Releases > September 2007

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Changing Trains

Own Label

Dónal Lunny (Ireland), Bruce Molsky (USA), Rens van der Zalm (The Netherlands), and Nikola Parov (Hungary) here combine their skills to create Mozaik. It isn’t easy to select a favourite from this album of songs and tunes. There is great variety in the musical styles and arrangements; some playful and experimental, others sticking to familiar modes and renditions. Track six starts with a languid 9/8 dance tune that leads into a pulsating Bulgarian paydushko horo dance; it’s a reminder of those heady days of the ’70’s when we were introduced to that strange and lovely sound that resulted from Andy’s love affair with Bulgarian and Balkan music the 1960s.

The song in the opening track is the old and mysterious, “The Ballad of Rennardine,” a brilliant opening to the mix of material that follows, along with Andy’s inimitable singing style and delivery, which I love. He writes in the notes that he ‘worked it up’ at the behest of Chris Woods who said he was more comfortable with 5/4 timing than the more conventional 4/4. “I decided to try it myself,” says Andy, “and it came out in 5/8.” It works, and is well worth listening to.

Dónal Lunny is best-known for his great musicianship and his ability to ‘knit it all together’ (Andy’s words) in rehearsal and studio. But on this CD he takes the lead in the Donegal song, “Siún Ní Dhuibhir.” I hope it means we’ll be hearing more singing from Dónal, because he really is good. Bruce Molsky is a singer of ‘old-timey’ American songs, and he, too, is a pleasure to listen to. As in Andy’s playing around with the timing in that first track, the boys work it up, moving seamlessly from ‘old-timey’ into Hungarian czardas music and rhythms, and then back again. It’s because they are such an experienced and talented lot that Mozaik make it all work so effectively and so enjoyably. Not everyone could do it so well.

Anyone who was around the music scene in 1960’s Dublin will know what Andy’s song entitled “O’Donoghue’s” is all about. He manages to squeeze in a lot of the well-known names who frequented the pub of that name, but in his written intro to the song, says, “Apologies to all those who didn’t make into the song!” I met him recently, and I have to say he fairly pulsates with energy, and still retains his great joy in the music and enthusiasm for performing.

Check out his website located at where among the delights on offer is a nine chapter account of his life in the business! Most revealing. Sit back and read it as you listen to this new CD of Mozaik’s, and while doing so, have a dram of whatever you’re having yourself. Bliss!
Aidan O’Hara


On Holy Ground

BUFO 1003 2007
The album title has a two-fold meaning. The band, from Holland, plays that well-known song but this release is the result of a series of concerts recorded in small churches and theatres in the summer of 2006.

Recorded using just eight microphones the project must have been blessed because they have produced a paradoxically simple, but complex, album that showcases some excellent talent through well-loved songs.

Opening with Mick Hanly’s masterpiece, ‘Past the Point of Rescue’, it takes a few seconds to get used to the Dutch rather than Limerick accent but they do a great job on this wonderfully written song. Next we get Corkman, Jimmy McCarthy’s ‘Ride On’ and again we have to surgically remove the Moore version and accept this lovely rendition that is softer and much more sensitive.

Not that the band confine themselves to Irish material. They cross to Scotland and who better to choose as a writer than Andy M Stewart and his rollicking ‘The Queen of All Argyll’?

For me the Ko-I-nor jewel in an album of gems is ‘The Holy Ground’. We have heard this song many times before. It’s not Irish either, it began life as a sea shanty from Swansea. Of course we’ve enjoyed the boisterous Irish versions starting with The Clancy’s but Kilshannig use Mary Black as their source and not only change the gender viewpoint but transfer the lyrics from a shanty to a sort of soulful lament. This works brilliantly and gives us a new song that will delight.

They up the pace them with ‘The Jolly Beg German’ coupled with a jig of the same name. ‘Loving Hannah’ is one of the lesser-known tracks on the album but again it demonstrates the versatility and musical talent of this group. I recall Paul Brady; I suspect they have a great album collection from which to draw out their material once covered the tack. They also give us a haunting version of the famine ballad originally in Irish but here translated to English, ‘A Story Mo Chore’ followed by another old favorite called ‘Step It out Mary’. Another offering is the poignant song of The Troubles, My Youngest Son’ from the pen of Eric Boggle. Interspersed with these wonderful songs are some excellent instrumental pieces, creating an album of fifteen tracks that will leave you wishing it had fifty five.
Nicky Rossiter


Cairde Cairdín

Own label DOB1979
14 tracks, 55 minutes

This is one of the nicest concepts, and the sweetest albums, that I have heard in a long time. Young West Limerick fiddler Diarmuid O’Brien has sat down with numerous accordion players from his neck of the woods, and recorded a duet track with each of them. There are some impressive names here: Domhnall De Barra; Donie Nolan; Mick Mulcahy; Willie Larkin. Derek Hickey represents the younger generation, and is probably the best-known outside Ireland from his time with De Dannan. Gerald Culhane and Pa Foley are of a similar vintage. Dónal Murphy is somewhere in between, and appears on two tracks, as does Dan Brouder. Diarmuid also plays three fiddle solos. Jerry McNamara and Brian McGrath provide bouzouki and piano accompaniment.

