Releases > May 2012 Releases

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All The Way Home

Blix Street Records, 11 Tracks
Running Time, 43 Minutes 53 Seconds

After two decades as the voice of Dervish it’s about time Cathy had a debut album and here it is. Was it worth waiting for? You bet it was. The album was produced in Sweden by Roger Tallroth (of Josefin’s Waltz fame), he is an accomplished producer of female talent. Check out his work with Sofia Karlsson, (it’s on You Tube and is stunning).

Cathy has assembled a backing band to die for in Swedes, Roger Tallroth (guitars), Gustaf Ljunggren (lap steel/banjo/piano) and Lars Andreas Haug (tuba). Ireland’s, Andy Irvine carries vocal duties and Scotland’s, Eddi Reader. Michael McGoldrick adds his Uilleann pipes, whilst her Unwanted Band mates Rick Epping and Seamie O’Dowd bring in the concertina, harmonica and fiddle. Dervish boy Liam Kelly joins in on flute.

The 11 tracks, four of which are modern compositions, reveal a great deal about her personal preferences in music, highly melodic tunes, direct well-crafted lyrics and a gentle often understated delivery. On this album you get a feeling that Cathy has found a new way to explore the nuances and dynamics of her own singing.

The backing musicians are fully supportive in what appears an almost organic way, they understand where Cathy is coming from and add just the right amount of energy to lift the songs without drowning out Cathy’s emotional engagement with the lyrics. The backing on the opening The Bold Fenian Men sets the tone for the album; it is both tasteful and surprising. A very spare guitar walks in Cathy’s voice and develops it over the next two verses until the backing builds, but where it could have become a dramatic crescendo it pulls back to leave the voice alone, bare and vulnerable in all its theatrical angst.

On Eileen McMahon, a conversation song with Eddi Reader the same care is taken in the layering of the music behind the dominant lyrics. If you are looking for a flash of Dervish then visit Ould Ballymore the most upbeat number on the CD. For instrumental fire there is Jordan’s Jig written by Roger Tallroth and played in full on Irish style. For a touch of Swedish magic, the tune The River Field Waltz, written by Cathy has the deft hand of Tallroth all over it.

Brendan Graham’s The Road I Go fits into the psyche of the album as if it was written for the project, a marker of the care Jordan has taken over song choice.

The album closes with the title track, a Jordan co-write, with Enda Cullan and Ian Smith. It is a lively and uplifting closing number, largely autobiographical, with references to the places Jordan has seen on her musical travels. Don’t worry it’s not as blatant as a Baedeker guide to life of the road with Dervish. What the song underlines and this album affirms is the pull of home even in times when we might be forced to travel the world in search of fortune or sanity.

All The Way Home closes with the band singing Maybe its you that is calling me home? Cathy answers the question unequivocally; this is where her heart and her hearth are.

Seán Laffey

Own Label, 15 Tracks, 56 Minutes

Clare fiddler, Denis Liddy has teamed up with American keyboard diva Elvie Miller in both a musical and a matrimonial sense. Denis has a couple of fine previous recordings, and Elvie is the proud winner of the All–Ireland accompaniment title as well as being the daughter of New England fiddle guru, Rodney Airplang Miller. Together these two exceptional players have produced a pot pourri of pieces plucked from various sources. Paddy O’Brien tunes feature prominently: The Humours of Moanfin, Bubbling Wine, The Swallow’s Nest, The Red Haired Girl and Mrs O’Brien, as well as the show-piece reel Fiddler’s Contest learnt from O’Brien’s playing. Liddy and Miller also draw on compositions by Paddy Kelly, Cathal McConnell, Tom Fleming and others, in addition to collections by Francis O’Neill, James Goodman, George Petrie and PW Joyce.

There’s a delicacy and poise to this music, a gentleness which persists even through the more exuberant jigs and reels. Elvie switches to piano box and Rodney duets on fiddle for The Old Favourite and Paddy Kiloran’s great jig The Humours of Miltown, then again for The Scholar, yet that essential sweetness still comes across. Junior Crehan’s jig The Thatched Cabin and the traditional Temple House are given a deliciously ghoulish tinge by Elvie’s tinkling keys, and The Wounded Hussar is breathtaking in its beauty and simplicity here. The Wild Geese is similarly striking, as are some of the other slow numbers on Tradaree. But don’t pigeonhole this as a drawing-room album: when the gloves come off for the final set of reels, Denis and Elvie can get down and dirty like the rest of us, tearing into Brid Harper’s and The Peeler’s Jacket, before dusting themselves down for a lovely version of Music in the Glen.

Tradaree is certainly a CD to hold on to.

