Releases > October 2012 Releases

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Noble Stranger
Compass Records COM745792
12 Tracks, 58 Minutes

Noble Stranger, Irish flautist Nuala Kennedy’s third album, officially released to retail on August 28th has a funky, indie vibe to it that reflects her time in art school in Scotland, and her recent year in NYC. Its youthful energy and spirit just make you smile. Could this be the future of trad? At least, some trad, this is pushing the boundary in a great way, it’s not the hoary old folk rock of the 70’s, but an honest, natural way of pairing a modern sensibility with trad notes. You could play it in a non–trad office, and convert your boss.
She’s supported by her trio of Mike Bryan on guitar, Ian Macleod on mandolin and Donald Hays on percussion. She counts Cathal McConnell and John O’Connor among her teachers and influences.
She herself plays flute, a vintage casio keyboard with a futuristic ping, and sings in a sweet, distinctive voice that sounds a bit like Karan Casey. She sings a lot on this CD, seven of the 12 tracks.
In fact the first two tracks on the CD show off her vocals, the imagistic, funky Gabriel Sings and the traditional My Bonny Labouring Boy, which is backed by that casio with a spare kind of dancey beat to it, and it’s striking, combined with her very traditional way of singing it. Lord Duneagle has a similar counterpoint, with a driving beat from Hays giving the ballad a groove. Lonely City, inspired by NYC, has a kind of Country–Western swing to it, but then there’s a kind of new–wave production feel to it, too, a little Cocteau Twins sound in the strings. The album takes its title from Napoleon’s Dream, with the lyrics recorded by Richard Thompson, paired with the tune John Stephen of Chance Inn. It’s a sweet, pensive song, and her flute takes the melody in the latter and soars with it. Her version of Matt Hyland is a knockout too.

But make no bones about it, Nuala is a virtuoso flutist. Love at the Swimming Pool, inspired by 80–something lovebirds she encountered in Scotland (she gives us some lines of dialogue in the booklet), displays her way around a melody and her skills, which also shine on Asturias Part One and Asturias Part Two. Overall, the CD is fresh, eclectic and magical.
Gwen Orel

Tis What It Is
Cló Iar–Chonnachta CICD 190
14 Tracks, 57 Minutes
A somewhat apologetic title, but no apology is needed for this CD. Conneely and Munnelly are both known for attacking the music rather than caressing it, and that’s exactly what they do here: big tunes, bigger performances, bow and bellows driving on through some of the grandest Irish melodies. Fiddler Conneely has immersed himself in classic recordings from the ‘20s to the ‘50’s for his work with the re–formed De Danann, so it’s no surprise to hear the likes of Hughie Travers’ Reel, Paddy Shannon’s, The Kiss Behind the Door and O’Donnell’s Hornpipe from that era. There are some glorious romps through well–known tunes such as The Rakes of Kildare and The Jolly Tinker, as well as stylish versions of Sporting Paddy and The Maid in the Meadow. Reels, barndances, jigs hornpipes, polkas: they’re all delivered with spirit and panache here.
The tempo slows for a set of three–four tunes, the mazurka Shoe the Donkey and a pair of old–times waltzes. There’s also a spine– tingling slow air by Dave, working both ends of the button box, which is one of my favourite tracks on Tis What It Is. The best thing about this album for me is the number of neglected tunes which are brought brilliantly to life: The High Caul Cap, Big John McNeill, The Star Above the Garter, and The Maho Snaps which has hardly been recorded since Sean Smyth’s Blue Fiddle debut. Mick and Dave are supported where appropriate by Ringo McDonagh, Ryan Molloy and Jonas Fromseier (a banjo–playing scion of the East Clare Fromseiers probably), but even the unaccompanied tracks on this recording have an energy and verve which would be hard to equal with any three other musicians. Apologetic it ain’t, and rightly so!
Alex Monaghan

