Releases > September 2009

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Like the Wind
Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 178
14 tracks, 49 minutes

John Wynne is known for his great technique and his grand ear for the tunes. He’s been taking Roscommon flute music very seriously since his excellent solo debut, With Every Breath, but here he lets rip in flamboyant style. The opening set of reels is a joy, starting with a virtuoso version of The Gladstone and working through variations and elaborations on Farewell to Miltown Malbay and The Humours of Westport. John throws caution to the wind, leaping registers like a Roscommon mountain goat, and sets a cracking pace. His customary control resurfaces on The Orphan, but the mood remains playful as John teases the rhythms and eases into Winnie Hayes’ Jig.

John Wynne’s playing is exciting enough for even the most firebrand folkies, but the accompaniment on this CD may seem a little staid to some. While the flute takes flight, there’s some surprisingly restrained drumming from John Moloney and old-style piano vamping from Paddy McEvoy and Paul Gurney. Personally, I think this suits the heavyweight tunes John has chosen: Farewell to Erin, The Belfast Hornpipe, and Tommy People’s splendid jig, The Wishing Well, for instance. There’s some lively guitar and bouzouki from Arty McGlynn, Jacinta McEvoy and Paul Doyle, and a lovely gentle touch on the two slow airs here. Liz Knowles’ air, The Gift of Falling, even gets a wash of synthesiser, but it’s never overdone. John throws in a few unusual polkas too, before finishing with a big set of reels and a reel/jig medley: The Ships are Sailing and The Hunter’s Purse, from the heart of the Roscommon flute tradition.
Without a doubt, Like the Wind (or Ar Nós na Gaoithe as it’s styled in Irish) is among the best solo flute recordings of recent years. Here is a master musician, at the top of his form, playing for pure pleasure - and it’s a pleasure to hear him. Full marks to the accompanists too, all in the best possible taste! Not to be missed, this recording underlines John Wynne’s reputation as one of Roscommon’s finest fluters.
Alex Monaghan

All Media Entertainment Ltd
Multiple Set

St Patrick’s Mass, featuring Canon Sydney McEwan and the Trinity Chorale. Mass of St. Francis of Assisi featuring Canon Sydney McEwan, celebrant, and Bernadette Greevy and the Cork Children’s Choir. The Man from Galilee, featuring Frank Patterson and the choir of An Garda Síochána.

If you mention the name Philip Green to Irish people, a lot of them will think of a famous soccer broadcaster, or even the retailing plutocrat. But there is still a goodly handful that remembers Philip the musician. Born in London in 1911, he had his own dance orchestra by the time he was 20, and had a huge career in film and TV music making (90 titles listed on the net). At one time he had five pseudonyms working at the same time, and he ended up a music head honcho for the Rank Organisation in Britain.

Perhaps his best work was the movie All Night Long, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello in a Jazz Club, which featured outstanding musicians like Tubby Hayes and Dave Brubeck. But he always had a soft spot for Ireland - one of his early scores was for the film Saints and Sinners and it featured a Gaelic rhapsody. He moved to Dublin, (Donnybrook, near the TV studios) and lived here until his death in 1982. He was deeply respected for his experience and expertise and worked with Phil Coulter on projects like Timeless Tranquility.

The other big thing that happened was the Vatican Council. There were deputations of leading classical composers like Benjamin Britten asking the Pope to preserve the Latin Mass. It was free-for-all folk masses, with badly tuned guitars trying desperately to be meaningful. If you read Joyce’s The Dead, you’ll get a whiff of what happened the previous big change, when women were actively discouraged from church choirs, and all the florid stuff by Rossini and Cherubini was jettisoned.
In retrospect, the one Mass that caught public sympathy was Ó’Riada’s. It was probably too much of a u-turn to expect Irish Catholics to take easily to an English language liturgy having been warned for centuries against the ungodly tongue of the stranger.

There were other factors. Church leaders have not been noted for their musical acumen or appreciation. Just check out the stories of Mozart and the Archbishop. Second, except for special occasions, nobody had the money or resources to hire big orchestras and choirs, and there was a lurking amount of Puritanism that said religion should not be entertaining. And there was a feeling of loss among musicians who had spent years devoting themselves to a musical tradition of fifteen centuries, especially when they found out that English is a horrible language to work in: words like ‘indivisible’ are usually un-singable.

