Releases > June 2010

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Ceol ón Acadamh – Ceol, Amhráin, Damhsa, Litríocht Bhéil.
Double CD (20 tracks on each CD) from Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge

Subhóró (pro. suvoro) is the collective name for the members of Cumann Ealaíon na Ceathrún Rua at the campus of Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, NUI Galway, and located in An Cheathrú Rua in the Conamara Gaeltacht. The name Subhóró is the result of a delightfully clever play on words by a group member who thought of the Irish language form of jamming (jamáil) could be rendered as Subhóró, subh being the Irish for jam, and in lot’s of Gaelic language songs one often hears óró! There! I’m glad we cleared that up. It should be made clear that while Subhóró are based in the Conamara Gaeltacht, the performers are from all the Gaeltachtaí and elsewhere.

As it says on the tin, this 2-CD production is rich in traditional material that covers songs, music, dance and oral literature in a total. The latter includes Lillis Ó Laoire’s spoken introduction to the Donegal song, Suantraí na mná a Tugadh as, which he then sings; a new poem, Rós Inis Oirr, written and delivered by Caitríona Ní Chonaola; and Domhnall Mac Síthigh’s facetious reaction to the perplexing world of finance and economics – margaí falsa (sham markets). Those items are on Disc #1 and there’s more spoken material on Disc #2.

Both CDs have the best of singing and playing by musicians and singers young and old, and it all comes to a total of 2 hours and 21 minutes. Disc #2 opens with a fine unaccompanied Déise (Co. Waterford) version of An Crúiscín Lán with Odí Ní Chéilleachair taking the lead and friends of hers singing along in the chorus. That’s followed by a dance. Yes, sean-nós dancer Seosamh Ó Neachtain steps it out to the accompaniment of the box, bouzouki and bodhrán. Ah yes, memories of the Rory O’Connor Dancers on Radió Éireann’s Take the Floor in the 1950s.

There are many great songs in the sean-nós style, but I have to single out a very special rendition of that fine song, An Raibh tú ar an gCarraig, sung by Seosamh Ó Flaithearta. Seosamh is blessed with a beautiful tenor-baritone voice and the accompaniment arranged by himself and fiddler Brendan Larrissey, is an absolutely haunting presentation of a uniquely Irish blending of the traditional and art music. I listened to it several times, and the poignancy of the song, the air and the performance was most affecting every time. This track will appear on a CD of Seosamh’s to be published shortly.

But I’ve only scratched the surface; I highly recommend this production which is the work of many hands, not least the senior producer Charlie Lennon (whose new Planxty, Katie, Katie, Cara mo Chroí is on Disc #1), his able assistants Neansaí Ní Choisdealbha and Eilís Lennon, and executive producer – whose idea it all was – Odí Ní Chéilleachair. The performers and production crew gave their services free, and proceeds from the production will go to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, Dublin. Fad saol agaibh go léir.
Aidan O’Hara


Contemporary Traditional Irish Guitar
FRCD002, Frisbee records
15 tracks

This recording is quite striking and unique for a number of reasons. Firstly, Dave Flynn has made a full album comprising of melodic dance music played exclusively on nylon string guitar. Although the guitar is an instrument not normally associated with playing Irish dance music, Dave breathes new life into the music with a lovely melodic lilt and lift to each tune that has been carefully selected to feature on this recording. It is not your typical guitar album; the dexterity of finger movement and sheer delight in playing these melodies is quite apparent from start to finish on this album. He has made carved a niche to represent his own distinctive and personal style that shines through in many ways on this album. In the sleeve notes, Dave notes the paradox in the album’s title; however, this collection features many tunes that were composed relatively recently yet are known and played worldwide as part of the traditional music canon. Most of the music performed stems from the pen of Paddy Fahey - “a magical fiddle player and composer who is, to me and many others, one of the finest composers Ireland has ever produced.”

