Releases > June 2012 Releases

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Flying Circus, 12 Tracks – Celtic Arts, IML, CACD2415

I never met Gaffo but I certainly have a soft spot for the recently departed canine friend of the virtuoso box player Shannon Shannon. As well as being an ardent dog lover myself, I also became captivated by Gaffo whilst listening to the Gaffo’s Ball set on the Renegade Album and now Gaffo’s name has pride of place as the lead track on Shannon’s latest labour of love Flying Circus.
In fact Top Dog Gaffo perfectly encapsulates the culmination of four years of work on this collaboration with the RTE Concert Orchestra. The Orchestra under the expert guiding hand of David Brophy is totally in sync with the catchy vibe of Shannon’s signature style of play and the budding crescendo at the end of the track ignites the path for the up tempo Flying Circus which encompasses some amazing orchestral arrangements. The exquisite introduction to the emotional April Magnolia is delicately played through the guitar strings of Jim Murray and this intertwines vividly with the whimsical yet perfectly defined flow of the Orchestra drawing Shannon’s keys into the gossamer thread of an endearing tune.
The beauty of this release is that it cannot be classified as either a purely traditional or purely classical offering. Windchime Dance is a prime example where the two genres show a respect for the individual style with Shannon’s unique, edgy application bowing down to the orchestral compositions and then powering to the forefront enhanced by the swell of instrumentation behind. The charismatic Top Dog Gaffo soars into to the finale of Off the Hook to bring this engaging album to a close and the reason Gaffo features so prominently is to highlight Shannon’s other passion; rescue dogs. Adopt not Buy is the name of the Campaign and it focuses on the Trojan work AHAR in Kerry does with these vulnerable pets.
The creation of Flying Circus is the culmination of the care, thought and talent of many. Each track was carefully written and scored to produce an immaculate blend of traditional with classical performed by musicians who are undoubtedly experts in their own genre. They should be proud.
Eileen McCabe

Dancer in the Fire, PRPCD101

This CD is subtitled a Paul Brady Anthology and as such it is probably a step above the usual greatest hits compilation. Let’s face it for most fans a Best of album is only a neat package of tracks already in their collection.
There is no such danger here. This collection has some commercial hits but for the most part it is a sort of musical portrait of an iconic performer stretching from the heady ballad boom of The Johnstons to the present. As such it could also be seen as a musical accompaniment to the history of the past few decades and therefore the lives of many listeners.
Ironically he opens with a 1981 hit Hard Station inspired by Dublin in a recession and closes with a theme we all aspire to in Believe in Me. In between you are rewarded with a wide array of themes, genres and evocations.
Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore dates from his first solo album in the late 1970’s, while Smile reflects Brady in the so called Noughties. The former is Irish traditional and the latter written in Los Angeles showing the breadth of appeal of this troubadour.
Every listener will pick favourites from the 22 tracks on offer here. Some will be picked for sentimental reasons, others because of what they remind you of a time, a place or a person – but all the songs on offer could be chosen for the professionalism and talent of the performer.
I particularly enjoyed Steal Your Heart Away and You Win Again but I challenge you to listen and not enjoy every track.
Paul Brady has fans from those ballad days and all through a long career into the Transatlantic Sessions viewers. This anthology will surely increase that fan base as young people discover a talent we have enjoyed for decades. This double CD will appeal to all fans and might be an inspiration to other performers to give their fans that little bit more that a Best of album.
Nicky Rossiter

