Releases > October 2007

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Sharon Shannon, Mike McGoldrick, Dezi Donnelly and Jim Murray

Daisy Discs, DLCD 023 10 Tracks, 35 minutes, 16 secs
Take four thirty somethings, each fully ground in the Irish tradition, each a major stylist in their own right, add a big dollop of fun during the recording and sit back and watch as the magic unfolds. Oh and rather than write all the names out in full, I’ll just call them Renegade, if that’s all right by you?

I can tell you that this quartet can certainly cut the mustard having seen their first live gig in Killarney a couple of years ago, they were the big hit of the Gathering Festival then, a tour of Australia resulted in a cult album which went mainstream and now this offering.
And this is something entirely modern, both in its conception and gestation. The sleeve notes (a large square of paper actually) takes us through how the album saw the light of day. We learn about recording loops and samples in three different locations, waiting for Dezi Donnelly’s hand to heal (which gave Sharon time to write a couple of tunes) and then bringing in the engineers to her own Poets Corner Studio in Galway to get things sorted.
The core of the band are augmented with a host of other players, just too many to mention, but they play their parts to a T throughout the album. We hear elements from the other bands that the lads play in, Capercaillie, Mike Mc Goldrick’s Fused adventures and Shannon’s own big band have seeped in by osmosis, so what we are given is a tour around the cutting edge of Celtic music from Ireland, lots of repeated phrases, maddeningly familiar tunes (even the new ones) set to drum beats and tight playing with the fiddle and flute adding a dark core to the eternally light and cheerful accordion of Shannon.

For a slower number there’s a waltz ”Sally May Nia”, which gradually builds into something bigger bolder and sassy (a portent for future for little Sally May? Surely not?). There are songs too, Sharon’s Dog Gaffo gets the opening lines on Got Hold on Me, which becomes an Afro Caribbean ballad with washes of urban bangra, the singers are 2 play and Roachie and this could be the crossover hit of the album, I can see the MTV video already!

The real surprises are two vocal tracks, one each from Mike McGoldrick and Jim Murray. McGoldrick champions the wonderful Cork based singer songwriter, Ger Wolfe with a typically bucolic little song full of the optimism of early summer. Murray tackles and does a damn fine job of Ewan McColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” probably the finest love song of the twentieth century and makes sure another generation will warm to the number, (which hits the big 50 this year). Murray is in good company with that choice of song as it’s been covered by Johnny Cash and Roberta Flack in the Clint Eastwood Movie “Play Misty For Me”.

Which reminds me, Renegade are good at adding a new twist to the tried and tested, I mean they even open with the Charlie Lennon’s the Road to Cashel, which turns into the Maid Behind the Bar, you can’t get more old school than that. As a showcase for their individual talents their collaborations and the direction they have pushed live Irish music, this is nothing short of a gold plated calling card.
Sean Laffey


Gambler’s Ballet

9 Tracks 40 minutes Kíla Records
I’ve been watching Kíla for a few years now, way back when we were getting this magazine together, I did one of my first interviews with Rosa Ó Snodaigh where we tested a Hathway bouzouki, when you see what the musicians can do up close you get a hankering to watch them progress. Well progress they surely have on this album, they are together now for many years having first formed at school before their leaving certs.

This then is no jig n reel mosh at the debs ball, there’s serious mileage and thought gone into the making of this CD. Track one, Laeth Ina Dhiabdh A Hocht, rounds itself off with a stirring familiar melody, Pachebel’s Canon (written in 1680). Now you might think this would set the tone for the rest of the album, sort of World fusion meets Hibernian Rhapsody, not a bit, the next track Electric Landlady, is a flute ramble over a sparse guitar riff and a constant tripling bodhrán beat, it’s all so modern, yet you can hear the shape of traditional music throughout its four and a half minutes. And so the variation, imagination and tempo gather pace through the album.

You want jazz with uilleann pipes, certainly sir that’s number 8 on the menu. Or would madam like a spicy tajine, could we suggest The Belly Dance Tune? Oh and would you mind if it gets a little Andalusian towards the close?

