Releases > August 2007

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With guests Arty McGlynn and Paddy McEvoy

Cló Iar Chonnachta CICD 165
14 Tracks: 50 mins.
Another excellent collection from CIC and we wouldn’t expect less which brings out a beautiful blend of flute and fiddle. It could hardly be otherwise when John McEvoy is brother to Catherine, who already has a notable flute CD of her own. The opening tracks are fine examples of musical understanding, with two instruments and two players totally together.
The reels like The Cedars of Lebanon/ John Egan’s are taken at a fair lick: so also are jigs like Happy to meet, Sorry to part. But there is no sense of anything rushed or forced. It’s delightful precision playing and very often the two instruments sound as so much as one that the only way you can tell there’s a pair is when you hear the breathing on the flute.

The best track? A near-run thing, but The Stray-Away Child Is a great jig that will repay repeated listening. Listen out, though, for The Crib of Perches. It’s a fine reel, and understandably a favourite. There’s strong and sinewy playing in the set of two polkas. For learners there’s a special value in having well-known tunes like The Mountain Top and The Maids of Mount Cisco, and showing how they can be shared. For a solo showing the characteristic vibrato of the Connacht style, John Wynne’s playing of the air Edward on Lough Erne’s shore is a model of lyrical restraint.

The accompaniment is also thoroughly musical: you often have to listen for it, but it’s there doing a fine job even if unnoticed first time out. One lesson from this CD is that the music is about people. The fine bi-lingual liner notes normally trace the lineage of the tunes, even back a hundred years and more.

Thus John Wynne has a couple of Scottish tunes, which come from his wife, Orla McAtavie, who comes from Ballybay in Co Monaghan. The primrose and blue may not be doing too well on football pitches these days, but there can be real pride in Roscommon for having produced music of this quality.
John Brophy


Michelle Lally

Tara CD 4019
13 tracks, 53 minutes
It’s a rare thing, surely, to find a subjunctive in a CD title. The author in this case is Mick Hanly, and he gets the title track in this compilation of Irish song-writers, organised by Frankie Gavin. Jimmy MacCarthy is well represented with four tracks, including Ride On. Frankie has a couple of tracks himself, and the work is, literally, a labour of love. In the credits, Michelle thanks him: “I am truly blessed to have you in my life.”

Michelle has a fine sweet voice, and the album is produced to the high professional standards we’ve come to expect of Tara. It was recorded in Eugene Kelly’s studio in Bearna, Co Galway, and Eugene plays all the instruments except for Frankie on fiddle and flute, and Tim Edey on guitar.

I wouldn’t think this is an album to be listened to in one sitting: it’s basically dreamy melody without much scleip or humour but, hey, horses for courses. It has a strong religious/ spiritual undercurrent. Mr Schubert is represented by a re-take of Ave Maria.

Everyone has times when they need consolation through music, and this CD will certainly go towards filling the void.
John Brophy



Compass Records
The buzz on Beoga has been building for a while. Sad to say, I missed their first CD, A Lovely Madness. So, hearing the new CD Mischief for the first time was a lot like coming into a huge hooley in full swing. The opening set gets you right into the spirit with the jovial Eppleborn Dance -off morphing into the title track with a mysterious morse code backdrop, it’s out of the box eclectic. Both tunes were written by one of the band’s two box players, Damian McKee.

Kick in the Box continues the fun with Luka’s Wake from Niamh Dunne before Sean Og Graham’s mazy track opens with bopping boxes and culminates in a full force philharmonic with massed strings, brass, and smouldering sax. Ryan’s Air is a sweet tune about an unhappy event that befell Graham’s guitar on a certain low-cost airline that bursts into Beoga on Ice, a happier event in Austria.

The songs are the province of Niamh Dunne, who is a relative newcomer to the band who can also make the fiddle sing. Factory Girl gets a jaunty makeover from a Rita Connolly version that I recall and there’s a respectful renewal of Dirty Work, the old Steely Dan standard. Please Don’t Talk about me When I’m Gone was popular back when Michael Coleman was still recording in New York. It has some pedigree for a pop song having been recorded by, among others, Louis Armstrong, Arlo Guthrie and Ella Fitzgerald. On A Delicate Thing, from the pen of Johnny Duhan, the arrangement has tasteful echoes of Dolores Keane’s version of The Island. (Indeed Dunne’s stirring and vigorous vocals manage to cover the spectrum from Dolores Keane to Mary Coughlan on this album.)

