Releases > November 2009

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Reelin’ in Tradition
Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 180
16 tracks, 50 minutes
This is the third album from box-player Mick Mulcahy and his daughters Michelle and Louise. More of the same? Yes, if we’re talking about straight trad Irish jigs and reels, this CD is very similar to their 2000 and 2005 recordings, but the last ten years have only increased the skill and confidence of Mick’s talented offspring. Their trio sound is busy enough to fill fifty minutes, and is augmented by Cyril O’Donoghue’s bouzouki and Tommy Hayes’ percussion. Mick sticks to his button box, but the girls swap between flute and pipes, or between Michelle’s mini orchestra of concertina, fiddle, harp and piano.
There’s a lovely range of tunes here: the tastiest version I’ve heard of The Bush in Bloom, two contrasting takes on Kitty Lie Over, a mighty set of reels starting with The Pullet, and a gentle jig learnt from the late great Jerry Holland are among the highlights.
With a scattering of solo tracks, a pair of hornpipes and a charming harp air, there’s plenty of variety on this recording despite a preponderance of reels and jigs.
The polka set was a low point for me, but there are more than enough highs to make up for it. I’ll pick out a watertight duet from pipes and fiddle on The Wexford Lasses, this season’s most popular jig James McMahon’s leading into the powerful John McKenna’s, and the final set of big reels recorded live with Clare dancers. Very well played, very traditional, and very welcome indeed!
Alex Monaghan


In Full Flight
13 tracks
Tallaght Records TACD 03

An aptly named CD here. Gavin has been pursuing a career as a solo whistle player for about a decade, and if there was an apprenticeship involved in that, this is the job of journeywork, the proof that he’s more than fit to be let out. More than anything else, it’s a very Irish production; it goes beyond anything you can learn out of a book. It’s hard to pin down, but at base it means that the trad is about people and their shared love of making music and seeing the world in a special way.
It’s not conditioned by time or fashion: here we have old tunes like O’Connell’s Trip to Parliament, The Yellow Tinker and Ah! Surely - (this last one was surely a song, but where are the words?) - and they are mixed in with tunes like Charlie Lennon’s The Flying Wheelchair.
Gavin’s two slow airs deserve to be singled out: An Páistín Fionn and the Scottish Dark Loghnagar; they are both examples of musical intelligence and good taste.
Special mention for the guest musicians, especially Aogán Lynch on concertina and Donnacha Moynihan on guitar; if anyone doubts that the whistle is a fully paid-up member of the community of trad instruments, this collection will soon have you on the right road.
John Brophy


Ceol Aduaidh
Gael Linn CEFCD 102
14 tracks
Ceol Aduaidh is a Gael Linn reissue of the 1983 album by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy. The publishers note that this was when Mairéad and Frankie first displayed “that blend of energy, exuberance and musicality which found worldwide flowering in the music of Altan.”
She grew up in Gweedore (Gaoth Dobhair), Co. Donegal; he was from Belfast, and they met at a session when they were in their teens. Through that first meeting, Frankie was inspired to learn to play the flute and soon matured into a talented musician. They married in 1981. Frankie met an untimely death in 1994 and is deeply lamented by all who knew him and who loved his music.
The CD includes typical Ulster dance forms such as ‘Germans’, ‘Highlanders’, and Mazurkas. Songs included are: Thíos i dTeach a’ Tórraimh, which Mairéad heard from her uncle, Jimmy Dinny Ó Gallchobhair; An Spealadóir, a song from the time when Donegal people went to Scotland as seasonal labourers; and the love song, Iníon a’ Bhaoghailligh, that she heard the singing of Áine Bean Uí Laoi (Annie Eoghain Éamainn).
Mairéad has always enjoyed singing as much as playing the fiddle, and her father, Proinsias Ó Maonaigh (Francie Mooney) - himself a fiddler - was her teacher.
She received tuition and inspiration from fiddler, Dinny McLaughlin, who was a frequent visitor to the home when she was young. Ciarán Tourish, who would later join Altan, was also a frequent visitor to the family home and he too received tuition from McLaughlin. Other musicians appearing on the album are: Mairéad’s brother Gearóid (guitar), Ciaran Curran (cittern), Fintan McManus (bouzouki), and Eithne Ní Bhraonáín (keyboard) who is now better known as Enya.
Gearóid is one of the main organisers of the Frankie Kennedy Winter School, which was set up to celebrate Frankie Kennedy’s contributions to Irish traditional music, especially the music and song of Donegal. It is a fitting way of keeping alive the memory of a fine musician.
Lovers of traditional music will welcome this reissue of the 1983 recording on CD and so, too, will a new generation to whom this duo are revered and celebrated figures.
Aidan O’Hara


