Releases > March 2014

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The Leitrim Equation 3
18 Tracks, 60 Minutes
No Label

Leitrim County Council continue with their series of recordings based on annual residencies: this time they chose Dónal Lunny, John Carty and Séamus Begley to lead the music, not a Leitrim man among them, but they’ve gathered a dozen and a half locals for this CD, probably the best of the three so far. The music ranges from Scots quicksteps to Sligo reels, popular Leitrim songs to stunning flute solos, with a full hour of high quality performances. Some names will probably be familiar – Noel Sweeney, Mick Mulvey and Dave Sheridan on flutes, plus several members of the Lennon family – but others were a revelation to me and bring something new to the growing body of Leitrim music.
John, Séamus, and Dónal open proceedings with a spirited set of polkas, before Pádraig McGovern’s pipes present the grand old march Morgiana in Ireland, one of the many highlights here. Maurice and Ben Lennon lead the first of several sets of reels on flute and fiddle, with John Carty switching to banjo. There’s fierce banjo competition between John and local player Alan Reid who plucks two sets of tunes on the auld strung drum: some of his own, and some of fiddle great Joe Liddy’s. Back to a more conventional Leitrim sound with Tommy Guihen’s flute for a set of reels including John Blessing’s, and later on a great solo set including the Josie McDermott composition Peg McGrath’s Reel.
There’s a number of slower tracks in this collection, including three songs and two Carolan pieces. Séamus sings Kitty from Ballinamore, and a song Plúrin NamBan Donn Óg in Irish which he learnt at school in Kerry which mentions Leitrim. Joe Connolly sings My Own Leitrim Home – well, somebody had to, and he makes a fine job of it. There’s also a set of slow reels by box–player Rachel McGovern, delicately done. It is a selection of jigs and reels again for the final four tracks, including an all–in finale on Kilty Town. With a couple more cameos from Séamus, John and Dónal, and excellent playing by all these local musicians, The Leitrim Equation 3 is a very fine addition to the series and a great hour’s entertainment.
Alex Monaghan

For the Sake of Old Decency
Morga 002, Own Label,
12 Tracks

This is the second album from Morga, who are David Munnelly (accordion) Danny Diamond (fiddle) Jonas Fromseier (banjo and Greek bouzouki) and Dominic Keogh (flute and bodhrán). The album was made possible with funding from the Arts Council, and it was money very well spent.
It is clear that each of the lads has a number of musical heroes and they dip into the repertoire of these champions for inspiration. You will find references to John J Kimmel, Peter Horan, Paddy Glackin and Alec Finn among others. If you already have Mórga’s debut album you’ll know the territory they love to visit is early vintage De Dannan. Through them they take us back to the glory days of Irish music in 1920’s America.
As an example track 3, running at over 5 minutes is their Ronseal moment, from the opening Johnny So Long at the Fair a single jig which is double tracked on banjo and bouzouki by Fromseier sounding as if Alec Finn and Charlie Piggott were jamming in the studio. Followed by Sweet Marie with David Munnelly driving it forward on the box. Danny Diamnond comes in with the much darker minor tune Coen’s Memories, Fromsier adding counterpoint zook as Keogh pulses behind it all on the bodhrán. It’s not over as the band close the selection with the reel My Maryann, vamped chorded banjo recalling the mighty Peabody, the king of the plectrum guitar from America’s last days of Vaudeville, and what an ending!
There is so much to enjoy, including succinct well–researched liner notes. Tight unison playing on flute and fiddle on Fred and Peter’s Lancers. Munnelly injects pace and power into Devlin’s and The Geese in the Bog. Then there are rich sombre moments from Diamond on Gol na MBán San Ar, which moves stylishly into the slip jig Hardiman the Fiddler. Inventive and furious this album has Munnelly’s trademark raw live recording stamped all over it. The selections are full of unexpected twists and turns, shifts from straight trad to the jazzy barn dances of 90 years ago, check out what they can do with the old song tune Believe Me of All Those Endearing Young Charms.
They may reference De Dannan, but on their second album they are their own men, Mórga is a tour de force of fun and a force for the future.
Seán Laffey

