Releases > June 2008

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Transatlantic Sessions 3
Whirlie DVD 01 (CD version available)
47 tracks, 229 minutes

Gather together the great and good of folk music from both sides of the big pond, and you might just get lucky. Put Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas in charge, and you could get this: better than lucky. In its third series, ‘Transatlantic Sessions’ continues to coax out-standing music from a group of individual performers. And as Jerry Douglas puts it, everyone leaves their ego at the door.
Donal Lunny, Phil Cunningham, Donald Shaw, Mike McGoldrick, Bruce Molsky and that’s just the backing band. Six half-hour programmes are presented in full, with 42 tracks of solos, duets and ensemble pieces, plus some bonus material. This series also features Jenna Reid, Cara Dillon, Julie Fowlis, Catriona McKay, Sharon Shannon, Gerry O’Connor, Sam Lakeman, Paul Brady, Tim O’Brien, Fred Morrison and many more. There’s a bunch of American singers too, if you like that sort of thing.

Kicking off with two of Aly Bain’s brilliant bouncy reels, there’s too much good stuff to list. Sharon Shannon slays ‘The Swedish Jig’. Jenna Reid duets with Aly on her soulful version of ‘Hector the Hero’, Fred Morrison plays his own ‘Lochaber Badger’, and when he and Mike McGoldrick pick up the pipes for ‘Rip the Calico’ it stays ripped. Catriona McKay’s ‘Swan LK 243’ speaks for itself, even without Aly and Jerry. The final chase through ‘Sail Away Ladies’ and ‘Walking in the Parlour’ combines Americana and Celtica with a big dollop of Nyah and Yeeha! There’s room enough for some exquisite performances from Jerry Douglas, Phil and Aly, and other house band stars too.

On the song side, Julie Fowlis sings a couple of Gaelic classics. Karen Matheson pumps out a stirring medley of mouth music. Cara Dillon sings ‘P Stands for Paddy’ and ‘The Streets of Derry’. Paul Brady returns to his roots with ‘The Lakes of Pontchartrain’, and is joined by the chorus line for a couple of his own songs. The camera work and sound quality are excellent, the scenery is breathtaking, the sleeve notes are more than sufficient, the calibre and quantity of music is prodigious. The style ranges from the highland to hillbilly, front porch to fiery poteen, all good. No complaints from me: this is one hell of a DVD. Most of it is also available on CD.
Alex Monaghan


The Parish Platform

Own Label

12 tracks, 39 minutes

Rattle the Boards tread a fine line between ceoltoir and caricature. I’d say they carry it off, their music is meant to be fun and it is. From the opening notes of ‘Cuz Teehan’s Polka’ we’re clearly well down the country, the whole album is a triumph of exuberance.

All the old favourites are trotted out: ‘The Mason’s Apron, The Irish Washerwoman, The Galway Hornpipe’ and ‘The High Reel’. Box and banjo front men, Benny McCarthy and Pat Ryan are well known from Danú and the Knockgow band. They’re joined by John Nugent on guitar, and John T Egan for the occasional song, on this follow-up to their 1999 debut CD.

Amidst plenty of good stuff, the majority is pure traditional: ‘Johnny Leary’s, Off to California, McKillop’s Reel, Humours of Drinagh’, and a couple of ‘Gan Ainmneacha’. The showband standard, ‘Whistling Rufus’ adds a note of jazz and pays homage to Clonmel’s other musical heritage (Mick Delahunty’s big band). The big band on this track is a one man horn section from Decky O’Dwyer and some deft finger work on the box from McCarthy.

Benny excels on his ‘Mason’s Apron’ solo, with enough variations to please any Dubliners die-hards, while ‘Autumn Sky’ and ‘The Nightingale’ are firmly back in showband territory. There are just two songs on ‘The Parish Platform’; the other is a rough-and-ready romp through the comic ballad ‘St Patrick Was a Gentleman’, a duet with comedian John Kenny. A set of reels headed up by ‘Farrell O’Gara’ provides the big finish, played straight and not too fast, a satisfying conclusion to a most entertaining CD. There’s an engagingly antiqued website at with samples and purchasing links.
Alex Monaghan


