Releases > April 2009

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The Incident
Compass Records 7-4499-2
11 tracks, 41 minutes
Beoga have overcome the mischief and madness of their first two albums but are now involved in some kind of incident? The band has sashayed (and, on the new album, hopped hiply) to the forefront of the Irish new wave with two fine albums and a sterling track-record in live performance. Beoga’s unique chemistry creates a sheer joy that permeates their playing. They manage to play with an air of abandonment while keeping the whole process in check - it’s a marvellous sleight of many hands.

The album opens with Lamped, a set that emerged from the heads of the lads (the original band members): Damian McKee on accordion and vocals, Sean Óg Graham on accordion and anything else he gets his musical hands on, Liam Bradley getting in his beoga-woogie licks on keyboards, and Eamon Murray providing the pulse. Many of these thrilling tunes are their own compositions.

Niamh Dunne arrived in time for their second album and she brings glorious capacities on vocals and fiddle. There is a depth to her singing that belies her years. She shows her range here with The Best is yet to Come, a lovely arrangement of a Clifford T. Ward song, and a soulful romp on Strange Things by Sister Rosetta Tharpe. But the most viral track on a very infectious album is On the Way, where Dunne trades acrobatic vocals with composer Joe Echo on a slip-sliding melody.
The Bellevue Waltz
, one of a number of compositions by Ciaran O’Grady on the album, opens with a lyrical fiddle and builds to an orchestral climax. Every track is a sonic bouquet with tasty little flourishes on banjo, harp, trumpet, saxophone and clarinet, triangle, little outbursts of whistling, and something that sounds like a theremin on a couple of tracks. Beoga live are a sight for sore ears and a sound for sore eyes and this album captures the vibrancy of their live shows. I’m not at liberty to say any more about The Incident but the album’s a keeper.
Tom Clancy


Own Label WILDCD101
12 tracks, 55 minutes

Skyeman Ronan Martin was tempted out of his design workshop by fellow fiddler Jonny Hardie, who plays back-up guitar on this recording. Whether by the mythical warmth of Aberdonian hospitality, or the unaccustomed smoothness of east coast malts, Ronan’s playing here is inspired and energised. From the strutting steps of The Hen’s March
, to the final driving notes of Mrs MacPherson, this is west highland fiddle music in the old style - with knobs on. Ronan’s repertoire is full of west coast classics: Isabelle Blackley, Bogan Lochan, The Bonawe Highlanders, Put Me in the Big Chest, The Sprig of Ivy, The Nine Pint Coggie, Kenny MacDonald’s Jig, and then a Cape Breton style, nine-minute medley of strathspeys and reels. Big tunes boldly played, with minimal mucking about.

Many of these melodies would also fit on the highland pipes, and the style has been influenced by pipers, but this is fiddle music through and through. The rapid runs, the dancing bow, the double-stopping and glissando ornamentation all mould a tune such as Cuir Sa Chiste Mhór Mí to the fiddle. Many of the nuances of west highland music come from the Gaelic language, which was shared by pipers and fiddlers, so the shape of a strathspey like Cha Toir Iain Mor an Nighean Dhohm is dictated by the words of the associated mouth-music, which also shaped the piping version; chicken and egg in many cases, but the Gaelic language definitely gives a recognisable character to this music. Nowhere is this more true than in the Gaelic slow airs such as Nuair a Chi Thu Cailleag Bhoidheach, played beautifully here. As far as I am aware, there are no words to the more recent air, The New House in St Peter’s, which Ronan interprets with equal passion and skill. The final two tracks step slightly out of the box: a super-slow version of The Humours of Cork contrasts with an eclectic selection of reels which ends on G S McLennan’s legendary Mrs MacPherson of Inveran. Powerful stuff! Check out for more details.
Alex Monaghan


A Different Season
Own label
11 tracks, 56 minutes

This all-girl group is based out of southern Scotland, playing a mixture of new and traditional material. Old or new, they kick it hard; a rockabilly take on Tom Paine’s Bones
, an inspired combination of the ballad, Lady Margaret, and Shona Mooney’s reel Brambles, or the Newgrass style, Chilly Winds, which could almost come from the soundtrack of a Jet Li film, it’s all good stuff.

