Releases > May 2008

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Cairde Cairdín
Own label, DOB1979, 55 minutes

Cairde Cairdín is the debut album from fiddle player, Diarmuid O’Brien. Diarmuid hails from West Limerick, growing up in the townland of Glenagragra in the parish of Glin. Diarmuid is a relative of the late Martin Mulvihill who not only gathered an enormous repertoire of West Limerick music before emigrating to the USA, but was a prolific composer also. Mulvihill tunes featured here are, ‘Mick Moloney’s Rambles’, the set ‘The High Road to Glin/The Low Road to Glin/The Tarbert Ferry’ (named after the ferry which crosses the Shannon Estuary to County Clare).

Many tunes are peculiar to the area – sets of quadrilles, mostly slides and polkas followed by marches, jigs, hornpipes and occasionally reels, for weddings, parties, crossroads dancing and Wren festivities. The West Limerick style of playing is also special, the area sandwiched between Clare and Sliabh Luachra and thus influenced by both (or vice versa), the accordion being especially popular, it had the necessary volume both for cÈilÌ bands and to lead out the Wren boys. So a good deal of Cairde Cairdín consists of a number of fiddle-accordion duets, featuring Diarmuid on fiddle and well-known accordion players from the West Limerick region, including Donal Murphy (‘Four Men and a Dog’, ‘Sliabh Notes’, ‘Dervish’), Mick Mulcahy (he recorded two albums with his daughters before) and Derek Hickey (‘Arcady’, ‘De Dannan’). This is music for the dancers; lively and energetic.
Tom Keller


Are We There Yet?

Own Label W.EDGE1, 12 tracks, 46 minutes

Cast your mind back to 1993 and the release of The Blue Fiddle, the first of many Smyth family albums. This latest product of a prodigious Mayo stable has much of the same bounce, swing and groove which has energised Lúnasa for the past decade. Despite baby sister Cora’s ingénue pose on the cover, she was part of that 1993 recording and is now a time-served Flatley soloist boasting a recent duet album with sibling Breda. So forget the Cameron Diaz resemblance; this girl is a serious fiddler, and no mean whistler, with experience that would shame Mary Jensen.

‘Seansky March’, ‘Valentino’, ‘Banyuls’, ‘On to the Tequila Bar’ - Cora has eclectic taste, and her own compositions reflect this. Most of the material here is credited to Smyth/Horsman: Sean Horsman also gets most of the credit for backing and programming. Bouncy beats and jazz chords underlie catchy fiddle tunes with a touch of the Balkans, the Urals, and the Rockies, whatever.
In more traditional Irish vein, Cora and Sean offer ‘50 Cent Jig’, a set of reels called ‘Double O Jig’, and some session tunes including ‘The Musical Priest’, ‘The Red-Haired Lass’ and ‘The Green Garters’.

Amid the cheerful dance music are a few slow sad pieces. ‘Sinking the Ark’ is a plangent air with minimal accompaniment. ‘Echo Fidelis’ is misty and elusive. ‘Banyuls’ is a lovely tune which should find its way onto other recordings. The slow, slow waltz ‘Tranquillo’ sets up a final swagger through ‘Sergeant Early’s Dream’, a grand old tune given a delightful twist here. You’ll have gathered I like this CD – it’s polished, gutsy, very well played, engaging and uplifting, and mostly great fun. is the place to find out more. ‘Are We There Yet?’ Yes, Cora!
Alex Monaghan


Frankie Gavin, Rick Epping & Tim Edey

Greentrax G2CD 7011 2008

We all know that Ireland could have been the home of the blues if the weather had been a bit warmer. We have the battered past, the feeling that things often go wrong and the musical ability. Sadly the genre was invented before we could get round to it but on this album we are shown what might have been. These three outstanding musicians, who are formidable individually, unite to bring us a selection of Irish and blues that will knock your socks off.

Frankie Gavin is well-known for his De Dannan days but also for collaborations with many of the greats. In many ways he is the fiddler’s fiddler while still wowing the ordinary punter. Rick Epping, an All-Ireland harmonica champion has also worked extensively in the USA and played with blues and bluegrass greats. Guitar and keyboard maestro, Tim Edey has played with stars from Sharon Shannon to Mary Black.

The tone of the album is set on track 1 where we find ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ sharing the set with ‘Pol Ha’penny’, an Irish hornpipe. The strange bedfellows meet, meld and the track shows that the ‘Western Ocean’ is merely a pond.
The overriding feeling listening to this album is that you are at an informal house session where the guests happen to be the top in their fields. There is the love and joy of music for the sake of music that allows a player to experiment and try new genres while always giving a star performance.