Bottlenecks & Arm-Breakers

Raj Records RAJCD 003

10 tracks, 44 minutes

This fiddle-led band has seriously funked up its music since the debut recording ‘What Road?’ Tim Edey (melodeon and guitar) takes over from Kris Drever, and Kevin Henderson joins fellow fiddlers, Charlie McKerron, Gordon Gunn and Adam Sutherland. Iain Copeland on percussion and Brian McAlpine on shamelessly funky keyboards complete the line-up, plus occasional guests.
Many of Charlie’s tunes feature here, from the storming opener ‘Real Mackay Wedding’ to the triumphant air ‘Fionn’s’. The title tune ‘The Arm Breaker’ is another of his, as is the well-known ‘Paella Grande’. Charlie shares the pair of almost-strathspeys ‘Kirstie’s’ and ‘Garry Porch’ with Adam Sutherland, who contributes several other compositions including the currently popular ‘Road to Errogie’. Tim Edey adds a touch of Sliabh Luachra melodeon on Adam’s reel ‘A Trip to Market’, and there’s a tune apiece from Tim, Kevin and Gordon.

With a dozen compositions from the band, the other half of this ten-track CD draws on traditional tunes and pedigree composers. ‘Sporting Paddy’ lends an Irish flavour to a set which includes John Morris Rankin’s ‘Hull Reel’. Gordon Duncan’s ‘Jig O’ Beer’ follows ‘Duncan the Gauger’, unusually attributed to Evan Macrae. ‘The Sleeping Tune’ is one of Gordon Duncan’s finest, and gets a melancholy treatment from Session A9. ‘Struy Lodge’, credited to Willie Ross, and ‘Far From Home’ are traditional reels nicely handled. Ross Ainslie’s ‘Dirty Bee’ provides the big finish, a satisfying climax to an excellent album. Never mind the width: Session A9 have produced a quality recording here. Fiery fiddle, rippling keyboards, a good solid beat and a few little extras.
Alex Monaghan


Boots or no Boots CREV1-BCS2

London Irish punk folkies, The Bible Code Sundays sound like a collision between The Pogues, The SawDoctors and Whiskey Priests. The vim and vigour is well-placed and appropriate and this Boots or no Boots album comes armed and ready to take the punk folk and jig punk audiences to task. The band is set to take the US by storm this summer and a well-known record label is making moves to licence their output. A quick check of their website will tell you they are a busy band, playing almost a gig every other day on the London Irish Pub circuit.

Ronan McManus’ vocals are suitably ravaged but retain an attractive clarity. The clarion calls of ‘Maybe it’s because I’m an Irish Londoner’ sets the scene of their origins with further nods to their roots in ‘Welcome to Cricklewood’ and ‘The Green and Red of Harrow’, while ‘Clew Bay Pirates’ and ‘Mayo Moon’ hint at ancestral locations. Musically, flute, fiddle and accordion meld with a typical rock rhythm section and Ronan McManus sounds suitably forlorn in ‘Mayo Moon’. While they ply a well worn trade with the sub Pogues/jig punk style accepted as part of the Celtic rock genre, there is plenty of full-blooded activity going on here to satisfy their live audiences.

However, the lesson Bible Code Sundays need to learn is that further sophistication and originality will be necessary to avoid musical stereotyping. Meanwhile Boots or No Boots will suffice for a suitably energetic album for the Celtic-Angst-Rock fans amongst our readers.
John O’Regan



Self Produced

12 tracks Running Time 52 Minutes

The cappella singing group, Navan brings forth an album of songs from across the span of Celtica in ‘Lowena’. The sound of just the human voice has never been so rich or so sweetly showcased. This album is a bit of a departure for the group, as they have moved out from the Irish language into other Celtic tongues. Opening with the Cornish song ‘Ellas Mari’, the harmonies are intricate and neat. There are also songs from Brittany, (Ma Labousig ar C’hoad), Wales, (Ffarwel fo i Langyfelach Lon), as well as the Gaelic offerings in Scots and Irish.
Sheila Shigley and Elizabeth Fine work well off of Paul Gorman. Gorman provides a lot of underlying droning for Shigley and Fine, most notably on ‘Falt Trom Trom Dualach’, a Scottish waulking song. Shigley and Fine provide a great centerpoint for the lyrics, with rich voices blended together in an exquisite fashion. When the trio sings together, the result is often haunting, even in up tempo songs.

