Releases > December 2012 Releases

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Compass Records 4584
8 Tracks, 43 Minutes

If Lúnasa set the gold standard for traditional acoustic music, these guys are bucking for platinum. John McSherry and Tyler Duncan, from opposite sides of the Atlantic, combine to provide pipe and whistle duets as good as any I’ve heard, even rivalling McSherry’s previous collaborations with Mike McGoldrick.

Percussionist, Mike Shimmin joins Duncan in the jazz–folk– whatever group Millish, who should have sent me their debut album by now. There’s certainly enough evidence of rock and progressive influences on this CD, a full rock rhythm section at times, which is still unusual behind the low whistle but fits the pipes perfectly. The Bell features sound effects Black Sabbath style, while guest Joe Dart contributes various tones on electric bass, and Shimmin interprets “percussion” in the broad sense that includes keyboards.

The Tryst After Death is probably the most extreme piece here, combining whistles with melody–free breaks, introducing the pipes and then taking them away again, ending with a solid minute of mindless monotone. Other tracks are more accessible, recognisable Irish folk rock with virtuoso leads. The Olllam execute very nice octave harmonies on Bridge of Glllass, there’s a bit of a Balkan thing going on in The Devilll for my Hurt, and a relatively unadorned air to finish. The slow reel Follly of Wisdom is very reminiscent of Lúnasa at their best. A touch more pipery wouldn’t go amiss: maybe next time?

If the triple L is confusing you, rest assured that it is purely a gimmick–like the double I at the end of Dannii or the backwards R in the name of another well–known children’s favourite. The word ollam is old Irish for a master musician, and since there are three master musicians here it obviously seemed like a good idea to have three of something in the trio’s name.
Alex Monaghan

The Knotted Chord

Own Label CDEC002
15 Tracks, 49 Minutes

Clareman and Kilmaley, native, Eamonn Cotter isn’t exactly in a hurry when it comes to issuing solo recordings. The Knotted Chord follows a good 15 years after his debut album. The website address provides a clue where he has been, running his Cotter flute workshops. Add to that family and other musical commitments and you have a busy life. The Knotted Chord kicks off with that familiar breathy flute on the opening bars of The Ronan Boys. He has dipped into composition on The Steinway Queen while Elizabeth Kelly’s offers a sweet collaboration with his piano playing sister Geraldine.

The gabhail of tunes and airs includes a beautifully restrained take on Aisling Gheal and Garry O’Briain adds sensitive guitar backing to The Few Bob. Eamonn’s daughters Grainne and Sadbh also contribute fiddles with Eileen O’Brien on the descriptive piece Nora Criona.

The Knotted Chord offers a master class in choice quality Clare traditional music–enjoy.
John O’Regan

Sailing Back to You
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 44 Minutes
This album is perfection in so many ways. The Solas stalwarts, Horan and McAuley, retain their enigmatic edge and yet reveal a different side to their talents in both their instrumental prowess and delightfully stirring vocals; whilst the adaptive versatility of O’ Caoimh’s dexterous string style illuminates the instrumental of each and every track on Sailing Back to You.
The eloquent opening of the Parisian style Les Amantes Infideles sets the bar in the quality of execution, both technically and emotively, before giving rise to a powerful Thatched Bar Set in which the guitar steers the frenetic pace yet retains the clarity of each and every phrase as the box and fiddle surpass musical expectation. Horan ignites sensitive fiddle strings in The Westphalia Waltz and then lightens the intensity as the trio put spark into Liz Carroll’s delightful WT’s 97th adding layers of emphatic string arrangement that seamlessly fuses into a plethora of sound.
The bow sweeps the strings with compassion and sensitivity in Farewell to Whiskey whilst O Caoimh’s intricate guitar empathises perfectly. McAuley excels in the exquisite version of Charlie Darwin where, with virtuosic harmony by Horan, he captures the essence of the lyrics with an emotional rawness that seeps into the consciousness and stays there. The standout though is the title track. It’s McAuley’s own composition and the combination of meaningful vocal, instrumental arrangement and the quality of tone throughout ensures this a song that will resonate.
That’s the perfection of Sailing Back to You; the utmost care that has been taken with the track choice, the layers of arrangement and the implementation of sound and the beauty of it is that none of the above has diminished the sentiment and tone of both instrumental and vocal.
This is an essential for any music lover’s collection.
Eileen McCabe


