Releases > August 2006

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Chasing the Sun

Shanachie Records 13 Tracks, Duration: 50 minutes

Karan Casey’s latest album ventures farther into contemporary music than her previous recordings, with many of the songs containing a political or social message. She doesn’t leave her traditional roots behind entirely, but the album marks a shift in her musical focus. Her beautiful voice is still present and she brings a gentle touch to lyrics that might sound harsh or judgmental coming from a less fragile voice.

Beginning with the title track, Casey has penned a lovely song of longing. Her talents as a writer also appear again throughout the album, shining brightly on such fantastic tracks as “When Will We All Be Free,” “Freedom Song” and “This Time Will Pass.” Each song contains its own message and shows Casey to be a lyricist of note. Her arrangements of traditional songs are also well done. The oft-recorded “Lady Mary Anne” gets a sprightly treatment and is quite jaunty, while “The Brown and Yellow Ale” is sung a cappella. Sadly, there are no songs in Irish which is very unfortunate since she usually sings so beautifully in the language.

Young Irish songwriter, Barry Kerr contributes several songs to the album, with the stirring lyrics of “Mother Earth’s Revenge” standing out as some of the most power to come along in quite awhile. Coupled with a fantastic melody and Casey’s voice, this track is one of the best on the album.

“Chasing the Sun” is a great album and should be welcomed by any fans of Casey despite the slightly different content she has chosen to include. The songs vary nicely between tempos and Casey’s voice never falters. She imbues each song with emotion and delves deeply into many of today’s relevant issues. The album shows a more mature Casey, one who has found her voice, is comfortable with it and has something important to say. “Chasing the Sun” is certainly an album worth adding to your collection.

Jean Price


A Sound Skin

13 Tracks 46 minutes 27 seconds

This is Music from Coleman country, from five times All-Ireland bodhrán champion, Junior Davey. In June, Junior Davey, hosted his very own bodhrán summer school and the Sligo goat-coat master launched this album at the end of a week of intensive tuition at the invite only series of workshops. Students were surely in for a treat, for not only does Davey play a sound skin he has assembled a fine collection of players to accompany him on this album.

Bodhrán players will often tell you that to really play well you have to work with musicians who have a great sense of rhythm. And this is not always easy to come by, and there’s balance to be struck between the fiddler who is all over the world for sport and the guitar player who is the metronome kid. None of that on this album, here they have the balance just right and the drum is kept underneath the melody where it naturally belongs. The album consists almost entirely of jigs and reels so for tyro players it’s a great intro to the sort of material you’ll hear at sessions every week. And listening is the order of the day on track five, Colum Campbell’s, Caprice with the first tune in the set free from the beat of the bodhrán.

As for style Junior Davey has one all of his own (as do all the great players of course), this recording favours the treble side of the drum, there isn’t the rich bottom end you’d get from Johnny McDonagh or the pyrotechnics of a John Jo Kelly. That is until track 12 when Junior is given the head on a solo called Sound Skin, triplets, double ended stick play, rim shots and tonal variation with the skin hand, it’s all there just to show us how adept he is.
The album closes on that most evocative of bodhrán pairings with Junior tipping along to Damien Stenson’s fluting on “The New Policeman” and Declan Courell backing up with great verve on guitar.

Junior says in the sleeve notes that the aim of a good bodhrán player is to “enhance and not take from the music”, he lives up to his own high expectations on every beat of every tune. Recommended.

Seán Laffey


Your Town

This duo of Django Amerson and Brian Miller are based in Minnesota but have that love of Irish music that inspires great playing. Despite the unusual name, Django got his first lessons in great fiddling from Irish artistes visiting the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. In fact having been raised just across the street from that festival he now returns as a tutor. Brian is guitarist of the duo having learned the error of his ways and giving up garage rock for Irish traditional. He is a mean player on the flute, also performs the few vocal tracks on offer. The lads studied Irish music in Cork for a time.

This album reflects the modern world in the traditional. It takes us on a musical journey spanning the Atlantic but slips in a few unlikely styles like a bit of bossa nova every so often. The album of sixteen tracks covers a panoply of the jigs and reels of the tradition including ‘Humours of Scariff’, ‘Road to Cashel’ and ‘Drowsy Maggie’ among many others

For the vocal offerings they bring us songs like ‘Time’ from the pen of Tom Waits and ‘The Bemidji Song’ written by Brian about his hometown. They give an upbeat version of ‘Franklin’ that is very catchy. This is certainly an album that will quicken the pulse of all lovers of good Irish music.

Nicky Rossiter

Visit Five Mile Chase web site


Upside Down

Daisy Label, 13 tracks

Sharon Shannon has once again quietly slipped out an album to coincide with a tour, in this case to Australia earlier in the year. She and her new band booked some studio time while preparing for the antipodal junket, and the result is Upside Down. Not that this foursome are disoriented in any way, in fact they are focused and full of fun on a very enjoyable album.

Still together with Mike McGoldrick and Jim Murray, she has also brought in Dezi Donnelly on the fiddle, and a grand quartet they are. There are plenty of well knit and buoyant tracks such as Annika’s Butterfly, Mouse in the Kitchen, Kilfenora Jig, Farewell To Whalley Range, Blessings of Gold, Gordon Duncan’s, James Brown’s March, and many sizzlers featuring the individual players.