Even if you can’t understand the lyrics, Navan’s use of voice underlines how strong the first human instrument can be when presented in such a dynamic manner.
Brian G. Witt



Curb Records CURCD237 2008

This album delivers what it says on the tin. It is Brian Kennedy interpreting songs made famous by others from Clifford T Ward to Van Morrison. This is always a gamble. We love the familiar. How many of you would purchase an album unless at least a few tracks were familiar? This CD has 13 such tracks so you know what you are going to hear. We also like something new on that album. Kennedy provides this by doing what he sets out on the title. He interprets the music to varying degrees different from the artistes who made the tracks famous.

‘Galileo’ is one of my favourite tracks on this collection. It is ideally suited to the singer and is a joy to hear. Kennedy delivers Kristofferson’s ‘For the Good Times’ at a slower pace than the original and it sounds like it would be wonderful in a stage performance or for that candlelit romantic evening.
Covering a familiar song is fraught with danger especially if the original is stamped by an iconic and very distinctive sound. Such is the case with ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. No one can out-Van the man. Kennedy realises this and gives us a completely new ‘girl’ and it works very well. One can picture Kennedy in a tuxedo on a spot lit stage as he delivers tracks like ‘Night and Day’ and ‘You Are So Beautiful’. Listening to this collection of 13 tracks, Brian Kennedy has pulled it off. He has interpreted some classy songs in a classy fashion.
Nicky Rossiter



Dalla Records DACD04

Cornish based trio, Dalla have issued some fine collections of localised folk music with a contemporary twist. Formed by multi- instrumentalist, Neil Davey, (yes the bouzouki player who did such a good job with the now defunct Dublin trio Anam). Rooz boast two vocalists in Hilary Coleman and Bec Applebee, the trio has worked to create a vision for Cornish traditional music and song within a contemporary setting. The title of their third album Rooz translates as Cornish for Red and emits a suitably bright presence. Dean Younk a Gernow (Young Men of Cornwall) opens impressively with Hilary Coleman and Bec Applebee’s strong vocals over a fiddle drone and Tane an Gove adds clarinet, darabuka and bouzouki to create a Balkan/Cornish/Middle Eastern rhythmic fest bordering on Jazz idioms. Bal Maiden’s Chant complete with strident jig rhythm allows for striking vocal interplay, while King of Sweden demonstrates a command of musical light and shade. Neil Davey’s string instruments and Hilary Coleman’s clarinets make for an attractive front line, while the percussion utilised includes rock smashing! Taking Cornish traditional music and song to the outside world is Dalla’s mission and they accomplish the task with skill and dexterity.
John O’Regan



Wise Records WISCD3435

Give this album time to grow on you. If you dismiss it because of a lack of familiar tunes or if you are a bit anti the modernisation of traditional music you will be missing a golden opportunity.

Celtish are a bit experimental in their choice and playing but there is that solid foundation of tradition on offer within the ten tracks on offer. The opening track, ‘When My Love and I parted’, is longer than your usual opener but this comes about through the use of a combination of tunes, styles, delivery and some vocals.

‘The Traveller’ reveals the virtuosity of the playing as the band display their talents on a relatively simple tune played with verve. The track called ‘I Love My Love’ again shows the beauty in combination. The opening tune is new and composed by a band member. It then takes lyrics from a traditional song from North Carolina collected by Cecil Sharp but Keen’s delivery of the vocal is absolute 21st century. Who could find fault in a track called ‘Lobster’s Revenge’? It’s a pity it is not a vocal track because one is intrigued by how the crustacean might take revenge.

One of the more familiar tracks is Andy M Stewart’s, ‘Where Are You’. Be warned, however, this group does not deliver it in familiar form. They have changed the phrasing to reveal a song that is totally new. Without close listening you would not recognise it. ‘After the Rain’ combines O’Carolan with John Harris, harpist with the band and Anders Norudde on a lovely quiet set. This album is a sort of progressive trad and is well worth your attention.
Nicky Rossiter


The Initiation

Self Produced

14 Tracks. Running time 48:30

Charlene Adzima is a Columbus, Ohio-based fiddler. Her debut enterprise, ‘The Initiation’ is a nice mix of tunes and songs. She uses the talents of her friends and teachers to good device, but it is her ability that makes this album work.
Adzima has a wonderful feel for her instrument. She is able to coax out the sweetness of ‘The Rambling Pitchfork/Trip to Reykjavik/ Tommy Peoples’, a series of lightly played jigs and reels. ‘Marcus Hernon’s Air’ is filled with the requisite heart tugging a well-played slow air can muster. She plays with Liz Carroll on ‘The Initiation Reel’, and masterfully matches her note for note in a strong bit of playing.

