Releases > March 2012 Releases

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Teanga na nGael,
Ghm2011001, 12 tracks

Gráinne Holland has attempted something different in this debut CD of hers, Teanga na nGael, and, happy to say, she has succeeded. The songs are all in the Irish language, some of them familiar, but she has others that are new – at least to this writer – and that is no small contribution to making the songs of the Gael in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man more widely known.
One of those who contributes accompaniment in one of her songs, cellist Neil Martin, confirms that it is not by chance Miss Holland has succeeded: “Gráinne Holland commits herself to song like few others.” And on her presentation of the songs he adds: “She breathes fresh lifeblood into them, empowers them, owns them. And this is no mere act of preservation – this is progression.” And, speaking of which, it’s worth noting here that the quality of arrangements and musicianship is of the highest standard, proving yet again that own label CD’s – as this one is – don’t have to be the poor relation in the recording business.
Gráinne Holland is from West Belfast and her love of Irish music and song began at an early age. She was raised in both Gaelic and English and she attended the first Irish-medium primary school in Belfast, Bunscoil Phobail Feirste. It was here that her love of traditional Gaelic song was fostered. The sources of her songs range over a wide area: Rann na Feirste in the Donegal Gaeltacht (A Bhean Údaí Thall), Scotland (Teanga nan Gael an Irish Gaelic version of the Scots Gaelic song Canan nan Gaidheal, and Báta an tSíl sung in Gaidhlig), and from the Isle of Man (Uiseag Bheag Ruaidh).
There are just a few lines in English and these are heard in the track, The Blue Hills of Antrim/Méilte Cheann Dubhrann, the first by Belfast poet Joseph Campbell and the second the composition of Séamus Ó Grianna (Máire) of Rann na Feirste. This happy musical conjoining of Antrim and Donegal owes much to one of the great song airs in Irish traditional music to which the words are set. And as in the other song arrangements on the CD the effect is magical, owing not a little to the playing of uilleann piper John McSherry who is featured throughout the album.
Aidan O

Own Label
10 tracks, 50 minutes

Five fabulous exponents of the button box, this groups spans Europe from Finland to France, Ireland to Italy, and also Belgium for some reason. Kicking off with a track of accordion weirdness recalling Martin Green’s compositions, Accordion Samurai flows through French folk dances, Zydeco rhythms a la Boozoo Chavis, Irish hornpipes and reels, Italian renaissance rock, Balkan and Scandinavian sounds, and sultry southern European street music.
The Irish input comes from sparky squeezebox supremo Dave Munnelly. Known as the gullet from Belmullet - something like that, anyway - Mayo man Dave plays his own Blind Harbour and the traditional Carty’s Reel before a bravura performance of Eleanor Neary’s Hornpipe. He’s joined by various other box men: each track here is fronted by one or two Samurai, with some or all of the others playing back-up boxes. The accordion is not an instrument for the shy retiring type of musician, and this recording has more than its fair share of moments of madness, some verging on the genius of Esquivel. Take for instance the discordant harmonies on Eleanor Neary’s, stepping straight out of ’50’s B movie scores, evoking aliens and monsters and things that go diddly in the night.
Munnelly’s music is fine and dandy, especially dressed up in the trappings of continental accordion mayhem, but my favourite tracks here range further afield. The lovely crisp notes of Le Grand Cèdre pay homage to great Québecois maestros such as Philippe Bruneau and Tommy Duchesne. The traditional French De Delay Lo Ribatel has the lyrical charm of a waltz coupled with the drive of a bourree. Reel Finlandia, by Finnish youngster Markku Lepisto, is just loads of fun. The aptly named Last Waltz shows surprising delicacy from this quirky quintet, ending an intriguing album, which displays remarkable breadth and depth from a single instrument.
Accordion fans will love this, of course, and I think the rest of you will find plenty to enjoy here. If not, be thankful there’s only five of them.
Alex Monaghan

