Releases > December 2007

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.


Volume 1

Mulligans Irish Music Bar

Amstel Holland, 16 Tracks

We need this kind of idea over here in Ireland. Read that sentence again and ask your local session to get hold of a copy of this fine CD. Why? Well for years now Miriam Feuth has been putting on Irish music in her Amstel bar, and it’s not once a month or as the fancy takes her, there’s music most nights of the week (just two days off for Christmas this year), sessions are held regularly, songwriters get a platform and there are singing circles with sheets of words on hand for those too shy to answer the noble call. It’s all more or less here on the album, from the touring acts who have dropped by, like Shona Kipling and Damien O’Kane who open the album with a set of unnamed jigs to the bar’s resident, Danny Guinan who closes it with a bluesy nine minutes of his own song “Happy”. In between we hear Holland’s Christy Moore, John O’ Dreams sing “Road to Happiness”, and Irish singer/ songwriter Daithí Rua gives us “A Watered Down Version of Him”. There’s plenty of trad also, with the pubs session players making a mighty sound on sets of reels and polkas, listen in particular for the resident uilleann piper, tasty touches there.

As a CD of what goes on in Mulligan’s this is wonderful, as a benchmark for what is possible in any pub that purports to promote Irish music, this an essential manifesto.

As Al Pacino might say “You run a folk club? Go buy this album, then go figure!”
Seán Laffey



Frisbee Records FRCD 001

Ian Smith is responsible for handing this CD to IMM’s editor and it wound its way to me for review. That is the genesis of the journey of Dave Flynn’s Draíocht CD. About Mr Flynn I know absolutely nothing save that he is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose music is rooted in traditional forms. Thankfully his efforts in this direction are surefooted and sincere as Draíocht is one of the most surprising debuts to hit my ears in ages. Dave Flynn sings and plays stringed instruments like guitar, mandola, mandolin, and bouzouki and pens original jigs and reels that sound like traditional tunes yet incorporate outside elements from African and Eastern styles.

Vocally he sounds like Robert Plant on occasion and the floating quality of The Mad Magicians Daughter recalls the pastoral shades of Led Zeppelin’s acoustic moments. Guests like Manus Lunny, Liz Coleman and others join the fray betimes creating a band sound with a rustic Celtic vibe emerging. This is not folk-rock, yet its not Comhaltas fare either-rather it straddles a rootsy hinterland between the tradition and the contemporary singer/ songwriter world. An interesting and intriguing collection from a tunesmith, instrumentalist and composer, Dave Flynn is a name to conjure with and Draíocht is very definitely worth an open-minded listen.
John O’Regan



11 tracks 40 mins Own label

Paul Grant is more well-known as an exceptional traditional guitarist who recorded an album some years ago with Martin O’Connor, received good mention in Sarah McQuaid`s Irish Guitar DADGAD tutor book and trotted round the world folk circuit with troubadour, Liam Clancy for many years. But in this three piece folk group, Camnoc from Slieverue, south Kilkenny, he is joined by fellow songwriters, Paul Foskin and Conor O’Neill, who with his remarkable gritty gravel voice full of emotion, sings songs that resonate loss and longing.

Paul Foskin is also a poet and this comes through with in some of his inspired lyrical couplets. The songs veer from the album highlight Children after Rain, an insight into the Northern Ireland Troubles from a child’s point of view, to the country rock number, Mother and Child with elegant twin guitar lines and tight vocal harmonies supported by Treasa Forristal. On the lively ‘Inside a Man’, the plucked nylon strings give sombre weight to the reflective lines that will have the listener humming. Dream On is powerful stuff, a dramatic and evocative anthem on a child’s fear of the future, with Conor O’Neill’s moving clear voice.

With shades of quietly assured song-writing skills from years together, Camnoc is a folk group doing its own thing, with a kind of well crafted warmth and instinctive understanding in their playing and writing. It is not surprising to know that some of these songs have already been recorded by Liam Clancy and Karan Casey.

