Releases > October 2011 releases

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Various Artists
Compilation in aid of One Home Many Hopes, Kenya
18 Tracks – Compass Records

The word, Lullabies, evokes an aura of tenderness and compassion, they are soothing and soft so the idea of asking established traditional musicians to contribute a contemplative track to benefit the young girls at the One Home Many Hopes, Kenya charity was both inspiring and fitting. Produced by Brian O’Donovan, the album encompasses a compilation of top class musicians and singers who all donated their talent to this worthy cause.
The brainchild of Lindsay O’Donovan, the idea began when on a visit to Kenya a young girl, Lovie, fell asleep on her lap and she hummed the air to a lullaby which appeared in her thoughts and consequently turned into the air Lullaby for Lovie. Expanding on this they then sought the aid of prominent Boston musicians to provide material for an album release to highlight the OHMH organisation.
There are fantastic tracks, some taken from the many performances at The Christmas Celtic Sojourn, which involve the likes of Dougie MacLean, Solas, Alasdair Fraser, Aoife O’Donovan and Seamus Egan. The Time Will Pass written and beautifully rendered by Karan Casey is a heart warming and moving piece that evokes a reflective ambience that is echoed in the vocal of Susan McKeown where, with Johnny Cunningham, she sings Star Lullaby. There’s a restful rendition by Mick Moloney of the Bill Caddick revived sonnet John of Dreams (the melody used by Tchaikovsky in his Pathetique Symphony) and a personal favourite of mine, The Castle of Dromore is delivered exquisitely by Heidi Talbot and the Cherish the Ladies crew.
This compilation showcases some of the top talent in the industry, each exhibiting their contribution to the One Home Many Hopes charity with empathy and passion. The album reflects the cause and the input of the artists makes for an entertaining and worthy buy.
Eileen McCabe

Donnchadh Gough, Dónal Clancy, Daire Bracken & Benny McCarthy with Ronan Pellen
13 Tracks

In 1995 a bunch of Irish teenagers travelled to Lorient in Brittany, where they won La Boulee Des Korrigan (roughly translated as the Leprachaun’s Cup), the prize for the best new band at the world’s biggest Celtic Festival. Good start, but would and could they sustain it? Of course we know they did, the four founding members called themselves Danú, a band still in great demand, some 16 years later.
So you might think this collection of out-takes to be prototype Danú or Danú light and in a way it is, but in many ways it isn’t. The feel of this album is that there’s more freedom in the playing, with Benny’s box and Daire’s Fiddle leading the tunes.
Donnchadh’s bodhrán always good has probably never sounded better and the big fellow gets to play the pipes, and what a good job he does on Dinny Delaney’s a tune he picked up at the Willie Week in 1989.
The Breton connection is maintained with guest guitarist Ronan Pellen and Benny gives us Suite De Gavottes Commana. No songs or flutes on this album, so tune addicts, box players and fiddlers alike will devour it for the selections. Some of the tunes were only just filtering into the tradition when the lads recorded them in Liam Clancy’s studio in Ring. Some like Connie O’Connell’s The Torn Jacket became session favourites, showing how ahead of the curve early Danú was. Some tracks would appear on later CDs such as the guitar solo from Dónal Clancy Garret Barry’s (he re-recorded it for his 2005 solo album). Other tunes are probably so new that they are yet to knock on the door of the tradition, such as Daire Bracken’s Charming Chimes.
The sleeve notes are brief but informative, the design, photography and recording are all by the small team Danú have on call in Ring, Dungarvan and Clonmel. The album is dedicated to Liam Clancy and there’s a wonderfully touching picture of Liam with son Dónal and grandson Colm on the inside sleeve. A pleasure to own and a pleasure to listen to.
Thank goodness they found these recordings, thank goodness they threw nothing away.
Seán Laffey

Brid O’Donohue and the O’Brien Family
16 Tracks
Brid O’Donohue is an excellent whistle payer and a well-respected teacher of traditional music in Miltown Malbay in West Clare. Together with her family she has produced an excellent album of straight traditional music
Here Brid and her five multi-talented offspring have given us a classical album of Irish music. There is no recourse to a guitar or bouzouki to punch out the rhythm nor does she call on a bodhrán for a syncopated beat. Here the musicality embedded in the tunes is liberated in an artful and always graceful manner.
The family band have a big collection of instruments to choose from: harp, pipes, flute, concertina and fiddles are lovingly selected and the arrangements are built around the personality of each instrument. I did get an impression that the concertina would take the limelight in a live situation, it is steady and bright especially so on a gently swaggering Mason’s Apron. She gives us a whistle ensemble on Kit O’Mahonys jigs, captured with a live earthy sound with Brid, Eibhlis and Sinead on the whistles, the set finishes with Deirdre joining the girls on piano; she plays the melody rather than adding a booming bass line.
There are more reels than jigs on the album with the Mauadabawn Chapel and The Star of Munster being two crisp examples. Tunes are generally well-known but they are never taken too fast to learn and for any teacher looking for a good example of imaginative arrangements this is a must buy CD.
The liner notes are exemplary, full of detail and research. The tune titles are given in full, top marks for that, if you are looking for a recording of The Musical Priest or The Fair-haired boy or Garret Barry’s you’ll find Brid and her family have them for you.
Seán Laffey