In the Shadow of Stromboli

Hobgoblin Records HOBCD1014
10 tracks, 40 minutes

Three stars of the London music scene playing mainly Irish style but with a broad range of material from Canadian to continental European: this is the second album from The Long Notes, following on from their excellent eponymous debut. Since poor Paddy Gallagher was struck down, the trio have recruited singer/guitarist Alex Percy who contributes two songs and accompanies the eight instrumental tracks here.
Colette O’Leary’s piano box launches into Beoga on Ice, a modern accordion jig, followed by the Mairtin O’Connor favourite Rocking the Boat and the traditional Quebec Reel, giving plenty of scope for Jamie mith’s driving fiddle and Brian Kelly’s laid-back banjo. Next up is apair of classic Scottish reels, JB’s and The Little Cascade: blistering triplets from all three front-liners, leading into another accordion jig with a real swing to it. Then comes the first, and best, of Alex Percy’s vocals, a nineteenth-century love song paired with Tommy Peoples’ composition Beautiful Gortree. Alex has a gentle clear voice, and his fingerwork is very tasty here. The fine picking continues into Bogbeat, a pair of Smith compositions with a hypnotic groove which Colette settles into comfortably. Plain of Jars is a brusque awakening, one of Brian’s own tunes and the title of his fine solo CD, as the banjo fires its thrusters and goes into a low orbit, leaving heads spinning until the inimitable Mr Kelly splashes down on the familiar Old French Reel.
From the ridiculous to the sublime: Reflections is a chance for Colette to muse on the beauties of Lochcarron, near Torridon. The title track features two more O’Leary originals, a dark swirling Balkan number and a punchy little reel commemorating The Trip to Trecastle. The second song, Come By the Hills, is an anthem from one or other of the folk revivals of the sixties and seventies, and shows what a hard song it is to sing well: this version doesn’t improve on The Corries’ 1977 recording. The last two tracks, however, are both exceptionally good: The Salt Reel deserves to be adopted by session musicians everywhere, and Viva Galicia combines three great tunes into a magnificent final medley. There’s poignancy here, but there’s also plenty of playfulness and sheer musical power. With a few carefully chosen guests, The Long Notes make a wonderfully full sound: on their own they are a compact class act, live or recorded. Get a taste at the following website, but beware – you could soon be hooked.

Cheoil Binn, Own Label OPCD8301
14 tracks, 49 minutes

We’re all familiar with prodigious young fiddlers from Canada, land of long empty winters where the kids play music all night, it’s either that or vandalize the local moose. However, even in these conditions few musicians emerge as young or as fully-formed as Kathleen. At fifteen, she has recorded a very fine album, which reveals her Scots and Irish roots in equal measure Polkas, strathspeys, airs, slip jigs and reels – lots of reels – are drawn from both traditions, plus a fair number of Canadian tunes and a good handful of Kathleen’s own.
The opening track sandwiches Ed Reavy’s great reel The Hunter’s Purse between two modern Scottish compositions, and Gorey-McSorley follows up with a pair of well loved Skinner tunes, The Bonnie Lass o’ Bon Accord and The Hurricane, before switching back to pure Irish mode for a couple of traditional polkas.
Gorey-McSorley is a bit of a mouthful, but it could soon be tripping off the tongue as easily as Nancy Dell’Olio or Carmen Miranda. This girl has talent, plenty of it, and her name deserves to be well known far beyond her New Brunswick home. With a full deep tone, her fiddle sounds mature and authoritative. She puts her own stamp on the music. I’m not saying her version of the great strathspey Tullochgorm is my favourite, but it is unmistakably hers. Young Kathleen also has great taste in tunes: Mark Kelly’s Snowy Path, Farquhar MacDonald’s Tongadale Reel, Jean-Paul Loyer’s lilting jig Le Tourment, and many traditional jewels. She’s not afraid to tackle a demanding slow air like Ta mo Ghur thar Saile, or to launch into a classic showpiece such as The Spey in Spate: both are outstandingly performed on Cheoil Binn.
Kathleen is assisted by several friends, providing piano and guitar for that classic Atlantic Canada sound, or banjo and uilleann pipes for a return to the Old Country. The arrangements are largely down to Gorey-McSorley, whose youthful exuberance and willingness to experiment are matched by a feel for the tradition and an ability to make the melodies sing. Her own compositions are pretty hot too, The Birthday Set and Mrs Met’s stand out among the reels, and The Hills Where We Walked is an evocative slow piece co-written by pianist Carolyn Holyoke.
There’s a bit of vocal, a bit of stepping, and a lot of fine fiddling from Kathleen, no doubt who is the star on this recording, her second incidentally (she’s already done the debut), with many more albums to come I’m sure. One to catch, one to watch, one in a million.
Alex Monaghan


