Releases > July 2013 Releases

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The Thrush in the Storm
Whirling Discs WHRL015
12 Tracks, 53 Minutes
There’s no substitute for class, and after almost twenty–five years together this Sligo supergroup is virtually in a class of its own. Dervish’s music impresses immediately, with every member shining.
The Man in the Bog sparkles on Liam Kelly’s flute, and the following Scots jig shows off Tom Morrow’s London Irish fiddling before Kelly is back on the case with the first of two Vincent Broderick tunes. Young Shane Mitchell’s box cuts through on The Green Gowned Lass, as do Brian McDonagh and Michael Holmes, Dervish’s formidable rhythm section.
Cathy Jordan bewitches as ever, singing six songs, from the ancient Irish Baba Chonraoi to the much more contemporary Shanagolden. The perennial link between pretty girls and men in uniform is maintained in The Lover’s Token and Handsome Polly–O, both ballads well–known in English and Irish repertoires, while the Caledonian connection surfaces again on The Banks of the Clyde. To my mind, Ms Jordan is at her brilliant best with the earthy wit of Snoring Biddy, unmistakably Irish, and from the same stable (or byre) as Red Haired Mary or Na Ceannabháin Bhána. Soft and stomping by turns, the instrumentals space Cathy’s songs: barndances and slow jigs, a couple of Gan Ainm reels in traditional style, a quick thrash through The Rookery, and a spirited Thrush in the Storm to finish.
There’s a fine balance throughout between flute, fiddle and button box, with some tasty little interludes on mandolin and bouzouki. A dozen varied tracks from a band in fine form, this CD will join the long list of Dervish classics.
Alex Monaghan

Seoda Ceoil 1 & 2

Gael Linn CEFCD203
34 Tracks, 41 Minutes and 43 Minutes
Gael Linn continues their re–issue programme with a re–packaging of two pivotal albums from the catalogue, dating from 1968 and 1969. Back in the shadows of time Seoda Ceoil 1&2 highlighted individual performances from some then leading exponents of traditional music. The albums were compiled in association with Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann and recorded in 1969 by Peter Hunt Studios with no accompaniment–each musician or singer designated a number of tracks to ply their wares. The results had a raw intimacy – the naked emotional power of traditional music and song coming through. Names such as Willie Clancy, Seamus Ennis, Seosamh Ó hEanaí, and John Kelly are now consigned to folk memory so the opportunity to hear them caught sometimes in the prime of life others on the tail end makes the recordings more poignant.
Seoda Ceol 1 had a strong West Coast vibe with piper Willie Clancy and Fiddle/concertina maestro John Kelly and singer Sean O’Conaire visiting a Clare/Galway repertoire. Willie Clancy’s pipes drift into focus on Old Hag You Have Killedm Me and The Bold Trainor O emphasising his greatness while his whistle playing on Jim Ward’s and The Jolly Ranger also commands attentions John Kelly’s fiddle nets a generous six tracks including The Humours of Carrigaholt and Caher Rua both local tunes while his concertina sets include the self–named John Kelly’s Jig. Sean O’Conaire’s Connemara Sean nos singing is sadly limited to two songs An Cumann Gear and Ceann gan Arann both locally based.
Seoda Ceoil 2 had a Dublin bias with natives Seamus Ennis, Sean Keane and John Joe Gannon supplying pipes, fiddle and accordion while Carna legend Seosamh Ó hEanaí supplies the vocal input given four songs. His style is strong and powerful on Amhran an Paise, Ennis’ piping is as regal as ever and Keane’s fiddling is gently fluid and graceful while John Joe Gannon’s accordion bubbles vigorously.
Generously packaged with a booklet and original LP artwork Seoda Ceoil contains some outstanding performances untarnished by time and fashion.
John O’Regan

Shamrock City
THL Records THL001, 16 Tracks, 56 Minutes
From the haunting A Stór mo Chroí crackling vinyl refrain from the Keane Sisters, a story enfolds that both captivates through spirit and hardship. This story of Shamrock City, notably Butte, Montana and the journey of Seamus Egan’s great–great uncle, Michael Conway, from the lakes of County Mayo to his untimely demise at ‘the richest hill on earth’, needs no picture. The imagery is borne from the words and music of the Solas talent who have produced a fascinating documentary of immigrant fortitude.
It’s evident that Shamrock City is an emotively personal project for each and every member of the band. The instrumentals swing from jazzy Americana joy in High Wide and Handsome to Horan’s melancholy plaintiveness in Welcome the Unknown where the fiddle strings are woven through a compelling instrumental arrangement in which whistle and string echo with ease around the evocative air.
Lyrically, Shamrock City is a masterpiece in capturing the essence of the immigrants’ tale. From the loneliness of leaving in Far Americay to the hardy spirit of Tell God and the Devil, the journey is descriptive and hard hitting. The choice of guest vocal, namely Rhiannon Giddens, Aoife O’Donovan and Dick Gaughan, is spot on for the combination of lyrics, instrumental and tone. I defy anyone to not be moved by Varian–Barry’s hypnotic version of Am I Born to Die which features an enthralling instrumental backdrop and, well, the standout song is the finale of the album: Michael Conway will certainly be No Forgotten Man as McAuley and Varian–Barry’s beautiful blend of vocal ensures that the fighting spirit of the man, who followed his dream, lives on.
The spirit and determined hardship of heritage seeps into your soul and lingers with Shamrock City, leaving a resounding appreciation of the creativity, both musically and lyrically, of Solas to deliver a definite contender for album of the year. A stunning depiction of what could be any of our ancestors journey to a new life.
Eileen McCabe