The Coast Road
Cló Iar
Chonnachta, CICD 188, 15 tracks, 59 minutes
Of Galway and Mayo parents but born and reared in London, Karen Ryan has been a mainstay of Irish music in the province of Great Britain for longer than her youthful looks would suggest. Whether founding The London Lasses a decade ago, running the Camden Town festival, leading the young Trad Gathering ensemble, or just teaching and playing in sessions across North London, Karen’s unruly hair and restless feet have featured in most aspects of the musical life of London’s Irish community. Although best–known as a fiddler, Karen also plays banjo and whistle on this debut solo recording – no sign of the mandola she’s been toting at recent gigs. Several members of the London Irish scene drop in for a tune on The Coast Road, but most tracks are just Karen and her ivory–tickling husband Pete Quinn.
Every set comes with a story: the sparkling Limerick Lasses learnt from Leitrim man Tommy Maguire in the eighties, or the sprightly version of Saddle the Pony from her grandma’s melodeon days. Karen’s repertoire includes all the old favourites, and she isn’t afraid to play them. The Sally Gardens, Shandon Bells, Miss MacLeod’s, The Battering Ram, Trans–Roscommon Airways and The Musical Priest, great tunes all, are trotted out in fine form here. There are rarer delights too, Kitty of Oulart and Walsh’s Hornpipe among them. Brendan McGlinchey’s distinctive dark style is beautifully demonstrated on his reels Mrs Lawrie’s and Karen Ryan’s, while Karen’s own composing gift gives us three flowing slip–jigs. The final few tracks ring the changes with a sean nos song from Nancy McEvaddy, a fiddle trio waltz, and a set of céilí jigs featuring pipes and accordion, before the final big set of reels on fiddle and piano.
The Coast Road combines the best of old and new music, the antique gold of An Roghaire Dubh and Sliabh Geal gCua alongside a bit of bling and skank on Dan Herlihy’s Polka. This mix and match approach also applies to the glossy sleeve notes, which add photos and fancy graphics to the trusty old way of listing the names and composers. It seems Karen can put her own sheen on more than just the music. Livelier than a Camden pub on Paddy’s Night, and more full of Irish spirit than the off–licence across the street, this is a cracking new album.
Alex Monaghan

Together, Ceol Productions CPCD002
12 tracks, 34 minutes
There’s no denying the power and passion in this music, even if the execution is a little ragged at times. Unbridled exuberance and, quite frankly, a hint of chaos are essential ingredients of Séamus Begley’s music. Both are evident from the opening Scartaglen Slide to the final Ballinahulla Polka. This famous Kerry box–player teams up with the rather younger but equally well–known Sligo fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada of Téada for a combination of music and song which provides a full half hour of traditional Irish entertainment – rather brief, but more than enough to whet the appetite for both players’ numerous other recordings.
Séamus first gained wide–acclaim through his collaboration with Steve Cooney, and his reputation as a singer and musician has grown steadily ever since. He draws heavily on fellow box–players here: Johnny Leary, Ann Conroy–Burke, and in particular Finbar Dwyer who is the source of several tunes on this recording.
Three of the four songs on Together also feature the sweet pure voice of young Meabh Begley, singing with Séamus in Irish. An tSeanbhean Bhocht, Bánchnoic Eireann O and Eibhlin a Rún range from the rebellious to the romantic. The fourth song is The Banks of the Bann, sung in English. Séamus hallmark accordion accompaniment strengthens three of the vocal tracks, and on the last he’s joined by Oisín’s fiddle and voice.
The fiddle and box duet on seven of the eight instrumental tracks, giving Oisín ample opportunity to add Sligo–style reels to the Kerry slides and polkas. The Dogs Among the Bushes, King of the Clans and Bean a’Tigh are joined by compositions from Lad O’Beirne and Ed Reavy. Oisín plays a solo set based on the fiddling of Coleman and McGann, a pedigree that’s hard to beat. Finbar Dwyer’s influence is evident again in the choice of jigs and hornpipes: I particularly liked The Eavesdropper and West the Hill. The familiar notes of Connie Fleming’s Polka usher in the final track of this action–packed album.
Well worth a listen.
Alex Monaghan

