Releases > May 2007

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Má Bhíonn tú Lion, Bí Liom - New and Traditional Songs from Conamara

Vertical Records, VERTCD080 14 tracks, duration 1.00.41

There’s no doubt about it but that Róisín Elsafty’s Irish and Egyptian heritage are truly reflected in some of her songs in her new CD, Má Bhíonn tú Liom, Bí Liom, New and Traditional Songs from Conamara. In fact, when she sings Alí-Díleachtín gan bhrí, it’s remarkable how the vowel sounds of Arabic and Gaelic blend so well together. Indeed, the fusion of the two languages in Róisín’s singing comes across seamlessly and easily, almost as one tongue. By the way, it will come as no surprise to learn that that song blames Bush and Blair for the deaths of thousands in Iraq, and results in the senseless creation of orphans – Dílleachtín gan bhrí.

Róisín Elsafty is a sean-nós singer from Connemara, and all but one of her songs, John Spillane’s, Poor Weary Wanderer are in Gaelic. Her biggest musical influence is her mother, the singer Treasa Ní Cheannabháin, whose creative muse in words and music appear here and there on the CD. Róisín won the premier award for traditional singing at the Oireachtas in 2002, and has performed at the Open House Festival in Belfast and at Celtic Connections in Glasgow. Through their singing and teaching, Róisín and her mother have been to the forefront in developing sean-nós singing among a new generation in Connemara.

The CD cover tells us that among those featuring on the album are Dónal Lunny, Máírtín O’Connor and Ronan Browne. Ronan is a well-known uilleann piper, but I was surprised to see in the credits that while he plays a number of instruments, including the Shytte Pipe, there are no uilleann pipes. And there can’t be many sean nós singers who can boast that they have had the pleasure of being accompanied by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra; they are heard on track 14, Coinleach Glas an Fhómhair.

There is great variety of song and instrumental arrangements on this CD, and Róisín performs at her best throughout. The words and background info of all the songs are provided in the CD notes. The songs range from the really serious anti-Bush song to one called, Pota mór Fataí (a big pot of spuds)! It’s about a toddler who’s fond of potatoes and who is promised a small car made from a lobster pot with wheels. Other songs include, the lullaby, Seoithín Seo, Casadh a’ tSúgáin, Róisín Dubh, and A Mhuire na nGrást.

Aidan O’Hara

Visit Róisín Elsafty’s web site

Visit Vertical Records web site



Cló Iar-Chonnachta, CICD164 14 tracks, 49 minutes

This is a lovely album of whistle tunes delivered by one of the sweetest players on the scene. Brian Hughes’ first album “Whistlestop “ was a revelation: his second is a confirmation. Sticking pretty much to the old Generation whistles in D and C, Brian effortlessly handles a wide range of Irish dance music from polkas to waltzes with a gorgeous tone and crisp fingerwork. From “Rosemary Lane” to “The Eel in the Sink “, Brian’s jigs and reels sparkle like summer raindrops. “Alexander’s Hornpipe “is one of three at a bright jaunty pace, showing this man’s control and ability to improvise. “The Piper’s Waltz “ flows smoothly into “The Table-Top Tumble “, a charming Hughes composition. Trios of slides and polkas trip off Brian’s tongue and fingers: “O’Keeffe’s, Cuz Teehan’s, O’Connell’s, O’Leary’s “, all grand old names. “Tuohy’s Reel “ and “Man of Aran “ are slowed down to a gentle stroll á la Lúnasa.

Nollaig Casey and Brendan O’Regan add fiddle, mandolin and bouzouki to Brian’s whistle on a few tracks. There’s also percussion and upright bass, and varied accompaniment from Garry O’Briain throughout. The two slow airs on “Whirlwind “ don’t tempt Brian onto low whistles, but he does switch to a wooden Seery high D which gives a fuller tone in the low octave. “De Bharr Na gCnoc “ is rarely heard, a simple song melody played straight and pure here. “Noirín Ní Ríain’s “ comes from the well-known singer’s repertoire, another unusual air. The wooden whistle is also featured on the final set of reels: “Rip the Calico, Dispute at the Crossroads “, and “Martin Wynne’s “. And there you have it, a nicely rounded recording by an exceptional whistle player, well produced and packaged, with interesting notes and artwork.