The contending accordions of Graham & McKee are to the fore especially on Trolleyed, Micky The Pipes, and Cu Chullain’s Despair. The band is rounded out by bodhrán player, Eamon Murray and keyboardist, Liam Bradley. Jazzy Wilbur emerged from the heads of Murray and Graham and it’s paired with The Narrowback at Mick McAuley’s suggestion, a man who knows a thing or two about making great sets.

Another Journey closes the album. Composed by Graham, it owes some debt to Bill Whelan’s Seville Suite, but it’s a lovely piece. Mischief is a journey juiced with Joie de Vivre, a jambalaya of sounds, a tasty stew of various elements deliciously blended. It’s a concoction that could fly off in a million disparate directions but not when it’s anchored by superb musicians with educated ears.

It’s a dream of an album, you know, the one where you catch a bus to Bundoran and get off in Buenos Aires where the Prague Philharmonic greets you. Their musical approach is fresh enough to merit a new term but until something better comes along, let’s call it Beoga-Woogie?
Tom Clancy


Sráid Eoin Shuffle

Own Label AG001 12 tracks, 40 minutes
This highly respected young fluter and fiddler from Dingle has recorded with Fiddlesticks, but her debut solo CD is the first chance to appreciate all her talents. The first thing that struck me was Aoife’s gorgeous flute timbre. There’s a beautiful tone on the slow air “Caoineadh Uí Neill”, and this carries over to the faster flute tunes. As you might expect from a Kerry lass, there are more jigs and slides here than reels: “The Slatted House, Port Mhaurice Quinn, Chapel Street, John Brady’s Number 9, Carraigbán “, many unfamiliar names with fine tunes behind them. There are reels too, of course, starting with Charlie Lennon’s “Parcel of Land” and including compositions by Dermot Lernihan, the late Phil Murphy, and Martin Power who wrote “Aoife’s Welcome” for the new flute tutor at University College Cork.

On the fiddle, Aoife drives powerfully into reels and jigs alike. The “Kings of Kerry” set is a good example, with the added twist of setting Sharon Shannon’s slide alongside the very similar reel “Wing Commander, Donald MacKenzie”. Aoife also sings two songs on “Sráid Eoin Shuffle”: “The Bay of Biscay” with piano provided by Ciarán Coughlan of North Cregg, and “Lios Bhaile Dháith” unaccompanied, both very tuneful with minimal ornamentation in a soft sweet voice. The flute lifts Aoife’s music from enjoyable to exceptional: it’s the focus of most of the twelve tracks here, and when it joins her fiddle on “John Joe Moroney’s” you instantly hear who’s boss. The title track finishes this CD in fine Kerry fashion, three old jigs played flawlessly on solo flute with subtle piano backing. In fact, there’s great accompaniment from several musicians on this recording, but you’d hardly know they were there: they blend in perfectly.

More information on Aoife Granville and “Sráid Eoin Shuffle” is available from, and has a couple of samples.
Alex Monaghan


Traditional Gaelic Choir

11 Tracks, Duration: 50.36
Siansaí, the title of this new CD, is the Gaelic word for melodies; and what tuneful choices the Co. Donegal choral group Cór Thaobh a’ Leithid present for our pleasure. Many of the songs will be familiar to any student of Gaelic who spent happy summers at Coláistí Gaeilge in places like Rann na Feirste, Cloch Cheann Fhaolaidh, and Gleann Cholm Cille. For them and many others, the songs will stir the memory with nostalgic recall. The choir is made up of traditional singers from the northwest of Donegal, an area steeped in the Gaelic singing tradition. Each choir member is a traditional sean nós singer in his or her own right.

There is an unpretentious homespun appeal to their part-singing, and here and there the harmonies, while not exactly what one expects to hear in the singing of conventional choral groups, in the case of Cór Thaobh a’ Leithid, it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the whole affair. The effect this sound produces is particularly well exemplified in the song, Éirigh suas, a stóirín, a story of an arranged marriage where the young women ends up with a man she doesn’t love while she is still in love with another.

There are eleven songs altogether, five of them sung with accompaniment from uilleann pipes, fiddle, flute and accordion. The first number on the CD is one of the great Ulster Gaelic love songs, Úrchnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte, by the Oirialla poet, Peadar Ó Doirnín (c.1684-1769). M’Uilleagán Dubh Ó is another love song of Peadar’s the group sings on Siansaí. Perhaps Áirdí Cuain is one of the most noted Ulster songs; in the detailed notes, complete with words and translations, we are told that it was written by Seán Mac Ambróis in the mid-1800s. Seán was descended from Scots Presbyterians who settled in the Glens of Antrim, and he and his ancestors are listed on the McCambridge tombstone in the Glens.