My favourite track on the CD has to be ‘Cill Cais’, as the trio take music and make magic. This is an album for the blues man (or woman) and the traditionalist. Both will enjoy it and maybe be converted to the perspective of the other. That’s not bad for a CD that anyone can enjoy.
Nicky Rossiter



Own label EMCD01, 13 tracks, 53 minutes

How many first-class Scottish flute-players can you think of? Wooden flutes are common in Irish music, but rare east of the North Channel. Claire Mann and many others play Irish music in Scotland. Eddie McGuire of the Binkies and Iain MacDonald of the Batties are the only home-grown icons of Scottish flute music. The most well-known exponent is probably Canadian virtuoso, Chris Norman, long-time collaborator with fiddler, Alasdair Fraser. Well, now we have Calum Stewart, a youngster from Morayshire who picks up where Chris Norman left off. On ‘Earlywood’, Calum breathes vibrant life into music from Papa Stour to Roslin.

The flute tone is powerful; starting with deep resonant notes on the evocative air ‘Struey Vale’ and soon shifting to quick staccato snaps on ‘The Haughs o’ Cromdale’. Calum uses lips, fingers and tongue to achieve a very distinctive sound with elements of highland piping as well as the Scottish parlour music style of two centuries ago. ‘Miss Gordon of Gight’ and ‘Fa’s Sae Merry’ have more of a ceilidh feel, especially when Lauren MacColl’s fiddle joins the mix. There are some true solos, but most tracks are gently accompanied by Andy May on piano.

Calum’s own compositions add influences from Breton and Galician cousins. ‘Summer’s Saudade’ reflects the relaxed atmosphere of Iberia’s west coast. ‘aftershock ‘ is a similarly sultry reel in a pan-Celtic style, and ‘Etoiles Dans la Nuit Bretonne’ spins its seven-eight rhythms around a modal melody. ‘Looking at a Rainbow’ and ‘Fading Footsteps’ are thoroughly contemporary airs, beautifully played, which wouldn’t be out of place in a piano bar. Calum Stewart clearly has a taste for slow airs, and a talent to match; ‘Roslin Castle’ and ‘Da Cauld Nights o’ Winter’ are demanding tunes played with rare skill here.
He can hack the fast material also, as the bonus track of strathspeys and reels shows. ‘Betty’s Big Coat’, ‘Fochaber’s Rant’ and ‘The Periwig’ are dispatched with ease. The ‘Moray Jigs’ set is more of an effort for the flute, but the only place Calum seems to sweat is on the tricky waltz ,’Three from the North’, which really pushes the limits of his instrument. A set of fife marches and a creditable version of Skinner’s ‘Tullochgorum’ variations complete the fluter’s dozen tracks on a most impressive debut album.
Alex Monaghan


The Story So Far

Compass Records 4475, 16 tracks, 67 minutes

After more than a decade, it had to happen - a Lúnasa compilation. What record label could resist? This CD contains a little under one quarter of Lúnasa’s recorded tracks, so there’s room for three more compilations already, and to be honest they needn’t be any different than this one. Any random selection of Lúnasa’s output is bound to be of exceptional quality and include some rare gems: ‘Lord Mayo’ from that first great recording and ‘Black River’ from album number six. Alan Kelly’s catchy ‘Trip to Dingle’ gets a slot, as does the powerful reprise of the Bothy Band Favourite, ‘Cregg’s Pipes’.

The band’s range of influences is represented by the Breton ‘Fest Noz’ and the Spanish ‘Casu’, both wonderful sets. ‘The Floating Crowbar’ is here from ‘Otherworld’, and Gerry O’Connor’s reel, ‘Punch in the Dark’ from their penultimate recording. That 1997 debut also contributes ‘Feabhra’, three non-Irish tunes which were instantly adopted as a result.

‘The Story So Far’ is a long and invigorating taste of Lúnasa’s excellent music, and for time-served fans there are also new versions of ‘Morning Nightcap’ and the signature ‘Last Pint’. Details and downloads are available from the Compass Records website,
Alex Monaghan


The Long Note

Own Label JS002, 11 tracks, 41 minutes

These three London-based musicians build a wide range of music on top of essentially Irish foundations. The Long Notes have been playing together for a while and none of them was new to the game. Piano box ladette, Colette O’Leary, lent rhythm and power to The Bumblebees; Jamie Smith was the founder fiddler with Beneche; banjo genius, Brian Kelly, has played with everyone who could keep him upright, and with many who couldn’t. Together they can handle almost anything, and their debut CD presents 11 tracks of tunes from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Quebec, Cape Breton and beyond. Most of it is traditional, much of it is dragged without warning into a new century, and none of it is in the least bit dull.

