Releases > April 2013 Releases

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Tunes from the Goodman Manuscripts
12 Tracks, 55 Minutes, 13 Seconds
Is Mise 003
The ITMA web site, gives the history of James Goodman (1828– 1896) as follows “from the Dingle area of West Kerry, a Canon of the Church of Ireland, Professor of Irish in Trinity College Dublin, and an accomplished performer on the Irish or uilleann pipes, compiled a highly important manuscript collection of Irish traditional music in the 1860” Nicholas Carolan from the archive writes the back ground notes to this modestly presented work, don’t let the muted cover fool you, the disc is full of sparkling tunes, enough to dazzle any chattering magpie.
This album breathes life into a just under 30 tunes from the 500 in the book Tunes of the Munster Pipers Volume 1 edited by Hugh Shields. This is no dry academic exercise, in fact this could be one of the finest traditional albums of this century. Featuring uilleann piper Mick O’Brien his daughter Aoife Ni Bhriain, on fiddle and Emer Mayock on flute ands whistles. That’s it three melody players delving deep into Goodman tunes and reawakening 150 year old tunes. They do so with style and integrity, if you are looking for precedents maybe Na Fili from the 1970s would fit the bill, but Mick O’Brien is a far more robust piper than Tomás Ó Canainn, or perhaps it is the recording technology of today that can pick up so much more, and that is probably due to Donal Siggins who has done a terrific job on the production.
Mick O’Brien’s piping is big, expansive, gregarious, drawing you in with a huge friendly handshake, it is confident yet controlled. He brings a melancholy to The Old Man Rocking the Cradle, simple chanter work over a constant drone, leaving space for the flute to take centre stage, followed after by the fiddle, so we get a feeling for the many ways in which the tune can be o performed on the different instruments; they close the track with a tight ensemble piece Yellow Legs, High Legs, Red Leg
Emer takes up the gauntlet on Reel 97, a tune that will surely come into its own as this CD gains an influence on the tradition. I was particularly taken by the Light Horse Reel which closes this selection. There is a change of pace on The Gracious Fair Lady/ Hornpipe 139/Hartney’s Hornpipe/O’Lynes’s March, tunes that would be great for learners and a welcome relief from some of the overworked Carolan tunes we hear far too often.
The album is full or treasures, and so is the Goodman manuscript, this CD could send hundreds players off to discover a gold mine of melodies. The good news is the trio are hard at work on a second album, dig deep folks this is music from the mother lode, it has to be in your collection, no question about it.
Seán Laffey

Between the Jigs & the Reels
Own Label CNCD001
16 Tracks, 49 Minutes
This button box player from Westmeath squeezes a few unexpected items between his jigs and reels alright: a planxty and a set dance, a fistful of hornpipes, and three vocal tracks from his baby sister Kathryn. Nevertheless, the bulk of these sixteen tracks relies on the cherished 4/4 and 6/8 rhythms of Irish dance music: reels and jigs delivered at a fair clip, fingers flying and bellows pumping. You can almost hear the blakeys battering those boards into submission. Colin Nea plays in the Midlands style, meaty, complex tunes with a punch to them – and favours the compositions of Paddy O’Brien, Ed Reavy and Sean Ryan among others. Unfamiliar melodies such as O’Leary’s Ireland and Leyeer’s Hornpipe join better known numbers The Whistler of Rosslea, The Lark on the Strand and The Bogie Reel to name just a few.
There are plenty of family connections on this CD. Kathryn Nea sings Where the Moorcocks Crow, The Night Visiting Song and the more upbeat Eileen O’Neill in a strong clear unaccompanied voice well suited to traditional songs. I would have added a box jig to Eileen O’Neill myself, but I suppose there’s enough accordion music elsewhere. Jessica Nea, Colin’s daughter aged ten, plays fiddle with her father on two tracks: Paddy O’Sullivan’s Jig and Jessica’s Jig, the latter composed for Jessica by Colin’s late mother– in–law Phil Mahon, and also Planxty 2000 which is another Phil Mahon original. Enda Seery, a young whistle player and composer who is a cousin of Colin’s, contributes the joyous surging reel Sam’s Delight. Enda doesn’t play on this recording – he has his own recent debut album– but Jack Talty provides deft and discerning piano accompaniment on most tracks. Lots of fresh music, bags of energy, with few frills: Colin Nea’s music is pure enough for button-box devotees and accessible to the casual listener too.
If you enjoy this, you might search out Colin’s 1990’s CD The Pure Box.
Alex Monaghan

