Releases > May 2011 releases

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Guido Plüschke and Rolf Wagels
18 Tracks, LIECD11025
Years ago when I got my first Dick Lett the bodhrán, the drum was something of a mystery; even in Irish music, a handful of makers were known by an inner circle, players were thin on the ground, you’d hardly ever see a bodhrán in a session, outside of the Wren Season the drum was scarce. Then Johnny McDonagh and Tommy Hayes burst on the scene with new ways of playing, folk got enthusiastic and soon really good makers started to appear.
Today you can get a drum for a few Euro off the internet from Pakistan or order a bespoke model that will cost you a week’s salary. But as Wagels and Plüschke realised owning the frame drum is just the start, you have to learn to play it and that is where things often come unstuck. There’s a Perspex bodhrán on the cover of the album, a clear indication that the boys want us to see what lies beneath the arcane skin of the drum.
The two lads have been running their bodhrán weekends in Germany for a few years now, so no better folks to show you how to hold a tipper, talk about top end technique or show you how to dampen the dreaded edge ping. Guido has been playing the bodhrán since the 1990’s and is a recipient of the World Bodhrán Championship title which he picked up in 2008, Rolf is a member of Cara and the Hanover based DeReelium, he has been teaching at the Craicán summer school on Inis Oir since 2005.
The CD is a collection of 18 carefully selected tracks, each in their own right a standout performance, where the drum does what it does best, accompany the music, take 3 Bunny from the German band Steampacket, the tune is allowed to develop first before the bodhrán comes in and it does so with a steady repetitive pulse which fits the jumpy rhythm of the tune to a T. Yes there are bodhrán solos, and who would begrudge the lads a party piece or two and the closing track is a live take of Rolf having a great time on stage, but for the majority of this album is terrifically sensitive playing matching the mood and musicality of the sets. The lads play with some of the finest Continental bands around such as An Tor, Cara, Steampacket, Garifin, Guido jams in with Brendan Power on a jazzy number, there’s even a song or two, one from Donegal based Ian Smith.
The styles are modern and syncopated, no more so than on Irish Funky, here Guido is double tracked on the banjo on a number full of funky bass lines and a hot horn section.
The CD is packed with surprises and has one of the best set of liner notes of the past decade. There’s a big story here, but for now, go and buy the album, it’s a winner from the German drummer boys
Seán Laffey


Millhouse Measures
Own Label RBC001
13 tracks, 42 minutes
Flute, fiddle and button box, playing Irish music with a slight southern style, this trio of musicians combines Conal Ó Gráda from Cork, Dave Sheridan from Offaly, and Benny McCarthy from Waterford. Conal has been a top traditional fluter for about twenty years, well-known to devotees of the wooden flute, with two solo CD’s. Benny McCarthy came to prominence with Danú, and is now acknowledged as a very fine box-player. Dave Sheridan emerged fully-formed a couple of years ago with another trio: a master of many fiddle styles, he should not be confused with his woodwind namesake from Leitrim. These three are augmented by Colm Murphy on the Old Frame Drum, Needing No Intro, and the album also includes two unaccompanied songs from rising sean-nós starlet Nell Ní Chróinín.
The combination is better than good. Barndances, slides, polkas, hornpipes, set dances and marches are all presented with exemplary drive and lift. Reels and jigs are in the minority for once - just four of the eleven instrumental tracks. I particularly like the horses-for-courses approach from the Raw Bar: polkas and slides are played in the punchy Cork style, while the barndances have more of a Connemara lilt to them, and for reels the style switches to North Connacht (with the exception of Conal’s two compositions which open the CD in a more Munster mindset). There are plenty of great tunes here: The Chaffpool Post, Joe Burke’s Polka, The Showman’s Fancy, Sweet Briar, The Leitrim Bucks and more. The mixing is outstanding on all tracks, with just the right balance between the three melody instruments. Joe Sullivan’s Slides are a particular highlight, as are the pair of Napoleonic set dances, but it’s hard to beat those Ó Gráda reels with the set dancers rattling the boards behind. Nell’s two songs stand in for slow airs, and are nicely delivered in a pleasant young voice, breaking up the dance music perfectly.
This album was recorded with a small audience, and footage of the day is available on YouTube - there might even be a link from - you never know!
Alex Monaghan


