Releases > January/February 2008

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.


Unbuttoned, 14 tracks
Own Label TC2007,

Tommie’s album “Unbuttoned” was released in August in Cork and caused an immediate stir in traditional music circles; he was a guest on Radio One’s, The Late Session and his album was picked up for distribution by Claddagh Records in Ireland and by Ossian in the USA. He was recorded live for RTÉ Ceílí House during the Fleadh in Tullamore, in short his star is certainly rising. Coupled with the deft engineering of Donncha Moynihan this is an album that will get plenty of spins on my Hi Fi, sheer class is an often abused term, but Cunniffe’s album has it in all departments.

Although Tommie was born and raised in Roscommon he’s been a resident in the lively Cork music scene for the past seven years. In Cork he met up with guitarist, Brian Miller from Minnesota, US and percussionist, Brian Morrissey from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, both of whom accompany him on this album. This brand new CD, Unbuttoned, features many of Tommie’s own compositions along with a number of traditional tunes.

Tommie scores on two fronts with this album, firstly his box playing is deceptively simple, he takes things easy. Secondly he writes exceptionally good tunes. The former makes this an album to learn from, the phrasing is clear and precise, the pace just right, even when he does play at a blistering pace , nothing is hurried and the tunes themselves have more than enough distinction to live a life of their own. In his two accompanists he has found players who are content to add the depth below the surface. For students of accompaniment there’s much here to be listened to and admired.

His tune names are quirkily memorable as are also the notes themselves such as “Anyone should Go to Boston” and the very Middle European sounding opening to the “Chancy Polkas”. For the most part he is making exceptional Irish traditional music but shows us his dexterity and adventure on the “Synch Reel and Bucklepper.” His roots show in the wonderfully controlled “Plains of Boyle” and there’s even a song air song from the Newfoundland tradition “Pat Murphy’s Meadow” taken gently with sparse guitar work leading into the main body. If we gave points for albums, this would be up there as debut album of the year for sure.
Seán Laffey


Duan Nollaig

Greentrax CDTRAX 320D 2007,

Sub-titled ‘A Gaelic Christmas’ this double CD certainly “does what it says on the tin”. Here we have the instant Christmas from this beautiful songstress. Although being a Gaelic Christmas the tracks are in the old language, you will recognise all the old favourites and they sound unusually fresh when heard in a different tongue. This is true from track one with ‘Leanabh an Aigh’ that combines the more familiar strains of ‘Morning Has Broken’ with ‘The Blessed Infant’.
The entire first CD is made up of carols and songs. Many are familiar if only in the airs while she adds a few new items to the mix. Here you will find the familiar sounds of our Christmases like ‘Silent’ Night’ alongside the less common Manx carol ‘Paiste am Bethlehem’. The second offering is aimed more at the younger generation with songs more familiar to them like ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ and ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’. Stand out tracks have to be the wonderful rendition of ‘Silent Night’ with it’s haunting opening a capella verse and one of the more unusual Christmas offerings, ‘Alleluia’. Yes this latter is unusual because it is a translation of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Halleluiah’. I bet you never expected that on a Christmas CD.
Mackenzie has a beautiful sweet voice ideally suited to such a collection and I bet if you purchase this and play it, your Christmas repertoire will be enhanced this year.
Nicky Rossiter


The Glencraig Scottish Dance Band

Greentrax CDTRAX315 2007

‘Are ye Askin’ is the subtitle on offer here and if these guys are playing like this who needs asking? I have to admit a weakness for Scottish dance band music at the outset. There is such a wonderful lilting seductive ease in the music that you feel you have to either dance to it or at the very least sway or tap along.
This album is a follow up to a very successful ‘The Ceilidh’ that had the sub-title ‘Are Ye Dancin?’, you see the progression here? The titles on offer here may not be household names or immediate radio hits, unless some enterprising DJ has a flash of inspiration, but they all have one thing in common. They are wonderful lively tunes.

The combination of jigs, reels and of course waltzes will have you dancing around the room in no time. In fact this could be that instant Christmas, birthday, Hogmanay or other party that we all wish for. Put it on, add a few drinks, a bit of food and give the dancers plenty of space.

With this in mind the insert actually gives instructions on how the various dances are performed so there is no excuse to just sit and listen. Your feet will be itching to get reeling and jigging so up ya get because the are askin’ you to dance.
Nicky Rossiter


Paddy Reilly

Dolphin Records, DOL3CD 01 2007

One of my abiding memories of Paddy Reilly is meeting him when he attended The Wexford Opera Festival a few years back and my realisation that this excellent folk singer and musician did not confine himself to the genre that he excelled at but appreciated all great music.

This re-issue of three of his earlier albums is an ideal opportunity for us to re-assess his early output and in doing so we find that he was top class from the beginning. I still have the vinyl version of one of the albums, The Town I loved So Well’ with is collection of fourteen great tracks covering such classics as ‘The Galway Races’, ‘Sweet Carnlogh Bay’ and ‘Arthur McBride’ as only Paddy Reilly can.

