Releases > MAY 2009

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Own Label KCN+B 100
13 Tracks
First to state the obvious, at 100 years old, none of the present line-up was there at the beginning. So how much of the initial seed corn has grown into the current harvest?

Let’s examine the evidence. In their 100 years as a village céilí band, the Kilfenora have made a relatively small number of recordings, indeed it took fifty years for them to make their debut. Each album has been a marker for the musicians playing in the band at the time and also a reminder of the repertoire of both tunes and dances that are inextricably linked to this most social of art forms in County Clare.

This album could have been a series of re-issues of older archive material, now that would have been fascinating of course, but would have missed the point of the Kilfenora. They like their friends the Tulla are a living culture. Past musicians are fondly remembered in the titles of some of the tracks on Century. Opening with Kitty’s Reels after Kitty Linnane the leader of the band from 1960 to 1975, then there is Ward’s marches for the dynasty who have been with the band for the past century. Sexton’s Reels is a tribute to Michael Sexton the box player who died at the young age of 62, he played with the Kilfenora in the 1970’s.
Ciaran Carson once wrote in an essay on céilí bands that the best have integrity. He said “a good céilí band is the result of an ongoing conversation that pays heed to similar conversations shaped over many years. It’s a team effort: the personnel might change over the years, but the band remains the same, because it recognises the same rules.”

I’ve been to Kilfenora Band Céilís in Dublin, Cork, Clare, Kerry and America too; they have always played with swing and lift and kept the dancers moving. How does this translate to a disc? Surprisingly well, for their music is grounded in 100 years of tradition and it’s not one that has been defined by the competition-induced alpha male syndrome, where it is reels or nothing. Don’t forget that the band has a history beyond a dance band back to its marching band roots in the 1880’s and there are echoes of this in the choice of tracks here (O’Mahoney’s Military Two Steps). This album offers not only a glimpse of the past but of a possible future where the seemingly endless parade of jigs and reels are tempered by a wider cache of melodies. Who other than a céilí band would include Jimmy Shand’s Primrose Polka?

Does this album bear repeated listening? Yes. Do they sound like a céilí band? Definitely yes. Carson when he wrote of an unknown recording he heard years ago said it was “palpably live, and alive, and full of personality.” Ditto for the Kilfenora’s “Century”.

After all isn’t that what we’d wish any institution that’s clocked up the metric tonne!
Seán Laffey


My Love Lies
10 Tracks
Own Label FKCD001
This is the debut solo album by Macroom based traditional singer Fiona Kelleher, avid readers will recall that Fiona was the voice on North Cregg’s “Summer At My Feet”. So is this more of the same or something else? Well she has moved on from the Creggies and recently was back on the tour circuit with Music Network. She has had time to work out her own pathway through traditional folk song.

Kelleher has that rare ability to be able to work both in the strictly traditional and the contemporary song idioms, retaining the sense of each without blurring the boundaries. It has to be said that the contemporary songs here have a strong traditional feel to them, from Bill Caddick’s Waiting for the Lark to Cyril Tawney’s Grey Funnel Line. One look at the track listing and I see a Bess Cronin Song, How Can I live At The Top of A Mountain? A favourite with the Bothy Band back in the 1970’s. Fiona tackles it simply with feeling, backed on nylon strung guitar by Jim Murray, it needs nothing else. The backing is superb throughout the album with Murray on guitar, Euan Vernal on bass and Donal Shaw on keyboards, pared down, subsumed by the singer’s voice.

Her voice is a sweet alto-soprano, clear without being strident. Her choice of material harks back to the golden days of the late 1970’s with a fair sprinkling of English sourced material such as I will Put My Ship In Order, The Bonny Boy and Spencer the Rover (a song that is being revived on a number of albums this year, and none so far that gets even close to Robin Dransfield’s version). She does a fine job of the Irish language A Chomaraigh Aoibhbinn Ó without recourse to over indulgence in sean-nós embellishments, preferring varied volume as the expression of the emotional content of the song.

The pace of the album is genuinely gentle, which suits her vocal range and the backing musicians she has with her, so it is a different sound than she made with North Cregg, showing she is maturing and thinking about how to present her work. The recording is excellent and honest with her breathing captured where she comes in without backing. The test of her raw abilities comes on the unaccompanied The Bonny Boy, which she carries off gracefully.