The Winding Clock
13 tracks - Self Published

A respected member of the Comhaltas Community in Westmeath, Irish language teacher Enda Seery has released his debut album The Winding Clock. First thought on listening is that you can tell Enda is involved in the teaching of the whistle as each tune is paced perfectly with every note enunciated clearly which sets the bar for any budding whistle players to absorb and emulate. The other major impression of the Winding Clock is the quality of composition. Enda includes many of his own tunes and they intertwine seamlessly with the more traditional with regards to the quality of workmanship.
Drawing tunes from a variety of stalwarts, The Leitrim Lilter set incorporates I wish I never saw you a tune taken from the album Feadóga Stáin by the renowned Mary Bergin and Seery plays it with a lilting clarity whilst maintaining a steady pace. The rhythm and clarity also shine through on the Colonel Frazer set, which is a traditional favourite with a catchy twist and Seery administers the nuances with ease. The echo of the Bb Generation whistle on Enda’s self composed Fonn an tSrutháin (Tune of the Streams) carries through to another composition of his entitled Friday’s Finest, a slow jig on which he plays keyboards as well as whistle. Musicality is showcased in the family with Ciaran (box), Siobhan (flute) and Padraig (fiddle) joining their brother to display a flavour of Paddy O’Brien and Willie Coleman’s jigs with flair on track six.
With a mixture of session tunes and instrumentals that have been utilised for competitions in Fleadh Cheoils‘, The Winding Clock is the ideal enhancement for aspiring whistle players to listen and learn from and no better teacher for it than Enda Seery.
Eileen McCabe


Home away from Home
Own Label NIC001CD
15 tracks, 44 minutes

For four youngsters who met in a pub, NicGaviskey have created quite a stir in the last year or so. The explanation lies in the warmth and harmony of their music. Fiddle, flute, concertina and accordion blend and interweave with a naturalness and ease normally associated with decades of playing together: yet these musicians only met in July 2009 and have spent most of the time since then thousands of miles apart. But blood will out, and all four members of NicGaviskey have pedigrees in Irish music. Bernadette NicGabhann on fiddle and Caitlín NicGabhann on concertina are sisters, of course, from the celebrated tribe of musicians headed by Cavan fiddler, Antóin MacGabhann. The girls have played together almost since birth, and both are also fine dancers. Sean Gavin on flute is the son of a Clare fiddler, so his musical roots are impeccable. Sean McComiskey featured on his father Billy’s recent recording: Billy is an accordion legend in Irish America, and Sean looks like following suit.
With the introductions over, it’s time to hear what this band can do. Little of their material is unfamiliar - Kinnegad Slashers, Dances at Kinvara, Fear an Tigh, Castle Kelly, The Swaggering Jig and many more great old tunes - but there are a few surprises. Between the jigs and the reels, NicGaviskey sneak in a slightly simplified setting of the Canadian classic Louis’ Waltz - pleasant enough, although they don’t really get the best out of this beautiful melody. Flute and accordion duet mightily on The Man of the House and The Blacksmith, while Caitlín and Bernadette batter the boards with their hard shoe steps. Caitlín goes solo on a tune I know as Cock o’ the North, and follows it with the lilting Jig for Bernie written for her mother. There’s a solo track each on this recording: Sean G rattles off a couple of reels with a hint of the rushing Cavan style, whereas Sean M is totally convincing as a Kerry box-player for Na Ceannabháin Bhána. Bernadette spans the Atlantic with her bow, playing Martin Wynne’s Number 4 from New York and the old Cavan reel Miss Langford. There’s also plenty of mix and match between the four players, dropping in and out of tunes very nicely.
The full NicGaviskey sound is powerful and beguiling on The Fair-Haired Boy, Scattery Island and several other tracks - and this whole CD is just the four of them, not a guest or a backer to be heard, so the live act will be just as good.
Alex Monaghan


