-songs, without ever understanding what’s involved in folk life and culture. Egad, they actually think they’re improving or civilising peasant crudities. I believe such folk should be firmly and humanely put down.
Fr’instance, Mark uses classical vibrato and loads of portamento in an Appalachian waltz. Now if you hear the shakes in that fiddle music, it’s probably due to bad moonshine, and not to the Empfindung acquired in a hochschule. And Sharon, in playing The unquiet Grave uses quotes from Henry Purcell’s school opera Dido and Aeneas (Original lyrics by Dublin man Nahum Tate). She also includes the theme from the Latin Mass Dies Irae.
Fierce intellectual, but it begs the question: who is this music aimed at? There are endless articles about finding a unified classical voice for America. Dvorak visited his country’s exiles in Spillsville Iowa, and wrote the New World Symphony afterwards; Aaron Copeland, being sympathetic to the Wobblies, wrote Rodeo in praise of the Common cow-punching Man. And Bernstein did a huge service to urban culture with West side story. But long before any of them, there were the fiddle tunes of the Ulster Presbyterians, and they don’t change none. They demand to be taken on their own terms.
On the plus side, Sharon has wonderful technique and tonal shading. Just like Segovia, she knows exactly how to delay a chord for a split second of magic. Mark, too, has a fine bright tone and an infectious sense of enjoyment. Recommended for guitarists of all kinds, and close relatives.
John Brophy


Whistle Basics. Book and CD
70 Videos, 99MP3s. 45 Irish Tunes.
ISBN 9789085704478

Jules Bitter is from the Netherlands, where he has been teaching and playing Irish Music for a quarter of a century. The tutor book and CD was developed out of a series of workshops Bitter gave for the SVN (Folk Society of the Netherlands) in 2003, so we can be sure it has been truly field tested. Hands up those who started on the whistle? Did you then get seduced into something bigger, more expensive and harder to keep in tune? Thought so. Some musicians of course I suspect got a better than average start and they kept on with the whistle (and we think immediately of Gavin Whelan, Mary Bergin, Brian Finnegan and Vinnie Kilduff). That’s where this new book and CD would help the next generation of musicians, and it will be more than useful to anyone who has already grasped the craft.
This is leading edge. You can see this from the thought that has gone into the package. Jules has truly harnessed the potential of the computer in his excellent tutorial system.
The 70 short videos (about 30 seconds each) show a close up of his fingers as he takes us through each tune and technique. He does so slowly so we can all get it. Similarly the MP3 tracks are kept at a sensible pace for learners. He lets rip on occasion and with a backing bouzouki too, but that is the rare thing here. Interestingly he dissects the bouzouki accompaniment which in itself is a revelation.
I was equally impressed with his notation system, the dots are written out on the staff clearly and simply with small symbols placed above notes to indicate embellishments such as long notes, strike, cuts and so on. The result is the tunes are easy to read, they are not cluttered by notes that would get in the way of learning and you go to the videos to learn how to make the embellishments, it’s the natural way to learn them.
The printed work is illustrated throughout with pictures, which truth to tell could have been a little larger for my liking as some of them have true archive quality. His written English is also excellent and his explanations of tune histories and whistle methods are succinct but engaging.
Only one small caveat, the diagram on page 67 of a piano key board to introduce students to sharps and flats is still in the original Dutch, that needs changing for the second Anglophone edition.
A highly recommended work, this would be an excellent primer for anyone teaching the whistle and if you are learning at home it might just be the best musical friend you could have this Christmas. The even better news is that the stand alone CD comes complete with the book on PDF files so you don’t need to buy the paper version, how’s that for bells and whistles!
Seán Laffey

The Secret of Kells
Original Soundtrack
By Bruno Coulais and Kila
21 tracks, Own label

Animation director, Tom Moore deserves praise for many things, not least the achievement of having completed a three-country EU based project, and getting it to the screen.
For those who don’t know about it, this is a feature-length (75 mins) animation about a young monk about the year 800 when the Book of Kells was being made. It’s in a lovely winsome style that owes far more to Tokyo than to Hollywood – though Disney is doing the distribution stateside.
Kíla have done themselves proud with this soundtrack. You might expect loud and driving modern Celtic to the scary bits, but they cover a full emotional gamut, and Dee Armstrong has a lovely fiddle tone in the lament.
Probably this is for Kíla fans and happily there are quite a few of them. For a few dollars more you can get the whole lot on a DVD, and it’s a lovely and thoroughly enjoyable experience. At the end of which I said “Damn right, we should take more pride in the greatest work of art of its era from Western Europe.”
Congratulations to everyone, and for Kíla another success.
John Brophy