A debut which, bodes well for live performances and a long future in traditional song.
Seán Laffey


Double Play
Compass Records 7 4502 2
13 Tracks, Running Time 62 Minutes
The follow-up to Liz Carroll and John Doyle’s In Play is a well-played and composed album. It features some of the best fiddling that Carroll has ever done. Doyle is equally superb in his playing, be it guitar, bouzouki, or mandola. This is a masterwork for the pair.

The album opens up with a pair of hard charging sets, The Chandelier/Anne Lacey and Before the Storm/The Black Rogue, setting a pace and a standard for the rest of the work. Paddy Glackin’s Trip to Dingle/On the Lam/The Waves at Dingle/ The Top of the Stairs is a fiery bit of playing. Castle Kelly/ Galway Rambler changes speeds, octaves and chords, causing a listener to fully appreciate these two masters at their best. Doyle has found a firm footing as a singer on this album. On Dick Gaughin’s, A Pound a Week Rise, he displays a fully developed confidence in his voice, one that has been growing on his recordings. He backs his singing on Down at the Wakehouse/The True Love of My Heart, with the mandola, giving a bit more poignancy to the piece.

Carroll’s composing has always been a strong suit of hers. The somewhat elegiac Lament for Tommy Makem is tied to a pair a reels: Within a Hen’s Kick/The Slippery Slope, a jumping bit of music that completely highlights both players’ strengths, from subtle to dynamic. The next piece is a sentimental look at Irish music from Carroll, Nearby, Long Ago, homage to the tradition that still remains vibrant in her playing and writing.

This is an album that has no weak spots. Carroll and Doyle complement each other’s playing in unparalleled fashion. Double Play, in a continuation of the language of American baseball, hits a home run.
Brian G. Witt


Music of The Atlantic Fringe
Cathy Jordan - Rick Epping - Seamie O’Dowd
Whirling Discs Whirl 013
Lifting straight from the very informative sleeve notes: “The songs and tunes of the Atlantic Fringe - the combined traditions from Ireland to Appalachia and beyond, are the result of generations of movement and migration, of leave-taking and homecoming, back and forth across the ocean in an endless tide of cultural exchange. Lyrics and melodies borrowed from one land wash ashore on another, only to return again later transformed, peopled with new characters and set in different modes.”

After hearing this album for the first time I just want to simply say “Buy It!” Every so often a piece of work comes along that just blows ya away and like a real good book or movie this masterpiece has you submerged in a journey of cowboys, drovers and music that’s so real you can taste and smell it.

The scene is very quickly set with the Leadbelly classic Out on the Western Plains, sliding beautifully into Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie. As we continue through the next chapters the full extent of the experience of Cathy, Rick and Seamie become tinglingly evident. The arrangements are classic; harmonies from all three sound like they were recorded a hundred years ago and the quality of production is exceptional.

The songs are nicely shared between the three and each singing in their own accent makes it all very special. Super to hear the Australian Diamantina Drover again and such a treat what they have done with the Rolling Stones No Expectations. The musical journey takes you up and keeps you glued until your are lullabied wonderfully by Eileen a Ruin and then I promise you’ll want to hear it all again!
Mac Spy


Tree Baatyn Beggey K&K001 (Own Label)
I came across the Isle of Man fiddler, Katie Lawrence, at that island’s Cooish Festival last October. I was later to learn that we shared something worthy of at least a small claim to fame. Both of us were thrown out of school - she when she was in playschool, I when I was four and in Miss Duffy’s class at Hollybush Public Elementary school in Co. Derry, just across the border near Muff in Inishowen, Co. Donegal where we lived. My twin brother and I were not sent away by Miss Duffy but by the school principal, and all I’ve ever been able to learn the cause of the peremptory dismissal is that it might have had to do with the fact that my older sister, Mona, won first prize for singing at the Derry Feis one year. The principal’s daughter was in the same competition. Now, let’s deal with Katie and her sister Kirsty’s CD, ‘Tree Baatyn Beggey’(Three Wee Boats).