This album is a surprise that will keep you coming back for more.
Plunkett O’Brien


Amhrain Aneas-Gael Linn

20 tracks

A few days before I sat down to pen this review, a musical student friend asked if I had any Nioclas Toibín CD’s as she was doing her degree thesis on his singing. This comment on Toibín’s status correctly places him in the shining firmament of Irish traditional music. Seamus Ennis must have recognised this also when he first recorded Toibin in the summer of 1952. Cork balladeer, Jimmy Crowley said of Toibin: “He’s my favourite, he had so many Munster ballads and he could even sing in Latin.” This CD does not have any songs in Latin but it does have 13 tracks from the classic 1977 Gael Linn LP Nioclas Toibin and includes some of the more well-known songs like Sliabh Geal gCua, Eochaill, Na Connerys and An Buachaillin Ban.

The recording is devoid of any musical props or fancy over dubs, it is just his unique voice and the listener. Toibín lives within these songs so completely that he propels the listener back to his seán-nós singing parents, Seamus Toibín and Maighréad Ní Sheanachain who taught him the songs, back to the 18th and 19th century. Deise poets like Padraig O’Mileadha, who recorded the heartbreaking homesickness for beautiful Sliabh gCua while working in the coalmines of Wales and NA Connerys, an account of the cruel deportation of the three Connery brothers from the Dungarvan locality to New South Wales.

The Deise songs demand a wide vocal ability and his bright penetrating nasal style using his strong tenor voice with minimal use of ornaments won him three Corn Uí Riada’s (the senior Seán-nos for men) in the Oireachtas of 1961/62/63. A quietly spoken humble man, he was reputed to have a repertoire of over 300 songs.

This CD captures the grand master of Deise singing at his very best.
Plunkett O’Brien


Travelling Show

Whirling Disks

12 Tracks

The album comes in a retro style gate fold sleeve, with it’s yellowing ochre tints hint at something old and perhaps a bit Jacobean. That liner package is completed by hand drawn images in a woodcut fashion, so from the outside you’d expect this to be a solid album of traditional tunes and big folk songs. Once you get it into the CD player you’ll hear that the album, like the band, is the full package.

We heard rumours of forays into Americana and a more contemporary sound? They had after all covered Bob Dylan’s Boots of Spanish Leather. And what do we find here as an opening track, Cher’s, Gyspies Tramps and Thieves. Of course Dervish can and do whirl this into an Irish folk song and no better Bohemian than Cathy Jordan to imbue it with an earthy presence. She writes songs also and has a good ear for a tune, her re-working of Lord Lovett is suitably film noire and shows that at heart she is at home with the darker side of Folk song. As for the tunes, well here’s the big surprise, the band hasn’t sounded this good in ages, the mix is tingling good, with the interplay of bouzouki and box captured perfectly and the high notes of fiddle ad flute bouncing around on the Coolea Jigs in particular. The album was recorded live and it’s a credit to the ears of the engineers involved that the sound is so evocative of the spirit of the band.

Nearly a dozen albums down the road since the Boys of Sligo started their travelling show, thousand of air miles clocked up and still they are playing with fire. Lesser acts could go stale and pale after all that work, but from the sounds on this album, Dervish’s flame is still burning brightly as it paints flickering shadows on their caravan’s wall.
Seán Laffey


Blue Skies Above

Eats Records

Availble from CD Baby or a download at iTunes few acts in the business are more respected and loved than Matt and Shannon Heaton. There are plenty of people out there who fly just under the radar. They organise their lives around the music; it is that important to them. This brilliant duo is certainly not under the radar any more, if they ever were. Their latest album, “Blue Skies Above” assures them of the next major steps up the ladder. The couple was originally based out of Chicago, but moved to Boston, as they felt there were more sessions and opportunities there for their music. When they did it they were right, and Chicago was the loser, Boston the winner.

