Releases > April 2014

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Live at 10

Compass Records 4621

20 Tracks, 79 Minutes + 90 minute DVD

Marking ten years since the emergence of Beoga’s brand of box–led boldness, this CD is jam packed with favourites from the band’s previous four recordings, plus a few live innovations.

Recorded live, this album also features guests Alan Doherty (flute and whistles), Bríd Dunne (fiddle and viola), Brona Graham (banjo), Trevor Hutchinson (double bass), Martin O’Neill (drums, percussion), Niall Vallely (concertina) and Clodagh Warnock (fiddle). A powerful line–up indeed, but the core quintet shines through clearly on songs and instrumentals. The title tracks of Mischief and A Lovely Madness are still as captivating as ever, the twin slip–jigs on Soggy’s show the delicacy and beauty of Beoga’s music, and Antics underlines their propensity for absolute mayhem. Over the years I’ve described them as rhythm’n’greens, as the premier good–time Irish band, and as outstanding traditional music. Beoga is all these things, and more. But you already knew that.

Since 2002, Beoga have done it all: toured the world, headlined at major festivals, topped the trad album charts, won numerous awards, performed at the Last Night of the Proms, and of course stripped naked in Dublin’s Fleet Street in broad daylight for TradFest. Live at 10 was recorded at a gala concert to celebrate these achievements, and it’s pretty much a Best Of with extras. Songs here include Factory Girl, Our Captain Calls All Hands, Home Cookin’ and my favourite Please Don’t Talk About Me. The instrumentals focus on Graham and McKee’s creations such as Prelude Polkas, Kick’n the Box and The Exploding Bow, with traditional and contemporary crackers like The Red Haired Lass and Jacky Daly’s Fly Fishing Reel. The combined talents of Sean Óg Graham, Damian McKee, Eamon Murray, Liam Bradley and latecomer Niamh Dunne span excellent musicianship, prodigious compositions, powerful singing and irresistible arrangements, as well as that important ability to look reasonably good naked. This extra–long CD, and the DVD that accompanies it, pins down much of the musical phenomenon that is Beoga in 2014, but one thing is certain: these guys won’t stay pinned for long!

Alex Monaghan


The Language Within

12 Tracks, 51 Minutes

Three hugely talented siblings; Steven, Karen and Ciaran Carlin are well–known in their native Derry city, children of the Creggan, the high ground to the west of the Foyle. It was here they were tutored by from a very young age by Caoimhín Ó Dochartaigh and this has paid dividends in this gorgeous, mature and somewhat eclectic recording.

The trio celebrated the release of this debut album with a launch gig at Féile Chaoimhín. The album features a cast of ten musicians and was produced by Dave Sheridan and mixed by Sean Óg Graham of Beoga. So what have the family to offer us? Firstly there is a wealth of new material here, many pieces composed by Steven, tunes such as The 14th of May which he wrote to commemorate his wedding day (he’ll never forget an anniversary), then there is a willingness to experiment with other musical forms, which they have full command over.

From the straight trad of Bunker Hill to a contemporary almost Americana version of the song The Wild Mountainside (inspired accordion playing here by the way), then there are excursions to European destinations, a Bulagarian Horo and back for the patriotic song the West’s Awake. Track 10 which begins with Peader O’Donnell’s on fiddle was the most earthy of the sets on the record, whilst The Immigrants Waltz has echoes of Hungary in its construction, the kind of music you’d find backing a Sherlock Holmes movie these days. They even have a Derry Polka to close the album.

Karen adds some sweet vocals on Eppie Morrie and, her voice is a gentle reminder that you don’t have to be always on a full burner to bring soul and class to your musical party. Her laid back easy going style is a great foil against which the instrumental tracks stand out. As debuts go this is a rare gem, as albums go it is quite the find, variety in tune selection, imagination in the programming, mixing light and shade and some lovely transitions between melodies and rhythms, succinct liner notes and above it all a family who are obviously totally immersed in music.

A cracker from the Creggan, the rest of the country needs to sit up and listen to this album.