Shee are not short of vocal talent with Olivia Ross, Rachel Newton and Laura-Beth Salter. Lyrics are not provided with the CD but are available from On the instrumental side, Lillias Kinsman-Blake adds flute and Shona Mooney plays fiddle, while Amy Thatcher’s piano box and Rachel Newton’s harp are equally adept at lead and backing roles. Everyone contributes a composition or two: the flowing jig, Happy Halloween, from Amy, The Groupie Reel, from Rachel, the song, Summer’s Promise, from Olivia, and a few more.

Of the eleven tracks here, four are vocal-led, four are pure instrumental and three are a blend of both. Here I Am is another hard-hitting contemporary song. Slower, but no less impassioned, are MacCrimmon’s Lament and Ged Is Grianach An Latha, both with Gaelic vocals from Rachel. Other highlights for me were the Drunken Duck set, particularly the fascinating middle tune The Cuckoo, and the final English-American medley, Dancing on the Wireless, with compositions by Bela Fleck and Jay Ungar. This is not all pretty music; it’s raw, vibrant, powerful but never rough. The Shee are definitely going places and they have several directions to choose from. Young Poozies? SillyWitch? Maybe one day Girls of the Lough? Hear what ‘A Different Season‘ has to say, and make your own predictions.
Alex Monaghan


It’s Not Racket Science
13 tracks, 44 minutes
Racket Records, CD008

At the Racket are no strangers to the traditional music scene. They are known near and far for their unique sound since the band’s inception in 1997. It’s Not Racket Science is their third studio offering and also marks the debut recording for the band’s newest member, Michael McCague. On this album, the tune choices and song selections reflect the band’s interests, in particular honing in on the golden music era of the 1920’s and 30’s. The music is rich yet playful, matched with a rhythmic drive that is delivered with outstanding ease. All four of the band members have numerous accolades to their credit; however Séamus O’Donnell’s contribution is of special note on this occasion. His vocals are uplifting, providing a welcome change from the instrumental body of tunes. Maloney Puts His Name Above the Door
is a lively song, highlighting the velvet feel of his voice - a song that has not been recorded since the Flanagan brothers in the 1930’s. Similarly, there is an effortlessly smooth flow to his flute playing. Add to that distinctive sound of his saxophone playing - certainly he’s the finest exponent I’ve ever heard play the instrument in relation to Irish dance music.

As a group the lads blend incredibly well together; the music always sounds energetic, lively and relaxed; they have captured the natural essence of enjoyment in their music making on this recording, and this translates immediately onto the listener. Carty’s fiddle playing is a delight to the ear, as is McGrath’s banjo prowess. It’s lovely to see them duet with a double banjo take on Liam Farrell’s set. The accompaniment is consistent throughout, maintaining the driving rhythmic force behind the melody. Both McGrath’s piano and McCague’s chords are carefully chosen, weaving seamlessly with the melody lines. It never dominates in either case, adding the right balance of subtle taste and variety to complement the tunes with the ‘At the Racket‘ customary charm. One can only enjoy the music and appreciate the imagination and style they have brought to their outfit. In the words of eminent guitarist, Arty McGlynn, “The music of ‘At the Racket‘ makes you smile!” Indeed, it certainly does that and, might I add, for many this album is one that would give you a desire to get up and dance! Highly recommended.
Edel Mc Laughlin


MOON1 (own label)

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh without Altan - that’s what we have on this new CD she calls Imeall
. Mind you, some would say she is Altan, but sin scéal eile. There is a mix of songs and tunes on the CD, all nicely arranged and performed by Mairéad herself and her fellow musicians: Manus Lunny (bouzouki, guitar, production & engineering), Joe Higgins (percussion), Graham Henderson (keyboards), Tim Edey (guitar), and Michael McGoldrick (uilleann pipes & flute). Mairéad herself sings and plays the fiddle, and the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle which is heard on a couple of tracks. It’s that instrument all the way in Mazurkas, where she’s joined by AnnBjorg Lien. Joining Mairéad on the song Dobbin’s Flowery Vale is Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill (piano).