Alex Monaghan

Since Maggie Dooley Learned the Hooley Hooley
11 Tracks, 41 Minutes

“The Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra is the perfect New York City community band,” begins the cover blurb for this exhilarating new recording. The group, whose name harkens back to the Irish–American dance bands of the 1920’s and 1930’s, does play jigs, reels, polkas, and barn dances with verve and style. But the Harp and Shamrock Orchestra also presents a specialised and hitherto lost repertoire: the popular music of Irish America in the early part of the twentieth century.

The title track, for instance, winsomely sung by teen Louise Sullivan recalls a 1920’s mania for Hawaiian music, here bewilderingly translated to rural Ireland. Banjo wizard, Dan Neely offers another cross-cultural gem, When Rafferty Brought the Rumba to the Town of Aughnacloy, and Mick Moloney adds a Newfoundland comic staple, The Night Pat Murphy Died. The emphasis on these early songs is not surprising, as the WSHSO is a project of Dr. Moloney, professor of music at New York University, and an expert in early Irish-American musical genres.

Many of the members of the constantly-changing line-up of the Orchestra are alumni of NYU; all are members of the vibrant New York City traditional music scene. This recording is different from any other Irish traditional recording you are likely to have heard in the past decade; all the more reason to listen in for the good humour and excellent musicianship that the WSHSO brings to this under-performed repertoire.

Also notable are the excellent notes for each selection and the terrific graphics, chosen and rendered by Dr. Neely and Dr. Scott Spencer.
Sally K Sommers Smith

Crossing The Ocean, 15 Tracks
The Living Tradition LTCD9019

Well-researched folk songs sung with meaning and embellished by attuned instrumentation serve The House Devils well on their latest album Crossing The Ocean. The follow on to their 2009 release Irish Folk: Adieu to Old Ireland their most recent offering combines energetic tunes with folk tinged ballads that are rendered with sensitivity.

Matt Fahey steers the vocals into the first track taken from a Frank Harte recording and entitled Wearing the Britches. The tale of a warring couple is augmented by the striking harmonica of Matt Walklate, Andy Dinan’s prowess on fiddle and Anthony Haller’s double bass. The five string banjo of Johnny Hulme outlines the tempo and they sail from the marital fight into the Mick Rodden Reel set where Fahey’s flute takes precedence and the tunes flows with a lively banter.

A different take to The Ace and Deuce of Pipering as Walklate applies the harmonica and renders the set with a definition and clarity that entertains. The novelty of the fiddle and harmonica together works for these tunes and Aidan Kilroy’s bodhrán with Haller’s bass only enhances. The fiddle/harmonica duo is a standout on the Dinan’s Duo set where the slow reels are exquisitely rendered and Dinan’s fiddle intro is a quality listen.

The singing on Crossing the Ocean is applied with the exact touch of power and sensitivity to suit the emotion of the song. I have Travelled the Country is sung by Walklate with a poetic poignancy whilst the raucous tones of Fahey bring Tie my Toes to the Bed to life. This variation of tone is also applied to the tunes where the choice of instrumentation is well thought out.

The House Devils have applied the best of their quality musicianship to this release and that quality is impeccably demonstrated.

Eileen McCabe


14 Tracks
Fellside Recordings Ltd FECD248

Funky percussion surrounding a captivating tune is one way to epitomize the latest release from The Hut People. Those familiar with the work of Sam Pirt and Gary Hammond will recognise the exuberance of taking a tune and treating the main line with the respect it deserves whilst allowing the rhythmic drive of the beat to flow into a tangent of quirky vibrancy which is their signature. Sam hones his skill also with the band 422, winner of a BBC Radio Folk Award in the past, whilst Gary’s percussive ability has been showcased through his recording and touring work with The Beautiful South amongst others.

The variation of instruments that complement the accordion prowess of Sam is amazing. Take Bok Espok for example. The Basque country tune incorporates a lagerphone, Cajun bongos, Torpedo, WhaWha Shaker, Afuche, Shekere and Boing stick. Add the electric bass of Alan Jones for this track and the result is an amalgamation of beats, which are hypnotic. The percussive instruments consistently express themselves through-out the fourteen tracks and provide a standout in Gary’s own composition One For Lily which involves the use of prolific hand claps for added effect. There’s an amazing introduction to Anto’s Cajun Cousin taken from the playing of Sharon Shannon and the use of the washboard extenuates the vivacity of the lively tune.

With variety in abundance that ensures a high standard of entertainment there is something for everyone in Picnic. This CD ia a compelling listen.