There are reels, jigs, polkas, slides and hornpipes: a broad cross-section of Munster tunes. Martin Mulvihill’s music runs throughout this album, starting with “The Humours of Glin” and ending with “The Tarbert Ferry” thirteen tracks later. In between there are several Mulvihill compositions: “The High Road to Glin”, “The Low Road to Glin”, “Mick Moloney’s Rambles”, and “The Broken Windscreen”. Another great source of tunes for Diarmuid O’Brien is the Clifford family, associated with Sliabh Luachra but living in West Limerick for a long time. “The Ballydesmond Polka” and “The Upperchurch Polkas” come from them. Out of deepest Sliabh Luachra come the influences of Padraig O’Keeffe and Jackie Daly. Diarmuid does full justice to all these famous names here.

The box and fiddle sound on “Cairde Cairdín” is bright and cheerful. Minor keys are in the minority, as it were. This is dance music pure and simple, full of lift, life and energy. The hornpipes “Off to California” and “The Navigator” are taken at a brisk trot, but pace is never an issue here. Diarmuid and Donie jog through “John Egan’s” and “The Bog Carrot Reel.” Diarmuid and Derek turn the tricky “J-P Cormier’s Jig” with a swagger.

There’s one slow track, fiddle and piano on “Sean O’Dwyer,” an old favourite played with beautiful tone and timing. The other two fiddle solos are reels, showing Diarmuid’s fine control in the rhythmic West Limerick style. Diarmuid and Dónal finish off on a mighty romp through “Terry Teehan’s Polka With a wealth of notes played and written, “Cairde Cairdín” is a very fine CD indeed. The website at has samples and more: check it out.
Alex Monaghan


The Sensational Jimi Shandrix Experience, Electric Landlady,

Brechin All Records CDBAR002, 10 tracks, duration 50.26

The album notes that come with Sandy Brechin’s new recording are value enough in themselves for the purchase of this CD. He provides a hilarious account of his life as peregrinating musician, recalcitrant university student, and imbiber of exotic brews in his wanderings at home and abroad. But there’s a serious side to it all, and the notes give useful information on the traditional tunes played. The photos, too, add to the joy of this musical romp in which Sandy has assembled a small army of fellow musicians from several Scottish groups. But I can’t resist passing on this excerpt from Sandy’s notes, because I collect odd surnames, you see. In telling his life story, he writes about his fellow musicians in The Forth Bridges Dance Band: “(The band) is under the aegis of …Alistair Gentleman (in my days in the band, we had a fiddler called Nancy Officer, which meant we had N. Officer and A. Gentleman in the band at around the same time as a film of the same name came out).”

Speaking of unusual names, ‘Shandrix’ is usually a five piece consisting of box, fiddle, drums, bass and guitar but can sometimes swell to a mighty eight piece; need one say that the name is taken from the surnames of the two Jimmys: Shand and Hendrix? This debut album from Sandy Brechin’s rockin’ electric ceilidh band features an all-star cast of Greg Borland, Pete Clark, Ronan Martin, Gavin Marwick, Chris Agnew, Eoghain Anderson, Allan Brown, John Currie, Chris Day, Aaron Jones, Colin MacFarlane, William Oke, John Sikorski, David Taylor, Jim Walker and Roy Waterston.

Most of the tunes are in strict dancing tempo, so the CD can double for pleasurable listening and also for those who like to step it out at a house céilí: there are reels, tunes for Gay Gordons, a waltz or two, a Canadian Barn Dance, and a Highland Schottische. After The St. Bernard Waltz on track three, the band goes all funky Celtic Rock, just for relief, I’m sure. Later, in the Virginia Reel, it’s all Southern Turkey-in-the-straw stuff, all great fun, and most enjoyable.

The Sensational Jimi Shandrix Experience has earned a reputation as one of the top ceilidh bands in the world. Sandy describes them as, “Playing for high-energy dances from Bangkok to Bogotá, Melbourne to Moscow.” The bands are frequent guests of St. Andrew Societies and Caledonian Societies around the globe as well as being ever popular at home.
Aidan O’Hara


Old Boots and Flying Sandals

Skellig Records SCRD 005
For Tim Dennehy, heretofore traditional ballads, original material and the poetic works of local and national muses always blended in glove-like harmony. Now his first collection of self-written songs puts him in a unique position. A singer bathed in traditional nuances blessed with the poetic eyes of a sage and the craftsmanship of a professional Tim Dennehy has let his written works escape rather than parade his works in public. One such example is “Farewell to Pripyat” recorded by Christy Moore. Here he has gathered a collection of his poetic settings of words of others and his own musings in one publication. Some of the tracks are previously released including “A Winter’s Tear” and “The Ballad of James Meere,” although these are all new recordings.