Forgotten Gems
Own Label CM2013,
18 Tracks, 62 Minutes
The concept of fusion has been deconstructed and rebuilt in this excitingly tune focussed album which challenges the ingrained tradition of the accordion and embarks on an approach that creates its own unique fusion by way of the box re–regulating with the defined breathing of the pipes.
Carberry, an undisputed master of his instrument, has broken the boundaries of box playing in this collaboration with the talented uilleann pipe performer; Pádraig McGovern. The retuning of the accordion bass to synchronise with the chording of the pipe regulators has produced a freshness that belies the longevity of the tunes. The choice to play on the lower pitch key of B has also added to the ingenuity and the individuality of style that culminates in again, that unique fusion. Add all these components together and then you have an amazing collection of instrumental sound. This is epitomised in the Liddy composed Byrne’s Mill set where the definition of phrasing in a perfect instrumental sync defies you not to miss an inimitable note within the delightful group of slip jigs. This flowing definition is again shown in the Jimmy Dolan’s set where the second part of John Joe Gannon’s lifts the notes high and the listener with it. In fact, each tune in the eighteen tracks could be singled out as
a highlight as the quality of play from the duo is consistent throughout. What a pairing this is. The familiarity and ease of play combined with both a deep understanding and love of the tune places these instrumental masters at the top of their tradition. It’s fusion at its best.
Eileen McCabe

The Immigrant’s Song – Traditional Melodies on the Guitar
Overture Music, Overture 40,
19 Tracks, 60 Minutes

I don’t quite know what I was expecting when I got the new CD from guitarist John Feeley to hear what he tells us is the First ever recording using James Joyce’s own guitar, but it was a pleasant surprise indeed. Sure, of course I expected to hear John’s impeccable playing and masterful performance; after all he is recognized at home and abroad as Ireland’s leading classical guitarist and his playing is described in the BBC’s The complete guide to Classical Music as Music as “mesmeric … virtuosity in the service of poetry … commanding technique.” But what amazed me was the quality of the sound of Joyce’s guitar, the one he used to accompany his own singing.
Granted, the instrument which was donated by Joyce’s friend Paul Ruggiero to the Joyce Museum in 1966, was restored in 2012 by Gary Southwell of the National Museum, but it cannot have been a humble beginner’s instrument to start with; and, incidentally, he was an accomplished tenor, and won the bronze medal in the Dublin Feis Ceoil in 1904; so I don’t suppose he was going to play on any old cheap guitar.
As for John’s playing I have to confess I’ve long been an admirer of his music and musicianship, but as they say, sin scéal eile – that’s another story. The full title of his new CD is The Immigrant’s Song – Traditional Melodies on Guitar arranged and played by John Feeley. The odd thing is that the title track isn’t a song at all but – as the title indicates – a melody, which, John tells us, he composed for a TV documentary a few years ago. All the other melodies but one are traditional: he composed Spanish Arch for an Éamon de Buitléir film documentary.
When I hear John playing old Irish airs like The Coolin (An Chúilfhionn) a favourite tune of the old harpers, I see him indeed as one of them, and imagine that had traditional harp playing survived that John would be another Carolan or Art O’Neill or a Denis Hempson maybe. He certainly brings a feel for the music and a brilliance of instrumental performance that evokes for many of us that ancient harp tradition. All this is borne out in his masterful presentations of numbers like Carolan’s Planxty Crilly and Sheebeg Sheemore, and in the familiar air to which W. B. Yeats’s poem Down by the Sally Gardens is set. And demonstrating yet again his ability as a composer is John’s hauntingly beautiful air, Donegal, so named for that county’s majestic landscapes and rugged beauty that inspired him to try and capture the ambience and feeling they evoked.
This is a very satisfying production indeed, and is a pleasure from beginning to end.
Aidan O’Hara

I’d Understand You If I knew What You Meant
11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Own Label BTBCD0015
The lads from Belfast are back with another quirky title which seems like nonsense to the non–native but is as plain as day to those who know. The band, a five piece, with Desi McCabe (uilleann pipes), Brian Connolly (banjo and mandolin), Jim Rainey (guitars and bouzouki) and fiddlers, Conor Caldwell and Michael Cassidy are joined by guest musicians, Paddy O’Hare (pipes and whistle), Brendan Mulholland (flute) and Rohan Young (bodhrán). This is probably the most lyrical of all the Craobh Rua albums to date. They just seem to get better on every new recording, perhaps it is their maturity or the fact that they have honed their skills as an international touring band.
If you want to book them they give a list of their agents in the liner notes. Those notes are painstakingly presented in an 8 page booklet, with full acknowledgement given to the tune sources and the friends and family who have supported the band for so long.
The album opens with a set of slip jigs showcasing each instrument, with the tune selection including Hunting the Hare, Give Us A Drink of Water and Moll Rua there is plenty of meat on the bone to allow each player to shine. The recording has a live ambience as if it was captured in a concert hall and I suspect some clever engineering is at work there .
There are three songs, The Road to Clady inspired by La Lugh and a refreshingly contemporary song called Weddings and Funerals and to keep on the morbid theme The Unquiet Grave, accompanied on guitar and low whistle, the same combination flavouring the beautiful tune Squire Wood’s Lamenation on the Refusal of his Halfpence. The shift from Ag Taecht Abahuile Ûn bPhotratibngh to I have No Money is reminiscent of the Bothy Band at the wildest. The band close the album with a set of dance tunes with the final number being the Polka The Britches Full of Stitches.
Craobh Rua have a sure touch with tunes, sensitivity with songs and a way with words that is legendary, if you know what they mean.
Seán Laffey

