Releases > Releases August 2022

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Hummingbird (Single), 1 Track, 3 Minutes, 46 Seconds
Seeing as all four band members are tied closely to nature being fisherman, hikers, surfers, campers, and spectators of its magnificence, it wasn’t surprising to see a song about one of nature’s beautiful creatures.
Asking what was so special about the song, Enda said it was the first they heard and were able to play together after the isolating lockdown that made it special. As composer, Dave gave the background. After a long stay at a home in Nashville with a hummingbird feeder that never attracted a bird, the day they were moving, guess what appeared? It got a song started in his head that sat there for a bit till his roommate, Scott Mulavill, said as they sat secluded amidst a raft of musical instruments, “Let’s finish it!” That they did, and Dave brought it to Maryland, when they were able to finally record, to work on its arrangement and playing it with the whole band.
The lyrics are simple yet meaningful as he asks the hummingbird to not be afraid to stay. He will try not to scare it away, but knows while he wants it for himself, staying in one place isn’t what it does. Is it the hummingbird or is the hummingbird a metaphor for a human love? Either fits well.
These exceptionally talented musicians, joined by Danny Young on percussion, Josh Shilling on keys, and The Stringdusters’ Andy Hall on dobro, produced complex and alluring instrumentals that added to the “special” of this new WB3 bluegrass song, sure to be a favourite.
Maryann McTeague Keifer

Far Away
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Fiddler and Irish dancer extraordinaire Katie Grennan makes great strides in her third solo album, Far Away, adding tin whistle, banjo, mandolin, and even whistling to enhance her renditions of traditional and modern tunes. Guest musicians include John Williams (button/ piano accordions, concertina, piano, flute, tin whistle); John Doyle (guitar, bouzouki); Jesse Langen (guitar); Marta Cook (harp); Amy Pennington (bodhran); and Eric Throin (double bass).
Lively jigs set the pace in The One That Was Lost (The One That Was Lost/Josie’s Visit/Haunted House), followed by reels in Beare Island (George People’s/Beare Island/Derry Reel) and a clever waltz-jig coupling in Far Away (Far Away/The Lump of Pudding).
Grennan offers repose with her moving interpretation of a waltz and slow jig in Carolan’s Cup (Eleanor Plunkett/Carolan’s Cup), then picks up speed with an energetic jig combo in The Coming of Spring (The Coming of Spring/The Cat’s Meow) and a spirited set of reels in Donald Blue (Paddy Fahy’s/Col. McBain/Donald Blue) before providing another pause with her mesmerizing air version of Lament for Limerick.
Slide from Grace (Slide from Grace/Farewell to Whalley Range/The Caterpillar) is a magnificent kaleidoscope of slides, brilliantly leading to a set of reels in Kitty’s Corner (Mrs. Lawrie’s/Kitty’s Corner) and The Marino Waltz (John Sheahan). Grennan draws the album to a close with a grand splash of a barn dance and reels: The Stone of Destiny (Hunt the Banshee/The Ten Pound Float/The Stone of Destiny).
Far Away is an uplifting “anytime” album to keep “close at hand” for dancing or relaxing.
Anita Lock

Penny Fiddle Records, 16 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Frey is the name of a genetic disorder that Tamsin suffers from. With the lockdown causing a hiatus in treatment Tamsin began a process of self-healing; as she writes in the liner notes, the fourteen tracks on the album, “explore themes of limbo, pain, healing and acceptance”.
Bristol based Tamsin Elliott is a talented and empathetic multi-instrumentalist, playing piano accordion, lever harp, whistles and flute on this album. Taken with a long perspective the album is moody, melancholy and mysterious. Joined by Sid Goldsmith (cittern, double bass, voice & effects), Rowan Rhenigans (fiddle viola & voice), Ricardo de Noronha (percussion) and Soufian Saihi (oud). The band are in fine form on track 2 a set of jigs Old Wax Jacket/ A Coat of Sawdust; it is without doubt the liveliest and most Celtic track on the recording, full of power and optimism.
Tamsin is also a film maker and that sense of the cinematic emerges in track 9 When The Times Darken. The words are from a translated text of Bertolt Brecht, here Tamsin places the music back eight centuries perhaps in some remote Berber kingdom. The harp caressing Arabic modes and the choral echoing a reverberant cloister. More harp on I Dreamed I Was An Eagle, a repeated continuo phrase, busy and insistent, a deep bowed viola adds an almost tagelharpa pedal as the track fades to bird song. Emerging/Full Squirrel starts slowly and then develops into a middle-European textured dance tune, the ending is abrupt and definite. The final track Cygnus is mood music for the harp; the closing third of the piece is filled with flute and fiddle, the whole ending on a plangent harp chord. On a spectrum of folk to art music, Frey is on the right side of the rainbow.
Seán Laffey