Eileen McCabe


The Emigrant’s Lament, Mogno 1013

12 Tracks, 42 Minutes

The duo of Kieran Fahy and Jacques Pirotton offers an interesting musical collaboration. Now based in Belgium, Kieran Fahy is from Tuam in Galway, one of a famous musiocal family, since his arrival in the heart of Europe he has been a mainstay of bands like Shantalla and its predecessor Seantalamh and many other miscellaneous projects. Jacques Pirotton a Belgian jazz guitarist has also crossed musical cultures in his time and their duo effort promises intriguing mix. However with this aggregation of Celtic and Jazz players, fireworks or genre bending fusion efforts are strictly off course and thoughts of Django Reinhart and Stefan Grapelli are non-existent. This is an understated and understanding duet - the violin and guitar held in a glove like grip.

The album title gives it away regarding the approach taken being particularly pastoral and ponderous, suitably befitting the lament in the headline. While the music is restrained in presentation it possesses a melodic grandeur, which enables it to be more savoured chilled than rattling a hot session stovepipe. Calum’s Road outlines the approach, a slow graceful beginning giving way to a measured reel while Callaghan’s and Paudy Scully’s both raise a head of steam without hitting excessive overdrive.

Airs like Eleanor Plunkett and Paddy’s Rambles Through the Park exhibit the duo at their best with Fahy’s graceful fiddle layered by Pirotton’s chamber sounding guitar. It does have the odd blemish when an off kilter lilted Ace and Deuce of Pipering never reaches its desired excitement but that’s the sole blot on the sonic landscape.

Otherwise The Emigrant’s Lament is a gently honed laid back exercise, which befits the isolation and distance within the title.

John O’Regan


Fé Scáth/In The Shadow,

14 Tracks, Own Label

Through the stark and sometimes harsh beauty of the wildness of the West Kerry landscape emerges a musicality that captures the vividness of the area in the latest solo offering of the youngest of the musical Begley clan – Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich.

The profound expression that carries both his instrumentation and the soft strength of his voice encapsulates the very nature of the shadow of his native Mount Brandon in the airs and songs on Fé Scáth. A contrast to his exuberant work with Boys of the Lough this album depicts a pensive and nostalgic thoughtfulness that showcases yet another aspect of Ó Beaglaoich’s endless talent.

The beautiful yet tragic air Caoineadh Sheáin Laoí portrays the tragedy of the drowning of a local fisherman which shocked the local area and upon hearing the tale inspired Cathal McConnell to capture the shock and sadness through his slow air composition. In turn Ó Beaglaoich then worded a prayer to this Kerry Fisherman and both the instrumental version and the song are hauntingly evocative. The concept of the air with the song is also stunning in the lamentation of a missed chance of love in the poignant piece De Bharr na gCnoc. A standout though on this is the version illustrated through Ó Beaglaoich’s voice as he draws you deep into the pain and sadness of a broken heart.

The majority of Fé Scáth consists of these compellingly thoughtful songs and slow airs. Ó Beaglaoich does change the tempo slightly on two tracks with a set of waltzes (one from the playing of the legendary Joe Cooley) and a duo of lively jigs taken from the playing of Muiris Ó Dálaigh from the Great Blasket and Maurice Quinn of Corra-Ghráig.These break away from the crux of the album yet the consistency remains through that West Kerry style of play.

Ó Beaglaoich conveys a provokingly thoughtful conceptualisation of the rich heritage of life in the shadow of Mount Brandon. Once you are drawn in to the musicality of Fé Scáth I warn you… it is very hard to break away.

Eileen McCabe



Cuig Music,12 Tracks

Northumbrian multi-instrumentalist, Martin Matthews has been a mainstay of some ground-breaking acoustic bands from up North including The Champion String Band, The Rub and Cuig. Now here’s Autumn a collection of self-penned and locally placed tunes from Northern players and the odd visitor like Manchester’s Tony Sullivan.

Musically eclectic is the menu as the styles cruise through Latin Jazz, French café swing and Irish themed revelry. Matthews’s multi-instrumental credentials transfer to a variety of bouzouki, banjo,mandolin, cittern and electric and acoustic guitars. Dan’s Hands begins in Jazz territory before settling into a Gerry O’Connor/ Bela Fleck groove while La Maison Jaune reflects airy Seineside nights in Parisean cafes. Dr Kate Matthews jigs slowly before gently loping itself in a laid back Irish style hammock. Various guests join especially Sean Taylor’s atmospheric bass and keyboards gently setting tunes in their natal beds. This is music from a player completely at home with his muse.

Autumn is a wonderful collection of eclectic and pulsating tunes from a musician still at the height of his game.

