Releases > December 2011 releases

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Folk Tale
Sony BMG
11 tracks, 38 minutes

Christy has been very busy lately, in fact he finished a short tour of Holland and Belgium prior to officially releasing this album. So I’m sure the songs on the CD are now gigged to perfection and that will add to the magic of Moore’s shows in Dublin after Christmas.
This album however, is made for the longer term, we may come to see it in a few years time as the compass of his career. The tone here harks back to his classic Smoke and Strong Whiskey album. It’s partly in his genes, partly in the spare arrangements and the paired down instrumentation. Declan Sinnott has been Christy’s sideman for years now and their two guitars are perfectly in sympathy with Moore’s vocal style.
This album is perhaps the most intimate recording Moore has made in the last 25 years, yes it is that good. His voice often down to a whisper, offers secrets told in the dark, without anger but with indignation. There is darkness in this album and there always is a dark side with Christy Moore. Here it is present in the first track Tyrone Boys, a reworking of one of his reflections on the troubled North and the impoverished South, as potent now as ever, making the listener ask the hidden question are we no different now, what has changed?’ Moore’s sentiments are still painfully poignant and far too topical to be assigned to an attic of nostalgia.
He tracks back and revisits the Pursuit of Farmer Michael Hayes and you’d barely suspect forty years have past since the first time he recorded it. For diversion we have Weekend in Amsterdam, a Crack was 90 for the generation who now take Ryan Air to Eindhoven rather that the Steam Packet to Douglas. The under current is the same, that need to get away from the straight jacket Ireland imposes on her youth. For ballad groups looking for something upbeat there’s Ballydine, extolling the virtues of the Suir valley as it skirts the Comeragh mountains, but even here there’s a sting in the tale.
Always one to find humanity in international excursions, he visits the bleak open coast of the English lake district in the song On Morecambne Bay, the shocking cockling tale of illegal Asian immigrants who worked those treacherous shifting sands in the illicit shellfish industry.
There’s just one place the magic fails to bring the rabbit out of the hat and that is on what should have been the comical interlude of My Little Honda Fifty. Perhaps it’s because I already know the Seamus Moore version (a huge hit in rural Ireland), but for me this is a low point, maybe it’s a wicked show stopper live, but here it is slight and somewhat glum.
That one minor blimp isn’t enough to dent the pure class of this album, fans will adore it, thinkers mull over it and those who believe they have a God given right to guide our social mores may have cause to reflect as on the final track, complete with Hammond organ, Christy tells us God is a Woman.
Moore’s music is not for the compliant, the complacent or the comfortable, it pricks the knowing pulse of truth that beats below the surface of our chameleon skin. And that is what we have come to expect after four decades of folk tales from Christy Moore.
Yes he’s still on the money and this is definitely worth many spins on your CD player.
Seán Laffey

Fflach Trad CD 323H
12 tracks

What an album of moving music, one I am afraid you are unlikely to hear on many Radio shows in Ireland, so listen up DJs this is a cracker. The CD was first released in 2009 and I’m delighted to say that Fflach Trad have it on the web site and I’m sure within international distribution chain. Cass Meurig takes two exotic things and makes something special with them. Firstly Welsh traditional music (and new tunes composed in the idiom), secondly they are played on the Crwth (and the fiddle).
The Crwth was the forerunner of the fiddle in Europe. It remained a favourite instrument in Wales long after its general use-by-date. Played with a bow or plucked with the fingers there are version still extant in the far north of Scandinavia where the features of this lyre have remained constant if somewhat crude compared to the construction of the Crwth. The revival is due in no small measure to the amplification now possible on the instrument, and Fflach Trad have done a superb job at catching its nuances on this recording, what once was only heard by the musicians themselves can be heard by us all.
Cass Meruig and only a very few others and players are part of the revival of the instrument in Wales. She admits that there are probably more owners of the instruments than actual players and in one online interview candidly tells us that she had to relearn the bowing. It may look a bit like a fiddle but it demands a technique all of its own. There are few folks who profess to play it as sweetly and lyrically as Cass and she sings like a nightingale also.
The opening track Courting in the Wood at over 6 minutes is a pure pleasure, opening slowly and melancholy it seagues into the song The Blue Grey Cuckoo and is brightened immediately when the finger-picked guitar of Nial Cain chimes in. Mywen Merch sounds medieval, full of dissonance it soon lightens up into a boree, a counter stomp coming from the guitar and the Crwth taking on the tones of a hurdy gurdy.
The music is enchanting and addictive, a musical marriage full of gentle intimacy on bowed and plucked stringed instruments, from which one hopes those hoarders of the Crwth will be spurred on to expand the fans of this once forgotten gem.
Seán Laffey

