Releases > September 2006

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Tara Music TARACD 4016, 12 tracks, 45 minutes

Originally released in 1985, this CD version will delight Stockton’s Wing fans and newcomers alike. Perhaps one of the most curious bands of the 70’s and 80’s folk revival, and certainly one of the most puzzling names, Stockton’s Wing managed to bring Irish music and pop/rock together without compromising their traditional credentials. As a result, a whole generation of young Irish musicians grew up playing the old tunes in a new way. For folkies, they represented the acceptable face of rock music. For trendies, they lent some street cred to Irish music in the days before street cred was invented. For me, they were and are a bunch of white-hot musicians who recorded some ground-breaking albums, and Live - Take One is no exception.

Kieran Hanrahan, Paul Roche, Maurice Lennon and Tommy Hayes all had All-Ireland titles under their belts. The addition of singer, Mike Hanrahan produced a supergroup with real Celtic fire in its belly. The influence of their songs and instrumentals alike was enormous: Beautiful Affair, Walk Away and In Our World are still requested wherever forty-somethings gather to drink porter. Skidoo and The Chicago Reel set a standard,which endures to this day. Listen to The Golden Stud or Silent Dreams and you’ll hear the forerunners of Riverdance, created by the man who produced this album. In many ways, Stockton’s Wing have never really gone away, they just keep organising reunion concerts.

Those of you who still have the LP will notice that the CD version is longer by ten minutes and three tracks. Tara have added studio versions of Sally Lennon’s, In Our World and The Mason’s Apron as bonus tracks. The energy level is almost as high as in the live act, and it’s fascinating to hear the crystal clear recording.

Alex Monaghan

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Óró 1. 18 tracks, Duration 43 minutes 6 seconds

There are accordion tunes, lilting, stories, and memories on this unique CD of Jimmí Ó Sé’s, “Malairt Poirt ó Fionntrá”. The spoken bits are in the mellifluous Irish language of Fionntrá in the Kerry Gaeltacht, and made all the more appealing in the clearly enunciated baritone voice with which Jimmí is blessed. Gaolainn blasta is how he describes the Irish of Dún Chaoin where he lives. And he adds, “Fé mar adeir muintir Dhún Chaoin féin, nach í tobar na Gaolainne í Dún Chaoin?” (As the people of Dún Chaoin itself say, isn’t Dún Chaoin the spring or source of the language?) It’s a great pleasure to hear him talking in that slow, even way of a man who values not only richness of expression, but who also knows that what’s spoken should be in clear speech, so that it puts no strain on the listener to understand the speaker.

If your Irish/Gaolainn isn’t up to scratch and you’d like to follow what Jimmí is saying, the CD notes state that you can check out for a translation of the Irish text. Now, whether this includes what Jimmí says on the CD or not, I don’t know, because when I went to that web site, it was still in the very early stages of construction. Jimmí was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1916, and when he was four he returned with his parents to their native Co. Kerry. For over eighty years he has played polkas, slides, jigs, and hornpipes for dancers in west Kerry, and he can lilt with the best of them. In the CD notes he states (in Irish) what he hopes for his recording: “May those who listen to this enjoy it, and I hope that those who come after us will remember me and my people before me.”

It will hardly surprise anyone who knows him when I say that Stiofán Ó Cuanaigh (Steve Cooney) had a large part to play in this CD project. On keyboard and guitar, he provides musical accompaniment for Jimmí’s playing and specially composed background music for Jimmí’s stories. Stiofán was also the CD’s producer, and Roibeard Ó Cathasaigh edited the material for production. This recording of the music and lore of Fionntrá from a great man, Jimmí Ó Sé, is an important contribution to the sound and print heritage of Kerry and Ireland, and it is a great credit to Coiste Forbartha Fhionntra and their friends who worked so hard to bring it all about. Gura fada buan sibh.

Aidan O’Hara

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Dance it Yourself (CD/DVD)


There’s a late 50’s look to the liner design of this combination CD/DVD package, a two tone nostalgic cover that features Benny O’Carroll holding a guitar in the Spanish fashion, with the neck held high and himself smiling from ear to ear with brightest of Colgate smiles.

Now don’t let the cover fool you into thinking this is some early folk revival makeover, for Benny it has to be said is a one man music and tourism industry. He has a vision you see, when folks come to Ireland they want the scenery of course, but they also expect the music, the tunes and a bit of céilí dancing too. And folks it’s all here.

The CD contains “14 songs and tunes in stereo”, whilst the DVD has the same music set against the backdrop of some stunning landscape photography, much of it from the air and most of it in wide panoramic sweeps. The landscapes are by and large those of Munster (there is a foray or two into the rugged west with a lovely shot of Clifden). We had fun in the Laffey household guessing where the pictures were taken, Killarney features as does Adare, Bunratty and those fiendishly difficult golf links at Lahinch.

What of the music? Consider this, Benny has assembled an “All Ireland Band” of ten musicians and he has made sure they don’t all play at once! The result is a tightly controlled dynamic, with for example Sonny’s Mazurka opening the DVD played by Elaine Hogan on Harp and John Sanders on the Bouzouki. There’s Peter Browne on button box and Malachy Bourke on Fiddle too driving the dance tunes forward. The singing is handled extremely well by Don Stiffe who gives us The Lowlands of Holland (note the tune, it’s not the usual suspect), The Rocks of Bawn, Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore (close to Paul Brady’s version) and the Moorlough Shore.

