Releases > June 2011 releases

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The Last Star
Compass Records 7 4545 2 2010
Heidi Talbot has a voice that once heard will never be forgotten nor confused with any other singer. She also has a talent for choosing excellent songs to showcase that voice. The traditional epic Willie Taylor opens this wonderful album and you can hear and understand every word as is essential on these stories set to music.
Tell Me Truly has an unusual sound signature that will intrigue the listener but should never distract them from the lyrics that are so beautifully crafted and realised. The multiple voices on later verses add immensely to an already perfect track.
As you may derive from the title Hang Me is a rather unusual song for a young lady to sing. Apparently the rather morbid lyrics are traditional set to a new melody.
The Shepherd Lad is also a matter of old lyrics with new music. It is lovely naughty song that can only remind us that earlier generations were far from the prudish clan we often imagine. Sally Brown sounds to be an old shanty and in many ways it too reminds us of our realist bawdy past.
Talbot shows her writing talent on the title track The Last Star a beautifully simple love song. With trepidation I cued up Bantry Girls, knowing it was the song perhaps better known with lament in the title. This is one of the finest songs of the folk cannon combining a perfect tune with well turned lyrics. Heidi did not disappoint, another beautiful version to be added to the list.
Her voice is unbelievably suited to the perky Bleecker Street, another song telling a story worth listening to with close attention. It’s a tale told in many another song but this arrangement is a wonder.
One of my favourite tracks combines the lyrics of Karine Polwart, music by John McCusker and the voice of Heidi Talbot. It is the stunningly beautiful Start It All Over Again The combination is one of those magical blends that move the listener on all levels.
The album closes with a song from the pen of the legendary Sandy Denny and it is fitting that At The End of the Day is performed by the outstanding talent of Heidi Talbot whose choices and performances on this CD mark her out a true star of the genre.
Nicky Rossiter

On the Move
Own Label CFCD0012, 12 tracks, 52 minutes
A familiar figure from gigs with Mike McGoldrick, Manchester fiddler, Farrell should not be confused with his actor namesake. Once you’ve got past that disappointment, this debut solo CD is extremely enjoyable. Farrell has a funky modern approach to arrangement, following the fashion set by Lúnasa and friends: his accompanists here include John Joe Kelly and Mike Galvin from Irish music, as well as Scots sidemen Donald Shaw and Ewan Vernal. There are several other well known names on individual tracks, and the sound is rounded out by trumpet, tablas, bluegrass banjo and the like. With lots going on behind the melody, and a strong beat on most numbers, this is great party music.
The most striking aspect of On the Move is that all bar two of the tunes here are Colin’s own. He includes a jaunty hornpipe by bouzouki player Paddy Kerr, and the McGoldrick reel Beck’s Verandah, but the rest is all Farrell. At times the space of traditional fiddle tunes seems a little cramped, as new compositions adopt or adapt sections of familiar pieces, but most of the melodies here bring something new to the party. I particularly liked Bonnet Creek, Soho South, The Drunken Acrobat, Hardanger Reel, The Old Rogue and the final set of Garageband Reels.
It’s new, it’s funky, and it’s certainly well played. Colin Farrell isn’t the world’s smoothest fiddler, but he has an energy and swing which is very appealing. He also plays whistle on most of the tracks here, with a handful of whistle solos which are excellent if a little quiet. The full-on lush backing becomes a bit overpowering eventually - there isn’t as much contrast between tracks as I’d wish - but there’s a lot to like on this CD. Colin is currently based in Florida, and there’s definitely a Big Country feel to this album, so if you’re up for a blend of Memphis and Moss Side, with quite a lot of Miltown or Mayo thrown in, On the Move is well worth a listen.
Alex Monaghan