Five of the tracks are Mairéad ’s original compositions, two of them songs: A Óganaigh Óig and Mo Níon Ó. The former should not be confused with the song from Omeath of the same title and published in Amhrán Chúige Uladh and Dhá Chéad de Cheoltaibh Uladh earlier in the last century. She was inspired to write it because, she says, we have so few love songs from the woman’s perspective in the tradition. Interestingly, at least one of the early versions of the Omeath song sings of love from both the woman’s and the man’s perspectives. Níon is a lullaby which Mairéad composed for her daughter Nia.
The traditional number Gardaí an Rí
is a local song she learned from her father, the late and much mourned, Francie Mooney. It tells the story of a heartbroken young man whose love is promised to someone else and wishes to kidnap her with the help of the King’s soldiers. An Fidleoir is a plaintive air Mairéad composed in memory of her father, and Tim Edey’s guitar accompaniment adds hugely to the beauty and mood of the composition. Another song from the tradition is Is Fada ó Bhaile, a song of unrequited love.

Imeall shows that Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh is as skilled and accomplished in performing original material as she is in the traditional and is comfortable in both. The CD also proves why she continues to be just about everybody’s favourite person and performer.
Aidan O’Hara


Walking Up Town
Own Label CDFA33515
16 Tracks

Formed in London in 1970, at a time when Irish Traditional Music was at its peak, Tom Cussen responded to a request from the owner of the Oxford Tavern in Kentish Town to put a band together to play on Friday nights. Now hundreds of Friday nights later they are still a force in live music.
It’s not easy to sum up the thirty-nine years of music making and entertainment that Shaskeen have been at the forefront of Irish Traditional Music. Listening to their new CD, ‘Walking Up Town
‘, it is clear they are going to be leading the way for quite a while yet.

Having been caught up, like many musical groups, in the whirlwind of the set-dancing era, Shaskeen’s last four albums were of music for the sets. Now they are making a change to concert style performances.
At the core of the band are Tom Cussen on banjo, Eamon Cotter on flute, Patsy McDonagh on accordion, Johnny Donnellan on bodhrán, Pat Costello on banjo, mandolin and guitar, Pat Broderick on pipes and whistle, Tony Howley on flute and saxophone and Geraldine Cotter on piano. Geraldine accompanied Shaskeen on all their recordings for the sets and is now a regular in the band. Pat Costello has a long involvement with Shaskeen having produced many of their recordings before becoming a regular band member.

This CD is produced by P.J. Curtis and engineered by by Martin O’Malley in the west of Ireland (Kinvarna and Miltown Malbay). The band welcome guests Seán Tyrrell and Seán Conway on board for some songs but, at the heart album, number fifteen marks a return to their original musical formula. It’s an album ‘for listening to’ and features a generous collection of jigs, reels, waltzes, polkas, barndances, and songs. The title tune ‘Walking up Town‘ is an American ‘breakdown‘, a fun rag-style tune. It’s probably the best summing up the band could ask for.
Ita Kelly


Various Artistes
An Lanntair/HCF co-production

Gàidhlig language poet, Murdo Macfarlane (1901-82), was born in Melbost in the Isle of Lewis, the most northerly of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. He is known to Gaelic speakers as Bàrd Mhealbhoist. The CD is a co-production of An Lanntair and the Hebridean Celtic Festival. An Lanntair is a centre for the promotion of the arts in Stornoway, Lewis. As part of its 2002 exhibition about poet’s life and work, there was a ‘Murdo Macfarlane Songbook
‘ concert that proved so popular it was repeated the following year and went on to the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow. The format was revisited, extended in conjunction with the HCF for their opening concert, ‘Dhachaigh‘, and so we have the CD of that name, which means ‘Home‘.

Murdo was something of an unhappy emigrant in Canada for a few years and he eventually returned to his island home and never married. He had a great love for his native place and its Gaelic language, and much of what he wrote dealt with those subjects and a world that was changing. Or, as Finlay McLeod puts it, “This is the world of the Gael in the twentieth century; croft, sea and moor, but with the overarching events of the wider world also shaping and colouring it, as Murdo Macfarlane’s life and songs epitomise.”