Take the opening track, ‘Lisa Orenstein’s’ and ‘L’orient Tune’, both picked up on tour and remembered because they’re just great wee tunes. Track 2 begins with James Kelly’s charming ‘Eve’s Jig’, and the change into ‘Tommy Peoples’ Reel’ starts the old diesel suction. ‘Farmer’s Reel’ completes the set, basically an excuse for old-time fiddle and banjo pyrotechnics.

‘Myra’s Tune’ slows the tempo right down for a bewitching melody by the late, great Tom McManamon. The trio tracks continue with a sparkling set of reels and a jig: ‘Brenda Stubbert’s’, ‘Emmett’s Hedgehog’, (Larry’s Favourite) and ‘Deil Amang the Tailors’; new and old tunes nicely arranged for three. ‘Taxi to Donegal’ is a straight set of reels, starting slowly with a Jamie Smith tune, then moving into the traditional classics ‘Free and Easy’ and ‘The Flowing Bowl’. The final set switches to jigs for a towering crescendo, ending oddly enough with ‘The Stool of Repentance’ – I don’t think The Long Notes have anything to repent here.

In between the ensemble tracks are three solos and two songs. Jamie plays a set of his own compositions, catchy and elusive by turns; Colette does full justice to Steve Cooney’s lovely air ‘ag Fas Fos’ with the depth and range of the accordion; and Brian lashes into a pair of reels, the first another Tom McManamon tune and the second a session standard, played here with inimitable flair. ‘Bright Blue Rose’ and ‘When I’m Gone’ are sung by Julia Reid and Ewan Robertson respectively, and a fine job they make of them – I was particularly impressed by the power and clarity of Julia’s singing. Julia and Ewan also contribute accompaniment on a few tracks, as do Paddy Gallagher, Tim Edey, Martin O’Neill and Oscar Cainer. The end result is a very varied and thoroughly enjoyable album; a little short, but an excellent taster and a spur to see The Long Notes live.
Alex Monaghan


Over the Moon

Peerie Angel PAP002, 12 tracks, 52 minutes

After more than seven years, this Shetland fiddler has brought out her second solo CD. Over the Moon is every bit as bold, and still strikingly true to Catriona’s tradition. A gifted pupil of the late Tom Anderson, Catriona has played around the world and back but her music still shows the soul of Shetland. ‘Souper Caper’ and ‘The Wedding Hare’ are good examples; modern tunes which bare the bones of the Scottish-Nordic Swing cross-over that is Shetland fiddle music. Soaring raw power, unexpected cadences, and the occasional kink in the rhythm all point to Shetland authenticity, as do the sultry accompaniments on piano and upright bass.

Catriona brackets her own compositions with traditional reels and a heartrending slow air by Tom Anderson. The next set sees Catriona’s jazzy ‘Him on Piano’ joined to the brilliant new Swedish tune ‘Lars Olav Pols’. Then it’s all change for the funky stateside grooves of two more MacDonald originals, as David Milligan and Conrad Ivitsky are reinforced by drummer James Mackintosh. The effect on ‘Thor’s Welcome’ is like Meatloaf meets The Mc Calmans; high energy Scottish psychedelic.

This mix and match programme continues throughout ‘Over the Moon’, old Shetland and Scottish reels and jigs, compositions by Jerry Holland and Ronnie Cooper, several more of Catriona’s own tunes, and the gorgeous Gaelic air, ‘Tha Mi Am Chadal’. Among my favourites here are the Bobby MacLeod march, ‘Pipe Major John Mackenzie’ and the two final sets of classic Shetland tunes including ‘Da Galley Watch, Da Black Hat’ and ‘Da Muckle Reel o’ Finnigart’. Top of my list is Catriona’s air ‘Wonderland’, a real showstopper with such sweetness of tone. Over the Moon has been worth the wait – I just hope the next one doesn’t take as long.
Alex Monaghan


Welcome Here Again

Green Linnet, GLCD 1233 2008, 18 tracks, 53 minutes

Welcome Here Again by fiddler, Martin Hayes and guitarist, Dennis Cahill is the first release on the Green Linnet Label since its acquisition by the Compass Records Group, and more importantly the first studio album by Hayes and Cahill since their last studio recording from 1997 and their live album from 1999.

