Releases > April 2012 Releases

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Gleann Nimhe
Compass Records 4571, 13 tracks, 52 minutes

I’ve lost track of how many albums Altan have produced, but I do know that this is their best in a while. It combines the gentleness of Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh’s voice with the guts of Donegal fiddle music. There are still more tunes than songs here, and more songs in Irish than in English - both vital ingredients of Altan’s success, to my mind. This recording harks back to their nineties sound, clean and simple arrangements presenting the band’s superb musical talents and the riches of the Irish tradition. This album opens with a beautiful slip jig, one of my favourites, leading into The Turf Cutter which is new to me: my pre-release copy doesn’t tell me its provenance. Next comes the first of six songs, Seolta Geala, a Gaelic ballad set to the shanty tune Rio Grande. There’s a full set of male harmonies, whether from the Ciarans or not is unclear, but there’s none of that shanty drive: the shaky eggs are a poor substitute. No shortage of lift and push on the following set of highlands and reels though, as that old Altan magic fires on all four cylinders for Ciaran Tourish’s Reel. Reels are slightly lacking here, both in quantity and in firepower - maybe the band has moved on, or maybe they’re feeling the weight of thirty years touring together, but Gleann Nimhe (The Poison Glen) seems much more laid back than Island Angel or even Blackwater.
Two more gentle Irish songs, with the full Clannad treatment and female backing vocals, bring us to the next up-tempo track. The New Rigged Ship may be a strathspey, a german or a highland - it has enough snap for any of these, but it certainly isn’t the well known jig. Altan back it up with a brilliant pair of reels, the flashpoint of this album, complete with guest flute from Belfast boy Harry Bradley. Mairéad switches from fiddle to vocals for The Blackest Crow, an ornate Ulster love song with affecting harmonies from Daithí Sproule. The rousing set of jigs which ends with a quintessentially Irish title The Further In the Deeper shows that fiery blend of accordion and fiddle once again, but it’s the last spark on Gleann Nimhe. The final five tracks are all low key, the tempo never rising above a brisk walk. The Lily of the West and The Pretty Girl Milking her Cow are sung with expressive grace, in English and Irish respectively. The slow reel Wheels of the World is only slightly slower than Tommy Potts’ Slip Jig, and The House on the Corner finishes this recording with a fine new slow air.
All seasons of Altan are here: the cool, the hot, and the chill beauty of winter.
Alex Monaghan

The Boys of the Town

14 Tracks

All too often, you come across musicians with all the bells and whistles, frantic energy and a synthesiser to boot. If they’re youngish, you know time is a great healer, and you wait for the other kind of experience. That’s when by some alchemy, the music is given space to come alive, and you’re drawn in to savour it, every note true
And the result is something to tend and treasure. That’s what Paul McGlinchey has done here. Mind you, having Arty McGlynn as a backing musician, plus Ryan O’Donnell (bouzouki) and Seamus O’Gara (bodhrán) was never going to be a hindrance, and so it proves. Paul achieves a good variety in the tunes by using Flutes in D, Eb (both by Sam Murray:) and B Flat (for the slow airs) made by Michael Grinter. He also has one outing on an old Rudall and Rose for a reel called Living in Decency. Sure is. Maybe as a nod towards Poland, he has one Redowa in the line-up. Well, it’s a long while since we started with Mazurkas.
Paul’s tone is clean and powerful, with hardly any chiff. It makes for a very listenable collection: not a rave but something far more precious and full of companionship.
The Album cover features a picture of Omagh. Well, Winston Churchill might have complained about its dreary spires, but the oul’ bulldog knew nothing about the music either.
John Brophy

