Releases > June 2013 Releases

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.

Lúnasa Records LCD002

9 Tracks, 51 Minutes

Lúnasa have always been known for their innovativeness as a group and they have taken this skill to the next level with their latest collaboration with the national, classic treasure; the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. The Orchestra, under the guidance of their maestro David Brophy, have taken Niall Vallely’s intricate arrangements and added an empathetic element to the traditional instrumental prowess of the Lúnasa stalwarts.
Take the Lecken Mór set which combines a beautiful choreography of wind instrumentals uplifted by the orchestral strings thereby creating a musical whirlwind of sound. This subsides into a backdrop for Smyth’s perfect fiddling, building to a resounding orchestration on Vallely’s title piece. Contrast this with the sombre introduction to the haunting pipes on An Buachaillín Bá, which is followed by a delicately picato string arrangement perfectly designed to welcome Crawford’s hypnotic flute in Scully Casey’s that drives into a fantastic version of The Dusty Miller.
The lift in the Lúnasa instrumentation as they glide gracefully into The Red Bee is fully enhanced by their orchestral counterparts as they reveal a fabulously dramatic ending to a magnificent tune. The drama continues into the final set where each and every instrument is undoubtedly used to full potential, culminating in a fabulous end to a fabulous album. An added bonus is that it’s an enhanced CD so you get a peek of Lúnasa performing Morning Nightcap at the National Concert Hall, Dublin too.
Vallely produces sophisticated arrangements with an effortless flair and, his ability to understand the interaction of the instrumental genres, ignites a spark between Lú˙nasa and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra that is fully embodied in this album.
A stunning collaboration of musical work.
Eileen McCabe

A Toss Of The Coin

Eric Bogle with John Munroe
Greentrax Records, CDTRAX375 2013, 12 Tracks, 52 Minutes

Eric Bogle is back on CD despite his decision to restrict touring to the Antipodes. Once again proving himself to be the embodiment of the old style troubadour of a new era. His songs combine the latest news with the poignant reality of life and cannot fail to stir the emotions.
He opens this album, which is unusual in comparison to a lot of his recent work in that he sings songs penned by other writers, such as a moving story song relating to the fire of February 2009 in Victoria where 173 people lost their lives. The dedication is to the Strathewen fire brigade on the song called Ashes.
Song for James has an Irish dimension as it refers to a young Irish lad who was killed when hit by a truck. The story of how his father cherishes his memory is sad, uplifting and humbling. As ever with Bogle, The Great War is seldom forgotten. On this CD he adds his music and singing talent to another man’s lyrics. In Flanders Fields uses a poem by John MacRae.
War and its consequences again take centre stage on Home is the Hero. On this beautiful song he recalls the promises made to the ‘heroes’ of the Great War and then ignored and relates them to the heroes of current conflict. His refrain is that while the glorious dead are given some fleeting honour the maimed get very little.
He comes right up–to–date and reprises a theme first noted on One Small Star on the sad and haunting Roll Call. This names the victims of Sandy Hook in a stark song about the reality of the freedom to bear arms.
This is Eric Bogle ably assisted by John Munro at his best yet again. It is modern history, warts and all set to music and performed with heart.
Nicky Rossiter