Adzima also sings a number of songs, all in Irish. Her voice is soft, sweet, and slightly small. The first, ‘An Cailin Rua’, is probably the weakest of the numbers, and it also leads off the album. However, she is superb on the lullaby ‘Einini’, and ‘Inion A’ Bhaoghaillagh’, both somewhat haunting in their delivery, the latter assisted by Josh Michaels’ vocals and Craig Markley’s keyboards.
Adzima is joined by a number of Columbus area musicians. They include: Marian Funk, Craig Markley John Sherman and Zac Leger (a fellow bandmate in her other project ‘Oisre’). Their contributions fill in the spaces around her playing and singing, such as Funk’s accordion on ‘Farewell to Tara Hall/Old Jones Jig’, and Leger’s guitar and whistles on ‘Smash the Brisket/Hunter’s House/Maids of Mitchelstown’. Mike Dugger, late of Scartaglen, expertly produced the album. If the Columbus players are representative of the music in that part Ohio, they are a blessed region, to be certain. ‘The Initiation’ is a very good bit of music. Adzima clearly has passed hers with flying colors.
Brian G Witt


Celtic Collections CCCDHK940

A few years ago Chuck Ward from the Milwaukee Irish Fest asked this magazine a straight question, “Where are all the ballads groups these days?” You see, Irish America likes to hear words; traditional music does well over the other side of the pond, but if you have the touch, shall we qualify it as, the Clancy Brothers touch, then America is waiting to hear you. The High Kings have answered that call and judging by their touring programme America is wild about these four lads from the Emerald isle.

This is an album that has been meticulously worked out to a formula, and like any good pharmacist will tell you, if you get the ingredients right the medicine will work its magic. The idea is simple, take four good tenor voices, preferably with some pedigree for credibility, work out a big musical landscape in which those voices can shine and then find the right market.

With Dave Kavanagh and David Downes behind the project there’s a quality track record here, Kavanagh was the force behind Clannad and Downes is a former musical director of Riverdance and the man who thought up the hugely successful Celtic Woman shows. It just had to make sense to have a male version. And what a time to do it, Riverdance is moving out of the United States after a dozen years, leaving a gap in the schedule for promoters who have seats to fill.

Riverdance has opened the world to Irish music on big stages and there is a long tradition of popular Irish shows in the US - don’t forget that Broadway was the big invention of Irish Americans Harrigan and Hart in the 19th century.
The High Kings are Finbarr Clancy, (son of Bobby Clancy), Martin Furey, (son of the piper and singer Finbar Furey), Brian Dunphy, (son of Sean Dunphy), and Mooncoin’s, Darren Holden who toured the world with Riverdance (his voice is far nearer to musical theatre than the other three). Their material could have come straight out of the Clancy’s song book, ‘Will Ye Go Lassie Go,’ ‘The Wild Rover,’ ‘The Black Velvet Band,’ ‘The Little Beggarman’, ‘The Auld Triangle’ , you get the idea?

The backing band has a few names you might recognise, Nollaig Casey, Mairtin O’Connor, and two pipe bands. This is a package down to the black shirts, the overcoats, and clean cut images, it smacks of the hand of management and it is honed to a sharp edge. In a way it is a metaphor for modern Ireland. The thatched cottage is gone, the pine paneled snug in the pub is a rarity, we enjoy being modern with a hint of European style and US street savvy.

I can see this working really well in America where the nostalgia card has been played for seven generations, the test will be at home in June when the lads bring it back home, for an extensive Irish tour. You can’t argue against the choice of songs, nearly every one in the audience will sing along to them and it will work its charm with middle-Ireland. There is a partner DVD to go with the CD and on it you can see the lavish sets and get a feel for the big night out a High Kings concert is. What comes across on both DVD and CD is that the lads are utterly charming and they are having a ball with the music.
Seán Laffey