The Way of the Dreamer
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 41 Minutes
The absorption of a fusion of culture is bountiful in Frankie Mulcahy’s new release The Way of the Dreamer. The former stalwart of Draiocht last released The Druid and the Dreamer nearly twenty years ago so this album has been a long time coming. The journey between albums has been one of time spent in both Sweden and Ireland and now, with his feet planted firmly back in Kerry soil, Mulcahy has compiled twelve tracks of original tunes and songs that draw the wisdom of experience into the substance of each offering and then releases those flavours into a fusion of eclectic taste.
Mulcahy is no stranger to the tradition having spent time touring with, amongst others, The High Kings, Sean Keane and Riverdance and the accordionist begins and ends with homage to the great High King himself: Brian Boru. The first track transposes Boru’s March To Clontarf into music with a sombrely powerful opening that showcases the quality of the instrument as it’s placed in Mulcahy’s hands. The close of the album echoes to a haunting lament that makes full use of the guest’s instrumentals as they ceremoniously pay tribute to the great King once again. Mulcahy brings his brother Tom into the vocal fold to front the four songs on the album that are, again, original compositions. With soulful lyricism, songs such as Strawberry Moon and Van Diemen’s Land inject authenticity into the phrasing and a particularly poignant touch is the rendering of I’ll Sparkle for You which links to the instrumental waltz further down the track list, Sparkle For You, Mulcahy says the tune reminds him of gliding around an icy lake in the Swedish moonlight. This album is intriguingly different. It veers away from the traditional and transports you into the captivating realms of world fusion. Gripping stuff.
Eileen McCabe


Open The Door For Three
Own Label ADC001, 13 Tracks, 49 Minutes
A full bodied pipe and whistle extravaganza is one way to describe the driving sound of Réalta on their new release Open the Door For Three. The pipes and whistles of Conor Lamb and Aaron O’Hagan along with the strings of Deirdre Galway are served with a fresh, yet timeless quality that is sustained throughout the thirteen tracks of an array of tunes that include marches, jigs and reels.
The title track is the opener and the attractive slip jig is a sampler for the rest of the album as the strings subtly render the melody to pave way for breathy whistles and almost subdued piping that perfectly emulates the emotion of the tune. The fact that the group can squeeze so much variety from these instruments is testament to their playing as shown perfectly in the grouping of the Martin Wynn’s reel set where Brendan Mulholland and Mickey McCluskey add volume on flute and bouzouki. There’s power in them pipes and that’s emphatically portrayed in the final tune on the Jimmy’s Return set where the Phil Murphy composition Trip to Cullenstown is lifted out of the ground and performed superbly. Galway’s distinctive vocal belies youthfulness and vivacity that shines through on Siobhán Ní Duibhir and is brought through into the charming song An Trucailín Donn which is served with a sidebar of enhancing accompaniment. In fact Realta have produced an enticing twist of compelling music in Open the Door for Three.
The group have a clever way of arranging the flow of instrumental so that each one has a turn to shine, and whether it be in a solo capacity or together as a fluid unit; shine they do!
Eileen McCabe