Other songs that brought back happy memories from my own childhood days spent among my relations in Gaoth Dobhair and Gort a’ Choirce include, Táim Breoite go Leor, Doimnic Ó Dónaill (a variant of Fill, fill, a Rúin Ó) and Tá mé mo shuí. I was pleased to see that Cór Thaobh a’ Leithid have included a Scottish Gaelic song, Teangaidh na nGael (The Language of the Gael), which was ‘borrowed’, the notes tell us, from fellow Scots Gaels. Murdo MacFarlane from the Isle Lewis, wrote the original, and the Irish language version is by Neilí Nic Giolla Bhríde. The accompanists are Ciarán Ó Maonaigh (fiddle) and Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde (uilleann pipes, accordion, and flute) who also directed the choir. Sadly, Doimnic died before the recording was released. Siansaí is dedicated to his memory.
Aidan O’Hara


Cloudy Day Navigation

Compass Records
When I met with two of the group, Gráda, a couple of years ago, I suggested that perhaps the completion of their second CD had to have been Grádafying experience for them, and no doubt bringing themselves and their fans a great deal of Grádafication. I am deeply grateful to them for letting me live and not throttling me for making such an awful play on their name. But now they have a new CD, Cloudy Day Navigation, that comes with a delightful bonus offering, a DVD: Live in Dublin, filmed at the Temple Bar Music Centre in August 2006.

Gráda are based in Dublin and Galway, where they started out in 2001. The group draws from a wide range of influences, and have worked with Dave Hingerty (ex Frames drummer, now working a lot with Josh Ritter), Vyviene Long (cellist with Damien Rice), and bass player, Trevor Hutchinson (Lúnasa, Sharon Shannon, The Waterboys) who is the CD’s producer, all of them featured guests on the recording. Other guests are, Alison Brown, Bill Blackmore, Tola Custy, Wiremu Namana and Rasmus Skovmand.

While their sound is firmly rooted in Irish traditional music, it is at the same time a decidedly modern one, and their leading vocalist, Nicola Joyce, from Headford, Co. Galway, contributes a lot to making it so. Nicola also plays bodhrán and fiddle. When I first met the group’s flute player, Alan Doherty, and guitarist, Gerry Paul, three years ago, I recall noting their youthful enthusiasm and genuine love the music business. But I also noted that they are realistic about what’s involved, having been ‘round the block’ a few times, so to speak, and learned a thing or two along the way about the hard facts of gigging and touring. But they they’re on a bit of a ‘high’ at the time, having just signed up to Compass Records, which is based in Nashville.

Andrew Laking (double bass, guitar and vocals), and Colin Farrell (fiddle and whistle) are in top form on this recording, which consists of songs and instrumental music old and new, and includes material drawn from Susanne Vega (The Queen & the Soldier), Sony Condell (Cooler at the Edge), Leslie Harris (The Torrid Romance), and Emily Smith (Crossing the Tay with a Blind Man & his Dog). And there are new songs and tunes by Gráda themselves, as well as a few traditional numbers. A lot of thought and effort has gone into this Compass production of Gráda’s, and it is a classy venture musically and in its presentation.
Aidan O’Hara


A New Journey

Manhattan Records
Take the best of female singers from the Celtic tradition. Add heroic and intriguing arrangements. Mix in top class musicians. Place it on the CD player. Turn up the volume and lower the lights. Stand well back and be prepared for an experience. Celtic Woman is not simply an album of good music and song. It is also a phenomenon that is probably the vocal equivalent of Riverdance.

These are not simple folk songs, although some started out as such. From the opening with ‘The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun’ with all six ladies involved the listener is surrounded by sound and immersed in the performance. Each note and beat of a drum is measured and inserted to give the listener a magical experience.

Chloe Agnew, takes centre stage on ‘The Prayer’ a less spirited track that ideally suits her sweet vocals. An interesting and unusual track on offer is ‘Over the Rainbow’. Yes, it is the Judy Garland song from that movie and the song previously given new life by the late Eva Cassidy. Mairéad of the flying feet and intricate fiddling goes centre stage for ‘Granualle’s Dance’. After Chloe’s prayer we get Lisa with ‘The Blessing’ another beautiful song very well sung. ‘Dulaman’ is one of the better-known tracks on offer and features Meav on vocals.
It is fascinating to listen to the arrangements given to well known tracks and to hear these angelic voices breath new life into the songs. This happens with ‘Beyond the Sea’ and ‘The Last Rose of Summer’.