, 8 Tracks, Own Label, KANCD01

Just when you start to think this album meanders into the musicality of mellow; up jumps Finnegan’s whistle and drives into a sprightly fiendish battle with the strings of O’Rourke’s fiddle. The guitar strings of Stephenson join the skirmish and the percussion grooves of Goodwin add to the fray, Oh what a quality battle. Each member of Kan displays a unique distinction in their own right drawing out the subtle nuances of each instrument with a stylish ease. There are only eight tracks on Kan’s debut Sleeper but with two of those tracks over seven minutes long and producing a mini–performance within each there is no room to be disappointed. As they say themselves, the bands intention is to create what they call “a homogenous quartet of lead instruments” and they are well on their way. The fusion of instrumentation works beautifully as they mould themselves into one almighty sound yet at various stages of each track the individuality of talent is featured with an understated enhancement from the rest of the members.
A highlight is the beautiful string intro to Eva that slowly builds to an emotive Finnegan opening which again is so attune to O’Rourke’s fiddle rendering that you have to play it again to be able to fully appreciate the intricacies of each instrument. The opening fiddle on oriolis is delicately intriguing and yet the complex arrangement is driven with an underlying strength that the percussion instinctively motivates. This mixture of delicate notation intertwined with a driving melodic power is evident again on Marcos and the focal point on this is the dramatic finale that includes a flourishing whistle finish.
This debut lifts the standard for all emerging instrumentalists. If Kan is the next generation of engaging variation in musicality …I’m looking forward to the future already.
Eileen McCabe

The Emigrant’s Lament
Mogno 1013, 12 Tracks 42.08 mins
The duo of Kieran Fahy and Jacques Pirotton offers an interesting musical collaboration. Now based in Belgium, Kieran Fahy is from Tuam in Galway, one of a famous musical family, since his arrival in the heart of Europe he has been a mainstay of Shantalla and its predecessor Seantalamh and other miscellaneous projects. Jacques Pirotton a Belgian jazz guitarist has also crossed musical cultures in his time and their duo effort promises intriguing mix.
However with this aggregation of Celtic and Jazz players, fireworks or genre bending fusion efforts are strictly off course and thoughts of Django Reinhart and Stefan Grapelli are non–existent. (And of course Reinhart was a Belgian). This is an understated and understanding duet – the violin and guitar crouched in a glove like grip. The album title gives it away regarding the approach taken being pastoral and ponderous suitably befitting the lament in question. While the music is restrained in presentation it possesses a melodic grandeur, which enables it to be more savoured than rattling a hot session stovepipe.
Calum’s Road outlines the approach a slow graceful beginning giving way to a measured reel while Callaghan’s and Paudy Scully’s both raise a head of steam without hitting excessive overdrive. Airs like Eleanor Plunkett and showcase the duo at their best with Fahy’s graceful fiddle layered by Pirotton’s chamber sounding guitar. It does have the odd blemish when an off kilter lilted Ace and Deuce of Pipering never reaches its desired excitement but that’s the sole blot on the sonic landscape.
Otherwise The Emigrant’s Lament is a gently honed laid back exercise, which befits the isolation and distance within the title.
John O’Regan

CDTRAX 001 2012

The date of release and the catalogue number may seem unusual until it is revealed that this is a re–issue of the very first album release of that great label for Scottish music – Greentrax – and it was first aired back in 1986. Bearing that in mind it still has a fresh modern feel that is a tribute to the performer and the music choices. Hardie is a magnificent fiddler while being proficient on a number of other instruments and he gives full vent to that talent over the ten tracks on offer here. Adding to the challenge, he chose relatively little known tunes. This makes it all the more essential that the playing and the tunes are first class if they are to attract the attention of the novice listener rather than the players constantly on the look out for tunes to include in their sets.
I am delighted to note that this CD wins both parties I did not recognise a single air or tune but I was mesmerised by them all. If I had to pick one outstanding track it would have to be Old Bean Waltz in its set with Hospital Wood and Auchope Cairn. The insert is small but informative on the origins of the tunes with notes about tunes inspired by salmon pools; a view from Scotland to England and an old pub.
The icing on this musical cake is a bonus track from Isla St Clair with Ian called Glen Isla written by the singers mother coupled with a tune composed for the wedding of “Mr Greentrax” Ian Green to Ruby called rather mundanely Green Ruby Walt.
This an album worth owning and it truly lives up to that witty title.
Nicky Rossiter


