Releases > September 2010 releases

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Compass Records COM4538
10 Tracks running Time: 39.50,

Piper, John McSherry has always provided some of the best piping to come out of Ireland. As a founder of Lúnasa, and a member of Coolfin and Tamalin, McSherry’s playing has always become the centre of the pieces. With the release of his first solo album, ‘Soma’, he has given his fans an album that is equal parts thoughtful and playful.
This is an album of new compositions by McSherry, as well as many older tunes. At times, you can try to figure out which comes from the tradition and what is his, and you may be wrong, but in a good way. McSherry has a good sense of what works, and his colorations and rhythms on the tunes on Soma are of the highest order.
McSherry is an expert at the evocative, and ‘An Bhean Chaointe’ underlines that, with the emotions of the tune’s title perfectly highlighted. His piping is heart wrenching, on this, a slow air of his own composition. On ‘Badai na Scadan,’ McSherry switches to the low A whistle, and also provides the same effect. ‘Aisling Gheal’ continues on this somewhat somber track, with a lot of color and nuance in the playing.
‘The Wave Sweeper’ is a sweeping and fun waltz, crossing genres and styles. ‘In Full Swing, The Slide from Grace, Nora Criona, the Slip into Maddens,’ a set of slides and polkas, deserves best titling award for 2010, is a wonderful clumping of dance tunes. The waltzes continue on ‘McSherry’s Waltz, Over the Camel’s Hump, allies Antics,’ a series that close the album on a high, happy note.
McSherry has given us a really good work on ‘Soma.’ He has blended his various styles, from rock and trad, and has made them a seamless cloth.
Brian G. Witt

The Ravishing Genius of Bones
Own Label
9 tracks, 50 minutes

Two decades on from his first solo album, Brian Finnegan is without doubt one of the world’s finest whistle players, and a dab hand on the wooden flute also. Most of the intervening years have been focused on the pioneering band Flook, but recently Brian has gone solo again. Solo in the American sense: just Brian and maybe twenty backing musicians. The Ravishing Genius of Bones makes the most of Brian’s exceptional talent, and pulls in elements of many different musical styles.
There’s a great deal on this recording which extends Brian’s work with Flook. Although, Sarah Allen’s flute is absent, the rest of the gang make their presence felt from the opening ‘Three Little Steps’ to the final ‘Night Ride to Armagh’. Among a dozen Finnegan originals here, one or two seem familiar from Flook gigs: ‘Forest Baby’’ for example, a dreamy slow jig. Other tracks are quite unlike Flook: the mandolin and guitar arrangement of ‘Marga’s Moment’ is closer to Newgrass improvisation, and the following ‘Crooked Still Reel’ moves deeper into the backwoods with its eponymous Bluegrass guests.
Brian Finnegan wins my 2010 award for most appropriate use of a string section with his lament ‘Last of the Starrs’, a very moving melody and a truly evocative arrangement. Almost half of this CD is given over to Brian’s slower compositions, and they’re all good: ‘The 40 Year Waltz’,’ If Only A Little’, and the slightly quicker ‘Blue Gaze’. Racier numbers include Damien O’Kane’s ‘Castlerock Road’, Barry Kerr’s ‘Back to Belfast’ and Kevin O’Neill’s magnificent ‘Superfly’. Brian’s playing is superb throughout, of course, and the arrangements are also something special. Particular credit should go to Ed Boyd’s guitar, Leon Hunt’s banjo, and Ian Stephenson’s powerful upright bass. The Ravishing Genius of Bones is not just about Finnegan fireworks, although these are plentiful enough: the mellow moments are equally enjoyable, and the whole recording has a rounded mature feel as a result.
Highly recommended.
Alex Monaghan