An Téid Thu Leam?
Own Label WKPFCD004, 13 Tracks, 50 Minutes

A delightful collection of songs deriving from English, Irish and G·idhlig traditions have been sourced and sung by a group of pupils and teachers drawn from the creative web of the Armagh Pipers Club who, using the name of the legendary Queen of Armagh, Macha, have utilised the harmonic talent within the group and produced a delectable album entitled An Téid Thu Leam?.
As a frequent visitor to the wild beauty of the Armagh hills and to the renowned Armagh Piper’s Festival there is an endearing familiarity of the attention to tradition within the rich panorama of the County and a huge respect for the endeavour to ensure that the talent and tradition is passed down and treasured through the educational nurturing of the history of a shared musical landscape that is steeped in heritage. The fact that the group have crossed beyond the boundaries of the Armagh tradition and explored the wider Celtic ethos makes this listen all the more interesting.
The title is taken from the compelling “Luaidh with which the group make full use of the blend and tone of vocal variance and apply pace and timing that adds a depth that is emulated in the appealing Gillian’s Waltz which was sourced from an exchange with Feis an Earraich on the Isle of Skye. Whilst” Luaidh deals with the familiar theme of unrequited love, Macha also take us through the problems of married life in Peigin is Peader and the blight of emigration in Erin Grá mo Chrói whilst drawing from the songs of Tommy Sands and Ewan McColl with County Down and England’s Motorways respectively.
The diversity is not just in the song choice though; each singer also contributes to the instrumental backdrop which proves that the future of the tradition is alive and kicking in Armagh.
This is an album to be proud of and a testament to the ongoing work that exists within the Piper’s club and its wider community.
Eileen McCabe

Here Comes John Allan Cameron
Own Label JAC1968,
11 Tracks, 36 Minutes
Oh Boy! This for me is really a case of ag dul siar ar bhóithrí na smaointe – going down memory lane – with Cape Bretoner John Allan Cameron and his friends from 1960s Canada. The CD Here Comes John Allan Cameron is a re–issue of his 1968 LP and it evokes happy memories of the times when I was living in Canada. That’s when we were introduced to CBC Halifax, Nova Scotia’s TV series Singalong Jubilee that featured John Allan and included a talented young singer by the name of Anne Murray. It’s nice to know that the release is an indication of nostalgia time in Canada for the exciting decade of the sixties that saw the emergence of great Canadian talent like Anne’s, Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. Incidentally, when Anne auditioned for Singalong Jubilee in 1965, she failed to get a singing position; but two years later she was successful.
John Allan’s story is very familiar to any Irish person from a large family and with a rural background. He was born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, one of seven children who sang, danced and played musical instruments. He also studied for the priesthood and was on the point of being ordained when he changed his mind, and music eventually became a major part of his life. He’s a dab hand on the six and twelve string guitars and while he hasn’t got what might be regarded as an outstanding singing voice, he was a great favourite with his audiences because of his bright personality and appealing way with a ballad.
John Allan was a real breath of fresh air, because he was so different, Anne Murray recalls from their time together on the Singalong Jubilee series. Like Edith Butler who brought the Acadian thing, John Allan injected new life and a different light onto the show – and the music. It’s so funny when I think of it now, but he and I used to speak Latin on the set. Both had studied Latin at high school and university.
There are songs in English and Gaelic on the CD and dance tunes, as well. The songs John Allan sings reflect several influences of the time, including numbers sung by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, e.g. The Banks of Sicily and There was an old woman from Mabou, which, of course, had Wexford instead of Mabou (Nova Scotia) in the Clancy version. He also sings Peggy Gordon another song we associate with the Clancys but which is, in fact, from a variant collected in Nova Scotia in the 1930’s.
This CD trip down memory lane in song is considerably enhanced by an accompanying booklet with song notes and a biography with lots of photos of John Allan, and is a fitting tribute to the memory of a lovely man.
Aidan O’Hara

