Releases > August 2008

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The Home Ruler

Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD172

15 tracks, 49 minutes

Almost a decade on from her last solo recording, Catherine is looking good and sounding better. Is the title is a reference to her Republican sympathies or her role in the McEvoy household? Those who have read John Brophy’s interview with Catherine already know the answer. Either way ‘The Home Ruler’ demonstrates that this Birmingham-reared, Roscommon-style flute player is still one of the finest Dublin-based musicians.

There’s a warmth and intimacy to this recording; an up-close feel that sometimes reveals the mechanics behind the magic (even the best players have to breathe!) but also shares every nudge and nuance of the performance: the cheeky sustained slide on F# in ‘The Bag of Spuds’, the inspired flutter across the octaves in the title track. As ever, the tempo and phrasing are world class.

Catherine’s trusty Rudall & Rose flute is put aside for eleven tracks, to be replaced by three of Michael Grinter’s instruments. The range of tones, from Eb to C, plus the four Rudall & Rose tracks, make this album a fascinating comparison of flute characteristics as well as a delightful fifty minutes of Irish music. On the earthy C flute, Catherine has a lovely touch and is in total command of the music: ‘Elizabeth Kelly’s Favourite’ and ‘Follow me Down to Limerick’ are perfectly paced examples. The high Eb is heard to great effect on ‘Major Moran’s’ and ‘The Mystery Reel’. The opening track is one of my favourites, session tunes ‘Rolling in the Ryegrass’ and ‘The Traveller’ on her familiar Rudall & Rose. There’s only one air here, the gorgeous ‘Bánchnoic Eireann O’, played on the Grinter C.

Most of the material on ‘The Home Ruler’ is of long and ancient pedigree, but there’s a handful of compositions by twentieth-century musicians and Catherine has included three of her own tunes. ‘Dancing at Kilbrew’ is a charming jig named for a place just round the corner from Catherine’s house in Meath. ‘Dermot Grogan’s Farewell’ and ‘The Curskeagh Lasses’ are both powerful reels. Catherine is joined on piano by Felix Dolan as usual, and also by Geraldine Cotter and nephew Paddy McEvoy. Steve Cooney plays guitar on a few tracks, and Joe Kennedy provide just the right amount of rhythm on the old Irish frame drum, played in that old style that is so well suited to working with the flute. Highly recommended.
Alex Monaghan


Foolin’ In Doolin

Own Label

Clare duo, Karol Lynch and Michael O’Connell are no strangers to traditional music circles. Readers may be familiar with Brúadar, the band with which the lads used to play alongside Josie Harrington and Liam Joyce. The band’s sole recording was released eight years ago. Even younger on their debut album, these lads displayed considerable promise then. Over the past number of years, they have grown from strength to strength - here this album highlights their collective talents - and they appear in abundance.

The opening track begins with some lovely close-knit interplay between both musicians on their respective primary instruments, banjo and pipes. The sound is further augmented by the playing of fellow Clare concertina player, Pádraig Rynne. An unexpected and welcomed twist comes in the form of a sudden change of time-signature from jig time to 4/4 in the guise of a Breton tune.

Solo parts feature prominently on the album and Karol’s banjo solo playing of ‘The Heather Breeze’ is unique and refreshing. He plays at a lovely relaxed speed in the bright key of A major, carefully double tracked to add his own tasteful use of guitar accompaniment to compliment the tune. His style is polished with a customary flair; fluid, traditional sounding yet with subtle hints of innovation adding to colour the tune. Karol also plays bouzoukis and percussion on the album. ‘Blackie’ is equally impressive on his piping air, ‘May Morning Dew’, displaying his natural talent for craning, drones and creative use of the regulators. He plays a beautiful, haunting air with considerable ease and conviction.

Other tracks on the album deliver good, solid traditional music throughout - often exhibiting great creative and inventive skills from the lads. Their love for the music is genuine and this comes across clearly on the recording. Noticeably, each track is well polished and very well articulated. Tunes are carefully chosen and weave in and out of another seamlessly. Obviously there was great fun in making this album, which sets this duo out as two of the finest young musicians of today.