Own Label GSE CD6, 12 Tracks, 49 Minutes
I’ve always liked this band, now celebrating ten years touring (despite Covid) with album number six. Multi-award-winning as individuals, as a band and for previous albums (their triumph at the Freiburger International Leiter was just another rung on the ladder), the core quintet is supplemented here by six guests who give a more contemporary and at times American feel to some tracks, but at its heart Rosc is still solid traditional Irish music.
Alan Reid’s banjo gently coaxes his opening compositions, a sinuous march and swaggering  hop jig. Áine McGeeney’s fiddle fills out the front line, spelled by the dancing keys of Tadhg Ó Meachair on accordion and piano. Áine also leads four vocal tracks, backed up by a couple of guest singers as well as Conal O’Kane on guitars and the ubiquitous bodhrán of Colm Phelan.
Morning Sunday bears the unmistakable stamp of Charlie Lennon, tucked between two other fine jigs. The Drunken Wives of Pearson’s Close is an intriguing old reel from Edinburgh, following  Reid slip jig and leading into a spirited version of The Cameronian Reel. The oldtime Rockin’ in the Weary Land takes us to the Appalachians through the funky fingers of Danny Collins, edging effortlessly into another couple of jigs. The stateside sound persists in Write Me Down, adding Colm McClean on lap steel behind the smoky singing and smooth fiddle of Ms McGeeney, quite different from her high clear tones on the Irish ballad Come You Not from Newcastle.
Songs in Irish and English complete the quartet: the spirited Margaidh an Iúir, and the plaintive Green Fields of Canada less drawn-out than usual. Four more driving sets of tunes complete this album, mostly composed by the band with a brief diversion to Cape Breton and a final flourish on the traditional Black Hair’d Lad, nailing Goitse’s credentials for reels, jigs, slides, and the rhythmically fluid Resurrection. Nothing too frantic, Rosc is a mature and assured album with a fresh energy and brightness, which will win over anyone with Irish in their soul.
Alex Monaghan

How’s About Now?
Digital Release, 6 Tracks, 25 Minutes
Flute-player with Glasgow band TRIP, Mr Courell has been making quite a name for himself on the Irish woodwind scene. This debut EP presents a very contemporary take on traditional forms - reels, jigs, marches and even a waltz - mixing new compositions in with some true classics. How’s About Now? puts Tiernan’s flute out front, deftly backed by Craig Baxter, Ali Hutton and Rory Matheson on bodhrán, guitars and keyboards.
The Steeplechase gets a pretty standard treatment, Tiernan settling into his stride and hurdling all obstacles with ease, winding up to his own more modern reel Hasbulla’s Big Day Out. A couple of bouncy original jigs bracket the tasty semi-slip jig The Day the Ice Age Ended. And then all hell breaks loose with a number squeezed between hard rock and the other place: apocalyptic rhythms, Ragnarok in Rathmines, 41 Selgal Gardens must have been the temporary number of the beast!
The Donald Shaw waltz Camhanaich Air Machair is a complete contrast, a delicate Hebridean air with gentle guitar and synth accompaniment. Things get lively again on The Boys of Ballisodare and a charming hop jig The Surround. Courell and friends wrap up this meaty EP with another set of reels, Cape Breton and Scottish origins translated into fine Irish flute music. Great tone and control, thoughtful phrasing and fluid ornamentation make How’s About Now? an excellent showcase for Tiernan Courell.
Alex Monaghan