The Keys Within
Tee Nee Dee Music, 14 tracks, 47.22 minutes

With her distinctive singing voice and instantly recognisable style of keyboard playing, and after a lifetime of performing and entertaining, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, is still an imposing figure in the contemporary and traditional Irish music scene. On this album of her own compositions she makes a reflective musical journey that is a salute to friends and family. “Over the years,” she states, “I’ve had a chance to reflect on the friends and relations who have helped me make a life in music. These compositions are for and about them with love and thanks.”
Tríona plays all the instruments – it’s mostly keyboards and piano on the CD – and all the vocals are hers, also. The mood created all the way through this intriguing album is certainly redolent of reflection and memory which bring to mind the sentiments expressed in Alfred Bunn’s lines, When other lips and other hearts/Their tales of love shall tell,/In language whose excess imparts/The power they feel so well,/There may, perhaps, in such a scene,/Some recollection be/Of days that have happy been,/And you’ll remember me. And what Tríona seeks to convey to friends and loved ones through her compositions is well summed up in Bulwer-Lytton’s pithy line, “Memory, no less than hope, owes its charm to ‘the far away’.”
If Tríona was prompted to compose her beautiful haunting melodies, at least in part, by the sudden death of her dearly beloved musician brother, Mícheál, four years ago, well then she has captured something tangible and lovely from a lifetime of making music. It will evoke fond memories for those of us who were with her, Mícheál and her sister, Tríona, when they began their amazing musical journey with their friend Daithí Sproule as Skara Brae. And, no doubt, Mícheál would say a maith thú on what she has achieved. The melodies are truly ‘songs without words’ and maybe one day we shall learn that someone has taken up the challenge, inspired by their originality and haunting charm.
Aidan O’Hara

Matt Cranitch, Fiddle and Jackie Daly, Accordion.
with Paul deGrae, Guitar, and Brid Cranitch, Piano.
Own Label
MJM001, 14 tracks; 43 minutes 43 seconds

The Blackwater River forms a natural barrier between Cork and Kerry. It also lies at the heart of Sliabh Luachra, from which streams a rich musical tradition. Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly are two of the finest musicians to have ever emerged from the Sliabh Luachra tradition, and their duet offering is a long, refreshing drink from that invigorating wellspring. Every aspect of this new recording is uncompromising in its excellence and in its link to unbroken tradition. All but three of the thirty-one tunes on this CD are drawn from traditional sources; those three flow from the superb musical imagination of Jackie Daly (his new slide ‘An Ghlaise Bheo’ is the title selection). The tunes themselves reflect the eclectic tastes of the Sliabh Luachra tradition: slides, polkas, barn dances, and airs mingle with the jigs and reels that are held in common with other regional styles of Irish music. The tunes pay tribute to the past masters of the area such as Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford, Denis Doody, and Johnny O’Leary, as well as lesser lights such as Jack Connell and Paddy O’Sullivan. Matt’s singing fiddle and Jackie’s distinctive dry-tuned accordion blend so well on most of these tracks that it is sometimes difficult for the ear to distinguish them. The fact that accompaniment is limited to three tracks not only demonstrates the duo’s commitment to tradition but also speaks strongly of their superb musical taste. Less is very often more in traditional music. The wonderful playing is supported by crisp, informative notes by Jackie Small and lovely photography by Con Kelleher.
Simply put, The Living Stream is a treasure.
Sally K Sommers Smith