(Remembrances of music)
Pat O’Connor – Book and CD

Pat O’Connor is a powerful woman, nay, a certifiable Force of Nature. Who else in Ireland would drive 200 miles and more in the height of the worse winter on record to learn how to make bodhráns. Yet she did it and many a less thing than it.
Pat, you see, lives in that part of South County Dublin once known as Kingstown, and even today there are echoes of empire, with roads called Victoria, Windsor or Silchester. The coast is studded with Martello Towers (including the one that James Joyce called home) designed to repel Napoleon. Not a place, you’d think, where you’d find a session or a stave, but you’d be wrong. The Comhaltas HQ is sited in these parts, and there are folks like Pat who live through the music.
The book has 41 tunes, all written by Pat, and the CD – labelled Volume 1 – has 21 of them recorded. It can’t be judged like other productions: it’s far more of a musical diary, a testament to a life lived through “The only music that brings people to their senses,” to quote the great Joe Cooley.
So there are tunes of sadness and remembrance, of quirky happenings, and practical jokes – including the use of a turkey’s neck. (It was dead and in the overn.) The stories stretch from Spiddal in Connemara to Helvic in Waterford, and from Cavan to Clare, with a sojourn in Avondale, home of the great Parnell.
The tunes? Well, there’s a wide selection, mostly of jigs. The Fairy Mazurka on track 10 is a lovely session tune, tuneful; and easily learned. And there are a couple of melodies here that are waiting for words to give them another innings (Cricket metaphors are now allowed, since Johnson Mooney and O’Brien beat England for us).
The one thing I didn’t hear was a full-blood thumping reel. But for the rest, it’s a grand portrait of life with the music. We might take it for granted in Ireland, but for those living elsewhere, it would be a genuine link with the pure drop.
John Brophy


Long Distance Love
Artes Records ARCD3044
13 Tracks 61 minutes.

Cara’s new album Long Distance Love sees a new line-up and a shift in gear for what is now one of the hottest Irish music bands on the international circuit. Core members Gudrun Walther (vocals, fiddle), Juergen Treyz (guitar, resophonic) and Rolf Wagels (bodhrán), are joined by seven times All-Ireland winning piper, Ryan Murphy from Cork and singer/pianist Jeana Leslie from the Orkney Islands (she was the 2008 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner).
So how do they click together on this 13 track CD? First number out of the blocks is a self penned ballad from Gudrun, who sings of the Pirate Mary Reed. In a style that is almost folk rock she gives us a mini ballad opera that sounds like it came from 1721. This opener is complete with a drum kit and the kind of chorus breaks you’d expect from Fairport Convention. Track one down and it’s good, but you might be wondering does it get into solid trad? The answer is yes, and some!
The second track lays down a marker, with Ed Reavey’s In Memory of Coleman, just fiddle and guitar, then a brief pause into
a pipes and bodhrán driven A Trip to Inishturk, the acid test is the final tune in this selection, The Maids of Mitchelstown (previous versions by Matt Molloy and Kevin Burke set the bar very high). Cara rise to the challenge with a fast version of the reel, listen to the way the guitar take the lead about two thirds of the way through, and the pipes come in later to fill out the sounds for the huge finish.
Jeana Leslie takes the lead on The Brewer Lad, Scots fiddle over a punchy guitar backing, which blend into two Scots language songs (complete with a giggle at the end of the second one). Murphy closes the set with his pipes taking on a Scots Irish Appalachian tone. How does he do it? Back to Appalachia for the most contemporary track on the album Owensboro, a song from Jeana on hard life in an American factory, Juergen adds snippets of slide resophonic guitar and Gudrun rounds it out with honeyed harmonies.
With this album, Cara have joined the ranks of Solas, Dervish and Altan, big tunes, big ideas and superb playing, what more would you want?
Seán Laffey

