Releases > January 2011 releases

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Tríona & Maighréad Ní Dhomhnaill, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh
& Moya Brennan
Own Label TWMCD001

It really is a case of all family and friends together in the making of this very special recording of the Maggies, or the Donegal Divas as Róise Goan affectionately calls them in her introduction in the CD notes. She’s the daughter of Maighréad Ní Dhomhnaill and niece of Tríona, and a few years ago she was working on the Temple Bar Trad Festival, trying to come up with a gig that could be the highlight of the festival line-up. “After some head-scratching and many crumpled, crossed-out sheets of paper, the answer was, as always, right in front of me!” In a way, it was a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees, because it suddenly dawned on Róise that her mum and her aunt, both noted singers, were great friends with two other notables in the Donegal song tradition, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Moya Brennan. Bingo! The light suddenly dawned.
Mind you, Róise would have known about an earlier performance of the four Maggies at a remarkable gathering of traditional Irish musicians and singers at Vicar Street in Dublin in May 2007. It was to celebrate the life and music of the late lamented Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, who, with Skara Brae and The Bothy Band, had been a pioneering force in Irish music. And as everyone knows, Mícheál’s two sisters are Tríona and Maighréad. Anyway, from that 2007 serendipitous get-together there emerged this happy collaboration of four great women musicians and performers who are happily sharing their pleasure in song and singing with audiences here, there and everywhere.
While it says in the CD notes that ‘All Tracks Written and arranged by T with the Maggies’ there actually seems to be a mix of original and trad material. Examples of the former are Domhnach na Fola, Ógánaigh Uasal, and Mother’s Song, compositions by some or of all of the four Maggies, and Farewell Farewell by Richard Thompson. Trad numbers include Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn, Cuach Mo Lundubh Buí, An Mhaighdean Mhara, and one of my favourites of all the songs in Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh’s repertoire, Ceol an Phíobaire.
The four supply their own accompaniment, with additional support from Manus Lunny who also co-produced with the Maggies and did the engineering and mixing. This is a delightful production and a terrific way for the four Donegal Divas to celebrate their love of what they do – singly and collectively – with their friends and many admirers at home and abroad.
Aidan O’Hara

Ó Chaon Taobh
Cló Iar-Chonnachta
CICD 182

Mairéad Ní Fhlatharta’s new CD, Ó Chaon Taobh, provides a very satisfying range of song types in the Gaelic of Ireland and Scotland, and three songs in English that are heard in many variant forms in both countries. There are thirteen songs in total, five unaccompanied that include some of the ‘great’ songs of her native Conamara, and a recently composed love song, Gráinne, by Tom A’ tSeoighe. The rest have accompaniment from a seven fine musicians. In a CD note, Éamon Ó Donnchadha observes that Mairéad’s fine singing voice and interpretation of the songs she sings bears out the truth of the old Irish language proverb, “Fonn, féile agus filíocht: song, hospitality and poetry – three things that cannot be learned but are inherent.” In other words, she has all three ón gcliabhán – from birth.
Earlier this year I spoke with Mairéad about her plans to release this, her first commercial recording. “There was music in my family from both sides,” she said, “and that’s how I chose the title of my album. When I’m asked where I got the voice, I usually say ó chaon taobh (from both sides).” Her aunt, Síle Tim Ní Fhlaithearta, her father’s sister, is a respected sean-nós singer. “Her mother Liz, who unfortunately I never met as she died before I was born,” said Mairéad, “was a beautiful sean-nós singer.”
As usual, Cló Iar-Chonnachta supplies excellent CD notes on the singer and the songs, and Mairéad shares interesting background and personal information about herself and the songs she sings. About the song An Abhainn Mhór that she got from a recording of Dara Bán Mac Donnchadha, she says: “Séamus Mac Oscair from the Iorrais district of Co. Mayo composed this song c. 1810. I heard it sung by Dara Bán at a Góilín song session in Dublin in 1999. I was spellbound by his singing.” Mairéad sings another song by Mac Oscair: Barr an tSléibhe, a song of emigration. The Scots Gàidhlig song, Gur Milis Mòrag, is a lullaby she got from the Lewis singer, Christine Primrose. The song note Mairéad supplies tells the intriguing tale of a woman who married a young man who went to fight in the Napoleonic wars, failed to return, and she remarried. He eventually returns to find her rocking a baby to sleep with this song, but the child isn’t his. The background info on all the songs is invaluable, and words are also supplied.
One of the songs in English that Mairéad sings is a long-time favourite of mine: Once I loved, from the repertoire of Rita and Sarah Keane of Caherlistrane, Co. Galway. The piano accompaniment is by the CD’s producer Charlie Lennon who also provided the arrangement for this and other songs on the album. The other two songs in English are, The Maid on the Shore and I Wish My Love Was a Red, Red Rose. The other musicians are, Éilis Lennon (fiddle), Johnny Óg Ó Conghaile (accordion), Steve Cooney (guitar), Síle Denvir (harp), Mícheál Ó Súilleabhain (guitar), Órla Ní Cheallaigh (whistle), and Máirín Kerrigan (vocals).
Aidan O’Hara

