Releases > August 2013 Releases

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12 Tracks, 43 Minutes, 44 Seconds
BEO Records BEOCD005
I shall never forget Moya Brennan’s telling me several years ago of the early days of her family group, Clannad, when they had to contend with people who criticised them for singing in Gaelic, something that might come as a surprise to people today. “We’d play anything from Donovan, the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, the Beatles, anything with harmonies, but we’d always throw in a Gaelic song. Believe it or not – the locals would never clap the Gaelic songs, ever! They thought we were letting ourselves down. At that time in the late sixties, early seventies, it just wasn’t the thing to do, and when you’d come to Dublin, you simply wouldn’t speak Irish in front of people, because it was regarded as such a low thing to be a culchie. Isn’t it extraordinary? And in our native Gaelic–speaking part of Donegal, they’d turn their backs more or less when we sang a Gaelic song. But visitors would be enthralled. They loved it.”
One hopes that such a display of our sense of inferiority is largely a thing of the past and thanks to Clannad and others, Irish music in Gaelic and English thrives globally. She and Cormac De Barra come from musical families. In Moya’s case it was from her mother and father she imbibed a love of music and folklore, and Cormac comes from a family of traditional musicians and singers from Dublin but with roots in County Cork. He studied Irish harp with his grandmother, Róisín Ní Shé, in Dublin and went on to study concert harp in the US with Leone Paulson.
“When we did Voices and Harps 1 two years ago, we were feeling our way,” Moya admitted recently when talking with Mike Faragher about the chemistry she has with Cormac, affinity, too, I suppose. “With one album under our belt and doing all these live shows together, it was just effortless recording with him.” Their new CD Affinity has material old and new and shows how comfortable each of them is in performing contemporary songs like Sailing, Worlds Collide and I feel you breathe, and traditional numbers. My preference is for their treatments of songs in the Irish language, not least Cormac’s rendition of Seoithín Seo and Moya’s singing of Crúiscín Lán.
Speaking about performing songs in Gaelic, I recall what Moya told me some years ago: “Well, we just loved them. The more we were discovering it, the more we were loving it. It was natural for us, it was our first language, and we felt a bit awkward singing in English nearly. And our repertoire was mainly Gaelic songs, and our songs in English were what we heard the pop groups singing, and that was the fusion I mentioned earlier.”
That happy blending continues in the new album, Affinity.
Aidan O’Hara

Traditional Fiddle Music from Dublin
47 Tracks, 73 Minutes

There’s an abundance of archival listening pleasure in RTE’s compilation of recordings from the inspirational fiddle playing of Dublin’s own Tommie Potts. Anyone who has an interest in traditional music will have heard or been influenced by his style and vision and there are 47 tracks of raw instrumental in this CD that show why. Some refer to Tommie as a legend in the tradition and with others it was his progressive outlook to music by which he was revered. Tommie himself in his album notes on his recording, The Liffey Banks, noted that, whilst he agreed with the basic structure of the music he knew it was much more than just a technical process: “As I progressed in making sound on the fiddle, I found I was stirred with thought and feeling. But shouldn’t good music affect in this way?” he writes and this emotive aspect is inherent in tracks such as An Chúilfhionn and The Blackbird.
The ability to own a tune and mark it with a signature is instinctively apparent in the reel, The Morning Dew where the style and creativity of the bow movement produces individuality in interpretation of the melody and this style is a trademark as the album takes the listener through a wealth of exciting audio. As well as his inimitable tunes there are also highlights of recorded vocal that provide an insight into the man and his passion for the music. Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin in the sleeve notes describes Tommie’s music as “emerging out of its own past as an inspired voice for a future generation” and, well Mícheál, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
A definite must for a musical archive.
Eileen McCabe