SEAN POTTS - Number 6
Na Píobairí Uilleann NPU CD018
20 tracks, 52 minutes

If anyone is a tin whistle icon, it’s this man. Born into a Dublin piping family at a time when these were an endangered species, Sean Potts was brought up on Irish music at his grandfather’s house, Number 6, The Coombe. Most people will know his playing from The Chieftains, with whom Sean was a founder member, and shared the tin whistle duties with Paddy Moloney: their 1974 duet album Tin Whistles is an all-time classic, and the simplicity of its title disguises the skill and innovation which both players brought to this humble instrument.
Sean Potts is considered one of the foremost interpreters
of Irish airs, and there are nine fine examples on this CD, ranging from the timeless ‘Aisling Gheal’ to tunes associated with the Chieftains such as ‘Eibhlí Gheal’ and ‘Seolaim Araon na Géanna Romhaínn’. Now in his eightieth year, Sean Potts is still able to coax more life and emotion from these Gaelic melodies than almost any young musician.
Perhaps surprisingly, given his reputation and his advancing years, Sean devotes more than half this recording to Irish dance music - challenging reels and jigs which are more the preserve of Sean’s son you might think, but according to Gay McKeon’s informative sleevenotes Sean himself is actually fonder of the fast tunes than the slow airs. He can certainly still handle them: there are splendid renditions here of ‘The Ashplant’, ‘Sporting Nell’, ‘Garrett Barry’s Jig’ and many more. Tommy Potts’ versions of ‘The Liffey Banks’ and ‘The Tap Room’ make a welcome appearance, and Sean’s solo performance of ‘Cooley’s ‘and ‘The Copperplat’e shows him to be a master of these wilder reels.
I don’t want to suggest that every note is technically perfect on Number 6 - eighty year old fingers and lungs don’t have quite the elasticity they used to, but Sean Potts can still teach the youngsters a trick or two. He can do more than that, indeed, since the proceeds of this CD are going to Na Píobairí Uilleann to fund facilities for young musicians. The younger generations have also had a hand in this project: Sean is supported here by fiddler, Paddy Glackin, who joins him on most of the twenty tracks, and by his son, Sean Óg Potts whose pipes duet with the whistle beautifully on ‘Jackson’s Reel’ and ‘The West Wind’. John Blake and Peadar Ó Ríada provide accompaniment, making for a full and varied sound throughout this collection. Whether for pleasure or instruction, Number 6 is a valuable recording and an important addition to the small body of outstanding tin whistle albums.
Alex Monaghan


The Thousand Mile Journey
Own Label
12 Tracks

Take five established musicians from England’s West Country and be entertained by them as they travel on a musical ‘Thousand Mile Journey’ through the Celtic landscapes and further afield to gather Eastern influences and encapsulate them into a production within the band that is Inu.
The band includes Marick Baxter on whistle and flute, Louise Baxter on vocals and guitar, Mike Rule on mandola, Bethany Porter on cello and bodhrán percussionist Breda Horgan. First thing that strikes are the arrangements on ‘Janni’s’ set. The three tunes are in different rhythms and hail from Romania, Macedonia with the last one being taught to them by a Hungarian fiddle player. These tunes definitively display their individualistic talents on a musical level with Horgan’s bodhran entering with a well paced deep toned rhythm that enhances rather than drowns.
Horgan carries this awareness of the subtleties of the tune through the slow ‘Sunset’ and combined with Marick Baxter’s spirited flute playing excels on the ‘Within a Mile of Dublin’ set with a resounding well toned accompaniment throughout. The set which includes the title track ‘The Thousand Mile Journey’ is the highlight of the CD with each instrument combining with empathy and building up to an exciting tempo. There is a story behind every song on the CD and Louise Baxter tells the tale in her own distinctive style. ‘Lady Franklin’s Lament’ tells the story of John Franklin’s ill fated journey to the North West Passage and vivid imagery is painted in Kate Rusby’s ‘The Sleepless Sailor’.
Each member of Inu is an expert in their own particular field and when they combine these talents the results are compelling and evocative. Let’s hope they journey on another thousand miles as we may be pleasantly surprised yet again!
Eileen McCabe


Exile’s Return
Compass 7 45292

When Solas first exploded on the scene in 1996 their stars like Seamus Egan, Winfred Horan and John Williams were established and those in waiting were quickly honing their mettle. Among them were Waterford singer, Karan Casey and Dublin guitarist, John Doyle. Now 14 years later, Karan and John make an album together based on their own migrant experience and those gone before them. Much of the material emerges from the pan-migrant experience, while the arrangements neatly skirt between Irish and American influenced instrumental settings.
Instrumental settings courtesy of John Doyle, Dirk Powell and Michael McGoldrick typically surefooted and minimalist; in keeping with the tone of the project. Karan Casey takes her material from mentors such as Frank Harte and Aine Uí Ceallaigh and her spare unadorned singing is suitably redolent of her masters and mistress. The opening ‘The False Lady’ possesses a tension similar to Fotheringay’s version of ‘Eppie Moray’ especially in Doyle and Casey’s duelling vocals while the dreamlike treatment of ‘The Bay of Biscay’ recalls acid folk legends Trees. Karan Casey’s voice excels in the unaccompanied Out of the Window’ a variant of ‘She Moved through the Fair’. ‘Sailing off to Yankee Land’ begins in a sprightly manner, Casey’s vocal underlined by a minimal backing. Doyle’s vocal tracks including the title track displays increased vocal and compositional confidence. The relationship between vocal and instrumental backings is equally spare and sparse. The results mix of Irish, English and Appalachian stylings and their outcome is a crossover that is more rootsy than most. Exiles Return exhibits two talents now fully formed and cohesively transferred to the front line.
John O’Regan