Prospect Road
11 Tracks, 40 Minutes

Own Label
This is a band that has been waiting to happen in Ireland for a very long time, but where would the magic distil?
Sontas has come together in the North West of Ulster, drawing on musicians from Derry, Donegal, Tyrone and further afield. They proudly display a banner at their gigs which says Sontas, Where Traditions Meet.
The dominant memory of the sound of Sontas is the highland bagpipe of Darren Milligan. It’s a rare instrument to find in an Irish group, yet pound for pound there are more highland pipers in the country than uilleann. Maybe it goes against the template established by the Bothy Band and it flies too close to the Caledonia cliché of the Tannahill Weavers, but hey who says you can’t have highland pipes in Irish music. Now here as Sontas explore their roots in the Irish and Scottish traditions, it is evident it can and does work. Milligan by the way contributes 5 original numbers to the album, he is a talent to watch out for.
The band is ten strong with drums, bass and lead guitar in the mix, this shifts the feeling to Celtic folk rock with theatricality in abundance. I can see it working really well as a live show in Europe. There is a Phil Coulter drama in their conversation song Raggle Taggle Gypsy that wouldn’t be out of place on a Celtic Legends tour of the USA. They follow it with Raggles Return which is a pure Folk Rock number with high hats crashing a the bass pounding under Milligan’s devilish piping. The far more restrained title track comes with words in the liner notes, but is a guitar, pipes and flute number on the album.
If you want a big sound, something that crosses hitherto picketed cultural boundaries, if you are curious how the war pipes fit into an Irish group setting, if you want to inspire your local pipe band to come along and join on with your session then Sontas is what we’ve been waiting for.
As a prospect they are going down the right road.
Seán Laffey

Own Label MCCD12,
11 Tracks, 39 Minutes
There are only one or two Cape Breton guitarists who come to prominence each generation, but they are kept busy. Names like Gordie Sampson and Pius MacIsaac crop up on numerous albums every year. Is Maxim Cormier next in line? Only time will tell, but this student guitarist certainly has the makings of a fine traditional player. His flying fingers on Adam Sutherland’s Road to Errogie are enough to make you stop and listen, and the cheeky rhythms of Hornpipes for Uncle Joe will bring a smile to most faces.
I have heard cleaner versions of The Banks, but the performance here is very respectable for any youngster’s debut recording. About half this CD is traditional material, favourites such as Brenda Stubbert’s Reel and Morrison’s Jig as well as less common tunes like Andy De Jarlis’ powerful Metis improvisation Caribou Reel. (Canada Metis traditional fiddle music is well worth exploring on the web –Ed.).
The other half of this album is Maxim Cormier’s own writing, ranging from jazz through trad to new age, mostly on solo guitar. I found this much harder to relate to. The melodies are often tortuous, the rhythms jarring at times, and the pieces don’t seem to resolve. It could be that this just isn’t my kind of music. At times I was almost there: Fork in the Road had me nodding along, and Danielle is pleasant enough most of the time, but in the end I wasn’t quite grabbed. I prefer it when Fathers Know Best changes into Ward MacDonald’s reel December 2nd, or when Maxim and father Gervais Cormier stick to the straight traditional on Tunes with Dad. Perhaps my favourite of Maxim’s compositions is Big Sampie’s Reel, beefed up by Colin Grant on fiddle, Rankin MacInnis on rather muted pipes, and Jason Roach on piano. In sum, this is an intriguing taster from a new talent, with some very fine tracks and excellent sidemen, plus plenty of original material, which may grow on you. Worth a dabble, I think.
Alex Monaghan

Last Night’s Fun, Own Label CCCD13
12 Tracks, 49 Minutes
I said her next album would probably be interesting. I was right: Chrissy Crowley has successfully merged the energy of her would– be rock–chick side with the quality of her traditional fiddle background, and produced a collection of music which is both powerful and beautiful. Whether it’s old Irish reels or modern Canadian lullabies, stomping Crowley compositions or Scott Skinner classics, Chrissy’s fiddle sweeps through this music with a vibrant spirited assurance. Her own two tunes are the funky Balkan–tinged Parmar’s Reel and the relaxed Hillbilly Lullabilly, both well off the beaten track of Nova Scotian fiddle music, but Chrissy surrounds them with the best from all those traditions which merge to form Cape Breton’s sound. Reels by Tracey Dares, Ryan MacNeil, Leo McCann and Ross Ainslie join older material by James Hill and many unknown composers.
Traditional jigs are supplemented by the work of Hector Mackenzie, Colin Farrell and Elmer Deagle. There are great melodies here by Gordon Duncan, Liz Carroll, Lad O’Beirne and others. In short, this is top– notch stuff.
And my word can she play it. Chrissy Crowley’s sound has settled down and rounded out since her second CD, and the fiddle comes through strongly against some great accompaniment and indeed a couple of other fine fiddlers. The banjo of Darren McMullen is particularly impressive, the small pipes of Kenneth MacKenzie are sweet as a nut, and Chrissy has enlisted the fiddling talents of both Rachel Davis and Colin Grant, but there’s no doubt who’s driving this band. Stand–out moments for me were the charging reels Taybank Shenanigans and Wes and Maggie’s Ceilidh Croft, the piping jig Skylark’s Ascension, the Silly Wizard favourite Miss Shepherd, and the grand old air Sir Archibald MacDonnell of Keppoch where the fiddle seems to weep for the highlanders’ centuries of loss.
It’s worth noting the unusual approach Chrissy and friends have taken to this album: many of the tunes were learnt in the studio, and almost all the arrangements evolved the night before – hence the album title. Chrissy’s idea was to capture the freshness and excitement of her live shows, and to avoid any hint of stale over– rehearsed sets. I’d say she succeeded, and the very occasional rough edges here just add to the sense of spontaneity and stage– show sparkle, which makes Last Night’s Fun such a memorable experience.
Alex Monaghan