Kila have cut a big furrow in Ireland for world music, and on this CD they bring in a basket load of exotic fruit from those two decades of multi-cultural tillage, and as ever they don’t compromise on the lyrics, always in Irish, they know their onions, and they know their roots. As they say on the interweb IMHO ‘tiz the best they’ve done so far.
Seán Laffey


Christy McNamara, accordion

Own label: CMCD 001 (Spancil Hill Music)
17 tracks; 54.50
Christy could hardly avoid being a musician: both his father and his uncle played with the Tulla Ceilí Band. Martin Hayes is a cousin of his. He is part of the established church that stretches from Crusheen, Co. Clare to the Fiddler’s Elbow in Kentish Town. It gets to Milwaukee and San Francisco and other places also, but they’re all called home. As Christy says himself, life changes, but the music gets handed on like a flame.

Some tunes are forgotten, but others get added, like the “Tae Pot Wood Waltz” and the “Maid’s Lake reel,” which are in this collection. Coming from such a background, it’s small wonder that the guest musicians are of fine pedigree. There’s Dennis Cahill on zouk, guitar and mandolin, Eamon Cotter on concert flutes that he made himself, and fiddlers three: Liam Lewis, Martin Hayes and Peter O’Loughlin (whose instrument is also of his own making). Peter also made the viola that Martin plays.

It is noticeable how much the sound of the accordion has changed over a couple of generations, the modern beast is far more light and mellow and the tunes are taken at a slower speed, but with a confident steadiness. It is like an after-hours session. Christy plays two different Paolo Sopranis, a Briggs and a Suttner concertina.

There is plenty of classic material, like “My love is in America” and the two Copperplates, and the confidence to get really inside the music. As a collection, this is a great example of how life changes but music lives on. I’ve often heard it said that the best way to learn traditional music is to be born into it. Here’s elegant proof.
John Brophy



Reed Only

Own label BTCD01 15 tracks, 52 minutes

If there is such an area as hardcore traditional music, this is it. The uilleann pipes and the anglo concertina are two instruments, which have never really moved outside traditional music, and although there are enormous mechanical and also historical differences between them, they blend and complement each other very successfully.

The pipes and concertina combination is rarely recorded: Tommy Keane and Jaqueline McCarthy’s album springs to mind, and some early records from The Chieftains, but there aren’t too many others. “Reed Only” is up there with the best of them: “Aggie White’s Reel” kicks off a splendid opening set, followed by a grand old pair of jigs in “The Ballinacourty” and “Snug in a Blanket”. The quality doesn’t falter for the full fifteen tracks, finishing with a trio of unusual reels including “Our House at Home”. In between, a couple of hornpipes vie with the reels and jigs, and Brian delivers two sweet solo slow airs: “Travelling Through Blarney” and “The Bright Lady”.

The duet playing here is glorious, neither man holding back but not a jarring note. Tim Collins returns cran for cran, triplet for triplet, and concertina harmonies are matched by Brian’s regulators. Brian plays an aggressive set of pipes on most of this album, a concert D set by Koehler & Quinn, but Tim has the edge even so. Tim sticks to jigs and reels for his solos. A Clare concertina setting of “The Spike Island Lasses” brings one solo to a climax. The other centres on a jig version of the song “Westering Home” which is uncannily close to the Scottish march “Muckin’ O’ Geordie’s Byre”, also known as “The Hair Fell Off my Coconut”. Compositions by Richie Dwyer and Paddy O’Brien add to the traditional highlights here: “Return to Burton Road” and “The Small Hills of Offaly” are deserved favourites.

In fact, this music is so good that it almost makes up for the album title, which is saying a lot. More information is available from where you can also find out about Brian’s previous albums, or also from which has samples of Tim’s debut solo CD.
Alex Monaghan



Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 168
This new CD, A Tribute to Andy McGann, honours a man who was born and raised in New York to Sligo parents, and became one of the key figures in traditional Irish music in the US. He grew up in a community that was loyal to the Sligo-American style of music that had been established in the US a generation earlier by immigrants from Sligo.