One of my favourites has to be ‘Caledonia’ a song that is outstanding regardless of the singer but give it to Lisa and Celtic Woman and you get a new classic. Another classic given new life, not that it needs it, is ‘Scarborough Fair’ with the wonderful voice of Hayley. The inclusion of Brendan Graham’s ‘The Voice’ is a natural on an album that celebrates that singular instrument but it also showcases the great Celtic feel of this CD with the powering percussion of Nicky Bailey. The album and the experience closes with ‘Mo Gile Mear’ and after this spirited rendition you will ready for a cool drink and a short rest before playing it all over again.
Nicky Rossiter


The Seventh Veil

Own Label TK2006
11 tracks, 42 minutes
There’s a vividness and depth to this recording which almost makes me believe I can smell the rosin and touch the varnish on Theresa Kavanagh’s fiddle. The relaxed pace and warm tone of “The Seventh Veil” are almost dreamy, sultry, like a summer evening session, except you’d never get such a discreet bodhrán in real life.

Manus Lunny is only one of the star guests here: Donald Shaw, Ewen Vernal, Gerry O’Connor, Mike McGoldrick and James McIntosh have all contributed to this young Donegal fiddler’s debut. Why? Because she’s extremely good. She plays with uncanny maturity, plus the enviable technique of today’s young musicians, and she writes great tunes: “Baltic Nights, The Dog Ate the Bird, Sarah’s Fancy”, there are eight of Theresa’s own melodies here, all more than respectable. The title tune is one of hers, a leaping twisting reel more akin to Paddy Fahy than John Doherty, slipping easily into “The Belles of Tipperary”. On “The Sligo Maid” and “Maeve’s Reel”

Theresa is joined by banjo and flute but still holds her own over a pumping rhythm section. “Maggie Dan’s” and “Swinging on the Gate” trot along nicely with modern accompaniment, emulating Sean Smyth or Eileen Ivers. “The Broken Pledge” set sees Theresa completely exposed, a true solo test which she passes with distinction.

So much for the reels, but there’s plenty more to be unveiled on this CD. Two sets of jigs, a waltz, hornpipes, barndances and a slow air, to be precise. “Rosemary Lane” and “Queen of the Fair” both have excellent pedigrees, as Theresa’s thorough sleevenotes point out. “Miss Brown’s Fancy” is the only tune which doesn’t get any background info here: it’s well known under several names, and may have been composed by Nathaniel Gow. “Rachel’s Waltz” is a gentle and poignant tune, another of Theresa’s own. “Bridget of Knock” and “Kitty’s Wedding” bounce along with a bit more light and shade than the usual Irish hornpipes. “Sliabh Na mBán” is a second true solo triumph, a slow air in a very unadorned style. The barndances are a definite highlight, perfectly paced and treated with just the right touch of frivolity. In short, it’s all good!

If you need more information, there’s a rather elaborate website at and some sample tracks located located at theresakavanagh, so no excuse for not hearing this most impressive debut album.
Alex Monaghan



Gnatbite Records
When three exceptionally talented musicians like Tim Edey, Brendan Power, and Lucy Randall get together, one is sure of an outstanding display of virtuosity and flair. Tim, a box player and guitarist, and Brendan, a harmonica player, are well-known for their performances with top Irish musicians and bands; and Lucy, a rock drummer who recently turned traditional, is fast gaining a reputation for her skilful playing of the bodhrán. It isn’t hard to see why they gave their new CD the title ‘Farrago’: the word means a medley of things, a mixture, and that is just what they’re presenting us with in this remarkable recording.

For those whose musical tastes are confined to traditional music, and particularly those who associate Tim and Brendan solely with Irish trad, this album will be light years away from their experience. They and Lucy grab a traditional reel or jig, present it briefly in a fairly familiar form, then toss it around, happily kibitzing with it, and jazzing it up with syncopation and rhythm. The titles of the tunes themselves tell you right away what their aiming at: Trad ‘n’ Blues, Jazz Trad, Jig Jazz, The Reel Blues Reel, and the Dawning of the Day Samba, the latter a delightful re-rendering of the air to which Patrick Kavanagh’s poem, On Raglan Road, is set. While the boys strut their stuff on box and harmonica, Lucy shows her style and skill on an Italian instrument called the cajon, a sort percussion box of Afro-Peruvian origin.
Every track has its own unique and distinctive appeal, but in the twelve-minute piece they call Odyssey, the trio spar and joust joyfully all the way in their musical wanderings, and Brendan seems unable to contain himself towards the end as he bursts in song with Sleepy John Estes’s Kidman Blues. Lucy has a solo bodhrán track all to herself that sends out the message to all and sundry, ‘Beat that, lads!’