Madam, I’d Like To Be Tossin’ Your Hay
LLM024, 17 Tracks
In the 1970’s, the Louth musician, Jim MacArdle spent many hours in the company of fellow concertina player, Mary Ann Carolan. The concertina tradition of Louth was little known then, Mary Ann’s father, Pat Usher had been recorded by RTE in 1962 when he was 93 years old, he played the German concertina, a two row instrument set up in C/G, he had a store of tunes that were ideal for the local set dances and he passed these down to his daughter.
MacArdle, Quinn and Dunne are steeped in those traditions, the trio come from a tight geographical area bounded by Laytown and Drogheda and this album is an homage to their musical home place and their mentors of the 1970’s and 1980’s. No mention of this part of the country would be complete without a respect to Carberry’s pub in Drogheda, a music pub for 150 years and still in the family, the cover shot shows the trio having a few tunes in the bar.
Those tunes are indeed unusual, this is music that comes from a dance tradition not dominated by reels and jigs, as such it is both surprising and refreshing. Sometimes the tunes are rather English in character (especially on the Polkas which begin with Mary Ann Carolan’s, The Lass of Gowrie) but we should temper that thought by noting that the quadrilles and flings were dances popular on both sides of the Celtic Sea in 1900.
The songs are good also, T Stands for Tommy, I Suppose is a local variant of P Stands for Paddy and is here given a relaxed treatment with clear tenor vocals making every word ring out. This is followed by a slow paced set called Peter McArdles, the notes for which are sadly incomplete in the liner. Another fine song is about an errant Welsh woman The Laff and Half Daft, which sounds as if it began on the music hall stage as the Lass of Llandaf. Then there is a remnant from blackfaced minstrelsy, Young Bob Ridley a jaunty song in the musical vein of the more famous Old Dan Tucker. The final track, on autoharp and button box, A Tune for Joe, a tribute air to the late Joe Ryan, deserves to be played everywhere. It would be a lovely bookend to any pub’s late session and I’m sure it is a firm favourite in Carberry’s.
This is a lovely album, full of hard to forget melodies, many set in the rounded key of C, from a corner of the country and a country pub where the local tradition is still cherished.
Seán Laffey


Keltia III - K3111 - 13 tracks – 57 minutes

Who knows Alan Stivell, famous musician and Breton harpist, pioneer of the concept of Celtic music and who popularized Breton music in the early 70’s. Back then with his Celtic folk rock he sold 100,000 albums a year, a real musical phenomenon.
His first album was Reflets in 1970 and here is his 23rd album Emerald in 2010. A record which celebrates his forty years as a performing musician. Forty years is significant. OK it is fifteen years short of a true Emerald celebration like an emerald wedding, this album celebrates his four decade relationship with his loyal fans which has been described as a marriage. Emerald is also the iridescent combination of green and blue colours typical of the Cote Emeraud, that is the wild craggy coast from Roscoff to Paimpol. Emerald is a cipher for Brittany and Celtic Ireland too.
Emerald the album is a homecoming. Alan Stivell returns to the fiddle and folk rock, it is like the album Chemins de Terre of 1973 or Dublin’s Live in 1975. Back then it was the marriage of the timeless sound of Scottish bagpipes and the new electronic bagpipes and the union of the various prototypes of electric harps and traditional harp that he pioneered.
Of course he doesn’t do it all himself, here he is joined by the Breton singers, Dom Duff and Solenn Lefeuvre and the fiddles of Loumi Seveno and Christophe Peloil. This CD includes both the folk ballad and electro-acoustic music that has become Stivell’s trademark. An album which sails from Brittany to Ireland via Scotland. These include the magnificent Brittany’s, Lusk, Gael’s Call or Eibhlin to finish on a beautiful Mac Crimon with the choir Ensemble Choral du Bout du Monde concluded with a vibrant solo bagpipe Piobaireachd.
His songs are still popular in Brittany and this retrospective sets them in the Breton language of course, but also in French, English, Irish and Welsh. Stivell’s music is constantly renewed by his creative talent that has itself become a metaphor for Brittany.
Emerald, is a gem in a beautiful casket.
Philippe Cousin

Old Music Old Style
Peadar Ó Lochlainn, flute and Aggie Whyte, fiddle
Na Piobairí Uileann NPU CD 020, 6 Tracks