Own Label GWMCD001
12 tracks, 59 minutes
A new band is always intriguing but this one promises something special. Padraig Rynne and Tola Custy on concertina and fiddle are well known names, stalwarts of Clare music. Emerging bouzouki player, Karol Lynch, and Breton fluter, fantastic Sylvain Barou, bring less predictable facets to Guidewires. The group is tied together by Belfast guitarist Paul McSherry - no better man for the job. Recorded live in Ennis, this album presents a purely instrumental mix of original tunes, compositions by a wide range of modern Celtic composers, and some pure traditional pieces. The result is a fabulous hour of exciting music.
Starting with a superb flat-picked version of Paul’s own tune Hoodwinked, Guidewires launch into a lovely Brendan Ring composition before Sylvain’s Recession Jig ends the first set. Padraig shares the credits with Mike McGoldrick on a pair of powerful new reels, followed by Tola’s beautiful slow version of Fred Finn’s. After a couple of Riverdance-style jigs, and a haunting selection of Breton tunes with that raw Atlantic edge, Karol’s composition, Marbh Bán, adds a moment of calm and a first taste of Balkan rhythms.
There’s no mistaking the Bulgarian beat on Vicki’s World, and the lads follow it with the Eastern European favourite, Dance of Suleyman. A pan-Celtic track ending with Cariáu Llaniscu (from Asturias I think) brings us to a hint of Donegal and Padraig’s lyrical Liosbeg, before the second of three Donal Lunny melodies re-introduces the Balkan theme. Sylvain Barou’s exceptional flute tone is on show again with two Brian Finnegan tunes, Marga’s Moment and the jaunty Crooked Still Reel, before Mr Lunny takes a final royalty on Step Ahead Polka. Guidewires wraps it up with a set of classic reels, Padraig to the fore on Dinny O’Brien’s, before Tola growls in with McDonagh’s and Sylvain takes an occasional breath during Bill Harte’s.
Magnificent throughout, this quintet offers variety and brilliance on every track. All five members perform exceptionally here, and the ensemble sound is a dream. Comparisons with Danú, Nomos and even Lúnasa wouldn’t be unreasonable. Guidewires could give anyone a run for their money.
This debut CD is 2009 top ten material. The website has plenty more info and a few well-hidden samples.
Alex Monaghan


Carnival of Colours
Tombstone Music
DT0002 2009
Carnival Colours is the new album from this excellent singer/ songwriter following up on a top class earlier release. The eleven tracks on offer mix vocal with instrumental numbers to showcase his versatility not only in performance but also in writing styles.
Opening with Early One, he sets a tone that defies easy classification. This could prove to be a blessing or a curse. The sad fact is that the CD-buying public are creatures of habit to a large extent and they will gravitate towards the rack of their favourite genre. Without extensive airplay this makes it difficult for emerging artistes and, likewise, if you master a folk sound and a pop sound and a blues sound, where will you be classified and how many sales might you miss? All the sadder for an album like this is how many potential listeners will miss out on a great album?
Among my favourite offerings is Emilia, a fascinating track in content and musical construction. Same Way That I Do is another song that grows on the listener with its simple backing and lovely lyrics. From there he changes track with a much heavier beat on Understand.
The first instrumental offering, Clockwork Factory, has the Hammond Organ to the fore to good effect. Leading Toy Soldier has a very sophisticated sound reminiscent of many of the great songs that once originated in America. This gentle song has a marvellous backing that, while not lush, is definitely deep. Donnacha closes with another instrumental piece called Daylight Moon, giving us a true taste of his excellent guitar playing skills.
The album is nicely packaged with a colourful booklet, including lyrics and musical credits.
Nicky Rossiter