CUZ – A Tribute to Terry
Cuz Teahan
Omeartas Records IMCD004
13 Tracks, 36 Minutes
Niamh Ní Charra is a multiple award–winning button box and fiddle player. If you are reading this, you probably already know that. She is a major creative force in the music, and a well–established fixture on the international stage. The recognition started in her childhood with All–Ireland championships and the like. But, none of those awards were to figure as importantly as a tape she received from Chicago’s Terry “Cuz” Teahan. Cuz, of course, was born in Kerry, but had emigrated to Chicago in 1928, where he lived his entire adult life before his passing in 1989.
Teahan was a legendary Sliabh Luachra button box player, while occasionally lending a touch on the fiddle. As a young child, Niamh had met Cuz on one of his last journeys to Ireland. Captivated by the young musician’s talent, he surprised her by sending a tape from Chicago made especially for her. It was full of tunes, counsel and encouragement. It is still one of Niamh’s special treasures and sparked the idea for this album. This tribute to Cuz has been in Niamh’s heart a long time.
As part of her research, Niamh was stunned to find the virtual library of tunes Cuz had written, for which he never received any credit. Some are considered classics, as should be this album. Lots of guest musicians, headed in tribute by Chicago’s own Liz Carroll and Jimmy Keane, as well as the likes of Seamus Begley and Mick Moloney. The project is loaded with Cuz tunes and others, some tapes of himself (the album opens with Cuz reciting The Lonesome Road to Dingle which heads up a set rich in Slides. The CD includes a lullaby he loved, but did not write. It is all well and good to do these tribute albums. Add in a 24 page booklet and you can see why this album is currently topping CD charts in Ireland and the USA.
In the final analysis, however, it all rests on the musicianship of the players paying the tribute. Led by Niamh, tons of Irish and American artists appear, (Séamus Begley, Anne and Nicky McAuliffe, Donogh Hennessy, Tony O’ Flaherty, Liz Carroll, Jimmy Keane and Mick Moloney and even more).
It is a triumph. Cuz would still be proud of Niamh. Very proud, indeed.
Bill Margeson