Síocháin na Tuaithe – Peace in the Countryside
ESTWCD02, 16 Tracks, 57 Minutes
The instrument may be dubbed a penny whistle but albums featuring it are certainly not ten a penny. So there is always with a sense of expectation when a new album on what is the humblest but often the ablest of Irish traditional instruments appears. So will Mr Seery step up to the pale and show us what he can do?
Well what he can do is play his whistle very well indeed, we knew that already from his debut album The Winding Clock, so is this new work more of the same? Yes and even more, his playing has matured over then past two years, no doubt due to his association with the giants of the genre Mary Bergin and also Kevin Crawford. His time at the University of Limerick has given him a finer edge without destroying his essential joie de vivre. He hasn’t mined his new found skills in a race to the finish, the finer points of playing are just that with Enda, finesse without stress.
The prevailing feel of the album is a series of sets of tunes paced so we can hear everything that is going on. Consequently this is an album that will be listened to by whistle players who are looking for inspiration. They’ll find a wealth of new material here as Enda, a confident tunesmith, provides nine new pieces within the thirty tunes on the CD.
Backed by on guitar, by John Byrne and Tom Delaney, their playing is understated, simple, never running a way with itself, it lets the whistle shine, particularly so on Enda’s own Night Owl. Another bird is The Nightingale braced with a preceding The Castle, on this track Enda plays a duet with a gorgeously earthy fiddle from Jane Hughes. Add in a song or two, including A Working Man I Am from the late Rita MacNeil of Cape Breton on which Enda over dubs keyboards and flute and this album begins to grow on you with each playing
The sleeve notes are essential reading. Full marks to Enda for noting which key of whistle he is playing on each selection, a real bonus for anyone playing along with him and learning his new tunes and the classic old ones like The Hag with The Money and Tatter Jack Walsh. His new compositions have a patina of ancient authenticity about them also. Sneak then into a session and you’d have great fun when the other lads start guessing how old they are.
In short a lovely second album from a stylish player who thinks deeply about the music. It has variety and intensity, with songs and sensitive backing, it is worth every penny of the price.
Seán Laffey

Cry of the Mountain – Music for Film and Radio

Gael Linn CEFCD 079
7 Tracks, 42 Minutes
If you take a look at Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin’s website the title tabs perfectly sum up the attributes of the man himself; namely composer, performer, educator, writer, speaker, broadcaster and recording artist. The founding Director of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, he has documented a musical path that has explored the realms of Irish, world and jazz through countless recordings.
This particular release, Cry of the Mountain, is a showcase of music recorded between 1974 and 1978 for film and radio. The extended structure of musical composition is segmented on the tracks by the media programme it was broadcast on. The RTÉ Radio documentary The Green Linnet features the pipes of Paddy Keenan, the flute of Matt Molloy, whistles from Mary Bergin and Michael Crehan, the fiddle of Paddy Glackin, percussion from Mel and Paul Mercier and Mícheál himself on the harpsichord. The line–up speaks for itself and the variation and earthy exploration into the rhythm and structure incorporates a timeless vigour that belies its age. The sixteen–minute collaboration of instrumental on Seán Ó Duibhir an Ghleanna is outstanding in its intelligent formation and creativity of arrangement. The differentiation in the use of instruments to create overlay without detracting from the core melody creates a compelling piece of work. The arrangement on Cry of The Mountain extends the musical exploration as it attributes world flavours to a rhythmic tornado of sound that is accentuated by the distinctive voice of Nóirín Ní Riain.
Cry of the Mountain deserves to be heard again over thirty years after it was composed and recorded. It is a lesson in the exploration of the genre and as relevant now as it was then.
Eileen McCabe

Wandering Aengus
Sayaka Ikuama & AGATA
Tambourine Music TAMCD003
10 Tracks, 46 Minutes