11 Tracks – Own Label

Recorded live at the Cathedral Church of St Paul in Boston; the tunes that many would expect to hear in the environment of a traditional pub session are transformed with a classical touch to the realms of the violin and piano in the able hands of Samantha Gillogly and Tim Maurice.
With a musical background stretching back from six years of age; Gillogly has been involved as a violinist/violist with the Boston Civic Symphony, You Tube Symphony Orchestra and the Tim Janis Ensemble amongst others. Maurice, again introduced to the piano at the early age of six, is a previous recipient of the BMI Film Scoring Scholarship and has Independent film scores and webisodes to his credit. The partnership showcase adapted tunes from the Celtic genre and incorporate them into their own area of musical expertise. Amidst a myriad of tunes and airs that will be familiar to all they excel with a hauntingly dark piano as a background to the prominent strings on Morrison’s Jig and a distinctively clever instrumental arrangement on the Kings of the Faeries set.
Gillogly contributes with her own original composition Mr Lowe’s Waltz where the violin dances broodingly around the keys and is then joined by Roselie Samter on viola and Zoya Shereshkova on cello for a pensively emotive version of Red Red Rose.
What really stands out in this debut from the duo is the quality of the live recording. The clarity and tone expressed in each musical delight is enunciated with distinction and the seamless intertwining of the strings and keys serves to blend and then allow each to take the lead where required. The mixture of subtle to profound and the crossover in tempo makes this a must buy for lovers of both classical and Celtic traditional.
Eileen McCabe

Dancing of the Light, ARTES Productions
14 tracks 61minutes
Litha is the current new moniker adopted by the two dues quartet. Combining the Irish/Celtic/ German coupling of Aaron Jones, Claire Mann, Jurgen Treyz and Gudrun Walther, the pairings involved gel harmoniously. Their second album Dancing of the Light comes complete with new name and adopts a swing away from the familiar Celtic repertoire to dive into native Germanic folkloric and more contemporary material song wise. Germanic material whether settings of poems or the sole traditional song provides highlights. Native Germanic texts Mondlicht and Herr Oluf and the traditional Nun Wil Der Linz sees Litha giving new canvas to native words while treatment wise melding with the contemporary Celtic and medieval dives into territory occupied by fellow Teutonic revivalists like Ogunweide, Fidel Michel and Lilienthal. Rarer songs by Suzanne Vega, Karine Polwart and Tim O’Leary prove a welcome and necessary sidestep for a Pan Celtic band offering a varied and unfamiliar song repertoire. Elsewhere the tune sets rattle when needed and maintain a strict poise on slower moments.
This controlled mayhem works well and coupled with the imaginative song choice makes for a collection enjoyable and intriguing.
John O’Regan

FULL CIRCLE, 11 tracks
Portlaoise bodhrán ace and Goitse percussionist, Colm Phelan outlined the idea behind the Full Circle as a bodhrán album where the percussive might of the top end style is counteracted with lead instruments laced on top in a one to one setting. The genesis came from his public recital for his BA in Irish Music and Dance at The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and University of Limerick. The purity of essence and technical advancement of Phelan’s top end playing and idealistic approach emerges on extended listening.
The opening Colonel Frazer with Stephen Doherty’s flute kicks and rustles like a vintage wine, while the Port A Beul tracks with Sarah Jane Murphy’s vocal gymnastics provides for unified yet attractive jousting.
Seamie O‘Dowd’s guitar on Last Night’s Fun adds extra tautness to a flute/bodhrán duet, while his Goitse mates, Aine McGeeney, James Harvey and pianist, Tadhg O Meachair add compulsive accompaniment. McGeeney’s fiddle work on The Dawn Chorus and Chuckling in the Bunk and Harvey’s banjo playing on Last Time alludes to individual stylists. Treighte a piano/bodhrán conversation between Tadhg O’Meachair and Phelan cruises into O’Suilleabhain/ Mercier waters, while Flanagan Meets O’Hanlon mixes jazz phrasing with an ethnic starting point.
A pleasure cruise through individual approaches and stylistic nuances, Full Circle provides musical thrills and spills for the curious and committed.
John O’Regan

