Releases > October 2010 releases

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Chords and Beryls

E7RCD002 13 tracks, 49 Minutes Own label

For those who might be wondering what a beryl is, well it is a class of gemstones, the most famous sort of beryl is the emerald. On this album, Edel Fox has set some rare gems of Irish tunes within a deep Clare legacy of concertina playing and given them a bright-facet cut with the aid of some musical friends such as Pádraic O’Reilly and Jack Talty on pianos, Johnny ‘Ringo’ McDonagh on bodhrán and Mick Connelly and Brian Mooney on bouzoukis. Edel has the loan of a few concertinas from Tim Collins and she uses the selection of instruments to coax the best out of a mixture of tunes: jigs, reels, hornpipes barndances and waltzes.

She gives us a baker’s dozen of tracks, with some 29 tunes in all worked into the selections. Jigs and reels come in collections, but the more lyrical tracks are presented singly and allowed to build slowly, such as the O’Carolan tune Loftus Jones, the precisely named Joyous Waltz. And the set dance the Fall of Dunbloy. Edel says in the liner notes that she is attracted to tune titles and their back stories. Hence such conundrums as Kittty Got A Clinking Coming From the Fair, Currants for Cakes, Raisins for Everything and The Sheep In the Boat. Stylistically this is undoubtedly Clare music, free flowing and at times subtly understated, presented with modest surety. In other hands these jigs and reels might have been faster, perhaps a little over embellished, but Edel has been smitten by the concertina since the age of 5 and on this record it is obvious she just gets it. It is all jewels and no bling.

Come the year’s end when folks get round to compiling lists this will be a contender for the album of the year and is certainly an heirloom in the making.

Sean Laffey


The Pleasures of Hope

Own Label HBMC09

17 tracks, 49 minutes
“Flute Music from Belfast and Beyond”, this CD showcases two of Ulster’s finest fluters. Harry Bradley should be well-known to wooden flute fans, having released three splendid solo albums and recorded with numerous other musicians. Michael Clarkson is less established, but has been a leading light of the Belfast scene for a while now. The pair of them play in the rhythmic Northern style, without the breathiness of some players but with a percussiveness and a fierce passion in the music. At times their timber flutes are wielded like weapons, battering the reels and jigs into submission: at others they weave their spell like magic wands, trailing stars and turning all they touch to gold. With a handful of solo tracks and a round dozen duets, there’s quantity as well as quality on The Pleasures of Hope: there’s also some excellent accompaniment from Garry O’Briain and Seamus O’Kane on mandocello and bodhrán.

The music here comes from all parts of Ireland. The Mayo Lasses and John Doherty’s Bundle and Go from the North-West, Seamus Creagh’s Polka from the South-West, and The Knackers of Navan from the Midlands, but most of Michael and Harry’s repertoire is drawn from the deep well of the fluter’s heartland of Sligo, Roscommon and Leitrim, a delta of genius. Leitrim Town, Patsy Hanley’s, The Edenderry Reel, John Egan’s: all are associated with the golden triangle of Irish flute music, and all are pulled brilliantly into a Belfast embrace. With reels and jigs pulsing constantly through the wood, a slow air is a welcome relief and Michael obliges with his gorgeous interpretation of Caoineadh Uí Dhomhnaill. Harry’s rendition of The Geese in the Bog and The Jig of the Dead is another highlight, surprisingly sweet for the Ulster style, with beautifully delicate ornamentation.

The Pleasures of Hope is topped and tailed by big Scottish tunes, The Spey in Spate and The Banks, bracketing some of the best flute music recorded recently. Highly recommended.

Alex Monaghan


The Winding Banks Of Erne

11 tracks Own label

Born in Co.Tyrone but now living in Newcastle Co.Down, Sean Donnelly is a familiar face in northern folk circles and also known in England and Scotland. He has released seven albums to date since the late 80’s starting with One Day We Saw the Sun in 1987 and now his latest The Winding Banks of Erne. The northern Irishman’s relaxed delivery and restrained music has pleased weary ears. However appearances south of the border have been limited. His previous connection here has been through his rendering of The Homes of Donegal appearing on EMI’s 1999 compilation Rare Ould Times. In fact Sean’s cut of this classic has been embraced by Youtube currently running to 3,000 hits. In truth having seen him live we are missing out big time.