In the delightfully-produced booklet that comes with the recording, John Daly, Director of the Irish American Heritage Centre, Chicago, writes: “One can’t help but wonder how different the Irish music landscape might look today had Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, and a host of other Irish immigrant musicians, not lived in New York at a time when solo performances of Irish music began to join the record industry in earnest.”

Andy McGann’s music and his many protégés, Brian Conway among them, are testament enough to the impact made by those immigrant performers. In a way, this CD is an echo of the great 1965 album A Tribute to Michael Coleman made by Andy McGann and his two good friends and musicians, Joe Burke and Felix Dolan.

Four tracks recorded live at a concert in Chicago following Andy’s death in 2004 are included on ‘A Tribute to Andy McGann’ together with several other tracks chosen to commemorate and celebrate the life of Andy McGann and to represent the Sligo-American style. In his extensive and informative background notes, Jackie Small reminds us that Andy’s fiddle playing first came to the attention of people in Ireland through Ciarán Mac Mathúna’s RTÉ radio programme, A Job of Journeywork. “… His music thrilled listeners with its limpid sweetness, fluency and elegance,” says Jackie. His detailed account of Andy’s life and music in New York in the booklet, which is complete with photos and also background notes to the tunes played, is itself worth the price of this recording.

The album opens with two jigs, “Molloy’s Jig” and “The Humours of Castlelyons,” and as an example of his scholarly work on the music, Jackie Small tells us that the first jig is named after the Leitrim flute player Tony Molloy; and of the second tune, he says: “The collector Henry Hudson published “The Humours of Castlelyons” in 1842 and added that he had picked up the tune from a piper named Sullivan the previous year at Gleann an Phréachain (The Valley of the Crow, i.e. Glenville, Co. Cork, where Hudson lived).” The notes are full of such interesting and enlightening information.

There are 17 tracks in total that include dance tunes and airs, just over an hour’s material in all. Great value, indeed, and as usual with CIC, this is a CD of the highest quality. All the tracks were recorded by Jim Reeves and Shay Leon of Evanston, Illinois; they were mixed, edited and mastered by the late Éamonn Goggin at Charlie Lennon’s studio in Spiddal, Co. Galway. A recording that is to be treasured.
Aidan O’Hara


Devil’s Advocate

Greentrax CDTRAX 305 9 tracks, 45 minutes
Chris Stout’s debut album was always going to be a hard act to follow. “Devil’s Advocate” does a pretty good job, but despite the extra four musicians it doesn’t quite have the wow factor of “First o’ the Darkening”.

This is still a very fine recording: the title track and the set of Shetland reels pack a fair punch, and the kick-start to “Aith Rant” is superb. Mr Stout can also spot a good tune from other traditions: “Lorient est Grand” and “Talaimh an Éisc” both provide the finishing flourish for Chris’ own compositions. The final track, “Dynröst”, is a beauty too, with Catriona McKay’s harp and Fraser Fifield’s sax contributing to the full atmospheric sound. There’s first class accompaniment throughout from Malcolm Stitt and Neil Harland on guitar and double bass. So what didn’t I like? Not too much, really.

The introduction to “Bambodansarna,” which in itself is a splendid melody, was far too long, as was the similarly lengthy lead-in to “Nanny and Andrew”. The fact that “Auld Swarra” is polished off in under three minutes, a brusque dismissal of this grand old Shetland air. Slightly too much sax, and not quite enough of Chris Stout’s fiddle. These minor criticisms, and a couple of tracks which didn’t grab me, make the difference between “Devil’s Advocate” being a “nice-to-have” and a “must-have” CD. Still well worth a listen, though.
Alex Monaghan


Charlie Lennon, Double CD

Cló Iar Chonnachta CICD 166
To get one CD of fiddler, Charlie Lennon’s playing is cause enough for celebration, but to get two, one of them devoted entirely to his own compositions, is quite something indeed.

