Releases > March 2008

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.


Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD170
12 tracks, 43 minutes

A new band based in Kinvara, with some names to conjure with: Brendan Larrissey (ex-Arcady) plays fiddle, and Brian Duke (ex-Cían) joins him on flute. Rhythm is provided by percussionist, Martin Gavin and guitarist Jim McKee, who also sings four of his own songs. The bulk of Island Eddy’s music is old tunes well played, reels and jigs like Larry Redican’s or Scatter the Mud, with flute and fiddle sparking off each other. Brian and Brendan play in different styles, and their notes weave together to create a sort of super-session sound. Charlie Lennon’s, Leitrim Lilter leaves plenty of space between the instruments, while The Cuckoo’s Nest is as you could wish. Brendan wrote the charming waltz, Helen of Moy, and Brian’s air Guitar Island is spine- tinglingly good, so the down-tempo side of Irish music is well represented too. Sean Ryan and Paddy O’Brien are credited with a few tunes, and some of them are slowed down for extra impact.

Tyrone man, McKee possesses a voice somewhere between MPE and Kíla: raw, tortured, tearing at you, very effective on his Belfast ballad Bradley and the Troubles content of Dignity Beyond the Flowers and The Bomb Went Boom. His nostalgic Paddy’s Day song, The World Around doesn’t pack the same punch, but provides a nice change of mood and tempo. The arrangements are delicate and robust by turns, with good use of guests on cello, bass and vocals. The whole CD held my attention through fast and slow, songs and tunes alike. As debuts go, this is first rate. It should be easy to find on the CIC label. More info is available from of course, including samples, give it a listen online.
Alex Monaghan


Come West Along the Road 2


52 tracks, 152 minutes

This excellent Irish TV archive programme has released a second trove of treasures. Volume 2 spans 1963 to 1984, with many great names and unknown gems from that era. Miniskirts and flared jeans, flower power and chunky sweaters, kipper ties and digital watches galore. Even more interesting are the instruments available in those days of Planxty and Horslips: pipes with clunky bellows, electric pianos, bodhráns barely fit for kindling. Compared to the tools of today’s traditional musician, it’s amazing they got a tune out of them at all. I’ve no idea how they managed for bonfires. There’s a fine mix of established artists, local sources and rising stars. Young Kevin Burke and fledgling De Danann rub shoulders with Peadar O’Loughlin and Tony Smith. Seamus Ennis and Micheál Ó Ríabhaigh cross pipes with teenage Michael Cooney and Jimmy O’Brien Moran. The voices of Ronnie Drew, Dolores Keane, a young Iarla Ó Lionáird, Micheál Ó Domhnaill and his sisters all vie for attention. Perhaps the most welcome tracks are those of set dancing and step-dancing, never easy to capture in audio only, featured on five tracks here.

RTE has done a superb job of remastering this material. With over fifty clips from different programmes across three decades, there is some variation in quality. The older clips can be a little blurred, and a dozen or so are monochrome. One or two of the newer recordings have also lost some definition, but the vast majority are in crisp bright colour. More importantly, the audio quality is excellent throughout. We can enjoy Peter Horan and Fred Finn on flute and fiddle, Bobby Gardiner and an impish Ringo McDonagh on melodeon and drum, Packie Russell on concertina, Mick Mulkerrins on the boards, a very young Máire Ní Chathasaigh, and legendary line-ups of the Kilfenora, the Bridge,and the Ormond céilí bands. Names, dates and tunes are all provided on screen, and not one gan ainm. Full marks to RTE.
Alex Monaghan


Traditional Ballads and Lyric Songs 1967-75, recorded and edited by Tom Munnelly. Published by Pavee Point PPCD004

This recording of songs sung by Irish Travellers was first released as a cassette in 1983; the songs were selected from numerous recordings that Tom Munnelly (1944-2007) made in the 1960’s 70’s. Soon after Tom became interested in traditional music in the early 1960’s, he acquired a tape recorder, and by the time he died in late August, 2007, he had recorded and annotated over 20,000 items. His was the largest and most comprehensive collection of traditional song ever compiled in Ireland by any one individual, and includes the thirteen tracks on this CD, Songs of the Irish Travellers.

In a note for the accompanying CD booklet, Finbar Boyle states: “From an early stage, Tom realised that the Irish Travellers played a particularly important role in the preservation of traditional song and music.” He started calling on the Travelling people and told them what his interests were. He got along so well with them in his recording work that they referred him from one group of travellers to another, and even advised him on who were the good performers in this group or that. “Over a period of more than 30 years, Tom Munnelly’s name was a trusted and respected one on halting sites and camps all over Ireland,” Finbar writes.