Matt plays a solid, and occasionally innovative guitar. He is really good and often swings over into a creative force. Shannon has a lovely singing voice, and is a wonderful and natural flute player. Great tone and breath control in her flute work, as well as her vocals. Matt gives great harmonies to the vocal treats, led by the old standard, The Blackbird. Their instrumental take on a set of reels led by Thady Casey’s is not to be missed. What a wonderful duo! Google ‘em. Get it. This is the real music, played by two people who have as much love “for” it as they have talent “in” it.
Bill Margeson



Temple Records

13 tracks, 49 minutes

With a half dozen good old Scots and Irish tunes, half a dozen more from composers of the highest calibre, a couple of gentle fiddle forays by Alasdair White and plenty of Mike Katz’ finger-wrenching tunes, this is vintage Battlefield. There’s five songs in the piper’s dozen tracks here, split between old-timer, Alan Reid and newbie, Seán O’Donnell - the usual mixture of whimsy and wit and an occasional serious point. “My Love is Like a Red Rose” gets an unfamiliar melody, and “Allan MacLean” is another traditional song well handled. John Spillane’s ditty “Set You Free” has never done much for me, and Ewan MacColl’s “Ballad of Accounting” misses an opportunity to thrill, but “The Gathering Storm” sees Alan Reid writing in fine form. “Dookin’“ starts with a pair of monster tunes, the title-lending “Dookin’ for Beetroot” and “The Head Roaster”, both swinging Katz compositions. “An Gille Dubh” is a full-blooded highland reel rounding off a trio of great old tunes. Mike’s “Easy Jig” and Gordon Duncan’s “Ash City” vie for first place in the catchy melody stakes, while “Blue Lagoon” and “Blackjack Grove” bring a distinctly overseas sound to the party. At a slower tempo, “Ton Bale Leon Braz” is a stately Breton march and “Song for Selangor” is a luscious air by Alasdair. “Boo Baby’s Lullaby” could have been taken more slowly - the poor child risks sea-sickness in the cradle here - but it follows a gloriously relaxed version of Allan MacDonald’s “Cillepheadair”.

There’s a slight looseness to some tracks, not surprising after a recent line-up change. Battlefield seem to get through more singers than a sewing-machine shop, but Seán O’Donnell fits in pretty well. The final track is worth a special mention: tunes for Paddy Moloney and Buddy McMaster by Katz and White respectively, in honour of two outstanding musicians from other traditions, a great climax to a fine CD.

“Dookin’“ comes with full sleeve notes and the words to most songs. I love the cover photo, particularly upside down when it looks like the poor creature has drowned itself in an improbably shallow puddle. Sample tracks are to be heard on the website located at www.temple, and the band themselves are probably appearing at a venue near you: they still get about.
Alex Monaghan


“Hot Off the Floor”

Own Label

13 tracks, 53 minutes

This is the third album from Prince Edward Island’s young fiddle queen. Cynthia has definite leanings towards the music of neighbouring Cape Breton, but “Hot Off the Floor” also includes a high percentage of Irish music as well as numbers by Stateside icons Bob Wills and Tom Paxton. Miss MacLeod (couldn’t resist) nails her colours to the bow with the opening medley of modern strathspey “The Warlocks”, traditional strathspey “Bog An Lochan”, “ Cooley’s” and “The Banshee” from the Irish repertoire, and Shetland’s “Spootiskerry” for a funky touch. Follow that? She does - twelve times - with reels, jigs, airs, marches, hornpipes and more.

The careful listener will notice a live feel on some tracks. This may be because three of them were recorded live. There’s an impromptu edge to several others, a relaxed recording style with off-mike comments and intros left in. It all adds to the fun of what is an immensely entertaining CD. There’s no shortage of showmanship from Cynthia or from her half-dozen sidemen. Jon Matthews and Eddy Quinn provide the vocals for “Whiskey In the Jar” and “Wasn’t That a Party?”, while the fiddle breaks breathe extra life. Elsewhere there’s bass, piano, guitar and drums in moderation.

