Releases > July 2006

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Daybreak: Fáinne An Lae

Compass Records 12 tracks 45 min 52 sec

In the last three years, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh has risen to prominence with Danú, knocking audiences out with her warm toned and richly expressive voice, and she does that again and more with her first solo album, Daybreak.

There’s a sheaf of old songs here and newer ones too from Richard Thompson and Gerry O’Beirne, all of them melodically strong and lyrically powerful. The opener, Western Highway, immediately strikes a resonant tone, and she builds on that with a string of brilliant performances on the enchanting Isle of Malachy, The Emigrant’s Farewell, Free and Easy, An Spealadóir, and The Banks of the Nile. The Kerry native first switches to Irish on Seoithin Seothó, and delivers one of the most gorgeous songs heard in ages. Slán le Máigh is a lingering farewell that exudes both sadness and a warm appreciation of the place to be left behind. Still on the sunny side of 30, Muireann sings The Parting Glass with all the shading and nuance of an old master.

She plays a savage flute on the two sets of tunes, on these and all tracks backed by top musicians including John Doyle, Shane McGowan, Oisín McAuley, Eamon Doorley, and Gerry O’Beirne.

Daybreak is a great release from a tremendous singer, and a strong entry onto any list of classic Irish recordings. You’ll want to catch her live too once you’ve heard it, and tour dates are listed at

David Ingram

Visit Compass Records web site 


El Amor De Mi Vida

Daisy Discs DLCD015 2006

Eleanor Shanley proved a few years back that she had a voice to be noticed. Like so many frontline singers with De Danaan she had that magic in vocal ability and interpretation. Then she went solo and entranced us. Not content with that she teamed up with the quintessential Dubliner, Ronnie Drew, and gave us the musical proof that just like sweet and sour works in food, the mixture of sweet and gutsy works in music. Now the duo return with an album that equals and may even better that classic. Produced by Mick Hanrahan this album with the English title of ‘The Love of My Life’ is a tour de force of old and new, with some fantastic arrangements and interpretations.

The title track written by Warren Zevon sets the tone as we get the marvellous vocal mixture that hits all the right spots. A more familiar song is ‘Verdant Braes of Screen’ that Ben Sands tells me has nothing to do with my home county. This rendition is quite different from ones we are used to but it works very well.

Nick Cave is evident in the lyrics of ‘The Ballad of Henry Lee’. This is one of those great story songs that will eventually appear on record credits as ‘trad’ because although new, it is timeless. Another of Eleanor’s regular collaborators, Sharon Shannon, adds to the magic here.

As always, Ms Shanley takes a solo and on this CD she excels herself with the beautiful, ‘When God Made Me’. I was amazed to see the song writing credit of Neil Young on this track. It should be released as a single if our radio stations still permit such beasts to survive. Have a listen to ‘Farewell’. This should be the ‘b’ side of the single. This is a wonderful variation of the song we know as ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’ from one Bob Dylan.

Also included among the 11 tracks of music magic on offer here we get a reprise of ‘A Couple More Years on You’ a song that could have been written with this duo in mind. Neither of these performers has put a foot wrong over their long recording careers and they maintain the excellent standard. While I enjoy this album to the hilt I cannot stop wondering what will come next and how soon can I get it.

Nicky Rossiter

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The Red Box

Own Label, 18 Track

A quick look at Marie’s impressive website at brings us this invaluable biographical detail: ” As a young girl, Marie, mastered the tin whistle, accordion, fiddle and piano and, indeed, it was no great surprise when, in 2003 and 2004, at the All-Ireland Fleadhanna Cheoil in Clonmel she put two Senior All-Ireland titles in piano accompaniment and button accordion back to back. She has been awarded the Comhaltas TTCT Diploma as a teacher of Irish Traditional Music and enjoys a growing reputation as a dedicated and much sought after music teacher.”

And this album at 18 tracks shows just how accomplished an accordion player she is, with a wide range of tunes covered from reels to hornpipes, highlands to laments and of course jigs too. The CD notes comes with a glowing paragraph from Michael O’Neill chairman of Renvyle CCÉ and huge thanks to Marie’s father for his years of teaching. The red box in question is the classic Paolo Soprani a favourite of Fleadh judges over the years.

So what do we get? Well at 18 tracks we haven’t the space here to consider every one in detail so excuse me if I go for the litmus test of reels, jigs and slow airs. First her reel playing is steady and always on the pulse of the tune, she doesn’t attempt any exaggerated jazzy shifts or tremolos to enhance a melody and her paying is crisp without any tendency to showy over punctuation. Always in pace with her accompanists this is the sort of stuff that wins All Irelands. Then for something a bit more robust, her playing of the jigs Paddy Canny’s Favourite/ Seamus Shannon’s is full or dark passages and the box sounds wonderfully full here.

Her masterpiece is surely the Lament for Oliver Goldsmith, touches here of a MacMahon appreciation of the aching beauty of a tune. As a debut album this is right there in the top drawer and deserves a spin or two on your CD player.