American Hornpipe
Threshold Music TM1012, 14 Tracks, 43 Minutes

We all recited Who Killed Cock Robin in our youth, well part of it at least but who ever imagined it as an opening track on an album? The Robinsons took this tale reputed to refer to the killing of Robin Hood and used it to draw us into a set of songs and tunes to gladden the heart. They transport us to modern life on the beautifully written and sung The Invitation. It wants us to rest up, recharge and just listening to this song gets you halfway there. This is better than a course on meditation if you simply listen but even better if you follow the directions on offer.
After that relaxing interlude you will be just about ready to get up and dance to Roscoe and then you may need to repeat the earlier track although the a capella Fair and Tender Maidens will slow the tempo just enough to catch your breath and soak up the atmospheric rendition.
When This Old Hat Was New is the wonderfully concocted title of a lovely song recounting past life of a cowboy real or imaginary. Dana’s tune called Podunk Rogue about an itinerant fiddler playing ‘for his supper” tells us more in the simple tune than a bucket full of lyrics ever could. Farmer’s Market A-Z is a children’s song but why should they be only ones to enjoy a delightful ditty.
While providing us with excellent new songs and tunes they also resurrect for our delectation and delight the traditional pies like Raleigh and Spencer and Will The Circle Be Unbroken not to mention the title track. Meanwhile they have a lovely reworking of the older The Grey Cock on Fashioned of the Clay.
A magnificent album is rounded off with Sailing Around Cape Solstice that will have you feeling the breeze in your hair even if you are ensconced beside a winter fireside. Such is the power of good music you might even feel a bit seasick.
Nicky Rossiter

The Bootleg
Own Label KY001,
10 Tracks, 41 Minutes
A box–player, a singer and a pianist, not a promising start, you might think, but the Power of Three seems to work its magic on this recording. Kayna are a mighty trio, and their debut CD is one of the best to come my way in a long time. Liam O’Sullivan on button box plays a scintillating variety of tunes, and can also twinkle pleasingly behind the songs. Anthony Davis tinkles too, but his keyboards can vamp and wail when required. Steven Byrnes employs his guitar on the instrumental sets, and at times the lads are joined by a couple of friends. The Kayna sound is classic: when Liam kicks into a fabulously articulated rendition of his own Extravaganza, we could be back in 1995 with the jilted giants of Reeltime – and if that’s not a compliment I don’t know what is. This is great dance music, party music even, more fun than a fire in Foley’s.
The countless millions who avidly read my reviews will know that I’m not much of a one for singers. I’ll make an exception for Steven Byrnes. The way he slides around the melody makes for compulsive listening, the lyrics of his Kilkenny and O’Sullivan’s
A Thorn Between Two Roses are strikingly evocative and just plain odd by turns, and I’ll even forgive the “La da da ra ra” through Let Me In. Robbie O’Connell’s almost–traditional Keg of Brandy fits Steven’s style perfectly, soulful and slightly eliptical. All four songs are expertly arranged and backed by the boys, with plenty of light and shade to ensure an optimal auditory experience: in other words, it’s pretty good stuff. Still, the six instrumental tracks are my favourites. O’Sullivan shines on Shed Up the Fridge (don’t ask), while Davis sparkles on his compositions The Old Fruit Market and A Stumble in the Dark. Several O’Sullivan tunes feature, as well as pieces by McGoldrick, O’Neil and other contemporary composers. There’s a fine mix of fast and slow, great dexterity and flexibility on the accordion, and some inspired playing from Damien O’Kane.
The Bootleg is probably going on my 2012 Top Ten list, and I’ll definitely be looking to catch these guys live.
Alex Monaghan

Almighty Love

Sony Music 88725452329
11 Tracks, 42 Minutes

Damien Dempsey is an uncompromising talent, a passionate singer songwriter committed to highlighting social injustice and on this outing mixing it with the redemptive power of love. To me he always appeared like a collision of Luke Kelly and Bob Marley, and a dash of Billy Bragg left wing politics with a pronounced Irish twist.
John Reynolds’ production is suitably big and dynamic for the title track blending Levellers’ social comment, Mumford and Sons semi–folksiness and a huge chorus. Dempsey’s songs highlight issues such as homophobia and tragedy on Chris and Stevie, while Bustin Outa Here is an escape hatch through empowerment, which has the equal measures of Springsteen, Marley and Sting embelishments.
Born Without Hate adds ambient reggae vibes to a tribal chant and strident rap from Kate Tempest. Lyrically it’s a cauldron of anger, rage, emotion, compassion, empowerment, and concern. Part Christy Moore folksiness and U2 stadia rock delivered with Dempsey’s impassioned confidence.
Almighty indeed.
John O’Regan