Seán Laffey


Fly By Night

Own Label

Fifteen Tracks, 50 Minutes

The simplicity and appeal of the unadorned tune is a major feature of this release from Fermanagh natives Brenda McCann, Annette Owens with the piano accompaniment of Brian McGrath. Brenda is an All–Ireland Champion on piano and fiddle and a winner of the Fiddler of Dooney title whilst Annette also can boast the accolade of All Ireland titles in both piano and melodeon. On Fly By Night they perform fifteen tracks of a variety of tunes that have been well sourced both in set creation and the tunes themselves.

The educational qualities for budding instrumentalists are second to none throughout the album as the trio maintain the pace through the jigs on The Maid on the Green set taking in the hornpipes of St Stephen’s Day and Shrove Tuesday, the marches of The Camowen and The Pride of Erin. A lovely version of the set dance The Fall of Dunboy makes way for a rousing finish in the form of the favourites, Paddy Fahey’s, Finbar Dwyer’s and Paddy Kelly’s reels. Throughout the distinguished play Brian McGrath adds a delightfully subtle enhancement on the piano keys, sustaining tempo and style in his own distinctive way.

Fly by Night contains a library of essential tunes for instrumentalists and listeners alike and Brenda and Annette, along with Brian, execute with a thorough Fermanagh flair.

Eileen McCabe


Little Falls

Lockhouse Records

14 Tracks, 55 Minutes

The follow on from Onward, the duo of Tina Eck on flutes and whistle and Keith Carr on bouzouki, banjo and mandolin have retained their distinctive sound yet extended the set combination and tune arrangements to create a reach and progression that cleverly utilises the additional guest musicians to add a volume and depth to their already solid sound.

The master of moderately paced solo intros into which the breathy echo of flute or defined placement of string serves to join is evident on a number of tracks and the tempo changes that transition tune to tune also keeps an edge to sets such as Eddie Kelly’s and The Messenger reel sets. A nice touch sees the latter set enhanced by the Sean–nós dance percussion of Shannon Dunne. The Altan influenced jigs in the form of Old Hag from a Foreign land and Dermot Byrne’s flow easily from Ecks’s flute with Carr providing the foundation of strings alongside the anchor of Josh Duke’s bodhran which paves the way for the Galway Reel set which lights an energetic fire enhanced by the additional guitar and fiddle. The standout for me though is the use of the cello when combined with the flute and strings on the beautiful air, Planxty Dermot Grogan, and the combination of vocal on the Dirk Powell penned Waterbound.

These guys love their music and are not afraid to push their play into new territory and experiment with additional instrumental. When they do this, it really works and is a listening pleasure.

Eileen McCabe


Head Full of Dreams

Liekedeler LIECD13030

11 Tracks, 53 Minutes

Great choice of album title, much better than the choice of band name. I can think of at least 3 Nuas, in 3 different countries: this one is based in Germany, near Hamburg, and consists of three German musicians and a Scots lass – an Orcadian, judging by her voice and choice of songs. Catriona Price’s fiddle and vocals are joined by fellow youngsters Michaela Grüß (vocals and bodhrán) and Steffen Gabriel (flutes and whistles), as well as the more mature bouzouki of Tobias Kurig. This quartet trots out Irish, Scottish and English material without a hint of Northern German music: Michaela’s accent gives the game away on Dougie MacLean’s Garden Valley and the traditional Who Put the Blood, but her delivery is clear and the pronunciation is not distracting. Catriona sings the well–known Orkney selkie ballad and her own song which lends this album its title: the words could be more polished, but the story is a good one, and the melody is excellent. The Cedars of Lebanon is a rare weak point, hard to follow and not as dramatic as some versions. One of Nua’s strengths is their arrangements: all five songs have great introductions, better endings, and imaginative touches in between.

This imaginative quality persists through the half dozen instrumental tracks. The lead into Martin Wynne’s #3 is a case in point, as is the change into Lady Anne Montgomery’s. Alongside several traditional favourites are compositions by Ivan Drever, Gordon Duncan, Matheu Watson, Nancy Kerr and others, plus three of Catriona’s tunes and one of Steffen’s. There’s a fresh modern feel to the playing, reminiscent of Kayna, Beoga, Breabach or The Outside Track. Nua maintain a light touch, even on heavyweights such as Bunker Hill and Andy Renwick’s Ferret, without becoming too fluffy on the funkier Siobhán O’Donnell’s and Danny’s Birthdays. The final Party Scene selection features a lovely gentle waltz by Steffen and two great driving tunes from Orkney.