Imeartas Records IMCD003
13 tracks, 50 minutes

In 2009, one of Kerry’s most exciting young performers teamed up with a Basque musician and singer for a Music Network tour. Two tours, in fact, plus a follow-up recording session for those of us who missed the concerts. The result is this album: a fascinating mix of Munster fiddle and concertina, Basque whistles and alboka (a sort of proto clarinet), vocals in two of the world’s rarest and most fascinating languages, and good old Gavin Ralston on modern guitar.
The similarities between Basque and Irish music don’t end with their rarity and charm: both cultures cling to the Western edge of Europe, with songs of the sea and festivals of the sun. Euskéirea - a name, which combines Basque and Irish – is filled with dances, lullabies, airs, hymns and more. Reels and jigs are a small minority, although there is a fine version of The Shetland Fiddler. The Irish input includes polkas, slides, hornpipes and the like: The Hare in the Corn, The Rights of Man, Jamesy Gannon’s Barndance and some less well-known names. Niamh also sings Cailleach an Airgid, a reprise from her second solo CD.
Ibon has a strong, warm voice, somewhere between a muezzin and a fado singer. He sings four songs here, ranging from the gentle lullaby Lo Hadi where Niamh contributes a verse in Irish, to the stirring drinkers’ song Bilbora Naioak, which closes the album. In between are various Basque dance forms, including the porrusalda, which comes closest to an Irish reel. Ibon includes a porrusalda of his own which was inspired by Celtic reels: to my ear there’s an old-time Appalachian feel to the cadences of this tune, but it certainly gets the toes tapping. One of my favourite tracks on Euskéirea is the porrusalda Eguzkie Joan Da with treble and tenor albokas. Another is the set of three ezpatadantzas, each with a subtly different rhythm, but all in the southern European 12/8 metre, which drives the dancers on. Extra tones and harmonies are added by guests from Ireland and the Basque country on several tracks: bass, drums, flute, pipes, a wee touch of electronics, and second parts on whistle and alboka.
The entire album is very pleasant and stimulating, with the emphasis on expression rather than speed, and if you’re looking to broaden your musical horizons at all I’d heartily recommend this CD as a great place to start.
Alex Monaghan