The songs on this CD were chosen by Tom himself when he was asked to make a selection of Travellers’ material for publication by The European Ethnic Oral Traditions for the Folk Music Society of Ireland Cumann Ceol Tíre Éireann, in 1983. In a note he wrote for that recording Tom stated that he hoped the great singing tradition which had survived among The Travellers would help to counteract the suspicion and mistrust in which they were held among the settled community. He also noted that television and portable radios 40 years ago were beginning to erode the settled peoples’ customary ‘home entertainment’ traditions, and that the same thing was happening among members of the Travelling community at the same time.

“Some of the singers on this cassette have been settled for a considerable period of time,” Tom wrote, “but all were and some still Travellers.” Included are remarkable performances from singers like; Mrs Mary Kate McDonagh (b.1928), a settled Traveller of Tullaghmore, Mohill, Co. Leitrim (The Tri-Coloured House); Martin McDonagh (b. 1900), Lanabawn, Roscommon town (Lady Margaret, Child No. 68), John Reilly (b. 1925), Boyle, Co. Roscommon (John Reilly, Law M8, and False Lankum, Child 93); and Mrs Mary McGrath (b.1933), Bridgetown, Co. Wexford (As I Went Out Walking One Morning in May, and Johnny Barden, Child No. 100).

This production by the Travellers’ organisation Pavee Point, is an excellent follow-up to another fine music CD from ‘The Raineys’, a family of Travellers from Galway.
Aidan O’Hara


The Whinny Hills of Leitrim

Happy Whistle Music HWCD-1971


Wikipedia states that in 1982, Noel Sweeney, County Longford, was the All-Ireland flute champion. Not unusually, Noel has ‘a foot in both camps’, as it were, because he tells us in his CD notes that he was born in Co. Leitrim. This will not come as any surprise to those of us with Co. Longford roots, especially North Longford, because we seem to have just about as many relations in the one place as we have in the other, and all through contiguity, or even from being so close to one another! No matter, this is music and playing of a type that people from the two counties will deem recognisable and familiar.

I had the pleasure of sharing a couple of glorious hours with Noel and a plethora of other players and musicians at Martin Donohoe’s two-hour marathon on Shannonside Radio last Christmas Day. It was a Christmas Cracker of a show that only Martin could pull off with flair and aplomb. Noel was in top form then, and is again on this new CD, The Whinny Hills of Leitrim. Some who have heard it say this is Noel Sweeney at his best, and that’s saying something, because I’m told he always delivers when it comes to performing.

He brings his passion for the music from the hearth, and that’s in Aughavas, Co. Leitrim, where he heard his father, William, play the accordion, and his mother, Kate Scollan, a singer in the sean nós style. Noel started playing the tin whistle from the age of five, and eventually moved on to the concert flutes which include the three types, E flat, D and C. He then picked up the saxophone, and has been entertaining people for nearly half a century playing Trad and Rock ‘n’ Roll. (I must ask him some time if he was emulating the great Roscommon flute player, Josie McDermott, who also played the sax.)

The Whinny Hills of Leitrim CD includes a few original Leitrim tunes that are obscure, I’m told, pieces that Noel learned while playing in his old haunts of Aughavas and Cloone where he was inspired by local musicians, Jim Rawle, John Blessing, Jimmy McKiernan and his cousin, Patsy Doherty. On this CD, Noel is ably backed in his dance tunes and a couple of slow airs by Paul Gurney (piano & strings – he’s also the sound engineer on the album), Sean Sweeney (guitars), Siobhan O’Donnell (bodhrán), and Noel Carberry (bones). It is a celebration not only of great music, but of the prowess and talents of a superb musician as well, and I recommend it highly.
Aidan O’Hara



OE Records OECD0755 2007

Opening with a lovely version of ‘Right All Right’ this set of 14 tracks gets us in the mood for a great New Year. The sextet with that unusual name delivers on the promise of track one. We get a wonderful combination of old and new material with the balance slightly in favour of new or at least lesser-known songs such as ‘Angel from Antrim’ and ‘Drink the Night Away’ but even the traditional tracks may be unfamiliar but welcome such as ‘Lukey’.

In the more mainstream we get great interpretations of ‘The Rambles of Spring’ and ‘The Little Beggarman’ as well as ‘Marie’s Wedding’. One of my favourites on this album is the slower, ‘Bartender Billy’ from the pen of band member Mike Deangelis. They hit the bluegrass fields on ‘Dooley’ showing an easy versatility. Further showcasing this variety of styles they power into ‘Devil’s Coal’ showing a definite folk-rock strain.