13 tracks 47 minutes 11 seconds
Lockhouse Records

The phrase ‘a lilting pace’ sums up this recording. Onwards created by the duo of flautist Tina Eck and Keith Carr on strings derives from years of playing and sharing tunes around the Washington DC session scene. These tunes are steeped in tradition whether it is the recent or the deep past and the sleeve notes tell a tale of melodies discovered and the stories behind the familiar airs.
These airs are very recognizable to discerning listeners of the old traditional and the more contemporary, ranging from the likes of The Ivy Leaf and Mayor Harrison’s Fedora taken from the pages of the O’Neill Collection to The Trip to Miriam’s composed by the young Manchester fiddle player Colin Farrell, (is it about Mulligan’s of Amsterdam?) the tracks emit an air of restful resonance and soothing tones.
The Liz Carroll composition The Ornery Upright is full of well-modulated phrasing and Eck’s flute is full of life and is carried into the well known Paddy Fahy’s by Carr’s strings and the rhythmic beat of Jesse Winch’s bodhran.
An undulating string intro to Grainne Hambly’s The Thorn Tree paves the way for McGoldrick’s Farewell to Whalley Range and both slip jigs are enunciated with meticulous clarity. Joe DeZarn’s fiddle adds spice to the Hanley’s Tweed set which flares into Considine’s Grove the tempo rising to a flourishing finish.
Onward will suit listeners of every degree. The tracks are well defined and would be of a benefit to any budding beginner and the long time session frequenter also stands to gain too, as they relax into the entrancing quality of a well-administered tune.
Eileen McCabe

The Lark’s Air
Own Label, 14 tracks, 49 minutes

You would know this was a recording of Munster music. For a start, there are no reels until track 4. Then there’s the button box, sweet but punchy. Dan Brouder, from Newcastle West, is a well-respected exponent of the West Limerick accordion style, and the neighbouring music of Sliabbh Luachra. He learnt his art from Limerick accordion player, Donal de Barra, and from flute players, Francis O’Connor and Donal Sullivan who both feature on The Lark’s Air. You may have seen Dan on the Geantraí TV series.
He also recorded a couple of tunes on fiddler Diarmuid O’Brien’s album Cairde Cairdín, a collection of box and fiddle duets, but on this CD he flies solo for the first time.
There’s plenty of good music here, not just on the accordion. Dan starts with two of his own jigs, fine tunes both, with piano and bouzouki accompaniment from stalwarts Brian McGrath and Brian Mooney: I particularly like the minor cadences of Finbar’s Farewell to Limerick. Then the tempo increases for three classic slides including the great Con Cassidy’s. A lovely three-part version of Kitty Lie Over and the wonderfully fresh Patsie O’Leary’s Jig are followed by the first of only four sets of reels. This one ends with Lad O’Beirne’s version of Miss Johnson. Hornpipes next, the delightful Madam If You Please which I hope to learn very soon, plus a pair of more familiar melodies, bring us to a stirring version of the air Pretty Girl Milking her Cow with powerful bass harmonies.
Dan’s use of accompanists is stylish and sparing, but there are a few tracks where his local session seems to have joined him in the studio. One of the finest features two reels learnt from Francis O’Connor, with flute, banjo and more. Then it’s back to solo box for Cock o’ the North. Another Scottish tune crops up after Dan’s own composition Flan’s Jig, but if you listen carefully you’ll hear how it’s been transformed by that Pythagorean paragon of Irish instruments, the auld triangle. On the subject of instruments, Dan Brouder’s box is worth a few words: a beautiful pokerwork model in black and old gold, whose motifs adorn the CD cover and have inspired the attractive design of this whole package. As if the music wasn’t enough, from the catchy rhythms of Maggie Pickins to Donal Sullivan’s flute on the final Finbar Dwyer’s Polka: in addition to being full of the finest Irish music, The Lark’s Air is a feast for the ear. One to treasure.
Alex Monaghan

Since Maggie Dooley Learned the Hooley Hooley
WSHSO 31711-A
11 Tracks, 41.6 minutes