Never has “Dillon Brown” been beaten up more thoroughly, seldom has “Timour the Tartar” surrendered so readily. Scots, Irish, swing, whatever, this girl can kick it. In a country where fiddlers are fifty to the dollar, Cynthia MacLeod stands out, maybe not for tone or technique, but certainly for taking the tradition to heart. “In Memory of Herbie MacLeod” flows achingly from her fiddle. “Faded Love” oozes bittersweet between her fingers. And we’re talking about a talent barely old enough to go clubbing. This is someone you must not miss, and I hope she’s gonna be around for a while.
Alex Monaghan


Own Label

11 tracks, 61 minutes

Prodigious. The change into “A J Campbell’s Jig”, the full throttle launch into “Maggie Brown’s Favourite”, the attack on the Howie MacDonald reel “Sister Dolena Beaton’s”, the sheer majestic splendour of “Aberdeen” (honest!): I can imagine horses docking their tails, and cats disembowelling themselves, just to hear Kimberley Fraser’s music. Well, almost. Playing fiddle and piano, as is traditional for Cape Breton’s most gifted, Kimberley is backed by some fine names here: Tracey Dares and Troy Mac Gillivray on piano, Gordie Sampson and Dave MacIsaac on guitar. “Falling On New Ground” has also dragged a few atypical instruments into the Nova Scotian brew. Nuala Kennedy’s flute graces a set of Irish jigs and reels, as does Damian Helliwell’s banjo, making this the first time that the words “banjo” and “graces” have appeared in the same sentence. Nuala pops up again for the final set of reels: “Lord MacDonald’s, The Sound of Mull”, and “The Copper Fields of Beara” by harpist Máire Ní Chathasaigh.

About half the drummer’s dozen tracks here are under six minutes. The others range up to nine minutes long, true Cape Breton sets. The shorter ones include a trio with Haugaard & Hoirup, a brilliant Danish duo, playing some Scots and Irish standards: a wild crack at “Calliope House”, the right way up for a change, then a reel version of “Fishers Hornpipe”, and finally some new variations on “The Mason’s Apron”. In total contrast to this fiddle frenzy is the solo piano pastoral “Braes o’ Auchtertyre”, played and arranged by Kimberley: relaxed, gentle, carefully constructed, with some unorthodox chord sequences, ending on an unresolved cadence which, like the rest of this wonderful album, leaves the listener yearning for more. Every fan of fiddle music should hear “Falling on New Ground”: google it, or try Kimberley’s website located online at
Alex Monaghan


A Song for Ireland

Dolphin DOL3CD 04 2007

Derek McCormack provided a distinctive and unmistakeable voice for this group on albums like ‘A Song for Ireland’, ‘My Last Farewell’ and ‘ Green and Gold’ all three of which are re-issued bright and shiny in this new slip case edition to renew old acquaintances and offer a new public a chance to experience the gold that was on offer a few decades ago. They offer a wide range of songs here from both sides of the Atlantic and alongside the hits we can associate with the band we get some gems from great writers alongside new tracks that keep the albums fresh. The diversity is obvious if we list a few tracks like ‘Cavan Girl’, ‘ Portland Town’ and ‘ Far Away in Australia’. How is that for globe trotting that it is hard to beat Barleycorn when they are performing anthems like the title track her or the marvellous ‘Dublin in my Tears’ or their great version of ‘The Lakes of Coolfinn’. I particularly liked the emotive ‘Mary’s Song’ and the rollicking ‘Mary Ellen Carter’. Songs like these remind us of the wealth of folk music and the heartfelt performances of bands such as Barleycorn.