Fine playing, good strong songs and superb arrangements: Nua is a new group to be reckoned with, and I hope their music will travel far and wide.

Alex Monaghan



Heresy Records

17 Tracks

This in the final album from Caitriona in her trilogy of records exploring the old Irish music forms of Goltraí, Geantraí and Suantraí. She describes this CD as a posie of sleep songs, old and new which she has been singing for years. Her band includes Mel Mercier on bodhrán, Adrain Hart on fiddle, Emer Mayock on flute and whistle with Kate Ellis on cello. She is also joined by UCC’s Gamelan Orchestra.

Now before we get onto the music itself, a note about the booklet which makes up the complete package of this album. It is nothing short of a work of art. Stout board covers and one of the most evocative set of pages you are likely to find in any recording in any genre anywhere.

The photography by Laelia Milleri is outstanding, with the individual shots meriting an exhibition in their own right. This is an homage to the pre–Raphalite sensitivity, the photographs have the look of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The decorative pages are filled with features, which remind one of the finest William Morris wallpaper. Yes in its way it is a Victorian re–imagining of the romanticism of the 13th century. I’d recommend this for sale in the Earl of Bute’s bijoux Castel Coch in Wales, the quintessential Celtic Castle and a must visit if you are ever on the road past Pontypridd. In fact it should be on every CD rack in every medieval gift shop on the Irish Heritage Trail.

So let’s get to the music. Are the songs up to the art work? Yes they are. Do they send you to sleep? Well no they don’t, perhaps if they were dirge like or sickly lullabies they would be as soporific as midnight cocoa. The jigs on the dandling song Yellow Legs would keep a baby of any age giggling all night. Caitríona has achieved a fine balance here that lifts them beyond the ordinary. Cuirfidh Me fein Mo Leanbh adds clarinet an fiddle to give a chamber music effect, and this will be of as much appeal to the classical music community as it is to the fans of songs sung in Irish. (Incidentally she has violin in brackets when she writes fiddle in the notes, which indicates this album is designed to appeal beyond the knowledgeable Irish audience). Caitríona is not adverse to improvising words at times as she does on the snippet of Agus Seothhin which was collected in 1943 from Sile Bean Úi Ríordáin in Ballyvourney. There is great scholarship in the work here. Her notes on Codail Beagan say it was written by Somharile Mac Domhnaill exiled in Louvain in 1626. She gives both the Irish and Englsih words in the notes too. Exile of course concentrates culture and one of the tracks Suntraí Nua Eabhrac was written by Caitriona when she was living in Greenwich Village New York. Proof if it were needed that she lives these songs and they are more to her than academic or romantic exercises in contrived nostalgia.

A treasure to own and treasure to listen to. A masterpiece of a triptych.

Seán Laffey


Rue du Canal

9 Tracks, 37 Minutes

Rue Du Canal is a trans–European quartet featuring musicians from Ireland, Belgium and France. They were formed in early 2013 and Rue Du Canal was created as a vehicle for performing the compositions of accordionist Serge Dessunay. Rue du Canal also includes Ray Barron on mandolin/mandola, Kieran Fahy on fiddle and Gaspard Vanardois on guitar/oud. Musically their canvas includes the musical styles of musette and tango coupled with some Celtic and Eastern European influences. It’s a cosmopolitan brew and the results are highly accomplished complex yet accessible and decidedly sophisticated. While the material is all self–penned, it displays a kinetic energy and equilibrium rarely that creates an identity. Flavours of Jazz cafés and eastern bazaars creep through as does a pronounced Irish tang. The accordion/fiddle front line weaves and bounces while delicate mandolin and frantic Jazz guitar underpins the sound.

This is music complete in its cocoon of creativity as such it is as fully realised its initial conception promised.

John O’Regan


As the Crow Flies

Childsplay Records 006

12 Tracks, 53 Minutes

Bob Childs is a New England fiddle maker whose instruments are played by some of the world’s best, in classical music as well as a range of folk traditions. He’s unusual in having a group dedicated to promoting music played on his creations: Childsplay is successful both on recordings (CD and DVD) and as a touring performance. Check out for music, videos, and much more. It’s not just fiddles: As the Crow Flies features flute, banjo, harp, song, and a full range of backing instruments, as well as World Championship step–dancing from Nic Gareiss. Production is by Liz Carroll, so there’s a solid guarantee of quality.