The Winding Banks of Erne finds Sean Donnelly ploughing his usually reasoned furrow. His voice is mellow and unhurried and his guitar style mellifluous and supportive. Laid back is the name of the game here. His vocal and instrumental combination initially understated to the nth degree once accustomed to lend an attraction that is beguiling rather than knockout with the effect more subtly moving than overpowering. Sean Donnelly’s song choice features some Northern traditional songs and more contemporary material with the occasional standard as in the case of The Mountains of Mourne. This is an interesting inclusion as Donnelly’s rendition eschews the Parlour patois for a straight ballad delivery in the vein of 50’s balladeer Charlie McGee.

The emphasis is on melodic story ballads like I Wish My Love Was A Red Red Rose and The Star Of Logey Bay and the gentle title track. The songs by modern day troubadours Eamon Friel’s Hard Town and Martin Donnelly’s Now the Swallows are Away and Gerry O’Beirne’s Western Highway add to a well versed catch while Sean adds I am A Stranger Here a quietly eloquent comment on a bittersweet homecoming.

Sean Donnelly’s approach is quietly retrained and subtle in its delivery, his voice possessing lovely rustic warmth with his guitar accompaniments almost umbilical the twin talents conjoined in harmony. The Winding Banks of Erne is a subtle treasure chest for the quieter moments its charms yielding rich rewards on continued exposure.

Sean Donnelly’s talent awaits national discovery – hopefully this album and his Youtube audience will open receptive Southern doors for this ought to be a national treasure.

John O’ Regan


The High Level
Gardiner CD01 Own label
15 tracks Self Published

Once a member of the renowned Kilfenora Céilí Band, Bobby Gardiner has without a doubt achieved the young musicians dream of having an association with traditional music that has spanned decades. He was an integral part of the famed Malachy Sweeney Band from County Armagh and is a noted for his guidance with accordion tutoring at the University College Cork. In tandem with regular appearances around the country and in his native Clare, he is also a recurring feature in the Bru Boru concerts held in the shadows of the famed Rock of Cashel in Tipperary.

This long awaited album The High Level encompasses a wealth of variety in the traditional commencing with First House in Connaught a reel played with defined tempo sweeping into The Wind that Shakes the Barley which Gardiner links to being reminiscent of the concertina playing of the renowned Mrs Crotty from Kilrush.
The Molly Brannigan’s set is skillfully rendered in a lively style with superb accompaniment from Brian Morrissey on banjo and Donnchadh Gough on bodhrán. Bobby’s daughters Kelley and Lynda are joined by fiddle virtuoso, Eileen O’Brien on Kelley’s composition Re Nua which blends sweet intricacies and skilful playing. The clarity of note and tempo change is prevalent in the The North Shore set which gradually builds into uplifting reels which end in the ever popular Silver Spear.

Within the family line-up, Fiodhna Gardiner plays a hauntingly beautiful low whistle in the evocative air The Easter Snow. The combination of the whistle and Bobby’s Paolo Soprani is exquisite and is further enhanced by Mary Kelly’s harp and Jack Talty’s synthesizer.

The Fair of Ennistymon written by Bobby’s wife Ann and sung by herself and Bobby was wistfully humorous and I would have loved to have seen the words noted in the sleeve notes to reflect on the imagery. A special mention to John Coakly who’s subtle yet timely accompaniment partners Bobby on many of his tunes.
‘The High Level’ transported me back to the warm family session environment where a great night’s entertainment could be had in the company of friends. With the talent and experience that is Bobby Gardiner, this CD is a taste of history for any traditional music enthusiast!

Eileen McCabe



12 tracks, 62 minutes
Own Label
These twelve tracks are a real treat for fans of Northwestern European accordion music. Karen Tweed and Timo Alakotila are the backbone of May Monday, and Midnight is their second album. Karen’s piano box is well-known in English, Scottish and Irish folk circles, while Timo has composed and played for many Finnish groups including JPP. Emma Reid and Roger Tallroth add English fiddle and Swedish guitar, and contribute compositions alongside Alan Kelly, Chris Wood, Andy Cutting, Maire Breatnach, Ian Lowthian, Sean Óg Graham and others. There’s also a couple of traditional tunes: Gerry Commane’s, The Silver Slipper, and a long-named Scandinavian polska.It all adds up to over an hour of new and exciting music.