Room Enough For All
11 Tracks, 43 Minutes

Temple Records COM 2106,
The Battlefield Band has been around for a very long time, they were founded in 1969, and yet this album, if my counting is right, their 23rd, is as fresh as new mown hay. Why? Well the Batties as their many fans call them, have a habit of re–inventing themselves, a bit like the Kilfenora Céilí Band in Ireland, the personnel change but the idea remains the same. For example the band was already a teenager when their current fiddler Alasdair White was born.
This latest version of the group is a multi–instrumental four piece with Sean O’Donnell providing vocals. The Ulsterman is a fine addition to the band and he takes the lead on the opening Bagpipe Music, a poem from the 1930’s of Louis MacNeice set to a rousing pipe tune. It is a rant against outside influences on native culture. O’Donnell also provides us with a new take on Andy Mitchell’s Farewell Indiana, a song written about a native Scot returning home to Ullapool after a long sojourn in the USA. O’Donnell shares vocal duties with Ewan Henderson who carries the Ghailigh numbers, the 18th century Nic Coiseam, and Duanag An –t Seoladair with the band composing a new tune to fit the verses of this sailor’s lament for his separated love. Henderson is also credited with the new piping composition The Pneumatic Drills whilst White adds The Hairy Angler Fish as the first tune in the set on track 6.
They have one guest on the album, Mike Whellans, who adds his harmonica to Farewell Indiana, but for the rest of the tracks the band have enough ammo in their arsenal to shift between instrument with various bagpipes, bouzouki and fiddle to the fore. Unlike many Celtic bands they eschew percussion, so no bodhráns or snare drums here.
There is much new material on the album, spliced in between Jacobite tunes such as The Eight Men of Moidart. The tunes are very well–documented in the notes which are all part of the excellent Lancing packaging.
The band are obviously enjoying a creative high point at the moment and O’Donnell’s version of In Contempt, written by the late Aaron Kramer and probably best–known in Ireland from the singing of Len Graham is a sensitive and heartfelt reworking of this politically charged polemic. For something quirky, if not in the music, but in the story, then track 11, a quick step, featuring the pipes of Ewan Henderson and Mike Katz is one to keep you talking. It’s called Tynes in Overtime, written in honour of the only Scotsman ever to win two Superbowl rings. For even more quirkiness check the cover photograph, it looks like it could have been taken in the 1950 and shows a bunch of schoolboys, probably mitching for the day. They are caught peering over a high fence, watching some sort of a match. Soccer or shinty perhaps? Look closer there’s a cricket bat leaning against the fence, ah a visual pun on the Batties I thought. Very clever!
I saw the Batties live in Sydney Cape Breton in October and there was excited rumour back then of the new album. Their live show was a revelation, their new album is a keeper.
Seán Laffey

Celtic Colours XVI, Odyssey Records ORCD1066,
20 Tracks, 78 Minutes
Another year, another Celtic Colours compilation CD, jam packed with as much top–class traditional music as will fit. The Cape Breton Autumn festival is still a showcase for the current Canadian scene, but now embraces all the Celtic nations and quite a few others in a wide–ranging programme, which is hard to cover even in the twenty tracks here.
There are some very big names represented this year. The Chieftains from Ireland and The Battlefield Band from Scotland share top honours with Cape Breton’s own Natalie MacMaster who provides the final track. Every number on this compilation comes from a released album, and although some of them are live recordings, the quality is high throughout. The Outside Track, a microcosm of Celtic Colours with two Canadians (one from each edge), two Scots and half an Irishman, are in instrumental mode with The Body Part Set, a pair of cracking new reels with Demon Barber overtones. Fiddles and pipes take the lion’s share of this album, as you might expect, but the spectrum is broad indeed: Orialla from Ulster, Fiddlers’ Bid from Shetland, as well as several fiddle–centred groups from Cape Breton and other parts of Canada’s East Coast.
This broad–brush pattern is repeated with the vocalists here. Kathleen MacInnes, celebrated star of God’s own archipelago the Outer Hebrides, is joined by several Gaelic singers from Canada whose voices deserve to be more widely known. J–P Cormier, once a great Cape Breton fiddler, continues his second career as a country singer–songwriter alongside relative newcomers Crowdis Bridge, Cyril MacPhee, Makem & Spain, and The Once (It’s Newfie slang for, well, just about everything really).
This collection succeeds in promoting the best of Canadian folk, and the many top international acts who took part in Celtic Colours 2012, without publicity gimmicks. It’s all real music from real albums, a taste of many performers we would not otherwise hear in Europe, and a fair measure of their quality as it includes several world–class acts. Whether you listen to this CD as a spur to attend the wonderful Celtic Colours festival, as a way to find new artists whose music you enjoy, or simply as seventy–eight minutes of fine folk performances, is up to you: it works equally well as all three.
Alex Monaghan