The Lawrence sisters were born in the Isle of Man and have been playing music from their earliest years. They were both classically trained but grew up immersed in traditional music. They played in the school folk group and during their time with them they played at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Youth Proms. Both are teachers: Kirsty in Aberdeen teaching primary music, and Katie in a primary school on the island. Katie also has an MA in Irish Traditional Music Performance from Limerick University, and her performance on the fiddle reflects the fruit of that experience in that fine centre for music studies.

In a CD note, Robin Boyle who recorded, mixed and edited the tracks on ‘Tree Baatyn Beggey’, described the experience the sisters had in recording the CD as “a distillation of their musical creativity,” and he invites the listener to “bask in the consummate musicianship” of his two friends. His words are well chosen because both are enormously talented performers of their native Manx music and also of Irish and Scottish music. Along with some compositions of Katie’s and one by Mike Sharp, all the music is traditional, and for me one of the particularly pleasing aspects of the CD is hearing native Manx tunes and one song.

Katie plays fiddle and keyboard and Kirsty plays whistles and cello and sings. They are accompanied here and there by - amongst others - the noted guitarist Malcolm Stitt, formerly of the group Deaf Shepherd, and latterly a member of the legendary Boys Of The Lough. He and his fellow musicians do justice in their accompaniment to Katie and Kirsty, and the effect is to make ‘Tree Baatyn Beggey’ a most enjoyable celebration of the Manx and Gaelic music culture and tradition.
Aidan O’Hara


Hill Of Thieves
CHARCDOO2 11 tracks
‘Hill of Thieves’ is Cara’s return to her roots in 10 traditional tracks and one composed by herself and Sam Lakeman.

Immediately on hearing the title track I can tell you that there is a welcome carryover from her Redcastle Sessions DVD; the feel continues here though instrumentation pared back and yet so effective. Sam’s production is perfectly raw, Cara’s vocal pure, ethereal and the feeling deeply rooted, there’s a fluidity to her work. The song, Hill of Thieves, draws us to Cara’s home place of Dungiven which lies beneath Binn Bhradagh; not only is she returning to her musical roots but her land roots. There’s a longing for home. Glenullin, Dungiven and the Benedy Glen have called to the Derry lass and she has replied in her gift of song.

The local theme continues with the traditional song Johnny Lovely Johnny (The High Walls of Derry). Here we experience a harking back to the Planxty/Bothy Band era, which they set out to do. James O’Grady, James Fagan, Zoe Conway and Eamon Murray join Cara and Sam and this is a real treat to the ear. If I were to pick a stand out I would choose Jimmy Mo Mhíle Stór for its all-round arrangement, a perfect balance achieved. Dolores Keane, one of Cara’s favourite traditional singers who recorded the song with John Faulkner on their Gael-Linn LP ‘Sail Óg Rua’ in 1983, would, I feel, applaud this rendition; it grips you, the feet tap, you want to dance, smile and sing along. I must mention The Verdant Braes of Skreen, simply accompanied on piano. Cara appropriately chose the song for her performance on BBC ‘Blás Ceoil’ recently on location in Draperstown midst the hauntingly beautiful Balllinacsreen landscape. P Stands for Paddy has been on the song list a while; she performed this track on the television series Transatlantic Sessions, then again as a seisiún round up on her DVD.

I had not known the English traditional song, Spencer the Rover, which is gorgeous. I hear a tinge of Paul Brady influence here. (It’s from the Copper family tradition from Sussex and was a highlight on Robin Dransfield’s cult UK folk album Tidewave in 1981 - Ed). Cara concludes with the sean-nós Fil Fil A Run Ó - the bare vocal is stunningly pure. The lass of Glenshee - a fine wee picking; False False - another stand out; gorgeous falsetto, She Moved Through the Fair, and The Parting Glass with additional instrumental masters Ben Nicholls, Brian Finnegan, Ed Boyd, John Smith and Seth Lakeman complete this ‘Gem from the Roe’.
The Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman unique stamp on their own Charcoal Records Label, have signed, sealed and delivered a northern treasure.
Josephine Mulvenna


Will Ye No Come Back
Greentrax CDTRAX 334 2008
Jean Redpath reminds us with this beautiful album that Robbie Burns has a rival in Lady Nairne. Here we get 14 tracks from the pen of that very talented lady, presented by the fantastic voice of this other talented lady. Writing in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, Lady Nairne captured the spirit of Scotland of that period.