Bronganene Griffin, fiddle, with
Gerry O’Beirne and Kevin Burke
Loftus Music

This album is totally cat – but in the best possible way. If you remember Alice in Wonderland, you could get cat without grin, but not grin without cat. Here you get both, and I’m someone who would make a beeline to avoid a feline. But right from the start you get energy and sweet tone. They speak the language. And I gave a huge purr of satisfaction at the lovely jig playing. And O’Carolan’s Hewlett gets full justice.
Bronganene is from Portland, Oregon, It must be the damp climate: it makes for great music. And it’s true to the spirit that no boreen is worth while without a corkscrew turning, to hear Kevin Burke reciting The Owl and the Pussy Cat. It recalls the line My mind being so airy than stooping so low, I set off upon high speculation but it’s great to hear a good Irish voice reciting the Clown Prince of the British Empire.
Brongaene is Kevin’s pupil and an apt pupil is she. Check the website for further encomiums, but I think the best praise is that you’d never say she isn’t one of our own (as the Divil said of the dead Peeler).
John Brophy


16 tracks, Crashed Music, Dublin

A turlough is a lake that vanishes in summertime, but reappears every winter. Thomas Walsh was born in Temple Bar. He lived in one-room tenement house with his two brothers and two sisters, Sean and Maurice, Maureen and Christine and his parents John and Eva. Thomas used to play with Frankie and Mairead Kennedy of Altan and other local musicians in Bunbeg. It was around that time Thomas started going to Inisheer and formed a group called Turlough. Thomas still gigs under the band name but he is the only original member. The others such as Maire Breathnach are still playing and doing very well.
The key to this collection is on track 9, The Dublin Minstrel, which is a tribute to Luke Kelly. Indeed, the whole collection is proof of the joys of opening your lungs and singing some great songs like Parcel of Rogues or the Silly Slang Song. As a veteran of O’Donoghue’s, Merrion Row, he knows well that no amount of technology can replace human contact, especially when it leads to radical political action, even 50 years after first hearing.
John Brophy


Sarah-Jane Summmers
19 mins; 5 tunes

There are some important activities that are best learned through contact with another human being, and fiddle playing is one of them. But we all know of folk living in far-flung outposts who have a great need of tips and tricks, as much to prevent bad habits as to improve playing. It’s the musical equivalent of a pronunciation guide when you’re trying to learn a language, and all its subtleties. In this case, the language is fiddle: it’s the snap, as contrasted with the slide, and the birl. It’s a very well-presented DVD with the liner notes giving the written dots for all five tunes. And there’s singing in Scots Gaelic, plus two examples of dancing.
Sarah Jane can trace a musical pedigree back over a century, to her teacher’s teacher and founder in 1903 of the Highland and Strathspey Society. (The accent is on the second syllable of strath-SPEY). She has obviously been playing since childhood, there’s a picture there to prove it. The technique is very classical, with left hand free and not dropped into the ladhair, space between fingers and thumb. The bow-hold, too, has the high wrist of classical-land, and she has a very enviable flow and control.
In real life, strathspeys, like our slow airs, are usually followed by a reel. But this is instructional, and gets detailed about ornamentation.
The tunes? There’s Lady Mary Ramsey by Nathaniel Gow, Highland Whisky by Neil Gow, Lady Madelina Sinclair and one by aforementioned teacher’s teacher, whose name was Alexander Grant of Battangorm aka Sandy Battan. What’s a Battan, and why was this one blue?
But my favourite is the song Bodaich Bheag Abriachan. In Munster the word bodach is not a term of respect. In Scotland, its meaning is now an ould lad or even a gnome. The songs has the unique Celtic blend of satire and endearment. Apparently the lads from Abriachan used to cross Lough Ness in a rowing-boat, monster(s) notwithstanding, and had copious libation and jollification on the far side, and the song was both revenge and encouragement. I suspect it was a work-song where each team member had to extemporise a verse. Anyhow, it’s a little jewel from a lost world, and Sarah-Jane does it great justice. But beyond the technique, and discussions of how to notate a mordent (they’re all in Sibelius) there is the bigger question.
Sarah-Jane is playing simply because she loves it, and there isn’t a better thing in the world to be doing. There’s no concealing the body language.
According to the website, she’s now based in Oslo, a Masters student at the Musikkhøgskole, studying fiddle and Hardanger fiddle. Back to school at age 33: that’s dedication! This CD is worth trawling for, and if you could buy it from the hand of such a radiant spéir-bhean you’d be all the better for it.
John Brophy