The Man from 20

Own Label, 16 tracks
A great many aspects of human feelings and emotions are dealt with in the sixteen songs on this new album of Charlie McGettigan’s: The Man from 20. Three songs are by Charlie himself and the rest are collaborative efforts between him and other individuals. The title track, The Man from 20, for example, was written with RTÉ Radio 1 presenter, Maxi, following a visit to Paul McCartney’s house at 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool. The song Radio On came about when Charlie went on line and came across a tune of musician and composer Tim Edey’s on MySpace. I learned this from Charlie himself when speaking to him about how an album like this is created. “When I heard it I thought to myself that I’d like to put words to it. So I contacted Tim and when he said go for it and I went ahead and did it.” It’s all about the joy of radio listening.
Tim said he had another tune of his on a Sharon Shannon album and he wondered if Charlie could do something with. “I asked what he had in mind when he wrote it,” said Charlie, “and was a bit surprised when he said that domestic abuse was on his mind at the time. The song Why came out of that! I had to jig around with the melody a bit for the words, but it works, I think.”
One minute love the next minute hate,
First you are tender then you’re irate,
You go on a bender then it abates,
I ask you why, why, why?
In total contrast is Ponytail Pete a song Charlie wrote about a guy called Pete his musical sidekick, the Ukelele Lady. It’s bright and catchy and amusing. Then, a change of mood again – and a word of caution: if you have a relative or a friend who has been smitten with dementia just have a tissue or two near to hand before you listen to the number called Sometimes. This moving song really does say it all for those with a loved one who is sometimes ‘in a happy place’ but then sometimes ‘frustration reigns’ because of memory loss and confusion. It’s Charlie’s collaborative effort with Paul Gurney who not only is the sound engineer on the CD but also provides Charlie with musical backing on keyboards, bass and drums. Sometimes can surely take its place alongside Phil Coulter’s great song, Scorn Not His Simplicity, made famous by the late Luke Kelly. Both treat of the deeply personal and sensitive subject of mental ailments and serve a special need.
There isn’t any duff number on the CD, and in fact several are potential hits. Yes, there are a couple of humble ordinary little numbers, but with Charlie’s singing and guitar playing, plus Paul Gurney’s clever and imaginative backing, even these songs sparkle – even if it’s just for the moment – with a bouncy rhythm or a happy tune.
Charlie proved himself a world-class entertainer when he and Paul Harrington performed Rock’n'Roll Kids and won the 1994 Eurovision. Today he is widely recognised as one of Ireland’s leading songwriters and in this new CD he once again asserts his right to that claim.
Aidan O’Hara

The Old Wheel of Fortune
Own Label FID003CD, 12 tracks, 45 minutes
Ripping into Kiss the Maid Behind the Byre, Fidil instantly show the power of their three-fiddle sound. Low drones and rhythmic dancing bow harmonies support the driving melody line as it switches into a tune I know as Wha’ll be King but Charlie. John Doherty’s version of The Salamanca is still recognisable, but the subtle variations come close to turning this into a different reel. Leslie’s is a firm Donegal favourite, a reel in A with ringing harmonies. There are many fine slower tunes in the Donegal tradition, and Fidil have included three on The Old Wheel of Fortune: the first is Alec McConnell’s Waltz, learnt from James Byrne, a gentle swaying melody which I intend to learn. Shoe the Donkey is probably the best-known of Donegal mazurkas, and the lads don’t really have much new to say on this one. Eddie O’Gara’s Waltz, on the other hand, is as fresh and delicate as the water lilies on Donegal’s many lochans: recently rediscovered, I’m sure this will become a favourite.
As on this trio’s previous album, it’s hardly noticeable that there are no accompanying instruments: just the three fiddles. Of course, we miss the bodhráns and guitars like a hole in the head - but Fidil do such a good job of filling the space that you forget there’s nobody else there. On well-know n reels like The Flowers of Redhill and The Pigeon on the Gate their music is as intense as many larger group recordings. The sound on the showpiece hornpipes The Star and The Low Level is a little sparser, letting all the intricacies be heard. I also particularly enjoyed the open texture of The March of the Mín na Toiteán Bull, a tune not often recorded. The Old Wheel of Fortune wraps up with two great reels, a Donegal version of The Cameronian and Neilidh Boyle’s fine composition The Moving Cloud, before the final Scott Skinner air Herr Roloff’s Farewell which underlines the virtuosity of these young fiddlers.
They certainly seem to be on a roll with this recording.
Alex Monaghan