If you live in Boston or Ballydehob and if your name is Murphy, Smyth or Mordechai but you like good music well played this is a set for you. The songs on offer in this unique set have a predominantly Irish flavour but they will delight anyone with a love of a good tale, set to music and performed with heart.
Nicky Rossiter


The Boy with the Sailor’s Suit

Witchwood Media Singer/songwriter and mainstay of British folk rock outfit, The Strawbs, Dave Cousins has proven himself as a lyricist and vocalist of commendable prowess. The Boy with the Sailor’s Suit his latest solo album finds him working with a variety of British folk/roots and rock musicians and production duties handled by Chris Tsangrides.The presence of Chris Tsangrdies is a name more associated with rock and metal circles than folk rock but it shows how easily The Strawbs have been accepted by the progressive circles. However Cousins’ highly articulate delivery and adroit lyricism remains as always an attraction. Backed this time by the Blue Angel Orchestra including rock and folk luminaries like guitarist, Millar Anderson and fiddler, Ian Cutler, Cousins’ reedy vocals and impassioned delivery finds a comfortable home.

Musically the backdrop ranges from the up-tempo Never take sweets from a Stranger, the gentle lilting Mellow Moon has superb slide guitar from Millar Anderson and The Smile you left behind is a standard in the making. Calling out my name is gorgeous English folk rock, while Mother Luck, Lonely Days Lonely Nights and Hellfire Blues have Cousins’ Dylanesque phrasing rocking out convincingly.

The Boy in the Sailor’s Suit finds Dave Cousins in rare form, his music romantic, lush yet relevantly contemporary.
John O’Regan


Where Have You Been?

Own Label

Northern Ireland often introduced some intriguing players into the traditional game. After the arrival of bands like Four Men and A Dog, Tamalin, and Deanta in the 90s, apart from Beoga activity have been quiet lately. However a new wave is quickly emerging and The Rooneys are there in the frontline. This Co Down based family band plays with skill and assurance and their music possesses the necessary clarity and focus to commend itself as worthily valid. They write their own material and this forms the backbone of Where have You been?

The self penned tunes like The Bouncing Veil and Murder on the Dance floor show promise content wise as well as having cool monikers. The music has both spaciousness and confidence and extols the finest nuances of Irish and Scottish idioms. Vocally they take a chestnut like The Month of January and refresh it with a stately yet sparse arrangement and suitably poignant vocal. Their youth is never an excuse for excess dexterity or flash overkill-as the music sounds suitably mature.

The Rooneys seem to have merged from nowhere but such is the level of achievement on this album that they are going to be around for a long time. Investigate immediately.
John O’Regan



Dolphin, 59 tracks

What can you say about the legendary Johnny McEvoy that has not been said already? With the release of this fantastic new three CD collection I reckon we need to say a lot. Many readers will be familiar with Johnny, we grew up and matured with his extraordinary output at a time when songwriters were not given their proper respect, but younger readers may not be aware of this superstar who has remained true to his craft and his homeland for decades.

We forget, if we ever realised it, that Johnny McEvoy is a songwriter par excellence. This comes about mainly because we wrongly assume that his biggest hits, like most of the early folk revival, were traditional songs. I suppose this is the most double-edged compliment we can give a writer. We accept that his work is good enough to have stood the test of centuries.

Over the 59 tracks on offer on these three CD’s, we older listeners can relive our younger days, while the new folk audiences get the chance to hear a maestro in his early days. The albums are re-issues of songs that may only have been available up to now on vinyl or cassette and as such they offer a welcome opportunity to revitalise old record collections.

Listening to tracks like ‘Those Brown Eyes’, ‘The Boston Burglar’ and ‘The Gypsy’ we are transported to a time when we were re-discovering Irish music but unwittingly witnessing the re-birth of the troubadour and the broadside ballad as McEvoy wrote and sang of the cares of the day.

As well as his own compositions we get the unique Johnny McEvoy interpretation of traditional songs and the works of the contemporary composers.

Re-hearing these songs, one is struck by the simple, unadorned delivery. He is not courting controversy, he does not re-imagine other people’s work, he does not rely on political or other connotations to build an audience.

Similar to his live performances, Johnny McEvoy gives us good songs, simply arranged and sung as only a true talent can offer. Now you have a chance to own three classic collections in one set. You would be mad to pass it up.
Nicky Rossiter