Releases > December 2006

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Lughnasa Music LUGCD963 14 tracks, 57 minutes

Fiddler, Gerry O’Connor from Dundalk teamed up with Breton guitarist, Gilles Le Bigot for a concert tour. What started as a demo tape and gig souvenir was soon hailed as an exceptional live recording, and fortunately for us it is now widely available through the Copperplate Distribution. There are several reprises from Gerry’s studio recordings, notably The Chicken’s Gone to Scotland from his Journeyman solo CD and the delightful Galician air A Bruxa from the album Brighid’s Kiss made with his late wife, but In Concert is mainly new material.

Starting with a set of jigs in an easy fluid style, Gerry shifts up a gear for Sully’s lovely Butlers of Glen Avenue. His mastery of the Northern repertoire is shown by the highlands Donal Dubh and Bog an Lochan, and by reels like Bonny Ann and Rosebuds in the Summer. The slower tunes are equally impressive, and plentiful: The Mummers’ March, Ronnie Cooper’s Shetland Bus waltz, and a glorious slow version of The Destitution Reel.

Launching the Boat, Hanly’s, Dancing Eyes and The Widow’s Daughter are just some of the more unusual jigs and reels played brilliantly here. This is a solo fiddle album in all but name, so why add Gilles Le Bigot? Listen and you’ll understand: the guitar here is doing what Cahill does for Hayes, or Cooney for Begley. Gilles Le Bigot is not just an accomplished accompanist, he also knows the tunes and feels the pulse. He can pick along with the fiddle on The Boy in his Pants, strum with the reels, vamp on the jazzier Stirling Tom set, or fade away altogether on Donal Dubh.

Together, O’Connor and Le Bigot are superb. There’s no doubt where young Dónal O’Connor’s sparkle comes from: Dad has it in spades. This recording is up there with live albums from Planxty, Lúnasa, or anyone else. Get it while it’s hot.

Alex Monaghan

Visit Gerry O’Connor’s web site


Kasír, 10 tracks; 37 minutes

The Danes have had a bad press in Irish history not totally undeserved. It’s almost exactly a thousand years since they had a big trading kingdom in Dublin. And now they’re coming back. We have here a young trio, born 1988-89, who apparently learned their music in Denmark. There’s Oisín Walsh on bodhrán, Rune Cygan Barslund doubles on the accordion and whistles, and Aske Fuglsang Ruhe is on guitar and mandolin.

The three lads are impressive not only for technical fluency, but also for an interpretation that gets inside the tunes. If you didn’t know in advance, you’d be totally justified in thinking they were to the pure drop, born into a hurling parish west of the Dodder. There’s a good mixture of standards; they start off with Drowsy Maggie and the Silver Spear and some original material. I can’t figure out why they went to Devon to record, but they wrote a tune about it which is paired with a Bulgarian number: Rune?s accordion teacher is from Bulgaria.

If any time you detect that there is a waning of interest in Irish music, and that the pessimists are waiting for it to sink back into the swamps of apathy, get a listen to this CD.

It is a revelation and a very enjoyable one too.

John Brophy


Traditional Irish Music and Song

14 Tracks, Own Label

A few years ago an American feminist musicologist posed a question over the anonymity of the internet. Were there examples of down trodden stay at home ladies who somehow managed to still make traditional music despite the strictures of the church, the mores of a patriarchal pub society and their status as subservient women? Well you just had to laugh, Irish ladies are some of the most feisty and capable people you are likely to meet and they have been known to play a fair bit of music and sing more than their fair share of songs too. Bridie Lafferty, Bes Cronin, Sarah Makem, Margaret Barry and the concertina legend Mrs Crotty are fine examples of how musically forthright ladies can be. And so also are Liadan. The girls who all studied until recently on Masters courses at the University of Limerick give thanks to Foras na Gaeilge for funding this CD.

Nonetheless of course in the commercial world of recorded traditional music, ladies doing it on their own have been the rarity, certainly in Ireland. Now to the music, they roll out a set of polkas to kick open the debut album and they deliver them with a crisp snap, pay attention to the bass line running under the tune which is an unusual feature for traditional music and a motif this band likes, it provides a particular muscular backbone on a number of selections. Another intriguing piece is “P Stands for Paddy (I suppose)” and fans of Planxty will recall the near definitive version by Johnny Moynihan, well Líadan eschew any notions of replicating Moynihan’s take on the number and instead opt for a very attractive vocal harmonic, which is almost Breton in its conception, with the chorus line repeated out of phase with the main melody, a hard trick to pull off and one the girls accomplish with ease. The airs Peeler’s Creek which seagues into Tommy Peoples’ reel reminded me of an early Silly Wizard sensibility but it widens out beyond that to give us something which is far richer and orchestral.