The Mystery Inch
Pure Records PRCD30
12 tracks, 49 minutes

Launching into a spirited version of The Humours of Ballyloughlin, this duo sets a cracking standard from the off. Damien plays banjo and David plays guitar, with a bit of instrument-swapping and a couple of friends dropping in. The order of names is intriguing, O’Kane definitely leads, with Kosky accompanying and harmonising, doing much more than the average accompanist but still in the background most of the time. Maybe they’re trying to pretend this isn’t a banjo CD, or distancing this from Damien’s singing career.
In any case, neither player has anything to be ashamed of here. The Mystery Inch is all about banjo, in the footsteps of Gerry O’Connor, and it starts with a pair of traditional jigs bracketing the title tune, one of three Kosky compositions here. An O’Connor style swagger through John Stenson’s Reel and the grand old slip jig Elizabeth Kelly’s Delight bring us to two more Kosky tunes played in lazy laid-back mode. The same pair crops up at speed as a final bonus, but for now the lads stay mellow with Marga’s Moment, a gentle 7/8 air by Belfast fluter Brian Finnegan. These slower tunes give Kosky a chance to shine, playing melody and double-stopping.
Trip to Portugal opens O’Kane’s composing account, a fine jig followed by a couple of well-known names. Na Ceannabhain Bhána has a long been a favourite of mine, and The Full Set is a McGoldrick composition, which has recently given its name to a very promising young band. The addition of three more fine musicians makes this track doubly enjoyable: Danny Cameron and Carmel O’Dea bring button box and fiddle to the party, while John Joe Kelly batters away on his hi-tech drum. The tempo drops again for a couple of O’Kane tunes. More reels, this time by Damien: Castlerock Road is a great banjo number, and Greengrass is another O’Connor reference with its elements of Irish and Oldtime.
Three classic jigs and another Scottish connection with The Seagull bring us to Bowelshifter, a uniquely moving experience. The final furlong offers a fine set of reels which deserve better names, so let’s call them Mike’s Magic Mouthpiece and Cramer’s Creation. Kosky and O’Kane finish as they started, with jigs, and damned fine ones, jogging off into the sunset on a pair of chestnut guitars. Then the bonus track bursts in like the taxi at the end of Blazing Saddles and brings us back to reality.
Good music played hard, played soft, and everything in between.
Alex Monaghan

Flagstone Memories
Own Label, 12 tracks

Clare fiddler, Orla Harrington made an impressive debut with Melting Snow some two years ago. Now she joins forces with sometime Altan percussionist, Jim Higgins and Clare accordionist Andrew McNamara for Flagstone Memories.
A collection of music rooted in the Clare tradition with material inspired by reel to reel tape collections found in Orla’s family’s attic and also by the O’Halloran family of Castlequarter, Co Clare.
There is a delightfully retro feel to the music here, with tight arrangements and compact ensemble work. No bells and whistles just straight down the line traditional music. The drum and piano accompaniments are straight out of The Tulla/Kilfenora Céili Band’s
19 50s cuts and the steady roll of the ensemble playing recalls
the Canny/Hayes/Lafferty/O’Lochlainn partnership in the ‘50’s.
Orla Harrington’s fiddling continues to sparkle, while Andrew McNamara is a spare but efficient sparring partner and Jim Higgins wraps things tightly in a cushioned comfort. The box/fiddle duets on The Skyeman’s Jig and Moloney’s Wife soar, while the trio work on The Coalminer reflects the tightness and precision with which they pursue their craft.
The sparse approach radiates the assimilation of older production values of avoiding excess highlighting the nuances embraced and forwarded therein. This is straight forward traditional music, full of quality and precision rooted in East Clare dynamics, cool delivery and first rate musicianship. File under excellent.
John O’Regan

Harmony Street
KTM001 2011 12 tracks

Another singer songwriter emerges from Armagh, is there something in the water up there? Oonagh Derby has a lovely voice, a great facility with words that she blends seamlessly with ideal tunes on ten of these dozen tracks. Her voice and delivery on some of them are reminders of Eleanor McEvoy and I hope she will accept that as a compliment.
There is a diversity of performance styles on offer on the tracks from the cool clean laid back Sugar Babes About You Now into her own more thumping and rocky Sick Sore & Tired. The title track is a great showcase of her writing and performing. I Still Believe is a beautifully written and scored personal song about the lives we all lead but Derby puts into a few nicely performed verses.
There is an Irish saga feel to the strong Beauty the Betrayer’ as she talks of everyday things backed by the pipes and unless we listen closely we think we are hearing of something from the days of the red branch knights. All you parents and grandparents listening will be enthralled by the very well observed Jigsaw Pieces, listen closely, remember, smile and maybe grow misty eyed. Silver Shoes offers sentiments of a life as it changes with responsibility and parenthood while Lovely Friend and I Am Because bring us the very positive sides of maturing in life and love. Great as her writing is one of the most arresting tracks is her interpretation of Dear Miss Lonely Hearts. She gets it just right.
She closes with a sort of enigmatic The Dove Children that leaves the listener waiting eagerly for more.
Nicky Rossiter