The Fabulous Bonker Boys
11 tracks
The Bonker Boys are based in Athlone and play in what is said to be the oldest bar in the world and so without the bother of touring they play to appreciative audiences drawn from around the world.
This eclectic CD showcases the diversity of their sets and are a testimony to why they have the punters loving the music. The rousing Steamboat Road is an ideal opener and can be visualised putting the revellers into a great mood for a night of music.
They show their versatility by slowing the tempo not with a hackneyed offering of the local pub but with a very sensitive rendition of Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. Musicianship comes to the fore as they launch into almost ten minutes of The Golden Stud/King of the Fairies. This starts slowly but keep those chairs well back because the toes will start tapping and this may lead to knees hopping and you grabbing a partner for a quick whirl of the kitchen.
Luka Bloom’s You Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time is another hand clapper that you will find difficult not to join in on, but keep that voice lubricated because they will then haul you off to South Australia making you a shanty singer along with the Pogues.
Bobby Sand’s Back Home in Derry will give you a chance to pause, reflect and enjoy the band in a more mellow mood. Make the most of the rest before you don The Mason’s Apron and try to keep up with these manic instrumentalists. Then you are on to Streams of Whiskey that will flow towards The Hills of Donegal giving you a rip roaring trip through modern Irish folk at its most vibrant. To send you home not quite sweating they slow matters down on the final track, I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day.
This is a party album that will delight anyone whose party revolves around, friends, some dancing spaces, an isolated location and a few jars.
Nicky Rossiter

The Morning Star
Own Label MFM001
10 tracks, 42 minutes
Mandolinist Marla hails from Oakland, a place I’d never heard of until I read an intriguing book called Altered Carbon. Turns out it’s in California, but you’d never guess from this CD. The Morning Star is a slimline production, no frills and no guests: just a bit of overdubbing and a collection of mandos and zouks. Corkman Jimmy Crowley plays the bouzouki and the dordán or blarge, a supersized zouk, as well as mandolin and mandocello. Marla sticks to mandolin and mandola, taking the top line on most tracks. There have been a few Irish mandolin and bouzouki albums over the years, John Colfer, Brendan O’Regan, Gerald Trimble and Paul Kelly spring to mind but I know of none devoted exclusively to these double-strung instruments. And surely none by such an accomplished pair: Fibish is a leading light on the San Fran Irish scene, while Crowley has seen more scenes than most. There’s none of Jimmy’s singing here though, for better or worse, just plucked strings, and plenty of them.
Most of the tracks on this recording play to the bouncy, rhythmic strengths of the mandolin: jigs, polkas, and cantering reels. The Humours of Bandon leads into a pair of delightful slip-jigs, the title track includes a pugnacious version of Trip to Cullenstown and a lovely gentle take on Good Morning to your Nightcap. There are also some fine slow tracks, including one of the less common Carolan airs and a sinuous Fibish waltz.
My favourite track is probably the multinational Farewell to Whisky (Scots), Jenny Lind (English) and Parnell’s March (Irish), three different styles nicely turned by Fibish and Crowley. The interplay of instruments can be quite intricate at times, while at others the tune is driven on relentlessly. The duo finish with two of Jimmy’s own compositions, but pretty much everything else is Irish trad. There are samples and other material at, well worth a visit.
Alex Monaghan

Liam Weldon
11 tracks
Compass Records LUN CD 3006 2011
This album is a bit of a retro classic. The current album is from 2011 but the material dates back to a Mulligan release in 1976.
Weldon who passed away in 1995 was a strong writer, a strong performer with strong views and all of these are well expressed in the wonderfully titled album. It opens with the title track an unaccompanied piece that laments a nation’s lost dreams and ideals, and of course it was topical in ’76 and is so to this day. It sets the scene for a heartfelt collection of songs, mostly from the pen as well as the voice of Liam Weldon.
Smuggling the Tin is delivered with a more upbeat sound but is still a rather sad and thought provoking song. The traveller song The Blue Tar Road evokes the Dublin of times not too long past and the harsh treatment meted out to the people of the road.
History again emerges to great effect on The Town of Castle D’Oliver although now the scene is in the south east of Ireland. He becomes more personal on two adjoining tracks about love of his wife written years apart. They are My Love is Well and Via Extasia.
The most upbeat track on the album is a version of an old English song Wild Croppy Tailor. He follows this with the legendary Barbary Allen, a song that sounds as if it were written especially for his delivery. He returns to family and personal expression on his own composition Jinny Joe and closes the album with self revelation and raw emotion.
This is not a CD you will put on your player for a boozy sing along or even a mellow summer afternoon. The Dark Horse on the Wind is thought provoking, starkly sung and emotional material that reveals the heart and mind of a great writer, interpreter and performer of folk music.
The insert booklet is excellent not only in providing the lyrics but also background notes on the tracks and a potted biography of Liam Weldon.