Ducie Music, DUCIE001
10 Tracks, 58 Minutes

Funky beats and driving rhythms are the core undertone in what is a fascinating flavour of diverse genres infused with a traditional melodic flair in Mancunia, the new release from the Manchester based collaboration; Ducie. Ian Fletcher, Andy Dinan, Rich Sliwa and John Thorne use a heady mixture of percussion, bass and modern sound to freewheel around a range of traditional and world influenced instrumental whilst remaining a tight knit force within the boundaries of the ten tracks of pure quality.
With the high calibre of guest musicians in the form of Paddy Kerr, Eamonn Dinan, Parvinder Bharat, Troy Donockley, Michael McGoldrick and Kavan Donoghue, the sets take on a life of their own as each musician is given the freedom to experiment and shine, each adding a layer of quality sound that seamlessly fuses. Dive straight in to The Fox set which encapsulates all of the above. Layers of staccato string beats and samba rhythm introduce Tony Sullivan’s Dr Gilbert’s reel which is driven by Dinan’s fiddle and a cohort of expert strings into an energetic fervour that freestyles along throughout The Fox and Sully’s No 6. Eamonn Dinan’s box is transformed into a swinging reggae stepper as he joins the swinging beat to introduce the Griannán Bear It set.
The slow air Song of the Strings showcases the musicianship of the strings as the focus is on the fiddle as it emits a poignant, emotive sentimentality. It’s Sunset Barmaid that’s a standout for me; the lads are joined by Michael McGoldrick on flute to perform a re–arranged version of Tony Sullivan’s The Roaring Barmaid. A great tune to listen to at the best of times and the fresh approach to the treatment of timing and phrasing gives you pause to listen and enjoy in a totally different way due to the fantastic use of creative expression.
The guys have managed to take the best of their world experience and skill and allow a freestyle frenzy of sound to emerge in altruistic fashion. Who said music has boundaries? Not Ducie.
Eileen McCabe

Never Too Late To Come Home
Brambus 201371 2
12 Tracks, 41 Minutes

One of Ireland’s secret song–writing exports, Brendan Monaghan’s work is appreciated through Europe and the US and the UK is picking up also. A finely tuned lyricist and possessed of a clear distinct vocal delivery, his lack of success at home is bewildering. However Never Too Late To Come Home could change all that. It has a strong Celtic musical base while offering a batch of songs both fine–tuned and accessible which capitalise on the promise hinted at to date. What’s most impressive is how his lyrical gifts and articulation have developed, this is clearly a talent in the arrivals hall. He can pen winsome ballads like Sister’s Lament and Leaving Portaferry, which spare no half measures emotionally and employ addictive melodies. At the other end the opener T’was Only A Lie combines a humorous chorus that lays itself in the brain cells easily.
Musically the backings are solid and crisp, constantly supportive but place the vocals at the forefront. Two little surprises are the 50s hit I Love How You Love Me and The Homes of Donegal, both stretch his vocal abilities and also interpretative skills and he controls them effortlessly. Brendan Monaghan has a strong distinctive vocal style and a cache that encompasses Folk, pop and country he combines them to create a unique personalised take on Irish roots music.
Never too late to come home finds his talents at their peak.
John O’Regan