The opening medley starts with a bouncy piano air, then slips into reels: Beoga and Sam’s Tune inject pace and power. Karen’s Moonbeam Passage is a total contrast, low and wistful, almost mood music. Reverof shifts to Parisian waltzes, followed by Chris Wood’s driving Lusignac. Emma Reid leads her air Great Uncle Henry, a charming and spirited celebration. The English tone continues with the swaggering march Ensuite Barn and the organised mayhem of Spaghetti Panic from the Late Blowzabellan era of English folk. A couple more airs written for Karen’s friends lead to a medley of cracking if ill-omened jigs, then a lovely tribute to lamented genius Joe Scurfield, and an equally beautiful slow polska. Timo’s Jig by Roger Tallroth is more of an exercise than a melody, but Alakotila’s piano is invogorating here as elsewhere. The final big set starts with Gettingen Polska and follows that with two great Kerry polkas: maybe it’s just me, but the Irish tunes seem to cause a large spike in the musical energy levels. Karen’s own Orlando Polecat keep those levels high to round off the track. Timo finishes the album with a piece for his sister, Lumen Valossa, a piano and accordion duet, a beautiful conclusion to an unusual but rewarding CD.

Alex Monaghan


Take My Love With You
Spring Records

SCD 1060 2010

My fascination with the Sands Family dates back to their old vinyl and songs like The Streets of Derry. In recent years it has concentrated more on individual members releases and writings from Colum, Tommy and Ben. This new release from Ben is worthy of note.

Ben Sands is the sort of “everyman” of song. He writes those songs about everyday things we all experience and when we do experience them we wish we could write a song like his to express our feelings.The title track was written for his daughter on her wedding day and it epitomises the man and his music. ‘Take My Love With You’ could be the unisex father’s song at any wedding and no doubt if it gets enough airplay it may be one of those songs that priests end up banning as not religious enough at the nuptuals.

Almost every track on here leaves a similar feeling of wanting to be able to sing the song to someone at crucial times in life. Ronan Won’t Be Phonin’ Any More is a title that has us expecting one his classic comic offerings but once more he confounds our expectations. This is a wonderful if rather sad song recalling the loss of a friend of long standing and his sad life and losses. His capacity to recall the minutiae of life is well served here as he sings of that old friend ringing just as you settle down to eat or listen to a new CD and our frustration at the interruption but the friendship overcomes any inconvenience. Then when he can no longer call we can be content we always chatted. He always seems to drop in a pleasant musical interlude with an instrumental that ends up haunting your “hum along” memory for days. On this album that track is Twilight in Tangen. Unusually he gives us one song not from his own pen but what a haunting song it is. Hugh Priestwood wrote it and I can only recall ever hearing it once before on a radio programme. It is the marvellous tale of lost love that is conveyed even by the title, ‘Ghost in the House’.

The amusing track on offer here is a little saga of meeting a girl by accident in a cafe and the whole tale unfolds with a ring of sad truth in just under four minutes on Coffee and Cheesecake. The philosophical song on the album has to be There’s No Time Like the Present. Listening to the last track on the CD reminded me of that poetic term so many poor English Literature tried to get into our heads called onomatopoeia. On Rainbow Days and Firework Nights might not use exact examples but it’s what kept coming to mind.

This lovely new CD of a dozen tracks carries Sands’ usual mixture of philosophy, fun, friendship and fundamentally songs of ordinary life. A lovely insert booklet of lyrics and a beautifully designed and printed cover make this is a CD to treasure.