Seán Laffey

Visit Marie Walsh’s web site 



Gael Linn ORIADACD 02, 33 tracks

Among my treasured vinyl recordings from the seventies are the two Masses in the Irish language by Sean Ó Riada, Ceol and Aifrinn and Aifreann 2. They are now released on CD by Gael Linn, and the copious and informative bilingual CD notes are by Seán’s son, Peadar; he succeeded his father as director of the Cúil Aodha choir from the Co. Cork Gaeltacht who sing both Masses. What a marvellous bonus comes with this album – included are the musical scores of both Masses in pdf format for viewing on your computer!

Peadar recalled the impact made at the singing of the first Aifreann in Maynooth in 1967. The celebrant was Fr. Tomás Ó Fiaich, later Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, and when Mass was over and he had disrobed, Tomás could hardly contain his joy and excitement at having participated in a unique and special musical and spiritual event.

“(He) danced down the aisle with a big bottle of Paddy Whiskey to celebrate the occasion. Young and foolish though I was, I still was very aware that something great had been accomplished and celebrated. The mass was once again being sung in the people’s vernacular and our own language, the Irish language, was to the fore again.”

The superb CD notes give an excellent overview of Ó Riada and his work in Irish traditional music and church music, and the creative fusion of the two are shown in his compositions in Ceol an Aifrinn and Aifreann 2. Peadar tells us that in the early 1960s, Seán was inspired to write the music for the Masses through his friendship with an tAthair Donnchadh Ó Concubhair, Catholic curate of the parish of Baile Bhúirne in West Cork, and through the increasing interest in the proceedings of Vatican 11. “Another topic under regular inspection,” Peadar adds, “was that of the traditional prayers of the area, local spirituality and liturgical music of the time.” One outcome of these influences on Seán was his setting up of the Cúil Aodha choir which was made up of the men and boys of the parish. He and Donnchadh collaborated in selecting material for the choir, and one of the pieces they chose was a poem popular in the oral tradition, Ag Críost an Síol; Seán composed new music to set to the text, and it is now perhaps the most familiar Irish language church hymn in Ireland.He did the same thing with other traditional religious poems which included several that were also to gain wide appeal: A Rí an Domhnaigh, Duan Chroí Íosa, Gile mo Chroí, etc.

Tomás Ó Fiaich was involved in the recording of that first Mass at St. Mary’s Dominican Priory in Tallaght, Co. Dublin, in 1971, and Peadar recalls some humour from that occasion, as well. “I remember that some ruffled feathers were around as the Dominican Choir had been diligently practising the music, but they appeared not to have been informed that we (Cúil Aodha choir) would also be singing. The fact that Tomás was determined to sing the celebrant’s lines was also a bit of a shock to them. They had spent a lot of time rehearsing and had picked their own soloists and we blithely rained all over their parade.” Lovers of traditional poems in a religious vein set to Ó Riada’s beautiful music will thoroughly enjoy this CD from Gael Linn.

Aidan O’Hara

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Brick Missing Music 12 tracks, 41 minutes

The man behind the new Kilfenora band, brother of Sharon, Garry Shannon plays the flute like a man possessed. Track 9 may tell us why: apparently Garry tried everything else but, if you believe this comic song, only the flute would suit. Garry’s vocals feature on the final track too, with a mixture of dodgy diddling and just plain messing. If there’s one thing that’s clear on his third solo CD, it’s the fact that Garry Shannon doesn’t take himself or his music too seriously.

Not that he can’t deliver serious playing when it’s required. There’s plenty of impressive flute music on Punctured. Garry shows pulsating insistent rhythmic brilliance on The Old Station House and The Whole Thing, two fine reels by Patrick Orceau and Karen Tweed, and great control of the flute dynamics too. Old chestnuts are equally well served, with real old-style flute à la McKenna or McDermott on The Independence Hornpipe and The Sligo Polka. There are some moments where Garry’s inventiveness should perhaps have been checked, such as the Albinoni-style string quartet on Micheal Rooney’s otherwise enjoyable minuet Na Maithe Móra, but in general the wackiness works well and doesn’t detract from the superb music here.

Like Garry’s last CD Loozin’ Air, Punctured is very exciting from start to finish. Some of the things Garry can do with his flute give me the willies. Deflation pulls out all the stops with rapid tonguing, slides and chromatic runs, bent notes and Banana Splits. Flat Out is an excuse to go wild, as Garry and Niall gently tease apart one of those Gan Ainm reels. And finally, there’s Bursht! with that diddling, but behind the diddling is some of the smoothest playing you’ll hear: a lovely change into The Kilmaley Reel, real power in the low octave and spot-on jumps to the high notes. Subtle it ain’t, but there’s few who do brashness better.

As well as providing great entertainment, Garry Shannon’s music is a joy for other fluters, which is presumably why Punctured features duets with Kevin Crawford, Niall Keegan and Anthony Quigney. There’s also a range of guests on keyboards, guitars and percussion, giving this album a very full sound. Check out the clips at, chances are you’ll be hooked.

Alex Monaghan

Visit Garry Shannon’s web site