Here This is Home
Little Sea Records CR004,
11 Tracks, 49 Minutes

Four albums in and Colleen Raney has nailed it when it comes to the depth of emotive, vocal maturity she has produced in Here This is Home. Her expressive timbre of tone is the glue that binds the eleven tracks yet ably leaves room for the creative work of Aidan Brennan and Lúnasa’s own Trevor Hutchinson to weave magic around the recording and engineering processes on the album.
The Pacific Northwest based songstress has applied a creative cleverness of choice in both the songs and the musicians surrounding her on the album’s journey. Masterful arrangements that, when applied to the vocal blend, bring a contemporary freshness to long time classics like The Boys of Mullaghbawn and The Lovely Green Banks of the Moy. The respect for the history of the lyrical landscape within these songs is abundant yet Raney’s vocal tone combined with the instrumental collective of quality musicians that, as well as Brennan and Hutchinson, include Colm O’Caoimh on keys, the box playing of Johnny B Connolly, Steve Larkin on fiddle, Dave Hingerty’s percussion and the bouzouki strings of Aaron Jones, allows for a musical experimentation that brings the songs into the contemporaneous realms of the present.
O’Caoimh opens Sanctuary with a poignant piano that underlies the inner tenderness of expression in Raney’s treatment of the rich lyricism of the description of home that will resonate with everyone on listening. The addition of backing vocals to that tender tone in Colliery Boy produces the highlight of the album of the album for me as both Raney and Brennan’s blend of sound craft an exquisite story of life around the Deerpark Mine that was the heart of life in the Kilkenny countryside. With both Brennan and Hanz Araki producing complementary backing vocals throughout the album, it can at times be unclear who is singing on which song, something the sleeve notes fail to resolve; a minor but frustrating point that does not detract from the overall listening experience.
Here This is Home is a rich treasure that, with the wealth of creative talent within, places the contemporary firmly within the tradition and positions Raney amongst the best in her genre.
Eileen McCabe

The Friel Sisters
Own Label FRL001
15 Tracks, 58 Minutes

This album might be re–labeled a few years hence as Glasgow to Derrynamansher as the Scottish born sisters have made an emotional journey to their ancestral home of North West Donegal, for this excellent debut album which was recorded in the summer of 2013.
The three sisters Anna, Sheila and Clare Friel are joined here by guest musicians Gearoid Mooney (guitar), Seamus O’Kane (bodhrán) and Griogair Labhruidh (guitar). All names to be reckoned with in the Northern Gaeltacht. The sisters have as wide range of instruments to bring to the recording with the girls playing, flute, fiddle and uilleann pipes.
The Friels have adopted a compelling and rare vocal tradition. The album also includes a number of songs, which they sing in unison. They take their lead from the noted Galway singers the Keane Sisters. They have a version of Eighteen Years Old which Dolores Keane recorded with De Danann. They have sourced songs from their own family, for example Tir Chonaill comes from their Grandmother and the The Blue Hills of Antrim from their great uncle Paddy Coyne.
They picked up the piping jig Helvic Head from Tommy Keane at the Willie Clancy Week and a great job they make of it with variation in the ornamentation that shines over the top of the backing guitar. They play the march Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine in authentic Donegal style, affirmative bowing and a staccato lift that moves the march into The Battle of Aughrim where once again the guitar adds to the fullness of the sound. For me the big number is the set of jigs Humours of Ballyloughlin/Rakes of Clonmel/Kilkenny Jig, which brings in the whole ensemble and a powerful sound inspired by the Bothy Band (they too had Donegal Roots).
Having guested on stage with the likes of The Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies, Solas, Fidil and Altan it was probably opportune for them to spend some serious music time in a recording studio. What came out of the experience is given the thumbs up by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh who adds the written coda to the liner booklet.
I can echo that here, an excellent debut that throws light on a family tradition of music making in Donegal that spans three generations. Proof that Glasgow isn’t so very far away, as long as you have the music with you.
Seán Laffey

Like the Sun a
Hypercockle Records,
12 Tracks, 50 Minutes

The name of the group The Jones Boys is actually misleading as the band, on this recording of Like the Sun aglittering, includes a trio of both genders. The male duo of Gordon Jackson and Ian Carey enhanced by the female influence of musician Sam Sloan who brought the sound of the accordion, concertina, whistle and trumpet to the fold.
Line–ups have changed since this recording which we were presented with at the Fleadh in Derry, but this does not detract from this recording that marches instrumental and folk substance into the twelve tracks on the album. The group drive straight in with a lively Ribbons of the Red headed Girl set, with its rhythmic sway of buttons and strings that switches solo parts with an aplomb that defies determination before flowing into a lovely version of Jenny’s Wedding. The strings are impeccably arranged at the start of Hardiman the Fiddler before the box breaks into the fold with a vigour that enhances the defined pace of the sound. The slip jig, The Choice Wife, is the instrumental standout though, as intoxicating strings weave around a beautiful Clancy tune. Vocally Jackson is the mainstay as he tells stories from the folk tradition including the sombre My Son John and the distinctive chant of the Lyke Wake Dirge which is both disturbing yet compelling as the words guide departed souls through purgatory.
This album is a great representation of the variety encompassed within the folk scene of the time. Although the line–up of the Jones Boys has changed since (currently a duo); the trio responsible for Like the Sun aglittering have left a definitive legacy of folk in their path.
Eileen McCabe