Own Label CNG1, 15 Tracks, 49 Minutes

Music and dance. We all know these go hand in glove like buttons to a box and to be a master of both artistic styles is a wishful thought of many. Well those wishes are an actuality for the delightful concertina player Caitlín Nic Gabhann who showcases her debut release Caitlín with a self–assured vivacity. The fifteen tracks combine an obvious talent for the instrument along with her intricate traditional dance step sounds that uniquely identify her as worthy of her mantle.
Along with Caoimhín Ó Fearghail on guitar she has produced an album of dual purpose. A must for budding dancers to use as an effective practice tool but most importantly an album of listening pleasure that is flavoured by her own enjoyment as she draws us through a variety of tunes with an ease and buoyancy that is certain to lift the musical heart strings.
With a flair for composition Caitlín takes us through her college days in Cork with The Leeside Sessions, a reel played with definitive notation and paced to bring the best out of the sound before hitting the high notes with Elizabeth Crotty’s version of The Reel with Beryl and ending on a flourish with Green Fields of America. The Cork days are further depicted through the emotionally exhibited waltz Sunday’s Well; an endearing tune that flows beautifully from note to note.
The complementary tune choice is enhanced by the descriptive notes that accompany the CD and give an insight into Caitlín’s musical heritage of which her father, renowned fiddler Antoin Mac Gabhann, is a huge influence through such tunes on the album as The Bohola and The Rookery. The sleeve notes are accompanied by some stunning photographic shots produced by Danny Diamond and Richie Tyndall that perfectly encapsulate Caitlín and her love of music and dance. In fact the best of the best are associated with this album as the master of piano Jack Talty applied the finishing touches with the recording and mastering but its Caitlín herself who’s the star and her self named debut is one that will shine brightly for a long time to come.
Eileen McCabe

12 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Own Label

Dermot Byrne the Inishowen musician is known as the box player with Altan. With this CD, he pairs with French harper Floriane Blancke, whom he met in sessions in Galway. Floriane (known as Flo) began her career as a classical and jazz player and has become a trad player who has performed with Seamus Begley, Sharon Shannon and others.
At their concerts in the Catskills Irish Arts Week, 2012 and the week following at Rocky Sullivan’s in Brooklyn there was an unusual hush, and you can hear why. The tracks are split between traditional Irish reels and jigs and French waltz and tunes.
La Valse des Jouets, or The Waltz of the Toys, composed by Michel Faubert of Quebec, has a lovely simplicity to it. Here Dermot’s box sounds as French as possible and with mandolin by Mary Shannon and guitar by Tim Edey, it evokes cobblestones and sunshine. Flo takes the lead on the air Amhrán na Leabhar, Song of the Books, and pulls emotion into it, before Dermot comes in gently underneath. Simply gorgeous. La Bourrasque is a sprightly 20;s waltz from the French Musette tradition. It’s exquisitely done, though I prefer the more trad tracks, of which there are many, including Mister O’Connor and Flo’s original air, composed for her late gradmother Marthe Blancke, a violin player, Farewell, as well as The Monaghan Jig/The Templehouse Reel.
The joy in Chris Newman’s Sore Point is completely irresistible as they dash through the lively melody. French accordion player, Marc Perrone’s original Vas–y Mimile demonstrates a perfect pairing of that modern European and old Celtic sound.
Flo sings on La Clariére and shows off a striking, pure voice perfectly suited to jazz. She’s so good one only wonders why there isn’t more, perhaps in future? The album concludes with a Breton melody Kishor’s tune, by Soig Siberil, which has a lovely delicacy and interesting keys. The song fades rather than ends, leaving the ghost of its melody in the air. Like the CD itself, it leaves a beautiful lingering shadow.
Gwen Orel