Martin Hayes hails from Maghera, County Clare, in the west of Ireland. At the age of 13, Martin was already touring with the Tulla Céilí Band, led by his father, PJ Hayes. He went to the US in the 1980’s and eventually struck a musical partnership with guitar player, Dennis Cahill in Chicago.

The East Clare style of traditional Irish music is opposed to any hectic pace and Martin embodied the lonesome touch and contemplative sound. Instead of tune sets lasting 10 or 20 minutes, of which Martin did become somewhat notorious, he now takes one tune after another. Out of 18 tracks, 14 are just one single piece. Martin explores every tune, every single note and every emotion. With ornamentations, variations and phrasings, originally simple tunes for dancing are turned into small masterpieces, as if saying that playing music is not about killing time, but a pastime that is an enduring pleasure. Dennis explains: “We loved polishing each of these tunes like a little gem. We want you to really hear the tune. We want to make every note count“.

Dennis Cahill’s accompaniment on nylon and steel string guitars is sparse but effective. He also displays his talents on the mandolin, and is not only a subtle accompanist but can play a tune or two. What can I say? Welcome here again.
Tom Keller


Get Me Through December

Own Label

Donegal’s, Deirdre Bonner’s latest recording succeeds her two previous successful solo albums. This five-track recording offers a uniquely fresh selection of songs suited well to the seasonal period. Noticeably on this offering, the instrumental support takes a back seat allowing space for Deirdre’s voice to shine though with distinct clarity throughout. The opening track entitled ‘Pat Murphy’s Meadow’ reflects a sparse texture creating space for the voice to be the dominant focus of the song. Gradually, the addition of strings to the piano and guitar adds a warmer, fuller sound to the arrangement. Indeed, the instrumental parts are aptly arranged to fill out the melodic contours at relevant cadential points, decorating the songs nicely.

‘Remember Me’, a slow ballad, invites the listener to reflect back on memories and nostalgic moments of the past. The positive, upbeat reassuring qualities of this song are likely to appeal in particular to anyone who is abroad or apart from loved ones over the Christmas season. ‘Emigrant Eyes’ follows, a ballad popularised by folk artist, Dolores Keane. This arrangement displays minimal use of accompaniment; tasteful yet effective, highlighting rising and falling motifs in the bass line as reflected in the song. ‘You’re Just a Country Boy’, a beautifully melodic song exhibits a gentle steady beat, it’s touching lyrics interspersed with subtle chord changes underneath from Rod McVey. Perhaps the highlight of the album is the final track ‘Get Me Through December’, aptly titled to reflect the subject of new beginnings. Its memorable chorus looks forward to the prospect of a fresh start affiliated with the coming of a New Year.

Overall, the clarity of vocal sound is what is most striking in this album. A refreshing addition to the CD collection. The repertoire avoids the cliched songs, favouring a clean palette of carefully selected ballads sung from the heart. Arranged and produced by Johnny Scott, this album is highly recommended.
Edel McLaughlin


The Jolly Tinker

Celtic Bulldog Records, cbr001

At first, this CD is a puzzle; no liner notes nor biography. It’s only when you visit the web that you’ll be told how Kane is a London exile, back in Ireland since 2004. His father is from Leitrim, his grandfather was Michael O’Rourke, the singing postman, and his mother’s roots are in the Gaeltacht in Co. Meath. Not only that, but he was taught in London by the famed Brendan Mulkere.
The album was launched at the Ennis Tradfest, and he had a slot on TG4 on November 21st last. There were also launches in Amsterdam, at Mulligan’s (where else) in early February and in London, The Mitre in Greenwich and the Kilkenny in South Wimbledon on New Year’s Eve.

As a first offering, it’s very much a showcase of a multiplicity
of talents. Kane plays fiddle, flute, whistle, guitar, bodhrán and keyboards, and he also does a bit of singing in both Irish and English, as well as lilting.

Notwithstanding which, he has 11 guests listed, and the album has all the buzz and energy of a well-knit session. Kane also produced the CD, and sometimes he is a little self-indulgent, laying over synth effects where none are needed.
What comes through, probably from the Mulkere influence, is a wonderful steadiness in the playing. I don’t know if Kane has played for dancers, but it sounds like it. He’s steeped in the tradition and has the confidence to let it speak for itself, without having anything to prove. I don’t know what his favourite instrument is, but there is lovely bowing on fiddle in Sean Ryan’s. Even without all the instrumental talent, Kane has a powerful singing voice, which could prove his greatest asset. He has the gift of telling a story in song, and he could easily be the next Tommy Fleming. Be warned, though, the last two tracks belong to another world altogether. Is it Irish language rap, or what? I think we can expect to hear a lot more from Kane if he doesn’t spread his considerable talents in too many different directions.
John Brophy