On the album he also plays viola, piano, harpsichord, bass and keyboards, and he is joined here and there by Brian McGrath (piano & banjo), Frank Kilkelly (guitar), Johnny Óg Connolly (accordion), Johnny Connolly (melodeon), Steve Simmons (guitar), Emmet Gill (uilleann pipes), and family members, Éilís Lennon (fiddle), and Brian Lennon (flute).

The arrangements are nicely varied, but always with justice done to the fiddle player himself, whose sound doesn’t lose out to over-dominant accompaniment. For that we must thank Charlie himself who, along with David Lennon, produced the album, and to Ed Kenehan and the late Éamonn Goggin who were the sound engineers. The CD is dedicated to Éamonn, who was a close friend of Charlie’s.

In Cló Iar-Chonnachta’s (CIC) website notes we are told, “One CD looks back, the other looks forward,” which is how Charlie summed up his new double-CD Turning the Tune. The first CD looks back to the roots of the tradition and past masters and features trusted old tunes with the notes in the booklet referring to many sources including McKenna, Morrison, Coleman and Killoran. Charlie presents many of these tunes in a new way while staying within the tradition, demonstrating the possibilities that the tradition offers. The second CD looks forward, and contains all new music composed by Charlie. He says of the compositions: “I find it helpful in writing to recall good memories of people and places and seek to capture these in music. While the genre is primarily Irish traditional, I have moved into other genres at times in order to best paint the picture.” The CD booklet details the inspiration for each piece, adding a particularly personal touch to the album.

In his written introduction to the CD, Charlie explains the choice of the album’s title. “Can you turn this one?” Francis John McGovern used to spend time at Charlie’s parents’ house in Co. Leitrim in long winter evenings. Charlie recalls that his father and Francis John would chat by the fire, and during a pause in the conversation, the latter would draw a Clarke’s whistle from his breast pocket and play part of a seldom-heard tune. “That came to me while I was taking the rough off a headstone in the workshop today but I can’t turn it,” he would say. There’d be another long pause while all looked into the fire for inspiration. “Sometimes I would get an inkling of the high part,” Charlie writes, “reach for the fiddle and start to stagger out a phrase or two.” Francis John would exclaim, “That’s it! I have it now.” Then the old man and the boy would take time in fleshing out the tune together. “This was Francis John McGovern’s way of giving encouragement and recognition to any aspiring young musician that he came in contact with,” says Charlie.

There is a feast of good music and tunes on these two CDs of Charlie’s: reels, jigs, hornpipes, a couple of barn dances, a waltz, an air/reel (dedicated to Éamonn and his parents), and even a strathspey which Charlie composed in memory of his friend, Dick Lett, who promoted Irish and Scottish music workshops when Charlie lived in the north of England. I recommend this album highly.
Aidan O’Hara


The Man Behind the Box

Mapleshade Records 10732 17 tracks, 71 minutes
The box is, of course, the button accordion of legendary lost boy Joe Derrane. Whilst John McGann takes the lead on a couple of tracks, this is essentially an accordion album: if you want to hear more of John’s excellent mandolin and guitar, try his “Upslide” album from 1995. For now we’ll concentrate on Joe. Everyone knows the story: teenage prodigy in the ’40s, forced to abandon a career in Irish music in order to make money, presumed dead, but like the Magratheans he returned in 1994 with probably the greatest comeback ever. This is his umpteenth recording since then, and there seems to be no stopping him. Which is a good thing.

The hallmark of Joe Derrane’s playing is his crisp ornamentation which only occasionally threatens to overpower the melody. Box-players love this: it harks back to the time of John Kimmel and Jerry O’Brien - and the young Derrane - when Irish dance music was accordion -led. The end of “The Blacksmith’s Fancy” or “The Sweep’s Hornpipe” (better known as “The Belfast Hornpipe”) shows the extreme triplets which Joe inserts with relish. Knowing the man’s sense of fun, I’d say there’s an element of mischief too: if your style is from a lost age, you might as well accentuate it. This comes through in Derrane compositions such as “Martin’s Jig” and the waltzes “Aine “ and “Nancy” which both get a fanciful French feel from the constant chromatic curlicues.