Morning Moon
Own Label LOFCD002
12 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Just another pretty young Shetland fiddler? Well, no. There’s a reason why Jenna Reid is feted wherever she goes, featured on the Transatlantic Sessions TV series, and funded by the Donald Dewar Award. Not only is she a superb Shetland fiddler, and a fine singer too: she also makes a great job of Scottish and Stateside styles. Take the opening untitled march: played in a style which recalls the straight rhythm and sliding notes of Dave Swarbrick at his best, this leaps straight into a blistering sprint through Skinner’s showpiece reel A A Gladstone before shifting gear again for Jenna’s own bouncy Beth’s Big Day. After a haunting lyrical Gow slow air, Jenna takes another eighteenth–century gem and bows it like an old–time breakdown. The title tune is not a reference to Jenna’s pre–breakfast routine: it comes from the Gideon Stove collection of Shetland fiddle music, and gets another modern makeover. Favouring the big Scottish composers as well as Shetland names like Willie Hunter, Gideon Stove and Arthur Scott Robertson, Jenna Reid still defines her own sound on a wider canvas. There are elements of the Shetland swing and double–stopping, plenty of brash American showmanship, and a big influence from neighbouring Ireland and Scandinavia, but the main ingredient is Jenna’s own personality and passion.
There’s a handful of Jenna Reid compositions scattered among great traditional and contemporary tunes here. I loved the unusual twists and turns of Goran Berg’s, the raw power of One For Us with more of those Apalachian overtones. Jenna also sings one song, the Dougie MacLean fiddle–friendly ballad Not Lie Down, and she makes a great job of it.
Unusually for a traditional fiddle CD, most of the tracks on Morning Moon focus on a single tune: the variety comes from Jenna’s interpretation, and from her fabulous musical accomplices. Kathleen Boyle, James Thomson and Olav Johansson join her on the melody, while Harris Playfair, Duncan Lyall, Kevin Mackenzie, Iain Sandlands and Jenna’s sister Bethany provide accompaniment. Their sound is rich and strong, but for some reason I probably prefer the tracks where Jenna is almost on her own. The slow air Leaving Lerwick Harbour is beautifully played, and the pair of Light and Airy jigs are delightful. My absolute favourite is The Greenside, Jenna’s own charming waltz.
This album might well make my 2012 Top Ten, it really is a stunner.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label AR001
13 Tracks, 62 Minutes
A Breton flute phenomenon who first hit the Irish mainstream with the group Guidewires, Barou is joined by twenty musical compadres for a solo debut which has been more than six years in the making. Worth the wait, I’d say. While the material here is mainly traditional, it’s drawn from a wider geography than usual: Brittany, Ireland obviously, but also Greece, Bulgaria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The swirling Naga Jigs are from the Guidewires repertoire, powerful and driving. Like much of this recording, their traditional pedigree is clear but their treatment here is unapologetically contemporary. A bit of Jaques Pellen’s jazz guitar, a strong backbeat, a very light touch on the percussion, and a couple of carefully chosen collaborators on the melody line make this a magical track. Sylvain follows up with a set of horos in the style of Andy Irvine’s East Wind album, wonderful stirring stuff with exotic rhythms and outrageous flute virtuosity. This is mainly a flute album, but the master also moonlights on uilleann pipes and the small Breton pipes.
About one third of this recording is what i think of as Irish music – Bold Doherty, The Humours of Carrigaholt, The Squares of Crossmaglen and Charlie Lennon’s Windy City. Sylvain Barou enlists the likes of Lunny, Carroll, Doyle and Rynne to provide a top–quality Irish core for these and other tunes. A further third is distinctively Breton, with Tons and Plinns and Ridees: for this, a whole P–Celtic crew chimes in, centred around the cittern of Ronan Pellen. Names like Youenn Le Bihan, Alain Genty and Giles Le Bigot bring out the best in Breton music here, from the gorgeous Margaretig to Barou’s own funky Mare Nostrum. That leaves one third split between Arab music, Asturian alboradas, and a few other things. The flute flies from one form to the next – there are no clear boundaries, just breathtaking melodies.
Nothing on this CD is too exotic to appeal to Celtic music lovers, but some of it is certainly fresh enough to raise an eyebrow or two. I like it a lot, and I hope you can all get your hands on a copy.
Alex Monaghan