Nicky Rossiter


Side by Side
12 tracks

Dawros Music

Pay heed as the gifted Kane Sisters, Liz and Yvonne, fiddle their way into an unadulterated CD that exemplifies strong tune selection combined with skilled instrumentation resulting in the tour de force that is ‘Side by Side’.
The Connemara born sisters stay true to their musical upbringing by recording the majority of the tracks at Liz’s house in Letterfrack. It was recorded in session style in the living room with dancing taking place on a wooden plank in Liz’s kitchen and this is encapsulated perfectly on track four with Thomond Bridge. In tandem with the dexterous fiddle duo, Nathan Pilatzke adds his own unique percussion to this hornpipe in the form of dancing shoes, pauses for a break, then hop steps into Paddy O’Brien’s Tipperary tribute of his childhood friends entitled The Boys of Youghalarra.
An elegant Galway Jig taken from the fiddle playing of Paddy Fahey played with steadfast style flows into the Liz Kane penned The Lark in Charlie’s Meadow in memory of the musician and dancer Charlie O’Malley from Renvyle. The fiddles saunter into a set of reels with the stand out being Eileen O’Brien’s which showcases the combination of subtlety and rawness of the bow which is inherent in both sisters yet also highlights the skilled accompaniment of the other stringed instruments.
Speaking of accompaniment, the Kane sisters were in the company of talented guests. As well as the aforementioned dancer, Nathan Pilatzke, they were joined by Donegal guitar player, Daithí Sproule, the noted Mick Conneely on the bouzouki and the renowned Patsy Broderick on piano.
Overall this CD is a must buy. It draws character from the unique blend of quality instrumental combined with an integral respect for the tune composition adorned with a dash of the vivacious personality that is an intrinsic part of those Kane Sisters when they’re playing ’Side by Side’!

Eileen McCabe


Paddy Homan

13 Tracks Running time 42.39 Minutes

Fair Hill Records

Cork’s Paddy Homan presents a collection of Irish traditional songs, from the ancient to the contemporary. He is backed by a showcase selection of players that only allow him to enhance his presentation of the songs. Many are from Homan’s Cork home. This is a good blending, both of Homan’s tenor and the backing music.

Homan opens his set with Jimmy McCarthy’s song of thanks-giving to God, Bright Blue Rose, backed by Jimmy Moore on guitar. The following song, Johnny Jump Up, is diametrically opposed, in tone and delivery, with Jimmy Keane, Pat Broaders and Dennis Cahill giving breadth to the comic overtones. On the Thomas Moore Avenging and Bright, Homan does an a cappella rendering with great success.

Homan’s version of Foggy Dew is one of the best I have heard in a long time. Homan gives full rein to the emotions of the love and war song, The Lowlands of Holland. On Boys of Fairhill, Maurice Lennon’s spare viola is a perfect counterpoint to both the lyrics and the delivery of the story of the long delayed hurling match.

John Williams and Cahill play the tune as a wrenching slow air on Slan Le Maigh, better known as The Bells of Shandon, and Homan equals their expert playing with a strong and plaintive delivery of his tenor voice. The Mountains of Pomeroy has an interesting mix of music, pared back, with Homan filling in the lines drawn by Cahill, Williams and Kathleen Keane. The selection of songs on this album might have fallen to the hackneyed and saccharine, were it not for Homan’s strength of voice and conviction, and producer Dennis Cahill’s direction.

The musicians and the singer were all of the same mind, and this wedding of styles makes for a winning production.

Brian G. Witt


Raison d’etre

Shirty Shirty 11 tracks

A seminal figure in the UK folk scene, fiddler Dave Swarbrick presents his first solo album in eight years. Raison D’etre is compiled from eight years recordings with various guests including Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick and pianist the late Beryl Marriott. Some fifty years of playing has gone into this recording as well as considerable effort in collating and compiling material some of which come from sources as diverse as Edward Bunting, the English composer John Ravenscroft and Playford’s Dancing Master. His missionary zeal for his source material is evident in the derailed notes in the CD booklet. For a man who has endured so much ill health s much as he has recently Dave Swarbrick’s playing is lively and intuitive full of taste and energy. He plays dance music with his customary bite and infuses his airs with a gentle sensitivity. It is on complex pieces such as Carpenter’s Morris where Swarbrick investigates every nook and cranny of an involved set of complicated tunes with a detective’s accuracy and assurance. Thomas and Sally is a pastoral piece, more Percy Grainger than folk styled yet Swarbrick’s playing is sweet and lyrical completely attuned to the inner contours of he tune, while he revisits Spanish Ladies a set from his first solo recording in 1967 with the Jason Wilson Band providing a Jazzy raggeafied backing track.