Tobar an Cheoil
Traditional Irish Music on Harp & Flute
Draiocht, 14 Tracks, 55 Minutes
This new CD, Tobar an Cheoil (The well or source of music), is the third collaborative album by husband and wife duo, Monaghan-born harper, Michael Rooney, and Sligo-born flute player, June McCormack. The album features a number of guest musicians, including Jack Warnock on guitar, Maria Ryan and Lucia Mac Partlin on violins, Aoife Burke on cello and Seamie O’Dowd on guitar.
With over 55 minutes of music, Tobar an Cheoil offers a fourteen-track album with a mixture of traditional tunes, and features twelve of Michael’s original compositions. Those dozen original tunes by Michael include An Cruitire (The Harper), where his fingering is so pleasing and dexterous that one finds confirmation of Gerald of Wales’s observation of the old harp players as being “incomparably more skilful than any other nation I have ever seen”.
The title track Tobar an Cheoil is track 8; it’s a lyrical air played on flute and harp, with the flute to the fore for the first half, the bowed strings joining in as supporting cast for the final third of this delightful tune. Michael summons the spirit of Turlough O’Carolan on Planxty Castle Leslie, the metre being right for an ancient tune, June comes in on the flute to fill the fill and drops to a lower register as the other accompanists fill out the sound, the whole closing on a long note on the flute.
The mood turns more melancholy on Michael’s Deireadh Re (End of an Era) as if to recall the last flourish of the harpers and the Gaelic way of playing free from melodies. The harp is the dominant voice on the slow air Eamhain Mhacha, slow but not sombre, this is paired with St. Patrick’s Way, the transition between the two crafted by the sweeping bow of a fiddle. St. Patrick’s Way is a slip jig and the main action here is handled by June on the flute.
There are of course some old standards on this album, reels such as Drag Her Around the Road & James Murray’s No.2 (wonderfully evocative driving Connacht flute from June there), more flute on a set of jigs The Lark on the Strand & The Boat to Bofin, June’s playing is confident and decisive, Michael adding chordal accompaniment, the change to the Boat to Bofin is a joy to hear.
The album closes with a pair of old favourites, Come West Along the Road & The Boys of Ballisodare. No matter whether June and Michael favour the older repertoire or showcase Michael’s new compositions, this is an album to pour over, learn from and most definitely enjoy.
Aidan O’Hara

You Are Free
Graeme Armstrong Records GA01CD, 10 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Graeme Armstrong is a Scottish singer and guitarist best known as a member of Talisk, a talented trio who have performed internationally at folk festivals and have established a solid reputation as one of the leading folk bands to emerge over the past 10 years or so. This is his debut solo album, recorded during lockdown and it allows him to establish his own separate identity with a well-chosen mix of original material and versions of some of his favourite songs.
For this project, Graeme assembled a trusted team of musicians, including Rachel Newton, Duncan Lyall and Mattie Foulds, and the album was produced by Andrea Gobbi – this resulted in a balanced approach where the songs are allowed to breathe and develop, with wonderfully empathetic ensemble playing throughout. He delves into his musical past with versions of Isle of France (explored with very atmospheric soundscapes) and Fine Flowers In The Valley (with lovely synth playing by Keir Long and rhythmic guitar).
His own songs are based on very personal experiences – William’s Song celebrates his becoming a father with a lovely whimsical ode to his newborn son. From joy to sorrow, he tackles the loss of a close friend on the title track, and the breakdown of relationships on Sit Alone, where an insistent beat gradually achieves dominance.
Elsewhere, he tackles more familiar material with a confidently alternative approach. Both Sides The Tweed uses electronic effects and echoed harmonies to support his sparse vocals; My Son David again explores the possibilities of electronic accompaniment with brassy counterpoint and processed harmony. There’s a gorgeous version of Karine Polwart’s Waterlily with a beautifully balanced arrangement, featuring a surprise middle section leading to a pleasing resolution. A very enjoyable collection from a talented musician and singer, and with a highly individual approach to his material.
Mark Lysaght

The Gotchy
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 48 Minutes
This is Irish folk song writing of the highest calibre. The opening track is the nickname for a night watchman; he was a familiar figure in Kieran’s childhood in north Dublin as the city expanded and building sites needed a night-time protector.
Kieran has a special talent for finding melodies to fit his songs, those tunes are at once attractive and always distinct; the curse of many songwriters is to be held at ransom to their own repeated cadences. I love the string work on The Thief, a song about the way time steals way our best moments. He covers The Bonnan Bui, a classic Irish poem that is at least 200 years old, about the fate of a thirsty yellow bittern. He sings in a sean-nós fashion with a simple drone to accompany his lament for the passing of the bird.
There is a National steel guitar on Trail of Tears From Vietnam, a commentary on the human cost of war from the perspective of a refugee who finds some sort of a home in the USA. Substitute Ukraine for Vietnam and rework it a bit, the song, sadly, has universal significance. Kieran has lived the exile’s life himself; he performed in Canada before coming home to Ireland, and that perspective of the returning emigrant is set into context in his song On The Outside, the chorus has the hallmark of a crowd pleaser. The final track Patrick Gallagher is a historical ballad about the two-way traffic between New Brunswick and Ireland in the early 1800s, timber East, workhouse surplus inmates sent West; it is an uplifting tale of survival against all the odds.
Kieran’s songs have been covered by other artists, most significantly by Seán Keane, and if you are looking for new material or would like to hear the cream of new Irish folk writing Kieran Wade is a name well worth seeking out. Like the Gotchy he’ll see you are safe and sound.
Seán Laffey