Dr Samuel Johnson occupy a special place in the English language. He wrote only one novel, to pay for his Mammy’s funeral, and described his famed dictionary as the work of a harmless drudge. But he was revered by his coevals, even as a saint.
In traditional music, we have Breandán Breathnach occupying an analogous position. The serried volumes of Ceol Rince na hÉireann are as mighty a monument as Johnson’s Dictionary, and both men were gruff at first meeting, crusty like vintage port.
Breandán was forward looking and 49 years ago, just when vinyl LPs were becoming available here, he founded the record label Spól and got the six tracks here from a noted pair of musicians, Oireachtas prizewinners both, singly and as a duet. Freed from the time constraints of the 78 it offers a great insight into what the music was meant to sound like. The most notable feature is the energy and drive of the reels, not relying on any bass or rhythm instrument. There are three sets each of reels and jigs, including favourites like The Flax in Bloom and The Piper’s Chair.
These date from a time when amplification or bouzoukis were almost unknown, and the influence of rock was zero, As such, it can, in Lenten fashion restore us to the paths of righteousness, and provide insight and enjoyment.
Acknowledgements include the names of Harry Bradshaw and Seán Potts, plus the Irish Traditional Music Archive, all proof of how much people will give for the music they love. If you want to dispel the dust of half a century, and hear what the music meant to champion players, with lovely tone and mutual understanding, put this one on the want list.
John Brophy


Wrapped Up 2011

The purists out there may suffer apoplexy if they listen to this CD. Many of the tracks are familiar but the arrangements and delivery are very much of the twenty first century rather than the good old days. Sometimes change can be jarring, especially on old familiar tunes but at other times it invigorates them, it entices new listeners and is a natural evolution of any tune. Remember that back in the days of oral tradition all our songs would have been somehow different as they passed from voice to voice or fiddle to fiddle without written notation. The album opens with a spirited rendition of Twa Recruiting Sergeants that will lift the heart and the toes and heels despite the subject matter, it’s a Scots version of Over the Hills and Far Away, evidence would suggest the Scots version is older, having first appeared around 1709.
The band shows a more relaxed style on Cold Out There as it evokes a graphic pen picture of hard times. The album contains a number of songs, re-jigged - that were once associated with maybe one or two stalwarts of the earlier Irish music scene. Brennan on the Moor is one of those songs that people of a certain age will betray their teenage music tastes by relating it to The Clancy Brothers or The Royal Showband versions. In 2040 the older generation will recall The Rapparees, complete with sound effects.
While we on the nostalgia trip we also get Whiskey on a Sunday recalling Danny Doyle but only in name because this is a very lively new arrangements.
When I saw The Contender listed I thought how can anyone improve on the writer’s own version or the more operatic Fleming rendition. Boy was I wrong? These guys give it a powerfully simple arrangement that will bring tears to the eyes of anyone giving it proper attention. They are not all revised oldies. Mission Hall is a great song well performed that will have your toes tapping and wanting to go to that dance.
I thought there was a misprint when I saw track The Mountains of Pomeroy expecting the hills but this song really is a mountain in comparison to the more familiar hills. It is a powerful old style story song with gusto. Mick Maguire was a staple of the sponsored programmes on radio of a bygone age and it is wonderful to hear it again given new life but retaining that humour reflecting reality. They show their more romantic side on the sad Our Own Way by band member Gerard McNeill.
This album is a lively reminder of what folk music always must be, an evolving tradition retaining the best and adding extra value with innovation that attracts new listeners and performers.
Nicky Rossiter

An t-Allt (The Stream), 12 tracks
Anam Communications/Brechin All Records, CDBAR011