Nicky Rossiter


13 Tracks

This album will be released first in the UK on Monday 12th September UK, so if you were in the newsagents early you might be reading the review before you can buy the CD. This is Eleanor’s ninth studio album and contains a dozen sparse songs, they are stripped down to the bare essentials, with Eleanor playing: acoustic and electric guitars, an electric bass and a piano. For many she is the benchmark and gold standard for female singer songwriters in Ireland, and this CD ensures her seat on that podium.
Recorded in Norfolk, England Alone can be a dark place, most of Eleanor’s songs are sung in the first person and tackle issues that whirl around a general concept of love. It’s not the pop music concept however, this is a woman who can pen a piece on guilt, shame, infidelity, anger, distrust, betrayal, disappointment and disillusion. We get two versions of There Are Better Songs Than This with different backing instruments. Her best song is when she steps out of the personal and into observational mode on Sophie which looks at anorexia in a family situation, not exactly The Death of Billy Joe McCalister but getting there. She also gives us an acoustic version of her most famous song A Woman’s Heart. All but one of the tracks are her own compositions, with the outsider being of Destruction by PF Sloan & Steve Barr.
Her voice is clear and potently charged, one hundred percent believable when her songs are bitter the acid burns your eyes, when they are sad you can taste the tears. She is a more than able word smith and she gives us all the words to her songs in the liner. This is a work that will grow on you slowly, it has pedigree in abundance. Eleanor isn’t afraid to stand alone in the dark and sing it like it is.
Seán Laffey

Celtic Airs CACD0205 2010
40 tracks, 132 minutes

I suppose the short review one is tempted to write of such an album would be “It’s Luke Kelly at his best” and that tells it all.
Luke is a bit like Che Guevara. His image is iconic but unlike the revolutionary Luke also has an iconic voice. Once heard you will never confuse him with another singer. Sometimes it is that very familiarity that causes us to forget or neglect the warmth, the soul, the professionalism of the artiste.
This double CD will rekindle our admiration and I hope will introduce Luke Kelly to the millions of potential fans born after his all too early demise. A star of the sixties and seventies his take on songs is as relevant to the current era. Even if you have an idea that you are familiar with his output have a listen to this truly definitive collection.
Even the opening track will remind you that you probably don’t know his work as well as you think. I cannot recall hearing his rendition of Thank You For the Days first time round and I must admit that it is a lovely interpretation.
On this album you get all the old material that we are so familiar with but the real joy is hearing songs you forgot he sang. He hops between the rollicking and thoughtful with consummate ease. It is wonderful to hear the lesser known tracks like Gartan Mother’s Lullaby, Alabama ‘58 and The Dundee Weaver.
But Luke is Luke so you will marvel once more at those songs that I believe were once banned from the airwaves like Kelly the Boy from Killane and Rising of the Moon and as such many people growing up in Ireland did not hear them.
Apart from the old rebel songs this collection reminds us of Luke’s singing of the new rebel or protest songs of his time like The Sun is Burning and Town I Loved so Well. His social conscience was as well tuned as any of the big names and even if he did not pen songs his interpretation and passions made them his own.
Familiarity breeds contempt but in music it can also breed indifference or even neglect. All too often we have a vague recollection of a song or tune and we skip over it because we think we recall it perfectly. Such is seldom the case and a collection like this is our wake up call to go back and listen with ear, heart and mind. Listen as Kelly sings The Town I Loved so Well or Raglan Road. This is perfection. Others do great versions but these are Luke Kelly’s songs.
Whether you are new to him, a fan or even one of those who thought you had outgrown him, go back, listen, enjoy and rejoice that Luke Kelly once sang in our land.
Nicky Rossiter