Joe can also play almost totally straight. The final set of rarely-played reels with “The Road to Clonmel” and “Humours of Ederney” is a prime example, but there aren’t many here. If I have a criticism of this recording, it’s the lack of variation in style and tempo: the reels are played a little too much like hornpipes, and the hornpipes a little too much like reels, both with bags of triplets and that bit of a bounce. There are one or two fumbles too, but nothing to be ashamed of and certainly a lot less than most men of Joe’s age. The jigs are a joy, the airs likewise: “Auld Lang Syne, Taps”, and “She Lived Beside the Anner”. At well over an hour, there’s plenty of music to enjoy here.

Check out for more info, and a chance to get to know “The Man behind the Box.”
Alex Monaghan


The Shadowed Gateway

Own Label CCCD 001
Most of the dance tunes on this album were composed by Chris Corrigan, with a couple of collaborative compositions by his fellow musicians, Katherine Corrigan and Trish McCrink. Chris is a composer, sound engineer and fiddle player based in Belfast, and he also plays keyboards and percussion. In the CD notes we are also told, “Chis plays a blue flightcase, Oliver’s beanbag and his own house keys.” That tells you that while the material on the album is soundly based on Irish traditional music there is also innovative and creative work going on.

The album is full of mood and atmosphere, while the dance tunes are in a familiar form. The songs and other pieces display a talent for composition that is imaginative and inventive. There are a lot of gifted people at work here, and the song in the Irish language, I bhfad i gcéin (Chris and Trish), is a very beautiful love song with words wed to music that is haunting and evocative. Trish is blessed with a voice that is perfect for the feelings the words and music evoke. The Shadowed Gateway is a strong start for Chris Corrigan and his friends, and I think we shall be hearing more from them.

Chris was born in Liverpool (1973), and began playing piano at an early age. His family moved to Co. Armagh in 1984 and his then music teacher, Eithne Valley of the Armagh Piper’s Club, encouraged him to take up traditional Irish fiddle. He went on to study Music and Sound Recording at the University of Surrey and spent his industrial year working at Sulán Studios in County Cork. There he recorded with several notables that included Christy Moore, Peadar Ó Riada, and the group Nomos. Following graduation he went to work at Queen’s University Belfast, where he is Technical Manager of the prestigious Sonic Arts Research Centre. The high quality of the sound on the CD reflects Chris’s expertise in sound recording and keyboard work. And for anyone with an interest in technical matters, we learn from the web site: “The Shadowed Gateway is an SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) release recorded in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound formats …” which means it will sound great if you’ve got a nice set of surround sound speakers.

Along with Chris in the ensemble are, Katherine Corrigan (harp), Liz Doherty (fiddle), Ivan Goff (uilleann pipes and flute), Andy Holdsworth (piano, guitars, bass), Trish McCrink (vocals), Una Monaghan (harp), and Jim Woods (accordion). Liz is well-known from her work with Nomos, Riverdance, and Bumblebees; Ivan for his work with the Eileen Ivers Band and Riverdance; and Jim Woods with the group, Cóisir.
Aidan O’Hara


When Leaves Fall

Own Label MBR1CD 11 tracks, 53 minutes
Three points really stand out on this CD. The first is the beautiful tone of the fiddle, especially on airs like “Tha Mi Tinn” and “The Earl of Jura”, but also on quicker numbers where Lauren adds a hard edge to her sound. The second is the high calibre of the material, which Lauren MacColl has chosen to record, from the striking retreat march “Tianavaig” by Angus Mac Donald of Glenuig to the final air “The Seventh Wave” by his brother Allan. In between, sit two dozen exceptional tunes, including a handful of Lauren’s own, and an unusually high proportion of stunning slow airs. The third outstanding aspect of “When Leaves Fall” is the level of maturity it shows: strong but simple arrangements, no gimmicks, excellent production standards in both music and sleeve, and playing well beyond their tender years from Lauren and her accompanists Barry Reid and James Ross.