A Message of Peace Own label, LMCD006, 2 CD’s

The double CD production Message of Peace is all about the life of John Boyle O’Reilly (1844-1890), told in song and story. The CD notes inform us: “Seán Tyrrell guides us like a wise spirit through the inspiring and tragically short life of the late nineteenth-century Irish Boston-based activist.” The notes go on to tells us that John Boyle O’Reilly was “a true internationalist, making common cause with the American Indian and the African-American at a time when both peoples were denied the most basic rights. This far-seeing Fenian leader survived Dartmoor and Fremantle penal settlement, to escape on a whaling ship.”
The spoken narrative alternates with song and story and is often delivered with an intensity and a rushed urgency that reflects the narrator’s passion for his subject and his need to share the story. When he slows down a bit, the story and its telling benefit. Seán Tyrell understandably regrets that the subject of his CD project remains so relatively unknown to the Irish people and blames the educational system that promotes the works of lesser poets and figures while ignoring a major talent and personality.
Certainly John Boyle O’Reilly’s story is full of drama and excitement and combines the daring do of a political activist and revolutionary with the great gifts of a writer, publisher and lecturer. He died suddenly at the age of 46 and the New York Times reported his great loss: “In the death of Mr. O’Reilly the Irish race in America loses one of its brightest representatives, and the literary world one of its most thoughtful and active poets.” The 52 tracks of the two discs provide us with stories, poetry and song: Seán the storyteller supplies the links, and Seán the musician has composed the airs for some of Boyle O’Reilly’s material and for poems by - among others - Bobby Sands, Francis Ledwidge, and Oscar Wilde. Of course, when I saw the title, Rising of the Moon, I made the usual assumption that it was John Keegan Casey’s well-known song of rebellion, but quickly discovered it was not; it is the composition of poets Pádraig Stevens and Siobhán O’Higgins who were inspired to add new lyrics to the same air. It’s a plea for harmony and concord and the setting aside of discord, and reflects the aims and hopes of Boyle O’Reilly himself: “…May the wisdom of the Ancients with their messages and signs. Come to shine on our tomorrows, with the magic of their time. Like a star that shone on the wise men, like the dawn that’s coming soon. It’s the truth that guides us onward at the Rising of the Moon.”
The musicians who join with Seán Tyrrell in the recording provide a nicely structured musical framework for the words and the sentiments in Message of Peace: Colin Boland, keyboards and organ; Johnny Mulhern, guitar and sazz; Kevin Duffy, mandobass; Fergus Feely, mandola; & Johnny Mullins, guitar. Sean plays mandola, mandocello, banjo & guitar.
Aidan O’Hara


The Open Road
Black Box Music BBM005
12 tracks, 44 minutes
Brimful of confidence, with sparkling tone and a lovely choice of tunes, Stephanie Geremia’s debut CD is an unexpected treasure. Of Irish Italian extraction, possibly more Catholic than the Pope, Steph left her native New York a few years ago to explore flute music, landing up in Galway by way of Sligo and Roscommon. Along the way, she seems to have become one of the most promising young flute players around.
The Open Road starts with three lively jigs which instantly display Steph’s energy and skill, including her excellent recovery from a rare slip. She follows up with two meaty reels, The Donegal and The Road to Ballymac, delivered with power and precision. There’s a handful of modern compositions on this recording, by such luminaries as Tommy Peoples, Joanie Madden and Charlie McKerron, but my favourite piece here is Steph’s own sultry jig, Linnane Terrace, a gorgeous melody somewhere between Peadar Ó Riada’s Spóirt and a Spanish muñeira.
The exotic side of The Open Road extends to Arnaud Royer’s swirling Breton reel, Carpe Diem, and a 5/8 dance from Salamanca, as well as the beautiful Scottish air, Alasdair’s Tune, which shows Ms Geremia’s exceptional control and expression.
Steph isn’t short of friends in Irish music - Tola Custy, Brendan O’Regan, Jimmy Higgins, Matt Griffin, Michael Rooney and the legendary Johnny ‘Ringo’ McDonagh all join her for a few tracks on this album, and accordionist Alan Kelly is proud to add her to his Black Box label. So he should be; Roscommon has rarely welcomed a more gifted visitor, and Steph pays homage to many of her inspirations here. Seamus O’Donnell’s, Davy Maguire’s, Seamus Tansey’s, Tommy People’s and Mulvihill’s flow from the flute with rare ease, I’ll even forgive her the rather flattened rhythm on this sweet version of Jimmy Lyons’ Highland. One or two tracks feature the fuller tone of a C flute, another highlight of an outstanding recording.
Watch out for Steph Geremia in future, on her own or with Alan Kelly’s band, and don’t miss The Open Road if you can get your hands on it. it will be in my Top Ten for 2009!
Alex Monaghan