The title track is another slow song with a lovely steady beat combining story-telling lyrics to a haunting melody. ‘Mary Ann’ is another story song but with a much lighter touch that will have the toes tapping. Deangelis again proves his writing talent on a lovely tale in ‘Fisherman’s Lady’.

This is a great set of songs, well performed. It will help the listener to discover new songs and new talent while still having a foundation in the more well-known tracks.
Nicky Rossiter


Wallop the Spot

Hook Records Hook005

13 tracks, 54 minutes

In another comeback from the band that never really went away, songsters, Gino Lupari and Kevin Doherty are reunited with fiddler Cathal Hayden, early “dog” Donal Murphy on box, and banjo bon viveur, Gerry O’Connor. Other big names play cameo roles, but the sound is basically back to the unmuzzled mayhem and eclectic brilliance of “Shifting Gravel” or “Doctor A’s”. Papa G’s blues is recalled by the honky-tonk doggerel of “Mary Ann”. James, Delaney’s rockabilly piano on “Turn Me Loose” brings back memories of “Bertha”.

“Bloomsday” adds a new note of Ulster Latin to this genre-bending band. “Song For PJ” is of course not a song, as any Gerry O’Connor devotee will tell you: it’s an air, played here as a fiddle duet. The banjo duet comes later, when Gerry and Cathal take their picks to “Scatter the Mud” and “Wissahicken Drive”, one of five sets of reels and jigs. There’s a polka track too, four fine old tunes grabbed by the heels and whirled into the air to see how they fly. Mostly they survive intact. “The Teelin Reel”, “The Hag’s Purse”, “Joe Skelton’s Reel” and the title track are torn into with similar abandon, and quite right too. This is what the Dogs do. The odd slow number, but mostly “Wallop the Spot” is a return to that intoxicating mix of fast fiddling and funky fretwork with a side-order of accordion salsa. will put more flesh on these bones. Lock up your flocks: the pack is back!
Alex Monaghan



IJHCD001 2007

The sub title and the sub-sub titles on this album say it all. First it is ‘Scotland meets Appalachia and this is further explained as “fiddle and viola solos in altered tunings from The Cairngorms to The Blue Ridge”. We are all familiar with the tales of the migration of the folk tradition across the ‘Western Ocean’. Hardie, a fantastic Scottish fiddle player followed the trail and learned and re-learned his craft in the old time communities of the Blue Ridge Mountains in recent years and from that rebirth he has produced a wonderful album of fourteen instrumental tracks. It opens with the self explanatory ‘Carn Gorm to Blue Ridge’, which is not only a great piece of music but it reminds us of the origin of the Cairngorms title.

These are not re-hashed traditional tunes. Hardie has composed new works based on his travels and his education in styles of playing. The work will be new and that is always hard to sell, we are addicted to the familiar, but this album is worth the effort and will delight anyone who loves good music well played.
It may be ‘Karen’s Waltz’ or ‘The Grey One Goes West’ or even ‘Banjo Branch Fiddle’ that hooks you but hooked you will be if you are willing to invest some time in new old music or is that old new music? Either way the unusually titled ‘Westringing’ will repay your effort.
Nicky Rossiter


The Chair

Own label FGCD022

13 tracks, 56 minutes

Previously known as “Lazy Boy Chair”, this Orkney band decided to shorten the name and increase the confusion for their debut recording. After winning the open stage competition at last year’s Celtic Connections, The Chair have polished up eleven tracks for a studio recording. Two live bonus tracks show what they can do with an audience. Like many bands from the Northern Isles,
The Chair is big, eight members on this recording - and the sound is satisfyingly full. Twin fiddles, accordion, banjo, guitar, bass, drums and percussion feature on most tracks of this album, with vocals on only two tracks. Fast and furious modern reels are The Chair’s staple fare: ‘The High Drive’, ‘Hogties Reel’, ‘Maverick Angels’ and several of the band’s own compositions. Unlike some young thrash folk bands, The Chair can do slow too. ‘Lily’s March’ is a lovely air by fiddler Douglas Montgomery. ‘El Dodium’ starts with a Klezmer-style slow drag before that pumping Balkan beat kicks in, and there’s a pair of slow reels with all the charm of Lúnasa.