The album is worth the purchase alone for the pleasure of hearing so many Fahey tunes in one setting. Also, other notable composers’ tunes are included including those of Cavan-born Ed Reavy, Donegal master Tommy Peoples, Leitrim’s legend Charlie Lennon, and the great Irish-American fiddler Larry Redican. As Dave notes so importantly, “It is a special skill to be able to compose tunes that sound new, whilst still fitting seamlessly into the tradition.” Interestingly, all of the compositions on the album were originally fiddle tunes and so, Dave has fittingly tried to translate the fiddle style in terms of rhythm and phrasing onto his guitar by matching it to the tuning of the fiddle. It’s quite a pleasure to hear many of these tunes heard in different keys to the originals due to the use of a capo to create a brighter overall sound, as it gives the listener a fresh insight into these wonderful, melodic melodies. There are some lyrical introductions also to tunes that lure the listener into the tune – listen to track 7, for example. Finally, it’s beautiful to see hear “The Mahatma of the Glen” on this recording – a recent original composition, dedicated to a master Donegal fiddler, the late James Byrne who also made such a remarkable contribution to the world of Irish Music. To conclude, this is a must for anyone who enjoys contemporary traditional music at its best.
Edel McLaughlin

Voume 2 (various artists)
21 tracks
Brechin All Records CDBAR010

We are much indebted to our Scottish cousins for their Highland and Lowland musical contributions that have enriched our heritage of songs and tunes. Consideration of the shared Gaelic legacy is another day’s work, and for now we direct our attentions to a much-neglected figure who wrote mainly in the Scottish dialect, the sensitive lyric poet, Robert Tannahill (1774-1810).

To mark the two-hundredth anniversary of his death, Dr. Fred Freeman and Brechin All Records are engaged in an ambitious project to record for posterity The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill in 5 volumes, and today I have Volume 2 before me.

Tannahill, known as the Weaver Poet, wrote over 100 songs that many acknowledge as of a quality that compares with Robert Burns. He was largely self-educated and at the time of his death at age 36 he was recognised as a man of letters. He founded the Paisley Burns Club in 1805 and even though he was man of modest means he also founded one of the early Trades Libraries in Renfrewshire. Dr. Freeman, a graduate of Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities, is currently Hon Fellow in English at the University of Edinburgh and an authority on Scottish poets Robert Ferguson (1637-1714) and Robert Burns (1759-96). As for this recording project of Tannahill’s songs Dr. Freeman states: “It is contemporary Scottish folk music, featuring the most outstanding folk musicians of our time and drawing upon Tannahill’s extensive background in Scottish as well as Irish traditional music.”

Although the recording project is not yet complete, Fred and Sandy Brechin, owner of Brechin All Records and himself a musician, plan to have Irish, British and European musicians join their Scottish counterparts in the project “in accordance with what would obviously have been Robert Tannahill’s wishes”. Representing the Irish input in this Volume 2 in the series is Brian Ó hEadhra who performs four of the 20 songs on the CD. Three of Brian’s songs are given an Irish treatment: in One Night in my Youth Kitty More asks her dear Phelim to ‘give us Ellen Aroon’ and adding, ‘For none in fair Erin can sing like it here’. The other two songs are Peggy O’Rafferty and Kitty Tyrell. The latter is sung to the air used by many singers of Caitlín Triall (and the many variant spellings of that name).

The superb accompaniment and arrangement for this song – and indeed all others on the CD – are in keeping with the high production values employed in making this an album of significant worth. Dr. Freeman provides us with informative notes and the song words (each with its own glossary). There are seven singers – four men, three women – and Fred Freeman recites On Seeing a Spider Dairt Oot upo a Flie – Tannahill’s savage reproach of a spider that traps a fly. Jim Malcolm gives a fine rendition of what is one of Tannahill’s best-known compositions, Bonnie Heilan Laddie the tune for which is also used in Donkey Riding (Were you ever in Quebec) and for many years all British Army Highland Regiments used the air as their Regimental March. The wide range of poetical themes and musical arrangements combined with great performances from singers and musicians make this second volume in the Tannahill series a recording of pure delight.
Aidan O’Hara


Kila Records KRCD014,
10 tracks, 41 minutes

With an established reputation as superb entertainers and pioneers in the choppy waters of Gaelic new-age pop, Kila have now also proven their credentials as Irish traditional musicians and composers. This recording follows their 2007 album Gamblers’ Ballet which concentrated on up-tempo dance music. Soisín focuses on slower pieces: “music to rest, to reflect and even to cry to”. All ten tracks are composed by band members, with a wide variety from the almost Eastern mysticism of St Germain to the techno effects on the title track. Although Soisín is billed as an instrumental album, there are vocals on a couple of numbers - but no words.