If Lord Henry Mountcharles is ever looking for a group to get the toes tapping at the castle for one of those festivals he need look no further than ‘down the road’ for Coscán. The local foursome can conjure up a storm based on this CD with the sub-title ‘Lore of Places’.
In a wonderful mixture of instrumental and vocal offerings they give a full-bodied introduction to Irish music at its best. From their local Tara Jig, the opening track, their expertise and love of the music is apparent and lives right on through to the thirteenth track.
The harmonious opening of Siúil a Rúin will have the hairs on your neck standing on end. They continue with a beautiful rendition of this song that is so often ‘murdered. Their version allows us hear the lyrics in all their glory but retain the wonderful tune.
Moving on to the track Caballo, we conjure up visions of Clint Eastwood, deserts and guns. It evokes the wild Hispanic Rio Grande border country of the old west with an eerie power. This is music reminiscent of the Andes and brings to mind the tracks cut by Mike Taylor (Belfast) and Tony Hinnigan (Glasgow) back in the 1970’s when working with the Ballet Rambert shortly after they formed Incantation and the world woke up to Peruvian music.
But to get back to the future; Coscán are on home turf and Gaelic mysticism at its best on the haunting Lament for Paul Byrne. My favourite track is the opening section of the wonderfully titled The Stuck Stone Set. Here is a beautifully gentle tune that will stay in your mind for days and evoke visions of wonderful sunny summer days in the countryside. This is followed by the marathon Still Waiting, a song that demands your attention.
Overall this is a wonderful album that will keep your toes tapping and your mind working with its combination of jaunty tunes and thoughtful lyrics.
Nicky Rossiter


Let the Circle be Wide
Appleseed APR CD 1114 2009
Tommy is probably best known for his songs about ‘The Troubles’, in particular There Are Roses, in which he succeeded in bringing the national issue down to its basics - human suffering on an individual basis.
His humanitarian and peace-promoting efforts continue on this collection of fifteen songs on which he is joined by not just Moya and Fionan but a galaxy of family and musical friends.
The album is that magical mixture of good music well sung, with historical titbits and fascinating background notes. He starts as he means to continue with Young Man’s Dream. This is a lovely song made all the more interesting when we read in the notes (all by Tommy), that it is a recreation of the original Danny Boy. He gives us seed, breed and generation of the opus.
Sometimes tribute songs can be maudlin and self-serving but Sands avoids this very well on The Song Sings On as he recalls Tommy Makem in an upbeat celebration of the man and his influence on music. He seldom strays far from his native land and its past and The People Have Spoken reminds us of the amazing similarity there is, or was, in the aspirations of the opposing sides with Lillybullero speaking of ‘The Day Will Be Ours’ and the others slogan ‘Our Day Will Come’. His tribute to his late brother Dino could serve as a lament for any deceased loved one with the beautiful sound and the title of You Will Never Grow Old. Moya takes a lead in the vocals of A Stór mo Croí and shows that the family legacy is in safe hands and vocal chords.
Listening to this album we are reminded of the degrees of separation and how people throughout the world are connected. Sands knew Father Mychal Judge, the first officially named casualty of 9/11 and he remembers that day in a song called Time for Asking Why.
The CD closes with the title song as he reminds us of the joy and friendship engendered by a musical get together. This is a well produced and presented album of mostly new material that needs to be heard.
Nicky Rossiter

Just Listen

13 tracks, own label

Close harmony vocal groups aren’t a big part of the tradition; apart from some material in the early days of the Feis Ceoil, they don’t get much mention. Forsooth, they were popular with the swing bands, but this era was killed off by the Beatles et al. And nowadays, like the Tuatha Dé Dannan, they are hiding in the hillsides waiting for the signal to return.
Eileen Tackney is one of five singers who are returning to the fray, having raised families, and with help from Cavan Arts Office, has produced a companionable anthology. It covers everything from an Italian Ave Maria, dated about 1600, to Choo Choo Ch’boogie and Paul Simon. Its chief interest is the song Catherine Óige, found by Derek Warfield in a library in the US, and the composition of John Creery who settled in Virginia.
What comes through is a joy in singing, and the polish that comes only with hours of gigging and rehearsal. Nicely done, lassies!
John Brophy