Songs of the Scribe
Ceoltaí Éireann CE5061, 10 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin’s new album, Songs of the Scribe, has rightly been described as ground–breaking. The CD’s subtitle is Guth ár Sinsir (The Voice of Our Ancestors) and Pádraigín boldly goes where few, if any, have gone before. She draws her song material and inspiration from early lyrics in Old Irish (Gaelic) that were written by poet–scribes on the margins of manuscripts from 6th to the 12th centuries. This same source inspires a number of our poets, including Séamus Heaney and Ciarán Carson whose works are included in the album.
The producers of the CD describe the recording as being “set in a world of woods, water and birdsong, lamentation and the divine, mystical incantation and love songs”. Through her chant– like singing and with accompaniment from wire–strung harp by Helen Davies, vocal drones and contemporary arrangements woven through word and melody, Pádraigín succeeds in evoking a world of simplicity and stillness, contemplation, and delight in nature that the poet–scribes sought to project in their pithy nature poems.
Padraigín is Foras na Gaeilge Traditional Singer in Residence at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry in the School of English, Queen’s University Belfast, and so it must give her a great degree of gratification to be given the great poet’s commendation for her production. Séamus describes it as “a uniquely delightful work” because of the “sweetness and sureness and clarity of the voice and voicing”, adding, “The notes to the poems are unostentatiously authoritative and the variety of treatment – as in the different renderings of Ciaran Carson’s blackbird and mine, or the chant mode of the Amergin vision, or the kept accent of ‘Pangur Ban’ – makes listening a totally absorbing experience.”
The high production values of this album are not confined to the recording itself; the artwork and illustrations add considerably to making this a very different and pleasing listening experience.
Aidan O’Hara

If You Leave Me
12 Tracks, 43 Minutes, 23 Seconds

You might find it hard to fathom, but Eleanor McEvoy is twenty years into the album making business, her debut eponymous album came out on the Geffen label in 1993. Now in 2013 she has released her fourteenth album If You Leave Me. At one more than a bakers dozen, is there a chance that the recipe will be stale? Not a bit of it, this is fresh, pungent, crisp acoustic music; she is going through a creative upswing at the moment.
With Jimmy Smyth (guitars), Eoghan O’Neill (bass) Paul Moore (bass) Des Lacey on drums she has a world–class band who understand her. And you can’t ask for more than that. Well maybe a production team that included Mick O’Gorman and Eleanor herself. She is a lady who is in full control of her artistry.
Eleanor is a master of the acoustic pop lyric, this is tightly clipped music for grown ups. Most of the songs are less than six verses, which is a challenge to any songwriter, say it all in a few short lines and say it well. We know what to expect from Eleanor, pithy confessionals, moments of grief, tender acclamations of regret, Leonard Cohen without the baroque ramblings, this is rooted in daily lives, believable, tangible, tearful and tender. The words on the page are stark so it is left to Eleanor’s music and the musicians to add character and colour to the theatre of emotions, which Eleanor’s calling card.
Fancy a slow dance across the floor with your loved one? Might I suggest Don’t Blame the Tune, which despite its name is a humble little number? Instrumentation tends towards guitar, drums and keyboards. Eleanor opens Heaven Help Us with a mandolin break, reverting to a tremolo on the second verse, Lift The Wings is one of the bigger numbers, with Mary Coughlan, Gemma Hayes and Hermione Hennessy adding vocals, Eleanor pitches in on ukulele, spoons, keyboard and acoustic guitar. So you can see there’s a huge amount of craft that has gone into the production, which manages to feel spare and lean, the perfect vehicle for Eleanor’s voice.
Not all the tracks are Eleanor’s compositions, one to savour, with piano and vocals is Brian Wilson’s God Only Knows. Then there is True Colours a sensitive interpretation with electric guitar and oboe (from Dave Agnew). She lets rip on the final track, classic Delta blues Dust My Broom, it’s an old song and she attributes it to Robert Johnson and Elmore James, (in fact there is some academic controversy over its authorship, there is no argument however that it was on its release in 1936 a milestone in the history of the blues in America).
For a bit of boot scootin’ Cajun hopping and bopping add in Sharon Shannon on the Secret of Living and you have what could be the hit of the summer.
Seán Laffey