The album is available online from or contact the lads directly at email:
Edel McLaughlin

LAU - ‘Live’

Navigator Records

9 tracks, 61 minutes

With six tracks from their debut CD and three new numbers, Lau’s live recording is more of the same excellent fare. More music, more mastery, more mayhem. Starting slow, ‘Stewarts’ shifts up to a French-style waltz, and then up again to Martin Green’s reel ‘Last Week’s Efforts’.

The first of Kris Drever’s three songs is ‘Banks of Marble’, more modern in sentiment than the two ballads which follow, but treated with the same timeless grace. This is a new track, and so is ‘Frank and Flo’s’ which includes Aidan O’Rourke’s offbeat jig ‘An Tobar’. The carefully choreographed chaos of ‘Sea’ is the final newcomer, a big piece with bags of energy, greatly appreciated by the Edinburgh Bongo Club audience.

I think what makes Lau special is their ability to switch between the slow, melancholic, almost English airs and the full-throttle fevered frenzy of modern Celtic reels. Drever’s sensitive guitar becomes a Kalashnikov at the drop of a chord. O’Rourke has one of the purest fiddle tones I know, but when his head goes down and his knee comes up he can saw and scrape for Scotland. Green is well-known for his Jekyll and Hyde characteristics, not only in his box-playing. Some of the polished beauty of Lau’s music is lost in a live setting, but the extra spark more than makes up for this. ‘Butcher Boy’ has an added urgency, and the 14-minute ‘Lang Set’ sprouts demonic wings. After another haunting ballad, O’Rourke’s trade-mark lyrical ‘Hinba’ builds up to more madness before the gorgeous closing air. You won’t often hear a more exciting and absorbing trio. If you haven’t heard them yet, now’s your chance.
Alex Monaghan


The Dusty Bridge

Own Label FSCD0001

14 tracks, 49 minutes

With over a thousand releases planned on his label, this Galway fiddler is going to be even busier in future. Fergal Scahill’s debut solo CD follows a few forays into recording with Paul Moran, The Brock McGuire band, and others. The menu here is mainly reels and jigs. Frankie Gavin’s ‘Mystery Reel’ is much in vogue just now, and Fergal gets dark and dangerous on ‘Patsy Tuohey’s’. He turns in a fabulous lilting performance of ‘Maid at the Spinning Wheel’ before the first of three hornpipe sets starts with ‘The Banks’, a challenging piece on which Fergal stamps his authority. ‘The Dusty Bridge’ includes a few idiosyncratic versions of well-known tunes: ‘Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie, President Garfield’s’ and ‘The Humours of Ballyconnell’ to name three. The title jig is Fergal’s own, the only one on this recording, sitting nicely with ‘Ryan’s Favourite’ and ‘The Boys of the Town’.

Fergal Scahill’s playing is strong and rhythmic. ‘The Hag at the Churn’ is attacked with gusto, and the horsehair is almost alight on ‘The Boys of the Lough’. There’s more testosterone than tone at times, but that’s fine by me: a good fiddler needs a bit of the devil in him. Mairtín O’Connor tunes ‘The Celebration Reel’ and ‘The Long Lane’ accentuate the playful bedlam of Fergal’s music, reminiscent of Reeltime or Nomos at their best. Two big numbers finish the album, ‘The Spike Island Lasses’ paired with one of Paddy Fahey’s well-known reels, and finally the enchanting air ‘Port na bPucaí’ given a stunning six-minute treatment. There’s a bit of rhythm guitar, a bit of sean-nós stepping, some fine piano accompaniment from Ryan Molloy, and the rest of ‘The Dusty Bridge’ is Fergal’s fiddle. Impressive and powerful: see for samples, pictures, and lots more.
Alex Monaghan



Own label: PMG 001 15 tracks

Sometimes, there comes along unexpectedly a little bit of serendipity and you can only feel grateful for hearing a bit of real material that was previously hidden. Paul McGlinchey does himself and Tyrone great credit with this offering.
There’s a great sense of power and direction, a rock-steady rhythm, and it’s not hard to fathom how he comes to have a couple of all-Ireland titles to his name. Great tunes from the likes of Josie McDermott and Vincent Broderick, and from a later generation, Charlie Lennon. I was especially impressed with the reel ‘The Piper’s Broken Finger’. It’s a point about a good recording, and it happens here, that any time you might get even a shade distracted there’s a twist or a little bit of a polished gem, and you say: “Hey, did you hear that? That’s real motoring!”
He’s got a fine team together for this offering: Brid Harper and MacDara O’ Raghallaigh, fiddles, Seamus O’Kane on bodhrán, Stevie Dunne on guitar and banjo, and Ryan Molloy on piano. But he certainly proves the flute and fiddle duets have a special blend and character to them.