Four on the Floor

Compass Records 4461

13 Tracks Running time 57:27

‘Four on the Floor’ is the first album without longtime lead Jim Malcolm. So, how does the band do without the services of one of the most identified voices in Scots music? Quite well, actually. The retrenchment of the band allowed for the discovery of the singing of Rory Campbell, as well as Johnny Hardie’s increased presence as a singer. Musically, OBD is still at the top its game.
The work opens up with a fine version of Ewan McColl’s ‘Terror Time’. ‘Harris Dance - Jan Alexanders Fancy/The Harris Dance/ Unknown’ is a lively series of reels that feature Hardie and Campbell on fiddle and pipes. There are a couple of Breton gavottes that highlight the musical diversity of the band, followed by a piping tune, ‘Donald, Hugh and his Dog’ that blends well with the other offerings in the set. ‘Put the Gown on the Bishop/Old Country Bumpkin/ Kilkenny Jig/Danza de Lino’, a set of jigs, starts off slowly and works up a head of steam, abetted by Fraser Stone’s percussion.

Where people might notice Malcolm’s absence the most would be the singing. However, Hardie, Campbell and Aaron Jones do a good job on the many songs on the album. Campbell sings a waulking song from the Isle of Barra in Gaelic. ‘Star of the Bar’ a sad song about a young woman who can drink with the best of them, is done in a slightly whimsical fashion. ‘Braw Sailing’ and ‘Cairn o’ Mount’ are slightly understated, but given a good delivery nonetheless.

The album finishes up with three pieces recorded live in Michigan, ‘Bedlam Boys/Rights of Man’, ‘Branle’ and ‘Bonnie Earl of Moray’. These pieces highlight OBD’s strength as a live band. ‘Bedlam Boys’ alone is worth the purchase price of the CD (and there’s an interesting story behind how it was written –Ed.). ‘Four on the Floor’ can hold its own against any of the group’s previous work.
Brian G Witt


Dick Gaughan

Greentrax CDTRAX 322 2008

Dick Gaughan’s songs are those of the old bard, the itinerant broadsheet seller, singers whose songs really had something to say, something to protest about. He has pedigree too, both as a socialist (fundraising gigs for the Miners’ strikes) and a musician. His guitar playing with Five Hand Reel was electric and his seminal recording of ‘Coppers and Brass’ a milestone of guitar music. In the 1970’s he was one of the first players to master jigs and reels on the instrument. Others may know him from the classic album he did with Andy Irvine, ‘Parallel Lines’. In short anything by Gaughan is worth checking out.

This live recording at The Trades Club in North Yorkshire appears to be an annual event, the final gig on his yearly tour of the UK and again this mirrors his roots in an old tradition of travelling the land entertaining folk, not with froth and frivolity but giving them news of the world and more than a little food for thought.

The album captures the atmosphere very well and makes for a lovely period of imagining you are there among the smoke (oops no smoking anymore) and the smell of real ale and the true people of the land let their hair down and appreciate a great entertainer.

Through the thirteen tracks on the CD he gives us old favourites, some new works and a few lovely instrumentals. He opens with the nicely titled, ‘What You do with What You’ve Got’, setting the tone for the evening.

I’m not a great fan of instrumental tracks - no matter who is playing - but I was intrigued by his first non-vocal set that ends with ‘The Wexford Assembly’. This is his own composition about a gathering in my home county over two centuries ago.

I thought ‘Tom Paine’s Bones’ would retell the story of a recent book but no, it was a different song altogether. Paine you may recall was exiled to America for his radical political ideas; these days they’d probably keep him out. Oh and yes he was the author of the pamphlet, ‘The Rights of Man’, that gave its name to a set dance and got Bourke all in a lather.

Gaughan’s own composition ‘Outlaws and Dreamers’ is one of my favourites on the album. It is closely followed by ‘The Hunter Dunne’, a cautionary tale for those who might choose his trade. Dick does not confine his songs to the UK and he gives a fine rendition of ‘Geronimo’s Cadillac’. Other songs include ‘Erin Go Bragh’ and his own favourite ‘Westlin Winds’, the words to which we have in a story behind the song piece.

He closes proceeding with what else but ‘Both Sides the Tweed’. This is a signature tune that gets better the more you hear it. If you are looking for his moral philosophy then check out the words to all the songs on the liner and maybe spare a thought for the last two lines of ‘Outlaws and Dreamers: And I give my soul’s promise, I give my heart’s pledge. To outlaws and dreamers and life on the edge.
Nicky Rossiter