John O’Regan


Tight Squeeze, DMB DMBCD 001, 13 Tracks

This CD almost slipped under the radar. David Munnelly Band’s Tight Squeeze originally emerged in 2009. However as does happen, confusion reigns and reviews eventually appear as this one does. Granted the line–up has changed in recent times, but David Munnelly, Fergal Scahill, Ryan Molloy and Kieran Munnelly still remain so it’s a case of business as usual. Musically the Munnelly ideal set seems based in the 20’s Irish music era when The Flanagan Brothers and Dan Sullivan’s Shamrock Band ruled the roosts. The Munnelly Band has that same cartwheeling spirit of invention through tunes like The Letrim Polkas, Mac Jigs and Nick’s Boat that conjure up a 20/30’s era without resorting to nostalgia. To inhabit the spirit of a bygone era yet imbue a fresh slant on traditional music is no easy task but The David Munnelly Band does it.

Vocally, Shaunna Mullin’s lower register vocals added a bittersweet lustre to the high spirited music–her work here best found on The Bold Privateer, John Martyn’s Fairytale Lullaby and the jazzy What Are You Waiting For. The mix of rich sultry smouldering vocals and musical pyrotechnics provided a high wire ride of amazing proportions and they still do. It’s a tight squeeze alright packing all this diversity into one band but The David Munnelly Band did it and still do.

That’s some feat and commendation.

John O’Regan

Civil War Naval Songs, 13 Tracks

Balladeer, Dan Milner has acclaimed albums of historical songs that include Irish Pirate Ballads (2009) and Irish Ballads and Songs of the Sea (1998). His latest offering, Civil War Naval Songs, includes 13 naval songs from both sides, and some from merchant ships too.The CD includes a 36–page booklet. An essay called The American Civil War Afloat by James Bradford, from the Department of History at Texas A&M University, and Milner’s essay, Naval Songs of the Civil War, provide context. Each song also has a good paragraph of text in the booklet explaining it.

This might make it sound like a musty offering for scholars, but this is not Milner’s style, and it’s a highly listenable album. It would be wonderful to hear in background on a hot day, sipping some lemonade on the porch, letting the world go by. It would also shuffle nicely with tune only trad albums.

The CD begins brightly with American folk singer, Jeff Davis on vocals and banjo, with The Flight of the Hatteras and Alabama, followed by David Coffin on vocals and concertina, accompanied by Gabriel Donohue on piano, with The Jamestown Homeward Bound. Coffin, Master of Ceremonies at the Boston Revels, has an impressive baritone with a shake in it, reminiscent of the Voice Squad. His rendition of the well–known Bold Privateer is a stand out. Milner’s voice is higher, and unmistakeable; each word coming through with emotion and, often, humour. His cheekiness on The Blockade Runner, accompanied by Bob Conroy on banjo, Arthur Garnett on Anglo concertina and Harry Lowrey on English concertina, is delightful, more so when you realise the catch melody is one Milner wrote himself.

Milner also wrote the music – hall style melody to the concluding track, The Monitor & Merrimac. With a chorus singing in harmony, with vocals from Don Stiffe, as well as Bonnie Milner and Deirdre Murtha, and clarinet and piccolo from Kate Bowerman, and trombone from Melissa Gardiner, it can’t help but raise a smile – like the CD

Gwen Orel


Safe Crossing

West of Music, 13 Tracks

WOMCD7 2012

West of Eden a prolific group who produce a Celtic sound despite their non–Celtic DNA. Over a slew of albums they have produced some stunning tracks that while newly penned remind us of a misty ancient tradition.

On this new album the theme is the sea and of course shipwrecks and the mythology and legends surrounding all.

The thirteen tracks open with a familiar title Haul Away but new words and music and this sets the tone for the CD. Even the track titles will make you either seasick or ruddy faced and braced for the spray. These include Bishop Rock, Waiting for the Storm and Wrecker’s Weather.

Apart from the prolific output West of Eden are renowned for the distinctive voice of Jenny Schaub. I hope the lady of this lovely voice will not be offended but I would have preferred a little more intermixing of tracks because at times one can have too much of a good thing.

The lyrics on all tracks are strong and captivating and they are set to music that evokes the spirit of the sea in all its moods. In particular I enjoyed Green Fields of Clover and the title track Safe Crossing. Mixed in there with the songs is an instrumental track that has me intrigued. It is the one piece not originating from the Schaubs.

The track is The Scilly Set and the piece in question is Poll an Mhadra Uisce’ If I am not mistaken this is the tune for Andy M Stewarts wonderful song Take Her in Your Arms. My quandary is which came first.

This musical mystery notwithstanding Safe Crossing is an album worth seeking out. It is beautifully packaged too with a lovely cover and insert.

Nicky Rossiter