Hayshed Days, Own Label TRCD03

If you check out Tony Reidy on myspace on-line, prominently displayed is a panel listing Influences. The names reflect not only the wide range of people he acknowledges for their influence on his work, but also his quirky sense of humour that actually points up what really made an impact on him as a youngster growing up in 1960’s Ireland. He starts off with names that could be regarded as being predictable enough: Sweeney’s Men, The Clancy Brothers, and Bob Dylan; then he throws in ‘Galway in the early Seventies’. He continues: Richard Thompson, Nic Jones, Waterson Carthy, Joe Cooley, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, and Paddy Kavanagh, and perhaps in recognition of the latter’s acknowledgement of his roots in rural Ireland, and who achieved a universal appeal through reference to common-place in his poems, Tony ends with, ‘A hayfield in Aughagower’. No need to say what he’s getting at and we can see him smile as he declares it.
Tony Reidy is a chronicler in song of Ireland past and present and while some of the material is presented in a tongue-in-cheek manner, there’s more with serious content, occasionally with a twinge of nostalgia and at times with humour, although he’s unequivocal with lines like: Farewell to the land of the Child of Prague / To the temple of the Holy Ghost, Farewell to ‘Bless me, Father’ / Farewell to Tantum Ergo. (Hayshed Days Trk 2) “Je ne regrette rien,” he seems to be saying. This is followed by Innocent Times, a song that’s painfully beautiful as it recalls a mother and son cycling to town on the Feast of the Assumption, 16th August 1962: Innocent times / A mother and son / Trying to be saints / As we cycled along. In a summery dress / You looked your best. / Way back then / I was only ten. Reproduced alongside the words of the song in the CD notes is a photo from that time: I took a picture / A picture of you / With my Brownie 127, / ’Twas in 1962.
There is great honesty in Tony’s songs and he’s ever thoughtful and thought provoking in what he writes. In a previous write-up of one of his CDs, I mentioned what a consummate craftsman he is as a composer airs for his songs. Everyone is agreed on this aspect of his enormous talent as a songwriter. His friend and fellow musician, Seamie O’Dowd, has done great work with Tony on the song arrangements, and Tony acknowledges this on the CD cover: “To have a gift and share it generously is a beautiful thing. Thanks, Seamie, for fleshing out the bones, colouring the feathers and giving my songs wings to fly.” There’s great humanity in what Tony writes, a sort of compendium of home truths and down-to-earth good sense, all leavened with sprinklings of wit and laughter. When it comes to quoting lines from his songs it’s a case really of having an embarrassment of riches. Because of limits on space, the above will have to do, but it’s worth mentioning that the words of all the songs are provided in the CD notes. Writing about Tony the songwriter in The Living Tradition, Clive Pownceby remarked that when Tony sings his songs it makes everyone ‘sit up and take notice’. He adds perceptively, “Music for a messed-up Celtic Tiger then? Well at the very least, a lesson in the power of sincerity and one for all those who have a weakness for beauty when it’s bruised.” A good thought on with which to end.
Aidan O’Hara


Grove Lane
Compass Records 4544
12 tracks, 51 minutes

At the age of eighty, Joe adds another album to his handful of recordings since the 1995 release of Give Us Another on Green Linnet Records. Of course, there were one or two Joe Derrane recordings before 1995 – about fifty years before, in fact. An icon of a former age of Irish music, presumed dead for many years, Green Linnet has been recently resurrected by Compass Records. Joe Derrane, on the other hand, seems to be immortal - his ’50s accordion style speaks to us now as it always has. Granted the man has lost a little dexterity, but if anything this enhances his performance, brings it within the grasp of ordinary mortals. The hallmark of Derrane’s playing has always been his crisp ornamentation, occasionally threatening to overpower the melody: a reminder of Derrane’s great influences John Kimmel and Jerry O’Brien.
On this CD, the staccato triplets are leavened by an occasional slur, a tendency to let the melody drift just behind the beat, which adds a warmth and human touch to this superman of Stateside Irish music. John McGann’s guitar provides the finest support for Joe’s music, driving the tunes and filling the space behind the melody.
The tunes themselves are as fine as ever. Many are drawn from Martin Mulvihill’s collection, making me wonder if Joe shares Martin Hayes’ approach to recordings, based on recent finds and whatever is stuck in his head at the time. It’s not a bad system. The Slate Roof, Molly on the Shore and The Low Level Hornpipe are all from Mulvihill. The Lost Jig, Kit O’Connor’s and Mac’s Fancy are not so easy to find, and all deserve to be better known. There are several Derrane originals here too: Grove Lane is both the street where Joe lives and a fine barndance he composed in its honour, paired here with the schottische Fancy Free, two recent creations of this tireless tunesmith. Breakfast with Jerry and The Prayer Reel show Joe’s command of traditional reels and jigs, while Tango Derrane and the tender Waltzing with Anne allow his virtuosity and expression free rein.
This album is full of quality, and a further testament to the living legend that is Joe Derrane.
Alex Monaghan