Alex Monaghan

Visit Cló Iar-Chonnachta web site


Pump The Box

Own Label, 15 trks, due 43.00

“Sing a song, hum a tune, do a dance, or leave the room,” is a saying in Newfoundland when the party (or ‘time’ or ‘kitchen racket’) is getting under way. It means that the floor is open to anyone who wants to perform, and those words are meant as encouragement to all present to do something to contribute to the occasion. And reflecting Newfoundland’s seafaring culture, you’ll hear the line, “He’s not much of a hand to sing but he’s a great hand with his feet.” It isn’t a party at all there unless someone ‘does a few scuffs’ and when dance music is played – on ‘the box’ inevitably - it’s for dancing to.

Tony O’Leary is a resident of Western Bay, Newfoundland and he is very much in the mould of the typical musician/ performer and of the Irish/ Newfoundland music style of playing on the box. His love of music started at a young age when he began playing the accordion and as he got older he picked up the mandola, mandolin and guitar. Tony tells us, “The new CD, Pump the Box, is dedicated to all the transient workers both past and present who travelled many miles to earn a living for their families. It just ain’t easy.”

Featured on the CD are some of east coast Canada’s top musicians, Ian Chipman, Jerry Strong, Mike Doyle, Glen Hiscock and Rob Brown. Rob plays the uilleann pipes, and the CD notes have this very special piece of information: “The pipes on this CD were made by Neil O’Grady of Carbonear, Newfoundland. It marks the first time that locally-made Irish pipes have appeared on a local Newfoundland CD.” This is indeed a momentous event, because when I lived in the province in the seventies, the pipes were not seen or heard except on the rare occasion when visiting pipers came to the island. I remember well the impact piper Eamonn Curran made when he was guest of the Irish Week committee in 1978. He was there with Reel Union who included Dolores Keane, John Faulkner, Jackie Daly, and Jackie Small.

The mix of material on the CD reflects very well the trad music taste of Newfoundlanders and consists of familiar Irish songs and dance tunes, and locally composed numbers. Tony has written two of the songs himself, and a couple of dance tunes, as well. There is no region in North America that is so rich in traditional music, song, and dance than that of Newfoundland and Labrador (the official name of the province). The survival of a strong folk tradition can be attributed to the scattered settlement pattern along the island’s 6,000 miles of coastline, and the fact that people have lived there for upwards of four hundred years relatively isolated from the outside world. Tony’s CD is proof that the tradition is alive and well.

Aidan O’Hara

Visit Tony O’Leary’s web site


Songs & Tunes

Halshaw Music, HM604 2005

This duo consists of Tony Sullivan and Clare Allen. Tony also known as Sully is an all-Ireland banjo champion and writer, composer and expert on all things banjo. Clare adds her top class guitar work and both contribute vocals. The tracks are many and varied combining Irish, English and American Folk with some new work. They open looking at ‘Cheshire Life’, where Sully has called home for over two decades.

Then they skip across the sea to bring us on a tour around ‘Cushendall’. We then get ‘Fintan’s Reel’ and for the banjo boys and girls out there the insert includes notation, as do all the instrumentals so you can play along. We are then invited into ‘The Pubs of England’ a sort of social document for future generations of what real pubs were like. He later drops into ‘The Pubs of Ireland’, which have a few subtle differences. After all that ould drink what better than a walk in ‘The Lancashire Hills’ with a vocal tour guide. ‘Paddy In The Smoke’ is an interesting track. It is “a song about an album” of that name. We get a double helping of ‘All Over Ireland’. First we get the reel and later it appears as a song. ‘Friday Night’ will remind many listeners of many a Friday, Saturday and other night on the town -”meeting all the crowd, the band is too loud.” The duo give us ‘Paddy’s Day’ offered as one of the very few songs available about the day when more Irish songs are sung in more accents than any other.

This is a lovely album of songs, most of which will be new to those not frequenting the circuit travelled by this duo. ‘Fintan’s Reel’ re-appears using the band to close proceedings in style.