Nights in Shanaglish
Own Label

This set of live recordings from sessions in a small pub in south Galway, Whelan’s in Shanaglish, is a glorious and spirited creation. A multimedia experience with a DVD, a CD and a vinyl album, it’s a pure labour of love plotted over a number of years by Vince Keehan and Paddy Egan. Keehan is a mainstay of the vibrant Irish music scene in San Francisco where he has lived for many years. That’s where he met Paddy Egan, another musician with a real day job.
Over the years, they often met in Whelan’s for summer sessions and set out to capture that magical vibe in this project. Keehan is originally from nearby Gort and he could call on family and friends for the sessions. His brother Seamus plays old–style tin whistle, and his sister Mary and daughter Rosie sing.
Paddy Egan plays concertina with Clare flair–despite hailing from Parkbridge, Co. Wicklow. Paul O’Driscoll adds some lovely touches on the double bass and Colie Moran, a session regular, plays some mean banjo. There are many more participants and they all get credit on the album gatefold.
The musical selections are deeply local and global at the same time. There are songs about Ballyvaughan and Gort, and a number of Cooley medleys. Keehan sings a delicate ballad he wrote after a trip to Buenos Aires a few years back and there’s a song called Milltown to Coruna commemorating locals who built ships for the ill–fated Spanish Armada. And, the theme for the whole production is a tune called the Mexican Waltz, a strong and intricate melody that quickly gets into your head.
Proper sessions were multi–faceted entertainments with a wide range of performances, proficiency and styles. It’s all reflected in Nights in Shanaglish with delightfully rendered ambient recording by Brendan Hearty. The documentary by Fergus Tighe is acutely observant and sweet, catching the vernacular poetry and humour of everyday exchanges.
This part of the country is famous for its many turloughs, lakes that appear and disappear on mysterious natural cycles. The sessions memorialised here have all but disappeared from Irish rural life and this eloquent ethnography should be treasured, a reminder of values and practices that should not be lost.
Tom Clancy

11 Tracks, 45 Minutes

Limerick born singer and fiddler, Niamh Dunne has made a reputation as a formidable force on the Irish music scene. Bright eyed and bushy tailed her bubbly personality has woven itself into the Beoga psyche befitting their eclectic approach. The question is how would she cope and fare outside the band confines working as a solo artist. Niamh’s first solo album Portraits is a highly woven affair with evocative arrangements and a song bag that frames her origins and cuts a swathe through classic ballads and newer compositions.
The singing is strong and distinctive and the local ballad cache includes a rousing Ballyneety’s Walls and a recasting of Beauty of Limerick with some ambient soundscapes cradled with a simple narrative. Similarly Shannagolden and Cailin Rua reveal her balladic strengths and Bonny Woodhall breathes anew with a female voice. Barry Kerr, John Spillane, Joe Dolan provide the contemporary material and Dick Gaughan’s setting of Joe South’s Games People Play adds a fitting climax.
Musically the backings are rich and careful never upsetting the vocal authority but throwing some delicious side roads into Americana and Ambient routes as well.
Portraits finds Niamh Dunne treading the without a net syndrome admirably gaining a stylistic footing that satisfies her talents.
John O’Regan

The Bard of Cornafean – Poetry & Songs of Seán Masterson, Own Label
44 Tracks, 2 Hours 1 Minute

Seán Masterson’s two score and more verses on this CD, The Bard of Cornafean, are referred to as ‘self–penned recitations’ and so, not surprisingly, the place that’s featured most prominently is Cornafean, Co. Cavan. “Seán Masterson’s poetry has made him an outstanding ambassador for the wider Cornafean.” So writes Paddy McDermott in the CD notes, and adding that he was involved in many facets of life: football, hunting, fishing, and music. Typical of the ordinary little incidents he fondly records are these lines from Joe McCahill’s Memories:
I walked to Mass in Sunday over to Drumcor, Frequented Paddy Reilly’s shop for Woodbines or a penny bar. We bath–ed in the river and never thought it rude To dry yourself a–running round Scott’s Meadow in the nude.
Inevitably Seán’s gaze reaches beyond Cornafean and Cavan and when taking in happenings with a wider national import he mentions names from the past who contributed to many areas of life, including football and music. They include the great Kerry footballers, Mick O’Connell from Kerry and Cavan’s, John Joe Reilly, the Irish dancer, Donnchadh Ó Muineacháin, and fiddlers, Antoin Mac Gabhann and Eugene Leddy.
There’s humour and pathos throughout, and one can glean something of what’s on offer by way of memories and times past: Willie Murphy’s Tractor, Corglass Skittles Team 1976, Arva in the Rare Auld Times, and Parking Problem in Cavan Town. You don’t have to be from Cavan to appreciate Seán’s skill with the pen in recalling with affection and detail the joys and times past. It is for all to enjoy.
The second CD features Sean’s singing of his own songs and that of Tommy Donohoe and his daughter Lily, a Scór champion. Seán is joined in one song, Cluain Meala, by Carmel McDermott. The performances are all unaccompanied, so one has just the pleasant singing voices of the performers and the much–loved words of the songs they sing to convey a love of place and pride in heritage.
This CD makes an important contribution to the promotion and preservation of Cavan’s valued legacy of song and story.
Aidan O’Hara