The Seedboat (Báta an tSíl)
Spring Records SCD 1061

It really does my heart good to see the growing trad music ties between Gaelic Scotland and Ireland, and this new CD, The Seedboat (Báta an tSíl) from Colum Sands and Maggie MacInnes, is just one of an increasing number of shared albums between Scottish and Irish performers. Another recent example is Conamara sean nós singer Mairéad Ní Fhlatharta’s CD, Ó chaon taobh (from both sides), where she sings a song in Gàidhlig she got from the well-known Isle of Lewis singer, Christine Primrose.
Colum and Maggie themselves sum up what their CD is all about, describing it as, “A blend of songs old and new celebrating the musical bridges between Ireland and Scotland.” Both are from musical families: she’s from a long line of Gaelic singers from the small Hebredian island of Barra and learned most of her songs from her mother the highly acclaimed traditional singer, Flora MacNeil M.B.E. And Colum? “We grew up on a small farm in the townland of Ryan, near the village of Mayobridge, a few miles from the town of Newry. Our parents, Mick and Bridie, both came from families of singers, musicians and storytellers and encouraged a love of Irish culture and tradition in their seven children.” And that serves as a neat lead-in to a delightful note on Maggie’s web site that draws the two singers’ native places together, and that serves to explain the CD’s title: “The Seedboat sails from Barra shore, young Donald’s gone to Newry. And though he swears a swift return, till then she’ll miss him dearly…”
The note continues: “These lines are from a beautiful bitter-sweet love song that has inspired two musicians from either end of The Seedboat’s voyage to embark on an exciting new journey of music and song.” The song is track 3 on the album and it inspired Colum to write the song that precedes it, The Wave upon the Shore. Of The Seedboat (Báta an tSíl) and how this song in Gàidhlig inspired his song in English, he says, “The metaphor was irresistible and that little boat was very much behind the floating of this song, and indeed the inspiration of this album.”
Maggie MacInnes sings and plays the clársach. Colum sings and plays the guitar and several other instruments. The songs are in Gaelic and English and cover a wide range of themes and moods, including Colum’s hilarious I’m a Terrible Man, a song in broad Ulster Scots with lines like, Her father he let out a gulder, You talk about getting a gunk, But I duked in around by the jaw box And I dunted him one into the bunk. The recording is great fun and is a seamless weave of shared song traditions.
Aidan O’Hara

A Rose By Any Other Name
Cavehill Music CD
Belfast singer songwriter, Gerry Creen first came to prominence at the cusp of the 1980’s. One of many artists borne of the local folk club circuit in venues like The Sunflower along with Jane Cassidy, Maurice Leyden and Coff McGrath.
The Sunflower run by the late Geoff Harden was a pivotal venue, supporting local talents as well as visiting guests. In 1986, Gerry Creen a teacher by day and performer by night had garnered a considerable local reputation for finely crafted songs delivered in a strong compelling voice recorded his first album A Rose by Any Other Name on Homestead Records. Launched at that year’s Belfast Folk Festival, the album featured eight lyrical songs crossing traditional and contemporary folk styles with local guests Enda Walsh, Jane Cassidy, Trevor Stewart and the album was a local favourite. Then balancing the edgy performing life with his established career Gerry Creen traded the stage for the classroom. Recently a curious Google enquiry revealed he was back in action, with a new album Hindsight and a re-mixed version of A Rose by Any Other Name.
Now in 2010, it can be freshly viewed and listened to and it’s still a killer. A collection of exemplary songs delivered with power, vision and magnitude with arrangements that veer from complex to simple yet never take from the narrative power of the song. Ask Me No Questions opens the account an environmental plea confirmed with pleading vocals, Galloper Thompson uses the heroic ballad form to relate the story of a local hero. Marina Jane recalls a shipwreck and the resulting tragedy of a child’s body recovered. Imagine a cross between Paul Brady, Paul Simon, Tommy Flemming, and Seth Lakeman and you have Gerry Creen’s approach; lyrical, impassioned, and powerfully articulate.
Yet that’s only the tip of the iceberg. A Rose by Any Other Name is an undiscovered gem newly minted still retaining its lyrical and observational wealth.
John O’Regan