The enclosed booklet contains all the words to the songs, and an essay on the history of Irish music. Tunes are arranged into sets, some with tongue-in-cheek titles, such as “The Priest with Van Gogh’s Ear for Music”. Fair play to Benny as each tune within these settings is given its full title, useful if you’d be wanting to look then up in your well thumbed O’Neill’ or being all modern now, get them Googled on the ABC2 web.

The DVD has six dances taught by Timmy McCarthy with music from Peter Browne and John Sanders. The dances are based around the Ballyvourney tradition and the dancers are a mixed bunch of ability, of heights and ages, no Riverdance military conformism here. And that’s a good thing because you can see how ordinary folks start out learning the movements, how sympathetic they are when someone turns left when they should have turned right. They learn quickly and Timmy (The Brit) McCarthy is full of praise for their accomplishments.

This is a great package to have on your DVD player, and with an eye to the tourist market the dances have English, French, Dutch, Spanish, German and Italian commentaries. So if you are reading this in Cologne or Palermo you have no excuse for not making it to the Shindig at the Windmill next January.

This package should be playing in every Irish tourist office in the world. Evocative and absorbing, full of superb musicianship and stunning visuals and as Timmy McCarthy says “It’s not over until the lady comes home!”

Seán Laffey


Song Ablaze

Own Label, 10 Tracks Duration 47 minutes

As we went to press Tommy was still negotiating a National distribution deal for this very impressive album (which is selling like hot pizzas in his native Dingle). O’Sullivan is of course well-known as the guitarist and singer in the trio Sliabh Notes and anyone who has followed their releases to date will see where Tommy’s musical leanings lie.

It is folk with a distinctly American favour, delivered in a tenor voice, that has all the ring of Waterford Crystal which has only ever served smoky whiskey (not that Tommy touches the stuff you understand). The album was recorded in Scotland and Tommy is joined by a number of famous players, many of whom have graced an edition or two of Glasgow’s Celtic Connections. Tim O’Brien, Chris Stout, Catriona McKay, Dave Roberston, James Blennerasset and Peter Grant with Eilís Kenendy providing harmony vocals.

The songs suit his style perfectly and include three by Jimmy McCarthy, “Neidín, The Contender and The People of West Cork and Kerry”. He has songs by Gillian Welch, “One More Dollar” on the plight of economic migrants in the US and Shiver Me Timbers by Tom Waits who Tommy conjectures might have written the piece when he was living in Caherrciveen in the mid-70’s. Tommy’s own compositions “Inhibitions” and “Make Me Believe” sit comfortably in this opus and show him to be a sensitive and accomplished songwriter.

There are traditional songs on the album, these are mainly from the left hand side of the Atlantic , think down home folksy rather than Kerry sean-nós. His guitar introduction to “She Moved through the Fair” is slow and laconic and there’s slide guitar on the American trad number “Times”, which would not have been out of place sung by the Foggy Bottom Boys or on any Alison Krauss album, while the liner notes are excellent and the pictures are by one of Ireland’s most famous photographers, John Minihan.

There was once as a time when the industry pooh-poohed own label albums as mere vanity recordings, well sit up and listen Ireland, Tommy O’Sullivan has it all blazing here, excellent music, great choice of songs, and a thoroughly professional approach to the final production of the album, he’s a class act is the curly haired lad from Lispole.

Seán Laffey

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(Various Artists)

Shanachie 78064, 6 tracks Duration 52 minutes 56 seconds

I have said it before in these pages that playing Irish dance tunes on the guitar is surely doing it the hard way. The guitar, whether of the wide-neck variety or the narrower steel string kind, is not ideally suited for fast finger work, and to paraphrase Samuel Johnson’s famous comment about women preaching and dogs walking on their hind legs, the wonder is not that they do it so well but that they do it at all. There are nine guitarists on this CD, Masters of the Irish Guitar, most of them Irish-born or living in Ireland, and one of them, Dónal Clancy, the executive producer, was responsible for bringing it all about.

He tells us that he was a guest at the 2003 Sebastopol Celtic Festival in California and was scheduled to play an hour-long ‘guitar jam’ on stage with Arty McGlynn, Dennis Cahill and Séamie O’Dowd, and all of them are heard playing on the CD. “The show seemed to generate a lot of interest,” Dónal says, “and was a great success. I thought it would make an interesting album to showcase the solo work of some of the guitarists on the Irish scene.” Enter Richard Nevins of Shanachie, Dónal has a word in his ear, and here we are.

The album notes are replete with details about the music played, biogs of the players, and notes on their individual recorded pieces, some of them with information on the guitars they played. Most of what is heard consists of dance tunes, but there are slow airs, too. To name a few, Randal Bays, as well as playing a couple of slip jigs, performs the Manx air, Ny Kirree fo Sniaghtey (The sheep under snow); as well as a set of jigs, Arty McGlynn plays the beautiful air, De bharr na gCnoc; Garry Ó Briain plays, Carolan’s Mrs Waller, and what I think may be his own tune, On Abbey Hill; Dáithí Sproule plays his own air, Lisa’s Brook; Séamie O’Dowd plays his composition, The Northern Hills; and Dónal Clancy plays Carolan’s Miss McDermott (The Princess Royal). John Doyle and Donogh Hennessey play one set of dance tunes each.

This CD is certainly for lovers of the guitar and will be enjoyed by all who like listening to Irish music, especially when it is played by musicians as accomplished as those on this recording.

Aidan O’Hara

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