Wandering Aengus, the third CD from Japanese duo CEIS, is a collection of folk ballads performed with a stripped down arrangement of harp and vocals. Most of the songs are Irish, but there is room also for some English and Scottish tunes Ae Fond Kiss and The Water Is Wide, and a bonus track which is a cover of The Story of Two Daughters by the Japanese singer songwriter Kokia.
All the songs are performed in Japanese. Inevitably some verbal juggling is required to translate the songs. The words the Foggy Dew
for example, rather than rounding off the chorus of the eponymous song, sit in the middle of the line as it scans better. Japanese sentences, from a Western perspective, run back to front, so occasionally lines switch places to fit this structure.
Occasionally the translation renders the Japanese version somewhat more sweet and romantic than the original. The chorus of Wild Mountain Thyme for example translates as.
I will go to the mountains with you
I want to pluck (the heather)
Holding your hand my precious one
The sweetness and simplicity of the translation, and the gentle acoustic performance, puts this in the category of music many Japanese describe as ‘healing’. The appeal of this album is likely to stretch beyond the many lovers of Irish folk to a much wider audience, anyone who has been bruised or dispirited by the hectic pace of life in modern Japan.
Eugene Ryan

My Dearest Dear

10 Tracks, 40 Minutes

It’s all about the authenticity of the song and the emotional context of delivery with the latest from the West Kerry duo who have established themselves as the tour de force of the Kerry creative. Éilís Kennedy and Pauline Scanlon found a magical formula with their exquisite blend of vocal and have taken the best of that formula and poured it into ten tracks of seamless quality in My Dearest Dear.
There is strength of certainty in the ladies delivery of each stunning song that gives rise to the fact that they know what works best in using their voices to enhance the core of each narrative and The Wind that Shakes the Barley portrays this perfectly. The songs within the album have been shaped and treated with the Lumiere touch; that of a respect and understanding of what the song is about whether it be the historical significance of Ye Jacobites or the more contemporary Vega classic The Queen and the Soldier. The collaboration with Sinead O’Connor on Who Knows Where the Time Goes is a touch of genius as the three dimensional effect produces an ethereal, breathy sound that strikingly resonates.
My Dearest Dear is an expression of creativity within song that confirms Lumiere has taken their talent to the next level. A captivating listen.
Eileen McCabe

The Beat of the Breath
Cló Iar–Chonnacht CICD 192,
14 Tracks, 48 Minutes
This whistle wizard is on his third album, and has switched from his trusty Generation instruments to the popular John Sindt whistles from the USA. This does seem to introduce a few tuning issues – particularly noticeable on the slow air Taimse im’ Chodladh and the reel Maids of Mount Cisco. The different mouthpieces also take more puff, so there are a few unexpected pauses for breath. The Boys of Ballisodare and Top it Off are taken at a nice pace, but Brian’s breath is beaten by the long phrases. Ah Surely gains some convenient rests, as does Jackson’s Morning Breeze. I’d say Mr Hughes is still getting used to these new toys, and his previous control of fingers and flow will return quickly enough.
There are plenty of delightful touches – playful ornamentation on the hornpipe Plane of the Plank, a rousing set of polkas, a splendid version of Welcome Home Grainne, and more. Brian pushes the speed limit at times, perhaps because of the extra air required by the Sindt whistles. The Maple Leaf set begins at a furious pace, and gets furiouser. This is almost a return to the days of Coleman and Touhey, when you had to play fast because the cylinder would run out! Sliabh Russell and Dan Breen’s are well played, but I prefer them at a slower tempo where you can make more of their dark cadences. Curiously, Brian misses the distinctive third part of Troy’s Wedding, a great Scottish piping jig – but he more than makes up for this on the stunning air Slán Le Maigh which I think is played on a low A whistle.
If you like this recording, try Brian’s two excellent previous CDs.
Alex Monaghan

Griais – A collection songs in Gaelic & English
Own Label GRESS001, 10 Tracks, 44 Minutes