The lion’s share of the composing credts goes to Colm Ó Snodaigh, with two tracks each by Rossa Ó Snodaigh, Dee Armstrong, and Eoin Dillon. My personal preference is for the more conventional melodies: Dee’s Bearna Waltz with its blend of traditional fiddle and jazzy sax, Colm’s Cluainín combining low whistle and pipes, and the Galician sound of Eoin’s Miles na bPíobairí which is probably the most stirring piece here. Rossa’s Derry Tune also deserves mention, another Spanish-tinged melody with hypnotic guitar.

One number on Soisín rises head and shouders above the rest. The air 1st Ave is a stunner, an outstanding melody beautifully played on fiddle, with a strong arrangement which doesn’t overpower the tune. Soisín is worth getting for this track alone, and I’m sure several of the other compositions here will appeal to Kila fans and Irish music enthusiasts alike.This gentle album reveals a neglected side of Kila’s music, and should win many admirers.
Alex Monaghan

River Rollick Records
16 tracks Running Time 53.52 Minutes

Girsa is a collection of young female musicians from the New York City area. Their first effort is a worthy one. The sixteen tracks are a nice mix of songs and tunes, and are well played. Kristen McShane is an outstanding fiddler, and she excels on a number of instrumentals: Eleanor Plunkett/Polkas, which features an amazing tempo change; St. Patrick’s Night/The Ashplant, Bruach Na Carraige Bann is a slow air, and shows off Maeve Flanagan in a whistle solo. It is paired with “The Longford Tinker,” with Emily McShane backing on bodhrán.

The highlight of the group’s singing is Rod Stewart’s Rhythm of My Heart, the song that was originally sung to Loch Lomond. It is an interesting and enjoyable take on the song. Deirdre Brennan and Margaret Dudasik share the vocals on I Live Not Where I Love. However, Brennan’s amazingly strong and clear voice almost overpowers the lyrics. It is a case where a little less would have been good. The duo has a better showing on Immigrant Eyes, which also features Pamela Geraghty and Emily McShane. Mary and the Soldier finds new life in Dudasik’s singing, as does I Courted a Wee Girl as sung by Brennan.

The band does a good job on a number of the instrumental sets. My favorite is Paddy Ryan’s Dream / Blue Britches / Gan Ainm, a set of reels with Blaithin Loughran’s highly animated box playing. The Box Set, is almost a duel between Loughran on box and Geraghty on accordion.

The group grew out of Comhaltas, and in many ways, it sounds like a Comhaltas recording – strictly and tightly played. This is not a bad thing, as the women are crisp in their presentation. There is also a bit f originality here, especially in the song selection. Their teachers include the pantheon of Irish and Irish-American players, and they obviously learned their lessons well. Gabriel Donohue did a good job in producing, and joined in on guitar on a few of the sets. A little tweaking might have made a good album a great one, but the end result is an enjoyable recording.
Girsa’s maiden voyage overall is a success.
Brian G Witt

Accross the Western Ocean
Ten tracks.

Dublin-born singer-songwriter, Kieran Wade, became interested in performing Irish music while he was a student in Manchester. Having played mainly in folk clubs around the Lancashire area, he eventually got around to writing songs in the ‘folk’ vein. All the songs on Kieran’s new CD, Across the Western Ocean, are his own, and as the title indicates, they deal with Irish emigration and the diaspora. But there are other themes, as well, including aspects of ‘the troubles’ and those who ‘went on the blanket’.