All the Ways You Wander
11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Own Label

Bernadette Morris is from Dungannon, Co.Tyrone, although she now calls Belfast her home and has already appeared on TV and Radio in the North of Ireland. This album reached Number 1 in our Belfast chart in July, so she already has a solid following in Ulster. Yet with a You Tube video of the Jimmy MacCarthy song the Bright Blue Rose and John Spillane’s All the Way’s You Wander headlining this album, you might think she has a Corkonian sense of the contemporary folk song. And yes she does, but she definitely puts her own northern blás onto each song, for example as a fluent Irish speaker she gives a crystal clear rendition of Na Gcuach Ní Chuilleanín
The 11 tracks include the traditional Brocagh Braes (a sweeter version than the one you may know from Andy Irvine), also a new composition by Barry Kerr on emigration called The Leaving Song, a big ballad Lord Donegal (a dark version of the well–known Lord Lovel, Lord Donegal was a favourite of Sarah and Rita Keanes). She gives us a jaunty On a Winter’s Night (a free sample of which is available on sound cloud). The backing musicians are a few of the renegades from Beoga, with Sean O’ Graham producing the CD and adding his guitar. They get to flex their musical muscles on Fraher’s Jig / The Hearty Boys of Ballymote / The Lisnagun.
Bernadette has a light yet pleasing voice, which would be more than capable of mastering country music, she hints at the emotion needed in that genre on The Leaving Song which included a pedal steel guitar. Yet it is the traditional repertoire that stands out here, Og Graham’s deft arrangements don’t fight against her and he has the ability to work within the confines of a very tight band sound.
Bernadette’s star is rising in the North of Ireland, she is a talent to keep your eyes peeled for. Bernadette has a natural taste for traditional songs in English and can deliver them with enough contemporary sparkle to put down a distinctive impression that is worthy all the ways you wander to find it.
Seán Laffey

Old Tunes, Dusted Down
Own Label,
11 Tracks, 36 Minutes, 59 Seconds

During the past ten years I have reviewed a few mandolin albums, mostly Italian and mainly the cliché sound one expects from a mandolin orchestra. Most of them I gave to my grandfather who loved them. But this Belgian one is a keeper, not only because my grandfather died half a year ago, but because this is a really nice album.
Four mandolin (mandola/ mandocello) players from Belgium play on this debut album. The give us eleven tracks as a tribute to Hubert Boone, from the Flemish tradition of which Boone is both a virtuoso and an academic collector. Boone is a well–known Belgium traditional musician and collector of traditional songs and dances. All tracks come from his collection and show the richness of the Flemish traditional repertoire in a different way than most people are used to, as the tradition often falls back on brass and woodwind for it core sound. The mandolin is not an instrument that you will find a lot in Belgian traditional music, this album could make a difference in the same way that Sweeney’s men introduced strings into Irish folk music.
Playing these tunes on this instrument gives a whole new, sparkling sound to the ancient tunes. From the first till the last seconds the musicians throw all their enthusiasm into the music and play virtuosic dances and sometimes soft melodic, almost instrumental ballad music.
If you are looking for a bit of a surprise in your session repertoire. Then there are braces of Waltzes and Mazurkas to challenge you and three continental polkas to swing the dances round the floor.
Great album for both the mandolin freaks and those who love traditional music from Flanders.
Eelco Schilder