Included in this CD is one of his most noted song/poems, Oran an Iolaire/Song of the Iolaire, that laments the sinking of the ship, ‘The Iolaire’, within sight of its destination in Lewis, and the loss of some two hundred soldiers returning home after World War I. Too, too cruel. Also featured on the CD are newly commissioned pieces by Paul Mounsey, Blair Douglas, Lau, and Fraser Fyfield, with new recordings of classic Murdo songs by a selection of great Gaelic singers including Ishbel MacAskill, Christine Primrose, Isobel Ann Martin, Brian Ó hEadhra and Fiona Mackenzie, Karen Matheson, Alyth Mccormack, and Anna Murray. There is more than an hour of great music and great singing from these and other performers on ‘Dhachaigh‘ and it is a pleasure to listen to.
Aidan O’Hara


Seize the Moment
Self Produced 12 tracks 44.35 minutes

Seize the Moment
‘ is the first solo recording for Kildare musician, Derek Byrne. It is a personal, introspective work, one of a man who is finding the joys of life in the hand dealt to him. Byrne wrote ten of the twelve tracks.
Byrne is primarily a banjo player and he utilizes various styles of the instrument to very good manner. It is his song writing, and his voice, which make this album work. His opening number, Between Love
and Home, talks of the choices immigrants have. Seize the Moment was written for his wife, in a search for time together. Rhythm of Falling talks of stealing time in quick meetings in airports when he was on the road with Riverdance. The highlight of the album is Save Tara, about the proposed highway that would impinge on the ancient Irish capital. Byrne’s a cappella singing opens with Seal a na mbo na mbo, and proceeds on to a litany of the legendary heroes of the island’s past. His performing partner, Cavan dancer, Sean Beglan, provides impressive foot percussion, in this eerie and impressive song.

The three instrumentals go from the traditionally based Eidirian, a somewhat dark jig, to the bluegrass-based, Hawaiian Pigeon Breakdown, to the theme for the movie, Running on Fumes, a strident, yet evocative bit of music, able to pull the sense of urgency the movie highlights.

The final tracks are the weakest, Red is the Rose and Maire’s Wedding, performed live. They are well played, but after Byrne’s original lyrics and music, they tend to pale compared to the rest of the album. ‘Seize the Moment‘ grabs hold of the listener from the start, and clasps until the end.
Brian G. Witt


14 tracks, 72 minutes, 42 seconds.
CBL02 Produced by Cheryl Smith and Andrea Beaton.

Cape Breton Live Radio is a website that brings to the Internet world the moveable feast that is Cape Breton traditional music. Managed by fiddler Andrea Beaton, the website offers a number of recordings of live performances recorded at dances, concerts and house sessions around the island. This is the second recorded collection of selections from these performances.

Here’s a veritable phone book of the island’s top traditional players: Brenda Stubbert, Kimberley Fraser, Paul MacDonald, Buddy MacMaster, Betty Beaton, Dave MacIsaac, Kenneth MacKenzie, Jackie Dunn MacIsaac, Kinnon Beaton, Cheryl Smith, Troy MacGillivray, Wendy MacIsaac, Jeff MacDonald, Mary Jane Lamond, Rona Lightfoot, Ian MacDougall, Mac Morin, Sandy McDonald, Howie MacDonald, Doug MacPhee, Jerry Holland, Marion Dewar, Carl MacKenzie, Andrea Beaton, Pat Gillis, Ryan J. MacNeill, Natalie MacMasater, Donnell Leahy, Shelley Campbell, Dale Gillis, and John Pellerin. That’s a lot - and consider Cape Breton is only the size of Cork!

The music’s brilliant. Fast and furious - it will have you on your feet dancing in a trice. The CD begins with the splendid combination of Brenda Stubbert and Kimberley Fraser, and - for the most part - just gets better from there, if that is possible. An amusing anecdote about Buddy MacMaster’s “debut” leads off a smoking set by this living treasure of traditional music. Buddy MacMaster always sounds better live than in his recordings, but this recording sounds live - it has slight errors, yes; but it also has the unmatched drive and passion of Buddy at his best.

There’s the incredible fiddler Ian MacDougall, whose music is precise and yet wildly intemperate, and just plain wonderful. Howie MacDonald delivers his lovely signature flat-key set, and the peerless Jerry Holland offers a restrained and incredibly beautiful, tasteful Hector the Hero. The best comes (almost) last: Carl MacKenzie begins his set with an untoward squeak or two, but then proceeds to drive ‘er into the stratosphere, and the listener into sheer bliss. Unfortunately, Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are waylaid by uneven miking that renders their long virtuosic set an aural mess. But the flawed tracks on this recording are more than balanced by the successful ones, which ably showcase the raw power of this lovely music when it is played live for appreciative audiences.