Kieran’s musical development continued in Canada, and one of the fruits of his experiences there – musically speaking – was his song, The Shores of Newfoundland, that treats of the seasonal fishery engaged in by ‘Irish youngsters’ from the southeast of Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries:

We are the Irish fishermen who work out on the deep

Through the storms and winter gales,

Trying to make a living pulling codfish from the sea

And hunting for the big black whale.

Kieran says that the dance tune, Traveller’s Reel, which introduces that song on track 1, was one he heard from Jamie Snyder who in turn learned it from fiddler Rufus Guinchard of Daniel’s Harbour in western Newfoundland. It’s a small world, because I knew Jamie and Rufus well from my days in that island province of Canada in the 1970s. So Kieran was obviously in good musical company while in Canada.
In the mid 1980s Kieran joined Tip Splinter, at the time one of Canada’s foremost Irish-Canadian traditional bands. The group started out as an offshoot of the Toronto Irish Players theatre group, and played a mix of both Irish and Canadian folk material, along with some original stuff from members of the band. “When I first arrived in Canada,” Kieran says, “I lived for a time in Brantford, Ontario where at first I didn’t know a soul. It was on one of my many rambles to pass the time that I stumbled across the cemetery where the graves of emigrants who had arrived many years before me lay long forgotten.” That emotional and affecting event resulted in what is possibly his best emigration song, One-way Ticket. Another good song is his Journey Round the Sun that came from contemplating what he says was ‘the meaning of life’.
The renowned Galway singer and musician, Sean Keane, featured no fewer than five of Kieran’s songs – including Journey Round the Sun – in his production The Irish Scattering released as a 28-track DVD and a 16-track CD in 2008. I would say that that’s as good a testament as any to Kieran Wade’s success as a songwriter, and this CD is a good showcase for his talents.
Aidan O’Hara


Own Label
10 Tracks 45 minutes

I had the very great pleasure in seeing Goiste perform live in Limerick last summer, where they were part of a University of Limerick Concert in St. Mary’s Church. Donal Lunny and Niall Keegan where the headliners, but Goitse as UL students had enough presence to be remembered. Now a year on and with a CD launch in Dublin’s Cobblestone in March the album is out in the public domain and the five piece band will be looking to consolidate the hoopla with live appearances at festivals over the summer.

From listening to the album I’m sure they will begin to garner a large collection of fans very soon. The sound is a happy mix of traditional and modern takes on traditional Irish music. A Bit of Peach harks back to the Flannagan Brothers and gives ample scope for banjo flourishes from James Harvey. On a more experimental track, The DEF Set Tadhg Ó Meachair’s piano adding a menacing disjointed syncopation over a steady bass line, the Wing Commander has a guitar and bodhrán intro from Colm Phelan and Conal O’Kane, this move sinto full flight when Meachair joins in on piano accordion, it sub-Flook, and one feels that when played live the set would bristle as soon as Áíne McGeeney’s fiddle cuts in.

There are songs too from Aine, Bring Me a Boat with a honky tonk piano accompaniment which sits nicely against her voice. Her singing style I feel has a way to go yet, her breathing and phrasing is too similar to Kate Rusby’s for my liking. I feel she has the potential to develop a distinctive voice, one which would benefit from a little more edge and passion. Together with Meachair she produces the most lyrical track on the album in Hanlon’s Farewell; the most experimental and rhythmically challenging track is Hit the Small Time. Unusually they choose to end the album of a gentle outro with B’fheidir é, a slow burning fuse it is their own composition, somewhat similar to Tune for A Found Harmonium.