The Side Over
Own Label SLO32

The pair have put in two busy years of music with teaching at Preoria’ s Erin fest on 2009 and are looking forward to a slot at Mulligan’s of Amsterdam on October 15th – 6th, 2010. Their star is rising and the CD will go a long way to help them establish themselves on the teaching and performance circuit.
Pauline Scanlon says in the liner notes “With Donogh Hennessy sharing his wealth of experience from engineering to arranging, they have created an album that represents them beautifully.”
This is fiddler Jeremy Spencer’s modern take on the old tunes, all helped along by Sean Leahy’s generously rhythmic guitar backing, in a style somewhat reminiscent of an early Stephen Cooney. Some tunes are taken from local sources such as the polka set which begins with Julia Clifford’s, and the slides. Echoes of Killarney and Johhny O’Leary’s. They begin with a spirited swinging syncopated Maguires which sounds very similar to Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine, I’d have liked some notes on this and the other selections, I was left wondering is this tuned named after Sean Maguire or is it based on a Clan march of the Maguires of Ulster?
There is an hypnotic introduction to The Foxhunter with a pizzicato double bass building the tune until it bursts into the Silver Slipper. They even breathe new life into The Boys of Blue Hill here taken on a jaunty stroll around Shandon Hill. The final track begins with a contemporary folky sounding guitar introduction that soon morphs into a driving battery of reels: Milltown Session/Johnny O’Leary’s and McGettrick’s.
In summary, there is variety in the tunes, invention in the accompaniment and care in the production. Another winner for the Kingdom I think.
Seán Laffey

Treasury – The Very Best of Horslips
Horslips Records
Treasury offers two discs and 34 tracks in all with a lavishly illustrated booklet with original album artwork and comments on the comings and goings associated with each album.
When assembling a retrospective compilation of Horslips’ work, many approaches exist from chronological time line assemblies to assimilating the most popular and influential tracks placing the most powerful and obvious out front for maximum effect. Treasury offers the luxury of a double CD set so the approach can afford to be experimental if need be.
Firstly the compilers have avoided the obvious pathway of a greatest hits presentation or one that shows Horslips ability as Celtic Rock pioneers there is no ‘High Reel’, ‘Johnny’s Wedding’, ‘King of the Fairies’ etc. What they have done here is highlight the group’s musicality and creative vision –the twin towers of their approach a respect for the traditional roots and successful assimilation of the same into their creative ouvre as narrators and creators of an Irish form of Progressive rock.
This compilation is judiciously assembled kicking off with three epics: ‘Furniture’, ‘Faster than the Hound’ and ‘Hall of Mirrors’ all down tempo and extended tracks which allow for complex arrangements. The tone is sombre and reflective and while ‘Dearg Doom’ follows in its ribald glory, the effect achieved thus far is reflective rather than chest beating. They have also gone for obscure album tracks which slipped through the radar initially – ‘The Snakes Farewell to the Emerald Isle’ blends Peter Green-like-guitar-playing with ‘Ard Ti Cuan’ in a slow funky backbeat. Likewise the knowing sashay of ‘Nighttown Boy’ and an eerie ‘Come Summer’ from the Aliens album again reawaken interest in lesser known tracks. They also include the Roll Back recording of ‘Trouble with a Capital T’ ( the original version is on disc two) which allows for a snappier bluesier cut of a Celtic rock anthem.
Disc two has more of the same the familiar with the obscure or different settings of classics mixed with familiar favourites; ‘The Man who built America’, ‘Warm Sweet Breath of Love’ both retain their power and freshness; while ‘Rescue Me’ remains simply magical. An acoustic radio version of ‘Dearg Doom’ puts a new menace on the classic Johnny Fean’s slide guitar and Charles O’Connnor’s sombre vocal adding a new sense of danger. For fans this is indeed a treasury of rediscovery, for the uninitiated maybe try this and move on to The Tain or Book of Invasions for a fuller illustration of Horslips’ collective thunder in action, meanwhile Treasury offers however offers a wealth of timeless music to ponder on and celebrate.
John O’Regan