“The Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra is the perfect New York City community band,” begins the cover blurb for this exhilarating new recording. The group, whose name harkens back to the Irish-American dance bands of the 1920’s and 1930’s, does play jigs, reels, polkas, and barn dances with verve and style. But the Harp and Shamrock Orchestra also presents a specialized and hitherto lost repertoire: the popular music of Irish America in the early part of the twentieth century.
The title track, for instance, winsomely sung by teen Louise Sullivan recalls a 1920’s mania for Hawaiian music, here bewilderingly translated to rural Ireland. Banjo wizard Dan Neely offers another cross-cultural gem, When Rafferty Brought the Rumba to the Town of Aughnacloy, and Mick Moloney adds a Newfoundland comic staple, The Night Pat Murphy Died.
The emphasis on these early songs is not surprising, as the WSHSO is a project of Dr. Moloney, professor of music at New York University, and an expert in early Irish-American musical genres. Many of the members of the constantly-changing lineup of the Orchestra are alumni of NYU; all are members of the vibrant New York City traditional music scene.
This recording is different from any other Irish traditional recording you are likely to have heard in the past decade; all the more reason to listen in for the good humour and excellent musicianship that the WSHSO brings to this under-performed repertoire. Also notable are the excellent notes for each selection and the terrific graphics, chosen and rendered by Dr. Neely and Dr. Scott Spencer.
Sally K Sommers Smith

Melissa Du Puy, Marty Young, Steve Young

Own Label, 8 Tracks

Anticipate variety by the score in the eight tracks compiled by a group of musicians and vocalists based in the Nashville, Tennessee area. Their album Legacy encompasses a thoughtfully pensive aura of whimsicality coloured by clarity of instrumental and a vocal diversity that blends flawlessly together.
A feature of the Legacy album is that all the songs bar one are original and written by the collaborators themselves. Look out for an enticing piece entitled In the Mountain the lyrics written by a then twelve year old Audrey Young. A blossoming talent, she takes this from Steve Young, her Uncle, whose compositional prowess is showcased on no less than five of the tracks and also her father Marty who utilises the families’ Scots-Irish ancestry in his mastering of an assortment of whistles. Another standout is showcased as Meghan Doran applies the purity of the air from her roots based in the Cascade Mountains to the third track Fly, which soars over the string accompaniment of Melissa Du Puy.
A stalwart of the Grand Ole Opry, producer and fiddler Matt Combs adds a fiery touch with the fiddle to The Escape of Mary Lamont whilst Deanie Richardson allows her fiddle to fuel that fire emboldened by the powerful keys of Melissa Du Puy. The tune tells the tale of a long time ancestor’s flight from Scotland to Ireland to escape massacre and the melody incorporates the strength and sorrow of the travesty. The essence of this album is the root of the past. The influences drawn and incorporated from the Celtic strength and the Tennessee charm serve to embellish this whole-heartedly. A pleasure to listen to.
Eileen McCabe

Over the Years

Own Label, 10 tracks 43 minutes

Mary Gillespie’s name meant initially nothing but the song selection on her debut release promised much in the roots crossover vein. The Donegal based yet Mayo born singer would fit into the genre dominated by Maura O’Connell, dipping into Irish and American song bags for inspiration. With tracks from writers as diverse as Nanci Griffith, Tommy Makem, Judy Small, Dougie McLean and Phil Coulter it was clear that an interpretive singer was in town rather than a writer. What emerged was a surprisingly vibrant and distinctive package, the one thing that really impressed was Mary’s voice. It’s a strong, powerful voice, deeply rooted in its home place yet easily transferable to a wide musical landscape.
The backings were also equally rounded and upfront. The girl knows her stuff, alternating between lyrical ballads and robust native story songs like Boys of Killybegs and Donegal Danny. She also nods to more recent songwriters like Australian Judy Small’s anti war song/feminist clarion Mothers Daughters Wives and The Dixie Chick’s Travelling Soldier. The latter is a gem of observation ideal for any Trad band wanting to spread its wings. Overall this is a promising debut from a singer of character and choice; we have a good one here-watch this space.
John O

