Releases > March 2007

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Live session Recordings from the TV series (various artists)

CD CEFCD189, and DVD CEFDVD189, TG4/Gael Linn
19 tracks, duration 1.05.56

The Irish traditional music series, Geantraí, has been running on the Irish language TV station, TG4, for ten years, and in its comfortable pub setting, it is solidly established as a musician’s programme. It conveys in a relaxed atmosphere the sense of fun and enjoyment that is a feature of Irish music today. There are no trick-o-the-loop camera gyrations, strobing lights or hype presenting. The music itself and its performers are what matter in the programme, and there is no annoying intrusion of contrivance to distract from the enjoyment of the presentation. The viewers of TG4 recently voted Geantraí the No. 1 music programme, while the readers of this publication voted it the best traditional music programme on television.

To celebrate ten years of the series, Gael Linn has worked with Forefront Productions and TG4 to pick 19 performances from the show for this CD and DVD release. “In the last ten years, a very comprehensive collection of music has been compiled,” Gael Linn said, “all of it recorded ‘live’ in pub settings throughout Ireland, as well as in England, Scotland and the United States. Working on the basis that, historically and culturally, the pub session is an important part of traditional music, genuine traditional music pubs were carefully researched as suitable venues, pubs where all-year-round good music sessions happen. This meant that the production team had to work in packed pubs, with all the obvious difficulties that this brings, but they believed that this approach was the only way to capture the special atmosphere and accurately portray the genuine pub session.”

In all, fifty musicians and three singers are featured performing a total of thirty-eight tunes and three songs. They include: Charlie Lennon (fiddle) & Johnny Óg Connolly (accordion): Step it out Joe / Murphy the Big Man; John Spillane (singer and guitar): All the Ways You Wander; Ronan Browne (uilleann pipes) & Peter O’Loughlin (fiddle): Táim in Arrears / Hardiman the Fiddler; Vincent Campbell (fiddle), Jimmy Campbell (fiddle) & Peter Campbell (fiddle): The Orange and Blue / The Braes of Maar / The Keelrow; Noel Hill (concertina) & Tony Linnane (fiddle): Old Tipperary / Down the Back Lane; Máirtín O’Connor (accordion), Cathal Hayden (fiddle), Brendan Larrissey (fiddle), Dessie Adams (flute), Brendan O’Regan (bouzouki), Johnny McDonagh (bodhrán): Devaney’s Goat / The Green fields of Rossbeigh / The Dairymaid; Providence: The Gleanntán Reel / The Sandymount Reel / The Beauty Spot / The Ravelled Hank of Yarn / The Midnight Reel; Liz Kane (fiddle), Yvonne Kane (fiddle) & John Blake (guitar): Jig for Jimmy / Betsy’s Delight; Jackie Daly (accordion) & Séamus Creagh (fiddle): Bill Sullivan’s Polka / The Britches Full of Stitches; Gerry O’Connor (Banjo) & Tom Kenna (Guitar): George White’s Favourite / High Drive / Fiach’s Fancy; Séamus Ó Beaglaoich (singer); Jim Murray (guitar): An Ciarraíoch Mallaithe. And that’s just for ‘starters’!

This is a first-class production, and ‘a must’ for lovers of Irish music. It is a most enjoyable presentation of traditional music as it is being performed worldwide by some of the best in the business today.

Aidan O’Hara

Visit Gael Linn web site


Own Label E&RCD-001 13 tracks, 47 minutes

A fiddle and concertina duet album from County Clare: not a particularly rare category, but this recording shares two important attributes with the definitive album from Noel Hill and Tony Linnane. Firstly it has no proper title, and secondly it’s an absolute masterpiece. Exciting playing, great rhythm and lift, and more than enough energy to get your toes tapping: Fox and O’Flaherty certainly get my vote for debut album of the year.

Tight? On duets like The Bag of Spuds and The Maid on the Green, you couldn’t separate them with a scalpel. The pairing of The Chicago Reel and George White’s Favourite reminds me why these are two of my all-time favourite reels, and also why life is precious, and music especially so.

There’s a pair of slides pinched from Ciaran O’Maonaigh, which are just gorgeous, especially when Ronan come in on Patsy Geary’s. Ronan and Edel are expertly accompanied by Brian McGrath and Michael McCague, except on their brave attempt at an unaccompanied duet of the Skinner strathspey The Iron Man. There’s also a solo track each, both jig-reel medleys: Edel makes a lovely job of The Boys of Ballisodare and The Bird in the Bush with classic Clare concertina chords, while Ronan slips into Sligo style showmanship for The Connachtman’s Rambles and The Sligo Maid. The final set of reels leaves things on a high: the delicate Fisherman’s Lilt, a 3-part version of The Musical Priest, and the powerful reel John Brennan’s to finish. Grand stuff altogether.

To be fair, this is as much a Galway or even Limerick album as it is a Clare album. Whilst Edel is pure West Clare, Ronan is a Galway man and the pair met up in Limerick. Any attempt by me to describe the style or influences of Limerick City would just be a stab in the dark. Try the website if you want more information on this or other matters: it’s well worth a look.

Alex Monaghan

Visit Edle & Ronan’s website


Yes Those Were the Days

Dolphin LCDVD1 2006

Yes, those were the days. Those were the days of the ballad boom and the revival of all things good and sometimes not so good, in the folk tradition. All camps agree that much of the modern boom in Irish and Celtic music owes its origins and gratitude to a group of lads from Carrick on Suir aided and abetted by the lad from County Armagh.