Choc full of melodic twists and turns yet revelling in the music’s interior dynamics, Raison d’etre is a masterful return to form for an English folk legend. Its invigorating mix of revelry and thoughtfulness suggests a musician completely at one with his work.

John O’Regan


Dear Irish Boy

12 tracks Glas Records


In November 2007, I first met Marianne Green at the Copenhagen Irish Festival. We got to talking and hearing her Northern accent I enquired where up North she hailed from. Her vocal inclinations suggested Omagh lineage. Imagine my surprise when she said that she was Copenhagen born and bred. Marianne is an Irish dance teacher leading Denmark’s only professional dance school with fellow dancer Julie Mork and a singer of mostly Northern Irish repertoire. Listening to Marianne’s debut album Dear Irish Boy brings some interesting thoughts into focus. Her voice is light and lyrical reminding of several notables – Maighread Ní Mhaonaigh, Eithne Ní hUllachain, Cara Dillon and Juliet Turner. It’s a pronounced Northern sounding voice and a young pure one attacking her repertoire with relish. The songs are the big ones – Banks of the Bann aka Willie Archer, Doffing Mistress, Bonny Portmore, Carrickmannon Lake all classics and reliable choices. There is an assured poise balancing the youthful energy with a reasoned maturity. For accompaniment she has none other than Andy Irvine in cahoots – his mandolin, bouzouki and harmonica rippling and trilling when needed and adding melodic foil to the quieter moments. Colum Sands and Gerry O’Conner also add their deft contributions and this combination of youth and experience works in an organic fashion framing the songs in subtle yet powerful arrangements There is a refreshing lack of ego present that makes the album even more momentous. This is a meeting of like minds – from different places but whose love of Northern songs makes for an aural experience that is more than a mere recording.

Recorded in the Spring Records studio in Rostrevor County Down this is history in the making.

John O’Regan


Cnuas – Double CD

Gael Linn CEFCD190

Eamon de Buitlear formed Ceoltoirí Laighean in 1972 and they recorded their first album An Bothar Cam for Gael Linn that year. A former member of Sean O’ Riada’s seminal Ceoltoiri Cuallan and a renowned broadcaster and nature photographer, he wished to continue the O’Riada vision of forming a group which would play traditional music in a manner similar to but not derivative of his former band. He would also add a twist to the tale mixing elder musicians with some of the younger bucks up and coming at the time. Some of which included Paddy Glackin, Paddy O’ Brien, Mary Bergin, James Kelly and Mick Allan. He added them to John Kelly Senior, and the result was some band.

They play with the discipline that Ceoltoirí Cuallan portrayed in O’Riada and O’Riada sa Gaeity also with the same kinetic energy and devilment intact. This collection gathers their two albums the 1973 release An Bothar Cam and its 1975 follow up The Star of Munster. Together they form a pen picture of an underrated outfit perhaps travelling in shadows still too huge to escape from. That said the music has an earthy rawness within its sophisticated arrangements as exemplified in Nel l Spoirtiul (Sporting Nell) where orchestrated moves mix with full on ensemble gusto and the regal warmth of Sean O’Duibhear A Ghleanna is caressingly emotive. The Star of Munster – Ceoltoirí Laigheann’s sole studio recording remains an undiscovered beauty. The click clack of bodhrán and bones and twin fiddles introduce Cnoc na Glarach a swirling set of slow slides with precise attacking playing. Micho Russel’s Ashplant allows for plentiful soloing and group work while Sleamhain Inis Catharhaigh sees them cut loose with west Clare fervour. Dinny Delaney’s their sole single from the 45 era closes the musical proceedings with a rega gallop.

Vocally, Diarmuid O’Suilleabhain and Sean O’ Liathan combine their Cuil Aodha soul with a jaundiced eye for black comedy. Their contributions add extra lustre to an already formidable fire. Ceoltoirí Laighean have been overlooked in the Irish music story –criminally so for while they only made two albums they were justifiable classics and are complied unedited on this delightful double CD set.

John O’Regan