Live in Brittany, Loftus Music LM006,
12 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Twenty years young, this trio of fiddlers are celebrating with a sixth album of eclectic Celtic–based music. Quebec’s André Brunet is still filling the shoes of the late Johnny Cunningham, while founders Kevin Burke and Christian Lemaitre take a bow for Irish and Breton music. Ged Foley’s place on guitar has been taken by the multi–talented Nicolas Quémener, who contributes a fine solo in addition to two turns by each fiddler, leaving five tracks of ensemble arrangements. Opening with a set of rousing Breton jazz gavottes, CFF immediately demonstrate their broad vision of Celtic fiddle music by appending a Moldavian hora in the same rhythm. With hardly a pause, it’s straight into three big Irish reels at full fiddle firepower. Soggy’s starts more gently, a pair of relaxed slip–jigs, contrasting nicely with the Canadian square–dance jigs later on. The final group track, Brunet’s Valse du Chef de Gare which ends this recording, shows the delicate and thoughtful side of CFF on a sweet wistful melody.
Kevin Burke goes back to his Bothy Band days, and to the music of the Keane sisters from Galway, for a cracking set of traditional reels. His second solo is equally retro, two hornpipes in versions from the wonderfully original Dublin fiddler Tommy Potts, an inspired combination of Burke’s flowing style and Potts’ imaginative variations. Christian sticks firmly to his native music with a suite of Ronds de St Vincent, played as if for Breton dancers, and then a medley of different tempos. For me, André Brunet’s solos stand out: the combination of driving Quebec reels and stepping, plus his own beautiful air Quand Soufflent les Anges, puts him firmly on a par with his more famous fiddler colleagues.
Separately or together, Celtic Fiddle Festival are still a vibrant musical phenomenon, and this live album is a great way to experience them.
Alex Monaghan

Live at Celtic Connections Threads 002,
11 Tracks, 57 Minutes, plus 1 hour DVD
Session A9 is a fiddle–strong septet from North Eastern Scotland, playing a mix of Scots, Shetland, Irish and other tunes, including many of their own compositions. This release is essentially a live version of their most recent studio CD – known (to me at least) as The Tartan Hankie Album – with lots of extras. The main extra is of course a DVD of the live performance, recorded at Celtic Connections 2012. There are also three tracks here, which are not on The Tartan Hankie Album, and there’s the possible bonus of not including the twisting Breton Ridee which almost ends that studio CD. The sound quality here is excellent on both CD and DVD, and the visual effects are creative without distracting too much from the music. I was surprised to see so many shots of fiddlers’ feet, and there is one point where I thought green ectoplasm was erupting from Gordon Gunn’s head, but generally the visuals are spot on. In fact, the DVD made me appreciate how much this band works as a unit, revealing the great empathy between all seven members. The Tartan Hankie Album is very good, but this package may be even better.
With four fiddlers, plus a trio of backing musicians on guitar, keyboards and percussion, Session A9 produce multiple textures on the eight instrumental tracks here. Compositions by fiddlers Charlie McKerron, Gordon Gunn and Adam Sutherland fill the lion’s share of this collection, with only Kevin Henderson missing out on writing credits.
As well as a number of traditional tunes – Sporting Paddy, Hamish the Carpenter and others – the work of several great modern composers is arranged and performed stunningly. Jerry Holland, John Morris Rankin, Gordon Duncan, Ross Ainslie and Simon Bradley all provide great inspiration for Session A9’s exceptional talents. Three songs, fronted by guitarist Marc Clement, present material by Karine Polwart, Jackson Browne and John Martyn. On this showing, there isn’t much to choose between the three of them. Browne’s philosophical musings in These Days are arranged as a country ballad, while Martyn’s One for the Road is much closer to the Celtic soul of Blair Douglas or Van Morrison.
Polwart’s ditty Dig a Little Well for Zoe sits somewhere in between, funky and full of soul, but with a serious side and a sad edge to the melody. These guys handle all three with skill and sensitivity, extending their core sound to embrace Americana, soul and light classical.
There are some poignant slower instrumentals too, the gorgeous air The Birds Have Gone and the languid Surfing Bride, but most of the music here is high–energy driving stuff, played with power and panache. Get some: you’ll enjoy it.
Alex Monaghan