Live in The Caley
11 tracks, 46 minutes
. Own label BRCD2011

Now there are several Scottish fiddle bands - Session A9, Fiddlers Bid, BYF and more - but Blazin’ Fiddles was probably the first to apply massed fiddle firepower to a more contemporary style of Scottish music, and certainly the first to gather fiddlers from several different regions. One of the distinctive traits of this band is the range of fiddle styles on offer, from the ringing strings of Jenna Reid’s Shetland home to the more formal style of the North East. Three of the band’s fiddlers are from the West Highlands, playing in the Gaelic-influenced style of that region, but all are masters (or mistresses) of more than one style.
The Caley is a nickname for the Caledonian Hotel in Beauly, near Inverness, a centre of highland culture and entertainment. While this CD doesn’t claim to represent a typical Thursday night there, I dare say most of this material has echoed round its timbered bar. Four fiddles, guitar and piano launch into a wide selection of reels, jigs, strathspeys and marches: The Sound of Mull, The Storm, Lady Montgomerie, The Night We Had the Goats, Compliments to Sean Maguire, Tripping Down the Stairs and Donald in the Pig Pen to name a few. There are several of the band’s own compositions too: Bruce MacGregor’s catchy jig The Promotion, Iain MacFarlane’s soaring tune Willie Macrae’s, and a couple from Allan Henderson. Slower numbers include the 18th-century air Carronside, the rather younger Irish air Sliabh Geal gCua, both featuring Andy Thorburn on piano, and a charming Norwegian waltz with subtle guitar accompaniment from Anna Massie.
I should mention that Blazin’ Fiddles have discovered a link between highland strathspeys and Irish polkas. Apparently, a simple change of rhythm plus a thrash guitar accompaniment can turn any grand old strathspey into an acceptable Kerry polka. They provide a sample set here: The Haughs of Cromdale, The Braes of Mar, and Dan R MacDonald’s superb composition Lime Hill, are processed and packaged as polkas without any problems. For this track alone, Thursday Night in the Caley would definitely be worth a listen, and there’s plenty more to enjoy on this CD.
Try for more info.
Alex Monaghan

Where the Wind Meets the Water
Ten tracks – Self Published

Achievement is a word synonymous with the name Kathleen Keane and she has certainly achieved with her latest release Where the Wind Meets the Water. A hybrid of original composition interwoven with classic favourites, the multi–instrumentalist reveals her vocal talent alongside her obvious competence on fiddle, flute and whistle. Already highly regarded within the traditional musical scene from her associations with bands such as The Drovers, Gaelic Storm and Tantrum, Keane provides a series of tuneful twist and turns on the instrumental tracks especially in her fiery whistle rendition of The Laurel Bush set that flies through phrase after phrase and powers into a High Reel finish. The pace is toned down in the next track as again utilising the lingering echo of the whistle she delivers a poignant self-composed air named after Montana that displays a clever use of timing and nuance. Throughout the album she is accompanied by the likes of Dennis Cahill and William Coulter, amongst others, who enhance without deflecting from the main instrumental.
There’s a really soft breathy quality to Keane’s voice and she uses this to her advantage with her song choices. Galway is endearingly vocalised with a vulnerability that adapts to the lyrics perfectly and the soothing sound of When Irish Eyes are Smiling carries a freshness to a song that is almost a hundred years old, however, it’s the title track Where the Wind Meets the Water that captures the essence of the album for me. Written by Keane and Al Day, it embraces the tradition yet stays current and suits her sweet tone perfectly. A touching finale is displayed on the final track. It’s a handheld cassette recording of her Grandfather playing tunes on his accordion in his Kitchen in Maam, Co Galway around twenty years ago.
What a great way to acknowledge the generational musical tradition and with the quality exhibited on Where the Wind Meets the Water, Kathleen Keane has achieved yet again.
Eileen McCabe

Fifteen Tracks – Self Published

It’s not too often that a debut release from a new artist can establish itself so comparatively with the stalwarts of the tradition yet this solo release from Monaghan fiddler Donal McCague does just that. Bits’n’Pieces is an essentially traditional fiddle album however what captures the imagination is the clever use of space, timing and ornamentation that grabs at the heart of a long established tune and ignites a spark that invigorates. Does this mean that the tune is revamped so much it’s hardly recognisable? Not at all, this is the ingenuity of the release. The subtlety of phrasing and gradation and of course the talent is what makes this album so refreshingly distinctive.
With the artistic enhancement of Michael McCague on strings, Brian McGrath on piano and an appearance by bodhrán maestro Johnny Ringo McDonagh; Donal guides his bow through the Maids of Mount Kisco set with a definitive joie de vivre. This quickly eases tempo as the next track, his version of the Tommy People’s air The Quiet Glen is administered with an expressive sensitivity and compassion. The Holly Reel is executed with a piquant clarity yet this delicately changes through each tune in the set with McCague’s skilful application of the bow. McGrath’s piano perfectly complements the fiddle on Little John’s Hame hornpipe as McCague imprints his own personal stamp to an intriguing tune.
The personal stamp is the key with Bits‘n’ Pieces. McCague knows how to get the best out of the fiddle and that familiarity lets him focus on making each tune his own. For a debut there is an essence of confidence that holds an appealing charm. Keep an eye out for this fiddler from Monaghan as there’s a bright future ahead if Bits’n’Pieces is anything to go by.
Eileen McCabe