Khoom Loy
Compass Records HCD 7250, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes

Firmly established in her native Norway as one of the leading lights in Norwegian Folk music, Annbjørg Lien has taken her home roots talent and crossed cultural borders with her versatile use of strings and her hypnotic voice. Having worked on many projects with the Shetland fiddle player, Catriona MacDonald, they are also best–known for their collaboration with Emma Hardelin, Liz Carroll, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, and Liz Knowles promoting their prowess as The String Sisters. This latest release though is all about her and her ability to transcend the musical barriers to bring earthy world nuances to the fore with Khoom Loy.
Translated, the title is derived from the Thai phrase ‘paper lanterns’ and what a fitting metaphor as the opening track Tareq whisks through the air with a vivid translucency igniting dancing strings with a subtle electronic almost hypno vibe. The vortex of Eastern influence is carried through into the second track The Trapezian where the keyed fiddle sways through a rhythmic bass and percussion line ebbing and flowing with dramatic energy.
A standout for me is the title track Khoom Loy which highlights the soft sweetness of Lien’s vocal tones as she paints a glorious picture of the paper lanterns as they ‘dance on the white sandy ground’ then ‘lift and release into the sea’s swaying sound’. The combination of beautiful lyrics, entrancing melody and earthy vocals is sure to be listened to again and again.
Khoom Loy swirls into the deep abyss of contemporary world music and once firmly encompassed amongst the haunting voice and driving rhythms it becomes intriguingly difficult to tear yourself away.
Eileen McCabe

Strung Out!!
13 Tracks, Own Label NOD 001

Are there no limits to the lengths people will go for a catchy CD title? Even when, as in this case, it’s dedicated to a parent’s memory?
Anyhow let it pass: this ex–sub editor knows that the best headlines are coined but not printed. Whereas this CD is absolute must– have material. Not narcotic at all. Firstly there are the notes by Seán Potts, establishing Noreen’s place in the revival of the harp, and bringing it out of respectable parlours. Next there are two tunes by John Sheahan: the first is a hugely entertaining puzzle piece, hazardous as tangled barbed wire on the harp; the second, John says, came to him in a dream, and was a gift from beyond the grave. Not everyone would be comfortable with that, but …
But the biggest plus is the fine rhythmic playing of Noreen. No finer praise can be given than to say you could dance properly to this. And it’s early all solo, though there is a guitar on the Joyous Waltz, a lovely lilting French–Canadian tune. She also has a fine contribution from Charlie Lennon.
It goes to show that all the years listening to the music, and playing in groups like Fisher Street have not been wasted, and are yielding rich fruit. When you hear this, you’ll know you’re home.
John Brophy

Songs to Have With Your Tea
Gomey Record GRCD0022011, 13 Tracks, 39 Minutes

Ruttledge is a new name to me and the bakers dozen of tracks will be new to the listener unless you are a direct fan of the performer. This can be a major handicap for the performer and writer breaking on to a very competitive scene but this singer/songwriter must persist because all he needs is for you to take a little time to discover him.
The writing and production are well–served by the performances on all songs from the opening I Feel Blessed right through to Say It Easy. It takes a few listens to truly appreciate the talent on show here but the attentive listener will be amply rewarded on lovely tracks like Down to the Sea and Without a Full Moon with its delightful intro. I particularly enjoyed Orphan Child and I Have Come to Rest.
Ruttledge has shown great potential on this album and should have a strong career in the field of performing and writing. Like so many fine artistes he needs the break that you as a fan of good music can give or else to have one of his titles taken up by an established performer. Orphan Child is a strong contender for this as is I Feel Blessed.
There is little doubt that once Ruttledge gets the breakthrough of airplay we will have more songs to enjoy with our dinner or breakfast too and those are prospects to relish.
Nicky Rossiter