In Scotland, they didn’t have a Great Famine: instead they had several small ones, plus the Highland Clearances. The effect on their native language was much the same. And it is the same language as ours, much closer than Germanic languages of any Dutch, German and English. Try getting a Devonian, a Tynesider and a Scouse to communicate, and see whether they all speak English. The Irish-Scots divide is far smaller, and listen to it being sung by a good voice, and for an Irish person it suddenly makes a lot of sense.
It proves that there are emotions that defy translation, such as the grief of exile, even from as bleak a home as the island of St. Kilda, where they lived on sea-birds.
This is a well-produced album, complete with song-words and there are well crafted melodies, both new and traditional. There’s even a bit of old-timey style banjo, evoking the Appalachians and the other New World places where the deportees eventually found refuge.
Spoken Scots-Gaeliic isn’t easily heard in Ireland, but this is powerful argument for remedying this situation. It’s also very companionable music, the sort I’d seek if I wanted to shorten a road. But beyond this, there’s an educational value for students of Irish, even in Gaeltacht summer schools. And it proves that it’s possible to advocate and defend the language and at the same time produce an enjoyable and artistic collection.
Well done, Brian, there’s a blackbird lost in you.
John Brophy

Arraneyn Beeal-arrish Vannin
Manx Heritage Foundation MHFCD 6,
12 tracks

A couple of years ago I wrote up my visit to the Cooish festival in the Isle of Man for this magazine and enthused about the healthy state of the Manx Gaelic language (Gaelg) there. Bob Carswell and Dr. Breesha Maddrell brought me to the all-Gaelic primary school in St. John’s (Baile Chill Eoin), the only Bunscoill Ghaelgagh (Manx Gaelic language primary school) in the world where children are taught their lessons solely in Manx Gaelic (Gaelg). The school’s website proudly declares: Ta’n Ghaelg bio ayns Balley Keeil Eoin (Gaelic is alive in Balley Keeil Eoin).
Chances are that the pupils are already familiar with the songs on a new CD, Arraneyn Beeal-arrish Vannin (Traditional Songs of Mann), sung by Brian Stowell, and published by the Manx Heritage Foundation. This recording of 12 unaccompanied Manx ballads and songs was first released on vinyl in 1973, and represents some of the earliest recordings of traditional Manx songs. With such recordings of the Manx tradition in short supply, this new CD provides a window on the early stages of the Manx music revival. The Manx word for song is the same as it is in Irish and Scots Gaelic: arrane; the spelling is different, but Irish speakers will know it as amhrán and the Scots as òran.
Dr. Brian Stowell, a physicist and linguist, is the island’s (Ellan Vannin) best-known speaker of Gaelg. His simple unaccompanied presentation means that the CD is ideal for anyone who wants to learn Manx songs. And it’s also a great help to beginners in learning Gaelg. I had the pleasure of meeting Brian during my visit to the Cooish festival in 2008, and we conversed in Irish Gaelic in which he is fluent.
BBC broadcaster and award-winning Scottish Gaelic singer and harpist, Mary Ann Kennedy, was so taken with Brian’s voice and the songs he sings on Arraneyn Beeal-arrish Vannin, that she selected one of them, Arrane Sooree (The Courting Song’ to represent the Isle of Man on Nascente Recording’s Beginner’s Guide to Celtic CD. In most cases it’s easy for the Irish Gaelic speaker to make out from the titles alone what the song title is. For example, Arrane Sooree (The Courting Song) is Amhrán Suirí; Ny kirree fo niaghtey (The sheep under the snow) is Na caoirigh faoi shneachta; Graih my Chree (Love of my Heart) is Grá mo Chroí; and Arrane Oie Vie (The Goodnight Song) is Amhrán Oíche Mhaith.
This CD of Brian Stowell’s is a welcome addition to my collection of Manx song books, CDs, and most valued of all, Skeealyn Vannin/ Stories of Mann, which comes complete with 6 CD recordings of the last native Manx speakers talking in Gaelg. And best of all in that compilation are the transcripts in Gaelg and English. This is an unashamed promo on my part for anyone interested in learning about the language – and Brian’s songs, of course, would complete the package nicely. The Manx Heritage Foundation will be glad to help with any enquiries.
Aidan O’Hara