CDTRAX 354 2010

This is a vigorous album crossing a few genres but always pleasing to the ear and mind. Originally from Belfast but resident in Glasgow the singer songwriter has produced a wonderful album of a dozen songs and all but one are from his own pen. His strong voice welcomes us with the title track that has a powerful beat and drive that carries us along right into the stories that follow.
The theme of emigration and hopes of going home shines through as in so much of the folk genre but Ciaran finds a wonderful new voice to express the dreams especially on The Emigrant’s Dream as he paints a vivid picture of what leaving means and what going back might mean. He uses some hackneyed phrases but they fit so well into the composition that we actually enjoy them all the more.
The only track not from his own pen is The Gentle Maid of Spancil Hill. Yes, I hear you that is not a traditional song. In fact it is Dorris’ expert grafting of two well known tunes into a wonderful new song and giving each his own arrangement. So in fact he does compose all the tracks on offer.
Riverdale Roads sees a more rock oriented rendition that will appeal to yet another audience. He shows his folk credentials on the poignant anti-war song, Killing Time recounting a story of a soldiers remembering his friend killed in the Iraq war. He brings the genre right up to date with references to his blog but the tale is resonant of centuries of war and the individual’s price in conflict.
Two more lovely personal songs follow. Hometown Goodbye is for Annie and The Road is for his Mum. And as with all great compositions these songs written for individuals have strong resonances for most listeners in their own lives and are all the better for this. You can never go wrong with a waltz and here we get more reminiscences on Old Time Waltz. His closing track, Ghosts on Glasgow Green is a haunting song about his life in that city and you can almost see the swirls of cold mist.
Ciaran Dorris is a talent to note and I for one look forward to hearing much more of his songs of natural storytelling.
Nicky Rossiter

A Celtic Christmas
Zebra Art Records ZAR852 2010
The Vikings meet the Celts once again but this time the invasion is musical as the Swedish Group West of Eden teams up with a choir and an exceptional female vocalist from an old Irish Viking town to produce a masterpiece of Christmas music that could be enjoyed at any time.
I am very familiar with the output of West of Eden having been a reviewing fan over the years. This time they manage to amaze me even more than usual with a fantastic change of style. The album is the result of a 2009 concert in Gothenburg.
Opening with a beautiful instrumental piece from the group’s Martin Schaub called A Place By the Tree, the scene is set for a tour de force that must have been magnificent in live performance.
We get two tracks called The Wexford Carol. The first is a beautiful rendition by West of Eden to their own arrangement. Later on the album Roisín Dempsey, actually from Wexford, is joined by the Haga Motet Choir for another powerful song with the same title.
Roisín has performed with a number of top acts in the past and it great to hear her voice solo for a change. She excels on a lovely version of the carol Good King Wenceslas coupled with a tune Christmas Eve. Her roots come through beautifully as she sings at one point ‘kin’ as a pronunciation of ‘can’.
She is showcased wonderfully on a number of other tracks. The Wren in the Furze shows how marvellously this Swedish group can interpret Irish music. Arranged by Paddy Moloney, at times you could believe you are listening to The Chieftains.
The stand out track on the album is one that could be a standard like the famous Pogues song if it got enough airplay. The track is And Then Snow Fell. It is set at Christmas but it a simple love song of losing that bears close attention.
Like puppies this album is not just for Christmas. Go on be bold play a Christmas song in July, have a burst of The Wexford Carol in April, this is music and as suchit is there to lift your spirit no matter what the season.
Nicky Rossiter


Best of Times
Own Label
12 Tracks

You can hang most of Irish singers on a spectrum that runs from the deep dark blues of Liam Weldon to the bright sunny reds of Daniel O’Donnell, or shall we say from moody modal folk to our own colloquial country. Linda Welby sits happily on the brighter side of the rainbow and her second album she proves once again why she is becoming an established star in the Irish Country Music world, but she is far too talented to be pigeon holed so tightly.
Too say this is a country album would not do justice to the wide range of styles Linda manages to pack into this album. The opening track It Wasn’t Meant For Me, has some tasty Texas Swing whilst the title track At The Best of Times opens with low whistle which gives it a very Irish flavour.
I had the white media copy, so not much to tell you about her band Cois Tine, other than they are tight and versatile, with a rattling good banjo player they let it rip on a nice jig on track 6 Port Linda Welby. Linda’s voice is clear, steady, at times a bit breathy at the end of phrases. Her singing is characterised by careful articulation of the words always on the beat laid down by her band. Her songs are observations on the modern condition, such as reading the wrong text on a mobile phone to radio friendly love songs. She can handle styles as diverse as Irish country to upbeat New Orleans jazz, one of her songs could even make it to the hairy singers’ clubs. Paddy’s New Invention has a Con Fada O’Driscoll quality about it, and if you are a banjo player this could become your party piece.
Linda Welby is on the fresh end of the high wire. If you like your Irish music with a country relish, a dash of Dixie and a touch of showband brass she’s the girl for you.
Seán Laffey