Parallel Latitudes
Bird Creek Records 001

Cheyenne comes from Alaska, but has spent the last ten years in Scotland, hence the title. (The two countries are on the same latitude). There is also a fine title track, a half improvisation, which features harmonics and bent blue notes, in other words, very competent technique.
This is well–judged and intelligent musical exploration. We’ve known about harp and fiddle, and harp and cello is a very effective combo – check out Cheyenne’s friend, Ms Seylan Baxter, who has a 5–string electric cello. But the special bits for me were hearing harp in combination with dobro and banjo (5–string, I think), and there are also good effects on the tabala. So it’s musically courageous, and it works. I expect to hear others repeating the formulas: you know how it is with imitation and flattery.
The tunes too are a good blend of modern and original with others from the Fraser Collection (was he the most ripped off man in history?) and the Atholl collection. Which is to say Cheyenne has paid her dues and now is a mainstream mover.
Fáilte isteach!
John Brophy

Alls Well, Own Label
5 Tracks, 30 Minutes
Jake Wilson made contact through the recommendation of legendary English fiddler and producer, Dave Swarbrick. That was enough the whet the appetite and a copy of All’s Well reached my hands. On first listen what emerged was a solo recording of acoustic guitar and vocals on self–penned songs relating to Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his small hand picked polar party, all of whom died on their return journey from the South Pole.
The songs and their treatment radiated a singularity of narrative and performance that put it in the footsteps of Nic Jones and Chris Wood. Scott of course is a very British hero, and his heroic failure has been celebrated for one hundred years. The triumphs of his contemporaries and often companions on the last unexplored continent Shackleton and Crean, are owned by us. They too narrowly failed in the narrowest senses, but triumphed in a way that Scott and his world could have seen as too modern, too egalitarian, too democratic. Kildare celebrates Shakelton every October with a fine festival by the way.
Whereas Shackleton wrote a masterpiece on his return (South), Scott’s story is open to more interpretation, based on diary and log fragments and the sad last notes he left as the cold, exhaustion and malnutrition killed them in their canvas tent.
Further listening accentuate the narrative power of the material and the wisdom of employing a single voice/guitar soundtrack. All’s Well is a cycle of songs written from the point of view of these five extraordinary men: Edgar Evans, Lawrence Oates, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, and Captain Scott himself. These are songs to be listened to and savoured each morsel a piece of an evolving narrative jigsaw that grips the listener from beginning to end. Dave Swarbrick’s production is equally unobtrusive and sympathetic highlighting Wilson’s voice and guitar. The singular approach may be demanding in an age of kitchen sink guest stars collections but here it works as All’s Well is a narrative piece and rewards concentrated listening.
John O’Regan

As I Roved Out, Songs of Love and Murder, Winter Solstice
Hanz Araki and Kathryn Claire Music
12 Tracks, 42 Minutes
As I Roved Out, Songs of Love and Murder, Winter Solstice and a fourth album coming soon, The Emigrant’s Song. A career retrospective of the work of flute player/singer, Hanz Araki and fiddler/singer, Kathryn Claire? Nope. The four albums are all out within one year. All of them are beautifully crafted, performed and produced. Great stuff. The stunning achievement of having four albums out in a year, and all paid for within that year, has been covered extensively in a separate issue of IMM. No room for that here.
What can be lost as you listen to this unprecedented outburst of music is not the fact of the albums themselves, but the deep quality of each. The musicianship is impeccable. Both Hanz and Kathryn are wonderful singers of merit. This is special on every level. As with all the best of the music, it is very trad and very modern at the same time. We have been listening to all of them for some time and still grasping it all. Highly recommended. Find these two talented Yanks online. Track these albums down. Special. Special, indeed.
And so much of it all at once! A class act, altogether. Wow!
Bill Margeson