The Clancys and Tommy Makem pioneered the boom and then they left. Liam and Tommy worked as a duo for a time and each ploughed the lone furrow, all to great acclaim. This DVD gives the modern audience a unique chance to experience this maestro in action as he was in 1992.

The concert originally played in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre in that year and this DVD captures something of the atmosphere and the laid back delivery of the time. It is not a frenetic, angle changing, high tech lighting production with extras like how Clancy gets out of bed. It is what it says a concert plain and simple. For your money you get about two hours of musical magic produced by one voice and a select number of instruments.

Liam gives us 27 tracks ranging from the familiar to the new (new then and sadly some sound new now because they did not get airplay) interspersed with a few lovely instrumental pieces. As with any Liam Clancy concert the verbal jousting takes pride of place. Listen to him introduce songs by reciting poetry and prose pieces or recalling historical events and you will not be surprised to learn of his theatrical leanings. When you hear these snippets you wonder how he might have fared in acting rather than music. But you will purchase this DVD primarily for that music and he delivers the goods. From the opening track ‘Ballad of Saint Anne’s Reel’ through ‘The Dutchman’ and ‘Roseville Fair’ to the finale of ‘Journey’s End’ you will be enthralled. Even on DVD Liam Clancy has that presence that can hold your attention whether it is with a song, a quote or just a look.

This is a record of a concert videoed when the fans of folk music still appeared rather staid if you look at the audience shots and as such it may have a secondary function as social comment. The people sing along reservedly, they clap politely and the look extremely self-conscious even when enjoying the ‘craic’ that was and is a Liam Clancy concert.

Nicky Rossiter

Visit Dara Records web site


RTE Light Orchestra, Conductor Colman Pearce

Gael-Linn CEFCD 034 16 Tracks

Another welcome re-issue from the treasure trove of the Gael-Linn archive. Archie Potter was an institution in the Dublin of the 60’s: composer, arranger, broadcaster, head honcho of the Royal Irish Academy of Music. And part of the cultural scene too: he was not unknown in certain taverns around Baggot St. He came to Dublin from his native Belfast via South Africa and the Territorial Army.

At the time he was working, the Light Orchestra, later renamed the Concert Orchestra, had a busy live broadcasting schedule, and it was in competition with the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra where David Curry was conductor and arranger. Archie was compelled to work at speed and paid piece-rate by the bar.

That’s why there may have been tunes which were written in 12/8 time: by the time they were finished, they were always in 3/8 four times the number of bars, and four times the money. It’s a tribute to him that so much of the work sounds so fresh today: any would-be arranger should note his use of wind and percussion. Yes, some material sounds like a film score but that’s what the punters were demanding. The harmony can be more advanced than any traditional group would use, even nowadays, but he always knew well enough how to let the tune speak for itself while using the full resources of an orchestra: quite often he lets solo oboe or clarinet carry the melody with light backing. This is particularly evident in the slow airs like Jimmy, mo mhile stor, An Droighnean Donn and Roisin Dubh.

This is essentially Irish Music pre O Riada: it’s interesting to compare the two arrangements of Roisin Dubh. The younger man’s more forthright treatment became the standard, and the rest is history.

John Brophy

Visit Gael Linn web site


The Place Where Life Began

13 Tracks, Blasket Music LC15076

The trio White Raven are no strangers to these pages with live gigs in Dublin and their last album have all receiving glowing reviews in this mag. To those who don’t know of their music, to put it simply, it is pure vocal music, some of it in three-part harmony, a rare thing within the Irish tradition. There really is a dearth of harmony vocals-only albums within the vast library that makes up Irish traditional music, The Press Gang, Anuna , MacAlla, bits of the Fallen Angles, the specialist Warp Four, possibly a few tapes of the unrecorded Garland and of course the bench mark for many The Voice Squad (and White Raven come as close as a cigarette paper to those godfathers on Mho Ghile Mear and the Boys of Barr na Sráide).

Back to the back catalogue, it barely adds up to a dozen albums in forty years, so this new release recorded in 2005 in France, has the potential to be in select company, and to make an instant mark.

A look at the track listing places the album in the standard folk category, with songs such as The Boys of Barr na Sráide (from which came the album’s title), All Around My Hat, The Dawning Of The Day (superbly sung by tenor Robert Getchell), Since Maggie Went Away and Eric Bogle’s All the Fine Young Men. There’s a lively jig, The Rose in the Heather from guest musician Gerry (fiddle) O’Connor which adds a centre to pivot around on track 8. There’s a mellow combination of fiddle and vielle (from Shira Kammen) on the Scottish slow air Dark Island. Ten out of ten to the band for including all the song words in the liner notes.

The overall sound is more Feis Cheoil than Fleadh Cheoil, the trio takes a classical approach, so don’t expect the edgy-experimental harmonics of a Cran or Teada. The music here is always measured, with precise singing, impeccable diction and well-conceived harmonies. In a way the music here harks back to a time of less histrionic performances, before the era of Bob Dylan and his ilk, and as such it needs an effort on behalf of the casual listener to re-tune the antennae to this older more studious approach to unlock the vocal possibilities within the canon of Irish Folk song. It is an album that grows on each successive listening and is worth every effort to take to the heart.

Sean Laffey

Visit White Raven’s web site