Own Label BF 001, 11 tracks

A Kerry man from Tarbert exiled in Stockholm, Brian Friel’s debut album Karusel reveals a fine musician with a pronounced personalised touch. An All-Ireland winner and learning music since childhood from a variety of sources local and national his style keeps the sparkling adroitness of Mick Moloney and Barney McKenna and provides a direct approach devoid of stylistic eccentricities Karusel features mainly Irish material which he executes well and which highlights his playing style. He seldom over accentuates and doesn’t escape into triplet heaven as he focuses on the tunes and their delivery. Donnybrook Fair and Mick O’Connor’s give good examples of his straight-forward presentation allied to attractive and unobtrusive backing arrangements which sometimes diverge into ethereal Americana. The occasional deviations come with the Scandinavian strains in Bakgarden written by Eva Dievert and Totanka Yotanka the latter composed by fellow Kerryman accordionist Frank Mulcahy.
Fellow musicians Kieran O Loughlin (Guitars), Mick McAuley (Solas, Box), Perry Stenbäck (Nyckelharpa, Dobro), Paddy Kerr (Bouzouki & Bodhran),Bert Deivert (Bouzouki) add firm lustre to the affair while firmly pushing Brian Friel’s banjo work out front.
The end result is music that is refreshingly honest, moulded in traditional ethics yet delightfully cosmopolitan in treatment and suitably pleasing to the ear.
John O’Regan

The Far Side of the Glen
Own Label DMTC001CD, 14 tracks, 58 minutes
When you open this CD case, a card folder rather than the older plastic style, you may be surprised to find the CD booklet facing you and the CD under your left hand. This unusual arrangement emphasises the sleeve notes, and indeed this music is difficult to appreciate without some of the background conveyed in these notes. The Far Side of the Glen is entirely fiddle music, in the style and mostly from the repertoire of South West Donegal. McGinley and Connaghan both learnt from the late great James Byrne of Glencolmcille, and many of the tunes here come from his playing. The fiddle duets show the effect of long years playing together. There are complementary harmonies and variations, but the timing is spot on: you couldn’t slide a horsehair between these two musicians.
Reels and jigs are supplemented by hornpipes, highlands, mazurkas, barndances, set dances and slow airs. As well as their twin fiddling, Tara and Derek take two solos each. Derek’s triplets sparkle on a version of The Thames Hornpipe and one of his own compositions, while Tara takes a lilting approach to two well known reels. The slower numbers are not as assured, although Tara’s untitled continental-style waltz is worth a listen. One of the best things about The Far Side of the Glen is that it documents tunes which are not widespread, at least in the versions here. John Phadaí Chonchubhair’s Jig is quite similar to an old pipe march, but little known outside Donegal. Jimmy McNeill’s Highland and a fascinatingly phrased untitled barndance are similarly rare. Others, of course, are well-known but still a pleasure to hear in these hands: The Old Wheel of Fortune, The Nova Scotia Jig, and of all things the popular Scottish pipe march The Balkan Hills played as a barndance.
Derek and Tara end on a fine pair of unnamed highlands learned from James Byrne, playing the second in octaves for a final flourish.
Alex Monaghan

Horslips and The Ulster Orchestra
Horslips Records MOOOCD030, 19 Tracks, 69.56 mins

The prospect of Horslips playing live with an orchestra proves to be an inviting concept. In their ‘big’ epic works like The Tain and The Book of Invasions often orchestration seemed natural but inhibited due to budgetary restrictions. Epic concept albums as they were coined in the 70’s Progressive Rock pre Punk period, with added Celtic lineage and storylines, The Tain and Book of Invasions were highly arranged and complex affairs artfully delivered yet hinting at further possibilities. An invitation from The Ulster Orchestra after a Paul Brady concert in Belfast spawned Horslips’ live collaboration at The Waterfront Hall with a full orchestra on St Patrick’s Day 2011. With minimal rehearsal time it suggested an exciting possibility and the bare knuckle ride in front of a live audience works for all concerned. Brian Byrne’s arrangements recast familiar Horslips tracks in new light highlighting the orchestral leanings often hinted at in the epic works. Sword of Light and Fantasia retain their epic grandeur with fresh interpretive insights. Sideways to the Sun benefits from graceful florid strings behind Johnny Fean’s mournful vocals and the bone crunching guitar riff of Dearg Doom heralded by sweeping strings on the intro and fade out add a new wildness to a familiar classic.
Elsewhere Maeve’s Court with Charles O’Connor’s concertina and Jim Lockheart’s flute displays Elizabethan strains while the elegiac Rescue Me attains a new sensitivity, strings and reeds bending behind Barry Devlin’s wistful vocals. The orchestral arrangements may be lush and full but they never dominate Horslips’ individuality, both parties revelling in a creative palate of rich musical colour and imagination.
Horslips’ collaboration with The Ulster Orchestra redefines their innovative position, and revisionist history has never sounded sweeter.
John O’Regan