Tim was born in Whitstable, Kent to Irish/Welsh parents, and began playing the piano at the age of four, moving on to the accordion at the age of six! Whistle, Trumpet and Bodhrán followed. Brendan is a New Zealander of Irish descent, and has played with as diverse a set of groups and musicians as one can imagine: on the Irish scene, they include, Altan, Arty McGlynn & Nollaig Casey, Arcadie, and Paul Brady; elsewhere, pop artists Sting, Desree, Van Morrison, Mel C, Paul Young and Shirley Bassey, classical guitarist John Williams, and flautist, James Galway. Lucy is from the south of England, and has worked with The Michael McGoldrick Band, James O’Grady and Alan Prosser, Colette O’Leary and many others. This new Tim Edey Band CD is a celebration of music and virtuosity, providing joy and pleasure unalloyed from start to finish.
Aidan O’Hara


Over the Hills

Red House Records
Through the ten songs on the album she draws us into her life and her history in a way that few singer songwriters can. Listening to the songs you feel as if she is chatting with you on the telephone and sharing all but with a beautiful musical backing. ‘Amelia’ is an outstanding song that strips away all the gloss to present us with a sad but somehow re-affirming view of life. Like the best of writers she knows how to take another person’s work and re-interpret it without damaging the original but still giving us a new song. Having thought that only Cash could do ‘Ring of Fire’ I was pleasantly surprised by this lighter and sweeter version of an iconic song.

‘Swimming Song’ is another case in point although the track is less well known by another artiste; it sounds like it was written for Kaplansky. Her co-written title track is a beautiful slow song that evokes a visualisation of her words. The backing vocals by another lady with a similar view and talent, Eliza Gilkyson, add immensely to the arrangement. Her version of Ian Tyson’s ‘Someday Soon’ is another triumph of interpretation. Lucy closes a marvellous album with a beautiful self penned song, co -written with Richard Litvin, called ‘The Gift’. From the notes supplied it appears that this tale of a man coming to Canada with a trade with little outlet but a voice to “give him wings” refers to her grandfather and later her father. Standing alone it is a gem, knowing it is biographical it has added poignancy.
Nicky Rossiter


Plying My Trade

Greentrax CDTRAX 312 2007
Here is a man I have reviewed a number of times, backing Eric Bogle, writing The Eureka Suite and as a member of Colcannon, also as a live performer in pub in south Wexford with said Mr Bogle.

It is joy to now have an album of the man himself to enjoy. The Glaswegian ‘exile’ to Australia opens with his wonderful tribute to the adopted land called ‘Spirit of the Land’, which was part of the Eureka Suite. He follows this with one of his best compositions and renditions. ‘The Ballad of Charles Devenport’ is a beautiful biography set to sweet music and as a barb in the tail to draw your tears. I suppose ‘Journeyman’ is a sort of title track to an album of this name. Co-written with Pete Titchener it recalls a time of apprentices and journeymen when people learned their trade at the feet and hands of experts rather than from books, courses and degrees. ‘The Border’ is a tale of longing for a place that afflicts anyone who does not live where they were born. An unusual subject for a song is ‘Sisters’ taking as it does the tale of conjoined twins. ‘Thunder On’ reminds us of the need to write and perform songs that question the status quo. The album is a heady mixture of personal and more universal songs but all arrest our attention up to and including number twelve as Munro gives his rendition of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ This is a great addition to the Scottish and Australian, indeed world, folk music collection.
Nicky Rossiter


DCD0306 2007
This album is a tour de force of the best in Irish music from the opening bars of ‘The Wandering Minstrel’ with what sounds like mummers sticks clashing right through to the seventeenth track ‘The King of the Fairies’. ‘Arthur McBride’ is as ever a marvellous tale well told in song. We can visualise the lads on the strand and the violent repercussions. Colm O’Brien’s voice is ideally suited to the lyrics and the backing is just right. Seldom do we hear our well-known tracks tackled so well as Rud Eile do on ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’. They treat us to an almost theatrical performance with three singers taking the narrator and participants’ parts.

Another evocative offering here is Finbar Furey’s, ‘Lonesome Boatman’. Again we feel we are experiencing that wide sea and solitude. Keeping a watery theme we get to cross the Liffey with ‘The Ferryman’. They also give us a fantastic version of ‘Si Beag, Si Mor’ with flute, guitar, fiddle, low whistle and harp, that would gladden the heart of the blind harper were he alive to hear it.

They move closer in time but further away in geography for the heart rending ‘Springhill Mining Disaster’ that reminds us that ecology is not the only cost of fossil fuel. Other tracks of note on offer include ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’, once very popular but not often heard in recent years and the haunting ‘Cathain’ with the bodhran getting a well deserved outing at front of stage. This is an album that will delight lovers of good traditional music and any newcomer hearing the music will become an avid listener.
Nicky Rossiter