Her songs may not all be as familiar as those of Burns but they are every bit as important and, more to the point of the listener, they are wonderful to hear. From the opening track, The Auld House, you will be captivated. One of the more familiar of Lady Nairne’s songs is of course the title song that is almost an anthem of the Scots, particularly on parting. Jean Redpath sings with a beautiful sense of longing and rather slower than the more familiar arrangements making for a much sadder song. The beautifully understated backing will drive this version deep into the hardest heart.

The mood lifts beautifully as she launches into The Lass o’ Gowrie. You will be transported by the song and the tune and easily imagine yourself in a Scottish drawing room of the 19th century as the dancers glide in candlelight. The mood mellows and the sense of old style joy remains with The Rowan Tree.

This album is a most welcome addition to the library of anyone who enjoys music but most especially if you have any affection for Scotland and for history. The insert booklet including lyrics and glossary add greatly to the enjoyment of this album.
Nicky Rossiter


Bridging the Gap
Vertical Records
12 tracks, 50 minutes
This is an astonishingly good CD. Bigger names than Patsy Reid have failed to impress when asked to blend folk and classical music for Celtic Connections, but her three-movement fiddle concerto is a total triumph. In some ways, the quality was never in doubt: Patsy’s fiddle credentials were underlined by her recent CD, ‘With Complements’, and she has enlisted several other stars of traditional music to assist in this live recording. Mairi Campbell, Aidan O’Rourke, Natalie Haas, Duncan Lyall and Anna Wendy Stevenson join her on fiddles of various sizes, while Iain Copeland provides the beat. On the other hand, in addition to taking on all the composing duties, Patsy chose to include all seven melodic modes in this work - not just the familiar Ionian and Aeolian modes, representing the major and minor scales, but also the Mixolydian Scottish bagpipe scale and the related Dorian mode, and even the downright unpopular Phrygian and Locrian modes - a risky business. Plainly put, this means that some of the tunes here sound a bit weird, but it still all works.

Bridging the Gap is divided into three movements. The first includes four tunes: Baby Broon, Space to Breathe, Slowing Down, and Vanessa Edward’s Enviable Rhythm. Starting with a splendid minor reel, the tempo moves to a slow jig and then to a sumptuous slow air. So far there’s nothing which would be out of place on any modern Scottish album, but the 7/8 rhythm of the final theme immediately cries Balkan, emphasised by the Dorian mode of this hypnotic tune. The second movement contains the much more orchestral Strath Sunrise, an evocative piece in the Scandinavian-sounding Lydian mode, almost a tone poem, followed by Two of a Kind as a bagpipe-style military march.

The final movement reprises Baby Broon before launching into a four-part medley. The powerful strathspey, Not From These Parts echoes a small number of older Scottish melodies in the Phrygian mode, often ascribed to trollish or faerie musicians. Parts of this track slip into the Locrian mode, adding a manic edge to the melody. Five is Better is firmly in 4/4 time, so I presume it refers to the five-string fiddle which Patsy plays here: the lack of notes on the tunes is my only real criticism of this release.

At the Edge is an atmospheric slow reel, and the final hornpipe Life is Good certainly left me feeling that way. Classical or jazz gurus might mention the counterpoint and structure, the riffs and grooves, but for me these just add depth and lift to what is essentially an excellent recording of contemporary Scottish fiddle. Yes, it blends in other influences. Yes, it pushes the envelope of modes and rhythms. No, I don’t mind that: Patsy Reid has done a perfect job of weaving all these strands into one cloth, giving us great width without compromising on quality. ‘Bridging the Gap’ is definitely in my 2008 top ten.
Alex Monaghan


PK003 2008
‘Live’ is dangerous. Recording a live album is always a gamble, especially if you are not a mega-name. Your songs are most likely to be covers and you rely on the often fickle audience to provide an atmosphere.

Kelleher took this gamble at The Village Arts Centre in Kilworth, County Cork and it worked. As always when a new voice presents his version of a song you are familiar with for years from somebody else your first reaction is not to like it.

It is to Pat’s credit that he can counter that feeling on most of the fourteen tracks on offer here.
Some songs are meant to be performed live and among those on offer here are Manchester Rambler, Where Have All the Flowers Gone and of course the closing track Goodnight Irene.