Both halves of the dynamic duo Saltfishforty are involved in The Chair, together with Gavin Firth and Bob Gibbon from the Orkney scene. Young Fionn McArthur may also be familiar from Glasgow student recordings. All the band members are outrageously misrepresented on which also provides samples and pictures.

My favourite set is the final studio track ‘Beef’, three great tunes finishing with another roof-raising Balkan number. The bonus sets come from a concert at the Shetland Folk Festival, and comprise the band’s signature song ‘Lazy Boy’ and a reprise of the opening ‘Folky Gibbon’. As Brian exhorts the audience, “Have a bit of a boogie”: ‘Huinka’ is good-time music with that Celtic edge, perfect for long winter nights or cold summer days.
Alex Monaghan


Mo Chamán Ban – Songs of Hurlers and Hurling

Own label EOFCD 01,


“This collection of songs is not the definitive collection of hurling songs.” So says the Belfast singer, Éamonn Ó Faogáin, in CD’s notes. “I am celebrating this sporting poetry,” he continues, “using three of the great arts of music, painting and the game of hurling to create a timeline tracing the thoughts and feelings of those who have had a passion for the sport of hurling over hundreds of years.” ‘Mo Chamán Ban, Songs of Hurlers and Hurling’ is high in production values especially in the presentation: art work, design and layout, background information to the songs, and the words which are supplied in English and in Irish.

The first thing that catches the eye is the beauty of the packaging and the artwork. The cover of the CD depicts the Hurling Match on the plains of Moytura and the CD disc itself has an extract taken from the Book of Leinster, a 12th century manuscript telling of the hurling prowess of Cú Chulainn. In his acknowledgements Éamonn thanks Seán Mistéal and Isabelle Kane for their advice and creative graphics work, and ‘Andy Whitson for his superb artwork and creative advice’.

It is quite obvious that a lot of research has been done on the songs themselves and their history. Although all are credited as Trad, in all but two of the 20 songs (those two are Anon), the names of the poets/songwriters are given. The first song, Iomáin na Bóinne, by Séamus Dall Mac Cuarta, is from the 17th century and is ‘a classical poetic record of a game of hurling played between hurlers in the Oirghialla area of the Boyne.’ That’s followed by Príosún Chluain Meala, the first of the two Anon songs, with the famous English translation by J.J. Callanan (1795 – 1829). It tells the tale of a young hurler called Ó Dónaill who came from Co Kerry. He was a member of the White Boys, an anti-landlord movement in rural Ireland, and he was hanged in Clonmel.

There is also the famous Glens of Antrim song, Aird a’ Cuain, written by Seán Mac Ambróis (1793-1873), which expresses admiration for the beauty of nature and love of the game of hurling. Incidentally, the poet was a Presbyterian faith, and Irish was spoken in his community in the Glens right up to the 1940s.there are more recent songs in the English language by people like Brian O’Higgins (Ireland’s Hurling Men), Crawford Neil ( The Song of a Hurl), Monsignor Dollard (The Hurlers), Jimmy Smyth, the Co Clare hurler (Hurling), etc.
While Eamonn Ó Faogain modestly states that this collection of hurling songs is hardly comprehensive, it certainly is a most creditable effort on his part and lovers of the game everywhere will be grateful to him for his excellent work.
Aidan O’Hara


Comedians & Angels

Appleseed APR CD 1107 2008

Paxton has been a stalwart of the folk and protest genre for more than a generation and reaching his 70’s has dimmed neither his voice nor his talent for writing. The opening track ‘How Beautiful on the Mountain’ sets the scene with his ode to the peacemakers as he dips into Biblical imagery allied to a stirring tune with suitable backing vocals. The majority of the tracks on offer he classes as love songs and he dedicates them in the main to his wife and daughters. This is particularly true of ‘What a Friend You Are’ and the beautiful ‘Home To me Is Anywhere You Are’. His soft beguiling voice gives such songs a lovely poignancy and makes us think we could sing them as well for our loved ones.

He reminds us of his earlier works with a new rendition of ‘When We Were Good’. Listening to this gives pause for thought about his canon from the almost traditional ‘Rambling Boy’ and the comical song about the clockwork toy whose title escapes me as I write, was it ‘Jennifer’s Toy’? A generation grew up with Tom Paxton and his music and now this CD offers that experience to a new generation. This selection of songs would be the ideal antidote to our manic world of speed, noise and triviality. After a hard day at the office or wherever you earn your crust come home chill out and listen to the lyrics, cadences and simple arranges of this album.

‘The First Song is for You’ is one of my favourites on here. It is deceptive in its simplicity but listen to those great words of true meaning and the almost invisible musical sounds.