Dennehy’s rich tenor voice versed in ballad singing exudes warmth and control that is as endearing as it is commanding. The backings from musicians like Gary O’Briain, Josephine Marsh and Nollaig Casey are suitably restrained sketching yet never overtaking Dennehy’s vocal performances. This is an album devoted to the power of words to evoke emotions and their articulation through one of the finest male voices of his generation. A rich harvest of evocative words delivered with poise and authority, “Old Boots and Flying Sandals” celebrates Tim Dennehy’s position as a wordsmith and vocalist of great imagination and declamatory power.
John O’Regan


Live in Dublin

Sony/BMG 88697108762 2007
This album was recorded over a few nights at Dublin’s Point Theatre late in 2006 and it captures the atmosphere perfectly. Listening to the double CD you can feel the temperature, the excitement and the joy of not only the audience and the principal performer but also The Sessions Band. They are without doubt the living proof of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Each musician is a master and the arrangements use their talents to the best possible advantage. The album should have a very strong health warning - if you have a condition that requires you to avoid excitement, please switch off.

All the tracks here deserve the description of ‘great’ from the opening with ‘Atlantic City’ through to ‘We Shall Overcome’. Springsteen has found a new voice, a new power, and I suspect an extra audience since his Seeger Sessions, and this CD builds on it. ‘Jesse James’ is a marvellous story trackthat may not have been too well known in Dublin but he soon had them singing along. He made some Irish concession with ‘Mrs McGrath’ even if the pronunciation of her name was far from ours. The use of the marching drum was inspired. His own version of ‘How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live’ is a true showstopper as he castigates the American government response to Katerina. His own composition ‘American Land’ certainly struck chords in Dublin, as did the instrumental pieces on ‘If I Should Fall Behind’. The audience are in full flight on ‘My Oklahoma Home’ and ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ but show due respect on the quieter ‘Highway Patrolman’ that brought to mind the earlier classics like ‘The River’.

You can guess that I loved this album and that’s before I mention that it includes a DVD recording of all 23 tracks. But watch out when you buy, as I have seen it on sale in this format, as a double CD only and as a DVD only, so read the label carefully.
Nicky Rossiter


Celtic Passage

Own Label
Celtic Passage is a journey in music, poetry and prayer, and is for those in search of peace and reassurance in a world that more and more values things and material gain. Deirdre Ní Chinnéide’s webpage states what her production seeks to achieve: “Celtic Passage presents the North American debut of this passionate vocalist, embracing the energy of the wholly empowered feminine through a rich sounds cape of moving verse, raw emotion, and traditional arrangements that are at once ethereal and grounding.”

This is a recording of high production values in which the singer/composer lays out her view on things of the spirit, inspired by the language, culture and the landscape of Ireland’s west coast. Deirdre says that she “offers her music as an expression of a spiritual practice that explores the healing potential of sound with particular connection to the Spirit and shadow of Celtic consciousness.” There are many memorable compositions on this CD, but one of the most appealing instrument pieces is the hauntingly beautiful Return, composed by Mark Armstrong, and Deirdre’s skilful adaptation of the traditional Déise song, Sliabh Geal gCua, in her piece, Gratitude, is full of atmosphere and beauty. The music and words, which are in Irish and in English, are mostly Deirdre’s own compositions, with input here and there from friends who include Mary Ronane Keane, Mark Armstrong, and Trevor Knight. Mark and Trevor also produced, and had a major role in creating the musical and atmospheric ‘sound’ in the album.

The Irish/Celtic influence is occasionally fused with an eastern resonance and to achieve this they make good use of the uilleann pipes and percussion. Featured musicians include, uilleann pipers Emer Mayock and David Downes, plus Ellen Cranitch, whistle, percussionists Wayne Sheehy and Lloyd Byrne, Paul Moore, bass, and strings are led by Alan Smale. Also featured are the children of Scoil Chaomháin, Inis Oírr.

Deirdre Ní Chinneide is trained as a psychotherapist, specialising in the area of trauma and recovery and has worked throughout Ireland, Bosnia, Croatia and more recently Kosovo. She is an experienced group facilitator and travels internationally giving talks, retreats and workshops, and lives on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. Her web notes on Celtic Passage sum up what she hopes her music will achieve: “Deirdre offers her music as an expression of a spiritual practice that explores the healing potential of sound with particular connection to the Spirit and shadow of Celtic consciousness.”
Aidan O’Hara