Even that short listing gives an indication of the range that Kelleher covers. He also gives a good rendition of the song he lists as Waltzing Matilda and of The Garden Song.
This is an album to capture live performance for the home.
Nicky Rossiter


Mischievous Merriment and Other Noble Sentiments
15 Tracks Running Time ERS 002 2
The quartet Rira has followed their debut album with one that is even better. The centre of the group is fiddler Ed Paloucek and pianist Kathleen Congleton, with Jack Congleton on percussion and Stuart Mitchell on vocals. The work spends a lot of time looking back in old recordings and song and tune books to deliver a piece that sounds in part barn dance and other part parlour presentation.
Paloucek takes the lead on Lucy Campbells/Ballinisloe Fair, pieces he got from Michael Coleman. On Broken Pledge/Hand Me Down the Tackle/The Limestone Rock, the Flanagan Brothers were the sources of the last two tunes in this marvelously played set of reels. Christmas Eve/Sweeney’s Buttermilk/Huey Lewis Reels are a rollicking affair.

Kathleen Congleton comes to the fore in grand style on Lord Inchiquin, played in an understated, yet stately manner. She and Paloucek combine in a nice duet on Lament for Limerick. Kathleen’s backing of Mitchell’s singing is the perfect musical marriage.

Stuart Mitchell hearkens back to the drawing room days, with his singing, in what is a very good thing. He shines on Believe Me If All Those Enduring Young Charms and Red is The Rose. The wedding song, Gift Of Lov’, is a nice addition. Jack Congleton provided the backing percussion across the album, but he allows the others to shine above him, never intrusive, always giving in his playing. Mischievous Merriment brings a smile to the face.
Brian G. Witt


Accidental Death of an Accordionist
Brechin All Records CDBAR005
8 tracks, 26 minutes
Short, sweet, and utterly brilliant. Although this CD is only a selection of extracts from a stage play, a soundtrack or incidental music album, there are enough little gems here to decorate minor royalty. Not that Sandy Brechin or Annie Grace qualify for that title, but together they provide the best tongue-in-cheek ceilidh music I’ve heard in a long time. The combination of Gay Gordons, Canadian Barn Dance and Strip the Willow is the classic Highland recipe for a village hall dance, played with oodles of skill and more than a little irreverence on box and pipes, banjo and jaw harp, and of course the great Scottish stylophone. Marvellous stuff. Kate Martin’s Waltz is the closest thing here to serious music, flawlessly played by Sandy, good enough to make Blair Douglas jealous. Annie Grace sings two of the four songs here. Only You is perhaps the low point of this recording, but it’s still highly entertaining. The Scottish Tradition is an update of the Corries’ Scottish Holiday, a biting attack on Caledonian courtesies, and I’m very pleased to hear that moth-eaten melody, Road to the Isles being re-used for The Pochlin’ o’ the Nyochles.

I assume the male vocals are provided by Aly Macrae; he makes a great job of this mock Doric drivel, and his plummy parody of These are My Mountains is simply priceless. Allan Henderson has surpassed himself with the lyrics, but he probably won’t get an OBE. Accidental Death of an Accordionistis definitely not to be missed by any devotee of Scottish culture.
Alex Monaghan


The Greatest Journey
EMI Manhattan Records 50999 2 34124 2 2 2008
What can you say about an album like this? With the array and the mix of talent on offer, if they simply recited nursery rhymes they would have a hit and a huge following.

They open with The Call, probably not one of the most often sung pieces on offer here but I defy anyone not to be captivated from the first notes. Even the tracks that we sometimes see listed and think we are tired of hearing like Pie Jesu and Danny Boy get new leases of life as the arrangements, the backing and the performances lift them.

In particular the renditions of Isle of Inishfree and Dulaman alone are worth the price of the CD. Then you can add Shenandoah - The Contradiction and You Raise Me Up for extra value. These are apart from bonus tracks like Mo Gile Mear and Spanish Lady live at Slane Castle.

The ladies of Celtic Woman achieve the almost impossible in taking on Enya’s Orinoco Flow, probably one of the tracks most tied to the original performer, and giving it a new life.

This is the album for the big surround sound system, the lights down, the fire blazing and maybe just that glass of wine and good company.
Nicky Rossiter