Carrying the Tune
Bally O Records BOR002
14 tracks, 55 minutes

This is a wonderfully relaxed and fulfilling album from one of the busiest people in traditional music. Kevin Crawford is of course best-known as the flute player in Lúnasa, but he has also been touring recently with the Teetotallers and has taken time out to produce the new Kilfenora Céilí band album.
Kevin has been making records for over twenty years, but restricts his solo work to one every six years or so: D’ Flute Album (1995), In Good Company (2001) and A Breath of Fresh Air (2007) Carrying The Tune fits neatly into this series, and sees Crawford growing as a mature and thoughtful musician. Mick Conneely on bouzouki with whom Crawford first recorded in the 1980’s and another long term musical friend Brian Morrissey on bodhrán and John Doyle on guitar and bouzouki.
This is partly homage to Clare and her musicians. Each set of tunes is lovingly researched and it is obvious Crawford has a great album collection, for instance he dips into a live recording of a 1986 Crosses Anna concert to source Tom Dowd’s, The Hole in the Boat was learned from Kitty Hayes’ album A Touch of Clare. The jig, Sally Sloan’s (which was a show stopper on the recent Teetotallers Tour) was learnt from an archive recording of Sally lilting the tune in her adopted home of Australia.
There are new tunes too, such as Lucky Lucky Day a slip jig from Donal Lunny, Flat Water Fran from Phil Cunningham, and his own tune, written for his Mother in Law, Della The Diamond.
There is a great mix of tunes here, only 7 of the 14 tracks are reels, and he bravely closes the album on the magnificent slow air Travelling West. The Slide Taylor’s Fancy played on a D whistle with Doyle adding deep runs on the zook is a standout. He polishes off a Balkan Horo in the Slipperyslope set, which starts oh so traditionally with Paddy O’Brien’s piece The Arra Mounatins.
This is high-class flute and whistle playing, the tunes are fresh an addictive, I suspect there will be hundreds of flute and whistle players learning theses settings for years to come.
Seán Laffey

The Devil and his Dealing
SOS Records SOS 02111 tracks

Ardee born Kieran Halpin has craved his career very much outside the mainstream of late, having done the record company thing in the 80’s and 90’s he has taken a self-determined route, releasing albums regularly on his own SOS imprint. He has also fashioned a personalised style musically mixing folk and rock delivered in a powerful searing honest lyricism and a passionate vocal style. The Devil and his Dealing his 20th album cut in Banbury at Blue Moon Studios and it gathers another collection of original songs both confessionals and confrontational together in one neat package. Politics and love seem to go hand in hand in the Halpin vocabulary with equal busts of social comment and romantic gestures. The plaintive Real Life and the wistful Its All Up To You contrast the social comment and the ragged passionate You Don’t Know Me with Halpin’s vocals at their raucous naked gravely best.
Halpin has assembled a team of players that enhance his songs with a glove like consistency, matching sensitivity, angst and poignancy along the way. However, the star turn is accordionist Manfred Leuchter who lights up the proceedings wherever his box appears. From Gallic Musete strains to romantic flourishes on tracks like Long Lost Friends, New Year’s Day and October Moon he colours the sound and provides a melodic foil for Halpin not heard since his duet with fiddler Tom McConville.
His contributions lift the bar to where Kieran Halpin has to deliver vocally and he does.
The Devil’s in the Dealing is one of the best of Kieran Halpin albums so far and deserves a wider audience than just the folk and acoustic circuits that will welcome it.
John ORegan

Twelve tracks, Own Label

I played Fling’s self named release in the car and it drove me from Tipperary to Cork in more ways than one. The optimal drive being the sheer energy the band emits that could most probably draw a foot tapping reaction from something as inanimate as a pile of stone.
Essentially whistle driven on the instrumental, Kelly’s prowess on the wind sound allows the strings of Smalls, Carroll and Conway to swing around the main tune line and enhance and entrance with their creative spirit: Then when the percussion rocks it out, the vivacity moves on to a new level.
It’s not all lively rock beats. This group know how to tone it down and extract a wistfulness around Inisheer and emotively render the lyrics of Friend Of Mine so that the listener can experience a diversity of expressive music that keeps them captivated.
Fling constitutes a variety of world sounds and their vocal suit’s the bluegrass vibe of the songs on the album. Shady Grove allows Carroll to showcase a blues driven voice that synergises perfectly with Kelly’s and Conway’s tones and this sound is duplicated in the swinging The Banks of Ohio.
With support on their debut from Steve Wickham (Waterboys), Derek Murray (The Stunning) and a perfecto mixing job from Lúnasa’s own Trevor Hutchinson; the group along with their own essential contribution would find it hard to fail with this offering.
For a relatively new band their attractive sound has been recognised in gigs as far away as China and along with tours and tributes galore this band is going places. If they put the energy they encapsulate in the CD into a gig …. I’m there.
Eileen McCabe