This latest recording from Childsplay pretty much follows their stage performance, and feels more like a live show than a studio album. The excitement is high throughout, whether on the driving Putney Mountain Polka or the poignant Last Allelui.

Lissa Schneckenburger’s vocals don’t quite reach me on a couple of the songs, but her fiddling is excellent, as is Hanneke Cassel’s, Katie McNally’s, Sheila Falls’, Bob Childs’ own, and the playing of the other eight lads and lasses lucky enough to have Bob’s fiddles in their hands. Between them, they romp through reels and strathspeys, trip lightly across jigs and airs, combining the best of Irish, Scots and American fiddling, with a bit of Klezmer and classical added to the pot for good measure.

Highlights for me were the beautiful melodies Katrina and Bow for Rama by Schneckenburger and Heaton respectively, with Shannon Heaton’s whistle a big feature, as well as the final set of slip jig and reels featuring Sheila Falls. On the vocal side, the oldtime Dear Companion and Don’t Get Weary Children are both delightful in different ways, and Childsplay have mastered the North American art of mixing a good song with a great tune. New compositions and traditional favourites are stunningly arranged for this augmented fiddle band, big ensemble pieces and delicate solos, all with a cosmopolitan New England flavour: but as they say in America, it’s all good! If anything, it’s even better on DVD.

Alex Monaghan


Jigs and Jazz II

Own Label,

14 Tracks, 55 Minutes

Frankie Gavin’s De Danann sticks closely to its bag of traditional roots crossed with disparate eclecticism. Jigs and Jazz II (Vol 1 had Frankie and the maestro Stefan Grapelli raving it up many years ago) offers some interesting listening. Firstly it’s a live recording made at McRory;’ in Culdaff, Co Donegal and it makes no bones about the delivery – what you see and hear is what you get. The opener The Golden Eagle is soon eclipsed by From Coleman to Killorans, lightning fast switchback dynamics Frankie Gavin and accordionist Barry Brady locking as if in combat but clearing the decks. The use of double bass from Paul O’Driscoll adds a flighty swing jazz tone to the sound, making for a Hot Club de Corrandulla, like absynthe with porter. Michelle Lally straddles the twin gate of chanteuse and recalled poise of the Maura O’Connell heyday (in fact t Michelle he closest of the ex–De Danann singers to Maura O’Connell she has replaced). The fiddle and bow flies furiously from Frankie on the tunes and weaves refined strains on the vocal tracks.

Jigs and Jazz II adds fire to the Gavin flame and his version of De Danann continues its rise from the ashes.

John O’Regan


Live at Celtic Connections

Copperfish Records

9 Tracks, 44 Minutes

Opinions differ as to who is today’s best Scottish fiddler. Suggestions include Alasdair Fraser, Gordon Gunn, Lauren MacColl, and of course Duncan Chisholm. Through his work with Wolfstone and Ivan Drever amongst others, Duncan Chisholm has become very well–known and demonstrated a mastery of music well beyond the Scottish tradition. If you’ve been paying attention to Duncan’s career, you’ll have noticed that he spent the last six years writing and recording a trilogy of albums inspired by his native Strathglass. As the culmination of that project, Chisholm and friends performed music from the Strathglass Trilogy at a live concert in Glasgow in January 2013. This recording is for all those who were there, and all those who like me love the music but missed the live performance. Live at Celtic Connections contains nine pieces taken from the trilogy, with the addition of brass and strings ensembles to fill a concert hall.

The opening notes of a beautiful nameless air are enough to remind anyone that Duncan Chisholm is a master of the highland fiddle style. The emotion and simple beauty of Gaelic music, combined with the grandeur and virtuosity of Speyside fiddling, makes this performance one of the most powerful and expressive I’ve heard in a long time. Chisholm moves into the swaggering march Farley Bridge with the same brilliance and expression over Matheu Watson’s sparse guitar accompaniment. Lorient Mornings by piper extraordinaire Gordon Duncan, and We’re a Case the Bunch of Us by Allan MacDonald, bear witness to the synergy between pipes and fiddle in the Scottish tradition. In between is one of my favourites, Waltz of the Grey River, a driving dance tune with a catchy rhythm and some great uilleann piping from Jarlath Henderson.