The tempo on the jigs is very nicely judged. My favourite was ‘Courtown Harbour’, composed by Jimmy McHugh, originally from Tyrone, but who lived most of the time in Glasgow, (there’s a solid and wonderful festival in his memory every January. This is a real instalment of undiluted pure drop, and all the sweeter for it. Most of us agree that the best way to learn tunes is live from another player. But we all do use CD’s - and I can’t think of a finer collection than this for learning or listening.
John Brophy



Le Concert de l’Hostel Dieu

14 tracks: 56 minutes

O’Carolan’s music continues to fascinate non-Irish musicians. For the classically minded, he lived at the same time as Vivaldi and all the great Italians, and was around for Bach, Handel and Scarlatti. Yet he still remained an itinerant harper, composing tunes to honour his patrons, just as Elizabethan lutenists did.
Notably, he is supposed to have written his Concerto in response to Francesco Geminiani (1687 - 1762) - his tomb is in St. Andrew’s Church in Dublin, now being used as the tourist information office. We have two groups here: the Concert de l’Hostel Dieu is sponsored by the French Ministry of Culture. It has been operating in Lyons since 1993. Garlic Bread is a foursome with two CD’s finished. The result is two different approaches, encompassing different approaches from straight playing to jazz, and many examples harking back to Baroque roots. Nine musicians play a wide range of instruments including harp, pipes and fiddle, and do so with obvious enjoyment.

Overall, it’s a fine production, containing a short biography of O’Carolan, and the words of the songs in Irish, English and French. I can’t find out their sources. ‘The Princess Royal/Miss McDermott’ was used as a tune for a big of English jingoism when they captured a French frigate, but the Saucy Arethusa wasn’t written till 60 years after O’Carolan’s death. Still, we must commend any French singer who takes the trouble to learn words in Irish.

I’m left impressed at the playing, but wondering if they get the full picture. It wasn’t just our tunes that were stolen to laud an empire. There were many good reasons why the harp tradition had died within a century of O’Carolan’s death. But maybe it’s part of our cultural recovery that folks like these are taking the music seriously and making their own.


San Frediano, an Irishman in Florence

Some of you may have heard of Whisky Trail - they already have a few CD’s available, exploring how Irish emigrants took their music with them worldwide. Group leader, Giula Lorimer has a keen interest in the ancient stories, and has translations of syllabic poetry, including the Wanderings of Mad Sweeney.
And now that they’ve discovered that Florence was more or less founded by an Irishman called Frigidius, sometime before 600 AD - there’s a church dedicated to him there - it was the perfect excuse for a shindig on St. Patrick’s Day, complete with dancers.

The current offering is a live recording on this occasion, both audio and DVD. It’s contained in a hard-back booklet of liner notes, in Italian and English, 50 pages each, which explains the price of €19.90. Seven of the 14 tracks are original compositions, and a couple of the other tracks are Scottish, but the good-time atmosphere that comes across even on the audio is international.

Maybe, if you believe in reincarnation, James Joyce was a return of a saint like Frigidius - he ended up not too far away in Trieste. Ample material for a seminar or thesis. But I’d prefer to start a campaign, like organic produce and the Slow Food movement, to restore native tunes and dances to the young people of Europe, who have been pulverised by media moguls. And no better people to lead it than Whisky Trail.

Meanwhile, here’s proof that a good knees-up is an internationally understandable language, and here’s a band that know how to do it.
John Brophy


Trad Harps

Compilation of 18 tracks

Harps are the big common factor in the music of the Celtic countries, and this is a fine collection to show the variety of instrument, technique and tradition available. In many ways, those involved in traditional music were like someone trying to reassemble a smashed clock, and the harp was the bit nobody could figure out.