I suppose to most people Reilly is ‘The Fields of Athenry’ the song that has gone from a lovely ballad of history to the most over sung and mutilated pub song and on to a sporting anthem. It is the title song of another of the albums on offer in this set. On this CD he gives us some less recorded tracks like ‘Galtee Mountain Boy’ and ‘Dancing at Whitsun’. We also get ‘The Life of Paddy Reilly’, an album that perhaps showcases his diversity of choice of material at its best. He opens with ‘Spancil Hill’ but he also treats us to ‘Sam Hall’, ‘Dollymount Strand’, Matt Hyland’ and ‘Jim Larkin’.
Paddy Reilly has a distinctive voice and a delivery that will never be confused with another singer. He has an obvious love of a good song and an ability to deliver that song with heart and soul to make listening to a Reilly album a delight.

Here you can enjoy that experience threefold at a very competitive price and also solve your gift buying quandary for anyone who enjoys good music but be sure to buy a copy for yourself first.
Nicky Rossiter


Indian Summer


Talitha MacKenzie was born in New York, moved to Scotland in 1987, and now lives in Edinburgh. She’s been singing all her life, and when she was about seven, she heard Gaelic song for the first time; that was to take her on a musical road she’s been travelling ever since. In her teens she began collecting field recordings of old-style traditional singing, and with nothing but a Teach Yourself Gaelic textbook, she commenced the arduous task of learning the language, so that she could perform songs that she had begun to enjoy.

Talitha MacKenzie has appeared on half a dozen solo and group albums as well as on a dozen or so compilation recordings. Her Indian Summer CD reflects the Gaelic and many other cultural influences that have contributed to her music and song writing. These range from Native-American to Scots Gàidhlig and, of course, the English language. But I just wonder if her very personal choice of disparate and sharply contrasting material would have wide appeal. The performances are faultless and that will ensure a positive reception from listeners. She is blessed with a glorious singing voice that’s warm and expressive, capable of creating many moods and with a great vocal range. The combination of her gifts for arranging and Chris Birkett’s talents as producer make this an interesting fusion of traditional and contemporary.

To reflect her Native-American roots, she includes on the CD pieces like Anicuani, a welcome to the Great Spirit, Unelanvhi Uwetsi a favourite hymn of the Cherokee people, and Go So Far, which includes the Cherokee Morning Song, a piece composed by Talitha to convey some of the principles of the Cherokee Way. The second track on the CD is called Family Tree and she describes it as “A genealogical conversation between my father, Sam Claypoole, and myself, as a child.” It’s an exploration of one’s past and a good way to tell your own story. Some of her people came to the New World from England in the 1600s, others from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Eilean Fada has words in English by Talitha and Gaelic words from a traditional song, Duthaich Mhic Leòid.

Ms MacKenzie is ably assisted by her guest vocalists and musicians who include Rhiannon Giddens, Chris Birkett, Mick Glossop, Nico Mirande, and Michael Laffan. Through the use of various instruments and sound effects she and they produce marvellous atmospheric sounds throughout the recording. The CD notes include all the song words, and ‘family album’ photos, all adding to a production that is quite delightful.
Aidan O’Hara


Christmas Magick, Traditional Christmas Music, 13 Tracks,

Own Label,

Christmas albums have only a small window of opportunity, and to be honest this album just missed the deadline for our 2007 Annual. Yes, you’d be right to recognise the name, for Hamspey is one of the most famous surnames in all of traditional music and there’s a direct link here. For those who are new to this Irish music business, Denis Hamspey was a harper who lived from 1695 to 1807 and was recorded playing ancient Irish airs by Bunting at the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792 (transcribed to paper of course). His family subsequently emigrated to America, settled in Pennsylvania and that is where Michael Hampsey is based.

The musical genes have travelled down two centuries, the tunes are simpler and the instrument far more portable, the current Hampsey favouring the mandolin in live sessions. The technique her eon zook and guitar is a little hesitant, although it says in the liner notes that he is a regular in sessions in PA , and I know for a fact he’s been to Ireland and jammed in such places as Dingle and Galway, maybe given the anonymity of a session in full flow he might be a bit looser of a Friday night.

This album is a fairly standard Christmas selection, with Silent Night opening and closing the record and songs such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing, We Three Kings and Joy To The World” sandwiched in between. He does sparkle when he lets loose and chops into some western style swing, in fact when the guitar and bouzouki combination start to do some serious notes bending and syncopation, the album lifts up nicely. The band are Hampsey on guitars, Dobro and bouzouki, Jim Kipp on electric bass and classical guitar and John Hoyle on Tin Whistle. More flavoured by Americana than the melancholy mists of the Celtic fringe, it’s a pleasant album of different yet strangely familiar seasonal music. One for the historically curious.
Seán Laffey