Featuring: Altan, Kevin Conneff, Brian Kennedy, Ann Mulqueen, Brendan Begley, Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola, etc.
Arc Music EUCD 2414
Own Label FID003CD, 18 Tracks, 78.42 Minutes
“You have Gaelic Scotland and Celtic Wales, so why don’t you release a Gaelic Ireland album?” So said I John O’Regan to the bosses at Arc Music, and this CD is their response. Now, I was just wondering which John O’Regan he might be, and after a bit of digging on line I discovered it is our John, the long–time contributor to this publication?
In any case – and without prejudice, as they say in legalese, or bias – John has done a masterful job not only in his choice of material for this Gaelic Ireland CD but in providing the listener with full and informative background notes on the singers and their songs. It’s a pure delight, but in saying that, it may well be because it reflects to a great extent my own taste in songs in the Irish language. So, who are the singers, and what are their songs?
Space does not allow me to list them all or their songs, but I would like to draw your attention to the information above regarding the generous numbers of songs: eighteen in all, representing the four provinces of Ireland. As I write, I am listening to Ger Wolfe from Cork City singing Bruach na Carraige Báine (The Brink of the White Rock), a macaronic song that has alternating verses in Irish and English. It’s a beautiful boy meets girl tale from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, and Ger’s rendition is gently plaintive and very pleasing.
From the opposite end of the country comes Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, the Donegal fiddle player and singer with the group Altan, who opens proceedings on track one with Dúlamán. John describes it as, “A popular children’s song with nonsense rhymes.” Dúlamán is a type of seaweed. Daithí Ó Sé from west Kerry gives a lovely rendition of Eochaill which John O’Regan says is “a romantic ballad from the Donegal Gaeltacht”. Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola from Inisheer gives us her version of Casadh an tSúgáin.
An almost random sampling, I’m afraid, but all the material and the performances can be marked “first class”. Finally, the extensive background notes to the Irish language song tradition in the Introduction are in English and German, and are commendably comprehensive and informative.
Aidan O’Hara

Own Label
12 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Socks in the Frying Pan is one quirky name for a traditional music band I’m sure there’s a story behind it and you can add it to the list of equally quirky monikered traditional outfits like 4 Men and A Dog etc. Based in Ennis the trio that makes up Socks in the Frying Pan accordion and fiddle duo of Shane and Fiachra Hayes (brothers) and singer/guitarist Aodhan Coyne know their triplets from their trills and it shows.
They remind me particularly of another Ennis based ensemble early Stockton’s Wing not in line–up but in attitude and musical daring do. The box, fiddle and guitar interweave and spin their way through instrument sets like The Finale and Shane’s Newest, the latter displaying Shane Hayes’ compositional bent in good form and Aoife Johnston’s has Fiachra hammering a tenor banjo with appropriate spit. The playing and spirit of play as well as the offbeat tune selections that make the meal here and the result is clever and classy betimes. Ensemble vocals on Foreign Lander and Shady Grove also impress, while Aodhan Coyne’s high lonesome falsetto vocals find their space in Bonnie Light Horseman and also Slip Jigs and Reels.
Together there is plenty to mull over with enough quoting Richard Thompson fire in the engine room to render Socks in the Frying Pan a successful and highly promising debut.
John O’Regan