12 Tracks, 40 Minutes
We live our physiological lives in linear time. From conception to our demise there is a punctuated continuum of existence. The grammar of ourselves is ordered by hormonal commas and exclamation marks, that once they are compiled we are  compelled to move onto our next paragraph.
That text of life is expressed in its most determinative form in the female body and on this album Carol Fieldhouse brings us a set of songs that track and trace those changes from the initial murmurs of pregnancy to the psycho-social joy of becoming a grandmother. Continuum is an exploration through music of motherhood, perhaps something that has been overlooked during the development of feminism. Motherly relationships are central to the Fieldhouse philosophy, from the thrill of clandestine courtship of The Dancer, to the final track The Message, which considers Greta Thunberg’s maternal care for our planet, a message that reminds us our own continuum is dependant on the continuing health of the world we are but temporary custodians of.
Carol began song writing in 2008 and in 2016 embarked on a project to explore the experiences of motherhood. She met with five ladies whose life stages ranged from first time mother to grandmother, and from those experiences came the songs, on the title Continuum.
Meeting her source ladies resulted in Little Red Scarf. This came after a conversation with Hannah Thompson, who had found a child’s tiny scarf in a cupboard; it brought back memories of taking her four-year-old son to school. The title track Continuum, tells of a mother’s joy at hearing her daughter is pregnant, the song informed by the tragic yet eventually happy story of the motherhood story of Fiona Bank’s. She writes:
News takes away my breath, News of My Daughter, Aisiling Gheal, spheres collide, Unfettered joy and wonder
Carol’s songs are gentle, somewhat understated and she has a fine cast of musicians on hand to add texture and tone to her work. These include John McCusker, Neill MacColl, Mohammadreza Behjat, Boo Hewerdine, and Chris Pepper who also produced the album. You can hear all the tracks on Bandcamp, and fair play to Carol she includes the full lyrics to each song on that website. Life may be punctuated by hormones, but our lives are experienced through an emotional lens. Fieldhouse through her sympathetic ear has the focus to sing life as it is felt by mothers of all ages.
Seán Laffey

Going Back
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 43 Minutes
GreenBandMusic was formed during the pandemic when singer/guitarist Stephen Leeson and the McGuire brothers (Barry on fiddle and vocals, Mick on banjo and vocals) joined forces with Shay Kavanagh on bass guitar and vocals. This is a live album, recorded in 2021 and intended as a showcase for this talented bunch. It certainly hits the target and captures the natural flow of real performance.
All four players are vastly experienced, and this shines through; the vocals are strong and assured and the instrumentation is tasteful and appropriate. The title track sets the tone, the band sounding tight as they deliver Johnny Slater’s earthy Dublin ballad. A change of location, but no let-up on the pace as we get Clare To Here performed at a faster that usual tempo. The material is well-chosen, with a few instrumental sets thrown in to allow Barry and Mick a chance to strut their stuff – the oddly-named Sexy Jig works particularly well. Some great choices of material here, they do a nice version of Jimmy MacCarthy’s Mad Lady and Me with an instrumental interlude in the form of a reel; the old Liam Clancy favourite Farewell to Tarwathie is another highlight. The accompaniment is played well throughout and gives them a solid foundation; Shay Kavanagh’s bass guitar is a great asset and blends in effortlessly.
GreenBandMusic also impress with their solid versions of more popular material such as Dublin In My Tears and a brace of Ewan MacColl numbers at the end: Travelling People and Dirty Old Town. And last but not least, a special mention for the topical Covid Dole, co-written by Stephen Leeson and Pat Cummins, which holds its head high among the more familiar material as it tells the tale of a jobless victim of the pandemic. Overall, a very enjoyable debut from GreenBandMusic!
Mark Lysaght