Various Artists
Double CD – 35 Tracks
Weltenklang Records 002

Sometimes the music isn’t the only common denominator. The support from the people behind the scenes can be vital to a musician’s career and the logistical expertise and exuberant energy of Dietmar Haslinger has helped promote many in his role as founder of the Austrian Weltenklang Agency. Combining nearly twenty years in the industry with an almighty love of the music he has forged many strong bonds with the cream of the musical crop and just under ten years ago bore the fruit of his labour with the release of the original compilation Celtic Connections which has now become somewhat of a collectors item.
Under a decade later and new bonds have been formed and old ones strengthened. The Scottish influence has become more apparent and the second (soon to be collector’s item) has been unveiled in the form of The Celtic Connection 2. This is a music lover’s delight and I can only say I am envious of the fact that Dieter got to choose his favourites from a wealth of accomplished musicians and singers and put them onto a CD for his (and the rest of the world’s) enjoyment.
In fact the only downside of this compilation is deciding what to play first. Mairtin O’Connor’s The Road West echoed off the walls and then floated to the floor as Jock O Hazeldean took on a contemplative form enabled by Providence. Throw in a thriving Lúnasa, an emotive Tim Edey and the sweetness of Nuala Kennedy’s voice on The Waves of the Silvery Tide and that’s only a small sample of the talent on the second disc. Turn to the first for a taste of Cran, a sample of Keenan and O’Connor and a listen to Beoga getting Lamped. It’s all there and more. Haslinger knows his music and, more importantly, what the enthusiasts want to hear. A great addition to any music lover’s collection.
Eileen McCabe


Fifteen Tracks – Own Label FSCD002

A lot of thought has gone into Wayfaring. The tune choice gives Scahill’s bow plenty of opportunity to exhibit his mastery of the fiddle and he utilises this well. Along with the syncopated piano of Ryan Molloy, Scahill has produced a CD that deftly sweeps through reels and jigs and hornpipes bringing out the best of the tune whilst displaying a sensitivity and respect throughout.
Following from his debut release The Dusty Bridge, Fergal sets the tone for Wayfaring. with a self penned piece The New Found Out taken from his time with the band Monto. The reel highlights his definitive phrasing and clever use of ornamentation as it takes you into the title tune The Wayfaring which builds nicely as he flourishes the bow to a finish with Ah Surely.
The piano and fiddle partnership are highlighted in a set of hornpipes Paddy Fahey’s and The Tailor’s Twist where they delightfully dance around each other with defined pace and phrasing and just the right touch of ornamentation. They allow each instrument to shine individually whilst simultaneously fusing to form a formidable sound. The rhythmic drive of the keys is toned down for my favourite track Mrs Judge where the true talent of this pair is showcased in their delicate entwining of string and piano to perform a truly moving O’Carolan piece.
Scahill’s technique is paramount to the rendering of the tune and Molloy’s prowess on piano decisively enhances. This combined creativity gives pause for thought and Wayfaring is well deserving of a listen.
Eileen McCabe