Bruach na Beirtrí
Gael Linn CEFCD 117, 12 Tracks, 44 Minutes
This album features one of Ireland’s finest sean nós singers, Seán Mac Donnchadha. Also featured – on four of the twelve tracks – is the lively accordion playing of the late Máirtín Ó Cualáin. Seán – better known as Johnny Mháirtín Larry – was born in Leitir Ard, Carna, in the Conamara Gaeltacht, and Máirtín – better known as Máirtín Chóilín Choilmín – is from the same neck of the woods.
Not surprisingly, they were immersed in the rich music heritage of the west from early childhood and grew up in a time when the great singers and great performers were to be heard locally ‘cois teallaigh’ in their own homes or in their neighbours’ houses. Seán also learned many of his songs at music sessions in pubs roundabout. Carna is widely regarded as the country’s richest area in sean nós, and singers he would meet with at the sessions locally included Johnny Joe Pheaitsín (Seán ’ac Donncha), Joe Éiniú (Seosamh Ó hÉanaí), Seán Mhichil Tom Ó Domhnaill, Seán Jack ’ac Dhonncha and his son, Josie.
Johnny Mháirtín Larry earned several awards including Corn Uí Riada in 1986 and first place that same year for sean nós singing at Féile Dhúiche Sheoigheach. He sings his favourite songs on this CD, Bruach na Beirtrí, and they include Contae Mhaigh Eo (learned from Cóilín Sheainín Choilmín), Baile an Róba (from Treasa Ní Mhiolláin), and Amárach Lé ’le Pádraig (from Joe Éiniú). He has travelled extensively to sing at festivals at home and abroad and is heard regularly on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.
The late Máirtín Chóilín Choilmín loved to play his accordion at sessisons and dances where he was a much-loved performer. He never went in for competitions. He died in 2002 and in his memory friends and family come together for a big session each November. This CD provides listeners with the best examples of the kind of songs and dance tunes that are heard on those occasions. Is maith ann é and dlúthdhiosca seo, agus tá gach moladh tuilte ag Gael Linn as é a chur ar fáil.
Aidan O’Hara


Troubled in Mind
10 Tracks, 34 Minutes

On a CD whose packaging is rather down beat we get some excellent traditional tunes and songs mixed in with newer material and performed to laid back perfection.
Opening with The Murder of Rose Connolly McGiver shows a wonderful feel for the lyrics and tune on such an oft–performed song. In particular I liked the closing lines delivery.
Another well known and loved track follows called The Brave Volunteer and once again the interpretation and delivery is spot on. The quiet performance allows us appreciate the lyrics and sentiments of songs so often passed off as “just a bit old music”. The feeling is enhanced by the inventive musical arrangement. He gives a similar treatment to The Dying Soldier.
Not that he concentrates solely on the old tradition, he also includes some lovely works by current writers. The Plains of Illinois is new to me but it has a haunting quality that is again likely to stay with the listener long after the CD ends.
Randy Newman’s song Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father tells it all in the title and is perfectly interpreted by McGiver from the beautiful intro onwards.
Once again we are mesmerised by the lyrics on I’m Troubled, I’m Troubled and the same holds true on the rather morbidly titled I Wouldn’t Mind Dying.
This album may not leap off the shelf at you but it is well worth a listen but be prepared to shell out for it because you will love it.
Nicky Rossiter


Live at The Fillmore 1968
Hux Records HUX 137, 10 Tracks, 90 Minutes

A legendary creative, eclectic and enigmatic collective such as The Incredible String band could only happen in the 1960’s. The musical and political climate of the times supported and encouraged all kinds of exotic sound experiments. Robin Williamson and Mike Heron created a web full of conscious and idiosyncratic musical collages that combined ethnic folk forms and cross– pollinated influences from folk, jazz, classics and elsewhere to make music that was unique. Live at the Fillmore a recently unearthed off the desk recording from the ISB’s first US tour in 1968 captures their shimmering tapestries at the apex of their career. Touring The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (a top 5 UK album) and opening for The Grateful Dead - Robin and Mike with their slew of ethnic instrumentation among them guitars, harps, whistles, gimbris, sitars, and mandolins immediately capture the audience. The whimsical You Get Brighter and the classic October Song and A Very Cellular Song combine simplicity and depth while new material like Ducks on a Pond, Puppies and the debut of Maya see them in all their criss–crossing eclectic glory. This is folk music of an existentialist deconstructive nature rather than merely cerebrally functional appealing more to the intellect and imagination.
For its age Live at the Fillmore sounds remarkably fresh and invigorating and sees The Incredible String Band at its creative zenith.
John O’Regan