Goiste I’m told is Donegal Irish for “c’mon” in the sense of let’s go, well they are out now and well worth a listen and wait until they gig this material live. They are full or potential, have a big musical imagination and aren’t afraid to tear at the edges of the trad envelope. They have to be proud of them in Limerick.
Seán Laffey

Sweethearts in America
Shippwrite Music (
13 tracks, 66 minutes

If you visit the MySpace page of James Shipp’s Nos Novo (“new style”), you’ll see that in the “sounds like” field, they’ve filled in “people playing traditional Irish music what gots no business doing it.”. While I would argue with them on that point, admittedly, Strange Sweethearts in America will not be the cup of tea of Trad purists. And it will probably not wow pure jazz aficionados. But for those with an adventurous ear and an open mind, Nos Novo offers up a unique blend of Irish tunes and songs given a parallel life in the jazz world by Shipp (Vibraphone/Percussion), Jo Lowry (voice, mandolin, melodica), Gilad Hkselman (guitar), Rogerio Boccato (percussion) and guest vocalist Kate McGarry.

Shipp was introduced to Trad by the music of The Chieftains and Planxty and his Sweathearts pays a great deal of homage to both in interpretations of Planxty’s “The Blacksmith”, “As I Roved Out”, “The Frost is All Over”, “Bean Phaidon”, and “South Australia”, and two reels and an air from the Chieftains’ “Boil the Breakfast Early” album. The album is “intended above all else, to be a love letter to that music, and to the people who play it,” according to Shipp.

Lowry’s vocals are a definite standout. You would never hear her front any of the usual suspects on the trad scene but her pedigree, (playing most recently with The Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra and Sting), bring a whole new dimension to this CD. By far, my favorite track is “Fold”, written by singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez and while it isn’t a Trad standard it would happily sit next to any of Grada’s more far-flung vocal material.

Shipp’s vibraphones are also a wonderfully strange addition to these well-known tunes. On first listen, it was a little jarring but as I listened further, I found myself smiling at the innovative sound and new direction that it took these standards in.
Many might argue with Nos Novo’s interpretations and I found myself wish that they’d delved a bit further for their materials but the quality of the musicianship trumps most complaints. I’m eager to see the response to this CD from the jazz community but, in the meantime, would urge any forward-thinking Trad fans to pour themselves a cocktail, put on their swinging clothes, and give this one a listen. 
Helene Dunbar


21 Years from Stage to Stage
Whirling Discs
WHIRL 014, 22 tracks 70 minutes, CD and DVD

Dervish celebrate their 21st year together with a special double disc release, a regular CD and a DVD. Plenty to talk about of course, but for this issue I’ll concentrate on the CD, think of the movie as a bonus (something we will consider in an upcoming interview with the band).

Formed in 1989, Dervish have always held the music of Sligo as a trump card in what is an impressive musical hand, but they have been equally willing to bring in music from other parts of Ireland and have picked up a few times here and there over their two decades-plus of touring. They demonstrate breadth in their repertoire as they are joined by bluegrass mandolin virtuoso, Mike Marshall, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Duke Special, Ron Sexsmith and Vasen.

The CD is in fact two live performances, which are impeccably recorded, it opens from Sebastopol California, and closes with the extended encore from their home town appearance at Sligo Live. Cathy Jordan is as lively any Leitrim reel and her choice of songs fits the tenor of the band like a glove. A band strong on melody and lift in the tunes needs that in the songs too and there’s nothing maudlin in the songs department, most of which are traditional with more modern touches from Dylan’s Boots of Spanish Leather, Cathy adds her own tune to the Child Ballad Lord Levett which is re-told with a strong dramatic tension, the band explode on Red Haired Mary and there’s a delicious version of I Courted a Wee Girl (with Vasen and Mike Marshall). The lads from Vasen join Dervish for Josefin’s Walz an all time Dervish favourite.

The audience is key to this CD. Sure we get bucket loads of interaction with the crowd, Cathy is as funny as ever and her stage persona catapults the band into the hearts of the fans, but there’s more to the band than that. Evidence from the very opening track where the lone flute of Liam Kelly plays a haunting intro
to what will become the band on full throttle chasing the Swallow’s Tail, to the final track Apples In Winter a rousing jig from their Harmony Hill days to close the package. It’s almost like being there, and if it doesn’t whet your appetite for a live show from Dervish, I’d check your pulse to see if it is still working.
Seán Laffey