Greentrax CDTRAX348
12 tracks, 57 minutes

You probably know him as the fiddler with Dàimh. Now California’s golden boy has recorded a solo album, and it, is 24 carat. US junior Scots fiddle champion in his teens, Gabe McVarish brings a touch of brashness to the traditional music of the Old World. As the CD’s title suggests, Gabe’s bow embraces Irish and Scottish traditions plus a number of North American styles. Eclection opens with a swaggering march setting of ‘The Braes of Castle Grant’ into a meaty highland strathspey, before the classic piping reel ‘Cecily Ross’: all pedigree tunes, full of guts and energy. A couple of Gabe’s own compositions feature in the next medley, the lilting jig ‘Ida McVarish of Morar’ and the reel ‘Miss Angela Gillies of Borve’, flanked by the work of Iain MacDonald and Liz Carroll. Many of the melodies here stick to the nine notes of the Scottish bagpipe scale, even though they’re written and played by a fiddler, which gives this recording a gritty modal edge.
‘All the Capers’ is pure Cape Breton fiddle, strathspeys and reels by many of Nova Scotia’s big names, with back-up piano from Mac Morin helping to drive the set along. The air ‘Mrs Jean Campbell BSc’ reveals a more contemplative side of McVarish, which is echoed later in two feather-light waltzes. Four solid tracks of Irish tunes cover everything from polkas to Donegal highlands, including a nice crisp selection of Tommy Peoples reels and a hypnotic canter through the big reel ‘Colonel Fraser’ with Jarlath Henderson on uilleann pipes. Gabe’s ‘Gordon Duncan Tribute’ combines three of the composer’s finest tunes, ending this collection on a firmly modern Scottish note. Gabe is joined by colleagues from Dàimh on a couple of tracks, adding to an impressive guest list, but Eclection remains largely a solo album, and a first rate one at that. The material is mainly traditional, with contributions from Charlie Lennon, Niall Vallely, Phil Cunningham and others.
Just under an hour of excellent music is complemented by informative notes and attractive packaging.
Alex Monaghan

Duaiseoirí/Prizewinners 2010
Gael Linn, Duration 35.04

The quality of the music and the performances on this CD of the three prize-winning groups from this year’s Siansa Gael Linn 2010 Grand Finale certainly attests to the healthy state of Irish traditional music among the youth of today. Eight groups from all over Ireland qualified for the 2010 final which was held at the National Concert Hall last April. Participants competed for a prize fund of 4,500. The event is organised by Gael Linn and supported by RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta and Irish Music Magazine. The difficult task of choosing a winner was placed in the capable hands of the three judges, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (Danú), Síle Denvir (Liadán) and Dónal O’Connor (At First Light). The winners were Ioscaid from Newry, Co. Down who won first prize and 2,500; in second place were Trí Lasadh, Scoil Phobail Mhic Dara, Carna, Co. Galway, who won 1,250; and in third place were Cibé, Raheny, Co. Dublin, who won 750.
The format laid down for the competition is that each group plays its own arrangement of traditional music, and sings an Irish language song. Each group’s presentation lasts just under 12 minutes and typically includes dance tunes, airs, and a song. The six members of the Newry group played accordion, piano, concertina, banjo, double bass, flute, fiddle, bodhrán, and guitar. Apart from the double bass, the other two groups had more or less a similar line-up of instruments.
Gael Linn CEO, Antoine Ó Coileáin, praised all those who participated in this year’s competition and said “Siansa Gael Linn is a unique fusion of the Irish language, Irish music and young people. Because of this, it is a perfect vehicle for achieving our aim of promoting Irish in a vibrant way. We are most heartened by the excellence of the groups and by the positive influence which the event has on the use of Irish.”
Aidan O’Hara