Hand in Hand: singing from the Tunney Tradition

Own label, 14 tracks, 51 minutes

For anyone interested in the singing tradition, this is both a find and a must. Brigid, as daughter of Paddy Tunney, is heir to a treasure-chest of tradition, and this CD is dedicated to his memory and to Brigid Tunney, her grandmother. She has her own melody for ‘The Croppy Boy’. The collection starts with ‘Easter Snow’, the song so beloved of Seamus Ennis that he named his home after it. There are fine Irish songs like ‘An Mhaighdean Mhara’ and ‘Caoineadh na dTrí Mhuire’. It’s an added bonus to have Paddy’s translation of An Mhaighdean as the Mermaid, recorded here for the first time.

There are other great classics, like ‘As I Roved Out’, ‘Lovely Willie’ and ‘Highland Mary’, which should be on the to-learn list of all those interested in the singing. The production is excellent, with the words of all the songs legibly printed in the liner notes, but besides the value of the songs, there’s the added bonus of hearing how they live through the generations, and stay as fresh as the day they were minted. It’s only appropriate that the proceeds of this album will go to help the Loreto mission in Darjeeling in India. Charity doesn’t come any easier than this.
John Brophy


Dublin Was Your Home

Dublin Was Your Home is the debut album of newly-formed The Tom Collins Band. The album combines a collection of new and traditional songs with some of the liveliest, banjo-led instrumentals around.

Tom Collins, who is a native of Athlone, has lived for some time in London and has, in his own words, played every “Tube station on the Underground”. I’ve done a bit of busking myself and you quickly realise what works with a passing audience, if you don’t communicate they’ll be off. That ability to link with an audience’s experience is ably demonstrated on this album.

Collins is a fine songwriter with an ear for a catchy tune, his words are simple, direct, memorable; what more would you want anyway? The opening track gives the title to the CD and it sets the tone for the whole concept; it has a Pete St John quality about it. That longing, what the Welsh call Hwyll, is something which is particularly acute in the Irish community in Britain, maybe it’s because the weather is so similar to Ireland that the differences are felt more psychologically than say the Irish-American disposition.

Now this is by no measure a maudlin or self-indulgent work, the songs have punch and the backing band brings a lift to everything Tom Collins has written. If there is one song I’d have bought this album for it is ‘The Lament for Mary Blaize’ , the most laid-back and melodic piece on the album and one that deserves an airing in singers’ circles around the country. He’s a fair hand at the banjo also, steady and measured for the most part with a highlight on ‘Radar Reel’, a minor opening that has the musical landscape of East Galway all over it. If you are looking for surprises then how about this, he takes Andy Irvine’s autobiographical song ‘Sweet County Clare’ and gives it a Country Swing around the floor. Then there’s ‘Out on The Wren’, with a drum kit and breaks for whistle at the end of each chorus, it’s made for local Irish radio and I can see this material going down well in St Kentigern’s in Manchester or the Galtymore in London.

A typical Irish night in the UK is a mix of nostalgia and craic, tears and laughter in one glass, Tom Collins sips from the full pint here.
Seán Laffey


Irish Traditional Music played by Takuji Tamura and Yukio Kashiwagi

Own Label TKCD-01, 18 tracks, 68 minutes

Mention Japan and fiddles, and most folk will think of the Suzuki teaching method. Those who know the tradition may think of Paddy and Brigid, and their friends who recorded a notable CD with them.

Now there’s Tajuki who arrived in Ireland via a pub in Sheffield called Fagan’s, and then spent ten years in Galway learning about fiddles and fiddlers. He went home to Japan in 2005 and set up the Tokyo School of Traditional Irish Fiddling and now has 70 pupils enrolled. All this is by way of background, but it’s of little relevance to the music, except to show how thoroughly a supposed stranger has got inside the mindset.

We have 18 tracks, with a mix of classics and some less well known – it’s what’s known in Cavan as ‘odious good value’. Listen to the lovely unaccompanied playing in the old slow jig ‘Paddy Whack’ with the double stopping to know just how good it is.

There’s a particularly fine track where the two lads duet on ‘The Broken Pledge’; and if you want to hear reel playing of quality, listen to the ‘London Lasses’ and ‘The Galway Rambler’. Takuji has really got inside the tunes, and he plays with a Connacht accent, like a real native speaker. This is a companion for both repertoire and enjoyment. And don’t lend it – it won’t come back.
John Brophy