Caitlin Warbelow

There’s a session every night in Manhattan, with terrific players. Alaska fiddler, Caitlin Warbelow’s Manhattan Island Sessions really captures this. You can hear players joking around, shouting “D” or “G”. Players are listed, but not who’s on which track. You can hear glasses being set down. You can hear the hush when Liz Hanley sings After Aughrim’s Great Disaster. It was recorded live at three Irish trad sessions: the Wednesday night session at Trinity Pub (299 E. 84th St), the Sunday night session at O’Neill’s Pub (729 3rd Ave.), and the Monday night session at Wilfie & Nell’s (228 W. 4th St.).
Asked who is playing on which, Caitlin replies that they didn’t always know. Some purists may find this messy, but for me, that’s a charm of the album. Its rawness has an edge of danger to it–anything might happen. It’s one of the most exciting albums around. It’s exuberantly musical, young and exciting.
In the liner notes, Caitlin writes that “All tunes and songs were selected and arranged mere moments before they were captured on electronic medium for your listening pleasure – form best results, listen with a glass in hand, around two in the morning.” When the first track, Goodbye to Ireland, ends, someone says “aw, we were just getting going.” After the wild final medley, someone says “cool.” The CD is nominated in “Live Performance” at the 2012 Independent Music Awards.
There is virtuoso playing on many of the tracks, including Warbelow (who also teaches fiddle at the Irish Arts Center, and plays with Michael Londra and others), flute from Dan Lowery and Isaac Alderson, Sean Farrell and Tom Dunne on box, Kyle Sanna, Johnny Cuomo, Alan Murray and Ryan McGiver on guitar. Vocalists include Hanley, Cuomo, Allison Barber, Tom Bailey (who also plays mandolin). Marta Cook plays harp, Anna Colliton, bodhrán.
The songs are lovely, but, as in sessions, sometimes feel long. But the mixture of American intonations with the trad is outstanding, especially on Gilian Welch’s The Devil Had a Hold of Me. There’s some nice Western American style in the fiddling and banjo too accompanying Kate Rusby’s Who Will Sing Me a Lullaby. But it’s the instrumentals that are really outstanding. Willie’s Shaskeen Reels is a toe–tapper, and just try sitting still during My Mind Will Never Be Easy/The Dusty Miller. The final set begins with a tune from Brendan McGlinchey called Splendid Isolation, and that has got to be Caitlin playing it. She connects the tune to New York, “where such a sentiment occurs both never and always.” But the “whoo” whistles, the energy of the guitar strums and the flute ornaments feel anything but isolated. You’d be buying another round.
And playing the CD again.
Gwen Orel


No More Wings, Rachel Hair Records
11 Tracks, 45 minutes
Does the title of the album refer to breaking a Red Bull habit? Maybe, maybe not, the truth is the trio’s music is delivered with plenty of pep.
Rachel’s trio includes herself on harp, Jenn Butterworth on guitar and vocals and Euan Burton on double bass. They keep it simple, lively and fun, add in guest musicians on a few tracks on tenor saxophone, percussion and accordion and the sound is filled out very nicely indeed.
The second track is called Swedish, it’s a catchy tune, from the recently re–published Godtlandstoner collection, and lest we forget a large part of what is now Scotland was for a few hundred years effectively Scandinavian. The musical connections are easily made.
The big hey what’s this? moment comes when Jenn Butterworth sings Cyril Tawney’s Grey Funnel Line. You may recall the version by Mary Black. Personally my abiding memory of it is below deck on a barge in the River Humber where Tawney entertained a small crowd with it in 1998. Here, Rachel Hair has taken the song and given it a good shake. Yes the words are melancholic but Jenn Butterworth injects them with a youthful begrudgery. It is bloody mindedness re-phrased in melody, it’ll get the purists talking for ages. The tunes sparkle, the arrangement are crisp and clean and the selections have been carefully thought out, for example. Rachel’s own Home and Happy follows a gorgeous solo slow air from the Captain Simon Fraser Collection.
The Breton selection Fest Nos No 17 is emphatic and hypnotic in turns, the harp running a melody over percussive guitar chops until the accordion swings in to add some fluidity like melted butter on a morning croissant.
I’ll let you into a secret. The title is about the harp itself, all explained on track one. Often stereotyped as an angelic instrument, Rachel adds some devilment to the detail and her robust playing will make you reconsider its roll as backing to the choir invisible. The tune has phrases that remind me of the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood and yes there is a chorus of voices humming in the background, but angelic it isn’t.
Seán Laffey