Let’s hope this recording series continues. But this listener also hopes that the next instalment is technically equal to the sum of its impressive parts.
Sally K Sommers Smith


The Green Road
15 tracks, 61 minutes
Own label

“This is not your typical céilí band record,” asserts Martin Hayes in his introduction to the third studio album from The Turloughmore Ceilí Band. Certainly, upon a first listening to the recording, one can immediately hear why this is the case. The album features the singing of the renowned Cork tenor, Seán Ó Sé, known extensively for his singing with Seán Ó Riada and Ceoltóirí Cualann in the sixties. The band first met and performed with Ó Sé at the Fleadh Nua in 2006 at an event celebrating the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. This, coupled with many interesting arrangements of tune selections, marks Turloughmore as a band at the height of their powers.

The band was originally formed by a group of talented musicians in County Clare in 1998. Since then, they have developed as a solid band unit; their music has become close-knit, and their confidence in performing together has grown from strength to strength. It’s no surprise to discover they were the 2006 recipients of the World Fleadh Céilí Band Champions title. Turloughmore are a band now in their prime; on this record they strike the perfect balance between tradition and innovation. As well as the straight traditional céilí sets, they have added a new dimension to their sound, arranging beautiful melodies and harmonies to suit each song or set of tunes on the album. Listen to the orchestration on the song Ag an mBóthairín Buí - the blend of instruments is sweet and rich as they weave in and out of the song to their accompanying tune.

Undoubtedly, the Turloughmore musicians have many individual talents and thoroughly enjoy sharing them with each other as a collective unit. In addition to flute, fiddle and accordion, the instrumentation features concertina, uilleann pipes and banjo adding a lively mix of sounds strongly affiliated with the tradition. Carmel O’Dea is the most recent member to join the band, adding her considerable talents on fiddle. A most refreshing sound is that of Marie Quigney playing melody lines on piano; listen to her deft, stylish touches on the jigs, Father O Flynn / The Irish Washerwoman, for example. Multi-talented instrumentalist Pat Costello shines on a variety of instruments ranging from banjo, bouzouki and mandolin to drums and djembe. Guest artist Denis Liddy also features on viola.

Turloughmore do much justice to the venerable tradition of céilí band music in County Clare. There is something here for everyone with music sourcing from the O’Farrell collection (c.1800) to standards popularised by Coleman, as well as the newly composed ‘Waltz of Faith‘ penned by O’Dea. Highly recommended - a must for all traditional music aficionados.
Edel McLaughlin


Before I Kick the Bucket
Own Label
14 tracks

Mick Walsh, from County Kilkenny, has been performing as member of ‘Ceolteóirí Cill Chainnigh
‘ for over 10 years. Mick has toured throughout the world, touching down in such places as Argentina, New Zealand, Europe and the USA. A very active performer, Mick is part of the group, ‘An Emigrant’s Tale‘, alongside renowned musicians PJ King and Martin Murray. He is known as a bodhrán and bones player and a singer of songs, some of which he learned from his grandfather back in the old days. This album is a grand collection of songs, many of which will be familiar to our readers, such as The Pool Song, and The Bodhrán Song. Indeed this is a pocket night-out in any singing circle in Ireland, with circle favourites like The May Morning Dew, The Sick Note and the wonderful Micky McConnell’s The Man Who Drank the Farm, all stalwarts in the canon of the session singer.

His style is straightforward; there is no attempt at artifice or flights of Seán-nós fancy; like many singers you get the impression it is the words not the melodies that attracted him first. And some of those sets of words are clever, convoluted and side-splittingly funny at the same time, such as The Sun Worshipper, a song that has a line in it about the hole in the ozone layer - how’s that for topical? In a more traditional vein we have a nicely understated accompanied version of I once Loved a Lass, (a Child ballad no less). It all good clean fun, well delivered and every penny of profit will go to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin. Mick Walsh has a raft of big songs and he’s obviously got a big heart too. And finally, for the singers out there, he closes with one of the most requested numbers of singing sessions everywhere Chantelle du Champignon, which proves Mick Walsh knows his mushrooms as well as his onions.
Seán Laffey