But a strong dose of humility and historical research has shown what the instrument was like, and musical logic derived from playing it, has given us the confidence that we’re close to authentic. Irish players on this collection are Laoise Kelly, Maire Ní Chathasaigh, Cormac de Barra with Anne Marie O’Farrell and Grainne Yeats; from Scotland there’s Corrina Hewat, Sileas, Wendy Stewart and Alison Kinnaird with the Battlefield Band; from Wales Meinir Heulyn, Crasdant, Delyth Jenkins, Robert Huw Bowen, Rhes Ganol And from Brittany - a special treat - Gwenael Kerleo, Dominic Bouchard and Gwenola Ropars.

The range of music goes all the way from jigs and reels to laments. The real discovery is the range of tone on the different instruments - and I didn’t hear a bray harp, which is a beast all apart. I’ve a couple of personal favourites, like Alison Kinnaird playing the ‘Lament for Ian Rua’ and Grainne Yeats with ‘Ruairí O’Mordha. But that’s preferences. There isn’t a bad track on it, and for anyone working in radio I’d say it’s a must.
John Brophy


Own Label

8 tracks, 44 minutes

Four fine young piano-box players, performing together and separately, with a premier league rhythm section: Box Club are fronted by Mairéad Green, Angus Lyon, Gary Innes and John Somerville. This pioneering CD presents over forty minutes of mainly their own compositions, from reels to waltzes, a splendid example of contemporary Scottish trad. Think son of Phil Cunningham. Or daughter, of course.

‘Crazy Street’ kicks off the recording with an Innes session favourite, shifting into a dark Green reel. ‘Polkska’ has a distinctly non-celtic feel until ‘Neil and Fiona’s’ injects some Kerry magic. ‘Teabaggin’ is a pair of big meaty strathspeys, Gary’s ‘Troon Sniper’ and the traditional ‘Earl Grey’. John’s ‘No.62’ is a whirling modern triple bourree with more twists and turns than the Clyde. The two waltzes in ‘Totally Modest’ are lovely, Tony Rasmundson’s tribute to Aly Bain just shading it over Mairearad’s ‘Total Modesty’. Angus contributes a couple of cracking jigs, the very familiar ‘Stuck in Port Askaig’ (what a way to go!) and the surprisingly tasty ‘Cold Chips’.

This is a very enjoyable album. ‘Benism’ and the final ‘Extensions’ set are pretty hard-core accordion, but overall Box Club’s music is great fun. The four accordions cover Scottish, Irish, Scandinavian and Central European styles. Guitar, drums and bass complete their already full sound.
Alex Monaghan


Hand in Hand: Singing from the Tunney Tradition

14 tracks; 51 minutes

Own Label

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


Thanks for Listening

Own Label

Regulars at De Barra’s Folk Club in Clonakilty will tell you that Sean Feery is a guitar player with the bluesy rocking Foul Play. Those unfamiliar with the famous Cork pub, might know that Foul Play are the band more or less fronted by the legendary Clontarf Cowboy, Phillip Donnelly. His work with the best in Nashville has been well chronicled. Has his songwriting magic rubbed off on Feery? Hard to tell from the slight recording here, but there’s a shine showing through which hints at silver not brass below the surface.

I suppose ‘thanks for singing’ is the critic’s response to this offering. It is a three-track offering - is that an EP or a single? We have little information of Sean Feery so his music must speak for him. It speaks very well in fact with the title track coming across as a lovely confident offering, well written and expertly performed in a sort of folksy, country and almost ‘soft rock’ style. ‘Subtle Tone’ is a track that is aptly titled. As well as the song, I liked the title of the final track, ‘Don’t Die Wondering’. In fact I preferred this of the three offerings. It would be interesting to hear more from Sean. He certainly gives a glimpse of real talent for both writing and performing on this short taster. Hey if you are reading this in Dublin, we hear on the grapevine that Feery will be playing Whelans in August, on the strength of the recording here, I’d say it’s worth a night out to check him live if you can. File under promising prospect.
Nicky Rossiter


C Change

12 tracks; 50 minutes

Own label

There’s an Arab proverb, al rafiq min a’tariq, al qutrun min al bait: choose you travelling companion before your road, your neighbour before your house.
I was reminded of it because this is one of the most companionable CD’s I’ve heard for a long while. It oozes a sense of friendship and unforced respect - and Tom is a neighbour of my own, who runs a folk session a couple of miles away, where Maurice Lennon is a regular guest. It’s interesting to hear Maurice on viola in this collection.