Ceol Productions, CPCD 001,
12 tracks, running time 37 minutes 45 seconds
The Music of North Connaught has a special place in the canon of traditional msic, indeed early recordings by Coleman and Morrison two Sligo fiddlers set a bench mark for much of what the world saw as traditional music during the twentieth century and so it is somewhat surprising that it took until 2008 for a Céilí band from the region to win the coveted All Ireland Senior Ceili Band competition at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Win they did and woke the judges up to the potential of music west of the Shannon as the 2009 winners were the Dartry Céilí Band from the Fred Finn Branch CCÉ in Sligo. There are no fewer than eleven musicians in the Innisfree Céilí Band, and they play those instruments one usually associates with this type of this musical ensemble: fiddles (3), flutes (4), a button accordion, a piano accordion, a piano, and drums. I also heard what sounded like the woodblock, or a close relative of same. There are, of course, other instruments that one associates with céilí bands, but only those I’ve listed are what we hear on the CD. Yes, over the years one also heard bands with the banjo, uilleann pipes (Tulla), and the piccolo (McCuskers). Sometimes there was a double bass, and some bands even had a saxophone player (Gallowglass).
The strict dance tempo and choice of dance tunes will appeal enormously to those who like to step it out and those who just like céilí band dance music for its own sake. They will derive great pleasure from a sound that is crisp and flowing, performed by musicians who know their instruments and their music. Over the years the céilí bands that played for local dances were a mix of performers that often had one or two who were skilled performers and they more or less ‘carried’ the rest who were often just adequate. But it worked. There are no ‘passengers’ in Innisfree, and listening to them I am reminded of some of the great céilí bands of the past; the Tulla and Kilfenora come to mind, the Ballinkill, the Garda Ceilí Band, the Ardellis, the Liverpool, and many more.
The man behind this Innisfree production is fiddle player, Oisín MacDiarmada. In his CD notes he states: “In 2008, the Innisfree became the first céilí band from North Connacht to win the coveted All-Ireland Senior Ceilí Band competition at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.” Considering the wealth of instrumental and group playing in counties like Sligo, Roscommon and Leitrim, that information came to me as a bit of a surprise, and it would be a revelation to a lot of people, I’m sure. Not surprisingly Sligo features prominently in the tune selections and credit is given to well-known Sligo musicians that include Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, Fred Finn, and Michael Gorman. Margaret Barry who travelled a lot with Michael told me about the time they were performing in the U.S. in the 1980s. There was a sweets packet called Life Savers that kids were fond of, and when Michael caught a cold during their visit he always carried these sweets with him. “I think he believed these Life Savers would cure his cold,” Margaret said and laughed.
The CD notes provide a wealth of information on the tunes and their sources, and this adds hugely to the appeal of this first-class recording. A most enjoyable listen.
Aidan O’Hara


The Poet’s Dream
POCD002 2009

Here is a beautiful double album of songs old, new and renewed. O’Reilly and Kirwan have produced a collection of 26 songs that span a wide timeline but even with this they manage to sound melodious and to hold the listener’s attention through the 130 minutes of running time.
The album is Wexford-based in that most of the songs are written by local poets and songwriters or about events that occurred in the county. Many of the songs were published in ‘Wexford Ballads’ by Paddy Berry over twenty years ago and it is a revelation to hear them performed in their full musical glory.
Like the best of ballads they are true story songs. Nowhere is this more evident than on songs like The Battle on the Hill, a wonderful recounting of a fight, complete with names and places. Farewell to Art Sinnott is one of those sean nós songs that is redolent of feeling as we hear the writer and singer echoed as they recall a true loved one.
Being a Wexford collection, 1798 is seldom far from the singers vocal chords. True to form there are a number of renditions of songs of that era including The Men of Ninety Eight and The Adolescent Patriots being just two of them.
In a more lighthearted vein we get a song written by Babs Egan that reminds us of the hunt on Tally Ho. The Jolly Butcher is another ‘naughty’ story song that has probably done the rounds in many an Irish town over the years - here he arrives in Enniscorthy.
One of the most popular Wexford exports is John Barry - founder of the American Navy. He is represented here as Jack Barry in a song collected decades ago for a book called ‘Songs of the Wexford Coast’.
The album is a wonderful collection of music but it is also history in verse and music. It is the history of Wexford but it is also a history of a tradition, a tradition of how our forefathers celebrated incidents and people in song and story and as such is a document of Irish social history. The accompanying booklet is well produced with lyrics and background to the songs.
Nicky Rossiter