Seana Choirce
Gael Linn CEFCD 123, 15 Tracks, 41 Minutes
From a well–known Dingle musical family, Brendan followed older brother Seamus in taking up the melodeon and button accordion, recording this debut album in 1987. Since then he
has released at least three more solo recordings, plus several collaboration CD’s, and while he has revisited some of the material from Seana Choirce there’s still plenty of fresh food for thought here. This re–release also provides interesting insight into Brendan’s early style: a facility with the bass buttons, and a feeling for slow airs, are two features of Brendan’s playing which have been developed and nurtured over the past quarter century. Like Seamus and Josephine, Brendan combines singing with playing, although I’d say the latter still has the edge in Brendan’s case. No singing on this album, but there are four lovely slow airs, all probably with words to them. Cois Laoí na Sreabh, Caoineadh Ui Dhomhnaill and The Kerry Hills are delicately played, with an underlying strength and passion which separate Brendan from many musicians. Beauty Deas an Oileán is a song which Brendan has since made his own, but he delivers a moving instrumental version here.
Many of the tunes on Seana Choirce are unnamed, or only named by association: Padraig O’Keeffe’s, Johnny Leary’s, Julia Clifford’s and so forth. Some of these have been picked up and disseminated in sessions and other recordings, but several are still lying here in their virgin state, ripe for the picking by today’s musicians. Grand old polkas and slides abound, as is only right for a Kerry musician, and Frisco’s Hornpipe is also worth a mention.
The other hornpipes Walshe’s and The Gypsy Princess have already been plucked but are both fine tunes well played with a distinct Munster accent. If you’re thinking of learning any of Brendan’s repertoire from this recording, beware: he plays in some frankly unorthodox keys, mainly C, C#, D#, F, F# and D#, with only a few tunes in the more usual G and D. I imagine this is mainly due to the adaptation of melodeon fingerings to the C/C# and C#/D chromatic boxes, with some tunes played on single-row C and F melodeons. Of course, this doesn’t impair the enjoyment of Brendan’s music! Brendan can be seen live with Boys of the Lough or solo, and some of these melodies still feature in his concerts.
It would be fascinating to compare his style now with this timely re–release.
Alex Monaghan


Masters of the Irish Harp
RTÉ Lyric FM CD132, 16 Tracks, 48 minutes

Occasionally on reading the CD notes one learns a thing or two that surprises and delights. “Cairde na Cruite (Friends of the Harp), was founded in 1960 by a visionary group of harp enthusiasts including Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh (later to become President of Ireland).” So harper, Áine Ní Dhubhghaill tells us, and I didn’t know that. Áine goes on to say that the society has played a major role in the resurgence of the harp, and this CD is surely testimony to that.
In the CD notes the performers are referred to as harper and harpist; but harper is used mostly. This is a quality production featuring sixteen pieces performed by the finest exponents of the art of Irish harp playing. For the record, of the sixteen harpers, just two are men, and all but one – as far as I can see – are Irish– born. Helen Davies is Welsh. The two men are Paul Dooley and Cormac de Barra. Paul has studied the construction of medieval Irish harps and has built several instruments. He performs two slip jigs, Port an Deoraí and An Phis Fhliuch, on the wire–strung harp and plays with the fingernails – as the ancient harpers did. Cormac is the third generation harper in a family of outstanding traditional Irish musicians and singers. His grandmother was Róisín Ní Shé. He plays The Monaghan Jig. Cormac has recorded with Anne–Marie O’Farrell who performs Bach’s Prelude from Lute BWV 1006a on this CD.
In the notes we’re told that Siobhán Armstrong’s ‘early Irish harp is a copy of the medieval Trinity College harp – the national emblem of Ireland – strung in brass and 18–carat gold’! She plays Tabhair dom do Lámh (Give me your hand) by Ruairí Dall Ó Catháin (c.1570–1650). Listening to Siobhán and the other harpers performing with such brilliance and flawless technique, I recall what Giraldus Cambrensis, the 12 century Welsh/Norman scholar said of the musicianship of the Irish harpers he had heard: They glide so subtly from one mode to another, and the grace notes so freely sport with such abandon and bewitching charm around the steady note of the heavier sound, that the perfection of their art seems to lie in their concealing it, as if it were the better for being hidden. Thanks to Ellen Cranitch for reminding us of those lines which she quotes in her informative CD notes.
This CD is a wonderful showcase for the players and the notes helpfully supply us with titles of their recordings each has made. The list of performers is too long for listing here, but I should like to mention just a few that I’ve heard in person: Gráinne Hambly, Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Janet Harbison and Gráinne Yeats.
Superlatives come to mind when listening to them and the others, and I can honestly say that I haven’t enjoyed a CD so much in a long time.
Aidan O’Hara