There’s another neighbour, Joe Foley, famed as a luthier but here proving the merits of his own mandolins and bouzoukis. It’s a quiet joy to find exemplary plectrum work in tunes that are lively but not rushed. In the quickly changing Dublin, it’s great to hear a genuine Dubliner singing ‘Biddy Mulligan the Pride of the Coombe’ with the mention of the Longford Street Band. There’s a serious side to the songs also. Tom has an original one about meeting a man who had survived asbestosis - lovely backing vocals. There’s an international dimension with Lisako singing ‘Hazy Moon’, a traditional Japanese song for which she provides her translation.

So welcome to Tom’s third CD. It’s music played to the highest professional standard, but keeping all the warmth and naturalness that’s getting all too rare.
John Brophy


Music in the Glen

Own Label

As all you Gaelic scholars will be aware, fuar means cold. I gather from the track-listing here this may refer to the season to which many of the songs and tunes relate. What it most definitely does not describe is the playing this ensemble. They have a lovely style and vibrancy as they take on some lovely traditional songs and tunes and mix in a few of their own.

On ‘The Verdant Braes of Skreen’ the female vocalist reminds me very much of The Johnstons and on a more local Wexford level, Shades of McMurrough. They give us the familiar song with just enough extras to sound old and new at the same time.

They bring that same love of the music to the beautiful ‘Air Tune’ and combine it with ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’. I know that’s Christmas music and this is summer but good music crosses seasons as well as borders so don’t be so ‘seasonist’. The winter theme continues with the wonderful ‘Christmas Day’ a song new to me but one that I really enjoyed.

The song ‘Star of the County Down’ was almost “done to death” for my generation as one of the songs you had to learn in primary school with ‘the brothers’. It is refreshing to hear it years later and especially with the nice light fresh arrangement on offer here. Another delight was to hear ‘The Wexford Carol’ performed so beautifully from that haunting introduction and on to the vocal.

This is a CD that could be the ideal Christmas present for a lover of Irish music - maybe yourself - but why wait for the cold weather? Remember it can be ‘fuar’ in Ireland in July.
Nicky Rossiter


Tammy Norie

17 tracks, 52 minutes

Own Label MB010

At the tender age of fifteen, this Shetland fiddler has more attack than the entire Scottish three-quarter line. Starting off with her title jig, snappy as a crocodile in a crate of crackerjacks, she shifts into the smoother ‘Glenlivet Crofter’ reel, another of her own tunes and just as jaunty. To go from this to the Skinner showpiece ‘The President’ is brave verging on rash, but Maggie pulls it off spectacularly, from the bass pizzicato to those eye-watering notes up in umpteenth position. Silk and shrapnel by turns.

Willie Hunter’s waltz ‘Ivor and Eleanor’s Wedding’ shows tone and control on one of several tracks here from the Shetland swing movement. ‘Beaumont Rag’, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ are all infused with that uncanny Shetland feel for Americana. The more usual fiddle repertoire is dispatched with skill and vigour: ‘Beeswing Hornpipe’, ‘Shalder Geo’, ‘Dinky’s’, ‘The Cup of Tea’, ‘The Poppyleaf’, ‘The Mason’s Apron’ with variations, and Willie Hunter’s most famous air ‘Leaving lerwick Harbour’ for a bittersweet finish.
Leaving aside the horrifyingly young age of Miss Adamson, this is a prodigious debut recording for any fiddler. Spanning strathspeys to czardas, rags to rich airs, ‘Tammy Norie’ is fifty minutes of very fine fiddling. Not perfect, but doubtless that will come soon enough - a little more contrast in the march, strathspey and reel, a touch less staccato in places.

Maggie is accompanied throughout by Brian Nicholson on versatile Shetland guitar, one of the best in the business. Both Maggie and Brian contribute several of their own tunes to this album, high quality compositions including the implausible ‘Wir Dug dat Ate da Fiddle’. All in all, an excellent first venture and a new rising star of Shetland music.
Alex Monaghan