Sharon has developed Music for a found harmonium into a virtuoso showpiece with her stunning dexterity, touch, inspiration, and bags of spirit. Dezi’s Second Star/Mason’s Apron is riveting, and Mike is savage on the delicate phrases of Cailín na Gruige Donna, and dishes up a succulent entrée on Trip To Herves. Jim Murray is a lyrical, deliciously engaged guitar powerhouse throughout., and just listen to him in the fore on Cape Clear.
A very solid quartet, presenting an album of sparkling energy and vibrant musicianship. Upside Down isn’t in the shops yet, but is available through the website.

Visit Sharon Shannon’s web site

Visit Daisy Label web site


Lucky for Some

Greentrax CDTRAX 290 2006

Dick Gaughan lists his influences as ranging from Karl Marx through Robert Burns to John Lennon so you can imagine the general trend of his music and also the eclectic mixture of sentiments and sounds. Hailed by many as a pioneer of the Celtic Guitar, his Coppers and Brass album is a true classic and his work with Five Hand Reel was legendary, but that was thirty years ago, and since that his political folk songs have been his stock in trade, from his Parellel Line salbyu with Andy Irvine to his masterpiece, Handful Of Earth, voted Melody Maker’s Album of the Year (1981) and Folk Roots Readers’ Poll Album Of The Decade. So what we have here is a time served folk musician with a long body of work to his credit and no quibbles on his conscious. So let’s look at his material.

‘Whatever Happened’ is an ideal introduction as he questions how idealism can die, as people get comfortable. The title track has a very slight country lilt as he gives us another excellent story song

This CD offers us a selection of his own compositions but he also includes some from other sources. Jim Page’s ‘Anna Mae’ is one of those songs that seem almost written to be performed by Gaughan with its tale of death and the dispossessed. This is followed by his own lyrics retelling a piece of modern Scottish social history on ‘The Devil and Pastor Jack’. The influence of Burns is evident on ‘Come Gie’s a Sang’ in the use of dialect. ‘Different Drum’ is one of my favourite offerings on this album. It is delivered with a quiet passion that suits the lyrics to great effect.

The album closes with an upbeat track called ‘We Got the Rock ‘n’ Roll’. It could be an anthem for those million bands and individuals who tour the lands of all countries singing and playing. It has humour mixed expertly with the truth of the life of the musician.

Nicky Rossiter

Visit Greentrax web site


Box On

10 Tracks, 49 minutes 54 seconds

Shona Kipling’s people come from Kerry, Damien O’Kane is from Derry, Shona is just twenty and Damien six years older, two young guns who have already chalked up one album together. They are currently on the BA in Folk and Traditional music at the University of Newcastle in England. Shona has appeared at Sionna (University of Limerick’s Trad and Folk Festival held each winter) and has a string of Comhaltas titles under her belt, and Damien, well he’s been all sorts of places from Riverdance to the latest Celtic up-comers Crosscurrent who are making a name for themselves on the UK circuit. I caught a pre-recording gig at Cwlwm Celtiadd in Wales in February and I can tell you that as a live duo they rock.

The album was recorded in March of this year in Edinburgh and won’t be in your shops until October, so take this as a pre-release review. Shona plays the piano accordion, Damien’s chief instrument is the banjo, he also sings rather well, for example on track two “Airdi Cuan”, English verses Irish chorus. He tackles “P Stands for Paddy” on track five, Planxty fans will remember Johnny Moynihan’s version and comparisons will be drawn. Damien takes it at a jaunty saunter, great timing in the rhythm section, just check out the dramatic pauses on the chorus, his voice is clear and accented in a tilt to the memory of Paddy Tunney.

The music is varied and someone has thought long and hard about the running order, there’s even some tongue in cheek tune naming, “The End” comes in the middle of the album as part of the “Trip To Bulgaria”. There are other foreign influences here too, in the Bouret Set which begins with the slow air “Amhran na Leabhar” played exquisitely on the box., the second set is punchy and syncopated with the box and guitar sharing the control of the lead beat, it’s more Mallow than the Massive Central.

There are new tunes from Damien and Shona, “Fishing with Callum and Broken Poached Eggs” which they link in to the traditional Willie Coleman’s. Space is given over for old tunes too such as the seven minute long “Shuffle”, fronted by the “Road to Cashel” with a simple but very effective bass line and click track from the bodhrán, this is Damien’s banjo showcase, remarkably restrained on all the other tracks only really letting go on the final selection on this trad “Shuffles. Again on “Fishing with Callum” his banjo playing is precise and clean, no hint of an aggression or machismo (funny that as Damien is pictured wearing boxing gloves and sporting a back eye on the album sleeve).

If you are looking for a thumbnail territory, then think of something between Flook and Mike McGoldrick but factor out the razzle dazzle top end tipper of a John Jo Kelly (and the University of Newcastle has a big handful of drum wizards), in other words it is a sound of our times, modern Celtic music with a big Irish heart, well constructed, and always sensitively played. The tradition across the water is in good hands and these hands are working it afresh.

Seán Laffey