Into this mix, enter Phil Green. St Patrick’s Mass was televised live from the Franciscan Church in Cork for the opening of the 1971 Cork Film Festival, and was hailed as a great testament of personal faith. It was so well received that he followed it with the St. Francis Mass the following year, and the hit number, Suffer Little Children, went to No. 3 in the Irish Charts. I’m sure most of the 110 Cork children involved in the recording are still around and remember it.

The third Mass was written in 1975. Certainly, it was a big coup to get the Garda choir with Frank Patterson. It probably marked the high point for that generation of Catholic Ireland.

Sadly the intervening years have not been happy. The Catholic Church is taking another round of punishment over the industrial schools, and all the cover-ups. Deference that posed as reverence was blown apart by Father Ted.

So the best way to look at this trilogy is as a snapshot of a more innocent and trusting age, with fine singing by Ireland’s best. Sydney McEwan was getting on in years (he was born 1909) and he has some gliss - also called scooping, but even at that age, the voice is glorious. Both Frank Patterson and Bernadette Greevy were veterans in Handel’s Messiah, and they sang with authority and conviction.

Phil Green isn’t free from musical solecism: he uses a jaunty march tune for a Lamb of God but, sure, it sounded grand.
John Brophy

Northern Box
Own label
13 tracks, 42 minutes

All-Ireland Champion piano accordionist in 2005, Leeds man Dean Warner now lives in County Armagh and is joined by several Ulster musicians on this recording. Dean plays in a very fluid style, with rolls and dots flattened out in many places, well suited to reels but less pleasing on hornpipes in my opinion. He certainly has a good ear for a tune: James McMahon’s Jig, The Lavourette, and The Horse’s Leotard are unusual ones which Dean has picked out for his debut recording, and they sparkle. The Caves of Kiltanon is a jig he played as a young soloist, a splendid composition by Paddy Canny, which fully deserves a track to itself here.

Reels are definitely the strongest aspect of this album, and there are some beauties: The Palm Tree, I’m Waiting For You, Pauline’s Place, The Lobster, and more. The first five tunes on Northern Box are all reels, all first class, sourced from such distinguished figures as Billy McComisley, Paddy O’Brien (Offaly), Paddy O’Brien (Tipp), Seamus Connolly and Charlie Lennon. Dean rings the changes with Michael Harrison on fiddle, Daire McGeown on banjo, and some sterling piano accompaniment from Ryan Molloy. There are times when the box lags just behind the beat, and the flattened-out hornpipes are a low point for me, but all in all this CD is a very fine debut and a trove of great music. Well worth seeking out, especially for fans of the piano box: might be the best way to find it.
Alex Monaghan


First Things First
Lorimer records LORR CD1
(Ireland: EMD/RMG)

Ailie’s story is the stuff of TV legend. A comely lass, who happens to have a top degree in genetics from Cambridge, forsakes the glittering prizes and turns to her beloved harp. Wow! But that’s only half the story: she was gold medallist five times at the Mod in Inverness, a finalist in the BBC young traditional musician for 2008. And she has a first-class MA in performance from the world music centre in Limerick. Not bad for yer first quarter-century.

In this debut collection she sets out to prove that the gut/nylon-strung harp can lead an acoustic jazz combo. There’s many would say nay. There’s a weight of prejudice, the thin sound of the instrument to be overcome, and it can be overpowered by a piano.
But overcome it she does with a perfection of playing (listen to the triplets and the tone variation) and a sense of humour. I’ve yet to work out how she can bend notes in bluesy way.

On a slower note, I think you have to admire her own Sands of Hosta. It’s about a beach in north Uist and she shows a brilliant sense of timing in the emotional impact.
I particularly liked the title of the final track, The Angels’ Share. It’s known in whiskey distillation, (and it happens with other spirits too) that some of the spirit evaporates in storage, and this is called the angels’ share. (When canals were used for transporting the barrels, the boatmen helped out the angels. Holy connoisseurs they were.)