Through her delightful singing voice and in the expressive qualities of her delivery, Gillie Mackenzie succeeds in bringing alive in a special way the traditional songs of her native isle of Lewis. And she brings the same talents and gifts when singing her own songs and those from the English language song tradition.
“I sing songs, teach songs and write songs (a broth mix of Gaelic, English and a wee pinch of Scots) all inspired by life on Lewis and life in the Lothians.” She now lives in Edinburgh.
And the title of the album? “Griais is the Gaelic name for the village, Gress, where I grew up – very happy days surrounded by lots of music all the time – it seemed like the perfect name for my album as it’s at the root of all the music I make.” Griais is produced by Ewan MacPherson who also plays guitar and several other instruments on the CD. He and his fellow musicians considerably enhance the appeal of the album and show great understanding for the material performed by Gillie. They are, Alasdair White (fiddle & whistle), Mhairi Hall (piano), James Mackintosh (percussion), Ailig Hunter (bass) and Amy Geddes (viola).
The Gaelic song melodies are unsurpassed for beauty and rhythm, and even the titles of the songs themselves have a ‘come hither’ attraction to them: Grinn Donn Sgiobalta means Elegant, agile, brown–haired one. And when she sings it, the grace and agility of Gillies voice and the musical arrangement are delightfully wedded to words and the melody. The words convey a Dancing at Lúnasa sense of fun and enjoyment, even in their English language translation:
Elegant, agile, brown–haired one, my neat one on the dance floor,
There was no dancer there as neat as the old woman. …
Over the English road and home on the Irish road,
Over to the islands, to the Americas we will go.
Gillie and her musical sisters, Sheila, Eilidh and Fiona, acknowledge the grounding they got in music from their father, Roddy, and the last track on the CD, which is mostly in the English language, Gillie wrote for her father and his mother, Kitty Alice, whose name gives the song its title. It’s a song of great poignancy, because Roddy was only ten months old when his mother died. It’s a thoughtful and moving presentation, and a peaceful and satisfying end to an album full of variety and surprises.
Aidan O’Hara

Angels Without Wings
Compass Record 7 4598 2 2013
11 Tracks, 43 Minutes
I hope this excellent singer will forgive me for comparing her to Eddi Reader especially on the title track. I could have sworn it was her and on looking at the writing credits I realise why with Boo Howerdine and John McCusker listed.
Talbot dispelled any confusion with the second offering called Wine and Roses where her voice and rendition are very much her own. This is a very strong track that certainly should be heard a lot more.
Dearest Johnny is a song from a well sung traditional genre but Heidi gives it her own stamp both in arrangement and performance. She combines love and stormy weather on the beautifully rendered Button Up before moving on to a lovely calm song called The Loneliest where she truly excels and lets the listener know that she should never be confused with another performer.
Through the full album she presents the listener with an experience that few singers can manage in that every track while different from the one before is of the same excellence in writing, arrangement and performance.
I used to pick favourite tracks in reviews but Angels Without Wings confounds me. I hear a track and think that’s it only to be second guessing when the next song envelopes me. The songs may be about the minutiae of life but the overall effect is almost epic and the album deserves and will win your wrapt attention.
Nicky Rossiter

Ceolbeg Collected
Greentrax CDTRAX374 2013
16 Tracks, 78 Minutes

Dating from the 1970’s this band has gone through a number of line–ups but it has consistently produced music of the highest calibre. It is great to see Greentrax releasing a collection from various albums that will delight the die hard fans and will no doubt bring many new ears to the delights of their music and song.
Davy Steele is probably one of the better known members of the band over the years and his lyrics and vocals are used to great effect on track two Farewell to the Haven a beautiful strong song about the demise of an industry. You will seldom hear better song more stridently sung.
His Here’s to the Sauters, a lovely story song, is attractively coupled with Cajun Two Step later on the album. Ireland’s O’Carolon provides the tune Lord Galloway’s Lament while they return to Scottish roots for Robbie Burns’ Willie Wattle albeit with a sound redolent of the West Indies rather than Dumfries.
Ceolbeg present a rather more restrained than usual version of Johnnie Cope that makes it sound like a completely new song. Interspersed with the songs are a number of tunes that range from haunting through to heart pumping. Gordon Duncan’s beautiful The Sleeping Tune is included and the insert notes that the tune was played poignantly at the composers funeral.
This is a great introduction to a highly regarded group who show how great music can be produced without fanfare so long as the performers have a feel for the sound and the sentiments.
Nicky Rossiter

Socks in the Frying Pan

Own Label
12 Tracks, 48 Minutes

Socks in the Frying Pan is one quirky name for a traditional music band. I’m sure there’s a story behind it and you can add it. Based in Ennis, the trio that makes up Socks in the Frying Pan accordion and fiddle duo of Shane and Fiachra Hayes (brothers) and singer/guitarist Aodhan Coyne know their triplets from their trills and it shows.
They remind me particularly of another Ennis based ensemble early Stockton’s Wing not in line–up but in attitude and musical daring do. The box, fiddle and guitar interweave and spin their way through instrument sets like The Finale and Shane’s Newest the latter displaying Shane Hayes’ compositional bent in good form and Aoife Johnston’s has Fiachra hammering a tenor banjo with appropriate spit. The playing and spirit of play as well as the offbeat tune selections that make the meal here and the result is clever and classy betimes.
Ensemble vocals on Foreign Lander and Shady Grove also impress while Aodhan Coyne’s high lonesome falsetto vocals find their space in Bonnie Light Horseman and Slip Jigs and Reels. Together there is plenty to mull over with enough quoting Richard Thompson Fire In The Engine Room to render Socks in the Frying Pan a successful and highly promising debut.
John O’Regan