The second half of this recording follows the same pattern of delicious slow airs and bouncy dance music. Rubha nam Marbh and Caoineadh Johnny Seáin Jeaic are examples of the former, while Camhanaich Air Machair and the 7/4 beat of The Erchless Scout fit the latter description. There are occasional imperfections if you listen closely – this was a one–take live concert after all – but the overall impression is of a wonderful range of fiddle music and an outstanding level of performance from all the musicians. Duncan ends this live recording with a medley of air, jig and reel, combining the traditional song Mallai Chroch Shli with his own composition The Flooded Meadow and another Gordon Duncan classic, neatly capturing the combination of old and new music which makes this such an exceptional CD.

Alex Monaghan


To Each & Everyone (The songs of Gerry Rafferty)

CDTRAX378 2013

13 Tracks, 53 Minutes

Add the wonderful lyrics of the late Gerry Rafferty to the voice of Barbara Dickson, mix in some first class musicians and you have a masterpiece that is much more than the sum of its individually excellent parts. It is often a quandary when reviewing songs that are already familiar but now presented with new arrangements. We are so set in our ways that the new artiste has that extra barrier to breach. Dickson does this from track one the quintessential Rafferty song Baker Street. The writer made this a classic but she brings out the beauty of the lyrics to perfection. Where I Belong sounds like one of those songs we more associate with Barbara Dickson in her show tune mode.

Naturally there a number of tracks that would only be familiar to Rafferty fans but even these are given new life and her diction brings out the nuances of the writing in a way that few others could. Rafferty’s lovely story song Steamboat Row is a stand out track that will have new listeners enthralled as any short story might.

Mary Skeff ington has always been a favourite that I never dreamed could be improved. Dickson proves me delightfully wrong. From the doleful cello opening through her delicious delivery you cannot ignore this song. In its original incarnation it deserved wide appreciation but now it demands it. The array of musicians contributing is wonderful.

On the title track the backing is reduced to Barbara on harmonium with beautifully layered backing vocals and it is a revelation of what such a simple arrangement can achieve. The Ark brings us back to a very full array of backing voices and instruments and it is fantastic.

Over thirteen tracks and less than an hour Barbara Dickson and Gerry Rafferty combine to weave a magic spell that is only to be achieved by true talents.

Nicky Rossiter


Foggy New Year

Own Label SC003,

11 Tracks, 42 Minutes

Fiddler, dancer, and now singer: Ottawa’s Stephanie Cadman is an accomplished performer, with many dance productions to her name, and this CD cements her musical talents on both fiddle and vocals. On a trio recording, with piano–guitarist Jake Charron and bassist Charles James, Stephanie is also joined by Alison Smyth on vocals, Lyle Molsan on percussion, Saam Hashemi on electric guitar, and multi–instrumentalist Daniel Lapp who also produced this album. As if that weren’t enough, Foggy New Year includes a double handful of Ms Cadman’s own compositions, from the opening Walk in the Park to the final title track, demonstrating yet another enviable talent.

Stephanie’s fiddling, like her compositions, follows the North American blend of old–time and swing, with touches of Scots and Irish. After Walk in the Park with Charles and Coon Rapids, both Cadman originals, we are treated to wonderfully playful versions of The High Reel (not The High Road as the sleevenotes say) and The Trip to Windsor. Then the dancing starts, difficult to showcase on an audio CD but this is a very good attempt, and the videos on Stephanie’s website show just how good she is: tap, jazz and traditional. About the only thing she doesn’t do is fiddle while she dances.

In four varied songs, Cadman’s low husky voice covers Bell, Burns, Douglas, and even Emmylou Harris. Personally I prefer the more rhythmic numbers Home Waltz and Thou Hast Left Me Ever Jamie, but those with more of a taste for modern country music may enjoy Deeper Well and Wild Mountainside. Regardless of individual taste, it’s hard not to be swept up by Stephanie’s soulful or soaring fiddle: I found my fingers tapping to the bouncy reel Tie Dye Socks, and the hairs on my neck rising to the visceral Quebec cadences of Le Tension. Phil Cunningham’s popular Wingco is expertly handled, and the final mystifying mistiness of Foggy New Year is as absorbing as its title is obscure.

This CD warrants repeated listening, and if Cadman tours over here – solo or with her accomplished trio – I hope she’ll save me a ticket!

Alex Monaghan