Between The Strings
Twelve Tracks - Own Label AMCF01

You would be inclined to think on listening that this is an Adrian McAuliffe offering with a Cathal Flood accompaniment. Listen again. The beauty of this pair’s debut Between the Strings is that both musicians own the melody in their own right and intersperse amongst the phrasing with a fluidity that enhances the main tune with a subtle ease.
McAuliffe meanders through tracks such as Lucy Campbell’s and Berehaven with a laidback finesse that attributes importance to the tune rather than the performance; a clever way of demanding attention to the tune rather than forcing the melody on the listener. He changes tack later and asserts energy into The Meelick Team Jig which paves the way for the Tommy Peoples penned Grainne.
Flood makes his mark with my personal highlight Séan O Duibhir an Ghleanna. The timing, phrasing and delicacy as he lets the emotion seep through the strings on this track tells a story within itself. The addition of The Boys of Blue Hill to the tapering finish of the air detracts from the whimsical ambience but not to the extent that it spoils it completely. Flood’s sensitivity draws you in to the jigs The Blackthorn Stick and Joe Derranes then the acceleration increases as both instruments drive into The Cottage in the Glen set where the strings take on an assured stance.
With pianist Aileen Dillane adding to a sample of tracks and DJ Curtin combining his box with the strings on the rousing slides of The Dirty Trettles set there is enough here to absorb and enjoy.
The pairing of McAuliffe and Flood is solid and Between the Strings cements a kinship on strings that aims to please.
Eileen McCabe

The Quite House
Own Label, 14 tracks, 36 Minutes

I managed to get hold of a pre-production copy of the excellent album from Cashel, Connemara based musician Noreen O’ Sullivan.
The title of the album cannot be at all true about Noreen’s home place, the famous J.J. Gavin’s pub in Corrandulla. Nor for Noreen’s life, which is renowned not only for her playing but her teaching (a number of top class youngsters have learned their tunes from expert her guidance). Then there are her brothers Sean and Frankie are famous players in their own right and. The title refers to what happened to recent silence in her home when Noreen’s granddaughter returned to Scotland left after a holiday in Galway, it has echoes too in the loss of one’s parents, for the album is lovingly dedicated to J.J. and Mary Gavin her first mentors in music.
An alternative title would be Clann agus Cairde, with Frankie and Sean Gavin joining their sister and friends Seamie O Dowd (guitar), Hazlett Keers (bouzouki) and Richie Lyons on bodhrán. It would be churlish of me to hazard a guess at Noreen’s chronological age, but musically she is as fresh as a May morning daisy. The tracks crackle with youth and carefree optimism, the accompaniment is full and melodic, there’s a true balance between the sonorous bass of the guitar and the lifting steps of the bouzouki, which are skillfully intertwined below the whistle like green flecks in Connemara marble. This will appeal to a wide range of players, you can hear everyone playing their parts and follow their lines separately. For example the counterpoint on Reilly’s Greyhound makes you want to garb a guitar. On the other hand O’Dwyer’s hornpipe is played as a straight solo until half way through brother Frankie joins in on the piano. On the reel set, which begins with Touch Me If You Dare there is a family céilí going on, the accordion of brother Sean duetting with Noreen’s whistle, this gives the track a made in the kitchen feel about it.
The Whistle and bodhrán is a classic combination and on track 5 the Old Jig of Mike Noreen and Hazlett show how intoxicating the old style of playing still is, the goat skin is so velvety thick it makes a soft cushion to cradle the high notes of the whistle, it took me back to wet nights and great fun in 1980’s Spiddal.
Noreen not only chose the tunes and co-wrote the liner notes with Nicky McAuliffe but also takes credit as the producer. The engineer is my old pal Bruno Stahelin and he’s brought his usual Swiss –precision to every single track. Noreen’s husband, Brendan has done a superb job of designing and illustrating the CD liner also. The music passes through us, we have it for a while and must do the very best we can with it. Noreen understands this, and her new tunes, such as the Quiet House are made for the long road.
She is one of a line of Gavins who have had the music in the family for generations, now her children have it too. I can think of no better recommendation than the laughter of her granddaughter Sophie at the end of the Quite House reel.
This is an album that will be poured over for years to come and I am sure that laughing child will ensure the O’Sullivan house is ready to resound with the very best of traditional music.
Sean Laffey