Nicky Rossiter

Visit Halshaw Music web site


Land of Sunshine - Irish Traditional Music on the Melodeon and Button Accordian

Own Label, 12 tracks

Box player, Dan Possumato from Anchorage, Alaska, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on St Patrick’s Day, and as a youngster he was familiar with the celebration of popular Irish culture and traditions in his home place. “I clearly recollect my earliest birthday parties that featured harps and shamrocks on the cakes,” he says, “going with my parents to watch the big parades downtown, and of course the Irish music that always filled the air.” At one of those parades he heard his first live céilí band that was playing on a flat bed truck, and from that moment he was hooked on Irish music. He has been a regular visitor to fleadhanna ceoil in Ireland, and he spends time with his musician friends in Galway and Clare.

One of the first recordings he bought was an LP that featured fiddler, Seamus Creagh and box player, Jackie Daly. He played it over and over again, and then went out and bought his first melodeon. He had one lesson from Terry Winch who now lives in Washington, DC, and after that he was on his own. Well, he has learned well, and what we have here on his new CD, Land of Sunshine, is an accomplished and unpretentious presentation of traditional tunes, a few original numbers and a couple of tunes of his own composing. There are two songs by Laura Mulcahy, and musicians who play on individual tracks are, Quentin Cooper, banjo, guitar, and bouzouki, sound engineer and instrument maker, Jerry Mulvihill, banjo, and Alan Wallace, guitar.

Dan’s steady and easy playing style reminds one of the older traditional players once heard in house céilís of an former era and all the more appealing for it. The title track, Land of Sunshine, is a reel composed by Martin Mulhaire, and it’s followed by Miss Lyon’s Fancy which he heard from the playing of Mary Custy. Two charming little waltzes of his own, Charlotte’s Waltz and Yana’s Waltz, were inspired by his friendship with “two darling little girls who stole my heart” and who live in Anchorage.

Laura Mulcahy sings The Lakes of Pontchartrain, a song Dan says believes may have been written by an Irish veteran of the Confederacy after the U.S. Civil War, and Blackwater’s Side. Coincidentally, I collected variants of these two songs from the late great singer, Mrs Caroline Brennnan of Ship Cove, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. This is a most enjoyable collection of dance music and song by Dan Possumato and his friends, and I am delighted to recommend it to the lover of box playing and for an honest rendition of the old tunes.

Aidan O’Hara

Visit Dan Possumato’s web site



No Publisher, No ISBN, Just £17 from website

Following on from their first tune book, Lúnasa have covered all the music on their second three recordings with Nótaí: eighty-something tunes, a few in multiple keys, and a lot of monochrome photos. Cillian Vallely is responsible for the transcriptions, with chords from Hutchinson and Meehan. The tunes are in track order, but the albums are in reverse order: Sé, then The Kinnitty Sessions, and finally Redwood. There are indices by name and type, and notes on every tune. The boys seem to have thought of everything, and the finished article is very attractive.

Compared with their first collection of tunes, Nótaí is lighter on the reels (40%) and heavier on the eclecticism, which probably comes of touring for over a decade. With 25% jigs, 10% slides and polkas, and another 10% Breton tunes, that doesn’t leave much space for anything else. There are only two Irish slow airs, A Stór Mo Chroí and The Wounded Hussar. Ten tunes are by the band, another twenty or so are associated with modern composers, and the rest are broadly traditional.

One striking fact about this book was the small number of truly classic tunes. This is really a compliment to Lúnasa: they can take a lesser tune and turn it into a masterpiece. Padraig O’Keefe’s, Michael McDermott’s, Above in the Garret or The Stolen Purse to pick a few: non of these are all-time greats, none seem to have been adopted by the session crows, yet Lúnasa’s recordings are uniformly outstanding. There are classics here alright: Cregg’s Pipes, Sporting Paddy, The Trip to Windsor, West Kerry Polka, plus contemporary gems such as Two-Fifty to Vigo and Punch in the Dark, but they’re scattered among less familiar names. Maybe there’s more to learn from Nótaí, and more to Lúnasa, than just a selection of great tunes.

Alex Monaghan

Visit Lúnasa’s web site