Pat Sheridan
18 Tracks, 60 Minutes

Pat Sheridan was out scuba diving in Dingle Bay when he had a close encounter with Fungie, the famed dolphin. And that’s how he got the title track.
Now, folks, there are two kinds of musician. The first is someone who breathes it in with the turf smoke, and often forgets more than another can learn. It’s effortless, and it doesn’t make such a one either better or worse, just luckier.
And then there are the scholars, like Pat, who devote a lifetime to getting and keeping the songs, knowing how precious and fragile they are. At times it can seem a bit intense. But when the results are as good as here, then it can be magic. These are songs of the people, acknowledging no boundaries except that they’re not factory produced, and they speak to the people about their lives and concerns.
Pat has a strong forthright style reminiscent of Luke Kelly, and material from the New England fishing grounds as far back as Gougane Barra, plus a support cast of over two dozen, including Fungie. What more would you want?
John Brophy

Time Has Told Me
VACD 001 2011
13 Tracks, 52 Minutes

What makes a “stand out album” If we knew that we would all be stars. Armstrong has come up with what may very well tick the boxes. Here we get new songs, lesser known songs that fully deserve a bigger audience, well–known tracks given new life, a great voice, inspired arrangements and good production wrapped in an attractive package.
She shows her love of the folk boom by presenting two songs from the pen of Nick Drake Time Has Told Me and Clothes of Sand. Each stands the test of time and are probably unknown to the modern listener.
New songs are represented in writing by Paul McDonnell most especially on Heartbreak Pier which is a top class example of a story in song that holds our attention like a short story.
Traditional roots bring us a fantastic rendition of Quiet Land of Erin as well as Fil, Fil A Run O. These tracks will remind older listeners of the beautiful fund of traditional songs and invite newer ones to mine that seam and find even more treasures.
I always find a track on an album that I play over and over. From Armstrong this is her country sounding How’s The World Treating You where she duets most powerfully with Liam O’Maonlaí. This is perfection in a single track and must be released as a single to get her much deserved airplay.
She also offers some wonderful songs that fall into dates after traditional and Drake but not quite 21st century with Dougie McLean’s He Loves Me and another very close favourite of mine from Andy M Stewart Where Are You Tonight I Wonder. This has been deservedly featured by many artistes bur Armstrong is a strong contender for a favourite. A surprising addition is With God on Our Side. How seldom has this been heard since the 1960’s.
Thank you Valerie for bringing it to a new generation.
Nicky Rossiter

Own Label TTLMJ5,
12 Tracks, 53 Minutes

Two great performers from the Cape Breton Gaelic tradition, singer Mary Jane Lamond and fiddler Wendy MacIsaac, lifelong friends and music collaborators, have at last come together to create a true musical partnership in this new CD, Seinn. I have not had the pleasure of hearing either of them in person although I’ve long been aware of their high standing as musicians. For years Wendy was Mary Jane’s accompanist but over the passage of time she gradually emerged as a performer in her own right and now they more or less share the platform, each enhancing the other’s performance.
The record achieves a nice balance between the musical sensibilities of two artists, showcasing traditional and original compositions. Some of the material was learned from the recordings of older Cape Breton singers and fiddlers, and some songs were chosen from contemporary sources. I am particularly pleased they included, Taladh na Beinne Guirme (The Blue Mountain Lullaby) which is fast gaining a place in the repertoire of many Gaelic singers. The song is the joint effort of Mary Jane’s friend and neighbour, Goiridh mac Alasdair Dhughaill (Jeff MacDonald), and Brian Ó hEadhra, an Irish singer-songwriter now based in Inverness, Scotland.
There is a very satisfying blend of song and tune on Seinn, and it is quite moving to see Mary Jane and Wendy celebrating the Gaelic language and music of their people who came across the ocean to settle in the New World all those years ago. There is a veritable who’s who of talented musicians and singers performing with, and they include, Moya Brennan, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Tríona & Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, Tim Edey, Seph Peters, Mairi Smith, and Ashley MacIsaac – and that’s just for starters!
Mo cheol sibh, Mary Jane agus Wendy as an deaobair ar Seinn!
Aidan O’Hara