There’s more of course with a total of 14 tracks and the tunes show a wide sense of repertoire and reels for once on an Irish Traditional music album do not dominate. I might question the inclusion of the Broom of the Cowden Knowes, lovely though their version is, it has been covered recently by Cherish the Ladies and comparison between the two bands would be easy to find. However, sometimes even if a song has been done before its quality deserves another airing and such the sean-nós song Amhrán Mhuínse.
Liadan have a sense of place and the talent to make their career work, they have the potential to enjoy the longevity and wide appeal of Joanie Madden’s girls, Cherish the Ladies and The London Lasses. It’s a small world and the Liadan ladies are taking the tradition in both hands and making it their own.

Sean Laffey

Visit Líadan’s web site


The Old Simplicity

Green Linnet Records GLCD1232, 13 tracks

Let me run a metaphoric game by you. If you had to describe an album and a singer as a food or drink, could you pick a menu to match any given artist? Well for me Niamh Parsons would be a full blooded Spanish Rioja, a deep rich wine, full of character, with a hint of iron behind a complex blend of experience and flavours.

Full grown adult material is always to be expected on a Niamh Parson’s album. She’s a singer who doesn’t need to compromise her integrity by selecting tracks that might get a bit of airtime, or that will appeal to one demographic or another. Her music like a good Rioja is for connoisseurs who know the singing tradition intimately.

This may have the distinction of being the last album recorded on the Green Linnet Label, that alone could bring it cult status but it deserves your attention, it is the last of a trilogy of excellent albums Niamh made for the now defunct Connecticut record company, each one a gem.

Here on 13 tracks Niamh and guitarist Graham Dunne pull of a wonderful double act of sensitivity, edgy realism and deep emotional insights. Take the first track 1917 (The French Prostitute) it’s a big ballad, a full story with some great lines and Parson’s handles it with sensitivity and a shot of resignation, Dunne plays a gypsy break over a musette accordion, but it feels right when in lesser hands it could have become an empty pastiche.

The album was recorded in Chicago and of course it was natural enough to bring in Dennis Cahill and he appears on high string guitar on the Poor Irish Stranger, where he duets with Dunne whilst Larry Gray adds an occasional bass line. Parsons gives the lads a rest from time to time and her
ac-capella You Rambling Boys of Pleasure carries us along in a flawless master class in unaccompanied singing. The title track is a song by Kieran Halpin, a modern song on an old theme, a kindred spirit to the Parting Glass.

There’s so much that is good about this album , the pairing of Graham Dunne and Dennis Cahil on Moll and Poll Ha’ Penny, Dunne’s own Cumha an Ghrá (one for aspiring guitar pickers every where) and then there’s a delicate understated first world war ballad John Condon, social comment on A Drinking Man’s Wife and much more besides. Add to this some great liner notes and you can see that Niamh Parsons has not skimped on the last effort of her Green Linnet Triptych, this panel stands as darkly gilded as the other two, as complex as the rich ruby wine of Spain, as a parting glass to the fading glory of Green Linnet this is a loving toast to old decency.

Seán Laffey

Visit Green Linnet Records web site


Strawberry Winters

12 Tracks

Finbar Magee is a songwriter from the North of Ireland, he is also an holistic Doctor, so if it’s the blues that ails you the Doc has a remedy in a song. And what a fine bunch of songs he has put down on this debut album. The music bears more than a passing resemblance to Dire Straits, it has that quirky sideways glance at Americana yet keeps the lyrics embedded in local issues and local accents. Magee can write funny passages, many of which are given even more impact by the choppy rhythms that work perfectly with his rich Northern voice. Just look at these two simple verses from Border Town and Ulster Fry and I’m sure you’ll agree there’s a wicked Ulster wit running through this album.

Border Town
I was born in a border town
Money looked funny, dogs
were drowned
Tommy on the hill, looking down
Kept and eye and an ear
On a border town
Ulster Fry
Now Gerry and Big Ian
Don’t often think the same
They view this country
From opposite sides
But both would sure agree
“Say No to muesli”
Support the grease process
Say “Yes” to the fry

Magee is far more comfortable with the rockier elements in this album, his “The Lucky One’s” seems a bit pale alongside say Belfast Blues which has a raunchy attitude, where he is “living on a knife edge” slowly talking his way through his angst at a place with “a crazy history where the future don’t look good”. He tries his hand at political polemics in his rail at the UK nuclear industry which is a constant threat to communities on the east cost of this island. The title track has a cryptic ecological message, summed up in the refrain:” Strawberry winters and summer snow. How long can we keep this show on the road?”

The concluding track is bit of folk country that begins with Magee stuck in grid lock. To whet your appetite here’s the sentiment behind that last song, when the world has gone mad and you’re stuck in traffic all you need to do is:

I’m going down to Killyleagh to read the Beano and the Bible
Dig that sod, get a fishing rod and let my head go idle
Gather in yarn at the Dufferin Arms if I can get a table
And wrap my lips ‘round Arthur’s’ bliss and kiss it while I’m able.

So there you have it, the Doctor has your prescription ready, his remedy is mostly fun material and lots of profound bits between the laughter, get well soon!

Sean Laffey

Visit Finbar Magee’s web site