Champagne And Onions
12 Tracks, running time 66 minutes, Own Label

Lyrical, melodic and melancholy by turns. This is a solo album of often time complex and always enchanting finger-style guitar music.
Range is the best word to describe the McGrath experience, that range covers his command of tone, timing and a constantly rich emotional engagement with the nylon-strung guitar. Be amazed by his application of classical techniques on the opening track, Champagne and Onions, at over seven minutes he uses the expanded time to explore the nuances and tributaries around a simple melodic theme, which he embellishes with runs, fills, arpeggios, harmonic pinches and deft almost inaudible slides.
Big pieces are a feature of this album, Lyric Epiphany coming in at over ten minutes is a tour de force of classical guitar playing with a modern neo-jazz sensibility, this was commissioned by RTÉ Lyric FM’s ‘Blue Of The Night’ programme, they just have to be delighted with it. Track two sees McGrath working his magic on the traditional tne Limerick Junction, firstly played as a fairly standard hornpipe (with a generous bass line from an opposing thumb strum). Half way through he pauses to develop a bridge, which he then grows back into the hornpipe, this time fuller than before.
Musically surprising and thoughtful, brilliantly percussive on the Scottish Drummond Castle, tender and soulful on Neil Gow’s Lament for his Second Wife, but never predictable, I found myself looking at the liner notes with anticipation. “Aidan O’Rourke’s The Quiet Place, how will he approach that?”
I’ve argued for years that the guitar is the modern successor to Carolan’s harp and on this album McGrath shows us how suited it is to the blind harper’s compositions, for example with its lute like quality enhancing Eleanor Plunket. (He opens the piece with a harmonic exploration of the guitar’s fret board before he layers on the melody).
The album closes with O’ Carolans’ Dream, introduced by a questioning riff that the well-known tune almost answers, until the question is asked again at the end of the piece. It is finally resolved by fading single high notes that finish the album on an echo of resonance. A past pupil of John Feeley at Dublin’s DIT, McGrath has made a masterpiece in this magnificent album.
Seán Laffey

Ego Trip
Own Label
13 tracks, 62 minutes

From the Meath Gaeltacht around Rathmoylan, MacDara is brother to concertina maestro Micheál and follows in a fine family musical tradition. His fiddle playing was honed by the champion Naoimh Pádraig Céilí Band, and he has also won a few individual prizes over the years.
Now a family man, MacDara has paradoxically found time to record an album, which is most misleadingly titled: this is no vanity release, no boosting of dubious talent by bought-in guests and producers. On the contrary, MacDara sits alone here and plays for his audience’s enjoyment, the only accompaniment his trusty right boot and his listeners’ grunts of approval.
A fiddler of rare delicacy and discernment, MacDara Ó Raghallaígh plucks a fistful of gems from the treasury of Irish music and tosses them into the air to dazzle and bewitch. Cailleach an Airgid, The Home Ruler, Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie, Sporting Nell, Rolling in the Ryegrass, Last Night’s Fun, and that old stalwart Gan Ainm. He twists The Leg of a Duck to fit his mood, moulds great compositions of Vincent Broderick and others, making every tune his own. There isn’t a track here that doesn’t bring something new to the music, be it the power of the multi-part jig Paddy O’Rafferty or the graceful swooping of The Golden Eagle. As he says in the notes, “Simple old tunes but they’re usually the best kind.”
A delicately bowed Maids of Mount Cisco gives way to a truly inspired Flagstone of Memories. The slow air Bruach na Carraige Báine is soft and sorrowful, whereas there’s more than a hint of devilment in The Toss Pot. A seemingly mundane selection of Paddy O’Brien slip-jigs is quite captivating in MacDara’s hands, and it’s hard not to stamp along with the music as he tears into Michael Dwyer’s and Mick O’Connor’s. This live recording finishes with a massive ten-minute medley of hornpipes and reels bracketed by An Sean Bhean Bhocht, including one of the most upbeat renditions of The Rights of Man I can recall: nicely dotted, packed with character, and popular with the audience.
One man and his fiddle holds a full hall in thrall with only the simple old tunes of the Irish tradition: magical.
Alex Monaghan