There are other tunes here from Irish sources, including Mary Bergin and Laoise Kelly, so it’s a fine debut from a very talented musician. I think she owes us a strathspey and reel in honour of Dolly the Sheep - who lived close to Edinburgh. It would match her other tune, Swerving for Bunnies, written about the joys of driving in Ireland.
John Brophy

Spencie’s Tunes 2
Published by Steven Spence, no ISBN
80 pages ringbound ££12, CD also available

Possibly the most prolific Shetland fiddler of his generation, and composer of around 100 tunes, Steven ‘Spencie’ Spence’s second book of tunes is welcome indeed. A long-time member of Hom Bru, Spencie has recorded several of his compositions with them: other musicians have also been quick to pick up his outpourings in Shetland and beyond. This second collection contains 36 tunes, mostly commissioned by fellow Shetlanders, and some which just happened or which were written to mark important events.

There are many memorable tunes here. Waltz for Frances is a beauty, for dancers or listeners. Taraheim Two-Step and Billy’s Return to Hollygarth are fine examples of Shetland two-steps. Reels make up the lion’s share of this volume, most of them with traditional stepladder arpeggios: Ailsa’s Memories O’ Yell is a good one, with enough meat in it to be slowed down and played as a hornpipe. Ross’s Reel is another. Spencie’s style becomes apparent as you play through the collection: simple melodies, nothing too fancy, but very pleasing to the ear. The titles are less imaginative than in the first volume - a constraint of commissioned work, I suppose - but there are notable exceptions such as Sarah’s Holie Socks, Lang Lippened, and the priceless Shetlink Fokk.

As with the previous volume, this book is festooned with the colourful cartoons and wit of the enigmatic FRR. There are also photos of many of the people and places commemorated in the tunes, and some historic shots (monochrome and colour) of rural musicians at work. A companion CD features Spencie playing all 36 tunes, arranged in 14 sets, with backing from Alice Mullay and Jonathan Ritch on keyboards and bass. And of course, if you want to commission your own tune from Spencie, just browse to where there’s a whole cottage industry around Spencie’s Tunes. He also runs a wonderful instrument shop, need a tail piece for your fiddle give Spencie a call!
Alex Monaghan

Piping Hot
Celtophile CELT9024
12 tracks, 44 minutes
A dozen classic piping tracks from the Green Linnet back catalogue, covering almost the full life of this great Celtic music label. Compass Records is now re-releasing a lot of material which deserves to be heard again. This particular compilation is about half and half Irish and Scottish piping, with a stray track of Northumbrian pipes from The House Band, and one number with no piping at all. The styles range from veteran folkies, The Tannahill Weavers, through young whippersnapper Jerry O’Sullivan, to the folk-rock sounds of Wolfstone and Rare Air.

Seamus Ennis’ reels, The Rainy Day, The Merry Blacksmith and The Silver Spear are certainly the oldest and perhaps the grandest tracks here, taken from archive tapes for the album Forty Years of Irish Piping: though the tunes are common enough, the regulator effects are rich and rare. Joe Burke is another great name, but he doesn’t actually play a note as piper Michael Cooney pumps out a couple of fine reels. Other surprises include Declan Masterson’s guest appearance with Patrick Street for a charming version of Brian O’Lynn and Joe McKenna’s duet with Mick Moloney on a rollicking pair of reels, a definite highlight.

The Scottish side of this collection is less varied: two tracks from The Tannies, an early piping rock track from Canadian madmen, Rare Air, and a late Wolfstone piece with The Steampacket getting a full makeover. My favourite of these is the final track, Scottish smallpipes playing the Gaelic lament Kintail from a forgotten Tannies album. Lots to rediscover here; some just for curiosity but others for genuine enjoyment and edification.
Alex Monaghan

Night and Day - Self Produced
12 Tracks - Running time 48.06

Lipschutz and Gosa sounds more like accountancy firm rather than a duo that plays Irish music. However, these two musicians are veterans of the Midwestern Irish music scene. Brett Lipschutz plays flute, whistles and bombarde, while Randy Gosa concentrates on guitar. The album is a culmination of world travels and tune collection. It is a somewhat quietly played work, but it is also first rate in its execution.

Anach Chuain/Mimi and the New Generation #1 are languidly played jigs in their hands. Lipschutz plays both flute and bombarde on Rossignolet Sauvage/Salvation Reel, with Gosa’s guitar work providing a strong backdrop. Humours of Toomagh/Bean an Ti Ar Lar are up-tempo jigs.