Lauren MacColl isn’t afraid to tackle the big tunes. Melodies by Skinner and MacAndrew are handled with aplomb, and Lauren stamps her personality on “Lochaber Dance”, a 9/8 jig popularised by Alasdair Fraser, which becomes a 10/8 exhibition piece here. It’s followed by the first of five MacColl compositions, the eccentric jig “Fifty Years Young”, and capped by “A Gallop to Kinross” published two centuries ago but fresh as morning dew.

Gideon Stove’s toe-tapping “Reel O’ Whirlie” leads into a couple more offbeat jigs from the mind of Lauren. The title tune is another of Lauren’s own, a splendid slow reel with her now trademark tricky tempi. The traditional slip reel “Herd on the Hill” continues unusual rhythms, and the penultimate set plays mix-and-match with sassy march “Jessie Brown of Lucknow”, straight reel “Jeannie Tied the Bonnet,” the hypnotic “Moleskin Kilt” slip jig, and finally Addie Harper’s bouncy jig “John Sinclair of Ulbster. ”

Deserved winner of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2005, and having just finished her Traditional Music Degree in Glasgow, Lauren MacColl is a very fine fiddler and also a remarkable performer of slow airs in particular.

Her website which is located at has no samples as yet, but you can hear her on the Radio 2 site. “When Leaves Fall” is an exquisite debut, and probably the start of even greater heights that will be achieved.
Alex Monaghan


Ok Pewter

An Original Celtic Brew 8 Tracks; 53 minutes
Mabon play a blend of lively modern Celtic music and although they are a Welsh band, their repertoire is more idiosyncratic as all the tunes were composed and arranged by accordion player Jamie Smith, who has mastered an essentially Celtic rock dance form at the young age of twenty-three.

The line-up gives us a clue as to the new direction Mabon are taking. The band includes original members, Jamie Smith on piano accordion, his father Derek Smith on guitars and Iolo Whelan on drums. New faces on this album are Will Lang on bodhrán (a past All-Britain Champion and All-Ireland Finalist), Calum Stewart on Flute (runner-up Scottish Traditional Instrumentalist Final at Celtic Connections 2007), Oli Wilson-Dickson on fiddle (ex-Szapora), Adam Rhodes on bouzouki & fiddle (he’s from the Isle of Man), Jason Rogers on bass (he has since been replaced in the live touring band by Matt Downer). Mabon’s music is ideal for social Fest Noz dancing and with their close links to Brittany there’s a familiar Breton An Dro sound to some of their pieces: they have become unofficial regulars at the L’orient festival, and one track “La Randonnée” is named after their favourite restaurant in Ploemeur.

However with the band now featuring Irish and Scots influenced players there’s been a subtle shift in the composing. For instance there are hints of Lúnasa and Capercaillie on “The Hustler” where flute and accordion trade licks as the bodhrán tips steadily under it all.
Three sets of tunes take up almost a half hour of the album, they allow for bigger ideas to be worked out, so we get rolling accordion colours on “A Set of No Names” which has an interesting accordion and bouzouki mid section full of the sunshine of Auray. In contrast the equally expansive “File Under Biddley” has more of a Scottish flavour with the fiddle setting the early tone. If I had a favourite track, for sheer vivacity and tongue in cheek fun, it would have to be the full ten minutes of “A Hungarian in Brittany”, where Hanter dro meets gypsy fiddling. It’s all so mesmerising and catchy.

Mabon are a band going places. No wonder they have recently signed a distribution deal with Proper Records. The only big question is: when will we see them in Ireland? They’d be ideal for a late night Nosan Lowen at the Bray Festival next August. Remember, folks, you saw the suggestion here first!
Seán Laffey