Seoda an Raidaigh
The Essential Sean O’Riada Collection
Gael Linn, 3 CD Box set 67 tracks

How do you anthologise a legendary talent as complex as that of Sean O’Riada? There is the traditional innovator with Ceoltoirí Chualann, the contemporary composer whose Jazz and Classical fixations found fulfilment and the innovator in his music for film. Given the manner in which Gael Linn has handled that challenge the answer is very well.
Seoda an Riadaigh efforts to be the essential O’Riada collection following the market trend of late towards all the encompassing Double/Box Set. Gael Linn has done one better in that they have assembled a 3 CD box set and booklet and all packaged in a coffee table book like presentation DVD box. The music includes film scores, traditional re-arrangements, and orchestral music. The jazz and contemporary classical elements such as scores for Vertical Man and O’ Riada’s Farewell his final solo elegiac posthumous closing salvo have been bypassed, probably contractually as Claddagh hold the reins on those O’ Riada sets.
Meanwhile the Gael Linn batch is a multi faceted one; Film scores like The Playboy of the Western World, Orchestral music for Saoirse, Mise Eire, and An Tine Bheo and his traditional reinvention orchestra the Ceoltoiri Chualann which spawned The Chieftains – enough said. There were also two masses in Irish the first a raw choral work for Cor Cul Aodha which sounds good still but was rendered disservice by the beloved Christian Brothers in many readers and contributors formative years.
Has Gael Linn answered the challenge of anthologising O’Riada’s work? The answer is yes as regards to re-issue, re-master and also re-ignite the O’Riada catalogue for the 21st century. This package wisely adopts split presentation film music on one disc, traditional and choral tracks on another and the film score for Playboy on another. Nothing wrong with that and the re-master and informative booklet is good also as is the front cover shot of the man in his premature prime his contented smile reflecting due pride in his achievements.
It is interesting to speculate where would O’Riada have gone for inspiration after these forays, would he have adapted his approach to changing musical tides – would he have adopted the Pan Celtic approach? Perhaps formed an alliance with his younger contemporaries Horslips and experimented with orchestrated electric folk/trad or discovered world music? We don’t know. What we do know is that for a generation that needed reminding of the wealth within traditional music O’ Riadas’s presence was the intellectual kick needed at the time.
Seoda an Riadaigh scores admirably as a reminder of the great man’s vision and ability.
John O’Regan

Dirty Money

If you did not read the insert on this CD you might be forgiven for thinking that with a name and a sound like this you were listening to a top American band on a major label. From track one to fifteen this is an amazing album in its writing, production and performance. Bad Man is probably not the most representative offering but it leads us into a varied but always excellent selection. The selective use of a sort of brassy big band sound is a refreshing addition to numerous tracks.
The title track turns up at number three and is a wonderful sound if a little risqué on some lyrics and is worth the cost of the CD. Don’t Let Go is another top class offering that could help this group to a much wider audience if given a bit of airplay.
They go into a great combination of folk and almost Americana at its best on I’m An Irishman combining a story, history, also instrumentalism and strong lyrics in a masterful performance.
For an infective foot-tapping bluegrass sound give a few minutes to Railroad. Then just to confuse you they take us to another track called Railroad that has an infectious jazzy bluesy sound. I am partial to a bit of fiddle intro so was captivated yet again on Blue Gardenia. Meanwhile Ten Miles Round showcases the combination of guitar and fiddle with thoughtful lyrics on a song that must go down a treat in a live show.
James Cramer can take an extra bow for his lovely song My Family’s Land that is performed to perfection to round off one of the best new albums I have heard in a while.
Add to the music a well-produced package complete with lyrics and you have an ideal purchase.
Nicky Rossiter