The Song Box
Own Label PJB0001, 12 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Pat is the lead singer and founding member of The Rye River Band, a group with a 35 year pedigree and a Sunday residency at Dublin’s Brazen Head pub, where they specialize in Irish Americana. This is an album made over three years, with trips to Poppyhill studios in Kildare, I suspect when lockdowns allowed.
Pat is a songwriter with a penchant for acoustic rock and a devilishly clever way with words. There is one cover on the album, track 1 Bridget Mulligan. Are some of the 11 original songs autobiographical? There’s a nod to the rockabilly roots of pop music on Buddy, it’s a love song dressed up in crepe shoes and Teddy boy jacket. Eleanor’s House takes us back to an 11-year-old Pat sitting on a shed roof and thinking of a future that would take him to New York’s Greenwich Village and London’s Tin Pan Alley. There’s a hint of Ennio Morricone on the electric guitar on The Ballad of Old Boone, more big electric guitar riffs on The Quay, followed by a shift in temperament to country guitar on Sunday Evening. A song about the time when the weekend ends and we get ourselves in gear for the working week ahead, one last look at the mist in Dublin bay and finding clarity in plans and purpose. “Because it’s Sunday evening and you’re ready to start again.”
For me if I had to pick a favourite track it would be A Borrowed Mandolin, it’s full of great lines and has a swinging expressive melody, and I’m sure it’s a story true to his heart and his life’s journey. In Bealach Pháraic​/​Céilí he asks that eternal song writer question: “How to put an image into words, how to write a feeling on a page?”
In song after song on the album Pat finds the answer. It’s an album full of life lessons and thoughtful observations, his story told in song, a story of where he’s come from and what it all means to him. Like all good writers he’s cradled the universal in the personal.
Seán Laffey

Together In Love And Separation
Own Label, 8 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Britain is a cultural melting pot and this album goes a long way to explore the possibility of the fusion of cultures, through the fusion of two voices. Saskia plays guitar and Chandra plays the harmonium, which is about as typical as you can get when comparing folk instruments from the west and the sub-continent of India.
Saskia presents predominantly traditional songs of which we are all familiar; it’s a rather safe selection from her (listen to what Chakraborty does with them). Chandra delves into the Bengali tradition, and it seems that Tomay Hridmajhare Rakhbo (I will keep your heart in the middle, I will not leave) is a very popular song in her community having been covered by numerous artists. Another Bengali song that is cherished in the hearts of the Bristish Asians is Bhromor Koio Giya, written by the prolific 19th century musician Radharaman Dutta (he composed some 3000 songs during his career). The song we are told is extremely popular at Bengali Weddings. The Bengali tracks are on average twice the length of the British Isles material.
Obviously the easiest parts of the album to review were those sung in English and there are some well-known numbers here: Water Is Wide, Wild Mountain Thyme, Scarborough Fair and John Denver’s Country Roads, which follows Bhromor Koiyo Giya. The overall sound of the album is Asian, thanks to the imaginative tabla playing of Yamin Chowdhury, and it has to be said the very powerful and pure voice of Chakraborty leads most of the numbers including Wild Mountain Thyme, She Moved Through the Fair. Saskia being the one dominant voice on Scarborough Fair, a song that she completely owns on this album.
Two traditions, two voices, two sets of standards, together it makes for an intriguing melding of forms and flavours, from two ladies at the top of their game, all tied together by that evocative tabla playing.
Seán Laffey

Grimdon Records GRICD006, 11 Tracks, 36 Minutes
Readers of our CD reviews may recall we have mentioned Lewis Wood before in these pages. He is a member of the English trio Granny’s Attic; their common manifesto is to marry back together dance music with dancers. Why? He asked, should an album of dance music be devoid of feet?
All the tunes on this album are originals, but each has a very traditional feel to them, because Lewis began this project in 2019 by asking dancers what they needed in the music for their traditional steps. Lewis composed 11 tracks of new melodies and plays them on violin, acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitar and 5-string banjo, and Matt Quinn joins him on duet concertina, melodeon and tenor banjo. He recorded his contribution in Worcester and Quinn his in Sheffield, the separation a consequence of Covid lockdown. The key element in the album, however, is the inclusion of English step dancers Melanie Barber, Toby Bennett, Lynette Eldon, Jo Harmer, Simon Harmer and Lisa Sture.
The banjo is the main instrument on Mel’s Hornpipe, whereas on 10 Things to Do In August there’s a double tracked fiddle, the dance steps here are interspersed with percussive guitar chords. Pakefield Polka is steady and determined with the feet following beat for beat. The Suspension of Disbelief begins with gypsy jazz chords on the guitar before this English hornpipe takes us around the house and back again. Things go electric on Soup Of The Night, it takes a good minute to usher in the feet of the dancers, the piece closing on an instrumental shimmer.
I’d urge you to visit his Bandcamp page and check out the Portobello Hornpipe played on solo fiddle, which he presents in four versions, set at different paces, from 92 to 50 beats per minute, a great aid to learning the tune but also a clear indication of the link between melody and the dancer. On Footwork Lewis has initiated a conversation between players and dancers, and consequently Lewis is at the vanguard of a new language of traditional music.
Seán Laffey