The back to back pieces Bed on Rice, a Lipschutz composition, played by Gosa on guitar, and Slow Air, a Josie McDermott tune played by Lipschutz on flute, are well executed as solo works, and show the breadth of their playing styles. The two break out on the Sirba mit Harbster Bietlekh/Trip to Deli, klezmer tunes played as fast paced Kerry polkas. A pair of reels by Vincent Broderick follows, and the album finishes up with a couple of French waltzes, one by Quebecois accordion player Benoit Bourque, and the other from Auvergne area of France.

Overall, Night and Day is well played and produced. Both Lipschutz and Gosa are very able masters of their instruments, and it shows here. The only thing that distracted from my total enjoyment was a bit of chatter that comes off as an inside joke, which is generally missed by those who weren’t there for it. Without that, this is, top to bottom, a very good album.
Brian G. Witt


Dermot Crehan and Paul Honey
Tess Records TR0901
12 tracks

Back in 1995 there was a writer called Danny Danziger who inveigled his way into the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He taped a large clatter of interviews, many of them were quite indiscreet, and the speakers probably regretted it afterwards and publishers Harper Collins saw fit to unleash it unedited and uncorrected.

The player to emerge with most credit from this exercise was Dermot Crehan, principal of the second violins, who recalled how he had been in a trio in Jury’s hotel with his brother and sister, and they had won a session of Opportunity Knocks way back when. And then a lot of hard work later, he became top of the professionals in a London orchestra.

The life of an orchestral musician is akin to being jackass to a tinker: far from enviable. Very long hours, no job security or pension, high divorce rates, ruthless competition, some suicides (if you’ve spent all your life trying to get somewhere, if you fail, there’s nowhere left for you). It’s boring because the moneybags mafia will insist on playing the same things over and over - within a couple of years, you’ve played everything that’s wanted, and then it’s sheer repetition. Dermot was a favourite because he could play a few tunes for colleagues enduring classical stress.

At the heart of it all, there’s a kind of unspoken lie. Nobody in an orchestra will ever discuss the motives or emotions behind the music, much less what it means to the individual musician. You can be landed in the middle of Beethoven’s Eroica, and not know anything of the disillusion of a young man when he hears that his hero Napoleon, has crowned himself emperor. Or you can warble through Shostakovich without realising what life was like under Stalin. All that’s required is technical proficiency: a kind of instrumental rally-driving.

Leo Tolstoy once wrote a great rant against the tyrannies involved in an opera production, all in the name of Art. We used to presume that nuns and brothers were Christian (not so sure any more) but too much of it was left unspoken. Same here. And yet, we all know that the best performances happen when two or more players get together and share a groove or mindset. Contrast this with a system that will cherry-pick through a thousand kids for one likely prospect.

There are records in O’Sullivan’s life of O’Carolan, for instance, of Irish houses with orchestras including clarinets early in the 18th century. Who knows what might have developed? But it didn’t, and as Mickey McConnell remarked in Lambeg Drummer we’re hung up on what might have been, or at least seen as such. Meanwhile we lost a huge amount of music, but plenty survived, intensely democratic, even anarchic. We don’t do conductors, like.

So I’m a little puzzled about why Lyric FM decided to do this project. Is there a constituency that will listen to Irish music only with orchestral backing? Haven’t we got beyond the idea that the music needs approval or civilising? Arranger Paul Honey is best known for the instructional series Classic Hits Playalong. Faced with a team of Luke Daniels on button accordion, singer Mick Sands, Fiona Kelly on flute and whistle and Jean Kelly on harp, the orchestra keeps out of the way most of the while.

For Dermot Crehan, this is a deserved homecoming, cuairt an laoi ar an sean-bhuaille and he has superb tone on The Death of Staker Wallace and Were You at the Rock? (An raibh tú˙ ar an gCarraig?). But no brownie points, because there’s no explanation of who Staker Wallace was, nor anything about the other songs, or who selected them. So, admiration constrained by some reservations.
John Brophy

Various Artists
CDTRAX 338 2009
Whether we see the calming and soothing sunset over water or the stormy wind lashed rocky shore we are drawn to the sea. This collection of 21 tracks will appeal to all who have any feeling for the sea, its people or just good music.