Anyone with daughters named ‘Jennifer and Kate’ should learn off this song or else learn it and substitute your own children’s names. On ‘Bad Old Days’ he recalls days we all have experienced in our past but he manages to put them to music once again showing that the best songs are those about feelings we have all felt. He closes a brilliant new album with the title track as he recalls the artistes of the past like The Clancy’s and the joy of performing. Long may Tom Paxton continue to perform.
Nicky Rossiter


Harald Juengst Double CD, Edition Gola EGCD 1960,

“The next song is a dance,” or in Harald Juengst’s case, that entertainer’s line might well be, “The next song is a story.” You see, Harald is many things: he’s a teacher, a singer, a broadcaster, and now, a storyteller. Oh yes - and he’s also a German Donegal man. And he’s a big man, too, known in Rannafast in the Donegal Gaeltacht where he has a house and lives for apart of the year, as Harald Mór. The more perceptive of you will also see more of the Donegal connection in the CD label above, Edition Gola: the island of Gola which is reached from Bunbeg pier, and in my childhood home to many islanders who years later resettled on the mainland. Ach sin scéal eile.

So how did the Donegal connection come about for this man who for years has been the leader of the band Sheevon that performs Irish music in Germany? “It all started in Duisburg, an industrial city in the Ruhr Valley, when I was at university,” Harald told me. “In the early seventies I began studying to be a teacher. There were lots of student parties, lots of beer, of course, and what I now call ceol agus craic. Then one evening somebody produced an LP of The Dubliners. They clicked with me right away. That’s when I first heard Irish music.” That prompted him to come to Ireland for the first time in 1974, and it led to a love affair with the country and Donegal in particular - that has lasted ever since.

Donegal of course is noted not only for its music, song and dance, but also for its great heritage of stories and storytelling, as well. Big Harald has absorbed this aspect of our culture, too. “The stories and places on this CD audio book are all real and as true as my memory will allow. I have changed the names of the ‘actors’ to protect their privacy.” Which is just as well, considering the fact that the characters he calls ‘actors’ are painted warts and all - no holes barred. “They are all recent stories,” he says, “and show that the Irish character and spirit, along with their traditions, are still very much alive.”

Of course, Harald’s considerable communication skills as teacher and broadcaster, coupled with his entertainer talents fit him very well for his role as a storyteller. In fact, the whole presentation is definitely enhanced by his very appealing German/Donegal accent and clear-spoken English. His descriptive powers and sense of humour make his original stories very appealing for young and old. He has travelled far and wide, too, as far afield as Australia and Namibia, no less, telling his tales of Ireland and Donegal. “At last I can begin to imagine how Ireland is and what it looks like,” one Namibian youngster told him.” And David, a young Australian, said, “I loved the way he made different voices to make the characters real.” And Sophie, a classmate of David’s, added, “Harald, the storyteller from Germany, told an Irish folk tale in a German accent on a visit to an Australian school. That is just crazy but cool!”

I can’t think of any better recommendation than that, and I know that short of having Harald himself tell you these stories in person, this double CD presentation is certainly the next best thing.
Aidan O’Hara



Celtic Collections CCCD900 2007

From the red haired ladies through the red hued packaging this is a deep and sensuous album of beautiful music brilliantly realised. Backed by the Rua Symphony Orchestra, the duo of Liz Madden and Gloria Mulhall draw us into all that is great in the traditional and folk oriented genre opening with the haunting ‘Whisper’. When they delve into the more familiar tracks they have the knack of innovation in arrangement without losing the essence of songs we grew up with. This is especially evident on ‘Scarborough Fair’ the best-known market in the world if the number of times it appears on records is to be taken as an indicator.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is ‘Nights in White Satin’. Yes this is Justin Hayward’s ethereal classic with female vocals and orchestral backing. Reminding us that ‘Fields of Gold’ was not his only venture into writing they give a lovely outing to Sting’s ‘You Will be my Ain True Love’. The ladies are no slouches at the writing and composing either with a few tracks here originating with them like the bouncy ‘That Kiss’ and the more sedate ‘Tender’ showing a great versatility of talent.

One can hardly listen to a CD these last few months without getting a version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. Not that one is complaining when the offering is as crystal clear as Rua’s. Another song that is instantly recognisable without being hackneyed is ‘Vincent’ that anthem for the artist from Don McClean. They close a set of thirteen excellent tracks with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. This is a beautifully produced album that will relax the spirit and refresh the soul.
Nicky Rossiter