The album is connected to a photographic exhibition of the same name but luckily for a potential worldwide audience it stands alone very well.

It opens with Davy Steele singing his own poignant Farewell to the Haven, reflecting the decline of the once vibrant fishing industry that once powered hundreds of remote villages.

Keepers commemorates another tradition often being replaced by mechanisation as lighthouse keepers, those legendary solitary men lose their jobs to computers that will never be able to drag a man from the waves.

Part of Scottish maritime history is recalled on Song for Cove, when one of the worst fishing disasters struck in 1881.

The Corries give us one of the better-known tracks with Ewan McColl’s Shoals of Herring. The heroes of the lifeboats are praised by Isla St Clair on the haunting Life Boat Song. Sung without accompaniment her voice is ideally suited to this beautifully sentimental song.

Communal singing is ideally suited to songs of high emotion and fishing villages are renowned for their community spirit epitomised in this outlet. The Boatie Row,’ performed by Harbour Lights, is a wonderful example of this. One can visualise the village hall packed with people connected to the sea singing along.

The album closes with a rousing rendition of a traditional hymn once again reflecting the intertwining of nature at its strongest to religious belief. Fisher Folk Choir provide an ideal closing song with Will Your Anchor Hold.

A beautifully produced booklet giving the background to the songs and featuring a collection of photographs old and new that ideally complement the music accompanies this timely album.
Nicky Rossiter

Own label CDBOG 005
11 tracks, 75 minutes

This is an impressive album, for two reasons. First, it captures a lot of the enthusiasm and excitement of a Peatbogs’ concert without masking the music, letting the crowd come through in the right places but never losing the feel of a balanced and well-mixed recording. Second, the Peatbogs’ appeal has always been based on the kick they put into the music, rather than their deft fingerwork or tight arrangements, and there’s always been a suspicion with studio recordings that a lot of slips were cleaned up in post-production: here for the first time it is clear that this gaggle of Hebridean chancers has become a polished professional unit, on stage at least! The pipes and fiddle are highly competent, the backing boys are rock solid and the horn section is spot on every time.

Live is packed with favourites from a handful of previous recordings: The Anthropologist, Invergarry Blues, Wacko King Hako, All About Windmills and more. The mammoth 18-minute Dancing Feet Set is a concert special, as is the arrangement of Folk Police here. There’s a lot of screaming sax from Nigel Hitchcock, and a heavy backbeat throughout, but no jarring with the traditional melody instruments: even the whistle cuts through comfortably. Locks and Rocks is quite hypnotic as the chanter goes round and round its little loop, and Caberdrone adds more than a touch of trance as the melody blurs and swirls. Decisions, Decisions provides a brief chance to chill, but otherwise this is a seventy-minute roller-coaster. Climb aboard, buckle up, and close your eyes if you’re squeamish!

Alex Monaghan


Songs at Random
Contact number 087-2868284

For the Alzheimer Society of Ireland

The arrangements and production on this album of wonderful songs old and new that will benefit the Alzheimer Society are never tangled up in cute adornment or over elaborate backing. These are strong songs, simply sung and are all the more powerful for that.

The CD shows Murphy’s range and shows again that not all our good performers need to be professional - there is room for the excellent singer with the day job who performs for fun and enjoyment. The album contains a batch of songs that for the most part are familiar and as such you will know what to expect. These include Raglan Road, Ringsend Rose and Carrigfergus.

The Wexford Male Voice Choir joins him to great effect on tracks like You Raise Me Up and Steal Away and so can raise the roof.

Being a Wexford performer he of course must give vent to the regulars such as Boolavogue and By the Streams of Bunclody and he does them proud.
Showing that, as they say, he is not behind the door when it comes to writing, he gives us new lyrics to Galway Bay as Castlebridge Song and in this he provides a potted history of his native village on the Slaney and Sow.

The opening song on the album might be a wonderful anthem for the Alzheimer charity - Far Away a Light is Burning.

Matt Murphy is ably assisted with musicians and singers from his immediate area on a CD that could stand up in Castlebridge or California and prove that great music is both local and universal.
Nicky Rossiter